Listen, (Please?) The sound is lovely; forgive me if I also wax hopeful.

Neil Gaiman reads Leonard Cohen

Democracy

Leonard Cohen

It’s coming through a hole in the air
From those nights in Tiananmen Square
It’s coming from the feel
That this ain’t exactly real
Or it’s real, but it ain’t exactly there
From the wars against disorder
From the sirens night and day
From the fires of the homeless
From the ashes of the gay
Democracy is coming to the USA
It’s coming through a crack in the wall
On a visionary flood of alcohol
From the staggering account
Of the Sermon on the Mount
Which I don’t pretend to understand at all
It’s coming from the silence
On the dock of the bay,
From the brave, the bold, the battered
Heart of Chevrolet
Democracy is coming to the USA

It’s coming from the sorrow in the street
The holy places where the races meet
From the homicidal bitchin’
That goes down in every kitchen
To determine who will serve and who will eat
From the wells of disappointment
Where the women kneel to pray
For the grace of God in the desert here
And the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the USASail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate


Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail onIt’s coming to America first
The cradle of the best and of the worst
It’s here they got the range
And the machinery for change
And it’s here they got the spiritual thirst
It’s here the family’s broken
And it’s here the lonely say
That the heart has got to open
In a fundamental way
Democracy is coming to the USA

It’s coming from the women and the men
O baby, we’ll be making love again
We’ll be going down so deep
The river’s going to weep,
And the mountain’s going to shout Amen
It’s coming like the tidal flood
Beneath the lunar sway
Imperial, mysterious
In amorous array
Democracy is coming to the USA

Sail on, sail on I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can’t stand the scene
And I’m neither left or right
I’m just staying home tonight
Getting lost in that hopeless little screen
But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags
That Time cannot decay
I’m junk but I’m still holding up
This little wild bouquet
Democracy is coming to the USA

accidental capture (a gift)

A Smear of Life

This morning I rose with trepidation and sorrow. I am moving house during a pandemic because the world of limitless causes (action/reaction, karma; call it what you like) is guiding me there. None-the-less, sorrow comes with change, as a part of the body’s system of attachment and letting go, keeping itself safe, and fear comes with that process. All these words are cerebral; my head talking to me, superficial, and nearly artificial. The feeling, though, is visceral, as real as I can understand with my five senses, and I must survive it.

     In the realm of ‘new seeing’, that thing that comes on the precipice of change, was my moment of insight. I stepped out into a cool, clear morning, which promised to beget a hot summer’s day, and saw the tree. Just an ordinary pine which I see on a daily basis. With a sudden clarity, I saw the Earth as a giant rock moving in space and the tiny film of water and biota that coats it. The biota that grows and dies in a continual process, that is almost unnoticeable from space, but it is our whole world, the one that we are constantly in flux with.

The tree was a huge and imposing living being that thrust up into the heavens, reached down equally into the earth and would out-live me by three or four life spans.

     Just like that, I let go. I stopped worrying about the fibs the realtor told, the drama of my friends left behind, the anxiety of my sweetheart and his spread sheets, the concern about possible disaster scenarios, the impending election, the discomfort of change. It may not stay, this feeling of understanding from a new perspective, but I feel re-set. I feel my life-death process as sweet and inevitable, as it is. I feel my recognition of the process being boiled down to simple acts of kindness melded with forgiveness. I feel grateful. 

    From my tiny spot embedded in the film of life on a rock in space, I love you all. Nothing more.

The Blog or the Tree

The Blog that ate reality. (Only consider the indigestion.)

Perhaps this is closer to the electron vs. the tree product? I would not know. I am not sure at all what the blog is in terms of my real world. This is not due to diminished tech ability so much, but rather to a lack of curiosity.

I was given stern instructions to begin a blog, if I ever wanted to produce marketable writing and be able to sell it; to have an electronic presence. I made the effort, thinking that I would open a door to creativity and meet people of ‘like mind’.

I have a very different view today. Somedays I think I am shouting down a well, on others, I am walking along whispering to myself (which is cause for some worry).

Today, it seems I am talking to a very small group of ‘friends in the shadows’. It has a magical and unreal quality to it. I feel myself reaching out and taking a hand, or starting a conversation here and there. Sometimes I simply brush someones cheek with my knuckles and look deeply into their eyes with an attempt to understand who they are. I am looking deep into a mystery that eludes me. You.

Ever Onward

It is this sense of presence in an electronic world that has ignited my curiosity again. What is this web we weave? How does it penetrate creativity? Is the glue still kindness, or does the ego rule?

For me to even voice these words, feels strange. Clearly, the precipice of my ignorance is high and airy. I lean out and see only hints along a skyline. I know nothing. Perhaps knowing nothing, much more is possible. Perhaps I can fly after all.

I will let you know.

Ganges River

Wild Wild West

Cattle Drive

This grainy old-time view is how I hope to display a world that is passing: two cowboys, a rare cowgirl, a couple of cattle dogs and a herd of 30 head. The next generation won’t see this happen. There are too many folk, too little land, too large a drive for money and power. Thus, the world changes as it always has.

Do not, please, assume I am denying change or supporting the meat industry. I am simply playing observer and noting the inevitability. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I wonder if we can play the part of guide in this process. Often the very idea of inserting myself into the maelstrom of change terrifies me. How dare I, how could I? Certainly there is very little that I know about the balance of man and nature, the balance of man and mankind. I wonder if it is simply the process of bringing authentic kindness to the process each time we move. This too terrifies me, as I am so inadequate to the task.

Hot Dusty work.

So I left the boys, girls, and dogs behind to travel another road, where my inadequacy will be forgiven, if it is ever noticed at all.

The land is dry here, the road is inches deep in the dust of a dry lake bed. The map is torn.

Perfect.

Road North

Other travelers have stopped here to discuss something, some story, some prayer. I stop and open up to what I see.

Sky, cloud, life.

Your Story

This basalt block holds the key to a mind long past. These images, tapped patiently into the rock surface, are thought to be as old as 12,000 years. I am caught by the truth that I will never know what the meaning of all this felt like for them. It is so simple to take a bit of poetry, a bit of some novel, and place myself within the perceived meaning. I realize though, that whenever I write, or read, or gaze at art, that the meaning slips here and there, never the same for artist or art gazer.

Really, this is the point. I do not wish my creations to have some kind of solid, inflexible meaning that will be prattled on about in a classroom. I want the bubble that exploded from my heart and mind to engender a bubble of yours. It is a form of touch. I reach for you and you return the gesture. There is a deep mystery in this, a beauty.

Stone Yard Biota

Here is a change of perspective. See the stone-yard biota above? This is the other side of the picture rock I just showed you. Moss and lecithin making its own lovely message heard above the roar of the universe. Here, below is hot spring biology with the same gambit.

In just such moments, it is the striving to understand that precipitates change within. There is no correct answer, there is only the quest.

Hot spring biota
Out Beyond
by Rumi
Out beyond ideas of wrong doing
and right doing,
There is a field. I will meet you there.

When the soul lies down in the grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase
'each other'
does not make any sense.

Trees that never give up.

Juniper fell in 1987 fire; note green branches!

Here are my few ‘wonder trees’ and a site that has brought many more forward. Take a look if you love them, they are uplifting: https://blazepress.com/2017/08/15-trees-that-wont-give-up-despite-all-the-odds/

Moving slowly forward, I seek the beauty in each little thing.

In the words of Rainer Maria Rilke:

"The core of every core, the kernel of every kernel,
an almond! held in itself, deepening in sweetness:
all of this, everything, right up to the stars,
is the meat around your stone. Accept my bow..."

Know Thy Enemy

If you would like to stop listening to politicians without science backgrounds, and read the science, if you want to understand and make decisions on facts, try this, with interesting charts and real numbers:

View at Medium.com

I feel happier when my information is from a credentialed person, rather than my well-intentioned neighbor.

I hope you will see this as a gift, rather than an annoyance. Now I will go back to writing Speculative Fiction, and stay in character.

Good Luck, my friends.

beauty, always here

She Said: A Story!

Tree bejeweled by moon (moon entangled by tree)

The Wu of Xiang Gu

     He insinuated himself into the room, weaving and turning, flowing and slithering. The moon was his friend, neither revealing nor hiding any aspect; it provided the perfect backdrop. She knew he was a Wu. Xiang Gu, named for the fragrant mushrooms that grew beneath the oak tree, had heard and remembered all of her Grandmother’s stories about the Wu, the Shamans who could enter your dreams, influence your life, and change shape at will. She was terrified, or was she thrilled? She wasn’t immediately sure.

     “You are young.” He stated it as if youth were her particular failing.

     “I’m a woman!” she heard herself tell him this sharply, and then felt herself blush, her courses had begun only a month ago and womanhood seemed a particular prize in her short life. She was, none the less, glad that her red face was hidden by the darkened room, as the moon was by a passing cloud.

     He snorted. “How many years? Eleven, twelve?”

     “It’s not your business! Leave my room.” Her voice ordered him like a clear chime, but she held her coverlet bunched at her chin, balled up hard in her fists to hide the trembling.

     He smiled at her and she shivered. “Already feisty, aren’t you? But this is useless, a useless excursion.” He turned his back on her and paced the small room, picking things up at random and setting them down with a clink, like men have always done in frustration, or through a dimly held rage. Then he turned back to her, and held out his hand. She shrank from him and he laughed again, the hand held steady, not touching, as if to cup the air around her. “They will bond you to the unworthy ones. Those will mark you for better things; your wounds will illuminate, you will SHINE!”

     Timidly she lifted her eyes back to his face and saw the light that emanated from his hand, reaching toward her through space. His eyes glinted and his face held something vital, so odd and confusing. Xiang Gu gasped. Not at his demonstration of power, though that was shocking enough, but at the uncanny feeling of knowing him, recognizing him from somewhere she could not place, as clearly as she might have known one of her father’s fellow merchants or a teacher from somewhere nearby in their province. As she drew the next breath, the breath that was filled with ‘who are you?’, he was gone.

     In the next month Xiang Gu’s life changed, again. Her mother had died the year before, shortly after her father brought Second Wife into the home. Her mother had only borne one child and that a girl, which had been bad fortune enough for all of them. Some said she died of that sorrow. Xiang Gu never agreed; her mother’s contorted face was caused by physical pain, the foam on her lips attested to the fact that something bad had entered there. Her Grandmother had agreed, but kept her council, carefully watching the new wife.      

     Things would have been very hard were it not that Xiang Gu’s grandmother loved her so well, and that her father treated her so kindly. She had been her father’s only child, and though a girl child, he delighted in her, he saw she was bright, curious, and laughed with ease, just like her mother. So, he gladly brought her into his life of merchant, letting her play in the boxes and bins of things ready to be transported to some far shore. Seeing her curiosity, he eventually taught her to read and write and add figures, to the outrage of his wife and mother. He shook his head at them, but agreed that it would be their little secret. 

     Her father, however, though still kindly, had grown distant, with her mother gone and the new wife at her own zenith, he stayed longer at his work, alone with his sorrow. Xiang Gu spent most her time now with Grandmother, she always knew she was safe with her. But, sadly, Grandmother died as well one night, the same month that saw her stepmother conceive. Bad luck, but after all, everyone said, she was a very old woman. Before the month was finished Xiang Gu found herself contracted as the third wife to a man whose life was all but spent. His first two wives were long gone and he lived with his eldest son and that son’s two wives and children. When her step-mother told her this, she wore a very happy little smile, as if she knew some small joke. Dancing a gold bracelet between the fingers of one hand, her step-mother displayed this piece of her mother’s jewelry and then hid it away, over and over; a mesmerizing sleight of hand.

     “I know your new husbands’ family very well. I am certain they will enjoy you.” The sound of her voice smooth and sweet; the mice in the walls huddled together and covered their eyes. Second Wife smiled her slim, uncomforting smile, and turned her back with a swirl of silk, to glide away.

     The day that she turned 13, Xiang Gu entered her husbands’ home. The eyes, of her new step-son’s first wife, were narrow and hard as they welcomed her, the second wife was quiet and distant. The step-son, the man whose home this really was, assessed her top to bottom, without any hurry. She drew her wedding robe close about her and stepped back, bumping into the chair where her husband had already fallen asleep. She could hear her step-mother’s tinkling laugh as she left by the door beyond, along with the departure the wedding party. Her father had held her hand and kissed her cheek, but she had not been able to reach him in his eyes.

     At first this new life had seemed easy, if lonely. Xiang Gu spent her days caring for her elderly husband as he told her stories (the same ones over and over) or gently stroked her hair as if she were a cat. She slept alone in the small chamber within his rooms. Her new husband seemed to never wish for more. She sometimes wondered if he knew she was his new wife, or thought she was his first one, long gone. The other wives in the house had chores and children, so they mostly left her alone with a single servant to clean and serve. 

     Xiang Gu was still a child when she arrived, for all her protestations of womanhood. She was small and thin like a child who might run through the house or climb a tree in the garden. However, she grew quickly in height and in curves over that first year, and her step-son began to notice. She would find him waiting for her in the hall or he would visit his father and watch her as he spoke. He would look at her as if she were a thing, not a person. He would run a finger down her neck and smile. It made her sick inside.

     Then change followed her here too. Xiang Gu began to read aloud to her husband. It was a simple thing; he had found her reading one of his scrolls to herself, and since his eyesight prevented him from working out the words himself, he was thrilled.

     “Read to me, Little Cherry (as he chose to call her, she decided he could not remember her given name), this story is old and full of magic. I always loved it!” 

     And so, they would sit for long quiet hours in mutual happiness as Xiang Gu read book after book, quietly finding more to read from the family library, so they were never, yet, forced to read the same story twice. Until something very bad happened. As she read aloud, a sound of something falling to the floor caused them to both look sharply up. Across the room stood the step-son. He had knocked his father’s walking stick from where it rested against the wall, but he did not bend to retrieve it. His eyes and mouth were open wide as if in some sort of horror, as he stood watching them. His father began to giggle.

     “Yes, son, she can read! You have given me a gift indeed in a wife who can match my mind.” For once her husband was not wavering or confused and his son’s face changed from horror to outrage. His father leaned forward as if to make sure of hitting the mark, “She reads far better than you ever did. I imagine she will be able to aid me in checking your book work as well. I know you have troubles with the numbers.”

     The son kicked the stick into the room and turned to depart, pulling a tapestry from the wall as he left. Xiang Gu felt a cold wash of fear as she sat, unmoving by her husband, who continued to chuckle to himself for some time, before falling asleep in his chair as he often did.

     That night was the hardest one of her brief life, not even the deaths of her mother and grandmother could match the pain of what came next. After the servant had helped her put the old man in his bed and cleared away their supper, Xiang Gu prepared herself for bed, alone. He was waiting for her within her alcove; the son and his lifelong hatred of his father, his fear of being unworthy, and a rage he could no longer house within himself, were all waiting to fall upon a girl who could read. 

     She did not call out, at least not that she remembered. A life of having been taught the movements of respect and honor, for family, for men, for elders, did not contain the instructions for fighting back. To cast your eyes down, to obey, to bow, to kneel, to self-efface; those were the actions of a good daughter, a good wife, a good step-mother. In any case, he was too unsure of what he wanted himself, for there to be some sense to his actions, something definitive which she might have acted against, or even objected to. He wanted to beat her, to rip her clothes from her, to own her, to destroy what she was, to bewhat she was. He was confused, and when there is no direct path, it is difficult to find your way to where you are going, or to avoid what is there when you arrive. In the end he raped her and this probably saved her life, since the change in his body chemistry brought him back to himself somewhat, and shocked at his own excesses, he departed, pulling his own torn robe, bloodied with innocence, about him. She lay there, bleeding from her mouth and a long cut by her ear, where she had fallen against something, and from between her legs, where the dull, then sharp, then dull, beat of having had everything intimate and sacred striped from her, refused to be forgotten.

   In the morning, the second wife found her, Xiang Gu chose to call this one ‘Elder Sister’; she was the kinder of the two, and so, out of respect and because the words ‘Second-Wife’ had already left a bad taste in her mouth, she had called her Jeh-je. Xiang Gu might have been surprised on an ordinary day, since Jeh-je had never entered these rooms since her wedding day. As it was, the thing that did surprise her was the gentle concern that creased the young woman’s face, and the sudden softening of her eyes.

    “Come, Little Cherry” (Did no one know her real name here? She thought wearily through the haze of pain.) “Come, I have dreamed of a Wu in the form of a snake. He told me how to save you.” The woman tenderly washed and bandaged her, then left to tell the household that Little Cherry had a fever and must rest. When the son woke at last, from his release of expansive fury followed by deadening alcohol, he did not question when Jeh-je told him Little Cherry was ill, nor when she informed him how much it would cost to obtain the correct medications. He hung his head. She wordlessly laid a cool hand on his neck for a moment, and then swept the coins briskly into her bag.

     It was said that Little Cherry died of her fever. Her husband was briefly, but sincerely stricken. Although she had never borne a child, he insisted that her name be included in the family records, an unheard-of concession. Confucius taught otherwise. His son did not object, which caused his father to draw his lips very thin, and to eye his son with a momentary and calculating contempt, before sliding back into his own distant thoughts. 

     Jeh-je had made many trips out of the home, during the time that Xiang Gu took to heal from her most superficial wounds. The scar by her ear would be spoken of all of her life as an identifying mark and sign of courage, the deeper, unseen, scars began the galvanizing that would make her into something powerful indeed.

     At the start of her 14th year Xiang Gu made a brothel in Canton her home. It was located along the coast and was patronized by a somewhat higher class of clientele than some, occasionally foreign, mostly not, nearly all traveling by sea and busy in the world of trade. Jeh-je paid the Madame well for the privilege of keeping Xiang Gu away from the customers until she was older, or until she, herself, agreed. The Madame was intrigued with Xiang Gu’s story and was happy to use the girls’ scholarly skills to maintain the other quiet business she kept: trade of luxury items, including, but not limited to, the unsanctioned trading of Turkish opium for tea, and providing miscellaneous silk, art, and trinkets of any kind for the foreign traders.

     Before she left, Jeh-je bent and kissed Xiang Gu’s cheek. She whispered, “I will think of you. Your Wu will protect you. Remind him that I did my part.” Xiang Gu nodded and her eyes filled with tears which she angrily wiped away.

     “I, too, will remember.” She told her. Then Jeh-je was gone, and only the story remained.

     It is an uncertain thing to have a Wu care for you; is it a gift or is it a curse? Do the attentions of a Wu lead you into more dangers or protect you from them? Xiang Gu thought about these things, but then she was a bright and resilient girl who thought about a lot of things. She found herself happy to be far from anyone who knew her, and her position of book keeper, gave her a new and pleasing status. She was asked by one of the lady workers to teach her how to add up her earnings, another asked her to write a love letter to a young man. In return they would tell her their own stories, each unique, they would bring her special treats, and include her in the few hours they had of ease. She had entered a world of family and friendship. She tried to forget the Wu.

     But a Wu is like a sliver in your thumb, or a grain in a back tooth that your tongue cannot dislodge. Xiang Gu would have dreams that she could not hold onto, that troubled or frightened her but refused the light of day. Once she saw a snake in her room and smacked it with a broom. This one got away, but at least it never returned in that form. In moments when she did not expect to see a Wu at all, such as in her bath, she would catch his face in a mirror and watched as he blushed and fled, or seeing him departing from one of the girls’ rooms, as he boldly frowned at her and stalked away, she would wonder what he wanted.

    “Who was that, just with you, Mei-mei?” She asked.

    Mei-mei laughed. “Him? Still a boy! But he brought me gold. She flashed the small ear hoops still in her hand. “Maybe he will come back. Why do you ask?” 

     “He looks like someone from home.”

     “Then maybe it is better to not be seen?”

     “Probably.” Xiang Gu nodded thoughtfully. She wondered if he meant to been seen, though, or not. Once again, she reflected, he had seemed flushed, as if caught out.

     Xiang Gu worked hard for the Madame. She not only felt grateful, but she loved the freedom to write and calculate, to use her mind. Eventually she saved enough earnings to purchase the narrow scrolls and ink for herself. There she wrote what few things she knew; the story of her childhood, the story of her brief marriage, the stories of each of the women with whom she now lived. She felt at peace, she was happy for the first time since before her mother died.

     Eventually, yet again, the one certainty of life caught up with Xiang Gu: change. Some men came in a group one night. There were six of them, all sunburned and strong from their shipboard life. They were generous, and the girls liked them. They came back two more times before leaving port. Xiang Gu mostly stayed above in her little work alcove and sleeping room, but on their last visit, on her way to the kitchen, she happened to pass the door of young Mei-mei, as one of them departed. He was beautiful and exotic in his way, wearing silks that clashed, but accentuated his slim form, and he wore gold on his neck and arms, as if it were of no account. Xiang Gu ducked her head and moved swiftly down to the lowest level where she shut and bolted the kitchen door, for this one had looked at her in such a way, and her traitor body had responded. With her back to the door, she placed a hand over a heart that beat too quickly. 

     They came back periodically, but Xiang Gu stayed in her room with great care. One of these nights, Madame came to see her. She stood in the room and asked Xiang Gu to stand, nodding approvingly as she walked around her. Xiang Gu had grown tall and she held herself straight, her neck long and sinuous. She was not haughty, she was certain, and the certainty had grown, bit by bit, story by story, from each girl, from her own story, and showed itself in her posture and her eyes. Xiang Gu knew exactly who she was, and she had, consciously or not, made up her mind who she was going to be. Not. Property. 

     “Will you meet with him?” Madame asked carefully. She remembered this one’s story, and was ready, still, to let her choose. Xiang Gu spoke with much more certainty than Madame had anticipated. It made her smile. 

     “I will take tea downstairs. Will you join us?”

     “It will be my pleasure to watch you take tea, my child.” And she left with the message curling around her mouth as she went to find the man, who thought he owned his world, but was mistaken.

     Her second husband, the one who had captured her heart, once asked her as they rested in his bunk, sated and sweet, if she knew a Wu.

     She raised herself on an elbow and looked at him with a smile. “Why would you ask me such a thing?”

     “Because there was once a Wu who foretold my good fortune. He described you to a T.”

     “What did he look like?” Her husband wrinkled his brow and thought.

     “Strangely familiar.” He said at last.

     As her son bent over her to adjust the covers, Xiang Gu saw her Wu enter the room, weaving and flowing through the shadows, as was his way. She lifted a finger toward him to stop him from moving closer and he stopped short, a look of intense curiosity on his face. 

     “My Son” she said, her voice husky with the pain of cancer. “You have done enough.”

     “No, My Mother, you will be well again, let me care for you.”     

     She only looked at him, waiting, watching. At last, he finished with his pulling and smoothing of her coverlet and looked directly into her eyes. He saw something there so strange, that startled, he went to turn and look behind him. With an effort, she grasped his arm to prevent him, and her old strength rolled through her. He smiled to see it.

     “Ah, Mah-ma, see, you will grow strong again.”

     “No Son, you have been my guide and protector, but you are no necromancer. I will not allow it.” Her eyes were focused beyond him and she would not release his arm. “The time is correct for this. You have loved me well. Now go.” And her son, the Wu, turned and wove his way from the room, leaving himself at her bedside as he did so. She released his arm and her son turned slowly to see the empty air behind him. “Simply an error in timing, my darling child. You always had trouble with that.”

     “But Mah-ma!”

     “No! I have only one more wish.” And here she stopped to pull in enough breath to speak.

     “What is it?” He asked gently.

     She quirked up what she had left of a smile, “Teach your daughters to read!” 

     Some of this is history, a true story, if vague, contradictory, and hard to find (she was called by so many nick-names, you may not find her at first); read it if you like. Some of it is retold with a look to magic in the ordinary, not that Xiang Gu was ever ordinary.

     She negotiated her own marriage with the pirate she chose. She settled for 50% of everything. She spent her own, early life as a pirate, at sea, with hundreds of ships, thousands of employees. She made rules that honored women, as well as the rights of her employees, and she maintained the right to exact death if crossed; a pirate to her core. She ended her life where she began it, in Canton, now owning a brothel and gambling place, having married thrice, borne four children and obtained amnesty from the crown, (The Qing Dynasty who gave up trying to capture them), for herself and her crews. She negotiated to keep her gains and to allow her crews to find employment in the Navy. She flouted tradition and won, but was oddly lost to history.

     Xiang Gu was born in 1775, became a pirate around 1800, retired in 1810 and died at home with family in 1844. She happily raised that family on stories, including her own. She taught that to love life, was to embrace change. She also taught that to survive life was to bend just enough not to break.

Venus Rising