Happy Canada Day

Let’s overturn these tables
Disconnect these cables
This place don’t make sense to me no more
Can you tell me what we’re waiting for, señor?


Bob Dylan, Señor



Today someone left messages at Its Beach – two rocks painted blue, one of which said “Dream” and one of which said “Be Content.”  I think these inspirational calls were fueled by Lay’s Potato Chips and Coke and Pepsi, because whoever left these rocks appears to have also left their trash.  The lovely woman with the two Basenjis picked up after these dreamers.

The tide is high again, but was remarkably low earlier in the week – low enough that Lily and I could walk all the way to the arch.  Low enough that, for the first time, I saw bird tracks in the sand before the waves erased them, tracks that ran about like pipers, but appeared too big, more gull-sized.  The kind of seaweed that pops very satisfyingly when you step on it was strewn about.  Rocks dotted with anemones surfaced.  We enjoyed a beach on which you could walk for miles, but the arch is a conundrum, as the water doesn’t appear to angle in its direction.  Many things at Its Beach defy rational explanation.  My personal Bermuda triangle.

Meanwhile, our national nightmare continues.  There appears to be no waking from it.  The Republican Party is operating from the same bad faith that has characterized them for decades and it suits them now to have a president that is venal and vain, dull-witted and doltish, cruel and criminal.  The bigger problem, the problem that can never be solved, is that so many of my fellow citizens like that about him.  I don’t see any way ever to Unum this E Pluribis.IMG_0272


I will be the reaper
If you will be
The keeper of my heart  –  Indigo Girls, Keeper of my Heart

I want to notice, as many other writers have already done, that Denis Johnson has died. I met Denis about a year ago when I was teaching at Cornell. He came to do a reading and there was a dinner after to which I was generously invited. It will surprise absolutely no one to hear that he was a great raconteur as well as a great listener, and I looked forward to the day I got to see him again, as he lived not close to me, but not so far either. I regret his passing very much.

I am also mourning the loss of another writer. I never met Brian Doyle, except through his novels and essays, but I feel that he is there, more so than most writers, there in his words – a man particularly attentive to the beauty of the world, his stories told with an uncommon tenderness. There are many, many books that I love, but the magical Mink River has a special place in my heart. Of course, he had me with his talking crow.
We are losing people we can ill afford to lose.


The Don

Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it

John Mayer, Waiting on the World to Change


I am currently on retreat, posting from an undisclosed remote location.  I know, if I were home and had the access to the internet I am accustomed to, I would be online 24/7, watching the Comey firing play out.

During the Watergate hearings, I had a brand new baby.  I spent hours, rocking her in front of the most riveting tv.  Did it effect her?  She’s got her father’s eyes and her mother’s politics.

Then Gerald Ford told us that our national nightmare was over.  The institutions of our government had triumphed over a lawless president.  Our forefathers had proved, once again, so prescient.

We learned only this year, though we had long suspected, that Nixon scuttled the peace talks, prolonging the war in Vietnam and bringing about the deaths of hundreds of Americans and Vietnamese in order to be re-elected.  Inarguably more serious than Watergate.  Our institutions didn’t prevent or uncover this.  They didn’t work all the way up to the White House in the Iran/Contra scandal or when Reagan possibly undermined Carter’s attempt to rescue our hostages from Iran.

So really, all we have is Watergate and even that would have been iffy without a tape in which the crime is explicitly planned by the president.  Note to future presidents:  turn off the tape.

A few months back, Tim Weiner told me that Trump was boxed in, because firing Comey would constitute obstruction of justice.  Yet here we are.  I guess the law only matters if there is some one willing to enforce it.  (He also said that only John McCain and James Comey stand between us and the abyss.  Don’t look down!)

Today our institutions are all a subsidiary of the Republican Party, inc.  The Republic is only as strong as the integrity of Lying Paul Ryan, Old Loathsome Mitch, Slippery Susan Collins, and that fun Bomb-loving duo, Graham/McCain.  We are not encouraged.

Falling so quickly on the heels of the despicable, indefensible tax cut for the wealthy known as Trumpcare, one might be excused for feeling a little despair.

Does the Republican Party even care that Russia may control the administration, or that the government is being run solely in order to enrich the Trumps in particular and the wealthy in general?  Do they feel any responsibility to democracy and the constitution and the nation?  Things could change, but as of today, all signs point to no.  It’s always possible that this is all going exactly as they always dreamt it would.

Addendum today from Paul Krugman:

[I]it’s time to face up to the scary reality here. Most people now realize, I think, that Donald Trump holds basic American political values in contempt. What we need to realize is that much of his party shares that contempt.

100 days and counting (down)

What if the sun don’t rise when it’s supposed to?
What if the birds stop flying?
When will the air turn thicker than water?
If you love me, why am I dying?       The Boxing Gandhis  If You Love Me [Why am I Dying?]

Here we are at the 100 day mark and I am trying to get a picture that truly captures the color of the water in the morning. I marched for Science last Saturday. I’m marching again tomorrow.  Tomorrow, this is what I’m marching for.IMG_0249

First we take (the) Manhattan (Project)

I’m guided by a signal in the heavens
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

Leonard Cohen, First We Take Manhattan

Coincidentally, the very week national-vote-loser Trump bombed a Syrian airport, a 2007 documentary, War Made Easy: How Presidents & Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death, finally made it to the top of our Netflix queue. Even without this movie, I think I would have seen the near-orgasmic media response to the “very presidential” move of bombing someone somewhere as a familiar one. But the movie clarified just how familiar it is. Nothing excites our media more than seeing the missiles fly.

But this part I find less familiar: we now have a president who is so easily manipulated that the gushing will lead directly to more bombings. So Brian Williams, Fareed Zakaria, and all the rest of you who fawned over the bomber-in-chief last week, the next round is on you. It was irresponsible in the extreme not to recognize this.

Because we all know who Trump is. It doesn’t matter what he said or says. It has never mattered what he said or says. He fancies himself a tough guy. He is very invested in looking tougher than Obama. (He won’t be tough if personal sacrifice is involved – he’s not a man who does personal sacrifice – but if he can look tough while sacrificing someone else? Win/win.) So I don’t blame the press for the first bombing as he was always going to bomb someone. But now that he knows he’ll be praised and admired for it, I expect we’ll see a lot more bombs.

While, for the first time since nuclear weapons were invented, we have a game of brinksmanship occurring between two spectacularly unstable leaders. The Cuban missile crisis redux only crazy this time. Will a first strike on North Korea also elicit such breathless enthusiasm? I’m terribly afraid the answer to this question is coming soon.

Meanwhile, in order to steal a seat on the Supreme Court, Mitch McConnell has broken the Senate. If there were a single admirable Republican anywhere, s/he would have asked that Garland get a hearing before Gorsuch. But there isn’t, so s/he didn’t. I would like to think there was some shame involved in this whole sordid episode, but there seems to be no end of self-congratulation instead. Springtime for corporations and billionaires. Springtime for voter suppression and discrimination disguised as religious freedom. Winter for women and people of color and people with no money who wish they had clean water to drink.

It is strange to be watching these terrible matters in the midst of much beauty here. The blackbirds are singing in the meadows. The sun is shining through the rain. The wild flowers are as tall as I am. The dog beach is an oasis of good will and harmony. No big dogs picking on little dogs. Balls and waves enough for everyone.


I love the mountains.
I love the rolling hills.
I love the flowers.
I love the daffodils.     Folksong, I Love the Mountains


I love the call of redwing blackbirds. I love the shape and sound of waves. I love to watch pelicans fly. I love the wind-sculpted Monterey pines. I love crows. I love watching 24 million people not lose their health insurance. Friday was a good day. 

I can’t say that I’m tired of winning yet, but it was nice to remember what winning feels like.  (Though I’m not entirely sure we’ve won.  The man who told me the fight over healthcare is over is the world’s biggest liar.  Agents of Voldemort, Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows, (I love the meadows, but not that one) say they are still hammering out an agreement. So I’m relieved, but not relaxed.)

Meanwhile, I have to depend on the Democrats to take the Gorsuch nomination to the wall and a full-on fight has never been their look.  Obama nominates a cautious centrist; Trump nominates a radical extremist.  If Gorsuch were a man of integrity, he would insist on Garland getting a hearing first.  But he’s not so he doesn’t.  And please, let’s dispense with the charade that the Supreme Court is non-partisan.  That fairy tale ran out of road 17 years ago.  We all know who Gorsuch represents.  Pretending otherwise tells me you think I’m a fool.

Meanwhile2 it’s a big green light for the Keystone Pipeline.  Why is it that Republicans hate every living thing?  Every blade of non-golf-course grass, every bear cub, every bumblebee?


“Environmental Protection, what they do is a disgrace… We’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit …”     Donald Trump


Meanwhile3 life’s great consolations:  art and nature.  IMG_0242 IMG_0237 IMG_0215 IMG_0224

Both under siege from DC.  Create.  Bloom.  Resist.

Syphilis in the News

I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very very
mad world mad world – Roland Orzabal, Mad World 


Back in 1990, the NYTimes ran an article letting us know that syphilis was making its comeback.  Surging, in fact.  Long believed to be in decline, the disease had gotten little attention and doctors knew surprisingly little about it as a result.  It is apparently notoriously hard to diagnose.  Yet after Trump’s recent press conference, the New Republic ran an article arguing that his behavior matched up well with late stage syphilis.

Let’s assume that Trump doesn’t have syphilis, there being no evidence that he does.  Let’s take this not as a diagnosis, but simply as one description of his demeanor.  More restrained coverage characterized his press conference as unhinged – this is a word I saw often.  Also bizarre and vapid.  Also petulant and egomaniacal.  And yet his supporters, watching this very same performance, apparently loved it.

One of the things Trump suggested, one of the many things Trump said, was that representatives need only care about the needs and opinions of the people who voted for them.  This was in reference to angry town halls.  And a recent PEW poll found an approval rating for Trump of about 84% among Republican voters.

So there’s your partisan divide.  On one side, people see a man whose behavior is not caused by but is consistent with the symptoms of tertiary syphilis.

On the other, people see the well-informed, hope-inspiring president they’ve always wanted.

You can’t even see from here to there.