Sunday, August 31, 2003



"...toward the harmonious coexistence of the natural environment and human beings." I see this phrase earnestly stated with one or another paraphrase in just about every corporate profile, every announcement of corporate reorganization, every statement of environmental agency intent. It implies that in achieving such harmony with the environment we are overcoming some natural barrier between us and the natural world, some barrier that we ourselves had nothing to do with creating, and that through our own noble and altruistic endeavors we will set things right at last despite the unwillingness of nature to be a party to all this progress; as though such harmony is an unnatural state we have to work to achieve, that only corporations or governments, as the primary embodiments of human intelligence, can realize such harmony, and as though for the first time in the history of humanity. Not a hint that the toxins up to IQ level are our own, spread in commission or omission by those very corporations and governments, or that we both individually and as a species came into this world originally very much in harmony with it, in fact of it, and have since distanced ourselves from it, and despoiled it in vast ways we have yet to comprehend, through selfishness, greed, nurtured ignorance and special varieties of narcissism; are we not wondrous and progressive creatures, now let us get busy and fix Nature, that big screwup, the business of big business, get this planet into harmony, fix those rivers, manage those forests, clear those oceans, repair the air, bring nature into harmony with ourselves and our ambitions. Fact is, as this tricky little self-delusional phrase indicates, corporately we're not budging an inch, and never will until we're all dead of profit. These are our resources, after all. We often lie to ourselves in this way, the privilege of our unchallenged position in the hierarchy, like the dinosaurs had.

Saturday, August 30, 2003



"Two years into President Bush's term, the damage he has done to the nation and the world is incalculable. On issue after issue, Bush does what's good for big corporations and right-wing extremists at the expense of the public. The Wage Slave Journal offers this scorecard to help you keep track of all of the evil deeds Bush commits and, more important, to provide a record for your perusal when November 2004 rolls around."

Brings chills to the contemplative soul...
[ARIGATO to Ron Andrews for this one.]

For further frissons, see Dubya's resume...

Friday, August 29, 2003



Last night just as I was getting home the Ts pulled up in their truck to give us some pamphlets to hand out for the mayoral recall campaign. The Ts are wooden-toy makers who live down in the village in a big log house they built themselves, and where they have been making new and traditional wooden toys for many years now. As this indicates they are a very gentle couple; they have four children of their own, but no grandchildren yet. The fact that they make wooden toys is another big indicator of how much they love kids. So when Echo came to the door to talk to them with one of the twins in her arms, they practically melted on the spot with delight; then when I went in and brought out the other twin in a baby basket (they hadn't heard there were twins) they just about vaporized. For some time they bounced with glee on our veranda, looking at and holding the tiny red new feet, the hands, looking into the eyes and laughing, wanting just to hold the babies ("How small and light they are!"), enjoying the pure delight it is to delight in a newborn child, and this child no direct relation to them. I guess a lot of that love goes into the wonderful wooden toys they're famous for.

Thursday, August 28, 2003



These latter summer nights as the rice heads richen, each time I zone up the mountain, just past the patch of forest where the wild pigs hide in wait for their chance to raid the rice fields, where you have to be careful going around the far curve because it's blinded by the bamboo that grows up and leans out over from the left, you get careful and cautious and watchful just as the headlights sweeping their arc around the curve suddenly starkly light upon a ghastly figure looming by the roadside, a kind of mad farm woman dressed to the nines in stylish hat and garish jacket of green on ivory with casual gray slacks, very casual gray slacks, in seeming danger of stepping right into the road: "Is she ill?" "What is she doing?" type thoughts flash panically through the driving-habituated mindzone grabbing the steering wheel trying to get a quick handle on this sudden dangerous apparition, this horrible creature with no legs, no face, no life you can see now as you draw carefully closer, and beyond her is her husband it would appear, moving closer, he as boneless, as faceless as she, though less stylish of dress from the discards someone in a farm household was willing to leave suddenly out in the rain on sticks like scarecrows, only to scare wild pigs away, bring the hearts of nighttime drivers, wending their ways up the dark curving road, abruptly into their mouths like this...

Wednesday, August 27, 2003



A diversely enspiriting and freedom-nourishing resource. Via the always rewarding Plep.


The Land of the Rising Sun it used to be called, before an unknown 500,000-year weather cycle (or maybe global warming, as hypothesized a couple weeks ago) brought all the rain here. An extremely distant rumor has it that the Japanese government will soon be busy designing a new flag, to more accurately depict the newly primary characteristic of the nation: a dense rain cloud right where the sun is on the old flag, with steady rain streaking down like water lasers. The sun is now largely a memory in these parts, though it's still visible on the flag. In June, July and August this year we've had maybe half a dozen of the kind of days that a liberal and Japanophilic weatherman, if gotten drunk and generously bribed, might, with a bit of hedging, call sunny. Swimming? Just jump outside and stroke away. Lake? Who needs a lake when the air is an ocean? Guy just went by on a low altitude jet ski. Surfers hang ten on cloud curls. Birds fly like fish swim. People are all pruny looking, like they just got out of the bath; and the insult "Go jump in the lake" has lost all meaning, because you can't tell the difference if you do.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003



And sleep through the whole thing.



Today, for the first time since I started Pure Land Mountain back in April of last year, site visitors from the US have surpassed visitors from Japan. The former started out far behind, and have been incrementing upward since the beginning, a tenth of a point at a time, but I wasn't sure they would ever actually surpass visitors from the country I reside in and post mainly about. It is a privilege to thus behold a manifest and growing individual American interest in the daily local doings in the rest of the world. That can't but bode well for America.


As those of you kind folks who made repeat visits to PLM over the past couple weeks no doubt noticed, until today there were no new postings after August 15. I wasn't on vacation, or ill, or suffering blogger's block; I was suffering from Blogger.

Seems every month they go silently down for about 10 days, without saying anything to anyone. And as I watched others blithely blogging away, smoothly and lavishly posting goodies on their blogger blogs, Pure Land Mountain just sat there stagnantly silent as I wrote and posted the few posts I could get up to doing for no immediate point, which anyway didn't get published because there was no template, just a white hole where the template used to be.

So just to do something about it, I emailed the support folks there, detailing the problem as the form requests, and received this response: "We wanted to let you know that we've received your support request. As a paying user of Blogger, we treat your issues with the highest priority."

After some days of silence and no change, I wrote "Yeah, sure you do." And received this: "We wanted to let you know that we've received your support request. As a paying user of Blogger, we treat your issues with the highest priority."

Ever the lover of intelligent progress, I wrote back some changeless days later "ARE YOU PEOPLE ASLEEP??" and got this response: "We wanted to let you know that we've received your support request. As a paying user of Blogger, we treat your issues with the highest priority."

The support folks there appear to be body by IBM, soul by Microsoft.



"The bureau meeting will be free to those not attending."

Saturday, August 23, 2003



Well, Keech left for Seattle just a couple of hours ago, after about 2 months here, and I miss him already. Already all the tasks yet to be done-- the new stone steps, the cedar thinning, the bamboo cutting, the log hauling-- seem to loom so much larger, be so much more daunting, without him. And will be lonelier to do, than when we could banter as we worked, making the work go faster as the sweat fell, seeming to be easier as we took on the task together. And now there is an intense ache where he was, where he would have been in all these things.

I never used to feel this way after farewells, even long ones, maybe even forever ones, but I guess when you're young you don't yet have the life-time required to understand what farewells deeply mean, how hard they can fall on the long-lived heart.

How blithely I left home myself at age 18 to enter the military, never to return again as the naive teenager I'd been, being then even more blithely unaware of the pain my mother was no doubt feeling as I went off into my life, off into the intense experiences that dimmed any pain of departure. You have to be young to get away so easy with goodbye. But it all catches up with you, and now I'm feeling to the heart what my mother must have felt, what all doting parents must feel, that golden ache it is to love someone who must, in the nature of things, go away into their own far reaches of life.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003



Most of the world doesn't know it yet, since it's only a 'local' thing, so far (and, given the state of the world economy, very likely to remain so), but the felling of forests, the leveling of hills, a general plowing under and concretizing and building of soon-to-be-unused buildings, roads and parking lots is well under way now in Aichi Prefecture in preparation for Aichi Expo 2005, under the ludicrously paradoxical theme: "Wisdom of Nature." One wonders how this wisdom is fostered by its erasure. Perhaps like whales are helped by killing them. Go here for the story and a gory photo of what can happen when nature gets in the way of its own promotion.

Monday, August 18, 2003



Seems I've been awfully political in here of late, and to what effect after all… those dim bulbs in office fade to below zero importance when I've got a grandtwin in each arm staring at my face like there's some vast secret to be found there, and I suppose there is, though I'm not really in on it either, but I don't tell them that. I stare into the mirror with the same look they have on their newborn faces when they look at me for the minutes that are their hours. I guess we're all newborn every moment, hungry to learn where we are and what to do there so as to better rely on ourselves (if we're honest), see further by our own brightness and that of honest others, not by some dim bulbs...

Friday, August 15, 2003



Like the entire state of California, the entire township of Shiga is having a recall vote soon, only in this case it's not a governor, but a mayor, and there is no "mayonator" in the running. Lucky us. Our mayoral recall vote, coming up on August 31, is getting a bit of national news, we find leaflets in our mailboxes, recaller vans are cruising the streets with their speakers playing folk songs and "natural" type music, as opposed to the thought-suppressing ad-jingle type that usually accompanies the white gloves and warblers, in this case encouraging voters to clear their minds, get out there and unvote for the guy they voted for who shafted them but good, the mayor on tv as blandly affable as any shell-game operator, defending his policy (do as you're told) with three microphones as though he himself is a natural guy and not an LDP apparatchik who did his time on the ladder...


Beautiful little houses you can put anywhere, big enough for all your living needs, with lots of land to spare. Gets you thinking of all those beautiful places you've ever thought you'd love to build a house... via Rebecca's Pocket.


"I think this is the worst government the US has ever had in its more than 200 years of history."

Nobel Prize Winner George Akerlof, referring to the astonishing ministrations of AWOL Guardsman George Bush, who was recently found to have a psyche, and who will soon cut the pay of the US troops he sent to Iraq!!

For further precipitous jaw dropping, see Who Served? on the excellent site With thanks to

Thursday, August 14, 2003


Well, the newborn twins are with us for a while, and are they ever new. And since we know from experience that newborn newness is as temporary as a dewdrop we are making the most of it, short of keeping the little sleepies awake too long.

After each of the babies in my life has grown up, I've somehow managed to forget how tiny newborns are, a lapse absolutely corrected by the next newcomer. Throughout their ephemeral awakenings, how wrinkly and skinny and endearing they are, with their tiny actual legs and feet with genuine toes, hands and fingers that work, professional yawns as though they've been yawning all their lives, which in fact they have been.

Between yawns they lie there patiently, practicing all the many faces, smiling a full-bloom smile before they even have a sense of humor; then there's a look of heartbreaking disappointment, hopefully never to be used, but practiced nonetheless. And rage, and glee and other excitements: all rehearsals.

Even when their kitten-cries pierce the air like arrows, carry upstairs and downstairs, penetrate thick walls and doors and bring instant silence to the most important adult conversation, they aren't really crying, they aren't in actual despair; like humor, that also requires personal experience of the highs and lows of the world out there, for which they're busy rehearsing. So as they weep and laugh it is our pleasure to feel it on their behalf.

And before they drift off to sleep, they watch for miracles with those bright brown eyes, as the faces of ancestors drift through their own by the minute, as clouds through a sky: there is their mother in the smile; now their father about the eyes, then the look of an uncle of mine, and then the young face of my mother, as they pass through all the faces they have come from, including me, I guess. It is startling to see one's own memories flow across those tiny others, who just got here. At no moment in our lives are we apart from eternity.

Hence the familiar ancient feeling one feels, on peeping in through the bedroom door to see them at last asleep: two tiny quiet bumps in the coverlet beside each other, two tiny lifesteps out into the world that we will do our best to ensure are continued on pathways of goodness and joy.



"George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and Condoleezza Rice and Tony Blair and Dick Cheney are insane. I don't know what they think they are doing here, but if it involves order and sanity they have failed miserably and indefinitely. It's obvious enough from the newspaper accounts but you have to see it for yourself. They have caused a catastrophe here. The events of the past year have moved so quickly we tend to forget about the effect of 12 years of economic sanctions. "The price is worth it?" I don't know what they're going to do, and the masters of war themselves must be terrified."

Excerpt from dispatch by Attorney Scott Fleming, posted in full by Anita Roddick.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003



"If embraced, the awareness of our vulnerability can free us to develop new perspectives, and new perspectives can lead us to new ways of living, can push us beyond what we thought were our limits to reveal fresh, surprising, and exhilarating ways of being in the world."

From a wise and eloquent post by JMG at RedTurtleLaughing.

Monday, August 11, 2003



In re my previous post: at UC Berkeley, "Four researchers who culled through 50 years of research literature about the psychology of conservatism report that at the core of political conservatism is the [sic] resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality, and that some of the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism include:

Fear and aggression
Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
Uncertainty avoidance
Need for cognitive closure
Terror management"

Although none of the above will come as a surprise to any activist who has ever questioned a status quo, the academic cachet is nice. Already I can hear the pallid spokesmen of the concretized saying "Well of course, it would come out of Berkeley..." A veritable hotbed of spiritual evolution. You can read the entire article here.

[Thanks to Ron Andrews for this one.]



I remember the shock we felt in Berkeley when tv cowboy Reagan from Illinois ambled out of Death Valley Days (where for black-and-white years he'd washed his hands with borax) to take on the role of California Governor and they played his old commercials as cartoons in the Bay Area movie houses and they were hilarious, but times have changed, people now believe that Hollywood is legitimate prep for politics, and they're right in many respects.

Movies and politics both involve big productions, big spin, big parts, scripts to follow, promotion campaigns, production values, illusions, disbeliefs to suspend, raspberries to ignore.

Dubya (currently in the major national role), the son of Reagan's bland supporting actor, has no theater background himself (no personal background at all, really) and is a lousy actor, like a movie-extra who looks into the camera. He's always wanted a part in a war movie.

Reagan, on the other hand, for whom reality was never a major intrusion, simply followed the Governor script, then the President script, did his walk-ons, said a few lines, let operatives run things, waved-- and events the producers wanted to happen happened. The rich loved what Ronny did for their portfolios, the poor as usual couldn't afford to pay much attention to what wasn't trickling down from way up there, and the middle class were content with modest raises, though taxes soon took those away and more...

And here we are back again in very low budget California, where a naturalized Mr. Universe action movie robot from Graz, Austria falls into California from a hole in Hollywood and walks around wanting to be Governor. The question is, will today's Californians also vote for a fading action hero, or are a majority of them smarter than he thinks they are? Anyway he wants their vote, like 40 years ago he wanted muscles.

Sunday, August 10, 2003



May we collectively offer our thanks and appreciations to all who have so kindly commented here and sent congratulatory emails on the birth of the surprise twins Mitsuki and Miasa, who are doing very well. Although they cannot see fully yet, they listen intently when we tell them of these things. And I can tell they thank you too.

To address one question posed by Nils regarding the boshi-techo, a sort of mother-child medical notebook, which everyone in the Japanese medical establishment and bureaucracy, in feudal Tokugawa population control fashion, rabidly insists is absolutely lifeordeath essential to obtain (for which purpose an early ultrasound scan is "required").

The Saitama midwives' organization, for one, poohpoohs all that concern, being on the side of the mothers and children and against unnecessary medical procedures such as a blast of ultrasound to a developing fetus (basically a medical guinea pig in an expensive multigenerational experiment regarding the unknown long-term effects of ultrasound on genomic replication). Kasumi was born in Spain, but was also a Japanese citizen, and was two years old when we returned here; we got an ex-post-facto boshi-techo for her, no problem.

When Kasumi was about two months pregnant with Kaya, the doctor she consulted blasted her with ultrasound before she knew what was happening, which upset her greatly (even as simply violating her rights of intelligent decision, which rights too many doctors in Japan reserve completely unto themselves, over their subservient patients) and she refused all further ultrasound, which many doctors here prefer to give monthly throughout gestation. How have we gotten along without it, all these millennia.

Anyway, the boshi-techo, being basically sort of an immunization record and of no essential import other than for bureaucratic intimidation, and we foregoing all such treatments to the extent possible, we and Kasumi have never used the boshi-techo since they were obtained (Kaya is still shot free) and the twins will get boshi-techo too, without an ultrasound certificate, which doctors and nurses and town hall clerks vehemently insist (to newly pregnant mothers who want to refuse ultrasound) is impossible.

I could diatribe at length about this, but will stop here; if anyone has any other questions about any of it, please feel free to ask, I'll do my best to get the right answers. And thanks again to you all from the carefully attentive twins. I'll try not to write about them all the time.

seeing the twins
Kaya becomes
big sister

Saturday, August 09, 2003


More multifaceted feedback on the incident of the sudden twins and how they went undetected until they were born: Miki-san the midwife said she missed hearing two heartbeats not only because the beats were very similar in sound, almost synchronous, but because the smaller twin Miasa (2450 gms) was in back, in breech position, where her heart was not audible at the normally positioned site of the larger (2910 gms) Mitsuki's heartbeat, which took all the checking.

Then, after Mitsuki was born Miasa did an instant somersault out of breech position, and her heartbeat showed up right where Mitsuki's had been. If Miki-san had heard two hearts, as I indicated in my last post, she would have refused to have the birth at her clinic, because multiple births often pose complex problems involving low birth weight, tangled umbilicals etc.

Miki and her assistants were surprised at the largeness of these twins (twins are usually closer to premature birthweight, ca 2000 gms), and they were very impressed with the quality of the placenta. Seems a lot of the placentas they see nowadays are less than optimally healthy, in one way or another, which is no surprise.

Anyway, Kasumi hadn't wanted to go back to the hospital she'd been sent to last time, because there they took Kaya away as soon as she was born, and against Kasumi's wishes fed her formula instead of letting Kasumi breastfeed. Mother and baby were just stats to them.

So as chance would have it, Kasumi came to Miki's clinic early in the morning, barefoot and bent in labor, unable to tell Miki-san for example that she had gained 3 kg in the last few days, which would have caught the midwife's attention for sure; she would have checked very carefully and had to send Kasumi again to the noisy hospital where the food was terrible, where Kasumi would be drugged and perhaps advised to undergo a caesarian so as to free up the schedule, followed with treatment by dour clock-punching nurses (not to knock the nurses themselves, who are worked unbelievably hard in Japanese hospitals and simply have no time or energy to be as personable as they no doubt intended to be when they chose their profession).

Instead Kasumi was given no drugs, in a bright house where three cheerful aunties gave her all their attention, smiling and laughing and singing and talking to the babies (babies love that), whom they kept with their mother, to whom they brought fine home-cooked food. So it seems the twins worked out all that subterfuge on their own; they did it on purpose, so that they and their mother could be together in natural happiness, right from the start.

[Please note new Midwifery links in side bar, inspired by these events; many more excellent links can be found at TreeOfLife. (Added Aug 11) RB]

Thursday, August 07, 2003


Well the big story on Pure Land Mountain is that very early on Wednesday morning Kasumi (whose architect husband Tatsuya is finishing a huge building up north) began feeling the uterine contractions, so I and Echo drove her and Kaya about 45 minutes along the Lakeside road to the midwife's clinic (Kaya was very eager to observe the birth of the new baby brother she wanted). We got there in good time, got Kasumi settled in, and I waited outside while she, Echo, the midwife and Kaya set about getting a birth into process.

Some time later I went back inside and Kaya was running in circles so I took her to visit the famous and beautiful lakeside site of the pine of Karasaki not far from the clinic, where she enjoyed running around barefoot picking up pine needles and looking at the boats going by. After about an hour we went back to the clinic for the latest news; Echo said the contractions were getting weaker so it would probably take some time (here history had its effect; this clinic was the very one where Kaya had tried to be born, over two years ago, but had taken much too long, preferring from the very start to do things her own way, necessitating her being brought into the world at the hospital in Otsu on the first day of the new millennium). We therefore concluded that history was about to repeat itself, and it would likely be a matter of many hours yet. So it was decided that I would take Kaya home for lunch; anyway, it was time for her nap; indeed, she fell asleep soon after we started back.

When we arrived home, about an hour later, planning to return to the clinic in 2~3 hours, Keech told me that Echo had called: the baby had been born! It was a girl, named Mitsuki. Keech then went to take a shower in prep for our immediate return to the clinic, when Echo called again, saying that after the baby was born they were waiting for the placenta, the midwife saying 'This is taking an awfully long time' (it sounded to me like bad news coming) and 'That looks like a very large placenta, but it doesn't seem to be progressing at all,' so the midwife gave a listen with the stethoscope and nearly fainted when she heard another heartbeat in there. There is nothing in the world as deep as a natural surprise.

Just last month, at the midwife's request, Kasumi had visited the gynecologist in the village down the road, and been given the all clear. The midwife assumed that an ultrasound scan had been included, and since Kasumi had said nothing, believed that all was as usual. Our family, however, has always avoided unnecessary medical procedures and drugs, so there was no ultrasound. Thus no one, not even Kasumi, knew she was carrying twins. Forty minutes after Mitsuki had come into the world, her identical twin sister Miyasa was born. (Fortunately, Kasumi and Tatsuya had wanted different names if the baby was a girl, so they both got their wish.)

If Kasumi had had an ultrasound scan, and thus found out she was carrying twins, the midwife would have had to refuse to attend the birth. By Japanese law [Later correction: not by law, but by general midwife clinic avoidance of many possible complications, insurance etc. One would have a hard time here finding a midwife clinic that would knowingly accept a multiple-birth client. RB.] all multiple births must be delivered in hospitals; but since no one knew until mid-way through, it was a first for the midwife too. Kasumi now had her arms full; Tatsuya would soon be holding his twin daughters; Kaya was all at once a double big sister, Echo and I new twin grandparents. When Keech came out of the shower, I told him the new news, that he was suddenly a triple uncle. By the time we got back to the clinic, Kasumi had sent the twins' pictures out to all her friends around the world via her cam-phone. The twins, who at the time looked and slept like a couple of umeboshi, didn't look like they knew how worldwide they already were at their age, which perhaps is just as well.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003



Now that Kaya and Kasumi are staying with us while Kaya's future sibling gestates to perfection, I find myself smiling and laughing more than usual, not only because smiles are infectious (kiddy smiles even moreso) and Kaya grins at the slightest sign of grinnability, even working herself up into extended bouts of laughter with no visible source of humor, but because her smiles are so pure and unrestrained, so open and trusting, I simply must respond with smiles of my own, all welcome doses of Vitamin S. The laughter that soon follows also feels right at home on my face, which takes good comfort in a familiar habit that is best not broken. And therein is another gift that grandchildren give.

As one grows deeper into elderhood, for various reasons there is often a tendency to smile less, which means even less laughter, perhaps none at all, a condition that puts one in danger of becoming a living bust. As well, a sense of humor sharpened by long experience can often be very hard to tickle into guffaws; not to mention that with the wisdom conferred by said experience often comes a crusty hauteur that may be ideal at board meetings or on a judicial bench, but can be very counterproductive at a birthday party or a random walk with a two-year-old. Also, as over decades one comes to trust more and more in one's own judgement, one can turn too far inward, and no longer follow the younger way of interacting with life's surroundings as with a vigorous dance partner.

Hence, elders without grandchildren around can, if left thus untended for any length of time, spiral inward toward the dreaded realms of Fogyism. The grandchild spares you such a fate by making you smile countless times a day without any particular point, and top it off with a laugh. For a smile begets a smile, and it is the smile that makes the grandfather (grandmothers seem to have it much easier in the smile department), breaks the mask and opens the elder heart to bright new things.

Back when the child before you was your own child, of course you smiled; but you were younger then. When you are young, newly familied and wrapped in the world, there are countless reasons to smile. In the elder, however, as indicated, the duration between smiles can in time approach infinity. A protracted lack of Vitamin S soon begets gloom, which leads to inertia and thence to stagnation, the opposite of the smile.

This is where the grandchild comes in, smiles at you right out of the blue, and there on your face is a spontaneous smile of your own: you too are a source of joy once more, and are thus blessed. So if you're suffering a lack of Vitamin S and haven't cracked a smile in a while, consult the nearest grandchild.

Monday, August 04, 2003



Call me Ahab. You know how trees are. Generally quiet, rather set in their ways, rooted in place, heedful of the seasons. Eminently peaceful, they are nevertheless right at home in a storm, and know very well how to handle themselves.

Their apparent docility is deceptive, however; there is a great deal of power muscled up in a tree, and not just of root and grain and pliability, but also of weight and reach, not to mention hardness in contrast to such soft limbs as grace our own trunks. There is as well a woody malevolence knotted somewhere in every tree, to which lumberjacks often allude in their tales of good trees gone bad.

In the main, though, trees and humans get along very well together (witness the park), except where trees are worth money, when a new factor sets in that, though lamentable in the extreme, and worth volumes of words, has no place in this anecdote. When humans such as myself cut trees down for legitimate reasons like mine (I know, I know, they're all 'legitimate'), the trees are for the most part very cooperative and fall right where careful cutting aims them.

But in lumbering, as in all else, pride goeth before a fall. Not long ago in this very venue I was patting myself on the back for felling a series of scrub trees right where I wanted them; so on a recent evening it was in that mode of not necessarily quiet pride that I, with Keech as my assistant, approached the unsuspecting cedar down by the road that had its hair twisted in the big phone cable that serves the whole mountainside, the tree also making a nuisance of itself by cutting off the sunlight to our lower garden in summer and our roof in winter.

I got out some rope, the shortest piece in the toolshed ("We'll need no more," said Pride); I sussed the tree out briefly ("I'll get it to fall right there," said the Big P). The trunk was puny, only a foot in diameter (Big P: "Piece of cake"), I made the right cuts about a yard off the ground (so the tree will regrow as a high hedge) to get it to fall precisely...there.

So when the moment was right and the tree was wavering as planned, Keech gave a mighty heave on the rope, and the rope snapped like the old, cheap, rotten hemp trash it was, leaving Keech flat on the ground while I with one hand attempted to keep the now ominously and ambivalently wavering tree upright while the other hand sought to free the maliciously jammed chainsaw from the powerful jaws of the now rabidly aggressive trunk-- the tree seemed then to grin that grainy grin that certain trees (especially cedars) get when they scent human vulnerability-- then, though there was no breeze, the tree rocked a bit further this way... then a bit that way (Steven King should have been there for a new idea), as if toying with us soft and bendable beings, so easily mashed by hefty trunks.

I could hear the woody beast creaking with glee as it played with our doubts awhile; then at last with a kind of grainy laughter it flung itself in full abandon onto the big phone cable, which it pulled into a pretty precise 90 degree angle apexed at about two meters from the ground, the other end of the severed trunk still resting on the stump.

In the adrenaline rush that instantly followed, Keech and I tried to push the trunk upward a bit... and it slid right off the slick stump and arrowed down into the ground with a wham and a sort of nyah-nyah sneer, right where my foot had just been ("Pretty good reflexes for a 62-year-old," drawled the Big P).

I then realized that although I had calculated everything else correctly, (excepting of course the total incompetence of the rope) I hadn't factored in the lopsidedness of the upper branching which, now that I thought of it, had tended greatly out toward the road, like a thin waiter holding out at arms' length a tray containing half a ton of asparagus.

I found a mote of comfort in the fact that this wasn't happening in a crowded suburb where all the neighbors would be watching Ahab and Ishmael get gobbled up by Moby Cedar.

So after Keech, I and the Big P had sussed out the new scenario, Keech got atop the stone wall where he could use the chainsaw to sever the tree about a meter below where the branches started, cutting from the upper side downward, I figuring that the weight of the crown beyond the cable would lift the cut toward the saw and flip the crown off the other side of the cable, but Keech thought it would be better to cut from the bottom up, thinking the trunk would be heavier, so he did and the sneaky tree sure enough jammed the saw in there like a bulldog with your favorite slipper.

So, getting deeper into the part of Ahab, I got out there and hung bodily from the trunk to pull it downward and free the saw (all the while eyeing the poor rubber-band phone cable and wondering how many thousands of dollars it would cost to repair when it broke, but perhaps even more importantly, how long it would take to live down breaking the entire mountainside phone cable) as Ish-- Keech tried to wriggle the saw out from his perch atop the wall.

Finally we got the saw free, and Keech cut the tree from the top this time: the crown twirled neatly around the cable and slammed to the roadway, missing me by a pine needle as the trunk instantly but unsuccessfully tried to make me three feet tall ("Pretty agile for a 62-year old," droned the Big P).

I thought it all rather well done, myself, being still intact after the tree was down and the cable was back up. The chapter ended with Keech (also still intact) and I walking toward a house bathed in a now brighter sunset.


There appears to be growing hope in America for another single-term presidency, hence more intelligent leadership and a political future somewhere other than spin city, with a recent poll showing that only 47% would vote for the dubiously elected current office holder (even that number is disturbing: those people want more of the same!!!), and that 41% would vote for ANY Democrat. With little more than a year to go, look for a lot of WMD type alarms suddenly raised at key time points, as heretofore. The crafty folks in this administration are of course behind the scenes. Go here for further details of the poll.

Saturday, August 02, 2003


for moments at sunset
cry love