Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Anxiety & the Antidote

Woke up this morning from a dream: 

in a big city, somewhat unfamiliar, suddenly aware that I was supposed to play a gig in Aztec, New Mexico in 30 minutes. My saxophone was home, missing a pad, and with no reeds. I finally found a music store, small in the front, expanding inside to include Ken Sanders and his rare book shop. When I finally found a tenor sax reed I started sucking on it and looked for another. There was none to be found. I went to the back and asked Ken. He took me to a side wall where there were little cabinets and pulled out a very dark reed with what looked like a little soul patch. I thought it was weird and beautiful. I took both reeds up to the counter. The woman behind it pointed out that the first reed required a special mouthpiece, which I didn't have. I left with only the other reed, already late for the gig. Alex Caldiero was outside waiting for me. He was late for the same gig. We set off . . .

Anxious, I think, about the things I want to do this summer —Zarko's and my books, Sam's and my book, the barbed wire book, Immortal For Quite Some Time — obviously too much and too little time.

If I had remembered, instead, in my sleep, these vistas from last night, I might not have worried so much.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Barbed Wire

Starting part two of our literary barbed wire today. Part one (Stretching and Cutting Fence from The Connecticut Yankee to "'Brokeback Mountain'" has been sent off for consideration by Western American Literature. We'll call part two "Barbed-Wire Flagellants, Worshippers, Prisoners, and Celebrants."

Steinbeck is our taking off point for flagellants (it's the former preacher Jim Casy speaking with Tom Joad):

“I says to myself, ‘What’s gnawin’ you? Is it the screwin’?’ And’ I says, ‘No, it’s the sin.’ An’ I says, ‘Why is it that when a fella ought to be just about mule-ass proof against sin, an’ all full up of Jesus, why is it that’s the time a fella gets fingerin’ his pants buttons?’” He laid two fingers down in his palm in rhythm, as though he gently placed each word there side by side. “I says, ‘Maybe it ain’t a sin. Maybe it’s just the way folks is. Maybe we been whippin’ the hell out of ourselves for nothin’.’ An’ I thought how some sisters took to beatin’ theirselves with a three-foot shag of bobwire. An’ I thought how maybe they liked to hurt themselves, an’ maybe I liked to hurt myself.”

Fifth printing of the first edition (1939) -- the battle hymn on both front and end papers:

We'll move on by the middle of the essay to Amy Irvine's Trespass, a memoir about living at the edge of the promised land. At one point in her attempt to live as a wilderness advocate among the ranchers of southern Utah, she discovers a coyote, newly shot and hung on a barbed wire fence. She identifies with the coyote.

We just got a copy of Dave Foreman's book Ecodefense, a handbook for the monkeywrencher. It pictures a similar scene and describes possible ways to cut such fences:

Friday, July 27, 2012

July Evening: Color and Form

And the vegetable marinade Lyn made while the clouds were performing—with its own colors and forms.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Books, Paper, Watermarks

The Washington Post had a recent article about librarians and rare-book people working together in a summer seminar at the University of Virginia to understand books as artifacts. There was a photo of a couple of them looking at a page of a book with light under the page so they could see watermarks.

I took out a couple of eighteenth-century books (part of that collection salvaged at library sales—Princeton and Vanderbilt primarily) and took a look at the paper. Here's what I saw:

A Summary of a History of the Rise and Development of Religious Ideas. Jena (the university town in the same principality as Weimar)

The Life, Fate, and Persecutions of the Prior Hartungus
Secret Philosophy and Character of Monks and Their Institution

and then there was (light) rain

an hour after this photo the storm moved over us and for 2-3 minutes rained and hailed "to beat the band"! discrete events, these thunderstorms. but the scents they throw up are shocking, sharp, and pungent.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Baroque Beauty

The source of those fantastic altars in Baroque cathedrals. Even when reaching for supposed transcendence, the metaphors are necessarily and beautifully earthbound.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Books bought for pennies from libraries anxious to shed themselves of cracked and aged tomes. But they're in better shape than most 200/300-year old beings.

The Seven Wives of Bluebeard: A True Family Story
Published by L. T. (Ludwig Tieck) 1797

With its foxed pages and fading and broken cover, not to mention its sweet, aged scent, the book manifests time.

Weimar, 1828. Two years before Goethe died. The book is a physical connection to a time and place accessible only by tangible objects (the ideas in the book, of course, are a connection of a different sort).

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Demise of a Hummingbird?

Yesterday evening Lyn noticed that a hummingbird, contrary to normal behavior, had been perched on the feeder for a long time. Its beak wasn't poking into the feeder but was aimed into the sky. Its feathers weren't sleek but puffy. It perched there into the night. This morning the little bird was hanging down from the feeder, holding on with a single foot. I eased it off the feeder, sure it must be dead. It was still alive. 

Is it an old bird, at the end of its life? Hummingbirds conserve energy, especially on cold nights, by entering a state of torpor, our friend Donna tells us. It was a very warm evening. Mistaken torpor?

addendum: the little bird died several hours after i helped it down from where it was hanging. lyn tried to feed it sugar water from an eye dropper and it tried to respond. but then whatever was troubling it was too much and that was the end.

such a sad sight, that hanging on with one foot—for dear life.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Vampires & A Reasonable Dictionary

Today I have begun work on an English edition of Zarko's and my book.

This is what the cover looks like in the Serbian version. The artwork by is by Nina Pops.

Skot is a transliteration of my name. It means vermin in Serbo-Croatian (still one language in my mind and heart).

Reading through the translation of Zarko's half I'm reminded of the radical subtlety of his narration, of the intense attention to psychological processes, of a profound phenomenology.

What a pleasure this will be, finally, to have the book available in English.

Perhaps we'll use the same drawing by Nina Pops, called Vampiri VI, for the new cover:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pencils, Graphite, Depression, Knifer

the earlier post about a visit with julije knifer—invited by my friend and knifer's friend zarko radakovic (those were the days when a zagreb painter and a belgrade writer were linked by the yugoslav "highway of brotherhood and unity")—elicited a comment by the flowerville blogger:  

like the drawings. besides i was at the pencil factory in cumberland where they make the derwent pencils (derwent is a lake and a river maybe and a mountain, no idea, at any rate it is a lake and a pencil....). it's always inspiring to see how writing equipment is being made and it is inspiring to see too other people use it like you.

i started to respond that my awkward drawing of knifer's pencils from germany and england, pencils used by a master of graphite works, didn't have anything to do with my own work other than being a quick note. but then i remembered that the 1995 trip led into the next several years of depression and finally divorce and to do something, anything, during that time i bought some pencils like knifer's and did a couple of drawings like his just to get a feel in my hands and back and shoulders of what it felt like to blacken paper with graphite, dark and darker and more dark, the sound of the pencil rasping against the paper, hours slipping past with something, anything, to show for it.

Recipe: To A Bit of Moisture in the Desert Add Evening Light

Monday, July 16, 2012


A couple of visitors this morning. They liked the sunflowers. The netting around the Douglas Fir is meant specifically for them—a couple of months from now they'll be looking for something to rub the velvet off their antlers.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mehr Licht

With more moisture in our air than we're used to in this dry year, the light is, paradoxically, more present. Reminds me of what were supposedly Goethe's last words (he wrote a book on light: Farbenlehre): mehr Licht—more light.