Archive for September, 2008

Bail or Jail?

September 30, 2008

My sharply observant friend of the political scene likes this bailout deal that almost went down, probably quite like the deal that will in fact go through eventually.  I disagree.  It is not often I find myself in synch with the conservative Republicans.  But I feel like I’ve been minding my p’s and q’s while this incredible party went down during the nineties and naughties.  The greed and lack of attention to financial proprieties that accompanied the boom is something that ought to be largely paid for and made to be the responsibility of the financial sector that played the game.

Reagan, in the wake of the Carter malaise, began the deregulation of the Roosevelt era checks and balances that Republicans have trumpeted ever since – McCain up until a couple of weeks ago.  Now the pendulum will swing the other way.  With a recession or a depression?  The playout of this bill and the election will tell.

Some kind of bail-out is clearly needed – but for whom? I make no bones of how little I know of economics.  But I saw this coming and moved out of the market a year ago.  This feels like one last massive wealth transfer for the Bush administration, after the sooo many they have gotten away with.  Why should my tax money pay for this?  Why can’t it be structured so the financial sector takes the biggest hit, not receive a huge boon from the rest of us?

Clearly the party’s over for the next eight years or so.  Clearly the whole society is run on debt, and we have been living well beyond our means, personally and nationally.  Clearly, a contraction is due to arrive at the station, and no one wants to get on, but we all have to. (Professionals I rely on suggest that we should all be ready to live on 2/3 of what we have been living on in previous years.)  Clearly, this will repercuss to the whole world.  Clearly, we need to soften the blow so that the economic engine does not seize up entirely.

But this morning, the Irish government offered a guarantee for all its depositors.  When this resulted in a wholesale rush of money from England to Ireland, the English government cried foul and said this was ‘unwarranted intrusion of government into the private marketplace’.  So what’s the bailout deal, if not that?

This is socialism for the rich, as Galbraith intoned, coupled with ‘tough shit’ for the poor householder who was enticed into a mortgage beyond his means.  The more proper phrase is ‘socialization of risk’ – when everything is going well, the bankers, brokers, hedge fund analysts, and market spivs are happy to personalize the gain.  But when it all goes south, all of a sudden they are ‘too big to fail’ and we all have to pay for their irresponsible practices by bailing out their losses.  Sorry, it should work both ways – socialize the risk, then we must socialize the profit as well.

This is not free market capitalism, which depends on individuals taking responsibility for their choices, bad and good.  Seems just another continuation of screwing the little guy at the expense of the fat cats.  Personally, though it affects my bottom line negatively and my Mom’s fixed income, I am glad to see the economy shed a little of the fois gras and champagne bubbles in favor a some goat milking and attention to the hand on the plow.

Once  we see where the hurt lands most, we can do some legislating to even out the pain.  But this whole thing has felt rushed, and seems to me like an opportunity for Obama to call for a time of deep reflection, self-assessment, and a re-ordering of the social priorities.

The major cause of bankruptcy in this country is not mortgages, but medical bills, a situation every other civilized country looks on with horror.


Cessation of Desire

September 30, 2008

“Life can be compared to embroidered material that everyone, in the first half of his time, comes to see the top side, but in the second half sees the reverse side. The latter is not so beautiful, but is more instructive because it enables one to see how the threads are connected together.”           – Arthur Schopenhauer

The Greeks had three metaphors for the human condition of desire and suffering – the dilemma the Buddha claimed to resolve, but which, for most of us, remains our lot in life. All three of these were kings condemned for an eternity in payment for crimes against the gods.

Sisyphus is forever rolling a large rock up a hill, only to have it inevitably escape his grasp just before he reaches the summit to roll to the bottom again.

Tantalus stands up to his knees in clear spring water, with branches of a tree laden with ripe fruit just above his head. Every time he stoops to drink or reaches for food, the water recedes or the branch is blown beyond his reach.

While I make no claim for enlightenment or spiritual superiority of any kind (having taken a bodhisattva vow), I can truthfully say that neither of these conditions is mine. I am very pleased and deeply satisfied with this life, even if it ends here, and even though all endeavour is written in dust on the Void.

Unlike Sisyphus, I like the view, sitting on my rock at the top of the hill. Unlike Tantalus, my desire for ‘more’ is controlled, and has not kept me from tasting the fruits of the difference in others’ lives that I have been privileged to make as a practitioner and teacher and writer, as well as a deep appreciation of God’s beautiful creation as a sailor and traveler and lover. I feel very alive.

The third myth, however, is that of Ixion, who is bound to a fiery wheel that rolls eternally down the road. I must have been disloyal to Zeus or guilty of some other hubris, as this feels like the daily me.  Anybody got any help with this one?

Crop Circle

September 22, 2008

Crop circles first appeared in the media while I lived in London in the 80’s, and I gave it my passing interest until two men revealed that they had done them as a hoax, and showed how they had done it, dragging a board around in a crop to create a pattern of bent down wheat or canola or whatever.

So I was a bit resistant when Quan insisted I watch a documentary about them, and indeed my qualms were confirmed when the narrator started talking about aliens and trans-dimensional beings, making me squirm in my seat – but the fact of the circles themselves, as shown in the aerial footage throughout the video made me sit up.

‘Crop circles’ is by now a misnomer.  Since I stopped paying attention, these figures have started appearing around the world, not only in crops, but in sand, even carved into ice.  More than that, the figures are of mind-boggling complexity, involving ancient symbols and serious fractal mathematics – Koch curves, Mandelbrot series, the whole shebang.  The aerial shots of these forms are so staggering that they belie any notion of being hoaxes.  To carve more than 200 circles in precise patterns would require a team of people with surveyor’s transepts and military precision, working at night (they appear overnight) – and all without making an iota of disturbance in the surrounding crop.  It would require substantial money, no beer, and a dedication to a hoax that produces no money, and for which no one (with any credibility) has stepped forward.

There are circles in the US, Canada, South America, and Europe, but by far the most have appeared in England.  No one knows how long they might have been appearing, but their numbers have waxed and waned over the last 20 years.  Those who believe it is a hoax are called upon to explain how such complex patterns could be made.  Unfortunately, those of us who believe it is not a hoax but are dubious about aliens among us are likewise unable to come up with a convincing raison d’etre or any other agent that might create such whimsical messages.

And so it was that I set off for Avebury, the site of the largest henge circle in England (much larger, but less dramatic or famous than Stonehenge), having tracked down the latest appearance near this potent earth magic site.  I have been to Avebury a number of times – it was a place of pilgrimage for me when I lived here.  I found it restful – the little village built within the mammoth earthworks, surrounded with what stones were left; many had been hauled off in earlier centuries as sills for barns, etc.  The large uprights that are left are clearly Welsh blue stone – only available hundreds of miles away, and this henge pre-dates the pyramids, according to the archaeologists.

This bit of England – Wiltshire – has a wealth of these earth magic sites – Stonehenge, Avebury, white horses carved into chalk hills, snaky barrows and Silbury Hill – a large hill with a flat top built by ancient man for unknown reasons.  I know – crazy.  But like the figures only visible from an airplane in the high plateaus of South America, or the pyramids themselves, they demand explanation.

Why so many crop circles also appear here – the majority of these phenomena in the world happen in this little area in the center of southern England – is another mystery that lends credence to those who cry ‘Hoax!’, but who knows?  So I set out to feel it for myself.

Arriving in the early afternoon with three companions, and armed with directions from, we found the small circle by the side of the road, and, unable to resist, made our way very carefully through the still unharvested corn crop (shades of Shamalyan’s Signs) to the bigger (but still fairly modest, compared to some) set of 8 overlapping circles in a kind of dynamic yin-yang pattern, planets colliding, you decide.

The corn was taller than we were, so I had taken a bearing on a nearby hill to lead us in.  The feeling was very disorienting, and we seemed to walk forever until I spotted the empty space off to my left, and we traveled between the rows and arrived in these circular patterns, you can see in the pictures.  We did not damage the standing crop in any way.


It is easy to manufacture feelings in such places.  Objectively, the stalks were laid down in strict parallel in a clockwise pattern in all the partial circles, but laid in a radial pattern in the full circles, where all the stalks, still with corn on them, faced the few standing stalks in the middle.  A few were broken completely off, but most were simply bent at nearly 90 degrees.  It was striking that there were no partially bent stalks: the ones at the edge of the circles were upright and fine; the next one in the row was bent to the ground from a couple of inches above its roots.

This circle had appeared on September 14, late in the year.  It was impossible to visit any other sites for anything but remnants, since the combine harvesters had been at work – only this one was left in the as-yet-unharvested maize.

Ok, so manufactured or not: there was a feeling of effervescence, exuberance within the circle.  Some have reported evil or dark feelings; I felt none of that, quite its opposite. My companions and I sat down in the four directions in one of the full circles, and we meditated on ‘who did this?’  After a few minutes of bubbly mind, I descended and found myself in the presence (oh, crikey, here we go!) of a green earth spirit, a long and spritely and feminine deva, with a knowing Pan-like smile. She didn’t speak, but I got the impression that these were warnings, messages to us, but that they were also fun, a lark for these earth beings that made them.
She was disturbingly (to my rational mind, still there if off in a corner) like the green aliens who appear in Signs, but with absolutely none of the menace.

There was also some image of the rush of energy from the edges of the circle where we were to the stalks still standing in the utter center and through them up to the sky, and some rush pouring down again, but this was more vague, and again, no threat, and no sense of extra-terrestrials.

We came out of meditation and walked silently back through the standing corn to the road.  In contrast to the endless minutes it seemed to take us to get there (we all felt this), it seemed but a few steps to get back out.

We repaired along the avenue of stones, feeling high as a second cappuccino, back into the village for a bit of pub grub and a beer.


September 22, 2008

You go to pay your respects to a man you haven’t seen in 20 years, a man who is 91 and has lost his wife to an awful stroke and denouement and is now failing himself.  Like many a young man who has won the hand of the eldest daughter, I found myself at the wrong end of his stick, that much more after the divorce.

But there he was in the small house of his decline, smiling and warm, his legs under a blanket.  I had been given to expect a sharp decline, and was uncomfortable disturbing his waning days – who is comfortable visiting the aged, unless it’s someone you visit often? –  but I needn’t have worried.  He was older, of course, but very recognizable and in good spirits.  It was a short visit, given to pleasantries and memories and examining pictures on the mantle to direct the conversation.  I doubt he remembered I was there 5 minutes after I was gone.

I am only 30 years away from this – will we have the freedom to check out easily by then?  Not giving ourselves over to caregivers and incontinence and faulty memories and severe limitation?  Or will I cling to life, like so many I see, willing to hang on to whatever thread, no matter the discomfort or embarrassment, for one more view of my grandchild or a sunny morning or whatever remains of this life?  I am so convinced of an afterlife, I do not feel so hooked into this one, but who knows how I’ll feel when I am in that chair?

Horse and Rider

September 21, 2008

It so happens that our UK training is only a few miles from an iconoclastic riding school that has been employing the Anatomy Trains in dressage training.  So on my day off, in response to an invitation, I borrow a car, and switching my mind back to English driving – shifting with the left and watching for the left edge of the road – tootle off down country lanes to the Overdale Equestrian Centre (

I arrived in the midst of a clinic by the Grand Prix rider Heather Blitz, who declined a spot – for the sake of her horse who, to qualify, would have had to make four cross-ocean journeys on a plane  – in the recent Chinese Olympics.  Long in every aspect, this Kansas girl now with a mid-Atlantic accent, a temporary home in Denmark but no fixed abode, travels to teach and develop her skills.

In the middle of a huge covered shed carpeted with a thick grey layer chewed up bits of rubber tires, she stands wreathed with a headset that broadcasts her voice to the rider and the 20 or so participants lining one end of the ring.  The student rides her horse around the ring while Heather talks her through control of the horse or control of her body.  Then Heather would ride herself to work with the horse, and the student would ride again.

I am no horseman, and have no knowledge of dressage at all, but I can see when someone ‘has it’, (as Quan does, totally naturally) and Heather is poetry in motion – totally professional but totally at ease.  Everything that needs to move in response to the horse does, and nothing that doesn’t.  Her entire self is gathered in and in deep communication with the horse. The signals, even to a horse she has never met before that moment, are so subtle that it took all my observation to see her coax the horse, who would compliantly go right, left, up to a canter, down to a walk, all in a few seconds – clearly in rapt attention to Heather.

Heather is the guest teacher, but the head honcho for the center is Mary Wanless, a small but potent ball of explosive but highly disciplined energy, with the bluest eyes on God’s earth.  She needs no mike – her large voice issues from her small body and commands the whole arena.  Before we even have the chance to shake hands, I know I am in the presence of a fellow traveler – driven, serious about everything but herself, on a lonely road that both satisfies and frustrates her, headed for a goal that she can dimly see but is palpably present inside her soul, excited and fatigued in equal measure, and mostly waking up each morning knowing that everything she has done so far is more or less a failure in terms of that vision, requiring a redoubling of energy and commitment to achieve yet another approximation of the light that burns so vividly within.

When the Q&A part of the seminar begins, Mary draws me into the circle of chairs and asks me about her scheme to divide the rider into thirds.  She drew a line from the coracoid process to the outside of the pubic bone (corresponding to the connection from pectoralis minor to the arcuate fascia along the outside of the rectus abdominis  – what my students will recognize as the ‘front pillar’). By drawing these lines in, she gathers the sides into the core, compacting and ‘bearing down’ (a kind of Valsalva maneuver that increases the stiffness of the abdominopelvic cavity and brings the rider’s torso into the horse).

There ensued a brief discussion of riding stability in terms of the Lateral, Functional, and Deep Front Lines, where I attempted to sound knowledgeable, but as I said at the end of the discussion:  The body is very specific.  If you want to train for riding, ride.  If you want to train for bodywork, do bodywork.  The body learns by doing the very thing you want to do.  Prior training for an activity is spotty at best, and spot training to build muscle in no way guarantees that that strength will be available when you take up the desired activity.  Building individual muscles may strengthen them, but it can weaken the body as a whole.

Good biomechanics for riders has crossed my field of vision a few times in my 30 years in this field, but never have I seen such dedication and depth of exploration.  The ability to gather another being under you and communicate through movement alone what you want it to do – and have it work!  This reaches into the core of the rider’s being: spirit, psychology, physiology, movement, communication – lucky students of Heather and Mary!


September 18, 2008

Boy, have I become Americanized in the last 20 years.  I stayed in a large house this last weekend with ‘staff’ (read: servants), where it is actually offensive to abrogate such tasks as getting yourself a cup of tea or making your own bed.  The divide so beautifully drawn and mocked in Altman’s Gosford Park (one of my all-around favorite movies) is still fully in evidence here.  You cannot straddle the upstairs-downstairs gap.  The staff’s accents were way more posh than mine, and the owners’ movements and freedom clearly constrained (as well as eased, of course) by having staff around.

Yesterday, in the more humble surroundings of the Ramsden Village Hall, I was working with a student who, in a frenzy of wanting to show that she was following me – nay, ahead of my line of thought – trampled over every sentence of advice or even praise.  This second-guessing, a so-very-English manifestation of defensiveness masquerading as politeness, can be maddening: I had to tell this praeternaturally ‘nice’ (but actually quite passive-aggressive) and dignified older woman to shut up a minute and listen so I can finish a sentence.  How very American!

I’ve been saying that I will leave the USA if the American people drink the Kool-Aid of electing McCain-Palin.  I won’t though (too committed to my place in Maine and the project I’ve taken on: marrying the movement and bodywork worlds in a new physical education for the electronic era) but I will give up on the American dream – a democracy based on the consent of informed people.  Some people seem determined to stay uninformed, and we are in the midst of capitalism for the poor and socialism for the wealthy.  Where are the free-marketeers when banks fail?  Where’s the democratic process in this health care fiasco?  Where’s any substantive discussion of the issues? (Since Hillary’s and Obama’s second debate, anyway)

America’s a media-ocracy – an in-depth analysis of a shallow culture – and it’s mediocrity at best, and a well-run but transparent con game in the middle, and an absolute conspiracy to fund war profiteers at worst.

Bucky at the Whitney

September 13, 2008

Michael is my oldest friendship, with many twists and turns dating from 1968, where we met on the barricades of the anti-Vietnam hippie ‘revolution’.  That feeling, in these days of Sarah Palin springing fully formed from the forehead of Rush LImbaugh, seems very far away. In our current cynical state of mind, it’s hard to recreate the heady tenor of those times, the air replete with possibility of top-to-toe change. Even though Jack Kennedy, and then in that very year, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were murdered, there was still the feeling that underneath this violence the American dream of true democracy could still be achieved, must be realized for all, rescued from the 50’s militarism of Ike and the new real politik practitioners like Johnson and Nixon.

I was a volunteer ($25/week as I remember, for expenses) sent down from Cambridge by the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers) to support and organize Providence’s anti-war movement. Michael had just dropped out from Brown with the same intent. We had an amazing teacher for politics – not interested in the communists, the socialists, or any –isms at all. Tony Ramos preached the end of fear, and practiced it – but right within the American tradition. We laughed our way to freedom.

On the streets of Providence ‘pigs’ hoisted us into paddy wagon and whacked us with flashlights as they drove us away from the demonstrations. Where the omega was our symbol of draft resistance and the peace sign was called ‘the footprint of the American chicken’ (how times change)… But by the end of the summer we were done with this cops and robbers game, and we moved on. As I remember, a police informer infiltrated the organization toward the end of the summer. We appointed him general manager, and we all left.

I went back to Harvard while Michael, on Tony’s recommendation moved out to the unlikely location of Carbondale, Illinois, where he could go to school for under $300 per semester, after only 3 months of establishing residency. He turned in his chemistry for art courses, but was soon under Bucky’s spell, as he had an honorary professorship there. While I was visiting, he handed me a book to read, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, by an unlikely looking man with the patrician name of R. Buckminster Fuller. I tried to read it, but the sentences went on like ragas for half a page, filled with words I could barely understand, and packed together so closely as to render language as another, thicker medium. If T. S. Eliot or Tom Stoppard (my favorite writers of the time) were like spring water, Bucky was like ketchup. I handed the book back, but Michael said, “No, you have to read it”, so I did.

Once entered, the world of Buckminster Fuller is unlike any other – a world of intellectual honesty, systems thinking, and clarity with oneself and others that put things in an amazingly universal and non-judgmental perspective – “Pollution is a resource in the wrong place at the wrong time.” and the obvious insight from the title italicized above: We are already on a very well set-up spaceship moving 20 miles a second – so well set up we are hardly aware we are members of the crew.

Bucky was short, milk-bottle shaped, with a severe crewcut and very thick lenses that made his eyes swim large behind them. (I only once saw him take them off – what small eyes he actually had.) He was a total goof – his glasses contained hearing aids as well, and were held on by a dorky band behind his head.

Bucky was famous for his long speeches. He would start with something simple, like the behaviour of metal alloys, and then he would wander into education, then back through boat-building, and then cartography. Just when you thought you were listening to a madman, he would bring all his subjects together in a neat bundle, and you would realize he knew exactly where he was going all the time.

Never did I meet such a wide-ranging intellect (Ida Rolf came close), and never again did I meet such an innocent (Rupert Sheldrake comes close). The latter was a big part of his genius: he approached every situation as if it were utterly new, and took child-like delight in turning people’s ideas upside down. But such was his unique use of language that it took most of the two years I was there to listen to him and understand him in real time, as he spoke.

Although I was later to become known in the bodywork world for my championing of Bucky’s (actually Snelson’s) ‘tensegrity’ geometry concepts applied to body structure, movement, and resiliency, in those days, I had little to do with the geodesic geometry, and was far more interested in the World Game.

Bucky’s idea for World Game in 1970 was simple: presume the population for 2000 (6 billion). Presume no advances in technology by then – what can you do to make the world work better for everyone? Turns out a lot, if you can find the political will. We examined the problem of inadequate food in India, and came to the conclusion that if you electrified India, its food problem would be solved. This has since come to pass.

Looking at the large flows in the world led me for the first time to see the process of human development as embryological, and I actually took my first anatomy and embryology course at SIU, in an attempt to better understand the flows in the ‘body human’ – meaning the flows of energy and materials humans initiate over the surface of the world. Diagram the world as a system, and you see the placental flow of raw materials from the third world to the first, and the liver output of finished goods from the industrialized world to the rest.

Michael and I were very involved in all this for two years; Michael more than I as he worked directly in Bucky’s office. We were studying to be ‘comprehensive anticipatory design scientists’ – certainly a change from being a Harvard English major. When I graduated, I went to work for Tom’s of Maine and started an aquaculture project with my father; Michael took a job with Bell Labs.

Michael, in the intervening 25 years, has done many ‘fullerian’ jobs from one place – a loft in the garment district of New York City. In true Bucky fashion, he has been a video producer (including most of mine), worked in 3-D TV, and started several tech businesses with variable success. I have followed a different course – going all around the world (like Bucky, I suppose) but doing only one thing, structural bodywork, for 30 years.

All this is background for a short visit we paid, in our 30th year of friendship, to the Buckminster Fuller exhibit just finishing at the Whitney Museum. Viewed from the perspective of someone young who doesn’t know Bucky, I found the exhibit a little thin and lacking in the excitement Bucky created, but as a series of nostalgic hoops for us to dance through, it was perfect. It showed Bucky’s work on cartography, architecture (the air-deliverable manufactured house, tensegrity (a large ‘spine’ arched across the ceiling of one room), the Dymaxoin house, bathroom, storage unit, octet trusses and of course geodesic domes.

There were a few television vignettes of Bucky explaining his theories, but short takes fail to encompass how grand his vision was. The exhibits conclusion seems to be that since we all are not living in domes, Fuller’s affect on his own future (and our present) was minimal. But I disagree: I think his effect has been subtle but pervasive. I would say a similar thing about Fritz Perls: few people profess to do Gestalt Therapy per se any more, but Fritz’s voice still speaks through a lot of people, even when they don’t know it. Same with Bucky –a lot of our current environmental axioms started with him.

The best feature, which I was very glad to finally see in person, was the Dymaxion car. Three of these cars were built in 1933 before the project folded. I happened to see a 1931 Ford Model T pick-up just the day before I came to the exhibit. Compare these straight, wagon-like lines to the aerodynamic inverted-peapod shape of the Dymaxion car. Capable of seating 8 people, getting speeds of up to 120mph, and getting 30 mpg with the same V8 Model T engine. This tear-drop 3-wheel car with a periscope instead of a rear-view mirror was light-years ahead of its time.

Like so many of Bucky’s projects, it ended in failure, but a glorious failure. Churchill’s apt quote is: “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Bucky was certainly a role model in this regard.

My favorite Bucky quote: “I seem to be a verb.”


September 11, 2008

I have been trying to arrange a meeting with this author – so erudite, so prolific – ever since I learned he summered in Maine, so I was glad when he said he could drop in on his way home. It was going to be an afternoon exchange of books and shop talk, but when he called to say he was late, we invited him and his wife for dinner- what else can you do, really, with someone showing up at 7? Quan was tired and under the weather, but I went down and fetched some oysters from the river while she rustled up a pasta and salad from our fading garden.

They missed the directions, so we had to talk them in the last few miles with a cell phone, but every time I tried to give him directions he talked right over me, so it took five calls and me standing out by the roadside to get them safely in the driveway.

Ear-to-Vocal coordination is as important and complex as Eye-Hand. Disorders of this sort come across as social faux pas sometimes.

Once they got inside the conversation was as good as I expected, wide-ranging and hip, though he clearly had attention problems and was constantly breaking off in mid-sentence (his or mine) to get on the phone to various people or on his computer checking game scores or something.

They brought nothing for the meal. But that was peanuts: Imagine our surprise when they just went out to their car and brought their suitcases in. Not word one – not a question, not an offer, just full-on presumption (they had an hour+ drive to get home, so we assumed – fools, us – that they would want to get on, as we would have). So we scampered to prepare a guest room. But it turned out they needed two, as they slept badly together. They continued on the computer while we prepared their rooms.

We go to bed early here, and had had a long day. After midnight these two were still prowling around the house – going up and down stairs, banging doors, having showers, flushing toilets, talking. I was ready to cheerfully strangle both of them, and damn the loss to literary history.

Morning starts early for us, too, and the day was well scheduled. But these folks had reached a time of life and wealth where they were seemingly on perpetual holiday – she needed to talk to Quan about the marriage (clearly in co-dependent trouble), and he got a session from me – and my friends and faculty know how hard that is.

He did indeed have an ear problem – a tin-ear, I would say, as he does not listen. His ears were fibrous and inert, his vestibular nerve trapped differently on each side. I wasn’t able to figure out in one session what was the cause of his listening capacity shutting down. But as in so many cases of these almost autist-artists, the shutting down of one set of channels forces other valves open.

Ten in the morning and they’re still here, lying on the porch – nice for people on vacation, but we’re not. Finally, both Quan and I had to be quite rude and just get to our work and leave them to their own devices, as our subtler hints were simply not being heard. They left the beds unmade and the towels unhung. He was generous with his remaindered books. Quan – tolerance of unconsciousness is not one of her faults – will not easily host them again.

I know, I know – great genius and great childishness often co-exist in the same body. And besides, I like these people, both of them. Few people have tasted, eaten, digested, and synthesized one-quarter of what this man has nailed so deliciously in his books. Science, literature, philosophy, the coming changes at this crux of the human experiment – how can he be of such service to the world and so unconscious of the signals coming from his fellow humans? And so presumptive that the rest of the world revolves around him and his needs?

I guess this is how it works in California or somewhere else, but please, if you want to spend the night, just ask. We’ve been blessed, we don’t mind sharing, but please don’t take it so for granted.

Having unloaded this way, for my presumptuous attitude over the years May I be forgiven and All my victims blessed, amen. It feels to me that as my stature grows and the years add up, I presume less, but maybe others would say differently?

Flying on 9/11

September 9, 2008

“The current threat advisory level has been set as orange.”  Nothing rhymes with ‘orange’, but over the tannoys in the airports, I keep hearing this as ‘boring’.  Waiting for my shoes at the other end of the conveyor, I couldn’t agree more.


September 2, 2008

It had been blowing at 20 knots from the north all day, and it was forecast to blow from the northwest all night.  Most harbors are protected form the prevailing southwest, but Georges Harbor, between Allen and Benner – awful in a southwest – would provide good protection in this wind and sea.  We rounded Old Cilley Ledge, bouncing over a cross-chop in a shiny metaled sea, but it settled down immediately we entered the narrow passage of the harbor.

Andrew Wyeth bought these islands many years ago from a group of owners who included my father.  Since, he cleared the north end of trees and built a series of buildings in various New England architectural styles.  At first, they looked a bit Toytown, but with age they have mellowed into the island landscape.

A woman with gray hair on the dock, I presume Betsy Wyeth, offered us a mooring on our way in, and we gratefully accepted.  The afternoon waned in peace, the goats who keep the brush down wandered onto the high pier, the evening descended upon us; we and the Wyeths, judging by lights out, went to bed at the same time.

In the morning, after a good breakfast to shore us up for the long sail home, I raised the main, left it loose and backed the jib to turn us on a dime, slipping off the mooring and up the slender harbor between the other boats.  The screen door of the perfect, spare, silvery gray Cape opened, and a spare old man with silvery hair and wide shoulders lifted his arm and said “Beautiful!”  We lifted our arms in return salute, too floored to speak, until we thought to offer a belated “Thank you” for the use of the mooring.

It’s not often you get called beautiful by the most understood painter in America.