BY West

01/01 Direct Link
It’s not raining. I read it will begin again this afternoon, and I am sick of mud. It is so dry here it is almost sacrilege to complain about rain. And we do need it. Grey sky, snow-covered mountains, grass appearing in the foothills, clear air…how can I complain? This is far away from any likely targets for people with a grudge. The mud would stop them.

New Year’s Eve with friends and family - a small but lively party. Every year the kids are bored and horrified by our behavior, then gradually become adults and join us in frivolity.
01/02 Direct Link
Still no rain, thank God, but grey skies are ominous to the northwest. Also, it is very warm, I expect rain by nightfall. The terrible dichotomy of the weather here is that beautiful days are a sign of impending drought and water shortage. Our most wonderful winters are followed by famine. Or would be, prior to the modern transportation.

The moon is bright behind the clouds at night, and Jupiter and Venus shine through. Coyotes sing their messages through the canyons, dogs answering resentfully. Cats leave the barns searching for mice the shadowy owls have left behind, dodging predators themselves.
01/03 Direct Link
Reading the news has become more painful than ever. I find myself turning first and perhaps last to sports or the arts. I don’t believe the human race is evolving. Dogs learn lessons more quickly and permanently than humans. We learn something for perhaps a month.

On the other hand, take your dog. If he gets a shock from an electric fence once, or perhaps twice, he will avoid that fence for the rest of his life. Mankind will repeatedly engage in behaviors that result in death for many. Always so sure the end justifies the means. Dogs know better.
01/04 Direct Link
Humor is a neat device. It can be used as a weapon, a disarmament, or a distraction. You can hide a fairly sharp surgical tool in a bundle of wit and hoo-hah. Maybe sometimes too sharp, yet fun to wield. A pin to prick the pompous, and salve for the forgotten. What a gift.

I enjoy a good sentence fragment. The paper clip on the screen is annoyed with me, I fear. Mr. Clip rolls his eyes and looks toward the cyberceiling. Cute little bugger. He doesn’t say much, and I wonder what he means sometimes with his frenetic actions
01/05 Direct Link
Sometimes I wonder if we are hard-wired for frivolity. Seems the human animal can sustain serious thought, or confrontation with issues for a maximum of two weeks. And in fact, a bit of frivolity would be a good thing, like a coffee break, or a recess…but contrarily, we assign seriousness to frivolity, expending good energy on anxiety over our toys and diversions.

Look at a fan in the angst of a game, a race, a match…foaming at the mouth, blood-red with anger, perhaps shouting and spraying the surroundings with beer-scented spittle. Does he ever invest that emotion in day-to-day life?
01/06 Direct Link
Beautiful weather, sun, warmth… there is an on-coming storm. Several hours in the fields on the tractor, trying to beat the rain and mud. We could use a week more without it.

Does anyone really listen to GW Bush anymore? Does the world? Do the citizens of the USA? I am so curious about this. He says alarming things right alongside sensible things. All of it like a person being coached back from a minor stroke which affected his speech. And where IS Dick Cheney, anyway? Has anyone seen him? Has he died? If he has, why don’t we know?
01/07 Direct Link
I am bombarded on all sides by reformers. Don’t eat meat. Eat meat. Don’t drive that SUV… rent a car when I go to the city? There are some who own an SUV frivolously, but I live where I need 4-wheel drive several times a year, am nearly an hour’s drive from a town, and try to consolidate many trips into one. Would five trips with a small car be better? As an environmentalist, it seems to me some of the spokespersons of environmentalism have spent very little time in an environment outside of the city. Their ignorance is astounding.
01/08 Direct Link
We have watched a lot of Chinese movies lately, and it occurs to me that the Chinese have an interesting world view, if art reflects life. Leaving out the Hong Kong martial arts movies, the films are so often about the family dynamic between parents and children. And they do a good job of conveying the discovery and realization of a parent’s life. If a western filmmaker attempts this, they are trashed by the critics as being sweet or cloying. So it is good we have the Chinese, addressing issues in life beyond bank accounts and wealth, making good art.
01/09 Direct Link
We keep trying to patronize the one local restaurant with pretensions to quality. Why can it be so absolutely satisfactory to eat at the local pizza joint, the greasy spoon diner, or the independent hamburger stand, yet so appalling to eat an average meal at a self-promoting high-class establishment? The food is often better in the latter, but nowhere near as good as the proprietors believe it to be. Somehow that is worse.

An honest grilled cheese sandwich is so much better than ersatz gourmet. Something about silk purses and sows’ ears comes to mind. Give me an honest ear.
01/10 Direct Link
Where the hell IS Dick Cheney, anyway? I am still curious. Have there been sightings of that rascal? If this keeps up, the nation will forget who was veep under GW sooner than the national average for forgetting vice presidents. Very odd. And we worried so much about that little Attila-the- Hun even being Vice President. What a waste of worrying time.

Now the war part of the war begins, with prisoners being loaded onto airplanes blindfolded, in chains. Reality of capturing the enemy is a bitter pill. I see photos of American Special Forces, dressed like the Northern Alliance.
01/11 Direct Link
You can’t say you’ve really driven until you have driven down the central valley of California in the fog in winter. What a nightmare. Especially when followed by Friday traffic in the LA basin, where driving 30 miles can take over an hour. Today I had to make a 400 mile round trip under those conditions and my shoulders feel like a mass of knotted tow line.

There are always those who feel invincible, whizzing by at 70 mph in 50 foot visibility. Average speed on I5 is about 80 in good conditions. People hate to give up their speed..
01/12 Direct Link
Yesterday I enjoyed 80 degree weather in Southern California. Today it is foggy and nasty and barely broke 50, which can seem warm if you live in Minnesota, but really is cold in the fog. I am not a cold weather person unless I am on skis.

The political news is disquieting. India and Pakistan claim to want to be re-united, but why? They want to kill one another at every turn. Pictures of mad flag-burners in the papers liven up our evening. Are they still more evil-doers? We are truly animals with not much hope or indication of progress.
01/13 Direct Link
Finished. Five days on a tractor produces less work than you might imagine, but still many times more than what could be done without the tractor. Today the fog crept up in a cold clammy way from the confines of the valley. The pressure is dropping, and the air was chilly, even while the sun was out. At least it didn’t have that nice warm feeling that comes before a big storm. We are finally drying out some, and I welcome it. I am not a lover of mud. Of course, in this state, it is heresy to dislike rain.
01/14 Direct Link
I keep asking if anyone can tell me what Dick Cheney looks like. Could they recognize him if he walked up to their from door right this minute? I could not. He could come, selling tractor parts or Fuller brushes, and none of us would know who it was. A portly middle-aged man, going door to door selling stuff. Why not? It may be what he is actually doing. Yet that job is probably too stressful for a man with heart disease. Has Cheney finally embodied the long-term reality of the invisibility of the Vice President? I do believe so.
01/15 Direct Link
What a world. The President chokes on a pretzel, but recovers, while watching football. If he had died, by mischance, where is Dick Cheney? I believe he has gone to another realm. There were those photos of Bush during the campaign that all looked like cardboard cutouts, but at least they were there. No one can remember what Cheney looks like, so they can substitute just about anyone, should they suddenly need a Vice President. As long as it is a short, portly, middle-aged man, slightly balding, who will be able to tell the difference? Probably not even his wife.
01/16 Direct Link
Pakistan and India are at it again. They seem very cavalier about war, especially as they are both armed with nuclear devices. Odd when you speak to an Indian, they all long for re-unification. I guess first they want to bomb the snot and the people out of Pakistan. Then there would be a nice little expansion parcel. I have heard very few Pakistanis long for re-unification, although the great divide came from the outside. Man gets used to independence, singly or in groups. They seem almost indistinguishable to me…like folks from New York and California, different but the same.
01/17 Direct Link
We have the kind of crystal clear weather that makes folks want to live here. It is cold, cold, but the days warm up to 45 or so. The sky is a blue that painters never do use, because no one would believe it. Grass is green in an Emerald City way. Mud is mainly gone, and the mountains embrace all with a snowy shoulder…ummm that almost qualifies for Bulwer-Lytton. Maybe I should try again this year. But the air is clear and tastes and smells good. Every doubt I ever had about country life is completely gone now. Peace.
01/18 Direct Link
Talking tonight about Sarah Jane Olson and whether or not her sentence should be lenient. We were saying, yes, it should be…or be commuted. After all, she was young, times were odd to say the least, on so on. But then, we are not allowing the young man from San Francisco any slack for being young. No, he is responsible for his acts. Are the two cases similar? Do they share more than they don’t share? The cases are different. It is hard to explain to anyone not alive then how things were 35 years ago in the United States.
01/19 Direct Link
What an odd thing it is to grow older in a community where you were once very young. Against everything I predicted, after an absence of a decade, I found myself back quite close to where I spent my childhood. It is passing strange to see quite mature looking adults, some in fact looking old, whom I knew as feckless youths and shy girls. I find myself thinking, “look at that older person”, then I realize it is someone I have known most of my life, and at one time they were my age. Do they suffer the same shock?
01/20 Direct Link
At a retirement dinner last night we had to wait until the Raiders lost the football game before the speeches could begin. Three hundred people were amenable to this unspoken agreement. The game went into overtime, so the tributes began, about an hour late. Sneaking peaks from the bar television , I thought it looked like a hockey game. When they lost, a buzz went through the room as if the President had choked on another pretzel. Finally they announced the score over the mike. Groaning and head clutching, rumbles of disappointment. We are a frivolous people, still… even more.
01/21 Direct Link
Today Martin Luther King Day…I remember him clearly. When I think we have made no progress on the dream, I watch a video we have of those days. It is easy to forget how truly different it was. And yet, there was so much promise for equality of the nitty-gritty kind. We have the legality of it now, but not the truth of it. People harbor hatred in ways I never imagined possible. They cherish their hatred as if it were a talent…a gift…something to be savored. People are afraid of differences. They are afraid of becoming what we are.
01/22 Direct Link
Spent a discouraging day dealing with bureaucracy. Obtaining an answer to a simple question can be daunting. First the obligatory wade through all sorts of automated responses, none of which answers my question. Finally obtaining a real person, only to find them dimmer than the machine. Quite alarming, really. Since they no longer must answer a question, the drones in the county have become simpler than ever. “I can’t answer that” and “I don’t know” being the mantra of the minimally employed. Do they know which end to feed? Has management failed the working hordes with lack of information? Perhaps.
01/23 Direct Link
There is a blue jay outside my office window this morning. He seems to alternate guard duty with an acorn woodpecker. Both colorful, they are more common in the second story peek into the oak tree than the smaller birds which I see below, form the kitchen. For many years the blue jays appeared to be in decline, then suddenly they are coming back. Interesting how the varieties of bird wax and wane in population. A few years back we had some sort of dove plague. I found them dead and dying all spring. Slowly they have been coming back.
01/24 Direct Link
That misguided nincompoop the papers and other media like to call the American Taliban is coming back to the States, his parents flying to his side crying “innocent! Innocent!” Perhaps he IS innocent, and they are guilty of uncommon indulgence and spoiling of a person, who is by all accounts, completely incapable of sound judgment. Did they send him abroad to get his witless posturings as far away from them as possible? Or did they perhaps fall prey to the modern parental guilt-filled hesitation to guide in any way? There ARE limits. Even Rousseau would at least water the plant.
01/25 Direct Link
Listening to jazz, waiting for the snow storm, thinking about a movie, consciously NOT thinking about the world. What could be finer? Today was a beautiful day of the kind that only come in winter, when a storm is on the way. The clear cold mornings develop into perfect mid-days, and long afternoons with the feel of rain and snow in the air. Just about perfect, especially as it was warmer than usual, and I hate to be cold. I have a closet full of coats, jackets, hats, gloves, sweaters, sweatshirts. They are barriers between me and the winter air.
01/26 Direct Link
Sick of thinking about the political situation, here and world-wide. What use is it to have good intentions, good thought, good efforts on changing the world, or at least the world around me, if by my very American-ness I am an object of scorn and disapproval for over half the world? Why even try? As if we, the common people, have any sort of control over what the government in Washington does. Yes, we do have elections, but after that brief and heady experience of control, we dive back into our holes for another few years. There is no hope.
01/27 Direct Link
A man stands with his violin. His hair is styled in the fashion of the time, combed back from his face. The tuxedo is slightly dated, the cut close to his slender body, but the bow tie and cuff links, and the pleated shirt are timeless. His beautiful eyes look across the years from the photograph, a slender mustache above a closed smile. In the next picture he is playing the violin, looking down with concentration. I know the sound of that violin, because I have heard it in recordings of his symphony. I have the music and the photograph.
01/28 Direct Link
We have watched movies the past few days, rented from the local Hollywood Video store. An incredible Spanish movie, Butterfly, and tonight an astonishing Czech film, Divided We Fall. Also several very entertaining but no truly memorable American efforts. Good acting, but screenplays and directing that rely on special effects and prurient titillation. The European films have dealt with the bigger picture, the great life questions. Sometimes I wonder if we Americans can acknowledge at all that questions exist which cannot be answered. The questions we are here to puzzle over for a lifetime. The questions we must respond to..
01/29 Direct Link
Old friends. Today for some reason was the day of old friends. Within a twelve hour period I had visits from three. I have known them a combined century or more. It is somehow comforting to be around a person who has known me since my early childhood.. Also disquieting. Is there any purpose in trying to deceive one of these oracles of familiarity. They know when I lie in any case, saying nothing, they give me the look. The bullshit detection look, a sly smile to go with it. I have the same ability with them. It saves time.
01/30 Direct Link
Another day, another hundred words…I can’t believe how a person with too much to say, like I, can sometimes have so much trouble coming up with a hundred words important enough to write down, without being in the middle of a conversation, or an essay much longer. Should be a lot to say today, after Prez Bush made his big speech last night, but I missed it and I have yet to see the full text printed anywhere. From the news, it sounds as if there was nothing unexpected about it. The Conservatives are praising God and passing the ammunition.
01/31 Direct Link
There is a man who lives at the local housing complex, used mainly by seniors…he seems to be around 55. In the hall outside his apartment you can hear classical music being played on his stereo whenever he is home. He has a little grey and white dog, which he takes everywhere with him. To the store, to the post office. When I see him in the bigger town, 20 miles away, he doesn’t have his little dog. He Doesn’t have a car, so he rides the senior citizen bus, or hitch-hikes to town. I think he is on SSI.