Friday, July 30, 2010


So much for viral.

Home, watching video of my performance at the Riverview Cafe, getting drunk on the Frontenac wine I made last year (which is mellowing out quite nicely), I realize, holding a pair of deer horns doesn't make me a better dancer. There is some polite applause. Ho hum. I have to remember, I'm more shaman than dancer. The horns translate better in front of a fire. I brought the swords too, but I didn't pull them out for lack of time. Maybe in a couple of weeks.

I sent an email to a friend who has read my book, asking, "What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of my book? No filters please." He replied with a list:

Needs editing
Won't sell
Start a Revolution

It's all that. He forgot Purpose, which is a word I like in place of Mission. The "Arrogant" and "Won't Sell", are of particular importance. Reading through my manuscript for about the fifteenth time, recently, it came to me that a particular arrogance of mine is the idea that I might make enough money on the sale of this book to pay for this house, soon enough to prevent the property from changing hands. I forget that society is not in the habit of supporting revolutionaries, even peaceful ones advocating awakening and reverence for the Earth and all its creatures.

The only thing to do at this point is finish the book and make it available as a PDF, for free. Everybody loves free stuff. A suggested donation, if you think it worthwhile, helping me keep writing. The second book is taking shape. It will be considerably more accessible than the first one, if more direct and no less compromising.

My last hope, that video, for keeping the house. An absurdly long shot, and it missed by a proverbial mile. Damn. Service to the Goddess and to the Earth is no simple thing, in a culture that can't conceive of the first and sanctifies the ongoing exploitation of the other (they really are the same thing, the Goddess and the Earth.) Making money is a grand difficulty when you see the bulk of Trade as legitimized plunder. A true art form, which apparently, I do not excel at at all.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Food for Thought

Lunch and dinner from my yard, yesterday. Browsed through the snap beans like a rabbit. Yellow cherry tomatoes, dinosaur kale, four different kinds of basil, arugula, purslane, mustard greens, radish, Anasazi spinach, nasturtium flower, wild black cherry, western sand cherry and a pepper. Supplemented with organic kefir, bagels and peanut butter, from a nearby food-product outlet. Soon there will be potatoes, and eggplant.

It's about fifty-fifty, what I eat from the yard and what comes from somewhere else. That percentage isn't likely to change much, as long as I'm making a little money here and there. Forty from the consignment shop, forty-five from a friend I did yard work for, eighty pulling sod for a neighbor. That's the past two weeks income.

It looks like I'm going to lose the house. When I returned to Minneapolis, I was hoping a community would coalesce around my manuscript, in support of what I'm trying to do with the house and yard. The reality is, more than half the people I've given the manuscript to have not responded in any way; several of them are not returning my phone calls. Those who have read it have been less than excited. I am aware I have written a book that is a challenge to read. I am aware there is something in it to offend just about anyone. I didn't realize it would alienate me from my friends.

I'm not sure if it bothers people more that I call them Children of the Earth, divine beings and sacred, or that I tell them the way of life we have all grown accustomed to is coming to an end.

The second book is begun. Not much else matters at this point. The house, if I lose it, could go to a worthy family and the healing I have brought to the land would not be undone. It is a transition I support.

There are limbs further out than the one I've chosen, but this one's pretty far out. I'm as far as I can go before I have to leap. Tonight I'm bringing the swords and the horns to the Riverview Cafe open mic. Two new dances I'm not really comfortable with yet, but it's time. No point in putting it off. If it translates well on video, who knows what could happen. I'm hoping for viral. It's about the last hope I have of keeping the house.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Our Return From MO

The Joplin MO gigs, unlike those in St Joseph, were raucous, lively, as are most of Val Kyrie's performances. Not too surprising. Joplin is no economic mecca, but it's in better shape that St Joseph, which is an excellent example of the mis-allocation of resources, and the absence of restraint of outside economic entities that have no interest in the health and well-being of community. A terribly eroded downtown, and vast sprawling landscapes empty of trees, full with corporate retail. It would be hard to grow up in a place like St Joseph and maintain any kind of traditional American Dream.

Which must be why the image and name of Jesus is everywhere down here. If you can't really believe in the Market, the next best thing is Jesus, though it seems to me, from what I hear on the radio, and the nature of the signage, Jesus is held up more as a threat, a kind of King with apocalyptic proclivities, i.e. you better follow him or else. The message, whether it's about the Market or Jesus, is bow down.

We needed a spare tire, having blown one recently. We were directed to Grande Tire, where we dropped the name Grandpa Pat, from the KOA. Grande Tire didn't have what we needed, used. To save us some money, in good-ole-boy southern fashion, the man-in-charge sent us to his competitor, the Tire Center. Three of the men working at the Tire Center were grimy, sweating in the hideous heat and humidity, smoking; they were also the most impressive physical examples of Homo sapien sapien I have met in some time. I can't vouch for the state of their minds, but one at least caught me off guard with a little wit. Pulling the thoroughly shredded tire from under the van, he looked at me coolly and said, "What are you doing here. All you need is a little duct tape." I told him I tried to glue it.

So many of the men I meet these days are physically inflated. Whether by high fructose corn syrup or dead weights, it's inflation that has behind it a kind of uselessness. No wonder, so many men using so much energy in service to an Institutional way, in air conditioned stasis. The paradigm after fossil fuels will require men to come fully into their bodies, to let the full power of their manhood flow outward from the core, their physicality attached to some skill or set of skills in service to a community. That won't be easy, for men who are conditioned to bow down in service to Government, Corporations, or the men who speak of God. Men will have to learn to give themselves permission to rise up and expand outward in every direction, in service to the Earth.

We left Missouri, passing through Iowa and its vast mono-crop corruption. Encouragingly, Iwegians have planted the ditches with wildflowers, which will quickly spread outward when there are no fossil fuels to maintain industrial agriculture. Des Moines, it turns out, is very cosmopolitan in an exceptionally white bread sort of way. Iowa rest-stops are pristine, very welcoming.

Passing into Minnesota, my home state, the smell of cow shit predominant all along the southern I-35 corridor. We were locked in MN-DOT gridlock outside Owatonna for three hours, on a three mile stretch, on a hot afternoon. We stopped at a rest stop, plywood siding rotting off the walls, the area infested with a swarming plague of Asian Tiger Mosquitos, even in the ninety-five degree air, in the sun. Non-natives, another permanent gift of the Pro tempore Global Free Market.

On to another Val Kyrie gig, in my hometown, in a land that is the intertwining of three major North American ecosystems - Prairie, Deciduous Forest and Coniferous Forest. An art fair fundraiser, we got yelled at for setting up the merchandise in the wrong place, which was more or less where they told us to set it up (I failed Val, not using the hometown argument and demanding that they let us leave the merch exactly where it was.) Then we had to listen to a candyman musician/magician, handing out high fructose corn syrup to his slavish audience, babbling inanely for two hours, talented but without anything meaningful to say. Heyokah in shadow.

Everywhere the signs of EXCESS, turkey legs like lollipops and waistlines broader than any tree in the park. Not a single food vendor selling anything local, all of it industrial food-product to satisfy addictions, to make people ill. Here, it isn't Jesus held up as the thing to bow down to, so much as the American Flag. I was wearing a cat hat, in service to Val (she makes them herself, even puts little bells in the ears). A man with his young granddaughter walked up to the merchandise. He looked at me scornfully, a baseball cap shading his eyes, TEAM USA embroidered on the front panel.

"You call yourself a man, wearing a hat like that?" He said.

I laughed at him. "Got manhood all figured out, do ya?"

"You look like a sissy."

"It is because I am a man I can wear this hat and not be embarrassed by macho knot-heads like yourself."

He didn't buy a cat hat for his granddaughter, or for himself.

Driving back to Minneapolis, I-94W in lock down (shortly after seeing a USA Today cover story holding up the Twin Cities as a model of traffic management. Today's USA TODAY cover seems to be an advertisement for JEEP), we took a long meander through suburbiana. Everything so big, so shiny, so very impressive. Houses like castles, a new aristocracy in the ubiquitous mini-mansion, peasants all grown up, self-satisfied, fully ensconced in American materialism and the assumption that it will continue this way, indefinitely. A mythology reinforced by media, transparent as a light mist and equally lasting.

Americans. So many of us fat, self-satisfied, full of prejudice, genuflecting before the Market, subservient and practically useless. So much of the message, so much information, designed to prevent us from giving ourselves permission to wake up to our origins, to rise up fully in the heritage of our species, to be wholly ourselves in the full meaning of Homo sapien sapien, balanced and awake to the beauty that is this Earth. So much potential, the full story of our species available to us, one hundred thousand years of Homo sapien evolution to fall back on. We are going to need it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Joplin, MO

We are camped at the KOA in Joplin, MO, surrounded by Interstate Highway, Industrial this and Retail that - Anywhere, America. The roar of traffic is incessant. It blends together in a way it did not at the AOK Campground in St Joseph. Here, it is a dull mono-tone, no vehicle but the occasional motorcycle standing out amid the cacophony.

Lights are all around, sometimes blinding even from a quarter-mile. I block certain lights with certain trees as I dance. I'm in the middle of the campground, dancing to the sound of tree frogs, about ten thousand of them within hearing at various distances. I key on one and then another. Sometimes an underlying rhythm compels them all and I am caught, as by a wave.

I stop dancing to hang a tarp above the tent. Val Kyrie is showering. A group of men are milling around a rentable trailer between the campsite and the shower house. It occurs to me that Val has been gone a long time, longer than seems necessary, and I begin to worry. There is a code to get into the shower house, but the code is the same for the men's and women's showers. An abundance of discomforting images fill my head as I walk to the shower house to check in.

Every so often air pressure is released, suddenly, behind a fence, truck and trailer air brakes maybe. It sounds like a giant animal snorting aggressively, maybe a dragon. Thinking about my fear, this fear of men, of what men are capable of. Where does it come from? Why should I be afraid for Val?

Thinking of St Joseph, four gigs in two days and a strange paradox. Exceptionally well attended, as library gigs for Val Kyrie go, yet so many attendees just sitting there, staring, vaguely hostile in some indefinable way, as if predetermined not to be open, not to enjoy the performance. Val, at one point in the last performance, a bit exasperated - from the heat, humidity, and overall unresponsiveness to her words, to her music - mentioned corn and soybeans. It was clear, many in the crowd had never given any thought to mono-crop corn or soybeans, or what they mean.

The energy, the vitality of a landscape funneled upward and elsewhere, the land poisoned and polluted, local community destroyed and the people made fat, listless and angry. I see the name Jesus everywhere, and yet this tour through the breadbasket has been a strong reminder - in America nothing is sacred but Hierarchy, and the Market.

Who are the men who have brought this fear of mine to this world? Who are the men who maintain it? Walking through this campground in this small but very busy city, revolving security on golf carts patrolling the grounds, I realize in some Nations, I could not say the things I say. In America, we are allowed to say almost whatever we like. We think that is because we are a democracy. I say it is because we are fat and listless, and in our fat listlessness we do not threaten the men who rule this Nation. We are angry too, though we blame everything but hierarchy, and the expectation that we must bow down to the Market. Sky gods telling us hierarchy and the Market are inevitable, that they sustain us, the only reason we do not live like apes.

I can say what I say because there are only about five or six people listening. If there were ten million people reading my words, then sky gods would have reason to be afraid for hierarchy, and the Market that sustains that social pyramid, which they benefit so greatly by.

Val is fine. She is flossing her teeth as I knock on the door and call her name. I walk back to the campsite and continue dancing to tree frogs channeling the Divine. All around us are the tones of Empire, the mad machinations of the Market, the crass, grasping, insatiability of the Machine. Yet even here, the rhythms of the Earth are calling and I know, there is a greater power inside me than any I can be given; I need not bow down to anyone, or anything.

And a message to Deerslayer, who set the tone for this whole tour with a violent criticism of Val Kyrie, in a public forum, though he would not take full responsibility for his words:

I have renounced the gun. What can you say for yourself?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I'm in Missouri, the show-me state. I've wondered what that means, since I was a little kid. I've spent time in Missouri on four occasions the past two years, and I still don't know. I'm here helping a musician friend, Val Kyrie, on a mini-tour, six gigs in three days, two days in St Joseph and one in Joplin.

We are camped outside St Joseph, at the AOK Campground LLC, on the point of a small creek-fed reservoir, next to Interstate 29. I asked Wayne the campground attendant how old the "lake" is. He harrumphed, smiling, "Don't know. Lot older than I am." He's about 70, with a mouth full of gold teeth he had installed back in '62, after a car accident knocked all the front ones out. He can't remember what he paid for them, but, "They had a plastic coating. Wore off in no time. Gold's still the same, though." Val commented that she wished she had gold instead of mercury fillings. Me too. Makes sense. But then, why use gold for something useful when it makes such fine ornament? All those folks with poison in their mouth, planted before they had a say-so about it. All those folks with fancy bling, for the sake of gratifying a desire for fancy bling, a desire more empty than Wayne's mouth before he had this second set of teeth made.

Last night the humidity was somewhere around 100%, the temperature in the high eighties well after dark, something like a heat index in the tent of about 115. Sleep was not really an option. Normally, the frogs and crickets, in raucous abundance, would reverberate through me in a pleasant way and calm me to slumber. More penetrating was the higher pitch of rubber on asphalt at 75 mph, particularly the eighteen-wheel truck and trailer, especially when their drivers drifted off the lane and 9 wheels rolled across the rumble strip. Incessantly, all night. Good Goddess, the insatiability.

Thankfully a thunderstorm dropped an inch of rain, and the temperature and humidity enough degrees to require a bedsheet. The beat of the rain, the rush of the wind and the pounding of thunder managed to drown out the rip-whine of automobiles. It would have been better for my friend had that storm rushed through at about 10 pm instead of 3 am. Val had a 10 am gig this morning.

More penetrating than the frogs, crickets, automobiles, thunderstorm or the heat, were the cicadas. We have cicadas in Minnesota, but not like these. So many, calling together into the twilight, a rhythm, a pulse to which I danced at the edge of the water, to this side of a waxing half moon. A tymbal reverberation quickening to the core, a sound hardly changed these last few hundred million years. Who out there can feel it? Who out there cares to remember?

I can only speculate as to the affect of those two cellular towers, flashing blue just below the tree line across the lake. There is no affect, say the techno-fundamentalists. Right. The affect won't be apparent as long as cellular towers function, as long as there are Interstate highways. The affect will be abundantly apparent, as soon as they are gone. Which is why I reverberate to the tone of cicadas.

Friday, July 16, 2010


The Riverview Cafe open mic, world premiere of two of my Sacred Theatre dances, was a rousing success, I think. It felt good. The crones loved it, four mature ladies thanking me directly afterward, one asking me on a date, another handing me a US Grant: "I found this in a Baltimore bar. I think you should have it." She plays a fine flute. I have the dances on video (and audio of S. with her extraordinarily generous blessing), thanks to my friend Kevin, who borrowed the video camera and tripod. My good friend Chad borrowed the ipod I needed to play the music. I'll put the video out there, if I can figure out how. My ridiculous PC isn't likely capable of compressing the data.

I think I'll bring the swords and deer horns on the 29th. I couldn't have danced in front of anyone a few months ago. I think it was William James, or was it Henry, who said one of the most remarkable things about this life is the way in which the impossible becomes possible. I lit a pair of swords on fire this past Wednesday, and danced in my back yard. Twice. I was nervous, but I don't think anyone noticed, and it all seemed a little mundane after. On the fourth of July, on my 37th birthday, I danced to a well-done fireworks show, to the impressive sax of a talented fellow named Raven Wolf, to a dozen djembe and doumbek, with my deer horns. That was fun. More of that would be nice.

Every so often a few dollars trickle in, unexpectedly, enough to pay for coffee and the occasional meal. I have friends who care deeply about me. My father can't understand why I don't get a job with an oil company or a trucking service; how can I tell him I'm done with the conventional, that I have become effectively unemployable from a mainstream perspective, that I'm not even actively looking for a job? I'm going to write a second book, even if I can't get the first one published. If that means I lose my house and end up living in a garage somewhere, well, I am alive. Thriving, really. Loving Life. Even if, from a mainstream perspective, I am a total failure.

The tomatoes are starting to ripen. I've had a few radishes this week. the western sand cherries are ripe, the lettuce is bolting almost immediately yet, it's all starting to add up to a significant portion of my diet, what my yard produces. The healthiest portion, really. Wherever I am in six months, I'm going to have an abundance of potatoes and beans, canned tomatoes and salsa.

This really is a beautiful life. Curious, that it has taken me off the grid. A strange fate. But I'm dancing. I have something to say, good friends, more useful skills and knowledge than most, and currently, shelter. If nothing else, I'm proving to my self at least, I don't need much to be happy.

Not that I want to be living in a garage, come winter. But I will, before I go to work for an oil company or a trucking service, or any other employer who requires me to participate, on a daily basis, in the plunder of the Earth, in funneling resources up the steps of a social hierarchy. Regardless what my culture has to say about value, wealth and productivity.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Runners in the Strawberries

I spent several hours yanking runners out of the strawberries. They've webbed their way into the asparagus as well, and the patch of pussy toes in one of my wildflower beds. Quack grass, Agropyron repens, a "sudden field of fire".

Runners are rhizomes, long tendrils of root that run laterally through the first few inches of soil, from which shoots arise and roots burrow outward. They create a thick web of roots that choke out other plants. If I don't pull these quack grass runners out, I won't have strawberries or pussy-toe flowers next year, maybe less asparagus.

The Minnesota Extension Service says I can use Ortho Fluazifop Grass-B-Gone in the asparagus. Oh, but wait, not if I actually want to eat the asparagus any time in the next twelve months. I could use Monsanto's glyphosate, Roundup. Many people do. I can't. I have seen video of Monsanto lawyers threatening to destroy the livelihood of an old man who helps farmers separate seed from chaff for next year's planting, because he was in violation of Monsanto's government sanctioned, biologically re-enforced monopoly on soybean production. Monsanto likes to say it is feeding the world. In reality, it is practicing a form of global enslavement, perpetuating rampant population growth, which is the perpetuation of Markets.

My soil is soft enough that I can dig with my hands. Burrowing my fingers several inches deep, I clench my fist and pull out a birds nest worth of white rhizomes. It's easy to think of this non-native, invasive, relentless plant as having malevolent qualities. It's a plant, and while I know it has a kind consciousness, it is not intent on taking over the world. It simply finds itself in a foreign land, a land absent whatever insects, bacteria, plants or animals that moderated its growth in Europe. Here, every single plant is capable of sending out 300 ft of rhizome more-or-less unimpeded, every inch sending up a new blade of grass.

I don't use poisons, I dig the rhizomes out with my hands, which works just as well. It's hard work, but so is rooting out the rhizomes of culture that web their way through body and mind, choking off the free flow of spirit. That's what this is, really, this digging out of quack grass rhizomes, a healing of the soil, which is healing me. That's not our way, in this culture, the pharmaceutical companies, siblings to Monsanto, with their poisons for people, bio-engineering another form of enslavement.

It is very lucrative. Doctors write approximately 110,000,000 prescriptions for anti-depressants every year, and I don't think that's counting prescriptions for children. Homo sapien sapien feeling disconnected, not knowing why, accepting the only answer they've been given: here, take this pill. Who says, "You are of the Earth, in the Earth you will find healing"? It is not in the economic self-interest of doctors, pharmaceutical executives, religious intermediaries or empirical apologists to tell you that health can be found in realigning oneself with the rhythms of the Earth. They, of course, are just as unhealthy and disconnected as the rest of us. We are all a long way removed from Home.

Now the strawberries are free of rhizomes, the soil sufficiently mulched with leaves and wood chips I've gathered from the city's free piles. I should have an excellent crop next year, more than I can eat fresh. Strawberry preserves are a fine thing.

Assuming the strawberries are still mine to gather. Only one of my potential book investors has offered to purchase a share; a half-share, actually. The feedback is positive, mostly, though the book has made everyone uncomfortable. As a writer it is my job to ask the questions few others want to ask, and offer answers. Of course, who wants answers to a questions they don't want to ask?

What are we going to do as fossil fuel availability declines? I know what we can do. I know what will happen if we continue to sleepwalk our way into that decline. Most folks seem content to act as if technology will magically save us. It won't.

As the book is concerned, my intention now is to bring two of my Sacred Theatre dances to the Riverview Cafe open mic, Thursday evening. Video will add another layer to the business plan and manuscript. Maybe with the video I'll be able to convince someone to help me make a digital version of the book, for a financial stake in the lifetime of the book. A hard-cover book is not an option at this point. A digital version would at least have the potential to start generating capital, so I can keep the strawberries, and the house.

Maybe the dancing will actually convince some folks to read this blog. We'll see how many want to continue reading, after they see what I have to say. So far, that seems to amount to no one. Maybe I'm deluding myself that what I have to say matters. Well, it matters to me. Readers or not, I will continue writing. There is so much more to say. I mean to tear down the whole of this brutal Empire, the righteous fundamentalism that is Market economics and the social hierarchy it maintains, the sycophantic worship of technological progress and the belief that because men rule, the Universe was created by a male, almighty God who expects subservience, sanctions violence, and rewards with plunder; and replace it with a reverence for the Earth and all its creatures, with the recognition that all the Universe is Divine, that we reside in the Garden, that Heaven is all around us.

I have said it before and I will continue to say it: You are a unique, astonishing and utterly beautiful manifestation of the spirit. A Divine Being. A child of the Earth. Homo sapien sapien. Sacred.

Monday, July 12, 2010

sky gods

I planted carrots yesterday. About a thousand seeds, maybe two thousand. Most of the carrots I planted in early June didn't come up. Too much rain, I think, the ten days or so after I planted. Many things didn't come up, the savory, romanesco broccoli, kohl rabi, beets, turnips, the Hopi ceremonial tobacco, most of the peas, calendula and Anasazi spinach. It was too late to plant most of it. That, and some of the seed was third rate, a year old, discount commercial. Ultimately though, there was just too much rain too often, for the seed to germinate.

Remember when money seemed to be falling from the sky? Oh those heady days around the turn of the millennium. Eventually the tech stocks crashed, but the Dow Jones climbed ever higher, the price of homes levitated far into the ether, and credit was easier to find than the car keys. And how luxurious those cars became! What did it matter that it took two gallons of gas to drive to the nearest big box retail outlet and back?

Then it was revealed the sky gods had made it all up. They weren't raining down anything, as the oh so duplicitous concept of "trickle down" would suggest. They were just minting money out of that ether, skimming off the illusory credit extended to people and communities, handing that credit back and forth from sky god to sky god, again and again, pretending more money was minted each time. It was and remains nothing but 1's and 0's, even though, when the illusion was revealed, the sky gods at the Federal Reserve started printing dollars as fast as they could, dollars as empty as those techno-graphic 1's and 0's.

But the debt from that credit remains. The sky gods at the Federal Reserve built a multi-trillion dollar safety net for their sky god accomplices in Finance. The rest of us down here on terra firma are left to hope we don't lose our jobs, the jobs we need to pay at least the minimum payments on all that debt; or, we are left to hope we are the one chosen, of the 500 other applicants for that one job that doesn't pay as well as the one I used to have.

And somehow, as the sycophants at Forbes giddily reported a few months back, there were 59 more billionaires in America the Empire in 2009, than there were in 2008, in the midst of the worst recession in recent memory. Even as the estimated value of derivatives, those illusory extensions of actual wealth, are valued at one quadrillion, or one thousand trillion, which is more than ten times the value of the GDP of all the world's nations combined.

Of course, how dare I question the sky gods? If not for them we would all still be apes. Right, Americans?

Sky gods. They are only men. Men who embrace the ethic of every man for himself, who embody the will to rule, who have climbed to the top of a hierarchical social pyramid, sacrificing all that is sacred along the way. Men who excel at plunder, who define the economy that is so detrimental to the health of all things biological, the economy that puts the health of the whole of the Earth at risk.

Which is why I'm planting so many carrots. Because I refuse to participate in that hierarchy. Because I expect the whole bloody system will come crashing down someday soon. Because such insatiability can not be sustained.

Friday, July 9, 2010


I awoke yesterday to footsteps in my house. It was my sister. She was in a state of panic. Her water heater was spraying water, and she nor her partner know enough about the water in their house to know how to shut it off. She doesn't have any money to pay a professional plumber. There is little a professional plumber can do that I can't, so I dressed quickly and jumped in her fifteen-year-old SUV for the mile drive to her house.

The problem was an 18" flexible hot water hose running from the water heater to the main copper lines. Made of steel wire mesh and I presume fiberglass re-enforced rubber, available at a national home improvement big box retail store, I installed the thing about three years ago. It failed completely; there was an inch of water on the basement floor.

So I spent the day resolving her water issues, which included cutting and re-routing copper lines running to the utility sink, the valve of which had been leaking severely. Also, the removal of moldy sheetrock around a basement shower. So much in a house to worry about. So few people capable of the maintenance a house requires. I was happy to help. It also gave me the opportunity to borrow her SUV and gather six cubic yards of wood chips, one for my sister, one for my neighbor, and four for myself. That, and I purchased and retrieved a vinyl 20x30 billboard from a local company, my new pond liner (I was down to exactly one paper dollar before a three hundred dollar blessing appeared.) The birds have been wondering what happened to my old pond. I will unfurl the thing later today, to find out whose advertisement I am covering with mud and water.

Wandering around my sister's yard, I realize that even if I lose the house, I can always squat in her garage. Cut a hole in the roof and use it like a lodge, a fire pit in the center of the dirt floor. I can turn the basement bedroom into a root cellar, keep the veggies there that I would otherwise have kept at my house. I'm sure I can grow enough veggies in her yard to keep her, her partner, her daughter and baby (in eutero) in veggies for the year. Her soil is all clay, an old wetland - I've seen cracks in the yard in late August an inch thick. She will require heavy soil amendments, raised beds and about twelve cubic yards of compost and soil. That work has to start now, for next springs planting. She has a few tree problems, a silver maple next door and two linden on the south boulevard, but they aren't as much a problem as the trees I have to deal with in my own yard. A note to my readers: when natural gas shortages manifest, cut down the silver maple first. They are a non-native menace. We are probably going to deforest most of the continent, but we might as well try to be discriminate about it to start.

While speculating about how to transform my sister's yard into a garden, I dreamt again about renegade gardens. The city has so much parkland, so much of it nothing but sod. Such a ridiculous waste. Sod is a reflection of our affluence and the abundance of fossil fuels, as in, "see how affluent we are that we can waste so much land." I got to thinking about it because the big patch of currants I've been looking joyward to gathering, in Minnehaha park just off Hiawatha, turned out not to be currants at all. The leaf looked like a currant, the berry was about the right size. I was so excited by the prospect of so many currants that I didn't really scrutinize the plant. I should have known better. The city plants many different kinds of berry producing shrubs, but they don't plant many that you can actually eat. Again, a symptom of our affluence, our disconnection from reality. There are probably a dozen or more different kinds of berry-producing shrubs planted in Minnehaha park, but the only kind you can eat are the serviceberries. Don't want to compete with the grocers, even though most grocers don't carry any fruit that was grown within five hundred miles of Minneapolis.

Renegade gardens. I would need a few acres of land, several hoop houses, the raw material to make copious amounts of soil, lumber to build raised beds, and trucks to transport plants, soil, lumber, tools, water barrels and a few dozen accomplices. Slip into a half dozen select spots in parks around the city, plant those gardens surreptitiously, and force the city to make a decision either to let the gardens be or tear them out. I relish the idea of city government ripping out vegetable gardens. That would make a great You Tube video (as would the renegade planting). I relish more the idea of free veggies for anyone who wants them. Is this public land or not? I know there is a process we are supposed to go through to set up community gardens, but we don't have time to waste on nonsensical bureaucratic tedium, to plant a small percentage of what we could if we just went ahead and did it ourselves.

Gathering wood chips yesterday, I had an opportunity to listen to NPR. So much talk about the economy. Some are saying it will never return to the peak we knew around the turn of the millennium. So true. Much talk about oil as well, but not its end. We are being told the oil sands of Alberta are the new Saudi Arabia. We are not told the mining and processing of those sands is considerably more energy intensive than the extraction of Saudi crude. At some point long before those oil sands would be exhausted, the extraction of that oil will be an energy push. If you're holding an eight-jack and the dealer has a pair of nines, the hand is done and you deal again. A push in the game of oil extraction (using one barrel of oil to recover one barrel of oil) means you go looking for another oil field. Eventually, in cards, you run out and shuffle again. You can't take exhausted oil fields and shuffle them to make them new.

There is much I will miss about cheap and abundant fossil fuels. There is much I will not. I will not miss lawnmowers, or gas water heaters and cheaply made attachments. Curious thing about not having running water in the house, I don't miss the daily shower, though by cultural standards I need it more than most people. None of us really need a daily shower. The daily, even twice daily shower is a pampering out of all appropriate proportion. To say so is akin to heresy, I know, but you will recognize it as a fact some day too, if you don't already. Enjoy those fifteen minute, 30 gallon showers while you can. Eventually, you're going to have to heat that water with sunlight or wood. The sun doesn't shine every day, and it can't heat your water at night for a morning wake-up. We will deforest the continent right-quick if we expect to heat water with wood for a daily pampering.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Picking serviceberries off the bike path in Minnehaha park, I'm watching a family of five returning to their van. Mom is very beautiful in a conventional, central-city sort of way, the children also but putting up a stink now, as children often do after a day in the park; whether still wired or exhausted, the mood descends. Mom and Dad use a countdown method, as in, "Get in the van or I'm going to have to put you in it. One, two..." The kids respond by climbing in, slouching, dramatic, as if they've been undone. Mom climbs into the passenger seat, tired. Dad walks over and asks what I'm picking.

"Running serviceberries."

"What was that?"

"Running serviceberries."

"I've never heard of them. Are they good?"

"I think these taste like a cross between a blueberry, a grape and a plumb. Try one."

He does so, tentatively, though my hands are stained with berry juice, I'm holding the half-pint I've already collected, and I probably have berry juice on my face. At least he didn't ask, as some do, "Are those poisonous?" He puts the berry in his mouth and his face lights up.

"Wow, these are good!" He starts picking berries, placing them in his cupped left hand. "I need to get some of these for my kids."

"The last kids who came by didn't want to leave," I say. His kids are already in the van; they're scrutinizing dad closely, they can see the berries. I'm about to suggest he let his kids pick, then I remember how difficult it was to get them in the van. I say instead, "You have very beautiful children."

He looks at me surprised, happily so. "Thank you, " he says, genuinely. He looks at the van, waves, turns back smiling and says, "They are beautiful kids." He continues picking, and asks how I know about serviceberries. I tell him their story, that they were a fairly common native plant before mono-crop corn production, the growth of suburbia, too many deer and the plague that is buckthorn. That they survive in a few plantings like these, in parks, parking lots, and yards. That I know where many different kinds of berries grow, that wild currants will be ready when the serviceberries are done, that there's always something ripe from April to October, if you know where to look. I tell him about my yard, the wild strawberries on the boulevard, the raspberry patch, the black caps the birds were kind enough to plant for me growing along the fence by the pond. He says his mom had a big garden, the whole yard was a garden actually, but "that isn't something a sixteen year-old appreciates."

"I bet your kids would appreciate a garden, with berries."

"Maybe," he says absently, continuing with his line of thought, his mom somehow present for him, "You know what they say, you never really appreciate your parents until you have kids."

"Nothing easy about bein' a dad, is there?"

"No, it's not easy."

"A thankless job, really. Sometimes."

"Yeah," he says. He looks again to the van, turns back smiling. "But I like it. I've got to get these to my kids."

"Just so you know, there are more serviceberries up the path. A shrub variety, sweeter berries I think, but not so easy for the kids to pick."

Maybe he's remembering his mama's garden. He says, "Kids like picking berries, don't they."

"Makes you wonder why we don't line all the pathways."

His kids are calling for him. The eldest daughter, about nine years old, is hanging out the open driver window. The two younger boys, seven and five, have opened the driver-side passenger door, though they know they aren't supposed to and don't make a move to climb out, only positioning themselves to beat their older sister to the first berry. Mom is patient and amused. Dad has gathered enough berries for them all to sample. It's almost twilight. Having tasted them, the kids are bouncing up and down wanting to be let out. Dad looks at mom, mom looks at dad, mom says ok and the kids can't get out of the van fast enough.