Friday, January 30, 2009


Debra Winger and Arliss Howard

For a handpicked selection of videos like this one of Bob Dylan singing "Pretty Peggy-O," see DylanTube. Also see "The Bonnie Lass o' Fyvie."

To my ear, the arrangement has echoes of "Ring Them Bells":

Right now my energy is at a low point, but I can still read and listen. That's a photo from the Bellingham Herald. It's Taylor Street Dock in the fog.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Friday, January 23, 2009


Here's another question from the I Ching:

Return to the way.
How could there be blame in this?
Good fortune.
(p. 41, Richard Wilhelm / Cary F. Baynes translation)

And something I found at wood s lot, with some questions from Cesar Vallejo:


César Vallejo

I do not feel this suffering as Cesar Vallejo. I am not suffering now as a creative person, or as a man, nor even as a simple living being. I don't feel this pain as a Catholic, or as a Mohammedan, or as an atheist. Today I am simply in pain. If my name weren't Cesar Vallejo, I'd still feel it. If I weren't an artist, I'd still feel it. If I weren't a man, or even a living being, I'd still feel it. If I weren't a Catholic, or an atheist, or a Mohammedan, I'd still feel it. Today I am in pain from further down. Today I am simply in pain.

The pain I have has no explanations. My pain is so deep that it never had a cause, and has no need of a cause. What could have its cause been? Where is that thing so important that it stopped being its cause? Its cause is nothing, and nothing could have stopped being its cause. Why has this pain been born all on its own? My pain comes from the north wind and and from the south wind, like those hermaphrodite eggs that some rare birds lay conceived of the wind. If my bride were dead, my suffering would still be the same. If they had slashed my throat all the way through, my suffering would still be the same. If life, in other words, were different, my suffering would still be the same. Today I'm in pain from higher up. Today I am simply in pain.

I look at the hungry man's pain, and I see that his hunger walks somewhere so far from my pain that if I fasted until death, one blade of grass at least would always sprout from my grave. And the same with the lover! His blood is too fertile for mine, which has no source and no one to drink it.

I always believed up till now that all things in the world had to be either fathers or sons. But here is my pain that is neither a father nor a son. It hasn't any back to get dark, and it has too bold a front for dawning, and if they put it into some dark room, it wouldn't give light, and if they put it into some brightly lit room, it wouldn't cast a shadow. Today I am in pain, no matter what happens. Today I am simply in pain.

unto (un'too); unstressed un'tᵊ (prep. Archaic. 1. to (in its various uses, except as the accompaniment of the infinitive). 2. until; till. [ME; modeled on the word "until"]

Thursday, January 22, 2009


How can I be useful, of what service can I be? There is something inside me, what can it be?
(Vincent van Gogh, 1853-1890)

"A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed toward the hope of greening the landscape of idea."
(John Ciardi, 1916-1986)

Looking for a question rather than an answer,
I opened my copy of the Richard Wilhelm / Cary F. Baynes
translation of the I CHING OR BOOK OF CHANGES and found
this on page 158:

"It furthers one to undertake something.
How is this to be carried out?"

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


6:41 a.m. It's still dark here. There is a crescent moon up there in the foggy sky to the southeast. Although the above photo is from yesterday morning, the light is archetypal and says what I want to say today.

Monday, January 19, 2009


From the foreword, written by Coretta Scott King, to Martin Luther King's classic collection of sermons:

"If there is one book Martin Luther King, Jr. has written that people consistently tell me has changed their lives, it is STRENGTH TO LOVE. I believe it is because this book best explains the central element of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s philosophy of nonviolence: His belief in a divine, loving presence that binds all life. This belief was the force behind all of my husband's quests to eliminate social evil . . . . By reaching into and beyond ourselves and tapping the transcendent moral ethic of love, we shall overcome these evils. Love, truth, and the courage to do what is right should be our own guideposts on this lifelong journey. Martin Luther King, Jr. showed us the way; he showed us the Dream -- and we responded with full hearts. Martin was an optimist. I am too, I do believe that one day our strength to love shall bring the Dream to fruition and the Beloved Community to earth."

Martin Luther King, Jr.:

When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."

"For nonviolence, as Gandhi insisted, was not the ‘weapon of the weak’; on the contrary, it is the strongest form of human power and it takes the bravest and strongest to wield it." (Michael N. Nagler)

Ram Dass interviewing Thich Nhat Hanh:

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.
(Thich Nhat Hanh, from "Please Call Me By My True Names")

"The stroke caused me to lose faith, and it was a cold, cold place, and I suddenly realized it was fierce grace.. that turned my life around."
(Ram Dass)

This year, Martin Luther King Day is the same day as Janis Joplin's birthday. If she were still alive, she would be 66 years old today. I don't know in what context she said this, but it seems to fit right in:

“It's gonna be a long hard drag, but we'll make it.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967, the year before Martin Luther King, Jr. died. On Martin Luther King Day 2009, let me not not forget that I am the twelve-year-old girl and I am the pirate. Let me not forget the fierce grace of which Ram Dass spoke. Let me not forget Janis Joplin's words. Let me not forget the difficult truth --
that it takes strength to love.

("Woman with Blue Hair," drawn in chalk pastel by am in the early 1980's)

Sunday, January 18, 2009


(Painting by Georgia O'Keeffe)

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Early this morning, I began to think about one of the scenes from Martin Scorsese's film, "The Last Temptation of Christ," the one where Jesus asks Judas to betray him, a betrayal that will result in Jesus' crucifixion.

An outraged disciple, Judas (played by Harvey Keitel): "If you were me, could you betray your master?"

A subdued teacher, Jesus (played by Willem Defoe): "No. That's why God gave me the easier job."

While looking for the above scene with the subdued Jesus, I ended up listening to an earlier scene where Jesus is talking with Judas, and Judas says bluntly,

"I don't believe you."

Was that a conceit by Martin Scorsese?

Martin Scorsese's 1988 film is based on a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, who also wrote "Zorba the Greek." "The Last Temptation of Christ" is an extraordinary meditation on Kazantzakis' book. The story is not based on the Gospels. It rings true to me. In Gene Siskel's words, "This Jesus is more than a standard misunderstood God we see in most biblical films. This Jesus knows that it is harder to be a good man than to be God."

I don't call myself a Christian or anything else, but each time I re-watch "The Last Temptation of Christ," I meditate on how difficult it can be to discern the right action in complex situations where no clear answers are forthcoming.

"I pray that I can be a kinder person."
(Bob Dylan, from CHRONICLES, VOL 1.)

Friday, January 16, 2009


"In the midst of total uncertainty, we can love."


Thanks to WHISKEY RIVER for guiding me to Terrance Keenan's book.

A friend directed my attention to Van Gogh's "Rain--Auvers," one of his last paintings. Looking at it made me think of R who was an 芸術家 who made a living as a 大工 and, I am certain, felt a kinship with van Gogh as he painted his last paintings at the VA hospital where he died last April.

"In the midst of total uncertainty, we can paint."

Thursday, January 15, 2009


One day in 1987, while skeptically listening to a Lummi woman speak of God's loving presence in her life, it occurred to me that a person doesn't have to believe in God to order to believe that another person not only believes in God but has had the experience of feeling loved by that presence they refer to as "God."

Just now, in an email from Daily Celebrations, I learned that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Etty Hillesum share the same birthdate. Today. January 15.

Etty Hillesum was born in 1914. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in 1929.

From Daily Celebrations, about Etty Hillesum:

"Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we
take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for
five short minutes." ~ Etty Hillesum

Dutch writer Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) was born on this day and
studied law and psychology in Amsterdam.One of the millions of
Holocaust victims, she was best known for the insight and inspiration
of her diaries.

She said, "One must also accept that one has 'uncreative' moments.
The more honestly one can accept that, the quicker these moments will

Her diaries and letters, from 1941-1943 were published in An
Interrupted Life (1982). Describing feeling like a "soul without a
skin," Hillesum captured her thoughts about God and humanity in eight
hand-written notebooks which she began writing nine months after
Hitler's Nazis invaded the Netherlands. She continued writing until
her death two years later.

"We should be willing to act as a balm for all wounds," she observed.
Called the adult counterpart to Anne Frank, Hillesum's writing
passionately celebrated life, the human spirit and the power of love.

In 1943, she and her family were sent to the gas chambers of
Auschwitz. "God is not accountable to us, but we are to Him," she
wrote. "I know what may lie in wait for us.... And yet I find life
beautiful and meaningful."

~Give yourself a moment's breath.

After reading that, I found this quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.:

"Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted."

Ruby Dee does an extraordinary reading of Zora Neale Hurston's novel, THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


This morning I took another step in the direction of painting something new. Several days ago, I pulled my tubes of watercolor and gouache out from under the small wooden table that has my turntable on top and my worn but still playable Bob Dylan albums on the shelf below. The tubes and the wooden box they are in were filled with dust, but I put them on the large table in my small living room, creating a spot on one end of the table where I could put a watercolor block and begin to paint again. Then I looked around for my paint brushes and for the vase I use for holding the paint water. In with the tubes of paint were a handful of quotes I had cut out of newspapers, along with some handwritten notes in which I had been working out titles for paintings before 2000. There was also a faded green request slip from the Bellingham Public Library. Printed on the slip was the date "8/78." On the back of the slip was written:

"The dog is us and it's not funny."

The first time I read those words in a book by Raymond Mungo, I thought that was the funniest thing I had heard in a long long time. My recollection this morning was that the book, published in the 1970's, was called FAMOUS LONG AGO. With those clues, I looked around the internet for confirmation of my memory. I found two entries for "the dog is us and it's not funny," but neither made any reference to Raymond Mungo. Instead, it was implied that Marcelle Clements was the source of the quote in 1982.

I don't think so. I think it was Raymond Mungo. He made me laugh a long time ago, at a time when I needed a good laugh.

The dog is us, and it's funny.

("The Cat is Not Amused," painted by am, using watercolor on watercolor paper, early 1980's)

Monday, January 12, 2009


In my growing-up years, when I lived with my family on the west side of San Francisco Bay, we could occasionally see snow at the very top of Mt. Diablo, about 40 miles to the northeast. Until years after I left California in August of 1973, I never walked on Mt. Diablo. When I was a child, it was the highest place in my world and a wonder to me because it was far away and sometimes had snow on it.

Mount Diablo is sacred to many California Native American peoples; according to Miwok mythology and Ohlone mythology, it was the point of creation. Mount Diablo and Reed’s Peak were surrounded by water. From these two islands the creator Coyote and his assistant Eagle-man made Indian people and the world. (from an excellent article about Mt. Diablo.)

As a child living in the relative lowlands of California, I "touched" snow only twice that I can recall, except when we visited our relatives in Minnesota. The first time must have been in the winter of 1955 or 1956, when there was snow in the "Lost Hills" near the town of Taft, which is in the San Joaquin Valley in south central California. Our parents, both from Minnesota, made a special trip from Taft, where we lived, so that we could see snow. The second time was probably in the early 1960's, when there was a light layer of snow in our backyard when we woke up one Sunday morning. I remember my mother waking me and my sisters and encouraging us to look outside. I remember that moment of amazement when I saw the snow. Of course, we immediately wanted to go outside and "touch" the snow. After we had "touched" the snow, we had to get dressed for church. The snow was such a novelty that we were one of the few families who attended our church that day. By the time we returned from church, the snow had melted.

In 1967, when I first read portions of the Richard Wilhelm / Cary F. Baynes translation of I Ching and learned that the name of the 52nd hexagram was translated as "Keeping Still, Mountain," the mountain I pictured was Mt. Diablo. My mountain was a green California mountain in winter, not a snowy mountain.

It doesn't seem that long ago that I read these words for the first time, looking to the I Ching for guidance in that first year that I was friends with R:

"It is very difficult to bring quiet to the heart."

"True quiet means keeping still when the time has come to keep still, and going forward when the time has come to go forward. In this way rest and movement are in agreement with the demands of the time, and thus there is light in life."

Mt. Diablo webcam

360 degree view of Mt. Diablo

It's foggy here this morning. 40 degrees. Yesterday was the first day I was able to take a long walk since December 13, when the snow began. When I looked out the window just now, five Trumpeter Swans flew overhead toward the west!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"War is hell" (General Sherman)

A old friend emailed:

"I haven't looked at it yet, but if what she's saying is true, we should at least give the IDF a chance to be heard. Whether or not we agree with what's going on in Gaza."

and forwarded this from someone she knows who lives in Israel who was also forwarding it:

Subject: FW: Please spread IDF site on u tube
  Friends,   please spread!!!!!!!!

  IDF  "Israeli Defense Force", the  Israeli Army is having a broadcast on U Tube
explaining what's going on, and  the U Tube wants to remove it by using the excuse
as not too many people  are logging in. Please forward this email, so more people
will log in and  the IDF will be able to have its voice heard.

The idea that YouTube wants to remove it because "not too many people are logging in" doesn't ring true, but I did watch the first video on that channel. It appears that plenty of people have watched the videos. I agree with my friend and with General Sherman's words.

Strange days followed by even stranger days.

Friday, January 9, 2009


"At the end of the rainbow, life has only begun."
(from "Beyond the Horizon," from the CD "Modern Times," by Bob Dylan)

It's not difficult to imagine someone asking me, "Is there anything that DOESN'T make you think of Bob Dylan?"

Two dear friends of mine recommended another movie, "Out On A Limb," which I watched as a video yesterday. Not once while watching that movie, in which Matthew Broderick stars, did I think of Bob Dylan. Although the movie is described as a romantic comedy, it gave me nightmares because it reminded me of the day R returned from Vietnam in 1970 and other traumatic days of my life.

"Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility."
(James Thurber, 1894-1961)

In many ways, I'M NOT THERE yet. Not sure what to say to my friends who thought the movie was hilarious. I've observed that a person's sense of humor can be as touchy as one's religion or one's philosophy of life. What can make one person laugh, can give another person nightmares.

My two friends and I often laugh when we are together. That's because we've been together during hard times. Certainly they will understand when I tell them about the nightmares.

My camera wasn't able to catch all the subtle colors in the clouds. All the colors of a rainbow were visible to my eye. Just imagine.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I believe that it was on New Year's Day when a friend recommended "Man on Wire". She said that she had thought of me while watching it with friends on New Year's Eve. She thought that I might like to see it. When I went to the video store, all the copies were rented out.

A few days later, another friend recommended "Slumdog Millionaire." Despite her distress in response to extreme violence toward children and scenes of torture that are at the center of the story, she said that the movie had changed her life in a positive way. We both experienced physical violence when we were children, so I trusted her recommendation and her warning about the subject matter. A third friend invited me to see that movie at a local independent theater. The movie is overwhelming on many levels, positive and negative. And difficult to recommend without warnings. There is a thread that runs through the movie that had to remind me of the lyrics of "My Back Pages":

Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
Rip down all hate, I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of MUSKETEERS
Foundationed deep, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

On the day before yesterday, I rented "Man on Wire" and watched it yesterday afternoon. There was something that made me think of this video. The black suit, the tall hat, the juggling, the scenes on the bridge.

Then I remembered this:

do Not create anything, it will be
misinterpreted. it will not change.
it will follow you the
rest of your life. when asked what you
do for a living say you laugh for
a living. be suspicious of people
who say that if you are not nice
t' them, they will commit suicide.
when asked if you care about
the world's problems, look deeply
into the eyes of he that asks
you, he will not ask you again . . .
(from "Advice for Geraldine on her Miscellaneous Birthday")

After days and days of snow and unusually cold weather, we are experiencing our usual January weather, and that has caused some flooding in parts of Bellingham and Whatcom County. This is the first time in my memory that schools have been closed because of flooding in various areas of Whatcom County.

I recommend "Man on Wire."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Warren Zevon said, "It matters to me," in a story Crystal Zevon tells in her book, I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD: THE DIRTY LIFE AND TIMES OF WARREN ZEVON. Don't know how I would have made it through the last year of R's life without the benefit of having read Crystal Zevon's book, written at the urging of Warren Zevon.

"If you do it, you've got to tell the whole truth, even the awful, ugly parts, because that's the excitable boy who wrote them excitable songs." (quote from the above video -- the segment where Crystal Zevon is relating Warren Zevon's words about the book he wanted her to write and which became I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD: THE DIRTY LIFE AND TIMES OF WARREN ZEVON, published in May 2007.)

I titled my blog "Old Girl of the North Country" in December 2006, before had I read Crystal Zevon's story about Warren's song, "Old Girl."

"It matters to me."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Aretha Franklin recorded Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" in tribute. This is for my nephew today. I haven't seen him since he was 10 years old.

My nephew could have been born in 1992 on Christmas Day, but he waited to be born early in the afternoon on the 12th day of Christmas, also known as Epiphany -- January 6, 1993. I remember that my brother-in-law was wondering if their boy was going to share his birthday with Elvis Presley on January 8. On the day my nephew was born there was snow on the ground and clear skies. A full moon rose in the evening of his first day, and the stars came out as bright as can be. After his mother and father were asleep, I held him in the moonlight that lit the hospital room. Around midnight, I drove north through the almost desert-like snow-covered landscape. I remember seeing Orion. I remember how amazed and grateful I was to have spent time with my newborn nephew.

Inspired by Dr. Quill has almost reached the creche, I gathered some wise people and animals for today:

And this was after all the wise people and animals had arrived before dawn:

jarvenpa from Outside The Windows had a good question that I'm going to use for my nephew's 16th birthday and the 12th day of Christmas:

"It's a complicated thing, this life.

Oh, my dears, wherever you are--comfort and joy to you. Maybe the loving crazy energy of Dr. Quill--of our childish imaginings and hopes and dreams--could really heal us all.

Who knows?"

May Love Bless and Keep Us Always!

Happy Birthday!

Aunt Am

Monday, January 5, 2009


Knockin' on the door, I say, "Who is it and where are you from?"
Man says, "Freddy!" I say, "Freddy who?" He says, "Freddy or not here I come"

("Po' Boy," lyrics by Bob Dylan from "Love and Theft," released September 11, 2001)

Will you stay with me to the end?

("Please Stay," lyrics by Warren Zevon from "The Wind," released August 26, 2003)

Sunday, January 4, 2009


You raise up your head
And you ask, "Is this where it is?
And somebody points to you and says
"It's his."
Any you say, "What's mine?"
And somebody else says, "Well, what is?"
And you say, "Oh my God
Am I here all alone?"

("Ballad of a Thin Man," Bob Dylan, 1965)

1. Pages 198 and 199 of BOB DYLAN LYRICS, 1962-1985.
2. Before sunrise, still unusually cold here.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


"How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea?
Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

("Blowin' in the Wind," lyrics by Bob Dylan, 1962)

Friday, January 2, 2009


Somebody showed me a picture, and I just laughed.
Dignity never been photographed.
Dignity got no starting point, no beginning, no middle, no end.
Looking at a glass that's half-filled.
Looking at a dream that's just been killed.
Asking everybody that's strong-willed.
Have you seen dignity?

(alternative lyrics to "Dignity" from the CD "Tell Tale Signs", by Bob Dylan)

Thursday, January 1, 2009


One can make a day of any size and regulate the rising and setting of his own sun and the brightness of its shining.
-- John Muir (1838-1914)

Imani, which means "faith," is the theme for New Year's Day, the 7th day of Kwanzaa. New Year's Day is the 7th day of Christmas.

Shanora: I hate him.

Queen Esther: O, don't hate him, child. You won't find no strength in hate.

Chimbuko: That's right.

. . .

Chimbuko: It's a new day and a new year.

(from the movie "Harambee," directed by Fracaswell Hyman)

Scroll down and listen to Mavis Staples sing "Have a Little Faith"

. . . These are trying times that we’re living in
Have a little faith I say
Have a little faith, my friend
We got trouble everywhere around the world . . .

Yosemite Valley on October 1, 2008
Big Sur on October 4, 2008
My porch before dawn on a rainy Pacific Northwest New Year's Day 2009