I sometimes hear strange sounds in the alley behind the nature pool. Once it was a a dog howling like a siren, so much so that I went looking for it to see what sort of animal could make that sound. Just now a whortling, ringing sound as if some spirit or other was whistling down the alleyway. Nature sprit of course, like they used to have here in this place. The city of San Antonio was an enchanted site back in the day, way back in the day. It’s mostly ruined now but for 20,000 years before we messed it up, it was a sacred place for the people who came to the spring. And before the people it was a magical place for the creatures hiding in the groovy nooks and the secret places that lined the riverbank. And before the creatures arrived it was the nature spirits who roamed here, those old ones, our ancestors, our grandmother and grandfather. The nature spirits are still here, somewhat. They inhabit the river and the park and whatever remains of the groovy nooks. How could they leave?
Maybe it’s a chichada. But they’re long gone and hibernated. Except for this guy I guess. There it goes again chortling down the alleyway. Maybe I hear things. I mean apparantly I do but maybe I hear things that other people don’t or don’t hear in the same way. That might mean I’m crazy or it might mean there are nature spirits in the alley way. And what’s the difference anyway? That’s the point. We’re going to watch ‘Undone’ again tomorrow night. We’ve got a study group. It’s all about what is reality and stuff like that. The daughter becomes a Shaman. I think. Or maybe she’s crazy. Gotta watch it again. Amazon Prime. A Kate Purdy production. Hmm.
Green leaves are turning yellow high up in the Hackberry growing back in the groovy nook. Soon they will fall and become placemats on the ground. I won’t move them. “If God put them there, who am I to rearrange them?” was my comment on facebook. It got a couple of likes.
How the trees interact with the sky and the ground is like a communications network. Some trees synthesize chemicals that they release into the air, terpenes and dimethyl sulfides to be precise. They rise into the sky and seep into the clouds so that raindrops can form. The raindrops, after their wild ride with their dimethyl sulfide hearts, hit the ground and merge into the earth and make their way underground to the tree roots that collect them and use them in their own metabolism and their own transportation system. They transport nutrients like potassium and nitrogen up into the leaves 60 feet above so they can do their photosynthesis trick and send energy back down in the form of carbohydrates which the tree can then use to manufacture more terpenes and dimethyl sulfides and call more rain. Feedback loop.
My method for writing this essay is to sit in my backyard on the porch looking out over the pool and the trees and all the various inhabitants of my little backyard here in the city of San Antonio and observe. There are a million times a million things going on – under the earth, inside the cells of the trees, insects hunkered down hidden in the leaf mulch or in some tiny crevice of a tree trunk – that we don’t see; two turtles buried in the mud dreaming and dreaming in their turtle way until Spring comes. And I sit here and see what I see, knowing that there is more that is unseen. I sit here and notice things. That’s the game – notice. I notice that there is alot to notice. Never seem to run out of things to notice. The grey fence shading darker and darker as it enters the groovy nook, the grey on grey of the tree trunks against the fence and the green leaves, the shape of the branch that leans out from the Possum Holly, leans out and down as if to touch the pool and the silent fish moving in there. They’re at the surface, expecting Meow Mix to rain down like manna from heaven, from the god who stands at the edge of the pool and casts open his arms from whence cometh Meow Mix Tender Centers. Or maybe they don’t have gods. They‘re just fish. Probably gods are for humans. I don’t even think monkeys have gods. They don’t seem to unless it’s all of nature and they are in praise all the time, chittering and chattering and jumping around. More devout than the humans who forget their gods most of the time, have to go back to church to remember. Oh yeah, God.
Yeah so I just sit here and entertain whatever thoughts cross my mind as they’re passing through. It may be that it is the backyard that is speaking thru me. If it were to say something maybe it would be this “Holy Smokes human, don’t forget your god.” That’s what I suspect they would want to say if they wanted to speak thru me.
I sit here until it grows dark sometimes. Slowly, slowly, slowly it descends until you no longer can see the shapes as they once were but you see them as forms, the general outline, hints and probabilities, suggestions. It is a different vocabulary coming from the same source. I am convinced that all of nature is communicating. Another thing we don’t know about. It’s in communion using communication techniques that we may not understand. Yet. I also believe that we should try to learn these communication skills because that’s what our ancient ancestors knew and that’s what enabled them to survive in order for us to be here now. Plus, on top of that, we are going to responsible for healing nature once we stop damaging it and realize that we have to live in a cooperative relationship with it, then we will need those skills of communicating outside of our species and outside of our vaunted verbal language, making sounds in our throat to represent ideas and things. We’re going to have to learn the language of nature in order to survive. That’s what I think.
The gentle blue ceiling, grey-blue or blue-grey above us all, like a god, is losing its light. The birds, Inca doves, the Jays, have roosted and are invisible. Even the squirrel is home watching cable TV that he hooked up for free out at the pole where all those wires are. Well excuse me, the Jay calls out, as if to say – I’m not asleep yet. The frog starts up as if to say, this cold water is nice, I think I’ll sing all night.
I’m learning how to write this book as I write it. We’re kinda growing up together, in a literary sense. It’s like a combination of Walden and Slaughterhouse-5, two of the books I’m reading right now.
“While I enjoy the friendship of the seasons I trust that nothing can make life a burden to me. The gentle rain which waters my beans and keeps me in the house to-day is not drear and melancholy, but good for me too. Though it prevents my hoeing them, it is of far more worth than my hoeing. If it should continue so long as to cause the seeds to rot in the ground and destroy the potatoes in the low lands, it would still be good for the grass on the uplands, and being good for the grass, it would be good for me. Sometimes, when I compare myself with other men, it seems as if I were more favored by the gods than they, beyond any deserts that I am conscious of; as if I had a warrant and surety at their hands which my fellows have not, and were especially guided and guarded. ” says Thoreau and on and on he goes for three hundred pages.
“So out of the gate of the railroad yard and into the streets of Dresden marched the light opera. Billy Pilgrim was the star. He led the parade. Thousands of people were on the sidewalks, going home from work. They were watery and putty-colored, having eaten mostly potatoes during the past two years.” and on and on, Billy Pilgrim time tripping and being abducted by aliens from Tralfamadore and finding himself in the underground grotto of slaughterhouse #5 while above ground the Allies firebombed Dresden into rubble at the end of the second world war. Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece.
As foretold in the preface of the book, it will be about many things: quantum mechanics and the ‘little people’ that live in our gut, ancient civilizations and shamans, our cities and our money. My intention is to examine and explore who we are and what we have done, the gods and demons we have created – maybe exorcise a few demons of my own. Only God knows what our grandparents from the 100th generation ago were up to but they were there and they were up to something. Our grandparents 10,000 generations ago were there too, living in Africa the home land, and trying to survive and have some fun. Which is what we do today, what a coincidence, we just do it in a different way. Our games are different, our languages are different, our clothing is different and our customs are different but our hopes and aspirations are fundamentally the same.
What kind of wisdom have we uncovered on our big adventure, our long journey? What kind of magic secrets are there in the ancient book we have written? Wish me luck and hope me well. Maybe I will find out, maybe it will all come together and be finished one day and get published by Random House and become a New York Times best seller and a trend setter and a genre buster. Maybe we can all discover something. Maybe we can become wise.
ha !! my book project thing / so interesting to have a project that is beyond your reach and beyond your ability and halfway impossible / sometimes i get down but other times i go – hey this is my project what the fuck do i want to do with my life anyways ?? watch tv sports ??
the longest section i have completed well not completed but written so far of all the 18 sections is ‘The Nature Pool’ / it’s about my backyard, the neighborhood, my city / me sitting thoreau style somewhere observing the world / cat like / in the zone / i’ve written 84 pages / way more than any other section / this is what i wrote last night waiting for the storm
“Something is calling very softly, a chirping or squeaking, from over there by the trees in the groovy nook. I don’t know what it is. A bird or a squirrel or some kind of creature making preparations for the storm. The trees bow their heads. Dusk is falling. From the east comes a flash of lightening. It may be that all creatures love the rain like I do, even the trees and the clouds and the earth itself. On radar it appears as a ragged red edge trimmed with yellow and green and spreading across the map, the cold air pushing it steadily to the southeast. It blooms even more green and yellow flowers as it hits the gulf moisture and carries them along with it too. The pressure is rising, according to weather channel, I feel elated. A spaceship sails thru my sky, a large airplane actually, the airport is nearby. It rises as it travels. The ancient people’s technology was talking to the plants and the animals and listening to them and learning from them. And the weather was a creature too. Everything had names and was personified. Ah! here it comes back – a chitter and a frog like bark. Hey, that is the frogs. They’re yelling too. No doubt in love with the rain being amphibious and all.”
is now available in a limited first edition. Originally $1200 this hard cover children’s book, hand made by hobbits and using recycled materials is now marked down to $15.
It’s about the adventures of Little Turtle who wants to know how big the ocean is. Hey haven’t we all asked that question? The drawings are suitable for coloring so this would make a good gift for 3-7 year olds. Add your own underwater characters if you’re really into it. Included is an epilogue with instructions for making your own book.
The other day I was in my storage room (actually the second bedroom), looking for discardable books that I could cull out and take to half price. This room is full of shelves from floor to ceiling designed to hold my inventory and my book collection plus boxes and boxes of various assorted stuff. I noticed one box sitting on the shelf about eye level and pulled it down. Inside was the manuscript for ‘Little Turtle’. I took to my workplace and lifted the papers out of the carton, oh my god I wrote this in 1997. It was like uncovering an archaeological artifact, the pages were covered with drawings and text. Some pages had been scanned into a larger size for some reason, I don’t remember why. I remember the story. It was when I had just returned from Mexico, living on turtle beach that I wrote it. And then never did anything with it, put it in that box, closed the flaps and forgot about it. For 22 years. Until now. (I’m practicing my incomplete sentences. I’ve been told that you’re not supposed to do that so I want to see what happens.) (It’s fun.) And that’s the story of the story. I felt kinda like that guy who found ‘Gilgamesh’ in the ancient ruins of Nineveh written in cuneiform on clay tablets. ‘Ah hah, what have we here?‘ he must have thought. And then when they sat down and deciphered it, aha again, the mother of all stories – Gilgamesh! – it must have felt familiar to them. Even after 5,000 years.
I lived on Xcacel beach, a simple campground beach where lots of turtles came to nest, with my buddy, Buddy from 1992 to 1996. We had a dive shop and a jungle excursions business for the tourists who came by and wanted an adventure. We built a nursery on the beach so the turtle eggs could hatch unmolested by surf or poacher. The mother turtle would drag herself up out of the surf at night, dig a hole up above the surf line and deposit a hundred ping pong ball size eggs, carefully covering them with sand afterwards. Two months later the hatchlings would bubble up thru the sand and sprint for the sea, the only mother they would ever know. Some of the hatchlings we kept and put in grow tanks so they could get up to speed before confronting the barracudas, sharks, ospreys and pelicans of the open water. Summer was the season for the females to get impregnated and make landfall with their precious cargo and August was when they started to hatch. I remember those days, it was exciting. Patrols along the beach at night scouted for turtles coming ashore and when one was spotted, the whole team sprang into action, checking the tag and gathering the eggs.
We did a project on the captive turtle babies in the tanks as they were growing up on diced fish and turtle chow. We used a biopsy punch to encode the bottom of their shell (the plastron) with the date and location of their birth, all without harming the turtle much. Then when they were released and swam out to sea whoever caught them or saw them on the beach when they came back to lay their eggs would know how old they were and where they came from. It turns out that those turtles swam hundreds of miles out into the Caribbean Sea and then came back to the same beach where they were born 14 years later to reproduce. Xcacel had a profusion of sea turtles, for some reason, the Greens and Loggerheads loved to nest there.
But I digress. The story of ‘Little Turtle’ grew out of those experiences – thinking about turtles and working with turtles, sometimes seeing them on our dives gliding around underwater or stuck under a rock. They hold their own special powers. When you look at them, they look back at you as if from some ancient primal sea – they’ve been on the planet for a 100 million years swimming the vast oceans, migrating and navigating and finding the sea currents and the food chains. The mothers look sad and are crying (an adaptation to keep the sand out of their eyes while they are on the beach), or it may just be such an ancient look that that’s how they look. ‘Oh humans, you newcomers, who can’t even swim in the ocean or stay underwater for more than 2 minutes without scuba gear, oh you two legged ones stranded on the beach here, I don’t know how you survive‘, they might be thinking. We survive by building hotels on turtle beaches is the truth, Ms. Turtle, and inviting tourists from countries that don’t have a Caribbean Sea and white sandy beaches with palm trees and halcyon breezes to come and spend their money here.
That was one of the amazing things about living there – we managed to save the beach from the evil developers and it remains to this day, as far as I know, free and clear of hotels or any development. The only beach from Cancun to Tulum to survive unscathed and protected specifically for the turtles.
Sometimes the good guys win. The turtles find their way home. Magic resides in the wild and natural world around us. Adventures are afoot and if you’re trying to find out how big is the ocean, it’s probably about as big as your imagination.
I’m sitting on the back porch. A recent rain has filled the pool and I’m imagining that I have just returned from a long trip to some far away country. It’s so great to be home again even though I have been here for weeks and months.
But the truth is, I have never been here before. Not on this day. It is a new journey and it is a far journey. I have never seen the trees exactly that color, exactly in that state of profusion, with those deep shadows lit by cracks in the fence from the light of this overcast day. And how the air strikes my face, how it smells, the coolness of it, not hot and dry. The desert air replaced by sub-tropical monsoon moisture – I have never quite felt it this way before.
The backyard has a wholeness as if it were one body. It seems contained and somewhat symbiotic. The algae eat sunlight, the bugs eat algae, the frogs eat the bugs, the cat eats the frogs, the owl eats the cat. Or I guess that’s more of a food chain. Some kind of a process, some kind of a metabolism.
Within the confines of this yard there are innumerable changes talking place and all in concert and cooperation with other elements. The ragweed’s long serrated leaves begin to turn yellow and droop on cue from the falling temperatures and the changing angle of the sun. Underground foragers and burrowers, worms and nymph larvae alter their behavior in some way I’m sure in response to the changing temperature. It’s unfathomable. To see it in it’s wholeness and to know there are millions of unseen interactions going on that comprise this picture, is a beautiful feeling. Everything is working and everything is connected. Gee, I guess I am too if I’m appreciating it. That is a form of interaction. The kidney shaped pool and the trees, the running fountain and Miatti the cat and me.
My backyard is one of the characters in the book I’m working on. Thoreauish. Basically. How I write this part is just hang out in the backyard with a pen and notebook and see what happens next. Could be absolutely nothing. No thoughts. Nothing to write. Those are the best, but invariably the angel shows up and starts whispering in my ear. ‘Write this down and tell the people’ she says. And I do. Of course. On course. On site. Unbelievable. Ha! Just messin with the angel.
The story of my backyard is the story of the Garden of Eden. We’re not that far separated from it, friends. We lived there for 300,000 years and only recently left it to found our civilizations and invent air conditioning and stuff. Also many many kinds of different plastic molded items. Stores full, ships full, trucks full and landfills full.
And for 300,000 years we were in the Garden of Eden? Yes, friend. Our species appears in the fossil record beginning 300,000 years ago but we had not yet eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We were innocent, primal. Sex was impulsive and without guilt. Plentiful also, one would think. People lived on the bounty of nature. Then about 70,000 years ago we came up with a great idea – let’s have a cognitive revolution! And those creatures (us), who could already talk with a high degree of proficiency, began to make art and began to invent gods and began to explore realms within their own selves, not just in the world outside. They found that they could imagine things that didn’t actually exist yet, could plan for something that could happen in the future. They could say that this is good and this is bad, you are wrong and I am right. They began to tell stories about the spooky woods and all the monsters hidden there and the gnomes and the fairies. They eventually invented farming and gave up their hunting and gathering ways, or most of them did, but we never really lost the stories. And that’s because our roots, the hidden knowledge of who are is based on all that back there. It’s written in the book of our deep and immensely ancient past.
We have a subliminal and a compelling desire to return to the Garden of Eden. That’s why I like hanging out here and writing stuff. Or not writing stuff. Just listening. Angel or no angel.
i’ve been publishing hand made books lately – 2 poetry zines (available at Rosella’s Cafe in San Antonio) and now a children’s book called ‘Little Turtle’
i actually wrote it in 1997 after returning from living on Xcacel beach in Mexico – ‘the place of the turtles’ / two days ago i discovered it inside a box sitting on the back shelf in my storage room / it was like going thru an old manuscript dug out of an archaeological site / strangely familiar but foreign / it’s replete with amazing illustrations which is what caused me to want to publish it
little turtle is curious and wants to know how big the ocean is (what turtle or child doesn’t wonder the same thing ??) so he embarks on his journey and has his adventures (isn’t that what we all do ??) and that pretty much comprises the plot / simple / plus the illustrations are black on white so the child can color them if he or she likes / plus the book is easy to make and instructions are included at the end on of how you can make your own book / all you need is a copier and a printer and a pen and paper / plus it’s going to be a hardcover !! finally a use for all that cardboard from all those amazon boxes : )