dimarts, de desembre 16, 2008


Remember the three roses of my life: the yellow rose for Marggie; the peach rose for Dee-Dee; and the wild rose for me.

Remember the yellow rose clinging to the white concrete block wall growing between the windows alongside Ott Thomas' garage in the small side yard at 111 N. 9th Street. It was Marggie's favorite rose whenever she sat on the side steps with her fat little feet on the flagstone. It grew tall and proud there, and when she was gone, taken away in a sudden infarct of the brain, we always thought of her when we saw one. At those times when I have left a flower at her grave, it's always been a yellow rose.

Also in the yard was a peach rose, and one time one came to grow entwined with the yellow. The peach rose was Dee-Dee's favorite rose, and like the two sisters, the peach and yellow over time grew to wrap around each other. When Dee-Dee went to sleep with the Great Question Mark late in the winter of 1994, she lay in her silver seraglio clasping a peach rose. And at those times when I have left a flower at her grave, it's always been a peach rose.

And for me the wild rose because I've always loved its fragrance. In the feral valley where I grew up, an old wild rose bush grew alongside our house, and in the house I bought for myself, in the front yard grows another fine old wild rose whose perfume filters along the street through late spring and early summer. It always reminds me of my childhood and the two sisters who saved me from boredom and self-loathing.

When I die, lay three roses to remember me: the yellow, the peach and the wild rose. Since wild roses are hard to make behave, if I come to take my trip to have tea with the Question Mark at an inopportune time, make mine a red rose, and then lay those three roses across each other. In the eternal sleep of the unknown, I would like my journey to end where it began: in the embrace of those two sisters.

dissabte, de setembre 06, 2008

Hunanddarluniad (English)

Sloth is my predilection. I would rather sit around all the time and stare off into space, sleep, let my brain rot in front of the television. This, I fear, is my mother's gift to me. My brain is genetically wired to desire apathy and vapidity. At least on some level it is.

On some other level, it's geared wildly toward pleasure. All physical pleasures that don't exhaust or kill. The taste of morbier or the fire of bourbon. The loveliest launch of semen across the face of a lover. An hour long massage. A full belly. A good and willful shit.

Yet again, it longs for supremacy over others. I have an abiding longing to be right. But to be right, I can't sit around all day and drink bourbon and take good and willful shits after a nice, long fuck. I must also be productive and successful, even a little bit wealthy.

When I finally rouse myself to be useful and productive, I usually have more energy to be about it than others. I find that I spend long hours at various works, good works for the common good, for the good of my tribes: my work tribe, my church tribe, my Welsh tribe, my neighborhood tribe, etc.

Another gift from my mother, but one she purchased at the Future-Nutcase-Store with my father's credit card: Anxiety. Deep and roaming. It lives with me like a fetid lump of puke on the bathroom floor... one of those pukes that colonizes the provinces of the toilet like the lost tribe of Israel - always showing up when you least expect it and long after you thought it was gone for good.

There's no way to deny Anxiety forever. It's hard-wired into me like breathing. I spend many long hours tempting my fear to be real. I stand it down as though it were Goliath. I David it daily with Valerian Root, booze and Pennsylvania German tenacity.

Life's a stage...

I play the role of my aunty when her boyfriend stuck a gun in her side and told her to come away with him or he would shoot. "Go ahead and kill me then," she said. So do I. Every day Anxiety says my heart is stopping, my lungs are filling, my food is poisoned. So I say to Anxiety, "Then do it, kill me. If this my time then take me into the Question Mark. Let me know who was right: the boring and listless skeptics or the fundies who cling to their primitive religions like crabs to the crotch of the cosmos."

Just like her boyfriend did, Anxiety lets me go, backing down like a momma's boy bully. My Anxiety desires life, and it can't live without me, so it backs down every time. When I finally die, it will go with me into the furnace at the crematorium and be extinguished with me.

Yet, I do not find the emptiness others do. No hopelessness. I just find a not-knowing-ness. I take my vitamins and do my exercises, check my blood levels of this and that every year just to buy myself a little more time. Death may lead to a million things, but it may also lead to nothing. I see no reason to rush for no reason. The others can keep their novenas and jihads, their smug self-righteous platitudes whether based in myth or so-called facts.

I always remember the wise words of the Druid of Landévenec, who said to the Abbot of Landévennec, "When we cross that final threshold, we may both find out we were wrong." So tomorrow I will awake in the morning and curse the very existence of the unviverse, but when i finally pull myself into the shower then anoint myself like a modern day Roman with oils and tinctures, I will embrace the day as though I were a Viking praying to live to fight another day...

dimecres, d’agost 20, 2008

Englyn i mi? (Cymraeg / English)

Oddi ar fedd yn ardal Granville, Efrog Newydd, a Poultney y Mynydd Glas...
(A grave poem from the region of Granville, NY and Poultney, VT...)

Yn fy nghwsg, caf fy ngwasgu - i ddedwydd
Freuddwydio am Gymru
Drwy nos y caf deyrnasu
Oddifewn i'r dyddiau fu.

In my sleep I surrendur - to dream sweet
Dreams about Wales
All night I reign king
Of the happiness of days gone by.

- Dewi Glyn Dulas

Oddi ar fedd David Morris, fu farw ym 1895, yn 40 oed. / From the grave of David Morris, who died in 1896 at the age of 40.

dimarts, d’agost 05, 2008

Coaxing out the Sun

"Only my childhood was real. The rest is just a dream." -Kate Roberts

There was magic in my valley. I remember it well from when I was a boy: the deep musk of the woods that filtered from tall pines, the tall fern fronds arching over narrow, shaded paths and small streams, bitter wild blueberries and small ponds choked with lilies. The valley where I was raised was wild and barely tamed. Old men came to the valley long ago and settled small villages; they cleared the land and raised animals and grew food, but in the fullness of time, their age passed, and the trees came back to the land. What once was farmland was now feral forest. Long black racers and copperheads staked claim in the rocks and meadows, and the deer and bears were occasionally accompanied by some lascivious mountain lion or lynx. Like all magic places, the good was twinned with the bad in a fitting double helix of life and death, love and fear. The humans, of course, ruled the land. My great grandfather Fish went out on the wolf clearings, and yearly hunting of anything that roamed the woodlands only began to die out with my generation.

Our lives were in and on the land: we raised crops, and the old men hunted. We all fished, and we all raised fowl. In season we would go down to the brooks and streams and gather elderberries and blackberries. My father would make wine from local grapes and herbs. The air in our valley was always heady except in the coldest part of winter when large swaths of it would ice over as clandestine springs would gurgle forth some small amount of water that would freeze. In the gentrified places, willow trees absorbed this dross, but if the willow should die sometime, then in January meadows and back fields could become large ice skating rinks. When the warm weather came back, the valley would awaken with blossoms from the many trees and bushes people planted around their homes. At our house we had apple, cherry, plum, crabapple, and peach trees that bore fruit, and a chestnut tree that dropped its myriad land mines at the end of summer. Like the spring air was thick with the smell of flowering plants, the summer was thick with must and piny musk and drying mud. The fall was a natural pot pourri of millions of dying plants and smoke rising from wood fires as the cold weather approached.

In such a place, magic is real. It lives in the trees and streams as surely as grubs and eels. It saturates the valley floor like the hundred and ten springs, brooks and races that feed into the big creek at the heart of the valley. If you sing into the wind that runs down the valley from the Mountain, you can call up the sun, and in our valley we always wanted sun: sun in the summer for the crops and sun in the cold months to chase away winter's drafts. When the trees grew back after the likes of Joseph Barton and Ulysses Fish had succumbed to the Great Question Mark, they took their revenge, growing tall and thick and blocking out the sun much of the year. In our valley, except in deep winter and the gooey slide from winter into spring, we lived under a thick canopy of mixed forest. Even in the winter, such light as there was was often absorbed by the conifers who became more common as we felled the other trees for our fires.

When I was a boy, I was certain I could call the sun out from behind the clouds. I spent long hours outside, often in the woods, away from the noise and tumult of the house. When the clouds would overtake the sun, I would sing a song in Welsh, the language of my ancestors: Dewch allan i ni haul, dewch, dewch, dewch. "Come out to us, sun, come, come, come," it made no sense to sing to the sun in English. The trees were old, but the valley and stream were older, and the sun oldest still. If people long ago could sing the sun from the clouds, it would have been in a language like Welsh. English was too young, too juvenile and worse still for the old families in the valley a sign of a woeful change. While we all spoke English, we spoke our own kind. English, proper English, belonged to the invading outsiders who had begun to consume all the land, our valley inclusive, with subdivisions and strip malls. Like my great grandfather had done to the wolves, the outsiders were doing to our little world, clearing us out one acre at a time.

For years I would sing the sun back, and most of the time it worked. Once in a while I guess it had to rain or snow, although we could never suffer a real drought even if it never rained again: the valley was thick it springs. I knew of five on our land alone. When I was younger, I always assumed my ability to sing the sun back was a family trait a quantum or genetic inheritance that came from our Celtic past, but I had no proof of this. If either of my parents were possessed of magic, they never let on. The valley was as rife with stories of witches and demonic possession as it was with springs; indeed our land was even home to the mysterious "pillars" of Bartonsville, which were not pillars at all, but an acre-large arrangement of small standing stones which were most likely some kind of Native prayer wheel built before General Sullivan marched across the valley in the Colonial Era. Perhaps my magic came from the land itself, my body filled with deep minerals from the water and infected by myriad spores of countless fungi that thrived in all sectors of the valley. To be honest, I am not given to know.

Nonetheless it was a magic power I possessed. I assumed that if my Mother possessed any magic powers she would use them quite openly and malevolently. She always believed she was really an Irish gypsy despite the fact that in reality none of our family was actually Irish. However had she been a gypsy, to be sure she would have been their witch and would certainly have used her magic for dubious purposes. More than that, she could never keep a secret. Even if she had suspected she had magic powers, she would have been bragging about them all over the county.

My father, on the other hand, was a sullen, brooding man of few words. He liked to keep to himself most often sequestering himself in the garage, which as long as I could remember never housed a car, but instead an assortment of junk in one half and our wood supply in the other. Detached, it lay at the bottom of the hill several hundred feet from the house and had no water, heat or electricity. Like some modern day hermit, he would spend his free time there with his beer and blessed freedom from my mother who, if she thought for one minute that he had any magic powers, would harangue him until he begged for sweet mercy. To be sure, he was safer there than in the house. Since he never had much to say, he never fessed up about any magic powers, but one cool November day around three in the afternoon or so, as I came from around the back of the house on some errand (perhaps on some excuse to escape from my mother for fifteen minutes) I observed my old man standing in the driveway with his back toward me looking up at a patch of beleaguered sunlight trying to break through the clouds. He was unaware of my presence up on the hill, and I was able to observe him raising his arms toward the sunlight, and I could swear I heard his old, low voice singing the same melody that I had sung to bring out the sun. Just as he finished, the clouds parted, and we were treated to a late November afternoon of sunshine.

Since my father never had much to say, I didn't see any reason to bring it up. If I had, most likely he would have grunted and said, "Get me another beer, will 'ya, Sonny?" But to this day I can still see his old tired shoulders in that worn out denim jacket, his long, thin gray hair on his gnarled old head looking up at that tired autumn sun and him coaxing it out to shine down on our valley.

dimarts, de juliol 08, 2008

Response to a Comment from Americymru

Interesting interview! I was interested especially in what Carwyn had to say about the Senedd. I was working with the infamous Barbara Martin of New Orleans back in the day when the the Senedd was a mere dream and Barbara was schlepping Dafydd Wigley all over the US. It's hard to believe it's been nearly 10 years already. To me, as an American, the Senedd is a beacon for Welsh democracy, a Welsh democracy those of us who worked with the now defunct Plaid Cymru North America Branch longed to see in our adopted or actual ancestral homeland. I can still remember sitting up all night to send out the email newsletter (I was the Newsletter Editor, that was my function back then) telling our members who had email (it was still a rather novel concept at the time) what had happened during the election. When the final votes were tallied, I sent out the "Victory" email. To be sure, the Senedd has a long way to go, but in fewer than ten short years, it's come a fair distance. I'm so proud of what the Senedd has accomplished that I can overlook some of its gaffs. I'm still hopeful that it will take a harder stand on homes for native Welsh folks (Sorry guys, I do support the motives of Cymuned...) and for the language. Then again, we must remember it's the job of the Senedd to represent all Wales, Cymry Cymraeg and English speaking Welsh alike. Sitting over here in the balmy summer of Upstate New York and looking back, the transformation that Wales has experienced since the 1950's is amazing: from a politically integral part of England to colony, to client state and now to a fledgling democracy trying to "devolve" (what a demeaning term, thanks so much to Whitehall) fully from the UK.

When I was a boy they said two things over and over: 1) The Welsh language will be dead soon. 2) Wales will never be free.

The first is surely a joke of the past now. I will die in world where Welsh is spoken. And, more and more, it looks like one day before I die, Wales will take its place in Europe...

dilluns, de juny 30, 2008

Second Response to T

You make some very interesting counterpoints, but I'm not sure they fit the Novella/Skeptics-question. Novella and his merry team of debunkers are not taking on the Catholic Church and Islam; instead they are taking on the far more harmless (perhaps even gormless) ghost hunters and psychic mediums. Perhaps I should have been clearer there myself. To be blunt, I find that most people who put "Critical Thinking" in their Blog titles as capable of real critical thinking as those on the Christian Right. The main difference in the genre of their doctrines is that the so-called Skeptics are able to couch their manifestos in small and often disconnected bits of Scientific methodology, through which means they seem to know something others do not. The critical thinker observes and evaluates the information before him or her and makes an educated and informed opinion, but does not usually find the need to beat others' (i.e. the general public) over the head with that opinion. A hornswoggler with PhD or an MD sells a snake oil not much different to anyone else's. People with deeply held beliefs, even those rooted in Science, do not make the most reasoned people. As I say, having wandered around the Internet reading up on Dr. Novella, I give him credit where credit is due. Having an objective eye on questions which are near and dear to his heart he is not, however. Personally, I think he would be a lot more convincing without his website and other sundry talismans such as a podcast. Here he has moved from the realm of the academy into the realm of the three-ring circus and his main objective would appear to be finding adherents. The collective force of the academy cultivating a generation of real critical thinkers is a more noteworthy endeavor than opening a spate of websites and coffee clutches for the middle classes convincing them to chortle smugly as silly ghost hunters and sundry folks traipse about the planet believing in things which may or may not be there. Novella and his ilk (as are any deeply invested in establishing bases of social power) are full of what Plato would call "spiritedness" which is a craving for the security of absolute power and control. What I find remarkably tragic is that he is positioned, at least theoretically, to help build a generation of critical thinkers by taking his small part in the classroom. Instead he would rather razzle-dazzle sundry folks.

I will however VEHEMENTLY disagree with your position on the meaningfulness or meaninglessness of life, and when I get out to Portland perhaps we will have some long, drunken rants in person about this topic. Objectively speaking, there is no way, if the Skeptics' world view is correct, to find any sort of deeper meaning, or even transient meaning in life. You and I are lucky souls, all in all well bred and well fed and from a rich country. If we're lucky, we may live long lives. However, if this is all there is, whatever transient meaning we create in life is ultimately pointless. Our time on earth will make no appreciable difference in this infinitely large cosmos. All the love, the sorrow, the struggles and triumphs of all mankind will be swallowed by a bloated and dying Sol. Even if humanity were to escape the Solar System and colonize all that our eyes can see, some day, the universe itself will cease to exist.

Indeed, you and I are free to find meaning in a life that ends after 50, 60, 70 years. But what of the child who dies of starvation in the Sudan? What of the young, hopeful mother killed by an exploding shell in Tikrit? Meaning, such as they were creating it, arbitrarily ends through no fault of their own. And yet, those of us who live 100 years, we still meet the same basic end. The parade is only going to one place for all of us after all. So if this is all there is, if life's final disappointment is, as Peggy Lee would say, on its way, then no, life has, ultimately, no meaning. We are an accident of the cosmos; our thoughts and dreams no more than accidental by-products of a wholly accidental life. Whether we kill each other slowly or quickly, we do so nonetheless. Even if we were to live in peace for 10,000 years, it would make no difference. In short, the notion that each of us makes "individual meaning" in such a paradigm is a cloying and trite cop-out... a card-board match lit in the wake of a hurricane.

And, I must admit, that such may be the reality in which we live. I've always been given over to Science. I like relatively hard and fast answers (although one must caution to say "relatively" since even experiments done in succession with all controls firmly in place will show variances in results!). Indeed, I'm a huge fan of Science, and even now regularly read and research scientific interests of mine. At the end of the day though, while Science tells us a lot about "how" the cosmos works, it remains silent on "why". There is still a lot of mystery out there, and I don't think the day has dawned when it's time to close the human heart and mind to pondering the possibilities offered to us by the great Question! You are my sweet, dear, intelligent and artistically brilliant T. I couldn't care less about Dr. Novella and his well-meaning but meaningless adherents. However I do worry about you, and this new world you're wandering into so self-assuredly. If there's one thing I've learned so far in my life of pain and loss, and I think you know what I mean, is that tomorrow is worth getting up for because it's a mystery and our lives are along the way to solving it. Science does not have all the answers. Religion, I'm sure has fewer, though still some. Become a brilliant Scientist my lovely T., but don't lose your soul along the way!To me it is logical to say this: From where we stand today there is still much we do not know. One's school of beliefs may be proven wrong in the end, but to believe only in one idea and one ideal is clearly wrong. We all die sometime, some time sooner rather than later, when we do, then, PERHAPS, we know...

At least that's what I say to myself when I observe the corpse of someone I knew in a coffin.

"Now he knows."

dijous, de juny 26, 2008

Response to T.C.

Hmmm, I've been reading some of these posts you leave behind, and I must confess a modicum of distress and concern. While clearly Dr. Novella is an intelligent and classically trained medical scholar and practitioner, he is also a man on a mission, a zealot. I've known many intelligent, educated self-proclaimed skeptics over the years who, like Dr. Novella appears to be, turn out in reality to be cynics. Not content to stick to their research and to things which science can solve, in a desperate search for temporary meaning in a transient world, they turn on the hapless victims of the same quest for meaning who are looking for something to believe in, but who have chosen "alternative" and certainly unprovable positions. Of course, some of these individuals really are charlatans. On the other hand, many, if not most, are sincere seekers of meaning in a world where God is, if not dead, on life support. The so-called skeptics and their minor militia of debunkers seem to scour the planet in search of anything science cannot, at present state, prove and pillage it in effigy, planting the ever-so-winsome banner of Nietzche in the wreckage left behind.

What I find so ironic about Dr. Novella is that he is a man supposedly dedicated to preserving life, and yet, what world does he offer to his erstwhile patients? Evidently one in which while one's life may be extended as much as humanly possible, one ultimately meets the same wretched fist at the end of the valley as the baby who died at birth. This cohort of intelligent, although rather narrow-minded people, smile gleefully as science extends a life and a consciousness which they ultimately deem as visceral, fleeting, and at the end of the day, while many of them will make shallow statements to the contrary, must be meaningless, pointless. IF, all there is to our lives is the observable and quantifiable, IF these unreflective adherents to Nihilism are correct, then what is the possible harm in letting people believe in something that may not be real? What? A person's life may be cut short? Possibly. On the other hand, medical treatments kill plenty of people every day in science's best attempts to prolong the ever-so-brief journey into eternal night. The best they can offer the world then a gleeful smile proclaiming: We were right and you were wrong! Now we shuffle off the same as you... but... but, we've set you free. Indeed, free to die in a world of worry and sadness that this is all there is. It's almost as though they take some sort of sadistic pleasure in crushing the last treasure in Pandora's box.

And while their message is generally bleak to say the least, they pursue their victims with the fervor of the Inquisition. At the end of the day, their resolute closed-mindedness, their self-righteous indignation, their smugness, puts them in the same social paradigm as the Conservative Right. They choose to proclaim rather than to observe and experience. They choose to mock rather than to listen.

As the Druid said to Gwenole when he took his leave: When we each cross that final threshold, we may both find that we were wrong. To me, that's sage advice, and a dose of which would go a long way on blogs like Neurologica.

Incidentally, it would be interesting to see Dr. Novella's tax return some time...

This response is in reference to: http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=309

dimecres, de març 19, 2008

Yn Nhiriogaeth y Bedw a'r Helyg

yr hendre'
tiriogaeth werdd
a nentydd bychain cùl
yn llifo dros fryniau
o bant i bridd tamp
wybren las olau
a'r haul yn gwenu mewn haf poeth
cân brogaod yn dal yn swyn imi
efo awel iach y nos

hon yw'r tir rhwng y Bedw a'r Helyg
meithrinfa felys i hogyn di-bres
coed oedd yn derynasau annwyl
lle treuliwn i oriau maith yn creu fyd ar ôl byd
anturau braf mewn hudol fan

o hyd rwyf yn cofio'r cylch a chynefin
hon oedd tir fy mreudwydion
hon oedd tir fy nhylwyth
hon oedd tir tamp a gwylltaidd

a hon yw'r tir lle mae olion fy nhad
lle 'nes i adael ei luwch yn gynnes o hyd o'r amlosga
lluwch 'naeth ddal at fy sanau fel gwagies i'r cist bach du
(Bywyd oll dyn, ei gofion, ei feddylion, ei ofnau
i gyd mewn cist bach...)
fy mrawd wrth f'ymyl
a'r tywydd yn chwilboeth
haf tebyg i'n hardal ni

a'r bedw a'r helyg wedi pydru hefyd erbyn hyn
fel 'naeth hud y tir farw fel heneiddies i
eu holion yn rŵan yn lluwch
lluwch sy'n bwydo coed newydd
pinwydd tal a gwyrdd
yn union fel mae olion tad yn eu 'neud

ond rŵan imi
yng nghyn-diriogaeth y Bedw a'r Helyg
dim ond ysbrydion sy'n crwydro'r allt
sy'n sipian o'r nentydd sisial
a chlywed cân y llyffantod

ond cofio wyf o hyd
sut le oedd hi gynt
ac er fy nghywilydd
'swn i wrth fy modd i grwydro'r hen le 'to
a phrofi unwaith eto sut lanc oeddwn i


the old home
a green close
drained by narrow streams
flowing along the hills
from spring valley to soggy bog
under a shock of blue sky
the sun shining in hot summers
the chirp of tree-frogs singing
in the cool breeze of the night

this is the land between the Birches and Willows
a sweet nursery to me, a penniless child
the woods were a kind sovereignty
where I would spend long hours creating world upon world
worthy journeys in a place of spirits

still I remember the trees and streams and their souls
this was the land of my dreams
this was the land of my people
this was a wildish and wet land

and this is land where my father's remains are
where I laid his ashes still warm from the crematorium
ashes that clung to my socks as I emptied the small black box
(the whole life of a man, his memories, his thoughts, his fears
all in a little box...)
my brother was at my side
the weather was hot and humid
typical for my native soil

by now though the birches and willows have rotted too
as the soul of the land withered, witness to my aging
their remains now too are nothing more than dust
still dust that nourishes new trees
pines that are tall and green
my father's ashes now do the same kind of work

but left to me now
in the former territory of the Birches and Willows
are only ghosts who wander the big hill
taking draughts from the whispering streams

though I still remember
what kind of place it was then
and despite my logic and my philosophy
I would gladly go to it again and wander the woods
and remember who I used to be