COUNTER INTUITIVE … From what we heard in the media, the government shutdown was the bane of the tourist industry. Collectively, millions were lost, right? … Well, maybe in some places. But I was over in Moab last month to celebrate a buddy’s birthday and shopkeepers there told a different story. With the park lands closed (Arches, Canyonlands), people flocked into town. Restaurants were busy. The hotels full. Things were hopping as folks shut out of federal lands explored all other possible options in and around Moab. Business folks I talked to said it was a huge infusion of cash … So, maybe some sociology major ought to do a study and see how the tourist community in the West really fared, thanks to the Tea Party tantrums in D.C. Not all of it was disastrous.
GANDERING … It was good to read Thom Carnevale in the Planet last week. I too have to balance my love of reading novels, essays and poetry with the huge pile of “documents” that go with public service … I’m about done with this week’s top gun: Dolores River – Nonpoint Source Pollution Watershed Plan (June 2013). Not exactly a bestseller but important in our on-going three-year discussions with the Dolores River Dialogue about possible legislative protection for the Wild & Scenic portion of the Dolores, which runs for a ways through San Miguel County’s west end … To be a good negotiator/representative, it’s important to read the associated documents of the issue du jour. For me, writing poems – which I do four, five, six times a week – gives me the chance to ask as many questions, as coming up with answers. Certainly the question Herman Hesse asks about war is spot on. Does one, in an era of prolonged militarism, step back and assess one’s own destiny? Or simply let the tide of jingoism washing over the political landscape dictate one’s ultimate meaning. Can one find one’s own “law & will” in such a time? … I too picked up a book about World War I a while back. It was like Remarque, Dos Passos, and Hemingway had instilled the curiosity to try and better understand how an individual can be convinced into surrendering her or his destiny to collective madness. Reading Robert Graves classic Goodbye to All That: An Autobiography (1929), aside from his frequently comic treatment of the banalities and intensities of a British Army officer, you can’t help be dumbstruck by the wanton incompetence and massacre that was trench warfare. It is like a descent into the most horrific bellicose dystopia imaginable. And all that saves Graves is a severe shrapnel wound that sends him home. But he is a changed man. The book records his “bitter leavetaking” from the old Order, the inadequacies of patriotism, the younger generation’s grappling with atheism, feminism, socialism, pacifism, changes to married life. Most controversially, It related repeated stories of captured German soldiers being killed while in custody, and was the cause of scandal in Great Britain, where the book sold well … Graves, a professional author who broke many conventions in his life, (I, Claudius) seems to have turned a wounding to his advantage, taking the opportunity in his time to forge his own laws and will.
CULTURAL AMBASSADOR … For the last few years, Tellurider Rick de Selm has been traveling south of the border on a shoestring (or maybe a guitar string) budget, meeting folks, living simply, writing reports back to a handful of friends. Some of the reports are enchanting, some infuriating. His accounts of visiting the Zapatistas during a march on Mexico City was riveting … Rick is his own man. And he’s a great gringo ambassador, people to people. I hope to share, with his permission, some of his stories, like this account from mid-December at the port town of San Pedro on Lake Titicaca.
AIR COMBAT GAMES … “A squadron of four big, agile birds surfed the gathering storm wind spectacularly just before nightfall, matching two or three now-remembered lifetime-best bird shows. Strikingly marked in about equal quantities of black and white, a bit larger than the similarly-acrobatic Ravens of past-best airshows, they dive-bombed each other in breathtaking high-speed chases full of close calls, soaring high and fast into the big wind, circling and swooping back around high Eucalyptus trees and down over the lake. I pointed the birdshow out to two guys practicing juggling at the patio area uphill and they found no interest worth interrupting team-juggling. Even the matriarch coming up from a field with some load of produce found no moment to rest and watch; surprised me. I'd hoped to get lively comments and details about the birds, whose name Alfonso only knew in Aymara and I immediately forgot. A fine omen and prelude, I decided, to only my second San Pedro night in as many years. The air combat games proved their worth only the next day, as I watched one of these birds drive away a very big hawk or eagle. The acrobats must have nests in the many trees around, with the need to stay alert and respond successfully before the much stronger bird eats their young. The bigger bird could not match the quick high climbs of the acrobat, which then swooped down fiercely and repeatedly from above with a beak aimed at the head. The big bird looked very clumsy and slow at that point, flapping resignedly away and dipping quickly just before each attack from above.” – Rick de Selm in Bolivia
THE TALKING GOURD
Ah, yes ... math
A simpler path than life's
Or so it seems
Scientia tests even its answers
- Capt. Barefoot
on the loose