Monday, December 11, 2006

Green & Black's "Maya Gold" Chocolate

I am the perfect bar of chocolate
flavored with orange and spices.
I'm called "Green and Black,"
but there's nothing green about me.
I am deep and dark and rich.
I'm a black hole.

I pour out my bounty upon the world,
at a reasonable price.
If people spent more time eating me
(and minding their own business)
we would have peace on earth.

Seek me out.
Hunt me down.
I am yours.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Without Struggle There Is No Freedom

Those words were painted on the side of a building near where I work. The building was torn down recently, but I saw that slogan every morning for many years. I believe that it predated Sept. 11, 2001 -- after which time the idea of jihad was very much on people's minds. In this particular case, the words "Without Struggle There Is No Freedom" were accompanied by the words "Festival del Pueblo," so it seems unlikely that whoever wrote them was specifically thinking of jihad. But as I understand it, the concept is the same.

A friend of mine came to visit last week. At one point she asked me if she was the most politically radical person I know. I asked, "Including myself?" and she said "Yes," in a tone of voice which contained the words "of course." Now, I remember when this person was not political at all (and to be fair, she remembers it too.) I learned my radical lessons by heart a long time ago, and it's a little hard to swallow now, the idea that I'm less radical than she is. (Especially since the only evidence I can think of is that I have a job. Or else that I have a non-political blog.)

It's true that I'm not an activist. I'm more interested in the inner revolution: the personal revolution. I believe that if we want to change the power structures of this country, or of the world, we have to start by changing our own beliefs about power, and the ways we use power in our daily lives. In our own homes. "The revolution begins at home." How's that for a radical statement? (I'm certain I didn't make it up.)

Society is not created by its government, or by its laws. Indeed, it's the other way around. Societies create their own governments. Laws and mores are the expression of society -- the end result, as it were. And society begins at home. As children, we are indoctrinated. When we grow up, we act out the lessons we were taught.

I truly believe that when you see injustice and cruelty in the world, when you see things that fire up your radical heart and make you wish for change, the roots of those things lie in the home. And the best thing we can do for the world is to teach everybody -- starting with ourselves -- that change is possible. We can break the cycle.

So: imagine a long, one-story building, made of cement blocks painted white. (It was in fact a garage.) Carefully written on the white wall in black paint are the words "Without Struggle There Is No Freedom." Underneath that is written, "Festival del Pueblo, May 15-20."

From now on, it exists only in the mind.

See also " The Power of Speech"

Friday, September 29, 2006


a mass of morning glories
darkest purple, with red hearts
covering the tomato bushes

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Those Who Died for Us


The animals who died to feed us.
It's dead. You're alive.
Is that fair? No.
So you do what you can,
towards a debt that can never be repaid.


The people who died -
"for us," some say.
"for revenge," some say.
That's not as clear. It's not like food.

I've never looked into the face of a human being
(unlike an animal)
and understood that this person was dying for me.
But that's what I've been told.


To the people who died -
for something,
for nothing.

You went to that place
where people die
and you died.

It's a debt that can never be repaid.

At least, speak their names.
At least say, it is not fair.
Death is not justice.


To say, "Never again,"
is like trying to repay a debt that can never be repaid.
It's not possible.

But I say: "Never again."
Not for me.

Note: see also "Why I Became a Vegetarian."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

About Some of These Links

What they are and why I put them up here.

First: stop everything you're doing and CLICK ON THE LINK TO GIRL GENIUS ONLINE COMICS RIGHT NOW! NOW!!! Then click on "The Comic." Or something.

So, after doing that, you're not on this page anymore. Okay.

Some time later . . .

Making Light

Nominally, a community of people who write, read, edit and love science fiction. It also happens to be one of the most erudite, humorous and civil places on the Web. Civility is not easy to find out here - too many people appear to believe that anonymity gives them an unrestricted license to be rude. But anyway. I can't say that I agree with every opinion expressed on Making Light, but it is always educational and entertaining. A lot of these links were discovered there.


Thomas M. Disch is a poet and science fiction writer. When I first visited his LiveJournal, he had recently posted some poems that really impressed me, so I linked to him. Since then, he's expressed some political opinions that I strongly disagree with. Anytime somebody supports their argument with the statement "Those people are not human beings," they are guaranteed to be wrong. Plus I found out that he once wrote "One does not read [Ursula] LeGuin for fun," which is more uncomplimentary to him than it is to her. However, I'm keeping my link to his site. Maybe there's some lesson to be learned from it.


The title tag says "One of the inspirations for my blog." I had been reading blogs for a while, without having any idea of starting my own. Then one day I decided to try it. These are the things that my blog has in common with No-Sword:

1. It focuses on a very specific topic. The topic of No-Sword appears to be "oddities of Japanese language and culture." Which is a topic that I enjoy, by the way, even though I don't know Japanese. But I am fascinated by languages.

2. Two topics that it absolutely avoids are politics and (for the most part) personal matters. Obviously, this is a very personal blog. But I don't use it as my diary. As for politics: like many people, I have very strong political opinions. But I have no desire to add my voice to the cacophony of the political blogosphere. As the moderator of a Sesame Street discussion board said about the question of Bert and Ernie being gay, "You may rest assured that your point of view has been stated before." That's how I feel about it.

The rest of these links are, you know,stuff.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Geese Came Back

I may have mentioned before that I live near a river, and that there are frequently different kinds of wildfowl on the river.

One bird that we have a lot of is Canada geese. I seem to remember hearing that these geese are non-migratory, that they stick around all year. But that might not be entirely true.

After the last heat wave broke (not the one I wrote about, but the one after that), I heard the geese flying overhead one evening. And I realized then that I had not seen or heard anything of them during the heat of the summer. I don't remember when they left. But probably they had a cooler place to go to (how I envied them!) Since then I have seen them around, and heard them. It is a beautiful sound.

The swans were also out on the river recently. There are three of them. Seems like there should be a fourth.


It was a rainy weekend. In the afternoon, when it stopped raining, I went out to stretch my legs. Walking around the neighborhood, I came across a snail on a rosebush.

I haven't seen all that many snails, for some reason, and this one was different from the small snails that I have seen. It was about medium-sized, and its shell was yellow with a brown line describing the spiral of its shell. It was very pretty.

It was hanging upside down on a leaf, and there was liquid dripping off its head. I'm not sure if it was rain or some kind of snail slime. I watched it moving its head around. Snails don't appear to have much in the way of facial features - just two little horns.

I've heard that snails are considered to be pests. But this was one cute snail.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


They say that staring at the sun will make you blind.

Does that mean that
staring into the darkness
will improve your vision?

There are so many things to see there.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Summer in New England

Summer in New England means that I carry around my umbrella and my sunglasses. And I have had occasion to use both of them within the space of ten minutes.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

An Oasis in the Desert of Time

For the last week, it's been very hot here. Temperatures in the 90's, which is unusual for us. But it happened last summer, and I somehow suspect it will become an annual occurrence.

The heat wave finally broke last night. It's so pleasant to wake up in the morning with the blanket wrapped around you, and to feel the cold air on your face. It's like finding an oasis.

But the desert that we were in was temporal, not spatial. The heat arrived, and then it moved on. Time is a funny thing. It surrounds us, but we don't think about it much, as a daily thing (at least I don't). We think of ourselves as living in a place, as travelling from one place to another. How do we view our travels through time?

I think about the oases that I've discovered, in the deserts of time. Sometimes bad weather just moves in - there's no help for it. You think it will never leave, and then one day . . . there's a change in the weather.

The seasons of our lives. The things you can't hurry, or postpone. The thunderstorms that sweep through. Oh, many times I have welcomed the storm. I want everything to be shaken up, tossed around, swept away. (In fact, I miss seeing the storms of my childhood. These tall buildings block any view of the lightning in the sky.)

Weather is a thing that happens. Like life.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Lord, what fools these mortals be

Recently I decided to re-read all the works of Shakespeare. I read most of them many years ago (but I bet that I skipped the history plays.) So I borrowed a friend's Compleat and have worked my way through the comedies. Love's Labour's Lost is a stupid-ass play, and All's Well that Ends Well isn't very good (I was in a production of that once - now I wonder what possessed the director to choose that play) but all the rest are great.

While taking a break from that, I visited Making Light and in a fit of utter randomness, clicked on the link to Thomas M. Disch's blog. I'd heard the name, and may have read some of his short stories. I know I haven't read any of his books.

His poetry is marvelous! OMG! Now I'm feeling especially mortal and foolish to have missed out on his work for so long. He has been added to the sidebar, under "Endzone."

Monday, June 05, 2006

My Brother Came to Visit

. . . so we walked around the neighborhood.

When we got to the giant sculpture that looks rather like a windmill made out of metal parachutes, he asked "What is it?"

"It's Art," I replied.

"But what is its function?" he asked, and I burst out laughing.

(He wasn't serious. I'm almost as certain as humanly possible about that.)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Memory 2

How to live in such a house, in such a way,
the fields stretching out all around.

It's called poetic license -
"the house of some friends I rarely visited"?

It's true that I rarely went up to the house
but I worked in those fields for two or three summers.
One of the owners was a man I'd known since childhood.
(Goddamn hippies. Caring for the earth. Is that the way to live well?)

Long rows of beans to pick
Close your eyes, in bed at night, and see nothing but beans.
Lots of other vegetables too, of course.

I don't miss the monotony of the work
(or the fact that I wasn't fast enough to be considered a good worker)
I certainly don't miss anything else about my adolescence

But the bright blue sky, the clear morning air
the scent of grass and earth
the sweet taste of water when you're thirsty

And the time we saw two bald eagles, circling impossibly high,
the sunlight flashing off their white heads.

I remember those things, while sitting in the office.
Always did hate being stuck indoors.


An eagle looks down from the heights of heaven -
so far up, it seems to float above the mountain.

He said: "It has never been profitable."
She said: "But it benefits everyone."
He said: "It costs too much to dig the tunnels."

there is no profit in the mountain wind
the cool dark tunnels and
the heights of heaven

Monday, May 01, 2006

One Memory

How one image stays in your mind
one second of time
pine trees in the rain.

Looking out of the window
in the house of some friends I rarely visited.
The long, soft needles of the pines
the soft rainy sky.

No one else has ever seen that moment, that place
that memory.

How one image leads to a string of thoughts
it was a beautiful house (which means, it was very much to my taste)
very suited to pine trees and rain.

How to live in such a house, in such a way
the fields stretching out in front, the pine trees behind.
Is that how to live well?

one moment, one place

Monday, April 17, 2006

Forsythia and Lavender

We didn't have any forsythia where I grew up. I never saw it until I moved here. So it remains exotic for me. It's a sign of spring, but not a nostalgic one.

One thing we did have was those tiny, pale purple butterflies. I saw two of them while walking in the woods yesterday. The insides of their wings are the palest lavender, or perhaps violet. The outsides of their wings are gray and colorless. When they sit down and fold their wings, they look like nothing at all. But flying, they are so beautiful.

Monday, April 10, 2006

New Buds of Spring

Some people think that Nature is a cruel and violent place. I was on a web site recently where someone commented, "Once you start looking closely at nature, all you will see is things killing other things." Death is part of nature. Certainly on this blog I write about dead animals rather a lot.

But anybody who has looked closely at Nature in the springtime will see more than things killing other things. The trees are budding out in green and red. The birds are suddenly making a lot more racket. In some places (not here) frogs' eggs will soon be hatching and at night the little tadpoles will start peeping. Not to mention all the flowers, which get mentioned so often.

Nature is about life: life passing into death and returning into life. If it weren't for Nature, none of us would be here. We are the natural world.

We are the natural world.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Another Spider

I have one of those water pitchers with a filter inside. A couple days ago, I lifted the lid off the pitcher to refill it, and there was a spider underneath, on the inside of the lid. I don't quite understand how it got in there. The lid doesn't screw on or anything like that, but there aren't supposed to be any spider-sized gaps between the lid and the pitcher.

I took the spider (on the lid) into the bathroom, explaining to it that this is not a Third World country. Here in America, we don't go for insects in our food, alive or dead. (Yes, even in America we get insects in our houses. And I do kill some of them. But not spiders.)

It was a very cute little brown spider though. Not like the one that started off this blog.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Skunk in Daylight

So, walking down the street yesterday afternoon, I saw a skunk lying on the sidewalk. It appeared to be dead, although it didn't look particularly flattened, nor was it bleeding. Its eyes were open - its eyes were red. It had a beautiful white plumed tail. I felt very bad.

I went on my errands, and coming back, I saw a man walking down the street ahead of me. I wondered what he would do when he saw the dead skunk. He made a wide circle around it, stepping out into the street. That seemed a little odd.

Then I came up to the skunk. The first thing I noticed is that its position had changed - it had turned around. Then I thought, "Is it moving?" It was moving. Which was not actually a good sign.

This was the first time in my life that I've ever seen a skunk in the daytime. It didn't seem right. I backed off a little (much like the other guy had done) and observed it carefully. It was sneezing and rubbing its face with its paws, like a cat. I was thinking about the fact that skunks carry rabies. I saw some white stuff around its mouth, but I couldn't tell if it was froth or fur.

I didn't do anything about it. I just went on my way.

Monday, March 20, 2006


After one week of nice weather, it got cold again. But I just saw some yellow crocuses.

Also, as cold as it is, there is still a sense of spring. The sunlight seems brighter. And the days are certainly longer. It's all happening again.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Onion Soup

I am amazed at what good soup one can make with nothing but onions (well, and a small amount of other seasonings.) Who appreciates onions? They're boring, right, except when they're bringing tears to your eyes? This is not so.

The technique for making onion soup is to chop a number of onions (about three large ones or six small ones) and sauté them for half an hour or so. I don't have much success at caramelizing the onions - they stay fairly pale in color. But they do cook down into a sort of sludge, which is the magic ingredient.

Other ingredients? Salt, plus small amounts of garlic, black pepper, mustard, thyme, bay leaf, soy sauce (for color). Some people like to add a bit of sugar. And white wine if you have it.

Yesterday I went nuts and added a couple carrots and celery stalks. It doesn't hurt anything. But the true quintessence of onion is what it's all about.

Friday, March 10, 2006

I Believe Spring is Here

I opened the windows today for the first time in ages. Fresh air! I had forgotten what that smells like.

If only we could all be as popular as spring. Everyone would always be happy to see us. Actually I did hear one guy on the bus yesterday, saying that he doesn't like summer, so he can't really enjoy the advent of spring. But he must be an exception.

More snow at this time of year is not unheard of. It wouldn't surprise me. But at least today is nice.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Octavia Butler, 1947-2006

So I dropped by Making Light and saw the link in the sidebar: "Octavia Butler, 1947-2006." What does that mean, I thought. It doesn't mean that she's dead. She's not dead. She can't be dead. It must mean something else.

I have to admit that I haven't read as much of her work as I should have. It's heavy stuff. Heady stuff. A little of it goes a long way, like strong drink. Compressed and concentrated, like coal turning into diamonds, like a white dwarf turning into a black hole.

But I find that I'm still grieving. Why is she gone, when all of these stupid people are still permitted to be walking around?

A couple weeks ago, I was pleased to learn that the man who invented LSD had his 100th birthday, and his physical and mental states are as good as can be expected from someone that age. Butler was only 58. I can't quite wish that we could have traded his lifespan for hers. But I almost can.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Waterfowl, Alive and Dead

Watching a flock of Canada geese: they fly in two V-shaped clusters. They are coming in perpendicular to the river, so that in order to land, they have to make a sharp left turn. The first V splashes down in the water; the second group flies over their heads to land upstream.

Some people are of the opinion that Canada geese are turning into a pest in this city. There are a lot of them around, but I still think they're beautiful. They watch out for each other: each flock always has one or two individuals keeping a lookout, while the rest of them eat.

In addition to geese, the river near my house also attracts ducks (and occasionally the swans I wrote about earlier.) I can recognize mallards, but there are two or three other species of duck among them that I don't know the names of.

The other day, I found a dead male mallard by the side of the road. All those shining green feathers. The body both swollen and flattened. A long time ago, I read a poem by Gary Snyder called "The Dead by the Side of the Road." I didn't know at the time that he was some kind of famous poet, but the phrase has stayed with me. Poems about roadkill.

While I'm on the subject, if you find a dead animal on the road, and it's safe for you to do so, it's a good idea to move it off of the road. Scavenging animals will come to eat it - and they're all too likely to end up as roadkill themselves.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Snow, Wonderful Snow

Which is the more satisfying sight to a lover of beauty: a deep expanse of snow or a bare pavement? Never mind foolish considerations, such as which one has to be shoveled. I'm talking about aesthetics. We went from bare pavement to a good six inches - more - overnight. I like it better this way.

I grew up in the North. This is what winter is supposed to look like. It makes me happy, although I don't go out in it unless I absolutely have to. I can see it fine from in here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Obligatory "What Kind of X are You?" Quiz

You Are a Hunter Soul

You are driven and ambitious - totally self motivated to succeed. Actively working to acheive what you want, you are skillful in many areas. You are a natural predator with strong instincts ... and more than a little demanding. You are creative, energetic, and an extremely powerful force.

An outdoors person, you like animals and relate to them better than people. You tend to have an explosive personality, but also a good sense of humor. People sometimes see you as arrogant or a know it all. You tend to be a bit of a loner, though you hate to be alone.

Souls you are most compatible with: Seeker Soul and Peacemaker Soul
What Kind of Soul Are You?

How did they guess that I like animals better than people? I don't remember any questions about animals on the quiz.

But it's true. I am completely ambivalent about humanity: I believe--along with Anne Frank--that people are truly good at heart. But in general I find it almost impossible to trust anyone. (There are some exceptions.)

I once learned to build a wall around myself in order to survive.

I feel kinship with animals and nature, not humankind. As I learn more about my own limitations and proclivities, I come to realize that I am human. But the wall is still there. Are other human beings human? I'm slowly learning compassion, but I don't expect compassion from anyone else.

Is the wall coming down? I'll tell you: it wasn't my idea. I'm still angry. Suffering makes me angry--my own and other people's suffering. But the wall does seem to be coming down slowly, deteriorating, as if under the effects of wind and rain. I'm ambivalent about it. But I won't stand in the way.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The First Noble Truth

From The Sword and the Flute, by David R. Kinsley:

The First Noble Truth of the Buddha is "All is suffering [duhkha]," a truth that the Hindu tradition, too, has assumed for most of its history. What the Buddha articulated in his formula and what duhkha means to the Indian tradition is not simply that life has its misfortunes, bad luck, or tragedies. Duhkha suggests something much more fundamental in Indian spirituality: it underlines the inevitable realities of sickness, old age, and death, the inevitable change and passing away of things.

I first read this book a few years ago, and just re-read it this week. Here are my reflections:

A couple months ago, a friend of mine asked if I knew what duhkha was. I had completely forgotten about that passage quoted above, so I said no. But I did remember the First Noble Truth, and we talked about the existence of suffering for a while. I wish I had remembered what I read about duhkha, because then I would have said, that even though sickness, old age, and death are inevitable, we can still seek happiness in this life, whereever possible.

Reading that passage again naturally made me think about my own old age and death. It was not something I wanted to think about. I put it out of my mind.

Yesterday, riding to work on the bus, I saw an old person disembarking. He had to move very slowly. I thought, "That is duhkha right there: old age and disability." In that moment I realized: The fact that suffering is inevitable means that it is our duty as human beings to avoid increasing the amount of suffering in the world. There is already enough.

Having said all that though, I do wonder about one thing: the cause of suffering. The Second Noble Truth explains that suffering is caused by desire, or attachment. Or, as this web site puts it: "the cause of this suffering is Craving, born of the illusion of a soul." To say that old age, sickness and death are caused by desire seems odd. Although I would kind of agree that they are "caused" by the illusion of a soul--that is to say, the illusion that each one of us exists as a separate entity. (I would use the term "ego" instead of "soul.")

Suffering exists. There you have it.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Blog Post about Blogging

I have not been posting regularly for a while now. All the usual excuses: holidays, caught a cold, personal angst.

But this blog was intended to be based on my observations of nature, and I'm starting to wonder if there is less to observe in the winter. I mean, once you've rhapsodized about the first snowfall, you're done, right? I could post about the unseasonably warm winter, and how uneasy it makes me. There. I just did.

Anyway, I might try to expand the scope of this journal a little. Starting with the next post.

Monday, January 23, 2006

You Must Sumbit

I once visited a web page, which referred to "sumbitting your request." That struck me as very funny for some reason. I've often wondered since then exactly how one sumbits.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Darkness and Light

One evening, when I was in college, I was walking up the hill past the main classroom building. The lights were on in the long room - I think they were rehearsing a play or something.

Standing in the dark, I looked up at the windows. Suddenly I realized that I could see what they were doing, but the people in the room couldn't see me at all. Their own lights were blinding them, but from my dark vantage point I could see both darkness and light.

Is this a parable?