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The Alchemy of Bird Poop

The real mystery does not behave mysteriously, but speaks a secret language.

                                                                       –Carl Gustav Jung20160919_101939.jpg

Bird poop is the Prima Materia of the opus, the alpha and omega of the great work of the philosophers.  Transmuted and transfigured by the alchemical fire in the sealed retort of the adepts, the excretions of our winged brethren reveal the grand pageant of creation on the microcosmic scale.  I shall endeavor to elucidate the arcana of avian excrement and thereby elevate my humble office of brush bearer to that of high art; to seek amid the white glyphs that adorn the docks a sign that might illuminate secrets of a hidden world.20160504_183526


Bird poop is the mother of all elements, without beginning, existent from all eternity and mixed with the handful of primal earth Adam brought forth from Eden.  It is found always and everywhere.  It contains the Divine presence in the obdurate whiteness of its adamantine– and often goopy–reality.  It is both the beginning and end of the great work, the primal ooze from which the aspirant takes flight into the rarefied spheres of heavenly gnossis.

This post is the first in a series logging my daily circumambulation, bearing the broom of my high office.  The broom is the emblem of adepts, the standard of those who seek the philosopher’s stone among the crustacean beasties that reign over the intertidal zone.

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The Selkies of Dogfish Bay


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The Selkies of Dogfish Bay

Last June I had the good fortune to land a job at at the Dogfish Bay Marina.  Aside from sweeping the docks, parking lot and the endless chores, I found myself cast in the role of a sort of ambassador between the human and the pinniped populations.  I experienced the trauma of a seal pup, abandoned by it’s mother, slowly die from starvation.


Mother helping her pup onto haulout logs.


Seals must get a firm scent at birth in order to establish contact.  Immediately after birth, the mother clasps her newborn by the nape of the neck in order to get the scent.  If this process is interrupted, the mother fails to establish the link which allows her to “recognize” her pup.  Through the interference of a well-meaning child, this process was interrupted, and the mother let her offspring starve.  After the poor pup’s demise, she haunted the dock near where her pup had hauled out on the low swim-step of a speedboat; her eyes streaming with tears.


For ages, seals have emanated an aura of magic. In the Celtic stories of the Selkies, a hunter, on a quest for worldly riches, is summoned into the depths by a shape-shifting, seal messenger of Lachlann’s undersea Kingdom.  After a lengthy stay, the hero returns to terra firma transformed by his experience–a wiser, more compassionate being.  His cruel, rapacious heart is softened by his ordeal and he emerges a changed man; one who has seen the depths of profound reality below the selfish preoccupations with material gain. Such a visitation by the Selkie heralds an epiphany– an awareness of our deep relatedness with all creation.


Komokwa–Chief of the undersea Kingdom and master and protector of seals


Among Northwest tribes, seal people played a role as emissary of their guardian King, Komokwa, in the winter Tseteka–shaman–dances where supernatural beings came from the spirit world to initiate the young into the dancing societies.  A seal conducted the novice into the submarine world where, after a period of fasting and prayer, he returned to the tribe in a canoe laden with a wealth of copper, to found a new lineage which was then honored in the dancing houses.20160317_201531

By day, the lumbering hulks of seals lounge on the docks.  One night, I saw a flash of green phosphorescence as the seals sped below the surface of Dogfish Bay.  These mercurial denizens of the deep bridge the yawning divide between the conscious and unconscious energies, and guide the seeker into timeless mysteries where shadowy beings lie below the reflective surface of the sea.  Their uncanny visitations shake up our smug assumptions of human supremacy and herald a new awareness based in feeling, compassion, and illumined by the transfiguring light of dreams.

This is my first post telling of my experience as pinniped ambassador, documenting scientific observation, and evoking the mythology of seals.  I hope my blog is informative as well as therapeutic.  After the traumatic death of Bobby last Summer, I wish to be better prepared to deal with all the many, tragi-comic aspects of the birthing season.

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Tales of the Tot Lot 2

So the land swap was stopped when the City Attorney admonished the Council it was their obligation to compel Parks to abide by the terms of the transfer and honor the restrictions.  The Council then voted unanimously to record a conservation easement which would preserve the Tot Lot in perpetuity.

But then, Val Tollefson moved to delay the recording of the Conservation Easement while an access road was worked out between Laughlin, Parks, and the adjacent, Madison Cottages community. It seems the Madison Cottages folk decide it best to accommodate the access road because if the Wyatt Cottages proposal is not granted, a more intrusive and aesthetically disagreeable development might replace the good work of Cutler/Anderson Architects.

Point well taken, but too smacking of defeatist accommodation for me. And since the good folk of Madison Cottages represent a mere fraction of Park’s-going public, why should they have such disproportionate influence?

We await the announcement of the Wyatt Cottages proposal to the Design Review Board with a mixture of dread and anticipation. Will the concerned parties present accurate information this time around regarding the Declarations of Covenants, Restrictions and Reciprocal Easements–remember those?

This is but a sketch of a convoluted tale of intrigue. There remain such details as the erroneous reports by the County Assessor, a land value increase of nearly 80% the very year the property was transferred to Parks, the “disappearance” of the studio from the assessor’s building report 2 years before it was demolished, the miraculous appearance of a ghostly pole-frame building, mysterious address changes, and specious readings of legal terms.

It seems we are afflicted with a double denial of many troubling aspects of the concurrent Wyatt Cottages and Suzuki developments. On the one hand, the Madison Cottages community–as well as the Friends of Suzuki– sweep the shady history of land transfers to Parks under the rug. On the other, we have the present Council embarrassed by their part in obscuring Parks and the previous Council’s questionable deeds. Add to this HRB’s reluctance to jeprodise Council support by allowing public scrutiny of these sketchy practices, and the tight-lipped, good old boys in the Building Department, and you have a first class cover-up.

All sides of this debate can be said to lack transparency.  We need a fresh and honest perspective on the issues that shape the island’s future. We need tranlate our high ideals of inclusiveness and economic equality into practical solutions while preserving the precious remnants of our natural environment.

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Tales of the Tot Lot part 1

The long history of the Tot Lot demands an uncommon level of attention and patience; I hope my good readers might bear with this convoluted tale about a tiny children’s playground in the heart of Whimsical Winslow.

The Tot Lot tale extends as far back as 1997, when Randy Varga sold the property to the City  with a “Declaration of Covenants, Restrictions and reciprocal Easements” which specified the property be preserved as a park.  He also called  for the preservation of a lovely art studio which I occupied rent-free as an artist-in-residence and caretaker–though my caretaking often fell short with all the demands of creating art.

 It was a time when our last elected Mayor held a prominent position on the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council– though that detail is perhaps merely coincidental–after all, my significant other says I watch too many detective movies, and such things are only natural with all the demands of leadership and the equivocal nature of the greater good.

 Despite the prohibitions clearly spelled out in the Declarations, outcry of concerned citizens, several emails citing restrictions, heated Parks Board meetings, and a front page article in the Kitsap Sun, the studio was destroyed in 2011, just two years after it was transferred to the good, art-promoting BIMPRD–or whatever they’re called.

In February of last year, a land swap was proposed where the playground would be traded for a lot half its size on the corner of the island’s busiest intersections.  Well, you can imagine the outcry of local, island mothers over that scenario.

 Truth is, a big money developer had bought two properties adjacent the Tot Lot and wanted to realize a tidy profit by consolidation, and create a greater Wyatt Cottages.  Problem is, this is a greater good that mainly benefits said developer. .

So get this, the developer and Parks sign on as co-applicants to the Design Review Board for this swap which would grease the skids for this big money project on the homestead of Winslow’s founding father, Reilly Hoskinson, who settled it God knows when.  They fill out a legal form declaring there are no impediments to this swap, though–because of the brouhaha less than 5 years before–they obviously knew of the 1997 restrictions.

 So I give Val Tollefson a copy of the restrictions and the Council halts the swap, reminding Parks of their obligation to honor terms of the transfer.

To be continued…

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Winslow Heat–Flashback

So I took the Prince Ivan thoroughfare up the hill to the east of town to where Joel had said E.G’s new developments were. It seems a big mall was in the works and EG, with the backing of some Ohio LLC, was building a pharmaceutical emporium and a corgie day care center. There was a broohaha when local poodle lovers had protested this plan as being discriminatory against their chosen breed, and had filed a complaint with the City to that effect. But the mayor, being a member of the Little Siberia corgie society, set them straight on that score, and the permit had fairly sailed over the desk of her brother Vinnie in the planning department.

I turned onto a gravel road that led north into the woods. A white and yellow building notice was spiked on the wide based of an old-growth cedar. I got out and walked down the road until I saw a short old guy with ruddy complexion being led by, what appeared to be, his grand daughter. After a respectful greeting I asked:

“Did you know this parcel is being developed by a mobster?”

I’ve been told, that for a private eye, I exhibit a marked lack of discretion, and this was not lost on his grand daughter who attended his obvious infirmity with touching solicitude. He hobbled, leered at me with a sideways grin, and said in a thick, southern Italian accent:

“That’s good. It will be protection.”

I got back into the Dart, lit a cigarette, and thought it over. All the seemingly casual series of events now funneled into an inevitable vortex in which the alluring image of Lupe flowed with languid abandon in the smoky arabesques of my square.

I suddenly became quite nervous indeed. For here in this lonely stretch of woods, all the crazy, disconnected events that transpired on the rock added up in a most disconcerting manner. It was as if all the paranoid imaginings of my troubled adolescence had come to realization; and the events of the past week had formed into a clear pattern. Most of all, I saw that no interference in the schemes of real estate speculators to realize a tidy profit would be welcome—especially such interference as might be offered by a simple artist like myself who does detective work as a sideline.

I was having, what we used to call, a flashback, and all these horrid imaginings unfixed my hair and made my heart knock frantically against all the studied uses of cool. The line between real and imagined dangers  becomes very sketchy at times, and steadier mugs than myself have found serious trouble in extravagant delusions and a swell dame in a skin-tight, sequined dress. At such moments it behooves a simple gumshoe like myself to breathe deep, take a powder, and intone the sacred mantra: Fuck that.

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Little Siberia

Past the Old Man Bridge is a harbor town founded by Russian emigre’s during the great War who had settled along it’s muddy shores to ply the dog-fishing trade as had long done in the home country.  I was led to this quaint town by a tip from Joel the barkeep at the Boundless Euphoria nightclub, who had said that the shady history of my new client, Edward G. might be found behind the gaudily painted facades of Little Siberia.  Joel is a failed impressionists who’s only hook seems to be early Peter Lorre.  In fact, Mochtar the Sikh says Joel really is the 21 st Century Avatar of Peter Lorre himself.  Be that as it may, Joel is prone wild imaginings when under the influence of his latest intoxicant dou jour which, as became evident as he waxed morbidly poetic with bug-eyed intensity about the satanic influence on local politics, to be of the hallucinatory variety.
  “Sy, I heard you were working for E.G…”
  “Yeah.  What do you know about him?”
  “He is, shall we say, in league with Mephistopheles.”
Dealing with nut-jobs is part of the job description.  I’m Sy Caymore, private eye.
Edward G,  the tragedian mobster–who did real estate transactions on the side–had hired me to help with his scheme to move the Grandiose Forest to Eagledale.  He had this hair-brained plan to reverse the course of western history, restore the sovereign right of kings, and score a nifty forest for his new racket club; a scheme that had all the makings of some looney, Shakespearean Tragedy for which, it appeared, Edward G had cast me in the role of unwitting stooge.  Against my better judgment, I’d taken the case in hopes of enhancing my meager bank account and getting some new material for a mystery novel I had been wrestling with for some time.
 As I crawled over Old Man Bridge in my ’66 Dodge Dart I had plenty time to think.  There is no better automobile for traversing the City of Night.  It’s revolutionary torsion air-ride and flight-sweep styling commands respect among the pale hipsters who haunt the labyrinthine city of delusion; and though the dashboard may go pixilated, technacolor haywire and transmit coded messages from the outer reaches of space, she now exhibited the sure-footed dignity of a thoroughbred as I negotiated the snarled Island Expressway. 
Joel had said the Mayor of Little Siberia might shed light on the Grandiose scam, and clues to E. G,’s shady past might be found among the brick, archival vaults of Little Siberia’s City Hall.  I pulled into the parking garage and took the elevator to a lofty hall where maritime artifacts were on display.  A Grand Banks dory, still manned by a skeleton in foul weather gear, lay under florescent lights, looking like it had just been hoisted from the murky waters of Dogfish Bay.  Display cases held models of the old fishing fleet that had once fitted out here for their seasonal voyage to the Bearing Sea. 
 At first, the place looked empty.  Then I saw a curly haired woman in overalls and Birkenstocks seated before an ancient laptop.  She had the wholesome aspect of an organic farmer.
“Excuse me, I’m looking for the mayor.”
 “That would be me,” she said with a bright, welcoming smile. 
I was pleasantly surprised.  Such open-faced candor is rare in Winslow, where getting a word—kind or otherwise – from city officials is like pulling teeth.
“Would you know anything about Edward G Snobinson and some wacky scheme to heist the Grandiose
 forest and remove it to the Dunsinane Racket Club in Eagledale?”
 Her pleasant manner suddenly vanished and she said with thinly veiled menace:
 “Questions like that can get you a permanent mooring on the bottom of Dogfish Bay.”


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Our struggle for the Varga Community Art Studio

studio exterior 3

We are involved in an effort to compel the City to abide by covenants they agreed to in the purchase in a local children’s playground called the Tot Lot.  These restrictions state that the public art studio–which was illegally destroyed for the benefit of a private developer–must be replaced on the same footprint.  This has been a lengthy struggle and the City of Bainbridge Island continues to neglect it’s obligation to see that the covenants are upheld.

See our website

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Old Hand’s Indonesian voyage–part 6

 “To the Toer wharf,”  said McWhirr. 

 With indomitable energy, Rubio peddled his bicak and sang Unchained Melody for all he was worth.  For reason I’ve yet to fathom, Indonesians consider the Righteous Brothers to be the apex of musical accomplishment.  We soon arrived at the dock to see a steamship being loaded by scrawny Malays carrying heavy sacks of rice.  She was an absurdly stout vessel of Victorian pedigree, whose small wheelhouse perched on her coach roof like a petite hat on a frumpy, lady dowager.  On the ornate paddle boxes were emblazoned the words: The East India Company.  The thick cloud issuing from her smokestack showed she was building up a head of steam for immanent departure.

As we ascended the ladder to the wheelhouse, I saw that the balustrade of the gallery which extended from the house to the rails was ornamented by a carved frieze of twined figures writhing in chained attitudes of torment.  We were about to knock on the weathered, oak door when, through the blinds, came a low voice intoning:

“It is thou, O river, who judges man’s judgment… O river of sanctuaries. ..O river of light…”

McWhirr opened the door. a beefy guy in shorts, stockings and pith helmet bent over a chart table reading from a weathered scroll.  Without turning he said: “What say ye,? Does the ocean refuse the river’s tribute?”
  He fell silent and gazed out the wheelhouse windows.  The dawn light shone violet, as though the dirty chaos of the waterfront had been suddenly transfigured by the celestial Light of Glory.
This was our engineer, Thaddeus Budge, and a wackier coot I’ve never known.  But Hans had assured us that he would keep the old Polly steaming past mud banks and typhoons; the first we were to strike in short order, the latter, we were to find, swept through the middle reaches of the Ciliwung with all the frenzied vehemence of doomsday.
“Full ahead, Mister Budge,” McWhirr called into the speaking horn by the wheel.
With a creaking shudder, the paddle wheels began to churn the water into brown froth, and we bore away from the wharf into the gently flowing waters of the River.
  We chugged past endless shacks and mountains of rusty, flattened cars.  It was as though alluvial deposits had washed up all the planned obsolescence of millennia; and the foundering hulk of Pantijasila– those lofty 5 principles of the new Indonesia–had fetched up on a reeking bank of industrial wast and these half-naked laundresses whopping sarongs in the stagnant waters of the canal were singing an eerie monody for some dimly descried apocalypse.
The only charts we had were from the 20th century.  I searched for sailing directions to the upper reaches of the Ciliwung in vain and ransacked the tattered tomes that lined the mahogany shelves of the wheelhouse for any clue that might disclose the real purpose of the voyage we were fated to undertake.  
“That Bekert guy gives me the creeps.”  McWhirr’s said.  “I didn’t believe for a minute all that bull about his interest in antiquities.  He might just be sending us on a fool’s errand in this tin pot steamer.” 
  McWhirr unrolled a dog-eared chart that look like it was printed during Leopold’s reign, pointed to a particularly sepentine section of the river, and said:
“There’s death at every bend of this blasted river.  There are treacherous sandbanks and bandits that will cut your throat for a song. Here is the passage of Bulak Bindah.  Winds can funnel between those rocks like the fiends of hell.”
“Aye, on top of that, the very guards appointed by the museum trustees who sponsor these excavations deal in the illicit trade of artifacts. Their collusion with Javanese authorities can land innocent shippers like us in jail. 
“Crooked trade in antiquities is nearly as old as civilization itself. These sites had already been plundered in ancient times by looters who sold to dealers in Bangkok.  Now the plunder is conducted on an industrial scale by the East India Company. The stones of sacred Temples are looted to build the brutal towers of Tomorrowland and the stolen images of the Holy Immortals now entice consumers, like sheep, into endless malls of mediocrity.  This must stopped.”
Like some portly, winded spinstress, the Polly steamed past camps of water buffalo herders, laptop recyclers, and armed horsemen whose dark eyes followed her wake with unconcealed contempt.
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OLd Hand’s Indonesian Voyage part 4–The Wayang Kulit

The party at the table up front drank, yammered in Bahasan, and leered at the floor show.  I noticed a small, greasy guy in a white suit who fondled a carved cane and glanced our way occaisionally with fidgety, bug-eyed intensity.
 In came the gamelan orchestra to set up their fantastic array of gongs, bells and xylophones; chattering away and chain-smoking smoking kreteks like it  was just another day on the job.  They were followed by the shadow puppeteer, a fat guy with a pin mustache who smirked past the gongs like some portly kingpin of the marionette mafia.
The place went dark.  A large, white screen was lit from behind by a single oil lamp.
The gamelan started with flute spiraling upward.  Then, a rising squall of chimes blew into a crescendo of jangling fury and drum – slapped rythyms, before falling again into opaque silence.
A hermit intoned mantric praise to a great, translucent river that fell from the luminous sky onto a shadowed plane of droning sound.  This marked the hallowed place, ancient locus where the pure image of Sita was wrought by artifice in the old kalpa, and now brightly projected upon the smokey nightclub screen for the amusement of arak-swilling hipsters bent on pleasure in all it’s many twisted and pharmaceutically enhanced forms.
Gandarvas sang where two rivers merged their sibilant flow–opposed currents of light and shadow twined in harmonious confluence of gong and bell; genius loci of the sacred earth where the gamelan’s strict measure streams into eternity.
Then, a malignant cloud of darkness loomed and long-taloned Rangda pounded the mountaintop in a gleeful, seismic dance.  Staccato footfalls crossed man’s path with evil, and summoned the grim spectacle of imperialist might. Rama’s sandals held virtual court at the feet of his forsaken throne while the pious were led away shackled, in weeping counterpoint to the slow melodic line.
That hypnotic tempo still rings over the rubber plantations of the archipelago; in a dissonant mode that yet fans the undying Indonesian spirit; as if Rama’s return to his kingly estate mirrored their own tortured story; and Hanuman’s revolutionary, healing energy–born of the very earth of mankind–must ever suffer cyclical defeat and triumph; an ebb and flow whose influences lie beyond the sublunary sphere.
It’s a sacred rite where eternal Vedic wisdom is sold on naked Jakarta streets; a yarn as old as history–as fresh and fleeting as the play of shadow on a backlit screen.
All went dark and the screen was emblazoned by the bold legend: Samsung.
The small, greasy guy in the white suit grabbed his cane and made his way to our table with mincing stride.
“Saturnius McWhirr I presume?”


Categories: Old Hand's Indonesian Voyage, Saturnius McWhirr stories | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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