Posted in Uncategorized

The Imagine Award


Thanks to Sue Vincent for nominating me for The Imagine Award.  Jenn Mulherin, who created this award, has a blog called My Fibrotastic Life,   The award was made to “recognize bloggers who express their passion and dedication towards their blogs through their creativity.”

Sue’s blog certainly qualifies in this regard.  I love her imaginative writing about the ancient, Celtic mystery schools, her evocation of the lovely British Isles as well as strength of her prose  (though I wonder how much credit should go to her dog.)  Sue is also an artist.  My favorites are her watercolors and encaustic paintings.

As part of the deal in accepting this honor, I nominate 5 bloggers who I think qualify for the honor.

The poetry of Wuji Seshat Nibada is a celebration of ethereal beauty.  And he seems to come out with another every day-that’s dedication.  For me, his work recalls the simple elegance of Japanese poetry.

In art, there’s Citta di Cartone, or Cardboard Towns.  His cityscapes are executed in a deft, graphic shorthand with a unerring eye for atmosphere and texture.

Whatever category James Fielden fits into (maybe none-he is unique,) I nominate him for his serenely beautiful meditations on light and love.  As a bonus, the recordings of his radiant prose come through loud and clear through the aural channel.

   The Runningfather Blog. Jim Aldrich’s blog is a revelation.  His poetry and prose conjures subtle spiritual states with concision and flair.  I am looking forward to he second installment of his chilling, dystopic vision: Bishop’s Burden.

Then there’s John Wreford, Photographer whose heart-wrenching work from the front lines shows and tells of the brave souls who live in Syria.  While John’s reportage may not be considered “imaginative,” I include it here because of his dedication, and because it rouses compassion for the suffering of our brothers and sisters in that war-torn region.  Maybe there is no greater work of imagination than that.

To accept the Imagination Award you need to:

1. Copy and paste the Imagine Award into your post.

2.  Thank the blogger who nominated you and link their blog page to your post.

3.  List 3-5 things about the nominator’s blog that you like (that you think are creative.)

4.  Nominate 5 other bloggers.

5. Notify your nominees.

6.  Display The Imagine Award to your blog’s award page.

Posted in Musings

Them Spambot Babes

The initial excitement of seeing that I’ve accumulated another 5 followers of my blog today is quickly dampened when I find their blogs mostly free of content. Some consist only of fashion photos.  Why they feel this subject is of interest to me is perplexing. My fashion sense has of late (and Lily might concur in this) suffered a tragic lapse into epic shabbiness and left my wardrobe in a woeful state of entropy. Perhaps news of my slovenly demeanor has reached beyond these shores, and even the fashionistas of foreign lands hope to rehabilitate my wretched wardrobe. I can only be touched by their concern for my well-being.

Others seem to advertise dentists and food processors from the exotic paradise of Jakarta. While I don’t doubt such devices may make my modest culinary efforts more palatable, I wonder if they really hope I may travel to that exotic Indonesian archipelago to purchase one directly-or that I may visit the eager dentist after cracking my teeth on the unground remnants of the latest labor-saving gizmo.

I am saddened to discover that their blogs seem unsullied by the corrupting influence of  humanity-that there appears no sign of actual human content at all.

Could these “followers” be the fabled spambots who infect the blogosphere with their vacuous sites in order to steal what meagre audience we real, earnest bloggers have?

Some seem tailored to my own interests. Others seem to feature computer generated poetry along with the earnest Gravatar of some attractive, female, aspiring writer seeking imaginary gain or some vaguely stated desire for my  attention. I ponder the possibilities of such relationships. But then again, Lily might object to my courting spambot babes, real or otherwise.

This state of affairs seems to pervade the blogging experience more and more. It leads me to wonder what the future of blogging may be like when computer generated sites completely take over the blogosphere and all  human error has been eliminated. They can then interact automatically with one another in binary code, multiplying endlessly, stealing each others automated audience without the need for such encumbrance as punctuation, grammar or spelling. All blogging could continue without making demands on our precious time and attention, free of obscure metaphor and existing in an unadulterated  state.  It would abide in the realm of Platonic ideas where everything is clear precise and soulless.

Posted in Saturnius McWhirr stories, Uncategorized

The Galvanized Emblem of McWhirr

“ Gusts up o 70 miles per hour are possible.”

The bland, melancholy voice on the NOAAH weather radio intoned the dread prophesy with all the passion of a jaded, Norwegian automaton.

Bagpipes wailed over the anchorage at sundown and the grim sight of the northern horizon almost made me cry.  Clouds billowed white over the eastern Straits while, below, the horizon fell into the blackest gloom that ever haunted the nightmares of sinful, erring tars.

I had read in The Complete Anchoring Handbook that it all comes down to the right ratio of depth to scope of anchor rode.

50 feet times 5 make 250…good enough for a Coney Island swan boat.

I went below to lie on the pilot-berth. After a few fitful gusts, the wind fell into a tentative, uneasy calm.

Let’s see, 5 to 1 in 50 feet times…

“Have you paid out enough scope, lad?”

The bass tones welled from Old Hand’s bilges as from the aged, bronzed vessel of oxidized words.


The angular form of Saturnius McWhirr was faintly illumined by the oil-lamp’s amber glow.

“I cast the anchor in 8 fath…” I stammered

“Avast, Ya greenhorn! You don’t “cast” anchors. This isn’t fly-fishing! My gorge rises at such lubberly misuse of sailing language.”

His wrath, like a line-squall, subsided as rapidly as it came.

“Did you know that to raise an anchor you must first let it go?”

“That’s true, sir.”

He always makes these pithy pronouncements like they were scripture.  And, for McWhirr the act of sailing is a religious rite. He hails from Zoroastrian, Quaker stock and, for him, a ship is a vessel to carry his weary spirit ascending through the 7 concentric spheres of corporeality to the final landfall of essential being. He has seen the beatific vision reflected on the sea’s mirror, and it draws him ever northward in search of the true face of divinity behind the mask of appearance.

“Look at this arm.”

Like some cloaked tragedian in a nautical horror show, he furiously tore his sleeve to reveal the tattoo of an anchor engraved upon his sinewy fore-arm.

“I carry the fouled, cold-forged, emblem of hope engraved upon my soul.”

He leveled his eye at me as thunder rattled the wheelhouse windows.

“Have you any family, Mister Spencer?”


“Do they weigh upon your heart; do you feel their woes as your very own?”

I was too unglued by his interrogatory glare to answer.

“Are you willing to set aside your pleasant, little cruise to do service if called upon?”

“I don’t know if I’d call it a pleasant cruise with this weather.” I said defensively.

“Would ya be able to leap into the maelstrom to save a foe?”

“If I had a PFD,” I answered lamely.

He fell into deep silence. His spectral image receded into the oaken bulwarks of unfathomable woe.

“Then you are no shipmate of mine,”   Said the fading echo of his baritone.

From the infinite distance came a low, thrumming tone that set halyards frapping on the mast. The sound rose steadily to a piercing shriek-as if all the denizens of hell had let loose one frenzied howl of pain.

Old Hand skewed violently in the blast.

I rose from my bunk, put on my foul weather gear and ascended the foredeck.

Let’s see 50 x 10 = 500…that’s 10 to 1…for 85% holding power…

Not bad odds.

Posted in Uncategorized

Old hand’s voyage to the San Juan Islands 1

This is my post in some time.  I’ve been busy preparing for our trip north to the San Juans.

Again, our crossing of the infamous Straits was placidly uneventful.  This is fine by me as I’d rather get my adventure in other ways than getting slammed by the huge waves that can travel all the way into the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca.  The pictures of the huge waves that can travel all the way into the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca have struck my heart with a cold dread.  Then there’s the fog which can veil the looming menace of beasts like this bearing down on Old Hand at 18 knots.

san juans straits ship LilyLily and ship on straits

Posted in Books I love

Books I love-Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda

You must give up your personal history.

This terse comment by Carlos Castaneda’s teacher Don Juan, in Journey to Ixtlan, contains the key to this spiritual travelogue in which he renounces his anthropological career to enter the sorcerer’s path.

The drawings done of Castaneda, partially erased by himself, speak more eloquently than revelations of his mendacity or alleged misogyny.

For the sorcerer, reality, or the world we know is only a description.

For novelists (it is absurd to argue which category this work belongs) the world is the reality in which they are immersed at the moment of creation.

My feelings were clear bodily sensations; they did not need words.

Yet he describes, at great length, terrifying encounters in  the intermediate realm. When Castaneda is shaken by these experiences, Don Juan commands him:

Write! Write or you’ll die!

It is an imperative Castaneda takes to heart.   Abandonment of personal history might contradict Don Juan’s statement about writing as survival but, rather than a bid for immortality, Castaneda’s account may be the final act of self erasure.  It resulted, ultimately, in irrelevance.  As he progressed to the rank of Nagual (teacher of sorcery), the fiction stylist was displaced by his persona-his double.  As he was subsumed into the anemic New-Age genre, he became infatuated by his own image (or its absence) and got mired in convoluted explications of sorcery.   Most fatal, he lost his sense of humor.

Unfortunately this seems to be the lot of many successful artists who find endless justification for their surrender to the allurements of the marketplace.

But Journey to Ixtlan is Castaneda in his prime. Take the hilarious scene where Don Juan and his sidekick Don Genaro-as antidote to Castaneda’s attachment to his worldly vehicle-make his car disappear:

“Where’s my car?”

Don Genaro began turning over small rocks and looking underneath them…

“Don Genaro is a very thorough man,” Don Juan said with a serious expression. “He’s as thorough and meticulous as you are. You said yourself that you never leave a stone unturned. He’s doing the same.”

Genaro, puffing and sweating, tries to lift a boulder.

 We could not budge the rock. Don Juan suggested we go to the house and find a thick piece of wood to use as a lever…

Resigned to this insanity, Castaneda lends a hand; with a tremendous effort, they lift the boulder.

 …Don Genaro examined the dirt underneath the rock with the most maddening patience and thoroughness.

“No. It isn’t here,” he announced.

Other passages are suffused with a beauty as stark and dramatic as the desert landscape through which they travel. In the chapter, Becoming a Hunter, the sophisticated anthropologist, Castaneda, admits to the reader his feelings of superiority over an Indian.  Reading his mind, Don Juan says:

“We are not equals.  I am a hunter and a warrior and you are a pimp.”

Don Juan then meets Castaneda’s angry protest at these harsh words with a masterful act of “not doing.”

…when it was pitch black around us he seemed to have merged into the blackness of the stones. His state of motionlessness was so total it was if he did not exist any longer.

It was midnight before I realized that he could and would stay motionless there in that wilderness, in those rocks, perhaps forever if he had to. His world of precise acts and feelings and decisions was indeed superior.

I quietly touched his arm and tears flooded me.

Castaneda has been maligned for having done his field-work exclusively in the UCLA library.  But, for me, this only makes his work more impressive.  No other writer so cannily expressed the manic spirit of the psychedelic era. I am forever astounded by the man who could transmute the dusty anthropological tomes of the UCLA library into supreme works of imagination.

Posted in Musings

Joseph Conrad’s Chthonic Folly

Joseph Conrad started writing relatively late in life.   He  drew heavily from a long career as master mariner in the era of European, eastern expansion.

In A Personal Record he tells of the first impulse to write. Sitting idle in his room at Bessborough Gardens he remembers his initial encounter with the man who inspired his first novel, Almayer’s Folly.

Conrad was 1st mate on a cargo steamer going up a Malaysian river to deliver supplies to a remote outpost. On board was a pony which the Dutch trader, Almayer, has ordered from Bali:

  The importation of that Bali pony might have been part of some deep scheme, of some diplomatic plan, of some hopeful intrigue. With Almayer, one could never tell. He governed his conduct by considerations removed from the obvious, by incredible assumptions, which rendered his logic impenetrable to any reasonable person.

The same might be said for the whole colonialist adventure. But this misguided effort is constantly undermined by inscrutable forces antithetical to the rigid mindset of the European.

Conrad describes the limp pony as he hoists it onto the dock in a sling:

 …his aggressive ears had collapsed, but as he went slowly swaying across the front of the bridge, I noticed an astute gleam in his dreamy, half-closed eye.

Upon releasing the sling, the pony immediately flattens Almayer and bolts for the dense forest- an outcome which Almayer meets with perplexing indifference.

 But Almayer, plunged in abstracted thought, did not seem to want the pony anymore.

He embodies the ambiguous,  often childish, desire for dominion over the remotest corners of the earth; a tragi-comic symbol of imperialist hyper-extension who, despite his convoluted plans, succumbs to uncontrollable forces and, ultimately, to dissipation.

Listen to Almayer’s halting, distracted monologue as he reveals to the narrator something of his frustrations:

“…the worst of this country is that one is not able to realize…” His voice sank into a languid mutter. “And when one has very large interests…” He finished faintly. “…up the river.”

Conrad was to later use such chthonic imagery and musical, fractured dialogue in his masterful indictment of imperialism: Heart of Darkness.

A Personal Record tells how the encounter with this “factual” character was instrumental in the birth of a long literary career; a career in which he brought to fictional art an unequaled degree of expressiveness. With the concision of the sea language in which he was so fluent-a language as pithy as poetic verse-Conrad condensed into the microcosmic image of Almayer all the absurdity and hubris of the expansionist age.

Conrad goes on to imagine meeting his alter ego in the Elysian fields and confessing:

  It is true, Almayer, that in the world below I have converted your name to my own uses. But that is very small larceny…Your name was common property of the winds…You were always complaining of being lost in the world, you should remember that if I had not believed enough in your existence to let you haunt my rooms in Bessborough Gardens you would have been much more lost.

Though a failure in his wind-born life, Almayer triumphs in the end through Conrad’s belief in the ability of his protagonist to express something deep and dark in the psyche of modern man. This ability is all the more poignant because of Almayer’s fictive power. It is a power that confers reality.

  …if I had not got to know Almayer pretty well it is almost certain there would never have been a line of mine in print.

Though I suspect Conrad’s Personal Record may not conform entirely to fact, his character attains a loftier status. He becomes a symbol of human folly that mere veracity cannot express.