Dishpantheism

driving home from my father’s cabin this evening with a blinding moon in the rearview. iridescent eyes in the margin. a doe scrabbled down on backward knees and crossed under the lowest strand of barbed wire fence. her agile stotting wasted like that.

a while back my dad gave me an estwing hatchet he’d found on a hill near his cabin. it’s very old. i’m refinishing it. he gave me a cache of old cast iron skillets and dutch ovens. griswold and wagner. some of them close to a hundred years old. i can only cook with cast iron else i burn everything. i’ve been using an electrolytic bath to remove the years of rust. current and sodium carbonate solution. a sacrificial anode. the rusty water is given to the pumpkin patch. ferdie cat is eager to help with these goings on. 

estwingside

estwingend

nearhappyisles

halfdome

tanayalake

tuolumnebear

hotcreek

 

went to the mountains. met a few interesting folk. on the first night someone in a nearby camp played the fiddle until late. someone else sang unaccompanied. there was a campfire of jeffrey pine that smelled like butterscotch and vanilla. a family of great gray owls singing down from the trees. spent a few days walking the western sierra. a few days walking the eastern. revisited mono lake and saw an osprey nest. goldenrod and asters blooming. rabbitbrush too. ate rose hips. pocketed columbine and sneezeweed seed. dipped toes in a hot creek. successfully avoided being boiled alive in the hot spring itself. climbed in a cave. sifted squirrel mounds for arrowheads. 

got my pre-employment physical today. jabs for the tb test. the nurse admired her handiwork and said “oh what a perfect circle!” as the serum bubbled up under my skin. i can’t even see it now. fleeting.

big imminent things. scary. time speeds up. i feel overwhelmed by it. i think these are tasks for two people. or maybe two lifetimes. had a conversation about genetic chimeras in the back of a van. sister always jokes that i was two before i absorbed my twin in the womb. sounds like something i’d do. 

wellidy.

 

 

i had to put lola down. i had so wanted her to die peacefully in her sleep one night. but she didn’t. her hips just became increasingly bad until one day she couldn’t lift herself up anymore. i contacted the vet and had to wait a week to have her come to the house. i’d never been witness to this sort of animal death before. dogs on ranches are most often shot and that is the kind of dog death i grew up with. cats take themselves away to die alone in the chaparral. i think lo’s death was as painless as it could be but it was so fucking hard to watch. i feel guilty because i think she knew something bad was happening when we carried her out under the pine tree and a stranger arrived. thankfully the vet (who i’d never had dealings with before) was so wonderful and empathetic and cried right along with me. though i sobbed uncontrollably and looked like a member of KISS by the time all was done. poor old bean. she had a very long life. she was at least 14 (though i suspect she was closer to 16 or 17) which is pretty damn good for an old cow dog. i will miss that stubborn old gal. 

had offer of two separate library jobs. really wanted to take the first one on offer but too many things were not in place for a long distance move so i had to decline. but i took the second job offered me and it’s at a library i love very much. that does please me. it’s just so very good to have library work again. even though this changes the course of my immediate future and is disappointing in some pretty major respects, i am so grateful to have work i enjoy. i’m glad to have coworkers who are respectful and passionate about what they do too.

internet has been fiddly here for days. super annoying. mostly because i suddenly seemed to have all sorts of paperwork to do which required a stable internet connection. give me a minute and i’ll think of some other trivial thing to bitch about.

going to the mountains for a few days. tuolumne meadows amongst other places. i very much need a break. too bad i couldn’t squeeze in some foreign travel whilst i’m at it. as much as i have loved visiting places that are off the beaten track at some point i’d like to visit the usual european destinations. i have a feeling most of them will bore me. but i do love old buildings. and europe is filthy with those. 

i have so little news worthy of reporting. i need to work on that.

wellidy.

 

 

 

 

 

i’m beginning to have doubts about sister. i just found out she isn’t really a fan of raspberries. she gave me a bag of them from her farm basket. she’d frozen them because she couldn’t eat the bulk of them. i very happily took them off her hands. they have been the best thing about the past week. 

i have most all the makings of a bad country and western tune. car crash. pain. termination of employment. and tomorrow i have to put my dog down. as my gran would say if it ain’t but one thing it’s another. oh and the job interview i thought i’d absolutely nailed did not in fact net me a job. i did get a letter in the mail offering promise of another though. i’ve given up crossing fingers as it doesn’t seem to do the trick.

i did some writing so that was good. it felt necessary and it hasn’t felt necessary in a number of years. but i’m not going to bank on the feeling sticking around. i just very much hope that it does.

i visited my father’s cabin and he gifted me with a book about mobile houses. narrowboat conversions and sailboats and sheep wagons. things like that. it did cheer me up some. i still sketch tiny houses in my notepad using an architect’s rule. always drawn to scale. it is nerdily satisfying. 

unexpected notes from friends geographically distant and invites to gawk at bones in the big city. and others from more nearby friends urging my speedy mending. those were cheering too. and i appreciate them very much. when i am mended enough for train travel i will hie away to the big city and drink tea and ogle the beautiful contours of many a bone.

i picked sweet corn from the garden. something has been at the stalks. probably raccoons. several stalks lay on their sides with ears missing. but i managed to pick a few. and then i promptly burned them. how the fuck does one burn sweet corn? it takes a high level of clumsy to master that trick. the currant tomatoes offer some consolation. they require no cooking and if they are sour i’m not to blame. 

wellidy.

i have employment again so i reckon i should be thankful. i am happy to be able to pay bills and such. i am less pleased with the 29 hours i’ve spent listening to training videos dripping with venomous anti-union rhetoric. after work i’ve been digging trenches for father and i leave that job covered in grime. but i feel dirtier upon exiting the break room at my paying job where every other word out of my coworkers’ mouths is something vile and sexist or otherwise bigoted. deep breath. my grandparents were migrant fruit pickers. i sometimes wonder what they’d have to say about these things.

it’s been so hot here. digging the trenches for the new water lines at father’s place requires waiting until the sun has dipped low or rising extra early and digging before the sun has crested the hill. today i dug at dusk. i’d already dug from the new water tank halfway down the slope. digging backwards. filling my shoes with earth. today i started from the base of a tall bank behind the house (without being able to see the first section). i didn’t want to stand on a ladder to dig so i dug a little at a time and made myself an earthen ladder as i went. swung the mattock over my head. pulled down earth. tamped it with my feet. and so on and so forth until i was up high enough to connect the two ends of trench. in places i was swinging at solid rock and sparks flew every which way. i had to fetch buckets of water and soak the earth and pull any dry grass that might kindle. when i swung the mattock especially hard great handfuls of rock would jump up and pepper my face and chest and i’d let out a yelp. the mothership was digging up above me and she looked over the edge of the bank and asked what was wrong. i said that rocks were going down my shirt. she said that if i kept it up i might actually look like i had a bust. i reminded her that i was still holding a mattock.
i remembered my heavy gloves this time but i managed to raise blisters again. most annoying. in happier news i unearthed a giant millipede last time and let him crawl all over me. beautiful leggy beast. purple perezia is blooming and the broken twigs of sumac smell sour and a little like boxelder bugs. every evening there are large flocks of turkeys bathing in dust and flattening the yellow grass.

in the garden my galeux d’eysines are making huge clasping vines. the rest of my squash have succumbed to roving bands of sow bugs. i feel like such a hypocrite when i go sprinkling the beds with diatomaceous earth and whispering “die! die!” since i’ve spent my entire life telling little boys not to harass or murder the things. and naturally right before i started exterminating them (bugs not boys) i read that they can live up to four years*. i alternate between rage and guilt. i felt similar pangs years ago when i read that earwigs are devoted mothers who tend their eggs so closely (grooming them and turning them over and over) that they starve to death. i just want a few fucking beans! i’m willing to share but they won’t be reasonable.

tonight i discovered that florine stettheimer’s oldest sister made a fancy dollhouse. various artists of her acquaintance contributed furnishings and such. marcel duchamp made a tiny version of Nude Descending a Staircase for it. i’m not sure if i find this charming or creepy. (says the woman who takes photos of plastic dinosaurs.) perhaps i shouldn’t judge. but what was it with absurdly rich women and their obsessions with dollhouses? a few months ago when i was visiting my father he told me about how he knew the silent film star colleen moore. he’d built her neighbor’s house. she’d frequently show up at parties there with her bobbed hair dyed jet black and boast about her dollhouses. i was previously unaware of moore’s dollhouse obsession. i think i prefer my eccentric dollhouse-crafting women of the frances glessner lee variety. at least her miniatures were useful.

wellidy.

*i also learned they’re classed as detritivores. i think that’s just about the best -vore ever. like the oscar the grouch of insects.

when i was growing up my mom worked four (and sometimes five) jobs to support us. she refinished furniture and rushed chair seats. she was a mcdonald’s janitor and worked the night shift. we’d get to work at 10 p.m. and i’d sleep on the plastic benches until 6 a.m. sometimes she’d make me a sundae. she worked in a bar cleaning up vomit and sweeping up drug paraphernalia that she didn’t recognize as such. i remember finding a fancy feathery roach clip on the floor of the ladies’ bathroom and rubbing it on my cheek until one of my teenage brothers took it away. he had to explain to my mom what it was for as he had to explain coke mirrors and the various other party-related detritus of a honkey-tonk.

my mom would bundle us up before the sun rose and take us to work with her. i had a velour blanket that i’d roll up in and sleep on the parquet dance floor. sometimes i couldn’t fall back asleep. instead i’d lap the blanket over itself and create elaborate caverns and i’d tell myself stories about them: who lived there and why. there was a man who worked in the bar who could play the guitar. sometimes he’d sit on a stool and pick a little while i lay on the floor listening. he ended up destroying his liver and people thereafter never mentioned him without whispering about his colostomy bag.

my mom took me to night classes. i’d sit on the floor and color while her instructors lectured and she took notes. when she took me to the bookstore to buy her textbooks sometimes she’d buy me one of the serendipity books and i’d flip through it incessantly until i memorized it. my mom and dad always found time to read to me. my mom still loves to tell me about how she’d wearily take me on her lap after work and read me one of my books. if she was particularly wiped out she’d try to skip pages. even before i could read the words myself i knew she was skipping the pages and would petulantly slam my fist down on the book and try to turn back to the part she’d omitted.

my dad was a carpenter and when work was scarce sometimes the five of us ate pancakes for every meal. to this day i am not a fan of them (unless they’re buckwheat). we ate a lot of sopa seca because it was very cheap. we ate a lot of spaghetti for the same reason. we kept a garden, and if the well was generous, we kept it alive all summer. my mom took the hide off her hands canning hot peppers. my dad made scrapple and mess after mess of fava beans and pork fat. he poached deer sometimes and served us what my mom referred to as sidehill bacon. we stuffed pillowcases with deer meat and threw them on the roof until the flesh was brittle dry. we relished it. sometimes when i smell clean sheets my jaw tingles and i crave a handful of black brittle deer meat. the lions club gave us bags of oranges and peanuts in the shell and old fashioned ribbon candy at christmas. when finances allowed, my grandparents shared what they could. and when my parents had the occasional surplus, they shared with my grandparents. thankfully, i don’t ever remember going hungry.

during one particularly lean time, my mom decided to kill our rooster. she wasn’t a stranger to the chopping block. she grew up eating chickens and turkeys that my grandpa butchered. but she couldn’t bring herself to apply the hatchet to the rooster. she shot it with her pistol instead but it didn’t die. she chased it down the road and into a neighbor’s field and shot it several more times until it finally expired. she cried the whole time. she didn’t have time to let it age and when she threw it in the pot and boiled it the water foamed something fierce. she fed it to us but couldn’t bring herself to eat it.

one christmas, after my parents had divorced, my mom’s best friend anonymously put us on a list to receive christmas presents from the salvation army. i got a baby doll that pissed itself and a stack of cloth nappies. it had hair molded onto its scalp which i always found slightly grotesque. but it was one of my favorite toys. i never played at being a homemaker. the baby was always a prop in some story concerning frontierswomen or the migration of my band of ice age hominids. it mostly went without nappies. every other baby doll succumbed to the same fate. i don’t know if this had more to do with my own maternal model or if it’s because i so frequently went naked as a jaybird during most of my childhood. i expect it’s a little bit of both.

anyway. that’s enough of that for the present.

 

it was meant to be cooler today. it was 105F just after the noon hour. in this weather it is permissible to sit in a dark room wearing only one’s underpants and eat frozen grapes. 

pulled a hickory basket of fabric down from the closet’s top shelf. lovely raisin-colored cotton lawn. black leno weave. grey swiss dot. going to make use of sister’s sewing machine and excessive floor space to cut and sew some sundresses while i’m sitting house. i never think to work on them in the winter so that they’ll be ready for summer. occasionally i think to knit in summer but generally the prospect of holding a skein of fuzzy wool in the lap on a warm day does not appeal. i spent a few hot days the summer before last sitting under the plum tree knitting baby sweaters by the score. that wasn’t too unpleasant. i have given all of those sweaters away now. it’s time i knit some more. 

have had the most intense desire to go swimming. i realized i haven’t gone swimming in years. i used to go every summer when i was small. my uncle was the foreman of a wealthy doctor’s ranch. the doc was kind and let us use the pool of his ranch house since he seldom stayed there. we would trudge across the pasture stepping over chicalote and dragging our towels through tarweed. we often found rattlesnakes in the changing rooms or under the stairs. sometimes we’d swim at night and my cousin would tell us about the man who broke his neck diving into the pool and how the diving board had been removed afterward. the bats would fly low over the water. when the doc’s children came we were relegated to the stock trough and the carp and polliwogs would nibble our legs. i could definitely go for a stock trough dip right about now.

 

 

been visiting father nearly every day. i may be wearing out my welcome with all of my comings and goings. but there are so many chores need doing. my father is by no means helpless but he certainly doesn’t need to be trudging the hills in 105 degree heat trying to mow the needle grass down. this morning before i went into the cabin to say hello i walked up one of the draws a ways. a few mountain garlands have bloomed. shrunken petals. the bird’s eye gilia and chinese houses have fared better on the north slope. found a freakishly dark gilia all on its lonesome. watched a pair of butterflies turn into a trio. flew in and out of elderflower umbels. cow-killers at my feet. heard a commotion and peered over my left shoulder. a jay on a low oak bough behind me read me the riot act. when i turned back the trio of butterflies was inches from my nose. could hear the clashing of their wings. could see very clearly the checks of black and yellow. pocketed sage. blow-wives and woolly bear chaff. some of the mature sargent cypress mom and dad grew from seed are dying for lack of water. 

acquired forty suffolk cross fleeces. they aren’t prime fibers but they were free and plentiful and the rancher was extremely pleased to give them to me. told me to come back next year and take those too. last time he burned them. seems such a waste. i should have taken photos of his amazing barns all covered with skulls and baby doll heads. but i didn’t. spent most of the afternoon loading fleeces on pallets and then skirting four of them on bedsheets in the shade. i don’t know how i’ll ever process them all on my own. i suppose like with any other large task i’ll just have to keep plugging away. hopefully the weather cools a bit. hopefully the bath remedies my odor of sheep grease and suint and horehound. 

wellidy. 

 

where to begin? i have had months and months of extreme fatigue and pain. i mention it by way of explanation for my long absences. i don’t want to jinx myself but the last month has been much better. i make myself get up and push the wheelbarrow. i make myself shovel sand. i reward myself with a 20 minute nap in the afternoon. i drink the root of teasels every day. a bitter that makes me shake like a dog from head to toe when i swallow it. but my tremors and jerking limbs and brain fog have greatly improved. i still transpose words and frequently stutter when i talk and fall of a cliff mid-sentence. but not as much as before. and i can read again! (with great trepidation i began reading a novel last night and nearly finished it in a sitting!) my memory improves too. the first week of teasel made the left half of my head feel like it was on fire. like the paralysis was coming back. but it hasn’t come back. touch wood that it never pays me a visit again.

early in the year i threw handfuls of bird’s eye gilia and baby blue eyes seeds around my dad’s cabin. they are blooming now. very stunted for lack of water. but very beautiful. the pomegranate tree that my father planted the day i was born is covered in red blossoms. there are no flowers on the rosemary. the quaker lady iris did not bloom either. it is entirely too dry hereabouts.

visited my father this evening. he told me that when he was a boy he used to charge two bits to mow a lawn. he lived in a poor neighborhood in richmond peopled with mustache petes and eastern european immigrants of which his stepfather was one. every so often a very flashy midnight blue car would pull up and an equally flashy gangster would emerge. he would offer my dad a silver dollar to wash the car. soon every boy in the neighborhood would come running when they saw the blue car. if four boys washed the car there were four silver dollars. my dad would sometimes sell newspapers all day on a busy intersection and earn three cents a whack. sometimes he’d earn a whole dollar. my grandmother would make horse meat taste like veal. they ate cheapest meat stewed with prunes and lots of polenta. salted carp and bony sturgeon. there were bootleggers in and out. my dad learned to graft fruit trees by watching over his stepfather’s shoulder. one spring day peaches bloomed on apricots and apricots on plum. his stepfather stood in the yard scratching his head. a quick study that old dad of mine.

it seems i’ll be moving back to the land of banana slugs come the autumn. feeling both excited and sad simultaneously. how is that? i am a champion fretter.

searching for information on a particular leek and came upon this. thereafter sung the word “onomasticon” under my breath for days until suddenly it was “onomastodon” which i prefer. i rendered an onomastodon in inky pen in the margin of my shopping list. a quill pen in his trunk. a piece of parchment under a ponderous toe.

wellidy. i am shy of news. and so.

 

 

 

been in the throes of flu for about a week now. to my great relief it’s finally waning. to the great relief of others i still have not fully recovered my voice. i sound like the world’s most ineffectual tea kettle every time i say something emphatic and my voice attempts to rise above a phlegmy croak. it’s pretty crummy. on the upside we’re having a wee bit more rain today. my borage will be pleased. ferdinand cat will not be.

i soaked some peat pots in warm water and poked in some seeds last night. i don’t typically have to bother with the planting of seeds because almost everything i intentionally plant comes back from year to year of its own accord. though generally not in designated plots. i still have to plant eggplant indoors and some of the weirder solanum. in the past i’ve grown topiro and naranjilla and solanum pyracanthum (for its ornamental value). but this go i’ll stick with naranjilla because topiro doesn’t taste like much. i planted a few peppers and amaranth and huazontle. and some marigolds i’d brought back from mexico. they are huge and ridiculously pretty not like the things you see in garden centers all stunted in their sixes.

during one of the last walks i took along the railroad tracks (before i was incapacitated with the creeping crud)  i found a goat’s head. it made my heart go skippity. but unfortunately the coyotes had been at it and ruined the skull. there were colonies of mullein with their leaves rolled around them like silver turbans. defensive posture. they curl up in a drought and then unfurl magnificently when rain comes. i saw something sparkling in a hollow oak: cellophane. a man rolled by on a unicycle. a stumpy-legged toddler in yellow wellington boots chased a pony down the trail.

i’ve been making walking sticks. i don’t know why. i wonder who is this army i’m going to furnish with sticks? once i get on a jag i cannot be stopped. i’ll just have to continue making the things until i lose interest. though i told myself the same thing about knitting socks and that bug has yet to find its remedy.

the garden is heavily mulched. i laid it on thick in anticipation of the heat and the dearth of water. things are already sprouting. old-fashioned nasturtiums. cosmos. bee balm. buckwheat. sunflowers and hollyhock. clarkia. calendula. poppies. bird’s eye gilia. red chard. rhubarb. the artichokes are at my waist. i think time passes too swiftly.

 

 

 

 

things that have happened since the last time. blue jay flew into the back room. the room with all the windows. fluttered into my grenadilla vine and bumped the monkey’s cups together so that they made a hollow plunking noise. glided frantically up and down the window until i scared it outside again. on a hot day i woke to a strange strong buzzing and found hundreds of flies in the window frame. like a horror picture. the neighbors had it too. something amiss in the drainage and they crawled through pipes to the indoors. i still shudder when i think about it. one morning i heard a scratching at my bedroom door. when i opened it i found a small grey bird in the dark hallway flying with all its might against the walls. i caught it and put it outdoors. i have no idea how it got inside. got sick. had my guts rearranged. still feel sick but i can sleep better now. haven’t gone on a proper hike in ages. i only plod the shore of the lake and that gets smaller by the day. but it’s raining now so perhaps that will all change.

this morning we took the truck to the landfill to offload our refuse. it generally makes me sad when i go there. people throw away the perfectly useful. antique iron bedsteads. brand new trash cans. whole flower beds that only needed to be dead-headed to bloom again. and the signs warn that scavengers will be dealt with severely. i used to steal anyway. but now there are more men posted and they’re more vigilant. at least these days they remove much of the useable scrap metal. i guess that’s something. today there was an antique writing desk. it was right by the dropped tailgate and if the men had only turned their backs long enough i would have hoisted it in. though i already have an antique writing desk. someone would have loved the one at the dump. it only needed to be sanded and oiled. there was a mountain of vintage school chairs too. i gnashed my teeth.

on the way home we passed the stud ranch. in one of the adjacent pastures a pipe had burst. at first i didn’t know what i was seeing. the field looked like a white crater full of frozen waves. and it was that in a way. the water had gushed over humps of the standing hay and frozen that way. and one whole tree at the far end of the pasture was completely shrouded in ice from root to tip. there were icicles as long as my forearm. it was absolutely lovely. even the PG and E men in the cherry-picker stopped to stare at it. which i suppose explains why their flag man did such a shitty job directing traffic.

father ran out of firewood. he placed an order with a local woodcutter but it won’t come until monday. last night it was 12F. tonight it is sleeting on and off. but we took him an oil radiator and some scrap wood to burn so now he’ll be warm. i can hear the cattle lowing. there are weanlings out there as well as steers. i saw them basking in the weak sunlight this afternoon and looking quite lost without their mamas. turning down my road a grey cat with one white hind foot darted across and under a fence. he looked over his shoulder a few times like he was expecting to lose the other sock.

my mother told me a story she’d told me before. but she added bits she’d always left out. how my grandmother’s church friend came out to the ranch one afternoon when my ma was about 12. she stared at my mother and then teased her about her budding tits until my mother yelled “oh yeah? well, i’ll just get a butcher knife and cut the gall darn things off then!” and the woman laughed and laughed. and then ma cried behind the barn. but then at school her friend maria received the same treatment at the hands of her brother. and she ran to the back of the school to cry. and my mother ran and sat beside her silently commiserating. before long the brother came skulking to apologize. but by then my mother and maria had hatched an elaborate plan to become outlaws and forego growing tits altogether. they ordered a derringer from the back of a magazine and waited but it never came. their tits did though so i am told. i’m still waiting on mine. heredity is cruel. somebody tease me! she told me the story of how her toddler brother hit her in the temple with a hammer and she almost bled to death. and how they burned down the barn playing cowboys. but i already know those stories by heart.

pawed through boxes of old photos. i did some crying. i’m not ashamed. knitted some of those wrist warmer things. knitted some hats. a man saw me standing there knitting and said “wow. you knit fast. look at all that stuff you knitted!” i continued to knit without looking at him and just shifted my weight from foot to foot. said “yeah, i knit when i’m stressed out or have a lot on my mind.” “you must knit a hell of a lot judging by these things,” he said. well spotted.

got a letter from jepson herbarium today. that was nice. it did please me. i’m sure it’s been done but i dream of compiling floristics of this here bit of earth. i also dream of being elbow deep in mounting paper in the herbarium. i do hate having to make up my mind about things i love. i tend to botch those decisions. oh wellidy.

to bed.