Saturday, October 21, 2017


Smudge and her kittens

One of the excellent features of this decrepit house is the big picture window in the kitchen that looks to the east up an alley with a power line running alongside it in diminishing scale like an exercise in perspective.  I take many photos out that window, mostly of the feral cats who hang out there, having dug themselves a burrow under the back workshed.  

In lieu of a deck, I rolled out some old carpet to be a smooth surface.  I will add a photo of the latest brood if I can make the software work.  Every time there are “upgrades” the camera stops interfacing with the computer until I learn a new protocol.  If I don’t download the upgrades, they automatically install themselves in the middle of the night when they somehow turn on my computer unless I unplug it.  I think I should learn to draw cats, at least until they invent a way to upgrade pencils.  (I’m sure they’re working on it.  Mechanical, right?)  

The point of upgrades is to corner the market, sell, sell, sell on grounds that it’s an improvement though it’s really only a way to pull customers away from the fundamental reality of a fist with a pencil.  Of course, my first step away from the physical act of writing was the keyboard.  By now I’m compromised.  But not when it comes to cats.

Recently most of the cats have left, scattering or dying of the plague that sweeps the town when the population gets too dense, or maybe poisoned by the cat-haters, who overlap with the chicken-haters.  (The latter have a point.  Infections from backyard chickens —avian flu— are rising.)  

The first feral cats came years ago when the calico that I call “the Granny Mamacat” arrived with a column of kittens going along behind her.  The one closest to her heels was a tiny gray kitten I called “Smudge.”  The Granny Mamacat was looking pretty tough this summer, a rack of bones with fur going every which way.  Now she’s gone and I suspect she died of old age, but I haven’t gone looking for fear of finding her corpse.  All the kittens but Smudge grew up and disappeared.  Smudge was gone, too, for a while. 

In the days of Smudge’s babyhood, I fed the ferals outside on the carpet, but then there were too many cats because pets from blocks around came to share, dogs ate everything and chewed on the dishes, and one summer a family of magpies carried off cat kibble to feed their babies for weeks.  Now I feed the remaining cats in the garage and lately I’ve been standing over the dishes at mealtime to enforce who can eat.  

The kittens have just experimented with drinking water, which was funny to watch.  One tried putting a paw in the water, tried scooping water with a paw, finally put his (?) nose in — which made him sneeze — and finally began to lap.  The other two watched closely and saw how to do it.

I can’t touch any of these cats, so the only genders I know for sure are the mother cats.  Technically, they are not feral but satellite cats who revolve around this household.  They evolved because of agriculture when people kept cows and had barns.  In those days they didn’t use poison.  At least not as much as today.  So there is a cat surplus which — because the dogs are all confined by a leash law — thrive in relative safety.  On ranches it is coyotes who are the canid limit to felines.  It’s ecological.

Only a few cats are living in the garage now.  Uncle Shorty is a big patched cat from a previous kitten batch.  He had really short legs at first but they grew to normal size.  Shorty will attend cat births, snatch the kittens while they’re still slimy and eat them.  I can’t blame him much, since I wait a day or so and then, if I can find them, I drown them.  The death toll is dozens by now.  I drown them in my rather splendid bathroom sink in warm water, holding them firmly together in a bunch and singing, to make it a sort of ceremony of returning to the womb.  It doesn’t take long.  Sometimes I weep.

Some reading this will be horrified and never read this blog again, because drowning kittens has become a signifier of unbearable and unjustified cruelty in our society.  We can accept hundreds of thousands of deaths of humans and animals so long as it’s far away and doesn’t cost money — indeed, may make a profit.  My cousins and friends do not want me to talk about such social justice issues because it won’t “sell.”  They want me to write “cute” kitten stories.

One of Smudge’s kitten-batches was drowned except for one that somehow escaped.  She raised it under a big pile of windfall branches in that back workshed which I keep in case all sources of heat fail except for my little woodstove.  (The gas has never failed so far, but the electricity does.)  The kitten was elusive but survived sub-zero temps.  I called her “the Blue Bunny” because she really was gray shading towards blue.  (Blue Bunny is a local brand of ice cream.)  

When she was still tiny, the neighbor bought an old pickup that had three stowaways.  One died, one became the neighbor’s pet and one came over to live with us.  That was Finnegan, a big tough Ulster Scot striped tomcat who as he grew took over the house.  Blue Bunny fell madly in love with this delinquent and would sit next to him, leaning fondly.  Since Finnegan was tame, so became Blue Bunny as well.

This line of cats was quite unlike any others in Valier.  They were very much like the Primordial Source of all domestic cats:  aggressive, inclined to climb, yowlers, long-tailed, long-legged and long-snouted.  They bite.  After research I concluded they were the product of a trend to try to breed back to original cats which resulted in what are called “Bengal” cats.  I’ll save Finnegan stories for later.  What’s relevant is that he is gone now, after being a bad influence and fathering kittens with the Blue Bunny.  

Smudge’s most recent batch from the burrow is barely old enough to be out bumbling around, exploring the yard.  Recently we’ve had some warm days, the kind we would call Indian Summer if we weren’t worried about seeming racist, and I took a photo out the window of Smudge nursing her three little gray powder puffs of kittens.

Bunny — Smudge’s grownup offspring — had four kittens last spring.  When I began to take them, she realized what I was doing and carried two of them through the open trapdoor to the crawl space under the house.  The little black and white one was hastily grabbed by a hind leg instead of her nape which made her emit unearthly screams and shrieks.  After that, there was no sound or sign of them.  I didn’t even see Bunny go under the house again, but I left the trap door open just in case.  I can drown kittens — so long as they’re eyes are closed and they’re barely born — but I don’t want anything anywhere to starve.

One day I heard mewing in the crawl space.  When I went down, a little kitten, sort of marbleized gray, came staggering out of the darkness towards me.  I picked him up, cuddled him under my chin, and named him Doux because he was so soft.  But there was no sign of the tuxedo-marked kitten for a couple more days.  Then, again, mewing.  I went down and called and here came Tuxie out of the dark.  

I made a box bed but Bunny would have none of it.  Ever since, the three have slept on my bed with me.  I make them stay down at my feet, because they have a habit of reaching out with a front paw, like the kitten testing water -- I think because of growing up in the dark, feeling their way.  They want to pat my mouth (I know where their paws have been) or my eyes, but they forget to pull in their claws, so I wear my glasses to nap when they are likely to visit my head.

They are a little malformed and possibly sterile because of growing up with no sun whatsoever.  Douxie has only one testicle, so I sometimes call him Mono or One Ball. (Very rude.  He is, in general, an indignant cat.)  Tuxie has a flat and glossy coat like patent leather, a little black soul patch on her chin, and tufts of white hair in her “armpits.”  She does not get pregnant.  Neither has Bunny become pregnant again, but she nursed the two kittens until they were bigger than herself.  She has never been one to yowl, climb or shred the furniture, but her offspring do.  Douxie likes to perch on the top edge of open doors.  Tuxie begs me to turn on a little stream of fresh water in the sink, which she drinks and drinks.  She rarely drinks from the water bowl.

There are other stories, some sad, some maddening, some funny.  There is no humane society in this county.  The neighboring county shelters will not accept animals from Pondera Co, which is where Valier is.  The favorite way of dealing with a problem cat is to drive it out onto the landscape somewhere and leave it.  I’m spending about a hundred dollars a month on cat food, which I cannot afford, but as I say, I have a thing about starvation.  (In reality cats are good at finding new homes, but I also have a thing about desertion or abandonment or whatever it is.)

I do not think these are the kind of clever little kitten stories that will make money.  My cousins and friends cannot hear this.  To them, the point of writing is to make money.  If it is good writing, it will make more money.  "Cute" sells. There is no other definition of “good” than sale-able.  They do not believe that the Internet has made it impossible to make money by writing.  Therefore, they think, my blog is a waste of time, the eccentricity of an aging woman who never would behave.  There’s more to talk about.  I've already posted about the cats quite a bit.

Friday, October 20, 2017


It’s a unique kind of reflexivity to have to consider how the media (access, creation, preservation, distribution, compensation, access) affects one’s own writing, particularly in a predatory world that gobbles up writing faster than any one person or even any one slush pile can provide it.  Through flattery and unlikely promises, there are plenty of cyber-sites looking for free content, whether family photos that can be resold as illustrations or naive writing that is likely out on the edges — if not across the boundary — of the accepted stream.  The people who post advice about writing don’t often consider the changes.  They are stuck in the past.

My metier is blogging, long form (a thousand words per post).  It is blogging because I post it daily on blogspot, beginning in 2006, so that it is a steady stream of writing on a variety of subjects in a variety of styles, a little like a newspaper column.  For years I had a co-writer or two, but most of that work went to a different provider because it included video.  I also stockpile fiction on Wordpress, which is supposed to be the high-end high-prestige provider.  I find it difficult to use and over-concerned with making things fancy.

If you like “fancy,” Sharon Brogan is a poet in Missoula who explores the ultimate in “fancy,” a kind of graphic digital collage derived from “scrapbooking.”  It is unique, hosted by Tumblr which is a site that excels in visual work and sound as well as print.  Since their audience is younger and edgier, I sometimes post there, esp. during times when I’m posting spoken words instead of print.  But I don’t do fancy — usually just a photo at the heading.  I try to use my own photos.

“Blog” originally meant a log of what one visited.  When I’m bouncing off someone else’s posts, I try to remember to link to them, either so my reader can follow back or so I can retrace how I got to my own piece.  I appreciate the online resourcefulness of word invention, like “pokemon” to mean “pocket monster”, because they are so evocative and funny, but I’m finding that many people are just baffled and don’t like learning new words anyway.  It’s part of what discourages computer use.  

Of course, with a search engine even I can keep up with slang and neologisms — very useful when watching something like “Top Boy,” a Netflix series about Jamaicans in London.  I’m always surprised that something like Google can know so many unique words.  “Bell me,” the boy says, making the telephone gesture from the days when one picked up a receiver.  I’m even more surprised when many of these conflated languages include the characteristic “init” that Blackfeet use.  

The fact of producing blocks of print on many subjects finally means I have thousands of entries along certain threads.  Thus I’m accumulating streams or themes that could be printed as books and are POD (print-on-demand) at  They aren’t as smoothly edited or neatly sequential as purpose-written books with the paraphernalia of intro, index, footnotes, and all the other evolved bits.  

I’ve got one “book” about Valier that follows the water: the historical construction of Swift Dam to create the irrigation canal system for grain growing and the town that resulted, connecting to railroad and oceanic shipping and thus to politics.  Today the crumbling edge of the future is melted glaciers, diminishing snowpack, and therefore smaller reservoir content.  Also the empowerment of the reservations along the mountains, which means that this writing can make some people very nervous.  If this were a conventionally published book, there would be pressure to trim facts certain ways.  Sid Gustafson’s book entitled “Swift Dam” is fiction, mythologized poetically, which means the irrigation industry is not threatened.  It's true in a different way.

I wrote a proper book about teaching on the rez called "Heartbreak Butte," but it was unpublishable for political reasons so I converted it to being a blog by posting the chapters separately.

Another book I’m “accumulating” is theory about how to create intense experiences, possibly religious.  "The Bone Chalice."  It began as my proposed thesis in seminary and by now has been transformed by the amazing new research in cell-level neurology, the actual creation of thought in response to experience.  And that has doubled back to the literary theory of Lakoff, et al, that was developing at and around the U of Chicago when I was there — but I never knew it except for the early books.  This approach to understanding is metaphor-based which gives me an advantage as a former English teacher.   (God is a metonymy.  Also a personification.) To be convincing, I will include a lot of vids, both talking heads and creative experiments, which is possible online.  The end point may turn out to be a paper handbook with links.

Today’s world is so hungry, so avaricious, so boundaryless, that it is impossible to copyright or even control whatever is created.  There is no use in expecting profit.  One must not be surprised when work is diverted, twisted, exploited.  My strength is that, nearing eighty, I have such a backlog of experience that I can keep up momentum.  It is an advantage to have my family’s albums as resource and reminder.

A gray panther rather than a “cougar”, I seize the online evasion of editors in order to be as “pervy” as I choose and use as offensive language as suits me.  Those who read what I write must come to the source voluntarily but are free to shun me.  I won’t even know.  So much about sex and other previously censored life is waiting to be sorted and understood.  The taboos are melting back like glaciers.

Blogging is such a strange mix of the eternal — if you understand the Wayback or if you’ve downloaded a lot (recently I ran across pages and pages of printed-out posts from an early Native American chat room in the 1990's, when I thought it all might disappear so I should save it) — and the inscrutable.  I still can’t figure out how to access any streaming services for movies (Hulu, et al) except Netflix which frustrates me with their lowbrow offerings.  Maybe it’s just as well — I should read instead.  But I write reviews and I like to review movies.

All this is so “thick” and uniquely and internally contradictory that I’ve only run across a few people who can follow — one or two of whom have led me into even more esoteric places — but another characteristic of old age is not wanting to be a consumer except on my own terms.  People try to make contact by offering things.  I’m discouraged that they don’t think in terms of anything but subject matter.  Media, skill-level, intensity, uniqueness, connection to shared experience — all seem to mean little or nothing.

At this point, time is short.  I spend my mornings writing, in theory do maintenance in the afternoons, and these days am following Rachel Maddow through the terrifying jungle of history-in-the-making.  I hope we both survive to the end of this cataclysm.  I believe with many others that we may be witnessing the death of democracy, the end of the Internet, the self-snuffing of the last hominids.  I sometimes feel I’m scratching lines with a rusty nail on a last chunk of rubble.  It’s urgent.

Thursday, October 19, 2017



This is entirely imaginary and based on scraps and hints of history, except that we do know that Jefferson and Clark were trusting friends.  We do know that Clark’s slave York was a boyhood inheritance from his father, that he was a full member of the L and C expedition, and that he was eventually freed.  It is not legally proven that Sally Hemings was Martha Jefferson’s half-sister and had children by him.  Sally and the children were eventually freed.

This invented conversation is meant to be a speculative inquiry into human relationships which are often defined by the “names given the concepts” which do not necessarily reflect actual phenomena like emotional bonding, obligations of role, and love.  For factual information about these two fascinating and prominent men, consult the many sources.  

Clearly there is enough material for a much expanded manuscript, maybe a play.  Maybe Sacajawea and Sally Hemings  or York and Pomp ought to be added.  Go for it.

Martha Jefferson
There are no portraits of Sally Hemings.

It is late and the two friends sit on the porch at Monticello, enjoying the breeze that is driving away mosquitoes, the faint sound of singing from the slave quarters, and a bottle of wine from Jefferson’s own “cellar” which constantly led him into debt because of his fondness for fine wines.

“What do you hear from York?” asked the president, knowing that Clark had recently sent him to Kentucky to be near his wife, an experiment since they had spent little time together over the years.  “Are there children?”

“York’s not literate and I guess neither is his wife, so they may not have located someone to write for them.  Or they have nothing to say.  But I get regular letters from Pomp, Sacajawea’s boy.  My own fourteen children have a rather irregular pattern of correspondence, but from Pomp — maybe a habit from boarding school where it was enforced — I get regular messages even when he is on the frontier.  I did even when he was in Europe.”

“Some accept their fathers and some do not,” mused Jefferson.  “Nothing is better in life than a loving family but it is not assured by blood relationship.”

[Jefferson had six children by his legal wife but four of them died young, leaving two daughters.  In-laws and feuds among relatives were problematic and damaging.  Maybe things went better with the children of his slave, Sally, who was his white wife’s half-sister.]  

The lanterns were fluttering in the bit of wind.   “I could not love Pomp more if he were my blood child.  He seems born out of the expedition itself, a time when we were tried to the limits but also full of amazement and satisfactions.  I was not Sacajawea’s husband and my blood children were from two wives, but those marriage bonds were not so strong nor vivid as those that came from saving and being saved by Sacajawea, not much more than a child herself by white standards and totally uneducated in any white way.  Her naked infant, kicking his feet there on a scrap of blanket, went straight to my heart.  He was my “dancing boy” from the beginning.”  Clark knocked the dottle from his pipe and refilled it, trying to hold down emotion.

Jefferson held up the wine bottle they were sharing in order to see how much was left.  “My wife, as you know, on her death bed, made me promise not to remarry in order to show my love for her, but what could I do when her sister was so much like her in so many ways — not just appearance.  Sally had no formal education but was so alert to what Martha learned that her mind held much the same ideas.  Sometimes more grounded in what was real.”

Clark laughed.  “York was also more attuned to what was really there, a good cook who could gather some of our food as we went along.  But he was prone to excess, exhaustion, and easily seduced by women along the way.  He was an object of curiosity because of his color, but when children were afraid of him, he couldn’t resist pretending that he was a cannibal, never registering that the main monster of those people was the Wendigo, famine personified who did indeed kill children.  He went too far.”

Jefferson sighed.  “Martha’s request that I not remarry was a little selfish of her since she herself had been married and widowed as a young woman before I met her.  But I’m one who fulfills my obligations and I did love Martha, honored her and kept her as carefully as any other part of my plantation estate.  Sally was also my obligation.  The people who live close to the land seem sturdier than those who are elegantly housebound.  Your York and my Sally had a vitality and primitive resilience.  I didn’t see them as lacking.  Three of my freed children could pass, you know.”

“Indeed.  And Pomp for all his appetite for the wilderness was educated to read and write in Greek and Latin, and after his friendly sojourn in Europe could speak those Romance languages.  He exceeded both his blood father and his heritage father.  But likely his intelligence and temperament came from his mother."

Clark went on, “We know so little about what of a person’s capacity is inheritance and what is a different kind of legacy.  York was given to me by my father, meant to be my companion and guardian but never my superior.  This he accepted most of his life until after the expedition people began to urge him to be my equal, to be free.  I protected him — made sure of him having food and shelter.  But then he wanted more even though the conditions of the time and his race would never let him have as much as I could give him.  Never the dependability, the security, the defense against predatory whites.  He didn’t do so well with his freedom.”

There was a pause while Jefferson reflected.  “In France my family was accepted as wife and children.  Perhaps they were “mine” as possessions, as a man owns his marital alliance and the progeny that result, but their class was never questioned; they were not stigmatized as they were in America.”

Clark nodded.  “Pomp likewise found that the best freedom in civilized society was in Europe, but that no company was so tolerant as the great Western tribes, once he understood their ways.”

Jefferson sighed.  “Slaves always understand our white ways.  Or at least are careful to let us think so.”

Clark’s voice rose as he asked, “But what ARE our ways?  Which is the JUST way that gives us each our freedom?”

The singing had stopped.  The sounds of insects filled the air.  The sky was becoming pale.  "We'd best retire," said Jefferson.  The dark little boy who had been dozing in the corner was relieved.  Now he could get some real sleep.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


The human system of perception and action that we call “thinking” is complex and often binary, though not in the way that computer code is.  I’m referring to the halves of the brain, the bilateral construction of the body (two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears, two nostril holes), and the reciprocal cycles of all the electrochemical and molecular signal systems (depletion, then renewal, then depletion).  

We are used to thinking of the nervous system in terms of action, meaning operation of the stiff coral-like bones by opposed muscle systems that use a variety of hinge styles (ball and socket, lever).  The nervous system also gives us access to the world outside our skins through cells that are up against the stimulus and cells that carry the code back to the brain.  But there is a whole second system:  the autonomic nervous system which reports to the brain in a yes/no manner (sympathetic/parasympathetic) that is not controlled by the “other” nerves but that monitors emotion by registering internal organ states and operations.   

Then there are fluid systems, the blood but also the lymph/mucus/plasma that fill the skin-sack and engulf all cells in chemical neurotransmitter reporting and operational code.  We can easily interfere with it by ingesting substances.  But these fluid systems interact with the long strands of sensory and internal signals, so that movement and even ideas can change molecular content and blood pressure.  Since the marrow of the bones are the origin of body fluids, stresses on hinge and structure can change thought, and thought in electrochemical terms can change bone function.

Now developing is a whole theory of operations: how these systems work together and against each other, reconfiguring through experience to create and maintain a “hallucination” that is your identity, your conviction of reality.  This linked video — an hour-long class lecture — explains how the consciousness and its immediate but UNconscious substrate work.  George Lakoff: How Brains Think: The Embodiment Hypothesis

In the shortest account, embodiment of thought works by connecting neurons in the cerebral cortex, which responds to repetition, pre-existing connections, and editing out of what is considered irrelevant.  The basic mode of thought is metaphor.  This justifies “religion” as an art form, visual or literary, and encourages humanities as the substrate of thought as much or more than logic and math, which can also be seen as metaphor.

Even newer than this is a body of thought developing called “extended cognition,” which plays “the active role of the environment in driving cognitive processes.”  That is, the manipulation of objects that are also mental concepts interacting.  When one plays chess, are the movements of the figures on the board external or internal?  To read more, 
and  This explains why different cultures from different ecologies see the world quite differently.  The physical world they have internalized is quite different and even leads to different conclusions, different strategies.

There are two more steps.  One is “theory of mind” which is one’s idea of what those other beings’ behaviors mean about their thinking.  In a small town people are always trying to understand their neighbors' goals and strategies, but they must figure them out in terms of what they already know.  (See above.)  Yet those neighbors may have had experiences and come to conclusions markedly different or even invisible to the observer, who may not know that the evidence even exists, that a world different than that of the observer is possible.  Here is where nations run into problems — how does a Somali understand the Inuit?

The other is "empathy" which is more than a feeling about someone else's circumstances, but instead a direct sharing of that other person's state of mind through eye contact and/or posture.  Many feel this is where evolution is happening now.

There are yet more forces, including the reptile brain and the mammal brain that are the foundation of the human metaphorical mind and even the rational consciousness that is what we assume is “thinking”.  The instincts (oh, yes! -- concepts so deep and elemental that they have been encoded in DNA ) and survival responses of all the aeons of development can burst up through everything evolved since, like the movie Alien’s spawn bursting up out of the soft viscera of the space men, with results just as disastrous.  In fact, the alien story is essentially a metaphor for that earthbound experience of the primordial erupting through whatever culture we have made from our environment.  

So now turn your attention to a new streaming series called “Mindhunter”, about an FBI team trying to understand and predict serial killers, each case an illustration of the above (ALL of the above) in terms of how this alien spawn was implanted in them by a culture that stigmatizes and tries to destroy what it doesn’t like because it’s not understood and maybe interferes with other agendas.  The humanness of the serial killer morphs into a metaphor system that drives him (usually “him”) obsessively to perform deeply antisocial acts.  

The “hook” of the series is that the investigators as they work bring to life their own internal primal structures, which are not necessarily benign and can lead to madness.  But the FBI is an excellent example of an order-keeping body that keeps its sanity and legitimacy by denying the humanity of the criminals, which means they never figure them or their motives out.  This persisting inscrutability of crime — easy to demonize but probably at the core simply dissonant — has the advantage of preserving the employment of FBI agents.  I’ll be very interested in where the second season goes.

In the meantime, we read Dostoyevsky and puzzle over his “Notes from the Underground.”  We struggle to make iconoclasts, immigrants, and children conform to our version of reality and wonder at both violence against others and suicide when someone’s reality has become so painful that death bursts out of the flesh.

Or maybe it’s just a mistake in thinking, a lack of proper information about the dangers of drugs, an environment that won’t support a culture of alternatives, child-raising practices that deform their very bones by not supplying what they need for healthy growth.  Standing apart to depict and analyze a culture or a person or a category of society is a risky business not usually economically supported, even if the emotion and thought of an individual want to take it on. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


“My grandson is taking a class as a sophomore, can't remember the name of it, in it he learned that we are all stardust..All living things are now considered to be formed from the core that forms a star!”   This report comes from my early playmate, a Catholic girl who passed on her catechism lessons to me.  We worried about babies in limbo.

This is my current understanding of a genesis story that begins with a star.  There must have been something before that, but it is inconceivable to the human mind.  Some think it started with a whimper or wrinkle but guys like the idea that it began with a bang.  (As big as possible.)

The simplest elements, hookups of atoms, formed in that moment and continued to form.  When they had gotten to the stage of dust, they swirled and made patterns out of the code of proton/neutron/electron that responded to things like gravity and electricity while creating it.  Some of this stuff became the furnaces of atomic fusion that we call stars and some of it became planets gyring round the stars and some of it made moons around the planets.

Volcanoes, storms of atmosphere, formation of water and seas, all was drama until things settled down enough for microscopic things to happen in the mud and clay: bubbles that became one-celled animals through the coding node of the nucleus, a double helix.  These had the ability to respond to the environment by going towards food and going away from danger, like bigger meaner one-celled animals who considered them food.  The environment was not inert but kept on doing its own thing.  

The one-cells divided between those who stayed in one place and those who were active, moving.  The stay-in-place ones turned green when their nuclei began to code for “eating” sunlight.  The move-around ones developed red blood as a way of carrying oxygen while they ate plants.  And other animals.  Some nuclei shucked their cells so then they were viruses and invaded other cells, corrupting the DNA codes in those nuclei.  Or sometimes it was the RNA, which was the template for DNA.

All this interaction and opportunism — as often partnerships as predation — complexified codes of all kinds and gave rise to many kinds of emergence and redaction, all pushing for space and seeping into the business of each other.  This mostly happened in water, and then it got onto the land and into the air, which gave life of every kind new opportunities to mutate and exploit.  Of course, much also was snuffed or abandoned.

But all the creatures enclosed in skins soon were colonized by teeny parasites in their guts, under their skins, in the follicles of their eyelashes.  Some made contributions and some under-mined the creature’s system.

The tree of evolution has now been abandoned in favor of a wheel of life pattern, because there is no steady and inevitable progression to complexity, elegance, and some fine goal.  The code reverses, jumps, merges, rearranges parts.  Things go along seemingly haphazardly until one day there are backbones and amphibians (egg-layers who don’t care about their babies) and creatures with wings and songs who lay eggs but care deeply about their babies.  

Many kinds of apes develop into different kinds of hominins, many Adams and many Eves, and many fossils that are not quite like each other because of the differences in the environment which settle into ecologies.  There are a lot of bugs and the wild codes of viruses persist and adapt to whatever cells there are, carrying code infection whereever they go.  One thing emerges from another until one day what emerges is a “virtual” code, only in the minds the mammals, and then it evolves into a “culture”, a new kind of nuclear code that hallucinates the environment inside the brain, makes a map of sensory information: where the food is, what the signs of predators are.  The apes learn to sing and make nests but never do learn to fly until much later when they have machines and parasails.  Maybe at the early point they begin to watch birds and WANT to fly.  Desire is being born.

One kind of hominin becomes dominant and maybe kills all the other kinds out of competition and jealousy, or maybe they just die out for no overwhelming reason, maybe they are just rough drafts.  Maybe the viruses eat them.  By this time behavior is a major factor and any creature that doesn’t take care of the babies long enough for them to reach maturity and seed the next generation just can’t persist.

In broad areas there will be disasters of earthquake, volcano, drought, hurricane, that wipe out great numbers of hominins.  Those that are not killed, esp. the ones who have learned how to survive in extremes (far north, deep tropics and bare deserts) by making and doing compensatory things, watch and learn even more about how to prepare, survive, and even help others.  Now there is compassion and justice.  Compassion lives in baby protecting parts — arms and heart; justice lives in the pre-frontal cortex.

So now modern humans are reptiles wrapped in mammals wrapped in apes wrapped in hominins of various potentials who were subsumed over millennia.  The eastern coast of Eurasia, which we call China, was one place modern life suddenly bloomed: agriculture, villages, money, weapons, domestic animals.  The western coast of Eurasia, esp. the internal womb-like sea we call the Mediterranean, was another center: the same sequence.  Coasts allow ships, sea-faring brings cultural options.  There is always food where there is water.

When the last glaciers withdrew  from Eurasia (which is NOT two continents), the humans followed the melt-line north, but the vast inner spaces of the continents were herd-grazing spaces.  Herding was a human option, but a different path of development, more like the hunting-gathering origins of humans.  This is true of North America as well.

The Mediterranean forms of culture, esp the Roman/Hebraic form of empire, marched up the western coasts and valleys of what we call “Europe” and created what we call the Western World or the Developed World or the First World, though in Canada that suggests the early peoples of that continent who have developed in another slightly different way.

The key to Western Civilization was a monotheistic insistence coming out of the three Abrahamic descendants: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Big Cheese Brothers who have never stopped trying to replace the Tribal Chieftain with their own selves.  Until we give up that pattern, which many of us have, we will be locked in combat one way or another.

This story is “scientific” which is another Roman/Hebraic tradition which steps aside from the tribe in search of the universal, not necessarily human.  This method depends on evidence (and more is always appearing) and on the humility of knowing that it all might be wrong, which has always been a sub-theme of human thought everywhere, usually in response to the suffering of others.

Only humans know they will die.  Only some humans look forward to it.  Then they will go back to being stardust.

Monday, October 16, 2017


I redacted the photos so you'll need to use links to get them.  There are Blackfeet/Blackfoot photos, but not in this story.  You could go to Google Images to get a lot of examples.

Paul Seesequasis, writer and editor, is optimistic that perceptions of indigenous peoples are changing. 
Sharing archival photos of Indigenous life on Twitter has not only taught author Paul Seesequasis about the strength and humour of his mother's generation — but it also netted him a book deal.

The Saskatchewan Plains Cree writer and journalist started posting the images two years ago, while the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women's inquiry and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission were dominating the headlines.
Inspired by a comment from his residential school survivor mother that "we don't hear enough positive stories about Indigenous life during that time," he started digging up old images in public archives of Aboriginal Peoples across Canada from the 1940s to the 1970s.

"And from there I started posting them up on Twitter and later on Facebook, and just started to receive a very positive response and that kind of gave me the momentum to keep going," Seesequasis told As It Happens.

Penguin Random House took notice and will be collecting the images in a book called Blanket Toss Under Midnight Sun, due to hit shelves in the fall of 2018. 
Seesequasis spoke to As It Happens guest host Susan Bonner about the photos. Here is a part of their conversation.

SB: Were you looking for just images that depicted positive scenes of Indigenous life?

PS: I was looking for images that captured the resilience and the integrity of communities across Canada during that time. So, in that essence, yes, positive.
But I was also looking for photos that captured the sense of personality of people, as well as people going about their day-to-day lives, as opposed to posed photographs.

SB:  Are there a couple that really stand out for you as meeting your objectives?

PS: One would be by Richard Harrington, who was up in Nunavut, or what is now Nunavut, in the late '40s and early '50s, and he took one called "Foot Race." 
It's just a marvelous photo. It captures humour and joy and day-to-day life, and I think that one stands out.

As does a photo by Rosemary Eaton of a Dene boy in Saskatchewan, and he's dressed in a very beautiful beaded jacket and he has this lead dog bedside him and the dog is sort of snuggling against his leg, and there's just something very warm in that photo that when its posted, people have responded to.

View image on Twitter

To me, it's photos like that, they just speak to something in our hearts or in how we view them that captures a moment as much as a photograph can, and captures the integrity of the subjects themselves. 

SB: Tell me about some of the responses you've been getting.
PS: I'm getting responses from people saying, 'Oh, that's my late father' or 'That's my auntie, that's my uncle,' or 'Oh my god, that's me and I was 16 with my dog and I've never seen this photo before.'

View image on Twitter

I think sometimes it is the process of reclamation, of people being able to reclaim their families or how their ancestors lived with the land, as well as culture and traditions.

SB: What have you personally learned about Indigenous identity through curating these photos? 

PS: The first thing I've learned is respect for the hardships that people went through ... particularly in instances when there's starvation, near starvation, residential schools — all that process that attempted to shatter the sense of community within different regions.

View image on Twitter

But at the same time how, despite that, people were able to hold it together. And without their resilience and without their determination, you know, our languages would not be here, the culture would not be here in the way it is. And I think we're seeing now a new generation coming up that is really reaping the benefits of what the previous generations were able to do.

And then there's the humour and the tall stories that also come out with the photos, and that's also part of oral history and a very rewarding thing to be a small part of.

SB: Tell me one of those humorous stories. I understand there's one about a boy and a cigarette.
PS: Oh yeah, there's one where Jacob Partridge, who is Kuujjuaq, and Rosemary Eaton, who is one of the pioneering photojournalists ... just happened to be there this day he had his first cigarette. And I think he was probably having it, as he said, to show off to her, 'cause he was 16 at the time.

View image on Twitter

You can sort of see that he's kind of playing with the camera a bit and feeling quite proud of himself. Now, you know, 50 years later, he's laughing about that.

SB: So, I've got to ask you what your mom thinks of all this?

PS: I think she thinks it keeps me out of trouble. Maybe she thinks I spend too much time on the computer, I'm not sure. We'll know when the book comes out how she feels about it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Paul Seesequasis.