For our good friends Rik & Christel who are visiting the US:
I’ve known Rik since I tumbled into Mt. Shasta many years ago. I decided that maybe I should finish up High School… I met Rik the first day, and we have been friends since. There will be years where we don’t see each other, or even talk, but when we do reconnect, it is as if there wasn’t any time of separation.
I long worried over his path, as he didn’t seem to settle into anything for long… (being quite the gypsy and all)
I shouldn’t have worried, he always had a wondrous sense of luck and grace. (I have stories!)
He met Christel several years back, they became friends, then lovers, then life partners a year and a half back. We were thrilled to watch this all unfold; and we fell in love with Christel as well. Over visits, and drinks, laughter and conversation over a couple of years we saw the joyous combination that they had forged.
In September 2005 they got married at their home in Ashland (where this picture is from) with guest from all over the country, and friends spanning many, many years. Rowan was the videographer for the event, and it was indeed a culmination of their time in the US. The next month they moved overseas to France.
They have a house in a lovely small village in the Languedoc. (Christel was European born) They have made a good life with each other there, and now are back visiting a new grandchild in DC, Rik’s parents and family in California, and clearing up possessions left in Ashland.
Sadly, we won’t get to see them this time around, but we will be heading to France soon to spend a couple of weeks with them as we can.
I spoke to Rik this morning via the phone, as I sat with my first cup of coffee. It was like old times, we laughed and talked about changing the world.
This edition is for the both of you whom we love very much…
On the Menu
An Extract: James Stephens’ “The Crock of Gold”
Poems of Gary Snyder
Man Grabs Shark With Hands; Blames Vodka
An Extract: James Stephens’ “The Crock of Gold”
(another suggestion from Derek!)
… In a short time he came
to the rough, heather-clumped field wherein the children
had found Pan, and as he was proceeding up the hill, he
saw Caitilin Ni Murrachu walking a little way in front
with a small vessel in her hand. The she-goat which she
had just milked was bending again to the herbage, and
as Caitilin trod lightly in front of him the Philosopher
closed his eyes in virtuous anger and opened them again
in a not unnatural curiosity, for the girl had no clothes
on. He watched her going behind the brush and dis-
appearing in the cleft of the rock, and his anger, both
with her and Pan, mastering him he forsook the path of
prudence which soared to the mountain top, and followed
that leading to the cave. The sound of his feet brought
Caitilin out hastily, but he pushed her by with a harsh
word. “Hussy,” said he, and he went into the cave
where Pan was.
As he went in he already repented of his harshness and
“The human body is an aggregation of flesh and sinew,
around a central bony structure. The use of clothing is
primarily to protect this organism from rain and cold,
and it may not be regarded as the banner of morality
without danger to this fundamental premise. If a per-
son does not desire to be so protected who will quarrel
with an honourable liberty? Decency is not clothing but
Mind. Morality is behaviour. Virtue is thought –
“I have often fancied,” he continued to Pan, whom he
was now confronting, “that the effect of clothing on mind
must be very considerable, and that it must have a modi-
fying rather than an expanding effect, or, even, an in-
tensifying as against an exuberant effect. With clothing
the whole environment is immediately affected. The air,
which is our proper medium, is only filtered to our bodies
in an abated and niggardly fashion which can scarcely be
as beneficial as the generous and unintermitted elemental
play. The question naturally arises whether clothing is
as unknown to nature as we have fancied? Viewed as a
protective measure against atmospheric rigour we find
that many creatures grow, by their own central impulse,
some kind of exterior panoply which may be regarded as
their proper clothing. Bears, cats, dogs, mice, sheep and
beavers are wrapped in fur, hair, fell, fleece or pelt, so
these creatures cannot by any means be regarded as be-
ing naked. Crabs, cockroaches, snails and cockles have
ordered around them a crusty habiliment, wherein their
original nakedness is only to be discovered by force, and
other creatures have similarly provided themselves with
some species of covering. Clothing, therefore, is not
an art, but an instinct, and the fact that man is born
naked and does not grow his clothing upon himself from
within but collects it from various distant and haphazard
sources is not any reason to call this necessity an instinct
for decency. These, you will admit, are weighty reHec-
tions and worthy of consideration before we proceed to
the wide and thorny subject of moral and immoral ac-
tion. Now, what is virtue?” –
Pan, who had listened with great courtesy to these
Remarks, here broke in on the Philosopher.
“Virtue,” said he, “is the performance of pleasant
The Philosopher held the statement far a moment on
“And what, then, is vice?” said he.
“It is vicious,” said Pan, “to neglect the performance
of pleasant actions.”
“If this be so,” the other commented, “philosophy has
up to the present been on the wrong track.”
“That is so,” said Pan. “Philosophy is an immoral
practice because it suggests a standard of practice im-
possible of being followed, and which, if it could be fol-
lowed, would lead to the great sin of sterility.”
“The idea of virtue,” said the Philosopher, with some
indignation, “has animated the noblest intellects of the
“It has not animated them,” replied Pan; “it has hyp-
notised them so that they have conceived virtue as re-
pression and self-sacrifice as an honourable thing instead
of the suicide which it is.”
“Indeed,” said the Philosopher; “this is very interest-
ing, and if it is true the whole conduct of life will have
to be very much simplified.”
“Life is already very simple,” said Pan; “it is to
be born and to die, and in the interval to eat and drink,
to dance and sing, to marry and beget children.”
“But it is simply materialism,” cried the Philosopher.
“Why do you say ‘but’?” replied Pan.
“It is sheer, unredeemed animalism,” continued his
“It is any name you please to call it,” replied Pan.
“You have proved nothing,” the Philosopher shouted.
“What can be sensed requires no proof.”
“You leave out the new thing,” said the Philosopher.
“You leave out brains. I believe in mind above matter.
Thought above emotion. Spirit above flesh.”
“Of course you do,” said Pan, and he reached for his
The Philosopher ran to the opening of the passage and
thrust Caitilin aside. “Hussy,” said he fiercely to her,
and he darted out.
As he went up the rugged path he could hear the pipes
of Pan, calling and sobbing and making high merriment
on the air.
“SHE does not deserve to be rescued,” said the Philoso-
pher, “but I will rescue her. Indeed,” he thought a mo-
ment later, “she does not want to be rescued, and, there-
fore, I will rescue her.”
As he went down the road her shapely figure floated
before his eyes as beautiful and simple as an old statue.
He wagged his head angrily at the apparition, but it
would not go away. He tried to concentrate his mind on
a deep, philosophical maxim, but her disturbing image
came between him and his thought, blotting out the lat-
ter so completely that a moment after he had stated his
aphorism he could not remember what it had been. Such
a condition of mind was so unusual that it bewildered
“Is a mind, then, so unstable,” said he, “that a mere
figure, an animated geometrical arrangement can shake
it from its foundations?”
The idea horrified him: he saw civilisation building
its temples over a volcano. . .
“A puff,” said he, “and it is gone. Beneath all is
chaos and red anarchy, over all a devouring and insistent
appetite. Our eyes tell us what to think about, and our
wisdom is no more than a catalogue of sensual stimuli.”
He would have been in a state of deep dejection were
it not that through his perturbation there bubbled a
stream of such amazing well-being as he had not felt
since childhood. Years had toppled from his shoulders.
He left one pound of solid matter behind at every stride.
His very skin grew flexuous, and he found a pleasure in
taking long steps such as he could not have accounted
for by thought. Indeed, thought was the one thing he
felt unequal to, and it was not precisely that he could
not think but that he did not want to. All the importance
and authority of his mind seemed to have faded away,
and the activity which had once belonged to that organ
was now transferred to his eyes. He saw, amazedly, the
sunshine bathing the hills and the valleys. A bird in the
hedge held him — beak, head, eyes, legs, and the wings
that tapered widely at angles to the wind. For the first
time in his life he really saw a bird, and one minute after
it had flown away he could have reproduced its strident
note. With every step along the curving road the land-
scape was changing. He saw and noted it almost in an
ecstasy. A sharp hill jutted out into the road, it dis-
solved into a sloping meadow, rolled down into a valley
and then climbed easily and peacefully into a hill again.
On this side a clump of trees nodded together in the
friendliest fashion. Yonder a solitary tree, well-grown
and clean, was contented with its own bright company.
A bush crouched tightly on the ground as though, at a
word, it would scamper from its place and chase rabbits
across the sward with shouts and laughter. Great spaces
of sunshine were everywhere, and everywhere there were
deep wells of shadow; and the one did not seem more
beautiful than the other. That sunshine! Oh, the glory
of it, the goodness and bravery of it, how broadly and
grandly it shone, without stint, without care; he saw its
measureless generosity and gloried in it as though him-
self had been the flinger of that largesse. And was he
not? Did the sunlight not stream from his head and
life from his finger-tips? Surely the well-being that was
in him did bubble out to an activity beyond the universe.
Thought! Oh! the petty thing! but motion! emotion!
these were the realities. To feel, to do, to stride for-
ward in elation chanting a paean of triumphant life!
Poems of Gary Snyder
How Poetry Comes to Me
It comes blundering over the
Boulders at night, it stays
Frightened outside the
Range of my campfire
I go to meet it at the
Edge of the light
All this new stuff goes on top
turn it over, turn it over
wait and water down
from the dark bottom
turn it inside out
let it spread through
Sift down even.
Watch it sprout.
A mind like compost.
Out there walking round, looking out for food,
a rootstock, a birdcall, a seed that you can crack
plucking, digging, snaring, snagging,
barely getting by,
no food out there on dusty slopes of scree
carry somelook for some,
go for a hungry dream.
Deer bone, Dall sheep,
bones hunger home.
Out there somewhere
a shrine for the old ones,
the dust of the old bones,
old songs and tales.
What we atewho ate what
how we all prevailed.
At Tower Peak
Every tan rolling meadow will turn into housing
Freeways are clogged all day
Academies packed with scholars writing papers
City people lean and dark
This land most real
As its western-tending golden slopes
And bird-entangled central valley swamps
Sea-lion, urchin coasts
Into the aromatic almost-Mexican hills
Along a range of granite peaks
The names forgotten,
An eastward running river that ends out in desert
The chipping ground-squirrels in the tumbled blocks
The gloss of glacier ghost on slab
Where we wake refreshed from ten hours sleep
After a long day’s walking
Packing burdens to the snow
Wake to the same old world of no names,
No things, new as ever, rock and water,
Cool dawn birdcalls, high jet contrails.
A day or two or million, breathing
A few steps back from what goes down
In the current realm.
A kind of ice age, spreading, filling valleys
Shaving soils, paving fields, you can walk in it
Live in it, drive through it then
It melts away
For whatever sprouts
After the age of
Frozen hearts. Flesh-carved rock
And gusts on the summit,
Smoke from forest fires is white,
The haze above the distant valley like a dusk.
It’s just one world, this spine of rock and streams
And snow, and the wash of gravels, silts
Sands, bunchgrasses, saltbrush, bee-fields,
Twenty million human people, downstream, here below.