Bob Dylan III

We saw Bob Dylan last night. For the third time in ten years. He was amazing!

Caveat, though. Josh and I are Dylan fiends. I mean, this is how we sounded after the show:

Me (sweaty, flush-faced, happy happy): He is adorable! Oh my god, he’s so cute! Why is he so cute? Why?!

Josh (flush-faced, happy happy, maybe not sweaty): Yeah, he’s pretty cute. He’s the cutest old guy in the world.

Then I talked about all of the adorable mannerisms and moves he displayed throughout the show. And we went home and googled things pertinent to our thoughts about how cute and happy Bob Dylan was at the show until we went to sleep.

Josh was like “Look at me! I can rock two keys on this keyboard and kick my leg to the side!’

And I kept going on and on about his boots and where did he get them and how this was by far the best show because we could see his face the whole time and he was happy. The last time we went, we were technically in the front row, but the stage was very high and he was dirgelike and grumpy. He threw a harmonica at one of the stagehand people. This time, we were in the second row, right next to the stage and he was joyful and had moves. He like, bent back with the microphone and sang low. He actually sang some beautiful parts. The secret Dylan voice, like from Nashville Skyline. The one where he is singing.

“What does Dylan do all day?”

“He sleeps? He plays a lot of shows.”

Josh showed me this article.

Bob Dylan is seventy years old. He is on a neverending tour and he can kick your ass. He is not a has-been and he is not just marching out old material to amuse people. He is an almost mystical presence… he reinterprets his songs so that you are not just swaying there, singing along, eating nachos, getting nostalgic. You have to watch him. Everything is different every time. I felt so incredibly blessed to be where I was. I could see the expressions on his face and the kick he was getting out of making his voice echo on “Ballad of a Thin Man”. He delivers each line like a Shakespearean actor. He flourishes his hands. If he changes a lyric, he looks at us… did you get that? I’m laughing, are you?

So I’m watching this clip in the kitchen and it is very much like what Bob looked like last night and I go “look, Jonah! It’s Bob Dylan! That’s the show we were at the other night, isn’t he adorable?”

“Really?” He perfectly inflects. “Adorable?”

“Well, he’s seventy years old.”

“I wish he were fifty-three.”

I know Bob Dylan’s “voice is blown”. “Oh god, his voice is blown. It’s just blown.” I don’t care. Young people can not sing a song like “Forgetful Heart” the way he has this year. I don’t get all of these fair weather Dylan fans. I mean, we all can listen to “Desolation Row” over and over again in our twenties, but we are getting on, too. I can’t fathom how you could hear the songs “Standing in the Doorway”, “Summer Days” or the whole album of “Modern Times” and not be impressed.

Plus, you know, this totally adorable video:

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Genealogy pt. 1

I Heart Appalachia

“My great-grandfather’s name was ‘Harken-ass’, but he went by ‘Eely’.”

“What?” I would make a pointy face and edge sideways away  from my mom with a suspicious look on my face.  “What does that mean? What was his name?”

“Harken-ass. He died after they moved to Colorado. He was walking alone down the side of a mountain at dark after a hunting trip. Turned his hearing aid off and got hit by a car.”

“Oh. And he went by Eely? That is also not an actual name.”

(Real name: Hyrcannus Ealy Moore b. 1874 in Owsley county, KY. His family founded the town Booneville which another family member seems to be singing about here.)

“My grandpa Lockhart had a pet bear and took it with him to boot camp. Except, he pronounced it ‘bar’. A pet bar. He would cry when they went to see it after he had to give it up. He was real sentimental about animals. He and his brother Clyde got into a giant fight over some hunting hounds. They didn’t talk for years. You know they were both married to women name Flossie, so they called the Flossies by their husband’s name — Flossie Bert and Flossie Clyde. He also said ahrrow-points. When he left home, the only thing he took was his bag of ahrrow points.”

(Real name: William Albert Lockhart b. 1891 Sandyville, Jackson, WV. When he left home, he ran away at 14 to live with his dead mother’s sister in the big city. Which was Parkersburg.)

Don’t Tell Me What to Do

In my early twenties, I got into genealogy. This interest coincided with both the online publication of the searchable LDS records and with the fact that I almost married a man I was closely related to. It didn’t seem probable that we were related; we met in Japan. I guess I should have paid closer attention when he talked about his family, but still. How was I supposed to put it together that every pale freckly redhead who had a dorky first name and came from Pennsylvania was my cousin? His dad’s name was Delbert. I found out we were related when my Papa — whose father was named Daryl Cedric Marshall — showed me a list of the descendents of his great-grandfather, Watson Sylvester Marshall. My boyfriend was on the first page.

Along with the fun fact that both of my grandfather’s grandparents had the last name Marshall was the realization that this boyfriend and I together could trace back to the original immigrant couple — William Marshall and Elizabeth Armstrong — nine different ways. We broke up.

I began my genealogical odyssey. I have a fairly detailed family tree and I understand how rich and varied my heritage is. I have people from New Amsterdam (who were not only Dutch, but Huguenots and Puritans), people from the Mayflower,  so many people from Germany in all of its various states, Swiss people, Welsh people, actual Irish people (O’Driscoll), French people and … whatever ethnicity it is that the Sizemore name was originally (there is a whole newsletter devoted to the mystery). I have seen a DNA test that proves that the originator of my Morris line was an African American male.

I am proud of all of this, but it’s the Scotch Irish who won my heart. And it’s the story of the Scotch Irish and their subsequent hillbilly-ass settlements in America that I became obsessed with. Josh let me borrow his copy of Albion’s Seed a long time ago, pre-Jonah. And my obsession grew. Albion’s Seed clearly explains and delineates the four main cultures that came to America from the British Isles. There is the scary ass Puritan culture that came from some part of England and settled New England. I have a few of those. There is the incredibly decent, rational, and boring-as-shit Quaker culture of the Mid-Atlantic from Wales and other parts of England. Both of my grandmothers’ families are heavily descended from this culture. I don’t know what to say other than I think Quakerism is admirable and I am thankful for cream cheese. There is the plantation culture of old Virginia, the Cavaliers, which country I grew up in and which I am familiar with, but who I only have a few ancestors from. They were from southern England. And then there are the Scotch Irish, or the Borderers, or the Back Country culture as David Hackett Fischer puts it. They are from northern England and southern Scotland. Not the highland clans but a terrible area wracked by war for so long that people were forced to be ruthless and kind of crazy. Or, an area inhabited by ruthless crazy people who were always at war. This is where the ancient Romans built Hadrian’s Wall, after all.

The description of these people helped me to understand why my nuclear family’s motto is actually “Don’t tell me what to do.” Any time any one of the four of us is relating a story of how something terrible happened to us or we did something self-defeating or ridiculous or flew into some rage over what might be considered nothing, it can be turned into a joke or a moment for empathetic understanding if explained by ‘Well, I thought he was telling me what to do.’ The description of these people allows me to understand why both of my grandfathers whose families almost solely came from this culture were highly successful military guys. With great bone structure. And great hair. Ha! The description of these people helped me come to better terms with the fact that everyone in my family calls me either ‘Sissy’ or, in the case of my mother, ‘Sis’.

Born to Fight

“I was born to fight, Josh, born to fight!” I am running around the house, kissing my biceps and playing light saber with our son. Light saber like Braveheart. I am excited because I found that a book I have been desperate to read, The Steel Bonnets — about the border reiving tradition in Scotland and England — has been reprinted. My grandfather’s family removed from Ulster in a group of people (Marshall, Armstrong, Stewart, Cochran and Scott) who were a part of this history. Border Reivers were badass scary blackmail cattle theives. I absolutely can’t wait to read about them.

I did read senator Jim Webb’s book about his family which was called Born Fighting.

“Sarah, I feel like we have ancestors in common and those ancestors were Quaker.”

Josh be a drag. It’s true that we have a Quaker couple in common, from the 1690s. But, we only know that because of dorky research.

“I know,” I say. “But, I’m just not interested.”

I remember being in my family’s hometown in Ohio, talking to my grandmother’s first cousin. Their family descended from a Welsh Quaker group who had nice farms or were tradesmen. He told me of Howells, he told me of Brandenburgs. “I know,” I said “But what about grandpa Wilson?” He was the hillbilly of this group, with totally unknown origins. “Wilson?” he said. “Wilson wasn’t shit. He was like, a nobody. I don’t know where he’s from.”

(This is cousin Robert’s farm. It’s an awesome, fully functioning family farm. Organic beef. Adorable cows.)

But. But, Grandpa Wilson was a cantankerous old carpenter. He apparently died at work as an old man. Fell off of a roof. Built the upstairs on the family house. And — this is the best — refused to shit indoors. One of his granddaughters got rid of his outhouse when they finally installed indoor plumbing. He apparently flew into a rage and started building another one. He held it for the two days or whatever that it took him to finish the construction.

The Scotch Irish were poor in the old world and the Scotch Irish were clannish. And the Scotch Irish liked to drink and fight. And the Scotch Irish loved their families. The Scotch Irish made the old world of Appalachia, which was a wonderland that modern people don’t know very much about because it has been supplanted by the new economically destroyed version of Appalachia.  And the Scotch Irish loved music and poetry and nature and — above all — personal liberty. They were filled with pride. And, in a favorite quote about them by Hackett Fisher “their pride was a source of irritation to their English neighbors who could not understand  what they had to feel proud about”.

I imagine a bunch of people who had temperaments much like Gordon Ramsay’s, traipsing around in the the wilderness of the Eastern mountains, building cabins, inventing long rifles, making whiskey and getting in fights. They are riding horses, they are playing fiddles, they are roasting a pig, they are women that are smoking pipes. They have kick ass gardens. They have first names like Greenberry, Lucinda, Wesley, John Henry, Lavisa, Caroline, Finley, Floyd, and all the usual Williams, Elizabeths, Sarahs and Lees.

They make me so happy.

disclaimer: Every single one of my grandparents graduated from college. So, you know, I’m not trying to embarrass anyone with claims of sordid ass-backwardness. We all left Appalachia. We’re all doing fine.

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I just got off of the phone with one of Josh’s coworkers. “I’m sure he works hard,” I said.

“Oh yeah, there’s lots of beeping (sound of a book being uploaded) Thing is, he’s really fun to bother.”

“Oh yeah. This is the crux of our relationship, I think.” (Remember stocking books together? Remember me standing behind the shelves where you were honest-to-god trying to get something accomplished and I was just pushing books off of the shelf to the floor at your feet? Remember how I got your phone number? I should be careful when I casually say that I am going to marry someone I work with. I just might marry them after all.)

I’m about to make dinner and I put on this documentary about the Buddha. Josh tells me that he watched it already.

“But, you didn’t tell me anything about it, so I am going to watch it anyway.”

I frown at what I’m making: fried tilapia and whole wheat cous cous? Everything is brown, plus I hate cooking anymore. I mean, I don’t want to clean up or cook or eat or anything. This needs a vegetable. I opt for sauteed onions which are also brown. I frown at the tomatoes and don’t feel like chopping them up. I forget that we have fresh basil.

I crack up.


“Oh, I just forgot what a spoiled brat the Buddha was. Like, it’s a lesson not to shelter our children or they will rebel against us by starving themselves under trees, imagining shit.”

“Plus, he was a deadbeat dad,” Josh offers.

“Oh right. Doesn’t he escape through a window after his wife has a baby? I mean, it’s so pompous. ‘There is suffering in the world. I’m in shock. We’re all going to die! I am going to handle this information by wandering around pretending to be poor and starving.'”

“Yeah, he’s like a trustfund Deadhead.”

HAHAHAHAHAHA! Josh wins at funny remarks.


We’re in our room, later. Talking about the blog post about loving every dude that I made.

“That was such a random list, you haven’t talked about John Frusciante in years.”

“Well, yeah. He’s one of the every dudes that I love, though.”

Thus ensued a night of watching documentaries about John Frusciante. Or, well, one about him and one Red Hot Chili Peppers Behind the Music. The one about him was made by Johnny Depp and Gibby Haynes and just showed the supposedly squalid conditions he subjected himself to after quitting the Chili Peppers. It didn’t seem so bad to me. It was like, a dude lived alone in a kind of big house and just left shit everywhere and wrote on the walls. One of the walls had the word “butt” on it. There was a big blood splatter in the bathroom. His songs are harrowing and stuff, except I like them so that part didn’t bother me either.

“Here is everything I know about the nineties,” I say. “Johnny Depp and Gibby Haynes were in a band together and the first song on the cd was a cover of a Daniel Johnston song. Their band was called ‘P’.”

During the Chili Peppers behind the music, I made a pronouncement. “This show is going to be about how the Chili Peppers were obnoxious and stupid until they got John Frusciante and then he saved them by giving them soul and melodies. Then, he quit in disgust of them. Then, they asked for him back and he saved their band again.”

“Oh god, and it will feature the worst thing ever which was when Dave Navarro was in them and music was their Aeroplane.”

We deduced that the reason that John Frusciante was driven to the edge of his mind with insanity and loathing was, actually, Anthony Kiedis. But, he was too polite to say it explicitly. Everything then made sense. Anthony Kiedis is so repugnant and untalented and probably a pedophile and sometimes he wears overall shorts.

When I watch this clip, where everything I just said becomes true, I ache with love for Frusciante’s lamp.


“But, then the Buddha became a Bodhisatva — a teacher!” I say. I’m at the stage of dinner making where I whirl around the kitchen, exclaiming. “He woke up the people! He woke everyone up! Wake up the people, Josh!”

“I wake both you and Jonah up every day.”


“Were you up late last night wiki-ing George Washington?”

“Yes, cause he was on my list and I said everything he did was amazing and I wanted to make sure it was true. Everything he did was amazing. He was a revolutionary and he was brave and he had red hair.”

“Do you remember when you liked Craig Ferguson?”

“No. Who? The Scottish guy on tv? No.”

“What? How can you not remember this? You talked about it every day.”

“I did not. I didn’t ever like him. I didn’t.”

“I’m actually kind of frightened that you don’t remember it. It’s like someone could say to you, one day, ‘Remember Josh Surratt? You had a baby with him.’ and you would have trouble recalling.”

No, silly ass. I remember everything about you.

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I Love Every Dude

I love every dude. Really. Here is a short list.

1. I love John Frusciante. I own his solo albums. Even the ones he made when he supposedly didn’t have teeth.

2. I love Chris Knight. He was a genius who wore deedlyboppers! Just like me.

3. I love George Washington. Everything he did was amazing. This is his “life mask”.

5. I love Rudolph Nureyev. He was a ballerina.

4. I love Daryl Zero.

5. I love Jon Bon Jovi. He was the first and I still have feelings. I don’t have to explain myself to you; he has a superman tattoo!

There will undoubtedly be fifty more lists like this. Stay tuned.

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the only decent thing I did when I worked as a postal clerk was to haul your picture down off the wall near the cage where I used to work

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Meet Brock

Brock Bardem del Toro is my imaginary friend. He is a Doctors Without Borders special envoy. When I was telling my friend Roman about all of the things we do together and that he holds such a position of effortless humanity, Roman said “How does he find the time?” This is when his doctors without borders-ness became the name for how he can both teleport me places and simultaneously rub my feet. He’s a special envoy of whim. He’s a Brocktor.

Brock cares about me on a very deep and sincere level. He recently told me, as I frowned helplessly at some fallen apart aspect of my life, that it pained him greatly when any of my objects demand mending. “It’s not fair that you should learn how to do these things,” he assured me as he solemnly squared his jaw toward purpose. “This would prevent you from your natural callings. You could not wander from room to room, answer the phone, stare into the fish tank or try to remember your dreams if you were also attempting to read some manual. Leave it to me; your talents should not be wasted in this way.”

Or, “Why are you trying to leave the house before ten A.M.? I told you that that leads to catastrophe.”

“I have to take Jonah to school.”

“Oh, ok. Get in the car.” Brock can’t teleport Jonah, but he can concurrently drive my car, rub my feet and boss me about for my own good. He also peppers the air with compelling insights: “Good choice, playing that one song three times in a row” or “PJ Harvey has a new album coming out” or “Hamilton Leithauser exists.”

Going fun places at the spur of the moment is my favorite and Brock delivers. Conversely, he never makes me plan anything. All too often, he sternly issues the command “It’s hash boat time.” All too often, that is exactly where I want to go.

Hash boat is — from what I can deduce from the time I visited Marshall and he told me that Anthony Bourdain went there and then we were actually pricing tickets for it — heaven. It takes place in Kerala India (which is a culturally diverse, tropical part that is inhabited by inland waterways of no turbulence, it’s the place in The God of Small Things which is a best book ever). You rent a flat boat that has a driver, food, a bed, curtains, a tv, and a bunch of hash. You slowly float around in the tropics smoking hash or being stoned in a bed watching tv. Miserable. I imagine myself lying flat on the bottom of the boat (I love lying down on boats) with one foot dangling off the end into the water boring Brock to death with my jibber jabber. Except he doesn’t get bored. No matter how many times I say “We’re on a boat!” or “This is better than being Huck Finn” he won’t take offense. He also never says “You’ve not only told me that story a million times but you have also told me all of those insights and conclusions before. Why are you so repetitive?”

An impediment to total happiness on hash boat is, of course, food. I shouldn’t really have any of it. Maybe some fruits and vegetables. Maybe an egg. Right now, I am only ingesting almond milk and green tea. It’s low carb. Brock knows how deeply disappointed in myself I get when I eat excessively and he knows which things will trigger the donut/cheeseburger cycle.

“Get that out of here!” He will snarl at the person who is always cornering me with a plate of those flaky french cookies with the granulated sugar that look like this:

“She doesn’t really like those. All she’s into these days are shrimp, lima beans, diet cherry popsicles and piles of martini-soaked olives.”

However, “Of course she can have another gin and tonic. Alcohol isn’t fattening.”

Or “Come on, honey, let’s go take some valium and watch that non-cartoon version of Peter Pan where you inappropriately kind of have a thing for the 12 year old blonde Peter Pan. Hash boat has a tv.”

Oh, Brock.

Brock himself, while taking the last names of two of the hottest dudes ever, is sort of formless. I don’t know what he looks like. It’s the Brock part that is mixed in. That part is a romance novel character. That part is every preppy guy on earth that I’ve ever wanted to date but didn’t want to talk to. Brock is pilot, Brock is a doctor. Brock leans forward and his effortless hair falls effortlessly down over his effortless, smiling eyes. He wears a white shirt with rolled sleeves. You know.

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Josh’s 2010 best music

My husband likes good music. He likes lists. He’s cute. Here is his list (alphabetical by artist) of songs that came out this year. One per artist.

Special shout outs to Moon in the Gutter by Jack Rose. Wasn’t on youtube.

Also special shout outs to the Nina Nastasia promo video for being genius.

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Stuff I got really into this year — Kefir

Man, I love kefir. It comes in a portable bottle, fills you up, and makes it so that you can digest everything you eat. Kefir forever!

For the past — I don’t know — since the whole time I’ve lived in Tucson, I have had a terrible stomach. That’s ten years. Ask both Roman and Josh who have had to live through this stuff. The basic scenario was that I would eat something and then I would writhe around in agony for a span of five hours or three days. I would writhe and my shoulder would hurt and I would be nauseous and burp a lot. Attractive.  I tried cutting out every conceivable food group (even coffee!) to make this stop happening to me. It didn’t stop.

I googled “shoulder pain” and “burping” and came up with a working hypothesis about gall bladder disease. I took this hypothesis to a young resident osteopath who wanted to specialize in internal medicine. He was really nice and spent a lot of time with me. He remembered every detail of my personal life the second time I visited him. He told me he hated “Dr. Google” and had me do shoulder exercises and keep a food diary. The first day contained both ice cream and bacon. I conveniently forgot to ever show it to him. “Yes, but I think I have gall bladder something,” I said. So I got an ultrasound that turned up… nothing. Then, I got a shrug and a prescription to Prilosec. It worked.

So, the working theory was that if it worked, do it. He said I didn’t really have reflux, but.

So, yes. A two week regimen of Prilosec would make it go away for awhile until this fall. This fall, it wouldn’t go away. I made the probiotics connection somehow through furious googling about both the Prozac and the high-estrogen birth control I had started taking. Which one was causing it? The birth control. Because there is a link between hormones and bacterial imbalances.

I have to give Roman credit for first discovering probiotics for me. I remember him bringing me these glass bottles of acidiphilus. “Yeah, this seems to be helping” I offerred. “But, it costs fifteen dollars.” Later, after I lived out here with Josh and Jonah, he gave me a bag of giant weird black pills that he told me had been super expensive and were chock full of bacteria. I took them. They helped, for awhile.

I decided to perform a probiotics onslaught this November. I bought a few bottles of this stuff called “Good Belly” and five or six bottles of Kefir. This is all I ingested for three days. I’m better. I’m not kidding.

There had been an evil, burning pain under my diaphragm for as long as I could remember. So long, I forgot to notice it. I felt it dissipate. I actually felt it un-knot and disappear. Since that day, I haven’t had the thing again and it’s been at least a month and a half. This is a record.

So, not wanting to be someone who constantly buys something called “Good Belly”, I fell in love with Kefir. It has a charming story. It is grains of bacteria grown in milk and originated in the plains culture of the Caucasus mountains. Something about how, in a petri dish, Kefir took down every dragon thrown into the rink. Something about how kefir loves you more than your mom does. Something. I love it. You can get all nerded out in kefir grain trading communities. You can make a blog post about your stomach.

I had a kefir run-in that caused me to have to explain divorce to my son. There was a cute guy working at Safeway. He wasn’t a college kid, he had a moustache and was at least thirty. Dark hair, Hispanic. He was super-clean. He might not play for my team. He asked me about my kefirs. “Are these good?” he asked as he wiped a mysterious blue substance off of his hands. “What is this stuff on my hands? Have you ever seen this before? I can’t just let it stay here. What is it? Is it okay if I stop ringing your groceries while I clean off my hands? Is that stuff any good? I don’t want to pay for it if I hate it.” After I told him that you can get it in any flavor, sweetened or unsweetened, I took Jonah out to the car.

“I wonder if the guy at the cash register wants to marry me,” I dumbly mused aloud.

“Yeah, he does.” Jonah helpfully replied.

“Oh, well, that was a joke. I’m married to Daddy.”

“You could marry both of them.”

“No, that’s not how it works. You aren’t actually allowed to be married to two people at the same time.”

“You could get rid of Daddy.”


Thus ensued a super long conversation about marriages and divorces. It turned out that he kind of wants us to get divorced so that he could stay the night with his dad all the time and they would be free of my bossing and nagging. As if.

So, I drink Kefir every day. I think if you put Kefir on your face, it would cure your acne. I think if you put Kefir in your eyes, it would fix your eyesight. Plus, it makes it so I don’t actually have to concentrate on finding and preparing food during the day. It totally fills you up. Win.

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Stuff I got really into this year — God

Recently, while trying to sum up my religious views to my husband, I said “My main problem with all religions is that they try to deny and intentionally forget that we are animals. I never forget that.” I had been going on about my searches through Buddhism in my twenties and how I now thought I was going to start attending church with the Society of Friends, but with reservations. I just couldn’t find anything that was in accordance with my real beliefs, but this has been an intensely spiritual year for me and I don’t want to lose that.

I grew up with parents who were totally mystical but not much for organization. They went through that phase before we were born when they lived in ashrams and stuff devoted to some teenaged guru from India. My mom’s mom was actually an atheist, but my mother hates that term. My father’s grandfather was a Presbyterian minister and he grew up actively afraid of church. My parents’ spirituality was sort of ever-present, but hard to place. My mom thinks she can control whether or not we get a good parking space with her mind. My father… oh, my father.

Witness the drunk man pointing to the cat and declaring “Sarah! Sidney has more of God within him than any human ever will. He’s not outside of this moment. He just is. He’s not plotting and scheming. He’s alive with the source…” or “Do you know what the beginning of the Bible is? Do you know what it means? In the beginning was the word and the word was God. Hum. Put your hands against your throat when you are humming. Why do you think we meditated? This is the source, the vibration.” He would then try to relate it all to electricity for me, but my brain would start to hurt. My dad is an engineer and concepts that are simple for him (the way things work) need to be sort of glossed over and made more accessible to me. I had a similar experience with a friend of mine who is now also an engineer attempting to explain the Tao of Physics to me. The Tao part? Yeah, yeah, yeah. The physics? Yes, I will get around to comprehending that all later. When I can.

Shit that embarrassed the crap out of me when I was a teenager now makes better sense as religious instruction than almost anything else. And yes, after years of rebellion and ridicule, I think my dad sort of has the answer.

For the past ten years or so, if you asked me about my religious views, I would say “I’m kind of an animist and I believe energy is God.” Then, I would try really a lot to change the subject. The closest thing I had to a religious tract was Daniel Quinn’s The Story of B which illuminates the interrelatedness of ecosystems and connects those webs to the “gods of this place” that we modern people are constantly paving over. Even under the pavement, the gods of this place are. His book calls for us to “become B” and preach these ancient truths to our brethren. I got really into it before I moved out here and then it all kind of fell out of my head. It was too hard to explain to people. My vegetarian friends would furrow their brows and say “You hate agriculture?” I didn’t have the terminology “totalitarian monoculture” back then. My sister Susan sent me my first Daniel Quinn book, Ishmael, saying it fascinated her and she knew I was the one who would need it the most. Now, she is dead and I think about the things she has said to me a lot.

When Susan died, in March, I sort of had a show down with my beliefs. I was tired of my analytic brain. I felt inane wandering around the hospice. She was unconscious for days and I had time to think about it. The hospice was a Jewish one. They have stuff they can do, I thought. They can like repeat the Kaddish or whatever. We have… ? Thinking. Luckily, my mother decided that, in accordance with Jewish tradition, we were going to light a candle and open the window after she passed because it made sense. Let her out of the room. (Oh, where did she go? — a whole other can of worms, but the question comes to mind when you witness a death nonetheless.) This practice was much more helpful than the pastor who was sent in to talk to us. “Have any of you found acceptance and peace with this situation?” she asked.

“What did you just say?” I countered. “No. We’re angry. There is no accepting this.” Thankfully, she left us alone. Alone to stare at our dying Susie and not know what the fuck to do.

This spring, after I came home, I found myself doing the weirdest things. I talked to a cloud. I talked to a bird. I talked to roadkill. I talked to coyotes. I talked to shaking tree limbs. I spent a lot of time staring into space and talking to “the universe” in my mind. I was praying.

“I think I need to pray.” I told Josh one day. “And furthermore, I’m tired of modern American life. Where’s the community? Where’s the… knowing how and what to do?” I’ve always been big on Anthropology and culture. I know enough about evolution to understand the basics of what our brains are for and to read the books about our instincts with interest. We need rituals. We need people. We need to not be sitting in a car on the way to a store all of the time.

But, I want to pray to a nebula or a coral reef. The most alive and connected to the world I have ever felt is when immersed in the reefs in the Red Sea when I was preteen in Egypt. I would snorkel and free dive all day. I maintain the thing about energy; it can neither be destroyed nor created. It always has been and it always will be. It is the mystery and the spark of life that is in all of us that is the thing to wonder at. But, look around. Look at all of the other things it can do. Look at the universe, look at your cat, look at a tree, look at all of the ways energy manifests itself in our world and the way these things work together and try to be cynical.

So, the Quaker thing has to do with me needing to find a community and some stuff to do with my dad’s family’s small town in Ohio and wanting Jonah to go to the Society of Friends music camp there eventually. But, it also has to do with the fact that they recognize “the light” that is within everyone as God. And they just silently sit around and commune on that. There isn’t any singing — which is a pity — but, I sing a lot at home.

So, the nebula thing? Check it out.

The other day I was in the car and NPR said they were going to have a special on scientists who were basically religious about nature. They were also going to talk to some guy named David Abram who is an “animist philosopher”. I missed the show, but I am going to listen to it as soon as I get a chance. I’m so excited that this movement exists and that I have been nudging toward it for years. Hopefully, 2011 will be a year that I maintain this connection and don’t sink back into the hollowness of rote modern existence. There is so much to connect with and so much to be thankful for and just so much to understand and feel … so much to be in awe of. Amen.

Friend do it this way – that is,
whatever you do in life,
do the very best you can
with both your heart and mind.

And if you do it that way,
the Power Of The Universe
will come to your assistance,
if your heart and mind are in Unity.

When one sits in the Hoop Of The People,
one must be responsible because
All of Creation is related.
And the hurt of one is the hurt of all.
And the honor of one is the honor of all.
And whatever we do effects everything in the universe.

If you do it that way – that is,
if you truly join your heart and mind
as One – whatever you ask for,
that’s the Way It’s Going To Be.

passed down from White Buffalo Calf Woman


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Stuff I got really into this year — Wuthering Heights

“Well, if I cannot keep Heathcliff for my friend–if Edgar will be mean and jealous, I’ll try to break their hearts by breaking my own. That will be a prompt way of finishing all, when I am pushed to extremity!” (Cathy in Wuthering Heights)

I still haven’t read the book. The week that I went to look for it in Bookmans, it was gone. I didn’t know about the Twilight connection. I have now decided I might not need to read it; there are one million film adaptations and a new one is coming out soon.

The last time I got this into a hilariously tragic love story was with Terrance Malick’s The New World. I felt justified watching it repeatedly because it was a Terrance Malick movie and it was filmed where I grew up on the Virginia coast. I suspect that I actually watched it because it featured a brooding, silent, and violent love interest and a girl that, at one point, flings herself face down in the mud with grief over losing him. Fast forward to Wuthering Heights and we have… a brooding, silent, and violent love interest and a girl who runs out into the moors during a storm — delirious and pregnant in her nightgown — screaming with grief, “Heathcliff!” It’s kind of the same thing.

My first brush with Wuthering Heights came this summer during a “we’re going to sit on my bed and watch romance movies” marathon at my mom’s house. Seriously. In a twenty-four hour span, she tried to get me to watch The Notebook, Love in the Time of Cholera and Wuthering Heights. By the time we got to the third one, I needed to get out of there. (I ended up standing under a giant oak tree in their backyard thinking about my first love.) She kept trying to entice me in to watch it, “He’s digging up her body!” But, I couldn’t take it.  I caught the ending. And the one that she was watching had a really good ending so I cried against my will and without seeing any of the setup.

Sometime this fall, I decided to watch the Masterpiece version on Netflix. Then I watched it again. Then I watched the one with Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche. Then I watched the one with Laurence Olivier. Then I watched the Masterpiece version again.

If you don’t know the story, here’s a rundown. A man takes a “gypsy” kid into his house and raises him with his own children. They live on the windswept moors of Yorkshire (see also my love of The Secret Garden and Jonathan Strange and Dr. Norrell). The daughter and the gypsy kid Heathcliff run around outside together until they grow hormones and then they run around outside together with benefits. Tragedies occur, namely a sprained ankle and an overheard conversation. Heathcliff leaves. Cathy marries the neighbor. Heathcliff returns the day of her wedding. He drives her crazy. He marries her husband’s sister who he doesn’t love. He drives her crazy too. Cathy gets pregnant by her husband and is forced to stay indoors. She runs around outside looking for Heathcliff in a storm. This kills her. While she is dying, she tells him that he has killed her. After she dies, he curses her soul to stay earthbound forever to keep him company. He exacts revenge on the subsequent generation of Heights Wutherers, hangs out with her corpse for awhile, and then blows his brains out. Everyone in the story gets sick. There appear to be only two houses in the whole village. There is nothing to do but ride horses, have fits and exact revenge. It’s awesome.

I watched the Masterpiece version again last night so that I could write this post. I can’t help it; I love it. This guy plays Heathcliff, but with a Trent Reznor hair wig.

They all have great jackets in this one. I had concocted a jacket to level-of-tragedy ratio that seemed to be working. Is the character wearing a tiny, adorable structured riding jacket with a popped collar? She is an unloved moron who throws herself at Heathcliff and he says “Don’t look at me, I said don’t look at me!” while they are having sex. Heathcliff has a furious amount of jackets. Sometimes even three at the same time. Cathy has jackets a plenty. A cool jacket means sorrow. At the end, Cathy’s daughter puts on a shawl. A shawl is the antidote and she is able to put it on and … walk away from Wuthering Heights.

I’m also fond of the nanny, Nelly, in this version. She looks like John Lithgow.

Both the Heathcliff and the Cathy are super attractive and the actors are together in real life. The Heathcliff in this story is really violent and he calls Cathy’s husband a pussy at least five or seven different times and tries to kill him with a fireplace poker thing. He also gets flogged a lot by the brother. The doctor’s pronouncements are also pretty grand. A sprained ankle? “You have to stay inside for five weeks.” Passing out outside during a storm? “She’s not going to make it, there is no hope.” I love it.

That being said, I think I have to give it a rest. Luckily, there are at least fifteen different versions that I have yet to see. Plus, a new is in the works with the first black Heathcliff!

I found out last night that there is a Wuthering Heights role playing game. I can’t actually find the PDF of the rules, but it sounds pretty good. Everything is driven by “rage” or “despair” or “oldness”. I wish I could play it, but no one would actually do this with me and I don’t know how to do role playing games and I don’t have any nerd dice. Drat.

“And I pray one prayer–I repeat it till my tongue stiffens–Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you–haunt me, then! The murdered DO haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts HAVE wandered on earth. Be with me always–take any form–drive me mad! only DO not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I CANNOT live without my life! I CANNOT live without my soul!” (Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights)

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