Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pods of summer crowd around the door;
I take them in the autumn of my hands.
Last night I heard the first cold wind outside:
And wind blew soft, and yet I shiver twice:
Once for thin walls, once for the sound of time.
Fall Wind
  William Stafford

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

“Wait for evening.
Then you'll be alone.

Wait for the playground to empty.
Then call out those companions from childhood:

The one who closed his eyes
and pretended to be invisible.
The one to whom you told every secret.
The one who made a world of any hiding place.

And don't forget the one who listened in silence
while you wondered out loud:

Is the universe an empty mirror? A flowering tree?
Is the universe the sleep of a woman?”
                                  from Become Becoming
                                  Li-Young Lee
 I have always read and enjoyed science fiction and I have a modest collection. My collection includes early pulp magazines from the 1920’s and 1930’s, Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, Air Wonder Stories with their lurid covers of dinosaurs, aliens and terrible experiments gone wrong, through the small press era after World War Two with small publishers like Arkham House (mostly horror) to SF presses like Gnome, Shasta and Fantasy Press producing beautiful limited edition hardcovers, thru the paperback revolution with companies like Bart, Avon, Ballantine, Signet and especially the Ace Doubles running from the 1940’s to the 1970’s . I do not read or collect much modern material the field has gotten quite large and tastes have changed, but I find lots to read and collect and ponder in the (at least for me) more congenial older works.
Pulps spanning 1927 to 1933 

Pulps spanning 1936 to 1941

I was creating list of ten of my favourite stories to discuss with a friend and I realized what one of my very favourite stories was (based on rereading, thinking about etc. ) “In Hiding” by Wilmar Shiras published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1948 she later expanded this to Children of the Atom which was published by Gnome Press with a beautiful dust jacket but as is often the case I prefer the short story to the novel. It tells the story of a young boy and his relationship with the school psychiatrist who eventually realizes that the boy Timothy Paul is a genius, his mother was exposed to radiation from a nuclear accident and Timothy is a mutant. This has made him a genius of incredible power, but he wisely has concealed his gifts (because we all know what people are like) and has conducted several adult careers via correspondence while doing lots of cool stuff in his grandparent’s garage.

Early hardcovers

Selection of paperbacks

Two favorite author Norton and Simak

The story has several problems and is only one of a number of stories based on the mutant child theme, but I love it and one thing that really interests me is the prevalence of the special child unrecognized by their peers theme, in literature from Greek myths to Dickens to the present day whether the child is the offspring of a god, the heir to a throne or an immense fortune, or in SF an alien or a mutant. That this theme is both popular and convenient is obvious by the frequency with which it is used, but I wonder if it does not also dovetail with a stage in adolescence that many children go through, where they deal with the all too common feeling of alienation, the emotional outbursts and fragile psyche that come with the physical changes and social miscues that accompany them on their journey to adulthood. I often feel my journey does not seem to have ended and I have pretty much given up expecting to arrive. But if I do I want to arrive via rocketship and with a very cool raygun. Oh yeah and a jetpack.
A Favorite Artist Richard Powers

“ We sat by the fire in our caves,
and because we were poor, we made up a tale
about a treasure mountain
that would open only for us

and because we were always defeated,
we invented impossible riddles
only we could solve,
monsters only we could kill,
women who could love no one else “

from Why We Tell Stories
Lisel Mueller

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"The image of Time brought thoughts of mortality: of human beings,
facing outwards like the Seasons, moving hand in hand in
intricate measure: stepping slowly, methodically, sometimes a trifle
awkwardly, in evolutions that take recognisable shape:
or breaking into seeminly meaningless gyrations, while
partners disappear only to reappear again, once more giving pattern
to the spectacle: unable to control the melody, unable, perhaps,
to control the steps of the dance.” 

from A Question Of Upbringing: 
A Dance to the Music of Time
Anthony Powell

Autumn is here, meaning the garden is almost done
but there is still time for a few last looks.

A seasonal dance.

A  few moments to bask in the warm winds
and golden light.

"the distant pounding of centaurs' hoofs dying away,
as the last note of their conch trumpeted out over hyperborean seas.
Even the formal measure of the Seasons seemed suspended in the
wintery silence. "
from Hearing Secret Harmonies:
A Dance to the Music of Time
Anthony Powell

Sunday, September 16, 2012

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.”

                                                                                             Henry David Thoreau                                               

Today the Grackles reappeared I would say returned but some I am sure have been with us all summer. Typically we see small flocks in the spring and again in the fall, gleaming black metallic knights with their bronze and violet feathers, the sunlight reflected a different spectrum with every turn and pirouette. This year a family also appeared in midsummer with their squalling chicks reflecting every phase of the transition from callow youth to adult.  I have seen the large winter flocks in Charleston but here they are more of a beautiful novelty and when I think of the house in Calgary they will have a strong seasonal association for me. I find that living in the city I often experience the seasons more through memory and art than through my day to day reality so the Grackle today are welcome guests.

The advent of fall here has started me thinking about the seasons. One trend that has saddened me lately is the calls for year round schools. As I am neither, parent or educator I see this not from a practical stance but through the rather romantic lens of childhood. As adults we live increasingly in a 24 7 world. Technology allows those of us who live in the cities of the developed world to even out the seasonal effects of climates on products, housing even the cycle of day and night. A winter vacation can be taken in the tropics a shift worker can start at midnight and go home to sleep with the dawn.  It is a reality we live in but one I would like to spare children, so much of the school I remember revolved around the seasons, our art projects of cutting out pumpkins and Christmas trees, the gathering and preserving of fallen leaves for science projects, even the stories in our readers and the pageants we performed often had a seasonal theme.

It is hard to imagine that these seasonal pursuits with have the same resonance  for children that live in the same world as their parents, where time off is the same two weeks squeezed in here and there for practically and convenience. The world we used to inhabit was a thing of grand sweeping gestures not a world anchored to the cheese paring of time.

February and there are Valentines for everyone for once.
Easter eggs, paper tulips, it is spring and change is in the air.
And in the summer you ran thru an endless twilight

until the street lights called you home.”

                                        from Days of Construction Paper and Macaroni


“Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me

Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,

     In the moon that is always rising,

          Nor that riding to sleep

     I should hear him fly with the high fields

And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.

Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,

          Time held me green and dying

Though I sang in my chains like the sea. “

                                                                               Fern Hill

                                                                                 Dylan Thomas

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. 
For nature it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad."  
Edwin Way Teale  
Autumn Across America, 

This weekend we could not make it to 
the park so these photos are from last 
weekend. Fall was in the air and the leaves.


and Wendolene were in fine form.

The were few ducks and ducklings left.

And a small flock of Pine Siskins had joined 
the Waxwings.

"The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on."

  Emily Dickinsen

Monday, September 3, 2012


                               Dorothy Livesay

I am still working through photos from our trip to the cabin
in July. On the way home we stopped to visit friends from
our days in archaeology. These are the Hand Hills in 
Southeastern Alberta. This area is described as fescue
and mixed grass prairie ( Peterson The North American
Prairie)  they also note that this area was used by native
people to  obtain stone for tools. One tribe that utilized
this area was the Blood or Kainai, they were considered part of
the Blackfoot Confererancy and their reserve is located quite some
distance away in the foothills by Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump.

It was actually the first rain we had on our trip and
the mosquitoes were ferocious.

Laraine's horses.

Other critters included the Great Spangled Fritillary

The Mountain Cottontail who can be identified by the
" rusty orange patch on the nape of his neck" Mammals
of Alberta, Pattie and Fisher. It is interesting that the
distribution map for Alberta indicates that they occur in the
Southeast portion of the province which is prairie and they 
do not seem to occur in the mountains.

The infamous Brown-Headed Cowbird
they are known for nest parasitism this behavior
is felt to have occurred because they followed the
herds of Bison and therefore laid their eggs in the
nests of other songbirds. The Cowbird chicks outgrow
the hosts own nestlings resulting in them starving or
 pushed out. Their range has expanded and they
now parasitize over 140 species. Birds of Alberta Fisher
and Acorn.

Yogi and Andi, Tim and Laraine's
Akhash-Maremana crosses enjoy a quiet moment.

During my years in archaeology I worked in the prairies,
 the foothills, the mountains and the parkland. Each area has it's
own special rhythms and unique beauty. While Helen and I have
settled on the parkland for our cabin for a number of reasons,
 the sweeping vista of the prairie is a truely wonderful thing to
experience and once you spend time in the area you realize it
is not empty but rich in both history and prehistory, and that
it has an ecosystem as beautiful and vibrant as any on the planet.

During our visit Tim who has worked at the
Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller Alberta
in the past, took us to see some dinosaur bones
he had reported to the museum. As you can see
they are fairly subtle traces of once great creatures.
A couple of weeks later a crew from the Museum
came out and removed the skeleton of a Triceratops
dinosaur. While Alberta is know for dinosaurs
Triceratops are rare in the province and about 30 %
of the skeleton remained which is fairly significant.
The story was widely reported in the media and it was
a lot of fun to have seen the bones with their discoverer.

It was a great visit.

"And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was 
one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight 
and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree 
to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. 
And I saw that it was holy."

                        Black Elk 
                                              Black Elk Speaks 1932
                                                        Oglala Lakota (Sioux)