Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Yellow Leaves

I'm at the window of the Virginia Cafe. Most of the leaves outside are yellow, but towards the hearts of the trees, some are still green. I've seen this a few times this year. There's one especially striking ilanthus near my house, showers of yellow on the outside, and inside, all brilliant green. I don't know if this year is different, or if I've just never noticed it before. Do a tree's leaves usually turn from the outside in?

In any case, the leaves are wet and glowing yellow, and they fall one by one, rocking as though they were the visible ends of ghostly seesaws: back and forth, up and down. They are all bright and yellow. The semantic fields of autumn are pushing me to say “gold,” but there is no gold there, not a hint of it. It's yellow, painfully intense and pure. Some of the trees have a dusting of lichen that answers to the colors of the leaves. But there is no gold anywhere.

Something wary and feral wakes in me on wet, glowing days like this. I want to wander and climb: it's a restlessness that makes me want to trace lines on the faces of strangers, to read their features like a text in Braille. The whole world seems like a faintly glowing cipher, a letter in an unknown script. My kinship isn't with stupid, obvious human beings: it's with whatever demiurge created them, with the hand that painted both the faces and the leaves. Not God the Father, but some slighter, flickering deity in love with curves and oblique lines. There is something being said that neither the faces nor the leaves ever understood. It's neither happy nor kind, but there's an alien delight in it, and I'm tempted to forswear my humanity and follow that delight instead. As if you might open a notebook and shake it so that all the written letters fell out of it, like thin wire confections and curlicues, and drifted on the floor: or as if you might take the print of a face, on one of those golden leaves, take the delineations, and leave only a glowing blur behind – a shapeless mute nob on a neck-stalk, not even aware that the lines that used to make its face have been taken away. How, after all, could it ever know? Who would tell it?

And now the light drains away, and the rain picks up. The leaves fall faster, and the glow is all gone. A dull and sodden world supervenes, and my imagined kinship with the demiurge makes me frightened and ashamed. Time to wrap my coat closer around me, and walk back to the office. And hope not to meet myself on the way.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Rasping a Glint

Pedernal yesca
tinder and flint
hafted and skinted
rasping a glint

moglie sposa
woman of nest
Jael the Carpenter
hammer in heft

ferliche and fairly
driven and drone
lifting the gold spike
driving it home

Thursday, October 25, 2012


The spiritual equivalent of altitude sickness: the mix of awe and compassion is too thin for me, and my soul lies gasping on the pebbly ground, while the hemlocks throb against the twilight. If I could just catch my breath –

You might have to go on without me, and pick me up on the way back.

I was given a massage tool when its owner died: a white serpentine in a shallow 'S'-shape, smooth as jade, which warms quickly to the hand. I've never used tools in my practice, but I keep the serpentine on my bedside table, and I toy with it sometimes before I fall asleep: it fits into my hand in various ways, and seems always on the point of conveying something of terrific importance to me. I fell asleep one time, holding it, and hoped it would bring me a dream, but it remained silent. Dreams aren't sent like credit cards. You have to earn them.

I am failing, failing some important test, and I don't even know what it is.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Life of Emily Dickinson

I'm reading Sewall's biography of Emily Dickinson. It's a really wonderful book, and I highly recommend it. He is at war with what he calls, with a capital 'M', “the Myth” – which is the story that Dickinson, disappointed in love, and really too fragile for this world, withdrew from it and attempted to vanish behind the masks of poetry, as a way of escape. He sets up a counter-story, of a woman finding her vocation and simply dropping the obligations of an intensely social world (the typical life of an upper-class New England lady was a mass of social obligations) that would have eaten all her time and pulled her away from her life's work.

You can practically feel his longing: he wants very much for it to be true. But he's too disciplined and conscientious to skew his evidence, and I don't find myself believing his story much more than the the story he so successfully shoots down. I'm not convinced that Dickinson believed in her own poetic immortality, or that she was easy in her skin.

I'm aware of wanting to make a third story, to co-opt her and take her for my own. I would make her endlessly restless, a person of deep religious feeling but impatient with doctrine and suspicious of religious professionals. I would make her disappointed in love, in a drastic if unspecific Shelleyan way. She flings herself at people (in writing at least), and leaves them uncomfortable and bewildered by her enthusiasm. Nothing quite works out, and she moves restlessly away, having been failed – somehow – she doesn't even know how. But person after person moves out of her orbit, unsatisfied and unsatisfying.

All the while, I can see why I'd try to make this the Dickinson story: I can see the tendentiousness of my own mind, its eagerness to co-opt her, to make her play out one version of my own psychodrama, to find a way out or around or through this baffle. Nothing will come of that.

Again and again, I come to the baffle, the stone in the tunnels in Cirith Ungol that I can get neither around nor through nor over, though I can hear the voices of my enemies, carrying away what I love. What was all this for, then? That is probably not a question that means anything, but it is an insistent one.

I grow more and more wary of this sort of thinking, thinking of purposes and destinies and the fate of character. I looked at my recent poems, though, because someone else was looking at them, and I thought, my God, what a bitter and resentful person wrote these poems! And all alike. Flinging himself at the baffle again and again. It's time to stop and think, instead: time to back off.

In the meantime: sun and rain in a complicated dance, and the grape leaves – whatever they really are – phosphorescent in the mist, and hugging Deb Scott on Mississippi Avenue. An arc of color where the rain was sorting the light, and photos of robed Rinpoches on an office wall. I wait for November, and the healing dark, and the recovery of touch.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Torn Edge of Autumn

Morning lifts its shoulders, trees crane their necks and gape at the sky, a crow pounds its way through the thin air. Everything's a bit raw and ragged.

Here at the torn edge of Autumn. Looking backward and forward: longing for the long oven, the flare of heat and light; longing to have my bones and flesh eaten by the fire, and my breath set free to ripple in the air, up and away. I love that I don't know which way the wind will be blowing: whether the vapor will wander up over the Cascades or run south with the rain, up the valley toward the southern hills and the oaks. Or even run east with the cold stiff wind from the Columbia Gorge, and out to sea: I'd like that best of all.

So grateful for my work: for skin and flesh, for the beating heart and the blood flowing, the sweetness of palm and sole. The quiet breath, the invisible catch of a almost-snore, the lift of a chin when my thumbs rise up under the suboccipitals. Twilight, night-time, streetlights; the deft way I've learned to swing my table up on the pivot of my knee and toss it into the floor space between the front and back seats of the car, moving all that weight with almost no effort, feeling much younger and stronger than when I was, actually, young and strong.

Grateful for a warm bed and chill air, for the pad of Kiki's paws, through the covers, on the backs of my knees, at three in the morning. For unexpected bare skin, for hair settling onto my forearm, for inquiring sounds that never rise to words, and are met with equally inarticulate reassurances. For the sound of Tori rising at six thirty, and getting her breakfast. For the shuddering gasps of the garbage and recycling trucks as they trundle through the neighborhood, coming faithfully, every week, as evidence that we are a settled and prosperous people.

The autumn spiders are enormous; when you walk into their thick strands they break with a palpable ping. “I always feel bad about breaking their webs,” said our neighbor. “They work so hard!”

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Against Democracy

I'm not convinced that democracy is a good idea. It's an idea that I love, but in practice it can become terribly poisonous and discouraging. It just requires too much grown-up behavior. We're not up to it.

I was reading Sapolsky's memoir a couple months ago, and he talked about how stress levels shot up in all the baboons whenever the alpha was challenged, and the lines of the hierarchy became unclear. I see the same thing at election time: the human beings all become anxious and fearful, and liable to outbursts of rage; their intelligence, individual and collective, seems to drop several notches. I'd prefer to think that we're capable of a non-hierarchical society, but I wonder if we are.

One of the signs of this is the disinclination to vote for anyone imperfect: the longing to vote for a perfect human being, rather than for an ordinary party, run by ordinary human beings, with a list of things it would like to do. I was puzzled by the responses to Obama until I understood this. He's a good solid center democrat, way over to the right of me in many ways, over to the left in others. His voting record in the Senate was clear and consistent, if short. He's as good at trying to do what he said he was going to try to do as any president I remember. No surprises. Standard Democratic Party stuff. But the excitement that surrounded him was intense, and I think it's best understood in terms of primate psychology: we had had a weak alpha for a long time, who couldn't speak persuasively, and made many obviously bad decisions. Here was a confident, persuasive one. And he was a different color! Maybe that would make a difference! I really think much of the excitement, and consequent disappointment, is as simple as that. We're not really very complicated critters, in a lot of ways.

And instead of blaming themselves for electing a Democratic president, a divided Senate, and a Republican House – a configuration which our constitution pretty much guarantees will prevent any significant legislation – Americans are preparing to do exactly the same thing again. And again, they will blame the subsequent paralysis on Obama and on Congress, as if anything else could happen. The marching orders of the Republican House are – present right-wing legislation. The marching orders of the Democratic Senate are – quash it.

I've always been irritated by employers who blame their employees. You've got the power; you set the rules; if they're not getting the work done, it's your fault, not theirs. I feel that way about the American public blaming congress. If you want them to work, you have to give them consistent orders that make sense.

I see no sign that Americans, generally, take their responsibilities as a democratic people seriously. They don't take the time to do democracy properly: they won't learn about the issues, they won't engage with the Americans who disagree with them. They seem to me childish, petulant, and irresponsible. They have no idea how to solve the problems of the country, and yet they're eager to blame congress for also having no idea. The constant bleating pleas for “leadership” are ominous. This is a democracy. We are supposed to be the leaders. That's the whole idea.

It's only this situation that has enabled the lobbyists for the large business and corporate interests to gain their ascendancy. They do take the time to learn about the issues, to work out long-range plans, and to engage with people who don't agree with them. I don't like these people – they're political mercenaries: but the fact is they're behaving more like citizens, by and large, than we are.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Warm Rain

Warm night: the rain has slackened, for a bit. the air is rich with the smell of torn leaves: tannin, wet soil, and ozone. I am not in sympathy with the rain, today; I am too full of doubts and hesitations. I vowed to dedicate my powers / To thee and thine -- have I not kept the vow? I wrote that down and then asked, well, have I? And only the dripping water from the tattered twigs answered. Intellectual beauty? Do I even know what that means? The clouds are pregnant with still more rain. There's more to come. Where the moon may be, behind all that wrack, I can't even guess.

I have been considering for days the problem of the letter 'y': my sense that its tail should be bold, flowing, and sinuous runs -- smack! -- into the fact that as I usually hold a pen, the tail runs exactly at the angle of the nib, making a line far too meager. And pulling to the left leaves the letter unpleasantly squashed, while pulling to the right looks affected if not innovative. I keep thinking there should be a simple solution to this problem, but none comes. I fear it will have to be innovation. Or maybe the tail maybe has to jack away from itself, at last?

Good night!

Sunday, October 14, 2012


High ceilings: a clean bare apartment, in the modern, comfortless style. The floor-to-ceiling windows, which might have looked out over the city lights, were covered with matte black shades. The books were few and serious: T.C. Boyle, Jared Diamond. The effect was elegant but lonesome.

So also was the young woman, who had no fund of smalltalk, nothing to expose or to apologize for. One of those rare clients who seem to go nowhere during a massage, who stay warily present and alert. You ask them if they're comfortable and they answer at once and clearly, with the same readiness and tone they would use in a job interview. I sometimes wonder if the pheromones are simply wrong, with such clients. Have I done something wrong, or failed to do something right? I'll never know, but I'll be astonished if she calls me again.

I pondered the massage, and my responses, as I drove home. I sometimes feel a little awkward with clients that much younger than I am. They come from a different world. When I was young there was much solemn discussion and hand-wringing about the generation gap, but it seems to me that the distance separating me from young people now is far greater than the one that separated me from my parents. My parents and I grew up dabbling occasionally in despair. But these young people grew up immersed in it, they live and breathe it. They believe in nothing, and they have never trusted anything enough to be betrayed by it. My heart aches for them.

Or possibly it aches for myself, and all this has nothing to do with her. I need to bear that possibility in mind, too. As I drove through the rainy night, I went methodically through my heart, labeling the potentially toxic responses and putting them up to dry. Here was my dismay at being treated formally and distantly; here was my anxiety about being old and fat; here was the millionth iteration of the story of my only being able to talk my game; here was the faint but insistent conviction that my body is awkward and de trop; here was the sense that my tongue is thick with some ancestral poison, which prevents me ever from expressing the kindness and generosity that overflows my heart. I hung them carefully, one by one, with the clothespins of the dharma. Let them hang like prayer flags, till they turn to powder and fly with the wind.

This, I feel, is my great qualification for doing massage. All of us who work along the boundaries of intimacy, doing massage or talk therapy, need this capacity above all others: to be able to see our own responses, and not believe in them – not ratify them – and certainly not impute them to the people we work with. Nothing needs to be done with them. They don't need to be accepted or rejected, evaluated or justified. They just need to be given proper ventilation: they'll disintegrate on their own.

Underneath it all is a floor of heat and fire, that ancient, inarticulable potency, the thing that all prayer invokes. We can't afford to smother that with damp laundry. Hang it up and let it dry.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Unscrawled Heaven

I find myself still softly searching
For my Delinquent Palaces –

Oh, me too, Emily. Myself the only prince cast out.

The rains have begun at last. I can see the tracers, pale gray lines against the faintly paler sky, as if heaven was a paper slant-ruled for forward-leaning cursive. I want to form each letter slowly, perfectly, each one dropping to dissolution. Incipit liber primus. Here beginneth Book One.

I crouch by the gutter and dabble my fingers in the clear water: I squint up at the sky, and my eye-sockets fill. Clear ink runs down my cheeks, streams into a thicket of beard. Down at the corner stop someone sneezes, and the brakes of the city bus gasp. Rain. It falleth as the merciful rain of heaven upon the place beneath. And I am the place beneath: my delinquent palaces seem to have deliquesced.

Blowing, sputtering, I reach the shelter of the porch. I want to extend my fingers so that a drop will fall on each fingertip. Thimbles of cold wet water; gloves of rain. O heaven, endless white unscrawled heaven, when can I begin to write?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Not Training to Injury

I've always exercised: that's pretty much the only thing I'll talk about in this series that I have always done right. And it's been somewhat by accident that I've achieved it, because once again, my guides were not great.

I used to walk a good deal. I loved walking. I took long thinking walks, and talked to myself, argued with myself, recited poetry, made plans. It was fun. When I moved to New Haven, walking was no longer fun. It was difficult and dangerous. People viewed you with suspicion: why were you walking? Streets were difficult to cross. Muggers were numerous and savage. In the winter, snow and ice made walking a struggle. It was a discouraging time, and I lost the habit. I was in graduate school and I felt I didn't have time anyway.

But I got back to Portland, and I took up swimming, which I had always loved: I swam at the old YWCA up on 10th Avenue. I was doing it for exercise, by then. I had Kenneth Cooper's Aerobics in hand, as my manual, and I tried to train up, according to his guidelines.

Somehow it never quite worked out. I would always get sick (with what I thought of as a cold), at a certain point in my training programs, and spin out for a week or two, and have to start over. I documented my progress meticulously. Always that failure, and starting over, the gradual progression, getting more distance and more speed and then – failure.

I did the same thing with weights. I got dumbbells and started lifting. Daily. With elaborate systems worked out to lift more and more, with more and more reps, and no endpoint, no point at which it was good enough. Curiously enough, I never got very far before I hurt myself, my elbows or my shoulders, and would have to quit for a while.

I'm very grateful for the periodic failures and blessedly minor injuries, now, because I think they saved me from doing what I've seen many, many of my clients do: undertake a determined and resolute program of training to injury. They take up some repetitive exercise that is really hard on the joints, and up the ante, up the ante, up the ante, doing it longer, harder, and more frequently – until something gives. They injure a knee, a hip, or a shoulder, and – suddenly they can't do their chosen exercise any more. They can't do it at all. Any many of them, at this point, give up exercise altogether. It's deeply discouraging to them. Especially for those of them who were athletes in school, it can be a severe identity crisis. If they're not supremely fit, getting better and better – then what are they? They're nothing. Failures. Has-beens.

I don't exercise any more, as I used to understand it. I don't try to get better and better. Doing massage keeps my hand and upper body strength pretty good. I bicycle to and from my writing-cafe – three or four miles from home – most mornings. I'm always meaning to get my weight machine set back up, but I never quite do it. And maybe it's just as well.

The other bit of exercise I do every day is what I call my “back exercises.” Way back when I used to have a lot of low back trouble – in New Haven, curiously enough – I went to a chiropractor. The adjustments didn't do anything for me, but he handed me a sheet of paper with exercises on it, and I did the exercises, and they helped a lot. I think when I started doing them, they took about 25 minutes, every morning, which is a big investment of time. I streamlined them more and more, till now they only take about 10 minutes, I think. I do them every single morning. I'm convinced (caveat, caveat, caveat, sample of one, your mileage may vary) that these exercises keep my erstwhile back trouble at bay.

(I know now that these “exercises” were actually borrowed yoga poses. One of these days I'll document my routine for you. Remind me.)

These exercises helped my back dramatically. Every once in a while, once every couple months, maybe, I'll be pressed for time some morning and skip them. By afternoon my back will be twinging in that old, ominous way. If I skip them a second morning, I'll “throw my back out” that day, almost for sure. Even I can respond to feedback that clear. I don't often skip any more, and I never skip two days in a row. Life is short, and I don't want to spend much of with my back in spasm, gasping on my hands and knees.

What do these three activities – the back exercises, the bicycling, and the massage – have in common? I enjoy them all, they're knit into my daily routines, and they are not progressive. They're not a training program. I'm not trying to get anywhere with them. They're just the way I live. If I don't do them, I get grumpy, or my body starts hurting, or I can't sleep. It's become pretty obvious and self-reinforcing.

So. Why did I start with exercise, in a series about learning how to deal with food? Because for me, dealing with food depends on careful deployment of will power, and replenishing will power depends on sleep, and sleep depends on exercise. It's that simple. I don't exercise, I won't eat right. It's not about burning calories; it's about feeling good. And about waking up with enough oomph in the bank to get through the day.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

This Food Thing: The Family Curse

“You know,” I found myself saying to Martha the other day, “I think I have this food thing whupped.”

I went on to walk it back and qualify it and add disclaimers: a long way to go, just maybe over the hump, could still be wrecked by this or that – you know. That's my way. I'm a cautious man. I don't believe in rashly drawing the gods' attention. But really, I do think I have this food thing whupped.

“This food thing,” what thing would that be? Overeating, eating compulsively, eating lots of things that I know are bad for me. It's an embarrassingly big deal for me, and always has been. I've been struggling with it all my life: I've hovered on the official overweight/obese line, sometimes ten, twenty pounds from it one way or the other, as I tried various approaches and lost control of them, but always within hailing distance of it, and always, until recently, always with the dread that it will get away from me altogether, and that I'll become downright enormous.

I've noticed with friends and clients that many of them, maybe most of them, believe in a family curse. It's their fate to die of cancer, or to always make bad relationship decisions, or to be unwise with money. It's the fatal weakness of their family: and it's bound to get them eventually, no matter what they do. There's a grain of truth to it, often – all these things do run in families. But they believe in them much more strongly than the data warrants.

The curse my family laid on me was, that I was going to become fat, and I was going to die of a heart attack. I've known this all my life. My mother's father – the one everyone exclaimed I was the spitting image of – died of a heart attack at 62. My mother was fat, and hated being fat, and told me over and over that if I kept on eating as I was, I would become fat too. Which would, of course, be the worst thing that could befall anyone. But she also came from an Illinois farm family that believed one of the cardinal virtues was stuffing your menfolk, so at the same time that she warned me about this, she fed me unlimited amounts of rich food. Everything I liked to eat was on hand, all the time.

I ate. This was my fate. I'd eat, and become fat, and die early. Serve me right for my wickedness: but there was nothing to be done about it.

Oh, I'd go on diets. All of them worked, for a while, and I'd lose ten, fifteen pounds, maybe – quite quickly – and I'd picture losing the rest of the weight, how easy it would be, and I'd escape the family curse, and be free! And then the weight loss would, mysteriously, stop. Following the diet would become harder and harder, the sruggles against myself would become epic, titanic. And then – suddenly – I'd break. I'd eat. And eat and eat and eat, and accept my fate.

The state of obesity research and nutritional science, in those days, was abysmal, and the dietary advice was almost uniformly bad. One of my “diet” foods was low-fat fruit-flavored “yogurt,” sweetened to a candy with corn-syrup. Medical authority solemnly told me to avoid things like butter and red meat, and eat this poisonous processed crap instead. It wasn't until much much later that I discovered how little and how bad the science behind this advice was. It was science, right? It was the Surgeon General. It had to be true.

Medical authority also told me how to exercise to lose weight: low-intensity, endlessly repetitive, supposedly “aerobic” exercise. Here again the science was bad or simply non-existent. No one has ever been able to demonstrate that exercise of this sort, or of any sort, leads to people losing weight. It simply doesn't. Exercise and obesity basically have nothing to do with each other. But again, the recommendations were laid down by all the authorities I knew of. I wasn't a science guy. I was an English major. I took the authorities at their word. So when I did undertake exercise, what I did was try to jog, daily, for longer and longer amounts of time. Eventually I'd hurt myself, or need to do something else with all that time, and I'd give it up. And again, I knew, anyway, that there was really nothing I could do. My fate was waiting for me: there was never really any getting away from it.

It's been a long hard haul since then. I've had to learn a lot, and unlearn a lot. I've had to get stricter with myself in some ways and easier on myself in others. I've had to run a lot of experiments in what Paul Ingraham calls “the laboratory of me,” and make up new approaches based on the results. But I do think that I have, finally, whupped this food thing.

I sat down and drew up an outline of how I did it. I might write a post on each of these. Or I might not. But here's the outline:
  1. A habit of exercise, and learning not to “train to failure”
  2. Protecting my sleep
  3. De-stressing my life
  4. Learning to distrust carbs
  5. Commuting by bicycle
  6. Keeping the kitchen work-ready
  7. La Grande Salade
  8. Training the will, getting help, and hiding treats
  9. That palatability study, and learning to trust carbs again. Some of them. Some of the time.
Who knows if I'll actually follow this out and write all the posts? I might. And who knows whether I've really escaped the family curse? We'll see. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Redder Than Yesterday: Manaza

The Sunday cartoons are reader than yesterday
and the wind threw
the gap in the window flew
them off the table, and they rock
gently to the floor. You rock
too. The floor holds your hips in his wide
carpeted hands: did you know there's a word
in Spanish for a big hand, a mitt, a paw?
Manaza. True story.

In response to this morning porch entry.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Battle Ground

3:00 a.m.: I haven't slept. Outside, the moon glares on the new white paint of the south wall. Something trips the motion sensors and the lights go on in the front yard. Kiki, possibly; possibly raccoons. After a few minutes, the lights go out again, and once again the only light – the only thing I can see, except the gleam of my fingers as I type – is my laptop screen.

I hear two clocks ticking, and the refrigerator fan, and a faint sound like a jet engine building up on a runway. I don't know what that is. The loudest sound is that of my tinnitus, floating by my ears like a oversized, melodic, silver mosquito. I miss the tumble of the sea.

My hands smell of apple, and behind that there's even still a faint tang they picked up from the rock at Lucia Falls, up on the east fork of the Lewis River. Smooth gray rock, curved and twisted: shaped like soft ice cream when it comes out of the machine at Dairy Queen. It's all bare: not a bit of soil. Only the green water rushing through narrow channels, or settling in deep pools. Where it falls over a lip of stone, you can see, through a glassy wall of water, the foam-bubbles forming. When the water strikes, they'll be released to the surface: for the moment, though, they're trapped between the water and the rock, and are carried down, willy-nilly, to the splash pools.

Signs forbade water contact, lest the salmon be disturbed or confused on their way upstream. Perhaps that's why no one was there. Or perhaps it's just too late in the year: beautiful though the weather is, people have put away the things of summer, and they don't even think of it. At any rate, we had the park to ourselves: just stone and water and red light slanting through the hemlocks. A bloody sun to remind us of the wildfires burning on the other side of the mountains.

We had lunch at a Mexican restaurant in the small and pleasant town of Battle Ground – which is named after a battle with the Klickitats which was expected, but never happened. There was war with the Yakimas, so the Klickitats up the Lewis River – who so far as I can tell had nothing to do with it – were rounded up and interned at Fort Vancouver. Some of them escaped: a detachment of soldiers went after them and talked them into coming back. On their return, the settlers were disappointed that there hadn't been a battle, and they took to referring to the place where they met, derisively, as “Battle ground.” And Battle Ground it is to this day. I'm glad the soldiers didn't gratuitously murder the Klickitats for the heinous crime of wanting to sleep in their own beds, but the disappointment leaves a sour taste. And there's the bizarre fact, protruding awkwardly from all accounts, that Chief Umtuch was “accidentally” killed during the encounter. Accidents do happen, of course, especially when lots of jumpy untrained people are toting guns around. But one wonders.

Anyway. Our waitress was clearly a native speaker of Spanish, and I confused her by pronouncing “chile verde” in what I fondly imagined to be Spanish fashion. I switched to “chilly vairdy” and got on better. The food was cheap and good. When I was young, the food that got passed off as Mexican in such places was awful, but it's getting so that if you want a decent cheap meal in the rural Northwest, your best bet is the Mexican restaurants, the ones that the Mexicans themselves frequent. The Anglos out in the sticks seem to have forgotten how to cook.

It was a good day. But I'm worried about a friend, who spent the day, not clambering around on the rocks of the Lewis River, but anesthetized upon a table, with worried surgeons trying to understand the nature and extent of her tumors. All day I dropped into prayers from time to time, and I seem to have fretted restlessly through most of the night. It's morning now, a bright and beautiful Fall morning. No certain or reassuring news.