Dear Reader 2/14/2024

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Reading C.S Lewis’ An Experiment in Criticism and not that I am looking over anybody’s shoulder, or peeking at their library titles but he has great points about exchanges between reader and writer..


(Many readers) (and reviewers on Amazon) demand a swift-moving narrative. Something must always be ‘happening’. Their favorite terms of condemnation are ‘slow’, ‘long-winded’ and the like…”

“Some people read only narrative because only there will he find an Event. He is dead to the aural side of what he reads because rhythm and melody do not help him to discover who married who (or rescued, robbed raped or murdered) whom”

I’m not totally in agreement with this — it’s important to find out who. But I think it’s true about narratives that leap wildly from event to event becoming tedious.

And, “In the course of my inquiry I rejected the notion that literature is to be valued A) for telling us truths about life and b.) as an aid to culture…while we read, we must treat the reception of the work we are reading as an end in itself.”

That’s because non-fiction — polemics, essays, journalism sermons— does those things much better than dressing it all up as a “novel”.

Every dawn is different, the sun is moving north again, shadows are different on the hills day by day and Orion is leaving us. Last night I stepped outside and I never saw such a sky full of blazing stars.

1/25/24 Un Gallo Canta en India

That’s what my friend Elvia in Coatepec wrote back to me when I told her this story.

I was placing an order over the phone and I got somebody who was clearly from India or maybe was Bangladeshi from the accent, and in the background I heard a rooster crowing! And hens clucking! It was surprising and charming and just the kind of combination of high-tech and low-tech I find intriguing. I envisioned the village and her in front of a computer with one electrical line coming into the house, the rooster perched on the computer monitor crowing “I am the King!! I am the King!! Look at me, I’m on the Internet!”

Elvia said she was probably working for pennies which is true but she was doing her very best.

I have neglected about everything there is to neglect, working hard on re-write of book number 2 in the Lighthouse Island Trilogy, there’s a middle part where the sequence of events is messed up. This is a future world of low tech and workingman’s ingenuity to keep things wavering along, so the sound of the rooster was spot on.

We’re having an Easter cantata and I don’t know if I can make all the rehearsals, Christmas was an immense effort because of so many people down with Covid and endless rehearsals. But we’ll see.

Am going to Point Loma University California in late February and also have been invited to the Eudory Welty Festival in Jacksonville MI in April, have not doing too much traveling and speaking but these should be enjoyable.

December 22/23

Just got Jeff’s new calendar for 2024, and here’s one of the best photos in it — these are Kokanee salmon heading upstream — in the Kootenays, B.C. So beautiful!

Jeff doesn’t sell these calendars, he just takes his best pictures and has them made up into a calendar for friends and I am lucky enough to get one every year. The above is the October photo.

My friends Jeff and Caroline were lighthouse keepers off the coast of Vancouver Island (three miles off coast from Tofino) for many years and had many adventures — they’re now retired and traveling and Jeff free to really work on his photography and Caroline on her children’s books. I’ll never forget the shot he got of a helicopter lifting off a gigantic piece of heavy machinery — an earth-moving thing of some kind — from the island. It was the Lennard Island light station. They were clearing the island of old junk machinery. They both had to do an amazing variety of things, including rescuing foolish people who thought they could paddle out into the North Pacific in plastic boats. I spent a wonderful six days there visiting them.

Here’s the lighthouse in snow, from about 2009 or so.

Very Christmas!


Merry Christmas! To all of you from me, my family and other animals.

We managed to pull off the cantata again this year, despite sicknesses and colds and flu’s and now one case of Covid —- the town is all lit up and several of us musicians are driving down to Sabinal to play for their Methodist church on Christmas Eve and then Christmas day all I want as a present is to be able to sleep in until at least ten in the morning! Won’t make it to San Antonio with Jim and Nadine and the darlings but maybe New Years.

And, despite all the tragedies —

Happy Hannukah…

December 16/23

Elvia is quite the traveler! This is from her South America trip — the presidential palace in Montevideo — she talked Jaime into going with her. Great picture.

And my travels were back to the Missouri Ozarks in October, finally posting pictures — susan and I used to camp out in the snow, sleeping on the ground — that was more than twenty years ago. Now we’re all glamping. This was a commercial KOA campground with authentic looking covered wagons, fully supplied with electricity and bathroom, comfy beds…so time passes and we get hip surgery and we like our warm beds. Also on this trip was Gini Barnett, Megan and Melinda. Fall colors were terrific and that’s me standing on the shore of the St. Francis River, reinvigorating, soaking up vibes from my home place.

Below is Gini Barnett, I opted to not even ride but we rented a golf cart and I drove Gini around the trails as she is recovering from a bad horse-wreck, she broke that left leg in several places and can’t ride, of course, so we explored the trails around Sam. A. Baker state park in comfort.,

Fall colors.

November 14th/23


I realize I have not posted pictures of my trip to Coatepec, Veracruz Mexico last August, and so I am just now getting around to it. I think it’s because I posted so many of the pictures to friends. At any rate, partially this is to assure people that I really do have a social life here, so many friends in eastern cities/large cities imagine that I live in a tiny hermit house far out in the wilderness and never see people or go anywhere and am totally without human contact or something. Really.

The Ortiz house/villa, and entrance, where I am privileged to stay — it came down through the family from Julio’s wife, Luz ‘La Guera’ Ortiz and has a fascinating history with several very funny stories attached when it was the only hotel in Coatepec and many outrageously wild parties went on there but that’s for another time.

Here’s Julio, one of my favorite people, brother of my friend Elvia, he’s an architect. He told me what project he was working on but I forget…

Elvia at the Coatepec market — she goes there every day and everybody knows her, knows what it is she needs for the day. I love the market.

And another of her brothers (she was the only girl) Jaime, who is an enormous amount of fun — he has a PhD in electrical engineering from an English university, I forget which one, and he told me a great story about being a consultant with the mayor of Jalapa, when we were all at lunch at a very elegant restaurant in that town, from which I did not get any pictures. Or maybe I did, I’ll look. Anyway he worked on El Farallon, (an island) Mexico’s only nuclear power plant, decades ago, and Jim and I got to go and stay with him at El Farallon —so interesting!

Best of all was a trip with Jaime and Elvia to the coastal town of Tlacotalpan, on a very muddy, mosquito-laden shore of the Papaloapan River where it feeds into the Gulf of Mexico —a mile broad — which was a colonial town from the 1700s where all the houses are preserved and painted the most fabulous colors. Preservation by means of the Mexican government department of antiquities, a very worthy use of the money. At any rate, the aristocrats of the 1700s and 1800s lived in these lovely places and of course the poor in jacales. It was a shipping port — I think produce from the interior. At any rate, it was frozen in time.

Y como siempre, desde los tiempos de Ulyses, la colgada secando en los techos, las banderas de los pobres.

Veteran’s Day Nov. 11 2023

When Jim and I lived in King William and I used to keep my horse at the Fort Sam Houston stables, a group of us used to ride on the grounds where permitted. Down into Salado Creek and around the edge of the national cemetery, where Jim is now buried.

One time when we were near the edge of the National Cemetery we saw a pile of gravestones, just heaped up, some scattered around, all broken. A retired Marine sergeant who used to ride with us. Don Diaz, rode over to them and looked them over and said, “They’re being replaced. They got broken or worn or stained and they’re being replaced, these are discards.” And he leaned down to read the names, as if he might know them.

Don and I used to ride together from time to time, just the two of us, and he told me a lot of stories about Vietnam. He didn’t mind telling me the stories because he knew my husband was a combat veteran. He said he knew a lot of young soldiers that got killed because of poor training. He said they’d been trained as if they were going off to fight a regular army as in WW2. He also told me good stories about growing up poor and Hispanic in San Antonio. I hope he is still among the living. He was a great guy.

AP photo

November 7/2023

People who do stuff

I’ve been reading Rob Henderson on Substack, I like his writing very much. Like Paul Fussell (Class) and David Foster Wallace (A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again) he writes about “class” or better “status” but from a relevant perspective. I would add that the non-upper/middle/class world — ‘working class’ and village and rural and small town life, the culture tends to form around what people DO.

The urban world in general coalesces around how people can appear and the culture urges an eternal struggle for social status.

Wallace wrote that we seem to be becoming a world of ‘appearers’ rather than ‘do-ers’.

So when journalists or retirees or anthropologists step out of an urban upper/middle/’class’ world into that of the village, rural, or ordinary working people world, they tend to assume that the social scene they have entered is also formed around how people can appear. They assume that the people around them are also in an eternal fight for social status.

They are very much mistaken and often come to grief because they can’t question their own cultural biases.

The culture of non-urban people is around doing stuff and doing it well. Sometimes fearlessly. The culture of the non-urban does not impose that terror of losing social status, of slipping down a notch, of social shame, of being ejected from society because of a non-approved-of signal.

When one does something and does it well, sometimes fearlessly, what one gains is respect, not status.

10/126/23 The Eclipse

I didn’t get any pictures of the full eclipse but these shadows came through my windows from the trees outside. They replicated the progress of the eclipse itself. Very strange. The shadows — or light-impressions — on the red floor downstairs were when it was almost completed, making crescents, and the ones upstairs in the study were when it was at full.

I saw a clip from a pro-Palestinian protest at Chicago city hall and the screaming, yattering young woman (clearly a non-Palestinian) looked just like something from Skibidi Toilet.

The young men of Hamas were raised on the deeply seductive, narcotic pleasures of hate cartoons and the notorious ISIS murder/torture films, as Salvador Ramos, the killer of Uvalde, had fallen completely into the narcosis of various kill games on the Internet. People need to take this seriously. People can be turned into mass murderers of little children, into young men who would behead babies, BY THE INTERNETS’ MOVING VISUAL IMAGES.

Is it any wonder that both the ancient Judaic tradition and the Protestant reformation were deeply suspicious of visual images? How do we separate “this is information” from “behave like this, you can be a god”?

Got me.