The eclipse April 8/24

My friend April Baxter got this picture, she’s in Marble Falls and manages the horse recreation for a large summer camp, Marble Falls is about 80 miles from here — but here, I only caught such a brief glimpse of the ring of fire that I couldn’t even focus my phone camera on time.

Amazing — amazing that the moon crosses the sun’s path, and even though it is a little moon of the third planet circling a mediocre sun, it is the exact same size as the sun as seen from that third planet, so precisely the same size as seen from earth that it throws a ring of fire. In what other place in the universe does this happen?

It went very dark and all the solar lights came on.

Eclipse Time In Utopia, reviews of old works April 6/24

Just re-read The Stand and it is addictive now as it was many years ago. However we are stuck with the old problem (for contemporary fiction) that the good people, like Mother Abigail, are passive and don’t really effect much of anything, and is the virtuous victim, while the Evil Dude is active, alert, seeking, moving and doing as well as homicidal etc. A hundred or so years ago the good guys were usually mountain bandits swearing revenge and leading their merry men down the declivities with savage yells. They assaulted the Evil Baron and set fire to his castle, galloping away with a fainting fashionista princess as a hostage, fell in love etc. Mountain bandits were usually about a nine on the Get ‘Er Done chart. But for more than a century our central character is usually a loser. A virtuous, sensitive, deeply caring loser.

This doesn’t seem to apply to the gazillions of non-literary fictions self-published on Amazon although sometimes you see it creeping in because the whole Evil-Active, Good-With-Chronic-Fatigue-Syndrome is so pervasive it seems that a beginning writer can hardly evade being influenced by it. At any rate, the number of post-apocalypse, apocalypse and Fall of Civilization novels are unnumbered — pages and pages of them.

They interest me — at least for a few sample pages — because I’m curious as to the main character’s character. What’s the alternative? I suppose the ancient and rather worn-out virtuous victim MC will fade away eventually.

I am also reading all of John Cheever’s short stories. I admire him very much. I love his work. Shady Hill was his Troy.

I think these are about all the flowers we are going to get this spring. It’s painfully, depressingly dry. They are a kind of desert flower, or bush, I think. They bloom no matter what. We are turning into Arizona here.

But the eclipse is coming!

The town is already filling up and the Parks department has gifted our highway approaches both north and south with a great many flags, it looks great, the park is filled with gifts-and-trinkets booth and when I was in town today to get mail etc. I was glad to see Sherriff Nolasco and several Uvalde Sherriff’s department cars parked around town.

Just heard from my Lighthouse Island friends, going to dinner with Bill and Cathy Wightman Sunday evening and am on my way to speak at the Eudora Welty lit. festival in Jackson Mississippi next Tuesday. Looking forward to all of it and now I have to answer Elvia in Coatepec, if I get a letter off in Spanish before my hip starts hurting it would be a good thing.

February 2/25/24

I want to highly recommend this book — Ron Henderson is a kind of miracle — and his observations about class surpass, I think, those of Fussell. Surviving a childhood of drug-addicted mother, repeated foster homes, incessant turmoil and wild acting-out as a teenager, he finally got a handle on things by joining the Air Force. He then went on to Yale and a PhD from Cambridge (England). His observations on the class snobbery he survived are remarkable for their analytical quality and a kind of calm about it all. When he met Harold Bloom, and related to Bloom very briefly his background, Bloom put a hand on his arm and said, “You were forged in a fire”. Henderson is the author of the term ‘luxury belief’, which has become current.

Be current, read up on this, it’s the start of something new, or perhaps very old, but certainly welcome.

How it might affect the present state of fiction I can’t tell.

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.