Thursday, August 29, 2013

XCV: Fresh Starts

Interestingly got an update today on efforts to preserve offspring and scion wood of the tree, not going so well on the vegetative propagation front as you might expect given it's an oak, but there's still some hope and it continues. Plans to move seedlings are progressing as well.  


Also recently did a little suppression of  free speech...

 Le parole sono d'argento, il silenzio e d'oro.

Fall Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit

After being absent it in the spring I am back at the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit (  this coming Labor day weekend and the weekend after:
Aug 31, Sept 1,2 Sept 7,8  12-6pm
I'll be as usual on the west side of University place in NYC between 9th and 10th street, hope to see you there. Come by and check out what I've been up to lately...


Monday, August 26, 2013

XCII: Rooted

"There is never a seaman wants to settle in the city," one of them said. " What they want is a little chicken farm of their own."  Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness

The quote reminds me of my grandfather, a Seabee, who often expressed his desire for a little place in the country. I never heard her say it, but my grandmother was said to often reply that she was going to be dead a long time, and didn't see why she should start now... 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

XCI Just

Last of the Just is an incredible devastating book, but I'm not sure exactly why the early passage introducing the legend of the Just Men always fascinate me. I've read the book only once, I've gone back to the passage this is part of a dozen times, often with some vague intention to somehow capture it in art. That would be an appropriate project for a piece of the tree, a statue of a Just Man...

 "When an unknown Just rises to Heaven"  a Hasidic story goes, "he is so frozen that God must warm him for a thousand years between His fingers before his soul can open itself to Paradise. And it is know that some remain forever inconsolable at human woe, so that God Himself cannot warm them. So from time to time the creator, blessed be His Name, sets forward the clock of the Last Judgment by one minute." 
Andre Schwartz Bart, The Last of the Just

And a bit more milling (on my Sandy downed childhood friend). I believe I did something to my shoulder.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

XC: I will be heard

I’ve often observed that artists (though not they alone) have the touching and child-like habit of believing their personal affairs, most especially their recent sales records, to be a reliable indicator of the state of human civilization.  Even allowing for that, I think anyone who watches, or studiously avoids the news must feel a little adrift of late.

This was on my mind while walking at Teaneck Creek this morning, and admiring the handiwork of (likely) a local young man, who made a legitimate effort to tag the words ‘I will be heard’ on my in progress wolf totem. He can’t really be said to have succeeded from a strict artistic standpoint. I’d advise switching to a fat sharpie, and practicing his technique a bit more; all the letters in a word being on one line is often felt to be important in achieving communicative force.  But I actually do understand the sentiment. It’s a very basic human desire, to be heard, acknowledged.  Access to that basic right is often controlled not by human bonds, but by the structure of money and power.  Young people who would in another time another society be adults already should rightly resent being stripped of opportunities for meaningful action. The most basic of human responses is to break something. Believe me, I get that; but it doesn’t make it right.

Scores only a LE for Legitimate Effort as protest, even that is graded on a curve.
I also had on my mind an essay I’d just read by Dorothy Day, quoted below. I’ve been reading a lot of her writing lately, among other reasons, psyching myself up to install a wordpress test environment and start on a new website for the guild for her canonization. The essay was written as an epitaph for Roger LaPorte,  a 22 year old man who to protest the Vietnam war on Nov 9 1965 doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire in front of the UN, dying from burns the next day. The struggle in her writing to separate noble intention and violent action is touching

There is not much really in common in these two acts, but they both speak to how we face the unfaceable in the world around us. Artists often have a less endearing trait, which is the belief their job is only to be heard. For all of us it is to listen too, a harder task. To both demand being heard, then speak so we can be understood, and  to listen without demand is the only way I think to take ones part in healing the world, to respond to the damage around us without breaking things more. God strengthen us to pick up that task, and forgive us when we flee from it, by violence or other means.

Main branch of the contentious Cedar lane tree laying at Teaneck Creek. About at my knife tip in 1965 Roger LaPorte set himself on fire. An atom or two might have drifted across Manhattan and the Hudson, and be locked there right now.

“One day at our Catholic Worker farm, John Filliger, talking of drying up the cow a few months before she was about to calve, said, "The only way to do it with a good cow like this is to milk her out on the ground. She gets so mad at the waste of her milk that she dries right up." That may be an old wives’ tale, -or an old farmer's tale, in this case- but there is a lesson in it: if we waste what we have, the source of supply will dry up. Any long-range view of the colossal waste of the resources of the earth and human life points to an exhaustion of our economy, not to speak of man himself.

On the other hand, witness Roger LaPorte. He embraced voluntary poverty and came to help the Catholic Worker because he did not wish to profit in this booming economy of which the Wall Street Journal speaks so gloatingly. 

Roger LaPorte was giving himself to the poor and the destitute, serving tables, serving the sick, as St. Ignatius of Loyola did when the laid down his arms and giave up worldy combat.

And now he is dead -- dead by his own hand, everyone will say, a suicide. But there is tradition in the Church of what are called "victim souls." I myself have known several of them and would not speak of them now if it were not for the fact that I want to try to understand what Roger must have been thinking of when he set fire to himself in front of the United Nations early Tuesday morning. There had been the self-immolation of the Buddhist monks in Vietnam. A woman in Detroit, and a Quaker in Washington have done the same- all trying to show their willingness to give their lives for others, to endure the sufferings that we as a nation are inflicting upon a small country and its people, to lay down their own lives rather than take the lives of others. It is the teaching of the Church that only in the Cross is there redemption.
May perpetual light shine upon him and may he rest in peace.” 

The full text (in fact what seems to be a totally different draft of the same essay). Day, Dorothy. "Suicide or Sacrifice?". The Catholic Worker, November 1965, 1, 7. The Catholic Worker Movement.

Friday, August 23, 2013

LXXXVIV Indifference

Thus says the Lord: Speak to them this word: Let my eyes stream with tears
 day and night, without rest,
Over the great destruction which overwhelms
the virgin daughter of my people
over her incurable wound. Jeremiah 14:17

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Common cool, he was a proud young fool in a kick-ass wal-mart tie
Rippin down the main drag, trippin on the headlights rollin by
In the early dawn when the cars were gone, did he hear the master's call?
In the five-and-dime did he wake and find he was only dreamin after all, 'cause

This is an ordinary town and the prophet stands apart
This is an ordinary town and we brook no wayward heart
And every highway leads you prodigal back home
To the ordinary sidewalks you were born to roam

Rock of ages, love contagious, shine the serpent fire
So sang the sage of sixteen summers in the upstairs choir
So sang the old dog down the street beside his wailing wall
"Go home, go home" the mayor cried when jesus came to city hall, 'cause

This is an ordinary town, and the prophet stands alone
This is an ordinary town and we crucify our own
And every highway leads you prodigal again
To the ordinary houses you were brought up in

Raised on hunches and junk food lunches and punch-drunk ballroom steps
You get to believing you're even-steven with the kids at fast track prep
So you dump your bucks on a velvet tux and you run to join the dance
But your holy shows and the romans know you're just a child of
Circumstance, 'cause

This is an ordinary town and the prophet has no face
This is an ordinary town and the seasons run in place
And every highway leads you prodigal and true
To the ordinary angels watching over you

Ordinary Town Dave Carter and Tracy Grammar

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I'm the kid who ran away with the circus
Now I'm watering elephants
But I sometimes lie awake in the sawdust
Dreaming I'm in a suit of light

Late at night in the empty big top
I'm all alone on the high wire
Ladies and gentlemen, there is no net this time
He's a real death defier

I'm the kid who always looked out the window
Failing the tests in geography
But I have seen things far beyond just this schoolyard
Distant shores of exotic lands

There's the spires of the Turkish empire
Six months since we made landfall
Riding low with the spices of India
Through Gibraltar, we're rich men all

I'm the kid who thought we'd someday be lovers
Always held out that time would tell
Time was talking
Guess I just wasn't listening
No surprise, if you know me well

As we're walking down toward the train station
I hear a whispering rainfall
Across the boulevard, you slip your hand in mine
In the distance the train's last call

I'm the kid who has this habit of dreaming
That sometimes gets me in trouble too
But the truth is
I could no more stop dreaming
Than I could make them all come true

The Kid, Buddy Mondlock

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

LXXXVI: Elephant Graveyard

Also, in the course of my going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it, I ironically discovered today at the north end of Central Park an elephant graveyard as it were of downed trees, maybe from Sandy, maybe more recent damage, some nice big pieces there, though I suspect by the variety of shapes and sizes that it is just a disposal depot, and not slated for anything, pity.

I'm reminded for some reason today, of the good old days, and how much they sucked.

You told me on your birthday all the things that this place had done to you.
And in the streets you walk.
You hide your face because they don't believe that it's true.
They say it doesn't happen that often.
But it's happening right now.

I'm writing you this letter to let you know I'm not alright.
And in this city the streets are paved with hate
And you cry yourself to sleep tonight.
And say "no, there aren't enough love songs in the sky."
You counted down the days till you could say "Bye-bye, city, bye-bye"
You're walking down on Union
You see the roads and know they're apart of you.

They say it doesn't happen that often
But it's happening right now.

I'm writing you a second time.
To let you know nothing here has changed.
The streets are still paved with hate.
So you can cry yourself to sleep tonight.

Will you look back on this night
As the day that ruined your life.
Will you look back on these city streets and say,
"Oh, God, where are you?"
In these city streets I hide my face.
I turn away when you look at me
And every night when I try and sleep.
I feel your hands all over my body.

You stripped away the street signs and shot out all the stop lights.
If you smashed away all the building what would you have left?

Thursday, Dying in New Brunswick

Monday, August 19, 2013


Being right and $2.50 will get you on the subway. -adapted from a family proverb

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Hey rejuvenation! The second wind
When, when, when, when will it begin?
Repatriation, what is my sin?
When, when, when, when will my ship come in?

First I asked the sailor to sneak me aboard
Bring me place my father showed me my first guitar chord
Place where lie of second thought cannot survive
Place where all my friends are still alive

Lost innocent world
Lost innocent paradise
Where did you go?
I payed too high a price
Lost innocent world
Lost innocent paradise
Once I get you back
I'll never sacrifice

Then I asked every geisha from the willow town
But nobody wanted to see death of a clown
We danced Shanghai tango like no tomorrow jive
When kung fu master found me, he asked me, "Are you still alive?"

Lost innocent world
Lost innocent paradise
Where did you go?
I payed too high a price
Lost innocent world
Lost innocent paradise
Once I get you back
I'll never sacrifice

Lost Innocent World, Gogol Bordello

Saturday, August 17, 2013


the dull scavengers of earth wax crafty to vex it and swelled monstrous to plague it.
The Festival H.P. Lovecraft

The soldier came knocking upon the queen's door
He said, "I am not fighting for you any more"
The queen knew she'd seen his face someplace before
And slowly she let him inside.

He said, "I've watched your palace up here on the hill
And I've wondered who's the woman for whom we all kill
But I am leaving tomorrow and you can do what you will
Only first I am asking you why."

Down in the long narrow hall he was led
Into her rooms with her tapestries red
And she never once took the crown from her head
She asked him there to sit down.

He said, "I see you now, and you are so very young
But I've seen more battles lost than I have battles won
And I've got this intuition, says it's all for your fun
And now will you tell me why?"

Well the young queen, she fixed him with an arrogant eye
She said, "You won't understand, and you may as well not try"
But her face was a child's, and he thought she would cry
But she closed herself up like a fan.

And she said, "I have swallowed a secret burning thread
It cuts me inside, and often I've bled"
He laid his hand then on top of her head
And he bowed her down to the ground.

"Tell me how hungry are you? How weak you must feel
As you are living here alone, and you are never revealed
But I won't march again on your battlefield"
And he took her to the window to see.

And the sun, it was gold, though the sky, it was gray
And she wanted more than she ever could say
But she knew how it frightened her, and she turned away
And would not look at his face again.

And he said, "I want to live as an honest man
To get all I deserve and to give all I can
And to love a young woman who I don't understand
Your highness, your ways are very strange."

But the crown, it had fallen, and she thought she would break
And she stood there, ashamed of the way her heart ached
She took him to the doorstep and she asked him to wait
She would only be a moment inside.

Out in the distance her order was heard
And the soldier was killed, still waiting for her word
And while the queen went on strangling in the solitude she preferred
The battle continued on. 

The Queen and the Soldier, Suzanne Vega

Friday, August 16, 2013


Voi che vivete sicuri
nelle vostre tiepide case,
voi che trovate tornando a sera
il cibo caldo e visi amici:
Considerate se questo è un uomo
che lavora nel fango
che non conosce pace
che lotta per mezzo pane
che muore per un si o per un no.
Considerate se questa è una donna,
senza capelli e senza nome
senza più forza di ricordare
vuoti gli occhi e freddo il grembo
come una rana d'inverno.
Meditate che questo è stato:
vi comando queste parole.
Scolpitele nel vostro cuore
stando in casa andando per via,
coricandovi, alzandovi.
Ripetetele ai vostri figli.
O vi si sfaccia la casa,
la malattia vi impedisca,
i vostri nati torcano il viso da voi.
Primo Levi, Se Questo e Un Uomo

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

LXXIX onwards

Some people (my wife and mother included) are kind of tired of tree stump pictures. I'm not sure I'm ready to give up on the project yet, but there is at least some good news in tree stump land.  Today I was able to visit the county facility where the majority of the wood from the tree is being kept, and be part of the discussion about what projects the wood may be used for. Suggestions, particularly for possible venues to actually put a larger piece (say a large slab table) are welcome, there is a lot of wood, and it would be a shame if  the largest most distinctive parts of the trunk weren't used in some unique way. But at least some interesting projects are definitely going to happen. No details now, but  some pictures of the wood. Like the day it was cut, it was raining, so a bit of fogging in the pictures.

In a very rough and hurried count, I got up to 134 at the base before hitting the central hollow. I'd imagine there's 50-70 missing, but suppose we'll never know for sure.


Thursday, August 8, 2013


But all goes on, as it is wont, upon the margin of the unknown sea; and Edith standing there alone, and listening to its waves, has dank weed cast up at her feet, to strew her path in life withal.

Dickens, Dombey and Son

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Down at my brother's in PA, a terrifyingly bad cellphone pic of a nice old magnolia..

Thursday, August 1, 2013


I'm very tired and in bensonhurst my grandmother's cactus is kind of like a tree...