Sunday, December 27, 2020

hidden behind the leaves


Currently my prosepoem hidden behind the leaves is the subject of this weblog. This is the the 20th of 81 installments. The first poem was published August 16, 2020 and can be found using the archives.


a beastly night, snow and cold, wind howl, hunched in the portico of the university's library, huddled with dog who licks his chin and settles to sleep both with empty bellies but no matter, begging is a humbling task, a monk's duty, but he could not; shoveling snow, nailing plywood, draping a bright blue tarp over a rent roof brought a cup of tea and two pickles, dog eagerly eating the sour green cucumber

Sunday, December 20, 2020

hidden behind the leaves

Currently my prosepoem hidden behind the leaves is the subject of this weblog. This is the 19th of 81 installments. The first poem was published August 16, 2020 and can be found using the archives.


a mongrel dog --- appropriate, that --- follows along with the wind in my footsteps, with gulls scavenging the sea wrack along a sandy esplanade, shops closed, windows still boarded, debris --- flotsam and jetsam, is it? --- tsunami wreckage as the town's folks go about their business as best they can, gathering cloud threatening snow ... turning to the dog he says, it's a hard life, dog, it's a hard life, lifting his head with one ear pricked the other half lopped, a quick sniff at the mangled carcass of a dead gull, shuffling down hard sand a siren begins to wail

Sunday, December 13, 2020

hidden behind the leaves


with salt and pepper stubble hidden beneath my disreputable navy blue cap, it's a villainous look I have, thought master ko, but barring this leer, I look honest enough ha ha ha thinking allusions no doubt are satisfying bits with the rhyming nuance of illusion to boot ... more better that ... walking through this small coastal town, fog at sea and gulls a-wing and free, bereft would be a world without birds, connotations, too, arising, circling, bereft and dank like a muddy bottom on an ebbing tide in the fog

photograph by g simoni

Sunday, December 6, 2020

hidden behind the leaves


woodcutter talking rough and sparse, if world is words how meagre this man's, but a rice ball and pickled radishes not trivial, no, he filled my belly with nothing to say, grunts as through the dank ravine we walked, smuggler's path, and as foothills become filled with light, master ko, once again alone, squats to rub the flat granite boulder free of grit, turning ink stick round and round through spits of water, taking up brush of fine white goat hair, he touches bristles to ink and brush tip to stone and

chi appears, bit of rice, steaming; more better, yes, than

no rice, empty belly

Sunday, November 29, 2020

hidden behind the leaves


the slender fingers stroking the abbot's shiny bald pate meant indecision, anxiety, perhaps frustration, for master ko, though gone, continued to pester the man's thoughts, a letter from that woman pinched between thumb and forefinger, his disciple kneeling just to his right, says, send it on? but he isn't there

a silence
finally, a sigh, no matter, says the abbot; send it on
but ...
it is where he should be, so, too, this letter
no doubt like roshi he has dismayed of the world of men and gone off through the western gate ...
reflecting, frowning, but he cannot walk on water can he, this western gate is ...
metaphor, sir, metaphor; have you not read lao tzu?
so many sutras, I ... so much to untangle
no matter
was he so disillusioned then?
was he ...
surely he wouldn't ...
no, no, not that
then he is somewhere
yes, somewhere
with his dismay
should we not look for him?
but ...
if you wish to find this fellow, look for him in a wine shop or brothel, caustically said yet pleased with the allusion
surely you cannot suggest that ...
a muted gong, sudden rumble of feet in a distant hall brought a stroke of his head, looking up, is it that time already, he says
ah, no text prepared
averting his eyes, the disciple suggests something on lao tzu and dismay: might that not do?
a silence, a sigh, finally: yes, that might do ... such foolishness
foolishness, master?
folly, standing
the disciple pulls the hem of his robe aside aside and rises, stepping back, deferential
folly, says the abbot again, softly, a sad shake of the head ... lao dan may have left the warring states behind, but to no avail, I say, no avail, for anywhere you go, there you are

Sunday, November 22, 2020

hidden behind the leaves


This is the 15th (of 81) installment of the prosepoem hidden behind the leaves. The first poem was published August 16, 2020. The four part narrative tells the story of Master Ko. 'Autumn' is the first part, and the seasons will provide a background theme for each subsequent installment.


early snow, windows rimed with frost, small brazier alive with glowing coals, abbot's messenger sending me away as the axis tilts to solstice, sun standing still, darkness lingering, leaves fallen but forgiving, the wind that blows, the stinging sleet, the richman's sneer

Sunday, November 15, 2020

hidden behind the leaves

This is the 14th (of 81) installment of the prosepoem hidden behind the leaves. The first poem was published August 16, 2020. The four part narrative tells the story of Master Ko. 'Autumn' is the first part, and  the seasons will provide a background theme for each subsequent installment.


grey predawn, stillness after night of heavy wind, kestrel winging from here to there, eaves to low limb, perched, how they hover with that keen eye, slightest movement catching, rodent lives in its stillness, dies with its busyness, sitting quietly on my rock, the kestrel alive within its stillness, the eyes alive and seeking, light bright off the yellow beak, blood pulsing, rock heavy and hard beneath me, he lifts with a thrust of talon and gone

Sunday, November 8, 2020

hidden behind the leaves


This is the 13th (of 81) installment of the prosepoem hidden behind the leaves. The first poem was published August 16, 2020. The four part narrative tells the story of Master Ko. 'Autumn' is the first part, and the seasons will provide a background theme for each subsequent installment.


saffron, says mia, a shade, tints of yellow, of orange, from the crocus ... and my tattered robe, says master ko, holding out his arms, bobbing his head, turning, gift from friend, he adds, a frown wrinkling his brow, no longer with us he is, considering the leaves of autumn, but with us still, nodding, he is ... and the wrong color for you, says mia, buddhists here usually wrap themselves in black or grey, turning her head to question as the little man chuckles, and their busy minds hobbling from this to that, stumbling through their days, multi-tasking, says she, ritual rites and wongs, ha, says he, hairsplitting, quibbling and callousness, quietly now stepping along the needles and bits of stone embraced by the sweep of conifer limbs

photograph by m simoni

Sunday, November 1, 2020

hidden behind the leaves


rice gruel alone in the refectory, late and alone, if cookie would thicken it a bit be like oatmeal ... but suggestions made again and again become sharp thorn in buttocks, no doubt that frowning rebuke and sullen silence saying loud ouch; and hers to come visit how long gone from there or here, how quickly gone, how quickly gone ... spoon poised over chipped brown bowl, door slam, if wishes were beggars, says master ko, horses would fly

Sunday, October 25, 2020

hidden behind the leaves


Mia sat at the small round table that was curiously scarred with cigarette burns. He was somewhere. Unlike him, she thought. She waited, shook her head at the lumpy straw mats in the corner, considered the staff leaning against the window casing, the cup on the shelf. Wind rustled the limbs of trees. Rain threatened. Tomorrow she would leave. It was no distance at all from here to there.

She turned to her notebook and took up the pencil. Tapping the pencil point absently on the table, she at last decided and wrote:

Between Pacific City on the Oregon coast and the Cape Meares lighthouse to the north is a narrow two lane blacktop road that serves both the locals and the tourists---the dairymen and the fishermen, the hiker and the bicyclist---by providing access to land and sea. At the same time, the road serves by giving definition to the land, a physical definition through its function as a line that takes the measure of the terrain as the lines on a contour map do, now rising, now falling, here looping, there straightening; and a transcendental definition through its function as a poetical metaphor that takes the measure of this geography as a poem takes the measure of an idea or theme.

The poem uses the collision of words, the separation of phrases, to express itself. The road finds its expression in the brown cows ruminating cud, in the rusted jetsam that once was truck, in the solitary chimney standing sentinel over the blackened rubble that once was house, in the red barn, the sand dunes and mats of salal, the towns of ramshackle and renovated that punctuate the road, in the estates of chime and glass, cottages with frayed lace curtains and unkempt lawns, the bright green rectangle of new laid turf, the stumps and deadfall littering clear-cut hillsides, the mongrel yapping at the end of its chain, a rock slide, a bent and twisted guardrail, the missing sign, the rock and sand, and, finally, in the lighthouse, barely visible through the evergreens, a revolving blip of light out on some final point of land that measures the waves steady thump and rumble.

The pencil lifted from the page. She peered through the open door of the hut. Sighed. Rustle of leaves. He was somewhere. Odd. She waited.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

hidden behind the leaves



emptiness is your seat, stillness is your shelter, says master hongzhi, china man, that one; i am the boy that so enjoys invisibility, says me

photograph by M Simoni

Sunday, October 11, 2020

hidden behind the leaves



walking in tsuruoka, sea air, but where I come from many places, mongrel dog, mother chinese, father japanese white boy, born on oahu make me sandwich islander, bit of baloney, onion, slice of bitter pickle, hold the mayo, all same as mahatma ghandi, all same as brigette bardot, all same as gary cooper, all same as pretty woman, what's her name, you understand? that 'where' whole lot easier than that 'who' ... who? barn owl sitting on dead limb ho ho ho sipping green tea

Sunday, October 4, 2020

hidden behind the leaves


drinking tea from tin cup, clumsy semper fi etched on one side, dated 1943, dent, blackened bottom, hands warmed, memories fragrant of aunt who sent bits and pieces of father's life as her own life ebbed away, mia saying how odd to think of you with family, presenting stout new cup with subtle red tinge of mashiko clay, same cup now sitting just so on bare pine shelf

Sunday, September 27, 2020

hidden behind the leaves


horizon dim through thin valley cloud but here spreads a clear grey dawning sky with morning chill, an empty head and open hands; old tea cup now shattered on damp stone step, shards and sighs, master ko considers his bare toes with the blunt yellowed nails, impermanence, considers that buddha fella sitting under fig tree, sitting and sitting, you know that story? just sitting till becomes organ grinder's monkey ha ha ha, like rest of us, like you and me, good work that buddha fella does, good work, too, that sunrise and the so slow dissipation of thin cloud

photograph by g simoni

Sunday, September 20, 2020

hidden behind the leaves


ripples across the dark surface of the pond flashing now with gold and red against the heavy gray dawn, standing beside the rivulet counting the tock of the deer scare, bubbles of breath break the surface as the koi feed, shadows, last night lightning not sleeping, dreaming; not dreaming, sleeping ... all the same kettle of fish, too many yeses, too many nos, illusion, lighting a candle in the darkness, this old rustic took up his brush

Dream (Japanese: Yume; Chinese: Mèng)

Sunday, September 13, 2020

hidden behind the leaves


leaf shadows falling    falling      falling


photograph by M Simoni

This is the 5th of 81 installments of the prosepoem hidden behind the leaves. The first poem was published August 16, 2020.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

hidden behind the leaves


dense dark clouds lowering across the wooded slopes him sitting in a dim corner tatami lumpy, smell of damp straw, empty head, open hand, neither yes nor no, naught but illusion, a good morning to breathe. Seeking the perfect inhalation. exhalation, inspiration, ichi  ni  san  shi  go  roku  shichi  hachi  kyu  ju  ichi  ni  san  shi like the ripple of creek eddies and little back splashes over well-rounded stones the moon still on the quiet pond, the white ducks come to feed diving, sleek underwater, rising to breath, breathing in and breathing out like matsuda playing with segovia in the park with his pudgy fingers and old nylon string guitar amongst the pigeons and gulls ise maybe or nikko 1957 or eight so long ago the bamboo bow once strung taut now not, but bending with the exhalation waiting waiting ichi ni san shi until the arrow flies of its own accord who knows where THWOCK!

Sunday, August 30, 2020

hidden behind the leaves


rain drenched rocks lined the path of sodden leaves...master ko standing in the rain, old wooden gap-tined rake in hand, blue bandana draped over his head. To her entreaties he says, chinese fella say, no workee, no eatee. ha.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

hidden behind the leaves

This is the 2nd of 81 installments of the prosepoem Hidden Behind The Leaves. The first poem was published August 16, 2020. The four part narrative tells the story of Master Ko. 'Autumn' is the first part, and the seasons will provide a background theme for each subsequent installment. Earlier posts --- essays, stories, and poems --- can be found in the archives.


benri-ya---you say 'han-dee-mahn'---that's all ... leaning on a wooden handled broom with long reddish bristles, an old man wearing a patched and thread bare saffron robe, ran a knobby knuckled hand over the short gray stubble on his head, looking at mia, sucking his yellowed teeth, 'bout time you come, he had said ... handyman? laughing, handyman ... when dry he swept clean the stone steps up haguro to the shrine; when wet he cleaned the temple, the lodgings, the pagoda, the bell tower or simply sat in his small hut ... how long? how long, he muses, how long ... since before dirt, laughing, bobbing his head ... a few swipes with the wooden handled broom ... came after hiroshima, sucking his teeth, a-bomb ... bad comes from too many heads in soup, laughing, bobbing his head ... live here good place with myself

photograph M Simoni

Sunday, August 16, 2020

hidden behind the leaves

This is the first installment of my narrative prosepoem Hidden Behind The Leaves .  The four part narrative tells the story of Master Ko. 'Autumn' is the first part, and the seasons will provide a background theme for each subsequent installment. Earlier posts ---essays, stories, and poems---can be found in the archives.


name just ko, a finger tracing ideogram in palm of hand: ... that 'ko', mia says, and ko says, or this one ok too, drawing: ... old, child, says mia ... ko laughs, old child, bobbing his head...sitting on stone bench outside haguro shrine, clouds, the long road south to kanazawa, to kyoto, ise, north then to tokyo, ate bananas ... chuckling at the thought ... then on, north and west and home all at once in haguro

Wednesday, July 1, 2020


CONVERSATIONS with a Hypoxic Dog (CwHD) is now entitled WHIMSY. This is still a weblog about words and language and other inanities. CwHD began May 1, 2017. All posts are available in the Archives. The Bookstore opened in July, 2017, providing an overview of my published work. Essays are published monthly. More or less.

Archaic words are those terms which were once used commonly in a language, but which are now rarely used. They constitute a slow eddy, a back water, a stagnant pool in the stream of sound and image that is language. A synonym for archaic is antiquated which means characteristic of an earlier or more primitive time. Take primitive with a grain of salt. Homo sapiens today are no more evolved than the cave painters of Altamira. Evolution, like the water cycle, does not work towards perfection, only towards efficacy. And the same can be said for language.

The internet has a plethora of sites that list archaic words. Cheyne is such a word. Meaning? Pronunciation To read Shakespeare these days one must be well versed in archaic language. Both words and rhythms have changed over time.

Fools had ne'er less wit in a year;
For wise men have grown foppish,
They know not how their wits to wear,
Their manners are so apish.
(King Lear, Act I, Scene IV)

Not only is his language Elizabethan (17th century), but he also relished the words and phrases from the middle ages (roughly 1000 to 1500 CE). The Canterbury Tales (1387) provides a plethora of tasty verbiage; and the Tales are well worth a read. Cheyne is used in the following quote from Chaucer, and context provides ample clues to its meaning.

For with that faire cheyne of love he bond
The fyr, the eyr, the water, and the lond
In certeyn boundes, that they may nat flee.
(The Canterbury Tales
The Knight’s Tale, 2987–2993)

Vintage literature is not the only reason to be well versed in archaic words and phrases. To read history with some degree of understanding requires a knowledge of the language used during the period in question. 'Unique,' for example, no longer means unique. And, of course, the classic aphorism of Spanish philosopher George Santayana still applies:Those who do not read history are condemned to repeat it.

Use over time for the word 'plethora.'

Languages, like all concepts, have a flow to their pattern of development, their use, their misuse, their demise. The above might be described as a flow chart. This is but one of many ways to use the concept of flow to describe words and language. 'Plethora' seems to have made a comeback of late.

Flow theory, created by a somewhat obscure Hungarian professor of psychology, states rather baldly that humans are most content when they are in a state of flow; and flow is described as a state of mind which entails complete absorption in the task at hand. The state is further marked by intrinsic motivation and complete immersion. All else becomes lost to consciousness in these moments.

Language itself is fluent when the metered rhythm of the words matches both the measured syntax of sentences and the logical order of paragraphs. Once flow is established, various techniques can be used to emphasize content. Staccato delivery might be used to emphasize specific words (the hard boiled detective grilling a suspect; the emotional orator pushing an argument). Words with multiple syllables are often relied on to suggest the writer's or speaker's erudition. And space --- the long pause (look back at comedian Jack Benny) or blank in the middle or between paragraphs (common poetical device) --- is often used to change the flow of language.

When one has thoroughly learned a language, one is said to be fluent. Without an understanding of how languages evolve from origin to ending, fluency will be difficult. Non-native speakers prove the point. Even basic literacy will be compromised without some knowledge of both the old and the new and the rhythms of each. Who'd a thunk it. LOL.

Fluency has many definitions most of which pertain to reading and speaking well. The word simply means to flow.

Here is Santayana again:

... the whole machinery of our intelligence, our general ideas and laws, fixed and external objects, principle persons and gods, are so many symbolic, algebraic expressions. They stand for experience; experience which we are incapable of retaining and surveying in its multitudinous immediacy. We should flounder hopelessly, like the animals, did we not keep ourselves afloat and direct our course by these intellectual devices. Theory helps us to bear our ignorance of fact.
The Sense Of Beauty (1896), Pt. III, Form; § 30: p. 125

And click on the name to learn more about Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.

Monday, June 1, 2020


A song by Blind Alfred Reed (1880 - 1956) and performed by Willie Watson raises questions with no easy answers. Are we our brother's keeper? And is the concern for our brothers and sisters (lions and lambs? Trees? That rock you stubbed your toe on?) relative or absolute? Do we help this one, but not that one? Her but not him? Us but not them? Eeeny meeny miny moe.

Maestro, cue up the song. We'll have a listen. See what we think.

Watson, 'Always Lift Him Up'
(click photo to listen)

We live in interesting times. Old folks, goes one suggestion, have become expendable. The president of the united states (lower case intentional: he could use the humility) is at best an ignorant thug. A pestilence lives next door.

A poet's task is to reflect in metered words and phrases the tenor of the times. William Butler Yeats wrote "The Second Coming" in 1919. The first world war had just ended. The so-called Spanish flu had killed more than 20,000,000 people. Grim times.

Yeats was a notorious rewriter. The version of his poem below is from 1921 as it appeared in the Dial Magazine. What follows Yeats' poem is a bit of annotation. The poem has suffered pillaging for decades, from a Joan Didion essay to an obscure rock band's title song. A Paris Review article suggests the words and phrases of this poem are the most used and abused --- few, apparently, understand Yeats' meaning and many disregard his context --- in the English language.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Spiritus Mundi translates as the spirit of the world. The phrase, according to most philosophies, is used to mean that all living things on the planet are interconnected. Intrinsically. Innately. Plato fostered this notion, and it was an important component of most Neoplatonic philosophies both East and West. John Donne's poem, 'No Man Is an Island' (published 1624), uses this idea as its theme.

Some think even the broad scope of Spiritus Mundi is short sighted. Is inorganic matter without spirit? And what of other celestial bodies? What of the Universe itself? A long walk off a short pier, this business. Enough, perhaps, to simply consider the beast who slouches next door. What of him? Or her? Or them?

In “The Waste Land”, published in 1922, T.S. Eliot has a poem that captures the same atmosphere of impending doom as the Yeats' work. His opening stanza is entitled 'The Burial Of The Dead'. Eliot, however, chose to end on a somewhat enigmatic, yet, essentially positive note. The end of stanza 5:

These fragments I have shored against the ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's man againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
Shantih shantih shantih

The meaning of the Sanskrit 'da' words can be rendered as charity, empathy, self-control. The meaning of shantih is peace beyond understanding, and is the usual conclusion of the Indian philosophical Upanishads. Eliot has said that he used difficult allusions and Sanskrit incantations to make things difficult for his readers. If a line is hard to understand, if meaning must be worked for, then the thought will be better appreciated. Or so thought Eliot.

Intellectual hurdles or no, is our dilemma resolved, our questions answered? Perhaps. Maybe. Charity, empathy and self-control are fine virtues difficult to obtain. But what they offer one's brothers and sisters and dogs and cats is not always what is wanted or needed. Alas, alack. And peace beyond understanding? That 'beyond understanding' does put the wrench in the works. That which is beyond understanding is also beyond words and language. Doesn't leave much. Inanity perhaps. How whimsical.

So: Our brother's keeper? The ceremony of innocence is some long time dead and drowned. “We are all murders and prostitutes.” Which is to say that folks living in the proverbial glass house shouldn't cast aspersions. Or, conversely, lifting others, lifts yourself.

Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
Shantih shantih shantih

Plato, in Timaeus, wrote:

Therefore, we may consequently state that: this world is indeed a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence ... a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related.

R. D. Laing, from his book The Politics of Experience, 1967.

Friday, May 1, 2020


Whimsy, by definition, is a whim, freak, or caprice; but this definition does not take one to the heart of the matter. Whim, on the other hand, provides four meanings as a noun and two more as a verb, one intransitive, one transitive. I am not referring here to the ornithological whim which is but another local name for the wigeon.

whim, noun:
1. A pun; double-meaning.
2. A sudden turn or start of the mind; a capricious notion; a humor; caprice; fancy.
3. A fanciful or fantastic device, object, or person.
4. Any of various machines for hoisting.

Let us forego the fourth definition (at least until we are hoisted on our own petard); and put aside the verbal usage as well. Whims and to whim are rather rare these days. 'A sudden turn of the mind' suits my purpose best; but note that the word seems to range widely from madness and mayhem to joyful meandering. Behind the freak lies chaos; bolstering the joy lies wholesomeness. I have written elsewhere that wholesome and integral seem synonymous to me; and so, too, the words wholesomeness and integrity.

The etymology of the word whim places its origin in the Scandinavian languages. In Norway, kvim is foolery, as in our Tom Foolery, acting the fool, pretending to be mad. In Denmark, vimse means to be giddy, skip or whisk about. A selection of synonyms for whimsy gives some idea of the range of the word:

bee, caprice, crank, fancy, freak, humor, kink, maggot, megrim, notion, vagary, vagrancy

This brief introduction is necessary to support my notion that making a decision is, for the most part, a whimsical endeavor. Deciding, of course, is an integral part of all behavior; so that one might conclude that most of human behavior is, well, freakish or fanciful. Think not? And just how did you come to that decision? Make a list, did you? Pro and con and what-have-you. Enumerated this and that, skipping about until giddy; then, finally, pulling the trigger. Deciding.

This business of decision is a function of one's mind, and can be lumped under the general rubric of problem solving. Just how one goes about solving problems is not well understood by neurologists, psychologists, or the fellow down the block. While it is a myth that one only uses 10% of the brain, the fact remains that homo sapiens only understand about 10% of the brain's function.1

How problem solving actually comes about falls largely into that cloudy 90% area of confusion. Einstein, when confronted with the abstruse, use to go for a ride on his bike. "Intuition is a sacred gift," he said. Intuition. "The rational mind is a faithful servant." Reason. I would have added '... but a faithful servant ...' The intention is to downgrade reason from all-powerful to merely another tool, blunt though I find it, to shape one's thoughts. Trying to decide whether to fish or cut bait, for example, is a common metaphoric conundrum that rarely succumbs to reason. Listing pros and cons is enlisting the aid of that faithful servant, reasoning. This method will barely get you to the door; but allowing intuition to have its say (how is that done, you ask? How much time do you have?) is receiving the gift. Wham, bam, the door slams open. Decision made. Problem solved. Why didn't I think of that! A bit whimsical, this business, don't you think?

If you are struggling with your intuition, not hearing those little voices, it should come as no surprise. All of modern society from public schools to corporate management, from parenting to politicking, is a wet blanket thrown over intuition to keep it down. If not used, one loses the knack.

You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.
Anne Lamott

And from 1500 years ago, while the Greeks were poisoning the well of Thought with reason, Chinese mystics were telling stories like 'The Empty Cup.' Many versions of the story exist. Here is mine:

The Magistrate went to the Master seeking advice on the latest outbreak of lawlessness. The Master bade him sit and prepared tea. "The District is all higgledy-piggledy," the man said. "I have done all I can, and am now at an impasse. What should I do? What can I do?"" He wrung his hands in agitation. Sweat beaded across the man's broad forehead.

When tea was steeped and stirred, the Master placed a cup before the portly Magistrate. He began to pour. As his guest looked on, the cup filled. The Magistrate became increasingly anxious. The Master poured. As the cup overflowed, spilling over the table and running off into the man's lap, he pushed himself up with an oath. "Fool," he cried. "What are you playing at?" The Master merely nodded his head. "Just so," he said. "Like this cup, you are much too full of yourself. Emptiness must precede wisdom."

A mind replete with facts, opinions, anecdotes, and preconceived notions, will fail to recognize wisdom. Every time. Such a man with such a mind will not even accept the mildest piece of advice, or the most gentle rebuke. He is lost in the hurly-burly of his mind.

Whimsy, I would suggest, is the function of an empty head. And the back side of whimsy is ... wisdom.

A petard is a bomb, and to be hoisted by one is to be blown up. Shakespeare coined the phrase '...hoisted with his own petard...' for Hamlet, and it has since become something of a cliché.

Anne Lamott is a writer, educator, and political activist from northern California.

Sunday, April 5, 2020


Toss One Down For John Prine

The response to the hospitalization of singer-songwriter John Prine has been startling in its size and support. The man has come a long way since his debut album in 1971. I still have that album. Listened to it yesterday. What follows is my two bits worth.

Webb Chiles is 78 years old. His weblog of March 30 had this:

An article in the NY TIMES yesterday on medical ethics confirmed what I expected:  I am expendable.  If decisions have to be made between giving medical treatment to some and not others, the criteria are likely to be who has the best chance of survival and who likely has the most years left.  I agree entirely.  Quality of life cannot be measured; quantity can.  Those of us who have lived as long as I have had a life.  Twenty year olds have not.  So it is incumbent on me to avoid being in the situation where others have the power to make that decision about me.  That is not entirely in my control,  but I am going to do what I can.

I, too, am an old man; and I agree.

John Prine is 73 years old. Though he, too, is expendable, doctors are working hard to keep the man alive. He remains, as of yesterday, in critical condition. His first album appeared in 1971; his latest, 'Tree Of Forgiveness', just last year. His songs have made me laugh and cry, provided needed perspective, provoked thought, and inspired my own creativity.

Yesterday afternoon, I cued up 'John Prine' on my turntable, poured a couple of fingers of Green Spot, and sat down to have a listen. All the songs, though nearly 50 years old, are worth hearing. Two songs struck me as more relevant now than when they were written. Links to both are added below. The third song, 'Please Don't Bury Me', is something of a novelty tune. Good for a laugh. John has an active sense of humor, and likes to make me people laugh. The song is good for much more than just a laugh, though, if you think about it. What better way to consider one's mortality? nd, of course, maintaining a sense of humor is a key ingredient in any survival situation.

The song's fifth stanza could well serve as Prine's epithet:

Please don't bury me down in that cold, cold ground.
No, I'd rather have them cut me up and pass me all around ...

That 'passing around' ends with this:

... send my mouth way down south and kiss my ass good by

No better way to pass the time then listening to John Prine.

Hello In There

Flashback Blues
Please Don't Bury Me

One more time, a live version of old JP singer 'Please Don't Bury Me'

Sunday, March 1, 2020


CONVERSATIONS with a Hypoxic Dog (CwHD) is a weblog about words and language and other inanities. CwHD began May 1, 2017. The Bookstore opened in July, 2017, providing an overview of my published work. Print and ebook copies are available at my publishing website, majikwoids. A link is provided to these sites below and in the sidebar.

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CwHD 92
(A glossary of archaic or uncommon words is added at the end of the essay.)

Slack Water and the Crinoids of Chomolungma

For all of us, mountains turn into images after a short time and the images turn true. Gold-tossed waves change into the purple backs of monsters, and so forth. Always something out of the moving deep, and nearly always oceanic.1

Can buoys, green in color, six to nine feet in diameter, as tall as twenty feet, can weigh several tons. The Owner had decided to follow the green cans across the bar and stood by the forward shrouds directing traffic. The Cabin Boy, Mozzo by name, manned the helm. The two men might have been friends ...

A four or five foot swell, rather benign, provided a bit of spice. The boat, a 41 foot ketch designed by William Garden, wallowed about, struggling up the steep face of wind waves, motoring, slamming into troughs, the tide making. The boat, stuffed to bursting with the Owner's toys, was taking him, his dog, and his family on vacation. Mozzo and the dog had come along for the first part of the journey, delivering the boat to Victoria where the family would join the Owner. The family, apparently, wanted no part of the voyage up the coast.

The helm was sluggish, and Mozzo, in his inexperience, became anxious. Just off Peacock Spit, the Owner suddenly thrust out his right arm, pointing, and yelled, “Turn.” The dog, a Norwegian elkhound, barked.

Mozzo cranked the wheel to the right.

The other way,” screamed the Owner, arms waving. The dog stood on the gunnel peering over the combing. He looked at Mozzo and barked. Twice.

And so Mozzo cranked the wheel back the other way. The Owner had pointed at the green can buoy coming just a whisker off their bow. Mozzo saw it then, close to, bobbing down the starboard side, a near miss. Not the most auspicious start to the voyage.

Three miles out, ten miles up the coast, still motoring, the ketch decided it had had enough and stopped. The sudden quiet was unnerving. They drifted a bit. Mozzo suggested sails, but with little or no wind the suggestion was ill received. Besides, the sails had not been out of their covers in years. The Owner motored; he chose not to sail.

Mozzo sat at the lifeless helm watching the Washington coast bob up and down. Willapa Bay, he reckoned, off there to starboard. Japan, off there to port. The Owner on his hands and knees down below, cursing, as he tinkered with fuel lines and filters; but the ketch adamantly refused to cooperate. The dog sat on the stern sheets watching gulls lift and turn and mewl. They drifted.

Call the Coast Guard,” suggested Mozzo.

Shut up,” retorted the Owner.

Time passed. The Long Beach peninsula continued its up and down, the purple hills beyond provided a backdrop at once maudlin and sublime. The mizzen boom rolled to starboard then back to port, giving the winches a good bang each time. Though frustrated with the failure of his motor, untoward anxiety, edginess, also marked the Owner's face. He cursed. A box wrench was flung through the companionway into the gentle heave of sea. The boom swung to port. The boom swung back. Thump.
The dog went below. He hopped onto the settee, sat and considered the Owner.

"What?" said the Owner.

The dog turned and curled up in the corner. He sighed.

Damn it, yelled the Owner.

Raised eyebrows from Mozzo. Definitely out of sorts, he thought. More than the situation warranted. He wondered, knowing the fellow's history, what goodies might be stashed aboard. Did he fear having the federales on board?

Reluctantly, the Owner called the Coast Guard for assistance. They waited in silence. The dog slept. The Coast Guard arrived, a stout line looped the ketch's samson post and off they went. They crossed back over the bar which was, of course, a milk pond. Mozzo thought he might easily canoe this glassy expanse. Well timed, this rescue. Slack water.

Trail Dog

Between ebb and flow is slack. Not always a milk pond, but usually quite benign. For the businessman, slack is a slow period. For a climber, a loose bit of rope. Also, the dictionary tells us, the word suggests negligence. The link below is to a video that is not about ocean, but about ocean's obverse which is mountain. The Euclidean perspective (a hairball best left to mathematicians, but useful in this context) suggests that all space is unique yet comparable. Its otherness lies in its nature.2 Many mountains were once sea floor; much of the seafloor was once mountains.

Slack features prominently in the short film. The contention made in "Trail Dog" that happiness is beyond good and guilt is almost so. Almost. But beyond happiness and its opposite,which is sorrow, beyond all dualities, is what I chose to label Slack Water. Slack Water is a place as well as a state of mind. It is where animals---dogs and cats, deer and whales---live. That is, if the animal in question has not been too domesticated. Slack Water is what humans---especially those who are out of sorts---seek. Slack water, to all who know the tides, gives a tangible image for an abstract concept.

No words can adequately describe that which is beyond all dualities. The term offered here merely suggests the complete integration that lies beyond concepts. The film linked below is narrated, and the words are well written and compliment the images equally well. But it is the images themselves which tell the story. The Runner and his friends are beyond mischief, happiness, dancing Slack Water.

A story is one medium for explicating the difficulties of concepts. A film is able to provide visual information to fill in the blanks. Ultimately, humans, with their limited ability to see beyond the end of their noses, must be moved by some epiphanic occurrence and then expand themselves, physically and mentally, to find Slack Water, and so become their obverse.


Chomolungma, Tibetan name for Mt Everest (K15)

crinoids, marine fossils some of which can be found on the summit of Chomolungma. See website linked here ( ) for more information

epiphantic, an intuitive perception or insight, usually unexpected, into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually triggered by some commonplace occurrence or experience.

obverse, the counterpart of a fact or truth.

1Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1976), 144.
2The tallest mountain on the planet is Mauna Kea, Hawaii, at 33,000 feet from its underwater base to its summit.