Gary's good-bye

"Same. Smaller. Quieter."

That's how my daughter described her dad when I inquired how he was doing yesterday then, this afternoon, to the same question she wrote, "He died this morning. About an hour ago."  I wish he'd lived a happier life but his death was not as lonely as it might have been—she was sitting beside him—had been all morning—nor was it particularly sad, coming as it did after a long illness, cancer not covid.

So . . . yesterday afternoon as the nest full of baby birds under the roof tiles chirped away at the top of their shrill little voices, and I was painting an illustration for one of my poems while listening to music with headphones on, Gary dropped in from America to say good-bye. He was wispy and floating and mostly transparent (imagine something between a whitish horizontal veil-like form with flagella and a thin floating, mostly transparent sea creature) and kind of stand-offish as always, but he was there.¹ My eyes got blurry for a bit but I saw him clearly in my mind's eye . . . he in thin air, me in afternoon light, us remembering what our dreams had been back then (did he chortle?) and who we'd been for each other. We forgave each other. He lingered a few moments more then said good-bye.

Portugal . . . about an hour ago . . .

¹· No. I wasn't stoned or drunk nor do I claim this moment to be a "Fact". Just sharing my subjective experience.


One world

Believe it or not, care or not, own up to it or not—we are making this planet uninhabitable, not only for us, but for life as we know it. If we don't quickly and radically change the way we eat, live, do business etcetcetc— the environment upon which we all depend will collapse beyond repair. This pandemic can be a preview of coming events or a lesson we learn from. Which is it?


No events scheduled except the moon

Lovely moon last night. According to NASA, it was the Flower Moon and marked the fourth and final supermoon of 2020. It hit its peak this morning at 06:45 EDT but, like all full moons, also appears full the night before and after.

Image credit: NASA/Bill Dunford

Lovely day today. Lots going on here at the hermitage, aka apartment. I'm working on an illustration, based on Blue Period, a poem I wrote some years ago. It's written as four scenarios. I am currently doing the first one. It's tempura on cardboard and, at this point, it's become a conversation the paint and I are having. Yesterday was especially interesting. At one point, I realized I was just standing there watching the brush move across the page, leaving a new sky in its wake.

No events scheduled today

Bird Park East in general has been the happening place this spring. There are a couple of noisy nests nearby, one right above our balcony, one across the alley. It's great fun listening and watching the comings and goings. Also interesting, if not a bit shocking, I also saw about 10 roosters chase and jump one of the young hens the other day. Holy cow! Those guys are brutal as ducks. Poor girl. She was terrified. Not so, the seagulls I saw later that day. They were quite tender towards one another mating on the flat chimney top. Afterwards, they hung out together for about a half hour, nestling each other, nuzzling with their beaks, yawning, and looking around obviously relishing the quiet end of the day.


Higher Ground | Playing For Change

Change or die

Strange as this public service announcement is, people are cooperating and Portugal is crushing the curve.

Today's dystopian public announcement
during the COVID-19 pandemic

Chris Hadfield's
 astronaut's guide to self isolation


Thanks for saving my life

We began isolating on March 14. Before that, we half-assed it for a couple of weeks but on the 18th it got real. That's when the Portuguese President declared a countrywide state of emergency and asked everyone to stay at home except for necessary trips to places like the grocery, bank, doctor, and pharmacy. The whole country cooperated. I so appreciate that. As a result, Portugal has been very successful in blocking the spread of the virus and tomorrow we begin the first stage of loosening restrictions. Some, like social distancing, will still apply but certain types of small businesses will reopen. 

I've really appreciated this time. I'm a hermit by nature but have never been terribly good at disciplining myself. During these last seven weeks, I've been able to recalibrate, begin painting again albeit slowly, write and organize my work, see a little deeper, a little more clearly, focus, renew, identify. It's been enough time for new ways to present themselves, hidden things to surface, resolve, finish unfinished business, heal. Today, for example, an event in the distant past suddenly came into sharp focus and I realized I had an amend to make.

My ex-husband is dying of cancer. We haven't been on good terms for years but it wasn't until today I saw, no matter how he might take it, I had a long overdue amends to make. It wasn't the length of time that clarified my thinking. It is this extraordinary suspension of ordinary life that gave the waters time to clear. Today I asked my daughter to pass along a long overdue recognition. "Thanks for saving my life". The details don't matter. The fact that I never thanked him does.


In defense of pigeons

Picasso and a pigeon friend.

Dogs became part of our extended human family over 15,000 years ago and, in geological time, pigeons are a close second becoming part of our tribe a mere 5,000 years later. They are, in fact, the world's old domesticated bird. I think of them as the dogs of birds.

Research suggests the domestication of pigeons began during the Pleistocene era, some 10,000 years ago. They are memorialized in Egyptian hieroglyphs and mentioned in Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets 5000 years ago. They are very helpful folks. They were  humanity's first airmail service during times of war and peace. They are pets as well as mid-air aerialist able to fly upside-down and backwards. Some played ping-pong with behavioral scientist B.F. Skinner, others are doctor's assistants helping to point out cancer in medical imaging. Besides their other contributions to a better quality of human life, pigeons are sometimes muses for artists, poets, and musicians. Picasso did a delightful series of pigeon paintings near the end of his life which are on display at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. An interesting side note about pigeons and art is that, with a little education, they've proven able to between the work of Picasso and Monet though I'm not sure anyone had a preference. 

Henri Matisse and pigeon pal
Pigeons didn't live in my neighborhood when I was a kid. I only came to appreciate them when I began traveling. They are everywhere I've been, whether Africa, Europe, Asia, S.E. Asia, the Americas. Now I consider it a good start to any day when the first thing I hear is their gentle cooing. What other bird does that? I'll tell you. No other.

From the beginning of the third millennium BCE, these "flying rats" as Woody Allen stupidly called them, have been humanity's symbol of love, peace, the soul, numerous religions as well the chosen representatives of various military, sports, and pacifist groups. The fact that pigeons are common in grungy human habitats like our polluted cities is not because they are dirty. It's because we are dirty. They clean up after us now just as they've been doing for the last 10,000 years.

In praise of the remarkable pigeon


Did I mention

when we first visited this place.

I am now an official resident of Portugal and actually for about a month already. I forgot to mention it but it is something of a milestone. It took over a year, a lot of paperwork, getting health insurance, renting a place, etc but it's official. And it actually does, or did, feel a little different at first. The idea has since settled into its mundane context but I'm glad it's done. The next step is that I must now start learning Portuguese. It will have to be, as a friend in Florida used to say, "little by slowly".


Good-bye John Prine. I never knew ya.

Singer/songwriter John Prine died of the corornavirus a few days ago.

I never heard of him until now. His debut album was released a year after I "renounced the world" and for the next 12 years. Yeah. That's pompous, and it didn't end well, but it's what I did.

I missed him till he died. My loss.


One-sided coin

Day and night have become a one-sided coin as we begin our fourth week in isolation. It matters less and less which it is. The neighborhood birds keep me more connected to the changing hours than the clock. I'm not complaining. I've lived on earth before, I prefer it, on earth meaning I've been tactually connected to nature before, as a child and as an adult including . . . once living for awhile in a one room mud hut with no electricity, or running water, a wood stove for heat, and corner with a hole in the floor for a shower . . . with my then-husband and our two children.

Being isolated like we are now is a great reminder of how we are always at the mercy of artless nature. All day I listened to a strong on shore wind battered the building where we live. Sometimes it hit then crashed over us the way storm waves hit then crash up over rocks. Other times it rattled, and banged things as it tore by. It's still blowing now. I imagine the roof tiles are quivering as I sit in bed writing this in the dark, waiting for sleep.


Pigeon Cafe

"Today is today, the only day there is,
this day, today, so live it and love it"!
- Juan Carlos
It's been open for a long time, five or ten thousand years, give or take a few thousand but, most importantly it is open this morning. In the words of Juan Carlos, "Today is today, the only day there is, this day, today, so live it and love it"!

I can think of no better place than here at the Pigeon Cafe and I use that word "here" lightly because pigeons are everywhere.  In fact, the way I see it, it's their world. I just live in it. So, I'm having coffee this morning at the Pigeon Cafe and what better place to start the day?


The world

The world was crashing
around our ears—
or was it the Anthropocene
beginning to

photo credit: asha
like the century plant
in its time—
petals of a new
the age of man.


RIP Takaya

Photograph: Cheryl Alexander/Wild Awake Images

Takaya, Canada's eccentric and legendary lone wolf dug wells in summer to find water, was known to sit three feet from a person and look them directly in the eye, but though he sometimes sought out the company of humans he also cleverly evaded all attempts people made to capture him in order to protect him from what would be a sure and tragic encounter with humans at some point in his journeys,

Now that we humans have caused what biologists refer to as the Sixth Mass Extinction since our planet's beginning some 4.543 billion years ago, we will have to invent new words to describe the people who kill animals, cut down our last remaining forests, and continue polluting our dying oceans, land, sky and all life that walks, flies, swims, wiggles, burrows, and breathes in this world upon which all our lives depend. And we will need to create words for those people who kill the last remaining members of a species and other words yet for people who kill those iconic members of other species who inspire us to remember to love and save what's left of this world.

On 24 March, Takaya was shot and killed by hunters.


Bird Park East

The three kinds of dawn and dusk
This morning during civil dawn,  the time before the sun peeks over the horizon, as we humans while away in contagion . . . humankind's second oldest friends after dogs, the pombos (poem-boos) aka pigeons, resumed their cooing. Today they chose to begin the day with an old favorite doot DOOOO doot 
. . . doot-DOOOO-doot / doot-DOOOO-doot / doot-DOOOO-doot here . . . do-do DOOT / do-do-DOOT / do-do-DOOT/ do-do-DOOT there  . . . doo-DOOT / doo-DOOT/ doo-DOOT over there . . . and DOOT-doo-doo / DOOT-doo-doo / DOOT-doo-doo from across the way.

And, during civil dawn, the peacocks, roosters, and hens resumed crowing and clucking. Once the sun was fully above the horizon, a couple of parakeets zoomed past flashing their bright green wings, seagulls glided by, and little birds of various descriptions twittered songs in the trees.

After dawn, Blacky the cat made an appearance and Barkie the dog added her comment. Bird Park East, the place I call home these days.


Note to self

Got some of the stitches out today. The rest come out next Wednesday. And yes. The biopsy was positive for Myoepithelial carcinoma again. This time they increased the margins by a lot. I'll have a CAT scan in a few months to see if there's anything left. That's it.


Harbor watch for the predominately inattentive

It looks like a small city at sea, 17 smoke gray stacks against the flat horizon, and the deep voice of a fog horn taunting me with intriguing blasts. This particular freighter has been parked at the mouth of the Tagus since I got up this morning. It must be waiting for a dock to open. Generally the ships just chug by.

I keep binoculars nearby, always hoping for a glimpse of arrivals and departures. I don't have a camera these days otherwise maybe I might catch an interesting photo now and then. As you see, at this distance, my poor phone can't make much sense of things.

M.'s position is that I've never learned any of the cameras I've had so why waste the money. Ok. He's partly right. I haven't studied the technical side of photography but I do have a decent eye, plus it's something of a meditation for me and, as someone with acute ADHD-PI (PI being "predominately inattentive") I can use all the help I can use and I can use photography because it shows me how to focus exactly on what's in front of me then rewards me with a photo to see if, in fact, I did. If you're not ADHD that probably doesn't make much sense.


Radioactive again

I'm typing this single-handed and breakfast with the other. In a few minutes I begin a six hour fast before this afternoon's CAT scan. Afterwards I will be radioactive for a few hours. Creepy.

Another lump has appeared on the back of my neck which must be removed. Most likely it's the same cancer removed last summer, the Myoepithelial carcinoma. We'll know definitely, one way or the other, after it's removed and biopsied. Today's scan will tell us whether or not it's anywhere else.


Submissions update

In January I submitted material to four different publications . . . Rattle, StepAway Magazine, Agni, and Almanac for the Anthropocene: A Compendium of Solarpunk Futures. So far, two have replied . . .  Agni and StepAway. Agni was a rejection but with a personal note encouraging me to submit again. StepAway, a London based online publication, accepted the piece I submitted and the editor included a very nice note. The poem, Afterimage, will be in issue 31. A cool extra about StepAway is that they notify authors of successful submissions within 28 days. The wait to hear back about a submission can drag on for months, sometimes years, so much apprecited.

Rattle is still "in-progress" which is more common. I got their auto-reply immediately but, so far, it's been 41 days and have heard nothing else. Their average reply time is 119 days so it's still very much within their parameters. One thing I like about Rattle is they are writer friendly. While they don't accept work that's been previously published in print or online, they don't consider self-publishing to blogs, message boards, or social media as publication. Most magazines still cling to the tyranical opinion that posting something on your blog renders it unacceptable. Publishers are nothing without something to publish yet they demand fealty from the writer as though they are some medieval Lord land owner or King. My poetry blog gets about 200 visits a month and most of those are probably bots and crawlers so WTF!

As for Almanac for the Anthropocene: A Compendium of Solarpunk Futures, that is a one-time publication by Wagner & Wieland. They describe a solarpunk as someone who "imagines new futures in the shadow of and in opposition to environmental collapse, then works to create those futures". I haven't heard anything back from them yet, and may not. They're not soliciting poetry but I sent them one I wrote about the Anthropocene anyway. Submissions are closed . . . "unless you have a recipe/blueprint/direct action–basically, anything except essays. If you have something that might work, please feel free to contact us until March 15th".

Tuesday with questions

I am coming to terms with the possibility that Trump's so-called "luck" (aka fix) may not run out. As the dim bulb son of a pimp he was born with a trust fund for a diaper and grew up to become a money laundering racketeer somewhat centrally located in the international web of sleaze-bag politicians, two-bit dictators, crooked banks, hired killers, media whores, spineless sycophants, fascists, racists, professional criminals, conniving psychopaths, zealots, morons, and reckless fucktards of every persuasion, and corporate-protected billionaires dedicated to plundering the planet until the last possible moment, and all looking for a mound to fly their flag. 

This asshole may just ride his bloody rainbow straight to the grave but I comfort myself with the idea that his spawn will not be so lucky. Don Jr? Jarad and Ivanka? Eric? Lara? Barron and Ivanka? Who are they as the eco-system collapses? They are baggage. Yesterday's news. Leeches. Big Don dies and who gives a fuck about the "Trump brand"? Really, who gives a fuck about the "Trump brand" now? 

What happens when their criminal network falters, as countries increasingly struggle with economic uncertainty, increasing numbers of climate refugees, as sea surge increases, as drought, plagues, and wildfires become more common and intense? What will they do? Will they still be flying around the globe on the American taxpayers dollar like they are now, cutting lucrative deals for the Trump Organization?

What will any of us do?



Molly, Swami, and Juan Carlos
 M. Lee finally officially became a Portuguese resident today. It shouldn't have taken so long but we happened to apply for our visas in San Francisco last June just when the Consulate was changing systems. Our paperwork got lost in the shuffle for awhile. They were especially slow issuing my visa so my appointment at SEF isn't until next month.

We've been traveling for a long time and have always kept half an eye on where might be a good place to move, to make a base outside the US. In 2015 we settled on Bangkok but it's so polluted there that M. got a terrible lung infection and nearly died. After that, we made our way back to Europe but didn't get serious about Portugal until 2017. That's when we decided it could be the place, and by extension the EU. A lot of questions had to be answered, problems resolved, and a lot of changes to deal with. It's been more like changing lives than just moving somewhere and today is a long awaited plateau along the way. Well, not exactly. I'm not there yet. We'll see if SEF accepts my application. If they do, it's one more thing we can check off the list. After that it will still another five years until we can actually apply for Portuguese citizenship but this is a milestone. Between now and then, we'll have to learn Portuguese, which I'm not looking forward to, but it will be a good mental exercise to become at least transactionally literate.


Magha Purnima and song of the Rock Dove

The sea is rough this morning, agitated by last night's full moon, the first supermoon of 2020. As I write this, I can hear the wave's hoarse roar although the beach is a 20 minute walk. During calm weather it's too far to hear the surf but the full moon, especially a supermoon, creates its own kind of magnetic storm . . . bloating physical bodies, agitating emotions and churning the seas. I've read that even the earth itself swells during full moons. Supermoons, being closest to earth, have the strongest effect.

Supermoons have various names around the world. Most reflect the culture and people's experience of the season rather than the moon itself. It's the Snow Moon, Storm Moon, Hunger Moon, Magha Puja Moon, Mahamuni Pagoda Festival Moon, Chinese Lantern Festival Moon and end of the Chinese New Year celebrations, Full Moon of Tu B’Shevat, Magha Purnima Moon and so on. The term Supermoon is the most recent addition to the list. American astronomer Richard Nolle, a writer for Dell Horoscope, coined it in 1979. It has since become something of a photography contest.

I was up before the sun this morning so the moon was just above the western horizon still agitating the Atlantic ocean on Portugal's west coast. It has since set and the sea is quieter now although the rock dove still continues its simple, rhythmic three note song from a near by tree, the local version of the same sweet song rock doves have been singing on earth every day for millennia . . . doot do do — doot do do — doot do do. 


Merle and the Mystic Lamb

Ghent alter piece, St. Bavo's Cathedral Ghent

Last week, after a three-year restoration, the centerpiece of Jan Van Eyck's enormous 15th century, 12 panel masterpiece, ‘The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’, returned to the alter at St Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent, its home for the last nearly 600 years and people are freaking out about it. As one Twitter user writes, “The lamb of the Ghent Altarpiece was a mistake and whoever painted over it was right to do so.” Yes, the eyes are stunning. This is not the proverbial sacrificial lamb about to get his baby throat sliced open in yet another heartbreaking slaughter of innocence.

Memes abound

In a Guardian op-ed, Jonathan Jones thanks people for their insight then adds, "but I doubt Jan van Eyck ever made a mistake in his life. He was miles ahead of any Italian Renaissance artist, including Leonardo da Vinci" adding that Van Eyck's Lamb, "announces the Renaissance." Indeed.

Dad brought home a big surprise

Now, of course, the Mystic Lamb has His own Twitter account packed with juicy quotes befitting the gaze of the Lamb and memes abound which brings me to what is the real point of this post, introducing Merle (aka Merlin). 

Merle, my new granddoggo and skateboard champion
(actually he hated it)

When we saw Merlin at the shelter, cone and all, the very first thing I thought of was the Mystic Lamb, this before the restoration was unveiled. There is an uncanny likeness with and without the new eyes. So, here's the deal, if Van Eyck's Lamb still freaks you out, think of Merle, sweet as can be, rescued from the mean streets of California who now has three brothers, a loving Dad and home.

Merle and the Mystic Lamb


More good news

Submitting to more publications this year than last wasn't a New Year's resolution but the fact that I just did send work to two more journals does land in my good news column. That makes three submissions so far this year . . .  one to Rattle, one to StepAway Magazine, and the third to AGNI. The piece to AGNI has been languishing around here for some time. I haven't know what to do with it. It reads like the opening of a novel but it isn't. It's more like a word sketch of a moment in time.

We back in Portugal now. It's easier here. Winter helps. Also no travel plans at the moment although M. is brewing some up.


Nature's little gardeners

Today is Squirrel Appreciation Day!!!

And why not? Squirrels are the Johnny Appleseeds of forest regeneration. They bury nuts and seeds everywhere and about 30% of them sprout. According to Environment Canada, "squirrels play a vital role when it comes to sustaining and expanding plant communities and ecosystems in forest regeneration". And they not only reseed forests but they plant fungi, vegetables, fruits, and flowers etc. I've read that one grey squirrel plants as many trees every year as needed to provide oxygen to 28-40 people. That's more trees than I've planted in a life time.

And if all these reasons aren't enough to toss some peanuts out for your neighborhood squirrel today (and everyday) Mental Floss has compiled 15 reasons to appreciate squirrels. Buy perhaps the very best reason of all to appreciate squirrels . . . they're really cute and delightful to watch.


Three window shots

San Francisco Bay
from the plane

Five days ago we began our return slog to Portugal with a one week layover in London, where we are at the moment.

Molly in the sky
Molly came with me this time, in my backpack. About 10 hours into the flight, the steward noticed her—gasp—then said, Oh my god! I thought it was a real dog! I assured him, she is.

from the bus last night
with reflections

We're creatures of habit so we're staying in a tiny flat near Finsbury Park again. There are grocery stores plus Turkish and Thai hole-in-the-wall restaurants near by, so we're set. Monday we head back to Portugal.