Images from an evening stroll across The Quad on the University of Washington campus as cherry trees blossomed in the wake of the Spring Equinox, Wednesday 29 March 2017.
Walking back to catch the train home after a dentist appointment brought unexpected surprises as a late blaze of Autumn glory swiftly turned into a fierce storm in mid-November of 2017
*This is an unfinished work in progress. Please enjoy what’s here as I complete it. Thanks!*
Click on each picture to expand it. All fotos by the Author.
Two Weeks in the life of one Fuligo septica in Pictures
Walked down the street on the way to work recently & came upon a haunting illustration at the rear of an abandoned restaurant slated for teardown. Felt intrigued by the bittersweet mix of symbols & metaphors. What’s the story behind a mystery as old as time when the first dawning of love went awry?
“Facebutt” is deluged with videos of silly, cute videos of kitty cats & puppy dogs. So much torment to sit thru, LOL! Well, shit, then, here’s a short video I recorded of sweet little animal babies doing what cute little animal babies do:
There’s a story behind these videos. Both are personal and initially intended to be private. As I’m a beginner with handheld videos, these are, from any professional and even personal viewpoint, terrible in quality. They are shaky, unedited, and thus raw as Hell. Even so, I’m sharing them. Doing so is, for me, a breakthru in shame and embarrassment, of breaking thru mental barriers of not-looking-good, not-sounding-smooth, and worrying about what others may think. Toss all that crap. Yes! Even so, I feel shy in making these videos. My hearing impairment’s there. My speech impediment is there. The TMJ (temporomandibular joint) injuries from long ago gradually worsen over time and increasingly affects the ability to open my jaws properly to speak. Still, I go for it anyway, damn my own fears.
Besides, these videos are not for me. I wouldn’t put them up except to get those videos to someone special who lives far away more than halfway “down” the planet. She is one of the most amazing, inspiring, funny, romantic, and eccentric women I have ever met. We are so much alike with so many unexpected and startling synchronicities we wonder if those esoteric spiritual descriptions of Twin Flames are true. Seems so for us, anyway. Especially as we met by accident in such a fantastical way with mindboggling results. So of course the possibility of us being Twin Flames feels real for us. Besides, even if Twin Flames are more of a mythic fable, it doesn’t matter for we are both at choice to choose the next step together…or apart…moment to moment.
A Nest of Urban Vignettes
Machines break down and stop. People break down and somehow keep going. Machines are all about function and efficiency. People are for creativity, making messes, and love.
Chaos was silent. No blaring horns from cars around me. No one reads beyond the edges of their digital screens any more. Finally stopped wondering how people sitting in cars behind me might respond or react to my bumper stickers. Nope. They’re too busy merging with their, ahem, “mobile devices” as they herd themselves into the Internet of Things. At every stop during the last few days all across the City of Seattle I’d see heads bow down and fones rise up in the postmodern autonomic digital prayers of the unconscious. Can’t even get a HONK! Not even one faint li’l bitty ol’ frickin’ honk. Then, BOOM BOOM CHOP! I had to put my 16-year old blue car in the repair shop up north on the Greenwood side of Aurora Avenue, and I met real people out on the streets in the everyday circus of madness and bliss.
She sat hunched over in the woodchips alongside the sidewalk in the shade of Gold’s Gym under a row of leafy trees with her face kinked between folded arms and knees. Her body was so scrawny the spinous processes of her lumbar and thoracic vertebrae poked out like those strange fins on a stegosaurus’s back called scutes or dinosaur dermal plates. They arched over with her spine in such a way I could almost feel the connection to her reptilian brain, but, hey, she’s a mammal, a hominin like me. We’re hominins in America. Hominins in America! The United States was and is still a quasi-fascist, pseudo-democratic oligarchy masquerading as a constitutional capitalist killer clown republic, Barack Obama was POTUS, and the Dem-Rep Duopoly self-gridlocked. Global Climate Disruption worsened, and the Great Global Depression wasn’t over at all for millions and millions of unemployed and underemployed lost people like us. She sat. I walked. She smoked. I judged. She despaired, and so did I.
A red suitcase lay loosely shut with clothes hanging out next to her. She smoked a cigarette somewhere down there under crossed arms, I could smell its acrid, stale heat, but I couldn’t see her face. I could see the crack of her ass between her shirt and her shorts. She was a young White woman with brownish, straw blond hair and all skinny and boney and all alone. I felt huge sadness and empathy. Oh, she was so alone in this world! I felt her energy as I strode around her towards the Gym. Without even trying, I could feel into her dark pool of synaptic fog just by walking by her. She felt sad, hung over, frustrated, desperate, and zonked out depressed. I could feel the ice-cold glitter of pain screwing thru her veins as the yearning for the next fix built up hot under her long sleeves.
I was in a hurry, however, as my car was in the shop, I had errands to do, and I was walking everywhere without any wheels. I wouldn’t take the bus. Nope, no bus today. Gonna walk for exercise. I stopped myself from going over to her, however, and reminded myself I have an old, bad habit of rescuing people. I am not going to rescue anyone anymore, no more drama triangles in life, and so must hold tight to my boundaries. Yes?
Hurried off into the Gym and trained hard with the weights. Slowly regaining my health after a prolonged and strange illness. Came back out after my workout with a long walk ahead of me. There she sat, more sad and desperate then ever, without looking up. She didn’t need to look up. She was primal enough to sense what was happening around her, even if her senses were warped and fragmented by too many of the wrong kind of drugs. I felt her coil without coiling and sensed the dead pulse of mutant killer kundalini. She cranked taunt as locked gears forced apart and popped as automatically defensive as a robot sentinel left behind to guard some long-abandoned ancient fortress. I stopped. She bristled and the image of her lunging at me with a dirty syringe in hand burst into my mind as real as a wild ass grizzly bear rearing up on her hind legs. I shuddered and recalled being homeless myself not all that long ago…and scared.
Petri Dish Man’s Urban Seattle Socialist Vignette
Hungry. Sun blazing in my eyes. Making me squint as my belly growled low like a dog guarding a slab of meat. Hadn’t eaten since yesterday. Felt ravenous after I spent too much of the morning in the hospital being poked, pierced, measured, and explored by fantastic doctors and their curious assistants. Prodded me like a damn bug followed by quick pecks on their computers. Felt as if I was a giant insect splayed out and peeled apart in an enormous Petri dish by mad scientists and clever kids. Who behaved as if any moment they would hobble over and slather weird baby food goo all over me to see what monsters might grow. Ahhh, yes, call me…Petri Dish Man! BAM! BAM! BAM! DON’T BAN THE PETRI DISH MAN! ran thru my head over and over, tho I dared not tell anyone at the time, as it felt so strange.
Brought back memories of being in the Battle of Seattle during the so-called Anti-Globalization Revolts, and memories of being in Occupy Seattle and Occupy Olympia. Yes, even brought back memories of being homeless during the Great Global Recession after rich, capitalist pundits declared it long over. Despite being such a proficiently medically inspected man, however, I felt grateful for Obamacare’s ACA here in Washington State. Thank goodness it covered what my employer’s private health insurance plan wouldn’t cover. I shake my head funny too, as it seemed plain old common sense for 21st Century America, indeed all of Planet Earth, to have an integrated single-payer universal health care system, a democratic economic system, a socialist system.
Thus satiated on clarity of vision, I ventured hungrily into The Dish, a funky Seattle café, for a belated breakfast. Call it brunch. Time was 11:30 am. It’s a lively little café in my neighborhood. I currently live in a small, quasi-cooperative household below the landlord’s family in a house uprooted from the I-5 Corridor running north and south across the States between Canada and Mexico. The house sits beneath three immense Western redcedar trees in the Tangletown-Latona part of Green Lake up in the middle of North Seattle. At least till the rent rockets up. Only my second visit to this cafe, too. Rarely eat out anymore. Now it’s a treat! The place was abuzz, too.
Two staffers had called in sick, however, leaving the business understaffed. Only two other people were out front serving including one new worker who admitted she didn’t know how to work anything quite yet. But they were game and smiled anyway. Big, welcoming smiles, too. They bustled in and out among crowded customers, and the one cook in back paced himself as he had to. The warm smells of cooked food swirled with exuberant colors intoxicated yours truly Petri Dish Man.
The ghost of a homeless guy watched everything right over the lip of his big orange coffee cup. He was so invisible it as was if I couldn’t see him but nevertheless still sense his presence. I felt the color of his large, tattered coat fade charcoal and gray. Was his bright orange cup just a reflection of the Sun upon a glass bowl of slivered fruit? No, he wasn’t there, just a coat and a cup and the ghost of a man who gave up everything precious but his dignity and curiosity.
A Nutty Vignette
A group of us men and women worked steadily in the cavernous chill. We stood and shuffled around large, crated boxes of outdoor adventure travel products. These items were all returns, i.e. customers had purchased them from the retail company we worked with and for whatever reason returned them. We prepped them for a one-time clearance sale and marked down the prices with metallic silver ink pens. It was early in the morning close to the Winter Solstice. While it wasn’t freezing, we were in a large concrete cargo bay where it sure felt icy as Hell. Cold, dank, clammy, and gloomy, too. We kept ourselves warm by wearing layers of funky colorful clothes in all combinations borrowed from where they were heaped up in those crated boxes. I didn’t even check to see if I had on a woman’s or a man’s fleece jacket. One person pulled on a kooky mix of pants under two padded, insulated skirts and giggled. We quickly discovered a certain rhythm and worked hard. At the same time we entertained ourselves by reading the return tags to see what reasons people used to justify returning an item.
A Tiger Mountain Adventure,
Or, rather, a Meditation on Relationships
Monday 26 January 2015
Our day hike had two purposes: to spend time together reconnecting as father and daughter, and for my daughter to train for her upcoming attempt to thruhike the Appalachian Trail. Morgan and I are both rather eccentric. We both know it, too, and value such in the other. We both appreciate being outdoors and nature is a spiritual connection. Otherwise it feels like night and day to me. This day, however, we were late getting ourselves together as we made the gravest error of making busy work a priority. Especially me.
“Hurry up, Dad!” Morgan shouted. “Jeezus, Dad! You’re always yelling at me to hurry up and let’s go and all, and here you are texting old girlfriends and stuff!”
Except I didn’t have any girlfriends at that point, old or otherwise, as I was divorced and still single.
At this point our hike had to meet several criteria so as to qualify both as quality bonding time and provide at least SOME training. First, both drive time and trail mileage had to be short. The trail also needed to be steep as all get out to make up for being so short. We also wanted a trail we haven’t done over and over again.
Ah! Poo Poo Point! Yes!
“What?” Morgan asked with a scowl. “Poo Poo Point? Ew, gross, Dad. Like what, horses and cow poop and stuff?”
“No, it’s a short, steep hike up the side of Tiger Mountain from the back side of Issaquah. You’ve done it once before with Kate and Talia and me and Kristina back when Kristina and I were married. We watched paragliders sail off the cliff top.”
“Oh. Yeah, I remember now. OK, let’s go.”
What many call the Poo Poo Point Trail is really the Chirico Trail. This locally notorious footpath drives straight up the slopes of West Tiger Mountain. It’s steep and sweaty sweet before unraveling into rambling twists and turns. Two open, grassy meadows high up near the summit provided launch jump-offs for hang gliders and paragliders. Well, one doesn’t see hang gliders much anymore as paragliding has won out as technology advanced. Hiking thru wintry trees, however, one can look south upon the mighty leviathan bulk of Mt. Rainier, or as the Native Americans prefer, Ti’Swaq’ the Sky Swiper!
A Winter Day Trip to Mt. Rainier in the Throes of Climate Change,
Monday 29 December 2014
On the last Monday in the Year 2014 Common Era, I drove three of us to Mount Rainier National Park. The other two were my oldest daughter Morgan, a few months shy of turning 21, and her maternal cousin, Anne, of about the same age but a little older. Morgan had recently moved back to Seattle from Bellingham to prepare for her journey along the Appalachian Trail. Her mother Gwen Hughes, Anne’s auntie, and now my ex-wife tho still dear friend, and I had thruhiked the AT once upon a somewhat long time ago back in 1991. Gwen and I, originally from Virginia, still lived in Seattle, Washington. Anne was from Florida, and had not ever been to Seattle or Mt. Rainier before, and wanted to go. Woo Hoo, Mt. Rainier! Off we went. We didn’t make it past the bottom of The Mountain.
We determined to have fun anyway.
Discordian Harmony at the Pacific Northwest Folklife Festival
Sunday 24 May 2015
My eyes heard him hunched over his old green guitar before my ears could see him stretching notes thru the air. Old Man God stood in the Center of Seattle crouched in the corner facing Jerusalem on the other side of the world before turning his back on Abraham’s minions to face Ancient Timbuktu instead, his skin all black as Mississippi Goddamn and his beard as snowy white as polar bear belly all while focused on changing what never changes as he grasped the old, banged-up, burring, purring, electric, green guitar in his hands the same way Neptune once burst open the sky with his trident held high all a buzzsaw humming like Betty Dodson’s Hitachi Magic Wand gripped in Goddess hands orgasming the Himalayas apart with the Love Song of a Cosmic Chainsaw. His hands trembled all steady with purpose as he caressed his green guitar with the adoration Zeus once had for electric thunderbolts and nymphs sweaty with humid rust. Old God Man shuddered back on his feet, unwound his pelvis as Mike Mulligan once cranked up trusty Mary Anne, lumbered forward at the wall as a Zen steam shovel on testosterone and played his green guitar with a certain must with a deliberate lust driven to play things as they are with a ferocious thrust not what others demanded oh yeah he played with raw beauty and ugly grace oh yeah he played with verve to shear men and women like sheep oh yeah played his old green guitar so damn hard I swear the sky blazed electric blue and in the midst of such Rapture heard a vast groaning zombie drone as reanimated angels buzzed straight up outa the ground like Jimi Hendrix lighting up Woodstock high up on stage high above the mud deep down in O Mississippi Goddamn mud it’s Nina Simone eating up the sky with her brow all furrowed like eight thirty o’clock way up upon a stage crowded with pianos on fire PIANOS ON FIRE! giving voice to the lynched the burned and to the drowned. Aye, my hearing aids filled with the android squeals of Betty Dodson Jimi Hendrix Nina Simone jackhammering open bones skin and soul to touch my love with feathers stuffed with steel.
See, I heard all these things in a voodoo of pain nothing could change not even Deuteronomous Dali Bosch. Continue reading “Old Man God with the Green Guitar” »
Dragonflies are small animals and ferocious predators. They live all across the planet except Antarctica. Prehistoric ancestors of today’s dragonflies were huge insects with wingspans of almost 30 inches or 7.6 centimeters across. The Dragonfly is also a symbol of transformation, power, adaptability, and poise. A number of us communitarians came together from different urban cooperative households across Greater Seattle to explore new communal possibilities. Some of the early meetings held anywhere from 20 to almost 50 people. Eventually some of us formed a new intentional community. Our new family came to be known as Dragonfly or the Yellow Dragonfly House. We chose this animal as our spirit totem with a focus on personal and group transformation.
What came to be known as simply Dragonfly or the Yellow House was established in October 2003, but the process of community formation began much earlier. People from older groups such as Orca Landing and The Barn began coming together in 2001 to determine what was next for them as individuals, families, and communities. Some of them were monogamous families. Others were engaged as a polyamorous cluster. And a few were single. All were deeply spiritual and engaged in profound personal and professional growth, training, and development. Most were ethical stands for love, communication, and for community. Those who were not left Dragonfly of their own accord except for one person, initially intensely involved, who was asked to leave.
During the years of 2002 – 2003 the members of Dragonfly embarked on a series of trips to spend time together in nature and to strengthen the bonds of community. Not every member of Dragonfly Community went on every adventure. The following fotos are from six of our trips including our major outings. Some of the earlier members and candidates are not in any of these fotos. The core ones are celebrated within. These pictures survived the 2010 burning down of my and then-wife Kristina’s post-Dragonfly home. I took most of these fotos, and some were by Kristina, and others by friends who gave us copies after the fire. I edited most of those images. They captured moments in time and space representing the forging and celebration of relationships amid the great outdoors of America’s Pacific Northwest. Enjoy.
Dragonfly Backpacking & Camping Trip to Second Beach, Olympic National Park, Thursday 4 July – Sunday 7 July 2002:
What is the one place down on the surface of Planet Earth’s crust should everyone go visit at least once in their life? As gorgeous as they are, it’s not those beautiful lakes that fall one into the other in the picture above.
So many people pass thru Seattle these days and night, coming and going and going and coming, from somewhere to nowhere to everywhere. It seems Seattle is now the one place to go, or it’s what I hear from so many tourists. Which surprises me. Seattle is booming, yes, one survey earlier this year counted 80 construction cranes dominating the Downtown and Belltown areas alone. Despite the magnificent scenery of the Salish Sea and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, however, Seattle isn’t The One Place On Earth One Must Go. I love Seattle, tho.
During the Great Recession I worked in retail at the Downtown Seattle REI Store, its largest flagship, and met people from around the world. Still do. Love working here at REI. Many fellow human beings from all over Cascadia, too, came and went and come and go as they tell stories about past trips, excited or in some cases afraid of upcoming adventures. Many people come into REI to buy supplies on their way to help out others, whether it’s devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal, supertyphoons in the Philippines, giant mudslides in Latin America, or the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
At work I am usually in sustained motion. When it’s slow, I either stock products or stand briefly and people watch. Engage and talk. Ask questions and listen. Help them find appropriate products, or if we don’t have them, suggest other places. Once there was a man from Yakutsk, the capital of the Sakha Republic in Russia’s Siberia. He was of Turkish-Mongol-Siberian ancestry, was unusually tall, and was in the United States for the first time. Dressed like a cross between a tweedy college professor, a backcountry woodsman, and a steampunk engineer, he was in quiet awe of the amount of merchandise in every store, including North American grocery stores. He was especially in awe of REI’s depth and breadth in outdoor adventure travel.
Claiming to be among the numerous proud descendants of Genghis Khan’s warriors, he said I should visit Siberia. I’d love to go, I replied. Siberia! One of the wildest, most extreme regions on Earth! The vast boreal forests of the Siberian Taiga, deep and mysterious Lake Baikal, hungry brown and black bears raiding villages, gigantic rivers pulsing towards the Arctic Ocean, bitter subfreezing temperatures, exploding scary ass methane craters in Yamal, the wild, remote, volcanic Kamchatka Peninsula, meteorite-hit cities, huge mountains and isolated deserts, southern steppes and northern tundra, Eurasian ethno-cultural blending amid ancient, little-known ruins, and the longest railroads in the world. O, Siberia!
But, no, not even majestic Siberia. There’s another place even more incredible everyone must try to get to. Yes, everyone.
“Yeah! I think this is like Your Band’s first review!” ~ Ben Callup of Your Band
My Saturday was awesome. Awesome beyond cliches, Hell yeah it was! The 3rd of January! 2015! Busted my middle-age Happy New Year ass in the Gym. Hung out with a dear friend I haven’t seen in almost 2 years and dove down an esoteric rabbit hole with her between death & life, and spent the evening of a Full Moon Eve at Café Racer where I met up with friends from the Socialist Alternative and listened to a trio of bands jam. It was good to get my butt away from the house and out on the town a bit. Slowly enjoyed a pint of Scotch Style Pike Kilt Lifter Ruby Ale from a scruffy, jolly bartender. I’m a glass-draining, guzzling gulper by habit, so I disciplined myself to slow it waaay down to one, delicious slow-drinkin’ beer while eyeing all the qwerty-quirky colorful, kitschy, & strange ugly ass art all over dayglow walls. Outside on the sidewalks knots of people smoked cigarettes in the rain as if it was the most natural thing to do at night in the misty Seattle rain.
Blended Family Fun on the Beach just after Sunset
Morgan & Talia at Play
~ Summer of 2004 ~
All photographs by William Dudley Bass.
Click upon any photo to expand it. Click again to make it bigger! Click the return arrow to go back to the previous page to the photo’s original size.
Kristina, my partner at the time, and I discovered one of the best ways to blend our quirky families was to play together. Shared activities made any chore much more fun and the play a hooty wild blast. Sometimes we played rough, too. My kids and I called wrestling with Daddy “rumble tumble.” Kate was the roughest, although Talia enjoyed a good tumble, too, until she decided she didn’t appreciate a particular move. Morgan didn’t care for such forceful fun. She was a more gentle, restrained, and patient player who valued eccentric, witty goofiness over “play fightin’.”
Did a Sasquatch tear up the woods between two Virginia farms?
The mystery of this strange event has never been solved. Recent scientific discoveries and claims, however, may provide the inquisitive with clues.
It’s springtime in Virginia. The year is either 1967 or 1968, and possibly as late as 1972. My memory of time and dates from long-ago events are a little hazy these days. Not the incidents and sequences of events, however long ago they occurred. These events are crystal clear in the “documentary film” of my memories.
A giant and mysterious beast went berserk in the woods shared by two intermarried family farms. The destruction was extensive and required immediate repair. We farmers kept our herds of cows and heifers separate to prevent them from getting all mixed up. Both farms had planned to turn loose their herds into adjacent fields separated by the fences along Lost Creek. Compounding the mystery was odd feeling the destruction appeared to be far more playful than malicious. Or perhaps it was a warning?
Maybe there was more than one entity. Perhaps a small family of these unknown monsters was responsible for the bizarre rampage. At the time people, adults as well as us kids, thought a tornado was the most likely culprit even if a tornado made no sense at all as there were no storms. So we imagined a giant, troll-like creature and named it the Lost Creek Monster. We certainly hoped if there really was such a beast there was only one at most. Feeling a bit superstitious, we nonetheless prayed the monster would leave us alone. Especially if it was the Devil. But we were just as afraid of God.
Once I saw a doppelganger, although I wasn’t aware of it until the next day. This mysterious event still baffles my mind. Strange and still unresolved questions were raised for which “hoax” would be the easiest yet least likely answer. There are questions regarding the possibility for the bilocation of matter, especially biological organisms, at high levels of material cohesion. Can a person split themselves at will or unconsciously? Other questions provoke inquiries into the evidence consciousness extends beyond our living bodyminds as well as continues, at least for a while, after death. One may speculate as well upon the spiritual ramifications of doppelgangers.
I was not the only witness that warm, sunny afternoon. First, however, what is a doppelganger? Yeah, what the heck is that? And is it dangerous? There’s no way this was a hoax. Well, a hoax is highly unlikely. I’ll explain why further down in this article.
Doppelgangers have existed in myths and legends since Ancient Times. I’d never given the phenomena much attention or credibility prior to this event. Yet my wife and I and others witnessed a doppelganger. Later that afternoon, one man even worked unknowingly alongside this doppelganger. When the man discovered he had done so, he freaked out and prayed feverishly to God so he wouldn’t be snatched up by the Devil and flung down into the fires and stench of Hell.
The following anomalous event occurred one summer in the early 1970s in rural Prince Edward County, south-central Virginia. It remains unexplained.
This weird incident happened about five or six years after my family and I experienced an unidentified flying ship over the fields and woods behind our farmhouse. Those two experiences may have nothing to do with each other except both were strange and were dismissed, ridiculed, or explained away by our American Government.
Our paranoid Cold War fears intensified after the anomaly occurred this particular hot and sweaty summer evening. I was a young teenager back then. A group of us kids played outside in a grassy cow pasture between my house and the neighbors’. Joe, my younger brother, was running around with us, too. Our parents were out and about in their respective yards. The fireflies were already out, winking on and off along the edge of the woods bordering the field even though there was still plenty of light left. We called ’em lightnin’ bugs. We jerked alert as we found ourselves and everything around us bathed in glowing light. It happened fast. BOOM without sound.
“Whoa, look!” shouted one friend in awe. “Look at the sky!”
“What the hell is that?”
“I sure don’t think it’s Jesus comin’ back. Don’t hear no trumpets a blowin’.”
“Trumpets, shit. Maybe the Russians are bombin’ us.”
“Or aliens from Outer Space!”
“Whoa, look at that! Hey, over there, too. Oh man, the sky’s on fire!”
A ghost, yes, an invisible ghost, scared me nearly all to pieces once upon a time back when I was a little kid. I was young, so you can laugh if you wanna, but I was well read and smart, too for being such a squirt. The way that ol’ ghost stomped down the hallway of an old farmhouse in my direction freaked me out. Made my big Frankenstein hearing aid SCREAM. I could hear this ghost, too. I could feel it, feel both the vibrations of the stomps and the cold blob of air moving along with it.
I was a young boy back in the mid-to-late1960s sometime. I don’t remember how many years old I was or what grade I attended in school. What I do recall, however, was the weather. It was Summertime. Lush, green Summertime! It must’ve been between grades. I reckon I was in late elementary school or maybe even early middle. Not sure. But it was Summer that I know. And a ghost scared the bedoobus outa my insides. This true story began late one afternoon.
One bitter cold sunny day I came upon a tall, balding man standing on the beach wearing nothing but a skimpy Speedo swimsuit and smoking cigarettes. He had an enormous belly, a tremendous leviathan of a belly; the kind of tight power belly a big man could even feel proud of. Yet he moved like James Bond in the movies. He smoked like Humphrey Bogart used to in the movies, too. Him and Katherine Hepburn, remember? This man stood barefoot before me in sand, pebbles, and broken seashells as he gazed across the Salish Sea from the shores of Carkeek Park. I estimated he was a youngish sixty. An icy breeze sliced through my coat and stung my cheeks.
Something has shifted in me recently. What has shifted is I’ve lost my taste to speak harshly of others.
During the unexpected challenges of recent years I almost crumbled. The past few months were particularly difficult emotionally and financially. I could’ve sunk deeper into cynicism and bitterness and wallowed in apathy and self-pity. Instead I found the strength and the courage to pivot into a field where there are no paths. My life was my own to choose. My life was mine to live.
I pissed off a blizzard of yellow jackets the other day. They were the Mask of Death rising up without any forewarning or expectation. The Grim Reaper swung out his scythe in warning as I jumped high, and we both whirled away in opposite directions. Death by surprise with the horror of a thousand toxic stings. Except it wasn’t my time to pass on through to the other side…yet.
On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in early October 2012, on the 2nd of October to be exact. I stepped outside into the backyard to help clean up some trash and debris. I’ve been staying with my friends Gabriel and Joy in Shoreline, just north of Seattle, as they settle into their “new” home. The backyard was a glorious overgrown wood with tall, beautiful trees and thick bushes bunched around an urban meadow of shaggy grass and dandelions gone to see. In the corner set an old, abandoned metal garbage can. The lid sat somewhat ajar. Bits of trash hung out over the rim. One long, blue length of twine spooled down and out and lay snarled in weeds and sticks.
Behind me on the upstairs balcony Gabriel and his little boy, the one I call “Young Master,” were cleaning up, too. They watched from above. And they just as easily could’ve been out in the yard, too. Young Master could’ve been walking right there with me to peek inside the old garbage can with the same curiosity that possessed me. After all, he was out there messin’ around a couple days earlier over the weekend.
I carried two bags of trash and one of compost. Without much thought I strode up to the ugly old can squatting among the bushes on the edge of the woods. My hand reached out, grabbed the lid, and lifted.
My eyes caught a quick view of what looked like gray paper. Immediately, a monster swarm of bigass yellow jackets rolled out in a thick curling cloud. These were plump, end-of-summer demons all fattened up to die in another month or so. They came together in the air like a biological chainsaw, like a living robot from the Transformer movies, and they were enraged. When I lifted up the lid, apparently I’d ripped their nest apart.
For a moment so brief yet so long I stood there on hyperalert seeing the massed swarm of buzzing yellow jackets pouring out of the can into the air around me. Everything seemed to move in slow motion, way slooooww mooooshunnn. I felt as if I was inside The Matrix movie.
Concussions, Sports, Psychology of Sports Injuries, and Brain Trauma
Yes, on one sunny afternoon during high school football practice I smashed into Doug helmet to helmet. We crashed to earth, I blacked out for a moment, and then I awoke and saw the stars of Heaven. Damn, I felt drunk and drunk enough to play again. Our coach pulled us aside.
Doug kept his mouth shut as he walked as normally as he could without wobbling. He was smart and played cool. Me, I played doofus dork and insisted I saw stars. They whirled around my head. With eyes open, too.
“What happened?” asked Coach Fore. Coach Skeeter Fore, as he was called. He was locally famous for being a ferocious winner and a gracious loser. Coach was a caring, generous, funny man and the opposite in body type from a li’l bitty mosquito. He simply didn’t know much about brain injuries back in those days either.
It was the mid to late 1970s in Farmville, Virginia. Late Summer-early Autumn of 1976 to be exact. I was a senior in high school, Class of 1977. I played varsity football for the Prince Edward Academy Wolverines, and I was the smallest person on the team. I played primarily defense, often as a nose guard, and ran on kick-off. I rarely played offense, but I was a rascal of a nose guard. I’d throw my little ass across the legs of those big brutes hulking over me and logroll ‘em good. I’d dart between giant cavemen-like high school students who look like they should’ve graduated three years ago and try to tackle somebody before I got stomped. I loved wearing my orange-and-black Wolverine jersey with the black and white lettering. Even if I got stomped by trolls.
Uncle Watt bit off the head of a big, fat, juicy green tobacco worm, peed on his deaf cousin, and poked mules in the ass with a sharp stick just to see ‘em kick. Oh, yes, he was full of the Devil. Yes, he was! So people said, and thus my efforts to untangle dead ancestors one from the other to find the truth lured me down into a genealogical exorcism.
“Oh my Lord, he done got the Devil in ‘im BAD,” Raffie, an ancient-looking man who said he used to work beside Uncle Watt on the farm once told me back when I was a young lad. “Yeah, Lord, I’m tellin’ ya, it’s BAD!” As late as July 2009, Helen, one of my beloved aunts and a Beatnik artist in her 80s, when reminded of Uncle Watt called him “quite a character.” And so I tumbled down the dumbwaiter chute of a family mystery. Who was this “Devil?”
My Dad told me stories. Raffie told me stories. Uncle Willy told me stories. Even Uncle Aumon who got peed on told me stories. Willy and Aumon were brothers, and as they were also my Dad’s uncles they were really my paternal great-uncles. All of them would shake their heads with bemused dismay and chuckle. They could laugh simply because Uncle Watt was dead. He died young and wasn’t around anymore to torment anyone with all his foolishness. I never got to meet him. Dad said, “Uncle Watt died before you were born, Son, long before you were born.” He didn’t remember what of, tho.
“You don’t remember what he died of?” I asked all eaten up bug-eyed in impatient dismay.
“No, I don’t recall anything,” Dad replied. “Wait. Something about his toe. His big toe, maybe? Hell, I don’t know. Can’t help ya there. Got work to do now. Don’t you?”
Turns out Uncle Watt died long before my Daddy was born, too, as in a little over two decades before Dad’s birth. The strangeness about Watt Bass includes those who told all those crazy wild tales about him spoke as if they were there running alongside him in the same window of time. Whenever I asked way back then how long ago did those events happen not one person seemed to know. Asking a few questions turned into an unexpected adventure in genealogy as I dove into the rabbit hole of fading memories, cryptic notes on faded paper, and incomplete information online.
He was a fun-loving guy who apparently was constantly pushing people’s buttons, telling jokes, and playing pranks like biting off the head of a giant caterpillar to pee all over Uncle Aumon, who was but a laddie-lad, too. He lived life on the wild side. Chased pretty girls but never married. Or so I was told. Which I found out was wrong, wrong, wrong as he certainly did marry. Unless I stumbled upon the tombstone of the wrong Uncle Watt. Turns out I didn’t as the correct tombstone was also the same shared with his now-deceased wife.
A blonde Barbie doll sticking halfway out through the roof of a car shuddered as the edge of a sliding glass window trapped her against the edge of the sunroof portal. A grinning man kept jamming the edge against the trembling doll as his kids watched in horror. Buckled up below in the back seat, his little girl screamed. For a moment I felt I actually heard the Barbie doll scream. Maybe, in a way, it did.
Moral dilemmas pop up, of course, when you don’t want them to. I mean fast moving ones such as right now something terrible is happening, events are unfolding, life is happening and maybe dying. Moral dilemmas force us to make decisions when we’re caught off guard. As we are always at choice in life, choosing to react blindly or to respond with intention, too often moral dilemmas trigger fight or flight or freeze.
Since this seems to happen to me more than I like, I hate moral dilemmas. And at the same time, oh, what a gift. Yes, these are gifts, each one a lesson in failure to feel into, to study, and to learn from. Part of the practice is for me to let go of remorse and stop beating myself up. In a perceived reality of cause and effect, where our thoughts and emotions lead to action, we are always at choice. Yes, in spite of circumstances, history, ethnicity, gender, religion, abilities, genetics, geography, culture, education, socio-economic class, and the illusion of true free will, you and I are always at choice.
Six nights ago I dreamed about a long-dead friend and have felt obsessed about it ever since. Just finished looking at old pictures of her I found in dusty high school yearbooks. She graduated in June of 1976 a year ahead of me. Her name was Jo Anne.
We didn’t hang out much at all in high school. We became friends many years later after she tracked me down to Richmond, the capital city of Virginia, where I lived and attended grad school in the mid-1980s. She wasn’t my girlfriend. We were never lovers. More like I was her confidante – we were buddies and pen pals there for a while. Before she died.
We were both rural kids bussed from the far corners of Prince Edward County into the town of Farmville, where we attended high school in the south-central part of Virginia. She was a wild beauty who once stood up and shouted out in the one class we ever shared, “If it feels good, do it!” Followed by a big, goofy laugh.
The rest of us fool kids giggled and either nodded our heads in agreement or shook it like “She’s crazy, crazier than us, like rilly crazy.” I did all three. Jo Anne was tall and slender with long, black hair. She carried herself with an air of crazy confidence, reminding me sometimes of that zany Swedish character Pippi Longstocking. Art was among her favorite subjects, and she was known to be quite imaginative with both pen and brush. Back then I was way too shy to do anything but laugh with her and admire her daredevilry.
Ten or twelve years later, after I had already graduated from high school then college, been married and divorced, moved to the city, and was buried into my first intense year of graduate school, Jo Anne looked me up and found me. She got my contact info from my parents back on the farm in Prince Edward. She knocked on my apartment door where I lived down in The Fan, the Bohemian part of Olde Richmond Town. I opened my door, and she came on in and sat down. Just like that. Out of the blue.
I had to hold my breath and pretend nothing was the matter. She had warned me, but it was still a shock. She was all broken up from a terrible automobile accident. Or maybe it was a motorcycle wreck? I just don’t remember now. But she had a severe limp, was kind of hunched over, and had lost an eye and part of her face. Her voice was husky and whispery, as the accident had damaged her neck and throat. She was still beautiful in a ghostly way, and it was clear she was struggling with it all even as she tried to dismiss it all as another “just what happened, life goes on” kind of thing.
The Blended Family Wedding of Kristina Katayama (L) and William Bass (R) with vows to their children (Morgan, Kate, & Talia) and with their Community.
I married Kristina this past 11 July 2009. She was the great love of my life at that time. We have been together over 7 years, ever since late 2001, as I write this essay. Kristina is a vibrant and dynamic woman, bold, sexy, intelligent, professional, and passionate. She lives full out as a Postmodern Age human being. We married ourselves privately in May 2005, became officially engaged back in November 2005, and intended to celebrate with a public, legal wedding in the summer of 2006. We felt too busy with careers and children, however, and lived as if already married. And in 2009 we finally did it. Up to our Wedding Day, she used her father’s family name, “Katayama,” as her own. And after our wedding she insisted on changing her name. Or, to be more accurate, adding my surname to hers.
“What?” I asked incredulously. “That’s old-fashioned culturally-ingrained male domination of females. I don’t own you. I’ve fought against this kind of bigotry my whole life.”
I had more to say, too. “I LIKE the Japanese sound of ‘Katayama.’ Mine is an “Olde English” name. I like the global feel of Bass and Katayama being together as a couple. It supports Euro-Asian-American planetary integration! My name is short and monosyllabic. Yours is long and lovely with four syllables emphasizing the same vowel. And don’t you dare hyphenate! That’s a monstrosity!” Blah blah blah.
Our Blended Family Bike Excursion on the “Iron Horsie Trail,” Washington State, during the Summer of 2006
Woo Hoo!!! A Wild Family Trip with William & Kristina and the Kids! Yeah!
We pulled it off! Our wild and crazy family mountain bike ride across the Washington Cascades! Well, sort of. At times we felt we descended beyond the Gates of Hades on our own nutty journey into the center of Planet Earth. But a fun journey. It was a logistical workout, and blessed with a treasure of memories. Originally Kristina and I planned a 3-day family bike ride with all 3 kids along 40+ miles of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail thru Iron Horse State Park in the Cascade Mountains. We’d planned to carry all of our gear and camp along the way. We were unable to work out the logistics to our satisfaction, however, as we didn’t want to take two cars.
So we turned it into a different sort of trip and just took off on Friday 18 August 2006. By then all the campgrounds were full. We whimsically drove up winding National Forest Service roads and stared over cliffs toward dramatic mountain scenery. In grim, puzzled silence, we rumbled past a weird, old man living out of a rusty, red car who tied plastic bags up in the bushes alongside the road. He turned and stared at us as if he could eat us all up for supper. Imagining great and terrible things then giggling like embarrassed maniacs, we drove on around the rocky corner.
Many a dusty mile later, we found a lovely, open spot among the woods, rocks, and overgrown logging slash. There we wild-camped near the top of Amabilis Mountain. Arid conditions and clear skies greeted us. Big, wide-open skies. The Milky Way seemed to cleave the heavens in half like some incandescent sword. A meteor shower was in progress, too. Beginning every late July and stretching into the middle of August, the Perseid Meteor Shower is a treat out here in the clear, arid skies typical of our Northwest summers. Several spectacular shooting stars and flurries of little ones blazed across dark skies every night. Friday night there we slept.
I love this amazing woman, Kristina Katayama.
Then 12 and a half years later we divorced, darn it, but not before we dove thru our Hearts deep into the Center of the Sun.
Note: Click on any photo to expand it, and click again to make it even larger. Click the back arrow to return to the essay. All photographs protected by Copyright with All Rights Reserved. Thank you, and enjoy!
A brief photo-essay of memorable times when my oldest daughter Morgan Hannah blossomed from pre-teen into full adolescence as she navigates to womanhood. She was 14 years old and a 9th Grader at Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Washington, when these photos were taken. They were shot by a classmate in black & white for a photography class Morgan and her friend participated in. In just two more days, Morgan turns 18 years old as she enters adulthood as a young woman. I am thrilled and feel deeply blessed. Here is a snapshot in time altered for fun as we explore life from sometimes unusual angles.
Youngest first! These school portraits provide snapshots in time when my three daughters dove into life. The originals were destroyed when our home burned down in 2010, so these are digitalized copies from those halcyon days before the fire.
All photos are from the Seattle Public Schools in the northern half of Seattle, Washington. Enjoy.
Talia Katayama (now Bass), my beautiful, talented, and sensitive stepdaughter since before her birth. I helped deliver her at home on the floor and helped raised her up, too. Continue reading “My Girls’ School Pictures 2007-2008” »
My Momma always used t’say I was rough on things. And after awhile, my Daddy started saying the same thing. They called me by my middle name, and said, “Dudley, you’re rough on things!” Well, I was a very energetic little boy. Things had a tendency to break around me.
I grew up on a dairy farm in Prince Edward County in South-Central Virginia during the 1960s. I lived in a house built in the middle of what used to be a big pigpen. “Hogs,” they called ’em back then. When pigs got big they called ’em hogs. “Hawgs.” As in “Hawgs!” You could even see the straight line of trees where the old woven wire fence used to run to keep the hogs in the pen. Otherwise it was all green grass, daffodils, shade trees, pansies, irises, and vegetable gardens.
It grossed me out a few years later, though, when I got my hands on a couple of Daddy’s college textbooks on parasitic worms and other nauseating diseases associated with domestic livestock. The books showed the most graphic and horrible pictures, and I found them quite fascinating – until I realized I lived inside of an old pigpen.
My house back then was small. I could run from one end to the other, and often did. The front door opened from a small, cozy front porch into the living room on the almost-east side of the house. That flowed through a big wide walk-through into a dining room, which opened into the kitchen, which opened onto an enclosed back porch where the washing machine was. All the bedrooms, closets, bathroom, and the den were on the sorta-west side of the house. I could run all the way from the front door to the back door and back again. The full length of the house. As hard as I could. Fast!
Drove my Momma crazy. “Dudley,” she would yell, “Stop slamming the front door! Either go out and play or stay inside and be quiet.”
“Yes Ma’am!” I shouted and deciding to stay inside, charged through the house as fast as I could, my little feet drumming across the floors. That drove my Momma crazy, too.
“Dudley!” she scolded again. “Stop running in the house! Go outside and run.”
Oh, boy, but I was having too much fun.
Kate the Great was in good spirits this one, crazy Seattle morning in early Autumn of 2007. And after being so TESTY last night, too. Play play play every day day day. Even raided Gwen’s kitchen, the private abode of her mom who lived downstairs. Raided the kitchen like a hyena turned all a loose up inside cupboards, refrigerators, garbage cans, and every darn thang. Tho she did gwarbbled up the eggs I scaramboolled up with sharp Irish cheddar. Yea, play play play all day day day. After just one visit back to Virginia, Kathryn’s grandparents on both sides of her family nicknamed her “Hurricane Kate.”
She’s such a BELOVED third grader, beloved because everyone who doesn’t live with her just ADORES her, and only 8 years old, too. Soon to be 9 years old, she’ll let you know. Kate is my wild, wild, crazy ass daughter. And I love her madly cuz she is so daggone crazy and she is clear her name is KATE and she is the only real KATIE KATE KATE this side of the Moon but she ain’t no loon!
And I’m in good spirits myself this morning, having drunk too much coffee, and being a beehive talkin’ country boy from the South who done relocated to the Northwest and tucked away my pitchfork, so started talkin’ like one to remind my lovely Emerald City lasses of their dangerous heritage. All of which drives my kids crazy cuz they HATE it and laugh and shout at me to “Stop talking like that, Dad. DAD!!!”
The events of my father’s death followed by my mother’s and all that arose afterwards were pivotal events in my life. They are, I would imagine, for the majority of human beings around the world. My writings on these topics took place over time and have evolved into the narrative contained within the following series of essays, ruminations, photographs, and poems.
Death is an everyday aspect of life, and yet in our culture perhaps the least visited, the least discussed, the most disturbing, the most feared, and the most liberating. Bereft of a cultural web of community grief and loss, we nowadays hurry the dying out of view and the dead into the ground or into an urn or whatever just so we can get back to what we really have reduced our lives to: being too busy. In the process of freeing ourselves up to be so busy we have unwittingly robbed ourselves of something intimate, indeed of something which can be a rich affirmation of life and purpose.
Loosely I lump the following as my “Death of my Parents” canon, and it’s much more than the deaths of Mom and Dad. Each is fully self-contained, although they do flow one to the other. Some are long, while others are short. Most have photographs, some don’t, and a few have lots and lots of pictures. I list them below in the chronology of which I published them on my website, William Dudley Bass on Earth at the Brink, although as with blogs they show up in reverse order with the last one posted at the top.
I invite you to dive on in and join me on a certain timed yet timeless odyssey.
1. “Death with Father,” http://williamdudleybass.com/death-father.
2. “My Mom & Death,” http://williamdudleybass.com/mom-death.
3. “During My Mother’s Dying,” http://williamdudleybass.com/mothers-dying.
4. “Mom Passes On: Ruminations,” http://williamdudleybass.com/mom-passes-on-ruminations.
5. “The Morning After We Buried Mom,” http://williamdudleybass.com/morning-buried-mom.
6. “Daddy’s Ghost,” http://williamdudleybass.com/daddys-ghost.
7. “Barreling Across America with my Daughter Morgan,” http://williamdudleybass.com/barreling-america.
8. “Dad’s Old Chair,” http://williamdudleybass.com/dads-old-chair.
Thank you, dear Readers.
William Dudley Bass
5 March 2012
Copyright © 2012, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.
Tuesday Morning of 6 May 2002
Kate, my 4 year old, crawled around the corner into the room pushing a big, grey, toy horse with a shaggy, black mane. A naked, plastic woman was bent backwards across the saddle of the horse with her large, plastic breasts pointing up and out into the parlor. Unlike her limbs, her breasts were immovable. I was amused by the way Kate had the doll face-up over the horse instead of draped face-down as “in reality.”
Morgan, my 9 year old, stares.
“Oh, my God,” she blurts out. “A naked Barbie!”
Hmmnn, not only is my third grader a self-professed Atheist, who like many Atheists continue to use the Lord’s name, but she has become increasingly self-conscious about her pre-budding figure.
“Kate, are you ready to go to the bus stop with me and Morgan?” I asked.
“You are NOT taking a naked Barbie to the bus stop!” Morgan declared.
Poetic Ruminations from sitting in my dead Daddy’s favorite chair:
One morning in March
I go and find my father’s
Old green recliner and sit in it.
My dog sits at my feet
As my beloved sleeps
down the hall in the bed.
The old chair is cozy and warm.
No wonder my dad used to sleep in it.
I sit and stare out the window
At spring snow melting away,
At ponderosa pines, white birches,
Cottonwoods and old stumps.
Blue emptiness fills mountain skies
Out here in the Washington Cascades.
It would be an alien landscape to my father,
Who died three years and over three months ago.
My brother was spooked by the chair;
Thought it haunted, kind of, and asked me to take it.
Said it smelled too much of Dad.
That chair traveled over three thousand miles
From an old farmhouse in Virginia
To a new western lodge in Washington,
From the Sandy River to the Wenatchee.
Once or twice I thought I sensed my dad back in his chair,
Just left-over energy, an echo of a cherished memory.
Mom’s nurses swore they saw his ghost at least twice;
I wanted to see his ghost, too,
But never did.
My father moved on after Mom joined him beyond Death.
As I sit in my Dad’s old chair
With a dog insisting on being petted,
Pushing its head and lifted paw into my lap,
I surrender to God.
My ego battles with the Divine
Not owning its divinity.
I pray, meditate, contemplate the future.
And as I gaze out the window
I miss my Dad.
William Dudley Bass
NOTE: Originally published on my old website Cultivate and Harvest, on Thursday 13 November 2008 at http://cultivateandharvest.blogspot.com/2008/11/dads-old-chair.html, then re-published here this 4 March 2012 with my permission as the Author. Thank you.
Copyright © 2008, 2012, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.
Diary of a 7-Day Journey with my Daughter Morgan:
Morgan jounced along with me as I drove across the Continent from Virginia to Washington State in a moving truck crammed like an old-fashioned peddler’s wagon. My parents had died fairly recently, Daddy in late Autumn of 2004 and Momma about two years later in 2006. As a result of their passing, I inherited many of their possessions. The last time I’d driven a moving truck packed with so much heavy furniture and jangly stuff cross-country was back in 1993. This road trip also signaled a completion of a cycle of death-journeys back and forth from Seattle to rural Virginia around the deaths of both parents.
Morgan and I arrived with all belongings in the wee hours of Saturday morning, about 2:30 AM, on 14 April 2007. It was quite a trip. And it was a special trip, a long overdue opportunity for some father – daughter bonding. Morgan is my oldest daughter of three and my only biological offspring. She had turned 13 a month earlier. I love her dearly, and it was painful to stand aside and watch her grow up and apart. I didn’t expect it to happen so soon, but at 12 she started taking off.
As my eldest daughter, she was but a sprout compared to her grandparents who recently died in their mid-70s. Dad passed first, dying on the 1st of December 2004, the third anniversary of my partnership with Kristina. After a few false starts, Mom finally followed on my brother’s birthday, 15 November 2006. My sister Beth had successfully navigated between doctors, lawyers, accountants, funeral home directors, tax preparers, insurance agents, courts, gravediggers, bankers, and stressed out relatives. Beth performed difficult job with perseverance and excellence, all while working full-time, raising a daughter, and settling in from Arizona back into Virginia.
The closure of this entire mess o’ dying proved to be an adventure yet.
Saturday 7 April – First, flying from Seattle, WA to Richmond, VA via Chicago was uneventful and smooth, albeit we landed at 11:30 PM that night. Ray Hinde, my sister’s second husband, was generous to pick us up at the airport as our rental car plan fell through. He had just driven to the airport the night before to pick up his son and daughter by his first wife. They had buzzed in from Arizona.
On the plane I read David McCullough’s history book 1776 and was struck by the irony of me, a Virginian living in Washington, reading about George Washington, himself a native of Virginia and in whose honor my adopted state was named after. And Morgan is a native of Washington and is visiting Virginia. The events of that gripping narrative, however, describe a situation that changed history. If the American Revolution had failed there would be no “Virginians” living in “Washington.”
Even so, we paid my Aunt Helen a midnight visit down in the Fan, the Bohemian area of Richmond. Helen, my daddy’s Big Sister, had a box of gold-rimmed china from her mother to give Morgan, who is Mary Yeatts Bass’s great-granddaughter. Helen, a morning lark, was kind enough to stay up late for us to visit. It was stunning to walk into her home in the Fan. On every wall was beautiful and vibrant art. On the table was another project in process.
Helen excitedly led us into her basement art studio to show us a number of fun and expressive pieces she was crafting from a mélange of seashells, driftwood, stones, beads, and paints. And also where she tripped over a cord and smashed to the floor. Morgan was thrilled to see Helen again and it was her first visit to Helen’s organic and living in-home museum and studio. I wished we could all visit more often; tough to do when we lived 3000 miles away. Helen, thank you for being such a gracious host beyond the Witching Hour. And Morgan feels awe to receive her great-grandmother’s china.
Ray drove us on back to the old Bass farm outside Rice. He and Beth have a new home on a hill overlooking the lake formed by the Sandy River Reservoir. He took us to my deceased parents’ empty house. Morgan and I spent the remainder of the night there, wondering if we would see ghosts. I slept very poorly.
As Momma lay dying of cancer, my father’s ghost was sighted at least twice. The home care ladies and nurses who saw him, however, begged me not to have that advertised back then as they didn’t want to be regarded as nuts or superstitious. Or maybe even lose their jobs. Who the hell would want to hire crazy people who see ghosts to take care of the dying?
Once a woman who worked in my parents’ home as a home care nurse was bent over cleaning the floor where my mother had just thrown up on the carpet. She glanced up and there he was. Bill Bass himself. His ghost, anyway. He stood there in the corner with his hands clasped in front of his privates like he used to do back in real life, looking down at her scrubbing the rug. It was clear as daylight that ghost was Bill Bass, and you could see right through him, too. The moment he realized she saw him, my father’s ghost moved quickly and disappeared in a flash of nothingness. Spooked the shit out of the lady on the floor. She wanted to go home!
A second time he was sighted by a different person standing next or behind my mother in their master bedroom where my Mom laid in a hospital bed. The woman who saw Daddy’s ghost declared it felt he was waiting for Momma to die and being a little bit impatient about it, too. She said it had a distinct feeling to it. It felt as if he was thinking “Dot, what’s taking you so long?” At my mom’s funeral the minister alluded to this incident somewhat obliquely. But my Dad is a warrior, apparently in death as well as in life, and while so impatient when things got serious proved to be the most patient one of all. Again, the moment that ol’ ghost realized he had dropped his invisibility cloak or whatever it was, he disappeared from biological view in a heartbeat. Snap! Gone, just like that.
My mother never commented on ever seeing a ghost. “Oh, I wouldn’t want to,” she once said with a shudder. “It would scare me to death.”
Sunday 19 November 2006
The morning after we buried my Mother
Dawn opened up the day with mist and gray
I stood on the porch of my sister’s new house
Cold upon the lake
Remembering the chill of touching
Momma’s lifeless hands and face
As a wall of fog gray as corpses
Shields trees and water from view
Birdcalls sparkle in the void
Bordered by clay red and torn
Edged with grass brown and wet
Fog glued together heaven and earth,
Sky and lake, and turned bone-white
And as the sun rose above skeletal trees
The fog began to move and churn
Across waters stilled before the sun’s return
Unstaked wild life’s hunger for warm bright light
November brings paleness to shortened days
And time ebbs and flows
The moment recedes into the past
Memories become as fog
And all things die
As it’s just another day
As it’s just another day
And it’s just another day
Before darkness returns to take us Home.
A Prose Poem
William Dudley Bass
19 November 2006
16 January 2007
Revised 29 February 2012
Rice, Virginia &
Two Comments from the Original Posting from the older website:
True North said…Ahhh William, thank you…I have just come home from working downtown today, hung up my suit, brewed a coffee and opened your blog…my heart shrugs off the dense energy of cement and iron, unmanacles and expands into the depth and vision of your words…ahh, now I will read on…Cindy
A Flower For All Seasons said…So wonderful to hear your poet’s voice William. To touch the timeless through your eyes and breath. And a lovely feeling of anticipation as I choose to read only one entry on any given day, knowing that each time I visit here your voice will awaken something in me that will take me who knows where… Wendy
NOTE: This was originally published in my oldest blog, Cultivate and Harvest, on Tuesday 16 January 2007, at http://cultivateandharvest.blogspot.com/2007/01/morning-after-we-buried-mom.html, and reprinted here this January 2012 with my permission as the Author. I also copied comments from two of my colleagues from the Robert Augustus Masters’ Psycho-Spiritual Counseling Practicum we were in at the time. Thank you.
Copyright © 2006, 2007, 2012, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.
Death is chaotic. So are funerals.
It was indeed a dark and stormy night when the phone buzzed with news from over 3,000 miles away. It was Wednesday the 15th of November 2006, my brother’s birthday. That wasn’t what the news was about, though. Waves of cold chills dashed across my body. I steeled myself to see my Mother’s ghost.
There wasn’t, however, anything remotely ghostly amid the crashing storm. And yet I was certain, grimly certain…there was something, faint and fluttery like a quick-darting butterfly, that was there, right there, and gone, nothing more, as if there never was any such beating of ghostly wings. In the darkness of pounding rain and gusty gales I wasn’t quite prepared to be scared out of my wits. After all, I wasn’t even properly dressed to greet Momma’s Ghost unless you considered a 47-year old birthday suit appropriate for such a passage.
Mom had been battling cancer since 2003. “Battling cancer” doesn’t even begin to describe the war itself. It is far more than the appearance of cancer cells and invasive tumors that seek to hijack and consume the body. The immune system degrades. Diet and nutrition suffers. Repeat secondary infections by bacteria, fungi, and viruses do tremendous damage and like squads of vicious hit men end up doing the killing. There’s the emotional, neurological, and psychological toll. There’s an enormous social toll and the rippling impact on family, friends, neighbors, and businesses, essentially all of one’s relations.
Cancer itself is an umbrella term for a messy web of mysterious diseases with multiple causes that mutate into one monster after another. And though a lot of folks are not always comfortable with the curious topic of money, cancer extorts a staggering financial cost. Is it any wonder we apply military terms to “dis-ease?” And perhaps, as humanity comes through millennia of slaughter to finally confront the useless futility of war, it is time we too consider embracing cancer and its runaway cells with something other than mortal combat. But war is the approach my feisty old mother chose.
During My Mother’s Dying
Early July 2006. My Mother lays ill in the last cycle of her life after battling metastatic ovarian cancer for three years. Her name is Dorothy Elizabeth Ussery Bass. Most folks call her “Dot.” Although my home has been Seattle, Washington for quite some time, I am again in Virginia, the land where she gave birth to me, and feel compelled to write down the following impressions and chronicles:
Last night I slept ten and a half hours, awaking from a heavy dream combining aspects of Mt. Rainier, the Appalachian Trail, and my friends David and Tina from Richmond. The night before I slept only 3-4 hours. I got out of bed early and went for a walk, rambling around the farm and across the land. Did push-ups on the concrete apron of the old cow lane, my hands pushed down where cow shit used to pile up in boot-sucking quantities. Now the concrete runway’s been washed clean by the rains and bleached by the sun.
The most beautiful songs burst forth from songbirds perched up in treetops and on the barn roof cupolas. We don’t have songbirds much out West, they tend to thrive East of the Great Plains – they need deciduous forests. Astounding arrays of bird songs fill the morning air. The Virginia country air feels so cool in the morning, so cool but only because warm air is cooler than hot air. The temperature later shot up to a sweltering, humid 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Damn. People slow down. Dayum. Day-yumm. You walk with deliberation and a sense of conservation. People say it is unusual for such temperatures so soon. That’s August weather. Global Warning (sic, yes). Amid the dying of a matriarch I hear the songbird singing trail off into the blazing, hot Void.
A Letter to the Living…
Recently read Robert Masters’ book Darkness Shining Wild. One of his themes is bringing Death out of the closet. Into our everyday lives. Being present to Death. As some of you “older veterans” may recall I was with my Dad during his dying from cancer. That was a cathartic event that catapulted me into the workshop I jokingly refer to as “Nightmare in the City.”
Now my Mom is going down. After 3 years of battling cancer, almost dying the same year my Dad died, after going into remission and getting better, the tumors have returned and spread with a vengeance. She’s terminal, tho aren’t we all. Supposedly she has less than 5-6 months left. Who knows?
She is in so much pain now. The fury of the pain blinds her at times and robs her of her dignity. We think we’re going to die a certain way, looking good as we go, but often we don’t. My dad’s death taught me we leave this world as messy as we enter it. Covered in blood and shit. I will be at the Men’s Group this Monday, and then fly out to Virginia for a while, and then again this fall.
From an Email to Passion Warriors WarriorSage Seattle Men’s Group, Wednesday 21 June 2006.
P.S. I am no longer affiliated with this men’s group or with WarriorSage. Both served their purpose during a crucial time in my life. I have since moved on.
William Dudley Bass
21 June 2006
13 November 2008
Revised 26 February 2012
NOTE: This was originally published in my earliest blog, Cultivate and Harvest, on Thursday 13 November 2008, at http://cultivateandharvest.blogspot.com/2008/11/my-mom-death.html, and revised and re-published here this February of 2012. Thank you.
Copyright © 2006, 2008, 2012, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.
Intro from July 2006: As a Prelude of sorts I first include sections from an email I wrote a few days after my father died early in the morning on Wednesday on the 1st of December 2004. At the time my life had fallen apart about a year earlier and I was bankrupt, divorced, unemployed, and half-mad. I was struggling in my relationship with Kristina and desperately trying to get my feet back on the ground. It was one of the worse times in my life, and a cauldron for eventual success. I was also deep in the Warrior Sage work and had not yet been disenchanted with the philosophies and practices of David Deida and his followers on the West Coast. July 2006.
Death with Father, November – December 2004
I am a rich man. I am blessed with an abundance of pain and growth and waking up and amazing things happening, a wealth of life experiences. It’s been rough. I sail my ship thru one storm after another, and it’s been rough. My stomach heaves as each swell rolls underfoot and each rogue wave washes the decks clean for each new beginning every moment.
Dad died early Wednesday morning in the ER. It was bitter cold and the third anniversary of my partnership with my fiancé Kristina Katayama. My brother Joe and I were up all fucking night. Death was messy and brutal. As Gary, the founder of the men’s group I was in then told me afterwards, “We come into the world messy, and we leave messy.” At least it was quick. So quick I wasn’t even aware he was dead at first, just sleeping.
About three days ago I got my father alone and said, “Dad, listen up. I want you to know I love you.”
“I love you, too,” he said.
“I flew here because this might be the last time we see each other alive.”
“I know it.”
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Fire changes things. Destroys. Creates. Transforms.
Think of metamorphic rocks, rocks such as gneiss, slate, quartzite, and marble. Think of transmutation of elements. Transmutation as illustrated by the old alchemical striving to turn lead, the base metal of Satan the Devil, into gold, the metal of Gods and kings, or modern nuclear reactions, explosions, and radioactive decay. One forgets among the unleashing of atomic demons the alchemists were more esoteric than literal as they sought to transform their very souls.
Sometimes those who spend lifetimes in search of such divine gifts never obtain their goals.
Sometimes those who don’t seek these Gifts of Fire end up in flames anyway.
Sometimes life spins out of control.
It feels that way at times. Certainly within our minds. Even if Life goes on until Dead.
Jeff Shushan, a brilliant and insightful psychotherapist Kristina and I worked with off and on through the latter part of 2010 into 2011, used the term “derailed.” An unexpected and traumatic event occurs. It is a life-changing event. Circumstances feel overwhelming and throw people off course. Yes, you can be alert, awake, aware, present, mindful, and choose to respond rather than react. Still, to full heal one must take time to grieve, to reassess, to determine what steps to take next and in what direction, with whom, and how.
My house burned down on the morning of Saturday, March 20, 2010. We lost almost everything, “we” being a post-double divorce blended family with my wife Kristina and our three daughters from prior marriages. Fortunately no one was burned or injured in anyway. Thankfully no one was killed in what the fire fighters called “a killer fire.”
This essay follows, “The Fire, Part 1 of 3.”
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After the Fire
“Sometimes I can’t even feel the ground under my feet anymore,” my wife Kristina cries. “I can’t feel ANYTHING!!!”
Days and weeks wheel by in a blur after our house burned down in the Fire. Frenzied action is broken by spells of dazed inaction. There is too much to do so soon. We move through it all anyway. Sometimes we even laugh. Sometimes the Fire seems years ago, or feels it never happened at all, or worse, just yesterday. Saturday 20 March 2010, however, was only 30 days ago as I first write this blogpost for the bassfamilysupport.ning.com website friends set up to organize help.
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The Fire: Part 1 of 3
Saturday 20 March 2010
One week ago our house burned down. It was traumatic. Thank goodness everyone is alive. No one got hurt. Not even the firefighters. But we lost just about everything else. And the response of our communities of family and friends from all around the world was and is deeply generous, much appreciated, and unexpectedly overwhelming.
We got uplifting responses not only from all over the Northwest but from folks from Japan to Norway, Virginia to California, New York to South Carolina, Alaska to Vermont, Mexico to Canada, Jordan, Turkey, Spain, Germany, Italy, China, Kentucky, Florida, Connecticut, North Carolina. Texas. Tennessee. Illinois. The list goes on. From Christians to Muslims to Atheists to Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and Pagans. Amazing. We were reminded not only how lucky to be alive but we’re all part of one giant family of humanity sharing one small, beautiful planet. And, yes, the Internet was the primary tool facilitating such communications, especially Facebook.
Saturday 20 March 2010. It was 11:00 in the morning in Edmonds, Washington, a waterfront city north of Seattle noted for its small-town feel with lots of trees. It was an unusually warm and sunny day. Morgan, my oldest daughter, had recently turned 16, and we were hosting a post-birthday slumber party for about 12 of her friends. The celebrations began Friday evening after school and work. Her younger sisters, Kate, 11, and Talia, 7, were at their own sleepovers back in North Seattle. I left to drive down into Seattle to pick up Kate and Talia and bring them home while Kristina left to take our dog Jo to the vet. There were 8 teenage girls left in our home by then.
They’re great kids, these girls. We’re delighted Morgan had a great circle of fun, funny, artistic, and responsible friends. They were hanging out upstairs playing chess and preparing to cook breakfast. First they noticed a thin smoky haze and remarked how pretty the sunshine was. Then they realized it was smoke. Were pancakes burning on the stove? No, no fire from the stove. No one was even cooking. There were no candles, no incense, no smoking, none of that. Thick, toxic smoke rolled out of the heating vents and roiled up the stairs from the basement, our first floor. The smoke was so thick they couldn’t even get out the door.
A few kids wanted to run down and rescue items: shoes/boots/clothes/cell phones/iPods/sleeping bags/coats/birthday presents. It easily ran to about $1,000 a teenager, mindboggling for even us parents when we tallied it all up, and among our guests were twin sisters, so, yes, many wanted to race downstairs, just once, running just really, really fast, y’know…and Morgan took a stand.
“No!” she shouted. “We need to get out of here NOW! This way!”
Somebody stole The Grinch from Candy Cane Lane! What a vile and horrid thing to do. Whoever stole The Grinch and thus robbed us all and not just the Whos of Whoville must have a heart so teeny tiny as to be even tinier than the Grinch’s. Hey Dude, yeah, you, you and your giggling, drunken, lamebrain buddies with cigarettes dipped in stale Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, hey, do y’all need suspenders to hold up your hearts or what?
Candy Cane Lane is Heaven in Seattle for Christmas lovers. It’s a small crescent shaped block of classic brick and wood homes from bygone “Grandma and Grandpa Days” carved out of a hillside in the woodsy Ravenna neighborhood of North Seattle. And a huge, big cutout of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas was stolen a couple of days ago. Cindy Lou Who and Max the One-Horned Doggiedeer Reindeer were left stranded and sad.
What will happened to Christmas without The Grinch? What will Santa do? And all those poor Whos way off in Whoville? What about all the good people of Candy Cane Lane right here in Seattle?
Veterans’ Day 2008 in the United States has come and gone now. It originated as Armistice Day to celebrate the armistice that ended combat on the Western Front in Europe in the First World War. It evolved into Veterans’ Day within the U.S.A. to honor veterans of all America’s wars. In other countries involved in the First World War it is still remembered as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. Major hostilities officially ceased with the German surrender in 1918 at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
Called the Great War, the War to End all Wars, it was neither the first nor the last world war, although it was the most terrible up to that time. Nor did it end with the signing of the Armistice. The actual peace treaty officially ending the war wasn’t signed until 1919 and fighting continued on other fronts as the international slaughter morphed into a vast, interconnected network of revolutions and civil wars across several continents and included great violence in Russia, Germany, China, the Middle East, Mexico, and elsewhere.
The so-called Spanish influenza pandemic swept around the planet in the wake of the First World War and killed more people than the war itself. The wars spawned by World War I eventually converged into the Second World War such that some historians include the violence of 1914-1945 with the Great Depression in between all one monstrous war. Some go further and include the Cold War of 1945-1991 as the last phase of a truly Great War.
My grandfather, Carroll M. Bass of Richmond, Virginia, served in the U.S. Navy in the Great War. All I can remember from family stories of that time is that he was out in the Atlantic Ocean hunting German U-boats as part of an anti-submarine unit. There was always present the fear of being torpedoed, blown up and sunk in unimaginably deep, cold water. A medal lies on my desk, an old tarnished coin-like medal. Face-up is an image of what I fancy is woman in a long dress waving good-bye or hello with a smaller, encircled image of the Goddess of Justice. On the back is inscribed, “Presented by the citizens of Richmond, VA to C.M.B. (illegible) in grateful recognition of patriotic service in the World War, 1917-1918.” Continue reading “Two Days After Veteran’s Day 2008” »
I loved my little red boots. Little itty-bitty cheap plastic boots with plastic rubbery pull-up handles. They were so RED! And I loved red. I felt so PROUD! Cuz I wore them, or rather lost them, in receiving (remember, medals of honor are not awarded to winners but recipients!) my very first concussion, which was also the first time I fell out of a tree, and the very first time I broke through the ice over frozen water. Now, one can imagine little red boots venturing foolishly out onto the ice, but what in tarnation where they doing up in a TREE?
Oh, by the way, this was back when I was a little boy. I was a bad, bad elementary school lad trying to tag along with those badder than worse pre-teen boys my Momma hated me playing with. Of course, we didn’t use “pre-teen” back in those halcyon red rock-throwing1960s. Back then we li’l kids call ‘em “the Big Kids.” I grew up, see, in rural Virginia, on my parents’ dairy farm outside the town of Farmville, yes, the real Farmville, halfway between Richmond and Lynchburg.
One day a long, long time ago, decades now, I ventured out after a long and terrible storm. In my little red boots, of course. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. And all the plants and everything else outside was slick and glistening wet. It must’ve been Spring or Fall because I do remember wearing a coat and a hat.
I climbed up into a tree. I loved to climb. That’s why I was up in a tree. I began playing in it the previous summer. It was a scrubby, bushy, shrubby tree growing wild around the corner of the yard. My parents just mowed the grass around it. It was a tangle of shoots with myriad branches forking forth in all directions. At one point I slipped and grabbed, stopped myself, and ended up with a mouthful of leaves. Apparently I used my mouth as an extra hand. No wonder I have jaw problems these days! Continue reading “Little Red Boots” »
People have no idea what a person goes thru in life. As a young man working on the family dairy farm I had the occasion to work with at least three murderers. All three were men. One was White. He boasted of what he did and would do. He later did it, too. Cut his own Momma’s head off. Two others were Black. One of those was matter of fact about the psychology of killing and was all business about it. The other hid out in plain sight. There may have been more killers working alongside me, too, but I only knew about these three during this time period of 1981 – 1984. This was back when I lived in Prince Edward County, tucked away in the Piedmont hills and low valleys of south-central Virginia. As I worked side by side together with them on the farm, we got to know each other well.
All three stirred powerful emotions in me. Once I almost killed one guy, a drunken horror named Paul Jenkins. It was my day off work, but I had to come in as Paul never showed up to milk the cows. He was home drunk off more cans of the cheap beer he called “liquid steak” then one could count. He jumped my back and drunkenly tried to choke me as we prepared to milk the cows, I lost it. Enraged and scared, I broke loose, ran into the cow barn, snatched a pitchfork from where it stood buried in a bale of hay, and charged him to drive those prongs in deep. At the last minute I stopped myself. I felt too much empathy. Reminded myself some of us carry a heavier cross than others at different times in life.
My drunk coworker then begged me to kill him, or he would commit suicide. He threatened to hang himself off the side of our 75-ft high grain silo. Another fed-up coworker, an older man semi-retired, would have no more of this interruption of work that must be done, and shouted at him to “Go ahead and hang your own damn fool ass off that silo! I’ve had it with all your shit!” After a few deep breaths I backed off as he flopped crying in the grass and almost knocked over a big, smelly pan of cow milk set down for the kitties. Yeah, we had a lot of cats and kittens around back then. The other man calmed down. Together we got the cows milked, but Paul staggered on off down the road, found a way to Charlottesville where his MaMa lived, slipped into her home in the middle of the night, and cut her head off. She whipped out a pistol from under her pillow, the same one she’d shot her abusive husband, Paul’s daddy, dead with, but she wasn’t quick enough. Not this time. Her son severed her head right there in her own bed.
The scariest one was a young man whose name I’ve forgotten. Although I can see his face clearly in my mind as I write this piece. So I’m gonna call him Mike. Though it might as well ’ve been Dick. Wait, I remember now. It’s Thomas! And one day during a slow time “cleaning up the barn,” our job description for gathering up and removing leftover hay, cow manure, bovine urine, trash, and anything else, I interviewed him. What follows is not a formal interview of direct quotes, but a close approximation as I paraphrase his stark use of language. In some ways it felt as if I interviewed him only yesterday. He, however, acted as if he was somehow my mentor, as if he was going to train me in one of the darkest arts, murder. I shiver even now in remembrance.
She stood surprisingly tall and alert but worn out and desperate. Unwashed blonde hair hung over gray-white skin. Her clothes were ragged, drab, and yet rich with color all at once. Bands of red, purple, and green zigzagged through the fibers of a dirty Sherpa hat pulled down tight. A turquoise scarf was wrapped around her neck and flung over her shoulders. Her eyes flickered between the waning control of high intelligence and the growing impulses for beastly survival. She looked real. She was real.
Upon the edge of an exit ramp off the freeway along which traffic thunders through Seattle, she stood there in mismatch boots holding up a ragged cardboard sign. It stated:
I NEED MONEY
A group of six people, including myself, witnessed an unidentified flying object from the summit of Mt. Erie on Sunday 3 July 2011. We observed what we eventually determined to be a large, garbage-can lid type flying saucer shrink down into a bizarre high-speed orb. The other five observers were my then-wife Kristina (then age 42), my daughter Kate (age 12), and three men who appeared to be in their mid-to-late 60s. As I write this article I am 52 years old. Mt. Erie itself is a relatively short but steep mountain amid those scattered across the San Juan Islands. At 388 meters high (or 1,273 ft.) it is the most prominent in the area and dominates the Skagit River Delta region of northwestern Washington State. It also dominates Fidalgo Island and looms above a string of lakes near Deception Pass. The peak lies in the City of Anacortes park system. From the mountaintop we six saw a UFO engaged in unusual actions. Those actions were as if a machine ship or biological organism behaved as a subatomic quantum particle/wave.
Once upon a time when I was a brave and crazy fool I rode a tree like a dragon. Armed with a homemade boomerang, I was a pretty young lad somewhere in that transition between preteen to true teen. My exact age and even what grade I was in remain lost to memory. What I do remember is a gusty, late afternoon storm with cloudy skies churning the color of dark green moss. It happened in Virginia where I grew up on a farm, and I thought I was gonna die.
I felt proud of my boomerang. I’ve spent hours carving and sanding it from a piece of wood. When I whipped it through the air across the cow pastures on my parents’ dairy farm, my boomerang actually returned. It would spin away from me whirling like a helicopter propeller. As my boomerang spun it rose high and higher still, turned, and came zooming back to me. Sometimes it flopped and dug into grass and dirt and skittered off rocks. At other times, however, I had to duck as it zipped over my head. I dared not reach out to grab it. Those were the best!
My buddy Jerry Vernon and I were out in a huge cowpasture on the Gates Family Farm. Jerry’s dad worked for the Gateses milking cows and fixing fences, so we played a lot. My brother Joe, six years younger, also hung with us that day. Our dad ran the Bass farm for his uncle, who was cousins with the Gateses and further down the road the Bruces.
It was one afternoon after school, and I can’t remember if it was November or March. The weather felt heavy with a cloudy-late-afternoon-right-before-supper-time feel, and we had one eye out for bulls. Rumor had it the Gateses had turned loose a bull into the pasture to impregnate the cows, and he would snort, charge, stomp, and gore you all to bloody pieces if he discovered you simply existed. We were terrified of bulls.
When we first learned Bobby Kennedy was assassinated
Hot, muggy day in farm country Virginia. Late spring, not yet Summer. The Solstice was about two weeks off, but all practical purposes it was Summer with school soon to be out for the season. Humid with a hint of afternoon thunderstorms, the air was pungent with honeysuckle flowers and tree pollen and the promise of picnics in the shade and swimming in lakes.
I was outside in the yard playing. My little sister and brother were probably around somewhere, playing with me, but I don’t remember them this particular day. I just remember my Momma, and Daddy, too, a little bit.
We grew up on Riverview Dairy Farm in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Outside of the town of Farmville. Earlier in the late 1950s and early to mid 1960s the Civil Rights movement had swept across the South and into Prince Edward Country. Racial desegregation and integration efforts polarized whole communities, shut down the schools, and brought Mike Wallace to Farmville for the Evening News and Prince Edward County before the Supreme Court of the United States.
Vietnam and Southeast Asia burned overseas and riots and urban guerrilla warfare kept erupting all around the United States. We were still in the thick of it all, this second revolution or quasi-civil war or whatever you wanted to call these rock’n’roll times, with no end in sight. As time would tell, these Troubles would grind and rumble on till 1975. Though many in the Occupy Wall Street and Everywhere on Earth movement today claim to draw their inspiration as much from these turbulent times as from the Arab Spring.
The sharp staccato roar of the gasoline-powered farm tractor washed over us as Daddy drove it around and around the pasture out back. We were used to that awful mechanical racket, however, and other than a glance over now and then paid it no mind. It was a green and yellow John Deere 420 with a wide, adjustable-width front end manufactured back in the mid-to-late 1950s. Dad sat up in there turned sideways in the seat as was his custom, one hand on the steering wheel, the other gripping the big fin of the rear fender as he made sure the tractor and the mower and the line of hay and the lay of the land were in perfect alignment. He wore blue denim jeans, a white, short-sleeved T-shirt, and a khaki baseball cap. Back then he smoked Camel cigarettes, too.
I heard a shriek. Loud one, too. Momma! I stood up.
The back door of the house slammed open and Momma sailed down the stairs. I remember her in slow motion, dressed in white clothes, had on a white skirt or dress. Black hair thrown back. Her legs wide as a ballet dancer’s leap. She raced shouting toward my father as he rounded the side of the pasture closest to our backyard. By then I was running there, too.
“Bobby’s shot!” Momma yelled. “Bobby’s been shot!”
I’m in my early 50s now, just a little bit more than halfway to a hundred. I know, I know, those elderly gents snort and splash air at me with wrinkled old hands, grin a somber smile, and remind me “Young man, you’re still just a puppy! Only fifty some years outa diapers.”
Tho I imagine another voice cackling among fluttering pigeons not to worry “cuz you might find yourself back in diapers before you get to turn a hunnert years old.”
Once upon a time, however, way back a long, long time ago, long before old folks could depend on Depends, (wait, little ® there, right?), I was a wee little bitty fella all excited because every Monday night I could snuggle up next to my Momma on the sofa across from the TV and watch “Lost in Space.” Then talk all about spaceships, alien planets, and monsters in school the next day. Especially with my buddy Eddie. I was in First Grade, and our television was black-and-white.
B & W was all I knew. Clear, crisp black, grey, and white. Unless zigzagging zebra stripes took over the screen.
One evening my parents were giddy with excitement and anticipation. They beamed at me with eyes like flying saucers. I looked around in wonder.
“Come on,” Dad said. “Get ready. We’re going up the road to Charlie Watt and Rosella’s new house.”
“What for?” I asked.