If social media
is any indication

many people are suddenly

very concerned

about dying

from the bite of

kissing bugs.”

(today, New York Times.)

Let’s not worry, you and me.

You don’t get it by kissing,

whatever it is you get.

Let’s be grateful.

Pucker up.


I hurry to get to work.

I hurry to close the pickup door that opens into traffic.

I hurry to get through the stop light.

I hurry weeding the oxalis.

I hurry sweeping but it doesn’t help.

I hurry getting to my next job.

I hurry to get it finished so I can get home

the home I hurried from

some hours ago.


Godalmighty, Halloween has become a generator of crap on the scale of Christmas. Across the street from where I worked yesterday was a yard crowded with big plastic tombstones and hung bodies and inflatable insects the size of a Lexus. Do they store all the Halloween crap in the garage to give heart attacks to unsuspecting gardeners? Or just send it directly to the dump?  Everyone you go you see shrubs wrapped in fake webbing. If any of my clients do it to their innocent plants they get to remove it themselves. Let me tell you it looks lovely at Thanksgiving.

Two weeks ago I pruned back a dusty, diseased euonymous covered in the real thing, and by the time I finished there were spiders in my hair, on my arms, down my shirt, a sensation preferable to disgust at all the waste.


Straw bales from the street party last Saturday sat on the sidewalk in front of Josh’s house. He e-mailed the neighbors that the bales were up for grabs. I double-parked and hoisted one onto my pickup bed, resurrecting the boy on the trailer in Uncle Vic’s alfalfa field hooking bales with an iron claw and stacking them. Is it possible to have nostalgia for something so miserable, hot, itchy, endless.

This bale is as heavy as those of yore.

I don’t know what I intend to do with it. When I was trying to coax trees into shading the parental house of the plains I’d collar the crowns with wheat straw six inches deep, knowing the straw would cool the soil and help retain moisture the trees needed. They were flourishing when my parents sold the house.

My sister drove by the house last spring and said the trees looked terrible, like they were dying along with the rest of the town.  All flesh will soon be grass.

I will cast the straw about in my garden and it will look completely bizarre until it weathers. If we get rain the blending in will not take long. If we don’t, well…

Bale in the bed, Randy and I drove to Land’s End. Despite the Park Services best efforts, Land’s End is still majestic. There I discovered that everyone is asking the question, dear reader, that you by now are asking:


photo by Randy Tate


The accordion simile was used by the handsome geologist yesterday on Mount Rose to explain and describe the basin and range landscape of much of Nevada, some of which Tom and I had spent the previous three days exploring, looking at quake faults and “quakies” (aspens) and beaver dams in the Ruby Mountains.

We got back to the city last night. When I pick up the accordion today after ten days away, “Edelweiss” is buried under a glacial moraine. My playing was so predictably terrible I waited until Tom, who’s staying on in the city for a few days, was out of the house. I think of those poor emigrants drinking the alkaline fetid water in the Humboldt sink. An absurd correlation, except in this: put one foot in front of the other, through the 40 miles of salt desert.  Put one minute next to the previous. In the Ruby Mountains it’s not hard to do.IMG_0007




In addition to “Au Clair de la Lune,” I am practicing “Lavender Blue”, “Edelweiss”, “By the Rivers of Babylon” and “Simple Gifts.” I could make a poem out of that, but music? Not so much. I am getting slightly better, I tell myself.  Small and white, clean and bright, every morning instead of greeting me the  notes scatter like chickens confronting a cobra.  I shoehorn in a bit of rhythm. A syncopation.  Rhythmic variation implies a level of facility with the standard oom-pah, My variations have a simpler name: mistakes. Left hand wants to do what the right hand is doing. Don’t do that. The right hand is making its own blunders.

Tis a gift (I ain’t got it—not yet, anyway) to come down where you ought to be.


Jennifer and I are doing an exchange, gardening for lessons. Before my lesson we worked in the garden, raking the soil amendment called ‘Walt Whitman’ over the lawn area, discussed the parsley, sage (and later on the deck above) rosemary and thyme. And oregano. Trimmed the lemon. Inspected the worm bin.

In the music room, before she got half through with her question about what kind of music I was most interested in playing,  I answered “Waltzes.”

“Okay, great. There are a lot of beautiful waltzes.”

We work on Au Clair de la Lune, the tune we had glanced at last week. The bass hand, the bellows, the keyboard hand, the notes that keep changing line and tempo.  In pencil I write following J’s lead beneath the notes, OCOC OC OC etc. standing for Oom-Cha. Oom, music of the spheres, Cha, music of the hips. I sally forth, and manage a whisper of actual music in the wheeze and disorder. It all seems so impossible, as if I will have to bulldoze new passageways through a thick brain.  I wonder if, you know, I am hopeless.

Jennifer says, “This is way we’ll do it, you’ll learn one song then the next. We won’t move on to new songs until you’ve mastered the three I give you.”

Au Clair de la Lune is rising in the charts.