Fishbowler

I make art in strange places and blog about it.

Category Archives: Just Writing

Political or Physical?

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“Don’t die for the wire, live for it.” Regarding Dakota Access PipeLine’s concertina wire, this was advice I heard passed along between some young natives around Oceti Oyate fire another snowy night between singing, drumming and prayer. It’s obviously a question weighing heavy. What symbolic act can heal these youthful hearts?

Honestly I go to the frontline so infrequently that I’m not the best one for a report from there and I can tell you it’s been because I’ve simply been disgusted by the actions there which lead to arrests. Becoming injured by the cops and security doesn’t appeal to me and I’m pretty sure these welts and bodily damage don’t lead to eliciting any kind of symbolic victory for our side.

The native folks will tell you this has been 500 years in the making. The oppression of a people is palpable in this area and I’ve seen the effects of it myself. Akichita is the Lakota term for warrior or soldier and there is a pride surrounding it that takes into account the familial/tribal aspect that non-natives will never be able to fully understand. The solidarity isn’t just for show.

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The frontline is a friction point in more ways than one but not just between cops and water protectors, there’s also contention between our people over what the point of it all really is here. What is our battle?

We’re walking this tightrope here in terms of the public relations invoked—how does the public view water protectors? Physical battles against the property of DAPL’s security forces become detrimental to our cause. We can’t lose access to the hearts of the world right now. It’s the reason our cleanup of camp is so important. We’re dealing with the leftovers of thousands of people who are long gone and all eyes are on us. Bob Dylan says to live outside the law one must be perfectly honest. It’s still a pigsty at Oceti Sakowin camp and all those tent poles, propane canisters and plastic bottles will be floating down the river if thaw comes too rapidly in the spring. That’s what’s called an environmental/PR disaster.

The casino recently hosted a two day conference presented by the United Nations on “Indian Treaties”. Their indigenous representatives were here to talk about indigenous rights around the world and to take testimonies from our water protectors, mostly with injuries sustained at the frontline at the hands of nasty spirited and overzealous cops and security officers.

I was happy to accompany my new friend Shara to the meeting as she’s a descendent of Iron Nation who signed the famous Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868. Her family standings make her a signatory for the Lower Brule band of the Lakota people which is the tribe generally called Sioux. The evening before the conference she and I encountered a passionate and confrontational young warrior type who hastily divided himself from us by dismissing us as political after use of the word “treaty”. He’s young but he’s not dumb. He’s a guy that I’ve talked to before and I hesitate to say his name here because 2 days later he was involved with some trouble between our people at camp and the DAPL security forces, allegedly getting shot at. I believe he’s been banned from camp as an agitator.

Shara says without treaties there would be no Lower Brule people or Sioux nation. At least it’s an effort at peaceful coexistence. Water protectors have started to step up efforts to police our own as trouble makers like him are the reason the Backwater Bridge keeps highway 1806 barricaded and closed to traffic. It’s the reason the Tribal Council has asked us to leave. With Trump’s latest announcements to overturn (?) the environmental impact studies required of DAPL we may see some abrupt about faces from the council. This complex fight, is it political or physical?

frontline image credit: Craig Roth

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Pray For It..

What is this prayerful resistance? What was once twenty people in a few summer teepees grew to 12,000 by early winter and has since receded to around 600 or so. There is an ebb and flow in everything. If we listen to it all at the core we’ll hear that calm river that sometimes likes to flood in the spring. Nature leads if we can listen. Prayer leads if we can hear it.

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Just now, with a handful of other hungry water protectors in Main Mess Hall, lunch started in prayer. My friend Clarence from Oklahoma is native and he gave us a Christian style prayer starting “Our heavenly father..” ending in “aho”. More typical around here is to hear prayer begin with Lakota or Dakota words. Here we’re the melting pot of melting pots. The mudras my hands formed into personalized my own prayer with a taste of Buddhism. Each to one’s own taste.

I’ve become more prayerful here than ever but I still have a long way to go to find the level of universal symbiotic spirituality that I know is there. We still have a lot to do away with, burdens that might hang on our hearts–luggage.

The message most prevalent at this moment is one of moving ahead face first into opposition. Let them oppose me because I find my strength from within. If anyone else is in agreement that’s just an extra bonus. I’ve heard it said that I must stand up for truth even if I stand alone so my prayer is the prayer to find the wisdom to accept the truth when it finds me. I’m finding that it’s the nature of agreement that weighs importantly on me right now. Can I be in agreement with someone who opposes me?

What might appear grammatically impossible might prove true. It takes all kinds as they say and this is a point I’d like to dissect. How can we move in unison with the opposing ways that we belong to? Can Christians and Buddhists and Lakota move in unison prayerfully? I’ve found, personally, that the most deeply spiritual will say yes, absolutely.

I think the truth is an energy that moves and morphs and it is no one thing. We can’t codify the truth but only experience it for the self. It’s only a simple notice to say that one searching for the truth must face the world with honesty. Domination is simply not honest. I must recognize that convincing can take the form of domination and as native peoples know domination is what it means to colonize.

As the helicopter circles above camp I hope their readings of our heat signatures show them our prayer circle in this mess hall. This lunch that warms us warms our prayers which warms our community which warms this dome of our protection which will warm this snow and ice and create an early thaw that will melt gradually the river’s flow safely past us.

This is my prayer.

Paha Sapa Wood Warriors

An intimate meeting in a cabin near Mount Rushmore, South Dakota hosts about 10 unlikely people grouped around a large wooden conference table before bedtime. After sage burning and prayers we talk firewood. The center of attention and our spiritual guide for the night, a character much bigger than his stature is Jumping Buffalo. He has one chronically injured eye, lives in Rapid City, and maintains that Sitting Bull is his grandfather, which I gather is meant in the spiritual sense more than in the blood sense but I’m not sure. I like him. He’s smart, takes charge, and he’s connected–in the firewood sense.16145597_1424656607547159_1148801483_o

Paul Freeman has been on a mission to connect our camp with a steady flow of firewood and the bridge between donors and lumberjacks has now been established. Not that it’s the first time but it’s the latest connection. Freeman, a tall ginger, has a soft honest demeanor with a very faint Nashville accent. He doesn’t joke much and he gets the job done. Kyle Schierbeck is another Standing Rock Lakota Sioux who lives now in Seattle. Schierbeck is an entrepreneur who has taken it upon himself to print Standing Rock Reservation T shirts in an effort to raise money for the camp’s firewood.

Schierbeck brought a couple business associates and Jumping Buffalo brought his chainsaw crew in addition to locals they recruited. Schierbeck informs me that the operation is called Paha Sapa Wood Warriors. Paha Sapa means Black Hills. A neighborhood friend of theirs, Bob, will be supplying the truck and heavy equipment–without profit! and I can report personally, crossing South Dakota is not the most diverse haul of highway, and quite noticeably barren of trees. Jumping Buffalo and Schierbeck–who’s Lakota name is Shunktokta: Coyote–agree that this is the region from which Standing Rock has traditionally gotten its firewood. Please allow me to reiterate: it’s a long drive.16144994_1424656594213827_1342168809_o

Connecting all the dots takes an army of dedicated souls whose mission it is to do their best in terms of the fight against the corporate centralization. A lot of people are willing and able to forego profit and salary for the cause of the water protector and when buying a T-shirt can bring warmth to our heroes the collective effort spreads further and farther. There are four elements that care for us, the Paha Sapa Wood Warriors start with fire.10590671_862586083754217_779198226393161777_n

Message Kyle Schierbeck on Facebook to order shirts, price $25 with $17 going toward camp’s firewood.

Walking Wolves

There’s no better way to tell the oil industry we don’t need them than by walking. The excitement in camp was broadcast on the bullhorn “North Gate to greet the Canadian walkers.” Yesterday was sunny and I took a jog up Flag Road to find out the details. The youth walkers were cresting the hill from the South into camp coming down Highway 1806 and I thought walking to greet them would make sense. Toe warmers and boot chains would be needed for this story.

15781228_1628945804076703_910714071224723380_nYouth Unity Journey for Sacred Waters came to us from Stanley Mission, Saskatchewan, Canada and the day I compared temperatures it was a full 20 degrees colder there than here. 825 miles to our North, these Woodland/Rocky Cree kids started out on foot 46 days ago in fur & snow boots, orange vests and face masks and carrying flags. 6 kids would walk the full route, the youngest of them, 13 years old.

“The journey really had a life of its own, no one could control it,” explained Rob Ballantyne, whose Indian name is Grey Wolfman. He refers to himself as the group’s wolf pack leader. I had hopped in his car a quarter mile up the road for a quick conversation as the walkers came into camp in front of him accompanied by a hundred or so of our people, one on horseback. Grey is the uncle of Charlene Charles, one of the walkers who insisted her uncle come to lead this trip. Grey was living in British Columbia so travel across his country was necessary to make this journey with the kids. Together through the car window we admired the buffalo in the snow who had come down the hill to greet the  walking Canadians.

Another adult leader of the walk was Marge McKenzie, who had walked from a town in Ottawa to Stanley Mission after she found that out of Canada’s 1.4 million lakes, only 96 of them were environmentally protected. “A month before we left Stanley Mission a pipeline in Prince Albert leaked.” McKenzie spoke in the dome with the circle of walkers after their arrival. She spoke of the need for traditional values as all the females wore skirts for the journey, “We must respect our grandfathers.” Grey Wolfman agreed “Our people are sleeping, we gotta’ wake them to traditional values. Our people know civil disobedience–we have the eagle feather!”

Wolfman found that implementing talking circles with the group helped to keep their inspiration up, to keep going and to voice their concerns as they arose. At least one from the Americans, a group of walkers from our camp who came joined up at Four Bears, N.D., mentioned the beauty of this system of cleansing the mind as doubts arose in the group.
One member of the group sustained a frost bitten ear and finances were slim for items such as replacement gloves and boots. The obstacles were physical, emotional, and economic. Approaching the American border the group was down to its last $40.
Ricky Sanderson Jr. devised the walking plan from a vision he had after there were a couple suicides in his community—one 13 and the other a 14 year old. “I was suffering from sleep paralysis. We must start to think about our children, prepare for them, protect this water for them now. Our own Prime Minister turned his back on us. Thank you all for welcoming us.”

Ricky senior, his father added, “You can’t survive without water. You can’t survive without fish.” He also foreshadowed for me in a late night conversation at South West Hogan last night a fight to come, “We were looking at these pipelines and noticed where the oil sands are. It’s where the Churchill River begins where our water comes down from the glaciers.”

Legaleze

While the rest of camp is questioning when their departure date will be and discussing how clean we can leave this land once the spring flooding starts, it occurred to me that the legal team will still be defending our people in North Dakota courts long after most of us have moved on from Standing Rock. It could take years for them. This seems to be at least part of the state system’s plan to break us, the waiting game is common and a lot of our people are feeling the brunt of this powerlessness. “[Our water protectors] are right to be livid,” explained Sarah Hogarth, communications director for the legal team.

Over 570 water protectors have been arrested since our conflict with DAPL & state started last summer and this is why our water protector legal collective has grown to 80 volunteers working in civil and criminal with a paid staff of seven. Formerly called Red Owl, they operate on a collective model. I wanted to connect the hotline number sharpied up my arm with some faces. I got to speak with a handful of them.

At camp, under the cloak of night the dome had filled with smoke, electricity was out, and the post meeting drumming had begun. Headlamps were in order and I had to find the legal team by this method. The people started to file out and legal team member conducting a lot of meetings at camp, Angela Bibens, remained to answer questions. Introductions came and we hopped in a little 4 wheel drive to transfer ourselves to Rosebud camp where the team’s brand new tan arctic tent resides along the frozen shoreline of Cannonball River so we could gather some thoughts and pick up some legal forms for use in court the next day in defense of water protectors in the battle engaged with a federal grand jury regarding the case of Sophia who lost her arm in an explosion in a tangle with “the law” on Backwater Bridge, November 20th.

The civil rights violations and abuses on the ground are so prevalent it would make a mob boss cringe and in the court room they can’t disallow fair & neutral defenses like the governmental bodies seem to be working to do. It’s complexity of the highest order working in these conditions bridging the worlds of 20 below zero sleeping bags and federal court subpoenas.

“I know these folks are getting inadequate council. They don’t even get phone calls and can’t say beforehand what their public defender looks like.The sheriff tainted his own case with their Facebook page. He’s so confident about never getting caught, it’s suspect.” said Redford-Hall.

All members of the legal team I’ve spoken with have reiterated the view that this legal contest outdoes any protest that has come before it stressing the challenges in dealing with mass arrests and the environmental battle, not to mention apparent collusion between DAPL and law enforcement. Legal’s tent in Rosebud with wood stove is only one outpost for the team in their efforts to survive here. They keep a comfy room at the casino for appointments and also have a town office close to courtroom action where the townsfolk are none too nice to us. Anyone defending water protectors generally won’t find support. According to one story a local was heard addressing one of our people: “Stuck in the snow? If you’re with them water protectors you can stay stuck.” North Dakota is harsh and the weather is only part of that harshness.

Anne Redford-Hall, a senior member of the collective who had a conversation with me in legal’s room at the casino offered, “They’re playing hardball at all levels.” How many levels? 1st: county (Morton) 2nd: state (North Dakota) and 3rd: federal (U.S.) and believe it or not our legal team is even fighting at a fourth (4th) legal venue which is the Federal Grand Jury from where the subpoena was issued. And criminal court is one thing while civil is another fight. Examples of civil court are the people bitten by guard dogs and then there’s the legal battle over the closure of Highway 1806. The declarations signed by many of us regarding police brutality are for the civil case. Basically all harm done to our people falls into the category of civil. I’m told even federal court cases are easier to fight than the civil considering who it is being charged: government instead of citizens.

‘Pro hac vice’ means “on this occasion” and that’s the name of the motion our people are pushing for with the North Dakota Supreme Court. The deadline for the letters in support of this motion was December 30th and our team collected over 120 signed letters in support including one from Amnesty International found here: http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/Choice_of_lawyer_comments_to_NDSC.pdf. We await the state’s decision.

It’s been proven we can gather the criminal defense but in this state these attorneys can’t practice without this pro hac vice granted. “Other states have less restrictive procedures for out of state lawyers to practice. With so many defendants we’ve simply hit our max,” explained Angela Bibens.

Our defense lawyers certainly have a lot on their plate. Just the pro hac vice process involves first informally requesting the temporary change from the state supreme court, then litigation against the state, and then the public comment period is open for organizations & lawyers to weigh in which gained us backing from 200 law professors and step 4: we wait for the state’s decision.

Legal even supports our defendants needing plane tickets to get back home. See: www.waterprotectorlegal.org. Like with so many things in life there’s a lot to take into account. I’m glad I got to take this ride.

I’m Akíčhita, A Warrior

 

Perhaps hers is the very story that inspired you to pay attention to the situation in Standing Rock. On November 20th, 2016, Vanessa Dundon, 31, , of the Navajo tribe, a.k.a. Dine, lost the use of her right eye. When a flaming hot canister of tear gas was shot she expected the blast to arc well into the sky 50 to 100 feet up as would be appropriate but instead the security soldier shot direct at her face, a result that breaks and fractures bones usually. Her eye sustained trauma. In Bismarck, Sanford Medical Center’s delayed actions are the subject of a pending lawsuit. “I was under insured. My healthcare failed me. I had to accept my fate” Says Dundon as she relayed further stories of horrible treatment there, most likely based on a prejudice against water protectors.

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photo by Adam Johansson

Vanessa told me that Facebook images of the young girl who was mauled by police dogs here at Standing Rock inspired her to hitchhike part of the way to get here. These martyrs bring attention to our situation and serious actions ensue as the world looks on.
It could be noted that comfort is our enemy. Comfort addiction is what has gotten us into this place we’re in right now suckin’ on the oil teat without thinking and it’s that mindless adherence to the petro-status quo that is our suicide ticket ride.

The gravity of this event is substantial, grave in fact, with a serious and a soft side as it’s coupled with the group hug mentality of hippies and wellness counselors. When I first got to camp, our practice was direct action training which put the words ‘snatch & grab’ first onto my tongue and the tactics of hand to hand interaction with aggressive paramilitary cops and security forces came to the forefront of my mind. Then came sitting in Allies meetings for the non-indigenous among us and Decolonization groups. It was then that I realized what kind of balance would have to be struck at Standing Rock. This moment is a clash of cultures from various angles. Members from 300 Native American tribes have come together here with their allies. We’re all here to fight the petro-corporatocracy and the alliance between cultures is tantamount. There is some cultural trauma to heal and so far this co-habitation is advancing our respective alliances.

We lined up and faced each other like a football exercise but instead we played the part of frontline protectors against cops and the game was to keep our people from being snatched off to jail­­­—or worse. Instructions for gas masks were offered as well as information concerning our eye protection. Ears, arms, and legs were shown to be fragile items never to be left unguarded. These parts might get us into trouble if we were to get sloppy. The number for our legal assistance, 605-519-8180, became a permanent series inked up my forearm just in case I end up in jail somehow which seems to be an easy thing to accomplish. Over 500 of us have gone jail so far. The jailers are giving our people no respect and their civil rights violations such as inappropriate strip searches and dog cage confinement are being investigated. We’re not even being able to look up a phone number once jailed, hence the inked arm.

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photo by Destiny Rivas

Vanessa expressed the importance of personal online coverage—­­the citizen media. Directly after the fateful moment of destruction she saw that an idea as repulsive as a photograph taken at a moment like this was critical to our mission and purpose here. We get the word out showing what’s really happening here at Standing Rock with the DAPL pipeline. The term citizen journalism holds much weight here.

I heard “Makya po, Makya po!”, “help me! help me!” over the walkie talkie and I came running to the frontline. You see, I’m akíčhita, a warrior. Vanessa likes to go by Sioux Z Dezbah—lady going to war—and she says when she gets back to Arizona it’ll be Nanabah—lady home from war.

I asked Sioux Z “What’s to come from all this?” She’d like to see better healthcare for indigenous peoples and she wants to see the jobs retained. This pipeline is taking jobs from railroad workers and truck drivers. “Don’t take away the jobs. It’s not just the water, it’s the jobs, our economic world is at stake.”

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The Sex Magic of Self Motivation

At 5:33 the morning hung, still dark, as I came to a waking state. I like the mattress low, right on the floor, and that’s where I awoke to a hollow sound that did not echo, my windows were all open and it was the only sound on the ranch. It was my desire, humming. It’s not always there but today I was ready to go make art. Now, how to get coffee before 6:30? That’s my question. It’s a new rule up at the ranch house.

I might be some kind of sun worshipper. I’m afraid of the sun. Trust me, you don’t wanna’ see him pissed off. The sun’s wrath motivates me. I get out of bed before he can boil me and lately noon has been the stopping point for my morning shift. It’s just too hot after that to be enjoyable.

The art behind the art is motivation–the art of motivation–and it’s an ongoing balance with the sun playing a pivotal role, affecting my motivation. Art’s parent is motivation but from where does motivation come? Maybe I have an internal sun spewing rays of motivation. Do we wait for inspiration or create it?

I have to trick myself like a stoner surfer dude into history class sometimes. “Hey there’s no birthday cake here!” Using the ego to make art well is part of that motivational art form. Like tricking the Sun into hiding behind clouds, it’s about atonement or overcoming the ego. We create to get past the self. If I can make something I’m in awe of, this puts me in a humble spot. I’m thankful.

These moments of victorious struggle or perfect harmony fuel me, past the ego and onward toward bliss. I see it as sex magic because it all springs from my creative center. I suppose it’s a tantric ritual of my own. I cultivate this creation into being. There’s ego but it’s gone beyond, beyond itself. Not resistance, acceptance instead, and it leads into transcendence. I’m here to make something that’s bigger than myself.

Leonardo Me

Leonardo DaVinci drew and painted horses. I recalled the image of their labored execution, so I looked them up. I can’t believe I hadn’t looked up his horses before now, and fer god’s sakes now that I’m looking at his I see that one of his horses had inspired me without even knowing it. I had it lodged in my head, this twisted horse, that or I like the same challenges he does–or in fact I’m just Leonardo reincarnated. Maybe I shouldn’t joke about things like that.

These Containers Won’t Paint Themselves

My new wireless headphones have been a godsend in terms of allowing me to float away. There’s the art but there’s the environment which allows for that art. We create the perfect art making environment, that’s the idea. Art making is an escape, it’s the great escape, and one’s unique fantasy environment should be created for the artist’s own freedom. This notion I’ve become more and more attached to. Now I’m completely convinced that it’s a need for the artist to have his environment just so, just to the artist’s own liking. Results are best this way. Facilitating this space is important. I’m learning how important it is to stand my ground for my creative space.

Crossing The Playa To Watch Rocks Fall From Space

Do You Think I’m Sexy?
Rod Stewart and the playa go hand in hand for me, particularly “Do You Think I’m Sexy?” When I was married we’d camp on the playa with other couples and friends and we’d party on this white tabletop desert for the weekend. This is not your average kind of camping but burners get it. Glamour camping is also called ‘glamping’ and this pastime involves fur and glitter and disco sounds pumped thru large speakers. It’s all about the fabulous. It’s all about a landscape of minimal distraction. The funky white bass carries across the ground in an interesting way. There’s a denseness, a soaking in and you start to think of the silt. How thick is it below these sexy people roller skating to Rod Stewart?

Cattle Clock
From Iveson Ranch driving down to Gerlach or the playa, it’s a short rural drive. It’s 12 miles to the edge of the playa, 27 to Gerlach. Half an hour is very short driving time in open country like this. It’s 2 hours to Reno. Be mindful of livestock and wild horses standing on the road, much more dangerous than hitchhikers.

We don’t have to leave the ranch much other than the grocery getters every couple weeks. JB the bossman calls those rocket runs into Reno & back. I think I was here for an entire month before I ever exited the gates. Often I feel like a head of cattle grazing on the ranch, spanning time. I did get in to Reno the other day for some shopping. I’ve been here since the beginning of July, a month and a half now. I was also here for the month of May. I feel like there’s no where better for me to be. My mind grazes here.

You take Sundays off here only after you’ve gotten stuff done. Today’s Sunday, this mural is feeling fairly done. Art is a different kind of thing, a different kind of time. I sit around alot, getting away from it and it’s done when I feel like it. I’m still going to work on it this afternoon, after my shower but before it starts getting cooler and into sunset, maybe crank up the generator and work after dark too. These murals are two sided. They’re steel cabins. This afternoon I’ll be painting on the East side, the shaded side. I’m painting horses.

Crossing The Playa To Watch Rocks Fall From Space
Black Rock Desert is the flattest expanse on Earth. It’s a dry lake bed at the core of what used to be an ancient inland sea that covered the entire top half of Nevada–a state that takes over 10 hours to drive from top to bottom. It’s a good desert to admire space from.

The plan was to take an art car 12 miles to the playa from the ranch to experience the Perseid meteor shower. Five or six art cars here are being worked on currently as we ramp up to Burning Man week. This one was red and called The Imperial, a Chinese Junk fashioned art car which seats 30 on two levels. It would be slow driving.

Neither of these things happened. Neither art car excursion nor meteor viewing came to fruition. The meteor shower’s best viewing wasn’t to start until after 3am, it was early, so we took fire dancers. This was a very good idea to bring entertainment. They brought themselves really, in a red Camaro from Oregon and we were a hit.

In a borrowed diesel, with 3 adults and a child, I drove us to the playa in the dark of night, which was relatively light. From the ranch 4 or 5 vehicles went out. I love bringing people to the Black Rock Desert for the first time. I remember my first time. It’s a landscape you drive more like a boat since, after all, it is a lake. We had a half moon to light our way.

So this party was a group of maybe 100 people and the Burning Man royalty were there in attendance and being pampered with margaritas. These were some founders of the event. You know it’s 30 years old, Burning Man? These are some people who are famous the world over for what they created. Burning Man has permeated creative cultures everywhere on the globe and enjoys international fame.

Burners will tell you it’s more than a party. It’s a movement. 60,000 fur adorned people can’t be wrong–and that’s just this year’s crowd. This is as significant as the hippy movement. When I told one of the fire dancers that Burning Man royalty was his audience for the night, he got excited, eyes lit up and he asked “Are they aware that we don’t have tickets yet?”

2 Universal Painting Poems

Last evening until sunset

I had a painting session that felt

like the time itself was wrought

from a higher quality iron ore

Tonight I was in full flow

but for a limited time only

I could feel the buzz in my hands

and in my vocalized responses

at certain brush strokes

was honesty

Unedited me

and then paint flings

and I did a little skateboarding

and my eyes felt like

laser attack vessels

on the prowl looking for rebels

Last evening makes me think of

this thing I like to say

and that is

one brush stroke per night

of perfect flow

is cause for celebration.

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The universe was swirled

like my enamel paint cans

last night

and just as active

The meteors sprinted to graceland

against a background

satellites warm and round

while stalactites of mineral light

kissed the luminous stalagmites

of the gravitas and apparently grievous black

the more distant and bent

deepened light

and we talked about these rays from afar

meeting with our retinas

as consciousness

and love and memory perhaps

And the sagebrush surroundings

lay flat

on this darkened desert planet

beside a big white dog

Not Much Tanning at Night

Brazen Bronze
I’ve been working on my tan, working on caring less about it. I’m becoming brazen about my bronze. I plan to stop needing sunblock. If my skin can be weened off of it then I’ll be resilient and I’m on my way to becoming the uncontested Grizzly Adams of self sufficiency. I’ve needed less each day and haven’t touched sunblock in a week now. One day it will be impossible for me to become sun burned–that’s the idea. They’ll think I’m aboriginal.

Working here in the heat of the day is so absurd it’s almost unbearable. I have to wear black latex gloves so enamel paint doesn’t creep up under my fingernails. Glistening sweat pores from under these gloves and trickles down my wrists. Am I spoiled? I dunno but hey, I can work at night, alone, in silence, with the lonely breeze of refreshment. Nothing will be visible to compete with the horses I’m brushing on to this surface in red and blue. I’m all alone and in the best way possible at night, it’s only me. Me and the bugs. So just us.

My cabin is a 40 foot container actually ear marked for Eddie. I’ve been residing in his cabin during this stay and he’s not in a hurry to displace me. The guys have hooked up the water in this cabin first and I have a shower to myself. After six years coming here I’m the envy of camp.

Smack My Brush Up
I smack my brushes on the wall for splatters and they hate me for it. Paint brushes have tiny nails that hold them together which loosen up because they suffer at my abuse. Repairs are needed. I took the time today to replace screws in my brushes. I’m kinda proud of the whole thing, the abuse, the repairs–it’s work hard play hard. You should see me dancing around flingin’ paint.

It was to be the night I’d go full vampire. I want to paint late into the night with spotlights to see by. Bugs would convene, yes. My laptop assisted me in making a soundtrack which is 10 hours worth of music. It consists of 177 songs and I can’t wait to dig in. I’ve been talking about night painting sessions since before I got here. My tendency has always been for the night owl preference. Early wake ups suit me when I’m here but I’d prefer all-nighters for getting artwork done. My sleep schedule will take a bit of time to switch over. Years ago when i was just out of high school I had a performance motorcycle that I’d work on all night. Night working has been good to me. I’m a night crawler.

There’s a big blue jet parked right beside me. It’s called Playa One with a big ol’ official looking seal on the door. The wings fold out for people to dance on with spinnie glowey lights. Yes, it’s a Burning Man thing. This crew has a couple other art cars parked here in the dirt for maintenance as I paint on container cabins. Six cabins line this yard to eventually house workers during their stay here. This dirt is used to being trampled down by horses.  It’s a re-purposed stable at the West end of the inner ranch where the home front is. No vegetation is here, only dust, tons of dust. The horse patties have  returned to dried up biblical dust.

The weather is crisp and calm, just right. There’s a wind blowing cool air over me. I keep talking about sleeping out here. Seriously. One’s filled with pillows. My cabin gets pretty hot and never cools down. Sleeping out here on an art car might be just the thing I need. The stars are so luminescent it’s like a soup that you can dip into with your spoon–unlimited depth. New moon is the best night of the month to soak up the milk of the Milky Way.

These container cabins are 40 feet long, each side gets adorned with horses and so far I’m up to like 20 horses in total but some are very small and without detail so they almost don’t count. It’s blue brown and red basically. The short cabins are 20 feet long and those get rented to go out onto the playa for Burning Man which happens about a month from now. The cabin I’m currently working on will be a field office for JB, the owner of this ranch. It’s got the best view to the west. This is number 9.

No Dice
There was no gas available for me. I didn’t realize the gas cans piled were empty. There’s gas on the ranch in a big tank or two but I don’t have access to those. I can string a cord out from an outlet. This ranch does have power that’s generated by the big diesel genny. Also an array of solar panels generates energy for the ranch. My midnight lights will take power. Energy is rationed here.

The first night I ran out of gas. The second night I decided I could just plug in, skip the gas can fiasco. The second night I had my electrical cords all ready to go and I saw a flashlight out there in the dark by my painting. JB had walked out and he told me that we don’t have the power to spare. OK. I guess that’s that.

I had to cancel my mission but I’m happy to have it all set up and ready to go for another night and trust me, it’s on. This will happen. Choose your battles, as they say. On the ranch we get started on things that might not happen until the next day. The night was not a total failure because I now know what to expect.

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