Tag Archives: Mary C Simmons

Corvus Rising

Adobe Photoshop PDFCorvus Rising is a fantasy tale told in part from the point of view of crows, about an extraordinary yet nearly extinct group of humans who speak their language. Together, humans, crows, ravens, and a multitude of other birds, unite and take a stand against the destruction of an enchanted island.

The story opens as Jade Matthews, a gifted painter with a vivid imagination, awakens from a nightmare in which a band of crows has broken into her bedroom through a large window. She fears that the crows are looking for her most treasured possession: a strange medallion given to her by the mother she never knew. The medallion seems ancient, carved from stone or a very hard wood, depicting a human hand and a bird wing clasped in friendship.

Jade’s husband Russ is a biology professor at the local university, as is the Jesuit priest and noted ornithologist, Alfredo Manzi. The priest serendipitously discovers the enchanted Wilder Island, home to an unusual population of blue-eyed crows and ravens. He meets Charlie, patriarch of the great Hozey clan–one of the many old families of crows on the island, known to the crows as Cadeña-l’jadia–land of misty marshes and green forests.

Charlie informs Manzi that he is not a freak, that there are others like him, others who speak Patua’–the language of the crows. Charlie tells Manzi about his old friend Charlotte, trapped in an insane asylum for years because she cannot speak human languages, though she is fluent in Patua’.

But there is more to the island than blue-eyed crows. Manzi discovers a rustic chapel built by the man for whom the island was named; an old hermit, coincidentally a Jesuit brother of the 1800’s named Maxmillian Wilder. The chapel completely charms Manzi, built from living trees and vines, with a roof that resembles an upside-down bird’s nest. He finds the old hermit’s bones in the chapel, and a strange medallion carved from a very hard wood or stone, with the image of an intertwined wing and a human hand.

Coincidentally, with Manzi’s discovery of Wilder Island, his superior, the Father Provincial of the North American Society of Jesus in Washington DC, learns that the Order owns the tiny uninhabited Wilder Island, located in the middle of one of America’s biggest rivers. And that a wealthy developer in the city on either side of the river would like to purchase it for development.

With the Father Superior’s blessing, Manzi makes the island his home, just in time to stave off the advances of the developer who plans to build a gambling resort. Turned down by the Jesuits to purchase the property, he turns to a condemnation lawsuit under US eminent domain laws, recently expanded to allow for public use to include commercial development.

The threat to the island is dire. With the financial backing of the Father Superior, a tree-hugging attorney named Kate designs a land trust-the Friends of Wilder Island, to defend it and deflect the developer’s condemnation suit. Manzi invites his colleague Russ Matthews and his artist wife Jade, and his helper Sam Howard to join the land trust and name it Friends of Wilder Island.

Although he risks exposing his strange ability to speak with crows to other humans–a secret he has kept hidden his entire life- the Friends of Wilder Island Land Trust puts Manzi right in front of the entire population of the city, as he tries to unite them against the destruction of a unique wilderness.

While the humans argue over the merits of wilderness preservation and economic development, Charlie the blue-eyed crow and the Great Corvid Council take matters into their own wings. Fanning out in all directions, the crows and ravens gather a multitude of birds of all feathers to take a stand and defend Cadeña-l’jadia, ancestral homeland to the great Hozey clan, and the beloved Bruthamax, the old Jesuit hermit who came to the island centuries ago.

So… what’s a Corvus?

Say what?
Say what?

Short answer: crows and ravens are members of the genus Corvus.
Long answer: <click here…>

Oh, by the way…

Corvus Rising is available as a paperback, and at the Amazon Kindle Store. <right here>

Don’t have a Kindle? Click <here> for free app for your computer, iPad, tablet, smartphone…

The Ants Go Marching…and marching…and marching

…until death do they part.

Ants-300x240Us and Them

Ever since I wrote Corvus Rising, I’ve considered in great depth and detail how the other living beings on Earth are more like us than not. We humans are fond of viewing our species at the top of the evolutionary ladder that we invented to explain the differences in anatomy and intelligence between Us and Them.

Our species is evidently highly favored: the very Deity we invented created Us to have dominion over Them.

More and more, however, it is apparent that our world view of creation is all wrong.

In the case of the corvidae (crows, ravens, magpies, jays…) we now know that their brains are very nearly the same size as ours (proportional to their bodies) and that they are not only intelligent, but sentient as well. (The Gifts of the Crow, Mazluff, 2012)

And then there’s that little pufferfish, whose connection to the Universe I share. Blows me away. We are all hooked into the same life-giving forces, by whatever deity you or I wish to call it. I like to call it Art.

Them Ants…

Ants are pretty cool; among my favorite books as a child was The City Under the Back Steps—a marvelous story of a couple of kids who magically get shrunk down to ant size.

Ant_Receives_Honeydew_from_AphidThe children are shown all around the colony by the ants, and were instructed (as I was) in many of the ways of all ants. For instance: the ants kept herds of aphids and milked them for the sugars the little buggers sucked out of the rosebush. They really do that.  (Read more about how ants milk aphids here…)

Natural science from a fictional children’s book: a marvelous way to learn.

I am a fan of ants, more or less. As long as they don’t invade my house or sting me.

I watched nervously one summer as a gigantic ant colony constructed a subterranean civilization around the size of Denver (relatively speaking, of course) in my backyard.

Ant-Farm
Click image for more info about ants & ant colonies

The problem with the humongous ant colony in my back yard: their sheer numbers so close to where I live.  They kept opening up exits and entrances all over the place, including right next to the porch and back steps. Made me nervous.

These are the kind of ants with the big jaws on their heads connected a sack of poison on the other end that is at least a third the size of their whole bodies.

garden_ant_180_tcm9-60508
Black Garden Ant.

Ant bites are bad news. Painful bad news. Every time one injects me with its personal stash of formic acid, it’s worse than the time before. So I am looking a little askance at the city under my back steps. I don’t want them there, but there they are.

And I am outnumbered. Pathetically outnumbered.

My father used to pour gasoline down ant holes and light it. Horrifying. So are pesticides. I do believe the ants have a right to be alive and pursue their ant-like goals. Just not so close to my soft, living flesh.

I didn’t want to kill them. I just wanted them to move. I flooded them out with the garden hose, a slow trickle of water that filled up the vast network of caverns and passageways. Jillions of ants floated up and out; most found things to cling to and rode the current to edge of dry land where they disemarked.

As soon as I turned off the water, the ants went to work re-building what I had ruined. The next day, I filled the ant hole up again, and ants bubbled up again. When the flood stopped, the ants started building again. I marveled that none of them went belly up on the sidelines, waving their six little legs in the air, otherwise whining and bellyaching about unfair the universe is, or how hard their lives are.

We do that. The animals don’t. They get over it and get on with living.sad-bug-with-napsack-smaller

Why can’t we?

The end of the ant story: I kept watering the ant hole and they kept rebuilding. I admired the hell of them. No complaining, no retaliation. Just one foot in front of the other five, and with a pebble in each jaw, they rebuilt.

And I kept destroying. We went on like this for days, me alternately admiring them and destroying them; the ants just kept rebuilding.

Persistence is Everything

They finally moved. They got sick of it, evidently, of spending all their time rebuilding their colony after the continued disaster I brought them. So they moved, lock stock and nursery to the alley behind the house.

Beyond the reach of my hose…

615645dcfad8ce6a1f0e885b6d4ed1fb
Banksy

 

 

 

Angry Crows…

Respecting the Earth and All Its Inhabitants (Book Excerpt)

Cover

Excerpt from Corvus Rising, by author, geologist, and artist, Mary Simmons.

Written from the perspective of a group of intelligent crows and ravens, the Corvids, Corvus Rising sheds light on the environmental destruction taking place in our world in the name of progress, economic development, jobs and greed.

Simmons wants readers to realize the importance of preserving and respecting nature and the environment.  “Corvus Rising presents the issues humorously with a suggestion that just maybe one day animals will get fed up enough to fight back.” —Editor Post, Living Green Magazine

Alfredo picked up his mic, leaving his partially eaten lunch on the table. “Why do we need wilderness at all?” he said to the crowd. “I would like to answer that with a quote from Edward Abbey, noted author and outspoken defender of wilderness.”

He pulled a small notebook out of his shirt pocket and read: “‘The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the Earth, the Earth which bore us and sustains us, the only paradise we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need, if only we had the eyes to see.’”

A few people clapped. Alfredo smiled as he closed the notebook and put it back in his pocket.

“Too bad most of us will never see it!” a man in the back shouted.

“Somewhere along the way,” Alfredo said, ignoring the heckler, “we gave ourselves dominion over the Earth, which has all but severed our connection to the web of life. We built great cities, where we concentrated power and wealth, while we impoverished our spirits and our wild lands…”

CorvusRisingCover2The crowd had grown. A few crows collected in the trees surrounding the bandstand, staring down at Alfredo. Or was it his lunch?

“Cities weigh heavily on the hearts of men and women,” he continued, “and we must be able to escape them, even if it is just in our imaginations. In wilderness, we find ourselves. As we cherish one of our last wild places, let us become aware of our connection to it and impose surrender upon ourselves.”

“Surrender?” the man at the back of the crowd shouted. “Never!”

”Yes,” Alfredo said, “Surrender. The old hermit, Brother Wilder, surrendered to the wilderness we are now trying to preserve. He chose this wild island as a refuge from the world of cities and men, and spent his life in solitary contemplation of the glory of creation.”

“Who has time for that?” the man in the back shouted.

“Some of us have to actually work for a living!” someone yelled.

Anger surged in Alfredo’s chest. “While most people do not desire such lengthy solitude, it is through these pristine and unaltered wild lands that our spirits connect us to the Earth. As we gaze upon our island from across the river, its wilderness lives within us all; let us not now throw it away for a few pieces of silver.”

The crowd cheered and many clapped. A small crow dropped from the sky onto the table, and beaked a noodle from Alfredo’s plate.

Alfredo turned off his mic and said, “Well, hello little fella!”

“Don’t you know me, Jayzu?” the crow said, looking up.

“Of course I know you!” Alfredo said in a very low voice. “Grawky, JoEd!” He smiled and put out his hand. JoEd brushed it with his wingtip.

“Grawky, Jayzu!”

Nine more crows dropped down to the table, all talking at once.

 

Mary Simmons is a geologist by education and an artist by avocation. Simmons holds a Masters in Science in geology, worked for the US Geological Survey, and has published several scientific papers. Based on her background and expertise in geology, Simmons has a deep interest in the preservation of wilderness and creatures in the face of human development of land. As for her creative side, Simmons enjoys writing, making pottery and jewelry, and painting. Simmons uses clay and ground up rocks from the local landscape to make potters clay and glazes. She currently resides on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. For more information on her book, Corvus Rising, please visit http://www.authormarycsimmons.com/

Source: http://livinggreenmag.com/2013/04/29/mother-nature/respecting-the-earth-and-all-its-inhabitants-book-excerpt/#U3MiyIMB9CPflWBQ.99

Sentience and the Art of Everything

A Guineafowl Pufferfish, Hawaii
A Pufferfish

A recent blog post, And then it was Art, featured a delightful video of a pufferfish creating a work of art in the sand, as if he could somehow visualize what the final piece would look like. That’s what artists do—we create a physical manifestation from an internal vision. Who knew a little fish could do that too? Surely it is not a sign of high intelligence and sentience in humans, but merely an instinctive mating ritual in the pufferfish.

Heretofore, I’ve been guilty of a quite bigoted attitude, you might even say species-ist, against pufferfish everywhere. I have in a most unaware manner, equated art with superior intelligence and sentience, and discounted the very idea that this tiny fish could be either. For most of my life I have bought into that dogma.

Until the pufferfish came into my life.

What if the pufferfish is actually highly intelligent as well as aware?—but how would we know? When the standard of intelligence is set by us, and has everything to do with our anatomy?

So what is sentience, exactly?

Well, the definition evolves over time, but has nothing to do with intelligence…

 

And:

sentience (ˈsɛnʃəns) n.

1. the state or quality of being sentient; awareness

2. sense perception not involving intelligence or mental perception; feeling

 Some say that the ability to plan, visualize, and construct is a sign of sentience. That sounds like architecture, actually. Art and engineering combined if we do it; instinct if another animal does.

Just because we can’t hear it scream…

Sense perception means the ability to feel pain and loneliness. And to suffer. I wonder if there is a living creature anywhere that does not feel pain? Or loneliness. Everything that lives probably feels pain. I’m thinking maybe microbes don’t, but how do I know?  Just because they’re microscopic?  Am I again being species-ist, also known as myopic?
BlackCanyonMoss2
Moss Rocks!

EcoArt

Maybe art and sentience have nothing whatsoever to do with one another. Consider also the lush green moss gracing a quartz and pretty pink feldspar rock called Orthoclase.  As if the moss was painting on the rock. Can we even consider sentience in a plant?

 

If you take a closer look, past or within the velvety green luscious amazing moss, there’s a few other creatures in the rocks. As it turns out….moss is an allotrope, meaning it’s a primary plant producer upon which the food supply of the entire animal world depends.  Contrary to popular belief, moss does not eat rocks, it attaches to them in order to get water; it’s energy is derived from the sun, as is true of all plants.

BlackCanyonMoss3
Symbionts
So what’s the lighter green stuff? Not moss, not even plants. They’re the rock eaters, the lithotropes, aka lichen—microbes that feed off the chemical compostion of rocks, or whatever they attach to. Lichen form a symbiotic relationship with the moss. Some are pale green, some are yellow, orange, they’re all amazing.
crustose_lichens_lg
Crustose Lichen
Are these creatures aware of their artful expression of living; their unique and endless variations of a verse in the great song of the Universe?
Am I?
Are you?

 

 

 

Eco Art

ow.ly/Ed3Uj

Moss Is:

 

http://agillenlifescience.pbworks.com/w/page/34864162/Autotroph

Isn’t

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endolith

The Little Pufferfish Who Could

…build her a castle

Art in the Sand

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Click on image for extraordinary video: Art of the Pufferfish

I am totally charmed. Who knew pufferfish are masters of art and architecture?
The scientific powers that be attribute the whole thing to a mating ritual and the sole purpose of the pufferfish’s activity is to impress a female.
Not me, though.

Mission Accomplished

I am impressed. Thoroughly and completely.

I feel a certain kinship to this pufferfish, who pulls his vision from the sand. I work in clay—rarely if not never do I sketch things out first on paper. It’s not that I cannot draw, it’s that paper is but two dimensional, and clay is three. For me, it’s just easier to ‘draw,’ so to speak, with the clay in the first place.

DSCF0224
Archimedes Flight, 2006, Ceramic sculpture by Mary C Simmons

The pufferfish didn’t draw it all out first either, for obvious reasons. No paper, no writing utensils, no thumbs…just an internal vision that drove his entire body in the performance of art. That’s how I do it too, engrossed in my task and operating from an internal vision that informs my hands to construct the compendium of details that comprise the whole.

Art and Sentience

We humans draw a firm boundary between ourselves and the rest of creation, based on a standard (set by us) of intelligence and sentience, which undergoes periodic redefinition to exclude all of creation except us. Originally defined as the ability to feel and perceive, the definition was expanded to include an ability to suffer. Once we started noticing that all animals have that ability, self-awareness became the defining quality of sentience.

I can’t imagine how the pufferfish created his art without an awareness of himself in his oceanic landscape of water and sand. Why is it that the creation of art is an instinctual mating ritual in the animals, but a sign of sentience and intelligence in us?

satin-bower-bird-nestUntil the pufferfish first maps out his sculpture on paper or via computer graphics, or when the bowerbirds use differential equations to construct their nests, they’ll never even approach us intelligence-wise. Cool that we get to not only set the standard, but keep changing it as well so as to exclude all that is non-human. But why?

I am over-awed and comforted by my kinship with the little pufferfish creating a work of art the same way I do—from an internal vision, using his physical body. I doubt very much, however, that I could create this or any piece of art with my nose. From that perspective, the pufferfish is quite a bit more talented than I am.

 

ANIMAL ARCHITECTURE, book out April 2014 087.jpg
Animal Architecture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Custom Book Covers

Words of Art

The art on the cover attracts me to a book in the first place. In the absence of eye candy, I am drawn to catchy titles—kind of like at the horse races. I cruise the racing form for the cool names like Mickey Blue Eyes, or Quicksilver. Queen of Swords. Names that inspire me to squander a few bucks on a completely random outcome. But I hardly ever go to the races….a whole other story.

I am also drawn to wine and beer by the art—color and imagery—on the label. A practice that is no doubt every bit as effective as how I choose the horse most likely to win the race. The image is a powerful tool….being worth 10,000 words, they say.new

803707_553f_625x1000Color is worth at least that many words, as it conveys volumes of information and activates emotional responses to the environment. Lots of animals see only the colors of their food in the landscape, but we humans see myriad colors—perhaps because we are omnivores and therefore our food can be of any color.

And, the color of the horse would probably figure into my calculus of who might win the race, if I got to see it first.

I’m into words too—as is evident by this webpage and a published book. I love Art also. Capital A, my whole life, just about (thanks Ma!).

I love it all, do it all. Painting. Pottery. Jewelry. Textiles. Book covers. They’re canvasses, you know. What a perfect place to be…making words of art, and pictures of words.

Indie authors, Indie Covers

The first of my cover designs was for my own book, Corvus Rising — a book about a mysterious island of talking crows who enlist the help of a few humans to save the island from a developer’s bulldozers. It’s a fairly low-tech cover as they go these days, meaning minimal computer graphics. I had a specific vision of the cover that I splashed out into the world, using mostly traditional methods to create imagery in my head: water color, pen and ink drawings.

Since then, I’ve been in the business of making covers for other authors. Following is a list of them. Click on covers and bolded text for more information.

 

As I Recollect… a memoir by huck Gaylord

I laughed out loud many times as i formatted this book. Author huck Gaylord recounts his life as a horse-logger, Viet Nam war vet, and the decades-long love affair with his wife, Mary.  Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1542914205

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Facing Up—a Patient’s Guide to Healing the Face, by Lois Hawk Todd

facingup

With truth, humor and compassion, Lois Hawk Todd chronicles the highs and lows of two catastrophic injuries to her face. She tells the story of her arduous journey of healing through multiple surgeries—with some wise words for all of us who walk this Earth, with or without such injury.
The bravest woman I know…

Find Lois’s book here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LX28O0C/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

The Devastation of Bartholomew Ka, by Sunshine Knight

knight_cover_6-12-16

Book 1 of the story of an unfulfilled ghost haunting an old house…

Cover design and creation by up and coming graphic artist, Chris Allen—I only helped a bit with the formatting…

Find Sunshine’s book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Devastation-Bartholomew-Ka-Book-ebook/dp/B01HAPV6QO

 

Bound for the Western Sea—the Canine Account of the Lewis & Clark Expedition

Adobe Photoshop PDF

A well-researched story about the Corps of Discovery led by the famed Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark in the search for the Northwest Passage.
And Meriwether’s loyal, intelligent and sage  Newfoundland hound, Seaman.

Find Laura Lee’s book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Bound-Western-Sea-Account-Expedition/dp/0997349107/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1483640239&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=bound+for+the+western+sea

 

U Got To Have You Some Fun, by Andrew Harkless

UGottaHaveUSomeFun_PODThis book tells a story about an ordinary man on a cruise, and how the people he met changed his life.

I used a very large amount of imagery in the form of photographs from the author, the editor, and the internet. We were able to find a number of sites where images are really free, giving the author a completely custom cover for a very affordable price.

The people on the ramp are all characters from the book, and the guy with his back to us—that’s none other than Andy Harkless, who sent us this fabulous portrait of his backside. I had to Photoshop him a bit, making him look more like the kind of guy who runs a desk, rather than, how shall we say, a more active man.

Thank heavens for computer graphics and the internet!

They came from everywhere, the passengers of this cruise. These are the random folks in life, the ones you never choose to spend a lot of time with, but who make a lasting impact on your life. Do go on a cruise, or a backpacking trip or a raft trip down the Grand Canyon. You’ll see what we mean.

I say ‘we’ because a custom cover like this one is a group effort that involves the author, the cover designer, and the editor/publisher. Together, we worked to get this book published.

UGotTo_Paperback-Cover-2.12.15And then ‘we’ redesigned U Gotta, as I came to affectionately call this book. The author had always cherished the idea of a painting of a cruise ship…and we delivered.
Find Andrews’s book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Got-Have-Some-Fun-ebook/dp/B00O4EJ1M6

 

L’Orange Fire, by Michael McLarnon

L'OrangeFireCoverFinal_688A psychological/mystery thriller of a time in the near future, when the city of Los Angeles and Orange County have merged.

The author provided a high quality photograph of an original abstract painting by Gilbert Plante, of Quebec City, Canada. The rich reds and yellows gives a sense of intense flames superimposed over an image of downtown Los Angeles.

Find Michael’s book here:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NADW6OC/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

An Abduction Revelation, by Thomas L. Hay

Cover6.8_C-Kid1

A story of the Comeback Kid and his trips through time on a flying saucer, where he witnessed the construction of such notable wonders of the human hand and brain: Stonehenge, the monumental statues of Easter Island , the Sphinx, the Great Pyramids of Egypt…

All the elements of a space odyssey.

Find Thomas’s book here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B009OMF7FS/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

 



Secret Testimony, by Barbara Ann Payne

SecretTestimony_POD_Cover.1

An autobiographical story of childhood abuse, suffering, redemption and hope, author Barbara Ann Payne made this book cover as personal as her story. She provided us the photo of herself, and selected the other images for the cover.

Find Barbara’s book here:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HUX9704/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1


 

Corvus Rising, by Mary C Simmons

CorvusPOD_BookCover

The background is one of my watercolor paintings, and depicts an island under a sunset sky. A flock of crows in open and ink flies above the island, while Charlie the blue-eyed crow (an altered photograph) looks on, perched on a branch of a ghostly tree.

A multi-media event made digital, thanks to Photoshop.

Find my book here:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HDQKRUM/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

The Judas Crow, by Mary C Simmons

JudasCrowCover2

My eShorty (Kindle) about an injured crow who cannot escape his fate: to lure other crows to their deaths. The cover comprises several altered photos and original ink art drawings of crow silhouettes.

Find it here:
https://www.amazon.com/Judas-Crow-Story-Epic-Betrayal-ebook/dp/B00IELTQ0C

 

 


 

I would love to create a fabulous, affordable Custom Book Cover for you!

Contact me for information and pricing:

TheBookMidwife@gmail.com

My Heaven, Cow Heaven

FirstCut
First Cut

I live at the foot of the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Snowmelt provides an amazing amount of water to the Gunnison River Basin, as is evident by the acres and acres of hay pastures and small herds of grazing cows. And a few horses. A few thousand humans are scattered across this landscape, which provides a natural and spectacularly scene of pasture and mountains.
The valley of the North Fork of the Gunnison hosts a surprising population of artists, organic farmers, vintners, amid happy cows munching on red clover, alfalfa and grass. Less visible, yet as happy as the other bovines, goats, pigs, and chickens have found a good life here.
As have I. Everything I need to nourish body and soul: they grow peaches here, for one. The landscape is astonishingly beautiful. Organic farming, always a plus.
And this is cow heaven. No feedlots here, no concentration of a large number of animals on a small piece of land.
This is good.
I want my future beef to be happy, well fed on grass, and gently ‘processed.’

Animal Screams

Fortunately for me and the ranchers, a few very small meat processing facilities are located in the valley. Small is good. I loathe and despise the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, where cows are mired in manure and urine-saturated pens and fed a mixture of grains, hormones and antibiotics. But this is not happening here in Cow Heaven. I gaze out on these pastures of cows and grass, idyllic in the full height of summer glory. And it is good.

Pigs+to+slaughterThen I heard the screams. An animal in complete, shrieking terror being offloaded into a slaughter house that I had assumed by it’s very smallness would fulfill the destiny, the very birthright, of cattle born in this valley. A respectful peaceful death…

Mere words are so very flat and lack the dimension to describe the dreadful horror of this animal’s last experience as a living creature. It was unbearable. How is that we humans are so cruel? To our food, each other, the landscape, the Earth?
I’m tempted to become a vegetarian, perhaps to cleanse and absolve me of this horror. But I don’t think it’s wrong to eat animals. It’s not wrong to eat anything. But it is wrong to torture our food before we eat it.

You are what you Eat

Who are we, who eat GMO corn-fed, pharmaceutically engineered flesh? Shot full of adrenaline and fear in the moments before it’s death, the animal will be cut up and packaged.

We will eat it. Far from the scene of it’s life and terrified death, the package does not resemble a living animal, whose screams are silent, but the aftermath of fear lives on in us.

feat-slaughter-house-rules

Suicide: the heartbreak is unimagineable

“He did it last night.”

I will never forget those words. ‘He did it’ meant he hung himself from the rafters in his mother’s garage, one month shy of his 21st birthday.

It’s not like I didn’t see it coming. I did. We all did. The depression. The weight loss. It was all there.

And I couldn’t even touch it. That’s the killer for those of us left behind. That no matter how much you love someone, it isn’t enough.

I couldn’t make it better for him. None of us could. I was there and there and there and loved and listened and talked until my ears were red and lips were blue. I even told him I worried about him killing himself. “I’d never do that,” he promised.

One week later he did.

It was March 25, 1974. Forty years ago. I’ll never forget.

He was my first love. And the bravest boy that ever lived.

Good-bye, Ray. Again. All I have ever known about this is that your pain in living was far worse than my heartbreak at your death.

Mary203
Mary and Ray. Prom Night

 

Good-bye. Good-bye….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Law is an Ass

abf0c16e325cd1f022ac3a46879258f4A look into some of the many faces of ‘the’ Law…

Man’s Law

That’s the kind of law which governs the Affordable Care Act, paying taxes, stopping at red lights, having to wait until you’re 21 to drink alcohol, as well as all the penalties accrued and assessed for violations.  Man’s Law  also includes a majority of  ‘God’s Laws’—those governing ethical behavior, e.g. the No Kill Law, the No Stealing Law—those things we all just sort of don’t do, as a rule, but just in case we forget, Moses brought the stone table down from the mountain and made it official.

Man’s Law, at least in the US, excludes any and all rules pertaining to False Gods, Swearing, Keeping Holy the Sabbath, and Honoring Your Parents. Oh, and Coveting—we do all get to covet with complete impunity.

Man’s Law governs and includes all judicial decisions. The way that Man’s Law is an Ass can be understood best in terms of a few recent US Supreme Court decisions, e.g.  Kelo v City of New London, 2005, which expanded ‘public good’ to include ‘tax revenue and jobs created by condemning and razing an old lady’s house and building a shopping center.’ Seriously. The government can condemn your property and sell it to a developer.

Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commisson, 2010. Corporations were given personhood, and therefore the government is prohibited from restricting a corporation’s contribution to political candidates, parties, PACs. Representative government becomes government not of, by, or for the people, but for those with the most bucks. The Monarchy of Money. So much for democracy

Then there’s the Hobby Lobby decision. That’s the one where a company, and presumably a private individual as well, can use a deeply held belief in God’s Law to decide which one of Man’s Laws they don’t have to comply with.

I actually like that one—I can opt out of lots of things on those grounds. Taxes—ain’t gonna pay for war no more.

But, seriously, it’s a whole boxful of Pandoras (a famous saying by former NM Governor Bruce King) that we as a country of 300 million probably don’t really want to let out.

Render unto Caesar?

…that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s—so says a gospel of Matthew.

smoking+uncle_sam_taxes

And there you have it. Man’s Law is Caesar’s Law—Caesar of course being ‘the government.’ Therefore, the “Render unto Caesar’ rule must extend  to keeping its laws. Except when it’s a privately-held corporation with deeply held religious beliefs, and then God’s Law supercedes. Good thing we don’t think God wants us to stone women of other faiths to death, or fly airplanes into tall buildings.

What if obedience to Man’s Law (or God’s Law) causes or allows suffering of others to continue? Should one steal food to feed one’s hungry children or let them starve? Is this God’s will? Should hungry people get away with stealing food?

Deities can be spectacularly subtle

In my ecofantasy novel, Corvus Rising, the Jesuit priest, Alfredo Manzi, struggles with whether to obey Man’s Law and be considered righteous and without blame, or to commit a criminal act that will alleviate the suffering of another. He prays to God, asking for guidance. Does God want us to break laws? Alfredo wonders, but receives no answer.

 

CorvusRisingCover2“Deities can be spectacularly subtle,” Charlie the blue-eyed crow tells the priest. “That’s been the corvid observation of human gods in general over the years.”
“As well as spectacularly unhelpful,” Alfredo said as he drew the outline of the grounds of Rosencranz in the sand. “Sometimes God wants us to find our own way, I guess.”
“Well, it might help if you ask a yes or no question,” Charlie said. “Then the deity could catch a bush on fire, which would be a yes answer I would think. However, silence could also be construed as consent, albeit far less dramatic.”                      
-excerpt from Corvus Rising

 

In other words, sometimes we’re pretty much on our own.

 

horns-of-a-dilemma

 

 

 

Living in a Painting…

FirstCut
First Cut

“You live in a painting!”

That’s what my friend Nina said when she saw this photo of the pasture after the first cut of hay.

It’s true. I live in a beautiful landscape of mountains, hay meadows, peach orchards, and small farms on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains.

That’s Lamborn Mountain on the left, behind the tree branch, and Landsend Peak on the right; the two peaks form an iconic backdrop to the North Fork Valley—the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

Lamborn Mountain and LandsEnd
Lamborn Mountain and Lands End

Lamborn Mountain rises 11, 397 feet above sea level, and almost 6,000 feet above the valley. The two peaks are part of a laccolith—where hot magma oozed up and intruded the Mancos Shale, an organic-rich clay layer, and baked it into coal. Erosion over the millennia has removed a lot of the Mancos Shale, revealing the igneous core of Lamborn Mountain.

Nearby and up the road, the geological picture includes three coal mines, though they’re not in this painting. But chances are good I’ll be taking my camera up the road toward the mines in the very near future.

By the way…diamonds are not formed by squeezing the bejesus out of coal. Click here for more…

Freeze
Irrigation Water Ice Cubes

Spring run-off was pretty incredible this year, starting in mid-April with more snow meltwater than anyone has seen in 40 years.

It still freezes around here in mid-April, though not hard enough to freeze the water in the irrigation pipes, it got cold enough to turn it to ice cubes as soon as it spewed out the gates. There’s just a little snow left up in the high country. Now our hopes are on the monsoonal rain.

Mount Lamborn
Mount Lamborn

 

 

Lamborn and Landsend are photogenic at any time of year, or day. And totally paintable, though I have not. Yet.

Lamborn and Landsend at Sunrise
Lamborn and Landsend at Sunrise

 

 

 

En plein air, for sure.