Sunday, September 28, 2003

That Auction

Just a follow-up to yesterday's post: We went to the auction, so I can see that I've seen that particular elephant.

I think I was last at the Pines Ranch the summer of 1975, when I drove there in Dad's Chevy Vega from Colorado Springs, got permission to park it near the lodge, and walked up through the nearby summer cabins, onto the Rainbow Trail, and thus to Lake of the Clouds.

Obviously, it has changed a little. I spotted the two-story Victorian lodge with the porch that I remembered, but that whole fake Western town/office/dining hall/swimming pool complex was not there then.

As for the art, I have nothing against representational art (one of my favorite painters of all time is still John Singer Sargent), but I want it to move me somehow, to go beyond mere postcard prettiness. (I love Sargent's nervous intensity.) One more office-credenza-size bronze bull elk or mounted-cowboy-with-packhorse does not do much for me.

It was 95 percent standard middle-range-Taos-art-gallery stuff, well-executed but predictable. Back in the 1970s we started calling some of that genre "oil company boardroom art"-- romantic views of the country that they are now cutting up with roads and drill pads. My checkbook stayed in my pocket. OK, I had tentatively set a spending limit in the hundreds, and pretty much everything was in the $1,200-$2,500 range; and I would have to be deeply in love to spend that kind of dough.


Saturday, September 27, 2003

A Greenhouse

Big news that is not about writing: the new greenhouse kit is here--four big cardboard cartons lying beside the driveway. I hope this weekend to spread gravel where it is going to sit, and then I can assemble it next Friday or Saturday. The weather forecast is dry, luckily--and the aspens are turning now, streaking the ridges with gold.

We have always had vegetable and flower gardens. We grow food to eat and some plants just because they are dramatic and drought-resistant (wormwood, various sturdy asters), and we grow some medicinal herbs. Since the greenhouse will not be heated, it will not provide year-around production, I reckon; but it should stretch the season for salad greens, at least.

This afternoon Mary and I are going to an art auction to benefit the local conservation land trust, which I do support with donations, even though I feel like they tend to ignore this end of the county. Mary is not thrilled about hob-nobbing with the "trophy house" crowd (if that truly is who attends), but I think that we will see at least a few familiar faces from our service on the board of another nonprofit organization a couple of years ago.

There will be painting demonstrations, which seems weird to me. Can you imagine a writing demonstration? It's the finished product that matters. (My father, who was a representational painter, would disagree with me on that--but I am not interested in studying another painter's technique.)

The art will be primarily representational and/or "Western," I suppose, but maybe we'll find a local version of Robert Bateman--someone whose paintings of the natural world are not only superbly executed but also have a sense of Mystery to them. I'll take the checkbook, set a modest spending limit, and see what happens.

To use my favorite 19th-century expression, I just need to "see the elephant."


Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Online Pagan News

Two more sites, in addition to the almost-too-huge Witches' Voice:

1. Pagan Institute Report's online features.

2. Jason Pitzl-Waters' Mythworks, which unfortunately is not updated often enough.


Tuesday, September 23, 2003

The Pagan cover-design dilemma (again)

Graham Harvey, my co-editor on the Paganism Reader, tells me that Routledge editors are still agonizing over a cover design. Admittedly, the one shown in the online catalog is pretty pedestrian.

It seems that there are only three choices for Pagan books.

1. A tree
2. A standing stone, as on Michael York's Pagan Theology.
3. A Pre-Raphaelite female figure in earth tones, as favored by Kensington/Citadel and other publishers of how-to books.

We will see which one we get.

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More on 'Bast'

A reliable source tells me that as of two years ago, Edghill was heading an 'ultra-conservative' Gardnerian coven. Maybe that outcome fits better than my hypothesis of disillusionment with the contemporary Wiccan scene. Or maybe it's the same thing.

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Sunday, September 21, 2003

The 'Bast' Mysteries

I recently bought Bell, Book, and Murder, the 3-in-1 edition of Rosemary Edghill's "Bast" mysteries: three short mystery novels set in 1990s Manhattan whose protagonist is Karen Hightower (Craft name "Bast"), a thirty-something graphic designer. Her design business is called High Tor Graphics, both a pun on her name and a tribute to a famous SF novel.

While the mysteries are not always tightly plotted and leave lots of "Now why did he do that?" questions in the reader's mind, Edghill has a firm grasp on the Pagan scene, with its coded language and social nuances.

I read the first two in the series soon after they came out, but I never got around to the last one, Bowl of Night (1996). Although I'm a long way from New York City, I thought that I recognized a few people that I knew and some places too, thinly disguised. Was that Judy Harrow? John Yohalem? Bast's coven, Changing--does that sound a bit like "Proteus"?

Reading all three in quick succession, though, made me think they they charted Edghill's gradual disenchantment with the Pagan scene. By the end of the trilogy, Bast drifting away from the rest of Changing coven and trying out in her mind the possibilities for finding a new high priest (she's Gardnerian) and forming her own. But I would bet that if there were a fourth book, it would show Bast as a solitary, more emotionally disconnected from the world of gossipy metaphysical bookstores, festivals, and other Pagan dress-up events.

In the first book, Bast says, "The day I discovered that all Witches don't believe in magic was a great shock to me." Now I do not know Rosemary Edghill at all. I have never read her fantasy novels nor her romance novels. But I wonder if someone who writes fantasy was hoping to find a certain magic in Wicca, but she did not find it--and so she moved on.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Autumn Winds

I came home this evening with the usual disconnected, uprooted feeling that I have after a long day in the classroom. The danger is that I'll sit down with a book or the television, have a glass of wine, another . . . another, and be too fuzzy for any serious work.

To avoid that outcome, I decided to cut firewood. The little Husqvarna chainsaw is finally out of the saw-repair shop (it had a midlife crisis), parts having finally arrived from Sweden by sailing ship.

Racing against sundown, I started cutting pine and juniper limbs that had been sitting in a stack all summer after the branch-breaking blizzard in March. The west wind carries a suggestion of moisture--the first snow for the high mountains? Rain for us? It's the 9th, but that wind felt equinoctial.

Last Sunday, the 7th, Mary and I were invited for a potluck brunch at "the squire's." That's how we think of him: a rich doctor with a ranch at the end of our road, and a couple of others in Colorado, British Columbia, and maybe somewhere else. The guests included some of our neighbors (his former employees), the publisher of the county newspaper and his wife, a German exchange student, and a few other locals. It was interesting how much the conversation focused on vegetable-gardening and greenhouses. (Coincidentally, we had just ordered one ourselves from Seeds of Change after the contractor who was supposed to build one for us flaked out.). I keep thinking about how all these people, most of whom are comfortably well off, were talking like survivalists.

The next day I talked with another friend at the other end of the county, a fulltime freelance writer, who has horses and burros, but primarily for pleasure, and suddenly he is talking about large-scale greenhouses, production growing of "micro-greens" for the local organic growers' cooperative, and how much land he could legally irrigate under his well permit.

Another friend down by Durango slipped the phrase "small livestock" into his last message, without being more specific. He's the former Western field editor for Mother Earth News, so I think that he might be on to something. This is starting to feel a lot like the 1970s all over again; I get that feeling every time I see a newspaper article about the possibility of fuel-cell cars. There is something in the wind saying that a degree of self-sufficiency is going to be in style again.

What Mother Earth News says about harvesting rainwater is technically a violation of Colorado's byzantine water laws, but we do it anyway. Now we need a bigger tank.


Friday, September 05, 2003


This is the best New Yorker cartoon ever, as far as I'm concerned.


Eighties flashback

Maybe if more people knew that the Freemasons had sex slaves , their membership would not be declining!

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Thursday, September 04, 2003

Evan John Jones 1936-2003

On the 2nd, Catherine Bundock, John's daughter, notified me that he had died at home in Brighton (Sussex) on Sunday evening. I met John via letter and telephone in the early 1990s, when at the suggestion of Carl Weschcke, president of Llewellyn Publications, he contributed a chapter to my anthology Witchcraft and Shamanism, the third book in Llewellyn's Witchcraft Today series.

We did not meet in person until 1999, after we had worked together on Sacred Mask, Sacred Dance, a book which is about 80 percent John and 20 percent mine, at most.

I'll miss John's wry take on politics (Pagan and secular), Army life and life in general. A veteran of British campaigns of the 1950s in Malaysia and Suez, he retained a fascination for certain now-obsolete vehicles, such as the M2 halftrack, and I had just located a historic halftracks poster that I had been planning to send him as a gift.

There is a room for him in the Castle.

You can read John's chapter on Robert Cochrane, magister of the Clan of Tubal Cain, online.Sacred Mask, Sacred Dance is out of print but still available second-hand through such sources as Advanced Book Exchange.

LEFT: John Jones, left, and Robert Cochrane, in about 1965.

Dave and Ann Finnin of the Ancient Keltic Church contributed this recollection.

On Sunday, Evan John Jones, author of Witchcraft: A Tradition Renewed and Masks of Tubal Cain exited this earth plane at the age of 67. While we were deeply saddened, we were not surprised. John had been suffering for the last ten-or-so years from emphysema and would wheeze while he puffed on the hand-rolled cigarettes he refused to give up. I suspect that he passed suddenly because the red-eared Hounds of Annwyn had to sneak up on him when he wasn't looking. They wouldn't have gotten him any other way.

We first met John Jones in the summer of 1982. He was a short, stocky Welshman with a pugnacious square jaw and flaming red hair who lived with his wife and three children in a neat little house on the outskirts of Brighton. We had contacted him through a mutual friend with question regarding the writings of Roy Bowers (a/k/a Robert Cochrane). John had been in Roy's group during the1960s and for the next twenty years (plus three visits and countless letters and phone calls), he gave us enough information and insight so that we could continue to explore Roy's system on our own.There is no way we can adequately express our gratitude to the man who was our teacher and guide for over two decades. What he taught us was priceless and we will miss him.

Dave & Ann Finnin

Clan of Tubal Cain

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Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Middle Initials, part II

All a misunderstanding between Graham and the copy editor. I had signed my introductions, for example, to the Emperor Julian's "Letter to a Pagan Priest," with my initials. I had thought that Graham was doing the same with his; that's a common practice with some encyclopedias, for example. But apparently he had not, so the editor was asking if it was important for me to have my initials on my entries.

Of course not, if that's not the book style. What a commotion.