New Geokittehs Post by Moi!

Y’all should be checking Geokittehs on a regular basis already – Evelyn’s done an excellent job keeping the site up-to-date whilst I’ve been busy (or busy wasting time) elsewhere. But thanks to you lot, I’ve got a post up there at last! Do go enjoy the Dipuurgent Boundary, and remember to show Evelyn some love for keeping the site running single-handed. Love you muchly, Evelyn my dear!

In Which The Cat Is Not Amused

So I did some mad cleaning, the kind you do when you’re disgusted with life, the Universe and everything, and decide to take it out on your poor innocent apartment. Misha slept happily through most of it, except for those bits where she stirred to come snigger at me whilst I was down on my knees scrubbing the linoleum. But there’s one thing guaranteed to wake her up, and that’s Mommy sprinkling carpet freshener around.

Kitteh sez "Whut?"

Kitteh sez “Whut?”

She’s learned that carpet freshener means the icky evil vacuum cleaner’s about to be busted out, and nothing pisses her off more than the vacuum. Well, guests. She despises those. And dogs. And other cats. Okay, lots of things piss her off more than the vacuum cleaner, but it wins when we’re alone together.

What is the meaning of this outrageous conduct?

What is the meaning of this outrageous conduct?

So she gave me and the carpet freshener a sustained glare. I found it hilarious, so of course I photographed it. Besides, the light from the window was just right for her gorgeous green eyes.

She might be going a bit deaf, or she’s just getting obstinate in her old age, but when I switched on the evil icky vacuum cleaner, she just gave me another outraged glare, and then determinedly pretended to sleep rather than running away like she normally does. Then again, it could be her insecurity issues surrounding her pillow. Ever since a friend interfered with her enjoyment of it, she’s mostly kept herself planted upon it. Especially when people come by. Except for that one time the other morning when I was trying to sleep in, and she was trying to encourage me to embrace the new day by hurking up a hairball loudly a few feet away, and then a bit later, tearing up and down the house, then pausing to yowl loudly in my ear, by way of announcing she needed to poop.

She is, in fact, the reason I never found myself tempted to have children. Whyever do you ask?

If anyone can think of what sort of geology she’s illustrating in the photos above, I shall publish them on Geokittehs and credit you. Fame will be yours. Alas, not fortune. Sorry.


“Needs an image illustrating oreogeny,” Chris Clarke says. Not happy with a geology prof’s work, are we? Well, then. Never let it be said I ignore reader requests – and I even fulfill them when I’ve got a bag of Oreos in the cupboard and the request comes in during an afternoon where I have some blogging time free. Voilá!

Oreogenic Belt.

Oreogenic Belt.

Stay tuned – I shot a whole series of photos illustrating oreogeny, and I’ll be writing them up on Rosetta Stones. We’ve gotten a tad too serious over there lately – time to inject a bit of sugary goodness.

Thanks for the inspiration, Chris! And thanks to Bob Lillie for the original idea – genius.

Oreo Tectonics

I’m one of those freaks of nature who doesn’t much like Oreos. However, I feel differently about them now that many of you, along with my Facebook friend Raymond Dickey, shared this:

oreo tectonics

Okay, now I want an Oreo cookie! I didn’t realize they could be such perfect geology teaching tools. I’ll have to employ them when I get a chance to speak to people in person about how the earth works. Gotta love lessons you can enjoy with milk afterward.

“GeOreo theory.” Ha! Nicely done, sir, nicely done.

*Edited to add: Image created by Lockwood’s former geophysics professor Bob Lillie. Thanks, Lockwood!

What About Teh Menz? – Answered!

The next time some sniveling asshat starts the “But what about teh menz?!” whine, don’t sweat it. Yeah, it’s annoying as shit, and we’ve answered that “patriarchy hurts men too” about five quadrillion-zillion times, and we’re tired of it, but it’s all good. The question has been answered by someone with a masculine voice and a penis who identifies as a menz. All we have to do is aim the sniveling asshat at this video. Seriously. Watch it. Just use caution if you have any medical conditions that make punching a fist into the air and screaming “Fuck yeah!” at the top of your lungs painful. (And remember to say thank you to Mary at Skepchick for finding it.)

I can’t find a transcript. I want a transcript, but I haven’t got time to do one. If someone wants to do one, I’ll be happy to send you a nice sniny chunk o’ something from ye olde rock collection. This was fabulous. It’s not much different from what women have been saying for ages, but it’s from a penis-haver to other penis-havers who identify as penis-havers, and it’s phrased in ways I think will be hard for certain subsets of the penis-haver population to avoid if they don’t want to come off looking like complete social losers. And I love the way Jackson Katz has turned this right away from the victims back onto the perpetrators. It even works for when the perpetrators aren’t men. It’s setting the conversation down firmly where it should begin and end: not how victims should avoid being victimized, but how perpetrators should avoid perpetrating, and what we as a society can do to reinforce the idea that certain shit is completely fucking unacceptable. Yes. That’s what we’ve been saying. That’s what needs to be bellowed from the rooftops until even the thickest of skulls have been penetrated.

(Oh, and Ron Lindsay? I’d like you to pay especial attention to the bits where he talks about leadership. Take notes, please. Which principles can you apply to your own life and work? Write 500 words, due by next Monday.)

I found Jackson Katz’s website after listening to his talk whilst repeatedly saluting him with my cleaning products, and there’s this wonderful list, which he encourages us to share. So I shall (en español).

Ten Things Men Can Do to Prevent Gender Violence


  1. Approach gender violence as a MEN’S issue involving men of all ages and socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds. View men not only as perpetrators or possible offenders, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers
  2. If  a brother, friend, classmate, or teammate is abusing his female partner — or is disrespectful or abusive to girls and women in general — don’t look the other way. If you feel comfortable doing so, try to talk to him about it. Urge him to seek help. Or if you don’t know what to do, consult a friend, a parent, a professor, or a counselor. DON’T REMAIN SILENT.
  3. Have the courage to look inward. Question your own attitudes. Don’t be defensive when something you do or say ends up hurting someone else. Try hard to understand how your own attitudes and actions might inadvertently perpetuate sexism and violence, and work toward changing them.
  4. If you suspect that a woman close to you is being abused or has been sexually assaulted, gently ask if you can help.
  5. If you are emotionally, psychologically, physically, or sexually abusive to women, or have been in the past, seek professional help NOW.
  6. Be an ally to women who are working to end all forms of gender violence. Support the work of campus-based women’s centers. Attend “Take Back the Night” rallies and other public events. Raise money for community-based rape crisis centers and battered women’s shelters. If you belong to a team or fraternity, or another student group, organize a fundraiser.
  7. Recognize and speak out against homophobia and gay-bashing. Discrimination and violence against lesbians and gays are wrong in and of themselves. This abuse also has direct links to sexism (eg. the sexual orientation of men who speak out against sexism is often questioned, a conscious or unconscious strategy intended to silence them. This is a key reason few men do so).
  8. Attend programs, take courses, watch films, and read articles and books about multicultural masculinities, gender inequality, and the root causes of gender violence.  Educate yourself and others about how larger social forces affect the conflicts between individual men and women.
  9. Don’t fund sexism. Refuse to purchase any magazine, rent any video, subscribe to any Web site, or buy any music that portrays girls or women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner. Protest sexism in the media.
  10. Mentor and teach young boys about how to be men in ways that don’t involve degrading or abusing girls and women. Volunteer to work with gender violence prevention programs, including anti-sexist men’s programs. Lead by example

Copyright 1999, Jackson Katz.
Reprint freely with credit.

So there ye go. Point the “what about teh menz?” cadre at these items, and if they’re still sniveling about teh menz afterward, you know they’re not coming at this in good faith. They’re part of the problem, not good and useful critics, and should be treated accordingly.

And to those men who have already answered that question by stepping up and taking responsibility for making the world a better place for women and men? Thank you.

Carry on. We can win this thing, together.

slam dunk

Ron Lindsay’s Extraordinary Bullshit Part I: Wherein We Have a Discussion About Open Letters

I’ve been meaning to parse and publish this for some time. Remember all the way back when Ron Lindsay published and signed that open letter that wasn’t so much a call for civility as a call to STFU? Remember when people got upset? Yeah. Well. According to the letter, we were supposed to call folks before reaming them, so I asked for his phone number on Twitter. I was pretty shocked when he actually gave it to me, but then, he’d just signed the letter saying people should phone each other, so that bit was fresh in everyone’s mind. We couldn’t come up with a good time to talk on the phone, our schedules being what they are, so we eventually conversed via email. By the time all that was done, the furor over the open letter had subsided, and there was always something more pressing to publish, and most days I forgot Ron Lindsay existed.

Obviously, after his extraordinary fuck-ups at WiS2, my memory’s been jogged.

I’ll have Words to Say about the “welcome” speech debacle. And no, I won’t be calling (or emailing) Ron after he failed to live up to his own fucking pledge. But before I get to those Words, here is the conversation surrounding that ridiculous open letter asking us why we can’t just all play nice with each other (which is a question Ron Lindsay should be answering right about now).

Dissapointed cat

Onward, then:

Dear Dana,

This is in response to your April 10 email. I will try to answer your questions as best as I can given my time constraints and also my unwillingness to divulge the contents of private or confidential communications.

Because I am taking the time to answer your questions as best as I can, if you do refer to or reproduce my answers in a blog post, I ask that you reproduce them in full.

Please note that I am speaking only for myself. I do not have the authority to speak for, nor am I speaking for, the leaders of any other organizations.

In response to your questions: First, you need to be aware of the process, at least in broad terms, by which the Open Letter was produced because the wording of your email suggests a misconception of the process.

The Heads group had a meeting in Atlanta on January 26. Heads is a very informal group consisting of the leaders of major secular organizations. It has no constitution, bylaws, written rules of procedure, governing body, etc. It was started several years ago as a way for leaders of these groups to talk about issues of common concern in confidence, in part to foster an atmosphere of cooperation and trust and to help bring about coordinated action where possible.

Prior to this year’s meeting, there was significant discussion on the Heads listserve about diversity issues within the movement and problems relating to online communication. There was also discussion concerning sexism and feminism. I submitted for consideration a proposed statement that leaders of the organizations could sign on to if they wanted. Two other individuals submitted statements for consideration. There was much discussion, including discussion at the actual meeting in January. Secular Woman, through its representatives, was one of the organizations that participated in the discussion.

At the meeting, there was a consensus that the three persons who had submitted proposed statements should confer and draft a statement for consideration. There was also a consensus that the statement should focus on problems with online conduct, with specific mention being made of the despicable comments being directed against some women. The statement would take the form of a pledge by the signatories to do their best to improve the content and tone of online communication, along with some suggestions for everyone, that is, for leaders of organizations as well as everyone else.

There was no consensus at this time to support a statement that was more focused on sexism or feminism, although there was unanimous support for inclusion within the statement of a section that would unambiguously indicate that advocacy of women’s rights was an integral part of the mission of secular organizations.

With this background, let me answer your questions.

Section I, Questions 1-6:

[He didn’t include the questions, so I shall do so here:

I. When drafting this open letter, which of the following women/organizations did you reach out to?
1. Secular Woman
2. Ophelia Benson
3. Stephanie Zvan
4. Greta Christina
5. Rebecca Watson
6. Mary Ellen Sikes/American Secular Census]

Prior to the Heads meeting, I publicly solicited input from anyone interested in issues of diversity within the movement and/or the controversy over sexism and feminism. Thus, to the extent that they were interested, all the individuals and organizations you mention had the opportunity to contribute. (As I recall, Stephanie Zvan, Ophelia Benson, Kim Rippere, and Mary Ellen Sikes did submit comments.)

With respect to the Heads discussion, both Mary Ellen Sikes (American Secular Census) and Kim Rippere (Secular Woman) participated. The Heads discussion was limited to members of the Heads group. That’s simply how the group operates.

[Okies. Next section:

II. Have you read any of the following posts:

With respect to Section II, Questions 1-6, I read all the posts you have cited.

[I guess I should have added a short reading comprehension quiz for each.]

Section III [III. Questions arising from various comments and posts]

Question 1: [How are we to “pick up the phone” or “send a private email” to those who either won’t provide them or won’t answer our calls/emails? Are we supposed to follow this procedure with our harassers?] Your question relates to one paragraph of the Open Letter. This paragraph, as is true with the rest of the Open Letter, presumes people will interpret it using common sense. If talking or writing to someone is pointless, because they have already made their hostility abundantly clear, there is no need to engage in a futile act. I don’t think this needed to be spelled out. (If we had spelled it out, we may have been accused of infantilizing our audience.) The advice to communicate privately at first applies to situations where it’s possible to avoid a needless public battle.

Question 2: [Do you understand why not addressing problematic behavior in public is a problem in and of itself?] I’m not an absolutist in many things, and I’m not an absolutist on this issue either, nor do I suggest that you or anyone else should be. Sometimes private communication is better; sometimes a public statement is better. It depends on the situation and also what you mean by “problematic.” See my answer to Watson #5 below.

Question 3: [Many women, this woman included, feel that the Open Letter give shelter to our abusers, a bludgeon to silence us with, and treats insults and rhetoric as equal in badness to “slurs, expressions of hatred, and threats.” Can you see why this is a major issue for women and PoCs, and will prevent many of us from endorsing it?] I do not interpret the Open Letter as you do. The Open Letter explicitly condemns blogs and comments that exhibit hatred, including rape threats and insults denigrating women. The Open Letter nowhere equates a rape threat with mere rhetoric, however tendentious.

Question 4: [Holding private conversations about equal rights and problematic behavior such as racism, sexism, or ignoring minority voices has historically done little to solve these issues, while taking the conversations public has proven to be very effective. How do you respond to the concern that privacy will allow problems to fester, fail to be effective, and ends up silencing minority voices?] Again, I think you’re misreading the Open Letter. It is not recommending privacy for all communications, all the time. Sometimes public condemnation is appropriate. Judgment is required.

Question 5: [The focus on internet behavior ignores the fact that many of these problems begin and continue offline. It also focuses on tone and gives the appearance of ignoring substance. What is your response to these concerns? Were you aware of them while drafting this letter? If so, why were they not addressed?] As indicated, the Open Letter was a product of discussion among some twenty (or more) people. It was a compromise among people with different perspectives. The consensus was that we should strive for unity, and the Open Letter was a statement almost all groups could endorse. Another statement would not have achieved the same level of unity. Nothing in the Open letter precludes individual organizations from implementing policies or taking action on issues not addressed in the Open Letter. I am aware that harassment, sexist behavior, and other forms of unacceptable conduct occur offline.

Question 6: [Will there be a follow-up open letter explaining what concrete steps your organizations will be taking to end harassment in the secular community? Do you see why merely expressing support for the idea of equality, rather than committing to concrete actions, fails to impress people who have suffered abuse from or been ignored by those proclaiming their belief in equality? Do you see why the letter’s emphasis on civility rather than addressing specific concerns alienates the people whose equality you claim to care about?] I cannot predict what other organizations might do. I doubt if Heads as a group will do much more in the near future simply because there is a significant problem with coordinating action between annual meetings. CFI addresses the problem of harassment in our current policies. We may adopt further relevant policies. Our policies are continually being reviewed to ensure they address issues of concern to members of our community. Regarding the Open Letter’s emphasis on civility, it should not alienate people if they understand the limits and focus of the Open Letter.

Question 7: [How do you respond to those of us who sincerely regard this letter as an attempt to maintain the status quo and ignore the serious issues of sexism in the secular community? Do you think that asking the abused to speak nicely to their abusers is actually helpful?] Regarding the first part of this question, please refer to my prior responses on the specific focus of the Open Letter. Regarding the second part, the Open Letter does not ask “the abused to speak nicely to their abusers.” There is no sentence resembling this statement anywhere in the Open Letter. This is your characterization, and, respectfully, this is a mischaracterization.

Question 8: [If the letter was advising how secular organizations should respond to harmful religious practices/beliefs/actions, or how to respond to racism in the secular community, would you still support it without reservation?] To repeat myself, the Open Letter’s focus was on online conduct, not the broader issue of sexism, so your examples are not analogous. That said, I favor civility where possible. Civility does not imply inaction in the face of objectionable conduct. It never has. Gandhi and King were civil, but they were far from passive. Similarly, with respect to religion, Harris, Hitchens, Jacoby, Dawkins, and Dennett, as well as many others, have been civil, but they have also been vigorous opponents of the harm caused by religion.

RW Section [The following questions arise from the comment you left on Rebecca Watson’s post. These are questions that subsequent commenters wish see you answer.]:

Question 1: [Instead of addressing specific criticisms of the open letter made by Rebecca Watson, American Secular Census, and Secular Woman, you asked for a “fair reading” of the letter. What, in your view, constitutes a “fair reading”? How have these women been “unfair” in their reading so far?] A fair reading of the Open Letter would examine its contents in the context of the problems it specifically set out to address. Such a fair reading would proceed paragraph by paragraph and state whether the points contained therein are wrong or provide advice that should be rejected. I do not think this type of analysis was done by all critics.

My comment was not specifically directed at any one individual, although obviously I did have Rebecca’s post in mind when I made my comment. One statement by Rebecca I thought was particularly unfair. She suggested that the leaders who endorsed the Open Letter “stop etching tablets” and instead “start actively participating in the massive feminist fight against the Religious Right.” CFI has been advocating on behalf of women’s rights for years. It is an integral part of our mission. We’d love to do more. Give us more funds and we’ll do more. I’d be thrilled to have another staffer who could focus exclusively on advocacy for women’s rights, especially in the area of reproductive rights, which are currently under a coordinated assault.

Question 2: [Not one person criticizing the letter has demanded that it “solve all the world’s problems.” They have pointed out how its call for online civility fails to address the serious problem of sexism in the secular movement, which is the source of much of the incivility. How do you address those specific criticisms?] I think everyone who belongs to Heads recognizes that sexism isn’t confined to the Internet. There were differences of opinion on how best to address sexism. Consequently, at this time there was no consensus on the wording of a statement that would address sexism apart from this one paragraph:

The principle that women and men should have equal rights flows from our core values as a movement. Historically, there has been a close connection between traditional religion and suppression of women, with dogma and superstition providing the rationale for depriving women of fundamental rights. In promoting science and secularism, we are at the same time seeking to secure the dignity of all individuals. We seek not only civil equality for everyone, regardless of sex, but an end to discriminatory social structures and conventions – again often the legacy of our religious heritage—that limit opportunities for both women and men.

Question 3: [You take issue with Rebecca’s characterization of the letter as delivered from “on a mountaintop,” but several people offering criticism have explained why the letter gives the impression of a top-down approach. They note that it contains “you statements” – prescribing the conduct you expect from others – and does not contain concrete actions you will take to address these issues, other than a problematic boilerplate pronouncement against insults etc. and moderating comments. How do you respond to these specific criticisms? Do these criticisms help you understand why the letter presented itself as a series of “thou shalts” rather than “we wills”?] I still take issue with the characterization of the Open Letter as being issued from a “mountaintop.” I admire the craft that went into this rhetorical flourish, but am disheartened by its unwarranted suggestion that those who put the letter together view themselves as religious leaders issuing dogmatic pronouncements. There is no justification for this. I presume the members of the secular movement want their leaders to talk about issues and where possible commit to taking unified action. If one is disappointed that they did not address all the issues that one thinks should have been addressed, then, fine, state that. But there is no basis for attributing to them a Moses-like mindset.

You are mistaken, as are others, in implying that the Open Letter has lots of “you” statements. The “you” statements are confined principally to the one paragraph that has drawn so much attention (that is, the paragraph suggesting private communications as a possible alternative to public communications.) The “we” statements in the Open Letter far outnumber the “you” statements. Perhaps the signatories can be accused of inconsistency in pronoun use, but bad grammar does not equate to a top-down approach.

Question 4: [Many of us have no desire to “heal the rifts” between us and our abusers. Would you insist that battered women “heal the rifts” with their batterers? Should we reach out to appease those who write for hate groups like A Voice for Men?] Please reference prior answers. This set of questions, as with others, attributes to the Open Letter advice that is not contained therein.

Question 5: [Did you pick up the phone and speak to Rebecca before writing your comment? If not, why did you neglect to follow the procedure laid out in the open letter that you signed?] No I did not speak to Rebecca before writing my comment and I do not accept your suggestion that my failure to speak to her somehow indicates I was neglecting advice set forth in the Open Letter.

These questions seem inspired, again, by that one paragraph in the Open Letter which recommends that private communications be considered as an alternative to a public communication. However, to infer that one must always talk or write to someone before posting a comment on a blog is to misinterpret the intent of the Open Letter. The intent of that one paragraph of the Open Letter was to suggest private communications as an alternative — where feasible — to starting a public battle. Sometimes this may not be feasible, in part because battle lines are already drawn. Other times, private communication may not be necessary because one’s comment is of the type not likely to be considered incendiary. I think my comment was reasonable, not inflammatory.

But the fact of the matter is I did write privately to Rebecca, Stephanie Zvan and Kim Rippere after my comment. I had some concerns which I did not raise in my public comment. These were discussed. There was still disagreement at the end, but I made a deliberate decision not to go public with my remaining concerns because I thought it might create an unnecessary battle, yielding divisiveness instead of respectful disagreement. Private communications are not always better, but they are sometimes better.

I hope this answers your questions.

So I got this email, and read it a few times, and while I was grateful he’d taken the time to answer lil ol me, I was still left with a few odd flavors on my tongue:

1. It might have just been me, but I felt like I’d just been lectured to by a condescending jackass.

2. He never did understand that the questions I was asking were synthesized from the questions and concerns of dozens of people in the comment sections of several posts, regardless of the fact I reminded him of that several times. This did not boost my faith in his reading comprehension skillz.

3. He’s relying on “fair reading” and “misconception” to protect his ass. It sure as shit didn’t work for me.

But, y’know, whatevs. I was willing to give him the bennies of the doubts, and chalk it up to him being in a rush and all that, and figured that he probably wasn’t such a bad sort at heart. But then came WiS2, and there are no more bennies of the doubts. Not when the man’s so busy with a backhoe digging his way to the opposite side of the Earth that he can’t hear the united chorus of people who are extremely put out by his extraordinary bullshit. You are all welcome to read the above exchange in light of subsequent events and form your own conclusions. And should you wish to see the entire email chain, I will publish it.

And Ron? If you’re reading this and bristling at my tone, I invite you to pause and consider how your own tone might be improved, and how in the future you might manage to avoid pissing off nearly every woman (and a good chunk of the decent men) in our movement. I wish you every success with your contemplative endeavors.

“A Pattern Called a War”

Memorial Day… Traditional to remember the sacrifice of soldiers on this day, the battlefield fallen. And we do. But today, let’s also remember those the fallen leave behind.

“Au Jardin.” Gioacchino Pagliei via Wikimedia Commons.


by Amy Lowell

I walk down the garden paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jewelled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern. As I wander down
The garden paths.

My dress is richly figured,
And the train
Makes a pink and silver stain
On the gravel, and the thrift
Of the borders.
Just a plate of current fashion,
Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes.
Not a softness anywhere about me,
Only whale-bone and brocade.
And I sink on a seat in the shade
Of a lime tree. For my passion
Wars against the stiff brocade.
The daffodils and squills
Flutter in the breeze
As they please.
And I weep;
For the lime tree is in blossom
And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom.

And the splashing of waterdrops
In the marble fountain
Comes down the garden paths.
The dripping never stops.
Underneath my stiffened gown
Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin,
A basin in the midst of hedges grown
So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding,
But she guesses he is near,
And the sliding of the water
Seems the stroking of a dear
Hand upon her.
What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown!
I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground.
All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground.

I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths,
And he would stumble after,
Bewildered by my laughter.
I should see the sun flashing from his sword-hilt and the buckles on his shoes.
I would choose
To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths,
A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover,
Till he caught me in the shade,
And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he clasped me,
Aching, melting, unafraid.
With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops,
And the plopping of the waterdrops,
All about us in the open afternoon
I am very like to swoon
With the weight of this brocade,
For the sun sifts through the shade.

Underneath the fallen blossom
In my bosom,
Is a letter I have hid.
It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the Duke.
“Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell
Died in action Thursday sen’night.”
As I read it in the white, morning sunlight,
The letters squirmed like snakes.
“Any answer, Madam,” said my footman.
“No,” I told him.
“See that the messenger takes some refreshment.
No, no answer.”
And I walked into the garden,
Up and down the patterned paths,
In my stiff, correct brocade.
The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun,
Each one.
I stood upright too,
Held rigid to the pattern
By the stiffness of my gown.
Up and down I walked,
Up and down.

In a month he would have been my husband.
In a month, here, underneath this lime,
We would have broke the pattern;
He for me, and I for him,
He as Colonel, I as Lady,
On this shady seat.
He had a whim
That sunlight carried blessing.
And I answered, “It shall be as you have said.”
Now he is dead.

In Summer and in Winter I shall walk
Up and down
The patterned garden paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
The squills and daffodils
Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow.
I shall go
Up and down,
In my gown.
Gorgeously arrayed,
Boned and stayed.
And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By each button, hook, and lace.
For the man who should loose me is dead,
Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
In a pattern called a war.
Christ! What are patterns for?

Sunday Afternoon - Ladies in a Garden. Detail of painting by unknown English School artist.

Sunday Afternoon – Ladies in a Garden. Detail of painting by unknown English School artist.

War is a tragedy. War destroys lives and causes unmeasurable suffering. It should never be entered in to lightly: lives are too precious to waste. We forget that all too often.

Every Memorial Day, I hope we remember.

Geotrippin’ Parte the Thirde: To the Bat Cave!

On the dawn of Day Four, I was about to say, “Sod this for a game of larks – let’s go back and see the bits of the Josephine we missed!” Because, you see, we were headed for Oregon Caves. And I’ve been through caves. And they never let me take pictures. So I end up tromping through all of these spectacular things, and I can’t show you a damned bit of it. Sure, I could purchase other photographers’ work, or find park service photos, or something, but that’s not the same as letting you see it the way we saw it. And that makes visiting caves sort of anticlimactic for me.

But we went, and Lockwood said he’d read that they allow photography, and I squeed. Then they said they allow flash photography, and I nearly screamed for joy. Finally, a cave that is awesome, protected, and that I can show you! I took about nine billion photos, and will show many of them to you when we have a proper write-up. For now, here’s a photo of me providing scale for one of the columns.

Moi with column. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

Moi with column. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

So one thing I love a lot about this cave, other than the fact they allow photography, is that the rangers leading the tours talk about the geology thereof. Also, there are bats, so you can call it a bat cave. Although we didn’t see any bats this time round.

The other thing I adore about this cave is the fact that it’s made of marble. Kind of low-grade marble, but marble none the less. And on the walk to and from the parking lot, you can see some pretty spectacular folds in it.

Moi with fold in marble. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

Moi with fold in marble. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

We met some very nice folks working there for the summer who knew lots about geology and were excited to talk about more. The woman who led our tour even let it go over a bit because Lockwood and I were so busy snapping pictures of great geology. She even pointed out the dikes and other nifty geological features that Hiking Oregon’s Geology said the guide would neglect to mention, so that was awesome – great improvement, Oregon Caves! I like it when geology doesn’t get ignored. It too often does, even when the tour in question is touring a geological feature.

Our own Helena has volunteered at this cave, and she’s helped repair bits of it, so give her a thank-you when you go through those spectacular rooms.

After the caves and lunch, we headed north and did some poking round near Riddle, OR, which has a nickel mine and therefore interesting minerals, but we were too busy looking for said minerals to snap pictures of each other. Then Corvallis – at a reasonable hour! – and a nice rest-up for our adventures the following day.

Of course we did Marys Peak – don’t we always, when we’re hanging about town? The thing about Marys Peak is, there’s always something new and wonderful to discover. This time, it was lots of early lilies. Lockwood seems to have had much fun photographing me photographing lilies:

Moi atop Marys Peak, stalking little lilies. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

Moi atop Marys Peak, stalking little lilies. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

And then we wandered down a trail we’d taken last year. This year, it had snow near it still – and more lilies, although you can’t see them.

Moi investigating leftover snow. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

Moi investigating leftover snow. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.


Then, when we got down off the peak, it was time to go visit Alsea Falls, which is magnificent – and amazingly accessible. First, you hike through a pretty green forest with a lovely big bridge.

Moi on bridge. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

Moi on bridge. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

Then you hike down and can stand pretty much right at the top of the falls.

Ai haz a ponder about how close you can reasonably get before being knocked over the edge by the current... I'm a physical coward, so that's about as close as I got. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

Ai haz a ponder about how close you can reasonably get before being knocked over the edge by the current… I’m a physical coward, so that’s about as close as I got. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

Then there’s a simple trail to the bottom, where you can get a magnificent view of these falls plunging over their lip of Columbia River Basalt, and you can walk right up in to them quite safely, as long as you mind your footing (some of the rocks are slippery).

Moi at the base of the main plunge at Alsea Falls. I love waterfalls you can get right up in to. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

Moi at the base of the main plunge at Alsea Falls. I love waterfalls you can get right up in to. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

And then, the end. We returned to Corvallis, swapped photos, and I headed home to Seattle, arriving back at a reasonable (?!) hour. You know what happened next – the novelty of not coming home from a geotrip with Lockwood dead-exhausted sent me out in search of further adventures. And now I’m home with B, and the weather’s improving, we’ll be having many more. Some of which I’m hoping you’ll be able to come along for.

We’ll soon have some in-depth looks at the geology we saw. Stay tuned!

Geotrippin’ Parte the – Oh, Crap, I Forgot Cape Blanco!

Going through photos for the next installment, I realized I neglected to mention the stop by the fastest-rising most-westernest bit of the Oregon Coast on Day the Seconde*. Sorry bout that. Here ’tis:

Moi at Cape Blanco. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

Moi at Cape Blanco. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

Those holes I’m staring at are places where birds live, carved into this very soft sandstone and conglomerate. That’s at the top of the Cape – the underneath parts are made of sterner stuff. B and I might hike the whole thing someday, given half a chance – he’s the sort of person who looks at the elevation diagrams for various hikes and thinks we should try the challenging ones. I’ll turn him loose on the Oregon Coast and see how much up-and-down it takes before he hollers uncle like Lockwood and I did last March. This up-and-down will be awesome, though, because it’s some of the oldest rock in Oregon. I’ll happily induce suffering in my leg muscles for a closer look.

We found a nice outcrop of some of it that wasn’t inside park boundaries and went after it with hammers. But not the whole time. There was a good bit of staring into a nice serene valley and going “Aww, pretty!”

Moi gazing at lovely little valley. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

Moi gazing at lovely little valley. Image credit Lockwood DeWitt.

Right. So that was Cape Blanco. Back to normal chronology…


*For those wondering: I’ve been doing the “Parte the…” thing long before encountering Comrade PhysioProffe and his eccentric spelling habits. I just like faux Olde Englishe sometimes. It amuses me.