Runcible Blog

from: The Light In The Forest

A quote from The Light In The Forest by Conrad Richter:

"You want me your friend, you say. Maybe you want me to do like you. Want me baptize or pray to your God or believe things I be sorry for afterward." There was an awkward silence. The parson flushed.

"I do want you to believe certain things that are good for your soul," he admitted. "Things that nearly all your white race believe in and practice. And I do want you to do some of the things I say. For instance, to treat your mother with kindness. Also, not to steal or swear."

"Indian only swear like he learns from the white man," the boy said. "My father says when he is a boy he hears white man say God damn. God damn when it rain and God damn if powder don't go off. So my father says God damn too. Then somebody tells him what God damn mean – that the Great Spirit must burn it in hell fire forever. He is surprise. How could the Great Spirit bother to burn in hell fire forever powder that don't go off? For why would he burn rain when he made rain and sent it on earth? After that my father don't swear. He tells me never swear. It's the white man's lie."

"Well, I'm glad to hear such precepts from a pagan," the Reverend Elder said with dignity and just a little sarcasm. "Did he also instruct you to trust your mother and father with love and obedience?"

"Always I treat my father and mother with love and obedience."

"He means his Indian father and mother," Aunt Kate explained. "He won't believe that his Indian father ever did anything bad and horrible like scalping white children and dashing their poor brains out against a tree."

"Is not true!" the boy cried, getting to his feet swiftly. "But is true that white Peshtank men killed Conestogo children, and Colonel Elder is captain of Peshtank men."

The shape of sarcasam rounding and modeling Parson Elder's mouth slowly disintegrated. His face showed pain.

"No one knows better than a preacher of the gospel the dark unfathomable heart of man," he said sadly. "Sometimes even the most exemplary Christians get out of hand."

"Does good man like preacher get out of hand, too?" the boy asked.

The parson gazed at him steadily.

"No, not often," he said. "I did what I could. As their military leader, I ordered them to disperse and go home. But they refused. Had I persisted, they would have killed my favorite horse."

"Better your favorite horse dead than the favorite young ones of the poor Indians," the boy asserted.

Trump Is Not My President

When people say, “he’s not MY president!”, I wonder what they mean. Citizens don’t have presidents; federal governments have presidents. Unless you work in the federal government, the president isn’t your boss.

I suppose they mean the president doesn’t represent the people who live in the country, or the country’s values. But why do we believe in countries, anyway? Why do we believe that something tangible called “The United States of America” exists across 4 million square miles of land, and no further?

If you take one step over the imaginary border between USA and Canada, then you’re in an entirely different region, with different concerns and problems. Step back into the USA, and you coexist with 350 million countrymen. If you live in New York, you can pretend to care about issues in California while being totally ignorant of issues in Ontario or Oaxaca, because those are other places, not your country. You can say you care about the plight of some identity group in this country, but you don’t know about the same identity group in another country. If someone were to bomb Muslims in Cleveland, you’d be outraged. When the same someone (for instance, the US government) bombs Muslims across the globe, you don’t even hear about it.

Despite our enlightened, progressive beliefs, human nature seems to act from tribal instincts. If you had to choose between sparing your friend or a stranger from Uganda, you’d choose your friend. And you’d choose your son over your neighbor, your pet dog over a pig. So, why do most of us pretend to care about the 350 million other people who live in this fabricated country? As long as you don’t care about the person in Bangladesh who made your t-shirt, you don’t care about an anonymous landscaper in Podunk, Iowa, either. If you don’t care about all beings everywhere — neighbors and foreigners, cows, trees, mosquitos — then you must admit that your compassion is limited, abstract, and tribalistic. And if compassion is tribalistic and abstract, why brandish it like a shield or sword?

Many upset voters now feel like the election of Trump is apocalypse for the U.S.A. Do they not realize that the federal government has been exporting apocalypse around the world? Militaries and institutions bearing this flag have turned Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and others into failed states, where every day feels like the end of their world. Even inside this fictional country, there are places full of people experiencing desperation and strife.

Electing somebody odious to manage one aspect of an imaginary nation isn’t itself “the end of days” for humanity. What is hastening the end of days is the way of living espoused by people who call themselves Americans. Every time we drive to work or the mall or turn on the television, we pollute the atmosphere and further all of humanity (not only the special “American” identity group) toward apocalypse. The economic system people have created relies on extraction and destruction. It’s entirely fictional, maintained by the mass delusion that this is the best [only] way to survive. “Currency” isn’t baked into our DNA or designed by a deity. Strip-mining, industrial agriculture, political parties, global networks of trade and information powered by limited resources — those aren’t requirements for any species’ survival. We participate because we believe, as we believe in “America”, the internet, clothing, three square meals, and millions of other, arbitrary ideas. Our ideas shape but cannot control reality. The consequences of our actions happen to be transforming the planet into a place inhospitable to human life. There are other ways of living that don’t rely on this particular scrapheap of ideas. We can change this reality by dropping and changing ideas.

After all, this constructed reality flows and expands from the basic delusion that “I” exist as a separate entity, and everything “out there” is not also me. Vast suffering results: ecosystem destruction, systemic oppression and it’s opposite — weaponized compassion.

As we fret about the imaginary future of an imaginary country, we can contemplate how these are just more ideas that contribute to reality — if held onto and acted upon.

Otherwise, they float away like bubbles and return to nonexistence.

goat birth


The high-pitched bleating echoed off the barn and alerted my ears to a special event. In the dark, I walked over to the greenhouse to find a miniature goat hopping around, making his first cries on earth. Mama goat calmly (or exhaustedly) observed, while the little one found his way to the nipple. The first hours are crucial, because the mother goat can't protect the babies from the weather; it's sink or swim. Nearby, his brother lie, with rear legs splayed out, looking dead, but breathing slowly. Occasionally, he'd lift his head and wearily look around. I don't know why he couldn't or wouldn't walk, but his future looked dim unless he could muster the energy to stand up and drink milk. Mama seemed to have given up on him, though she sometimes looked to him and licked his head. How could they survive the night?

The didn't survive the night. When I eagerly walked over in the morning, I couldn't hear a sound from the greenhouse. Looking in, the other goats stood around in a somber mood. Mama nudged her motionless baby, not yet convinced that he'd never move again. She stood there, confused. I tossed some hay in to distract the other goats so that I could enter the greenhouse and see if I could do anything. I felt both baby goats for breathing, looked into their eyes. Glazed-over eyes, tiny tongue sticking out, frozen dead. The splayed-out one never had a chance, but how did the dancing baby die? Not enough milk or enough cuddling to stay warm when it dipped to 27ºF? I have no idea. Mama sniffed at me, looked at me as if there were something I could do. We stared in each other's eyes; I pet her, as if it were some consolation.


Floyd had separated her from the others when he noticed the birth, and he gave her extra grain. I felt like she wanted to join the rest of her family, so I untied the fence to let her out. The other goats immediately ran in straight to the grain, almost stepping on the dead baby goats. Mama wandered past them, bleating loudly. I had no idea what to do. I could have called Floyd for help, but now I felt responsible somehow. I picked up the goats by the leg; they were surprisingly heavy for being less than a day old. I tossed them over the wall, onto the snow, figuring that they'd only be trampled on if I left them there. I jumped out of the greenhouse and moved the siblings closer together on the snow. Mama goat cried out inside, but after a while, she joined the small herd, standing together, with some after-birth hanging from her, and with a full bag of milk that'll never be drunk.

Outside, snow started falling a little heavier, and I worried that the babies would be covered, hidden – somehow that seemed undignified. What would Floyd do when he found them? I didn't want to see him and talk about it. All I could do was drive away from the farm.

siblings in the snow

Gospel of Thomas

I've been writing short responses/commentaries on the Gospel of Thomas recently. There are 114 verses, which means I've got another 50 days of blathering to do! Follow along and tell me what you say!

new poems (and a site)

I've been working on a new, experimental site for writing. I suppose it's like tumblr, except less spammy, customizable, or social! It's intended to mimic how thoughts appear and connect to each other. Try it out!
Here are some poems from there:


the blue wool sweater unearthed
from the wooden winter clothes box.
it hibernated under my house for the summer,
becoming home to earwigs, spiders,
and dust.

shaking the sweater forms a cloud of memories
sawdust of past productivity fills the pockets,
never completely empty.

initials sewn into the collar
evoke an unknown "J.B."
even the earwigs and spiders have died.

all day, the dust sneezing persists
while the must makes me smell older.
we carry on together
sharing warmth and purpose
for a time.

captor in a dream

as always,
you are the captor of reality
on a declining planet

when the sullen eye opens,
the captives dance like flames

captives and captor ensnared,
it may hurt less to see
nothing at all