Friday, September 30, 2011


One of the most beautiful songs ever written (by Woody Guthrie) or sung, at least to me right now (awakening from a nap) — you know how that is.

The film
Jesus' Son was just finishing with that most beautiful of all endings in the world: this song, and Billy Crudup's character walking away in full flop clothes and heart into the sunshine and the mountain range ahead.

I hope this is possible for someone, someday, again.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Hurricane Irene in our river and our road

Yes, it's come to pass — it's getting hard to believe one's eyes & ears.

I live in a state, Vermont, which is now declaring, after parts of the state was creamed by Hurricane Irene, that the flood damage to the state will reach 1 billion dollars. A lot of money. A drop in the bucket in a war economy (roughly the cost of one specialist aircraft, but never mind). And, of course, there will be those who will wish to fight against this flood relief for our state because: it is helping people. Regular people. Like you and me. Tax paying, paycheck to paycheck people. Fibrous threads that make a nation. Those who are against the relief will never admit they are against helping people, but yes they are against helping people.

How people think. We need to look at it.

We have neighbors, a fine couple, new to the region the last few years who have had to get used to the fact they own a somewhat known swimming-hole that sometimes gets used and even abused by one or two of an extended family. The family of sun bathers and swimmers do not live on our road, or from what I can tell, even close by. Sweetheart and I have bicycled past this swimming hole many summer afternoons only to see this family literally spread out in every sort of floating contraption, including deck chairs that sit in the river where you sit in them, doing nothing. Sometimes reading. For hours. Sweetheart and I wondered when our new neighbors ever got a chance to cool off themselves in their own swimming hole. A place almost private except for what this family has overtaken. I thought our neighbors were being quite tolerant, at a point of being almost too passive.

Then a letter arrived to us from these neighbors explaining what they were up to. They had contacted every neighbor about this plight, and then thought they would also write to us; we who abut their property and also have the other swimming hole on this road on our property. One would think we might have some experience dealing with swimmers with good manners and bad manners, and indeed we do. The neighbors’ letter was quite long and detailed and especially being careful at approaching this subject on the use of private land and public access to a waterway. Sweetheart and I thought it was a very good letter because it was mainly dealing with common decency to private land, misuse by some of the public, and how we have to come together as a community and protect what we have one with the other. These neighbors were posting their swimming hole "Private".

End of story? It’s never the end of the story.

This letter arrived before Hurricane Irene. In a week or less I'll be posting on the Birdhouse some short films I took at the zenith of the flood. One will be of this very swimming hole, which of course weathered it all okay. Our road was beat up and for awhile we were all stranded without access to & fro; many weren't sure if our covered bridge was safe to cross; utility poles were busted in half or washed completely away; lines were in the drink; no power; no phone; no guru. It was good to see some take to action themselves and rebuild access, help get power restored, buck up fallen trees and move rock, let others use a utility if they were without (thank you Noela and Michael, Eleanor), and basically stay civil and available.

I watched someone wreck up his tractor rebuilding rough road. I bet I could find this same individual and same make tractor in almost every town smacked by Irene. I've always seen this individual and worked with him. Usually happy-go-lucky just enough. They used to make them better, but they're still pretty good. At the end of almost a month of bulling and tearing they have real financial woes at repairing the machines that have repaired the roads. They don't work for the town, they just work for themselves and don't mind lending a hand.

I watched this all go along as I worked in a whole other mode and venue — on a small island on the river, just down from our house and a jump across the road and over the bank down to the river. Often I can ford the creek that is a side bar running off the main river in my tall rubber boots. When I make the time I build a stone crossway and get across over that. I've been building stone crossways on this river for forty years. You all know I even built a stone stairway to get up from the river to the road and loading logs I carry on my shoulder and toss into a pickup truck. It was the only practical way at this very slow and methodical way of cutting and lugging vast trees that were flattened, damaged and wupped by the flood. Lots of logs got cut up, lugged, and I must have climbed this stairway now 300 times. I'm a living woodland example of Stair Master.

I've been on this island working now for three weeks steadily, no day missed. Sweetheart is there to join me and always brings a jug of cold water and a Sansa apple. I've lugged out nearly three cords of firewood on my back, 4 foot logs, and made a jungle of proper brush piles that will rot back into the island. I still have whole trees, huge ones, laid up horizontal oak and maple and basswood framed there like a natural Oldenburg sculpture. I could slowly take it apart but I may keep it there as both a reminder of Irene (full testament), and as a blockade of sort for the next flood. There will always be a next flood. It could divert massive water from washing the island totally away. We had extensive damage as it is.

Which brings me back to our neighbors and their letter about those abusing their private land. It was only swimmers, but still, they can leave behind debris and over stay their proper stay. The other day, we were entertained by a neighborhood pesky flock who have never once in my three weeks working on the island ever stopped to say hello, or god forbid asked if I needed a hand. No, the ring leader of this flock just set his mind to organize whatever volunteers he could muster, and start where he elected, which happened to be on the far end of our river land, and storm the land with a chain saw and landscape tools, cutting willy-nilly however they wished on our land. Without asking.

Remember the swimmers and the outcry there?

These are now neighbors who I thought might know better, using whatever tools they wanted and at their own discretion, trespassing on our land, and doing what they wanted. I'm a stone's throw down the road working on the river. The ring leader and his wife have passed my truck, passed Sweetheart, I'm right there over the river bank, and with no intention on their part to stop and tell us what they are about to do. Sweetheart asks me, "Do you think I should go up and see what they are up to?" I said, "It's probably all right." I just saw a neighbor walking to the event with her little granddaughter, and it was the best example I could think of at showing the young what a good deed can be done. Thank goodness Sweetheart listened to herself and headed up and caught the flock at their play and menace. The ring leader actually had the gall to ask her, "Do you want our help or not?" after already trespassing and cutting, in a region we had already inspected a week ago and it was calling for no help whatsoever. A small circle of teenagers had snuck down on our land and found a sandy niche in a hollow to build a neat campfire setting, complete with flat rock seats and even back rests made of stone. I was impressed. Of course they never asked permission to do this, but it looked harmless, was close to running water, and no tree threat from a stray fire was evident. They were just recovering from a hurricane excitement in kid-council fashion. I liked their nerve. A bunch of Huckleberry Finns.

But some of this pesky flock is malicious, smug and self-serving. How effective a friendly apology from the ring leader could have worked wonders. Some in that group I know, know better, but they're properly tied up as hired-hands to a wealthier coterie. I've been there, I know the drill. When Sweetheart went up to see about the flock, and I must say I'm proud of her verve and determination at closing down this madcap citizenry with a single sweep "Wait! STOP!" with her arms; the ingenious ringleader informed her he had "No time to talk" to her (the landowner!) because they had a mission to accomplish. Anyone listening to this guy should have abandoned ship. The idea of cleaning up litter and debris along the road in trash bags is a neighborly grace. I commend anyone behind this service, and there were people in this work crew intent at performing just this service. It’s quite another thing watching a leadership take advantage of landowners, four long weeks after a flood, to get onto their property and take charge with a phony headline of “helping”. I’m just down the road slaving away at massive storm damage — be my guest, come and help. Come and talk. They wouldn’t think of it.

I've owned a truck full of chain saws in my time, more loppers and cutters and saws and implements of destruction to shake a rangy stick at, and I've cut in every position and angle and land mass and private and public property for customers and others in need, and I don't even want to think what I would deserve if I elected to one day visit anyone of those involved in this group and walk upon their land because I was "helping" and light up my saw and just begin to cut. Like I said, I didn't think it was worth Sweetheart being concerned — no one is cruel enough, after a flood, at taking issues into their own hands and exploiting other peoples land and sadness and actually avoiding any contact where the real work of help and assistance could be addressed.

The night before this flock arrived, a towering red oak toppled over on our land, taking a beech tree with it, and both fully crossed the river. A big chunk of the road followed suit. It's a mess. It happened at 10:30, in the hard rain, ground softening, loosening more and more, and when the trees fell it sounded like a head-on collision of two trucks. In the pitch black and rain and after the flood and all, I could only raise my head inside the house and guess. Whatever it was would have to hold until daybreak. After all the clean up work done on the nearby island, it's one more moral lesson on how mother nature just keeps on giving. When the river freezes over I can get down there on the ice and slowly work up the trees. I already scaled across the big oak to have a look and it's a mainstay bridge for any animal crazy enough to cross. In fact, just as I am finishing this paragraph, the town road boss has called and left a friendly message there may be a way to get down under those trees with machinery and work them free. If we all can, we all will.

Welcome to good times.

photo © bob arnold

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

(talks back to Hurricane Irene)

photo © bob arnold

Tuesday, September 27, 2011



This short clip should be self-explanatory; make up your own minds. I've called it the way I see it and have experienced something like this first hand, recently in fact.

The boys in blue, at least in this instance, are trying to do their jobs: contain a small crowd, nonviolent on either side of the equation. Then these white shirted ones appear. . .

My thanks to good friend Donna Fleischer who first posted this clip on her website:

update ~
every act should be known by its name
the white shirt policeman is:
Anthony Bologna

Monday, September 26, 2011

100,000 POETS, PLUS 4 ~

celebrating with poets world wide an oral presentation with and for others, or even a river

Once In Vermont
film © bob arnold

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Charles Bukowski

the mockingbird

the mockingbird had been following the cat
all summer
mocking mocking mocking
teasing and cocksure;
the cat crawled under rockers on porches
tail flashing
and said something angry to the mockingbird
which I didn't understand

yesterday the cat walked calmly up the driveway
with the mockingbird alive in its mouth,
wings fanned, beautiful wings fanned and flopping,
feathers parted like a woman's legs
and the bird was no longer mocking,
it was asking, it was praying
but the cat
striding down through centuries
would not listen.

I saw it crawl under a yellow car
with the bird
to bargain it to another place

summer was over.

silly damned thing anyhow

we tried to hide it in the house so that the
neighbors wouldn't see.
it was difficult, sometimes we both had to
be gone at once and when we returned
there would be excreta and urine all
it wouldn't toilet train
but it had the bluest eyes you ever
and it ate everything we did
and we often watched tv together.

one evening we came home and it was
there was blood on the floor,
there was a trail of blood.
I followed it outside and into the garden
and there in the brush it was,
there was a sign hung around its severed
"we don't want things like this in our

I walked to the garage for the shovel.
I told my wife, "don't come out here."
then I walked back with the shovel and
began digging.
I sensed
the faces watching me from behind
drawn blinds.
they had their neighborhood back,
a nice quiet neighborhood with green
lawns, palm trees, circular driveways, children,
churches, a supermarket, etc.

I dug into the earth.


no faces
no faces
at all
laughing at nothing —
let me tell you
I have drunk in skid row rooms with
imbecile winos
whose cause was better
whose eyes still held some light
whose voices retained some sensibility
and when the morning came
we were sick but not ill,
poor but not deluded,
and we stretched in our beds and rose
in the late afternoons
like millionaires.


of late
I've had this thought
that this country
has gone backwards
4 or 5 decades
and that all the
social advancement
the good feeling of
person toward
has been washed
and replaced by the same
old bigotries.

we have
more than ever
the selfish wants of power
the disregard for the
the old
the impoverished

we are replacing want with
salvation with
we have wasted the

we have become

we have our Bomb
it is our fear
our damnation
and our

something so sad
has hold of us
the breath
and we can't even

crucifix in a deathhand

yes, they begin out in a willow, I think
the starch mountains begin out in the willow
and keep right on going without regard for
pumas and nectarines
somehow these mountains are like
an old woman with a bad memory and
a shopping basket.
we are in a basin. that is the
idea. down in the sand and the alleys,
this land punched-in, cuffed-out, divided,
held like a crucifix in a deathhand,
this land bought, resold, bought again and
sold again, the wars long over,
the Spaniards all the way back in Spain
down in the thimble again, and now
real estaters, subdividers, landlords, freeway
engineers arguing. this is their land and
I walk on it, live on it a little while
near Hollywood here I see young men in rooms
listening to glazed recordings
and I think too of old men sick of music
sick of everything, and death like suicide
I think is sometimes voluntary, and to get your
hold on the land here it is best to return to the
Grand Central Market, see the old Mexican women,
the poor. . .I am sure you have seen these same women
many years before
with the same young Japanese clerks
witty, knowledgeable and golden
among their soaring store of oranges, apples
avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers —
and you know how these look, they do look good
as if you could eat them all
light a cigar and smoke away the bad world.
then it's best to go back to the bars, the same bars
wooden, stale, merciless, green
with the young policeman walking through
scared and looking for trouble,
and the beer is still bad
it has an edge that already mixes with vomit and
decay, and you've got to be strong in the shadows
to ignore it, to ignore the poor and to ignore yourself
and the shopping bag between your legs
down there feeling good with its avocados and
oranges and fresh fish and wine bottles, who needs
a Fort Lauderdale winter?
25 years ago there used to be a whore there
with a film over one eye, who was too fat
and made little silver bells out of cigarette
tinfoil. the sun seemed warmer then
although this was probably not
true, and you take your shopping bag
outside and walk along the street
and the green beer hangs there
just above your stomach like
a short and shameful shawl, and
you look around and no longer
see any
old men.


Jane, who has been dead for 31 years,
never could have
imagined that I would write a screenplay of our drinking
days together
that it would be made into a movie
that a beautiful movie star would play her

I can hear Jane now: "A beautiful movie star? oh,
for Christ's sake!"

Jane, that's show biz, so go back to sleep, dear, because
no matter how hard they tried they
just couldn't find anybody exactly like

and neither can

about the PEN conference

take a writer away from his typewriter
and all you have left
the sickness
which started him
in the

Crucifix in a deathhand — this may be Bukowski's finest poem, amongst a cast of thousands. It may in fact be one of the best poems ever written by an American in the past century. It does rival Howl and The Waste Land parts, both poems written in madness. Bukowski would never submit to madness. He looked at and lived with the mad, worked with the mad, presupposed a Spanish North America fluent with landscape, vegetables, color, neglect, duende, death and redemption. He laughed at the Beats having no time to be Beat: he had mail to deliver, a warehouse to get to and then quit and move on, neighborhood bars and racetracks to tend to and rehustle the hustlers. Poems to write by the bucketload so his cartons of original books could dominate bookstore shelves to this day — more than anyone, if we are to be fair, even Mary Oliver. His overall text admits he could be cruel, he could be lovable. His range sweeps with Whitman, Dickinson, Villon, Poe, DH Lawrence, Joe Hill, Nietzche, Walt Disney, Sherwood Anderson, George Grosz, Woody Guthrie, all beer, Joe Blow, classical music by radio, juvenile delinquency. He was preposterous. He saw God, and kept on walking, tail swishing.

Friday, September 23, 2011


photos © bob arnold

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Henry Darger

please read:

Adolf Wölfli

Martín Ramírez

Henry Darger

paintings/images scanned from our personal library

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Nicanor Parra


Since man's life is nothing but a bit of action at a distance,
A bit of foam shining inside a glass;
Since trees are nothing but moving trees:
Nothing but chairs and tables in perpetual motion;
Since we ourselves are nothing but beings
(As the godhead itself is nothing but God);
Now that we do not speak solely to be heard
But so that others may speak
And the echo precede the voice that produces it;
Since we do not even have the consolation of a chaos
In the garden that yawns and fills with air,
A puzzle that we must solve before our death
So that we may nonchalantly resuscitate later on
When we have led woman to excess;
Since there is also a heaven in hell,
Permit me to propose a few things:

I wish to make a noise with my feet
I want my soul to find its proper body.


Ya que la vida del hombre no es sino una acción a distancia,
Un poco de espuma que brilla en el interior de un vaso;
Ya que los árboles no son sino muebles que se agitan:
No son sino sillas y mesas en movimiento perpetuo;
Ya que nosotros mismos no somos más que seres
(Como el dios mismo no es otra cosa que dios)
Ya que no hablamos para ser escuchados
Sino para que los demás hablen
Y el eco es anterior a las voces que lo producen;
Ya que ni siquiera tenemos el consuelo de un caos
En el jardín que bosteza y que se llena de airs,
Un rompecabexas que es preciso resolver antes de morir
Para poder resucitar después tran quilamente
Cuando se ha usado en exceso de la mujer;
Ya que también existe un cielo en el infierno,
Dejad que yo también haga algunas cosas:

Yo quiero hacer un ruido con los pies
Y quiero que mi alma encunentre su cuerpo.

translated by William Carlos Williams

My father spoke Spanish quite as easily as he spoke English. . .Spanish was the language spolken in the household. . .So that as children my brother and I heard Spanish constantly spoken about us. A steady flow of West Indians, South Americans, and other speakers of the Spanish language came to visit us.

from ~ Yes, Mrs. Williams, (1959)

compiled & edited by Jonathan Cohen
(New Directions, 2011)

Nicanor Parra is the great Chilean poet and mathematician magnificently still with us at age 97 (birthday was September 5, 1914). Many will say there is no greater poet alive in the Spanish language. And even greater still, Parra is the brother to the legendary folk singer Violeta Parra.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011



I took a

large living

room rug

out into the

sun to

clean —


there were

two butter-

flies on the

rug on the

grass and







end of summer

photo © bob arnold

Monday, September 19, 2011


“The path of least resistance is what makes rivers run crooked.”
—Elbert Hubbard

Sunday 18 Sept 2011
It's been three weeks now since Hurricane Irene, and a week since we biked/hiked down from Vermont into Massachusetts along the Green River, and the river road on the Vermont side is a mere few inches from being passable. Maybe a day or two more of work from our town road crew. That will make travel passable. Then the road will have to be top coated with gravel (if we're lucky) and smoothed over and await for a helluva mud season next spring. First things first. Returning from our hike Sunday morning before breakfast we could make out the yellow frame outline of a John Deere bulldozer hired by the town waiting to get after some more road and river. Dump truck loads have been going down and back all week, drawing out of the next town of Halifax, and we know the fuel truck deliveries to houses are using that same route. Somehow coming up over Stark Road from a main road in Massachusetts. A road usually avoided except by ones that know their best short cuts — to Colrain, to Jacksonville, to Whitingham, to Wilmington, to Readsboro, even to Bennington. Many of these towns, and others, still in rough, rough shape.

The road into Massachusetts down along the river from Vermont hasn't changed an iota since the flood. It's creamed. There are three houses stuck, stranded, kaput of any access short of ATV and on-foot. This time we left our bicycles tucked away in the woods on the Vermont border and hiked down and had a closer look in. One house built of prefab logs looks abandoned for now. The second log house, a bit newer, is up for sale and was up for sale before the flood. It's kept a small door light on for at least the past two weeks which now looks weakened. I helped peel the logs for this house when it was being built in 1973. The third house going south is owned by a friend and while there is no vehicle there we want to believe Meryl got out before the flood. She has a full clothesline of laundry hanging out in the sun. It looks promising.

One can't even begin to describe what destruction has hit many regions of Vermont and pockets of Massachusetts. Houses by the many dozens demolished. Other houses swum off their foundations and setting 100 yards from where they are supposed to be. Now what? Whole towns leached with spent fuel and toxins. Bridges in some towns bombed by flood water and it may as well be war.

When we got our phone service back my mother called from Florida and just wanted to make sure we were all right, the house was all right, and our cat was all right. I said yes to all three. She said, "Oh, good, so everything's all right." That's a mother for you. One who has felt hurricane winds in Florida, but not floods.

Vermont — except for up around the Champlain region, is one big gorge, crevice, valley, spillway of thousands of creeks, streams, rivers, ponds, waterways, springs — when it was time to let go, it let go like a hemorrhaging bleed. Think of a hospital in full emergency and not nearly enough bandages, stitches, manpower, or imagination. Mother nature works in one direction: force, even when it is quiet and subtle. To watch a flower blossom in slow motion is like watching and sensing the earth splitting open.

Irene changed river directions. Beautiful meandering peaceful and lazy wood-brained rivers that once flowed with the posture of earthworms, are in many cases now straightened, gallant, militant water streams. The rivers have said outright they are taking no-shit from anybody, so be careful and thoughtful how and where you rebuild.

I look closely at a friend who travels down from further north where his town was bewitched by the flood, stranded all of it for awhile, the National Guard and helicopters flew in. He's lost some weight even if he tells me, and I didn't ask, that he hasn't. His house is country smart built on a high plateau so all is fine but he can't move more than wiggle room in his truck. His wife was for awhile living in another town so she could still get to work. He's been backpacking dozens and dozens of miles over hill & dale to help out as a long time volunteer. He's tired. He's lost some meat on his bones. Depression comes to all of us post-hurricane. Everything you once knew and felt and sensed and heard from your homestead is a little altered, or completely gone. You're known as the hearty state with stalwart folks in small towns and villages who make their own way, but that doesn't hold water when a goodly portion of the new population is made up of microchip hardware buffs and they are fast-wired for needing quick results. Patience is going to occur in different ways.

Sweetheart takes a rest on the new river stone where we are cutting up flood trees and hauling them out on our backs and in our arms, and swears she hears trucks, heavy equipment, planes in the river. The small rapids are different. The new stone that flowed in with the flood is naturally rebuilt and fantastic, allowing a much fuller and cleansed sound. We fall asleep to it every night, wake to it. Constant. After awhile Sweetheart has to leave the job site and get away from it — there's something mad and even too male about all the post flood reorganization is how she explains it to me.

I'm cutting trees, full grown, plowed over and flattened to the ground by the flood. There's nothing like seeing ironwood, yellow birch, maple, ash, oak trees taken from the sky and pressed down at your feet. We've raised a red flag on a wisp surviving sycamore tree on this small island where we cut because everything that is standing and alive deserves a celebratory hug, including everything that once was and has washed away.

Returning from our hike this morning we were met by an out-of-state vehicle whose occupants flagged us down and wondered how the road was south of where we all stood. They had a second home a mile up river and had just made it here to have a look. Usually they took this road going back home to Connecticut. We told them there was no road. There wasn't even an Indian trail. They couldn't believe it, so they asked more questions and we talked some more until their faces changed and we got to know one another a little better and they turned around, like the handmade sign said to do, just up from where they passed.

photo © bob arnold

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Les Paul storming the stage in NYC at age 93

Saturday, September 17, 2011


(with added commentary by Cralan Kelder & Kent Johnson)

Cralan (in Amsterdam): I'm not sure i understand, how did you build a stone staircase?

new river rock? how did you shape it, or shape the stones? are they stones that were formed from human activity in the past, like cut.

Bob: Good questions!

I've never shaped a stone in all my working life with stone.

I take what I receive, make it work.

You remember our road in relation to the river — it's down over a high river bank (thank goodness).

Many trees came down full length with Irene and the flood, they lodged on an island we have in the middle of the river. Ravaged half the island in the process (took it away, gave us a new stone bed).

I began cutting the trees for firewood the past two weeks, but have to lug it to the bank and somehow get it up to the road. For some years now always cutting driftwood down there I have cut trees and split all the wood right on site. . .then between us, we carry the wood to the bank and I throw it up to Susan on the road. 15 feet or so.

That process is getting old with so much wood, and we're no younger. So I hand dug out a passage-way up the bank (think channel) and scalloped out sections for building in stone stairs, until I reached the road. Hook or crook. It's a dandy little piece of natural furniture, and right you are: all the stones (best flat) came down with Irene. I had used up all the flat stones available before Irene for other jobs.

Now it's cutting the trees to four foot length and shouldering that up the stairs to the road and the pickup truck. When the trees become larger (they will) I'll shorten the log length to 2 feet or less and split it right there and lug those splits up the stairs.

I had one worker pass by and it seemed like he was laughing at my stone tomfoolery. There's always a cynic.

Poetry best, Bob (liked your new one out of Africa)

Kent (also involved in separate cover, unrelated, same subject though):


I love the notion of cutting the stone stairway into the hill to bring the wood up. Something about form as an extension of content, there... Or is that the other way around? Or is it both, always?

Bob (subject matter on the email "Creelyish"):

I was down on the river today finishing up on building this stone staircase and had your crystal clear re-action to this job: "Something about form as an extension of content, there..."

I have to say, only from you this would arrive!

And I lugged more logs up the stone steps.




Kent Johnson & Cralan Kelder are both poets, memoirists, inventors, wiseguys, and everything they've published is important

some photos © bob & susan arnold

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Carl Oglesby

Carl Oglesby
w/Richard Davis,
Norman Grossman
Bob Fritz
Elmer Jared Gordon
George Edwards
Peter Psarianos
Tim Hauser
Seymour Barab
Mark Puleo
Vinnie Bell
Joe Mack
Bill LaVorgna

Vanguard Records


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

(another angle)

Amiri Baraka

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Shelter, edited by Lloyd Khan (Shelter Publications, 1973).

I first read this massive masterpiece on hand-built housing, building crafts, and networking tribes and people the year it was published. It looks as grand and attractive in any bookstore now as it did at its first appearance. Done right, the book is displayed front facing and on a mantel all its own. Yesterday, I was holding the 10th printing in both paws and easily remembering every page. It's thrilling to see how many photographs are in the book detailing earth homes and earth lovers from around the world. It's a compendium of both nuts 'n' bolts and dream-like splendor which can't be knocked.

Here's an address for you landlubbers: Shelter Publications, PO Box 279, Bolinas, CA. 94924.

Website for others:

Monday, September 12, 2011


Sunday 9/11
We're just home from ten miles of rough road travel on bicycles along the river from our home in Vermont down into Massachusetts.

Our town road crew has stepped it up nicely at getting at least part of the Vermont road passable all this week. Every house down along the river now has access. A pretty darn good accomplishment since dear Irene was two weeks ago today. Everyone seems to have their vehicles now parked at their own homes, instead of a mile or half mile away, sidelined.

There's still one mile of road on the Vermont side hugging the river that is wiped out. We carried our bicycles over that part. Culverts shot, stones slabs thrown like styrofoam, culverts beached. It's primeval in there, relatively wild, it's always been one of my favorite locations on the river. The ledge is ledgier, the woods are soaked and thicker, the road just sidewinds and asks forgiveness to get a little further if you please, especially in the depth of winter. There are no houses in these parts.

If you think our Vermont part of the river is bad, take a look down in Massachusetts. We had to carry our bicycles for a good half of two miles before we hit the main road, which is still a back road spur as far as any road commission is concerned. For me it's where Dennison Lumber used to be, where I used to go for sawed hemlock and poplar and v-joint pine and spruce flooring and bags of mortar and 25 pounds of nails once upon a time in my work. The sawmill is over with long ago but I could see when we finally got down there that the river had kept away from making any serious damage.

Where we're headed to is the Ten Mile Bridge that is the go-between for the towns of Colrain and Leyden, Massachusetts. We heard the legendary Octagon House was about all gone with the flood and it's almost too sad for words to express anything more for what this must mean for that family. I had my camera and was taking films and photographs all the way down on this travel but I couldn't bring myself to take a photograph of where that house had once stood. It seemed cruel. We stood on the bridge awhile and just imagined what the river looked like cutting out a treacherous path. The scars are all fresh.

Up from the bridge and back on the Colrain side we figured now was as good a time as any to go visit my old friend Chuck Lynde way up high on the mountain of Avery Road. If I knew he was as high as he was, stuck fast on a dead end of a mountain, I might have come another day. But I've been saying we would visit one of these days and I've been saying it for almost 40 years, so we picked post-Irene to come and say hello. It's a hike-the-bike about a mile straight up hill to get to Chuck's fort, with houses along the way mainly lived in by his extended family of many brothers and an elder mother's homestead where Chuck harbors his two logging trucks, various pickups and dumpers, wood-splitters, conveyor belt, and I noticed when passing an old Coca-Cola icebox chest on the front porch. Exactly like the one we would pull our cold glass bottles of Coke out of as kids, once upon a time, anywhere in America. 10 cents. It's a tidy two storey house in need of painting is mom's place. A glory view from that perch straight ahead into Vermont.

Up at Chuck's we found him in Sunday morning attire — hefty blue gym shorts and nothing else. Brawn body tan from logging all summer. He lifted his grandson into his arms and welcomed us inside like all good country people always do and we took a tour of the fort he's been telling me about all these years. An old woodstove about in every room, except maybe the bathroom, some hooked up, some not. Of the three wild cats we met "Tom", the oldest. Chucky's woodshed is almost empty because he's been delivering wood for months on end to everyone else except himself. The typical backcountry m.o. for most workers. Afterwards, coming down off the mountain and seeing the backside of his mother's place, I spotted the open pole barn spilling full of good blond firewood. Take care of mom.

The road repair in Massachusetts along the river is going to be a mammoth project. There's a giant Volvo backhoe parked on safe land with a monolith storage of all size stone and large rock which has been hauled out this way for probably the past two weeks by the looks of things. It looks like great methodical plans are in the works.

When returning up river we met a jogger on a better part of the road during our three hour outing. As I glided past her, and she was running hard, our eyes met and I said what I believe was the same feeling for both of us at that moment, "Nothing like a beautiful day." She returned a beautiful smile.

photos © bob arnold

we've now bicycled or hiked on-foot from the Hinesburg section of Guilford, down through Green River, including around Pulpit Mountain, further into Colrain and Leyden, Massachusetts following the river and Irene's path all along the way — in some ways this has allowed being a witness and cleansed the spectacle of post hurricane.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


with Hurricane Irene

Twelve days, post-Irene, we received back our phone service and returned to our home life of fetching mail and bookshop orders the old-fashioned way — wait & see.

This ended twelve days of road travel and finding curious ways of getting out of this river valley clobbered about by the Irene flood. The road is looking better — we now have two miles down river from the covered bridge that is part normal and part one-lane and be courteous to your neighbor also on the road. But UPS still won't come down.

I can remember this vivid portrait the day after the storm when we came back from searching on bicycles what had happened to this region, only to find half the valley neighbors caught on a river bed ragged left road, all-a-tangle and gossip, cars, trucks, ATVs, those on-foot and now we join on bicycles, trying to get through a bottle neck.

Service trucks to repair things couldn't even begin to get down, so first the neighbors had to rebuild parts of this road and pack it down with their determination at either having a town habit of getting-to-town, or simply needing supplies or some relief right after the flood. But the road got remade in pieces and lumps.

Next came the power company to restore broken lines in at least a temporary relief kit (piggybacking electric lines), then the town road crew made a long bumpy ride inspection, some dumptrucks of gravel followed, and after that we saw a pole setter crew out in the hard rain standing up new poles for the telephone repair to get underway. It took awhile. It had to take awhile.

We visited town and college libraries everywhere and everyone on the staff was accommodating and friendly. Stay positive cynics!

One day we found ourselves in the deep bowels of a basement reference library pretty with two or three brand new wide screen Apple Macs at our whimsy. After struggling and learning the ropes with Dells and whatnot's, on the final days of searching we got behind the controls of old and familiar friends. This only inspired us to climb throughout the library multilevel floors, dark and catacomb-like, monkish immediately in feeling, and tremendous thousands upon thousands upon many more thousands of books in all languages and subjects at our fingertips. Too overwhelming to even begin to want to concentrate. We were enthralled by the spectacle of so much tenderness to books. Our climbing brought us to a tower that was closed. Students have this paradise at their daily disposal.

Back to earth we were making mailing labels, by hand, going from small town Texas to big place Australia and elsewhere. From a country that Gallup now estimates is in a "disengagement crisis" costing America in the order of $300 billion in lost productivity annually. I don't see this happening in the library we are playing somewhat mischief in, nor the town. It seems to be on a progressive cycle with an in-grain network of wealth. This wealth has been usurped, stolen, taken, misplaced, earned, manipulated, inherited, maintained with a fluency from a vast resource much too complicated to point any one finger at, but I'm getting closer and closer to pointing. I only see terrific losses in the majority of other small town New England and forgotten hamlets. Places easily washed away. Places that once were the charm and mother lode.

What is haunting is the massive library of books — all lit by the big windows with the lights shut off — that appear in unison,
untouched. Clean, upright, deliriously rich title after title and not one book pushed or jiggled out of place; with a lone student burrowed into a study carol in one corner, ears plugged in, face eating a computer screen. Oblivious to our book phantom frolic. Does this matter where it is? It's in America.

During all these travel days I've had just the companion with us — Roberto Bolaño's
Between Parentheses (New Directions). Great title for all of us! A volume collecting most of the brash and stellar newspaper columns and articles published between 1998 and 2003. The more I read of Bolaño, and I've read everything translated into English, the more I miss him. He's the Gombrowicz of our time and every time needs a Gombrowicz. There's nastiness and tenderness to the Bolaño touch, just as there is in the best of the natural world. He's so fine at celebrating and dismissing. He can't help but be everlasting with these qualities. He happens to think humor and curiosity are the two most important components of intelligence.

I've also had
Anne Grimes Collection of American Folk Music, book and CD, and this has provided a wood nutty taste to the travels.

Last night our son Carson gave us a lift in from town where we had gathered up from a day of travel four satchels of books and things. Precious notebooks stashed away with precious notes in jacket pockets and inner sleeves. We'd all talk nonstop on the ten mile drive catching up on where we've all been and how things are.

Roberto Bolaño

top photo © bob arnold

Saturday, September 10, 2011


weather revision



The quickest
to change

world is

like it
way it


Archie Randolph Ammons grew up on a tobacco farm in North Carolina. Before he turned 40, he was on the English department faculty (this biology major) at Cornell University where he would later hold down the fort with fellow North Carolinian Robert Morgan. Years before Cornell, Ammons served in WW2, and later taught and was the principal of Hattaras Elementary School. It's been said that he had a school in Miami named after him. If this true, he is one of the few contemporary American poets, I believe, who holds such a distinction. Ammons was born in February 1926 and died the same month in 2001. His many books of poetry show a verve between the very long and very short poem. Emerson would have probably enjoyed his company.