Forecasting more than 48 hours into the future is usually science fiction or often just wrong.. But most of the computer forecast models I follow agree (right now) on a large, slow-moving storm pushing into the western U.S. late next week and through the holliday weekend.
Slow-moving storms are unpredictable and often stall and feed energy in one area while next door receives very little.. Stay tuned… I’ll be watching this potential storm closely and will of course update as the days tick by… It could be a powerful storm system…
Snowpack in the Lesser Caucasus mountains of northeastern Turkey. The surrounding region depends on snowmelt as a water supply. CreditDario Martin-Benito
Snowpacks are a vital source of water for humans, but they may shrink in some regions as the climate warms. A new study estimates how changes in showfall will affect water supplies.
Justin S. Mankin, an earth scientist at Columbia University, and his colleagues analyzed 421 drainage basins in the Northern Hemisphere that depend on rainfall and snowmelt, and then combined the data with several different climate models.
They found that 97 basins, currently serving two billion people, depend heavily on snowmelt. The scientists calculated that the likelihood the basins would receive less snow in the coming century was 67 percent.
The most sensitive basins in the United States include those in Northern and Central California, and those of the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers. Internationally, the Atlas basin of Morocco and the Ebro-Duero basin, which feeds water to Portugal, Spain and southern France, are also particularly sensitive to change.
“Water managers need to prepare themselves for the worst outcome,” Dr. Mankin said. The public can help mitigate threats to snowpacks by limiting contributions of greenhouse gas emissions, he added.
Dr. Mankin and his colleagues reported their findings in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison is the largest body of water in Colorado.
The final draft of Colorado’s first statewide water plan comes out tomorrow, and there are two big ideas behind it. First, the state is predicted to be hundreds of thousands of acre feet short of its water needs by 2050. Second, people around the state are connected. Snow that fell in the mountains this week will help feed taps in Denver, fields in Weld County and rivers run by rafters next summer.Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration encouraged water managers — and users — from around Colorado to formulate the plan. He chose James Eklund, head of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, to lead the effort. Eklund spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.
Eklund on why the plan sets a specific conservation goal for cities but not for agriculture:
“The reason we don’t set a conservation goal for agriculture is because the [agricultural] user has got to produce a crop. And if you’re asking them to conserve water, that means they are fundamentally diverting less water and growing less crop. That is a private property right in Colorado. So, if you want to ask them to get more efficient on the other hand, they can amortize that out over time, that investment to move from, you know, flood irrigation to sprinkler irrigation, they can absorb that cost over time and make a business case as to why they should improve their efficiency.”
On how the plan tries to protect flows in rivers across the state:
“We have about 1.5 percent of our rivers under some sort of a management plan… it’s very small… Yet that is where we find ourselves with watershed health and stream flow management. We’ve got to get better at that and we need to do it really rapidly, so that we know where we need to spend our money on environmental projects.”
On why the plan does not include penalties for falling short of the goals it sets:
“You look just to the West… California ended their year at 5 percent average snowpack, so we know that if you have to plan in a crisis, you sometimes have a really hard time at making everybody happy… Our plan, we believe, does quite a bit with the carrot approach.”
On what he hopes will happen after the plan’s release on Thursday:
“The challenges that we face as a state on water are so large that we have to really be hitting on all cylanders.” Eklund says that includes pushing for new legislation and executive rulemaking, starting with his request for more flexibility in how the Colorado Water Conservation Board can spend the money it gets in appropriations from lawmakers each year.
Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kurt Russell in “The Hateful Eight,” scheduled to be released on 100 screens in 70-millimeter projection. CreditAndrew Cooper/SMPSP/The Weinstein Company
LOS ANGELES — When Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” is released in a special roadshow version (with overture, intermission and additional footage) on Dec. 25, it will represent a feat worthy of the heist in the director’s “Jackie Brown.”
The film is scheduled to open on 96 screens in the United States and four in Canada, all in 70-millimeter projection, a premium format associated with extravaganzas of the 1950s and 1960s.
Yet from a theatrical standpoint, the technology is nearly obsolete. Last year, “Interstellar” opened in 70 millimeter at only 11 comparable locations. There were only 16 in 2012 for “The Master,” which renewed interested in the format. No film has opened with 100 70-millimeter prints since 1992. According to the National Association of Theater Owners, 97 percent of the 40,000 screens in the United States now use digital projection.
Over a period of a year and a half, the Weinstein Company, which will distribute the film, arranged for old projectors to be procured, purchased and refurbished and new lenses to be made for theaters.
“The charge that we got from Weinstein was that we needed to be prepared to do 100 screens,” said Chapin Cutler, a founder of Boston Light & Sound, the company hired to find and assemble the projectors.
Mr. Cutler said that the hunt began in January and continued through September. (The Weinstein Company plans to release a full list of theaters Thursday or Friday. The film is also currently facing calls for a police boycott because of Mr. Tarantino’s recent remarks about police violence.) Mr. Cutler discovered some worn-out machines in theaters and bought others from service companies. Some projectors dated to the 1950s. Gears, shafts, bearings and rollers had to be replaced, or in some cases the pieces had to be manufactured anew, based on original blueprints.
“We looked around for anybody who was selling them,” said Erik Lomis, Weinstein’s president of theatrical distribution and home entertainment. “We tried to keep it as quiet as possible as to why. Eventually word leaked out why we were looking for them, and then the price went up.”
Both Mr. Lomis and Mr. Cutler declined to comment on what the undertaking cost. Justin Dennis, the principal engineer at Kinora, a Chicago company that specializes in movie theater installations, noted the difficulty of setting a price for equipment that is no longer manufactured. He hazarded that he might charge $60,000 to $80,000 per screen to get the system up and running, not counting any costs for labor at the theater.
“We’ve been accused of actually cornering the market on 70-millimeter projectors,” Mr. Cutler said. “It’s probably pretty true. There probably aren’t too many out there that we didn’t find.” Most of them were destroyed, he added, during the conversion to digital projection.
“The Hateful Eight” is not just any 70-millimeter movie: It is only the 10th feature to make full use of shooting in Ultra Panavision, an extra-wide format, but it will actually have the technology’s largest opening in terms of screen numbers. Dan Sasaki, vice president of optical engineering at Panavision, said his company manufactured “basically a lens a day” during the production to retrofit its long-dormant technology.
Ultra Panavision is perhaps best-known among cinephiles for its unusual dimensions: It has an aspect ratio of 2.76:1, which means that the image has 2.76 feet of width for every foot of height. (By contrast, most American movies are projected at 1.85:1 or 2.39:1.) Mr. Cutler said there would be space at the top and bottom of most of the screens that show “The Hateful Eight.”
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Snow started to accumulate along the Hwy 550 corridor around midnight. The storm left a quick punch of heavy snow via high precip rates through the early morning hours. Snowfall intensity dropped off after sunrise and has been slower to accumulate today. Though, another surge is expected tonight, favoring the north side of the range.
This warm and sunny domingo is quickly transitioning with high clouds streaming into the area on SW winds bringing a good storm into Colorado. Particularly SW facing terrain of the San Juan Mountains.. The sharpening trough crashing into the mountain terrain could produce 10-20″ above TL & possibly up to a meter in favored locations. Current radar is showing California receiving heavy precipitation from the leading edge of this Pacific NW storm dropping down the coast and moving inland into the Great Basin today.
By mid-day Monday the trough will pinch off into a closed low and with a cold band of snow moving in from the west we could see extended action from this storm energy. Overall the southern San Juans will be favored for the heaviest snow with the best accumulation above 10,000′. This could be a nice storm.
Updated @ 16:30
High resolution NAM 4km model’s forecasted radar as of early Monday morning. See the heavy snow around the southern mountains ahead of the band, and then the heavy snow along the band that is working into western Colorado.
The same NAM 4km model shows the following snow totals through about mid morning on Monday. The deepest snow will be in the San Juans, with decent accumulations near the Utah/Colorado border associated with the snow band.
in a huge snowcave at 17,000 feet (mol) dug mostly by a manic paul sibley on mt. nampa in far western nepal…circa 1979? we spent days living there, waiting out storms and pondering the vastness of the tibetan plateau that spread out below us. i think nancy (nealy) and i truly needed billys arms around us.
I would like to take a moment to express my deepest gratitude for your support in writing the County Commisioners of San Juan County. At this time the proposal of the 5 “single-family homes” is denied. The County Lawyer Paul Sunderland outlined the building code which addresses most of our concerns as stewards of this land. Including: parking atop Red Mountain Pass, sewage systems, water systems, air quality with wood burning stoves, but most important of all, the potential density in the Red Mountain Mining District. If all the claim owners on Red Mountain were to build cabins the density would be unsustainable for this timberline environment. The building code for the County already has these concerns written into it to help prevent this type of development.
It would seem that any future development up there will be there will be very expensive for the property owner, because the burden of proof regarding impact to all the aforementioned items will be placed on the claim owner. It should be noted that in the past the County Commissioners have been quite lenient in favor of land owners with these requests.
All of your letters and support were a huge help in bringing forth our concerns of this place and I strongly believe had a huge impact. Thank you for taking the time.
Chris George and Family
Snow blows from a ridge on Red Mountain Pass. The winds of change are coming to the remote area as more development is taking place on the lower flanks. Last week, a Grand Junction developer submitted an application for five single-family residences in the vicinity of the St. Paul Lodge./File photo by David Halterman
Plan for five single-family residences submitted to San Juan County
by Missy Votel
The problems of Wolf Creek Pass are being mirrored on the other side of the San Juans, as Red Mountain Pass faces a mini building frenzy of its own.
On Oct. 28, Grand Junction resident David Dow formally submitted his plan to San Juan County commissioners to build five residences on private mining claims he owns on Red Mountain Pass. Members of the community spoke out against the development, expressing concerns over water, erosion and parking in the fragile high alpine environment. However, with a lack of many precise planning regulations in rural San Juan County, other than a one house per 5-acre rule, commissioners ultimately had their hands tied. In the end, Commissioner Scott Fetchenhier made the motion to table the issue until the commission’s Nov. 17 meeting in order to seek legal counsel on whether or not the five houses constitutes a subdivision. Subdividing lots in unincorporated San Juan County is prohibited.
To Chris George, longtime owner of the St. Paul Lodge, which is flanked on both sides by Dow’s property and would be surrounded by the new residences, there’s no question it does. “There’s going to need to be roads, driveways and what have you,” said George in an interview Tuesday night. “In my book, and most everybody’s book, it’s a subdivision. I find it totally ridiculous.”
George bought the St. Paul Lodge, built over an old mine, nearly 40 years ago. In that time, he has helped improve San Juan County Road 14, which is not maintained in the winter, and dug his own utility lines, he said. Since then, he has seen the area grow and become more popular with backcountry skiers accessing the nearby McMillan’s Peak and U.S. Basin. Both of those areas are Forest Service land, pockmarked with a few mining claims.
However, the bottom flanks of the mountain are a different story. In addition to the rustic St. Paul Lodge and it’s adjacent miner’s hut, there are two yurts and a house in the vicinity as well as the Mountain Belle and Addie S. huts, both owned by Dow. He also owns the Artist’s Cabin, at Chattanooga.
“(Dow) really wouldn’t reveal what he’s doing,” said George of the Oct. 28 planning meeting. “What happens when he turns them into vacation rentals?”
George thinks a moratorium on vacation rentals, similar to the one recently enacted in the Town of Silverton, may be needed to allow time for planners to address the issue.
“It’s rampant, uncontrolled development,” he said. “Enough is enough.”
Chief among his concerns is that for the land. “The surface disturbance is going to be extreme. This isn’t a barley field in Delta, there’s only about 18 inches of top soil up there,” he said.
In addition to the impacts on the land, George also pointed to concerns about water. The St. Paul lodge gets its water from a fen, which acts as a natural filtration system, but Dow plans to drill for ground water. “We’ve all seen what came out of the Gold King Mine. You can imagine what’s going to come out of a hole in the ground.”
He also expressed concern over the limited parking on Highway 550, which is already maxed out on most weekends. He worries the pass will become an exclusive playground for the rich, who will be the only ones able to afford property up there.
When contacted Wednesday morning, Dow said he had submitted an application to San Juan County for building permits on five pieces of property for single-family residences. He also was required to submit a sketch plan in order to get permits for three driveways, one of which will be shared by three of the residences.
For his part, he noted that structures will not be “houses” per se, but cabins of up to 1,000 square feet. They will all be off the grid and ski-in, ski-out in the winter. In addition, they will come equipped with engineered septic systems, as at the Mountain Belle, and drinking water will either be pumped from the ground or hauled in.
He dismissed concerns expressed over environmental impacts, water quality or ambiguity of San Juan County regulations. “The land use code has very strict rules about what you can and can’t do,” he said.
He did not speak to how the cabins will be used once built or any potential owners or buyers, other than to reiterate that they will be single-family residences. As for the problem of overcrowded parking, he said Red Mountain Pass does not appear to be alone.
“Parking on any given day, in a lot of places in Colorado, gets crowded,” he said. “A lot of day users park on the pass and don’t even own property up there.”
San Juan County Planner Bob Nevins did not return phone calls seeking comment by press time Wednesday. However, San Juan County commissioners could make a decision as soon as their next meeting, at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 10.
George admits commissioners are “between a rock and hard place” when it comes to telling Dow he can or can’t build. Nevertheless, he felt it was worth speaking up about his opposition. “I’ve got to give it a shot,” he said. “I knew instinctually this was going to happen one day. You know how busy it gets up there on a Sunday – it’s almost a zoo.
“But,” he added, “It’s still a beautiful place.”
To email the San Juan County commissioners: email@example.com
A wounded American soldier returning to the X-ray landing zone in the Ia Drang Valley, South Vietnam, November 15, 1965. Credit Neil Sheehan/The New York Times
A FEW weeks ago, an archivist at The New York Times discovered a small trove of photographs I’d taken 50 years ago while covering the first major clash of the Vietnam War between the American and North Vietnamese Armies. Though I had written about the battle for The Times, and later in my book “A Bright Shining Lie,” I’d completely forgotten about the photographs. Seeing them brought back a cascade of memories of one of my most extraordinary days as a young war correspondent.
It was Nov. 15, 1965, in the valley of the Ia Drang in the wild mountains of the Central Highlands of South Vietnam. That spring, the Saigon government had begun collapsing under the combined blows of the Vietcong guerrillas and the regular North Vietnamese Army units infiltrating down the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos. To save his Vietnamese protégés, President Lyndon B. Johnson had launched what became the big American War in Vietnam. The combined military might of the United States — the infantry of the Army and the Marines, the warplanes of the Air Force and the Navy’s carrier fleets — was arriving as fast as it could be assembled.
The lavish shelling and bombing by the Americans was taking a horrendous toll on the peasantry. Much farther north up the Central Coast, on Nov. 14, I had found a fishing village in which as many as 600 civilians were reported to have been killed by fire from American aircraft and Navy destroyers.
That evening, I telephoned the Times’s Saigon bureau to let them know what I would be writing. Charlie Mohr, the other reporter in the bureau and my boss, told me to head back up to Pleiku, the principal town and major air base in the Highlands, right away. The “Air Cav,” as the Army’s newest division was called, was apparently in a hell of a fight with N.V.A. units near there.
The First Cavalry Division (Air Mobile) was the Army’s revolutionary division. The troops of the Air Cav rode into battle in “slick ship” helicopters escorted by “gunships” fitted with superfast-firing machine guns and “rocket ships” that loosed barrages of 2.75 inch air-to-ground rockets from side-fitted pods.
Down the coast I hitchhiked through the night of the 14th on transport planes to the port of Qui Nhon, and then over the mountains to Pleiku. Except for some sensible restrictions, such as not writing about future operations, in those years reporters were free to cover the war wherever the fighting took us. There were no control gimmicks such as “embedding” a reporter with a single unit.
I was used to the quiet of the South Vietnamese Army headquarters at night. Pleiku Air Base was bedlam. Radios chattered loudly and the Army’s new CH-47 “Chinook” cargo helicopters clattered down to fetch another load of shells for the artillery that boomed and flashed through the darkness to the south.
The next morning I reached the artillery position about five miles from a clearing where the battle was taking place. Peter Arnett, an old friend and comrade reporter of many battles, had landed in another helicopter a few minutes earlier. The morning was crisp but the gunners were stripped to the waist, slamming shells into howitzers and sending the high explosive hurtling toward the enemy as fast as they could close the breeches and jerk the firing lanyards. “Battalion Rear” headquarters consisted of a major in a tent with a radio tuned to the main battalion radio in the clearing. It was my third year in Vietnam and Peter had been covering war somewhat longer. We had stayed alive by exercising a certain amount of caution. We asked the major what was happening. He said there was a lot of shooting going on at the clearing. We decided to wait five or 10 minutes in the hope there might be a lull. Time up, we went back to the major. Still bad, he said.
Peter and I looked at each other. We knew we had to get in there. “Screw it!” we yelled and ran to the nearest helicopter and leapt on. Despite the risk, the Air Cav pilots were continuing to fly ammunition into the clearing and lift out the wounded. The pilots of our helicopters took the machine up to about 2,500 feet to get their bearings on “X-ray,” as the clearing had been code named. The scene below was terrifying, a circle of hell full of bursting artillery shells and the bombs and napalm of the jet fighters that were stacked up over the clearing and called in one after another to swoop down and unload their cargoes of death. The napalm canisters were a handsome silvery color. They tumbled end over end until they hit and burst into flame. One wondered how the Vietnamese could stand it.
Our pilots suddenly dropped down and dashed in over the treetops, “flaring” the rotors as soon as they were in the clearing, which had the effect of braking the machine in midair. Reporters were expected to make themselves useful. Peter and I tossed out the cartons of ammunition and helped to lift in a couple of stretchers with wounded men as a bullet thwacked into the fuselage and others buzzed by our ears through the open doors. Then we leapt out and ran for one of the man-high anthills that rose, like silent sentinels, among the trees at the edge of the clearing.
Lt. Col. Harold Moore Jr., the battalion commander, known as Hal, had established his command post beside one. “By God, they sent us over here to kill Communists and that’s what we’re doing,” he shouted exultantly. Colonel Moore was a tall, blue-eyed Kentuckian who had learned the trade of an infantryman at West Point and during the Korean War. His emotions were soaring at having just broken a three-and-a-quarter hour assault on the perimeter. But the Vietnamese were not gone. The survivors of the assault had hidden in the treetops, in clumps of high elephant grass, and had burrowed into the anthills. Whenever anyone moved, perhaps to carry a wounded man to the clearing for evacuation, one of them would cut loose with a Soviet-designed AK-47 automatic assault rife and more of Colonel Moore’s men would be killed or wounded before the sniper could be located.
It always galls me when I hear or read of the men who fought the Second World War as “the greatest generation.” On the first day of the battle, Nov. 14, Colonel Moore assigned his C (“Charlie”) Company the south and southwest sides of the perimeter. They had taken few casualties because the brunt of the assault had fallen elsewhere. None of the officers and men of the company had ever seen serious combat before. Shortly after dawn the next morning, hundreds of North Vietnamese soldiers, in loosefitting khaki fatigues that blended well with the terrain, rose out of the elephant grass and rushed C Company’s foxhole line, seeking to overwhelm it. When the fight was over, Charlie Company had ceased to exist. Of the approximately 100 men who had seen daybreak, fewer than 40 were not wounded. There were gaps in the foxhole line where the dead and wounded lay. But the North Vietnamese attackers never managed to break through that line in sufficient numbers to threaten the battalion position, because the men of C Company, First Battalion, Seventh Cavalry, fought and died like the young lions they were.
They, and so many others who fought in Vietnam, were as great as any generation that preceded them. Their misfortune was to draw a bad war, an unnecessary war, a mistake by American politicians and statesmen, for which they paid.
Neil Sheehan is a former correspondent for The New York Times, and the author of “A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam.”
In this world of onrushing events the act of meditation—even just a “one-breath” meditation—straightening the back, clearing the mind for a moment—is a refreshing island in the stream. Although the term meditation has mystical and religious connotations for many people, it is a simple and plain activity. Attention: deliberate stillness and silence. As anyone who has practiced sitting knows, the quieted mind has many paths, most of them tedious and ordinary. Then, right in the midst of meditation, totally unexpected images or feelings may sometimes erupt, and there is a way into a vivid transparency. But whatever comes up, sitting is always instructive. There is ample testimony that a practice of meditation pursued over months and years brings some degree of self-understanding, serenity, focus, and self-confidence to the person who stays with it. There is also a deep gratitude that one comes to feel for this world of beings, teachers, and teachings.
No one—guru or roshi or priest—can program for long what a person might think or feel in private reflection. We learn that we cannot in any literal sense control our mind. Meditation cannot serve an ideology. A meditation teacher can only help a student understand the phenomena that rise from his or her own inner world—after the fact—and give tips on directions to go. A meditation teacher can be a check or guide for the wayfarer to measure herself against, and like any experienced guide can give good warning of brushy paths and dead-end canyons from personal experience. The teacher provides questions, not answers. Within a traditional Buddhist framework of ethical values and psychological insight, the mind essentially reveals itself.
Meditation is not just a rest or retreat from the turmoil of the stream or the impurity of the world. It is a way of being the stream, so that one can be at home in both the white water and the eddies. Meditation may take one out of the world, but it also puts one totally into it. Poems are a bit like this too. The experience of a poem gives both distance and involvement: one is closer and farther at the same time.
Traditions of deliberate attention to consciousness, and of making poems, are as old as humankind. Meditation looks inward, poetry holds forth. One is private, the other is out in the world. One enters the moment, the other shares it. But in practice it is never entirely clear which is doing which. In any case, we do know that in spite of the contemporary public perception of meditation and poetry as special, exotic, and difficult, they are both as old and as common as grass. The one goes back to essential moments of stillness and deep inwardness, and the other to the fundamental impulse of expression and presentation.
People often confuse meditation with prayer, devotion, or vision. They are not the same. Meditation as a practice does not address itself to a deity or present itself as an opportunity for revelation. This is not to say that people who are meditating do not occasionally think they have received a revelation or experienced visions. They do. But to those for whom meditation is their central practice, a vision or a revelation is seen as just another phenomenon of consciousness and as such is not to be taken as exceptional. The meditator would simply experience the ground of consciousness, and in doing so avoid excluding or excessively elevating any thought or feeling. To do this one must release all sense of the “I” as experiencer, even the “I” that might think it is privileged to communicate with the divine. It is in sensitive areas such as these that a teacher can be a great help. This is mostly a description of the Buddhist meditation tradition, which has hewed consistently to a nontheistic practice over the centuries.
Poetry has also been part of Buddhism from early on. From the 2,500-year-old songs of forest-dwelling monks and nuns of India to the vivid colloquial poems of Kenji Miyazawa in 1930s Japan, there is a continuous thread. Poetry has had a primary place of respect in Chinese literary culture, and many of the best-known poems of the Chinese canon are touched with Ch’an and Taoist insight. Some of the finest poets of China were even acknowledged Ch’an adepts—Bai Juyi and Su Dungpo, to name just two.
Although the Chinese Ch’an masters liked to say “The lowest class of monk is the one who indulges in literature,” we have to remember that blame is often praise in the Ch’an world. The Ch’an training halls, with their unconventional dharma discourses and vivid mimed exchanges, and the tradition of the Chinese lyric poems, shih, with their lucid and allusive brevity, were clearly shaping each other by the early Tang dynasty.
Ch’an teachers and students have always written their own sort of in-house poems as well. In formal gung-an (koan) study, a student is often called upon to present a few lines of poetry from the Chinese canon as a proof of the completeness of his or her understanding—an exercise called zho-yu, “capping verses” (jakugo in Japanese). Such exchanges have been described in the book A Zen Forest by Soiku Shigematsu, a Japanese Rinzai Zen priest. Shigematsu Osho has handily translated hundreds of the couplets as borrowed from Chinese poetry and proverb. They are intense:
Words, words, words—fluttering drizzle and snow.
Silence, silence, silence—a roaring thunderbolt.
Bring back the dead!
Kill the living!
This tune, another tune—no one understands.
Rain has passed, leaving the pond brimming in the
The fire of catastrophe has burned out all
Millions of miles no mist, not a grain of dust!
One phrase after another
Each moment refreshing.
These bits of poems are not simply bandied about between Zen students as some kind of in-group wisdom or slangy shorthand for larger meanings. They are used sparingly, in interviews with the teacher, as a mode of reaching even deeper than a “personal” answer to a problem, as a way of confirming that one has touched base with a larger Mind. They are valued not for the literary metaphor but for the challenge presented by the exercise of physically actualizing the metaphor in the present. They help the student bring symbols and abstractions back to earth, into the body. Zen exquisitely develops this possibility—yet it’s not far from the natural work of poems and proverbs anyway.
The Buddhist world has produced numerous poets and singers of the dharma whose works are still admired and loved. Milarepa, whose songs are known by heart among Tibetans, and Basho, whose haiku are read worldwide, are perhaps the most famous.
I started writing poetry in my adolescence, to give voice to some powerful experiences that I had while doing snowpeak mountaineering in the Pacific Northwest. At first I wrote “directly as I felt.” Then I discovered the work of Robinson Jeffers and D.H. Lawrence. Aha, I thought, there is more to poetry. I became aware of poetry as a craft—a matter of working with materials and tools—that has a history, with different applications and strategies all over the world over tens of thousands of years. I came to understand poetry as a furthering of language. (Language is not something you learn in school, it is a world you’re born into. It is part of the wildness of Mind. You master your home tongue without conscious effort by the age of five. Language with its sinuous syntax is not unlike the thermal dynamics of weather systems, or energy exchanges in the food chain—completely natural and vital, part of what and who we are. Poetry is the leap off of [or into] that.)
I ran into a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins with the lines,
O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep
This helped me realize that literal mountains were not the only place to climb. I was recovering at the time from a little frostbite suffered on a winter ascent of Mt. Hood. (It should be said that mountaineering is not simply some sort of challenging quest. It has that aspect, but for dedicated climbers the strategy, the companionship, and the cooperation is what makes climbing the game it is.) Climbing also opened me up to the impermanence, the total scariness, the literal voidness under my feet, the exposure, as we say, of consciousness itself. What deep and soulful thoughts that witnessing the gulf below can give you.
My interest in writing brought me to the twentieth-century modernists and Chinese poetry; and my thoughts on nature and wilderness brought me to Taoism and then to Zen. This growing awareness of Zen was also interwoven with the discovery of Chinese landscape painting. I studied classical Chinese with Peter Boodberg and Shih-hsiang Chen at Berkeley. I learned of the poet Han-shan in seminars with Professor Chen and began a little translating of my own. I came to see that some of the finest of the Chinese poems had a mysteriously plain quality, and I wanted to understand where that came from. I started doing sitting meditation, zazen, by myself at home. These various strands got drawn together in the summer of 1955 when I was a trail-crew worker in the High Sierra of California. I started writing poems out of the labor on the trails that echoed the crispness of classical Chinese poems and also had the flavor of my nightly meditations up on the cliffs. On those clear nights in the High Sierra I saw the stars as further rocks and trails leading onward and out. Although I had written dozens of poems before, these were the first I could acknowledge as entirely my own. They are in the collection Riprap. I made plans to travel to Japan, to learn more of meditation.
A year or so later, in Kyoto, I asked my teacher Oda Sesso Roshi, “Sometimes I write poetry. Is that all right?” He laughed and said, “It’s all right as long as it comes out of your true self.” He also said “You know, poets have to play a lot, asobi.” That seemed an odd thing to say, because the word asobi has an implication of wandering the bars and pleasure quarters, the behavior of a decadent wastrel. I knew he didn’t mean that. For many years while doing Zen practice around Kyoto, I virtually quit writing poetry. It didn’t bother me. My thought was, Zen is serious, poetry is not serious. In any case, you have to be completely serious when you do Zen practice. So I tried to be serious and I didn’t write many poems. I studied with him for six years.
In 1966 just before Oda Roshi died, I had a talk with him in the hospital. I said, “Roshi! So it’s Zen is serious, poetry is not serious.” He said “No, no—poetry is serious! Zen is not serious.” I had it all wrong! I don’t know if it was by accident or it was a gift he gave me, but I started writing more, and maybe I did a little less sitting, too. I think I had come to understand something about play: to be truly serious you have to play. That’s on the side of poetry, and of meditation, too. In fact, play is essential to everything we do—working on cars, cooking, raising children, running corporations—and poetry is nothing special. Language is no big deal. Mind is no big deal. Meaning or no-meaning, it’s perfectly okay. We take what’s given us, with gratitude.
The poet in us can be seen at both the beginning and the end of a life. Everybody knows a child can come up with a rhyme, a song, a poem that will delight us. At the same time, the old priest on his deathbed will write a poem, his last act. The most refined and accomplished people will express their deepest understanding in a poem—and the absolute beginner will not hesitate to try to express a transient transcendent moment. There is no sure way to predict which poem will be better than the other.
Poetry is democratic, Zen is elite. No! Zen is democratic, poetry is elite. Which is it? Everybody can do zazen, but only a few do poetry. Everybody can do poetry but only a few can really do zazen. Poetry (and the literary world) has sometimes been perceived as dangerous to the spirit career, but also poems have been called upon to express the most delicate and profound spiritual understanding.
We can appreciate Ikkyu’s probing poem:
Humans are endowed with / the stupidity of horses and cattle.
Poetry was originally a / work out of hell.
Self-pride, false pride, / suffering from the passions,
We must sigh for those taking this path / to intimacy with demons.
Ikkyu, a fifteenth-century Japanese Zen master and a fine (and strikingly fearless) poet himself, laughingly ridiculed his fellow poets, knowing as he did the distractions and temptations that might come with literary aspirations. His “intimacy with demons” is not to be seen in the light of the occidental romance with alienation, however. In Japanese art, demons are funny little guys, as solid as horses and cows, who gnash their fangs and cross their eyes. Poetry is a way of celebrating the actuality of a nondual universe in all its facets. Its risk is that it declines to exclude demons. Buddhism offers demons a hand and then tries to teach them to sit. But there are tricky little poetry/ego demons that do come along, tempting us with suffering or with insight, with success or failure. There are demons practicing meditation and writing poetry in the same room with the rest of us, and we are all indeed intimate. It didn’t really trouble Ikkyu.
On seeing Ikkyu’s poem (and these comments) my friend Doc wrote me from his fish camp:
Ikkyu says, “Humans are endowed with the stupidity of horses and cattle.”
I think Ikkyu is full of shit.
Humans are endowed with a stupidity all their own.
Horses and cattle know what to do.
They do it well.
He is right about poetry as a work out of hell.
We ought to know.
Phenomena experience themselves as themselves.
They don’t need poetry.
We are looking at a mystery here.
How do these things have such an obstinancy and yet are dependent on my consciousness?
When I practice fishing with two teenagers
poetry never occurs to me.
But later it does.
I can go over the whole day.
Hooray! That’s what being human is all about.
It is just as much a weakness as a strength.
You say a language is (a wild system born with us.)
It is wilder than wild.
If we were just wild we wouldn’t need language.
Maybe we are beyond wild.
That makes me feel better.
Beyond wild. This can indeed include language. Poetry is how language experiences itself. It’s not that the deepest spiritual insights cannot be expressed in words (they can, in fact) but that words cannot be expressed in words. So our poems are full of real presences. “Save a ghost,” you might be asked by your teacher—or an owl, or a rainforest, or a demon. Walking that through and then putting a poem to it is a step on the way toward realization. But the path has many switchbacks and a spiritual journey is strewn with almost as many land mines as a poet’s path. Let us all be careful (and loose as a goose) together.
Spending time with your own mind is humbling and broadening. One finds that there’s no one in charge, and is reminded that no thought lasts for long. The marks of the Buddhist teachings are impermanence, no-self, the inevitability of suffering, interconnectedness, emptiness, the vastness of mind, and the provision of a Way to realization. An accomplished poem, like an exemplary life, is a brief presentation, a uniqueness in the oneness, a complete expression, and a kind gift exchange in the mind-energy webs. In the No play Basho (Banana Plant) it is said that “all poetry and art are offerings to the Buddha.” These various Buddhist ideas in play with the ancient Chinese sense of poetry are part of the weave that produced an elegant plainness, which we name the Zen aesthetic.
Tu Fu said, “The ideas of a poet should be noble and simple.” In Ch’an circles it has been said “Unformed people delight in the gaudy and in novelty. Cooked people delight in the ordinary.” This plainness, this ordinary actuality, is what Buddhists call thusness, or tathata. There is nothing special about actuality because it is all right here. There’s no need to call attention to it, to bring it up vividly and display it. Therefore the ultimate subject matter of a “mystical” Buddhist poetry is profoundly ordinary. This elusive ordinary actuality that is so touching and refreshing, all rolled together in imagination and language, is the work of all the arts. (The really fine poems are maybe the invisible ones, that show no special insight, no remarkable beauty. But no one has ever really written a great poem that had perfectly no insight, instructive unfolding, syntactic deliciousness—it is only a distant ideal.)
So there will never be some one sort of identifiable “meditation poetry.” In spite of the elegant and somewhat decadent Plain Zen ideal, gaudiness and novelty and enthusiastic vulgarity are also fully real. Bulging eyeballs, big lolling tongues, stomping feet, cackles and howls— all are there in the tradition of practice. And there will never be—one devoutly hopes—one final and exclusive style of Buddhism. I keep looking for poems that see the moment, that play freely with what’s given,
Teasing the demonic
Wrestling the wrathful
Laughing with the lustful
Seducing the shy
Wiping dirty noses and sewing torn shirts
Sending philosophers home to their wives in time for dinner
Dousing bureaucrats in rivers
Taking mothers mountain climbing
Eating the ordinary
appreciating that so much can be done on this precious planet of samsara.
Adapted from the Introduction to Beneath a Single Moon: Legacies of Buddhism in Contemporary American Poetry. Edited by Kent Johnson and Craig Paulenich. (Shambhala Publications).
Gary Snyder lives in the northern Sierra Nevada and Practices in the Linji Ch’an (Zen) Buddhist tradition. Pulitzer prize-winning poet and essayist, his most recent book is Practice of the Wild (North Point Press).
Image 1: Courtesy of Allen Ginsberg.
Image 2 and 3: Courtesy of Mayumi Oda.
If art buyers were feeling a bit of auction fatigue going into Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale on Wednesday — the sixth auction in seven days — they did not show it in their bidding for several major works.
A 1972 Warhol “Mao” silk-screen painting that Sotheby’s had guaranteed at $40 million sold for $47.5 million including fees to a telephone bidder, countering Tuesday night’s deflating Warhol performance at Christie’s, where one of his popular “Flower” paintings — along with three other pieces by the artist — failed to sell.
Still, the mood was upbeat after Wednesday’s sale, given that 54 works brought $294.85 million on a low estimate of $254 million, with 81.5
Illustration by Mark Pernice
Our parents had wide open spaces all around.
We still had nature within reach. Now what?
By DANIEL DUANEOCT. 24, 2015
CALIFORNIA’S over, everything I love about this place is going to hell.
I knew there was something familiar about this thought from the moment it occurred to me in Yosemite National Park. My sister and I started going to those mountains 40 years ago with our parents, who taught us to see the Sierra Nevada as a never-changing sanctuary in a California increasingly overrun by suburban sprawl.
Once we had our own families, we indoctrinated our kids in the same joys: suffering under backpacks, drinking snowmelt from creeks, jumping into (and quickly back out of) icy lakes, and napping in wildflower meadows. Yosemite remains my personal paradise, but the impact of drought and climate change has become overwhelming — smoky air from fires, shriveled glaciers leaving creeks dry and meadows gray, no wildflowers.
The big new forest fire didn’t help, as we hiked back to our car in mid-August. We were never in danger, but smoke from that so-called Walker fire filled the sky and turned sunlight orange. At the surprisingly good restaurant attached to the Lee Vining Mobil station just outside the park, ashes fell like apocalyptic snowflakes onto our fish tacos. We watched a DC-10 air tanker carpet bomb flames a few miles off. We had intended to stay in a nearby motel, but Highway Patrol officers told us they planned to close the road, so we joined the line of vehicles escorted past red walls of fire.
We slept at a friend’s house on the western flank of the Sierra Nevada. The next morning, as we began our drive home to San Francisco, this sense of unraveling — of California coming apart at the seams — worsened by the mile. The air was more Beijing than Yosemite, and the Merced River, normally a white-water pleasure ground, was a muddy sequence of black pools below mountains covered with dead ponderosa pines, a tiny sample of the more than 12 million California trees killed by drought and the bark beetles that thrive in this now-warmer climate.
The San Joaquin Valley, still farther west, is depressing on good days, with its endemic poverty and badly polluted air and water. But driving in freeway traffic through endless housing developments on that particular weekend encouraged a fugue state of bleakness in me. Somewhere in that haze lay an industrial-agricultural plain where the unregulated pumping of groundwater has gone on for so long that corporate farms pull up moisture that rained down during the last glacial period — with two paradoxical and equally strange geological effects.
First, the evacuation of so much water from underground pore spaces is causing the surface of some parts of the valley floor to collapse downward by nearly two inches a month. Second, the lifting of water weight — all those trillions of gallons from underground, and more vanishing from reservoirs and snowpack throughout the West — is now causing the rocky crust of the Earth, which floats on our planet’s molten interior, to push upward.
As a result, the Sierra Nevada mountain range is gaining about 1 to 3 millimeters in elevation annually. San Francisco, normally cool and clear, completed the picture: air so murky we could barely see the bay below the bridge, yet another scorching day in a freakishly warm summer — thanks in part to the immense blob of warm ocean water parked against the west coast. Roughly five hundred miles wide and thousands long, this warm water carries subtropical plankton that may be related to the accelerated decline of the Pacific sardine population, the failure of pelicans to mate and the mass die-offs of baby shorebirds and sea-lion pups. Concomitant blooms of toxic algae have shut down crab fisheries on the coast and, inland, befouled our rivers so much that, on at least two occasions this year, dogs jumped in to swim and promptly died.
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Credit Mark Pernice, Image from Curt Teich Postcard Archives/Lake County Discovery Museum, via Getty Images