Saturday, October 24, 2015

California's Wild Edge

                                                by Laura Crum

            The title of this blog post is also the title of the book I’m currently reading. A present from a friend, the book is another collaborative effort between the woodblock print artist Tom Killion and the poet Gary Snyder. Both the words and the illustrations are equally beautiful and evocative of the California coast—where I was born and raised and where I hope to live until I die.
            I particularly like the title of this book. I have always seen this coast as the wild edge of the world. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat on my horse, looking out over the Monterey Bay from the spot in the nearby hills that we call the “Lookout,” and thought that I was gazing out at the ragged fringe of the continent. If I could see far enough across the vast blue, I would see Japan. (The Lookout features prominently in my last two novels—“Going, Gone” and “Barnstorming”—for those who have read those books.)

            Anyway, I’m really enjoying this book about the California coast. Today I thought I’d give you a few photos of my own that illustrate what the “wild edge” is to me and some quotes from the book that touched me. I’ll try and attribute the quotes correctly. Many of them are by the poet Robinson Jeffers. I love his description of his wife, Una Call-- “more like a woman in a Scotch ballad, passionate, untamed, and rather heroic—or like a falcon—than like an ordinary person.”
            Here, I think, is one of his last poems (1951), one that Tom Killion describes as something that “still might serve as a guide for all aspiring artists of the coast—poets, painters or woodblock carvers.” It’s titled “The Beauty of Things.”

To feel and speak the astonishing beauty of things—earth, stone and water,
Beast, man and woman, sun, moon and stars—
The blood-shot beauty of human nature, its thoughts, frenzies and passions,
And unhuman nature its towering reality—
For man’s half dream; man, you might say, is nature dreaming, but rock
And water and sky are constant—to feel
Greatly, and understand greatly, and express greatly, the natural
Beauty, is the sole business of poetry.
The rest’s diversion: those holy or noble sentiments, the intricate ideas,
The love, lust, longing: reasons, but not the reason.

And “Orion in December evenings was strung in the throat of the valley like a lamp-lighted bridge.”

And “There is yet one ocean and then no more, God whom you shine to walks there naked, on the final Pacific, not in a man’s form.
The torch answered: Have I kindled a morning?
For again, this old world’s end is the gate of a world fire new, of your wild future, wild as a hawk’s dream”

And here, in a poem about Jeffers ghost by Robert Hass:

“He shuddered briefly and stared down the long valley where the headland rose
And the lean gum trees rattled in the wind above Point Sur;
Alive, he had littered the mind’s coast
With ghosts of Indians and granite and the dead fleshed
Bodies of desire. That work was done
And, whether done well or not, it had occupied him
As the hawks and sea were occupied.
Now he could not say what bought him back.
He had imagined resurrection once: the lover of a woman…

So she burned and he came, a ghost in khaki and stunned skin,
And she fled with him. He had imagined, though he had not written,
The later moment in the pasture, in moonlight like pale stone,
When she lay beside him with an after-tenderness in all her bones,
Having become entirely what she was, though aware that the thing
Beside her was, again, just so much cheese-soft flesh
And jellied eye rotting in the pools of bone.
Anguish afterwards perhaps, but he had not thought afterwards.
Human anguish made him cold.

He told himself the cries of men in war were no more conscious
Nor less savage than the shrill repetition of the Steller’s jay
Flashing through live oaks up Mal Paso Canyon
And that the oaks, rooted and growing toward their grace,
Were—as species go—
More beautiful.”


I am a child of California’s wild edge.
If you want a tame creature
To sit by your side,
I am not that thing.
Wind and water, stone and sky—
These speak to me.
The female moon longs
For Orion the archer,
As he strides across the night.
This would be you and me
In that dark room.

There is a Tom Russell song that Andy used to sings bits of—about the coast near Big Sur. The part I remember goes like this:

“The south coast is a wild coast and lonesome
You might win a card game in Jolon
But the lion still rules Amaranca
And a man there is always alone.”

It’s a sad song—but it sticks in your mind.

So yeah, it all seems to fit together. And here are a few photos I’ve taken of horsemen on the wild edge-- just for fun.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The tchotchkes of life

By Gayle Carline
Author, horse lover, and distracted mental toddler

When people tell me they're having a senior moment, I say I much prefer the term "toddler moment." I haven't forgotten anything, I'm just distracted by a shinier toy.

So today is my day to post, according to the calendar, and I haven't got a whole lot to discuss. My horses are doing well. Snoopy has finally settled into his new home. We had to get the vet involved. After a shot of hormones and Dr. Brigid telling him that she knows where he is and will tell Santa, he got the message. 

He's still a big goofball, but at least he's a relaxed goofball.

My trainer Niki and I are planning which horse shows we'll go to in 2016. As you all know, we plan and God laughs, so we'll see which ones we ACTUALLY attend. 

As far as new books, I have some new non-horse books on the market. In addition to being an author, I also write a weekly humor column for the Placentia News-Times newspaper. This year is my 10th anniversary, and in honor of that, I put out three (yes, count 'em, three) books of my humor columns. If you're interested in reading humor essays, go to my Amazon Author's page ( and check out these three titles:

They're currently in paperback only, but they'll be available in ebook on or before Halloween.

Beyond all that, the reason I referred to tchotchkes (Yiddish for "small, inexpensive trinkets") in my title is that I thought, since I don't have anything horsey to report in my own life, I thought I'd share some photos and videos I've seen in the past month or so and really liked. Nothing important. Just small, inexpensive trinkets. 

First of all, I feel like I must have this, but I don't know where I'd put it:

Go to to purchase

Next, I really liked this video of horse/dog trail. I could probably train Duffy, my corgi, to do this course. I'm just not sure if I could train Snoopy not to try to catch Duffy so he could pick him up and toss him. 

Corgis are football shaped, you know.

"I am NOT a throw toy!"

Finally, I just never get tired of this video. 

You're quite the imp, Possum.

Have a great week!

Sunday, October 4, 2015


                                             by Laura Crum

         So once again, apologies for the lack of posts. My life has been interesting and magical, but it is beyond my current abilities to put many words down about it. So today I can give you a few snippets and quotes and that’s about it.

 Lately I have been sitting by my pond in the evening, drinking rye whiskey and soda, and reading “The Dharma Bums” by Jack Kerouac. How did I miss this book in my youth? I read “On the Road,” but not this one. And this one is magical.

I found the book because a friend gave me a book called “Tamalpais Walking”—a collaboration between the woodblock print artist, Tom Killion, and the poet, Gary Snyder. I posted about this book last time (I Know, No Posts). The book had a lot of back story about Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac and explained that Gary Snyder is the “hero” in “The Dharma Bums”—a character named Japhy Ryder. So I decided I needed to read The Dharma Bums. And it arrived a few days later—thank you, Amazon.

For the last few evenings I have been sitting by my pond and reading this book. And laughing out loud. And being amazed. So many things seem to be coming together.

The book reminds me of sitting by Burgson Lake in the Sierras when I was 22 years old, miles from any other person, reading “Roughing It” by Mark Twain, and laughing out loud as I drank cheap jug wine and watched the sun go down.

The passages about the Sierras take me back to the summers I lived in those mountains—one year alone by Burgson Lake, one year working at Kennedy Meadows pack station. And all the many horseback pack trips over the mountain passes that came later. When Japhy and Ray go into the Sierras out of Bridgeport, Bridgeport comes back to me as vividly as if I were there yesterday.

And there are so many lines in the book that are things that Andy used to say to me. I know he read this book—but I didn’t realize that the lines came from the book. As Ray tells Japhy what he thinks of other people: “Equally empty, equally to be loved, equally the coming Buddha.” Andy used to say that to me all the time.  It all feels so connected.

Anyway, hey, if you haven’t read “The Dharma Bums,” read it. It’s a whole lot of fun.

And, just because I like them, here are some quotes that my dear friend, Shannon Schierling, posted on facebook. Thank you, Shannon.

“I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.” – C. Joybell

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” ~ Louise Erdich, The Painted Drum