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A Fragrant Night

Hot as the firecrackers that were going off in Utah Valley to celebrate Pioneer Day! But we choose not to have air conditioning, relying on our system of open windows and thick insulation and passive solar shade to get us through July and August. And to keep us in touch with nature.


Just as we were settling into bed a smattering of rain raised the wild scents that come off bone-dry sage and bunch grasses and oakbrush.


A couple of hours later a skunk announced itself with its omnipresent redolence.


Both scents had faded by the time a fire in the next canyon to the north sent hints of its acrid conflagration our way.


Imagine missing that array of scent while shivering under a sheet in a sealed house.

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Wild Turkeys: Meleagris gallopavo

Minutes ago two hens and 15 poults walked down the driveway and then along the walk at the back of the house, picking at seeds and insects as they passed. Blue watched them through the window, wondering just what the parade was for. He shook his head which flapped his long ears which sounded like thunder and all the turkeys jumped into the sky with a quick thunder of their own. The birds regathered and the procession continued at the end of the meadow.IMG_6333 [click photo for a larger version]

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Looking West Last Night


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Sitting early this morning on the deck, drinking coffee and working through the last draft of our book proposal (Intimate Fences — one of the posters we analyze is titled “Commotion Among the Animals”), we hear a sudden rustling in the oak brush. A coyote bursts out of the brush, followed closely by a doe. She chases the coyote across the meadow and into more brush. They appear in the next meadow, the doe’s neck stretched out like a greyhound’s in hot pursuit.

A few minutes later she appears again in our meadow, squats to pee, looks up at Blue who is watching intently through the rail, moves away nervously, returns. We retreat from the deck to ease her mind. She watches us leave and then, for long minutes — maybe ten minutes — surveys the door we have disappeared behind.

Her twin fawns are somewhere near, we suppose, and she’s on high alert.

Fifteen minutes later she disappears, back into the brush.

And the coyote?

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Not much bigger than a little dog, these twins followed their mother across the yard this morning. [click on photos for a larger image]

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Vampires & A Reasonable Dictionary

Nina Pops’ “Vampiri III”

for the cover of our forthcoming book (perhaps August) with punctum books.

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“A Climate of Oppression and Fear of Reprisals”

The LDS excommunication of Kate Kelly this week and the threatened disciplinary actions against others thought to be insufficiently orthodox has reminded me, as it has others, of actions taken against several of my BYU colleagues in the mid 1990s. In the wake of Elder Packer’s fulminations against “the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement . . . and the so-called scholars and intellectuals,” BYU professors Cecelia Konchar Farr, Gail Houston, and David Knowlton were turned down for renewal or promotion because they had, respectively, spoken against abortion and for choice, celebrated prayer to a Heavenly Mother, and pointed out that South American missionaries were being beaten up and chapels burned because of the American corporate image projected, in part, by a phallic church office building (single tower, two globes poised on either side of the base).

In the general repressive context surrounding those firings, many members of the faculty and of the student body took action. The Sociology Department published a letter protesting restrictions on their academic freedom. Faculty and students raised feminist issues through an organization called “Voice.” Steven Epperson reviewed Robert Millet’s and Joseph McConkie’s book Our Destiny as biologically naive and racist. Eugene England, on learning that the Church had a committee called “Strengthening Church Members” (we called it the “lengthening the members committee) gave a fiery “J’accuse” speech at a Sunstone symposium. The BYU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors was re-established and eventually brought in investigators whose visit resulted in censure of BYU: “Much more than an isolated violation of academic freedom, the investigating committee’s inquiries into complaints at BYU have revealed a widespread pattern of infringements on academic freedom in a climate of oppression and fear of reprisals” (Academe, Sept./Oct. 1997).

Supporters of Ordain Women, in the wake of the excommunication, say they will not be silenced. I admire them. And I fear, from the BYU experience, that they will indeed be silenced.

After the embarrassments of public exposure and censure, after the open debates and heartfelt arguments and brutal firings, the Church’s university got what it wanted: silence.

In the aftermath, who is left to debate same-sex marriage, abortion, ordination of women, a Mother in Heaven, corporate culture, patriarchy, and so on? People like the supporters of Ordain Women. People like John Dehlin and Kristine Haglund and Terry Tempest Williams and Gregory Prince and Joanna Brooks and many others.

This list no longer includes members of the BYU faculty. Bert Wilson, Gene England, Bill Evenson, Stan Albrecht, George Shoemaker, Gail Houston, Cecelia Konchar Farr, David Knowlton, Lynn England, Susan Howe, James Cannon, Duane Jeffreys, Bill Bradshaw, Steven Epperson, Hal Miller, Sam Rushforth, Brian Evenson, and many others left the university or fell silent in the face of unrelenting pressure.

Supporters of Ordain Women see their work as questioning and challenging and making reasonable arguments to convince their fellow Mormons that as the Book of Mormon declares: “black and white . . . male and female . . . all are alike unto God.” After the recent admission that restrictions on giving the priesthood to blacks was a mistake engendered by racist attitudes, that seems like a reasonable course of action.

LDS leaders see the actions as apostasy. Obedience is required, not discussion. And certainly not advocacy.

My Stake President during the 1990s was a member of the BYU Religion faculty. He once told assembled priesthood holders that “the trouble with the women in our stake is that they are not priesthood broke.” Wouldn’t the members of the Church be better served by “priesthood whisperers”?

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Alex Caldiero Performance Seen/Heard by Zarko Radakovic

As I finish the page proofs for Zarko’s and my Vampires & A Reasonable Dictionary (punctum books), I read again Zarko’s response to a performance by Alex in Salt Lake:

Alex Caldiero spoke with rigid eyes. His mouth supported his strong forehead. He kept balance with his breath. He floated in the air. He stood on his tongue. He drew the audience’s attention with his ears. He addressed the paintings on the wall with his stomach and in those “dramatic moments” it (the wall) did not obstruct the field of vision. Alex Caldiero moved through the exhibit area full of spectators like a centaur through bacchantes and bacchants. Sitting with their legs crossed, they firmly squeezed their tightly bound genitals in which the flesh puffed up, swelled, expanded and fell apart. And the words that Alex Caldiero spoke that evening were the connective tissue of presence, at the same time fecundating cells of absence that would later, in repeated presence grow into a “great event” that would distinguish itself from history by its shape: it would not be fixed, it would be described with broken lines, often noted just with periods, all in open surfaces from which colors would spill into each other, and between them would certainly remain empty surfaces, not, however, like gaping holes, but like a very delicate painting, easy on the eye.

I sent it to Alex, who had seen it a couple of years ago. He responded:

scott, please convey my surprise to Zarko on reading his most incisive piece of seeing-hearing…i swear i was reading it for the first time…a brother under the skin. he is…i look forward to reading the whole work

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Evening Beauty and a Mystery Plant


can anyone identify this plant? stem about 2 feet tall. found under oakbrush next to hound’s tongue.



From Zarko Radakovic’s Vampires:

Sounds were muffled by the clear picture and intense colors of the early evening. It was at its peak. It folded over all existence. The forms of things were simply engulfed by the fiery interior of the sunset. There seemed no need, or desire, to breathe in that solarium of the dying day. It truly went from one state to another. It truly was a moment of perceiving one’s true self. My sitting there quietly at the table (over such a distinct bottle of mineral water on the table) and my being engrossed in writing a text in an open notebook (today truly resembling a wanton woman) was part of the scenario. I wrote and wrote, writing myself wholeheartedly into the sunset, into turning on the artificial lights in the street and in store windows, drowning in the picture of the early evening story.




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