Wystan Hugh Auden

Wystan Hugh Auden was an English poet,
who later became an American citizen.img_0001
Born: 1907, York, United Kingdom
Died 1973 Vienna, Austria

 

“We are here on earth
to do good for others.
What the others are here
for, I don’t know.”

W.H. Auden

“A poet is, before
anything else, a person who is
passionately in love with
language.”

W.H. Auden

“To save the world you asked this
man to die, would this man, could he
see you now, ask why?”

W.H. Auden

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Stalking the Dainty Ostrea Lurida

img_0002In putting pen to paper in this December month is when in my youth I stalked the wild mollusk, the dainty Ostrea lurida, with the common name of the Olympia oyster. It lives in the Puget Sound of Washington State. The dainty Ostrea lurida is a species of most delicious, most edible oyster, a marine bivalve mollusk in the family Osteidae.

It’s okay to stalk this tiny mollusk in December because there’s an ‘r’ in December’s spelling. Most people will tell you that the “r-month rule” doesn’t matter anymore. They’ll say that it’s cool to eat raw oysters in a month doesn’t have an “r” in it—like August—because it’s safe. And sure, it is safe. But you know what? It’s gross. Raw oysters aren’t meant to be eaten then, so stop it. And besides, oysters grown in cold water taste better, and are better, so just follow the “r” month rule[1].

img_0005Oysters in their raw state are a succulent luxurious treat. Raw oysters glistening with the briny sea liquor make quite a sensual impression. M F.K. Fisher referred to them as “a lusty bit of nourishment”, and I’d have to agree with her perfect description.  You can enjoy them raw and experience the sea that they lived in. Because the oyster is an animal that lives to pump and filter sea water through its body, you can really get a taste of the water that the animal lived in, which can be good or bad. If you want to eat raw oysters, you should buy them in the shell and shuck them yourself. It is not advised to eat raw pre-shucked oysters sold in bulk.

M. F. K. Fisher liked oysters and so do I. I think oysters are more beautiful than any religion. They not only forgive our unkindness to them; they justify it, they incite us to go on being unspeakably horrendous to them. Once they arrive at the supper-table they seem to enter thoroughly into the spirit of the thing. There’s nothing in Christianity or Buddhism that quite matches the sympathetic unselfishness of an oyster. And speaking of fine dining, oysters and absinthe are a match made in heaven, forget champagne. The combination of briny, mineral-rich oysters and the soft fennel and mint of the absinthe strikes a chord in the discriminating epicurean palate and brings each element to light in a new way. James Beard said, “While a mug of stout or a glass of champagne is great, it is absinthe and oysters that really make a perfect match.” It stands to reason that it must be so because James Beard said it.

img_0004James Beard also said; “Don’t say ‘oyster juice,’ say ‘liquor.’ Oyster liquor is the natural juice inside the oyster that keeps it alive once it’s out of the water. It is unacceptable to rinse or dump that juice out of the oyster before consuming it raw. That juice is precious and should taste amazing, and that’s why it’s referred to as liquor. James Beard also said; “Don’t say ‘water’ say ‘terroir.’ It’s a French word that you may have heard used with wine. Terroir (pronounced ‘tehr-wahr’) means the characteristics of a place—its climate, geology, and wildlife, for example—that impact the food produced there. Beard says terroir affects the flavor of an oyster just as much, if not more, than it does wine because the effects are less subtle. Oysters take on the exact same salt level of whatever water they’re in.” He says; “Ocean oysters, for example, will be much saltier than oysters from the northern Chesapeake. Other terroir elements that affect flavor include the algae in the water (because oysters eat algae) and the water’s minerality.”

But it is M. F. K. Fisher who admonishes us, “And NEVER say ‘aphrodisiac,’ research shows that raw oysters are rich in rare amino acids that trigger increased levels of ‘sex hormones’. And, yes, sometimes to some people oyster resemble female genitalia. And yes, an 18th-century male named Casanova who said he slept with 122 women used to eat 50 oysters for breakfast. But that whole thing is both annoying and gross, so don’t talk about it if you want to be a charming oyster person.

img_0006I remember an Oyster Bar of my youth located on Chuckanut Drive a roadway that veers hard to the northwest like it’s making a getaway—escaping to greener pastures and better views, which it offered in spades: forested islands rising from the glistening waters of Samish Bay like the great backs of giant whales; eagles, herons, and ancient forests; far-off peaks forever cloaked in snow and ice. And this oyster bar of my remembering was the Pacific Northwest’s premier dining experience; its intimate, multi-tiered dining rooms offered stunning views of the San Juan Islands from every seat. The seasonally inspired menu features a variety of fresh seafood, steak, and vegetarian dishes with locally sourced produce and an award-winning wine list to pair. The Oyster Bar on Chuckanut Drive—once just a shack where oysters were sold to passers-by, became the epitome Oyster Bar of fine dining. Clinging to the side of a wooded cliff overlooking Samish Bay, the setting is hard to beat and every table had a water view—and sunset, too, if you time it right. With a name like Oyster Bar, it’s not surprising that oysters feature heavily on the menu. During the warmer months they opened the outdoor patio, which was accessible via the lower level. Perched amongst Douglas fir, Madonna and cedar trees and facing out to Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands, it is not an experience you’ll soon forget.

img_0003The Olympia oyster bears the weight of history on its barnacled shoulders. As the only indigenous West Coast oyster, with a range from Baja California to Alaska, it sustained Native Americans for millennia. Lewis and Clark gorged on them, and Gold Rush forty-niners literally loved them to death, depleting vast beds in the San Francisco Bay and beyond. Even in oyster-rich southern Puget Sound, where pioneers crowed that “when the tide is out, the table is set,” the free meal ended. By the late 1920s, polluted wastewater from pulp mills slowly decimated Olympia stocks. During my own youthful summers on the south Sound in the ’60s and ’70s, at the family cabin on Totten Inlet outside Olympia, the oyster was like an honored ancestor—no longer seen but fondly remembered by my grandparents, who could spin tales of prodigious pan-fries and pearly shell mountains outside shucking house doors.

[1] The r-month rule is only important with raw oysters. Grilled or fried ( what a terrible thing to do to an oyster) oysters are about the same year-round.  But still, oysters grown in cold water are better so just follow the ‘r’ rule.

Image in the Wind

imageinthewindImage in the Wind is an assortment of eight authentic slice of life stories set in the vast forested wilderness and the thousands of miles of passages, channels, and fjords of the Alexander Archipelago. This was the author’s life, exempt from public haunt, finding tongues in trees, books in burbling streams, sermons in stones, and good in everything.

The Russians called our island Ostrov Kutsnoi, “Fear Island”, probably because Alaskan brownies far outnumbered the human inhabitants. Gigantic trees grew, huge birds flew, oversized fish swam, immense bears prowled, and whales swam in the fathomless fjords of this wilderness. Within this wild splendor dwelled indigenous peoples who, since time immemorial, have accessed its rich resources of land and sea. The forest floor was thickly covered with mosses and blueberry, while muskegs opened the tall forest canopy to sedge and sphagnum bogs. This memoir gives its reader a key that unlocks a door to the past, to the unspoiled wilderness of yesteryear.

This book can be purchased on Amazon.

Echo of the Imago

Echo_of_the_Imago_Cover_for_KindleSet in the vast forested wilderness of Alexander Archipelago, the author and his companion Sophie found a connection to their evolutionary heritage in their primal surroundings. They sailed the thousands of miles of passages, channels, fjords like a reed driven by the wind and this lapping of waters, bird songs, wind in the trees and crashing surf is a part of a magic medium compounded of adventure, distance, and danger.

Their sail boat the Green Wind, a 36 foot, gaff-rigged cutter, became a part of their journey through the wilderness, giving them the gift of an almost forgotten freedom. The way of their sailboat was the way of the wilderness, it opened a door to waterways of ages past, to a life of profound and abiding satisfactions. I remember long trips in this wilderness when food was running low, when the weather for a week or a month had been impossible, and the joy of coming back meant comfort and the satisfaction of hunger. Coming back from any sort of a primitive expedition is the real adventure. We need contrast to make us know we’re really alive.

Read a preview here.

This book can be purchased on Amazon.

The Taste of the Text

Barthes“How blue the sky was”

The figure refers to the happy interval immediately

Following the first ravishment, before the difficulties

Of the amorous relationship begin.

   – Roland Barthes (1915—1989)

 

The linguistic philosophers of France, especially the late Roland Barthes, understood how French cuisine and French culture are related, and how both fit with structuralist philosophy.[1] A Parisian dinner is meant to be a single elegant statement, like a well-turned sentence or an outfit from Yves Saint-Laurent. The Anglo-Saxon view of a banquet can be expressed in terms of the history of the world. You begin with soup—water with things swimming in it—then move on to the aqueous kingdom, then to flying creatures, then to mammals. Finally you celebrate man in cheeses and desserts, both products of sophisticated culture. This is the diachronic view, which the French reject. They prefer to see the various courses as syntagmas, or sentence components—soup adjective, fish noun, chicken adverb.

Is not a good wine whose flavor oscillates, alters, doubles, so that the mouthful swallowed does not have quite the same taste as the next mouthful taken? In the draught of good wine, as in the taking of the text, there is a torsion, a twist of degrees: it turns back, like a lock of hair.

“The fine arts are five in number, namely: painting, sculpture, poetry, music, and    architecture, the principal branch of the latter being pastry.”

—Antonin Carême

schoolroom

The Uncertainty of Signs: (signes / signs)

“Whether he seeks to prove his love, or to

Discover if the other loves him, the amorous

Subject his no system of sure signs at his disposal.”

– Roland Barthes

 

This is no small jest. Remember that architects must build maquettes, models, which require some of the same fine eye and hand movements, the same precision as the confection of a pastry. Carême’s[2] words came true shortly after I had first encountered them: an architect I have known since childhood, upon retiring, enrolled in pastry-making school and now supplies several Bay Area restaurants with his sugared constructions.

 

 

[1] Structuralism (1960s) Literary Theory regarded as a French movement, much indebted to the French linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), but with Russian and Czech sources, and international implications. Principals: Roland Barthes (1915-80), Gérard Genette (1931-   ), Algirdas Julien Greimas, Roman Jakobson (1896-1982), Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-   ), Tzvetan Todorov (1939-   ).

Literary texts, and other cultural products such as myth, are analyzed as systems of signifying units, like language. Preoccupation with formal symmetries, parallelisms,, contrasts; with features of poetic language which differ from those of ‘ordinary language’; with the general properties of literature (POETICS). Jacobson’s POETIC PRINCIPLE and the NARRATIVE GRAMMAR of Vladimir Propp (1895-1970) are important foci and models.

[2] Marie-Antoine Carême: 1784 -1833) was a French chef and food writer. Though named in honor of Marie Antoinette, he preferred to call himself “Antonin”—no doubt for many reasons, particularly after the French Revolution. A celebrity chef, his was a style of cooking that would now be deemed opulent if not outright excessive. He is now seen as the founder of “La Grande Cuisine Française”, having established the supremacy of French cooking in Europe for the next 200 years. He was also very interested in architecture, an interest which he translated into his monumental edible table pieces constructed of food.

My Latest Book – Whispers, Epiphanies and Intimations

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1519608381/

whispersCoverThis book is a quintessential wilderness classic coming from the author’s quarter century of living in the heart of the Tongass National Forest, our planet’s biggest temperate rainforest.

This gargantuan rainforest (Tongass National Forest)[1] is unique in that almost all of its acreage is the thousand-and-one islands of the Alexander Archipelago. The scope of this work is largely limited to that part of the archipelago’s geography that remains untrammeled by human intrusion. The author focuses his lens on the experiences of the singular individuals who reside in the pristine beauty of the most magnificent temperate rainforest on earth. The nine stories of the book feature the spectacular geography of the islands and the author’s own twenty-five years of intriguing, dangerous, fascinating living.Carlson 006 Exploring Brownie

Whispers,

Mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures of unknown culture, of an ominous buzz telling you to turn on your radio and hide

Epiphanies,

A magnificent buck is seen coming down from the ridge, tremendous, unhurried, slanting and titling its head to pass the antlers through the forest under growth

Intimations,

The mind that seeks the deepest intellectual fulfillment does not give itself up to every passing idea. Yet what is sometimes forgotten are the larger intimation of purpose, intimations of new realities and new knowledge. Carlson 010 Our Izba

[1] The Tongass National Forest is not only the largest National Forest in the United States it is also the largest national forest in the world.

Available on Amazon.com.

Word Salad

A Posting of New Mental Health Directions:

In the mental health field the term “word salad” is often called schizophasia the psychosis of a formal thought disorder. To put it more simply schizophasia can be thought of as cognitive slippage involving idiosyncratic arrangement of words.
The recipe for a simple manipulative world salad requires only a single ingredient “words.”
I am neither a Dietitian nor a Physician and certainly not a Chemist, but I have a deep conviction, which like religion, is based on faith alone (unsupported by any evidence whatsoever), that these little rum ram ruffs are confections that will add an obscene number of calories to your intellectual diet.
In Herbis, et in Verbis:
Stuffed MirrorMy Dinghy_20160206_0004

Me and my books in the same apartment:
Like a gherkin in its vinegar.
—Gustave Flaubert
In an age when just the composition of a salad required a great knowledge of herbs, their flavors and combined tastes, it was commonly said that “In herbis, et in verbis et in lapidibus sunt virtutes” (“There are powers in herbs, words, and stones”). The syncretic character of late medieval cuisine . . . finds a mirror-like reflection in the taste for farce and linguistic blending, and in the interweaving and overlapping of words. Farce, whether “stuffed” or “mixed,” makes up the combination of seasoned ingredients which conspire to please the palate; it is the dietary archetype at the origin of linguistic structuring and presides over the stuffing of vocabulary and locutions.
About farce, the dramatic comedy genre: it does come from the word for stuffing, which is what it’s made of—overloaded plot, exaggerated characters, copulating coincidences. Rossini (1792-1868) Italian composer, took one look at a cannelloni and decided that stuffing was its destiny. The result was named Cannelloni Rossini—so I learned from an Argentine painter (also inspired in the kitchen and the fireplace) I call him El Gaucho Geométrico. As Cecilia Bartoli divined, Rossini would spend a good deal of time before a deadline enjoying pasta and wines and not composing a single note.
The following is a sampling of some of the more inane of the common societal varieties of schizophasia manipulative word salads. For Example ―
People say they’re “happy as a clam” . . . but why do we assume that clams are happy? They never smile, never attend parties, and live in a puddle of sand. If anything, I’ll betcha that clams suffer from a massive inferiority complex since they can’t make pearls like oysters.
“The early bird gets the worm.”
So? The late bird gets a worm, too.
There is not a limited supply worms in the world. I’ve never heard of a worm-shortage. Have you? Besides, even though the early bird might get a worm, the early mouse gets its neck snapped by the mousetrap. And the second mouse walks away with the cheese.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Over-looking the incorrect grammar in this expression, the dictionary definition of the word “fix” is: To render or make whole a broken object. By the very definition of the word “fix” it’s physically impossible to fix an object unless it’s broken.voicesHead
The phrase “luck of the Irish” makes no sense at all. What luck?! You’re talking about a group of people who suffered through a potato famine, were occupied by England, faced political terrorism, have a history of religious wars, and who’s populous have entirely too many freckles. “Luck of the Irish” ranks right up there with the “luck of the American Indian” and “luck of the Jews in Nazi Germany.”