Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection

Tag: Life


The question about being “careful for the reputation of others” raised special concerns about our actions in our workplace perhaps our most unguarded location. One mentioned how, in staff meetings at his clinic, it becomes commonplace to speak of the clients in a derogatory manner, to which another noted how it then becomes “us” versus “them” in ways that allow “us” to glorify ourselves while denigrating “them.” That is not the way of loving our neighbor as ourselves, obviously. Nor does anyone ask “them” if they want to be excluded. We’re back to the old log in our own eye while we complain about the splinter in the other guy’s.


For more Seasons of the Spirit, click here.


Why wait for the dust to settle? Here are 10 bullets from my end.


  1. Tide-pooling requires climbing around on slippery boulders in the intertidal zone that exists between daily high and low water marks along the coastline and its tributaries. It means parting the various kinds of seaweed or lifting rocks to observe what’s underneath and then placing them all back very gently. My favorite time to go is at extreme low tide, when we can venture into reaches that would otherwise be too deep. How I love to overturn my first submerged rock and find both starfish (officially, a sea star) or urchin – and then a second, with two starfish. The first time I find three in one day, my wife proclaims me to be a member of the Order of Starfish. In another week or so, the water may be warm enough for brisk swimming, too.
  2. We seem to be on schedule with the garden, despite a late start. But there’s always something that will be left behind as we go.
  3. Professional (as in JOB) – a prop, identity, or purpose? Now that I’m retired, I’m still working.
  4. He admits, “I’m a skin man” for attraction, more than tits, ass, or legs. Well, if you have to get picky?
  5. Keep asking myself what my life would be lacking if I hadn’t moved to the hippie farm or gone to the ashram at all? My novels Hippie Drum, Hippie Love, Ashram, and likely Subway Hitchhikers would have never come forth, for starters. As I look back, the experiences look inevitable – and essential.
  6. As much as Dr. Bronner’s bottle-label diatribes arose from a splash of water, I suppose.
  7. You don’t know about hillbillies in a Yankee state? Oh, my. Then and now.
  8. Our neighbors’ block party is always a big occasion. Living one street over, we’re always included.
  9. What’s it mean to be a LANDLOCKED SAILOR?
  10. How much of my “real life” has been COUNTER-CURRENT – that is, occurring apart from the time and labor that paid the bills?


Spire in the city.

Spire in the city.

The historic Park Street Church sits at the edge of Boston Common and just a few blocks from the Massachusetts State House. In addition to the long list of influential speakers who appeared in its pulpit, the wonderful composer George Whitefield Chadwick was organist here. He beat Dvorak to the punch at a New World symphony.



Of course complications disrupt and delay
the old house transaction could be an omen
nothing they undertake together would be as simple
as any movie

Of course the vacillation impeded
the insertion of daffodil and hyacinths bulbs from
cobwebbed dreams His Lady of Two Daughters considered
gardens by ambition and suspense

Of course they passed papers and camped overnight
in the empty century-old house a porcelain faucet handle
shattered in His Lady of Mount Olive’s hand nearly severing
her thumb on his birthday like a blood sacrifice sprinkling
the wood floors and they wondered about
her lacking medical insurance, as well

Of course they had no way of foreseeing
the coming weeks his lists and plans
only the beginning as for omens he’d recognize
together resolutely for the long haul

Poem copyright 2015 by Jnana Hodson
To read the full set of squirrelly poems,
click here.



the hunting and fishing store’s
second-floor display window

overlooking the Auburn Traffic Circle
presented three bruins in some arrested motion

of taxidermist art
Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Little Baby Bear

as I mumbled spiraling past,
amused and annoyed many mornings

when nighttime burglars cleaned the place out
investigators didn’t look to children’s stories

rather, they sought someone with a truck bed
that wasn’t too little and not too big but just right

all the same, in the end, they
collared more juvenile delinquents

To continue, click here.
Copyright 2015


Late each autumn, hunters sip Wild Turkey. Stovepipes stick out through canvas walls. Cardboard surrounds their campfires. Nearly sullen, they hunker down in numbing wind. So much has been protected for their harvest. It’s crazy, this unreleased male desire to sing deep and loud. Call for your honey. Bellow again. With a measure of self-despair, the men admire the bulls they stalk.

In these parts, elk management thrives. Bureaucratic neckwear is a moth collection worn in a smoky room. With books resembling bear traps, Fish and Game as well as Forest Service authorities gather in what appears to be a poker party; it could as easily be city council or a gathering of the Committee of Economic Development, maybe even the Federal Reserve Board. Nobody speaks directly of the field or on behalf of its inhabitants. Each player represents a particular constituency, even though nobody represents the elk themselves. Everybody, it seems, wants a piece of action, connoting elk harvest.

Kokopelli’s prescription: Around the office, snort loudly. If there are windows, pop ’em, even when snow falls.

Better yet, leave the room. Go to the site, meet the subjects on their own ground. If they trek off too soon, it’s the regulations need adjustment.

Take note. In open country a snow-driven bull breaks trail to lead clusters of cows and calves single-file through winter range. Elsewhere a train of two hundred passes before I lose count. From these huffing creatures come vapor trails — some float parallel to a freeway that avalanche will soon block. Truck hoods and beds await them in hunting season. Through deep winter, though, elk come down to the canyon station. Feeding time’s 1 p.m.

I wonder which grandparents or great-great-grandparents witnessed the disappearance of elk across the continent, save for a few spots. I meet old-timers who recall the elks’ return in two boxcars sent from Montana, the ones that repopulated Washington State. That’s how close they skirted extinction.

Bulls, cows, and calves graze between conifer species. In any journey a name may encompass far more than anyone suspects.

Winning the state’s autumn lottery comes down to two hunters for every elk. Victors’ identities are repeated on the airwaves. Encampments arise between snowy boulders. Not every elk license winner succeeds in bagging his prey, though an elk tag will exempt him from jury duty. Any judge understands how a man on a ledge feels unexpectedly face-to-face with a stag. What thunder breaks heart and horns! Hallowed be tumbling water, on the homeward trek.

“You never forget the bull’s song,” Kokopelli says. “It curdles your blood.”

Men relate time-honored tricks of the trade. It’s the Fall of Cards. Cut the Deck. Deal Me In.

Imagine joining the Elks lodge. When buzzed in through the door, follow a red carpet hallway to the bar where barley-skinned salesmen compared their ex-wives. If a herd of real elk prances past, scouts the room, and bellies up to red vinyl barstools, take a dive. Wait for the blowhards to readjust themselves in front of the mirrored collection of liquor bottles resembling a carnival shooting gallery. Here and at Eagles and Moose dances, as well, there’s too much drunken groping for Beaver, as Kokopelli and I have observed. The game takes revenge. A shot’s a shot. Glasses and reflections shatter. Under glazed eyes, unfit individuals collapse. Their blood reaches out across the carpet. Red on red. Real animals unmask and sniff a fallen Jack of Diamonds. They paw an expiring Queen of Clubs.

When individuals participate in governing themselves, the whole business returns to the right track. All elk ask is a fair shake. Kokopelli knows many by name.

First, he says, ban all guns, motor transport, and steel traps. To be wild’s hardly enough. Before going afield, hunters must fast and enter a sacred sweat lodge. They must flake their own sharp tips and cross range on hoof.

Back at the bar, the ex-wives and widows gather. Who knows where their children are. When they understand the new rules, there’s NO BULL. The whole tribe and herd are in this together.

Simultaneously in Iowa, a man sheepishly hugs his rifle and emerges from woods with a gray pelt the size of a rat hanging at his waist. He could have been shooting beer bottles. A macho urge is not the same as hunting, my boss repeats after taking his adopted seven-year-old hunting the first time.

“Daddy, that man just said fuck.”

“That’s all right, son, that’s all right,” comes the reply. Their dove-hunting companion sips McNaughton’s; the son, a soda. The boy sticks close, raising the same questions they, too, asked as lads. The cycle repeats.

Later, the game soaks in onion before roasting in garlic or being sauteed in wine. This terrain demands many rituals.

Where desert and timberland interlace, foothills run braided above your hat brim. Tufts of grass punch through light snow. Like red mites on paper, elk advance through fog-wisps overhead. Standing beside half-iced rapids, I raise my binoculars and lose count again.

On the eve of the season’s premiere, cities of tents, camping trailers, and vans crowd into wild wood. In a state of sixty thousand elk and one hundred and twenty thousand licensed elk hunters, expect free-fire.

Opening day, an office pool bets on the quarter hour the first hunter will be hit. 9:15 it’s BINGO.

Look out. Glazed heads festoon truck prows. Multi-sail frigates careen through mountains with skinned carcasses stretched across their decks. Give the victors their trophy, even as a hood ornament.

“Many of these guys get so plastered, if anything moves, it’s open-fire,” Kokopelli says. “In the shootout, each heatedly claims the kill. Then the fun begins.”

That is, there are more intriguing animals than elk to hunt. Other armed hunters move in.

By evening, poker-faced herds pressed my rear-view mirror. They steer vans, pickups, and sedans. Slow down, and you discover their horns.

I vow never to dwell where I can’t see premonitions of seasons advancing clearly in dawn. “Watch the Milky Way turn through silence, you assume a point within millions of years of light,” as Kokopelli says. Even hunting can be timeless. Eventually, I see the Dedicated Laborious Quest as a specialized form of hunting.

In a slow drizzle across back roads in the valley, shacks and sheds occasionally relocate themselves to Wisconsin or Maryland. The green growth, scudded sky, lush shrubs, and running fields send memories tearfully home. Was I really, completely Out West?

For more insights from the American Far West and Kokopelli, click here.


From the stone tower atop Blue Hill
Boston’s skyscrapers resemble tombstones

“Daddy, did you build those?” A pause.
“Well, did somebody build them?”

Let us now delineate an array
of solar and lunar expectations
parenting the human condition


This sawtooth display
counters basic nature

spirals, branching, honeycomb
So which one are you coursing?


On my parking spot, Brianna’s
blue-and-purple chalk spells out


– perhaps she has the story straight
where beauty’s rainbow masks terror

Even a fruitcake granny can see
“He needs to get right with the Lord”


I’ve gone tracing

Some rain. Some sun
The labor spreads before me

poem copyright by Jnana Hodson
(originally appeared in the journal Indigo)


I might note that twice within one year, in two different Meetings, I saw Friends on the facing benches rise to break off vocal messages that were not “conducive to meditation and communion with God.” One was essentially a review of a political movie, and the other the rantings of a mentally unbalanced attender who apparently found in the action (and the followup) a firm loving; in the latter instance there were some difficulties within the worship community afterward, especially among those who initially perceived the action as “authoritarian” (that is, male domination) in what they had thought was a do-your-own-thing kind of religion in the understanding that has developed since, however, has come a clearer sense of what Friends are about and the functioning of Good Order.


For more Seasons of the Spirit, click here.


The mind dances here and there, rarely in a linear fashion. So what’s on my mind these days? How about counting on these fingers?


  1. And now, fresh strawberries. The bed we renovated last year is making amends. So how do you like yours the best?
  2. So delightful to have cut flowers indoors, too. A sprig of laurel (from the burial ground) is stunning against the deep purple velvet of a Siberian iris.
  3. French 75s. That’s the cocktail they like at Chris and Linda’s.
  4. I still aspire to writing a novel with only three or four characters. Two, however, feels just too tight. It would be something tightly focused and linear. But the current has often pulled me in the opposite direction. Big Inca, for instance, is essentially four – but look at all the others who keep wandering in and out!
  5. How little of the traditional canon I’ve pursued. There are vast gaps in my reading repertoire. That doesn’t mean I haven’t read – far from it.
  6. A perfect June morning: cool, touch of breeze, sunny and clear. After a full night’s sleep.
  7. Her eye is so close I see my own reflection.
  8. Maybe writing and revising have been my first love over all these years.
  9. Headed to the liquor store to make sure I’d have enough gin for a martini but arrived five minutes after it closed: take that as a sign.
  10. Being remembered as “an intense young man.”


The sign over a sidewalk on College Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, immediately had my attention. Alas, we were strolling a few hours before noon. The day was evolving in other directions.

The sign over a sidewalk on College Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, immediately had my attention. Alas, we were strolling a few hours before noon. The day was evolving in other directions.



the waitress popped up with the usual
“how are you today?”
but rather than trying
to cover up with a phony “fine”
I said instead, “rotten”
and she did a double-take and came back

by the end of the meal, we were both laughing


arguing we needed music that reflected the Machine Age?
discomfort, bottled up until exploding

and when buzzed by a sailplane
I was all skull, brain, thought, memory

tried sunbathing just now: too restless
wishing to be seventeen again


the underlying reason for these orthodontics?)


“well, if you do find a way
to become seventeen, they can’t
throw you in jail!”)

two calls in a day, one wanting
the bank’s certificate of deposit department

and another an alleged beverage survey
calling long-distance from Philadelphia
for the youngest female in my household
(a likely story, probably an obscene phone call

that got hung up on) . old wounds have reopened

To continue, click here.
Copyright 2015


In this environment I encounter many birds I can’t yet identify: stellar and Clark jays in addition to magpies, much less the common raven I’d thought a crow. Meanwhile, the cardinals, warblers, and finches I knew back east are memories. Even this landscape contradicts my usual referents.

The mailman delivers a long letter from a friend who confesses that sometimes an hour passes before he puts his first word down on paper — something I’d never guess, for his lines flow so naturally. I assumed they originated effortlessly. But to know otherwise?

Don’t force it, as Kokopelli cautions. Wait for the energy to gather.

Keep the pathway clear.

For more insights from the American Far West and Kokopelli, click here.