Painting with Water


At the beginning of summer, I traveled to China: Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai. At the Summer Palace in Beijing, I watched this man calligraph with water, painting logograms onto the sidewalk. In the warm afternoon air, his words evaporated before our eyes.

Regardless of our comprehension of what the images represent, we were a rapt audience.

The creative writing students are blogging again this semester. And, we need you to help us expand our understanding of audience. Please follow these bloggers, like them, and tell your friends about Cosumnes River College’s diligent and creative writers.



  • You Go to School to Learn
    By Thomas Lux
    You go to school to learn to
    read and add, to someday
    make some money. It—money—makes
    sense: you need
    a better tractor, an addition
    to the gameroom, you prefer
    to buy your beancurd by the barrel.
    There’s no other way to get the goods
    you need. Besides, it keeps people busy
    working—for it.
    It’s sensible and, therefore, you go
    to school to learn (and the teacher,
    having learned, gets paid to teach you) how
    to get it. Fine. But:
    you’re taught away from poetry
    or, say, dancing (That’s nice, dear,
    but there’s no dough in it
    ). No poem
    ever bought a hamburger, or not too many. It’s true,
    and so, every morning—it’s still dark!—
    you see them, the children, like angels
    being marched off to execution,
    or banks. Their bodies luminous
    in headlights. Going to school.

Where do you go to learn? What are you really being taught?

Will Write for Likes or Follows

To view the solar eclipse, I headed to Boise, Idaho for a few days before venturing to Weiser, Idaho, and a site at a high school in the path of totality.

Boise was bustling with hordes of other eclipse enthusiasts exploring the area in anticipation of the main event.

At the Saturday morning farmers’ market,  there were all sort of buskers, including this talented b-boy performing for applause  and a dollar or two.

Speaking of applause, the creative writing students are blogging again this semester and need you support as they share their words and expand their audience. Please follow them, like them, and tell your friends about these diligent and creative writers.  (note the spelling)

And, a former student has started a blog at: (Kakainna! is Tagalog for Eat Now!)

My fantastic former student also recommended the following blogging resources: – A local group.  I attended a meeting of theirs a week ago, and the info exchanged was quite useful.  For example, we discussed the use of images, and the importance of confirming no copyright violations and, if using your own images, the importance of watermarking them (which I hadn’t even considered).  Attendees also spoke about affiliate links, which I’d never heard of previously.  We also discussed tips on generating more traffic to our blogs, such as group boards on Pinterest and something called “link parties.”  This was my first time attending a meeting, and I thought I’d go to this one, at least, to see if I found it useful, which it was.  There’s no cost for joining or attending. — This was brought up at the Sacramento Bloggers meeting.  It’s a series of sessions on using WordPress.  It takes place on September 16-17 and costs $40. — The founder and organizer of Sacramento Bloggers is also on the advisory board of the International Food Blogger Conference.  She suggested to the non-food bloggers present that they still might want to attend as the content covered would benefit them as well, not just food bloggers.




The Summer Day

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

Some of my plans for my wild and precious life:

  1. On the days I must work, as well as those dedicated to leisure, I will commit myself to absorbing the golden tips of daylight into dusk, of lingering with the cats into the cooling of the day—and season.
  2. I will hold the boundless freedom and joy of summer within me to help me as I strive to be fair and frank and kind to those I encounter on my path. I will leave no strangers in my wake.
  3. After traveling widely in new lands, I will open myself to learning from thousands of grasshoppers and butterflies. And, I will return with new seeds to sow and nurture.
  4. I will generously share the harvest and gratefully receive the bounty of others.

Speaking of bounty, fall semester means creative writing students are collaborating on blogs again:

Please follow these explorers, comment on their words, and like them. They may, as I, have more questions than answers, but they will take you with them as they celebrate our world.


I walk the park for an hour with my eyes peeled for the story, the photo opp., the news of the world, and sometimes the hot gossip. This morning, trucks delivered the materials for a mini city, and I watched as seven industrious ant men carried pieces of metal the length of a truck bed. 

Uncomfortable with my analogy to wingless insects, I decided these were apprentice cross-bearers, practicing Jesuses, tirelessly carrying these burdens for us. 

My bewildering blending of parable and fable demands consideration of the fabulous poem, “The Three Ants,” by Kahil Gibran:

The Three Ants

Kahlil Gibran

Three ants met on the nose of a man who was asleep in the sun. And

after they had saluted one another, each according to the custom

of his tribe, they stood there conversing.


The first ant said, “These hills and plains are the most barren I

have known. I have searched all day for a grain of some sort, and

there is none to be found.”


Said the second ant, “I too have found nothing, though I have

visited every nook and glade. This is, I believe, what my people

call the soft, moving land where nothing grows.”


Then the third ant raised his head and said, “My friends, we are

standing now on the nose of the Supreme Ant, the mighty and infinite

Ant, whose body is so great that we cannot see it, whose shadow

is so vast that we cannot trace it, whose voice is so loud that we

cannot hear it; and He is omnipresent.”


When the third ant spoke thus the other ants looked at each other

and laughed.


At that moment the man moved and in his sleep raised his hand and

scratched his nose, and the three ants were crushed.

  • Make your own fable. 



When I worked graveyards at the gas station in the early 90s, the man who relieved me mornings, a radical Indian named Hawk, smoked this vanilla tobacco that perfumed his long hair; just a whiff at 7:30 am made my stomach roar.

How I hungered for sweetness!

Hawk left the gas station to teach at the Indian university, and no one needed to tell me it was time for me to find new work.

Similarly, when the incense ceases to flow from the temple of our Señora de Guadalupe, even the heathens know the show is over.




In my other Spanish class, the one where I bombard my instructor with questions about things I see and experience here in Oaxaca an hour at a time, we were talking about race and class, and I mentioned that most Oaxacans seem rather Darwinian in their approach to everyday life. I explained that most people seem to think it is unusual that I return to volunteer for Mexicans every summer when I could be: 1. Earning money in the US at US rates and 2. At least volunteering for my own country. We talked about why people from the US tend to volunteer at high rates and whether Oaxacans perhaps volunteer in different ways.

My patient teacher also reminded me of the difference between the cities and many of the more indigenous and traditional towns where community service is a part of the governance structure, but it is a person’s job for a set period of time. Additionally, he mentioned that males must serve in the military upon graduation, but because there is no current conflict they often end up doing community service: cleaning up areas, painting, etc.

Finally, he mentioned the Tequio. The tequio is the way some cooperatives are maintained (as this sign depicts), everyone bears a share of the responsibility. It is also used for community clean up days to bring people together to make the work lighter.

In the end, perhaps the reason volunteering in Mexico may seem so odd to Oaxacans is that it appears to have few personal or national benefits. However, this is an inaccurate appearance. The compensation is manifold.

I Helped Build a Stove!


A friend described how when she retired she committed to making three new friends a day. I can still remember the day she found me here in Oaxaca. It was a Friday in Llano Park in June 2013. I was sitting quietly and surreptitiously taking photos of the locals who, like me, had huddled under the shade. Three new friends a day. Three new friends a month is too much for me (but I am also not retired).

Instead, I try to write about at least three new things each day I am in Oaxaca. Some days this means I must break from my routine and try out new adventures. Thus, I went to Abasolo, a small, poor village behind Tlacochahuaya.  I accompanied three students studying civil engineering in Mexico City (Alex, Eric, and Sergio). We went to an enVia borrower’s house and built an outdoor stove with three burners, one large comal, one small, and one pot. We poked a hole in the laminated metal roof and sent the smoke out through the roof. No more will it burn her eyes, fill her lungs. The engineers joked that with the new oven, they were also giving her pulmones (lungs).

I cannot explain how hard the bricklaying and associated work were for my hands that mostly only type. There were times that the intensity of the heat and the flies and the labor were almost too much for me, but I pressed on. I filtered dirt; I shoveled and stirred concrete; I soaked bricks. I stirred more concrete and carried water in buckets. I carefully assembled (and in two cases reassembled) the back wall of the oven. I can’t think of anything I have been prouder to make. Mostly, I am proud because it is useful and will change this family’s life.

The woman confided that she was doubtful she’d like what we made, especially since we appeared (at least some of us) to be from the United States. Only I was, and she said that I didn’t work like someone—especially a woman—from the US. I took it as a compliment. My team also mentioned that I was, like them, a volunteer. She was even more impressed. In the end, she fed us a bowl of beans, some tortillas, some pork, and Pepsi.

The supervisors of the microlending program came out to check our progress, take some photos, and drive us out to the highway to take a bus home, and they asked me if I had fun. I could not even feign that it was a fun day, but it was an excellent educational experience in many ways. I now understand how to mix concrete and mud and the rest of the recipe for making a small stove.

I asked the guys if I was any help at all. They unreservedly said that I was, but they said I could use two more weeks of practice! They intend to complete thirty stoves. We finished number thirteen.

oven! oven1 oven1a oven1b oven1c oven2 oven3 oven4 oven5 oven6 oven7