March 2008

Remembering a famous wife and visionary

By Art Goodtimes

LAURA HUXLEY … This amazing woman was born in Turin in 1911, and died in Los Angeles in December of last year. A child prodigy on violin, she debuted in the U.S. in 1937, but forsook the stage to explore and practice psychology that turned to common- sense self-help books; “You Are Not A Target: Transforming Negative Feelings Into Creative Actions” (St. Martin’s, 1986), is among the best known. She worked for one of the Hollywood studios as an associate producer of documentaries, and founded an institute for children … At the Telluride Mushroom Festival of 1999 she spoke openly (sometimes ecstatically) of the role of entheogens in her own life and in the life and death of Aldous Huxley. It was her biography of her famous husband that described how she administered LSD to her husband on his deathbed … But she felt the occasional psychedelic experience was not as valuable to us as what she called “visionary common sense.” “Mountain-climbing is the best psychedelic experience,” she told Telluride audiences almost a decade ago … It’s good to honor this wonderful Italian woman who lived a full life, shared her recipes for fullness with us, and late in life took up the cause of children, particularly those new sparks of life coming to term in their mother’s womb in the time before birth.

SPEAKING OF KIDS… That reminds me, the time before birth can also be quite useful for fathers-to-be. Let me pull out one of the handy dad tricks from my Testosterone Toolkit that I used to help quiet a crying baby or put a tired one to sleep … Forget penis envy. I got titty fixation, the culture has titty fixation, and what kid doesn’t? (For sure those breast-fed). But since most men aren’t gifted with that enviable equipment, one trick that served me well for all three of my blood kids was singing a lullaby to them in utero … Now most of you probably haven’t heard of Dr. R.L. Birdwhistle, a social anthropologist from the University of Louisville and the developer of kinesics (the academic version of the study that has entered pop psychology as “body language”). But I read a paper of his back in my days as a student of early child development and epistemology (a branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge) and a practicing pre-school teacher and director (for 10 years). And as a poet, focused on the word and its use, dialects, effects and affects, I was intrigued too. Birdwhistle said that babies are born with a micro-kinetic alphabet of the sounds heard in utero. In the infant’s collage world of colors, shapes and motion – some familiar and some fascinating – for each sound heard, the newborn will make a corresponding facial twitch of some kind — eye blink, brow lift, half smile. Birdwhistle did the study recording that – emphasizing just how important was that gestation time before a child is born for the growing fetus. That a child was born having learned a lot already … So, dads-to-be, pick a song or chant you like a whole lot (and can sing, rap, hum or whisper) – I chose the American Shaker hymn “Tis a Gift to be Simple” – and at least a few times a week serenade the wee one in mommy’s belly (such activities may qualify as foreplay (or annoyance). Do not attempt at any time without permission … Nine months and voilá! After the baby’s born, and mom or someone else hands them to you, fed but tired or maybe cranky, you can rock them in your arms and sing them that lullaby and they often will go right to sleep. Even if they’re crying … I know. It seemed like a miracle to me too, but it worked for my three kids and their three different moms. And it had been passed on to me by a wise elder brother … At least for the first year and a half. Then its effect was sporadic. And by two or so, my kids reacted often negatively when I tried to “use” it as a tool … And now, 10 to 25 years later, it seems to have little visible effect when they hear me sing “Tis A Gift to be Simple.” At least on them. For me, I get all emotional.

WEEKLY QUOTA … “Corruptisima republica plurimae leges.” — Tacitus (The more corrupt a republic, the more laws there are.)


in talking about the present

ooooh, i thought you said bee here now
said the bear who was hungry for honey.
she'd been looking for bees for days, for days,
hoping to follow them home.
all she knew of the present was that
there was not enough sweetness in it
so she sat as quietly as she could,
listening for the distant drone of wings

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
San Miguel County Poet Laureate

SETTLEMENT … When you get painted into a corner, maybe it’s time to make peace with warring subcontractors … That’s a cockamamie metaphor, but maybe fitting for the jumbled decade of procedural, administrative, legislative and legal tussles San Miguel County has seen over an upgrade to the Nucla-Norwood- Telluride electrical transmission line proposed by Tri- State, our co-op electrical generation and transmission utility. But, all that water under the bridge, bottom line – the current legal stalemate could take another decade to grind through the judicial system, since it involves issues of state and possibly national significance. And that means we could be another 15 to 20 years without sufficient backup power should the 115 kV Ophir line fall prey to rockfall or avalanche (as it did several years ago) … For small short outages, a blackout is perhaps just inconvenient, or sometimes even fun. But, worst-case scenario, were we to lose power in a week like this, in the midst of the winter season, with conditions too dangerous to repair, we would have to figure out how to run a full-on ski season with half the normal power, with rolling blackouts, with closed restaurants, with cold dark hotel rooms, with burst pipes, with fewer and fewer tourists … It’s a resort nightmare … So, the Intergovernmental Council – the county, Telluride, Mountain Village, Ophir, Sawpit and Norwood – formed a powerline task force composed of myself, Bob Delves and Mallory Dimmitt (replaced with Stu Fraser when Mallory resigned) and charged us to see what might be done at this juncture in the stalemate. After much research, discussion and negotiations we have reached a compromise settlement that will get the line undergrounded, as county regulations mandate, but at a much reduced “full-cost” price tag to Tri-State, with East End citizens having to pick up a share of the long-term financing (the price tag in order to secure uninterrupted electrical service for the next several decades). And, voilá, Tri-State gets its line built, energizing the local grid, and providing loop power to its highest loads in the region – and we only have to spend four to five years under the gun of losing the Ophir line … Corners. They sure can get messy.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.