Communion Of Dreams


“I was speechless for a time.”

We got a little more than 2″ of rain yesterday.

On my walk this morning, the grass no longer crunched underfoot.

* * * * * * *

Got a note from a friend this morning. He’d just finished reading CoD last night, made this comment:

“That was one hell of a lot of keeping things straight on your part. Very nice job and a thoroughly enjoyable read.”

* * * * * * *

From almost a decade ago:

My awareness shifted, slowed, and a calmness and sense of peace came over me.  I did a cursory examination of the cottage, but then walked behind the Well room to find the source of the stream which fed the pool there:  it was a spring, unencumbered by metal bars, bubbling up in a stone-ledged pool complete with small steps, perhaps four feet across.  I knelt on one knee, left hand on the cold stone slab, the right reaching down to caress the surface of the water.  Just touching that water gave me an electric chill, and brought tears to my eyes.  Those tears have returned as I write this.  I paused there, and just felt the joy of that water through my fingers for a few minutes, before returning to the Well room.

This is a substantial room, all the walls mostly intact but the roof missing.  Perhaps 15 feet on a side, the pool in the center 8 or 9 feet across.  Again, there were stone steps leading down into the pool.  In the thick stone walls are several niches for sitting, perfect for contemplation.  I sat.  I just felt that place, felt the faith and devotion that had shaped it, and the deep source that fed it.  The pool is quiet, the surface a mirror for looking up into the open sky.  After what was probably only a few minutes, but what felt like hours, I again kneeled, reaching down to touch that smooth inviting surface.  Here there was a different character to the energy, less raw, perhaps easier to digest.  A sense of communion with all the souls who had entered that pool.  A moment that stretched back centuries.

I was speechless for a time.  Alix (my wife) knows me well enough, has seen me in these moments before, that she let me be, allowed me to just experience the place, until I was filled and ready to move again.  With the silky texture of worn stone sliding under my fingers, I rose and left the pool, pausing only to pat the dark stone of the doorway and give thanks.

In was in that moment that St. Cybi’s Well was conceived.

* * * * * * *

It’s a strange thing to write a novel. To have it churn inside you for years. To feel it gestate, to become heavy in your mind, slowly pushing aside everything else.

I think this is part of the reason why so many writers suffer with addiction and relationship problems of one sort or another. The book takes up all the space in your head. And if you can’t extract it at the right time, and in *just* the right way, it hurts. It hurts like hell.

* * * * * * *

We got a little more than 2″ of rain yesterday.

On my walk this morning, the grass no longer crunched underfoot. We’re still in a drought — still some 10″ under for total precipitation this year — but two inches of rain over the course of 24 hours has helped. A lot. It no longer feels as if the entire outdoors is holding its breath, hanging on in anticipation . . . and in worry. The world has sighed.

I was speechless for a time. I am no longer.

There is work to be done. Hard work. There is no guarantee that I’ll be successful. There certainly is no guarantee that anyone will like the book. While it is very much a prequel to Communion of Dreams, St. Cybi’s Well will not neatly fit in the usual framework of a classic science fiction story. The passage above should give you some sense of that.

But I have to be faithful to the story. And have faith in my fans.

Stick around.

Jim Downey

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99.29%

I’ve written before (even recently) about the tree in the image at the top of this page. It’s locally known as the “Williamson Oak”, named after the family which owns the property where it grows. It is, simply, magnificent, and the oldest/largest such tree in the world.

And it is suffering from the drought which is having a devastating effect across the whole state and region:

The tree was starting to show signs of distress, Williamson said. “The leaves are beginning to curl up a little bit, and they have turned kind of brown. I think it has aborted a lot of the acorns. And the leaves turn upside down to keep from losing moisture.”

The ongoing drought didn’t get much worse in the past week, but things in Boone County and across the Midwest did not improve much either. According to the drought monitor report issued this morning, 99.29 percent of Missouri is in extreme drought or worse. The remainder of the state, a tiny sliver of the northwest, is only under a “severe” drought designation. More than one-third of the state, including most of Boone County, is designated as undergoing an “exceptional drought.”

Typically, the older a tree is, the deeper the roots it has. So older trees tend to fare better in severe droughts. And the Williamson Oak is in the Missouri River bottoms — the river’s natural flood plain, where ground water isn’t that far below the surface. In other words, this tree should have the best possible chance to survive this drought. Still, things are so bad that this was the image on our local paper’s front page last evening:

John Sam Williamson releases 850 gallons of water at the base of the 350-year old champion bur oak at McBaine Wednesday. Six generations of his family have owned the land since the 1830s. Williamson plans to release roughly 1,600 gallons of water around the base of the tree each week for the next several weeks.

Yeah, this drought is bad. The worst I’ve ever seen.

Jim Downey



47 hours.

In about 47 hours I’ll be on the shuttle to the airport.

* * * * * * *

There was a news item I saw the other day which indicates that this year’s extreme temperature records are starting to convince more Americans that global climate change is real.

Every summer it seems like a different kind of out-of-control weather pattern decides to strike. In the past month alone, we’ve experienced deadly Colorado wildfires, early-season heat waves and a wind-whipping hurricane, convincing formerly dubious Americans that climate change is actually real, according to the Associated Press.

“Many people around the world are beginning to appreciate that climate change is under way, that it’s having consequences that are playing out in real time and, in the United States at least, we are seeing more and more examples of extreme weather and extreme climate-related events,” Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told the AP.

* * * * * * *

A month ago:

Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co., said he was “dead wrong” when he dismissed media reports over trading in the bank’s chief investment office two months ago as “a complete tempest in a teapot.”

“When I made that statement I was dead wrong,” Dimon said in his Senate Banking Committee hearing on Wednesday, pointing the finger at the former chief investment office head Ina Drew, who Dimon said assured him that “this was an isolated small issue and that it wasn’t a big problem.”

* * *

Dimon abruptly disclosed last month that JPMorgan has suffered at least $2 billion of trading losses in a few weeks. The estimate of the trading losses has since increased to $3 billion and maybe more, although Dimon reiterated in Washington that he expects the bank’s second quarter to be solidly profitable and suggested the losses are under control.

Today:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Investors are gearing up for a week full of earnings reports and domestic news, but Europe will once again be hard for U.S. investors to ignore.

Dozens of companies are set to kick off earnings season this week. All eyes will turn to JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) on Friday, as the company will post its trading losses tied to its bad hedge from its London unit.

Some estimate that the loss could be as high as $9 billion, though the bank’s chief executive officer, Jamie Dimon, said back in May that the loss then stood at $2 billion.

* * * * * * *

My garden is about fifty paces behind our house, in a lovely large & open area. There are large trees closer to the house, but nothing back further, so it gets plenty of sun. Decades before we moved in my (to-be) father-in-law maintained a large truck garden there. He had a good eye for the spot.

Every three days for the last few weeks I make multiple trips out to the garden, swapping the feed on the soaker hoses.  Each hose is laid out to water two clusters of plants. And I run each one for about 20 minutes. This whole process takes two hours.

Today, as I walked out to the garden, for the first time I noticed the crunch of dry grass underfoot. I had been watching as the lawn slowly turned increasingly brown, but this was the first time I noticed the actual sound of the grass breaking underfoot.

91% of Missouri is now under what is officially described as either “extreme” or “severe” drought conditions.

* * * * * * *

You’ve been screwed:

The biggest scandal in the world right now has nothing to do with sex or celebrities. It’s about an interest rate called LIBOR, or the London Interbank Offered Rate.

* * *

LIBOR, as it turns out, is the rate at which banks lend to each other. And more importantly, it has become the global benchmark for lending.

Banks look at it every day to figure out what they should charge you for not just home loans, but car loans, commercial loans, credit cards. LIBOR ends up almost everywhere.

Gillian Tett, an editor with the Financial Times, says that $350 trillion worth of contracts have been made that refer to LIBOR.

So literally hundreds of trillions of dollars around the world, all these deals, are based on this number. Now we find out this number might be a lie. At least one bank was tampering with that number for their own profit.

This past week Barclay’s Bank was fined $455 million, and two senior executives (the chairman and the CEO) resigned as investigation into the scandal started to turn up evidence of the scope of the market-rigging.  But many people familiar with the industry say that this is just the tip of the iceberg — that there will likely be a number of other multi-national banks proven to have participated.

* * * * * * *

Climate change? Climate change.

Global Annual Mean Surface Air Temperature Change

Fig A2

Line plot of global mean land-ocean temperature index, 1880 to present, with the base period 1951-1980. The dotted black line is the annual mean and the solid red line is the five-year mean. The green bars show uncertainty estimates. [This is an update of Fig. 1A in Hansen et al. (2006).]

Figure also available as PDF, or Postscript. Also available are tabular data.

(I don’t put up with climate change denial here. Take it to your own blog.)

* * * * * * *

Perspective:

Leaders shape the frame of argument.  They delineate the forms of dissent and opposition.  They define, both by what they say and by what they fail to rule out, whether we have a small “r” republican approach to government, or rule by the manipulators of the manipulated mob.  When they stay silent they are the cowards of the headline, passive bystanders as their followers betray the basic principles of (small “d”) democratic politics.

Greece is a good place from which to think about this.  You don’t have to go back to Agamemnon or to Plato; living memory—the civil war, the colonels, very recent memory indeed offer regular reminders of the fragility of government by consent of the governed.  Words matter here, and have for millennia.

So it is in this place, with that history in mind, that I am reminded once again that the habit of dismissing crap like that spewed by Nicholson and Davis as wingnuts being wingnuts is not acceptable.  The speakers themselves may not count for much, but for a nominally civil society to allow such speech to pass without massive retaliation, actual leadership from those who would lead from that side…well, that’s how individuals get hurt, and democracies die.  It’s happened before, not many miles from where I sit as I write this.

* * * * * * *

In about 47 hours I’ll be on the shuttle to the airport.

Of course, I don’t have everything done which needs to be done. And I really shouldn’t have taken the time to put together such a long and wide-ranging post.

But I wanted to take a moment and thank those who bought books yesterday. It may have been prompted by yesterday’s blog entry, it may not — I have no way of knowing. But thank you. It wasn’t a big day for sales, but it was a nice bump up from the single sale the day before.

I won’t be traveling to Greece, but to Rome. And it won’t surprise me if I find a new perspective or two while I’m there. I’m hoping that the change will allow me to integrate some of the many things I have been thinking about concerning the next book.

Things like spontaneous combustion. It seems that the world is ripe for it.

Again.

Jim Downey