In the ice forest

for Jennifer, currently in the rainforest at Tela, Honduras

I enter the forest of ice
slowly, and on foot.

Trees creak in the slightest breeze.
Small branches break & fall
with a tinkling of bells.

The everywhere green of the mountain laurel
never looked fresher, each leaf
under glass.

The sun comes out.
A thousand swords leap from their scabbards.

On top of the snow, in every dip
& hollow, windrows of black
birch seeds.

The way of a naturalist (part 2)

(Part 1 appeared on Tuesday, January 13. Click here for the permalink.)

Maurice Maeterlinck called him “the Insect’s Homer . . . one of the most profound and inventive scholars and also one of the purest writers . . . of the century now past [the 19th].”

To Edwin Way Teale, this “humble chronicler of the commonplace” was like Diogenes, Ponce de Leon and Thoreau rolled into one.

Phenomenologist Gabriel Marcel may very well have had his famous countryman in mind when he wrote about “the naturalist,”

For him, the word ‘insignificant’ has no sense. In the passionate study of a particular species he has triumphed for all time over such reactions. The living organism he considers subsists in a dimension of being to which we, the profane, have access only with difficulty. Even leaving aside any belief in a divine creator, the naturalist experiences a kind of wonder before the fineness and complexity of the structure he observes. Here, in a very unexpected way, beyond our world of the profane and the ignorant, some connection is realized between the scientist and someone who must perhaps be called the saint. (Tragic Wisdom and Beyond, 1968)

If one pictures the saint as someone touched with an abnormal, slightly mad sense of dedication toward a single goal that most of us never give more than a passing thought to, then J. Henri Fabre definitely fits the bill. Born in 1823 and living almost a century until 1915, Fabre lived essentially two lives in succession. In the first, this son of French peasants clawed his way up out of the extreme poverty of his childhood into the more-respectable penuriousness of a rural schoolteacher in Provence, scrimping and saving toward his retirement at the age of sixty.

Along the way, he was fired for trying to admit girls into his science classes. (Though his one visit to Paris had left him appalled at the lonely existence of modern city-dwellers, he was no reactionary.) He had managed to befriend John Stuart Mill, whose loan of $600 was enough to keep the wolf from the door while he threw himself into writing popular science books and even pot-boilers to make enough money to support his wife and five children. During these especially lean years an audacious and (to most) incomprehensible dream took root. And in 1879, at the age of 55, with his children grown and the loan paid off, Fabre began to put his plans into action. He bought “a small foothold of earth,” Teale writes, “sun-scorched and thistle-ridden, unfit for grazing or agriculture, an area known locally as a harmas, at the edge of the village of Serignan. It was the first bit of land Fabre had owned in his life. To him, the stony soil, arid and rusty-red, formed an Eden.” (The Insect World of J. Henri Fabre, 1949).

For the next 36 years, this was to form his outdoor laboratory for many of the imaginative experiments and the countless hours of observations that went into his second life’s work. The idea he’d hatched was to write a great, multi-volume, encyclopedic work on the lives of insects and other arthropods: Souvenirs Entomologiques. With his beloved oldest son and wife recently deceased, at the age of 60 he remarried and fathered three more children. He spent virtually every day either out in the field or in the shed he’d converted into an indoor laboratory, though being too poor to afford even a microscope, his chief instruments were, he once remarked, “Time and Patience.”

When the last of the ten magisterial volumes was finally complete, Fabre did enjoy (if that’s the word) a brief, incandescent renown among scientists, government officials and men of letters. Entomologists revere him to this day. What is puzzling to me is that he not more celebrated by the champions of French literature for what one English translator called his “simple, durable prose,” reminiscent of John Steinbeck or George Orwell. Through regular, humorous asides and occasional longer musings upon his task, and with countless classical and popular references to make his subject matter more sympathetic, Fabre quickly endears himself to even the least nature-savvy of readers. In the first excerpt Teale included in his anthology, Fabre admits that some critics “have reproached me with my style, which has not the solemnity, nay, better, the dryness of the schools. They fear lest a page that is read without fatigue should not always be the expression of the truth. Were I to take their word for it, we are profound only on condition of being obscure.”

Of course, if some of the critics may have looked down their noses, that was nothing compared to reactions he elicited from his fellow villagers. He describes one incident in which a rural policeman attempted to arrest him for suspicious behavior while he was lying in the sand engrossed in the hunting activities of a wasp. He uses the present tense to describe another incident he describes as characteristic:

Ever since daybreak I have been ambushed, sitting on a stone, at the bottom of a ravine. The subject of my matutinal visit is the Languedocian Sphex. Three women, vine-pickers, pass in a group, on their way to work. They give a glance at the man seated, apparently absorbed in reflection. At sunset, the same pickers pass again, carrying their full baskets on their heads. The man is still there, sitting on the same stone, with his eyes fixed on the same place. My motionless attitude, my long persistency in remaining at that deserted spot, must have impressed them deeply. As they passed by me, I saw one of them tap her forehead and heard her whisper to the others: ‘Un paore inoucent, pecaire!’ And all three made the sign of the Cross.

An innocent, she had said, un inoucent, an idiot, a poor creature, quite harmless, but half-witted; and they had all made the sign of the Cross, an idiot being to them one with God’s seal stamped upon him.

The incident is introduced for reasons beyond mere self-deprecating humorousness; it is the hook: “It is in this ravine with its three grape-gathering women that I would meet the reader,” Fabre explains in The Hunting Wasps. Like the writer,

The Languedocian Sphex frequents these points, not in tribes congregating at the same spot when nest-building begins, but as solitary individuals, sparsely distributed, settling wherever the chances of their vagabondage lead them. Even as her kinswoman, the Yellow-winged Sphex, seeks the society of her kind and the animation of a yard full of workers, the Languedocian Sphex prefers isolation, quiet and solitude. Graver of gait, more formal in her manners, of a larger size and always more sombrely clad, she always lives apart, not caring what others do, disdaining company, a genuine misanthrope among the Sphegidae. The one is sociable, the other is not: a profound difference which in itself is enough to characterize them.

This amounts to saying that, with the Languedocian Sphex, the difficulties of observation increase . . .

As this sample demonstrates, Fabre did not completely abandon the populist techniques he had honed during his years as a hack writer. He had the sense to leaven his detailed descriptions of insects and the experiments he performed on them with plenty of drollery which, somehow, never quite strays into the minefield of unscientific anthropomorphism.

This is of course a particular challenge with insects and other invertebrates, which cannot fail to seem alien to even the most avid reader. Maybe because it IS such a challenge, some of the most engaging natural history classics of the 20th century also took insects for their theme: Teale’s own Near Horizons and Grassroot Jungles; Howard Ensign Evans’ Wasp Farm and Life on a Little Known Planet; Berndt Heinrich’s Bumblebee Economics. Yet I confess that, much as I have enjoyed all these books, the specific details, even the names of the insects they describe so lovingly quickly fade from my memory. Perhaps it’s because I am at heart a humanist, but insects seem simply too foreign for my imagination to fully assimilate.

But the fact is that insects, so supremely endowed with inhuman otherness, are linked to us by a thousand commonalties and unconscious partnerships. The science of ecology, unknown in Fabre’s day, gives ample support to the intuition that, without insects, most complex food webs would collapse and the vast majority of multi-cellular life forms – plants, animals and fungi alike – would rapidly go extinct. In the radically simplified, artificial ecosystems favored by farmers and gardeners, insects appear chiefly as pests. But this gives a distorted impression, since the species so perceived represent a tiny fraction of the total. Even in apparently healthy, “natural” ecosystems, outbreaks of native herbivorous insects are, in many cases, the result of widespread human alteration of landscape patterns and disturbance regimes. In some cases, outbreak behavior is a normal part of local or regional cycles of disturbance and is essential to the propagation of that species, such that its great numbers during an outbreak belie its sensitivity to environmental change. The Rocky Mountain locust (Melanoplus spretus) for instance, became extinct within a few decades of the introduction of the plow and the cow to the river valleys of the Great Plains and the intermontane West.

Insects challenge us in many ways. Even apart from their keystone roles in maintaining ecosystem functions, their sheer diversity is daunting. The British naturalist B.S. Haldane, when asked by a clergyman what, if anything, a lifetime of scientific research had led him to conclude about the mind of the Creator, famously replied that God must have “an inordinate fondness for beetles.”

One of the biggest challenges for a scientific observer is simply to come up with reasonable explanations for behavior that, in humans, would be taken as prima facie evidence of reason. Fabre’s ability to disprove, through careful and imaginative experimentation, the obvious and anthropomorphizing explanation was the truest sign of his aptitude for what we call science.

Fabre’s unflagging faith in the power of blind instinct might strike many readers as symptomatic of a stunted imagination or an insensitivity to wonder. But actually I think the opposite was more nearly the case. The fact that insects can accomplish so many amazing feats WITHOUT the ability to anticipate or to ponder cause and effect should be (as it was for Fabre) an inexhaustible source of wonder. In a famous series of experiments with captive burying-beetles, for example, he managed to show how these insects could surmount innumerable obstacles to the burial of a small mammal. The beetles were, Fabre decided, the beneficiaries not of reasoning intelligence but of a limited toolkit of instinctual behaviors and enough time to employ them in, over and over in varying combinations, until at last a solution appeared on its own – or failed to appear, despite the insect’s physical ability to accomplish it.

Fabre’s own instincts have largely been borne out by subsequent research, which too is impressive considering the meagerness of his respective toolkit. He knew nothing, for instance, of the importance of pheromones and other chemicals to insect communication, yet through close observation he was able to document the very haphazard and (to our way of thinking) inefficient way in which insects such as the burying-beetles would “investigate” and “cooperate” to achieve complicated results.

Casual readers of this weblog might assume, based on my frequent criticisms of reductionism as a stand-alone basis for human understanding, that I would advocate its complete abandonment in favor of Zen-like direct apprehension or some form of quasi-theistic mysticism. Not so! The fact is that the ability to break a problem down into its constituent parts is usually essential to its solution. To reject all such problems as unfit for the spiritually inclined would be to accept, in most cases, explanations that flatter rather than humble us. The imagination is like a muscle: it needs to be exercised. In this regard – paradoxical as it may seem – skepticism is the imagination’s closest ally. Fabre rightly dismisses the “explanations” of previous naturalists, who lacked his skeptical and wide-open gaze, as so much folklore. But the real folk, his fellow villagers, struck him as superior in their instinct for the truth. When queried about the cause of some mysterious phenomenon, such as the clumps of foam produced by froghoppers, they would answer simply “I don’t know.”

“The theorists, proudly daring, have an answer nowadays for every question,” Fabre wrote in The Mason-Wasps, “but as a thousand theoretical views are not worth a single fact, thinkers untrammeled by preconceived ideas are far from becoming convinced.” He continued:

It is something to observe; but it is not enough: we must experiment, that is to say, we must ourselves intervene and create artificial conditions which oblige the animal to reveal to us what it would not tell if left to the normal course of events. Its actions, marvelously contrived to attain the end pursued, are capable of deceiving us as to their real meaning and of making us accept, in their linked sequence, that which our own logic dictates to us. It is not the animal that we are now consulting upon the nature of its aptitudes, upon the primary motives of its activity, but our own opinions, which always yield a reply in favor of our cherished notions. As I have repeatedly shown, observation in itself is often a snare: we interpret its data according to the exigencies of our theories. To bring out the truth, we must needs resort to experiment . . . Observation sets the problem; experiment solves it, always presuming that it can be solved; or at least, if powerless to yield the full light of truth, it sheds a certain gleam over the edges of the impenetrable cloud.

“Fabre is another Gulliver,” writes Mary Oliver in Blue Pastures. She calls his descriptions of insects and other arthropods “close to miraculous.” That’s why, a century after their first appearance, despite the competition from so many other, more recent classics on one aspect or another of the mammoth Class Insecta, Fabre’s volumes continue to amaze and enchant.

I am a dreamer and a writer of poems. The scientific quest is, in some ways, as strange to me as the world of insects. I have neither the patience nor the aptitude to pursue a scientific career, yet perhaps for that reason I am awestruck by the few latter-day Fabres I have been fortunate enough to meet. The seasoned field naturalist is as unlike the verbose humanist scholar as one can imagine: he or she tends to be much less convinced of the ability of language to capture truth. “The more I observe and experiment,” Fabre confessed, “the more clearly I see rising out of the black mists of possibility an enormous note of interrogation.”

J. Henri Fabre’s life makes for a great morality play: a scientist’s version of the Horatio Alger myth. For all that he may have been a paragon of single-minded dedication to an enormous and exacting task, it is his good sense and wisdom that wins me over in the end. One of his most famous statements of belief comes from a letter he wrote to a friend near the end of his life. If it were up to me to rewrite the Bible, I would put this quote right at the very end:

Because I have shifted a few grains of sand upon the shore, am I in a position to understand the depths of the ocean? Life has unfathomable secrets. Human knowledge will be erased from the world’s archives before we possess the last word that a gnat has to say to us.


Bibliographic note: The Maeterlinck quote comes from the Preface to The Life of the Spider, translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos, Dodd, Mead and Co., 1919. This preface also contains a slightly different translation of the quote, just given, about the limits to human knowledge. It continues (in part): “Success is for the loud talkers, the self-convinced dogmatists; everything is admitted on condition that it be noisily proclaimed. Let us throw off this sham and recogize that, in reality, we know nothing about anything, if things were probed to the bottom. Scientifically, Nature is a riddle without a definite solution to satisfy man’s curiosity . . . To know how not to know might well be the last word of wisdom.” I’m sure it was statements like this that sparked Teale’s comparison with Diogenes!

All the other Fabre quotes come from the one-volume selection, The Insect World of J. Henri Fabre, edited and introduced by Edwin Way Teale. Not only is this book still in print but, according to Amazon, affordable reprints of each translated volume of the full-length Souvenirs Entomologiques are available too. Despite not being exactly a household name, Fabre obviously still has a devoted following.

For more on the extinction of North America’s only native locust species, see Jeffrey Lockwood, “Voices From the Past: Learning From the Rocky Mountain Locust,” Wild Earth, Spring 2002, 21-27.

The way of a naturalist

Idries Shah’s observation that humility is not merely a virtue but a technical requirement points to the deep kinship between authentic self-knowledge and empirical knowledge about the so-called mundane world. (See the quotes from conservation biologist Reed Noss from one of the entries on December 17.) Islamic mathematicians, geographers and scholars of a thousand years ago made much of this kinship, of course; when Western European naturalists picked up the torch half a millennium later, however, initial allegiance to a kind of decayed theosophy quickly faded. For whatever reason, the greatest revolution in human thinking the world had ever seen bequeathed to us the modern view of a universe in which almost everything is dead, inert, or at best robotic. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, the majority of behaviorists continue to assert that only humans possess “consciousness” (continually redefined to exclude other species that are strongly suspected to dream, anticipate, mourn the dead, experience joy, etc.). Even fellow humans can be shown to operate mostly on the basis of self-centered urges and instincts. It is commonplace to speak of DNA as “programming” – never mind that this completely ignores the role of chance (or God, if you prefer) in shaping all outcomes.

Originally an elite, minority view, this way of looking at the world has become dominant even among those who consider themselves to be most in revolt against modernism (or postmodernism, which is a fairly undistinguished offshoot in my opinion). “Scientific creationism” is an obvious example. But I would go even further: I don’t believe there’s any evidence that literalistic interpretations of religious texts and traditions held any sway before the modern era. Yet today such interpretations are at the root of a worldwide phenomenon – religious fundamentalism – and it isn’t hard to see why. Humans are an intensely visually oriented species; the overwhelming material and technical elaboration of modern societies and the raw power that that confers adds up to an argument that is extremely difficult for the adherents of more traditional worldviews to confront head-on. Even without the direct experience of conquest and slavery or debt-peonage, folks living more-or-less contentedly for centuries on subsistence and gift economies now suddenly understand themselves to be impoverished. Lacking. Inadequate and inferior. (Helena Norberg-Hodge writes movingly about observing this process in the kingdom of Ladakh, where India has been the direct source of the modernist malaise, in her book Ancient Futures.)

A generation or so later, the reaction sets in. But power once gained is difficult to give up, and where the modernist project is concerned that power is expressed in stark, shameless reductionism. The world is nothing more than a grab-bag of resources to be exploited for human use; human beings are nothing more than consumers/taxpayers/voters whose well-being derives ultimately from adequate access to resources. Fundamentalists – be they Christian, Muslim, Ultra-Orthodox Jewish, Hindus, even American Indian – in asserting the validity of their own traditions, attempt to exploit the power of reductionism rather than to challenge its primacy. (They are after all reactionaries, not radicals.) The materialist’s simple-minded dichotomy opposing objective, concrete reality to subjective, imaginary interpretation – “just the facts” vs. “just a myth” – has already insinuated itself into their thoughts and their language.

But all this has been a digression from what was to have been my main topic today. I want to look at a few of the ways in which a modern scientist might cultivate what a Sufi (or Zennist, or Christian mystic) would recognize as authentic ways of knowing. Our guide will be the late Lawrence Kilham.

Lawrence Kilham was a distinguished virologist who also wrote extensively about woodpeckers and crows for the ornithological journals. He is a relatively rare example of a laboratory scientist who also honored – and employed – the skills of a field naturalist. (As most readers are probably aware, the culture of modern science fetishizes laboratory work and, even more, the ‘pure’ theoretics of physics; biologists who engage in such lowly tasks as observation and systematics are near the bottom of the totem pole, along with anthropologists and other unworthy aspirants to the testosterone-charged arenas of Pure or Hard Science.) In the introduction to The American Crow and the Common Raven (Texas A&M Press, 1989), Kilham discusses the kinds of intellectual tools necessary for the scientific enterprise, mostly by quoting others. (Honoring the chain of transmission, as a Sufi might say.) Here, in quoting Kilham, where he simply lists author and date in parentheses, I’ll include the titles of the works referenced.

“‘Each scientist,’ wrote Agnes Arbor (The Mind and the Eye, 1954), ‘should be able to say to himself, like Descartes, that his intention is to build upon a foundation that is all his own.’ This may seem difficult when one is starting out, but it is the only way likely to be enjoyable. There is no such thing as one scientific method that all must follow (J.B. Conant, Two Modes of Thought, 1964). As Nietzsche said of philosophy, ‘This is my way. What is yours? As for the way, there is no such thing.’ Each must find or invent techniques best suited for his individual approach.’ . . .

“Preferring to be a free agent, I have always shunned the idea, whether with birds or viruses, of starting with a hypothetical problem and sticking to it. The challenge is to get from the known to the unknown. Almost any problem can set the wheels in motion. But once under way, I know I can do best by observing all that birds do, taking notes, then reviewing and reflecting on them when I get home. Persisting in this pedestrian fashion I find that something exciting almost always turns up. It is the chance discovery that makes science exciting. As [Konrad] Lorenz (Studies in Animal and Human Behavior, 1970) states in a chapter entitled ‘Companions as Factors in the Bird’s Environment,’ ‘The factual data upon which all of the following investigations are based derived almost entirely from chance observation.’ The chance experiment, he thinks, assures an impartial observer freedom from any initial hypothesis. I have long found such ideas congenial. They echo Louis Pasteur’s dictum, enshrined at the Harvard Medical School . . . that ‘chance favors the prepared mind.’
(Kilham, The American Crow and the Common Raven, 5-6. Emphasis mine.)

Whether in the lab or in the field, Kilham preferred to keep it simple: “I like to work with a minimum of apparatus,” he admits, and quotes Rousseau: “The more ingenious and accurate our instruments, the more unsusceptible and inexpert become our organs: by assembling a heap of machinery about us, we find afterwards none in ourselves.”

For behavioral studies in particular, Kilham says, “All one needs is a pair of field glasses, a notepad, and an open mind. One cannot, at least I cannot, study bird behavior and be occupied with a complicated piece of apparatus. Observing is a full-time occupation. You have to have your mind on what you are doing. Important bits of behavior – a copulation, a glimpse of a passing predator, or something new and unexpected – can take place in seconds. If one’s mind is on a camera, wondering how to get a good picture, one’s mind is not on what a bird is doing; being a good photographer is also a full-time occupation.” And he goes on to describe how one attempt to bring a tape recorder into the field caused him to miss a distressing amount of crow behavior.

“If one concentrates on producing a statistically sound publication, one may overlook much of what the birds are doing. Emphasis will be on covering as many nests or pairs as possible. But in trying to study birds as whole, living entities, noting everything they do, I find that two pairs of woodpeckers or, with crows, two cooperatively breeding groups, is the maximum I can study effectively. I am committed to this approach and thus feel that simple narration, or an anecdotal style, is the soundest way of presenting how animals live.” (Ibid, 7)

One problem with his kind of approach finding a wider acceptance among scientists, Kilham recognizes, is the mechanistic biases of the reigning “scientific” worldview. He quotes the ornithologist Olas Murie, who complained in a 1962 journal article that “we are extremely timid about assigning to other animals any of the mental or psychological traits of man. One would think that the scientist is the perfect fundamentalist, carefully maintaining a wall between man and other animals.”

The problem is that individual observations are hard to quantify. Even the most fascinating or tantalizing observation is likely to be dismissed by the worshippers of Hardness and Purity as anecdotal. Kilham again quotes Lorenz to the effect that the supposed centrality of quantitifiable methods is “one of the dangerous half-truths which fashion is prone to accept.” “The fallacy,” Kilham adds, “is what the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead referred to as ‘the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.'” He quotes a biologist named Donald Griffin, who thinks that the mechanistic view of nature is in error not only “because it belittles the value of animals, but because it leads us to a seriously incomplete and misleading picture of reality.”

After a paragraph on statistics and its lack of utility in either of the disciplines which formed his life-work, Kilham concludes, “There is much that is enjoyable in thinking for oneself and studying birds in one’s own way. Few seem to realize that even an ordinary person can make discoveries. The hitch is, as Polanyi (The Study of Man, 1959) pointed out, that ‘you cannot discover or invent anything unless you are convinced that it is there ready to be found. The recognition of this hidden presence is in fact half the battle. It means that you have hit on a real problem and are asking the right questions.’ This book is mainly an account of my search for the ‘hidden presence’ in crows and ravens. There has been no magic involved. Only the thousands of hours of watching, none of which has been dull.” (Ibid, 9-10. Emphasis added.)

We might argue with Kilham’s limited definition of magic, but never mind. The immense significance attached to birds in many different cultures is another topic to reserve for fuller treatment some other time. But I can’t resist closing once again with the motto to Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (invoked also in one of the foundational entries for this weblog):

How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?

Poem for the New Year

The squirrel says: the trees
in which I have slept
are the color of the sun.
Leafless now and clear
all likely pathways. The tree peers
bleary-eyed through every scar
that used to be a leaf,
she is stiff and cold
and full of old voices.
I rub my face and neck against
her bark: wake up!
My tail trembles.
I am rainwater running
up and down the trunk,
from tree to tree I am wind
leaping, making the treetops sway.
Every possible gulf
of space is spanned
by a possible branch, look!
I can taste the kernels
at the tips of possible twigs.
And within me, now, too,
sunlight on branches.
Aching blue sky of January.
Cries of thirst.

In lieu of an omen

First natural observation of the New Year: a gray squirrel running through the branches of the five black walnut trees in the yard of my parent’s house. I’ve drunk my coffee, have gotten up to go back inside my own cottage (it’s 30 degrees F) and I notice the squirrel as I glance west, toward the sunlight seeping down Sapsucker Ridge and across the field. The walnut trees are still half in shadow, their crowns glow a rich gold. The squirrel – probably resident in the cavity of the largest tree – is racing up and down the sunlit limbs and flinging itself from tree to tree in a manner I can only describe as ecstatic. When it pauses, its tail vibrates spasmodically and it rubs both sides of its face and neck against the tree bark, left side then right.

I know this behavior from having observed it often among squirrels in the butternut tree that stood in my own front lawn until this past August, when it toppled over onto the porch one morning shortly after I’d gone inside. (Losing this butternut was almost as traumatic for me as the death of my grandfather the month before; both left a sizable hole.) I assume, based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve read in the scientific literature, that this behavior is associated with the onset of estrus. But something can have an “explanation,” be fairly familiar and still seem strange and wondrous. My only resolution for the New Year (and lord knows I could make many!) is to see the world more frequently in such a light.


The sun sings a song of oneness: Take off your dark glasses, undress, succumb! She holds nothing back, that’s why it hurts to look directly in her heart. From too much whiteness, vision fails. The way of light leads straight through the valley of the shadow. (Or something like that.)
After a week of cold, today the temperature is up near 50 degees F. & even with the sun behind the clouds, the six inches of accumulated snow are sinking fast. Unfortunately the flu has kept me inside for four days, missing out on some great x-c skiing.
“Snowblind” was one of the best songs on Black Sabbath’s flawed masterpiece, Vol. 4. I think it was about the perils of cocaine use. One of the many great LPs I sold off, ten years ago or more, to buy alcohol.