Sep 11, 2006


More out of sequence notes:

Your dream (if that's what it was) of being lured to the lair of an elf  with kaleidoscope eyes reminded me of a conversation I had with F.S. Whinkla a year or so ago. He had strolled down from his nest to bring me a few bottles of his four-year-old Dandelion/Sage wine. I say strolled for that is exactly what he had done, taking three days to cover the few miles. Anyway, he said the wine was at a perfect state of equilibrium and should be sipped immediately. I grabbed a bagette and we wandered off to the Buddha garden with two crystal goblets and an entire afternoon of uncommitted hours. Somehow we got to talking about oceans, and sailing, and when I mentioned storms and ship wrecks I noticed a spark, like the striking of Dover flint against Pittsburgh steel, flash behind his eyes. "Sailing," he said with a sigh, "yes, sailing." He took more than a sip of the straw-coloured liquid in his glass and stood up, gazing toward an unseen horizon. " 'I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by' " he said, turning toward me. "That's from Sea-Fever by John Masefield, but I suppose you know it." I did, but remained silent. "Once upon a time." he continued, "I was quite a sailor, bet you didn't know that Larry. It was before I started piloting dirigibles. I'd built this boat you see, sort of a cross between an Irish coracle and an egyptian dahabeah and wanted to test its worthiness against a real adversary. So I shipped it to Ny Alesund on the north coast of Spitsbergen, that's nearly 80 degrees north latitude and proceeded to sail northeast into very bowels of darkness. It was late spring so I thought much of the pack ice would have broken up allowing reasonable passage thought I had no idea of my destination. I think I thought I could sail all the way to Ambarchik or Vankarem in Russia, or even Point Barrow. I had enough food on board to last thirty or so days, longer if necessary. You know I don't eat much, even in winter, and I had a little evaporative distillery that could make a quart or more of fresh water every day, even with minimul sunlight. I'd filled a sea chest with an extra jacket, a repair kit, sextant, an old chart of the Arctic I'd bought from a retired whaler in Tromso, and a copy of Chapman's "Terror Incognito" should I find myself becalmed, or, as I joked to the old seadogs along the quay in Ny Alesund, marooned.


Oh, one very quick correction. The garden you mention has nothing to do with F S Whinkla. He lives in a rather substantial run-down cabin on the cusp of an alkali lake without a shoreline. He spends almost all his free moments fishing for ghosts with tangled words embroidered on a line of red silk. To sip words with him by candlelight is a delight, and occasionally, if the Tarot is sympathetic, he’ll invite you to share a spicy curry of ideas and a chutney bulging with artistic thoughts. But Whinkla does not garden, in the accepted sense of the word.

Whinkla Notes

Out of sequence of course but while looking for one thing I found another notebook entry, and another:

"I'm not so sure," Whinkla said, his slow, comforting voice easing my anxiety like a second glass of plum-scented Merlot, "yes, one does face the possibility that whatever it is you've worked so long and hard to create might, in essence, really belong to someone else. But are we talking of something merely derivative, or imitative or, shall I say it? something stolen, something pirated?"

"Well tell me F. S.," I asked, "how many of the numerous things you've created 
have you thrown away because you felt they were primarily the result of an inspiration from someone else? How many of your creations have you destroyed out of embarrassment, or fear? How many of the things you've written and published have been plagiarized?"

"Thankfully only an early short story Larry, and I cringe every time I open the magazine in which it appeared. Ah Anais, but I did like her style when I was fifteen, and I did learn a noble lesson. Thank goodness it was an obscure early thing of hers that I appropriated. But when I think about it, I may be too harsh on myself, there was much more of me in the story than there was of her. But I know what you mean. When is a work of art homage or theft?

. . .

"I'll have to admit when you nailed that soup can lid to the thrift shop door and called it 'Cyclops 1' I had to reconsider some of my feelings and beliefs about what is art. Then, when you sold it the next day for fifteen hundred dollars, well, that's when I went on that four hundred mile hike down the crest of the Sierra."

"You know F.S." I said, "I've tried very hard not to consciously take, or steal if you will, anything other than the essence or spirit or message of another's work of art, whether it's a painting, collage, mosaic, sculpture, dance, or a Pacific sunset, a mouldy leaf or decomposing orange peel ready-made. I digest whatever it is I have absorbed through my senses in my own fiery bowels before any excretion on the page or canvas occurs. I will admit many of the things I create are influenced and inspired by others and other things, but what other way is there? My dreams make up the bulk of my inspiration, not the actual work of others, no matter how wonderful and impressive they may seem at the time."

"Tell you what Larry," F.S. said, pushing himself from the overstuffed chair, "let's open a bottle of Cabernet and continue this exchange out on the west deck before the sun sets and I have to stumble my way home in the dark again.


It occurs to me I should provide more background information so let me step back to the summer of 1990. At that time I was a student at Wageningeen University in the village of Soerendonck in the Nedtherlands pursuing a general course of in zoology. My instructor, Doctor J. K. van Calkenren, after more than a few pints of bokbier and several shots of Dr. Franciscus de la boie's fateful concoction suggested that if I was to concentrate my studies and research on the order Stylommatophora, family Oleacinoidea, genus Testacellidae, he might be able to procure a grant allowing me six months of study, perhaps more, at the "Skunk Cabbage Stylommatophora Center" in Washington State in the United States. Having no definite goal in mind at the time I accepted his offer. The grant was eventually approved for 5,000 Guilders, (approximately 2,700 dollars) and included round-trip airfare from Amsterdam to Seattle, Washington, and a monthly stipend of around 100 US dollars. With funding like this I felt I would be able to devote my entire time to the study of Deroceras monentolophus v. interlinea diretta calva della vipera.

Now, skipping sixteen years ahead I thought I would include a brief description of a recent visit to F. S. Whinkla.

From my notebook: (looking for my notebook). . .