Why not a godless angel band?

It’s not too often that I play a song on infinite repeat, but yesterday I left Angel Band, the last song on the O Brother, Where Art Thou sound track, going for more than an hour. It’s based on an American hymn written and set to music in 1860 by Jefferson Hascall and William Bradbury, (who also wrote Jesus Loves Me).

My latest sun is sinking fast,
My race is nearly run,
My strongest trials now are past,
My triumph has begun.

O, come, angel band,
Come and around me stand,
O bear me away on your snow white wings,
To my immortal home.
O bear me away on your snow white wings
To my immortal home.

O bear my longing heart to him
Who bled and died for me
Whose blood now cleanses from all sin
And gives me victory

O, come angel band
Come and around me stand
O bear me away on your snow white wings,
To my immortal home.
O bear me away on your snow white wings,
To my immortal home.

The Stanley Brothers performed the version in O Brother, Where Art Thou. It’s almost a capella, with four part harmony, and some guitar and mandolin in the background. It’s a simple song. A comforting deathbed song. I disagree entirely with every sentiment expressed in it, but it’s still moving, almost to the point of tears.

How can that be? And how can it be that I don’t know any naturalistic hymns that are similarly moving? Do they exist, but not get played? Is it a failure of community? Or do they not even exist? Have we not yet had enough time to phrase our understanding of the natural world in emotionally captivating ways? Does it take a thousand years to do that? Or do they not exist because we don’t have naturalistic communities? Or because those naturalistic communities that do exist don’t actually value the fact that they are a community – because they’re not willing or able to do the work required to cultivate and maintain themselves as a community?

I wish there were a similarly moving song about exponential population growth, and the subsequent collapse. Something that might come to mind when someone came across a growth rate stated as a percentage. They’d say “Oh, I know how this story ends – all exponential growth is unsustainable.” We need a kind of pre-emptive post-apocalyptic lament. Stories in verse, set to music, about the ways in which we will have failed. They’d hardly be any more distant from our everyday experience than songs about Passover. Or a set of garden hymns… songs in praise of the organisms that make the nutrients in our composted waste available, the sunshine that distills seawater into rain, the hungry ladybugs, the earthworms aerating our soil, chlorophyll, and the plants that have cooperated in their own domestication. The last song could be like Angel Band, but with our bodies being returned to the garden that nourished us, to nourish our remaining family.

Note to my CA state reps on water conservation

Regarding: AB2175 (2008) (PDF)

Dear Senator Scott and Assemblyman Portantino,

I’ve recently come across AB2175, a bill aimed an improving water conservation in California. I am strongly in favor of the provisions it details, especially with the looming $10 billion water bond measure we face this fall. However, I am disturbed to see that it includes no real improvement of agricultural water use. As I’m sure you know, ~70% of the water used in California is used for agriculture, and it is not used efficiently, because it is sold at far below cost to farmers (and at far below the rates that residential and commercial water customers pay). No serious water conservation effort can leave agricultural water efficiency out as this bill does. Instead of a vague and unspecified target for agricultural users to be established in 2009, we need a hard number now, before we start investing tens of billions of dollars in new water infrastructure for our state. Agribusiness has had a free ride on water for long enough. If we really have a water problem now (and I believe we do) it’s time for them to do their part in the conservation effort, and footing the bill for new infrastructure.

Parkwood Tomatocide

I give up. The tomatoes just aren’t tomatoing. The three cherry tomatoes on the S. side of the back house in 5 gallon pots just won’t stay wet enough with my attention span. They’re crispy. The fruits they have made are leathery and dry, so out they go. The 2 year old Cherokee Purple is likewise fruitless, and turning itself into an arbor crossing the already very narrow walkway. I pruned it back to just the new green growth coming out of the stumps. I think I’ll move the habañros over there now.

There’s definitely a psychological pattern with the garden. So far anyway. Excitement early on, with rapid new green growth, and then confusion. Am I doing this right? Am i overwatering? Is there something wrong? And then less watering. But maybe too much less. And somehow, the plants take it – they put up with it anyway. It seems to take a lot to actually get them to wilt. once they’re a little woody. But maybe it’s enough to keep them from fruiting? And now despair. Something terribly wrong. 40 tomato plants and 10 tomatoes.

Escape to High Ground

Michelle and I have wanted to do an overnight bike trip near by for a while. Something that doesn’t involve those infernal machines, but that lets us get away from the city, just a little bit. A S24O as it’s sometimes called. The only option for such a trip out of Pasadena is the San Gabriel Mountains, which are criss-crossed with hundreds of miles of fire roads. Mostly steep and unpaved, mostly waterless, but nearby, and scenic. On the north slopes, you can almost convince yourself LA isn’t there anymore.
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