December 30 (1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1985, 1986, 2005)
“One distorted whole, perfectly unbalanced”

12/30/76 … finally, rain. on the very day i am ready to put the Big Window in. yesterday i finished the frame, and today i removed the glass from the old steel frame preparatory to cutting it down about six inches in length. my brother helped me carry it around to the ping-pong table, where i will cut it. everyone left [...], i played the piano a bit while it rained, and when it let up, went out to scrape away some putty that still adheres to the edges in places. while pulling hard on one difficult chunk, the window broke in two, about a third of the way across. oh, i had a fit. shouted, screamed, threw my jacket on the floor again and again, and to no avail ~ it was still broken. i don't know what i'll do ~ i can't afford to buy another piece of glass. i guess i'll put it in broken and run a bead of silicone seal down the crack. dammit. the view out that window is too nice to be marred by a crack down the middle but it will have to be. well—the coyote principle. and my undue haste ~ i know better than to try to force it with glass. i should've filed the putty off if necessary ~ and it was. damn that is a bummer.

well, if i cut my six inches (actually five) off the end of the smaller fragment, the crack will be over towards one side a little more. if i am careful when i run the bead of silicone seal it won't leak too bad ~ i may even come to enjoy it as yet another capriccio in my humble cabin; a cabin made of capriccios carefully joined together so that they all blend and merge into one distorted whole, perfectly unbalanced.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/30/77 […]  neil, ron, & i went out to try for a glimpse of the canyon creek falls. we got just that ~ a glimpse ~ because we didn't descend all the way to the creek and the falls are in a narrow gorge… the rain finally stopped, and tonight the stars are out.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/30/79   rainy morning. [...]

yesterday morning i cleaned up the cabin and then took a walk up above the cabin. there is a grove of ancient oaks there, some exceeding four feet in diameter, although none very tall. a huge branch broke off and lies waiting to be bucked up into stove wood ~ a cord at least.

after my walk i laid down on the couch and went to sleep. it was quite pleasant, sunshine streaming in, a few clouds drifting by. i had a dream that my dad came flying over in his plane, and circled around and around the cabin, i went outside to wave to him and realized that he wanted me to meet him at blue canyon so that he could give me a ride.

i woke up with the sun on my face, reflected that it had been a ‘funny’ dream, and headed over to jon's. […] we stepped out in front of his cabin with his new binoculars. just then a plane came along ~ my dad! in the ercoupe!

a remarkable coincidence ~and when i saw my dad later in grass valley, he laughed and told me that just before he had flown over my cabin he had been up to blue canyon to see if the strip was snowed in.


what to do today? [...] probably just spend the day here in the cabin. i've rented some cross-country skis to try out, but it's raining heavily and i'd have to drive in the snow to get where i could ski. maybe it'll break up later.


[Russell Towle's journal]

12/29/80   Sometimes it seems that in the fervor & ferment & self-pity of the years on Moody Ridge I've lost touch with part of myself. In 1975 I emerged from a typical bluesy winter to new determination to follow my star rather than waste energy in fruitless longing for relationship with the opposite sex. So, I determined that my native love for Nature & my native predisposition to intellectual questing would be pleasurably combined in a study of the natural history of the Sierra Nevada, enhanced by a summer-long backpacking expedition through the Central and Southern High Sierra. As it happened, the snow was so deep that spring that I had to wait until July to do much real High Country tripping. The month of May found me at Año Nuevo, where resided, while Janet and Merrill were away in Europe, Lora Boswell. So out of the blue comes a woman, warm and intelligent, original and creative, Lora. She joined me for several delightful camping trips and for the first time in my life I felt completely fulfilled with a woman.

This was of crucial importance to me. I pursued my studies with enthusiasm [...] . And that the summer should culminate in my introduction—through Lora—to Moody Ridge & the canyon of the North Fork of the American River…

Lora [had commitments] and couldn't join me in building a cabin out here. I was faced with a choice between joining her in the Santa Cruz mountains and pursuing my goals here on Moody Ridge, with a dream come true: my own land, on the south facing rim of a wild Sierran canyon, with springs.

I stayed with the land & consoled myself with visits to Lora and thoughts that she was a little old for me, and that since Fate had rewarded my star-following with a piece of beautiful land, surely Fate would follow through with The Woman.

So when I met Sue on January 10, 1976, at Lovers Leap, I wondered if this raven-haired exotic who knew the Latin name of the mustard family could be The One. […] Everything was on the Up and Up.

But the universe capsized when Sue dumped me [...].  The stormy history need not be repeated here. [...]

In another wintry depth, Dana appeared and we rescued one another from an oblivion of depression. The stormy history of our relationship need not be repeated here.

In another winter, Cindy rescued me and dumped me. Agonies better not reconstituted herein.

So—much of my energy since the winter of '75-'76 has been expressed in emotional upheavals and depressions.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

29-30 December 1983
Listen to the second half of Russell's audio journal entry, recorded
in his Moody Ridge cabin, onto a battery powered cassette recorder. He was 34 years old.

Click on one of the links to open a new window for the audio. The recording is low
quality and hard to understand in parts. Refer to the transcript below.
Part 2 of 2, in mp3 format, 4.1 mgb — (try this first, smallest file)
Part 2 of 2, in aiff format, 11 mgb — (also available)
Part 2 of 2, in m4a format
, 20 mgb —
(also available)
(Part 1 appears on the December 29 page.)
“And in the course of talking to lots of people, I realized, as soon as I wrote this petition [to create a park at Lovers Leap], that, hey, I've gotta clean my act up. Right now. Dress neatly. Talk clearly. Do a lot of listening too. I mean, it's really important. And so… it's been very frustrating for me; it's one of the reasons I turned the tape recorder on this morning, is I wanted to get to this part, this… what's happening to me in my life right now. But it's been enormously frustrating for me, since, I was a kid… that I can't seem to communicate my vision, and my perspective, to others. Madding. And at times it's… to me it's as though there's some kind of invisible psychic wall that some fate-like agencies, perhaps even demons or spirit-guides of the wrong sort have erected between me and other people. When really, closer to the mark, would probably be that I'm a genius. And there's not a whole lot of opportunities for men and women like myself to share the real substance of their perspectives and their visions with other people.

Plus, there's been a whole social shift, in the 60s and the 70s, of… towards…oh it was very distressing to me, all the way along, to see this happening, but, well there's been a lot of egotism, and a lot of people not listening to each other, conversations become [?-deaf] in content, when people will not listen to what the other person says. When they immediately leap off onto some tangent… uh, and turn the conversation around without… you know like… I like to spend some time, on one particular idea, or something, or thought, or picture that might come up in conversation. [?] And instead, most people seem to be quite content with immediately shifting out onto another one, and I myself do this quite a bit.

In the last couple of weeks though, I've been trying to coach myself, and learn to listen. And I'm… you know, I'm one of those people, I've always believed that we teach… you know, the best teaching is done by example. And I can't claim that my example has been especially wonderful, over the last ten years let's say, and yet on the other hand, I think I've now objectively… or I think one could, in an objective analysis of my inter-relationships with people, that I've really been a pretty good listener. That's why I've had lots of great conversations with people over the years. And that's… conversation depends on this. And one of the very frustrating things about me is that here in Dutch Flat, uh… my genius has been intimidating to a lot of my friends and acquaintances, some of whom, you know, are geniuses in their own right. And it's often a problem for very sensitive, intelligent, imaginative people, to feel… well, it's not always a problem but it's often a problem—to feel really socially at ease. Sure of oneself. One becomes somewhat set apart from one's peers. I have this active imagination and intelligence in some ways, [?] for some people. But… so insecurity within ourselves results in defensive postures, and when you get to the bottom line, in conversation, it often results in NOT listening, but more like parrying, or countering, or blocking, and things like that. It's been enormously frustrating for me, here in Dutch Flat. I have a reputation as a know-it-all; as someone who tries to dominate conversation. These are… there's elements of truth in that analysis of my behavior. Sure, that's why I say I'm not… I don't think I've set such a wonderful example, over the years. And then I qualified that by saying, howsoever, I can be a very good listener. And I'm especially inspired to listen, when somebody's willing also, to listen to me. Which, I've had a lot of problems, here in Dutch Flat, with some of the people I've wanted to listen to me the most.

So. To sum it all up, in the last couple of weeks, I've been talking my fucking head off to lots of people. And I've been making some new friends, and developing further in several different relationships. A very positive time, for relationships, and I intend to fully follow through and stay with this whole process. You know I've initiated contact with Sierra Heritage Magazine and I've started writing an article about Giant Gap. I need to submit something… some several things, before April 13th, photographs as well as lines. There's much to do. There's many people to talk to yet.

There's new relationships—I've met for instance Ken [or Kem? Cam? or Kim?] and Chris, men about ten years older than myself. I find them both quite interesting, and they seem to find ME interesting. And there's a certain amount of this defensiveness, unwillingness to listen on both of their parts that I'm trying to, unobtrusively more or less, coach them and everyone along, by, out-and-out listening. Like I'm uh, I'm making a point of really giving my attention to these various people. And I think they appreciate it. A lot. The message is not lost upon them. Even though at first it's Ken. Not Ken, I meant to say Chris. Ken is a very interesting man, he's very intelligent. And introspective. He's lived in Europe for some years, and speaks several languages, and has a wide and varied experience, been into mountain climbing, he's been a Sierra Club member for 10 or 15 years… uh, I don't know him as well yet, he's more reserved.

Chris, who's a sculptor, reminds me of Merrill, to some degree. [Merrill Bickford, aka Stuart Harwood—an artist of Año Nuevo and Palo Alto, and a mentor of Russell's] In fact they should probably meet, although Chris is a little hard to take for some people, because he's an intense man; he's an aggressive man. And he will quite commonly totally dominate conversations. He's used to doing that. People let him get away with it. I've been letting him get away with it to a large degree myself. But, I'm listening… and he knows I'm listening. And I think that it's inspiring him to listen a little bit more carefully himself. Although he's got some really funny characteristics, like his voice will really, really increase in volume when he needs to dominate the conversation when he's talking. He'll let it rise almost to a shout. And then he has this one mannerism that's just… weird. Suddenly breaking off a sentence, and, clearing his throat. And it sounds like a bark, like really loud, like [imitates raspy bark sound]—kind of like that. Really loud. So, he punctuates his conversation with these barks, when his voice is rising to this frenzied crescendo, and it's a little bit disconcerting.

Well, I'm convinced that, this is the time with many people to take stock of themselves and to complete themselves. Including myself. And that extends to Chris, to Ken, to Alex, and Sue, Neil. And I'm… on the one hand I'm more willing to listen. It's kind of like, I'm going to be doing some service these days, I wanna work on this Lovers Leap park, and sort of give it myself. I work on Moody Ridge Rd., to fill potholes, develop calluses on my hands, wheelbarrow loads of rock, and I give with myself more. How I want to listen to conversations, and give of myself. I expect a lot of return. I don't want to misconstrue all this, I expect a LOT of return. In fact, I want name and fame, glory and immortality. And great challenges to surmount. I'd like to save the world for instance, that'd be kind of nice.

But anyway, it's been interesting. I'm trying this as an experiment. Some other people I've had some very interesting conversations with—Susan Prince, station manager at Channel 6, KVIE television, in Stockton. Public television. She's very interesting, has a degree in history from Stanford. She's lived in Europe. And I'm afraid I got a little carried away with myself, and didn't do a very good job of listening when I was over there a week or so ago. Less than a week ago. At the Prince house in Alta.

So also, I had a very nice afternoon with Gunda Pramuk, John Pramuk's wife. And, she's... ”

[end of Part 2; and of the recording]

December 30, 1985


It began raining yesterday morning, and increased in intensity all day, until it was pouring, which continued all night. Now it clears, a phantasmagoria of fog slowly calming and dissipating in the canyon. [...]

Later: what delicate balances are mirrored in the physical world! It so happens that the fire dwindled during the night; a massive chunk of oak remained unburnt. Another massive chunk was added hours ago to blanket the first, holding in its heat so that the fire would kindle again; no sun for hours this morning, a cool cabin. Not until 10:22 A.M. did the sun stream through my windows; not until 10:22 A.M. did the fire chuckle into life: so delicate is the balance of forces in the nature of things, that the slight increase in air temperature attending the sun's visit sparked my lazy fire into life. This is not the first time I have noticed this phenomenon; many another time have I conserved my kindling, and relied upon the slow, blanketed warming of oak on oak to bring a fire back to life and warmth; many another time have I sat, slightly chilled, in wait of the event, the canyon shrouded in fog, the sun lost in clouds; and many a time has the fire suddenly kindled upon the equally sudden appearance of the sun. And so it happens that, at just the time when I no longer need a fire, my fire revives.

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/30/86   Morning. Just before dawn, a golden glowing sky.


I've been struggling a bit lately; can't seem to get my land payment together, and it's overdue right now. Plus, the clutch master cylinder went capoot, or however one spells it, yesterday, short-circuiting a trip to Auburn, where I planned to visit the library and check out Cupid and Psyche again, and visit Eric Peach… made it to Colfax before severe warnings were made manifest; I wisely returned home, and the clutch went out completely just as I got through the cable.


Still haven't taken the computer Ed gave me for Christmas out of the car; I'm hoping that Newsom will let me store it at his place and use it there. [* See note below.] It was a spectacular present [...]

I am determined now, to begin earning money by teaching, by making tapes, by making music, by writing. By environmental work. 1987 will be a real benchmark year for me, I am quite sure. [...] My work in math, in history and literature, in music, in the environment and writing, will not continue unrecognized and unrewarded.


[Russell Towle's journal]

*As it happened, a few days after this, I encountered Russell, who I barely knew, at the Dutch Flat post office. I was picking up a parcel, a gift from my mother, of a Commodore computer she'd received as a premium for going to a time-share condo sales pitch and had no use for—which caught his interest instantly. He still had that Commodore Vic 20 computer and its accessories riding around on the backseat of his funky old Toyota (having no electricity at his canyon cabin with which to power it). I had been needing a computer for my photography business; Russ for his geometrical imaging work. We discovered that between us, we had all the parts for a complete system, and so, that very day, we installed it all in the small office I was renting for my business behind the Dutch Flat post office... and our partnership began.

Video of a wet and wild canyon storm scene as viewed from Iron Pt., December 30, 2005, (Russell's voice, commenting in the middle):

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