January 18 (1976, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1987)
The Dance of the Gnats and the Pollen Dust, Tantrum Yoga,
and Other Canyon-Inspired Flights of Fancy and Puzzlement

1/18/76     sunny, warm, windy, clear. fairly quiet, perhaps because of the superbowl. drone of distant airplane, wind in pines, cedars, oaks. full moon. clearing brush, good energy, full moon? do not remember dreams, except: night before last:

i saw a hawk or eagle (either a red-tail or a golden eagle) perching on a branch, from a distance of only a couple of feet. watched it intently, dark hawk, what species? watched feathers as it shifted position slightly. if red-tail, extremely dark phase.

yesterday afternoon recline in wren shack sunbeams through live oak lit up myriad gnats/silver flashes against dark background.

then noticed smaller bright flashes streaming across sunbeam in unbroken multitudinous flow. dust/pollen particles in the air! carried on wind through rays of sunlight millions of tiny bright flashes. never had i seen! [always] silver gnats performing arabesques against dark foliage backdrop, i like. but pollen/dust! horizontal windflow right angle approx to long axis sunbeam.

silver gnat people dance arabesques in california early aquarius forests: this, mosaic design main entrance hokan-el-audi, pakistan; this, ceiling arabesque now hindoo arabesque, smell dust in courtyard? cart go by outside in street calcutta 1844 outskirts? thank you, silver gnats, for dance in sunbeam in early aquarius california coniferous forest!
but pollen in the wind and sprouting soaproot? incense cedar pollen. bees buzzing manzanita flowers? climbed to cedar perch, thin snowpack in high country, a dry winter so far. greg troll and i snowshoe into ritter range/minarets next full moon? yes, yes.

playing guitar more. feels good, fingernails beginning to come back. not really a chirp, but a chip, a wren chipping among the porch rafters, a bewick's wren chipping half-second intervals in the windy afternoon.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

1/18/78   mid-day. rain. this morning i was out cutting firewood for my dad, and really fighting it: i had a headache, i was tired, i couldn't concentrate, but at least i was outside and it wasn't raining. i came back to the cabin and ate some cold leftover mush for lunch, along with a cup of coffee. and the rain came. rain. it seems it's rained for a month straight, with only a few days respite. last weekend a nearby weather station in the sierra ~ at this elevation ~ reported over four inches a day for friday, saturday, and sunday. monday it rained. tuesday it rained. today is wednesday and it rains.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

1/18/79   delightful morning. fair weather cumulus in a deep blue sky. snow-melt dripping off the roof. [...]  today is an excellent day for lover's leaping, with camera, with friends. it's so nice and sunny and warm here in the cabin that to bestir myself and journey to neil's seems difficult. please come here, neil & chris & tim & cindy & you all. let's play. tower-studded tibetan monasteries perched on dizzy cliffs above deep canyons; white water rages in morning sunlight, an ouzel bobs on a boulder, a clump of mimulus tender blossoms earth angels breathe gold. the chattering of wrens. somber brown cliffs rise giant columns to the castle. prayer flags tied to lines diagonalling down from the towers flap wildly in awesome roar of spring winds. sky dark blue, white prayer flags snapping on bowed lines, a ship at sea in a storm-tossed ocean of ancient rock. no clouds, just the sun, the canyon, the peaks, the monastery, and the almost demonic wind. the monastery is exposed to the energy of the wind; the ouzel and the flowers of gold and the wren are not. sun-baked rock and half-baked dust-devils on the gravel bars. [...]

[Russell Towle's journal]

1/18/81 ~ Morning, amid the characteristic clamour of the Stellar jays. Uncharacteristically, in agreement with my new philosophy of Tantrum Yoga, I find myself wishing to shoot them one by one, off their perches. This flu has me in a sour mood. Fortunately, through the assiduous practice of Tantrum Yoga, I can focus this mood in such a way as to perform destructive work. Like belittling myself insistently, belittling others constantly, or better yet, complaining about the Unfairness of It All. Yes, Tantrum Yoga has its advantages:
  1. Can be used to ruin love affairs & friendships (not limited to one or the other like most yogas);
  2. Can darken the brightest days and smiles (again, note the versatility);
  3. Tends to excite contempt, fear, distrust, and vengefulness in others;
  4. Isolates one so perfectly that the requisite frustration & loneliness are created for further progress on the Path.
All in all a wonderful Yoga, which can, unlike any others I know of, be pursued with impatience, resentment, and moodiness...”

[Russell Towle's journal]

1/18/87 ~ ... The days grow slowly longer, and sunlight remains on the knoll until 4:30 P.M., as of now, January 18th, 1987... I have noticed for many years, upon examination of almanacs, and in attempts to evaluate the rate of change of day-lengths (which change most slowly around the solstices, most rapidly around the equinoxes) — and I have usually taken note of this peculiar circumstance, that following the winter solstice, the days grow slowly longer by addition at sunset, while sunrises, for a while anyway, occur at the same time or even later than at the winter solstice itself: so that, by the clock, one takes note of later sunsets, not earlier sunrises, as the main change. Why this is I dimly disunderstand... knowing that our clocks have little reference to "solar" noon, I wonder under what method of portrayal the "true" increase in day-length is discerned... that is, is it only a function of the "sidereal" (rather than solar) accounting of time that sunsets happen later, sunrises, "less-later" — or what?”

[Russell Towle's journal]


  1. Haha, I think I'm familiar with Tantrum Yoga already -- I must have intuitively found my way to a few of the techniques and poses on my own.

  2. Yeah, I'm a novitiate at Tantrum Yoga too, though never have I reached the heights of skillful practice Russ did! Fortunately, Love trumps.

  3. I love the Tantrum Yoga, it made me laugh out loud. I am very skilled at tantrums. :)

  4. Though I passed a full year in Green Valley, there on the banks of the mighty North Fork of the American -- that monstrous serpent of jade incessantly tugging past my tipi's door -- I feel as though I merely visited the canyon, squatter's rights, whereas Russell became the canyon. Like his prose, as evidenced in Gay's blog posts, the canyon molded Russell's very heart and being with its gnarlish topography. There's but a few of us intimate with this portion of a very special place -- that place that so permeates our nightmares with vertigo, rattlesnakes, and icy drownings, and our dreams with hints of purpose and transcendence -- but none of us so intimate with it as was Russell. After reading his journal entries I now understand why he tried to dissuade me -- actually prevented me -- from dragging my tipi poles down the Green Valley trail the very first day of my endeavor; he was merely trying to protect the canyon from this interloper. Thankfully my persistence earned a modicum of trust from Russell and he allowed me -- albeit, some days and weeks later -- passage to continue my adventure, but to this day I have always felt this was Russell's Canyon; not mine, not even Joe Steiner's; but Russell's and the redtails' and the grasshoppers' and the manzanitas' and the trout's and the swaying pines' and the wind's that drag through its lung-like folds. Russell's.