creative ramblings & reverie

Friday, December 23, 2011

Writing Spaces

Writing Christmas cards.  Writing always fraught with whatever the year has given or taken.

Clearing the deck—or desk—for Janus, god of beginnings and ends, passages of whatever sort.  Looking behind; looking ahead.  Writing on the threshold of two years, in that shivery liminal space smelling of old woodsmoke and cardamom where everything again for just a night or two seems possible.

image:  While I was writing Christmas cards, Blue Is Bleu

Christmas Lists

What I would like for Christmas:

. an old Jaguar MK2—so I could hang a jaunty wreath from the hood ornament
. a pure soprano voice, with which to join the university church choir
. stripy legwarmers and slouch socks
. an autumn in Mallorca, to see the saffron crocuses in bloom
. to give our cottage passive solar heat
. a half a dozen Yorkshire curd tarts
. shade trees, or even one, in which to hang a temple bell
. to find a long, newsy letter from Shakespeare tucked into an old book
. to be imperturbable
. to be unfailingly kind
. joy, oh joy, for all the world


Friday, December 16, 2011

Writing Spaces

Natural objects that can just as happily be the subject of writing as its medium.  Feathers and shells and pigments, clay and bone.

image:  The Scriptorium

Writing Exercises

When Stuck

Gail Sher, One Continuous Mistake

• Write the same scene every day for two weeks.

Getting at Your Character(s)

Marguerite Duras, The Lover (shifting times, voices)

• Write about the same event in first person, third person, and first person looking back from a later time in life.
• Have three other characters in their own voices respond/react to something your character does.
• Write down the first three abstract terms that come to mind (well-being, thievery, chance, e.g.), and then explore what specific personal associations those have for your character(s).  Elaborate anything promising into a scene.

Cataclysmic Events

Or unbearable emotions—how to write about them.
Very big
Very small
Removals in time, distance, voice (humor, irony)

Vikram Seth, An Equal Music (big)
Marguerite Duras, The Lover (distancing)
Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister (small)
N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn (big)
Gail Sher, One Continuous Mistake (small)
Michael Ondaatje, Anil’s Ghost (rock carvings) (big)
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient (Kip, Katharine) (big)
Harriet Doerr, Stones for Ibarra (distancing)

• Try writing the same painful scene (or immediate reaction to it) both very big and very small.
• Distance your character in time or space or tone from the event or emotions.


Harriet Doerr, Consider This, Señora (colors, formality)
Marguerite Duras, The Lover
N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn (foreshadowing scene)
Vikram Seth, The Golden Gate
Derek Wolcott, Tiepolo’s Hound

• Experiment with different tones:  poetic, grand, biblical, melodramatic, journalistic, gothic, cinematic.  Write the same scene in at least two distinctive tones.
• Try the key elements of the scene as a sonnet, a haiku, blank verse.

Windows on the World

Factual or whimsical entr’actes, opening everything out.
Natural history

N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn (myths)
Peter Matthiessen, At Play in the Fields of the Lord (moths)
Michael Ondaatje, Anil’s Ghost (atlas, rock carvings)
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient (winds, maps, Herodotus)
Susan Brind Morrow, The Names of Things (language, animals)

• List a few intriguing windows which might be appropriate in your novel.  Write a paragraph for each, doing research if necessary.


Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient (the white goat)

• Choose three meaningful objects from three different times of your character’s life.  Write a paragraph about each.


Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
Michael Ondaatje, Anil’s Ghost
Dorian Llywelyn

• Map your character’s life (or mental/emotional life).  Important features, landmarks, distances, boundaries, etc.
• Describe a physical map that somehow illuminates your novel.

The Meta-story

Stepping outside the story (or appearing suddenly in the story as author, stage manager, puppeteer, god) to achieve some effect.  What does it do to the novel?  What do you risk?

John Cheever, Oh What a Paradise It Seems
Marguerite Duras, The Lover

• Experiment with one or more of these devices.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Writing Spaces

The allure of books—no less today, for some of us, despite Kindles and iPads and the rest.

image:  Books, flypapertextures


She lay alone, only the aged beekeepers on the mountain.  And the god whose temple Nikos once uncovered there.  Fitting for her to end where he’d begun.  Fallen over one of his old stones.  At eighty, finally getting to them.  Understanding what he’d offered her.  This mountain and sky.  The ancient sage.  Too late.  Herself.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Writing Spaces

 Simplicity itself.  And clear of clutter—what a concept!

image:  Plzeň, former Franciscan monastery, scriptorium (early 14th Century), Jan Sokol


Some offerings in a minor key—

months passing—
yellow acacia faded,
and this playbill too

after the storm,
old trees huddled around
a broken branch of pine

boats washed ashore,
and a “tide of bodies,”
after the tsunami

a bit of orange peel,
color and fragrance
all but disappeared

drowned villages,
bells tolling on and on


Friday, November 18, 2011

Writing Spaces

Immense good fortune on a small slip of paper. 
(I'm reminded of a colleague who used to type profound and witty messages on little yellow post-it notes.)


Never soap a geyser.  Yes, I know your mother and I did it, but we’d been drinking a lot of martinis that night.  And the head ranger egged us on.

On the Rooftop of the Uffizi
Oh drink up your champagne, you slow old thing.  We can’t sit here all afternoon, that waiter’s giving us the evil eye already.  Tell him we want the bill—il conto—the next time you see him coming out.  And he should take away this bottle, not just upend it in the ice bucket like that, ridiculously vulgar.  People will think what lushes those ancient British types are, abroad, when not at home riding to hounds.  Just like the Raj all over, they’ll say.  Oh catch his eye, can’t you.  I want to get back to that little shop before they close for the day, get some leather gloves for Ginny and Phyllida and the girls.

Blue Margaritas
The only way to get through hurricane season in Baja is to live on blue margaritas.  Trust me on this, sweetheart.  You won’t sleep, for the heat and the humidity, you’ll lie there dripping, that awful fan like a big bat flying around above you, not to mention the scorpions dropping onto your pillowcase.  You get up early and go straight to the bar, order a blue Curaçao margarita, one of those heavy two-handed glasses, it’s all you can do to survive.  And at that hour all the Europeans will be coming in on the night flight, and you can catch some great-looking Italian at the bar, before he’s had a chance to find his footing—or some woman with a boat.

Directions to Our House
Be very, very careful coming down Deer Creek from Page Mill; there are often horses rearing in the road, whose riders can’t control them, or tearing up one of the bus stops.
   Pass the Stanford vineyard on the left, what looks like a hillside of wooden crosses like one of those battlefields in Normandy, or the graveyard behind a Mission church, those who didn’t take too well to religion.
    Don’t hit the giant pinecone in the center of the drive.  There’s always one there, sitting glaring at you.  Avoid it.  Remember the Mynaeds’ giant pinecone in the pictures of those Dionysean rites!
    Ignore The Manse as you come past it.  The owner is almost never out shooting at squirrels.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Writing Spaces

Travel writing in the first instance, when travel meant risk and adventure and romance, and mapmakers wrote that all in.

image:   Antique Map of Leo Belgicus (the Low Countries), Visscher C.J. – Gerritsz, 1630

Friday, November 4, 2011

Writing Spaces

Old books and full-blown roses, both essential to writers and to lovers of life.

image:  Trouvais

Spilt Milk

The beginning of a new short-short I've started, about crying over spilt milk—

That summer, after Joey left her for the Roman archaeobiologist, Virginia found herself getting weepy over the slightest things.  Joey things, of course—finding the cord from his navy sweat pants in the back of the closet; the smell of Redken for Men; an Italian stamp, for €0,60, showing the 11th-century Abbey of Santissima Trinita.  But so many other things besides, which snuck up on her unawares.  A certain tone of light, a time of day, a color.  Passing a dance studio (all those graceful, talented, and self-assured young girls).  Seeing an old white-nosed Golden Retriever lay its head trustingly on its owner’s knee.  A mild reproach from an older colleague at work.  An unexpected hole in one heel of her favorite pair of knee socks, given her two Christmases ago by her mother.  A valiant little vapor trail petering out to nothing in the evening sky.  Even a tin of bay leaves at Safeway—exactly like the one she’d bought to make jambalaya with sausages and red peppers and chicken thighs for Joey’s 40th birthday.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Writing Spaces

Notes to the milkman, in the quiet world of the cathedral close; everyday words, whether in the far north of England or nearer.

image:  John Feneron, No Milk Today


wearing stripes,
hoping to take on me
their jaunty insouciance

breathing the green,
the rooted calm,
of this sturdy shade tree

purposeful and unsteady,
the tow-headed child
crosses the grass

October chill—
juniper berries
touched with frost

Sunday labyrinth,
cathedral bells measuring off
my meditative steps

new snow
blowing like cloud
up from the piney hills

the withered apples
on the artist’s trees,
above three graves


Friday, October 21, 2011

Writing Spaces

Notes in bottles.  Notes on bottles.  The poetry of names, descriptions of contents (fragrance or hue; healing or certain death).  The alchemy of words.

image:   early pigment set

England Journal

Some favorite things—

Hampstead Heath
Walking on the Heath our first morning, after an all-night flight and dawn arrival, with buds oddly ready to burst on winter trees, and London’s famous skyline hazy on the horizon, towers and domes.  There were wonderful English dogs—retrievers, terriers, and spaniels— relishing even more than us the vast open stretches, and one splendid Black Lab puppy, joy in every movement, nosing out the world.

We went through chilly Kenwood House, and saw a Vermeer and a Rembrandt, Turners, Constables, and Gainsboroughs.  Views of the distant arched bridge with a float of swans through the tall sky-filled windows (beyond the long green slope where the scene in Notting Hill of filming Henry James was filmed) reminded me of our visit in Mallorca that last September to the house of the Archduke.

Lunch in the carriagehouse (having regretfully decided against a table outside in the courtyard) was delicious and quintessentially English:  celeriac & pear soup, crusty country bread with Double Gloucester cheese, an apple, and a nut and honey tart.  Fragrant coffee, most unEnglish, was the final perfect thing.

St. Martin-in-the-Fields
Coming up out of the underground and finding it—surprised to learn the institution famous for music is really a church, from the 18th century.  (And understanding finally that “St. Bede’s in the Weeds,” which friends went to in Santa Fe and where I remember sitting one summer evening of childhood eating watermelon on the back steps, had to be a joke on that; the world more comprehensive than I’d known.)

Going back the next night to a concert there, of favorite Pachebel and Bach, Vivaldi and Mozart, sitting right up almost among the musicians.  Supper beforehand was in the café in the crypt with pewter candleabras on occasional tables dripping white wax.  Lovely greens (and purples, something like cress) with fresh figs; a roasted pepper filled with tomato puree; Spanish white wine.

Roman Verulamium
An outing to the fine Roman museum at St. Albans (which I had by some mysterious chance though it had to do with Roman roads under one’s garden and proximity to London mentioned in my novel).  Delighted to read the Roman recipe for stuffed dormice, and finding in the shop a replica of the early Britons’ moon-gazing hare*.  Leaving for another time, some spring or summer morning when the air is mild, the one or two kilometer walk through fields to the remains of the ancient theatre.

*The myth of the hare-in-the-moon is almost universal and goes back to ancient times.  The hare is always an attribute of lunar deities and can symbolize fertility.  The hare was important to the early Britons.  Boadicea would relase a hare at the beginning of each new campaign against the Romans.  In nature today hares can be seen, as indeed they would have been by the ancients, silhouetted against the evening skyline in this very “moon-gazing” pose.

Walking along the river Avon just before dusk to find Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried.  Fragrant woodsmoke coming from a green longboat moored on the near bank, before the weir.  Coming back by Sheep Street.

The cold returning over the weekend—frosty crocuses (like Ashland at the end of October, I think, when Heidi and I went up for the Shakespeare) and a thin skin of ice on the boat basin, where the locks begin, the last morning.  Sunday.

Visiting lovely Abingdon, outside Oxford, to visit a friend.  Eating trout with pinenuts and herbs at his favorite pub; walking to see the remains of the Abbey down a mews or alleyway, the quiet houseboats on the Thames, the garden of the religious retreat center on the riverbank where he would like to live, more simply, though he has found a wonderful flat in a 16th century building above a bakery—two floors joined by steep crooked stairs, and windows looking down onto the market square.  He bakes chapati every day, and tells us about having walked three days to Avebury in the summer, to the standing stones.  It is a life to admire and envy.

Westminster Abbey
Finding the Abbey finally, tucked between the grander Houses of Parliament, though there are strangely no signs for it and no indication on the maps.  Finding Henry V there, also unheralded, among the queens and poets.  (Or part of Henry V, rather, since they say his entrails were left in France, and the church where they were subsequently destroyed.)  The chill winter cloister where one summer I took Sharon’s picture framed in one of the stone arches.

British Museum
Seeing the Parthenon friezes, which I’ve heard about so many times in archaeology classes; and the Rosetta Stone.

Globe Theatre
Touring the long dream that is the finally reconstructed Globe Theatre; the foundations of the Rose they’ve found somewhere nearby on the south bank.

Stray Things
Being amazed at the portrait of John Donne in the National Portrait Gallery, having thought him sour and wizened and finding him dishily Byronic instead; and finally seeing “in the flesh” the famous portrait of Richard III, which shows him clearly not the monster (“mesmerizingly horrible”) of Shakespeare’s play.

Buying cheeses and Cornish pasties at Marylebone Station—farmhouse smoked cheddar, Ribblesdale cowsmilk cheese.

Seen from the train:  a distant figure with a bag of breakfast rolls or milk or such walking alongside a canal to a tall house, alone and sharp in the landscape, like something out of a Dutch painting.

And the purple horse, two times, on the way there and back, familiar the second.  Purple from a blanket; unexpectedly but perfectly purple as Gaugin or Bonnard would have seen it.

The heavy fall of snow during the night before we are to leave for Venice (remembering from James Joyce “snow is general over Ireland”).

A swam of red lanterns for Chinese New Year in Trafalgar Square.

—Christie, January 2007

Friday, October 14, 2011

Writing Spaces


how tall
this pine!
a glad steeple

the clumsy tip
of the pencil, trying
for graceful words

old family friend
carving his wife a walking stick
from olive wood

bark half eaten away,
telling of the voracious joy
of caterpillars


Friday, October 7, 2011

Writing Spaces

Writing letters.  A dying art?

image:  mommyish


These from Mountain View.

like Sisyphus
pushing a massive mound of bags,
the street person passes

a small girl
in a Curious George t-shirt
and pink barrette
ignores her mother’s
torrent of Spanish

a Chinese boy
chases a green ball
in a long, slow arc

old friends
sitting together on a low wall
looking at a book


Friday, September 30, 2011

Writing Spaces

Peace lanterns; words set adrift.  Paper lanterns at Hiroshima, on which people have written their own prayers for peace or messages to the living or dead.


I’ve kept notes of things I noticed unknown years ago.  One May, or June, these scraps of poetry, an unfinished haiku.

            In the wind a bride,
            anchored by her husband’s hand.

I wonder how I might have finished it.
            A kite, now airborne.
Or, a kite not airborne?  Even a single letter changes everything.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Writing Spaces

An exotic pencil, an artwork in itself.

image:  Pencil called "Midnight", carved by Renan Czajkowski.  Poket knife and Midday`s Grimoire, Renan Czajkowski


thirty years gone,
an imperceptible ripple
of tree rings

a purple pencil
and a twig of broken pine,
writing haiku

broken journey,
two cormorants huddled
on the long bridge


Friday, September 16, 2011

Writing Spaces

Outside a dammuso on the island of Pantelleria, closer to Africa than to Sicily.

image:  Sicily Travel Guide


South of Sicily and just thirty miles from Africa is the Italian island of Pantelleria.  The island is most noted for its capers, which thrive on that volcanic terrain, but other elements of its cuisine are notable too.

The Pantescans do wonderful things with fresh tomatoes.  The standard sauce for spaghetti, pesto pantesco, is made from fresh uncooked tomatoes, or tomatoes dried and reconstituted—the tomatoes we'd seen braided and strung on the outside walls of houses to dry in the sun, like ristras of red chili peppers in New Mexico where I grew up.  To these are added basil (basilico), red pepper, a whiff of garlic.

You can have tomatoes in a salad, either misto or by themselves, on a plate, with a little pepper, a little olive oil, a pinch of salt taken from the little dish of it on the table.

We bought a brown bag full of tomatoes from a tiny shop or greengrocer on the main street in town.  He kept tipping more into the scale, couldn't believe we wanted less than a pound, two pounds, a kilo—all for a few hundred lira.

Pantescan bread is wonderful too:  coarse and crusty and fragrant with fennel, freckled with sesame seeds.  The characteristic wine (which you must ask for specifically, because they think you can't really want it) is rather spicy, with a suggestion of papaya or mango.

We'd eat a spaghetti made with prawns, parsley, butter, onions, sweet red peppers, and cayenne to taste, which took its name from a little trattoria on the harbor, above which we rented a house.  Or, a plateful of small shrimps lightly coated, lightly fried.  Or, charred crayfish with lime, and a cold dry Sicilian white wine.

Besides the famous capers that grow on the volcanic island there is yellow fennel, which Lawrence Durrell in Bitter Lemons says "likes old ruins best, growing there more freely than on the natural rock."

I remember the rust-colored oysters they ate on Pantelleria, some Italians we'd met who spent summers there, letting them open by themselves when they had been long enough out of the water, sometimes after many days.  They tasted pungent and rusty, like their color.  We had a dry volcanic wine with them, that we had to drive up steep streets to buy from a man in a dim shop somewhere on the island, though the vendor of fish came past the rented house early each morning, in a three-wheeler, selling the swordfish that would be marinated in lemon juice and olive oil and sea salt.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Writing Spaces

Petroglyphs on the cliff faces at Tsankawi, telling the stories of the ancients in wind and rabbitbrush and stone.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Petroglyphs, Tsankawi


            It's two days before Christmas.  There's been no new snow around Santa Fe, just the old crusty patches, and a few wet flakes in the air late yesterday with the smell of piñon smoke.  I park head-on against the barbed-wire fence at the entrance to Tsankawi, along Highway 4, the truck route north to White Rock and Los Alamos.  Only a few other cars are here, as usual.  I start out up the Park Service trail through piñon, juniper, and rabbitbrush—silvery chamisa, walking on the soft volcanic tufa.   Farther along, parts of the ancient trail are worn a foot deep into the rock, worn from daily use by the Anasazis.  In places it's too narrow to cross one foot around the other, and I have to get out of the groove and walk on the uneven rock above it.  I'm out of breath even before the first kiva ladder.  You climb it to the top of the mesa, feeling the smooth rounded rungs and siderails of peeled cottonwood, fitted together and lashed with loops of rawhide.  My throat is a little sore, but I'm hoping that it's only from the cigarette smoke in my mother's house and the fresh winter air will flush it out; that I'm feeling slow and ponderous because of the elevation, not because I'm getting sick.  I'm comfortable in two woolen sweaters; there's no wind yet today.
            I look down on the line of caves in the reddish tufa, facing the sun, the long canyons and mesas all around.  Tsankawi, in Tewa, means "village between two canyons at the clump of sharp, round cacti."  In the shaded valley, to the northeast, are the remains of the school for potters, somewhere between me and the quiet highway.  I imagine I can pick out the skeleton of its walls.  The ruins of the pueblo on the mesatop are nearly indistinguishable too:  overgrown stone rubble, the rubbed-out walls of some 350 rooms, circling the central plaza.  Hidden under clumps of chamisa, or laid out on flat stretches of rock, are thousands of pot shards, some with bits of a design.  The trail guide says that modern Pueblo people would never take the old pottery because they feel it belongs to the ones who made it.  Imagining the shards pieced together again, whole, I ask as I always do here why I didn't stay in Santa Fe, work for the School of American Research, be a real artist?  Live in the canyons?  Closer to myself.  To the vital red earth.
            I start down.  Petroglyphs animate many of the rock faces.  It's warm in the sun, sheltered by the porous volcanic rock, on the path that goes back along the lip of the line of caves.  I know I'm not to take anything, neither shards nor plants, rocks.  "Do not disturb, remove, or damage."  But I can't resist pressing my hand print into the cold snow; picking one indigo berry from a juniper tree and crushing it between my fingers, to release its inner nature and transfer to my own skin the vivid, sharp, spicy fragrance of the juniper that is so quintessentially of this place, of me.

            One January afternoon in ninth grade we went looking for red clay.  Our art class walked up the river from the Santa Fe Prep campus on upper Canyon Road, high into the canyon where I had never been before.  Above the reservoir, there, the river wasn't just a trickle as it was in town.  It was lined with waterbirch, with perfect tiny cones, and fossils in the rocks of the far bank.  In warmer months it was full of cress, and something we called grungey—a scummy riverweed or algae we had Grungey Fights with, flung dripping from sticks as from medieval catapults.  That January day we walked through slushy patches of old snow, ducking under unravelling strands of barbed wire (Dee Walker, who I thought maybe liked me, held two strands apart for me with his ski gloves, so I wouldn't snag), tossing snowballs idly, in long graceful arcs, oddly companion-able, the nine of us.  It was a bright, hard-edged New Mexico day, sky and snow distinct like Wedgewood, a counterpoint of sunlight and cold patches of shade, melt beginning but sure to be reversed over the next two months, like the obliteration of the Dark Ages.  Individual crystals sparking on the surface of the snow.
            The quixotic joy of walking up the canyon looking for red clay has never left me.  The lode was somewhere up where only the artists and the rich people lived.  We were reading about the Greek gods, that year (the river nymphs, Daphne turned tree), learning geometry, learning to shape heads, in the art studio with the red geraniums in its window in coffee cans denuded of labels, one of the old low buildings in the compound which was once all labs.  We scooped the clay, richly fecund, from its winter rind.  We felt—as we intuited seeds stirring, sighing, shifting in their sleep in the equanimous earth under the old snow—an inkling of how things might be.

            It is June, 2017 (this century that feels beyond the margins of the maps).  I see the turn-off ahead, cross the busy northbound lanes of the highway to the funny little Kokoman liquor store on Pojoaque Reservation land, oddly perennial, with its dwindling selection of imported wines—French, Italian, Greek.  I want a couple of bottles of Mas de Guignol, the Provence red, for this evening, to remind me that I was in Provence once.  I smell the spicy tacos from the drive-in next door as I park and get out, around back by a pile of empty kegs.  It's Saturday, my birthday; friends are coming from California.  They'll stay for a week, in the studio out among the last few Velarde apricot trees.  I've got lamb marinating in lemon juice and oregano in the glazed blue bowl.  I remembered to put it in the refrigerator this morning before starting out for Tsankawi to walk—still one of my favorite places, though my knees are too stiff to get up the kiva ladders anymore.  It's good, I've decided, that my mobility is limited.  I can appreciate better what's right in front of me, one thing at a time.  It was hard before, even all those years I practiced Zen and tried to copy down the quiet clean prose of the old Pueblo storytellers.
            I'm taking vacation this week from my part-time work at the archaeology lab.  I have to remember to stop by the museum shop while we're in town for lunch on Monday, to give Dolores more signed copies of my books.  Now that faith has been so severely impugned, people seem to want the photographs of all the poignant little northern New Mexico village churches with their simple wooden crosses (like the Penitente crosses Georgia O'Keeffe thought of as placeholders in the desert), and my biography of the two faithful women who built and ran the potters' school in the canyon almost a hundred years ago, before any of the world wars.  Vera von Blumenthal and Rose Dugan.  The past is so much easier to read—or write—about than the world now.  I remember how history didn't use to interest me, with the future seemingly so endless ahead.
            I can't wait to see my friends; it's been two years since I've been back to visit, before the third bombing on the coast.  I worry about them a lot, in spite of almost daily e-mail.  I want to show them everything I love; find an afternoon for Ben to take us to San Ildefonso to watch his sister shaping her famous black pots.  "You must  bring them," she's told me several times.  I'm hoping secretly to persuade them to buy a house here, where things are saner (the Indian Nations and Switzerland the only ones to refuse to join the war).  Tonight we'll sit at the farmhouse table I found in Taos and eat the lamb with shepherd's bread and bowls of Anasazi beans flavored with juniper berries.  At one end of the table I've put the San Ildefonso wedding jar with the single stem of Peace roses which Micaela cut for me first thing this morning from the old thorny bush in her patio—the same roses my mother used to cut for my birthday when I was little, sweet and fragrant, lavish then as time (with summer always just beginning); almost impossible to keep alive now that water has gotten so scarce.