Archive for January, 2010



Twelve-year-old Jordan Brown sat quietly in shackles through Friday’s courtroom proceedings which will eventually determine whether he must defend himself in adult or juvenile court.

Unfortunately, it appears this decision will be made by the judge no time soon. We were originally thinking the decision would come down in a month. Now we may be looking at two.

Judge Dominick Motto of the Lawrence County PA Common Pleas Court granted a 30 to 45 day continuance so the prosecution can conduct a psychological evaluation of Jordan—something the former prosecutor should have done before Jordan was even charged almost a year ago.

The whole legal process in Pennsylvania is bass-ackwards. We must first petition the court to transfer the case to juvenile court to determine innocence or delinquency (which is juve-talk for “guilt”). In order for the judge to consider this move, he must be convinced that Jordan is “amenable to rehabilitation” through the kinds of programs offered in juvenile prisons.

This puts us in the peculiar position of having to argue that Jordan can be rehabilitated—but to what purpose? He is innocent!

In arguing that he can be rehabilitated, we are forced to implicitly allow for the possibility that Jordan might have committed the crime. It leads to encounters like this, between our star witness and the prosecutor, which was published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review after Friday’s hearing:

 (Forensic psychologist Dr. Kirk) Heilbrun said Brown could be treated and poses a low threat of committing another crime.

During cross examination, (Deputy Attorney General Anthony J.) Krastek dismissed Heilbrun’s testimony because it did not consider the potential that Brown committed the murders.

“Did you ask him if he did it?” Krastek asked Heilbrun.

“Yes. He said he didn’t do it,” Heilbrun said.

Krastek asked Heilbrun if he was familiar with details of the case.

“Are you aware that she was shot in the back of the head with what appears to be Jordan’s shotgun? That she couldn’t have been more vulnerable or defenseless?” Krastek asked.

Heilbrun did not answer.

“She was executed, right?” Krastek asked.

Heilbrun paused before answering: “I don’t know if I would disagree with you. I guess my answer would be yes.”

Heilbrun was maneuvered by the prosecutor to allow that if Jordan were found guilty of the crime, his odds of recidivism would be “somewhat higher.” Yet Heilbrun has privately told Jordan’s dad and attorneys that he believes Jordan is telling the truth and is innocent.

But Heilbrun’s educated opinion about guilt or innocence is not admissible now and irrelevant to the decertification question before the court. This creates a confusing picture for the public.

“In Pennsylvania, you’re guilty until proven innocent,” Jordan’s former teacher said when he called to learn how the hearing had gone.

Dr. Heilbrun, who heads the psychology department at Drexel University, testified that he talked with Jordan for more than three hours last summer and described Jordan’s maturity level as ‘early adolescence.’ “In terms of judging, understanding, and impulse control…the adolescent brain does not function in a fully mature way,” Heilbrun said. Heilbrun told the court that Jordan is developmentally at least ten years from adulthood.

Defense witnesses, including Heilbrun and Jordan’s counselor at the Edmund L. Thomas Adolescent Detention Center in Erie, Christine McCullum, said Jordan is adjusting and behaving well in the Center, where he has been since early March.

McCullum said Jordan’s behavior in detention has been “extraordinary” given that he is so young and unknown in Erie County. She said his age and small stature made him the target of bullying on occasion in the detention center.

Krastek asked whether he is always the victim, or whether he sometimes becomes a bully himself, reading from a report by one of Jordan’s teachers in detention that said “it appears that Jordan does get angry quickly,” “he seldom shows remorse,” and “when caught doing something wrong, he tries desperately to get out of it” and pins the blame on others.

This was the only negative note from the detention center staff. Both Jordan and his father have had problems with this teacher, and she got her revenge by phrasing her report to support the prosecution’s theory of the crime. Punishment is the driving ethos of prisons and prison workers, even in youth prisons. “This is not the first time she has railroaded kids in her reports,” a staff member from the detention center told us.

The most serious revelation from the hearing, though, was when Heilbrun said Jordan is showing signs of depression and anxiety at the Erie juvenile facility where he has been held for nearly a year. Jordan “has heard voices others can’t hear.” In other words, damage is being done to this little boy. It can only get worse as the legal case drags on.

Heilbrun said that Jordan is a “strikingly average” pre-teen, something which should be very unsettling to parents of other average kids in Western Pennsylvania.

If Jordan can be wrongfully accused and abused by the state, then everyone’s kids are at risk.



While on a propane run to town, I dropped Paul off at Cynta’s.

Cynta de Narvaez is an extraordinary woman who is probably the most loved person in our community. More than twenty years ago, she fled her debutante life as a Cuban doctor’s daughter in Manhattan, came here as a river guide (an itinerant existence), and stayed.

Over these many years she built an artful complex consisting of a main house and several casitas which has become The Place to Go for anyone with any kind of need, great or small.

On any given day, you will see dogs and children left there for safe-keeping; local neighbors stopping by for a shower or a meal or advice; couch-surfers from far-flung places partaking of Cynta’s free hospitality; Mexican workers and their families, handcrafting stones for walls or stuccoing new construction, who are there as much for the nurturing Cynta provides as the meager wages she is able to pay. She lives on a small monthly disability payment and often pays her workers by feeding their families and buying their cigarettes.

Cynta provides hospice for those who are dying. She shuttles the sick to their doctors’ appointments a hundred or two or three miles away. She supports an orphanage in Mexico. She provides a safety net for those who are not as strong and inspired and clever as she.

Cynta makes sure the families in tiny Mexican border towns hard-hit by Homeland Security’s closing of informal border crossings have tools and materials for their cottage industries, food for their tables, and children’s books and toys at Christmas. Among the many people who care and help, Cynta alone had the respect and stature to reach a working understanding with authorities of the U.S. Border Patrol.

People on both sides of the border know her to be a holy person. She performed Abe’s and Josie’s wedding here in our house when it was just a post-and-beam structure with a roof and no walls. She loves the Mexican people with a palpable tenderness I find very charming; long after Cynta is gone, she will be remembered and venerated by these people she loves so much and who love her in return. I can almost see the village shrines decorated with gaudy plastic flowers.

She is all this and more despite living with the constant pain and creeping paralysis of her limbs due to to a chronic condition that almost killed her. Doctors had been improperly treating her for years. As a result, whereas she’s ten years younger than me she looks a decade older. Nevertheless, she has a radiant beauty that nothing can obscure.

Paul is upset that Cynta gives so much but receives so little help in return. I keep telling him that this is as she wishes it, but he will not hear it. “One of her girlfriends should be there every day to brush her hair,” he says.

Paul makes a point of visiting Cynta two or three times a week to massage her feet, hands and limbs, consult with her about nutritional healing, and perform small jobs around the property. She always tries to pay Paul something and he always refuses.

He has moved his hyperbaric chamber down to her house and is growing wheatgrass there, too. When the chamber is operational, he will begin spending even more time at Cynta’s than he already does.

When I returned to pick him up, Paul was still completing the hook-up of appliances in a casita Cynta will rent to a young couple for a monthly cost that’s less than two nights at a local motel. Cynta and I had a chance to sit and visit for a few minutes between the comings-and-goings of many visitors.

“It seems like you adopt every stray that comes along,” I commented. “Both dogs and people.”

“When I was a little girl,” she said, “when asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I’d say I wanted to run an orphanage.”

Taking care of others has always been Cynta’s calling. Now she seems to have adopted the whole town and lots of little villages along the river.

Cynta has gotten her childhood wish and more.



This morning I am just too preoccupied to write much. Jordan Brown’s hearing about whether his innocence must be proved in adult or juvenile court is taking place as I write.

We will not know the outcome of the hearing for a month or so. The Judge will likely take that long to render his decision. I will have no idea how the hearing itself has gone until at least the end of the day until news reports begin to hit the Internet or Jordan’s dad Chris calls.

It’s one of those things I just can’t seem to put on “hold.” I will probably think of little else this whole day.

I’ll let you know something when I hear.



When I was a very little boy, I once had a dream in which it was raining while the sun shined. The drops of rain were golden in the sunlight and little marshmallow chicks were all over the grass of our backyard (yes, Peeps are that old!). Ever since that dream, the phenomenon of rain falling in sunshine has seemed magical to me. 

This morning I awoke to such magic. The rain had been falling since five a.m., and a rainbow greeted me as I emerged from the house. I went to our water catchment tank, thumped it, and determined that it was so full I could afford to divert some of the water into our pond. So is wealth measured on the desert. Water is the most important thing.

I did awaken around five at the height of the thunderstorm, and all I could think of is how much this rainfall would please my neighbor Bill.

In the cold weather while our pipes were bursting, Bill’s did too. When a valve on our water tank broke, we discovered it almost immediately and were able to save our water supply. Bill, on the other hand, was out of town at the time of the freeze and, unbeknownst to us, his pipes burst and all his water was lost.

“All I need is one good rain to fill my tanks,” he said hopefully. Now he’s gotten it.

I hope you have a good day, too.


what’s real?

Last night Val came over to join Paul and me for supper and a movie. This time it was Val’s turn to choose the film. Being a fan of the horror genre, Val brought a DVD of John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness, in which the writings of a pulp horror author become reality in an inside-out point in the time-space continuum called Hobb’s End, NH. Just reading this author’s books makes people go mad, riot, murder, and do other violence. The madness spread like a virus across the country from a “black church” in Hobbs End where the horror writer worked at his typewriter.

Val’s arrival interrupted a flurry of activity sparked by the appearance of a former teacher from Jordan Brown’s school, who has stepped forward to speak out for Jordan. Jordan’s school district has issued a gag order to prevent any district employees from speaking to us about Jordan. The police apparently got the school district to acquiesce to some illegal things early in the investigation; realizing the grave risk it has created for itself, the district is now compounding its errors by preventing information favorable to Jordan (the truth!) from being made available. These are the folks who are supposed to most care about the welfare of children. Instead, the district is apparently willing to see an innocent child sacrificed to bury the truth of their errors.

We had been working to confirm that this teacher is who he says he is, and not someone who could hurt us.

Legal cases involving children can attract some very peculiar people. A couple days ago I received an e-mail from a friend who had just attended the funeral of a man she had befriended through a youth justice advocacy group. She and her family were shocked to learn at the service that everything they had known about the deceased was pure fiction. The dead man had created a fictitious career and a fictitious family. They ended up burying a different person than they had driven hundreds of miles to honor. My friend’s husband was furious. “All those hours of BS I listened to!” he exclaimed.

My friend’s e-mail arrived the same day Abe posted a comment to my “News Report” posting saying that some of the headlines Paul read to me that day were for stories that had previously been debunked. As a result of Abe’s posting, I had been feeling  a similar but milder version of the emotions my friend’s husband had expressed. Paul did some follow-up research and said, “Just because the government denies something doesn’t mean it’s debunked.”

The bottom line is, you can’t rely on anything anyone says to be true unless you can verify facts for yourself.

But even so…  I’m reading a couple books right now about whether we can ever really know what is truly real. One is written by a brain scientist who describes how our brain and sensory organs (all of which have limited ranges of capabilities) define whatever we perceive as reality. In other words, we are biologically limited to perceiving only a limited range of the full reality that’s “out there.” The other book is by a New Age writer who says that the scientific ethos which dominates our culture is itself limiting our perceptions of what’s really real.

Countless bills are passed in Congress, the true effects of which can only be understood if you reverse the meanings of the bills’ Newspeak titles: i.e., the “Patriot Act,” “No Child Left Behind,” the “Healthy Forest Initiative,” etc. Newspeak was a true specialty of the Cheney-Bush administration, a practice being perpetuated by current leaders.

While we continue to be manipulated on a grand scale, no one can know precisely what is true. We can only approximate truth and hope our perceptions are not so far off the mark as to create dysfunction. Seeing the truth of things is always subjective process.

I guess I’d have to agree with Abe: Assume Rome is burning,  just ignore it and get on with life, and plant a tree if possible.


pet project

I haven’t told you yet what has been filling my days for so many months. Maybe my long silence since last summer has created the impression that I have been doing nothing. Not so.

This has been an exciting time for me intellectually. As you may have surmised from my “Earth Energy” entry, my studies have continued. What I have not yet shared is that they are finding a creative outlet in a re-write of my manuscript for a work called The Runic Compass.

The Runic Compass summarizes more than twenty years of research about natural and human cycles as diverse as climate and weather, wildlife populations and sunspots, war and peace, energy consumption and industrial production, wealth and poverty.

In discovering a direct correlation between ancient European and Chinese systems for understanding and predicting the seasons of transformative change, I realized that a single Earth-based model was once known to elites everywhere in the world… an echo of the same kind of thing being discovered in the worldwide system of pyramids, roads and ley lines, stone circles, mounds, etc. the ancients created to harness and use the Earth’s energy.

Like people everywhere in the world, the ancient people of Northern Europe encoded key wisdom and knowledge in their sacred literature and traditions.

All that survives today of this Northern Tradition esoterica is found in a surprisingly small number of surviving runic inscriptions—about 6,400 in total—and surviving myths about the Nordic gods and a handful of rune poems. About half of these runic inscriptions are found on Viking-age stone artifacts in Sweden. Some are medieval runes, usually found on small objects, often wooden sticks. Only 350 inscriptions are older than the Viking age.

The runic alphabet was used by the peoples of Northern Europe until well into the Middle Ages and, in some of the more remote places, even as late as the 1600s. Like our own alphabet, the runes were used to express many languages (including Gothic, German, Frisian, English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Lithuanian, Russian, etc.) in writing and in speech. Each rune has its own spoken sound.

Yet unlike our modern alphabets, the ancient runes contain symbolic meanings, traditional wisdom and, as some believe, awesome cosmic powers. The runes are a symbolic system which embodies the infinite within the finite, the “universe within a grain of sand.” The runes are sacred instruments with which one can see and benefit from the unifying presence of divinity in the world.

Each rune must be seen as a precise concept in its own right. Each encapsulates a certain aspect of existence expressing a part of the fundamental nature and inner structure of reality. Each rune is a symbolic storehouse of knowledge and deep meaning which can be accessed when studied in depth.

The 24 oldest runes are a complete, coherent, and powerful system embodying the holographic reality and unity of the universe. They can be used, almost like scientific tools, to predict future conditions and to suggest appropriate responses.

Early last year I thought I had a publisher for The Runic Cycle, but the deal fell out of bed at the last minute. It was a great disappointment because I would have shared the same publisher with some of the writers in this field I most respect.

Yet the experience showed me that the manuscript was clearly not ready and, after a suitable fermentation period, I am now about a third of the way through a new editing and re-write pass.

The manuscript originated as a series of letters to Derek while he was in prison (Derek had asked me to teach him about the runes). Now it is being revised as a series of letters to ten-year-old Elijah Kenney, my ersatz grandson. Elijah asked me to teach him how to predict the future.

Yesterday Elijah’s written answers to a chapter test arrived by mail, and I am pleased he seems to be grasping this challenging material. We will talk on the phone this week and discuss mutual questions. He seems to be enjoying the experience of being my guinea pig. I’ve never tried explaining this material to young kids before.

I’ll be learning as much from Elijah as he’ll learn from me.


news report

Paul was in Marathon all last week working on some construction projects.

When he returned on Saturday, one of the first things Paul said was, “I’m so glad to have access to a computer again. The television news was always on, yet I never knew what was really happening.”

He then began reading me headlines from some of his favorite Internet news sources and a picture of recent events began to resolve like a pointillist painting:

The US military was involved in Haitian earthquake disaster simulation exercises a day before the Haitian earthquake;

An unconfirmed report by the Russian Northern Fleets says the Haiti earthquake was caused by a flawed US Navy ‘earthquake weapons’ test before the weapons could be utilized against Iran;

In April 1997 then-Defense Secretary William Cohen told a terrorism conference at the University of Georgia that military technology is being developed for causing earthquakes;

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez has just accused the US of using such technology in Haiti;

There’s evidence that the United States found oil in Haiti decades ago and, due to geopolitical circumstances and big business interests of that era, made the decision to keep Haitian oil in reserve for when Middle Eastern oil had dried up;

Haiti is a source for copper, gold, bauxite, and other minerals, as well as cheap labor;

US officials are saying our troops will be in Haiti “for the long haul”;

In the light of the militarization of emergency aid to Haiti, some observers are questioning whether we’re conducting a humanitarian operation or an invasion.

How could I have gotten through a whole week without such reassuring reports?

The answer: Peacefully!

Last night Paul and I were invited to dinner at the home of our neighbors, Alana and Bill, where Paul regaled them with provocative, little-known news and statistics. Paul’s command of facts and data was impressive. Even though I’d heard it all before, it was entertaining to see Bill and Alana being so entertained.

“I’m so glad Paul’s back,” Alana said to me as we were leaving. “When he’s away, there’s no one to tell us what’s going on.”



Well friends, it’s official: we have an almost-working chicken coop. 

Yesterday afternoon neighbors Julie and Whitebear decided three of their roosters had to go. Julie rounded up and caged all but one which escaped and is probably some coyote’s meal already. Whitebear brought by the remaining two roosters and installed them in our coop. 

I asked Whitebear if they have names. “Yeah,” he said, “Lunch and Dinner.” 

Maybe I wasn’t hungry at the moment, but somehow they don’t strike me as very appetizing. Anyway, we have other plans in mind. I’m thinking of naming one of them Casanova. Maybe you have an idea of what I might name the other. I’m all ears.

Today I was greeted by that “G’morning” sound you either love or hate. (I kinda like it.) The timing seemed a little early. The light had not even begun to glow beyond the mountains to the east.

 “Cock-a-doodle-do!” crowed one. “Cock-a-duh,” crowed the other. They kept it up until sunrise. 

I wasn’t exactly planning on this fowl development, so today I must go into town again and buy some chickenfeed, as well as some hardware supplies to secure weak-points in the coop.

I’m not so concerned about keeping the roosters in as keeping predators out (though the birds do need to remain confined for a week so they will imprint on the coop as their “safe place”).

We want all our animals to be safe and happy. Speaking of which…

The vet did confirm that Otto has suffered a small stroke, and that there are only slight residual effects that will likely go away. He pronounced Otto in excellent overall health (especially for an old guy), and we agreed on a dietary supplement approach to managing his health for longevity.

In his current state of health and living here with me, Otto has an excellent quality of life. I have long suspected he is still alive because he enjoys it so.


new morning

We will be leaving in a few minutes to see the vet. Happily this morning’s situation is much improved over yesterday’s.

Within an hour-and-a-half of the (stroke?) incident, Otto regained his legs well enough to make it to the front door, where he rested most of the morning.

We walked about half the distance together, with me holding up his hindquarters and he reluctantly moving forward on his front legs. Otto finally became impatient with the whole affair and insisted on just being left in the road.

I left him and returned again in twenty minutes.

On this second try, Otto let me lift his hindquarters again but then began using his back legs. His right rear paw dragged in a way that’s known (for people) as drop-foot. He made it about a third of the remaining distance before he lay down again.

I left him alone, and when I looked around, he lay at the front door, panting as if he’d just undergone a strenuous effort. He rested there for an hour and then came into the house and slept at my feet for most of the rest of the day.

Otto made a few ventures outdoors on wobbly legs to “take care of business,” and by evening his walk seemed almost normal.

Otto is eleven-and-a-half years old—80 in people-years. He is a happy soul with a gentle disposition. When he was young he was the most athletic dog I’d ever known, and it was difficult seeing him incapacitated, if only briefly.

It was also heartening to see Otto’s determination to get back to the house. He never gave up.

It’s sobering to remember this is a harbinger of things to come. In the meantime, though, we will enjoy the happy return of spring and the warmth and comfort shared only between old friends.


dear old dog

This will be a short posting today. Otto is not well and needs my attention.

This morning I awoke to Otto’s bark: the particular one when he’s not barking at something but calling for me to come. When I got to him I could see he had lost the use of his rear legs. He was covered in dried plant material, which leads me to think his legs had gone out from under him so suddenly he had taken a tumble.

The veterinarian is out of town today, so we will not be able to get Otto in for an examination until tomorrow morning. Based on the symptoms I described by phone, Doc thinks Otto may have suffered a mini-stroke.

I have a sinking feeling that this may be the beginning of the end of my time with this friend I love so much. He has already outlived the typical life span for his breed.

I only hope the end does not come too soon for either of us.