Snowy Owl Press
Caperton and Willem Tissot
14 Dewey Mountain Road
Saranac Lake, NY 12983
Snowy Owl Press
Snowy Owl Press


by Caperton Tissot

Daisies, buttercups, lavender, blue,
Lupine and vetch dancing through

Green matted grass
along the road,
Defying boundaries
in random flow.

No border, no red line, no color code,
Enchanted gathering, not yet mowed,

Like skin tones arrayed
working together,
Like birds of many
a colored feather,

Or multi-hued quilts from diverse hands,
Yearning for rainbows colors our lands.


Memories of a Belgian railroad station
Willem Tissot van Patot

And now a little remembrance of things past.

Like the pendulum of those long summers, my grandmother’s favorite

Announcement would echo twice daily through the old railroad station that was our home: Le train va venir! Right on cue, the heavy stone structure would tremble and shudder in anticipation. An ancient, creaking passenger train with an enormous steam locomotive would make a ritual stop, its low whistle a call to far away adventure.

Although the station was one of a small cluster of buildings, the actual village it belonged to, Buzenol, wasn’t there at all, but had to be reached on foot, through stretches of wood and the rolling farm land that dominates the region.

One of several neighbors there was Monsieur Sohy, a retired electrician who represented the railroad, and a man full of secrets, mostly concerning the weather or reconditioned bicycle parts. He always spoke in a loud whisper, his bushy eyebrows raised with authority over grimy spectacles. Occasionally he would don large khaki shorts and set out into the woods, a cane in one hand and a rifle in the other, to hunt wild boar.

Wild boar were the legend of the region. Farmers would build tree houses at the edges of clearings and spend nights waiting to shoot these monsters, usually without success, because there weren’t any.

Here, as in other doings, time was no object. The entire area, or Pays de Gaume, as it was commonly called, was as if left out, passed over by industrialism, and carried on in its own sturdy, superstitious way. Children were used early on the land, most leaving school at fourteen, starting to lose their teeth by twenty, and were generally kept on at the parents’ farm until the old folks’ death, or retirement, for no pay except a weekly ration of tobacco.

The quality of life was really excellent. Market days, weddings, saints’ days, village balls were always in preparation. Local sausage, bread and pastries were of famous quality. Beer, like Stella Artois and Orval, and liqueurs available at all hours. A trip to the village for supplies always yielded an invitation to sit down in one of those cavernous, tiled floor kitchens for a goûter, the standard fourth meal of the day, of pâté, sausage, home-made breads, jams and a soup bowl full of excellent coffee. These large bowls, without handles, were used because bread with jam, and even fruit pastry were always dunked into the coffee: a sensible custom which makes it possible to live comfortably with poor or no teeth.

No money was spent on medical care; little or nothing on insurance. People died young or old, as the case might be, and without much fuss - perhaps clutching a cheap rosary.

Across the railroad tracks was an abandoned stone quarry. In older, more productive days stone was cut there with pick and shovel, then loaded onto small trains (we Dutch children called them lorries) to be carted to a gravel mill near the station. Narrow-gauge rails and handcarts had been abandoned there. We hitched them together, and ran trains of our own all through the big quarry, using the natural incline of the terrain for speed. The speed was great, and led to derailments and laborious rebuilding of track. Where the stone had been cut away, fossils, sea shells, petrified snails, crustations could be collected easily with the help of a stone chisel. Some were beautiful christalline swirls in the stone. These we cherished, and saved up in a small museum arranged in an empty waiting room, while on rainy mornings, by the real tracks, we collected large quantities of live snails, and put them into zinc buckets covered with lids, to be hungered out of their shells and cooked with parsley and butter for French visitors.

Child labor was the order of the day, and often quite tolerable. Frequently we would all set out in the early morning with cups and empty milk pitchers for a day of blueberry picking in the woods. The berries were small but very tasty, and grew under the canopy in patches of several acres. All we had to do was sit down and reach out. And apparently here too time was no object. Much, much later, by twilight, happy and with purple whiskers, the seat of our pants a blueberry landscape, we would stagger back to the station, where the day’s harvest was confiscated and cooked with sugar into preserves and jams that disappeared into the basement. Blueberries were supposed to be a sure remedy against upset stomachs. Garlic, which grew in the garden, worked against all other ailments. The world was altogether satisfying. At night, we imagined wild boar and other monsters prowling outside and felt wonderfully strong and safe behind the heavy iron bars in the station’s windows; a sense of security my grandmother underscored with card games and little glasses of rum.

Every morning the postman arrived on his bicycle over the hill, his broad face red and brimming with good news, exercise and brandy. Hospitality was great in those parts and postmen retired early.

We also retired early: often after twenty-mile hikes in the countryside. My parents were great believers in the joys and freedoms of forced marches. Recovering as they were from five years of German occupation, perhaps they imagined themselves part of the Allies’ glorious advance... Pure at heart, glassy-eyed, we would trudge on, feeling much like Mr. Housman’s poem of the long road by moonshine: But ere the circle homeward hies... Far, far does it remove. Many were the village pubs we passed, but did not conquer. We were footfolk and drank at the village pump. I still see the astonished faces of the farmers as we trekked by: two adults in raggedy shorts - a sure sign of the devil - two skinny, sweating children stooping under the weight of knapsacks, canteens and photogrpahic equipment.

Sometimes, when there were no activities, the old station, its tracks receding in the afternoon sun, just sat there, its heavy stone walls warm to the touch; insects were buzzing the sweet thyme and grasses of its unkempt yard. A pair of buzzards circled slowly in the distance. The woods cut dark and blue into the golden sky. Time itself seemed to have come to a halt, hovering, like an invisible train, having reached its destination.


by Willem M. Tissot.
(written in reaction to G. Bryjak's 12/11/13 newspaper article on Church and Internet as social controls)

Mr. Bryjak documents the loss of church affiliation (one-fifth of the U.S. Public, according to a Pew study) and the weakening of its social control function. To me, a four-fifth rate of affiliation would seem pretty high, compared, for example with that of some European countries.This in spite of many competing distractions from capitalist exploitation and the dark certainty of death. My feeling about church attendance in the U.S. is that it is a largely secularized passtime: a province of consumption - the ever-growing bubble we live in and by which we may collectively perish when raw materials run out.

Churchgoers collect their «absolution» much the same way they collect their trinkets and donuts at the retail checkout. Instead of fire and brimstone, today's preachers serve cookies and sympathy to a frivolous flock. A good number of churchgoing Americans don't believe in a damned thing and are there to parade their clothes, polish their image, see friends, indulge in gluttony, hone their social skills, firm up business relations, look for girls....their submission to ritual and theological exposure is not unlike that of kissing old aunts at Christmas. Thus church still contributes substantially to the great moral and political inertia Mr. Bryjak correctly perceives.

Which in no way contradicts his thesis concerning our collective Internet addiction. Adapting Malcolm Hamilton's dictum on the comforts and distractions of religion, he states: «The Internet offers comfort for (our) hardships via an endless array of distractions that result in acquiescence to the injustices of this life.

Bryjak's article convincingly shows the rise and some alarming aspects of Internet usage, such as the «immersive», massively role-playing games (MMPORPGs) where players assume a make-believe identity and control character and action to a degree no real-life situation would allow..

But then, citing a marketing survey in which 8% of respondents declared they would rather give up eating than give up their electronic gadgetry, he speaks of a «passion demonstrated by only the most extreme religious adherents.» I don't see passion here, but rather something resembling the first phase of Timothy Leary's famous «Turn on, tune in and drop out» of the 1960s, namely a passive, starry-eyed addiction that can indeed lead to a dropping out of everyday reality. Today's electronics craze is the 1960s counterculture on steroids: people in an artificially induced happyland where they manifest themselves as playcharacters unfettered by mundane limitations and - God forbid - responsibilities..

The 1960s counterculture played itself out, as does today's age of «social media», against a backdrop of costly and unpopular war. In the earlier period, young Americans - and some older ones as well - eventually used their newly discovered freedom from convention, their relaxed interaction supported by weed, to rally behind a successful peace movement. An important element in their successful nonviolent protests was direct, democratic, in-person communication in coffee houses, in communes, on campuses, in city parks, at many marches and rallies. In contrast to today's strutting head-sets and public cell-phone isolation, people celebrated personal communication by abandoning chairs and «rapping» on the floor, in the manner of Indian elders. The social media-generated Occupy Wall Street movement, an otherwise legitimate protest against capitalist exploitation by the powerful few, has so far not led to meaningful financial reforms, nor has it resulted in a clean break from our disastrous military involvement in Afghanistan and business profiteering in the mid-East and North Africa..

Clearly, electronic communication of the «social media», although credited with some electoral results and interference in the affairs of foreign countries, has not proven to be socially, politically or culturally superior. Rather, it seems to result in a culture of relentless, competitive self-promotion and self-manifestation in the make-believe world of Facebook and an endless exchange of cute, but trite and fast-forgotten electronic photographs and bad jokes. An iconic example of this was the President of the United States shooting a «selfie» while openly flirting with the attractive prime minister of Denmark during the memorial for Nelson Mandela..

There is a growing group of Americans, primarily singles, whose personal lives have become almost entirely vicarious, isolated, internet-based, filled with byte-sized inanities, solitary games, and narcissistic photo-ops. No passion here, rather a copout, replacing real interaction and community with electronically generated fantasy. But rather than seeing this as an aberration, I think we need to regard it as an integral part of a broader addiction, a larger bubble: that of chronic, unrestrained consumption, fueled by capitalist greed and relentless advertising..

An economy where endless and often frivolous retail purchases and the piling up of household debt are perceived to «contribute» more than 70% of the nation's worth, is a make-believe economy. The entire free-market, consumption-celebrating system is founded on the dangerous notion that the earth's natural bounty is endlessly renewable..

Some rare metals and minerals necessary to keep producing your television set, tablet or cell phone are already in very short supply and controlled by very few, not necessarily friendly countries, such as China. The promise of new energy independence to be fueled by forced-chemical extraction of oil and gas may well have been a mirage: wells dry up to a trickle in 2 to 3 years, while cyanide and other chemicals forced into the earth pollute groundwater and cause dangerous shifts for a long time.

The recent Great Recession was caused by economic dreaming spiked by deliberate fraud and greed sanctioned by unethical corporations. It is not hard to understand that you cannot expect successful home ownership based on don't ask - don't tell paperwork and the pipedreams of an impoverished middle class. Of course you cannot believably sell «collaterized» financial instruments based on home sales to the insolvent (or their recently invented incarnation as RENT obligations, wich have started to push up rents and people out of unaffordable apartments). Of course you cannot consistently outperform traditional investments by 100 percentage points. Yet the rich and privileged flocked to Bernie Madoff for years. Of course you cannot base a stable economy on the speculative value of mergers and acquisitions. Yet many Baby Boomers lost their savings in the 2000 Tech A&M and IPO bubble. If recent - and contemporary - history is any indication, the Consumption Bubble will continue to grow, inflated by short-term, predatory capitalist thinking. Expect more to come, because caution and long-term planning as practiced by a few more guided economies seem here to be considered, well, un-American.

Dining along the Northway

from Adirondack Flashes and Floaters, A River of Verse
by Caperton Tissot

Traffic is heavy, three lanes
Headed south, not much going north;
   Hairless creatures on weekly migrations,
   Hurtling down the paved road,
   Stirring up dust as they speed.

Roaring and groaning,
Loud honks warn of boundaries;
Fast ones pass slower.
   A few stop to rest.
   From what do they flee? Must be hunger.

There’s plenty of food right here
If you know how to find it;
   Lots of us do, hunting is excellent,
   Got to look in the right places.
   We cruise roadside strips for pick-ups.

Grass trimmed short, wide viewing,
My compadres crowd about;
   Sharp eyes peering
   Seek good dining spots,
   We squabble at times, nothing serious.

I, strong, highly skilled, am the winner.
Eating well matters, here in the North Country—
   For survival, for me, for my children
   Who eagerly await my return with this,
   A large mouse hanging from my beak.

Questions or comments? Get in touch with us at: Tissot@snowyowlpress.com

Snowy Owl Press - Caperton and Willem Tissot
14 Dewey Mountain Road  ·  Saranac Lake, NY 12983  ·  www.snowyowlpress.com  ·  Tissot@snowyowlpress.com
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