On top of the mountain behind our house; is an amazing view of Great East Lake. We have spent a lot of time hiking to this lookout over the past few years. It has been a part of our routine, it was even the first spot we walked as a married family.
Recently the sheep have started to accompany us on this trek.
A month ago we all headed up the trail; talking about everything and nothing as we went. At the fork in the path- that leads through the blueberry patches to the vista, we all stopped.
Something was different.
The quality of the light was so direct and bright. All conversation seized.
We walked on through the blueberries, even the sheep were aware something wasn’t the same. The smell of pine stung our noes and we rounded the corner to find that the entire hillside had been clear cut.
Neither of us could speak. There was nothing to say. The booming finality of it was deafening.
Gone. All gone.
Like someone had ripped apart an exquisite piece of antique lace then stomped it into the ground.
This was not our land to keep. We have no idea if this means a building will soon go up. It could have been for the sole purpose of the view.
Which IS spectacular.
The photo prompt for this week is ‘work.’ Oddly enough, I find myself with time off from work. It has been amazing. Of course, I made a bunch of lofty promises to myself about how productive I was going to be with my vacation.
There is a lot to do around the homestead to make way for summer, some if it has even gotten done. Today, I will write about work without actually doing any but I think I have a pretty good excuse – the snow.
Yes. You heard me. Snow. It’s April 26th.
Without fail, about a week after we think it is safe to reclaim the quarter of the house devoted to plants and put them outside; this happens and we have to bring them all back in. Every time.
I’m going to look on the bright side since the snow actually makes the ‘work’ in my picture stand out even more.
This year we had to wait to doing anything major in the garden because it had to be made safe from the sheep.
Last year, between our late start and the growing lambs’ access to the garden we had a pretty pitiful harvest. We knew that there was going to be a lot of work involved in to get all the animals situated before the planting.
First, the ducks needed a pond. One that we didn’t have to drain and clean. Trust me, this is a must for ducks. We have a marshy spot on the front of the property and with a little poking around found there was a spring down there! With a few days worth of digging and a reused tent canopy, the ducks have there own little pond now. The constant flow of water means its always clear in the morning.
Next, was the dogs/garden. We needed to fence in a huge area around the house in order to keep the sheep out of the garden. This structure doubles as the dog run, finally allowing all the doors in the house to be left open with no fear of husky escape.
Making such a large area dog proof was not an easy task and it is still ongoing. Everyone chipped-in and the snow today actually makes it easier to see all the rock work that went into securing the bottom of the fence.
The sheep now inherited the dog run and are still near the house. This will have to be remedied soon but for now, everyone is adjusting to the new boundaries. Some better than others.
The other day Daisy tried to be spider-sheep and almost climbed over the five foot fence. She just puts one foot in front of the other and waits for things to bow under her weight. She was more than half way up it before I got her off. She bent one of the post badly and we had to drive in a seven foot steak just for good measure.
The sheep are not impressed with the new arrangement. But I love our salvage fence gate.
Growing up the martial arts community it is almost impossible for me to think of “a path” without the concept of the Tao or Dao. Contrary to the notion of a well defined boulevard or road The Way or The Path has always been explained to me as more of an attitude than a plan.
It is not the line you take in a direction but the manner in which you pass along it that matters. I feel more and more that this way is fluid rather than solid. If I set out with a track in mind I will surely miss all the things that are not directly in front of me.
Back home; in the mountains, under the redwoods I could always find a place devoid of ware. Territory where there is no path. I would go up the craggy mountains single-mindedly. Looking forward. Blazing my own trail. I was never worried about getting lost even though the area was vast and could be dangerous.
Here, I don’t have to worry about cliffs, mountian lions, rattle snakes or earthquakes though there is the ever-present fear of ticks and possible lyme disease as I meander through the back woods.
I still wander.
I always have and I suspect, always will. Regardless of what side of the country I live on.
Now, I go with no direction or destination in mind. I stop frequently in order to hear the wind and watch the birds fly and call to one another.
There are buds on all the trees now. Very soon the forest will start its sprint toward the sky. I make my way down to the bog, past the sunlit survivors of fall.
I have been blessed throughout my life with great friends. In my early adulthood; I was elated to find that my family and I all had/have, true and close friendships filled with love and silliness.
When I widen my focus I see many life long connections with amazing people.
I had the great fortune to meet and marry my best friend. A partner to create this chaotic homestead with.
I have felt the sting of fakery and venomous relationships. I learned from these experience; and make my current decisions with the benefit of this knowledge. As I look back on my life this far; my greatest friends have been of the furry, feathered or scaly verity.
Like the friendships of my very early childhood, I find these connections with critters to be some of my most valued. The ones I learned the most important lessons from. Relationships between the species require; kindness, truth, patience and empathy.
They are based on authentic consistent action- on what you do and not what you say. I like that.
Now a days, I rarely if ever feel the need to seek interaction outside of our little family and the homestead. This could be a result of spending most waking hours at work- talking with MANY, MANY people. Often these people become good friends over time and trial.
Dynamics between inhabitants of the homestead are always interesting. Some are indifferent; like the ducks and the chickens. Some are contentious; like rooster relations.
And some require physical boundaries in-order to avoid death; like that between the husky and anything with feathers. The other two dogs have no such restrictions.
The dogs and sheep however can share a common fence and often race each other back and forth.
The snow falling lightly on my window reveled itself to me one day.
All the little flakes waited patiently to melt.
Momentarily displaying their breathtaking detail, individual beauty and uniqueness.
I was there to see it.
But had there been no audience-the show would have remained exactly the same.
Little frozen moments.
This challenge has once again given me a chuckle and serious pause for thought at the same time.
Yesterday we got almost six inches and snow…On the second day of spring.
Yah, New England weather.
This resulted in my pictures for the prompt being chuck-full of juxtaposition. In fact, it was kind of hard for me to pick between the subjects I had on hand. With snowy backdrops for all, spring seemed absent.
It started with eggs.
Most days when the sheep are done munching around the yard they come to the sliding glass door and try to get in. Sometimes they just lay down and wait for someone to notice them.
Other times they will knock on the glass with their hoofs, insisting someone pay attention NOW!
I don’t like this behavior because they are substantial animals and their interactions with the large glass door make me very nervous. Last month I started leaning a boogie board up against the door, this blocks their view and protects to door. Plus they don’t seem to be the flat-thing’s biggest fans; for whatever reason it spooks them.
Double win, right?!
Even the heart brake can yield a harvest.
Fredrick, the last guinea fowl died Valentines day, which is rather fitting. I think he might have been a little suicidal after the death of his flock at the paws of the husky. He was never at peace. Didn’t want to live with the chickens even though he had been raised with some of them.
He would hang with the sheep, but more often then not he would be out by the cars, looking at his reflection in the paint. Other wise he would hang in a little spot I made him with a mirror and shinny trash can.
He was lonely that was obvious. Why he would do things like this:
Not as obvious.
I found him Valentines morning dead in his coop. It was one of the coldest days this year but he was rooming with 3 other chickens all of whom are fine.
He was frozen solid. He looked like he just laid his head down and went to sleep. It was very sad but we can hope he is with his family. Now, we were left with a problem. The ground was still frozen.
The oldest boy has been studying ancient Egypt and we came up with the idea to give him a king’s burial. Complete with stone monument. This offered several advantages; we could unearth the stones, creating the chamber while getting the materials for his temple.
I got some natural clay and we set to work making him a sarcophagus.
This April will mark
five (six, oh my god!) years since we packed up the truck and headed the wrong way across the country. After half a decade of winters I can promise you that people headed west for more than the chance to strike it rich. More like the chance to feel their extremities during the year.
We willingly gave up established and well connected careers to move to a land where we knew no one and had nothing. Even after we arrived and thankfully- found work we were still homeless for three months. With two dogs and twice weekly visits from two kids. Living out of hotels and vacation rentals.
All of this so my partner would have a chance to be the parent he wanted to be. To demonstrate to his kids what it means to be a dad.
All we were trying to do was be a ‘normal’ family; no matter what. Our sole focus was (and is) the boys. They are the measure of all things, the compass that directs our path. More often than not- through country that seems impassable.
They light the way.
There have been many times when we have been at our wits end. Out of resources and options, with nowhere to go but forward. Through an unsure future that seems determined to bite and rend apart all we have managed to scrape together.
We have been blessed, though.
Maybe the best example is from our time in Hampton Beach. The first time I was going to meet the boys on this side of the country. By this time, we had been here more than a month and their weekly visits with daddy had become routine for them. I think my diary entry of the day says it best:
The day after our mining adventure in Helena Montana, we headed for the North entrance of Yellowstone. We had planned our route cross country based mostly on national parks, geology and a vow to wander as much as possible.
Having set out at the very brink of spring; the West entrance to the park was the only other gate open and it had only been open a day.
Snow still covered the park in some areas and the springs steamed in the cool air.
We had no real idea where we were going, just that we wanted to see wildlife, water and geysers in whatever order they came. Driectly after passing the stone arch of randomness we got to the ranger’s station and were presented with this ominous flyer:
This was going to be a good day! I think this is the best thing I have ever been handed in a national park.
Rounding the bend above the little town center we stopped dead in the middle of the road (we were lucky the park was almost empty during our visit) both of our jaws on the floor as this grazed 15 feet from the truck.
Holy crap! That’s a Fu*king buffalo! It didn’t take much note of us, until Pele started barking uncontrollably, through the window at the quadruped. I have no idea what her deal was. It was as if she took offense to the sight on some basic premiss.
In my head she sounded thus- “Hey you!!! You’re not a cow! You look like a cow, but you don’t smell like one. EXPLAIN YOURSELF NOT COW! Why are you as big as the truck?!”
Not waiting for answers to her doggie questions we continued on. Pele whined disconsolately, Honey looked nonplussed at her pack-mate’s behavior.
A little farther down the road we came to these amazing mineral pools/hot springs.
When we drove across the country
four years ago– one of the only things we DID plan was to stop in Montana and mine for sapphires. Both of us totally dig (no pun I swear!) rocks and minerals. There are few better ways to spend a day than to go gold panning or mineral mining. While still living in Ca we often packed up the dogs and drove into the Sierras then down Yuba river to pan for gold.
We found the Spokane bar Sapphire mine outside of Helena and since it was close to the entrance to Yellowstone we decided to give it a try. Many things in Montana were not quite what we expected. For instance this is a MEDIUM coffee:
When we got the the mine we were informed that since all sapphires and garnet form in the first five feet of ground-the mine does not look like you would think. It is NOT a deep shaft into the earth. Instead it was an area on top of a hill in the high plains of Montana. Here again we found a breathtaking view and a place to run the pups WHILE mining. How is that for multi-tasking?!
Six years ago…
The first day journey was relatively uneventful (except for my love shipping ALL our shoes to upstate NY.)
Most aspects of the move were completely unplanned. One of the few things we DID plan (besides mine sapphires in MT) was to visit as many national parks as we could.
This resulted the trip being longer than necessary but much more interesting than a straight line to a destination we really didn’t want to go in the first place.
Early the second morning we rounded a bend and Mt. St Helens came into view.
I had no desire to stop and so we continued though a lovely town called Weed.
This is a real town.
In fact it reminded me a whole lot of Boulder only this little haven was founded in the shadow of Mt. Shasta.
We found the entrance to Crater Lake National Park and began to climb the 2000 plus feel to the top. Along the way we encountered our first snow, it would not be our last.
We thought- “ok cool, snow.” But the snow banks on either side kept growing and growing…
By the time we got to the top:
Almost six years ago…
Almost four years ago now, my partner (now husband) and I found ourselves in the unenviable position of moving to the East Coast. For us, the timing of the move was not something we had expected. In fact it was years sooner than his ex and him had agreed when they split. He woke to a phone call- on what should have been a visitation day with the oldest from their maternal grandpa, “your kids are no longer in the state, they are in Connecticut now.”
No warning, no goodbye, nothing.
The youngest was seven months old and the oldest wasn’t even three.
He was devastated.
An oldie but a goodie… Almost two years later. The more things change the more that stay the same.
When a Phoenix dies, do its remains know they will be reborn?
This past few months I have managed to; loose my dad, quit my job, flounder in the beginnings of a new venture, remain almost completely homebound for months and gradually loose my mind in the process.
I have been working on one particular painting for years and I just cannot seem to get it right.
I fear it will remain eternally unfinished. I have been trying to pick it up again but it seems that as one part gets to a point I can tolerate, others wait glaring at me with impatience for their own completeness.
I admit; I may be reading into this a bit much. Leave me alone. It has been a rough winter!
It is a picture (or more accurately- TRYING to be a picture) of a Phoenix rising. Here are some of its unsuccessful incarnations.
Currently, the word evokes strong- conflicting emotions.
There is a constant battle inside my head over how I perceive my reality and judge my efforts.
It seems like there is never enough. Not time, money, energy or anything for that matter. Any effort that’s exerted, comes up short. My schedule is filled with ‘those days.’ The ones when even your best is not good enough and it is a relief just to break even.
Especially this time of year. The dead of winter. Slack tide.
Wake up, animals, drive, work, drive, animals, eat, sleep, repeat. Try to do get ahead of it all enough to carve out time with the boys and still have time to nurture our marriage.
There is always more to do; or something/someone I feel I am neglecting.
Extra?! What’s that? We would need to have enough before we could have more.
Then, I breath. I thank the breath in my lungs for being there.
I breath again, closing my eyes and open them as I exhale. I thank them for my sight.
I look around and breath some more. I thank the universe for all the lives I share my space with. It is not perfect, but it is safe, warm and filled with love.
It was with this attitude I approached the photo challenge this week. Our persistence and endurance provides us with many things to be grateful for. There might even be some extra.
Overwintering animals is hard work and during that time most don’t produce any of their normal bounty. It is easy to forget that one of the reasons we put forth so much effort and dedicade time and space to them is not just to have something to pet- we receive from them too.
I’m not kidding.
I don’t know if it was a good thing my husband was unsurprised and (to my dismay) rather unimpressed
He was actually said “that sound about right”
Seriously?! What do I have to do to get a reaction around here?!
When I worked at the golf course my beverage cart girl came in one morning and told me that she had seen a baby hawk on the ground the day before.
“AND YOU DIDN’T TELL ME!!!”
I almost fired her on the spot. Instead I made her take me out there right away. There are foxes and coyotes on the course and I was sure that the baby did not last the night.
I was surprised on two counts-
1) The chick WAS still there alive and well.
2) It looked more like a full grown hawk than a chick.
Before we left Ca I had started an apprenticeship for falconry and had a little bit of an idea how to get the little/big boy.
Pretty simple really, I took off my chef coat and gently placed it on his head. He fell right over, lights out!
I picked him up brought him back to the clubhouse (everyone there was more surprised than my husband but no one was shocked, go figure)
I made him a hood and feed him some raw meat. He was dubious but hungry so he ate.
Later I got some mice from the pet store and he ate those more willingly.
But nothing could have prepared me for what happened when I brought him home and got some live feeder mice the next day.
I have been keeping snakes for a long time now.
I am a firm believer that you do not just drop a live mouse in the cage and walk away. This often results in mice and rats doing series damage to your pet.
As much as it sucks it is important to make sure the kill is clean. In this spirit I figured I would have to help or supervise feeding live mice to the hawk.
I. WAS. SO. WRONG.
Honey is somewhere around 15 years old. (Now 16!)
This is a ball park estimate since her age at the time my husband adopted her was uncertain. She has been such a blessing in our lives and rather than singing her praises after she is gone (an inevitability I don’t like to think about) I wanted to take some time to truly appreciate her and all that we have shared as a family.
She has lived a pretty amazing life for a dog. Scratch that. She has lead an amazing life for an earthly being.
Her relationship with me started with a fair bit of drama. When the boys were moved across the country, she was left with a neighbor. Even though we quickly recovered her it did nothing for her already tentative trust in humans. At the time we lived on a boat with the little dog, Pele and had to scramble for other accommodations. Two dogs on a 30 foot boat is no good.
It was cozy.
We relocated to the redwoods.
That last photo prompt; tension, got me thinking of a story I have been meaning to put down for more than a year. I have written quite a bit about Lulu’s early life and drama but I have not said much about our other sheep, Daisy.
When Rusty died we searched high and low for a new companion for Lulu. Most farmers had pre-sold their spring lambs and it took us more than a week of searching to locate a lamb of similar age. Daisy is a Katahdin, a type of hair sheep developed in northern Maine.
She was born on a large farm with many different types of sheep and a few different flocks. Daisy’s early life was not a happy one. Her and her brother were rejected by their mother and he died within the first couple days. She joined a couple other orphans and they were dubbed the “Tres Amigos.” They were being bottle feed and slotted for fall slaughter.
The owners were good, salt of the earth people used to managing a large operation. When we pulled up, several herding dogs greeted us. They nipped at Lulu; not understanding why this sheep was being allowed to stray from the flock.
We entered the huge barn and the farmer pointed over to three small lambs huddled in a corner. He expertly picked her up and we let the girls touch noses, I looked her over and we decided that she would do just fine.
His wife came over and they administered the shots she would need, so we could take her home. The lamb knew what was going on and struggled feebly in the strong man’s arms. Their doctoring was quick and expert and we loaded her up and brought her home.
My husband quickly named her Daisy. Lulu and her were different in many ways. Aside from the obvious difference between wool sheep and hair sheep. Lulu had adapted quickly into a house sheep. SPOILED ROTTEN! Always trying to get on the couch with the dogs and eternally irked when she was removed.
As the land thaws and spring approaches- there are many interesting moments on the homestead. I picked the picture below for the word of the week “tension.” Thus far the two roosters have shown little aggression towards each other, but then again I have been keeping them apart.
Only time will tell as they grow if they will stay mellow in their maturity or if my never ending rooster problems will persist.
Here are a bunch of this series that weren’t quite tense enough.
To everyone else in this 2016 photo challenge, “good luck! Happy snapping!”
The thaw is on!
This is not like last year, when I declared winter to be over out of exasperation. Instead, I think the ground might be here to stay.
The bog in the back of the property is putting on one last frozen show.
We decided to go check it out. As usual; the sheep were not far behind.
My upbringing in the west taught me so much that I depend on when life gets complicated. I am grateful for the lessons learned by bearing witness to the awesome power of the Pacific. Its boundless power could give and take life with equal ease. I was raised to never turn my back on the ocean, a foolish disrespect that could change your life in an instant.
When we lived on a boat the ebb and flow of the tides constantly marked the day and our activities. When your home is afloat there is a connection with the sea that is visceral and comforting in its constant flux and change. While living there I wrote this, I like to revisit it from time to time as I always find it helpful sometimes even profound. As if someone else wrote it. 🙂
Again and again I tread the same water passing it over my body and going nowhere, suspended between what is and what is to be.
Then change comes as a wave out of the abyss consuming everything.
Shifting your entire bodily universe and there is nothing anyone can do to prepare for it, it will come when it comes, as it comes.
Time has shown me many things and I look forward to the unsure future being nothing as I ever thought it would be.
I have never participated in any of the online challenges that circulate the web. This is not for any particular reason other than laziness. Until now…
The Aran Artisan is one of my favorite blogs. Melissa is a native Mainer (basically from the next town over from us) who moved to Inas Mor, a small island off the coast of Ireland. They have a homestead and her writing, garden, crafts and wisdom are inspiring.
Her and a few other equally awesome bloggers decided to do a weekly photo challenge for 2016 that sounds so laid back, even I could do it.
The challage is simple, 52 weeks, 52 photo prompts.
I am late to join and so I will begin my attempt at week 7; with the word, Home.
This felt an apt place to begin the endeavor. My husband and I have been working so hard it seems like most of the time we spend at home is passed asleep- because it’s true.
I am hoping that this challenge will help me regain some badly needed balance in my life. I need to remember to make room for random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty. So here goes.
Such a small and simple word.
Recently the word has evoked the feeling of a place I no longer live. Growing up, the concept of home was so connected to the land where I was born and raised; that after our relocation it was hard to feel anything other than a distance from my ‘Home.’
I wasn’t there anymore.
I wrote this well over a year ago and I am glad (?) to say it is just as true to day as it was then…
I have often heard people talking about activities and situations that they “could never do with a spouse without killing them.” My husband and I have done so many of the things others recommend not to I have lost count. For example, we have:
-Worked together in a high stress industry (running the front and back of the house in a busy restaurant)
-Driven across the country together (with all our stuff, two dogs and no real clue where were going)
-Been homeless (for three months after our move cross country, on account of the ‘not know where we were going’ part)
-Lived on a 30 foot sail boat (while running the restaurant together)
-Worked opposite schedules rarely having time with each other.
-Had no money. Ever.
We have delt with injury, death, addiction, family issues, stepfamily issues and so much more and we have come through it all closer than ever. I think this is because we observe first grade playground rules to settle pretty much everything.
This last storm gave us the perfect type of snow to build snow people but we may have gotten a little carried away.
It stands about ten feet tall!
Now its your turn!
My little town has always been the core of who I am.
Even now as I sit thousands of miles away-it feels close enough for me to touch. It still stings my heart that I am too far away to do so.
Boulder Creek still looks the way that most towns in the West used to. Something I never appreciated till I moved East. It is still stuck in a time when California was a wild place as far from civilization as could be reached by land. The “edge of the continent” as my Dad always said.
Where brave people dared to move away from all the safety and civility that came before. Hoping for something better. Or at the very least an exciting adventure to tell back in the city, if they returned to it.
Mostly I think it was the spirit of self-reliance that inspired people to come here. People who wanted to answer to no one but themselves and live the way they wanted.
Plus the lack of wicked cold winters probably helped.
Boulder Creek is a quintessential frontier town, one main street lined with stores and shops.
These small businesses may not have everything you want but they will provide you with everything you could need. The whole of downtown contains not a single traffic light of any kind and only one main intersection.
There are no chain stores here, not one. Everything is owned and run by the people who live here and it shows.
I have always said that Boulder is made of equal parts hippy and hick. At the end of town is Jonnie’s market, a huge florescent arrow points down at the front door from its roof and flashes “Liquors” in bright blue green lights.
While right across the street stands New Leaf Market a hippy whole foods store. Both have enough business to prosper. In fact both are necessary for the needs of the town folk.
The economy is a local one. We are the gateway to Big Basin State park but tourism is not something necessarily encouraged by the locals and certainly not to be depended on for anything as important as earning a living.
The old buildings remain largely untouched by ‘progress’ unable to expand from their original foundations by the forest, river and mountains that made their initial existence possible.
The fronts of many buildings still carry their original signage. ‘The Brandy Station’ is written in yellow letters above the building that was the town bakery in my youth and is now a Chinese takeout restaurant.
“Mac’s 100 Year Old Place” adorns the wooden awning of the building where I had my first job. Then a restaurant now an antiques shop.
Murals of town at the turn of the last century are painted on a number of outer building walls and they look almost the same as the current vista only the fashions worn by the town folk have changed.
This was and still is a logging town, founded on the harvesting of the forest that guarded us from the outside world and made our little haven possible.
My parents chose to raise children here deliberately, they always called it “god’s country.” Still wild and composed of more nature than human construction.
The mountains were not the safest place to raise children and that was not the reason my parents chose to live in Boulder Creek.
It could be argued that- being forty minutes from the nearest hospital, only one sheriff for twenty miles, abundant earthquakes, regular and extended power outages and having poorly funded school system made it a horrible place to raise children.
This widely accepted sentiment that living close to everything (in case of accidents) and relying on school budgets to determine how educated your kids will become was not one my hippy parents believed in.
There may be safety and security in numbers but there is little in the way of self-reliance and the quite calm necessary to gain true self knowledge. My parents wanted to live where it was beautiful and quite. Where everyone has enough space.
They felt the best gift they could give their children was belonging in a place where you could see god everyday-in the face of a wave or meet him alone on a mountain top. They gave my sister and I the gift of solitude and then had the courage to let us go explore it.
I think it is safe to say that most male persons have a secret (or as in the case of my cousin, not so secret) crush on Bear Grylls. I mean the guys gets to run around the world, climbing trees, starting fires and drinking/wearing his own pee- all so he can tell you how to survive in the wilderness.
What. A. Man.
The men folk in this house are not immune to his charms. Countless hours have been spent in front of the TV watching as he lives out his (their) dreams of running, jumping climbing trees- all over the world.
I grew up in 25 B.B.G. (Before Bear Grylls) but the lack of a syndicated TV show didn’t stop my family from spending thousands of hours outside poking around, making shelters, foraging/hunting for food, cooking over open flames, flaking arrow heads and immersing ourselves in raw nature.
From a young age, I was allowed to play with fire but I was only allowed a flint starter and the rules of fire safety were extensive and absolute. I was tutored ENDLESSLY on every possible aspect of fire building. From the science behind fire- to how to prepare your pots and pans to cook over open flame so they don’t get all sooty (rub dish soap on the outside before you start and the carbon buildup will wash right off.)
And that’s ok with me.
In our modern age, “being a fool” carries a decidedly negative connotation. We place high value on planning, goals, specific culturally defined aspirations and conformity to the norms.
In tarot, The Fool is the first card of the major arcana and represents the antithesis of modern structure and goals. He is blithe and impulsive. Deifying logical explination and purposefully going against the grain. Most of the time these actions are meant to remind us that our advanced systems and societal constructions are at times absolutely absurd or completely wrong.
In ‘the olden days’ the fool or jester was one who could make fun of even the most powerful person in the land. To bluntly state the contradictions, imperfections and dysfunctions of the king in such a way that even the high ruler could laugh at himself. Walking that line was a true gift. Court jesters that performed these tasks poorly, usually lost their heads.
This task could not be done without intelligence and the ability to state the simplest of facts; that we do not know everything. We never have.
The traditional tarot image of The Fool shows a jester on the verge of stepping off a cliff. With a dancing dog at his feet and his head raised to the sky he is completely unaware that his next step may mean disaster and death.
The Fool does not care. He is quite happy in his precarious state. Enjoying the moment and not worrying about what is next.
My sister is the most incredible, amazing, inspirational, kick-ass person you will ever meet.
Yes, I am bias but I assure you- the statement is true none the less. Allow me to justify my position.
She is someone to be looked up too. Though it would take her getting on a stool for me to do so 🙂
We shared a unique childhood but she has distinguished herself from me and surpassed my wildest dreams in every way possible. She is not motivated by a need to prove herself to me or anyone else. I do not cast a shadow large enough to encompass her’s, nor would I want to.
We are separate from each other, singular and different. Just like the roots of a dandelion and its feathery seeds are a part of the same life yet wholly opposite in their experience of existence. One rooting deep into the dark, moist soil and the other set free to wander on the breeze and see all of creation below. A universe encased in a winged seed.
Her drive and motivation have taken her all around the world.
I’m am not being obtuse or exaggerating. She is currently on her third trip to Asia. Notice I do not say “vacation,” and am not any more specific than “Asia.” This is because my sister’s preferred method of travel involves oneway plane tickets, indeterminate amounts of time/countries and little to no itinerary to speak of.
In her travels she has been to: Thailand, Cambodia, Lao, China, Tibet, Mongolia, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan not to mention all over Europe and the USA. Many of these places she has been more than once. I am quite sure I am missing some and I’m not counting layovers.
Growing up on a fault line meant that I have been through more than my fair share of earthquakes. This includes Loma Preita in 1989 the 6.9-7.1 magnitude quake that collapsed the bay bridge, and our fireplace. I was six at the time.
The randomness of earthquakes was one thing. But it brought with it the concept of random destruction and mortality. When I saw the pictures of the bay bridge and collapsed buildings on the news I asked if everyone was ok. My mom replied that they were not, that many people had died in the quake.
Being young ,I had never thought much about death and injury. Now, I had experienced a violent event that killed many people. This revelation when reasoned to its logical end meant that if you were hurt bad enough to die- you did not come back. Not even for Christmas.
I have always been high strung and anxious, even as a baby. My mom could not leave me anywhere even for a second without a HUGE fit. After the quake I became preoccupied with mortality and the concept that everyone and everything around me would one day die.
This was a fact.
One of those things you find as a child that you can not prove false and must accept for the rest of your life. An absolute truth about the world.
Last winter we got really into Antiques Roadshow. We have been doing better this winter at not driving ourselves crazy with marathons of random Netflix shows, until now.
After four hours of the show Ancient Aliens; I lost it and started yelling at the idiot box. Forgetting Mark Twain’s sage advice to “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” I guess since it is not technically a person the adage does not apply OR it is worse to by virtue of the fact it is an inanimate object.
Who can keep track of these things?
For those of you who have never experienced the amazing deductive reasoning involved in this show, basically it explores the hypothesis that pretty much every ancient monument, civilization and oddly semetrical stone object was made with the guidance of extraterrestrials.
On a very basic level, the premise is rather insulting to our predecessors. To think that given the lack of electricity and internal combustion they would have been unable to move/manipulate stone unless they had the help of flying saucers. It is completely possible to move heavy objects as long as you are can be smarter than a large rock.
If you don’t believe me check out this site. This retired carpenter demonstrates how ONE MAN can move tons of stone all over the place- using nothing more than simple levers and small stones placed underneath the object to act as a fulcrum.
“The more things change…”
This journey is far from over and the things I have learned are immeasurable and priceless. Every once in a while I am privileged to have some positive reinforcement that my thoughts and I are on the right path.
Surrender is not something to submit to or to accept and then bemoan the lack of control it brings. Instead it is the honest and true acceptance that life will take you were you are meant to be. Not that there is some grand design or puppeteer behind it all, only that like a chemical reaction your actions-mixed with your environment and the presence of others have a definate interaction with the outcome that you do not control. Like this interaction of a broken hydrant and a storm.
My sister and I were raised by a pack of rabid surfers and hippies. When we were very young our Godfather, Todd discovered the world of Ishi-The Last Yahi.
Todd was already one of the most accomplished outdoorsman you will every meet. For instance; look what he can get with a snorkel and sling spear- breakfast, lunch AND dinner.
The new focus on native practices brought many amazing new skills and missions to the weekly itinerary. Todd taught himself to flake arrowheads, scrapers and blades. We would search and collect the correct materials to carve bows and fletch arrows the way it has been done for thousands of years. The rest of us leanrned too and reaped the benefits of this ancient knowledge.
We were raised with the strict belief that nature was the source of all things. We were ingrained with simple mandate to observe, learn and follow the natural way whenever possible.
This focus on outside living and respect for the bounty of the Earth has been the most important tenant in my life and I am lucky to have found a partner who shares these views.
A little while ago I came across these excerpts taken from the writing of the Lakota Chiefs that have been circulating around the net. I felt a instant connection to the sentiments. There is a lot about our modern societal tendencies and ‘manners’ that bother the hell out of me and I thought that these rules pinpointed my issues completely:
More than a decade ago, I was walking to my car in downtown Santa Cruz. Coming toward me from across the parking garage was a man, he was crying. His hair was matted to his head and his cloths hung off him awkwardly.
He was speaking Spanish asking for “help.” It was one of the saddest things I have ever seen. He was sobbing openly and stumbling toward the front of the garage. I stopped and walked to him. He rambled at me in Spanish “help me, the police just woke me up from down by the river. They said I needed to go away, I am so hungry and I don’t know where to go.”
I hugged him, told him “no llores” (don’t cry) I checked my wallet for some cash but of course had none. “Let’s go get some food.” He looked at me, shock now replacing the sorrow. I’m not sure if he was more surprised I could understand Spanish and speak to him or that I was willing to help.
It was quite obvious that this half drunk, half asleep man had not really expected anyone to listen to him. We walked together back toward downtown.
The Little One
One of my earliest memory from childhood is of playing on the floor by an old wooden lamp stand we had in the living room. My parents came into the room and towered over me, backlit by the bank of windows on the far wall.
“Honey,” they said. I looked up from my mission of reaching the stand’s summit so that I could gain access to what I had become convinced was a magical lamp.
“We have something very important to tell you. You are going to have a little brother or sister soon!”
I don’t remember any confusion about the meaning of that statement. All I can remember is thinking quite clearly, “well it’s about time you got here!” I can’t recall feeling worried that she was going to take anything away from me- not attention or toys. I do remember an overwhelming feeling of completion.
Within hours of her birth I was there ready to begin my watch on ‘the little one.’ Some people are lucky enough to meet others in their lives with which they share an immediate deep connection.
Kurt Vonnegut called this group of people a ‘karass’- a group that is brought together during the course of their lives because together they are meant to perform some task in the name of god. When it is a romantic connection, we call it soul mate. I have been fortunate enough to meet many such people throughout out my life and I am beyond blessed that one of them is my little sister.
Sara was and always will be my first true love- the person who I felt an instant and absolute obligation to love, protect and nurture. She was MY little sister and since the day she was born I have always considered her my responsibility.
I AM my sister’s keeper.
I do not mean this to imply that I have not alway felt an unconditional love and bond with my parents. I felt that it was their duty to love and take care of both of us and it was my part in that family system to watch over Sara. My mother has always been extremely attentive and competent in our care; there were years of my life when my dad would work so much that we rarely saw him. He often had to travel far away for press checks as this was what had to be done to support the family and pay the bills.
Just as it was my dad’s responsibility to earn the money, it was my mom’s to take care of the home, the kids and animals. To me it seemed that my place in this effort was to keep track of my sister.
I have always thought us fortunate to have been created three years apart- any older and I may have been more indifferent, any younger and I may have been prone to jealously. Three years allowed us the ability to both learn and teach one another. She was not so young that she was unable to do the things I could. I was not old enough yet have learned all the tricks of one skill or another.
I always felt she was completely capable of doing anything I could- a theory I would often make sure was correct by teaching her how to do whatever it was. I have always thought of her as the ‘Gobets 3000,’ a newer and more improved version of me and my abilities.
In fact, in my opinion, she has surpassed me in every way at pretty much everything. I have never been jealous of her achievements and abilities though I distinctly remember a period of time when I resented her for being so cute.
She also went through a slimy phase when she always seemed to be oozing something from somewhere and wanted nothing more than to wipe it all over me with hugs and kisses.
Have never known a manicure or file.
And they are bitten rather than clipped.
They have been painted less times than there are fingers to paint.
In many places they are more scar than skin.
The fingers on the right appear to have been badly broken long ago, though they never were.
They often spend their days covered in food, blood or dirt.
Lovingly touching things that make others cringe.
They are not spectacular for how they look but for what they do.
They have created meals that nourish and astound, providing me an income for my modest household.
They have made many things of beauty that fill my house and life.
They have healed and comforted the beings I love.
They are strong and can hold fast when I need them to.
I hope they have given more than they have taken from this world.
Because through helping others they have made me whole.
They have become more than the sum of their parts and I believe that they are truly beautiful.
Mostly I am just grateful to have such tremendous alleys at the tips of my fingers.
Today I am beyond thankful for the simple gift of my hands.
Since my dad passed two years ago a great many things have changed. Most of these differences have nothing to do with my dad or his death. In some ways that makes his absence that much more surreal. In the uncharted country of time yet to come, my lack of a father rarely seems to have any measurable impact on the world around me.
Inside my head it is a different story.
When I was really young and (thanks to my OCD) I was unavoidably preoccupied with the possibility of my father’s death. He was always working, commuting over the hill to San Jose and then San Francisco for almost three decades. On top of the daily grind he often went on ‘press checks’ and as a child it seemed to me that if he was not in a car, he was on a plane.
Always out of my sight and beyond my control.
I would have episodes where I just couldn’t stand the thought of him up in the air in something so flimsy as an airplane. He was, of course, totally at ease with the traveling process and had a hard time understanding my anxiety. He would patiently explain to me that air travel was nothing to worry about, statistically you are more likely to die in a car accident on the way to the airport than in a crash.
This did absolutely nothing to ease my fears. In fact, it made me burst out in tears. He drove everyday! (Those who have driven with him know that much of the time these drives were preformed at warp speed.) I became totally convinced that before I hit double digits, my dad would die in a fiery car/plane crash.
Am I beautiful?
How can I tell?
I could look for the answer in the mirror to see what I need to cover up.
I could give myself a number either off a scale or tag.
I could look at the beautiful people that surround; compare and see what I should change.
I could starve myself so that I take up less space.
Then I will be beautiful.
I am the beholder and I choose the measure.
I know I am beautiful.
I see it when I look in my husband’s eyes, I should make him my mirror.
I know when I count the beings comforted by my care and company, I should make this my number.
I can look to my kids and see that they don’t care I’m not like the women on TV, I should make them my source of entertainment.
I will not take up less space.
Instead I will try to fill all that surrounds with more love and kindness.
When I remember all of these things I AM beautiful to the only person that really needs to believe it’s true,
I wrote this post some time ago now, and I did more than hesitate to post it. In fact, I almost didn’t at all.
This is because my reproductive health is no one’s business!
After a time I was compelled to speak out on behalf of an organization that had given me the greatest gift in the world, control of my body.
For those people who have never been to Planned Parenthood allow me to share my experiences, I hope they can be received with open ears. I think I am qualified to write on this topic because I have been a patient with them my whole adult life.
No, this does not mean that I have had STDs or abortions; it MEANS that (because of the services I has access to) I avoided both of these sophomoric pitfalls. Nor does it mean that I have been a healthcare freeloader. I have always been employed and thus; declared my income, then paid for my services (on the sliding scale the PP provides) or gone through my insurance.
When I made the decision to be sexually active I felt it of the utmost importance that I take responsibility for that choice, alone. In fact, I reasoned that if I was incapable of taking on that obligation I was in no way ready for such a life altering decision.
Planned Parenthood gave me that resource.
But this story of woman’s health and reproductive services didn’t start with a teenage girl in the 90’s. The road has been long and it reaches back to ancient times.
If we go back before christianity to the pagan era, both male and female part in reproduction were equally respected. The feminine form was exulted for its powerful life-giving abilities. Women had choices, those choices were private and respected. There were wise people, midwives, shamans and priestesses who provided women’s services to the population. From basic feminine needs and medical care, pregnancy, contraception and yes, even abortion.
The advent of christianity rendered wise woman, witches and the old ways, devil’s work. A women was either a virgin, a mother or a whore. The concept of the of the sacred feminine was taken from us and we were left with the archetype of the virgin mother with no healthcare to help us in this unachievable goal. Our resources and knowledge were declared heresy and the punishment for non-conformity was often violence or death.
Centuries passed and still women didn’t regain our basic human rights. A woman, and all the abilities contained within her body and mind were the possession of others. First; her family where (when she she came of breeding age) was sold like chattel. She was then the property of her husband and after that- her male children.
I hope we are at a place in this discourse where we can acknowledge that women have been second class citizens for most of the modern age. We are not bought and sold anymore but we have yet to achieve true equality. There are other groups in America that also suffer from the inequalities of a predominately white patriarchical system. These are the populations who utilize the services Planned Parenthood provides.
Planned Parenthood is not just a womans resource they serve all of those members of our community that would otherwise go without medical treatment of any kind. It is true that I saw many immigrant workers and their families in those endless waiting room hours. Many times; I had shared the room with older, painfully red eyed men but I never realized why they were there. Amongst all the bilingual posters and notices on the walls, there was one that was only posted in Spanish. It was a small 8.5 x11 print out with big implications. It said:
For a few days last week, the changing trees made us feel like we were living in a lemon.
Most of the maples on our property don’t go crimson. Instead they yellow and then rust.
It makes the lighting at dawn and sunset pretty epic.
This week the yellow has deepened to orange. More and more leaves give up the transformation and fall to the ground.
Each day we are one day closer to having a forest full of nude trees. The shady parts of the property get the first sun they have felt in months and the sheep have a buffet of fallen leaves for breakfast.
When we moved East we were basically homeless for the better part of three months. We lived out of hotels and vacation rentals (not easy with two dogs) and only had one vehicle in the meantime. This meant that my amazing husband would drop me off at work in the morning and then spend his day looking for work and a place to land all of our stuff and ourselves.
He must have looked at hundreds of places before we found our first East Coast home in Kennebunk. The dogs came with us everywhere we went and so it was no surprise they were in the car with him when he had a very odd experience in a town not to far from where we live now.
I’ll let him tell it:
The relator started by asking if I was “scared of ghosts?” I said that depended on the ghost…
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For anyone that has never experienced fall foliage in New England, do it.
The view is one of a kind and the only time during the year I don’t miss my forest back home. Everyday, around every corner is a new combination of color and light, it is impossible to capture.
I did most of them at the beginning of the turn when each trees is a rainbow of color as they change from green to red or yellow.