Steamer Lane is an epic break in Santa Cruz. Home to many a surfing contest and the highlight of surf films old and new. I leaned how to surf at the next beach down (Cowells) when I was a girl.
The Lane has always been part of my life’s landscape. One of the few definite touchstones. My dad used to say it was one of the “classiest lineups in the world, because if you jump off the cliff past the lighthouse you can get into the break with your hair still dry.”
Some wonderful friends of his added a burl to the collection of memorials that have gathered at the top of the stairs.
Right next to the rules of the wave. A very fitting place.
He can see the lineup and watch the riders as he did in life.
I have managed to maintain my cherub like demeanor pretty well these past couple weeks. I felt accomplished to be so at peace with beginning the LONG process of placing my dad’s ashes. His birthday was last Monday and until today I was holding up REALLY well.
Two days ago, I was thinking it was nice to find myself in a place of true acceptance and joy while dealing with this next step in the grieving process. Even in the writing of our deeds; I was light but today seemed very dark in spite of the bright summer morning.
It is the oddest things that set me off.
Just when I think I’m at the top of the mountain; able to appreciate the full expanse of my pain from a high place; I step backward to take in the beauty of the scene and my back hits another cliff. A place obscured by mist from the base of the climb.
Today’s grief was brought on by listening to The Shining for the umpteenth time. The epilogue to the Torrance family’s trauma; finds six year old Danny grieving his father on a dock in Maine, with Dick Hallorann. Dick tells him:
“The tears that heal are also the tears that scald and scourge.”
Driving in early to work on Father’s Day I was overwhelmed with the notion and could not stop crying.
The day before had been so wonderful, spending time with the boys celebrating their own dad. We went to a lake near our house that is on a beaten path.
I have spent the last two years processing my own dad’s death. Publicly and privately. Fatherhood has been constantly on my mind.
His birthday was always around (and even some years ON) Father’s Day and so the day has always seemed custom made for him.
But for this fathers day I will mark the event with a tribute to the dad I live with.
My husband is one of most amazing, devoted, competent, outstanding examples of fatherhood that I have ever witnessed. He outshines my own father in many respects and I know my dad would not hesitate to agree with me (in fact I think may have been his assertion to start with) as would anyone who knows the history of my husband’s fatherhood.
Not many men know how to deal with small babies. Most (including my own) are not comfortable with care taking their young till they can walk and talk.
This is not the case with my love. He can intuit the wants of an infant with ease. Just like he knows just what the garden needs to thrive.
The ferns back home are awesome!
‘Nuf said 🙂
My sister and I were raised by a rabid surfing gang referred to by its members as Team Squeam. Our parents were the only ones in this group of free spirited hippy surfers, to have children. Since there were only the two of us; it was easy to hand us down cliffside or piggyback us up to the lookouts over rough terrain.
We went everywhere the team went (after all we were members from birth,) always under the watchful eye of our mom.
Our god parents; T and A were the go-to adults for an extra set of hands to hold when we were out camping or horsing around. There was a lot of horsing around.
My dad taught us from an early age the proper procedure when going see Todd and Alison was to jump up and down yelling loudly;”Yahh we are get to see T and A!!!”
I was well into middle school before I realized that the phrase “T and A” normally referred to something other than our god parents. It better explained the grin on my dad’s face when my sister and I would loudly proclaim our excitement, especially in public.
The team camped down in Big Sur every couple months; taking over the group campsite with all sorts of shenanigans, surfing, spear fishing, hang gliding and more than once- ladder burning.
I grew up hiking EVERYWHERE. If there were no waves, there were always trails.
Through fields, down cliff to the ocean or up endless mountains covered by giant Redwoods. Often past signs that read “No Trespassing,” all in search of the places where you can plainly see the finger print of god.
As a child; I went blithely after the adults trusting that there was a plan, a path and that everything would be ok. In hindsight I can appreciate how amazing it is that nothing ever went too terribly wrong. In the time before cell phones my clan was relatively fearless in our exploration of California.
This practice has taken me to some of the most remote and breathtaking places. It was in the spirit of ‘the hike’ that my mom and I set off to scatter some of my dad at the top of Big Basin in a secret spot that overlooks the whole park and you can see right down to the ocean.
We set key to lock, and entered the underworld domaine of my father. A place of endless possibilities and combinations. Here, we would find the tools to begin my dad’s final trip.
My mom got to work covering the table and preparing our workspace for this rather ghoulish task. I waded through endless drifts of stuff, exploring his possessions.
You never know what you will find in this depository of things my dad had accrued. Like this stopped hour glass, that I found to be rather profound given our current task.
We could not think of a more apt place in which to divvy up his ashes and so we didn’t try. Rather; we accepted that after more than two years, it was well past the time to get this show on the road.
We were fortunate to have such a clear idea of how Dennis wanted his earthly remains to be handled. First and foremost, we were told to have fun. He always said not to be sad when he was gone. He had done his best with the time he had. There is immeasurable comfort knowing that he felt this way decades before his passing.
We knew that he had no qualms about being split up and passed around. Even in death he was willing to make new friends and visit new places. The first step down this road necessitated that we physically divide what was left of him. I had no problem preforming this task.
Death rituals around the world and through the ages, are as varied as a wild spring meadow. Some are rooted in long standing tradition and ceremony; others are unique and individual. I will let you guess which type this one will be.
We prepared our workspace.
Spring forests in New England are amazing to behold. Bright green leaves are born of twig tips and explode to blot out the sun from the forest floor. The ground darkens and it seems like all in one week, you can no longer see the forest through the trees.
I love to watch everything recover from its winter state. As the new leaves fill the space above our heads; it is easy to forget that just as much is happening below our feet. Protected by layers of spring leaves past, things are thriving getting ready to make their entrance into the dappled sun shine.
Ghost Plant is one of these pilgrims I have taken to observing in these early stages of growth. By locating last year’s remnant,
I can carefully pull back the decaying layers of detritus and find the hope of a new harvest below. This is my entry for the prompt ‘layer.’
That I would eat candy all day, even the kind that would stain my tongue bright “colors not found in nature.”
That I would watch daytime TV to my heart’s content.
I would never do the dishes. Well ok , maybe once a week.
And I would eat Marie Calendar chicken pot pies every night instead of making a balanced meal from scratch.
I would do all of this because I would FINALLY not have my mom looking over my shoulder. Ceaselessly making sure I did the ‘right thing.’
Now as I look around our home, the TV is off, dishes are washed (but admittedly not put away).
The boy’s easter baskets contained mostly seeds to plant and gardening tools. Oh, they got some chocolate and candy but none that stained their tongs neon blue.
There is not a single thing in our refrigerator that is pre-made, dinner tonight and every night will require cooking.
My mother was not strict. She was absolute. She demonstrated daily all the things she believed in.
When she said “no” she meant it.
She only changed her mind once that I can remember-
The summer I turned 15, a friend called me and asked if I would be interested in bussing with her at the Italian restaurant in town called “Silvesterie’s.”
Bob, the owner and Executive Chef was a Sicilian man with deeply sunken dark-rimed eyes and a Burt Remolds mustache. He had been a sniper in the Marines and a professional chef ever since.
His food was good. I mean really good.
His standards of service were high and he was passionate about his guests’ dinning experience.
It was not his skills in the kitchen or his back office accounting that sealed his fate. It was his skills at the bar down the street that lead to his death and the eventual closing of Silvesterie’s.
My first day, I was faced with this tired beaten looking man. He gave the distinct silhouette of being in his third trimester of pregnancy- though that couldn’t be.
Except for the ‘not baby bump’ he was a slim man. He seemed to lumber when he walked like each step was a tremendous effort. He looked me up and down and told me that next time I came in; I needed to iron my shirt much better.
He explained in no uncertain terms that this was a serious job. I was to arrive on time and ready to work, immediately.
I was to look presentable and leave any problems I was having at home, there. He was in no way interested in my teen angst.
He explained that by being “on time” he meant at least five minutes early. Any missed shift would result in instant termination. In these four walls HE was the king and anything that I was told or taught was to be treated like holy law.
After about ten minutes of hearing all the ways it was possible to loose my new found job; I was tuned over to the head waitress, Jan.
She was a beautiful tall woman who looked like a ballerina. An impression accentuated by the way she wore her long red hair- pinned in a bun on top of her head.
She looked at my face and giggled a bit. I can only imagine the expression I must have had after such a warm welcome by the management.
She cooed “he is not that bad. Plus it’s easy. Just stick with me, I’ll take care of you.” She was a true service professional. One of those people that knows it is not a job but an attitude towards life.
That first day I was shown how to cut the bread and fold the napkin in the basket over perfectly.
How to pour the oil and vinegar so that the dark liquid pools at the base of the garlic- neatly surrounded by the oil. More importantly I leaned how to make them in such a way so that you don’t spill oil all over the table cloth or your diners.
As time went on and with the constant help of Jan, I came to love the fast paced precision that was necessary to complete a busy dinner service smoothly.
It was not easy.
Bob was militant about the way everything should be done. The slightest infraction often resulted in a torrent of profanities coming from the kitchen. We managed to have a new person somewhere in the mix every month and it was often better not to ask right away what happened to the former coworker.
The restaurant was pretty busy during the weekend with every seat occupied at least once. For a large upscale restaurant in a small town this was an achievement. On nights like that- getting everything done required no mistakes. If the floor (dinning room) was not properly prepped it would quickly descend into a living hell.
At the end of the night you were handed a wad of cash. It always looked huge, accentuated but he fact that bussers usually get all the small bills.
When I started, Bob looked swollen because- he was.
He had been recently told by a doctor that if he did not instantly reduce and then stop his consumption of alcohol his swelling organs would shut down and he would die.
Jan was a recovering alcoholic, sober 20 years. Her and him often clashed about his drinking. They had an intense relationship; one that could result in shouting matches before she had finished her night’s paper work.
A midnight tryst on top of a table in the back room.
It was always hard to tell which one it would be on any given night.
With Jan’s help over the next few months Bob had actually managed to stop drinking entirely.
His belly shrunk and though he still took his nightly stroll down to Joe’s Bar he was actually able to drink only cranberry juice. Sadly, his progress did not last. By the same time the following year his cranberry juice became light again, with vodka.
One day our dishwasher didn’t show. While cutting bread in the kitchen Bob asked my if I would be interested in a few dishwashing shifts.
I jumped at the chance, “did I ever!!” It paid more; even though the tips were less, but most importantly I didn’t have to iron my shirt and I got to hang out in the kitchen.
I had decided early in my employment that it looked like a lot more fun back there. Plus I love the idea of learning more about food.
I got to play in hot sudsy water and I had no problem being elbow deep in other peoples’ leftovers.
I really wanted to cook on the line. Anytime the prepcook took a smoke break and tickets came back, I would jump in. Pull everything out for the order before anyone else could beat me to it.
I watched closely to every little detail of each dish’s preparation so that I could preform any part of the process without needing to be told how.
I LOVED how complicated it was. How many little things are involved so that food hits the table at the same time- with each selection perfectly executed.
I appreciated the amount of tasks that had to be preformed in order to accomplish this goal. It involved playing with sharp knifes, fire and ended in amazing food. What could be better?!
Bob saw this passion in me, he liked me and my desire to learn. Our relationship over the years was of the apprentice- craftsman verity. He taught me a great many things. It was not easy. Him liking me didn’t result in any slack. He was a demanding, tough man to work for, drunk or sober.
I still laugh when people who work in offices talk about how well they have learned to multi task.
A fax doesn’t burn if you leave it in the tray for a minute too long, making all your other paperwork invalid and necessitating starting everything over again.
The immediacy and perfect execution of each action necessary to pull off technically perfect food is a challenge I have spent my whole life trying to accomplish.
The fact remains; that you have to be more than a little crazy to want to pass your time in a sweltering box, covered in food, stressing over filets that NEED to go out within the two minutes when they are perfectly rested.
Kitchens were no place for girls either. I have been a novelty in almost every kitchen I have ever worked in.
Kitchen humor is of the black, gallows varity. Resulting from the fact that most of your days start with your hands wrist deep in one animal carcass or another.
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.
Back to last fall with my photo, Reflection.
I had gotten in kind of a reflection rut. I just couldn’t stop looking down to see the sky. It lasted through the winter. There are worse problems to have I guess. Like not knowing how to spell ‘winter.’
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.
There have been others in this challenge who have already addressed the fact that if you show something to someone- it is no longer secret. Thus, I will not explain my entree.
It is a secret!
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.
This winter was very different from the last. There is still more time for it to get gnarly but it seems like we have made it through with a good chuck of our winter wood still on the deck.
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.)
My dad even wrote and published a book on the subject. It sold on Amazon for a time before his death.
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.
I have written about the ‘Little One’ a few times before. She has made a life for herself outside of our family unit that is awe inspiring.
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:
No, no you can’t. Read More
We wandered, caressing the ruins.
Touching stone hewn before our grandparents were born.
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.