Hells Canyon 2.0

Snake River, appropriately named

Ahh, once again I sallied forth to the hells of the nearby appropriately named canyon to spend a couple of weeks gorging on asparagus and test my new system of poison ivy avoidance.

The start of the trip was less than auspicious due to heavy rain causing a road to partially slide off the mountain thus, and rightly so, necessitating the closure of the only road to the trailhead from which we start our journey. Being a person who firmly believes if there is one way to do something, there are a thousand ways to do it, I began to consider options to the “wait and see” attitude of the people in charge of fixing the road. Wait and see as in, wait and see if the road slides further (it did, about 6 inches when I went to see for myself), wait and see if the rain will start up again or if conditions will dry enough to let heavy equipment up there. Regardless of what might come, the authorities were saying it could be a week or more before the road was actually open. After some discussion, the don mentioned an alternate route to get to the Snake River, one much less popular because, instead of starting at river level like the preferred trailhead does, this starts at mountaintop level, thus necessitating a 4,000 foot drop to the river which is done practically in one straight line following a creek. Have you ever taken 2,000 steps straight down? Boy, there were some shin muscles tweaking out at the end of that, I’ll tell you!

Ready for Antler hunting. Finn sports her GPS collar with the antenna

Leah also got to do what she was built to do, haul mules up a winding one-lane mountain road. Doesn’t she look grand?

Leah doing her job as a real ranch truck.

Here is an example of how harsh the terrain is here in Hells Canyon. This knife edged ridge looks crazy-sharp! And the weather was slightly ominous.

Heading out from Cow Creek. That is Oregon across the Snake River with all the snow on that seemingly flat horizon.

Okay, let’s see if Monty can remember that mules are not his friends and one cannot walk between the pack line.

Monty and the pack line

Here is one of maybe two switchbacks during the entire descent to the Snake River. It was a bit on the steep side, as per usual around here.

Never thought I’d wish for more switchbacks

And all that rain made the difference between creek and trail somewhat undetectable.

Trail IS creek

Finally we made it to Kirkwood Ranch on the Snake River. Lots of green grass for the mules to enjoy while we took a 3 minute break to stretch those shins. Only 11 more miles to go so better not dilly-dally. I’ll write a later post on the old homesteads I found in this area.

Lovely Kirkwood Ranch on the Snake River

We took turns walking and riding Stella, the don and I did. With Monty’s “issues” around me being on top of a mule, I rode only on the wide and flat spots where Monty could have space to make different choices if he found himself drawn to the mule’s legs. With a bit of babysitting, Monty only once cut in front of a mule during the whole trip and thankfully the mules were paused. Monty is definitely getting better but since he is who he is I don’t think I can ever relax when he is around mules. He just doesn’t believe they can hurt him. It’s so funny to watch how different the other two dogs are from him around the mules and also just being on the trail. The other two are hunting dogs, they roam hundreds of yards away up and down the hillsides and stay far away from mule feet. Monty does not get far from “his” pack, always running between people if we are not all together to check up on everyone. He also checks up on the mules though they don’t seem to appreciate his concern for their welfare.

Stella and the don

Here is my view from atop Stella with Monty safely following the don. No, the picture isn’t crooked, it just there are few flat spots around here.

My view from Stella

Hell’s Canyon is also the only place I’ve ever been where one has to be wary of poison ivy and rattlesnakes in the same place. I don’t mean along the same trail, I mean in the exact same place. Here’s a rattler. He’s little and not inclined to move fast but still I chose not to goof around with camera angles to try and get him and the poison ivy in the same shot this day. But see here, this photo is from a couple weeks later nearby and you can totally see the ivy. I swear, if it isn’t one thing it’s another… and I’m thinking I need to look into that rattlesnake vaccine they have for dogs.

Though the day started out cool with storms threatening, it cleared and became quiet warm as we headed up from the river to our base camp. By the time camp was reached, the mules had walked maybe 18 miles and the dogs had probably done twice that. Everyone was ready for a rest.

Sweaty ass

Boy, it’s amazing how quickly those dogs recharge! Especially Finn, who is not even 2 years old yet. You might remember her from last year, the puppy who runs through poison ivy all day and then wants to climb into your sleeping bag at night. Sorry, Finn, no snuggles from me this year. Finn had a GPS tracking collar to wear this year as she can sometimes roam a bit too far afield. She was actually tracked running 32 miles per hour on this trip! Now you see me, now you don’t.

One warm day the mules and I stayed in camp. Just watching these guys napping in the shade can make you feel sleepy. That is, until they start yawning. How can you not laugh at those faces!

This is me in every meeting ever held. “Try to keep the eyes open, c’mon… okay, close them but have a thoughtful look on your face so you appear to be really focused on what the speaker is droning on about… don’t yawn, don’t yawn, don’t yawnnnnnnnnnnnnn. Rats.”

Being so far removed from light pollution, we can see zillions of stars in our little slice of sky. One very early morning I decided to capture the gorgeousness of the darkness. With the full moon lighting the canyon walls, I held my breath and tried to channel complete stillness to take this photo of what I think is Sagittarius over the ridgeline. The nights are so mesmerizing one hardly notices the chill.

Stars over the canyon

And finally, the whole reason for this trip, imo…

Gatherer!

Asparagus! Freshly gathered. It would appear the animals here do not eat asparagus. See in this photo below how the green stalk is surrounded by dead dry stalks that, if not flopped over would be 4-5 feet tall. Those are last year’s asparagus. No one ate them. It was pretty early so the majority of asparagus hasn’t yet popped up enough to pick but I still got plenty to keep us in green veggies for the trip.

Growing wild

While basking in the glory of fresh tasty vegetables for dinner, I looked up and noticed a plane drawing lines across the sky.

Have you ever noticed that the contrails break up and begin to look like condensed chromosomes during metaphase? No? What, that’s just me that sees this? Must be all that biochem. Well, now you’ll start seeing it too, next time you see a contrail.

Metaphase

The advantage of traveling with the mules is that we can have good food, not just that dried stuff. I am terribly spoiled by the don, I will admit. He makes a great cup of coffee and then follows that up with a breakfast that would rival any fancy brunch restaurant.

In addition to asparagus,  the “purpose” of this trip is to find antlers. I’m not very good at that yet. In part because I’m still so overwhelmed by the newness of everything around me and I’m distracted by so much awesomeness. It’s also because I still have to look where I am walking so I take 10 steps looking at the ground, then stop and look around for antlers but then I see a waterfall, a burned log, a beautiful flower, my dog being cute or bored. But, strangely enough, I did find an antler all by myself! Sadly, it had sat out in the sun for many years or perhaps it had been engulfed in the fire that went through here a few years ago but either way it was beginning to “rot” and become chalky. I enjoyed the thrill of discovery and left it where it lay.

However, the don had spied an antler near camp and we took a morning walk to get it. I went down the hill to retrieve it, Monty got excited and wanted to help. (As an aside, in Houston these would be called mountains so I can honestly say I walked down a mountain to get this antler.)

Sadly the trip came to an end and it was time to pack up and head back to civilization and daily showering. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper HC trip without a photo of the don shirtless. To be fair, by the end of April it does get very hot in the canyon and no sense getting one’s shirt all sweaty when you can’t easily wash it. I don’t mind at all.

A cowgirl’s dream

Spring makes a booty call

For a few glorious days I got to see what warmth and natural Vitamin D was like. It was as if the Olympic Peninsula weather had a nasty breakup from Winter and went out on a rebound date with Spring. There were a few days of well-above-freezing nights and afternoons that hit 70 degrees; truly such a lovely dalliance. Alas the OP realized that maybe it wasn’t done with Winter just yet and rainy-day 50 degrees returned to try and make things work.

Dazzled by the sunshine and digging out T-shirts, shorts, and, oh yes, a razor (I had sort of let No-Shave-November drag on a bit), I was again smitten by this northwest paradise. While walking in the sunshine I was remembering a hike I took late last summer. I’ll let this be a bit of photojournalism.

Moon and Monty

How does an Idahoan get anything done? There’s so many delightful distractions from the To Do list during the summer. I am a firm believer that one should strive to have accomplishments each day AND that one should absolutely not miss out on the amazingness of the world while in the pursuit of checking off that To Do list. Maybe you should have two lists, a To Do list where you get to feel productive and a Tah Dah! list where you allow time for the miracle of the world to unfold before you.

Figs in the Northern Rockies?

I had some lucky inside info from the don on a location of a fig tree. Figs in Idaho? This place never ceases to surprise me. I was able to find the tree and so much more! I surmise this spot must have been a former homestead along the river and a tiny orchard was planted. First I saw the fig tree, its leaves are unmistakable, even if you have never seen a fig tree before in your life, even if the only exposure to a fig leaf might be the pictures of Adam and Eve with a leafy bathing suit, you will instinctively know a fig leaf when you see it.

Wasps also like figs.

As you might remember if you read the Ponderosa Pinecone picking blog story, the wasps here have well earned their reputation for being aggressive. I was disbelieving of this reputation at first because the wasps in my yard in Houston were so mellow that we never had a negative encounter, even if I accidentally bumped them or soaked them with the water hose. The wasps out here in the harsh and wild West are just plain mean and will sting you just for breathing. Luckily these wasps on the figs are virtually drunk with the sugar and can hardly stay on the fig they are eating. Yes, those boogers eat figs. They poke holes in the figs and nibble until in a sugar coma. Look here.

Wasp-made holes in this fig

So this is probably a good time to mention that whole “figs aren’t vegetarian because they have dead wasps in them” thing. I am not an expert on fig varieties but as far as I can tell, this is just a common fig that doesn’t need another tree or wasps to pollinate (lucky for it because I don’t know how many miles to the next fig tree it might be!) And these wasps are not the fig wasp I saw pictures of on Google. You can tell by the head shape, these are just normal mean wasps that will sting you as soon as look at you- except for one thing… they are apparently happy drunks

Since they are so satiated with sugar, the wasps hardly even notice me or Monty and so we were able to safely pick all the figs we desired.

The grasshoppers also were hanging around the fig tree. The grasshoppers eat with more gusto than the wasps. I identify more closely with them in the eating style department.

Grasshoppers are big and gusty eaters

Near the fig tree was a tree with a fruit hanging on it that I hadn’t noticed before. I grabbed a fruit off the tree and opened it up because for some reason I had an inkling it might be interesting and low and behold…

What is it?

A walnut!

Although doesn’t the walnut fruit look kind of like a small apple? But it pulls away cleanly and leaves the giant nut we love to eat.

By now my collection bag was getting heavy. I do make a point to only take no more than 10 per cent of the food on a wild tree so the animals who can’t go grocery shopping have plenty to eat. Even so, my bag was getting full with the figs and walnuts when I spied a tree with little orange baubles dangling from it.

Drawn to it, I stepped under the tree and plucked one of the salmon-colored beauties. Admiring it for a moment, I ripped it open like a hawk on a starling and checked the seed. I wasn’t sure at first if it was a plum or perhaps an apricot. Once I saw the seed, I tasted the flesh. It was bright and tart and I still couldn’t be 100% sure if it was plum or apricot. Or could this be a rogue plum-apricot hybrid? It was textured like a plum but tiny and orange and tart like an apricot. But the seed lended itself more towards plum. I might have taken a bit more than the 20% on this tree. Plums are famous for having the whole tree ripen at the same time and you have about 36 hours to harvest them or they fall off and rot. Okay, maybe a bit more than 36 hours but it’s not far off the mark. Ask any plum grower. And these guys WANTED to come with me. They were literally falling off the tree and hitting me on the head and shoulders trying to leap into my bag. And they were so soft and squishy and at the peak of ripeness this very moment. It was heavenly and the wasps hadn’t discovered them or maybe they just didn’t have the sugar the figs did so I was all alone picking, or perhaps the better word would be ducking, the plums.

Now Monty, who was not as impressed as I with the extraordinary bounty of the river valley, was getting rather thirsty. However, being the protective fella he is when we are out walking alone, he wouldn’t leave me to go down the 50 feet to the river and get a drink so we walked down together. It was so lovely on the river with the cool fall wind blowing gently balancing the sunshine. I could have stayed there all day.

The wonders never cease! Right near where I parked my car was a group of pear trees and, as luck would have it, there was plenty of fruit on them that was within my reach.

Coming up from the river I came across a blackberry bush. Around here the berries are ripe about July to August and this is in late September so these were well past ripeness and were actually dried on the bush. I picked a few and they were delicious! Kind of like Nature’s fruit leather and I didn’t mind all the seeds in the least, it was sort of like chia seeds. I was entranced by the yumminess, enough to brave all the tiny thorns that are so stabby so I grabbed about a half cup of the dried berries. I probably ate as much or more while collecting.

And if all that wasn’t enough, then, in a cool spot on the walk back I spied a blackberry bush that had berries just beginning to ripen! Honestly, this is the most amazing spot, just when you think you have a handle on it, another surprise rounds the corner.

Here are a couple of photos of the bounty from this Eden.

Pears, figs, walnuts, and berries!

This one includes some items from the don’s garden. It’s a great time to be a vegetarian!

and plums/pluots, kale, tomato, cucumbers…

Gosh, all that remembering has made me hungry!

My days now will be divided between Idaho and Washington. Both of them are coastlines, if you look far enough back in the geologic record. I am quite lucky to have such extraordinary beauty surrounding me and these current cold and gray days are just a time to remember the bounty of summer.

And perhaps begin to plan this year’s garden!

Forever Twilight

Just a quick note to share a smile. This tiny town on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula has seen some tough days after the logging slowed. A book, The Final Forest, by William Dietrich discusses the challenges that this town and other logging towns face. Forks was lucky enough a decade ago to become the mecca for fans of a particular vampire romance book and was utterly inundated with tourists. While the Twilight tourism has slowed appreciably, there are still many references around town to the story and its characters. This little town has definitely got a sense of humor! This was in the local hardware store. FYI, the bike did get sold.

“There is no evidence available at this time to suggest that this motorcycle was not used in the Twilight movies”

I’m A Witch

Well, some may have suspected this all along; I am a witch. A real live witch.


To be clear, I cannot cast spells or work any magic, excepting the magic of haircolor, but I *can* find water underground. I think.
At theWashington property that is being developed, named Winter’s Hope if you were wondering, there is no city water. This is raw land, y’all, and apparently in the middle of nowhere if one was to believe the attitude of the work force in the nearest city an hour’s drive away. Getting anyone to provide a bid for work to be done is difficult once they find out the address. I suspect I will become a DIY queen before long.

First time with a Sawzall in 2017. Maybe I can be a DIY queen after all


So, as I was saying, a well must be drilled if water is to be had. And potable water is one of the requirements for obtaining a building permit so there you have it, either live in an RV forever or start drilling.
Since the property is alongside a river it seems it should be pretty easy. Then add in the fact that the property is also situated in a rain forest and finding water should practically a no-brainer, right?
Ahhh, you are too smart and paid attention in geology class.
Just because there is a lot of water in the sky and in the riverbed next to you does not mean there are tons of pockets of water below you. Apparently the magic of this area is how sieve-like the dirt is, letting water just flow through it rather than becoming a gooey swamp.
Enter the water witcher.

The water witcher teaching his craft


Yes, in this day and age there are still people who use dowsing rods, special shaped branches cut from new growth on certain types of trees, and walk around waiting for the tree branch to point out where the water is located.
Phooey, right? I know, I thought the same thing. SCIENCE tells you where to drill.


And yet, as I began the process of finding someone to drill out here, I learned that there have been a few dead wells drilled nearby and some bad feelings between people due to this fact. I would feel bad, too. Well drilling is expensive! At present it is about $8,000 for the first 60 feet of well drilled. This is just for the hole in the ground, not a pump or anything. If they don’t find water, you have to move everything somewhere else and try again, and pay again. And moving a huge drilling rig isn’t that easy on timbered land, you have to have a solid road for it and all. Thus, knowing where the best spots for drilling are that are alongside a road with ample space to work unhindered by 100 foot trees is going to save you a bit of cash.
It took a couple of weeks, maybe longer, to find a living water witcher. You can’t find them on Google, let me tell you.

C’mon, we all secretly admired Endora’s take no B.S. attitude


Now I’ll be honest, I am a bit cynical when it comes to hocus-pocus stuff. But might as well have someone with a bit of experience say “drill here” than me just use my designer’s eye of saying, “I think a little pump house would look super-cute right over here.”

So one day, a sunny one none-the-less, a fella shows up with a few branches tucked into his back pocket and proceeds to walk up and down the road. I don’t know if you can be both open and cynical but I was trying. I was watching his hands pretty closely to see if I could detect any change in how the branch was being held. Then he offered to let the don try. “This oughta be interesting,” I thought. Well, here, I’ll just show you what happened.

the don is also a witch

Finally, I took the branch into my own hands. What the heck, it works! I slowly walked the roadside tightly grasping the branch and it began to turn down toward the ground all by itself!!! I would not have believed it if I had not actually experienced it as a cynic. We found a few spots on the property that the dowsing rod says have water. Now to just get a drilling company out.

To be completely honest, I also went to the adorable library in Forks and got pretty much every single geology book they have, and it is a surprising number, I’ll tell you! I had hoped to shore up the witching with some science but alas, while I am captivated by the forces that created this paradise, it has not been of use to find a well. Maybe that is why there are still witches in this day and age.

And now I can count myself among them!

How to Be Your Own Veterinarian…Sometimes


Lordy, lordy, lordy.

That is all I can think sometimes when mulling over life with this little white city dog out here in the rural wild west. Monty is a great urban dog. He loves dog parks, loves restaurants with outdoor patios, and loves meeting people. His fur, what there is of it, is thin and short and perfectly suited for warm cities and cute winter coats.

Looking dapper in the December 2017 Houston, TX snow


Naturally he also enjoys the freedom of this forest life, going without a leash, pooping wherever he wants, all the great smells and chasing a forest critter every now and then. But his body is not designed for such living. His bare tummy gets big scratches and he gets wounds from sticks that poke out as he runs past, and most recently he tore a nail. Have you ever torn a fingernail way up high into the quick? I mean WAAAAAYYYY up high? Were you able to rip it off yourself or did you have to get someone else to do it? And remember how much it bled and how sore that finger was for days and days? Well, turns out the same thing can happen to a dog.
Here was the chain of events. The neighbors dog came over to play

Can Monty come out to play?


The two dogs are running around having a great and rambunctious time as we trek through some woods

Owwwie


Then suddenly Monty comes up to me and says, “Owwwie!” and holds up his paw.


Sheesh, that is a bad tear. Maybe if I clip the nail a little shorter it will be okay.


Nope, still hurts and Monty doesn’t want to walk on it.

I’m not in the mood to pose for a picture, my foot hurts

Here is where I realize that as his human it is my job to address this issue. So, as any person would do, I call the vet so she can fix it. Fiddlesticks, the vet is only in town on Wednesday (hello, life in a rural area) so we will have to wait 4 days for an appointment. Ummmm, I don’t think that will work. I could drive 80 miles and almost 2 hours to the next town that has a vet but that also seems excessive, so maybe I can just Google this and see if cutting the REALLY nail short is do-able. I also check with my mom and sister for their opinions. Naturally they do have opinions and, as luck would have it, they contradict each other. After a few more moments of fretting I decide to channel my sister’s badassness and just be my own veterinarian. It’s starting to rain a bit so probably inside is the best place to work. After spreading a canvas on the bed to protect from muddy paws, I get Monty situated, feed him some treats, then look at his paw again to see if maybe there is a way out of doing this next step. I have trimmed many a dog’s nail and infrequently cut it a bit too short. If you have, then you know they squeal, rip their paw out of your hand, bleed a bit, and look at you accusingly while you feel like Judas with the nail-clippers betraying their unconditional love.
But what if you PURPOSEFULLY cut deep into the quick? Ah, so this is why people pay doctors to deal with this stuff, so you don’t have it on your conscience. I really do not feel like wearing my big girl panties today but I guess I’ll go put them on and take care of my dog.
My sister said not to equivocate. Just get the nail and cut it. So I channel that matter-of-fact attitude, grab the nail and cut the damn thing.

Blood INSTANTLY sprayed everywhere! Actually, faster than instantly. It sprayed blood almost before I cut the nail.


Holy redrum, Batman! I knew there would be some blood but I never imagined this! I had a cloth ready but didn’t know it would spray the walls! I wonder if that will come out? I also wonder if Googling “how to get blood spray patterns out of walls” will raise any flags? And that nail bled like a mofo, I spent over 40 minutes applying pressure (and taking pictures with my free hand) while Monty recited lines from Mercutio’s death.



Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man
Not so deep as a well nor wide as a church door but tis enough


And now to try and keep this puppy bandaged while the wound scabs up. Yeah, my dog hates me now.


Fortunately the nail healed up just fine after a week or so and Monty was back to roughing it with his pals. But just show him a pair of dog clippers and he gets PTSD and hides under the table. This is going to make nail-trimming day really interesting. I wonder how filing his nails would work?

Seriously? What am I supposed to do with this? Coats are one thing, socks are another
And it still hurts

Do you think dogs think about the past? I wonder if Monty ever thinks back to his city days where he went to restaurants and shared furniture with a cat?

Remember back when I was a city dog?

I would like to think that even though, or perhaps because, the days are no longer predictable and each moment brings a new experience, Monty is digging his new life. Certainly the freedom of going outside without a leash and having uncountable acres of trees and hills and creeks to explore bring a huge amount of interest and enrichment to his days. His personality has expanded and he surprises me sometimes with his actions and antics. Sometimes it can be nice to be predictable for a little while but, for some of us at least, too much predictability can be lethal to our creativity.

But it would still be nice to pay someone else to do the dirty work.

Brighty Part 2 of ???

Brighty’s rehab continues… after a brief interruption called work (and a prayer that my cellular internet access doesn’t drop me this time)

With Brighty’s demo mostly completed and a relatively time-sensitive bit of work to complete out in Forks where Brighty’s new home will be, I had to put on hold any more rehab work. I made the most of the trek to the Olympic Peninsula by stopping at stores in the Seattle area that are not available in my current location. One of these stores was IKEA. After having done some research into RV cabinets it appeared my options were IKEA or DIY. Not feeling too up on my carpentry skills, I opted for Ikea (okay, I’m tired of hitting the caps button) since they promise my dream room for cheap (well, about $700).

IKEA-so many options

After availing myself of the online planner and a less-than-inspiring call to customer service, I took myself to the physical store and met a young lady whose creative thinking and extraordinary patience and product knowledge almost reduced me to tears of gratitude. Planning a kitchen that has curves and wheel-wells was stretching my skill set but Savannah saved the day. May blessings be heaped upon her! When we realized that I was outside the delivery zone and the cost of freighting the cabinets to me was utterly exorbitant, Savannah even figured out how to adjust so that every necessary thing would fit in my vehicle. Did I mention what a God-send she was?

I like the gray cabinets but what flooring should I choose? What says “I love pale colors but live with dogs”

I also made stops to look at flooring and fabric.

Hmmm, I love the embroidered fabric. I wonder if it is too late to train Monty not to get on furniture?

The design scheme is coming together with a base of gray and off-white and accents that can change with mood and season (read purple). There were lots of choices but I am still looking for that balance in fabric options that says both “day at the spa” and “day at doggy daycare” and doesn’t involve covering the couch with towels.

Alas, the foundational work must be completed before the fun designing can commence. And so we find the author precariously perched on 12 foot boards spanning the top of the camper scraping off old caulk to prepare the roof for a desperately needed waterproofing. There are no pictures of this in part because taking a selfie while balancing on a rocking trailer seemed somewhat difficult and in part because I didn’t want any evidence of my foolishness were I to get hurt. I’m pretty sure my insurance policy has a clause about jumping out of airplanes and tightrope walking on decrepit trailers. But I did take some video of the “BEFORE” roof while installing the fans that replaced the old vents.

Since Brighty has seen some rough days, it will take a few liberal coats of special elastomeric paint, butyl tape, and caulk to help weatherproof her roof. Fortunately, a timely rainstorm showed me the places that needed extra attention and so it goes.

the don had experience installing the faux wood flooring so he devoted some time to that. I did a little bit, just enough to learn how to do it but in such a small area it really was not a two person job. Plus, you can only have one boss on any project and, well, he is the don and I have never been employee material.

More foundational work to be done before the “fun” decorating was the running of new electric lines. Luckily I found the electronic schematic for the trailer so all the dangling wires should make sense.

This should make things easier!

I have a passing understanding of house electricity but have never done anything with DC nor have I done anything with connecting the AC and DC so that either or both lines can be run depending on what power is available. In her previous life Brighty was either DC or AC with no connection between the two but, as mentioned above, I am going to wire her differently. My time at the Flying S Farm, while disappointing in the lack of education provided and the quality of work that existed (pretty sure the place would have burned down from the frequent electrical shorts were it not for the 300+ inches of rain each year), did excite in me a quest to know how DC power to an AC house (as with solar energy) could and should be done. In Houston the solar energy collected by those few who brave the cost is wired directly into the existing grid. I knew of no one who was actually off-grid there. I had a lot of studying to do and am so grateful to live in the time of the internet. I learned much about size of wire for particular applications, how much loss of power is acceptable for certain types of “circuits” (only 3% for critical like the propane and CO detector, up to 9% for non-critical like the fridge or water heater), pure sine and modified sine wave inverters (the thingy that switches DC power to AC- you have a tiny one on the cord for your laptop), convertors, battery chargers, generators, and on and on. Suffice to say things got real mathy real fast.

First things first- put in some new fans to help rid the stinky “funk” in Brighty

Okay, time to get back to work. I’m going to be better about updating the blog on Brighty’s makeover. I am joining a local writer’s club to make sure I am not getting caught up in the doing and forgetting to write and record everything!

Wish you were here!

Wishes…

Wishes…

Just before I left Houston my beloved friend placed a kiss on my cheek and this wish bracelet on my wrist as I silently made my wish. As I understand it, the wish will come true when the bracelet falls off. As you can see, it is just a few threads away from happening!
However, it’s been like this awhile now. These few threads, frayed and colorless, holding on to what was and refusing to be broken, perhaps fearful of the idea of no longer existing. These few threads are preventing my wish.
So, dear reader, I am making a plea to you for help. The wish I made is for all the people I love to have the courage to follow what is in their hearts, to pursue their dreams and not have to know the exact ending before beginning. I can promise you that there is so much more available than you can even imagine or know to ask for. Just take the first step towards opening your heart and mind to possibility. If trying to figure it all out seems overwhelming then don’t concern yourself with anything more than this next step, leave the last step for later. You can handle it when the time comes.
I think of the story of Noah frequently now. I wonder how many people God told to build an ark? I am confident it was more than just ol’ Noah. Noah reportedly had zero carpentry skills and certainly no ship building experience since he lived inland. Even though the way and reason weren’t clear, Noah pursued what was in his heart to do.
Is there something in your heart calling to you?

Acceptance of impermanence lets me have courage to go into the unknown. Terror, happiness, peace, insecurity, security, these all come and pass like a breath. In sitting for meditation I see how an itch or a tickle can arise and engulf my attention, my mind screaming out to jump to it, scratch and rub, then everything will be better. But in my short 10 minute meditations from Calm app, I learn how those very itches can seemingly engulf and then be gone to be replaced by another attention-taker. I learn how mind/ego wants to be anywhere but here now, wants attention and throws mental tantrums to get it. I know I can handle an itch or tickle for just 10 minutes and so I watch it, giving 100% attention but 0% action or reaction. And I watch it subside, then a few moments or seconds of blissful peace before another tantrum.
My fears, which have been numerous these last few months, are similarly handled. Give attention, do not try to assuage or distract from the uncomfortable or un-pretty. Accept all as part of this experience, love this life as it comes. Soon enough this body will go back to the ashes and dust of its origin. The poet Rumi, as always, has something to say about this:

WHO SAYS WORDS WITH MY MOUTH? All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there
Rumi

Where, my dear friend, is your soul from and what are you doing to get back there?

Love is in the Air

Falling in love is the same no matter your age or the object of your love. As it begins, the rush of oxytocin and dopamine muddle your thinking; twitterpaited is the professional term. You walk with your feet barely touching the ground but in time with your heartbeat, a delighted flush crawling over your skin. You give extra blessings to those around you unless they are thought to be threatening the beloved in any way, real or imagined. And most of all, you think it will ALWAYS be this way.

After one week on the Olympic Peninsula, I am utterly twitterpaited with the area. When I feel tension arising, I walk outside and it is like being enveloped by my lover.  I feel protective and irritated by what I perceive to be slights to her emerald dressing. I want to explore and know every feature, every crevice of her landscape. Today I could see her moodiness; a moment of sunshine followed by heavy gray clouds overtaking the white fluffy clouds at a speed that was unbelievable, then a start of drizzling rain and a crescendo of hail quieting down after 10 minutes or so to overcast skies. Then the cycle would be repeated in a couple of hours. And I adore and revel in every moment. Wearing rubber boots, I walk through the squishy dirt and see the extreme landscape before me, so verdant and whispering to all of the life forms here, “grow….” Surely this must be the true Garden of Eden. At this early stage I cannot tell if this is true love or a crush, I can barely think straight and I just want to walk in her loveliness forever.

So what do you do when the object of your crush is not available? It does not matter the reason for lack of availability, maybe you can’t find a good job near your beloved part of the country, maybe, if the object is human, it is a work relationship, a married person, or maybe they are just are not that into you. Or maybe you actually have to go to work and cannot gaze narcissistically upon the object of your affection forever.

Ahhhh Grasshopper, in this very place is the path of acceptance of what is. Acceptance is not trying to get more attention, letting your ego-fed drama do cartwheels around the stage of life and coercing others to be actors in your play. Acceptance is breathing in and quieting the mind, noticing the shenpa state and fully noticing it. And then sit with it. Do not force action, do not jump up and charge forth, do not sink into an emotional coma as a means of distracting from the shenpa state, just sit with the shenpa and let it wash over you but keep a sense of awareness so that it does not take over you. Feel it fully, do not judge or resist in any measure, just watch it. It is in this way you begin to see the ego’s dance and storyline and you begin to become a watcher rather than an actor in the play.

Oh, hell yeah, it is hard. Every moment you are the watcher, the ego pulls and tugs and screams in tantrum but each second that you come back from the unconsciousness of shenpa and come into the realization of having been enveloped by the ego is a victory to cherish.

It is only in this practice of watching the ego and not being drawn into the drama that true love grows. The love that has patience and kindness, compassion and generosity, openness and authenticity and courage. True love is not dramatic but gets deeply into your skin, your heart, your very soul and center of being. Love artfully weaves itself into the fabric of you with golden threads dazzling and glorious.

Oh man, I am falling hard and it is going to be one hellava ride!

There Is No Other Way

There is no other way.
Boy, do I resist that statement in most areas of life. To lock into the belief that there is only one path, one “right” way is so harsh for oneself and all one encounters. It is so divisive and limiting. Why would you choose to put limits on your own life? Go ahead, find one place where you have believed there is only one way to do something and then challenge that belief by exploring, researching, experiencing.
Each time we put limits on our experience it is a little death to the soul. I believe we are here to experience life, the joys and sorrows, the fullness of the human experience and to know the love of God and our birthright of oneness with all that is created. I believe there are many ways to do this and, as such, there can be no one right way.
Have you ever had a really amazing teacher? One that leads you to discovery, not one that just tells you what is going to be on the test. Because in real life, this life, we cannot know what will be on the test and there is no powerpoint to memorize. In this life you must engage fully and without reservation. A great teacher points the way and you, as a great student, must engage to realize what is being pointed at, do not focus on the teacher’s finger and miss the moon to which the teacher is pointing.
So find those places where you think, “It’s all I know,” or “This is the one right way,” and challenge the idea, maybe try to figure out where that came from even. It can be simple like changing a hand position in a yoga pose, or using mustard instead of catsup with your fries, or it can be big like opening your mind and heart to different religions to find the truth that runs through all, or it can be tremendously huge, like accepting the validity of Associated Press refusing to use the serial or Oxford comma. Yeah, I know, I’m not there with that last one either. But I am open to the argument and that is a start because if there is anything I have learned from my parents, Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle, it is that there is more than just one way.

Happy Birthday!

December 28, 2017

It seems when i read a blog that the writer is so organized in thinking. The posts are timely and on topic. Maybe I will get there one day. Today is not that day.
Today is, however, a day of many thoughts. My middle child turns 21 today. A determined and thoughtful baby has grown into a powerhouse of loving care, academic drive, and blossoming of potential that is so much greater than the sum of her parts. Pretty cool to watch unfold. My main lesson in parenting is to be present and loving and let her unfold in her way, to not force my ideas of how life should be lived or what I think success looks like onto her. She is not mine but rather I am, or was, the steward of this beautiful being.
Today is also a moment to reflect on the life that I partly have created for myself and partly been given as a gift to me. I guess because I am about to move away I am more cognizant of the beautiful weaving of friendships in my life. People who reach out, who love fully and fiercely, who share their view of the world with me and enrich this living experience so greatly.
Am I crazy? How can I leave this beautiful experience, these amazing people?
It is funny how I can go from feeling so full of love for the people who share their hearts with me to fear that I am going to be alone. No wonder it is so hard to make changes, even good changes, when the fear of losing what we have is so quick to pop up. This is how ruts get formed and I should know as I was in a pretty deep rut for many years, afraid of making a change, afraid I could not handle the outcome, at the time thinking and rationalizing that at least *this* is known and knowing feels safer. Yes, feels safer, even if it means a deep and pervading sense of emptiness in my heart as my head tries to find many ways to distract from the call to change.
Now I have chosen to accept the challenge, to follow the path that calls even though I do not know how it will turn out, where it will lead, and it feels terrifying and alone at times, almost overwhelmingly so. Some days I can feel frozen as I take in the magnitude of leaving. I go alone, no partner, no spouse, and go to a job which I have no training, to learn something because it is interesting and I am curious. I go from an urban and vibrant community to a rural place with very few people (which I realize is kind of the definition of rural) and wonder how this is going to turn out? Only time will tell but at least I will not be haunted by this what-if.
So, happy birthday! Birth and nurture your potential, support the full flowering of what can be, playing safe is not really safer and you can actually handle failing, you can handle hurting, trust your inner self to guide you and pay little heed to the path the world wants you to walk. You need and the world needs the unique and unimaginable gifts that manifest only when and if you follow your own path.