Homesteading, Part 1

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I purchased a little land in Central Oregon, just a twirl down the road from the Deschutes River. As mentioned elsewhere, my plan was to build a cabin of dreams there. No undertaking works the way you think it ought to, though. It happens that the groundwater in this area is too close to the surface to build a regular old septic system—no, to install a tank for my cabin, I’d need to drop many Gs on a fancy sand filtration system.

The short of it: I’m priced out of building anything for now.

Who cares? Less work for me! I’ll be happy with a tidy fence and a modest camper trailer. We could put solar panels on the trailer. We could set up a wood burning stove. We could build a shed for a couple bikes. We could, we could, we could …

I spent this weekend backfilling the septic test pits. In other words, shoveling dirt into big holes. When was the last time you shoveled for a couple hours straight? Crikey! It nearly killed me. In life, I feel strong. But in shoveling, it’s clear that I’m a pathetic weakling. I’ve got the arms of a typist, a tinkerer, a delicate herb gardener.

No matter, though, because I also happen to love hard work. Mark and I shoveled and shoveled, while the sun warmed the earth and the Ponderosas kicked out that sweet perfume of the Northwest. We heard the rhythms of the neighborhood, we saw where the shadows fall. What can I say? We bonded with the place.

South Century Drive, we’ll be seeing you!

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Spring Precipice

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Guys, I’m always and forever in search of experiences with fun and meaning. Lately, they’ve been hard to find, though.

Where is all that joy we used to know?

For me, it both is and isn’t the weather. It’s the weather and the other stuff, like death, and like almost dying, and like being stuck in town—both literally (with snow and mudslides closing the passes) and figuratively (with a new puppy we must care-take instead of hopping a plane to Hawaii)—that have made this winter a winter to hibernate.

However, in a rare act of magnanimity this weekend, the sky got sunny over Beaverton skatepark on a Saturday who’s forecast had preambled rain showers, allowing me to do what I like, which is skateboarding, outside, in the sun, with friends. No small miracle.

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Then, on Sunday, we got up early and drove into the Gorge to skate more and climb a mountain, where we walked through glowy green fields, sun dappled, flower dappled, with silver river waters off in the distance.

It wasn’t the nicest weekend, as weekends go. But it was nicer than any in recent memory, juicing with enough of that second-tier happiness I needed to pull me back from the precipice—out there where I was teetering, close to becoming so grumpy, I’d be forever lost to the lands of Curmudgeon.

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Favorites 4.4.17

20th Century Women: Maybe my favorite Mike Mills movie. A perfect depiction of a slice of history, of a “family” in 1979 San Diego and all the complex, strange, wonderful stuff of being alive (including, but not limited to, punk and skateboarding). Being uniquely in my late 30s  (you might call it the “middle” of life), I feel like I can empathize with a lot of different ages right now. I can, for example, vividly recall what it was like to enter the impossible landscape that one must traverse from being a teenager into adult hood. And yet, at the same time, I can absolutely imagine what it will be like in the not-so-distant-future to turn, say, 55. This movie does the exact same thing, artfully.

Lucinda Williams, “Passionate Kisses”: “Is it too much to ask I want a comfortable bed that won’t hurt my back?” A perfect opening line. I love Lucinda and this, the sweetest theme song for crazy liberated women everywhere (i.e. me!).

The Puppy Growing Up: The puppy (did I ever tell you about my new puppy?) is getting bigger, yes, but thank the heavens, his brain is also growing. There’s the young lad below, at left, all of 5 months old, next to Chelsea’s adult-sized Igby. I can’t say we’ve shared any moments of spiritual communion yet, Piney and me. I’m still teaching him to not step in his own pee. But I can’t wait for a time, very soon, when he’s all grown up and can be my emotional support animal—instead of me being his …

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Social Butterflies

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Borrowed the above pic from my pal Kristine.

It’s from Derek’s birthday party last Friday night. Twas proper 40th birthday party—everyone came out. Whiskey spilled. Dinosaur Jr played. Cake did what cake does, it got ferociously eaten!

To be around so many buds, from so many different times and places in my life, it was awesome, but overwhelming. I wanted to leave, I cannot tell a lie … But only for a minute! That feeling passed over me, just like a wave.

This winter has made me very reclusive. Everyone, I think?

To go from months of the quietest evenings ever spent cowering from the cold—or, alternately, mellow gatherings of 4-7 people—straight into a wild rager like this one was a wee difficult for my delicate social constitution. Nevertheless! I persevered, and talked to Molly about her Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and hugged Kelly and heard all about her terrible brush with death, and chatted with Jamie about his epic trip to Columbia, and so on …

All said and done, it was better-than-great to see everyone. Friendships are way more than the sum of their parts. And while we can all keep in touch passively (i.e. digitally), being in the same room with your friends doing that face-to-face QT is the best and only way to tap into the real, good stuff, the sustenance, the love. Friends! Where would any of us be without them?

3 Things

I Am Not Your Negro. Watch this movie. Show it to your kids. Heck, show it to your pets. Yes, it’s that important. I am in awe of James Baldwin as a thinker. What an amazing mind. And when you get to realizing, as he suggests, that the whole of Western Civilization was built (thru colonization/slavery/warfare) on a model of white power that we’re still living in, it’s like, what the F do we do now?!

Artichoke heart wings. Procured a plate of these from Century Bar the other night. Of all the things that you could deep fry and dip in a sauce instead of chicken wings, I’m gonna argue here that artichoke hearts are among the best. Full of tang/flavor, and yet light and easy on the stomach in their way. A triumph for vegetable-arians everywhere!

Recovery. After our life-giving “winter ordeal,” we spent all of last week recovering. Their were sneezing fits and other symptoms of the common cold. And there was absolutely no energy to be had anywhere until Friday or so. Earlier in the week, from the moment I got up, it was a stone-cold countdown until I could come home and sit on the couch. Also, Piney got fixed and snoozed off his surgery meds with the rest of the laid-out household.

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Overnight On The Mountain

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Dark was the morning we loaded the car and drove south through Eugene, through Oakridge, and up the side of Warner Mountain until we reached the deep snow. Ten miles of freshly powdered road separated us from the Warner Mtn. Fire Lookout, a cozy cabin atop stilts atop a ridge with 360 views of the Cascade Range. We strapped into our split boards and swished off into oblivion.

Fast forward through 8 hours of rugged uphill ascent, and we were still on that trail. It was pitch dark. The storm raged. Mark was slurring his speech, suffering from severe exhaustion. In the light from my headlamp, the tracks of the people who’d skied out earlier that day were buried, wiped from existence by snow and wind. This blizzard of March 5th, it wasn’t half hearted—but brave and full of force.

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It’s a funny thing, memory. Already what happened is all jumbled up in my mind. I remember a moment when I realized something was wrong with Mark. It’s really hard to see someone who’s always very strong, always taking care of you, suddenly need help. It hit me over the head—it was time to stop, stop motivating, stop rallying. We had to go into survival mode, which meant digging some form of shelter and staying put. And—not kidding—calling 911. Yep, only 1.5 miles from our cozy cabin destination, we were immobilized by exhaustion, by darkness, and by the storm.

We shimmied into the area under a tree well, threw down a sleeping bag, sat down, and then put another sleeping bag over us. This is making it sound warmer than it was. We were soaked to the core from sweating and from the storm. We were very, very cold. Cold is an understatement. Drifting in and out of consciousness, we shivered violently from 8 pm until 4 a.m., when, thinking I was hallucinating, I saw the lights from the Search And Rescue snow cat.

What we did wrong. 

-We had too much stuff. Just because you’re going to a cabin, doesn’t mean you need to bring your 700 page book. If I did again, I’d go so much lighter, so much leaner.

-We brought a 4 month old puppy. Sure, he’s part Malamute. But he’s a freaking baby. We were prepared for him not making the whole trek—we just weren’t prepared for the extra strain pulling a 30+ pound pup in a sled would put on Mark.

-We didn’t eat. We had plenty of food, but not super accessible trail snacks to keep us super fueled up. We were prob burning thousands of calories, but we kept thinking, we gotta just GET THERE! Turns out, taking care of yourself is more important than anything.

-We didn’t turn back when we maybe thought we should. My new mantra—it’s okay to quit!

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What went wrong. 

-There was (way) more snow than expected. The park ranger had told us the trail would be packed by snowmobiles, but instead, we were skinning through feet of fresh. This was a game changer.

-The GPS made us look closer than we were to the destination. There was a tragic moment just before dark when we made a final push, thinking we were 2 miles away, and then saw a road sign that read, “Warner Mountain Lookout, 3.7 miles.” FLlksjdfla;jksdbuasdfja;sjkdgjl;dajsg!!!!!!!

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How we got so fucking lucky.

-Like a ghost, 1 bar of LTE service shivered in and out of my phone. Just enough to get some calls off to 911 and text my mom our location.

-The sheriff’s department was able to get a snow cat sent up from Roseberg. It was hours away. It took, literally, all night—but the cat was everything. It got us out of there in 25 minutes flat. All hail volunteer Search and Rescue crews, everywhere!

Adventures In Meditation

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Until late December, I’d never meditated. I’d been a longtime supporter of mediative THINGS—walking, gardening, cooking. But, let’s be clear, meditative is not meditating.

Meditation is really hard! Have you tried it? Do you agree? It forces you to reckon with your total mess of a brain. As a child of the 80s, I went to swimming lessons and piano class—but no one ever taught me how to control my thoughts and emotions. This is a thing. A skill you can hone through hours and days and weeks of, just, sitting and focusing. Who would’ve thought, as you get older, that the secret to life is not in adding things—knowledge, skills, experience, friends—but rather in taking things away, stripping down existence to its very simplest form.

Anyway, I’m terrible at it. Like a tot with training wheels, I’m doing guided meditations that I’ve downloaded to my phone. My favorite  is the one where you simply sit and focus on the space between your thoughts. The SPACE! It’s expansive. On good days, I can rise right up into it. Eventually, perhaps when I’m all gray, perhaps when I’m living atop a Tibetan peak, I’ll be able to turn my mind on and off at will. Mind control. How cool.

Anyway, daily meditation is not glamorous. It’s another thing on the to-do list. Plus my knees always hurt after I sit there for a while. Still, the work is important—as necessary as eating and sleeping. And later, when the stress runs high and the world roils, I’ve got a surefire way to dial it all down.

Forest Escapism

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Hello to you. Here’s a picture of me, standing in the woods—but not just any woods, my woods! As mentioned elsewhere, I bought some land in Central Oregon. This was like, four or five snowstorms ago. Due to weather (and due to life), this weekend was my first opportunity to walk ’neath the grand Ponderosas as their bonafide owner. To have your own forest. How cool.

The plan was to build a cabin of dreams on this lot … and maybe I still will. But as it often does, reality has set in. Permits cost money. Septic systems cost money. Materials cost money. Your hopes and dreams—they cost fucking money!

No matter. I’ve settled on a different plan. A for-now plan, involving the purchase of a decently cute camper trailer to park amidst the greenery (anyone know anyone who’s selling one?!). This, along with a fire pit and a fence, are all that are standing in the way of me and an epic summer of escapism.

This Time Last Year

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This time last year, it was a lot more like spring, remember?

There was a barely warm breeze on the loose, causing me to browse the nursery for seeds for my future veggie garden (all the while caught up in a kind of frenzy dreaming about the fresh salsas and salads I’d make when the warm months returned).

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There was a quick trip to Astoria to shake off the cobwebs. Despite my my longstanding grudge against the Oregon coast (too crowded in the summer, too gloomy in the winter, altogether too many windsock shops), I really liked the city’s ancient crumbling victorians and colossal freighters anchored in the inlet. I liked the melancholy place names—like Cape Disappointment, where all the ships crashed, even the one carrying supplies to build a new lighthouse. It’s all exceptionally Northwest!

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There was also a life-affirming first-ever backcountry trip to a fire lookout in Central Oregon. I’ve almost never felt happier than I did on that first night spent rolled up inside a sleeping bag on a tiny bed atop a towering mountain. This is because I was incredibly warm and comfortable, I was tired from wallowing 4 miles uphill in the deep snow with a heavy pack (an act that I would call mountaineering, but I know if I did real mountaineers would pat my head and say, “Hush”), I was among several people that I liked very much, and I was there in the cozy dark surrounded by 360 degrees of windows that held nothing but stars.

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Anyhow, in keeping with the New Year Vibrations of early Feb, I support getting 100% back to basics, getting 100% serious about clearing out clutter both mental and physical. This year, though, I don’t have the energy for renewal. With the short days and darkness of weather—and with death all around—I feel like I’m only now coming out of a deep, dark hole. My current energy stores are reserved, it seems, for just keepin’ on.

So hey, winter of 2017, I apologize. I’ll do better next year.

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Lately

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Lately, I’ve been under the weather, in weather that’s awful. These things go together. There’s something very right about sneezing and shivering while walking through the soaking-ass rain (so icy it could almost be snow—but it didn’t want to give you the satisfaction).

My ailment—it’s nothing serious, don’t worry. A common sinus-ey thing. I’m just sick enough to feel bad, but not sick enough to give up on life. The thing to do in this condition is execute the bare daily minimum—and then come home and lay around. And as part of this plan’s rollout, I’ve been watching The Young Pope on HBO. Crikey! It’s really great. The characters are offbeat and complex, flawed, funny and strange. And the scenery. The reds are deeply saturated, the whites glow with an unearthly light. I mean every clip is perfect, like its own baroque painting. If you haven’t watched it, do. And give it a couple episodes for the story and characters to air out. That’s my opinion anyway—you can do whatever you want, of course.

So that’s what’s been going on around here. I’m starting to feel better, although Mark (who built me the above raised veggie beds for spring if/when it ever comes) ominously, epicly sneezed  this morning. Maybe he’s next? At any rate, a full moon lunar eclipse is on the way tomorrow—how lucky! I reckon we could all use some cosmic assistance during a dark time such as this.