Cabinspiration

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This time of year more than others, I find it worth remembering that I have enough, I am enough.

Still, I’ve often pondered a world where a small woodsy cabin, forever in evergreens, was part of my life. I’d imagined it to be a humble, utilitarian place, built simply out of natural materials, and I’d go there to quiet my mind, live honestly, be outside.

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In fairly breaking news, I’m here to report that I’m in the process of purchasing a small plot of land in the woods of Central Oregon. This modest half acre, shaded by Ponderosas, will in all hopes be the site of said future cabin.

I’m spending all my money on it—my retirement, and any and all savings. Fear-inducing? Yes. There is no safety net. But what’s our money doing there, in the bank, anyway? Why do we work, if not to bring daydreams to right here, right now? And banks, well they don’t always do the best things with our money, do they? So this is a plan to sort of take that money back. It’s a retirement plan I can actually use until I retire (which, let’s face it, will prob be never!).

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This year, more than any I can remember, has an on-the-cusp energy. I turned 39 in September. It’s very tipping-point-y. I feel an awful lot like I better start making that ideal life happen right now. If not now, WHEN?

So—I’m on the hunt for tips and cabin-spiration. I was thinking A frame. But now I’m not so sure. Maybe something more modern? I dunno. What do you think?

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3 Things

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The pup not being a baby puppy anymore. Seemingly overnight, but really over the span of 5 weeks, Durango hath transformed from a shy little fur piglet into a lanky teenager with too-big ears and paws. His fear of road noise? Gone, and he now walks along on the leash just fine. A V-like-1000 engine Fedex truck revved past us as loud as could be, and he didn’t even care. Just looked the other way and sniffed the wind. Battles, won! But new struggles arise daily. We are currently fighting the Battle Of The Couch. I will keep you posted on the latest developments from this disputed territory.

Thursday happened. Thanksgiving came and went, and all it meant to me was a four-day weekend (yay!). In observance, I promptly turned my brain off. Besides that though, I never have much planned for these eating holidays. For starters, I’m just whatever about Thanksgiving food. As a bonafide non-carnivore, I haven’t chomped on turkey in years. And I’m risking work-place discrimination here to proclaim that my aversion to mashed potatoes persists. Still! My lovely friends came over, and the kitchen filled up with people, and a lot laughter happened, much of it at the puppy, who boinged around in a fugue state—completely high on the smells of the feast.

Captain Fantastic. A film worth your time. Despite watching the entire thing, I never did figure out what “type” of movie this is. I like that—a refusal to be predictable. Plus, peep out those clips of Portland!

Joseph, Oregon Population 1052

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In the past weeks, I’ve found myself equal parts angry/depressed. I’ve found myself giving my money away to charitable civil-rights-oriented institutions. I’ve found myself writing letters to my senator like they taught you to do in grade school—but you never, ever thought you’d have to, because you thought that while, sure, there were differences amongst folks’ beliefs and experiences, that humans as a whole were generally sane enough to do the right and good thing.

ANYWAY, when it seems like the world has gone bat shit crazy, I would argue that a road trip to a very quiet place in the mountains is just the thing. This is why we journeyed many hours into Eastern Oregon on Friday afternoon, where we found, among the rolling farm lands and rugged cliffs, little cabins strung up with colored lights. We slept deeply, although the puppy was restless, and woke up on Saturday morning to hike up high into the steep hills.

We climbed till our faces and fingers were freezing, and our legs dragged. We didn’t talk at all, just listened to the wild wind in the trees. Gusts of cold air, well they can scrape your mind clean, can’t they? Hours later, dog tired and hungry, we loaded the pup in the truck and drove into town in search of warmth. The streets were quiet—not dead, just peaceful, and we wandered into a wood-fire pizza joint to thaw ourselves with the heat from the oven, with the pizza, with the pints of beer. Outside the window, swirls of snow rolled like tumbleweeds down the street, as the darkness of a late-November afternoon descended, and I’m not overstating this when I say that it was quite possibly the coziest couple hours I’ve ever spent in my life.

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The world, yes, it’s crazy. Scary, even! But mark my words, turn off your phone/Facebook. Get away! Navigate on nothing but intuition for a while. Move yer feet, meditate. You see new stuff. You drive. You eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You watch the setting sun break though the rain clouds over the open road, and you come home tired, and you are glad. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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To Leonard

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Today, I’m having a Leonard Cohen day kinda, shuffling my feet under my desk and letting his ole tattered ribbon of tune take me where it may.

I remember the first time I heard a Leonard Cohen song, on a road trip into the High Sierras with one miss Annie Fast. She had that compilation I’m Your Fan, all of our favorite indie bands doing cool Cohen covers. The Pixies playing “I Can’t Forget“—well I never do forget how good it is. Anyway, this moment, on this trip, was a tiny pinhole turning point. When I got home, I started unraveling his discography like a thread—like you did back then, buying records, one by one until you had a big stack. His songs are like paintings, they capture the light. The more I listened, the more I got the witchy sense that this old gypsy poet was my spirit guide. More accurately, I (a lost and lonesome little girl)—well I wished he was my spirit guide.

Here’s to Leonard. To Mr. Cohen. What an amazing mind. Thank you for always illuminating the biggest mysteries, which are really just the simplest mysteries—the ones we’re faced with every single day.

Rosemary’s Puppy

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Daylight Savings drooped over us on Saturday night. I’m bad at math, but an extra hour on Sunday morning was fine by me. These last few evenings after work, though … DARK. The puppy sleeps through the night now. He’s moved on from cowering under the bed at the sound of silverware drawers and doors slamming to creating total household havoc. Rosemary’s Puppy, I call him, from the hours of 7-11 p.m.

But Durango is a cool dude. I like watching the process of his personality becoming. He’s a loving guy that hates loud noises. He’s curious. He’s bouncey. He has one tall white sock. His brindle coat changes color with the changing light. And like most puppies, he sees with his mouth, not his eyes.

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Derek asked me on Sunday, “How many people have called him Lefty?” Honest answer: only me. It happened a few times, accidentally, of course. Calling your new dog your old dog’s name is not as much accident as habit. But I think about Lefty all the time. I dreamt about him last night, even—that I’d given him a bath and he had the most luscious, soft and shiny curly black mane. He always did have good hair, didn’t he? Anyway, the garden where we buried him is growing up fine in all this rain, and I can’t wait to see the tulips and daffodils go crazy there in the spring. Lefty, you are with us.

November To-Do List

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1) Teach the puppy to come when he’s called, and to walk on a leash without resembling a kite caught in a windstorm, and to not be dead-scared of the trash truck on Fridays, and to let the cat walk through the room quietly with little-to-no accosting, bouncing, or otherwise carrying on, and, and, and …

2) Unlock the mysteries of the Aeropresse coffee maker. I got one for my birthday. It seems like it should be simple—but it isn’t. Beakers. Tabulations. Temperature gauges. It’s overwhelming to someone who hasn’t had their morning coffee yet.

3) Strip the various linoleums and other ancient subfloors off the stairs leading down into my basement, and then paint them crisp, shiny black. OCD-wise, I get loads of anticipatory satisfaction when thinking about this project.

4 ) Locate, as well as purchase, a new automobile. You see, Volkswagen’s buying back my lemon of a diesel Jetta (within the month, one hopes—as several sensor lights have blinked on in the last couple days and money-pit orientated service appointments loom). Wherefore art though, fuel-efficient wagon of my dreams?

5) Pursue enlightenment through brisk outings in the cold.

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Puppy Days

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Hello to you. Have you met this new puppy? His name is Durango, and he resides, cutely—and with sharp teeth, at my house on 57th Street.

What happened was, I couldn’t stand the quiet. I’d come home to the most awful stillness, a house full of nothing but air molecules, of lonesome mental tumbleweeds rolling across the hardwood floors. Life, in the end, is just more life-y with a dog in it.

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And so squarely one month after Lefty died, Mark and I took a little trip out to the Yakama Nation in Eastern Washington, where stray dogs are everywhere, anywhere. There, we picked up a little dude, a mystery mutt straight off the rez—part border collie, part boxer, part ???? Maybe panda? Or raccoon? It’s all possible.

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A note about baby dogs. I’d forgotten that you have to teach them everything. They don’t know how to go on walks. They don’t know how to climb up or down stairs. They don’t know how to fetch a ball. We think that stuff comes naturally, instinctually, but in fact, every last thing is brand new to a wild animal who spent his first weeks living all feral on a concrete slab.

Anyway, here’s to a house full of paw patter, here’s to wagging tails and wiping pee, here’s to slow morning walks holding fast to the leash like it’s the end of a kite string in a tornado. I love it all.

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3 Things

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8 a.m. rain with the sun out: The act of being outside in your sweats with a hot cup of coffee on the kind of morning that will disappear forever—as all mornings do—should always be occasioned by an ominous purple cloud, a freak shaft of sun, and a resplendent shimmering rainbow off in the nearby distance. Right???

Cooking along with old-timey music on the radio: Soundtrack-wise, I’m gonna argue here that the sound of sizzling onions and a half-glass-of-wine buzz click in naturally with something warm and crackly, say Django Reinhardt or, like, Sam Cooke?

Charley Countryman: Currently streaming on Netflix. A fairytale, if such a thing can exist amidst the hardcore Romanian mafia. Which, hey why not?

Portugal Mega-Post

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Hi to you. I’ve just returned from Portugal. I’ve been dreaming about that place for years, ever since I saw a picture of Lisbon—a whitewashed and red-roofed city tumbling down to the sea.

The place/experience/trip was epic as hoped. Sure, I submitted some formal complaints to the ether about airports, customs, and all the rude dickheads throughout. The shitty plane food. The hours of standing in line, as we all must, to fly somewhere. But physical acts of traveling aside, Portugal was, as they say, dreamy. Magnificent empty beaches. Tidy blue-and-white buildings. Olives. Bread. Wine. Sunshine everyday, everywhere, all the time.

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A note about “tourism”: Personally, I travel somewhere for the there-ness. With the exception of Lisbon, Portugal was delightfully un-touristy, and, for that matter, un-crowded. We had room to breathe—really see/feel/taste what was going on in the place. This led to 2 realizations: 1) the U.S. is very crowded, and 2), the tourism industry kind of benefits the economy at the expense of the culture. Like, AirBnB brings in money, but it displaces people. I mean, the fairytale jalopy buildings of old-town Lisbon were filled, not with Portuguese people, but rather with foreigners who, like us, were Air-BnBing their way through the country. Truth be told, I peeped anti-AirBnB graffiti all around the city. I’m not sure exactly what I think. Big ups to considering yourself (like I try to!) a Traveler vs. a Tourist—but I came home with a gloomy feeling that the cultural spirit of a community is a lot more fragile than we think.

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Medieval fortifications overlooking the sea. All the Portuguese castles had that sickest ocean views. “Easier to defend,” the ancients claimed, but we all know the real truth …

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The pretty beaches in Peniche with the nicest little waves. Here is were I went surfing, bravely but poorly.

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We took a wee day trip to Porto, a city in the North (where, obvi, port wine was born). I loved this place. It’s fairly untouched by time. Basically, you’re on the set of a Shakespeare at all times.

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Medieval stairmaster! See ya, vacation calories.

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Porto azulejos. Painted tile game on point.

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Sundown on my birthday in Ereicera. Gold star emoji on this scene right here!

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Palace hunting in Sintra. Yep, another castle with an epic view.

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As a settlement, Lisbon has been around for 3,000-odd years. I’m a student of history, and I was super in awe of the cultural and archaeological mishmash. Phoenicians. Romans. Visigoths. Moors. Celts. Christians. See the pic below—it’s all layered in there like a cake!

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Cotton candy sunsets in Lisbon, as seen from our attic apartment.

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Stone-cold sightseers. Behind us, a statue of a prince, Lisbon city center, and the Tejo river. Got it? Got it. Now let’s all go drink a beer.

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After a laborious week of avoiding octopus tentacles out in the fishing villages, we came into city and our veggie-minded stomachs were rewarded.

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No-fucks-given parking situations everywhere you turned your head.

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Ciao Portugal! Obrigado.

Birth-Day In The Life

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When you’re not really in a celebratory mood, I find the best place to celebrate your birthday is far away. That way, the simple act of living is a kind of observance, both unique and memorable. As it happens, we’d planned a trip to Portugal a few months ago, and that’s where I was on Friday—the anniversary of my birth.

Upon arrival, we were in another world, a sunny, serene place where the people are forever in sandals, forever tan, forever gesticulating happily during conversation and forever ready to laugh with you, at you.

All I did on my birthday was slow down. The things I enjoyed most were as follows: The fairytale peach nectar we spread on our fresh-baked rolls as we drank coffee with the sun streaming down. The empty beach with the perfect aquamarine barrels. Mesmerizing. I could watch them forever and ever—the deepest, truest meditation. A respectable glass of cool, bubbly wine on an a modest wooden deck. The prettiest pink sunset—a little show just for me, as far as I’m concerned.

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