Burrowing in for the Winter


Billy here. With Arctic air blasting most of the States, we are reminded that winter happens every year and it is upon us again! It’s time for us to bake bread, cook soup, drink pots of coffee all day long, make art projects and dig into the stacks of books we’ve been collecting through the year. Time to celebrate your local library! I love the Multnomah County Library. So much in fact, that it could the best part of being here in Portland for me besides my loved ones.

I am designing a new astronomy calendar for next year and, to help it along, taking some classes at the Independent Press Resource Center, which may contain the largest zine library in the world. The winter months for me are the time to study, reflect and be aware of the symmetry of the big picture. These are also the months when the night sky is clear and crisp. Orion and the Pleiades are rising in the East. The Andromeda Galaxy is overhead. It may be time for a winter camping astronomy trip! Here is a sneak preview of the new design for the calendar:

astro 001

Speaking of which, here is a fantastic snap shot of the inner solar system as imaged by Solar System Scope, a truly delightful planetarium program on the internet. Also, you can follow the Rosetta spacecraft as it made it’s way to the Comet 67P with a little movie and a timeline on the bottom. If you click on the magnifying glass on the left once you are running the program, click on Comets, then Comet 67P and then the little “Land on a Comet” box will appear. The video is not to scale, but it’s pretty fun.

Screenshot 2014-11-16 10.19.50

While you are reading this we are making our way across the West once more to visit our old friends in New Mexico and get the rest of our music equipment to take back to Portland with us. We are both missing playing music a lot and are excited about getting the instruments set up in our next project: the art and music studio next to our cabin.

Next week we will be on the road and feasting with our friends, so we won’t be posting on our blog, but check the blog on December 3rd for our 50th blog post all about our winter road trip. Thanks for reading and enjoy your time with your loved ones this Thanksgiving!

I want to give thanks for all the people and all the love in our lives. This year has been full of a lot of changes and beautiful reminders to be here now. Celebrating a lifetime commitment of love with Spence. Seeing my Gramma go back into the earth. There is nothing permanent in our lives ever, not even our lives. Every day we renew our commitment to be present with each other. Every day there is no certainty. What we have is this moment. And I am grateful each and every minute to be here, softening and opening to it.

We must meet ourselves time and time again in a thousand disguises on the path of life.

– C. G. Jung

For further reading, here are some blogs of a few of my favorite living authors:

Fritjof Capra

Ursula K. Le Guin

Pema Chodron

and just for fun, a piece by Jeff Sharlet, associate professor of creative nonfiction at Dartmouth College:

Nightshift: Excerpts from an Instagram Essay



Spence here: All week I have been readying, since we hatched the plan to go back to New Mexico to get our music gear and a few other odds and ends. Every other day since we left finds us saying, “I wonder where that fill-in-the-blank thing went; oh I left it in New Mexico”. Anyway, we’ll be on our way soon to try to remedy this a bit. Normally, as I always tell people, I don’t like to travel in the winter. Driving or flying with the possibilities of storms always gives me anxiety. We have some time built in, however,  if we have to stop or re-route. We also have the utmost love and support of family and friends awaiting us on both ends. This is all we need.

Since Billy has been geeking out on his astronomy calendar and recent amazing books (like The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin, which he is letting me borrow), I have been delving into the wonderful wide world of backpacking gear! Oh the possibilities, the adventures, the gadgetry, and the endless YouTube videos! Sadly, I must retire my little red and tan tent. Billy and I realized after our last Pacific Northwest camping adventure, the material itself has started to fail in the rain. After 15, maybe 20 some odd years of heavy use, I am finally retiring it. Here’s a photo one of my fondest trips with my Eurkea two-person tent, along the Pacific Coast Trail in 2011.


On the up shot, we just purchased an REI tent online that has been discontinued–the Taj 3, at an amazingly low price. It weighs the same as the little Eureka, but is actually made for 3 people, so Billy and I will be living it up with extra room for wet gear or shoes or backpacks or all of the above.


We also bought some sweet sleeping pads. We’ll try them out soon, camping in the cold mountains of Utah on our way south. I am also looking at a new backpack, although, that purchase will be later in the future! (Let me know what you think of the Patagonia Ascensionist 45L. It is a small climbing pack, but I have read reviews which could make it good for all-around backpacking. I really appreciate the shape and simplicity.)

For now I am thankful to be in the presence of so many friends, share in some amazing food and see even more of the country. I miss the people all over the globe who I can’t be with, while celebrating with the people I can. I find the holiday/yule time to be that way. Next up at home, a remodeled artist-in-residence cabin, home-brew, my latest sewing project (“Blue-Man-Suit”) and our punk/experimental music project. Have a great couple of weeks hibernating and check out these fun, unique blogs at your leisure.




Full Moon Umpqua Samhain

Island Scene

Spence here: It is a very windy, sunny afternoon and I am smiling. Billy and I decided to take a little break from all the habits we’ve formed… coffee, beer, sugar, cheese, work. It is so easy to fall back into what I dubbed “The Portland Routine”. That goes along with copious amounts of coffee and then switching to beer and cynicism in the afternoon. Our recent trip to the ocean has renewed my intentions and positivity. Reset, I shall try not to let all the complaints of our modern lives get past my warm striped sweater.

We drove just past Reedsport on the Oregon coast to visit a state park we hadn’t been to before, Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. We celebrated the full moon on Novemeber 6th and the first of the “Darker Days”, according to Samhain traditions. Why this coincided with my feeling of being more positive, I’m not sure. I guess when I am playing on the beach, barefoot in the sand, it reminds me to explore, be curious, laugh into the wind and enjoy. You know how little kids just run around in shorts and a t-shirt and never seem to get cold? I collected driftwood, took pictures, daydreamed, laid in warm sand and poised over mostly inert beach creatures. Nice weather and being with Billy for two days off helps! He really fuels my imagination. We hiked a bit around Lake Marie and through the Oregon Dunes. Luckily, since it was during the week, there wasn’t any ATV users running up the dunes or breaking the sound barrier of nature. The trees and frogs all seemed a bit relaxed. The yurt we rented was certainly deluxe, as it had a heater, shower, flushing toilet and mini kitchen. In the evening, we drove to the beach to see the moon rise and low tide. On the way, we passed the lighthouse, which I think is my favorite lighthouse of all time. Sadly, we didn’t get a picture of it all lit up in the dark night, as it was glorious! Red and pink and white light streamed out and cast on the surrounding trees. The middle of the source shown so bright, like a glittering red diamond heart. I’ve never seen such light so close up and I will hold it in my memory for when those shadows creep long after 40 days of rain.

Our adventure continued as we headed north towards Portland. We stopped at a cute little “natural foods” cafe in Florence and got served up some homemade burgers, veggie and meat. There was a cool old, well-loved RV parked out front, so I figured it’d be good eatin’. The person whom I presumed correctly was the movable home’s owner, was a lovely, peaceful older man with unkept hair and a silent genius smile. He lingered over the newspaper with soft eyes and a bowl of fruit. Now one of my favorite beaches, we discovered, north of Florence within the boundaries of the Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park, was at a free wayside along the road. Miles of wild beach stretched out, with narely a plastic water bottle to be seen. We played all afternoon, and in the end, went to a park called Driftwood Beach to watch the sunset. Billy and I were both thinking it would be hard to pass by the Rogue Brewery in Newport without a visit, so we broke the diet and ordered up the best beers and fish and chips this side of Mars.

Next week, our post may be a little short, as we are making plans to return to the high desert of New Mexico to retrieve more of our beloved musical instruments and visit our beloved, magical weirdos. I can’t wait to see the friends and hug them and laugh and sit in the desert mermaid hot tub. As winter comes to us, be it shorter days, cold nights, storms and wood stoves, let it soften our minds and hearts a little.

Billy here. Ill keep it short and sweet today. I want to mention a moment that has been pressed into my heart: watching the full moon rise at low tide on the evening of Samhain. The ocean was dark and song-full after dusk. Behind us the glassy sand was silvery with water, with the moon and the flashes of the lighthouse beneath it, so that it seemed we were walking out on top of the water. Spence said out loud, “It’s like we’re walking on the ocean!” We were in between worlds: between the sunset and the moon rise at full moon, between the ocean and the shore, between summer and winter. But we were more than between, we were at that point that touched all points. The gate was thrown open wide and everything could come to us for a moment. I was so free that I was afraid, because I could let even death in. Because the whole sea could take us away in a tsunami and we wouldn’t know the difference. Because this moment contained everything, like looking into deep space and seeing the Big Bang, if ever such a thing happened.

If time and space are the same, we could sing our way back into being. And everything was singing. It was so beautiful and terrible to hear all at once that I could have died laughing.


“Lost” Creek Campout


Spencer here: There are over a million places called “Lost Creek” in the United States alone. If you Google it, a “Lost Creek” seems to pop up in every state. It is not to be overlooked that our species and its culture has such a perpetual name for so many places. It is also not to be overlooked that Billy and I ended up there last week, in the Mt. Hood National Forest, near the Zig Zag and Sandy Rivers. Our quest to seek out Bagby Hot Springs (I’ve still never soaked in them!) was thwarted again because the road was closed. I forgot it was closed because of the fire recently, (36 Pit Fire, started by target shooters) which ripped through 5500 acres of the Clackamas River Ranger District this summer. Then I remembered back in October, smelling the smoke from Portland and the air felt heavier and foggier, as the ash hung in the valley of the city, yet no one seemed to notice.

We took a detour–a quick drive through the town of Eagle Creek, over to highway 26. It was a chilly day, but not raining and I was in the mood to explore. We stopped by the Zig Zag Ranger Station and picked up some copied maps, which proved to be very silly for actual navigation, (and I chastised myself for leaving all my sweet maps back at home!), but I still love every time I stop into a ranger office. I learn something and I like to talk to the rangers about their favorite places and the conditions. Ramona Falls is very close to Lost Creek, and is a place very special to me, for its significance to Billy and I. Consequently, I always go to the falls and not the other surrounding areas. It was cool to see all the different micro-climates and drive down roads I have wondered about in the past. The area was bustling with gnome-like, bundled mushroom hunters on hundreds of little foot paths–tis the season! After driving on some not-so-great hole-y roads, (even with a jeep they were rough), we camped on Lost Creek in a closed campground called Riley Horse Camp. Gourmet snacks ensued and I was beginning to feel better getting out of the city. The dripping moss and weathered trees made me forget all about my boring job and the mounting anxieties I feel about working it for the rest of the year, getting tied down with bills, material goods, and other grand obligations of capitalism. In short, I was at Lost Creek because lately, I feel lost too, and sometimes I just want to go somewhere I don’t feel lost, like the woods.

Recently, I read a New York Times editorial (The Meaning of Fulfillment) about the meaning of fulfillment! It was written by a 66 year old, who felt she had only gotten to this point later in life–perhaps because it was later in life. I want to disagree with the assumption we only are fulfilled near the end of life, mostly because I am stretching for it right now and it is a bit heartbreaking to seek something totally achievable yet ethereal. Why wait! Be fulfilled now! Like a QVC pill or exercise gimmick. Which brings me back to my boring job. But it also brings me back to gratitude and faith. I can be fulfilled now, if I continue to focus on what is important for me, and resist speeding up to catch all the others. I have great moments of this legendary arrival already. I just need a reminder to go my own pace, with my adventuresome beau by my side and a song on my breathe, through the mossy woods… and they don’t make an app for that.


Billy here. It’s Halloween time, which means bundling up the fruits of the year and leaving a cup out for the dead. The mushrooms come out in droves this time of year here in the Pacific Northwest. We spent Hallow’s Eve on the creek bundled in a wet tent, surrounded by fungi. I felt cradled in them. They grew so many places that there was a massacre of them underfoot from all the gnomes collecting them.

We read placards along the Lost Creek Nature trail that described the Mt. Hood eruption, whose mud slides buried this area around 200 years ago. The mud killed the trees, which eventually decayed and left perfect tree shaped holes in the ground called tree wells. Now they are mostly filled in with moss and plant matter. The Multnomah (the tribe native to the Portland area) called Mt. Hood Wy’east. Samuel Hood, the man the mountain was named after by invaders, was an Englishman who never even saw the mountain. Wy’east and Pahto, or Klickitat, were sons of the Great Spirit Sahele who fought over the woman Loowit. Wy’east was turned into Mt. Hood, Pahto into Mt. Adams and Loowit into St. Helens. Shortly after the last eruption, the Multnomah were almost completely wiped out by disease after contact with the Lewis and Clark expedition a few decades before.

The Multnomah people lived off of fish, water birds, elk, berries and primarily wapato, commonly known as broadleaf arrowhead or Sagittaria latifolia. This wetland plant was the staple of indigenous diet here in the Willamette Valley and yet before today I was not familiar with it. It is not found in grocery stores, but its edible potato-like tuber is high in protein, iron, B vitamins and potassium. Arrowroot powder, though it sounds similar, is derived from tropical plants such as cassava. It is astounding to me that something so basic, so simple as a mother plant at the foundation of a diet can be so lost and disconnected from us.

So there we were at Lost Creek, becoming something else, voluntarily or not, along with everything else decomposing and growing out of itself. And all I could think of was all the mushrooms: how they transform and enrich the soil, the entire food web literally from the ground up, and how spores can survive in space.