Singing for Rain Harvest Festival Prefunk

A Posting Update: Next week we will be on hiatus, hopefully enraptured in the Enchantment Mountain Range–backpacking in Washington State. Our next post will be Sunday, September 6th! Because of school and work restraints, we will be only posting new adventures every other week for the Winter Season. Thank you for reading.

Billy here. This morning the sun was ruby red behind a haze of wildfire smoke blowing in from the West. We heard the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest have kicked up to an such an  intensity that it has been declared a federal emergency. The smoke has been getting thicker all day and now I am wondering about our backpacking plans next week; located a little too close to three different complexes burning over one hundred thousand acres. One of these fires claimed the lives of three fire fighters on Wednesday. I think of my friends who are volunteer firefighters in New Mexico. I think of the loved ones of the young fire fighters who were killed. I think of the people who have lost their homes and every material thing to the fires. Not going backpacking doesn’t seem like such a tragedy if it does turn out that way.

This summer is on route to being the hottest ever recorded in the history of Portland. This month, only 0.12 inches of rain has fallen so far, with a 39 day stretch of no rain spanning the early summer. Back in January, with the record lack of snowfall, I was already foreseeing the summer turning out scorching and burning. Oregon is on her fourth straight year of drought, with no real respite in sight.

Meanwhile, in my little life, the next couple of weeks will be busy, with school starting soon and two art shows to produce in the next few months, I have my work cut out for me. But I know in my bones that it’s important to keep my mind and heart open to the big picture – to not get lost in my little story. Things don’t often go as planned.

Tangentially, on a walk the other day, I had an interesting interaction on Killingsworth Street. I had been thinking about the Black Lives Matter movement and the rampant racism in Portland. A man lay in the grass and said something to me that snapped me out of my thoughts. I didn’t hear what he said because of the traffic. I stopped, turned around and listened. He liked my hat. Everything about him seemed gentle and kind, but unrelentlessly honest.

“Where did I get my hat? I…I think someone gave it to me.” I clearly remember getting it on Hawthorne street, so why did I say that? Was it because all the rest of my hats were gifts?

He said, “That hat’s never been given away.” His tone was gentle and clear.

I wanted to give it to him, perhaps to make amends for the fib he saw through. He wouldn’t take it.

“I’ll get it another way. What I want is the end of the race.” Did he mean the human race? The white race? The rat race? I was intrigued. I lay down in the grass next to him and listened to what he had to say.

It didn’t make sense rationally –was he a poet, high on weed, mentally ill, or maybe Jesus (or all of the above)? Maybe I met Jesus, then I could tell you that he is a black man. He said there was no room for him at the table, that for too long in the house there has been rape and molestation, that his mother and father were upstairs. I didn’t comprehend what he was trying to say intellectually, couldn’t follow his highly metaphoric train of thought, but my heart heard it and suddenly I found tears in my eyes. He smiled gently because he knew the truth: that it was I who was the fool, not he. Madness and sainthood is a knife-thin line and, boy, he was sharp. I clasped his hand, looked him right into the iris, and told him he was a good man, and I felt it to be absolutely true, even if he was mad.

“I do think this hat would fit you.”

He seemed pleased, so I handed it to him. I told him to take care, and he responded the same. “The both of you,” he said. Damn, did he mean my duplicitous nature, or the fact that I am two genders?

Many ancient cultures have traditions of kindness to strangers, because they could be gods or goddesses disguised as human. I’m telling you, Jesus is a black man.

Wildfires and climate change go hand in hand with social justice and equality: they both require that we start treating our world like it matters as if our lives depend on it, because they do.

Spence here:  In our own little neck of the woods, tonight, we attended a party. A fabulous gathering, hosted by the next door neighbors every year called “Dirt Don’t Hurt”. It is a pre-harvest festival sort of party. There is always a great band or two made up of neighborhood musicians, potluck food made from everyone’s’ garden fare, good beer and funny outfits. I opted to not go as Pinocchio, although, still managed to work in suspenders and shorts.It is a great excuse (like I need an excuse) to get reflective, as this marks a year in which we have lived back in Portland. If you asked me, I would say it feels like no time has even gone by. But that also, would be a fib. Much has been accomplished in a year, and there is much to be thankful for–least of which–landing in this quirky neighborhood of urban gardeners and farmers.

Tuned to a more somber note–we knew it would come–the burning. I am only surprised it took until August to begin in earnest. I woke up and walked out into the light from the cabin and there was an eerie tone. Not altogether unpleasing, but an uneasy feeling, of which I have felt before–and remembered that smokey air/light dissonance. People commented on it throughout the day, but more out of a sense of uncomfortableness about how to handle the situation. I did not grow up with forest fires of this magnitude in the Midwest. They still scare me in my dreams. I tried to handle my thoughts more eloquently–talking with folks about the news and writing a song about it before I went to work.

Yesterday, I drew the Five of Cups Tarot card. In one of the sets Billy owns there is a human figure holding a mask down by her side, as if to say she is serious but not hiding and willing to be honest and exposed. I looked up the meaning and from what I could gather the Five of Cups is sort of a “Debbie-downer”–only seeing the cups that have spilled, not seeing the cups which have remained standing, located behind me. Billy mentioned though, perhaps it is more about not seeing through the mask of fear. I included these thoughts in my song. At the very least, this week I am trying to see the excellent opportunities we have in front of us this Fall.

P.S. Thank you to our good neighbors for their photogenic yard!

Fun: Pass it on!

Spence here: While floating by Billy in a tiny yellow inner tube, beer in hand on the Clackamas River, I said obnoxiously, “Fun: Pass it on!” A few moments later, I floated into a dicey current and almost lost my glasses! However, neither did I lose any glasses or beers and truly, our recent camping trip was a success in every category…excellent company, great conversation about making out after puking, sunny weather, crisp, cold water features and beers, meteor showers, sand in my hair and sleeping outside without a tent. The Clackamas River never disappoints. Our friend Jane, (credit Jane for the action photos!) pushed the envelope, jumping off a gigantic log into the middle of an icy, swift current without hesitation. Her small dog bravely stood watch as lifeguard on sharp rocks, as well as napping 6 times a day. I kept pretty close to shore to guard the sandwiches and make leaning rock sculptures. Billy sacrificed his skin to the sun.

Sometimes, in the name of “Adulthood” I lose track of what is important! Sitting in a river with my friends and enjoying all that nature can offer in healthy ways of ‘takin’er easy’. The hot afternoons are slowly slipping into Fall. I noticed the shadows were a little longer than usual, the leaves a little yellow and the smell of campfire more of a welcome source of warm and less like a rampaging threat. We slept out like kids, our sleeping mats in the sand making indentations. We stayed up late watching the Perseid meteor shower, spying a particularly amazing meteor, which looked like a flaming, crashing spaceship. It felt perfectly normal to wear my clothes and shoes, socks too, into the river to cool off, knowing everything would dry on my person by dinner.

We hiked in an obscene amount of gear in the name of “Fun”. Since the camp spot is only a couple miles in, it is worth it to bring two coolers, books, journals, the “big tent”, floaties, binoculars, 3 bags of chips, the two burner Coleman camp stove and a ukulele! My mother would probably call this march the “Grapes of Wrath” syndrome. It is also worth it to set up a gigantic tent one has no intention of sleeping in if one can help it–as the weather is too good to be inside in any capacity, “just in case”. The summer is slowly waning… Have fun! And without haste!

Billy here. There are few things I love more than sitting by the rapids perched on top of a certain boulder at Alder Flat. The water melts off the glacier, so much water, and froths over rocks. I like to watch a certain part of the water flow down, hit a rough patch and swirl or broil, then flow further down. The more I watch flowing water, the more I feel that things start to unravel and make sense at the same time. The muscles loosen and the smell of the air gets through to the blood. Everything seems to be found in how the water flows. It is always different water flowing and making the same forms depending on the rocks around it. It gets caught in the pattern of its environment. Some water shoots up, some goes around and some gets caught in an eddy near the shore for a while. It all gets back to the ocean eventually, even if it evaporates and rains down somewhere else. It could take one drop a million years to take another’s path.

Drawing labyrinths in the sand – there is something shimmery about the labyrinth – an optical illusion masks the seed of something integral to life itself. To tell a good story is to organize the experience of life – in a way that weaves the heart and mind together in a unified whole. The lines of the labyrinth shimmer like the grooves of a record. They have recorded a song. What does the song sound like?

What rhymes with San Juan?

Sunset behind the Cabin

San Juan Island etc 120

San Juan Island etc 121

Spence here: Our tour started with a stop in Edmonds, Washington. Our good friends bought a house and had a baby in the course of a few months last year and I regret we have not been able to visit until last week. It was wonderful catching up–they even fought the yawns, staying awake late to chat, sacrificing precious new parent sleep time. I was very humbled by their love and dedication, and overwhelming hospitality despite a tough work and newborn baby schedule.

We took the car ferry from Anacortes, Washington to Friday Harbor on the San Juan Island. I love a ferry! (That should be a t-shirt!) There are several smaller islands among the chain, but our friends’ lovely cabin was to be our destination. “We’ll have to come back here!” Everything you see in the pictures is as lovely as it looks. Moss covers the rocks, inland, among the trees and little footpaths. Rocks house cute insects and closer to the shore, clams, mussels and oysters. Gulls, grebes, cormorants, eagles and osprey (with babies!) greeted us daily. My eyes were partying through binoculars every eve. Barnacles add texture to everything in the sea, and the people add a flavor too. I could write many sonnets about the island and the generosity of our hosts, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll just say it was everything I thought it could be. Sunny, breezy and full of the smell of the sea.

We had a picnic lunch with smoked salmon and home brew, overlooking a small fleet of pleasure-cruisers. We had dinner at Roche harbor–pizza and beers–while waiting for the full moon to rise over an invigorating, captivating local outdoor version of the Shakespeare play, Cymbeline. We walked along coastal hills, a lighthouse and historical placards and saw orca whales, otters, seals and fish flying up out of the water. Picturesque sailboats splashed by in the foreground of snowy Olympic mountains. Were we dreaming? No. We hiked up a mountain and tried to keep up with our playmates who are over 30 years older than us, and who pretty much smoked us! We toured a sculpture garden and caught up on the news of our joint New Mexico friends. We even took a nap at a mausoleum! Bedded down in the grass like deer, in the shade of curving madronas, we were hidden from other photographers and visitors. I stood in the middle of the broken column and felt a portal–I’m still not sure if I went anywhere–it is to be determined. We had a beer on the ferry on the way back and really expensive sandwiches! Did I mention it was sunny and 80 degrees with a slight off-shore breeze everyday? Seriously, who has this life? Thank you dear ones for an amazing trip. I look forward to the end of August, when it is possible we may see our friends again and return the favors. Love.

Billy here. What can I add to what Spence has said about our wonderful trip? He really has said it so beautifully.

Except I will add one anecdote. When we were seated at the chairs over the ashes of the dead in the center of the strange Masonic mausoleum, our hilarious hosts began to chant as if in a seance: “Ohwa! Tagoo! Seim!” Faster and faster they chanted it while Spence and I looked at one another with morbid wonder, until it became apparent that what they were saying was: “Oh what a goose I am!” We all fell into laughter, because they really had us going for a minute that they were going to channel some spirits!