The Weeks in Pictures

Spence here:  “I was looking for a job and then I found a job…and heaven knows I’m miserable now.”

…The immortal words of our generation from The Smiths–I may have been known to repeat them a time or two. After landing in Ashland for a little over a week, I acquired a job at the Ashland Food Coop. At first, as per usual, I was excited to find something so soon and considered myself lucky. Although, Billy and I were still in Ashland seemingly on a trial basis, what better way to sink in one’s teeth than to try and connect with the community and make a little cash while I’m at it. The first few days were hectic at the job–people were nice but it is a very large grocery store–a size of coop I’m not used to. It was extremely busy and crowded–good for an economic standpoint, but usually not very good for workers. Long story short, I hurt my wrist trying to keep up and by the end of the fourth day I was toast. That night, I joined Billy for some libations at our friend’s place and I had a meltdown. My health was not worth this job.

Fast forward a couple weeks and my wrist has still been giving me trouble, although its definitely on the mend. We spent a glorious week up at Wildcat Campground, on Hyatt Lake, located in the newly created Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, east of Ashland. Summer temperatures have reached over the 100s in the valley, and Billy and I were happy to stay in one place in the cool of the mountain forest, to discuss our options–while swimming, hiking and reading. What a nice life! (I realized I had missed the smells and sounds and warm water temperatures of a nice inland lake–similar to the lakes in my youth.) We talked about still driving to New Mexico, but ultimately I felt like it was a big risk to take with an old jeep on our hands. So Billy took the opportunity for a time-out to go to Texas on the train instead to visit family, while I took a time-out and stayed on, exploring more of the monument. I continued wandering back roads, day-hiking many miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs through the area, and tried to regroup. While the dry mountain air and breath-taking mixed forests, diversity of wildlife and trail access have certainly drawn me into the area, the human community aspect of this place is just not there for us. Not that people aren’t nice and all–for they most certainly are welcoming–Ashland just seems to have a gap in the kind of art, music, weirdo and queerdo contingent we’re looking for. It seems as if there was more of an anchor here–a fun job, or school classes Billy was more interested in and/or cultural art/queer community–or if it was at least cheaper to live here–which it definitely isn’t–we would be more likely to stick around. Ashland is great, but maybe it is not great for us. Time to break up… it’s not Ashland, its us.

After the magnanimousness of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse has surpassed, it is onto a new horizon. Many of the classes at the University of Oregon in Eugene, still stir Billy to giddy moments of spontaneous dance, so perhaps we’ll seek our treasures there. More interesting jobs, a more livable wage and price of rent, more opportunity and still wonderful waterways and mountains to explore. I am excited this weekend, however, to shift my attention to witness this solar eclipse and just enjoy the love and company of Billy and some friends. Our time apart while Billy was in Texas, although brief, deepened and reaffirmed so many more of my feelings for him and the strength of our relationship. I struggled with the decision to not go with, and it was the first time I have felt lonely in almost a decade. But it is good sometimes, to have such feelings and know my heart is in the right place, at the right time, with the right person–and everything else is sure to follow that lead. Billy’s post coming soon…

Midsummer’s Creatures

 

2017 iPhone pictures 139

Billy here: We’ve been living in the state forest in our Jeep for about three months now, during which time I finished my last term at Portland Community College and earned an associate degree. Going to school and living in the car was challenging at times, as when I needed to finish an art project for exhibition or finish online assignments. But mostly it was amazing to have resources on campus, such as a gym, non-gender single showers, a library, computer labs, and even digital pianos. I feel grateful for the opportunity to attend this great school, which, in addition to employing caring and motivated teachers, is a sanctuary campus for immigrants, hosts its own farmer’s stand, and is active in creating safe spaces for gender nonconforming folk, among many other things. Without grants and scholarships, this opportunity would not have been possible for me (anyone interested in my final art projects can see them here).

Spence started a job in Manzanita on the coast six weeks ago, which has been a kind of weekend home base since. The same weekend he started the job, he exhibited art in a Trash Art Show fundraiser for the non-profit CARTM, a fantastic organization that operates out of the dump and recycling station to re-purpose materials for art and raise awareness about waste and consumption. His beautiful pieces (and amazing salvage lumber-strap tie) can be seen here. The folks here are lovely and welcoming, so much that I nearly got a job at my favorite coffee shop and feel like I have known the local weirdos forever. But, ultimately, we don’t want to settle on the coast, so after a stint down south to visit friends and family in New Mexico and Austin, we are off to find the land where we want to put down roots and cultivate food, art, and music. I am taking, at the very least, a semester off from school, to recharge, decide where I want to finish my bachelors, and find a more permanent home base.

I won’t romanticize living the Jeep. There are times when I just want to find the bird guide and it’s under my clothing bag, under the seat, the last place I’d look. There are times when I just want to go to bed instead of rearranging the whole car to sleep. There are times when I just needed to submit a school assignment and all the small town cafes were closed. There are times when I just want to make dinner completely from scratch, but don’t have access to a full kitchen and oven. There are times when I feel genuine fear that the young, swearing drunks, whom just started a bonfire down the road and are gunning three large pickups, are going to mess with the two queers in the woods with no phone signal.  There are times I would just rather not drive anymore.

But overall, the experience has enabled us to be outdoors most of our days in the forest. We wake up to the trills of hermit thrushes and go to sleep to the hoots of barred owls. We see the different microclimates of each slope where we camp: where the salmonberries and thimbleberries fruit first, where the foxgloves bloom, where the bells of the salal are draping, where the dry “piney” mountain scent is on the air, and where the biting gnats like to feast on bare ankles and hands! Nowhere is the siren of the law or the beeping of the garbage truck! Only logging trucks, trash, bullet shells, and the throng of recreationers, waterlogged from this year’s oppressive winter, remind us of the presence of humans. One of our favorite camp spots, however, affords us so much solitude that we felt quite comfortable taking solar showers naked in the open with water from the creek. The sun, thrushes, and sparrows wake us every morning. Nighthawks and eagles soar and dive overhead. Elk and deer graze nearby and newts and frogs hide in the riparian pools and crooks of skunk cabbage.

The night of the summer solstice, we heard the raspy, rising whistle of a strange bird, a sound we had heard only once before at Alsea Falls. Spence diligently chased the sound as I watched the fire and came running back to tell me he spotted the source: two small, fluffy, white owls with dark eyes! As he rummaged for the bird guide (rargh!), I saw a third owl deliver a chipmunk to each of them and they began to devour the chipmunks, ripping them with their beaks! They bobbed around, making circles with their heads, and jerking the little rodents apart. We had never seen such a thing! Spence did research later and learned they were juvenile barred owls. We settled next to the fire, glowing with our good fortune, and silence settled around us. Suddenly, to the north of the road (where we nearly camped), a sound arose like Black Cats exploding, then a sound like a large truck peeling up the gravel, then several great wooden cracks, followed by the crushing of branches and shrubs. Then silence. A tree had fallen in the forest of its own accord. We were finally around to hear it! Later that night we heard the adult barred owls hunting, hooting, and screaming like monkeys above us. What a midsummer’s night!

Spence here: Just as I could start to smell the dank, moldy basement essence emanating from my shoes, the sun came out and saved us all in the Pacific Northwest. Let’s celebrate! I want to first congratulate Billy on getting his Associate’s Degree. It is an important chapter in his life that he humbly has worked very, very hard for. I am so proud of him. In June there was also my birthday, which sheepishly I usually spread out through much of June. This included a celebration in the big city, following up a celebration in a small city. I always wanted to stay in the hotel/hostel that is The Norblad, in Astoria and we really had a shockingly royal time, complete with fuzzy white robes. More important than all of that has been the amazing wild life we have seen in the past 48 hours–juvenile barred owls, (hear their call here!), frogs resting on skunk cabbage leaves, bald eagles flying over highway 205, and the Clackamas River alike, a tree cracking and falling of its our accord in the middle of somewhere (I am glad we weren’t camped on that ridge), as well as fish jumping, bats, sphinx moths that look like humming birds, actual humming birds… More over, another event involving a group of diverse friends was our newest little friend and his “Blessing Way” celebration–not quite a baby shower, as the intent is much more significant. It is a ceremony linking our friends with this new life and welcoming him in this circle of connection and love. I am feeling very thankful to be reminded we all have this web of support and how lucky we all are. P.S. We drove on the beach for the first time on the northern coast of Oregon and it was fun, but strange. I only saw one person actually walking there but many many trucks.

 

 

 

Life’s Next Assignment

We were not seeking to escape. On the contrary, we wanted to find a way in which we could put more into life and get more out of it. We were not shirking obligations but looking for an opportunity to take on more worthwhile responsibilities. The chance to help, improve and rebuild was more than an opportunity. As citizens, we regarded it as an assignment.” –Helen and Scott Nearing from their 1954 book Living the Good Life

Spence here: Back on the road; as Billy and I decided to move out of our rented house in Portland and live in the national forest. Our reasons were noble enough: save money on rent, be able to go to school in the spring without much to tie us down, get outside more after a long and cold, wet winter, be healthier and more mindful about food, drink and exercise, seek out a different way to live. We have gained insight over the course of the first month: the presence of mind when one has to deal with immediate concerns, such as food, water and shelter. We have been having amazing conversations, dreams, visions and ideas about what life can look like, where to go after this: what is working and what is not.

Mostly, we have been spending time on the coast, or at school. All of our needs are met between these two ranges and I think I am healthier because of it. I admit, the rain and uncertainty were really stressing me out at first. We had to figure out our systems and road rhythms. Perhaps also, it was the plethora of mishaps in the beginning which soured my mood; such as my 20 year old coleman stove finally breaking, mice in the jeep, a cracked radiator, a jeep flat tire, logging truck headlights at 3:45 a.m… or it could be just good old life transitions, which I look forward to but also struggle with. A big question was where to camp? We started by staying in some of the ‘family’ campgrounds for around $20 a night, but quickly realized this would not be much of a savings, not to mention fulfilling more of the ‘wild’ experience we were craving. Over the last few weeks we have found some really great free dispersed camping spots in the national forests. This, and a break in the weather have really lifted our spirits.

I had a dream last night where I visited an intentional community, living high in the mountains. I climbed the rocks to enter and the rocks became sculptures and furniture. Everything was oversized and made of old varnished picnic-table wood. The ceiling was a circus tent. The people who welcomed me had on stage make-up, and were literally two-dimensional. There were other people there however, who were three-dimensional called “myss” (pronounced sim-misses), who were transgender and fluid. They were open, spiritual dream leaders. Only when I accepted and revealed my whole self in the dream, did I also become “myss”, have magic powers and fly. Only then, did the community become 3-D as well. I need to remember in order to find “home” I have to be open and optimistic and arrive with my whole self. Additionally, I can no longer carry around the suitcase of preconceived judgements about people I haven’t even met yet.

Things about the road life are often very interesting and funny, although not always ideal. The driving, for one. However, I am optimistic this journey will lead us to a discovery we would not have come upon otherwise. For now, I love going to sleep with the peeking crescent moon, rain on the tarp and elk curiously stomping around in the dark . Waking with the sound of the first bird, clouds in the trees and my snuggling accomplice.

P.S. Praise to our friend and former housemate who also hit the road in April for an intense 2-5 year walk across the country. And to our friends everywhere who are steeped in grand adventures this spring. Cheers.

Billy here: It’s been a while! School has kept me occupied, sometimes more than I’d like. I’ll be finishing my Associates of Science from Portland Community College in June. It will be good to have a break. I’ll admit it’s been a tough season. The winter was bitterly wet and cold, I lost a dear friend, and I became increasingly disillusioned with the insulation of city life. School has kept my mind busy and it needs a good unraveling! It became clear we needed to untangle our hearts and minds before we could see where it is we are going.

Taking off a layer of insulation by moving into the jeep was the first step. It’s not perfect: we’re using gas to get places and propane to cook. We are aware of exactly how much we use, however. We hear the sounds of trees falling and chainsaws buzzing when we camp near timber sale areas. The Tillamook Forest is feeding Portland’s new condos. Whether we live in a house or a car, the resources are coming from somewhere. I took to heart what a Torres Strait Islander once said: “Understand what you have got on the plate in front of you, and your roof over your head, where it comes from, how it got there and what it took to get there.” I don’t think there is such a thing as opting out. We are all on a journey with the land and it’s up to us whether or not we go along with it. I believe that the Universe is alive and moral, that everything is related and space and time determine the nature and meaning of relationships. If I am sped up in an environment full of human making, I feel disconnected. The disconnect created a gap in my consciousness somewhere and I’ll admit it has manifested in depression over the last couple of years.

So here we are, trying to figure out how to be alive and connected, not knowing exactly where to start. I reject the patriarchal systems of domination that Europeans  spread, so I’ll also admit I feel like a cultural orphan. But when I drink spruce tip tea under the tarp and the drooping hemlocks, I have a feeling we are the ones who orphaned the land. I believe that life asks us for meaning, not the other way around. We must respond by being responsible to our conscience and our creativity that the Universe gave to us, in order to unfold. I think that is what is meant by being fruitful. The whole land blossoms. How can we live like that?

 

A Year’s Turning on the Oregon Coast

Spence here: {Billy is taking another hiatus from posting, as he is swimming through mid-terms in school.} Over the holidays, my sister sent us some remarkably accurate, thoughtful gifts! Among them is an amazingly raw and beautiful and tragic and fun and under and overwhelming piece of poetry in the form of a book by Michael J. Wilson, called A Child of Storm. What follows is a pipette of the poem “Study (Three Seasons”:

The nervous system is the figure of a tree

feathered and dropping then rebuilding itself

January is a purple bruise–the coldest month–a diamond mistaken for ice

You were pale and falling into a hole that you were filling up…

January is a full stop

a wrap everything up and hold it–hold it–hold it month

A moment of hardening–sap freezing into copper holding–

all that energy holding–wait–wait–wait–

That great release of spring–

We escaped town and went to the Oregon Coast to witness solstice and the great dark times of winter. We were rewarded with two days of full sunshine. A brisk, slanted breeze held us up on the beach, but back at the ‘warming hut’ (our rented yurt) we slept on bunk beds (I got the top one!) with the heater blasting and made epic egg-in-a-hole-in-the-breads, one after another. On our last afternoon, parked at an overlook called Roads End, we finally stopped our fidgeting and succumbed to a glorious, sleepy, hazy dream–we napped sitting up in the seats of our jeep, with the sun pouring in and a view of undulating 6-8 foot waves spread out before us. Hunger woke us up a bit and we ventured further down the beach to Neskowin to watch Venus and the Knife of Time rise over Proposal Rock.

As the snow came down back in Portland in buckets, we ran through Billy’s 2016 journal of days and hysterically cackled at our fortunate lives and our unfortunate, ridiculous, insulting whining. Because what?! We really have it too good to be true.

Giving Thanks to the River

Spence here: (Billy is taking a writing hiatus, while he finishes up another semester of school!) In two weeks time we visited Cottonwood Canyon on the John Day River, (outside of Condon, Oregon) 2 times. Overall I think that makes at least 6 trips to the canyon for 2016. Like the Oregon version of New Mexico, we go there for big open sky and the dry, colorful peace. For the super full moon in November, we took a quick overnight trip, arriving at the campground at dark… time enough to have a soup snack and a home brew and settle down in our nylon cave. It was mild weather and the clouds parted for us to catch an amazing glimpse of the Moon, of which I put so many thoughts and feelings into. We were back in town for work the next day, tired, but on another level, rejuvenated.

The next trip was Thanksgiving time. Although Billy and I were worried about the cold, we found the weather to be rather accommodating, not so windy and fairly dry and sunny. We spent time walking, reflecting, talking about our goals for the coming year, and in general, gulping deep breaths. I laid down in a mostly dry riverbed, (the John Day had been very low at that point from a long dry Autumn), and looked up at the  grey, patchy sky for what felt like weeks. We discovered secret, silent groves of Pinon pine, walls of asteroid-looking rocks and a couple of new insect and plant friends. Thanksgiving is such a strange time, as I am torn between celebrating and being thankful for my family and my luck and the love and health in my life, yet mourning for all that humanity has created and destroyed and waged. I don’t buy the whole pilgrim-indian feast thing anymore, and instead have had to come to terms with this holiday in my own way. Much like Christmas, I get a little depressed at the ways in which our species has acted, but because I have so much to be thankful for, it seems a bit daft to be solemn. At least being outside and close to the ground and surrounded by natural things helps me to piece it together. It can never be one thing… it is always many things. It is always many many conflicting, simultaneous wonderful horrible things. It is how things go. The water flows, and I go with it or against it. Thank you to everyone in my life who has shown kindness–to me–but more importantly to everything and every being I care about. May we be able to drink right out of all the rivers again in this lifetime!

Five Mile Butte Fire Tower

Spence here: Its been a peculiar summer in the Pacific Northwest. At times it still feels like Spring, with Fall soon to follow, nipping at our heels. One or two days of 90 degree weather in June, has been closely followed by cloudiness, 65 degree days, fog and wind the rest of the time. The mountains have magnified this pattern, and although we had good weather for most of our trip on Mt Hood, the rain and cold threatened at many turns. In the sun, when it shone, and out of the wind, I felt my body warming as I laid in the wild flower fields surrounding the fire tower we rented for a few days. But in late afternoon, the breeze would shift, become chilly, and the view from the tower too awesome to resist. Billy and I would retreat to the glass-enclosed tower, which felt like a boat in the sky. It would sway a bit with the whipping wind and creak like an old knee. The Five Mile Butte Fire Tower is built 40 feet up off the ground. Its current incarnation was built in 1947, but there has been a tower there since 1920. The area is popular for mountain-biking, but the hiking is just as spectacular. I was thrilled to finally stay in a tower, equally as cool as sleeping in a lighthouse, which is also on my list of fun. This tower had a solar panel, so we had an overhead light for the night time. It also had a nice propane stove with an oven. I could see how snow-shoeing in and staying over during winter would be cozy and quiet. There is a wonderful old wood stove and a huge shed stocked with firewood. We had to pack in our own water, and on day 3 we decided to hike down to 8 Mile Creek and filter water to bring back up. We probably had enough but it seemed like a great hike and a way to explore Five Mile Butte.

We had a few days before our reservation at the tower and a few days after, so we took the opportunity to explore more of the southeast side of the mountain. Our first night, on recommendations from friends we drove down highway 42 toward Boulder Lake. It being the 4th of July weekend, we decided to backpack in to avoid some crowds. We ended up going around Boulder lake, past Little Boulder Lake and camping at Bonnie Meadows. We were the sole humans there camped by an amazing little creek filled with fish. We spent a wonderful afternoon, eating snacks and laying in the dirt in the bright sunshine. It eventually turned very cold, even too cold for the mosquitoes, so a roaring fire kept us up past 9pm. We bush-wacked a little bit to find a neat trail back the next day, circumnavigating the area. We day-hiked some trails with magnificent waterfalls and had many second breakfasts and second lunches.

After our fire-tower adventure, the weather turned. We decided we needed some time to think about what to do next, so we headed into Hood River to contemplate life at Pfreim… our favorite craft brewery! Heading back to the mountain, we stopped to hike up Cooper Spur. We drove a crazy dirt road 20 miles up to Cloud Cap Saddle and even though rain was intermittent, hiked up a glacial ridge to see the mountain personally. The rains really came down soon after getting back to the jeep, so we drove some more to find a secluded spot in the woods to spend the night. We cleared the back of the jeep and decided to sleep in it. Even though it was a little cramped, the temperature inside the jeep was so inviting… wine, snacks, good books and deer tv out of the windows. We fell asleep listening to all the creatures and the dripping dropping. When day light came again, we decided we still hadn’t had enough fun, so we drove to Lookout Mountain and climbed to the top during a foggy, cloudy, rainy late morning. I suppose one would want to climb that mountain when one could see a view, but I would say it was still very magical, at times peaceful and simultaneously electrically spectacular. Glimpses of Mt Hood felt especially well-timed and powerful as clouds eerily flowed over us and into us. What a way to spend an anniversary with the most magical creature I have ever known.

E-Lapse

Spence here: Hello once again from Couple-o-huckleberries-land. Transpiration has occurred, and like old friends, it always feels good to meet again. We have been busy the last year with changing jobs, school, urban and wild adventures, art shows and relocation to Southeast Portland. Celebration!

I have been occupied, becoming a bike mechanic and have found another great shop to learn and work. I find myself throughout the day replaying Lloyd Dabbler quotes, “…yeah, they actually pay me for this.” I come home filthy and it’s pretty fun. My new commute is by bike 16 miles round trip right on the Willamette River and is good for my disposition.  In the interim, Billy and have both had solo art shows and one fantastic farewell to the tiny houses art majickal show. I feel humbled and thrilled to have showcased my art at Miss Zumstein’s… see this link to my art page: LifeofSpence Artword.

Leaving the tiny houses was a very difficult decision. The love and care put into the building and creating still stand however, for others to admire and hopefully find inspiration in small spaces. In our new house we are able to spread out a bit, spend all day in the kitchen cooking up savory delights and beer, and living with all our instruments under one roof. I spent an hour in the bath tub the other day and it was all I thought it could be.

A few choice adventures have included bike trips to the Columbia, the Sandy River, the Clackamas River, hiking Powell Butte, visiting downtown during the height of the blossoms, and coastal exploration. We’ve been finding excellent free camping a long the Wilson River, the Nehalem River and Mt. Hood. We have recommitted to blogging on a somewhat consistent basis once again, so check back when you can for more photo ops and adventure stories! As always, thank you so much for reading… see Billy’s post below and enjoy our site revamp!

Farewell Tiny House Art Show:

 

Urban adventures:

Billy here. My first real year of college has been truly inspiring and I have had the pleasure of working with some exceptional instructors at Portland Community College. I was proud of PCC for creating a controversy by hosting the White History month this April for all to learn about the history of white privilege and systems of oppression in response to current events. School has been consuming my thoughts and energy and it has been absolutely enriching and engaging. From drawing to forest ecology, I have learned a lot this last year and am excited to continue this academic adventure. I have only been out of school a month and I am already ready to start again! But I am also excited to see what the next couple of months of summer will bring. Spence and I have been playing music and I am picking up the electric guitar again. Next year’s moon calendar is on the drawing board. We bottled our first batch of summer brew: cherry cider made from urban foraged organic cherries. We have some nice hikes on the docket and perhaps another big road trip.  Stay tuned!

Here are some links and pictures of a sampling of art I did in school this last year with my inspiring art instructor Sasha Miljevich:

Final 3-D Design Project

Final Drawing I Project video on YouTube

A Tale of Two Trips to the Coast

View From Cape Meares

This is a tale of two trips to the coast…

Spencer here: The first set of pictures chronicles some of the adventures my sister and her partner and I had a few weeks ago. It was a grand time. In my journal, a stream of consciousness two pages long still didn’t encompass all the things we managed to see and do while they were here. I just hope they had as good of a time as I did!

A few highlights… We hiked out one morning to Warrior Rock Lighthouse at the end of Sauvie Island. I hadn’t done this pleasant stroll before and now I want to take Billy there. It is mostly through river area, Alder trees and farmland, and at the time smelled very sweet. The leaves were golden yellow and bright orange–a pretty good Fall showing for the Pacific Northwest, to two visitors from the Midwest, which I think boasts some of the most magnificent tree colors rivaling New England! In any event, we also managed to eek out a trip to the coast. Ryan was in the mood for pancakes, and we found some at the end of Lincoln City. Awesome! We made our way to the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport. What a fantastic find. The hotel is very strange, although could have been more strange. We had the ‘Ken Kesey’ room, (the famed author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). All the rooms were named and decorated as such, after famous literary figures. I was tempted to stay in the Oscar Wilde room. Maybe next time. We toured lighthouses, the bay, the beach, Rogue Brewery–where we became honorary ‘Rogue Citizens’–an awkward, but festive affair ending with a dollar off each beer and a ridiculous ID card. We wandered over to an Irish Pub and then landed at a local spot called ‘The Sand Bar’. We met a wayward traveler, (a ‘drifter’ as Ryan liked to call him), named Tyrone. When I told Tyrone I had a hamster once named Tyrone he didn’t flinch. We played some pool and tried to keep up with his stories as they jumped around more than steel head in Tillamook Bay. Where was he from? It was hard to tell, but he spent time in Hawaii, the Midwest, maybe Florida and had a house in Newport. He said he came to Oregon originally to surf, as he heard there weren’t any sharks. Well, that was the year a guy got his board bitten in half, with an arm attached. “There are sharks”, I said, “but you’re more likely to get hit by a bus.” This didn’t persuade him. I almost took Ryan and Al surfing. The weather was good–a little chilly–but its the Oregon Coast–its always a little chilly. I showed them Otter Rock, where Billy and I love to surf. Next time. We had more IPAs to find. Among the catching up, we did manage to squeeze in a quintessential Portland thing–riding bikes, bar hopping to local micro-brews. I love how my sister and Ryan are up for anything!

Next up: Billy and I at a secret locale… Since Billy has been super busy with school and work, he missed the epic trip to Newport. Thus, we took our own trip to the coast, near Manzanita, and we camped out a night to give him a bit of a ‘vacation’. Contrary to what it seems, Billy did not study on this trip! We got to our secret camp spot late, leaving Portland after class and were sad to discover one of our secret camp spots was taped off. It was dark and we were running out of gas, so we decided not to investigate. We found a gas station instead and continued on to our backup spot. All worked out in the end. In the morning, we hiked around on the beach at Oceanside, munching a lovely hot mid-day meal in the sunny parking lot like a tailgate party–complete with beer, wine and coffee! We then decided to head to Cape Meares lighthouse. We saw the ‘Octopus’ tree, I was caught being a tourist, and then we found an amazing little path to a secret cove. I stopped the jeep and looked down the rocks–spotting basically a dark hole in the bushes and I sniffed out the trail. Turns out it was a locally known spot–the trail itself kept up by volunteers and lovers. There were many crab shell, rock, driftwood, chalk drawing shrines and a strange human-made waterfall/drainage. Anyway, it was a good sunny spot, in which we stayed and relaxed in lawn chairs until dark.

The Folding of Wings

Fresh Tiny Houses!

Billy here. We just watched the swifts fly down into a neighbor’s chimney at dusk. They all moved like a sea creature and finally swirled quickly, folding their wings and fluttering in like crumbling paper. Every year before the fall equinox the swifts fly through, nesting in old chimneys. Every year I can hardly believe it’s fall again, but sure enough, the heat of August burns off and the mornings turn cool and dewy.

We finished painting our tiny homes before fall, one of our goals for the year. In the picture you can also see Spence’s artful salvage shingles. It’s been a really nice summer with lots of time for art, finishing up our little homes, settling into our new jobs, and some nice backpacking adventures. Now is the next adventure for me: going back to college! Thus we are officially on the off-season publishing schedule of the blog: every other week or so instead of every Sunday. My first day of school is Monday and my brain is on overdrive, keeping me from sleeping.

The best cure for an overactive brain is some quiet river time. So, knowing that school, work, and art deadlines will keep us occupied practically until next summer, we decided to head to a new river spot on the North Fork of the Wilson. We packed lots of snacks, homebrew, and journals. There are plenty of forest roads to explore near the Forest Center, and the 22.6 mile Wilson River Trail is lovely, though we only hiked a small portion of it.

While out on the river, I wrote down some details of the setting of a graphic novel I am planning on writing. I tried to let my mind unfurl and catch the wind. Ursula K. Le Guin wrote a poem in her novel Always Coming Home that says what the wild river says better than I can:

Listen, you people of the Adobes, you people of the Obsidian!

Listen, you gardeners and farmers , orcharders and vintners,

shepherds and drovers!

Your arts are admirable and generous, arts of plenty and

increase, and they are dangerous.

Among the tasselled corn the man says, this is my plowing

and sowing, this is my land.

Among the grazing sheep the woman says, these are my

breeding and caring, these are my sheep.

In the furrow the seed sprouts hunger,

In the fenced pasture the cow calves fear.

the granary is heaped full with poverty.

The foal of the bridled mare is anger.

The fruit of the olive is war.

Take care, you Adobe people, you Obsidian people, and come

over onto the wild side,

don’t stay all the time on the farming side; it is dangerous to live there.

Come among the unsown grasses bearing richly, the oaks

heavy with acorns, the sweet roots in

unplowed earth.

Come among the deer on the hill, the fish in the river, the quail in the meadows.

You can take them, you can eat them,

like you they are food.

They are with you, not for you.

Who are their owners?

This is the puma’s range,

this hill is the vixen’s,

this is the owl’s tree,

this is the mouse’s run,

this is the minnow’s pool:

it is all one place.

Come take your place.

No fences here, but sanctions.

No wars here, but dying; there is dying here.

Come hunt, it is yourself you hunt.

Come gather yourself from the grass, the branch, the earth.

Walk here, sleep well, on the ground that is not yours, but is

yourself.

-Ursula K. Le Guin

Spence here.  As the blue light fades from this day, the whish of Swifts subtly suspends in the breeze. Earlier, I was lamenting the sounds of industry, neighborhood power tools, jet planes and sirens near our northeast Portland conglomeration of shacks… I am still trying to tune those sounds out and tune in the crickets. It is a difficult balance, but one that probes me as much as it irritates me.

Recently, Billy and I visited a river I have not been to in awhile, the Wilson River, en route to Tillamook, Oregon, along the tracks of the Tillamook State Forest. We ventured down a dirt road I have only glanced down; to a little area known to OHVers called Diamond Mill. The day we went was an overcast weekday and this seemed to thwart most 4-wheelin’ atv-having moto-crossin’ folk. Peace was ours at the tributary, the North Fork of the Wilson River, for a short while. Of course the engines came later, but the people were very nice and it was time for dinner anyway. The day was spent journaling, brainstorming, unwinding and exploring. I brought my fishing gear, but the rivers are very low right now. While there is probably fish to be had somewhere, it seemed the wrong time for these rivers. Fishing, anyway, is kind of an excuse for me to go sit by a river, any river really, and take deep breaths, so I really didn’t mind the lack of an actual event.

I’ve found this week to be most inspiring. The cooler air, smell of cut grass and football fields make me feel home again. After finishing painting the cabana and music studio, (which is a big project I am glad to have done before winter rain) we started things off by taking long walks, playing Frisbee and going to the river. I went running, (physicality always conjures up more ideas for new artwork for me) and since then have been investigating the building of my latest sculpture/shadowbox. We then watched a series of black and white films by Jean Cocteau, one of Billy’s favorite directors. We attended a visual art reception for the show entitled “Dark Matter”. I found several paintings in the gallery to be very accessible, encouraging and within my capabilities. The difference between me, Billy and these artists in the show is only their contacts and nerve. Our talent and craft is on par with much we have seen lately, and this is not a knock on those participating artists, but a motivating foot forward for me personally, in the “I can do that!” department. Back to back, we attended another art opening, different in that the show focused on the street art of children from the refugee camps of Syria and Gaza, but none-the-less inspiring. Always, these events give me insight and gratitude for what I have and the choices I am empowered to make in my life.

I am excited to work on the pieces for my personal art show in February, but all these events are just great excuses to continue being creative. One of the things I have been struggling with this week is to bridge all the ideas I have for my show into a comprehensive concept. I should look no further than life itself as a whole. The simple bridge we sat under to read and watch the wildlife this week by the river, to the Swifts in the evening, to the shiny lights of the stars and the art galleries, to all the inhabitants surviving in the harsh climates of war and desert—being creative is a skill we cannot afford to demean, lose or squander.

Alpine Lakes Wilderness: The Enchantments

Spence here: On the last day of our hike through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, descending 5,000 feet in elevation to the trail head, I felt pensive. The golden hours were filled with walking, snacking, chatting with new friends, and picture gathering, as a vivid Autumn day passed. The sun had not been so hot and bright since we first headed out, 3 days before. Saying goodbye to the plants and animals and thinking about the busy city life ahead slowed my hiking pace to a crawl. Every hike softens me and I am not eager near the end to get “back”–even though rich food awaits my belly in town! The wilderness teaches me, as it has always done. I learned about Larch trees up at the high elevations, (a Conifer which changes color and loses leaves in winter). I learned about the Mountain Goats, which happily walked through our camp twice a day, curious and unafraid of us, to get to the marsh, where an abundance of snake grass awaited. I watched as the mist rolled off the peaks of the Enchantments, down the cliffs, across freezing pools, onto my skin, making my hair feel coarse. Climbing high on rough slopes, I had the sensation of thinking of nothing else, but the movement of my legs, the coordination of my hands and the weight of my pack. I felt so grateful for the positive performance of my knees and back, after worrying the trip would be too much up and down. After also worrying too much about the rain, the cold, the smoke, and coordinating all the friends–to be hiking and existing up there with focus, and with joy was a great lesson. Things can be simple if I let them.

Everyone deliberated much about going on the trip–checking forest fire risk and air quality reports on the hour. For most, the four days of welcomed retreat were a sacrifice. Kids and partners left at home, time taken away from work and overall “adult” responsibilities abandoned. I can say that it was surely worth it–the whole experience–from the drive to our friends’ house, to the rugged miles of “up”, to the craggily peaks, cold evenings, and amazing new friends, to the bad rest area free coffee! Thank you to Cory and Julie, and baby Adelaide, again, for your amazing generosity and hospitality. I think one of the best parts of the trip was getting to spend more time with them.

The seasons have changed. I felt the transition as we were leaving Portland, but in the mountains, things had already morphed. Little pockets of sun burnt umbers and siennas mixed with yellow branches and cold mornings. Leaves whisked down the path, as the wind had a noticeable bite. In the town of Leavenworth, Washington, where the trail head is located for the Snow Lakes zone, deciduous trees had changed and outdoor patios had a festive glow.  The town is surprisingly authentically German Bavaria. Windows spilled over with flowers and picturesque scenes were painted on the buildings and above doorways. We ate at the sausage shack (they even had veggie snausages!) before and after the hike, partaking in homemade sauerkraut and a flowerful bier garden! We just missed the open hours of the authentic German bakery, but managed to hit up another fun sweet haus, filled with gigantic gingerbread cookies. Billy and I, as usual, imagined living there in our self-built strawbale house on the outskirts of town, smelling the high alpine air for the rest of our days. It could happen!

Billy here. When we got to our friends’ house north of Seattle, their power was still out from a storm that had blown through, knocking down limbs and power for miles through Washington. When we left for the trail head the next day, there was still no power and rain pelted us the whole way. The young ranger at the trail head asked us if we knew about the weather and we stopped in our tracks, even audibly letting out ignorance. He told us that backpackers last night experienced torrents of rain, even a little snow, and 60 mile an hour winds. We all seemed to feel undaunted by this unanimously, as the weather seemed to be lightening. Spence and I were so excited to be backpacking that we practically power walked up the first half of the way to Nada Lake, a somewhat grueling climb of nearly 4,000 feet. The wind whistled through the trees in certain bends of the switchbacks and an osprey curiously eyed us from across the creek. Snow Creek fell down out of the mountains near us in a jade and turquoise rush.

Thought by thought, I was stripped of the worries my mind spins incessantly. Little one year old Addie had helped. Playing with her that morning before leaving almost instantly turned me giggly and mischievous, hopping around like a frog. The seed fluff of the flowers letting go for the end of summer did the same. The air was so cold and pure it was, as I told a new hiker friend in our group, like sucking on an ice cube. Some parts of the trail are overgrown with thimbleberry and flowers. The wind would kick up and white little faerie seedlings would take flight, filling the air with pure lively joy. Autumn came overnight in the mountains and with it a sense of possibility.

Though base camp near Nada and Snow Lake was often cold and rainy, including the steep scramble up into the Enchantment Lakes area itself, our spirits were high and the weather never reached the drama of the ranger’s warnings. A family of mountain goats foraged near us, loping like werewolves or unicorns (or were-unicorns). In the night they galloped through our camp, partying like, well, animals. They were so used to humans that they were unafraid to forage right next to our camp. The billy goat would tromp right into our camp, between us and the little baby kids, who bleated like kittens.

Though the hike was definitely steep and hard, I was surprised at how good it felt to be out in the elements using my muscles and getting tired. Perhaps I was also feeling the happiness of the land getting rain after such a hot, dry, and literally burning summer. But the weariness of the muscles seemed to bring on a relaxation of the spirit. The snake grass on Lower Snow Lake grew like scratches on the surface of the water – burnished copper, tarnished green.

Over the last several weeks the word palimpsesthas been going through my head. I wasn’t even sure what it meant – though I had looked it up some months ago when I first began studying the Book of Kells. According to Oxford, it means either:

1. A manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.
or
1.1 Something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.
It is amazing how our minds work: how we know almost nothing consciously and then are reminded by our subconscious or our dreams of what we can know – an experience beyond ourselves, all palimpsests, every one of us, written upon the surface of the Earth in skin just as the plants are written in solar cells of  chlorophyll and the rocks are written in mineral, the same manuscript written through the eons on the molecules of this planet. We walk outside of ourselves and our cities to remember who we really are, not just human, not just minds or egos or somebodies, but inks on the pages of the living book of life. We will be rewritten someday. And that is the beautiful way of it.