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


-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.
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.

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!

Dancing in Broad Daylight

Special Announcement! There will be no post next Sunday, as we will be on San Juan Island! Stay tuned on August 9th for the San Juan Adventure Log!

Spence here: A little dip in the Willamette River, directly under the St. John’s Bridge in Cathedral Park… On another 90 degree-plus summer day this week, Billy and I were searching for some river action. It was after work and we both wanted a quiet picnic, but the city was bustling. Everywhere we went, people were out with their boats, coolers, floaties and dogs. I tried to embrace it–it all seemed like great fun–if you could find parking! We ended up driving to the town of St. John’s, where a lot of people from Portland have been moving in the last 10 years. Housing and rent prices seem a little more reasonable, there is a cute downtown, and St. John’s has one of the nicest riverside parks around–Cathedral Park. Accenting this amazing park is the equally amazing St John’s Bridge. When neither of us knows exactly where to go, but we know we want to go somewhere, we usually end up under that bridge. I haven’t swam there before, but I saw people jumping in and they looked refreshed afterward, so I took my chances. I slunk into the murky waters, my river shoes sucking into the mire, but as I pushed off from the shore, I smiled–finally getting my first swim of the season. The water was cool but not cold and as I emerged I felt a lot more relaxed. The heat had been taken by the river. Unfortunately, so had the bottom of one of my river shoes! The mud was too much for my old river shoes to handle, so once again, another shoe was claimed by the Willamette. At the park, there are beautiful old birch trees, which I couldn’t help but to take pictures of. Tug boats pushed by with full barges and jet skies and jet boats and one sailing yacht. Up the hill, there was a summer jazz festival going on and plenty of partiers–wow, people were real drunk! We mingled among the people for a bit, watching “kids” of all ages dancing to the echoing Motown cover songs. I appreciate the fact that people over a certain age still get drunk in public, flip their shoes off and dance in broad daylight in front of large speakers, and large crowds, like no one is watching!

I took my turn dancing in the daylight as well, later in the week at another outdoor concert. Our little family (Billy and our roommates), took a field trip to McMenamins Edgefield to see Morrissey! Formerly, the lead singer of The Smiths, Morrissey is one of my favorite songwriters. I remember first listening to The Smiths in middle school. When they broke up, I began following Morrissey’s solo career. The very first concert I ever attended was in 1992, to see Morrissey at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan. I was excited to be going with two boys I had crushes on, and I was able to get permission to drive us there (an hour away) at age 17. (I wore a blue suit coat and burgundy Doc Martens!) At the time, there was still a dispute going on between the band mates of The Smiths and Morrissey so he did not play any Smiths songs. Consequently, I had never heard any of them live and haven’t seen Morrissey since. This time, at Edgefield, perhaps the statute of limitations of their legal agreements were up because Morrissey and his backing band played several Smiths hits, along with many of my favorite Morrissey solo songs. Some song highlights, for those who know: Meat is Murder (complete with slaughterhouse documentary videos showing on a large backdrop behind Morrissey’s band), Yes, I Am Blind, Suedehead, The Queen is Dead, and Stop Me if You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before. Morrissey knows just how to make someone feel slightly uncomfortable with his famous way of insulting you while complementing you. His music has always been the perfect blend of dramatic romance with dysfunctional humor, (songs like Unhappy Birthday, Girlfriend in a Coma and Some Girls are Bigger Than Others come to mind). All the kidding aside, he really was the first musical artist I had heard who wrote lyrics that were unapologetically unique. I still strive to make music like that. One of the first songs I ever wrote, (I was inspired to learn guitar in college), was a tribute to many Smith’s songs: I’ve included the lyrics listed below for your enjoyment. Thank you Morrissey. If I ever get to see him live again, I am sure to bring him roses and get front row seats!

P.S. At the beginning of the concert, Morrissey said, “Welcome to our picnic… I am the menu!”

Lavish Boy by Spence Fisher

You see this young, lavish boy, among the toughest meat,

Along the slickest of city streets.

The beautiful scars this lad acquired

Quite frankly show his best side,

Quite frankly show his blessed hide.

What you see there in the darkened alley

Is something you wish you’d never have witnessed…

Cold, cold, black and ugly…

Bitter revenge from one so young

I think can cause an endless train of trouble.

Fruitless, thoughtless, nothing,

Black leather and silver chain,

Quite frankly have been worn thin

Quite frankly have been cashed in.

A twist of fate and he’s gone.

He’ll hitchhike every last mile.

It’s a wonder no one finds him dead,

The shining moon will light the path he’ll follow.

But really has he done well,

Quite frankly I just don’t tell…

Billy here. We woke up this morning to rain. The first rain in a while. This weekend is a nice respite to the heat that the Northwest has been feeling. The entire state of Oregon is in drought right now, half of which is severe. So today people are showing their gratitude for the rain.

It’s been an inspiring week. In brief summary, I am getting geared up to go back to school, for starters. I have started collaborating with my sister in finally putting ideas to paper about a graphic novel that has been kicking around in my head for years. My dreams have been vivid and especially cathartic this week.We went to a concert to see Morrissey. We have been going to the beaches on the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. I have also been simmering a theme on the back-burner for an art show I am scheduled to have in December at the coffee shop where I work. At night I am reading my favorite authors and graphic novels (this week it has been Always Coming Home by Ursula K. LeGuin and Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKeane) for study in writing my own stories. There is a lot to think about and I am staying up late turning it all over!

Everything I look at has a face in it, which seems to be a powerful metaphor. I see the face of a shrewd and kind-hearted pig in a vertebrae bone or a speaking worm in the curl of a cow’s horn. Everything, even things we don’t think of as alive, is revealing its character in a kind of mask. Is this the kind of storytelling that began myth? I don’t know, but I am going to try and tell a story out of it!

Astro-nerd interjection! New Horizons, the spacecraft that has just flown by Pluto, has uncovered an atmosphere of methane on Pluto and geological activity, including a flowing glacier made of methane, nitrogen and carbon monoxide ice!

Here on Earth it is high harvest time and we are scurrying around trying to get projects wrapped up before winter. It will be here before we know it! Harvest Festival will be suddenly weeks away. In fact, Lughnasadh (pronounced LOO-nuh-suh), a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of the harvest season, is less than two weeks away. Lughnasadh marks the halfway point of Earth’s journey between Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox, or the beginning of fall, since technically the Solstice is midsummer and the Equinox is mid-autumn. With the Texan-like straw color of the greenery here, it almost feels like fall is coming. More on Lughnasadh next time!

We haven’t gotten out of the city much yet this summer, but soon we will be doing some fun trips outdoors: San Juan and the Enchantments, to name a few. We are packing as much in as we can before school starts. Probably after school starts we will be only posting once every two weeks. I can feel the Earth turning and thoughts of reflection are starting in. Stay tuned in a couple of weeks for San Juan updates!

Next Time Won’t You Sing With Me?

Spence here: I am assessing this summer already as a way to slow time down. Is the summer half over, or do we have more than half to go? A fellow yesterday said not to worry, the Fall is better anyway. Sometimes I start to get panicky around July, as I start to figure out there is limited time for all the things I have yet to do! Explore a new part of the woods, play music, see and make more art, float the river, build a deck, and a roof, and a bike… Well, I started this week off in the woods… my good friends were having their first camp-out with their nearly one year old little happy ball of smiles named Gus. I was honored to share his first moments with my friends and introduce Gus to the moss, pine cones, cold creeks and bouncy logs. Gus is such a happy kid. It is a reminder to me to have that kind of attitude and intent–to just soak up life. We read childish books and sang childish songs–we even made funny noises for no reason other than it was amusing! We camped near Mt. Hood at a place called Camp Creek. In the morning, I hiked up a ridge trail called Still Creek. It was a slight trail through towering Douglas Fir, which opened up to a deciduous paradise on the opposite side of the ridge. At the end was a cool hidden old mossy forest road and another beautiful creek.

Billy and I hit the beach this week, on Sauvie Island, just outside of Portland. We spent the afternoon with sand in our hair, watching tug boats, eating chips, splashing in the cool Columbia River and watching kite boarders catch sick air! We might have had a few beers also! I have built several bikes this week, as an apprentice at the bike shop, Cat Six. I am learning new skills hourly there. Different types of bikes have been coming through the shop lately, including a few that have the new-ish internal Shimano Nexus hub. The shop is A-1; decked out, highly organized and top-notch. I am very grateful for the expertise and integrity (and humor!) of the mechanic who is teaching me.

Our efforts to be more involved in the outer regions of our own star cluster (i.e., get out of our house more and open the hermit envelope), have been fairly successful. I think we have done a good job of balancing home life with engaging the neighbors, which has been very fulfilling. Last night I talked our neighbor Ted’s ears off about tinctures, bikes, humanure, the high desert and living roof systems. He had much to say as well–telling stories about kids he teaches who have never pooped outdoors, let alone gone camping. Wow. Not really something one can experience through a video game. He also passed along to me a helping of homegrown blueberry cobbler and a hearty laugh. Maybe that sounds cheesy, but it meant a lot to me. Next week, hopefully, I can help him with a few projects he has had on his back-burner. Time slips away just as fast across the street! In between more chapters of “Swamp Thing” and conversations about plant consciousness, we managed to get our Cabana looking better than ever, with a new paint job and some fancy salvaged shingles. They really dress up the side of the house that faces the street and our roommates abode. New (rebuilt) screens installed over the last few weeks, help keep the spiders curious and the flies and mosquitoes out of our mouths when we’re sleeping! I took on another amazing “Bushcraft” assignment by making a “Rocket Stove“. This tin-can beauty claims to boil water in a minute using sticks and twigs for fuel. Hopefully, after the county fire ban lets up we can start using this stove in our outdoor kitchen. Morning coffee never tasted so good, made over a fire on a wet Autumn dawn. I would love to squash our reliance on propane altogether, but we’re not there yet. Inventing ways, or rather re-instituting old ways, may be the next step. In August, I swear, is a deck-building project–creating a homey space off the music studio and a roof to match–I know I keep talking about it, but it has to happen before ‘the rains’. As much as I freak out about the seasons changing, I really love it when they do and couldn’t imagine living in a place where it doesn’t happen. I think it is good practice to let go of what we thought would happen in a certain amount of time and embrace what has happened and most of all, what is happening. Part of feeling rich and healthy is acknowledgement of our strengths and friendships. I read a blurb sent to me from a credit card company that said something to the effect of honing one’s skills in ‘wealth management’. That is a good idea! I will take that perspective into consideration, as I have much to be grateful for. The cat is on the table and the sun is going down. Cheers to another day.

Billy here. Last night Spence and I joined the neighborhood at a dinner fundraiser at the farm across the street for a young man named Kenel Pierre, a farm volunteer and food activist from Haiti. He is planning to start a small farm and community education center to help his hometown back in Haiti grow food for themselves and restore ecological balance back to the land. He has started a fundraiser on Indiegogo. I don’t usually post such things, but reading his story is inspiring, and most of all, I found his genuine loving presence a gift to be around.

Kenel’s Story and Fundraiser on Indiegogo

People like Kenel remind me that we all can have hard upbringings and despite this we all similarly have the choice to be a happy and loving person who works hard to give back to the world. Kenel is all smiles. It seems he would never even have a judgmental thought. I found myself moved when the woman who has been hosting Kenel spoke about how incredibly difficult it is for him to ask anyone for anything. It took him great courage to get together to make this fundraiser happen, but he did it because he believes in healing the people and the land of his home and he cannot do it by himself. He needs land and tools, among other things. He talked about how the people of Hinche, where he grew up, would walk for miles to market. Everyone has to walk these miles, whether they are pregnant or carrying infants or baskets on their heads. His family labored hard just to grow food for the family to eat, having very little left to sell at the market. The young of Haiti often die of malnutrition. Growing conditions are harsh.

It makes me rethink my city crutches. When I lived in the mountains I literally walked over a mile to my mailbox one way. But lately in the heat, now that I live in the city and have disposable income, I have been driving to the grocery store instead of walking a mere 2.5 miles. It is also a powerful reminder to realize that I do have disposable income, even if I don’t feel like I do and make well under the poverty line of this country. This is because I have enough food and shelter; because I can go out to eat sometimes, even if it is only a couple of times a month. It’s easy to get into a poverty mentality, to think: Oh, I’m poor. But are we really? Monetarily speaking, it’s not true of course, as the average person in the world makes less than $3,000 a year. But it is not true in many other senses either. The life we live is abundant. There is fresh, clean water. The air is clean enough to breathe without a mask, as in some places like parts of Vietnam, as my dental assistant was telling me about her native country. We have access to amazing food. We have good beer. I am able to support myself with a part time job so that I can make art and music. I am truly feeling like one of the richest on Earth. Money comes and goes. Health and happiness and joy is the work that I strive to do.

This week we have been going to the beach and soaking up sun, I been playing a new electric guitar I bought from a friend, making art, drinking homebrew, working on our little cabin – putting up shingles and painting, and generally enjoying the outdoors and abundance of the garden. Life is good.

It’s all a part of the healthy life: the joy and the grief together. I am thankful for being opened by the awareness of adversity and trauma in the world, however painful it might be. It’s not a guilty grief but a deep reciprocity, a gratitude. In order to deeply feel the joys in life I believe we must face the difficulties as well. It is easy in the modern Westernized world to have trouble digesting anything that is not sanitized or processed, both in a very physical and literal sense and in an emotional and spiritual sense. Wholeness means to me understanding that we can’t get away from suffering, hardship, and death. This is not necessarily morbid, because without it life has no meaning. What would doing anything mean if we lived forever and did not age? Stephen Jenkinson, who has worked with the dying and writes about the dominant cultural fear of death and grief that keeps us from fully living, says it better in his interview with The Sun in the just pressed August issue.

If you’re lucky, something comes along that ruptures your artificial sense of well-being, which is preventing you from really living. In our current day the moment of awakening is not…welcome. No relief comes with it. It’s a moment of blistering realization that your entire existence as a Westerner has been a massive assault on the natural order of things, that you’re on the take. The first impulse is to fix it: go vegan, plant trees, get out of the cash economy, retreat into the woods and wait for society to collapse…the unwelcome news that is much more devastating, is that your favorite pin-up ecologist or indigenous tribe is on the take, too.

But once you realize this, you can become better. Your better self is born of grief. The guilt will pass, but the grief will not, because it is composted into something much more life-loving – but not human-hating. There’s no hating, no resigning, no withdrawing or running or transcending. Stay here. Stay long enough that the grief can have its way with you, and you begin to realize that this grief is a wisdom, a recognition that human beings are maintained by the death of other living things.

Death – not a symbolic or hypothetical end, but real, kick-ass human death – can raise up into the light the fundamental realization of much much had to die to keep you alive. What will your death feed? What will it keep alive for a time? The whole point is that, if you’re a human being, you can’t get off the hook of your obligation to life. You’re on the meat hook if you’re an omnivore, the green hook if you’re not. You’re impaled on it, and you can’t climb down. But you’re not guilty, because it can’t be otherwise.

And that’s just the food chain…trying to have a “zero carbon footprint” is a refusal to be a part of the story, as if you could exist without anyone else. I’m not saying we shouldn’t use fewer resources, but the idea that we’re going to be able to break even if we do everything right is a fundamental obscenity.

Once you come to this realization, which can all but kill you, the rest of your life can be lived in response to it, not in flight from it. You can live your life as someone who has an enduring obligation to that which has kept you alive.

– Stephen Jenkinson

The Wild and Thoughtful Salmon River

Spence here: Back to where the Huckleberries roam! Although, it is too early in the season for the huckleberries, (but luckily it is time for blueberries!) I felt happy to wander down familiar paths this week in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. I have taken my family on The Old Salmon River Trail and Billy and I have walked the lengths many times. What a magnificent forest–I feel, one of the kindliest places I have ever been–and I am proud to call the trees there my friends! The forest floor is cool and shady, the glacial-fed river always slightly breezy and refreshing, and the logs of old growth giving new life to trees, ferns, mushrooms and other kin.

My thoughts wander the depths of the galaxy lately–from low as the worms to high as the hawks. Billy and I celebrated our five years of dating anniversary! High! I am thinking about the next five years, and what we will make of it. I am very excited. We talked about an epic journey, perhaps a walk across North America. We are continually talking and moving towards simplifying our lives and conserving (and intelligently using) resources. I have begun to research ideas for building walking rickshaws. I enjoy our talks as we take a run together, walk the trails or play cribbage. I have been slowly making improvements to our music studio–beautifying the place with shingles. Billy had a great idea for the mural on the side of our house, which is turning out wonderful. More pictures of that will be included next week. We also brewed some Blue Fig Gruit this week! My internship at the bike shop is pretty fun and I am learning much.

On the low side of things, I am still lamenting over my dog bite. I got bit by the neighbor’s dog a few weeks ago and the bruises are still bothering me. The doctor I went to asked me if it was provoked! (Uh… No! Why would I provoke the neighbor’s dog?) Anyway, it has made me afraid of other dogs and this makes me simultaneously uptight and sad. I had a dream the other night about walking into the fighting ring with my future demons. The orator of my dream said not to worry this time because the fight was to be practice for much harder times ahead. What it all means, I don’t know. I read a book recently however, which talked about our being our authentic selves. When we are, we have no need to worry, as our path will open up to us as it needs and our struggles will be known and we will be supported by the people we love.

The clouds rolled back into Portland this week, giving us a little break from the heat. I am not worried so much about impending doom, but will try to keep the clouds in mind, as protection from possible blistering troubles! The water of the Salmon River refreshed my energy and celebrating another important milestone with my beau has renewed my empathy and openness. Let us try to carry that forth at least another week!

Billy here. Each day I feel so lucky and happy to be alive in the world and to be able to share my life with Spence. I was thinking on the river trail about how wonderful it is to be alive. Once, when I was a kid, I ran through a sliding glass door. Sometimes in my life I take it for granted that I’m still alive and I could’ve died then (or any other time for that matter, such as the time I was living in Las Vegas and learned on the news at my lunch break that I had missed a gun wielding hijacker by minutes on the road I took to work). Just as I was having this thought of taking life for granted, I slipped and fell to the ground, as if the forest were there to remind me again – hey, life is short and you could miss it! Sometimes I spend a lot of needless time worrying or just thinking too much. My grandma used to say that some people were just too smart for their own good, but you don’t even have to be smart to think too much.

I was going to talk about watersheds and the importance of clean water. I was going to ask if people knew where their drinking water came from or the headwaters of the nearest creek or river. While this is important, it’s just that I feel knowing something isn’t as important as enjoying it and respecting it. The limits of our knowledge don’t touch the depths of our hearts. I will never truly know the depths of the people or places I love, because they are more complex than what is possible for one mind to grasp. This is not to say that learning is in vain, but that the joy, respect, and participation we put into our experience is just as important as critical thought. And maybe critical thought alone is dangerous!

On that thought, let us pause to enjoy the fruits of the summer: blueberries and figs that go into our home brew, the strains of yeast that ferment them, the herbs that preserve them, and the water that gives us life! A toast to summer and may we loosen the grip on our hearts!