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.

 

 

 

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.

Point Break

spence here. currently, we are stationed at a neat little coffee shop in manzanita. 55 degrees, but warming, overcast, but the sun is breaking through, and we have had a lot of coffee. surf mission is looking up.
we arrived yesterday afternoon to our secret free camping spot outside nehalem bay. we have spent the last few days organizing the stuff for our first leg of the surf mission. we also spent some time packing up our belongings at my friend emily’s house. it was so amazingly wonderful of her to offer us the “old spence cave” in her house. We crashed there for a couple months while we worked our asses off to save up money for the summer. Her generosity is beyond normal human levels. Anyway, I can’t say I was sad to leave Portland, but i was happy to leave loving it still. We’ll be back around here and there so I don’t feel like it is goodbye forever, especially with all my wonderful friends living there.
When we set up camp at the secret spot, I started proudly pulling out the tarp I bought at next adventure. As I started to pull it up over the back of the van, to set up our camp kitchen, billy took one look and said “that thing is the size of a hankerchief…” I guess it looked a lot bigger in the middle of a crowded store. We cooked under it anyway and had a nice bro-bowl for dinner (mac n cheese with broccoli, chips and beer cooked it). We decided to leave the surf boards in the van for some reason and cram all in when the rain started coming down. We hoisted the surfboards inside the van to create a loft of sorts. Somehow, we didn’t mind a bit snuggling together for our 10 hour sleep. We needed it. Today we picked up a bigger tarp, to double our living quarters. The car top carrier is now totally full, how did that happen? I love the marzo. (soon to come, a video tour of the van, when the rain stops!).

 
Billy here. We have officially broken loose of the city and are living out of doors and in the van. Our last stop in Portland was to drop off a new drawing at Silver Moth. Thank you, Mary Frances, Queen of Rogues and Fairy Doom Mother to us all.

We listened to surf punk rock on the drive out to the coast, passing as usual the little town of Cooterville, which always reminds me of a slang term for an unsavory person. (“I would stay away from him, he’s cooterville.”) At the top of the forest road past Nehalem is a camp spot where you can stay for 21 consecutive days without fees. We set up our little handkerchief kitchen off the back of the van hatch and spent our first day in a clearing between old hitching posts. The fog, ghost of the ocean and portal to the sky, poured in over the dark hillside. Spruces and pines rose up in shadowy cathedral spires on the ridges. Rain and birds nicked up the silence in tiny seeds of sound, small and hard as mustard and poppy seeds. The persistent sound of a northern flicker rattles through the woods. There is a large brush of dead pine that stands out in the green mist: the needles a chocolate rust and the branches black as coffee. The rain kept us snugged up in the van most of the day and keeping ourselves busy doing ridiculous things. For example, everyone has an arbitrary large number they tend to use as an example of an enormous amount beyond imagination. My number is usually 17 billion. “There are 17 billion human babies eating up all the resources.” 17 billion years is more than the age of the universe. Unimaginable. Spence is fond of the number 50 million. So I decided to figure how many years it would take for a person to count to 50 million if they counted one number per second for every waking hour of the day (16 hours). Turns out it would take two and a half years to count that high. So then we decided his large number could also be expressed in years. “These cars have been backed up for 2.5 years!”

We walked the Manzanita beach and found our first evidence of tsunami wreckage from Japan. Someone’s been eating marshmallow crème pies and drinking bottled iced tea! Ha! Also, a lovely little coffee shop in Manzanita had a poster on building global community in the restroom which I liked, so I’m posting it here.

The weather is supposed to break tomorrow and we will hopefully get to test our new surf boards in the waves. Tonight we will head to another secret camp spot right on a cliff overlooking the coast.