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mother of josh, richard, and mutt. lover of books, yarn, and the quiet places. spinner, knitter, kayaker, survivor, vandweller, warrior.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


happy winter solstice season, and all the holidays that occur during this time! my blog is nearing a year old, and what a year! i have been getting lots of nudges about the lack of posts, and i am going to alternately blog about current stuff, and flashback to some of the adventures of the last few months.

one of the most significant happenings was the acquisition of my first kayak. kayaking was something that fascinated me for the last few years, ever since Signe, my son's mentor in adventure school, told me i was born to be in a kayak. but finances were tight, what with a kid to raise and subsequent medical bills for cancer many of my dreams, owning a kayak was shelved as "not possible in my lifetime".

well, one of the other significant happenings to me this year was meeting a new friend. an avid kayaker, he introduced me to the powerful zen of paddling on quiet waters, and helped make my dream a reality. the peace and centered-ness i feel on the water is one of the greatest gifts i have ever been given.....second only to the realization that the universe holds infinite possibilities, if we only just reach for them.

so the pic above is sorta like my christmas card to you all. now that the holidays are over and i can catch my breath, i need to decide my next direction. there are so many possibilities, and so many invitations, that deciding is difficult. i trust i'll know the right answer when i see it.....i can tell you it will involve a van, a dog, a kayak, and some of the many new friends i have made this year.......


Friday, August 22, 2008

meet deanna

i am so psyched to be going to this next weekend. this is one of those very cool things that keep serendipitously popping up on this trip. (yesterday, mike's granny asked me "what is your itinerary?" and i answered honestly " i haven't got a clue" !)

anyhow, mike found this on tara's blog, and asked if i wanted to go to it. i think i was in oregon at the time, headed for 10k ways. i had had vague thoughts of going to eugene and portland after the campout, but hadn't planned on going to washington. but this "knitting thingy" , as mike calls it, was too interesting to pass up. mike then offered his driveway as a layover until the 30th, and that sealed the deal. i was on my way north.

and i am so glad i did. original plans had mike and i meeting "face to face" for the first time at the 10k ways gathering in southern oregon (although we knew each other already from the yahoo group "vandwellers"). heavy smoke from the california fires that were concentrated over jacksonville, oregon put an end to that.

heidi from vandwellers had been teasing mike about learning to knit. now, real men are up to any challenge, and since the only thing mike doesn't know how to do, apparently, is knit....well, there you have a recipe for a new direction for my roadtrip. i am blessed to by here at mike's surrounded by his warm and wonderful family, and getting to know him so much better.

so back to deanna, and her "knitting thingy". turns out deanna knew me through my blog, and was excited to have mike and mutt and i there. i am so excited and honored! she gets it that knitting needles are just one more sharp thing in my arsenal, and i wanna learn how to fight off cougars! i have been wondering, though, if i should switch some of my bamboo circulars in for some sturdier heavy metal ones :-) i will let you know what she says after next weekend.....

here is the link to her very cool blog:

or click on the blog title "meet deanna" above....

Thursday, August 07, 2008

mendocino and points north

mutt at camp outside crescent city ca.
the rondyvan in the redwoods
camp in the mountains of southern oregon. what a treat to spread out and have running water and a hot meal. i am going to try to do this more often.
i emptied out the van and gave it a good scrubbing. note the lazy dog napping on the furthest right side of the photo. he was off-leash for two days and never left camp.
camped in the redwood forest for 2 nights. this was my view out the van window from the cot when i woke up one morning.......first thing you see.......
mutt's new friend at the fort bragg dog park.the funny part of the shot i missed was when mutt looked upwards to try to make eye contact. then he just did the sniffing thing.
mutt on the pomo bluffs. i love it there, and do alot of knitting there.
mutt running from a wave at noyo beach in fort bragg.
mutt hiding from the waves at pt. reyes national seashore. he has since actually let a wave touch him.
sunset on the trinidad bay.
couldn't decide which i liked best, so you got both. i tend to travel rather impulsively. trinidad is where i landed one evening after pushing up the coast til it "felt right". ended up sleeping at a casino parking lot. i miss the more vandweller friendly mendocino coast.
elk....... bruce and keith and mike your hearts out!
this past week we have been moving north up the california coast headed towards the 10kways gathering in southern oregon. the redwood forests are just amazing. here is mutt inside a tree.
my dear sweet jonna wanted to see redwoods. well, here ya go sweety!
a path through the forest. it is so silent and peaceful here. didn't hike far because dogs aren't allowed on the trail.
this is mutt with his new hairdo on the humbolt co. coast. his whole life is about sniffing.
i love this sign. haven't seen any horses anywhere in the city limits. but on my next trip out here i am doing the horseback thing on the beach north of fort bragg. way up on the list!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

san francisco part 1

here ya go, heidi! ya wanted a got two!!!! i tried for an hour to put a pic on myspace< but it wouldn't go. so i put them here. happy now :-) ?

Thursday, July 17, 2008


******this is a copy of a post i made at vandwellers******

okay, so I live on magical bluffs overlooking the ocean, and a beach where the
rainbow family has an encampment. I love it here :-)

i'm eating a can of carrots for supper. Straight out of the can. I adore canned
carrots, and i'm too lazy to cook, so this works for me. I had a huge lunch of
ramen noodles and clams and red and green bell peppers and garlic, so there is
nothing pathetic about eating a can of carrots for supper.

I look up from my carrots to see a $20 bill being held out by some guy.

now, my first inclination is to stab him with something, because I think he
wants a sexual favor, and by god a sexual favor from me is gonna cost you a lot
more than $ maybe your life, or at least a private part. Then I see
that this is a really old guy with a nice smile on his face saying "i want you
to have this".

he's looking compassionately at my can of carrots.

So I try to explain that I love carrots and i'm very happy with carrots because
I had a feast for lunch, and thank-you very much but I don't need your money but
he stops me and says "i've never seen anyone so contented eating carrots
before". I laugh out loud because he's so sincere and because he's right.

He hands me the money and says "you can share it with your friends" and waves an
arm out over the harbor to the beach where the rainbow family is camped around
their smokey driftwood fires, and I suddenly get it......he thinks I am one of
the rainbow kids, on a break from panhandling at the mcdonalds on ocean drive.

So I am gonna check the rearview I look that funky?.....and then
drive over to the mcd's and surprise some of the kids with a little windfall $20

Life gets better and better every day :-)

Friday, July 11, 2008

the west coast!!!

I MADE IT!!!! on tuesday, july 8th, i made it to the pacific ocean. i cried as i drove down ocean drive towards the pomo bluffs, right at the intersection of highways 20 and 1.
the view out of the back hatch of the van.......

van pics

here are the pics of my current set-up, as requested by some of you. if there are any specific questions or requests, lety me know!!!!

Sunday, June 29, 2008


finally. i tried to blog last week, but the wifi at the flying j was wonky, and i went back to the canyon until tonight.

the scoop with the phone (i have a palm centro) is that i can blog from it, but the window for typing at blogspot is so tiny that it is difficult to reread my entry and heaven forbid i should miss a word or a punctuation, and i can't download pics, so i am going to try to blog from the laptop. i need to learn how to type while i'm offline and then when i reach wifi, i can upload my posts.

anyhow, another big catch-up here. my big sprint across the midwest paused for a stop in lincoln nebraska (june 16th) to visit adam and ann and their daughters sophie and iris. what a cool family! i was welcomed with hugs, and felt instantly like family. it was good to take a breath and regroup. we had dinner that night with their friends sean and great to talk to someone besides mutt!....and i began to get an idea of the great things that are being done in places like people like ann and adam, who are making a difference every day. after dinner, they took a tour of the van, with an impromptu spindle spinning demonstration. adam taped it and stuck it on youtube, which was cool. my youtube debut! there will be a separate blog about my stay in lincoln, with more about adam and ann and the girls (you too, shuma) and their tribal business "meadowlark". but thank-you, guys, for the sanctuary, the food and friendship, the clean clothes and community, and the chance to hang out with some great kids..... i can't wait to see you at Ten Thousand Ways in oregon!

after a 2 day stay in lincoln, i headed west again, and made cheyenne, wyoming just before sunset. i spent two nights there, giddy with the cooler temps and the need to wear my mukluks again! i was having a problem with my cel kept ringing randomly throughout the day and night for no reason, and was seriously affecting my sleep. there is only one sprint store in wyoming, and they were unable to repair it. my choice was to go south to denver, or west to salt lake city to find a repair center......well, since my friend heidi was in slc, that was an easy choice. the drive across wyoming was so beautiful....i love the mountains so much....we made it to salt lake at 9 pm that night, and promptly got lost. yikes, are there alot of lanes in their highways! i ended up in a section of town with alot of pawnshops and LOTS of billboards for bailbondsmen. a fight broke out minutes after i pulled into a 7-11, and my first inclination was to get out and box some ears, i was so hysterical to find a flying j. not that that would have gotten me anywhere but in jail, or dead, but i woulda felt better anyhow. my friend laren came to my rescue with downloaded google maps and calm reassurance that i would eventually find my flying j, and talked me safely to my destination.

on sunday, heidi and scott rescued me from the big city, and took me to a canyon outside of the city, and near to where she works. we set up a camp near a creek formed by snowmelt from the mountains, underneath some cottonwoods. i thought i was in heaven, and mutt was certain he was :-) we have stayed there up til now, coming out to the mouth of the canyon to get cellphone reception, and into town for provisions, meetings and hot showers at the J. we had one excursion to petsmart which restored mutt's faith in mankind, and to REI, where we met another salt lake city vandweller named steve. we yakked it up and drooled over the cool gear and made plans to get together again before i leave utah.

living on the road is falling into a comforting non-routine.....we move more slowly, and more mindfully through our days....less worried about our next meal, my next shower, or where we will sleep next. things fall together more effortlessly, and wherever we are ends up being just right. i am more at peace than i have been for a long time......

more later, about people we have met, places we have visited here, and a persistant coyote at our camp.....

Monday, June 16, 2008


this is just a test entry to see if I can blog from my sprint phone. if you are reading this, stand up and shout "woo-hoo"!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

finally....on the road

well, i finally did it. i am on my road trip! tonight i am in nebraska, settled in at a truck stop to use the wifi and to get a few hours sleep. but i need to backtrack to catch you all up on my "great escape"....

i left on june 2nd, and my first stop was in southern pa to visit fellow vandweller john nomads and his wife rose and their little boy bobby. it was a great way to start the trip....i was welcomed as family, treated to chinese for dinner, and got to rub john's head for good must have worked, because i haven't broken down yet :-) we watched the movie/documentary "rubber tramps" which is a must see, especially for all you vandwellers out there. mutt really enjoyed his new buddy bobby, who was kind enough to "dogsit" mutt for me, and charmed his way right into my heart. thank-you so much bobby, john and made my first day very special!

at the chinese restaurant that night, my fortune cookie said "your dearest dream is coming true". how cool is that? so true.....that little slip of paper is in my wallet, at the bottom of my picture of olivia, who is my soon-to-be grandaughter and already the owner of my heart. she is my other dearest dream come true :-)

the next day i headed into lancaster county to visit my sister ann and to have dinner with her and her friend lexi. lexi has been a reader of my blog and a crocheter of my yarn, and i was glad to finally meet her in person. she is as sweet and as goodhearted as my sister had told me. my sister's not bad either ;-) you both!!!

i headed north the next day and spent a few days with a friend in bradford county before heading back south, ultimately hitting rt 80 on june 10th and pointing the rondyvan west.

i was like a woman pursued. i couldn't get out of pa. fast enough. i spent my first night in a toll plaza in ohio, then discovered upon awakening that i couldn't get far enough from the east coast fast enough. i wanted to be too far away to be found, too far away to go back, too far away to realize how crazy it was to hit the road with a van and a dog and a tank of gas and some food and a dream too big to explain to anyone.....including myself. i didn't have a plan, but i didn't have cancer either, or one stinkin' medical appointment until october. hallelujah!

the next night i spent near gary indiana, continuing on to davenport iowa the next day.

i shoulda listened to the news....

iowa and surrounding areas were experiencing record storms and flooding, which closed down rt. 80. stubbornly refusing to detour, i stayed at the flying j for 3 nights. it was a pleasant three days....i had a visit from fellow vandweller john and his 3 cats, and spent time knitting and sleeping and reading. i woke up the second morning and cried because not one doctor or radiologist could find me if they wanted to. i felt such freedom and relief and gratitude, and very much in the now.

by sunday it was obvious it would be days until 80 opened again, and more roads had closed, so i headed north to dubuque to detour around to des moines, and on into nebraska. so here i am just outside of omaha. tomorrow i will continue on to lincoln to visit my friend adam, and his family. i have never met adam in person, but know him well through the ishmael/ daniel quinn related websites of ishcon and ishthink. i am looking forward to finally meeting face to face....

so that is an update via my mac laptop through wifi at the flying j. tomorrow, i will try posting using my sprint palm, and try a picture, too.....

catch ya then.....

Thursday, April 24, 2008

i'm back!

well, it's been one month since i last blogged. and a busy, crazy one at that.

i am pretty well recovered from surgery, and owe a great deal to surviving the post-op period to my dear friend tara. i will fill you in later about her awesomeness....and a few of our choicer adventures....

i also had testing done last friday that determined that i am cancer free! i will now have a much needed reprieve from the medical merry-go-round. i am planning to go on the road, and hope to have adventures worth sharing.... well, worthy or not, you're gonna hear them:-)

blogger won't let me download pics, so i will try again tomorrow, and give you a real post, with van pics!

Monday, March 24, 2008

seven things

okay, so tara has tagged me to blog about seven things you don't want (or need) to know about me. check it out

there are a million things you don't want to know about me, but here are a sampling....

1) i hate roadkill. i have such a revulsion for it that i will go to great lengths to avoid it. and, staying true to form, i have been known to scrape it off the highway in order to conquer my fear.

(are ya still with me???)

2) i had to give up doing indian quillwork after finding out that many of the quills i used were harvested from roadkill porkies. i used my teeth to flatten the quills :-(

3) i believe the railroad bridge over lake ponchartrain is an act of evil. don't go there.

4) i don't like holidays, particularly Hallmark holidays. my kids were raised to believe they would be disinherited if they ever sent me a mothers day card. the handmade ones when they were babies were okay :-)

5) my kids honor me randomly and love me fiercely all through the year. they are wonderful people, and i was smart to have them. even better, Hallmark CEO's around the globe struggle to make their mortgage payments every mothers day. HA!

6) i practice a sport i call "tagging" (not to be confused with blog tagging as noted above). when an employee of a business is helpful or particularly kind, i like to tell the manager of the business, followed up by a letter to the corporate office. i tagged a young girl in kmart once, who was extremely patient with me in the camera department. her name was rachel, and she was sweet and soft-spoken and infinitely patient. i talked to her manager before i left, and told him his corporate office would be hearing from me about what great customer service they had. when i returned a few days later to purchase the camera, rachel was working behind the customer service desk.....a position she had applied for, but was told she was too "shy" for. she thanked me profusely, but mostly because her parents were so proud of her that they extended her curfew an hour :-) another benefit to tagging, is that managers tend to remember you, and are extremely grateful for any feathers in their cap at the corporate level.....the good karma tends to come around full circle. try tagging someone you run's really cool.

7) i am against dog tethering. i support a group called "Dog's Deserve Better" who works to pass legislation against round-the-clock outdoor tethering of dogs. "if you don't want them in your house, then you don't really want them". dogs are pack animals....make them part of your pack.

so, now for the first of my seven tags.....

1) johnny, whose blog is

2)this one is an exercise in futility, but i will include it with a grain of optimism....
.....michael, you need a blog!

3) okay, phoenix, it's your turn....

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

little jimmer

most babies are practically born smiling. i think there is an important story behind a baby boy who never smiled, ever, in his short life. it is a sad story, to be sure, but one that needs telling.

little jimmer was my friend sally's foster baby. now, sally is a story in her own right, to be told another time. she was a foster parent through an agency called "Best Nest" based in philly, who placed medically fragile and terminally ill kids. we met at a foster parent training session, and became fast friends. sally specialized in the toughest cases, the heartbreakers.

sally and i became each others "respite care" parents. since our kids were high skill levels of care, it was hard to find a place to put them if we needed a weekend off. so we sometimes traded babies. little jimmer was one of them.

jim was born with short gut syndrome, meaning he didn't have enough bowel to process nutrients necessary to survive. he was on a complicated mix of intravenous and tube feedings, but was growing and staying healthy. he was one of sally's babies that was expected to live a full life. when he got older, surgery would help him to be able to eat normally. he just had to get older. that was where we came in.

now, the thing about jimmer was that he never smiled. not once in his entire life, and it was not for lack of sally's trying. she loved him to pieces, as did everyone of us who ever met him. this little guy just looked out on a life that he could only guess at, from a place where none of us had ever been. there has to be a special loneliness in one of those places. what a terrible burden for little hearts to bear alone.

jimmer came to stay with us for a few days when he was 17 months old. his big eyes in a somber face watched every move you made, every kiss you gave, every procedure you performed. i can't even remember him making a noise, no matter what you did to him. he was like a silent referee with no whistle to signal "time out" when the game got too rough. what a fragile, tough, broken baby he was. i adored him.

life in our house went into hyperdrive when jimmer came, with all of his equipment in tow. special pharmacy arrangements were made to obtain the hyperalimentation (intravenous) feedings. we had to do some of the final mixing at home, injecting the unstable ingredients, using sterile technique, in the last minutes before infusion began.  the infusion ran overnight, for 8 hours, and the pumps needed frequent monitoring. the IV was run through a Broviac catheter which was implanted through his chest wall into his heart. unlike most implant devices, the Broviac was a tube that stuck out several inches from the chest wall, just begging to be tugged by a little fist. we had a big obsession with keeping that intact, and the dressings clean, to prevent infection.

jim also got tube feedings of special formula during the night. unlike most of our kids, jim's feeding tube was not implanted in his abdominal wall. a nasogastric tube, it had to be inserted through his nose and down into his stomach. placement was important, because if you ended up in a lung, you could literally drown them. it was a two person operation, and kinda scarey, but usually necessary at least once a day, as it was hard to anchor in place, and even harder to keep little hands off of it. but we did consider the yanking of an NG tube highly preferrable to the yanking of a Broviac, and accepted it as a small price to pay in the long run.

little jimmer's stay this time was uneventful (although we probably had a different definition of "uneventful" in our house, as compared to most) and we did the intricate "changing of the guard" after several days, and got him safely home to his mama.

or so we thought.

several days later we got a call from the children's hospital where all our babies get treated. little jimmer was in pediatric intensive care, and not expected to live. sally was inconsolable, powerless to save the one baby she had expected to actually grow up. i was sick to the very bottom of my heart, when i heard the reason why. jimmer was septic, and his organs were shutting down from a fulminating blood infection, most likely contracted by a break in sterile technique by some caregiver in his very recent past.

it is hard to breathe when judgement is coming down all around you, and you know you cannot go back to find the error and make it right. even worse is the uncertainty of not knowing just who, in what second, allowed the fatal germ to break through the mighty fortresses we try to build around these kids. but the walls were breached, and jimmer died later that night, a tiny warrior who had yet to find a reason to smile. a part of me died with him.

no one, ever, points the finger at any foster parent who loses a kid. we all know going into this that if we measure success by survival, we are failures before we start. we know that we are doing an impossible job, under impossible circumstances. being imperfect humans, mistakes will happen, and we can only do the best we can for these kids, and love them hard while we do.

the funeral was rough, as all of the baby's funerals are. it was made tougher by knowing we lost one that could have lived, long before we won that first smile. i wrote a song for him, and when it was read at the funeral, alot of parents wept, because it was a poem for all of our little angels, gone too soon.

i never cried for jim, until this morning, when i knew i had to get this story out of my heart and into the healing light of day. i know it is selfishness that drives alot of my writing, as there is little for you to get out of what i have to say, but it feels good to get these stories out, leaving a little vaccuum behind, where i hope forgiveness and love can rush in to take their place.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Mutt part 1: snownose

a baby picture, the first day home

what a face. ya gotta love him. this blog entry is about my better half and constant companion, Mutt. people ask alot of questions about my buddy, especially why i never tell his story. so here it is, as best i can tell you.

mutt is not his real name. he was named "duke" before being surrendered to the spca at the age of 4 months. i was at the spca on business, a quick stop at the main desk, no "shopping" the kennels full of sad and hopeful dogs. as i turned to go, a young girl came in the door leading this gangly puppy on a length of clothesline. he had an enormous head, and looked like a cartoon character. he made a beeline towards me, sat kerplunk in front of me and grinned. as i paused to pet him for a moment, i heard the girl telling the workers "he is very destructive and a terrible house soiler". (hello, honey, he's a BABY) but i mind my own business, and turn to leave.

he follows me. pulls the clothesline right out of her hand, and velcroes himself to my heel like he was born there. there is an awkward moment while he is extricated from my side, and i turn again to go. i pause at the door, looking back. he peers expectantly over her shoulder, aware of something i do not yet know.

i can't keep him out of my mind. a few days later, i return to the shelter with a toy, expecting that he had been already adopted. he slammed his skinny little body against the wire door to his kennel, and attempted to ooze through it. we spend time playing and snuggling, but the truth remains that i am not looking for a dog, can't afford a dog, and cannot take him home. i leave with reluctance.

i make several more visits over the next week, telling myself that i can at least be supportive of the poor thing until his new owners find him. on the last visit, a worker tells me that if i'm interested in this pup, i'd better make up my mind, because the shelter is crowded, and his days are numbered.

i immediately go to the desk and fill out the adoption papers. he will have to stay overnight to be neutered, and i will pick him up the next day. but he is mine, and he knew it all along.

the interesting thing about mutt is that he was listed as "sharpei" as his primary breed. i questioned this, but the workers said they knew the litter, and parents. it will always be a mystery to me, his true lineage. one breeder at a show said he definitely had "saluki" in him. he certainly has shepherd and collie traits. but the biggest giveaway is the racing stripe on his nose. it's called a snownose, and is supposedly only found in northern breed dogs like husky or malamute. no matter what it's origins, i find it terribly endearing. i call it his "little pink pig snout" in a squeeky voice and thoroughly piss him off.

so this dog is not a "duke", i know that right off. no wonder he was destructive, he was having an identity crisis. he looked a bit like a tiny coyote or wolf with a big fat nose, so i named him "ameowok natangamuk mtimmea" which loosely tranlsated means "little wolf stung on the nose by many bees". i call him Mutt for short.

there is a hue and cry from my brother and sister-in-law. avid dog lovers, they are horrified i would call him mutt. not them, no sir. they call him "bighead" instead.......

this little pup is a delight to have. he never chewed anything up, and was almost instantly housetrained. we spent every minute of the next few weeks together, sleeping, eating, playing, and simply looking at each other. all he wanted out of life was to be at my side. all i wanted was to be his.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


turkey day 2007: a portion of our stand in the barn at a local farmers market where you can buy pasture raised meats, organic veggies, handmade soaps, and other sustainably grown or locally produced items. alot of the hats we sell are made from locally produced fiber and spun, dyed, and knitted by local artists. we had an amazing day here...excellent sales made even better by the chance to hang out with cool people who, like us, are trying to live more lightly on the earth.

catherine, one of tribalfyber's talented fiber artists, sent me this pic. she is back to doing her sorcery with the dyepot, and i am getting inspired to fool around with fiber again. we were on hiatus after several months of frantic knitting and spinning to stock up on warm woolen things for the fall and winter shows.
i am going to spend some of my upcoming "down time" beginning to stock up for the next round of shows this fall and winter. i got a call recently from a library that holds a huge auction every summer and would like us to do spinning demos as one of the vendors. the crowd at this place would be the type that wouldn't pause at the notion of spending $30-$40 bucks for a hand-knitted hat, but i'm not certain how many people are gonna want to buy something woolen on a steamy july day. in october at the pumpkin festival, the crisp october air seemed to drive people to wildly shove money at us in order to get one of our hats, although i like to think that it was because they were smitten with our funky, one of a kind creations too.
which brings me to another crossroads. i have to start booking the fall shows now, and reserving our spots. but my future is rather uncertain, and open to many new possibilities. i am itching to get on the road, and am reluctant to commit my time so far in the future. i need to explore the possibilty of taking this show on the road, or going exclusively internet with it. and i have to consider the fact that some aspects of my future are completely out of my control.
and as always, the forests and the quiet places are out there, just waiting. i can choose to get as far away from civilization as possible, and enjoy the solitude, or maybe find a tribe of like-minded folks to hang out with.
we'll see.


i am a card carrying member of something. just thought you ought to know that, like it might lend some credibilty to my otherwise weirdness :-)

i am inclined to champion unpopular or obscure causes simply because someone's got to do it. i distrust corporate-type causes where a big portion of their funds go to fundraising yet more money, creating a vortex that sucks in any usefulness they might have aspired to. think black hole.

i think the most honorable thing you can do in life is to give voice to those who otherwise cannot be heard. i think one of the most horrid human conditions is imprisonment, whether it is as a prisoner of conscience, or of political agenda. (or of a culture run amok). amnesty international is the vehicle by which i can use my voice to make change, one letter at a time.

the thing i love most about amnesty is that you don't have to throw alot of money at them so they can hire someone to do the scutwork. we here at home, in front of our computer monitors, are the scut monkeys, telling powerful regimes in places we'll never see that we are watching, and we aren't looking away. we write our congressmen to let them know what we think of a government who looks the other way, and that we are watching for them to do the next right thing. we send cards to political prisoners and victims of torture, to let them know that we are watching, and they are not forgotten. and sometimes, we watch someone innocent go free.

pretty powerful stuff.

so please click on the link below and check out amnesty internationals website. there are alot of causes, and many ways to be of support. you could make a big difference in the life of someone whose voice has been silenced....whose hope has died. just one person can make a difference.

Friday, February 29, 2008

the first thing you see: part 2

when i am at an encampment, i usually wake up at first light. camp is silent save for the occasional nicker of a horse. on this morning, i stay in my blankets beneath the small square of oilskin that is my home for the week. i have water and jerky in my pack, and eat while i wait for the sun to rise.

this is the first thing i see as the light grows. i slow my breathing in an effort to slow time.....i do not want this moment to end. sounds around camp pick up....wood being chopped, tent stakes being hammered, dog soldiers calling out to each other. smells of woodsmoke and bacon cooking drift on the air. barefoot children gather on the pond banks, then come to squat by my shelter to show me the frog they caught. i plead amnesty for the frog....they cheerfully grant it. the sun burns off the last of the mist, and i know where i am.

i am home.

Monday, February 25, 2008

staying out of jail

this mukluk contains many weapons. it makes a great arrow holder....

i had to go to the post office today. i went down pretty much directly from my morning hike with mutt. since i hike alot lately, pretty much anywhere i go is directly from the woods.

my neighbor and good friend works at the post office. she laughed when i asked her how much a stamp was, she thinks i'm from another century as it is. she says "if it's too high, are ya gonna shoot me?". that's when i remember that i've got a gun in my boot, tucked nicely between the moosehide and the felt liner. which is, like, a federal offense to have one in a post office.

now, i'm not worried about cindy, she's not about to freak, but i don't know about all the folks doodling around the lobby. the gun is tucked down snug, but the minute i turn from the wall, it is gonna be clear that it is a revolver sticking up there. this is not no little pocket gun, no sir. and come to think of it, i don't know how legal all the sharp things are that i'm sporting on my body. i may use them to peel my apples, but they don't know that.

so i say to cindy "cindy, i've got a gun in my boot, what should i do?"

she snickers and says "well, don't pull it out, for god's sake, you can have the stamps for free" which gets both of us a little hysterical , laughing. so if i had any hopes of not attracting attention, they were long gone.

ultimately, i dawdled by the counter while she waited on the other customers, until i could safely leave the building unobserved. we had a good laugh over the whole thing in our little country post-office, but it was sobering to think what trouble i could get into if i'm not more careful about disarming in civilization.

now, i normally wouldn't be sporting a gun in my boot, but i ordered a holster from Simply Rugged in Wasilla, Alaska. Rob Leahy makes the best leather stuff for guns on the planet. my holster came on saturday, but it was for a 5 shot, and mines a 7, so he shipped me out the right one today. so soon, i will have a georgeous sourdough pancake holster that will enable me to concealed carry in the proper manner.

but that doesn't change the fact that i have to actually think about my weapons before going into civilization. so i put the little sign that you see above in the picture, right where i'll see it when i exit the drivers door. i also made one for by the slider in the back. that will remind me to both disarm when the circumstances call for it, or get armed if i'm in a hinkey area. that oughta keep me out of trouble.

my other option is to stay in the woods permanently, which gets more attractive all the time.....
post-script: tara, who always has my back, pointed out that the sign could attract unwelcome attention from police officers. i'll have to think of something better. thank-you, tara love....

monday morning

went out early this morning to shoot a little. what a gorgeous day! didn't sleep much last night, but the air and the cold and the sun made me feel wonderful. i brought a blanket so we can catch a nap when we hike out to our spot back in the woods. i don't have a quiver for my arrows, so i parked them in the stationary quiver at the archery range, but i don't shoot this far away......this is where the big boys with the compound bows shoot i figured out that a mukluk makes a fine place to park your arrows while you are shooting up close :-) i had one bulls-eye, and only one arrow missed the target, so i'm happy with that.

this is back in the woods, in our favorite spot. if you follow a path back from the dirt road, it opens up into a huge field surrounded by forest. mutt will usually go crazy running, but not today, as much. i forgot the paw balm again, and he's got compacted snow between his toes. he chews it out, then runs awhile, then stops to chew it out again. it makes for a mellow morning, these moments of stillness.

sleeping on snow is the best. the sun has given the snow a texture that mimics memory foam.... not too crunchy, not too soft.....and it molds to my body beneath the wool blanket. i drift in and out, warmed by the sun. i want to stay here, and never go back.

a helicopter approaches. the sun is in my eyes, and i can't see who it is. we are in the flight path between two trauma centers, and lifeflight goes over alot. but it could be the staties, or a news chopper. i realize that it might look a teeny bit odd, someone lying in the middle of a field in the snow. so i get up, and head toward the woods. i don't wave or anything, so as to avoid inadvertently signaling that i need assistance. i feel strangely violated, like my secret place has been revealed..... mutt is glad to be on the move.

a friend, who i have never met in person, wrote a poem describing what they thought my woods walks must be like. it was such an accurate picture of this special place that it gave me a shiver. a nice shiver, i mean, to think that somehow my writing reflects my surroundings so well. or maybe he is just super intuitive, which is more likely the case.....either way, thank-you.....

on the strings

my guitar teacher sends me home to learn all this music theory, and to work on bar chords. he said to resist actually playing the guitar :-) he said playing songs is not practice. i get that, but i really love this chick's music. so i'm trying to learn this. i just found out cait is playing in phoenixville this weekend. i need my maps from the rondyvan.....

Troubled Mind written by Catie Curtis

I've been getting down about all the runaround
About all the pushing and the standing in line
But like my friends say you gotta do it anyway
And it just gets harder when you ask why

And I'm tired from all the weight
I'm tired of being strong
So won't you come and stay
And let me lay down in your arms
Down in your arms

I've been getting up early
I've been getting my coffee
I've been getting in the car and driving all over town
Talking to myself while I'm taking off my seat belt
Some people don't know how to slow down

And I'm tired from all the weight
I'm tired of being strong
So won't you come and stay
And let me lay down in your arms
Down in your arms
I've got a troubled a troubled mind
And you've got a heart a heart so kind
so kind

So pack an overnight bag don't worry about what you have
Cause if you need something you can just use mine
And you don't have to promise more than you want to
But if you want to see me this would be a good time

And I'm tired from all the weight
I'm tired of being strong
So won't you come and stay
And let me lay down in your arms
Down in your arms

From The Truth From Lies CD

Sunday, February 24, 2008

another sort of weapon

i gotta have surgery in less than 3 weeks. that doesn't give me much time, and screws up all my spring plans. i have a ton of stuff to do spring cleaning the farmhouse, moving the last of the wood into the house, and making any changes to the rondyvan that involve lifting or straining.

i am calm enough about this now. but the last few days i've been evaluating what i do on a given day, to determine if i can do it after "major abdominal surgery". i don't think the surgery is really that major, but i think the doc is telling me that because i don't want to stay overnight in the hospital, and he figures i'll sign out AMA if he doesn't frighten me.

he's trying to frighten the wrong cowgirl.

scary was last year after throat surgery, when they sent me home a couple hours after surgery with a neck and throat too swollen to swallow my spit, let alone stay hydrated on a 100 degree day. i had the same surgery that some of my patients in icu had, except they had emergency tracheostomy trays at their bedsides. i love the health care system.

anyhow, i have determined that most of the things i do involve lifting, or other things that increase intra-abdominal pressure. chopping and carrying wood is out. so is hiking alone in the woods. no swords or longbows. gad, it's gonna be a long 6-8 weeks.

so, i made a list of stuff to get done. first on the list was camping :-) i got to fool around with my longbow some. i've never shot it in temps this cold. felt funny, like the draw was heavier, but i got some decent shots out of it. i definitely need a new string.

i posted a couple pics of my bow..... a sinew-backed hickory longbow. it's 59 1/2" long, with a draw length of 28" and a supposed draw weight of 38#. last year at rendezvous i attended some of the archery seminars, and was told the weight is alot heavier than 38#, which means it's likely legal for hunting, should i ever need to use it for that. when i got impatient waiting for the guy to ship me the bow, i called him, and he said "it takes alot of time to chew that much sinew"!!!! i knew i was getting a traditional bow, but this guy went all the way. i really love it.

so anyhow, i decided to stay home tonight and clean. get the chores out of the way as soon as possible, then i can play in what time is left. that, and plan my post-op exit strategy......

Friday, February 22, 2008


i have a lot of posts mulling around in the draft stage. i don't like to force something i write....what you see is pretty much how it rolls out of my brain. that way you get me at my most raw and honest self, not primped into what i think would be most acceptable to a reader.

so when i start something, and it doesn't flow easily, i let it languish in a draft until it's ready to make itself known. so if i have promised you something, please be patient.

when i woke up this morning, i knew i wanted to write about something i swore i would never write about......being a nurse. becoming a nurse is at once the best, and the worst thing i have ever done. i do not actively practice nursing right now, and probably never will again. i am still trying to mend the split in my heart between the art of nursing, and the business of providing healthcare. i don't know if it can ever be healed.

nursing is one of those things that i can look back now and say i was very good at. i spent a long portion of my career as an icu nurse, where modern medicine and human ethics impacted at lightening speed. i was quick on my feet, good at the skills required, and intuitive to a bigger picture that cardiac monitors and lab results didn't show.

i was also in trouble alot for breaking the Rules. you see, modern medicine has a lot of Rules, some of which i did not agree with. many of these Rules had to do with making money, preventing lawsuits, and meeting standards set by people who were never gonna meet my patients, let alone comfort them when they were sick, or dying.

oh, wait.....neither was i ....... i rarely saw my patients, except to titrate drips and tweak machinery to do it's job. i spent so much of my time following the Rules, (or better yet writing pages of documentation to prove that i was following them) that my patients often suffered or died alone in their beds.

i began to hate what i did. the only saving grace was those moments when i was given an opportunity to step outside the boundaries, and had the courage to do so. sometimes it was not a conscious act---and acting without thinking made all the difference.

our icu had 10 beds. they were separate rooms except for the middle three directly across from the nurses station, an open bay usually reserved for the most critical patients. this night, bed 7 contained a young woman with a brain injury who had been declared brain dead. we were merely supporting basic life functions, waiting for the transplant team to arrive. we had specific instuctions that if her heart stopped, she was a no cpr was to be used to restart her heart.

i was assigned bed 9, a post-op patient on a vent and a dozen iv drips, who was so involved it was my only patient. i was gowned and gloved, in the middle of a sterile procedure, when one of the cardiac monitors went off in the strident pitch reserved for deadly arrythmias, or cardiac arrest.

we are chronically short staffed, but someone is always available to check an alarm. i figured if they called a code, there would be enough folks around that i could at least finish my procedure before going to lend a hand.

the monitor kept shrieking. no one called a code. actually, it was absolutely silent in a unit where there is never silence. but i didn't notice that. all i knew was that i had to break sterile technique and go see where the hell everybody was. furious, i sailed out of that room into the middle bay, ripping off my gloves and my eyeshields.....attila the hun in scrubs.

the whole unit was frozen in place, a dozen people staring at the monitor over bed 7, which showed v-fib, the signal that her heart, and alot of viable organs, were preparing to die. hot, sweaty, and angry at the interruption, i continued to her bedside and in one motion gave a mighty thump to her sternum. in a classic textbook example, her heart slipped immediately into a normal rhythm. i checked her throat.....there was a good pulse.....and turned to the others, some of whom were standing with their mouths open.

sandy hissed at me, her eyes huge, "she was a no code!" it hit me then, what i had just done. i had broken a very Big Rule. i had in essence "coded" a very specifically requested "no code". okay, so a precordial thump is not a full blown code, but by the letter of the law, i was in the wrong. there was nothing i could do or say to change what i did, so i simply turned back to room 9 and started the procedure over from the beginning.

later, i felt bad. i am very big on honoring patients wishes, followed by the wishes of a family. as nurses we are often the last advocates these people have. it's an important role to play in someone's life. but when Those Who Enforce The Rules got ahold of me, my regrets turned to anger. i was written up for my actions that night......not because i had violated an important trust between the family and the caregivers, but because i had brought the spectre of a potential lawsuit down upon the hospital. my supervisor's first words to me in her office the next day were "you will be very lucky if your ass doesn't end up in a depostion over this."

i reacted badly. i speculated that the dozens of people who had recieved organs this day would likely testify in my defense. not to mention their families and loved ones...... one of the men recieving a kidney had three little children. and if i had to make mistakes, please god let them all save as many lives as this mistake did.

my comments got me further written up for insubordination, and a visit to the DON. it wasn't but two weeks later i was busted for sneaking a dying patient's dog into the unit in a backpack, breaking every Germ Rule known to man. but if you had seen the tears run down that man's face, you would have run interference for me the whole way. it was in those moments that i most felt i was answering my calling.

Monday, February 18, 2008


screw blogger. i want to load a cool picture, and it won't let me. so i know i'm just not meant to have that picture, this minute, in this post. still aggravating. a little. :-)

a lot is going on right now in my life. i started iaido classes last week, and am really loving it. i wanted to take it for years, but didn't think chicks did it. well, half my class and one of my instructors are women. being in a room half full of women with swords is an empowering experience. i feel like i've come home.

over the last few months, i've been trying to build my upper body strength. chopping wood helps, and carrying it, and stacking it. i used to lift weights for awhile, and could bench my weight, which i guess is a good thing. but i'm not too big on "organized" exercise now. hiking and hoeing and working with wood seemed like good enough for me.

heh. was i wrong. in class on saturday, we had a different teacher named mike (i seem to have an overabundance of mike's in my life). we were doing cuts with the swords and he says "stop swinging like your chopping're swordsmen, not axe muderers." well, so much for me, miss-heft-it-high-and-slam-it-down-kate. i've got a lot to relearn.

then there is the part where we kneel on the floor long enough for both legs to go to sleep, then leap nimbly to our feet and perform smooth movements with the sword. yeah. karen taught me a couple exercises to do over the next few weeks. don't worry, she says, your thighs will be like iron in no time. heh. they haven't stopped quivering since saturday.

tomorrow i start guitar lessons. i found an instructor who doesn't teach out of a book. i am self-taught, so i have an odd assortment of things i want to learn. like, tara asked me what key i was playing "angel" in. i had no idea. i know chords, but not much musical stuff. so greg is gonna teach me keys, and some other basics. me and tara, we're gonna jam :-)

i also hope, once and for all, to learn how to tune my B string.

so that's what's new in my life. mutt and i are out alot more, hiking hills and tromping through snow. i am knitting tara's socks as fast as i can. there are books to read and songs to sing and wool to spin. doctors to disagee with, and procedures to decide on. and always a rondyvan in constant need of tweaking. it is good to be out of my recent slump.

which brings me to my love/hate relationship with the internet. i get pulled to it in fits and starts. i'm feeling pulled away right now, and feeling a need to focus down more. but i am really loving my blog, and some of the friendships i've made. like, i am hooked on my daily dose of johnny's quotes :-)

so i am backing off a bit, taking a little time to regroup. i won't be doing much emailing for awhile. i will be blogging, i just don't know how often. so if i don't respond to emails right off, be patient. check in here every couple days, i have alot more stories to tell.

hobo signs

i have always loved hobos. i aspired to be one from an early age. i was always tying my treasures up in a bandana, tying that to a stick, and heading off into the woods. born with a wanderlust, i was.

i had this incredible mom. she took in stray people like some old women take in stray cats. her door was always open to anyone who needed food, companionship, or a place to live. it wasn't unusual for someone to come for supper, and to stay for a year. one christmas eve, my brother (who worked at a crisis center) came home at midnight with a priest in some sort of spiritual crisis. she fed him, listened to him, and had the couch made up like she had nothing better to do on christmas eve at midnight. in the morning, when everyone gathered for gift opening, there were gifts for him under the tree, as if he had been a long anticipated guest.

i saw the plaque (pictured above) in a catalog one year. the caption said it was the hobo sign for a kind-hearted woman. when hobos traveled around, looking for odd jobs to earn money, they would leave symbols like the one above. drawn on fenceposts, sidewalks, trees, and outbuildings, these symbols would inform other hobos of places to seek food or shelter, places with mean dogs, places to avoid, and, of course, places with kind-hearted women.

i got this plaque for my mom as a tribute to her generosity, and her good heart. it hung over the door to the gathering room, where she fed hundreds of people over the years. when she died, i kept it. being a bit of a hermit, i don't come close to earning it over my door, but i keep it next to it, as a reminder of what i should strive for, every day.

so i got to thinking. tara posted recently somewhere about graffitti on her van, and how she liked to keep it as a reminder of people she's met and places she's been. what if we as vandwellers were able to communicate to others information about good places to stealth park, spots with free wifi, and other useful information? that would be so cool, having our own secret language. of course, graffitti laws being more stringent than they were in the hobo era, it would add an element of risk to a lifestyle already viewed as suspect. well, that's okay.... it appeals to that little bit of outlaw in me :-)

click on the post title above to see some neat hobo signs. and if you run into to any wandering folks, hobos or otherwise, feed us, offer us a hot shower, and maybe get a good story in return....

Sunday, February 17, 2008

the princess and the pantheist

starting out, i'm not sure where this story is going. i know the emotions that prompt its telling, and will trust their instincts. fear and grief have kept me from touching some of these memories for some time now.

before surgery not long ago, i was asked "what is your religion?" the question caught me off guard, as it always does. and as always, i answered "methodist". i don't want to waste their time, should the surgery go badly, searching the hills for a shaman to perform last rights. let the preacher do it, and be done with it.

the truth is, since i was very small, i have had no religion. i would go to sunday school and listen to the warnings of sin and redemption, but i knew that if jesus was who they said he was, he would say "forget that shit", and take us all out to feed the hungry. or at least to the woods, where god really lived.

but i played the game out of fear. not fear of the fire and brimstone....i didn't buy that for one minute. actually, for a little girl who was experiencing things that little girls weren't meant to experience, life was bad enough in grade school. if this was life, i wasn't doing it for eternity. but i went through the motions, in varying intensities at different times...... to keep the peace, and to retain some standing in the community.

years later, after drugs and alcohol had finally brought me to a surrender of sorts, i figured out that it wasn't a religion that i needed all along, but a higher power, something enduring and sacred and powerful. the first place i found that was in the woods. in the stillness, the clamoring of my mind and spirit would drain away. god was in the wild things, all along. to this day, my best prayers are murmured into the sweet ancient dampness of leaf litter on the forest floor.

eventually, i began to meet my god in other places in my life, like in my children, and the patients i cared for. a time came when my husband and i were moved to apply to be foster parents. we ended up with an agency that placed the sickest, most fragile children, and those who were dying. i found that god lived large in these tiny, needy children. and that brings me to the princess.

shortly after starting the approval process, we recieved a call about a placement. it was during the football game on new years day. a little girl was being moved out of her current foster home after a short stay because they weren't able to care for her. the agency hated to return her to the hospital. she only had a few months to live. would we take her?

we said yes. the very next day, i went to a pediatricians office to pick her up. i was blown away when i first saw her. she didn't look like any baby i had ever seen before. her head was misshapen from microcephaly, and she was blind and deaf. she had to be fed through a tube, and struggled for every breath.

i was terrified. after some brief instructions, i picked up that baby girl and took her home. she would change my life forever.

it was chaotic settling her in. we hadn't had much time to prepare. actually,there is no preparation for an experience like this. you just take a deep breath, and go through it.

i used to sit beside her crib at night. this baby baffled me. i love kids, and bond almost instantly with them. little j. remained elusive, and i was beginning to understand why. when you pick up a baby, or any creature, there is an interaction between you, a look, a sound, a response. a give and take. not so with do you bond with someone when you don't even know if they are aware of you? she was struggling to breathe that night more than usual. i picked her up and nestled her into my arms, trying to find a position to ease her breathing. her heart was racing wildly. although i knew she couldn't hear me, i began to sing a wordless song about comfort and safety and knowing you will never be alone. i promised that baby that no matter what it took, i would see her through this journey....she was my baby now and forever, in my heart. that's when the god thing happened. her heart began to slow down, and her breathing eased. heart to heart we sat there, and i knew she slept. i was in the presence of something so big, and so humbling. i loved her from that minute on.

fast forward..... j lived many years beyond the the doctors' prediction. there was a lot of joy, and sadness and struggle in her life. but we weathered it together, she, safe, in the middle of this crazy family, her misfit tribe. then circumstances changed, and she was moved to a new foster home, and then another. before too long, she died.....alone in a hospital.

my son says i wailed like a banshee when i heard the news. i just remember the despair of promises made and broken. as nothing but a former foster mother, i retained no rights to this baby. i told everyone that i was going to that funeral, i didn't care what anyone said. i had amends to make, and wanted to see her one last time.

i traveled to philadelphia, where her daddy had made arrangements for a memorial service. no veiwing or casket..that was private, for the family. i was exluded....the only mother she had ever known. i went to the church office to ask if there was any way i could get invited to the funeral home where the viewing was. i was desperate to see her. the pastor looked at me and said "she's upstairs in the sanctuary, they are waiting for you there".

when i walked in and saw that small white casket, my knees buckled and i lost my breath. a woman who was waiting for me ran up, put her arms around me, looked me in the eye and said "i know the god in you". i thought that was a weird statement-- no god in this broken heart-- but soon forgot it in the swirl of a new found family that swallowed me up.

i stood by her daddy's side as we buried her. i asked his forgiveness for breaking my promise to her, to him. he hugged me and said "you were her mama, and that was enough".

i miss her every day of my life. i am so grateful for the privilege of caring for her. she taught us all more about love than all the bibles and poets and philosophers in the world combined........that the most powerful love is that given when you expect nothing in return.

so what does this have to do with my religion? well, i was still religionless. which didn't concern me overly, except for the need to feel some clarity about my spirituality. my friend joe said to me that i sounded a bit like a pantheist. whoa, new word! i got the book "the elements of pantheism" and read it. it made sense to me, and fit in with my cobbled together thoughts on animism, the spirit world, and the wild places. pantheists believe that everything around us, the whole universe, is god. that god is in everything. i could just about get my mind around that.

fast forward a little more. i'm going through a difficult time in my life, and alot of uncertainty. i had been dealing with an illness for about a year, when a dignostic test came back abnormal in december. for the first time since getting "sick" i realized that i actually might die of this illness, falling on the wrong end of the statistics. i wasn't so much afraid of dying as i was of being sick, and losing control. the next few months stretched out long in front of me.....not knowing is the hardest part. i was so tired of it all.

the universe, in it's kindness, put a friend in my path. one of those kindred spirits that come around all too infrequently. a friend who gave alot of support, and asked nothing in return. a friend who listened.....uncritical, unshakeable. a friend who i will probably never meet, but made me laugh, and think, and cry. and i got to thinking about the lady at the funeral that day, and the meaning of her statement to me. it suddenly made all the sense in the world.

god is not just in the wild places of the universe. in whatever form, whatever incarnation he/she comes to you.....god is everywhere. but most importantly, god is inside of us..... that thing that connects us, and makes us whole, down deep in our wildest places, where we quiver with life.

i am so grateful for my friend, who helped me to finally get it, about religion and spirit and forgiveness and hope. about a little girl searching for her center, and a baby girl searching for a home. about a stranger in a baptist church, who saw the god in a religionless woman. it has, finally, all come together.

babygirl, wherever you are, i am sorry. i love you more than everything, and i will love you forever. i miss you, but i am going to move on now.

and to my friend, who inspired me to weave all these fragments of my life together......i know the god in you. thank-you. i am able to move on now.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

one for the fan club

steger apache moccasins. ankle high moosehide with long laces to wrap around your ankles to adjust the support. not insulated, so cool for summer. warm with wool socks in all but the coldest weather. light and silent. great stalking shoes. those boys never hear me coming, spear in hand......

it's a zen thing

was never really the issue....
where do you find death
in the midst of so much motion?
slowing down to look and see
would be a death all it's own,
for if the motion stops
i'm not really certain of what
will be left-
are you?
it seems i have left
small pieces of me
along the way-
erosion was inevitable,
almost desirable,
like dropping ballast
to rise above the storm....
never really certain of
coming down again
after the thunder stilled.

i wrote this poem years ago, after one of several stints in detox. i knew then i was way, my sanity, my life. my whole existence became centered down on one thing....going fast at any cost. i was trying to stay one step ahead of the darkness, and losing ground every day. betsy said to me "you want to die"..... it was a statement now, no longer a question.

i didn't die. at some point, i chose to live.

now, if there is any desperation in my life, it is simply to find the quiet places. i soak up silence like a sponge. i have dark days, but there is always, always light on the other side....... peace, after the thunder stills.

i have these moments now, split seconds where time stops, freezes in place, before moving on. they catch me unaware. i never expect them.

i get them chopping wood. when i take a second swing of the axe, and it lands precisely in the notch created by the first swing, there is one moment of perfect silence before the whole becomes two, and the log falls from my arms, to the wood. connected.

sometimes they happen when i shoot my bow. i shoot instinctively, without aiming. i simply raise and draw my bow, softening my vision in an attempt to feel the target rather than see it. i miss alot, but more and more there are those shots that hit exactly where my heart saw, with a sharp sound of certainty, and not a quiver of the from my arms, to the arrow. connected.

i sometimes wonder at the miracle of these moments, and how i got here from that day so long ago, so lost.

is suddenly the issue
in that airless endless moment
of thunder rushing down
of prayer god please
let it stop
a million shattered pieces
can still make up the whole.....
i cried save me
long ago.

i wrote this poem a few months after the first...... in rehab, finally, to stay. someone looked at the two poems together, and said "they aren't done. you need to finish them. there is more to this story".

it has taken a long time to find the ending to that story. it is better called a beginning though, because it is about promise, and progress, and pleasure in those single moments of time. i have come full circle.....

Monday, February 11, 2008

B strings and the blues

another resurrection. my kids bought me this for mothers day years ago. i rarely touched it, except to play "little bunny foo foo" and "hobo's lullaby" on it for the kids.

i got new silk and steel strings on it before christmas, but have only started picking on it. i need major callous development. i'm keeping it by the computer in the woodstove corner along with my knitting, so i can get stuff accomplished now and then.

on the stool next to the guitar is my harmonica. i found it in richard's drawer- i'm so glad he hadn't taken it to florida. i had given it to him years ago when i vowed i'd never play again. it's the hohner limited edition 125th anniversary harp, given to me in 1982 by my best friend betsy. the 7th reed is flat, can't draw a note, so "heart of gold" sounds funny, right when you go to bend the note it goes "wok". actually "wok" doesn't do justice to the sound it makes. but you get the idea. i am going to email hohner to see if it can be repaired. it's a nice little harp, and it's sentimental to me. i miss betsy desperately, and holding it makes her feel close to me.

betsy, if you're out there.....i wish you'd come home to us..........

so the deal is, i can carry a tune okay. my voice is not strong, so pickin and singing slow and low works for me. and i don't have alot of range. but i can sing me and bobby mcgee alright, and that suits me just fine.

i have one major problem with the guitar. i cannot tune the b string to my satisfaction to save my life. not just this guitar, or this b string. every guitar i have ever held in my life has had a flat b string. every one tells me it's my imagination, but i know i'm right. and it drives me batty. i have vowed to tune it once a day, and no more.......we'll see.

so my goals in the extreme kate makeover now include forming calluses as quickly as possible, singing like there's no one listening (even if they are) and learning to play those hot little guitar licks in "couldn't stand the weather" just as good as stevie ray........

oh, yeah, and jamming with tara when she hits the east coast.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

katie get your gun

in the summer, i sleep in the van most every night. i may only park across the dirt road from the house, or up on the hill but you'll rarely find me sleeping in the house. it's that "first thing you see" thing i wrote about in an earlier post.

one morning i woke up just after sunrise. i threw on jeans and jumped out of the van to throw a stick for mutt. he was really wound up, giving these snarly growls when he would capture the stick each time.

in the field, a pheasant called out a warning. it doesn't take much to distract us......we immediately started in the direction of the sound, curious. we flushed the bird, and then followed it's flight for a little ways. as usually happens, we got lured farther away from home and into the woods. only i'm not usually in my jammy's with a pair of jeans thrown over them. and barefoot to boot.

just inside the treeline, there is a sound in the brush, and mutt bolts into a stand of pines. he starts to bark, a high pitched bark i was not familiar with, and cannot understand. i call him, and he does not respond. i am pissed. i can't go into the thicket in bare feet without major pain, and the only thing i care about is getting to him and reinforcing the recall command.

then a grunting starts, loud and terrifying. we have had nuisance bears around, and my mind flashes to the fact that i am standing here, barely clothed, without a single thing to to protect us. mutt's barking becomes more strident......

i abandon my dog. i don't do the hero thing, which i like to fantasize i would do when i am daydreaming in my hot van on a summer day. instead, i stop calling my dog, afraid what may follow him if he came. i don't dash barefoot into the brambles to save him. i turn, and run back to my brothers for a gun.

it's only a few minutes until keith and i are back at the woods. the barking and grunting continues. but now, armed with smith and wesson courage, i call mutt again, and he comes out of the trees with blood on his head and muzzle. nothing follows. while i check mutt for injuries, keith ventures off the path. in a clearing a little ways away, he finds a downed deer with a large, necrotic wound on it's flank. it resumes that frantic grunting, suprisingly loud and harsh, in it's fear.

the deer has been down awhile. it is starving, and has lost most of it's hair. it is impossible to tell the age or origin of it's wound....possibly a bullet, or an encounter with a car. despite all of this, it is desperate to live. i look away while keith does the merciful's spirit survives the echo of the gunshot.

i didn't like guns much. i had hunted years before, a good shot with a .22, but reluctant to interrupt the joy of squirrels. i recognize the usefullness of guns as tools, and had considered them for self-protection many times. i don't know if i would have gone into that thicket if i had had a knife, but i knew i would not have hesitated if i had had a gun.

my mind was made up. i re-took a hunter safety course, and started to practice with the rifle my brothers gave me. i studied calibers and ammo and everything i could to master my discomfort. one day, my brother set up a target to practice with his new glock. he dared me to take a couple shots at the target, showed me how to hold it, and stood back. i put the first three bullets in a two inch cluster, and i was hooked.

it took awhile for me to settle on a gun. i wanted something small and light enough for daily carry, but with the stopping power i needed. i had been the victim of a violent assault once, and wanted a gun that would even the playing field whether i was defending my life in my van, or my dog from a bear. i wanted something reliable and unlikely to jam. i got a sweet little 7 shot .357 revolver by taurus.

aside from abandoning my dog to an unknown wild animal, i consider my self pretty brave. not fearless, by any means. i get scared alot. but i've learned to walk through most of the things i fear. i had to, in order to live.

i don't know that i am less fearful carrying a gun. my first line of defense remains an acute awareness of my surroundings, and sharp intuition. but i move through my days and my dark nights with more confidence. i am not operating in fight-or-flight mode any more. it feels good.

the story that was trampled

mutt and i were in the woods last week, and he came bouncing back to me after one of his little forays into the brush. he slid into a crooked heel, tossed my left hand with his nose, and took off again. i followed him to find a pile of feathers and some blood in a fairly pristine area of snow in the pines. i was curious about the lack of tracks surrounding the feathers, and the story of this birds death.
the snow wasn't giving up it's secrets, and since i didn't have my camera at the time, i decided to return the next day.
a nearby family, who's farm adjoins ours, homeschools it's kids. we sometimes go on "lesson hikes" together. we pick fiddle head ferns to eat and peel birch bark from downed trees for fire starting. we study tinder fungus. we spy on squirrels. there's always something to be learned in the forest more important than anything in books.
that next day, i decided to take the kids and see if we could solve the puzzle of the birds death.i was inclined to think maybe an owl had done it, accounting for the lack of predator tracks in the area. but the kids, in their enthusiasm, surged ahead with mutt, trampling the site with eager snow boots and paws. this pic is what remained of the mystery.
i guess the lesson here is to explore a story while you has a way of obscuring them if neglected too long.

Friday, February 08, 2008

the legend continues.....

i recieved this in an email from someone special who took the time to write his version of the legend of two knives katie. i guess he was tired of waiting for my version! this made me hoot out loud the first time i read it. the second time, i cried. no one ever wrote a story for me before, and kindness from surprising places brings me up short.

thanks, cowboy.


The air was cold and crisp that day. The sun hung low in the sky. Not that it could be seen at all. The sky was overcast a dark gray. Night was on its way.The wind whistled as it blew around everything in creation. Snow was everywhere; on the ground, in the sky. It was blowing around from every direction.

Two riders were cutting slowly through the howling wind. The sounds of the horses hooves slowly chopping into the dirt could clearly be heard. So too was the sound of the steam exiting their nostrils. The leather creaked under the riders.

The riders had the collars up on their dusters and their heads tucked as low in them as possible. The duster collars touched the bottoms of their hats. The wind was bitterly cold and one had best keep it off their skin as much as possible.

There was nary a soul on the street as they rode into town. Had it not been for the for the good repair of the buildings this could have just as easily been a ghost town, but it wasn't a ghost town.

As the snow let up, they pulled up at the stable near the edge of town.The riders dismounted and tied the horses to the hitching post. The older rider took off his gloves and cupped his hands together. He blew some warm air into them, rubbed them together and moved his fingers. Then, he put his gloves back on.

The younger cowboy said, "There's nobody out".
"Nope" replied the older one.
"Must be the snow and the cold."
"Must be" the older man paused. "You check the gear. I'm gonna see if anybody's in the stable."

The older rider went into the stable and was back out in a minute. He looked at the younger fellow, "There's nobody around, but there's plenty of room. We best get the horses in and off load the gear".

As they untied the horses and started into the stable, they noticed a woman enter a building across the street.

Once in the stable they began to unload their gear from the horses.The younger man looked at the older and asked, "Who was that in the mukluks?"
"That'd be Two Knives Katie".
"What's she do?"
"I hear tell she she used to be a nurse. These days, she spins yarn, dyes wool, takes trips, plays the guitar,... and she's a gear whore".

As they continue off-loading their gear, the younger fellow said, "Well, we all like a lot of gear." "Yep" says the older fellow, "I reckon there's a little gear whore in all of us".

As time passed, they got the horses unloaded and put away.The older man went to the stable door. It creaked as he opened it. He looked back at the younger man and said, "Snow's stopped. The horses are okay. We'd best go get some food in us."
He stepped out of the building. The younger man followed.
Their boot steps echoed on the boardwalk.
The older man pulled out a small cigar and lit it.
They continued to walk.
Then the young man said, "So why do they call that woman 'Two Knives' Katie?"

The older fellow stopped in his tracks.
He looked down, tightened his lips, and shook his head.
He took a puff off his cigar and turned to squarely face the younger man.
He exhaled the smoke from his cigar with a low sigh.
His face became very serious as he looked the younger man in the eye.
"Boy", he paused and shook his head slightly and said, "You don't want to know".

~The End~

note: my friend retains full rights to his work; i get to play myself in the movie :-)

twokniveskatie Part 1

i have always loved tools. tools for building, tools for fixing. tools for growing food, and for hunting it . for tilling the land and making cloth and healing broken bodies. for making fire and music and food. and tools for making tools.

at some point, a fascination for sharp things was born. i picked up a throwing knife that fit my hand with perfect weight and balance. although i held it in my hand, i felt it's weight in my belly, down deep where primitive things are born. it connected with my feral side.....i was hooked.

when you think about it, a knife is a tool that can be used for most of the tasks mentioned above. if i had to choose one thing to be stranded with, it would be a knife. you can make shelter, get food, and protect yourself.

the pictures above are two favorites. the cold steel bushman and the gerber backpacking axe. the bushman is a workhorse with many uses. it has a hollow handle, and can be made a spear. (watch out, boys). it is most always next to me.

above are some of my favorites smaller knives. lower left is one made from a trap spring. it is probably the sharpest knife i own. center is a braintanned quilled sheath whose flint knife is no longer with me. i love the sheath, and wait for a knife to fit it. next are a patch knife and a mini skean du, great little neck knives. and last a turquoise inlaid folder gifted me by friends.

these are just a few of my knives.....a prudent girl never shows all the aces up her sleeve, nor the sharp things in her boot. which leads to the next part of the story.

a group of friends who camped rendezvous together were gathered for a thanksgiving meal at a friends house. now buckskinners do love their weapons, so my buddy Hish and i were comparing ours on the table. i didn't care for guns at the time, so i had out my knife to compare to his pistol. he was extolling the virtues of his gun and my obvious disadvantage, when he grabbed my knife off the table and made pretend to draw on me with the gun. i had the second knife out of my boot and at his crotch so fast i amazed even myself, and some very impressed onlookers. i got to carve the turkey that day, and Hish said it was one of the most erotic things that ever happened to him. (next to his wife Bonnie, of course). which speaks volumes about the nature of my friends :)

so was the beginning of the legend. there is more to come, including a pirate with ill-intentions, and a man with a voice that won my heart. but that's part 2.