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

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.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


if the river
reversed it's path
and flowed north
instead of south,
i would stand on it's banks
and collect my tears
as they swirled by
on their return trip
from the sea.
i would put them in
a little leather purse
and leave them on
your doorstep
for you to trip over
in the morning.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

keeping warm

i love my little jotul stove. it's swedish. it is small, and will be perfect for a one room cabin, or a good sized wall tent. when i am in the house, this is what i look at all day. i sleep, cook, eat, write, and surf the net in this little corner of the house.

i have an excellent chimney, only needs cleaning once a year. but my stovepipe and the flue that runs through the wall to the chimney build up creosote something fierce. i have to shut down the stove once a week to clean it out really well. last week i had to shut it down over night. i couldn't stay warm even with a good sleeping bag and a dog, so i was up at 4:30 in the morning ripping it apart and cleaning it in the dark. what a pain that was. couldn't find my headlamp, and couldn't see down the pipe, so i stuck my arm down the pipe to clean it by feel. had to make a laundromat run that week....weren't no scrub board gonna clean the sleeve of that jacket :-)

it's pretty warm here today, but damp. the stove is drafting poorly today, so i'm gonna shut it down, and hope it cools before dark so i can restart it tonight. mutt got really muddy on our trek today, so no way he's getting in the sleeping bag'll be the stove, or the shivers. :-)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

evidence of twinship grows

so this couldn't get any freakier.

i am up before 5, woodstove needs stoking, and i've slept enough for now. dog out, and fed, and soon the stove is hot enough to make my tea. i contemplate my blog, but sign off the internet, wordless at the moment.

the phone rings, and it's my friend richard. i haven't spoken to him in a few years. we make plans to meet and catch up. i am a little freaked, because my phone rarely rings, let alone before sunrise. and the universe is popping out people all over the place at a time when i need them most.

the phone rings again. the caller id shows my maiden name with the letter "s" in front of it. that is weird. my maiden name is an uncommon name, you don't see it often. but my neice is named sarah, and i think that my sister must have changed her name back to our maiden name, and for some reason, sarah is using it. i answer the phone.

"hey, sarah, what's up? " i ask, still a little befuddled by the name thing. i don't remember what she answers, and we exchange a few words, until i say "this is sarah, isn't it?"

silence for a second, and she says "no, this is tara". i'm a lot befuddled by now, but absolutely thrilled to hear her voice. my mind goes back to my maiden name on caller id. i have never in my life met anyone with that name outside of my family. i'm becoming flummoxed at this point. and i say "but what's your name?" well, get this.....we are connected by the same family name. can you imagine that? what are the odds of that?

we talk for awhile and it's like i've known her forever. it is the best start to the day that i could never have imagined. i'm going to dig out the geneology stuff my mom left me, and do some research.

maybe twins, after all. or some blood relation at the very least.

imagine that......

Monday, February 04, 2008

so i get questions

so i get questions. i love them. someone wanted to know if i owned any other shoes besides mukluks. so here are my favorite summer boots. actually, they are woodland indian 18th century era high topped center-seam moccasins. i love footwear that molds to your foot. they are light, they breathe, and you can move nimbly and quickly. these are great for bushwhacking, they protect your legs. when the soles wear out, it's easy to sew new ones on. the downside? they are as slippery as shit. i don't know how the indians stayed upright on wet grass.....

another recent question....."do you have a foot fetish?" haha! no. if i have a fetish, it's kindness. kindness is the sexiest thing going. try it.

in the upper left corner of the pic is some roving. i was thinking of spinning the yarn for tara's socks, but changed my mind. i'm gonna use the canadian polworth/ kid mohair so i can get them going quicker. can't have my girl with cold feet.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


there's no paying the piper
when you cannot sing his tune
he sang completely different lyrics
when he first proffered the spoon
you danced, you sang, you laughed aloud
but dawn came all too soon.....
then small, concave, you went again
to hear the piper croon.

border crossings, or How Tara Came to Be My Hero

this blog post is gonna happen tonight thanks to johnny, and his nice comment about my poem. thank-you johnny, for the inspiration. i hadn't been able to find all the words before tonight.

i have recently resurrected a bunch of my writings that have long been hidden. putting them in my blog has been an act of defiance, and of hope.

it's not just my writings that have been resurrected, either. a whole big chunk of my spirit feels like it's breaking out all over. it feels good. it feels bad. it's confusing. my nerve endings are literally raw. but i am ready to let what happens, happen.

over the last couple years, i've "met" a few folks on the internet that i've had this instant, intense connection with. kindred spirits, they are. they always seem to pop out of the universe just when i need them, like daffodils after a dreary winter.

tara is one of them. at first she seemed like a most unlikely some ways, she's the antithesis of me. but in other ways, she is like my heart. she is the woman i want to grow up to be, the child i once was, the

NEWSFLASH: i hate my computer. last night i wrote this really long blog entry about border crossings. only, the draft autosave only worked for the first few paragraphs, so when i published, this is all the remained.

after a small meltdown, i am calmer. but i despair of ever recreating the post. i decided to stick this on the blog as a reminder, a teaser, a memorial. let's see what i can do to resurrect the thoughts.....

Saturday, February 02, 2008

new old jeans and the joy of socks

just a pic of the jeans i found in my closet, and the sock i just can see the beginning of the second sock on the needles. this is a labor of love. i was so burnt out by production knitting for the shows over the fall, that i thought i'd die if i cast on another hat. so i decided to get me a pair of socks done. for me, this time. i haven't had a handknit pair of socks since catherine made me a blue pair some time ago.....which i still wear, i might add :-) i wear her love this minute, in the form of a shawl she spend countless hours spinning and then knitting. thanks, catherine!

catherine is my best friend. she is one of the very few people who truly knows me, and accepts me as i am, and makes me a better person for it. she is one part of a collaboration we call tribalfyber. she does magic with her colors and dyepots, and i aspire to learn the craft as well as she knows it.

so, socks. oh, the joy of socks. these are being knit from a canadian yarn-- part polworth wool, part kid mohair. soft and strong, they will make the perfect mukluk socks.

i think i should knit tara a pair for cold nights in her van, so she could be warmed at once by the lofty yarn, and the knitting love.