Monday, October 4, 2010

A Few Highlights of the Last Mountain Ramble

The alpacas, Levi, Reese, Vinnie and Junio, from left to right

The llama, Hummer, and the two pygora goats, Marguerite and Bonk

The outdoor kitchen

My sleeping quarters

The Water Vehicle (a Cadillac hearse rigged with a very Mad Max style 200 gallon system in the back, complete with a tiny racing wheel and, yes, it handles like it wants to crash over these rutted dirt roads)

And of course my lovely sister Rose at farmer's market (I also have a stalwart soon-to-be oath-brother, Max, but for some reason I have no photos of him, and it's too bad because he looks as fierce as ever)...oh, and the jolly lady behind us is the phenomenal baker Gloria

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"The List"


house/barn catchment
rain barrels
glass drinking jugs
cistern (ferrocement?)


fruit orchard
goat dairy
wood oven (horno)
mortars and pestles
hand grinders/mills
root cellar
beer brewing
bow and arrows
solar dehydrator
canning/pickling equipment
coffee trade (horseback caravan anyone?)


underground (or partially underground) winter home
open air summer lodge


fiber and leather trade
wash tub, washboard and press


solar powered studio
acoustic basses and guitars
paper making (and ink making/trade)
tattooing equipment on solar power
home library
star observatory with telescopes (a Schmidt-Cassegrain might be nice)
stone and plant labyrinth
astronomical hilltop stone calendar/festival monument

Any suggestions?

"The City"

It looks like I am a country boy at heart truly! I did not expect to return to Portland so heavyhearted, but the web and hum of machine and the thick threat of madness seemed to blanket every street as it took me back in the very first day from the high desert. I had accidentally booked my flight the same day as Harvest Festival, so while my brother Max was likely stuffing himself with homemade pie and local brisket, I was sitting on a plane awaiting traffic. I can hear his mocking laughter now. Oh, sweet brotherhood. The security at the airport in Albuquerque was the first shock back in to the reality of empire. As I held my hands above my head, the machine scanned me from head to toe and I blanked my thoughts as if they could read them as well. The jet I transferred to in Salt Lake City was a large state-of-the-art sleekster, complete with flat screens that automatically drew down from the ceiling in rows above the passengers, playing advertisements and television shows. I laughed to myself when I thought of the movie 2001 and remembered that it’s 2010 now. Oh, dear. I go from hauling water in buckets and cooking on an outdoor flame to sitting in a jet that puts to shame the space shuttle that was launched the year I was born. First night in the city, I went for a long walk to help me feel better. I had no destination, simply to reacquaint myself with the town and perhaps console myself with its beautiful aspects. Every other person I met on the street was drunk, high on crack, belligerent, suffering from mental illness or wrapped in a fog of sadness. I found myself tearing at my hair and murmuring out loud self-admonishments for planning to live again in the city. This walk was having the opposite effect! Without conscious effort, my feet led me across the Broadway Bridge straight to the train station. I stood before it, laughed at myself out loud, and looked at the tracks leading out of town longingly. I sang Hank Williams “Rambling Man”, threaded my way through Chinatown and meandered back to my apartment on the inner eastside. I found myself missing the mountains and the call of elk like a broken heart misses its love. I laid awake past midnight listening to the grind and screech of industry and trains on the river, then awoke four hours later with my sister and put hot water on the stove in the darkness before dawn. We laughed while talking of building houses and planting gardens on the mountainside. Now the birds are starting to sing and the sky is turning a soft grey-blue. I am reminding myself for the goal I set, the reason to be here: saving up for top surgery. I am reminding myself that the city is simply the human hive, like the anthill, and there is a kind of beauty in it, even through its suffering and dysfunction. In the meantime, I'll start a boy band, ride a bicycle, utilize one of the nation's finest library systems, and glean what I can from this dirty old town before it falls into the ocean. Besides, it's October, my very favorite month. The neighborhoods smell like wood fire and pumpkin pie. Seven months. That’s all. Then I am going back to school in New Mexico, living in a beautiful Spartan “Mansion” on the hilltop, planning the cabin of my dreams, eating fresh sheep cheese, drinking sweet honey mead and living the rest of my days as a mountain boy. Now I can deal with that.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Few More Days of Desert

Childhood is coming back to me in flashes of sun and smells, earth, the texture of leaves. Sometimes I part the boughs of a pine and it's as if I am a small child:the world is enormous and unknown. I could fly through red windows of rock under a lavender sky. The waters are still pure and the dream world is more real than expanses of cracking parking lots. A great Thunderbird burns out of the sky and the machines are powerless. The desert is absolute and pure, cinnamon red and sage green, without boundary and definition. The sun herself sends the power of dream and life into rains, rainbows, bones and blood. The fire and vibrancy, the hardship and sharpness of this land draws me like the mouth of the serpent. The soft, mossy beauty of the Northwest has healed me and still holds its healing, but it is the desert that stokes fire in me, creation.

Elk bone moon, I'll return before the next summer solstice. For now, winter will wrap me in moss and mist and the crisp death cold of high desert December will wait.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Month Back in the Mountains

High speed travel is such a strange thing to me. Tuesday night I walked home in the grey Portland rain and today I woke up to a honeyed sunrise over the blooming Zuni Mountains. On the way back from the airport a full double rainbow graced the valley and my friend Genevieve and I laughed because it was so beautiful we could hardly believe it. The black volcanic rock, wildflowers of every color, the golden light of the dying day, all of it was overwhelming. It was that familiar time warp when you feel like you're coming home, that years have passed and yet no time at all. Coming home. That's strange because I feel like every place I've ever been is home.

Much to my delight, Hummer the llama remembered me. He was excited to get his neck rubbed and kept giving me fragrant kisses with his buck-toothed mouth. The alpacas are so adorable I can hardly stand it. For the next few weeks I'll be cooking out of an outdoor kitchen under a netting. It's so very amazing to have the view of the valley from the propane stove, past which in the cliffs contains ancient ruins that I'll get to explore in the coming days. The Cadillac hearse that will serve as my water vehicle is even more pimp than I remember it!

It's good to see my family here, to see the "Mansion" on the hill hung with skulls, to look through the old chests of letters and keepsakes, but most especially, to see the universe at night and hear the wolves at dawn. Already I can feel the static of urbanity unraveling its tangles into the dry air. The woods quietly shuck it off of me like dead skin. Yes, a deep calm sense of home is here more than any other place I have been.

Monday, July 19, 2010

and what of hope?

i cannot sit to sup,
only walk through byways,
breathing to cool
the coals stoked
at the cradle
of my hips,
bringing fire and smoke
to the cage of ashes above.
i stop to weep
under a maple
with a prayer
that my arms alone
will be enough
to hold my being,
which is empty enough
to contain
the entire universe.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Back at Work in the City

I work food service in a busy cafe in a hospital. It's good money most of the time but high action and high stress. The customers are all the nurses, interns, doctors, patients and other workers, everyone from the public transit to the construction workers on the riverfront. Today was one of those especially trying days where everyone had some special request, weren't happy about something in their personal life and taking it out on those around them or just plain rude. To boot, I haven't slept and have had a lot on my plate emotionally and physically. None of my other coworkers were particularly happy about the day either, but I gave out a few shoulders massages and tried to keep my spirits up. The whole point of me working there, besides the money of course, is to just be the as much a bright spot in these people's day as I can. Working in a hospital isn't easy when you're treated like a vending machine, as my manager put it, and people have lots of sadness, anxiety and fear about these physical traumas they've just gone through.

But just when I thought I wouldn't be able to make it through with a positive, giving attitude, of course, genuineness came through to the rescue. A man about old enough to be my father came in with his female companion and after a transaction full of complaint from her, he looked me in the eye and said something to the effect of this: so many people come through here, ailing and sad, and you are just smiling and so positive, it really makes a difference and I sure appreciate it. I must be hard, but with your attitude, I bet you're a lot older than you look. He looked at me like if I was his son, he'd be proud and he meant it. He was a salt of the earth type of man, with an outdoor tan, beard and layman's speak. His words touched me in such a way that will not fade for moons and moons. I felt tears come near when I brought it to memory as I cleaned up to close the cafe. This is why I do what I do. Not just to make a dollar or twenty. Just to give a little care to each person who walks in with all their rawness and offer something more than a cup of coffee, but an actual real connection with a compassionate human being. Thanks, man, I hope you do have a good night.