Monday, December 24, 2012

Heading South of the Boarder

HellO little  creation of mine. I'm alone at a bar in Denver drinking a mescal cocktail called the Mexican Devil.  Soon I will cast aside my scarf and frosty breath in favor of flip flops and mangos.

In between working on travel plans and turning in grades for the end of the semester I've been neglecting you without regret. Climbing mountains and soaking in hot springs. Attending to the inevitable castrophes of my life. Slipping around on ice and snow in the car to the point where i refused to drive for a week and just walked or bummed rides.  And there's the piece of grated carrot that I somehow lodged in my nasal cavity for over a week.

And my silence will be prolonged further as I scurry south for the next few weeks in search of adventure.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Where I Talk About Composting Poop

Running into neighbors becomes less frequent as the days grow cold and short. 9 o'clock, which was once a time when most people wrapped up outdoor projects and headed in for dinner, is presently a non-negotiable bed time across the valley. Everyone in our little community seemed to be on the same page Sunday afternoon.  Between gathering manure and leaves for garden beds in preparation for their long winter sleep and soaking up the 60 degree weather that hardly points to any winter at all, we savored the now rare moment to catch up with one another.  

In most neighborhoods catching up includes hearing about the kids, the latest adventure, a new gardening technique, or a tidbit of gossip, but when I set down the wheel barrow to join in on a neighborly discussion, we talked about the ever exciting topic of poop. Everyone who lives on our mesa, Sin Agua, is off the grid and without a water tap. We all have composting toilets because they do not require any water. So, don't be surprised when you come to visit, because standing around talking about decomposing human doodie is totally normal.

Composting toilets are as variant as the people who build them. Most owners post user-friendly directions next to their john that explain the details of that particular toilet's temperament or they deliver a soliloquy on the subject when asked where the bathroom is located.  On the walls of an outhouse I used to frequent was a user manual stating that pee was not allowed in the pot as it formed a "messy slurry." Now, you've either gotta be a professional athlete or a master juggler to take a shit without letting a drop of liquid escape. 

Every few years we open the trap door that leads to heaps of composted poop. We transfer it to another barrel to allow it to further compost and decompose and surround these piles with straw bales to insulate them. Heat facilitates the break down of the poop. After its all composted we spread it on the fruit trees. We don't want to take any chances creating the next e.coli outbreak or the spreading of salmonella by mixing the compost into the soil where we grow our food.   

The only complaint I will offer on the matter....since our toilet lives in a little outhouse, sitting on a frozen toilet seat in the winter is a perverse, self-inflicted torture. Pooping is supposed to be relaxing!!  Soon enough you will see advertisements in Mother Earth for solar powered toilet seat warmers or squat toilets like the ones I used in India....Alas, I've spilled the beans on how I plan to make my  millions. Homesteaders beware!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Girl Seeks Hot Shower

When the earth tilts further from the sun’s warming rays, and just before the biting cold descends without hope of lifting till spring, I become somewhat of a nomad in search of a hot shower.

In the summer, the sun heats our water with the help of a large black barrel that sits atop the roof of Dev’s house. In the winter, copper tubing coiled around the wood burning stove stovepipe circulates water in and out of a holding tank, heating the water as it passes through the hot copper.  But in the fall, the sun’s powerful rays diminish so that the solar heated water grows tepid, yet the house remains too warm to justify building a fire. (Strawbale +Passive Solar= Totally Hot)

After cursing my way through a few cold showers I started to stash my soap, shampoo, and towel in the car. Following a run, a soak in the hot tub, or a visit to the brewery, I’d awkwardly invite myself to friend’s house for some old fashioned scrubbin'.

Generally speaking, I am as equally opposed to imposition as I am in favor of self-sufficiency, but my hot water dilemma puts me at odds with both. I can’t tell which is weirder--my aversion to asking for help or my habit of shower hopping.

Lucky for me, it finally got cold here last weekend. I emptied the solar hot water tank to prevent t from freezing and cracking. I pulled my onions from the ground. I put the garden to sleep and hauled two truckloads of firewood. I lit a fire in the stove and then, hopped into a steamy shower to wash the day’s filth and biting cold from my body.

First of the winter favorite.

Most common fire wood mishap...

Girls weekend to the San Juans included a white-out hike on the Bear Creek Trail.

And a hot beverage warm up! Can't express how grateful I am for amazing girlfriends who make you laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

For Michelle and Another October Passed

Tomorrow marks the start of November, the day of the dead, and the end of October. Six years ago I spent most of this month on my knees, pushing all air from my lungs, feeling the empty heat in my core until the next wave of sobs shook me. Snot and tears lubricated my passage of one day to the next.

In the beginning of the month my friend Michelle had gone missing. It seemed impossible that my forever friend, a woman with soft brown eyes you could swim in, an easy smile, and a laugh that pulled her shoulders up and down, a woman who I shared late night beers with as I passed through Virginia one soggy evening just months before, would  take off from her new home in Vermont without notice. Even harder to believe for a woman like me,  steeped in idealism and nativity like a thrice used tea bag, was that someone would take her.

Hikers found Michelle lifeless and brutalized a week after her disappearance  I poured over the details of the police  affidavit: the scratches, the hematomas, the traces of DNA and semen. I dreamt nightly that I was there with her.

These images rub me raw, not only because of their graphic and violent nature, but because they cloud my memories of a friend who picked me up by my guts to hear me fart and died laughing when the lemonade we drank mixed with our laughter and came shooting out of my nose.  She was the first friend I shared the darker parts of my life with and she allowed me into the shadowy sides of her own.

When we were in first grade we sat between two raspberry bushes and Michelle explained marine biology to me, her chosen profession at that time. We explored the first thrills of hanging out with boys at a Pizza Hut lit by greasy yellow lamps that hung over maroon booths and dialed inappropriate 1-800 numbers on the pay phone next to the door.

 Late at night on the pull out couch in your parents shadowy basement under a laminated copy of the constitution you'd hold my hands before we fell asleep. You'd tell me corny jokes like your dad's. Every time I eat dates, especially with peanut butter, I think of your mom, so dedicated to your success, and your snorting pug Fonsu running in tight circles around your living room. Even thought that beer was long overdue it was like nothing between us had changed--that we would continue along on separate paths and still find eachother endlessly interesting and entertaining in the years to come.

I think of you still. I know we all do. I bring you with me to snowy outcroppings to watch the alpenglow. I keep you by my side while I'm hitching a ride. And in the quiets of October I can still hear you bouncing your shoulders and laughing.

The scars on my wounded heart threaten to gush open when such a tender and emotionally wrought topic like rape is so cavalierly part of the political conversation. I feel incapable of speaking intelligibly. Waves of emotion wait in the wings readied to flood and drown all those in close proximity. I can't even begin to comprehend such small minded statements from men who seemingly know so little about violation and the sanctity of life.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Encounter with a Mountain Lion

Last night, I looked up from the sowing project in my lap and locked eyes with a mountain lion. I sat in front of a window that stretches from the floor to the ceiling in a rocking chair, ten feet from the enormous feline; she looked directly at me.

Those unmistakable, round eyes penetrated me to the core and though I pulled myself out of the chair with confidence, my insides turned to mush. I yelled at the lion in a deep voice, ordering it to go away. Rather than retreating, she advanced, and in two swift steps her nose was at the glass.

Ruda responded to my bellows and came to my side, completely unaware of the hair-raising wildness perched three feet from us. Immediately the cat's eyes turned to Rudabega and in that moment I crumbled.

I drew her away from the window. I hid under the desk. I refused to look in the direction of any of the widows. My skin crawled. Adrenaline coursed through me like thousands of angry bees.

When I got home yesterday I found vomit all over the floor. It seemed Dixie, our unloved cat, had an upset stomach. Since Dev left to teach a six week course in Cape Code, Dixie has become my sole responsibility and I wish her dead daily. After cleaning her vomit I threw her outside for the night. She sat at the next window over watching me all night and remained in her place when the mountain lion arrived. I was certain I manifested her death. And though I hate her, I felt remorse and guilt.

After ten minutes of cowering I kept my eyes to the floor as I walked to the window to retrieve my phone. I called Luke, and shamelessly begged him to come over. I did not try to hide the terror in my voice. I woke Dev, it was 1:30 in the morning East Coast time, to tell him I was certain I killed his cat. He assured me that this would be the perfect way for Dixie to go and then asked me to go to the windows so I could describe the lion in greater detail. I refused.

Never has a hug felt more welcomed than when Luke arrived.  I remembered the way my parents' hugs made everything bad go away in an instant the moment Luke wrapped me in his arms. I finally relaxed and I would not let him go.

I tossed and turned in my bed, the eyes of the panther burned into me. Adrenaline filled me again at intervals throughout the night, like the chest of my friend, rising and falling. I matched my breath to his. I watched the sky grow light, drinking up the soft, streaming pastels, and bathed in the bright pinks and oranges. Dixie mewed at my door.

In the haunting darkness the lion seemed so threatening and her advances menacing. But in the comfort of daylight I wondered if she had been curious, trying to get a better understanding of the wildness of lights and noise. I won't be running at dusk for awhile, or peeing outside...or doing anything outside around my place at night until the cold settles in and the cat heads for higher climes.

These photos were all taken by Andrew Cranson, a man of many talents and trades. He's a farmer, a hunter, a musician, a photographer, and a ladies man.
Andrew Cranson

Andrew Cranson

Andrew Cranson
Andrew Cranson

Monday, October 22, 2012

Unknotting Your Knickers

Who's ready for a little cyber exercise here? Take a second to check-in with yourself and consider whether you've got your knickers in a knot over some situation or another. If you don't come up with anything, holy shit, I think you're enlightened!! Or… in serious denial, and I'd put some nag champa on the line and bet it's the latter.

For those of you who have a grievance that's slightly greater than getting cut off at the Third Sreet intersection, I will also bet you think about this situation a lot. And when you do, I bet you think the same damn thoughts, over and over and over again, kinda like when you reorganize your kitchen and move the forks to a different drawer and then spend the next month swearing because every time you open the old fork drawer you remember that sneaky you thought they needed to be closer to the stove. With the repetitive story situation, however, you can't help but agonize over every detail, and even though that story is so lame, so old, so over-played, so boring, you can't help but tell it to yourself again. You might even write a blog post so that hundreds of people will know your story! 

Guess what?! No matter how many times you tell that story (I'm talking to myself here, but if you also need this little pep talk you can pretend like I wrote this for you), no matter how many people hear you tell it, it doesn't make the pain go away. It does bring your heart rate up though.

Since my last post I've been thinking about how no one intended to bring pain and suffering into my life.  I take it all so personally, but it's not about me. It rarely is. 

Hidden proof that I haven't worked on any projects since peach season

Final product.

The Reservoir.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Getting Out With It

I insecurely hesitated as I published my last few posts, because I know I'm tip-toeing around, saying the same thing over and over without really sharing much.  I'm still hiding, perhaps out of courtesy to others, fear of over sharing (too late you say?), or a desire to appear clean by not miring myself in the muck of life. 

When I checked my e-mail yesterday I laughed. My neighboring blogging pal, Laurel, totally picked up on this and gently prodded. 

What is actually going on in your life. People want to know. 
But I don't want admit to the things that make me a puny asshole!


S, is unarguably a wonderful person. We "broke up" a few years ago even though we were never together in a formal, monogamous way. Ultimately S chose another woman over me. 

This is me during that relationship:
I don't have expectations! I'm free from attachments! I have no boundaries!

In the aftermath of this relationship I discover I am a liar.

I continue to lug my bucket of sand around with me so that I can insert my head in it at opportune moments. I pretend I am okay with being brushed off by S. I cry when S fails to prioritize our "friendship".  Then we have drawn out, challenging, and gratifying conversations that make me feel uncomfortably closer while also exposing how insecure, controlling, and needy I am.

I engage in unproductive conversations with the Other Woman, as if this is the person I have problems with. I realize that I need to take space, that it might always be uncomfortable, that being friends with someone who is involved with the crumbly contents of my cookie-heart is pretty complicated, confusing, and perverse.

I finally allow myself time to be sad that the one I fell for didn't fall for me. I decide I don't want to be a good sport anymore. I stop pretending. 

I stop moping. I raise my head, pull my shoulders back. I put the whole messy story behind me as another learning lesson. I start dreaming. I start praying. I open myself to what's next with intention.

In the meanwhile, S's best friend is unshakably there for me as I fall apart and put myself together. I confuse this for budding romance... 

Someone else comes along. While they suggest we explore something, I sit in a bathtub with all my clothes on: my attempt at setting boundaries. I press pause to I listen to my skepticism. Even though it tugs at me all along the way, I relent.  Again, the relationship falls apart. I curse myself for my horrible decision making. For not listening to myself. For that damn bucket of sand I keep putting my head into.  

This is not exactly a tidy, packaged version of myself. It's not right. It's not wrong. It is a call for tenderness. Maybe I'll meet you there, in that space of being.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beyond Knowing

A few months ago I felt more strongly connected to my heart than ever. I was the ferocious guardian of my integrity and my intuition, which were immersed in tension that leads to self knowledge. The longing of my soul to crack its shell, leap into the ocean, and become naked to myself and others pulled tight and strong on every cord within me.

Then I made a decision that wasn't in alignment with my intuition. And from that decision came another, and another, and another. And when I looked up I was far away, like I had climbed into a canyon and come up on the other side.

Who else goes to that place that is far less threatening but leaves you emotionally starving? I do.

My mom and I have had a historically rocky relationship. During that  glorious, opening, heart-mending time we connected in an unprecedented way. I daringly let go of the stories from childhood--

    I have to be careful,
             I can't get too close,
                  Trust is a painful thing

--and I opened myself to her. My heart was instantly flooded. She's coming to visit me next week, just her and me together for the first time in my adult life. I am beyond grateful that we aren't going to wait any longer to do this.

As for my connection with my heart, I'm feeling better. I'm remembering my agency. I'm practicing my faith. I'm recognizing that the world works in ways that are far beyond my capacity of knowing.

Fall arrived on the day of Shawn and Chelsea's wedding.

After another amazing weekend, it's back to school.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bear Heart

Recently we've seen a dramatic increase in our local population; bears are scrambling down from the high country with napkins tied around their necks. With limited rains food becomes scarce for most high dwelling  creatures and their hunger directs them towards the abundance of fruit that floods our valley.  Farmers aren't the only ones who suffer through droughts.  The bears are starving and winter has hardly begun.

Allison now grasps the sleepless condition that is usually only familiar to new parents since a handful of bear started to visit her orchard each night. Photos are in order, and though the bears would make excellent subjects, I'm excited by Allison's bear scare-outfit: boots, shot gun, and a nighty-- haute couture in these parts.

For every bear spotted last season there are about seven this year, yet they still managed to give Dev a thrill in their smaller numbers. Dev heard a late night clamor by the chicken coop, grabbed his flashlight, and raced to the rescue. He dashed inside the coop pulling the door behind him just as a bear grabbed the other side of the handle. 

After a few seconds of tug of war, Dev let go of the door, swung his flashlight high, and brought it down swiftly over the top of the bear's head.  Startled, the bear dropped to all fours, turned, and hurtled away. Beside wrecking havoc on Dev's sleep cycle, this bear took the entirety of our beloved chicken, Rosa's, tail feathers. We've taken to calling our hearty survivor Bear-Bare Butt. 

Across cultures bears represent courage and bravery, two things missing from my ife lately. Without my notice, defeat quietly and silently filled the void created by their absence and left me immobilized and disoriented like celestial navigator facing an unrelenting, thick cloud cover.  But today I surrendered to the fear and the soft vulnerability within, and like the first flickering of day light, my strength began to break through, hungry, eager, and waking from hibernation. 
This is Rosa, who had a close encounter with a bear.

Although the bear made off with her tail feathers she manages to live a happy and full life.

This is Dev. I live on his property. Every time I imagine him hitting a bear with a flash light I giggle.

This bear was hit by a car while crossing the high way late at night. She was butchered and frozen for winter meals.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Coming Cold

Windows closed for the first time since June in response to the biting cold. Air from the first high country snow settled into our valley. I slid into the refuge of my down jacket to indiscriminately harvest tomatos. I've ditched my meticulous search for the ripest, most promising colors with the coming frost looming around us like a a wild cat ready to pounce.  We're a week past our first frost date. Vine ripe tomatoes that make it into October are a gift from the gods.

I'm struggling right now to find ways to support the kids I mentor in making healthy choices--vegetables are obscure, extra pounds pile on, sugary drinks are consumed daily, family members struggle with diabetes... it's a complicated want to help others if they aren't asking for it. Any time I try to broach these subjects I'm weighted by self-righteousness and judgment--an equally unhealthy lifestyle choice.

I invited one kid to my house for a lunch full of garden veggies.  Another one went for a walk with me up my favorite ass-whooping hill. After divesting myself from the weighty layers of wanting to change them I saw the obvious...that having fun doing these healthy things together seems way more effective than any didactic rant. Yet judgement uncomfortably hangs around me like an oversized costume.

In the mean time, I've been thinking about the future a lot in a I need to run away from my problems kind of way.

Note to self: this doesn't work. Deal with your shit. (Gently. Softly. Compassionately...of course)

The color of my evening's bounty mirrors the morphing aspens and scrub oak. Burning reds and bursting golds scatter the mountains. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

"Legitimate" Love for My Town

If I haven't convinced you of Paonia's provincial quaintness with my photos of poetically sagging barns, kaleidoscoped meals, mountains that inspire our lofty will, and animals that melt your heart, well, start paying attention. Obviously, it's a beautiful life here. 

For the complex creatures that we are beauty is not enough to bind us to this spot. A healthy dose of mainstream recognition adequately fuels my defense of our redneck existence. My vanity demands it, and the world graciously provides.

To start anecdotally, my friend Sarah, the director of the Conservation Center here in town, helped orchestrate our effort to fight off oil and gas development on lands that directly surround our town. When Sarah met with our Congressional State Representatives in DC several months later they gave nod to Paonia. Never before had they received so many letters about a single issue in all their years in office.

This past July our local hairdresser and former town councilman stepped in front of an armory of war tanks that made their way into our Fourth of July parade. He thrust a sign above his head, daring the tank forward. It read, "Democracy bought and sold," a message intended for our local billionaire, Bill Koch, owner of the tanks, a coal mine, and arguably the coffers of our political representatives.  This event catapulted Tiennamen Sid into the national media limelight and earned him some air time on both Rachel Maddow and Amy Goodman's evening news.

You can imagine my delight when the New Yorker ran an article chronicling our on-going saga with Bill Koch on his proposed federal land swap (Page 34 of the Sep. 10th issue).

Everything done in our town tends to be externally validated. You get a new job, DJ a radio show, cut your hair, find romance, stand in front of a tank, get sick, buy a house, hunt down an elk, go out of town, stand-up for our community --whatever it is, people know and they generally get pretty excited about it. 

It makes sense to everyone who lives here why we stay--it feels good to have people care and pay attention. It validates that burning desire to have your existence acknowledged. When the magazines my family reads or the shows that my friends watch feature our humble town I can't help but swell with pride.

And even though I am surrounded by people who feel the dynamic pulse of our town thumping along, it feels good to have a some "legitimate" evidence to point.

One of my Paonia favorites is leaving in a matter of weeks for good. Another failed attempt by the Paonia Youth Retention Comittee. I write to console my sad heart and to encourage those who persevere. 

I thought this one deserves an explanation-smudging the space and each other in preparation for Shawn and Chelsea's wedding workday party. 

I love when meetings run late and I get to hang with my co-worker's kiddos.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Older, But Still Sassy

My twenties are rapidly drawing to an end, and while I can't remember how old I am half the time, this birthday had me feeling a little squeamish.

Nothing cures a case of the Get Your Shit Together Pierce, You're Almost 30 like heading to the wilds where concerns amount to rain clouds, blistered feet, and hoisting excessive amounts of food 15 feet into the air. Take that bears! I didn't think for a moment about my aging ovaries, my limited financial prospects, and the adolescent nature of my love life. Heck Yeah!

And if you think I'm sounding a bit melodramatic about getting older, you're right. I haven't grown out of that habit yet... maybe when I'm a more grounded, wiser 30. Or when I succumb to living in a hermitage.

I'll keep you updated.

Best birthday ever. I am so glad for friends who giggle and love and think about interesting things. And for their busy lives without which we might have only had one birthday dessert instead of two!

Momo made an amazing three layer carrot cake which she hauled on her back for  over ten miles.
The gang (minus Ari) making Gado Gado for dinner.

Google and Cally. He brings her his bowl when he's hungry!

Tent after the rains.
Sarah pumping water.

My favorite princesses, Anna and Ruda.

Peruvian Purple Potatoes for breakie.

Happy campers on the way home.