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Lately

Santa Monica, California. A woman walking by a coffee-house  just grabbed another woman’s drink, opened it up, and dumped it on her. She did it passionately. She held nothing back. Damn. I am impressed. Yes, the offender appeared to be homeless. She was walking by. Dumped the drink, and kept walking. They’re all calling her a “crazy-person”. She had missing teeth, filthy clothes…all that. The other woman sat, suspended in a brief moment of denial. Holy shit, yes…that just happened. She began to laugh. She wasn’t angry. The whole thing was beautiful. She’ll probably go tell all her facebook friends. They’ll comment. They’ll click, “like”. Everyone within fifteen feet of the woman, now covered in her iced brown drink, crowded around her. Hell, I went outside too. I told her I thought it was cool that she was laughing. Probably a lame thing to say, on behalf of the homeless woman. What I meant was, thank you for not getting angry. I just wanted to feel the energy out there. It’s not so common…bearing witness to such honesty in action. I’m surprised to find this feeling to be similar to that of witnessing acts of unself-conscious kindness. Honesty is beautiful, always. In keeping with truth, I can’t hide it any longer. Or…hide any longer. Its been almost a month since our last post, and there’s a reason for that. I hate this. I want to tell you everything. I long to share. But this isn’t how I write. To sit for two hours, trying to squeeze words from my brain, that isn’t natural. Ah…it feels good to tell the truth. Scott and I have reached the awkwardness of a milestone; as my friend Jason put it, we’re building a “platform” for our expression. Two things we each love so dearly, Scott, photographing, and me, writing, we’ve now begun to shape for the sake of public comprehension. This is a risky thing to do. This the point where many artists go awry. The desire to please. Blech! I’m not going to do it. Right here, I’m putting the brakes on this whole, half-assed operation. Those close to us have been asking questions; they want to know what, exactly, it is that we’re doing . And so, we’ve wanted to tell them by way of this blog. Here is us doing this. Now we’re doing that. This is our latest adventure; insert comedic anecdote here. What have we been doing? We’ve been living. Is that so crazy a concept? Don’t mistake my tone here, I’m asking this question in all sincerity. I understand it seems strange. Two people with seemingly comfortable enough lives drop everything and go searching. Searching for what? We are finding out as we go along.  We had thought, “Hey! Let’s WWOOF! What a great way to gain some fresh perspective!” So we did that. Along the way, we realized “WWOOFing” is a box in itself. To work on a farm is all fine and nice, but it ain’t all that’s going on in the world…thus, it ain’t all we’re doing. We’ll stop by any farm which calls to us along the way. Also, “along the way”, and since I wrote you last, we’ve spent some days at CRIChouse (an anarchist eco-village located in the woods outside of Sebastopol, California). There, we slept in a tree-house, helped a wonderful man build his dream home on a steep hillside, ate meals prepared communally with predominantly dumpster rescued food, experienced co-parenting, pooped in more compost toilets, got poison oak, and learned about facilitating community whilst remaining true to oneself. Some real life learning. From CRIChouse, we headed to Berkeley, where we were to occupy the room of a couple who’d be in New York for twelve days; they live in a community house in the south of town, near the Oakland border. There, we rode our bikes, a lot, Scott got four flats on one tire, we shared ourselves with an upwards of the ten beautiful others who live in, and/or were visiting also…we cooked for Food Not Bombs, and served tasty nourishment to anyone in People’s Park who needed it, we learned that Apples to Apples is an excellent game, that you can collect greywater (any water that would be wasted as a by-product of hand, body, and dish washing, shower water heating, etc.) in buckets and use it to flush the toilet, about bike touring from a bad-ass gal named Alex, how to open a squat from Simon, how to patch up a bike tube from Falafel (Falafel is a person…I’m not suggesting you go and attempt to patch up a tube with falafel balls…but try it, who knows?); we ate some bomb ass cinnamon rolls at Cinnaholic, drank coffee from the community house’s french press, and ate endless freegan delights (chanterrelle mushrooms, anyone?). And we were blown away by the open hearts of the people we stayed with (I mentioned that they’re beautiful…I guess open-hearted goes without saying.) Traveling can be just traveling if you limit yourself to the rigidity of maintaining “best-laid” plans. Traveling becomes a journey when you open up to the vastness of spontaneity, to the people, and to the vibrancy of life taking place all around you. Venturing off the path is necessary to the journey. This works itself out in so many wonderful ways…like the day when Scott and I were wandering around the limits of CRIChouse’s 330 acres, on a walk we had not intended to take; I ambled on into a barn, found a free-store, and happened on a book which has changed my life. Yes! Anyhow…Berkeley…we had arrived with the intention of finding a place to root down in the bay area; after our twelve days were up, we had decided to continue south…to Santa Monica, Phoenix, a stop in Denver for love, and onwards to explore the vastly stigmatic south of this country. I hear the people are genuinely interested in gettin’ to know ya down there. And what’s the deal with Texas, anyway?! Them great Smokey Mountains have long been a callin’. It’s time to keep moving. Keep learning. Keep opening up ever more wide to the infinite possibilities of how to live this life. Back to Santa Monica; we’re here, we’re staying with that guy I told you about…the one with the closet. The ocean is SO HEALING. This is a place of renewal; the beach, an outdoor sanctuary devoted to bringing you closer to whatever it is your heart seeks. A man I met here  a couple of years ago, living on the beach, had told me he came to Venice with the intention of killing himself. He spent ten days on the beach, and by the tenth, had found new reason to live again. He’s one of those people others might also call a “crazy person”. He made sense to me.

In all sincerity…

I’ve been taking this all for granted.  This enchanted forest of oaks, for granted. Space to be, to ponder, to commune with oneness in a place so beautifully natural as this, for granted. I’ve become stuck in a tightened shoulders tirade of internal bombardment…”What are we doing here?” “What the hell am I doing with my life?” and, admittedly, the ever self sinking, “How am I ever going to move beyond such deep-seated, pervasively immense notions of no worth?” Around and around I’m going. All of the successes I want to know become a tornado in my mind.

And here I am…actually AM. Sitting with the birds, the squirrels, the trees, the sun’s glorious illumination through green leaves. Why is it so damn hard to live peacefully in the here and now?! Even the beauty of these serene waking moments are no match for the mental slave driver within; this ferocious beast, with its rigid ideas about WHAT MUST BE DONE!, flooding me with anxiety on the very loveliest of mornings. Such crazy-making of the mind sees to it that little is ever done, save for worry.

No amount of seeking to understand that which motivates such incessant brooding will do to quiet this fretful, nerve wrecking cacophony. Yes, I know…I am afraid; the perfection expecting ego in me fears its ability to do well those things my dreams call for. Yeah. Yeah. Self-defeat is always deeply rooted…one can spend a lifetime in continual discovery of why we do the things we do. I can denounce fear; I can point my finger directly in the face of doubt, and laugh; I can dance wildly about, distracting myself from the frozen madness of a burdensome mind. I can sit anyone down and explain in great detail why myself, and so many of us, are afraid of our own lust for creative expression. Still…none of this serves to bear true stillness.

Nothing lays fear to rest like the appreciation of subtle joys found in each moment, all around. When I do this, my shoulders loosen…my body melts into the wisdom of the natural world. I am just another thing the sun is shining upon.

With my heart taking over, and my mind free to, at last, work in still seclusion, I give a thousand thanks….because a frog is croaking, the cat is laying upon a pile of newspapers beside me, sleeping…people are making music, painting their heart’s out upon walls, loving each other, and planting gardens…there is water to drink, and food to share. Thanks because, no matter how loudly televisions instruct us to be afraid, to doubt, to exist in the narrowness of fear and distraction, I can always come here…anywhere…to sit, and breathe in the peace of even having air to breathe.

Yours, in the absence of haste.

 

Wayward Humans

A few weeks before the fated March day Scott and I sat down to our first conversation, I had spent a week with a friend in Santa Monica.

Jason and I arrived at the only hostel in Moab, Utah within two days of each other. Our journeys intersected, lending themselves to an evening which came alive quickly; as though resuming from some long, lost
break in a long ago conversation. It was one of those “I feel like I’ve known you before…” moments, which led easily into an “I feel like I’ve known you before…” friendship in a few hours time.
As I packed to return home, this new friend’s departing words invited me into his home, need I ever a place to stay in L.A.

A month later, I did just that; arriving on Jason’s doorstep with little more than a phone call for directions.
Six days later, I drove the seventeen hours back to Denver, conjuring up a future which involved me moving into Jason’s oversized closet by July.
I had been aching to get out of Denver (snow…Barf! Semi-arid desert…Barf! Wanna- be cowboys making up for
their lame-ness by wearing “cowboy” hats and driving BIG HUGE TRUCKS powered by the souls of 3,550 horses…BARF!!!)
I imagined myself there, holed up in that cozy closet/room, painting, and writing…occasionally obtaining my wanderlust fix, roaming Venice beach with my new gangster friends.
It’s what I wanted. Everything would work out beautifully.

And then along came Scotty.

Within a week we were seeing each other every day. He seemed to crave the kind of domestic companionship I had long since forgotten how to even miss, though suddenly found myself living for.
I liked the way he stood near me in his apartment’s narrow kitchen as I prepared dinner; simply standing there, his body communicated a naturalness so refreshing in a world of prepackaged, predictable mannerisms.
In one of our first few conversations, I mentioned a long standing love of Portland, Oregon. He said he had never been there. He hadn’t taken much time away from work to venture much of anywhere;
four years entrenched in the time clock of Whole Foods market had fashioned an irresistible traveling companion. Here was a man who had played his drums at Red Rocks Amphitheater (pretty damn impressive),
he had gone to school for a spell in Arizona even…but the thrill of the open road??? I had an adventure virgin on my hands. And I like virgins. A lot.
I will never forget our first time. We had been close for about a month…which is enough time in my book. Time to break him in, and hit the road. We packed up little blue, and headed west.
We rode our bikes up and down the hills of Oakland, fought in San Francisco, and slept in the car in Portland. Mmm…the sweet thrill of introducing him to the world beyond time clocks…….

Somehow I never made it to Jason’s closet.

On August 21st we left our well trodden lives behind, setting out to learn what life can be like when our entire bodies are involved in the process of living.
We had already traveled quite a ways internally; in the short time we had been together, we had loved, battled, laughed, and exchanged enough “fuck you”s to stock an entire fifty year marriage.
Somewhere in there it dawned on us that we were two very passionate people trying to fit ourselves into a tiny little box.
And then we heard about this thing called “WWOOF”.
Amidst the confusion, trying to navigate our way through a sea of would be and could be, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms seemed like the obvious answer.
Travel? Learn how to grow our own food? Spend the day playing in the rich, fertile earth in exchange for room and board? Hell yes, we’ll do it!
WWOOF is a loose knit organization spanning the globe; from Georgia to Nigeria, those who currently run an organic farm can join up, and advertise their land,
lifestyle, and philosophies to the thousands of us out there who wish to gain hands-on experience in the world of organic living.
We began contacting farms across Northern California , confident that our lives were soon to be rid of the mundane and mindless daily routines we had come to abhor.
Weeks went by with no response. While Scott was busy freaking out, I took myself and the farm directory handbook outside, sat on the deck, closed my eyes, and opened to a page at random (well, sort of…
I was careful to keep away from the mid-section of the book…mid section=mid west. No, thanks.)
Mind you, by this point I too had begun to feel a bit hopeless about these farmin’, travelin’ dreams of ours.
I must confess my teary eyes when I looked down at the page and saw the name of a place I had long forgotten I adored.
Six years ago a friend and I ventured on up to Vancouver, British Columbia with our sights set on a wicked Vancouver Island backpacking trail; the ferry from the mainland to the island took us through the
San Juan Islands. When I saw these gorgeous chunks of land scattered about the foggy sea, I wanted nothing more than to spend my life in a handmade hut atop their lush, wet, wildness. After six days
and 52 miles through some of the most beautiful, harsh terrain I’ve had the blessing to walk, I must’ve forgotten all about these islands; when I opened that page and saw farms listed for the San Juan Islands,
I about dropped the book.
I called Frog Hollow Farm. Susan answered (someone actually answered! This had to be The One!)
We spoke for 20 minutes…

Hiding in our work...?

About two months later Scott and I arrived at Susan and Lane’s handmade home on Guemes Island.
It’s what we wanted. Everything would work out beautifully.

Only, we were dealing with more than some lovely acreage, we were dealing with humans. Yeah, you know…those strange, awkward things with mouths, egos, and all kinds of contradicting opinions.
I’m one of ’em, and I can barely stand to live with myself sometimes.
Anyway, so you know about the farm. You know they’re all sustainable and stuff…the non-stinky toilet, the flys buzzing around my ass as I…you know. We told you about Lane, oh..tut tut…such a character.
We told you about Susan. But I left a few things out. For instance, when I said ‘matriarch’, I meant extremely controlling woman who wouldn’t allow five minutes to pass without correcting something one of
us said, or did, or thought…by the time we got out of there I had had enough dos and don’ts to make me want to strip nude and run amok about the island, shouting obscenities and talking to

 

Millet and a machete

the townspeople in volatile bouts of gibberish.
I’ll be the first to admit it; human interaction is difficult…I bet you didn’t know that. I’ll bet you thought we were out there frolicking in endless fields of squash…waking every morning to the cocka-doodledo of
El Guapo.
I’m sorry if I misled you; truly, Frog Hollow is a beautiful place, and I wanted so badly to believe in its splendor.
But after three weeks of working our asses off and being treated like incompetent, indolent children, we had had enough.
And as synchronicity would have it, we had met just the man to help us outta there.

Carl Meinzinger approached me a few and half weeks ago as I finished up a job of dragging a rake back and forth over a questionable piece of land.
With a dour expression he later explained to be entirely unintentional (“As I’ve gotten older, my face tends to just sit that way. I always forget.”),
he asked me what I was doing with his leaves. We spoke for a good ten minutes; and though I was put-off by his initial over-concern for a bunch of leaves, I learned he was simply a guy going through a lot of shit.
He invited us to his home for dinner the next Friday…smiling, he said we had “vegan” written all over us, and that he planned to prepare one of his favorites…veggie stew over rice.
It was the kindest gesture we had encountered on the island; so kind, in fact, I almost didn’t know how to react…if that says anything.
We arrived just after six p.m. to…..MUSIC! And it wasn’t no smooth jazz crap either! And conversation! Real, deliciously honest conversation! We played cards…we discussed music, life, and…Susan.
Apparently we weren’t the only ones having trouble with her and her mouth. When I realized it wasn’t just me, and that we were truly living under an ungracious thumb, I couldn’t work for her another week.
At some point Carl mentioned the extra work he had to do around his place, being that he had recently sold it, and had two months to polish up the joint and go. Those words, “Are you interested in any paid work?”
lit a flame just where it needed lighting. By the next night, Scott and I were packing up our cute little, spider dominated Frog Hollow room…whispering amongst ourselves…how were we going to tell Susan?

The Truth

I had been in situations like this before; I knew I had some learning to do in the realm of speaking my truth while remaining in my integrity. Confrontations thus far had usually gone the route of yelling matches
(the first one to cry loses!); that, or they didn’t happen at all…I was so afraid of hurting other people’s feelings. You see, I harbor no hard feelings towards Susan; I see clearly, her fouls are unintented. She is doing her
best with what she knows. The thought of saying something that might lead her to think I thought her farm any less than magnificant made my stomach turn. But still, she was rude.
 Although her inhospitality had driven us out, she had nonetheless taken us into her home for 21 days; she deserved my best in explaining why we couldn’t stay even a week longer.
Sunday morning dawned, we continued to pack, and I went over and over in my head what I’d say to Susan. Honestly, I’d rather have left unannounced, save for a little “thank you/screw you” note on my pillow.
But the thought haunted me…what if no one else had ever confronted her before? A highly functional purpose of interacting with others comes by way of feed back; if all of us went around saying only niceties or
nothing at all, what good would that do? There comes a time when we must face facts about ourselves, and other people make wonderful mirrors, reflecting back to us even our most subconscious fallacies.

She had seen us packing up the car; she stood motionless in the misty, gray morning…face long, eyes confused. It was time.
“You guys…goin’ somewhere?”
I stood heavy, and still…facing her directly…calculating my calm. Though shaking, I kept my arms loosely at my side; with my heart open wide to whatever she had to say, I told her we were leaving.
She rolled her eyes….said she didn’t know what we were so mad about.
I told her I wasn’t mad. She was just very uncomfortable to live with.
I made my admiration for the things she had accomplished on the farm clear.
She said we were nice people, but we, basically, suck at “community”.
I told her she could have all the beautiful land in the world, and people too…but a community needs heart, and I had never felt hers.
We each vented our frustrations. We hugged. The whole conversation unfolded in an eery kind of calm. Like I was dreaming, and she was about to turn into a huge monster-fish. Or something.
I guess I’m not used to confrontations being so…mellow. She had angry tears in her eyes, but that’s alright. Had I been more honest, I might have cried too.
It hurts to tell people you don’t really like them all that much. But, damn, it’s a hell of a lot better than pretending you do.

It was gray and wet when we left. We escaped to Vancouver, B.C. for a night, slept at an old military baracks turned hostel, and spent the day hiking around Stanley park.  Though we were keen on getting the hell out of Washington, we had promised Carl some work.  We returned, spent a few hours shuffling through mouse shit and wooden boards, gave Mr. Meinzinger a hug, and hit the road.

We’re in California now; taking care of my Mom’s cat and dog while she and her husband go traipsing around the Pacific North West, of all places.

The trees don’t tell us how to breathe

We’re figuring out what the hell to do next, and we’re enjoying the peace.
The tranquil home we sleep in is surrounded by oak trees; I’ve been giving my troubles to them.
I’m not going to go and create some perfect fantasy of what our next venture will look like.
I’m not going to go force myself into anyone’s closet, or pretend a place will be perfect just because the people who live there are artists with solar power.
Scotty’s jonesin’ for the bay area, and I’m jonesin’ to keep growing.
That’s enough for now.

Damn

A storm’s been a brewin’ here on Frog Hollow Farm; and I’ll tell ya this much…it ain’t in the sky, my friends! Stay tuned. Thoughts to come…

The Good Work

It is mid evening; the moon is high in the sky, glowing in the pre dusk. Scotty is out in the garden, harvesting beans. I can see all this from the window seat where I am grateful to be seated, within the home we are grateful to have been invited in to. The home, the farm…all built with the sweat, blood, and love of two extraordinary people; one with a mind as broad as his curiously endless capacity for laughter; the other, possessing the tenacity to bring this place together. Frog Hollow Farm is a place you must know. So let’s begin…

Standing on the south end of the farm, Scotty captured the many pieces of Frog Hollow in the late afternoon (this is my favorite time of day here…the sun gives all it touches such richness, as if to pull forth the fullest capacity for joy in all but the most hard hearted among us.) In the foreground you see the crops Susan has recently begun growing  primarily for the purpose of starting up a CSA collective (more on CSAs later). In the immediate background lies the greenhouse, behind this, their eclectic, extremely functional, fairy tale-like house, Susan’s circular garden (which feeds us all), and off to the left, the water-tower (where our every drop of water is pumped in from from a well). And off to the right, the land upon which the chickens, ducks, and sheep (Margarita y Rosalita) graze by day, and huddle by night. What you don’t see is the pond, off to Scott’s right…where the water lilys open pink, white, and brilliant to the sun each day.

You get the picture.

The Matriarch

In 1986 Susan, Lane, and their nine year old daughter, Sophia, packed their Seattle dwelling selves up and moved here, to Guemes Island; a sparsely populated bit of earth…measuring a mere eight square miles in size, and located just off the coast of Anacortes, Washington. Twenty-four years later, their home is…well, really, really cool; it is one hundred percent solar powered, and designed to allow nature to accommodate their needs whenever possible, complete with compost toilets and all.  My preconceived notions of what living like this would entail have been thrown in my face…where I could see clearly the many I had wrong. (For anyone who regularly uses the term TMI, don’t read this next sentence. So, one preconceived notion I held regarded compost toilets: they must stink! Well, they don’t! In fact, I have yet to smell my poop while pooping once! More than I could say for flush toilets.) All of our water, as mentioned, is pumped in from a well, most of our food comes from the backyard, and clothes are hung out to dry.

While both advocate sustainable living, Susan has been the non-stop force behind what’s on our plates, where what’s left on our plates goes when we’re full, the delectable canned goods we put on our crackers, what this strange looking plant produces and that strange looking plant does not, etc. etc. etc.. This fiercely opinionated woman has come close, at times, to telling us how to breathe; though being bossed around by such a remarkable person ain’t so bad a thing at all.

Lane Parks…he hid from us for the first few days; tinkering either in his gypsy house down by the pond, or down the street at the Madrona Center for the Arts (this is his creation…a non-profit art education center in the making). He cracks endless jokes; inserted so slyly into casual conversation, one might not catch them were they only half listening. Lane is a master of a life lived led by honest, natural desires. He creates works of art. He speaks of art history with the fluency of one who learns by processing information through the heart. Like the wizard he resembles, he will appear seemingly out of thin air…disappearing again just as I turn to pose him a question. Lane is not straight forward like his ever-working-away-at-something partner, thus, I sense more to learn from him somewhere along the horizon. Let me say this, he is one of those invaluable people who lightens the mood…and when you’re dealing with such a volatile thing as Saving Life On the Planet, this is a gift to be treasured.

The Character

So, I’ve given you a bit about this magical bit of land; I’ve blabbed on and on. But now that I’ve shown you the Queen, King, and castle, let me step aside for a moment and let the story be told through Scott’s pictures…

Clothes dryer

THIS is a toaster.

El Guapo

Where your hazelnut latte begins...

And!!! Frog Hollow’s crops are non-irrigated; nothing but Washington rainfall.

So let us not forget the sky…

To be alive…

I am thinking about the title (or whatever it is) of this blog; I am thinking about all the beautiful things. But I am also thinking about the wretched things; those things which make me uneasy, unsure, and always a bit uncomfortable in my own skin. It has been said that ecstasy and agony exist together…life has led me to believe this must be true.

From the back-breaking weeding Scotty and I have been doing on Frog Hollow Farm, to letting our precious daughter go, back in February, agony has allowed us to know love like we’ve never known…to arch our backs in ecstatic joy at such simple pleasures…like breathing in the fresh, misty air here on the farm (which happens to smell that much sweeter after an hour of muscling roots and piles of mulch!) Pain is a great teacher; and like any great teacher, pain ain’t afraid to ask questions for the sake of eliciting a response; for the sake of making us aware of ourselves. If you don’t believe me, try it out! Go wander about, back and forth, in a hurry…make sure to be stuck in your head, and not paying any attention to where you are walking…”Oh! Did I remember to feed the dogs? What was that stupid thing my boss said about Tom? Why doesn’t he ever notice anything great that I do? Hell, I’m the best employee he’s got! Ah! Where did I put my keys? Let’s see…keys…keys….keys….ke–OUCH!!! Shit! Where the hell did that come from?!” You stubbed your toe. You weren’t paying attention. Pain wants you to pay attention.

Well, the pain of this world had been calling me to pay attention for a long time.  At some point I began to notice a deadly creature seeping into my essence; we call this horrible beast, “apathy”. Those days when you just want to pull the covers back over your head; when the delightful call of the birds becomes annoying, endless squawking; when nothing…..really….seems to….matter. Apathy is not a natural state of mind; it sets in at our weakest moments, and pretends to be us. But that gray faced person staring back at you in the mirror is not you. Pain left unchecked will go under, but it won’t go away. It will resurface as anger, as fear, and for some, as…that “fuck it” feeling.

Apathy is dangerous; it won’t get anyone anywhere pretty. Being that I know myself better than to accept an apathetic state of ‘blah’ as normal, I knew changes needed to be made. Looking around, I know I’m not alone. Our modern-day habit of living as though in individual bubbles is not helping. Disconnection with the earth isn’t helping either. Somewhere out there, somebody had to have figured something out. How were they living? What were they doing with their lives? And hell, how do you, ya know, grow stuff? Because I’d be a fool to think this feeling of disconnect didn’t have something to do with having almost no part in the things which make our lives go ’round…and keep us alive.

So we’re here. We sold, bartered, and begged our things away. And we’re learning. First stop: Frog Hollow Farm on Guemes Island in Washington; where we drink from well water, poop in a compost toilet, and pee outside. And I’m remembering what living feels like. 

We’ll be here for at least a month; and we invite you to join us.