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IMG_9007 IMG_8694 IMG_8707 IMG_8715 IMG_8726 IMG_8753 IMG_8814 IMG_8840The desert, as an entity unto itself, in its wholeness, does not believe in disguise.  It wears no mask.  This is what I like most about the desert.  I look out on the land here and see it for exactly what it is:  thrumming with life, dry and blistering and bristling, thorny, wrinkled and rumpled, hard hearted and brilliant with beauty.  There are no games here.  There is no facade I must recognize and surmount in order to comprehend the root and tooth of the place.  The land here is naked and vulnerable despite everything that bites, prickles and stings.  I have never taken this for granted, being able to read a desert like a book.  I don’t mean this space isn’t complicated and worthy of exploration and study, I just mean it makes itself plain to the seeing eye — it’s a quality I appreciate.

I can trust in the character of the land here, in the way it presents itself.  The sky is broad, the ground is sun and wind calloused; somewhere between the two I exist and remain — inconsequential and delicate.  No small violence is unexpected, no broad beauty is beyond belief.  The desert owns exactly what it is, unabashedly, unapologetically.  I move through it accordingly.

We’re living in a straw bale house on the edge of the Snake River in south central Idaho right now.  It’s a beautiful, humble life.  Every morning we wake up with the sun, make tea and coffee, build breakfast, make a plan for the day, and then go out and live.  We hunt quail in the morning, swap out a tired dog for a fresh dog and hunt chukar all afternoon, until the sun goes down, then we head home to our little straw bale house and make dinner, pour a glass of wine, mix a gin and tonic, light the Christmas tree and talk and read until we feel tired enough to go to sleep.

We don’t have an internet connection.

We haven’t a television.

We have a 3G phone connection if we stand in a certain part of the house.

This is our version of a holiday — reverting to a simple life, doing the things we love on a daily basis, eating when we are hungry, taking some of our food from the land, watching the ducks, herons and hawks with a pair of binoculars from a chair by a warm fire.  We walk out in the sage to collect bones, we daydream aloud about what future we might make for ourselves and where that future might be.

We rented this house because we’ve always wanted to rent this house and have been watching it for a few years now, hoping to enjoy its simple comforts for a month or two in the heart of winter, in the heart of the off-season, in the heart of upland country.

We are also renting this house because of its proximity to the land we have been hunting and learning and knowing since we moved to Idaho in 2008.  These are our stomping grounds.  We treasure the Snake River plain and always have.  We  treasure the rim rock rising up from a ribbon of blue, this rugged country that holds game birds, this wild country that opens our hearts, this heartless country that promises to swallow us whole every time we step out in it.

We love this country.

We have carefully budgeted our lives and monies for months to come in a way that allows us to live this way.  We aren’t lucky but we are blessed.  Even a blind man could tell you that.  We have another fire season coming.  We have a house to sell.  We have life transitions galore to tackle, unravel and sort out.

We are here to practice togetherness and every day we find each other a little better, every day we find each other a little more.

Shop Update

Thank you all so much for your support today and all days, for that matter.  I appreciate you more than you could ever know.


IMG_8193 IMG_8366IMG_8166 IMG_8155 IMG_8442IMG_8319 IMG_8311IMG_8231 IMG_8208IMG_7541IMG_8199IMG_8179IMG_7539IMG_8169My final shop update for 2014 is happening tomorrow morning at 11AM, mountain time.  I hope to see you there!


Last Night, On The Mountain


To the West.IMG_7860To the East.


IMG_5718 IMG_5733 IMG_5775 IMG_5812 IMG_5832 IMG_5856 IMG_5887 IMG_5891 IMG_5907Jade and I went up the mountain one night, for no reason at all, except to see what we could see.  I had my camera along, because I always have my camera along, but we also packed a pair of puppies with us, some wool gear for when the air turned cold during the nightrise, and the good and comfortable company of each other.

I love Jade.  She’s one of my best friends and to make matters even more excellent, she and her husband (a smokejumper, also, and a true surrogate brother to Robert and I) bought the house exactly next door to ours here in Pocatello.  We call it the compound and it has been one of the most special experiences of my adult life to have good friends so near every moment of the day.  Most mornings, Jade and I have coffee together.  One of us brews a french press and strolls around, through two gates, through the raspberry patch, past the grapevines and into the companionship of the other.  We pour our cups of coffee, add our milk and when the weather was warmer, we would sit on porch steps in the sun and simply talk for a couple of hours.  It is such a glorious way to wake up to the day in the loving company of a best friend.  She is a painter and leatherworker, among other things, and shares my studio space with me.  We share dinners, watch movies, give each other seeds we have harvested from our gardens and lend or borrow a lawnmower back and forth.  There is an understanding between us that stems from being girls, creatives and fire wives.  Jade’s little family is an extension of our little family and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


I was having some body work done by my massage therapist a couple of months ago and she asked me what my life mantra was.  The actual word “mantra” isn’t part of my daily lexicon so I was stumped for a moment and then I told her I didn’t think I had a mantra.  So she rephrased the question so I could better understand and find a true answer.  She asked me if there’s a phrase I live by on a daily basis.  Here’s what I said:


That was my answer to her as well as the phrase I have been living by for the past year or so.  When I get asked to do something, to be involved in something, to go somewhere, to spend my time a certain way and if the situation will involve our friends or family or a really unique life opportunity, I try not to think too hard about it.  I let myself respond as reflexively as possible.  I simply say, “Yes.”  Then I do my best to make the commitment work.


I realized something a few years ago after nearly working myself to death (which is relatively normal, small business takes your EVERYTHING — so does full time creative work) building The Noisy Plume: life is short.  It becomes more and more apparent to me as I watch my grandparents in the twilight of their wonderful lives, as I watch my parents age, as I see our siblings and friends having babies and growing the next generation, as I see the lines of a life well lived begin to pepper my face.  I’m not going to live forever.  Neither are you.  I am concerned that when I lay in the quiet of a failing heartbeat on my deathbed that I will regret how much time I spent worrying, how much time I spent on my computer hitting a “like” button, how many days I sacrificed making memories with the people I love on the land I adore for a small job I didn’t pour my heart and soul into.  When I realized all of this, I decided to say yes as often as possible to the people closest to me, even if there were 100 unanswered and festering emails in my inbox, even if I was straddling a deadline in the studio, even if I was running late on photo submissions for freelance work — I started setting those things aside and doing a better job of living for love, living for the love of life, living for the love of experiences.

More often than not, this makes me a terrible business woman, an incompetent emailer, and let’s face it, the volume of work coming out of my metal studio has slowed to a dribble — part of that has to do with an energy shift in my work.  I’m doing more freelancing than metalsmithing at the moment so the decrease in productivity in the studio makes perfect sense.  But I digress.  Let me tell you something, I have had such a wonderful year here.  I have traveled extensively.  I have explored and adventured.  I have spent time with my best friends, I have made new friends, I have learned so much about them, about myself, about the world, about nature.  More often than not, I have allowed myself to catapult in any direction on any given day and the freedom has changed who I am, taught me who I want to be, and fortified some of my relationships in wonderful ways.  This has been a year of living for me!  It has been grand.  I want to serve my friends and family as energetically and commitedly as I have served my small business over the years.  I want to pour myself into them and make memories so that when I walk towards the light at the end of the tunnel someday, I’ll walk in a soft cloak of assuredness that I lived this life well and served my people with a whole heart and my full attention.

My sister Caroline, on Robbie’s side of the family, pointed out the flip side of all this “yessing” I’ve been doing while we were with our family clan at Thanksgiving in San Diego last week.  She pointed out that no matter what, saying yes to something means saying no to something else, even if you don’t say the word.  And she’s right about that — no is a byproduct of yes; we had best make the word and the commitment count.

Make it worth it every time you say “Yes.”  I think it’s the best way to live without regret.


When Jade and I went up the mountain that night, we went up the mountain for no reason at all (which is sometimes the best reason of all) except to be in the company of each other, to ride in a delightful 1966 Dodge Powerwagon, to laugh at the puppies with us and pet their soft ears, to talk, to enjoy the silence when we didn’t talk, to watch the sun set and the moon rise.  We went out of love for each other, love for life and love for the word “Yes.”


Ten Thousand Hours

Farley is locked up on a staunch point, frozen in place with his head turned back over his shoulder, his nostrils flaring, his eyes shining in the cold.  I line up his point by following the direction of his nose and eyes to the base of a scraggly brush; there, where the roots form an abstracted cage against the earth, I see a pheasant dressed in drab greys and browns.  I relax and step forward through the snow, shotgun idle in my right hand now turning numb with cold, I kick the bottom of the bush with my boot and call out to Robbie, “Hen!”  So he’ll know to not shoot.

The hen rises up out of the snow, twigs and grey of winter on broad, thumping wings.  I feel the wind of her flight on my face.  We watch her as she goes deeper into the night where it grows in the East.

Farley looks at me like I’ve betrayed him.  I tell him, “That’s a hen, big boy.  No bird.  Get on.”  He blinks at me once, turns on his heels, and heads off into the brush and thicket at a gentle but determined jog — a gait he has spent ten years developing, a pace he can hold for hours on end.  He heads out into a blaze of winter white blended with hay stubble that buzzes in an adamant breeze.  He heads out into the exotic scent of rooster on the wind, into the dream that every bird dog dreams; to run, to sniff, to catch scent, to point, to wait for the shot, to retrieve, to give the game to the master, to be thumped on the arse by the palm of a gloved hand and told, “Good boy.  Good work.


We are on a ranch that belongs to our friends; every curve of the earth here speaks of legacy.  The land rises up in good natured swoops and is strung together by wisps of brush that serve to fortify the drainages cut into stone by mountain water.  Bunches of thorns and brambles give way to scrub aspen and sagebrush and it is in the broadness of these places that the pheasant can be found.  This is a thriving and wild population of birds, an even mixture of hen and rooster, tail feathers here grow long and graceful, and the birds are fat on wild forage.

It is snowy.  We track pheasant through the snow, their footprints are are easy to spot and almost Jurassic in nature compared to the other upland birds we hut.  We monitor the dogs as they work, breathe out our cold smoke into the warm gleam of the sunset and trudge, step by step, upwards, paying attention to the body language of the pups as they quarter the space before us.

Pheasant are runners, they will run to eternity and beyond; flying is a last resort.  The dogs catch scent, move cautiously, wait tentatively with their noses pointed into the wind, creep forward, relocate, and then break into an easy trot again.  We walk quickly, keeping up is vital, no working dog should work in vain.

IMG_6663 IMG_6713I can feel the wind gusts brushing my face rosy, I shift my gun back and forth in my hands as I try to keep feeling in my fingers.  It is a cold night to hunt, the sun has slipped away and the air is fading to blue, chilling itself further as it passes over snow and ice.  We have been walking for a while, my body feels warm but there is an insidious tingling in my toes no matter how fast I move or how much I stomp my feet.  I tuck my chin down into my coat layers, as I always do, squint, try to wet my stony eyeballs with warmth by blinking too many times, and feel my exhalation turn to fine crystal on the curves of my cheekbones.

I am working closely with Farley while Robert keeps tabs on Tater Tot.  I always feel lucky to be partnered with our white dog; Farley is an expert.  When I say expert, I mean a master hunter.  His bird repertoire is as extensive as the interior West allows and includes some waterfowl; he is a true utility gun dog and the envy of many of our friends.  He knows how to respectively work every species bird he hunts, how hard he can push them, what to expect of them behaviorally and what their preferred cover looks like.  Some people say pheasant cannot be properly hunted by a pointer but if they had the great pleasure of hunting behind Farley, they would be forced to adopt a different opinion on the mater.  Farley doesn’t believe in wasting time.  He is efficient, right down to the speed at which he carefully covers ground.  He is a patient teacher, I learn from him every time we work together.

Tater Tot, on the other hand, is a young dog.  Pheasant are hard on him.  He has been raised on chukar and Hungarian partridge in big, wide open country which is perfect for a dog that runs huge.  Any bird we hunt in thick brush results in him making some mistakes.  He’ll learn, he’ll get better, it’s a matter of him working on his ten thousand hours and perfecting his craft.  With that in mind, Tater Tot teaches me, too, every single time we go out.  I learn from his mistakes and his successes.

I watch our dogs develop their craft and I learn to be patient with myself when it comes to developing my own craft, when it comes to building my gifts and honing my talents.  I remember that developing a voice within the realm of creative work can take a lifetime of evolution.  I realize that learning about myself enough to be proficient at expressing myself is honest work I can afford to be tenacious about; it is work that is worth the work.

Having an incredible bird dog isn’t just about bloodlines (though, those do help), it’s about exposure and development of natural instinct, it’s about taking my pup out and getting him into big country where he can work his heart out, rise to his full potential and develop a sturdy foundation for his skill set.  From time to time, Tater is going to bust coveys, run over singles, approach birds from the wrong direction and suffer moments of impatience and occasionally he might lose all all self-control and gallop around like a buckaroo.

He will lock up on exquisite, unexpected points on tight holding birds and will look as majestic as anything; he will have moments wherein he is god of all the dogs.  He will have good luck.  He will have bad luck.  There will be days when he rules the world on his four fleet feet and his humans will fail to get him his bird.  But in all of that success and failure and learning, he’ll be working steadily on his craft until one day, we’ll cast him off into the sagebrush and rim rock to do his work and realize that he, too, has become a master of his craft.

I hope I can say the same of myself someday.  Until then, there are those wily old pheasants running fast through the snow, tails streaming behind them like comets, and our little brown pup going forth earnestly and courageously into the winter white.