On The Road

We live for those fantastic and unreal moments of beauty which our thoughts may build upon the passing panorama of experience.

[Rockwell Kent]


We woke up one morning and suddenly found ourselves leaving the Little Cabin In The Woods.  The sun was shining for the first time in weeks, the trees dripping dry in the breeze, all the animals and birds squawking for joy [stellar’s jays, redtails, ravens, crows, various song birds, chickadees, squirrels, chipmunks, the hum of the frogs in the marsh].  I imagine the deer were on the move and my darling little black bear might have been blundering about in the wild roses, nibbling on rose hips with his belly growling.  I felt like Cinderella with all my animal friends, humming to myself as I cleaned, the birds chanting out exact harmonies, oh!  The swish of the trees!  The cabin slowly emptied out and I thought I could see the walls shivering in the absence of the warmth of all my little things.  The road out was wet and slippery and we crept along, nearly rolling our entire rig on a sharp corner — thank God we made it down the mountain without a gruesome disaster.  Higher up, in the sun, the snow was sloughing off the timber and stone of the North Cascades.  I felt sad to leave the mountains behind, and our lonesome woods.  As we soared down the Methow Valley, I watched the glorious forests roll back up into the high places until we reached the Columbia River valley where the hills are bare and brown and the stone suddenly turns mafic with the black dust of so many ancient volcano flows.


At Moses Lake, it rained most of the night.  Sleeping in the belly of an Airstream trailer in stormy weather is like sleeping inside the curving frame of a harp.  The raindrops pluck at all the metal edges of your glimmering cradle and suddenly you hear melody in everything.  The wind moves in arcing falsettos.  Sleep is some sort of deeply resonating thrum that drones in waves of slow vibration.  The wind howl gently rocks you into long winks.


We watched, two nights in a row, a huge, orange moon rise up over mountains, the warm light of night pooling in soft illuminations as far as we could see, malleable shadows brushing the sage in slow swoops.


There’s something I have to tell you about being an Airstream owner, which is sort of like being a caretaker of a family estate, there’s some tenderness required for the caring of old bones.  We delight in it.  We like old junk with history, it’s why we live in a 106 year old farm house in Idaho — some part of it seems to be on the brink of falling down around our ears, at any given moment in time, but there are echos that resound in those dry old bones, in the solid points of the gables and the decrepit brick chimney, that hold the soul of these antique things that we cherish so dearly — the knowing that others, before us, built and loved the very frames of these things makes for a little holiness in unexpected places.  I like to roll down the highway in my silver truck with our Airstream following us like a glad puppy dog, the smudge of gleam it leaves behind in every landscape, the way it refracts exploration.  There’s more history being made with every mile we roll over now.  I wonder, sometimes, how often the previous owners had their nails painted red (I want to dress like a cute little 50s housewife in floral print, suede and a silk scarf to hold my hair out of the tussle of the wind), how often a they craned their necks to watch the brilliance of transitional cottonwoods along stony flanked, brimming rivers, how often they looked out the windows as they raced trains over wide distances, whether or not they sighed at the beauty of a ponderosa pine and tamarack forest in fall.  Oh glories!  Oh, take to the highway!


Back in my darling little house now, there is the grandiose pleasure of cooking on a gas range in beautiful pots and frying pans (oh, the simple pleasures), our view of Scout Mountain lightly crusted with a dribble of snow, long hot baths in the morning with randomly selected books from my various book shelves and hot coffee made with water that boils on the stove top in four minutes instead of twenty.  There’s the comfort of the glorious mattress we have on our tall, tall bed!  I can barely make myself rise in the morning, it’s like I slept all the summer in the rolling curves of a canoe (I grew used to feeling rumpled and kinked)!  I can’t even imagine leaving my little house again in six short months when a new fire season presents itself, so I don’t look that far ahead.  Today, I begin to patch and prime my studio space before I paint it tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to fresh new starts in my holy little territories.  Being away from everything has made it all the more dear.

I hope you’re well, little spruce beetles.  More soon.



Just a few pretty shots I’ve taken lately.  It’s so exquisite here, I walk around holding my breath.  I’m not going to exhale until spring.

By the way, it looks like I have a new bird to care for.  The above image is of the varied thrush I found in the forest today.  He can’t fly and Penelope nearly chomped him.  He seems to have a bite on his back, or a talon puncture, and his flight mechanism is broken.  He is sizeable — much larger than Titus McFlightus was — and has a slightly gamey smell to him!  His chirp is pure warmth and there is intelligence in his eyes.  I hope he recovers in the next day or so.  If not, I’ll have to keep him over the winter months and then bring him back to the Methow Valley to release him as my region of Idaho looks as though it isn’t a natural territory for him.  In the future, I should stop to ponder on how practical it is for me to make little things like this my responsibility but my mind seems to work so much more slowly than my hands and heart.  I just have to scoop these broken critters up and bring them home with me.

Also, I’ve been meaning to tell you of the Titus McFlightus encounter one of the smokejumpers had over at the base!  About a month ago, JT was using a leaf blower behind the para-loft when a grouping of waxwings flew into a nearby tree.  He kept on working and one of the waxwings flew over and landed on his hand while he was using the leaf blower!  JT said this little waxwing was missing the yellow parts of his tail feathers (which Titus also was), and the two of them just strolled all over the base together until JT set Titus down on a tree and the little guy flew away!  SUCCESS!  I was so delighted to hear that Titus had been spotted and that he was flocked up with his own kind and living the good life.  Doesn’t that just warm your heart like hot buttered rum?


12:04AM  I just lost the thrush.  I’m so sad.   He was such a beauty!   Now I understand, even more, how miraculous the survival of Titus was!  The first night we kept him, he was mostly dead in the morning (cold, stiff, unresponsive) and we brought him back to life.  I guess I don’t get to save them all, do I?

[Early this morning at Little Cabin In the Woods — before I put on my socks.]

It’s hard to work in the Airstream now.  I dress like an onion, bundled up in endless layers (wool, down, silk long johns). I can’t manage to keep my hands warm as I work and I shiver all my calories away.  I eat constantly and seem to continually have two cups of tea on the go throughout the day.  The thick timber around our little clearing casts broad shadows and blocks the few hours of direct sun we receive on either side of noon. We store our bag of ice out on the cabin deck.  It doesn’t melt.  We leave the kitchen faucet trickling when we go to bed so the pipes don’t freeze in the night.  I bet this is such a lonesome, dark, cold place in the winter months.

RW took a late season work detail starting tomorrow morning and he’ll be away for a week.  I don’t know how I’m going to stay warm at night!  I’ll have to invite all the beasts into bed with me.  What a wild rumpus that will be.


The Revealing

I live for the slow reveal of autumn, the sliding back of the leaves and twining vines (like lips over teeth when a mouth makes a smile), the glide of frost on a forest floor, the suddenness of the aspen, glowing white bones creeping up and out of the underbrush, broken ladders to anywhere but here.  I live for that.  The alders bare the narrowness of their curving ribs and empty nests appear as far as I can see.  The only light comes from above, the inner glow of the tamarack in intermittent sunshine, shriveled rose hips waiting for a mile high ride in the gurgling crop of a bird — the suddenness of color in a landscape that slowly relinquishes all its secrets.  The stones on the hillside growing their moss.  A boulder I never knew, by the stream I never saw flowing.  I run through it all, keep a tidy pace, feel a thousand pink flowers blooming in my face.  Autumn come bright and hazy, laced and bundled in fog bank, plundered by the last of the river flow transporting all the paper thin gold to the sea.


Last night, after work, I managed to squeak in a run with Farley by my side.  I don’t go anywhere in the woods here without a dog by my side.  There’s power in numbers, my pack, my pride.  We ran and we ran until dusk became too thick and my eyes questioned what they were seeing.  Then we turned around and ran some more.  I tripped on a stone and lightly sprained my ankle.  As I stood there, shaking off the discomfort of a tingling ligament in my leg, I saw a hulking, airborne form swooping towards me down the pine lined road.  I could have reached up a hand and slid my fingers across its feathered belly as it passed over me, unflinching, unwavering.  An owl.  So near.  So silent.  What a fearsome hunter.   To move so quickly without a sound, without feather ruffle or wing squeak…I can only imagine what a field mouse feels when it finds itself suddenly and silently caught in a talon and soaring over wheat stubble.  It passed over me, the owl, and continued straight down the road, no more than eight feet off the ground, curving with the road and then out of sight.  Even now, I’m not sure it really happened.  Even now, I’m glad to be small, but not small enough to be carried away.

Owls.  Owls go out into the night and bring back nourishment for themselves and others.  I want to live that way.  I want to always go out into the darkness and find something bright to grow the spirit of myself and others, no matter what.  There must be light, soul food, bright truth in every single life lesson, if this isn’t true, there’s no point to hardship and heartbreak.


It rained in the night and this morning, my narrow valley was milky white with fog, filtered sunlight like butter creme,  glittering with pooled water late into the afternoon.

Go Apple Picking