Catching Up

7I9A7445[With a sandhill crane colt I rescued from Tater Tot’s maw, on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, Idaho]

Well, heck.  I’ve been here, there and everywhere since the start of May and I am home tonight at the strawbale house on the Snake River for a few days before I take one more trip.  Then it will be July and I will drop anchor in Idaho and do a little working, loving and living in this state I adore.  I am road weary, quite sick and I feel hugely divorced from my creative habit (which is something I have uttered here before, but it’s worth uttering again tonight as I dig deep into work under a setting sun, trying — in vain — to make up some ground).

I stepped outside with a cold drink to check on the gardens.  Mostly everything has sprung up taller than tall with the recent heatwave and I yanked a few tenacious weeds while I perused what will become our food and I listened to the rapids roaring beneath the house and the yellow-wing blackbirds howling at the edge of the current and I felt quiet inside for the first time in weeks.

Besides all of my travels, my work, my traveling for work, relocating the Airstream to McCall for the fire season and bouncing all over Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Alaska with my cameras…we bought a farm a couple weeks ago.

Yes.  We bought a farm.  In the midst of everything.  I don’t know what to tell you except it felt perfectly right — the land, the house, the alfalfa fields, the huge outbuilding that could store four or five Airstreams, the orchard, the fish pond, the locust trees, the massive weeping willow, the space that will be my metal studio (it’s made mostly of glass)…

Finding this place was very unexpected, though we have been shopping for so long.  All this time, it was right under our noses.

I’ll tell you all about it soon.

But first, I will regale you with some images and words from my travels these past five weeks of my life.

Stay tuned.

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7I9A0699IMG_4757 IMG_50107I9A07817I9A07987I9A07857I9A09147I9A0864DSCF1426DSCF14317I9A08987I9A09097I9A0919I was grabbing a coffee yesterday while in Twisp and wound up having a meaningful conversation about the Methow Valley, where it has come from, where it is headed to, and how forest fires play a roll in the going and coming of life here — and in all of the interior West, for that matter.  Fires seem to be the way of the future.

This is the second year in a row that the Methow has burned and while the valley is home to a brilliant community of mountain folk, it is largely economically fueled by tourism.  What will happen to this place when people stop coming because they think it’s no longer beautiful?  What will happen in years to come when summer is literally burned out from under our feet and we are forced to spend August and September mopping up after loss of trees, homes, lives, crops, livestock?  What will happen?  How do we cope?  How do we rebuild?  What have we learned?

I looked out as the mountains were burning last week and I thought, “It’s a little worse for wear, but it’s still ruggedly beautiful.  It will always be beautiful, bless it’s enduring, stony bones.”

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On base, Dan built a swing.  It’s a beautiful swing that hangs low and strong from a pair of locust trees.  Swinging on it is a kind of bliss built of a long, graceful glide that seems like it may never change direction and head back to where it started.  I was swinging on it late last night, searching the sky for stars, hoping their light might pierce through the smoke, and as I watched the trees shift and move beneath the weight of my movement I thought, “They like this.  The trees like this.  They like to have a job.”  I was guilty of downright romantic anthropomorphism in my suspended state — sweeping through thin air like the goddess of wind and stardust.  But it’s true, you know.  We’re just like the trees; counting the years in rings, spending the seasons, eventually ashes to ashes.

It was beautiful last night, swinging.  It was the first time I’ve felt moving air on my face, wind in my hair, in days.  I felt alive and clean.

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Yesterday, I missed a gathering for fire wives in the valley regarding dealing with stress levels and fear (I think that’s what it was about) because I was out fishing and because I didn’t know about it because no one told me about it.  I wish I would have known about it.

Last night, when I found out about it, I told my friend, “Well, you know, I don’t really feel stressed. I feel sad right now. My lungs feel black because of this doggone smoke. But I’m not worried about Robert on the line. I trust that no news is good news. I know he’ll make good decisions out there and that he’ll take care of his brothers; that’s all I can ask him to do. In his absence, I simply have to live fully.”

I’m fishing most mornings, because I can, and because it’s a meditation (casting out over the water).  It’s quiet.  I do my thinking there, hip deep in a prolonged baptism.  Each loop I throw out is a prayer, a forgiveness offered to myself for my own shortcomings, a hope for anger dissolved, gratitude for lessons learned, the stripping away of my fears.  The river is the coolest, flowing-est, loveliest, most consistent thing in the valley and the fish give me something extra to tether my faith to.

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On September 5th I have a group exhibit opening at the Confluence Gallery in Twisp.  I’m delighted.  This is the first exhibit opening I have ever been able to attend (I’ve had to miss everything in the past) wherein my work is part of the show.  You are all invited to attend.

Additionally, on September 19th and 20th, I am happy to announce that I will FINALLY be a part of the Methow Valley open studio tour.  I’ve wanted to be a part of this tour for years now but have never had a studio space that could be easily accessed by the public until this year.  I’ll be opening up my doors to the public, sharing my space, and naturally, I’ve been working on inventory for this event.  I should mention that the Methow Valley is home to an astounding array of incredible artists and it’s an honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of them for this studio tour.

Both the studio tour and exhibit opening come at a wonderful time when your support and visit to the Methow will mean the world to the community here.  Please feel free to attend, if you’re in the neighborhood, or not in the neighborhood!  I speak for the entire Methow when I say we’d love to see your shining faces.

 

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7I9A0560 7I9A0567 7I9A0577 7I9A0578 7I9A0579 7I9A0581 7I9A0615 7I9A0619Sundown over the North Cascades and I wonder where he is.

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DSCF1158Robbie came home from Oregon yesterday, mid-afternoon, gave me a hug and then worked the rest of the day. I feel like I haven’t seen him for such a long while.  I was gladly toiling in the garden, pulling fat carrots from the soil, picking onions, collecting squash and tearing up all the lettuce that has bolted for the sky.  I took the harvest into the mess hall kitchen and began to clean it and scrub it all at the sink, exposing the bright and gleaming skin that home grown veggies have beneath all that righteous dirt.

One half of the mess hall is currently the sew shop* — rows of industrial sewing machines line one wall and the hum of solid kevlar stitches landing in tight succession is the music I make lunch to lately.

There I was, scrubbing carrots, when I heard the fellas put on some Bob Dylan.  One by one, they all began singing along to the music, while snipping threads, setting grommets, loading bobbins and pushing thick cordura past sharp needles.  I stopped what I was doing, looked over at them, and simply enjoyed the sight of them being together, being manly, being quirky, being sweet, being capable, being themselves.

And my heart felt so full.

I thought to myself, “Run.  RUN and get your camera.”  But I knew the moment wouldn’t last forever, and so much of the beauty was locked up in the feeling of it, so I stayed and simply enjoyed it for what it was; I witnessed brotherhood, from the fringes, and didn’t feel left out for a single moment.

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I’m thinking a lot lately about what to give and what to keep.  What to catch and what to set free.  What to hold onto and what to release.  I’m thinking about how to share my life and my work and my learnings in a honest and open way while still retaining some special little secret things for the most special people in my life.

There’s a line here, scratched in the dirt, painted on asphalt, and to one side of it is “too little” and to the other side is “too much” and I keep on walking it.  I keep on moving forward and my feet keep falling where they may, where they might.

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I made a fabulous pesto for seashell noodles last night with sides of roasted squash and greens.  Everything came from the garden.  I felt rich.

Fresh Garden Pesto (roughly): olive oil, walnuts, lemon basil, pepper, salt, garlic and a smattering of romano-esque sheep cheese.

Dig it?

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*The North Cascades Smokejumper Base was built in 1939 — the first base in the program.  The buildings are historic, somewhat primitive and unevenly distributed between beautiful lawns, gardens, aspen groves, elms, ponderosa pines and locust trees on the edge of the airstrip.  It’s a beautiful base.  The buildings with air conditioning are the office and the mess hall.

When the weather is hot, the sewing machines are moved into the air conditioned space of the mess hall.  Actually, I think they sew in the mess hall in the winter, too, when the weather is cold and the loft is hard to heat.

Did you know that smokejumpers are master seamstresses?  They draft their own patterns, sew their own packs, travel bags, jump suits, and patch their own chutes…among other things.

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Headed to everywhere.

IMG_4839IMG_4867IMG_4890-3IMG_4953I’m sitting here, in my studio, at my desk, trying to decide what to tell you.  It is cool outside, and even cooler inside this log house.  The dogs are laying in the dirt and pine duff outside the door and the breeze is blowing in and rattling all the beautiful things that create my space here.  I have been away for almost 30 days (I was home for only one day between trips).  I have been in tremendously wild places.  When I was driving my truck up the Methow Valley from Pateros two nights ago, when my foot was tired on the gas pedal and my eyes were full of grit, when I was braking hard to miss deer and imagining the trout treading water in the dark river to my right…I realized I was coming home; I realized I was reluctantly coming home to the Methow Valley.

When I left Montana three days ago, a beautiful Montana dulled by a thick blanket of forest fire smoke, a wild Montana I rode through on the back of a horse, the spacious Montana I saw 80 miles of from the back of a golden haflinger, I told my friends, “There is nothing for me in Washington.”

They laughed.

I think they thought I was making a melodramatic joke, of sorts.  But I wasn’t.  I keep thinking to myself, “We need to get back to Idaho.”  I keep wondering what will take us back to Idaho.  I keep wondering, “How long will it take?”  I continue to remind myself to be present, to love all that there is to love here, and there is terribly much to love about the Methow Valley.  Terribly much.  I am spoilt to live here.  I truly am.

It’s a difficult thing to explain, but I will try.  Washington is a wonderful state, but it simply doesn’t hold me quite like Idaho and Montana do.  It’s perhaps an issue of cultural discombobulation for me.  The closer I get to the ocean, to the coast, to the mighty cities there — the greater my sense of dissolution.  I can’t wrap my mind around the reality of huge populations of people who are without space (the kind of space I need).  It’s all too overlapping.  The stifled feel of it pours over the Mountains here and dissipates, slowly, until the heart of the interior chokes it out with its wide openness and stamping hooves.

I remind myself, the way we receive the space around us is a personal thing.  I need more than the average human…I am more easily infringed upon than the average human.  I always stand in a way that offers great space to the people around me.

What will take me back?  What will take me back to Idaho and the space there and the emptiness there and the way those two things sustain me, cradle me, inform my work, inspire the shutters on my cameras, settle my bones in their sockets, tether my soul?

I am not unhappy here.  I am happy here.  Here in Washington.  But the sense that the grass is greener on the other side of the state line, for me, grows stronger with every day.

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Yesterday, after an eternity of laundry loads, after cleaning the Airstream from top to bottom, after running the dogs, before dinner, before editing photographs late into the night, before I sipped on that delicious gin and tonic with garden cucumbers…Tater and I took a cruise in the ’71 and it was beautiful.  I’ve been meaning to take a self-portrait of myself, driving the Ford down a dirt road, from a wide distance, for ages now.  I’ll make similar pictures again, in the future, until I think I have captured it perfectly — the feel of homecoming, wandering, twilight, freedom, diamonds of dust and the nature of being on the road, headed to nowhere, headed to everywhere.

Headed to everywhere.

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