Stars, Cars, And Traveling Far

Curve, woooosh. Curve woosh. Stop Ahead, clutch coastt, wisshhh. Stop. Silence. Putt, putt, putt. Look left. Right. Straight ahead. There, in the silince, the wispy fluffy seed of some aspiring parent plant floats across the road, peacful, serene. Silence. Except for putt, putt, putt. Left, right – again. Wait for the jeep on the left to pass. Peace, putt, putt, putt, peace. The Jeep passes, the driver gives a respectful wave. I nod, putt, putt, brahhpppp. Little Wing is flying.

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Eavesdropping on a conversation involving Little Wing. Three other riders (of sportbikes), all men, were checking out the stickers on my windshield, one says “he’s done some serious riding.”

Damn straight I have, but ‘he’s’ a she friends, and super proud to be busting stereotypes.

The morning I left Oceanside was filled with last minute packing and some nerves. The question of whether I could handle Little Wing fully loaded was sitting heavily on my mind. I ignored it as best as I could, but that didn’t make it go away. I did the regular tire pressure and oil checks that are typical. I tested the lights and made sure the tie-downs were all correct. On one of my trips out to the garage with an armload of commitments I was met by a plastic bag setting on my seat. A grocery bag that was about half the size of my duffel. I picked it up and peaked inside. There, neatly arranged, was lettuce, strawberries and mulberries, all freashly picked and labled with The Blue Heron Label of Andrea’s farm. I set it aside and got about my business. When I went back inside I brought the bag to Andrea and asked her about it. We determined that it had been left by the men. The men that work her farm and barely speak my language. We communicate with smiles and one word greetings. They had filled a care package for me knowing that I was leaving. After spending so much time at Andrea’s, enjoying the amazing goodies that grow from her soil, I felt that was totally unnecessary. And for that very reason, the shear lack of necessity, I was extremely touched. Even so, the bag was too much. I packed the lettuce with a couple avocados that Andrea had got from the neighbor, and some ham leftover from Easter dinner. I consolodated some of the strawberries into a box with half of the fresh, sweet, mulberries. And that’s all I could take. I snacked on as much of the fruit as I could before leaving the rest behind with Andrea.

The produce wasn’t the only gift I recieved from the beings on the farm. Those baby hummingbirds that I wrote about in the last blog have been growing, and growing. Since the day I first spotted them Andrea and I har been pointing them out to every honored guest who stepped foot on the property. I had been monitoring them daily and taking as many pictures as I could (a dangerous proposition if the moma was anywhere in the vicinity). On the day I was to leave Andrea decided she would get a picture with me standing beside them. We figured that I would just peak my head into the bougainvillea beside them and smile pretty. In doing this I knocked the branch their nest was on and, to my great suprise, there was an explosion and fluttering of wings as the little hummers flew the nest. I felt one brush my glassses as it flew past, and it was like a shock to my system. All my nerves came out at once and I no longer felt any nervousness about Little Wing. That little humming bird knocked some sense into me.

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The hummingbirds the day before we all took off

I went on a ride before Easter; a a ride to the Pacific Ocean. I had strict directions from Dad to give it a hug and kiss from him, so I was at least going to try. I rode to Oceanside with the same confidence that is always waiting for me on Little Wing. I went back to the same place I parked the last I was there, and I took off my coat to prepare for a walk.

In one of the trips I made back to Minnesota when I was in  the Midwest I made sure to grab my flip flops. Two things I had forgotten, or purposely left behind, were my flips flops and a hat with a bill. Those are two things I have longed for here in California. I picked up both items and made sure to bring them back on the airplane. Walks on the beach are not meant for tennis shoes.

I put on my flipflops, locked up my coat, and headed out, adorned in my t-shirt, rolled up jeans, sandals and camera. Off I went to the water. It was time to give my love to that great body of water that hugs our West Coast. The last time I was on the pier in Oceanside (which I wrote about here) it was pretty calm. It was still winter in California, and the people in these parts don’t like to wander to the ocean in winter. Now that it is spring it is close enough to summer – one can almost taset it on the salty, 80°, air – that everyone and their aunt is out exploring the pier right now. I saw many pelicans the last time I was at the pier, but this time I saw only two. All the people had scared all but the two mangiest off to quieter areas of the world, or at least that was my guess. The beach was full of people in swim attire, sun bathing or reading under umbrellas. The surfers appeared to have followed the pelicans lead, for I only saw two of them as well. I walked the rocks that went under the pier. A lovely climbing session that got my feet perfectly marinated with the salt water before I went to walk the gritty salt and sand off, up above on the pier. The pier was packed, almost shoulder to shoulder, but I walked the length anyhow. There were many people fishing off the side, and I was fortunate to be looking in the right direction when a fisherwoman pulled in her line with a healthy fish flopping from the hook.

My walk led me off the pier and back into downtown Oceanside. I didn’t know where I was going or why I was walking, but those are the best kind of walks, aren’t they? A few blocks past Little Wing I found The Surf Museum, a museum I kept meaning to check out, but always seemed to forget when I was in the vicinity. The universe clearly willed that to be the destination of the walk. I went inside and started by checking out the gift shop. I’m not a surfer so most of the goodies they sold didn’t seem to strike my fancy. I walked instead to the ticket desk and found out that admission was five dollars. I don’t have a lot of dollars but I also don’t have a lot of experiences either. I tossed the five dollars down in exchange for another memory. The museum was quite small. The building it was in was just a revamped store front. Fortunately surfboards are flat so there was a lot to look at. I can’t say I remember much of what I read, but the history of surfing and the development of different surfboards were all laid out, and it was quite interesting. The parts I found the most interesting were the different surf related art.  One of my favorite pieces is here:

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Downtown Oceanside is a very artsy place. Besides The Surf Museum I got to see other nice places. Mainly the Oceanside library. The library is a work of art in itself, and in the courtyard where the doors from city building are there is a lovely piece of art. The lighting wasn’t great at the timewhen I took a picture, but I could still tell how magnificent it was. I hope that I will get the chance to see it glinting in the morning sunlight one off these days.

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There was also a place called Artist Alley which I walked. It didn’t boast much on the day I walked through, but I did get the chance to see it on First Friday when all the artist had their art on display open for public viewing.

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I know I have said it before, but even at the risk of sounding redundant, I shall say it again, riding is the best meditation I have experienced. The morose feelings I have been experiencing slowly dissapate with every mile. My smile comes back, I seem to find it somewhere, floating on the breeze.

My new favorite stretch of road that I’ve found is a small, unoccupied road, between Mecca, CA and Joshua Tree National Park. An empty road and a gorgeous view make for a great adventure.
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Yesterday I went to Joshua Tree National Park. It has been a life long dream for me. I remember when I was seven seeing a picture of a Joshua Tree in a calender and thinking it looked exactly like something out of a Dr, Seuss book (or Star Wars). I asked Dad about it and he told my sister and I that they were real trees (in actual reality they are Yuccas, but that was something that would have gone right over my small head) and there was only one part of the world they grew in, the South West. He told us there was a park dedicated to them, and from that day on I knew I wanted to go there. I told Dad “one day I will go see them.”

And he said, “do it.” So I did, yesterday.

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How amazing is it to have a dream recognized? Riding in on my motorcycle is exactly the way I would have imagined it as a kid too. If it wasn’t a horse it had to be a motorcycle. It was breathtaking on a motorcycle. I was exhausted from staying up the night before in the Anza-Borrego State Recreation Area, but I still enjoyed it.

The ride in Anza-Borrego was also pretty amazing. Very desert like, but still intense. I rode Little Wing successfully in sand with out tipping and I felt awesome. Over the last three days I have rode on either sand or gravel for a total of about ten miles, and I haven’t dumped the bike once. I attribute it to those little hummers for correcting my ways and ridding me of nerves.

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A picture I painted for Andrea.

Inorder to camp to ride through sand. I rode 1 1/2 miles through sand to find a lovely patch of desert to sleep on. When I first got to Anza-Borrego I was shocked camping was free. I figured I should double check before setting up. I saw a man walking three chihuahuas heading in my direction. I raised my voice so he could hear me and asked about the campsite. “Whatt?” He said.

I repeated the question as he got closer, his miniature canines leading the way. “Oh yeah,” he said. “Free for now. A few years from now probably not, but for now yes.”

The man spoke with a bit of a Mexican accent. He had a darker complexion so I figured Latino. I kneeled down to pet his dogs and we got to talking. He told me the dogs names and then introduced himself “Obi,” he said.

“Diamond,” I said. “Tobi?” I asked.

“No, O-bee,” he said, “like Obi-Wan Kenobi.” And the Star Wars saga continued. This was the start of a good night and four new friendships.

Obi invited me to join him, his three chihuahuas, and the three other dudes he was camping with, his brother and nephews.

Something I have neglected to mention is that Anza-Borrego is an off roading mecca. For anyone who has ever enjoyed getting dusty on some dunes or tearing up the pits it is a dream come true. Some of my neighboring campers were kids with dirtbikes. A wee little boy and a girl who was about three foot tall, along with an older sister. They were falling down and getting up, and having an overall blast.

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This was the way all my neighbors were. I was the only one on a street bike, and there was a good reason for that. I went over to say ‘hi’ to the little children and meet the cool humans that must have been their parents. They were cool humans, and so were the kids. I asked about them and the dad explained that both him and his wife had grown up riding and enjoyed it so they wanted ro give the same opportunity to their children. I congratulated them on how cool they were and what I got back was some return praise.

The message I have been getting over and over again over the last few days has been that me, a female, riding alone across the world, setting up my own tent and living my own life is something admirable. I shared that admiration with the dad of the girls and told him it was great that he had his girls out riding along with his son, who, right about the same time I was talking to his dad, managed to flip the minature ATV over. In an attempt to show off the small kid had been whipping shitties – turning donuts – and he made one too tight. He managed to get the 80 cc fourwheeler completely upside down. The 40 lb kid then got up, helmet, boots, and positive outlook on life all still intact. I was interested to see that there was an oil leak that occurred due to the tipping. It was a Honda engine, and I was curious how that happened. After further examination the dad concluded it was probably gaskets, and I would agree. The young man was no worse for wear, and any bruises he had were probably immediately cured by the amount of attention and hugging older sisters paid them.

After visiting with the family of riders I wandered over to see what Obi was up to.

Since I have been in the desert I have been reminded quite frequently of the Star Wars movies. Maybe it is all this talk about this new one coming out, or maybe its simply that the desert brings back thoughts of Tatoine. The clear nights filled with stars feel otherworldy. The plant life here looks so foreign (sort of more Star Trekkian than Star Warrioran really). It could be the serendepitous meeting of people named Obi after a day filled with universal thoughts, spurred on by the sighting of a large telescope while riding through the mountains of Southern California.

On the morning that I was making my way to Anza-Borrego I was given instructions on how to take the most beautiful route there. Andrea had told me about a route that would lead me on twisting ride up to the top of a mountain, and then back down to the less twisting, more trafficked, road. I took the road, with no real knowledge of what it would lead me to other than a good ride.

At the top, where I had the option to turn and head back to the road I wanted to be on, or there was another option to continue to the dead end at the top of the mountain. The sign made promises of an observatory. I had been to an observatory on The Sunday Morning Ride that I took with the group of riders in the Bay Area. It had been cool and the view from it had been fantastic. I had nowhere to be, going to the top of the mountain sounded great to me.

At the top I was shocked to find promises of a museum and gift shop, what was this? Turns out it was the Palomar Observatory, “a center of astronomical research owned and operated by the California Institute of Technology.”

What a fascinating find.

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As I was coming out of this well hidden gem, new knowledge right on the surface of my cranium, I was approached by a man in his late fifties. He wore a Led Zeppelin shirt (I liked him for this right away) and a flannel over it. He had white hair and a rugged face, with an eypatch over the left eye. He was a piece of art by himself. He walked towards me, getting my attention with a “well hello,” and as he did so a woman appeared from behind the old Dodge van that they belonged to.

I smiled and gave a “hello” back. He wasn’t shy, Bill was his name, and the woman coming out from behind the van, I found out was his wife, Bev. They spoke to me about what I was doing and where I was coming from and they expressed admiration for me doing the adventure by myself. Bill told me his wife was nervous about him going on motorcycle trips alone, and she wasn’t into it, so when he didn’t have a riding buddy he usually didn’t go. He said that now that they had bot seen me heading to the desert by myself he might actually toss the sleeping bag on the back of his 1952 Harley Davidson and take off the next time he got the urge. He told me he had a 1952 V-twin with a kickstart and 1951 Panhead with a kickstart. He prefers the 1952 because the brakes are harder to operate on the Panhead, especially with a missing eye. He exchanged life stories with me and I foumd out he had lost his eye at age thirteen and that he was an engineer by trade. He new all about the large telescope that was in the observatory and gave me some very scientific explanations about it that I had trouble retaining (I had enough trouble remembering the motorcycle mumbo-jumbo, and – of course – that’s what I save most of my brain space for). It is amazing the people one meets.

The people one meets, that reminds me of Obi. Let me finish the story So I went over to visit with him and the rest of the boys – four legged and two legged both. He invited me to share in the meal his brother was making, but I had already ate the avocado, ham and lettuce that Andrea had packed for me. Very near that same time the girl riders came over from the first campsite with a plate of food. Their parents had asked them to offer me some dinner. On the plate they carried with them I saw an apple rolling around. I had to turn them down because I had already turned down Obi’s offer. It was sweet that the parents thought of me when making dinner. It reminded me of earlier that morning with the bag of produce at Andrea’s. The girls left with smiles to take the food back. Obi and his brother discussed travel and adventure with me. It was suggested that I watch Then Came Bronson, something I have never seen. Apparently my journey was very reminiscent if it in Obi’s mind. Obi was the proud owner of a Ford GP, a rare Jeep built by Ford during World War II. Obi’s brother had a Polaris RZR. Mixed among these great off-roader vehicles were different ATVs and a dirtbike, mostly used by the nephews. It was clear that all these dudes were serious riders. The night went on, a fire was built, and the nephews finally came out of slumber to join us. They had been sleeping since I’d arrived, tuckered out from a day of riding around the desert. I never caught the age, but the older of the two, Christopher, had been Army. He had also worked as a truck driver for a stint and had words to exchange about travel and his favorite states. Both men were young, I would guess near to my age. Later in the evening it was suggested that I go for a ride in the Polaris RZR to the Gas Domes, a curious place that has bubbling mud. Something to do with the way the crust has stretched in that area making for an easy escape for excess heat released by the magma in the earth’s core. What it looks like is a bunch of mucky puddles filled with breathing frogs; something straight out of Star Wars.

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The night ride on the RZR, was, in one word, awesome. I didn’t know that deserts could look that amazing, but Obi’s brother’s/ Christopher’s dad’s had some petty intense lights set up on the RZR so we got a clear picture of the view all around. And, boy, did that Christopher know how to drive. 40 mph at night, over rutted, sandy terrain. The tight curves around dunes didn’t bother him at all. At first I was I was pretty scared, but eventually I settled, realizing I was in experienced hands. It was a marvel. Another thing I found was that the suspension on RZR is a work of art. I have never traveled sand that fast and that well on anything and I am coming to realize I need to start off roading.

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The moon that I watched off the RZR

They knew of my plans to take off in the morning to go to Joshua Tree National Park. We discussed camping and I told them that I was disappointed that JTNP didn’t have free sites. “Free sites?” Obi’s brother asked, “I know a free site.” He went on to tell me about the Giant Rock. A national treasure among alien hunters. A place sorrunded by gable and myth, a must see. The Giant Rock is a hiant rock. It is the largest free standing rock, at keast in North America. It is thought to have been placed by aliens in the spot in which it stands. Is that true? I guess I don’t know. Wjat I do know is that according to Obi’s brother there was free camping aroundthe rock. My plans were set. After I got done looking at the beauty of millions of Joshua Trees I would head to the Giant Rock to set up camp.

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One of the grafittied buildings off the Salton Sea.

The next day I rode around the East side of the Salton Sea to get to JTNP. The Salton Sea is very lovely but disappointingly there wasn’t a way to visit the beach without paying, from what I found. Also, the Salton sea is slightly deserted. I read that there was a place called Bombay Beach and my plan was to get gas there, except, there wasn’t a gas station. I stopped to ask a lady if there really was no gas. She confirmed.

“Where’s the closest gas station?” I asked.

“18 miles South or 31 miles to the North.”

I had only about 15 miles left in my tank according to my math. I cursed, and she asked if I needed gas, I told her yes. She told me she would sell me some. I ended up spending the last ten dollar bill in my wallet, leaving me cashless, but I got two gallons of gas. I folowed her to a home where she lead me and Little Wing to the garage. I watched her open the door and get the fuel cannister. Looking past her I saw a beautiful maroon car, circa 60 something. “Porsche?” I asked, my mouth dropping open.

“Karmann Ghia. My son did all the body work. It is like brand new. I’m trying to sell it.”

If only I could have bought that instead of the gas. She sold me the gas and asked where I was off to. I told her of my plans to go see Joshua Tree National Park. She asked if I knew the back way, and that’s how I found out about my favorite stretch of road from Mecca into JTNP.

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After getting through JTNP I went off to find the great rock, and boy was that a trek. Forty miles to the West of the park according to my GPS. I was backtracking but I needed to sleep, so I did it. The GPS lead me to a dirt road labeled Giant Rock Road, where I got to test my sand riding skills again. I was about three miles down the road before I realized that I didn’t want to camp there. The road was to messy and the homes to sketchy and the force was pushing me in the opposite direction. I turned around. What to do now. On the three miles back I trumped up my half ass plan to head to Las Vegas where I’m currently sitting contemplating a beer and listening to crappy music over loud speakers.

Las Vegas: ” lit in screaming neon and blasting music. It is something out of the bar scene in Star Wars.” A quote from the the same fine man that invited me here. Another serendepitous reference to Star Wars. My motorcycle fixing buddy Dan is a radio engineer, and currently radio engineers from all across the United States are gathered here, in the city that never sleeps, I bet you didn’t even know.

I have always claimed that I would never come here, but that changed when I knew it was free. Sharing a room with a radio engineer at a conference is like being by oneself, thus far anyway. I am looking forward to walking the strip and finally getting the whole Star Wars experience. I got to ride into the city of lights last night, at about midnight. The ride in took me way out of my way because I had already gone out of my way to find the Giant Rock. The ride was about an hour longer than it should have been. It was cold to. I guess ‘they’ weren’t kidding when ‘they’ said deserts got cold at night. I rode through patches of warm and real cool. There was a point that I neared the top of the pass coming into Nevada and I could see my breath in my helmet.

Nevada. I’m out of Cali. That puts the count at twelve states, not quite what I imagined when I left, but it the adventure hasn’t been anything like I imagined and that is a a great thing.

I was riding into Nevade, when I stopped to get gas about ninety miles out of Vegas, I met a kind family. I had left Little Wing parked at the pump while I went inside to use the bathroom. I bought some sugared up Snapple tea to keep me awake and when I left the store to consume it I realized I should park the bike somewhere other than in front of the pump. I set my helmet, tank bag, and the tea down at a table and started walking to Little Wing. I realized what I had done and where I was and turned around to gather my stuff, not wanting it to be lifted at a strange gas station in California this late in the evening. There was a girl about my age and an older woman – who I assumed was her mother – sitting at the table near where I set my stuff. I asked if they would watch it and the said of, course.

After parking Little Wing I went to sit and down with my sugar drink. I thanked the women, and that lead to a great conversation. They asked where I was from and when I told them Minnesota the young girl – Vanessa was her name – told me she had lived there for awhile and loved it. I told her I had lived in California for awhile and loved it. Her mom spoke with a rich, Mexican, accent they were the sweetest people I had met all day. We talked for forty-five minutes, and I barely felt the time move. The dad sat down with them and we went back through introductions, and rehashed my life story. They live somewhere near L.A. and as we parted the mom made sure Vanessa and I exchanged numbers for when I came back to California. I told Vanessa to hit me up when she came back to Minnesota and I would give her a tour.

The mother had told me that someone was watching over me. She told me that someone had sent the angels to fly over me, because how else had I made it since September. I’m not sure if the reason I believed her was because of what a truly endearing person she was, but I know she thought she was right. She didn’t come off as pushing the thought, she was just very certain in the fact that I was blessed. I thanked her for that.

Snapple tea always comes with a fun fact on the cap and I always wait to read it til I have finished the drink. After the mom had told me about the beings watching out over me I read,

“The peach was the first fruit to be eaten on the moon.”

What does it all mean, really? Aliens or angels? Am I blessed with God looking out for me or just meeting amazing people mixed with serendipty? Is the universe setting it all up for me or is this just how it works?

I’m not sure, but I do know that I’m not really in a Star Wars movie, and neither is any of the stuff I seen yesterday. All the incredible things I’ve done and seen, they are all right here, right now. And because I’m going around dooing and seeing I am the recipient of admiration. I guess I didn’t realize how incredibleit all was until I went away and came back. Look at the moon, the stars. Look at the earth, the sea and the Joshua Tree .. I just rhymed.

I don’t know. All I know is real life is getting in the way of my fantasy.

It is absolutely incredible.

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This Isn’t An April Fools Post (April Fools! Gotcha.)

Being a grown adult I am more than willing to let my older sister book my flights for me. She is a genius when it comes to finding deals so I don’t mind. My sister told me that my flight would take off 3 pm Tuesday and arrive 8 am Wednesday. The last flight I was on was an alll night flight so this sounded accurate enough. I planned how to get to the airport and I let Andrea, my friend in Oceanside, know; arrival plans were made accordingly. Grandma and I took off early for the airport yesterday morning. I knew she had things to do today and I don’t mind waiting in an airport for a couple hours. On the way to the airport we got to discussing the itinerary I had printed off at the library the day before. She asked about my stopovers and I told her there was just the one, in Dallas. This puzzled her “why is the flight so long then?”

“I’m not sure” I told her. I was driving so I said she could get the itinerary out of my purse if she wanted to look. She pulled it out and gave it a perusal.  There was silence for a few minutes and then Grandma asked me again what time arrival was. “8 am Wednesday,” I answered.

She said, “No.” She told me, “8 pm Tuesday.” This time it was my turn to say no. I turned my head away from the wheel and looked over at the paper she was holding up for me to see. She pointed at the time of arrival and I saw that she was, indeed, correct.

I don’t know if my sister was intentionally looking to play me like an April Fool, but she certainly did. For five days now I have been looking forward and dreading the overnight flight I was going to have to get back to Little Wing. Being a wisened adult I didn’t even feel it necessary to double check the itinerary before make plans. April Fool.

Regardless of this correction and bruise to my ego I was pleased that I didn’t,  in fact, have to hang around airports all night. That bruise on my ego had atleast eight hours in a comfortable bed to heal up.

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I mentioned in a previous post (here) that my motorcycle jacket was not in working order. I had come to find that he zipper had suffered more damge than I had thougt when I went down in Oceanside, CA a few months ago (which I mention here). Well, I knew that wouldn’t fly when I got back to Little Wing, I would need a working jacket for safeties sake. I took it to the leather shop in Aberdeen, SD and asked what they could do to fix it.

My jacket is a mesh jacket. It was the  smallest, cheapest, most comfortable, jacket I could find when I went on my hunt for riding gear. For all those reasons it turned out to not be the best jacket on the market. If I were to get a new jacket I would, first off, look for one with a metal zipper. The jacket has served me well, taken hard falls, and manged to get up for more, but the zippers have all caused me problems.

When I asked the leather shop what the charge would be for something like that, sewing a metal zipper on a mesh jacket, they gave me a quote of at least fifty dollars. I felt goosebumps raise, but I tried not to give away my reaction. I thought there was no way I was going to pay that, but I knew saying that aloud would insult the kind leatherworkers and make future business a pain. I saw the rack of leathers they had and made my way over to it. One of the leather workers followed me over and invited me to try them on. I looked at the leather coats they had, checked sizes  and even found a few I could try on, but there wasn’t a one that fit. Plus, how could I possibly afford one of these coats? I got up the nerve to ask the price and the leatherworker told me that all coats ranged from forty-five to fifty dollars since they were all used.

So either buy a metal zipper or buy a new coat. Hmmm, what should a girl do? I couldn’t afford either option but I figured it would be worth it to buy a new jacket if they ever got one in my size so for the next two weeks I stopped in every time I was near the shop. These visits were fruitless, but I kept hope alive.

I reported back to my grandma what I had found out about my coat. She suggested trying the tarp and canvas shop that was in town. That sounded like a good idea, but it was a suggestion that seemed impossible to act upon because I forgot it everytime I ended up back in Aberdeen. Then one day Grandma invited me along to run errands and by some bit of random recall I remembered to bring my riding jacket and ask Grandma to show me where the tarp and canvas shop was. She was happy to comply and so that morning I found myself at a little old garage that was labeled with the word tarp and canvas. We walked in and were welcomed by a near empty shop and silence. I looked around for someone who might be employed there and able to assist. I finally spotted a face peaking out from behind a sewing machine and when we made eye contact, the stout man that belonged to the face said “hello.”

Grandma and I responded in kind and I waited a bit longer for him to say more. Since it didn’t seem as though he would I took it upon myself to start our business transaction. I walked towards him and, as I did so, I saw that the item that he was sewing on was an industrial-sized tarp draped across an industrial-sized table. As I made my way closer I started explaining the issue with jacket I held in my hands. I told him where I had taken it so far, why I had taken it, and the quote I had been given. On hearing fifty dollars I saw the first hint of emotion on the stoic face I was addressing as his eyebrow rose.

He stood up. “Let me take a look,” he said as reached for the coat. I let loose and let him have it. He moved over to another part of the industrial-sized workbench and picked up a tool. I attempted looking over his shoulder, but even as short as he was I was still shorter. I shuffled over to his other side, hoping I could see better there. I was just stretching my neck around to get a look around his right side when he turned and handed me my riding jacket. “Try that.”

I saw that he held in his right hand a pair of pliers. I asked as I tossed the coat on, “what did you do?”

“I tightened the zipper up. Sometimes they just get a little loose.”

I tried zipping the jacket and to my pleasure it actually zipped. I reached for my purse to pay him something and he told me no. He informed me that he was currently closing the shop and so was finishing backorders. He wouldn’t be in bussiness much longer and he was happy to help me no cost. I realized I had got there just in the nick of time. The leather workers didn’t tell me the jacket was a simple fix and if it weren’t for the tarp and canvas guy I would have been out at least fifty dollars. My eternal gratitude goes out to the stoic man with the plyers. Needless to say, my day was made.

My day was made again Monday, the day before I took off for California. Grandma and I had errands to run, one of them being the printing out of my itinerary at the Aberdeen Public Library. We took off earlier than usual to get all the stuff done. I was sure that Grandma had her reasons for getting started sooner than later, so, though curious, I didn’t bother to ask. After I finished up printing out, but not reading, the itinerary at the library Grandma said “we have time for another stop.”

“Another stop?” I asked. Grandma responded with a coy grin and so I just left it at that. Grandma’s suprises are usually good ones.

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We ended up at the old Central High School. The same school that Dad and all his siblings attended. A beautiful, historic, building that has been retired from its old duties of being a school. It was adopted as a city building, and one of the largest rooms on first floor has become an art gallery that is host to different exhibits through out the year. The current exhibit is a collection of work from talented prison inmates across the state. This is the exhibit Grandma knew I wanted to see.

The idea is to promote self therapy with artistic expression, something I am in huge favor of. One of the goals is to lower the recitivism rate, which is a huge problem all across the country. Here’s the article from the Aberdeen News. I was touched by this exhibit and even more touched that Grandma knew it was important enough to me that she wanted to make sure I got there before I flew to California.

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I painted this watercolor for grandma.

So, I flew to California. I am here now. I got here last night, around 8:20 pm, right around the time my itinerary had predicted. I was welcomed by the busy busyness of San Diego Airport and a long wait at Baggage Check for my, small (unnecessarily, but required), checked bag. Then I walked out to the sidewalk where a sea of vehicles parked along the curb, and the first lane of traffic. I knew Andrea was waiting for me. She had called me and told me that she was going to drive around the block once to appease the security who was clearly getting antsy. When she told me this I was holding my spot in front of Baggage Check, waiting for the motor to start up and deliver my bag. I knew when I got the bag she would be out there. I looked toward the conflagration of vehicles. I saw a old truck with the letters T O Y O T A printed on the back. It was small enough.. and who else in California had a short cab Toyota truck and drove that they drove around regularly? The truck was stopped in the first lane since all the curb spots were taken up with hugging, crying, people who had left their luggage on the sit sidewalkas they made their emotions known. I made my way swiftly, tossing my blue duffle full of commitments over my shoulder to save wear from the strap on my filmy shirt, like I had seen the old army guys with their huge military packs do in the movies. I half feared Andrea would take off on me, I was sure she hadn’t seen me. I tossed the duffel into the bed of the truck and I saw her start as I reached for the doorhandle. A huge grin spread across her face when she saw me in the door frame, “Sweetie!” I heard as I got in. I let go of my coat and purse for the first time. Our hour drive to the organic farm was started.

We filled the cab of the truck with conversation as we made our way. There was so much to discuss, so much that had happened in both our lives since the first time she made a trip to the San Diego airport on my behalf. I watched her switch the vent from cool to cooler and turn up the fan, and at that moment I knew I wasn’t in the Midwest anymore.

How strange to be so far away from where I was twenty-four hours ago. I am physically and mentally in a different place. Is that good or bad? I think it is what it is. I’m here NOW. I picked a flower today, a pretty one that had petals that faded from yellow into white, like an inverse sunshine, and when I did I came up with a new motto:

Now is good. If now isn’t good then pick a flower and stick your nose in it.

Not quite Tich Naht Han, but getting there. The cheesieness, though clear to me now, was not apparent in the moment. I felt great. I was questioning what next, what if, should’s, could’s and but’s; you know, all the useless stuff. I realized that, wow, here I was. Here now. I was in California. Reunited with Little Wing, walking in paradise, sweating in the heat. What about later mattered so much that I should miss now? I looked down at my flower, stuck it up to my nose, and inhaled deeply. Breathe Diamond, breathe. Smiles flourish on a good breath.

Andrea and I arrived back to Blue Heron Farm around 9:30 pm, and the first thing I noticed as I opened the truck door – and set my first foot out onto the closest thing I have found to Shangri-la since ever – was the smell. The perfume, the aroma, the redolence, the spice, the bouquet, the scent of the blooms clung to me and entered my lungs as I inhaled deeply. Life was meant to be lived with plants and good smells, that is all there is to it, and my soul has been enriched since yesterday as I have been reminded of one of the things I love the most with travel, breathing deeply.

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The farm.

I went for a ride today. I was welcomed by three new packages piled with the commitments I had left behind. In one was a GPS wrapped in changing chuck and topped off with a bumper sticker to add to my windshield. The inside joke associated with the packaging made me smile, but the GPS inside made my dreamer start dreaming as I thought of all the places I wouldn’t get lost now. Another package had an oil filter and the final part for Little Wing’s rear breaks, a spring that I was very happy to put on and find much more effective than the last.

I have come to know the benifit of keeping a blog. When I opened the box of parts and found an oil filter I wondered, did I change the oil? Is this for the next oil change in 3000 miles or is it for now? My stressed out thinker finally remembered that all that info is archived on a website created just for this type of ponderance. And the verdict is… I changed the oil about a thousand miles ago so I’m good for now.

The third box, whuch is actually the first one I opened, held the pair of pants I had ordered just before heading to South Dakota. A pair of Sliders. A kevlar reinforced pair of jeans that are designed specifically for the next time I go down, but dude, I’m not planning that. Anyway, now that I have new pricey jeans I new I had to try them out and I decided to use that as a great excuse to take Little Wing for a spin (as though I needed an excuse).

I was amazed to find that I rode well. I had not forgotten everything I had learned, on the contrary, I appeared to remember it, like riding a bike. I started off slow, one of the reasons being the new spring I had put on the back brakes, I wasn’t sure if everything was right, but it actually turned out the back brakes worked better than they had in months. The other reason for starting slow was the nerves. I had this small worry that I had forgotten what to do, and, like I said, that was a unfounded. One thing that I noticed was my confidence. It seemed to come back to me the moment I slipped my riding boots on, but it only increased the more distance I covered. I felt the swagger as I parked the bike and took off my helmet, and I remembered the true feeling of independence that I only have come to know through art and – on a much larger scale – through adventure. Sorrow and being back with family had made the independence hard to see. It was covered by the newness of the reasons for being back in South Dakota. I knew it was there, but I wasn’t sure which emotions to move around to look for it. Like a discarded t-shirt at the bottom of the stack, independence was tucked deep below the million other feelings that were being tossed about.

Now here it is, my feeling of independence. I can breathe it in when I inhale deeply. I can walk around wearing it, and best of all, it can keep me comfortable on the back of Little Wing.

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I found this bird in a nest today. It didn't move a wink when I moved the branch around to get a picture. I think it was under the impression it was invisible.

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The first ride in a month and a half took me to the store In Fallbrook, CA. I had a mission other than testing my new jeans. I needed two ingredients at the grocery store for a batch of cookies. Sugar and butter, two things Andrea didn’t have on hand. I wanted to make her, and all the neat people that come to the farm, the same cookies my Grandma had made me when I was in South Dakota. Grandma had come across a recipe in a knitters magazine, and decided she wanted to try it. We mixed them up together in the warmth of the kitchen. We talked about things, and listened to the radio, and baked. And when we were done we had some of the best cookies I have ever had. I am still unsure if it was the recipe or my grandmother, but something made those cookies special. They are a ginger slash spice cookie and they make a house smell like a cozy blanket when one inhales deeply. When the boys, Grandpa Larry and Dad, came in we handed them each one, and instantly we were met with smiles. Dad doesn’t always like cookies, he liked these. I knew that I had to share them with Andrea. So I went to the grocery store and picked up the ingredients.

Grandma had packed me three of the ginger slash spice cookies to take on the plane, from our last batch we had made together. I ate one in the Sioux Falls Airport while people watching and typing. I started conversation with a young gal who was siting by the power tower when I moved over towards her to charge my battery. I never caught her name, but I found out we were going to be on all the same flights since she was flying to San Diego to see her fiancé. We stood by each other in the Dallas-Fortworth Airport as I ate my second cookie, and I found out she was twenty years old, and that when people didn’t reciprocate her smile she liked to stare at them with a huge cheshire grin on her face, because “why not?” I liked her. I found out she was going to college for early childhood education in South Dakota, but she was originally from Iowa. While we talked, and I ate my cookie, I people watched.

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Louie, the father of all the lambs I watched enter the world this spring. Cocky bugger.

There are so many people in this world, all doing different things, and don’t you just wonder what those things are? Where is that person going? Where are they coming from? Why? The truth is I probably won’t see them again, but the beauty is I have seen them once. I have seen their face, and maybe, for a brief moment, they saw mine. They were a part of the enormous world that is inside my head, and I got a chance to be in their’s. I find that amazing.

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Could they get cuter?

I ate the last ginger slash spice cookie this morning before setting off on Little Wing for sugar and butter. Atter I picked up the ingredients I brough Little Wing back to Andrea’s garage and I baked. I inhaled the smell that came from South Dakota, and when i stepped out for a walk later and inhaled the smell of a flower, I wondered what was the difference?

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The smell of California has welcomed me back, but I have brought with me the smell of the Midwest. The taste of fresh citrus this morning was as sweet as the taste of the ginger slash spice cookie I finished off from Grandma’s care package this morning. I am here, I was there. I smell different smells, I see different faces. I talk to different people and taste different tastes, but its all the same. It all makes up independence. It makes me.

Sometimes it makes me an April Fool.

Now is good. If now isn’t good then pick a flower and stick your nose in it.

Happy first of the month to you!

Lots Of Pictures Of Lambs And A Little Bit Of Writing

The lambs came in. Seven of ’em so far, all gambling along. All four hooves and two ears intact.

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There was one lamb who had to be bottle fed. The lamb is ram, a black ram. He came out long and lanky from a short and stout ewe. The ewe is part Icelandic, which has a lot to do with her build. Being short means that the large bag that she has from the excess amount of milk is only about four inches off the ground. Now let me explain a bit about the things I have come to learn about lambs and how they are as firstborns. Lambs, like all mammals
I know of, are driven by the need to eat. They instinctively know to look for their mothers tit (when you talk like a farmer you are supposed to be able to say – and type – that word without giggling, or so I’ve been told). Knowing this they usually manage to eat within mere hours of being outside of the womb. The time varies based on the conditions of the environment. I saw one lamb that got separated from her mother in the morning before Grandpa and I got out to let out the rest of the sheep. The lamb started on a search for her mom, she needed to be fed. The lamb started out by nuzzling at the grown ewe’s udders around her. The ewes knew it wasn’t their baby and so didn’t feel any maternal instinct towards it. Their reaction to the obtrusive lamb was to head butt her away from them. Grandpa Larry and I walked in on the sounds of a crying lamb and baahing ewes. Our eyes were met by a scene that looked much like a basketball game, with the lamb playing the part of the ball being bouncec around. This would be an example of the wrong conditions. That lamb was lost and had we not walked in, and had the lamb’s mother continued to be remiss in finding – and protecting – her young, the lamb may not have survived. As it was Grandpa got a hold of the lamb by the front legs and carried it slowly into the front barn, luring the real mother to come forward. She followed him into the new pen. A seperate pen is made for each new mother and lamb to avoid that unhealthy attention from the other ewes that I just wrote about. Being in a seperate pen also seems to help the mom feel comfortable, and when she feels comfortable she is better able to give attention to her lamb. That brings me back to my other story, the bottlefed ram.

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The bottlefed ram is tall and his mother is short and her tits were just a little bit off the ground when she gave birth. This wouldn’t be a problem usually, because the lamb, no matter what size, would know to kneel down to feed, but this ram doesn’t seem to have figured that out. We didn’t know this at first. What alerted Grandpa and I to this conundrum was the crying of the lamb. He was unhappy and after some observation we noticed that her bag was very, very, full. More observation led us to conclude this was due to the lamb not milking her. Well maybe he didn’t know what to do, maybe we just had to show him. Some energy was put into leading him to his mothers tit where we observed that he wouldn’t get his head dow to feed. Grandpa thought we could show him by helping to kneel, so that was attempted. The lamb didn’t go for that. He didn’t want to kneel. We figured we had shown him so maybe he would try on his own soon enough. We let him be and went about the day. Later, when we checked on the sheep again, we saw the Icelandic’s bag was more swelled, he was still balling, and when he stood to feed he still wasn’t kneeling down. We decided to show him how again, to no avail. I was put in charge of leading his head to the tit while Grandpa held the, now, very tender, ewe. We knew her udder was tender before, but the fuller it got the worse it felt. The longer the lamb didn’t feed the more the mama wouldn’t want him to because it hurt too much. Anyway, Grandpa held her and I led his mouth to her tit, and he didn’t take. I wondered if his mouth wasn’t opening so I gave him my finger and he sucked on that just fine, so I led him back to his mama but his little mouth wouldn’t latch. I told Grandpa and asked if maybe her tit was to big for his mouth because it was so swelled. That appeared to be the problem. The next solution was to milk her. Maybe she had an infection that had plugged her up, something called mastitis, and that’s why he wasn’t feeding, or maybe that wasn’t it and he just couldn’t latch on. That’s what we would find out by milking her.

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The milking implements were gathered; a harness, bottle and container for catching the sustaining liquid. Dad came to hrlp and we gathered around to help Grandpa milk. The harness was put on the unhappy ewe and the milking was to commence. I was given the job of standing back and holding the lamb. We all agreed this was the best job and I was in no hurry to exchange it with anyone else. The little lamb reacted by crying, but soon he grew accustomed to me and switched to sniffing me in a vain search for milk. He snuffled and snorted and then he found my hand and latched onto a finger. Having a baby lamb suck on one’s finger is simultaneously charming and disturbing. The lamb was happy though, so I figured that was all that mattered.

Quick interruption, in the time I have been typing this there have been two new lambs born. That puts the count up to nine

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Anyway, I sat with the little black ram. Meanwhile, back on the other side of the pen, not a foot away, kneeled my grandfather. He had tied up the ewe and backed her into the corner inorder to get her still enough to milk. This sounded oh-so-simple when he first told me the plan, but I realized exactly how difficult a task it was once he started. That sheep did not want to give milk, and she most certainly did not want to give it to a grown, human, male that was putting it in a jar. The ewe was kicking like crazy. Grandpa was struggling with Icelandic while I was holding her sweet son. Dad came over to aid the process and eventually the two boys were able to get enough milk to start on feeding the lamb. Grandpa took hold of the lamb and handed me the bottle.

Bottle feeding a lamb isn’t my idea of a good time. But it is a good time anyway. Welll, sort of.

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After that I was given the job of feeding the lamb and helping to calm the ewe as Grandpa milked. She was never pleased by the process, but it was necessary. Not only did we need to milk to feed the little ram, but the ewe also needed the pressure relieved. What started out as charming became a frustrating reality after a couple of days. It was hard to watch the young lamb not catch on to what it had to do to survive while the rest of the lambs were growing and becoming wiser. The mother had become the only mother who wasn’t feeding. It is hard to watch a mother fail to perform her maternal duties. I wondered why instinct and Mother Nature didn’t kick in to help the two four legged creatures figure out life.

After the third day of bottlefeeding Grandma and I left to run errands after chores. Grandpa decided something had to be done so him and Dad came up with the plan to build a stanchion. When Grandma and I got home I got to see this newly built contraption. They had already tested it once and the ewe, boxed in without a place to run, had stood to be milked. This made the stanchion a success, and the boys were quite pleased. We went out to check on the sheep again at 9:30 PM knowing the lamb had to eat again. This time I got to see the stanchion put to work. It was a real strugle to get the ewe into it, but once she was in she was in. Dad had built a platform around the stanchion so it was up off the ground and then made a step up for the Ewe where she stood. The idea was that if the lamb wanted to drink he could climb upon the platform and reach his mama’s udder because she was raised up. Dad thought maybe we should test this theory so he asked if I would put the lamb up to her tit as Grandpa milked the other one. By this time the lamb had grown attached to me, or rather, he had grown attached to my coat. The smell of the coat had become synonymous with milk in his mind. He loved that coat. He had taken to coming up to me and reaching his head to any low hanging bit and giving a suck. It didn’t result in any sustenance but that didn’t seem to bother him much. Well, since I was the human he was the most attached to (literally) I new it was my shivic duty to get that lamb to its mama. The little guy was hesitant at first. He actually ran away from me a couple times which was good because it means he had a self preservation instinct and the energy to act upon it. I finally got a hold of him and carried him over to his mother. I kneeled down beside the stanchion and pointed his head where his mouth had to go. After many minutes of struggling the lamb finally latched where it was supposed to, and after he figured out that he could get milk he started sucking. What a magical sound.

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After a good long period of siting holding the lamb I stood to find a suprise that he had left behind from his behind. “Oh shit,” I said. But that’s farming for you.

I have mentioned before that my grandma is a wiz with the fiber. She has been teaching me how to spin.

Hold on, I just have to let you know that in the time that I have been typing this another lamb was born and one of the twins from a different ewe was rejected by its mothr and is now deceased. That leaves the count at nine.

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Yes, so Grandma has been teaching me to spin on some of the wool that she got off one of her sheep. She carded it (that means combed it out and cleaned up the crap), and then dyed it. She used sawdust from a tree to color it a light red/ deep pink color, it is sort of like a violet red color. She handed it to me with a drop spindle after tshowing me what to do. After a lot of trial and error I spun a good 100 yards of it. I plyed (meaning I double spun it for strength) it into 50 yards, and now I have to figure out what project to use it in. Right now I’m finishing up a pair of mittens for my cousin. She has been a spinner for along time and we have been talking a bit about my spinning. I have been told by other spinners that she is very talented and that she often spins without even looking at her spinning wheel. I haven’t been around her much while she has been spinning but I don’t doubt it. She is a great little knitter for sure, and it was her yarn that I used in the hat I knit up for Dad, it was definitely good quality. My cousin is a year younger than me so I am coming a little late to the spinning game, but I strive to be as good as her. She was taught by the best, and now I am being taught by them too. My grandma and aunts are all very talented so I am sure that if I catch on I might get good too.

Quick update: there are two more lambs. The count is now up to eleven.

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In the last post I wrote I mentioned the new shirt I purchased at Goodwill. The perfectly flowery shirt that I am looking forward to wearing. I have to save it for warmer temps so I have only worn it once in public, but soon that shall change. I booked my flight back to California where the weather is hot. I’m headed back to Little Wing and riding weather. I’m planning on riding the motorcycle to the north. My original plan to go through Texas is suspended for the time being. If I can, I want to go backup through Colorado and maybe hit near the Tetons in Wyoming. I don’t know for sure but it is what I’m looking at. My flight takes off Tuesday afternoon from South Dakota and I should be back in California Wednesday morning. I will give it a good month of tour, from April to May, and check out all the things I haven’t seen. I am coming to understand that I have the rest of my life to check out the world, and for now coming back to check out Minnesota can suit me. I am very excited that I will be riding again. I know Little Wing is probably in need of a good ride too.

But now here’s a picture of me in my new favorite shirt.

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I think March came in like a lamb, but I think it is going out like a lamb too, but from what I’m learning lamb’s can come in any which way they want. Sometimes they are sweet, sometimes they are stubborn or fast. They are always soft though. Wooly, warm, and full of shit, just like life.

No, that is a very stretched analogy.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I have loved the hell out of helping with lambing, but I will love riding just as much. March was what it was regardless of the critter it embodied. April will be what it will be and I am going to enjoy the hell out of it. We never know when it will all be gone, or the ride will be over. We never know when the months will continue passing without us. What we do know is what we have now.

I have the presence of three fantastic grandparents and some pretty sweet sheep right now. After March turns into April I will have the gift of riding again . Who knows what will come next? I don’t, and I don’t mind.

I think I should sign off now. I don’t know what comes next, but I do know I should get out to the barn.

It might be another lamb.

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Getting It Down Pat (Happy Belated St. Patties Day)

I don’t have a story to tell. The problem is I have many many stories to tell. I don’t know where to start. Do I start with the black birds that are flying back for spring and filling the tops of the tree in the early morning, or do I start with the way the sunlight shines off the old 46 Chevy that graces the yard in all its rusted glory? Do I tell you about the way 80° in South Dakota feels different then 80° in California, or do I tell you the way that hearing John Denver sing Sunshine on My Shoulders makes me cry every time? Do I tell you about the way that Queenie, the oldest horse on the farm, whinnies good morning to me every day, but backs away from my hand in the afternoon, or the lack of lambs that the sheep are having? What do I say? What do I tell you, my audience?

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Buster and Queenie in the background.

I don’t know. I guess I will start off by telling you about my new shirt.

The last few months I have been free of mundane choices. My life has been filled with excitement and adventure, and the big questions like where to next? What route? What road? Who should I meet next? When is the next meal and cupa tea? The questions that I’ve had to answer, the decisions I’ve had to make, have been engaging and worthwhile. I don’t posses much clothing as of late. I have three jeans to chose from. I wear one of them specifically on days filled with grunge. I have six shirts to choose from, all of them specifically chosen for certain temperatures so the day chooses them, not me. This has made my clothing choice easy and allowed me to redirect that energy towards more positive, enlightening things, like what route? What road? I had forgotten that buying a new shirt is like a renewing of the spirit. A new piece of good apparel to slip on and make your own is a like creating a whole new statement about who a person  wants to be seen as. I bought a shirt yesterday. A second hand shirt from Goodwill that I fell in love with. An airy tunic with big beautiful flowers on it. A shirt that has me feeling like spring. It has me feeling like a barefoot walk on a hot day or a roadtrip through a green landscape. It is interesting how that happens. I’m not sure if this happens to everyone, the feeling of comfort and enjoyment from a piece of clothing. Do others see a certain shirt and know it is the one the same way I do? This feeling that I get from a new shirt is the same feeling I get when I finally figure out what to type up. Sometimes a story catches my imagination and I know I have to go write it down. Other times I get so many of them, I get overwhelmed. Like having a closet full of nice shirts, which story do I choose?

Grandma found some old paint. Some old tempura paint that is marked with brands I am not familiar with. They are tempura and I believe they are child grade paints. Most tempura is for children, or at least it isn’t the same grade as acrylics or oils. I use tempura, but I also use house paint and crayons on a regular basis too. The majority of tempura is reserved for kindergarten painting or cheap paints for festivals and such. Well, anyway, I like it. I haven’t read the date on the old paint Grandma found, but I did look through the contents of the box. I found that some of the paints rattled the raspy cry of bygone paint. Others didn’t rattle so much and when opened they were sticky to the touch. I am considering the chances of having some good old tempura paint to use in the next few days versus the alternative of it all being rotten when I actually examine it thoroughly. I am not sure, but it is an interesting find nonetheless.

An interesting piece of history.

We have been finding those a lot as of late, those interesting pieces of history. Grandma and I went to clean up the old house. It is attached to the new house by way of the garage abd is a heated farmhouse built in the 1880’s. It was the first house that my grandparents lived in when they moved to the farm in the 1980’s. The new house was built after they had bought the land and old house. They hired a contractor and the contractor hired Dad. So Dad got his first construction job on his mom’s and step-dad’s land through a third party builder. That in itself is a bit of history. This house was the first that he cut his building teeth on before going on to build the home my sister and I would grow up in a decade later. Cleaning the old house was history too. Not just the history from the original owners, but also the history that is stored in the boxes that fill the old house. Grandma found a drawer of paperwork that had bussiness cards from her grandpa and dad. She also found some of her bussiness cards from the 70’s too. We discussed her grandfather and father who owned a shared real estate and insurance agency. In the drawer there were old letters from customers regarding debts and payments. There was an old map of Watertown, SD, not dated but clearly from the start of the 20th century. We also spent the day vacuuming up flys and dusting shelves,  but the best part was the silence. When all the machines were shut off and Grandma could tell me all about her dad and grandfathers bussiness. When she could point out the portraits on the wall and tell me about her great grandparents and the history stemming from their lineage.

Besides cleaning the old house we are all putting our hands to cleaning up the garage. To do so the old granary had to be cleaned out and rearranged, then the garage became the next endeavor. Dad is insulating and wiring and putting shelves up. Grandpa is cleaning out boxes and rearranging tools. Grandma is sorting paperwork and old glass bottles and jars. I am standing on the sidelines and watching, mostly. Sometimes Dad will have me saw something or help him lift a heavy object. Sometimes Grandpa will have me be a gofer, and sometimes Grandma will have me come look at something interesting. My favorite part is the looking. We have found old school pictures of Dad and his brother and sisters. There is paperwork with cursive writing samples from my family, and old school notebooks with Grandma’s doodles. There are books and  playing cards from different generations. Dust from previous residences on toys and newspaper articles fill the air. We found a box of old fishing lures made by my great grandfather and old tools from his shop. It is like a treasure hunt that comes with more value than silver or gold. When we finish in the garage Grandpa and I go do chores.

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Old cards from my Dad's childhood.

The other day, the day it got up to 80°, Dad prepared a tree to be chopped down. Grandpa and I stood on the ground and watched as he climbed up the tree. I stood on the ladder and handed him up the trimmers and saws before going back down. Dad sawed off a bunch of branches and when he tossed them down I piled them up. I didn’t do much work compared to what Dad was doing, but I got it done. I did manage to wack myself in the face once with one of the branches. It was more like a log with a few branches sticking out. When I went to grab it I didn’t realize how many branches were still tangled in the tree. I gave it a good hard yank causing the branches to wip out and thwack me on the cheek. It took a second for me to realize there was a sting to it because it initially just made me numb. It left just a small, thumbprint sized, bruise. Not bad for a day working in the woods, or, ahem, the one tree in South Dakota. The bruise goes well with my new shirt anyhow so I’m not worried.

After I got over the sting I continued working. Dad and Grandpa think the tree is going to get cut down because it is too close to the house and is rubbing on the roof. It was to windy on that day to do anything about it so Dad just got it all trimmed up. As he did that Grandpa went to go get the rope that were going to tie around the tree to direct it which direction to fall (preferably away from the house). All Grandpa had for rope was a couplr lariats. He used to be cattle farmer and he knew how to ride horse pretty well, he still does but he doesn’t do it as much. He gave me a lesson on roping and I watched. I tried it, but I was clearly not a roper quite yet. When Dad finished up in the tree I climbed up with the lariat and hung it as high up as I could reach. Then when Dad came back from his coffee break he got back in the tree and tied the rope where he wanted it. That was it for the day. We had done what we could. Grandpa got the tractor with the loader and grabbed all the piles of brush.  He made a pile down by the dry slew and there has been talk of a bonfire soon. I am hoping so.

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The fire prodding stick.

In the area where we were working on trimming the tree there were weeds scattered all around. A certain weed with burrs kept finding purchase on my clothing. Dad told me that it is called burdock and it is a sign of good fortune. First he told me that it is where the idea for velcro came from, and then he told me that it is said to be a sign of new friends. He said if a person leaves it attached to their clothing it means they will make new friends throughout the day. I don’t know if that’s true but I do know it leaves slivers. I unattached hundreds of the buggers, and chose to take my chances relying on my charm rather than a weed when making new friends.

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Good morning.

Like I said, I have been helping with chores. Grandpa gets up early in the morning and I follow him. We get the food for the barn cats and grab the banana peels and other food scraps for the sheep and chickens. I put on my mucky snowboots and Grandpa slides on his over shoes. We get the grain for the horses and we head out to the yard. If I remembered to bring my camera with I try to capture a few pictures of the rising sun, and then I pet the horses while Grandpa feeds them grain from the bucket. We check the live trap for the predator that has taken a liking to the chickens.

Grandma and Grandpa had four roosters in a chicken coop with 17 hens. They didn’t need that many roosters. They only needed one in the coop and so the other three found themselves in a separate shed. The three in the seperate shed lived with the gueneas for a bit, but eventually the guenea hens decided to move along to the sheep barn and leave the roosters behind. After this seperation something big happened, there was a plot twist in this rather mundane story. A predator of some sort snuck into the rooster coop and made all three of the foul disappear. The only evidence of the creatures existence were the feathers and a distant memory. There was no blood and there were no body parts, until. Until the day there was.

Grandpa and Dad had set out a live trap right after the incident. Two weeks went by without a sign of the hunter. The trap was moved from inside the coop to outside and a few days later the morning was met by newly scattered feathers outside the coop. Opening the door revealed a munched on set of wings and a couple chicken feet. The culprit had struck again. There was a fresh dugout under the door and the inside of the coop looked like a massacre. The immediate fear was that a new chicken had been killed but after further sleuthing Grandpa, Dad, and myself concluded that it had been an old kill. Dad looked around while I took pictures. He discovered a board missing at the base of the wall. It lead to an eight inch tall crawlspace under the floor of the adjoining barn. In this space there were dead chickens. Roosters to be exact. Whatever had murdered the chickens hadn’t slunk off with them, it had instead made a den in their old home and had turned it into a pantry. After these findings the live trap got moved back into the coop and baited with chicken legs and some old lamb liver. So far the culprit hasn’t been caught, but we check it every morning. This morning we were met by a friendly face when we looked into the shed. The barn cat, Goldie, was staring out at us from behind the bars of the trap. He was mewwing quite folornly, clearing not enjoing the night he had spent incarcerated. We let him out and reset the trap, then we went on about the rest of the chores.

After feeding grain to the horses, and checking the trap, we bring the cat food out to the barn cats. I give a little to both of them. There are two barn cats, Goldie and Checkers. Checkers is the female and she likes me a lot more than Goldie does. It took her awhile, but now she lets me pet her when I bring breakfast while Goldie insists on running every time he spots me. The barn cats aren’t the only cats on the farm though. There is also an indoor cat. Her name is Dumpster Kitty. We shorten that up and call her DK. I have a special bond with her since we share the same intials. She loves me and often sleeps on my feet at night.

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Dumpster Kitty on cat nip. In this picture she is playing under my chair at the kitchen table. She is using the legs and brackets on the chair as a jungle gym while waiting for the right moment to swat my feet.

DK loves me, and I am growing on Checkers,  but Goldie doesn’t care for me much. Regardless, I feed them all. After feeding the cats we check on the sheep. We see if any of the ewes have had their babies, and they haven’t. Grandpa will go get the grain bucket to feed the sheep and I will toss the banana peels out for them to eat. The barn gets opened and we let the sheep out and then we go check on the chickens. We feed them and make sure they have water. We open up the laying box to get ready for the eggs that the hens will drop throughout the daylight hours. After all the light stuff is done we go out to pitch hay to the horses and alfalfa to the sheep.

I hadn’t ever pitched hay before so Grandpa had to show me how. It takes a certain stab and twist inorder to pick up all the hay that one wants to pick up and then deposit it all into the right spot. It is a new technique that I look forward to using in the coming years, I guess we shall see. Grandpa Larry will have me turned into a regular farmer if I ever get the roping right.

After all those chores are done we go eat breakfast. If I remembered to carry my camera along I try to capture as many photos as possible. The rest of the day isn’t quite so planned out. Like I said,  I help out where I can,  but the truth is I don’t have much to offer. I enjoy the memories so I am taking photographs and writing inorder to recollect it all.

It is all so very interesting. A new thing happens everyday on a farm. What specific story does one pick out to write about? But what can I say, a new thing happens everyday in life, what does one pick to write about? Which shirt do I buy,  which shirt do I wear? What story do I write? What story do I publish. Well, I guess I will just have to answer those questions later.

Have a good day audience.

Marching And Skipping Along

I haven’t been posting as many pictures and I wish to remedy that. We shall start with a few shots of the Danish Folk School that I went to at the start of this month when I attended the fiber fair. It was beautiful and worthy of photographs.

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A picture taken at the wrong time as can be observed by the shadows. Whatever, the building is beautiful and I feel that makes up for it.

If you look to the top of the building you can see the parapet. I somehow found myself up there in my tour of the building. Actually it wasn’t that happenstance, I sort of aimed for that destination. I got to the third floor expecting the stairs to the topmost level to be barred off and hidden from the public eye. Instead they were just waiting there, inviting a person to make their way to the top. It was just four steps to a landing and then a ladder that lead the rest of the way up to the trapdoor. I climbed up and pushed on the trapdoor and, to my shock, it opened up. The trapdoor lead into — what looked like — an old janitors closet. There was no siding on the wall, just the bare brick with some patches of innocent graffiti. The floor was plywood placed over timbers, and there was a spot where the timbers were visible because the plywood had either been peeled up or never put down. There were a couple of cumpled pop cans on the floor so I could tell I wasn’t the first one to be up here without permission. There was another ladder leading to yet another trapdoor, and I assumed that was the door to the roof. I was certain that door would be locked, but I decided to try it anyway. I climbed this second ladder and reached up with my hands to push on the door. Once again I was filled with surprise as the door shifted and  my eyes caught a glimpse of snow from the small crack that my efforts had made visible. I also feelt a small chill as the cold, outside air, breezed in. I was filled with excitement while I considered the thrill of this new secret I had found. I remember considering what a rebel I was and enjoying that thought, because in general (not to ruin my image or anything) I’m not that much  a rebel. Or atleast I don’t usually go places I am not supposed to go. Had there been a sign saying “No Entry” I probably wouldn’t have tried it. As it was I was cold and I knew I needed a jacket before venturing further. I climbed down the ladder and made my way back to the first trapdoor, reversing my course. I tryed to do this as quietly as possible. I steeled myself to face whatever, or whomever, was waiting at the bottom of the steps. I didn’t want to be caught, but most of all I didn’t want my secret to be found out before I got to find out more about it myself. I opened the trapdoor, certain I would be met with peering eyes, but instead I was met with nothing, except for the ladder I had climbed up, the landing, and the stairs that took me back to the unexciting third floor. I went back downstairs and wandered around with my camera for awhile. I got very few good pictures, but I saw a lot of cool stuff.

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I put on my coat and went outside to capture photos of the sunset. It was practically impossible because I was in Minnesota and everywhere I pointed the camera (especially in the western direction where the sunset was at) there were trees. I did see  typical Minnesotan fire hydrant though so I caught a picture of that.

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A typical Minnesotan fire hydrant is generally red and white, see?

I decided that now was the perfect time to go and explore my secret again. I had my coat on the sun was setting, I wasn’t getting a good photograph at ground level so maybe the tall parapett would do me better. I walked back into the Danish Folk School and made my way back to third floor. I climbed the ladder, opened the trapdoor and climbed the second ladder. Camera in pocket, I pushed on the second trapdoor and found that it wasn’t hinged, it was like a lid on a box, it came right off. I slid it off to the side and I climbed through the hole it left. The parapett was brick and I was pleased to see that it was exactly like any castle I had ever imagined. This, my first parapett, did not dissapoint. I crawled onto the roof and slid the trapdoor over to keep the chill out of the building. When I stood up I could see the sunset better than I had anywhere else. I felt like a queen.

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Well, I felt like a queen until the wind got to me, then I got cold. I took a few pictures and then skidadled off the roof. Now that it was time to go down I found that the easy to open trapdoor was, infact, old and, in all probability, rarely used making it hard to close. The lid was harder to put back on the box, especially from below. At that point I had a few pangs of regret. I wrestled with the lid, trying to slip it into place, all the while worrying about the racket I was producing. I had visions of women opening the trapdoor, peaking upwards, and yelling at me for trespassingmon the parapett. I questioned the intelligence of the action; was the risk really worth the small satisfaction of a good chill and a few lousy pictures? I would never do it again, never ever, if I could just get that trapdoor lid back on the castle-like box with no one finding me out. And, then, the lid caught and it slid back into place. Just like that I was back to enjoying my secret, and the thrill of being where I ought not to be came back.  I imagined coming back to this place, eating dinner here. Maybe coming back and showing only my closet friend. Maybe I could get a pet and let it live up here during the three short days that I would be inhabiting this building. Maybe I would enjoy all the sunrises and sunsets from the brisk safety of the parapett. And, then, I was making my way down the first ladder after closing the other trapdoor, and by the time I reached the landing reality kicked in again. This wasn’t a castle, it was a Danish Folk School. That wasn’t a secret parapett, it was a well hidden closet with roof access. My adventure was really just a neat examination of architecture, not some rebellious epic that would lead to a life full of magical stories.

Ah well, at least I tried.

Speaking of magical stories, check out this picture.

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That orangegenie is in fact just the orange sunset shining through the smoke from that chimney. And that church isn’t on fire, that is just the lights interpreted by the stained glass. Cool though, huh? Makes me hungry for a citrus fruit.

I have other pictures.

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On Sunday we sheared the sheep at my grandma’s place. Actually, she hired someone to shear the sheep while I just stood by and held the gate. The men, my gramps and Dad, wrastled with the sheep to get them out to the shearer. Grandma sorted the wool as it came off the newly naked critters, and I stood by to assist and open and close the gate. There was one point where I failed to complete my task. Instead of opening and closing the gate I stepped over to grab a pile of freshly cut wool and hand it to Grandma. Meanwhile the boys had a hold on a particularly feisty older gal and as they struggled with that sheep the flopping gate made for the perfect getaway for a young yearling, that I have since coined Skippy. We watched this youngin bound out of the barn and make her way towards the outside sheep who were eagerly munching grain.

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Sheep don’t particularly like being sheared. In fact, if I were willing to make an assumption on their behalf, I would say they downright detest the whole bussiness. If one were to join on the fun and games, as I did, they might notice that the sheep generally have to be manhandled to get them to the point where they are sitting in the ‘barbers chair.’ Some (like myself) might imagine they would follow their herder like — excuse my pun — sheep, but that would be incorrect. I stood by the gate and watched Grandpa Larry reach for those stubborn gals and miss as the skittered away. He would attempt to herd them out of the makeshift pen we had set up for the day, into the second makeshift pen where they would then be hauled to the shearer. The sheep would not herd, they would scatter. It was not a job for the faint of heart. Dad was called in and then him and Grandpa Larry used a technique that involved coming in from different angles  and then grabbing on when they new they could. The safety of the sheep is one of the foremost thoughts, the other thought is the safety of the human. I think the biggest  thought on all of our minds, though, is the safety ofthe unborn lamb. All but one of the sheep that were sheared were female and of those females there may have been five or six that weren’t carrying. There are eighteen sheep in all. Grandma and Grandpa used to have a larger flock, but as life and a large farm have begun to not coincide the number has diminshed as they have been sold off or butchered. Anyway, this means the job was easier than it has been in previous years, but it still isn’t easy. Dealing with lifeforms, in any capacity, always makes a job more complicated

Back to Skippy, that sheep that ran off. Knowing that the cause of the loose lady was partly my fault for standing by the gate I volunteered to get her back in the barn. Nobody seemed very concerned about the sheep or my leaving to chase it in so I just did. Skippy is a black faced, black legged, white sheep. She is also very clever. I saw her standing amongst the other ewes eating the grain out of the feeders and I saw her see me.

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The ewes launched a coo and they a scattering occured. All the sheep had coupled up and to different groups. The only reason I was able to spot Skippy after this parting was the unsheared wool that remained on her hide. As clever as he was she didn’t seem to realize this and she ended up standing off in the corner of the small pasture with another yearling. I saw her and made a big circle around her to convince her of which way she wanted to head. Her and her partner caught on and made a run for it, as did the rest of the sheep. They reconfigured and as I launched another large circle they ran around the old chicken shed and up onto the manure pile and down again.

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The old chicken shed and manure pile a week before shearing.

Something I didn’t mention is the lack of snow around these parts. The northern areas have had a heatwave and this has lead to a mass melting of all the white stuff. The beginning of this post had pictures from when it was around -14° to 30. On Sunday it was warm, about 40° to 60°,  but it was only about the second or third day of this melt. This means that while the snow was melting the ground frost hadn’t yet got around to it. The top three inches of topsoil were filled with water though and this made for a wet mucky mess. Where ever there wasn’t a puddle there was slippery mud. And in the pasture that topsoil isn’t all topsoil. Meaning that when I was running, chasing after those sheep I was slipping, and nearly slidding, on a mix of mud and sogged up manure. No one ever said farming was easy… or that it smelt good.

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The old chicken shed and manure pile on shearing day. (Notice the puffy, woolen, clouds? The sky looked like a clean version of what Grandma was sorting on that day.)

I felt no need to follow Skippy and her pals up that manure pile or into the puddle surrounding said pile. Instead I opted for shouting and swearing and when they made there way off the pile I sprinted as best I could right for the center of the pack, knocking it in half. I got Skippy pushed off to my rightside, with hr2 small group, getting her closer to the barn. There were only about eight ewes that were sheared making for only nine in the pasture as I performed this chase. In the group that I had diverted to my right there were five ewes and the decided to lead me in a circle. As I chased them around one separated and I was left with four sheep, Skippy still being one of them. We had doubled back to my original starting point when I decide to up my game. My arms shot out to the sides as I hunkerd down a bit more to avoid slipping in the muck. I took up shouting again as I waved my arms and shuffled quickly from left to right, keeping all four sheep on the course to the barn. They began running from me and I felt the mud splatter up onto my person. I did my best to ignore the new accoutrements to my wardrobe as I sped up, keeping up the rear and herding them to the back of the barn. They arrived on the dry land of the straw covered shelter and seemed to realize what happened. When I reached the door to shut the gate they looked at me mournfully. Skippy was caught, Skippy wasn’t the beautiful martyr they thought her to be. This sheep was a true rebel, if she couldn’t avoid the barber then what sheep ever would? I saw these toughts run through their minds as my grin grew. I had no sympathy. I smelt like poop and I had just manged to herd a sheep in less than five minutes, I was pretty pleased with myself. I opened the door that seperated the back barn from the front barn where all the happenings were, and I announced my success. I was met with pleased looks, that lasted only seconds. My long lasting glow seemed to be a personal problem that these other busy farmers didn’t have much time for. I joined them, leaving the four ewes in the back barn for the time being, and I went back to my post — guarding the gate.

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Old Split Ear is a black sheep. She is probablythe nosiest which leads to her getting much more to eat. She is also the most pregnantest too, can you tell?

The rest of the shearing was uneventful except for the ram’s, Louis’, shearing. His nose flared and he fought hard. He seemed to exude ego as the shearer shaved his wool. If I were to allow my reading of his thoughts to be mentioned I might say that he looked absolutely put out, and irritated that he had to do this thing that was beneath him. I remember thinking that he appeared to be most angry that he had to do the same thing the ladies had done. That’s just me though. I could see the shearer struggle with Louis, but he didn’t allow that to ruin his job. He sheared him without a nick, and he maintained complete control, it was beautiful.

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When all the sheep in the front barn had been shaved it was Skippy’s turn. We opened the door seperating the two barns and after a short struggle Grandpa Larry and Dad had a good hold on the yearling. They delivered the stubborn ewe to the shearer where he completed his job for the day. When the shearer let loose of Skippy after all her wool was detached she made a run for it, again. As she exited the barn she lept into the air. Her feet were about three feet off the ground, and, had I reached my arm out, I would have been able to pet her shaved back as she was airborn. I have never seen a sheep jump that high, but just as quick as it happened she was grounded and out the door. That Skippy was ready to be done with us. I saw the awe of the sheep hanging around the barn and it seemed that Skippy should have no worry about her reputation. Those ladies knew she was a rebel, Skippy’s legacy will live on for at least a few years.. or day’s.. hours. Who knows? Only the sheep I guess.

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The sheep the morning after.

There are also horses here. My favorite picture of them was caught a few days after arriving in South Dakota. It was snowing on the day and I just couldn’t belive how lovely these old steeds looked.

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I am surrounded by proud steeds, magical castles, black sheep, and rebellious sheep that don’t follow, could my story get any better?

I  do not know the answer to that, all I know is that this is the oddest, most interesting, March I have probably ever lived through. And even though I’m not down South, this is the warmest March too.

Knit Picking The Purls Of Wisdom

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I look back on the pictures of the places I have been and I consider all the great things I feel I have experienced and I wonder how it is possible. I feel as though I am in a weird time warp. A few weeks ago I was traveling amongst blossoms and fruit. Smelling the salty sea air and sweating. Carefree.. Stone free to do as I pleased as Jimi (Hendrix that is) might say. Now I’m making myself at home with chickens and sheep. I am acting responsibly for all those involved in my life. I have to think about family and the fact that chores need to get done. Feels a bit like a time warp. I have been looking at the pictures I have yet to show off to my family and I am considering the odd thoughts that I have been having as of late. The thoughts about not finishing out the adventure. The thoughts that have come about because I came back North on an airplane and I left Little Wing behind. The thoughts that have made life’s occurrences seem like a determining factor in future plans. I don’t plan, but yet my mind is stuck in plan mode. It won’t just experience now. It insists on going through every scenario and possibility rather than living right now. I mean I can understand why. Being here raises a lot of questions. What do I do now that I am so near real life and real work? Real bills, real money, real job. Real broke, real cold, real sad. It is all real sad. Well I have been told that twenty-two is nowhere near the end, and that is probably true. Despite this I have noticed that all my thoughts tend towards planx and what it is I intend to do when my adventure is over.

I talked with my friend Dan the other day. I told him what was going on and how I was feeling and he repeated a point that he had read in one of his motorcycle adventure magazine’s. He told me he had thought of me when he read it. To paraphrase, the basic point was, an adventure is done for the person taking the adventure. It is a lone trek done for onesself and is completely separate from the people back home. I was puzzled by this statement. It seemed so obvious. We humans go and do things to make us happy while simultaneously doing no harm, right? That’s just what we do, adventure or not, right? So I asked Dan, “Isn’t that just life?”

“Exactly.”

Well, at the risk of sounding circular and existential (something I hesitate to do. Ha. Ha.), I guess that was the point. Dan and I discussed this further and then I went off to think about it. If the adventure is just like life then isn’t the adventure just life? And if that’s the case isn’t life just adventure?

If I question every moment of adventure and ask if I’m doing it right then which moment am I truly enjoying?

I have been told before that I think too much.

To change the subject a bit, I made a point for my birthday. My birthday was Sunday and the weekend of my birthday was spent at a fiber weekend with my grandma, two aunts, and cousin. As I have mentioned before my grandma owns the best little yarn shop on this side of the Mississippi (and I say that with very little bias). Since she has retired she has found enjoyment in keeping the shop and going to different fairs and events with some of her ware. As one person told me this weekend, I am a member of “a fiber dynasty,” and it might be true. I watched the women walk around the Danish Folk School that we were at in shawls, sweaters, and hats that they had made. Many of them had spun the yarn that they had used in the attire they donned. I do not yet know how to spin so I sat and knit while watching my cousin, aunt, and grandmother spin up fiber. I was working on Dad’s wool hat. I sat across from a woman named Malissa. She had short hair with two streaks of color in it. Orange and turquoise caught my eye whenever I looked towards her, and as I watched I saw her crochet up a piece with very similar colors. In just a few hours I got to see Malissa complete a complimentary hat to put on her head. Meanwhile, just across the aisle I spent all the three days at the fiber show finishing the ribbed hat Dad had requested. To be fair, crocheting is faster than knitting. And to be even fairer, ribbing takes longer than straight knitting. And now to make an excuse, I was busy chatting, laughing, goofing off, and completing a fair share of whining so I am not entirly sure I could have finished any faster, had I tried. Or not.

Anyway, back to my point. I made a point on my birthday. It took me a few days, but I finally completed it and shared it with Dad. I finished Dad’s hat. A heavy woolen hat that used many yards of chunky yarn. It was designed to be long so he could cuff it, and on the top Dad requested a point. Something that resembles a Robin Hood cap or a roosters comb, one or the other.

Dad always used to ask us “what’s your point?” and then, in reference to a classic Saturday Night Live skit, he would answer, “it’s on top of your head.”

Now you know where my bad sense of humor comes from.

As I was making this hat I thought of all the great jokes that would come out of it, that might have been the only thing that kept me going. My cousin was the gal who spun the yarn. My aunt had picked up a bag full of blocks of the fiber and asked my cousin to spin it. It is a beautiful mixture of color with greens and rust reds and that is what drew my aunts eyes. This bag of surplus yarn took my cousin a year to finish spinning. She brought it to many of the fiber fairs that she went to throughout the year so some of the women at the show we were at recognized it. It was infamous, its reputation proceeded it. This thick, chunky, yarn, made from a mix of silk and wool, had a name. Not the one I gave it, Olive and Pimentos, which I lovingly dubbed it when I starting the hat. Not the sweet name my grandma gave it in anticipation of marketing it, Faded Autumn. It had a name developed out of a resentment for its thick chunkiness that made it hard to spin and would eventually put blisters on my thumbs as I got further into the project. My cousin had learned to dislike the yarn and she had dubbed it Turkey Guts. That was the name I had to learn to live with during the three days in which I had to work with it. My resentment grew as the thick, chunky, yarn came together and stiffened and I began to understand the horrid name. Dad was ever so pleased though. One might have thought it was his birthday. I have to say that that may have been the best gift I ould have recieved anyway. I had the opportunity to hang with the fiber dynasty at a fiber fair for the first time. I had amproject to work on and I was able to make something that gave someone I loved sooo much happiness. Sometimes being selfless is the best gift one can get, especially when one is confused as to their meaning in life.

My meaning in life is to make warm comforts for grateful friends. That’s the point. Haha.

My cousin did tell me that no one ever knits her stuff and she is always to busy make stuff for other people to make stuff for herself so I decided I was going to knit her mittens. That is my current project. I’m loving all this giving.

It turns out my motorcycle jacket is damaged. I half wish I could just knit another one, unfortunately that seems unrealistic. The zipper was damaged a small amount before and I think the last crash resulted in more damage. Maybe it was the cold that finally did it in or maybe it was the layers of sweaters, or I guess it could have been a combination of the two. Whatever it was I have a zipper that doesn’t zip anymore. I also have a small hole in the mesh which I only observed recently. This means I need to pay to repair the jacket or purchase another before I get back on Little Wing.

It got up to atleast 38° here in South Dakota today. I saw someone riding their motorcycle. I thought of Little Wing.

I think this lack of assurity in life is nothing new. I know I have experienced it before and in all my talks with other humans it sounds pretty commonplace.Life right now is an adventure just as it was a few weeks ago. The difference between now and then was that I was in an unfamiliar place and I wasn’t dealing with the grief that comes with things like deaths in families. It is all a part of life.

I have been told before that I think too much, but if I didn’t think as much as I do I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

I’m twenty-two. It is warming up here in the North and I am surrounded by the people I love. That’s life.

That’s adventure.

That’s the point.

Maybe.

In Like A Lamb

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I am not one for resolutions no matter the time of year. Those of you who know me, or those of you who have been following my writing (and honestly, those might/could be one and the same), might be aware that I have landed on one certain New Years goal that I have recycled annually three time now. I don’t see the need to set myself up for possible failure because that only leads to disappointment. Well anyway, I have decided to make a resolution which I will attribute to the Chinese New Year even though it most likely is completely independent of the event. I was walking down the drive way to fetch the mail for my grandma and grandpa. It was a beautiful day. About 18° with sunshine. The skys were clear and it was late in the afternoon making for a soft golden glow on everything. The snow looked like soft butter and the mowed down cornfield I was walking towards was bathed in the soft light. The only ugly bit of the scene was the South Dakotan wind which was whipping past and chilling my cheeks. It had died down quite a bit since the morning but still I found myself looking down as I made my way towards the mail box. Something struck my mind as I stared down the snow I was about to trod on and it caused me to look up. I realized that I had been looking down, not observing the beauty that I knew was there. My eyes could be taking in so much, and in doing so could fill my brain with thoughts that were currently being drown out by the look of stirred gravel and snow that my boots were coming in contact with. When I looked up my mind opened and my thoughts diversified. I looked up.

That’s my new resolution, to look up more often.

If you read my last post you are well aware that I am currently emmersed in the Northern landscape. The skyline I look up at — for the moment — is the South Dakotan one. I am filling this weird time with farm animals, knitting, and fire wood collecting; the traditional winter experience in the North. It is nice to be here, doing this. I have not had the opportunity to spend so much time with my South Dakotan family before, and I am finding it quite enriching. I get to wake up early and pet the horses and check out the chickens before having a.hot, hearty, farm breakfast. I get to sit around the table with people who share my heritage and plan the day, and then before the sun goes down I get to pet the horses and check the chickens again. The sheep play an important role here too. My grandma and ‘second’ grandfather (my Dad’s step father) have mostly sheep. They keep them for the wool which gets sheared and turned into yarn by my grandmother and also sold at her yarn shop. They also butcher them for the freezer and breed them for more wool production. This time of year is lambing season which means all the females are large and nearing the end of pregnancy. Within the next week or so I will get to see some baby lambs popping out. In preparation for this the shearing of the wool has been scheduled. It is a lot of work so my grandparents called in a professional. We will see when he shows up. Shearing a sheep before the lamb id born is done for the safety of the creatures. A sheep who is fluffy with wool runs the risk of not feeling her baby when she beds down for the night. This can lead to the suffocation of a misplaced lamb. I didn’t know this til my grandma told me, now I do, and now so do you. We all learn something new everday.

I am looking forward to seeing some baby lambs and I am hoping I can make myself useful in the barn when the party starts. Maybe I can learn something new. We shall see.

I said I was knitting and I am. I enjoy a good creative outlet but when I’m stressed the more mindless the better. Painting and drawing takes more thought than I can give right now and as far as writing goes I appear to have a bit of block created by the lack of assurity on what to write about. Knitting requires very little thought compared to my other hobbies and so therefore has taken precedence as of late. My mind is stressed with all the thoughts already filling it and fiber arts have always come simply to me. In the time I have been here I have knit a wool bag which is now felted to sell at grandma’s shop, wrist warmers for the next time I ride Little Wing, and a hat for Dad. Actually I am just starting on the hat for Dad. He didn’t have a wool hat and I didn’t have a project so we both benefit from this latest piece. He chose a silk wool blend that was dyed and carded by my aunt, spun by my cousin, and hanging at my grandma’s shop. The hat will be knit by me and wore by Dad, making for a piece of apparel full of family handiwork. I love the concept. I also love the relaxation.

I went back to Minnesota to take care some of my business. I figured as long as I was in the Northern area I should take advantage of the opportunity to take care of things like taxes. I also wanted to find a pair of boots that fit instead of my grandma’s, which are a few sizes too big. Since I have two pairs of wonderful snow boots that I had already dropped a pretty penny on I didn’t see the point in purchasing another pair. Instead I went home to look for them. Home being Grand Rapids,MN, the home I lived at for the year prior to the adventure. Dad had told me that I hadn’t dropped them at his place in all my moving and shifting so I assumed they must be with my roomate Lea. This meant a roadtrip to Minnesota in a truck on a snowy day, something that is as familiar to me as the knit stitch. It was interesting how short the drive was. The last time I drove the distance it seemed like an eternity. A never-ending drive that tired me out. Three hundred miles used to be a lot. Used to be, before I rode from here to the other side of the country on a motorcycle. The last sixty miles to Grand Rapids, a route that is etched into my brain, seemed to last the span of a wink. I am not complaining. I arrived at my old home, the home of my roommate and her darling boys, to find it empty. I was suprised to find the door unlocked, something that was not a common practice of Lea’s. Once again though, I was not complaining. After all it was cold out and I didn’t really have anywhere else to go in Grand Rapids. I let myself in and was greeted by an enthusiastic dog, one of my living companions that I had shared the home with. His name is Zapper and him and I have always got along well. He and I have had long conversations in which I found myself dominating while he just stared at me adoringly. Zapper has also played an important role in some of my art pieces. Namely a painting which he stepped on while it was drying and many paper pieces which wore spilt coffee marks after he had taken a quick, and excited, look at what I was up to. Anyway, this ferocious gaurd dog didn’t seem to care that a strange woman was entering the home of his absent owners. He remembered me and his long tounge, compliments of his cockerspaniel lineage, found purchase on my cold face. He was just the same as I had left him, but I was to find that the last few months had not left all of my former abode stasis. Things were moved and changed, and though it looked fantastic it felt smaller than when I left. It took me awhile to figure out the change that had led to this perception but after a long contemplation I would conclude that I was the change. The shrinkage was all in my perception of the home, the same way the drive from here to there was shorter than it had ever been. As my world became larger the spaces became smaller. The people hadn’t though.

After a spell of hanging in my old home my former roomates returned. The four and five year old had stretched out. They were taller and more worldly themselves. Their speech was more eloquent and their perceptions were even sharper.

Before they arrived home I had went on a search for the elusive boots. I found one pair in the upstairs closet. When I came back to the main floor Zapper informed me, in his silent manner, that he had to use the bathroom. Instead of slipping my converse back on my feet for the short task I slipped my foot into one of the boots. The simple task was thwarted by my toe brushing an item in the end of my boot. I removed my foot and put my hand inside to retrieve he object. My hand closed around a handful of round objects that were about the size of walnuts, and with similar texture. When I pulled my fist out of the boot I found that it was wrapped around a handful of old stale dog kibbles. A question mark ran through my head. I thought of the different scenarios that might lead to dog kibbles in my boots. A mouse? Had a small rodent taken out individual dog kibbles from Zappers food bowl and transported them from ground floor to my boots that were stored upstairs? No, that made no sense. If it wasn’t a mouse then what could it be?

It must be three year old.

A memory of a three year old filled my mind. Young Frank filling his dog’s food dish in exchange for quarters from his mom. It had become his favorite chore sometime in the summer. He would offer to fill the food dish whenever he saw it was empty and he would even add to an already full dish. He would overflow the dish with the brown kibbles and as time passed he came to realize that he could do it without even asking Lea first. Everytime he walked in the door he would see the dish, which was stationed in the mudroom along with all of the different shoes and boots, and he would remember that Zapper might need food. We noticed that Zapper was gaining weight and some effort was made to tame Frank’s obsession. Even after explanation he only saw the overfeeding as being helpful. Though we noticed the overflow of food, and the new frequency of ‘dog food’ finding it’s way to the grocery list, we apparently didn’t observe his inappropriate repositories for said food. This train of thought ran the track of my mind as I emptied the first boot and stuck my foot in, all the while Zapper was going wild sniffing the stale dog food. He smelled it, but he wasn’t quite brave enough to sample it. I got the first boot laced up and stuck my other foot in the second one. I found that it was also full of kibbles. Three quartes full of the stuff. Zapper was getting gradually more anxious while performing his potty dance. I walked to the door, opened it, and let him out. I shook this second boot out on the snow. The results were a mix of stale kibbles and popcorn kernels, how Frank got his hands on those I have not the foggiest. Now I have one pair of boots that smell a bit like a dog kennel, but fortunately my other pair did not suffer the same fate. It just so happened that I had brought the second pair to Dad’s and he didn’t recall. I was able to retrieve both. The animals in the barnyard seem to be getting friendlier with me when I go out to do chores. First I feel flattered but when I look down at my feet and I see the same blue boots that were receptacles for Zappers lunch just a few days before and I can’t help but wonder if that is the source of this new found sniffs and licks from the creatures.

The three year old, Frank, is now four and boy does he have a lot to say. Difference is he now says it better than he did a few months ago. Both him and his brother, James, are older and wiser. I gave them big hugs and exchange they drew me some lovely pictures while I talked to their mom. She told me that she had made some joke as they were leaving that afternoon about the fact that they hadn’t locked the door. Lea always locks the door but for some reason she didn’t and she remembered laughing about a Sunday afternoon burglar when she was leaving. “And we had one,” she told me, chuckling.

James, the five year old, drew me a flower and a pink bird. Frank drew me volcanic eruptions and a tornado. After further prompting he drew me a house that looked very similar to the scribbles that made up the tornado. He took the same blue marker he used to draw the house and added a snowflake. He told me “there’s a snowflake in the house but it is hard to see because it is blue.” Wise kid. He didn’t feel the need to outline the snowflake in a different color so I just have to remember that it is there. James drew me the prettiest pink bird to go along with his colorful flower. He asked me to hang it on Dad’s fridge so we could all look at it when I got home. I told him I would.cFrank wanted to give my dad something too so he gave me a balloon. He watched me like a hawk as I put it in my bag, there wasn’t a chance he was going to let me forget it.

Dad was pleased by the gifts when I brought them back to him. The balloon was grey with white polka dots and he blew it up and hung it in the house. “Apropos,” he said, “we are unsure. Nothing is black and white, it is all about the grey area.” I would agree.

Like I said, those boys are very perceptive.

My birthday is on Sunday. I am looking up and staring onward towards the horizon. Whatever comes next will come, it is all just life. There will be baby lambs soon, and I will be a different age. Time will pass and as it does so will life. Knowledge and growth will come with life and perspectives will change. I don’t know what all that means, it’s just life I guess.

I heard a song on the radio the other day. It had been awhile since I heard it but it sure seemed to mean something this time around.

I am still looking up, looking ahead. I’m going to chide myself everytime I notice I’m looking down. If I look up I might see the blue snowflakes, pink birds, and baby lambs. Regardless, why waste the view?

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Year Of The Ram

For the first time in months I am typing up a blog on my tiny smartphone screen. This means this blog will be full of errors while lacking photos. I am ignoring these facts because it is time I post an update. My lack of blogging is a consequence of the abrupt change in adventure.

A week and a half ago, Monday the 9th, I took off on a jet plane, not sure when I’d be back again. I left Little Wing in the same garage I had cleaned up a week before, in Oceanside, California, and I embarked on a thirteen hour stint in and out of airplane terminals until I arrived in Minnesota. Why, you might ask. Well that is a tough question to answer.

My grandpa always told me to be honest and straight forward so I suppose that is what I shall do.

The same grandfather who speaks of honesty is very sick. He is nearing the end with an indeterminate amount of time left here in this world we know. This is very hard for me… but he seems to be coming to peace with it.

This is an unexpected turn of events in this year of adventure. My grandfather is a strong man. His life story was one of the first to fascinate me when Dad would tell me about our heritage. It is incomprehensible to imagine losing one of the humans I care the most about in this world, but now I have to. It is something yet to happen but an impending eventuality that I will soon understand. What does one do now?

I flew to the Northern Midwest a week ago, leaving Little Wing behind. It was an unreal experience. My grandparents live in South Dakota so the day before take off I entered a thrift store with the intent to buy clothing for the first time in months. I was leaving warm Cali and I needed warm clothes for my stint in frozen South Dakota. Shopping as therapy may have been another factor in my trip to the store because, in general, I dislike shopping. The next day I woke up at 6:45 and dressed in new-to-me jeans and a dress shirt. I looked in the mirror and considered the morning before. Waking up about the same time and opening the email from my aunt that contained the news of my grandfather. I thought about the hours of phone calls that lead to the purchase of the plane ticket that would put me on a flight at 8:00 pm Monday evening. Twenty-four hours had barely passed but it felt like a week — like a lifetime. The day was long. It was a day that reached near 80° but I barely noticed. My mind was reeling. I found entertainment in devouring a sad book by Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns. I took Little Wing out for a ride. We rode to the house of the mechanic that fixed my foot peg bracket, Rhett. I asked his advice on a few bike issues that were still puzzling me and I settled up for the help he had given me earlier. I rode back to Andrea’s where I gave Little Wing a farewell pat down and once over while pushing him as far into the corner of the garage as I could manage. It was the final farewell to the paused adventure.

Is the adventure paused or is ot over? What does parking the motorcycle mean? That is a question that keeps rolling around in my head. I am unable to answer it.

I didn’t nap at all before the flight. I had purchased the cheapest flight possible from Sab Diego to Minneapolis. This resulted in a lot of time spent sitting in terminals. I got to the San Diego airport at 6:00 pm. After going through security I had an hour and a half to sit in the terminal before the twenty minute flight from San Diego to Las Vegas. I had the window seat on that flight. I enjoyed staring out the always coveted window at the shrinking lights of the city. The planes flight pattern took us away from the lights and over the same ocean I had waded through only a short time prior. I stared out at the airplane’s wings, I thought about my own Little Wing. I felt the turbulence that reminded the passengers of the speed we were moving at. It was reminiscent of the feel of a motorcycle on a rough road. I thought of why I was in the airplane and though the reason felt unreal my eyes stung. The rest of the night would find me too tired and without the ability to fully comprehend the reality of the situation a second time. The three hours in the Las Angles terminal would be dreamlike. The thirty minutes of restless sleep wouldn’t diminish the trance I was in. The two hour flight from Los Angles to the Dallas airport would find me squished in between an older African American woman and a slightly younger, para-professional, woman from Korea. I was able to catch another hour and thirty minutes worth of shuteye before touching down. It was 4:45 am when I stepped foot in Texas. I considered the thought that I had put into getting into that state just a few days before. The checking of the weather forecast in between the bouts of pouring over maps. Being in Texas was a thought that seemed so impossible only two days previously. I picked up some hot tea and I sat down to eat the last of the granola bars I had brought with me. My overly tired and stimulated brain thought about the plans for the rest of the day. I would arrive in Minnesota where I would be picked up by my Aunt Judy. She and I would head to Dad’s where we would tell him what was up. I found a place on the floor to lay my waterproof duffle down, the same one that I use as my backrest on Little Wing. I sat down beside it and pulled out my book (Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, the book I started after I finished Khaled Hosseini’s book) as I finished up the tea. Eventually I started nodding off and I was able to sleep for forty-five minutes in the wee hours of that Texas morning. I woke up to the sound of other flyers filling the seats around me. I would be able to catch fifteen more minutes of rest on the two and a half hour flight to Minneapolis. The plane would touch down a little after 11:00 am.

Flying into Minneapolis involved miles and miles of grey clouds. The plane finally made it out of the thick fog and at that point I was able to look out from my seat between the two older men that sat on either side of me out towards the land of my home state. Though I knew it was February it looked as though it was later in the season. I saw patches of brown and strips of white, something that would be opposite almost any other year. Minnesota’s weird weather this year had melted off the first snows of the season, but the snowstorm from the day before had left a mess on the roads. I could see the plows making their way along the roads as the plane came closer to landing.

I have found that winter in my Northern homeland is not the same as I am used to. It is chilly, that is the same, but the lack of snow around these parts is the strangest thing. The other strangest thing remains the reason why I am here. It feels impossible, but the random stings of moisture that blur my vision keep reality close at hand.

I really miss riding. My last ride on Little Wing was less than an hour long. I have been driving the borrowed farm trucks here in South Dakota and it isn’t the same. I am a better driver now, and the roads aren’t that icy this year, but the drives are still cold. I have been borrowing my grandmothers Sorel snow boits here. They are about three sizes too big but they insure that my feet stay warm. My motorcycle jacket also keeps me warm. I have been wearing my wool hat and cowl but I was without gloves so I had to borrow those when I got here. South Dakota wind is nothing to mess with — honestly, it might be another reason for the random tears. I have spent much of the last few months teasing others about their low tolerance for cold and then I get back to my home land and feel the need to wrap myself up in the linen closet just to stay warm. My slow ride away from the chill and into the heat helped me lose the edge I spent twenty years developing. My sister came down from Alaska. She didn’t have snow boots nor a hat. When I looked at her ungloved hands I would shiver and rush for shelter.

It was good seeing my sister. I love her. I missed her. The last time I had saw her in person was three years ago. I dropped her off at the airport in my old Ford Ranger. I had only got my license a few months before and it was my first time driving in a city. I took her to the Minneapolis airport where we managed to get hopelessly lost. By the time we got to the airport my sister was in tears. I was trying to keep my cool all the while my sister swore at me. I parked in one of the airports parking garage. She told me that was wrong. She told me we weren’t supposed to park there and that I was going to be the reason she missed her flight to Alaska. After listening to her cuss me out for the last half hour I wasn’t ready to be intimidated so I got out of the truck and told her she could either follow me or stay in the truck as I grabbed her luggage out of the bed and hustled my way to the airport transit system. She got out of the truck, tears streaming down her face, panic in her voice and continued to swear at me. She was dressed up all pretty in her high heels so no matter how much she tryed to catch up with me to stop me she couldn’t. We got the strangest looks from other commuters. This beautiful sobbing girl yelling at this shlumpy looking chick who was clearly being chased. I’m suprised security wasn’t called. It would turn out I was right about us being at the correct place for the airport. Despite this, my stubborn, crying, sister was not ready to admit this and after we arrived at security and she stopped to give me a hug I told her “I told you so.” She didn’t like that.

So the last time I saw my sister she was flouncing off, looking back at me, and saying “f**k you, Diamond!” Well, that was until a few days ago. I rode down with my grandma to pick my lovely sister up from the airport and I swear my heart grew again just seeng her in real life, watching her disembark off the escalator.

Life is full of these odd emotions. How is it possible to have utter joy and sorrow at the same time? Is that the human condition? How is that possible.

I also have enjoyed seeing Dad. I know him well though, I see him often. We hang out all the time when I’m not on adventure. After getting to Minneapolis and then heading North to see him we then took off to South Dakota. It was a beautiful ride from there to here. The sun was shining on the frosted trees making for a world of glitter all around. I sat with my knee close to the door as we drove through the sparkly scene. The wind seeped into the vehicle causing my leg to grow gradually colder. I found comfort in the beauty outside. We saw a sundog and I chose to take that as a sign of good fortune.

My sister called this evening. She called to say Happy Chinese new year. It is the year of the goat/ ram/ sheep this yesr. I am staying on my grandmas sheep farm so I am choosing to take that as a good omen too. Good omens, what are they good for? I guess making peace with life and death and all that.

It is the year of the ram.

Birds Eye View

I spent my last evening in Morro Bay helping at a community dimmer. The town is small, about the same size as the town I resided in for the past year. A small town of 10,000 with a very laid back artsy atmosphere. California has a systemic homeless problem. The world on this end of the United States is warm. Its liberal and accepting. Homeless folks fare better here than in cold climes.  Homeless people living on the street seems to be something easily gotten used to. It is an image that horrifies the first few times it is observed, but a sense of complacency builds as one begins to notice that it is EVERYWHERE. What am I supposed to do about it as a passerby? I can’t stop and help all of them.

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The community dinner I’m talking about is scheduled for every Monday.  A group of well meaning volunteers get together and fix food up for whomever wishes to come and partake. The food is paid for by a grant the. My friend, Karen, in Morro Bay is one of the volunteers. My last night in Morro Bay was a Monday. When Karen asked if I wanted to come I was excited, and said. The idea of helping out at a community dinner sounded wonderful to me. When we arrived I found that my help actually seemed unnecessary, the vetran volunteers cleary had a handle on the situation. I helped anyway. I layed hotdog buns out on a tray.  I tossed one of the three salads that were made up. I opened a few jars for the woman in charge of the dinner, her hands were arthritic and mine were not.  I washed four dishes. I served up some dumpcake in preparation for the arrival of the dinner attendees, and then I stood around. I chose to stand behind the desert section since it was near me and hand out the cake. It turned out that there were two of us behind the cakes and my help was somewhat on the unnecessary side. Someone endeed up bringing me a box of assorted cookies later on so handing those out became my, self-professed, job. I didn’t mind being basically useless, an extra bump on a log on an otherwise asthetitcally bumped log. It seemed that one extra bump, one extra happy face standing behind the tables filled with food, couldn’t hurt.

I was told to smile and offer kind words to the people who came in, so that’s what I did. The number of people who came to the dinner was somewhere near fifty. Some of those fifty appeared homeless, others just appeared to be down and out. Some of the people were disabled in one way or the other, and I assumed, some of the guests just came for the company they had become accustomed to at the Monday night dinner. They best thing was the smiles and kind words I received from across the table. The people were grateful for their full plates and were grateful for the top off I gave in the form of a cookie. My silly sense of humor seemed appreciated and people smiled back at me. People offered me kind words and smiles.

It was different looking at the disinfranchised from the angle I was at. I was handing them food, I wasn’t just walking past them on the street. It is a totally different vantage point from which to see the world. Helping and smiling, not passing and pitying.

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I saw a hawk yesterday. If you read the last post you know that the humming birds are known to frequent the feeders here. There are many many of them. Hummingbirds are always a treat for me. In Minnesota they seem so distant, so foriegn. I always see them like the top off of a cookie at the end of agood meal. Something to be excited about. Now, in Oceanside California,  the excitement is a constant hum, because I look out the window and see one, and then another appears and eventually there have been five fluttering around. They trade places, taking off and coming back. Hummingbirds could be the definition of a feeding frenzy. Maybe it should be called a humming hunger. Whatever it is, they eat fast and require feeder refills often. Andrea had taken the feeders down to refill them. They were washed, and drying, awaiting the sticky sugar concoction that had yet to boil on the stove. We were discussing something or other when I looked out the window, at the pomegranate tree, the same tree the feeders hang from. There, perched on one of the larges trunks, was a hawk. A big red tail with large muscular talons, checking out the scene. My biggest dissapointment at that moment was not having my camera on the counter beside me. I had never been that close to one of those beauties. The intial dissapointment only took a half a second of my time, my mind found itself elsewhere. My mind was in awe of this thing, so stately and noble. It reminded me of some of the most proud horses I have observed. The hawk was reminiscent of images of wolves I have looked at. It was a still (and large) version of the noble hummingbirds that he was looking to snack on. My thoughts went to my Grandpa. A strong man, who’s own character may have been embodied in that hawk. I thought about the summers that had passed, looking out his windows as he pointed at the family of hawks living in the trees behind his house. That was the closest I had been to a hawk til yesterday.

I did not get a picture of it.

And he did not get a hummingbird. He chose the wrong time to land on the tree. Without their feeders hanging thre wer no hummingbirds to be found. Vanished, vamoose, something the hawk probablt had a hand in doing. Fast, fleeting humming birds don’t want to be a cookie for a predator anymore than anyone else. Maybe, though, it wasn’t the wrong time. Maybe he was just posing. A spirit animal of some sort or the other. A bird that stopped by to say howdy and not actually to munch on birds.

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Yesterday was host to a birdcount, and Andrea, as an avid birdwatcher, took part. The hawk was added to her list.

I haven’t much to say today. I felt the need to write down some of my memories, the ones that put a smile on my face. Put those thoughts into words, and share the little cookies in my life that top off the good meal. Bon appétit.

What Twenty Dollars Gets You These Days And A Bunch Of Hummingbirds

I made the promise of good literature today and I am ready to come through with that.. finally (a little before midnight). It has been hours and hours of uncertainty before I could finally say that with confidence. Let me tell you.

Yesterday I called the cobbler almost right after publishing the last post. The cobbler was shocked I had to ask. “Of course they’re done,” he told me. When I asked the price he told me to name a number. I nervously tossed that response aside saying I would do that after I saw them. I wanted to say $40, but I had a small nagging voice that told me I shouldn’t insult him. He asked me to tell him my phone number so I rattled it off with the usual stuttering of a person who still hasnt memorized their own number after four months. I heard papers rustling. “Ok, it’s twenty,” he said

“Twenty dollars?!?!” I questioned.

“No forty,” he changed his mind.

“Ok that sounds more like it.”

I heard chuckling on the other end.  “No, twenty dollars is all it is.” My mouth fell, I was glad we were talking over the phone and not in person where he could see my astonishment. I tried to contain my shock when I spoke again. I didn’t need him changing his mind for real. I thanked him and told him I’d be by to pay him little later.

When I told Andrea the grand total her response was similar to mine. “Twenty dollars?!?!”

We discussed my good fortune and awesomeness of the cobbler, and then Andrea told me that her vans brakes had gone out and it had to go to the shop. This changed all my scenarios for the day. I have been borrowing the farm truck to run around while the bike has been parked. The farm truck and the farm van are the two vehicles that Andrea has. The van is mainly meant for farmers markets and dropping off produce, but since it was out of play and at the shop,  it meant the truck would be used in its stead. This meant I didn’t actually have a vehicle to drive down to the cobblers in. This meant that I had to just live with the dreamy image of a twenty dollar bill floating through my head as it wrapped itself around my shiny, fixed, boots. What a beautiful exchange to think about. Things are the way they are on a farm and I wasn’t too put out by putting off the test ride. It was a beautiful day and I was happy enough to just stick around the house, soaking in the sunshine, and occupying my mind with other thoughts. Twenty dollars for fixed boots really lowers the stress levels it turns out.

Andrea also thought of another thing I could work on. She assigned me to the painting of a sign that hangs at the entrance to the farm. That certainly suited me. If I can’t ride than I might as well paint. Two of my most favorite things in the world really.

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Brookey totally posed for this photo. I call this her 'Girl With A Pearl Earing' glamor shot.

I painted for a while, and then it started to get foggy. The air temperature outside started to drop drastically. It went from what felt like 80° to somewhere near 50°. I didn’t really want to hang around in the garage at that point. Though I cleaned Andrea’s garage it still has the musty smell of a garage that never freezes. For this fact I don’t like to be in it without all the doors open. When it is 50° outside I don’t feel like leaving the doors open. My pickyness chased me into the house where I decide to prepare for dinner with the girls. I put on my fancy, Norwegian knit, sweater which sort of lended a properness to my grimy shop jeans if one didn’t look to close at the ensemble. I assumed the women wouldn’t.

Andrea had made a merengue, the first I’d ever had I believe, and while waiting for the girls I had to keep myself from sampling it. Instead I turned my eyes outward to observe the fog moving in. I started to write as I waited. A sample of that writing:

The fog is moving in and I swear it is putting the birds into more of a fluster. They appear to be fluttering around more than usual.

The rest was just about as deep. My mind was not up for writing the earlier, happier, thoughts of a twenty dollar bill and a pair of boots dancing through my mind. My opus was being obviously influenced by the impending weather. That’s ok, it happens to the best of us. The drama was only increased by a sudden barking from somewhere outside the house. I assumed it was Brookey. It sounded like the bark of the golden retriever. Inside her voice was joined by the overly vocal Stiches, a dog who lives to voice his opinion I have determined. I must have breathed in a little too much of the outside air because my brain seemed filled by the same fog. I wondered who could possibly be out there, and why the dogs were going crazy. My paranoia was on alert as I snuck out the door to check, cellphone in hand. The first time I cased the place I couldn’t find Brookey, but she continued to bark. Stiches followed me as made my way, stealthly. I went back inside to consider the options and then realized that Brookey’s bark sounded muffled, and as though it were coming from under Andrea’s office. After further contemplation I realized it wasn’t coming from the driveway or garden. I went back outside and made my way to the corner of the house where Andrea’s office is. I saw an open door and realized that there was a shed built into the house below the office. When I slowly peaked my head around the open door I saw Brookey snuffling her nose around a lawnmower. When she noticed me she picked up her head, she looked at me and then pointed her nose back to the mower, and she let out some more loud barks. “Oh shush” I told her. She looked at me, expectantly, and then back at the mower. I realized she was trying to tell me to move it. “Oh fine” I said keeping to my duo-syllablye sentences. I moved the machine a bit and then her nose went crazy snuffling. The scary zombie trespasser I had been imagining turned out to be just a squirrel. It was getting colder outside. I told Brookey to leave it and she reluctantly followed me, exiting the shed. I closed the door and Stiches escorted Brookey and I back into the house.

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There are awesome lizards everywhere right now.

That was as eventful as things got yesterday evening, except when I broke a serving dish. It had been weeks since my last relapse into breaking dishes so it was only to be expected, especially when surrounded by five, strong, capable women. If I were a betting woman I actually would have put money on the eventuality. Unfortunately I didn’t, and unfortunately I did break a dish, but other than that the evening was amazing and relaxing. It was a beautiful feeling to sink into the cozy atmosphere that these women inhabited. They had all been friends for years and so it could have been easy for me to have felt like the odd woman out. They wouldn’t have allowed it though. Andrea had left about an hour before the women started to arrive (leaving me to handle the case of the elusory zombie fog squirrel by myself, in an empty house) to go pick up the van from the shop. It would turn out that when she got there it was still up on the lift waiting on parts, and so that is why I was left on my lonesome for so long, even with the impending promise of guests.

The women arrived one by  one. And one by one they each gave me a hug or another show of warmth while delivering kind words and generous compliments about my percieved accomplishments. At first it was slightly intimidating, but I started right in on wine and that helped my humble innabilty to take a compliment turn into the ‘thank you’s’ that were actually appropriate for the situation.

The conversations were fun and lighthearted while also maintaining a, some what furcated, tone of seriousness that brought with it all the wisdom. The women knew how to talk. The easiness of the interaction made me soak up so much more than I realized. And though we all knew and acknowledged I was young none of the girls let it affect the way they included me. Well, except for the few times when they were to shy to let a dirty joke slip out, and the apologies of inappropriate language before every utterance of a curse word. They should have just asked my motorcycle buds, I have the filthiest mouth around, something devoloped from a life full of crud being soaked in through my ears. Regardless, it was neat to see that these women — proper as they might seem — were not foreigners to ‘impropriety,’ but that they also respected their status as wiser, older, women enough to impart proper, societal, manners in front of a young woman.

Fuck yes.

What I really mean to say, is yesterday was a blast. Dirty, grubby jeans, and all.

Today was the same, but as I said at the beginning of this written promulgation, it was hours and hours of uncertainty before I could finally say that with such assurance. Today started with me waking up, rolling over, and opening my stubborn eyelids, but let us fast forward a bit. I had breakfast while checking my emails, and as I finished all that Andrea told me the truck was all mine if I wanted to go fetch my boots. My excitement became a hum similar to that of the hummingbirds at the feeder, only twenty feet away.

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Don’t you love the way I introduced that picture, and integrated it right in? Not even a break in the story.

I slipped on my converse and I grabbed a handful of citrus in the form of three tangerines. Soon ithey wouldn’t be my only choice of footwear. I tried to slow my hustle as I nearly skipped towards the truck. Once in the truck my hustle was relaxed slightly by the old engine of the vehicle which wasn’t really feeling up to humming no matter what the birds around it were doing.

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(I did it again.)

That’s okay. A slow drive in the sunshine was perfect for some self reflection, something I managed to fit in amongst the images of dancing boots and the one twenty dollar bill I was planning on parting with. I arrived at the cobblers in high spirits and I left with even higher. In my hand I held my freshly fixed boot. Boots that had been given more than twenty dollars worth of care. The ripped straps had been patched. The scuffed heel had been  smoothed. The heel had been reattached and the hole had  been filled. Besides that, the boots had been oiled and the inner cushions had been reglued in the right positions, something that had been in need of being done for months because my way of walking had pushed them into different spots than where they were meant to be. If I had more to offer him I would of, but twenty dollars seemed like a love kiss from the Universe, so I took it. I promised to give him great reviews online, and that is a promise I will keep. Let me immortalize the words on this blog as well: if you are in SoCal and you need some leather work done, or shoe fixing to be completed, take them to Tom at One Day Shoe Repair. He literally saved my life.

Well, maybe not. But he did save my boots. Take a look.

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After I got these boots back to Andrea’s and got pictures of them, I showed them off, and I got over my nerves. I put the clean suckers on. They felt as great as they looked. I picked up the discarded and lonesome motorcycle helmet which was beginning to collect dust. I shook out the moth filled motorcyle jacket and admired the unscathed surface of the armor that had saved me. I considered what battle would be the one to finally dent it for the first time. Slow motion took hold as a an epic soundtrack faded in to the scene as I picked one shiny boot clad foot up off the ground and slowly pointed it in direction of Little Wing. One oiled boot in front of the other, the well versed sound of a heel making contact with the pavement echoed as I contemplated the first ride in a week and a half. The self doubt clattered amongst the click clack of my boots.  What if I had forgot how to ride? What if I forgot how to fix a motorcycle? What if I went down again and had to start all over? What if I hadn’t actually done everything and what if it all fell to pieces as I went up the hill? The thoughts filled my helmet as I put it on  my head. It tinged my fingers as I put on my gloves. The questions scaled an attack on my confidence up until I turned the key and started the engine. The familar sound of my steed comforted my remonstrations, and I felt my mind clear. I felt the calm sensation of confidence that the quiet sound of my Japanese one cylinder brings out in me, and then I went for my test ride.

Now I’m not going to try and fool you into thinking it was magnificent success, mainly because I’m tired and I am looking to finish this up. Another great reason for not doing so is because it was not. I got to the end of Andrea’s road, about a half mile down, and met the stop sign. I used that opportunity to do the very first test of my back brakes which were unresponsive. A thorough examination before heading back to Andrea’s was inconclusive.

I parked Little Wing. I went into the house and I read through the manuals. I reserched online, it was all inconclusive. I went back out to Little Wing and did a full tear down  of the brake pedal assembly. I put it back four different ways and was chagrined to find out that it went back together the same way I had taken it apart in the first place. I got back on Little Wing, started the engine, felt the calm wash over me, and went for a test ride. The brakes worked. They worked by pushing really far down on the pedal, about double the amount I had to push before the accident, but they worked. Now I just had to figure out why they were so sub par and sketchy.

I went back to the garage. I parked Little Wing, and I called my bike fixing buddy, Dan. We spoke on the phone for about an hour. It turns out my issue of the rear brakes wasn’t in the front assembly where I was using my foot, it was in the back, on the rear wheel. It wasn’t the drum brakes, I knew that. It turned out to be the brake arm where the cable attached. I had taken the brake arm off and I had put it back in the wrong position. After fixing this problem the rest of the minor tune ups just seemed like minutia, but valuable none the less.

Little Wing worked. Little Wing works.

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After I finished my mechanics for the day, I hung up the helmet, kicked off the boots. I slipped my feet into my converse and I made my way back out to the garage to bask in the last rays of sunlight, even if it was from under the cover of the shelter. I picked up a paintbrush, I picked up the sign, and I painted. I thought about Little Wing working, as properly fixed boots danced through my head.

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Now tell me, what makes a day more complete then succesful mechaniching and a paint brush full of paint? Tell me, seriously.

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Maybe the humming of small birds in a place akin to paradise. (See how I snuck that in again.)