Archive for the ‘yurts’ Category

life in a body

Perhaps it is the times.  Perhaps it’s because it’s been over 100 degrees here every day for what seems like eternity but has in actual fact only been about six weeks…maybe eight.  But I’m retaining the impression that most of how I used to look at the world was off by a bubble or two.

Things used to seem solid, concrete, have a”reason” to be where they were.  Now there is a shift afoot that makes even the idea of solid ground questionable.  As human beings we have quite a lot more capability than we ever use.  Bizarrely, we seem to feel the need to make more of us, not just in physical form but in mechanical as well.  Artificial intelligence?  Get serious. We have machines now we aren’t smart enough to use, and a brain in our heads we may NEVER have been smart enough to use.  The things we can actually perceive with our existing bodily equipment, if we put our energy into it, are astonishing.  The things we can see, the music we can hear, the languages we can understand- there is just so much more than daily life might lead you to believe.  Although of course daily life is precisely where to look for all of this magnificence.

And of course it is daily life that seems to be taking it in the neck over and over.   The premise that THINGS will make you happy, for example.  How realistic is that?  Then happiness can be doled out in drops from the top of the hierarchy and the inhabitants of earth can be led to believe that if they don’t have THINGS to make them happy, they won’t ever BE happy and of course? It’s their fault because they didn’t get the THINGS.  Oddly enough, most of the Nice Things along with the bulk of the stuff used to get them, aka money, gets wedged firmly at the top.  Funny how everyone at the bottom is just…not good enough.  Meanwhile the actual bringers of joy like relationships, conversations, having a way to make sense of your days as you experience them, curiosity and the urge to learn, an actual concrete relationship with FOOD…those things are all receding in the rear view mirror to the point that many don’t seem to know they exist at all.

And.  While we are each others keepers in the overall sense, that means we love each other and care for the common good.  It doesn’t mean making everyone think the same way you do and do the same things- or else all that “everyone” becomes bad.  It doesn’t mean consigning huge swathes of everything to the junk heap because somebody in some cubicle somewhere thinks commas are boring and words mean what you want them to in a given instant.   The common ground from which we are able to reach out to each other and our world is rolling up and out like a rug on moving day.

Not to even mention the titanic level of dishonesty that exists.  You can now see at almost any time of day someone who should know better saying something that is totally untrue.  And I’m not just talking about your local weather person. Aside from the packs of individuals who seem to have an endless amount of time to tweet on apparel and habits that are none of their business, nobody ever calls bullshit on the bullshit.   It’s as though a whole level of fear was poured all over everything…about seven months ago.

Still.  I realize all these things are manifestations of the change we’re all undergoing and as such can actually be lived and experienced, and thus actually dealt with.  The only thing for it is to be as awake as possible, armed with compassion and patience.  Lead us, as it says in the Upanishads, from the unreal to the real.  It turns out that is a far more challenging journey than you think when you first step out on to the path, humming and thinking, Oh YES! Reality! Truth! Onward! A few years into it  you may think, hmmm, not finding much truth here and reality may just bite.  But I’ll carry on.  A few more years and you think, holy unnameable item! Ignorance IS bliss! What can I do now? Limiting the snivelling as much as possible, eventually you crawl to the top of whatever you were laboring toward and see? More vistas, of course.  But in those vistas may be part of what is being sought, which is that goals and seeking may not be all they’re cracked up to be.  The map you use and the travel tips are, after all, from others just, or pretty much, like you who have toddled forth.  Opinions about reality, we might say.   So maybe it’s more about stopping at a pleasant spot, or just where you HAVE to stop, and not needing to have an opinion or an evaluation.  Experience all there is there without imposing anything on it, and try not to mess it up while you’re at it.  Not imposing like/not like on things is remarkably freeing, too.  Not so easy to do after years of  it being drummed into you, but well worth it.

In the like/not like vein, something we deal with here is snakes.  All kinds but the ones we’re thinking about right now are rattlesnakes.  Which one usually says to oneself, you know? I don’t really like these guys.  I have taken to saying a snake blessing prayer every time I go outside because it is HOT and snakes like being out in the hot afternoons and the garden is ever more jungly and OMG please don’t bite me.  Or the Dog.  Or the Partner. ( Although HE tends to talk to snakes and pat them on the head so I don’t worry about him quite as much.)   So as I said, a prayer.  I enumerated, each time, all the good things about snakes, my appreciation for them, my harmlessness.  So far? No rattlers.  Which was because why? It turns out there is a totally splendid King snake in the garden, like a small to mid-sized deity, protecting all of us, from birds and lizards to Dog and Moi.   This made me think two things.  One, as always there is more to all this than you know, and Two, good will eventually always wins. We’re protected, the rattlers know enough to stay away, the natural balance of things is maintained without mayhem. So in the midst of wondering if my brain has actually finally been boiled for good this summer and if so why does it still hurt so much every time the LPV shoots into view, I also know that there really IS something, some order, some reality, all around us, supporting us once we quit deciding whether or not we “like” things, and working toward what really does look like….Truth and Beauty.  The Good Stuff.  Grisly daily reality notwithstanding.

And with that, perilous as things seem, I made another ice cream.   Banana.  The secret to which is steeping chopped, ripe bananas in whatever milk you’re using- we’re still stuck on Dulce de Leche so I just slowly caramelized that with the chopped bananas, let it sit for a few hours, blended until smooth, and combined with a light custard (about 3 cups total material).  It is truly magic stuff even if I  only have a bite of it here and there.  Just restorative enough.  So that combined with figuring out how to make a kinda sorta summer squash (which we of course have coming out our ears) gratin on top of the stove (oven on is a non starter right about now, sadly) in about 25 minutes gives me a bit of cautious optimism.   Surely we can all do some good if we choose.  Blessings and thanks!!!!

what muscles look like

The heat here has been, frankly, unbearable.  Having to be out in it for about four, scattered, and ever so slightly back breaking hours a day has been something I decided to view as Training, like for a marathon.  Fortunately we have a 50 foot long hose that weighs about ….oh, who knows how much.  But it’s heavy and has a mind of its own, we know that much.  I’m thinking I should do a You Tube video with it, a new exercise program- this could really be something!

Anyway it was fun when I went to the doctor (no more visits now! honestly, but everything takes about ten times longer than it needs to in the brave new medical world) and he said, wow, look at your BMI! You’re overweight!  I started to giggle, at which he actually looked at me.  Do I look overweight or inappropriately or excessively jiggly to you? I said.  He shook his head no.  OK then, feel THIS I said, extending my arm to him.  OH.  He said.  Yes.  I said.  Muscle.

So muscles are another one of those things that can be there but be unseen.  The usual adherence to preoccupations and entrenched ways of thinking can be continued without interruption.  Everyone’s prejudices and biases can remain intact.  I ruined his diagnostic day, sadly, as he was about to launch into the cholesterol and weight loss speech but realized it was totally off base. ( IN fact at this most recent appointment I had lost a fair amount of weight due to the above mentioned training regime.  And sweating, and stuff.) As he gathered himself, the eventual bright spot was the undeniable truth about my lungs to which he now had to attend.  In last year’s medical fun fest it turns out that in the process of collapsing my lungs, then filling them with fluid, then using god knows what crap to empty them?  Permanent damage was done.  I am pretty sure I can heal this up, actually, and more on all that soon because I am working on Something Big!……  But I am also going to file a formal complaint against the surgeon and anesthesiologist, because the past 18 months of not being able to breathe or do much and having my lungs crink up like squashed dixie cups in the middle of the night? has been hell.  And I don’t think they should have carte blanche to do it to someone else to whom, in their paradigm, attention need not be paid.

So.  You know.  This may be what passes for fighting the evil empire at the moment.

Other than that, it’s largely been armed struggle just to keep things alive out here this month.  We did get straw bales placed against the outside of the yurt, and they do provide some much needed insulation from the heat.  It’s still 85 in here all day but that, GR, is a whole lot better than 95.  Given that it’s about 112 outside, lowering on some days to 95 at midnight.  The Dog has reluctantly understood that it IS too hot out there for his paws and limits his excursions accordingly. We’ve had some Bad Dog Mornings, where he does naughty things like run down to the main road and eat dead things, returning up the driveway skulking and later? for extra fun, emitting the fart to end all farts.  Which, of course, hung in the heat for longer than it needed to.  It seems like a miracle that our garden is still alive and to the naked eye, flourishing.  It’s  really  too hot now for the vegetables to do much but we do have a LOT of cucumbers and chard.  We’ll have a few tomatoes but the plants have suffered since I am not nearly as good as the Partner is at picking those noxious hookworms off the plants.  Still, I’m feeling pretty good about it all at the moment.  There look to be enough San Marzano tomatoes to make some sauce, anyway.

Having it be too hot to cook has been a cha cha cramping sort of thing, too.  But!  I butterflied a game hen and marinated it in shallots and turmeric and chilis and stuff….not too bad, really, cooked in a grill pan.  The surprise was the aroncini I made with the end of it and the left over rice which was its accompaniment.  Aroncini are those wonderful croquettes made from risotto, with vegetables and cheese inside and crisp exteriors.  I thought, OK, left over shredded game hen, rice, let’s make those.  Imagine my excitement when I remembered it wasn’t arborio rice I’d cooked, but basmati in coconut milk. Deciding to do it anyway was touch and go, Gentle Reader and I feared ghastly failure.  I couldn’t get them to cohere (a lot of that going around….) because arborio and basmati are two really different creatures, and bit my lip as I plated their reasonably shaped in the end crispy selves.  Also important because the Partner has not been eating through this illness so whatever I do give him needs to be good.  And you know what? they were.   So further encouragement not to give up, dear friends.  Anything is possible and with a bit of effort, can happen.  From rice balls to evil empire, we can do it.

Thank you all, as always.

things that look alike

It’s the little things, Gentle Reader.   I was watching the movie Barbarella on tv,  up to the part where she has the long black and white tail? Having congratulated myself on not getting into a feminist snit at all the tumescent activity and fantastical costuming, I wandered outside, where the Partner and I saw,  a few minutes later, a looooong black and white SNAKE.   My first California king. Snake, that is.  It looked at first glance to be about the size of Godzilla but of course THAT WAS RIDICULOUS.  Snakes rustle something primal in our brains- just like the huge black shadows that move over the ground when the buzzards hit the thermals just right overhead and you jump and shiver and then realize it’s Just A Buzzard.  And it’s not coming for you yet so what’s the big deal.  Anyway the snake really did look quite a bit like Barbarella’s tail.

It’s amazing to watch the human mind at work, in any event.  We sat there transfixed as this creature moved through the yard.  The real issue is the lizards and frogs and little birds, of course, and while we were happy it wasn’t a rattlesnake (yet) and happier that it was a snake that EATS rattlesnakes, still the ecology comes into question.   King snakes eat all the little denizens of the garden, upon whom we rely for marvelous bug control.  The lizards often look up expectantly at us, waiting for grasshoppers to waft down to their level.  Our impulse is of course to protect them- but how do we do that without doing something else that isn’t helpful?  If we move the snake it’ll just return; catching and selling it is an atrocity; killing it is wrong.

So, another quandary, another set of decisions.  The Partner, being a sensible sort, chased it out of the garden and took a wait and see approach.   It has worked with the rabbit, after all (to whom we now refer as “our” rabbit as we attempt to pick him out of the crew that traverses the driveway daily).  The frog is back in the kitchen and the lizards are racing around the cucumbers so things appear to be relatively in balance.   It made me think this morning about how a lot of what we experience as discomfort in our daily lives may be largely this ongoing process of adjustment.

Things change all the time as it is; if you have additional changes on top of the regular serving it can be a bit much.  So maybe it really IS like thinking, ok, perhaps this snake will find enough in the huge wild around us to leave the garden ungobbled and I therefore do not have to intrude on the pattern just yet.  And finding the beauty and balance in simply paying attention and letting things BE.  Just as when things change hugely in life,  and stuff that was always there just is not, and will not be, there.  You have to let go of the panic and what-to-do-ness, let go of the inner critic who is letting you know in no uncertain terms that you’ve made another gargantuan cockup of things.  You have to trust yourself.  This takes time and of course we never know, do we? just whether we did the right thing or not.  Everything radiates out and has influences and results we don’t see or dream of, possibly.  But doing no harm seems to be the right place to start- and it includes doing no harm to yourself.   The lesson now seems to be unravelling what exactly that means.

Tales of frog man

I’m not sure, but the toad who lives in the yurt with us- and it is a Bufa, not a Rana- he seemed a bit upset with me the other night.  And it was HE who secretively crept up to the top of the bucket I was using to fill the small swamp cooler (85 degrees at 11 pm! This is the life!) and cocked his little head.  Scaring the daylights out of me.  Silly I felt, yes.  I emitted a bit of a yodel of surprise, yes.  But I IMMEDIATELY apologized, praised his nimble and handsome toadness, and set him down gently.  He escaped into the wine storage area, confirming my initial assessment of his intelligence.

The next night?  He flattened his growing and greener  body (and it is amazing just how flat these little beings can get themselves) in the middle of the red pad on the kitchen floor.  Thoughtful, really, because he’s hard to see on the blue and green.  Anyway, having lodged himself where I couldn’t possibly miss him, when I came around the corner he looked up at me, composed himself, and hopped under that same swamp cooler.  Looking at me coolly the entire time, he then deposited a very large and well formed toad poop.  Looking me right in the eye, casually hopping to one side lest a viewer miss the enormity of his production.  I found myself wondering, once again, if I haven’t just gone completely insane, as I stood there wondering if there was a meaning to this episode.  Was this little toad the possessor of hurt feelings? SHOULD I have kissed him last year like my neighbor suggested?  Instead I thanked his retreating form for not doing that in my frying pans.  Nothing if not regular, those toads.

And that, Gentle Reader, is pretty much how it is around here.  Barring the deluge of  “reality” which is of course ceaselessly mind boggling, my focus has changed.  Certain things have come to a head, we might say, and life is forming itself into something…unknown.  I’m remembering that that growly feeling in ones stomach can also be excitement and not just fear.  Right?  IT’S A GOOD THING.  It’s also, of course, funny how we cling to our patterns and habits and pasts even when we know a) none of it is happening right now (this is not San Francisco, for example) and b) it is not just over but not relevant to today’s situations (not slave girl to the divorce court anymore, either, thank you in fact very much indeed).  Partly of course it is also the acceleration of everything, time, tides, mankind’s headlong rush to extinction or sublimity.  We were watching a program about farming in rural America today and the same scenario is playing out everywhere.  Where a farmer used to be able to support his family by growing food for his community, caring for his land, working day by day, on a 200 acre plot of land? Now it takes at least 2000 acres, mechanization, and? No stewardship.  No ability to support a small family farm because you can’t make enough money to break even.  Who knows where the food you eat comes from anymore?  Not to mention what’s in it which is such a gnarly topic I can’t handle it today at all. BUT ANYWAY.  This scenario is played out over and over, and part of what happens, as we all do know,  that is really grotesque is that the small farm gets bought up by the forces of evil large agribusiness and Monsanto wins the day.  And, well.  Jobs?  There’s no way the numbers of jobs could be “created” that you hear we “need”.  And yet nothing is getting done and lots of things are broken.  I don’t get it.

As we move forward trying to make a new and improved and happy life for ourselves, the Partner and I, trying to grow vegetables and herbs and keep our little fledgling business and those it serves healthy I can’t help but wonder.  There’s such a push at the moment toward unreality, unsustainability, and staying asleep that at times it is just more than a person can really take in.   We feel alternately incredibly hopeful and positive and downright blessed and think how many wonderful people there are out there working toward an improved future, and simultaneously wonder whether that gaping, slavering mouth with the huge teeth snapping at our heels is going to get us any time soon.  We also wonder if that slippery saliva will remove our skins as it has removed much of all of our old kinds of economic viability.

The other thing that seems to be in the very visible spectrum now is the whole thing of swinging between…what?  Things that are said to be true clearly are not.  Things one might believe oneself are said to be untrue, but clearly are not.  The social preoccupations are enough to leave one’s mouth hanging open on a permanent basis.  If you love dogs, you’ll have to marry one?  Good heavens.  (Some may think that might have been a better choice to begin with but that’s another issue. Dogs are LOYAL, after all.) I guess it’s less a matter of picking your way carefully on the path than of simply letting go and letting the river and the wind carry you forward.   There are forces massing on the plain, I think.  I fully expect to see Krishna striding up the driveway any day, looking for Arjuna.  I’m hoping he has some Helpful Hints.  In the meantime, we’ll keep practicing.

Things of the moment

Why is it, Gentle Reader, that all the marvelous sentences tumble through one’s brain when one is NOT WRITING?  Anyway, here we are at another juncture where we’ve scrambled up a rocky hillside and are surveying what’s next.

One thing is, The Parrots just had their birthdays and now they are nine.  Pretty grown up, actually. I remember them as babies, marching back and forth on the top of the bookcase when it had Christmas lights on it, giving them the appearance of old vaudevillians in lime light.   Yesterday when I opened Poppy’s cage I was greeted by a mess way beyond her normal trash and thrash scope- there were feathers scattered hither and yon, peanut shells and half eaten crackers all over.  I realized I expected her to emerge with a lampshade on her head.  Instead she just strolled out, cocked her head and let it be known that SHE, at least, is a VERY BIG BIRD NOW.  CAPISHE?

Another thing is we, or I should say The Partner, had to kill a(nother) rattlesnake a few days ago.  It was oddly upsetting for both of us.  The first one, the first summer, was right at the front door and I found myself taking a half Xanax.  This time was different somehow.  We tried to convey to this snake that it really couldn’t be in the middle of our garden plants, coiled around a pot, waiting for lizards.  Even knowing that the snake just wanted what all of us want: to be happy.  We still couldn’t let it keep eating the lizards and frogs and also?  I have to say that although I have come a long way and can now handle finding frogs in my frying plans with aplomb (they see me coming and absolutely INSIST that I take them and put them just exactly so against the lattice for them to tippy toe off), the thought of a poisonous snake coming into my kitchen was quite simply too much.   Even without intending to, you know a rattler will probably wind up biting you just because it is what they do from time to time.  So The Partner had to take his rifle out and dispatch the snake into the next iteration.   We talked about it, since I apologize to every fly I finally manage to swat, and The Partner dislikes unnecessary destruction.  It was strange in a way because we live in a place where people shoot snakes- heck, they shoot everything- without giving it much of even a first thought.  And there we were.  Having a snake funeral.  Pondering the imponderables.

The really amazing thing about it, though, happened in the evening.  The Partner was making his usual last circuit of the garden when suddenly, a lizard ran over to him from about ten feet away, got up on his foot, and looked him right in the eye.  It was very plain that he was saying thank you.

Which just, I think, goes to show you that there is, in fact, a natural order to things.  Sometimes it includes difficult things, things you don’t totally understand (as in, why can’t I talk to that snake and get it to understand?  Then I think: hah! for heaven’s sake.  What about all the people I experience that with???) but it does speak and have life, which, if you listen, provides guidance for even the rockiest of roads.  Which we, like many others, find ourselves on more or less routinely these days.  It is, however, what it is.  Discovering the joy in things is part of this guidance, and understanding that there is a balance between everything which is somewhat maintained by that joy.  We all have our work cut out for us, don’t we?  I still wonder about the snake, but that’s another post.  I still haven’t figured out about abrupt deaths, see.  Killing things,  illnesses.  I understand it, and I don’t understand it at the same time.  You’d think I would.  But I don’t quite yet.

Only Three Percent is Visible

At this rate, it could be a long rest of the year…..

One thing about living in a yurt is that you are always in the company of the sky.  We see clouds and constellations, flocks of birds and rainbows.  The moon is getting full now and passes over the dome in the ceiling at night, shining moonlight down on us in bed.  It is quite an astonishing feeling, even if it keeps one awake.   So, last night, of course it kept me awake and the hamster in my head was running running running on its’ wheel, pondering a Difficult Big Question.  Something that it would have been nice to have resolved a long time ago, but there it is.  For once, maybe it was the moon, I went into the unpleasant feeling, walking with it as though a part of me were a calm, developed being.  (HA) It became gradually clearer, which allowed me to not hold on to the resentment and pain of it, but still didn’t get me to any decision making ability.  But it did make me understand how sometimes you just have to walk completely away from things, even big things- really big things,  and that is all right.  We fear others’ judgements, want to be a “nice” person (what ever the hell THAT is), all the rest of it, but on some level miss the whole point.  We get stuck on the particulars, the events, our injuries and forget that the important thing is to be true to yourself and what you are here for.  Which is not to say that the selfishness of the vertical society is being true to oneself, either.  Pushing for something to happen outside of oneself and counting that as success and not paying attention to what needs to be done in life truthfully is not being true to oneself.

Being true to oneself means being able to decide what you are actually here for, and not allowing others’ opinions and attitudes and needs to swamp your ability to actually live.  It involves forgiveness to the extent that you come to understand that everything does in fact go around in whatever gyre it does, people do what they do, and your job is to not keep reproducing the suffering that happens when you abdicate responsibility for yourself and allow a situation to control your behavior.  Inasmuch as is reasonably possible in the situation.  Any thing that has happened, the wounds and pains and setbacks, along with the successes and joys, are all part of the big palimpsest of existence and are also all sort of the same:  They’re something you see from way underneath the water, perhaps, and from way up in the sky.  How to translate this into action may be revisited in tonight’s probably predictable moon induced insomnia.  I certainly hope so because seriously? I am sick of this particular gorilla.

Meanwhile this morning we heard an interview with the astrophysicist who just won the Nobel Prize for his work showing the following amazing thing:  There’s about three percent of what we see around us that’s actually “stuff”.  The rest of it is largely invisible.  Dark energy and dark matter.  So what we see is kind of the spangly covering on some huge moving thing that we cannot see, that’s expanding and contracting and moving and pulling us in all sorts of directions.  So the metaphor of our consciousness being a small pin prick of light is a good one.  I thought of the Hindu concept of Vishnu, sleeping essentially on a flower in water,  and opening and closing his eyes in vast time, creating and destroying, creating and destroying again, over and over.  Innumerable beings, immeasurable “time”.  I thought about how when we meet someone, how much do we perceive about them at the time, and over time?  Often it seems it’s about three percent.  Coincidence?  I THINK NOT.  Then I thought about how the matter and energy in this theory (we’ll call it that for simplicity’s sake)  are referred to as “dark”, and it brought me to the other thing I’ve been thrashing about with in my little mind, which is that the Spaniard’s galleons (black) were often not “seen” by the Caribs and the natives upon whom they descended.  They were, for the Native peoples,  essentially dark matter and dark energy.  It was beyond the ken of the inhabitants here, and thus invisible to them.  THEN I thought about how maybe sometimes we gradually learn to see into that darkness.  But at what price?  Is it better to stay residing among the spangled surfaces?  Looking at that three percent which seems so enormous and fantastic?  (Should we call it the three percent or the three dimensions?) Or are we meant to dip into the darkness and see what lies hurtling underneath our conscious thought?

In any event, that’s another story, and now we have to go to town, always an endeavor.  It’s an amusing shopping list, too:  Batteries, Bullets, and Milk. We’ll see how we do.

The Polenta Volcano

So, it’s been reasonably eventful here in ….in……well.  In HERE.  We have gotten the insulation installed, that is, The Partner has gotten it in with only a small spot left undone.  It is indeed working, and I can recommend using single cell foam backed with foil, with thin wood veneers facing into the yurt and covering the foam.  NATURALLY THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN MUCH EASIER IF WE’D INSTALLED IT IN THE BEGINNING.  We didn’t however.  In retrospect it’s pretty amazing we got anything done at all last year.  But between the shade cloth in the dome and the 95% completed insulation of the walls, it is amazingly OK in here.  Cooler than it is outside! And it’s HOT outside! Gonna get hotter! We may live through this summer after all.  Maybe.  But, given that the manufacturer of our yurt was asking close to $1,000 for wall insulation, and we did this for a little under $300, it is definitely a concept worth looking into.  You have, of course, to purchase the roof insulation from the manufacturer because you’d never be able to fit it together by yourself.  Their roof insulations are usually reasonably priced, however, so as a must-do it’s livable.

But, on to the polenta.  While the Partner was working on the insulation (and, yes, there was a modicum of swearing and ill temper), I was starting dinner which that night included polenta.  I used to make it in the microwave which was good, but what with our electric set up here it’s not so practical.  So I started doing it the old fashioned way on the stove, and boy howdy.  It is ALOT better and not that hard.  The key is remembering to whisk the polenta into the boiling water at the beginning.  WHISK.  Because otherwise? It bubbles like somebody’s insane kung fu cauldron and your stove is covered with polenta splotches. Also you have to stir it the entire time it’s cooking (about a half hour), as opposed to frequent stirring with attention allowed to other things.  SO ANYWAY.  The polenta was volcanizing along because it had not been whisked.  It had not been whisked  because our swamp cooler decided at that moment, as it does from time to time, to have the water pump stop working.  Which of course means the whole cooler doesn’t work.  On another day when the Partner was feeling beleaguered and the pump had to be fixed, I asked him to show me what he did so I could do it myself at a future time.  So, fine.  He was busy and whatnot with the insulation, and I decided to man up and fix the pump.  Which you do by unscrewing the back of the cooler while it is running, reaching in and jiggling the pump til it starts working again. That sort of thing. So, got it unscrewed, jiggled, and then, as the polenta erupted in a Vesuvian manner, my hand drifted toward the whirling blades….yes, it did.  My gasp at the polenta turned into a loud, inchoate howl, apparently.  Fortunately, the whirling blades are plastic and they stopped after the initial encounter.  It hurt alot but no harm really done.  I got to tell myself what a big person I am now, no crying, and OHMYGOODNESSWHATISTHATPOLENTADOING???? In any event the paw was a bit out of commission for the past two days, but THAT day passed, leaving us both still alive, which is about as good as it gets some days.

Houston, We Have A Bear

We do.  Really.  We think it is a smallish sort of bear.  A smallish, black and no doubt cutie pie of a bear.  It was kind of a high point, actually.  The Partner stumbled upon some poop, which we identified as bear scat, and there we were.  A bear uses the bluff above the yurt, from where it can view Mt. Shasta, as a bathroom.

Not like the bobcat or mountain lion which ALSO lives in our neighborhood- oh, no.  That cat just strides around leaving huge pawprints and scaring the daylights out of the chickens next door, who pretty much routinely live in fear anyway between the family dog who can’t keep from clamping its jaws around their little necks, the hawks, the coyotes…well.  The poor things need sedatives if you ask me.

Meanwhile, we have been  attempting to forge ahead here in Brave New World and as usual, things have not gone without incident.  We learned that when you install a wood burning stove? You really, really need to put a wind shield over the rain screen.  That way, the wind won’t blow down the chimney, out through the stove, and into your living space with highly undesirable results.  We’ve also learned that when you build a yurt YOU NEED ALL THE INSULATION THEY OFFER.  Yes, it’s expensive.  Yes, it appears to be optional.  But really?  Indispensable.  We’re now trying to figure out a way to install wall insulation, and the Partner has a genius idea, on which I will report when…it materializes.

Meanwhile, even though everyone has said it never does this here, it has frozen and even snowed.   We take comfort in the thought that the coming summer will be infernally hot enough to keep the larger predators away, up in the cooler part of the mountains.  Then we’ll just be back to snakes and ants.  And flies, of course.  The man we finally bought our wood from suggested a 12 gauge shotgun for the snakes for me.  He can’t use one anymore, he said, having broken his neck in three places somehow at some time.  I’m thinking it might be a bit too much for me too although so far, I haven’t broken my neck.  Cause for celebration.

It’s kind of hard to know what to think about anything, really.  We go down into town and things are pretty crazy at times.  Checking in with the news, it seems that the entire world is almost completely crazy.  But the snow covered mountains turn pink at sunset and I like to think that THAT is what will prevail.  Meanwhile, we are chopping wood and carrying water.  It’s really, REALLY different.  But I like it.

Under Maxfield Parrish Skies

Recent events have been keeping us busy, Gentle Reader.  This place is uncompromising, and uncompromisingly beautiful.  We’re still spending whatever mental capital we have (it’s been devalued several times of late) on keeping the yurt below boiling and the garden moving along.  Two out of three shade cloth structures up.  No hot water yet and we can’t figure out why.  Perhaps the flow is too high and the water temperature too low for the settings.  In any case, another mind bender.   Especially since I got the water heater (Takagi JR) on line.  If there is something wrong with the water heater I may just completely snap……In any event, I had a list of things to relate in case anyone reading this ever decides to DO SUCH AN INSANE engage in this sort of endeavor. First on the list of course, is

SHADE.  Don’t have a home without it.

Secondly, you can indeed power a regular size gas stove with a 5 gallon propane tank.  Regardless of the grim warnings you read about needing all kinds of extensive and expensive thingamabobs and it not working.  The thing you DO need, however, is a regulator on the propane tank itself.  We asked about this, specifically, when purchasing the natural gas/convert to propane stove we have.  The guy in Home Depot said, O, No No, there’s a regulator IN the stove, you don’t need a separate one.  Fine, we thought.  That is, until the stove basically had a small explosion and fire and I got to by a $112 part to replace…the internal regulator on the stove.  Which gets bypassed and defeated when you convert to LP.  Also, we had to find the right size regulator, but that was around $25, so not bad for initial investment had I ONLY KNOWN.  So, word to the wise, Gentle Readers.  Even if you DO live in the sticks where everybody and his dog uses propane?  Don’t think that means you’ll get a straight answer about anything to do with propane.  Or, possibly, anything.

I’m sure there’s more but it’s too hot right now for the hamster who’s powering my brain to run any faster, so no random access today.

However, we did have quite the special day Saturday.  After having been awoken at the pre-crack of dawn by huge water pump clanging noises (landlord hosing chicken coop.  Why? Someone must know.) and having just returned from a quick trip down to the Bay Area, my nerves were already on the tattered side.  So, when The Partner made several growly kind of HOLY SMOKES noises looking out the front door, I gritted my teeth in preparation for the next….thing.  Which turned out to be? A seven year old rattlesnake curled at the foot of our long plank entry way.  Long, long rattlesnake.  Perhaps not in the pink as it wasn’t as large around as it should have been for the number of rattles but then again?  All rattlesnakes are quite big enough as they are, thank you.  We’re a half hour from the nearest main road, so snake bite is highly undesirable.  In any event this guy was all, I’m here and I’m not moving.  It was pretty much not fun.  The Partner wound up having to shoot it.  I wound up taking half a xanax:  There are limits and I’d reached mine.  Anyway, it prompted all sorts of cosmic enquiry and soul searching about death, dying, how come?, SNAKES?, and self chastisement about being so wimpy.  I have resolved to do some target shooting just in case this happens again and The Brave Partner is elsewhere.  We put the snake down at the foot of our “driveway” since there are vultures and coyotes and foxes and what not, and it disappeared very neatly almost immediately.  The Partner pointed out that the snake, being firmly rooted in Reptile Brain, would have most certainly bitten me and with my particular constitution, that would have been all she wrote.  Also we have a quite astonishing crop of baby lizards for whom we feel some responsibility.  Nonetheless.   When we returned the ant poison we’d bought (“It kills the QUEEN”!”) because we just couldn’t do it, we did tell the girl in the hardware store we’d had to kill a rattler.  She said, first, ewwwww.  Scary.  Then, oh,  you must live up off Bowman.  This is a pretty large area and for her to pinpoint it like that gave me just a…small….stomach flip.  I mean, funny, but?  So, signing off from Apparent Snake Central for now.

And away we go…..

Having decided to try and write every day, I found myself with additional grist for the mill this morning.  The minute I opened my eyes I had a good sized panic attack.  I learned today that it is actually easier to have one when you’re lying down, because then on top of all the other miserable things that occur, you don’t also get the feeling of being in an elevator that’s dropping thirty stories.  In my practice I actually work with many people who have panic attacks, generally quite successfully.  Somehow I never seem to give myself the same attention but, heck.  The cobbler’s children have no shoes, etc.   Anyway, it does tie in to my general theme here, which is, How Did This All Happen?  Not just to me, but to all of us.  How do we continue to live so blindly and so mindlessly in the grip of…well, a friend in Spain told me this and it fits here.  Capitalism says, if you want something enough you can get it through hard work.  New Age spiritualism says, if you don’t get what you want, there’s something wrong with you.  Chekhov said: You do what you can do.

I don’t know how relevant my own history is, but let’s just say it has been one mind bendingly difficult thing after another, starting at Day One.  Things that sound hackneyed in a way: Abandonments, Suicides, Meager Resources, Being on One’s Own…etc.  It took me a long, long time to find my vocation and truly practice it.  I am grateful for that, although at times like these I think: $#!^.  Did I really have to go through all that?  The panic attacks started at the end of a long, long term of employment with an attorney.  Those of you who have done that? Probably need to hear no more.  When I started, the attorneys “my” attorney worked with were all looking for new assistants because their old ones had stress disorders and could not do the job any more.  Did this ring a bell for me? Not yet.  No, not until I got my very OWN stress disorder and ultimately no longer had the job.  I did, of course, have the panic attacks and nightmares and all the rest of it.   My doctor reckoned I had post traumatic stress disorder.  Gradually I pulled self together, continued my studies and launched my practice.  It was, actually, a success.  I found this surprising of course, but also it was profoundly wonderful.  I love what I do.  It does not, however, allow me to rake in the large sized dough.  I’m a pretty good healer and a terrible capitalist, as it happens.  So when, on that crummy January evening when my landlords zoomed up in their black SUV and told me I was homeless in six weeks, it was not a pretty picture.

The Partner and I had been looking for new digs for some time.  Preferably out of the city.  Turned out to be too right:  No one would rent to us there because we are both self employed.  So much for the work ethic, I guess.  As previously detailed here, we looked up hill and down dale fruitlessly and it was …unbelievable.   Then we found this spot, got the yurt, and embarked on what a friend calls, “a whole ‘nother Geraldo show”.

Fortunately I had read lots of books about homesteading, perilous journeys, and what not.  I knew, or I THOUGHT I knew, the difficulties we would be facing.  Decided I would be up to it somehow.  HA HA.  The number of things that went completely sideways was dizzying.  It rained constantly while we were trying to build, thus putting us way off schedule, and way off budget.  Longer storage fees, more motel fees for starters.  But, OK.  We forged ahead, built the yurt.  The instructions were insane and all kinds of things happened with that, too.  But we did it.  The first night we spent here there was the most intense thunder and lightning storm I’ve ever seen.  Did that have any meaning? We’re starting to wonder.  Perhaps it was spelling out “DON’T DO IT” in electric wriggles.  In any event, we went on to moving all our things (which as of today have all  been packed for seven months) out of storage.  The guy at the truck rental assured me that the size truck I rented would hold the contents of our size storage unit.  It will no doubt not surprise you, Gentle Reader, to learn that this was not the case.  So, OK.  One week til we have to pay another month of storage, and we think, we’ll rent a bigger truck, get the storage unit empty, and PICK UP ALL THE PLANTS.  Yes, the Plants.  Which were at a nursery. Since we have about 200 different kinds of plants.  I grow the things I use in my practice and products and the garden is crucially important.

Oh, the fun we had.  I arranged a pick up time with the nursery, rented the Big Truck, we drove car down to pick up truck which of course? Had to be picked up 50 miles away from where we were going for some unknown reason and also cost more because the new summer rates just went into effect.  Bells should have been ringing but mostly I was trying not to hyperventilate. So, OK.  We go get some plants that were at a friend’s house, do the final unload of storage unit (another Punch and Judy episode), and go to the nursery.  A bit behind schedule but nonetheless on time, before their closing hour.    Where, we find? They were CLOSED.  Closed, people.  Not open.  Padlocked.  The whole day.  I heard a noise come out of me that sounded like a howling wolf.    So that little episode cost me a few hundred dollars MORE, more over budget, and? The never ending story continued.  Nobody at the nursery would return my phone calls, several days went by and finally I asked a tactful and Very Professional and Impressive Friend to go by and see what the blue blazes was going on.  My best guess is there had been a romantic relationship that went sour but by now I really didn’t care.  So I got to rent another truck! Drive down and back to pick up my plants, spent oodles on gas.   But hey.  We’re done there, right?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.  It had of course been raining when we brought our household goods up here so we had to just stick them in the yurt and two storage sheds, and under a tarp.  No moving in in an orderly way.  So, OK.  BOXES.  Then it stopped raining and we thought, Oh, Goody.  We can set things outside when the mud clears up and organize our living space.  But.  It immediately started being well over 100 degrees every day and we are on a flat, unshaded spot.  We spent every available minute trying to keep ourselves from getting heat stroke and keeping the birds and plants alive.  You could’ve fried eggs on our floor.  OK, we thought.  Hang loose here.  Do the gardening and bide our time.   And that is when the Ant Wars began.  Right about the time it started being an average of 111 degrees every day.

Now, people will say they said it was hot here.  HOT? Hot is 95.  This place is hotter than Phoenix and I kid you not.  But ok.  We’ll deal.  Meanwhile, it’s too hot to do anything at all.  We are on hold on our final plumbing which means? We take baths outdoors in the stock tub we bought to use as a shower base inside.  It’s too hot inside anyway.  It’s also too hot outside, but whatever.  Everything has been more involved, more expensive, more unbelievable than even either one of us Cassandras would have imagined.  It is as though a giant hand is holding itself up and saying: NO.  So, we’re wondering Gentle Readers.  We’re wondering.  The whole world is in upheaval and maybe this is just a part of that.  But what does that mean? Really.  Meanwhile, The Partner just came inside with the jolly news that we are now engaged not only in the Ant Wars, but now? The Hookworm wars.  I ask you.