Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Girl Who Married A Sheep

Oh America, behold your best holiday!

The one with the creepiest vibe and the most bizarre message! Never mind the additive laden candy, the plastic crap and the inappropriate costumes, you still have my vote.

A night when children and adults can run around as ghouls, monsters, animals, historical figures and threaten strangers lest they give them sweet stuffs, reminds me off the Saturnalia and other pagan traditions when the rules of ordinary days are a little suspended, a little strange...

I could wax lyrical about All Saint's Day, Day Of The Dead, Samhain, but suffice to say that the veil between the world's is the thinnest today and I gots to get the fire going, the pumpkin soup on the stove and bake some bread, before handing out some choice sugar to the delighted children and their terrified parents of the neighborhood.

So Happy Creepy Halloween!

Monday, October 28, 2013

"More Than Anything I Would Like To See A Bear."

Two summer's ago, on Solstice Eve, hiking in the Olympic Mountains with friends, we came upon a black bear. That same morning as we were just leaving the campground, a rogue female elk from a pack that had been hanging out our whole stay on the gravel bar in by the river charged a campsite next to us, damaging cars and tearing up the tent of our neighbors from the night before.

As we hiked out, adjusting the straps of our packs, joking about the rangers rushing to the scene with flashing lights, carrying what we took to be tranquilizer guns, we had no idea that the mare was truly considered dangerous, that the ranger's ended up shooting her and sending her brain and tissue samples to a lab, to figure out what had caused her to go mad.

We hiked up the valley, following the river, diverging from it into the woods, the dark, deep old growth forest, the likes of which exists almost nowhere else on Earth. The likes of which once stretched for hundreds of miles, from the tip of the Olympic Peninsula, down to meet their sisters on what is now the Oregon Coast, and on to their grandmothers, the California Redwoods...

To read the rest of this post head over to Terralectualism, where Mary is running a guest post series on Animal Encounters and their spiritual implications.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Little Red

Living on the South End  (or Deep South as some of my comrades like to say) has made a total hermit.
Being a introvert to begin with, it takes a certain amount of muster for me to get excited about social things in the first place, but being so far from the Village and having a break from some of my usual jobs has really taken this to a whole new level.

Add to it then that I'm on an epic writing bender, have all those good books to read and it's getting to be crafty times, can you blame me for blowing of a 70s dance-themed Halloween party tonight. A friend almost convinced me to go, but when she caved, so did I.

Instead, I think I'm going to go on some mushroom walks. The mycelium is strong in this one, you can barely take two steps without almost stepping on some.

While I'm pretty darn content to just be by my lonesome, I sometimes worry that in time might become a bona fide hermit, given the opportunity. When I was in high school I wrote a series of rhapsodizing essays to that effect, picturing myself as an old lady (around forty or so!) living in some Norwegian fjord, or high up on a rocky cliff in the Outer Hebrides, with a dog and some sheep and a shit-ton of books.

Now that I live in a community, it's harder to imagine becoming truly isolated, yet a part of me would not only be okay with the idea, but actually craves it. So, when absolutely necessary, I force myself to do social things, and mostly they're truly fun, or occasionally bearable.  I do this because there's a need in all of us to be part of something bigger, to dance, talk, be merry with others and because a part of me enjoys it, once I actually make up my mind to go.

But not today.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ask me, ask me, ask me

...or at least tell me, tell me, tell me.

When I returned from my blogging hiatus, I came back with some distinct ideas about why I wanted to keep blogging in this space, but no clear goals, no concrete statements.

One of the things I consider most central to my character is that, in Susanna Kaysen's words: "I'm ambivalent." About damn near everything. While I consider myself to have fairly well-formed opinions about the many ideas and issues important to me and I'm usually quickly able to assess situations and make decisions, when it comes to my own self, I'm ambivalent about most things.

In fact, a lot of my personality comprises of two fairly opposite sides. I'm not shy, but have at times an intense dislike of social situations. In turns I can be very timid, or very aggressive. I have an almost overwhelming sense of empathy, but it often leads me to see people exactly as they are, not as they try to portray themselves, and sometimes this causes me to judge them too harshly. I love people and am endlessly fascinated by them, yet mostly prefer my own company. I care a great deal about what people think of me, but actually not at all. I'm fiercely loyal, but if I absolutely have to  to distance myself emotionally from former friends I can do it with a casualness that shocks me. I'm very ambitious, but not at all driven. It could be said that I'm rather vain, yet fundamentally care only for the internal life, content, intellect. I'm very secretive and private, but apparently completely at ease revealing this kind of personal information in a decidedly public forum.

This ambivalence often makes it difficult for me to make definitive statements regarding things I hold dear, or personal.

So believe me when I say, that I have puzzled over what you're about to read.

It has finally hit home to me that this is no longer just my small, personal log of thoughts, obsessions, events, or outfits. Not that it's that big, or I have a ton of readers either (You know how many readers really popular blogs have!?!?!? It's nuts, the mere idea of thousands, let alone tens of thousands of people reading your thoughts makes me hyperventilate), but I will admit that I no longer write only for myself, or even my small circle of visible internet friends and acquaintances.

I am however extremely ambivalent about what to do about it. As I outlined in the post before,  I have some idea of how I would like this place to be, but at the same time this new, somewhat grudging (this has nothing to do with you dear reader, I've just been in a little bit of denial about this.) realization that this blog has a wider readership has thrown me for a loop.

I already know that there are certain topics where my more serious interests and yours intersect. I promise you that I'm still working on the increasingly convoluted posts on clothing and ethics and shopping for joy and self-image. There's a mother post on feminism and you, know, man-hating and a bra-burning how-to. But I'm also curious about what other points of convergence we might find.

With that in mind, I want to make the time I spend on this space really count. Yes, like I said before, I still want to use this blog to document my family's life and times as we go through the changes and seasons and upheavals; but I also want ask you, dear reader, what is it that you would like from me? What would you like to read about? What do you want more, what less?

Not to fret, I'm not going to cave in to the popular opinion. Being stubborn as hell, I will of course feel in no way obligated to give any of what you might request,  but I am asking for your insights. For a little help from my friends.

(A homemade gift from Lissa. She came to visit with her sweet sister-in-law Nina and cute-as-all-get-out-babe Owynn. I was too busy chatting and admiring him to get any pics, but head on over here to see the most dear babe in the neighborhood.)

Rather than categorizing what I post the internet, I find the usual, often commercially-driven blog titles constricting and somewhat arbitrary and artificial. In a world populated by lifestyle bloggers, mommy bloggers, music bloggers, foodie bloggers and of course, style, or fashion bloggers, I don't even know what kind of a blog The Girl Who Married A Bear actually is. Can being poor, but extremely lucky, be considered a lifestyle? How about mixing feminism with food, music, beat poets, herbal medicine, movies, 70s clothes, fringe beliefs, animism and sarcasm? I haven't the faintest.

The reason I'm curious for your thoughts on this, is that even though I'm ambivalent and a little confused about what exactly it is that I want from my own, I know exactly what my blog-love-laundry-list is for the blogs I read:

1. Honesty and authenticity. Like most people who read blogs I go to them for inspiration, to see how different people live, how they experience the world, how they see themselves, and yeah, sometimes how they dress as well. However, an interesting, well-written, or beautifully curated blog will only win my undying love and doggedly loyal readership, if there's a vulnerable, openness to what the writer reveals about themselves. I'm not at all about the internet being your confessional, self-obsessed waste-basket, but acknowledging that your life is not perfect will win me over every time.

2. Having something to say. What can I say? Word. Girl. I love your homestead, your rad bohemian pad, your kick-ass recipes, your epic style, but you know what I love even more? If you can somehow make it relevant beyond your own sweet self. Create a conversation, broaden horizons,  place things in a wider context, make a statement. Not all the time, not about everything, but sometimes.

3. Sisterhood. In the liberté, egalité, fraternité sense. What, you think I can't use the term "sisterhood"in the general the way "brotherhood" is used? Yes, I can. I love a blog that encourages conversation, lifts others up, links to potentially like-minded folks, spreads the love, takes criticism well and is always willing to learn, as well as teach and preach.

4. I like sassy, opinionated and determined writers, who are also humble and kind. And funny. Preferably in a self-depricating manner.

Come to think of it, I like my blogs pretty much how I like my friends. The above could define my list of characteristics I love and admire in people around me.

The idea that rather than letting the trivializing and shallow aspects of the internet trod us down and drive us out, we should work hard to build on the good parts of it, has come through loud and clear in my circle of online friends lately.

The internet is a little like politics in this country. Sure you could declare yourself better than it, retreat to your cabin in the wilderness, and be your own morally superior Thoreau, but maybe if we all stick around instead and try to improve the way things are, support each other and declare independence from that which we don't want, we might get somewhere wonderful together, or maybe even help turn the tide.

(Necklace of dreams from Nicole. I can't thank her enough for her kindness of which this necklace is the least. But more about that later.)

So if there's ever been something you've wanted wanted to tell me, some criticism you've held back, some subject you've particularly enjoyed, something you think I could do better, something you think I should do, or if you just really enjoy my fashion choices, or heck if there's something you've always wanted to ask me, now's the time.

I'd also like your recommendations on authentic, unique blogs you enjoy and think I would like. Having received a few of such tips lately and having finally gotten around to adding some old favorites too, you'll find mine on the link list to the right of this post.

And while we're on the topic of authentic women's voices I urge you to check out Mary's post series on cultivating a personal nature-based spirituality outside of Native appropriation and the sometimes hokey end of the New Age spectrum. This woman's writing, wisdom, kindness and insight just blows me away every time. I can't recommend her enough, I really can't. These topics are very central to the loose collection of interests I think a lot of us share and I love the clear language and concepts of Mary's post. There's no judgement here, only a desire for people to really look into themselves. As someone who's had their own struggles with this side of spirituality, and continues to wonder about where the lines must be toed, these posts leave me literally speechless with gratitude. I think when I finally get around to leaving a comment it might just be "Uumm...thanks."

ps. It's 7PM and the current score is: water 6, tea 5, pages 6.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Breaking News: Government Shutdown Almost Ruins Barter Fair!

Dear Government shutdown, must you ruin everything? No WIC for moms, no benefits for veterans, no financial security for the furloughed employees, and no camping for this family of patriotic Americans (and aspiring Americans) who just want to admire the majesty of our North Cascades National Park.

Okay, I guess I'm being a tad bit super duper selfish, but I have to say that I was genuinely bummed (though nowhere near as bummed as I am about this) that our final camping opportunity for the season, a hike and a single night in the mountains fell through. It's been a banner year for canceled camping dreams for C. and I.

So instead of sleeping under the stars tonight, I'm gonna force you guys to live vicariously through last year's camping trip with me.

Honestly, as much as I love the alternate reality of Barter Fair itself, I almost love the drive there even more. There's nothing more fun than getting up early the day before, drinking tea on rocks by the ferry, while waiting for the red-eye.

Last year we stopped by the river before entering the Cascades Pass, waded in the water and bought organic kiwis and blueberries from the "home" farm of a certain GMO-loving cereal company. Why is their "farm" so scenic,why are their berries so delicious, why? The bastards! The woes of white hippies seem to be the theme of this post.

Skagit River is magical. Whenever we're around there, we fantasize about bringing our row boat, or kayaks with us in the height of summer and going down a part of it.

The last few years I've been really drawn to rivers, seeking them out in my travels, wanting to dip into moving water. They're so different from the ocean, yet their energy has that same restlessness that's also calming. I love watching the water go by, imagining all the places it passes.

I'm still sad we didn't dip in that day and even though I doubt it'll be quite warm enough, I'll go prepared this time, carrying my towel and my next to the road necessity: the dreaded bathing suit.

I also like to imagine what the river might have been like before this beautiful 1920s monstrosity was built. On the one hand I can't help but love the absurdity of the Diablo Damn, not to mention the good clean electricity it provides us. On the other though, it has forever altered the landscape in ways that are hard to even imagine now.

We camped at our usual spot in Colonial Creek, where camping is actually free off-season. Pretty sweet, right? That night we set up camp and went on a little hike to admire the beauty of the lake and my favorite, still unconquered mountain, Sourdough. That there is not Sourdough. It's in the picture I'm in and C's not here to remind me what that other mountain is.

Diablo Lake, artificial as it may be, is beautiful.

It was on this very same lake we had one of our first camping adventures as a couple, about a thousand years ago, when the Earth was very young and we were very young and hopeful and slightly more attractive. But seriously, I recently uncovered some photos from that trip and maybe I'll do a post about it sometime.

The North Cascades are the first real mountains I ever got to see and they will never lose their mystery and specialness to me. I regularly dream about hiking a part of the PCT on their backs, but I guess easy does it and perhaps climbing Sourdough would be a good start. Next May, I swear we'll do it.

Nothing more glorious than waking up in the mountains at dawn, watching the fog recede to the hills, dipping your toes into a mountain lake, drinking coffee from a deliciously hot metal mug.

This is the last overlook on the Highway before the road begins to descend. The unnerving feeling you get close to the edge of rock-face, not matter how fenced in, never to totally go away. The little bugs of cars, the small pins of huge trees on the bottom give you a small insight on what it might be like to be a bird.

The trees at these altitudes are scraggly with the snow and the wind and the intensity of life up there. As to why this lichen is neon-colored though, I have no insight.

Oh mountains, I can't wait to see you tomorrow. I'll wave at you from the car window since unless certain hostage-taking boneheads decide to come to their senses for a moment, you will be closed for business.

Let us not linger on the absurdity of closing down what is essentially a wilderness, wide open space and also public land, owned by the public for the public. That somehow the men and women who watch over these lands are considered "non-essential" or somehow less essential than men and women know what? I'm just gonna let you complete that sentence all by your radical self. Just remember to put the blame where it belongs.

And you'll never guess where we always eventually end up...