Inner Nature

Inner Slug
Inner Slug

When we talk about past lives or spirit animals, do you ever think who was that guy that was crushed under a stone block while building the pyramids? Or who’s spirit guide is an earwig? I’m always hearing about the Cleopatras and panthers, never Marie Antoinette’s chamber maid or the ant she stepped on. When the subject goes there that’s what I always think about. The lowlier and less famous. The you and mes of history or the animal kingdom. Yesterday’s prompt about nature even lead me that way because I was contemplating the nature of humanity versus nature nature. This morning I woke up and was thinking of my inner slug. Maybe it’s my inner sloth. Moving is hard some days. If we’re kind we could say it’s my hibernating grizzly bear. The day’s prompt hadn’t arrived. I’d been in and out of consciousness since my 5:30 AM hot flash. It’s become a regular thing. I fall asleep at 8:00 PM now because I am pretty much up a few hours before dawn riding the hormone train. I am grateful that (so far) I get a solid night of sleep in before I throw off the covers.

So there I was actually thinking of my inner slug. Reveling in my gooiness. The slackness of a formerly firm physique slumping all over the bed. Actually thinking: I am a slug and I like being a slug. I had my phone in my hand. While lying there in my puddle of adipose tissue the prompt came in to think on our inner nature. The universe was talking.

My Chinese astrological sign is the snake. A Facebook quiz once said I was a great white shark. I do not deny these aspects of my personality. The old philosophy about human nature that says you’re either a lamb, a shepherd, or a wolf rings true to me. I’ve been told I’m a shepherd. Shepherds mostly tend their flock and protect them from wolves but shepherds also kill the lambs when it’s time to kill. Sometimes I wonder if I’m a wolf. These days a retired wolf.

If I could choose, I would opt to be a grizzly bear or a blue whale. I like the grizzly bear because they sleep half the year, eat as much as they like and still look good, and they only procreate when there are sufficient resources for survival. I like the blue whale because it’s the biggest thing in the history of the world. Imagine that. Bigger than anything else alive in the history of ever. What is your inner animal?


Connect with Nature

Palms and sky
Palms and sky

Today’s prompt was to connect with nature. Find something inspiring in nature and write about it. Seeing as this is about all I regularly write about it gave a good laugh. Even Burt said, “Where would you begin?”

Twenty years as a regulator with the EPA wasn’t for the money and prestige and fun. The money was a good but it was a thankless job full of conflict and insults. Many people didn’t understand our role. But I stayed because I succeeded in doing many things and I believed in my work. I protected birds from oil pits. I cleaned up aquifers. I saw to it that hazardous waste was safely disposed. I was lucky to know quite a few other competent and committed professionals, too. But those days are behind me and much of the successes I as part of are being undone. Birds will no longer be protected in the oil fields thanks to our current administration. Incidental kills are now legal. I spent an entire year working with a team of colleagues from various agencies to save the tens of millions of birds killed in our oil fields. We achieved real success and were even awarded the EPA’s highest award. All that work down the drain. You might say I’m bitter. You’d be correct.

Meanwhile, here, now, I count birds everyday. I submit my data into an international database. I try to be part of the worldwide effort to protect and improve habitat of our feathered friends. Birds are still earning their keep as the proverbial canaries in the coal mine. They are telling us loud and clear about the health of our world and the changes in our climate system. If we can see that we are all inter-related maybe we can start taking action to protect us all. Each little part of our world depends on the rest.

On top of that, I’m trying to subtly influence my little human friends. Trips to the beach can lead to a love of the outdoors and that can lead to a love of nature.

We are all stuck here together. We have no place else to go. And, you know what, it’s a damn lovely home we have.

Algae and bees
Kids at beach
Kids at beach

Daily Delights

Reubbing Mimi's belly
Rubbing Mimi’s belly

What are your daily delights? That cup of coffee? A favorite mug? Filling the bird feeders? Think of the things that give you child like glee.

I was never a child-like child. My mother accused me of acting like I was 40 when I was 10. She did not mean it in a good way. Despite my inner curmudgeon there are things I take regular delight it. I love rubbing my cat’s belly. She hates it. Our daily wrestling match so I can steal a .0001 sec rub of that loose abdomen fur, her belly wattle if you will, is a daily hit with me. She bites. I laugh. Am I a bad person? I always pay her back with some ear rubs.

I also like saying hello to Olive the dog when I return home. Olive bounces up and down and I can’t encourage her too much or she’ll jump all over me but I love seeing her happy dance. Elvis always moans like we tortured him so he’s not as much fun to greet.

When I had a home without wheels I had some material belongings that I loved using every day. A special bowl. A well shaped mug. Trailer life isn’t as amenable to aesthetic beauty. I really like my hair things. Those stretchy tubes that keep my hair off my face. I have about 8. Those are comfy and make traveling hair care easier.

The birds on my feeder delight me. Yesterday I delighted myself by building a new feeding station from a cardon cactus log. I suspended it on our fence with a pair of antlers. Snazzy. So now my feeder delights me.

Breakfast in bed is pretty delightful but it feels like adult delight. Ny inner kid is ambivalent. Same feeling for chocolate. The inner kid prefers pie.

Lastly, getting into bed at the end of a day always delights me. I love bedtime. My cocoon, my nest, my safe place. I hate waking up and leaving it. I guess that might be why I torture Mimi.



Dream Big, People

Twenty years from now?
Twenty years from now?

Art Journaling is the first thing I do on waking. I don’t even get out of bed. I reach over and grab my phone and check the prompt. I sit and think. I open my journal bag and grab the book and pen and draw a picture. Then I write. Today’s prompt: What is you most outrageous dream? Two things about this prompt caught my attention. There’s some synchronicity out there. Firstly, I woke up from a very odd musical dream where Burt and I as the Gypsy Carpenters were playing a stadium sized gig with a back up band. The odd part was that I was singing on a ladder from back stage. We can analyze that some other time. Secondly, last night at dinner with my dad and Sara Gay we confessed our next big dream. Stage two of dream achievement plan accomplished. The confession came about because they asked if we were planning to get a new cat when Mimi eventually goes. No, we are not. We are planning on burying Mimi and Elvis when the times come and doing something else. More here down below.

So life dreams, the big ones, are hard to quantify. It’s a tricky thing dreaming. I could say I want to visit the moon. I do want to visit the moon. I wish I could be a universe explorer. But that’s not going to happen so I don’t spend much though on it. It’s a waste of energy.  I could also say I wish I was thirty pounds lighter and super-fit. Just not going to happen. There’s all kinds of reasons why but mainly I’d rather not be that kind of person that worries about those kinds of things.  I like to focus on dreams that I might be able to accomplish if I have the intention, resources, interest, and luck. Burt and I had a great conversation about how neither of us like to talk pie in the sky dreams but we are good at achieving things many people won’t dare to try.  The phrase “if wishes were horses” does not apply to us. I hate those conversations about if I was rich, if I was in charge, or if I was blah blah blah. I’m a down to earth. I can solve a puzzle. I have enough resources.

Here’s what I concluded today, for me, about dreams. Find a dream where you have the drive, the itch, the passion. Then look for the skills, resources, and luck you’ll need to achieve it. I don’t want to be a super famous performer. I’m happy as a community musician. I like to help our kids but I don’t want to run a school. I do want to explore the world. I want to drive. I want to speak Spanish. I want to drive the entirety of South America.

Just as the seeds of quitting work and hitting the road took root a few months before we did it eight years ago this South America idea has been sitting in the soil of our hearts and minds for a while. There are logistical problems with our current outfit. Then there are the elderly pets. There are money concerns, too. Safety, health, age…But recently we saw our window. Mimi and Elvis appear on convergent tracks of expiration. Two years at the most for either or both or them. First step towards down scaling the living arrangements: No new pets.

Last the idea saw life outside the gNash. Burt and I dared tell others we hope to drive to South America. Like all bold ideas it was met with questions and fears for our safety but also with support and excitement. It sounds like we are on teh right path.

So I insist, go find that first step to your dreams.

Below are the 5k race results. I was super pleased to see I had managed under 20 minute miles. Maybe that super-fit goal isn’t as far fetched as I thought.

The next adventure?
The next adventure?
Carrera de Todos Santos 5k
Carrera de Todos Santos 5k
Carrera de Todos Santos 5K results
Carrera de Todos Santos 5K results
Carrera de Todos Santos 5k results
Carrera de Todos Santos 5k results

Day 4 Art Journal Challenge

Today’s work was to find a selfie from last year and draw it into your journal. I found a selfie I liked that happened to be a wefie but Burt’s presence is minimalized and I like the expression on my face. Bonus: no eyes to draw. Burt thinks he looks like an alien baby in the original. I think he looks like my accompanist.  Further down you can see another pair of selfie and self-portrait. I was so pleased with the first effort I thought I’d try another. I abandoned the effort when my face got all bulbous. Eyes are problematic but I still like the weird feel of the unfinished.

Rumpus room rehearsal
Not as easy as it looks.
Not as easy as it looks.

Growing Lessons 2017

Kids at Palm Beach
Kids at Palm Beach. Olive, the dog, on the right sitting watch.

Today’s prompt was to reflect on the growing lessons of 2017.  My inner critic lit up. She said, “Where’s the love? Lessons? Lessons means you fucked up…” The old adage of experience comes from bad decisions also rolled on by. The character building of mistake making. The endless list of ‘why did I say that?’ And I was all ugh…don’t wanna go there. I believe I have stopped learning from that negative critic. I still hear her but take what she says with more skepticism. I do have a sense I might be on the cusp of learning to forgive myself and others more readily when these blurts of mouth of micro-misjudgements cause pain. I am starting (not quite there) to feel an ability to let it go when someone says something harsh. The pain eases quicker and I know these kind of things they and I do are usually, almost always, unintentional. Recently I said something so stupid to a casual friend that I hoped she thought I was drunk. I finally confessed to Burt and he had me in stitches over how embarrassed I was over a silly, stupid utterance. But I could see the light of awareness. We all say really stupid shit. The mouth moves faster than the brain.

Then I sat with the idea of learning as a positive thing. After all, I study Spanish and am always proud of learning new words.I like to learn. Of course learning lead me to the kids here that Burt and I work with. And then I saw the love I had learned this year. What had I learned in 2017? What had I sought out and actually accomplished? My area of most important growth was obvious. It’s all over this blog. The kids that surround us in our neighborhood and my husband as enabler had shown me a way to have meaning in this wandering lifestyle.

I am proud of us (and Jolyn and Tom and April and all our adult helpers) and I am proud of the kids. Over the course of three seasons we’ve developed trust and friendship. In the past I disliked working with children. I taught many a kid their first roundhouse kick and kata in karate for over a decade. It was draining and uncomfortable for me. I rarely found joy. Now I realize why. Some might say American kids blah blah blah…I say it is free agency. No parental coercion. Our kids show up because they want to show up. And they have little else competing for their attention. Like when I was a kid. They are free range. The kids play in the streets. Their parents don’t always know who’s house they are visiting. Tuesday and Thursday are Burt and Susan days. Friday is art with Jolyn. They come, they go.

Kids need guidance and support to achieve skills like piano playing or black belts. Higher skills require consistency and practice. Adults usually have to push. Most of our neighbors don’t have wi-fi, laptops, computer games, or TVs. Many are bored. For some of them we are the only show in town. So we’re trying to be the best show we can be. Consistency is the key. We must be consistent. The kids can learn to rely on us. Classes are regular and repetitive. Success is built in.

This was a new lesson in showing up. I long ago learned showing up meant I could learn a skill. Now I have learned its a way of finding love and meaning.

Many thanks to Burt for being both the sandpaper that smooths me and the blackboard to create with.




Welcome 2018

Here's a peek in my art journal.
Here’s a peek in my art journal.

2018 is here. 2017 left quietly from the goat pen. Scattered neighbors sent the old year away with firecrackers as is the norm here. Last year I participated in Zöe Dearborn’s Art Journal project and I’m doing it again this year. If you want to join in you can follow along on Facebook. It was a very rewarding and demanding in January of 2017. Well worth the effort. Every day for the month of January Zöe sends a prompt for us to journal about. Today’s assignment is to write about what we loved in 2017. Then to write about what we want to love in 2018. Afterwards we are to circle significant words and draw a picture or several of the significant words. My picture is above. The words are incorporated here with slight revisions for readability. Journal writing is more stream of consciousness than blogging. Hard to believe if you read this regularly but I do try to make it readable. So off we go…

What I loved about 2017…

1. Mimi, Olive, and Elvis all lasted the year. It was not a given. It never is; Mimi is 19; Olive survived a poisoning; Elvis is a a big dog of 12. I am very glad they all are here with me this morning.

2. My dad has found new love.

3. Burt and I were able to travel and do so many different things together.

3.a. See the total solar eclipse in Oregon surrounded by friends and music.

3.b. Visit Spain, art, food, history

3.c. Italy, art, food, history

3.c.1. pantheon

3.c.2. walking Amalfi coast

4. Work in California (Hello Ursulaululates), Oregon, Washington, and Arizona

5. Portal Irish Music Week

6. Saw so many loved ones this year. Our immediately family in Europe and Montana. Scattered dear friends all over the U.S.

7. I loved missing Mexico so much. I missed teh neighborhood children. I constantly looked forward to seeing them again.

8. That we returned to Mexico sooner rather than later.

9. That we went to the Galapagos and saw so much beauty and so many animals.

9.a. marine iguana

9.b. land iguana

9.c. penguins

9.d. fiches, finches, finches

9.e. snake

9.f. fishes and octopus and sea lions

9.g. lava gulls

9.h. lava herons

9.i. I could go on and on

9.j. oh, yeah, blue-footed boobies

10. That Burt and I continue on in a relationship as good as I know. That we struggle to understand and support one another. That we try to bring love and kindness to each other. That we support each other. That we still do the deed.

I am a very lucky woman. I could go on all day about what I loved in 2017. I feel success in building the life I want to have. A life of meaningful work and fun and beauty.

For 2018 I want to be able to love many of the same things but I’d like to add some external things:

1. I want more kindness and generosity of spirit in the world.

2. I want political change in the US. I’m not talking parties. I’m talking love, kindness, support, healthy environment, health care, peace.

3. More travel with Burt (Hello, Galapagos).

4. More music with Burt (First gig announcement soon).

5. More peace for all of us.

6. More work and play with the neighborhood kids.

7. Continued good enough health.

8. I’d love the pets to all see 2018 through but I’m not sure that’s the best for them. We’ll take that month by month.

9. And, of course, health and love to my friends, family, and dear readers.

I recommend this exercise even if you are not in the project. I have a warm glow thinking about the good. It was a very good year for us.


I blew it and it was unintentional

Burt’s been studying Spanish with an on-line program called Duolingo. Duolingo keeps track of how many days you log in and practice. If a student makes it to ten days in a row they get extra points added to their score. You can use points to upgrade the all free features. Burt says he’s setting a record of one day streaks. I guess  I just hit reset around here, too, and it was simply forgetfulness. I had a window in my very busy day and when that window arrived I did diddly. It didn’t even pass through my mind. What does that tell me? Time for a mini-break.

Yesterday was tennis at 8:30. Sunday morning is a round robin event that gets on our nerves. We rarely partake. Too much yakking not enough playing. We did it any way. Some people like to socialize. I like to do stuff. I was even asked to explain how I can be involved in all the activities we are involved in and my disdain for hanging with people. I was like, “Seriously?” To me this is unexplainable. If a person can’t understand loathing chatting and loving singing a song or chasing a tennis ball or playing cards there’s a wide gulf in socio-perception between us.  Doing something with people is fun. Talking about things with more than one other person: agony. Okay, maybe two other people and Burt is okay. Call me an introvert that likes to play and work. No small talk, please.

After tennis, which ended at 11:00, was the break. Of course, we ate lunch. Then we lounged. Brain discarded all thoughts. At 2:00 we played music at a memorial service for a guy we barely knew but was a fixture in my daily life. Brian used to come to our shows when they were at the local pizza joint. He lived in teh RV park where I take yoga. I saw him several times a week. We’d say, hello and exchange pleasantries. Cue social agony. With nothing more to say I’d usually head for home. Brian was very nice and very helpful. His last major ‘help thy neighbor’ feat was helping Rosemary and Ed strap their camper onto their truck. He was dead four days later. He even joked with Rosemary (she and Ed are much better at chatting with people. That’s why they can be campground hosts and we can’t.) that he might not live to next year. He knew (and I did) that he was very ill. Rosemary had not heard the news.

So we played his memorial feast and got a great gift in return. Brian did not like music but he came to hear us because Althea and Paty liked music. Althea was his wife and Paty was their neighbor. He once told Paty, “I don’t like music, but I like the Gypsy Carpenters. They are real. They are working man’s music.” There you have it. A gift of appreciation from the dead. We are working class and proud to have included a former commercial fisherman in our fold of fans. We played his favorite song Sixteen Tons.

I hope today’s blog was worth the wait.





Woweeee, we made it. Day 31 of the 31 day Art Journaling/Blogging Challenge by Zoë Dearborn. Wow. Just wow. Years past this would have been very difficult due to data limitations. I feel compelled to thank Verizon for including roaming in Mexico in my data package. Thanks to you, dear readers, for following along. Several of you have mentioned you’ll miss the daily posts. I can’t thank you enough. I’m not sure how long I’ll continue the streak. Help me out by sending in your questions and ideas if you have something you want to know. It can be about the natural world or my inner life or anything else. All ideas considered.

Today’s subject is commitment. This month has found us neck deep in commitments. I like it this way. We’ve got each other and the Olvis and Mimi. We’ve got tennis and music and Spanish. The neighborhood kids. We count on them and they are counting on us. As I search for something to say to sum up the writing and thinking and feeling of this month I come up with that aphorism of a few days ago, “Just show up.” My commitment is to continue showing up. Here on the interwebz, at my classes, for the kids, on the fretboard of life. And I commit to putting out oranges for the birds. I hate chores but I’ll commit to slicing open and putting out oranges even though it makes my hands feel sticky and I’m scared of the knife. It’s a really big knife. The rewards are worth the discomfort and risk. It’s  an analogy for writing and life.

This practice has shown me how much I enjoy thinking and writing. It’s renewed my interest in what I can learn by taking the time and working deeply even for just a short time a day. As I tell all beginning music students that ask our advice, “The secret is ten minutes a day, every day. An hour once a week will not get the job done.” Thank you, Zoë for prodding and feeding back and inspiring.

the kids in the neighborhood.
the kids in the neighborhood.
Our place in the world
Our place in the world

In Summary

Sunset at Roc's place
Sunset at Roc’s place

On January 1st we had just arrived in Pescadero, Mexico and I was wondering if I would lose my mind to the ant invasion. A month later I am on the cusp of completing a thirty-one day marathon of writing every day. It’s a first in the seven year history of this blog. I didn’t see that coming. Recently I’ve felt like I had nothing to say. I just needed a little motivation and some fresh ideas. Many thanks to Zoë for her stupendous work pushing us along. A long time ago I thought I’d love to be a newspaper or magazine columnist. Celestine Sibley of the Atlanta papers reeled me in with her clarity and down to earth observations of a regular life. Her writing made the mundane spiritual. When I started this blog I thought of it as my chance to be my own columnist. I could write about whatever caught my fingers as Burt and I wandered the country working and playing. Over the years I wished I had some things Celestine had that I lack: an editor feeding me ideas and creating a deadline, a copy writer clearing up my grammatical challenges, a wider audience (for more ideas), and a salary. This writing project gave me a wider audience, a deadline, and new ideas. I didn’t see that coming.

Today’s assignment is to take stock of what we’ve accomplished. My first post of the year exhorted us to be nice. I believed we are going to need a lot of nice. I still believe it. But I also believe we are going to need some backbone and deep reflection on our core values. It’s a time of action. I hope you all are doing what you can to make your concerns heard. Know that I am.

This month we achieved transition into our Mexican lives. We are playing tennis, teaching music, losing and learning at bridge, studying Spanish, eating well, staying cool and warm, visiting friends, doing yoga and writing. We have lost some sleep over our health insurance. We have grave concerns about the choices we will have to make if we lose coverage. We are grateful we have choices we can make. We can stay in Mexico where health care is affordable. We can move to a state that has a good public health system. We can try to get jobs with health insurance that doesn’t exclude pre-existing conditions. We shall see. We shall stay vigilant and try to make a rational decision if the system changes.

Two nights ago Burt and I went birding. Our friend Roc had texted about a flock of dark birds roosting outside his home every night. A raucous bunch of dark things coming in just at dusk. Burt and I thought, let’s go and figure this out as if we could do something a perfectly capable guy like Roc couldn’t do. Ha! We arrived at 5:30. Roc owns an organic farm halfway between town and the beach. His home is nestled in some palms and carrizal. The birds like the thick, bambooish carrizal. Burt and I quietly sat in two different spots. Burt on the roof overlooking Roc’s fields and me on the steps with Capi, Roc’s assistant. Roc was texting for updates from Cabo. Capi assured me the birds come every night. WE sat still. A Xanthu’s, an oriole, a white-winged dove. Nothing more for 25 minutes. Quiet. Darkness falling. Slowly darkness descends but them suddenly it is too dark to see. Right at that moment the tiny birds started darting from I-don’t-know-where and landing in the hedge not ten feet away. They were loudly singing and chattering. I could imagine them saying, “How was your day?” “Meh, some seeds, some bugs…the usual.” We couldn’t see anything but small black silhouettes. I tried to find the call on iBird. I made a recording of their nightly debriefing and emailed it from the scene to two friends in Portal, Arizona.  I felt like a naturalist using my skills at observation and problem solving. We realized there was no hope of a visual spot. The birds all disappeared deep into the bushes. We went home.

I listened to my recording and compared it to the ones on my phone. I narrowed the bird down to a sparrow. It sort of made me feel better. I can hardly identify sparrows during the day. A night ID would be impossible. The next morning the word came back from Portal that indeed it was a flock of sparrows. White-crowned sparrows. Oddly, coincidentally, ironically? White-crowned sparrows are one of the few I can identify in sufficient light.

Here’s the obituary for Celestine Sibley. She had quite a career.