From Hand to Mouth: One Mans Dream

The coolest thing about being on the road, often times, is the people that you meet. Our van draws a lot of attention and inquiries. If we wanted to be stealth…we’ve failed.

Most often the people asking are in the process of, or have already built out their own van. Some are dreamers, some envy our life, some think it’s cool. Some come around the corner in a parking lot, beaming smile, and ask for a tour. This story is about a happenstance meeting, as described above. A prearranged, karmic meeting, of a gal with a beaming smile, in a parking lot, took the tour and asked for our help. She offered us refuge on a 365 acre plot of timbered terrain, bought 30+ years ago by her husband.

It was early July 2021, COVID was mostly under control, although still a threat. We agreed to take her up on her offer and set out for Bandon and Coquille, Oregon. We talked about what we thought we might find and how much time we would dedicate. Someone shared their knowledge with us, it’s time to give some of that back.

When we pulled up to the house, written in purple paint was ‘Welcome C&J’. We have decided that if a local asks us to have dinner or stay on their property, we would take them up on the offer, if for no other reason than to see how the locals live. Be open to the hospitality offered. This was a little above what we had anticipated.

Jennifer was home and greeted us like long lost family. We sat down and chatted until her husband came back from The Homestead. The Mountain Homestead, this was what they called the 365 acres of a permaculture, unadulterated timberland that they own. It’s now protected by a conservation easement. Chip arrived and here stood an old hippie-type that showed his joy in his laugh and smile. We all sat down for dinner and talked for hours then retired.

The next morning was van day! We all went over what it was they wanted our help with. Chip and I ran all over the small town to try to find a few parts we needed. Small towns don’t offer much for van building or 12 volt conversions. We managed to pick up some of the items we needed but had to turn to Amazon for the rest. We managed to run the wires out of the circuit board and up to where the main power control would be (for lights and fans, etc.) and ground the electrical system. As usual, it took almost all the day to accomplish just those simple tasks.

We had two days till the parts would arrive so we opted to move up to the Homestead to wait out the weekend. We all made plans and headed out for the Homestead in Coquille, a 30 minute drive.Chip proudly drove us up to the property and we parked the van at our weekend retreat.

My imagination was running wild as we drove on towards this little piece of heaven. I couldn’t begin to wonder how Chip felt thirty years ago when he chose to purchase this land for conservation sake, never to be clear cut. A small piece of nature he could call home and share with like minded people. His plan of a permaculture society was real, his dream, his passion. Not many people can have a dream and see it to fruition.

Upon arriving to the turn off, the thick forest quickly closed in, a small creek flowed beside the road, birds sang, and the air was fresh and heavy with the sent of earth. The road was a single lane dirt road that in the beginning was just a deer trail into the property. Chip told us of how the realtor, he and his wife, all trudged threw the forest, crossing the creek and emerged into this wonderful clearing, now the main hub of the Homestead. How he worked hard to pay it off and create a community, build buildings, create a garden and bring fresh spring water to the main compound clearing. How his idea came to light and for a long while lived happily off his hard work and the land. You could feel the passion and see the joy this all brought him as his eyes sparkled and he became animated.

The first thing that we saw as we rounded the bend into the opening, was a terraced opening surrounded by 75’ pine, spruce and fir trees. Several rustic structures hugging the hillside, surrounded by fruit trees, herbs and a huge garden area, including a hoop house type greenhouse. The sound of silence. The birds chirping wildly. I felt a resounding sense of the Mother.

All the wood and materials sourced from the land. There is a full saw mill on the property where they made the wood planks. Tin and plywood made up most of the roofs. They have a root cellar, garden room, tool room and workshop under the main structure. Wood stoves provide heat in the rooms. They have composting toilets, and pump spring water to the property for drinking. There’s a full array of solar panels providing enough electricity to run a washer and dryer. An amazing feat of ingenuity, and a lot of planning. They lived on the land for 27 years until an allergy and illness, caused by a sensitivity to mold spores, caused them to relocate.

We walked around the property with Chip as he tenderly told the story of each building, the memories, the triumphs and heart aches. We picked and ate fresh blueberries, cherries, and huckleberries. We parked the van in a field of camomile and made this lovely piece of heaven our home.

Tall Trees, Deserts and Quiet rivers

We’ve made it to Oregon (June 2021). We’ve been back on the road full time for two weeks. We’ve meandered across Idaho’s western side, checking out the sights we never had the time to experience. We had just come back to Salt Lake City to do some business, get our COVID shots and see some friends and family.

I am really torn between wanting to go back to Salt Lake. I really miss the physical presence of my friends and family. During COVID, it was hard to be distant, but the thought that, what if I caused a friends death or illness, always lurked in the back of my mind. Leaving Salt Lake a year ago, that first month or two, ripped my heart out, not being able to have a party, to give everyone a hug and even go to a communal campfire. Let’s just face it I love to be held and to hold, to share stories of the road and a beer.

Sorry for the ramble…

I don’t know if there is a right way or a wrong way to “become a vagabond” a “wanderer”, part of the allure is living off the clock. I know I’ve said it before, but not having a set schedule is more conducive to my mental state. The lack of deadline stresses, fear of letting someone down, rush, rush, rush… now we pick a direction and head that way.

We have maps and Apps, books and sometimes cell phone service, these all act as guides, but we now have the time to explore that dirt road to “somewhere?”… stop and take a nap when we are tired. If we see a hot spring or lake on the map, we may make that our destination for the day, which may turn into two, three or even a week…or it may be a bust.

What drives us to pick a place and stay? I was asked this question by more than one of our followers. Trash, weather, bugs, sound, people, cost, and access to water are all deciding factors. Of course we have to be able to access it with our van and trailer as well. We are 11’ tall, 8’ wide and 35’ long (but we bend in the middle). At times we seek out the most remote area we can find and have to get out our mountain bikes to check out the road and clearances, as well as someplace to turn around. It sucks backing up a 1/4 mile with a trailer. Good news though, Chris is learning how to back up a trailer!

We look for silence that is deafening, bird song, the sound of water, open space, tall, LIVE, trees in the mountains, shade in the desert, access to water, and a sense of safety and security.

What drives us out of a spot…even after picking the perfect spot…bugs, gun shots, people, noise, weather and other factors beyond our control. These things often come up after a night or are noticeable within hours.

We both crave silence. Normal nature sounds are welcome. You can hear yourself think. We perform our daily duties like a well oiled machine and most things are done without the need to speak. On the other hand, we have meaningful dialogue when off grid.

I will often get immersed into the nature that surrounds us. It is a means of creativity, an inspiration to dream. The life of a wanderer is never lost… perhaps temporarily delayed or caught trying to find the next shiny object.

It’s raining and we are confined to the van for a bit. The thunder and raindrops make us feel like we are playing tent. It makes us feel alive! The rain on the roof of the van, the smell of wet earth, the crackle of a campfire…the birds all vying for the loudest call, and being able to identify the bird by its call. The desert and spring time flowers. The landscape so beautiful I wrestle with the words to describe its grandeur. The sound of the winds. Each of these seeps into your soul until a city becomes a strange land of traffic and sounds, rushing people, such that you wish to do your business and move along.

Our world has changed in so many ways. Our lives are slower and more meaningful. Our demons hide from the joy of living! Living like pioneers on the way to the next new land or adventure.

6/15/21

Repositioning

Life on the road is no cake walk. Compromise, silence and space, solitude and good old Mother Nature. A tough re-entry into the world of civilization and then back to our happy place.

Leaving the back roads and beaches of Mexico was… in itself…hard. It was in essence the hot and humid weather and the need for COVID-19 shots, that drove us back to Utah. We have been officially off the “road/van life” for a month now. We have been doing service projects for friends and family and van fixes …including one very inconvenient tow, all month. May 2021, has been Service Month… literally.

We have helped with a remodeling project.

We helped recondition and sell a speed/ski boat.

Assisted a great, close friend to buy a new car. Helped our sister and brother-in-law get a good deal on two great eBikes and of course, we both got our vaccinations for COVID-19.

The spread of COVID-19 has slowed in the US. People are being vaccinated. We spent more money than our normal monthly budget for unexpected van repairs, spent a few nights in long stay hotels, and had to give up the van twice for two different repairs, one, after a minor mishap with the trailer.

My body has decomposed in this month, it’s shed thick calluses off my feet, lost at least half of its once healthy glow, my sinuses blazing with rivers of snot from seasonal allergies, lungs full of said rivers. My mind has shut down as things around me change, and I’ve all but shaved my head.

The routine has changed from outdoor living in peace and solitude, a primordial existence with Mother Nature, to City life. Now, four hard walls with a shingled roof, flush toilets and showers on demand with plenty of hot water, shelter us.

We ran to Kara’s house, loaded up the Hyside raft we sold, the IK we sold, the oar frame on the new roof rails, everything else suspended from the ceiling of the trailer. All the toys in one heavy ass trailer. It sucked the gas mileage from North Salt Lake, UT to Twin Falls, ID to under 9mpg… keeping it at an avg. of 68 mph. SUCK…

I drove the whole way with gusty tail winds, strong head winds and strong sideways burst…nuts! The Memorial Day holiday traffic is evident, from seeing 3 crashes south bound in Utah, to plenty of slow traffic driving north. We listened to an ebook talking about how US drivers fall asleep or just plain old don’t pay attention because our straight roads are hypnotic.

Nothing in the outdoor recreation world has changed since COVID-19. The prices of the recreational equipment, led by the demand and short supply, is up by thousands over retail value. That’s what has lead us to the west side of Idaho, a place we’ve yet to experience. Once we offload the extra weight we will head back to the Northern mountains of Idaho to decompress… as has become our norm… 3 days of mostly silence between talks of destinations and a sorta plan… at least a direction. Time is of no urgency unless a set destination is planned.

We spent the first night at a Harvest Host golf course right on the Snake River and a beautiful river gorge.

The silence is welcome. All 3 of us, Gandaulf included, need to hear nothing but the wind, river, birds, crickets, our own breath and heart beat. Until the controlling and aggressive “city personalities”…calm down and a synchronicity of calmness and kindness resumes… this is how the re-entry, repositioning, has been. Sometimes you just need a little space. Doesn’t mean we don’t love each other. I can fight it or move through it, it’s always a choice, and 15-30 minutes of uncomfortability in a day… doesn’t ruin the whole day.

Not For The Faint of Heart

It was an early morning. I tried to sleep a little longer but the thoughts of the days activities wouldn’t play along. I woke up and said a prayer to the day and got out of bed. I looked at myself in the mirror. I felt a wave come over me of joyousness and acceptance of the path I am about to commit to.

It’s been a year of practice. A year of searching, changing and forgiveness of myself and others. Only one time before in my life have I ever felt this amount of calm spiritual contentment. I have learned to listen even if I disagreed. I have learned to find peace with myself. I have embraced loving kindness and compassion for myself and others. I am about to make a lifetime commitment to being the best person I can be not only for myself but others. To become selfless and accepting. It is my day to take refuge in the three jewels…the Buddha, Dharma and the sangha until my mind is awakened to the emptiness of calm abiding. What a magic moment.

The teacher explained the weight of this commitment and asked if we were sure that this

Path, this yearning to learn the dharma and follow its teachings, and to support the like minded sangha. We all confirmed. I now can join the ranks of the Buddhists working in the shadows for the benefit of all beings.

My heart and my inner most being has always been about surviving from day to day from a dark cloud that always has hung heavy over me. This practice has allowed me to find ways within to move past that dark place and reawaken a little girl in a way grown up body. To comfort and love her again. To be a more affirmative and positive person. Maybe I am a bit loud and brash but the heart is soft and has more love than a person deserves. Enough to spread the wealth and enjoy the journey.

The Child and The Noisy Forest: The Story of Cicadas

One morning a child woke from a peaceful dream, the forest was buzzing like nothing she had heard before. She swung her legs over the side of her hammock and looked around.

Everything looked the same…

She took a deep breath, following the air, identifying the smells…no nothing different.

She listened as the trees seemed to vibrate and hum a foreign sound.

The animals of the forest and streams became frightened. Squirrel ran to the sleeping place of the human child. Darting here and there, all in a tussle, Squirrel could hear nothing but the insistent buzzing of forest trees. It was driving him mad. “Please make it stop,” complained Squirrel to the child.

In just the most perfect squirrel talk the child promised to look into this strange occurrence of sound.

She packed just the right amount of food for a child her size and pulled a wicker pack she made out of a hole in the tree she called ‘home.’

She went in search of the black and white Magpie.

As she remembered a dream she had once about a caterpillar that turned into a beautiful flying creature. She remembered the cave paintings in her dreams. Perhaps it is this phenomenon that is causing the sound.

The Magpie appeared with a blue settler jay and they sat high on a perch in a lovely oak tree.

“What can we do for you today child?”

She went in to explain her dream and the buzzing in the trees. None of her friends had heard this sound. “I supposed since you eat in the trees you might know,” quizzed the child.

They had seen no caterpillar cocoons and only a strange hollow casing of an alien being, half mantis and half beetle.

The child was puzzled and quarried the two further, “Who else can know the answer to this?”

There is a fable told of a curse placed on an ancient beast. It would devour entire forests in a weeks time, leaving no shade for the baby birds. Huge trees died and grasses were stripped next.

The Jay said that only Mother could answer this question since it was long before their lives. The child thanked them and they flew off.

The child went to her favorite place to sit in quiet meditation. She asked for The Mother’s help. A day passed and she dreamed of walking through a canyon playing a flute. Above her was a hawk gliding on the currents. Soon her flute became the cry of the hawk and she saw through its eyes.

Many hundreds of moons ago, a witch came to the land and was made a deal by a prince. The lands were being ravaged by an ancient dragon that would consume the fields and forests. The animals called on the Witch to slay the ancient dragon. They paid a fair price for the spell and went on with their lives.

The witch found the dragons favorite watering hole and lay in waite. Sometime after the setting of the moon, in the inky blackness of night, the dragon appeared.

The witch had poured a potion into the water and the dragon soon froze in place.

The dragon asked the witch kindly to forgive its hunger and if it could, it would eat much less. The witch smiled and spoke a spell that caused the dragon to remain dormant for up to 15 years. The dragon was not happy and lashed out and the witch turned it into a small insect, and it would be imprisoned underground, only to emerge every 15 years.

The hawk released the child and she heard only her flute again echoing in the canyon.

She woke from this dream and ran quickly to the meeting place by the big lagoon. She explained her talk with the magpie and jay, her dream and the hawk.

The fear slowly faded from everyone’s minds. The sound of the creature under such a spell should be enjoyed.

Eventually one day a cold air blew from the north and the buzzing stopped.

Everyone settled in for the coming of the colored leaves.

The Child and The Sleepy Turtle: Grief Thunder, Lightening and Earthquakes

In not so recent past… maybe when the moon passed into the darkness two times in one cycle of time, the animals of the lands and streams had a feeling of dread.
The Mother Earth and Father Sky had lost a child and they wept and wept.
The sky lamented and huge clouds formed storing the mournful tears and heavy hearts
The animals could no longer see during the day and gathered in fear in the highest peaks as the tears began to rain down on the land
The child that lived on the beach, at the edge of the forest, saw the rage of the sea as the furry of the clouds made huge waves that thrashed the delicate sand.

The child knew her friends were in danger and ran over the ancient trails to the secret meeting place of the night seers. The night seers could see when the others could not.
They had special powers and summoned the animals and fishes of the sea.
The child was instructed to go to the lagoon and seek the Sleepy Turtle.
It was said the Turtle was the most ancient of all creatures… so ancient that the earth itself had been fooled by its slumber and grown trees and mountains on its very back.
The child knew this journey would take too long and went to find the falcon that lived in the side of the the canyon that held the great river of red.

The raven knew the exact place and agreed to help the child. She climbed onto his silky black back, held tight to the scruff of neck feathers and they took off.
The journey took the whole day and most of the night.
In the darkness of night, huge burst of light flashed in the sky and you could hear the the very breaking of The Mother’s heart.
The sky filled with streaks of light that flashed sometimes more bright than the sun. The heavens broke open and the rains once’s again flooded the land.
On the second day, the child arrived in the great canyon of the river.
There was a huge cave in the wall of the ancient exposed rock and the falcon sat waiting.

He had heard from the swallows of her arrival.
“How can I help little one,” asked the falcon?
The child told the story of the Sleepy Turtle and that only it could save the lives of the animals of the forest, deserts and streams.
The falcon looked at the sky and knew that there was little time left.
“I will fly faster than time,” said the falcon.
The child was grateful for the eagerness of the falcon to help her friends. She jumped onto the falcons back and he jumped off the cliff and soared so fast the world became a blur.
In less than the blink of an eye, they arrived, but where was the Turtle?
In a dream, the child was given a small pan flute by a native she met. He told her it would help her when she needed a miracle.

The child reached into her sleeve and there it was. She pulled out the flute and an enchanting melody shook the land. The earth shook, the sky rumbled and the clouds flashed.
Huge landslides tumbled down and when all was quiet… an eye opened like a giant mirror and the child saw herself but not as she knew herself. She was a beautiful woman with long hair as black and silky as the otters tail.
The eye blinked and more earth fell from the huge figure they were standing on.
The clouds flashed and the rain began again. The last of the trees and rocks fell away as the earth beneath their feet shook violently again.
A sleepy old turtle rose from the land and on its tremendous back was a whole world of lush green trees and high top mountains, deserts and valleys, rivers, lakes and streams tumbled down the craggy peaks on its back.
It opened its eye again and spoke softly in the child’s mind so only she could hear.
“Your friends are fine.”
The child let a single tear fall.
The turtle told the child that a deal had been struck with the elements created by the sorrow of Mother Earth and Father Sky.
The clouds flashed once more and the ground trembled but not a drop of rain fell.


Many, many long years ago, Mother Earth was a small child herself and was cast out by an old witch and her father was never seen again.
She was thrown into the primordial seas and left for dead.
The huge ancient beings with wings tried to save her, the fish of the ancient sea couldn’t hold her above the waves and angry wind blown seas.
Finally a giant otter appeared and knew the only creature that could save her and dove deep into the inky Black Sea.
All the fish and flying animals took turns helping the young child to stay afloat. She finally could no longer stay awake and drifted off into a deep dreamless sleep and slid beneath the water.
As the otter rose out of the darkness she brought with her a huge sea turtle that had been asleep on the sea floor for years untold.
It rose to the surface with enough fertile soil to sustain life and the small child. She grew and created a world of beauty. It was grief that has brought this suffering to your friends.

The turtle lumbered off to where the lagoon and forest met. The earth had risen up above the angry waters and her friends had gotten on with their lives as if nothing ever happened.
The child turned to the giant old turtle and put her hand up, the turtle laid his head gentle on her hand and he fell back into his deep, deep slumber.

Irresponsible Reality: Part Two Cultural Diversity

The wind finally blew us off the road but we made it a few more clicks closer to home. Chris knew this cute little place in Beaver to bed down called the DeLano Motel. It’s less than $80 usd all in. The guy that owns the place is a great business man of middle eastern decent. The place is cute on the inside and has a nice patina shall we say? The personal touch he put into the detail of the rooms reminded me of someone who takes pride in his business. In this rural area of Utah this motel would be known as “a dive hotel.” I’ve learned not to judge a book by its cover. The Hotel McCoy in Tucson, Arizona, has the same vibe. You drive into the McCoy Hotel and it is a converted storage shed facility. The rooms are retro in style and very quaint.

While in Mexico, we mostly lived in our van and boon-docked or dry camped. We always tried to find a local eatery or roadside taco shop to get at least one meal a day. It actually costs less to buy a meal out, than to buy all the ingredients and make it for ourselves. Once a week we needed to find a hot shower or a place to use our own and refill drinking water. You could always get a room for $17 usd and use it solely for the hot shower and flush toilet. Costs a bit more than a camp spot on the beach, but the hot shower makes up for it. You then can park the van in a safe parking lot. Score! Two birds with one stone.

The Bufadora Hotel in Acension, BCS, Mexico, was one of those places that was a cute “dive hotel” by European standards… but we aren’t in Kansas anymore Dorothy.

When we pulled into Acension, it was a normal windy day on the Pacific side of the Baja and guess what… We were stuck in the van by the hurricane force winds. We found the hotel by a referral from my cousin, who lives in Acension permanently, at least for now. They had two small rooms around the back of the complex. The room had a large double bed a window, night stand, ceiling fan, and typical plastic chair. The bathroom had a warm shower, depending on who was showering, and a flush toilet. Best part of the hotel was the patio area which ended up facing the perfect way to block the wind and enjoy the sun. Everyday we’d gather on the back porch and enjoy the sun and the view. The tide coming in would cause the waves to crash on the rock buttress and blow up through the natural blow holes. The sound was thunderous.

The owner is a well known savvy business woman, whose personal touches made you look past the rusted chairs, rotting fish corpses, and the garbage thrown over the cliff side. Culture… don’t pass judgement.

As you drive through the small towns all up and down the Baja, you see the squalor and the pride side by side. Children play, woman gather on the porches and prepare the big meal for the day. Bright colored clothes hang in rows on drying lines. I am but a passer by on my way to where ever the road takes me. I am in their country, a visitor with permission to explore. Our money is needed in the local communities and those towns that have learned to entice the adventurers, keep a clean area and put pride in every taco, quesadilla, and pollo they prepare for their clients do well. These people are very proud, and kind.

I fought the urge the first few days to be super vigilant and to not be plain old paranoid. Why? Fear of the unknown. Fear because of a prejudice that exists in the recesses of my mind from childhood and cultural conditioning. As I walked across the parking lot of our hotel last night in Page, Arizona, I can honestly say that I felt more vulnerable and fearful walking there than I ever did in the Baja. I never encountered a crazed drug addict with a gun or homeless people lying around. The locals took care to be quiet and respectful and take care of their own. So many horrible pictures painted by the media, state departments and travel advisors that when you see the reality of the kindness of the locals and the communities, you wonder if you’re in the right country.

The people we encountered were always friendly and eager to talk to you. If anyone engages you, local, nomads or transplant, better not be in a hurry. This relaxed pace is a way of life that spills over into everything. For example, if you order food or a drink, it will take some time for it to arrive but may be the best meal you’ll ever have, and after you ask for the bill, your pleasant mood will not be dashed… drinks and a full meal for four people… less than $300 pesos or $15usd. It’s hard to believe such good service and great food can be so cheap… by whose standards?

The conversation must be had… COVID in Mexico… we met a gentleman in El Trufino who came out of a clinic door and announced to us that he had just gotten his shot and he was proud to do his part. The man was thinking about others as well as himself. Every establishment took our temperature, required masks and cleaning your hands, before entering because COVID has effected so many families on the Baja, no one argues, travelers and locals alike. Some had lost their entire family on the main land. Everyone respects everyone. How kind. I know a country that could take a lesson from these kind, hard working people. Masks all around, even in outdoor settings. End of subject.

Religion and celebrations seem to always go hand in hand in most Latin countries. The predominant religion is Catholicism and these lovely people have made it fun! The traditional Mexican folk lore and celebrations have been incorporated into the catholic celebrations. Missionaries for hundreds of years have been trying to break this spirit but it seems that a compromise was made, or the Mexicans are just stubborn. This religious stance makes their family key. It was not unusual for an entire family of 9 to pile out of a Ford truck at the beach and spend the day swimming, eating and drinking. We always seemed to be included and they would send over the person who could speak the most English and ask us to join in. We were always served first as the family watched… a bit uncomfortable the first few times but how can you say no? Fresh ceviche anyone? There is a lot of hand jesters and laughing as we all try to communicate.

Traveling has afforded us with experiences beyond our wildest dreams. An open mind and acceptance can take you into a world feared by so many who don’t. “Women shouldn’t travel alone…”

“You will get mugged or worse…”

If I listened to the naysayers my life would be very boring.

Mexican families are matriarchal and no family would ever abandon their elder parents outside of their own home. The men respect women. Families are a community affair… meaning everyone makes sure that if help is needed for a struggling family, everyone steps in. In a way I truly think that they have much better respect for family of all ages.

My friends have moved to Loreto, settled in, and bought an 18 year old house and Louisa, who has been the housekeeper since, came with the house. She and her daughter had been taking care of the cooking, cleaning and whatever was needed since the house was built. Sound strange? Actually it is common to allow the house keepers to keep their job. It’s her livelyhood and source of income for 18 years. They want to keep their jobs and continue to be a productive member of the community, but also support her family. One of the hardest things for a traveler, seeker, an outsider to understand is we can completely ruin the lives of the native peoples if we try to impart our gringo views, meaning… our wealth and extravagant life styles are not theirs. We shouldn’t pity them or try to save them. Guidelines should be observed in tipping and paying for services. We could literally set them up to fail if you should move away. We all spend more when we make more. The concern is… the gringos can always leave.

There is so much more to say but we are coming up on our stop for the night. We just drove down a road in Beaver, Utah that had every religion covered. One denominational church sits beside a different and so forth and so on for 12 churches. I bet that only on Sunday, if ever, will this town wake up to the sound of the church bells. Those are things I will miss from our travels into the neighborhoods and supporting the local economy. I hope that things have changed… I am afraid though that my hopes will not be found so I will let things be as they are and just be.

Irresponsible Reality

Baja Decompression

Part One

I’m sitting in my van outside Kanab, Utah, USA, being pummeled by 30-50mph winds from the SSW… storms coming. I’ve been driving only an hour or so but it’s been a constant two handed battle against the wind. We choose to find the shelter of a grove of pinion and juniper down a well worn red dirt road off Rte 89.

We can’t go outside, the fine silt of red rock desert gets into everything… even if closed. Within a minute you’re seeking shelter as your eyes feel as if they are wrapped in wool. Another gust and a burst of red sand whips across the dirt road and into the side of the van. It’s just impossible to do anything so what better time to decompress.

Part One: The Landscape

I look outside the window of the van to a familiar yet foreign landscape from the desert of Baja California and Sur, let’s just call it “the Baja”. The greens, although vibrant, seemed muted in some way. The alien foliage and fauna of the Baja became like wandering through a page of a Dr Seuss book. The odd shapes and contorted tress, the giant cacti that made travel off road dangerous. One of my favorites is the giant Cardon Cactus, which was blooming when we left. I was told it only blooms at night and attracts bats to is succulent nectar. They fly to the flower, a large white multi petal flower that protrudes off the body of the main cactus, on a soft green, fruit like bulge, and the bats drink till they literally fall away as if drunk on its nectar.

The desert in the Baja was coming to life even under the cloudless skies. The plants have adapted to this unforgiving landscape and put forth a spectacular sense overload of heavy sweetness from the most delicate of flowers. Again, these small delicate flowers are also a feast for the birds and the bees. They buzz and flit and fly in and out of the trees and flowers, some looking for the flowers and others, those the flowers entice. In such a harsh environment the whole place thrives.

The sky, well the sky definitely rivals any cloudless high Rocky Mountain summer day. The key word is cloudless. The sun shines brightly 365 days a year. The humidity rises quickly through the day near the ground, only to be heated up, creating well placed clouds that create the most enchanting sunsets. These vibrant sunsets can turn the entire bluish green sea, into the most beautiful pink and golds. The sky and sea become one without a horizon.

The mountain ranges, always visible from any location on The Baja, are the work of some amazing artist. The newly formed peninsula, by a geological time frame, has the most diverse mountain ranges of anywhere I’ve ever seen in such a short relative distance. The bed of the ancient sea was thrust up by tectonic activity, pushing with it all manor of fossils and bones. The huge sea creatures that became entombed over eons now exposed in the rock slides of the ancient sea floor as it tumbles hundreds of feet and is exposed by the elements.

Some mountains bear the scars of mining, big corporate and small village operated co-ops. Others soar to the highest of heights and seem impenetrable. These lofty giants can catch entire weather systems and wring it out on one side or the other. The great arroyos are testament to the power and ferocity of these rains.

Further south, in Baja California Sur, there is evidence of volcanic activity. These beautifully sculpted mountains are verdant green from the constant humidity of this region of the peninsula. They have hidden entire stone Catholic missions and preserved ancient cave paintings from indigenous tribes of Cucupas and Puipui.

The sand on the southern beaches are softer and the seas range from a kite surfers dream, a surfers haven, a wave lovers and thrill seekers dream… to the calm blue green waters of The Sea of Cortez and Bay of California attracting lovers and fishermen, tourist and drug runners. The Sea pours into the Pacific and the two become undistinguishable.

My mind can still see all this clearly. Our two months exploring the Baja has waken a sleeping dragon, sparked creativity and created a deep spiritual connection with the very essence of this strip of land. Life here is an intricately choreographed dance of life and death and rebirth/rediscovery.

I focus my eyes back outside the van as a gust of wind shakes us and whistles through any space it can find. The beauty of this red rock desert, speckled with sage brush, tall lodge pole pines, stunted cedar, pinion and juniper, brings me back in touch with my love of the deserts of southern Utah.

The Child and the Coyote: Solar Eclipse

It was a beautiful end to a perfect day.

The animals of the forest, mountains and deserts all settled into their dens for the night.

A small child wandered through the forest, to the edge of the lagoon, and curled up under her favorite palm tree and fell fast asleep.

She dreamed of flowers and butterflies… soft clouds and warm sunshine…

In the morning she woke to the silent lapping of the waves on the shoreline, but something was missing.

The child looked around in darkness.

Where is the sun? Why is it not rising from the lagoon?

The animals of the forest were just as confused.

All the flowers stayed tightly closed, waiting for the sun to rise so they could show off their beautiful colors.

The animals ran around in circles, bumping into trees, and tripping on rocks.

The sky stayed dark.

The small child knew something was terribly wrong.

She sat at the edge of the forest and lagoon, unable to see in the inky blackness.

She called out for anyone who could see to help her.

She peered into the blackness but she heard nothing.

She felt a slight brush against her arm and turned to see the bright eyes of the wise old owl.

“My child,” he said, “how can I help?”

“Wise owl… something has happened to the sun,” she exclaimed. “My friends are unable to see and we must do something!”

“Let me see what I can do,” said the wise old owl and he flew off.

He flew to the den of the mountain lion.

The mountain lion had already seen the situation and the confusion of his family in the forest.

“We need your help to bring back the light to the forest,” the owl said.

The mountain lion had dreamed of this day and told the owl of his dream.

“It is the coyote,” the mountain lion explained.

“I have seen his game in my dream. He is up to being a trickster again. We must find a way to distract him. He has taken the moon and covered the sun. This was my dream,” the Mountain lion confided.

The owl and the lion used their extraordinary sight in the dark and went to the highest point in the forest.

All the animals listened carefully to the mountain lion.

When he was done speaking the coyote laughed out loud, giving away his hiding place, the trickster was had!

The birds, having special powers to fly in the darkness, honed in on the laughter and flew after the coyote.

The coyote, hearing the birds coming ran away in fear. His power fading as he ran.

All at once the moon began to slide away from the sun and the animals of the forest, streams, oceans and sky rejoiced.

The child was happy her friends could see again.

The owl, mountain lion and child made a plan… everyday the birds would find the coyote, surround him and sing loudly, confusing the coyote so he never again could steal the sun.

The Child and the Rainbow Paintbrush: A Creation Story

One night, in the land of whimsy and magic, a small child had the most marvelous dream.

The animals and small creatures of the forest and fields came to her.

The little child listened as they explained, in only language she could understand.

The small birds chirped wildly and the bees buzzed in swarms…even the small snails, ants and geckos had something to say.

It seemed the world was missing something very important and she listened with deep concern only a child could have.

She promised she would try to find a solution and went searching high and low.

Finally she came to a big tree… it was so tall she couldn’t see the top so she began to climb.

She tried not to be afraid as she got higher and higher.

All at once she heard a small voice…it was a spider hanging from her back legs on a silken thread.

“What brings you so high into my tree young one,” the spider asked.

The child answered, “I am looking for an answer to the small animals and insects of my small forest.”

The spider pondered and said to the child, “I know someone who can help, but you must continue to climb up my tree past the clouds and into the heavens.

The child looked up and was frightened but summoned up all her courage, fueled by her love for all her small friends, and with the help of the spider, began to climb higher and higher.

Finally, after a long time climbing, she cleared the clouds and looked around.

The sky above the tree was colorless and was blinding.

She could hear the swoosh of a birds wings coming closer and her eyes adjusted in time to see a huge hawk as it landed beside her in the tree.

The spider and the child told the story to the hawk, of her search for something for her friends, the small birds and insects of the forest.

The hawk told the child to climb on its back and she did, without hesitation, and the hawk spread his wings and flew off.

He knew the only one who could solve such a problem and he headed straight up and into the blank sky.

The child felt the power and protection of the hawk and fell to sleep, nestled in his broad neck feathers and dreamed a dream inside her dream.

The hawk came to rest on a tall mountain top, high above the clouds of the world below.

The child slowly was helped down and told to go into the cave that sparkled like a star, so she went off along a rocky trail until she saw it…

A cave so beautiful it sparkled like the night sky full of twinkling stars. The child couldn’t believe her eyes.

In the cave sat a small woman on a blanket of white buffalo hide, her eyes twinkled with a loving energy and his hair was as white as snow. She looked up softly smiling at the small child.

She walked over and the woman held out her hand and the child put her tiny hand in hers.

“What a small child to be carrying such a huge burden for your small animal friends,” the woman spoke in a quiet, even voice. “The love in your heart and the purity of that love has brought you to me, I am pleased.”

The small child was amazed the woman knew of her journey and her desire to help the small creatures of the forest. The child smiled.

The woman told the child to sit beside her and they would think together. All of a sudden rainbows began to emanate from the cave walls and circled the two.

The woman took a paintbrush from her cloak and captured the rainbows. She handed the brush to the child.

Next she waved her hands in the air and the sweetest smell filled the cave and she reached in her sleeve and pulled out a jar and captured the sweetness in the bottle and tightly closed the lid. She handed the jar to the child.

The child looked up at the small woman standing now before her. She reached out and touched her cloak and she spoke in a soft voice, “take these and go back to the forest and seek out the spider, she has the power to create and will need to instruct you on how to use these to help your tiny friends,” and in a burst of golden light she disappeared.

The child looked at the paintbrush and the bottle with wonder and returned to the hawk who quickly took flight.

Returning to the tree top, the small child thanked the hawk and he spread his broad wings and flew into the empty sky.

A small voice woke the child from her dream. Was anything the child remembered real? She put her hand in her bag there they were, the paintbrush and the jar.

“Oh spider, I am so glad you waited,” said the child.

The child told the spider the dream she thought she had but here were the items the small woman gave to her.

The spider laughed, “oh small human, you have met The Great Spirit Guru, she is the creator of all things, even you. Allow me to show you how to solve your problem,” and with that, the spider took the paintbrush and thought hard as she used the paintbrush to paint the sky blue and added a few white clouds.

The child watched in wonderment as the emptiness was transformed into a beautiful sky. She took the brush, and following the spiders instruction, thought hard and painted a brilliant sun. She giggled with delight.

The spider then helped the child back to the earth and she wandered back to her small forest.

She walked over to a green bush and with the paintbrush, painted a small object on it, then took the jar and poured out some of the sweet smell. She repeated this over and over again on trees, bushes and vines.

“I have been to see The Creator of us all,” said the child to her small animal friends. “The spider and hawk helped me to find the answer by taking me to her cave.”

The small animals, birds and insects circled the child and watched as she took out the paintbrush and thought hard, the answer came to her, like in her dream.

The small animals, birds and insects of the forest watched for days and days as the child worked.

She finished late in June, the time of the long, hot days.

The sweet smell of these beautiful things she created fill the air and the bees and birds were instantly drawn to them. Each was filled with nectar for the birds and pollen for the bees. Other small animals also delighted in this new thing.

One night, all the animals gathered around the small child in celebration and gazed up into the night sky.

The hawk and spider joined in the celebration.

The animals, birds and insects, all fulfilled, asked the child what was this life giving sweet thing she created?

The child looked to the spider for a creative name…

“I will call it a flower,” answered the child, after long deep thought.