Thursday, December 19, 2013

Where the road leads

I've heard that some of you have missed seeing new posts from me and so I figured I'd best get right to writing one. The last thing I wanted to do was OVER post but I suppose under posting is just as bad.

I'm still in Nashville.  Man, I can't believe how much it has changed in just three months.  I drove down the street near our local golf course and saw 3 new homes!  It was amazing. There are several huge cranes downtown that seem to be pulling buildings up out of the ground like inverted taper roots.  Guess that night time soap Nashville is drawing a crowd to this fine little city.  It would be easy for me to stay here in Nashville or to have stayed in NY for that matter because both are comfortable.  Yet are comfort and complacency too close of bed partners?  Questions, questions.

 A funny thing happened today.  I was running the water in the kitchen sink waiting for it to warm up so I could wash dishes and I laughed out loud.  In the 3 minutes it took for the water to get warm I realized that I had just let more water run down the drain than I used in an entire day on the mountain.  Hell, I probably took two baths in the amount of water I wasted-and just to switch on a light or the HEAT!  What luxuries.  How many of us give any of these things a second thought?  Now I've always had a soft spot for my washing machine (don't you have an appliance you thank each time you use it?) but the awareness of the conveniences that surround me was intensified because of living with so few of those luxuries on the mountain.

There is something else I've noticed since I've been back in civilization and that is the amount of time and money I spend shopping.  Without a doubt my feminine DNA is alive and well because it's a total nuts and berries thing.  In NY I hunted for wild mushrooms, picked apples and looked for sorrel.  Here in the city I scour Goodwill for just the right t-shirt, Radio Shack for a 1.5 amp fuse and Big Lots for the best buy on cat litter. It's weird because I wonder which world I belong in?

I use to work so hard to create just the right life and I did.  I did what it took and had everything I wanted.  At my class reunion a few years ago I remember feeling quite smug because I was there-pursuing music in Nashville, a beautiful home and married to the love of my life.  And now?  Now, I sleep in a trailer named Pork Chop parked in a friends' driveway or at a roadside Loves if I can't find a camp ground or I get the luxury of sleeping in a bed someone loans me; in NY I bummed showers from friends and stole apples for goodness sake; I washed my body in a cup of water and used a 5 gallon bucket for a toilet.  Now all of this is by choice of course.  I could have done what it took to keep my home, I could have built a career and maybe even have found a paramour here in Nashville.  It was my choice and I know it but still, when someone calls you a vagabond you have to wonder if you're on the right path!

Oh, I am on the right road.  I know it.  I know it because life is short and things change.  I won't be on this road forever.  Just a few years ago I was 18 and graduating High School, the next day I was 50 and divorced, for the second time.  One reason I don't question what I'm doing as much is because over Thanksgiving I saw my mom.  It was nice but it was difficult.  Bit by bit the world of a woman who as a newlywed, left a tiny mid-west town (pop. 90) on a bus and headed to Atlanta GA in 1945; a woman who later took an army freighter to Japan, on her own, with a new baby and one on the way.  Bit by bit my moms' world is getting smaller and smaller and it's sad.  Getting old and sick happens to all of us... Though I don't know where this road will lead, I do know that I must take it.

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and I, I took the road less traveled by
and that has made all the difference"
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Robert Frost

Monday, November 25, 2013

Run Away!!!!

Just a dusting but...
Bye, bye hammock

Winter showed her first flurry which meant it was time for me to move on or get snow tires.  I moved on.  Back to Nashville to fix a couple of things on the Pork Chop and to get rid of a bunch of stuff.  Seeing my friends down South is wonderful but I miss the friends I made in NY already. (Sigh).  I started this journey in order to find some answers but all I seem to have gotten thus far are 500 more questions.

What do life and love mean when you're over 50?  I'm learning to break many of my "rules" and to practice "flow" both of which are quite easy on a mountain with a handsome man while playing mountain mama.  Oh, it felt good to hang out on a hammock for a few hours a day and just be, and for breakfast to take 3 hours from starting to heat the wood stove until rinsing the final dish.  It felt good to pretend to love without expectation.  It felt good to imagine life permanently out of the mainstream.  But was I just kidding myself?  Was I just living out a brief fantasy and believing it could somehow be my new reality?

Cut with a chainsaw and chisel
My 10 day stay in NY lasted nearly 3 months.  For as much as I tried to let things flow, just be there and enjoy playing music and the company of a nice man, I was constantly battling the need to stick to my "plan" to the timeline I'd set for my journey.  Sort of reminded me of how my dad would torture us kids by driving straight through to where we were going on our family "vacations".  I frigging had nowhere to be but where I was!  My concern over my "future" caused me to miss being fully present for what I was experiencing on the mountain.  Now don't get me wrong, I was more present than usual but my old pattern prevented me from living in the moment completely.

People in, bears out
Home sweet home!
Life on the mountain was straight forward and unencumbered by materialism.  Looking at these pictures, the way my friend made the frame for this door with the materials at hand and even the fact that I lived in a tent for 2 months, it was crazy!  It was so simple!  So real!  It was another world.

Love on the mountain was spacious.  I know that sounds like a strange word but that's how it felt.  Love felt big and carefree the way it should.  At least it felt that way when I was in the moment and wasn't worried about "where we were going".

On the mountain I lived a peaceful, beautiful and intense world and I miss it.  The intensity of the mountain was nothing like the intensity of returning to a busy city.  I was caught off guard by the sensory assault.  The cars, planes, lights and people rushing here and feels so unreal and yet it is our reality.  Strange.  I don't think people realize how quiet the world really is, though even the mountain wasn't immune to the hum of humanity.  I found the city quite abrasive initially and yet, it's amazing how easy it is to slip back into and accept the constant barrage of noise.

Michelle and Coco
Crow Design
Yet, reality does call me and I must begin to think of how I am going to support myself.  It just so happens that by going with the flow and staying in NY longer than I thought I "should" have, I may have found a new career.  During the last month I was there I met a fine artist named Kelli Bickman who is starting a fashion line.  Check it out at---

I'm traveling, she needed a sales rep and things just fell together quite organically like the cotton fabric she uses to print her designs on.  I've never been an outside sales rep but there are a lot of firsts these days and so why not?  If I had stuck to my plan I wouldn't have this opportunity.  The worse that happens is nothing and the best thing that happens is I've found a great job with a great person who makes some pretty damn cool clothes!

Thanks for the photos Kathleen :-)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

...moving on

November has sneaked up on me and I find myself in dereliction of my posting duties.  Again.  In some ways I've been busy and in other ways I'm still practicing the art of underachievement.  Though the Pork Chop and I still remain in upstate NY we aren't living here without continuing our adventures.

...caught a fishing pole
Several weeks ago we went fishing up in the Adirondacks.  Everyone in the fishing party caught something.  Most people caught fish I however...

Ski jump from the Lake Placid Olympics
Cool digs

an Adirondack lake

a very unhappy camper

I did get two bites but was unable to set the hook and so I saw a couple of nice bass get away.  Next time fishy, fishy, next time.

The trip was also quite interesting because I was able to meet an elder from the Mohawk tribe.  He was a wonderful man, quick with a laugh and bright eyed.  He reminded me of the Dalai Lama.  I was hoping to receive some insight about my life but that's not how it really works.  Besides, I probably wouldn't listen to him anyway.

Halloween was a few nights ago and at one of the local establishments here put on a fabulous carved pumpkin display.  Check it out.
"Text home"
The many faces of pumpkin pie

Now I don't know if you can see the details but the display had 230 pumpkins that took two pumpkin carvers over a week to carve.  Yes, there are professional pumpkin carvers here and you thought I was kidding about the Skinny Dipping profession.  The carvings included Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, Darth Maul, Willie Nelson (at least it looked like Willie) and the dude from the Friday the 13th movies.

Happy Halloween

So here it is the first of November and I'm getting ready to move on.  No, really.  There are still some stunning fall colors left but winter is in the air and I packed summer dresses, not insulated pants.  Perhaps I've stayed too long but I've really gotten the flavor of the people and the town and I have to admit, if this weren't my first stop, it could very well have been my last for several reasons.

Yes, I have met a man.  I'm fairly sure that comes as no surprise.  The girlfriend I came here to visit introduced me to several of her single male friends but there wasn't much mutual interest until I met "boots".  When she  introduced us and said this is the guy who lives in the tepee I thought, "oh good".  The interest went both directions and we've had a great time together, so much so it's quite hard to leave, literally.  You saw the video where we got the Pork Chop up the mountain and getting her down from there is just as challenging.

The second reason I've been sticking around is because I've started to play guitar and write songs again.  I've even had the chance to play with some local cats.  What fun!  I can't tell you how wonderful it feels after nearly 5 years of playing very little and writing even less to be playing and writing nearly every day.  I haven't done that since I was a teenager.  All the other stuff, worrying about the bills, how I'm going to make a living and where I'm going to live, all that stuff just falls away during the moments I am wrapped in my music.

Something is beginning to happen to me up here.  I'm beginning to wonder what is real to me verses what I seem to have been programmed to believe in.  Work hard, save and retire when you're 65 so you can do what you want.  How many of those people either (a) never make it to 65 or (b) end up with some disease that makes it impossible for them to do the things they wanted.  Does playing by the rules really get us the safety and security we seek?  I wonder.

Being off the grid and having to take a bath with a bucket, learning that one meal is a three hour process that starts off with getting the wood stove up to cooking temp and ends up by having to manage the water to do the dishes.  Chopping wood and carrying water, cleaning out the ditches along the roadside up to the tepee, and stealing apples...yes, I have become an apple thief!  A friend of mine from Nashville said I needed to do something bad.  I wonder if apple abduction counts?
Anyway, life off grid and playing music feels so true and real compared to managing the modern world.  One day all I could think about was how unreal money was, how we all agree it is worth something, give a lot of our time and energy to be a distribution point between our employers and the bill holders we owe.  Yet in reality money is useless, it can't feed you but knowing how to catch, gut and cook a fish can.  It can't clothe you but knowing how to clean and tan a hide can.  Money can't make a shelter but knowing how to bend saplings into a structure you can cover with tarps can.

It must sound like I am truly slipping over the edge.  Honestly, I can't say for sure what is happening to me.  I'm away from the electro-magnetic frequencies and much of the background noise that permeates our lives.  I'm sleeping more than 8 hours on a regular basis and eating very well.  Life is slower, to do anything takes longer and...I don't know, I'm wondering if it is the life for me.  Can I really do it?  Without a doubt, I can not do an off grid life alone but one of the hardest facts to face is that I still have to make money.  Though I spent one day playing with the idea of money being unreal, the fact seems to be that no matter how far you are unplugged, a person still has bills.  I suppose I could forgo my phone or my car but I don't want to.  So, I don't actually know how off grid I could really be because it's not all hammocks and yummy dinners.

My truck in the ditch heading up the mountain
The off-grid life is very real and quite scary.  The other day I sliced some skin off my thumb with an ax.  If I had hit my hand differently I could very easily have cut my thumb off.  There was no one around and it's two miles down a road that reminds me of the Indiana Jones ride in Disney World to get off the mountain.  I probably would have gone into shock before I reached the bottom.  Thank goodness I didn't cut myself too severely.  A few nights ago a wind storm came through and peeled off one of the tarps on the tepee.  There are several layers on the tepee but still, a howling wind and a flapping tarp make for a restless night sleep.  At one point it seemed like the flapping tarp was God tapping on the tent saying, "Hi?  Hello?  Can you feel me?  I'm wild out here."  It was crazy.  Almost as crazy as the bear in the tepee.  Oh, I didn't mention the bear?  One morning I was awoken by, "Bear? What are you doing?"  I sat up just in time to see the hind quarters of a teenage bear running away.  So as you can see, tepee living is living on the edge.   Granted, having a cabin would be more secure but the isolation, the intimacy with nature and the creatures that surround the homestead are still all very real.
Hornets helping me with my kombucha

I am so fortunate to have had the chance to live off the grid with such an experienced man.  I have had the opportunity to live in quite a primitive way and to be honest, I have loved it.  I have loved it because every aspect of life from eating to pooping, wind storms to bears has been in my face, and real.  All in all my first stop with the Pork Chop has been quite successful and beyond anything I could have expected or planned.  I am sad to be leaving my new found friend and the life we've shared over the last couple of months.  I will miss the people I've met and those I've been playing music with.  Still, I look forward to learning more about myself as I continue on this journey.  Though honsestly, the next stop may only be as far as the New York state line where I turn around so I can head back up the mountain.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


I was laying in a hammock
naked and looking at the bluest sky
the breeze had invited the branches of a willow tree to dance
and they willingly said yes,

nothing, no thoughts what-so-ever
were pinging between or around the nerves of my brain
and then I noticed it
in the nothingness I became a human

the way a tree is a tree
or a stone, a stone

in that moment I was a human being
just being

nowhere to go
nothing to accomplish
no plan to be planned
i was busy
very, very busy
a human 
just being 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

How complicated simple can be

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I would tell you about the trouble with the paint job.

As you know one of my skills as you know is that of being a pretty decent carpenter.  I have remodeled several homes and the thought of taking on a 70 square foot trailer was not that threatening.  When tackling any project, if I was unsure about what to do, I would either ask for suggestions as to how to do something or I'd bring in someone to help me.  The latter was the case with spray painting the outside of the trailer.

The man I hired was a painter but he had never done metal painting like the kind he would be attempting on the Pork Chop.  Did his lack of experience concern me?  Yes, it did.  But I figured, "How bad can it be?"  People, people, people, if you say "How bad can it be," the answer is usually pretty bad and to repair it will cost you time, money or both.
The painter painted the trailer and there were runs all over it.  My beautiful little Pork Chop looked like a Pollock painting gone bad.  I was frustrated.  I had worked hours and hours on sanding and stripping the old paint off, repairing holes and pounding out dents in the old girl as much as I could.  I primed her with metal etching primer and meticulously painted the window frames and aluminum trim pieces.  All those hours, all that work only to have my beautiful little Pork Chop looked like a Pollock painting gone bad.  I was frustrated.

The good news is that in construction almost much anything can be fixed.  Like I said however, it'll just cost you time, money or both and in this case, it was both.  After a couple of days drying time I came back to the shop, sanded out the runs and once again, the skin of the old was smooth and ready to be repainted.  The painter came back a few days later with a different type of spray gun and I ended up with a nice paint job.  A paint job I should have left well enough alone.  But no, not me.  I had a plan, a vision I wanted to create with the Pork Chop and those who know me, know I will do what it takes to create my vision no how obsessive or painstaking the work may be.
The Pork Chop had long ago become far more than a restoration project, it had become an art project.  To complete the idea for exterior paint job, I wanted to add graphics to my little piece of aluminum love.  I envisioned a kind of Frank Lloyd Wright design that would pay homage to the original style paint job and incorporate and impression of the signature Shasta "wings".

The completed paint job
The industrial complex where I worked on the trailer was full of all kinds of artists, craftsmen and businesses and I used many of them in the course of this project.  A talented graphic artist specializing in signs suggested I use vinyl stencils as templates instead of the more geometric design I had in mind.  I thought about it and decided to pick out some stencils that would emulate the Shasta wings better than my original design.  Similar to the painter, the graphics guy had no experience in painting on metal but why would he, that wasn't what he did.  Still, "how bad could it be?"  Does that statement concern you?  It certainly should have concerned me.
Decal removed

Stencil decal applied to trailer

He made the stencils, I cut them out and applied the vinyl sticky paper to the trailer.  After painting on an automotive clear coat to help prevent seepage, I applied the black paint and removed the stencils.  All four sides of the trailer had graphics and they looked cool.  Yep, they looked cool but as we peeled the stencil away from the surface,  the black paint came off with the vinyl.  I was frustrated but as with any other mistake on a construction job, pretty much anything can be fixed.  It just takes? Yep, time, money or both and in this case it was just time, lots and lots of time.  Approximately 50 hours.  Watch the following videos.

My next attempt at the graphics led me to an automotive airbrush guy.  I told him my story, not only of the graphic catastrophe but also of my plans for traveling.  Being an adventurous person himself, he loved what I was doing and wanted to take on the job.  He looked at the stencil design which I asked  him to emulate but gave him artistic license to embellish as he envisioned.  When I returned a week later and saw the paint job, I liked it but it wasn't what I had in mind.  I couldn't really be angry with the guy because I wasn't very specific.  The design was fun, kind of Gothic looking but not really me.  At this point I was so frustrated with the entire paint fiasco that all I could think to do was to just leave well enough alone and get on with the trip.  I thought I could live with design and I did...for about three weeks.

That my friends brings us to date.  During my stay in Upstate NY I painted over the graphics and now the Pork Chop is back to the state she started with.  She is simple.  She is a black and white piece of trailer history rolling down the road.  No one but you and I know how complicated simple can be.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A taste of the better life

So, I left you with views from the "restaurants", the mysterious "boots" and solving my battery charging situation.

About the electricity-
The road is calling and I'm still waiting for my solar panel to come in.  With luck I'll see it on Thursday. (If it takes much longer than that, I may not leave Upstate NY at all.  It's beautiful and the people are great.)  The buses, fuses and an outlet are wired and as soon as that solar panel comes in I will connect a diode between the solar panel and the battery, mount the panel on the Pork Chop and go. I must confess, I found it very difficult to wrap my brain around the entire electrical situation.  I managed to figure the system out by piecing it together one piece at a time. 

The entire electrical installation completely lacks elegance and is probably not done as efficiently as possible but I don't think I'll catch the Pork Chop on fire.  Besides, I installed a fire alarm and a carbon monoxide detector.  If one of those suckers goes off in 70 square feet I won't die from the fire or the carbon monoxide, I'll die from a heart attack from the alarms being 5 feet from my head.

The "restaurants"-
As far as the restaurants go there have been a few more spectacular views but I think you get the gist of it.  Again, it's beautiful up here and the leaves are starting to change into the golden and crimson hues of the fall.  These days I've been spending less time hiking and kayaking, and more time with my guitar while experiencing living off the grid.  And that off-grid "homestead" is the best restaurant to date and has provided some of the yummiest meals I've had in my life.

Off the grid-
One of the main things I wanted to experience on this journey is life off-grid.  How fortunate that I was able to live that life right at the start.  For the past several weeks I've been off-grid with no electricity, running water or dial manipulated heat.   Heating and cooking are courtesy of big old wood stove and a 6'3" mountain man.  I wash myself in a shallow 12x16x8 inch plastic tub and pee in a 5 gallon bucket.
The place is 2.5 miles up a forest road and the homestead is a tepee.  Is that cool or what?  This tepee is not your traditional cone shaped canvas type of place, it is shaped like a Ferengi space ship (from Star Trek Next Generation) and is made of tarps.  The inside structure is designed in a traditional NE Native American fashion out of bent saplings that are laced together.  The floor is made of large, flat and loosely placed stones.  It's like you're walking along a stream bed.  You really have to watch your footing, especially at night because one trip up could land you on the wood stove.

Suffice to say, I'm learning a lot.  Water usage is a prime example of what you need to keep an eye on.  We drink water from a near by stream and it must be brought back to the tepee in five gallon jugs.  I was hesitant at first because I was concerned about Giardia but now, I prefer the stream water.  There is no chlorine nor fluoride and it tastes fresh and alive.  The difference in city water verses water out of this stream is amazing.  I recently read a book about how the energy of water crystals react to words written on the sides of the container it's in.  With words like "peace" and "love" the water forms beautiful snowflake type crystals.  Words like "hate" and "violence" create these ugly malformed globs.  Who knows.  All I can say it that the "alive" water feels incredibly nourishing.

The best thing about being up the mountain in the tepee shaped like a Ferengi space ship is the peace.  Oh, and the stars. The other night we laid under a sleeping bag and star gazed in 45 degrees.  It was cold but how long has it been since you've just watched the heavens and kept an eye peeled for shooting stars?  It seems my energy is changing the less I am surrounded by the EMF's (electromagnetic frequencies) of our everyday lives.  I don't think we realize it, at least I didn't, but the constant barrage of noise, electrical current and over all sensory stimulation is taxing on the human physiology to put it mildly.  I spent 3 days on the mountain without any stimulation except for my guitar and when I had to come down, drive and go grocery shopping I found it more stressful than I would have thought.  And this is a small town with no traffic at all!

A person feels a renewed kinship to nature and the rhythm of life by having to make sure that dinner and pretty much everything else you need to do is done before it gets dark.  If you miss your window of opportunity not only will you be eating by candlelight, as beautiful and romantic as that is, you will also be doing dishes while stumbling around on an creek bed floor by that same candle glow.  I wouldn't trade this experience for the world.

The Pork Chop was made possible by:
A. Chris Keenan Carpentry
Specializing in custom cabinets, replacement and restoration of weighted windows and hardwood doors.  Add to his list of skills, vintage trailer cabinets and the patience of a saint!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Out to eat

This is my third attempt at this blog entry today and so all my wit is gone.  I'll let you all know that I am in upstate NY practicing my two new professions, skinny dipping and underachievement.  And loving every minute of it.  Granted the weather has cooled and my skinny dipping practice is waning but that has been replaced by nude hammock napping.

My dream!
I always had a list at home and it was a list I couldn't accomplish in a week let alone in a day.  Now, I have no list, well at least not a very long one.  To keep up on my blog entries and catch you all up on how I've gotten to where I am is my largest stress. Man am I losing sleep over that one.  Not.  The main thing I need to do is to solve my solar power predicament.  I am making progress and soon hope to have my stove and fridge running well.
Eating out has become a huge priority these days and here are the views from some of my favorite restaurants.

Lake Minnewaska
I was out on my kayak right there in the middle

This is what I called the La Grande Hotel.  Can't you just imagine it in the days of its glory?  The hike was only a mile or so but it was all up hill.  Beyond the hotel there was a fire tower I wanted to make it to but as you can see my boots weren't up for the challenge.  Can't blame them.  Had those Lowe's for at least 15 years they had to blow out some time and they blew out without possibility of repair.  On the way home from the hike I stopped at Kenco sporting goods and asked the boot guy if he thought they could be repaired.  He sort of just looked at me and said, "I don't think so."  I knew that but we laughed.  Bought another pair of Lowe's spending more than I wanted but you can't underestimate a good pair of boots.
Boots with a view. Hmm. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

On The Road Again

 I am completely embarrassed. My last entry was in April 2012 and I apologize for not keeping you up to date on my progress.  However, that is it for my remorse because I am on the road and having a GREAT time!  All the work, and tears, and detours, and doubts as to my sanity have been well worth it.  I am meeting people, making friends and having new experiences every single day.  Yet, I leave behind dear friends in Nashville that I will never forget.  I miss you all very much and think of you often.  Hugs and kisses to you.

You already know the Pork Chop took longer to finish than I expected, far longer than the 6 weeks I had initially thought.  A lot of life happened in between then and now and so as I continue on my travels I will mix in the pictures and video of the restoration of the trailer along with the more current adventures.

Here are some exterior pictures of the finished Pork Chop but let me tell you, there is far more to the story than meets the eye but we'll save that for later. Quite a difference huh?  I'll get back to you soon with more but until then---

                                                                               Safe Travels