Greetings From the Cuckoo’s Nest


Today on my walk I found a bird’s nest in the middle of the trail. So cool! So I built a human-sized nest of my own. I built it where three cedar trees come together, and took a surprisingly comfy nap until a squirrel started barking at me. It had a nice dry home in the roots below, and wasn’t going to give up his space without a fight. Good on ya, li’l guy! Clearly it’ll be awhile before I’m initiated into the fraternal order of forest animals.

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A Fool in the Forest


As it turns out, it’s not so bad to be completely incompetent at all things handy. I used to think it was a curse. I’m no Bob the Builder. I am Wreck-it Ralph. But sometimes it’s good to know nothing, to be blind of conventional wisdom. There’s a massive amount of freedom in that!

The main character in the novel I am writing is a 12 year old boy, shipwrecked on a Pacific Northwest island with his older brother. Everything they’ve learned in their private school upbringing has been rendered useless. And with the exception of some limited resources, they have to start over from scratch. (My previous post talks about the start of this character study adventure.)

woven grass fern blanket one island novel

It’s hard to tell, but this is a blanket, woven from grass and ferns. Yeah, it sucks. But it held together relatively well when I slept underneath it, despite it’s many holes. I had to support it around the sides with some sticks, because when I moved it too much it would fall apart.

It would have been easy to throw in a boy scout past, or maybe a detailed memory of a 4th grade report on Native American basket weaving. But I want to show a gradual shift in the characters moving away from conventional knowledge, in the same way an unused forest trail eventually succumbs to the undergrowth before disappearing altogether.

One great thing about their lack of knowledge here- I don’t need to become an expert on survival skills. I don’t need to know the way the Salish natives used cedar bark or the medicinal uses for ferns. Instead of relying on things they’ve learned in the past,  the boys seek solutions through personal, real-time experience. They are going to make mistakes. That’s part of the journey.

So what to do, as the writer? Wander the forest. Experiment. Make discoveries. This has been a fascinating process. I’ve walked the woods for my whole life, but I’ve never looked at it like I am seeing it now. I have to find soft plants for bedding, sturdy plants for protection from the rain, a way to test what is edible and what to avoid (I’m not completely reckless though- I’ve taken the necessary precautions of learning the deadly and poisonous plants in our area.) I get stung by nettles and pricked by thorns. All of it relevant, all of it stimulating my senses and teaching me things. My awareness increases, as well as my understanding of my role in this environment. The forest becomes a living creature that I’m exploring from the inside.

My first experiments were making shelter and making a blanket. I taught myself how to weave 3 strands of tall dry grass, and started to weave a blanket. But it was taking too long so I started substituting ferns. There are a zillion ferns in the woods, so I took scissors (a luxury item) on my walk for a few days, and cut a few fronds (is that the word? arms? branches? leaves?) from different plants, because I didn’t want to kill them.  And I always tried to get the hidden arms, so I didn’t take their strongest assets.

teepee 1

This is the teepee I ended up with. The big alder branches are easy to find, but easy to snap as well. But there were lots of them in a younger area of the woods, and I didn’t feel like tromping too far out. I wove the ferns in between the sticks, and layered them as best I could, and put upside down moss of the top, hoping that it would keep it alive and keep me dry.

teepee blanket

On the floor of the teepee, I wove this mattress. I used ferns and grass again, as well as some fern/vine plant that was super soft. I couldn’t find it in any of the plant books, so I don’t know what it’s called. But the mattress was surprisingly comfy! And I used some dried thick moss for a pillow, but I wore a hoody when I slept on it, to keep the bugs out of my hair…

Anyway, I have to get back to writing the story! The pictures here have more of the details. In an upcoming post, I’ll talk about the next adventure- trying out this shelter and blanket with a night in the woods. Freaky!

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Writing- It’s in tents!


tent 1

Rough start! Suz wondered if I was practicing for Survivor, or practicing being homeless.

I haven’t slept inside my house for over two months. I pledged on Facebook that I’m sleeping on the deck until I finish the novel I am writing. I’m hoping it’s before Christmas.

Why outside? The main character is a 12 year old boy, trying to survive in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. I want to get to know him better. So I spend a couple hours a day in the forest, and I spend my nights on the deck. That’s close enough to get a glimpse of his life.

Now I'm stylin'! At least I was until the rain kept leaking in...

Now I’m stylin’! At least I was until the rain kept leaking in…

I love the challenge! And really it’s not bad, because you can’t really call this “roughing it.” I’m on the deck, 10 feet away from the back door, with a cush air mattress and Christmas lights hung all around the inside of the tent. I even have great company. Zack, our 9 year old son, and Roger, the family dog, have both been sleeping out there pretty much every night. Love it!

Oooh yeah! goodbye patio furniture cushions, hello air mattress (and a leak-free tent!)

Oooh yeah! Goodbye patio furniture cushions, hello air mattress (and a leak-free tent!)

Anyway, I can see how Thoreau ended up writing Walden, because the adventure of writing the novel can become more intriguing than the novel itself…

My li'l buddies!

My li’l buddies!

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Pride of the Sewer System


sewer lid bellinghamSilver?! I didn’t know they made these in silver. I took this picture 2 days ago, and it’s been bugging me ever since. Why have I never seen these? I have so far come up with 4 possibilities:

1. Maybe there are lots of silver sewer covers and I just never paid attention.

2. Maybe they all start silver, and I’ve just never seen a new one.

3. Maybe the sewer people were all “screw bronze! let’s go for silver!”

4. Hey! Magical sewer!

I sent an email to the public works department, and they’ll be getting me the details soon. But in the meantime, I went searching for images of sewer covers from around the world. Awesome stuff out there! For my town, I think it’s time for a manhole revolution! I’m doing my part. I’ve just sent my second email to the Public Works department, asking if, after I die, I can have a Harris Avenue sewer lid for a tombstone. Now that’s a legacy!

Anyway, here are my favorites-

http://derekmunson.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/57322-nichihara2.jpg?w=330&h=330

Saturn is on the outside. Uranus is on the inside

http://static.neatorama.com/images/2013-03/manhole-cover-nagoya.jpg

Jiminy Crapit!

http://derekmunson.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/f0d75-manholecover.jpg?w=305&h=303

Knock Knock. Who’s there? Birds on a sewer cover. Birds on a sever cover who? The only birds on a sewer cover in the history of sewer covers. That’s who.

http://images.travelpod.com/users/rbfromnj/1.1261269976.manhole-cover-hakata-fukuoka.jpg

don’t be fooled. it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

http://sidewalkcity.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/photo-new-mexico-manhole-cover.jpg?w=328&h=334

Is this a sewer lid, or did a giant drop a quarter?

Royal flush!

 

 

 

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I Couldn’t Pop This Tag


This is my car:

Image

If you squint really hard, it almost looks like a Land Rover

This 1995 Ford Explorer has been in the family for its whole life. 19 years old- is that vintage yet? Classic? I’m guessing no.

The Exploder is on its last wheels. Literally. It creaks through turns and over speed bumps, and sometimes it kalumps along like it’s driving on oval wheels. Oh- and only two of its doors are fully functional. My 11-year-old daughter will ride in Mom’s car any chance she can get. But she’s usually stuck with me. At least I’ve got tinted windows.

But a guy needs wheels, and the Exploder’s end is imminent. So I’ve decided to get a truck.  Abby and I went to the dealer the other day with the following wish list:

We need four doors (that you can open from the inside AND the outside)

The truck should look new-ish

It must not be red. (Blue, silver, or gray are ideal)

Big bonus points for MPG, a good stereo system, and a USB port

The car lot

Long story short, we found a great truck at the car dealer. And then we found the sticker price-  just under $37,000!

Ah the joys of sticker shock. Right up to that moment, there was hope. I had big dreams!  But now there was nothing but doubt and despair. This truck was just plain out of my league. My head slumped a little bit, Charlie Brown style, and I walked away feeling like a deadbeat.

But wait! What was this?? Why it was my valiant salesman, slashing away heroically at that MSRP. And oh! The joy I felt! Pure jubilant joy, as the price came plummeting down with incentive after incentive. Godspeed, dear salesman! Slay the dragon! Kill the beast! Make that price tag disappear completely! I threw in a $5000 down payment. And then my one last dagger. The trade-in value of my old car!

The test-driver guy took the Exploder out for a spin, and was back before we knew it. He huddled with the manager, and the sales guy came back with the offer.

I knew I had been hoping for a minor miracle. But still, I was bummed when it didn’t happen. I don’t remember any of the details, except for one glaring number: the number 100. One hundred dollars. That’s what they offered for the Exploder. No, they hadn’t forgotten a zero. The trade-in value of the Exploder was ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS. $100! I was dumbstruck. What was I feeling here? Was it anti-sticker shock? A Scooby-Doo-stickers-on-the-back-window kind of sticker shock? A Stick-‘er-in-the-car-squisher-at-the-junkyard-and-sell-her-for-scrap-metal kind of sticker shock? It didn’t matter. I had more important things to think about. For God’s sake- I’d just been diagnosed with a $100 car.

And on top of that, that new truck would still end up costing over $30,000 (not even including taxes and licensing.) These prices were blowing my mind. The disparity was stunning.

According to this offer, that new truck is worth 300 times more than my old car.

Check this out:

 1 NEW TRUCK

new little truck avatar

 

EQUALS

 

300 EXPLODERS

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explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder 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exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 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explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 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explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995little exploder cutout explorer 1995

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Move over Dodge- there’s a new Caravan in town!

 

Or how about this:

1 Exploder

little exploder cutout explorer 1995

 

EQUALS

 

100 new Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars!

matchbox and hotwheels cars

(author’s note- these are used cars, because I couldn’t find a picture of 100 new ones)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anywho… Back to reality.

Even with $5000 down, the payments were terrifying. With the same money I paid on a new car payment, I could buy a new Exploder every week for the next 5 years, and a tank of gas to go with it.

In the end, I decided to put off buying a new truck. Or any truck at all. My daughter won’t like this, but it turns out that for a couple thousand bucks, I can probably keep the ol’ Exploder running for at least another year. Still though, that’s spending $2000 for maintenance on a $100 car. Sheesh- if I’m going to spend $2000, maybe I should just get 20 more Exploders…

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April 17, 2014 · 4:35 pm

Oh!-ios


20140313-175439.jpg

I just ate a bowl of honey nut Cheerios. Ok- actually I ate 3 bowls. Something tasted a little weird and at first I wondered if there was something wrong. But then I focused my tasting powers and I realized what it was. Wait a tick- real honey? Could it be? I had to eat more just to make sure my senses weren’t deceiving me. But I’m sure of it- it was honey. Real freakin’ honey in honey nut Cheerios! Pkew! Mind blown. Whoaa. Trippy. Ponderous…
Anywho… Here’s my other Cheerio insight for the day:
Not only are Cheerios round, they are also made of oats. And oats starts with… Wait for it… Wait for it… O!
I know. Tough to digest, huh?

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Capturing Clouds


In the past 12 hours, I have had two experiences that border on the miraculous. One, I took a cough drop and it actually stopped my cough. And two, I had a delightful flight home.

Yeah that’s right. I said delightful. I don’t use that word often because it has to be followed up with a lengthy excuse for using it. But if i’m talking about a “delightful flight home”, there’s gonna need to be some ‘splainin’ anyway…

I’ll set the scene:

Me. Back row. The row where you can’t lean your seat into the lap of the person behind you. Didn’t matter though, because I had the row all to myself.

It was a night time flight, so the cabin was dark and mellow. I wrote a few pages in my journal. I ate honey mustard snack mix and drank 7 up. I slept.

For the last 30 minutes of the flight, I was awake and unexpectedly alert. Out the window, in between the clouds, there was a small town glowing in the middle of nowhere. We lumbered on past it, into the dark again, with the rhythm of the blinking light at the end of the wing.

It was hypnotic. Seriously like a dream, made more extraordinary when we started weaving into and out of the clouds. Inside the clouds, the blinking light lit up like a spark catching fire, its light bursting out like a firecracker’s flash. We passed through a rain cloud of illuminated raindrops. They flew past like bullets in the opposite direction.

We left the cloud, floating into the most amazing sky I have ever seen. It was the realm of Zeus, a place that could have spawned an Italian renaissance centuries before its time. It was simultaneously surreal and real, a fictional landscape that was unquestionably there.

We cruised past blossoming mountains, with size and depth that were easy to understand. Dark gray cliffs rose above soft lakes of white, draining into the darkness of the blank land below. On occasion, the city lights beneath the surface turned the lakes into seas of gold. Holes poked through the clouds. Like an inverted sky below,  the ground twinkled with its own stars amid clustered galaxies of light.

And then we descended into clouds of our own. Absorbed. Digested. I had the realization that I wasn’t just looking at a picture. I was in it. I was a part of the scene. What a magical paradox. What a profound experience. Delight! This place was a final destination all its own. How ironic that this world was unquestionably real and alive, and I was the ghost, just passing through.

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