slow glowing » glowing, slowly

how i got here

here is one version of How I Got Here:

when i was 18 i moved to portland for college. i loved portland. one of the things i loved about portland was that sometimes you’d be walking around a residential neighborhood and you’d come across an intersection with a big ol’ beautiful mandala mural painted across it, and maybe a kiosk on one corner with neighborhood announcements and stuff. there was one such intersection in sellwood with a tree with mugs hanging on it and a basket of tea bags and a thermos that was always full of hot water. a tea tree. it took me a couple years to google the name of the organization responsible for making these wacky wonderful intersections happen: city repair. “dang, portland is cool,” i thought.

while in college, one particular brand of escapism i developed was: if everything else goes wrong, my plan b is: i will go wwoof in hawaii. i am not sure where this idea came from, except that farm work in a warm climate probably seemed about as far removed as could be from school work in cold & rainy portland.

in 2008, everything else went wrong. i bought a wwoof hawaii membership and found an eco-hostel outside of pahoa, in puna, on the big island. i spent a month there. it was awesome and healing. i did a little bit of gardening but mostly for my work-trade i helped with the running of the hostel and did internet research for the owner on a diverse and bizarre range of topics. one day, a woman who was also staying there was looking at some homesteading information on the internet. “have you ever heard of food forests?” she asked me.

back home in portland, i saw some posters advertising city repair’s village building convergence. i read a bunch of anarchist zines, and a couple books by derrick jensen, and blogs about saving the world, and “the ones who walk away from omelas.” i felt some weird new despair about the state of the world and wondered what it would mean to walk away. i went to some evening events at the village building convergence and felt elation and the possibility of meaning. i went to a “permaculture for renters” workshop. starhawk led us in a spiral dance in the street and i felt joy. i wanted to walk towards something, but i wasn’t quite sure what it was.

i signed up for a six-month permaculture design course. i helped my mom harvest beets and squash. i started a container garden. i got really excited. with a small group, i put together a permaculture design for a local rental cohousing community. they decided to implement many of our ideas. months later i biked past to see the paths laid out as we had imagined them.

i joined the portland master gardeners. i learned about vegetables and also about roses.

i biked across the country. i saw small towns and farms. i wanted to get my hands dirty. i visited k. in loveland and worked in the garden with her and her friends for a few days. at the end of my trip, i visited my cousin chrisso at his farm collective in upstate new york and learned how to milk goats, sort of. i decided to follow my heart and try living on a farm for awhile, to do some hands-on learning and have dirt under my fingernails and fresh veggies in my belly.


here is another version:

my family moved from massachusetts to california the summer i turned seven. we lived in the silicon valley for a year and a half or so, and i don’t think any of us were very happy. time passed; we moved to washington and things got better. i love the pacific northwest and i loved growing up there. i held a grudge against california for a long, long time.

in 2008 i fell in love. in this space i call him A. we stared into each other’s eyes and whispered sweet french nothings and rode our bikes on dates and were ridiculous and ooey-gooey. that june, i got hit by a car. then four weeks later he got hit by a car. it sucked. we broke up. i went to hawaii and he went to india. it was awesome, and we healed. we forgave each other. we got back together.

i went to the bay area a few times, visiting friends and family who were doing things like putting on awesome dance and theatre performances and getting married. the weather was nice. A came with me once and said, “let’s just move here!” and i got a little tipsy and cheerful in the summer sun and said “maybe” and then dug my heels into portland.

we moved in together and we had our ups and downs, of course. he applied for grad school. i talked all the time about how i loved portland a whole freakin’ lot and i wanted to stay there forever and ever. he got into grad school. in california. well. maybe we would break up? but first we were going to go on this big adventure. i was going to ride my bike across the country and i had convinced him to come partway. a last hurrah, right?

we rode our bikes to boulder, colorado. we had a great time. A moved to california. i dragged my feet in colorado and then i headed on to the east coast. somewhere in there i realized that, who knew?, portland was not the be-all and end-all of wonderful places in the world. (colorado was pretty cool, too.) i even thought that maybe living in portland was too easy on some level—it was too easy for me to be reasonably content there. portland was, for me, the “ok plateau.” plus, i loved A a lot. i mean, really.

i decided to follow my heart to california and ask A to marry me, so i will always have music in my life, so i can know him better and know myself better and grow with him until we are old and (still) ridiculous.

besides, the weather here is pretty nice.


i could write more of these, i think, about how i came to be, here, now, with emphases on community, art, the outdoors, spirituality. i could start the narrative earlier. but except for the occasional juicy bits, i know it is mostly me who is interested, and i know i tell them mostly for me too.


yup my life really is this beautiful.

also, i am setting an intention to write a juicier, meatier entry about my life and so on within the next few days. but tomorrow morning i have to get up early to milk the goats, so i’m going to bed. lots o’ love.


* yesterday’s breakfast: homemade granola, fresh goat milk still warm from the udder, pears preserved in simple syrup. just sayin’.

* a lesson learned today: when you lay out your super-awesome off-grid water system, be sure to make a map detailing lines, junctions, shut-offs, and so forth. today a pipe got punctured and i don’t think we ever figured out whether it was ag water or potable water. anyway, we fixed it. the water system is an ongoing adventure!

* the greenhouse was leaning about eight inches to the east, so we used rope and a pulley/lever thing (?) to pull it back to straight before we framed the new east wall.

* carpenter-ing with soupy:

(new american gothic)

gettin’ plastered

yesterday we plastered most of the walls in our bunkhouse—the room attached to the kitchen where we hang out and eat our meals. we used natural plaster, which is (roughly) clay + flour + sand + pigment + water. we also added mica for sparkle!


(with test color patches)

STEP ZERO. prep your space.

STEP ONE. mix clay slip: water + clay.

(soupy checks the slip’s consistency)

STEP TWO. add pigment (in this case, yellow iron oxide).

STEP THREE. add wheatpaste. we made the wheatpaste by mixing cold water and flour, and then adding that mixture to a whole bunch of boiling water.

STEP FOUR. add mica!

STEP FIVE. add this mixture to a bunch of fine sand and get your hands dirty!

STEP SIX. start plastering it on the wall! we did this using hawks (the wooden palette-sorta-things) and trowels. not all of these trowels were created equally. there were two “magic trowels” made of flexible stainless steel that were about a zillion times easier to manipulate that the other non-stainless steel ones. but we figured it out, sort of, eventually.

there were some trials and errors. we didn’t remove the color test patches before adding our new plaster, and the green patch in particular didn’t bond with the wall very well, which meant our lovely yellow plaster wouldn’t stick either to that spot. our application technique was also not great at first, and until we learned to taper every bit we applied into the wall as we went, we had some problems with plaster falling off.

STEP SEVEN. smooth it out! the magic trowels are useful for this.

STEP EIGHT. admire.


* the meat chicken died on friday; she overheated in the greenhouse. soupy and i buried her under a tree in the garden.

* last week we had a few adventures with the water system… it really is so cool that our water is off-grid (so to speak) and we are the only human users of this small watershed. we get to see the effects of our actions pretty quickly. last week we woke up one morning to a totally empty ag(ricultural water) tank—took most of the morning to isolate and repair the leak that caused it. and our potable tank—usually there are two potable tanks in use, but one is empty at the moment while we prepare to install a new u.v. filter to comply with someone-or-other’s regulations—was dropping two hundred gallons a day despite lots of rain and plenty of flow into the sand filter. after a few days’ observation and detective work, it seems like the sand filter is clogging more easily than it should be. we are harrowing it (running our fingers over its’ surface to break up the stuff clinging to it) daily, and the sand may be due for replacement.

* friday’s dinner: black-eyed pea and white bean soup, tasty buttery whole wheat biscuits, and the most amazing salad! kyle and kalyn gathered wild greens (plus nasturtium and borage flowers) for a truly s.l.o.w. food salad—sustainable, local, organic, wild, and prepared with love. they even made a little key so we knew what we were eating.

(cutting the thistles off of milk thistle.)

* i like being here and i like the people and i like the process of telling my stories to new people and learning other people’s stories. i am so excited that for six months, all of this will not be the exception, but the rule.