Saturday, November 28, 2015

This is Happening...

on our front deck - best view in town

work center - & my M4K "Hysteria"

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Talk about a dream, try and make it real...

Wayne White - one of my favorite artists

I have missed writing very much. I also miss art, and being creative, and being around creative people. When my dog died I thought I would blaze out off of this mountain and out of the cabin so fast I'd be just a grease stain on the driveway - but here I sit, more attached to a home base than I thought I would be. When I really thought deeply about moving I just couldn't figure out where to go. I really feel Austin is no longer an option, so I thought about exploring Alaska or Detroit or someplace that gets real winter. My heart wants to move back to NYC, but I'm just too cheap to spend that much on rent. And then there is the thing I haven't mentioned that I always mention:

just moving one town over was never gonna cut it for me

the place that I have romanticized and idealized to the point where nothing else really mattered. I have just thinly participated in my life since I've not been on a deployment cycle. Sure I have had moments of sheer connection and bliss, mostly while on trips, but the last four and a half years have been what I can almost call a complete bust as far as creating a life off Ice. I mean, I really tried, but my heart wasn't into it. I was holding out. Holding out until I could go back. And I had a feeling it wouldn't be easy to get back - and it wasn't. Calls and e-mails to everyone I could find in my e-mail folder. Persistent without being desperate & then I got a nibble: South Pole alternate winter-over something or other. So I said YES YES YES and have pq'd for that. And then I started thinking how frustrating it was to have just an alt contract and how I knew myself and that I would wait around and put my life on hold again waiting for the call, and felt the familiar old frustration. Oh well, it was something, and I was plugged in to the system again so I was grateful.

I was walking around the forest behind my cabin pondering if I'd done everything I could to get back. A hunch drove me back to my computer where I made a phone call that ended up snagging me a McMurdo summer contract this main body. So, I am going back to the Ice :-). Possibly for a whole year!


People keep asking me if I'm excited. And I say "yes" but they seem to not believe me...and now I realize that I am more relieved than excited. Relieved that the waiting for 5 years was not for nothing..that I really can trust that the thing I talk about all the time IS the thing that I really want. Some people seem confused that I really want this, like I'm fooling myself, and they look at me like this is some childish desire and why the heck would I want to go someplace like that. I just tell myself thank gawd they feel that way or the competition for jobs would be even stiffer. There have been some fantastic things borne from my stateside stint: a Bikram yoga practice that is an unexpected source of camaraderie, a knitting hobby that is as delightful and delicious as I can ever remember anything being, and the point of it all - that I got to hold my cheek on my little dog's chest to feel his tiny heart stop beating. I'm starting to think that Fergus is why I haven't sold the cabin yet, because this is the the last house we shared together and he spent his last two years here. I wouldn't have bought it if it were just me. I am sure I will start reminiscing about this cabin, this mountain, this State as soon as I get to LAX. I am enjoying living here knowing that I don't have to be here full time. Springsteen wrote so many songs about the long dark road stretched out in front of you that made your heart quicken and the desire to run away and to find a new place, and as soon as that felt stale to keep moving onward into the unknown and to just keep that spark alive, and trust that it would lead you to your own freedom. I see that it was good to have stricture and confinement - it taught me to be patient and to be satisfied with simple things. I think I could be satisfied with yoga and knitting and working seasonally at the ski resort, but life has thrown me another great big adventure and I must go.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


 "forlornness" or "the blogger's perfect sky" or "outside Bar Harbor"

Two back to back trips inducing increasingly mucho joy could only mean one thing when I got back to my cabin on the mountain: crash into the black hole of nothing going on. The annual painting workshop in Taos (this was my 15th year) was heady and amazing as usual - and I had my pod of nurturing friends to ease me through the grief of letting go of the new dog. I decided with the help of some very wise friends that now is not the time for me to be taking on a 15 year commitment to an animal - and with the stroke of a pen I converted my ownership status back into foster parent and quickly he was happily embedded in a more stimulating home than I had: a big sprawling house, giant yard, cats and dogs to play with and love from two humans. I felt like I cut my heart out and handed it over when we did the doggie hand off in a grocery store parking lot in the pouring rain. I watched him settle into his new mom's arms and her look of pure joy and knew it was the right thing, and now that I'm back after a whirlwind month of Taos, Boston, Canada I see that the choice to be a free spirit came at a high price, and that I've skated pretty free from this for most of my life, having had the feeling that I was "having it all." I changed my mind, and that was extraordinarily difficult to come to terms with: when I fell in love with the dog I was like most people who fall in love, gaga & blind to reality - and the reality is I didn't have this perfect second loving home for him like I did with Fergus. I would have had to kennel him every time I went somewhere and the Ice would have been given up forever. I just couldn't do it. It was the best decision for both of us, as his new family sends me updates and photos that show how happy he is.

Confederation Bridge, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Hopefully my six months of dog obsession has abated and I can focus on what to do with the rest of my life. I would spend it all on a cruise ship if I could. People make fun of me for traveling this way, but it can be as luscious and introspective and bizarre as any other mode - one brushes up against oneself to see the entitled pettiness, as well as the graciousness of humans in general; if one is hardwired like myself to crave being in places one has never been in before, it can be an expensive habit, and even though I seem to travel a bit more than most unretired people, I seem to have also formed a nest in my cabin. A nest but not a rut; always a hand on the back doorknob (which a therapist once commented was the way I handled most things in my life). My favorite parts of travel are hanging out in airports, the travel to and from the airports, the finding of the hotel or stateroom, and all the stuff that leads up to getting there. And once I've gotten there it's time to go again - like a whole little birth/death/rebirth cycle everytime. This time I got to add in a train ride, use my French from high school, and talk more baudy than I thought humanly possible with knitters. I made so many friends. Everything gets dropped - being on the beam for me means being gone from everything familiar.

call first, to see how big the bandwidth is

So, as adventurous as I like to come off seeming I have turned into quite a sedentary person while I'm consumed with a knitting project (which is most of the time). So after 10 days of raucous living from Boston to Quebec I was ready for some super fast and free wifi. I hauled my gigantic suitcase up 4 flights of Victorian stairs (I always request top floor for fear of hearing footsteps overhead), settled into the moldy bed, and got out my laptop for some serious internets time. When it only loaded one e-mail per minute, no pictures and definitely no streaming of shows I went into the four stages of grief, surrendered, and wandered around Montreal for a night and a day. When it was time to fly home I went to the airport six hours early so I could bask in super cold a/c (Montreal was sweltering!). Fun stuff happened on this trip: I spent hours in a coal mine in Sydney, Nova Scotia, and went to a mill where I watched yarn being spun from dog hair. I tried to get in some hiking but it was more like walking. I do miss having someone pushing me to be more physical on trips. There is no greater luxury than getting to travel on one's own terms, but sometimes the world has terms of its own and like my old guru used to say, "nature always wins." My big example of that is I try to travel only to cold places, and they are always in a freakish heatwave, as was the case on this trip too.

I have undogged myself, and with that my last tether is gone to this mountain, this gorgeous yet dull as dirt state, this unabomber-esque cabin in the woods lifestyle. I am ready to move, but not quite sure where I am moving to...hopefully will come together soon.

Friday, April 03, 2015


It felt as natural as breathing air to bring Frankie into my life (or Figaro, as he was named at the shelter). I had been happily fostering different types of anxious/shy dogs since my first one was homed. The first one was the hardest, and then it became easier. I always dreaded the whining/crying drive up to my cabin from the shelter thinking "why am I getting another one!" but it felt so good to be able to ease the stressed creature from cage to soft warm bed. I had gotten the hang of it. I was in no risk of keeping one - my plans hadn't changed from my trajectory to go back to the Ice. Then this little silky coal-black chihuahua/dachsund mix came into my life and we were giddy...he was perfect, an angel. He was so adorably cute I had potential adopters right away, and I met the first couple the next day with him in a Goodwill parking lot (now, if someone would have told me this is what my life would have looked like 5 years ago while I was barreling through Western Antarctica in the first tractor traverse to Pine Island Glacier I would have cried. My life had become increasingly badass for 7 years straight; my life had become BIG, and I would never go back to small again. I had no idea how small it would become). They were elderly (the dog was 3 yrs old) and I had an "off" vibe about them, but since they were retired and home all day we decided to let them adopt him. I had him for a few more days before I dropped him off at the shelter to be neutered in the morning and to be picked up by his new home in the afternoon. I was sobbing when I turned Figaro over to the shelter...I was babbling about how he deserved the best home and I hope he was going to get it. A couple of days later I picked up another foster and was busy with her as she was a handful. For the week that I had my last foster I fantasized about a dog like little Figaro coming into my life when I was ready for another dog (which I kind of thought would be in another year or so) - I kept telling people "I just fostered the perfect dog and if I ever meet another one like that I'm gonna keep him" - so my last foster bit someone so I had to take her back to the shelter for bite quarantine. While I was e-mailing back and forth with the foster coordinator about the logistics of picking up another foster while dropping of the current one she wrote "Figaro's adopters returned him to the shelter. If you want to take him again until he gets a new home you can do that!" I was beside myself with glee - I raced to the shelter so I could see that little angel again - his tail was thumping on the kennel when he realized it was me picking him up. I got him home and we just fell into our fun routine of cuddling, long walks and playing with squeaker toys (gak, sounds like I'm dating a dog)...I had the first potential adopter contact me and I wrote her back to arrange a time to meet, knowing that I could not give away this dog a second time (she never wrote back). I had first dibs as a foster parent, so I let myself have 4 or 5 days to really contemplate it, knowing fully well that I was going to have eat some major humble pie after all the kvetching I did about feeling "trapped" with Fergus. There was no decision to be made. He came back to me. He was mine.

I felt I had to write letters to the people who had listened to me complain about my non-Ice life..about the fact that I could find no meaning or purpose in stateside life. And a lot of that is still true: I am very isolated in my cabin on the mountain. I have a yoga family and practice that I love, but I spend most of my time knitting in my cabin alone. I wasn't interested in seeing bands or art or much in town as the drive was so long. And even though I was "free" without a dog, it didn't feel like freedom - it felt I was unmoored and uncentered. I had travel plans and they did not thrill me. I had plans to go back to the Ice and that did not thrill me either. The only thing that thrilled me was this little black dog. I still may need to move off of this mountain to be closer to civilization. I still want to go back to the Ice. All the great things I did in my life I did while I had a dog. And what I didn't realize is how lost and alone and sad I would be without one. I just don't have enough things to fill my time. I need something to take care of and I didn't know that until after Fergus was gone. I just went through all my photos of the last 10 years or so of Fergus. He is held closely to my side in almost every one of them. We were a team...a fused unit of Marsha & Fergus. After communing with those photos for a while it all made sense to me: of course I need a dog for a companion, a companionship I took for granted because I had it for so long. Frankie (formerly Figaro) came back to me. Who could return a dog like this back to a shelter. I haven't second guessed myself like I thought I would. It just felt like the most obvious right thing to do.
adoption day!

Monday, January 19, 2015

My Dog Problem

We waited for the snow, and it finally came...and in true PNW style it got rained on & melted away after springlike conditions. I got 8 long days of 12 hour shifts in, with a bunch of overtime (at minimal wage) and it was so necessary for me to have to report to a job after months of waiting. Was enjoying my days off and got a call that the resort was CLOSED. I no longer had a job. And no snow in the forecast. Was just getting into the groove of cold outdoor work and was loving it.

A month after Fergus died, I was bringing home my first foster dog for the Multnomah County Animal Shelter. I had been compulsively looking at doggie pictures on and the various
rescue groups in the area. I was going to shelters every day. I couldn't stop myself but I also didn't see anything wrong with it. My heart was broken and I was filling that massive dog shaped hole in my heart by loving on other dogs in these places where there are so many sweet little pups just waiting to be scooped into someone's arms and taken home. I have never understood how anyone could obtain a dog any other way than through a shelter - it almost seems criminal to me, but that is probably being too judgmental. The amazing part to me was that capacity of the love I had for a potential new dog. There was no comparison to Fergus (though I am attracted to only small dogs), but his death seemed to magnify and make urgent the dog-love-bond that I had taken for granted for 17 years. After filling out a foster application and getting approved right away, I was about to begin my journey with Good Boy.

At first it seemed selfish and irresponsible to me to be bringing this poor dog to my house. I wanted to hold and cuddle with a doggie, with none of the long term responsibility...he had "issues" in the shelter, was aggressive and snarling at people, but the second I opened the kennel in my house he leapt into my arms and snuggled with me like a baby. Within the hour we were in my warm cozy bedroom under piles of soft blankets, him sleeping with a smile on his face in my lap. He had a "home" and was very grateful for it. I was soon to find out that a foster dog is a lot of work. They remove them from the shelter for a reason - they are not adoptable and need to be made that way. This one only bonded with one person and every one else was a threat. I was to socialize him by having people come over or me take him around places, and I did that as much as I could but it was too hard because of his unpredictable nature. I ended up just bounding home after outings or work to have a love fest with the giddily happy dog. Almost 5 weeks passed before someone asked about him. I was feeling the wrenching sense of how awful fostering was: the dog bonds and starts to feel totally safe a secure in a home, and then he is toted off & dropped off at a stranger's house, to have to start the bonding process all over again. I was starting to panic. More for me than for him. I was totally attached to this dog. He was mine and I was his. I was a true love affair, as great as the one I had with Fergus. And I was about to experience deeply felt loss again.

After meeting with two different families (spending all day with both of them) he finally got adopted. He was only $25 because of his age and how long he'd been homeless, and the night before I dropped him off at his new home I didn't sleep a wink, feeling like I had done him a big injustice fooling him that he had me forever. I dropped him off at his new home and feel comfortable with them as his new owners, but it is me who is bereft, confused, heartbroken all over again. Was I masochistic to put myself through this pain again? After a couple of days of "freedom" I was very very sad. I bought a plane ticket to Texas so I wouldn't get another dog. I went to the shelter again to ask if they had one I could keep just until my trip. They had a sweet little girl, but we decided to wait until I got back from my trip. I used the shelter worker as a grief/guidance counsellor as I had a lot of confusing feelings about my role as a foster parent. She assured me my grief was typical, and that the best way to do it was to get another one immediately! Ok, I could do that. It seems so indulgent, but I think that will have to be the way I get my dog need filled for now. I almost cancelled my trip to Texas so I could have another dog right away, but that just seemed weird and compulsive, so, as lonely as I am, I'm still going to wait until I get back mid February. This part sounds like it could be titled "my dog addiction".

I didn't think it would be this way. I thought the second Fergus died I'd just drive outtta here and travel and just be drunk with my freedom from responsibly. But the opposite is sort of true (and it is still early, I still may be not ready to be that utterly free), having cared for a dog for so long, I cannot imagine my life without one. It just seems WRONG to be in a cabin by myself with nothing to love on. I don't have close connections with people around here, so I really need that dog love connection. I am looking at the possibility that I have changed. That this fantasy I had in my head this past four years may have just been a fantasy of freedom from responsibility, but the reality is that I need responsibility. I have applied for all the antarctic jobs I feel I am qualified for, and am hoping that I do get a job this upcoming fall, but in the meantime I need that dog love...I now understand those people who go out and get another one right can't help yourself! And there are those that never get another one - I thought I would be one of those. This blindsided me. Maybe it's still the pain of the loss, or the emptiness of my life right now, but fostering that dog gave my life meaning and purpose, and a whole lot of love. And for the first time I had an experience that was truly gratifying - gratifying in a way that I now understand when people talk about service and giving of themselves. I was the one who was fostered, loved, cared for...I'm hoping that this two week trip will wake me up to a reality that is not centered on dogs, but if it doesn't, then this will be my new reality. And that is fine with me..... :-)

I hope that I did right by him. Fostering is tough on the heart: you have to ready to utterly let go of this precious animal that you have loved to bits for a short period of time. And I was blindsided by how much I loved him. I know that being a dog, he will bond with his new owners just like he did with me, and that makes me happy...but what do I do with the new squishy me that I don't even recognize as me? Was she birthed from the ashes of the ancient pup that quietly changed her psyche over 17 years? Is this just a factor of being middle aged and not having human grand babies? Or is it a cosmic joke played by a trickster god who knows that it's no coincidence that dog is god spelled backwards? I think the alchemy of love is strange and unpredictable, and never did I not think my source of it wouldn't be a human man; but this, a soft smiling face, the same face, on every one of them.
"Good Boy" - my first foster dog