Westward Ho! Day 9.5

Roseburg, OR (9:30 AM) to Mill Valley, CA (7:00 PM). 462 miles.
Other Notables: Sting’s Brand New Day.

As I said in my previous post, yesterday started out in bipolar sludge.  But, it didn’t stay there.

IMG_0471I asked my Cat Whisperer to send photos of The Boys, and she responded lickety-split.  It helps to see that, while they miss me (evidenced by nervous spew), they look and act like themselves.  Emmett hides.  Henry dominates.  Eating and drinking and litter-boxing continue.  Nothing there for my worrisome thoughts to stick to.IMG_0468

I abandoned my Great Idea of taking most of my food with me in a borrowed cooler.  What seemed like a frugal adventure in South Dakota got boring food-wise and too high maintenance for me (like finding room in someone’s freezer every night for my ice bag).  In rebellion and shear peevishness, I stopped at KFC for lunch.  Then, at a gas station near Williams, California, I trashed my week-old Clementines and dumped the ice.  Instant relief.

knobAround 6:00, about two hours north of San Francisco, I felt a subtle shift.  Like an old TV channel knob, I felt the click–just one– to a higher frequency.

I noticed how the light, slanting in from the west, lit up the hillsides like chartreuse fire.  Those terran White Whales, furred over by tender spring greenery, breached the flat olive groves with house-sized barnacles casting long emerald shadows.  The beauty of all that blazing green did something to my brain.  Or my brain changed channels enough for me to appreciate it.  Tomato.  Tomahto.

IMG_0447I got to my nest for the next two nights; a  real nest in the middle of the redwoods.  All the houses in this neighborhood hang from the cliffs like aeries.

IMG_0451Mary met me as I parked in her carport as directed.  Thin, with a soft-spoken Scottish burr (yes!), she took me down the stairs from street level to the studio room under the carport.

IMG_0454I get my own little patio to commune with the trees and a completely private space.  More beauty.  More hospitality.  More gratitude.  I cooked up my Ramen noodles (not all foodstuffs ended in a dumpster) and felt better.IMG_0456

I don’t even mind (much) that there’s coffee and a coffee maker, but no cream or sugar. And nothing even remotely resembling breakfast.  There is, however, a tiny bottle of olive oil and a toaster over.  The second “B” in B & B, I find, is open to much interpretation. IMG_0455

I don’t care.  It’s a brand new day.

 

Westward Ho! Day 9

Roseburg, OR (9:30 AM) to Mill Valley, CA (7:00 PM). 462 miles
Notables: Fink’s Time and Distance.

I felt the depression move in like a thunderstorm this morning.  It took forever to sort through my clean clothes, get everything repacked and rearranged.  My body ached and the barometric pressure of my brain thickened like glue.

The night before, Doris and I talked a long time about chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and cannabis.  In Oregon, she’s able to grow and process pot for her own use, which is a complicated affair.  She makes “pot-butter,” an ingredient in therapeutic cookies.  And just like any drug, it took trial and error to determine the right dosage.

I thought about my friend, Duane, who suffers constant, chronic pain as a side effect of his AIDS medications.  He and his husband, Jim, supported the law to make medical marijuana legal in Minnesota.  It’s legal there now, but the process of qualifying, registering, and then paying $300-$500 per month makes it unobtainable.  I thought about Jim cooking up some “pot-butter” in their kitchen and how delicious his cookies would be.

I’ve never thought about trying marijuana for my own pain.  There have been nights on this trip when I could hardly hobble across a room.  I wasn’t thinking about pot before, but I’m thinking about it now.

As I hauled all my crap out to the car this morning, I asked Doris if I could buy some cookies from her.  I didn’t know it was illegal for her to sell it.  When Doris told me that, I felt like so un-street.  And weirdly like an undercover cop.

IMG_0458She pulled a Baggie out of the freezer.  “I’ll give you one, though.”

Then, she went through instructions like my pharmacist.  Only eat half of the cookie.  Don’t eat cookies while driving.  It could take two hours for the cookie to take effect.  Plus a list of possible outcomes.  And another list of cautions.

So, I had my half-cookie about two hours ago.  Feels like I might sleep better tonight.

Oh, yeah.  I also saw Mount Shasta today.

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Westward Ho! Day 8

Port Townsend, WA (8:30 AM) to Roseburg, OR (5:00 PM).  386 miles.
Notables:  I’m really sick of The Time Traveler’s Wife audiobook.  I know it’s a big bestseller, but I like the movie better (Plot vs Really Dopey Romance).
Tunes:  The Best of Jackson Browne.

John and catUp at 4:00 to pack and sit with my journal (I do wish I could be one of those people who oversleep once in a while. I might as well wish I was 23 and French).  Then, it was one last meal at the Fort’s big dining hall (another delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs with salmon and fresh greens, fresh fruit, toast and good coffee), one more round table of laughs with my new art-buddies from all over the country, and I was back on the road.

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John was in top form as we threaded our way through the forests.  We pointedly avoided any more ferries or tollways.  One bollixed crossing was quite enough.  And I love forests even more than the desert, so it was like driving through my personal version of heaven.  Even the rest stops offered a bit of forest to explore between dumping car-garbage and visiting the loo (I’m afraid John’s rubbed off on me a bit).

IMG_0429We paused at this lovely stop just north of the Washington/Oregon border.  Everything was so green.  And it was 73°.  Green and warm and foresty.  Tiny angels whistled in my ear.

And tonight, another mind-blowing bed and breakfast.  Doris and Mike live a little outside of town.  As I followed the proper twisty country road, I spied a huge buffalo chewing its cud on some guy’s front lawn.  Or pasture.  Whatever the green stuff is that swaddles a buffalo.  I was too intent on finding Doris and Mike to think anything other than, “Huh.  Folks do things a little different out here.”

Doris is what my grandma would have called Just Good Folks; hard-working, generous, no-nonsense.  The house is gorgeous, filled with antiques and Doris’ oil paintings (we nattered about art for a while).  She showed me to the laundry room and invited me to eat supper with them, their son, and another AirBNB couple.  This is not standard B&B fare.

IMG_0431Supper was delicious with lively conversation.  I imagine boarding houses must have been like this in the Long Ago; strangers gathered at a table and resting, safe, under the roof of a Good Woman (and her Good Man).  It feels very homey here.

And now the smell of fresh laundry dominates my room.  Clean undies!  I can fall asleep with the window cracked to let in the Very Different scent of the Pacific Northwest; more ozone, more oxygen, more ocean-washed than Flatland air.

IMG_0435The chickens out in their pen are quiet now (um… yes, we ate chicken for supper).  I visited them before they tucked their beaks under for the night, because chickens this fat and beautiful deserved to be visited.  And I knew Cheryl would love them (you’re welcome).

Now it’s time for me to tuck my beak under my wing.  Sweet Dreams and Pleasant Poultry.  And may you feel the road rush under your wheels.

Westward Ho! Day 7

Our last day of classes.

I skipped breakfast this morning to write about yesterday and ease into the day.  The Fort has a little coffee shop, so I stopped there for a latte and scone before heading to Jesse’s class; a quiet walk through the morning mist to the other side of campus with only my bag’s wheels grumbling on the asphalt and the gulls calling overhead.  Lots of crows here, too.  And owls.  The Flying Ones offer lots of singing practice.

I think Jess’s class was my favorite.  We worked in black and white acrylic paint using a fan brush and our hands.  Primitive mark-making.  And like Michael deMeng’s class, we started looking for areas of interest and larger images.  I loved the energy and immediacy of it.  Black and white felt so much easier than color.  And Jesse was a hoot.  He told stories in different accents, so of course I loved him.

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Details from the pages; lots of little Mr. Bills getting out of the thorny, pregnant monster’s way.

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After lunch, it was finally time for Tracy Moore’s class.  This was the watershed moment. Could he teach/inspire/goad me into art journaling?  Was there a way to incorporate art into my daily journal practice?  Or were these two modes of expression forever separate for me?

Tracy’s very low-key, but passionate about art journaling.  He just wanted us to keep our hand moving over the page, doodling, trying different simple shapes while he told stories about his own process.  He talked about how journaling for him is a social experience, hanging out in coffee shops and bars with his journal and pens, inviting people he meets to draw something in them.  Some of his pages have lots of text, some don’t.  He admits that he gets bored easily and switches things up.

He also gave us a list of his favorite stuff; pens, techno doo-dads, stamp-making tools, online stores.  I made a list.

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Later I talked to him about being a writer who also does art and whether I could combine the two.  “Keep it simple,” he suggested.  “Try it and see what happens.”

So at the Last Night Party,  I sat with everyone else and wrote in my newly minted art journal and pondered this question.  The Seattle band, Surrealized, provided mood music and the door between my words and my art cracked open.  Is the separation illusion?  If both are allowed to play together, what else might join them?  What else might have been sacrificed to my bipolar scramble for survival?  What else waits for room?

I’m willing to push the door open a little wider and invite everyone to come play.

 

Westward Ho! Day 6

IMG_0405I smartened up yesterday, dumped out one suitcase, and loaded it with all the art supplies I need to schlep to classes.  I’d seen other people doing this, so it’s not my brilliant idea.  Just took me a day.

Yesterday’s classes were with painters.  I’ve longed to learn how to use paint since high school (when I flunked art class).  It’s always intimidated me, so I ran through a gammet of expected emotions throughout the day.  It was a challenge to stay present, to breathe, to remember who I was and that I was okay no matter what.  Both teachers were kind, funny, helpful, nonjudgmental.  All that made a challenging day successful.

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Again, these pages are just beginnings; a way to learn techniques and start applying them.  We all wanted weeks to keep working on them.

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In Michael’s class, we started with a wash of paint, then slowly pulled images out of it with repeated layers of wash and white highlights.  This is one technique I want to try again.  It has a spooky, otherworldly quality that I dig in a big way, but couldn’t quite grok in three hours.

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Then it was time for the vendor show.  Half a table turned out to be a lot smaller than I expected, so I ditched my idea of showing my bigger collages and set up my cards as best I could.  My table-mate, Lynn, and her girlfriend, started laughing at my stuff almost immediately, so that helped me settle down and enjoy myself.

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And all I can really say is, “Holy Shit!”  People crowded around my end of the table until Teesha flicked the lights to call quits on the show.  Even then, a couple of new friends hung around, digging through my boxes and exclaiming over details like WW1-era papers and gilding paints.  Compliments bombarded me like little Nerf balls.  I loved telling the stories of cards people chose; This is my grandma… This is my mom and dad…This image came from a 1915 holistic health magazine…  This group of folks loved it.  I was in my perfect venue.

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I started out with four boxes of cards and ended up with two and a half.  I haven’t tallied the take, but let me tell you, it’s much more than I ever expected.  I was in shock when I packed up.

IMG_0403And stinky, sticky with adrenalin.

And my back ached like a son-of-a-bitch.

And What A Day!

 

Westward Ho! Day 5

 

Teesha's Pages

The focus of ArtFest is art journaling.  I’ve tried this a couple of times, even made a few art journals, but never really got into it.  I journal… and I do art.  They come from two different parts of my brain.  Whenever I’ve tried to moosh them together, both parts sort of suffer.

Part of coming out here (aside from loving Teesha’s rubber stamps and, you know, traveling) was to stretch my artsy envelope and embrace art journaling (at least for five days).  I’m with 143 artists who are good at this and six teachers who want to help us do it better, give us new ideas and techniques, and support the artsy life.  My attitude is I’ll Try Anything!  Bring It On!

IMG_0376We have two classes a day with a two and a half hour break between for lunch, rest, and journaling on our own.  Each class is three hours long, which never seems like enough time to do everything we want to do.  The point is not to create a finished piece, but to play around with the cool tools and new techniques, get a journal spread started, then go off later and mess around with it.

Not surprisingly, perfectionism among the ArtFesters abounds, but the teachers keep slicing through that by making us do things fast, sloppy, random, imperfect.  I love it!  Yesterday, teacher Orly Avineri, trooped us all outside with the images we’d made that we liked the least.  We stood in a circle, ripped them up, then released them like confetti with whoops and grunts and whatever non-language noise came from our guts.  Without release, she said, we get stuck.  We can’t continue to wander to the next thing, and the next and the next.  In Artfest’s Superhero pantheon, Orly is Wander Woman.

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IMG_0389After class yesterday, I met up with my new friend, Michelle (brain enthusiast, fan-girl, mystic, potty-mouth) and her Southern California gang for supper.  I was too tired to enjoy their lively conversation about Broadway shows.  Time zone changes, adrenaline, the push of a schedule on the road, the gentle sway of rapid cycling; whatever the reasons, I’d only gotten three hours of sleep at night for too long. I had to skip the beach bonfire last night and for the welcome snug of my bunk.  I fell asleep with the evidence of a day well spent.

Now, with a full eight hours in my sleep bank, I’m ready for another fabulous day with two more of my mixed-media Heros; Andrea Matus and Michael deMeng.  Tonight: The Vendor Show!

Westward Ho! Day 4

Spokane, WA (7:30 AM) to Port Townsend, WA (4:00 PM).  370 miles.
Notables: Sting’s Roxanne (Symphonicities version)

Between Spokane and Seattle

Well, really, ho-hum.  Another day of brilliant sun, snow-capped mountains, burbling streams.  It’s just all a little overdone, don’t you think?  I mean, on and on with the sapphire sky and pine-fresh air… can’t these Pacific Northwesterners show a little restraint?

We were doing just fine until Seattle.  I saw signs for a tollway and wondered, tollways?  When was the last time I paid a toll?  Do they still have big buckets to throw quarters at as you pass by?  Do I have any quarters?

Since John had no answers, I thought I’d better stop and inquire about proper procedure.  I didn’t want to get chased by Washington State Smokies (Were they even called that anymore?  Geez, I felt old).

Come to find out, the highway cams snap a picture of your license plate and you get a bill in the mail.  More stuff I never knew.

On the FerrySo, I was a little flustered when we got to the ferry.  I thought I told John to take a different route to avoid the ferry, but here we were.  The first time around, Cleese got us in the wrong lane and the Port Authority officer yelled at me (until he saw that I had an Iowa license plate and clearly no accurate help from my British Sulu).

 After I stuffed a sock in his recorded yap, I found my way to the ferry toll and holding area.  Clear sailing from there on (pun only sort of intended).

Looking Back at SeattleI’m finding that a GPS system can get just as befuddled as a human when the details become complicated and change quickly.  Two heads (one nav-sat and one bipolar) really are better than one.

Another hour of twisty two-lane highway through forest and, to my surprise, cattle ranches brought us to Port Townsend and Fort Worden.

I checked in, made my journal (which will hold all the art I make this week), dumped my stuff in my dorm room (which used to be the barracks), and started schmoozing.

dorm

IMG_0364Dinner offered a vegan option (a to-die-for veggie burger).  Teesha made a few logistical announcements and introduced our teachers.

I made a few swaps (traded art bits) with the fun folk I’ve met so far, and came to my room to report and crash.  Tomorrow: ART.Art Swaps

 

 

 

Westward Ho! Day 3

Billings, MT (6:30 AM Mountain) to Spokane, WA (4:00 PM Pacific). 542 miles.
Pertinent Tunes:  Throat Culture’s Easter Island.
Audiobook: Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife

This was going to be another full day on the road, and I wanted to get to Spokane early enough to meet my bloggy friend, Linda, before I faded, so I set out before dawn.  Again.

I love that the day worked out just like that.  I love that I’ve been dancing with my bipolar disorder long enough to know what my limits might be and how to bring them into the dance.  I can’t tell you how much I love that.

So, John led me out of Billings under the cover of dark and flurries of snow.  He’s gotten me to every destination with only two hiccups.  Both times he told me to turn around and head back home.  I think I must have accidentally touched the screen, but still, mistakes such as these required proper admonishment and Python-worthy name calling.

runaway-truck-rampSo, properly chastised, he sent me up through the Continental Divide.  No more puny foothills, we were in the Big League today.  We traveled the kinds of roads that required special Runaway Truck Ramps for semis with fried brakes.  And wide places to pull off so one can attach their tire chains.  There we were, switchbacking and trundling along those straining Peterbilts, with snow and low-slung clouds obscuring the peaks.  Ooo, it was an exciting day!

And beautiful.  Majestic.  A complete Jeremiah Johnson experience.  There are no words.  Robert Redford’s “Agh” comes close.

Linda in SpokaneAnd then, it was Spokane, and bright warm sun, and Linda singing to me as she drove up the drive.  We’ve known each other through my blog (and my cards, and Facebook) for years, and finally got to hug and squee like proper girlfriends.  She took me to a little park for a nice walk and the beginning of our non-stop babbling. Three hours later, after a scrumptious Thai dinner and a tour of her home, she dropped me off, still singing.

Such an exciting day.

Westward Ho! Day 2

Interior, SD (9 AM) to Billings, MT (5:30PM).  393 miles.

I slept like the dead.  Then, the alarm on my phone went off after I thought I’d turned it off (I was pretty boo-boo faced last night after my four hour learning curve on the Microsoft laptop).  I fell out of my oh-so comfy king-sized bed trying to find the Dream-Killer.  As is inevitable after the alarm goes off, Nature called, and I slammed my head into the bathroom vanity in the dark.  Which made me use new and Technicolor swears while laughing.  So much for sleeping in.

FrostyInstead, I did the Sun Salutation until my aching back started to unknot (thank you, Jinjer) and puttered.  Before I left the Circle View Ranch, I spent some quality time with Frosty, one of the hosts.  It was nice to be claimed by an unknown cat.  Sort of validated my whole existence as a human being.

Wyatt's HideawayMy mood slid south while I pointed Corvus northwest.  I wasn’t surprised by the depression after Sunday’s giddiness; too much tension, too tired, too much of too much.  Moderation was required.  And another validation of who I am as a human being.

The Badlands became foothills, which looked like mountains to me.  At a rest stop outside Piedmont, I pondered my life as a Flatlander.

IMG_0342Here were ranches and homes tucked into the crook of these huge elbows of rock.  Didn’t people get claustrophobic?  How did they orient without a horizon?  How could they prepare for bad weather if they couldn’t see it coming?  Maybe there was a sense of safety and comfort in being nestled up against a mountain-ish thing.  I don’t think I’d like it.  I’d always be looking over my shoulder.

antelopeThe speed limit out here is 80 mph on the freeway (or “motorway,” as John calls it).  I couldn’t bring myself to go that fast.  Even 75 felt out of control and dangerous.  I’m sure a lot of colorful swears darted through the whooshing air as everyone passed me, but what with zipping up and down mountains on curvy roads, and juggling a water bottle, and maybe changing out the audiobook, I thought prudence should prevail.  Besides, I might have missed the little herds of antelope grazing on the slopes, and they were too sweet to be missed.

Tonight, my hosts, John and Coreen welcomed me into their home.  It still feels a little odd barging into someone’s home to stay the night.  I know that’s my bipolarness talking.  I know I’ve paid them to let me sleep in their pretty guest room.  We had a wonderful conversation about mental illness (Coreen’s sister has BP), Habitat for Humanity (which is John’s post-retirement job), the plight of Native Americans, and some religion thrown in for spice.  I sat in Coreen’s kitchen, slurping my Ramen noodles while she prepared their supper, and John complained about being hungry.  It all seemed so normal.

I can sit with my moments of feeling like an intruder.  They’re just another bit of bipolar not-good-enough muddying the view.  I can counter them with the warm fuzziness of meeting kind and generous folk at the end of a long day’s journey.

Depression and antelopes.  Speed and hospitality.  It all evens out.

 

 

 

All Systems Go

Sunday, before dawn, I’ll be on my way to ArtFest and points West.  Just one final checklist to run through.

“Flight Controllers? Give me a Go/No Go for Launch.  Booster…”

We had our glitch yesterday.  Testing a new GPS device on the trip to Des Moines, I left the unit turned off, but plugged in when I went in to my meeting.  Two hours later—dead car.  Controlled hysteria ensued.  But, just like Mark Watney, I got to work.


2011-honda-cr-v-ex-lThe folks at my meeting found jumper cables, and I cancelled two other appointments to hurry home to my mechanic (since I could only hope it was a dead battery).  Even though they were booked solid, Rich, Rose and Jeff at Alley Auto hooked Corvus up to telemetry and determined the battery sound.  Just unplug anything from the USB when the engine isn’t running.  Good to know.

“FIDO…”

TomTom took almost two weeks to determine the problem with a celebrity voice I tried to download to my GPS unit, but now John Cleese is officially telling me where to go.

“Guidance…”

I love how easy it was to book overnight stays at Bed and Breakfasts through Airbnb.  It’s giving the hotels in California such a run for their money, that there’s a new tax on B&Bs there (the bastards).  All the B&Bs along my flight path confirmed and anticipate my arrival with utmost glee.  Or at least they promise not to greet me with a shotgun.

Guesthouse on the Green, Billings, Montana

“Surgeon…”

The sinus infection is nearly done, just a few sniffles and a mostly-baritone voice.  I’m taking my whole medicine chest with me just in case as well as good trainers for those fifteen minute breaks every two hours to walk off any fomenting blood clots or nasty butt boils.  Too graphic?  Just wait.

water“EECOM…”

I’m packing a cooler with lunch supplies, a crate of chips, enough Ramen noodles for two weeks, a bale of bottled water, and everything I need to make my daily Shakeology smoothie.  So, basically my whole kitchen  (Oh, and the seasonal jelly bean or two).

“GNC…”

The wild rapid cycling seems to have slowed the last few days.  Anxiety and mania have mellowed to gentle anticipation. A lot of that has to do with preparation and gnat’s ass attention to detail.  When the car died yesterday, I told my sister I was so glad I tested the GPS unit before Sunday, and that I was thankful Mom taught us to be anal.  My sis texted back, “Yes, it does come in handy.”

audiobooks-200x200“INCO…”

My friend, Ellen, at the library gave me an extension on the dozen audiobooks I borrowed.  Between those, my iPod, and a few additional CDs, I ought to stay entertained.  Since I’ll be driving seven to nine hours a day, I won’t have much time to stop at wayside junk shops, but if one happens to jump in front of me…

Back to Normal 10:10:15

 “Network…”

Sue, The Cat Whisperer, will be tending my ground crew while I’m away.  The steely-eyed missile men took to her immediately, and seem to know that she’ll be The Keeper of the Treats.  I’m so lucky to have reconnected with this friend from high school who loves felines as much as I do (and is used to a swampy litter box).

Kuralt-typing-in-his-van“CAPCOM…”

My friend, Cat, loaned me a laptop so that I can pretend to be Charles Kuralt.  My plan is to settle into a comfy B&B each night, cook up a bowl of Ramen noodles, and write a blog post of the day’s excitement On The Road.  I feel very journalistic and savvy since it’s a Microsoft laptop instead of a Mac.

My Butt Itches“Payload…

“I figured the other day that I’d made 87 cards in 81 days.  Since a therapist once told me to eliminate productive from my vocabulary, I’ll just say I’m pleased and amazed at that number.  Some of those cards were special orders or sold on my Etsy shop, but most are going with me.  The vendor show at ArtFest only lasts an hour (Hmmm.  We’ll see about that…), but I’m excited to show my wares and present a funky table display.

“FAO…”

A lot of people helped make this Bucket List Trip a reality.  From Cheryl and Tom loaning me a second suitcase and card displays to my deceased mom leaving me her Honda, I have relied on the kindness and generosity of my clan.  Thank you, everyone.  I am forever grateful.

So let’s go through that checklist one last time.

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