Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Thursday, January 12

I drop A at the kitchen.  It's a quiet day for her - a day away from the computer and distractions.  I continue on out to my installation where I tie little white rocks to strings for the next couple of hours.

Rain, and especially yesterday's thundershowers has brought the river up a few feet.  It runs brown with silt and the gravel bar where I have been fetching my cobblestones is well under water. 

I retrieve a downed cedar fence post from the brush to use as part of a bench that I am building.  Then, I head upstream for a walk.  Curiosity draws me up to a bench of land on the hillside that I've wondered about for some time.  From below it looks like it could be an old road bed.  As I make my way up the hill I flush a barn owl from a large Douglas fir snag.

 It perches 50 yards away and watches me for a minute or two.  There is a large cavity in the tree and this is likely the owl's nest site.  I find egg fragments on top of an dead leaf at my feet.

The bench could be part of a road, but if it is it was a road a long time ago.  I find two ripe salmon berries and I eat them.

I sit in the shelter of a cedar while rain drops strike the canopy making the same sound on that roof as if I was in my house.

I look at my watch to check the date.  My watch says it is Thursday, January 12.  It makes no difference.

notes:  the slough ford is waist deep today.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I slept out under a clear sky once more.  A siren up the valley  sounded and the coyotes sang back, beginning with one very long and even howl.  When I opened my eyes, it was to fog.  Dew had formed on everything, including me.

I slip my feet into boots still wet from yesterday's wading.  Memories.  Cold wet boots are the Kuskalana Glacier, where cold wet boots were actually frozen boots that only became wet after being worn a few minutes.  Wading in hiking boots is always a stream near Engineer Creek, where my friends followed caribou trails, while I, after too many miles of punching scrub willow, retreated to the openness of the river, preferring wet feet to be really wet, and not minding cobbled bottom.

Some thing or some occurrence at some later place and some later time will undoubtedly be Smoke Farm.

Walking into the wind, back towards the barn, I look up to find something out of place.  As still as stumps, what they are doesn't register immediately.  My brain lags in adjustment behind my eyes...a doe and a fawn are doing the same with me.


It doesn't take too long.  Castoreum comes to my nose just as I begin the walk up the road from the barn.  Three years of tracking and observing the habits of beaver has left my nose unusually keen to the musk that they spray to mark territory.  In the still air, in the shelter of the cottonwoods, odors linger.  It's possible that I am catching the scent from the trees themselves because what they eat does affect the scent.  It's hard to say.

At the double log bridge, I pick up the scent again.  Here, I expect it and a newly felled cottonwood overhanging the bank of the creek confirms.  This has been a regularly used feed zone all winter.  As I move towards the bridge, I flush a few baby ducks.  They swim upstream into the protection of the brush.

The river is higher today.  The unseasonably warm and sunny weather of last week has increased snow melt somewhere.  It might be a foot or so higher than on my last visit.  Today, I have to wade shin deep out to the gravel bar to collect rocks.  I didn't expect that and left my rubber boots at home.  But, I find something pleasant about hiking boots full of water.

the grass is higher too

"He was a newcomer to the land...  The trouble with him was that he was without imagination.  He was quick and alert at the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances."  
Jack London - To Build a Fire

Just something I read over dinner.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


I am up early again as is my new friend A, who slept not far away.  I heard her move in the night and she tells me that her sleeping bag was not quite warm enough for open air.  We make coffee and while others sleep, we take a hike and find a couple of our friends awake when we return.

Since things are off to a very leisurely start, I head off to move some rocks.  But, I run into S coming the opposite direction up the road and she asks to go for a walk with me, so we do.  We visit the squatter's cabin first.  I lead until we are close, then I point towards the last stretch of trail and stop talking.  I follow a short distance behind.   When we are done exploring and discussing that interesting structure, I ask, "what next?" - my way of politely giving a person a way out of a long hike.  S surprises me some by wanting to push on farther away rather than head back for breakfast.  In fact, I notice that if I stand still, she will walk farther into the forest.  It is a good trait and one that many of my artist friends have...their curiosity drives their creativity.  "Let's head up the road, I have a cool stump to show you."  I tell her that I pose my hiking partners with stumps and that some of them have a wonderful ability to look like they were born there and that they belong there.  I talk of them as matriarchs and how they guide me back out of the forest when I wander.  We get to that tall stump, and S climbs to the top of it.
She asks, "have you been up here?"
I respond, "That is not my relationship with them."
And she does something gentle that I've seen no one else do, and she looks like she belongs there.

May 12, 2012
Night was just cold enough to reach through my sleeping bag with only the stars as the skin of my tent.  Sometime in the early morning night, a half moon rose and drifted sideways across the sky.  Wind came sometime early also, with a breath of chill touching my side with each gust.  When it woke me, I had a starlit sky above and fuzzy in my nearsighted vision.

I rose before sunrise, made breakfast, and headed out to continue work.  As the sun rose and arced through the sky, the half moon disappeared.

Site visits for prospective Lo-fi artists begin today.  I knock off and wait for people to come at noon, but they are more casual and leisurely than I am about time.  But, they do arrive, and each meeting is a good experience with the possibilities of lasting friendship.  We have fine discussions, we tour the landscape, we eat an excellent dinner, and when all have retired to various buildings and spaces for the night, I lay down under the stars once more.

A slug

May 11, 2012
It is as much a summer day as one can expect - warm and sunny, the farm is green with new growth, the cottonwoods all leafed out and the grass in the meadows is somewhere between thigh and chest high.  My days here, the past few months, have been ones of exploring, days of finding new things and days of finding the outer edges of what I can call the farm (it does go beyond the legal edges of the farm).  But, today is a work day.  Familiar with the area, I decided to make something for others to find, an installation that will do no harm, but perhaps cause people to pause and think.  I've been told and seen that one of Smoke Farm's best traits is the exchange of ideas that occur when people come together here.

So, I move rocks.  Lots of rocks.  2 buckets at a time, 6 buckets to the wheelbarrow, 3 wheelbarrows before a rest.  The red breasted sapsucker that likes the cedar tree where I work returns.  It is unafraid of me and we look at each other from 6 feet away.  When I move, it just sidesteps a bit further around the tree.  As I collect rocks, I spot a mule deer on the far side of the river, a 100 yards downstream.  It looks back and spots me, watches me, and then takes its time walking further downstream.  I return to moving rocks.