28 December 2014

DeLIGHTful Orcas Home

We arrived on our land last night around 5:30pm, therefore seemingly in the middle of the night. Unbeknownst to us before our arrival, Burke and the team had placed a small tree on the pinnacle of our cupola and lit it up with white lights. Ian and I both teared up at the beauty, but also at the sweetness of the gesture. There was no need for this, but it is utterly delightful, and, for us, a much-appreciated and completely unexpected gift in the middle of a season that has been over-packed with Life Experiences. We're here for a week, and hope to ring in the New Year with a toast to each other in our new home (maybe at Central Time New Year--see above "over-packed", etc.).

Happy New Year, everyone, if I don't post again this trip (but I might), and enjoy the latest pictures here. 

22 December 2014

Happy Winter!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Season's Greetings, Welcome Solstice, and everything else,


That's right: Calin, Ian, and Spackle are moving to Orcas, before the Equinox. 

17 December 2014

Land Shaping

There is no vegetative landscaping happening yet around our lovely home, but this week the excavator has been back, and he's an artist with stone and dirt! I love the rockeries, and the house is looking more and more like it belongs where it's going. Enjoy the latest photos here!

09 December 2014

Photo Update

This shot, which I love, aims directly from our bed to our toilet. 

I learned last weekend, in the short, 2-night visit and beginning of the move into the guest house where we will be staying, full-time starting this spring--until the house is finished--and during any island visits until then--that two nights are not enough. Three nights minimum is my plan from here on out.

If you're confused by the timing discussed in the above paragraph, I'm here to tell you: Rightly so.

We feel a bit like we're on a pilgrimage, and that each lodging along the way is readying us to be absolutely thrilled when we're finally HOME. Years ago, we started with a tent. Then we built the Dacha (as I'm wont to say, glorified camping until the first major fly infestation, and from then on a really sucky house). In November I rented a drafty, smoky, tiny beach shack for a week, where I had electricity and an indoor toilet and a straight shot out to North Beach but, drafty, smoky. Now we're in the small home where we'll stay until HOME is finished, and it's even better--electricity, indoor plumbing, mostly furnished (but we're bringing my piano and our guest bed), a much better-appointed kitchen than the beach shack (although missing some strange items--I mean, strangely missing some very necessary items, such as spoons--there are two teaspoons for eating, and that's it, but about 20 bowls) . . . but it's small compared to a house, and it's someone else's (I haven't rented in 15 years), and, well, you know.

At the moment, we sort-of have four homes, including the one in-progress, the Hogan House (which is the name of the guest house we're renting), the Dacha, and Taylor Wallingford. If I haven't responded to something you've emailed me about recently, it's because your note, like so many other parts of my life right now, is somewhere in the tornado of details.

And, that's all the time I have to spend on this right now! BUT, I remembered!

Here is the time-lapse video link!: http://youtu.be/YoppvgZS9zs

And new photos are posted!

These horses are TIRED!

07 December 2014

Holiday Wishes

This, seen in Edison, on our way up to Bellingham from Orcas, for dinner with Ian's dad this evening. And below, please appreciate the rest of the fine display. Merry Christmas everyone, for Christ's sake.

Wish I Could Sit Here All Day

View from our guest house; beginning of my Orcas Sweater.

one-fingered on my phone

05 December 2014

Key Insight

As I was packing Thursday night for our weekend trip to Orcas, I found myself in a familiar, futile thought circle, triggered, in this case, by the fact that yesterday I picked up the key for the guest house we're renting for the next several months.

I had told the owners I was coming around noon, and the fact that I decided late Thursday to take the later boat led me into the swirl: what if they judge me for keeping the heat at a higher level than they would? What if they think I'm using too much water? What if I come and go more than they'd like? and etc. As I have come to do recently, though, I took myself to task and remonstrated: they are NOT doing you a favor, Calin, you are RENTING the place, for the price they asked. You have the right to live as makes you comfortable.

And then, somehow, I realized that it was the act of picking up the key, that was--yes--the key to my struggle. Collecting this key is our first tangible step toward moving out of Seattle.

What? you say. That sturdy, fanciful house isn't tangible? Well, no, not really, not yet. Right now, our dream house is a delight and a frustration--it's gorgeous and we can walk around in it and anyone who has driven by it knows of it when we introduce ourselves (which has been, so far, everyone)--but there are still a billion details to work out, and a couple hundred more nights to sleep elsewhere.

Even though my heart moved on to Orcas last summer, it was still blissfully involved with the beauties and delights that have graced our Seattle home for the 14 years we've been living there together.

I realized as I was packing that we spent our youth in that home. We learned to be ourselves there, together. We learned to mourn. We learned to be goofy. We learned how to disagree with each other, but much more often, we've laughed at ourselves for the coincidence of our impulses and our commentary. We learned to be ecstatic. We learned how to get along with others, and how to recognize when we needed to make our own, sometimes unpopular, choices.

We were children when we met, and now we're adults, and all that growth and learning took place at 3902 Wallingford.

I stood for a long time at the end of the bed Thursday night, my hands resting on my mostly-packed duffle, watching years of experiences pass by in my mind's eye, grieving, laughing (sometimes ruefully), and remembering.

Wallingford, and our snug little house, were exactly the shelter I needed during those callow years.

I am so grateful.

one-fingered on my phone

30 November 2014

Icy in Seattle

We have a leaky downspout here in Seattle (must get that fixed ASAP!), which created an interesting ice sculpture in our Blue Bush (ceanothus) over the weekend.

(also: more Orcas picture here)

22 November 2014

Late November Pictures

Ian and I flew up to Orcas yesterday morning, 8:00am on Kenmore Air. In the summer, Kenmore Air flies a much more regular schedule than in the winter. They post a regular schedule year round, but they fly during daylight hours only, and only in winds up to around 20 knots, and never in fog, so, weather dependent. 

We had really been hoping for good weather, because we had planned two important bookend events this weekend: I had a piano lesson scheduled for 12:30pm on Orcas yesterday; and tomorrow evening we have tickets to see John Oliver perform at the Paramount in Seattle. 

Our anxiety at the cold, raw, November weather that began Wednesday last week was well-founded, although our fears were not borne out on our trip up yesterday. We were glad to be making a weekend of it, because in the afternoon yesterday the weather became un-flyable as predicted, and a man on our flight, bound for Friday Harbor--for a two-hour boat repair job for a client--was told he should either postpone his trip, or plan to stay the night. He chose to fly and stay the night, and this morning's flight back to the city must've been gorgeous. Things look okay for tomorrow afternoon's return, so we're hopeful that we'll be laughing until we cry by 8:00pm tomorrow night. 

We rented a car--the only chance we expect to have to do so here--and at least three friends offered us loaner cars when they saw our ride (not that it was bad, just that we were paying for it). But it was a diverting experience akin to Kenmore Air (where you show up 20 minutes before take-off, and carry your water and pocket knives onto the plane), because the car was left at the West Sound Marina, with the key on the driver's seat and my name on a Post-It on the window of the unlocked driver's door. Our contract was inside, with a request to sign it, and to fill the car in Eastsound (the only option on the island--the car took just over 1 gallon today, and we won't use all of that before tomorrow afternoon) before leaving it back at the marina. There were also two bottles of water, and two granola bars.  

We're staying at the Blue Heron, although as family this time, not as guests, and so we've been taking care of the fire in the fireplace insert, and we took the dog for a walk, and this morning we shared breakfast with a 95-year-old West Sound Resident who was avid to visit our house (there were two houses here with towers when she first moved to the community 61 years ago, and she kept saying "This is just great!" over and over during her tour of our home), then we gave someone else a tour, then we had a delicious lunch at Roses and a conversation with the owner (another West Sound resident), and then we checked our PO box, and then we visited the shop where I bought Ian's birthday ax and shared stories with the proprietor, and then we spent several minutes with an apple enthusiast who was selling his wares on a street in Eastsound ("And this one I found growing wild on the side of the road by the place with the gypsy caravan and I took a cutting and grafted it on"--a similar story was told of at least six of the dozen types he had in boxes, and "Oh, you don't need more than five apple trees, and you just graft 20 different varieties on!"), and then several more minutes buying yarn and chatting with a woman who lives on the road to the ferry, and who is on the way to being a friend as well. In all, we made our community rounds, delighted, and awed, that this is where we get to be. 

New pictures are posted!

21 November 2014

What I Learned from Gamma This Time

I've been bogged down in my writing for three weeks now, first by the aftermath of the procedure itself--it's always a more fun time during the procedure, I ruefully remember as the drugs wear off; and then by my inability to tell any of the things that happened that were so clear and poignant to me, but would've sounded like voodoo, or outright cuckoo, to some of you. My birthday post, which I felt was funny enough, in a deep indigo way, elicited, aside from two brave souls, crickets by way of response. I felt comforted by the image, of being protected in my life by my death. But perhaps that wasn't true of everyone.

I'm a storyteller, and I've been having problems writing the specifics about how I believed your visualization was assisting me in this latest journey through the Western Medical Industrial Complex. I was trying to use colorful language to dress up what were, at the root of it, just boring facts. This happened, and then this happened, and then this. Or just boring complete fabrications, depending on your views of the world and how it works.

The point is that the meaning, in this case, wasn't in the journey, but, instead, was in the destination. The point--and the meaning--is that you all helped me make a choice to live my life by a new set of standards, and in a new framework. Your friendship, and your willing responses to my request, and your faith in me--that gave me the courage to change my mind about how my world works.

I can't think of a better gift. 

Thank you.

10 November 2014

The Question to the Answer

(in wistful response to Douglas Adams, whom we lost too soon*)

On November 9th, 1972, at 4:10 PM Pacific Standard Time, in a delivery room at Group Health Hospital in Seattle, Washington, USA, a Death was born. There was nothing remarkable about this particular Death except to me: It was my Death.

I arrived slimy and huge and "uglier than hell," according to my dad.

"No! You were perfect! All ten fingers and all ten toes and MINE!" my mother would retort.

What no one ever noticed, in the joy of a first baby, was that as surely as the infant me coalesced into humanness, I arrived shrouded in my newly minted Death.

We all do--that is the way with mortality. At each Birth, a Death is born. And yet for most of us, we try to ignore that basic human fact. I, too, have pushed my Death aside; at least once quite literally, or so it seemed. But whether I've been feeling well or ill, for the last 15 years I've been haunted by thoughts of my Death.

I'm a Scorpio, and that's supposed to be our thing, and while my Death was born on November 9th, so was I, and this year my birthday fell at a time when Pluto and Mars and a full moon (death/rebirth, vigor/strength, and a spotlight on your soul) all came together, enhanced by the strongest sun spots in 25 years, and some conjunctions particular to my own birth chart.

Coupled with Amelia to open my mind, this was a potent energetic marinade. Two nights before my birthday, nonagenarian Spackle and I were out walking and I realized that the gift he will be leaving for Ian and me is that of our biggest loss. When he goes, we will be heartbroken. Without knowing Loss, you cannot know Life, Spackle seemed to say to me as I wept preemptively, following behind him as he limped around the perimeter of the dark lawn in front of our beach shack. He sniffed and sniffed, fully invested in his olfactory observations.

"Pluto Pup," I sniffled at Spackle as we went back inside to continue our fireside meditations.

When will I figure out how to get rid of this fear of dying? I thought despairingly. It's frustrating, draining, exhausting, boring even, to still be fearful, having learned from long experience that it does no good at all. None.

As I sat and watched the fire, willing it to burn the chaff out of my soul, I thought about being born, and how that event started the countdown to Death. I thought about the shroud we put around bodies for burial, an ancient tradition meant to cloak and protect the departed in the afterlife. I began to realize that the shroud of Death that we are born with is the opposite: its purpose is to protect the soul  and the spirit in Life.

Because the thing about your Death is this: it's yours, and yours alone. No one can take it from you. You won't die anyone else's death. The time of your end may or may not be preordained; you may or may not control it. Most people don't, but everyone has that option. Regardless, it's going to come when it's going to come. But here is the other thing: in the meantime, Death knows that your time here is limited, and Death wants you to revel in it! To feel--cleanly and without regret or fear or judgment--the exquisite range of human emotions.

When will I figure out how to get rid of this fear of dying? When will I truly Live?


Yes, of course, this dog grave for Pluto, Friend to the Whole World, is just across the drive from the little cabin in which I mulled the Question to the Answer of the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything. 

*although, at his right time.

07 November 2014

More Pictures up Today

Delightful day, including lunch with a Seattle friend, and then a two-hour animated conversation with someone I'd only met over the internet dealing with permitting, and an island-made ice cream sandwich: chocolate cookie and salted caramel ice cream. Utterly delicious! Next time I'm getting peanut butter cookie and blackberry ice cream. Enjoy the shots!

06 November 2014

Latest Pictures from a Blustery November Day

So you can't really tell from the photos that the wind is whipping through here right now, but it is. And from where I'm sitting in the Dacha, it's quite noisy, with the corrugated plastic over the "kitchen" rattling and whistling like a flock of Banshees. Pretty exhilarating!

I've posted some more pictures, mostly of improbable framing (whoa! The Dacha just shuddered with that last gust!). I don't know if you've noticed, but I do caption a lot of these photos so you'll know what you're looking at, or which direction, or something like that.

Enjoy! It's quite the amazing thing!

01 November 2014

Latest Pictures: Complicated Roof!

Looking up in my tower office. That is one carefully constructed starburst!

All this beauty captured last week in an overnight, 24-hour trip. It's kind of unreal. Nope, it's VERY unreal :-).

As usual, the new pics are posted at the beginning of this album.

28 October 2014

Visualization Request

If you did not receive this email already, then, thank you for reading! And please consider joining the visualization . . .

Hello, my dear friends and family: 

About a year ago I went in for Gamma Knife at Harborview Medical Center (my 3rd time?). This treatment focuses gamma rays on specific lesions in my brain, allowing the lesions to be treated with very few side effects. It's a finite experience, ideally painless (the first year I needed an extra squirt of lidocaine in my forehead as they were screwing in the "halo"), plus I get some Ativan and a sedative. Also, the barbarity of the apparatus appeals to my sense of humor, in a way that chemotherapy has never done. Fun times! 

Last year, I asked many of you to visualize cascades flowing freely out of my brain, draining all unnecessary fluid and keeping the inflammation down. This worked really well--I had to pee like a race horse for about 3 days afterward. Thank you all for your kind assistance. 

This Thursday, October 30, I am scheduled for Gamma Knife again, and I would like to ask for your visualization assistance again, but with a difference: I would like you to picture my brain healthy and free from lesions. 

It doesn't matter if you believe or not that your visualization will have any effect. You don't need to do anything to prepare for it. It doesn't need to happen a lot, nor for a long time--a moment will do. You do not need to participate. 

In my mind's eye, my healthy brain glows with a coppery light--gold and pink and bright, swirling and flowing around. When you think of me this week, all I ask is that you picture my coppery, glowing, healthy brain. 

Thank you. 


note: One thing I wanted to clarify: You don't need to think of me Thursday morning; any time you think of me this week, you can picture my healthy brain. Timing--linear timing--doesn't matter at all.

one-fingered on my phone

19 October 2014

Knitted In

Every time I've been on Orcas in recent months, something has occurred to clarify, more and more each time, that the island is our community--and all that's missing is us.

As the days grow rapidly shorter, colder, and wetter, I've been feeling Orcas knitting itself cosily around me with local merino wool, protecting me from the elements, and making my home--although physically still months in the future--homier and homier.

In fact, this sweater knitting around me is *so* complete that, a couple weeks back, I began to feel slightly uneasy. I don't want Orcas to be a straitjacket, no matter how fleecy. A cardigan, though--ideally a zipped hoody--allows for quite a bit of flexibility. Too warm? Unzip. Chilly? Zip up to the chin. Super cold? Pull up the hood. I can live with--no, bask in--an Orcas cardigan.

As Orcas enfolds me in soft warmth, Seattle is rubbing me more and more like a hair shirt. At best, each return to the city ends in Wallingford with my back tense and my shoulders somewhere near my ears.

On my most recent arrival back in Seattle, someone had parked exactly right to screw me over with my heavy unloading and the late afternoon rain. I raged and wept and threw a royal tantrum (once I'd unloaded and was inside), in part fueled by my bitter recognition that I have absolutely no claim whatsoever to any stretch of any city street. This was one of my worst arrivals, for sure.

BUT! The short island visit that Ian and I had just completed (with him being dropped in Lake Forest Park on our return, and therefore absent from my puerile raging) knitted a whole skein into my sweater.

Last weekend I emailed the West Sound Neighbor-to-Neighbor email list asking for medium-term housing. We need someplace with an indoor toilet through the winter (and indoor cooking facilities, and electricity, and consistent heat, and, and . . . ), and as of mid-February when we vacate Wallingford to put our house on the market in the city, we'll need full-time lodging somewhere.

Within 24 hours I had two responses from Orcas (and emailed my thanks to the community), and one of them is PERFECT (and we look forward to being community members with the other as well).

As of December 1*, and through the remainder of our build, we will live in a little guesthouse with a great view, a kitchen, and a ten-minute walk home to get in the way of the construction crew. The guesthouse is mostly furnished, but we can add our own guest bed (come visit!), and my piano, and Spackle.

It's marvelous, the island element of my life's current upheaval, and I am continually thunderstruck by how quickly Orcas accommodates any request I make. I love it!

More pictures posted: I recommend looking at the night shots with the lights off, on your largest screen. Photogenic place!

one-fingered on my phone, and then edited on my computer.

*We'll still be "living" in Seattle . . . more or less . . . until the house actually goes on the market in March. But I'll be on Orcas as much as possible. Ian will be, too, but his "possible much" is slimmer than mine.


Just arrived in Juneau for a brief getaway--that is, I'm having a getaway; Ian is teaching a two day course--and it looks nice, although rainy. I'm hoping I'll have time to catch up on posting my Orcas pictures, but in the meantime, enjoy this view from our hotel room at the Baranof Westmark.

one-fingered on my phone

17 October 2014

The View From Our Bedroom

I'll try to get a few more pictures up tomorrow, and an update, but for now, get a load of this:

14 October 2014

Reformatted Photo Album

I've posted yesterday's pictures in the usual album, WITH a change: I reversed the date order in the album, so the most recent pictures will appear at the top, instead of you having to scroll, yet again, down to the bottom of the exponentially increasing number of shots. A thank you to Ian's friend D, who brought the issue into my more immediate attention.

I was about to say that I assume things will slow down once we're done with the exterior . . . but I *do* like to take close-ups, so I'm guessing I'll find plenty to photograph from *inside* as well. We'll see! In the meantime, Ian and I will be up tomorrow night for a mere 2-night visit, but a visit richly imbued with island community. More on that after the fact ;-).

11 October 2014

New Pictures!

I just want to make it clear that the fact that I haven't posted any pictures in the last week or so is NOT that the house hasn't been growing like a weed, but that it *has* been. I took a bunch of photos last week and then left my camera on the island, and then discovered (some days later) that I had, indeed, brought it home, and then life got in the way and then more pictures came in and AAAGH!!! So far behind!

Well, we haven't moved in yet, so I guess not *too* far behind, after all.

New Pictures Posted Here!

03 October 2014

Second Floor!

I've just added four new pictures from Burke to the end of the slide show. I took several pictures myself, including many of young mountain goats clambering over the framed walls--usually with nail guns or, between two of them, beams weighing, in my estimation at least, about a billion pounds. But, alas, I seem to have left my fancy camera on the island when I dragged myself away yesterday. So there will be a retrospective coming, but also, I suspect the mountain goats will be even more dizzying as the house grows taller.

Yep, it's exciting, if anyone was wondering ;-).

30 September 2014

Two Haikus

The Dacha at the End of September
The dog dreams below.
Aloft a porthole ajar,
And glitter above.

Also Aloft at the End of September
Potato bugs roam
Curious but only two
More cool than icky.

one-fingered on my phone

27 September 2014

The Giant's Lament

(I've long had a secret sympathy for the mistreated and misunderstood giant at the top of the beanstalk. Here is a glimpse into his side of the story.)

The Giant's Lament

Jack climbed up me stalk today, and stole me Honky Sal away.

She squawked and flapped and tried to run, but in his sack the knave Sal flung.

I stood up tall and I let loose:

"FEE FIE FOE FUM! I smell the blood of an Englishman! Be he alive or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread!"

But Jack just sneered, and took me goose!

He must've known me threats were fake. Who really would grind bones to bake?

Blech! Not me! I'm a vegetarian!

Jack is small, but he's a meany!

I am BIG!

But I'm a weeny :-(.

one-fingered on my phone

25 September 2014

Main Floor Exterior Walls Framed!

These folks are *really* not slow. I can't wait to WALK THROUGH MY HOUSE on Sunday afternoon! Seriously, this is A.W.E.S.O.M.E. As usual, pics at the end here. You may have to refresh your browser to see the new additions; that's what Ian found on his phone yesterday.

24 September 2014

Full Speed Ahead . . .

People around here--the Seattle area, that is--keep making surprised noises about how quickly our home project is moving along. My grandmother asked yesterday if they work when we're not there--and YES, is the resounding answer. On Sunday afternoon before we came back down, I took a couple pictures, from above, of Ian playing his carcordian in the future cellar. This morning, two days later, they're framing the main floor walls. Never again will we be able to look down into the basement (knock on wood!). Astonishing!

Pictures from Burke from the last two days and this morning now posted here, at the end of the list.

22 September 2014

17 September 2014

Where I Belong

It has been a busy summer in my world, full of delight and despair, euphoric certainty and soul-crushing fear. I have lived this summer widely as well as deeply--in Seattle and on Orcas; in Portugal showing my parents my favorite places; at home showing foreign friends the Pacific Northwest; with friends and communities on their own wild rides.

In mid-June, I had my last chemotherapy treatment. I was sitting in my bed, in a little private room, drinking my coffee and doing my crossword puzzle, thinking in the back of my mind of what I definitely needed to get done over the next five days. It's a busy time, building a home and readying another for sale, amongst all the usual chores of day-to-day life. I had, sometime just before this, scheduled "RECOVERY DAY" in my calendar for one day--every three weeks--after my infusion. It took five days to actually recover, but as usual, I was going to power through. Near the end of my 3-hour infusion stay, my nurse delivered my tumor marker results from the previous afternoon's blood draw. 

I glanced at them, not really concerned. I've always gone down while on active chemo, easing toward normal, and that's what I expected to see again.

That is not what I saw. My tumor markers had gone up.

I felt the briefest prick of tears, and realized, all of a sudden, that I could no longer gauge my health on those numbers. Slightly deeper than that, and more sobering, came the knowledge that chemotherapy was no longer helping me more than it was hurting me.

So I quit, for good this time.

"I don't ever, ever want to do chemotherapy again!" I sobbed, terrified, a few days later, to my spirit counselor/friend, who was helping me get to the bottom of this torture, self-inflicted, that I was daily subjecting myself to. Instantly my body filled with what felt like a flood of sparkling helium--I was buffeted and lifted by the incandescent golden torrent. It felt like a firehose of energy shooting into the top of my head and one into the soles of my feet, freeing my heart.

The euphoria from this choice--of this fundamental decision to follow my own, personal, inner truth: I AM NEVER DOING CHEMOTHERAPY AGAIN--lasted five days, coincidentally the same length of time as the stagnating feeling of chemo recovery.

For those five days I was on top of the world--I was completely without fear or anxiety. My arthritic thumbs stopped aching. I scaled the rock climbing wall like a gecko. I felt the wonder, and the deeply soothing relief, of knowing that I was SAFE here, now, on this planet. 

It was intoxicating, and it didn't last.

I was given that gift of giddy freedom by Grace, I thought, as the balloon began to lose its loft. That euphoria, that clear, unmuddied joy, *that* is how the human being is meant to go through life. But now, I realized, it is my work to find it again. I KNOW the end goal. Clean emotion. Trust. Revelry. Universe, Great Mystery, help me get there. 

As time has passed this summer, I've felt increasingly frantic about my chances for life (although repeating my mantra: I will never do chemotherapy again--always brings a rush to my heart). My logical conscious mind thinks "I'm running out of time!" whereas my trusting creative mind knows that there is always enough time to be ready for whatever is next. "But what if what's next is DEATH?" my logic mind cries. Then so be it, my trusting creative mind replies, unflustered. They have not been communicating well with each other of late. 

In my search for healing I've been spending more time on Orcas this summer; going there instead of Idaho for long swaths of outside time, and reveling in my ability to work with the land however I want, because it is my responsibility, and I can choose. I have found an acupuncturist on Lopez, and a therapist on Orcas, moving my physical, 3-D team up from the Seattle area to my forever home. 

Orcas has allowed me the space and stillness to begin to safely plumb my own dark, scary depths. I finally recognized, this summer, the breadth of my grief for my father. When he died, 22 years ago, I lost my best friend, my champion, and the one person who I knew would always have my back. Ian is too interwoven with me, too close to this struggle, to offer the promise I have most needed: YOU WILL BE OKAY. 

My choices: 

To capitulate, to surrender, to give into my fears and return to chemotherapy, even though I know it will kill my spirit at least as fast as my body.


To brave the unknown.

Both choices felt like a choice for death. But then, my mind chimed in, reasonably, all choices lead to death. In that case, why not choose the one that's more fun? Why not, indeed? I know--I know--deeply and fundamentally, that choosing to live, choosing to THRIVE, should be easy. But I couldn't get there. 

In Portugal two weeks ago (days after a sobering brain MRI), much to my surprise, I came to grips with another huge loss I've experienced in my life. Triggered by information from back at home, I found myself raging with a poisonous, rabid, nauseating jealousy and grimly putrid satisfaction--the kind of humiliating emotional storm that we habitually tamp down and gloss over--I'm not the kind of person, we say, who thinks such awful things about people I love! But instead of veering away from the cesspool, this time I dove into it. Under the roiling acid hung a deep, heavy pool of anger and grief that, amongst all the other losses of a typical young adult life, cancer had taken away my children

Seven years before, in the same little Portuguese village, Ian and I had been trying for a family. I raged and wept at his loss, as well as my own, and felt the crushing irrelevance of a barren, childless life. 

It's not fair, cancer. And I'm here to tell you: doing your logical best to get over it--"I won't want what I can't have"--doesn't work. 

But this is all part of the Circle of Life, and consciously attended pain eases as well as euphoria does, and as the Portugal trip wound to a close I was able to see two important things about creation: 1, that it wasn't until now, age almost-42, that I feel emotionally and spiritually ready to truly nurture a child; but 2, creation is vast, and there are infinite ways to bring new life into our world. 

Much Life, at its best, took place on Orcas last weekend. Suffering from jet lag and anxiety, I nevertheless made the drive up with Spackle last Friday, knowing that Orcas was where I needed to recover my equilibrium. On Saturday I hosted my father-in-law and his lady friend, including taking them on a slow tour of the land in Nublu, and pointing out my woods projects and the resting place of my mother-in-law's ashes, in the copse next to Hoover; and sharing with them at dinner that night my decision to quit chemo. My brother and sister-in-law, whom I haven't seen in years, came to visit the land and chat with Burke (while the parents toured other areas of the island), and enjoyed a spectacularly beautiful day for their seaplane rides. 

Sunday and Monday I spent blessedly alone, doing what whim suggested. This was largely snoozing and consulting various oracles, to help me continue on my journey to know, and therefore heal, myself. I resumed Amelia, who had been left behind for recent travel. It was not difficult to decide to stay Monday night and take the 7:15am ferry to my Seattle-area appointments yesterday.

The reward was life-changing. 

As I felt my tension release Monday evening, my anxiety about My Choice dissipate into the quiet around me, I looked inward, to where I stood, teetering, balancing, on a tightrope strung between two lakes. On the left, the roiling, stinking, acid-green horror of chemotherapy; on the right, an unknowably deep abyss. I'm scared, said my inner skeptic, unable to believe that I could survive the leap into the Unknown. I know, said the rest of me. I'm scared, too. 

I drew four Tarot cards: within, without, above, and below. Within, The Sun, XIX*. The sun sometimes blinds you, I thought, thinking about the searing light of the weekend weather. Maybe the abyss isn't endless darkness; maybe I'm just temporarily blind to what it is. And beyond that: Use your SUN to light the way of your ideal path. YOU light up the darkness, you yourself. That abyss has in it what YOU want to see; you are the life-giving Sun, and you are the light-receiving Earth

Spackle and I took our treats--peanut butter Kong for him; raspberry soda for me--outside to bask in the deepening twilight, and imagine what it would be like to illuminate the life I choose. I saw Nublu parked nearby, a quiet glow in the waning light. I saw beyond, up the hill, the foundations of my forever home; nearby, the Dacha; to the north, the reaches of our land. 

This is mine, I suddenly thought, with my whole being. THIS IS MINE. I tasted the words, considered the preposterousness of the conceit: that I had any claim to such beauty. Because it IS beautiful; the most amazing, heart-wrenchingly perfect place that I can imagine. 

For as long as I live, I belong here. I felt the glowing golden roots of my soul shoot deeply into the ground and into the rush of the earth-energy meridian that surges through Crow Valley. I sat in a bliss of delighted wonderment, alternately sobbing and laughing at the absurdity of such unbelievable good fortune.


This was different from my top-down recognition, the aren't-I-lucky-to-have-the-chance-to-steward-this-land understanding. This was a foundationally different experience, and I had burst into a torrent of weeping, because I had finally found my place in the world. I am not just here because of what I can do for the land, for the community, for the island; I am here also because of what IT can do for ME. It is symbiotic, our relationship, and profoundly cleansing and fulfilling. 

I had not realized how adrift I felt, and how lost, and how that underlying feeling of irrelevancy shaded every decision I made. What should I do with my life? Who cares? Play some KenKen. Should I choose chemo or not? Who cares? Reread The Blue Sword, yet again. Should I do this? Who cares? What about this? Whatever. 

We are building our dream, forever home, on Orcas Island, largely because of the money I inherited when my father died. 

He did have my back, after all. 

I'm going to be okay. 


*I never got to the other three cards that night
This song, by Imogen Heap, is pretty much what I'm feeling (just listen to the music; the graphic is an out-of-focus, unrelated picture)

12 September 2014

An Encounter at the Co-op

I was grocery shopping midday yesterday, filling my basket with fruits and dairy and other things available in vast, shimmering quantities here in the US (injudiciously forgetting that both Ian and I are leaving today; him for a meeting in Spokane, Spackle and me for a long weekend on Orcas), when I came upon a slightly disheveled, middle-aged blond man perusing the bulk snack foods.

"Foxy," I said to him, as I came to a stop in front of the dipped pretzels.

"Excuse me?" he asked, with some surprise.

"Your pants," I said, gesturing to his wrinkled, vulpini-printed lounge pants. "Foxy!"

"OH!" he said. "My last name means "fox", so I bought these. Actually," he went on, "my lawyer says my first name means fox, too . . ."

[His lawyer! Interesting!, I thought, noticing that he was missing his left-most incisor.]

"so I'm Fox Fox!"

"Indeed!" I said.

Wishing each other a nice day, we parted company, me moving on to produce; Fox Fox deciding on a snack and filling his bag.

05 September 2014

A Story With Sheep

A Roman Bridge in Gimonde, in the Back of Beyond in Portugal.

Trás-os-Montes, the northeastern province of Portugal, is a mountainous country idyll steeped in ancient tradition. So steeped, in fact, that many traditions carry on today. We have seen at least three donkey carts in use, with one of those coming down the highway this morning, and another turning out onto the highway from the road in front of our hotel's restaurant an hour later.

We're staying in a new addition to A. Montesinho's lodging options, this one a 3-bedroom apartment fashioned out of an old farm building. 

It's still a working farm, and I accidentally caused quite the kerfuffle amongst the flock of ewes yesterday afternoon. Or rather, I would have if they were not being herded by such a consummate professional.

I had been prowling the fields and the wooded river bank, and was on my way back to our apartment, when a flood of recently-sheared ovelhas, tended by a middle-aged woman and an exceedingly businesslike white herding dog, began pouring through the open gate I was headed for. The sheep and the dog caught sight of me at the same time, and before the alarm of the flock could turn into panic, the dog gave several sharp barks, and instantly the ewes were one large white oval, packed tightly together, grazing again, having completely forgotten that scary things exist in the world.

For my part, I slowed my walking and continued toward the gate in a wide circle around the white oval. The dog, Bambi (I learned this morning), seeing that his charges were behaving, began trotting purposefully toward me, hackles raised. From a football field away the woman waved at me to stop moving so I did, standing calmly and still as Bambi approached.

I heard the woman say "Não, só uma senhora,"--it's only a lady--and realized she was taking on her phone, explaining the barking to someone.

A moment later, responding to a sign or a call that I didn't notice, Bambi turned away and went back to his duties, misplaced foreigners forgotten. I took several pictures of the masterful workmanship, and then made my way through the gate when all was clear.

As l started up the other side of the fence toward home I came upon an elderly man, clearly of the farm.

"Peço desculpa!" I said. I'm sorry!

"Não faz mal," replied the old man with a friendly smile. It's okay, don't worry.

"The ewes know me," he went on in Portuguese, "so they're not afraid of me. But they don't know you!"

"Não quero --I flung my arms around and made an indiscriminate fearful noise, not remembering the Portuguese for "to scare"--as  ovelhas!"

The man grinned at my demonstration and nodded, and wished me a good afternoon.

I was so impressed with that dog! He would've won any herding competition, anywhere. Really fun to see!

one-fingered on my phone

02 September 2014

The Most Picturesque Town Square in the World

Guimarães, the small city Mom and Marsh and I are staying in tonight, is one of the most beautiful places I've been in the world; made all the more exquisite by how harrowing our journey was getting here today.

We drove here today--the birthplace of Portugal--from Cascaís, which is near Lisbon, and about a five-hour drive. If you drive steadily.

I had forgotten, when I made our plans for this week, that a small country doesn't necessarily mean tiny. I had also forgotten that when Ian and I visited here 7 years ago we had rented our car in Porto--less than two hours away.

Jet lag, general anxiety, gut issues,  some difficulty with maps and road signs and smart-phone driving directions (very stupid phone, in this case); a long stay at a turnpike rest stop for me to sleep the drooling sleep of the internationally exhausted; the necessity for Marsh to then take over driving from me for a time, and then us getting mired down in hilly, cobbled Coimbra's traffic with the poor man at the wheel of a gutless stick shift, with no Portuguese sign-reading skills, and no experience driving in the country that vies with Greece for Europe's most dangerous roads; a refreshing (enough) stroll through Coimbra University's Botanical Garden (Coimbra University is the second oldest university is the world that has been in operation full-time, starting in the early 1200's); a short discussion of whether or not we should forfeit our lodging in Guimarães (still about 2 1/2 hours further along) and try to re-navigate the narrow, winding streets of Coimbra in search of alternate lodging; but deciding ultimately to go on (I had recovered and the drive seemed way easier to me than a search for a room would be the), where we got to experience  insane drivers (I was going 90 with the flow of traffic, at one point, and two Mercedes flew by me going at least 150, one car-length apart, barely able to keep to their lane) . . . where was I?

Well we made it; Mom and Marsh's room looks out over the idyllic square; we covered two cafe tables with local specialties around 8:30 pm (about 30 minutes before the locals started trickling in to eat) and ate them all, and I am delighted to be here :-)

And now I will sleep.

one-fingered on my phone

22 August 2014

Here I Am

Ian and I spent our annual summer vacation last week on Orcas. It was a different week than the blazing hot, incandescently bright, gloriously rural summer week I spent with Spackle in July--because for one thing, it rained. A lot.

Rain is, in general, a welcome thing for a day or two in the summer, in part because endless balmy sun is hard for Seattlites to take, but mainly because plants get dry here in the PNW, where we let our lawns go dormant and water our gardens with carefully placed and monitored drip hoses. We have water everywhere, at least in Western Washington, and we're still conservative with this important resource (to a neurotic fault, Ian might say about me, at least in the context of travel dog water).

Rain was welcome for us on Orcas last week for the above reasons, and it also gave me a chance to make sure that Orcas, even with less-clement weather, is where I want to live out my life.

It is.

There is no question.

In fact, I had an interesting psychological experience one mid-week evening last week. I had gone to the outhouse and was sitting musing (among other activities), looking through the open door at the deep, bluish-gray clouds wisping up Crow Valley and over Turtleback Mountain, and marveling at the quiet, twilit beauty of it all, when a vision washed over me. In my vision (which was very true to life), I was in a small, cramped room looking out through the open door at Life, in all its glory and wonder and capacity for boundless joy; and all I needed to do to become one with that glory and wonder was to step with intention through that door and into that Life. Oooh! I though, excited. Okay! Well, what do I want to take with me to my new life? What do I want to leave here??? I finished my business as I dithered, not wanting to enter the new Life with any old Problems, but as I was standing to go, the door suddenly began to swing shut. My hand shot out to stop the door, my heart pounding with adrenaline. "No, no!" I cried, leaping outside and raising my arms to the heavens. "Here I am! Here I am! Here I am!!!"

Here I am.

Here, I AM. 

It's such a simple phrase, three words, corpulent with meaning. Already I AM, I am MYSELF, on Orcas Island. My body feels full of fizz, just thinking about it :-).

I stood and drank in the moist indigo salt air for some time, arms outstretched overhead, repeating my phrase over and over. I finally went back inside, aglow with delight and belonging, and related my story to Ian.

"Wow!" he said. "Sounds like quite the exciting trip to the loo!"

Anyway, new title for the blog, but I thought I'd give you all a break and keep the same url. As I will be "here" wherever I am in the world . . . I may end up tying Dilettante Traveler in with this blog, too.

Enough chatter: Look here for more pictures added to the album, beginning with the one below (note: somewhat misty photos of men actually at work, after solo goose, are from Burke the Builder's iPad, and are somewhat in order, but not with the rest of my pics).

Seriously, we are racing along with this house-building thing.

Status right now: septic drain field installed; footings done; foundation walls completed and waterproofed; slab prep going on (probably be poured next week); backfill happening when foundation walls are dry/cured. Burke the Builder keeps sending us snaps from his iPad, and I'm getting more and more jealous that I can't just wander up and meander through after everyone's gone home for the day.

05 August 2014

A Perfect Day

(begun last Thursday evening on Orcas)

One super-happy dog :-)

There are many perfect days.

There is the day when just you and your dearest partner hike until you’re beyond exhausted and covered in sweat and ancient dust, treaded on for thousands of years, and you crest yet another rocky, prickly hill, and there, right before you, is the hamlet you promised that dearest partner WAS there. It was the best Sprite either of you had ever tasted. Together you ordered three.

There is the day that all your nearest and dearest gather together on a cold, rainy, raw November night, for the sole purpose of celebrating you, and the great presence you’ve been in their lives. It’s the best, isn’t it???

There is the day when you are one small exuberant, elated voice in the international, literally earthshaking, roar when your team wins the big game. Go Seahawks! (they’re the ones, right???).

Today was none of those communal perfect days though; today was a primordially solo perfect day. I went hither and thither as the wind blew me, doing exactly what struck me as right at any given time, and stopping when I felt like it.

Wednesday was a big day of internal foundation building—very emotional. Today was a big day of physical work, tending my fields and forests, clearing and shaping the place where I will live out my days, however many they still number on this earth—very hot, sweaty, dirty, and full of thorns. You see? Perfect.

 It began first thing this morning, as soon as I was up and had thrown on a skirt and shirt and nothing else in preparation for running to the bathroom for my first piddle. (To digress for a moment: one is loath to go in the night, when one has to climb barefoot down a ladder and run across several yards of bone-chilling dew.) Before I made it half way to the outhouse, I was being beckoned up the hill to check on, coincidentally (and yet about 15 months before it will actually be useful to me of a morning), the location of a the septic drain field, which was changed yesterday afternoon. As the move is universally beneficial, I was able to nod, have drain fields quickly explained, and rush back down to get down to business.

Fortunately, it has been my whim this week to take care of tedious householding chores as well as exhilarating lumberjack chores, so after coffee and yogurt and fruit (me) and Wild Buffalo Grill with Avoderm Lamb Formula croutons (Spackle), I took out the filthy rug that covers a large part of the Dacha floor, shook it, and left it in the sun to sanitize, then busted out our Dust Buster (charged by the sun) and removed dead flies, grass, and dog hare from the Dacha corners.

It takes a long time to do things when camping. The dishes pile up and must be washed by hand in a dishpan, water having been brought down from the roadside tap in 40-lb bottles. The cooking takes place on an outdoor camp stove—either the large, Cabela’s-purchased hunting one, or the small traditional Coleman (or, as the case was the next day, both, as the propane had run out of the big bottle fueling the big stove, right in the middle of bacon frying). Even just making a sandwich to pack for lunch takes four times as long, because the refrigeration consists of endless Buying of the Ice for varyingly competent  coolers, and you want to keep things as chilled as possible when the days are 90+ in the sun, and occasionally almost 90 in the shade.  

It was blazing hot and I needed to get ice, and as I tidied up around camp I planned my tasks and errands for the day. I stopped by Island Hardware for a hand-held sprayer for tansy (it was way too hot to put on the backpack sprayer), then Spackle and I got ice at the marina, circled through camp to re-refrigerate things, then took off on our offensive against noxious weeds.

I’m very glad we haven’t had the bulk of the land mowed yet, because there have been tall, garishly yellow blooms taunting from various patches, and—joke’s on them—giving themselves away to me and my plans for full annihilation. The numbers hadn’t seemed so great as I’d been bumping in Nublu slowly up and down the land, parallel to the road, but once I was on the ground, I was quickly sobered by the extent of the infestation, particularly just around the perimeter of  blackened, dead, previously Rounded-Up, circles of vegetation. Digging tansy up—year after year after year, until you finally win—seems to be the only way to really get rid of it, but this is absolutely the wrong season to try (early May, maybe), so what I did was cut off all the blooming stalks that I saw and stuffed them in a contractor bag for the landfill, then used my hand squirt bottle of Round-Up to spray several sprays directly on the roots. The prairie grasses are so thatched together here it’s hard to get at the roots from very far above.

Spackle, relaxed and happy in his waning days, was conked out in long, moist green grass in the shade under a roadside willow, but I was in the 90 degree full sun in work pants and heavy boots and gloves, as if it were November. Hot, flirting with sunstroke or, at least, mild delirium, I lopped off the rest of the blooms that I saw and tossed them in my bag (foregoing any more herbicide), and then Spackle and I bumped slowly down to the Woodlot to float in the hammock and eat lunch: sandwich on Roses’ olive bun with cream cheese, salami, honey mustard, and thin slices of tomato and cucumber (me), and lie on a bed near a water bowl, and look kingly in the dappled light (Spackle).

After half my sandwich and a whole (2 serving—it was hot) coconut water with pulp (an error I won’t make again), and a cool, quiet moment or two swaying lightly, gazing into the depths of golden-green alder leaves (branches forming a hexagon high above my head), swirling with the hay- and sea-scented eddies in the air, dancing in the clear, blue depth of an inverted sea . . . I returned to the present and decided that I would like to do at least a little work in the Woodlot, starting with the long-dried pile of heavy blackberry cane and porcupine-dense roses, lying directly under where I’d hung my hammock yesterday (the day of internal work and external oblivion)—perfectly placed to drop me not only roughly on the ground, but into a lacerating heap of debris as well. Fortunately, I and/or the hammock are very stable, and I cleared the pile away with relative ease.

It was while clearing the larger, blackberry-canier, wild-rose spinier piles that I hit upon an idea—drag a tarp in, transfer the pile to the tarp, then drag the tarp out and roll it onto one of the exterior piles (we’re going to have a bonfire, out of necessity, late this fall). This worked once, with a relatively benign pile, but the thorns stuck into me, the tarp, and the ground, and strong, desiccated, spiny arms reached out and clung to the remaining alders. A good sturdy garden rake was needed—and so—darn—I’m looking forward to a trip to the hardware store tomorrow.

Spackle and I stopped at a patch of tansy I’d passed by in favor of lunch, then made our way home and had dinner (the other half sandwich: me. What was eaten for breakfast: Spackle).

And then we went for our now-traditional evening stroll, Spackle and I, down Boddington Lane, across lots through the apple orchard at the yacht club, look both ways and across Deer Harbor Road to the county dock and beach stair, and “CLANGETY CLANG-CLANG” Spackle is down the rusting metal-mesh stairs and into the water, standing up to his chest, ears perked, golden eyes fixed tightly on mine. We’re gonna do this, right???

Back at home from our one-mile round trip in the gleam and warmth and sweet-smelling air, I had a shower—cold unheated water added to the scalding Sun Shower—and reveled in getting clean. Even the occasional wafts of rotting shrimp carcasses, firmly (but not hermetically) encased in a galvanized can outside the Banya door, didn't bother me a much as they might have, because I had chosen not to add Dump to my errands that day.

As I was drying off, I mused about smells: that they are teeny particles of the thing you’re smelling, infusing the air; and since I was naked in the wafts, my whole body was covered with a thin layer of long-dead shrimp . . . but only a very thin layer. I came to abruptly, realizing that Spackle, who I’d been idly watching nose around a cleared patch of earth just outside the open Banya door, had shifted from nosing the dirt (Ian had dumped something there the weekend before), to eating it. 

“SPACKLE!” I hissed, in a completely inaudible (to him) tone, because to actually call him loud enough to get his attention, I would have to shatter the evening peace of residents all up and down Crow Valley and throughout the hamlet of West Sound. Spackle is mostly deaf, and Crow Valley echoes. A lot.

I hesitated a moment, then threw one of my newly washed shoes at him, delivering a minor, glancing blow off his side. He looked up, startled, mystified. What was wrong? I glared ferociously, pointed firmly AWAY from the delectable dirt, Spackle took his leave, I dried off and got dressed, and we whiled away the evening with a peanut butter Kong, some Amelia, some writing, and a visual spectacle of water, mountain, sky, boats, and nature so perfectly lovely is was almost unpleasant to look at, like a Thomas Kincaid painting.

My home.


30 July 2014

Forms Nearly Formed . . .

Our bunker is almost done being set out. The forms are almost completely up and bolted or whatever they do, the inspector has been by, and the hope is that tomorrow there will be a line of cement trucks chugging and brrRRRrrring down Crow Valley Road, to dump 50 yards of cement into our 10-foot-tall forms. My family had a 3-yard dump truck for some time when I was a kid. Almost 17 of those loads!

I'm at the Orcas Library in Eastsound right now, taking advantage of the free WiFi before an appointment in town here, and I see that I've got about 10 minutes before I have to be in my car, so I'll try to throw some pictures up here tout-suite:

NOTE: Pics not coming quickly. Will have to try another time. But at least there is written proof that things are moving along!

23 July 2014

Driveway Roughed In!

It's a day of rain on Orcas as well as the rest of the Puget Sound Region today, but it doesn't sound like we've had major landslides there, and according to Burke, it's a warm rain, so they're paddling around, doing their work.

Ian and I will be up again late Friday night to have a meeting Saturday morning with Burke and Sage together, and then Ian will fly back Sunday evening and Spackle and I will stay another week (I hope the rains go away!).

This morning's pictures from Burke:

You can see from the dimness of this picture that it's not a bright, sunshiny day on Orcas today. 

I've been told that the garage *will* have an open space, through which to drive the car. 

Friend L requested a "perspective" picture, with Spackle in the octagon or something. This is the best I have for perspective *in* the building at this point--Spackle near the octagon. 

Gratuitous shot of Spackle in the speckled sunlight of the Copse

Here's some perspective of the land: I am in our Woodlot, a small stand of alders that I am "parking out": sawing down trees to leave no less than 4 feet between the remaining ones, and clearing blackberry vines and canes, wild rose, and various less-pokey vegetation. This stand of trees is not, quite, as far away from the house as one can get and still be on our property. But it's far! You can see, in the dim distance at the top of the grass a tiny patch of white that is the sun glinting off the plastic-covered hills of dirt. 

Here I've zoomed in (amazing camera), and you can see the plastic-covered hills, but also you can see, on the left, a hint of the northern edge of the Olympic Mountains, which we will see from our bedroom. (!)

Before picture (well, before I started on the 10th of July) of the type of tangle I'm untwisting. 

An after shot, with piles of vegetation. 

More afters, more piles. 

The Great Spirit inhabits my little woods. 

16 July 2014

Four Days of Bliss

Spackle and I spent several days last week on Orcas Island, just the two of us (plus the 4000+ full-time residents, plus the billion tourists, of course). It was the perfect summer weather, and I had the perfect vacation-time experience, except it was all on my own land, and in my own community. 

On Saturday, the day we came home, I was up in the Copse at the north end clearing brambles and long vines of man root (an easy, satisfying job compared to the blackberry cane, which is a sensitive, satisfying job), and feeling supremely happy to be alive in the world, when I realized that I was, in about a year, going to be living ON VACATION. That's where I am going to be living. I wanted to stay, from then until the house is finished.

(it is going to be so awesome)

Here are the latest pics that I have, although I heard yesterday that perhaps the driveway was excavated Monday, so that'll be interesting when we're next there!

Looking northwest from the southeast corner. Starting the foundation forms!

Interesting metal bits

This structure will not blow down. Or be shaken down in an earthquake. Or washed away in a Tsumani. 

Spackle enjoying, for the first time on Orcas, an evening peanut butter Kong. He was wondering what took us so long to realize that this tradition was not a Seattle tradition, but a Spackle tradition. Wherever he is, so there should be an evening peanut butter Kong. Or a lot of really annoying whining (you can see why Spackle was baffled that it took us so long to catch on. One would almost think we enjoyed the whining. We did not. We were just slow-witted.)

Looking from the northeast corner. The tops of the tall boards are the height of the cement foundation walls. Yes, we are building a bunker. 

Bits and Pieces. 

Looking from the west down the hill. The octagon will be the entirely-buried wine cellar (!)

Surveyor on the Site

Surveyor is pretty pleased by the speed and level of workmanship. 

Spackle in a spaghetti of cords and hose

I don't know how foundation building works. I mention this because what appears to be trending toward solidity, that nascent wall up in the middle of the photo, the right side of the house--that's where the opening to the garage will be. Up a few feet from the current ground level, but still an open space, not a cement wall, not even a trompe l'oeil of a garage door (probably especially not the last). 

There will also be a door where there's a space in the frame above--but almost twice as wide as the space the crew has left for entering and leaving the house. Or maybe they are planning for a door there. This building-a-house-from-scratch process is a mystery to me!

Not a high quality photo, but this was taken Saturday night as the ferry approached Anacortes. I was sitting in the driver's seat of Nublu, playing KenKen on my phone (*not*, it turns out $3.99 wisely spent) when I glanced up and saw that moon. My inner voice scolded me. Put that phone down and drink in your surroundings!

I was definitely drunk from my surroundings by the end of our short trip!