just running a little test ..

alOha everyone ; )

   We're just wondering if any of our followers are getting email updates when we post a new blog? We haven't been seeing them for the past 2 or 3 blogs (nor have a few friends that we've asked ; (

   If this came to your email inbox, please let us know - I'm guessing it's a glitch in the blogger system, but it's been going on a while ..

   And now - a few random pictures ; )


{ Robin Hood - part 2 - } Smoke and Ghosts ..

alOha friends : ) 

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   This is a continuation of our "Robin Hood" blog where we finally made it back out into the forest for the season. The ranch where we park most of the time is on the edge of town, and a little farther still, is the open forest where men hunt wild hoofed animals, gypsies build encampments, and teenagers hide out from the world and partake in a variety of half-sins and explorations .. 

   Leaving the house parked in the forest, all alone, didn't go unnoticed by the hypothetical-risk-assessment part of my brain, and each night, and the end of the long road into the dark forest, throwing dust clouds, clicking high beams at deer and elk and jackrabbits, I'd always strain my eyes ahead a bit, waiting for the Winnie's broad shape to appear, safe, sound, ready for her weary honey-drunk dwellers. 

   She was always there - with a bit of the day's warmth still lingering in her belly and candles waiting to be lit. We had friends and family by to visit, sparked camp fires, cook outs, and early morning meditations sitting on tree stumps and watching the dew glisten in the early morning sun.

   We found this grandaddy oak right across from our camp. Flagstaff is predominately forested in pine trees, so it's always a bit of a thrill to see one of these majestic hard woods reaching for the sky. The puzzle-piece shape of the leaves and the protein rich nuts they drop at our bare feet are a delight. And the old branches dropped over the years were hungrily gathered up and stacked near our fire pit for nights when we'd need a good, long burn. (Oak burns much longer than Pine) Most other nights, tip toeing out to the pit after a long day at the roost, fast burning pine suited our needs perfectly .. kind of the sitcom of fires ; ) 

   Cooking acorns takes a little doing .. they have a bitter, somewhat toxic element called tannins, but boiling them for a time will leach this out and make them ready to bake and season ; ) The Native Americans used to put them in a sack and leave them in a running stream for a long while to soak everything out. Note: these are also good ammunition if you happen to have a sling shot lying around .. which you know we do ; ) 

The big bad Winnie .. from a squirrels view ; ) 
You can kind of see the quilted bed hanging down in the windshield. 

   I was told by the guy we bought the Winnie from that those 4 or 5 dents in the right wing of the "W" came from a police baton - rap tap tap - during a late night "sweep" when Winnie used to live on the slanted streets of San Francisco. 

I've been behind all these bolts and into the greased back axels and delicate seals .. not fun .. back in there soon as we ready ourselves for some winter travels.   

Sid .. he's always smiling ; ) 

   My sister and nieces came over the day we dug this pit (it was the 2nd one .. turns out the first one I dug with my bare hands was butting up to the dried roots of a tree stump .. and they liked to burn underground at night, after I'd soaked the main fire and gone to sleep .. whoops. ).

   The girls delighted in helping with the digging, collecting the right rocks and pinecones and kindling. We also found out later that night that the seeded tops of the tall grass could be picked and held over the flames for a snap crackle pop ; )  They were like little fireworks!

   The early morning sun comes in so nicely over the hill. We'd normally find a little sunny spot to eat our porridge and drink our tea.

   And here's our acorn competition.  We heard these little buddies on the roof on a few occasions, scampering around. We were in a pretty far off area, and they might not have seen many of man's machines in the past. I guess this type of squirrel is exclusive to the Flagstaff area .. they have the longest ears, and love chasing each other up and round and round the tall pines. They also like to play chicken with the truck as we're going to and fro . . I'm always the one to swerve away first .. juwels would never stop crying if we nabbed one of these fuzzies.

   This is where the story gets a little .. complicated. After living in the forest for a time, at the end of a great morning, one where I'd walked out of the Winnie while working the electric tooth brush to find a giant male elk "bugling" to a pair of females and then chasing them with heavy steps in wide circles around our camp. Breakfast was divine, the sun was warm, and on our drive out we spotted two tan foxes trotting along, a jackrabbit (juwels goes crazy over their long ears and donkey-like tails) and then .. the fire department ??

   They were far from where we were setup, but I slowed down and asked, "Everything all right?" The guy smiled and said, "Just a little prescribed burn. You might see some smoke."

   We were having such a great morning that my guard was down, and as I said, we were camped forever away from them, and I figured they'd just burn some of the tree piles they chopped up over the season and then put them out for practice.

    But the worlds "prescribed burn" struck me a little odd. Didn't they normally call it a "controlled burn"?

    But with big smiles on our faces, off to work we went. We've cut back on the late nights that we put in last season, and I forget what had to happen before we left the Roost, but I remember looking at the clock with weary eyes as 10, 11, and 12 o'clock rolled around. Finally back in the forest, I'd almost forgotten about the troupe of firefighters we'd seen 15 hours ago .. that is, until I saw all the smoke. The first stretch of dirt road was clear and smoke free, and we even saw a herd of elk congregating in the dark periphery, but then there was smoke, great clouds of it, and juwels stared to whine in the seat beside me. I tried to down play it, saying we weren't anywhere near our spot, and it was probably just smoldering and on its way out.

   There had been quite a few hunter's camps between our spot and town, and juwels spotted a small fire up ahead. The sight of other campers relaxed us both a little, knowing that people were still camping ahead meant that all must be clear up there, but then we saw more fires, too close together to be camps. They were actually tall fires left unattended. I leaned a little heavier on the gas, and we could see that there were tree stumps on fire, and in this fresh area, wide blankets of pine needles were burning as well.

   "I don't like this .. . I don't li-ke this .." juwels said.

    I tried to ignore her immediate panic, it was just an echo to what was already going on in my own head.

    As we kept driving, it was hard to tell where we were. I could just see our head lights looking like scrambled static beams of smoke and cremated particles of what the forest just was, that morning. Blanketing layers of needles and cones, shed tree bark and dead limbs. It was all burning and changing forms to the weightless and air born. That night was a post-apocoliptic scene of odd grey tones and distant fires blurred by the thickness of the air, and the Winnie was out there ... someplace. 

   I still had my doubts that the fire reached all the way to our floating bedroom on wheels, but it did.
Juwels was not game for my wait-and-see prompting plan of attack. Her unedited stream of consciousness thoughts were stuck on shuffle between “I don’t like this” and “This isn’t o-kay” and “ I hOpe the Winnie’s all right...”

   It was her mantra, and the song to the next winding mile into the smoke-screened forest. I turned up the radio a little .. I think we were listening to Radiohead's "Dollars and Cents" (could be a good song to listen to on another tab while you read the rest of this??) I just drove further faster, to get the core of it. And trying harder to calm juwels, I didn't just tell her that it'd be okay, but scoffed at the fire as just a smoldering, dying burn, a nothing that was on its last breath. Oh, and another thing she was chanting was,“We need to move the Winnie, tonight, right now – we need to move the Winnie out of here.”

   Although I was already exhausted and a little grouchy when we left work, I wasn’t totally against moving the Winnie. But I wasn't too excited about doing it in the dark - reversing between trees onto the narrow road was something I'd plotted out the day we arrived but didn’t intend on doing at night, in a cloud of smoke with a frantic wife. But remember, I was in full devil's advocate mode with juwels, trying to convince her that I wasn’t in the slightest concerned, so I was actually saying that there was no need to move the beast at night. That we’d just keep the skylights closed, take showers and go to sleep. We could deal with it in the morning. 

   This was before I saw just how far the fire went… maybe 15 feet from our bumper. As we forked off to our more-narrow camp road, we were still in thick smoke. I slowed a bit on the quick-sand-kind-of patches of dirt to avoid that hydroplaning fishtailing of the back tires, and searched ahead to spot the flying -W-, but we had maybe 20 feet of visibility, so the only visual I had of her was in my mind.

   My journals and manuscripts, clothes juwels had handmade, photographs, keepsakes, squirled away money and memories. I ticked off a little inventory through my head, and invisioned just the raw burning platform of our floor atop melting black rubber and red-hot hub caps and rims.

   A quote from a late friend back on the Venice boardwalk came to mind. “I never owned anything that I couldn’t afford to lose.” Yeah, sure. All can be rebuilt, but the old girl’s a metaphor and a reminder of freedom as much as she’s the place where we sleep and eat and keep our treasures. I was preparing to go numb ... which wouldn't be easy around juwels if all had gone wrong. 

   So we were -both- panicked, but then we saw her, safe, but just on the other side of the thin dirt road from the fire. Her side on the road was smokey but still cool and intact, and 12-15 feet on the other side of the dirt dividing road, the fire was all consuming. Large sappy tree stumps burning like torches, and bushy clusters of dead grass flaming and casting light up the blackened charred tree trunks.

    Sealed inside the Winnie, I looked around at everything, still perfectly in place, and I saw the smoke stirring around the lights as juwels rushed back and forth packing things away and strapping down cabinets and drawers.

   “Do your stuff with the engine, and let’s move. I’ll guide you out,” she said.

   Checking back in with the real world: its about 1:30 am on a Tuesday.

   I had disconnected some stuff in the engine, so it would be impossible to drive away with, so I rigged the missing parts back into place and cranked the key to warm her up. She’d run great the last time we’d been out, rock star.

   The engine came to life, growling, and then, died. Dead. Done.

   I tried again and again – sometimes she’d come on then die, but other times she’d just chug- chug- chug- chug and never pull through. Not for a second. Even though the gas gauge was broken and always said we were on empty, I knew we weren't out of gas - we'd filled it up the day we drove off the grid and into the forest. I exhausted my knowledge of engines pretty quickly. Juwels had finished her “drive proof” but hadn’t asked the dreaded question yet, “she’s not starting up?”

   I explained the best I could what was happening and what I’d already checked or tried, but she likes to perpetuate my delusions of knowing this stuff  (I’ve had my lucky moments in the past)  by shrugging it off as guy’s work and congratulating me every time I change the oil or put the gas cap on straight. I need to program her computer brain to this Gear-head mechanics stuff because she could probably rebuild the transmission before I could change a tire.

   I was outside again during my diagnosis ( = we’re F-ed ) and I noticed red hot embers softly floating down from the trees and across the road in our direction. All it would take was one of those to  keep the fire rolling on our side. Oh, and get this, when we’d first gotten here, Juwels asked me to gather the chairs at the fire pit, and with the chairs, we had two big jugs of water – 3 gallons each – and before I’d even made sure the Winnie would start (she’s been so good lately) I dumped the water into the dirt, so they’d be lighter to carry over and load in the truck. Classic. Just Classic.

   “Okay,” I said, “ I think if I just gas the hell out of it when she comes on, maybe we can just keep it running.”

   I got it to fire up, clicked it in reverse, and gassed it.

   At the same time Juwels said, “Do you want me to go out and spot you?”

   It died.

   Having that moment to think, with my head hanging out the window and getting a decent look in the foggy reverse lights, I thought better of the path and decided that we’d be better off driving further ahead into the forest and cutting a wide left loop back to the road.

   “Do you want me to jump out then and make sure there’s no holes or stumps or anything?” Juwels asked.

   “No,” I just wanted to get it over with, “I’ve walked through there collecting branches for the fire. It’s a flat meadow. Just get into the truck and follow me out.”

   Juwels is super sensitive to the pollutants in the air, but she still walked around the side of the Winnie beside me and tried to spot and guide me out, waving with her right hand and holding a cotton krama over her mouth with the left.

   I clicked the headlights on, fired her up, floored it a couple times to get the gas moving, shifted into drive – and it died.

   Having looked my path over, Juwels was retreating back to the truck but crossed the road to stomp a couple taller flames out first.

    I fired again, and this time actually drove a few feet before she died. With the engine off, I could hear the rusty squeaking of the tires turning another rotation on the downhill, but we stopped all the same. I tried again and again, wondering if I was making whatever was already wrong worse by pushing it. I finally gave up. I clicked the lights off and Juwels ran over and climbed inside.

   There was a definite man-goes-down-with-his-ship sentimentality running with my blood. The work and love and spontaneous creativity we put into this place… and that of which to come.
You’d think adrenaline and the second wind would have given me wings by this point, but it hadn’t, not for me. Things had been going so smoothly for so long that I’d lost the disaster-ready mind for the warm bath of late.

   I latched the window lock and pulled the keys out, but before I was out of my seat, Juwels said, “We’re kind of in the taller grass now… we were better off where we were. This stuff will burn more.”

   That’s -exactly- what I wanted to hear. She was right but, still, an unwanted reality brought to light.
Somehow, I got the engine started again and gassed it in reverse, and died back in our old spot, closer to the fire but out of the tall dead grass.

   My final conclusion was that the old engine wouldn’t start because the thick smoke was choking her out, (the carburetor needs fresh air .. I think ??). And I hoped the truck, with its newer engine, would filter through this madness and move. I realized that we had to get our bodies out of there, staying around any longer was just irresponsible.

   Holding our breath, and dashing back into the truck, with the engine not yet tried, juwels noticed the short bristled rake in the Winnie’s back cargo carrier. “Maybe we should rake all the pine needles out from around the Winnie?”

   I went out, being the bulletproof cockroach of the two of us, and began vigorously raking a void in the needles around the tires and body. I followed up the first section by crawling down and dragging all the needles out from underneath. Even with the bandana, I could feel the grit of dust and taste of smoke on my lips and between my teeth.

   I still had this “really???” kind of detachment about the whole thing – like I would wake up any moment, but I didn’t. I wouldn’t find that bed until quite a while later. It was surreal, and I started thinking, “Don’t pass out. Just don’t pass out. Do you feel okay? Listen to your body, don’t go too far." 

   One voice was telling me it wasn’t worth it and that everything would be fine, and the other was saying, “Yeah, but if you come back in the morning, and you’ve lost it all, how pissed are you going to be for not trying everything?”

   Somewhere during all that, the solid bristle part of the rake went flying off the handle into the darkness. I looked all over for it, but finally just got down on all fours and doggy paddled the rest of the sticks and needles out from under the bumper.

   I had a pretty good headache starting, but I didn’t pass out, and back in the truck, all was well, and we drove off.

   I turned right at the fork in the road, away from the exit road and deeper into the forest. The air was clear in this area. It had literally burned right up to the Winnie but no further, and all was clear beyond ... for now.

   “Where are you going?” Juwels asked.

   “I just want to sit out here on the edge and watch it. We could just stay here all night and watch it, take turns and make sure it doesn't spread...”

   We stayed there for a little while, listening to Sigur Ros, and then I got out and pissed in the dirt, and noticed that the wind had changed directions, blowing the smoke and fire away from the Winnie.

   Back in the truck, I said, "The wind's blowing the other way."

   Juwels was happy to hear this.

   "So," I continued, " I think the air will be clear enough to get her started."

   We went back and painfully tried to pump her chest again and again to no avail.

   And then, regretfully, off we went, back through doom's day and into town. I felt homeless, detached and stranded. And the realization that we hadn't taken anything with us both times we returned home struck me as both stupid and in some odd way inspiring.


   ... I'm going to have to leave this hanging for now, part one, because there's limits to blog lengths (I think?) and this story's exhausting me even in the past tense .. I can still kind of taste that smokey after-burn in my throat as I'm writing this. Plus .. holiday orders are a' buzzin, and these bees must get busy ; )

   But I will say, the unexpected cause to most of this steams from a strange, vacant, zombie-like young girl we saw walking back through the darkness of the road many nights before and the sketchy camp she belonged to. 

   More to come ; )



{ poke me full of holes .. and see what comes out ; ) }

   This is a bit off-theme for the Winnie Diaries (but what the hay) - I wanted a write a little entry about a new, and somewhat mind-blowing, experience I had a few months ago involving many tiny needles.  

(not sure what this guy's deal was, but there normally aren't this many needles ; ) 

   Last time we were in California, I went to see an acupuncturist friend of juwels'. I'm not especially fond of needles - in fact, when I was a kid, I used to get all my cavities filled without Novocain (I think this really freaked the dentists out as they drilled large holes in my teeth and sweat beaded up on my brow and the drill threw enamel all over the place). I really didn't like needles, but the first session was free at Lisa's clinic, (if you live in the LA area, you'd have the privilege of seeing her) and after wrapping up a lot of business stuff, I thought it might relax me a little .. I'd heard things like that.

   In the waiting room I filled out all the papers and checked the boxes, but I didn't have a major reason for being there. They looked at my tongue, listened to the blood move through my veins, and decided on my points. Running my own businesses since the year after high school graduation, along with a full and vivid life had spiked my stress levels from time to time .. my childhood was full of school yard fist fights, the typical squabbles amongst 5 siblings (who ate the last slice of pizza, what's fair, etc) and a general distaste, and rebellion against, the breaking of the strong will of the youth which we all must go through .. but aaaaany way .. I didn't have high expectations from just one visit, and being a bit frugal myself, I didn't know if I'd come back again and again to give it time.

   She swabbed all the spots on my arms and legs and forehead and feet with alcohol and then stated needling. It didn't hurt - at all, and when she was done, she craned a heat lamp over my stomach, turned off the lights and left the room. She said she'd be back in about 25 minutes, and I remember thinking that was a long time to just lie in the dark, but I focused on my breathing and waited for something to happen.

   The first thing that happened, ironically, was that I got an itch on the tip of my nose .. this -never- happens unless I'm in a position not be able to scratch it ?? My stomach gurgled a little, and at one point, I had the sensation that my arms were floating .. but I thought they'd just gone numb from not moving.

   It was over before I knew it.

   On the way out to the car, juwels asked me what I thought. I told her I couldn't tell if anything had really "happened" and it was nice, but I didn't know if I'd do it again ..

    Fast forward to about 1 am. We'd gotten to bed early, no strange food or drink, and I was awoken by what felt like snakes slithering around in my gut. There was gurgling and strange physical movement, but no pain. Normally, my first thought would be - 'Oh, I'm going to throw up .. what's wrong ?? What's happening ? !! ?' But, counter to all that, my first thought was .. 'something's moving .. leaving'.

   This could have been due to the conversation that I'd been half-listening in on the other day at the beach when Lisa was telling Juwels about how you can't stop or kill energy. How it just goes on and on. She's on a first name basis with her bad energy .. she does battle with it, needles it, chants it out, and negotiates with it. "Okay, I know you're there, and you know you can't stay, so let's work together. Where do you want to go? Do you want to rush off into the surf tomorrow morning? Should we go into the forest and plant you in a tree?"

    I know this sounds pretty far out to some of you - and it did (kinda) to me too. I stay pretty open minded, and who am I to knock a treatment that's been working for thousands of years .. but I was mostly just going for a treatment because it was free and because I was a little curious. This non-expactation and almost skepticism is what made this whole thing (the slithering of my organs and intestines) so powerful and unexpected.

    I lied there, calmly (not my normal way of doing things in this setting btw) and just felt this thing stirring in me. I didn't wake juwels, and after a few minutes, I slowly got up and walked through the dark to the bathroom. Without turning on the lights, I sat down and (bare with me here) and released .. and released .. and re-leased. It was like a waterfall. More long-lasting and intense than food poisoning, hang over, Mexican tap water - anything. And still, counter to my normal thought process - which has been with me since as long as I can remember - I just sat there with this huge smile on my face and the thought that something, some great weight and burden, which had been with me from the beginning of time, was running into the Los Angeles sewer and that as soon as I was done, I'd feel better.

    I finished up, and without looking back (it could have been a bowl of blood for all I knew) I washed up and quietly got back into bed. My entire body was buzzing, and the most positive thoughts and affirmations zipped around in my head like humming birds in love.

    The next morning I woke up and told juwels about what had happened. She was surprised that I didn't wake her. She's my crutch, but as I said, I had this odd calm .. and then euphoria and didn't need anything. That night was dramatic and unexpected and unclear, but the days that followed - months in fact - where the most exciting. I felt better and more at peace than I'd ever-ever felt. Nothing phased me .. not like I was on some Western dopamine, reduced to a dial tone of comfortable numb .. but every bit as alive as I've been in my best moments but without the stress of the past or future. I always roll my eyes when people say this about a book or film or overseas getaway .. but it changed my life, in a night.

    I could hardly believe it .. and wondered when I'd wake up to reality. Months passed, and I tried not to think about it for fear of jinxing my good fortune. But I was a changed man. I figured I'd get to this level after ten years of conscious work, and incrementally, maybe, find this place .. But overnight? Months later, not because I felt I needed it, I decided to look up the local healers in Flagstaff and go in for another session. I've gone three more times, just as a treat after bigger jobs, and it's still every bit as amazing. The guy I'm going to now studied a while in China, uses very few needles, and seems to shoot lightning through my hands and feet every time he punctures a point. I had to laugh the other day when he came in to check my pulse as I was lying there and my wrist shocked him.

   Luckily - I haven't been woken up to purge anything since that first night, but it's so interesting to feel the energy surging around my body after they move a blockage. There was a part of me that felt like I should go back just to maintenance and keep things buzzing .. and it didn't occur to me that I might heighten and feel even better than I already did, and I know this sounds a bit grandiose, but I half-jokingly told juwels the other day that I felt like acupuncture was giving me super powers ; )

   Maybe a bit more subtle than that, but writing and the artistic thought process has been such a breeze since then. Being out in public lacks that awkward element I've known so long and instead seems like a movie or odd modern stage play with me as comfortable as if I were on the couch. When I close my eyes at night - after a long day of work - I hardly feel tired but rather watch the picture-perfect images of complex plant life and detailed imagery in my mind's eye (before I just saw abstract shapes or swirling colors, and couldn't call any specific image to mind), sex has become almost unbearably amazing (... the "unbearably" part is new). And just the other day, which is when I finally I decided to start this post, I looked down at my toes (I was wearing sandals) and noticed I'd gouged a hole just above my big toe nail while I was lugging our Christmas tree around and hadn't even noticed the pain in the past half hour as the blood dried and sealed everything up. I've seen little glowing rings floating in the sky or a tiny patch of my vision, momentarily, looking like rippling water (the thought did cross my mind that maybe I was going blind, but only in a comical way .. and even then, not even a slight increase in my pulse or stress level ?? My first thought was actually - 'If I went blind, imagine how sharp my other senses would become.') And I think that statement might sum up a lot of this - maybe I'm not getting any special powers that I never had before .. but rather shedding this energy-sucking weight and stress has given me more fuel to fire everything else .. ??

   I'm not writing a commercial for acupuncture, and I can't say that anyone will have the same immediate response that I did (Lisa said it doesn't normally happen so quickly, and when it does, most people don't have the same presence of mind to understand or be comfortable with it). But it was a curious and exciting experience for me, and one that continues, so I wanted to share it ; )

 to bee continued ..





{ Robin Hood - part - 1 }

   Juwels had been pecking at me a lot - about moving back out into the forest. We've been busy. With business. And busy trying to live our lives in the other moments: hiking in Sedona, picking fresh wild mushrooms after the rain, swimming, sunning, and chasing each other around the Winnie.

   So we hadn't had any time to ready the Vessel - you can't just drive the Winnie off after a long winter season of hibernation. For one, she was up on cinder blocks, her feet hovering off the ground on some sides. We had the wooden "skirting" around the bottom of the frame to keep the cold wind from whipping around under there and freezing our tanks - the tank the shower drains into, and the other one that holds the .. well ... you know .. but they both still froze solid before we got the skirting up last year - good times ; )

   But finally I gave in - checked the fluids, fixed the gas leaks, tuned & adjusted, banged and bumped around under there - cursing and gritting and popping up into the cab to have juwels flush things out of my eyes (see why I was putting it off), but with the ol' girl purring and growling and puttering along, I did feel proud and struck with the thought that we needed to drive by moonlight and climb the hills on the outskirts of town, so we did.

   Juwels thumped around inside the Winnie all day as I monkey-wrenched under the grill. She said she was just straightening up, but when she called me inside to help take the toilet apart for a detailing .. I knew she was in full-on Cinderella mode ; ) 

   Our neighbor called us over to see this little porky. He was stacking firewood for the season when this lethargic pin cushion wobbled out. I've almost stepped on a couple of these coming home late night .. fingers crossed that I continue to spot them first ; ) 

   And since we were going to be out in the yard for a while, I walked over and snuck Lily out of her pen to enjoy the end of the season's green grass. She worked this area, like a good girl, for hours without wandering off like she likes to do at times ; ) She goes through a lot of grass, quickly, and just standing near her, the air smells like a juice bar w/ wheat grass and chlorophyl thick in the air. Look at that beautiful sleek summer coat. She's much shaggier these cold days .. much softer too ': ) 

We got some rain. 

... still putting everything back together. 

   It was dark by the time we finally hit the road, and luckily all the lights on the instrument panel fired up. I felt like the pilot of a large and nosy plane. After filling the tank (not cheap) we buzzed along the dark, pine-lined roads with the skylights open and the cold wind breathing through the cabin.

   Juwels giggled and danced around the winnie, occasionally sliding from the back room across the bamboo floors in thick wool socks as I'd point the nose down a hill or hit the breaks. "Weee hee-heee-hee !!" We had pulled the chewed-up passenger seat out during our renovation, so during trips juwels just kind of floats around while I play captain. She reads on the back couch, showers, naps, but mostly hangs around on the bench seat behind me, with her chin propped up on my shoulder, keeping an eye on the road and squealing in my ear about passing skunks and squirrels up ahead. Not the safest setup, but before we take our next long trip .. we'll get her a helmet .. or .. a chair ; )

   When we'd gone far enough, and the engine was burning hot, we turned back towards town. We hit the forest pull-off, exiting the smooth asphalt for the rocky road and national forest. I had half-heartedly protested going out into the forest earlier that day when the preps had ran past dinner time, because finding a parking spot, the parking spot, in the forest at night wouldn't be easy, but juwels said that it was a full moon and that we -had- to go out, tonight, so that was that.

   It felt good in the woods that night, and the moon was so resplendent that it seemed like I could click off head lights and still see the winding dirt road. Juwels had requested Patrick Watson's "Adventures in your own Backyard" once we'd hit the dirt, and with the perfect soundtrack, through the indie film we drove, deeper and deeper. The first couple miles of forest are 'no camping' zones, so all was dark in the shadows of the trees, but past that point, fires and large camps cropped up left and right.

   "This is like Robin Hood," juwels squealed, stamping her feet on the ground so loud that I though we were dragging something.

   We were going to pull off at our old spot, but luckily we missed it and were forced to venture farther into the forest, past the hunter's camps. "A little father .. a little farther .." juwels lulled, now sitting  directly beside me on the wide engine cover and old chest.

   Finally, I just pulled down a turn to the right.

   "Where are you going?"

   "Just checking it out .. exploring."

   She liked the sound of that, but I knew there probably wouldn't be a good place to turn around once we headed down the road, so we'd be sleeping somewhere down there. It's an interesting thing, driving your house down these roads. What starts out as flat-packed roads can quickly turn to sand or potholes, but I just accepted that we might be sleeping in the middle of the dirt road that night and enjoyed the snaking blind turns and humps and the red dust cloud in my tail lights. It kind of felt like one of those Knotts Berry Farm tram rides with fog machines and creatures ducking out of sight.

    We had gone so far that juwels was actually prompting a pull-off here or there, but I had a picture in my mind: a nice open field with plenty of moonlight and the morning sun on our solar panel, but then, almost involuntarily, I jerked the wheel to the left and threaded the needle between tightly cropped trees, over a small berm, and settled just ahead of a large stump and tiny wild rose bushes.

    "Oh!" juwels said.

    "Yep," I grinned.

    "We're kind of at an angle.." she said, "to the left."

    "That's fine," I said, with the engine already turned off.

    "But the bed's sloped back .. so all the blood will be rushing to our heads."

    I fired the engine, and juwels ran back to the bathroom window to watch my tail-end for trees .. we used to do this each night in Venice Beach when we'd parallel park between BMW's for the night's sleep. She's a good little spotter .. I did have to break her of her habit of yelling, "ST-O-P!!!!" like I was about to roll off a cliff ; ) She can be little dramatic, so we came up with a cute noise that she'd make, progressively, as a backed into a potential insurance nightmare ; )

     I pulled Back ... "Close," juwels said.

     Right ... "Hmmm .. other way."

     Left .. "Oh, you're too far now, just a bit to the right."

     Slight Right and Forward ... "Perfect!!"


    I stepped out of the captain's seat and met juwels mid-winnie and we hugged and danced across the bamboos ; ) We tangled up on the couch and split the curtains open to see the night sky. There were long moon shadows laying across the grassy fields from the tall ponderosa pines, and sliding the window open we were met with the vanilla pine-sap smell that makes this town smell good enough to eat. And after watching the man on the moon for a few minutes, I fell under the urge head outside and and dig - find the perfect place for a fire pit, collect the rocks, pine cones and kindling, and let there be light ; )

    I quickly realized that we didn't have a shovel and gouged at the earth with a large stick. It was easy going at first, and this sparked something in me, buried ancestral grunting, the grit of fine composted silt on my lips and brow, and the thought that I should light this glorious fire by banging rocks or drill-spinning sticks and blowing my own breath into it .. but soon, once I hit the place where the piny compost and soft dirt ended and the tight packed stuff began, it also produced a softening of my palm and the beginnings of a bruise. I thought better of it, and walked back to the open winnie door to find juwels lighting candles, steeping tea and cutting up butter nut squash.

    "You want the gloves?" she guessed.


    She could only find the left one - which wasn't my driving hand, so she gave me a dirty pair of black socks to put on my other hand .. such was the shrinking of whatever was left of the caveman in me. She insisted that I wear the headlamp this time, so back I went in this strange LED light, gouging away again, and then it was done: perfect rocks circling, stuffed with pine needles and cones and topped with sticks and branches.

    The rest of the night was just perfect in our toasty little winnie - we lapped up spoonfuls of baked squash with maple syrup, coconut oil, and sea salt, and juwles even baked a savory pan of potatoes with onions and garlic that brought the caveman back and growling.

    Around the campfire, we sipped from a thermos of hot green tea and listened to the cracking pine and oak, and just before we were going to head in for bed, we heard a single coyote sing in the distance, she sounded small and scrappy, but she just may have been the leader because next, the whole pack lit up the night with sound. It was invigorating, and we couldn't help but howl along with them for a time.

   We didn't move from that spot for a long while, and it became home. On the long walk back to town the next morning (where the truck was parked) we realized that we had happened upon one of the very best spots to plant our roots ; )

This is the little ledge and porthole window next to our floating bed  - juwels keeps a lot of her night-time treasures up here ; ) 

   We'll tell you the rest of the story later ..
But I will say that fire became the theme of our exit.

  Your friendly woodland gypsies,



Candle GiveAway - One Dozen Pine Cones !!

I'd say it's about time for a GiveAway ; )

We've got One Dozen Pine Cone candles up for grabs !!

So - to enter, and to get ready for the inevitable question 'round the dinner table tomorrow, comment below with something (or things) you're thankful for ; ) 

We'll pull the winner when we come out of our food coma .. sometime Friday ; )

CutOff tomorrow @ Midnight . ...

Good luck, and, good night, gobble-gobble, buzz-buzz,


    ... this GiveAway is also @ our Face Book page (pollen arts) so you can comment there too for two chances to win !! 

      ... and if you want to give 4 or 8 or 12 of these away, we can wrap them up for you, too ; ) 

  we'll prolly pick a couple more winners for smaller sets ; - }


Country Living "50 gifts under $50!" Candle Feature December January 2013

*** If you've found this page through the Country Living magazine, and just want to find our candles, and not peruse our Winnebago Diaries, here's the link to the featured set:  Two Keys - Two Poisons "Locked-In Lovers"

   But as for the rest of you ...

alOha ; )

   Well .. this is kind of an emergency blog (just to throw a few tag words into the etherNet), so the short of it is - we were just featured in Country Living "50 gifts under $50!" and they even put us on the table of contents page ; ) Awesome !! But the "emergency" aspect here is that they didn't put our name Pollen Arts ... anywhere ???

   We've had a little press in the past, and stuff like this -always- happens, always, I barely blink at it ; ) "There's no such thing as bad press." (We were just in the Huffington post, and they wrote us up as pro Snowboarders ((we're skateboarders .. I can't snowboard to save my life.)) who make candles out of a Winnebago ((which we haven't done for a long time .. )) who travel the country at will ((we wish : ) Maybe after the holidays..). And in our Foam Magazine interview, we were "living deep in the forest in a salvage yard" .. huh .. That sounds fun, but not us ;)

   So on the way home from work yesterday, at 8 or 9 at night, after a very long day and only sleeping 3 hours the night before, I asked juwels, "Are you sure you want to go to Barnes and Nobles and get this magazine now, or do you just want to get back to the Winnie and get some rest?"

   She wanted to go, so fast forward 5 minutes, with us both sitting at the cafe table near the window, each with our own copy, and juwels, psychic gypsy that she is, opens to the exact page. "Found it! Page 37, good numbers!!" I wasn't anticipating any fuss .. we'd been contacted by the etsy press team, I connected with the assistant editor - sent them all our bio and links and specs on the candles. They made sure we'd be selling the specific collection online during the dates of the issue, and as juwels read the description aloud, I just started laughing.  .. In fact, as we left the truck to go into the store I jokingly said, "Now - will you promise me that you'll find something about the feature that will totally work you up, so I can laugh my ass off?" But I was just joking, and thought this was pretty straight fwd (btw, we were in the Anthropologie holiday catalogue last year, and they forgot to put our name in as well .. guess we should have learned, but I'd feel kind of odd and patronizing to say .. now, please, remember to put our name in there .. so people will know who makes them. ha ha ha. Next time ; )

   Juwles had the most intense energy for the rest of the night ... which was fun ; ) And I did my share of laughing and watching the show - she's so cute when she gets worked up (about little nothings .. and details ) but anyway, I figured I'd post a quick little blog, so people who wanted to find our stuff could Google "Key Candle" or "Country Living Candles" or whatever, would have a place to find us. And also, we wanted to share the good the news that we were featured in the magazine, on two pages, which is a very big deal/ doesn't happen much for grassroots artists ; )

   Here's the pages ; )

Caption: "Stick-straight tapers don't hold a candle to these Bottle-Shaped beauties !"

 Caption Reads: "Candles Scented with honey and wildflower nectar, these bottle-shaped beauties hold the key to illuminating style. Her House 518-592-1422"

   .. the name and number is from one of our accounts. It's a long story, and I'm not even sure I understand it right, but I got a message from the Her House owner saying that an editor from a big chain of magazines walked through her door, saw our candles and was inquiring about doing a piece. I sent along all the info, and never heard anything back

   Cut to: Months later, a girl from the Etsy press team messaged us saying that the Country Living people had been cruising the site and picked our candles to potentially be in the Gift Guild. She said  to send samples, we did, and later they told us that we were in ; ) Then .. a week or so before they were supposed to go to print, I get another message from the CL contact asking what store we have in Millerton NY. I told them Her House, and didn't think about it again .. The bummer is: we don't sell this collection to stores .. some of the small candles are pretty finicky to burn, so we'll only sell them direct, where we can list the burn tips and msg the buyers directly .. plus it's hard to wholesale the tiny poison and mini key without having the end price too high or wasting our time. ..

Happy Holidays, Buzz-Buzz,


Country Living, Bottle-Shaped Candles, Bottle Shaped Candles, Key Candles, Skeleton Key Candle, Scented with Honey and Wildflower, Beeswax, Pollen Arts, Her House, 50 Gifts Under $50, 50 Gifts Under Fifty Dollars, 156 Creative Holiday Ideas, December, January, 2013, Handmade in the USA, Walla Walla Bing Bang ; )