Road: Dying of the Light

Art Journal, The Road, Thoughts

Stop here sensitive souls. You’ve been warned.

Kurt and I needed a new quest after the Salt River Wild Horses to keep our spirits up in this Covid Era. We settled on Sedona. The weather looked nice, we’d never been and plenty of opportunities to explore while socially distancing.
And then it took an entire day to get away from Phoenix. First one orange kitten demanded play at 5:00am. Then the day went from there. Chores. Groceries. Filling water tank and jugs. Water misadventure. Water all over the camper. Water clean up. Fix the hose. Finish filling the water tank. A lunch break. Get to the location.

Me: This doesn’t look like Sedona?

Kurt: Oh, I received an email about the tire replacement, I’m picking it up in Phoenix.

Me: So… we aren’t going to Sedona?

Kurt: Not yet.

Then we drove along dirt road looking for dispersed camping spot in Agua Fria National Monument. Hear a POP. Determined that the rear window safety glass had shattered. The road dead ended. Nearly got stuck. Ran over a bush after 1,000 attempts at turning around. Declared it wasn’t a saguaro, we’re good. Decide we don’t care where we sleep . Park for the night just in time to hear the safety glass start cascading out of the frame.

2021. Agua Fria National Monument.


Dispersed camping it is, at least until we take care of business. The next morning we found a ohv staging area outside of Phoenix to install ourselves. The plan: remove all the gear from under the truck capper. Find a place to get the glass fixed. Fill truck back up. Pick up replacement tire. Nothing to it. A few days in the desert and we’d be on our way.

Life still happens. Good or bad on the road. We expected car problems. What came next was never on the menu. All experiences have value though. One launches you to the next wether you enjoyed it or not.

I promised to tell the tale of how we were blessed with Beelzebub the Orange after losing Mr. Gato last October. This isn’t going to be that.
Do I start with Freddie, the four-parts mutt, who cannot help herself when it comes to the chase and the kill? Or Grunt. My fearful brindle beasty. The canine of soulful slime and anxiety. Mr. Gato’s sad, but peaceful death after a long summer of illness. Or did it begin with our newest edition Beelzebub the Orange. The perfect fluffy orange tiger kitten to fill the grief hole with purrs and magic. Dancing his way across our hearts.


Yes. Let’s begin there.
Somewhere in Texas I gave up finding a kitten. Once over the Arizona border I tried again and came across the littlest orange fuzz. And he was perfect. Willful. Energetic. Snuggles. Talkative. My Orange. The bond was immediate. He was adjusting to travel nicely. And camper life.
He insisted on the snuggle with Freddie. And tried with Grunt. With some success. The Orange saved his kitty biscuits for me, but shared his warm little body love with us equally.
Grief is price for love.
And as I loved Mister fiercely for fourteen years, I was just getting started with this little monster.
Life was good again.
There is an ugly beauty when you hold a being you love in its last moments. And there is absolutely nothing you can do.
On a Tuesday. The same Tuesday that congress would convene to Impeach our president for the second time I woke up to the sound of a kitten screaming. At first all that came into focus was Kurt making coffee. Then I hazily asked if he was ok. And I was handed a furry dying ember.
And I held him fiercely.
We don’t know why it happened.
Neither of us saw it happen. For some unknown reason Grunt bit the kitten. And that was all it took. I had no reason to believe my dogs wouldn’t accept a kitten. Both were raised among many cats of all ages including kittens. Up until that moment I would have told you everyone was getting on famously.
It became clear though, that an attack from Grunt on Freddie a couple weeks earlier, was no fluke. And we had been blind to the increasing violence he was doing to her. At home or on the road who wants to have to choose between their furry companions? Grunt wasn’t tolerating kitten or dog. Grunt had new needs we couldn’t give him.

2021. Beelzebub the Orange’s Grave.

The day after.

I needed to find a spark of joy.
We had this telescope taking up valuable room. And my neurons made some connections. Parked near us was a bus with their instagram handle on the side. I checked them out earlier in our stay. They were homeschooling five kids. Go Neurons.
Selfishly I marched that telescope across the sand in the bright dry desert day… I needed there to be goodness in the world. I needed to feel good outside of our small bitter animal kingdom tragedy.
And? It worked out splendidly. They were also having a tough week, for other reasons. Their kids already had an interest in the stars. Serendipity.
We left Phoenix, Arizona. Again camping at the Agua Fria National Monument. This time just us and one dog. A fixed window. Hard lessons. Less one bouncy orange kitten.

2021. Agua Fria National Monument

I found AZ Mastiff Rescue, a large breed rescue group. Freddie isn’t sorry. We hadn’t noticed how withdrawn she was. Suddenly we had a happy dog in front of us. I feel confident Grunt will be happier in the end too. We will be judged. Some will judge us for getting the breed in the first place. Some will judge us for keeping him so long. Others will find fault in us surrendering him to a rescue.

All I can say is I’ve always believed my home would be forever for every pet I brought in. And now I’ve learned again that life brings unforeseen challenges. The right and responsible act doesn’t always feel well done in the moment.

We left Grunt at the Rescue with everything I could give him for his best transition. I wrote out his history. His quirks. Sent his veterinary records. His harness, head collar, kong toy, his leash and the quilt they laid on in the truck. I did a photo shoot with him and emailed those to the Rescue. I said goodbye to my big chicken dog who was afraid of the dark and didn’t like the rain. I said goodbye to memories and to a future that didn’t come to pass. I was so mad at him. I loved him.
It was time to spoil Freddie. Since she could now enjoy a bone and toy of her own. I made my husband stop at the pet isle while we were getting supplies. Over the days since the surrender she has relaxed. Freddie is playing with her toys again. She doesn’t act like she’s on high alert 24/7. Listens to commands better. I can’t put into words all the changes we’ve noticed. It is clear she is a happier companion.

2021. Freddie enjoying new adventures.

Road: Salt River Wild Horses

Art Journal, The Road

There is still joy to be found in the world.

This was a heavy year, 2020. It is 8:06 pm on New Year’s Eve, here in these last glowing embers of the year I’ve shrugged off the worst of my grief. I’ve pulled myself back together (for now), remembered how to find joy and magic in the world. A heavy year indeed, but I’d rather not talk about the year or our collective struggles. I want to talk about feeling magic again.
Where is the magic in this world? Everywhere. I thought my overgrown black tomcat Mister was magic. As was our bond. Finding a little ginger kitten (born near the time Mister died) with a giant personality: magic. My marriage to someone who compliments my personality: magic. The chance to spend so much time being right where I want to be: also magic.
That brings me to when we (my husband and I) were both getting the blues. Social distancing has its price. That price is culture. Many places we wanted to see are closed to us. Many we avoided out of social responsibility. Some states we drove through were lax in their handling of masking and we didn’t want to linger. Some states had too many restrictions for convenient rv traveling.
Without adventures… we were feeling… lost.


Which brings me to the Salt River Wild Horses, but all I knew about them were:

a. Wild

b. Lived on a river

One day I thought we were packing up to refill the water tank, but my very talkative spouse had really decided it was time to drive north to check out the horses. Except. He was piecing information from a random blog?
Look. We made this entirely harder than it needed to be. We attempted to enter at two different points as far from the Salt River as you can. Slowly. Because the roads were not good for truck pulling a trailer. What could of been a one day drive from outside of Tucson, we made a two day event.
I’d love to say I took the camping advice I received from an Instagrammer, but no. We camped in the Bulldog Canyon ohv area (fee and code required).
First impressions… We arrived Christmas Day. Just in time for ALL the new motorized toys. (Things have settled since).

What was I expecting: We’d walk down to the river from our campsite and I’d take amazing photographs of wild horses playing in the water at dawn and dusk. Because. That. Is. What. I. Read.
What I found out was the walk “to” the river was fine. The walk “back” was steep and I should’ve brought my stick and also, *maybe* walked a few times this fall. Which was all extra disappointing when there were zero horses. It was pretty though.



First Encounter:

2020. Area along Salt River


How did I get to see my first band of wild horses, you ask? They sauntered by the camper. And I went out there. Then they sorta started to follow me. And I kept backing up. And I was trying to maintain that space (50 ft I read) between us… because I’m honestly a little afraid of them. (ok a lot afraid of them).

2020. Eel Grass covering river rock.



Second encounter:

Just one. One horse on a mission. Walked by the camper. I followed him hoping to get a good, clear shot. He turned and looked at me once, then headed off to do horse business. Now, I thought for sure he was heading for that river. I had them this time. I went to gather things, as one does, before rushing gleefully down the trail to the river. First, you must be so excited your ankle folds, and you sprawl out in the dirt in front of the camper. Then! Then you get yourself down to that disappointingly horseless river.

2020. Salt River Wild Horse


Third encounter:

We checked out the Coon Bluff area of the Salt River and met a member of the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group. They were a fountain of information about the Horses and tipped us off where a band was that morning. I do recommend checking out their social media. They are doing great work keeping the Horses free.
After my quick lesson on wild horses we moved on to locate the band. Seventeen. They weren’t interacting with each other as much as the previous band. All business. Eating. But then I learned on the Management Group’s social media the drought is hitting the area hard and they are supplementing their feed. Not that lay people should because they are using weed free feed and horses are mysteriously delicate creatures. Good intentions can turn deadly with well intentioned food. (Hint: Donate money to the Management Group)

They may be scrappy little mustangs that have survived on this land for centuries or they may be feral horses occupying land that could be used for steer (yes, many people want to squash what is beautiful, wild and free for possible profits) but to me they may as well be unicorns for the magic they bring into the world.

2021. Reflections.


Fourth encounter:

After a week we needed to have a business day. Dump the camper, fill the camper, supply run… etc… Had this idea we’d try out a different camping location. Coon Bluff was only open to camping on Friday’s and Saturday’s so we looked into a different dispersed camping area. This was not going to work. We found this area to be even busier with orv traffic. And then there was the apocalyptic landscape. This area burned recently. Back to Bulldog Canyon ohv.
The next evening we took our cue from the sun and headed to the river. We started following a path starting at the Goldfield Recreation Area heading towards the Coon Bluff Recreation Area.
The path followed the cliff above the river, more or less. We were able to see see up and down the river well. Soon enough we found fresh signs of horse activity. Fresh tracks and dung. Then a band appeared from the desert and headed gingerly down the path to the river.

2021. Great Egret.
2021. Salt River

My husband held my impulsive self back to let them do their thing. Then we followed them down and settled on the bank of the Salt River to watch wild horses be wild.
I’m going to say right now, this was certainly one of my favorite experiences. The light, the innocence. Perfect.

2021. Unshod hoof prints.

Then a buzzing. Louder. I couldn’t see where the noise came from. The horses became agitated, then behind me I heard my husband say they didn’t like the drone. Drone. Drone? DRONE? Sassy tails and plucky footwork. Those horses headed for the cover of the trees while the drone hovered over us. Waiting. I may have popped out of the tree line to use an ancient Americana symbol to communicate all of our communal displeasure.
At least that wasn’t the end of the day right there. While walking back we caught sight of the band again. And in the glowing light of the setting sun.


Final encounter:

One last go at a chance for river magic. We headed for the same stretch of river as yesterday. Odds seemed good we’d catch a band there. We hiked in further than previously, but ended up following the sounds of hooves on rocks. We arrived in time to see a scuffle of dust and hooves peeking under the thick tree branches. Then the band appeared one by one out of the trees and headed into the desert at a brisk pace. We had no hope of following their pace. We walked the horse trails back to our truck. No further sightings.

Road: Social Distancing

Art Journal, The Road

These are long days.
These are long days.
These are long days.

We let go of our idea of how life was supposed to be as our best layed plans fell apart. Faced with the long dark northern winter during a pandemic, not working and living in our isolated house, Kurt (my husband) and I, decided to return to the road.

The plan: Head due west into the setting sun into uncharted territory before heading to the Arizona desert.

The reality: We drove directly into the first major storm system of the year.

On an inauspicious frosty October morning we departed from our home peninsula set snuggly among the Great Lakes and headed west. At first the day was bright and full of hope. It ended with us colliding with a snow storm somewhere in Minnesota. That is where, after spending a night in a glorified parking lot, we decided to travel directly and quickly south.


South through Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas.



Here was our dilemma: The plains states were being hit with the winter storm front. It was sweeping down across Colorado, Oklahoma and parts of Northwest Texas. The southwest states were still getting triple digit heat. The fires were still burning in the west. And the Gulf of Mexico was being hammered by a historical hurricane season.

So… Texas Tour 2.0

Initially Texas was just going to be a place to stall for time while the weather cleared. Then Texas became ground zero for kitty search 2020. I think I’ll save that story for another day. However: cause and effect.

The one place in Texas I wanted to see was Caddo Lake. It was a challenge to get a reservation in the campground so I settled for just one night. We skipped around a few different Texas State Campgrounds before and after that.

We languished for weeks on the Gulf Coast and I’m not sorry for the experience. We discovered there were places along the Texas Gulf Coast where camping was free right on the beach. (watch those tides though). Imagine falling asleep to the rhythms of ocean waves, windows open, camper door open all night to humid breezes. Waking to red sunrises and going to bed after the sun bleeds into the night. Everything is covered in a layer of salt. Your hair, your skin, your bed, the floor… Great Blue Herons fishing in the waves next to you… Days filled with the zen of watching the tides erase your footprints.

After Texas we had to plan how to get to Arizona. We needed to trek across Texas, driving through El Paso (one of the Covid hot spots), and across southern New Mexico. Camping to out-of-state residents in New Mexico was discouraged in state parks. The Covid numbers were causing tighter restrictions and shut downs. Traveling in late 2020 required more planning. What is open, what is closed and what requires reservations in advance. Each state may be tighter or more relaxed on masking which might reflect on the data for infection rates. Who wants to risk getting seriously ill hundreds or thousands of miles away from home… and out of network. We avoided high Covid areas and areas that weren’t taking masking precautions.

The Lingering

Arizona. Reliably sunny. Warm days, cold desert nights filled with wide open starry skies and the singing of coyotes. Night after night of perfect sunsets. The days running together. This year we miss the restaurants and the arts. The excitement of new roads.
This slow year.
I squat in the desert making art.
Mostly waiting for clouds.
When the clouds come I’ll get to photograph something new.



Road: Intermission; Solitude Summer

Art Journal, Self Reflection, Thoughts


I’ve been stuck. Blocked. How do I bridge the time between getting off the road and back on? Do I jump back in and skip over this, the slow part? To me the slow part seems essential to the continuity of story. And then again not much occurred. BUT everything occurred. Read or don’t read. This is for me, as it has always been, but more so. Cathartic.

Spring comes to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Spring comes to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

We drove directly home during the initial shutdowns of March 2020 due to Covid. And then? And then we waited for June. Because on June 1, 2020 my husband had a job waiting for him… a nine hour drive from me.
This is where my lonely summer begins. With me, the two dogs and Mister (the love of my life, my large black tomcat, my old man).
This situation felt familiar. Many years before, on another planet entirely, I lived a lonely summer in the northern woods with just me and two fierce cats. Differences. In this case I was not working, I was well provided for, I lived much further in the woods and more isolated, I had running water, internet, emotional support etc…

What am I trying to convey?
Even if events on the National and personal level were wearing me down I was in a healthier environment than the one echoing up from my past.

Mr. Gato (aka Mister) and Grunt

I spent the long summer days working through overdue household projects. Painting. Staining. Cleaning. Purging. Fixing. Finishing. All while my attention was glued to the National news. Protests and riots. Covid-19 numbers. BLM and a President who frankly scared me.
What I didn’t see immediately, was that my love, my forever, my Mister was dying.
To some a cat, to me a person.
Over the weeks I cared for him. Adjusting his food based on behavior. Going ever softer and wetter. At some point I was feeding him every couple hours, just little bits of watered down paste. Getting woken up in early morning hours (4:00 am) to him gently pawing my face and crying: feed me.

Caught a Summer Rain

I held him.
“They” say cats who don’t feel well hide. Mister did some of that. But in the end he was with me. The last weeks, days and hours I held him. Through the nights and as much as I could during the day.
My husband came home. Should we discuss what transpired? No. Boring adult decisions. We’ll leave it at: that particular opportunity we tried out wasn’t for us.
The time came to get back on the road. The week came. Packing. Finishing up chores. But Mister was not alright.
The decision with the veterinarian. Mister had not responded to the treatment.
In the hours until the appointment… Four? Five? I held him. We fell asleep together in a patch of sunshine. I cradled his weight and the rest of him stretched across me. My old man. Black whiskers gone white. My adventure cat. My studio cat. My muse. There for me the last fourteen years, no matter.
We buried him by my studio.


Then we departed…

Project: Waxed Canvas Artist Paint Brush Roll

Art Journal, process

Traveling with art supplies requires solutions. Every solution leads to new problems to solve. This week I realized that my investment in better quality brushes was going to be a huge disappointment if they became damaged during transit. Unfortunately my cheap and particular self couldn’t find an artist’s paint brush roll at a price point I could live with. Being me I decided to at least try making my own before buying one.

One thing: I have some skills, sewing is not one of them. Sewing machines are a mystery and my patience for hand stitching is minimal. I used a canvas drop cloth against itself, taking advantage of the manufacturer’s work to save my sanity. For the rest I relied on heat tape to secure my pieces and edges before stitching.

In the end I was left with a limp cloth roll. The idea was there, but not the protection.

Could I wax my own canvas? According to Google, absolutely. Most sources recommend bees wax, but I had paraffin wax on hand. I tested it first and didn’t mind the result.

To fix the uneven coverage I ironed the material at the highest temp. I used scrap fabric to soak up excess wax and directly ironed the waxed canvas to get full coverage in other spots (I don’t recommend doing this part with an iron you wish to use outside of your art practice).


I’m happy with the result. I think this will offer my brushes the best protection while traveling.

Thoughts in Isolation: 3

Art Journal, Self Reflection, Thoughts

Monday, May 4, 2020

Wow, where’d you come from Taryn? Up before noon? Breakfast? Laundry? Feeling ambitious? Making plans? Yeah… getting yourself on a med taking schedule is kicking in fast. Days. Who knows how many doses you were flaking out on. That’s life managing mental health. You can slip so easy. Especially during times of crisis. When everyone is giving themselves permission to eat ice cream for breakfast, it’s easy to let things go. Forgetting you need structures to keep anxiety and depression and at bay. Oops. But we have a lifetime of experience to draw from. And know when things are getting weird upstairs. Imagine all the people out there who are going into this new world completely unprepared for dealing with their crazy? Be gentle with them. They are fresh at this.

Friday May 8, 2020

It snowed. The Upper Peninsula is a magical world of winter and water. People are expressing further frustration from the oppressive feelings a spring snow rains down on their heads. I think it’s beautiful. I’m on track to cement in a habit of getting up before noon and taking my meds. Getting to bed is challenged by my discovery of a new author. I’m riding the sci-fi adventure genre. Six books deep. Second series. Will they survive?

Also murder hornets have taken over pop culture and FB arguments. Along with the “plandemic” video. Will the wonders of 2020 never cease??? I can watch the riptides of information, misinformation and spin spread across social media. Mostly, I feel like people just don’t understand their own psychology.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

I’m sick of people.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Today was a good day. Up before noon. A solid art session. A good breakfast. A walk. Went for a ride yesterday for supplies. Things are looking up inside my brain.

Thursday, May 12, 2020

I was thinking.

I was thinking about all the places and things I experienced over the winter. And I feel so fulfilled. I got the experience of long term traveling and the freedom to create art. And I did it. And I saw many of the places I dreamed about, and more.

What a generous Universe.

Now is the time for rest.

Next is the unfolding of the next gift. Mine is blessed life.

Friday, May 13, 2020

Getting art supplies in the era of Covid-19… one must lower their expectations dramatically. I’m exercising a level of patience I didn’t know I had. But then, it’s nice to slow down.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Being an adult is far overrated. I’m glad I grew up to be an artist.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The feeling of watching people leave. The moment of separation. Wether planned, after a visit, or after a fight… I find that peeling away of their presence excruciating. I don’t mean when they leave to go to the store, I mean when they leave and there’s going to be hours and days between you. That moment. That sick sinking moment when they walk away from you. Your last hug (or in some cases not) and you don’t know when you’ll feel their mass again.

Tonight I sleep alone. And even though it’s temporary and planned and necessary and he’s a phone call away… That moment of peeling away. That last hug. I need my human with me.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Spring took so long to get here. Then overnight the trees opened up their wells of green and life sprouts from the earth in multitudes. At night frogs chorus and whip-poor-wills break through. Moving through the night calling here and there. The dawn moves fast on the night, there’s barely a touch of night. People are restless here this time of year. I think it’s having so much daylight. It’s only dark for a little over seven hours.

And I prepare for yet another strange new disruption in my life.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

George Floyd. What terrors we’ve given power to. Little beasts with such ugly hearts to ignore the pleas of a fading man.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The country is on fire.

Michigan lifts the “Stay at home” order.

Thoughts in Isolation: 2

Art Journal, Self Reflection, Thoughts

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

I did not think I would experience any new emotions after posting the two week journal “Thoughts in Isolation.” I was wrong. Today. Today I ache inside. I am numb yet sad yet nauseous. I made a double batch of no-bake cookies after starting the last 15 pieces of the 100 Day Project. I feel weepy yet I don’t weep! I’m mad. I’m dissatisfied. I’m disappointed. From heart down to my stomach I feel bubbling emotions but I can’t identify them. They swirl and toss like a shipwreck. I’m relieved and angry. I’m sickened and disgusted. I’m empty. I’m a tempest.

Today people choked the capital of Michigan protesting governor Whitmer’s executive orders. They block emergency vehicles. They mingle. They are mad about seeds. Some of my Facebook friends support this. Most do not.

Today I skimmed Facebook trying to avoid all the conspiracy theories. I’m baffled by the ridiculous number of them. And everyone yelling at each other to “think for themselves.” I don’t know if I should be comforted by listening to an expert explain everywhere in the world comes up with conspiracies during outbreaks with convenient scapegoats particular to their corner of the world.

But what really breaks me is the normality of my Grandfather’s death amidst everything.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

I’m trying to wrap my heart around the grieving process for my grandfather but it all feels so distant. In a different time I would of driven the forty minutes to see my family immediately after I was told. In this world that seems irresponsible. So I stay home. I hope that my grandmother is safe. I hope no one in the flurry of activity carried the virus with them to my grieving family. I hope they were able to keep him comfortable in his last hours.

My grandfather was kindness where my home life was chaos. He fixed up an old banana seat bike and spray painted it dark green for me. Remedying my lack of bike riding knowledge. He taught me some doodles I can still draw. Tried to teach me a line or two of French. I went with him walking at the ice rink. And fishing.

Grandpa was flannels and suspenders. Mint chocolate. Tomato thieving. Chipmunk taming. Garage tinkering. He was full of games and riddles. He was a collection of hematite rocks. Old westerns and baseball. He was ritually painting the deck brown. I watched him give up his raspberry patch, his truck, his boat, his sight. He was wit and charm.

Most of all he was Grandpa. When I was confused by my father’s side of the family and reproached by his wife, Lucille, not to call her grandmother. This Grandfather never made that distinction. Even though most of us weren’t his by blood.

How do we mourn in this time of corona?

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Everyone is getting their chain yanked by someone in country. And everyone thinks they are the ones “thinking for themselves.” Everyone is at each others throats on social media. Guilty. How does something so simple as staying home to save lives become so politicized? I have questions.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Many members of my family have posted on social media about the passing of our Grandfather. I can’t do it. I cannot bring myself to deal with the societal etiquette of public condolences and public thanks.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

mitigation

social distancing

PPE

N95

corona

covid-19

ventilators

flattening the curve

Dr. Birx and Fauci

the scarf

Governor Coumo

fabric masks

Wuhan

isolation

quarantine

USS Comfort and Mercy

the cure cannot be worse than the disease

the invisible enemy

testing

false negatives/positives

supply chain

chloroquine

hot zone

that woman from Michigan

pandemic

Spanish Flu

1918

second wave

Chinese virus

contact tracing

exponential

two weeks

six feet

2%

0.1%

15%

asymptomatic carriers

shelter in place

So many words that have taken over our language in the last weeks and months. Our minds quickly pick up on and race away with a flurry of new vocabulary. Wielding them like knives against each other.

I wonder when life will feel normal. I guess society always fluxes. We never went back to pre- 9/11 life. We’ve been fighting that war since. I only knew the feeling of job and financial security during the last years of the Obama administration. Wiped away again by greed. Watching big businesses suck up bail outs while little micro-businesses are starved out. Watch them wink out one by one. Stranding families and once thriving communities.

The system only works by a thin thread of belief. There’s nothing real about the ant hill of capitalism. An engine that drives and consumes the planet for profit. But why? More electronic money. More. More. More. Not even paper anymore. Just numbers we believe in. To make our lives better? It’s NOT so! I witnessed two different America’s driving across this country. People living in towers overlooking people living in gutters.

What’s real? We have one life. Once it’s over… A company can be rebuilt. A country can recover from a recession or depression. We won’t get our people back if we send them off as sacrificial lambs for capitalism. No one needs a hair cut that badly. What we need is food, water, shelter and our tribe to be safe.

I’m just not willing to give up my mother, grandmother or husband because some people believe the economy is more important and some others believe the virus is a hoax.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

I was brutally awakened from a nap by a cascade of horns honking and a cacophony of dogs barking. When I tried to hush the dogs my husband yelled back “their having a parade.” Out here in the middle of the woods? with us as the only witness, they came out to their camp to have themselves a little birthday party for the wife. A nurse at a nearby hospital. Complete with children and the elderly. How sweet.

And…

The president suggested we disinfect our lungs. Inject cleaners.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

I’m getting weird about things. I’m closing in around myself. I’m not going out. Not looking to leave the house. I don’t want to talk to many people. I’m not accomplishing much. I don’t feel sad. I’m ok. I think? I miss the desert. I miss the road. Although I’m not afraid, the current events prey on latent fears. If that makes sense. The current isolation mimics the times from before I was on medication. When stores were the enemy. Strangers. Contact. An invisible barrier. I at that time was getting weird about going into stores I wasn’t familiar with. About talking to anyone. Leaving the house got troubling. And it’s like that now I’m feeling, but a different cause. And I’m distant from people the same way I was then. Not out of social anxiety, but because of social safety. But it feels emotionally the same. The difference now is that I have a partner to lean on. At my worst with the social anxiety I was alone.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

I’ve been thinking about my father and everything he’s missing. What would he make of this time? He was never one that could stand being still. He always wanted to go. How would he handle being asked to stay home? I cannot imagine it. I caught myself sitting in repose like him the other night. One arm swung over my head and fidgeting with the cuticles of my other hand. When I realized that was a piece of him inside my posture, I separated from space, time and body for a moment. Grief is like that, it comes at you like a freight train when you least expect it, years later. It’s him not seeing Star Wars or Dune. It’s not getting his opinion on politics. It’s walking through Family Video. It’s watching the places he once inhabited with his mass disappear from the world. Popping like little soap bubbles on a timeline.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

I have not been taking care of myself. My husband asked me to go for a walk with him today and I felt a bit of panic at leaving the house. This is not a good sign. I took a shower. Changed my clothes. And swept the floor. Tomorrow I will do more to be human. Oops. I’m not all the way down the rabbit hole yet.

Monday, May 4, 2020

I’m annoyed by my dry skin. I was scraping at it on my face with my finger nails. Now I have a scab on my nose where I went to far. I thought the doldrums I experienced in Death Valley were bad. That was just preparation. ‘Twas just a fng precursor. I’m thinking bangs. Perhaps I’ve watched enough Asian woman successfully give themselves bangs on YouTube to manage. Or at least I’ll have a few minutes entertainment before meltdown.

My lack of consistent schedule may have resulted in some medication dose misses. I’m hitting the anxiety jackpot. And since I’m not seeing anyone or interacting with anyone, I can only guess that the current feeling of mild terror about leaving the house is where my brain is putting all that anxious energy. Light feelings of agoraphobia are not new anxiety symptoms for me, it’s just been awhile since it’s been expressed this way. And not exactly surprising since we’ve been asked not to leave the house for over a month now.

So. I’m working on getting myself righted a little every day. I finished one big art project and I’m working through the other I have going. I’m not unhappy. So I have that. Just a bit… off kilter, but then so is everyone else as far as I can tell. We’re going to be alright, just a bit damaged. And heartbroken. With terrible bangs. And picked over skin.

Spring is here. Can you feel it’s renewing energy?

Thoughts in Isolation

Art Journal, Self Reflection

Friday, March 27, 2020

Day 1: I cried yesterday. Somewhere in Minnesota we reached the boreal forest and it felt like being suffocated. I dreamed so long of traveling (without the means of doing so). My heart irrational. I cried “I know all these trees!”

On the other hand I have a home to come to. Both physically and geographical. When times were difficult before, when I had no where to go, or no money, or the relationship was over; I had that in my father’s land. And I have that now. An imperfect home in the woods. Walls, roof and heat.

Today we unpack. Do laundry. Assess the winter damage: one bedroom, the drywall of the ceiling partially collapsed and water damage to the floor. Something wrong with the stink stack. The kitchen faucet is partially broke. The shower head is completely shattered and the pipes are damaged in the wall. Somehow the wood shed is still standing, against expectations. The dishwasher isn’t quite right. Something in the switch. I found thistle seed stashes. Somebody (or somebodies) small and furry is living in my home.

News: Prime Minister Boris Johnson is Covid-19 positive with mild symptoms.

News: Our President is making it personal with the Governor of Michigan. Suppliers are being told not to send supplies, even when the President stated governors should procure their own.

I am afraid now, more than ever. I am more angry than I’ve ever been. I am helpless. I took a long bath, my first in eight months. I can’t get calm. I’m going to go for a nap. To try to get out from these overwhelming feelings. I have too many people working in nursing. I am breaking down. I cry, seeing their faces. Terrified for them.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Day 2: The cat doesn’t stop crying. He bellows in empty rooms. He may be channeling my feelings. I was weepy and I’m now hollowed out. I can’t even go out to escape. There’s no escape. My body escapes for me. Drowsiness comes down often. This is the life of the damaged. My brain takes care of me by putting me to sleep.

News: the President declares a state of emergency for Michigan. They send 1000 N95 Masks. It’s a hysterically low number. I take solace in governor Coumo’s daily briefings. He’s the leader in this crisis.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Day 3: Anger. I’ve always despised Sundays and Holidays because of the limits put on what you can and cannot go and do. But now every day feels like a Sunday. If I could sleep through till this was over I would, but I can’t and I shouldn’t. I’ve already slid too far into the comforts of sleep. Instead I’m going to try to set some daily expectations for myself.

Coffee & 100 Day Project

Clean Something

Read

Art

Today I cleaned one area in the kitchen. Which led to some open shelves. Good enough. More than I set out to do.

News: the President accused New York hospitals of nefarious activity with PPE in the corona task force news conference. Every day I listen to that and to Governor Coumo. Thank the stars for Fauci and Coumo.

Monday March 30, 2020

Day 4: Hope is a tender thing. Hope is a small newborn babe. Hope is a fire in night. Hope. My husband had an interview this morning. It sounds like a job offer is coming, for after the Covid-19 crisis. There’s hope in this darkness. Hope can crush a human under its enormous weight. Hope can be dashed. I wait in the wilderness with hope in my heart.

News: Yesterday the President announced 30 more days of Social Distancing.

Coffee and failed attempt at 100 Day Project

News

Got internet access

Cleaned out bookcase and purged books

Napped

Tried to watch Pet Cemetery

Ran away and worked on The Painting, it goes well

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Day 5: More overcast days than sunny moments, the weather is concurrent with my oppressed mood. The cat continues to cry. Yowls if he cannot see me. Sometimes I drug him with catnip to get it to stop. He is unhappy.

People are expressing feelings of derealization on social media. Welcome to the world of trauma my friends. Only, we are just getting started. My trauma responses are in full gear. Numbness. Sleeping long hours. Fatigue. Loss of interest. Derealization. The only way is through. The way through is to try a little every day to be human until the fog lifts. Go through the motions until they aren’t motions. Set little attainable goals.

News: The administration “believes” the peak of cases will hit in two weeks.

Coffee and the motions of the 100 Day Project

Forced myself to clean a couple walls and two shelves. That’s enough of that.

Bath

Reading

Weight of drowsiness overtook me: nap

Coumo and then Trump news briefings

Staring at a wall

Cut paper for Polaroid project

April 1, 2020

Day 6: My mental health is unraveling. It is a chore to get myself to do things. I let off Instagram and my Charley Lakes Studio Facebook page . Fine. I am trying to get the fortitude to work on the Polaroid project. I’m barely putting effort forth into the 100 Day Project. I’m sleeping in and napping. I know this headspace well. And it is not a good place. This is not where I thought I’d be last week. I’m fighting my way through.

News: Florida finally has a “stay at home” order. Kurt fixed the shower.

Coffee and 100 Day Project (posted last weeks blog) while listening to NPR updates.

Leftover pancakes and Coumo briefing. Which I turned off. I felt my body descend into drowsiness. That’s enough.

Read

Nap

Cleaned off kitchen cupboard fronts: literally the least I could commit to

Stare out the window

Watch “Witcher” and cut paper. I have no idea what is going on. What is the plot?

April 2, 2020

Day 7: The sun shines. I feel lighter. I drink coffee and explore social media. I am appalled at the ridiculous conspiracy theories on tap. Like the time I read a thick book on why atheists were right (I turned agnostic), I come out of this time absolutely sure conspiracy theorists are dead wrong. I’ve had enough. Everyone seems to have their favorite. As though the reality of this world isn’t fantastic enough. Reality is far more amazing than given credit. Maybe we need more arts and sciences. To sit in wonder of the mundane without need of some spectacular shadowy double truth.

News: Michigan officially suspends the K-12 school year. The Democratic National Convention moved to August.

Coffee & 100 Day Project & NPR podcasts: productive

Can’t get the Coumo briefing to play.

Read

Nap

Polaroid Project

Witcher… finished it. I think I get it. Maybe.

April 3, 2020

Day 8: The days blur. Woke up well after noon. Oops. I watch people on social media, who weren’t taking the situation serious, change their tune. I hate cleaning. And I hate having a messy house. Conundrums.

News: Etsy sent out a request asking for its makers to make masks.

Coffee & 100 Day Project

Stare out the window

Polaroid project

Refuse to nap… sort of watch a movie and start a tv show: “the expanse”

Life is becoming so small…

April 4, 2020

Day 9: My vessel facilitates anger. I vibrate with it. I am nobody. I, and everyone I know, we are acceptable losses to the capitalist gods of greed. What a better world this would be if we weren’t tethered to live in an expansion economy. There must be other ways we can live? Surely???

News: no news intake, need mental space today

Coffee & slow simmering anger

100 Day Project

Polaroid Project

Thought long and hard about cleaning… not today!

Binge watching “The Expanse” (don’t judge me. I’ve not watched anything since October)

April 5, 2020

Day 10: The snow is going away fast. When we arrived home, our house was snowed in. We had to break a trail through deep snow to haul necessities in. Now? The driveway is mud.

News: Texas issues “stay at home order”

Coffee & 100 Day Project

A walk

getting fancy… have the easel in the house for the painting now

more “the expanse”

Monday, April 6, 2020

Day 11: I realized I was checking out of reality. I put NPR on this morning and I couldn’t even finish my coffee before I was back in bed. So check out of reality it’s going to have to be if I want to be awake. Or save news for a bedtime snack.

News: prime minister Boris Johnson in the ICU and the Queen gives a rare speech. A tiger in a zoo is infected.

Coffee and 100 Day Project

Nap

Painting

TV

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Day 12: It rains.

Coffee

Sleep

100 Day Project

TV

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Day 13: The sun shines. The cat cries.

Coffee & 100 Day Project

Read

Sleep

Read

Sleep

TV

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Day 14: Hope. A year after my husband lost his job. A year of stress and worry and adventure. Good news today. Fragile news amongst the sea of uncertainty. News that could evaporate as the world continues to be tossed upside down by a virus.

Coffee…

The Road: Part 8, The Long Road Home

Art Journal, Artistic Growth, Self Reflection, The Road, Thoughts

Monday, March 16: Harris Beach State Park, Oregon

I was approached on the beach by a middle age woman with the gift of gab and some painful ideas. She regurgitated ideas from memes like the virus would disappear one day and come back in ten years. I tried to keep my space and assist her in reality. My husband had his own conversation with a teacher where he learned that the local population holds beliefs about this being a part of God’s plan and the end times. There being excitement in the religious population to embrace current events and little desire to change habits.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020: Clear Lake State Park, California

The first night. We changed direction and pace to make our way home, traveling by mostly interstate instead of scenic backroads. We had to drive south to go east because a winter storm was sweeping through the Rocky Mountains, Plains and Midwest. We found this state park about an hour from where we stopped for supplies. Restaurants were starting to move to take out only by force in some places and by choice in others. It was dark and late when my phone, blue-toothed into the radio, blasted out the warning declaring a shelter-in-place order for Sonoma County. Then mid-morning a park employee accompanied by California Park Police came through to inform us they were closing the State Parks and to give us advice about where to try to stay.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020: Rabbit Island, California

Rabbit Island, a familiar camping spot for us in a National Forest, we stopped at before going to the Sequoia National Forest. Again we rolled in well after dark. And in the morning there were no cows to greet us. The news? Pennsylvania was shutting down rest stops. Someone else traveling from Florida to Michigan reported on Facebook finding hotels closing up behind and ahead of them. The Canadian/American border is closed to unnecessary travel.

Thursday, March 19, 2020: Mojave Desert Preserve, California

We stopped before dark. Finding resting spots on wild lands is too challenging after dark. Part of me was happy to see the desert again, but it wasn’t supposed to be this way. A spring rain storm swept through. In the morning President Trump announces closing the southern border and sending asylum seekers back to their countries. I weep for the cruelty.

Friday, March 20, 2020: Thirty Minutes Outside Kingman, Arizona

Supplies. We’ve carried minimum supplies. After the troubles in Death Valley I started stocking up on dry foods (that was traumatic, food deserts are real), but we still kept minimal dog food and paper supplies because of the minimal space. Now we cannot find toilet paper (three states later). Getting dog food and meds filled just over the Arizona border. Getting pet food. Errands take time, checking for toilet paper and some groceries while we wait for the scripts to fill.

Illinois under stay-at-home order beginning tomorrow at 5:00pm.

Made it about thirty minutes south of Kingman, Arizona. We originally planned to cross Arizona at Flagstaff, but that city was getting cold and snow so we are going the more southern route and swinging past Phoenix. Between Phoenix and Flagstaff are mountains and twisty roads we don’t want to get tangled in right now. I’ll get to say hello to the Saguaros for a brief moment.

Saturday, March 21, 2020: Navajo National Monument

Home is probably still snowed in. Can’t stay here. Can’t get there. One day at a time. Uncertainty rocks the world. Humanity is in crisis. May we walk through this fire and come out better for it. Here, now, communities rally together finding creative ways to support each other, while our governments make cruel decisions and we let them.

We traveled. Stopped in a small town for a couple staples, tried again for toilet paper: nope. Wanted to take a break from the road and reality by stopping at the Grand Canyon. There were more people than we anticipated and a young woman up on her soap box. She stood on a rock, all attitude in her cocked hip, yelling into her phone about the people not keeping six feet apart and everyone was going to die infecting her small village. Too much. When I realized she was filming, that’s when the panic attack set in. To be clear I was able to be there without being in anyone’s space. And it took some cognitive processing to manage it.

We headed SE on 64 (Desert View Dr.) into the Navajo Nation lands. All their roadside stands were vacant and scenic points closed.

We found a place to camp for the night just before sunset in the beautiful Navajo National Monument.

Sunday, March 22, 2020: Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

The night before we discussed staying a day or two to catch our breath, but in the morning (late morning) we both felt ready to go on. No sooner had I stepped out of the camper, then a park officer rolled up in his truck, decked out with a regular surgical mask, to inform me the park was closed and we had to leave. Not that it was closing, closed, note: there was no one to pay for the site last last night and the park was half full.

I’ve tempered my desires to stop for photographs in exchange for eating more pavement. This was harder driving through the harsh and beautiful Navajo lands of Arizona and New Mexico. Passing on Monument Valley and Shiprock. Along with local flavor like homemade signs; “I Eat Pilgrims” and “Tourist Go Home.” Also passed up (I believe) a Native mural depicting a face with respirator “Beware Covid-19.”

We thought we had found National Forest land to camp on twenty minutes outside of Taos, New Mexico. Found it gated and the road snowed in. I was tortured with the drive through Taos to get there. Knowing no matter how much I wanted to see the town, circumstances were out of my control.

New Mexico’s decision to close state parks became, clearly, more of a challenge than anticipated as the sun set. I made my husband pull over (despite his insistence the signs demanded a pass to park) to eat and stretch before we did this stretch of road in the dark (and hopefully find an easy place to stop for sleep off of I-25 or before. A rest stop, Cracker Barrel or Walmart would do.

Or… a wildlife refuge.

Monday, March 23, 2020: Stapleton, Nebraska

Morning came on slow and mild. The morning plan: north to Nebraska via Kansas to avoid the storm systems. Ever North and East.

Michigan, our destination: Stay Home, Stay Safe Order; in effect at midnight.

Rolled through the Kansas plains while the news cascaded on by the minute. What inevitable choices would our leaders make? I worry for us more now than I did after 9/11. As much as I’d dreamed of seeing this country and then maybe the world, now I want to curl up in the forgotten forests of the southern shores of Lake Superior. Where our winters are harsh, but the people are strong. Where the world can forget to send it’s problems and we can carry on.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020: Blue Mounds State Park, Minnesota

Home was closer, but still too far away. Woke up to a cloud of starlings filling the air and spring fields with sound. Word came that the road to our home was narrowly plowed with tall crusty snow banks. Two hard days of travel or linger and hope for a melt? Linger and what new developments would occur in the country? Linger and be subjected to unknown tides. Or go on?

Thank you Nebraska gas station, finally scavenged a roll of toilet paper. Situation critical. By this measure, Tuesday was a good day. By others, I don’t know. On this day the United States President switched his rhetoric from being a war time president to seeing churches packed for Easter and reopening the economy while we crossed the American heartland.

Drove by a rural bar in South Dakota with a full parking lot. What will history sound like?

We had made reservations for a campground in Minnesota. I was stoked upon arrival to check out the showers. I practically skipped over to the building, to find each door locked.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020: Blue Mounds State Park, Minnesota

A great long deep breath and stood still while the world turned.

Hoped to shower. Dashed.

Hoped to do laundry. Failed to rally the effort and energy.

My husband went to procure supplies from the nearby town while I could barely keep my eyes open. The other camper left. We saw many campers and RV’s on the road this week, more than we had seen moving before.

News: Wisconsin: “Safer at Home” went into effect for 30 days. Waiting for news on the governments passing the relief bill. India locked down.

Thursday, March 26, 2020: Home, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

We left the campground before sunrise. Drove through fog and drizzle, I reflected on the desert. A place still relatively wild and free because of its harsh climate, like home.

News: Minnesota “Stay at Home Order” ordered and in effect Friday, March 27. We passed a huddle of smokers outside a pretzel factory and saw people sitting down to eat at a gas station diner. News about New York grows worse daily. New Orleans. Georgia. Washington state. Florida. San Francisco.

Home. I know these roads and trees. For hours now I’ve known these roads. We are going to pass near where we bought the camper soon. (It is coming apart again). The snow banks are still high. The trees are small and grow densely together. Boreal Forest. 35 degrees. No cactus. No Border Patrol. No surreal landscapes. No starfish. No whale plumes. To reach a big metropolitan area one has to drive at least six hours. To reach a major city, eight to nine hours.

News: the United States has surpassed Italy and China in Covid-19 cases.

Update: after crawling across the snow bank with a cat in my arm and sliding down into the dark recesses of my cold dark home, I waited while my husband hit the switches on the circuit breaker. Heat and hot water would be mine soon. My cat wandered the dark rooms calling. Light! Glorious light. Which dimmed… and flicked and died away. We are back in the camper for the night. Dreams of long hot showers without pressing buttons every thirty seconds will have to wait on the power company.

The Road: Part 7

Art Journal, The Road

Los Osos

A driveway stay for a little over a week. Long enough to completely scatter our things across the camper. A breath of stability and exploration of the coast.

There were challenges finding the correct location of the tide pools. Challenges, I say.

Attempt no. 1 brought us to this beautiful bay we could park right next to and waltz up to the shoreline. We arrived just before sunset at low tide.

Attempt no. 2 “I think it’s this way.” We parked and had a few choices on trails to take through the low shoreline scrub brush leading into the cascading dunes. I followed, blindly, my husband up and down the coastal dunes (sand mountains?) to a dead end with rubber legs. And back up I slogged through the sand. We tried another trail. Up and down the dunes to the tide pools.

Attempt no. 3, with new directions, we tried again following a reasonable trail down through the shore vegetation to the tide pools.

I can’t forget visiting Morro Bay and Otters…

Elephant Seal Rookery, San Simeon

Near Hearst Castle the Elephant Seals gather for the breeding season. Thousands. Hundreds were on the beach and so many more were in the water. Mostly they lay on the sand barely moving, flipping sand across their backs on occasion. We followed the sounds down the beach to where an older male was chasing away an interloper and the yearlings and pups were playing.

After leaving the main beach we stopped at another roadside pullout. My husband thought it was a regular beach (signage was in not apparent) and just before reaching the beach I stopped him from coming face to face with a young male elephant seal.

Los Padres National Forest

Big Sur. We stayed on the south side for two nights and it rained in California. For a brief moment the sun shined and we took a walk to the ocean cliffs. Where I was quickly about the abundance of poison oak in the state of California. I made it out of California unscathed.

Monterey

We left the campground in Los Padres National Forest and followed 1 up the coast to Monterey. We camped at Laguna Seca with it’s epic green views and racetrack. Racetrack. Yes we camped to the sounds of race cars zooming all day.

250 years old with a literary and canning past, Monterey sits by the ocean with its gem the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I’ve never been to one so I have no comparison. All I can say is it was spectacular and inspiring. When we arrived the octopus was active and moving around it’s tank. Swelling and swirling his arms. In addition to the real Octopi there was another beautiful multimedia exhibit dedicated to how octopi and squid were historically depicted. There were schools of fish swimming in current tanks, jellyfish dancing. rescued shore birds, touch tanks, sharks, a green sea turtle, and art exhibited by artists dedicated to bringing awareness to the problem of plastics in the ocean.

Unfortunately for me I was the recipient of an ignorant and hostile public policing effort at the Octopus tank. A young mother, with a brood of homeschool kids, took it upon herself to attack me for my camera’s meter light because the sign said no flash. Then there was a mob reaction. Another woman chimed in with: “haven’t you taken enough photographs, you can stop so the rest of us can enjoy the exhibit.”

I was so frustrated and angry. Not one of those women felt the need to say a single word to my husband who was also photographing. And a guy next to me flashed the octopus with his iPhone, but he just “made a mistake.”

It took a male staff member to step in and set the mob straight. And as an artist I’ve been singled out more than once in my life for not following the rules as other people, and often, women see them. And more than once I’ve had to stand my ground, hold my breath and carry on knowing that I’m on a different path they don’t understand, I’M NOT WRONG I AM AN ARTIST.

San Franciso

We made a stop an hour outside of San Francisco so I could attempt to make contact with someone in the city. We crossed over the Golden Gate for fun (not fun) and later the Bay Bridge for me to search a six story public library with no luck on finding this person. My heart breaks for this country of haves and have nots. I wish others understood, or tried, a little, to understand how fragile mental and financial stability are.

Northern California & Touching Oregon

Northern California….

Its sort of a blur now. I’m writing this and it is still recent history. That wasn’t even days ago I was in San Francisco and now its under a Shelter in Place order. The thing about the old truck was we didn’t have a radio. We couldn’t listen to any news in the truck and we were often places with poor service. History is now catching up so fast now that we have the news available in the new truck. When we were driving up the California Coast to Oregon the Covid-19 troubles seemed distant. By the time we landed in Brookings, Oregon it was obvious that we needed to head home. Now California is shutting down state parks. New Mexico already shut them down.

With great sadness, my feet kissed the Pacific Northwest and turned tail. We are heading south to head east because it is still winter in the Rocky Mountains. It is time to go home. The world is out of our control and it’s time to go home to the roads we know.

Brookings Oregon

The rest of this tale will hopefully be of the long road home.