Friday, November 29, 2013

She and Him

I like to wake up early - He likes to sleep in late 
(though he's getting better about it)

I like boiled eggs - He likes fried eggs

I read very fast - He reads pretty slowly

I like a warm house - He doesn't mind a cold house

I love cauliflower - He dislikes cauliflower

I dislike eggplant - He likes eggplant a lot

I have to meditate - He seems to meditate all the time

I run for no reason - He doesn't run for any reason

I don't bake - He loves to bake

I'm loudly passionate - He's quietly passionate

I'm not musical - He's very musical

I listen to whiney music of the indie rock persuasion - He listens to up-beat reggae and world music and hill-people country

I can't draw - He can draw really well

I stay up late - He goes to bed early

I go home early from parties - He stays up all night at parties

I'm always thinking - He claims he's often not

I'm a loud introvert - He's a quiet extrovert

I express my feelings all the time - He expresses his feelings only rarely 

I love Joanna Newsom - He hates Joanna Newsom

I do everything fast and sloppily - He does everything slow and well

I'm a biker - He's a hiker 
(though we're rubbing off on each other)

I like to make with my brain - He likes to make with his hands


We both like to dance

We both love our cats

We both use fabric handkerchiefs

We both want to die a good death

We are both dreamy realists

We both drink lots of tea

We both hate zoos

We're both content where we are

We both love museums

We're both very ambivalent about having children

We both eat all of our vegetables

We both love the wilderness

We both love hot sauce

We both prefer the unhappy truth to the happy lie

We both make fun of hippies

We're both hippies

We both hate cleaning

We both love cooking

We're both content by ourselves

We're both creative

We both love old things

We both like games

But we both hate sports

We both have a strange sense of humor

We both have the same Dosha in Ayurveda

We both read poetry

We both love The Bowerbirds

We're both sound sleepers

We both believe animals are people

and about a million other things

How about you and yours (kids, moms, partners, best friends)?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A walk on the wild side

Our new neighborhood has so many perks, but one of the bigger ones is that I'm about a five minute walk/ bike ride from some of my favorite women and babies. There's no better way to brake up the monotony of chores and work, than walking to the neighbor's, or biking down the trail to visit.

It's easier to organize time with friends, even amongst our different schedules and busy times when we're so close by. On wednesday, Lissa, Owynn, Kyra, Tulsi-dog and I took a little stroll in the November sun to a very special spot a short drive away from our homes.

I'd been working on figuring out my new (to me) camera and whether I'd gotten all the settings right, so I brought it along and snapped a few pictures. It's still a lot of getting used to, after years with the cheapest point-and-shoots, but I'm excited to learn the ins and outs of this little machine, for future projects both in photography and filmmaking.

The air was cold and clear, but sun warmed our faces. Baby Owynn slept soundly in his bear suit against his mama's belly. Lissa took this pic of Kyra and me in our Nordic sweaters.

Tulsi enjoyed the freedom of running up and down the cliffs like a black bolt of lightning, working off some of her excess energy. For a small pup, she's sure got a lot of it and this was the perfect place to let it all out and be wild.

The days are so short now, time in the outdoors so fleeting that it feels particularly good to be in a place that's all out in the open, not shaded by trees, cliffs, just basking in the sunlight. The Olympic Mountains hailed at us from across the water, making me miss their rainy shores. Someday soon, we must head out there into that wild place again.

In the meantime, we've got our own pieces of wild.

Where's your wild place?

Ps. This is some of our immeasurable wealth right here! Also, I have replied to your awesome comments. Thank you much, what a lively discussion.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rich Girl, Poor Girl

(The "girl"-thing is wholly unintentional. WTF, brain?)

We all recognize synchronicity when it comes to us. A sudden lining-up of events into what appear like chains of clues into a bigger truth, or idea.

A while back I jokingly asked in a post about whether being  sort of poor but extremely lucky could be considered a lifestyle? In response a reader asked how did we exactly maintain this fabulous life we have. In comments to the same post my friend Em, who lives also lives in the archipelago, asked me to write about the other side of Island life, the hardships and challenges. Then, a few days later, two different Finnish friends wrote about their choice to live lives with less "financial safety".

It seemed only fitting to write a post about what exactly "sort of poor but lucky" means in our case.

Words like poor, rich, wealthy, are all pretty relative. Sure, there are government guidelines, and measures NGOs consider universal for assessing poverty, but really your actual poverty level depends on two things: one is "How poor do you feel?" and the other is "How well you can make ends meet?"

These are the two questions I've given some serious thought to in the last month as my husband has been working seven days a week, as I'm transitions day to day from editing, to crafting, to making herbal cream, to learning to make knife sheaths, to babysitting, to subbing at the local consignment store.

We are not destitute, paycheck to paycheck, flat broke without a penny to our name, we're not in (much) debt, not facing bankruptcy, not able to pay our mortgage ('cos we don't have one), not in the breadlines, not even on food-stamps. But we also don't have a lot disposable income, a steady living-wage, much savings beyond what we need to live in the winter, any kind of conventional safety-net lest anything (knock on wood) should go wrong.

In many ways our situation is pretty typical of most folks here on the Islands. The work that is available to us here is mostly in farming, government, cottage industries, tourism, basic services, online or mail-order, construction and landscaping,  all of which mostly fall under the category of working for the wealthy second-homers. Almost all of this work has an uptick during the summer months and dwindles practically down to nothing in January, February and March.

Our county has a lot of folks on food-stamps and other government welfare programs. For the most part work has always been scarce here. "Regular", full-time jobs, benefits, high pay, upward mobility, have never really been a big part of the culture. Our booms in the latter part of the last century have been modest, our prosperous times only slightly better than the financially harder ones. In many ways this economic scarcity has served us well in these tough economic times. Not too many locals lost their jobs, or had their homes foreclosed on. Not because of a pocket of financial prosperity, but rather a permanent scarcity.

At the same time, there are an outsize number of people here with moderate to enormous wealth.

On the one side it's easy to feel rich here, regardless of your actual financial situation, so long as you've got a roof over your head and food to eat, because aside from necessities, there's not much to spend money on. Fancy groceries, or a night out "on the town" at our one bar (we have two bars but one kind of doesn't count), or a $10 ticket event. To spend money you have to consciously seek opportunities to do so (shop online, go off Island). And since most everyone you know has no money either, or does activities that require money to participate in, it's easy to feel like you're doing just fine.

There's gorgeous nature right outside our front door. Beaches and big trees and birds and raccoons and rabbits and abundance of peace and quiet and seashells and pretty pebbles and herbs and berries and mushrooms to wildcraft.

Most of our fun is the DIY, make something out of nothing, or very little -variety. We homestead, take walks, make things, have bonfires, play music...

But on the other side there's an amplified sense that of which you don't, or can't have. Like all good Americans, we of course dream of a little piece of land of our own,  though in our case it is room to homestead, to make a life that's more self-sufficient. Our dreams are decidedly no-frills. A small cabin, no plumbing, most likely not even a house necessary. We could go for a pretty low-maintenance spot if it was our own. Yet, a down-payment on the smallest piece that could support these dreams is more than what we make a year.

Folks our age and younger often come here to homestead, farm, or learn to farm. Because of the moment our culture is at, there has actually been an uptick in the under forties population here, unseen sense the 70s. Unfortunately for them (us!) there has also there's also a marked increase in second-homers and retirees, who have the money to drive up the price of land.

In this, like many other ways, these islands are microcosm of what's happening in the wider world: by-and-large those who have money have little understanding or interest in how their privilege affects those without the same advantages. Outside the very rich (of whom we a disproportioned number here) our parent's generation is also (somewhat) indadvertedly making it more difficult for the less-privileged generations that follow them, to have access to the same entitlements they had most of their lives: affordable college, steady jobs with insurance, middle class conveniences affordable with one, or two incomes.

In the case of the islands this means that first the very wealthy, mostly but not exclusively "Microsofties" come and drive up the property prices and then they're followed by retiring boomers, who can sell their primary residences in the city (which have been steadily gaining equity) and buy land here even at these inflated prices.

The original 70s homesteaders could work a summer in Alaska to make enough for a down-payment, if not the whole asking price on a piece of land. It's a tough wake-up call to realize that these days a rustic homestead with a few pigs, chickens and a milk cow, veggie garden and a little shed for woodworking projects requires full-time employment somewhere else, that the path to self-sufficiency is paved with compromises with the world one is desperate to severe all ties from.

Because of these factors it can not only be hard to find a job out here, but the rental market doesn't exactly cater to the lower end of the income bracket, also known as the "people-who-actually-work-for-a-living". We feel so lucky to be paying the rent we're paying for a really rad, beautiful house, instead of a mildewed double-wide.

We are lucky too, in that, the last few years we've not had to worry a lot about money. Our family has actually risen out of  relative poverty (not to contrast this with the institutional poverty that a lot of people suffer from, we are to a degree, "down shifters", at least partially voluntarily making less than we could) and into the lower-lower-middleclass (if there is such a thing) since I last wrote about this two and a half years ago.

Back then my husband worked five months out of the year full-time, two months part time and got laid-off for five months without a guarantee of getting his job back the next spring. Because of my immigration status he was not able to get unemployment, or food stamps which we more than qualified for. Since he was unemployed during the season employment is scarce here it was sometimes really hard for us to make it through the winter and often we were completely broke by the time his first paycheck rolled around in March. Yet we always managed to patch things together, with temporary gigs and my waitressing job. Oh yeah, I'm a waitress. How's that for a glamorous blogger-job?

Since then, my husband has gone to eight months full-time, four months part-time with benefits, the universally recognized mark of job-advancement in America. I may sound ungrateful when I say that neither the amount of money we make annually nor the "benefits" were worth the stress or the loss of freedom that our family experienced since moving to the beleaguered middle-classes, but it's the truth.

In the two years he's had that job he's made a third more money, yet with having to pay for the "medical insurance" and not being able to do as many of the money-saving homesteading things we use to, the actual gain has only been half of that. The only benefit of his new job title has been that we've been able to actually save some money and not spend it all in a single winter of patchy employment.

According to most federal guidelines we're at about 200% of the poverty limit and we only recently started paying for rent, so we've been able to save a little. Even as we enter the time when we spend more than half of our monthly income on rent, we'll be alright. We're able to afford a lot of things I consider necessities, but know many people can't afford. Local, organic food for ourselves, the best, most sustainable food for the animals in our care, small charitable donations, self-care not covered by our "health" insurance. We cook mostly organic whole foods, and as much of it as is rice, beans and veggies in the winter, our grocery budget regularly eats up whatever's left after rent and gas.

We drive beater cars, buy most things secondhand, or expensive and good quality for years of use ahead, get things for free regardless of their aesthetic value, barter and trade.

We've stuck to our principles where we could, we've done work that we think is right, or at least not harmful to how we want to live. During our first year, we agreed that it was for the best if we didn't both try to work full time in the summer, since I was unable to find a job that paid as much as his. (That is without working for the very same wealthy contingent who's presence here makes it financially so difficult for the rest of us to afford a home.) Instead,  I would do most of the housework, gardening, canning and other things that save us dollars and are part of how we want to live.

In the winter we scrimp and in the summer we save. That's what you do out here.

The extras, like my trip to Finland last year, my annual California sojourn, sometimes set us back, but we also consider that if you don't do things like visit family and friends every two-and-a-half years, or build your own kayak, maybe the money you saved isn't really going to be worth it. These things are wealth to us in more ways than the actual dollars spent.

In these few short years of not actively worrying about money, we've stocked up on things we felt we needed, had some magical experiences, traveled, used our resources well.

Which is good, 'cos we're about to do something crazy that requires a lot of faith and a little bravery. In a time when union jobs with benefits are increasingly hard to come by, C.'s planning to walk away from steady employment and embark on a completely different adventure. Starting the end of the month, our family's sole source of income will be what I make, which so far has comprised the grocery budget. What savings we have will go towards rent, bills, gas and that new venture that I keep alluding to.

I'd be lying if I didn't say that it's intimidating scary as heck.

There are nights when I lie awake staring at the bedroom ceiling, invisible in the dark, trying to fight the absolute terror of not knowing at all what's going to happen next. "It's a recession." I think "Are we f***ing crazy?!! What are we doing?! We were doing just fine?!?!! What if it doesn't work out?"

And then I take a deep breath and remember the facts: we're thirty-four-years-old, healthy, in love, we have no kids, we can work hard, we've got savings, we've got support, and that we'd regret much more not trying out something that could be the right work, or just an epic adventure, than doing it and failing.

And most importantly, I give into the overwhelming sense, intuition if you will, that this is the right thing to do, that things are lining up this way for a good reason.

I exhale and enjoy the idea that for the next six months our future is completely open.

One of the most wonderful things about living out here, is that this community supports you and gives you space to do almost anything, and to try many things. As hard as it can be to eke out a living here, it's surprisingly easy to make a life.

In our time here, we have done an astonishing variety of jobs, tried our hand at projects, enterprises, organizing, making, building from scratch and from ideas. We've learned as much in these years as we ever did before we came here.

Most everyone we know has a multitude of occupations, as well as an abundance of seemingly disparate, yet magically compatible talents. The folks we know have done every job imaginable here before landing their current gig, or continue to do a number of different things that, when added up, can scarcely be called a career.

People have had interesting, crazy ventures in their time and lived to tell the tale. Seeing what folks do and hearing their stories of how they got there, makes us feel more confident in our intuition that it's all gonna be okay.

Whenever we tell our friends, neighbors, acquaintances, adoptive family that we're about to try something different, it's met with not just encouragement, curiosity, mentoring, helpful tips, emotional support, but actual physical help. One of the things we have, who's value can't be measured in dollars, but that makes one feel wealthy, is a community; a wealth of knowledge, experience, wisdom and a safety-net far more ancient and therefore more conventional than some health insurance and a 401K.

In the eve of our self-imposed leap into financial insecurity, that's what makes me feel certain that no matter the outcome of our crazy exciting plans, ultimately we'll be just fine and dandy.

So, to answer those questions in the beginning of the post, I don't feel poor. And we make our ends meet. Sometimes with credit cards (promptly payed off) and sometimes with rice and beans, and at others with temporary jobs, but meet they do all the same.  Sure, if our car dies, we probably can't afford to replace it, sure we're eating our savings and trying to get creative about a thousand more small things to save on, but we're rich in opportunities, possibilities, things to do, supportive friends, resources.

We may not own much that's worth any actual money and everything we do own is likely once-used and wrung out and homemade, but we love the things we have, and on a good day even remember to be grateful for them.

There's a fair chance we won't be able to afford land here, our chosen place for a home, but stranger things have happened to us and either way we'll make it work somehow or another.

What we have, our true wealth, is the freedom to figure out how to spend our time, the freedom to care for our own health, to spend or money on food, to entertain ourselves, to make choices that make financial, and more importantly, emotional sense for our family.

We are some of the richest people I know. Then again, I actually know a whole lot of similarly prosperous folks...

I have much much more to say about financial "security", "health insurance" and other related topics, but best I save something for the future, perhaps six months down the line when our savings are exhausted and we're further along on this adventure.

Poor, lucky and privileged beyond words?

What makes you feel poor about your life? What makes you feel rich? Does it have anything to do with your finances?

ps. This is most likely part one of posts about the difficulties of life out here, since there's the whole social/emotional aspect to consider too, as per Em's request.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The girl with the...mullet

One of the oddest sidelines I ever had was as a trendspotter, so believe me when I say that really short bangs are in style this season. You know the whole 90s pixie bangs, Björk, Courtney Love, Sibyl Buck, all that? No? Well, what do you know, anyway? Did you once hold one of the most coveted non-jobs of 2003? Yeah, well that's why you read this blog for my amazing, on-trend fashion stylings, right? Good for you.
Seriously though, as I was chopping off my bangs once again this morning, I calculated that there's really been only three years in my life that I grew my hair out enough to say that didn't have them, between fifth and eight grade. I've had hair down past my waist, I've had the pixie, a bob, firetruck-red hair, blue hair, pink hair, green hair, blond hair, black hair, but I've almost always had bangs. Just so you know you're talking to a girl who has more or less the same hair as thirty years ago.

Usually, about once every two years, I abandon the long hippie-bangs that reach damn near my eyebrows, completely lose it and cut my bangs too short, so as to look like I have a really long and lustrous mullet and then swear I'll never do it again. This time however, I'm quite fond of the results, so there you have it: I venture that super-short bangs are back in style. Either that, or I'm delusional...
I keep meaning to do an actual outfit post because, heck, I actually really enjoy that aspect of blogging, and miss outfit posts from my favorite writers. But then again, I never seem to get it together to shoot one myself. There's just so much other fun stuff to blog about.

Today was a spectacular day in the outfit department, what with me wearing all of my favorite things: the first dress Missa ever sent me, which is in dire need of mending, my trusty denim vest that goes with everything, like you know, every other vest on earth, a brown Icelandic sweater with a thousand mended holes, new brown boots from Barter Fair and the loved to oblivion Nikki Mcclure tote with Amanitas. They may have been seen on this blog tens of times, oldies but goodies, but at least I'm as consistent with my wardrobe as I am with my love of frontal lobe-covering hair. 
It was also a spectacular  day in the cards and outside in the woods. It's gotten cold and sunny, instead of gray and rainy and I'm excited to take bike rides and go on walks with friends and neighbors.                       
Lovely weather decidedly doesn't stop some people sleeping away most of the day.
I've been making fires in the morning and at night and the kitchen is suddenly so warm and inviting and full of sleeping cats. 
We had our favorite lunch, miso with leftover veggies and kale before walking together to work for the afternoon with cats in tow. They follow us around like dogs to wherever we go in the neighborhood and hide out in the bushes while we visit with the neighbors, buy eggs, or work. Then they run back home with us, fighting and climbing trees and generally behaving like tiny tigers.

These past two months that we've lived here, I feel like I've been so short on time, juggling so many projects and changes, that I've barely had the chance to enjoy our new surroundings, but walking through the woods with my honey to spend an afternoon together, even if it's in the whir of loud machines and intense focus, makes me happy like nothing else. And yeah, still being willfully obtuse, sorry about that. 
Here's some proof of steadfast devotion to the miracle of bangs. 
Hope you weren't expecting any kind of serious content from a post with that heading...