Measure twice cut once

One improvement a day. Oh my God. What have I gotten myself into? It turns out all of the studs in the entire back end were rotten along with the fiberglass insulation and I had a job cleaning it all out. The more I tore out the worse it seemed to get in terms of the rotten studs I was finding. There was nothing to sister my new 2 x 2’s into. I gutted the end down to the aluminum walls. Now I have to frame a new bench so I can have a couch and a bed. I think it won’t be hard. I just need a tape measure. Here are the before shots:

I’ve said it before and ill say it again—THANK GOD FOR MY SHOPVAC. The wood studs disintegrated in my hands. There were wood chips everywhere. There were also acorns as if generations of squirrels had made their home in the back of my camper before I got it. There was a lot of dirt. I tore it all out and swept and Shopvac’d it all out.

Afterward, covered in fiberglass and dirt and sweat, I took a bath in Lake Superior scrubbing myself with sand (no soap). My skin is so soft and I feel so clean! It was a treat after the work I put in today.

Big storm coming in off the lake. My tiny house rocks to and fro like a covered cradle. I feel good for what I accomplished today. I got the insulation so after I frame up that bench I can insulate and cover with new paneling.

I won’t quit.

Powwow and the sacred soul of dancing

Since I moved to South Dakota, I have gone, in six years, to my fair share of powwows. Powwow is a time for socializing, seeing friends, making new ones, celebrating culture, and dancing.   Go to one when you can. You will learn so much of the beauty of our Native cultures and realize that school taught you nothing of the beautiful people who love amongst us with a rich and beautiful culture that is ages old and full of wisdom.  It is time for us to understand one another, even if we cannot completely heal the wounds of the past–a little understanding, a wish to sincerely learn, goes a long way.  Everyone is welcome at a powwow.

There are many beautiful dancers, and tributes to our Native American veterans. I recently went to the Arlee, MT powwow, and in the below photos you will see something of the spirit of these events.

People camp out in tipis and tents, and the smell of delicious hot frybread and Indian tacos are in the air. It’s great for the kids as well. They love to dress up and dance and take pride in their culture.


Then the drum groups beat a steady rhythm and the songs begin. The songs vary from tribe to tribe but the enthusiasm is the same: infectious and passionate.


I shall let Native author Sherman Alexie finish this powwow treatise.   The poem is about forgiveness, but when to forgive?  How do we bridge the years of abuse by the US government?   How do we reconcile?


The Powwow at the End of the World

By Sherman Alexie

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam
and topples it. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam
downriver from the Grand Coulee. I am told by many of you
that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters find
their way to the mouth of the Columbia River as it enters the Pacific
and causes all of it to rise. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
and so I shall after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed by that salmon
waiting in the Pacific. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after that salmon swims upstream, through the mouth of the Columbia
and then past the flooded cities, broken dams and abandoned reactors
of Hanford. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after that salmon swims through the mouth of the Spokane River
as it meets the Columbia, then upstream, until it arrives
in the shallows of a secret bay on the reservation where I wait alone.
I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after
that salmon leaps into the night air above the water, throws
a lightning bolt at the brush near my feet, and starts the fire
which will lead all of the lost Indians home. I am told
by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after we Indians have gathered around the fire with that salmon
who has three stories it must tell before sunrise: one story will teach us how to pray; another story will make us laugh for hours;
the third story will give us reason to dance. I am told by many
of you that I must forgive and so I shall when I am dancing
with my tribe during the powwow at the end of the world.


I am in a state of flux at the moment, and at an interesting crossroads in my life—and this is the bit where I am hoping that what I am going through is rather universal.   I wish to make a change of career, and am not certain what color my parachute is.   I go over the things I like, and books are number one on the list.  Along with horses, travelling, music and photography, none of which seem like terribly good marketing skills.  I look on the internet and it seems like everyone else is more creative than I am, more able to have that certain thing that makes them a hit with thousands of viewers, and I can’t possibly see what I could do that would make thousands of people read me, or be a fan.

And I know that uncertainty about myself is the exact thing that is holding me back.

So I did what anybody in my situation would do. I bought cinnamon vanilla candles, set them in strategic places at home, made coffee, and bought The Pioneer Woman Cooks, and spent even more time contemplating other peoples’ creativity.   Then I time traveled in my mind and understood William Blake’s dilemma in Jerusalem.

I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

Then a gift came from the gods.  A trip way, far away into northwestern Montana, a state I have never been in, to spent six weeks teaching and working at a tribal university near Missoula.  Forest, mountains, bears.  Yes, bears.  Bear alerts are frequent it seems, and everybody stays in when a bear is sighted.   For this I have sealed up my house, quit my summer job, and filled up my gas tank armed with only the bare necessities–clothes, cat, red nail polish, and an unused, brand spanking new journal with requisite fountain pen –and of course my computer and blog.

Perfect!!   I am in the midst of packing up my entire household for the summer, and in a Thoreau-like sort of way, I am going to the woods in the hopes that something that I could do with my life, something that is meaningful and fun will jump out at me while I am there.  And maybe to see a bear or two.  At the very least my six weeks will give me fodder for this blog as I relate my adventures and I am bringing my battered copy of  Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It to inspire my Montana trip.

Any helpful comments regarding possible jobs are welcomed, of course.


blue water

long missed
always the sounds
low and longing calls of gulls circling
high overhead
steady crunching beneath my feet
a faint roar.
drawing closer to the slate blue haze
more distinct now
honking of geese moving slowly
across the sand as night drifts in
it’s louder now, the water, leaping and lunging
curling up and cresting wave
washing the hard smooth shore
there, the horizon,
sailboats drifting far off
my imagination is there
the wind solidly pushing against my face as
I sit near the bow my boat cutting cleanly through blue water

of course I am not there
always shorebound
staring across the wide blue expanse of Michigan
there, a white bird
circles overhead I drift up and out
with the unbearable lightness of being
my bird-eyes sharply scanning always the surface
when all I knew or ever knew
lies fathoms below

timidly my bare feet inch towards the lapping waves
which also reach for me,
draw back
reach out
draw back
a slow rhythmic motion
like rocking cradle
or a lover’s embrace
I have been at water’s edge as far
back as my memory reaches
and then I am in, freely
and fear slips away
under blue water.

diane o’leary 2013