Snug follows Mordor

The day before yesterday was one last long pull on that loose tooth… one more big ache in the ugly part of the world of the left behind. I went to do metal recycling, to the landfill and the guy came to take away Michael’s precious veggie oil. In all cases it was depressing and I didn’t handle it well.

Yesterday though I made a long trip to Buck’s Lake to take in the Beauty… the smell and fall color before the snows come. We had never really explored the Wilderness Area there and so it is now high on my To Do list for the spring.  There are also a lot of interesting signs for places one can only imagine. On our last visit we skied in in late winter and just had a fairly straight forward experience except M got ill in the night and I paused at that turn-out to reconnect with how scary that was–to support myself in the memory of some of the illness.



It was good to get in touch with what I need to do to more fully experience the wild country I want to continue visiting. I have to first get over this sciatica which makes every step painful but then get aerobic capacity back and also get back into yoga for balance if I’m going to be out there alone, except for Selkie. I also want to plan my trips more carefully… that was a lot of driving (the tank only about one third bio-diesel at this point.) It is my determination that it is worth the money to stay in lodges, inns, etc rather than be out in the wet and cold… This is the new Michael-less me who knows exactly what a wimp she is.

IMG_4138One thing I did attempt..with the thought I could avoid the congestion in Oroville.. was to go via Four Trees down to Hwy 70. It was a one lane asphalted road in fair condition and it was late afternoon with today’s storm already flattening out the light on the beautiful deciduous shrubs and trees. I was in my heart center and could feel a light veneer of a second consciousness supporting my process… it was the entity who had been Michael embracing my spirit. When I got to the big conundrum at Coyote Gap (the Forest Service had closed the road but not bothered putting anything about it at the turn off…) and there were four roads to choose from I just knew to go back but didn’t get home until well after dark… We always used to say when we took a turn that led to who-knows-where, “This is where the adventure begins.” I can’t afford that degree of carefreeness anymore and even going off the main road was gamble enough without my own personal mechanic beside me in physical form anymore.

I’m still waxing on about “last year at this time.” Today is Halloween, Samhain, the great Celtic Harvest-ending transition between summer and winter, light and dark… when the veil is said to be thinnest. I’m so grateful to be inside and comfortable with Selkie here with me as the rain has held a steadily welcomed beat since before noon. Soon I’ll carve my solo pumpkin and set it outside for the eyes of the night. In the meantime, it was such a great time with my Brother and his hiking buddy Ed last year in Escalante… the light of dawn and dusk there held me in such joy. I’ve been blessed… so grateful also to be done with the essential outside clean up so I can focus on a slower process of what comes next with more balance. Love and Light to all Ancestors– my mom and dad and grandparents and for Michael’s family who have gone on– his parents and brother. In each candle, in each breath giving Thanks for the impermanence of now and the comfort of these moments in between without desire or need, only presence.


Michael, Warren and Ed. The Grand Staircase Explorers set off.

Michael, Warren and Ed. The Grand Staircase Explorers


Another day

This morning is better except Selkie is panting like she just ran a race and is afraid to go from the bedroom to the kitchen and refuses to come in the house at night. This either has to do with Michael or with mice which I think I have. (They always manage to get in in the fall and sometimes rats do too. Michael was in charge of killing them but all I’ve deployed so far is the “Have a Heart” trap.)

This morning I found a small treasure trove in the remains of the closet exploration:


I was really happy to find one from Nicaraqua. We took medical supplies down in the 80s and traveled to the Honduran border town of Ocotal where we met wonderful Maryknoll nuns who were serving the health care needs of the people. It was also fun to find at least one “baby” picture and one of the broody pre-teen.

Today, despite sciatica pain in my rear end that’s like a tooth ache, I’ll make a dent in cleaning up from the yard sale. I look forward to going to metal recycling, the ReStore, the bank… it all feels much less frantic and over-whelming today.

Last year at this time we were in one of my favorite places of all times… and I have a lot of favorite places. We stumbled into the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument without a permit or a map of the place. This is the hairiest place to drive I’ve been to in the U.S. There are miles of deep sand tracks and no signage and no rangers. The first day we were in there M processed veggie oil and after a conversation with one of the rare people passing by and who actually knew where they were we made it to White Pocket in the North Coyote Buttes… we never made it to the more famous “Wave” but we were quite satisfied with the glory of what we saw. It is satisfying to think of our adventures. I’m more than a little intimidated to start back out into the back country on my own but am glad for the memory treasures I’ve accumulated.




No second guesses

guy with booksWe got rid of as much as Michael’s stuff as we could. There were good moments like this when a Latino guy bought the whole box of books demonstrating a real appreciation for the physical arts Michael had mastered. Other moments when I actually was squirming out of my skin to sell something that he had labored long, hard and expensively on for not much more than pennies.

I have many to give Thanks to for their help and will try again tomorrow on facebook. Today when Kathy and I were sorting into metal recycling, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, toxics and garbage I was again feeling the loss. It’s like a loss of worth. When all the nails aren’t sorted they are worthless. When there is any rust they are worthless. When nobody knows what a thing is it is worthless. When the thing isn’t on an acceptable list it becomes “toxic” when before it was worth something. When there is just too much of the thing, like tubes of spackle, it’s toxic too. If Michael was here those things would all be embraced back into the shed with me kicking and screaming about it… now it’s all about release. Release…why doesn’t it feel better? I guess it will but then much of the stuff didn’t sell and seemed too valuable (although not personally to me,) to kick to the curb with the plumbing, electrical, hardware and toxics that is going for a ride tomorrow. It IS back in the shed waiting for what? Another yard sale?

The yard sale experience wasn’t so bad… many good people helped and many good people shopped but there is the stranger in our midst phenomenon and also the exchange of money and the long, long hours. Tony and I put in over two weeks on this. IMG_0138IMG_0151It just isn’t something I can repeat. I think the plan will be when  a non-profit has a yard sale I’ll drop some of my manna into their mix for a little donation karma. What really, after all, is my rush?

Why don’t I feel better? Why do I feel so sad? What can I do to shift out of this damnable mood? I’ve worked so hard and have a pile of money on the table… money I really needed and now I feel so bad… how ungrateful I am! I can’t fathom a solution and just need to take a shower and go to bed.

First, before I whine off, photos from this day a year ago… the North Rim of the Grand Canyon with death far far away and M a practicing condor at the Vermillion Cliffs.


Freaked out

I’m completely freaked out.. being present to my anxiety and holding it within my wholeness. The rain started a few hours ago but what woke me was the wind. At first I couldn’t find my head lamp or anything resembling a flash light. I took down my laundry and found some (good) batteries and found the headlamp right under my nose. Once outside it started to rain and so first I tarped and then hammered in tent pegs on the canopies.

Selkie had an anxiety attack without me and woke Orien who wandered out half asleep to help me. She’s now gone off in search of bagels and cream cheese to bring back for the people who are helping me this morning. Lee got here at who knows when. She says there are 4 cars out there and people wandering the land… this really almost scares me. Who would arrive in the rain and gloom at 7:30 for a yard sale that starts at 9am and then demand to be let in as Lee said one was doing?

I feel like going back to bed. Covering my head with blankets and re-emerging when Michael gets home.

Candles are lit. It is the third week anniversary of his death. He would be glad it is raining… not to spite my yard sale of his stuff but because we need the rain. Morning birds like a trilling wren are out after the lost sounds of the geese in the swirling darkness when I first went out. I’m just going to stay at the computer and hide until someone or the clock moves me out.

Sheldon just brought his coffee maker. Everyone has been so good to me! Yesterday poor Tony had a melt-down and stormed off leaving me with about five minutes of despair until Mark showed up and he and Zenon put up tarps then later Christine, David and Lydia came by and helped Bob and Chuck put up canopies. By last night it looked like a fairy encampment if you looked from outside the gate. Now it looks like a sodden pile of tarps under soaked canopies… assuming they are still there. The winds are supposed to gust to 50 MPH today! (At least being under English walnut trees provides a good break on the full effect of the wind.)

Last year we were traveling and were in Arizona temporarily before looping back up into Utah. Here is a photo from this date last year just to calm me and help me think of sweeter times.




So much knowledge!

IMG_4120Michael knew about everything. He always watched This Old House for tips and listened to Click and Clack for auto info. He used all of his knowledge and skills and was always researching new things. I look at this box of books and feel like life betrayed itself somehow.. this person had so much still to give and now it is only the books and the tools that will be out in the world, a world that forgets how much it depends on practical people with practical skills.

2ndwk July 035Example: He built this dock so strong that the Queen Mary could dock at it.

IMG_3629His last project was building a sail for the Portabote. Now all that remains are confusing and unrecognizable pieces of metal that will go in the scrap metal pile… So much mental energy, so much purpose and devotion to a project now like gossamer in a strong wind.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was also one of his last projects.. a new centrifuge to process the veggie oil we ran the truck on. That processed the waste grease (cleaned it) faster and with less hassles (vs the old acme juicer.) I think he used it once and now I have to find a home with another wild guy. Where oh where are they?

DSC00461At least he didn’t live to experience any of the indignities of old age… like falling off a ladder and breaking something. Even though 67 isn’t young he was dynamic and strong even headed into the last weeks of his life. I guess for someone like him this might actually have been better? no. no it wasn’t.


Selling out?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis morning at 4am I was rifling through the next to last boxes… more Southeast Asia and other women, more tangles and nails and things to keep and things to throw away. The rest of the day, except for a pleasurable breakfast with an old friend, has been about the yard sale this weekend. Everyone is calling to tell me it is supposed to rain on Saturday and maybe I should cancel! Help is picking up… Lee is doing the signs and spent some time sorting, Chuck picked up a load for the dump, Tina shared some ideas, Bill did sorting, Emily said she’d do another dump run tomorrow.

Selkie said in dog-speak that I am trying to get rid of her “dad’s” odor and she doesn’t like it. She is girlcotting her dog food. I’m not walking and tossing her ball enough.

My feet hurt, the house is cold and I’m about to go to bed with a numb brain and winter on the way. I look at that portabote and feel some despair… Michael never got to perfect the sail. I’ll never sell the thing nor the trolling motor for near what they cost… neither will I be able to sell the inflatable kayak with winter coming on. Neither boat would be very fun for one person.

Here are some photos of the yard sale… I’m embarrassed by all the toxics… so ironic. Michael would have lectured me about the dangers of the candles I’ve kept burning since he died but he had no problem with gallons of highly flammable stuff in cans out in the old wooden shed. We shared a loved space together but were miles apart in our “culture” of thing-ness. It will feel really liberating to pare down what is here and even the order that (sainted) Tony has imposed has really helped me feel less at the effect of chaos.

IMG_4085 IMG_4108 IMG_4109 IMG_4111



Pula means rain and is the currency of Botswana. Pula is also a very large dog… I forget the breed… Great Pyrenees? Large breeds don’t live very long.. Pula just turned nine last week and he has a tumor in his chest and just came home from the vets to die. He is a dear friend and the sadness of more loss feels weighty, like I can hardly breath from the pressure of it.

205 IMG_1205


Sunday morning

Every thing seems to be swirling.. a beloved dog is at the vet right now for some sort of concerning weakness. A beautiful wedding was held out on the Riparia land yesterday while I was inside meditating for the second week of Michael’s death. People say, Give  yourself a hug and I say, there will be plenty of time for that when they put the straightjacket on…

The reason I say that is because of all the sorting through Michael’s things…it’s been unabated. Yesterday the thing that pulled me through (I was working alone on it…finding things that were sentimental to me but also just a constant confusion of What is this? and is this old can of X something someone would want?) Anyway, as I tossed things in the garbage or for the toxics and sorted others into piles to try to sell or to keep I was completely calmed by billboard words our friend Sisko put up some years ago, NOTHING ISN’T SACRED. Of course, slow down. Be present with the things… don’t relate to them like some sort of masochistic torture program… That really worked for me. Cleaned out a lot of the suffering.

Yesterday was also significant for the unspooling effect… I actually worked the day before! Saw 33 women over eight and a half hours and was on my feet all day, wearing my orthotics after a summer of flat-footing in my sandals. Yesterday I hurt all over and had a wonderful massage from Sharon Fisher down in Durham. She does a good process to release tension in the lower back and it really worked BUT then the pain seemed to migrate into my feet and other joints so last night I took a tylenol with codeine before going to my friend Weezie’s for (delicious!) soup and a movie. At her house I drank wine… not a lot but definitely enough to be rather floaty on my bike ride home. This morning Marge (who “lost” her husband two years ago,) came over and I made our (Michael and my) traditional Sunday breakfast of waffles, fruit and yoghurt. I feel like all these people and all these interventions I have for myself are therapeutic, although I have to watch it with the alcohol. What hasn’t helped is contradictory advice– one friend says write for yourself but throw it away later.. another says, let it all pour out. One friend says, look up the prices of M’s stuff and then price it at a half or lower another says, take any amount another says, don’t bother sorting it– just give it all to the Re-store (Habitat for Humanity.) All that is the opposite of the unspooling.. its having to consider based on opinions that all have equal and unprovable parallel outcomes.

We had plenty of that while Michael had cancer. There is a huge marijuana-will-heal anything contingent here. We also tried a Rife (sp?) machine. We tried alkaline water and mushrooms. We tried acupuncture. We tried Global Cures’ recommendations. Basically, we tried.

Now, sitting here with my old lady aches and pains I acknowledge the fullness of this day with all that is held within it. Within myself I acknowledge the momentum I have established and the discomfort of the “have to keep going” nature of that momentum. The wholeness of my heart center, embracing Michael and us as a couple severed by death, two separate categories. Me stilled up for this brief interlude at this table– grateful to be in a beautiful place with squirrels madly dashing around on the roof but sagging with sadness… concurrently. All over, completely here yet tipping already into the next moment.

Michael Pike


Hanging it out

Michael was very good looking and he attracted women and liked women. It didn’t work out at all until he returned to me in about 1999 and then we were married in 2002. I thought he was done with his previous ways. However, I woke at six and started into another of those closet boxes and was dumbfounded to find lots of great times going on with a woman (Mammoth area) date stamped 2003! I had quite a bit of anger about it… would he ever have been in trouble if I’d found this before–!  But, I’d never be going through his funky old box of papers had he not died first. I thought of the scene we’d have had and when I headed straight for my recliner to meditate I was filled with grief that was as strong as the flash of anger had been. I missed this unfinished bit of drama! Here are photos (without her!) from that trip. He’s with his skiing buddy Arthur who I still hold a blade of anger at even sitting here now. I also include one of him even younger… that’s when I really despaired with this other women topic and you can get a sense why…M on Mt M & Art IMG_4078The day pitched forward as they have been with huge outpourings of work sorting through Michael’s stuff… I didn’t want Tony (who’s at the age now that Michael was in that last photo,) to get Hanta Virus or the Plague so I took on the shed today… where rats had had their way with a full one third of it. Even after showering, washing my hair and being in completely clean clothes I smell the smell of the day. Along with the physical effort of moving out stuff to be sorted outside and the many other things I did today has come a deep sense of compassion… I went through anger, grief, irritability, anxiety and worry today and circle back to a calm and quiet Love for Michael that is absolutely setpoint. Everything, from his impossible array of physical mementos to compartmentalized infidelity all meld into a surrender and partnership with how things are now. The inevitable and complete now.



At 5am I was up… whatever dreams had brought me there I don’t know but I started in on a large tub of Michael’s stuff that  had been on  his closet floor. It was filled with maps, receipts, pages on the 2000-2001 Otterson Dr. Campaign to Save Comanche Creek from development and photos, from the Vietnam era and before as well as more recent ones (with the inevitable “other” women.) Most of them I’d never seen before and what I came up with surprised me… Michael was going into the military from the time he was a little boy… he was conditioned for it and training for it throughout childhood. I thought he’d been drafted for the Vietnam War but no, he Volunteered! (As a childhood friend of his wrote to me after I’d done the obituary.) IMG_4063 IMG_4062 IMG_4068

His original enthusiasm about Thailand and the work he was doing with hilltribesmen was clear from the things he wrote on the back of some of the photos, however eventually the realities of war caught up with him and many of us have heard those stories which I really must do my best to write up. One thing I always found strange.. he said he could not remember a single name of a man who served with him and yet some names are on the photographs… he just never had the interest or leisure to dig through the bin I started my day with.

The second discovery was about abnormal colonoscopy results even back to 2004. I know if a woman has “hyperplasia” (abnormally rapid and irregularly growing cells) in the uterine lining there is always intervention because it is a pre-cursor to cancer. In the case of Michael’s colonoscopy all the doctor could do was recommend he stay off animal products… which we did for many years. Ten years from hyperplastic polyp near the cecum (the area the vestigial appendix protrudes from) to death from metastatic appendiceal cancer… Why has medicine evolved treatments for early abnormality and pre-cancer so slowly or not at all??? (This disturbing conundrum emerged also from that nearly bottomless bin in the grey morning light.)