Greetings everyone! I want to apologize for being absent from the online journaling for so long. I've missed all of you, and hopefully, you've felt the same. Summer is on the wane, the mornings already darker at six am. It's funny how all of a sudden, Fall is almost upon us. I'm always surprised somehow. But with the Fall, I am returning to performing after taking a long time off. I've been doing other things which have taken up a great deal of my time. I've been writing a book, for which some of you have begged for so long. It's going to be a collection of memories, stories of things which changed me and made me a changer of things. More about that later.
Judy and I just returned from a glorious and much-needed vacation. Like a lot of you, I suppose, we decided to drive through some states, some beautiful places we'd never been together. We decided to drive from Seattle to Idaho, head north to Sandpoint, then south to Missoula and eventually to Eastern Montana.
First, though, we went to the Washington Coast for another Tokeland songwriting workshop. This was a great one. I had decided that we should build a labyrinth there from stones we all brought from home, from other places, as well as stones from the Tokeland locale. And so we did, laying out a simple labyrinth on the lawn across from the Tokeland Hotel, set into a grotto. It came out beautifully, as did the songs from the groups there. We based the songs on the labyrinth itself as well as having in mind the ancient story about Theseus and the Minotaur and the spiral journey of the hero. We had so much fun, as we always do. Even though the work is hard, it is so much fun to do it together, and so much fun to eat the fresh cobbler there at the Hotel. Our hosts, Scott and Catherine are so good to us and let us take over the hotel for the weekend. We have another one in October which, I understand, is nearly full. I love to do this, to help people catch and release songs into the world. Judy came up with that description of how I do what I do, and I love the truthfulness of it.
Back in Seattle, we attended a Storm game and even though they lost in overtime, it was mighty! I love seeing women play that game! We saw a lot of old friends there, and got caught up in the parallel histories of each others' lives.
From Seattle, we drove over the Cascades, through the beautiful mountain scenery, past lakes and streams, and lots of people on the road, too. We stopped for iced coffees in Ellensburg, a little town I really like as it reminds me of small towns where I have lived in times past. Then it was out on the big highway, heading East toward Spokane and Coeur D'Alene, Idaho where we planned to spend the night. Just barely out of Ellensburg, before crossing the mighty Columbia River, we saw a sign for the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park. "Let's go see", we said as one, and we made the turn, passing through the little town of Vantage which serves cold drinks and fishing gear to anyone passing by. There was a small museum there full of amazing chunks of petrified wood. I've pulled some out of my creek in Oregon, but these were whole trees, and so beautiful to the look and touch, which we were allowed to do, by the way. Around the corner, in the heat of the day, were amazing petroglyphs, not very well protected against the inevitable modern addition of Jack-loves-Jane scratched hideously into the rock besides the ancient figures from long ago. What are you going to do? Humans need to make a mark saying they were there. That's what it is, and maybe someday, others will look at the modern ones as interesting and curious somehow.
We poked around in the store for awhile, and I ended up chatting with a beauty behind the counter, a student of psychology who was working that summer, waiting for her visa to come through so she could go to Paris to practice. How exotic to find her there! She said she was good friends with the people who owned the town. Owned the town! Imagine owning a whole town!
We went out into the heat of the day, climbed in the car and headed across the Columbia, back on Highway 90, heading East. We stayed the night in Coeur D'Alene, which means Heart of the Awl, and the next morning, we headed north through construction toward Sandpoint where we intended to have lunch at a restaurant where I hope to play in November, perhaps. Sandpoint is a cool little town on Lake Pend Oreille. We made it in good time, and had a great lunch, talking with folks there, especially a wonderful woman we had met at the Kate Wolf Festival. It looks good for this gig to happen, so the trip was worth it if only for that. But of course, as the scenery unfolded before and around us, the journey was worth all of it and more. We had decided, after studying the map, to head south on Highway 200, following the Clark Fork across the Bitterroot Mountains, stopping off to peer into the deep gorge created by the Cabinet Gorge Dam, before driving through the late afternoon into Missoula. Judy had her new camera along and was happily shooting everything: clouds, water, me, landscapes, water, me. We were on the road the whole time with bunches of bikers, all coming back from their big ol' roundup in Sturgis, South Dakota. Fun being on the road, moving through time and space and some of the most beautiful landscapes ever. We made it to a motel in Missoula, and walked across the road for some delicious pasta and salad, which tasted so, so good!
The next day, we drove for Eastern Montana, where I have been ensconsed, writing my memoirs. Just outside of Butte, we turned off onto a gravel road, driving and driving, looking for the Madison Buffalo Jump. I'd seen the sign hundreds of times in the past and had never stopped, but this time together was made up of instances where we'd say, "Wanna? Let's do it?", and off we'd go to see some historical sign, or, in this case, the magnificent cliff over which the Buffalo would fall, pushed by the native people before they had horses with which to hunt the buffalo. They were on foot, and disguised as wolves or coyotes, would sneak closer and closer, until they were able to drive them over the jump, whereupon the women (of course!) would skin and dry and cook all day long hurrying before the meat spoiled in the heat of the summer sun. It was beautiful there, and except for two women having their lunch, we had the place to ourselves. The weather was perfect every day, not many people, lots of wildlife and scenery, and the two of us relaxed and laughed and talked easily throughout the days together. It was the first vacation we've taken since we went to Mexico nearly nine years ago. As Judy said: "one must always have respite, despite the demands of their lives", and I could not agree more. I think rest and relaxation are of such importance for all of us, even as we find ourselves under such pressure these days. Sometimes, it's a walk with no other sound but the birds and the water and the wind; sometimes a small nap in the afternoon; sometimes a movie with your partner, smack dab in the middle of the afternoon, sharing popcorn and the joy of a big screen in a darkened theater. It's the simple things that come to mean so much.
The last part of vacation, we saved as a special thing. I wanted to show Judy the small town where I was raised, all my old homes there, and my ranger station up in the Big Horns where, at age 10, I had been the happiest child of all. Completing the circle, we went to the Medicine Wheel, a prehistoric wheel high up above 10,000 feet, on a high windy plateau. We walked slowly upwards through the thin air, resting now and then, taking pictures, gazing west toward Yellowstone, home of the biggest volcano on earth. This is might country, full of power and grace and very few people. We had such a great time and returned back to Billings, safe and sound, and sorry our vacation time was over.