Desert Equinox

The shadows are growing longer here in Flagstaff, AZ. Katie, me and Jamboree rolled into town just today. Treated ourselves to a round of sierra nevada pale ales, checked out the main downtown street and I’ve found myself in a rad vegan cafe among countless beautiful smiling faces. We’ve put the word out for showers and friends, hoping some sign of good life comes back to us soon. These ladies are of the grungy kind these days! And although I was certainly grateful to poach a schwanky jacuzzi in Sedona, something about the chlorine just doesn’t sit right with the layers of dirt, ya dig?

Sedona, AZ was less a hippie juju town, and more of a tourists mecca of blaring consumerism. Selling even the ancient ruins for a price quite astonishing. This energy was overpowered by free public lands to camp on, waking up to hot air balloons above us every morning, a few days in the back country exploring Secret Canyon and the pleasure of running into friends and road family, Maliya and Mat again.

Katie burned herself bad enough to produce a planet sized blister on her wrist, I blew through two books, both re reads, our mornings full of crafting, our days were filled with hiking, and our nights with campfires. Sedona had quite a bit to offer us, as long as we stayed far enough outside of town to make space for it.

Prior to Sedona feels like lifetimes ago. Phoenix resonated with open arms, Katie’s family and my dear friends from back East. Climbing at the rock gym with Dawn, a reunion with my slacklining skills, and an introduction to Katie’s. On this note I’ll take a moment to say Katie was born for wilderness skills, it’s just until recently that she knew! I baked and juiced and fried and dehydrated and generally danced away hours in Ilsen and Laura’s Kitchen. We rode bikes, found some great scores at the thrift store, and I got my ass kicked at hot yoga. I broke out the sewing machine- traded handmade goods for epic essentials. I’m glad to announce I now have THE belt; the perfect belt that will be worn with all pants with loops until it falls off my body. Highfives, Ilsen; Highfives barter.

If I dig far enough back in my crowded, jam packed colorful memory I can tell you that in between Joshua Tree, CA and Phoenix, AZ there is a special place like no other called the Slabs. The last free place on earth, they call it. With its gray jurisdiction, lack of laws, general sense of community, natural hot springs, refreshing cold canal waters, and blazing hot days, even in Mid March. There’s paint splattered Sam and puppy Sal in the airstream watching over Salvation Mountain, the never ending art project. Frank at the “We Remember Freedom” solar powered internet cafe- donations only and the hottest black coffee you’ll ever drink. Cuervo and his mules, the brilliant character that I swear waltzed right out of an old western tale and of course, there’s John with his renegade dune buggy, endless historical knowledge of this strange place in the desert, ever-present insistence on the preparation and his bunker full of guns and hand packed bullets. I had never shot a gun that would leave a bruise on my shoulder- and WHEW!  was it exciting!

The Slabs are reminiscent of a place out of a story book, in fact they’ve found their way into many a book and movie. It was easy to get sucked into the vortex of good energy and sweltering hot hours; it’s a few hundred feet below sea level, this place.  The rhythm of slow days, chats with strangers who are immediately friends, the splash in the canal and the evening soak in the spring. We even ran into the Kraken Kitchen Kids, again. We stoked up a raging fire in celebration, everyone ate to their satisfaction, RJ twanged excitedly on Katies bango and Sundance shared his favorite stories with us. We were graced with the wonderful company of Emily and Bee. Beyond grateful to be able to share space with our dear friends on their way West to a new home, even if only for one night.

A flat tire just after sunset while cruising East on I-10. Blasted out of my reverie, I jumped clear out of my seat and Katie calm as a cucumber handled the jarring experience like a champ. Road side assistance made the whole deal seem surreal- as if it wasn’t actually something that demanded attention or real action- the only part we gals were able to play was the laughable effort of yanking all three bicycles off the rack on the side of the WINDY highway with headlamps strapped on, so we could unearth the spare tire and wait patiently for someone to come with the tools and skills to lift a 27 foot house on wheels up and replace an inner back tire.

The shadows of the evening have disappeared for now, until the stars come out to dance with the moon, while she casts her full brilliance. Moon shadows have been prominent these days, have you noticed your own?

And soon, the desert will carry us into Utah and a feeling of home will wash over me. With bursts of excited anticipation, I remain grateful for here and now.

Happy Equinox, folks.

Love,
Amanda Lee

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Harnessing the Sun

A long overdue conversation with a dear friend Adam Bryant recently reminded me, as he often does, of my own nature….

“What do you do to meditate? What makes this world make sense to you…?”

“Well, I suppose I do just what I’ve been doing…I put my hands to work. I build solutions”

Driving west on I-62. South on I-10. We’re heading out of Joshua Tree, California. We’re going to Arizona! West seems like the wrong direction to travel, but there are some ‘must see’s’ in between here and there. I’m writing this as we drive, my laptop battery charging as the solar panel on the roof soaks up energy from the sun.

The choice to build a solar power system in my life grows from the ideas of congruency, self sufficiency, solutions and DIY efforts. As a person who chooses boondocking as a lifestyle, moving away from campgrounds, the convenience of “shore” power and the price that comes with it and moving towards the world less seen, solar power makes the most sense. I admittedly paid little to no attention in science or math class. I was more interested in history and art which is to say teenage drama, in high school. So if I was going to build a system myself, I was going to have to start from the beginning. I could have bough a pre-fab system and paid some strapping young human to install the whole thing for me- but what is the fun in that? .And I was convinced I could build a system for cheaper than I could buy one. This was going to be one of my biggest DIY projects yet. Often, at least in my life, information does not become useful until there is a practical application for it- So off I went, jumping down rabbit holes of science and math and energy and words I had never heard. I taught myself about DC and AC energy, voltage, wattage, amperage, battery banks, protection, grounding, hydrogen, capacity and space. I pulled every single thing that had a chord out of every cabinet in the RV and converted numbers into amp hours until my brain melted. I stopped every vehicle I saw with a solar panel and asked them about their system. I read every website out there.  I called my Dad, a lot.  Dearest Katie, cheering me on the whole time, full of support- and also laughing at me, when I’m trying to wrap my head around the idea of the power of the sun. Collecting the pieces I would need as we coasted south on highway 1. And when I thought it was all said and done, it wasn’t. There’s always something you didn’t anticipate, something that wasn’t accounted for, something I read wrong or understood wrong, or measured wrong. I mounted the solar panel the wrong direction on the roof, I missed the roof beam by 1/8th of an inch, I wired the batteries in parallel instead of in series, I collected all the pieces and forgot how to put them together. I did math backwards, we hauled a panel bigger than I am in and out of the bed for a few weeks until we could mount it. I even had a UPS package delivered to a USPS general delivery address and then chased it down(in the RV). There may have been a few tears, yet there were far more smiles. And for every seeming problem, I found a solution. I corrected my math, mounted everything securely and today, I am proud to announce that Jam and the Fam is up and running on Solar!

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  • 230 watt 24volt solar panel
  • Generic PPMT Charge controller. Sunlink.com
  • 2 12 volt deep cycle batteries, wired in series. Refurbished 
  • A generic 1500 watt 24volt power inverter. Sunlink.com

This list plus about 35 feet of cabling, 4 Z mounting brackets, countless nuts and bolts and washers and silicone sealant and mending brackets put together a system to allow us to run lights, laptops, camera batteries, a power drill, house speakers or most anything else short of a blender on the suns energy!! And to be able to say that I built the whole thing with my own hands makes it even better. I did in fact build this project for cheaper than I could have bought it and I am pulling in more power than I currently need, so there is room to expand the battery bank in the future!

Building a solar power system, much like this trip, had once just been a great idea on a long list of other great ideas. And as much as I love lists, it is ultimately important to see these dreams to fruition. Living my life in this way; reinventing my trajectory as I want, so free to choose, every day, what life means to me and how I will portray that, writing our own rules, blazing a new path. This blaring authentic representation of existence,  where convenience is rare and apathy can not thrive, begs the daily question and reminder of congruence. What in my life makes sense? Do I practice what I preach, per say?  What do I hang on to although it does not feed me? What am I attached to that is not healthy? Are my actions congruent with my morals or values? What am I doing to support my growth as a woman, what am I doing to hinder that growth?  And once these questions become evident, I can not turn my back on real answers. The answers are far from simple, they are non linear, they are expansive, sometimes esoteric, and always changing. Yet these answers are my truth and lead me to keep building. To keep creating better versions of myself. To keep growing.

There are great things on the horizon, the desert flowers just bloomed, I can taste the seasons changing. The future is bright. I remain grateful.

Amanda Lee

Dirt Bag Love

Greetings from the desert, folks! Joshua Tree, California is home currently. It’s been an amazing week of friends, new and old alike. Katie is busy being silent on her second round of Vipassana and I am rolling solo in town. My dear friend Charlie and a great wilderness therapy crew made a gnarly drive down south to climb hard and enjoy the week in Joshua Tree National Park with me. We had a blast!! Since they went back to work I’ve been awaiting general delivery packages to finish my solar power project on the rig- we’re going off grid!! I have proudly embarked on my first week as a non smoker and I am powering through some very wonderful days alone. There are many good people in my life that I miss dearly- I think of my friends and family across the country daily and I remain grateful to live such a beautiful life. I’m poaching internet and electricity from a radical local cafe in town and this weeks project has been a first dive into experimental video editing! I’ve torn apart all the raw footage I shot In J Tree and am proud to present my very first film! Soak it up, friends!

 

With all my love,

Amanda Lee

off the map

Just a little something I want to share with you good folks…

“This is what it means to be an adventurer in our day: to give up creature comforts of the mind, to realize possibilities of imagination. Because everything around us says no you cannot do this, you cannot live without that, nothing is useful unless it’s in service to money, to gain, to stability.

The adventurer gives in to tides of chaos, trusts the world to support her – and in doing to turns her back on the fear and obedience she has been taught. She rejects the indoctrination of impossibility. 

My adventure is a struggle for freedom.”

Katie and I found this special book at SubRosa, a community space in Santa Cruz, CA. I read aloud from this book almost every day. Off The Map is a book that evolved from a zine written by Hib and Kika about their punk vision quest through Europe. We sincerely hope to share space with these two gals one day. Their adventure speaks so loudly to us. We are rocked, frustrated, excited, humbled and brought close to tears reading the stories they have chosen to share. This book is anti-copyright, published by CrimethInc and just down right glorious. Read it.

Love,

Amanda Lee

Entries from the Almighty Sacred Journal.

IMG_0767IMG_0780IMG_0782January 31st. Highway 1 is home, and the Pacific, our backyard.

We woke simultaneously at 6AM. “Check out that moon…” she whispered. Teetering the fence of consciousness, I scooted my bundled body up to the window of the nook and peered at the glowing moon hanging just outside over the ocean. The entire rig was illuminated with hues of blue. Without my glasses, everything was mostly blurry, but I was just close enough to my former dream-state that I could sort of imagine seeing it all as clearly as wide-eyed Amanda could next to me. Quickly drifted back to sleep.

Pulled onto a turnoff in Big Sur yesterday. Amanda and I swung, cradled by a hammock over the tumbled rocks and waves crashing below.. read aloud from the book we picked up from the Really Really Free Market in Santa Cruz a couple of weeks ago. “Off the Map”, a story about 2 gals drifting from place to place by ball and heel in Europe. Inspiration, relation, bonding moments. We read a lot to each other in here. The end of a chapter came just as the horizon was swallowing the sun, and between two trees, we silenced and steadied our sway. I realized then it had been a while since I really watched a sunset. Strange. Glorious. Refreshing. In those last moments of burning visuals, I pulled in as though my breath were a sponge meant to soak up every last bit of energy felt that day, and all the days since the last sunset I witnessed, all the juju that no longer served me any constructive purpose, and let it out, let it go, down with the day that was suddenly over.

Strange. Glorious. Refreshed.

Amanda cooked us dinner– risotto with mushroom and garlic toast. Very impressive presentation. I noted that the tomato dices sprinkled in a line between the bread reminded me of the red sea, post-parting. Silly shit, followed by the final swigs of our gifted Jameson and 3 brutal rounds of Gin Rummy. We talked a lot about family, friends back home and friends made along the way, what this trip has taught us thus far. I struggle to articulate just what it is that I’ve taken from the journey, even to myself. I figure most of the time that’s okay, so long as I remain happy and grateful. I reckon I’ll find the poetry of an explanation one of these days. Yeah, one of these somedays I’ll compose a song about the wilderness of my heart, about the feelings I felt while moving, and how I was moved even in the stillness of sitting across from my road dog, my ex-lover, strangers that became brothers. I’ll sing about the satisfaction of overcoming emotional turmoil and coming out a finer version of myself, and strum to the beat of stress felt to this day every time we have to empty the shit tank, or find a place to park where the chances of getting cop-knocked or incessantly honked at by territorial locals are as slimmed as we can hope for.  I’ll write about the good life, about the fellow wanderers who’ve reminded me to be a real freebird, the challengers who’ve reminded me of my impatience. I’ll play a tune about the time I nearly tumbled to my death down a cliff, and a tribute to the mighty roots of the plant that saved me.  It’ll be an ode to the boundless generation I live among and within, a story that starts and ends in the middle. For now, I am perhaps not yet in a place to piece together all-telling lyrics to the sagas of my days.

Simply grateful, indeed happy, and fully immersed.

Yours truly, very sincerely,

Katie

Story Teller

Life continues to happen, and often, this written account of our lives drifts farther and farther down the “priority” list.  Allow me to tell you a story…

Once upon a time…
We drove down the Oregon coast. It was expansive and chimerical. I visit it in my dreams, often. 

We worked at a Christmas tree lot. There was Jim the older fellow. Who, with his quick vulgar wit and pirate understanding of the world, was my saving grace in that place. There were young boys who were not men, there was Kathy, who drank her meals and was definitely a flower child once. There were trees, lots of them. There was dog hair. There were families and there were more trees. There was rain- and I’ll be damned, there was more rain. Once upon a time everything was wet, and nothing dried out, ever. There were challenges, there were ironies, there were flaring frustrations, and all along, there were trees and twine, racism and sexism and we grew stronger. While being constantly reminded and confronted with conventional ideas of gender roles and blaring ignorant displays of entitlement; We sold, lifted and tied trees just as good as the next with a smile on our faces- we exchanged knowing and supportive glances when the angry people yelled about their angry problems; we bitched in the evenings, releasing our tensions and then laughed it off knowing this is not real life, not for us. And then we wrote a song about it.

We were blessed by a visit by Eric James, The clown who fixes things, the ultimate vegan who challenges us in our words, and loves us so well. Who hugs and laughs and laughs some more.

Floriana came and went and came around again. Singing soul shine and pushing barriers in only the way that she can.

We lived in Oakland, CA on the corner of 64th & Marshall so long I lost track of when we came or went. We rode our bikes, we celebrated the Solstice together, christmas passed, The new year was embraced, we fixed our bikes, we ate Food Not Bombs, we met radiant folks. We drank tea in the Redwood Tea House. We both endured painful periods. We cared for each other, we spoke loudly, and softly. We sang and shouted and collapsed in fits of giggles. We endured headaches and belly aches. We eased into our mornings, with hot coffee, mate, eggs and wishes in baskets and lounged to our hearts content. We dumpster dived, ate vegan donuts, ate more Food Not Bombs. We went to Planned Parenthood and got  tested. We found the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse and grabbed up art supplies carting them home on our backs and bikes. I invested in all rechargeable batteries. We have started using our portable solar panel to charge bike lights and Ipods and phones. I sold art on the street at Oaklands First Friday Art Murmur. We feasted on chocolate fit for beautiful dirt bags and we loved it. We discovered strawberry yummies, and buckwheat vegan pancakes. We rode trains for free, and not so free. We went on a city wide chase for a general delivery package. We were excited to find crochet hooks AND yarn inside that package. We played in the oldest arcade I’ve ever seen. We found a beach FULL OF WHOLE SAND DOLLARS! I went urban exploring with new friends. We read aloud to each other. We cooked for each other, everyday. We explored our changing diets; No meat and less and less dairy everyday. We participated in free yoga in Grace Cathedral; live singing bowls and new friends and hundreds of people fit between pews, our collective breath resonating in the high ceilings. We felt strong, and through our strength, we radiate light. I taught myself Japanese binding, coptic stitch and made DIY journals. We purged and donated an abundance of what we had, we made space for new life and friends, and for ourselves. We learned new words and made up our own. We talked on the phone with those loved ones we miss. We write love letters, we play music, we bang on walls and pots and pans, and our own laps. We danced, and skipped, and got hungry, and cold and hot and antsy and happy.

We forgot what day of the week or month it was. And when we forgot, we counted our days on the road. 134 days is what the calendar says. We forget how many days it has been since our last shower, we feel beautiful regardless.

We said hello, and we said goodbye. And it was OK.

We went beach camping. Barefoot. We were naked with the earth. we listened to her animate breath move around us. We slept lulled by the crash of the waves, reminding us that the moon is there. We built fires and altars. We washed ourselves in the frigid clear water running towards the sea. We tended to burns. We all learned what we needed in those days.

We struggled to park in Santa Cruz. We were graced with a parking permit. We went to a Really Really Free Market at SubRosa. We witnessed and felt synchronicity. We went to a barn dance. We almost got swallowed up by the sea. We poached hot tubs and crocheted on the edge of the earth. I’m teaching myself how the sun, energy, batteries and inverters work; a science I never cared for until it became a practical and applicable resource in my life. We spoke to our mothers and our fathers. Our brothers and our sisters and our grandmothers. And for those that we can’t speak to, we still did. We were cop knocked and rustled out of our slumber one very early morning. We were reminded that some folks don’t communicate very well, and use the police to do their selfish bidding. We learned that we all deal with things differently- and silly or not, I still really want to tell that cop that I’m pretty sure Katie didn’t mean it when she said “thank-you.” We ate Somoas at the farmers market, and S’mores on the beach. We celebrated Bee’s Birthday for days.

road dogs get mushy sometimes.. what can i say?

road dogs get mushy sometimes.. what can i say?

plants over pets. hands down.

plants over pets. hands down.

we woke next to the pacific, drank our coffee on the beach and watched the sky change colors. somewhere in southern oregon.

we woke next to the pacific, drank our coffee on the beach and watched the sky change colors.
somewhere in southern oregon.

We enjoy being muscled beings, talking to the earth and giving thanks. We enjoy exploring our boundaries and learning how to communicate, be honest, co-exist, and explore a consent based culture. We are writing our own rules. Our days start and end when we want them to. We do things our hearts feel called to, we do the right things because we understand the value. We are rewriting, reassessing, reassigning where and how we place value. We are constantly reminded we have good to give. We choose this Life.

I remain grateful.

Love,
Amanda Lee

The Night’s Bloom.

“We’ll hate what we leave but we’ll love what we find.”

In my life, this has never been so true. All things have an end, and there are too many beautiful beginnings to keep count. I see these stops and starts, I feel them, I know them; and still there are times when these moments get put aside, as opposed to reckoned with, felt, honored, absorbed. Often, time, the days, the images, the emotions, the moments of life catch up to me, like frames stockpiling on top of one another; heaping into piles at my feet- at the doors of my heart and this begs for my day of reckoning. There is a time for movement, there is a time to be still.

A new year can be many things. It can be as easy as the turn of a page, as symbolic as the burning of your books, it can be as heavy as the memory of your lovers lips. For me, it was simple. Full of strength. Alone, for the first time since I can remember, my hands busy with art, I sat with myself and addressed the last year of my life. A true addressing. I chose consciously to step outside of the opportunity to celebrate my year by forgetting my night. I chose to be present. I could pair every emotion I felt with a different texture in my memory. I could feel patterns repeating beneath my finger tips, I could hear color spilling out over my last year.  It was a long evening in my world. And as the earth spun into a new day, I reached catharsis. A tipping point of everything I was proud of and everything I was not, smashing together in a wave that washed me into my own new year.

There is nothing more important than the moments we give ourselves to honor what is.

Here’s to the journey.

With all my Love,
Amanda Lee