A blog about living outside, first in my car, then in tents.

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Gunshots in the night, very close

(Note: This incident happened just before Thanksgiving 2014. I wrote the first draft November 21 and just rescued it from my pile of unpublished drafts.) The bullets’ rhythms were similar each time: three or four shots closely but not evenly spaced. The first time was closer than I’ve ever experienced. I’d guess the shots originated a couple hundred feet away, behind my tent while I dressed for bed. It was close enough for me to jump and my brain to freeze into attention. A few seconds later shots were fired to my right. I swore, then yelled “Hey, there’s people here!” I felt riled enough to shout but not brave enough to employ maximum...
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Food Politics and Hunger in Borderlands Arizona

This short film was one of five picked from 1,300 entries that won this year’s Sundance Institute’s Short Film Challenge. Native Seeds is right here in Patagonia. Avalon Gardens has outstanding sustainable farming practices (despite unfortunately being a cult based around the personality of a man who believes he is the supreme commander of the solar system, or something like that). It’s just eight minutes. Check out the film on Video.com, a very cool video site.
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The Finnish Word for Grit, Determination, Unending Patience

I found the word reading Philip Caputo’s early novel, Indian Country. Sisu. The story is set in Upper Peninsula Michigan, whose longer term residents include Indians and Scandinavians. It’s the story of a Vietnam vet who begins reliving key moments of his war terrors a good 15 years after he returns home. As a woman who has experienced flashbacks, body memories, trauma-related vaginismus and other symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I appreciate Caputo’s portrayal of the main character’s psychological perspectives of life with PTSD. I’ve heard that Caputo lives locally part of the year. His uncanningly realistic novel Crossers is an outstanding, gripping and educational look at life within a few miles from...
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Drones Banned from National Parks

Expand this to National Forests, and my summer and fall last year would have been more peaceful: Park Service Bans Drones
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Sleeping With Carlos

Normally my big dog, Carlos, sleeps outside and the smaller terrier, Dwyn, sleeps in the front seat. That gives me the full back of the wagon for my bed, with both back seats pulled down. On occasion a reason presents itself that merits Carlos sleeping in the car. The usual reasons are a) Carlos is driving me crazy barking (actually he does this much less now, having learned greater discretion in distinguishing between a threat and an interesting noise); b) it is raining and I’d rather have him in the car than getting muddy and wet; c) a threat presents itself, such as a bobcat cry, a neighborhood known for mountain lion activity, or...
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A Night-Walking Conservationist?

The headlights came from a direction I had not yet explored, through a gate I’ve not opened. The vehicle circled around, doubled back, passed close to me and then stopped where it had started. I whisper-shout: “Carlos!” No response. “Carlos!” My guard dog is not here. I hear a car door. I call louder, “Carlos!” I see a flashlight approaching me. Forget trying not to be seen or heard. I yell, “Carlos!!” He arrives, I hustle him into the car. What else do I have to take with me? Oh. The laundry basket is on top of the car. The dog water. The bathing bowl on the hood. Half dressed (I was already in...
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The buzz of flies and drones

8:30 a.m. Current auditory data: Flies buzz. One or two drones patrol high up, unseen. Wind flows around the back of my ear. Leaves rustle. I hear the flap of a crow’s wings before its shadow flies over. Occasionally a sleeping dog’s twitching paw thumps the ground. Other than that, silence. SILENCE. Beautiful. 9:30 am Already shadows are short and difficult to squeeze under. I assemble the covered camp chair Shari brought me, disturbing a scorpion that is soon disjointed segments under my paper towel. But even with the shade chair, the sun finds my arms. I break dead and some almost-dead branches off our host tree and squeeze the chair farther under; the...
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Gunfire and a Hidden Vehicle

Gunfire! I hear a vehicle drive into the meadow and stop. This is too close for comfort. But yet I have to do what I have to do. I cook dinner as light fades. I am careful not to slam car doors. I keep my dogs quiet, and I stay as quiet as possible. Three times my dogs bark and run to northern edge of our site, looking into the direction from which the vehicle sound came. Either it’s Border Patrol hunting someone. Or its the drug runners, hiding. After a long time — an hour? — I hear the vehicle leave. Apparently neither Border Patrol nor drug runners had any interest in me,...
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Bushwhackers or Drug Runners?

early morning: Damn. Company. And not just horses, cows and dogs. I heard a large vehicle approaching from the meadow side, too close to be on the “main” dirt road. Shortly after, I started hearing knocking sounds in a steady slow rhythm, a couple or a few at a time then stop. If it wasn’t implausible, I’d say someone is building something over there. More likely is it’s a bushwhacking crew trimming dead trees and brush, as part of the USFS fire maintenance program. They had a crew on the strip of land across the fence, where they are running cattle now (no relation). But I don’t hear chain saws. (Maybe a mining company taking...
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More gunfire

It’s not hunting season, so what is that gunfire? It moves around, so it’s not target practice.
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Machine Guns?

Semi-automatic gunfire (is that the same as machine gunfire?) first pop. Then pop pop pop pop. Then faster than my tongue can demonstrate. And coming closer. This was no target practice. Who the hell has semiautomatic guns in southern Arizona 20 miles north of the Mexican border? I left, drove into town, and parked outside a wifi spot. Eventually I calmed down enough that my heart was no longer pounding, and returned. I asked the guys at a local hangout: Is it hunting season? No. Who has semiautomatic guns? Border Patrol does. Sure, they were probably shooting at someone. Sure, could have been drug runners. They say this casually. Like it’s just another day’s...
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Wild Places

Much to my bemusement, this week I have seen more of the the public lands surrounding this small rural community than in all the years since moving here in 2004. I mean, all this accessible beauty has surrounded me all this time, beginning just a mile away, and I’ve explored very little of it. That doesn’t match the image I have of myself, or perhaps it is just different than the person I used to be. I let fear keep me away from southeastern
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