Mama’s Earrings

Our trip to Mexico in January was much needed on so many levels. We soaked in the ocean, baked in the sun, and ate tacos and street-food like Gods and Goddesses. We deepened our friendship with Primrose’s Nana and Bampa, fell deeper in love, and made time to relax and be together. Of course, we dealt with ungodly levels of litter, noise, and people– but it was overshadowed by the goodness of our time there.

While we were there, I, Papa Bear, was dead set on moving our family away from America and Alaska and relocating south of the border. The smile on my wife’s lips as she lay in her bikini on the beach, while watching our daughter run from person to person, into the surf and back out, until absolutely exhausted she passed out from overexertion.

You see, where we live here in Alaska, it’s never really hot. Yeah, we might have a couple 70 degree days during the summer, but they’re usually accompanied by hordes of mosquitoes so you really can’t get out and enjoy it without a thick coat of bug dope. And my wife has told me from the beginning how much she loves hot weather, so when we were in Mexico and I was able to see her in her element– I was hooked, I wanted it every day.

Now, there are other factors as well. Like the cost of living. For some reason, no matter how hard we work, we still are only barely able to make ends meet. It’s an odd feeling, being that we both work so freakin’ hard–for ourselves and other people–but we are always behind.

Whereas in Mexico, 1,000$ a month goes a whole-heck-of-a-lot-further.

To summarize the entire reason for this blog post is that we were super inspired while in Mexico, on so many levels. Savanna was inspired by the incredible artisans making beaded jewelry and other artifacts. So much so that she came home and seemed to have used osmosis to inherit their talent, because she is making some really cool beaded earrings now. I was inspired to write, write, and write some more, which is why I came home and published a book and am currently working on the second one.

We plan to travel to Mexico again soon, when– we don’t know yet. Will we move there? Not planning on it this week. In the meantime, Savanna is going to continue making awesome jewelry, I am going to keep writing, and Primrose is going to keep meeting people and having a good time.

Here is a link to Savanna’s Etsy page with some her earrings. Buy a set, maybe a few, support our family’s passions, and maybe our future excursions south of the border for more inspiration.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/SecretGardenAlaska?ref=shop_sugg

Time to Pre-Order Warflower

The time has come to pre-order Warflower through either Amazon or Barnes and Noble. (Links provided below) It will be released on June 1st, and I really hope that I don’t die from anxiety in the meantime.

I once played guitar and sang songs live on our local radio station, KBBI, and I was pretty darn nervous before the time arrived to go in and do it. But I made it through unscathed, and made an incredible new memory because of it.

The nerves I am dealing with now are certainly not more than what I dealt with while I was in Iraq, especially after being ambushed and then having to return to the ambush site to look for the people who ambushed us, that was definitely nerve wracking on a whole nother level. But this is an intellectual nervousness, a nervousness of exposing parts of my life story for people to read. It is terrifying on a whole new level.

I am relieving my anxiety levels by staying super active out here on the land. Non-stop movement is my cure. Planting, seeding, tilling, chicken chores, clearing, watering, building, playing with the dogs, playing with the daughter, playing with Savanna, beekeeping, spreading compost, turning compost, weeding, selling, bike riding, anything to keep from thinking.

And you know what, I’ve made it this far, and I think I’ll make it to the book release.

If you want to buy the book from me in person or from your local bookstore, understandable. I try to support local small businesses as much as possible. I will be ordering a crate of 22 on the 1st and would be happy to sell them in person.

Thank you all again so much for your continued love and support!

Bob Stark

https://www.amazon.com/Warflower-Story-Family-Service-Alaska-ebook/dp/B0B2K2J29T/ref=sr_1_2?crid=7MXI7X25DVB4&keywords=Warflower&qid=1653802127&sprefix=warflower%2Caps%2C183&sr=8-2&fbclid=IwAR0TZvq8s4KSDt3RwVU-zQUfDa6S9GubfMv6iz7Yg23JQ8JQviv9c27Mp00

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1141568880?ean=9798986178004

Warflower is Done

Fifteen years ago I scribbled the first draft of Warflower from a cabin in the Costa Rican jungle, and I have been slowly tinkering away on it ever since.

It was initially written as a way to save my life, to keep me from destroying myself after I was discharged from the Army with a heavy load of guilt from my time in Iraq. But over the years, it became so much more than a war story.

And I am so, so, so proud to say that it is almost finished and ready for people to read! I cannot express the feelings I have right now, but I can say this… with two raised fists in the air: “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

You will HOPEFULLY be able to find Warflower at your local independent bookstores, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, KDP, Apple, and Libraries, and of course sold directly by yours truly at our small Alaskan Markets.

Thank you to all of my friends and family who have supported me and believed in me along the way! I could not have done it without you.

The Hum of Spring

Sitting on ripped lawn chairs, on old buoys, or on log rounds eating s’mores around a fire boiling birch water into syrup, we hear the honking of the cranes come through. Looking up to see a flock separated into two groups our daughter squeals with delight. We watch as the pass over us as they search the muskeg for a dry place to land….not yet cranes…they circle on and make their way to Homer I assume. I say, “Remember when we watched them leaving? And now they are coming back. We made it through the winter.” My husband raises a fist and lets out a “yessssss” that sounds like a sigh of relief. I love it when he does that.

I really think I’d win in a mallow roasting competition


We take a trip into the woods surrounding our house. Papa is on poop duty – he’s been shoveling dog poop by the bucket loads as it unthaws around the property. But our mission isn’t poop- its berries. We take with us a hand saw and pruners. I command to be taken to the overwintered cranberry hideout the two had been snacking on without me. We uncover a trove of cranberries- missed by the birds and creatures due to the overgrown and invasive azalea. We pick a spot and clear around blueberry bushes and cranberry patches. Papa had gone and marked small blueberry plants with tape days before. A couple of years ago on a nice woodland stroll, we realized we had a few bushes and decided to give them room to grow. Last year was our best year- we still are eating berries from the freezer. We didn’t realize how many small plants were out there under all the damn azalea. So every spring, when the snow melts and the plants are bare enough for us to be able to see and identify, we go to town on a spot. We all shared the sour cranberries, Primrose’s lips, cheeks, and fingers stained red. We carried the fresh cuttings to the fire to burn that baby down.

Our little Easter egg
We celebrate Easter to mark the moons of our relationship
Beauty Child

Two days ago, we ate sourdough waffles with freshly made birch syrup for breakfast and then we picked up two orders of bees. Two hives- roughly 21 thousand bees. We slept with them in the loft, a tradition because of the cold temperatures still during this time. But the following day, the sun was shining and we got them into their new homes. We all were happy to be in the wind-free sun despite the snow that is still feet high in patches. The rain today was worrisome as beekeepers- hoping they stay warm enough during the change of the season…but trudging through the mud to stick our ear to the hive, we hear the low sound of humming. The Hum of Spring.

It has finally arrived here on the Kenai.

He has more than one queen. bee

Making Fun a Priority

It is easy to be swept away by wind gusts of work and necessity. To forget about the joys of life, the fun times we had as children, the useless entertainment that keeps us alive and sane. We often justify our obsession with work with statements of fear; “They are only getting half of the produce they order at the local grocery store. What if they don’t get any?” or statements of greed, “We could sell these pumpkin starts for 5 dollars, the honey for 8, birch syrup for 12, raspberry transplants for 5…” and on and on. Perhaps we use statements like, “God gave me this body to work, so I am going to use it,” or “Life isn’t about doing what you want, it’s about doing what you have to.”

Either way, our family is trying to move away from fear-based thinking by creating more of a balance between work and fun.
So…
We pulled a kite out of the shed to fly the other day.
Savanna sprinted up and down the driveway holding the kite behind her trying to have it lift off laughing like her daughter behind her. Eventually, we found the perfect wind tunnel that lifted this big blue whale up and sent it flying.

We pulled the bikes out of the greenhouse to ride on our country road. Primrose gets so excited when she sees the bikes leaned up against the trees that she tries to put her helmet on and then literally doesn’t want to do anything besides ride. So we have been making it a priority to ride down to the creek every day to watch ducks land on water and ice melt. Dad brings a pack of Fruit Snacks for Prim, which she shares with everybody, and while we enjoy watching snow melt on the roadsides while waiting for cranes to arrive, we plan for a long bike trip in the fall/winter of 2024.

We tapped 11 trees this year with hopes of making birch syrup. It has been fun to have an excuse to walk in the woods while harvesting the sap, but it can also be exhausting when you’re tired and on baby duty. Carrying Primrose on the back and a backpack full of sap on the front while maneuvering over melting snow can be a workout. We filled a 65-gallon rainwater barrel to the tip-top and finally started boiling it down to render syrup. Let the fire begin!

Look at these beautiful girls enjoying the woods.
Uncle James roasts a hot dog for his niece as we render sap into syrup.
Uncle James taught Primrose how to use a walking stick and she has been cruising ever since.

Mama has been having fun using her new sourdough starter. I wish we had more pictures to share of her creations because they’ve been incredible! Waffles, pop-tarts, peanut butter cookies, bread, and soon-to-be coffee cake. I always hoped to marry a baker and I must admit, it is sweeter than I imagined.

All in all, we are doing a decent job this year striking a balance. We are marking off days on the calendar for camping trips and festivals, prioritizing the things we love (other than work, because we LOVE farming and working with the land), and being reminded everyday by our daughter’s excitement that we must make it a point to have fun every day.

Uncle James had fun on the water last week and provided our family with fresh halibut. All real treat this time of year.
Even late at night, we can have fun watching the aurora from our living room window.

Until next time, remember to have fun out there, and leave a comment below to let us know ways that you have fun.

The Alaskan Winter

Darkness and slowing down are the main themes for Alaskan winters. A time of year to nestle in and cozy up to the wood burning stove, watching movies, reading, and sipping hot liquids. We really distanced ourselves from life outside our bubble. We still socialized, still got outdoors, and even went on vacation for an entire month to Mexico…..aaahhhh Mexico.

People didn’t understand her name was Primrose – they thought we were saying Preciosa, which means precious, which is fitting just the same

Our daughters first trip out of the country was warm and welcoming and she was greeted by kisses, hugs, and lots and lots of snacks from strangers who wanted to take her picture and hold her. In a very short summary, she is a social Mariposa who brings a smile to every heart she encounters. She is brave, adventurous, and can hang with the big dogs. She is the best travel buddy, the greatest road dog (well tied with her father, which is NO DOUBT where she gets it from).

Every day on the beach- waves, sun, and snacks
We stayed in the jungle for 1 week and explored looking for big cats. My babe (and badass) of a husband carried our daughter the ENTIRE trip, even through covid, healing my shoulder- look at that dreamy face

I will have to make an entire different post for our trip there, so for now, I will continue on through the winter to our current happenings.

Every year we are surprised by the April snow that falls. Currently, our daughter is napping in our bed, my husband is substitute teaching at the high school 40 miles away, and I am taking a break from my beading project. We tapped 11 Birch trees on April Fools Day and we are in the process of collecting what looks to be hundreds of gallons of water when its all said and done. Every few hours the bags on the verge of overflowing, need to be emptied. Thankfully there is the three of us here, my husband, brother-in-law, and myself to do this, otherwise, this could have been a bigger endeavor than we anticipated! One particular morning when Primrose was not having a nap, I dressed us in our snow gear, put her in her carrier on my shoulders, carried the backpack full of empty jars are on my chest and set out in knee deep snow to empty the bags in time, taking 45 minutes to take care of the 4 trees on the north slope of our property. Those are the trees that produce the best. We emptied out one rain barrel and have started filling it. Bob mentioned that it won’t rain for some time, and even though he is right, I think he forgot that we bought a high tech, bad ass water filter last summer and have been drinking our well water. However, it is still a different taste from freshly fallen rain.

Tree Kisser

It’s hard to believe that my extended family who live in the lower 48 are currently sending me pictures of them and their children outdoors in t-shirts drinking cold sugary drinks, visiting parks, and soon will hunt Easter eggs in the green grass while we are still sipping on rosehip and spruce tip tea to keep the sniffles away as the snow continues to fall. The temperatures vary now between 20s and low 40s daily so it seems odd and different to my intuition and knowledge to start seeding plants. Planting with the moon cycle has made our life a little smoother and our house less explosive of plant life. We have given up our dinning table to host 14 flats of baby seedlings, that on nice and sunny days we “do the shuffle”- taking the flats to greenhouse in the morning and bringing them in at night. Primrose likes the chore of pushing the cart of flats, won’t go in the greenhouse (she is the hardiest one of us, thinking it too warm), but rides back to the house in the cart to get more.

She loves being apart of our life out here

In just a few short weeks we will be getting our 2 hives of honey bees, and a few weeks after that we will be living with 38 more chickens (these ones for meat) and 4 turkeys.

It sometimes is hard to believe that spring will ever get here, and that summer will blossom and we will have any plants growing on this white earth. But for now, we just keep reading Wendell Berry – getting inspired about our family farm, and growing in all the ways we dream of.

seeing if our saved seeds will grow is fun and scary

Rewrite the Past

The other day I decided I was going to start telling people that my parents died in a plane crash while delivering medical supplies in the Congo. My father was a pilot and my mother a doctor and they had created a non-profit organization back in the 70s that was their life’s work. They lived and died serving others.

The truth is, my dad died when he was 61 from heart failure, 98 percent of his arteries were clogged, and my mother died at 56 from cancer. My dad was a part time taxi driver who lived in the woods in a car with solar panels on top, and my mother was a Safeway clerk who lived in trailers and apartments. They were hard working people who struggled since birth to get by and do right. And while I am not trying to erase their stories, I am trying to find some form of understanding as to why they died so young, and to find another answer to the question that is so often asked.

How did your parents die?

It is an odd question, I have found, in that when people find out my parents are dead they do not ask about who they were, what they did, what were their hobbies and passions, what books they read, where they lived, and all of the questions that somebody may ask about a person who is still alive… they always want to know how they died, and that be the end of the conversation. Which doesn’t leave a lot of room for honoring my ancestors, telling their stories, and feeling proud of who they were and what they accomplished in their lives. So I figure, if I tell people they died in a plane crash in Africa, people will want to know more…

But the truth is, after almost 6 years since my mother’s passing I still find it difficult to talk about it. Sometimes I will tell my daughter about her grandmother and I will begin to weep because I miss her so much. I will tell her, “Multiple times I went to your grandmother’s apartment and found strangers sleeping on her living room floor because they did not have a place to sleep for the night. Your grandmother would use her days off to bring people in need food, clothing and money. People who were too anxious or proud or high to line up at food banks and ask for assistance. Your grandmother would spend all day driving people to and from Anchorage because they did not have a car or they were too afraid to drive. Your grandmother…” And then I have to stop because I begin to miss her so bad I well up.

Sometimes I tell my daughter, Primrose, about her grandfather but I don’t what to say because I didn’t know him at all, so I stick to the facts. “Your grandfather could grow a beard down to his chest and could box with the best of them. Your grandfather loved to read and write poetry just like your daddy. He studied the Bible and loved God with all of his heart. Your grandfather was a tough man who didn’t feel deserving of love, so he gave and received love in the only way he knew how, from a distance.” And then I come to a stop, not because I have tears, but because I don’t really know what more to say.

Savanna, my wife, decided that we would celebrate Did de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) this year by creating an altar in the living room with our deceased ancestors. We have an unidentified skull covered in geraniums, a few candles, artifacts from our ancestors and pictures to honor them. We light candles and burn incense every day in honor of them. I pray to them, thanking them for what they did for our family and ask God to help me honor them and to honor our future ancestors. It has been a very healing experience, to look at their pictures and remember them instead of allow them to recede into the blackness of the past.

Savanna baked the traditional “bread of the dead” called Pan de Muerto. A sweet bread with anise flavor covered in an orange glaze. It sure makes remembering and honoring your ancestors sweet.

I bring this all up not because I am sulking over people not asking me questions about my parents or because I feel like I’m missing out on not having parents who are alive to hold their grandchild and support my family, although there are certainly slivers of those buried deep in my heart. I am writing about this because I helped a 79 year old neighbor butcher, pluck and clean 7 chickens yesterday and death is on the mind.

My neighbor, Mr. Harold Kerchner, with his knobby, arthritic hands, false teeth and radiant eyes of pure gold, taught me a life long skill yesterday that I will hopefully continue to use and pass on to my daughter. He used a machete, two nails and a log- a boiling pot, two metal buckets and a plastic one for heads, feet, necks and feathers. A young calf watched, unstartled. Chickens in crate did not panic, crow or peck as he opened the crate with one knobby hand, grabbed a bird’s feet while pinning back its wings and set its neck between the nails, stretching out the neck. “Thwack!” Off with its head. He gently set the chicken on the ground until all 7 were lined up by the pot.

He said, “My daddy used to hang the birds by their feet by little lassos on the wall and he could come up behind them with his thumb and put it right through the back of their neck, killing them instantly. I never saw a more ethical way of killing a chicken.”

Wet snow fell. A half inch on ground from previous night. 9:30 am, cold, October morning. We could see our breath, the cows breath, and the steam boiling from the pot of water.

He dunked the birds for less than 10 seconds in the steaming pot then gently set them on an old chicken feed bag on the ground as I took to plucking. He talked about his family, all farmers from Missouri, and how his parents lived into their late 80s and 90s and how his own siblings are in their 80s. He and his wife moved up here to live off grid in the late 70s, their son and daughter live on our same road with their families, they spend time with each other every single day. They are real time farmers, no doubt, as we have seen over the past two years since they moved here with their tractors, trucks, animals, and keen ability to build, clear, plant, and give to their neighbors. Every time Harold gives advice or talks about something regarding to farming he starts by saying, “Now I don’t know much about all this, but what they say is…” They are kind, funny, hard working people who don’t waste time with unnecessary words and unnecessary action.

When finished plucking, I watched him cut and clean two birds before I started cutting. The warmth of the bird felt comforting on my cold hands. We took the cleaned birds inside the house to quarter. I arrived home at 11:30 to a smiling wife and happy daughter. Savanna’s smile grew even bigger when she saw two cleaned birds in my hands, and it continued to grow throughout the day when she made chicken barley soup for dinner that filled the house with a good smell of country comfort and filled my belly with goodness. Life is good.

While I certainly was not a country boy, I am a country man, and I am honored to be learning from people who have lived the country life for generations. Perhaps in learning from them I can not only gain self reliance, sustainability, security and friendship; perhaps I can honor my ancestors of the past and the future, and be willing to rewrite my past and recreate my future.

We went to The Alaska Zoo last week for the first time as a family. Making these girls smile brings me joy and purpose.

Not Always Rose Hips and Honey

Two days ago we were pregnant.
Today, we are not.
Life and death can happen within a single hummingbird’s wing flap.
Ravens soared with 40 mph wind gusts today, they did not laugh, instead-
They cried a melancholy “Caw!” and then were gone.

Savanna returned home from the blood test with a Hazelnut Chocolate Bar, so I knew instantly. Our beautiful daughter was asleep in my lap next to a Michael Crichton novel in our Laz-e-boy beside the raging wood stove. Radiant heat to warm me from the inside. My tough and tender wife sat on the hearth and we shared the chocolate in silence before speaking of God’s will and acceptance.
It is not our fault. It is not our fault.

The view from our Laz-e-boy where I often hold Primrose and read as she naps.

With tear filled eyes she told me that only because of me is she able to bear this loss with God’s plan in mind rather than ours. I told her that I was angry, because unlike our previous pregnancy, I had allowed myself to be super excited from the start. It’s easy to follow God’s will when things are going well, but the real trust happens during hard times.

My bride and I agreed that since the embryo did not have a heartbeat, legs or arms or anything resembling a human, it is an easier loss. But nonetheless, it is hard. Savanna mentioned that she can start running again, and then we brewed a pot of caffeinated coffee instead of decaf shit we have been drinking for two weeks.

Planting hardneck garlic outdoors for the first time. When I feel sad or angry, the best thing I can do is keep moving to accomplish something that makes me feel better.. Today was one of those days.

We went outside in the blowing wind with yellow birch leaves flying all around. Our beautiful, healthy daughter all bundled in winter gear, ready to plant garlic in a new outdoor garden bed where we planted cabbage this year. The top layer of soil frozen, unworkable with a stirrup hoe, I used a spade to break it up. The girls came out just in time to plant. We covered garlic seeds with a layer of aged chicken manure, cardboard and a thick layer of straw for insulation. A total of 191 cloves planted this year, 120 inside the high tunnel, 71 outside. Three varieties. Romanian Red, Music and an unknown. Last year we planted roughly 30 cloves of 1 variety. We love garlic in this family and want to grow enough to last all year.

Primrose laughed and screamed and tripped on the dips and depressions in the uneven orchard then screamed when she needed help up. She laid on her back in a pile of straw with no skin but her face showing and I kissed her face and she laughed and screamed out of pure joy and gave me a bunch of kisses on the lips, something she generally saves for Mom. It was like she knew I needed them.
My sweet girls.
How blessed I am to call them family.

Our daughter sitting on a load of aged chicken manure. She brings so much joy to our lives. How lucky we are to have her.

After we came inside, Savanna made grilled cheese sandwiches and lentil soup and mentioned how good it felt to be outside and work. Primrose ate hummus with a spoon and fed the cat. I was angry again about the loss, without a real compass for emotional complexities, I sum most of them up with anger. We ate, Savanna was patient with me and Primrose, and then we heated two big pots of water on the wood stove to give our daughter a bath together.

They say that families grow stronger during hardships endured together. We are a young family, an in-love family, with so many blessings. I am reminded that life will not always be rose hips and honey, and like the raven, it is okay to cry sometimes and to laugh others.

Rose hips in the fall

Cutting Grass on a Sunny Day

In airborne school we cut the grass with scissors. I didn’t realize how important the lesson on patience, tolerance, and acceptance would be on my life, especially in parenthood. Not to mention how grateful it made me for lawn mowers. I didn’t appreciate them quite like I should have. What do you not appreciate quite like you should?

My beautiful bride, Savanna, being followed by our daughter, Primrose, as we mow our friend’s yard. We have been housesitting for them the past week and are certainly enjoying our mini-vacation only a few blocks away.

Our yard has too many holes and humps to use a lawnmower, so we use a weed wacker on nearly 2 acres. It can be a real pain in the butt, no doubt, but it sure beats using scissors! And since we only do it a few times each year, so the bees can graze on fireweed, dandelions, clover and comfrey, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. We hand weed around berry bushes, apple trees, and vegetables. It can certainly be a lot of work, no doubt, and after mowing our friend’s yard in less than thirty minutes we might have to reassess our game plan.

Sometimes it takes a change of pace and a change of perspective to see the things in life that we take for granted.

We have been searching for new ways to make our life a little less chaotic. Does anybody else feel like all they do all day is clean and tidy up? That no matter how many times you sweep, the floor is still a sandy beach without an ocean view! We do laundry and hang dry, then after we fold the clothes our daughter always wants to destroy the ones that have been folded, so we refold them. It’s crazy! How can we have time to do things that spark joy when we are literally running in circles all day?

Savanna found these baby chicks in a grove of trees the other day. The grown birds had left them to hide near the yurt, so she picked them up and brought them to where we are housesitting. It’s a little late in the year for these birds to survive our cold nights, so they more than likely would have died if she wouldn’t have picked them up. While she may not be an EMT or somebody running into a burning building to save a life, she saved two lives that day. And look at the joy and magic it brings to our life!

Since we’ve been staying at our friend’s place we have been taking full advantage of their unending electricity. We’ve been watching television and movies like never before, using their dryer, dish washer, swim spa, bathtubs, instant coffee maker and space. Our 700 square foot house gets a little tight with our three dogs and cat, so it’s been nice to be in their big home where it seems like we can spread our wings a little bit.

Nala, the big old dog on the left, is somewhere between 11 and 13 years old. She slobbers, snores and constantly has ear infections, but she certainly loves babies and brings so much joy to our family.

We have watched every show so far that features Marie Kendo, and have begun to ween through some of our things during home visits. For years I have prided myself as a “simple man” without many belongings, how blind I was! I donated four overflowing boxes of books that I don’t want to carry into my future, books I have not read and have no interest in reading, others I have read multiple times but don’t need to read again. This has freed up space in our room for “our” books and new opportunities. We tore down every poster I had harvested from walls in Canada, Denmark, Guatemala and USA, they plastered the kitchen walls, hiding the unfinished, water stained, peeling mud and tape for too many years. (Is this a metaphor for looking at ourselves? I believe so…) This is not an easy process, no doubt, especially since I have been holding onto my late mother and father’s belongings, including my brother’s, so it’s been hard to get rid of many objects, especially pictures and artwork! But I have to make room for my new family now, bring light to the home, and hold my parents’ memories in my heart and let them go. We are really excited to do this process, to lessen our stuff and to cherish the gems. And we hope that by doing so we will reduce the amount of cleaning, tidying, picking up and searching for things, while discovering a new way of looking at each other and our belongings.

Picking Saskatoon Berries for market the other morning. How lucky am I to be able to earn a little bit of money doing what I love? To have an overabundance of food right outside my door! To have a freezer full of salmon and berries, a home full of love, and a yard full of food. We are a blessed family, and it’s easy to forget that when you’re knee deep in chores.

To bring this full circle, too many times in my life I have struggled through something without being able to see the bigger lessons. As a young alcoholic with shitty school attendance, during my two years in Iraq as an infantryman, during the death of my parents, feeling like an alien at college, and now as a parent and husband with a beautiful family. The most important lessons in life are learned during the struggle, and I am grateful for those struggles. I may not act grateful when my old dog is panting non-stop like she’s in the desert, the puppy is chasing the baby, and the baby is tearing apart her dresser. I may not act grateful when the chickens leave piles of manure in our walkway and our baby puts her hand in it then eats it. I may not act grateful when I sit down to read a few pages of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park right when the baby is waking up from a nap. And I certainly may not act grateful when it’s 12 am and Primrose refuses to sleep in her bed without her mom, and all I want to do at the end of the day is lay close to the one I love. But you know what, I am grateful for those times, and while I may not be great at showing my gratitude when I’m pissed, annoyed or frustrated, I am working on it. Heck, I am a work in progress. Without these moments, I would not appreciate holding two baby chicks in front of my old dog, beautiful wife, and baby daughter just before mowing the lawn on a sunny day. I wouldn’t appreciate the stillness of fall and watching the yellow leaves fall from the birch trees. No, I would still be trying to be a famous writer, chasing some wild dreams, or being a depressed alcoholic stuck in my self-despair.
And thanks to Marie Kendo, I am also becoming grateful for my cherished belongings I used to merely call “stuff.”

Primrose thinks it’s funny to climb the stairs and go into our friends room to play with the pill bottles. No matter how many times we chase her, close the door, put something in front of the stairs and tell her “No!” she still goes up there to play with the pill bottles. So finally, we’re letting her! Who ever knew that pills could be a great marimba?!

P.S. Savanna and I just celebrated two years of marriage! Miracles do happen! Perhaps the patience, humility, tolerance and acceptance I learned while cutting grass with scissors is what has kept us together during the tough times.

In Honor of 4/20

While I don’t drink or smoke weed anymore, I certainly use to do both… a lot! This poem was written in 2008 while doing a lot of smoking, drinking and traveling in Thailand… Oh God, I can’t wait to go back to Thailand as a sober man!
Sometimes when I read this poem, my addict mind starts convincing myself that I could start drinking and using again… but then I have to check myself and remember how I needed to drink and use every single damn day, all day, and how hard it was to stop.
Either way, to honor 4-20, for all of those people who can smoke a little bud here and there, I hope you’re enjoying yourselves. Smoke one for me.

I was high and drunk and tired in this picture, I felt so ashamed to be sitting across from such a calm old man. I wanted to be just like him but didn’t know how to live a single day without being messed up. Either way, I certainly LOVE the train rides and traveling in Thailand. And the people are kinder than anywhere… besides maybe Nepal.



For The Rat On Ko Lanta Who Stole My Weed

Trees in breeze from sea,
Birds sing songs from heart,
Green curry with love in the kitchen,
Hammock swings,
I am thankful.
§
A bore- a whore
not fun- nor scum
what times- bad lines
sipping coke and rum
§
To the blood sucking critters who
left a hundred welts on Seth’s arm;
you bugs- big hugs,
you fuck us up.
The herb eating rat lives in our thatch,
sneaky rodent is nibbling through
ditty bags to get high.
§
White spirit- black spirit
red spirit- blue
each spirit works for me and for you-
helping people bond in unusual ways.
to relax when wound up,
quiet sullen shy folk break out
in dance & conversation-
some over do it
boozers & baby abusers,
but for those who don’t, who won’t,
who simply enjoy the taste & warm embrace
of a small or big glass
from a Gin or a Bass,
Enjoy it. I am.
§
I smoke a doob in the morning,
I smoke another at night,
I swallow down Coke and Rum
Stoned out my gorge as I write.
§
Smiles all around me,
Local and farang,
Smiling lips from ear to ear
As I ride in the bathtub rain.
When I ask a man for gasoline
He smiles and says “ok.”
When I pass her on la calle,
A smile I pass her way.
Each person has their secrets,
Hidden behind smiles,
It’s what’s presented outside
That separates the good from the piles.
So may you on your journey,
Share a smile with lots of peeps.
From happy, smiling angels,
To dirty, filthy creeps.
§
Dear Rat:
You stole my shit
now I want it
I’ll hunt you ‘til I get it back,
Whether you ate it- you hid it
or shared it
I won’t cut you an ounce of slack.
The first time you hit us
was funny,
Who would have thought 
it would happen to us,
You took over half of
my sweet stash,
Why did you abuse
my trust?
Then! You ate it while
we slept soundly,
You must have watched,
or smelled, who knows?
You nibbled through Rainbow Crow’s
zippered pouch, you’re 
a fiend, little buddy, it shows.
You son-of-a-bitch
while I smoke this,
I will think of your
stoned little eyes,
I hope you enjoyed
this here ganja,
Because the last of the 
stash is all mine.

HA HA HA!!!
§
Aloe shallow
Clear blue seas,
Gin I win
Under bamboo trees,
Snakes and lakes
Mosquito coils,
Green curry cooks
Full pot boils,
Deck of cards
Loud Nirvana,
Writing and writing
Constant prana,
Laughing drunkard
Ocean music lights,
Hidden moon advertises
Muy Thai fights.
§
Dig a grave for I am here
Ol’ Ko Lanta I love you dear,
§
Cockroaches live in the bathroom,
Birds nest in the tree,
All of us from one thing,
Fleas, bees, and me.
If I die, where will I go?
Oh yeah, I’ll die indeed,
To heaven or hell 
will that be it,
A corpse for insects to feed?
As long as I can read. 
Will I come back a street mutt?
With nipples on the concrete.
What will happen? 
So many beliefs,
To ponder, oh what a sweet treat.

I received the outline of this tattoo while sitting on a beach leaning and watching waves crash while sipping a cocktail. It was completely finished almost 10 hours after first starting; I swore to never get another tattoo with a gun.