I want to see this.

One of my long-cherished dreams involves moving into an Earthship somewhere between Tucumcari and Santa Rosa and living a life completely independent of the grid.

A new movie is coming out, called Garbage Warrior. It’s a documentary about Michael Reynolds, the architect/environmentalist/hippie-maverick-rebel-rouser who designed the Earthship, which is quite possibly the most socially responsible type of dwelling ever built. Obviously I plan to go see it as soon as it gets here.

Mother Earth News has been following Reynolds’ career since the early ’80s. I didn’t hear about him until 2001, when Ron informed me that he would like to live in an Earthship someday. I’d never heard of Earthships at the time, but Ron sent me some links, and we started wishin’ and hopin’ and plannin’ and dreamin’.

A few months later, on our first Route 66 trip, we took a right at Clines Corners and made a little detour north to Taos to spend a night in the Greater World Earthship Community.

That evening confirmed my belief that the ideal retirement plan for me would involve building a completely self-sustaining home with no power, water, or sewer bills. I like the idea of independence. Too many power outages and boil orders during my formative years taught me to have an innate distrust of the government’s ability to provide essential services reliably. And too many years in Belleville, Ill. — where the government was willing to deny people power and water as a means of forcing compliance with intrusive, unjust, and unconstitutional city ordinances — left me feeling like it might be a good idea to cut out the middleman and get all my basic necessities directly from Mother Nature.

Earthships are just about perfect as both a means of shrinking one’s environmental footprint and a form of political protest. Their independence thrills my libertarian hippie soul. I can’t wait to see this movie and learn more about the man behind them.



For the third year in a row, I am putting together the Oklahoma Route 66 Association’s annual Trip Guide, which is a free publication that contains maps, directions, and other information to help people plan trips down Route 66 in Oklahoma.

I volunteered to lay out the guide for the first time in 2005, largely because I’d had an intuition that the grant money that had always funded the project might dry up, and the guide would need a major overhaul to make it financially self-sustaining.

At the time, I had no idea where it came from, but a year later, when the state suddenly changed the grant eligibility rules in a way that completely cut us out of the action, I realized my intuition was probably God’s way of whispering a warning in my ear to keep the 66 Association — and its flagship project — out of trouble.

I was pretty disgusted with the state’s decision to yank our grant for reasons that seemed capricious at best and politically motivated at worst, but I realized we had just demonstrated the truth of a line from Science and Health that I find very comforting:

“Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you.”
— Mary Baker Eddy

Although I’m grateful for the sudden insight that told me to take action that protected us from the “human hatred” (or, perhaps more accurately, human thoughtlessness) that cost us our grant, it’s a pretty big project, and I have come to dread the hassles and glitches it often entails.

Still, it doesn’t make sense to think that divine Love — God — would provide us with the way to carry out a project in the face of a financial challenge, but then allow us to fall flat when it’s time to carry out the human actions necessary to avail ourselves of that provision.

With that in mind, I went to bed Monday night thinking, OK, God — just help me to remember that I have access to Your unlimited supplies of energy and intelligence, because I am going to need them when I start working on the Trip Guide tomorrow.

I hadn’t been up for more than a few minutes Tuesday morning when my cell phone rang, and I found myself accepting an invitation to have lunch with a friend I’d originally planned to meet with later in the week.

Over lunch, I grumbled about how exhausted I was, and how much I was dreading this project, and how I’d gotten so busy that sometimes I didn’t even feel like I had the time or energy to pray or study.

After listening to my sob story, my friend — who is very wise — reminded me that it is precisely at those moments when we feel like we don’t have time to pray or study that we most need to put those things at the top of our to-do list rather than the bottom.

If we put God first, he explained, we generally find that we have more time and energy than we realized. The work gets done, and we don’t wear ourselves out or make stupid mistakes in the process.

I put my friend’s good advice to use when I got home. Not surprisingly, I found that after a little “me time” with a copy of the latest Sentinel, I wasn’t at all tempted to rest (as I had been so often in recent days), and the Trip Guide work went very smoothly.

Mrs. Eddy was right: “The consciousness of Truth rests us more than hours of repose in unconsciousness.”

The Trip Guide isn’t finished yet — far from it! — but I’m not worried about it any more. I’ll have all the time and energy I need to get it done.


Bisy Backson

Sorry I haven’t posted in a couple of days. I’ve been a little snowed under with a big Route 66 project that eats a big chunk of time every spring, and I probably won’t have a hand free to blog again for a couple more days.

In the meantime, we’ll see how many Milne fans are reading this blog. (I’ll explain the title of this entry later….)





My little girls are growing up. Here’s Maud (as in Adams), (barely) tolerating a little snorgling from Mommy.

Five bucks says I go vegetarian again before the summer is out….


And here’s Pushy Galore, my buff Orpington. Pushy and Maud and the rest of the Bond chicks have gotten most of their big-girl feathers in now and are about the size of full-grown bantams. They’ve still got a long way to go before they’re full-grown, and they’re still peeping instead of clucking, but every now and then, one of them will make a funny little noise that isn’t exactly a peep but definitely isn’t a cluck. Even if I could think up a word to describe the sound, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t spell it. I think it’s the chicken equivalent of that funny sound 12-year-old boys make when their voice is changing and the pitch gets away from them.


This is the bird’s nest fern I picked up at Southwood Nursery the other day. I repotted it today so it would have room to grow.

We stopped by Southwood again today to pick up a purple smoke tree. We needed something to shade the pond, but Ron didn’t want anything too tall, lest it end up reaching the roofline and shading the Suncubes when we get them. Smoke trees top out around 15 feet, which is about right. We planted our little tree this afternoon:


Of course I couldn’t resist sneaking into the greenhouse at Southwood and putting a few herbs in the cart while Ron wasn’t looking.

Here’s a curry plant. I had one last year and loved its intoxicating smell (reminsicent of good tikka masala) so much that I couldn’t pass up the chance to buy another.


Halfway to Scarborough Fair: purple sage and prostrate rosemary.

Could be an illusion, but I might as well try….


I know what you’re thinking, but I swear I didn’t adjust the saturation on this photo. The blossom really is that red. Bonus: I had no idea there were tulips in my front yard. This one was just a nice surprise this morning.

We got a lot done today. In addition to planting the smoke tree and transplanting herbs, I helped Ron pour the Sackrete for the umbrella clothesline I got him for his birthday. (Yes, that’s what he wanted. He does our laundry and likes to line-dry things when the weather is pretty. No, I did not buy the one you see in the link above. We found one at Swinney’s for about a third of the price. One more reason to shop local!)

I still have a bunch of stuff left to do, but most of it is desk work. I’ll get to it later. We’ve got The Outsiders on DVD, and Ron is chomping at the bit to watch it. We’ve worked hard this weekend, so I think we’ve earned a couple of hours zoning out in front of the TV.

Hope you had a good weekend, too.


Busy girl


I’ve been a very busy girl this weekend.

I came home from work last night and cleaned the pond filter, adjusted the fountain, cleaned up after the dogs, fed the hens, removed a section of fencing that we were no longer using in the backyard, pulled out last summer’s dead sunflower stalks, mowed the yard, picked up trash around the yard, cleared a shelf and moved it from the bedroom to the living room to accommodate some plants I’d bought, cleared the kitchen table, fried a ham steak, made red-eye gravy and cheese grits to go with it, and picked up a big bale of pine shavings for the chickens.

We awoke early this morning to the ringing of the phone. Bill Kinder, the owner of the beautiful Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, N.M., was calling to report that a hailstorm last night did serious damage to the gorgeous neon at the Swallow and several other Tucumcari businesses. Bill said the insurance companies just won’t cover neon — too fragile and too vulnerable, I suppose — so I started my morning by calling Friends of the Mother Road treasurer/co-founder/all-around good guy Kip Welborn to get a special fund set up to help Bill and the other business owners with some of the repair costs.

If anybody has a few bucks lying around, please consider making a donation to help with this worthy project. Information about the storm and where to send tax-deductible donations to help the Swallow and other historic properties can be found here.

By the time I got off the phone with Bill — who has this wonderful, totally contagious energy and enthusiasm for whatever he happens to be doing at the moment — I was ready to get up and busy DOING something, so I hopped out of bed, threw on some scruffy jeans and a tank top, and headed outside with Ron to change the chickens’ litter and give them a little playtime in the yard.

After the hens had spent sufficient time scratching around and enjoying the pretty weather, we brought them back inside and went over to Swinney’s Hardware to pick up Ron’s birthday present — an umbrella-style clothesline and a bag of Sackrete to support it — and some gigantic nails.

When we got done at Swinney’s, we went to Catoosa to try out a restaurant Ron had heard about. It wasn’t the best place I’ve ever been, but it wasn’t bad. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with fried chicken gizzards, green beans, okra and tomatoes, and fried potatoes.

I spent this afternoon sharpening the mower blades and building myself the bottle tree you see pictured above. It’s not as cool as the ones at Elmer Long’s place in California (the trunk is too thick — I basically just recycled one of the old clothesline supports — and bottle trees don’t really look cool unless you have a lot of them grouped together), but I think it turned out OK, and it reminds me of Elmer, which is nice.

Besides … building a bottle tree is the first sign of dementia concretia, which is the one “ailment” I’d really love to contract. 😉


Spring beauty


I love this time of year, when half the yards in my neighborhood are completely covered in spring beauty flowers like the ones you see above.

The lawn next door is absolutely covered in spring beauty, and the redbud is blooming:


Meanwhile, my other neighbor’s flowering almond is blooming. I took a picture of it last year, but it was so pretty, I just had to shoot it again:


I’m not sure what this flower is. Some variety of crabapple, I’m guessing, but I can’t get close enough to the tree to get a good look at it. The petals blow over the fence and into the yard every spring, but this is the first time I’ve seen a whole flower:


A few of the petals landed in the pond. Lazarus doesn’t seem to mind:


I found a spectacular plant identification site this evening while I was looking for information about spring beauty. Looking at this site, I got all inspired and decided maybe I’ll just focus on native species for landscaping purposes. It’s certainly easier than fighting with the non-natives to get them to grow, and it doesn’t get much prettier (or much lower maintenance) than plains coreopsis and Indian blankets.

Hope your neighborhood is full of spring beauty.


More photos from the road

Here are more images from our trip last weekend:

Neon cross, Hamel, Ill.

Our Lady of the Highways, Route 66, Raymond, Ill.

Soulsby Station, Mt. Olive, Ill. We helped a little bit with the restoration work — which was done a few years ago under the supervision of the late Tom Teague — at this historic gas station.



Montana the bunny signs an autograph with her teeth — and earns a treat for her efforts — at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch on Route 66 in Staunton, Ill.

This fiberglass rabbit, also at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, is patterned after the one at the Jackrabbit Trading Post on Route 66 in Joseph City, Ariz. Photo by Ron.

Ron and I were involved in Friends of the Mother Road‘s effort to rescue the Stanley Cour-Tel sign and keep it on Route 66 after the motel itself was demolished to make way for an airport expansion. Photo by Rich Henry.

Entrance to the late Larry Baggett‘s property, which is on the Trail of Tears and features many sculptures and plantings honoring the Cherokees who passed this way.

Larry, a folk artist and all-around Renaissance man who studied with everyone from Jesuit priests to Edgar Cayce, practiced a sort of homespun religion that contained heavy doses of both, mixed in with astrology, numerology, Native American folklore, and Ozark wisdom. He was a bit of a shaman who welcomed Route 66 travelers and firmly believed his house to be haunted by witches and ghosts — a situation which worried him not at all. He spoke of these otherworldly visitors the way the rest of us would talk about an annoying roommate. Larry was different … but his penchant for wearing Big Smith overalls and the fondness with which he spoke of his beehives told me all I really needed to know about him.

If you look closely at the background of this shot of Larry’s daffodils, you can make out the silhouette of a bent, awkward figure between the trees. This figure is a sculpture of a deformed boy; his pet bull is also visible in the background, although you’ve got to know what you’re looking at to see it. Larry once told us the folktale behind the sculpture, but I forget the details now.

The back side of Larry’s Trail of Tears sign. It reads: “HAVE A GOOD TRIP.” Larry meant it, too. On our first visit, he taught Ron a special prayer for protection in the car.

This no-trespassing sign stands in stark contrast to the statue to which it is chained. Larry created the statue — a self-portrait — to communicate a message of welcome and friendship to all those who took the time to cruise up his steep driveway and inspect the strange sculptures and statues he created.


From dusk into dawn



Sunset somewhere near Lebanon, Mo., March 18, 2007

About seven years ago, on a dead-end alignment of Route 66 eight miles west of Rolla, I saw something that would permanently alter the course of my life, although I didn’t know it at the time.

View through a screen door, John’s Modern Cabins, Newburg, Mo.

Tucked under the trees next to the old road was a row of tiny, crumbling buildings under a long-dimmed Art Deco-style neon sign that read: JOHN’S MODERN CABINS.

Guest cabin, John’s Modern Cabins, Newburg, Mo.

I gasped. Ron slammed on the brakes. And in that instant, my life changed.

If I’d had a wide-angle lens, I could have captured — in one shot — the entire history of Route 66: what died, what’s dying, and what killed it. To my right was a long-dead business. Under my wheels was a dying highway. And roaring past less than 100 yards to my left was the interstate that killed it.

View from behind the cabins

The instant I saw John’s Modern Cabins was the instant I fell in love with Route 66.

I-44 was rerouted a couple of years ago to try to reduce the number of traffic accidents just west of the cabins, where the interstate came around a steep curve just as it began the descent to the Little Piney Creek. With the realignment of I-44, the chance to shoot the entire history of the Mother Road in one frame was lost. But the cabins remain, at least for the moment.

Manager’s quarters

They look a little more forlorn each year. One of them completely collapsed this winter; a branch lying on top of a wall suggests the building may have been a casualty of the devastating ice storms that hit the Ozarks a couple of months ago.

One cabin down; another unsteady

We stopped at John’s Modern Cabins on the way back from my in-laws’ house last Sunday. Ron left me alone with my thoughts as I wandered around the property, documenting the weird beauty of the decaying structures as I have so many times in the past.

Nails protrude from a rotted-out board on the roof of one of the cabins

When I got back into the car just shy of 100 frames later, Ron looked at me. “You OK?” he asked.

View through the front door of one of the guest cabins

I think we were both a little surprised when I said yes, because if there ever seemed to be a moment for tears, it was this moment, as we found ourselves face-to-face with the stark realization that one day — probably one day not so very many years into the future — our beloved cabins will be gone.

Make no mistake: The thought of losing this old tourist court breaks my heart.

But in their decline, they tell a story — a poignant story of progress come full circle. The road that supplied the cabins’ business was bypassed in the late 1960s. The road that replaced it roared past for the better end of 40 years; now it’s moved, and the roaring traffic with it, and the forest that supplied the lumber to build the log structures’ walls is quietly taking them back, dust to dust in the inevitable cycle of material existence.

View of the sign through the window and partially collapsed wall of one of the guest cabins

And as the cabins fade, I am learning, ever so slowly, that matter … doesn’t.

Like the road itself, the cabins represent something far more important than matter.

They represent the grit and determination of people up and down 66 who saw their livelihoods ripped away from them by the demand for bigger, faster roads to accommodate bigger, faster lifestyles.

They represent the human dramas that played out under their asphalt-shingled roofs before weather, neglect, and wood-boring insects ravaged their once-solid walls.

They represent the dreams of a couple who cleared away a few trees, built a business, and defied the Great Depression to take it away from them … and the dreams of another couple who left behind their life in Chicago to take over a declining business on a rural stretch of a road that had reached its peak and was already cruising inexorably toward oblivion by the time they moved in, although they couldn’t have known that at the time.

But most of all, they represent the moment seven years ago when a 24-year-old photographer in Doc Martens went tromping through the weeds to document the last vestiges of a time long past, never suspecting that the steps she was taking across that tick-infested property were the first steps on a journey that would send her down an old highway full of preservation projects, propane torches, and high desert sunsets … an old highway that would eventually lead her 500 miles from home to find the faith she’d misplaced somewhere 20 years earlier, a faith that would light her path out of darkness and depression, heal a chronic illness she’d battled for the better end of 15 years, and lift her thoughts out of the limitations of matter and into the limitless joy of Love.

Sunsets are often tinged with sadness. But that sadness is frequently tempered with striking beauty.

John’s Modern Cabins: An hour before sunset

One day, in the not-too-distant future, the sun will set on John’s Modern Cabins for the last time. But their legacy will remain … and that legacy will outlive even the ancient forest that reclaims a little more of the property each spring.



Hopeful signs

1. About twice a year, I break my boycott and spend a few dollars at Wal-Mart. The main reason for doing this is so I can take the pulse of middle America and see how much counterculture has found its way into the mainstream. As the world’s biggest retailer or whatever, Wal-Mart is driven by consumer demand — so if you want to know what the average American is thinking, you go to Wal-Mart. I saw hopeful signs this evening: a dramatic increase in the amount of organic food on the shelves in the supermarket part of the store, and a big selection of name-brand CFLs in packages of three for less than $8. There were also some CFLs in specialty shapes and types, including outdoor bug lights and round bulbs designed for use in vanities. They also had some nice LED nightlights, a couple of zero-emission chainsaws, and a few boxes of organic plant fertilizer. As we approach the 37th anniversary of the first Earth Day teach-in, it’s good to see organic fertilizer and energy-efficient lighting on the shelves of the most ubiquitous store on the planet.

2. Meanwhile, alt-power technology continues to evolve. As Ron and I eagerly await the arrival of Suncubes in the United States, he sends me this link about a promising new wind turbine system for urban dwellers who don’t have the luxury of installing a big ol’ Whisper in the backyard.

I still haven’t Photoshopped those road trip photos I promised … but I wanted to share these hopeful tidbits while I was thinking about them.


Quick updates


I found this character in the flowerbed in the front yard while I was photographing a hyacinth yesterday evening. Isn’t he cute?

No time to post the details of my trip yet (I have 183 images to sort and edit before I can post pictures, and I’m headed out to dinner in about five minutes) … but here’s a quick update on spring in Red Fork:


The Lorax flower bed is basically done. I’ve got a few things coming up; when I get the mulch in and something blooming, I’ll post another photo, but this is where we’re at right now.


Native violets are blooming around the pond.


The aforementioned hyacinths are blooming in the front.

Red buds, Bradford pears, and flowering almond are blooming all over the neighborhood, too, and I’m still seeing daffodils. Tulips are starting to come on in a few yards, and the pansies in the flowerbeds at my office are just stunning. I’ll try to get shots of some of the plants in the neighborhood this week if I have time. There’s some kind of tree that’s starting to leaf out right now, and the little baby leaves are this beautiful pale green that contrasts with the red buds. I keep hoping I’ll make it down to the river trail soon to get pictures of the arbor garden, because I’m sure it’s beautiful right now. Maybe I’ll be able to shake free this weekend.

Stay tuned. On my trip home, I shot some gorgeous daffodils, interesting sculptures, the ruins of my favorite abandoned motel on Route 66, a clever bunny, some historic sites along Route 66, a bit of church neon, and one of the more dazzling sunsets I’ve witnessed in my travels. I’ll try to get those Photoshopped and online ASAP.

Gotta run … dinner and a friend are waiting for me in Stroud.