This summer I traveled to the cabin that I built with my husband in 1977 in a remote area near Fruitland, Washington in the Huckleberry Mountains. It is an amazing eight sided log cabin that sits in an open pasture with large pines, tamarack and fir trees surrounding it. There is a ravine behind my house that has the Orapakin creek running through it. When I look back, I feel blessed. One year ago we were trying to figure out the water situation on our property- to dig a new well or to try to re-connect an old shallow well or since we have water rights to the creek to pump from it. We looked at the old shallow well but no water was flowing. My husband and I tried to carry the pump down the ravine to the creek but it was so awkward and incredibly heavy. We both said, “No way that we are carrying this pump up and down this ravine every year.” We chose the expensive option. Fogel Pump drilled sixty-five feet and hit ten gallons a minute. We arrived this summer excited to attach the water to our cabin. What a joyous moment to have running water again after over 30 years of hauling water. One thing I did notice about the water was that it had a lot of silt in it and we talked to the guy who had put in our well. “Keep running it. Put sprinklers out and run it constantly,” he said. With these wise words, we went back to my cabin and proceeded to run the heck out of the pump. Every day, we watered a 50 foot area around our eight sided cabin. On August 13th, we were returning from Spokane after picking up my brother from the airport. His plane had been delayed, so we were driving back in the evening as tremendous thunder storms and lightening burst across the night skies. We “oohed” and “ahhed” at the spectacle. Closer to our place we noticed a fire to the south on the Spokane Indian Reservation and hoped that someone was on it. On August 14th, a Friday evening, we had a wonderful dinner with friends of ours that live on the Coyote Canyon road. Not even an hour after we had returned to our cabin, our good friend Martha Kraus with whom we had dinner, opened our door and shouted, “We are being evacuated.” The fire that started on the reservation was neglected and now it had taken hold. My mind racing like a racehorse, I managed to pack my car and get to safety at Don Dales’s farm in Hunters. Shaken by this immediate exit, we laid our heads down and hoped. My husband and I awoke very early on Saturday and our eyes said it all. We got up, got dressed, and drove back to our cabin. It was a very strange site seeing smoke billowing near the Fruitland Bible Camp and up a ridge above it. When we approached our cabin, half the sky was clear and the other half was smoky. I held my breath and steadied my mind as we traveled up the road. No fire had come that night. I immediately was in a hyper vigilant mode. My husband and I dragged everything plastic away from the house and relocated any building materials and firewood as well. We re-positioned the sprinklers. We unplugged a ten foot swimming pool so it would saturate the earth. We brought lounge chairs back into the house. We only had two hours. What else to take out of danger? Pillows, foam for the blow up mattress that we were camping on, canned goods, my son’s old drawings as a child, love letters, writing books, a Mother Mary plaque, my granddaughter’s cowboy hat for her September 11th birthday. I kissed the center tree trunk that is the central foundation of our cabin. From it, logs form the spokes of a wheel shape for the upper floor supports. I hugged that tree and asked it to keep our home safe. A level three alert kept us from returning that afternoon, and no one was there to protect our homes. There were no fire fighters that Saturday, no helicopters or planes dousing the advancing flames with fire retardants or water. There were no fire lanes yet dug. It was only us and our neighbors that kept watch. There was only the few instructions that I kept repeating in my mind. Water 50 feet around your property, take all plastics and any kind of wood away from around the house. That evening, one of our friends, despite his and the community’s efforts couldn’t save his house from the fire that exploded across Coyote Canyon. In spite of his family’s loss, Lorne Brunson continued to work valiantly round the clock for days to help save our home and others and to make sure they were protected from the continuing threat of the fire.
The exact moment forty years ago was in 1975. Down at the creek, he was watching the water flow or keeping cool from the summer heat. I had just returned from Spokane where I was shopping for 16 penny nails, 2 X 4 boards, sheetrock, and food. We had a cabin on twenty acres in Fruitland, Washington that we were building.
He said, “Do you want to live together? Take it day by day?”
Of course I did. It was magical. The two of us working, loving, playing, cultivating a relationship day by day.
Now it is forty years later and we are visiting our cabin. Every nail we’ve hit, every song we’ve sung, every dance we’ve waltzed, every scrabble board we’ve played, every crosswords we’ve filled and every bear we’ve crossed. We’ve been there for each other.
I met a women the other day who recently lost her husband to an illness. She loved him so much. He was a friend, a buddy and now he was gone. She was trying to move forward without this relationship. I heard her story and I thought I was so lucky to have my friend, my buddy still with me. To not have him here next to me. Oh, that would be a loss.
Life gives us many disasters to overcome and either you do it together or you do it alone. I believe that there is a mighty bond that two people can have over the course of forty years. It is worth every moment. To physically love that other being, to support that other being, to fight to understand what they need, to unravel why they do the things they do, to totally be yourself to that other being, to unconditionally love another human being are the greatest gifts that you might have after forty years or more.
The seven wonders of the world are right here in the state of Washington. Come with me on my journey back to the 1970’s. Imagine you are a young girl of 20 and traveling in your 1949 Chevy truck. In the back you have your two dogs, Sam and Laddie. But up front on that sweating leather lie your books. Even Cowgirl Gets the Blues, Siddhartha, The Moosewood Cookbook, Rubyfuit Jungle, Delta of Venus, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to name a few. Taking your tent and sleeping bag, sun skirts, sarongs, gauzy linen shirts, a Panama straw hat, Indian blankets, red-winged boot, a guitar with a songbook of your favorite female songstress. Joni Mitchell’s Both Side Now, Judy Collin’s Since You Asked, of Linda Ronstadt’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
You start to travel on Hwy 90, up the mountain pass at Snoqualmie to the windy town of Ellensburg, across to Vantage where the terrain begins to change. The wild horses are waiting for you on the other side of the Columbia River and you are ready to go for an adventurous ride. You will take another route, a little less traveled on Hwy 283 towards Ephrata where the tumble weeds blow in front of you all the way to Soap Lake. There you can cover your body in coal black mud and bake till it dries and cool off in Soap Lake which is not soapy but minerally. The sky is expansive and the slopes are rocky. Large mesa cliffs of lava rock jut high above you as you drive the curvy hwy to Coulee City. With the sweltering heat you might rest at Sun Lake’s Dry Falls. Peering down from the top of the Falls, you can imagine the largest water falls ever crashing and creating a strong mist of cool water. But now you are on Hwy 2 and starting to see the farm lands of Hartline, Almira, and Wilbur, Creston and Davenport. The waving wheat fields, the tornados made of dust and land as far as the eye can see. Taking a left on Hwy 25, the pine trees begin to pop up among the rolling hills of farms. Soon as Fort Spokane is in sight the Columbia River meets the Spokane River and you are on the Spokane Indian Reservation. You can sit on one of the bluffs and stare out to this incredible river. Watch the ospreys and bald eagles. Meditate on the goodness of the land.
Soon the sun is setting and you hop back into your truck and start the ascend towards the little town of Fruitland. Fruitland was first settled in 1880 by A.L. Washburn and Mr. Price. There was a presence of surviving apple orchards there. They placed an apple on the table and declared the region to be called Fruitland Valley. The post office was established in 1887 and still exist but in Mary’s convenient store. The screen door of Mary’s store jingles a sweet bell. Back in the 1970s, you could get your mail without an address. You could put your name and Fruitland, WA.
The most amazing views of the Columbia River are from the Hwy 25. There is a special spot that many of us free spirited types go to play in the that majestic river. One of them is Emerson Cove. From the Bible Camp Sign on Hwy 25, you go another quarter of a mile and take a left on a gravel road that winds down to the river. There are many twist and turns but soon you will settle down to a flat area of the river where you can launch a boat. The ground there is sandy but there are spots that have bentonite clay. You can take your clothes off and begin to rub the clay on your whole body. Bentonite clay is a healing clay made up of volcanic ash. When it dries, your skin will look like you have aged into your 80s but your skin will be so smooth when you wash it off in the river. You can lie for hours soaking up the sun and letting go of your toxins. There is a bay there that is wide and warm. The Orapakin River flows into that bay. If you have dogs, take them for a swim across the bay. No one will bother you there. There is nothing better that laying naked in nature.
But there is more to see in Fruitland and it is time for you to return up that road to the highway and travel on a road less traveled. The road is Lake Mugget. When you see it on your right, you better take it and follow it until you see Coyote Canyon Road on your left. When you travel on Coyote Canyon Road, go very slow, the gravel will get whipped up and you want to go slow. You will see many majestic trees Ponderosa Pines, Douglas Firs, Tamaracks, Spruces and Hemlocks among the hills. You will keep going pass the wooden mailboxes on the left and then pass the Gramers who have homesteaded there since 1800’s. But pass the Gramers, take a left and you will see the Honey House. There are fields of hay and horses lounging around. There are millions of insects buzzing with the bees. Listen and you will hear the Orapakin Creek . Follow the road that travels by the creek until you cross the creek and you will see a large field. You have to get out now. Take your dogs with you. There could be cougar, or bear or elk around. Definitely deer. But you are going on an adventure. An adventure with Desiree.
My book is called, “The Ballad of Desiree”
Yesterday, I was at the Pride Parade soaking up all the love and beauty of each and every one of us. Three young women walked by me and written across their bared chests was, “Free the Nipple.” It made me smile and feel proud that these women were baring their chests.
In the 1960s and 1970s, many women including myself were baring our chests in another way. “No bra for me.” I wore no bra because I believed in naturalness. No bra, no make-up, no razor to shave my armpits or legs. Just the natural me. It was freeing and wonderful to accept my body and not be bounded up by man’s idea of what Miss America should look like.
Many times I would think why can men go out bare-chested and not women? Men were not separated from their naturalness. Performing as a singer with a symphony, I was told to wear a bra. I had to be separated from my naturalness. I was told to make sure my breasts were in control. I had to bound them up so they didn’t move at all. I had to keep them hidden.
As a young girl in the 1970s, being natural seemed right. Especially out in nature. Skinny dipping and laying out in the summer sun. It unleashed positive accolades from my mind to my body. I started to love my body. I loved everything about it. In loving my body, I owned it. That was empowering. I stood differently, I walked differently. I breathed differently.
When I saw those three young women owning their bodies, I just wanted to say, “Yeah! Go be you! Love your bodies. Be proud. Be prideful. No matter what shape, what size, what color, let us all love our bodies.”
Recently, I watched the episode, “Mother Mercy” on Games of Thrones. I have watched all of Season 5. This season has been an amazingly violent season for the women characters on this show. My gut reaction has produced anger towards this type of brutality to the woman characters. I was curious to see in my research that there were no female writers or directors for Season 5 episodes.
Why is this? How could this be in 2015? No women writers or directors? What is it about Hollywood? Shutting out women and silencing women has been a theme this season. When women are shut out or silenced in the creative process, boundaries are crossed. The perpetual theme of keeping women down becomes a strong message to all of us. We must remember that the Film and TV industry is controlled by men. Rape, physical abuse, maiming, brutality to young girls, shaming. Are those the messages that men want to continue to send out towards women in 2015? I QUESTION THIS. I question what can change this. Roles for women have been increasing in television but we still need equality in numbers when it comes to writing and directing roles. In Season 5 of Games of Thrones, I am questioning that if there were more women writers and directors, would the brutality of women have been so blatant? This is what I am wondering?
I have been honored to have taught many women in my vocal studio. It has been a special joy to me as a teacher. Especially when I get to be that person that they share their songs with. These women have been as young as 9 years old to 60 years old. When we are exploring songwriting in my vocal studio, there are some who don’t finish writing their songs. I say to them that your stories are what other women need to hear. We need to keep generating more stories from women. More stories about our struggles about all the choices we make. But when I hear “I don’t finish my songs…” I say to them that you are important. You are important to me and all the other women behind me and in front of me. I want women to create more songs. I would love the air waves to be saturated with women songs. I would love to see more women bands out there performing. If we make our stories important, then maybe there will be a shift in the music industry where women will be in greater numbers than before.
I never thought I had stories to tell but maybe I didn’t think my stories were important too. But I educated myself. I took classes from inspiring women writers. They never said, “No, this isn’t good.” They said, “Keep writing.” I did. I kept writing, reading, and creating more stories.
Make your day important. Doesn’t matter if you have 20 minutes. Use the 20 minutes to write a song. The chorus. That is simple. It is the “I want.” We all have something that we want.
“I want to shake, shake, shake.”
“I want to dare, dare, dare.”
“I want to love, love, love.”
“I want to eat, eat, eat.”
“I want to laugh, laugh, laugh.”
“I want to live, live, live.”
“I want to be, be, be.”
Believe in yourselves. Write today. Write tomorrow, Keep writing your stories. Finish one, then go on. Don’t stop to judge them. Write from your gut and furiously. Go. Write for 20 minutes. Go!
When I started my relationship with my husband, I was fiercely independent. I owned my own home because I didn’t feel a man needed to provide that for me. I was in college when I bought it. We began living with each other. “Living together” or “taking it day by day” were the mantras of the 60s and 70s.
I maintained my own sense of self throughout my relationship. I was an artist. I created my own world that was separate of his. But we were a couple, having a child, and learning how to be a family. Both of us came from dysfunctional families so we tried to better ourselves. We started reading books, attending child development classes and started talking about our own issues with how we were raised by our parents.
I think what’s needed in a long term relationship was to allow each other to be fiercely free and independent. What we realized was to have our own goals in life and our own interests. We believed that we were two people working as one. The “one” was the family. Planning activities with the family, eating healthy as a family, talking as a family, working as a family, supporting and helping out as a family.
It was a balancing act that took a great deal of determination but it worked.
1) Keep being independent and dependent – “let people have their space and then when you come together, enjoy your time together”
2) Keep communication paths open even if each person has a different path – “You have to learn to listen, to soften, to get off your high horse and hear what the other person is saying”
3) Be there when each other is going through vulnerable times – “Especially through the aging process and the physical pain that the each one may be going through”
4) Have sexual intimate time together – “Whether it be kissing, touching or being playful, sex is not just intercourse. But sex still can be good at 60”
5) Depend on each other – “Kind words can help each of us through the day. Use the phone, or email, just thank them”
It is always wonderful to me to remember I can still be with my significant other even though the crap of the world was what I was up against that day
10 items to help singers through the allergy season:
1) “Breathe Easy” Tea – a product put out by Traditional Medicinal Company
2) A Neti-Pot
3) Stay away from gluten-“If you are allergic to grass, you are most likely going to be allergic to gluten flour. When I stopped eating gluten, my grass allergy was only 2 weeks instead of 2 months.”
4) Increase Grape Seed Extract to 900 mg
5) Gargle with 1 cup of hot water (as hot as you can stand it) with 1/4 tsp of salt
6) If you have an allergy attack, go to your car and turn on the air conditioning. It will help relieve your symptoms
7) Similasan Eye tincture for allergy eyes
8) “Kick Ass Allergy Tincture” – a product put out by Wishgarden
9) If worst comes to worst, wear a construction mask. You may look like Adam Ant but it does work amazingly well.
10) Or take Claritin or the generic brand. Being a singer, Claritin is the only brand that doesn’t dry out your throat and we need the mucous to sing.
These are my mostly natural ways of helping singers though their allergy seasons. If you have any natural ways that work for you, please let me know.
I’ve been with my partner for 38 years. Now a days, not too many people can boast about that. Longevity in relationships is rare. Most people divorce. Why did we stick together? Well, I think it had a lot to do with the 60s and the 70s. We were the product of the sexual revolution and we were ready to challenge what our parents had been doing. When we first met, relationships were being tested. Monogamy or non-monogamy. When I was in my 20’s and meeting up with my partner, I didn’t even know what that word meant. Monogamy meaning the practice of being with one person versus non-monogamy meaning the practice of being with more than one person. The book of the day was, “Open Marriage.” It was on the best seller list for 40 weeks in 1972. The authors were Nena O’Neill and George O’Neill. Many say that this book fostered the sexual revolution of the 70s. My partner was older than me by 8 years and when he said that he wanted a non-monogamous relationship, I started reading this book. I needed to have a guidebook about what I was about to venture into. There were many aspects of the book to take in. Trust, communication, flexibility. I thought of myself as a trusting and flexible person who was able to communicate well with others. I wanted to be living in that “let’s live it day by day” thought. I was thinking as a committed person in this relationship with my partner. I was also pregnant with his child. I read more and more of this book. The words I read made sense to me until the reality set in. I was living in a cabin in Eastern Washington. My partner had cabin fever and traveled to Seattle for a Mardi Gras Party. While he was gone and being pregnant and all, I wanted to talk to him. I went walking down the road to ask a neighbor if I could use their phone very early in the morning. When I called the number of where he was going to be at, his friend said that he was at another woman’s place. I called that number and when she answered and gave him the phone, there was “Hello” and much silence. I walked back up to my cabin in the woods and read more of the book. I was feeling pain. Jealousy. But I wanted this man and I wanted to see if I could have a love without jealousy. The book talked about rules. I liked rules. If I could live with these rules, then I could try this non-monogamy relationship. So I did. Rule #1: You can’t sleep overnight with the person. Rule #2: You can never do the deed in our personal bed. Rule#3: You have to tell the other person ahead that you are going to be sleeping with someone else. Also I needed my partner to say to me that I was the primary person in our relationship. When my partner returned, I was prepared for a discussion. We sat in my cabin by a warm fire in the pot belly stove and he stated that I was his primary person and that he would follow all the rules. In that moment, everything was resolved. But we all know that rules are meant to be broken. I know it was hard for him to follow Rule #3. Not so hard for me. The day that I had a relationship with someone else, I followed all the rules. Even for my partner, the jealousy was painful. When you read a book about this subject and you try out all the many relationships that you could have, the bottom line is that emotions are there. They explode out of you and then you need a therapist to help both of you work out what you really want in a relationship.
Today on Headline News, there were University women selling cookies. 77 cents for women and $1.00 for men. They were raising awareness for gender equality. One of the women spoke about how women are conditioned to be more submissive. Through many years as a voice teacher/actress, I have noticed that when women speak, we tend to speak in a higher, softer range. That pitch difference makes our voices more pleasing to men. We are perceived as being assertive or aggressive or a “bitch.” Training women to speak or sing more in their lower range can get that reaction from men. But to many of us when we do speak or sing from that lower chest tone, we have more power. we are more grounded. Owning that voice with stillness can be a force to be reckon with. Women deserve equality in pay and positions. Women should never be afraid to speak or sing their truth.