The Bell Rings

A poem coming to you from Witless Wanderings of Nibbling Sheep.

Witless Wanderings of Nibbling Sheep


Sitting. Still. Mind wandering.

Thoughts come and go, space in-between.

Adjusting form, swishing cloth. A cough.

Stomach gurgling, like a trumpeting crane.

Spine straight, thumbs lightly touching.

Tires crunching gravel, muffled radio from within.

A raven croaks, “Good morning.

I am here. I am awake.”

I am all of this, suchness.

It is all me, ephemera.

Narrow chasms open to wide spaces.

The bell rings and I bow.

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The shape of the kitchen!

You may be wondering if we took the winter off, if we’ve been busy sleeping through all the rainstorms and long dark nights.  The bus progress part of the blog has been quiet now for months it seems… But the truth is, we have NOT been hibernating, and we have NOT been curled up by the fire through all the storms.  Instead I have been busier than ever with bus work, and busy with all the other things happening in our life right now, and putting up photos on the blog has been shuffled to the very bottom (or close to the bottom) of my priority list.  But at long last, here are some photos of what has been happening – namely, kitchen cabinets!  I had never made cabinets, so there has been a steep learning curve!  There’s a reason cabinets cost SO MUCH to have made – they take a TON of time and lots of precision work that is very unforgiving.  It’s also really fun, and great to see the shape of the kitchen coming together.  We wanted to avoid plywood as much as possible in the bus, so I designed and built the cabinet frames using 1×2 poplar.  After lots of drawing, measuring, cutting, dado-blade groove cutting, gluing and nailing, the frames were finally finished!  Here are a couple photos of the first cabinet frame we made, with Maddie modeling how to meditate in a cupboard.

And here is another cabinet that has some of the sides attached.  We used some pine for the sides, and also some salvaged wood from pallets.

After all the frames had been built (I built four separate cabinet frames) came the very painstaking and at times frustrating task of building drawers.  I love drawers!  They are a pain to make, but so amazing to have in a kitchen!!  So, I made boxes.  And often had to tear the box apart in order to make it 1/16 of an inch narrower so it would fit into the drawer slides.  But hurrah, at long last I got them all to fit!


And the final and of course most fun step – putting on the beautiful doors and drawer fronts!  We used the same juniper wood we used on the pantry.  Full of knotholes and lots of character.

More to come as soon as I can finish it up!

By Kristin LaFever

Taking Care


Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.
~Thomas Merton

I heard her young voice, clear and articulate for a two-year old saying something about a spider and a skirt. There wasn’t fear and anxiety in her voice, just matter-of-factness and wonder, like “Hey look at what I found in my skirt.” I shouted down the hallway, “Did you find a spider in your skirt?” “Yeah, come look,” she replied.

I walked down the hall, where she showed me a tiny spider hiding in the folds of her pink skirt, while her eyes glowed with warmth in the fading light of evening. She wanted to take this small creature outside to let it go safely, so that is what we did, gently dropping the arachnid onto the ground beneath a huckleberry bush.

How many kids or adults for that matter would have screamed and then smashed the spider? Where does this reaction come from? Arachnophobia, the extreme or irrational fear of spiders, is one of the more common and uncontrollable fears.Most people don’t suffer from arachnophobia, yet the automatic reaction to kill a spider seems ingrained. We have never taught that fear nor the wonton killing of spiders or any other insects, whether inside our house or not. Sometimes we let them be, like the daddy longlegs in the corners of the bathroom, while other times we capture them, usually with a mason jar, and kindly release them outside. Our kids’ behavior parallels ours, illustrating the importance of acting the way we want our kids to act. They observe, imitate, see what happens and then either change their behavior or repeat it. Over time imitation can become habit and we often rationalize our habits to make them normal or necessary. In this way our fears can become the next generation’s rationalized behavior.

Who cares about spiders you may be asking. All ethical consideration aside, which there are many in the case of killing anything, taking care of spiders is pragmatic in our household and is perhaps a matter of practice more than anything else. How we take care of anything, especially the supposedly lowliest creepy-crawlies, not only says something important about our minds and hearts, but also says something about how we take care of everything. Cheri Huber once wrote a book titled, “How You Do Anything is How You Do  Everything.” How we wash the dishes says something about how we take care of everything else. Are we mindful, mindless, caring or careless? Do we look down upon this kind of domestic chore or do we look upon it as an important contribution to the household? And finally do we see the importance of practicing our deepest values, vows and intentions even (especially) when doing the mundane?

Back to the spiders and the girls. When I see my daughters treating spiders with care, respect and gentleness then I know that this is who they truly are inside and that they are likely to treat the rest of the world with equal compassion and respect. And despite all the times that I feel inadequate and insecure in my parenting, moments like this show me my true self as beautifully reflected in the kind actions of small creatures.

By David LaFever

What Then?


The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.

~Richard Bach (“Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah”)

She seems to be languishing, a body that was once full of vitality is now spent and she is exhausted, too weary to stay upright. I stand by her side, watching and wondering what to do, what to think. Standing mid-stream, water flowing all around, I see her struggle against the current and then succumb to its power and downstream she goes. I watch as she is pushed by the rushing water, knowing that she will never swim this far upstream again. She doesn’t have the strength. This is likely her last day and her tail, well-worn and white from digging redds (gravel nest), indicates that she has already spawned and will soon die. What then?

We are taught that death is something to fear not something to celebrate and we often act as though it is not natural. There are times when we admit that it is inevitable but we still seem to believe that it is something that will only occur in the future. But what if there is no future, only the eternal now? What then?

I think of my mother, dead now more than four years, whose birthday it is (February 1st). She would have been 69 years old, far older than the three year old salmon inhabiting the creek with me today. I remember being with her during her final days, how thin and frail she was but there was still a sparkle in her eyes, when the pain wasn’t too great. So too with this salmon – still facing upstream and swimming against the current (a sparkle in its flesh) – until she can no more, and then letting go and floating downstream. Is this what happened with my mom, did she let go and float on? What then?

Farther upstream I meet a salmon carcass, bright red spawning colors and monstrous kype (hook-like tip of jaw) indicating a male. My field partner and I collect it and notice its bright eyes. It did not die long ago. We take our field measurements, mark it with a jaw tag and then put it back where we found it before continuing to wade upstream. We soon find another carcass, this time a female and haul her out of the water for measurements. Her mouth and gills are covered with caddisflies, who, protected within their stick and leaf homes, are devouring her skin and flesh. This very flesh, full of important marine nutrients, becomes caddisfly, bear, huckleberry and redwood. The caddisfly will soon be eaten by this mother salmon’s young fry that in another three years may be right back here again, continuing this cycle of life and death. Each nourishes the other in an endless dance that we need not be afraid of. We are in each other just as salmon and caddisfly, bear and redwood are in each other. This ever-flowing river of arising and passing, passing and arising will lift us free.

By David LaFever

Sparkling Waters

A poem from an inspiring winter day along the South Fork Elk River.

by David LaFever

Witless Wanderings of Nibbling Sheep


Sparkling waters speaking, a language their own

Bursting bubbles everywhere

Hearing sounds, not understanding words

Intertwining in meaning

Deepening redwoods, mossying alders

Graying jay, downying woodpecker

Spawning salmon, flowing water

Lengthening shadows

Elk River, a winter day.

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It Very Well May

Here is a poem that I wrote. Hope you enjoy it!

Witless Wanderings of Nibbling Sheep


I love you more with each passing day

I don’t know what more to say.

Is there an way to convey

There is no place where we can stay?

So lets jump and romp and play

Or lie quiet and watch the branches sway.

Lets love and live as if this were our final day;

Which is very well may.

by David LaFever

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When Nothing More is Just Right


Zen isn’t extra time, extra effort or extra attention. Zen is nothing extra.

~Karen Maezen Miller


The ballerina enters, does a pirouette and then a small jump before arching her back gracefully. She looks at the audience for a moment and her eyes glisten with happiness and excitement as if she can’t believe her great fortune of being able to dance, just dance. A second ballerina, in pink leotard, enters and begins spinning and spinning, graceful in her own way and intent while she spins in ecstasy. I don’t understand how she doesn’t get dizzy and fall down. I am dizzy just watching. As the music comes to a close, the two dancers bow to the audience, smiles radiating from their beatific faces.

This show didn’t cost much, just a little bit of time really and I didn’t have to drive far or wait in line. In fact I was able to see this from the comfort of my own home, just by turning around in the same chair from which I ate dinner. Yes this was my own sweet girls doing their thing and it was spectacular.

For a brief moment as I watched Maddie’s intent and purposeful movements I thought she could be a dancer. But then as quickly as the thought arose, it passed away and I was left wondering where it came from and why I would jump to the conclusion that she should be a dancer. To be a dancer would require hours of practice, fancy outfits, competition and achievement. As I let this percolate, I realized that I had made something out of nothing. Here she was just dancing, naturally and freely and I had created fiction from something actual and real. We seem to do this all too quickly with our children and ourselves. Whenever we see some nascent talent or glimmer of interest, we jump to it being someone that they become. Oh you love animals, we think. Perhaps you will be a veterinarian.  We seem to have an insatiable drive for making something out of nothing, for more, bigger and different. Intoxicated with the notion that bigger is always better, that better is always better, we are left incapable of actually enjoying our lives in all of its ordinary beauty. Can’t my girls just dance for the joy and fun of it?

As I sat next to the most beautiful woman in the world watching and grinning from ear to ear, I understood that in fact Maddie is already a dancer. No stage or big lights needed; no years of practice and bettering oneself; and no fancy wardrobes (well, I will be honest, a pink tutu goes a long way). The reality is that no amount of striving could ever improve upon this moment, this dance, these girls; and no amount of polishing this tile could ever make her shine more brightly.

by David LaFever