Wildly Idle and Idly Wild in (of course) Idyllwild, California

Another 1month+ since we’ve written a blog post…. Sheesh.  Sorry to everyone, especially myself.  With as bad of a memory as I have, I should be blogging every day.  But, alas, journaling has never been my thing.  I have a handful of journals strewn about with maybe 10 entries each, usually with a few years in between them.  Not exactly a biography.  More like a scrapbook of drama.  So I guess one entry every few years isn’t so bad 🙂


Here we are in Idyllwild, California!  It’s a small mountain town about 1 hour west of Palm Springs and 2 hours east of LA.  Idyllwild itself has about 3800 peaceful residents and is covered in aromatic, tall pine trees.  Driving through the hilly town, it is almost like being at a fancy summer camp.  Everything looks like a cabin and roads wind through the woods seamlessly.  The people here are just-weird-enough for me to feel right at home.  I’d say it’s right smack between Madison and Santa Cruz on the Woowoo scale.  You won’t find any neckties here, but I also haven’t heard anyone here say ‘Bummerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.”  Long story, true story.  It’s a good middle ground.

I’d say I love it here with the exception of the mountain town part.  I’m not a huge fan of the steep terrain, winding roads, and houses stacked above houses.  It all feels too boxed in and precarious for me.

On the positive side, we are actually staying in Mountain Center (about 13 miles outside of town) on land owned by Dave’s coworker.  He’s graciously allowing us to stay here on his spectacular land with no strings attached.  This former cattle ranch now is a mostly level stretch of fields, forrest, with a clear view of mountains in every direction.  There are sagebrush bushes and pine trees all around, giving off the constant aroma of woods, tea, and the best the earth can offer.  A small creek runs through the property, and Colin has lined out walking paths to explore the property.

And for the more outdoorsy hippie folks, there are self-constructed (by Colin) composting toilets on the property, which I am super stoked about.  A composting toilet is basically a waterless toilet (in this case a round plastic container with a toilet seat on top) that separates the urine from the poop.  A strategically placed funnel catches the urine and contains it separately to later be dumped on the property (or wherever).  The poop goes into the plastic container, and you add 5 scoops of a dirt, wood, sawdust, compost combination on top of it to help dry out the waste.  No flushing, no water, no fuss.  And it smells like pine trees instead of poop 🙂  When the bin is full, they mix it all up and let it sit until it is suitable for fertilizer or other purpose.

I don’t know a whole lot about the science of flushing toilets versus composting ones, but from what I remember it’s actually making the fecal matter wet (aka mixing it with urine or water) that makes it toxic (and smelly as all getout).  When you separate them and let the fecal matter dry out, it’s not a problem.  So pooping into water and flushing it away is just about the worst way we could handle it.  Just think about what happens to animal poop outside.  After a day or two, it’s just a dried up, odorless, ready-to-decompose part of nature.  Anyone with better info on this can post something below 🙂

Getting a composting toilet in the camper was actually on my wish list, but Dave and I got lazy.  It would involve a relatively complex installation because of the exhaust fan.  Maybe next time.

Back to other things….

We are camped out here about 15 minutes from downtown Idyllwild, and it’s been an eye-opening insight into what we might want in our next residence.  Land close to town but away enough to have quiet, nature, and (no offense) no neighbors.  Mama needs some peace and quiet almost all the time.  I’d like to get my social and professional fix in town, and then my personal and family time in the almost-middle-of-nowhere.  Pipe dream?… Time will tell.

Another serendipitous event here… There was a retreat here last weekend for a naturopath school in LA.  About 50-60 students and teachers camped out on the property to get some quality time away from the city and learn more intensively from their professors on the 6 elements (water, earth, fire, wood, air, ether).  They were welcoming to guests and I got to sit in on their fire circles, talks, activities, and meals.  It was a much-needed reminder to attend to my body and mind through nature, and a thrust into healing.

The opening night began with a ceremonial calling to the four directions, and the talk addressed everything from epigenetics and the importance of self-care for future generations to how our bodies are composed and relate to the elements.  We set intentions for the weekend and sent our prayers to the fire and water.

A lecture the next day discussed biology and the elements, and how the elements manifest in science and medicine within the systems of the body, focusing on the wisdom from Chinese medicine and eastern principles of integrated organ systems.  Very inspiring and intuitive.  Like many disciplines would agree, the symptoms presented are often just that: Symptoms.  When we only treat the symptom, we often overlook the cause of the problem (which might be silent).  This can then exacerbate the problem or even create new ones.  A problem with the heart might really be an issue with the intestines.  A problem on the emotions might really be an issue with the liver.  C’mon western medicine…. Stop trying to reinvent the wheel and get with the rest of the world!

Later an outdoor sound-healing session with Tibetan bowls, french Koshi bells, and drums led to some much needed healing and intention-setting.

And the food truck was fantastic.  We took full advantage of the delicious offerings.  Burgers and vinegar fries, spiced lamb, veggie chili and pita, chicken tikka masala, and fresh smoothies and juices.  Gotta love an untouched kitchen (at least for a few days).

Away from the land, Eli and I ventured into town a few times and did a hike on the far edge of town.  I am proud that I successfully completed a 5-mile hike with Eli on my back the whole time.  The to-and-fro hike descended and ascended 600 feet respectively, circling the mountainside and passing through forests overlooking the nearby ranges.  Eli slept for much of it, allowing me some more quiet time in the fresh air.

On the way back as we turned a corner, a passing hiker commented to me that at first glance she thought I was a fairy coming her way.  Best compliment in a long time!

The first few nights here, we actually stayed in town at Colin’s house.  Freezing conditions and snow, and no electric hookup meant we had better hunker down at the house until Amazon could deliver the extension cord we needed to reach the power box.  It was an unexpected detour from our initial plans, but gave us the opportunity to just rest for a few days after a crazy travel weeks (Death Valley National Park to Vegas; Hotel in Vegas; Flight to Chicago; Drive to Madison; Drive to Chicago; Flight to Minneapolis; Drive to Granite Falls; Drive to Minneapolis: Flight to Vegas; Hotel in Vegas; Drive to Idyllwild – and the last 4 all happened in 36 hours!).

For some reason we all get sick when we travel (or so seems to be the pattern).  We spent two weeks with Grandma and Grandpa Levin (and Uncle Tom who flew in from NYC), and Dave got sick first, then I did.  Eli saved his illness until Madison.  More on that coming up….

So our plans, again, to have lots of date nights and see friends were foiled by sickness, insomnia, and achiness.  Still great to see the Grandparents though!  Upon arrival to Chicago, Eli would not let go of Grandma Boo’s embrace, and he lovingly called to “Ba-ba” (Grandpa) everywhere we went.  And who can complain about 2 weeks of homecooked meals, relaxation, and quality time with the Grandparents (and Uncle!)

We went to the Shedd Aquarium where Eli somehow figured out how to say “turtle,” though it comes out with an intensity and cadence you wouldn’t expect.  Imagine a raspy villian voice with the accent on the second syllable and you’ve got it: “tuh-TUUULL!”  Super cute.

And Eli got some at-first-overwhelming-but-later-fun-and-endearing playtime at the new Kohl Childrens Museum.  He lovingly played well with others once he got the confidence to step out on his own.

We spent a few days in Madison so Dave could spend some time at the Bluetree office and we could catch up with a few friends.  Grandma Boo came along for the ride!

(Here’s where I catch up on Eli’s illness….)  Our first night in town we had dinner with our parent-friends and their kids.  6 parents, 4 toddlers, and one in utero baby 39-weeks on the way!  We finally sat down to eat the delicious dinner of pizza, salad, and fruit when after refusing sausage (unheard of) and resting his head on Dave’s shoulder, Eli threw up all over Dave.  Then all over Dave again.  Then all over the floor.  Then all over the dinner table.  Then all over me.  Luckily, we were in good company!  Everyone rallied to help.  I took Eli upstairs to take a bath (for both of us!), Brittany and Jay got us set up with fresh clothes and bathtime, while everyone (except me) cleaned up the unthinkable amount of disaster downstairs.  I’m pretty sure I got the best part of the deal.

Luckily Eli’s health improved from there.

We drove back to Chicago a few days later and then flew to Minneapolis where Grandma Sandy picked us up on our way to Greatgramparent Deters’ house.  The cousins convened for a combined Easter and Anniversary (60 years!) celebration.  It was a huge success for all with no major illnesses, injuryes, or mishaps.  And more candy than Willy Wonka’s factory.

Eli ventured up and down an entire staircase for the first time, and now won’t pass a candy display without a tantrum.  Success!

Cars, trucks, buses, balls, and sports of all kinds are this kids jam.  For now anyways.  He certainly didn’t get it from us 🙂  Although Dave talks sometimes about his train sets when he was a kid.  Either way, I know more about trucks than I ever wanted, and there’s probably more to come!  And however much I might know, Eli knows more.  Whether it’s memorization or what, that kid knows every truck in the book.  Wowza.

He’s able to say lots of words now, and repeat most of what we say (uh-oh).  He hasn’t repeated anything I’m regretful about (yet) but I think I finally have to clean up my potty mouth.  Let’s just say he repeated what I said with, “What,” and Dave and I both agreed…. “That was a close one.”

Funny story….  On the flight back from Minneapolis to Las Vegas (where the truck and camper were stored), Dave ordered a decaf coffee.  Which he later told me he only ordered because he thought I would get mad at him if he ordered regular.  It was, after all, about 10pm.  The attendant responded, “We only have regular.  I have to go make the decaf….. Oh wait, I have one here.”  “Great!” Dave says and waits for his coffee.  Since Eli is fast asleep in Dave’s arms, I am the one in charge of drinks and my tray table.  The attendent hands me a cup of luke warm water and a packet of instant coffee.  In my gut I knew this was going to go badly.  Even then, I wished Dave had just gotten regular 🙂

I open the packet of coffee “grounds” which somehow explodes.  About 75% made it in the cup and then other 25% got all over me and the seat.  Not tragic, but gross and itchy.  I carefully mix up the coffee, which looks like a margharita gone wrong…. There are coffee grounds all along the rim of the cup.  Now for the cream.

Another explosion.  Did I mention I was wearing my new pants?  My first pair of new pants in 3 years?

Small drops of cream splatter on my shirt and pants.  Most of it, again makes it to the cup, but seriously?!  I bitterly hand Dave his coffee, which he tells me is cold and disgusting.

He slowly continues to drink it, and in the meantime Eli wakes up and is fussy.  So I move the coffee to the far side of the tray away from him.  Eli and I begin to play while he is in Dave’s lap.  All of a sudden I feel a warm wet on my hip.  Eli, in his joy, kicked the tray which in turn splashed the coffee in the cup which in turn ran off the tray onto my beautiful coral pants.


Dave finishes the coffee and puts the “empty” cup in the seat pocket in front of me.  Reaching in for something else, the cup pops out and the remaining waterfall of backwash coffee runs down my pant leg and onto my shoe.

So my “new” pants have a few spots that look strangely like leopard print, if you use your imagination.

So the moral of the story?… Don’t drink coffee.  Or as the flight neighbor and fellow parent-of-a-toddler on the other side of me would say, “Don’t buy new pants.”

Only, Eli really can’t be blamed for this one.  This one’s all on me.

Topic change…

We leave Idyllwild tomorrow for Zion National Park.  I am very sad to leave this lovely property.  I developed quite a nice routine here, complete with yoga and meditiation in the mornings, sagebrush tea from just outside my door, a tasty egg/bean/guacamole burrito breakfast, and walks around the grounds with Eli.  Let’s hope I can carry most of it with me!

Oh, and in other news, Dave and I have been offered the volunteer position of campground host in Madison for June and July!  We will be camped out at Lake Farm Park for June and Mendota Park for July.  That will give us some time to get our ducks in a row as we figure out housing and as Dave transitions to be full-time internally at Bluetree.  So we will be back in the Madison area by June 1 at the latest!

Our most recent obsession: looking at more rural properties around the Madison area on realtor.com.  After all, there are worse ways to unwind at the end of the day….

Goodbye, Idyllwild!  Thank you for everything!  I will miss you!




3 Responses to Wildly Idle and Idly Wild in (of course) Idyllwild, California

  1. Mom

    That was fabulous!!! Besides picturing beautiful Idyllwild, I got the best laugh of the week hearing about your pants meet coffee story!!!! Thanks for such beautiful imagery and the most entertaining piece I have read in a long time.
    Love you guys,
    Mom (also known as a-ma)

  2. Linda Lenzke

    You had me hooked from the opening paragraph about your journaling history which at times has echoed mine. The good news is you will cherish this story and most likely reread and relish the memories you’ve made and with Dave, Eli, friends and family. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

  3. Mom Patnode

    Idyllwild sounds beautiful! Thanks for a fun story to read! What wonderful adventures and I hope you can find your own nature retreat around Madison. 🙂 I don’t think I could live anywhere else but in nature….I even have a little chipmunk buddy who meets me on the front deck from time to time. (I think he’s mainly there for the seeds that blow onto the deck, not necessarily for my company. lol!) Safe travels to you….looking forward to seeing you again once you’re closer! Love & Hugs,

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