wow! has it really been a year since i, literally, walked away from my life in portland? it seems like i’ve lived a couple lives since then. i’m going to try and summarize what i’ve gone through and where i think i have set my compass bearings…but who am i kidding, i carry a compass, but use the direction the wind takes me more than my compass.
so a year ago i was getting soaked through and through on the oregon coast trail. a trail i don’t really recommend doing in its entirety. sure it has some of the most amazing views on the pacific coast. however…there is so much road walking, which sure shuttles can take you around, so it’s not too bad. if you are wanting to do it, do it for sure, but do it in the full-on summer time. let the spring storms pass. have a way to know the tides. be prepared for sandblasting your skin (and tent in the middle of the night), and being amazed at every moment you remember to look up and pay attention.
when i got to the oregon/cali border, i ran out of walking ideas. well, i had ideas, but water levels and snow levels were beyond my skill set. years and years of low winter snow levels meant that a “normal” year felt high. maybe this is why so many people the past several years have taken on the pct. if one was willing to push beyond some levels of pain and discomfort, mostly mental, one could persevere without a huge skill set, but not this year.
so i did what i do when i don’t know what else to do, i got a job. i went inland to explore a town and area i had never been to. i sat at the chetco brewery and booked a shuttle to ashland, lived at a hostel while i looked both for a place to live and a place to work. (p.s. this is actually pretty common. when i i stayed in any hostel from slo (san luise obispo) to tijuana, there were people living at the hostel looking for housing.) i quickly found both and settled in. my pals would come into town and take me out for swimming adventures at rivers and lakes. we went to experience the eclipse. i had a wonderful summer.
my mom came out to visit. and then we visited my grandpa’s sister and i loaded up a bike and headed south once again. i have to say, this lady, ellen, is a spark. her and my grandfather were best pals. i can remember her and her husband carl visiting when i was a kid. in my child’s memory i don’t remember what muscular disease he had, i just remember her pushing him around in a big wheelchair. i remember whatever was happening, she pushed him, she smiled, she laughed like there was no issue, no problem, no inconvenience. it was just what was. she still lives in the house that she raised her kids in. she lives alone. she knows her neighbors and they assist her with whatever she asks for. she….she…well she amazes me. not with the grand and great actions, but like my grandparents, the simple enjoyments of everyday life.
at some point in the evening, she turned to me and said,
i remember once when i was visiting your grandfather, we went to your work and you made me a fantastic margarita.
yes, i remember too. it was fun.
would you make us a round?
i’d love to.
so we had “happy hour”
then she told us stories of dancing at the hall, of being a dance instructor, of love, of family….93 years of living (i think it’s 93 maybe it’s 87 it doesn’t matter really). we had moved to the enclosed patio so that i could sort and separate gear for my transition from walking to biking, but at some point, i stopped so that i could sit and listen to her. it just seemed so important to listen. to capture this moment somewhere in my body and mind. to absorb her words. i don’t remember them, but i can feel them, and it is a feeling i continue to move with. maybe in a selfish way, it was like having my grandparents with me in space and time again for a moment, and i wasn’t going to sort packages of ramen and t-shirts and forgo this moment.
that first day i didn’t get far. maybe 15, 20 miles. i needed some time to switch gears.
when my mom dropped me off at some empty parking lot that i pick as fine, and i was loaded up and she pulled out and i pulled out, i road to the beach and just kind of what the fucked for a moment. really, what am i doing? i could have stayed at that job, probably found a place i could afford to live. i could have gone back to portland or kansas… eventually, i calmed down, got my bearings and pointed the bike south and started cranking on the pedals.
i got through santa cruz and found a campground with a hiker-biker site, set up camp and watched the sunset. in the morning i chatted with some fellow bike tour folks, and the pace was set. this is what i wanted. to travel by my own power. to see…what? everything, whatever came my way. to stop and chat with people. to see the world outside of the bubble i had been living in for the past 10 years. i would say i have been successful so far.
i have met people from all over: from homeless to the very wealthy and lots of people who gave up the grind for the love of life (especially the “homeless” living in the parks). i met the owner of a brewery (who opened his doors for me to have a cold one on a hot day) who told me about the ridiculous codes he had to deal with. the couple who worked in l.a. in various projects for alternative transportation. my friends who opened their doors to me so many times as i passed through the big cities. and the wonderful folks i met in mexico. and so many people looking for something besides the prescribes socially acceptable life choices.
the ocean as a companion just cannot be underestimated. she is wonderful. and all those who call her home: the sea otters, lions, gulls, crustaceans, birds of all kinds. the trees and plants of the shorelines that changed the scents and quality of the air i was breathing.
the landslides and wildfires that affected where and how i passed through. these are the events that shifted and changed the way i see climate change. it was a year where i not just knew climate change through numbers, statistics, lectures, and subtle shifts. this year i felt it even more than ever. and not in just that yes, the climate is changing as a part of natural evolutional shifts and changes, but as a force humans are changing faster than nature can keep up with.
and not just that we are unbalancing the balance of nature, but that nature will restore her balance even if it means the demise of the human species. this planet is not as fragile as people seem to poetically like to consider her. maybe it is because we view nature as feminine and we like females to be fragile. however, any being who brings forth life, cannot be fragile. she is strong and she will fight for life, the life she has created. if we don’t drastically shift and change our individual lives, we are the ones who will die…currently, it is something like 600,000 people a year die from climate-related deaths-at least i believe that is close to the number i read recently.
this journey so far has opened up my life in ways i could never imagine. it has helped me realize the vision of my life as a kind of loner and rebel that i have always felt that i am. i’m so thankful for my pals and family in all its shapes and sizes so that i don’t have to be a true loner and who celebrate and inspire my kind of rebellion…so far. i couldn’t be me without them.
so i sit here in a small moutain town in colorado setting a foundation for this vision. a vision that doesn’t see me really attatched to any specific place except for this planet and where i am resting my head for the time being, but more attatched to the people who’s path i cross in the process. i am also taking more of an interest in the health of this big blue rock that, no matter that science fiction finds other planets for us to inhabit, is our only home.
so yup, this year has pushed and stretched me. it has afirmed that i made the right choice. it has caused me to question my life choices and ethics that have only reaffirmed them and made them stronger. i’ve listened to so many people’s stories that only makes me want to hear more.
i have renewed respect for humanity and disgust for capitalism. i truly believe that capitalism is the root of so much disharmony and disease in the northern hemisphere. the root cause for increasing use of opiates and anti-depression drugs in n. america.
i have renewed faith in local communities. in fact, i believe that it is the direct actions and how local communities respond to the various crisis where we will find solutions. i don’t mean in large city councils and such, but eventually maybe. i mean in our neighborhoods. in conversation with our neighbors…who were once strangers. getting to know that person who picks up the bottles we leave out for others to take for their deposits…their income. going for walks with people. know the trees and birds who come through the alleyways. do you have birds and bees in the gardens? what do your neighbors grow? cook? have tea on the front porch.
so what is my vision?
well. i plan on staying in this little mountain town for a year to save money and work on that foundation i was talking about. i want to find my voice as a writer and figure out how to use it for good. to face my fears that keep me from stretching and pushing myself and risk failure on all levels. and then i want to point the bike in a direction and see where it takes me. to visit my friends, some of which i haven’t met yet, but deeply looking forward to meeting.