beyond asheville

the pals i stayed with on the west end of north carolina are some of the best people this world has set in my path. we shared good food. we shared lovely inspiring conversation. we shared quiet times on the deck watching trees, the light shift and change, the plants and botony adjusting to the heat, storms roll through, puppy adoration for a canine who is now part of their family, walks in the woods every day witnessing the constint changes of places people think of as consistant. there is something special that happens to this spirit when i see my pals, friends, buddies, those i love, doing what they love/building and achieving their goals: working on building the skills and practicing to make dreams come true, building the life they envision…lifting people up….there is so much here that i have no words for, but i will carry with me for a long long time.

these daily/multi-daily walks/hikes were so inspiring. we chatted about what it is like to walk the same paths on a regular basis through the seasons, to see all the changes. just in this one week we saw a change in where and what mushrooms were growing, or some new flowers starting to bloom on the trees and bushes.

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these walks and chats had an enormous effect on me. first i reflected on land and my relationship to place. where have i thought i “knew” the land because i walked it one day in one season in a particular year. was it a wet/dry year? hot? stormy? flooded? low river or high? somewhere in-between? migration season? north or south? for whom? even if it is for a week or a month, it is still only just one snapshot of a place. is that enough to build a relationship with the land or to develop a sense of place. i think that is part of why i do like to get to, and set up, camp early in the day vs. making the miles, passing out, and waking early to start it all over again. to walk. to sit. to listen. to watch. who moves through here? what grows here? how does the pollen move? do i have time and enough information to learn of the people who moved through here before settlers/colonizers/capitalists/agriculture/towns/mining? what story does the land have to tell me? what is the language of the land.

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the other piece of this experience is that now i have an even deeper desire to develop a sense of place. i want to be able to see some place if not every day, then every other day. i want to see the changes. i want to see those first red, yellow, orange, brown leaves of fall. the first buds of spring that actually show themselves in winter. learn the path of the sun/moon. i want to build and develop a relationship with at least one little piece of land. town or not wherever i rest again, it has to be convenient to get to some living piece of land. in other words, not have to drive an hour or bike too far. even better if i can just take a short stroll that leads me to a longer one. its all part of learning how to see/listen/experience/smell/noticing…all the things that make me a better animal, more feral you might say.

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one day, while one of them was in class, i borrowed their car and followed the road that followed the river. so beautiful. i went until i found a riverside park that people put their boats, rafts, kayaks, whatevers in to float. there are 2 signs here. one tells the history of how the “cherokee” hid in the rhoadundrum bushes to avoid being sent to the oklahoma indian territories as part of the indian removal act in the journey known as the train of tears. on the other side of the park is a sign acknowledging the white man who “gifted” this land for “the people” to enjoy. it is dedicated to his wife and children who died before he did. it is part of what i find funny (?) about public lands, that what was once stolen from people who had no concept of owning land can be given back to “the people to enjoy” but not to the people who previously lived on the land prior to european settlers/colonizers. public lands is a term that is being tossed around a great deal right now, and not a conversation to take lightly for many reasons. these thoughts are not meant to take away from the beauty of this land, but to add to just how wonderfully magnificent this river valley and mountain range is.

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after wondering around, i went back to the river center. they have wifi and thereby i could get some phone services to know when my friend was ready for me to come on back. i thought i might sit by the river and write, but all i could really do was watch. i watched the people, the rain, the boats, the water shift and move, people practice various moves in various floatations – it is like a dance. ever since i learned that water crossings are best to do earlier in the day because they rise as the snow melts and the mountain gives up more liquid to the stream, i try and watch it and see if i can notice it going up. i mean this is something i have witnessed but through a day as we crossed a stream early in the day to play and picnic in a meadow. when we came back late in the day, the crossing was indeed more difficult, deeper and more swift. for sure a more difficult, more technical crossing where we helped one another work their way back to camp. it indeed was a wonderful day.

leaving north carolina behind would not be easy, but that is the only way i was going to get up to philly for the next friend visit…so stay tuned as you are hopefully engulfing on a summer adventure of your own.

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retracing good times

as i clean up and insert pics in this post, it is raining the nice specifically pacific northwest kind of rain. you know, it is too heavy to go with out a jacket of some kind but not enough to zip it up. the kind that drives drivers nuts because you can never get the wipers just right, always too slow or too fast.

we had been watching the weather, hoping and getting excited as the chance for rain increased each day. last night we i mused that i felt like a kid a christmas, excited for the morning to see what would happen. then the morning, it happened. while we were out for breakfast. we looked out just as we were about to walk home. so wonderful. and it is suppose to continue through the day.

ok so here i am going to start writing about all the good times that got over shadowed by the challenges and struggles i face, for there was so much fun and laughter, and that is what kept me going….

so

once i saw thelma and the sleeze where going to be playing at the hanger in carbondale, i was tempted to hang longer. finally some music i love and relate to. but really that was all that was tempting. i was able to eat pretty good at the co-op, but it was time to go. so i bus tailed it outta there.

the overnight in knoxvile, as i have said was fun. the city market area with the art, and food, and bike race monitors, fountains for kids, and being designed as a pedestrain “mall” was super nice. to walk and wonder without having to worry about cars is always a treat.

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the walking and wondering with freedom encouraged more walking wondering and exploring. i went up streets, down street. i wondered alleyways and shop windows. all the murals in the alleys led me to more alleys and city perspectives.

i’ve always loved alleys. it reminds me of being a kid. the first house i remember remember as a youngen had an alley. we cut through to friends’ houses, playing hide n seek, check what games friends were playing before they knew we were there. it was also the furthest view point for adults to find us, or for people to think to look for us for any reason. it is also a great way to check on the neighbors’ gardens. then there is the unused, dirt floor garages that no one used except us for shenanigans.

i’ve only had a few homes since that had alleys, but i always enjoy them. portland had some good alleys. wondering pals who enjoy meandering through alley ways are priceless, and it is good to know i have a few.

it seems, based on my little trip, that more cities are utilizing their alleys for more than just a place for dumpsters and smoke breaks.  i have found wonderful mural art projects, one might call city art-scapes? i like it. here in eugene google maps often sends seem through alleys. and some store fronts/brewery entry points are in alleys. so good.

so from knoxville, i went to asheville. i made the big decision to stay a week in ashville. it was the week of 4th of july….not a fan of this day of nationalistic celabration especially how nationalism is playing out these days. so i hunkered down in asheville with some international travelers and misfits. also the women’s world cup was entering the final rounds and there are fun places to watch such events here.

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the hostel i stayed at is in the heart of downtown, down a narrow alley like street actually. everywhere i went was .4 miles (aka a 20 minute walk) according to google maps. i was near vegan restaurants, a co-op, so many good breweries, coffee shops and 2 tea shops, multiple book stores, music venues, and a vegan punk cafe that was so flipping great on so many levels. it is kind of how i imagine the red and black cafe could have been if they could have held it together better.

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rosetta’s, the punk cafe, had an upstairs and a downstairs if you entered on a certain street. the upstairs is at street level one street over. the upstairs is kind of told school order at the counter kind of place with self serve stations and a beautiful copper pipe and tile water station that i wish i had taken a picture of. downstairs is like a regular table service kind of place. both have the same menu.

i had such a hard time deciding what i wanted. everything being vegetarian or vegan, and most things could be made vegan. would it be nachos? comfort food? healthy bowl? salad? or what really sold me on the cafe the pay it forward rice and bean bowl.

the pay it forward bowl, actually called beans and rice under the heading everybody eats, is set up as a sliding scale meal and they let you know how much pays for the meal to what would allow someone else to eat if they didn’t currently have the currency. i think this simplifies the whole sliding scale healthy food and water as a right not privlage kind of action vs. philosophy/theory. it is offering an option to a community while holding boundries that allow them to stay in business without giving up their ethics and values so that they can contribute more. it is a fine line and a tight-rope to walk. also the people who worked there were all super nice and not at all snarky the whole time i was there, everytime i was there, regardless of who they were serving.

then there is the actual setting of the place. great art and murals on the walls, walls and stairway FULL of poster and flyers of events, bands, actions, community groups and organizations, calendars for other places having punk rock trivia fund raisers for trans folks at the southern border needing/wanting leagal or/and basic needs met. a zine library was in a very visable corner next to the condiment stand. it was clean with out being starial. it is a place i felt comfortable in as a dirt-bag and as a cleaned-up kid out for a good meal that wouldn’t make me feel like a sell-out for eating out.

the places i watched the world cup were fun and energetic. i high-fived strangers. we held one anothers palces as we went to the bathroom. we made a group food run when we realized bloody mary’s started before we remembered we hadn’t been awake long enough to eat. it was one of the few times i was around some sporty dykes that felt super comforable to finally talk about our sports-ball experiences while in school. most of us, at least in my age group, we pretty shamed out of sports, especially team sports. may be why i prefered individual sports like track. let me be and i will run my ass off, stretch longer while everyone else hits the locker room. or finish faster so that i can get in and out before the rest of the “team”. i was tired of being made fun of or being baited about attractions or crushes. i loved the sports, but i hated all the rest that went with it. eventurally i just used an injury that wouldn’t heal (pulled muscles in my knee training indoors), and needing to work as a reason to drop out. very real reasons, but if i had felt supported/safe, who knows. i’m also not a very competitive person, so probably would have still quite. seeing the portland thornes play during pride weekend one year, that was pretty special. seeing professional women on the pitch and in the stands be out and open…rainbow thorne flags…it was something to experience. i felt much more proud there then being at the ubber corporate sponsored “pride” parade held earlier that day.

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one evening at the hostel i met this interesting woman is in her late 60s and is just discovering the joys of solo travel, and is toying with the idea of becoming untethered herself. her husband died a couple years ago, so why not sell the house and move into some kind of camper type situation and see the country. she spent her time at the hostel asking anyone she could how, why, where they venture, whatever question was on her mind. it was fun to see her open to so many possibilities.

i also met a guy who practices chinesse medicine in l.a. he comes to asheville every so often for continuing education. turns out we know some of the same practicioners and share some of the same theories of healing. i left him some of the foods that i thought might not make the hot journey to my friends.

i did really fall for asheville. i can see the attraction and why people have reccomended it to me so many times. i have thought about it as an option. i checked out cost of living, housing, jobs, access to nature and wildness. it could be a livable city option for me. yet something just seemed off. not quite right for me. it is a big city. bigger than i expected and full of tourists, like actual tourists and not just visitors, so…there is that. but it is closer to some great pals that i got to have a wonderful visit with.

 

oh ozarks

i’m sitting at the bike hostel in farmington, waiting for…well waiting for a couple things.

first, my bike needs some help

second, the storms have come again and that means wtf!

so the bike repair. in humansville my bike took a little spill when a sudden gust of wind came up. i had just gotton off my bike at the city park. i leaned my bike against, most likely a rail for horses to be tied to, turned to unload a bit before i locked it up. i’ve gotten in the habit of locking it to whatever i lean it agains, not so much for theft (no one wants to push that sucker around), but to keep it from falling over for various reason…like this one.

it had been fairly calm all day so this gust was a total suprise. the bike went crashing and the weight of the bag i have on the front snapped the front derailer cable. the rear one was slightly damaged but still usable. so i have ridden through the ozarks on a 1x.

at one point, when 16 miles felt like 60, i thought i was a so out of shape and that there was no way i was going to make it across and around the country. i pushed my bike. i cussed the hills. i cussed myself for not being more prepared. the humidity did not help. sweat and salt everywhere. fortunately the temps weren’t too high and the cloud covers were nice.

when i finally rolled into ellington and got set up at the route 76 bike hostel (way to go elington!) i was at my wits end. i had learned (by way of posted notes at the hostel) that the people at opy’s general store are very welcoming and have free wifi for bikers. and how right they were…well the people there are more than welcoming they are freaking amazing! so i set up and started doing some research. what are my options to still see my friends and get around the country?

while i was in the store, and later at diner, and then again on another day i learned some vital details. it seems that many people have commented that this section of the route is concidered some of the most challenging. what? the ozarks? i know it felt like it to me, but for others? as i ran into racers over the course of the couple days i spent in elington, who have more technology than i do (or know how to use maybe?) i learned that some of these hills have 18% or more grades to them. ahhhhh ok.

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i think the challenge also is not just the grade of the hills but that they are on curves, a banked curves at that, with no shoulder and lots of truck traffic. and if there is just a bit of edge to the road it has those ruts to let drivers know they are close to the edge, so one ends up having to ride in the road anyway. it is challenging and nerve wrecking! i would have to use all my mindfulness practice to calm my breath and mind during my breaks, and it renewed my dedication to meditation and mindfulness practice, and to remember that everything is impermanent, like this hill or this big logging truck.

it was in this realization that i took some pressure off myself. it was ok to go 16 miles with 2,000’+ of climbing. after all look at the amazing people you have talked to! the kid who appeared out of nowhere during a water break and asked if you could play with him. the cows that come running to great you. the healthfood stores you found. the people you talked to who value quality food. and something i’ll write about more later when i have more time to feel about it, i’ve come closer to the edge of the place where i can finally have a cathartic breakdown.

i’ve been tryig to have one since i left portland, well before i left portland. as i was transitioning through the end of challenging parts of menapause and the end of my time at i had concidered a dream job at a co-op. i have gotten really good at all my boundries and walls and defense mechanisms through all my years that even i can’t get though them now. but i’m getting closer. i tear up now. i almost cry in-fact i get do get chocked up, but then i catch it even as i want to release it.

now, for a different sort of challenge, trying to cross the mississippi river. for fucks sake! so i had seen that the chester bridge, which has been closed since early june is still closed. cape gerardie is where all route 76 riders and racers were being detoured through. that closed yesturday. chester bridge may open this weekend, but then many of the highways are closed on the illinois side. sigh…there was a big storm as i rolled into town yesturday, and it is currently storming with heavy rains right now.

this has me thinking so much about weather patterns (oh and it. snowed on the summer solstice in steamboat!), and what happens when those imbedded in the power structure try to manipulate and control nature like rivers and the oceans. i have had some wonderful conversations with the farmers in these small towns, especially when i get up early and go to the local diner for breakfast. a few times, it seemed a couple of them waited until some of their buddies left and we had a chat about how difficult it had become for them: doughts floods heat cold ice. if they adjust and shift and change with the weather patterns, the patterns change again.  it is chaos and those who live on and work on the land feel it and know it. there is a concerned look in their eyes. i’m not sure if it is for their livlihood or the future or what, but its there.

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for those of you who say “yeah but they have crop insurance.” well pay attention to the freaking farm bill. it effects so much of our everyday lives farmer or not. see, they can only make a claim if they have their seeds planted by a certain date, and in years like this, in nebrasks iowa missouri illionois the dekotas…they couldn’t get their seeds planted before the floods hit. in some cases farmers have been going out against their nature and planting seeds that they know are going to get flooded out, washed away. they know it is a waste of seeds, time, and energy, but it means they will be able to make an insurance claim.

its a funny world. in many ways i feel totally disconnected to what is happeing (spotty to no cell service and reallllll slow internet when i get it) but then i get to talk to people not reflected in the daily news cycle. or people that have been relegated to “small town mentality”. i am beginning to have some faith in humans again.

as for my traveling adventure, it has been amazing. deciding to go slower and not follow anyone else’s expectations, by giving myself a break, i’ve camped or stayed in some fun places.

one humid sweaty day i decided to try this campsite that was on an older map that i had. i had just spent a fair amount of time having a snack at elly’s spring…so beautiful and i was biking through a protected scenic river way, why not camp here? then when i pulled into the area and saw that the park headquarters was abandoned and the down the road, the river running over the road, i remembered that it had been flooded out a couple years ago. but there were brand new pit toilets. this is also a trailhead for the ozark trail. there were a few cars in the parking area so i went for a walk to the river with some food, my chair, and my water filter.

i camped out by the toilets since it was suppose to have scattered storms figuring i would just tuck into one of them instead of dealing with a wet tent in the morning. i learned that this spot is a local’s favorite and that they recently got word that the park service is going to start rebuilding and repairing the campground. and as for the abandoned park headquarter building, it has flooded up over its roof!

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as a side note, that night the trees, the grass, the whole view was full of fire flies! i had had nights where i spotted a few here and there, but this night!wow! this is one creature that i did miss while living in the pnw, and one of my biggest arguments against lawn chemicals.

in ellington, there is a little house turned bike hostel set up my the city council. at diner that first night i met one of the members who told me the advocacy they were doing for cyclists traveling through this area of missouri, like wider roads without those ruts. i ended up staying a coupe nights here. the first alone, the second with a couple of the trans am racers (some guy and the 2nd woman i’d seen of which there are only 6 this year).

the next day i met an astralian racer who actually does some of the organizing of some of the races i follow downunder. the next night i stayed at a state park called johnson’s shut-in for swimming holes and something different…why not right?

in ellington and now in farmington, several mornings i’ve woken up with an unpleasant feeling in my stomach. it usually comes on as i’m getting packed up or i’m part way through breakfast. one morning…actually this one morning i went to the local cafe in ellington for the 2nd morning. after the first breakfast they made me was so good, i told them i was going to stay another day to get some some done and would be back the next day. i showed up and he had made me special vegan sausages! the couple that runs this place is amazing! go to vintage cafe in ellington when you are in the area. you will not be disappointed, unless you show up after closing time of 11 am.

at first i was worried i was sick or maybe that last tick bite infected me with something. but i think it is my intuition telling me to stay put. days i was going to leave, like was packed up and ready. i felt sick and laid down for “just a minute”, woke up hours later to a huge thunderstorm, or found out that there was a big car accident in the direction i was going. in this recent case i probably would have been caught between open and closed bridges.

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this bike hostel in farmington has been amazing! it is the old old jail. the upstairs has been converted into a super nice bike hostel. the first night i arrived during a big downpour. like so bad i couldn’t use my phone to call for the code so went to the library and asked if they could call for me while i dripped all over their carpet. it stormed until after the bike shop closed so i had to take my bike in the next day. as i was coming back from picking up my bike, a big group of 20+ riders started showing up. they are with the bike the u.s. for ms, and they were so nice!

they welcomed me into their group. we talked and chatted and shared stories of lives blowing up so going on adventures. we shared logistical info. we celebrated one of the guy’s birthday. a bunch of us went to dinner together. the evening was capped off with watching the movie seven. i hung back while they all packed up and took off in the morning, and then i was going to pack up…but then the thunderstorms started up again, so tomorrow. and tomorrow i can make one last run to a healthfood store here before a bigger push to get across the mississippi river.

i keep thinking that i should be in a hurry, but for what? yes, i want to see my friends sooner than later, but i’d like to show up with good stories to tell and not just miles logged and elevation climbed.

welcome to summer friends! i hope you are finding ways to celabrate, enjoy, and adventure.

south bound

what a funny time i have had so far.

i did not want to ride a loaded bike through kansas city. for some reason it just struck a deep fear in me. i like the idea of leaving directly from my friends house. i even had a route that others have riden. i finally picked a day and my buddy took me out to pleasant hill where the rock island spur trail takes off.

we explored some of the area the route is suppose to eventually go, checked some potential flood areas, all was clear. he, and his amazing pup, took me to the town park and we sat for a moment and shared some gratitude. i have no idea how to repay this man, and the dog(s), and his boyfriend! what wonderful, generous, loving humans! they made me dinners, they let me cook for them. and they gave me space to figure shit out! the only thanks i can think of right now is to have a most excellent adventure! and indeed so far it has.

pleasant hill was very pleasant. the town park was nice. the lake amazing. sunset, moonset, sunrise, and so many birds singing and fish jumping. i took my time leaving town. had a nice greasy spoon breakfast at the diner and enjoyed the amazing bike paths through town! kansas ciy, you could learn something from this little town.

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from here i rolled into chillahooa. the corner market was closed, but i noticed an area across from the park that looked like camping spots. there was a group of women gathered at a house next to it, so i asked about camping. they were so nice and friendly. they offered some ideas where i might find water. when we realized all the spicketts had been turned off, they showed up later with a big jug of ice water for me. i later learned that the house they were at is unoccupied and there is a movement to turn it into a hostel for people biking through…and probably horses as well…multi-use after all! p.s. i have riden around so much horse shit, i am going to start pooping on the trail too!

that night it rained and rained hard! there was rolling thunder and so much lightening! these are the moments that i am happy to be carring a full on tent. i keep thinking i could go with a bivy and/or a tarp, but wow! when these storms roll through, i am happy with my set up.

i walked up to the little market for breakfast and met a couple that was riding the spur instead of the katy trail. they had wanted to do the bed and breakfast tour of the katy, but settled for this, for now. they were so nice. she was newer to bike touring than him, but she invested in an ebike that has a tour setting, so she can get out and have adventures. amazing. we will find a way when we want to.

from here i tried to camp outside of clinton, but the lake and area is flooded, so hotel it was…and catch up on handmaid’s tale. then its been a series of more small towns and city parks. humansville was super interesting. i rolled into town and went to city hall where the woman there shared so much information with me, like where i could camp and where to pick up another rail trail called the frisco highland trail. and the adventure has officially began.

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in bolivar i had stopped for a late breakfast and picked up the rail trail. on the list of places to notice along the way was a “farmers market”. i’m always interested in a local farmers market, but this one was not for me. it was all about the meat market, so i rode quickly on. the other “historical marker” on this trail that i wanted to check out was called the “hobo camp” where people riding the rails would camp out during the depression. i never saw it marked but noticed a few places it could have been, so i stopped and imagined some of my heros that may have camped there.

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along the way i met two guys going the opposite direction. they have done a number of different rail trails around the country. we swapped stories and suggestions and a few laughs. just before i ran into them, i friend who tried to by me a beverage at the winery that i wanted to stay at was closed for remodeling. the people at the winery suggested i go to a town 8 miles south of my destination for the day. as i was already turning into a tired  block of salt, i said no, and then these guys told me there was some kind of festivities going on in walnut grove, and by goly there was.

the local masonic lodge does this fundraiser every year and this was the 14th or 15th year. they raise money to provide financial support for folks having some kind of family emergency like a fire, or health care, or what have you. there were bands from all over and all ages. the lodge putting it on took good care of me. one called the local police department to see where else i could camp, but then it was decided by everyone that if i was staying for the fest, i could just camp here once it was over.

i met so many wonderful people who came up and asked me what i was doing, and to let me know that this town loves bikers and welcomes anyone coming through. many folks here have traveled a great deal, mostly for military and geneology searches. many had gone to oregon for one reason or another so we got to talk about similar areas with different experiences. i was told many time that “this is as about as close to mayberry as you can get.” indeed it was.

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the next night a wedding was my entertainment. i had just left the police station (this is taking some geting use to…going on purpose to a police station and asking where to camp. just as i had layed out to let my body turn into a big salt block as the sweat dried, i noticed a bunch of nicly dreased people start showing up. turns out they were parking in the park for a wedding on the other side of the creek at the old mill.

i chatted with the d.j for a bit to make sure i was out of the way. he invited me to come over. instead i just listened from a distance and read. not much is open in small towns on sunday or monday either, so i went to the local market and picked up veggies and hummus and had a lovely picnic. and i realized, i am tired.

the heat. the hills. thoughts and logistics. all this adventuring. i am tired. so i road a short but hilly 16 miles into the next town rolled into a bed and breakfast, the dickey house in marchfield. at first i was concerned about it’s history. it had the look of someting that could have been part of slave labor plantatioin days, but it was built after that time frame. still has an interesting history. i was the only one staying in the main house that night and thought for sure i would have a haunting experience, but nope, nothing.

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morning brought nice breakfast conversation with a family from northern alabama traveling over to branson. i think i will stay in town for another day and eat more veggies. i don’t know what it is, but i haven’t been able to eat much this week. i know the heat is a big part of it, but it feels almost like a nervous stomach. i usually keep cliff bars around for these moments, but they are just too sweet for me and keep getting sweeter. peanutbutter is my other big stapple, but i can’t stomach it either. i have some hydration mixes that i have been using, and lots of potato chips. so i think i am going to cut back my milage to 30-35 miles a day until i can work this out. this isn’t the first time this has happened, it is my usual experience backpacking or long distance biking so i’m not worried so much as paying attention and adjusting accordingly.

yesturday i met 2 women biking the trans am also. i thought they were local riders due to their “light load”. when they caught me at the library, they told me they had a support vehical that waits for them up the road, so maybe i’ll catch up to them along the way…probably not, but it would be fun to see them again. they are sisters doing this together. they are the first i met going the same direction i am, and they are the first women i have talked to. i think there were 1 or 2 in a pack i passed riding west over the last couple days.

i have to say, i think i like riding this bike route thing vs. when i have just rode roads.  but i think i have a unique experience compared to other women. men don’t usually try and tell me what to do or where to go or try to fix my bike. though the shop teacher at the high school in walnut groove did offer to open the school up for me if i needed the shop, or the locker room for a shower. i declined, but it was nice. he acknowledged it might seem a little creepy, but really i just wanted to sit and enjoy the fest.

sitting here with lots of wifi i’ve been able to kind of line out the rest of missouri. there are plenty of places that i want to stop in along the way. places that are welcoming to bikers. and there are rivers and national forests to explore, so i’ll most likely take another week to cross the rest of missouri. i mean, really, what’s my hurry?

p.s. just for grins this morning i turned on the “happy cow” app to see if there is anything vegan in the area, and there is!!!!!! it is called the polymath educational cafe! holy crap! i had a temphe blt and some pasta salad and got some snacks like a for real vegan cinniman roll! i had a lovely conversation with the owner! she sent me away with some extra treats! if you could see me, i’m doing my happy food chair dance still from my experince! if you are ever in marshfield missouri check out this cafe!

Kansas City I

Going from cool brisk days to hot hot hot in just a quick moment is jarring. Also going from never really experiencing allergies to full on miserable is also disconcerting, however, none of that really matches realizing the first part of my adventure that I thought was pretty fool proof proved, well, foolish.

I kind of though making it to kc and then doing the Katy trail in late may, was going to be just fine, not like my idea of walking the Oregon coast in April. The Missouri River is experiencing flood stages it hasn’t seen in awhile. Lots of questions came up.

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Are they still going to have ped jam? Can we still bike there? Ok it is on, but how are we going to do this? Should we do this? Is it even going to be enjoyable?

The organizers of said ped jam did an amazing job of redoing the route and making good event spaces. The bands showed up, and so did the sun…and rain. Friday was a perfect let it flow kind of day. We left late which effected meeting some people we hoped to meet up with in Columbia (the jam was suppose to start in Columbia, but the spur trail is closed, so it got moved to rocheport. The timing left us with an hour of wtf do we do until we can check in…so we went to this little town that my friend had found some of his ancestors were from. We had hoped to bike through there and do some exploration, so when we saw the sign for it, we detoured.

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What is it about walking through cemeteries that can feel sooo hum connecting? I love reading the names and dates of people I have no known connection to.

We got to the kick-off party with a perfect amount of time to set up camp, get some beers and food at the food cart, then a friend met us at camp. Lovely conversations. Met the neighbors for the night, then celebrations were on. A giant bonfire. Music. Fire dancers. More music. Accro-yoga. More beers. Fireworks. More music. And no rain until the middle of the night.

 

In the motioning we packed up and gave our bags to people who transport them to Saturday night’s campsite. Got coffee. Watched allllll the other people start to show up. Listened to some music and then decided to head down to the next venue. We really wanted to see this band called the Barney sisters…so good! The are like 9 and 11 or something like that. (We got to meet their mom while they performed with the the Kay brothers later that night). There were a couple of bands here we wanted to see…and eat lunch. We knew we had somewhere around 10 miles to bike to the next venue where a band I really wanted to see would be playing so we headed out.

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This section was a mixture of road and Katy trail….so much flooding. The river truly looked like a ginormous lake in so many spots. It was certainly more than 10 miles, but it was such a nice ride…hot but nice. The organizers did a wonderful job at putting up signs without holding our hands. We had heard that the people running this had been out well past midnight on Thursday putting up sandbags to keep space accessible for us. I wonder how many times they must have routed and re-routed this course to make it work.

I really enjoyed the Katy roundhouse that is just a few miles from boonsville. Here I got to finally see velvet and the undercurrents live. So good. We stayed for some of the next person. They would be super great to see in a different venue with a sound person that had skill sets that worked better with their performance style.

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Rolling into boonville was exciting. The flooding was so unbelievable every time we crossed a high bridge to get a full view of the effects. Kemper park, where Saturday night’s festivities were held was perfect. We opted to camp along the right field foul line of a little pee-wee baseball field instead of up the hill. We gathered our gear and set up camp. Got oriented to where everything was or would be. Bathrooms. Water. Showers. Food. Beverages. Music. Fireworks. People we might know. And then we just sat and watched the park fill up with people. It was actually very interesting. So many different types of people from all over the Midwest. Their jersey’s or other apparel giving hints of their local bike clubs, breweries, or various landmarks.

Eventually we worked our way down to meet a friend, grab some food. Give phones to the solar charging station. And watch all the talent we were surrounded by. So much good music, the fireworks, those fire dances were using glow in the dark juggling pins and hoops to perform with this night…but we got tired…and I just don’t do well in crowds anymore, so we went back to camp and sat in our little camp chairs and listened to the last 2 bands…well the last one I listened to in my tent.

I have to say that the fireworks these 2 nights were perfect. The designs were on point…simple yet exciting. The boooms were not super explosively loud, just night pops. They lasted around 15 minutes, then we were back to music. I haven’t enjoyed fireworks this much in a very long time.

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We had another nice middle of the night rain. The morning was cooler and we took our time getting our stuff together and heading out. We indulged in some good coffee. Breakfast was a fail for the vegan me so I had some snacks that I brought along, but did engage in some good coffee and a dirty chai. We may have been one of the last ones out, but it was nice to not feel rushed and too watch the whole camp break down…also we got to thank some of the organizers that we were introduced to Friday night, and had watched just stay so calm and, well, organized over the weekend.

We did miss the first band that was playing at the Katy roundhouse Sunday, but we made it to rocheport in time to see most of the set of Dawson’s hollow while we had some lunch. It was just 2 miles into the end of the road…up a big climb or 2 and it was over. We got everything tossed into the car, changed into not so sweaty shirts. Had one last beer as we listened to part of the final band. Thanked more people. And pointed our way back to good old kc.

After seeing all the flooding, watching people actually try to bike into flood waters, and wonder what the trail must look like under the flood. Wonder how long the clean up will take. Be super thankful for all the work that must have gone into clearing the parts of the trail we could actually ride on (especially considering the condition of the flint hills trail I had rode earlier). Well, I was at a loss as to what the fuck am I going to do now?!

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We settled in. Hung up the wet and muddy gear. My friend went for a sleep over with his boyfriend. I started searching alternative routes. Should I just go west instead? Can I make it east at all. Tornadoes have been in every state around me, and just down the road from us. So what feels safe enough to go for and know that I can grab a hotel again if it gets super sketchy?

So I think I have a route sketched out. I will go a little south and then pick up the trans am route 76. I even found a winery were I will pick up 76 that is open to cyclists! What(?!) camp for free at a winery?! Yes please!

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First week

”you wanna join our revolution?”

no hesitation

no moment of waiting for some kind reason or expaination

i already had them in my mind as queer women of some kind

so fist in the air with a “hell yeah”

its been a horrific week, month, years for people who have the physical ability to give birth in this country and many of us are ready for a revolution. Many of us have been ready for years…for most of our lives.

As we talked, I realized my current life is a kind of revolution already.

In this first week I have already met so many people who are excited by what I am attempting to do. Sometimes they do not understand until I say, “life is too short to make someone else wealthy.” I get many a different form of affirmation. From fuck yeah, to a nod in agreement as if they had never thought of that.

so how has my first week gone? In 5 days I did a little over 190 miles, cussed Kansas over and over again. And fell in love with the flint hills over again. The first day of was just 27 miles and I landed in a campsite by a tiny lake (aka a reservoir) that is absolutely magical. I could see that the flood waters had come way up to where I was camping and had just recently receded. There were so many birds and turtles and fish jumping. Then with the moon overhead and the sunsetting…I just didn’t know where to look.

when I got back to my campsite to write and make a meal, this little girl came over to figure out what I am all about. She was so open and so confused: where was my camper? Am I a girl? Am I traveling alone? Why? What are you doing with that bike? I had met her great grandfather earlier who is actually tyring to help the mom raise 3 or 4 kids?! They were so kind and so open. Eventually she went back to get her dolls so that we could play with them.

at one point I got kind of nervous that some of the family dynamics where going to come out…they did, but not in the way I thought they would….thankfully! Mom is tired from working so much and doesn’t get to see the kids much. The great grandfather came over to make sure she wasn’t “bothering” me. When I pulled out my camera and said it was time for me to go for a walk and take some pics everyone left and there was an agreement to say goodbye in the morning.

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Why, why does it surprise me every time I am out that I meet more and more people, individuals and families, living in campsites? Everyday life is getting more challenging for folks. And I am not talking about keeping up with the jones or the jetsons. I’m talking about the basics of food and shelter. I don’t know what to do about this. Acknowledging is the step I can start with. And gosh…this 1st grader woke up next to a wonderful lake with a family member looking out for her, and is that so bad? I know kids with so very much more material positions, and not even close to this gift. Yet, I have been having flashbacks to the grapes of wrath.

as far as the flint hills trail, I want to rank it super low, except for the section between council groove and admire. That takes the traveler through an area that gives one a sample of the majesty of the flint hills, and the challenges that Europeans faced as they fled whatever travesties they were tyring to find solence in this land, while being part of the conquest. These are harsh conditions. Did they feel it was worth leaving “home” for? Was it a better life? Were they forced into it from punishment or persecution? How do people who are doing the same thing today, from other lands, and similar, feel about it? Is it worth it to them? Is it what they imagined? Are they finding security? A better life? A happy time? Is it worth leaving every fucking thing they know to come here? Don’t get me wrong, i’m not letting the conquest of the peoples of this land off the hook…just curious.

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these are the things I think of as I peddle into the wind, up hill, with a loaded bike. Free as I know to be. Am I giving up the fight, or am I digging in deeper? The more I refuse to give in to to capitlaistic nature, I do truly believe that the more I live out my life true to my believes the more benefit I have been to people trying to “come out” in any way shape or form.

so yes, revolution please!

Si se Puede!

 

and i am off

so long steamboat hello…adventure

so much has happened since i last wrote. i had good intentions of writing and updating, but i’d get home from work with just enough time to make some dinner, do a few exercises/stretch, do a little research, read, go to bed, repeat.

my days off i spent staring at the mountain, watching the snow melt and fall and melt and fall. it was a long grey winter in steamboat. my mood shifted a great deal to similar to how i felt living in the pnw. it took me a minute to figure out what was happening. once i did, i relaxed into self-care vs. self-doubt and loathing. aka took more vit-d!

anyway, let’s start with an update and laying the foundation of the adventure! yahooo! adventure times!

so i left the boat in great disarray that will continue for a little while. thank goodness for friends.

why i start these things in a season not compatible with adventures where i am currently living i just don’t know. so i rented a car and drove down to gunnison for a sneaky little journey to some of my favorite parts of colorado. my thought was to get down to lower elevation and higher temps. from here i could bike over to salida. meet some pals who will take me to wichita for fam time.

driving over monarch pass i began searching for other plans. of course the pass is long and steep, that i expected. but the hairiest part has no shoulder, still has snow, and where i would ride is full of the rocky traction crap they put down…no fun to breathe.

i rolled into my hostel, the wanderlust, and weighed my options. i found a bus that goes from gunnison to denver, rolling through salida. yes, please. i’ll take that option. the downside being it leaves at 6am, arriving in salida around 7:45 and i can’t check into my next hostel until 4. deal with that later.

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so i stay another day in sunny gunny! i ran up to crested butte and rode around one of my favorite towns, taking note of all the changes. and i had my very first impossible burger! i can’t believe this was my first. it was good, not great, but good. i drank good beer, i rode to bike shops that are coffee shops and beer stops. i blew off white dudes who wanted to talk over the women who were sharing their bike adventure stories. i actually watched this guy get all cry baby because a woman would not give him her car keys to drive to the grocery store. 

i love this area of colorado. its sunny. its dry with rivers. views of the big peaks…so many 14ers. it’s relaxed, not polished, working class, and people are active year round. plus, so much of my adventure history is here. my love fore solo camping, hiking, hiking with friends, climbing my first 14er, sharing these passions, heartbreak, grieving/processing deaths of loved ones, finding myself, losing myself, finding solace in the outdoors, learning how much i have to learn, finding out how strong i am and am not….

salida is where i feel like my adventure really started. i had just sat down at the closest coffee shop i could find to get my bearings and do some writing when an older couple (not much older than me actually) joined me and started chatting me up. they are from nebraska, the middle of where so much of the recent flooding happened. they talked about the actions their town took that limited the damages they experienced. but their friends were not so lucky. they said one of their friend’s ranches likely will not recover in his lifetime.

this couple and i could not be more opposite. but we had a very lovely conversation. we knew many of the same places in colorado. me from hiking/biking/wondering. them from hunting. they rarely get to leave their home because they take care of “people with disabilities”. i go and do what i want when i want (have enough money and/or pto). this trip they were on is a once in a decade get away. we had a lovely conversation, and they offered to cook me a steak and give me a place to stay if i ever pass through their town. i smiled and thanked them. i most likely will not cross nebraska and if i do it will be via the cowboy rail trail. 

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it was still early, so i rode down to the river park. salida is part of the arkansas river headwater area. going from one end to the other end of town in the early morning was lovely. i saw people driving by stopping when they saw a neighbor. i ran into deer grazing in people’s yards.  i was a dirtbag at ease. eventually, i leaned my bike against a tree and sat along the river to read a book…mostly i stared at the blue sky and green leaves budding out on the trees. damn, it felt good! it finally felt like spring!

i couldn’t get much cell phone reception, so i went to up the block to this cute little coffee shop. the person behind the counter asked about my rig and what i was up to. i explained friends by bike tour. they seemed happy about it. i made some phone calls and logistics related contacts then found a place to eat. after i finished eating, a woman who works there came up and asked me a few questions about my pack and what i was up to. more cool conversations and inquiry about the book i’m reading, and stuff. now, i finally feel like i am embarking on this adventure again. conversations about doing something out of the ordinary for many people. an opening for others’ to talk about what they have done or want to do or have planned to do.

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later that night i met another woman who recognized the book i’m reading, or at least the author and that led to a great conversation about climate chaos and well a very pleasant chat before the band started. after the show, my pals who are taking me to kansas, met up with me and our adventure started. it was great catching up and walking around. the next morning we met up early for hiking and outdoor fun. then we loaded up my stuff and headed to kansas.

and here i am for a couple weeks. as it happens, i arrived in time for my newphew’s graduation, another nephew is playing tennis, it is a buddy’s birthday, mother’s day, and much family will be gathering during this time. what a great way to kick of this leg of this adventure.

so what is my plan for this leg?

good question.

if you haven’t already figured it out, it is friends by bike tour. i was calling it friends by bike 2019, but really who knows when it will end, so friends by bike it is.

the starts off with, well new friends sent me off from steamboat. long time friends met me in salida, by a river (the arkansas) that flows into where we first met, wichita. here i will enjoy some time with friends and family and friends who are family. then i will head up to kansas city and pick up a pal who will ride the katy trail with me along the missouri river into st. louis. from there i will pick my way along to n.c. where i will catch up with some amazing people who i get to call friends. then up to philly where there are more people who i am fortunate enough to know after so so many years and we have remained close friends.

from there i have no idea what or where i will go. there are some things i want to do, some trails i want to ride and hopefully, people will join me along the way. my goal is to get to the west coast by mid to late august for an event and play with buddies. then maybe finally get to ride the sierra cascade route down and be in the desert by winter for adventures with even more friends and family. we’ll see what happens.

i’ve acquired some new cameras and other gear that i will share soon. i’m excited to find new ways to share what i’m up to with everyone. and at some point, i will share some of the amazing adventures i stole some time away to experience. probably as some kind of photo montage.

i hope to meet up with as many people as possible along the way, so if you want to join in, join along, go for a ride, or just say hi, let me know and we will find a way to put it on the “map”.

 

 

the apocalypse gives me hope

welp, this is my third, and final, attempt at this post. i started it in the spring as the snow was melting and revealing what people left behind to be covered up by the snow. mostly beer cans, bags of dog poo, lost socks, underwear (?!). it was also when i heard a new, to me, definition of apocalypse.

i listen to a great many podcasts at work…so many. one of my favorites is how to survive the end of the world. i wait with great anticipation for new episodes. being in this small mountain town with few people that i feel want to delve into these deeper conversations that i am hunger and thirsty for…that i crave…so i get that with these podcasts. they are all created by people of color; black folks to be specific, mostly all women, some identify as queer. this one, in particular, is by a couple of sisters, adrienne marree brown and autumn brown. the episodes are based around octavia butler’s writings and philosophies. not surprisingly, one of the sisters coedited the book octavia’s brood. if you haven’t held this gem of a book in your hands, i highly recommend it. it can be somewhat embarrassing to listen to this as i walk around town or at work as i’ve laughed out loud, cried, and scratched my head with each one. many i think of daily until the next episode pushes my thoughts deeper than the previous.

so apocalypse…the common understanding of an apocalypse refers to the end of the world, probably involving zombies. however, the origin goes back to latin, greek, old english, and old french. but the new to me meaning is what i want to dive deeper into. and that meaning is about the uncovering, to reveal. i, and many others that i have been reading and listening to, might translate these two meanings to say that maybe if we dare to try and give voice to the uncovering of history and stories to reveal what has been left out, we might finally be able to end this chaos of a mess. the result of imperialism, capitalism, too many power hungry that have drowned out the voices that we need to hear. the voices that perhaps, if we listened could cause such cognitive dissonance that we would have to stop this insane greed that gives way to the endless destruction of the planet….the climate apocalypse if you will.

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it is also what is happening with the #metoo movement and much of our society in general. perhaps things are not getting worse, as mainstream media/social media would like us to think and fear, but the atrocities are getting uncovered, revealed. the truth of just how widespread the injustices of our society is. this unraveling of the patriarch and capitalism, of the pains caused by the few to the many, well it gives me hope.

some are afraid of just what will be unleashed. i’m curious about what we will learn about the ancestors, our neighbors, and ourselves. maybe we will learn that all our social and economic theories are wrong….once again showing us that science is ever-changing as we learn new things that prove the old knowledge is wrong…more storytelling and more myth-making…true joy.

the part of this unveiling of another meaning to the apocalypse that truly excites me, however, is the uncovering of the voices that have been vailed, covered, drowned out. something that has bothered me since i started the dive into animal liberation and social justice is this ego-centered idea that “we” are the voice for the voiceless…buuuuuull-shit. i deeply believe that everything that is of this world has a voice and uses it. but the more narrowly we define what is voice, what is alive, what has value to whom, the less we are able to listen to anything not human…english only speaking humans are probably the worse. believing that if one is not speaking english they can not communicate. i have watched how my co-workers who speak spanish and very little english are treated by english only speaking”bosses”. to be clear, i speak very little spanish, however, i am learning how to listen to them to figure out what they need me to know.

i think, and the more that i think the more i believe it to be true, that we have forgotten how to listen to anyone but ourselves. we are so ego driven in the western world that we are incapable to hear anything else. animals and trees and rivers and plants and fish and birds and….all have a voice. if we didn’t believe this to be true, disney would be fucked. and we wouldn’t try so hard to learn to understand when our companion animals are requesting something from us and us from them.

the earth is constantly trying to communicate with us. it is currently fall, almost winter here, and i see the trees getting my attention with the daily shifts in color. the flowers with their scents, berries with their sweetness.

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but this voice for the voiceless myth has so greatly affected the voices of people. we’ve started to acknowledge this in our history books, creating special courses for women, people of color, black folks, queer folks. we are starting to realize that those who won the power dynamics tell the stories of even those they have been conquered. maybe people are starting to see this in other realms as well, like in movies and music. but white cis-male voices still dominate over all the other voices out there.

there are genres of writings out there that i didn’t think i liked until i read books written by women, black folks and people of color. i hated, and i mean hated, science fiction until i read octavia butler. she led me to le quin and then neil gaiman. but speculative fiction changed everything for me involving storytelling. then octavia’s brood came out and my mind/heart exploded with possibility.

so when i was at the whitefish bike retreat for the wtf bikexplorers and there was a bipoc panel FOR bipoc people not OF. this little shift in language is so key. i’ve organized and been a part of many organization’s panels of qpoc people but, let’s be real, they were for white folks, queer or not. this panel was moderated by a person who identified in the panel’s identity, and the q&a was FOR bipoc folks. of course, as soon as the q&a opened up, a white person tried to ask a question (the question usually heard at these events asked by good white folks “what can we do for you?”). the moderator was wonderful. she said you can shut up this is not FOR you…or something very similar. my heart burst open because so often i’ve seen such panels continue to serve white folks by answering their questions.

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there was only time for 2 questions, both were great and led to wonderful conversations, but the people who organized the questions and discussions with this group was amazing. the conversations went deep. there were tears and much laughter. then a much needed and requested dance party!

for me, this panel of amazing people was the exclamation point to a heart blowing weekend. i didn’t realize how hungry i had been, and am, for these conversations and work. i listen to podcasts and read books and articles, i listen to music, and take in as much visual art on these topics as i can, but without people to share and learn with, well maybe this is the source of isolation i feel at times. these voices, these forces of life is what i am wanting to experience over the noise of pop-culture.

so for me, the zombie apocalypse is already on. it is all the people wondering around addicted to their phones, scrolling through social media looking for connection and validation that they are doing the sheep thing. but the other apocalypse is also happening, maybe on the same devices. we can start amplifying the voices that are pushed to the edges; raise their cultural dB sort of speak. put down the phone and listen to the water and trees. have a solid conversation with your cat…maybe she’ll stop pissing on your shoes.

my advice to those who ask, “what can we do to support you” google the shit out of those same people. read them, listen to the music, invest in their commerce, be a patron. because the answers are out there, we just have to be silent enough to listen. i, unfortunately, talked way too much at this event. i was so hungry for real talk that in my excitement, i forgot to shut the fuck up. i am searching for ways to apologize for that, maybe this post is a way to start until next time when i can practice active listening.

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so my personal action for increasing the momentum of the apocalypse is to amplify as many voices as i can. to share the amazing wonderfully inspiring work of people i am learning from. to stand BEHIND them as they lead the way and step in front when it is time to deflect the hatred and violence away from them…to use my whiteness as a kind of shield when wanted.

there is so much i’ve cut out of this post. so many ways that i believe that the apocalypse can help us find our way. i believe that we can all start by asking who is missing from our communities, conversations, view…how can we (re)build relationships. how many different ways are there to listen, speak, give voice to…what happens when we embrace the apocalypse to facilitate understanding, empathy, curiosity, and understanding.

so i will do my best to listen more and to sharing the voices that are being silenced, covered up and overpowered. to start here is a small list of podcasts i listen to on the regular…that are not white, cishet males. it’s a start.

2 dope queens

sooo many white guys

snap judgment

nancy

we live here

 

apocalypse

vaca bound after a little rally for the public lands.

today starts my summer vacation and i am so flipped-out excited i can hardly stand it, but also trying to stay deep in the moment because, well, i live in a vacation destination town so it is kind of like i am always on vacation except for those pesky 40 hours each week i work.

the other thing that helps me stay in the moment is my sister and her family just came for a visit! it was so nice to host them for a few days and get time with the kids who are not kids anymore but growing into wonderful humans. to say i live a little different from them is an understatement so to share my life and ideas is fantastic, mostly because they listen and ask questions. it has been a summer of visitors. a benifit to living more to the middle of the country.

this is why is was a difficult decision for me to steal myself away for an hour while they were here. that asswhip of an excuse of a secretary of the interior, ryan zinke was in town so there was a little rally to show support for public lands, or more fitting, against his and trump’s policies to desecrate what is left of these sacred places. i gave up going to rallies and protests and such a few years ago out of frustration and just disgusted by the digression of solid ethics. it reminded me of going to church when i was a kid. living in a small town, i would listen to what people took in on sundays, and then witnessed their behavior the rest of the week. really? so listening to people talk about the actions needed to “save” this planet, the trees, the water, the air, etc. then i see them using single-use everything or continuing the participation in the mayhem. so to save my nerves i stopped going. you may be asking why not get involved in the organizing….see above.

so i decided to go to this one. there aren’t as many chances in this little town to make some noise while a major political (i.e. corporate) figure is in town. so what the hell, i show up for this one. about 1/2 of the county here is public lands. the whole state of kansas has less than 1% of public land. the entire ski industry is built on the back of public land, as is most of the off-road cycling (motor or burrito powered).

wondering around the people tabling at the rally was interesting. i ran into people i have seen at other events in town, mostly at the library. i found out there is a wild horse sanctuary about 100 miles from here and learned about the renewed attack on wild horses. i learned more and more people want renewable energy sources, but they don’t want to cut back on energy usage. i met the woman running for sheriff and her platform to bring empathy training and diversity training to the police force and county officers. she was a whistleblower on sexual assault in the department. then i got to have a chat with a journalist from the high country news. then eventually the rally started.

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it opened with a poet from the dinè tribe, layla june. she gave an amazing talk and opening prayer, reminding us who’s land we were actually on, ute, known as parianuche or nuche people as they refer to themselves. i was moved to tears from her words and her passions.

then the person leading the rally got the crowd to start chanting “our land” and my heart sank. here was a large crowd, estimated at 1400 people, in a town with a population of 12,000. the vast majority of the crowd was white shouting “our land” and i couldn’t believe it. sure it is an easy chant it gets people riled up…don’t take our land say the colonizers and settlers. but it isn’t our land. sure it is public land, supposed to be protected from corporate pillaging, but it is not our land. it has never been our land, just as a stolen object never belongs to the thief. and here my internal dialogue fuse was lite.

the next speaker was a county commissioner, an older white guy. a pretty good talk based around the love of growing up backpacking and being outside,  i only cringed a few times. another white guy talked about being an entrepreneur that depends on public lands for people to buy/rent/use his gear to go on public lands to recreate. more money talk. then a rancher talked about land usage and care (the fuse burned a little faster and brighter). but i have to say i resonated with his world more than the other white men or women who spoke.

he started with a story about coming into town with his younger son who asked what he was doing this afternoon. when he responded with giving a talk about the land, the kid asked that if he gave a bad talk would they take their land away?  well, son, its not really our land anyway. it is mother earth’s. then he went on about how deeply the family knows the land. how he repairs daily the fences broken due to cattle and moose interactions that he also gets to witness. i’ve heard and seen him talk before about water and land usage. i like this guy, this reluctant public speaker.

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that was followed by a female olympian who gave a great talk about the need for public lands for people to ski, hike, backpack, walk…for mental and physical health. then came the speaker that sent me home, a ceo for an outdoor industry. she brought all the numbers. sure it is important for people to know that the outdoor industry creates more jobs and revenue than does oil/gas/coal/timber industries combined. these jobs have more benefits, better pay, typically safer than the other industries. but there are people behind those numbers. there is so much more to these issues than numbers. i just started feeling sick over all this so i left before the fuse came to the end and i exploded in public.

the next speaker was a state rep who i have seen speak before at a pow (protect our winters) gathering. then lyla june was to come back up to talk about indigenous rights. i really wanted to hear what she had to say, but i just couldn’t. all those white people had gone way over their time and my emotional time limit that i allowed myself was expiring. however, as i was leaving i ran into lyla june and got to talk with her for a minute and thank her for making the journey up here.

so why am i even mentioning or writing about this?

i would like us to be more intentional with our words and what we are doing when we stand up for anything besides ourselves. this land is not “our” land. this land has never belonged to “us”. if we truly want to protect this sacred land (as was used often) we should return it to the people of this land, the indigenous people of this continent. this could be the start of actual reparations for the theft of place, culture, people… i would gladly pay the fees to recreate on the land of the people who truly know how to live collectively with the land.

but also, picking certain places for protection from capitalistic extraction or abuse…like saying its ok to pollute and pillage from here, but not here. it is this valuing of one over another that also bothers me. people don’t think kansas, or much of the midwest is beautiful because they have never gotten to experience the majesty of tall-grass prairie in bloom at sunrise. pretty much all of it has been tilled under to grow food, mostly food for livestock…or fuel. why? because the way the prairies created such rich and fertile soil that is now depleted due to overuse.

i just finished reading this book called overstory by richard powers. it is a story where the main characters are just regular people who had extraordinary situations bring out the activists in them in one way or another. and by deeply interacting with the natural world, they begin to hear the trees who never stopped speaking, we just stopped listening to them. he writes of scientific books that i wish were written, and people i feel i know.

he shares a glimpse of the greek story by ovid based on the word xenia or guest-friendship, to take care of traveling strangers. it is the story a couple with limited resource, baucis and philemon, who took in 2 strangers who turned out to be gods. baucis and philemon were turned into an oak and a linden upon their joined deaths as a reward from the gods.

“huge and gracious and intertwined. what we care for, we will grow to resemble. and what we resemble will hold us, when we are us no longer….”

I finished this book just before i started this post. the end brought me to tears. tears of recognition for people who want to do what is right by the non-human life on this planet. but i believe that the deeper wisdom here in the story, as well as from the rally, is that we can fight all we want to save the trees, the rivers, all water, for clean air and food. to save wild horses and dolphins and whales and sea turtles….we can try to fight for laws to protect all that. we can fight corporations to stop polluting and contributing to climate change and feeding the disasters that are killing everything they touch.

or

we can take deeper looks into ourselves

we take the time to get still and quiet and listen

i think we need to take those frightening deep meditative looks inward. to make those changes within ourselves to point inward instead of outward. and perhaps, when we see the work we need to do with ourselves, we can collectively find more common ground.

but fighting? fighting leads to more fighting. listening leads to more understanding. some say we don’t have the time to listen. i don’t know. fighting doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere.

don’t get me wrong, there are times and moments to stand up and fight in our protections, but not over possession and ownership.

i was once, many years ago, sitting and meditating in an amazing sacred area in arizona. an outcropping along a somewhat popular trail. there is a definitive feminine and masculine side to this section. i had touched the masculine side first. it was full of grief and sorrow and pain. a belief that they had failed to protect the women and children/land and water.

when i got to the feminine side, the place that the women gathered, i was in tears and full of pain and sorrow myself. as i meditated i asked what i could do to save them to protect…blah blah blah i was still full of white savior ego. they laughed at me and then gave me a long lecture that boiled down to: the earth will survive, you will not, humans will not. unless there is a massive shift and change among the whole population. as soon as humans are gone the planet will begin to regenerate once again, as it has over the ages. humans may or may not be part of that regeneration. it is up to us.

i know i have a great many changes to make in me. i don’t know where to start, to be honest. i often feel out of balance and off-kilter. but i do know that the more i sit quietly in nature, the more i am playful with nature, the more i regain my equilibrium. the more clear my answers become.

i don’t think i can fight the opposition with outrage, or statistics, or prodding confrontation. but maybe with understanding. with conversations. with deepening my empathy for those who i do not understand. listening and sharing stories…

ahhh i don’t know. but i do believe that the more those who are trying to profit off of our rage, pitting one another against the other, the more they keep us occupied with the distractions that they create, the more lost we all become. the further we move from our objectives.

so how do we take to the streets to show our opposition without turning upon one another?

how do we stay focused and on point when they throw flash bombs and pepper bombs at us.

when corporations are feeding the police state so that the disparaged turn against their neighbors?

how do we step outside all this for just a moment to see a different path

how do we stop and hear the pain under all the rage? for in the precepts we learn that pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

so i am off to go get lost in the woods for a little while. i am very excited about this particular trip for many reasons that should unfold as i explore places, land, water i have never ventured before and research for my next leg of this journey.

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borders and boundries

i have been so super grumpy these past couple weeks. grumpy like answering questions with grunts and silent head shakes. i’d like to say i don’t know why. maybe it is the moon, eclipse. but the world is on fire, again, or maybe still. each time there is another fire or shooting or idiotic political ruler says/does something stupid and people continue to act surprised. then a 3d printer gun….naw i have no idea why i’ve been grumpy.

then i started reading the book overstory by richard powers and the connections started gathering forces inside me.

i’ve been thinking a great deal lately about borders and boundaries, i kind of always have. as a kid, i use to wonder how water, rain, streams, ocean, birds, fish, bears, dear…knew when they crossed over to another state, country. but then i read about the bison massacres when they roam outside the national parks looking for food…migration doesn’t give a flip about borders or boundaries, but meat farmers don’t like competition for grazing on blm land….

then one day i saw a map of the united states without any state lines or national borders drawn on it or even time zone changes for that matter. that map looked so free to me, so wide open. it looked like such a wonderful place to explore and move about. but to be honest, it is not the imaginary lines that bother me, it is the internal struggles that crossing over into another state can have on my psyche. and this is what leads me to think that all these imaginary lines and borders and boundaries are not meant to provide a safe area for people, but to create a state of fear and thereby control people on one side and a false sense of security on the other.

as a queer woman, i use to get really nervous and anxious if i needed to drive through mississippi, lousianna, alabama on my way to florida to see my grandma. i would get in and out of the gas stations as fast as possible with as limited interaction with other humans…especially white men. later i reflected that at least in the “south” i knew how people felt about me. in the liberal “north” of pc country, it was said behind my back and supported by legislature and propaganda…aka a false sense of security.

but last week i went through the rocky mountain national park and my thoughts bubbled up again, mostly because of what people in the united(?) states are doing to people, refugees, from the global south. i see and hear the fear in the voices of my co-workers who have their “papers” but are afraid to visit family for fear of well so much fear. and i actually hear the arguments of people born and raised here that their family came over legally. really? reeeally? who stamped their papers? crazy horse? geronimo? chief joseph?

this resurrection of this particular fear is happening at a time when farm workers and domestic servants (damn what a horrible word) have been organizing and gaining momentum in their demands for fair wages and treatment for themselves and their children, especially farm workers. if you do not think these issues are connected, you are forgetting history: ceasar chavez, the bracaro project, the Immokalee workers

anyway, approaching the boundaries and entry gate to the rmnp stirred up these old feelings, but really what i want to know is why. why all these boundaries and borders? i believe deeply, that it is to keep people in and not talk to others. to keep the manipulation alive and well. to keep people in fear and control.

what i have noticed is that every time the global north enforces their boundaries, it intensifies the need for people to assert their individual bounderies and identities, which then reinforces the us/them fear and defensiveness.

margaret thatcher is known for saying “there is no society, there are only individuals”. this individualism fuels some of what is keeping us from making the changes we most need to make in this world, from climate change to foreign policy. it has fueled the fire of identity politics in an unhealthy way and i have been trying to figure out how we have gotten in our own ways soooofuckingmuch. so here is my theory.

identity politics is important. as gloria anzandula taught so many years ago at an international queer studies conference in iowa, to imagine one’s self as a tree and all our identities, all the parts of us that make us unique are our roots. if we don’t know all the different roots, and accept them and integrate them into ourselves as a whole, when the cultural winds come by, we will be knocked over. i’m not sure that anzandula knew about the intricate network of communication that the root systems of trees in a healthy forest provide all beings in a forest. the network of communication, of shared resources, of protection, for all, and that is all before they become nurse logs.  if she had, well this analogy gets even stronger. a whole intact forest stands together in all its colors and shapes from the microscopic to the giant trees. yet, as lone individual trees, without interconnected root systems, we topple in one fell swoop, taking out our neighbors.

so what troubles me is that the more we identify with OUR individual identities, the more we isolate ourselves and others. the more we get offended when someone steps on our individual toes. and then more fear is fueled and the more isolated we all become. on top of it, we kind of refuse to be uncomfortable. we are told that these boundaries and identities will keep us safe. but i believe we need discomfort on some levels to push our limits, to go past these boundaries and commune with others not like us, to learn what the other side of the line needs so that we can all do this together. and perhaps grow over the lines and past the barriers. but western capitalism is what fuels the walls. it tells us that we can relieve any discomfort with a pill or a game or a new device. it keeps us in the cycle that makes reading howard zinne so frustrating, and important…and we are at it again. and we are more alienated and isolated no matter our number of social media friends we have.

capitalism”s magic bullet, if you will: naming. we love to name things. if we have named it, we know how we are supposed to feel about something or act towards it, and this includes gender pronouns. (doubt this? talk to someone who has been both he and she at some point in their lives, or someone who is intersex, someone who is willing to talk about the differences in their treatment based on perceived gender and self-identification…this is a life/death situation often). but if we “named” based on relationship instead of ownership, well that is different. a mountain “named” based on a cosmology of a creation myth will be treated differently than one named by conquest and ownership. the responsibility we feel for a place or person changes if we see it as sacred and part of all of who we are.

and that is the crux, right? maybe? that by creating these name/labeled boundaries and borders, we mark off ownership of areas and control of those areas and all that happens to be there: animals, water, minerals…people. but if things are “named” based on relationship, that is a whole new level of freedom and movement….and responsibility.  you can’t control, manipulate, mine, and harvest what you do not own in one way or another. however, you are responsible for all that you hold some relationship to, and that is everything in this word: food, water, air, what you use for shelter, clothing, one another.

what if we were able to drop just a little of this border-mindset? what if we saw the people that were coming across the border for what they are: people. people who are in danger due to the violations and unequal trade/economic situations that “we” created. that turned these families into refugees, not immigrants. no one really and truly wants to leave their “home” for the unknown…to a country that is openly hostile and violent to one’s culture and people. no one wants to do this. and we as mobile amaricans don’t understand this. i’ve actually had arguments with (former) friends of mine on this issue. when your family has lived in a certain place for so so many generations leaving is not going to be your first choice. people and places we have denied our relationship to are in danger, and this is how we treat them? back to the tree/forest analogy, our survivals are interdependent.

so i ask, “what is more important? what someone’s label is or how they participate in community.”

i know my stance. and i believe that the only way we will survive as a species is if we return to relationship-based communities instead of isolationalist/nationalist idealism.

we need to make a choice, as a species. i have no doubt this world will continue, but most likely, without humans. unless we can make some changes really fast. and these will have to be internal, non-governmental. we can’t wait for the “leaders” to make the changes. we will be uncomfortable for a little while, but eventually, more quickly than we might think, we will find actual joy and happiness at leaving so much misery for so many behind us.

i know that this sounds a lot like preaching and pointing fingers, and it is. mostly at myself for sure. we all have a great deal to unlearn and re-educate ourselves. before we end up like this:

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this week, 2 years ago, i would have probably given up hope for the humans, but talking to strangers…making connections with people i have no reason to except that we are sitting next to one another on the bus, bar stool, bike ride, campsite, sandy beach, at the wall, in line at the border…we all have stories to share if we are willing to listen…but like i said, its just a little theory i’m working on.