a year ago

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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eclipse escape

with all the hype and cluster issues i had to listen to for the past 3 months in oregon, i wasn’t sure just what i wanted to do for the eclipse, if anything. part of me was totally just be where i am when it happens and do that then. but as it approached i started to get excited. it is a pretty big deal and i was just miles from the totality range AND  it was on my day off. i got even more excited as i found out some of the local businesses here were going to close so that their staff could take off and enjoy and adventure. in a tourist focused town, that is a big deal. then i got the text…come with us

so that is what i did. i went with some pals up to silverton oregon to experience the eclipse. i had met the people who invited my buddies and really like them, i had no idea how big the group was going to be, but it seemed like a great plan.

so i got off work sunday morning, we loaded up our gear, food, beverages, breakfast burritos and headed off to silverton. i napped in my little nest in the back of the jeep, waking every-so-often checking on the smoke and progress. when we arrived we were greeted by some great folks on some lovely land not far from the main park in silverton.

as we settled in and caught up and met all the friends of friends that brought us together, i immediately relaxed and rolled with the open plans and got excited for those really excited. it is rare, in my life anyway, that one gets to experience science nerds excited for an event, and it was easy to get swept up in it all.  my pals and i talked about setting eclipse intentions and embracing the nature and energy and history of these events while we enjoyed breakfast burritos, so while team telescope went out looking at places to set up in the morning, we sat and absorbed and explored where we were.

once everyone gathered back at our main camp, we sat in a circle of lawn chairs making conversation and learning about one another. the owners of the property and spaces we were on are so amazing. they are world travelers who tour around on bikes! yes! one of them is a teacher and the other seems to be someone who can build/fix/design about anything. we talked and shared and swapped until dinner time. our little group went up to make dinner and more conversation until the stars and planets came out. we eventually made our way out to do some more test runs with the telescope and technology. my pals and i made cowboy camps on the lawn and watched the evening sky turn….actually i passed the french toast out! 

 

IMG_2444morning brought dew and a peaceful waking. we loaded up and headed off to the pre-scouted area to make coffee and experience the eclipse. the space was great! a raised area of freshly harvested and burned fields with a 360 view to hood to the east and the peaks near the coast to the west. i stayed off to the side while the “experts” set up the technology making coffee and beermosas. we played with puppies and kids. we chatted. we rested. mostly we laughed and played. then…

the light shifted and it was on! we didn’t need to look into the telescope or put on our special glasses to look and know, though we did, but it was such a shift and so subtle. like those moments when you notice that suddenly that summer had become fall all based on a shift in light and shadow. there was a kind of collective exhale. we were going to actually see this! no smoke! no cloud cover! just clear sky. kids where running around. there was a person dressed as a dinosaur. some kids had special little masks they made because the glasses don’t come in kids sizes (notes to designers….make kid sizes).

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as we approached totality people were torn on were to focus…the fast passing shadows? the shifting of our shadows as they became less and less distinct and a little wavy? the way it passed through leaves? various holes in various objects, including ear piercings? the temperature dropping? the 360 degree light shifting that felt like both sunrise and sunset as mt. hood turned pink? so much to feel and pay attention to! so much excitement and joy!

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and then, after so much shifting, it was suddenly totality! some people counted down, some of us just felt it and then finally looked up at the sun or was it the moon? the moon in front of the sun. it was so amazing! we cheered! we hugged! we wanted to experience so much and then, just like that, the moon continued on its path and  opened the sun back up, and the light shifted again.

and then people started leaving! all the cars and trucks that were pulled off where we were decided it was over and took off! what the hill-of-beans? to my estimation the eclipse was only half done. to me, and our crew, the excitement was the whole process. so we kept watching, and the kids in the area came to see the sun through the telescope. they were shown the sun spots and all the things visible. we all hung out and dreamed of the food we would eat when we got back to “camp”. we also talked about how we could understand why people travel the world chasing eclipses. they are amazing!

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some of us talked about how it can’t be true that indigenous people believed the world was coming to an end when the eclipse season would come. maybe the first time, but many of those ancient cultures were amazing astronomers. why is this so easy for so many to forget? what would it be like to experience an eclipse at say one of the mayan or incan areas where people go to see the solstices? what stories did they tell explaining them. i am curious and will do more searches for sure before i experience the next one.

eventually the sun was once again fully exposed and we were packed up and headed back. once we got there and our hosts arrived too, we all shared experiences and asked questions, checked traffic, and started to outline plans for the next possible eclipse chase! for the immediate plans we agreed to meet at this little pub i know about (the mom of a former housemate owns it). its off the beaten path but has a great patio so the dogs could hang out, also vegan options! yes! we hung here for 3 hours so that the traffic back to portland for our friends could have a better journey…also it was hard to say goodbye. none of know when we will meet again and there is just so much to share and enjoy.

there was just so much to this group that was hard to take for granted. so much respect for all our different backrounds, and all in our group is a nerd of some sort, one of the couples where the resident official physicists that brought the technology. even though they both study physics, they study different disciplines and it was wonderful to watch them defer to one another depending on the question. in fact the guy most often differed to the woman and she eventually talked openly about the racism and sexism in the sciences. there really didn’t seem to be anyone talking over the other, including the professional scientists vs. the armature astronomers. the whole event felt super collaborative from the making of dinner to the setting up and sharing of the whole event.

eventually we all found a way to go our separate directions, my pals and i to find a camping spot that wasn’t going to be a bunch of bucks nor too over crowded. so we went on the recommendations of the friends who invited us. and it was perfect. it’s a small campground that is converting their atv trails to mt. bike trails. and it includes a great hike that goes behind the namesake water fall! it was so peaceful! all that was going to have to wait until the next day. for by the time we got there (it was a long winding road up) we set up our tents and passed out! i woke a couple of times. the first i heard a howling that wasn’t a coyote and the second time to an owl….so deep and close and amazing! then the sun rose through the smoky haze from the wildfires. i laid there in my tent to watch the sky, listen to the silence, and read my book.

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eventually we all stirred enough to start some coffee to take on our walk to the falls. it was so wonderful to be walking on rainforest duff again! it was like having a spring in my step and the ferns and the moisture…so different from the southern oregon experience i’ve had so far this summer. i was so happy and relaxed! we made our way from the top of the waterfall down to the pool it formed and the canyon it carved. the water was cool to the touch and sweet to the taste. we all climbed over boulders and logs until our hungers pressed us on to put together a breakfast of champions. for the record! the three of us can make a good meal together!

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reluctantly we packed up again and headed south. we found out that the people who hung out with us for 3 hours at the pub made it back to portland only 20 minutes behind the other couple who choose not to join us so that they could get back early….crazy!

we took a little lunch break outside of eugen. it was a nice little break, but afterword there was talk of a special cold coffee drink and suddenly we all wanted some kind of treat. and since my pals may locate to eugen for continuing educational pursuits, we decided we should stop and get some treats.

we went to the wondering goat for some caffine….a great place to stop by the way, but as we arrived we found ourselves in the middle of a brewery neighborhood. i actually don’t much care for most breweries in eugen, but they do have this place called the beergarden! so we put our coffee drinks in the jeep and walked to the garden. what a nice place! looks like an old service station with the garage doors and such. they have really good beverages on tap and outdoor seating surrounded by food carts! we talked some more of our potential plans, and fears, and hopes, and jokes. once we hit the road again we seemed a little more focused.

the plan was for them to drop me off and then they would go find a place to camp, but as we approached ashland the smoke just kept getting thicker and thicker! i didn’t want them to camp in this air and it was going to take them another 3 hours drive to get to clear air, so they camped out in my room while i took the jeep to work. when i got back, they were ready to head off to start their next adventure, and left me to plan mine.

i don’t know when i will see these great humans again, but we have been here before, most likely we will be here again. what we do know is that there has to be a refuge/ a sanctuary for us queers to find even a temporary haven in this world of chaos and violence; of uncertain safety. we recognize that even the apparent liberal ideology of places like portland don’t really even have the illusion of safety any more. we have to arm ourselves with knowledge and skills, with reverence for nature, with empathy and solidarity. we will keep watch from our respective places, and we will love.

i wonder…what is a love that comes from fear? what is love that is based in anger and hatred and violence? as we fight for our respective rights to exist and live our lives how much is lost if it is surrounded by fear, hatred, greed, violence, dilusion….would i rather die/be killed by whatever is coming than succumb to the actions of violence and hatred? to false love? i can’t sacrifice my need for a nonviolent life for a longer life…blah blah blah.

these are the questions i find myself wrestling with as i make my plans to leave ashland and continue on my travels. i am more open to that fact that i really am in search of something more than stories to share. i am looking for some kind of connection that i cannot quantify or really even describe. i’ve been trying. but i do believe that it has something to do with a community that isn’t necessarily based on identity, but on connections…knowing that you get to one via the other. i am not a single issue activist/human and i don’t want a single issue community.

i plan on leaving ashland in the next week so i may post a few posts this week to catch everyone up on what’s happening and the thoughts i want to take as i continue to roll on.

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