eugene one more time

i returned to eugene just a couple days before the uber-popular holiday of thanksgiving, a holiday that for as long as i can remember has always troubled me. it doesn’t take a genius historian to recognize the lies, the fallacies, the roust of the story we have been told since we were wee ones. yet and but it seems so benign as far as american celebrations go…wanting to gather friends and family to give thanks. if that is the reason for the gathering, why was it always so damn stressful? why do grocery stores and markets depend so heavily on the capitalism that week and especially that wednesday before? and then there is black friday the day after…all so consumer and money driven. gather the crew and spend spend spend and the capitalists give thanks.

i feel like if i made this post during the depths of “the holiday season” people would shut down or get defensive, and there would be no discussion or giving of space to question why and how we celebrate what during this time of year, and as we are doing more questioning in this country about how and why we celabrate events such as columbus day and moving it to indigenous peoples day, we can do the same with the last thursday of november (a month to celebrate the people native to this land). and i have to say, my favorite moments for this time have been the many friends-givings i’ve gone to or hosted over the years.

this year, in eugen, was a pretty special one. i spent it with 2 people who have also been questioning how to mark this time of year; a time that has been marked by countless cultures through the ages for many reasons. it is also marking the ending of the adventure that started two and a half years ago when i left oregon, along the coast, sent off by these same 2 humans. this wasn’t planned, but that is how great moments come to be when i just let them, and it is in retrospect that i realize just how right it was for us to be together during this time.

we decided that we would try and go camp somewhere, make it just a simple celebration of all we have to be grateful for individually and collectively. one buddy found the last remaining cabin on the coast and they snagged it! yahoo! we just needed to make it over the coastal range where snow was called for. it was a cold morning, and we did see snow up on the peaks through the whole journey, but when we got over the costal range we came across a managed herd of elk in a meadow, a cleared space from ranchers come to settle the area back in the 1800s. we had a snack as we watched the herd graze, then it was off to the dunes and the ocean. it was sunny and that kind of warm/cold one can find along the shores of oregon. so we wondered in the sunshine, ate more snacks, watched the surfers, and smiled as the sun began to decend on the horizen indicated it was time to go check into the cabin and set up, start a fire of our own, before the sun moved across the horizon and out of sight. but not out of mind.

one of things i’ve been learning more about as i spent more time with these wonderful humans is about the sun and the moon, its movement and how different cultures have marked time, space, and ceremony by its phases and placement in the sky in relation to life on this planet. the solstice is one event that we all agree is meant to be acknowledged in some way, but what is it really marking? something we had been thinking was that both summer and winter solstice, in the western world mark the first of summer or winter, but really, when one considers the way the sun travels, it is the mid point of summer and winter. for example, the first day of winter marks the time the sun starts winning the battle over darkness and we get longer “days”. in the pacific northwest, this was vital to our mental health. so much to unlearn and re-educate myself on, for “traditional” cultures have acknowledged this movement of the sun and seasons differently, and i feel deeply moved to learn the ways of people who lived based on the land/place.

~~~

once our abode for the night was set up, we poured some wine and we all kind of went into ourselves. i contemplated all the ways i’ve concidered celebrating thanksgiving. once, i heard that it had been suggested that it be a fasting holiday instead of feasting, so i’ve considered that. i’ve read the thanksgiving “prayer” of the haudenosaunee (iroquois nation) while preparing food for folks to come over. i’ve spent the day in solitude, meditating. but how do i want to keep moving forward in how i mark the movements of time and of the seasons, for lately i have been considering that the only constant is movement not change, but that is another discussion for another time.

we did make a lovely simple meal together that night. we gathered around the heater in the cabin. we read (one worked on school projects), and we chatted until it was time to snuggle into our sleeping time. and i slept, i believe we all slept and dreamt deeply .

the morning brought a slow walk around the lake our cabin overlooked, staying in the sun as much as possible with our mugs of coffee. watching the sun hit the cold air as ducks swam out of the rising fog. we made it back just in time to pack up for check out, and it was off to find a sunny picnic table to make the pancakes and snausages (vegan sausage). we all took turns flipping flapjacks for ourself or one another, basking in the warmth and the view of another lake amongst the sandunes separating us from the pacific. and then it was time to point roscoe (the latest adventure vehicle in their lives) back to eugene for a(n) (anti) black friday party. it was a perfect celebration for us, for me. old friends. new friends. good times.

this was just so damn perfect on so many levels. i have taken this gift i have given myself, of walking away from one life, to contemplate how i really want to be in this world. i turned 50 during this time (a cold winter night alone in colorado before i made the wonderful friends i would soon know). i’ve visited the friends and family that have helped me and encouraged me to be me as long as i’ve known them. i have made so many new friends and gained a faith in so much beyond myself, but not in any organized faith. all things i will talk more about as i keep unpacking what these past 2-1/2 years have meant to me, the foundation this time has created for how i want to move in my life.

today i am finding a new place in the desert southwest in a small city on a few boarders with such open expansiveness that there is room to contemplate so much. and everywhere i go there is proof of all the people who have moved through these lands for centuries. i couldn’t be happier. what a wonderful place to keep working on decolonizing my life. one of the many ways i am doing this is by trying to read as many people of color as possible, mostly women and queer folks. same for the music i listen to, movies, and food too. one truth i have come to recognize, and am willing to talk “come out as” now is i am calling myself a writer, finally. one partner i had decades ago told me a would write a book one day. i though she was had no idea who i was. sure i could write little article to go with photos if no one else was available for the paper. now here i am working on a book, a story, that keeps getting bigger and bigger. than i can actually see as becoming a series. and there is more, another big big project, but i will wait to release that when it has more form.

some resources for ya, if you are considering the disconcerting feelings that come up specifically around thanksgiving (also known as thankstaking or the deeper truth of thankskilling, i’ll post some at the end. i am not saying we need to stop celebrating thanksgiving. i do think the roots are beautiful; to give thanks for all we have done to prepare for the cold months of limited resources that allows us to go in and repair, heal, create…it is a gift. even if we change nothing in how we gather, it is important to know what and why we are gathering…i think.

thanksgiving toolbox

anything by the tierra incognita media

read indigenous peoples history

follow indigenous people hike

these are just a few that can lead you down the interwebs to so much more. and if you have favorites, share them. let’s lift up their voices!

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.

~~~

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.

~~~

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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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.

 

just another day to give a shit

i’m not really a fan of days that take one day to celebrate what we should probably be celebrating every day…like earthy day, mother’s day, valentine’s day….all these are things we should be caring for and nurturing every day, and as i say that today is earth day and it gives me a reason to piece together some thoughts i’ve had about the earth and climate change, our roles and responsibilities and just thoughts from readings and events i’ve gone to.

i don’t think there is any one way to address climate action except the one you can most relate to. so here in colorado ski country, there is a group called pow (protect our winters). its made up of winter sports athletes and lovers of all things snow. pow came to my little mt town a couple weeks ago with two local siblings that are also olympians. i’ve never really gotten into the pow group, but I went to the event because how can i critique if i don’t participate?

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maybe i should back up just a little bit. i experienced many indications of climate change this past year from snow levels and gorging streams to high temperatures and wildfires and rising sea levels (literally watching the ocean crash onto the shores that are underneath houses in malibu and billions of acres (essentially a whole mountain) that slide into the ocean. and before I left portland, I went to a place called valley of the giants. it is an amazing old growth forest between the oregon coast and salem. to get there one has to drive, following very exact directions, through clearcuts. it was heartbreaking enough to go through this on the way in, even worse on the way out…i should probably do a separate post on this adventure.

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so when i landed in a town where i could join a library and check out some books, i got “the global warming reader” edited by bill mckibbens and “how bad are bananas: the carbon footprint of everything”. i also ordered, “drawdown: the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming” edited by paul hawken. i’ve also picked up other books and articles by indigenous youth and groups. p.s. the indigenous actions, words, songs, and dance is where i find the most inspiration, but hard to put into words. they conger up more feeling and sense of integrated responsibility…the way life should be.

so anyway, in “the reader” is a piece by yan jones and ariane conrad from “green colar economy” and in this section they talk about having “fewer targets and more partners” from the assumption of activist that change requires a big battle with someone when we could be actually turning those supposed targets into long-term partners for change…moving beyond assumptions and stereotypes which requires investing in relationship and trust building.

“Here’s the truth. If you rush into a situation looking for enemies, you will find plenty. At the same time, if you go into a situation trying to find friends and allies, you will almost always find at least one.”

Another quote is “less accusations and more confession…some of the enemies we need to defeat are inside us.”

Participation in an economy that lacks equity and we each have an understandable aversion to giving up our own money or status…so every day, we end up feeding the very monster we are fighting. “If we confess our own struggles to realign our own lives and change our own behavior, we may seem less alien to those we are trying to convince.”

another saying they have that i cling to is, “The cleanest energy is the energy we never have to use.”

that deserves repeating “the cleanest energy is the energy we never have to use.”

with all this im mind, i tried to go into this gathering/presentation with these thoughts in mind. but i just find myself getting frustrated with the whole change your lightbulbs and carry a water bottle kind of argument. sure those are important changes, but it seems like we, as proponents of change are afraid of offending people. and i get it. i am afraid of alienating people that i want to share what i’ve learned and learn from them. i don’t want to shut them out of a conversation that i want to grow and co-create with others’ and so much of that has to do with consumption which is somehow deeply linked to patriotism. most vegans from the mid-west can relate, as much of the economy is based in big animal agriculture. the other side of the same coin is upsetting people in their long-term deeply held beliefs in their entitlement to consume what they want when they want, from new iPhones to a bloody steak or asparagus in January, or vegans and palm oil obsession. but how are we going to change anything if we are unwilling to become uncomfortable? addressing all these issues is uncomfortable for all of us as we dig deeper and uncover and unlearn. so to say i was highly disappointed in the presentation is true. i don’t know what i want to be told, but we can do better than the gentle “call your legislators.” as if that is where deep change truly happens.

one of the most recent events i went to at the library was a film on wendall berry and his farming experience in kentucky. it is a nice film pitting the small family farmer and big ag (and our government) against one another, and this is indeed what happened when the secretary of agriculture decided that profits needed to be a big portion of the countries farming status. it turned farming upside-down. it killed small farms and small farm towns. it paved the way for mega-corporations from Walmart to General Mills to dictate what and how farmers should farm.(and what we get to eat). it took away centuries of practices that made farming an art form that could sustain a family to monocrops that destroy so many systems. the film ended with one family farmer getting tired of making Phillip Morris more money while his family went deeper into debt (that area of the country including berry’s farm was mostly tobacco) and he did some research and put a call out into the local paper asking if he, as a farmer, would find any support if he switched to an organic produce farm…overwhelming support ended up in creating an early version of a csa. a few years later one of his members gave him a book by wendall that affirmed what he wanted to do with farming.

what am I getting at?

we don’t have to become radical activists to find our way in reversing climate change. we just need to find the thing in nature that drives our passions: snow peaked mountains? the deep blue ocean? fresh foods that nourish our bodies and feed our spirit? access to clean water and fresh air? the ability to move our bodies and minds? a deep love for the land, newly found or ancestral? love of animals and living a life of compassion and empathy for all who share this earth. sharing a good meal and craft beverages with our friends new and old…and find out what we can do to support those parts of nature as well as what we are doing that is causing harm to those systems.

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some interesting info from the carbon book….books are better then e-readers and if you go to the library or get used books…even better…according to the book on the carbon footprint of everything.

a bike commute fueled by a cheeseburger is the same as driving, but a vegan fueled bike ride makes a difference…but I guess if you are going to eat a cheeseburger and your choice is go by hummer or bike, a bike is better, but really we need to look at bigger pictures and systems. its all about the options you are faced with on the regular that we need to examine. those good old fashion if / then statements.

if you have questions about what how things will truly make a difference, i highly recommend the drawdown book. i initially read it on my ipod as an ebook from the library when i was in ashland, but I felt like i was missing something reading it this way because it is also a beautiful book! the pictures are amazing. the data is so detailed and each proposed solution has its ranking in its effect in reversing global warming, it also has how many gigaton of CO2 will be reduced, but includes the cost and net savings. top 10 solutions: item, the sector it is in, reduction in CO2 emissions, cost, savings

1. refrigeration, materials, reduction of 89.74 gt, cost n/a, savings -$902.77 billion

2. wind turbines (onshore) energy, 84.60 gt, $1,225.36 bill, savings $7,425 billions

3 reduced food waste food, 70.53 gt,  cost n/a, savings n/a

4. plant-rich diet, food, 66.11 gt,  cost n/a, savings n/a

5 tropical forests, land use, 61.23 gt, cost n/a, savings n/a

6. educating girls, women and girls, 59.6 gt, cost n/a, savings n/a

7. family planning, women and girls, 59.60 gt,  cost and savings n/a

8. solar farms, energy, 36.9 gt, -$80. 6 billion cost, savings $5,023.84 savings

9. silvopasture food 31.19 gt, $41.59 billion, $699.27 savings

10. rooftop solar energy, 24.6 gt, $453.14 billion, $3457.63 billion savings

all this is to say, i don’t need pow or any other organization to tell me what i need to do to stop inflicting pain on the planet. i only need to look at my own behaviors and contributions and choices on the regular. i will keep educating myself on how to further reduce my levels of consumption, to build skills and relationships to keep from having to buy new unless necessary (like toothbrushes). to slow down my life to re-examine all the assumptions i’m told about what is wealth and what is abundance and success. and i do truly believe that to live a life in the present and to be fully present in those moments is what it means to be deeply alive and to be free. and that is a life of adventure.

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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Celebration aka how the f#@k did I turn 50

Not only how the fuck did I turn 50? Seems odd that I made it through some situations that maybe I shouldn’t have.

To be honest, I’ve been thinking about this since I decided to leave portland last spring. I hoped to be out on the trail or at least in a tent in Mexico somewhere when this time was marked. But things shifted and changed. And then I was looking forward to being with friends and family on this occasion, but that plan also took a different turn. So here I was in a little mountain town.

I actually worked the day of my birth. No big deal really. Work a bit (that is why I am here) then off the next couple of days to celebrate and go a little nutty in planning and reflection. My co-workers welcomed me to work with a rousing mixed language version of happy birthday and a bottle of whiskey…these are some great folks. I was doing great.

Then I got off work

I decided to treat myself to dinner and a beverage and was going to head home. At a beverage station, I sat down to write and it hit me, when I wake up in the morning, I will be 50 fucking years old. Not that old to some, really old to others, just another day to most. I’ve never freaked out over a birthday before and didn’t really know how to do it so I just rode it out. My decision was to not go to sleep…then I won’t wake up and then I won’t be 50. I was very rational about the whole thing.

I wasn’t ready

Not yet

But

I’m not really open to the alternative

Not yet

I was headed to one of my usual hop-water spots, but at the last minute I went up the stairs instead of down and found a new place where I wouldn’t know someone…yet

The bartender asked what I was having.

When I wake up I turn 50 what should I have tonight

A local whiskey its on me. Happy birthday

Soon I was chatting it up with the band that was about to play: guitar, bass, banjo (mountain music)

And I headed home

I did sleep

I did wake

Everything was a o k

Mostly

I had things I needed to get done that day before I could get into celebration mode, but first, breakfast….remember those vegan rancheros I had a few weeks ago? Yup, I went back for more.

Soon I was caffeinated and fed and the day just took off. And I was into the swing of things.

Then I would get a text

Or a call

Or an email

All fantastic and loving and amazing

Meanwhile, I just kept trying to work out what this all means.

Nothing really. It all means nothing

Not in that nihilistic way of nothing, but really

I have been fortunate enough to “hike my own hike”

I have danced to my own songs in my head/feet in my own way. (I like to think emma would be proud)

Every day since I drove the hell out of that town I grew up in. Each day since has been a lesson in how to do that. And how have I been inspired to do that? People. Strangers. Friends….

ART. Art has inspired me.

Music

Photography

Writers: journalism, fiction, non-fiction, the uncategorizable

This song helped me understand myself (thank goodness it came out while i was still in my 20s)

Anyway, back to the celebration, celebration

It took me to the next day to go out and actually celebrate.

I made a great breakfast and started the day slow and easy

I went to the hot springs that  bubble up in the middle of town and had a nice soak and some good chats

Went to get a snack and some beverages

And the people I’ve gotten to casually know at my favorite spots bought my drinks as I told them I was celebrating my day. I had so many lovely conversations with so many great people

So here is what I have learned about myself in the last year…last year I spent my day with my great pals…pals who are like brothers to me

I was having a tough time trying to deal with so much from the co-op I worked at and making plans to take off to the unknown

Trying to make sense of it all. I really couldn’t have done it without them and all the pals that inspire and instigated with me (p.s. if I know you, you are one of them)

I actually did it

I took off

I set myself free from all of it

Well actually I traded one kind of stress for another

Stressors I couldn’t and can’t understand for ones I can

Makes one hell of a difference

It’s a journey that I hope does not end anytime soon

I don’t know what is ahead, but I relish the mystery

I yearn for the mystery

What and who is around the corner? I look forward to finding out

I am 50 years old

If my genes tell me anything, I am likely to live much longer depending on speeding trucks and texting drivers and rising seas and burning lands and toxic air and nuclear button pushing nut heads

I don’t want to settle down

But I do like going slower and looking and listening and smelling and tasting and touching and feeling

A reminder that home, for me, is a verb: a place in motion and I am just trying to not fall off

 

chilin like a surfer

i left the super cute bike shop and did seriously consider camping close by. the views of the ocean where certainly worthy of good nights stay, but i really felt like i wanted to get down to this campground that i had heard so much about. i had already skipped a couple places that people had suggested i go to, like papas and beer. to be fair, i probably would have stopped if it were called papas y cervesa. i do love potatoes and i do love beer and i believe that they are fantastic when paired together. but it was just too much of a tourist place and not much of a visitors place.

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so i kept on peddling up hills and coasting down hills. i only had about 30 km to ride today, so i decided to take all the time that i wanted. there was a graciously wide shoulder to ride on and some damn fine nice people to return waves to. the road was hilly all the way.

hills were not the tricky part here. the tricky part was the way the highways merged traffic entering and exiting the highway. fortunately, there were signs for cyclists to watch for traffic before crossing the merging lanes. i was usually accompanied by a pedestrian or two, and i still don’t know why but i think it was to catch the bus/vans that would be packed with people going to and from the towns. this version of public transportation fascinates me! for real! it did in peru as well. there are these minivans that people can flag down, and if there is room or someone is getting off there, they stop and you get on. i have no idea how much they cost, nor where/how you get off. i wanted to test it out, but no room for a bike…also i think i need more language skills, well actually i know i need to up my spanish game.

i eventually rolled into the the little village that held the k58 campground…so many things in this area are named for their location down the coast. so k58 is at the 58-kilometer marker.  this little area also goes by the name alisitos.

alistitos holds around 4 hotels, pretty nice hotels, all of which have a restaurant and/or bar of some kind. there is also a couple convenience stores and one sells beer/wine/alcohol. somehow this little way stop has 2 thai restaurants! it also has a shit-ton of americans! more on that soon.

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there weren’t too many people in the campgrounds when i arrived, it was friday afternoon, so i didn’t think much about it, but as i walked my bike up the coastline looking for a grassy area to pitch my tent, i met a few people living out of their vans or trucks that had set up camp….all with american accents. i eventually found the smallest of small patches of grass close to the edge of the cliff overlooking the beach (this whole area overlooks the ocean with paths down to the beach. so i set up camp and then took the unloaded bike for a ride “around town”.

first thing i did was grab a cold beverage! in those 30 km i drank 2 full liters of water and was still thirsty, so i grabbed a mexican version of powerade. i was still having a hard time with the idea of buying bottled water and so far had avoided it. i was able to fill up at the hostel with “purified” water out of a refilled jug type thing. and i knew that if i kept going south i was going to have to get a couple “gallon” jugs to refill at water stations as if found them. the other option was to buy liters of bottled water to fill my vessels.

eventually, i found my way over to a courtyard and grabbed a cold tecate and sat to do some writing. i had some feelings and emotions to get out, and at some point, my phone was in just the right place to get a couple text messages! in playas i got some because, i was close to the border, but here i wasn’t expecting to get anything. so i bounced some ideas off some people about what i was thinking of doing and going. it always feels good to get some reassurance.

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i then walked across the courtyard just to see what was there, and it was a cute place with about 6 people sitting up at the bar…all americans who have been living in the area for a great deal of time. they didn’t talk to me much, just kind of looked at me funny (i had leaned my bike against a big pole in the courtyard. i don’t know that they liked seeing people that they didn’t know. also, they were all fairly intoxicated. they were talking about property, businesses going in and who owned them and who was doing the work. then this other guy came in.

the first thing i noticed about this guy was not what he looked like, but the noises he made. his first stop was at the drum kit set up on the stage. he was a pretty good. come to find out, he would be playing in the band lined up for the night. they were playing in support of an organization that he ran in the area and with just a few questions i found out a little more information.

this guy was born in the area but went to university in the u.s. and worked there until retirement and then returned to the area and eventually started this organization to help keep kids with their parents. there were a great number of “orphans” in this region, not because of death but what they called economic orphans – kids abandoned or dropped off at orphanages because the parents couldn’t, or didn’t think that they could afford to raise the kids themselves.

so this organization has a center where the parents drop the kids off on their way to work super early in the morning. they feed the kids breakfast and takes them all on a bus to school, then pick them up and brings them back to the center where they can do homework, be fed again, and also get introduced to people who can teach them various trades in a type of mentor-type program. then the parents pick them up in the evening and take them home. i believe that the organization also takes them to church on the weekends when there isn’t school. it seems that it is pretty tied to the church and his connections with various people in the united states for funding. the church isn’t you know my kind of gig. historically, i believe that “the church” has been one of the major colonizers of the americas. that being said, this projects seems to have really been effective in keeping families together and for giving young people the belief that they can do more than just run around town causing un-necessary trouble and just stealing to get what they want/need. the things this guy seemed really excited about was: keeping families together, educating and feeding young people, and helping young folks find skills so that they could work in a field that was beneficial to their community.

the other thing this guy and i got to talk about was a number of american ex-pats that lived in the area (the other americans had left by this time). i had asked him how people felt about the type of potential hypocrisy of the border issues with so many americans living cheaply in mexico. especially considering the proximity to the border (60 km is only 37 miles). he took a deep breath first.

the local people actually like it, they don’t mind it. it is good for the local economy. the local mexican people are able to get jobs in the businesses started by americans, or in their houses as cleaning or construction/repair. americans spend money here which is also good for the economy. so the locals they don’t mind, they like it. but the government. that is a different story. they don’t like it at all.

the way he talked about the government’s feelings i knew that i shouldn’t push it, so i didn’t. but it made me think some about all these things. i genuinely believe this to be true. though he is the only person from mexico that i specifically talked to about this, others i talked to encouraged me to come back, to consider moving there, and at the very least spend much more time in the area.

he told me to come back for the band later, and really i did plan on it, but then the sun went down….

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i got back to my campsite with a full belly of thai food and a soul full of good conversation, that after a wonderful sunset, i passed out…well i wanted to pass out.

the sunset was spectacular, but soon i was ready to lay down and read until i fell asleep. it only took a couple of paragraphs for me to be ready for headlamps out. then all the warnings and fears for my safety rushed into my mind, plus the ocean’s roar kept me from being able to hear anything else. normally i know that i will be able to hear some creature sneaking up on my little world, which is really only squirrels. but what really hit me was all the stories about thieve, which was only about 2% of the stories i’d read or heard of this area of the world, just came rushing into my mind.

then i would find headlights coming for me, well it felt like it anyway, but it was just people coming in late to the campground and they were clear on the other side of the park. it was making me feel like i’d completely lost myself because i never ever feel like this. the fear and anger was rising up in me in a strange storm of confusion  and bewilderment. so i took a deep breath.

in this breath i asked myself, is this my fear or other peoples’?

do i really feel unsafe?

what is the worst that could happen and then what would i do about that?

and eventually, i asked if i truly felt fear or is this just me taking on other people’s shit?

and really? i felt completely safe. everything that was playing in my head was other people’s stuff and not based at all on my personal experience. i knew my surroundings. people knew who i was and i had made myself known, in a good way, to those around me. the lot was closed off to anyone not camping there. this fear is not my own.

then i drifted off into a sound sleep.

when i woke to a wonderfully sunny but slightly cool morning, i noticed new vehicles had shown up overnight, so i stretched and headed off to get a cup of coffee and meet my new neighbors

as i walked up to the shop, i passed a guy who was getting ready to go on an early morning surf run. we chatted a bit. he was so excited to have the weekend to just surf and rest and eat and surf some more. i said that was trying to decide if i wanted to hang out here for two days, or start my way back up the coast that day, or just haul ass to be up in playas by sunday night.

he said, well stay and i’ll drop you off on my way back up to orange county. well ok sounds like a plan! and he went surfing and i grabbed some coffee and my book and that is how we spent the day. his plan was to surf all day saturday and then sunday get up early, surf some more, and then we could head out.

saturday was fantastic. i just sat and read and watched the surfers show up and head out to the beach. now to watch surfers get excited is something to see. as they changed into their wetsuits they would watch other surfers catch some waves and they got excited about what they witnessed which made them want to get out there even faster. so the campground filled with people there just to surf and have a good time.

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the surfers had some great setups. they had vans or trucks with all their cooking gear, camp chairs, food, beverages, hoodies for the cool evenings. i spent this time watching these folks and i came to understand surfers in a new way. and it wasn’t until waking sunday morning to a cold and foggy day that i really started putting it all together.

the months that i had been traveling down the pacific coast, i’d been watching surfers and the way they watched the waves. when the waves rose they ran out to catch them. when the ocean became smooth as glass, the surfers sat on their boards and chatted with one another until the swell returned.

but when i woke on sunday morning with a fog all around, i wondered what the day would hold for them, especially when i noticed that the fog was rolling down from the hills and out to the ocean, vs rolling inland from the sea, and it was beautiful. when the sun finally came up over the hills to burn off the fog, the surfers finally started stirring and walking around. what really shocked me was the fog rainbow. as the skies blued up and the fog was still hanging in the ocean, we witnessed a full rainbow from the coastline over into the ocean.

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then the fog returned and the surfers disappeared.

i walked around with a cup of tea watching the shifts and changes of the environment. and i caught up with my ride back up the coast. we set up a timeframe to leave our little paradise at a leisurely pace, but so that he wouldn’t be caught in a long line at the border.

as i walked around i noticed that there were people in the ocean surfing in the fog. which shouldn’t have suprised me. i watched people surf well into the end of the sunset the last couple nights, and what i way to watch the sunset…i can only imagine.

so why did i gain a new appreciation for surfers and surf culture? well there was no one out there maintaining the ocean wave so that they could have a perfect run. there wasn’t someone with an anti-fog machine to make it a perfect day, nor even a warming or cooling hut for when the water or weather was too cold or hot. you just take what you get and make the most of it. if the swell is rising, you run out and forget whatever else you had planned. if the waves disappear, you wait it out and enjoy the people around you.

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sure this is not unniversal. i’ve talked to some seriously type a people who ran people out of the way to get a specific wave, but down here, it ws so chill. they aslo sharred tips and ways that work for them, or wax that they perfered. if people gained trust, there might even be a sharing of special surf spots. and when someone else had a really nice ride, they were cheered them on.

so surfing is something that is going on the need to do list. this whole area had places to rent boards and wetsuits, and get some instruction. Next time i am sure to do this.

it didn’t take long to get back to playas (i was surprised at my ability to give directions that took us right to the hostel), but we managed to have some great conversations around mid-life and quarter-life crisis, and all the ways and reasons to step away from the race of capitalism. by the time he dropped me off, i felt like i had met a kindred spirit. who knows, maybe our waves will cross again.

 

Big Sur and More

so i finally pulled out of monterey after a long and much-needed chat with a good pal! its nice to know that i’m not the only one in my close crew that is potentially going through some kind of mid-life crises – aka what the heck am i doing with my life?! and its much deeper than that of course. when you don’t hold the standard american values, i find it difficult to know if i’m doing ok…and trying to figure out what i am supposed to contribute to this world is a whole other question…. i will keep playing with these questions for some time, but for know…wow! what an amazing 10 days or so i’ve had.

so yup, finally left monterey, what a beautiful ride down the coast! i mean geez! remember that monerey bay is a marine sanctuary! so while i was chatting with my pal, i was watching harbor seals play in the bay…as well as all kinds of birds and such. so yup i headed on around the bay and just kept being amazed!

my main stop for this day was point lobos state natural reserve. it was one of the places recommended to me, and it did not disappoint! at one of the points one of the park volunteers had a telescope where we could see the otters sleeping all wrapped up in kelp, and in the distance we could see and hear the sea lions. however, as i walked around the point, i found a closer spot where i watched several of the ottors playing (?) it was just spectacular. there is also this RED moss that grows on the trees here, it’s actually kind of rare and is dependent on really clean air and water (remember sanctuary). it was fascinating to see on the unique cypress trees there as well as on some of the granite as well. supposedly this only grows in a few places around the world.

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i was tempted to hide out for while and gorilla camp here after the rangers left, but i didn’t think i had that much further to go to a h/b camp, so i kept cranking the wheels. and its true, i didn’t have that far to go, but i did have a great deal of up hill to contend with and didn’t roll into pfeiffer state park until after the sun went down….but i have to say the sunset along this intense ride was fantastic! i just couldn’t stop moving and take any pics, but geez those hills just would not end!

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i rolled into camp and ate the shit out of a bag of chips and drank a beer that i hauled all the way from the brewery in monterey! i was so hunger and so tired! and i passed the heck out! i ended up spending 3 nights in this park trying to figure out if i was going to do the walk around or bike back out and around. i had heard that the walk around the bridge that is out was only like 15 minutes or so. i’d also seen a shuttle service, but i didn’t know about bikes, so i did the few hikes open and available in the park and enjoyed catching up on some calories (i ate quinoa and a whole can of beans each night!). i was also kind of sorting some things out. i’ve set up a way to do daily writings and meditation and stretching. it’s really clearing some webs out of the old noggin! its funny, i didn’t really talk to many people while here. a few on the trails, but so many people kept to themselves. except for the nice couple from queensland australia who are spending 3 months hitchhiking the united states. they were super nice! i hope they have a wonderful visit.

the best part of this time was sleeping right under the redwoods! it was magical. the worst part was how loud people were. so many people played music from their phones on speakers and talked loud and just genuinely took up a great deal of space….well i should say the american visitors. people i met from other countries, not so much.

so then there was the adventure of getting out and continuing south! i found the trail. it went straight up! with lots of wooden/dirt stairs! i don’t know how heavy my loaded bike is, but it was a solid test of stregnth…and new found curse words. and for some reason, as i was trying to heave my bike up a step, some older white man would decide this was a great time to ask me where i was going/from….ugh. when i got to the store at the top of the climb i had my first soda in a long time! and a bag of chips! and a cliff bar! and headed on down the road!

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life in fire

i’ve decided to try to stop riding around 3 each day so that i can enjoy where ever i am staying, because….why am i doing this? not to log miles for sure! so i rolled into kirk creek campground! what a wonderful hiker/biker camp set up! out-of-the-way, but not under the highway! access to the beach, but the view! holy crap! it was amazing!

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found at the top of the big walk-around

as soon as i got set up, i set off to find the beach. as i came up out of the h/b site, i met a woman and her daughter. what a delight! they were waiting for their friend and young son to come back from taking a tour up the coast a little more, but while i was exploring the beach, i saw that they had decided to come on down too! it was soooo soooo nice! the daughter is 18 months old and so independent. we sat next to the pools and tossed rocks together. the woman is from quebec but had recently moved to san mateo. she and her friend have known each other for 20 years or so and the friend was visiting for a couple of weeks. we had wonderful conversations.

i was kind of feeling a nap and snack need so we headed back up to our camps, but before i could reach mine, i ran into this couple in one of these camping vans you can rent. it was decorated in such a way that i had noticed it a few days before so i asked them if that was them. it’s a pretty cool set up.  anyway, they are also awesome! they are from sydney and on their honeymoon! and they like beer too! so after we had been talking for a minute, they offered me a beer (yes! thank-you), and we just kept talking and talking, and drinking. eventually the ranger came by (who is hilarious) and suggested they move to this other spot that has a better view and had just opened up.

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so they moved, i ate, and we re-gathered for the sunset. and the night went like this to the very end. every time i moved i got to stop and spend some time with both beautiful groups of friends who shared so much with me. i need to find something that i can carry and exchange for such hospitality….this night chocolate seemed to work nicely.

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one funny story, when i was camping in crappy place in monterey, a raccoon situation happened, not pretty and kept everyone up all night. well here, they also have raccoons, but my new friends from sydney had never really seen one up close, so tried to bait one close to us with marshmellows. one, we believe it’s the one the camp calls gordo, went for the chocolate bar i had set down. it was fun to watch the whole scene play out.

from here it is just a few miles down the road to gorda….and a massive land slide! and i mean massive. i didn’t know that this one didn’t have a detour or a round about, but as i sat in the sun trying to decide what to do (go back to kirk creek and pick up the road over the mountains and to the 101, or wait until 6:30 when all the workers leave and then walk through it. i was told, by john (a guy who has worked at this place for 26 years and so friendly), that bikers have walking through it at night and that it was only between 1/4 and 1/2 mile. i figured that was doable. so as i sat there for a while and ate some snacks, and chatted john up a storm, his boss came by. “you waiting to walk through this slide?” yeeeees?! “well put your bike in the back of my truck and i’ll take you across.” wait what? i don’t have to keep sitting here for another 4 hours? and john is just standing behind him nodding his head. ok! john helps me load up the bike and makes sure that i have enough food and water (he had already given me a banana and a deal on my treats). and i sat next to the 3rd dog i’ve met called chico…eventually chico ended up in my lap! lucky me!

as we moved though this work zone, i can’t believe i was going to try to walk this! holy shit! for real! the road was super rough dirt road that these huge earth mover trucks are using to get new ginormous boulder into the area to rebuild some kind of foundation to rebuild the land! and it goes down down down and then up up up! when i was dropped off (1/2 way up the giant hill) he suggested that if any one asks how i got around, i didn’t, i came up and camped and am headed back down…and that is exactly how i responded when i finally (seriously this was a serious hill…but i rode the whole way! with lots of stops). got to the final flagger. i pulled over to this trail head for salmon creek and took a breather. as i pulled in a truck pulled in behind me and asked how i got through. i said i didn’t. i camped up the road and am now headed back the other way. he said oh ok. we were wondering if you had found some other road or trail, and this was also a fine place to camp….so i did! and i reflected…wow! thank you thank you for that lift!

so here it is that i just camped out under the stars, no tent or anything. as the sun set, i laid there and watched the bats come out and the owl that sat on the top of a tree just above my head. i listened to the calls of the wild and the ocean and i enjoyed such solitude! it’s the first time i cowboy camped alone. somewhere deep in the night i suddenly couldn’t remember what i was supposed to do if attacked by a cougar! and then the jokes went through my mind….you older queers will know the jokes. then i watched the stars again! since the new moon and on isolated beaches…the stars are for real outstanding! but when i woke up…hungery hunger set in.

it was about 4 miles to rugged point, and i decided i could splurge on breakfast. i rolled into a super nice place! breakfast was all eggs and meat, so it was potatoes and toast on the patio…with a view and lots of coffee. the server was so amazing with all kinds of stories, and he added spinach to my spuds! i walked the property while the carbs digested and then started back down the road.

from here things get rolly (it was one hell of a hill from salmon creek to rugged point). i got a good groove and enjoyed the landscape. it was a big change from big sur for sure! things get super dry, but the ocean just keeps giving. at some point i came to an odd little place and there were lots of bikes! i hadn’t seen a cyclist for days! so i turned in and asked what was happening. turns out they were celebrating the opening of a new stretch of highway and bike lane. i chatted with some folks before heading out.

shortly thereafter was a turn off for a viewing of elephant seals! they were so fun to watch…and soooo big! geez! here i chatted with some guys from the uk that i had seen at breakfast. we had a nice chat about the changing climate and traveling. so many conversations actually and so many people from different parts of the world! and some more of the bikers from before stopping for pics and chats.

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i had one more stop before camp and it was for a beer and check-ins. for the first time since monterey i had mobile service! so i sent off some messages and check-ins, did some instagraming, and a little beer….i was near the william randolf hearst castle….wow! what a goofball! so he had like the largest private zoo collection at some point and released the herd animals out on public land. soooo i passed a herd of zebras! yes zebras out amongst the cows. then the roosevelt elk…. i don’t know what else he had, but that is what i saw.

finally came san simean state park and a not so great h/b camp, but it did have beech access for the sunset. i took some time to catch up on reading and walking about. i forgot it was friday night, so the campsite filled up with kids and families and was kind of loud, but mostly it was the fact that the h/b sites were right below the highway! but once it got quiet, it was so quiet. at some point in the middle of the night i heard some distance coyotes.

today….today i s beautiful day. i hope to end up in morro bay state park just on the coast side of san luis obispo. its about   from where i am writing this. and i am feeling pretty good! i know that some of the goodness is movement and sunshine and cool warmth. i know i have a great deal to deal with. i am heartbroken with the mudslides, the fires, hurricanes, the earthquakes, and all the beauty! i was brought to tears watching a butterfly play amongst some flowers at ragged point. yes, i have a great deal to figure out! one of those things is when am i going to take a shower again! but for now…this is such a beautiful world and i hope we find a way to limit how much we destroy by our consumption!

but today….today is so wonderful and i hope all these people driving up and down this road that will completely fall into the ocean at some point, know how magnificent this area is and take it home with them, and start treating their home as if it were like this…sacred and life-giving.