beyond asheville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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retracing good times

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

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

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

so

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

life and threats on trains

i am jumping some stories. mostly i just need to get this one out of my head.

trying to find the way i wanted to travel west with my bike for the least amount of money as soon as possible was my mission. after pouring over options that just were not going to work, finally one popped up.

it would take me early wednesday morning to mid-day sunday, but i could load my bike up without the need to box it up. seemed good. i packed some foods and beverages and prepared to be able to just kick back, write, read, look out the window and day dream. what more could a kid ask for?

philly to chicago was fairly uneventful, in fact, was delightful thanks to the woman i was sitting next to. her youngest child had finished high school, so now it is her time to do whatever, so instead of the kids leaving the nest, she left.

she had seen me run around the station with my bike and that is what started our conversations and connection, leading many more. she got rid of as much of her life as she could and is moving to montana where her eldest child lives. she loves to bike, run, swim, and basically just be out of doors. she “hates the city”. we would go to the lounge car for our own happy hour moments, a night cap, or morning coffee. our conversations always shifting and changing, or involving whomever decided to chime in. upon arrival in chicago we both had a four hour layover, so we went out in search of salads for lunch, and wine for her to take to her sleeper car for her next train ride. we helped each other find our next trains, exchange contacts and say so long. a very delightful 30 hours.

while waiting for the next train, the califonia zepher, i ran into another person loading their bike. we didn’t really chat until we were waiting to take our bikes to the baggage car to hand up to the loaders. i should have known this leg was going to be an interesting one. we didn’t get to hand hand our bikes up to the baggage people. we had to lay them down in a different baggage car, and the guy that was showing us which car to load on to, made it clear that he did not appreachiate bikes on trains. did he know that we most likely would not be using the train if it weren’t for the ability to bring our bikes? later, when i was trying to claim my bike, i kept getting sent back and forth until they finally listened to me about where i had put my bike a couple days before.

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the conductors on this first section of this train were just rude. they treated us all like we were misbehaving children before we even left the station. later i would wish that they would actually address the parents of the children running over people all day and night. i spent a good deal of the time either in the observation car or the cafe beneath it. here i met so many people studying or practicing so many different kinds of physics. our conversations were amusing. to me it was about who was so certain of their knowledge vs. who acted curious and inquisitive. i also met a cycling guy from england who had also over heated and decided to go west. we both felt validated by our decisions based on our conversations. we both asked and listened, gaining insight from one anothers’ experience. so nice.

infact that was something that followed throughout this train ride. certainity vs curiosity. traveling through lands that i knew very well and over hearing people sharing information with their traveling companions about what things were or did, and being so very incorrect. one person actually tried to argue with me about sunflowers. insisting that they were mustard seed plants. i didn’t aruge. why would i? didn’t seem worth it, but it did lead me to this whole different internal dialogue about who knows what and how do we know what we believe we know and why do we cling to that knowledge so tightly?

is this how we end up so certain in our believes? in our own dogma? what makes some so certain and others open to different or alternate possibilities? is it possible to move from firm dogma to open possibilities? i was thinking all these thoughts as we were moving through various canyons of the colorado river. there was a bear, a fox (again arguments about fox or coyote), and some mooning from river rafters.

then we were back to the desert. we had entered navada and those getting off in reno were very excited. we were running a few hours late due to the need for amtrak to yield to rail/cargo trains. however, about an hour from reno things would change.

the engineer, or lead conductor was on the intercome giving us updates on times and various pieces of information about the gorgous forested lands we would once again be traveling through when all of a sudden the trains emergency breaking system kicked in and gasps came over the speakers.

soon we were told that there was some kind of mechanical issue and that they were going to do an inspection of the train and then get back to us. having the same kind of thing happen just outside of philly, i doubted that this was the truth. i should also mention that a rail train was stopped on the tracks next to us, heading east, and also at a stop.

the train outside philly stopped for a long time because there was a fear that we hit some trespassers on the tracks. i couldn’t help but think that something of the sort had happend here. we were pretty close to a major highway (and i had just seen a person on a bicycle peddling by wishing i could get to my bike and peddle away).

eventually they told us that we did indeed hit a “trespasser” and that we needed to stay and make sure that the “trespasser” was ok (they never mentioned if it was a human or non-human animal, it was always the trespasser). eventually, naturally, we noticed the various vehicals showing up and since we were the last car of the train and all the action was directly behind us, we knew some kind of shit happened.

couple of hours later we are told that we did hit a “trespasser” and that we “were waiting for the coroner before we could leave.” then we had to wait for the crew to give statements to the sharriff, then waiting to be cleared by the sharriff’s office or police crew. don’t really remember. i just figured we would go when we could go and no amount of questioning was going to change our situation. the crew in our train just kept trying to reassure that amtrak would make sure that everyone eventually would get where they wanted to go.

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we would sit there outside of reno for 4 to 5 hours. the train was running out of food and beverages…and patience. they ended up having to make an emergency meal for all the passengers on the train. the complementary meal would be a beef stew and mashed potatoes. i went down to the snack car to see if mike still had some vegan burgers. nope. we was out of almost everything, but encouraged those of us that do not eat meat to go to participate anyway to put it in their minds that they need a different plan for emergency meals. the diner crew was not happy and was down right pissy to anyone asking if there were other options. i get it. they were way late to get off duty, were tired, frustrated, and probably a little traumatized as well.

mike, the guy who worked the snack car, told me a little about what had happened. the “traspasser” was actually a crew member of another train (the rail car stopped already) who was walking along a live track with earbuds in, knew our train was on its way in. the whole crew broke all the safety guidlines. we were going full speed when “he” was struck. he most likely died instantly and didn’t feel it, or at least not for long. the question remaining on many minds: suicide or accident.

i thanked mike for all the work he did, and the service he provided all of us, and i wished him and the rest of the crew well. i can’t imagine how the crew must feel under these conditions: a person dying, being so late getting into the end of the line before they had to turn around and go back the other directioin, having to answer all the questions from everyone about where to and how they were going to get some place.

my 10 hour layover in sacromento became a 3 hour layover. it was late enough that i didn’t even bother trying to load my bags on the bike and look for food. some of the screaming kids from the last train were in this waiting room, so i just went outside then up to the platform to wait for my train. it was a nice summer evening and i wanted to enjoy as much as i could. in reflection this could have been a good or bad thing.

our train was only 20 to 30 minutes late coming out of l.a. i was told that i would load my bike up in the front baggage car, then would board in the last coach car. i’ll tell you that is a long haul with full bike bags.

i got in line to board, and this would be the first time on this trip that i would have to wait for an assigned seat. the guy handing out seat tickets would become known as the “beanie guy” as he was the only crew member wearing a beanie. this guy actually sent me up one car, so i was in the next to last car now. we boarded a little after midnight so i had all my sleep stuff on the outside of my backpack making it easier for me to set up my sleep station, put on headphones, cover my eyes and pass out.

in the morning i woke before 6 (when the cafe opens). a few people around me were already up and were talking about there being a second mass shooting. i knew about one, but not the other. this was not how i wanted to wake up. i wanted to at least acknowledge my internal noise before the external chaos of the world permeated my being. so i went to the observation car. we were approaching mt. shasta and the sunrise views were outstanding. i struck up a conversation with the woman next to me who was returning to eugene after a weekend at the national storytelling confrence in california. we had a wonderful conversation before she went to the dining car for breakfast. i eventually went to my seat to read some more after a really long wait for a rail train to pass while we were next to kalamath lake.

the people around me where interesting. all kinds of conversations where going on, but mostly people were sleeping or reading or listing to something with earbuds in. i had just told my friends when i would be coming into town just before we went up the pass and out of cell range. at odell lake we came to a slow stop and told we were waiting for a rail train to pass.

funny how time passes when stuck on a train with no where to go. an hour passed and nothing. no train. no info. the conductors where kind of pacing around. going down the stairs, up the stairs, leaning against a wall behind the seats just in front of me (i was sitting in an aisle seat at the top of the stairs, so it was easy for me to watch them. the one conductor would talk into his radio thing from time to time. at one point, as we could hear the radio crackle with information, he said there should be something soon, that it appeared that the train we were waiting for to pass was having engine trouble.

our car was getting a little antsy, as i’m sure most people were. a few of us stood up and stretched and chatted. i told the people behind me that i didn’t think the conductor was telling us the truth and explained to them my experiences thus far. i was pretty sure we didn’t hit someone up here, but that something was going on.

i had smelled cigarette smoke several times that morning, and it appeared that a few people kept going downstairs by the bathrooms where carry on luggage can be stored, with empty cups, but coming back up with full ones. i knew they had thrown people off the train for such things, but why stopped here for so long for that. none of it was making sense.

the guy that had been sitting across the aisle and behind me came up the stairs and tapped me on the shoulder and said that everyone was suppose to move to the back of the train. that the conductor was going to have us all move back. this didn’t make sense. i stayed in my seat.

meanwhile some guy that i couldn’t see kept yelling about wanting the “fucking dog off the train”. a young guy in our car had a service dog.

the beanie guy kept coming up and down the stairs with wide eyes, yet unable to make eye contact. something was happening, but what the hell was it. not having cell service was not easing anyone’s situation and internal dialogue was quickly becoming external, making its way to whomever was nearby to listen.

by this time, i was already suppose to have arrived. my friends have traveled by train often and know things happen and how to get info. i found out later that where they were waiting for me, the happy dive bar across the street from the train station, was close enough for them to hear the amtrak announcements letting them know that we were late, but not how late or why.

so here i am chatting with the people behind me, telling them that i didn’t think any of this was making sense when i looked up and on the other side of the door, in the next car is what looks like a gaggle of riot cops or swat team trying to open the door to our car and charge down the aisle. shotguns up and pointing red laser beams at us as they moved our way.

at first i was laughing, as i reached for my phone to record anything that may happen. there were lots of brown and black folks on this train. i was laughing because the lead swat like guy couldn’t get the door open. it took 3 or 4 tries before they all came charging down at us, fully armed and pointing shotguns at us all. and i was laughing because this is what would happen now here.

and where did they go, but to the back of the train, pointing their guns at all those who did move back there (so happy i did not move). eventually the guy who told me to move, told the cops not us, that guy over there.

the cops backed up, pointed all weapons on the guy who had been yelling about the dog on the train. the cops asked him his name, i didn’t hear his answer, then asked if he was armed, “yes, i have a 45”. then shouts “i got it! i got it!” after we had heard him drop it on the floor.then they hauled the guy off the train as he kept asking what he was charged with and that he had been sleeping for the last 3 hours. and off goes another angry white guy that’s been carrying a gun ready to fire away at any moment.

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what the fuck

5 fully armed officers from various departments had boarded the train. then they started taking people off one by one to interview them. seems this guy was threatening people since the sacrmento station, starting with a woman’s pre-teen daughter. people had been alerting amtrak employees about this guy from the go.

on the train he had a coutdown going for when he was going to start taking hostages,  had been smoking on the train several times, and it seems everyone in our car had some story about this guy, except me. i had managed to miss almost everything.

eventually they let us all off the train for a “smoke break”. i did suspect some of the people came forward with a story once they saw people getting to smoke while talking to a cop.

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eventually we got back on the train and we got to start moving again. all of us sitting near one another shared stories and asking what were we suppose to do now. those who had the guns pointed directly at them started to breakdown into tears and sobbed on shoulders.

the woman who had been sitting/sleeping next to the guy overnight had been in the observation car during the time we were stopped and came back once we started moving again. i had seen her in the morning. she thought he was just another crazy white guy and she was a strong black woman tired of crazy white guys. i ran into her later when i went down to the cafe car for a beer and a snack. the cafe was closed but i saw her in the back by the bathrooms alone, looking shaken up.

i asked if she needed anything. we talked. well she talked. i listened. she had no idea he had a gun. she had yelled at him. they had faught pretty much all night until she got up and left. she had bad feelings about him from the go. “he could have shot me at any time!?”

we didn’t see or hear from a conductor until we were abut 30 minutes from the eugene station (our next stop). someone came over the speakers as the guy sitting next to me and i went in search of some kind of information anouncing the approximate new times. some of us did our own math and believed that they purposly went slower than needed to talk about what and how they were going to respond to what had happened.

when a conductor finally did come back to check in on those of us getting off the train in eugene, he had no response. no one was going to come make sure that we were “ok” or that those personally traumatized had access to support via amtrak or some other means. i found out, by talking to others while in line for bathrooms or drinks, that unless one was in our car, no one knew anything about what happened. even those in the observation car that the armed cops came through to get to him, were told nothing.

to be a little fair. once the incident was over and we were moving again we saw beanie guy head to the front of the train with his bags packed looking none to happy. we never saw him again. we assumed he got off at the unscheduled stop before we got into eugene proper. he was the one conductor people had voiced their concerns about the guy since before boarding in sacramento. this could have all been handled quickly in a station with support.

the conductor who did talk to us had only been on the job for 6 months, and he was the one we saw back in our area. the lead conductor i only saw once early in the trip. she was recalculating arrival times in the cafe car after the stop we had in klamath. i did see her in the baggage car when i went to claim my bike. she apologized for any inconviencies. i wished her well. i just wanted to load up my bike and point it to my pals who by now had gone home and were cooking up a nice curry for us as the beer was chilling. have i mentioned how much i love my friends?! all of them! everywhere!

it took awhile for some of us to take in everything that had just happened. i still am i reckon. many of us that follow just how much gun violence there is in this country. how many mass shootings there are. how much fear people live in and with every flipping day; sometimes it takes a minute to realize what was experienced.

as for myself. i’m ok. i’m good, as pools well up in my eyes right now. i don’t know how i felt as i was instructed to stay in my seat and keep my head down as i could see it all go down. it was so instinctual. the arsonal of the police/military weapons at eye level, the brown man i was sitting next to me waking up as everything was happening, me putting my hand on his back telling him to stay down. i trusted no one in this situation but my own privlage keeping me more safe than those around me…and as a queer low-income gender queer person in this country being white and educated was what i had going for me…as usual. i say this with no ego or good for me moment, my concern  was for those around me. i never believed i was in physical danger, but that others would be. i don’t know why. as others processed what could have happened if….i listened. i never felt the danger. as i’ve taken some time to process and talked it out with my people i still don’t feel like i was in physical danger. maybe part of my laughter of the military police having problems opening the door, was the idea that “of course this is what is happening” with no sense of suprise.

but i am certainly feeling something

i feel for those who did feel threatened

those who were sittting near this white man spouting violent threatening language

those who feel this threat each and every day due to how they look or move through their lives

where their families moved here from as refugees seeking asylum

forced here

colonized here

no matter who we are

no matter how we vote(d)

where we live

for so long now

this is our reality.

the people behind me? they were suppose to be at that garlic festivile that was a scene of a recent mass shooting.

everyone had some kind of close call with a mass shooting in this country, or white supremest hate filled violence to share.

so i have a question(s) for all those who voted for this administration, for this way of governing for this hate sponsored politics. those of you who don’t believe that this is what you voted for…that you voted for the economics or whatever you thought was going to provide you with a sense of safety and future you wanted to see, who think this is not the america you wanted to make great again.

for all those who believe that there is a grave threat from people who seek refuge along the southern border, or are muslim, black, brown, queer, trans

how do you “know” that this is the source of violence or some kind of risk to your safety, financial or physical. how do you “know” this to be true?

i also have questions for all those who have asked me if i feel safe traveling alone? camping by myself, biking by myself. i have never felt a threat until i entered the places more populated by people.

because of all these and so many more questions i have, i don’t know how to end this post.

thank fucking much that i had some of the best people in the world waiting for me with food and beverages and hugs and listening skills when i got off this train to help me deal with a fairly benign situation comparitively.

i shouldn’t have to deal with this, no one should.

the things i should have to deal with have nothing to do with fragile egos with guns, fists, white houses fed by congress and mega corporatioins.

i’m tired too

i’m tired of being angry

i’m tired of deciphering if that sound was fireworks or gunfire

i’m tired of filtering

of self censoring

and if i am this tired, how do others who have done this for generations, centuries feel?!

a final note. i looked this incident up on line just to see what if any news would be reported, because we never saw a news crew. there was very little reported. mostly that we were delayed for 5 hours costing amtrak lots of money in lost revenue due to missed connections and such. that there were 272 passangers and 15 crew members. that there was no injuries reported and no weapons. really? no weapons??!! we saw the weapon. i heard the man say he had a 45. i heard the cop drop it then pick it up and repeat several times “i got it! i got it!”

know who to trust with what you know is true

 

 

 

oh ozarks

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

first, my bike needs some help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kansas city ii

”the soul has greater need of the ideal than the real. it is by the real that we exist. it is by the idea that we live”

this qoute of victor hugo’s is on the outside of the the nelson atkins art museum. it has stuck with me all these years. as a kid i would walk around this museum and try to piece together what it is suppose to mean? is it in relation to the art collected, stolen, and displayed in it’s walls? is it reflecting the creative process? how we are to be effected or interact with art? why does it have to be seperated?

i’ve spent the last week wondering around the streets of this city that does have a hold on me, maybe the only city i would live in again if an option arose. the mid-town area that is.

it is this museum holds a special place deep inside of me. there is something sacred about walking these halls and grounds. i can remember coming here with my cousin, an amazing and talented creative human. when we were little his mom, my aunt, would take us here and let us roam. when we grew older, and i would roll into town for a visit, he and i would find a reason to ditch the fam and spend the day here. walk around with our own thoughts then meet down at the courtyard for some wine and catch-up. repeat until we felt ready to join the family again. usually winter, summer would be out on the grounds with a frisbee and byob.

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it took me awhile to realize the special space museums hold for me…and libraries too. the places where people are suppose to be quiet and not interrupt other people deep in thought…even white guys seem to understand this. wherever i am, i usually find the library and the museum and i walk. maybe sit for a bit. some have places one can even read or write. for me, it is like the solace of nature in the city. more than parks or city forests. there is no multi-tasking of jogging with your dog, or taking on the phone while getting in your daily step count. here, the multi-tasking is internal.

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the halls of this museum introduced me to cultures that stick with me to this day, like   story telling of asian art. i remember the first time i came up a staircase and ran into the huge golden buddha, and he wasn’t fat like the ones i grew up seeing at my grandparents’ house.

but it is the lawn here that hold most of my memories. though i adopted a vegan lifestyle in syracuse before moving back to the k.c. area, the lawn at this museum is where i went to my first community vegan potluck picnic thing. then later, across the street is a park where i went to my first rally against vivisection. there is a lab just right there that has been testing on animals for sooo long.

these led me to the peace/anti-war gatherings at the fountain at the plaza. these were organized by the people i had a more spiritual connection with…mostly buddhists and maybe some universalists, quakers even possibly? all kinds of people.

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i spent an extra week in kansas city, trying to figure out how i was going to get around the floods. i did take a few momments to explore and catch up with a couple friends. much has changed and stayed the same. k.c is a beautiful city with a mix of the old and new buildings with rich and complicated histories, much like myself. and i’m not sure how to say this piece that i enjoy about kansas city. but when i look around, i don’t just see white people, and that gives me great comfort (? not sure if that is the right word, but too many of us white folks makes me twitchy).

i got to drink some good beers at new brewries, some whiskey at new distilleries, coffee on rooftops with good views, a vegan donut at a vegan coffee shop, and i walked. with the exception of the bike infrastructure needing serious help, this city may fit me even more these days…maybe.

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First week

”you wanna join our revolution?”

no hesitation

no moment of waiting for some kind reason or expaination

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

so fist in the air with a “hell yeah”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

so yes, revolution please!

Si se Puede!

 

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.

 

my first spring

today i reached for my bike to find it covered in more pine pollen than dirt and dust. spring has truly set in here in this little mountain town. in fact, the other day as i looked out a window while working, trying to watch a storm roll through, i saw a huge swarm of pollen blow out of a tree and across the hillside. first, i smiled so big, then i sneezed so hard i missed the crash of thunder.

this has all given me pause to once again reflect on a shifting seasonal experience. in portland, i marked the changing seasons by food. first was the arrival of nettles and other bitter greens, strawberries, then the explosion of all the fruits and veggies i adore from berries, ripe tomatoes, stone fruits, and all the greens all the time. not here. here the farmers market doesn’t even start until sometime in june.

here spring has been more subtle. for me, it started with the sun hitting my balcony (that faces east) earlier and earlier. until i could be out there at 7:30 am, it being 40 degrees and with the sun shining, i could have my morning tea and reading session in shorts and a hoodie. here is where i noticed that winter was moving, giving into a new season. the animals started moving through: moose, fox, cranes, the chipmunks came out, and so many birds.

and the sounds. oh how i have loved to hear the changes of the sounds. from the constant drip of snow changing shape and molecular structure to the bird songs, the sound of thunderstorms moving in and hearing the rain on the leaves, and the leaves. oh the shimmering of aspen leaves is like no other sound. the roar of the river as it rises and the quiet as mud season slows the town down.

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then i noticed that the snow was receding from the mountain. and there was a lime green taking over from the brown-the aspens were leafing out. there were mornings that i swear that i literally saw the tree right next to my place fill out minute by minute. then all the other trees followed with buds of pink and white and fresh branches on the willows and spruce trees. and the cottonwoods started blowing their white cluster making it look like fluffy cotton like snow covering everything.

then there was the river and the snowmelt. first, it was noticing that there wasn’t any snow or ice left in the yampa river. then the river started rising and flowing faster and faster. the waterfowl changed. more ducks and more cranes, and more kayakers. not so many anglers. the smell of sulphur decreased maybe from the increase of snow melt? its’ still there, just not as strong. maybe i’m getting more used to it?

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a couple weeks ago it was announced that the river had reached it’s peak already for the season. when i rode by a couple days ago i noticed that the water line on the banks of the river had shifted dramatically already.

it all left me feeling like this was really and truly the first spring that i actually witnessed; took notice of in so many ways on such a constant basis. the colors, the temperature, precipitation, animals, water, and more relaxed people (but i think the relaxed people might be more due to mud season and lack of tourists).

i have some theories about noticing spring more.

i have so many fewer distractions. sure in other places i still biked and walked most everywhere i went, but there was so much more traffic, cop cars, sirens, noises, lights, noises…so many noises and bright lights. people in a hurry.  so much stimulus. i use to walk around with buds in my ears to drown out the sound of traffic and nonsense. here i only earbud when i am at work and listen to podcasts. the cluster of podcasts i listen to have become a strange kind of community, but that is a different story.

how much goes unnoticed by us in cities as we pay attention to other changes, like the closing of our favorite restaurant or the tearing down of a house for condos?

sure cities can be a great place for all kinds of reasons, but i wonder what we might miss in these places of over stimulation and isolation. i don’t know that i can go back to that kind of existence. i have a different kind of isolation here for sure, but its not the same as being surrounded by a huge population and feeling like fewer and fewer people, outwardly, gives a fuck about what is happening in their neighborhood. i know it varies city by city, but only by degrees.

i’ve been thinking about this and e.o. wilson’s half earth. i don’t think that is a world i would want to live in, but i need to think about it some more. more people in cities, i don’t think is a very good answer. half of the earth as wild spaces, now that is something i can support, but not in that segregated kind of way….but i digress get again.

each day i wake up and look forward to the shifting that will take places as we continue to move through the seasonal cycles. i can’t imagine just how much more of my little mountain, out my back door, will be even more green. what trees are going to pop out next with color and leaves? what are the next animals to move through the valley? how much quieter can i make my mind in order to pay even more attention? when can i roll into town and jump in a tube and float the day away?

by the way, i call it my little mountain not because i seek some kind of ownership over it, but because it has claimed me in some way. as has the river and all the creeks and streams i meet.

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i love this pace of life that as adopted me. is it location? is it age? is it removing myself from the race that capitalism forces on us? or am i simply content? its all rolled up together i am sure.

i am having to quail my excitement for fall and the aspens changing colors. i am already thinking about it in anticipation. in good time for first there is more spring.

and

summer!