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.

 

a year ago

wow! has it really been a year since i, literally, walked away from my life in portland? it seems like i’ve lived a couple lives since then. i’m going to try and summarize what i’ve gone through and where i think i have set my compass bearings…but who am i kidding, i carry a compass, but use the direction the wind takes me more than my compass.

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so a year ago i was getting soaked through and through on the oregon coast trail. a trail i don’t really recommend doing in its entirety. sure it has some of the most amazing views on the pacific coast. however…there is so much road walking, which sure shuttles can take you around, so it’s not too bad. if you are wanting to do it, do it for sure, but do it in the full-on summer time. let the spring storms pass. have a way to know the tides. be prepared for sandblasting your skin (and tent in the middle of the night), and being amazed at every moment you remember to look up and pay attention.

when i got to the oregon/cali border, i ran out of walking ideas. well, i had ideas, but water levels and snow levels were beyond my skill set. years and years of low winter snow levels meant that a “normal” year felt high. maybe this is why so many people the past several years have taken on the pct. if one was willing to push beyond some levels of pain and discomfort, mostly mental, one could persevere without a huge skill set, but not this year.

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so i did what i do when i don’t know what else to do, i got a job. i went inland to explore a town and area i had never been to. i sat at the chetco brewery and booked a shuttle to ashland, lived at a hostel while i looked both for a place to live and a place to work. (p.s. this is actually pretty common. when i i stayed in any hostel from slo (san luise obispo) to tijuana, there were people living at the hostel looking for housing.) i quickly found both and settled in. my pals would come into town and take me out for swimming adventures at rivers and lakes. we went to experience the eclipse. i had a wonderful summer.

my mom came out to visit. and then we visited my grandpa’s sister and i loaded up a bike and headed south once again. i have to say, this lady, ellen, is a spark. her and my grandfather were best pals. i can remember her and her husband carl visiting when i was a kid. in my child’s memory i don’t remember what muscular disease he had, i just remember her pushing him around in a big wheelchair. i remember whatever was happening, she pushed him, she smiled, she laughed like there was no issue, no problem, no inconvenience. it was just what was. she still lives in the house that she raised her kids in. she lives alone. she knows her neighbors and they assist her with whatever she asks for. she….she…well she amazes me. not with the grand and great actions, but like my grandparents, the simple enjoyments of everyday life.

at some point in the evening, she turned to me and said,

i remember once when i was visiting your grandfather, we went to your work and you made me a fantastic margarita.

yes, i remember too. it was fun.

would you make us a round?

i’d love to.

so we had “happy hour”

then she told us stories of dancing at the hall, of being a dance instructor, of love, of family….93 years of living (i think it’s 93 maybe it’s 87 it doesn’t matter really). we had moved to the enclosed patio so that i could sort and separate gear for my transition from walking to biking, but at some point, i stopped so that i could sit and listen to her. it just seemed so important to listen. to capture this moment somewhere in my body and mind. to absorb her words. i don’t remember them, but i can feel them, and it is a feeling i continue to move with. maybe in a selfish way, it was like having my grandparents with me in space and time again for a moment, and i wasn’t going to sort packages of ramen and t-shirts and forgo this moment.

that first day i didn’t get far. maybe 15, 20 miles. i needed some time to switch gears.

when my mom dropped me off at some empty parking lot that i pick as fine, and i was loaded up and she pulled out and i pulled out, i road to the beach and just kind of what the fucked for a moment. really, what am i doing? i could have stayed at that job, probably found a place i could afford to live. i could have gone back to portland or kansas… eventually, i calmed down, got my bearings and pointed the bike south and started cranking on the pedals.

i got through santa cruz and found a campground with a hiker-biker site, set up camp and watched the sunset. in the morning i chatted with some fellow bike tour folks, and the pace was set. this is what i wanted. to travel by my own power. to see…what? everything, whatever came my way. to stop and chat with people. to see the world outside of the bubble i had been living in for the past 10 years. i would say i have been successful so far.

i have met people from all over: from homeless to the very wealthy and lots of people who gave up the grind for the love of life (especially the “homeless” living in the parks). i met the owner of a brewery (who opened his doors for me to have a cold one on a hot day) who told me about the ridiculous codes he had to deal with. the couple who worked in l.a. in various projects for alternative transportation. my friends who opened their doors to me so many times as i passed through the big cities. and the wonderful folks i met in mexico. and so many people looking for something besides the prescribes socially acceptable life choices.

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the ocean as a companion just cannot be underestimated. she is wonderful. and all those who call her home: the sea otters, lions, gulls, crustaceans, birds of all kinds. the trees and plants of the shorelines that changed the scents and quality of the air i was breathing.

the landslides and wildfires that affected where and how i passed through. these are the events that shifted and changed the way i see climate change. it was a year where i not just knew climate change through numbers, statistics, lectures, and subtle shifts. this year i felt it even more than ever. and not in just that yes, the climate is changing as a part of natural evolutional shifts and changes, but as a force humans are changing faster than nature can keep up with.

and not just that we are unbalancing the balance of nature, but that nature will restore her balance even if it means the demise of the human species. this planet is not as fragile as people seem to poetically like to consider her. maybe it is because we view nature as feminine and we like females to be fragile. however, any being who brings forth life, cannot be fragile. she is strong and she will fight for life, the life she has created. if we don’t drastically shift and change our individual lives, we are the ones who will die…currently, it is something like 600,000 people a year die from climate-related deaths-at least i believe that is close to the number i read recently.

this journey so far has opened up my life in ways i could never imagine. it has helped me realize the vision of my life as a kind of loner and rebel that i have always felt that i am. i’m so thankful for my pals and family in all its shapes and sizes so that i don’t have to be a true loner and who celebrate and inspire my kind of rebellion…so far. i couldn’t be me without them.

so i sit here in a small moutain town in colorado setting a foundation for this vision. a vision that doesn’t see me really attatched to any specific place except for this planet and where i am resting my head for the time being, but more attatched to the people who’s path i cross in the process. i am also taking more of an interest in the health of this big blue rock that, no matter that science fiction finds other planets for us to inhabit, is our only home.

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so yup, this year has pushed and stretched me. it has afirmed that i made the right choice. it has caused me to question my life choices and ethics that have only reaffirmed them and made them stronger. i’ve listened to so many people’s stories that only makes me want to hear more.

i have renewed respect for humanity and disgust for capitalism. i truly believe that capitalism is the root of so much disharmony and disease in the northern hemisphere. the root cause for increasing use of opiates and anti-depression drugs in n. america.

i have renewed faith in local communities. in fact, i believe that it is the direct actions and how local communities respond to the various crisis where we will find solutions. i don’t mean in large city councils and such, but eventually maybe. i mean in our neighborhoods. in conversation with our neighbors…who were once strangers. getting to know that person who picks up the bottles we leave out for others to take for their deposits…their income. going for walks with people. know the trees and birds who come through the alleyways. do you have birds and bees in the gardens? what do your neighbors grow? cook? have tea on the front porch.

so what is my vision?

well. i plan on staying in this little mountain town for a year to save money and work on that foundation i was talking about. i want to find my voice as a writer and figure out how to use it for good. to face my fears that keep me from stretching and pushing myself and risk failure on all levels. and then i want to point the bike in a direction and see where it takes me. to visit my friends, some of which i haven’t met yet, but deeply looking forward to meeting.

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sounds of life

[the sounds inspired 2 lines of thought so there will be two soundful posts]

I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about how the sounds in my life have changed.

It really hit me the other week when my waking and sleeping sounds of drip drip drip changed tempo. The temperature was slightly increasing but mostly it had been super sunny. one day it was in single digits but sunny. the snow was melting and freezing as it dripped down the branches of this tree i was walking by. i would have taken a picture, but there were these drunk white dudes in the hot tub in the background.

It’s been melting for weeks and it is February. But that isn’t what I want to write about today.

I’m working on that one.

This one I want to simply recognize the changes

So I woke the other day, and there was no drip

No dripping

No little trickle

It was completely silent.

No….no. nonononono

Is it mud season already?

It was around 3 am so I padded off to a window to see what I couldn’t hear

It was snowing!

It was snowing big fat fluffy flakes.

I needed to go back to sleep, but I just couldn’t bring myself to turn away. It was like the ocean all over again but not….the roaring silence of snow falling in a quiet mountain town (we were between music festivals).

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I didn’t realize just how much I’ve missed the roar of the unpacific Pacific Ocean (as Brian Doyle refers to her in his novel plover).

She was such a companion for so long and it’s not like I forgot all the sensations, it’s just that I got distracted by others. There is so much to absorb in this world. But for more than a season, my rhythms and her’s were synched up. I paid attention to the rise and fall of her tide, so I was also aware of the moon, it’s phase and pull on us all.

I woke and slept to the crashing of waves, or the rare occasion when the ocean was still and smooth and reflected the sky in a perfect mirror.

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Here my skin is rarely exposed to the elements. my hands sometimes. my face mostly. i miss the sun on my body. i don’t miss the sandy grit in sensitive places, but the white salt that would accumulate on me and anything on my body as i rode in record-breaking heat. i do actually miss that. i may for reals belong in a warm tropical environment.

And the smell of the ocean air…and its effects on my sinuses. I don’t think I realized just how good that air was for me until it was gone and my nose congested from the dry mountain air. a pot sits simmering on the stove when i am “home”.

I noticed the shift in my scent sense a couple days ago. It had been snowing for a few days. The air was crisp and clean and dry and I smelled pine. It was subtle, maybe from a fire, but I saw no smoke (most people seem to have gas fireplaces). But the smell was clear and it wasn’t sea air.

Nor was it the smell of dead fish, seaweed, or sea lion.

Nor the taste of the salt air in all that i eat. instead, it is the taste of snow with every breath as i pump up the hill each and every day i leave my abode. there is something clean, crips, and just a little sweet on my tongue most days.

I can’t say that I miss the ocean

I do but not really…it’s complicatedly simple

I miss her like I miss lovers and friends who are off doing their things while I do mine. I’m excited to hear about their adventures while I have mine

We had a mighty fine times

Very supportive

But now she is crashing on the shores as someone else gets to sit mesmerized while watching appreciatively wondering what is beneath those unseeable depths.

And I am gazing off at mountains barren or snow peaked in just as much awe.

So no I don’t miss the ocean

I am grateful that she is there and I know that from here I can still care for her and have an impact on her either positively or negatively based on how I live my life and the choices I make. that the snow i see now will melt and flow down through the rivers and merge into her waters.

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An exciting thing about remembering to be in the moment is the noticing. it is a sensation i appreciate about meditation and yoga; paying attention to where i am now. the more i pay attention to specific moments, the more i recognize the subtle shifts and changes in myself and my environment. that means i go slower, i do fewer things but i do them more fully, hopefully…

The drips returned today…it was 1 degree when I woke up

One degree and warming.

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

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

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

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

Then I got off work

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

I wasn’t ready

Not yet

But

I’m not really open to the alternative

Not yet

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

The bartender asked what I was having.

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

A local whiskey its on me. Happy birthday

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

And I headed home

I did sleep

I did wake

Everything was a o k

Mostly

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

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

Then I would get a text

Or a call

Or an email

All fantastic and loving and amazing

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

Nothing really. It all means nothing

Not in that nihilistic way of nothing, but really

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

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

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

ART. Art has inspired me.

Music

Photography

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

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

Anyway, back to the celebration, celebration

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

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

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

Went to get a snack and some beverages

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

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

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

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

I actually did it

I took off

I set myself free from all of it

Well actually I traded one kind of stress for another

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

Makes one hell of a difference

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

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

I yearn for the mystery

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

I am 50 years old

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

I don’t want to settle down

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

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

 

chilin like a surfer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

do i really feel unsafe?

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

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

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

then i drifted off into a sound sleep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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then the fog returned and the surfers disappeared.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

so much kindness

i finally packed up and headed of playas de tijuana. my plan was to get down to rosarito, about 30 km south of playas. i knew for sure that there was this bike shop down there and i wanted to get my bent wheel fixed. i figured if i got it fixed early enough i could just keep going south and find a place to camp. however, coming out of playas was straight up! there was no easing into it. i had looked at the elavation profile before leaving, and figured it was just a few hundred meters, should be ok, but wow! within minutes i was sucking air and drenched in sweat and my legs were burning. and as for the long tunnel? it was frightening. not because of the traffic flying by. there was plenty of room. but because it was still going straight up and now curving and the just kept building. i jumped off the bike and started pushing. it gave me time to catch my breath, drink some water, and take inventory of my situation.

this wasn’t really anything new. i’ve been through this at some level almost every day. its called bike tour, and anyone who ever thought that the world is flat has never backpacked nor gone on a bike tour. something else was happening to me. i just wanted to go home, and not just home as in back to portland or oregon, but kansas. it was a little disturbing. i have never really wanted to go back to kansas except to see friends and family. so as i climbed hill after hill alongside traffic that was flying by me i was more than a little flustered.

one thing i count on when hiking or biking is the general rule of what goes up must come down. eventually, i was able to roll downhill and into rosarito. i couldn’t decide between getting a hotel room, not something i had planned on doing until i started to get so flustered, then head over to the bike shop. however, as i rolled into town, i started to feel better so i went bike shop first, figuring that if it got fixed quickly, i would head on down the road to a camp spot.

so i rolled into the bike shop…super small and in a residential area. well i rolled my loaded up bike into the shop and started to explain what was going on. turns out, he spoke less english than i spanish! eventually, we worked it out and he stopped what he was doing and fixed my wheel. we did use his computer for a little translating. when we put the wheel back on, i asked him what i owed him and he wouldn’t let me pay. he also wouldn’t except a tip. i left with a good wheel and a hotel suggestion, and yet one more story of kindness.

it didn’t take him long to fix the wheel, but i was emotionally exhausted, so i opted for a hotel and a swim and a shower. that evening i walked down to a taqueria recommended by “happy cow” app. however, the smell of all the cooking cow turned me to this cute little cafe with an outdoor patio. it was so delightful, that i went back for breakfast. that night, i turned on some movie and started making plans to turn towards the mid-west. this wasn’t an easy decision and one i will talk about more later. but with the pressure of how to make it further south with a record heat wave off my mind, i made some playful plans.

after breakfast, i started south again. i knew that i wanted to make it down to k58 campsite. it is a fairly well-known spot for surfers to come from all over baja and southern california, and well, the more time i’ve spent around surfers, the more i like them and their relaxed laidback attitude. yet, just a few kilometers down the road, i made a little stop.

i had seen that there was a bike cafe about 15 minutes south of rosarito, but it didn’t look like anything was there via google maps. still, i kept an eye out anyway. i’d been told about this amazing bike culture in this area and that there were a few organized big rides between rosarito and ensenada. so when i saw the signs for it, i jumped six lanes of traffic and rolled up to the back porch.

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i leaned my bike up against the patio’s fence and walked by these fancy pants road bikes. inside i found 3 guys of various ages in their fancy cycling gear, two women off to the side, and a young guy behind the counter. all heads turned towards me with full friendly smiles. i was asked where i was going/coming, and where was my bike? eventually they asked if they could get me anything. soon i was holding a huge cup of hot coffee and our conversations continued. it was lively and fun. eventually, the “older” guy sitting at the counter turned to me as he was going through his little seat/tool pouch and pulled out a pocket knife.

you have one of these?

yup, two. one for food and one for other things.

hmmm, you have a gun?

ha! no! i’d probably get shot.

hmmm well, your president thinks we are dangerous and bad people

fuck that guy (oh shit gotta watch that knee-jerk reaction). i mean he’s not my president. i can’t stand how he talks about or treats people. as for border imperialism…..

well. i bought your coffee.

no no no

already did.

i’m standing next to him now and reach out my hand to shake his as we continue with conversations about biking and such. when he is about 1/2 way to his bike he turns and comes back to me, now with his bike glove off.

that was a very friendly shake and i want to do it right.

so we shake again.

soon it is just me and the owner and my still very hot cup of coffee, and we continue to talk for about an hour. he was born in san diego, went to school and college in that area. moved to rosarito to be with family. his wife and her family (his wife and her mother were the two women at the shop) live in the area. he opens the shop at either 6 or 7 in the morning. leaves for san diego around 3 or 4 to work nights (the mother of his wife closes the shop). he has some kind of special pass to get back and forth quickly over the border. i actually talked with many people who do this. so if you think the people from mexico are lazy and such….come talk to me.

 

i didn’t want to leave this area. everyone i talked to was so kind and shared so much with me. the owner of the bike shop gave me a few suggestions of places to camp. he even said “hell, camp across the street. i open early tomorrow. come in for breakfast!”

i was so tempted.

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finally, i climbed back on my trusty stead (i should come up with a name for by wheeled friend). i had around 30 km to ride for the day before i could rest, and i was pretty sure it was going to be one rolly ride.

what’s next

so i have left ashland. it wasn’t an easy decision to stay or to go. it was a nice place to sort things out. good people. lots to explore. however, the jobs just don’t match the cost of living-as is true most places these days. also, there is something odd about ashland. it’s almost too perfect sometimes…in an uncomfortable way….like stepford wives as a city. i also had a hard time finding the queerdos.

so i started sorting out my options with the help of some pals that came and went from ashland all summer. i found a hella deal on a bike and transferred the gear in my backpack to bike panniers and a smaller backpack. my plan was to bike the sierra cascade route down to baja and then bike around there for the winter. then a family visit down the california coast changed that. so back to the pacific ocean it is. i still plan on making it to baja for the winter, but i will have to stop and work from time to time, so if you know anyone who needs some help with a project or two let me know! i’d love to meet some people and work side-by-side with them.

i haven’t had much time to make the emotional and mental switch from work to travel again. i finished work on sunday at 7am and by the afternoon had visitors. we met for dinner and then took off to crater lake the next day, and then to the redwoods and family in santa clara. the next day i was dropped off in santa cruz to start biking.

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as i started peddling, i realized i didn’t really know what my destination was for the day. i rode to the boardwalk and looked up a direction and started riding. as i entered the monterey bay area i found some hiker-biker campsites and pulled into one early in the day and made a few adjustments to bike and self. i fell asleep super early.

when i woke up, i chatted with the folks that had rolled in that night and we shared some information. i took my time packing up trying some new ideas, pulled out google maps to pick the next location.

i spent the day riding through farm land….corporate farm land. actually i spent the night right next to del monte strawberries. i rode past cabbages, fruits, artichokes, people planting, tending, and harvesting. it was interesting to go by slowly and watch to see where there was drinking water available, shade, rest….working conditions. my afternoon snack came from a roadside produce stand where i had a fine chat with the woman who had just started this little organic market.

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as i curved around the bay, i remembered the sylivia earle connection to monterey bay, so looked into heading in that direction. it was amazing to sleep along a bay that has been protected. the wildlife, the clean water, plants…. all of it has been so amazing. the night before i actually was woken by a screeching owl and some other birds having a conversation. it is a great contrast to super industrial shorelines.

as i entered a town outside of monterey i guy rolled up next to me who had just finished biking across the u.s. and offered me a place to stay when i got into monterey. that put part of mind to rest so that i could actually enjoy the ride even more. so that when i rolled into town i felt more open to explore a bike shop who refered me to a new brewery that had just opened up around the corner.

the tender at the brewery has worked at the state parks in the area and gave me some tips on places to stop/camp/visit. as i was wrapping things up here, i got word that my hosts were home from the beach, so i headed their way. i arrive in time for a shower and then dinner was ready! they were so super kind and wonderful! they had only been back from their bike tour for 10 days, and were only too happy to share the friendliness they had experienced on their trip. they were still asleep when i got up and headed out.

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i was all prepared to go ahead and start my journey down the coast, but i just felt this urge to stick around monterey for the day. i needed to get some “work” done. i needed to finally sign up for warm showers (couch surfing for bike tour), check out fundage, and general life maintenance. i think once i finish up some of these things, and wrap up parts of my life that have been just hanging loose for a bit, i’ll feel better about pulling out-of-town tomorrow. i don’t mind all the unknowns, but there are some things that need to be taken care of and i think it could help with the feelings of being overwhelmed mixed with some depression and anxiety….not how i want to be riding down highway 1.

also, it is nice to be in stienbeck land, even though it is not the cannery row stienbeck knew/wrote about. what would doc think of all this?

a queer vegan perspective on the changing climate

it wasn’t long after i stepped off the oregon coast trail that i heard about trump pulling the u.s. out of the paris accord; an accord that had no real accountability, nor does it go deep enough. when you consider that the g-20 governments still invest more in fossil fuels than in any climate initiative. i wasn’t surprised. we get what we deserve when we fall into a false sence of security that washes over us when democrats get selected for office, or for that fact believing that governments are going to get us out of a mess created by capitalism.

then consider the book i started this venture with, native science by gregory cajete; a book that outlines the indigenous scientific way of observing and participating with the world. this is a book that i had started and stopped so many times over a couple of years, not because it isn’t engaging, but because it inspired me to go out and observe the world around me and go in search of stories by different groups of people who explain their observations and how that incorporated lessons of participation with, well, everything. and then there is the influence of pouring over everything i can find by winona laduke and robin wall kimmerer. influences of black lives matter and idle no more….it is past time to take notice.

all this has led me to finally have a little better insight to address why the current dialoges of climate change/chaos have always felt empty, void of responsibility and real action. why i have tried to turn to so many different organizations from greenpeace to anarchists to work out how i want to address my contributions, my responsibility, my ability to participate as fully as possible to try to turn the tide of the warming of this planet. the fact that this is my 4th attempt to write this out means i haven’t got it yet, but i think i am finally at a place where i can start the conversation for a different way of addressing the onslaught humans (western, capitalist, imperialist, industrial nation’s humans) are having on earth.

if we are able to see that we are just another animal, another mammal, on this life-giving water ball of an organism that gives life to all the creatures who resides here. we might also be able to see that “we” are also the ones who have wrecked such havoc, causing the extinction of so many land and sea beings, we have also finally laid the groundwork for our own extinction. if we can piece these two things together, we might be able to finally collectivly take great action that may turn the tides. i want to have hope for it….yet if we can’t get over ourselves, i don’t know that i want to root for us as a whole…. again “us” being western, capitalist, imperialist, industrial nation’s humans. as many indigenous people i’ve listened to lately, the earth/water/land is not a resource to be extracted, but the source of all life.

so here is how i interpret what is happening to this planet, with my vegan and queer eyes…and heart. the planet is a living organism…THE living organisim for us and all others living, dying, and dead beings on this planet. it is the ultimate closed loop system. if you have ever watched trees grow out of “dead” aka nurse logs, you know what i mean. or closer to home…feed your garden from your compost pile often? death and life is a cycle. so anyway. the planet is a living being who is sick because of “us”. it’s immune system is wrecked and it is trying to find a way of coming back into balance. the more “we” push it out of balance, the more she reacts with greater force.

in naming what is happening, our egos call it climate chaos because we can’t control it. we can’t predict it. many scientists are now saying that the numbers they are getting are so far off the charts that they can’t really run the models for any reliable predictions. and really, i reckon there are just too many gosh darn variables. take the 3 gases that account for most of the warming temperatures of our life-giving planet: co2, methane, and nitrous oxide. most of the organizatons working on reducing the impact of global warming are focused on co2. in many ways this makes a great deal of sense. co2 is the highest concentrated gas. however, the effects of methane is 20 to 100 times stronger than co2. and get this! nitrous oxide? it is 296 times stronger and stays in the atmosphere for 150 years! these numbers i get from the fact sheets on the cowspiricy website and here they have all the scientific references.

one of the final statements they make there is

Reducing methane emissions would create tangible benefits almost immediately.

and where do these methane gases come from? industrial animal agriculture.

again from the fact sheets:

Even without fossil fuels, we will exceed our 565 gigatonnes CO2e limit by 2030, all from raising animals.

now mix this with an amazing infographic from phys.org

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now two things i want to take note of from this chart. first, this is still based on co2 and i believe that if we added methane and nitrous oxide, food and transportation would be switched. the other thing that i would like to point out is that all the things on the moderate and low impact side, are the things that “we” have been told we can do as individuals to reduce out participation in global warming. often it is mentioned to buy a hybrid car, (on this chart they encourage people to buy fully electric cars, but where is the electricity coming from? coal? solar? damning dams?). but for the most part it still takes more energy to build a new hybrid than is conserved in its lifetime. and i do not see anywhere in the u.s. where anyone talks about having smaller families, even though we know that population is a major major issue!

as for the switching to a plant-based diet, even vegans, especially today’s modern urban vegan, can make so many better choices, and i want us to talk about this. however, these choices still don’t have the same impact of not consuming animals  raised in the confines of industrial agriculture. i would highly encourage people to watch cowspiricy. they talk about the benefits and limitations of say grass/pasture raised meat and just how much land and space that it would take more land than exists to feed people of at the level of current consumption of our fellow mammals.

so what? so what do i want to do with all this information? how is this fueling me to make choices that lower my parasitic activity contributing to making our planet sick? i firmly believe that those of us in the queer community and the vegan community have exceptional vantage points, and thus responsibilities to respond to our sick planet. first, some vegans are already doing the work of intersectionality and developed ways of working together with other groups and organizations to challenge our common oppressors. the queer community has also had the opportunities to do this work, plus, many of us are members of the communities that are going to be even more effected by the government and corporate institutions that are going to amp up their violence and oppressive behaviors. those who are already vulnerable will be even more so, and also the number of groups who will be vulnerable are going to increase. we have a responsibility to be part of community organizing that challenges these institutions as well as building alternative ways of caring for and providing support for all of us. we have done this before, and we can do it again.

i don’t want us to be gentle with one another anymore. “we” can’t afford it. it is time for an intervention. i want us to be educated and informed on how we can be better citizen of this world. we need to recognize that “we” all have an addictive relationship with consumerism that leads to exploitation of land, water, plants, people, and all the other animals who depend on this planet for life. we need to let go of our personal and global egos that say we know better so it must be “their” fault; those new to the global market place – producer and consumer. it is time for brutal honesty, and we can do this with so much love. we can make different and better choices.  we don’t have to deny ourselves any pleasures, we just need to learn new ones. did you ever get to experience homemade vegan ice cream with freshly picked berries mixed in? so worth the wait!

and it’s not that hard really, learning new systems where we are inspired to make different choices, where we stop using single use anything as much as possible. get that one travel mug and water vessel. any time you find yourself throwing something in the trash, think about how you could do that differently. how about deciding to walk to the farmers market and have conversations with the people, and cats, you pass along the way. experience a feeling of less stress of not driving. too far to walk? take public transportation.

there also has to be a way where we look at the upstream and downstream effects of our choices. let’s say using compostable “to-go” things. it takes a great deal of energy to produce these items, but when they do eventually break down (which actually does take a great deal of energy and special industrial composting plants that most municipalities do not have), all you are left with is a substance that you can’t even grow mushrooms in. so lots of energy to make something that is used for a very short period of time that is reduced to nothing useful. doesn’t seem really all that “green” when put that way.

so here are some words that are being added to the r’s of reduce, reuse, recycle. those words are refuse and repair. what if we let go of buying so much…just refuse that ego response of retail therapy. go do something else instead. and then when you do need new things, like a shirt say, when it gets worn out, repair it. same with your gear. learn some skills. those are things that will truly truly fill your ego. you can even choose to buy from companies that encourage you to repair instead of replace (patagonia and osprey come to mind).

i’m starting to spin out here. this is what happens. i start going down this river of inspiration and get caught in the eddy of thoughts that make me feel preachy and not very fun, when what i want to do is inspire. making these changes can be so much fun. having canning parties and kimchi making parties. pot lucks instead of going out all the time. skill sharing and game nights. home brews and charades….

but the first step. the very very first step where no other change can happen without, is to see one’s self as just another animal. just another part of the great dynamic that is this living and breathing planet. that we are all dependent and interdependent upon each other is so key. for me, this is where queer and feminist theory of intersectionality come into play.  we have to slow down and recognize one another. we have to see, hear, smell, taste, feel physically and emotionally our way around our communities. sit by a river. listen to the rustle of leaves on a tree, the call of the early rising birds as a way of waking. drink wild water, witness a thunderstorm without fear but excitement for the cleansing it will bring, and deeply listen to the stories of people who have experiences other than our own.

this is what i wish for us. i want us to find ways to create spaces for us to openly talk about all these things without fear of so judgement and reprecution. i want a person who deeply wants to be a parent talk about it openly, and together we find ways where that can happen with out huge expenses on so many levels. where a hunter can talk about how they feed their families. how a vegan is trying to find a better source of their foods that doesn’t feed the social injustices of our global food systems.  we can do this, but we have to stop with our ego that makes us afraid to speak out, afraid of talking about our desires, afraid of being judged and ridiculed, a place where we lay our egos to the side and go deeper into really addressing the issues that are killing the one being that we all depend on for life…our blue planet.

gear i’ve used so far

i don’t know why it has taken me so long to write about the larger pieces of gear i’ve been using. it seems like it would have been a great thing to write about before taking off while i was being anxious and obsessive about it all.

i recently went out to a lake with some pals and managed to take some pics of some key pieces while in use, vs. on the floor of an urban abode.

first, the pack holding everything. it’s a ula catalyst made in utah. it really is a workhouse of a pack. i traded in all my other packs at next adventure to afford it. i totally over packed this sucker and it still held up super, keeping the weight on my hips. the folks over at next adventure were amazingly patient with me as we mixed up the sizes of the hip belt and the different straps. ula makes an “s” shoulder harness and a “j” design. at first i was kinda frustrated with all the different straps and such to cinch and compress, but i quickly found my way around them and appreciated every last one of them. i really liked the roll top closure with the different options of clipping it closed either with the side straps, or on top as you would a dry bag. i also used the hell out of the external mesh pocket for trekking poles, rain gear/wet gear, tent, and umbrella. the pack is still a bit bigger and heavier than i want to have, but it has been great for essentially carrying my whole life on my back.

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next let’s move on to my little home. it is a big agnes copper spur ul-1. i scouted it at pct days in cascade locks last summer. i climbed in and out of all kinds of shelters on demo. for me this tent has a really good living space to weight to price ratio. i watched for deals and sales and rei eventually had a great sale on all big agnes products, so i cashed in my rei dividend and picked one up last summer. it may look familiar because its test run was to the wallowas and central oregon hot springs. the reason i like this tent really involves the weight and living space. i did decide to get the ground cloth that goes with it vs. getting a piece of tyvak because i do like the idea of pitching it with just the fly, which i have done a couple of times when in need of some quick shelter from the wind and rain. i could also imagine using this set up if i needed to creat some shade since i can still get some good air flow to stay cool. i could also see myself using this quick set up where i wanted to go fast and light, where mosquitos won’t be an issue.

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i should say that i had and have some prickles about buying from big agnes this time around. they have always been a great company. their products are made in steamboat springs, colorado. they make high quality gear that is pricy but not completely out of range for an average adventurer. however, there is a cultural shift in the outdoor world that is annoying to me, and totally shouldn’t be. so on the side panel pockets where i usually store my glasses, headlamp, watch and such, they have added a place to run an earphone line so that you can store your device and listen to music, podcast, show…whatever. i know i shouldn’t be bothered by this, but i kind of am. i am trying to get away from all that, so why build in a way to stay connected? also, big agnes has started this mountain glow series where they add led lights to the tents and have linked up with goal zero (which i do use) to charge them via. i don’t know, i guess this is just too much for me – technology in the outdoors wise. people already use too bright of headlamps and blind me when i am out at night wondering around looking at the stars, why all the extra light? i know i should get over it. if it helps get more people out to fall in love with wilderness, great. i reckon i am just becoming a cantankerous old fart.

now, there are two things i am really excited about adding to my quiver of a good nights sleep. first, my sleeping pad. i have experimented with so many pads and up until now, i have stuck with thermolite self-inflating pads. i tried to use some of the ultra-lite like their neoair and another by nemo, all really good products, but not so much for me. so while at the same pct days i met the folks from klymit. they were super nice. they had several of their pads out to test. i had read about some of their lightweight pads that seemed kind of torturous in pics, but once i laid out on the static v, i was so happy! i can finally sleep on my side and not feel my pelvic bone get friendly with whatever rock i missed in clearing my sleeping space. on top of all that, it isn’t set up high where i feel like i am going to roll off, which i am prone to do whether its a bed or a sleeping pad. so when they told me i could get one for 1/2 price that day, i went for it. that night i rolled up my 3/4 thermarest i’d been using for years and blew this one up. it really did only take 15-20 breaths (even after a visit to the beer garden). and i slept great!

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some things i’ve learned using this now, is that less is more. i do like this pad better when not completely filled with air. also, the side rails do really work for me. so far i have not rolled off the pad unless i did so on purpose to cool my legs down on a hot night or during a particularly invasive hot flash. sure i can’t just throw it in my tent and let it self inflate while i do other chores around camp, but the good nights sleep i receive is worth it. oh, and i did get the insulated one which did pay off while in the high country a couple of times in test trips where the temp dropped into the teens and i was using 30 or 40 degree sleeping bag at the time.

now for the piece of equipment i am truly excited about, my new sleeping quilt. that is right, i made the switch from a bag to a quilt. i wasn’t sure if it was gong to be right for me at first, so i went to rei and bought and returned a couple different bags. i tested out some other bags at various gear shops and events. however, i am such a tosser and a turner, that i am never really comfortable in a sleeping bag. in addition, i prefer to sleep on my side or stomach, and bags just get all twisted up and the hood on the mummy bags have almost suffocated me a few times. however, most quilts are down filled and i just can not bring myself to do that. enter enlightened equipment! they are based (and made to order) in minnesota. so i got to pick out the colors, temperature rating, and insulation of my quilt. and to be honest, i tried to use some woman’s specific sleeping bags, but really? do they all have to be pink or pastel, or glow-worm green; so getting to pic the color was a huge plus for me.

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anyway, the quilts are super versatile. there is one small zipper at the foot box, so the quilt can be closed around the lower parts of the legs, or fully open…like a quilt or blanket you use at home. also, the foot box has a drawstring enclosure so you can still have it closed around the legs to hold in the warmth, but you can easily stick your feet out the end. this came in super handy on cold nights where i was so tired and wanted to cozy in, but my feet where on fire from the day’s walking and trying to heal the blisters. i spend many nights wrapped up, but with my feet dangling out.

another feature of this quilt is the sleeping pad straps. so there are two of them, one towards the bottom and one towards the top. the one on the bottom is great for just keeping the quilt in place. the top one i use on really cold nights when i want to make sure that i hold in all the body heat possible. mostly, so far, i don’t use the top one much except on the coldest of nights. the advantage of this system is the versatility. i don’t need a summer bag and a winter bag (well unless i go super high late/early in the season). this quilt is super comfortable regardless of what is happening temperature wise.

more pluses….it is so light! when it came in the mail, i thought the box was empty! it is easy to pack up… i just really like this sleeping situation. it is so nice to not feel like i am wrestling my way to get some rest and recovery. the only thing i am still trying to work out is sleeping directly on my pad. i don’t really like it that much. i currently use my sleeping bag liner that is stretchy, but i am looking at some of the pad covers, but some of them are made out of the silnylon too, so i don’t know. i like my liner, so i’ll probably just stick with it, but some quilt designers are recognizing this is an issue for some. mostly this is only an issue if i want to sleep naked, which i don’t do much because of night sweats and hot flashes.

the other major piece of equipment that i replaced was my cooking system. i’ve used my trusty msr pocket rocket and gsi minimalist system for so long, at least 8 years that i wasn’t even thinking of replacing it…that is until one of the folks at next adventure suggested the evernew cook system. the appalachian series is so light i can’t believe it, however what really sold me on it is that i can use alcohol, fuel tablets, or wood for fuel! so that means that i can mostly scavage small twigs and drift wood (almost always dry and ready to burn) for free! so much less fuel to carry and buy! i still have some fuel tablets from the little stove i used on the jmt a few years ago when i didn’t really cook much on that trail. i bought a little alcohol fuel for emergencies, which i did need a few (ok several) times on the rainy coast. but for the most part, if i thought ahead and picked up sticks through out the day, i could store them in places where they might be able to dry out enough to make dinner.

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i did go to antigravity gear and got their appalachian kitchen upgrade. mostly this involves a couple of cozys for soaking and post-cooking simmering, a little ring that goes under the alcohol stove for increasing its already efficient efficiency, and a container to soak your dried food while you are walking so that the cooking times are quicker, thereby using less fuel. it is a great system and i am enjoying the learning curve involved in figuring out this whole new way of cooking. and if i am too tired at the end of a day to work all this out, i just boil some water and make miso soup, tossing in some crumbled soy curls and dried veggies and nutritional yeast for a quick dinner.

the only thing i think i will change is maybe a bigger pot. the pot it comes with, 500 ml, is perfect for most meals, but if i want to cook up some pasta, or saute some veggies first, i think a little bigger pot might be nice, especially in the morning. this is the time i actually really like to use the stove most. i like to boil water for a hot beverage whether it is for coffee or tea, and then a warm breakfast on a cold mountain morning really helps warm the muscles and spirits for a day’s adventure.

shoes. so i was really trying to only get gear that was made as locally as possible. not just designed, but manufactured and made by people as close to me as i could find (and afford), and that pay people doing that work a wage that supports them beyond just getting by. the gear wasn’t too difficult, but clothing and shoes is a whole different issue. then one day i discovered carson footware. these are minimalist trail running shoes that are designed and sewn in portland oregon! so i called them up and asked if i could come down and check them out before ordering on-line. i was able to bike (also it is right off the max line, so it is easy to get to) out there. the woman who greeted me and helped me find the right size (their sizing philosophy is the most consistent i have ever found in shoes) and style, was also the person who sewed my shoes! in fact shoes were being sewn by another person while we talked. when i went and picked them up about 10 days later i got to meet the owner. he was great! i explained what i was trying to do and he was so supportive.

sliding into these shoes is like putting on a nice pair of slippers. they stretch and form to my feet even on long days where my feet really swell up. they dry quickly and are fairly breathable. the traction is fantastic. i didn’t slide once, even where the mud and landslides were happening all around me. i’ve read that they have just added a soul with even more traction. there isn’t really much padding, so if you need that, this isn’t your shoe. however, if you like zero drop and having solid contact with the ground….go get ’em!

i did get a goal zero charging system (thank you to my aunts who gifted me this in support of this venture). it has been great. i charge my phone, my headlamp (a petzel), ipod, and tablet with it. in fact i still use it even though i am in an apartment. i put it out and charge up the venture 30 and then use it all week to charge up my phone and headlamp (which i use as my main headlamp while biking around at night in ashland) also, for reading at night at home instead of turning on a lamp. there is just something comfortable about using a headlamp. maybe it is the red light that i use most often.

so i think that is it for most of the big switches in gear acquired. some other choices i made? i decided against a gps system. so much money upfront and additional investment in digital maps and batteries or charging time, and subscriptions to satellite use. yet, i did get an abc watch. it measures the barometric levels, altitude, and has a digital compass. this one also informs me of the tides; in addition it keeps track the moon phases (which helps even more with understanding the tides), alarms, stopwatch and timers, temperature sensor and some other things that i don’t understand. the barometric reading and patterns have come in really handy in reading when storms are moving in and out. it is also helping me develop some internal understanding of weather patterns. the compass is great for setting bearings and following a route, but really, on the coast…not much needed there. also, the external ring of the casio pro trek is a solar charger, so i don’t even have to plug it into anything nor change any batteries. i just have to make sure that every-once-in-awhile it is exposed to light.

but i digress a little for not getting a gps unit is that “they” still suggest having paper maps just in case of tech failures. plus, i have a phone with gps that shows me where i am even if i don’t have cell reception (a fun note: while on the coast it often pinpointed me as being actually deep in the ocean hahaha). if i end up getting super remote and alone i will consider getting a spot locator that will send help when needed. then i won’t have to deal with satellite subscriptions and all that. there are so many apps for smart phones now, that i don’t know how long gps units will be helpful for folks not going way off the beaten path. also…i really like maps. i love to pour over them and see what is where and what all the options are. for example, if i hadn’t had other maps while doing the jmt, i would have never found the hot springs that were just a short detour off the trail. why? because they are not on the official route. so mix and match. and have fun.

i still have not replaced my water filter system. i enjoy pumping water. i don’t like the chemical taste of treatment drops or tablets, and i don’t trust the pens. the gravity bags coming out and micro filters that are being developed are probably great, but my good old fashion katadyn has never let me down. i do keep a bottle of gse drops incase i am felling unwell, or i feel that the water may not be the best even after a filter, but i have only ever used the drops when i fee like i am getting sick…like catching a cold. i have had this pump for like 20 years and it has never ever let me down. sometimes i let it down. like when i left it out one night and the water left in it froze. and really pumping my water is a kind of meditative activity where i get to know my water source and those around it better. i really like pumping water as the sun is setting or rising. water sources are so busy during these times.

what else? most of my pics are either from my phone or a canon powershot sx160 is. i’d like to upgrade to a really nice digital slr, but that is going to have to wait until i get famous. so get use to this camera. its great. i have been using canon cameras since i was in high schools, so over 30 years, and they have always done what i envisioned.

you already know i use the pstyle as a standup urinary tool. prior to menopause, i used the diva cup for menstruation in and out of the woods. i don’t use a trowel for digging a cat hole. i either use a tent stake that i keep in the carrying case of the pstyle or a stick i find lying around. it isn’t hard to determine how deep 6 inches is once you get use to it. but also, i try to dig a little deeper hole just to be sure. i don’t use t.p. i have been working on some other techniques. some involve using smooth rock that i collect through the day, rub clean and then leave in the cat hole. i have also used a special water bottle to create a kind of outdoor bidet, which in nice and clean feeling. but i feel like these issues are super personal. there is no right way, but there are certainly some wrong ways. so study up on leave no trace principles and find a way that works for you.

if you have questions of other things i may or may not be using and why or why not, let me know. i’m not much of a gear head, but i do like learning new skills and how to use different tools. it is fun to develop the best tool to take out into the world, and that is the good ol brain. learning to adapt to different resources and situations and how to use what is handy and available to make things even more enjoyable without inflicting more human interference is a wonderful skill to continue to develop. i look forward to pushing myself even more in this area.

 

Thoughts and Reflections of My Time On Oregon Coast Trail

it should be mentioned that i have put off  the wrap-up of the oct because i still hold some frustrations. it’s not the trail’s fault, really. i’m sure if i attempted it in the summer like most people, it would have been a different situation. i do feel that walking, eating, sleeping, catching rides for a month beside the pacific ocean has been a kind of re-birthing process for me (how many times do we do this in a single lifetime?). i’ll talk here a little about the logistics of the oct and also the effects of the trail on me.

when i first starting talking about the hike around the country, i didn’t really consider this trail. i like strolling along the beach, not so much walking several miles a day with 40 pounds on my back. but early on, a pal suggested it mostly for the beauty of the southern oregon coast. i dismissed it as no, the pacific northwest coast and i are not close friends. i love the ocean and the beauty of the coast. yet, i prefer ocean shores that are more inviting for co-mingling. i love to swim in an ocean that does not require a full wetsuit.

as winter just kept dragging on and on, and spring was just an extension of a pnw winter, i caved. i needed to leave portland. i really needed to leave the co-op, and here was a trail without snow, low elevation (can not get too much lower than sea level and still be on land (yes, there are a few exceptional cities to this basic rule and more as sea levels rise). i used this trail as a tool, a resource, for taking the leap away from my life in portland.  because it exists i was able to leave…to walk away. and that was a great lesson. ya’ gotta know when to walk away. and for this, and this alone, no matter what i say from here on out, i will be forever grateful to the oregon coast trail, the national coast trail and bonnie henderson for all their work and easy access to all the resources one might need.

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before i start talking about all the reasons i hope to never hike this trail again, let me say, they all suggest hiking it in the summer. as in full on oregon summer… not april or may when winter storms are still making their way inland. summer is a great time for the coast trail whether it is for an escape on a hot weekend, or a hot month.

 

like i said, i hope to never ever hike the oct again. i would go back and do sections that i couldn’t because of landslides and closures, but as a thru-hike, it sucked. walking that many miles a day on hard-packed sand is not that much different from walking miles on asphalt, which there is a great deal of as well. add this to having sand in everyfreakingthingiown…still! i still find sand in things i have cleaned multiple times. and sand is hard on gear, especially zippers and shoes/socks (and that translates directly to the feet). most of my days were rainy at some point and almost always cloudy (for some reason the sun would come out on days i decided would be rest days). the temps stayed in the 40s or 50s most days, and that was super pleasant. i don’t remember really being cold except when i was tired or grumpy, or the wind was exceptionally harsh on my wet being.

what really got to me. what would sap my spirit…the inability to keep my feet dry and healthy mixed with all the road walking. i should have probably realized this was going to happen and had a pair of road running shoes to balance my minimalist trail shoes. but let’s face it; 10 miles on asphalt with 40 lbs (probably more on food supply days) is not a pleasant stroll. the days i got to actually walk on trail trail (like the amazing venture through cape lookout and cape perpetuai could really feel the difference. my body and mind soared. unfortunately these moments were few and far between. two of the capes i was really looking forward to were closed due to landslides and downed trees.

but i have to say, when things were nice, it was amazing! those days are engrained in my mind. why our minds remember the tough days most(i know evolution and survival and all that, but still) i don’t know. the days where i just laid in the sunshine, walked under brilliant blue skies, sat on a drift log as the sun set, went for a middle of the night stroll because the full moon kept me up, the sky alight with so many stars, the days i walked unencumbered with logistics of things i don’t really care about like a job, trump, the drama of some rediculousness. it was amazing. sure all that gets replaces with other logistics like food, water where i will sleep, does that weather and tide alert pertain to me? but its different.

you know what was great? i really never had to think about where i was. sometimes i would look at the gps on my phone, and the little blue dot would have me off into the ocean… i liked that thought. the only time i had to think about being on or off the trail was if i had to maneuver my way around town, or the sections where the cliffs made it impossible to stay on the beach. this happened more in southern oregon. that left me more open to process all the things that i had just let go of and contemplate the things i really want to focus on in my life. i could really clear all the parts of me and myself. it is super-duper duper hard to get lost on the oct.

that time and space left me to think these thoughts: why is it that those moments of important, basic life needs in today’s society become trivial, and those trivial things, like work drama take the lead roles in our energy attention? i know, i say this with a great deal of privilege, but these daily decisions, decisions i would check in on with myself and maps and various resources on a fairly regular basis every day, seemed like no big deal. i mean sometimes it was. some days i did not leave my shelter, and thanks to the pstyle, i really didn’t leave the tent! also, i went through at least one town almost every day. if i really needed food or shelter, i could find it…with enough money. i was also able to access the great shuttle system on the oregon coast! this got me though so many difficult sections when there wasn’t a good place to camp for over 20 miles, roads washed out from landslides, or the weather had been so craptastic that all my gear was on the verge of wetting through. thanks to great gear, i only had one day that this was a strong reality, and i took a shuttle to a hotel to dry it out. it had been raining for days and not letting up and the floor of my tent had finally had enough, so i made a call, found a bus, and got a hotel room. one plus for me with the pnw having such a wet and cold winter/spring? the coastal towns had a really tough winter and were willing to make great deals for rooms, and there was always a room ready no matter how early i showed up.

another plus for the oct… the people! i met so many amazing people! and i don’t just mean people who shared their precious well water, or gave me rides, bought me dinner and beers. but all the conversations and stories that went with those moments. with the news/social (suckcial? i’m working on it suckbook?) media, one is led to believe that people are horrible. that we can not find a common place to land on the major issues of our worlds. on one of those sites, an indigenous one, was a quote “what if i told you the left-wing and the right-wing are on the same bird?” and that pretty much sums up my feelings about our national politics. anyway, i was not sure how certain situations were going to go down, but the one’s where i actually got to talk with people…so good. strangers in cars with not even eye-contact…whole other story!

so… would i recommend the oct? i would if…you really really love the idea that the whole coast of oregon is open to the public! yes, this is fantastic. if you have plenty of money to pack really really minimally, or slack-pack and stay mostly in hotels and can afford the higher costs of food and such on the coast. i ate some shitty skippy peanut butter and cold white flour tortillas. do it in the summer when the coast is a super respite from the hot valley or desert days. if you don’t mind hitching or walking the long moments of road time, or picking up a shuttle. if you know people you can stay with along the way. or if you just have an itch to get going and you can hear it call your name! and you want to see alien species like this, or impermanent art.

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the ocean is great company.  the ocean is a favorite teacher of mine. i regret nothing of this adventure. i am also happy to be somewhere else.