i was on the university photojournalism crew. we were on our way to cover members of a popular hair metal band play in a fundraising softball game. we stoped to get some food and there it was, my first pride parade…houston texas. one of my instructors sitting in a lawn chair right across the street from me. we waved. we may or may not have had a special encounter one day as i was leaving the racquetball courts….
as time went on, and i came out more and more about more and more, i got involved in pride events from organizing to activism to arguments to disillusionment. the corportization and the capitalization of pride….
tonight i went to a pride party in flagstaff. it was a bunch of drag queens, mostly from RuPaul’s drag show and vegas (a mear 3 hour away) and chris cox was the d.j.
drag queens are not my favorite entertainers. i just never really got it, still don’t to be honest.
they have always and forever been at the forefront of the queer liberation movement. they have raised more money for so fucking many causes. whenever anyone in the community needs money, it is the drag queens that get it done. and they are also the ones that get the shit for everything…assimilated gays and lesbians afraid of what the mainstream community will thing of them if they lead the parades or are visible anywhere but the bars. what if kids are there, people will get the wrong idea of “our” community…blah blah blah. fuck that. p.s. there were kids at this party, and they had a blast. they were even welcomed on stage to dance
do i wish that the music was not the same tired songs? yes, yes i do. do i i love to see people jump up and down and sing along? yes, yes i do.
also, most of the one’s i’ve watched are people of color, so there is that added to the mix of community dismissing. tonight, being the first Juneteenth celebrated as a national holiday, we had even more to celebrate and brought intersectionality to the pride table.
tonight i was finally able to dance like i haven’t danced in a very long time. i walked back to where i was staying drenched, my body wrung out. sweat dripping down my neck, off my hair and onto my face. i breathed deep. i smiled
tonight i remembered what it felt like to step into a queer bar where i didn’t (as much) have to figure out the normy social norms.
tonight i ignored the straight couples clinging to one another for dear life (it always seems to be the men with arms wrapped around the woman and i thought it was because they are afraid of them getting away, but maybe it is because they are actually afraid of their own temptation with so many good looking men around? but tonight i ignored them)
tonight my body remembered how to move
i bounced and twisted as my knee rose to my chest and my heal spun me around just as the other caught me to push me back the other direction. my arms my elbows pushed and pulled me. it was like a type of prayer feeling the rhythm and tension of the music. i have missed this. i have craved this
being in my body in a way that celabrates and is joyous in its movement.
i know it has been awhile since i have written anything here. it is not for the lack of adventures, not by a long way. i just haven’t known how to write about them. the desert changes me every time i take a breath of the magical air. the sand and grit gets into my pours. the light shifts how i see. all of it absorbed into my being…it changes my perspective. but i think i figured out a way to start talking about it, and i will let the sunris explain.
today paco, the truck, and i woke up in a different town for the first time in over a year (well except for a little backpacking trip to the gilas that may or may not included my 2nd encounter with search and rescue, but that is another story for another time).
i wanted a get away. a place i could get some writting done, dig deep into some research that i’ve been pecking at for awhile now, and sneak in a hot spring soak…..or 3. so i pointed the truck in a direction and drove for a little over an hour. and booked a little bungalow for a week. they call it a bungalow, it is a tiny little one room with the kitchen and bathroom all in the same space, but it is mine for the week and i am very happy.
so today i woke like i usually do, before the break of dawn, litterly. the sky hadn’t even changed from it’s mightnight blue yet. so i made some tea because, well i am a mear few steps from a fully loaded kitchen, and don’t have to break up the ice in my water jug. i take the steaming cup outside for some breaths as the sky shifts into a new day.
and for some reason, today, it hits me. how long have i been doing this, greeting the sun? when i tell people i’ve been up for hours, some have actually laughed at me, my silence could only mean i was asleep. them not realizing i’ve heard them get up, make the coffee, turn on the tv or radio. that i go to sleep in a way that allows me a glimpse of the sky, even if there is no way for me to see east, i watch the light shift. i lay there and think, stew, embrace the stillness, the quiet that i won’t find again for hours upon hours.
but today i am wondering when this started? i know it wasn’t those years in the pacific northwest where i went days without seeing the sun, just different shades of grey merging in and out of a darkness that never really got black or deep dark blue of the night. it certainly wasn’t all those years of tending bar, closing co-ops, late-night social times where i would see the sun rise as i finally ended my day.
that is a different kind of witness to the sunrise, watching it come up as i go down. it is almost like a relay race, or an exchange, ok you are here now, i can go. as if i just had to make sure there would be a day even if i failed to participate. and i was rarely alone in these moments. someone from the night’s adventures, maybe the whole crew. as if the rise of the sun could signal us to eat breakfast then pass out from exhaustion and glee.
no. this greeting is something completely different. something almost magical. mystical. i feel cheated if i miss it or the rare grey day hides the moment. there is something that grounds me in this moment of this greeting. i feel connected, at least for a moment, to the greater world, to my breath maybe? to the bird songs perhaps? to the coyotes howlng one final time before they scamper off? the owls that make the occasional appearance? the hope of rain in the clouds? the message in the wind? the deep booming silience found in the desert? to the something i can not name but am deeply indebted to for the magic of this world we get to inhabit?
what i am beginning to realize is that this is the moment that puts me firmly into my body. it makes me pay attention. i hear my breathing, wanting the breath to be clean air. i take the first drinks of water to break my fast of the night, and i want it to be clean water. i set my mind on these things so that the choices i make for the day are so that i and all the beings seen and not, heard and not, that we all have clean air, water, food. that we, as we end meditation with, be at ease, know peace, and be free from suffering.
this practice of greeting the day to start my day, a new day of new potentials connects me to me, and thus me to my environment. this connection holds me accountable to my responsibility to hold up my end of the agreement of interconnectedness. and no matter what happens the rest of the day, i have this moment to hold me as a place of gratitude, relative safety, and a type of love. and i can not believe i get to receive this gift.
all this has infected how i move through my adventures these days, as well as how and what adventures i am choosing. and now i think i can write about them.
this we learned in the 80s under a different plaque. our generation our queer generation learned that health, health care and human rights are intertwined. is it any wonder that we continue to refuse to remain silent. that we already know our silence, our complacency to obey = death?
i’ve been sporadically watching pose, and i can’t help but acknowledge so many similarities between the two pandemics. who uses safe practices, who fights for what, what gets shut down, delays in treatment and care, who does the care work, inept government….
we will wear masks we will social distance. we will care for our communities, but that does not mean we will obey. we have learned how to care how to protect and rebel at the same time.
since i started solo adventuring the one consistant question was about fear and safety: wasn’t i afraid, a woman alone is so vulnerable, would i carry a gun/knife/pepper spray, and so many what ifs. in response i would throw statistics around like women being safer the further they get from home. and men are more likely to experience “stranger danger”. and i would get funny unbelieving looks, like i lived in a whole other world. and now i totally agree with them. i do live in a whole other world. i learned that the fears they name say more about them.
i refuse to live in a world that controls peoples’ bodies, specifically non-straight-white-male bodies, the standard on which all else is measured and policed by. p.s. also a huge part of why i am vegan, their control of lives include all lives human and non-human, civilization vs nature.
as i write this, we are in at least our 5th month of a global pandemic, a huge economic depression, and people are rising up in the streets in protest of police violance: state sponsored corporate backed violence against the people of this country, specifically black and brown folks. the violence against people coming up from the global south is a whole other form of violence just as hanis and dispicable. and to be honest, this is just the kind of violence radical environmental and animal rights activists have been warning about since 9/11 and the enactment of the patriot act.
the common thread in all this that pulls at the fabric of the people is fear. if the powers that be get enough white folks to believe that their individual lives are in dangered by certain folks, or “our way of life” is in jeopardy by having certain people living amongst them, then they can control people on both sides of that fear line. if we live in fear of getting sick, or unable to feed and house ourselves and our families (however they are defined), of the police (and all other uniformed milatary like ice and homeland security). if we fear all these things, our basic ways of life really: health, safety, security then they can control us and force us to obey. or so they think.
and all this pisses me off!
it is the same tactic used to keep women, all who identify as female, from adventuring outside of their assigned place in the world. women aren’t suppose to love science and mathematics or travel the word and explore alone, or without men, or at all really. if we were encouraged to, our pant pockets would hold more than a tube of lipstick. we are also not suppose to love and support one another, but stay isolated and compete for each little morsel tossed at us, and be grateful for that crumb
this tactic of fear mongering mixed with lies and keeping everyone off balance and not knowing what to trust or who to trust, we know who not to for sure, but who can we turn to for good solid information to make the best decisions for our families, our communities. and when this lack of trust gets so widespread and so deep in rips our ability to be good and active citizens to pieces. we struggle to keep the worst out instead of the best in. and that, my friends is the end of democracy in action!
so what to do.
well this whole tirad started in my head in march when i couldn’t figure out why, in all the suggestions and guidlines from the cdc and who started coming out, i couldn’t find one article on suggested ways to build one’s immune system for this disease. so i started going back through my herb notes and other health resources for respiratory support. they were saying people who they thought were at risk for dying from covid, but not how to prevent it. aka we don’t have a pill to sell you yet, so stay afraid. so i started running again, keeping specific herbs and foods to support my immune system stocked, keep my anxiety down, and drinking lots of fluids. my routine has adjusted and changed as the seasons move. more than anything, i am doing all i can to keep my stress down, but my senses alert.
we don’t just need to build up our bodies, buy we also need to build up our local communities, local economies, our local water supplies, food chains (distribution, farmers/growers, small local stores, mercados). we need to remember the healing powers of movement, herbs, being in nature/a part of nature, food, water, the lessons of our ancestors. this moment in time has shown us not where we are weak, but who is most vulnerable, where we need to focus our resourceswe need to return to cooperative communities and let go of the false promises of capitalism. then maybe we can finally have the democracy we were told we have.
and we need to laugh as much and as often as possible
so, i dare say, take the power back! get healthy, stay healthy. and then when the cops chase us, we will have the strength to stand strong and force them back. the pandemic, the depression (they call a deep recession), the fights in the streets for black-lives/against the police state, climate chaos…all this is actually the perfect recipe for the revolution.
it may seem odd to think about living during a global pandemic as being an adventure, but its helped me move through it this way. it is an event that is changing how we organize our lives, interact with one another, and how we think about the ways we move through our lives: physically spacially spiritually thoughtfully intentionally, who we were before and who we hope to be after. how will the adventure effect us on the other side.
part of this being an adventure, perhaps, is choosing some kind of agancy in how i respond, aka choose my adventure. i am somewhat fortunate to, despite my great slacker tendencies, have a job in an essential business that is a co-op and not a corp. so i can still work and have a choice not to. i live in a state with a proactive governor who responded quickly, so there were/are resources available for people. hell i even bought a nice old truck just as businesses were being shut down. this huge piece of the adventure totally effects the choices i make as i continue in this adventure.
another aspect to this adventure in covid, for me, is i didn’t actually think i was going to experience this part of the climate crisis. sure i knew i would live to see the rise of the calamaties. i acknowledge that we are, and have been experiencing a great deal already: the rising seas, the increased intensity of storms and weather patterns, global political unrest. i guess i just didn’t think it would all start to happen all of a sudden so soon. i should have. i’ve been keeping track of this for long enough. i suspect the reader in me expected all the things to happen in chapters, or acts like a book or movie, not simultaneously…silly human.
a key part to how i am deciding my adventure is my level of privilege: a healthy (if a young 52 years), white, can pass as cis woman when people don’t identify me as male, i have a good grasp on having a healthy diet, access to clean water (for all the reasons this is important), fairly good mental and emotional health, have supportive people in my life… i have continued working so far, family took me in to recoup fund after bike tour so i have a roof over my head. and if weather really does play a part in this, we were already experiencing spring as it came to the southwest, so, that.
how is this situation impacting me? superficially i havent’ been hiking or exploring the area as much since places have closed down. i haven’t been able to go visit family in the spring. my skin is raw and cracked from hand washing and sanitizing. my thoughts have been derailed from projects to reflection and re-evaluating my health and well-being. the last thing i want to do is bring anything home to those who have graciously opened their home to me.
one thought loop i can’t get out of my head is reflecting back to the start of the hiv pandemic. who didn’t want to close the bath houses? or not wear condoms/practice safer sex? who was in denial? all the conspiracy theories and false narratives that fed fear and hatred. much of it continues today in various pockets. i don’t have any deep thoughts here, but i do recognize some serious similarities when i see white men not wanting to be told what to do.
my deeper thoughts are for the present future. now that i have woken up just a little more, i believe this virus will be with us for a while with or without an immunization, which who really trusts the government to inject anything into our bodies right now? and that immunization won’t be effective against the next big epidemic that comes our way, and one will. sooo wtf?!
well one day as i was walking, i remembered the words that came to me while camping by an alpine lake several years ago: “get lean, get clean, get strong”. i’ve pondered this several times, tossed it aside when inconvenient, but mostly ran away from it. but now? now i am embracing it, and it is probably the basis for how i am participating in this adventure.
almost as soon as this started around here, late february/early march, i started a running program. at first just getting out for a bit, then started the couch to 5k program, and this sunday the 10k program. it feels good to be running again. i don’t know how many times i’ve tried a new running program and been sidelined from an injury or pain. but this time everything has been good so far. well this week i had foot pain, so i am backing off a little….i’m susceptible to tight calves that lead to foot issues.
i’m cleaning up my diet a little more. it was pretty good. i haven’t had pizza or burritos since i left oregon (this is big, those were basic food groups for me). the only beer i’m consuming i get to-go from local breweries and limit my intake mostly because i’m one and drunk now). most of what i am cleaning up is what goes in my mind and heart. and this, i believe is what getting clean and strong is really about: clean thoughts and strong heart (lean is excess baggage and minimalist life not food and body so much). learning this is a heart/respiratory virus, i boosted foods, herbs, and activities that support my body, and continue to do the research.
i’ve learned to reach out to people when i feel the wave of an overwhelmed heart begin to shut me down and allow forms of ineffective fear creep in. i’ve made deals with a friend that we do this for one another. for the biggest fear i have around this? we won’t learn from it, as a culture. we will expect an ineffective failed state to give us a magic pill that makes everything go away, and that won’t help us one bit when the next pandemic blows into town on the wings of a virus that is typically kept in check with the delightful balancing act of biodiversity. my next great fear is that we will just go back to the old normal that continues to exploit the global resources that we have no business messing with the way we do.
but when these fears aren’t pinning me to the floor with only the stark white ceiling to respond to, i am excited and inspired for not just what comes next, but all the creative ways people are responding, acting, choosing their community adventure.
examples you ask? well how about biking and running communities doing virtual races/runs/rides? using these as fundraisers for community needs? at the co-op i chat with people (using physical distancing) that are getting groceries for neighbors/family/friends. i hear podcasts by herbalists that are sharing what they know about these kinds of illneses and what people can do for themselves and those in their community…so community action, that is what excites me. that we can do deeper community organizing and care work. to know what our neighbors need in a time of crisies, whatever that crisis is.
one action the federal government has inspired me to dig even deeper into, is local consumption. now, if you know me this is something that is always on my radar regardless of the adventure i am on: food, bike shops, bookstores, newspapers…so i have kind of made a deeper resolution to up my local game. i’ve been doing research on when i “need” certain things where will i get it.
so to sum it all up, like all adventures i embark on, this one too is about going deeper into myself to learn more about my personal edges. to learn more about myself and how i interact with the world i am a part of, the community that i am interdependent with, what skills i need to learn or become better at, or didn’t even know was a thing to know. these are the things i am excited to bring forward with me, what about you? what changes are you making that you hope to bring to post adventure?
there was a moment this summer as i was contemplating if, indeed, time was flying while i was having fun or the tough days were dragging on. neither was true. time was just time and it felt natural (?) normal (?). i don’t know the word for it since time was created by time ass capitalist to measure and value labor (aka stolen time). so, since this is a leap year, and we just celebrated the extra day added to febuary, i though i would use this time to write about my thoughts on time.
whenever people hear about how i have chosen to live these past couple years, i get a range of responses, but a consistent one is “wow! you are living the dream!” and i must agree that i am. i am living my dream, for when they are white men with wife and child/children on a day hike, i really doubt that i am living the dream they imagine. i worked hard at carving out the many layers of living a life that gives me the space to be who i am as much and as often as possible, and part of that is a type of buying back my time. of owning my time. and in this process i have learned that the measurement of time by european capitalist methods is bullshit. i mean it serves a function and that function is bullshit. and i would like to point people to one of my current favorite books: a history of the world in 7 cheap things by raj patel and jason w. moore, a book i will be referencing a great deal in the foreseeable future.
let’s see if i can explain.
as a person who likes to hike/backpack/bike-tour on multi-day/week excursions (not thru-hike where i set an alarm to get up freaking early to make the miles to make the finish line by a finish day), i’ve found time moves (evolves? rotates?)…naturally. i wake as the sunrises, and fall into bed as the sun sets. sometimes a little earlier or later depending on which i wish to witness. or more simply, i sleep when i am tired. i eat when i am hungry, i race waterfalls, admire sunsets, and am amazed at every sunrise i get to greet…no clock needed. i have even been known to wake, pack-up camp just to decided to stay for another day and explore a side trail or listen to a river.
some days can be arduous, especially the full month + that i had heat exhaustion pretty much every-fucking-day, but they didn’t feel long, just exhausting. and those moments when the views blew my mind, and the water from a wild and scenic river was the sweetest water ever…they didn’t seem quick and fleeting…and the people i got to meet were a kind of elixir.
here is what i have observed, that time is just time. that thing we are told, and i have believed, that as we age time flies. or time flies when we are having fun. or a work day is just dragging on and on when it feels like drudgery. and mondays suck. but it doesn’t, or it doesn’t have to. my theory is that when we sell our labor to soul sucking jobs to pay for our lives in the hopes that when we get a vacation or we get to retire, and finally live our dreams. (p.s. i don’t know many in my generation and my socio-economic group, that believes we will get to retire and if i get to do what i want to make money, i don’t want to actually retire, but that is a different post)….wait where was i? when we get to live our lives as we want, with agency and without doing work for people who go against our values, morals, and sense of well-being, and we have the time and space (mentally, physically, emotionally) to do the things that excite us and feed our creative and spiritual nature…well time is just time. there is no need to measure it, sell it, borrow it from pto (i mean think of it, we have to borrow against pto-personal time off when we are sick, want to go to a family event, parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents/friends to school events for their kids, experience a solar eclipse, go on a bike trip…what the fuck, its our personal time all the time! you just pay us for some of it and then we get to eat and have a place to rest…) sigh.
but then i sit and meditate. ever sit and meditate for say 5 minutes? i follow my breath. i count in/out 1, in/out 2, etc then my mind is off and running down some rabbit hole of thought so i bring it back. one, two, three, four…just need to get to….shit! back to one… and those 5 minutes feel like hours. other times, i sit and my knees don’t hurt, i follow the breaths, i count to 10, and suddenly the bell sounds that 5 minutes are up. already? didn’t we just start? wow. so even all these times when doing something i choose to do (could be running, or writing, or whatever) measured time always seems different. even running a specific distance: one mile, 5, 10…) it should always feel the same, but it doesn’t. easy days go quick and challenges take forever….
my point? hmmm.
mindfulness. mindfulness is the point. it is always the point…(and “time” is maybe suppose to be measured on a larger scale as in seasons and solar rotations, phases of the moon and stars…
on this venture, time didn’t drag or fly or anything. i was doing what i want with my life and that is the point. sure, would i have liked more times with my friends? of course. would i have liked fewer moments of struggling with heat and elevation gain? yes. but i got to choose when to rest, when to stop for the day (as long as i had a place to pitch a tent), i got to choose the difference between pain and suffering. between how much i wanted to push myself in a given moment, or rest an extra day if i needed. i didn’t feel the need to go to work “sick” because i was out of pto or i needed the pto for a specific reason or i was out of pto because i was caring for a sick comrade.
this isn’t a piece of how capitalism sucks, but it does. we wouldn’t be measuring time if we didn’t need to sell it every since the feudal lords no longer allowed us peasants to grow/control the foods we plant on the lands we occupy.
i know, i know that capitalism is associated with democracy, but i regret to inform you that as far as labor goes, it is not. all we have is time, a life, this life and we must live it as we see best for us. the choices on how we live our lives needs to be ours and how we want and feel the need to contribute to our communities. and i am not talking about quantity of time we have with this life, but the quality.
i want my time to be measured by how i interact with nature and my community. like now is the time to plant….and harvest….and gather the medicine for….and to give thanks to the rain and sun and moon and all the moments that feed us and care for us and that acknowledges the transitions of our lives, not based on time but on when we are ready to walk, and to love, and to share knowledge, and to die. that we have never died too early or too late (i.e. suffered unnecessarily), but we lived our lives to the fullest. we live mindfully or perhaps it is heartfully.
so yeah, time shouldn’t be so complicated. if you have started a job and it feels like it is stealing your life and your time, quit! or go find another job then quit. well i guess i am choosing to live my life with limited funds, but wealthy beyond belief with experience and friends and family. the more i live the more i learn the less i “need” or maybe it is want.
the last 2 years sometimes felt like so much more than 2 years; they felt like a lifetime, because truly i have lived a full lifetime in these moments. i have changed in ways i can not imagine or explain. my patience for bullshit and excuses of ignorance for benefits is exhausting. but my love for life and relationships has expanded in ways i can not imagine. some of those relationships lasted for just a few hours, or a couple days, yet they have have fundamentally changed and my life will never be the same. and the people truly ranged from living on the streets to being financial advisors to the extremely wealthy, all of which have contributed to and reinforced my theories of the american economy.
so, back to time. i love measuring time by the sun and moon. by the tides. the windy season (as it is now in las cruces). the rainy season. the winter sports season. biking time (i.e. all the time), celebrations time, time for ceremony….none of which we need a clock or watch (what we used before cell phones), or a calendar. all we need is to pay attention. observe. be mindfull. or that is what i observe when i am mindfully paying attention to my life…
i returned to eugene just a couple days before the uber-popular holiday of thanksgiving, a holiday that for as long as i can remember has always troubled me. it doesn’t take a genius historian to recognize the lies, the fallacies, the roust of the story we have been told since we were wee ones. yet and but it seems so benign as far as american celebrations go…wanting to gather friends and family to give thanks. if that is the reason for the gathering, why was it always so damn stressful? why do grocery stores and markets depend so heavily on the capitalism that week and especially that wednesday before? and then there is black friday the day after…all so consumer and money driven. gather the crew and spend spend spend and the capitalists give thanks.
i feel like if i made this post during the depths of “the holiday season” people would shut down or get defensive, and there would be no discussion or giving of space to question why and how we celebrate what during this time of year, and as we are doing more questioning in this country about how and why we celabrate events such as columbus day and moving it to indigenous peoples day, we can do the same with the last thursday of november (a month to celebrate the people native to this land). and i have to say, my favorite moments for this time have been the many friends-givings i’ve gone to or hosted over the years.
this year, in eugen, was a pretty special one. i spent it with 2 people who have also been questioning how to mark this time of year; a time that has been marked by countless cultures through the ages for many reasons. it is also marking the ending of the adventure that started two and a half years ago when i left oregon, along the coast, sent off by these same 2 humans. this wasn’t planned, but that is how great moments come to be when i just let them, and it is in retrospect that i realize just how right it was for us to be together during this time.
we decided that we would try and go camp somewhere, make it just a simple celebration of all we have to be grateful for individually and collectively. one buddy found the last remaining cabin on the coast and they snagged it! yahoo! we just needed to make it over the coastal range where snow was called for. it was a cold morning, and we did see snow up on the peaks through the whole journey, but when we got over the costal range we came across a managed herd of elk in a meadow, a cleared space from ranchers come to settle the area back in the 1800s. we had a snack as we watched the herd graze, then it was off to the dunes and the ocean. it was sunny and that kind of warm/cold one can find along the shores of oregon. so we wondered in the sunshine, ate more snacks, watched the surfers, and smiled as the sun began to decend on the horizen indicated it was time to go check into the cabin and set up, start a fire of our own, before the sun moved across the horizon and out of sight. but not out of mind.
one of things i’ve been learning more about as i spent more time with these wonderful humans is about the sun and the moon, its movement and how different cultures have marked time, space, and ceremony by its phases and placement in the sky in relation to life on this planet. the solstice is one event that we all agree is meant to be acknowledged in some way, but what is it really marking? something we had been thinking was that both summer and winter solstice, in the western world mark the first of summer or winter, but really, when one considers the way the sun travels, it is the mid point of summer and winter. for example, the first day of winter marks the time the sun starts winning the battle over darkness and we get longer “days”. in the pacific northwest, this was vital to our mental health. so much to unlearn and re-educate myself on, for “traditional” cultures have acknowledged this movement of the sun and seasons differently, and i feel deeply moved to learn the ways of people who lived based on the land/place.
once our abode for the night was set up, we poured some wine and we all kind of went into ourselves. i contemplated all the ways i’ve concidered celebrating thanksgiving. once, i heard that it had been suggested that it be a fasting holiday instead of feasting, so i’ve considered that. i’ve read the thanksgiving “prayer” of the haudenosaunee (iroquois nation) while preparing food for folks to come over. i’ve spent the day in solitude, meditating. but how do i want to keep moving forward in how i mark the movements of time and of the seasons, for lately i have been considering that the only constant is movement not change, but that is another discussion for another time.
we did make a lovely simple meal together that night. we gathered around the heater in the cabin. we read (one worked on school projects), and we chatted until it was time to snuggle into our sleeping time. and i slept, i believe we all slept and dreamt deeply .
the morning brought a slow walk around the lake our cabin overlooked, staying in the sun as much as possible with our mugs of coffee. watching the sun hit the cold air as ducks swam out of the rising fog. we made it back just in time to pack up for check out, and it was off to find a sunny picnic table to make the pancakes and snausages (vegan sausage). we all took turns flipping flapjacks for ourself or one another, basking in the warmth and the view of another lake amongst the sandunes separating us from the pacific. and then it was time to point roscoe (the latest adventure vehicle in their lives) back to eugene for a(n) (anti) black friday party. it was a perfect celebration for us, for me. old friends. new friends. good times.
this was just so damn perfect on so many levels. i have taken this gift i have given myself, of walking away from one life, to contemplate how i really want to be in this world. i turned 50 during this time (a cold winter night alone in colorado before i made the wonderful friends i would soon know). i’ve visited the friends and family that have helped me and encouraged me to be me as long as i’ve known them. i have made so many new friends and gained a faith in so much beyond myself, but not in any organized faith. all things i will talk more about as i keep unpacking what these past 2-1/2 years have meant to me, the foundation this time has created for how i want to move in my life.
today i am finding a new place in the desert southwest in a small city on a few boarders with such open expansiveness that there is room to contemplate so much. and everywhere i go there is proof of all the people who have moved through these lands for centuries. i couldn’t be happier. what a wonderful place to keep working on decolonizing my life. one of the many ways i am doing this is by trying to read as many people of color as possible, mostly women and queer folks. same for the music i listen to, movies, and food too. one truth i have come to recognize, and am willing to talk “come out as” now is i am calling myself a writer, finally. one partner i had decades ago told me a would write a book one day. i though she was had no idea who i was. sure i could write little article to go with photos if no one else was available for the paper. now here i am working on a book, a story, that keeps getting bigger and bigger. than i can actually see as becoming a series. and there is more, another big big project, but i will wait to release that when it has more form.
some resources for ya, if you are considering the disconcerting feelings that come up specifically around thanksgiving (also known as thankstaking or the deeper truth of thankskilling, i’ll post some at the end. i am not saying we need to stop celebrating thanksgiving. i do think the roots are beautiful; to give thanks for all we have done to prepare for the cold months of limited resources that allows us to go in and repair, heal, create…it is a gift. even if we change nothing in how we gather, it is important to know what and why we are gathering…i think.
i am not a fan of many american holiday celebrations, but to say the july 4th is one of my very least favorites is a fair statement. i can still remember one of my early childhood experiences. we all went with some family friends to any even smaller town for a whole day shindig. i can’t remember exactly how young i was. what i do remember… a competition where they (the adults i assume) grease up a little pot belly pig for the kids to chase around and try to catch. i remember a terrified pig squealing all over the park. i don’t know what happened when the pig was caught. maybe the pig was the prize or some other equally horrific award.
then there were the horse races. for some reason i remember the adults in the group being super excited about this, maybe the reason for us going? i don’t know. what i do remember was sitting in the grandstands where the rodeo happens (i think maybe there was even a tractor pull?) and people placing bets. i remember thinking it was kinda cool that whomever picked the winning horse got the pot of money. i remember it just being mostly quarters in our group of people and that it was supposed to be a secret. but it seemed like the whole grandstand had similar little groups. i know white middle and working class folks getting excited about breaking the law out in the open…
the next thing i remember….hiding under the blankets because of the sound of the fireworks. i can still feel the shaking and tremors in my body. i remember being made fun of because my little sister was more brave than i, and she was totally enthralled with them. i remember being torn between wanting to see them and the fear of the sound. i hated it and couldn’t wait for it to be over.
over the years i mildly participated. i really enjoyed bottle rockets. going out in the country. finding a field that had recently been harvested and cleared. setting up empty beer cans and bottles with the little rockets. the cute little pop they make when they go off. the whooshing sound of roman candles. drawing figures with sparklers. but then there were the high school years of going to the fair grounds to watch the big productions. i used comic relief of the oohs, aahs, and lovely to mask my internal tremors that never really went away. i just tried to hide them. as an adult i would make it a mission to find the most remote place to see them, but not hear them. i used work as a way to avoid going altogether, or a 4 day backpacking trip. in portland i would work then usually had an animal companion sitting gig and would cuddle the dogs, cats, or chickens until the nights turned to days and all our torments finally quieted.
so ya….i hate the 4th of july and all it represents. i hate the nationalistic pride. i hate the fuck you it seems to say to the indigenous people who’s land the country we are supposed to be celebrating, enlisted genocide, war, slavery, and religion to occupy and steal. i hate the gluttony and mass consumerism that goes along side it, the eating contests, people who spend hundreds of dollars to blow shit up and then leave messes in the streets for, i don’t know who they expect, to clean it up. i hate getting caught at dusk, riding my bike as fast as possible to get home before the nightmare begins. those nights i didn’t make it and felt like i was caught in a war zone. sometimes, depending on where i was, not know if those blasts where gunshots or fireworks. many times seeing roman candles, bottle rockets, firecrackers wiz past me as i dodged through the city streets. i hate the fourth of july.
so when the calendar flipped this year, i didn’t really think much about it. after all, i am in a town where i don’t really know any one, so no bbq to get invited to (actually i began to like the vegan bbqs i went to, i just went home early), no fireworks date, no animals to watch, no big deal. i was going to go to the farmers market, get some good food and watch some movies….then my housemate said “i’m going to go to the parade wanna go?”
i didn’t think about the parade. i pictured central oregon, flag waving, patriotism, huge amounts of white people waving the flag…but i am in ashland oregon….white liberal southern oregon. at the mention of trump people shake their heads and nervously chuckle. no one here admits to voting for trump, but i also do not see/hear many clinton or sanders slogans or stickers…its kind of a weird liberal stepford-town. so i could go and see how this town is going to celebrate this day and all of its awkwardness, or i could hide away and make fun of it from afar….i went.
i have to say, i rather enjoyed myself…eventually. the crowd was full of manners (as a friend of mine would say). they didn’t pile up on each other. kids were up front as they should be. paths on the sidewalks and crosswalks were kept open with out anyone directing it. when it got hot, room was made for elders and youth in the shade… but it started for me with a little trepidation. a little after 10 some people in front of us moved into the street saying “here they come! here they come!” i thought cool the parade started on time, but nope it was the f-something-or-other fighter jets in formation making a fly over. i hadn’t heard that sound in over 10 years and i have not missed it.
[wichita use to start the fireworks with the b1 bomber, canons, and the 1812 overture synched to the fireworks…i worked like mad to avoid these events.]
then the cops on motorcycles led the parade down the street. my heart sank and my stomach rose to my chest as i braced myself for either 2 hours of this, or a long walk home (i brought my backpack with notebooks and reading material just in case i needed to bail). then a woman walked up to me, a river rafting guide, who thought she knew me, and my guard dropped and i relaxed as the fun floats started to go by.
there wasn’t super overt patriotism. the people in the parades where on point. the environmental groups, the fire departments (for urban and wild fires), the representatives of ashland’s sister city, guadalajara in mexico, the library…the local bookstore dressed as the covers of banned books, the roller derby team, bands, silly folks, oh and we learned that the blacksheep english pub recently got new owners and will stay open!
it was actually a nice way to get to know some of the service organizations of the area. like talent (just up the road a bit) has a pollinator and bee project! i had no idea. there is one of the few health clinics here for immigrants to get the care they need for their application process. it was actually a fun day.
after the parade we walked up-stream of the people flowing to the park, as we searched for a place to have a refreshing cocktail.
when we got home, i was feeling brave, so i thought i would walk up to the movie theater and see wonder woman! maybe i could handle the red, white, and gold of a super hero movie with a woman as the lead hero. at first i was excited. the “older” women as badass amazon warriors on a paradise island?!
but then…i was heart-broken, and not just because it had to have a love story in it (why do they always have to do that? thank you once again madmax for not doing that). it felt like a feminist version of a gay film, in that we will except meritocracy and nods to issues without actually dealing with them, just for some visibility. and yes, visibility is great. i don’t want to make light of that, but….sigh. i’ll take sense8 any day over wonder woman. sure all the characters are flawed, maybe that is what i like about them. they also support one another without question or explanations: queer, trans, thief, hindi, korean female martial fighter, and the sex scenes? hot!….yes, you have to suspend some disbelief to follow, but name a show where you don’t.
so…my take away, if i may, for this “holiday” celabration…i don’t know. i like the idea of community coming together and dressing up and walking down the street like some kind of moving talent show where we are proud of what we do together. that we have a lot of work to do and so much to share. that we are imperfect and flawed, but if we can find these things that bind us together….well we just might survive for a little while. that we can share space, food, music, and good cheer. it doesn’t have to require buying or being some major consumer of capitalistic greed, hate, and delusion. in fact there were more than a few floats in this parade that called out capitalism as the major force of our current struggles in this country.
this is still not a holiday i enjoy. i don’t know if i’ll brave going out in it again. i am grateful that i got to stop at the farmers market and get fresh fruits and veggies for the week. i was able to hide out from the fireworks and snuck to work at 11 pm between the city display and the neighbors’ doing their bit. from the guests at the hotel, i heard that the jazz concert in the park was really good. and the next day when i went out, the streets were not full of firework trash.
maybe i need to make my own holiday….what kind holiday would a queer vegan on an adventure come up with…..hummmm
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.
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 perpetua) i 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.
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.
I guess checking one’s privilege is a lot like rain on the oregon coast, it never stops. however, today was, and still is, a wonderful day. it didn’t start that way. i woke early thinking great! I won’t have to pack a wet tent. then then pit pit pitter-patter began. I held my breath hoping it would pass nope! a deluge poured down. I started to read but opted to set a timer for 30 minutes and buried my head!
I eventually got on my way, and by the time I finished a lunch break it was a glorious day! a rounded the bay at Waldport and across the way, the whole shoreline was full of sunbathing sea lions! maybe this is what they were barking about all morning! not only was the sun out but the wind was at my back!
The view! spectacular! today the ocean was such an amazing color! maybe what some would call aquamarine? a deeper but also lighter colors of blue layered with greens tinged with more blue. and the whites of the crashing waves blowing across the tops in a strong wind. all this under a clear blue sky! I needed today. it has been nice some, but the rain has just worn me out. even when I thought I was getting a break of sunshine, it started to rain. normally I like then sunshine and rain combo. but really I just want 24-48 hours with a dry tent and dry feet.
to celebrate I may actually stay up long enough to watch the sunset! maybe.
anyway, that is not what I wanted to write about today; just needed to get that off my chest. today I want to just take a moment to acknowledge and recognize not just the privilege I have just to do this adventure, but also how privilege effects how I’m treated out here.
for those of you who don’t know me, I’m a white, cis gendered woman/gender – queer person. I come from a mostly working-class background. I have participated in a few forms of institutionalized higher education (a debt that I most likely will never be able to pay off), I am a healthy able-bodied, fairly mentally stable, and for lack of better words right now, legal citizen of the country I’m currently in.
some other privileges I would add: I am single, queer (in more than just gender/sexual orientation, but also so many ways I move through the world), I have no children or animals that need my care. my parents and other family members are healthy, my grandparents have all passed on (I don’t think is a privilege really, but I do think I didn’t start this until the last one passed so that I could be reached if needed). I was able to acquire respectably good gear that fits me. and I’m sure I will discover more as I continue this venture.
why does it seem important to me to recognize this here and now? one of my very first conversations with someone (a middle-aged white male from the seat of his mini-van as he was headed to the same state park as I so that he could take a shower while his bathroom ws being remodeled) approached me because I “looked like a legitimate backpacker and not just some homeless person”. . didn’t know how to respond so I said something to the effects of yes I am backpacking.
however, I am also basically homeless. I don’t have a job. maybe I could consider myself self employed since I hope to maybe make some money eventually from these shenanigans. but because he categorized me as someone he could maybe relate to, he decided to stop and have a conversation with me. so, yes, for now I can afford a hiker/biker camp site, some of wich have allowed me to take a hot shower and I’ve rested up in a hostel a couple times.
I think, also because of how I present myelf, I have been able to talk more openly to other queerdos, even if that’s not how they would identify.
I think some of this hit me as I crossed the newport bridge because I had had some really great talks with some folks at the lost buoy hostel. we talked about so many things, but one thing that sticks with me is how people using airbnb are changing the ways people travel and it is making it more challenging for folks to travel simply and cheaply. to the point that people are starting to charge for couch surfing. this is a whole other tangent around a kind of exchange economy that made up couch surfing.
anyway….I know that there are just as many things about who I am that can put me in danger, especially in certain homophobic, sexist, pro-gun, hunting /animal agriculture communities. but I wanted to take a minute to reflect and remember to remember just how different I am treated than some of the other folks walking around these coastal towns with carrying all their possessions on their backs. are there ways for me to bridge these gaps? to make connections? I know I have so many more questions, I just don’t know how to work with them.
so now I will stare off into the sunset and see if I can sort some of this out! also, if you have any thoughts on these thoughts, please do share!
p.s. it’s been a few days now since I wrote this and I’ve had a couple other experience that reinforces my points. it comes in getting 3 lifts from people while I was stuck road walking. all 3 people stopped and offered rides and I wasn’t even trying. i thought about it, sticking my thumb out and all, but I didn’t. I’m very grateful for the rides. they all showed up just when I needed them! yes, mom, they were all very nice people trying to repay for rides they had gotten.