adventures with covid-19

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?

time

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…

eugene one more time

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

thanksgiving toolbox

anything by the tierra incognita media

read indigenous peoples history

follow indigenous people hike

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

eugene

so much has happened. eugene, surprisingly inspiring for me. i spent 3 months here, and once i gave up on the idea that i would or should get a job, i welled up with creative ideas. plus, PLUS, i arrived to adventure buddies, and adventure we did!

first off, i don’t want you think i barged into my friends’ lives for 3 whole months. i have my faults, but that i did not do. i did reach out to the local hostel and did some work-trade for a bunk, so i guess i did sort of get a job, but it was 4 hour shifts 5 days a week, so not so bad. and it was super easy for me to request to work/not work certain times to go adventure. also, i met even more people moving around this world in different ways for so many reasons, reasons i will be exploring in many ways.

as for the creativity that opened up in me once i recovered from logistics hangover, i am still amazed at how much i am giving in to it. it could be the space i am creating and plans i am laying out so that i don’t spend precious mental space worrying and fretting. but i have started having dreams at least once a month about ideas and directions that i want the book/story/potential series i am working on. things i haven’t been able to work out during waking hours.

i have also taken the time to teach myself how to draw, or should i say let youtube videos teach me to open up to the possibilities that i can create with pencils and pens..maybe water colors. i have never let myself do this. art supply stores intimidate me. i have looked at art classes, but was shy and afraid of not being good enough to share, and they always make you share.

so i have taken one of my dry bags and filled it with my journal, sketch pad, and a pen and pencils…my little art bag. it is so fun. sometimes when i am on a hike or some such fun activity, i don’t always want to write, or the words won’t come to describe my thoughts and feelings, so i draw it. i has effected all aspects of my expressive outlets. my photography benefits as i adjust for lighting or looking for the small details. same for my writing. if i am imagining a scene to write about, i can sketch out not just what i see, but people, lighting, feeling tones for the place come to life sort of speak and fill in what i’ve been missing. its great! also, it is yet one more thing that i can use to procrastinate what i am “suppose” to be doing now. so win win!

adventures! so many!

first, i got there and eugene was having a late summer pride event! it reminded those of us who came out in the 80s and 90s of those smaller community prides we use to have. ones that were free instead of 20 bucks or more and use local area entertainers instead of big names that blow the community’s budget for other things. i do appreciate both for different reason, but definitely love the smaller community feel.

my fellow bike adventure friend took me on a bike path tour one day. showing me how to get to the river trails, what streets are good for getting to favorite breweries and bike spaces. then he left to visit family and left the two of us alone to mischief. the other pal in this crew is more of a walker, so we walked all over the town. he showed me how to get around to the parks and buttes to walk and wonder. we went to the museum, heard some music, and he introduced me to some of the friends the two of them had made since being in eugene. this was the first time the 2 of us had so much time with just the 2 of us, that we really got to know one another even deeper. such a special time i can’t even express.

the adventures i had in eugene were mixed with solo and buddies. it has been so long since i had an adventure buddy, i forgot how much fun it could be. the adventures i had with my friend in kansas city was remarkable, but it was piece of my longer plans. also, with all the flooding, the planing was different. so planning micro-adventures with someone was just so fun.

eugene does have a wonderful public transit system that reaches out to nearby communities, including the mckenzie river ranger district, so i took a couple trips out there to wonder the river woods and hot springs. we took the bus down to cottage grove to bike the covered bridge route and play around those little towns. all for the cost of a regular bus ride of $1.75 or $3.50 for a day. i also rode my bike out to springfield fairly often for the fun of riding the river trail out to have a beer or for big queer yoga on friday nights.

i can’t say enough just how beautiful this valley is. how easy it is to so any different unique nature places from ancient forest to high deserts and mountains. hot springs and ice cold rivers.

i do have to say getting back to the trails up and around the sisters wilderness was pretty great. my buddies had decided to get in a backpacking trip before school kicked back into gear for the year. so we decided to rent a car and i would drop them off and we’d camp out together for a night. then i would get another car and pick them up and we’d have a little hike and adventure on the way back. there had been a fire recently where i walked them into the start of the loop they were doing. it was eery for sure, but still so beautiful. i feel fortunate to have experienced this forest in both situations, and to see the freshness of the fire mixed with the growth already returning. it was so soothing to be back up there smelling those piney forests and absorbing high altitude sunshine. catching the views of the first snow setteling on the peaks of the sisters’ peaks.

sitting by those high altitude lakes i was able to do more internal exploration of what is my responsibility to these areas that i both recreate in, and have reverence for. it is where i am refreshed, renewed, and fills me spiritually. it is a deep relationship that i feel whatever “wilderness” i am in, and it should be, needs to be a reciprocal relationship. so what is my responsibility? what do i have to give back to these forms of kin?

settleing in eugene for the winter is certainly a tempting thought, but there are many dark sides to this little city, besides nike. certainly here was the first time on this trip i truly felt unsafe. it was the topic of many conversations i had here. it was a tough topic to talk about because it could go in many ways and we wanted to make sure that people knew that we weren’t talking about the fear of the high rates of houseless folks living on the streets and in tents by the river. it is mostly in white men and not just the drunken frat boys. there is a high rate of people on meth and other drugs that are unpredictable who will do about anything for their next fix. it is a complicated topic that goes deeper into a myriad thread of our social ills in this country.

on the flip side, i think that being in eugene was more of a coming home than being in portland for a few weeks, but we’ll talk about that when i do a portland adventure wrap up. but that will be after our overnight to the coast #optoutside!

philly

where to start.

i could go the linear way…today and the next…i could group it into activities…my thoughts i had there…humm

well let’s start with getting oriented and see what happens.

i left off with the arrival to philly, getting the basic rulelessness of philly and eating dive take-out chinese food that really hit the spot. i met the roommate and the house doggo. we caught up a bit before it was passed time to get some sleep.

i woke and listened to the city around me, then i got a text from with-in the house. it surprised me at first, but eventually i came to enjoy the quiet interactions from the comfort of soft clothes. usually it was an update on work schedules, ideas for the daily activities…

everyone went to work and it was just me and mr. dog. to get my bearings i went for a walk around the neighborhood. i found the local punk coffeeshop/cafe with lots o’vegan options (p.s. i really enjoyed this place and it was below a super cool bike shop that mostly i watched people of color go up and down the stairs with every day bikes and wearing regular clothes). i also found the all vegan donut shop, (yum), and the local co-op that i had heard a great deal about (not all good not all bad).

at some point i texted another friend of mine that i lived with for a minute back in the portland years who had moved to philly. we made plans to get together while i was in town. we had a good catch-up and they let me know about a couple of actions happening around the city that i would end up going to.

this first day (and most days i was there) the sun was shining. it was hot, but not humid and super hot. this part of west philly reminded me of portland 10 to 15 years ago. especially north portland. perhaps it is because of the cusp of rapidly encroaching gentrification of a historically black neighborhood. i could see myself trying to find a way to spend the summer here. these first few days it was super tempting to look at job and housing options for the season.

that night we met some of my friends’ friends for happy hour at the taco place and chowed on vegan nachos and margaritas…yum. the conversations were fun and lively with lots of laughter and smiles. it is always nice to get to know my friends other friends, especially friends who don’t live in the same place i do…to know friends are well cared for and loved is a wonderful feeling to me. also, one of the women hails from russia. while in n.c. i read part of a book on the oral history of punk music in russia that my friend did the cover art for. she actually knew some of the bars and places in the book. it was a super cool connection.

our days together were spent in lovely relaxed (to me anyway) ways. we went to the museum. saw a wonderfully disturbing exhibit as well as the rocky statue and footprints. it was remarkable to me how many people come to the museum just to see the rocky statue, so much so they moved the statue from the top of the stairs (you know where he ran up in the first rocky) to down and off to the side of the stairs. we walked the historic streets of philly (once crashing the filming of some t.v. show we had never heard of). we talked and caught up on what’s been happening in our lives, our minds, our hearts. we ate good food, consumed good beverages, and had lots of fun.

the moments we were off doing our own things, i walked the streets of philly, explored so many varied parts of histories that philly holds from pre-revolution to social justice actions, including an action against ICE that i went to with the other friend i have here. all the walking and wondering, the pouring over maps that listed important names as the names of parks or centers: malcolm x, paul robeson, du bois, MOVE, and mumia just to name a few. i tried to get to the edgar allen poe house, but just couldn’t get make the time for all the things.

one day i was walking around the historic area where independence hall is and the liberty bell, historic homes that had “servants quarters” i.e. slaves. i rounded a corner and spotted the “first bank” of the u.s. it stopped me in my tracks and i read the plaque. it talked about how it was proposed as a way to pay of the huge debt that this new founded country now had due to the war for “independence.” within just a few blocks i would run into at least the first 5 banks in the country. the last couple i ran into trying to escape the area. i was overwhelmed by the obviousness of the connection between war and banks and the merchant class and just how much we have not changed at all, the cycle this country spins to keep the capitalists of capitalism in control of the labor class. i needed to get away and clear my head.

there is a park by the house of the statue of liberty so i found a shady place and sat and calmed my thoughts and did a favorite activity of mine, people watch. there were people of all backgrounds speaking many languages, and i could not calm down. it was much more like a punch. normally this is a scene that warms me from the inside, but with the fascist want-to-be dictator that the u.s. has as a president right now, i was embarrassed (?), saddened (?), pissed for sure. that we as a country of immigrants (unless you are native american), that we would do any less than welcome those seeking refuge with open arms, is outrageous to me. granted these were tourists with some level of privilege ($$ everything in independence area cost money to enter except the liberty bell), and most likely would not have border issues when trying to return “home”, but i held some doubts for sure.

it was decided that we would take a day to go to the roommate’s parents house in jersey to swim, and break the city’s heat, so refreshing. what a great idea, go play and splash in a pool during the heatwave. it was a super fun day. we swam. we drank. we ate. we played games. we watched a couple thunderstorms roll by. we drove back to philly during another storm, tuckered out. i fell into a deep sleep.

i woke with the urgency of needing to make plans to get moving again. i couldn’t stay in philly. maybe i will return one day. there was a deep part of me that wanted to stay and see what i could get involved in, but i had a deeper need to get back west of the rockies. no matter how hard i try, i am not an east side of the country kind of kid. also, i could tell by the conversation i had with many people that i would most likely fall in to the cycle of working too much to make ends meet and consume things i don’t want to in the long run, and not make the time and space for the creative ventures i am trying to get started and move ever more forward.

eventually i found the route that would take me west. i chatted with my pals in oregon to make plans for my landing. and then i relaxed into my final few days in philly, and this led me to some great conversations that helped me work out some of my thoughts i’d been having while there.

my friend and i had a conversation one night about whether living so close to the deep history of the neighborhood, and racist history of philly, lent to having a sense of responsibility to that history? it is related, i think, to how i feel about living so close to nature and feeling a responsibility to protecting and making responsible choices in how i move around in my life. i mean, i can’t imagine white people calling the cops on black folks while having a picnic in malcom x park…just sayin’ but if gentrification keeps happening…

another night, at the first micro-brewery in philly that is right next to the punk cafe, i chatted with the bartender. he had recently returned to philly after going to school on the west coast. he was able to give himself the time and space to return and and come out to his family and the challenges of being a young gay black man in west philly (and the world). we talked about many things, including the similarities he is witnessing from his time in oakland and being back in philly around gentrification, housing, and wages.

but make no mistake, my last days weren’t all politics and heavy conversations. i ate a lot of vegan foods…went to the straight edge pizza place for amazing vegan “wings”. i had all the vegan treats i could get in my mouth. we went to an irish punk bar for some tasty vegan snacks and good beers. p.s. i do love me a good irish punk bar.

the morning of my departure was to be early, so we said our so longs the night before. i had decided to bike to amtrak instead of waking my friend and loading up the car for a ride to the station. this would be the only time i would bike in philly, and i am glad i did. i had been wanting to ride, but touring bikes are not really city prepared as everything is quick-release aka easy to steal. i rode away in the early morning during rush-hour traffic in busy bike lanes. it was a beautiful morning and a nice ride.

while waiting at the red cap post to be directed to where to load my bike i met a nun from a west philly church who encouraged me to get confirmed or something like that, just to be safe, like an insurance policy for my soul i guess. she was very nice about it. i told her i’m more along the lines of buddhist. she assured me that was ok, but i should still get to a catholic church. she reminded me of what dorothy day of the catholic worker movement might have been a little like. i also met a couple that would be on the train with me all the way to sacramento. little did we know what was in store for us in the coming days.

a couple of side notes. after getting into eugene, i read that the chinese restaurant we went to closed it’s doors the end of that month. rent was getting too high. the owner told the story of his family coming to the united states, and the support he has had since arriving in philly.

i also learned why a pizza shop i had tried to go to a couple times, but had a paper note that they were closed. seems that the staff believed the owners had fired a black employee for racially motivated reasons, so the staff locked up shop. the sister bar/restaurant did the same a couple days later in support. well that explained my confusion, and also reinforced my feelings that people were taking actions and not just sitting in meetings talking about the theory of racist management practices.

i can’t express just how much i am grateful for this friend, and this visit. we’ve known each other for over 20 years now i guess. we met when i lived in syracuse, and this is the second time we visited in person since i left ny. there are for sure gaps in our knowledge of the others’ experiences in those years, yet our friendship has stayed important and strong to us both. who knows where we will meet next.

i can’t wait to tell you about the adventures i’ve been having in oregon!

my first spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

i have some theories about noticing spring more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and

summer!

simple happiness

it was an unassuming setup of a day with a slow but steady start. a day that i thought was going leave me feeling like i was just chasing my tail. i had been trying to get a copy of my lease so that i could get a po box…life in employee housing. the hr person sent it to one place and when i went to pick it up, it had gone to another place, but it was fine. i had stopped in at the office where i report to for work, thinking it would be there, but it wasn’t. so my boss said he had to go up to the main housekeeping office and offered me a ride. we rode around together and chatted. i enjoy his conversations and musings. when i go to the other office, the lease had been moved once again, so i just went back to the main hr person and she got me a copy, whew.

from there the day just rocketed….

but maybe i should start with the day before….

i have mentioned that i am the only white woman, not a manager…only white person at all that is not a manager. so this day i came in on my day off and was just going to go around and prep rooms and make beds for the other housekeepers, but my manager, who was driving me to different properties, would leave me and not come back for awhile. so i would stay and work with whoever was at that condo. eventually, it was just me and the jamaicans. i really like working with the jamaicans, but i am cautious. they are all steeped deep into the island’s religious beliefs which to say are homophobic is not true. the laws in jimaca are not phobic at all, they are down right hateful and violent, so i am cautious, but open with those i work with. (by the way, i think we need a different word for homophobia and i’ll bring this up on a different post just like ethical vegan needs to be readdressed).

i am constantly asked where my husband is and about kids. i tell them i do not want a husband nor kids. they look confused. on this day the questions came again (every time i work with them) and one asked if i was stragiht, and i said i am not straight…i think they were using straight in a different way than i was. however, a few minutes later, the music cranked, they asked if i dance.

well, yes, yes i love to dance! i use to go to the 4 day reggae fest in kansas city.

then come in here and dance.

so i did. i came sliding into the kitchen and danced with one of the women. i followed her moves and my hips swung side to side and around and around to cheers all around.

then i was told to watch out, i just may end up with a jimacan husband….uuugh.

however, lets note that my dancing was cheered on by a group of jamaicans! yes!

now, where was i? yes. slow moving to my day off chores list!

with my lease in hand i headed off to the post office and aquired my po box! yes! but first….i want to go out for breakfast! i almost didn’t because it was lunch time, but as all good folks who have lived in pdx know, brunch is a whole different food group and i haven’t heard many people talk about brunch around here. so i took the risk and swung by this place i heard was vegan friendly, and i have to tell ya. the vegan rancheros were the best f*#@ing rancheros i have ever had! and i have gotten around when it comes to rancheros!

so now i am fed, and po box aquired… i got to thinking…with my lease, i can get my library card! so i headed to the library 9 blocks down the road. amazing little walk! i told the librarians that i never really felt at home anywhere until i got a library card, and it is true. my reading life has been subsisting on the ebook library of multnomah county; a most excellent of libraries, and i perhaps the reason i have managed through some struggles…access to books is worth so much to me. yet, i have missed the pysicality of a bunch of paper full of words bound togher. maybe i am vain just a bit. when i use an ereader, i don’t feel as connected to the book. also, i like to see what others are reading and for them to see what i am reading. it is a great way to start a conversation with a stranger. (side note, my dad passed along one of he and his partner’s ereaders to make my reading life easier, and it was totally kept me sane. i really don’t know what i would do without access to reading!)

 

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for real, this is my library card

 

anyway, i got my library card, wondered around, collected a stack of books and found a place to sit….and what a view!

 

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view from my library perch

 

i didn’t want to leave, but the day was so blue and clear that eventually i had to leave my perch and walk along the river to my next place to explore….a bike shop.

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i miss my bike. i miss riding my bike. i know i can’t ride here yet. there is too much ice under the snow for my little tires. so i went into this amazing bike shop. so great and funky. the guys there that day were only a little brotastic. i got my fix and kept walking along the river.

oh on this walk earlier, i found black sulpher hot springs.

it was an accident. i was walking along the river…it is freaking cold by the way this day, like less than 10 degrees with the sun beaming down, but the sun felt so very good. so as i am walking along and i see steam entering the river! everything else is ice and snow, but here is steaming hot water flowing into the river. sure enough, right after i figure it out, i follow a trail on the other side of the river to a sign that tells me i indeed did find black sulpher hot springs! sweet!

floating a little higher, i head over to the bookstore for their happy hour. that is right. the bookstore has a happy hour, and a statue that discribes by day perfectly!

 

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exactly how i felt this day

 

i get a glass of a local beer and sit down with my stack of library books and just soak in the feelings and emotions. then i walk around the little store and scan a few new books into my goodreads account. they have a whole section on local writers and i look forward to exploring them.

then it was off to this little brewery for a pint before going home to make dinner. tuesday is token tuesday. with every pint you order, they give you a token to donate to a local organization. so i sit there and have a pint, chat with a few people, and look over the vegan cookbook i picked up at the library. see i have missed cooking. i have missed mixing up the sauces and spices that sets the aromas of my imagination running.

i made a list and headed off to the grocery store.

i smiled the whole way home on the bus. i was thinking about how i would fix the veggies in my back pack, what i would read while eating, and then prepare some oats for breakfast for the week.

the whole day was so simple, so easy going, so beautiful, so…so….so spectacular that it seems redicuous to remember how simple it was and how happy that made me, but it was and it did.

it reminded me of days biking or hiking with the simplicity of a great view and movement. of totally acceptance of where i am and what i am doing…so simple. so full. so complete.

i had also stopped at a couple thrift stores and such as i wondered around that day, but as little as i have in my little room, i still don’t need much, and the less i realized i need, the happier i become. it is truly amazing and gratifying. i have appropriate enough clothes and gear for the season. i have a way to read books of my choosing. i have access to healthy food concidering i am surrounded by snow in a small mountain town….thank goodness wealthy people like to come here. i have free transportation around town. and i have a job to pay for it all. i have good friends and family that i can regularly share stories with. i have my health. i have my sence of humor. and i have my sense of adventure. so simple…what else do i need?

burning down the grief

as the fires have been raging all around me for a solid month now, and more popping up, and the twist of reprieve with thunderstorms that bring lightning and potentially more fires, i wonder why is all this old grief coming up? i mean, my lungs hurt, my eyes burn, my throat is itchy.  then i really started digging into my education in herbal medicine (thanks arctos herbal school and so many others) and tcm as i went to some community acupuncture here in ashland. and one day, i took a deep breath and almost sobbed with so much grief that i don’t even know, and i remembered, tcm…lungs….grief…

with all the fires, mostly i have been thinking about rejuvenation and regrowth; cleaning and clearing. there are so so many things we can only accomplish if it burns first….take rage…how often have i burned all the fear and hesitation to take action via rage? rage just burns it off and all i am left with is love and care at its most rare form.

maybe today’s youth won’t see an area in the type of vastness we have seen it, but they will get to watch the evolution of a forest in a rare and wonderful way, if “we” don’t interfere (inter-fear?) too much and fuck everything up. same holds true for all the storms wiping out entire communities. maybe they can take the lessons from greensburg and rebuild in a much more intentional way with solar, wind, and water as the focus vs. capitalism and commerce.

i’ve been trying to tap into this old grief for a long time. every time i tried to go to the places that i find refuge for my grief, i’ve gotten derailed or had to take care of someone else who was maybe trying to help me too as best they could. when we all have so much un-addressed grief how do we console and care for one another? it’s not for a lack of want or desire, but maybe we no longer have the practiced skill sets for it? as a culture that likes to negate the negative and proliferate the positive, it makes it difficult to just sit with the hard times sometimes. mix that in with the bag of tricks that is customer service “smile, it can’t be that bad”, fuck you, here is your over-priced, over cultivated, over entitled raw coconut chocolate product…sometimes i really hate customer service

add to the mix one part dealing with the transformation of dream job to nightmare, two parts city life not jiving well with environmental concerns, and so many parts lots of pointing fingers with limited showing of examples on how to move forward.

i think it is this last part that has had me in option paralysis. i don’t believe that all these efforts to get governments to make agreements and such are going to have the same impact as collective individual actions….same as my feelings about legalizing “gay” marriage, or weed, or….really fill in the blank.

i don’t know what else to do. i’ve watched cowspiricy, and what the health, i’ve read the book drawdown. i walk or ride my bike. i eat as consciously as i can where ever i am at.

the hardest part of this for me is finding the community to do this work within. i actually don’t see many people in the queer community addressing these issues, and the vegan community a little, environmental, some. i have some good friends doing great work, but i am looking for a community that brings all this together, and i am not finding it. i’m sure it’s out there, i just don’t know where, and i guess that is what i am looking for. either that or a place and the people to create it with.

but some days, i feel lonely, isolated, and exhausted. i just want to lay in my tent and not move. is it the grief? is it the fear? is it all the above?

for now i’ll just keep peddling my bike down the road and stay open to finding a community.

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.

 

queer vegan goes to a 4th of july parade

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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.

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yes, it was still a very very white event

[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