vaca bound after a little rally for the public lands.

today starts my summer vacation and i am so flipped-out excited i can hardly stand it, but also trying to stay deep in the moment because, well, i live in a vacation destination town so it is kind of like i am always on vacation except for those pesky 40 hours each week i work.

the other thing that helps me stay in the moment is my sister and her family just came for a visit! it was so nice to host them for a few days and get time with the kids who are not kids anymore but growing into wonderful humans. to say i live a little different from them is an understatement so to share my life and ideas is fantastic, mostly because they listen and ask questions. it has been a summer of visitors. a benifit to living more to the middle of the country.

this is why is was a difficult decision for me to steal myself away for an hour while they were here. that asswhip of an excuse of a secretary of the interior, ryan zinke was in town so there was a little rally to show support for public lands, or more fitting, against his and trump’s policies to desecrate what is left of these sacred places. i gave up going to rallies and protests and such a few years ago out of frustration and just disgusted by the digression of solid ethics. it reminded me of going to church when i was a kid. living in a small town, i would listen to what people took in on sundays, and then witnessed their behavior the rest of the week. really? so listening to people talk about the actions needed to “save” this planet, the trees, the water, the air, etc. then i see them using single-use everything or continuing the participation in the mayhem. so to save my nerves i stopped going. you may be asking why not get involved in the organizing….see above.

so i decided to go to this one. there aren’t as many chances in this little town to make some noise while a major political (i.e. corporate) figure is in town. so what the hell, i show up for this one. about 1/2 of the county here is public lands. the whole state of kansas has less than 1% of public land. the entire ski industry is built on the back of public land, as is most of the off-road cycling (motor or burrito powered).

wondering around the people tabling at the rally was interesting. i ran into people i have seen at other events in town, mostly at the library. i found out there is a wild horse sanctuary about 100 miles from here and learned about the renewed attack on wild horses. i learned more and more people want renewable energy sources, but they don’t want to cut back on energy usage. i met the woman running for sheriff and her platform to bring empathy training and diversity training to the police force and county officers. she was a whistleblower on sexual assault in the department. then i got to have a chat with a journalist from the high country news. then eventually the rally started.

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it opened with a poet from the dinè tribe, layla june. she gave an amazing talk and opening prayer, reminding us who’s land we were actually on, ute, known as parianuche or nuche people as they refer to themselves. i was moved to tears from her words and her passions.

then the person leading the rally got the crowd to start chanting “our land” and my heart sank. here was a large crowd, estimated at 1400 people, in a town with a population of 12,000. the vast majority of the crowd was white shouting “our land” and i couldn’t believe it. sure it is an easy chant it gets people riled up…don’t take our land say the colonizers and settlers. but it isn’t our land. sure it is public land, supposed to be protected from corporate pillaging, but it is not our land. it has never been our land, just as a stolen object never belongs to the thief. and here my internal dialogue fuse was lite.

the next speaker was a county commissioner, an older white guy. a pretty good talk based around the love of growing up backpacking and being outside,  i only cringed a few times. another white guy talked about being an entrepreneur that depends on public lands for people to buy/rent/use his gear to go on public lands to recreate. more money talk. then a rancher talked about land usage and care (the fuse burned a little faster and brighter). but i have to say i resonated with his world more than the other white men or women who spoke.

he started with a story about coming into town with his younger son who asked what he was doing this afternoon. when he responded with giving a talk about the land, the kid asked that if he gave a bad talk would they take their land away?  well, son, its not really our land anyway. it is mother earth’s. then he went on about how deeply the family knows the land. how he repairs daily the fences broken due to cattle and moose interactions that he also gets to witness. i’ve heard and seen him talk before about water and land usage. i like this guy, this reluctant public speaker.

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that was followed by a female olympian who gave a great talk about the need for public lands for people to ski, hike, backpack, walk…for mental and physical health. then came the speaker that sent me home, a ceo for an outdoor industry. she brought all the numbers. sure it is important for people to know that the outdoor industry creates more jobs and revenue than does oil/gas/coal/timber industries combined. these jobs have more benefits, better pay, typically safer than the other industries. but there are people behind those numbers. there is so much more to these issues than numbers. i just started feeling sick over all this so i left before the fuse came to the end and i exploded in public.

the next speaker was a state rep who i have seen speak before at a pow (protect our winters) gathering. then lyla june was to come back up to talk about indigenous rights. i really wanted to hear what she had to say, but i just couldn’t. all those white people had gone way over their time and my emotional time limit that i allowed myself was expiring. however, as i was leaving i ran into lyla june and got to talk with her for a minute and thank her for making the journey up here.

so why am i even mentioning or writing about this?

i would like us to be more intentional with our words and what we are doing when we stand up for anything besides ourselves. this land is not “our” land. this land has never belonged to “us”. if we truly want to protect this sacred land (as was used often) we should return it to the people of this land, the indigenous people of this continent. this could be the start of actual reparations for the theft of place, culture, people… i would gladly pay the fees to recreate on the land of the people who truly know how to live collectively with the land.

but also, picking certain places for protection from capitalistic extraction or abuse…like saying its ok to pollute and pillage from here, but not here. it is this valuing of one over another that also bothers me. people don’t think kansas, or much of the midwest is beautiful because they have never gotten to experience the majesty of tall-grass prairie in bloom at sunrise. pretty much all of it has been tilled under to grow food, mostly food for livestock…or fuel. why? because the way the prairies created such rich and fertile soil that is now depleted due to overuse.

i just finished reading this book called overstory by richard powers. it is a story where the main characters are just regular people who had extraordinary situations bring out the activists in them in one way or another. and by deeply interacting with the natural world, they begin to hear the trees who never stopped speaking, we just stopped listening to them. he writes of scientific books that i wish were written, and people i feel i know.

he shares a glimpse of the greek story by ovid based on the word xenia or guest-friendship, to take care of traveling strangers. it is the story a couple with limited resource, baucis and philemon, who took in 2 strangers who turned out to be gods. baucis and philemon were turned into an oak and a linden upon their joined deaths as a reward from the gods.

“huge and gracious and intertwined. what we care for, we will grow to resemble. and what we resemble will hold us, when we are us no longer….”

I finished this book just before i started this post. the end brought me to tears. tears of recognition for people who want to do what is right by the non-human life on this planet. but i believe that the deeper wisdom here in the story, as well as from the rally, is that we can fight all we want to save the trees, the rivers, all water, for clean air and food. to save wild horses and dolphins and whales and sea turtles….we can try to fight for laws to protect all that. we can fight corporations to stop polluting and contributing to climate change and feeding the disasters that are killing everything they touch.

or

we can take deeper looks into ourselves

we take the time to get still and quiet and listen

i think we need to take those frightening deep meditative looks inward. to make those changes within ourselves to point inward instead of outward. and perhaps, when we see the work we need to do with ourselves, we can collectively find more common ground.

but fighting? fighting leads to more fighting. listening leads to more understanding. some say we don’t have the time to listen. i don’t know. fighting doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere.

don’t get me wrong, there are times and moments to stand up and fight in our protections, but not over possession and ownership.

i was once, many years ago, sitting and meditating in an amazing sacred area in arizona. an outcropping along a somewhat popular trail. there is a definitive feminine and masculine side to this section. i had touched the masculine side first. it was full of grief and sorrow and pain. a belief that they had failed to protect the women and children/land and water.

when i got to the feminine side, the place that the women gathered, i was in tears and full of pain and sorrow myself. as i meditated i asked what i could do to save them to protect…blah blah blah i was still full of white savior ego. they laughed at me and then gave me a long lecture that boiled down to: the earth will survive, you will not, humans will not. unless there is a massive shift and change among the whole population. as soon as humans are gone the planet will begin to regenerate once again, as it has over the ages. humans may or may not be part of that regeneration. it is up to us.

i know i have a great many changes to make in me. i don’t know where to start, to be honest. i often feel out of balance and off-kilter. but i do know that the more i sit quietly in nature, the more i am playful with nature, the more i regain my equilibrium. the more clear my answers become.

i don’t think i can fight the opposition with outrage, or statistics, or prodding confrontation. but maybe with understanding. with conversations. with deepening my empathy for those who i do not understand. listening and sharing stories…

ahhh i don’t know. but i do believe that the more those who are trying to profit off of our rage, pitting one another against the other, the more they keep us occupied with the distractions that they create, the more lost we all become. the further we move from our objectives.

so how do we take to the streets to show our opposition without turning upon one another?

how do we stay focused and on point when they throw flash bombs and pepper bombs at us.

when corporations are feeding the police state so that the disparaged turn against their neighbors?

how do we step outside all this for just a moment to see a different path

how do we stop and hear the pain under all the rage? for in the precepts we learn that pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

so i am off to go get lost in the woods for a little while. i am very excited about this particular trip for many reasons that should unfold as i explore places, land, water i have never ventured before and research for my next leg of this journey.

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borders and boundries

i have been so super grumpy these past couple weeks. grumpy like answering questions with grunts and silent head shakes. i’d like to say i don’t know why. maybe it is the moon, eclipse. but the world is on fire, again, or maybe still. each time there is another fire or shooting or idiotic political ruler says/does something stupid and people continue to act surprised. then a 3d printer gun….naw i have no idea why i’ve been grumpy.

then i started reading the book overstory by richard powers and the connections started gathering forces inside me.

i’ve been thinking a great deal lately about borders and boundaries, i kind of always have. as a kid, i use to wonder how water, rain, streams, ocean, birds, fish, bears, dear…knew when they crossed over to another state, country. but then i read about the bison massacres when they roam outside the national parks looking for food…migration doesn’t give a flip about borders or boundaries, but meat farmers don’t like competition for grazing on blm land….

then one day i saw a map of the united states without any state lines or national borders drawn on it or even time zone changes for that matter. that map looked so free to me, so wide open. it looked like such a wonderful place to explore and move about. but to be honest, it is not the imaginary lines that bother me, it is the internal struggles that crossing over into another state can have on my psyche. and this is what leads me to think that all these imaginary lines and borders and boundaries are not meant to provide a safe area for people, but to create a state of fear and thereby control people on one side and a false sense of security on the other.

as a queer woman, i use to get really nervous and anxious if i needed to drive through mississippi, lousianna, alabama on my way to florida to see my grandma. i would get in and out of the gas stations as fast as possible with as limited interaction with other humans…especially white men. later i reflected that at least in the “south” i knew how people felt about me. in the liberal “north” of pc country, it was said behind my back and supported by legislature and propaganda…aka a false sense of security.

but last week i went through the rocky mountain national park and my thoughts bubbled up again, mostly because of what people in the united(?) states are doing to people, refugees, from the global south. i see and hear the fear in the voices of my co-workers who have their “papers” but are afraid to visit family for fear of well so much fear. and i actually hear the arguments of people born and raised here that their family came over legally. really? reeeally? who stamped their papers? crazy horse? geronimo? chief joseph?

this resurrection of this particular fear is happening at a time when farm workers and domestic servants (damn what a horrible word) have been organizing and gaining momentum in their demands for fair wages and treatment for themselves and their children, especially farm workers. if you do not think these issues are connected, you are forgetting history: ceasar chavez, the bracaro project, the Immokalee workers

anyway, approaching the boundaries and entry gate to the rmnp stirred up these old feelings, but really what i want to know is why. why all these boundaries and borders? i believe deeply, that it is to keep people in and not talk to others. to keep the manipulation alive and well. to keep people in fear and control.

what i have noticed is that every time the global north enforces their boundaries, it intensifies the need for people to assert their individual bounderies and identities, which then reinforces the us/them fear and defensiveness.

margaret thatcher is known for saying “there is no society, there are only individuals”. this individualism fuels some of what is keeping us from making the changes we most need to make in this world, from climate change to foreign policy. it has fueled the fire of identity politics in an unhealthy way and i have been trying to figure out how we have gotten in our own ways soooofuckingmuch. so here is my theory.

identity politics is important. as gloria anzandula taught so many years ago at an international queer studies conference in iowa, to imagine one’s self as a tree and all our identities, all the parts of us that make us unique are our roots. if we don’t know all the different roots, and accept them and integrate them into ourselves as a whole, when the cultural winds come by, we will be knocked over. i’m not sure that anzandula knew about the intricate network of communication that the root systems of trees in a healthy forest provide all beings in a forest. the network of communication, of shared resources, of protection, for all, and that is all before they become nurse logs.  if she had, well this analogy gets even stronger. a whole intact forest stands together in all its colors and shapes from the microscopic to the giant trees. yet, as lone individual trees, without interconnected root systems, we topple in one fell swoop, taking out our neighbors.

so what troubles me is that the more we identify with OUR individual identities, the more we isolate ourselves and others. the more we get offended when someone steps on our individual toes. and then more fear is fueled and the more isolated we all become. on top of it, we kind of refuse to be uncomfortable. we are told that these boundaries and identities will keep us safe. but i believe we need discomfort on some levels to push our limits, to go past these boundaries and commune with others not like us, to learn what the other side of the line needs so that we can all do this together. and perhaps grow over the lines and past the barriers. but western capitalism is what fuels the walls. it tells us that we can relieve any discomfort with a pill or a game or a new device. it keeps us in the cycle that makes reading howard zinne so frustrating, and important…and we are at it again. and we are more alienated and isolated no matter our number of social media friends we have.

capitalism”s magic bullet, if you will: naming. we love to name things. if we have named it, we know how we are supposed to feel about something or act towards it, and this includes gender pronouns. (doubt this? talk to someone who has been both he and she at some point in their lives, or someone who is intersex, someone who is willing to talk about the differences in their treatment based on perceived gender and self-identification…this is a life/death situation often). but if we “named” based on relationship instead of ownership, well that is different. a mountain “named” based on a cosmology of a creation myth will be treated differently than one named by conquest and ownership. the responsibility we feel for a place or person changes if we see it as sacred and part of all of who we are.

and that is the crux, right? maybe? that by creating these name/labeled boundaries and borders, we mark off ownership of areas and control of those areas and all that happens to be there: animals, water, minerals…people. but if things are “named” based on relationship, that is a whole new level of freedom and movement….and responsibility.  you can’t control, manipulate, mine, and harvest what you do not own in one way or another. however, you are responsible for all that you hold some relationship to, and that is everything in this word: food, water, air, what you use for shelter, clothing, one another.

what if we were able to drop just a little of this border-mindset? what if we saw the people that were coming across the border for what they are: people. people who are in danger due to the violations and unequal trade/economic situations that “we” created. that turned these families into refugees, not immigrants. no one really and truly wants to leave their “home” for the unknown…to a country that is openly hostile and violent to one’s culture and people. no one wants to do this. and we as mobile amaricans don’t understand this. i’ve actually had arguments with (former) friends of mine on this issue. when your family has lived in a certain place for so so many generations leaving is not going to be your first choice. people and places we have denied our relationship to are in danger, and this is how we treat them? back to the tree/forest analogy, our survivals are interdependent.

so i ask, “what is more important? what someone’s label is or how they participate in community.”

i know my stance. and i believe that the only way we will survive as a species is if we return to relationship-based communities instead of isolationalist/nationalist idealism.

we need to make a choice, as a species. i have no doubt this world will continue, but most likely, without humans. unless we can make some changes really fast. and these will have to be internal, non-governmental. we can’t wait for the “leaders” to make the changes. we will be uncomfortable for a little while, but eventually, more quickly than we might think, we will find actual joy and happiness at leaving so much misery for so many behind us.

i know that this sounds a lot like preaching and pointing fingers, and it is. mostly at myself for sure. we all have a great deal to unlearn and re-educate ourselves. before we end up like this:

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this week, 2 years ago, i would have probably given up hope for the humans, but talking to strangers…making connections with people i have no reason to except that we are sitting next to one another on the bus, bar stool, bike ride, campsite, sandy beach, at the wall, in line at the border…we all have stories to share if we are willing to listen…but like i said, its just a little theory i’m working on.