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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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!

sounds of life

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

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

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

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

I’m working on that one.

This one I want to simply recognize the changes

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

No dripping

No little trickle

It was completely silent.

No….no. nonononono

Is it mud season already?

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

It was snowing!

It was snowing big fat fluffy flakes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t say that I miss the ocean

I do but not really…it’s complicatedly simple

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

We had a mighty fine times

Very supportive

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

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

So no I don’t miss the ocean

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

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

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

One degree and warming.