You go about your business, pick up those groceries on the way home, drive past another 1000 cars, arrive at your destination, never once looking up to notice that those around you are dissolving just like you, are bathed in melancholy and disconnection.
I think I would almost rather have the in-the-cave dysfunctional cheeriness than this out-of-the-cave knowing stable wretchedness.
I am beginning to think about shutting down my blog. I started it at a very different time in my life. I have since climbed many mountains, and have fallen off many steep cliffs. And while I remember what life was like in the foothills, wind blowing my hair about, cheeks rosy from exertion, these eyes are not those naive eyes of yesteryear. I am another person. Back then, I discovered that when I wrote for an audience, I found a voice. The words poured forth from my fingers and brain. I couldn’t get enough. Then, as the mountains grew steeper and more treacherous, it became more and more difficult to find that voice. For a long time it was time that kept me from writing here.
Now it is something different. I no longer have any desire for an audience. Sometimes when a person climbs many mountains, and they fall off many cliffs, clinging to the edges with a lone finger, barely hanging on, each breath a tremor that could make them tumble to their death on the stones below, pieces of them don’t make it. Parts of them are not able to climb up onto that ledge when they manage to find their way back onto their path. In my case, I lost whatever part of my ego felt the need for an audience.
And so, here I am. When I write, I don’t want to share it with the world. I write for myself. When I write for an audience, I feel such an urge to censor that the writing becomes stilted and confined. I don’t like stilted and confined. It does not agree with me.
I have until October to make this decision. It is then that the annual renewal is due. I am mulling it over. I shall see.
It occurs to me that most people in our culture have lost sight of the fact that in chasing money, we are essentially chasing things. Someone wants a thing, and their desire for more money is the desire to have as many things as they want, when they want them. That’s what having more money brings. I’m not talking about the people at the very bottom of our capitalist triangle who have to struggle just to survive, those for whom a few dollars would mean the ability to stay very basically comfortable. I’m talking about any level above having what one needs to survive easily: a safe place to sleep, food, and health well-being. “Security” as it has been sold to us, is theoretically having enough money in the bank to ensure the safe place to sleep, food, and health. Yet for most it goes beyond that into wanting to have things. Ask anyone with dreams of riches and it is the lying on the beach or yacht anytime that they want, the clothes, the jewelry, the gadgets, the cars, and on and on, that fill their dreams. Pinterest is filled with photos of all the things that humans want. People will spend hours creating these online photo albums of all the stuff they desire. (In the meantime, while posting these things and dreaming about them, the interactions with humans and other non-human animals around them are limited.)
Yesterday I dropped off some stuff at the donation center. We are moving so we are getting rid of stuff. I have felt this immense urge to purge. What is all this stuff? The line at the place was cars deep, everyone ridding themselves of things, some of which had to have been wanted at some point. Either that or or they were ridding themselves of stuff someone gave them either out of a sense of duty to give, some obligation, or some other self-serving necessity. Perhaps for some the thing was given in love and received as such, but at this point, the thing is now being discarded, filling a warehouse, filling a landfill, being sold into places where the abundance of things is not as profuse as it is in the good, ol’ USA. Stuff, stuff, everywhere. In the meantime, we destroy the earth to build enormous buildings to house the things. We rape and pillage the land to carve roads and fill the land with things, things that will rot in piles long after we are gone.
When one hits the age where things begin happening to their parents in the decline of old age, it is dispiriting. I see my mother declining and I’m not sure she will last the year. I can’t tell her this. She actually believes she is going to live into her hundreds, as many of our older relatives have. The difference between those long-lived ancestors, though, is that they were very active. My mother is not. She is not active. She has arthritic knees. She sits a lot. She ignores advice that tells her movement is better for arthritis and general well-being. She also has sleep apnea but refuses to wear her sleep apnea machine. She has now had a stroke. They say it came from plaque in her arteries. They want to give her drugs (after scraping the arteries clean), but tell her exercise is best. She won’t exercise. The sleep apnea may also have contributed, but she won’t use the machine. What was the point of going to the sleep clinic and figuring out she has sleep apnea if she won’t use the machine to help the sleep apnea? They said she had some of the worst sleep apnea they had ever seen. Not treating it can cause heart attacks and strokes. Does she want another stroke? Is she trying to kill herself by doing nothing?
I stand aside and watch this decline. It is disheartening, and as I said before, dispiriting. One cannot control another or make them do what they won’t do. I want to scream: Just get up and walk down your driveway, already! (The driveway is a mile long.) Yet this would be futile.
Fue Tile. Futile. Dispiriting. Disheartening. All these magnificent little words. I love the words. I do not love how their meanings affect me.
After I wrote this, I asked my mom directly about not using her sleep apnea equipment. She said that her sleep apnea went away because she slept on her side. I asked my friend Debbie, who is somewhat of an expert on sleep apnea, and she said that if she didn’t have the central system sleep apnea, it is possible that it did go away. I hope this is true. I know my mom did not get told by a physician that it was gone, but perhaps it did. Perhaps it did not cause her stroke.
The damn dogs pooped on the floor because they didn’t want to go outside in the rain. Actually, one dog pooped inside because that dog did not want to go outside. It was either Oliver or Betsy. George won’t poop in the house.
In any case, when my daughter discovered the transgression, she called whichever dog did it a “Twat Waffle.” Seriously. What a couple of words.
I love eggs. I ate two eggs this morning for breakfast. My body does not love eggs. It actually despises them. It is mad at me for eating the eggs. It is giving me hell for eating the eggs. I should not have eaten the eggs. My body is winning in deciding whether or not I get to eat eggs. Even though I love them, it says I cannot have them or it will rebel and I believe it. So no eggs.
When a restaurant puts the stuff patrons will eat in a bowl instead of on a plate, they call the dish a “bowl” and then charge more for it than if it had been on a plate.
Oh, another thing restaurants do, especially in Portland, is to sell “small plates.” They call them tapas so they and their patrons can pretend they’re multicultural. The idea behind “small plates” is to have a whole gang of people sit around a table with “small plates” and then take samples from each plate. It’s like one big Norman Rockwell painting or a movie where everyone has these big dinner parties and life is lively and splashy.
The only problem (well, one of many) is that most people eat in pairs or small groups that are not lively and splashy. Then you have this small table covered with a multitude of plates and there is nowhere to put anything. More often than not the plates have very little food on them, and certainly not enough to “share.” Also, if you’re like me and don’t eat a lot of what others eat, sharing isn’t really that appealing.
Basically the idea, I think, is to sell these “small plates” based on the marketing (you are a group of hip, culturally aware citizens eating together at a fancy restaurant with swiggles all over your plates!), knowing they can charge four times what the same four dishes on one bigger plate would have cost. You look at the menu and think, “Oh, it’s only $8.95 for a dish,” not realizing that it’s $8.95 per side, and you’ll end up paying 36 bucks for a plate of food. And since the portion sizes are smaller than they would have been on a bigger plate (allowing for fancy swizzling of sauce, etc.), you actually end up paying more because of that too. Overall, it’s just a big scam.
There was a restaurant we used to frequent frequently. They have gradually replaced all their meals in this fashion. They claim it gives “more choice” because you can mix and match your side dishes. No. All it does is make the whole enterprise vastly more expensive and the table more cluttered. We don’t like this. We don’t eat there anymore. Good for us and our wallets, bad for them. Or maybe not. Maybe they have other patrons who like the clutter and the cost.
Somehow this went from an observation on “bowls” to a diatribe on small plates. Funny how that goes.
Is it possible for people to admire someone for work they have done without being obsequious about it? Especially someone who has done work that is more famous than is common? It’s as if in an attempt to show respect, they become groveling fools.
I watched a video put out by an author/speaker whose work I admire. He is doing a series of them. I really enjoyed the video. It made me think about some heavy concepts in a new way. Good stuff, I thought. I thought to perhaps write a comment and express my gratitude to the author/speaker in the video. Then I read the other comments at the top of the thread and couldn’t do it. They were all so belly-baring submissive and unctuous, I couldn’t add my words to the list; I could not be so ingratiating and servile. Ick.
Another in the long line of perfect videos, FIRST NAME OF AUTHOR/SPEAKER! You just can’t say anything wrong! Your words are truly powerful! It’s too bad more people don’t agree with you and spread the word! The world would be a better place if everyone did! This is just awesome! Here’s a little anecdote from my own life to show how similar we are. Oh, and I hope you had a wonderful birthday back on December 8 (See? I know your birthday!). What would we do without you?
Find another victim?
The other part of these is the use of the first name of the author/speaker, as if the person is part of a first name relationship with them, and also to add a little story of their own to try and find such a connection. There is also the punctuating of every! single! sentence! with an EXCLAMATION POINT!! Because we are so EXCITED TOO!! A bouncing servility! That’s it.
I went back to the video that led to this diatribe and read through some of the comments for examples. I felt bad for the people writing them. For whatever reason they need to be this way. Who I am to rain on their parade? I realized I’m being snarky. I am. I’ll stop.
Writing is a habit, and I’ve lost my habit. I’m a naked nun. I still have the thoughts I want to write, I just don’t write them. Many circumstances have contributed to this state of affairs: a baby who is now a small child (and heading into being a medium child), a teenager with activities and no driver’s license (but a bus pass, thank goodness) two jobs, two horses (and dogs, cats, and rabbits), a smartphone with Solitaire on it, my own house, a garden (a rather large garden), and books, always so many books (although that never stopped me before I lost the habit).
So here I am, habit-less and not really sure how to get it back because the external circumstances that make finding time to rebuild the habit still remain. Solitaire is easy to ditch, but not so much the rest and some of it I don’t want to ditch (priorities, you know).
Maybe it’s timing. I’ll just have to find the right time and hope I don’t die before that happens, because I do love writing. It is an outlet. It helps me to clarify my thoughts, even in fiction. It’s self satisfying. The urge can be overwhelming when the muse wants out. But it’s like exercise sometimes, and even though I know it’s good for me, and even though I know I’ll feel better after doing it, after slogging through the other tasks I must attend to, and performing the tasks I love attending to, it’s hard to muster the initiative to begin when bed beckons. Plus there is the matter of insomnia, my constant companion. She makes all tasks a slog, even those I love, except sleep. When I urge her to leave, she becomes morose and recalcitrant. How can you want to leave me? she inquires. “Oh, darling,” I reply, “Ours is a love-hate relationship; you love me, and I hate you.”
At this point I will keep it in my sights to build the habit again. I had a bit of trouble finding that verb, build. I typed get into, then erased it. Then I typed work at, and erased it. Build works. I’ll work to build the habit again sometime soon. For now, Oliver my poodle is lying on my shoulder snoring. Isabel has her warm legs pressed against mine, and George is curled near my feet. Insomnia visited for two hours in the wee hours this a.m., and the thought of hunkering down and going back to sleep wins.
Turgid turkeys, strained into rickety
wooden coffins, exit four-by-four from
a ten-ton hearse. Into the turkey mill:
Perspiring hormones, Tom Turkey stares with
one sad eye at a crumbling chimney tower
belching death in putrid smoke, blackening
holiday skies. Annihilating light.
Bodies, bones. None remain unfrozen. With
elaborate precision he’s taken apart;
neck, gizzards tied in a bag between his
ribs, head ground neatly into pink hot dog slabs.
Holiday skies are crowded with turkey souls,
ascending to heaven like deflated balloons.
Did I tell this story already, or did I just compose it in my head and never write it? I started composing it in my head again and it seemed like déjà vu. Weird.
My toilet was leaking. I kept trying to blame the water on the floor near the base on washing my face in the sink next to it or getting out of the bathtub because any time I would notice water on the floor near the base, one of the other two things had happened. Yet somehow I knew that it was more than this. Deep in the recesses of my brain the leaking was there, well, leaking into my consciousness.
The main part of my mind wanted to ignore this. No, it’s not leaking. You just washed your face. You got water all over the basin. See this? Oh, yeah. Okay. Or you just used the toilet after your bath. That’s why the floor is wet. Right. That’s the ticket.
It became undeniable the morning I began cleaning the bathroom and was starting to wipe the base of the toilet off with a sponge to clean it. I knelt down, resting my left hand on the seat lid of the toilet and reaching under to clean. As I did so a splurge of water gushed out from under the base of the toilet.
I pressed the lid again and gush! Out shot another splurge of water. Damn. A leak. It’s a leak.
This meant I was going to have to repair the thing. Pull it off, install a wax ring, clean up the water. Yet while I was thinking Damn! on the one hand, I was also kind of glad on the other. I like fixing things. I like making them better. I hadn’t liked the way the toilet had been installed. Whoever did it did a crappy (isn’t that the perfect adjective for work on a toilet?) job. They didn’t use bolt covers on the bolts. They did a piss poor job of caulking, which was actually a blessing because the water didn’t just sit under the toilet and rot the floor. They also used caulk that was not meant for bathrooms because it was not resisting mildew. I was going to be happy to get rid of this mess.
Aftaer dutifully toddling off to the hardware store to buy a wax ring and new bolts, I turned off the hoses, drained the water, removed the bolts, and lifted the toilet carefully from it’s place. Water seeped everywhere. It really was a good thing this was getting changed. Unlike the last time I changed a toilet and the flooring was too high for the pipe the toilet attached to, this one was level with the floor. Installing would be easy. I scraped up the nasty caulk and cleaned up the old wax. I washed the bottom of the toilet completely and scrubbed out the rest of it in the bathtub. I then went to install the toilet on the base and realized I had purchased the wrong bolts to attach it to the floor. Dang! Back to the hardware store for the correct ones.
While I was at the hardware store, I noticed toilet seat lids. Ours was annoying. It had bolts that constantly came loose. The lid itself was not plastic, but the hinges were and they had broken on one side of each hinge, making the lid rattle and the seat shift when we sat on it. As I stood in the aisle at the hardware store buying the proper bolts, I decided to get a new lid.
I stood staring at the wall of toilet lids on display. I had not realized that there were so many options in toilet lids. Primarily the differences came down to the hinges attaching the lid to the toilet and the ability of the lid to shut without slamming. Hmmm. This seemed an interesting proposition, but an unnecessary one.
I decided on a white wood lid with metal hinges that was about $15. Unfortunately, the store was out of this one except for the display. Dang again. The only other option I liked that was white wood with metal hinges was one that shut without slamming. It cost $35. The other choices were all untenable to me: plastic seats, plastic lids, plastic hinges, or the wrong color or shape. Fine. I’d buy the $35 one.
Back home I installed the lid, finished bolting down the toilet, and cleaned everything up. We dragged the mess of sopping towels to the basement to wash and put away all the tools (my daughter had been helping me with this project).
With the new lid and bolt covers, the toilet looked brand new. No more water seeped from the bottom. We didn’t have to sit down gently to avoid pinching our butts as the seat slid to the side when we sat down. And in spite of my finding such things to be rather silly, I truly liked the lid that didn’t slam. It’s really good, actually.
Overall, the toilet leaking was not a bad thing. I like our “new” toilet. I love it that I can sit on it without worrying about the seat falling off. Water doesn’t ooze out the bottom. There isn’t ugly caulking I have to clean every other day to keep it from looking like someone peed on it. And in the middle of the night when I go to the bathroom, I just close the lid and it shuts softly and quietly. Good times.
The best stuff for wrapping a toe with a ripped off toenail is Leukotape, by far. It’s simply grand.
(This endorsement was not paid for by Leukotape.)
(I wish. Maybe they could give me some. It is kind of expensive.)
(That won’t happen, so don’t get your hopes up.)
This essay can also be found here on Huffington Post.
I woke up too early and made the mistake of looking at Facebook. I had disabled the account for years, but reinstated it because it was how the boarders at my barn communicated, and I needed to be able to communicate with them. The timing couldn’t be worse. The election was right around the corner and everyone was doing that dance. I figured out pretty quickly that I could “hide” a post, so that made it more tolerable when I would go online. The thing about Facebook is that it can be easy to turn to it in times of boredom or whatever. I went for years without doing that, but picked it right back up again when I turned the thing back on. What a mistake.
Since the election is over, most of my feed is filled with people literally freaking out and losing their minds over this election. They are so upset that Trump won, and they’re so fearful of the outcome, they are ruining every moment they are in being upset. Yet some of the people in my feed were posting stuff I agree with, describing just how wretched things would have been with Clinton, too. Scrolling through my feed, I came upon one of these posts and read through it. In this post I discovered something I had not known. I knew the US murdered Gaddafi. I knew the politics surrounding this murder. I knew about Clinton laughing about it.
What I didn’t know was that the man had been sodomized and tortured before he was murdered.
Seriously. This human being. This person. He was SODOMIZED and murdered, and then Clinton laughed about it!! This person took pleasure in the torture and murder of another person. And these people, my “friends,” are all upset about this person not being the president? How could any of these people want this person to be their leader? What is wrong with people? She is just as bad as he is. They are BOTH evil! Why can’t people get this?
I can hear the arguments in support of this murder. He was a dictator! He killed people! He tortured too! My response to them? So what? It doesn’t matter. It DOESN’T matter! He could have been as evil as her, but does this justify and make what was done to him okay? It does not. It simply does not. What he did does not justify doing what was done to him. Just because someone was horrible does not give you a free pass to be horrible, too. To do so is pure hypocrisy.
After sharing the post on Facebook I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. I kept thinking about this sodomization of Gaddafi and it made me horribly, horribly sad. I finally called my night owl friend, Debbie. I knew she would be awake. I said to her, “I read that they did something to Gaddafi’s anus. Is this true?” She told me that it was, that he was sodomized and murdered.
Gaddafi was a human being. Clinton was a huge part of this. She laughed about it, and my friends are upset she didn’t win? She is just as bad as Trump. In fact, she is worse. If she were the President-elect, all my friends would be celebrating and back to business as usual, and more murder would go on in our names.
Trump winning isn’t something to mourn. It’s an opportunity. It’s a chance to look in the mirror and see what responsibility we bear in creating this mess, because we all bear some responsibility. Turning our backs on the actions of our so-called leaders is our responsibility. Ignoring the actions of those who murder in our name is our responsibility. Everything that this country does that we make no effort to know about, the way that the poor are stigmatized and ignored, or kicked to the curb because their tents are in our way is our responsibility. The way this planet is being raped and pillaged and destroyed for the gains of a few is our responsibility. So much and more is our responsibility.
Feeling sad about the “pretty” Obama family leaving the White House? Feeling sentimental and worrying that your new President isn’t “Presidential” enough? Here is a snapshot of what was done in your name by the pretty President while you were busy choosing what car to buy or where to send your kid to preschool:
* Put boots on the ground in Syria , despite 16 times saying “no boots on the ground.”
* Despite campaign pledges, planned a $1 trillion program to add more nuclear weapons to the US arsenal in the next 30 years.
* Started a new war on terror – this one on ISIS.
* Dropped bombs in 7 Muslim countries; and then bragged about it.
* Said, “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”
* Bragged about his use of drones: I’m “really good at killing people.”
* Deported a modern-record 2 million immigrants.
* Signed the Monsanto Protection Act into law.
* Started a new war in Iraq.
* Initiated, and personally oversees a ‘Secret Kill List’.
* Pushed for war on Syria while siding with al-Qaeda .
* Backed neo-Nazis in Ukraine.
* Supported Israel’s wars and occupation of Palestine.
* Deployed Special Ops to 134 countries, compared to 60 under Bush.
* Did a TV commercial promoting “clean coal.”
* Drastically escalated the NSA spying program.
* Signed the NDAA into law, making it legal to assassinate Americans without charge or trial.
* Given Bush absolute immunity for everything.
* Pushed for a TPP Trade Pact.
* Signed more executive memorandums than any other president in history.
* Sold $30 billion of weapons to the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia.
* Signed an agreement for 7 military bases in Colombia.
* Opened a military base in Chile.
* Touted nuclear power, even after the disaster in Japan.
* Opened up deepwater oil drilling, even after the BP disaster.
* Mandated the Insider Threat Program which orders federal employees to report suspicious actions of their colleagues.
* Defended body scans and pat-downs at airports.
* Signed the Patriot Act extension into law.
* Launched 20,000 Airstrikes in his first term.
* Continued Bush’s rendition program.
* Said the U.S. is the “one indispensable nation” in the world.
* Waged war on Libya without congressional approval.
* Started a covert, drone war in Yemen.
* Escalated the proxy war in Somalia.
* Escalated the CIA drone war in Pakistan.
* Sharply escalated the war in Afghanistan.
* Repealed the Propaganda ban, making it legal to spread government propaganda via news outlets.
* Assassinated 4 US citizens with drone strikes.
One they missed was failing to close Guantanamo.
Cry and whine and go lick your perceived wounds, or try to do something different. There is the challenge. Good luck with it.
My daughter and I were leaving New Seasons, the grocery near our house. My angel trailed behind me chatting up everyone she saw. She is such a sparkly little person. A fellow was getting into the car next to mine. She told him she just “loved” his hat, it was so “beautiful,” then she turned on her million dollar smile and waved.
He was enchanted. His face lit up in a smile. He turned to me and said, “Your daughter is a sweetheart. She is just a total sweetheart.” Then he said, “You must be a sweetheart too, to have a sweetheart like her.” Well, that just warmed my heart. I’m truly blessed. I get to have this sweetheart in my life. She does make me sweeter. I’m grateful for her every day.
I was apparently a part of a whirlwind of discussion, and didn’t even know about it. I submitted my essay on Why I’m not Voting to Counterpunch. The next day or the day after I started getting emails through my work website and on this site discussing the article. Someone mentioned it was on Counterpunch. I still never heard from them. Then a couple of days after that, someone told me it was gone. Weird. I searched the internets and it was taken down.
Then a close friend of mine explained the issue. These are her words describing the situation:
“They pulled it because of some vitriolic allegations made on Facebook by a couple of overzealous people claiming to be champions for the fight against plagiarism.
CounterPunch has refused to publish Mark E. Smith’s writing in the past (apparently election boycotting wasn’t as popular to them a few years ago and has grown in popularity because of the current candidates). Most of what Mark writes on this subject he considers “copyleft” material, meaning he wants the information disseminated and he doesn’t care if people use the concepts he’s developed over the years as their own, as long as they truly understand them. The message is far more important to him than who gets credit. Actually, in many cases when writers have cited him as their source, their articles have not been published because Mark has been blacklisted by pro-voting publishers (including many who consider themselves to be radical left publications).
Here is what Mark had to say about the charge of plagiarism regarding my essay:
“Truth is, I’m sure I didn’t originate the idea of voting as consent. Anarchists have been opposed to voting for ages and have many valid reasons, but I hadn’t been aware of all of them because I wasn’t an anarchist. But that is one of their reasons, because if they oppose the state, they don’t participate in the state’s rituals as it would indicate acceptance of the state. I don’t think I had any really new ideas, I just put things together that I had learned. Mostly I put together many of the arguments I had used against political operatives over the years.
Anyway, the whole thing about plagiarism, copyrights, and property rights is part of the disease of capitalism. It doesn’t work. I remember when writers would submit their books to publishers and collect hundreds of rejection slips before getting published, if they ever did. Now people just publish themselves on Kindle and there’s no heartache involved.”
In addition, Mark Smith posted this on his website:
“Lara read my article “You’ve Got to Stop Voting,” and discussed it at length with a friend of mine. She decided to write an article herself and I think she has done a good job of propagating, updating, and clarifying my ideas, and adding her own thoughts and experiences. I hope her article is widely read, as I believe it will appeal to people who wouldn’t read Fubar. Although Lara sometimes uses my words, this is not plagiarism or theft. I have expressly granted blanket permission for anyone to repost my writing with or without attribution. It is impossible to steal what was given to you.”
So for those of you have asked, that’s the story as I know it. To date, Counterpunch has not contacted me. It never told me it published the piece. It never told me it took it down. It never responded to my inquiry asking what was up or explaining my side of things. Essentially, I guess in the world of Counterpunch, I’m just the person who wrote it and therefore require no participation in the matter.
I agree with Mark. I think the ideas need to be out there and we should not worry about who they belong to. Yes, this blog has a Creative Commons license, so I ask that people link back to me if I’m quoted, but as far as the ideas in this or other essays I’ve posted here, spread the word. I wouldn’t mind at all if more people agreed.
My essay got published on Huffington Post. However, I must admit that since they changed their platform, it is much easier to do. All of my prior articles were approved by editors. This time they just published it, so maybe it’s not such a big deal. In any case, I wrote it.
Why I’m Not Voting
by Lara M. Gardner
I used to be a good little Progressive. I was out stumping for the vote, actively pursuing participation by everyone, doing my best to get everyone to work for change. After the 2008 elections, I partied for Barack Obama, I cheered in the streets with millions, certain his election promises would be just what everyone had been waiting for. In spite of some obvious problems staring me right in the face, I believed.
You may continue reading here.
I bought a computer from Happy Hamster after struggling to maintain an old laptop I use for work years past its sell-by date. When it finally crashed, they managed to scrape some material from the hard drive for me. Windows 10 had recently reared its ugly head and, upon hearing my complaint that I did not want a computer with Windows 10 on it, sold me a business-class laptop with Windows 7. I paid more than I would have for something at Costco or the like, but figured with the warranty from HH and Windows 7, what could go wrong?
Plenty, as it turned out. The thing started crashing nearly immediately. I took it into HH. They blamed my anti-virus software, highly rated anti-virus software a close friend has used without issue for years. I removed the anti-virus software. The issues persisted. Blue screen 2-3 times a day. Crashing constantly. I took it in again. And again. And again. Each time, they blamed something in the software, everything BUT the computer (which turned out to be refurbished, not new, but whatever). They tried to sell me their service to seek out dangerous viruses, because that had to be the problem. It couldn’t possibly be that the computer they sold me was a lemon. They finally said they could send it back to the manufacturer, which would take at least a week. Now, maybe all of this wouldn’t be such a problem for some people. Doubtful, but it’s possible. However, I used this computer for work. My livelihood depended on it. In addition, I was in a master’s program and using it for school too. In no way was it possible to be without it for a week. I didn’t have another computer to use as a backup. I didn’t have $800 to throw at another computer. Never once did they offer a loaner or offer an exchange. They just kept shaking their heads and doing really nothing at all.
Finally I took it to another shop who set up another user and charged me $250 to do so, something HH had done during one of my many visits and had not worked. It didn’t work this time either. They also wanted to reinstall Windows, something I would have done, too. However, since the install disks weren’t given to me by HH, neither of us were able to do so without, you guessed it, sending it back to the manufacturer. One thing they did confirm and determine was that none of this was being caused by some big, bad virus, HH’s go-to answer for all I was experiencing. I finally determined I was going to have to suffer through until I really had a week to send it back to the manufacturer.
Nearly a year later, and close to the year warranty deadline, after dutifully backing everything up 20 different ways, I was able to leave the computer for a week while I went on vacation. I took it into HH, gave them the mile-long list of trouble I had been documenting since minute one. (Every time the thing blue screened on me, I would save the report Windows gave of the problem.) When I returned from vacation, it turned out they had not sent it off to the manufacturer, but had reinstalled Windows. I brought the computer home and the blue screen issues had resolved. Yet immediately upon return, any time I booted up the computer, I was shown yet another warning, that my battery capacity was “dangerously low” and that I needed to do something about it. The one day I took the thing off electric power and ran it on the battery, it died within ten minutes. I dashed off an email to HH asking why the battery suddenly had no capacity. I was told that batteries are notoriously iffy that way and I could get a new one for about 40 bucks. This for a battery I had been using less than a year, and mostly plugged in.
I have no faith in Happy Hamster. They might be able to recover lost data for people, but don’t buy their computers. If the computer you buy from them does not work, they will not fix it or replace it. They will give you the runaround and expect you to figure it out alone. If I were reviewing them, I would give them 2 stars instead of 1 only because the one fellow with whom I mostly interacted was extremely sweet and polite. I really liked him. Happy Hamster I don’t like. Not one bit. Today I spent 35 minutes getting into my computer after another, yet ANOTHER blue screen. What a joke.
A long time ago I used to work in the Forest Products office at Oregon State University. I worked with my best friend Debbie, a boss who was so stupid sometimes I wondered if it was possible for someone to be that dumb, and a sociopath named Bonnie. Bonnie was…I can’t even begin to describe her in a single word except to say she was a sociopath. She could and did make life hell for a lot of people. She was also very annoying. She was possibly the most negative person I have ever met. If it was sunny, she complained that it was too hot and should be rainy. If it was rainy, she complained it was raining. If we had work to do, she complained that she had work to do and that she was the only one who could possibly do it. If we didn’t have work to do, then she complained because she was bored. She didn’t like her chair. She would get another chair and wouldn’t like it and go back to the original and then complain about it. She had gossip to share on every single person who walked in our door and even those who didn’t. It was a guarantee that as soon as you left the room she was dishing something about you and turning anything you did into something to complain about and to use to make you look bad. The only consolation with her was that she was an equal-opportunity sociopath so if she didn’t have her sights set on you, she was going after someone else and there were a lot of other people for her to choose from.
Most of the time I worked with Bonnie was pure hell. Six months after I started working in the lab, I was wondering if I was crazy. Between the boss who couldn’t figure out how to explain the most basic assignments to this constantly complaining crazy woman who had something nasty to say about every human who walked into the office, I seriously thought I was losing my mind. Luckily, I made friends with Debbie and discovered that no, I wasn’t nuts, the office was. She helped me stick it out (until I got pregnant and realized I didn’t want the loony factory anywhere near my growing fetus, but that’s another story).
Sometimes working with Bonnie could be fun. It wasn’t fun because of anything Bonnie did to make it fun, but because Debbie and I could see what she was doing and it would make us roll our eyes and laugh silently from behind our hands on our lunch break. Bonnie fancied herself the sexiest woman in the office and made a great show of throwing herself at every male who walked through the door. This got to be quite amusing, especially when the male was a 20 something grad student from India or Pakistan who had no idea that what she was doing was supposed to turn him on. Many of the older, white, male professors got off on her attention, which could be kind of gross (especially the one who was married to a disabled wife with MS), but Debbie and I could still find things about this situation that made us laugh.
The lab would periodically hold grad thesis presentations whereby the student would make their presentation to faculty and other students, followed by a small reception with doughnuts and other refreshments. Prior to these events, an announcement was to be made by our office notifying everyone on our floor that the presentation and reception would be taking place. Bonnie LOVED doing this and would literally race to the microphone to make sure she got to be the one to make the announcement. She would snarl something or other to us about how “The goddamned printer isn’t working again! The piece of shit must be out of ink or something.” Then she would turn to the microphone, sexily flip her hair behind her shoulders, lean in and grasp the microphone and breathily intone, “At four o’clock this afternoon, which is in just fifteen minutes (breath, breath, breath), there will be a presentation by Rakesh Akbahr, on the role of stress-strain on the physical transformations that occur (breath) during the cure of thermosetting adhesive-to-wood bonds (breath, breath, breath). After that (breath) there will be a reception in the Buchanon room, where refreshments will be served.” She’d then flop back down in her rolling desk chair and screech at us again, “Goddamned rain. It was supposed to be sunny today.
Debbie and I could laugh and laugh at these displays (out of the office, of course).
Bonnie told us she was an expert on everything. She said she had a degree in forestry, as well as a degree in nursing, and in English, and several others I no longer remember. No matter what came up that required some knowledge by someone in the office, she was in competition to be the top person in that knowledge and she usually had a degree to go along with it. Debbie and I would wonder to ourselves why she wasn’t putting these degrees to good use somewhere considering how underappreciated and underpaid she was sharing an office with us. It is because of Bonnie’s expertise that I even bring her up in this post today. I earned a Juris Doctorate degree in 2003. Then last year, I completed a Master’s in Teaching so that I could transition out of being a lawyer and become a teacher instead.
Last week, I had a conversation with someone, the content of which really isn’t that important. In the course of the conversation, the person I was speaking to was telling me another person had complained about something and that they had to complain because they were a teacher and as a teacher, they were required to complain. This puzzled me because I knew that the thing about which this person was supposedly required to complain was not required of teachers, so I said to the person I was speaking to, “I am a teacher, and that is not actually true.” He looked at me rather consternatedly (now there’s a word) as if to say, “Huh? I thought you were a lawyer?” because in another conversation on another day, he had asked me what kind of work I did and at the time he asked, I told him I was a lawyer, so my saying that I was a teacher on this new occasion was probably a bit odd to him.
I was like Bonnie and her multitude of unrelated degrees. I don’t have a multitude of unrelated degrees, I only have a couple of them. There is my undergraduate degree in English, then there is the lawyer degree, then there is the teacher degree. So I have several degrees and they are mostly unrelated. This got me to thinking about Bonnie and my time in the Forest Products lab so many years ago — twenty years ago actually, is when I started. I’ve stayed friends with Debbie. She came to the birth of my baby and probably knows me better than any other friend.
A lot has happened since then. I wonder now, with my handful of unrelated degrees, if maybe Bonnie really did have a forestry degree and an English degree and a nursing degree, and maybe perhaps something happened that she didn’t need to work in those fields at all. I don’t know. I can’t remember her last name so I can’t look her up (even if I wanted to, which, true told, I really don’t).
If I did look her up, I would find her and tell her I’m sorry for doubting her many educational accomplishments and let her know that I too now have many educational accomplishments. We could get a coffee and reminisce and I could tell her how funny I thought it was when she made the sexy forest products announcements and she could tell me how much she hates the weather and the coffee in the coffee shop we meet in and the chairs in the coffee shop and make googly eyes at the male patrons and…
On second thought, maybe not.
Modern civilization’s poisons do not agree with me. They make my skin itch, my nose and lungs snort and sneeze, my toenails crumble, my brain refuse to sleep, my body react in rashes and aches and all assortment of physiological responses. My body says, No! to the way things are.
I do the dances necessary to avoid these things. I turn up my nose at edible food-like substances pretending they are something I would want to ingest. I do not use lotions and potions and other chemicals in an effort to avoid one of those dratted physiological responses. I don’t drink alcohol because it makes my stomach ill and my head hurt. I don’t take drugs (including “legal” ones) because my body yells at me when I do. I don’t eat meat, or vegetables with chemicals on them. I don’t wear metal because it makes me itch.
I do ALL OF THESE THINGS and AVOID ALL THE BAD THINGS, yet I still, still! have reactions to the world around me because in spite of my controlling all the things I can control, there is still oh, so much that is outside of my control and damn it if my body doesn’t react to that crap, too. What the hell is a person supposed to do? How do we get away when the dominant culture doesn’t give a shit if your body reacts to the garbage they are dumping into the atmosphere and onto the surface of the earth and into its waters? They have even co-opted the attempts to avoid by making “detoxification” something one can pay for as well. Here, let’s poison you, and we’ll charge you to do it, and then, Here, let’s detoxify you, and we’ll charge you for that as well. (This ensures you stay on the treadmill this system has created to keep you a slave and take your life. (We’ll let you pretend that your life is your own, but we know better.))
I suppose the only thing that I can do is to keep avoiding as much as I can and be like the rest of the non-human world that has to contend with us and our ways, hiding under my rock or in my nest. Outer space simply isn’t an option.
I found an old diary today. Well, not that old. I haven’t written in it in a year. I thumbed through some old entries and had the odd feeling of finding no familiarity with the feelings in what I had written. The words were the same words I know I had written for years and years, but I felt no kinship with them. Somehow I have been pressed into another place where I no longer feel the way I did for so long. I don’t know if this is a good thing or not. Maybe it doesn’t require a judgment; maybe it just is. The diary was full of loneliness. For so long, decades even, loneliness was a mantle I wore on my back, hanging there, heavy and woolen. Even among friends, I felt it, but I just don’t anymore. Nothing has changed in my external world to fill in this blank. If anything, I have fewer friends and acquaintances than ever. I just don’t feel lonely. I love spending time with my daughters, my dogs, my horse, and our other pets, and that’s enough. In fact several times I’ve been offered the opportunity to go out and socialize and when I do, I find myself wanting to be back with the family. When I have turned down opportunities, I am glad.
Lately, I’ve had such a single minded thought focus that all else has really fallen away. I live my daily life. I’m not obsessing or anything. It’s just I know where I want to be and it’s where I’m going. I feel like I’ve been on a very long backpacking trip. Near the beginning of backpacking trips I’m always fresh and raring to go. Then at some point it gets tiring. Then I settle in and just walk, not really paying attention to the physical irritations, and somehow becoming one with the land and the landscape, a part of the trees and earth and plants, and all of it. This is how I feel lately in my life, like I’ve reached that blending place, and looking back at how I was for so long seems silly and pointless.
Interestingly, as I have settled into this place, I have felt very little desire to write here. It used to be that I had the desire, but didn’t have the time. When I had time, I had a hard time coming up with something to write because my life was so full, my brain didn’t have time to come up with anything new and interesting to say.
Lately though, I have thoughts that seem very interesting, but I have little desire to share them. I think them. I mull them over. I consider what I would say if I wrote them down, then I don’t, because I don’t need to. It has been a very long time since I have felt the desire to broadcast my thoughts to the wide world. My aging ego. It really has no need to be front and center any more.
Anyway, that’s it for now. For whatever reason, I felt like writing today. Nothing profound, just an urge. Maybe it was the diary. I don’t know.
Dogs can be naughty. I have one dog in particular, George, who vacillates between extremely well-behaved and extremely naughty. When he’s good, he’s very, very good, but when he’s bad, he is so naughty that I want to hang him by his little feet and shake him.
He is the absolute best sit-and-wait dog. My other two dogs eat special dog food and eat it in the kitchen, their little bowls side by side. George, in full Dr. Jekyll mode, waits patiently in the dining room, sitting and waiting until they are done so he can go and lick their empty bowls. He waits until I tell him it is okay for him to go in and erase any possible molecules remaining from their breakfast. He stays sitting there even if I leave the room. He also is the first to run to his kennel when I call out, “Dogs! Kennels!” because we are leaving to go somewhere. When he is being Dr. Jekyll, he is an extremely well-behaved dog.
But George has another side, a more precocious side, his Dr. Hyde side, a side that is quite devilish. Since he has become an adult dog, he is much less inclined to do things like open the closet and remove the box of brand new loafers from Germany that cost over a hundred dollars and chew them up (he did this as a puppy), or open the bathroom door and eat an entire roll of toilet paper (also done as a puppy). Yet in spite of the fact that he is less inclined to do such things, it doesn’t mean they don’t happen.
A couple of weeks ago Milla and I decided to take the dogs with us while we ran to Costco. Along the way, we realized we were starving and stopped and picked up some sandwiches from a Mediterranean restaurant. They were oh, so delicious. George and Oliver and Betsy stood salivating in the back seat. We gave them several nibbles each because it just didn’t seem fair to eat in front of them without at least sharing some small morsels.
We didn’t finish eating our sandwiches before we got to Costco so we simply wrapped them up and put them into the glove box. We had also gotten a side of hummus, and we put this into the console between the seats. We did this so that there would be sandwiches for us to finish when we returned from our quick jaunt into the store. We dutifully removed the trash bin I keep in the back seat, as we always do when we leave George in the car because he has been known to chew it even when it is empty, and opened the windows so air would flow (luckily the summer has been extremely mild here and it was cool enough to leave the canines in the car). Off we toddled into the Costco to get a few supplies for our impending trip to a lovely lake in Washington.
We returned to catch George in the act of doing this:
This was the console lid. He had attempted to open the console but was not successful. The hummus was still there, but George had certainly done a number on the car. We were leaving in the morning to go visit a lake in the woods. George ensured we got to go on this trip with the inside of the car looking like it had been attacked by a much bigger dog than George is. He knew immediately that he was in trouble. The moment Milla stood by the cracked window and said, “Oh. My. God.” George jumped into the back seat and then over the back seat into the way back. Luckily the retractable tonneau cover was retracted. As a puppy, George had chewed our prior car’s tonneau cover, making it impossible to retract. I learned after that to make sure the cover was fully retracted before leaving him in the car. Up and over the seat he went, landing with a thud.
We spent the next two and a half weeks driving around with our shredded glove box and console cover. Once we got home from the lake, I spent some time online finding new parts on eBay. I found a brand new console cover for $60, and used glove box doors for $75. The glove box doors arrived a couple of days ago. They were actually two full top and bottom glove boxes, I just took the doors off of them to reuse. They had obviously been part of a car that had been sitting out and getting dirty because they were absolutely filthy. Today, the console cover arrived. I unpacked it and immediately went to work figuring out how to install everything myself. It was my hope that I could figure it all out so I wouldn’t have to shell out even more money to pay someone to install them. Luckily, I was able to do this and now our car looks like its old self again. In the end, those sandwiches cost us $135, dang dog!
Here is the car post installation. I’m grateful I was able to do it myself. Thanks, George, for keeping me on my toes and my skills sharp. And now we know, no more sandwiches in the glove box or hummus in the console, at least not with George around!
My brain feels as if it has lost the capacity to write. In the lack of practice, I have lost an ease that allowed me to sit and compose and produce something of substance within a rather short amount of time. Having gone from being compressed most moments to actually having some freedom of time, I have not adapted. My brain doesn’t get it. It’s like something that has been squished into a package for so long it retains the shape long after the package has gone. I’ve gone hiking several times, went on a 3-day backpacking trip, have been riding really regularly and reading actually quite a lot, and still the brain is only gradually unscrunching itself. It’s not sure what to do. I suppose I’ll have to get into practice again. Perhaps if I write tidbits like this one I’ll get there. As it is, right now I just want to brush my teeth and crawl into bed with my three dogs.
I’ve been reading a bit about entropy. One definition said that nature tends from order to disorder in isolated systems. I think the key words are “isolated systems.” We simply aren’t isolated systems. The planet is one system, and we are all a part of it. Unfortunately, most people don’t see the earth as a single living thing, but see humans and all the other things on it as separate and isolated. I don’t agree with this premise. I see earth as one living thing. Also unfortunately, I see humans on earth as replications of cancer within organic bodies. Too many of us growing on the earth as self and taking it over to the point of destruction. We are creating entropy by making systems that should not be isolated into isolated systems that can then break down. Perhaps some would say we are creating systems that can be arranged in more ways, and therefore creating entropy? Or perhaps it’s just nature’s way to move into multiplicity and therefore entropy and that perhaps we weren’t supposed to be a single system, and the law of entropy exists in the planet as a whole and we are just a part of that?
I don’t think this is how it should be, but since this is how it is, then perhaps it is how it should be, because if it shouldn’t be this way, then wouldn’t it not be this way? Is it possible to have something be that should not be?
I don’t know the answer to these questions.
I realized today thinking about writing this that I have not had television in my home in over a decade. I have not missed it, and in fact whenever I’m around it, it makes me jumpy. I do not like it. It’s invasive and disconnecting. This is interesting considering what I was thinking about writing about, which is this feeling of disconnection at the end of a long, extremely busy period.
Over the last several weeks, I have found myself noticing things and thinking to myself, “How did I forget about that?” I would see tire marks in some mud along a curb with bits of gravel smudged into it, or a brown bird sitting on a wire cheeping, or thick grass swaying in the wind and rain, and I would stare at whatever thing it was in that moment and marvel, wondering, “How could I forget this?” After a time I started putting these noticings together and became curious as to their origin. “What is wrong with me?” I’m running too much, going too fast, too disconnected from the world. How did I forget the way that the color of the bark on a tree is darker and lighter, the depth of hue changing with the texture in the tree’s outer covering?
One afternoon driving home from the high school where I have been student teaching, I was sitting at a traffic light waiting for it to turn green when I turned and noticed a car sitting next to me also waiting for the light to turn. The car was older and kind of dirty. Faded mud streaked the metal behind the front wheel well. The tire had no hub cap. I glanced inside the passenger side window and saw faded upholstery. The sun was warm and I could imagine the smell inside that car. I sat there in those moments staring, and it was as if time had slowed down. Again, I had that sense of remembering, recalling this physical thing and thinking, “I forgot that, too.”
It dawned on me then that I was disconnected from earth. Before I began this grad program, I would have days where I felt like I was running and getting nowhere, usually related to driving to picking up my daughter, then driving to get the other daughter, then driving to get to some activity, then driving to go see my horse, then driving home, hastily throwing together a meal while picking up the house, taking care of the pets and children, setting things up for the following morning, then doing it all again. But there would be time in between this when I could reconnect, get back in the garden, head out into the woods for a hike, or spend enough time at the stable that I could pull the string holding my balloon head out from my body and drag it down and reconnect it to myself again, like an astronaut connecting the helmet to her spacesuit. Turn and click.
The master’s degree on top of that changed everything. I added days of classes on top of student teaching on top of working on top of parenting and animals. Activities got whittled down to nothing. My horse got almost no attention from me. Writing all but disappeared.
And here I am now and the string holding my head is long and thready. I am not attached to my body. I am not grounded. I feel like I’m falling apart. My attention has gone to hell. I want a vacation, but that would require more effort than I can muster. As was always the case in the past when I had long periods of intensity and then a break, I am getting sick. Today is my last day of student teaching and I can barely keep my head up. Three weeks ago I sprained my ankle. Last week I fell down my basement stairs. I am so disconnected, my body is just going on without my head and it’s not a good thing.
For me, television puts me in this place without even having to have grad school on top of an already too busy life. It makes me feel that same disconnection. I really hate it. I wonder if it disconnects other people as well, but they’re too disconnected to notice it. I’m sure it does. We are a society of bodies running around with no heads.
Yesterday I had acupuncture followed by a chiropractic adjustment. I needed both. Usually in acupuncture, I fall into a semi-comatose sleep that leaves me dazed but reconnected. I never got there. My daughter was in the appointment with me, and while she was somewhat distracting, it was more the head rest that was just uneven enough from the table to hurt the neck and shoulder that already hurt after my tumble down the stairs. My gown kept falling off my right butt cheek and the chill wasn’t pleasant. My nose filled then dripped. Isabel got me a tissue. I reached around with my less needled arm and stuffed it into the dripping nostril. This made my face fill, pressure building under my eyes and through my cheeks. All of this coupled with the uncomfortable head rest kept was so disagreeable that I finally gave up, pulling the tissue out and letting the mucous fall on the floor. Drip. Drip. Drip. I let the head feel misery in the face rest. I held my arm out to an angle to relieve the ache in the shoulder. I let my ass freeze in the air conditioning always too cold.
Lying there, I realized that I cannot remain this disconnected. I have to slow down. I can’t live in a city where the traffic app on my phone is solid red every single night and getting anywhere takes four times as long as it should. There are too many humans in this same state and I fear that too many of them are not even aware that they are zombies with helium heads. It’s scary for me imagining being in a place where so many people are so cut off from themselves and the earth they inhabit. It makes it easier for them to do things thoughtlessly with all the other zombies in their path. We are all a bunch of crazy pinballs banging into one another, the strings from our heads getting tangled and torn. It’s no way to live. Something has to give or the giving will be me. I’ll be at the end of my life, my children will be grown, and I’ll have no idea what happened along the way.
I’ve written other online essays, but most of them came before I realized just how rigged for this imperialist empire everything is, and now I find them frankly somewhat embarrassing. I was taking sides as part of the empire and making my case. I guess I should be grateful to Mr. Obama for slashing those beliefs. I bought the marketing behind the “Hope” campaign. I cheered in the streets one cold November night in 2008. I really thought there would be change. What a laugh. The saddest part is watching my friends continue to participate in the charade, ignoring what is right in front of them rather than admit how enmeshed in imperialism we all are. If a reader happens to stumble upon this blog and reads old posts from those days, it’s likely they will find me to be a good progressive, out there doing the dirty work for the empire, oblivious. There are also old Huffington Post essays that can be accessed here. Just please realize, my views have changed.
Whoever it was that decided to change the time every six months was a sadistic and cruel human.
Don’t talk to me about sustainability. You want to question my lifestyle, my impact, my ecological footprint? There is a monster standing over us, with a footprint so large it can trample a whole planet underfoot, without noticing or caring. This monster is Industrial Civilization. I refuse to sustain the monster. If the Earth is to live, the monster must die. This is a declaration of war.
What is it we are trying to sustain? A living planet, or industrial civilization? Because we can’t have both.
Somewhere along the way the environmental movement – based on a desire to protect the Earth, was largely eaten by the sustainability movement – based on a desire to maintain our comfortable lifestyles. When did this happen, and why? And how is it possible that no-one noticed? This is a fundamental shift in values, to go from…
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Portland is so friendly. There is a show about how hip and nice everyone is. Lots of people are moving here. But shhh, don’t mention that the livability everyone raves about is virtually gone. Rents are sky high. Traffic is abominable. Food prices remain stagnantly high even though the price of gas has been consistently low for years. Jobs are scarce and wages are below national averages, but hey! We have a great t.v. show named after us and that’s just swell, right? If we told the truth about how Portland really is, all the people who think it is so wonderful might not make the move and the city “leaders” would lose all that commerce kickback and that would be bad. Other Americans watch the special show and see the Subarus at the stop signs waving one another through, and the friendly restaurant customers making sure they know the chicken’s history before they will eat it, and think Oh! I want to be in a place like this!
Let me you in on a little secret: It’s all an act. Portlanders aren’t really so friendly; they just want you to think they are friendly. It’s friendliness for an audience: I’ll speak really loudly in the grocery store offering you the cantaloupe we both reached for so everyone knows how friendly I really am; I’ll wave through the car in front of me so all the cars at the stop sign can see I’m friendly while ignoring the 18 cars stuck behind me; I’ll drive really slowly behind the bike in the middle of the road going 4 miles per hour because Hey! I’m chill with with it. Nevermind that the biker isn’t friendly at all and will chase you down and flip your ass off if you dare go around him because “sharing the road” means people driving cars are all assholes who deserve to die while bikers are revered Gods who can do whatever they want. They get a pass from the courtesy rules of Portland because they are riding bikes and that is better for the planet, right?
If I seem sarcastic (and how could I not, because I am being incredibly sarcastic), it is because I have lived in Oregon my entire life and Portland off and on since 1988 and I know that the marketing campaign that paints Portland as it is is complete bullshit. I’ve known this for years. Anyone who has lived here most of their adult life knows it is bullshit. We talk about it being bullshit. So why now am I suddenly discussing the bullshit on my blog?
I live in the Overlook neighborhood of north Portland. I don’t live in the Overlook neighborhood proper overlooking the ridge for which the neighborhood gets its name. I live over toward Arbor Lodge. It is less ostentatious, more racially diverse, and less economically advantaged over here, but that is changing rapidly.
Mine is currently a BadAss neighborhood. A few years ago, some guys made a Portland Badassness Map. They put together all the little things they thought made the different neighborhoods in Portland cool and hip, that is Badass. See it here. My neighborhood is moving up that list. I think their criteria included the ability to walk to bars, beers, food carts, strip bars, and coffee, but really it comes down to the most gentrified and expensive. (They could have sorted it by which neighborhood had cast out the most poor and colored people and replaced them with white educated people and it would have kept the same parameters. The Pearl (and these italics are so that the name is stated with a hint of sarcasm) is a “Hella Badass” neighborhood, the Pearl being the most stolen-from-the-poor-and-given-to-the-rich-neighborhood of all and one of the reasons all those people keep flooding in.)
I realize that in my neighborhood I am one of the gentrifiers. I didn’t know I was doing it when I did it. I just wanted a house I could afford and when I bought my tiny little house that had been a rental for 20 years I had no idea that my neighborhood would soon be a hotbed of coolness and that the value of my house would nearly double within three years, but such is the nature of gentrification. One of the things I valued about the neighborhood when I bought it was the fact that there were many brown faces walking by. Lately, the brownness is disappearing. I also valued the fact that all of the children in my daughter’s school weren’t wealthy. I’ll bet that will disappear too as the prices continue to climb.
But I digress. I was on a rampage about the Overlook Neighborhood Association. I never did go there, did I?
So I live in the Overlook neighborhood and there is an Overlook Neighborhood Association. They hold meetings and print a paper that is favorable to building ugly cement monstrosities along Interstate Avenue that don’t fit with the character of the city or the neighborhood. Basically, I think they may be a bunch of rich assholes who moved here from somewhere else. All of the meetings have been when I have either had to work or could not find a babysitter so I haven’t gone, though it is my goal to attend one, especially since they have decided to vehemently oppose the homeless camp at the bottom of the overlook ridge. They claim they would like the camp to be “managed responsibly,” but really that just means they want to move them out. Here is a quote from one of the emails I get from the association:
The Overlook Neighborhood Association Board at its monthly meeting on Tuesday discussed the homeless camps at N Greeley Avenue near N Interstate Avenue. Board members expressed particular concern that the city has neither communicated with the neighborhood nor followed through on its promises to manage the camp responsibly.
Therefore, the Board today sent the following letter to Mayor Charlie Hales and members of City Council asking that the city immediately close the camp, exercise emergency authority to open humane shelters throughout the city, and help campers relocate into them or other more suitable places.
Yes. Get them out of here. We don’t like the way they are, all homeless and whatnot, because homeless people don’t act like we do. They live in tents and are dirty and all that. They pee outside! So we want you to shut them away somewhere else. If you can’t do that, then we will just have to do this:
About 75 people attended the Overlook Neighborhood Association special meeting on Wednesday to discuss the homeless camps on N Greeley Avenue near N Interstate Avenue. The OKNA Board heard from a couple of representatives of Hazelnut Grove and about two dozen neighborhood residents. They provided thoughtful, compassionate ideas about how the neighborhood association should respond to the current city plans for the homeless campers.
After the neighborhood testimony, the board discussed the options and voted to take two steps in parallel:
First, we will send a letter to the city reiterating our opposition to allowing the camp to exist on a site that is unhealthy and unsafe. If, over the neighborhood’s objection, the city chooses to issue a permit for the camp, we request that it include provisions that will address concerns raised by neighbors and will improve health and safety for all. Among them, we will ask:
That campers be required to register under their legal name as residents so that the city and neighbors know who is living there. That there be a cap on the number of campers allowed. That a firm deadline be established by which the camp will shut down no later than the expiration of the city’s emergency declaration in October 2016. The mayor’s office has repeatedly stated that this is a temporary, short-term solution. It’s time to define what that means. The full letter and list of requests is in the works. It should be available early next week. The Board will post it to the OKNA website and send it out to our email list.
Second, we will consult with an attorney regarding our legal options to address the city’s plans through litigation if necessary. We remain deeply disappointed that the city has refused to engage with us in any meaningful way and regret that legal action seems to be the only course forward to have our concerns addressed by the city.
Essentially, this is the thoughtful and compassionate view of my neighbors who care: that we get to know everyones’ names (even though we don’t know all of our own neighbors’ names, but hey, homeless people are all criminals), they have to leave by next year (because money and jobs are plentiful in beautiful Portland and they block our view), and since you haven’t done what we want all along, we are hiring a lawyer to sue your asses and send those skanky homeless people packing. They ruin our view of the industrial wasteland along the river! But if we say we are compassionate, we are, and that’s what counts, right?
The City of Portland gave Hyatt Hotels something millions of city dollars to build an ugly hotel by the convention center so more people could come and stay here before moving here and making the city ever less livable by the second and so that the NBA would hold an all star game here, because THAT is important (more traffic, more people, more homeless hidden away in outer Gresham or somewhere). The City cares about its rich friends who build hotels. They are busy! They are important! They invest! The City is too busy being busy and important to be spending the money of its gentrified citizens making sure that people without money have a warm and dry place to live or food in their bellies. Most of those gross homeless people are probably mentally ill too, so the truly compassionate thing to do would be to just kill them because they aren’t able to fully participate in the capitalist dream anyway. Although I did discover in attempting to find links to back up this claim that there are lawsuits trying to block the payment to Hyatt. I am heartened that some people can see that it is fully insane, but my cynical self supposes it has less to do with any real compassion and more to do with hubris.
Meanwhile, in Iran, part of the Axis of Evil, residents have created spaces where those in need can take the excess from those who have too much. See the BBC article here. These spontaneous charity drives were created to help those in need. Interestingly, as these charity walls increased in number, the citizens saw them as evidence that their government wasn’t doing enough to help people in need. Imagine that, expecting those who govern us to take care of everyone rather than making sure their views aren’t sullied or that hoteliers have a free rein to build.
I can see such walls popping up in Portland. However, here citizens would not see such charity as proof of lack by their government, but as proof of how good we are. We could make a Portlandia episode out of it. Portland, the do-gooder city, gets rid of its old clothes and helps out the poor! Aren’t we wonderful? Why don’t you move here and join us? When you get here, make sure to kick out the homeless people you probably displaced when you drove up the costs of living because such an eyesore would ruin the image you have created of yourself as friendly and compassionate. Welcome!
Isn’t it interesting when someone who says something hateful follows it up after criticism by saying that they have a “right to free speech,” as if that gives them a blanket right to be ugly.
I’d respond that just because you have the right to speak doesn’t mean you have to nor does it make your nastiness right. Being free to do something doesn’t suddenly exonerate yourself from being truthful or decent.
Here again, my annual posting of the sonnet I wrote in college about turkey murder on our holiday. I’ve gone back and tried again and again to get the exact syllabic format for a completely proper sonnet, but could not find words to replace those here that would maintain the imagery and metaphoric content that I want, and so it stays the same.
Turgid turkeys, strained into rickety wooden coffins, exit four-by-four from a ten-ton hearse. Into the turkey mill: mutilation, holocaust.
Perspiring hormones, Tom Turkey stares with one sad eye at a crumbling chimney tower belching death in putrid smoke, blackening holiday skies. Annihilating light.
Bodies, bones. None remain unfrozen. With elaborate precision he’s taken apart; neck, gizzards tied in a bag between his ribs, head ground neatly into pink hot dog slabs.
Holiday skies are crowded with turkey souls, ascending to heaven like deflated balloons.
“There was only one time in US history when refugees actually did wipe everyone out—and we’ll be celebrating it on Thursday.” — John Oliver
My crises are always internal. I doubt most who see me would notice the turmoil in my own head. I look like I’m just there, but I am an illusion. My own illusion. We are all our own illusions. Some of us are maintaining our crises internally, while others’ are out like sheets on a line flapping in the wind.
Just because someone can’t imagine that so much of creation is random doesn’t mean that it isn’t random. One’s lack of imagination doesn’t change how it is.
Let it go. Let it go, let it go, let it go. Let it go.
I am a flawed human being. Perhaps any efforts to mold myself to the contrary are pointless; it isn’t possible to exist without flaw. The question is how much effort I should continue to expend or if I should just accept this level of flaw and leave it at that. Sometimes I feel worn out with the effort and not much in the way of reward.
I don’t know.
Cookies are yummy!
I have heard the expression If wishes were horses. I don’t know where I heard this. I am resisting googling this before I write so my writing is not colored by whatever I find on the internets. I keep thinking that if wishes were horses, there would not be enough room on the planet to sustain all of them. And also that wishing and wishing and wishing does not make something true. Desire, desire, desire leads to wishing, wishing, wishing. If every wish were a horse this would be a very strange planet. And what about the horses themselves? Perhaps they are wishing too. What then?
For me, if wishes were horses, there would be a herd indeed.
I did do an internets search and found out that it comes from an old proverb. Horses can be interchanged with birds and fishes. This proverb is recorded in English from quite an early date. A version of the expression appeared in the published works of William Camden in the 17th century. The first known citation of the proverb in the form we now know it is in James Carmichaell’s Collection of Proverbs in Scots:
If wishes were horses, beggers wald ryde.
The date of Carmichaell’s work is unclear, but it does appear to have been published in his lifetime and he died in 1628. Whether it was Carmichaell or Camden who first recorded the proverb is currently not known.
I wonder if this means that beggars didn’t get to ride horses in those days. This should not surprise me. Owning a horse is an expensive proposition. Capitalism would have ensured that those at the bottom of the food chain did not own a horse, which requires food and shoeing and a place to live. No, beggars would not have ridden.
Okay, stream of consciousness, too early because I can’t sleep post is over. Suffice to say, for me, if wishes were horses, I wald haft love.
I have the most profound ideas in the shower. Then I have to get out of the shower and run and I don’t get to stop running until those profound ideas are pebbles and grits of dust on the floor, obliterated.
Children, school, work, horse, dogs, friends all are taking me in bits and pieces in the edges and around corners. Live this life right now one day at a time, the theory being that at some point when I’m living these moments one day at a time focusing on one thing in that moment I won’t be neglecting ten others. This isn’t really living in the moment now because it is done with the hope for the future in mind; it’s bearing each moment now. Taking smiles when I can get them because most of the time it’s consternation and dismay.
The profound thought I had in the shower this morning was that I left myself off that list. I don’t even rank. I decided I would rank for three minutes while I wrote this one tiny thought down.
How come kitchen sponges are smelly?
I made a discovery about stinky sponges. I’ve always make a point of squeezing all the water out of a dish sponge so that it doesn’t sit and fester and smell. When I used to have a dishwasher, I would wash the sponge in it periodically to disinfect it with hot water. I have also sprayed the stinky sponge with bleach, which I don’t like to do because it gets a toxic chemical near our dishes.
For a few years now though the sponges in our house have not been stinky. I attributed this to vigilant sponge squeezing. We also have a little rack that hangs on the side of the sink to put the sponge in so it doesn’t sit stewing in water. The sponge used to really smell when I lived with my ex who would leave it in a puddle in the bottom of the sink. We’ve been apart for over five years now and the sponge hasn’t smelled since then. Keep it dry, keep it on the side of the sink. Problem solved, or so I thought.
Then I made an interesting discovery.
For the longest time, I purchased mainstream dish washing liquid like Dawn™. When I moved back home to Portland and was able to shop again at New Seasons, I started buying more environmentally friendly soaps that smelled really good like Mrs. Meyers Clean Day™. Oh, I love that soap. It’s not much more expensive than the mainstream stuff and it smells so delicious.
One day, we ran out of dish washing soap and I was at some store that isn’t New Seasons buying who knows what. The store didn’t have any options for dish washing soap other than mainstream brands. I bought a jug of Dawn™ and didn’t think much of it. It doesn’t smell pretty like Mrs. Meyers™, but we were out of soap and it was there so I bought it. I thought little of it beyond that.
Then a couple of weeks later, I realized that no matter how much I squeezed out our sponge, it smelled. Bad. I couldn’t figure why until I remembered the dish washing liquid change and wondered if this was what caused the smell to return so I decided to try an experiment.
I bought some more of the Mrs. Meyers™ environmentally friendly soap and started using it instead of the Dawn™. I did this for a week and the smelly sponge went away. I used the Dawn™ again for a week. The smelly sponge returned.
Smelly sponges have nothing to do with how much water you squeegy out of them, they smell because of the detergent used to wash dishes. I have no doubt of this. I’ve tried a variety of different soaps including Trader Joe’s dish washing soap. No smell. Biocleen™. No smell. J.R. Watkins™. No smell. Seems to be the Dawn™ that makes the sponge smelly for whatever reason.
I still have the jug of Dawn™ under my sink way in the back. It’s there because I’m not sure how to dispose of it without putting it in a landfill and somehow that feels as bad as dumping chemicals in a landfill. I’m sticking with the good stuff. Dawn™ might “cut grease” but God only knows what else it’s doing that it allows bacteria to fester in the dish sponge and make it smell like old feet. Yuck. No, thank you.
Love wins today. Love always wins. In this moment, there is love. The fear I feel from these fires is filled with love for this earth. The earth is us and we have eaten her like a cancer, eaten ourselves.
Our city was covered in smoke today blown in from wildfires in eastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. The entire Willamette Valley was covered in smoke. This fills me with sadness and dismay. I awakened because I needed to go to the bathroom. My room was stuffy because during the day Saturday the girls closed out the smoke. When I went to bed I didn’t reopen the window. When I awakened, the room felt stuffy so I opened the window to let in some fresh air. The breeze blowing in was crisp and smelled fresh. No smoke. But it got me thinking about the smoke and fires, awakened me. I looked on the internets and read stories about the smoke and fires and wept.
We are killing our planet, humans. We have to face reality. These fires. This water shortage. This changed summer that is like nothing we have ever experienced. These heat waves over and over and over. 2 degrees Celsius average increase means temperatures of 130 degrees. Can you live with that?
We are taking something so beautiful and killing it for our convenience. What have we gained? What has industrialization gained us? We have less time to spend together than ever before. We live in boxes separated from one another and stare at screens in our hands and on our desks instead of looking at one another and what do we get from it? Our planet burns. It sweeps water from the oceans across the land. We are destroying species at rates unheard of for millions of years. Yes, it is us. For convenience. What will it take to wake people up? Will it be our own extinction?
I hold my small daughter in my arms and feel such love for her and also such real grief and fear of what she will grow up into.
Nature does bat last, but really, who wins this if the planet is burned and gone?
Backpacking Separation Creek Loop
The guidebook for backpacking the Separation Creek Loop in the Three Sisters Wilderness of the Willamette National Forest recommends hiking the loop counterclockwise. The only reason I can gather for this recommendation is that the author of the guide seemed to believe most packers would start out on a Saturday (he says as much). Hiking counterclockwise would put one at the busiest part of the trail after the weekend, thereby ensuring the packer would not hit this section of the trail while it was busy.
Did it occur to the author that backpackers might actually start on another day of the week? There is at least a one-in-six chance of this occurring. What then? Did the fact that from the map it appears that in the counterclockwise direction, 35 of the 40-42 miles (one can add 2 miles doing a loop around a lake if one so chooses) would be uphill? The elevation gain proceeding in this direction is significant. From the description of the hike, it also appears that the 5 mile or so portion that would be downhill near the end is not nearly as steep as one section near the beginning of the counterclockwise version with a 700 foot elevation gain within a half a mile.
Considering these factors, I have to ask the author of this particular guidebook, “Are you f-ing crazy?” Why not offer the clockwise direction as the recommended option and then tell people if they begin on Saturday they’ll hit the busy part of the trail on the weekend? Why not offer both options and point out that the bulk of the hike will be gain?
I didn’t notice these details until I was nearly 8 miles in. The 700 foot climb in a half mile kicked my ass, to say the least. I am pretty fit. I am strong. Yet carrying 30 pounds up the side of a freaking mountain is a lot to ask of a person. If I wanted to rock climb, I’d take up that sport. It’s not my thing. I like backpacking and hiking. I don’t even mind some elevation gain. But that shit was crazy. And at about 2/3 of the way up I started disliking my guidebook author pretty intensely.
Let me back up a bit.
I decided to do this loop alone for many reasons, the biggest of which was that I didn’t have anyone to go with, and I needed a vacation in the worst way. I wanted some kind of spiritual clarity. I’m going through some pretty massive changes in my life. I’m in school again to get my master’s in teaching and planning to leave the practice of law within the year. My littlest girl is starting kindergarten and my oldest has been gone for two months in Paraguay. And of course I recently went through the requisite man troubles that seem par for the course in this lifetime. I was feeling a little bruised from this (still kind of feel bruised from this, truth be told). I really like the guy. He really likes me. Yet he’s terrified of relationships, terrified of functioning much in the world, unhappy with himself and life in general. I cannot fix this. I don’t want to fix it. Yet it doesn’t seem so insurmountable as he seems to think it is and I was (am) frustrated by this. We had planned and booked a vacation together. My youngest daughter was on vacation with her father. My oldest wanted to stay home and sleep. I was so looking forward to getting away and our choice of trip was delightful, especially for a couple of book-loving introverts. We were going to stay in a cabin in the woods near a lake, kayak and hike, and lie around off the grid. We were going to visit Crater Lake and the giant redwoods in northern California. It sounded like pure bliss.
A week prior to our planned departure, he canceled. He was completely freaked out over many things I have no desire to go into here. He wanted a break to work on himself. He probably needs it, but his timing was terrible. I had already paid for the cabin. I really needed to go somewhere. I didn’t want to go by myself on the trip the two of us had planned. It was too far to drive alone and would have been depressing. Every other option I came up with sounded dreary and boring.
Then I remembered my backpacking book. Even though we had planned to hike some of the trails in the book together, I didn’t see why I couldn’t hike one alone. I’m geared up. I wanted to go. The trail called. I chose the trail based on its length for the time I wanted to hike and the solitude. I guess on that front I understand why the author made the counterclockwise choice. I readied my pack and set off, spending the night before departing in Eugene to be closer to the trailhead.
Up until the precipice alluded to earlier, I was pretty happy about my guide, yet his descriptions of some parts of the trail left a bit to be desired. I understood, however, that the guide was filled with many hikes and it might not have been possible to include the fact that this trail crossed a LOT of water. Even in August in an extremely dry year, I crossed several bogs and streams rolling down the sides of mountains. Thank goodness for excellent Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking GoreTex hiking boots with ankle support (yes, this is my product placement because these boots are so awesome). They make rock hopping on the side of a mountain a dry and supportive experience. They’re light. They fit well. I am extremely satisfied with these shoes. They are worth every penny I paid for them. They certainly helped when I hit stream after stream and water running out the side of the mountain and often down trails that could not be skirted without practically climbing down the side of a cliff. My foot didn’t feel one ounce of moisture when I fell off a log crossing a creek and landed with one foot ankle deep in mud. And the mud just wiped off the boot. You can’t even tell this happened.
The woods were amazing, filled with boulders and old growth, sky high trees, and lush native undergrowth. Snowberry bushes, rhododendrons, mountain huckleberries, sorrel, Oregon grapes, and more lined every trail. Thank goodness also for zip-on hiking pants. Someone out there in backpacking land has figured out all these details and the equipment available to us while hiking reflects this. I’d started out with the bottoms zipped off my pants. Those bottoms went right back on within a mile of starting out because the trail was so bushy.
The silence and serenity of the forest were just what the doctor ordered. I forgot civilization and became a part of the forest. Gradually as I proceeded several miles down the trail, I heard rushing water that grew louder as I eventually joined the Separation Creek from which the trail gets its name. I passed a couple of campgrounds, but I had only been out for about 3 hours and I certainly was not ready to camp in mid-afternoon, even if the campgrounds looked welcoming. Plus they were near that rushing water and I really wanted more quiet for camping.
After about five miles I came to a flat-topped log bridge across the creek. Creek is a mild word for what was essentially a small river. The bridge was about 12 feet above this and probably 20 feet across. In other words, scary as hell to me. I started to cross, then felt wobbly with my pack and backed up. I’m not fond of high places. I’m fine if it’s impossible to fall, but the fear of falling is strong in me. I stared across the log for a good five minutes trying to work up the courage to cross.
Finally I located a long stick to carry with me. I stepped up onto the log, holding the stick in front of me, tapping as I went. I looked only at the place on the log where my the tip of the stick touched and shuffled very slowly across. I didn’t even put one foot in front of the other. Tap the stick forward, shuffle one foot forward, shuffle the other behind. Tap the stick forward, shuffle one foot forward, shuffle the other behind. Do not look down at the water rushing loudly below. Do not consider what would happen if a loud noise startled me. Do not think about falling.
I made it across, elated. I turned and shouted at the log, “I did it!” I’m such a dork.
Crossing the bridge energized me. I was thrilled that I had conquered this fear. I have had dreams of crossing bridges like this one and nearly falling. I’ve had dreams of climbing steep staircases and then not being able to get down. I’ve had dreams of walking out on beams and being stuck in the middle, too terrified to go forward or back. I’m sure Freud would have a field day with me and these dreams of balancing acts in high places. I think it’s probably something to do with feeling anxiety about balancing so much in my life. Who knows? In any case, I was raring to go again after this. I was several hours in and needed the motivation.
The trail did a switchback up the opposite side of the rushing creek. There were several boggy wet places and many of them were filled with tiny little frogs. This brought me further delight, these perfect little creatures living out in the woods away from humans.
Eventually I came to Separation Lake. I stopped to rest and eat. The lake edge is covered with lily pads and downed logs fallen into the water. Dragonflies swooped. Frogs plopped. I saw fishes jumping out in the center. High mountains and trees reflected on the serene water. Seriously, the place was like something from a painting or a meditation on peace. It was utterly exquisite.
I set down my pack and pulled out my sleeping pad. I ate some lunch then lay on the pad for 20 minutes to rest. I was finally chased off by some kind of a wasp that was very interested in my activities. I’m not sure why. I did not eat anything or carry any kind of food that would have been interesting to a wasp, nor did it seem interested in looking for food. It seemed truly curious about this weird creature lying at the foot of a massive tree near the bank of the lake. I had hiked about 7 miles at this point and was enjoying my rest. I wanted to get another several miles down the trail before camping. I had decided I would settle down an hour before sundown, knowing that the dark would be immense and existing with a flashlight wouldn’t be the easiest thing in the world outside of a tent. The wasp motivated me just enough to keep moving. I had stinger pads in my first aid kit, but that didn’t mean I had any desire to use them. I wound my way gradually downhill for almost another mile before crossing yet another rushing stream.
The forest was so lovely. I was feeling peaceful in nature, and grateful to be there. Wasp or no wasp, the trip so far felt blessed. The guidebook warned that after this last stream, there would be the 700 foot climb. After crossing the water, I looked up the side of the mountain in front of me. I felt a small twinge of qualm, but pushed it down. I could do this. I gathered the pack and began.
By the end of the climb I no longer felt serenity. I was pissed off at the author for his suggestion of this route. I was mad. Mad at the climb, mad at the author, mad at myself for coming, mad at the man for not going on vacation, mad at the world. It was truly amazing how that one brutal climb changed my mood so drastically in a relatively short amount of time. Halfway up I shouted Fuck this shit!. Halfway again I screamed at the guidebook author You’re out of your fucking mind, you sadist bastard! Blessed? Hell no. I felt cursed.
The other issue that developed alongside my anger was a serious pain in my left leg just under my knee. I know now that I suffered Pes Anserine Bursitis, an inflammation of the bursa sac located between the shin bone and the three tendons of my hamstring. Pain in the area is exacerbated by climbing. I am seeing a physical therapist for a shoulder injury and she explained this to me upon my return and subsequent description of the injury. Whatever it was called, it hurt like hell when I climbed. Any elevation gain was met with commensurate pain in my leg. Shit and double shit.
Even after the amazingly steep portion I just climbed, the mountain was not done with me. There was still elevation to gain. Whereas before I bore the climbing with equanimity, now any elevation meant pain. This was not fun. I was no longer looking at the woods as a place I wanted to be. I was now frustrated and hurting and annoyed with the guidebook author for what seemed to me a stupid choice in the counterclockwise option. I was frustrated with the leg. As I mentioned before, I’m fit. I hike a lot. I run. I do my squats. I ride a horse over jumps. These legs work. What was the deal? Is it just that I’m getting old? I found out later that climbing lots of stairs usually brings on this condition. Climbing the side of that mountain was like climbing 20 stories of the steepest, narrowest stairs. I’m fit, but I don’t train on stairs.
Luckily the trail was balanced fairly well between gain and level hiking, and so I was able to continue as I had intended. As evening progressed, I realized that under the trees it was going to get dark a lot faster than it would have out in the non-woods world. I needed to find a place to sleep for the night. The search for somewhere flat off the trail without too much undergrowth distracted me from my irritation. I subscribe to the intention to do as little harm to the forest as possible while trekking through it. I did not want my being in a place overnight to leave any trace if I could help it. Finding a good spot for this proved challenging, as the forest floor in this area was covered with the aforementioned brush. In some places there would be nothing but floor and pine needles, but there were hundreds of downed trees. In every direction trees crossed and crossed. I wondered whether these downed trees were normal for the forest at this elevation of if there was something outside the ordinary causing this. If it’s not normal, it’s distressing because it looked almost like a river had come rushing through and left trees upended everywhere. I wanted to be off the trail, but I didn’t want to climb over many logs to camp.
I passed a few spots that probably would have worked, but I kept thinking I would find something better. It is so easy to keep thinking the next best spot will be right around the next bend or over the next ascent. Darkness was rapidly descending. The time was only just after 7, but trees are excellent at impeding the sun’s rays from penetrating the forest floor. I saw a clearing with no plants and lots of sticks. It was large enough. It didn’t require climbing a log jam to get to it. I decided I could move some sticks to set up my tent. I removed my pack and set to work.
I’m going to admit something that will probably make me look stupid or arrogant or both. Please don’t judge me. Please remember the aforementioned angst in setting out on this trip, the heartache, etc. I usually find it easy to put things together. I can often do so without reading directions or with only a cursory glance through them. I offer this as explanation for why I did not read the instructions on how to set up my new tent. I had lent my old tent to my brother and never got it back. This was fine because the new tent was much lighter than the old one anyway (aluminum — yay!). This meant that I spent a little longer than I would have in the burgeoning darkness figuring out this tent. The actual tent part, the fabric part, was easy. It’s rectangle–lay it on the ground. The poles were weird though and it took some fiddling for me to figure out how the contraption went and to remember the example tent from which I chose this model, an example tent that had been hanging up near the ceiling of the store where I bought it. How’s that go again? I figured it out, but I think I was hungry and definitely tired because I started to feel irritated again.
Once I got all situated and ate some food, I felt better. I was glad to eat and thereby lessen the weight for the next day. I was pleased with this tent that kept the bugs out. Another buzzing wasp was curious and checking me out. It wasn’t yet dark, but heading there. I sat, contemplating my little camp. I had purposely decided not to bring a book. I wanted to be present with myself and the forest. I did, however, bring a journal and a pen. I had written in the journal at the lake, noting the frogs and my isolation. I also noted the number of planes I had heard by that point. During this trip, I heard 20 planes on the first day and 5 the next. Of those 20, about 8 were heard after dark while lying in my sleeping bag, which leads me to believe there were probably more during the hiking portion of my trip during the day that I didn’t notice because I was occupied. That’s a lot of planes.
I napped a bit, then awakened. 8:30 is too early to go to bed. The forest was silent. Absolutely, utterly silent. It was so silent, when a pine needle fell on my tent, I heard the little Pip! then heard as it slid down the side.
I’m not zen. I miss everyone. It isn’t even like I’m trying to escape ME either. I just spend a lot of time with my thoughts already. I’m not gaining anything. I want company. And my knee hurts. Clarity? You know what is clear? I don’t want to be alone! I spend most of my time alone. I’m among people and alone. I spent all day thinking about Milla and Isabel and DC. That’s what I want. I’m boring.
This was the gist of most of the journal entries I wrote under my headlamp out in the woods. Lonely. Alone. I lay back down and drifted off for another fifteen minutes. Then I wakened and ate another snack. The night was so dark, I filmed it. I wrote again in the journal under the headlamp.
My eyes well up thinking about them. I miss my girls so much! I’m so lucky to have such wonderful daughters. I only feel blessed. I feel lucky. I already did. I didn’t have to come out here alone to know this. I miss all of you! I love backpacking, but not alone.
I finally fell asleep for real and slept for the rest of the night. I must have slept really well because it was 9:20 when I woke up! That’s not just late for me, it’s off the charts. I usually can’t make it past 6 a.m. Feeling pressured to get a move on, I ate my breakfast, piddled in a hole behind a log, dressed, and set out. It was at least 20 degrees cooler than it had been the day before, which was actually a welcome change. The forest had been cooler under the trees, but the day before had still been in the 80s. Not a quarter mile past where I set up to sleep, I found a spot that would have been absolutely perfect for camping. C’est la vie I thought. You never know what’s over that next hill.
You never know indeed. A half mile up from where I camped I came to a pile of poop on the trail that came from something large. I have not yet been able to identify it using various scat identifiers on the internet. It was definitely from something carnivorous. As you can see from this photo, it was a long as my foot! In reading various sites about animal potty, I have encountered many people wondering why it is these animals poop on the trail, as if in doing so they are sending messages to the humans who walk there. This seems to me a silly pondering. It may indeed be a message, but I don’t think so. One look at the brushy undergrowth makes trail pooping seem preferable to me. Who wants a stick poking you in the butt when you’re doing your business? I know when I look for places to go, finding a clear place is certainly a preference.
As I traversed the trail, it continued to climb. There would be moments of descent, but mostly, up, up, up. My leg was screaming at me. The trail had also not been groomed in a long time. Downed logs crossed and criss-crossed many places. I had climbed over and under several logs the day before, but in just a couple of miles I had to clamber over log after log. Each time my leg let me know that it was not impressed. Finally, after a long uphill stretch, the trail angle increased dramatically again, reminiscent of the steep trail the day before. Pain stabbed my leg so sharply it took my breath away. At the top of the rise, I had to stop. I had wrapped my leg just below the knee in tape before leaving camp, hoping to provide some support, but the tape was doing nothing. I sat on a downed log and examined my map closely. There were a couple of shortcuts that would take the length of the trip down to about 36 miles instead of 40, but nothing eased the elevation gain. I had not seen a single other person on this journey. I hadn’t even seen evidence of any other hikers out there.
Several years ago while visiting a friend in Coos Bay, I suffered a severe sprain in my ankle while running. The ligament detached from the bone. The excruciating pain stopped me cold. I could not move. Hopping–or attempting to do so–hurt so badly that I nearly vomited. I sat and called out, trying to get someone’s attention to rescue me and take me back to my friend’s house, which finally happened, but I was in the suburbs of a small town.
This episode came to me sitting there on the side of a mountain all alone, at least 12 miles from the trailhead. I could continue, but what if the ligament on the inside of my leg detached from the bone the way the ligament in my ankle had? I don’t know enough about such things to ascertain whether this is possible. I just knew that if I became injured, the little whistle in my pack would be meaningless if there wasn’t anyone in the forest to hear it. I could be stranded for who knows how long.
My daughter has since informed me that even without a signal, a mobile phone can call 911. I had placed my phone on airplane mode in order to maintain battery so I could use it for the gps and camera. But I didn’t know it would work to call 911 when I was out of service range. Actually, I just did a little internet research and determined that 911 works when you don’t have mobile service, meaning you do not have carrier coverage. However, it does not work when you do not have a mobile signal, which means you’re out of range, so this wouldn’t have been an option anyway.
All of this goes to explain why I decided that I had to turn and head back to the trailhead. I was worried about that 700 foot downhill grade. I was even more worried about that damn log bridge. But neither were more scary than the prospect of injury alone in the forest.
I turned around reluctantly. I felt like a failure at first in doing so. Then I realized I hadn’t failed anything. In the end I hiked 24 miles alone carrying a 30 pound backpack. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Plus even though I was lonely, it was fun. I was enchanted with nature. The forest sleep was silent and dark, unlike living in the city where there is constant noise and light. I awakened once in the middle of the night in the forest because I needed to pee, but I fell right back asleep, something that rarely happens in my own bed.
I remembered the camp spots I had passed near the beginning while hiking the day before. I decided to camp at the one closest to the trailhead and then hike the remaining few miles the following morning. I figured I would arrive in mid-afternoon so I could explore a bit around the stream.
The walk back was amazingly easier than the walk in had been. I covered four more miles the second day than I did the first, and hiked nearly exactly the amount of time. Downhill is easier than uphill, obviously. The steep downhill walk was difficult, but nothing compared to the climb. My leg made not one whimper as long as the ground was level or going downhill. There were places where I had to climb, but not enough to cause me any real discomfort.
I kept my pockets stocked with nuts and dried fruit and nibbled along the way. I made it back to the lake rather quickly, considering. I thought about camping there, but it was still rather early, so decided to maintain my plan of taking the campsite closest to the trailhead. I observed the differences in the vegetation as the elevation changed. I took lots of photos, including one of two banana slugs mating. During the entire return trek, I noticed many banana slugs. I think the cooler temperatures brought them out into the open. The day before I had noticed that many of the trees had black spots on them that did not look healthy. I took photos of these as well so I could ask one of my fellow master gardeners what the blight might be.
Throughout these observations I mulled over the relationship. I kept trying to talk myself out of my feelings. I thought going to the woods would expunge my desire. I thought clarity would meaning getting over my feelings. Instead quite the opposite occurred. It was as if left alone with my thoughts and no distractions my heart could fantasize to its complete content. As I walked through the forest observing trees and slugs I would devise a story then spend twenty minutes talking myself out of it. I observed this as it was going on. In a way the observation allowed me to keep some distance from it. I narrated in my head what I wanted to transcribe into my journal. My thoughts go here, and then they go there. Well now. Isn’t that interesting?
I reached the log bridge back across Separation Creek in very early afternoon. I stopped and took off my pack before crossing, shuffling some heavier items to the bottom and pulling out some snacks for my pockets. I then pulled the pack back on, picked up my stick, and crossed the bridge with nary a pause, one foot in front of the other. For some reason it just wasn’t as scary. I don’t know if crossing before conquered the fear, but the trip back didn’t bother me and I crossed quickly. Once on the other side I looked back across the bridge, stopping to take a video, pleased with myself.
The map that came with my guidebook left a lot to be desired as well, even more so than the description of the hike that went with it. I remembered one of the campgrounds clearly, but the other one not so much. It said the campsites were .8 of a mile apart. I figured this would be about 15-20 minutes of walking between the two. I set out. Eventually I came to what I thought was the campsite closest to the bridge. I had been walking for quite a while, longer it seemed than it had been between the site and the bridge on the way there. I chalked it up to the slight elevation gain on this side of the creek.
Less than ten minutes later I came to what may have been a campsite, but there was no fire pit and not much room for a tent. Plus it could not have been .8 of a mile. It came up too fast, and the trail had been slightly uphill. I presumed this could not be the second campsite and kept going. And going. And going.
I never found the second campsite. Reading backwards through the description of this part of the trail and comparing it to the really terrible map, I must have passed the first campsite without knowing it, and the one I passed up thinking it was the first had to have been the second. The clear place that looked campable could not have been a campsite because of its size and lack of a fire pit.
Once I made these realizations, I simultaneously realized that I would just have to keep going and head home that same night. I was not thrilled by this. Part of the reason for the length of the trip was to give man some time to think about things without me around. I had been fighting fantasies all day. I wanted to give him a chance away and see whether he missed me at all. Two days simply wasn’t enough time. Looking back I realize I could have just headed home and not called him for another day or two, but at the time this didn’t occur to me. Dumb, much? Maybe. But it didn’t. I decided I would call him when I got back to Portland. The drive would be three and half hours. It would be around 9, but he would be awake.
I kept walking and walking. In the end I hiked 14 miles the second day. The 10 miles hiked the first were more taxing because they had been all uphill, but I was still very tired and glad to reach my car. During the planning of the trip I had briefly considered bringing my Dachshund with me. I remembered this as I changed out of my filthy hiking pants, sweaty shirt and underwear, and exchanged my boots for sandals. Poor little George’s short little legs would not have been able to handle this trip, I was sure of it. It would have been nice to have had the company, but I doubt he would have made it through the first day, let alone the return and the return at the pace I made.
Later that night back in my cozy bed, it felt weird to be home. I had only been in the woods for two full days, yet I felt altered somehow. I went in with some expectation about what clarity I would gain. In the end the trail showed me how foolish my “knowing” really was. I realize now that I did get some clarity, it just wasn’t what I thought I would be clear about. I presumed I would love the solitude. Instead I came back wanting company even more than before. I have been able to accomplish a lot in my life by myself. For me, doing something alone isn’t really a big deal. What would be different is getting to share life’s adventures with others.
Milla wants to go out with me for the next backpacking trip. When Isabel gets bigger, maybe she will want to go too. What is clear to me now is that I want them there with me, enjoying the forest, the slugs, the poop, the lakes, the trees, the boulders, the streams, the elevation gains that make me scream. All of it. I didn’t feel loneliness in the woods; I felt alone. But I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted to share that time and space with others.
I am clear about this: Companionship makes adventures more adventuresome. Sharing life with others makes it more worthwhile. Companionship is what I truly desire. My feet wonder why it took me 24 miles to figure that out, but sometimes that’s just how life is.
My garden is a jungle. The squash varieties are taking over their boxes. I’ve attempted to contain them, given them fences to climb, put neat little metal border fences around the bases of the boxes, both to keep dogs out and to try to keep sneaking, crawling, climbing vines in. Not working, at least for the keeping of plants in. Seems to be keeping the dogs out. The flowers are voluptuous, enormous and erotic. Here bees, come to me.
I will be walking around a mountain and some lakes for several days. I thought it would be some sort of vision quest, an attempt to connect with some lost part of myself. While it is certainly an attempt to do the latter, it’s not a vision quest, which according to google is traditionally for boys in puberty and usually involves fasting and self-torture. Um. No.
There is a box in my front yard filled with cauliflower plants. At either end of the box are two stakes, and covering the whole thing in a tent is a piece of ground cover. This protects these cold lovers from direct sun and some insects. I let Oliver out to go potty and was writing on this silly thing when he began barking and shrieking like some banshee at God only knows what. When he didn’t stop after a half a minute, I went to get him. He came in and I peeked out the window to try and figure out what had set him off. I saw a little black cat head poking out of the cauliflower tent. I wish I had been close enough with a camera for a photo. It was so sweet and funny. A kitty cauliflower tent. What a great place for a kitty to hang out too (at least as long as she’s not pooping in there, that would be bad).
PC load letter? PC load letter? What the hell is this PC load letter?
My brain is telling me to PC load letter, but I don’t think I should kick the shit out of it. That would be bad.
And with one push
Shards of glass where there used to be a heart.
Can you imagine someone feeling so happy with you that they cannot be with you because feeling happy by necessity thereby demands they feel other feelings as well? And they don’t want to feel happiness because they might feel pain? How narrow a conception of life. How much love isn’t felt in this world because of the fear of pain. This is to me, tragedy.
I posted this ad on Craigslist a few years ago. A friend of mine asked me to repost it on the blog, so here it is:
It is time that Toilet parted ways with our family. It has been in this house for longer than we’ve been here. When we arrived, the home inspector informed us that this toilet was “top of the line” in Europe and ordered by all the best home designers in the US. “Pozzi Gnorri,” he said. “Go look them up on the internet. They’re one of the best companies in the world for bathroom fixtures.” So I did and was duly impressed. However, I had to wonder what a toilet of this caliber was doing in my little bungalow in Portland. But hey, some of us get riches to rags instead of the other way around, so who was I to question things or to remind Toilet of its brilliant beginnings? I could make Toilet sad thinking that way.
Toilet was lovely; a deep, thoughtful blue, with a white lid. And the flusher was in its top! My 8 year old loved that. Look Mom, you pull this button on top rather than pushing down on a handle! Fancy!
To keep reading, click HERE.
I’m beginning to see the pattern. I am beginning to get how life will be if this is the way that I go. Is this what I want?
I’m not sure.
Dear Mr. Outside Editor,
Here’s a concept: Don’t put some teaser on the front of your magazine and then Oops! forget to put a table of contents into your magazine so the person reading the front of the magazine can’t find the article. Even going page by page, which was annoying and made me not want to read your magazine because it was so controlling, I still could not find the article teased on the front cover. Since the issue in question was an “Encyclopedia” I thought perhaps that I missed the point and that I was supposed to go to the “Encyclopedia” to find the article (this in spite of the fact that the article in question could not really have been about gear). Nope. Not there. The teaser in question was “Why Aren’t Millenials Buying Trail Mix.” Trail mix is not in the index to the encyclopedia. Millenials? Nope. (I suppose Millenials really aren’t gear, now are they? (Although I am pretty sure I could make the case that they are or that some of them could be.)) in any case, I still haven’t found it. Still annoyed.
As a reader, it is annoying to:
1. Read a magazine where the table of contents is 30 pages into the magazine, thereby requiring we page through 30 pages of ads and nonsense to get to the content;
2. Read a magazine that hides page numbers when they do bother to publish tables of contents so that again, we have to page through stupid ads to get to the content in the table of contents;
3. Read a teaser on the front of the magazine that is either a) not really there (which appears to be the case in this issue), or b) isn’t really what the teaser led us to believe it was (really annoying).
Since I am ranting about this and rather on a roll, I thought I would include all of these annoyances for you to consider when being a big shot editor. When these annoyances occur, I throw the magazine away (well, recycle it). I am not wasting my time paging through ads that thwart my effort to get to the content for which I bought the magazine. I will not let the advertisers win in this manner. You might have gotten me to purchase the magazine, but since the primary driver of budgets at magazines is ad content, and since advertisers choose magazines because those ads cause the readers to go buy their stuff, it follows that if I don’t read the ads and I don’t buy the stuff that eventually it will all trickle down and you won’t get any ad revenue when I throw my magazine away. SO…may I kindly suggest you make your magazine palatable to readers who actually like to READ your magazine (I happen to be one of those people who reads nearly every single article in a magazine when I am not so irritated by getting to the article that I can’t access it) and stop making your magazine mostly palatable to advertisers? Hmm? Do you think you can do this?
I’m going to give this issue one more chance. I’ll thumb through it one more time in search of the elusive article on why Millenials do not eat trail mix, and if I am not able to find it on this perusal I shall dump this issue in the trash (recycling). Too bad for me, I won’t get to find out what gear you got paid the most to say is the greatest…er, what gear you think I should go buy.
Post Script: After sending this letter to Outside Magazine, I received a response back from the editors asking if they could use a line or two from my letter in their online letters. (I gave them permission, but I have no control over whether they will make me look like an ass in their choice of words from my letter.)
In any case, I asked where in the magazine I could find why Millenials don’t buy trail mix, because I had not been able to find it. The editor responded that it was in the encyclopedia under “Y – Youth: The Young and the Tentless” (Outside Magazine, Aug 2015, p. 92). As a commenter to this blog post noted, “the entry explains that very few people under 35 are participating in outdoor sports, beyond a day hike or pitching a tent in the backyard. There is, however, no mention of trail mix whatsoever, nor is there mention of food of any type in the entry.”
Yep. The teaser on the front of the magazine is just that, a teaser, and it is therefore even more annoying.
Nothing can be “more perfect.” Perfection by its very nature cannot be improved upon, so how could something become more of that? If it becomes more, then it wasn’t perfect in the first place, and perhaps when called “more perfect” it becomes perfect; though that is debatable, as I believe there are valuable arguments that perfection is an impossible ideal.
America is perhaps the most infantile culture in the world. We are a nation of toddlers shouting “Me first,” and “Mine, mine, mine!” Americans are some of the most spoiled, entitled, selfish humans on the planet. Patience seems not to exist. Sharing, taking turns, putting others in front of the self, these are behaviors of maturity, and our culture regards them with disdain.
Nowhere is this more immediately evident than on the road. Someone inadvertently cuts in front another driver and the person whom they displaced acts as if they grabbed their toy from the sand box and ran with it. You turn on your turn signal to change lanes and the cars beside you speed up to ensure you don’t get in. Everyone is in a race to be first, to be in front, and any action that thwarts this desire is seen as a personal affront.
Rationality is the ability to make rational choices, thinking through the consequences and taking actions that make rational sense. Adults are able to distinguish between the feeling process and the intellectual process and have the ability to choose between having one’s functioning guided by feelings or by thoughts.
People living within a child’s frame of reference often overreact emotionally to events that are insignificant in the overall scheme of their lives, and fail to respond to events that are important or crucial to their well-being.
The life of a child is helpless and powerless. It is a place of inequality, fear, and paranoia. As a child, anyone can control and overrun you. As an adult you own your life and destiny. If you remain a child in your adult life, you look at the world around you as dominating, controlling, and dangerous. America views the world from this childlike view. We are the most militarized nation in the history of the world, seeing everything and everyone as a possible enemy, and every action as a possible threat. (Or at the very least this is the excuse offered to the nation of children by the totalitarian toddlers who seek to amass the greatest pile of toys in the sandbox.)
It is evident in gun culture: I don’t like the way you looked at me, I think you threatened me, I’ll pull out my gun and shoot you, and in many places in the country, this is acceptable.
It is evident in America’s level of debt: I want what I want when I want it, even if I can’t afford it, and the nation itself wants what it wants when it wants it, even if it can’t afford it. It will also spend to maximize the profits of a few while ignoring the needs of the majority.
It is evident in the media that will only tell us the story the tellers want us to hear, like paternalistic parents ensuring we get the story that will not result in a tantrum.
It is evident in our approach to politics. We believe what we want to hear, and accept the tropes of the politicians, believing the speeches and ignoring the actions, constantly seeking that which instantly gratifies us and makes us believe everything is okay even when it is not.
It is evident even in our approach to art and culture. Spectacle wins; quality is meaningless. Americans are like small children witnessing fireworks, completely unable to comprehend an exquisite work of literature or art.
It is evident in our unwillingness to see what is happening across the world as the oceans are acidifying, the poles are melting, the trees are dying, the coral reefs are withering, creatures are becoming extinct at an unparalleled rate, and human populations are increasing to untenable levels. The end is near, but damn, we don’t want to know about it. Turn on the Avengers, the American version of Barney, pull the blanket over your head, stick your thumb in your mouth, and just pretend everything is a-ok.
I could go on and on.
It is as if in gradually finding ways to make life “easier,” in giving up the ability to learn to find and store food, to house and clothe ourselves, to learn to keep warm in the outdoors, and to coexist with the planet on which we were created, we have given up the ability to be fully adult and actually, fully human.
I have my little dreams. They follow me into the morning, drift along with me during the day. By night they will leave me and I’ll be alone again, waiting for another little dream to come. Sometimes I wish I could follow the dreams instead.