Words and The Day of the Dead

20171029_125930In three years I’ve completely dialed back the human tendency for drama in myself. I think most of my thoughts and communications are linear and goal directed, even the rhetorical ones are simple and direct.

Saturday Patrick came to the vigil with a Sign that read Save the Jesus Center. I’d been following the issue and agreed with Patrick that the poor should not be hidden and marginalized even further yet I tried to make him aware of how much the (adjacent) Barber Neighborhood has gone through, being careful to note this is not necessarily due to unhomed people, just that criminal theft is a big problem. He immediately said it was either inflated or maximized or somehow distorted against the homeless and that seemed disrespectful to all those who have been robbed over the last few years and all those who have learned to be hyper-vigilant instead of comfortable. Somehow then it got into me trying to say it is important to respect people’s feelings and not blast them and then he was blasting me and saying I wasn’t letting him talk and how we need to sit down to talk for “2 hours” to get to the bottom of this. To me that was like hearing I needed to hold my breath for 2 hours or walk over coals. Me talking to anyone (so pressured and filled with words,) because they demanded it to get to the bottom of something will never happen—it’s a curiosity or generosity I just don’t possess. I felt so bullied and browbeat by that man! Sandra, another vigiler, said he’s just passionate and passionate people are often seen as bullies. I think that communication styles are different and appreciate how he can articulate his advocacy so strongly and consistently but I’m just not able to intercept as many words as that man wants to say—I’m refractory to the need for such a heap of verbiage and even feel threatened to be cornered into his style even for that period of the vigil. Another man wanted to talk to me about something awhile back and I could tell he wanted to pick something apart and I avoided that too. Now, the question is, is that new, since Michael died? I tend to think it is more my temperament… I like to converse but not to be pressured or lectured by someone in my face. I don’t want somebody else’s intensity leveled at me. Toby does that to me sometimes and I hate it and have to really warn her to back off… but she is focused like a laser beam on getting me to see things her way so it is somewhat different.  It knocked my silent and under-my-control little world a bit off its axis. I’m not tremendously introspective about my style of communication but know I’m not getting any more chatty as life proceeds. With my friend Sharon last week at her houseboat I’d pretty much run out of topics a few hours in and just wanted to take a nap or read my book. It seems that much of what passes for communication is about listening to people express their dramas or mundane stories that are irrelevant to anything. I guess with that opinion I’m not going to be making many new friends and I note I really haven’t made new friends and strain somewhat to keep the old.

Today we have Day of the Dead. I put up a makeshift altar for Michael and cleaned the house. 20171030_182228I bought two beautiful bouquets for Devan’s family (he just died in his late 20s of untreated cardiomyopathy.) He is related to Riparia as he is half brother to Zenon and Kelsi who live on the land. I was never close to him but he was a cute little kid and his death was unexpected and really hard.

I interviewed the Priestess from the Temple of Goddess Spirituality near Creech for the Ecotopia program on Samhain. I dearly wanted to express what an amazing place that is but I don’t think we pulled it off… words, the emotional tone of words? Who knows. IMG_7195 It seems like a real cult of the dead has developed around this time of the year. Mine is just a deep sense of the opening of some sort of filter, something that I long to just be open to. I don’t have skeletons and death cafes and other such in my thoughts. I avoid treating death lightly or giving it a lot of focus although I should keep working to lighten the load of what’s in my house for my sudden or eventual departure.

Tonight is my night to be with the earth, the night sounds, the moon, my pumpkin leering on the fence post. The darkness and quiet sit just on the edge of me. That is the cusp. Instead of words as accompaniment… the two hours of conversation, is just being within stillness this night once I finish typing. Death and stillness probably have a lot in common but for death there is no being to think the concept of stillness. It is only stillness that I am cultivating and befriending. The conversation will continue in no words and for time without end once that tips into death.

I’m adding some photos from my visit to Lassen from the weekend— austere, beautiful, tucked in and dehydrated, ready for the winter snows which will come this weekend.

20171029_143259

 

20171029_125841

One of the mountains where Michael’s ashes took the wind… Lassen.

I am most grateful for my home and for that my heart is very warm for Michael in all his talents and the fullness of who he was as a living being, now with the ancestors, as I give Thanks. Thanks too for the lives that touched mine who are now gone and for my own ancestors, for those I knew and those who went before that I can’t even imagine. Blessed Be.  colby meadows 024[1]

Advertisements
Standard

Made it through

I made it through our 15th wedding anniversary and the third anniversary of Michael’s death. What can I say?

Yesterday Kathy Faith, Selkie and I went up to Butte Meadows and wandered around before going up to Humboldt Summit. I’m going to stick some photos in here because the world is beautiful and I want to honor and extol it at every opportunity.

IMG_2929

I didn’t get great shots of Kathy but we both share the same deep and immense Love for Mama Tierra so this was a sweet time for me. IMG_2950

The Ken Burns/Lynn Novick Vietnam series has taken up my evenings for the last two weeks. I listened to what Kathy said yesterday about her experience and realized I really did want a forum, no matter how tiny for my experience of that time. The series did nothing to shed light on what it was to come of age during that war and I think our lives matter even if history wants to discard the 60s.

Here is what I wrote near the end of the series after realizing our sincere efforts to stop the war were never going to be really acknowledged:

Vietnam. This last Ken Burns/Lynn Novick saga had me up all night, plus the fact that it is my husband’s death date. (He was exposed repeatedly to Agent Orange in Vietnam in his role as a Green Beret and we believed it killed him.) Burns showed protesters as a huge milling block of faceless people he could over-dub with story line, cutting back into “baby killers” three times at my count, featuring the Weathermen violence but nothing about the riots of 67-68 in American cities and only one person talking for the countless millions of us who were in the streets.

I was flooded with memories of my formative years—the Cuban Missile crisis while we lived close so New York City, JFK’s death, the Civil Rights movement.  The horror and pain of Bobby Kennedy’s and Dr. King’s assassinations. The unrelenting angst of those years that should have been my joy-filled youth.

For me Vietnam started in 1965. I was at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo and I attended a teach-in at a professor’s home. The war, which had been on the periphery of my 18 year old awareness, now came into sharp relief. It was obviously wrong for the US to be imposing its will there and sending troops.

I started vigiling and marching against Dow Chemical’s napalm which was used indiscriminately in Vietnam. The first personal trauma for me was when one of my fellow post office vigilers had his head split open by someone wielding an axe. The next was when friends started to be drafted and disappeared into basic training.

After two years of horrifying nightly news and not being able to find inspiration at college I went into VISTA and was assigned to Newark, NJ. Within months the rebellion started a few blocks from the apartment I shared with two other women. We were in the middle of a war zone with civilians trapped by the violent response of the National Guard and the racist State Police for days.

After the rebellion I continued to go to New York city and Washington DC for demonstrations against the war on the weekends. We Vista folks were all discouraged and fantasized about burning down a napalm factory. Demonstrators were arrested and beat up and called communists and told to get a job dozens of times (but no one I knew ever referred to a service member as a baby killer although we definitely considered our government to be that and worse. I only heard that expression after I had lived in California for some years from a veteran who was livid at me over it despite the fact I did not know of it.)

I left Newark an embittered person. I had charges of resisting arrest and assaulting an officer (having been grabbed from the back by a plains clothed male who almost broke my arm and did nothing other than throw me into a paddy wagon for standing at the edge of a demonstration where police were using night sticks against demonstrators they had pinned against a fence at Whitehall Place, a conscription center.) I’d also witnessed the military at the Pentagon wait for press to leave after dark as we encircled the building in a non-violent sit-in. I watched them smash their rifle butts down on row after row of protestors then drag them off against the white glare of the lights. When it came time for me to face the experience the person next to me, who I had locked arms with, threw himself over me and saved me from harm. I don’t know what happened to him. Males and females were dragged to different buses.

By 1970 I’d started back in school at CSU Humboldt when Nixon sent troops publicly into Cambodia. At that point I went door to door to discuss the war in the old style of grass roots organizing but was shocked to hear, the oft repeated belief of how the bible says there will always be “wars and rumors of war” and this was why this passive population did not activate. That was it for me.

I was in a check-out line in a grocery store in 1975 when I saw the war had finally ended. I did not see it through. It was Hell and I’d stepped away from it while I completed nursing school.

So, when Ken Burns and Lynn Novick gloss over the thousands of protests and millions of protesters here in the U.S. The truth is each fought their own war here. It wasn’t as bloody and horrible but we were all there for the soldiers and the Vietnamese against what the Generals and Administration were doing for years and years– to our marrow. I hope history will record our efforts better elsewhere—the countless meetings, demonstrations, vigils, marches not to mention the police violence. We did the right thing and we did the best we could in a system that was as unresponsive and corrupt then as it is now.

I just wonder how we can make the changes that are needed to bring down the despotic, obscenely rich and powerful now? It seems that they only fall under their own weight and hubris. I’m old now but I fear for the planet and for the young. Hard times. I’m glad Michael does not have to witness it.

IMG_2956

(Some of Michael’s ashes went into the wind at the top of Mt. Lassen, viewed here. Peace to his memory. Such a Good Man!)

Standard

Almost Home

IMG_2849

Last night was a capper. The train ran right through the tent about every two hours and at one point it started to rain intermittently. In the morning I didn’t make it to the bathroom in time… a private humiliation to close out a challenging, wonderful adventure.

Mt. Shasta is an old home to Michael and thus to me. Yesterday afternoon I climbed high up to the rim of the avalanche bowl to where I’d released his ashes. Like a fanatic I looked on the rock surfaces for any bit of bony ash then sat and cried. Old pain but pain all the same. I was grateful that I can still hike up into this incredible height and raced down the mountain to go to a movie, since that is what he would have done. Miraculously it was about an area rich with Michael memory—Lander, Wyoming.

IMG_2831

This trip was built on facing fears, seeing new beauty, laying down new track but also seeing old beloved friends. In Corvallis I was able to go out to dinner and stay with Valori George and Courtney Childs, her partner. I love to listen to Valori like she is chocolate cake, the most scrumptious and wonderful teller of real life stories of anyone I know. Life in Valori’s telling is fascinating and full of important but unrecognized heroes. I’m like a child at story time, rapt on whatever quiet time carpet that can be mustered. Being with them is to be filled with grace and good food.

IMG_2843

I also visited my friend Jan Meyer in Medford. She was a pediatric nurse practitioner for 54 years and just let her license go. She still plays concert violin and shoots balloons from horseback… what? At 82, sure why not? She’s got a rascal man friend who is still a practicing attorney named Bill and a Jack who is like Selkie is to me. She gave me shelter and I love her smile like she is Love itself.

IMG_2861

Selkie has suffered with my endless driving distances, packing and unpacking of the car, belated meals and treats, too rigorous and not rigorous enough walks and shared thousands of doggy pettings twix my hands  (and hundreds of strangers,) and her increasingly long haired body. I can’t imagine how the trip would have gone without her!

IMG_2676

Yesterday I charged at the Safeway in Ashland and now I’m at the Chevrolet dealership (Lithia) in Redding, listening to muzak and appreciating the air conditioned waiting room. I envision we will be getting home while it is still hot with a few hours to go jump in the creek and unpack before dark. I imagine there will be some changes and maybe some things that will cause me pause with disappointment or irritation, other things that I will surge with gratitude over. One thing is sure though. My bed will be there and in the morning, my job as a women’s health care nurse practitioner will resume while Selkie reassumes the job of a bored house dog.

Where will the time in Alaska and Yukon sit in my brain? All that endless land, filled with beauty and livingness was only glimpsed but now it takes up space in my imagination. (The photo is from Valdez.) People across from me at the Mt. Shasta KOA were from Ancourage and had driven down the entire Alcan… I salute Alaskans, those arriving, those leaving and especially those staying. I wrap my memories in the present of where I am and hold my wild wonder as a cherished central feature of my being as I prepare to travel this last 90 miles to Home. (This photo is from spring when the columbines were flying around like butterflies… it will be a much dryer world, I know that.)  IMG_2271

 

 

 

Standard

Crossing

Good day bad day, like most. Got off the ferry, finally, after 5 days. Days of rare elation with whales and beautiful places, like Sitka but mostly lumbering not boredom but sameness. I never really had any good talks with anyone… my own fault. My book, Stolen Life about a half Cree, half white woman who suffers abuse, rape and alcoholism then ends up getting the short shrift for a murder she participated in… chilling and horrifying book but important and informative. Anyway, in my dull moving along way I didn’t realize it was Labor Day weekend til just short of arrival. I had said no to Wendy and Toms’ invitation to Nanaimo but then decided it was my best bet and a wonderful opportunity to see my old friends from Guatemala days. (Wendy and I go back to 1994 when I was showing my fertility awareness slides at the Casa Cami house in Guatemala City and she was there with her Mam friend Nicolasa and Nicolasa thought how great this information would be for the women of her community.)

http://www.pueblopartisans.org/projects/past-projects/womens-health-care-in-guate.html

So we got in and had good luck finding a charger and good breakfast spot. I drove north and got through customs and through to the ferry but then missed an early ferry, realized I’d tossed my driver’s license with my Alaska Marine Highway boarding pass and took the turn short of their street at dusk, almost hitting a pedestrian (again!) I sat out in front of a similarly numbered empty house for almost 2 hours before it dawned on me to walk back and check the street sign. After getting to their house, a block up, it was like heaven to see them in their comfortable home! They kindly hosted me for four days– it was heaven being with them!

IMG_2826

I worry for the earth. It is so parched and hot here in Nanaimo… the heat is pushing north, the fires are ranging from California well into the B.C. mainland. Air quality is bad and people are just starting to reckon with the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. Now Irma is gathering strength from the warm Gulf waters. To me, just returning from the far north it is very clear.. I don’t have the frog in the slowly heating water effect again yet.

Crossing from Victoria to Port Angeles was bitter sweet because Kathy Faith, a dear friend to me, contacted me as I was wedged in the ferry line that she was on Vancouver Island for the next few days. If I’d had a helicopter and not a car I’d have whirled to her but it was not to be. Soon I was in Port Angeles. The air is lifeless everywhere due to the fires and there the traffic was terrible too.

I made my way carefully to the home of Lisa Love, aka Lisa Sun. She is a dear woman who had to leave Chico’s bad air because of her struggle to live with Lyme Disease. I’m so impressed with the life she has carved out in just a year and the beautiful town of Port Townsend! I stayed with her and her friend Bob overnight then camped one night. It was a wonderful little interlude. I am so GRATEFUL for Friends who are ready to take in a wanderer with little notice!

20170906_120914

The charger at the Coop in Port Townsend was Free and so is the one I’m on now at the Quilcene Village Store (Bless their sweet Hearts!!!)

20170907_120822

The plan now is to round the Peninsula (east side) and head to the coast for the night with a hope to get out to the natural edge of the bad air. I’m pulled to the ocean too after the tranquility of the inner waterways.

Standard

The Southern Lakes

I left Whitehorse after a great lunch with Jan Grauman. He is a resident in the Canadian physician program (already an MD in the U.S.) and he’d had three shifts in about 30 hours since arriving in Whitehorse. Since he’s young he didn’t seem blurry at all, just serious. We had a great time bemoaning the health care system and talking about family. I got to talk by phone with both of his parents, who I love dearly. For my final few moments in Whitehorse I foisted my parking ticket onto Jan and left with a full heart.

I took the Alcan south-east then cut down to Tagish. I’d left a message with some people with cabins that I would like to stay the night. In that tiny far flung community of about 100 it took me probably an hour to find those cabins and then I waited another hour for someone to show up. By then the hour was growing late and I went off in search of other lodging. I ended up somewhere where dogs were not welcomed and I got a reduced rate since I agreed not to turn on the heat. Selkie slept in the car.

What little I think I know about Tagish is that “the narrows” where now there is a bridge is where the crazy gold seekers crossed and that some local Yukoners resent the government settlement with local First Nations for what’s been done to them over this last 150 years or so. (This deduced from a book I skimmed called Paddle til Dark, which is funny since it never gets dark in summer.)

20170825_093926

I looped back up the Klondike Highway to see what I had missed taking the route I had to Carcross. (I saved Carcross for my last two days) and stopped at the Spirit Lake Lodge, which has no access to the lake. A Thai family owns it and they have delicious food, according to my vegetarian palette. I hiked across the roadway from the lodge to an old railroad right of way, probably from the day the train had run to Whitehorse.

People have been saying summer is over since I arrived but now, alas, I think they are right. It is said that when the fireweed is going to seed like this summer is over and indeed it’s intermittently cold and rainy.

20170825_153305

But then, after a few squalls the next day turned out to be dry and breezy in Carcross. I drove past Bove Island as far as I could to get a round trip out of my electric charge from Spirit Lake but didn’t make it to the Chilcoot Pass.

IMG_2755

After that I wandered around the stores in touristy Carcross and got established at the Fox Hollow B&B—this is my street…

IMG_2793

Many years ago I was married to Steven Watson. He was a good guy and had a good family. His sister Katie had a beautiful little boy named Matthew and about 40 years ago he was killed in a car accident because Katie, after a long day of packing up her house to move, in the late afternoon slow traffic of a hot day fell asleep at the wheel. That tragedy has echoed down through the years. (This store sure made me think of time!)

IMG_2790

I learned about the 1873 expedition of Schwatka who followed the Chilkoot trail through Tlingit and Tagish country about 15 years before the gold rush, until he reached this area where the Bennett lake begins the chain of lakes to the Yukon and how he made it to the Bering Sea in just 2 months… Really hard to imagine…like Lewis and Clark it really plays with my imagination. I also learned about the Tlingit and the Tagish and how they managed to live side by side through arranged marriages between their two matrilineal bands. The young woman at the museum explained how that had worked out for her grandparents and I can certainly see it.

I’m glad to know a little more about our world but what mainly I want to take with me is the vastness and beauty of the country and I regret leaving it as my time grows shorter. I am not attracted to the idea of wintering in the north or ever living here but just to having the living images of a day like today with the dynamism of the weather imprinted somehow on my skin, in my eyes, in my awareness for all my remaining days. I also love the sponginess of the woods, how vibrant it is when every square inch of earth is covered with moss, berries, lichen… The staidness of where I live and the mostly undramatic and overly hot weather makes me shrink inside to think of after the dynamism of the lands I have loved here. The fleeting nature of things baffles me. These heroic adventurers are frozen in memory why not our most vivid and cherished recollections?

IMG_2774

My last day here I wasn’t able to do laundry. No water because the water truck doesn’t deliver on Sundays. They are surrounded on three sides by water but depend on chlorinated water by truck! Instead we hiked along the railroad tracks for awhile and then up onto Montana Mountain. Our last walk will be along Bennett Lake. I’ll have to get up early to get into Skagway in time to do laundry before the ferry.

20170827_121330

 

 

 

 

Standard

Whitehorse

20170822_164005_Burst01I’m in a hotel by the airport in Whitehorse, cheapest place I could find that wasn’t my own tent again. The last night I was in the tent it rained all night… luckily my tarp placement over the tent kept everything fine and just draping a sheet between the tent and the fly kept out some of the cold gusts. Here in Whitehorse it has rained on and off the last three days with the same predicted for the entire region until I leave the north on Monday.

20170823_155227_Burst01

My view is heavy bellied clouds and a lot swollen with vehicles… a used car lot, Yukon style. At any rate, it’s ugly but impersonal. I enjoyed my three days here. I have had a whole little city with walking trails to explore.

Whitehorse was first set in motion from the sustainable life of a Yukon First Nation fishery with the Gold Rush (late 1800s) then it quieted down until the Alcan Highway was built, 75 years ago. Since then it has gentrified and destroyed its salmon run with the hydro plant south of town. The narrative of the destruction of a way of life is barely visible and the clout of it is so subterranean that it dismisses the past in preference for what is now just a whisper of recall.

The town has a huge Salvation Army franchise and only one other branded US corporation, the Starbucks, otherwise there is a lot to recommend the town like a wonderful walking trail by the Yukon River. I’ve loved the workers memorial,

20170823_123224

the Alpine Bakery, the glass blowing Lumel Studios, the Baked coffee shop across from the Railway station… Things are expensive so I’ve had no dinners out but I’ve scoured the town for what jumps out at me to check out and that has been mostly interesting except for almost hitting a pedestrian.

Yesterday I was excited to go to a NO Hate Rally but I went to the wrong Teepee pole so have no idea how it went. It saddened me to read that the people who lived in the section of town (Peace Park) where I was (=Whiskey Flats) had had their homes bulldozed one day without notice and now the Friendship Pole given by a collection of First Nations groups stood there considering things while I waited in the rain for folks to show up. The pole below is where the rally ended up being… I have no idea how it went but I was on pins and needles all evening waiting to hear how Orien was in Phoenix where she had been a Legal Observer at the Trump rally.

This is the Other Teepee– IMG_2718

Right after my pole time I saw the destruction of the hydroelectric dam to the local wild salmon population and the two things together set me into a sad place. (I went to the fish ladder where a handful of exhausted fishery and wild salmon waited at the base of the ladder after their 1500 mile swim from the Bering Sea.)

IMG_2733

Today, due to a different mix of wanderings, was better and tomorrow I move on very gradually toward Skagway.  Here’s some other photos of the “cute” aspects of the town–

20170822_153849

20170822_161313_Burst01

The car is charging up (I did find free charging at the high school but did not want to sit there long enough to use it so I’m charging for a charge here at the hotel.)

20170822_124144

This won’t be the last time I meet the Gold Rush iconography but I’m soured to it and wonder what it would take to get these statues taken down? Food for thought.

20170822_153801

 

 

 

 

 

Standard

Wonders Never Ceasing

20170815_140631~2Valdez on the day of my leaving had sprung into definition when the clouds lifted and the incredible mountains and tucked in glaciers went visible. Wandering in the Blueberry Lake Recreation area on Thompson Pass was deliriously beautiful and I more or less floated to Kenny Lake, another access point into the Wrangell-St. Elias Park. Kenny Lake, like Slana, is a successful community of homesteaders but I don’t know about “the hotel.” For 70$ I got a stark room with stained floors, stained towel and bathroom across the hall. Luckily I was alone and the young attendant came and figured out the stove for me. (It was mid-40s.) The owner was very pissed off with me because I told her that Selkie, as a service dog, could not be charged to stay there under the ADA. That was uncomfortable and bleached any flavor of optimism I might have had about the adventure of staying in yet another unique environment. After spending over 100$ for a dump with paper thin walls in Valdez I wasn’t excited to be running the budget down further at another one. Despite being off my magic carpet I slept well and we left there uneventfully.

The road north again was long. I got a little better view of the Wrangells but the sky grew more gray with the afternoon. I stopped in a few First Nation communities, like Copper Center, trying to locate a small hair clip for myself or affordable gifts but most stores seemed to be owned by Caucasians and were not what I hoped to find.

Finally, with grogginess overtaking me I came off the road at a small family owned grocery store (Midway Services, next to Autell Creek, near Talkeetna–its For Sale!) Owner Jay and his wife Debbie offered me their school bus to stay in for FREE! This is what they have done for years and the entire ceiling is Thank You notes from internationalists—many riding bikes (eg Anchorage to Argentina!) The bus looks very much like the one in Into the Wild, although it is only a few hundred feet from the roadway.

IMG_2695

IMG_2696

It rained in the night and the temperature dropped close to freezing. The propane tank went empty and I didn’t want to stay long enough to use the woodstove so I left and finished my meander to Tok where I stayed in this unconventional housing for the night.

20170817_190608_Burst01

I’m now in Beaver Creek. The second I hit the Canadian border (and the border guard had given Selkie a Milkbone,) the sky opened up and immediately the road went white with hail. Luckily, Beaver Creek is just about 2 km from the border and I could quickly get in here for the night.

IMG_2709

And this is my wonderful lodging for tonight. 5 separate rooms, bathroom across the hall but I’m luckily alone and the price is right! Don’t knock it… it’s like heaven to me. (Think of the Seven thousand people who have fled Trump’s U.S. for Quebec seeking refugee status!) Tomorrow will be a long haul to Haine’s Junction on more bad road… It has gone into the 30s at night now and the rains are unpredictable… don’t think I’ll be camping again despite how lovely it is to have fewer mosquitos.

IMG_2710

 

 

 

Standard