Thursday, October 31, 2013

What Kind of Person Are You


I understand that things happen. There are mis-communications, arguments, and moments of weakness. But I have always held the belief that, especially if you are friends or in some other way vested in the relationship, a conversation, an apology, and moving on are the best way to handle such things. It turns out I am in a minority. I know people that will hold a grudge for years against people that were once their good friends. I have seen people brought down by pettiness and rumors because someone decided they didn't like them or they didn't deserve a chance. I have witnessed the people in the wrong, the college professor that hits on you, the person that plagiarizes your work, walk around, head high, as though they have done nothing wrong, all the while tanking the very person they crossed.

I used to feel badly about these things. I used to think that there was something that could or should be done to fix things. I used to think that other peoples behavior was some kind of reflection upon myself. Now, I'm glad when toxic or juvenile people choose to remove themselves from my company. I see the value in no longer having to waste time or energy on people who will always find a away to cause conflict or drama. I am grateful that they keep their words and actions to themselves and allow me to spend my time with people that help me to thrive. I take solace in the fact that carrying around hate will be it's own punishment, in illness, loneliness, and bad, bad karma.

What are you holding on to? Who can you forgive today? Whose forgiveness can you let go of receiving?

Photograph Courtesy of :

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Shoes and Strings and Ceiling Wax


A presentation of irony:

It is 6:30 in the morning and still dark outside the cabin. There is a stiff, frigid wind bringing in the first snow of the season. It began overnight as a light dusting but has thickened now, and has taken on an icy quality, the flakes stinging as they hit our faces. Inside it is still warm, there is coffee dwindling in cups, and the lights cast a comforting glow out the windows as we finish loading up the truck, drain the water lines, unplug the appliances and put the cabin to bed. At 7:01 we climb in, congratulating ourselves on finally running on time. The moment the truck starts to roll back we know there is something not right, but it takes us the whole length of the drive to figure out that it's a flat. Completely flat. Tire hanging off the rims flat. We sigh, and slowly pull back towards the cabin carefully parking by the outside lights. When we open the door to turn them on though, nothing. Click, nothing. Click click click, nothing. In the five minutes since leaving the power has gone out with the storm. We will do this by flashlight. From behind us we hear the deep voice of our old-man neighbor with whom we share the property. "Welcome to the high desert." He chuckles. "You want me to get the air jack?" 

It was fine. It was fine and easy and quick and dark and very very cold. It was a late start, dirty clothes and stiff fingers. It was fine, and the moment we packed back up to roll out, the power came back on. Welcome to the high desert.

Photograph Courtesy of:

Monday, October 28, 2013

High and Dry


***An Excerpt From Girl Gone Wild***

A dirty little secret of the outdoor world is just how rarely people abide by the rule of hanging their food or even storing it at some distance from their camp. More often than not they store in in coolers, trailers, vehicles, tents, or backpacks. In brown bear country, this is stupid and dangerous. In black bear and cougar country, which is most of everywhere else, it is only slightly less stupid and dangerous. But here’s how it happens. First, you do not see any bear or any other animals for that matter which makes choosing not to hang your food seem reasonable. But the lack of apparent wildlife is probably because humans are big and noisy and smelly even if we are trying not to be, not because they are not there. There is plenty of wildlife watching your progress down a trail that you will never know are there, and unless they are hungry or you manage to stumble into their young, they will probably go out of their way to avoid you. Unless they are hungry. And something is always hungry.

The second thing that happens is that you find yourself in a place with nothing to hang something from, this is a peculiar irony of the tundra areas of Alaska. There are vast u-shaped valleys carved by the slow progression of glaciers over thousands of years that, now exposed thanks to global warming are covered in bright fields of dense, soft tundra. Beautiful, but not a tree in sight. With no place to hang food the best you can hope for is good storage someplace down wind of your camp, you have to let the hanging thing go. Alternately, you can find yourself camped in such large trees that even the lowest branches are far too high to reach with even a weighted line, or you do not have enough line to make the pitch. Again, out of luck, and not entirely ones own fault.

The last thing that happens, and it is this kind of experience that can cause people to give it up entirely, is that it can take an entire evening to get the food bag hung. Food is heavy and oddly shaped, which means that you need something relatively accessible and sturdy to hang it from. I can spend a good half and hour looking for the right kind of branch an appropriate distance from camp and then another half an hour or more trying to toss a line, often with one end tied around a rock or shoe, over the branch. Have you ever tried to send a pair of shoes over a telephone line? Sometimes you get it in one shot, sometimes it seems impossible.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Pecking Order


For weeks now I have been at the mercy of an energetic flock of migrating (hopefully) Nuthatches. Nuthatches are beautiful. They are blue-winged and red-breasted with long black streaks of eyeliner highlighting their brows. They are also hoarders. They descend at feeders like a troupe of addicts, hyped up and in constant motion, not eating, but grabbing seed and storing it away in the nooks and crannies of nearby trees for later consumption. They can empty a half-gallon feeder in a little over a day and they are so many and so overwhelming that they have ousted all but the largest of the blue jays. They are pushy, messy and bad at sharing and making extra work for me. I know that they are just birds, and visitors to boot, but I miss the Junkos and Grosbeaks.

Then this morning, a small piece of justice. The squirrels, normally left out of the feeder entirely except for what falls the two stories to the ground, were up early this morning, frantically pulling away at the branches of the firs. Happily reaping the rewards of all the Nuthatch labor. And to all things a balance.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Finding the Foresaken Self


Only in hindsight, at the age of 35, am I able to look back on the last ten years of my life and admit how very many of the habits, likes, and affectations I have adopted over the years have been for the sole purpose of pleasing someone else or trying to fit in with those around me. Today, I returned to the music that I had forsaken years ago to please a boyfriend that had very clear ideas on what was and what was not acceptable music. Regardless of the fact that he was right in many respects. I have missed these songs and sounds that defined other, earlier times of my life and am glad to have them back. I contemplate what other vestiges from other times I might turn loose, what things might be reclaimed. 

Listen to your music.

Or, listen to mine. Coldplay. Yellow.

Photograph Courtesy of:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

And It All Burns Down


If you haven't been paying attention to the bush fires raging in southwestern Australia, you should if for no other reason than to impress upon yourself what it will be like when drought, climate change, and years of fire suppression policy collide in our neck of the woods. These fires are not happening in the middle of nowhere portions of Australia, they are in the most populated portion of the country, where one in three Austalians live. The smoke from these fires is choking the air in major cities and the fires are destroying everything from trains to houses. Two of these fires are set to merge in the coming days producing what is being called a mega-fire. This is another modern natural phenomenon moniker adopted to describe events that occur on magnitudes not previously considered probable enough to leave room for in the naming schema. It is becoming clear that climate change is not a rural or third-world phenomenon. It is also becoming clear that we are woefully ill-prepared to protect our resources and property from these events.

It is important to realize that the nature of the climate change debate needs to change from "Is it real?' to "What are the social consequences of these events?" Climate change and the associated floods, storms, fires, and droughts have become a primary contributing factor to social unrest in the countries most effected. Destruction of farm land, interruption of commerce, loss of housing, these are the new realities. Prevention is no longer the primary objective, survival is.

To read about the relationship between climate change and violence worldwide:


Monday, October 21, 2013

Pooh Bear


Once a year I drive to an old church in the middle of Oregon farm country to buy my winter pantry in bulk directly from the growers. These events are less like farmers markets with their well-groomed displays and valued-added products than they are traditional farm stands.  Family's sell apples at twenty-five cents a pound out the back of their pickups and tiny old women offer fifty pound hand-milled flour in home-sewn sacks. There are great, long braids of onions and garlic and piles and piles of squash nestled next to buckets of wild rice.  There is also the last of the season's honey. Every year I buy honey, a pint or two, maybe even a well-priced quart, but always, I stand and long for the giant gallon jars. They are beautiful; a whole winter's bounty of honey-sweetened tea, sauces, oatmeal, and muffins in a single jar. Even knowing that I will use it, such an investment has never seemed reasonable. Until, for some reason, this year when I finally toddled down a gravel country road with a fat, golden jar hugged to my belly; the sweets of winter, secured.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Violent Cuz We Want To Be


I find it remarkable that in the discussion around societal violence there is little to no acknowledgment of the enormous numbers of people that spend time in incarceration or warfare. To be clear, I am not grouping these two populations, criminals and military personnel, together for any reason other than they are two widespread groups both of which are exposed to enormous amounts of first-hand violence and then returned to everyday life. Taken by the numbers, while a relatively small percentage (less than 1) of the population is serving in the military at any given time, approximately ten percent of the population is incarcerated at that same time. This means that eleven percent of the population is actively immersed in a violent and dangerous culture. Overall, more than 30% of the population will be incarcerated in their lifetime and more than 2.28 million of our soldiers have served in Afghanistan and Iraq alone. And we wonder where our penchant for violence comes from. We puzzle over the popularity of football, which seems to increase with its violence. We wonder about bullying and violent television content and mass shootings. We refuse to see what is plainly before us, the choices we make with our population, where to send them, how to foster their development, the things we choose to expose them to, color them forever. If we are a war faring people then we will grow a population that has faced and participated in brutality  and violent times. If we are punitive and punishing, then we will teach our citizens to expect violence to beget violence. In short, we are teaching over a third of our population to expect and participate in violence, and then wondering why is seeps into the rest of our lives. We reap what we sow. Now is as good a time as any to consider policy changes that will provide different kinds of life experiences to our population, experiences that will help us reflect more of what we really want to be.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Scatter My Ashes At The Mall


An excerpt from Girl Gone Wild:
To back this book in the final day of the Kickstarter click here.

When it comes to our relationship to the wild, and our comfort in it, the problem is that there is nothing in the wild for us to consume. There is no story line or Hollywood effects, no sale signs, no conveniences, and no bonus rounds. In the American wild, now, as always, there is only you, and the land. Even with the rush of over-development in the last fifty years the wide-open spaces of America are vast and breath-taking, but they offer only the intangible effects that come with the opening of the spirit. The real value of these gifts is only recognized with practice and patience. Time teaches us to understand the world at its own tempo, on the larger timescales of geology and evolution rather than in the 24 hour news cycle soundbites to which we have become accustomed. In order to step into the wild, we need to step away from our need to acquire it.

The same thing can be said of ego. So maybe you do not look your prettiest, maybe you are slower than the other hikers, maybe you look silly in a big sun hat. Who cares? Have fun, live life, relish not having to be right or the best, or prove yourself in any way. Have patience with and compassion for yourself; recognize that everything else is in its natural and flawed state in the wild too, without diminishing its beauty or grandeur. You are in the wilderness, no one is watching, its not going to end up on Facebook or Youtube unless you put it there, so enjoy yourself just as you are.

I know, from deep within my body that being outside is good for me, mind, body, and soul. I know from watching others and hearing their stories that the wilderness is good for them too. I know from personal experience that my friends that spend regular time outside are less likely to to have problems with weight, mental health, or drug and alcohol abuse. I know that a walk outside gives me time to breath and think and sort myself out. I know that when I am unhappy, facing challenges, or in need of comfort, the wilderness provides it. I know that no one asks to have their ashes scattered at the mall.

The wilderness restores me. Not just in the way that fresh air and light raise your spirits and clear your head; it has always been the thing to which I turn in the troubled times of my life. To walk in the woods, to feel what it is to be a part of the larger systems of the world, to see myself as just another animal in the wild, one that can commune with the birds, watch the fish jump, track the stars across the sky, has always worked to calm my mind and put into perspective the trials of my life. I have walked out heartbreak over miles and miles of trails, sometimes retracing the very paths of the relationship itself; this time last year we walked this trail in the spring, here was where we went snowshoeing. I have made some of the most important life decisions in the wild, wondering if the decision to quit ones job and relocate is still ground shaking if there is no one around to witness it. I have grieved for lost loved ones and celebrated their memories at ocean beaches and mountain vistas. I have talked it out, whatever the it may be, with friends over miles and miles of terrain, sifting through the clutter and debris of our lives, walking and talking.

Being in the wilderness forces us to rely upon ourselves and keep our own company in a way that modern society does not. This is something that is very good for us. I know so many women who lock their doors and close their blinds, that cannot eat out at a restaurant by themselves, that think they cannot change a tire or drive someplace new without getting lost. We cultivate a culture of learned helplessness the result of which is an overpowering sense of loneliness and the loss of our identities as whole, capable persons. Returning to the wild is one way for American women to revitalize ourselves as potent, powerful, and productive participants in the world around us. In the wilderness, I have learned that there is no escape from yourself; that, in fact, so much vast expanse will first force you to address yourself, before allowing you to take it in. So let it go. Let your hair frizz and your nails chip, wear clothing that is comfortable and washable, get dirty, get outside, go wild.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The View From Big Brothers Suite


The City of Oakland, and many other cities across the nation are spending millions of dollars on technology designed specifically to track the movements, actions, and conversations of its inhabitants. The claim is that these kinds of technologies, automated face and license plate recognition systems, GPS trackers, and even drones are a necessary and essential part of law enforcement.  

I argue that these measures are designed only for the capture and incarcerate portions of law enforcement and do little to nothing to prevent crime or deal with its aftermath. The days of believing that a world-wide panopticon in which the fear of being observed prevents us from breaking rule and law is long over. Now, we understand the desensitization that comes from living our lives in front of cameras and on social media. None of us care, not enough to shift our behaviors. The threat of public comment or shaming does not loom large in our minds, and especially not in the minds of those made desperate by circumstance or poverty.

The shutdown is an opportunity for us to reevaluate what we fund and why, and press our opinions into the minds of our clearly lost for connection to reality law makers.  Consider your privacy.  Consider your free will.  Consider that the United States already incarcerates more of its population than any other country.  Consider finding your voice.  

To contact an elected official:

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Keeping The Lights On

One of the constants of adulthood is the paying of the bills. The how's of this task, from my mother's days of handwriting checks and stuffing envelopes to my automated electronic payments, may have changed, but the reality of having to pay what is due, when it is due have not. At least not for those of us that are not in congress. I think about the shutdown and I worry for the many Americans that live paycheck to paycheck, for all those people that were waiting on a particular check to pay off a particular bill, or take that vacation, or even just buy groceries. I think about these things and I think that the shutdown is bad, and hard and that holding the public hostage is no way to pursue a political agenda. And then there are these three examples of shutdown consequences:

People waiting to participate in the housing recovery by purchasing homes cannot move forward with escrow because the IRS is not open to validate income.

A really big salmonella outbreak is taking place, but neither the health inspectors nor the CDC are around to save us from ourselves.

And...Federal prison guards are not being paid but are being required to show up to work. I can only imagine the conditions in a prison where the guards have no incentive and the inmates have psychological leverage.

The question we ask now is, in what way are we being served by our government if our representatives choose not to pay the bills?

To contact an elected official:

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

Photograph Courtesy of:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Flight and Freedom

Today I sit beside the window and watch the birds, visitors here, just passing through to warmer winters south, and am jealous of their easy freedom. I too, wish to so predictably turn to sunny days and fat times. I worry over my pepper plant, so absurdly out of place but still producing bright green fruit in some silent tribute to life's challenges and absurdities. I think that I should cover the rye beds to over-winter. Finally, I go outside and pull the last tomato plant, leaving the its proffer on the sill to ripen. 

An excerpt from a poem for the turning of the season, Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
       love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Wilds Of Fall


Just in time I am finally bedding down the garden for winter. The rye has finally broken through, and will hold the soil until the first days of spring. Garlic and onions are nestled, waiting under cover for warmer days, and I too, am reminded of the need to hunker down and bide my time. 

In celebration of the turning of the leaves, some reasons to remember to love autumn:

The changing of the leaves.
The return of sweaters and fires.
Migrating birds.
Hot tea and books.
The sound of rain on the roof.

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

Photograph Courtesy of:

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Daily Dose


I write and think a lot about food, nutrition, and food and as a primary medicine but I I decidedly avoid the topic of vitamins.  Vitamins and minerals are, of course, and essential part of our health and vitality; and yes, we should be able to get all the vitamins and minerals we need from our regular diets. I believed this for a very long time. And then, in my late twenties, I had health problems. I was regularly exposed to toxic chemicals in my environmental cleanup work, and previous illnesses had left my immune system weakened. When I finally found a health care practitioner that prescribed vitamins I was dubious. I thought that the vitamin industry was mostly just scamming lazy people that couldn't be bothered to eat right.

Then I started taking targeted vitamins at specific dosages designed to address my deficiencies. And I felt much, much better.  I also started catching less colds and flu bugs and getting over them faster.  The right vitamins have helped fight leg cramps, improved my mood, and gotten me through some big-time cold seasons. Now, I have a daily dose that changes with the seasons and makes me feel noticeably better when I take it regularly. I am grateful for this. Sometimes it's worth testing our own assumptions and paradigms. You never know what your truth might be. 

The FDA's website about vitamins:

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

Photograph Courtesy of:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Unexpected Graces


The last two weeks have been a blur of Kickstarter. Constant emails, updates, social media postings, readings, postering, thank you's, and worry have made for restless nights and the odd sensation of standing at the side of the internet with a sign reading "will write for food". Asking for backing, especially from friends and family has made me uneasy. I believe in this book and I believe that crowd funding is the future of publishing, but I really struggled with the idea of asking for money, especially at the beginning of the project.

Now though, now that I am past the 50% mark, now that backing is starting to come in from people other than those I know, people that just want to see the book be finished and published, or who support women writers, or that are avid outdoors people, I feel less dependent on people I know, and more likely to be successful.  I want to make the people in my life that have helped me proud.

That said, having the support from those people has also, to some extent, released me from the shadow of failure.  Their endorsements, and the overall support that has come in for both me and the project are quite humbling, and a true example of grace. Consider, for example, receiving backing from a young woman for whom you once nannied, with a note telling you how exciting the project is, or going to a ballet class to find that everyone in the room, instructor included is a backer, or having old high school friends surface with backing and expert advice.  It goes on.

The lesson here, for me, is that success comes in many forms. Now, regardless of the success or failure of the Kickstarter, I have the broad support from all corners of my life. I will be able to take all of this and use it to fuel the publication of Girl Gone Wild and my own passion for the project. What I have been given, is hope.

To Back the Project:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Take What You Want


The National Forest Service and Beareau of Land Managment allow some degree of harvesting and gleaning from public lands. This includes residence, trees, rocks, berries, mushrooms, water, game, fish, and any number of other things depending on the amount, use, and location. I think this is a great reminder that public lands are by definition owned by each and every one of us, we are entitled to their use and also bound to be their stewards.  Last week the US House of Representatives passed a bill opening up large tracks of federal lands, more than one million acres, up to renewed logging.  Regardless of your opinion, it is important that you are informed and aware of how your land is being managed, and who is reaping the profits.

Stay Informed:

For more on the bill:

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shut Down


The U.S. government, in a show of total lack of regard for the well-being of its citizenry or the responsibilities with which it has been charged, closed its doors today because of an arcane political structure and a fundamental righteous belief in their own value systems. The national weather service website is down.  The Smithsonian Institute, the National Zoo, and, ironically, the Statue of Liberty are also closed.  So are the National Parks. Many many people are having very bad days because of this. There are ruined vacations and school trips, lost wages, and missed meetings.  Paperwork will backup delaying immigration, permit, and passport processing.  Wages will be lost. Even just a few days of unpaid leave will mean utility bills that cannot get paid, mortgage payments that will bounce, presents that cannot be purchased.  The economy will suffer. 

Keeping the government open seems to me to be the primary function of the agents of government, if for no other reason than self preservation. The system is clearly broken. What change then, should we demand? When and how shall we address our government regarding our own representation? What consequences shall be rendered?

To email Congress, if it's still working:

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!