Small Things

Tonight wasn’t the night to be missing one ingredient for dinner. I was tired, and had changed out of my work clothes into my jeans and pro-science political T-shirt so I could pull weeds and wash some dishes. I tried to get Maverick to run my errand, but he was heading off with a friend. Everyone else was gone. It would have to be me.

Since the election, I exist on a reverberating wire of tension. There’s a charged electricity in the air of people just looking for an excuse to tell you what they really think. (Says the girl wearing the pro-science political T-shirt.) I decided to get gas first, and ended up behind a patriotic pick-up that was emblazoned with an American flag all across the tailgate and a Trump make America great again slogan slapped on top of it. I groaned and snapped a picture. I groan a lot anymore, like yesterday when I passed a pickup with two giant American flags fluttering behind it only to come across another one sporting a confederate flag. Just some good ol’ boys. People making statements. (Says the girl wearing the pro-science political T-shirt.) It’s a conservative town. I am the dissenting opinion. 20170602_222224

I decided on the humble bulk foods store over Safeway. I just needed some celery. And maybe an avocado… Oh, and milk! I made my way to the checkout line with the cold jug of milk in my hand. The man in front of me turned and said it was going to be a minute. The people a couple spots ahead of him were having trouble with their SNAP card. I assured him it was okay, that it’s always my line that has the problem. We chatted as we waited. The woman fiddled with the card reader while the checker exuded irritation. The man I was talking to called up ahead for the checker to just charge him for the item and give it to the people. She seemed not to hear. The couple thanked him and assured him it was alright. He paid for their item anyway and mentioned something about paying it forward.

When it was finally his turn, he bantered with the checker, spilling over with friendliness, making light of life and the high cost of groceries. She smiled. I smiled. I wanted to thank him for offering to pay for the groceries of the struggling couple. I wanted to thank him for being so kind, and so normal, and for talking to me as if I weren’t wearing a pro-science political T-shirt in a small conservative town. I was kind of glad I had to run out for one ingredient.

Some ingredients, it turns out, are indispensable.

Leave No Trace

Leave nothing but footprints.
Take nothing but pictures.
Kill nothing but time.

Love Locks in Bryce-300

As I crested the hill to Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon NP, no small feat at 8,000 ft. elevation, a red trinket attached to the safety fence drew my attention away from the beauty below. It was a love lock, a small token of affection of a couple who came and left, but who were not content with the Instagram snapshot and the Facebook post. Instead, they wanted all those who came after to know they existed, that they mattered, that they found each other, and that they had made their way with a cheap, etched, made-in-China lock to this spot on earth that looks down on the million-years process of destruction, erosion, and weathering that is Bryce Canyon.

Another visitor watched me take this photo.

“They must think it’s Paris,” he said with the wry disdain of one who treasures our natural spaces. A kindred spirit. I nodded in agreement.

In the two days my husband and I spent exploring the park, we noted people climbing over barriers, sidling up to fragile canyon edges, and losing hats to the wind. (Thankfully retrieved, due to the ingenious use of two trekking poles.) We saw plastic water bottles down ravines, and even a disposable diaper that was wound tight and had somehow found its way over the edge and down a hill, yet not out of view of passing visitors. I was left to wonder how the park rangers deal with the detritus of a population who relishes the easy access to once remote places and who can’t seem to stay attached to their belongings. Keeping the place clean can’t be an easy job.

Visits to our national parks are up. It’s a great feeling to share in a common wonder and appreciation of earth’s processes or marvel at the way the sunlight glows between the spires and hoodoos of the canyon, yet it’s been said that our national parks are being loved to death. We can slow the impact of being one of thousands of visitors each year if we each start by having a little respect and by committing to leave no trace. Hold onto your hats, stash water bottles in a backpack or leave them in the car, and for goodness sake, save your love locks for Paris. Our children and grandchildren will thank you.

Bryce Canyon-300

Damage

As spokes of a wagon wheel of old
They radiate out from the center,
Intentions played out in actions,
Cruel words spraying out in torrents of hatred
And fear,
Until those who would seek to curtail the damage
Are flailed by ever loosening,
Wildly unstable shafts,
Radiating out from the center.


RIP brave souls who stood up for all that is right and human on the Max train in PDX last Friday. They came from divergent backgrounds, but a common humanity.

53-year-old Ricky John Best
23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche.

We should also not forget the surviving hero, who also put his life on the line. Thank you for stepping up, Micah David-Cole Fletcher. (21)

 

Lose the Labels

We in the United States are stuck in a word quagmire these days, a quicksand-like atmosphere where we can’t even slog along for all the mud on our boots. Everywhere you turn, people are talking, yelling actually, and yet what is actually being said? We slap a label on something and draw lines. Don’t you dare step on the other side. We have created otherness to the point that it’s like walking in a carnival funhouse, only without the fun.

And what about these labels? Where do you and I fit in? Are you a libtard or deplorable? Are you a nasty woman? Are you sexist, racist, and a xenophobe? Are you a poot, a faketriot, a conservative, a tea bagger? What exactly do these designations mean? What are they saying about us, both the speaker and the recipient of the label?

When we label someone, we don’t have to consider their ideas. We just summarily dismiss them. What about the kernel of truth in what the “other” is saying? You know there is one. By labeling and dismissing, we are missing out on a chance for dialogue and understanding. We can’t all know everything about the issues, and many of us don’t have time to delve deeply, so we respond off the cuff, reactionarily, to maintain our personal status quo. But who is that hurting?

Beyond the initial personal sting to the recipient, it’s hurting us as a country. It’s weakening our integrity. It’s the water in our joists that softens the stability, providing the perfect substrate for the ideological termites and divisive carpenter ants to eat away at it. One day soon we will look up to find the walls are caving in. Then will we stand back and try to figure out how to fix what we’ve destroyed?

This American experiment in democracy is a beautiful thing. We all have a chance to get involved, but we have to allow others their opinion and their right to vote. We must attempt to create understanding based on logic and empathy, not divide with fear, innuendo, and intimidation.

This election is nearly over. We are all dissatisfied. Can we at least agree on that? Let’s figure out why. We were given two candidates whose character has been called into question, affecting their ability to lead. We had other choices. Whether you agree with him or not, Bernie attracted a huge following, a groundswell of support from the people, similar to Donald Trump. Unlike Trump, however, his personal ethics were never called into question. His integrity was sound. This is the type of person we should look toward to lead us as a country. It’s too late for us this time, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We have work to do.

How can we help good leaders rise to the top? First, get big money out of politics. The mostly unseen influence of just a few voices has given us legislators who work for them, not us. Groups like Represent Us are fighting this corporate corruption at the ground level. Second, step back and consider what people are saying, from those at the top to your neighbors and family members. Each of us has issues that are really important to us. We might need to just agree to disagree on some things because what’s really happening is that while we, the people, are distracted by our infighting, someone at the top is bankrolling lobbyists and influencing politicians, creating a country that benefits him, but not necessarily us. How do you think that will affect our future conversations?

In addition, a separation of church and state would be nice, not just from a constitutional standpoint, but from the view of those who don’t toe the line with the conservative right. Some of us who have been silenced by our own faith-based organizations really believe in the tenets of Christianity, especially that of loving our neighbor as ourselves, even if that neighbor is gay or Muslim or fears for their child’s safety when they walk out the door in the morning. Sticking fingers into politics sullies the message and highlights any and all hypocrisy. Is that the light you mean to shine?

This is our country. We are fellow Americans. Our citizenship, our day to day struggles define who we are. We are not more or less American based on the number of flags we wave or whether we kneel during the national anthem in quiet protest. We can fight injustices without fighting each other.

Let’s unite these United States.

Are you with me?


Side note: My son just informed me that John Cena scored a 36 on his ACT. Wow!

A Cautionary Tale

They lay like dinosaur bones of old, just another layer of strata on an ancient planet, slowly being enveloped in green and brown. Someday they might be fuel for a future species, but that won’t occur until they have been forgotten for millions of years.

Sadly, they were close to the pinnacle when it happened. In the previous two centuries famine and disease had withered into a distant memory, and eons of genetic adaptation lay dormant under warm roofs with running refrigerators. In what was a blink in geologic time, they had connected the globe and planted flags on the moon. Shining eyes had stared out outward thinking maybe, just maybe, they could actually colonize another planet.

But greed and ego hacked away at the pinnacle until this great civilization could no longer stand. They were warned, but with a spewing of hot air and angry waving of hands, a shout went up like a great industrial cloud of smog, blotting the sun, drowning out the warning, and smothering the populace until finally, with one small voice, they said, “We were wrong.”

But it was too late.

With the energy of an avalanche that would not be stopped, ancient cycles gained momentum until storm upon storm battered coastlines and mountains and the houses with warm roofs and running refrigerators. Sea levels crept up, pushing an already crowded world closer and closer together. Disrupted supply chains broke down down the doors for disease and famine to come rushing back like a torrent. The rewind button had been pushed, and like the video tape of old, it squeaked and rattled back through time and human advancement until only small clusters of people remained, gasping, relearning how to exist on this new earth, until even they could exist no more.

The storms continued. They were not dependent on the machinations of man. Refrigerators rusted, roofs blew in, and walls collapsed as the next iteration began.

Humanity became just another layer in the strata of time.


Photo credit: weesam2010 via Source / CC BY-NC-SA