PCT trail log, days 53-57

August 19, day 53

Takelma, Cow Creek Umpqua, Molalla, and Klamath Territory

8.2 miles

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I have to wait at Mazama until noon today for a package, but I also have early phone calls to make, so I get up early and tear down camp. I get a coffee thick as sludge from the store and it fulfills a deep craving. I sit in the laundry room and make my call. It’s to a new therapist. I’ve noted that I keep having one singular issue really get me while I’m out here, and I need some support.

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I love her. For the most part. She’s direct, non stigmatizing, has a great way of working with trauma. I feel more comfortable with her than I have with most of my therapists in the past few years. But… she’s not queer. And honestly right now I really feel like I have GOT to talk to someone who is queer. For the sake of my soul. I wish she was. I like everything else so much. I wish finding a queer therapist to work with at a distance wasn’t so hard. This also makes me think about getting certified myself as a DCC so I can do this.

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At noon I go in to get my packages and it is a major hassle. No one at the desk seems to know what is going on and they won’t let me go look at things myself. The person in charge appears to be queer and bonus, is really cute. I flirt hardcore and they finally let me up to check everything. I get most of my things, but I have to wait until 5 for the headphones I’m waiting for. And I NEED headphones out here for morale. I sigh and wait.

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While waiting I shake down my pack again and get rid of unnecessary weight. I chit chat with Waist Deep, Ice Man, MLM, and Goose. Then my phone is about to die so I go in the laundry room and charge it. I buy two more pieces of lasagna and another ice cream sandwich and a soda and eat it all. I’m so full. A woman comes in and starts chit chatting with me. I’m thrilled because she’s here with her wife. Hooray, a fellow gay! We chit chat for a long time. When I finally get my headphones and prepare to leave, she offers to buy me anything I’d like. I’m so stuffed at that moment that I turn her down but I thank her for the kind conversation. I wish I would have told her how meaningful the interaction truly was.

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In the middle of all this I also have yet another interaction about my gender with a middle aged man. I am in a better capacity place and he is confused but kind, so I explain a few things. How I feel like I identify differently gender wise than the societal norm. He’s also noticed my new pride sticker and asks if I’m gay, and I explain I’m queer. He’s open to hearing and listens kindly. It’s a nice interaction. At least it’s not a weird interaction or a dangerous one. At least I’m in a good mood to try and explain better.

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I finally hike out from the trailhead around 6. A couple miles in, I run into a hiker who has no food or water so I give him a half liter of water and 3 bars. He seems disoriented. I use my therapist crisis experience to check in and this is how I find out he has no food or water, and insist he take some of mine. I forget to check his time orientation – I’m focused on making sure he gets into town safely where he will have other resources. I kind of feel proud though that I know generally what to do and how to handle the situation.

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I hike only 8.2 miles in and this feels good. I get to my campsite just after sunset. Coming up to it and in the actual site it is a recent burn area. The sunset is stunning and I’m listening to Gregory Alan Isakov and just being with it all. It feels calming and glorious. And it’s so nice to be at camp and not be wiped out.

August 20, day 54

Takelma, Cow Creek Umpqua, Molalla, and Klamath Territory

32 miles

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I don’t wake up to my alarm this morning, but it’s not a bad time either. 5:50am and I’m watching the sunrise over the valley below. It’s stunning through the burn, so I snap a few pics. And then I get on it. I’m determined to have an early start this morning. I want to do either 27 or 32 miles today, and if I end up wanting to do 32, I know I don’t want to rush into camp tonight. So I’m on top of it today and I leave camp by 6:50am, feeling quite pleased with myself.

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Since I’m up early, I let myself go at my own pace and I don’t rush myself. It’s so nice. I didn’t realize hiking could be this nice? Which is ridiculous, it’s just, sometimes I get stuck in the mileage mindset and push my body too hard. It’s honestly silly, because my body can handle a lot actually and will feel better about it if I’m not pushing so hard.

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I’m intentional today too. I’m feeling very internal and also wanting to do things that I won’t regret. So all day I take time to snack on the huckleberries along trail, or snap pictures of the tiny froggies near a water source, or sit on a log and meditate a few minutes. My body is extremely happy with this decision. The huckleberries particularly fill me with good feelings. I don’t have a ton of good childhood memories, but picking huckleberries along Hungry Horse Reservoir with my mom is one of them. I must have been 5 or 6, clad in jeans and a t shirt and wild hair. I think my hair was chopped short around that time. I remember picking all day, staining my fingers blue-black with the juice. On good days I would collect a full pail of berries and proudly display my accomplishments to my mother. On the other days, I’d eat half my pail and not have much to show for my picking time. After we picked the huckleberries, we’d take them home and my mom would make pancakes, or homemade ice cream, or put them in the freezer for winter. Needless to say, picking huckleberries while hiking always gives me warm fuzzies.

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I rest every 10 miles or so, something I’ve also found my body enjoys. I eat a larger snack than a bar, usually beef jerky and chips, drink some water and rest my feet. On the second break of the day, I’m almost out of water. There’s a lake down a side trail half a mile, or a spring in 5 miles, my 27 mile mark. I don’t feel like walking extra miles, so I decide to suck it up and walk 5 miles with a sip of water in my bottle. It is a dry dusty five miles and nearly every step I am thinking about water. Even the songs playing in my headphones remind me of water. I’ve learned my lesson. When I get to the spring I immediately down about half a liter. I’m not gonna make that mistake again.

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My body is honestly feeling pretty great at this point, so I decide to not camp here at my mile 27 and instead go to 32, a lake down trail. The lake is even on a downhill stretch, so I know it will be fairly smooth. I put on Gregory Alan Isakov’s Evening Machines album, a very chill acoustic album that I love and have almost memorized. I’m just going to meander to camp. It’s a lovely 4 miles, a great time to let my body wind down from the day. Near the end I can feel the muscle pains in my hip flexors and shins, as if to remind me that 32 miles is still a lot. Regardless, I didn’t know 32 could feel this good. After my 33 last section that made my body feel like shit, I had my doubts. But doing it this way, with honor and respect to my body, felt amazing.

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I eat dinner, beans and rice noodles, while overlooking the lake in twilight. The surface of the water is shimmery silver, thrown in stark contrast to the tree trunks that are black in the gloaming. I feel something like contentment and it is so welcome. I’m glad to be out here, with myself, walking. It’s shifted now to more of a spiritual practice, especially now that I’m hiking alone. I don’t know what is to come, but I’m grateful to simply be present.

August 21, day 55

Shasta and Cow Creek Umpqua Territory

23 miles hiked, 21 on trail

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I get an early start again this morning and am out by 6:50 again. These early starts RULE! I do so much better when I start at sunlight and have plenty of time to make my mileage.

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I’m hiking into Fish Lake today to pick up my replacement tent from Six Moon Designs. My original one had ripped right around a reinforcer, so SMD replaced it for free AND sent me the $5 UPS pick up fee for the resort! Love that customer service. I fly down the 10 miles into the tiny resort.

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When I get there I weirdly love the place. It’s an old resort that seems like it’s still stuck in the late 80s or early 90s. It kind of looks like something out of Stranger Things. The wallpaper is kitschy and faded. There is a combined store and restaurant, family run, and they make “American” food and have a faded diner counter. 80s music plays the whole time I’m there, Learning to Fly and Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow and other classics.

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I run into Sidetrip, who I met hiking with Trooper and Rook. He’s laid up nursing shin splints and seems bored out of his mind. We mindlessly chit chat about tent repair and Buddhism. He tells me what he’s been up to. We ask about mutual trail friends. We discuss the topic on all our minds at this point – The Sierra. When we will go through. When we’ll finish. Our hopes to get through before big snow. Gear changes we may make.

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I order a hamburger, salad, and a chocolate malt. The chocolate malt is excellent. The burger and its grease turn my stomach. I always think I want burgers on trail, then I try to eat them and the grease upsets my stomach. I eat half and give the other half to Sidetrip, but I finish the salad and malt and a Coke.

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I go through the hiker box for any gems and to my delight I find an entire head of garlic! Praise be! After Old Man Rivers gave me the fresh garlic last section, I’ve been hungry for more and here it is! Besides that, I grab a couple packs of oatmeal, an extra hand sanitizer. Thank the queer divine for the hiker box.

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Hiking out, I feel so so full and my stomach feels sick. The grease from that burger is still making me feel ill. I throw up a little bit, which is good, because then I feel better. After that, the mechanics of hiking are easier. I find though that I’m super tired after being in a town-like spot. My body thought we were going to get to rest. I have to drag it up the hill. And of course it’s a lava rock covered climb out of Fish Lake. The climb itself isn’t bad, but I despise and abhor the lava rocks. When I turn my phone off airplane mode and note that I have reception, I stop and dawdle for at least 20 minutes. Then I force myself to keep hiking, with intermittent phone breaks. I’m not making much progress today. It helps me to know I hadn’t really planned on it anyway, because Fish Lake.

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Somewhere along the climb just after I get reception, it starts to rain. I hate everything about this and hope it will stop. Not only am I climbing over lava rocks, now I am soaking wet. I stop to put all my things in the trash compactor I keep for rainy days. I still dawdle along. Finally I muster the motivation to hike to a shelter (!!!) not too far up trail. I play music, attempting to cajole myself further.

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I make the shelter and it’s packed. Waist Deep, Ice Man, Goose, and 2 hikers I don’t know are there. They’re all staying the night. It’s warm and cozy and tempting, but I don’t want to be around people. I like camping and hiking alone. Although I am very buoyed when I come in and Goose trash talks me about something and clearly uses my pronouns. I can’t even remember what the trash talking was. I was so distracted by the goodness of hearing “they” in a sentence. I think he’s kind of being a show off, but I don’t care. I needed it. I sit and eat snacks and chat with everyone. One of the hikers I don’t know tells us how she snuck into a room and showered at Timberline Lodge. It’s probably one of the funniest trail stories I’ve heard so far.

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Other hikers start to arrive, and I get antsy. Waist Deep can’t believe I’m leaving, but I do. I garb up in rain pants and jacket and head out. It’s still raining. A mile from the shelter I vaguely regret my choice to leave, thinking of the covered cocooned warmth. But then I think of being alone and don’t regret it much at all. And besides, despite the rain I have a good second wind. I hike another 3.5 miles and find a dry spot to set up my tent just after a quiet paved road. I do wish my first set up of this new tent wasn’t on a rainy night, but what can one do. It’s the PCT, where it’s always something.

August 22, day 56

Shasta and Cow Creek Umpqua Territory

29.5 miles

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I wake up this morning and am instantly thinking about gender out here. It’s so weird that hikers are so aggressive about gender because hiker gender expression is extremely fluid. People who code traditionally as cis men are wearing clothes that border on traditionally feminine, and vice versa. At the same time, wearing a skirt, I felt so aggressively gendered by others as female.

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Have you ever seen a doe bound through a rain soaked forest glimmering in the morning sun? I see that this morning after the rain of last night, hiking up through the firs dripping with moss. The doe surprises me, its lithe body hopping across the trail, then retracing its steps. I am mesmerized.

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I come to the top of the climb and I can see Ako-Yet/Et ti ja na/Yeh te che na, aka Shasta (source), in the distance. I am filled with awe. The view is beautiful and stretches for miles. California. The last state.

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I am so tempted to write, as I do my notes for the day – “tired. The end.” I was exhausted from lunch on, dragging myself through the day and cursing myself for choosing to do 30 miles. Why had I planned this? I could barely feel the land around me. I wanted to stop and sleep. Doggedly I pushed on. I texted friends. I called and reserved my hostel in Ashland (a ZERO on Saturday, praise be!). I played music. I listened to podcasts. I took more breaks than usual and tried to nap on one of them. Nothing helped. My body was done. And so the 30 miles took longer than it would have normally.

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Ironically as I did the last 5 miles to camp, I was listening to Tricia Hersey’s (The Nap Ministry) episode on Healing Justice and feeling rather ashamed of myself. She was talking about rest as reparation and revolution. And here I was pushing my obviously exhausted body to the extreme. I can feel in it the effects. I can see what capitalism does to us. I’m going to write more on that in my next Notes on the Road edition on Monday, but suffice it to say it was quite the lesson, and has been one over and over for me.

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When I finally hobbled into camp, I set down my things. Stretched. Made myself get water before setting up my tent. Then I put on my camp shoes and went back down to the spring and soaked my feet. After this day I was going to do everything possible to be nice to my body, since I really hadn’t been so nice most of the day. Along with dinner, I boiled water for my Calming tea, since Tricia Hersey had talked about tea in her podcast. I am convinced that I’m still going to be in a lot of pain tonight, but at least I’m taking some steps to mitigate.

August 23, day 57

Shasta and Cow Creek Umpqua Territory

12 miles

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I’m right about the pain. And on top of it, someone gets into camp at 10pm and proceeds to make food without trying to be very quiet. So I’m tossing and turning because I ache from the waist down, and this person is also being pretty loud doing their nighttime chores.

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I’ve been carrying around a ziploc this week with the letters I got in Crater Lake. Rachel sent me a little packet of poems, and I’ve read at least one a day. I read the last one this morning. I’m still thinking on my favorite. I’ve also got letters from And and Alyssa in there, both of which have served as great comfort this week in moments of anxiety.

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I’m low on food but it’s only 12 miles to Ashland and a blessed, blessed zero before I keep going and cross the California border. So I get up early and I’m out by 6:50 as usual. I fly down the trail. But even with my doubled breakfast, I’m starving 6 miles in and have no other food left but dehydrated retried beans. I take a quick break and mix a slurry of them in water and eat enough to give me energy to get to town. It works. And I get down in no time.

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When I get in, I realize my hostel is just off Hersey street, and I find this tremendously ironic considering the Nap Ministry and Tricia Hersey stuff I’ve just listened to. I take the message. Rest. So after I get to my hostel, before doing anything else, I take a nap.


During my hike I am raising money for Indigenous Women Hike! Please donate to provide indigenous women access to travel to their own land. GoFundMe is here.

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PCT trail log, days 49-52

August 15, day 49

Molalla Territory

10 miles

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I do a Nero (half day of hiking) in Shelter Cove. I wake up early and get all my chores done: laundry and a shower. I split laundry with another hiker I’ll call MFM. It seems generally pleasant. I like Shelter Cove. I love Odell Lake. It’s gorgeous.

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I decide I want to hike alone, for real. A couple of people ask for me to accompany them and I decline. I want the pleasure of my own company.

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I see someone from earlier on trail whose name I won’t mention here. I can’t decide how I feel about him. It feels both nice and weird to run into him. Something about him rubs me wrong even though he says the right things. I’m glad to get away and hike up into the hills. Which I do. I hike out 10 miles and find a spot that overlooks the valley I’ve just been in. It’s glorious.

August 16, day 50

Molalla territory

25 miles

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I am up by 6, but slow as usual to get out. I have reception and send a friend a text, and she needs some support so I sit for another hour or so with them since I luckily have some reception where I’m camped. I leave around 8:30 and start walking. I realize within about 20 minutes that since I have reception, I also need to call Six Moon Designs about my tent. I stop in the middle of the trail and do that – they are going to send me a brand new lunar solo to Fish Lake! That was easy enough. Im grateful to have that issue sorted.

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Then a voicemail comes through from a fellowship I received last year, informing me of some information they need today. I call the person there back and inform them I’ve been on trail without much reception. They are kind and understanding, but I’m also non compliant on some things. I fix what I can and finally start hiking again. This time I’m beset by shame and anxiety. I knew I had some things to do for this fellowship but I dropped the ball. I told myself that I couldn’t deal with all that out here. And here we were. I spiraled down, feeling anxious and frustrated with myself. I wanted to present for their conference next year and I hadn’t set myself up well. I consistently struggle to set myself up well professionally, to respond in time, to stay on the ball. Further and further in I went. I turned off my reception and played Elastic Heart by Sia over and over and told myself “walk, Laurie. Just walk.” I had to say this to myself several times.

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When you’re walking sometimes thoughts loop, at least mine do because I struggle with obsessive thinking, and today was not a helpful day on that front. The anxiety about the fellowship turned into anxiety about my gender, in part precipitated by misgendering myself in my own head. I am sure it doesn’t help that I’m constantly misgendered out here. But I spiral on that too. I feel like no one else has these fears. I feel like I’m doing it wrong. I feel amorphous, who am I even? This is terrifying, the most terrifying thing of all, that I can’t sense myself enough to know something solid.

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I spin and spin and spin.

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When I get reception again I get on Instagram and reach out to my close friends feed for support. I can’t do this day alone right now, my mind is too much. Friends message and their words make me cry in relief. I start to breathe easier and I can see the scenery again. I’m ridge walking, actually, and I realize it is so stunning, so absolutely gorgeous. I’m back. I’m present again. I try to stay with my friends words and with what I see around me.

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Despite my late start, I make my 25 miles by 7:45pm. Someone on trail, Old Man Rivers, gave me a fresh clove of garlic today, and I’m stoked! I cook part of it into my beans and rice, trying to save some for the whole section. It is legitimately a next level trail meal. Oh my god. I cannot eat enough.

August 17, day 51

Cow Creek Umpqua and Molalla territories

33 miles

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I don’t get out of camp until 8 despite waking up at 6. I was lazy and didn’t pull myself off my air mattress until about 6:30. And then when I was all ready I had to go collect water at a spring steeply downhill from where I slept. My Katahdin BeFree filter has slowed down to the point where it takes forever to filter water, so that whole debacle plus the climb takes me 30 minutes. I’m frustrated with this but here we are.

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I can tell my mind is still in the shattery anxiety place and that it wants to spin out again today. I hate when my mind gets obsessive like this. But I am very gentle and attempt to corral myself and redirect myself to other things. In the midst of this I realize I am probably going to pass Raine today! This lifts my spirits. And I do, I do pass her. Right as my mind is getting untenable again, she appears on trail. I’m stoked. It’s so fun to meet an Instagram friend! She’s lovely and we chat for about 20 minutes, sharing enthusiasm about each other’s experiences on trail. Finally I snap a pic and we’re both off again. It’s such a bummer when someone you’d probably hike well with is going the other direction.

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Despite my best efforts, after Raine passes my mind spins out again. I’m outside my body, it’s that kind of obsessing. I haven’t been here in a long while. Usually I can stay grounded. I think back to the last time my body was this shape, wondering if that is contributing to my mental state. I spun a lot like this back then. I wonder if my body thinks it’s in survival mode.

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I reach the high point of Oregon and Washington around noon and take a quick lunch. I text Jacklyn, and she sends me a lot of pictures of cute animals. I think about how maybe my absolutely definitely low oxytocin levels are maybe contributing to this anxiety trouble. All I want right now is to lay on a bed in a cuddle puddle of people and pets and watch chill Netflix (GBBO anyone?!) for a week. I think about all the other things I want. Someone to play with my hair. My cats. To be sandwiched between two people and held.

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After lunch after leaving my reception on for a bit, I turn it back off and hike. I attempt to really be here. I hope this will help with this anxiety thing. And it does. I still feel floaty, but I’m not mentally spinning anymore.

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I walk through some beautiful scenery next to hisc’akwaleeʔas aka Mt Thielsen (sources: here and here). Though this is in Cow Creek Umpqua and Molalla traditional lands, this is apparently a Klamath word (hisc’akwaleeʔas) which may be because it borders on Klamath land as well. I’m not even sure the “borders” are correct. Indigenous borders seem much more fluid than the ones in the dominant white narrative.

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I’m still trying to decide if I’m going to do 24 or 33 miles tonight. Part of me really wants to try for 33. I’m ready for a challenge. But that means I’ll get in kind of late.

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It’s a really dry section, so there are water caches along here. I get down to the water cache that was my 24 mile spot, and Old Man Rivers is there. He’s gonna push to my 33 mark (his 36) and so I decide to go too. He’s nice enough even though we don’t really know each other. He at least has been respecting my pronouns the past 24 hours by not really using pronouns at all. He’s probably not someone I’d usually camp with… I’m enjoying camping alone… but it’s just that there’s a section of Crater Lake that’s closed for mountain lion activity right now, and to be honest I don’t want to camp even near that alone.

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I start into the next 9 miles from the cache. I listen to an entire episode of Multiamory, the one with Lola Phoenix, and distract myself from my body pain by learning a lot from what they’re saying. I never podcast at home ever but out here it’s a great distraction, and it’s kind of fun to learn some new stuff. They talk about how jealousy is totally natural in non monogamous relationships, about how it’s used as a label too often for other emotions. They define jealousy as “wanting what someone else has.” I’m intrigued and think about how this applies to my own life.

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After the podcast I put on music. At some point I realize I’m totally dissociating. I can barely feel my body, and I’m floating. I wonder if this is why I keep getting anxiety. Hiking hard like this sometimes requires a degree of dissociation. Maybe not this much dissociation though. “Maybe not pushing SO hard to 33 miles next time,” I think at myself.

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I finally drag myself into camp. It’s not really that late, only 5 after 8. I’ve hiked about a half hour later than I did last night, and I’ve done 8 more miles. I’m proud but I’m not sure I should be. I’m not sure I want to be out of my body like that while I hike. By the time I’ve done all my chores and eaten my entire dinner (!!!!!) it’s almost 10 pm and my feet and legs are absolutely killing me. I’m wishing I elevated them, but I guess I will in the morning. I’m hoping the 2 ibuprofen I popped will help me sleep through the night.

August 18, day 52

Takelma, Cow Creek Umpqua, Molalla, and Klamath Territory

10ish miles

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I ended up popping 6 ibuprofen through the night in order to actually sleep. My feet were killing me and my body felt like it had been run over. 33 miles did a number. I hike out of camp at 8, nice and slow. I’m not going to go fast today. I’m going into Mazama, so I’m just going to take it slow.

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This desire is further confirmed when I realize it’s only 10 miles to Mazama rather than the 18 I thought. This info comes from a fellow hiker I pass just as I get up to the rim of Lao-Yaina. Crater Lake. Traditional Klamath land. The legend of the lake can be found here.

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I walk around Lao-Yaina really, really slow. Maybe the slowest I’ve hiked on the entire PCT. I dawdle. I take a million pictures. I let myself be totally entranced by the lake and Wizard Island and the entire landscape. I hike with Old Man Rivers for some of it, and some of it I hike alone. I eat snacks. I sit and take two long breaks overlooking the lake, one in the sun and one in the shade. There are tourists around but I honestly don’t care. This space feels magical and going this slow feels magical and I am very very about this day.

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When I finish my slow meander around the lake, my soul feels full. I feel better emotionally than I have in awhile. I’ve filled myself up with the landscape. I’ve let myself take it in the way I want to take it in. Instead of rushing by, I savored it. My soul loves this. I pull myself away from the lake after several longing glances and slowly head down trail to Mazama.

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I get to Mazama and the people I’ve been hiking around are there. Old Man Rivers is really the only one I wanted to see. I realize that I trust him more than most people I’ve met out here. He doesn’t say much always but he takes things in. He’s the only male I’ve met that doesn’t actively misgender me. Today when I get there, we are in conversation with an obnoxious guy, Old Man Rivers accidentally misgendered me then immediately corrected himself and went on. No apology or weirdness. In every day life I wouldn’t be so shocked by this, but honestly it just doesn’t really happen out here. So generally I tend to trust him a little bit more. I ask him later if he knows someone who is non-binary and he explains he had a coworker at a summer camp who was non-binary and explained things really well. I feel grateful for this person, whoever they were.

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I interact with talking about my gender sometimes several times a day out here. In trail towns, it’s quite a lot. On trail it’s not as much depending on who I see. Today alone I talk about it at least three times. The instance with Old Man Rivers, an interaction with MFM where I rather stridently tell him he should ask his photo subjects pronouns after I have to offer mine to him, and another in which Goose appears and we are talking to someone who misgenders me, and I correct them gently. Goose says “I was waiting for you to do it.” I am irritated and say, “you can do it, it’s a lot of emotional labor for me to explain all the time.” Honestly it all just gets so exhausting for me. Sometimes I want to like some of these people and I do initially and then they do something that really gets under my skin and reminds me how little they understand of my world. Then it’s harder and sucks more. I want to have compassion, I know it’s a relearning of social norms, but it’s hard and honestly I just want to say EDUCATE YOURSELF.

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I do some hand laundry and take a shower and eat 2 lasagnas, 2 ice cream bars, and a beer. I finally feel sort of full. So I decide to sleep. But it’s been a good day. Finally a good day that feels soul fulfilling more than most have. I’m grateful.


During my hike I am raising money for Indigenous Women Hike! Please donate to provide indigenous women access to travel to their own land. GoFundMe is here.

PCT trip log days 45 – 48

📍this section is on Molalla Land, in the Three Sisters wilderness, along the Ring of Fire.

August 11, day 45

16 miles

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I haul out of Big Lake Youth Camp after procrastinating all morning charging my stuff and talking to Willy Wonka. He’s a fun hiker from Britain and we had a nice chat. He had front row center at a Fleetwood Mac concert, a ticket he paid over a grand for, and was showing my videos of this. Of course I was interested, as a gay. This got me listening to Rumours as I left and hiked the next 16 miles up to where I am camping tonight.

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Music! I hadn’t realized how much music really makes my morale better. I’d gone without last section because of my battery charging issue. But now my batteries are all fully charged and I got to jam out today. Sometimes when you’re an enneagram 4 like me, you really need to get out of your own brain and hear someone else’s voice. Music does that for me.

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In today’s hike was a miles long lava field. Walking across actual rocks. I hated every moment of it and cursed out loud several times when I’d almost trip. At least my new insoles were keeping the rocks from poking my feet. Still, my feet were sore on the forefoot again today. A trip to REI in Bend may happen. I’m so irritated with my constant shoe issues.

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When I was coming up to camp, I was listening to Loudspeaker by MUNA on repeat and feeling every word. I’m finally, finally in a good mood hiking! Last section was so bad for my morale, it’s really nice to feel good. I take a picture of myself to celebrate. I feel emotional being in the Three Sisters wilderness for lots of reasons, and the emotions include sadness but not all sadness. I feel gratitude to be in a place I’ve dreamed of being since I first saw a picture of it 9 years ago.

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I have reception at camp so I stay up way too late talking to people and Instagramming, just enjoying having the ability to connect with loved ones while on trail.

August 12 day 46

27 miles

“Being radical isn’t just about your role, is about how you show up in the world.”

“The work that I do is my healing work.”

(Snippets from the Healing Justice podcast I listened to today)

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I drag myself out of bed this morning and tell myself to move. Nothing in my body wants to be awake. I don’t get out of the tent site until 7:30, later than I like.

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My first miles are slower than I’d like. I’m having huge anxiety about the email I sent to my email list this morning, wondering if I worded things well, wondering if it was in any way problematic. It takes me a few miles to chill. At least the terrain is gorgeous. I’m loving walking by the Three Sisters.

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I’d been worried the Three Sisters would be hard for me, but for the most part I just feel so grateful to be here. It’s so beautiful. I decide I’m the South Sister, Rachel is the Middle Sister, and Stephanie is the North Sister. Of course.

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Having my headphones back charged has me going ham on music and podcasts today. I listen to Tarot for the Wild Soul’s August Forecast, then listen to episode 41 of this season of Healing Justice. In one part they are talking about how desire is our guiding force, and getting down to what you truly desire. I think about all the dear relationships in my life. I think about my deep desire for connection.

Suddenly it hits me that I am trying to build a family. This comes when I am walking through a burn just below the South Sister, and I feel the synchrony of place down into my bones. I cry and cry. I think about my close loved ones and how all of them remind me of my sisters in some way. I see what I want and what I’m trying to do and my heart feels both so broken and so whole and desirous. I think of the dear one whose moon is in Gemini like Rachel’s. I think of another love who sent me cards scented with earl grey tea and how her handwriting looks like Stephanie’s. These are the examples that spring quickly to mind but there are hundreds more. I think about how both my sisters, but especially Rachel, echo through all my relationships and leave traces. How I’ve tried to rebuild a family since they’ve gone. How they were my family within a family, the safety from the nightmare. I think of how I want kitchen table polyamory and how the desire is, at heart, for a family. I think about how this is the deepest desire I have, and how my biggest fear is to find it and then lose it again. How I sometimes feel doomed in a way. How I’d had some of that with Heather and Dave, and then everything happened with Noah and a part of me felt like I brought it with me. I think about this because I’ve been in Sisters and I’m hiking in this space that holds so much of everything, Noah and Heather and my sisters too. I think about a dream I had recently about someone I care about, I think about how scared I am that I’ll bring doom to someone else. I think about how since I was young I’ve always been able to feel the boundary between life and death, and sometimes I hate it. I think about all this and I cry and cry. And this feels like the most significant moment here in the Sisters, this moment where I realize that all I’ve ever wanted in my soul is a family, and all of my fear is about losing it. This so far also feels like everything this hike has been about, working with a fear of loss.

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I decide I want to hike into Elk Lake for dinner. It will mean 27 miles, and I haven’t been hiking very fast. But I am starving and I want real food. I pop a couple of clif bloks and bang it out. About a mile out, my stomach turns and gets upset. I’m stubborn, so I kept going, making a beeline for the toilet as soon as I arrive. Despite this I again stubbornly ordered a blackened chicken salad. Because of my stomach upset, I couldn’t finish it. But it was delicious. And Elk Lake itself was gorgeous, one of the prettier lakes I’ve been by here in Oregon (there are SO MANY LAKES). At dusk, a sailboat drifted softly across the top of the water and made it look like something out of a dream.

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It got to be 8pm and I desperately needed a place to set up camp. I walked up to the forest service campground, but couldn’t find a spot. A woman called out to me (we’ll call her Pam 1) from her picnic table and asked if I was hiking the PCT and offered to let me pitch my tent at their spot. At first I said no. I wanted a quiet spot and to be alone. But after walking the whole campground I realized it was my only option and went back. Both ladies at the spot were very gracious and Pam 1 was obviously somewhat drunk. In chatting with them both, I discovered that both of them were named Pam, and both of them were born on the same day, they were “both Leo’s”, they informed me gleefully. They were here celebrating their birthdays. Pam 1 says, “we’ve been together for many years!” Pam 2 laughed and looked vaguely uncomfortable and said “not like TOGETHER, we’re not lesbians.” But Pam 1 kept repeating this phrase throughout the night. I have a theory that Pam 1 wants more, lol. Pam 2 regaled me with stories of them hitchhiking around the country in their early 20s. Pam 1 offered me wine and poured me a heavy glass of very good Chardonnay. I sat and sipped. Pam 1 kept saying “I’m so happy you’re here!” and Pam 2 would look slightly embarrassed at her effusiveness. At one point Pam 1 said this and gave me a hug. Pam 2 meanwhile was asking me “as a therapist” what I thought of past lives and if I believe in them, to which I said yes and then mentioned trauma and resilience being passed down in DNA. The whole thing was quite amusing and I was glad I’d decided to camp with them just for the story of it.

August 13, day 47

27 miles

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I woke up at 5:15am, not wanting to be up. I was still so tired. I tried to go back to sleep, but to no avail. Around 5:45 I got up and did my camp chores. But I didn’t really leave until around 7:30am. Again. I was just. so. tired. I didn’t even want to move this morning.

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I tried something new. I let my body be tired and I just moved slowly down the trail for the first couple miles. My body is tired… I will let them just do what they’d like. After about 3 miles, I woke up naturally and started to move faster. Much faster, to my surprise. In no time at all I’d done 10 miles. What? Okay, then. I guess I should let my body figure things out more often. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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I wasn’t feeling in much of a music or podcast mood today, but I was turning over lots of thoughts around gender in my mind. Fretting and worrying about my own gender identity. It seems like I have a couple stable months of feeling very solid in my identity, and then it shifts again. It scares me, because my deepest value is to be authentic, and what if I’m not being authentic? These thoughts run rampant through my mind, and I find to my great luck that Dara Hoffman-Fox has recently done an episode for Multiamory, and I had forgotten but had downloaded it before leaving town. So I pop it on, and it gives me great relief. I still feel kind of out in the deep end, but at least I feel a little more normal. I resonate so deeply to what Dara says about their name being their gender. Dara uses their name more than a particular pronoun, and that feels really true for me too. And I clarify that I fall somewhere around non-binary trans genderfluid/agender. I can’t decide if I’m fluid or a gender or both. Still thinking. I feel like fluid has to fit in there, because lately I’ve noticed that sometimes “she” feels okay, and sometimes it doesn’t. And that in written form ALWAYS I want to be referred to as “they.” It feels like such a weird combo, but whatever.

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I take a break because my feet are absolutely killing me. Are my feet always going to hurt? I notice I have a bad wear pattern going on my heels – both feet have blisters on the outside edges of my heels, which probably means I need to change my shoes again. I’m deeply irritated about this. Beyond that, the pads of my feet ache and ache and ache and never stop. I use my little ball on them and run it back and forth trying to soften the fascia.

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After break my mind wanders and I think about a recent conversation with Jacklyn about what makes a good kiss. I’d been telling them about the most magical kiss I’d gotten last year, almost a year ago in September. She had pondered then what makes a good kiss, and I said “awareness”, which made them laugh. While I walked I thought again about that whole line of conversation. What does make a good kiss? I took this note so I could tell you all about what I was thinking:

“kissing the idea of someone vs the actuality of them, awareness, more lips than tongue but little bits of tongue, gentleness, softness, tenderness, knowledge that you are touching someone’s soul. Most enneagram 4 description of a good kiss ever.”

I can always tell when someone is kissing their fantasy of me rather than ME because they lose awareness of the present moment and kiss how they think their idea would like to be kissed rather than feeling the energy of the moment. Anyway, it was all a very very enneagram 4 line of thinking. On that note, if anyone would like to offer me a really good kiss, I’m quite in the mood for one. Lol.

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Just after I pull myself out of this train of thought, I look off trail and see a bear not 25 feet from me, eating berries. A bear! This is my first time seeing wildlife that’s actually EXCITING. Lol. I’m more nervous than I thought I would be, because when I look at it, it looks back at me and doesn’t seem afraid. In fact it looks curious. I feel a thrill of fear and keep moving. I grin to myself though. I finally fucking saw big wildlife while hiking! This never happens!

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I fly through the next downhill section just like I’d done earlier in the day. As always, the last 2 miles are the hardest. My feet won’t stop hurting despite taking an ibuprofen. Finally I throw on a song and sing to it to distract myself. “Ohhhhhh I wanna DANCE WITH SOMEBODYYYY” I belt out, and that gets me through the last half mile. When I get down, Marylou and Fab have heard me and are amused. “We heard you singing,” they say. I tell them I had to get through the last half mile somehow.

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Tonight I’m camping at a gorgeous lake. I’d planned 27 miles just for this. I’d seen it on the map and it looked beautiful, so I decided I needed to camp there instead of doing the 25 miles I planned. I don’t regret it one bit when I arrive. I soak my aching feet in the water and clean them gently, they had been filthy. I watch the sunset, and then the almost-full moon rises over the water. The water softly catches its rays and sparkles in welcome. Peace drifts over my soul. I’m grateful to be here.

August 14, day 48

19 miles

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I wake up naturally around 5:30 and see the sun rise over the lake. It’s glorious, and I’m still sleepy. So I roll over and sleep longer. I keep doing this. Maybe it’s just what my body wants to do. I finally leave camp around 7:30. Like usual.

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I decide to continue following what my body wants, and my body wants to fly. So I do 10 miles in the next 3 hours and 10 minutes. I’m floored. Okay, cool, body. Glad we are doing what you like. I take a break in a cool little shelter. There aren’t many of these on the PCT, and this is a ski cabin. It’s old and witchy and has a loft and I love it.

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It’s only 9 miles to Shelter Cove from here. I make quick work of it. As I get about a mile away, the blister or whatever’s happening on the right outer heel starts to hurt so bad I can barely concentrate. I slow way down and hobble. What is the deal with this thing? The only way I can move forward is to dissociate from it, so I do.

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Finally I get to Shelter Cove. I order a hamburger and a side salad and eat it all. I run into Sonic, Gman, Fab, and Marylou. I tagged with them this section and I like their energy. But they hike out this afternoon so I probably won’t see them again until Crater Lake or Ashland, which is kind of a bummer.

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I get lost in my phone, and the store closes early, so I have to wait on quarters to shower and do laundry until tomorrow. I’m frustrated with myself, but it’s fine. I’m not in a huge hurry. I’m going to have to stay here part of tomorrow anyway.


During my hike I am raising money for Indigenous Women Hike! Please donate to provide indigenous women access to travel to their own land. GoFundMe is here.

PCT trail blog – Days 39 – 43

📍on Molalla, Warm Springs and Wasco traditional territories, as well as Paiute relocated territory

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde (including Molalla) have a detailed history of this area on their website. The US government forced many people in this area into a “trail of tears” and made them travel 200 miles from their ancestral lands. You can read it here.

You can also read the history of the Warm Springs band (Wasco, Warm Springs, and Paiute) here. Like many tribes, they were forced off their traditional lands but were “given” the fishing rights to them.

August 5, day 39

9+2.5 miles

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I’m blogging about the rest of this Nero because it felt important. Muffy arrives at the lodge and she is going to get off trail due to an intestinal bug. I’m so sad about this and also really want her to feel better. I’m going to miss her a lot. I kind of dread hiking out without her. She invites me to come to Portland with her. I think about it a lot. It’s been such a hard day emotionally. I feel so much grief. But I also feel like I’m going to lose momentum if I stop. So I tell her I’m going to stay. When she leaves I feel bereft and sad.

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I dawdle. I don’t want to go alone. I finally drag myself to get my Resupply box around 4pm and restock my supplies. Then I get a pizza. When I hike out, it’s late and I only hike 2.5 miles. I feel sad the whole time, and lonely. I miss Muffy. And the trail is so so quiet. I pass tons of northbounders, but no one is going south. It’s just me.

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I get to my tent and I set up all my little tokens I’ve brought from friends. I decide to leave them out all night with me. The loneliness feels stark. I know that’s why I spent all day at the lodge dilly dallying.

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I pee and come back, and when I go to close my tent, a piece above the door rips. It’s not in my tent proper, but it just feels exhausting and frustrating that this has happened at all. It’s too much today. I’m going to go to sleep and decide how to deal with this in the morning.

August 6, day 40

30 miles

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I set my alarm for 5, but I don’t get out of camp until 6:30. I don’t want to do any of this. I’m sad hiking without Muffy. I miss her company. I don’t want to hike alone. But here I am, and I have to hike. That’s why I’m out here. So I leave camp and get going.

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It’s a slow day. I can’t make myself move fast. My pack is so, so, so heavy with my resupply and my heart is just as heavy. And I start my period today, so that’s happening too (I am going to talk about everything here just FYI). I walk but I feel dejected and unmotivated.

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By 9:30 I’ve done about 8 miles. It’s slow for me. I stop because someone left trail magic at a road crossing and campground area. There’s a huge jug of water, 3 mountain dews, and 3 prerolled joints. I laugh and take a picture and take one of the Mountain Dew. The joints are stuck in the Mountain Dew pull tabs, but I hate to smoke and hike, and really don’t like pot most of the time except to sleep anyway, so I leave the joint for someone else.

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The Mountain Dew is refreshing and the caffeine lifts my spirits for awhile, so I fly the next few miles. But when the caffeine jolt lifts, my heart drops again. I just can’t shake the sadness, no matter what I do.

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I get to another road crossing just after I eat lunch and there is MORE trail magic! Twice in one day. I feel grateful and recognize the universe/queer divine whatever really is trying to help me. Another group of southbounders shows up and we chat. I introduce myself by trail name and give my pronouns as usual, and one of them, Goose, says “I figured, since they were on your hat.” He smiles, a friendly smile, and I smile back. I’m shocked. He says something about his genderfluid friends and then compliments my stickers and we get into a whole long conversation about indigenous place names and Black Lives Matter and a whole bunch of things. Men always will make me skeptical, so I’m wary still, but also pleasantly surprised. It’s so nice to have this conversation when I’ve been feeling so lonely.

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I leave before them. I’m trying to get some miles in, dang it! Once again the caffeine lift takes me awhile, until the afternoon heat zaps my energy. I’m so bored and still sad and walking on boring flat ground around the huge Timothy Lake. And I’m so so warm. I pass a hiker who says he got in the lake and I decide this is what I need to do. So I take a short break, strip off my socks and shoes and skirt and shirt , and wade into the lake half naked, only in my sports bra. I’m at a campsite marked “closed” so I just hope no one comes by, and I’m feeling fun and dangerous half skinny dipping out here. My body temperature drops and I sigh with gratitude.

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I take off again and go up the next few miles. I keep stopping. My bag is so, so heavy. All the food. I hate every moment of it. At mile 25, I stop and lay on a log and look up. Towering skinny pines look back down at me and wave gently. I can feel their compassion, how they hold me, how they say “it’s okay, it’s okay.” I cry for a minute. Then I pull myself up and walk what I think will be my last mile until camp.

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Just as I’m pulling out my tent to set up, Smokes comes by from the earlier group. We start chatting, and it’s so pleasant. I feel less lonely. Goose shows up too and we all chit chat. Then Smokes offers to carry my backpack if I want to come camp with them? I’m stoked and so lonely that I say yes almost immediately.

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We take off at a blistering speed down the mountain. Smokes’ pack is way lighter than mine. I’m deeply jealous. We continue chit chatting as we go. It’s fun lighthearted conversation and I’m grateful for the company. We get to a spring that I had thought we’d camp at, but they tell me they’re going 2.4 more miles. I am tapped and when I see its uphill, I tell them I’m going to stop and camp. They high five me when they find out – I’ve made my first 30! I can’t believe it myself. I wouldn’t have done it without so many things – both trail magic that happened today, the lake, the trees, and Smokes and Goose’s company to spur me on.

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When I backtrack and go to set up camp, I see my site is underneath a huge beautiful tree and tears come to my eyes. “Yes, this is my site,” I think. And I feel so incredibly held.

August 7, Day 41

25.1 miles

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I’m currently eating beans and rice noodles by the light of the moon while I write this, and I thought you may like to know that.

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I let myself sleep in this morning. Doing 30 miles in one day seemed like it deserved no alarm. I didn’t leave camp until 8am, which felt late, but my body felt well rested. The miles inched past to begin with. I took lunch at a lovely clear cold spring. The water was delicious and it may be one of my favorite water spots so far.

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I’m on a mission to make it to Olallie Lake this afternoon, maybe 5 miles further. Olallie has a place where I can charge my phone, and running water. I have my period on trail right now, which is a pain when I’m so dirty. I use a diva cup which involves a lot of sticking fingers up into places that I could get a bacterial infection! Yay? So running water sounds amazing – I can wash my hands before all that business. I’m kind of prissy, what can I say.

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Also, my charging brick didn’t get charged enough before I left timberline, so now I’m having to be very sparing in using my phone. I’m worried about it, worried about making it to Big Lake Youth Camp without a charge. Olallie has a place where I can charge my phone up, and this is super important to me. So I race there, hoping to get there mid-afternoon.

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The day is soul crushingly hot. I pull myself up the mountain and down, up and down. A lot of up and down today. The uphills are worse in this heat. The heat zaps my energy and I can barely drag myself uphill. I am still going at a good pace, but it takes everything in me.

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By the time I get to Olallie, I drag myself into the store and have just enough cash at the cash only store for a Coke and 2 Otter pops. I sit on the porch chatting with other hikers and cooling off, letting my phone charge inside.

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I chit chat with Hummingbird the most. We talk for a long time, off and on. What we do outside of the trail. She mentions her time on trail being time she doesn’t have to take care of someone, so I ask her occupation, and she says nurse practitioner. Us folks in the caring profession. I get that whole statement a lot. We talk about our writing, she asks what books I’m reading, we talk about some queer related things, whether or not we want to have kids… it’s a nice conversation. She is an ultra marathoner and is doing a chunk of trail in 7 weeks, so I feel lucky to have met her. She’s going very fast and it may be the only day I see her.

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I hike out again around 6:30, planning to go another 5.5 miles. And I do. The evening air has cooled things down and the temperature is lovely. The mosquitoes are not so lovely. I finally put on my rain jacket. My tolerance is increasing, but I still have my limits. I finally get to my tent spot and it is lovely and FLAT and when I lay in my tent and make dinner, I find that I can see the moon and the night sky out my door. This is the first time I’ve had that on this trail, and one of the few times I’ve been awake past 9pm, and I soak in the loveliness of the quiet, moon-softened dark.

August 8, day 42

20 miles

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I wake up at 4am and have to pee. But first I lay in my tent and I just stare at the sky. The stars are out and it’s spectacular. I can’t believe I’m here. I’m totally in awe, and this moment feels so lovely.

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I plan a shorter day today. 20 miles to a spot that apparently has a killer view. It’s a day with two big climbs, so I feel like that’s a good decision. I start around 7am, not having set myself an alarm.

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A couple miles in, a man riding a horse and pulling along a pack mule goes one direction, and we both think it’s the trail and get pretty lost. I bushwhack back to the trail and guide him and his animals back up. His name is Don, his horse is Rusty and his mule is Pearl. I am annoyed by the 45 extra minutes we spent getting lost, but heartened by the presence of animals. We hopscotch with each other all day, and it’s kind of lovely.

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The climbs suck. There’s no other way to say it. Since I wasted a bunch of time getting lost, I’m slower than usual, and the first climb is hard and rocky. My feet hurt already and I’m less than 4 miles in. Plus, why bother? Why try hard? No ones gonna be waiting for me at camp tonight. It’s just me.

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I can’t get that thought out of my head all day and it’s weighing me down. It’s only a 20 mile day and it feels so hard. The second climb, I speed up for the most part. Near the top I feel myself slow. The thought loops itself around and around in my head. No one’s waiting for me at camp. I tell myself I didn’t come to hike the PCT for company anyway. I tell myself I didn’t originally plan to hike with someone, hiking with Muffy was such a stroke of luck. It wasn’t my reason. But now somehow it is my reason, and I miss Muffy almost unbearably. I drag myself uphill.

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I turn reception on, a risky venture with my low battery, and get some news from my best friend that puts me in my feels. It’s about an unresolved sticky situation from last year that involves so much for me. And there is a piece of it I need to respond to. I spend the next few miles planning my thoughtful measured response and feeling a lot of anger, sadness, betrayal. Writing this now, I wonder if I should call my therapist from town when I get there.

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There’s another jaunt uphill, then I’ll be at my campsite. I’m dreading it. I have a water carry because I’m dry camping and my bag feels awful and weighs me down. Plus, I’ve been avoiding taking care of my diva cup all day so I really need to do that. I find a place off trail and oh my god. I have never felt more disgusting in my life than crouching in the woods, being harangued by mosquitoes, and dealing with a diva cup explosion on top of shitting in a hole because I’d delayed shitting, too. It is so gross. I feel so gross. I go thru wet wipes trying to just get clean again while mosquitoes delightfully feast on my body. There’s blood everywhere. I shudder and clean up as best I can and hurry back on trail.

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Today and this stretch I have felt so godawful dirty. I haven’t showered for over a week. I wash my hands in creeks (without soap – LNT) but I can’t get them clean for more than an hour or so. Last night, the spot I pitched my tent got very damp, and it was sandy, and the sand was black and went everywhere so now my tent is covered in black mud. I feel like I look as if I’ve hiked through an apocalypse. I kinda feel like I have too. I’m dirty and lonely and I’ve hiked bigger miles in succession this week than I ever have. In any case I feel so gross that all I want is a shower and it is the singular reason I am drumming up the will to hike all 25 miles to Big Lake Youth Camp tomorrow.

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I finally get to camp and set up and get eaten alive by more mosquitoes. It’s still not as bad as Washington though. I think that I have a full charge on my battery pack, so I’m lavish with my internet use for awhile until my phone nearly dies, so I plug it in. After a bit, it stops charging, and I realize I only had a tiny charge left in my battery pack, and now I only have about 10% battery life to get me to town tomorrow. I’m terribly sad and so lonely and I hate everything and I cry when I put my phone back in airplane mode.

August 9, Day 43

22 miles

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I wake up at 10:30pm and have to pee and when I lay back down I sob and sob. I realize in that moment that I’ve done too much on miles this week and that’s part of what’s happening with me emotionally. My body feels wrecked and is dumping it into my emotions. My internal state feels so overwrought and intense that I make a conscious decision to smoke some pot to both lighten my mood and put me to sleep. To my relief, it works without putting me into paranoia, a place I can go with weed and why I normally only smoke to sleep.

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In the morning I’m in a better mood. I laugh to myself thinking about my breakfast. “Hey body, guess what I have for you for breakfast? Surprise, cream of wheat with Nutella! Your fav!”

Body: *turns up nose and is visibly repelled* “what the fuck Laurie this isn’t a surprise we literally have this every day and I’m not eating this.”

Me: “oh but you are my dear! Yum yum yum!” I laugh for awhile thinking of this internal exchange.

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I am planning on 25 miles today, and by some miracle I actually leave camp by 6:30. I prefer leaving early. I love leaving by 6. I get a lot more miles covered that way. And the same is true today. By 11am I’ve hiked 14 miles. I’m stoked! The highway intersection is only 5 more, then 5-6 to Big Lake Youth Camp.

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On the way down to the highway, I am struck with the impression that I need to go into Sisters today instead. That it makes more sense to hitch in there today than to try and get a ride there tomorrow. I go back and forth on this. I break with a couple of dudes at the parking lot by the highway intersection where I’d hitch, eating snacks and discussing this decision with them. I hike another mile, past where I should hitch, and then think, “no, I really DO need to go into Sisters today.” So I turn around and head back to the highway to get a hitch. I pass a couple I’d seen earlier in the day, GinGin and Edbear. They ask me why I’m going backward and I explain. I keep going. Right as I get to the highway, it starts to rain.

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The couple burst out of the trees moments later and Edbear says “we changed our minds too!” GinGin yells at Edbear, “come on, we need to cross now!” as I’m standing on the edge of the busy highway trying to hitch. They run across the road and head back to the parking lot and trailhead I was in before.

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I try to hitch to no avail. No one will stop for me. It’s pouring. I just know I’m supposed to go to Sisters, but why will no one stop? Then it starts hailing. I run back across the road up to the parking lot where I know there is a pit toilet. Edbear and GinGin are huddling there and invite me in. They say they have a ride to Sisters and if there is room, theyll ask if I can go, too.

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There is room, and the woman who picks us up, Shari, runs the gear shop in Sisters. When we get there, she won’t let me go to the campground as I planned and instead invites me to stay at her house with Edbear and GinGin. I’m floored and thank her over and over. I’m in heaven. She makes us a big dinner and I get to shower in a shower in a house. What even?

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For dinner I have a taco and a taco salad and two brownies with ice cream and berries. As we eat dinner and chat, I notice that GinGin is specifically using my name and not using gendered pronouns to refer to me. She’s using my name mainly, and I can tell she noticed my hat even though I forgot to tell her my pronouns. I’m so touched by how she noticed this and instantly feel more comfortable with her and Edbear.

This is magical. And on top of it all, I get to sleep in a real bed. I go to sleep around 11:30 feeling tired and so grateful.


During my hike I am raising money for Indigenous Women Hike! Please donate to provide indigenous women access to travel to their own land. GoFundMe is here.

PCT days 36-39

(Day 35 was a zero day in Portland and I didn’t blog)

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📍Chinook, Wasco, Wishram, and Molalla Land

August 2, day 36

16 miles

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I dilly dally in town, doing last minute things: eating breakfast, sending mail, buying coke to pack out with me. Finally around 10:30am, I leave. On the way up, I run into Muffy and Vanessa. It’s so fun to finally meet Vanessa! I’ve followed her on Insta for years and meeting the #softeggcontent creator in person was amazing. Also, she’s even more stunning in person, internet be warned!

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We are only hiking 16 miles today, because we are meeting up with some of Muffy’s queer fam at Wahtum Lake. But first, we have a huge climb. 4,000ft of elevation gain. I dawdle more on my way up to the climb and use my prolific LTE. Finally I put my phone into airplane mode and I climb.

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Boy do I climb. I have never climbed like this. My muscles feel so, so strong. This hill feels like nothing. WHAT. Is this what hiker legs feel like?!? Or is it just the Coke I’m steadily feeding into my system?! Either way, I don’t stop once up the entire 4,000 feet. It’s a miracle. I feel so alive and so stoked.

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Then after I get to the top, the rain starts. This kills my good mood. I pull out my rain gear and trudge through the muck. I hate it, but at least I’m used to it now. I also know it will be short lived, so I try to just put up with it. Today will probably be the only day it rains for awhile. I also think it’s hilarious. Is rain my welcome committee to each state? First day of Washington: rain. First day of Oregon? ALSO RAIN. Fitting, maybe.

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I get up to the camping area at the lake and wait for Muffy. I’m guessing her friends are up in the proper campground up the hill. I wait for about 45 minutes and just when I’m about to go find them, Muffy’s friend Alley comes down the stairs. It’s so good to meet them! She’s also someone I’ve followed on Instagram for forever and after she says she’s going to hike to meet Muffy, they ask if they can give me a hug. I’m delighted. Then I walk up into the campground to meet up with their friend Meredith.

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When I walk into the camping area, Meredith is reading a book called Inner Witch and I’m immediately stoked. My people!!!! We proceed to have amazing and pertinent conversation and I’m so glad. I can feel my on trail defensiveness begin to relax. On trail, no one (except my lovely hiking buddies!) gets my queerness. But here, everyone does. Finally.

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We have tacos for dinner and I eat three plus two s’mores. I’m so full. And so grateful to these people who insist I eat what I need. I try to help as much as possible. The generosity floors me. Everything about this floors me. “I can’t believe this,” I keep saying. I’m thrilled, and tired in a good way, and I feel so, so safe.

August 3

Zero on Trail

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I wake up luxuriously late, not getting out of bed until 8 am. I can’t believe this is happening. I feel so safe. I feel so happy. I’m with my people and everything is okay.

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I have two cups of coffee, just because I can. While everyone else goes to use reception for a bit, I watch the rest of Tales of the City (UGH turns out I hate everything about that show and it is triggering af, do not recommend). Then I listen to a bit of a Multiamory podcast. When everyone gets back, we pack up and go to the lake.

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What even is this day? I wonder this over and over again as I laze around in the sun on the lakeshore, sipping root beer and real beer and eating chips and salsa. We tie together the inner tubes and form a flotilla on the lake and stare up at Mt Hood. It’s a hot day and the lake water feels so nice and cold. We’re all silly and laughing and talking about nothing and everything. I keep wondering if it’s real and then knowing it is and feeling so deeply content and so deeply grateful for a day of true rest with people I feel at home with.

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When we go back to camp, I am very quiet. I’m not upset, I’ve just rested so much that I’ve gone internal. I feel a silence that goes down to the bottom of my soul. It’s the first time I’ve felt this level of rest in at least a month. Probably longer, because I was so busy before I came out here.

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I make burgers for everyone and we sit around the fire chatting until we can’t stay awake, and I ask everyone for some physical touch before we go to bed, so everyone hugs me and I feel even more full than before. Gratitude is seeping into my pores. I’m smiling as I fall asleep listening to everyone talk and laugh around the fire.

August 4

Day 38

24.4 miles

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Muffy and I don’t leave camp until 7. Neither of us really want to go. Even though I’ve just met these people, I so want to stay with them in this space that feels safe, with other queer witches who care about the same things I care about. It feels a little like culture shock when I get back on trail and start moving. I’m grateful for Muffy’s presence and we talk for around an hour about all sorts of things as we walk.

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The trail starts to climb, and Muffy falls behind, and I speed up and race a little. It’s fun for me to run this speed especially when the terrain flattens out, like it does at the top of the hill. And then, the dream – I have LTE! I hike and chat with my friends for like an hour. Finally I tell myself I’m not gonna get any real hiking done like this, so I put my phone on airplane mode.

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In the afternoon, the air gets hot and close. I feel lethargic, like I can barely pull myself along. My feet hurt so bad. I’m so tired of my feet hurting constantly in some way. I wonder if I’ll have to change my shoes again and I feel totally frustrated. Some of this is just hiking foot pain that happens. I’m trying to decide if some of it is more serious. I can feel the ground jarring me underfoot as I walk, and it hurts.

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I reach an area packed with day hikers. It’s Sunday and warm in the Pacific Northwest, so everyone is out. I hate it. I hate the day hikers and all their dumb comments and PCT questions, and I’m hot and tired already, so I feel irritated when I see all the people. I start going up the hill and it’s a bigger climb than I want to do. I’m so, so warm and I can’t make myself move as fast as I want. The terrain is not a big deal for me at this point, but the heat drains my body of all energy and I drag myself along. When I reach the top of the climb, I pull out my electrolytes, and as I’m pulling them out of my bag am swarmed by biting black flies. I throw all of it in my hipbelt pockets as fast as I can and just keep walking.

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It stays hot and then i start going downhill. My feet hurt even more. I cross a creek on a log and lay past the crossing for 20 minutes, resting my feet and dozing. I’m so tired. This sun zaps me. I finally get up and decide to take the Ramona Falls alternate. A NOBO told me this morning f I should check it out. It’s an easy trail, but I can barely move up it. I’m so warm. I’m so tired. When I finally get there, I’m not impressed enough to have felt like I actually wanted to see it. I snapped a picture and walked away.

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As I leave, a man stops me and asks about his friends, who I’d met coming up. He then asks, in what he seems to think is a charming way, “so where are you hiking in from?” He cocks his head just so and looks me up and down. I feel like a piece of meat. I instantly hate this interaction. “Oh I’m hiking the PCT,” I say, and turn away. “Have a good one.” Why do men think this is cute, to look someone up and down like that? I want to vomit.

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Camp is only about a mile from here, so I head that direction. Just before camp is a hairy river crossing. It’s the worst I’ve seen yet and I can’t decide where to cross. I walk up the river and try the log bridge, three times. Every time it feels too rickety to cross. Finally, I pick a spot that seems less intense and start my way across. I’m terrified. I make myself think logically and slowly. I get to the second sandbar and take a deep breath. The water is rushing, pounding down the mountain between me and the shore. I look for the best way to go, but this is really it. I have no choice but forward. I plant my poles in the rushing muddy water and wade in. The water is up to my thighs and the current pushes at me, threatening to sweep my feet from under me. I scramble up the other side and cry out in fear and relief, a sort of gasping shocked cry. I’m still shaking. I wonder if Muffy is at camp. I want her to be at camp. I want a hug after that. I am so scared and I shake my body out.

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Muffy is not at camp. I put my things down and walk back to the river, knowing this crossing will scare her too. I watch and encourage her as she crosses, breathing a sigh of relief when she gets over. She’s scared too and hated it. We both make our way to camp in relief and sit and make our food and chat. It feels grounding. I like this chit chat and being here talking with Muffy feels like home too, and that feels so good. Especially after today.

August 5, day 39

9 miles so far

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I drag myself up at just after 5am. I’m trying to get to Timberline for their breakfast buffet before it closes at 10:30am. At least, that’s what I tell myself. I can’t decide if I actually want it that much. It seems overrated. And it’s 9 miles and 3,000ft of elevation away. Aka, I have to go up a big hill.

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I start the hill around 6:15 and feel cranky. I don’t want to do this hill. I throw on my headphones and jam out to some music for awhile until my headphones die. By that time I’m in a great rhythm and crushing the hill. Cool. I guess my legs are this strong now? It’s weird. But I’m into it.

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I try to decide whether to take the Paradise Loop alternate trail and go see the views Guthook (my PCT trail app) mentions. I finally figure “what the hell” and head up the loop. It’s worth it. It winds through wildflowers under the crest of Wy’East (Mt. Hood, named Wy’East by the Multnomah tribe), and I get there just as the sun is peeking over the top. My endorphins are high so I’m in a great mood, and I decide I want to post some pics to Instagram. I know I’ll have reception, so I flip my phone off of airplane mode.

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The first thing I see is a text in WhatsApp. It’s from… BBCNews. How they found me on WhatsApp is a mystery. The person says they interviewed me a couple years ago and can I give an interview about “current events in the US” today? My entire stomach clenches and drops and I freeze in the middle of the trail. I instantly know it’s really, really bad. I haven’t seen the news because I’m hiking but my body immediately feels it and I immediately know I’ve actually been registering it for the past couple of days already. I text Jacklyn. “Can you please tell me the details, gently?” I ask. “I don’t want to look at the news.” I’m shaking. I’m standing in the middle of a gorgeous field of wildflowers and I’m shaking and then crying and my body feels everything. “It’s okay, baby,” I whisper to myself. This happens to me sometimes. I’ve learned to just let it through. It’s better that way. I let myself shake. I feel the land holding me, watching me gently, offering its beauty despite the madness I know I’m about to hear. I take this picture while I wait for her to respond.

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Jacklyn tells me there were 2 white supremacist mass shootings over the weekend and tells me where. She doesn’t tell me the casualty count. I don’t ask. I can feel that it’s high. I’m quiet, so so quiet. I feel fragile and protective.

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I think of how the small reflects the collective, over and over. Friday night, as I walked into camp towards my friends’ campsite, I walked past a group of men. They were standing in front of a huge old Chevy pickup. It looked to be an old man and his sons. The old man was holding a shotgun. In public. Without any thought. For some reason, though I don’t always react to this kind of sight (Colorado has open carry and I’m used to it), I react so strongly. I feel shaken and scared. I try to forget it and walk quickly to my friends campsite. I try not to think about them standing there while I talk with Meredith, when Muffy and Alley arrive. Until one of them mentions how weird they acted. I tell everyone how they were brandishing a shotgun. Everyone looks dismayed. I breathe a sigh of relief when the truck drives away – we all do. I think about that this morning. That reaction. I think of how the depth of my reaction was a ripple of what was happening in the collective, how my heart squeezed in total fear as an echo of the greater whole. Some of you may think this sounds crazy, but this morning as I stood under Wy’East just trying to breathe and my body shook with the news, I knew this to be true. My body knew about the news of the weekend before I did.

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I breathe and feel the earth and hike hard and get to the hotel in time for breakfast. I stress eat. It’s a rich white people hotel and the atmosphere feels jarring in juxtaposition to the awfulness of the news. I barely taste my food; it’s fine, I just don’t really care. And I can’t help but think that it’s this kind of thing that promotes white supremacy. I scroll Facebook a bit to try and find casualty information and I find out there have also been two shootings of people of color by police in Colorado Springs this weekend. And I find out that a friends husband has been killed in an accident. I get the casualty numbers of the other shootings and it confirms my earlier feelings. It’s all too much and I stop scrolling. My body is overwhelmed and I keep crying.

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I’m just sitting here now dazed. I don’t know where to go next and I’m just trying to let my body process. The grief and terror feels immense. I’ve been thinking all day about the constant erasure whiteness enacts. I see it on trail constantly. Native placenames, but we’ve erased the history behind them. The Huckleberry Handshake or the fishing rights for the Chinook, where we tell the indigenous “you can do this one thing on this land, see, we’re good to you!” when literally, it is their land and they had the right to begin with. The lack of indigenous place history I find on Google and the hours I spend trying to track it down. Even how I unconsciously erase, not realizing until I was leaving Cascade Locks that indigenous sellers were selling fruit and fish along the sidewalk and I didn’t take the time to ask them about their history or to even buy what they sold. I am ashamed of this and know it’s my own whiteness at work. I am constantly blinded by it and trying to take my blinders off. That’s a huge part of why this journey is important to me and why I try to document the indigenous history as I go. And I still fail. That is the way of it.


During my hike I am raising money for Indigenous Women Hike! Please donate to provide indigenous women access to travel to their own land. GoFundMe is here.

PCT days 31 – 34

July 28, Day 31

20 miles

📍Yakama land

I didn’t leave Trout Lake until 11am, so I got breakfast at the cafe with Carrot, then an Americano, then putzed around with resupply and internet for most of the morning. I was determined to do 20 miles today despite starting so late. My foot had been hurting so much last week that I did low mileage, and I was ready to turn it up.

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So when the shuttle (the back of a pickup truck) dropped us off at 11:30, I was off to the races almost immediately. I hiked fast and hard. I took a break at 10 miles for water and a snack. And then again at 15 miles. That’s where Carrot and Muffy left me; they didn’t want to go any further today. But I was hungry for miles and had promised Waist Deep that I’d catch up to her, so I kept going.

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I didn’t get into camp until almost 8. I was dragging so much. But Waist Deep was there! I was so relieved to have caught up with her as promised and it was so good to be hiking with her.

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Also at the camp was a National Forest Service ranger named Keegan, who I found out through the course of conversation, is half Chinook. She had mentioned primitive trails and so I asked her more about the indigenous people of the area. We talked about something called the Huckleberry Handshake, a time when indigenous people were given the right to pick huckleberries – ON THEIR OWN LAND. This concept was infuriating. She also graciously informed me that the area I was hiking in had some sizeable indigenous history, which I had wondered about due to it being named the Indian Heaven wilderness (shuddering writing that term). The indigenous in this area called it Sahalee-Tyee, which online has several loose translations. I cannot find any indigenous based translations so I will not repeat them. There was an area called Indian Race track where it seems that indigenous folks would horse race. I am grateful to Keegan for graciously sharing this information with me. I couldn’t find further information online that was indigenously sourced, so I leave you with this link about the history of the area. History of Guifford-Pinchot National Forest.

July 29, Day 32

26.6 miles

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Last night, when we were planning where to camp the next day, Waist Deep said, “we could hike 26!” I was hesitant and felt doubtful my body could do such a thing. But I got up and started hiking and felt so good. When we stopped for lunch at 10:30 already having done 11 miles, I said, “let’s go for it!” She agreed, so we excitedly forged ahead.

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We made 18 miles by 2pm. I was floored and my feet ached. There had been a climb, and the day was hot, and I needed a snack. We stopped at a forest road where there was a water cache for the long dry section we were in and I put my pack down and used it as a pillow. Delicious. I rested in the shade and ate and drank.

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It was here we met Metric Ton, a male hiker. Waist Deep had asked me earlier if she could be a good accomplice for me in any way and I told her to use her pronouns when she introduced herself. So she did, and I did, and a complicating and awkward conversation ensued with Metric Ton, a man in his mid-50s who could not stop equating sexuality with gender. I patiently explained non-binary to him. “So you’re not a lady, and you’re not a man?” he asked. I explained that I didn’t exist within a gender binary. He asked if I was then bisexual. I said yes, but that isn’t really the point and tried to explain queer and gender as separate things. He sort of got it. He at least got that I didn’t identify as female. But then he felt the need to bring up his own sex life, how he’d dated a bisexual woman assuming endless threesomes, how at his age he was getting more action because he was “healthy” (thank you, I really didn’t need to know either of those things). I pulled my energy out of the conversation and just gave short answers, and blessedly he got the message. When he left he said, “I guess I can’t say ‘goodbye ladies.’ What would I say instead?” We suggested folks, Waist Deep suggested ‘hikers’, we both suggested ‘y’all.’ So when he walked away, he said “goodbye, y’all!” So was it a productive conversation? Who can say? It was very awkward in the end for certain, but perhaps some headway was made? Who can tell.

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This was also the day that Waist Deep decided how queer hikers should flag on trail. We’d been discussing how you could tell someone is queer. In the middle of a climb she blurts out, “Bogwitch, I know how people should flag! The gaiters (gayters)! It’s both like GAYters and Gaydar!” It’s PERFECT. So I have decided to spread the gay gospel and let all you fellow queer PCT hikers know – get gayters to flag please! I’ve got pin up girls. I know someone who had scissors (Hey Vanessa. Lol). Waist Deep wants tacos. I’m believing in you all to find other ones!

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As I headed downhill to camp, I started noticing a burning sensation in my back. “Ohhhhh it’s chafe,” I knew immediately. I had said to Carrot only a few days ago, “I don’t have chafe yet!” I had known even then to add the ‘yet.’ See, out here on the PCT many of us say “it’s always something.” So I wasn’t truly surprised by the appearance of said chafe on a hot sweaty day, rubbed into place where my pack met the skin of my lower back. The way we treat that out here is wet wipes and vagisil. It would be a wet wipe and vagisil evening.

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A couple of hours later, after finding a second wind and speeding downhill, I found myself crossing the river! 26.6 miles later – practically 27 miles! I had walked a marathon! I was absolutely floored and awed by myself. And totally exhausted. I haven’t been sleeping well on trail the last couple weeks, but I knew I would knock out tonight. And I did. I set up my tent, ate my double pack of ramen, just barely able to stay awake through finishing it. Then I lay down, killed the one mosquito torturing my already tortured skin, and fell into a deep dreamless sleep.

July 30, day 33

22 miles

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My alarm went off at 5:30 after a blessedly good sleep. I’d been so exhausted after our marathon day yesterday that I’d actually knocked out pretty hard. I was ready to go when the alarm went off though. Or so I thought. Waist Deep and I dawdled and used the pit toilet at the nearby campground and emptied our trash there. We didn’t leave til about 7:30. Both of us were dreading the big climbs. We had 2 today, both at around 2,000 feet of elevation gain.

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I could not make myself wake up. My head felt so foggy. I tried caffeine, food, everything, and still before the first climb I couldn’t shake it. For the whole climb I dragged behind Waist Deep, feeling so so tired. She was wired on caffeine and a strong climber. Meanwhile my muscles seemed to be still in shock from yesterday.

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At the top of the climb somewhere I yelled at Waist Deep to stop. We ate lunch in the sun and I stuffed myself. I realize I have never had true hiker hunger until this day. I’ve been eating all day and I’m still hungry. At lunch I eat four beef sticks, about 2-4 inches of cheese, sour patch kids, crackers, and mint Oreos.

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We hike back down down down and then break again at the water for a long water carry. I KT tape my ankles again; out of exhaustion I’d rolled both of them on the last downhill, so taping it is. Waist Deep and I mentally prepare for the big uphill to camp. I’m so tired. She’s so tired. We pep talk each other, saying over and over, “last big climb of Washington!!!” Then we put on our most inspiring music and start uphill. She leads the way, going into what she calls “mountain goat mode.” I follow, letting her speed set mine. I’m listening to so much Sia and Miley Cyrus and Pink and everything that would make me feel energized enough to get up this climb. Our friend Footprint brings up in the rear. In the middle of the climb, we start singing at each other. Waist Deep has Fight Song playing, so we yell sing that song before heading up another hill. And it helps. I yell sing Fuckin’ Perfect. And we go up the hill.

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Finally, finally, we reach the top. We can see all the way back to Pahto and ahead to Wy’East (Mt. Hood). It’s incredible. I’m stunned and awed and can’t believe this state is almost over. And I’m so tired.

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We get to camp and my camping spot is flat! Bless. Me, Fluffy Bunny, and Waist Deep all sit together and have dinner and talk about music. Then I go hibernate in my tent and watch Netflix and finally pass out, thinking, “tomorrow is the last day of Washington.”

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July 31, day 34

12.9 miles

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There is an indigenous legend about the Tamanawas Bridge, the area that I crossed today. You can find that legend here. I couldn’t find any indigenous sources history on Google. If you know of some, please direct me to it! Deep honor and reverence to this space that carries this power.

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I wake up at 5, and roll over and snooze til 5:30. But still my first thought is, “Bridge of the Gods in 12.9 miles!” I am so very excited. I am so in awe. I am so grateful to have made it through an entire state. So many times I didn’t think it was possible, due to either injury or emotional stability. But here I am.

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Waist Deep and I leave camp and 6:30 and zoom down the mountain. Washington is almost over! I try to take in mostly every step. I am somewhat distracted by the availability of phone reception and finally firmly put my phone away, telling myself to catch up with people later. The hike down isn’t easy. It’s rocky and slow going, my least favorite downhill. And it’s like that til almost the last mile. Waist Deep had gotten behind and she catches up to me 3.5 miles from the bridge, and we do the last miles together. It’s hot and muggy and the trail is rough. I am struggling to stay positive but firming up my self talk. I tell myself this will make the bridge that much sweeter.

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Finally we get to the bridge and I’m overwhelmed with emotion. A whole state. 550 miles. And this is the place where Cheryl Strayed’s book ends and I feel a little shivery in a good way thinking of that. I take so many pictures with Waist Deep. I feel so much awe and gratitude. I am full up to the brim. I am utterly amazed at this journey and just trying to stay with each step, walking, and walking, and walking.


During my hike I am raising money for Indigenous Women Hike! Please donate to provide indigenous women access to travel to their own land. GoFundMe is here.

PCT trail log, days 27 – 30

📍on Yakama land

7/24

Day 27

12.1 miles

We hitch out of Packwood this morning and up to White Pass and lazy drink coffee and use WiFi until noon, then we hike.

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I hike slower and more intentionally today. My inner foot still throbs at different moments. I continually try to correct my gait and keep my foot pointed forward instead of in. It takes a lot of my concentration. But I actually feel more present this way. It’s nice. I think about all the things that made me hike too fast before and try to forgive myself for the deep fear of loss that dogs underneath it all. Of course it does, Laurie – and we’re wired for connecting. It’s okay.

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I camp and have to force myself to eat all my dinner again. My stomach is resisting trail food with a passion but is totally fine in town. I’m hoping I’ll hack it at some point and get my stomach to take it in without feeling sick.

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I’m still worried I won’t finish the trail. My foot is still throbbing off and on. My money is so likely to run out. I’ve been spending so much. But it’s more my foot I’m worried about. I don’t know why it won’t stop hurting. I’m crossing my fingers that the gait change will help. I don’t want to get off trail. But I may have to.

7/25

Day 28

14.7 miles

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Today starts off with a long climb. My foot feels better to begin with, and I’m hopeful. I elevated it and did a lot of stretches last night, and it seems to have helped. But I’m still careful, because, long climb.

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Today is Goat Rocks, a famed day on the PCT and in Washington. We climb up to 7,000 feet, not much in Colorado but here, we’re climbing from about 3,000 feet up. The climb is gorgeous. All of it. This kind of terrain, the rocky uphill, is my favorite. Some of the climb is across small paths hugging the mountain – scary. And I love it.

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We climb and climb and climb and finally get to the Old Snowy alternate. Old Snowy is a mountain that you can summit. Me, Muffy, and Carrot break and have a snack. I’m still worrying about my foot because it’s hurting again. I roll it out with my ball and hope it gets better.

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We keep climbing and I decide to summit the mountain. In terms of my foot, I don’t think it will be too hard for it. I climb up and holy fuck. This is maybe my favorite view on the PCT so far. Shubahlup/Tahoma/Tacoma (Mt Rainier), Pahto (Mt Adams), and Louwala-Clough/Lawetlat’la (St Helens) are all in view. I feel fucking phenomenal and so proud of myself. Proud for getting this far. Stoked that I am here. It’s a glorious sunny day and I fucking did this.

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I ride this high down for a few miles. The sun is glorious. I think about the first people on this land, partially because the Yakama reservation is marked, and partially because I’m curious, angry about what my ancestors have done, feeling the depth of the land and the depth of what it might mean. I don’t know. I’m still processing it all.

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It slowly creeps up on me that there are still several miles to go before sleep, and I start to feel tired. It’s taking all my concentration to maintain my gait so my foot doesn’t hurt, and it’s a lot.

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Eventually the mental exhaustion and the pain catch up to me. I run into Carrot and she asks how I am and I tell her the truth. She and Muffy are lovely and happy to camp early for my sake. I’m so grateful and so tired. We set up camp and I hope I can figure out my foot in the morning. I’d swear that’s the only problem with any of this, because the trail and scenery are fucking gorgeous.

7/26

Day 29

24.4 miles

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I’m worried about my foot so much, but after elevating it and stretching it this morning, I just try to take it slow. The first six miles are fine, but then the mosquito horde descends. I find myself going much faster than I mean to, and the foot pain ratchets up. Finally, I think about putting my glove in my shoe under my arch and seeing if that resolves some of the pain. I sit down and dig it out of my bag and try to stick it in my shoe. I can’t get it positioned well though and it just ends up under my heel. “Oh well,” I think, and I stand up.

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In shock I realize my foot doesn’t hurt as much in this position. Hardly at all actually. What in the world?! It must be the zero drop of my shoes! I’m terribly relieved to realize this because it’s such an easy fix. Hooray! I can just go into Portland when I’m in Cascade Locks and go to REI and exchange them. Easy peasy. I’m thrilled! I was so so scared I’d have to leave trail altogether, but this can be resolved!

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I catch up to carrot for lunch and she lets me hang in her shelter since it’s already up. I’m stoked for a break from the bugs and we munch and chit chat. Muffy comes by a bit later; I had missed seeing her on the trail before, I guess. I’m not sure how, because I’d been looking for her? But somehow I didn’t see her. She’s trying for 24 miles so she keeps going.

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“Maybe I will try for 24 miles too, with how good my foot feels,” I think. I decide to check in with myself in a few miles. There’s a spring called Lava Spring because it comes right out of the lava fields from Pahto. I’m stoked about this location and decide I’ll think on more miles there.

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The day becomes very hot and then the trail dries out. This is great – I strip off my rain jacket and pants which I use to guard against the bugs. The heat is tiring. By the time I get to the spring I’m definitely ready for a break. I run into Gravity there and a person whose name I don’t know. We chit chat a bit. I soak my feet in the ice cold water and it feels glorious. Carrot shows up so I sit for a bit longer than I intended. Muffy was nowhere to be seen when I arrived so I assume she’s flying.

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I know by this point I’m gonna try for 24 miles too, and when I hear it’s a gentle uphill, I’m even more set in my decision. I start off around 5. It’s late for me to hike another 5 miles, but it also means only 15 miles to Trout Lake tomorrow! I take the gentle incline with ease. It really is a lovely climb and I’m relieved, because I’m exhausted. I can feel the exhaustion as I walk. I play my music and force my feet forward. My feet feel fine; it’s my mind and soul that are tired and want to sleep.

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Eventually I reach the campsite. Muffy is there and already tucked into her tent. I go get water and soak my feet and make a late dinner I hope I’ll finish. I’m so tired. There are also so many bugs and I’m hiding from them in my shelter.

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I’ve thought a lot all day about Pahto and the Yakama people whose land I’m on. Pahto was a sacred place for them, and I wonder if I’m picking up on that. There’s a quieter feeling here that runs deep. It’s a bit similar yet different from Tava in Colorado Springs. I feel a lot of honor and respect and an intention that my feet honor whose space I am in.

7/27

Day 30

15 miles

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Today I wake up at 5 so I can get into town early. Town town town! I’m so excited and ready to be there. I feel dumb for this, but I haven’t had internet reception most of this section, and I’m desperate for that connection. It gets a little hairy and edgy out here for me without it.

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Also, I can’t get over how it’s been 30 days already since I started this trail. It feels like a fucking year. The first two weeks were something I’ve been calling the “trauma tunnel”. It’s something that’s happened to me before, I do something new and it’s hellacious and I lose all perspective and my world becomes very small and I am one giant landmine triggered by everything. This happened the first time I got acupuncture, too. I got needle shock and had to go in the bathroom and lay on the floor while I had flashbacks. I told off the woman who ran the clinic and said she needed to be more trauma informed (I still stand behind those words). But then I went back to the same clinic (different practitioner) and I fell in love with acupuncture. I feel like the same thing happened for me with the first two weeks on the PCT, it just lasted longer. It is my least favorite thing, honestly, to be constantly trauma reactive, but I did make it through and I feel soft and brave towards myself for that.

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I hike all morning through lava chutes with rivers flowing down them. Sometimes it smells a little sulphuric and silty, as if the earth is half on fire. And I know it is, somewhere deep down. It seems like I can feel the mountain, and I wonder if I’m making that up. It’s foggy outside, and windy, and everything feels a little eerie. I fucking love it. I put on a playlist with melancholy music and I drop into all my haunting feelings for awhile and it is glorious. I’m listening to Death Cab – Transatlantacism, The Antlers – Kettering, and other appropriately haunting music.

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I hike hard to the place marked in Guthooks (the PCT app that shows us where the trail is) as having Verizon LTE, 9 miles from where I’m camped. When I get there, I’m disappointed to learn it’s “fake” LTE – the kind that allows calls but no data. “Fuck it, I’ll just hike hard to town,” I think. There is a shuttle at 11:30, and it’s 9:30 now and I’m 6.7 miles up. That is really fast for me, faster than I’ve ever done, but I’m gonna try it.

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I speed down the hills, taking care not to push myself too hard and cause pain. I pass the person who started before me at 5am. I’m gonna be so close. So so close. 15 miles in 4.5 hours? Am I actually gonna?

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The last 2 miles I’m pushing 4 mph. I know it and I watch my body wisely but push on. It’s gonna be so close, aaaah!!! The shuttle leaves at 11:30 and I’m due there just after. Finally I push out of the forest at 11:31 and DAMN IT. I have just just just missed the shuttle! I sigh. But then I grin to myself. I fucking just did that. And I can hitch into town anyway, it’s fine.

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It takes me about 20 minutes to get a hitch to town. But my first few hours in town are glorious. I eat a burger and holy SHIT a huckleberry milkshake! I haven’t had huckleberries since I was a kid and I’ve been thinking about this shake for the last week since I heard about it. I die and go to heaven I’m pretty sure. Later on a guy brings a gallon of fresh huckleberries by, and Carrot buys a gallon of ice cream and we all eat huckleberries and ice cream out of our pots. Is this the real life?!? Am I even living? I can’t believe this and I love every moment of it. And my foot isn’t even hurting.

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I love this fucking trail.


During my hike I am raising money for Indigenous Women Hike! Please donate to provide indigenous women access to travel to their own land. GoFundMe is here.

PCT trail log – days 21 – 26

📍on Yakama land

There are 2 large mountains in this area. One of them was referred to as Shubahlup by Salish speaking tribes in the area. (Native American net roots) There is other information on the Google about it being called Takohoma by other indigenous folks in the area. It is known in English as Mt. Rainier.

The other mountain is Pahto, which is a sacred space in Yakama folklore. We know of it as Mt. Adams. You can read the story of it here: Pahto

Day 21

July 18

8.8 miles

My first official Nero. Me, Muffy and Carrot hike to a lake 8ish miles outside of town. I have my trail legs and I fly, finding my rhythm. Today has been restful. I get to camp, and I’m still wired. So for fun, I decide to smoke some weed and watch my Netflix I’ve downloaded. So that’s what I do, and it kind of feels like a vacation, which is really nice.

22

July 19

20.7 miles

What a nice hiking day! It feels like a completely different trail?! It’s sunny, and cold-hot, and my feet feel good, and I’m loving Muffy and Carrot’s company, and I have a new sleeping pad, and I’m flying. What even is this?

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We left around 6:30 this morning and I flew ahead pretty quickly. I think I’ve got my hiker legs. It’s a beautiful day, sunny finally, and my morale starts to lift. The trail is soft and pine-needle-cushioned for much of it.

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I watched 2 episodes of Tales of the City last night before falling asleep because I hadn’t hiked myself tired. I thought about the episodes all day and had lots of gender related feels. Gender is so weird. I’ve really been embracing my fluidity lately.

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I got new shoes (Altra Lone Peaks) and I like them well enough. I love the zero drop concept as a somatic centric person. I also have a new sleeping pad that is out of this world comfortable. My gear is getting dialed in! And it feels awesome. Everything just feels awesome today.

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I get to camp before Carrot and Muffy and set up and hang out and wait. I lay on my sleeping pad and get so warm I don’t want to move. But then Carrott and Muffy show up and we go get water and it’s such pretty water. And then we make dinner sitting all in a circle and laugh and make fun of the mansplaining dads on trail. My stomach hurts a little from laughing so much. I eat beans and rice with dehydrated veggies I found in the hiker box, and in between I snack on my watermelon sour patch. This is a normal night’s meal but tonight it’s maybe the highlight. Today was so good it was a little quiet and I can’t help but think, “finally.”

Day 23

July 20

21.7 miles

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I’m so tired this morning. I don’t wake up until 5:30, and when I do, I turn over and sleep for another 30 minutes. Why am I so tired? I finally drag myself up and make a double packet of coffee.

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We have a climb first thing which I love. I prefer to climb in the morning. It’s about 1,800 feet of gain. I hate and despise the first couple of miles. My pack is way too heavy this section and it makes me crabby. But a couple miles in, I get a good rhythm going. And then I am stoked. I’ve got music in my earbuds and I get into my hiking rhythm and go.

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All of a sudden at the top of a ridge I look to my right. “Holy shit,” I say out loud as I see Shubahlup (Mt. Rainier) in the distance. It’s a perfectly sunny day and the view is unbelievable. I can’t stop looking at it as I go up the next ridge. I stop in a sunny meadow and have a snack looking out over the snowy crest of the old volcano. I’m endorphin drunk and so, so happy.

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I have been listening to music on trail a lot more than I thought I would. I get to a point where I’m bored and I need fun thoughts. Partially as a result of the music I play, one of the most common things I think about on trail are songs I would do drag to. I wonder, does anyone else think about queer stuff on trail as much as I do? I think about drag every day. And gender related stuff. And today I thought about how I want/want to be Crowley from Good Omens, but in a gay way.

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I go through phases with songs on trail. Today, my song phases were Angel By The Wings (Sia), Rock You Like A Hurricane (Scorpion), and Jet Black from Anderson Paak. I listened to Radio Gaga (Queen) almost daily for about 3 weeks… still listen to that one a whole lot.

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We camp for the night in a burn area. The burn starts a mile before camp and is silencing. I can feel the precipice of the division between life and death, the very edges of the hollow opening. I turn off my music and walk quietly and notice. I think of Wendell Berry’s poem about sacred and desecrated places, and of Adrienne Rich’s Diving Into the Wreck. I feel unafraid to camp here… excited, even. These are the places I love, the ones on the edge.

24

July 21

23.7 miles

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I tossed and turned all night sleeping in the burn. I hadn’t been anxious about it at all, but right before bed Carrot said, “it will be fine, there’s no wind.” Within 20 minutes the wind was rustling through the trees and it continued all night. I tossed and turned and worried about trees falling on my tent.

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This morning’s first mileage was okay. My feet were hurting, and I felt nauseous after my morning protein shake. I couldn’t shake the nausea. I tried eating more, drinking more, slowing down… nothing helped. So I hiked on through the nausea, waiting for it to decrease. Somewhere in here I thought that carrot and Muffy had gotten ahead of me, so I hiked hard to our lunch spot, only to find them not there. When I feel sick I am cranky and needy (aka Baby™️), and I was instantly frustrated no one was there. Had they hiked on without me? This thought was illogical but in my sick brain it made sense. I ran across another group of hikers and asked if they’d seen Muffy or Carrot. When they said no, I realized they were both still somehow behind me. Duh. Tired and ill, I lay down on a sunny knoll and tried to rest and snack while waiting for them.

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When they appeared, Muffy said she was having tendinitis issues and going fairly slow. She was going to try some new taping and hopefully that would work. We all snacked and ate and enjoyed the sun.

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We’d heard there was trail magic 7 miles away at chinook pass, and I was desperate for a Coke, so I hiked fast to try and get there before the trail magic disappeared. My nausea returned and my feet hurt, but I ignored this in my pursuit of desire. I tried to prepare myself for the Coke not being there. “Maybe I’ll just sit there and drink my cold brewed mint tea,” I thought to myself.

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But when I got down a couple hours later, there it was. Trail magic! I was so hungry I couldn’t accurately speak. I drank two cokes, had half a sleeve of Oreos, a turkey cheese sandwich with mustard, some peanut m&ms, and two pieces of string cheese. I sat on the ground and didn’t care that the mosquitoes were eating me alive. This was total bliss.

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When Muffy and Carrot get down, they say they are hitching to Packwood because Muffy’s tendon had gotten worse. I’m bummed to see them go. I’ve loved our camp meal times, something about our combined energy feels homey and hilarious at once. They make me laugh. But I decide to hike the next 26 miles and just meet them in White Pass.

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I hike another 5 miles that night, high off of caffeine euphoria. Near the end, the instep of my left foot starts hurting more, so I slow down. I think about how my friend Jacklyn says that my ankles are like my pressure release valves and they tell me messages, and I wonder if it’s actually just my feet in general. I can tell they’re saying “step off.” I wonder about the 23 miles I’m going to hike tomorrow, but I push that thought away.

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I get to camp and it is full of mosquitoes, but I’m prepared this time. I’ve already eaten the trail magic, so I do all my after dinner camp chores outside the tent in my rain garb. Once that’s finished, I dive in my tent and close the door. One lone mosquito makes it in with me and I promptly kill it. I try to read and write some notes, but after hiking so hard I’m so, so tired. So I just fall into a restless sleep.

25

July 22

23.7 miles

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I wake up at 5:30 after not sleeping well and roll over, snoozing a little more. I’ve been so tired this week. I finally get up and do all my inside tent chores, prepping to deal with the mosquitoes. Finally it’s done and I quickly get out, brush my teeth and drink my coffee while walking around my campsite to avoid getting bitten.

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I’m gonna hike 23.7 miles today and I feel tired already thinking of it. I just wanna make it into White Pass to Muffy and Carrot, and also challenge myself. I know I can do it, I just feel sleepy. I start slow and let my body warm up, and hike 11 miles by 11am. I break for lunch and talk with a group of NOBOs at lunch for about an hour. The mosquitoes are still thick but I’m surviving. I filter water and head off again.

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The mosquitoes become more and more unbearable. I feel like I’m locked in a torture chamber and any time I stop for any length of time, mosquitoes descend upon my flesh. I hate it so much. I attribute my hate of mosquitoes to memories of being a kid and mosquitoes singing around my ears in the middle of the night waking me up. It still sets my spine on edge. So I hike fast and I don’t stop. I’m so tired and so irritated and I want out more than anything.

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Then my foot starts to hurt. Not just the random throbbing it’s been having, but constant pain on my left instep. I try to rest but I can’t stop without getting bitten. It’s dramatic to say, but I feel so trapped. Finally the pain is so bad that I’m 4 miles out from White Pass but I’m limping at every step. I want to cry. Muffy texts me and asks if I want to hitch to Packwood and get a room, and I tell her YES please get me a room. I’ve spent so much money resting on this trip and I’m so worried I won’t be able to finish the trail, but I also just can’t even walk right now and the mosquitoes are driving me crazy.

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It takes me another hour and a half to get down the last 4 miles. I register that it’s still a decent speed for someone limping, but I feel so drained and upset. I’m angry at myself for not catching this sooner. I’m frustrated that I’m hurt. When I reach the White Pass trailhead I cry. I don’t even know why I’m crying beyond an internal exhaustion and some weird, deep sadness.

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I start limping slowly towards the Kracker Barrel store and a guy pulls over and asks if I want a ride, and oh he’s going to Packwood, do I want a ride there too? I’m so relieved and agree. I pick up my packages in White Pass and cringe: the creepy middle age hiker is there and tried to talk to me. I’m short and curt and so frustrated he still is trying so hard to talk to me. Why don’t men get the fucking hint? But then I go back out to the car and sit with my box, and I got my they/them pins in the mail and the person also sent me a quartz crystal as encouragement, which just makes me cry again.

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When I get down to Packwood, I take a long long shower and wash every crevice of my body slowly and thoroughly and I start to feel a little better. I catch up with friends and then knock out and sleep deeper than I have the past 3 days.

26

July 23

Zero day, Packwood, WA

This trip seems like it has been more about pausing and stopping than about going. I’ve rested more than I planned. It’s uncomfortable and scary because it plays on my money anxieties. Yet each time I stop I’m reminded of things I need to be reacquainted with. How deeply am I in contact with the land? What am I bearing witness to and paying attention to? Why am I here?

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When I am going, I can easily forget these questions in trying to get to the next place. I focus on miles and getting my feet to move and whether I feel good, bad, or indifferent. None of these things are bad, thru hiking requires a lot of focus on the body and surroundings. But then I lose sight of – what land am I on? Why am I here? What is this space saying to me?

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It seems like just when I get to the precipice of totally losing hold of these questions in my pursuit of the end goal, aka, the Mexican border, I am forced to stop. By my body, by the weather, etc. I’ve learned over time that rest is paramount, so when I stop, I try to treat myself well. Sleep on a real bed, eat good food. Because of this I’ve spent more than I thought I would. I am fully aware in myself that I may not be able to afford reaching the border.

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Is that the point? For me to reach the border? One part of me says YES, it’s paramount! Have to complete THE GOAL! Another part of me doesn’t care so much. A still greater part of me is asking the continual question – “why are you walking, Laurie?”

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The answer is that I don’t know. I don’t know why I chose to do the PCT. I’ve given lots of answers to that question but the real answer is, I have no idea. I could have chosen a lot of things to do after turning 30 and completing my Masters, but I chose a thru hike. Why? No idea. Sure, I love hiking, and I’ve thought about through hiking for years, but underneath it all, it’s not like it totally stole my heart.

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I don’t LOVE thru hiking. It’s not a magical blissful experience. Sometimes it’s intolerable. Sometimes it’s gorgeous. Sometimes my endorphins are high on a good climb and I’m thrilled. But at the end of the day I still don’t know why I’m out here and I’m not necessarily enamored by it.

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It’s something about walking. Something about the land. Something about witnessing myself and my ancestors and the indigenous history and the land itself. It’s something I can’t name. It’s so interesting to watch myself get lost over and over again in the drive to attain a goal.

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For what reason?

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Over and over again I’m being given the message to slow down. Not just externally but internally. This is very hard for someone who, for their whole life, has been going. My mom said that I was so determined to get somewhere that before I started crawling, I would scoot around on my back so much that I wore the hair off the back of my head.

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Why are you going, Laurie? Why are you here? What is in the land that you witness? Why are you doing this?


During my hike I am raising money for Indigenous Women Hike! Please donate to provide indigenous women access to travel to their own land. GoFundMe is here.

PCT Day 17 – 20

📍on unceded sdukʷalbixʷ land

Day 17, 7/14/2019

14.6 miles

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Trooper, Rook and I get a great hitch from Skykomish to the trail at Stevens Pass with a guy who is just getting done with a backpack. He gives us coffee and packages of shot blocks! I’m thrilled and feel like I’ve won the hitch lottery. What a great way to start a section!

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Today felt like a totally different day hiking. For the first time in a week, I felt safe on trail, held by the queer folx around me. Trooper introduced herself to someone on trail and used her pronouns and her support in that moment allowed me to state mine, too. I didn’t realize I needed that support. I didn’t realize I needed someone else to do that. I feel I now have the strength to introduce my trail name and my pronouns together and that feels fucking awesome.

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As I hiked I felt more in my body and more on the trail than I have all trail. The question still returns of, “why am I doing this and not something more restful?” I’ve had that question come up a few times. I wonder if I’ll get off trail at some point due to this question or if it’s just due to the constant physical difficulty. At the same time, I was fully on the trail today. I was so aware of my hike, so aware of my surroundings, able to drop in like I haven’t so far. I felt safe and more than that, at home for the first time on trail. Like I am in the place and with the people I specifically need to do this trail with right now. After begging the universe/divine queer all last week I feel like I was heard and given the queer support I need at this moment. The nagging straight-ness of this trail is really overwhelming.

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We camp by a lake and I camp next to Rook and Trooper and Bounce and Soups. It feels comfortable. We are companionable with one another and I show Rook and Trooper my pouch of things from my friends that’s my “cheat” weight item. The best cheat weight item(s) ever, to be honest. The pouch has gotten me thru a lot.

Day 18, 7/15

22 miles

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I enjoy the first part of the day talking with Trooper about coming out stories etc. Lots of climbing and lots of sharing. The thing that stands out most is when I share about last week and Trooper says, “That sounds like it was traumatizing, honestly.” For someone who knows trauma so well, I feel like I would have noticed this earlier. Because yes, it was traumatizing. As she says it I recognize the feeling of absolutely being trapped, no recourse, trying to survive… i feel grateful to my body and soul for what it did to help me through.

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I so appreciate Trooper for the accomplice she’s been on trail and I can feel that is why I’m scared to lose this group and to lose her company. So the second part of the day that’s been in my face. I’m afraid because I see the group dynamics. Two couples who have been together from the beginning and a couple of us queer stragglers. This makes the desire to fight to prove myself arise. I remind myself I have nothing to prove, I can just be myself and either I’ll stay with this group or I won’t. Sometimes that happens, you know? At the same time, I’m so scared and I can feel myself withdrawing out of fear. It’s a very young feeling, I recognize that quickly. And it’s so so painful. It began early and then was reconfirmed over and over through my life. Scared of others liking other people more than me, or not finding me important, or being left behind, or being left at all. This is very deep. I hate it and yet I find myself grateful for its appearance so I can start holding this sacred part of myself.

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In this fear, I quickly find myself totally awash in grief missing Rachel and feeling extremely resentful that the thing and person I cared about most was taken from me. And every time I feel a relationship threatened this is where I go. It’s excruciating especially on top of a 22 mile day. Internally I feel I can’t handle it. I can’t take it.

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There’s an older part of me that knows it’s okay, and I’ll hike what I hike and do what I can. I can’t make people like me. I can only do my best. And I’m too old to try. Maybe I won’t keep up with the queer folks. Maybe I will. It’s too early to say. I’m scared about if I can’t, but I can’t control everything. I think and decide that maybe if it’s too much I’ll get off trail and go see my dear friend Danielle.

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It feels like the more I hike, the more layers of grief are uncovered and I don’t know how to handle that. Each hard day unravels a new layer in me. Each hard day breaks my body down to its grief and it’s excruciating and hard..

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Do I even want to finish this hike? Today the answer is yes. I just hurt, and hurt, and hurt, and I’m afraid my hurt will destroy my relationships because I cling out of such extreme fear of loss.

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I wrote this in my tent exhausted after 22 miles and flying into camp on a wave of caffeine. The terrain wasn’t the hardest I’ve done, just long. And I feel that in my body, bringing all this grief to the surface.

Day 19, 7/16

20.7 miles

I’ve lost track of the date – I had to look that up!

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Today started hard again. I’m still in my feels about maybe not belonging with this group or being left behind or not mattering. Something along those lines. I could tell it was the young part of me getting all in their pain, so I just did the next thing – hike. I got up at 5, rounded up all my things, and was on trail with water filtered by 6:30. Mostly everyone passed me on the big climb, and that felt painful, a nail in my feeling coffin. I let the part of me feeling terrible grief just have at it and gasp cried up the hill. Sometimes you gasp cry up hills while through hiking. Even when the ascent is actually one of your favorite ascents yet – lovely and switchbacked and a perfectly sloped uphill. Sometimes even then you cry up the hill and acknowledge the beauty even as your throat closes around a “fist of loss” (Andrea Gibson).

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I didn’t expect thru hiking to bring up so many fucking feelings. It’s like moving your body does that or something – ha. It’s beautiful out here and I feel myself settling into the rhythm. With that rhythm though it’s like my body vomits my issues up for me to sift through. It’s beautiful and terrifying.

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After letting myself gasp cry up the hill, calm came over me. It was the rational adult sort of calm, a bit closeminded but doing what I could to keep going. Rationally, I am clear on all sorts of things about the multiple situations triggering me. I can see that perhaps in this group of people, connections are already set. That doesn’t mean anything about my worthiness – sometimes I do this with my own connections. It’s natural to enjoy some people’s company over others (I’ve gotten this more since turning 30 at the beginning of the year and tbh this understanding is so useful). It also doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt me or affect me, or that my feelings are invalid. I can see both these things and let them both be true. I can think clearly and try to act more like an adult, while still trying to acknowledge the pain. I can see multiple sides to the situation and I’m not as reactive.

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I stop for water with everyone in the fragile area. I think of the irony of the naming of this space as fragile, feeling the reflection in my body. It’s first lunch for the group. Mosquitoes have found me to be their favorite feast and they munch on my legs. I have to get up and leave; my legs are burning and burn for at least 30 minutes. Maybe I hate mosquitoes more than rain.

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Today was also gorgeous. Lots of high elevation walking and stunning views. We climbed 2 passes and both climbs felt like a breeze, rhythmic. Maybe I’m getting my hiker legs? Neither climb was easy but I felt good and in my body. The second climb, I was far ahead of everyone, lost in my feelings yet again and trying to walk them out. Anger this time, though. It gave me such strength and speed uphill and I just let it carry me. Finally I popped out of the internal firestorm. I took a break and sat down to gaze at the mountain next to where I was switchbacking up a pass. I sat there a good 5 minutes admiring this beautiful mountain. “I’m really out here,” I thought. “I’m really walking the PCT and taking in this gorgeous view.” It’s been slow to sink in with the emotional turmoil this past bit, but I’m slowly getting into trail rhythm and realizing – I’m out here and doing the thing. Damn.

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I realize I feel safe out here and with the people I’m with, unlike last week where nothing felt safe and I felt like I was in emotional hell. This week I’ve felt like I could take things in better because I’ve felt more held. Even with the fears around maybe not belonging, I feel more deeply able to be here because of these queer folx, and I’m so very deeply grateful.

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I looked at the mountain name and in English it was The Three Queens, and that felt significant somehow.

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I was in a good rhythm the rest of the climb and my feelings stopped overtaking so much. I stayed in the awe of being on trail, being here, doing this.

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When we got to camp, the mosquitoes were horrible. My morale took a dive after the earlier mosquito debacle. I tried to sit and cook dinner and wait for the others. But I had to give up. “Waist Deep, I’m just gonna go sit in my tent, I can’t do this,” I told her. I was miserable and itchy and paranoid. I took my mountain house meal, a hikerbox find, back to my tent. I systematically killed all the mosquitoes that had gotten into my tent, somewhere like 10-12 in all. After that I could finally relax and eat. Trooper came to check on me after the meal, and the check in settled something in me. “Maybe I belong. Maybe,” I thought.

Day 20, 7/17

14.6 miles

Nero in Snoqualmie

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I get up at 4:30 am and quickly pack my things to hike into Snoqualmie. My friend And is driving up from Seattle to meet me there today (squee!!!! Off trail friend meeting me on trail, I’m so excited!!!!!!) and I need to get down there early to meet them. I’ve got 14.6 miles to go into town yet. I sit and pack everything in my tent, because I’m still rattled from another hiker waking me up at 2:30am yelling at some wild animal. My tent was turned the opposite way so I couldn’t see what, but at 2:30am I was awakened by a gruff deep voice yelling “go away!” and banging on things. It scared the living shit out of me while I tried to figure out what it was. After about 20 minutes this settled down. But this morning early I’m still unsettled so I pack in my tent.

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I don’t realize that my first bit is a climb. When I find out, I curse and feel angry. It’s too early for this shit after all the climbing yesterday. Plus, it’s cold and foggy and I can’t see anything. After some time of intense frustration and crabbiness, I down a couple of bars, mix a Via into my cold water, and throw on my headphones. “Ok let’s do this!” I say to myself and put on my PCT playlist. The first song is Jump by Van Halen which always puts me in a good mood and soon I’m jamming and dancing down trail, spurred by caffeine into using my hiking poles as microphones. I pretend I’m doing drag. One day when I get off trail, y’all will see that. 😉

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The entire way into Snoqualmie is cold, foggy and rainy. I don’t have any views. But I’m happy with my music going and my caffeine. I get onto the catwalk, not able to see a thing up there, and howl into the foggy void. My ghost howl echoes back across an indeterminate distance, and I grin and howl a couple more times for good measure. I’m here the PCT, alive and well and hiking!

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I get down to the hotel where Carrot and Muffy are, finally. Soon enough And is there, and Trooper and Rook arrive too. Trooper and Rook say they’re just gonna hike through and I try to process this news. They leave pretty quickly so I sit down with Muffy and And to discuss what I should do next and I immediately start crying. The queer group is hiking on without me and I’m so scared and I need queer people so much right now and this is all so much. Muffy and And are gracious with my sudden emotions. I realize I can hike out with Muffy and Carrot tomorrow and I slowly calm down.

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After this me and And do chores. It’s so lovely to have a friend visit me on trail! So lovely to have And in particular. They are wonderful and gracious and after 3 weeks of not touching people (too long! I haven’t really touched anyone on trail even like a hug, and I feel this) I am soaking up all the hugs and affection. We go to REI and I change out my shoes in hopes that it will help my ankle and also just be a better fit. We get food and Starbucks and more food. It’s a lovely end to the day and the section and I fall asleep feeling more fulfilled and held.

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I am raising money while I hike to support Indigenous Women Hike. Please donate to help indigenous women have the means to access their own land! GoFundMe is here.

PCT trail blog – Days 11 – 16

 

On unceded Chelan, Yakama, Syilx/Okanagan, and sdukʷalbixʷ/Snoqualmie land.

The place to which I hike this week, sqʷat (or The Guardian Spirit of Snow), is an area that was long inhabited by the sdukʷalbixʷ/Snoqualmie and Tulalip tribes. The pictures I found below in this area (at sqʷat itself) describe its history, so I will let them tell their story. I am privileged to have walked on this land this week as well as the land of the Chelan, Yakama, and Syilx/Okanagan.

Day 11

18.6 miles

7/7/19

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Finally on my way. It felt like it took forever to get back to the 10 mile point I’d reached yesterday. But I reached it at approximately the same time, despite feeling like I was going much slower. I’ve adjusted my pace to fit my current hiking needs around my ankle.

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A hiker I don’t particularly enjoy caught up to me around mile 9. He asked my name (again, he doesn’t recall meeting me earlier but he did) and I was so relieved to give him my trail name instead of my real one. Which I did, tersely. He’s one of those people that can’t read a room, though, so when he caught up to me again later, he proceeded to try and talk at me. I say talk at, because it wasn’t really a conversation I wanted to have. It wasn’t horrible, I just knew this fellow by reputation and had no intention of forming a trail friendship. I continued to be short in my answers, but again, doesn’t know how to read a room. I probably would have just let our paces either separate us or keep us together, but he was going slower than I wanted despite me having let him pass. It’s like when you are driving between the Springs and Denver and that one person is sitting in the left hand lane going 70. (My Colorado Springs friends will feel this!) I wanted to speed up so I said, “hey would you mind letting me pass, actually? It seems my speed has increased.” I had no hard feelings… I’ve just learned my boundaries. Funny how that goes.

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After this I was thinking for awhile that sometimes I wonder if I’m an enneagram 2 integrating to 8 rather than a 4, just with how direct I’ve become with my boundaries! I’m proud of myself. I don’t know though, that 4 heart is strong. I like my idealism strong and my romances sweet like wine but intense like whiskey. Heady. I live for mystical moments where I become a small body on a big earth feeling the pulse of everything around me. And ta da, with that, I am definitely a 4.

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Washington finally lived up to its elevation change bragging today. The first 10 miles that I’d already done weren’t bad. From there on out though, it was an uphill slog. I’d popped in my earphones because of aforementioned dude, so I just jammed out to my tunes as I walked up the hills. I don’t always like music when I hike, I really like feeling the connection to nature that I have when I don’t play music. But today I was really feeling my music, so I let myself jam on to my hearts content. If you have suggestions for empowering dancy tunes for my playlist, send em over!

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In the process of my jam sesh, I discovered something truly magical. Dancing snack breaks!!! Seriously, stopping for a snack break and having a dance party for one is day changing. I did it twice today after seeing how effective the first one was, and I’m a convert. Dance snack breaks until the end of time!

7/8/19

Day 12

18.8 miles

Today was boring. In case you wondered, thru hiking can indeed be boring. I started out with a mountain pass that had a decently intense elevation gain, but after that it was downhill, then just rolling trail for miles. And miles. And miles. I was even bored of my MUSIC. And I don’t have enough Healing Justice podcast downloaded to re-listen to my favorite episodes. So I pushed through.

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Highlight was, ending today at a big creek. I wanted to go further, but I’m worried a LOT about how much food I have, and was really hungry. I have a massive elevation gain after this site which will definitely eat more food stores, too. I have plenty of dinner, just not enough snacks. Oops. Also, I think hiker hunger is here. It’s the famed thing when thru hiking that your hunger gets to be astronomical. I was literally hungry all day today. I mean, have you ever had a 300 calorie snack and instead of feeling full like usual just felt like a bottomless hole? Yeah.

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Anyway, I decided to stop. I stuck my feet in the glacial creek water, which felt divine. Also chatted with a bunch of fellow hikers, which was really nice. I’m finding I enjoy the company of all the women and like……. zero of the cis men. I mean honestly they’re all just basic. I wanna make a parody song or something and use that seen from The Good Place where she says “Ya basic!” Over and over. Speaking of which, have realized I really love The Good Place as a show. Anyways. That’s been my day! Now just laying creek side listening to the water about to fall asleep.

Day 13

23.7 miles

Sometimes, when you want to avoid a creepy middle age cis male, you hike your longest day ever. 23.7 miles. Over 2 passes with about 3500 ft in elevation gain from bottom to top.

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I’ve been having not good feelings about the person I mentioned a couple days ago. The guy who passed me and started going slow. We camped at the same campsite last night. I felt weird enough that I slept with my knife. I don’t like doing that. He just keeps trying to talk when I very obviously don’t want to. I am a person highly sensitive to intrusion and with an impeccable gut sense about creepy men since I was small. So I’m choosing to trust this feeling. Today, we kept passing each other on trail. He wanted me to take a pic of him, so I did. He then asked if he could take a pic of me, which I said “I’d rather not.” He then asked if he could take a picture of my back, which made me even more uncomfortable, and I said no again. It’s these types of interactions that don’t make me feel good, so I decided to outhike him. Hopefully it has worked. He’s been trying to pull 18-21 mile days, and I’m now ahead of that. I’m crossing my fingers that’s the end.

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I’m also crossing my fingers that my body can handle this. There was a lot of ankle rolling today. The KT tape held and things feel fine. I ended in the rain and my hip and left calf were clenching up. I think I’m going to do only 18 again tomorrow so that should help.

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I hiked down with Boy Lunch, a big group of mostly cis male hikers, and ended up camping with them. At this point I’m honestly grateful just to have someone else I’m at least mostly comfortable to talk to. It’s not perfect but at least it’s not creepy. Read: they’re all very basic but right now I’m scared and alone and need someone. So here we are.

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I walked the last few miles through the rain, hoping I’d wake up tomorrow to sun and dry gear. With that in mind I tried to sleep.

Day 14

7/10/19

17.7 miles

This morning I woke up to everything still wet. My skirt was still wet. My rain jacket, soaked. My tent, dripping. I haven’t slept well, because the dripping all night kept me awake. Miserable. I don’t want to move. I want to stay in this tent all day in my warm down sleeping bag where I’m mostly dry. Sure, there’s condensation, but that I can live with. The nasty sopping wet I’m about to be, not so much.

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After talking with Boy Lunch for like an hour, I finally decide I need to get going. I still don’t want to, but I wanna do 18 miles and it’s almost 9am. I still have one big pass to do.

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I’m in my feelings today somewhat. I start out tired and so frustrated with being wet. I imagine what I’d tell my friend Jacklyn if I could message her right now, the Marco Polo I’d send her about how I’m doing. I imagine saying I’m scared. This makes me realize I’m exhausted and at the end of myself, because thinking about saying “I’m scared” makes me want to cry. Suddenly I feel totally overwhelmed, lonely, and exhausted. I’m hiking without Muffy this week and no one out here really gets me. I want Jacklyn and I want my friends back home. I want reception. I want people who know my heart and speak my language. I want my queer witch babes.

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Then I realize, starkly, more than anything I want my mom… in a way that I’ll never get my mom. Because my mom isn’t capable of being the mom I need. I start thinking about this because I just read Bastard Out of Carolina and the interactions in that book really drove that home for me (among other things, such a good book, thanks Muffy!). So internally I’m having this maelstrom of emotions and externally I’m bawling for my mom and for everyone I miss and for how exhausted and sad I am, and trying to hide this from Fluffy Bunny who’s walking a few hundred feet behind me. Underneath it all I’m wiped and I feel like I’m in the twilight zone. It’s raining, I’m drenched, I have so many more miles to walk, I’m trying to stay ahead of the creepy guy, I miss my cats, I want more friends on trail, i don’t have reception… it feels like it will never end. Finally I wipe my face and the storm passes. I don’t feel much better, just calm. For now that’s how it is.

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Fluffy Bunny catches up to me, and we hike together most of the rest of the day. She tells me how she lives in a community living situation in Delft, Holland, and works as a psychiatric nurse. I think she’s interesting. It’s nice to hike with a girl that I at least enjoy being around. She’s chatty but the kind of chatty I enjoy, talking about interesting things.

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We hike the pass together, because the weather looks bad and I wait for her to go over. The morale support is immeasurable to me, especially considering i had been bawling an hour before. I appreciate her slower and more measured approach to hiking and it reminds me how I wanted to start this trip – steady mile gaining. I haven’t done it that way, but I’m starting to do better.

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Kermit, a person I just met officially this morning, makes a fire by a pond, and me and Fluffy Bunny sit. He tells some of his story after I ask an open question and I am starting to realize I’ve got to tone down my open questions! I mean, maybe. I’ve just got to make sure I don’t go further than a question. Sometimes I hate trying to make friends as a therapist – the therapist pops up and asks therapy questions when I need friend questions. He seems interesting, I don’t like the oversharing but I appreciate the depth. And I like talking to someone in their 40s after being around all these 20 year olds all day. Everyone out here thinks I’m in my 20s like them, but I feel so poignantly my 30 years of life and experience. Nice to talk to someone else with that depth and experience but who isn’t creepy. I love the 20somethings, I just miss the different shades of conversation you get with 30+ peeps. Or maybe that you just get with people who are actually tuned in to deeper stuff.

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Blandine shows up a bit later and joins the crew of me and Fluffy Bunny. It makes a good crew, and I enjoy things more. We hike together to our last camping spots. Fluffy Bunny stops before me and Blandine; she’s wiped. Honestly, so am I, but I’m hoping to get to the next spot. In the next mile, Blandine and I have a lovely conversation. I out myself to her as queer… the first stranger I’ve outed myself to on trail. She tells me her reasons for hiking the trail and her biggest lesson so far – Respect your body! It’s something I’ve been reminded of just being around her, and I tell her so. I’m grateful to know her even if it’s a passing friendship.

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We get to camp and I throw up my tent just as it’s starting to rain. I make a pot of Annie’s Mac n cheese and I gratefully eat it all. I’ve had trouble finishing my meals on trail for some reason. One night I felt sick and couldn’t finish. The next night I had to force myself to eat all my food. I’ve consistently had to force down food, because my body doesn’t think it wants it even though it does. So tonight I’m glad I finished an ENTIRE POT of Annie’s (hiker hunger has hit!) and will hopefully sleep well with a full belly.

Day 15

7/11/2019

20.7 miles

I haven’t started my day yet, but am thinking about how everyone wants to think they know about nature, but they don’t. Nature does what they want. It’s not supposed to rain this much in Washington in July, and yet it is.

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I think about this and then I end up reading a chapter on Consistent Practice in the book Zac gave me to carry, Bearing Witness. In the chapter it talks about always coming back to not knowing. I cry a little, feeling seen by this book. I am the first to leave camp, which had become Blandine and the boys of Boy Lunch, and as I walk I think about my book. I think about Bearing Witness, again. I think about being mindful as I walk instead of rushing. I think about how I am connected to what is happening around me. I feel everything. I feel the support of the trees as I pass by, and it makes me cry. They know me. They are they, too. I have a picture of Zac walking with me on trail and then suddenly realize that is the caption they wrote in the front of the book. More tears. I feel the ground under my feet. I feel the blades of grass brushing against my legs, welcoming me. I feel my aloneness and let it be. I feel everyone passing me and how they are faster and notice my reaction, my desire to keep up and fit in. I do this for a long time.

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I have a conversation today with Teen Dream. He’s 19 and hiking with Boy Lunch and he’s a Pisces, because of course he is and I attract so many Pisces and water signs to my life. He’s the first person on trail I talk to about spirituality. He’s really into it. He shares some of his life story and we talk about lots of things that other people are too afraid to admit or science away. It still doesn’t satisfy my ache for queer company, but it’s not too bad. He’s young and still learning and feels open to me.

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Today too I’m really feeling the lack of diversity out here. I haven’t seen a person who presents as a person of color since Stehekin. I think about how messed up it is that white cis men stole indigenous land and now they’ve created a huge speed and land contest of who can dominate the land the fastest. Who can walk the PCT the fastest and do the biggest miles? It’s hard for me not to get pulled into it too. I am constantly returning to a practice of bearing witness both to myself and all of life and that’s all that keeps me. It makes me feel even more passionate about the organization I’m raising money for out here (Indigenous Women Hike) and other POC-led hiker organizations I support, like Blackpackers. This environment of cis white male dominated power is so ripe to change.

Day 16

9 miles

Nero in Skykomish

I’m on my way down with Blandine today and we are talking as usual. It’s a fine conversation, but I am shaken by a deep feeling. It’s fine. But I need queer community desperately. I feel the desire I’ve been staying off all week. I feel even more how I’ve been letting everyone misgender me because I’m afraid to explain “they” and genderfluidity. I feel how fake I feel, how outside of myself, how alone. There is no one else here that I am aware of who is like me. I am suddenly deeply sad and lonely and exhausted and feel the too muchness of the week and am desperate to get into town and see Muffy and Carrot. I need queer people. I need queer love. I need to hear people call me “they.”

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So I hike my 9 miles, grab my box from Stevens Pass, and hitch a ride down to Skykomish and meet up with them. My body takes in the relief all afternoon while still having moments where tears come, over and over. Feeling how hard this week was. Feeling how I denied big pieces of myself, some of it as self preservation. Feeling safe again and it feeling overwhelming. Processing a little with people I trust.

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At this moment I don’t know how to do this trail. I know I can’t be who I was this past week, pretending I’m a cis girl. Because hearing “she” feels so dysphoric to me. Internally I’m preparing to go back on trail and state my pronouns to people I meet. It feels overwhelming but also necessary. Hiding nearly did me in. I may hike alone a lot. I may be scared of people who don’t get it. I wish I’d had more courage this week and I am reminding myself it was a deeply hard week – rainy and involved with trying to avoid someone who made me feel unsafe til the very last second of this stretch.

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I am recalling a tarot reading I got early this year from Sincerely the Tarot on Instagram, with The Hermit card, a card called Separate, and a card called Death and Rebirth. I couldn’t feel this more keenly right now. Even though I knew that whole reading was about this trail, I didn’t realize the depth of how pertinent it would be.

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I don’t feel like I can do this, and I feel so much weight and sadness right now, but I also know I really can’t live a lie. So we will see. I know too the way forward is just to keep the practice of Bearing Witness which is just so very dear to me right now, so integral to who I am as a whole.

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This section felt so difficult to me. Full of moments in which I sacrificed pieces of myself in order to try and survive a physical ordeal. But the pieces I sacrificed felt so dear. I hadn’t realized the depth of my nonbinary, genderfluid identity until I tried to pretend it didn’t exist. And then I realized it is a part of me, like sap or chlorophyll is to trees. It runs through all I do, through my very being, and to try and divorce it from myself is a violence I can’t abide.

The further keenness with which I felt the dominance of white male power, as a force that eliminates difference, was so poignant and terrible. There is such a violence in this perspective that is painful to my soul, and I can only imagine the pain it causes to others. In reading Bearing Witness, I see it so often as an inability to tolerate that which is different, an inability to rest, the drive to overcome and show power as a way to deal with the tension in that which one doesn’t understand.

The truth is, also, that I have had to reckon with this force in myself as a white person this week. I see this often in my attitude of “let’s CRUSH MILES” or “how fast did you go?” or “how little did you rest?” I find it internally manifested in pushing myself to 3 miles an hour of hiking despite my ankle rolling constantly, giving me the message that I need to be slower. Need to pay attention. Need to be aware of the ways in which I try to dominate rather than be present with. My ankles are annoying, but they are also a reminder to me of the ways in which I need to be aware of the ways in which I perpetuate white supremacy and dominant power. In that sense, I am grateful for the chance to work with this and learn a different way of being.

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I am raising money while I hike to support Indigenous Women Hike. Please donate to help indigenous women have the means to access their own land! GoFundMe is here.

PCT Preparation – Indigenous People of the PCT, Food Prep, and Gear

Hello friends! My first milestone has come – over $200 on the GoFundMe raising money for Indigenous Women Hike for each mile I hike on the PCT. As promised, I am writing my first post!

I’ve been wanting to hike the PCT for at least 2 years, and in thinking about it I cannot hike on stolen land without being aware and in communion with the land and its original people. In that spirit, I am raising money for Indigenous Women Hike, as well as learning about the people whose land I am walking on.

This first post will be an overview of the Indigenous People along the path I’ll be walking, the food I’ll be carrying, and gear.

Indigenous Lands

There are dozens of tribal lands along this path. I am putting the most correct information I know, but I acknowledge that as a white nonbinary person, it is very likely I will make mistakes. PLEASE correct me if I share any wrong information and I will immediately correct it.

The tribal lands along the pathway of the PCT, north to south, that I am aware of:

Nłeʔkepmx Tmíxʷ
Syilx-tmix (Okanogan)
NXAʔAMXČÍN (Chelan)
Yakama
sdukʷalbixʷ (Snoqualmie)
Tulalip
Puget Sound Salish
Wenatch
Kittitas Yakama
Cowlitch
Klikitat
Upper Chinook
Chinook
Wasco
Wishram
Paiute
The Warm Springs
Tenino
Molalla
Klamath
Shasta
Cow Creek Umpqua
Takelma
Karuk
Shasta
New River Shasta
Okwanuchu
Winnimem Wintu
Atsugewi
Achumawi
Nisenan
Mountain Maidu
Konkow Maidu
Mechoopda Maidu
Yokuts
Nisenan
Washoe
Central Sierra Miwok
Northern Paiute
Southern Mono/Monache
Newe
Tübatulabal
Kawaiisu
Yokuts
Fernandeno Tatavian Band of Mission Indians
Tongva
Yuhaviatam/Maarenga’yam (Serrano)
Cahuilla
Cupeño
Kumeyaay

As I cross each tribe’s land, I will be writing more in-depth posts on Instagram and here about the history and language of each tribe. As much as possible, I plan to include traditional place names for the places I travel through. I will be starting in the land of the Syilx-tmix, whose land crosses the border of what is currently called the United States and Canada.

In gathering this information, information on whether the indigenous had any knowledge or input into the creation of the PCT is scarce. If you know of any resources for me, please let me know!! I have been able to find nothing. My general assumption, to be honest, is that those who formed the trails of the PCT likely stole ancestral indigenous trails. I know this is the case in Nuumu Poyo, known to the wider world as the John Muir trail, which forms a section of the PCT.

Gear

One of the things I studied a lot in the beginning of preparing for this trip was gear! I don’t have the time to do a super in-depth gear review, but I’d love to give you an overview of what I’ll be carrying.

First of all, I want to mention that at this point, I’m carrying a small stove. It’s heavy, but I’ve noticed so far when I backpack, I want a hot meal. My plan is to keep up with that, we will see if it lasts! A lot of people don’t use stoves at all!

Also, I may switch my pad still to a Thermarest Neo Air. I’m a side sleeper and very picky about how my mattresses feel, and this Big Agnes was the one I liked best. The shitty thing is that I have to carry a secondary pad for insulation if I take this one (yay extra weight!).

Pack: Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 60
Sleeping Bag: Western Mountaineering Versalite 10
Pad: Big Agnes SRX Insulated
Backup Pad: Thermarest Z lite
Stove: BRS-3000T
Water Filter: Katahdin Be Free 1L filter
Hiking Poles: Cascade Mountain Tech carbon fiber poles (Costco/Amazon for $45)

Packed Clothes:
Uniqlo Puffy (Uniqlo, $40 is what I think I got it for)
Patagonia Capilene Mid Base Layer (secondhand)
Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket ($98 on sale)
REI Midweight long underwear bottoms
Patagonia Women’s Active underwear
Fleece Gloves
Beanie

Washington Only:
Ice Axe
Microspikes

Worn Clothing:
Nike Dri-Fit Tennis Skirt (thrifted)
Shirt: Columbia short sleeve white shirt (secondhand)
Socks: Walmart special 😉
Shoes: La Sportiva Ultra Raptors
Dirty Girl Gaiters

I’m bringing lots of other tiny little things but I’m not going to list them here. If you’re REALLY curious, message me on Instagram or something. 😛

Food

Dear. Goddexx. Save. Us.

Listen. Food resupply is the hardest thing EVER to plan. What will I want? What will I be tired of? What will I want more of? How much should I carry? How can I make sure I’m eating enough calories (a very important consideration on the trail, actually. I don’t count calories usually so this is very odd for me). Literally planning food may actually cause me to lose it.

The only thing I know for sure is I want my protein shake every morning. It’s a mix of Nido whole milk powder, chia seeds, protein powder, and instant coffee. It looks like mud but it’s super delicious, tons of calories, fiber, and protein. Plus CAFFEINE. It’s a very good trail decision. I’ve used it hiking in the Grand Canyon so it’s trail approved. Plus later on, I can vary up the protein powder flavor if I get tired of it.

I’ve been slowly doing field research this past year ish to figure out the rest. Things I know I like (or like ENOUGH)?

Himalayan Salt Ruffle Kettle Chips
Fig Newtons
Cheese
Apple Lara Bars (after awhile you only taste the cinnamon)
Honey Stinger Waffles
GUMMIES (I love gummies. It’s bad)
Almond Butter
Dried Mangos
Sour Cream and Onion Chips

Those are the solid ones. Everything else is just chance, people. Will I like Peanut Butter M&Ms in a month? WHO CAN SAY. Can I jimmy everything together enough to get enough calories per day?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  I’m trying to spreadsheet it but it’s overwhelming, so who knows. I’ll do my best. I did a coaching session with Carrot Quinn (such a good idea, BTW – get after that if you’re planning a hike, she’s got so much thru-hiking wisdom) and she said it’s roughly 2.2 lbs of food a day, so I’m using that + roughly 3000-4500 calories/daily as a guideline.

Alright! That is it for today’s installment. When I reach my next fundraising goal on the GoFundMe, I’ll be back with more to share. Please continue to donate and support!

Dear Recent Mass Shooting Survivors — Love, A Fellow Survivor

Numb. Dead. Unable to feel. Feeling EVERYTHING. Feeling weird grief that comes in waves then goes and you feel numb again. Can’t sleep. Can’t eat. Replaying scenes. Nothing feels real. Scared at loud noises. Scared at people acting shady. Freaked out in crowds. Songs make you cry til 4am. Wandering in a fog. What is a body, even? I don’t feel mine.

They will tell you over and over again to let you know if there is “anything I can do, let me know.” But you have no idea what they can do, or what you need, because you can’t feel much of anything.

You are grateful when a friend doesn’t ask — he just brings over movies and puts them on and sits there and watches them with you, quietly. Finally, one person who doesn’t have to ask. One less thing to take care of.

They will ask you how you are, and they will cry in your arms while you stand woodenly, and when you ask how they are, they will react in shock that you could even ask such a question “when you’ve survived such a tragedy.”

They will tell you that your peace means “you’re so strong.” You will think that you are not strong and you don’t know why people keep telling you this.

Mainly, you are shocked that your sisters (or friends, teachers, loved ones) are dead.

The media will get in your face. They’ll hound you for interviews. They want to know what it was like to survive a shooting. They want to broadcast the horror; you want to tell them that no one should ever know how that horror feels. Good Morning America will send a basket to the hospital where your father is. You’ll have to come in a back entrance to avoid them. They will call your phones.

Your phone. You’ll be trying to field a million text messages. You’ll talk to relatives you haven’t heard from in years. Everyone is so sorry. Everyone is horrified. You say thank you a million times but the words almost lose their meaning. They ask you what happened and you repeat it, for the thousandth time, the words feeling unreal when they come out of your mouth.

You are numb. Or bawling. Or feeling heavy. So heavy. Unbearably heavy. How could you ever feel un-heavy again? Or normal again? You wake up the next day wondering if other friends have died overnight. Part of you doesn’t want to live anymore. It’s too hard.

The images are constantly replaying and you almost want to put a hand over your eyes to block them. You feel cold, so cold. You want a blanket just to wrap around you for a moment. You want someone else to do your life.

No one will understand how you are feeling, unless they were there (or unless they were somewhere similar). So many people will say things that sound incredibly stupid.


For 5 years, I wished to find a community of survivors who knew what I went through. Finally, after Newtown, I saw a news article talking about The Rebels Project. 5 years I carried all of the above around, and more. Experiences that no one else could understand. Things I could not talk to my immediate family about, even though they were also there. Finally I had a place to lay it down.

I’m just letting you know, for a second, that you’re not alone. There’s more of us out here who get it (Search The Rebels Project on Facebook and you’ll find us). And when you have a second to breathe by yourself again, come find us. We’ll be waiting for you with open arms. We’ll walk you through.

I’ll walk you through myself. I’ve been there. I’m still here. And you will be, too.

Supporting Victims in the Aftermath of Mass Shootings

As a shooting survivor, I have an intimate view on victim support after a mass shooting. In light of the continuing shootings that occur around the country, I wanted to let communities know how victims are impacted, and how to move forward.

This is a long post in Q&A format. I keep it long because I feel these ideas are important.

How do secondary victims get help despite being secondary?

First, let’s define what a so-called “secondary” victim is. Victims can often be people you aren’t even aware of. They’re of course the people we quickly think of – friends and family of those who were killed (primary). But there are many others – “secondary”.

For instance: there were people that watched the shooter(s) kill their victims. There were people that heard the gunfire of either event. There were people that lived on nearby streets, were in lockdown nearby, who saw the wounded, who were first responders, etc. There are people trapped in the buildings that weren’t killed or injured. In whatever situation you are considering, try to consider people you normally wouldn’t think about who would have been affected.

So in other words, there are a LOT of victims. And it’s easy for them to go under the radar, because unless the news media exploits their story (and I do mean exploit, I’ll explain later) they are unknown to the public.

If you are friends with either a primary or secondary victim, it’s important to know that the experience most likely changed their life forever in some way shape or form. Right now is a time for you to know some mental health first aid:

If you don’t know what to say – don’t say anything. The BEST thing you can do is to be present, gentle and supportive. Cliched statements such as “well, everything happened for a reason” are much more harmful than helpful.

If you or someone you know was a victim and need more professional help, look for Community Crisis Response of some kind. Usually there is a center set up after such events by police departments, the Red Cross, or local mental health agencies. Note which agencies are there and be sure to ask what kind of extended help they provide.

If the victim is in the police report, they could be eligible to have mental health costs covered by the a local judicial district’s Victims Assistance Fund.

If not covered, many therapists work on a sliding scale – look for therapists qualified and trained in trauma treatments such as EMDR. Always find someone who says clearly on the phone or website that they are licensed and that specialize in trauma.

Also, of great service to me has been the Rebels Project online Facebook group. It is a group for victims of mass shootings and traumatic events to share their experiences with people who understand. This has given me personally a lot of support when I am triggered or processing something. Feel free to give this out to victims (both secondary and primary).

And please know – if you are a secondary victim, your experience is no less important or impactful than if you were a primary victim. If you are feeling fragile and jumpy, it’s okay to get help. If you are feeling frozen or numb, it’s okay to get help. Tell close family and friends what is going on. Ask for support. Find a good therapist. The better support you have, the more likely you will be to emotionally recover.

How can the community engage with this somewhat new reality?

It’s important to be aware of mental health first aid, especially knowing that there are many people impacted that you’re unaware of. Be aware that people will have a variety of triggers.

Mine, for instance, are screaming, loud bangs, and men who are behaving in a erratic way. I can also get triggered by news of new mass shootings, if I read the news too much. Sometimes I have to stay off social media after news of mass shootings. I used to also be triggered by sirens, emergency vehicles, and car accidents as well. Other people will have different triggers.

If you know a victim (primary or secondary) be very aware of this. Don’t shut them down for reacting in certain ways. If they literally run away from situations, if they hide from certain things, if they freak out for no reason, this is ALL normal. Those are ALL things that I have done.

Be very cognizant of what you say. For instance, there is a lot of talk right now about how college campuses utilize trigger warnings. It helped me immensely to have trigger warnings. I went to college after my sisters were murdered, and it was by far the place I felt most unsafe. I had a professor who warned the class about a video interview with a serial killer. I was extremely grateful because then I could choose to leave class before sitting there in shock.

I also experienced one of my worst triggers in a class in which a professor made an extremely inappropriate joke about the Aurora shootings. I was dissociated and couldn’t pay attention at all for about 20 minutes. So be sensitive to survivor experience.

Another huge thing is to realize that we will be dealing with this for years to come. It’s been 8 years and I still have triggers, albeit fewer than I did even 2 years ago. As a community, it’s important to ensure that supports remain in place on a continual basis.

We often forget the massive impact of traumatic events because of the media’s short cycle. Realize the victims are probably still processing in some way, shape, or form, even years later. Churches, community organizations, businesses, and schools should be especially aware of this as they endeavor to support their members.

And for the general population – if someone shares with you that they were affected by these events and are still processing, suspend judgment and just be present to their story. Listening and providing your emotional support (without having to say much beyond “I’m here”) is the best thing you can do. But, don’t be afraid to ask what happened! It helps after the media spotlight goes away to know people still care. A good way to ask is, “Do you feel comfortable sharing what happened?”

While many people have an experience of losing a loved one, how is this different when it is in the public eye?

This changes the experience drastically. There is a whole set of expectations that comes with your tragedy being seen by the whole world (or your whole town, state, etc). Here are some expectations I’ve had placed on me, and my responses.

People (especially the media) expecting victims to tell their story

No one is constrained to tell their story publicly, even if the media covered the event. It’s up to the person involved. We as victims make the final call on whether we share or not. But, DO feel free to ask us as victims about what happened. A good way to ask is, “Do you feel comfortable sharing what happened?” This leaves it open for us to say yes or no. Often the “yes” or “no” depends upon how safe we feel sharing with you.

People expecting victims to react a certain way emotionally when telling their story (crying, being very upset, etc).

Everyone deals with things differently, and trauma can further distort that. Just because I’m not crying doesn’t mean I’m not upset. But if I’m crying that doesn’t mean I’m falling apart, either. Maybe I’m just having a rough day. Suspend judgment about reactions and realize all of our stories are different. Trauma looks different for different people. It can sometimes look like startle response or crying. It can also look like dissociation, substance abuse, and numbing. Again, suspend judgment.

People having certain ideas about what victims are going through, based on media reports.

As victims, we may or may not be shattered by what happened. We may or may not be “over it and stronger as a result.” The media does not reflect our personal feelings most of the time. The spectrum holds a lot of gray, so some days, we could be shattered again. And some days, we could be doing great! And some days, we could be somewhere in between.

People having assumptions about victims beliefs/politics based on media reports or where the event occurred.

In my shooting, just because it was at a church doesn’t mean I’m still a Christian. Just because an armed guard took down the shooter doesn’t mean I’m pro/anti concealed carry. Victim beliefs and politics are not necessarily in line with public assumption. Just because a victim’s shooting happened at Planned Parenthood, or as a result of open carry, doesn’t mean their specific beliefs/politics align with the popular assumptions carried around those places or ideas. Be careful to not assume stories based on media representation or current political climate. Let victims tell the stories. Our beliefs are not a way to further a political platform, unless we choose to use them that way ourselves.

People seeing the fact that victims do sometimes choose to tell their story publicly, and telling them that “they’re so strong” for being able to do so.

What you see in a victim may not be strength or peace. It may be shock. My repetition of the story immediately afterwards looked like strength, because I didn’t break down and cry. As a matter of fact, it was not strength or peace, it was shock.

Not being able to have your private grief, because the media is looking at you – but then when media moves away, feeling abandoned – When the media is around, the public is completely involved in victim’s private grief. But conversely, when the media turns away, it can feel like the whole world has forgotten about you. Both suck. When it’s public, I felt like I couldn’t grieve the way I wanted. When the media turned away, I felt like my grief didn’t matter. It’s a catch 22. In this situation as a community, we can make sure we continue to support all victims of these tragedies months and YEARS to come (recovery takes years, my friends).

Have you experienced the feeling of someone using your experience for their gain in social capital?

Yes. The media especially is skilled with this. I’ve recently chosen to begun sharing my experiences more in the media, in the interest of shutting down the “sides” mentality we have around gun issues and encouraging more dialogue. (This is my position, not necessarily the position of other victims of shootings) When I share, I find my words get skewed. I am often made to sound more traumatized than I actually am. People love disaster stories; I call it disaster porn.

An example: I have widely shared the Gazette article I was recently in because it maintains my greater point, but some of the material was skewed. For instance, I did not hear sirens when I delivered food to the Penrose ER on Saturday morning. [Edit – the Gazette has since edited the article]

People often use victim’s stories to further their own aims or viewership. I implore you, media outlets – please do not exploit victim’s stories to improve your ratings. Be compassionate and aware. And as communities, we all need to be careful that we don’t exploit victims for our own ideas or political platforms.

Are victims of gun violence also a victim of the current politics of gun violence? Is there additional impact when the violence speaks from other political arenas?

In a word, yes. This is a huge area where the media can take advantage of victims. Currently, the media tends to portray sides within the politics of gun violence – pro-gun or ban guns. I personally have expressed a middle view of dialogue first, action or possible reform second. I have to be extremely careful how I word this, because if I don’t word it correctly, the media will portray me as being on one side or the other.

After I wrote my letter to Congress, many responses were revictimizing. The worst were people asking me about the armed guard Jeanne Assam that took down Matthew Murray in my shooting. Several people asked me why she didn’t play into what I wrote.

Their questions were indicative of wanting to convert me for one side or the other in the debate (in this case, pro/anti concealed carry). Problem being, they were not at New Life Church that day, and I was. Their attempt to tell me what to believe/write about was revictimizing. It was an attempt to steal my voice as a victim and to use me to further their own politics.

I can’t speak for the victims in other shootings. However, my experience has been that victims have a variety of political views, just like the general public does. Therefore:

It is not up to the public to assume any victim’s stance by seeing their status (i.e. police officer), situation (i.e. shooter openly carrying rifle) or where they were on that day (i.e. Planned Parenthood clinic). None of these things give us any real insight on victims’ political views or beliefs, and to assume and place labels on them is to revictimize them.

It is up to the victims of these shootings to state their political beliefs if they so choose. Until then, no assumption should be made about where they stand on any issues. All assumptions made are an act of re-victimization and the public stealing the victim’s voices for their own aims.

I want to end with this: Most importantly, as communities we need to step forward and support our victims. We need to be sensitive to what they need right now, and careful to not re-traumatize or re-victimize. There are hundreds of victims who need us right now. These are just some simple ways that as communities, we can support them for the months and years to come.

Terror Attack or Shooting? – A Poem

Trigger Warning: Mass shootings, gun violence, graphic depictions of violence.
I wrote this poem in response to the talk about the Pulse Orlando shooting being a terror attack because it was perpetrated by “possibly a Muslim”. As a shooting survivor, I have a lot of feelings about that.

Do not tell me what is a terror attack or what isn’t.
You do not know the ice of hearing windows shatter
You do not know the terror of hearing sister is shot
You know nothing of what bullets sound like hitting human flesh
or the screaming of your sisters
or the desperation of being on a phone to a 911 operative
begging them to come because my sisters have been shot
because my twin is lying in front of me on the floor of a minivan
with blood streaming out her nose
and she looks like she’s asleep but she won’t wake up
Do not tell me it is not terror
to try to hide behind a leather seat
to see bullets hitting windshield
to not see where they are coming from
to watch father fall to ground from one piercing him
to want it all to stop, stop, stop
but the bullets are ringing over and over and over
there is so much noise
time is so slow but it keeps going
do not tell me it is not terror
to rip a scarf from your body to try to stop twin sister’s bleeding
to have to look your twin over for an exit wound
do not tell me it is not terror to not have her answer you
to hear your mother saying “I can’t find a bullet hole
I can’t find one, oh God I can’t find one”
do not tell me it is no terror to stumble out of the car
to see other sister on the ground
with face blue from lack of oxygen
to feel your heart fall apart into your stomach as you know she is dying
to have to run from her because the shooter could be returning
to feel your soul is being ripped from your body
because your sisters’ souls are leaving you
do not tell me it is not terror
to wait for news of which hospitals they went to
to know on the way there that twin sister is gone
because you don’t feel her soul next to yours anymore
to watch a policeman speak what you already know while he is trying not to cry
do not tell me it is not terror
when father comes out of surgery, silently looks at you all
looking for the people missing
looks at you and asks where your twin is
and mother is quiet and says nothing so your mouth has to open
you say the worst words you have ever said
“Dad, Stephanie is gone.”
Do not tell me it is not terror
to stand by other sister’s bedside begging for her to come back to you
to sing all of her favorite songs in a desperate attempt for the bullet not to win
to try to cry it out of her heart and take the bullet into your own heart instead
to ask her to please not leave you alone here
do not tell me it is not terror to have the doctors
come out to waiting room to tell you that other sister is gone
that she has left you here alone despite all your begging

you say that a mass shooting is not a terror attack
unless it happens to have a Muslim face behind it
I want to tell you to fuck yourself and wait until you live one.

Doing Something With My Heartbreak

I’ve been away for awhile, but it’s not because I’m sittin’ around, feet up, with a nice cold one in my hand.

I have never been one to do nothing with my heartbreak.

I believe in doing something with what I say. The people closest to me will tell you that my biggest pet peeve is that when someone says something, and then doesn’t follow through on what they say. I refuse to be one of those people.

Remember how I wrote at the end of last year on how to support victims after a mass shooting? And how I also wrote at the end of last year about creating dialogue around gun violence?

Well, I’ve been working very, very hard on things to follow up on both of those. I’ve been a busy little bee, community organizing and meeting amazing people throughout the community.

One of the things that I am helping to head up around creating dialogue is happening this month. On April 17th at 2pm, in my neighborhood, we will be having a silent walk to commemorate victims of gun violence.

Why my neighborhood? Because I live in the Shooks Run Neighborhood, where on October 31, 2015, a man open carried an AR-15, opened fire, and killed 3 people before being killed by police.

It struck close to my heart, in some ways literally and in some ways figuratively. I had to take a month to feel it all.

Needless to say, it’s definitely a part of why I haven’t written. Heartbreak comes in waves. I had to wait out the tide. And the timing was really hard, too, because only weeks before, I’d written my letter to Congress.

Then 27 days later, impossibly, there was another shooting, this time at Planned Parenthood about 2 miles away from me. For the 2nd time in 27 days, my city was on national news. My heart broke.

But with my heartbreak, I did something. I started a GoFundMe and was amazed as the community stepped forward. We raised $1000 in 4 hours over social media to take catered Panera Bread to staff at both hospitals where victims were taken.

I needed my time to grieve… but I have never been one to do nothing with heart break.

Then an opportunity came in early December for me to join a group of artists and community organizers in Colorado Springs. They were all interested in reclaiming safe space, and I jumped at it. The overall heartfelt response from the group was an interest creating de-politicized, safe space around the common heartache that everyone shares around gun violence.

This, honestly, was the only reason I even joined the group. Since the Planned Parenthood shooting, I’ve been very careful not to have much of any political conversation around gun violence. There was so much infighting after that shooting. I wasn’t ready to speak until I had a safe place to speak in. I wanted to be part of a group that brought a safe place to explore the heartache beneath the positions.

The amazing organizers at Common Space Collective that I’m working with are creating that safe space.

And we want to reclaim our common space, so we’re going to have a silent walk.

April 17, 2pm. Corner of Kiowa and El Paso. Walking through the neighborhood taking the same route that the shooter took. Ending at First Congregational Church for a short workshop on how to listen.

This is my town. These are my people. My neighborhood. And I’m doing something like this because I believe in it. I have never been a person to just believe in something without putting action to my beliefs. This is my way to say, to myself and my community – “You are safe here. We’re here with you.”

Join me?


 

RSVP to the Facebook Event here: Silent Walk Honoring Victims of Gun Violence
For more information on Common Space Collective, go here: Common Space Collective

And stay tuned here at my site, more announcements to come!

Supporting Victims in the Aftermath of COS Shootings

On Saturday, I was approached by a community leader wanting to know victim and community impact after a shooting. As a shooting survivor, I have an intimate view on victim support after a mass shooting. And in light of both of the recent shootings here in Colorado Springs, I wanted to let the community know how victims are impacted, and how to move forward.

This is a long post in Q&A format. I kept it long because I feel these ideas are important.

How do secondary victims get help despite being secondary?
First, let’s define what a so-called “secondary” victim is. Victims can often be people you aren’t even aware of. They’re of course the people we quickly think of – friends and family of those who were killed (primary). But there are many others – “secondary”.

For instance: there were people that watched either shooter kill his victims. There were people that heard the gunfire of either event. There were people that lived on the streets where the Halloween shooter began or enacted his rampage (I happen to live on that street myself). There were the hundreds of people who had to shelter in place in the Centennial shopping center on Friday afternoon for 5 hours. There were the hostages that were trapped inside Planned Parenthood until the police were able to extricate them.

In other words, there are a LOT of victims. And it’s easy for them to go under the radar, because unless the news media exploits their story (and I do mean exploit, I’ll explain later) they are unknown to the public.

If you are friends with either a primary or secondary victim, it’s important to know that the experience most likely changed their life forever in some way shape or form. Right now is a time for you to know some mental health first aid:

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If you don’t know what to say – don’t say anything. The BEST thing you can do is to be present, gentle and supportive. Cliched statements such as “well, everything happened for a reason” are much more harmful than helpful.

If you or someone you know was a victim and need more professional help, there is a Community Crisis Recovery Center set up right now to provide resources. If the victim is in the police report, they could be eligible to have mental health costs covered by the 4th Judicial District Victims Assistance Fund (also present at the Community Crisis Recovery Center).

If not covered, many therapists work on a sliding scale – I am putting together a list of COS Trauma Therapists here. AspenPointe also has a 24/7 Community Crisis unit. And if you are on the UCCS campus, utilize the Counseling Center. They have many quality LPCs and PhDs that can provide effective counseling or mental health services.

Also, of great service to me has been the Rebels Project online Facebook group. It is a group for victims of mass shootings and traumatic events to share their experiences with people who understand. This has given me personally a lot of support when I am triggered or processing something.

If you are a secondary victim, your experience is no less important or impactful than if you were a primary victim. If you are feeling fragile and jumpy, it’s okay to get help. If you are feeling frozen or numb, it’s okay to get help. Tell close family and friends what is going on. Ask for support. Find a good therapist. The better support you have, the more likely you will be to emotionally recover.

 

How can the community engage with this somewhat new reality?

It’s important to be aware of mental health first aid, especially knowing that there are many people impacted that you’re unaware of. Be aware that people will have a variety of triggers.

Mine, for instance, are screaming, loud bangs, and men who are behaving in a erratic way. I can also get triggered by news of new mass shootings, if I read the news too much. Sometimes I have to stay off social media after news of mass shootings. I used to also be triggered by sirens, emergency vehicles, and car accidents as well. Other people will have different triggers.

If you know a victim (primary or secondary) be very aware of this. Don’t shut them down for reacting in certain ways. If they literally run away from situations, if they hide from certain things, if they freak out for no reason, this is ALL normal. Those are ALL things that I have done.

Be very cognizant of what you say. For instance, there is a lot of talk right now about how college campuses utilize trigger warnings. It helped me immensely to have trigger warnings. I went to college after my sisters were murdered, and it was by far the place I felt most unsafe. I had a professor who warned the class about a video interview with a serial killer. I was extremely grateful because then I could choose to leave class before sitting there in shock.

I also experienced one of my worst triggers in a class in which a professor made an extremely inappropriate joke about the Aurora shootings. I was dissociated and couldn’t pay attention at all for about 20 minutes. So be sensitive to survivor experience.

Another huge thing is to realize that we will be dealing with this for years to come. It’s been 8 years and I still have triggers, albeit fewer than I did even 2 years ago. As a community, it’s important to ensure that supports remain in place on a continual basis.

We often forget the massive impact of traumatic events because of the media’s short cycle. Realize the victims are probably still processing in some way, shape, or form, even years later. Churches, community organizations, businesses, and schools should be especially aware of this as they endeavor to support their members.

And for the general population – if someone shares with you that they were affected by these events and are still processing, suspend judgment and just be present to their story. Listening and providing your emotional support (without having to say much beyond “I’m here”) is the best thing you can do. But, don’t be afraid to ask what happened! It helps after the media spotlight goes away to know people still care. A good way to ask is, “Do you feel comfortable sharing what happened?

 

While many people have an experience of losing a loved one, how is this different when it is in the public eye?

This changes the experience drastically. There is a whole set of expectations that comes with your tragedy being seen by the whole world (or your whole town, state, etc). Here are some expectations I’ve had placed on me, and my responses.

People (especially the media) expecting victims to tell their storyNo one is constrained to tell their story publicly, even if the media covered the event. It’s up to the person involved. We as victims make the final call on whether we share or not. But, DO feel free to ask us as victims about what happened. A good way to ask is, “Do you feel comfortable sharing what happened?” This leaves it open for us to say yes or no. Often the “yes” or “no” depends upon how safe we feel sharing with you.

People expecting victims to react a certain way emotionally when telling their story (crying, being very upset, etc). – Everyone deals with things differently, and trauma can further distort that. Just because I’m not crying doesn’t mean I’m not upset. But if I’m crying that doesn’t mean I’m falling apart, either. Maybe I’m just having a rough day. Suspend judgment about reactions and realize all of our stories are different.

People having certain ideas about what victims are going through, based on media reports.As victims, we may or may not be shattered by what happened. We may or may not be “over it and stronger as a result.” The media does not reflect our personal feelings most of the time.

People having assumptions about victims beliefs/politics based on media reports or where the event occurred.In my shooting, just because it was at a church doesn’t mean I’m still a Christian. Just because an armed guard took down the shooter doesn’t mean I’m pro/anti concealed carry. Victim beliefs and politics are not necessarily in line with public assumption. Just because a victim’s shooting happened at Planned Parenthood, or as a result of open carry, doesn’t mean their specific beliefs/politics align with the popular assumptions carried around those places or ideas. Be careful to not assume stories based on media representation or current political climate. Let victims tell the stories. Our beliefs are not a way to further a political platform, unless we choose to use them that way ourselves.

People seeing the fact that victims do sometimes choose to tell their story publicly, and telling them that “they’re so strong” for being able to do so.What you see in a victim may not be strength or peace. It may be shock. My repetition of the story immediately afterwards looked like strength, because I didn’t break down and cry. As a matter of fact, it was not strength or peace, it was shock.

Not being able to have your private grief, because the media is looking at you – but then when media moves away, feeling abandoned – When the media is around, the public is completely involved in victim’s private grief. But conversely, when the media turns away, it can feel like the whole world has forgotten about you. Both suck. When it’s public, I felt like I couldn’t grieve the way I wanted. When the media turned away, I felt like my grief didn’t matter. It’s a catch 22. In this situation as a community, we can make sure we continue to support all victims of these tragedies months and YEARS to come (recovery takes years, my friends).

 

 

With the sharing of information at our fingertips, entities are constantly trying to beat each other to this “social equity” , up to the point of obtaining it within minutes of an incident or positive ID.  Have you experienced the feeling of someone using your experience for their gain in social capital? 

Yes. The media especially is skilled with this. I’ve recently chosen to begun sharing my experiences more in the media, in the interest of shutting down the “sides” mentality we have around gun issues and encouraging more dialogue. (This is my position, not necessarily the position of other victims of shootings) When I share, I find my words get skewed. I am often made to sound more traumatized than I actually am. People love disaster stories; I call it disaster porn.

An example: I have widely shared the Gazette article I was recently in because it maintains my greater point, but some of the material was skewed. For instance, I did not hear sirens when I delivered food to the Penrose ER on Saturday morning. [Editthe Gazette has since edited the article]

People often use victim’s stories to further their own aims or viewership. I implore you, local media – please do not exploit victim’s stories to improve your ratings. Be compassionate and aware. And as a community, we all need to be careful that we don’t exploit victims for our own ideas or political platforms.

Are victims of gun violence also a victim of the current politics of gun violence?  Can it be a double whammy (victimized from all sides)? Is there additional impact when the violence speaks from other political arenas?

In a word, yes. This is a huge area where the media can take advantage of victims. Currently, the media tends to portray sides within the politics of gun violence – pro-gun or ban guns. I personally have expressed a middle view of dialogue first, action or possible reform second. I have to be extremely careful how I word this, because if I don’t word it correctly, the media will portray me as being on one side or the other.

After I wrote my letter to Congress, many responses were revictimizing. The worst were people asking me about the armed guard Jeanne Assam that took down Matthew Murray in my shooting. Several people asked me why she didn’t play into what I wrote.

Their questions were indicative of wanting to convert me for one side or the other in the debate (in this case, pro/anti concealed carry). Problem being, they were not at New Life Church that day, and I was. Their attempt to tell me what to believe/write about was revictimizing. It was an attempt to steal my voice as a victim and to use me to further their own politics.

I can’t speak for the victims in these past two shootings. However, my experience has been that victims have a variety of political views, just like the general public does. Therefore:

It is not up to the public to assume any victim’s stance by seeing their status (i.e. police officer), situation (i.e. shooter openly carrying rifle) or where they were on that day (i.e. Planned Parenthood clinic). None of these things give us any real insight on victims’ political views or beliefs, and to assume and place labels on them is to revictimize them.

It is up to the victims of these shootings to state their political beliefs if they so choose. Until then, no assumption should be made about where they stand on any issues. All assumptions made are an act of re-victimization and the public stealing the victim’s voices for their own aims.

 

I want to end with this: Most importantly, we are a community and we need to step forward and support our victims. We need to be sensitive to what they need right now, and careful to not re-traumatize or re-victimize. Between Halloween and the Planned Parenthood shooting, there are hundreds of victims who need us right now. These are just some simple ways that we as a community can support them for the months and years to come.


 

If there are any other questions that anyone is interested in, I am willing to write a follow up post. Please leave your questions in the comments. Commenters from Colorado Springs will have priority.

I’m also interested to hear any other thoughts or in put on this – please share!

 

 

Tarot Tuesday

Welcome to the very first Tarot Tuesday on my blog! This is a new feature in which I’ll draw one card and then talk about how its major archetypes may be playing in your life right now.

TarotTuesdayTheMaster
Major Arcana Ace – The Master

This is a major arcana card unique to this deck. And what a fitting card for this week! As you can see, there is a full moon pictured above the Master on the card. We have a full moon tomorrow in Gemini.

The card very much speaks to the archetype brought up by this moon. There is a lot of movement going on, especially of the mind. Gemini is a sign ruled by Mercury, and has the archetype of the Witness (source: Virgo Magic). Wowee! A full moon in Gemini, ruled by Mercury, on Wednesday, ALSO ruled by Mercury! That means big energetics, chickadees! Mental obsessiveness, anxiety, and rumination are stirred up a lot right now. You might find yourself pulled this way and that with all the thoughts fluttering through you.

How can you stay steady? Tap into the archetype of The Master. The Master is the Higher Self, the Witness consciousness, the mastery of self that happens when one pays attention and becomes mindful of what is happening within and without.

Remember: The Master is not something outside of you – it is the still point within yourself where you are steady and unshakeable. It is the open-hearted place where you can see with compassion all your own machinations, yet not get tricked into believing their stories. It’s that place in you that pats all those crazy thoughts on the head with laugh and a “there, there“, without getting on their rollercoaster ride.

This card called up in me as well a yoga sutra that was the theme of my teacher training: “Abhyasa, the practice, is the effort to remain firmly established in one’s own true Self; it is cultivated over a long time, through earnest and reverent energy, and with great love.” (PYS I.14)

The practice this week is: to remain firmly established in the true Self, to maintain the quiet center of equanimity at the heart of it all, and to listen to our own inner silence over the voices that want to invade.

Courage, dear hearts! With the help of the Master within, we will be able to ride the tides without being shaken.

With heart,

Laurie


Want more? I also do full tarot readings! I am running a special right now for Christmas. If you buy a tarot reading for a friend, you will receive a tarot reading of your own for 50% off! That is, buy one reading, and get another for 50% off. Input Christmas2015 in the form if you’d like to take advantage of this offer!

Tell me what you thought of this week’s reading in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts, reflections, and how you’ll be working with the energy this week.

Let’s Talk… About Gun Control

dialogueguncontrol

For the last couple of weeks since I wrote my letter to Congress, I’ve been trying to foster dialogue with the people of the Internet and the people of my city (hello, Colorado Springs!).

This has not been easy.

A lot of the replies that I’ve received via my blog or Twitter account have been painful. Painful is a strange word to use, but that is what comes up when I transcend the flash of anger that appears when I first hear certain things: pain.

When people ask me, “What do you think about the armed citizen that stopped the shooter in your shooting?” As if I didn’t realize she was a part of my story.
When people assert that people are the problems, not guns. As if it were not bullets that killed my sisters.
When people say that laws don’t dissuade criminals. As if they don’t set norms in society of what violence equates to, as if they didn’t set the norm that the shooter adhered to.

The list goes on. Each of these replies first pierces my heart and honestly? I want to lash out.

I want to be the same exact person I see all over Twitter. Insulting, and raging, and cursing at people I disagree with. Sometimes, I admit it, I degrade to being that exact person because it hurts so damn much.

But if I can take a step back and look at it for a second, if I get curious, something happens that changes everything.

I meet people.

I’ve heard so many stories in the past 2 weeks. Stories that I am honored to carry, and that you can go read in the comments of my blog. I’ve had amazing conversations with people I would have called “the enemy”, had I continued to react out of pain.

At this point, that means much more to me than being right. I don’t want to be on the “right” side of this discussion. I want to truly meet people and hear their heart.

So while I’m now going to tell you about some of my personal beliefs about gun violence, I want to ask that you do the same. Tell me your stories. And tell me WHY you have them. What beliefs are behind your stories? I’ll trade you, okay? But let’s be people first, and issues secondary to that. Meet me here – I promise to hold your story in a safe place in my heart.

1) What about the “armed citizen” who stopped your shooting?

Several people have asked why I didn’t mention her in my letter. Here’s the simple truth: she didn’t factor into my letter. My letter was about me, what I saw and experienced. I wasn’t her. I didn’t take the shooter down. Am I grateful to her?

Here’s my story. I remember clearly when someone came and told me that the shooter had been stopped. I instantly felt weak with relief. I never wanted him dead. I just wanted him stopped. So yes. I am grateful to her. I’m grateful she was trained enough to stop him.

The follow up question to that is, what DO I think about armed civilians?

This is tricky for me. And I think there is two parts to this, because I live in a state that allows open carry as well as concealed. So I’ll address both.

a) Are you against conceal carry?

My short answer: no. I think I speak to that in my letter. I asked people to think about their responsibility if they chose to carry, and here’s what I mean by that. Imagine your daughter, son, sister, brother, friend laying dead on the ground from a gunshot. Think about the horror and pain that would cause you. And then think about whether you could inflict that harm on someone else. If you can then I think you know the responsibility of carrying and should be allowed to do so. I know there are people who can do this, because I’ve talked to them in my blog comments.

Another thing I want people who conceal carry for protection to think about. Adrenaline. I promise you, you have no idea what adrenaline will add to the situation until you are actually smack dab in the middle of it. Adrenaline also does weird things to your body. When my sisters were killed, I thought I heard shots coming from one direction. It turns out that the shots were coming from the exact opposite direction as I had supposed. Don’t underestimate the role of adrenaline. If you want to carry and you want to carry for self-protection, train in situations where you are guaranteed to feel adrenaline.

b) Do you think open carry should be allowed?

No.

Why? Here’s one simple reason. As a gun violence survivor, it is extremely triggering for me to see someone carrying their gun in public. Just a few weeks ago, I saw a man open carrying at my laundromat. It was terrifying.

Honestly, I am wracking my brain to think of a reason to carry openly what you could easily conceal under your jacket or shirt. And seriously, if you think of one, please let me know in the comments. I’ll gladly consider a good argument.

2) Is it the person, or the gun?

I think it’s both. I wrote about what I think goes on behind violence here. So yes, I think violent people are violent. BUT, I also think it’s the gun, because a gun provides an ease in killing other that no other easily-owned weapon provides. (so, I’m not talking tanks, bombs, drones, etc) There is no other weapon that makes it just THAT easy to kill someone, and that is why I think it’s the gun, too.

3) What about regulation?

So, here’s where things get tricky and where I hear a LOT of contention. The very second I mention regulation, we all get angry (me included). I have lots of thoughts on regulation, and I’ll describe them in terms of my personal thoughts and feelings.

Here’s why I think universal background checks (UBCs) are a good idea: I feel safer knowing that we are aware of who is purchasing firearms and whether they are mentally or physically able. I can feel secure knowing that if someone owns a firearm, it’s for a good reason, and I will trust that person if they ever need to defend me.

[On this subject, can someone explain to me in the comments the issue that some of you have with form 4473 on the UBCs? Still trying to learn about this]

Here’s why I think and feel licensing firearms is a good idea: If firearms are licensed, I can safely know where the firearm has come from. I can know that the person legally acquired that firearm, and again, presumably is fit to use it. Therefore I feel safe around that person knowing that they have what it takes to own that firearm. THAT BEING SAID I also have some fear around it being used as surveillance, because things tend to get twisted like that in the US.

Here’s why I think and feel laws around gun use are a good idea: I don’t feel like laws are great at stopping criminals. But having a law about what gun use is legal makes me feel safe, because it establishes that certain kinds of violence are not okay in our society. If I know that the government thinks certain violence is not okay, I feel more secure because I feel the government takes that seriously, and will protect me and any citizen who is in a situation that goes against that law.

Here’s why I think Congress should get involved: From my understanding of things, through a variety of ways Congress is blocked from allowing research funding to go to the CDC for mass shootings. I want to know more about mass shootings so we can see predicates to them – what personality markers are indicators? What are common denominators? We know none of this, and it would make me feel much safer to base any legislation off of solid research.

And now, it’s your turn, because this is about dialogue.

I want to hear from you. But I want to hear from a different perspective. What I want to know is your WHY. Tell me about YOU – Why do you think and feel that background checks aren’t helpful? Why do you feel afraid, upset, angry about licensing firearms in general? What do you think the role of laws are in our society, and why do you feel strongly about not passing laws? YOU. Not just political ideologies here. Mainly – your stories and your heart.

I look forward to hearing and learning from you.

Dear Congress – Sincerely, A Mass Shooting Survivor

Dear Congress,

I write you today upon hearing the grave news that another heinous mass shooting has happened, this time in Roseburg, Oregon. We learned today that at least 10 people have lost their lives, and at least 7 have been injured.

I write you this letter so that you can see the face of a survivor.  I write you this letter as someone who saw with my own eyes the horror of a mass shooting, a shooting that took the lives of my twin and younger sister and injured my father at New Life Church in December 2007. And most importantly I write this letter to open a dialogue about the role that gun violence has played in our country.

I say specifically to open a dialogue, because I am not strictly anti-gun. I feel that I am in a unique place to address this issue. About 3 years ago, I took a class to obtain a conceal-carry permit. After having been a victim of gun violence once, I was terrified to face it again. I still have nightmares about shootings about once a month. The need to protect myself was strong. At the time I felt that a conceal carry permit was the only way to sufficiently do so.

However, once I finished the class, a thought began to pervade my mind. What if I had to actually do it, actually pull the trigger? What then? Could I? Should I?

I thought about seeing my twin Stephanie’s face just moments after she was shot. I thought about my sister Rachel who was gray when I passed her just outside our family car that day. And I knew in that moment I could never pull a trigger against another human. The human might be someone who did something horrific. Some think I might have been able to even stop the shooter who killed my sisters. But when it came down to it, I realized it didn’t matter how horrible the person was. They were human. They had a family – a brother or sister, parents, cousins. In retaliating with a gun, I would be inflicting the same violence on the shooter and his family, that the shooter inflicted on me the day he killed my sisters.

This changed my mind about getting a conceal carry permit. Since I could not personally take on the responsibility of another’s life, I chose not to carry at all. Many have argued that I don’t necessarily have to “kill” someone, or that I could use this permit while out on one of my many hikes to defend myself from animals. However to me, the potentiality is there for me to commit harm against a human, so I refuse to carry.

I do not share this story as a censure against conceal carry but rather to share my thought process. I am not against conceal carry as a whole. What I am against is the lack of foresight that goes into it, both from those who carry, and from our government. Our government in many instances does not background check either those who conceal carry or those who purchase guns.

Why? We know that these atrocities are committed on a regular basis. We know that guns especially can be used to commit violent and heinous crimes. And yet we have little system of checks and balances to prevent these crimes from occurring. Many who argue against gun control say that it is not the gun that is the problem, it is the person. But if we have no way of checking who the person is, the gun becomes the problem.

I must say again clearly, Congress, that too many people have not sufficiently thought through what gun ownership in this country entails. I address you as well as those people. You have not sufficiently thought about what the responsibility of owning a gun means. Therefore you do not regulate it sufficiently in our government system. Because you do not regulate it, others do not either. And we come to where we are today, where people have clearly said to me, “I conceal carry because I am afraid to be in a mass shooting and I need to protect myself.”

The role of a country is to protect its citizens. You have failed to do so and now citizens feel the need to protect themselves, not realizing that the cost of this may be in human lives.

I am appealing to you today not to repeal the 2nd amendment, not to take people’s guns, but to consider within yourselves your responsibility to your people. As I considered my own responsibility towards human dignity when I chose not to carry, I ask you now to consider your responsibility towards human dignity when it comes to guns in the United States. I ask you to bear the grave burden of human life on your shoulders and decide in yourselves what checks and balances can be made to sufficiently uphold its dignity.

I ask you to open a dialogue – to see the human faces of this issue. To see my face as a survivor. To see the faces of gun owners who feel the need to protect themselves. As the tradition of my childhood says in the Scriptures, “Come, let us reason together.” Let’s make this discussion human again.

Please, consider me, and all those who have survived. I ask you, please consider how to prevent these atrocities so that others will never have to say, “I survived seeing my friend, parent, sister, shot and killed.” Put yourself in my shoes, feel what it would be like to survive such terror. And ask yourselves what you can to do prevent this madness from continuing.

Sincerely,
A Mass Shooting Survivor


I would love to hear your thoughts and dialogue in the comments. Let’s start a conversation about this. And if you agree and want to add your voice, please share this post via social media. 

EDIT: I’ve begun a dialogue post here, come join!

The thing about plants

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There are so many days that I look to my plants in my sun-room to prove that I am actually growing beautiful things.

Some days, I look at myself – my thought processes, emotional state, ease with which I can re-center myself – and feel like I’ve made zero progress. I still worry to the point of obsessiveness. I equate living with heart to living with loss, which spins me out into the stratosphere. Want to make me freak out and panic? Throw a little dash of “you’re going to lose this” or “you’re not doing the right thing” into my mental state and I’m there.

Hannah Brencher wrote a beautiful post recently about growing into “hell yes.” For me, I know that this applies to almost all areas of my life.

For a year now I’ve been craving a feeling of deep rooted-ness in my life. I was the wanderlust girl, the gypsy soul… but so much of it was just running away from myself, and I knew it. Last year I got hit with the worst depression I’ve ever experienced, and I didn’t even want to move off my couch. I stopped running and that was what barreled into me.

But along with that depression was a craving to feel the soil of my life, to really know my life by tending to it as I would a plant.

That was when the plants started showing up.

First, I bought an English ivy and a pretty little succulent. My kitten murdered the succulent right off after tasting the delicious leaves. But the ivy thrived. Then a friend gave me a creeping Charlie that I kept out on the porch all last summer until I realized it was dying out there. I brought it inside and put it on my altar and started watering it every day. I put my ivy next to it so it had a friend.

Somewhere in there I bought a basil plant so I could have my own basil. As a artisan chef of caprese salad (I could bathe in caprese, haha) I needed my own basil. So I got a basil plant, too.

Then I got a philodendron for my kitchen. I felt my little kitchen needed a spot of green, so I hung it from the roof there. But I kept forgetting to water it, so I finally transferred her to a spot in my sunroom, where she’s blissfully wrapped her vines around my reading chair.

My boyfriend gave me an orchid as one of his first gifts to me. It had a few beautiful blossoms, but part of the stem broke off because I was a little rough. I felt remorseful for my ways and so I patiently fed it water and watched in amazement as I saw it sprout a new leaf. I thought I’d killed it by breaking that part of the stem. Not so. Turns out it just needed some TLC.

Soon into my yoga teacher training (quite aptly named RootEd – obviously) I brought that same orchid to the communal altar. That weekend when I left, my teacher gifted me an amaryllis plant that she had that looked like it needed love.

I kept care of little Missy ‘Rillis and on the Spring Equinox, a green shoot popped up gloriously. I love synchronicity like that.

At this point I was catching the planting bug. I added in an African violet, a plant that I’ve had notorious issues with growing in the past. I almost killed her by putting her in direct sunlight. Now she’s slowly coming back from the grave after I set her a bit further away and stopped watering her so much. I’ll get her yet.

There’s a tender consistency that comes from growing things. You have to be patient. You’re training a new way of being, you’re coaxing a seed or a plant out of its shell. You need to give them just the right amount of water, just the right amount of sunlight. And when they burst up out of the ground, there’s a profound sense of satisfaction that you kept something alive.

Sometimes things die, too, but I’m mostly finding it’s for lack of care rather than from some mistake I made. I had a thyme plant that I killed 2 months ago because I didn’t water it enough. Poor baby. I just didn’t care enough to keep her watered.

My petunia right now is laying dormant after blooming all winter. She looks dead, but I know she just needs a rest. She had her growing season and now she’s a bit quiet. She’s an annual, so she’ll come back. I’m not worried.

I was sitting during my morning quiet a few weeks ago, asking myself what I really wanted (a question that haunts me, and that I’ve recently let go of to make more space). What came was that I wanted rootedness. And tomato plants on my balcony.

I am now the proud owner of 2 tomato plants that are lapping up sun on my porch. One has produced a few tomatoes already – it’s a yellow cherry tomato plant that’s more like a vine. Not surprising, I have an affinity for vines, there’s something about the way they twine around things like they just want to stay forever. The other plant I’m carefully tending to – water, fish fertilizer, sunshine – and hope-fully waiting for a harvest come August or September.

I’m learning a lot from my plants. About how to be consistent. To water gently every day, to pay attention to what they need, to care lovingly on a regular basis. It’s amazing how much grows in that environment.

It’s teaching me to be the same way to myself.

Violence Doesn’t Solve Fear

Today in the news we again have violence against black people, in McKinney TX at a teenage pool party, of all places. I have held my peace on my blog about this but today is the last straw for me. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I’m passionate about social justice, and in my offline life I’m a board member for the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission. So honestly it’s really high time I use my blog as a platform for what I want to say about this.

First of all, I am a gun violence survivor. I watched my sisters get murdered in front of me. And because of that, I went through an entire personal evolution of how I approached gun safety in this country. At first I was fully supportive of the lack of regulation on the right to bear arms. I even went through the entire class to get a conceal carry permit. And then I thought about it.

I could not, EVER, inflict upon ANY person irregardless of how “evil” they were, the same thing that I saw kill my sisters. I couldn’t. It would break me. And I knew that if I conceal carried a weapon, that would be the responsibility on my shoulders.

So at that moment I decided that for myself, I would never conceal carry. Not ever.

Let me be clear. I am not anti conceal carry. I am not about taking away anyone’s 2nd amendment rights. But what I do think is that they should be regulated, and I have several reasons why. Today was one of them.

Why do I bring this up in conjunction with McKinney?

Because we have a country that promotes systemic violence across all platforms, to the war in Iraq to police brutality on the streets of our cities. If there is a problem, welp, we swagger on in and solve it. How? Stark Industries style: “I’ve got a bigger weapon than you.” Our entire mindset on how to feel in control (when we feel out of control) is to use violence.

And in McKinney, the police officer pulled a gun in a situation which did not warrant violence.

My dad taught me to NEVER EVER point a gun at someone I didn’t intend to shoot. My dad only ever used shotguns for pheasant hunting, but he had been given a thorough lesson in gun safety and passed that on to us. I can imagine the kind of training that officer was given, and I am 100% sure that officer was told the same thing.

Pulling a gun and pointing it at someone in a situation, because you are afraid, is never okay. Pulling a gun as a policeman, who is an officer meant to sustain peace, is even less okay.

I watched the video. I don’t normally watch these kinds of videos because they are highly triggering for me. But I watched this one. And what I saw was a man who was terrified and out of control. Cursing constantly, running back and forth, and pulling a gun on kids who had never even made out as if they were going to hurt him. The kids all just wanted answers. The cop was freaking out and trying to gain control.

I know this reaction intimately because this is exactly how my dad used to react when he was afraid. He would yell and scream and act erratic. It’s familiar to me. It’s also how I react when I’m afraid.

Furthermore, I know fear. Intimately. I would say that fear and anxiety is the number one thing I’ve been working with for the past year. And here are some things that I know. When I become aggressive, either against myself or other, this doesn’t solve my fear or make me feel more in control. It actually stirs it up further. The more I try to be “in control”, the less in control I am. I am reacting to the feeling of fear within me by trying to gain control.

On the basic, most simple level, when I am reacting to fear within myself by trying to regulate, self-police, and control myself, I am acting with aggression towards myself, and my body responds accordingly. It tenses up, becomes rigid, and my mind runs around trying frantically to generate solutions to stave off what it is I fear.

On a macro level, I see it in the United States. What we do in this country is react. Fear comes up, and we strike out. It may not even be clear what we are afraid of, but perhaps it’s the simplest and most common thing – death. We don’t want to die, so we react by trying to be in control. And in the United States (as in myself), it seems that control equals aggression.

Today in McKinney, a man meant to bring peace instead lost control and became an instigator of aggression. He wrestled a 14 year old teenage girl to the ground, then pulled a gun on teenagers who were just trying to figure out what was going on. In my mind, pulling a gun marks his intention, which sickens me. And as a gun violence survivor I need to tell you. This has got to stop.

The ways in which we approach our fear has got to change.

It is so very very easy to approach fear with the mindset of wiping it off the face of the map, whether it be with drone strikes or with pointing a gun at innocent teenagers. It’s so very very easy for me to approach fear with self-policing, obsessive thinking, and trying to eradicate it from my mind. Do they seem disconnected to you? They are very related. Outer change never comes without inner change, first.

We react to fear as a country with aggression, because we react to our own inner fear with aggression, either against ourselves or by lashing out at those closest to us. Until we begin to learn on a personal level how to respond to fear instead of react, the problem will never be solved. The problem of violence. The problem of systemic injustice – whether that be race, gender, class, or anything else.

Why? Because fear is blinding. You and I both have had the experience of fear blinding us to what the reality is. And until we can learn to respond, we will never see the truth: Black lives matter. What is more, we will never see an even deeper, more profound truth:

I matter.

So I will not self aggress, nor will I aggress against those I love or anyone else. I will not treat my shadow as though it is the enemy.

Until we can stop reacting to our shadows instead of responding in love, this issue will never be solved. So this is what I am challenging you. Are you wondering what you can do as a white person to change the systemic violence in the United States? Are you wondering how to show the public at large that black lives indeed DO matter?

Start with yourself.

Address the shadow within yourself. Stop running from it. Stop trying to fight, fade, or fix it – which are all acts of self aggression. Listen deeply to yourself. Stop reacting to your shadow by yelling at or otherwise hurting the person who triggered it. As you stop inflicting violence on yourself, you’ll naturally stop inflicting violence on others. As you start listening deeply to yourself, you’ll naturally start listening to others. You’ll naturally be moved to get involved with movements for peace and justice.

The buck starts with you. It starts with me. No one said this is easy work. But are you willing to pay the cost for change?

If so – join me.

Footnote:
First, I address this solution to white people as I am a white person and can’t pretend to know how black people need to work to solve this systemic violence. I will not speak on their behalf. But I will give other white people like myself a mode of true, heart led action.
Second, I point out black lives because of the systemic violence so obviously inflicted against them. Life in general matters, certainly, but the egregious violence against black people in our country needs to be addressed head on.

Just Keep Following (the heartlines on your hands)

Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/zionfiction/
Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/zionfiction/

Oh the river, oh the river, it’s running free.
And oh the joy, oh the joy it brings to me.
But I know it’ll have to drown me,
Before I can breathe easy.
And I’ve seen it in the flights of birds,
I’ve seen it in you.
The entrails of the animals,
The blood running through.
But in order to get to the heart,
I think sometimes you’ll have to cut through.
But you can’t…

We will carry…
We will carry you there…

Just keep following!
The heartlines on your hand!
-Florence and the Machine

I’m now down to the last couple of weeks of my yoga teacher training (say it isn’t so!). We’ve just moved into learning through the lens of the heart chakra. Each time we move to a new chakra, I’m surprised to learn the deep ways in which it is applying to me right now.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been seeking more silence to let my heart arise, as I spoke about in my last post. My mind has this little habit of getting in the way. A lot. It chatters all day long, just nonsense. Or whatever I happen to be worrying about at the time, it chews on over and over. It reminds me of how they talk about the locusts in the Little House series, the constant chewing that Laura heard all day every day, eating up all the plants. It gives me a crawly feeling.

There’s a sutra by Patanjali that is translated by Nischala Joy Devi to mean “Yoga is the uniting of consciousness at the heart.” It is elsewhere known as “Yoga is the state of cessation of the whirling of the mind.” I like Nischala Devi’s version. Instead of focusing on what Yoga ceases to do (what I need to cease doing), it focuses on the outcome – uniting of consciousness in the heart.

This focus is helpful for me, too. I can focus on ceasing the constant chewing fluctuations of my mind, OR, I can focus on uniting my consciousness at my heart.

To those not in the Yoga world, that language is high falutin and heavy. I’m not one to want to always use the language of the group I find myself in at the time; I think it’s limiting to other’s understanding. Instead, here’s what I’d like to tell you about uniting consciousness in the heart, based on my own experience.

I have struggled with anxiety for years. It came to the forefront when I stopped drinking, but it was there beforehand. I just had no awareness of it. When I stopped drinking, I got to see my anxiety front and center. I’ve had the chance to observe it the past almost 3 years. And as I do I realize it’s plagued me since I was a small child. I grew up in an atmosphere where I was only allowed to do things if they followed “the family rules” which were inconsistent and hard to determine. As a result I developed a ridiculously sensitive conscience and what I think is the origin of my anxiety.

Doing things in a self-empowered, heart-centered way is extremely foreign to me. Beginning last year in May/June, I started switching to this mode of life. It’s the reason I stopped going to 12 step recovery, stopped my love addiction recovery, started my yoga teacher training. I selected this teacher training mainly due to the empowerment aspect of it. I’m not seeking another person to tell me what to do. I’m seeking an empowered life.

It’s not easy. Because it requires finding the “still point in the turning world” (as e.e. cummings says) and rising out of the dark of that silence to quietly pursue what my heart prompts of me.

I have a different view of the heart, also. There’s millions of life coaches on the internet right now preaching following your desires, finding work you love, that kind of thing. While this has its merit, I think it can get a little skewed. Because in many ways I think you first have to reveal the heart. Which is another reason I took up Yoga. Yoga is all about learning to reveal the heart that lies beneath.

So yes, follow your bliss. But first – clear the mirror so you know what your bliss IS. That’s the message for me. Follow the bliss, from the True Self and the true heart center. Easy? Not necessarily

(maybe it is for you, each person is different in their journey). But worth it… most likely. I don’t know yet, honestly. I’m still learning. I just know that I’m really tired of living by the dictates of other people and I want to empower myself.

Maybe that means walking in the dark for awhile before I find myself, but maybe the unknown, silent, dark is where it’s at. As one of my favorite poems says,

 There is in God (some say)
A deep, but dazzling darkness; As men here   50
Say it is late and dusky, because they
        See not all clear;
    O for that night! where I in him
    Might live invisible and dim.

– Henry Vaughan

Sometimes God/the Divine/my Higher Self is found in the dark. So I’ll just keep following these heartlines on my hands.

How I Use Tarot In My Spiritual Practice

Since I’ve started offering tarot readings here on the blog, I thought I’d write about how I use tarot in my daily life.

For me, tarot is a way that I supplement my current spiritual practice. My current spiritual practice includes daily meditation and yoga asana. I use both of those as a way to remember my true Self. I am sure some of you will be confused by that terminology so let me explain how I see it.

There’s the ego self – the one that craves, desires, wants the wrong things for the wrong reasons, gets neurotic, gets grasping, or I suppose in Christian terminology you could say it is the “sinning” side of me. I’m okay with that definition, if we are defining sin as “something that separates us from the Divine.

I see the Divine as a couple of things. My perception of the Divine is that it is an entity – one that I cannot describe but I feel like it appears in many aspects. I have seen it portrayed as woman, man, wind, animal, energy. It’s mainly for that reason that I don’t ascribe to a religion. I also see the Divine as my higher Self. A way that I think of this is, it’s my future self, whether my older self in this life, or if reincarnation is a thing, my future self in many lives ahead of me. It’s a higher aspect of me that grants wisdom to this current iteration of who I am.

Now that that is explained… tarot does what for me, now?

Okay, if we are defining “sin” or “ego” or the “small self” as that which separates us from the Divine or from Oneness (which is also me), then I would say I use Yoga to reunite with the Divine/my higher Self. Yoga in itself means “union” or “to yoke”, so this makes sense. By the way, I mean Yoga in the grander sense – not just the physical form but the entire philosophy and way of life.

Tarot reading for me, is an extension of Yoga in the grander sense, a way that I remember and reunite with my Self and the Divine. It’s a reminder to me of which path will be the most nourishing and sustaining for me.

For instance.

This morning, I did a daily draw, partially for me and partially for my Instagram account (@bornsirius – follow me!). The draw turned out to be very significant:

tarotabundance

After I drew this, I knew instinctively that I have blocks to abundance in my life. Abundance? It is not showing up much for me at the present. I’ve got bills galore, for one thing. So I drew clarifying cards, asking, “how do I remove the blocks to my abundance?” The deck didn’t answer me straight. Instead it gave me Laziness, Conditioning, and Exhaustion.

I only knew this related because I’ve been noticing a tendency of mine. When I get overwhelmed, I shut down and I act like I’m tired. I’m really not tired; I’m really just avoiding something that’s hard for me. To me, the deck was saying that the way I’ve been doing things, the shutting down and pretending it away and working really hard until I collapse into the ground, was not working.

Well, what would work, then?

I knew I had to relax. To rest. I had just gotten a massage this morning. My muscles were so tightly wound that even I was surprised. I was a massive ball of knots, especially in my shoulders. Hilariously, also, my massage therapist (also a lovely friend – Hi, Beth!) kept telling me, “Stop helping me!” I kept tensing up; she was telling me to stop helping her and just relax.

All these things flashed through my mind as I looked at the card I’d pulled. Then something occurred to me. I had been thinking about even my massage in the light of “Oh my gosh. I’m so tight, my body has all these problems, I wonder what it means, blah blah blah.” In other words, I’d been seeing myself as broken. In an instant I understood what the Abundance card was asking of me – “Stop seeing yourself as broken and remember that you are whole, holy, divine, and ENOUGH right now in this moment. You don’t have to be fixed to be good enough.

This shifted my outlook for the rest of the day. It shifted my energy even. Previously, I’d been stuck in a dark hole of thinking that I’m not good enough, I’m unworthy, I should be better, etc etc. I’d been focusing on things that made me feel small, constricted, and dark. This reading shifted it to, “I am good enough, I have more than enough, and what if I were to live from that perspective?” My body instantly felt lighter, more expansive, more fertile, able to grow and take in beauty.

That’s what tarot does for me. I have experienced profound reminders of the truth from tarot, profound moments that bring me healing. It’s a way for me to extrovert what I am processing through my Yoga practice. Through the cards, I can tangibly see the things I’m emotionally processing.

Today, it just happened to bring a whole mental shift. And I’m left feeling lighter because of it.

An Announcement!

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As you may have noticed, I’ve been using tarot cards in these posts for a few months now. My Osho Zen deck is something that is very inspiring to me, and has given me rich material for my personal spiritual path. But from the first moment I held that deck in my hands, I knew something so clearly. These cards were not just for me.

I was struck with an insatiable desire to read cards for others. And I knew immediately that I wanted to do so. It was as if the deck were speaking to me.

In the beginning, I did a few readings for friends and my boyfriend’s friends. But I’m ready to branch out now. A few weeks ago, I offered readings to my wider Facebook friend group, and was thrilled by the large response. The love of it did not go away despite the amount of readings that I did. The thrill of being a channel to help and encourage others was incredible, and I feel that part of my purpose is to be a channel to bring guidance and light to others in this way.

So now I’d like to offer my services to you. If you’d like to purchase a reading, head on over to my Tarot Readings page. I have a few formats I’m willing to do, so take a look through and see which you’d like.

I’m so looking forward to reading for you!

Growing Pains

I don certain perspectives with ease. They’re like sunglasses in the sense that they block out certain spectrums of light. Like that one pair of sunglasses that you hate that makes everything look brown.

It’s easy to see life as shit-colored.

Sometimes I wear my sunglasses at night.

That makes it even more difficult.

I was driving home from work one day about 2 weeks ago. Frustrated with myself, upset for feeling so constantly negative. A song came on that reminds me of my sisters, from The Holiday’s movie soundtrack. With tears in my eyes I wished my sisters were here, that things weren’t so hard for me all the time. I was talking to Rachel in my head as I usually do; she was my confidante sister who heard my inner life.

And suddenly I had an image of her, smilingly showing me a picture of myself. I was freaking out, WITH MY OWN HAND OVER MY EYES.

I was covering the light myself.

And I felt like she gently said, “Happiness is not as far away as you think.”

I’m still absorbing that message. Because as Brene Brown talks about, I hustle for worthiness. I hustle for love. I hustle for happiness, and I think that doing things just perfectly will get me there. In fact, one of my favorite perspectives is that IF I JUST DO THINGS PERFECTLY I won’t lose.

I won’t lose the things I desire. I won’t lose happiness. I won’t lose someone I love.

I begged Rachel, in the Critical Care Unit at Penrose Hospital, to stay with me. To be here. I repeated almost word for word the scene from Sense and Sensibility where Elinor begs Marianne not to leave her here alone. I did everything that I could possibly think of. I quoted all her favorite movies, from Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings to the aforementioned Sense and Sensibility. I sang to her. And in the end, she still left. I couldn’t make her stay for me even though I tried so hard. Even though she was the only person in my family who truly understood me, the only one in my family that I actually felt deeply connected to.

Before that, I begged my dad not to leave. I was 10 years old or so, my dad was very angry one night and threatened to go live on his own, without us. He had threatened this in the past while we had all silently frozen in the face of his rage. I changed my mind that night. I was tired of staying silent. Maybe my feelings would change something. So I hurled myself into his arms crying. “Don’t go Daddy. I love you.”

He put me away from him, moved me away… “Stop all that nonsense.”

I shrouded my heart to keep it safe. Maybe if I had held on tighter. Maybe if I had said the right words instead of “nonsense”.

I have tried ever since to hold on tighter and to do all the right things. I lost my grandpa when I was 15, and that shattered me. 6 months after that, I lost my first love, which I blamed my dad for. I lost my sisters. I got divorced. All these things, I tried so hard to hold them all together and they fell apart. About 6 months after I got divorced, I stopped drinking alcohol. A lot of my drinking had been to release myself from the vice of perfection I was holding myself in.

When I took away that crutch, my perfectionism transferred to school and to alcohol/love addiction recovery. I tried to be the perfect person in recovery. I tried to be perfect with my grades at school. This escalated and escalated until last May when I started to see what I was doing to myself. I stopped running. The instant I did, I was overcome by the deepest depression I’ve ever experienced. I’m still not clear on why… maybe because I finally stopped running from falling apart.

I’ve been unraveling it all ever since. I see it as a huge ball. I pull all sorts of strands in, but I have this huge overarching narrative that I like to believe about myself and my life.

“If I can just be perfect I will not lose.” But I can’t be perfect, so I will inevitably lose all I love.

I wish that just seeing that this is going on would eliminate it totally, but that’s not how it works. It’s helpful to be aware that this story is ruling my life, but, then I get to take action.

Which I have been, but change is slow. Especially when there are so many intertwining stories that are connected to this overarching one. And courage is hard to come by sometimes. When I don my usual perspectacles (as dear Glennon Melton calls them) and see only loss in my future, everything gets really black. I lose so much motivation to even go forward.

And so some days it takes all I have to just have the courage to believe what Source/the Universe/my Higher Power (you know, whatever I call that thing these days) seems to be telling me. To just let go and know that It has good things in store for me. Truly good things. And seriously that does take a lot of courage some days to believe. I fight myself, trying to be perfect, until I’m tuckered out and I finally give in. Then I have a cry about my losses because I need to purge the grief, and usually after that purging the world looks a little brighter again. I can see the light again just enough to find strength move forward.

I’m grateful right now for the support I have – a wonderful boyfriend who has persisted in staying by my side, my RootEd satsang who are more precious to me than I could ever put in words, and my new therapist who has valiantly gotten down in the muck with me.

After our immersion weekend for my teacher training last week, something really cool happened. I had brought a plant for the altar as an offering. As I was leaving on Sunday, my teacher asked, “Do you like plants?” and handed me an amaryllis flower, explaining that it needed some TLC. I was thrilled to take it home and put it in my sunroom/altar area. “I’m good at resurrecting things,” I said. Like I was reminding myself.

Then I walked out to my car. Tucked under my wiper blades was a bright, beautiful, colorful bouquet from my boyfriend. I offered a flower. I went home with 3.

These words sprang to mind:

“You are so full of rain,
there is so much that is growing,
hallelujah to your weathervanes,
hallelujah to the ache
hallelujah to your full, to the fall,
hallelujah to the grace,
and every body
and every cell
of us all.”
-Andrea Gibson, I Sing the Body Electric (Even When the Power’s Out)

 

Seeds grow in the dark. Even in the dark where it’s my own hand over my eyes, when it’s my own old stories that hold me back. But that also presumes they are dirt. Which presumes they provide what is needed for that seed to grow.

“You make beautiful things out of dust…” – Gungor, Beautiful Things.

There is so much that is growing. Hallelujah to the ache. To my own precious growing pains. To the sunglasses over my eyes that reveal my need to unveil myself to the world. Hallelujah to it all.

Twilight

Knowing sacred places in the shadows, I come to a new understanding of them. When I approach them in the blue January twilight, instead of the blazing June sun, I see things a little bit differently.

I walked this trail in June, on June 29th to be exact. I have walked it since then. Once in fall. Now in winter. So far, 3 seasons I’ve marked on this trail. It’s a newer trail for me.

In summer I came with questions.

In winter, I came with the same questions, but I have changed.

I see the dark and light of me. The shades all in between. I have stumbled, I have lost my way, I have walked many twilights and dark nights in the past 6 months.

One time in late fall, I visited this trail in pitch dark. Without a flashlight. Momentarily, I used the light from my phone to find the path to the bridge. Then I stood on the bridge in the darkness. I couldn’t see the water around me. I could barely make out the outlines of the trees. Slowly, they came into focus. I felt so out of place. I had inner tremors of fear. I wished I could make out my surroundings. I pushed myself to walk a few steps beyond the bridge, just to know that I could. To know the dark was not going to overwhelm me. And slowly I found a strange comfort there, a twinge of wild-ness.

I returned tonight just before sunset, walked the trail with a bounce in my step. Questions still here, living in my body, but my expansive soul had stopped contracting around them. Instead of getting so small in attempts to find certainty, tonight, I was expanded with possibility. I was a beautiful mystery. The snow clung to branches like my soft skin clings to my skeleton; in other words, my body remembered itself.

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I found the glade I love, chanted to the wind, called the guru in me that I most dislike (scary!) but most need; the wild one. the untamed changeable one. the Black Panther of my soul. the Bluebeard man in my psyche who exposes the old stories in which I’ve systematically murdered my sweet Self. Guru. Devo. Maheshwara. The breeze danced down while I sang it, slowly… Guru devo maheshwara, guru sakshat, param brahma, tasmai shri guruvay namaha.

I began back down only to turn around and see fiery sunset clouds erupting over the glen where I’d just stood. I understood their brilliant symbolism, the fire I have died in, and rise from. I smiled, I was not afraid, I was cheered by this light show the earth acknowledged me in. A sign that I am grand and glorious still, perhaps more glorious because I am rising out of the deepest dark I’ve ever known.

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And I walked back down through the cool January woods, with the blue light of winter sculpting my path. It was not the harsh light of winter day, but the softness of twilight. I am not out of the darkness yet, only beginning to see and understand in a new way. There is a softness to this iteration of me that I have not seen before. But an uncanny wilderness, too. An awareness, a watchful grace. I move slowly, like the light does down the mountainside as the sun disappears behind it.

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In this moment, I am still afraid. But I am beginning to know my soul, and to know my strength. I embody twilight.

“I will never see the sky the same way
And I have learned to say goodbye to yesterday and I
Will never cease to fly if held down and
I will always reach too high, cuz I’ve seen
cuz I’ve seen
twilight.”
-Vanessa Carlton

In the darkest time of the year…

I’ve written a post over at Sisterwives today that I want to share with you. It’s about how I make it through the holidays. Well… how I make it through life, really. But especially the holidays, and especially this time of year when we are approaching the solstice and the darkest time.

This post is about finding your beacon. Please go read: http://wp.me/p4A35U-lR

Finding Ground

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Back in February/March, I went to Sayulita, Mexico, and found myself as I have never done before. I went alone. As such, I was required to make my own self care an absolute priority, down to what I ate. While there, I encountered regular thoughts of self-hatred, regular condemnation for the lack of yoga I was doing (I’d planned on going daily while there), and general depressiveness. In spite of all this, I allowed and accepted these feelings with an equanimity that surprised even me. My big “S” Self stepped into the picture and held all the shifting in her great arms.

On the way home, I finally admitted to myself that I didn’t want to go to school for counseling, not now. This was groundbreaking, since I’d been wanting to go to school for counseling since I was 15 (so, for 10 years). What I did not realize is that this was the first of many shifts in my life this year.

I held onto my equanimity for about a month, and then my world began to tilt and I could feel my Self falling back under the influence of my scared ego. I became smaller again.

I started a supervisor position at work, which was much more difficult than I expected considering I have never been a supervisor. It was also difficult in the sense that I was officially dropping my dream of going to school.

I met a boy. We talked for a little while, then I shut him out, from fear. But this experience made me realize that I lacked spontaneity in my life generally, and that my program for love addiction was hindering me, rather than helping me. Instead of forming my own ideals about love and relationships, I was looking to others to do so for me. I decided to step away from my love addiction program, which I had participated in for almost 2 years, and in which I had completed all 12 steps required and a dating plan.

The same week I decided to do this, I moved to a new apartment. This was a mere 2 weeks after another incident at my old apartment, where someone broke into the basement below my apartment. This was the SECOND such incident I’d had in a year and a half of living there. I didn’t find out until last month (via my dad) that the 2nd guy also had a gun and fired at police. I had thankfully left the apartment by that time.

But it didn’t end there. In stepping away from my love addiction program, I also shifted my alcohol recovery. I’m not regularly attending 12 step recovery right now, though I continue to stay sober and in touch with my sponsor. I am choosing sobriety right now for this reason: I use alcohol to numb. In general in my life, what I am attempting to do is eliminate all things which I use to avoid the present and my true Self. As such I choose to continue to stay sober from alcohol at this time.

And then on June 29th, I started dating Kevin.

This completely ungrounded me. I had already had so much shifting happening in my life. From the very beginning of our relationship, I’ve struggled with massive fear. I’m not talking about the usual relationship worries and nervousness. I’m talking about flat out panic.

I am ashamed to say that it has taken me 5 months to regain myself. And there are prices to pay for not being yourself in a relationship. I am not at all proud of my behavior. I caused a lot of pain and have had to beg forgiveness. Yet on the other hand, I look at myself with compassion.

So much of this year has been about finding who I am, and not living others-defined. My entire life, I have lived defined by what others want of me. Growing up, if we didn’t fall in line with my dad’s dream of God giving us 1.7 billion dollars, we were verbally harangued. I went straight from that into a marriage that I felt like “GOD” was telling me to be in, with a dysfunctional man who was sadly a pornography addict. I finally stepped out of this, and straight into recovery programs that were very structured and I continued living by others’ ideas. I am not saying that my recovery programs were unhelpful. What I am saying is that my perception of how to “work” them caused me to again base my life on what others told me to do, when what I needed was empowerment. Truly, the biggest reason I have not returned to meetings is that I am still unable to change my perception on it, and know that I won’t until I have gained enough ground in myself.

Beginning with my decision to not go to school this year, it has been the year of unraveling living the life I was “supposed” to live, or told to live, or felt like I HAD to live… for the life that I want to live. Not in a selfish “I want to do this and fuck everyone else” sort of way, rather, in a healthy, skillful, heart-centered way. To do this I’ve had to find who it is that I am, without all the structures I’ve made myself up of.

So I suppose it was somewhat natural to go into a relationship and struggle with this very thing. Not allowing myself to feel whatever it was that I felt, out of fear that I would a) screw the whole thing up and be in another unhealthy relationship and b) cause great harm to someone else.

Ironically and very unfortunately, I caused great harm to my boyfriend, while trying to avoid it. Lesson learned. Do not abandon self, no matter what. No matter how much your feelings are scaring you, do not abandon self. Do not abandon feelings.

Thankfully, I found my yoga program just at the right time. The entire program is about becoming a teacher from the foundation of becoming your true Self. And the whole program EMPOWERS you to become your true Self instead of giving rules to follow. Through my yoga program, I’ve come back to myself.

I’ve written here about Patanjali’s sutra I.23 – Ishvara Pranidhana Dva. The sutra of surrender. The theme of the past 5 months has entirely been surrender, since the very start of my relationship. My relationship really began with the movie The Fountain, a story that I see as one of surrender, ultimately.

On Friday, I looked up at the sky and asked the Universe, please let me know I am on the right path. Make it clear, startlingly clear for me, what I need to do. Within fast succession, BOTH things occurred (I should not have been surprised). Later that day at work, I found a poem in an old notebook, one I wrote before my boyfriend and I really even started talking much, about the terror of living in an overwrought mind, and the way past it (death/surrender), that used symbolism of an exploding star (a theme in The Fountain). I took this instantly as knowing “I am in the right place.”

On Saturday, I was standing in my work breakroom and I read yet another graphic on Facebook about surrender and grace. With tears in my eyes I fell to my knees and said, “Okay. Fine. I hear you. I’m done. I will feel whatever I feel.” That night, I went to our local poetry open mic. I saw a woman walk in, and as soon as I saw her, I knew that whatever she spoke would be for me. Her poem? It was on surrender and releasing, healing wounds to heal karmic patterns. I was floored.

And Sunday, my yoga training met again. We have been doing root chakra work, lots of it, and yesterday learned a set of asana poses specifically targeted for the root chakra. We spent 2.5 hours on these poses, which was grueling and exhausting. I felt somewhat resentful that we spent so much time in them, that the teacher was pushing us so much and so quickly. But I had a series of questions that came to me as we worked together Sunday. As these questions came up, I started to feel a stronger sense of Self.

“What if I am desperately craving connection with myself?”
“How do I bring growth to that way of being?”
“In what ways can I support my heart opening?” – this, as I realized that I have to find security and strength in root chakra before I can open up through my heart.

After our asana practice (mostly thigh/leg work) and these musings, I went and hiked the Incline with my boyfriend. I was finally just there, breathing, feeling whatever I felt with him, surrendered to what is. It was a great hike, and despite all the leg work I’d already done, I had a huge endorphin high. We got to the top just as dusk fell, so we headed back down Barr Trail as it got dark. For about half the trail, I was behind him, and we alternated running and hiking steadily. And as we hiked, something hit me.

“No matter what happens with us, I will be okay.” And I knew it all the way through myself, to the very marrow of my bones. I felt like I was snapped back into my body and was instantly flooded with an intense joy, at the reunion with myself. Something about feeling the ground underneath my feet, and the burning in my thighs and legs from the hike and the root chakra asana practice (which I am convinced brought on a lot of this transformation), brought me back to myself.

I am supported. Not because someone else holds me up, but because I am enough and I hold myself. This is surrender, to myself, to the knowledge that I have what it takes to hold the world within me.

This return to myself feels like touching the solid ground after being at sea for months. There is a sense of great relief, and bliss at reunion with my true Self. I remember the woman I was from Sayulita, the one who I truly am. The one who allows and lets life unfold and is not afraid to feel it all, because I am expansive, strong, resilient.

I can’t stop the glimmer of fear that I will lose myself again. But, I will breathe, and allow the fear, and keep surrendering. I know this truth: as long as I continue to surrender, I will always find Her.

It’s been a long journey over the sea of my ego-driven self, but I am finding ground. I am finally home.

Final Note: I don’t think it is a coincidence that I am writing this on December 8th, and scheduling it to post on the 7th anniversary of the death of my sisters. This year has been one of transformation – and every 7 years, a person’s body sheds all their skin cells and gains a completely new set of them. I am in a new skin now, 7 years later, truly transformed on a physical and spiritual level. And I would not be who I am without my sisters. Deep bow to you, my dear hearts, and two of my greatest teachers.

Practice

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It’s been awhile since I wrote. Some of this is due to the places my mind has wandered lately, down dark and lonely roads. But some of this is also due to being out of practice.

My honesty has felt terrifying even to me, so I stopped practicing writing it out publicly and went underground. Found other ways to let it out – primarily the aforementioned dark places that my mind has wandered. Anxiety creeps out of the cracks of the mind-box I’ve tried to shove it in, and since I won’t create, my body trembles with the force of holding it in.

Previously, I would have bled out on paper. But I haven’t been able to. And then I got too tired. Writing felt exhausting. I didn’t lift a pen for a couple weeks. Then I started thinking about the practice of writing.

Writing doesn’t just happen when inspiration strikes.

but, you see, this is when I have usually written. And when inspiration doesn’t strike, I don’t speak, so I let it lie. Leave the ground barren and fallow, and all my blog readers drift away, tiring of waiting for me.

These are not excuses. These are lessons learned. Writing is not magic. Writing can be born of tired, bored moments, too. Not just the electric ones I wait for. In fact, maybe better writing comes from the mundane. The tedious, tenacious task of doing the same thing every day, slowly growing your skill from persistent practice.

My yoga teacher training lately has been talking about this very subject. Devoted practice. I’m finding out that I’m… well, not bad at it per se, but very undisciplined. I like to follow the shine and glimmer of newness. In yoga teacher training, I’m finding that it’s wearing off. Now I get to dig in even deeper (and with great love) to do the work. To stay consistent, even and especially when, I do not want to.

I’m finding that a big key to all of this is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.14: “Abhyasa, the practice, is the effort to remain firmly established in one’s own true Self; it is cultivated over a long time, through earnest and reverent energy, and with great love.”

So inspiration is still slow to strike. and I must admit that is again why I am here tonight, although now it’s 10:13pm and the inspiration that made me a lightning rod earlier is now wearing off. It’s taking a bit more effort to hammer out these words.

But it was my sister’s practice that inspired me.

See, she’s been taking a drawing class this semester. From the beginning of the semester until now, she’s worked hard and stuck with it, and her improvement is marked. Today, I felt a huge rush of gratitude when she told me how she was now using her talent to also process some personal things.

Besides the gratitude though, it reminded me of my own work. My sister… my lovely sister Grace who turned 18 on the 30th (holy crap! I remember when she was born!) pointed me back to my own work. And she reminded me that I can use even my darkest, most painful, most shameful feelings in a brave act of creation.

I’ve been scared to be vulnerable because

GOD. DAMN.

I’ve got some ugly shit going on in there and I don’t even want to see it. Me. The one who holds it in me. Yikes. That crap is too scary. My teacher talks about how yoga opens up the door to the basement where we’ve been stuffing crap forever. Well, the basement door got opened up for me and, really I’d rather just keep slamming the door and pretending it doesn’t exist.

Oh. And the other thing is, all that stuff in the basement reminds me that I have choices. Lots of them. All of them in fact, and all mine. For the first time in my life that I can remember, I am basing my entire life off of my own choices.

That thought in itself makes me want to hide forever. As awesome as that sounds, choice is dizzying. Decisions can make or break my whole life (I overdramatize sometimes). I’ve never picked up the pen and become an autobiography, instead of just a simple biography. I’m unused to the feel of my own fingers penning words I choose to ink down. Something about this, something about the idea of authoring my own story, scares the shit out of me. Something about the idea of choice is terrifying.

(I’m trying to be gentle with myself right now, because… sweetheart, so much new. and it’s okay, and I know this is different and hard, and like you’ve lived underground and you’re seeing the light for the first time. It’s going to be okay, I promise)

So, you can see why I’d like to stop practicing, frankly. Yawn yawn, nothing shiny and fun here, nope, just a basement full of crap I’d rather not deal with. I’d rather stay in boredom and allow that to lead me to something shinier, more electrifying. I’d rather chase the high. (As my teacher would say – isn’t that interesting? When the practice is finding your true Self, you’re… bored?)  Fear is… chilling, ghastly, panic-inducing. Give me something fun so I can keep pretending it’s not there.

This is where the going gets tough. I was warned this would happen. I’ve never before noticed how this happens for me, though. It’s not by just running away… boredom is the name of the game. Procrastination is another name it goes by. So, it’s time to practice with it. Keep showing up even though I really don’t want to. Even though it doesn’t seem important (BO-RING). Even if it seems to be too much effort. It’s time for me to make my bones.

Patanjali’s first yoga sutra: “Now, this is yoga.

Yep, now, in the fear, in the boredom avoiding the fear, in all the things I feel that I am afraid to become… now. this. is. yoga.

The night I wrote this, I practiced by expressing some things I’ve been afraid to. In an effort to continue that practice, I’m sharing it with you:

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That great love part in Patanjali’s I.14 sutra is very central, for me. I can muster up plenty of earnest and reverent energy. But I have found in the past that this results in performance. It’s only when I’m approaching my practice out of great love for myself, and for those around me, that I am able to continually remain firmly established in my true Self. Without that love, I am much too apt to stop showing up, because fear takes over.

So here I am… committing again to practice. With earnest and reverent energy. And great, great love.

Dust to Dust

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Last weekend, I started a yoga teacher training program.

A friend had told me about this program just about a month and a half ago. When she emailed me about it, I instantly KNEW. I needed to do this. I had no idea why. I had no idea where I’d get the money from. But, I needed to do this training.

It’s a unique training, to be sure. It’s not just about asana, or physical, practice. So we’re not getting together and just doing yoga all day. It’s holistic yoga – yoga in life, as a whole. Yoga as a spiritual practice. As my teacher says, capital “Y” Yoga.

Class format is 1 intensive weekend a month, and one Sunday. Last weekend was our first intensive weekend. When I saw an Andrea Gibson poem among the handouts for the class, I felt even more intensely that this was just where I was meant to be.

The weekend proved this out. My class quickly became a family. We did asana together once a day, and the rest of the time talked about life. About being your true Self. About SHOWING UP. How to show up. How Yoga helps you show up for your life. How spirituality is not about getting out of your life, but about showing up to it.

From Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.

I felt a sense of connection that I have deeply missed. I got my heart broken open in the best way. I deeply crave connection, and yet so often I feel like it’s out of my reach. I have a deep achey loneliness that lives in my center like an icy core. I get paralyzed by it. I get suffocated by it. If you’ve ever had the experience where you’ve contacted me, and I’ve not texted, emailed, or Facebooked you back, that’s what this is about. I crave your presence. But I feel overwhelmed when I think about letting it in. I literally get tired and it feels exhausting to return communication. (and you wonder why I haven’t been writing as much lately…)

For a moment last Sunday, I let tears wash my soul and clear out a space for people to come in. It felt like I could breathe again after being underwater for a long, long time.

I am realizing that my hardship in connecting with others is really my hardship in connecting with myself and with Life at large. I was asked to write about one of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for class. Last night, one was almost hand-delivered to me; I stumbled on it through a blog post. Ishvara Pranidhana Dva – the surrender/offer of self to a higher Source as a path to samadhi, enlightenment. Or, basically, surrendering to the flow of life. Um. Yikes. That’s terrifying. What if life screws me over?

And this is where my history comes in.

Really, the more I walk this path, the more I feel I was meant to walk this path at this time, specifically. I read this sutra last night, which encourages offering yourself to Source. I went to bed shortly after. When I laid down to sleep, I laid on my stomach with my arms above my head, setting an intention to offer myself to Source.

I fell into the deepest sleep I’ve had in weeks and promptly had a nightmare about a shooting, perpetrated by someone who, in my dream, was in a close friend group (he was not someone I know or recognize from real life).

Funny enough I take it as a sign that it was exactly the Yoga sutra I needed to read and write about, because this is just where my Yoga lies right now. The lack of safety and trust I feel in Life, generally.

How strange then, that today I discover further information about trauma and yoga and the body. Krista Tippett’s latest podcast featured Bessel Van der Kolk, a psychiatrist who is discovering how Yoga can heal trauma. The episode is here and I highly encourage that you listen.

During the program, Mr. Van der Kolk addressed how trauma victims disconnect themselves from their bodies. Trauma impairs the imagining of how your physical body feels, as well as impairing the self-observational parts of your brain that are aware of what is happening inside. Trauma activates the primitive brain (limbic system) and at times, so overactivates this system that the rational mind (prefrontal cortex) doesn’t kick in. In other words – full scale freakout, and rationality is nowhere to be found. Because of this, trauma victims can be “hijacked” by previous experiences at almost any time. When triggered, the limbic system is activated and then control is lost. Because of the constant state of “heartache and gutwrench” that trauma victims go through, they shut down their body so as not to feel it. At times this is through alcohol or drugs, at others it’s shutting down emotional awareness in the body.

*takes a deep breath* You got all that? I know it’s all science-y speak… but mostly it just says, trauma victims are disconnected from their bodies, or even try to disconnect from them because traumatic situations affect the physical body and cause pain.

From personal experience I can tell you that this is the truth. A few months ago, I wrote a spoken word piece about my sisters, in which I penned “my DNA still trembles from the paralyzing shock” and other similar phrases. Many times I do get the sense that I can literally feel it in my body.

And in yoga, sometimes it’s emotionally excruciating for me. Deeply cleansing, but wow. Coming back to your body is deeply painful after having disconnected from it. I think to begin with, I was using alcohol to disconnect from my body. After I stopped drinking, I shut off emotional awareness of my body. It’s funny, because I actually have quite high body awareness of what emotion is stored in what area. But I know it, so I can silence it. NOT so I can connect with it.

The connection actually feels so excruciating that I had a really rough meditation experience back in June, one that kept me from meditating for about 2 months. I was doing a meditation day, and we started with meditating through a full body scan. I thought to myself, “Oh, cool, this will be good.” Nope. It was at that point that I realized just HOW MUCH trauma was residing in my body. Wave upon wave of emotional pain washed over me. I had no resources with which to deal with it, and the situation it occurred in was very unsupportive for me. In many ways my body felt it had been re-traumatized.

Mr. Van der Kolk says that the feeling of being safe in the body is not there, for a trauma victim. He talks about how it is hard for a traumatized person to relax fully during savasana (corpse pose). When he spoke of this, tears jumped to my eyes. Savasana is hard for me. I cannot relax most of the time. When I do, it’s a beautiful, healing, cleansing experience and many times I cry. But it’s hard for me to fully wind down most of the time. There’s a sense of itchiness and discomfort, groundlessness, in the pit of my stomach.

Certain poses, too, trigger things in me. Twice last week, I did a pose (Supta Padangustasana, in case you were wondering) in which my outer hips were stretched. It’s probably the tightest part of my body, first off, and I can barely move into the stretch. Each time I do it, I have flashbacks that make me tear up. They’re not horrible flashbacks, but that stretch really touches into the lack of safety I feel in my body. (Yogi friends – root chakra, anyone?)

But… this is actually a good thing because I can feel like I’m in my body again. And another good thing about yoga is that it actually changes something called heart rate variability. This is where the heartbeat and the breath sync up and create a more mindful and calm experience. Yoga is a way to feel the life inside yourself, to connect again to the body. It’s not just effective on a verbal level, it deals with the whole body where things get stored physically.

Bessel Van der Kolk says at the end of his broadcast that the feeling of safety and at the same time interconnectivity to others and life is really the essence of trauma healing.

It seems that I have landed in a program that will promote both. My Yoga training is my satsang – spiritual community. And it’s through the practice of Yoga as a whole that I am reconnecting with my body. It follows then that I’ll be able to reconnect with others.

I feel it’s summed up in a beautiful song that brought tears streaming down my cheeks on Monday. It’s called Dust to Dust, which I have to say I find really profound; in the creation myth in Genesis, our bodies are made of dust and to dust we return. Again, the return to the body and the return to connection.

I’m Still Here

Source: Bibliofiend.com

It’s been awhile since I’ve written.

Most of what I’ve written lately has been sporadic pennings on a journal page, or in my poetry notebook. I’ve zipped myself shut for the silliest of reasons, but one I could not avoid. A monster in my closet with a double-fisted threat that steals all my breath and energy.

Fear. And its twin Shame.

I read Divergent this weekend. It’s odd how fiction can echo things you see in life. Stories are important, I’ve decided.

The past while I’ve spent drowning in fear. It treads my every footstep, a constant shadow, and its twin Shame covers the places Fear has missed. The both of them work together, laughing and taunting as they tie the ropes that keep me solidly inside of myself. Old, old patterns churn around and around and I stare at them, shaking.

I am crazy. I am acting crazy. No one would act as crazy as me, so I should keep it to myself. Shame sticks to me like a cold, icy blanket.

Furthermore, wanting and needing things will only get me in trouble. Conform. Stick to what I know. Get comfortable fitting in the shape of someone else’s skin. I blink wide chameleon eyes in a quest for acceptance. To deviate means destruction.

“What if I’ve always been, good enough in my skin, good enough in my skin?”

Maria Mena’s voice creaks under the record needle of the slim strand of truth still accessible to my mind.

They all want me to stay quiet. I am Beatrice in Abnegation. Always helpful, subservient, looking for approval. Giving away myself to someone else, not because they want it… because I am afraid. Being myself means losing the other person. This is my pattern, in the kaleidoscope of relationships in my life. I twist myself to conform to what they want.

My fears shake me and I react. Pounding heart, sweaty palms, I dissociate so far away from myself that I become unrecognizable, a tiny point of my former self. “Stay quiet, no one wants you to speak up, when you speak up, you lose. They will hate you for what you want. You will be alone.”

The crows come. I can’t lose control.

But recently I’m learning a different way. I read a simple quote last week. “Creative action, rather than destructive reaction.” This is my mantra. Creative Action. Do. Not. React.

I am Tris, Dauntless, in a simulation with all my fears hurtling themselves toward me. My pulse is pounding. But if you’ve read Divergent, you know how to transform simulations.

You don’t react. Not to the fear. You create something different, a new pathway. Strength. You shake in your boots, and then you change the picture. Or you calm down. Receptive to fear. Either way, you don’t react.

I’m learning. Feel fear. And do. not. react. Get creative. Change the picture. Transform fear.

It is the hardest thing I have ever done. To feel fear playing my heartstrings, clouding my mind with trembling terror, tricking me into believing the Universe does not care. That I will always be alone and it is useless to ask for what I want because even if I do get it, it will be taken away. “Just stay quiet,” the fear says. “If you smother yourself, maybe you won’t want something that will hurt everyone else.”

But I want to breathe. I want to live. And the only way through fear is the very thing that is the most scary. It’s something I wrote in a transformative poem that spoke through me after a meditation 2 years ago.

“You are not incarcerated by fear.
The key is in the space
between you
and the door.
Breathe.
Open.
There is no distance between you and freedom.”

Breathe. Do not react. Open. Feel the space. Breathe. Feel the fear, feel the vast, immense space, and breathe open. Create – strength. Tremble with the fear – receive and stay open to it.

I am not just strength. I am not just receptivity. I am Tris, Dauntless. And I am Tris, Abnegation. Brave. AND selfless. Strength AND receptive. I have a voice. And I can use it with skill.

And in the space, the space between fear and reaction – is freedom.

“What if I’ve always been, good enough in my skin, good enough in my skin…”

I am still here.

Breakthrough

Last night I decided to give my new tarot deck one more round of “let’s see what it comes up with” before bed. For those of you who don’t follow my Twitter, I’ve been obsessed with tarot card reading lately. And by lately I mostly mean the last 3 days since I bought this deck of cards.


(Can be purchased at Osho.com)

A friend of mine had used these cards before, so I was familiar with them. This particular tarot is very heavily Zen Buddhist based, one reason I like it. I also love tarot because I’ve always been a highly intuitional person, and it really resonates with that part of me. Hence, the obsession I’ve had with them the past few days…but really maybe always without knowing it. When I had the cards in my hands, I truly felt as if they’d been waiting for me.

So, back to last night. I poured my energy into the cards, shuffling away one last time before bed. I decided to use a paradox setup – 3 cards, one representing past, one representing present, one representing the insight into the paradox. As I shuffled, a card danced its way right out of my hands and fell upright on the floor.

I stared.

I had read earlier yesterday that when a card falls out of the deck like that when shuffling, it’s probably significant. Well, no doubt. Even the picture on the front screamed its obvious significance.

I also knew right away that this was the “present” card of the set of 3. I laid it down, still staring. I continued to shuffle then drew the other 2 cards.

Past:

Insight:

The present card was obviously the highlight of this reading. But the other 2 cards were also loaded. I’ve been flowering – obviously. That’s the past image. True of the past long while, especially of the last 2 years. Insight – I’ve still felt like an outsider. On the edges of life. Unable to fully connect with people. You can’t tell in this picture, but the lock on that gate is ACTUALLY unlocked, the child (inner child?) just doesn’t realize it.

And present is breakthrough.

Today, I got it.

I woke up this morning and immediately felt cautious. My first thought on waking was wondering, “Will today be as good as yesterday? What if it’s not?” Fear came on me instantly. I’ve been struggling hard with fear for the last few months in general, and this one in particular struck right at my fear of loss. What if I lose what good I have?

All morning I tried to combat this feeling. I tried to make the fear go away. My mind whirred and turned over itself trying to analyze it away, to stave it off. Really, I was obsessing. Trying to create a barrier between the fear and myself. Trying to analyze its roots, trying to MAKE IT GO AWAY.

(This is how I always treat uncomfortable feelings. Analyze obsessively to find the root so I can MAKE IT GO AWAY. I can remember starting this as a teenager and I haven’t stopped since. Find the root to make it disappear. Self-awareness is a curse sometimes when your perfectionist nature uses it in such a cruel way. In making pain disappear, I’ve had to make myself disappear too.)

I was a mental wreck and I hated my poor overwraught mind as I watched it torture itself. I tried to have compassion, but I was really frankly rather disgusted. Thankfully, I had grabbed The Untethered Soul and left it in my car so I could read it on break. I’ve been reading this book for the past month or so (because of Sarah Somewhere – thank you beyond words!) and it has been immensely comforting.

I read voraciously on break, trying to find some way out of this awful fear prison I was tangled up in… terrified that the fear was real and I’d lose everything. That the Universe doesn’t give a crap about me and nothing good is headed my way.

But while I was reading, something finally clicked.

I was afraid because I didn’t want to lose. I didn’t want to lose because that would hurt. BAD. And I know how bad, oh, I know. I’ve experienced quite enough to know. To keep myself away from that pain, my brain could whir on and on forever, creating layers of self-protection.

This morning, I read through a chapter in this book and some words at the end rocked me, and I got it:

You must be willing to accept pain in order to pass through to the other side. Just accept that it is there and that you are going to feel it. Accept that if you relax, it will have its moments before your awareness, then it will pass. It always does.”

My entire perspective changed in that moment and I relaxed. I let the pain in. Instead of contracting around it like usual, I relaxed. Expanded. For a few moments, I shook and tears came to my eyes. Then it settled down to a soft burn, and it’s been there burning all day. Slowly burning all that I’ve been so afraid of.

I feel different. Like anything could happen and I would be okay because… it’s just pain. I can handle the pain. I will feel it, and it will pass, like it always does.

It felt exactly like the picture on that card.

The Best Steak I Ever Had

(Source)

It was Vail, Colorado, somewhere around 1999-2001. The setting: a Swiss themed hotel with all German/Swiss/Austrian staff. 5 Star Restaurant.

I was 10, 11, 12 years old. The years blended together along with the stories my dad told. Fantastic tales of money (1.7 Billion Dollars to be exact) that God would bestow upon my family someday, if we only believed. Maybe it was an effort to drag this money towards us, I don’t know. But I know that one fall, we spent a weekend in Vail at a fancy hotel. My dad loved flashing his American Express gold card.

I remember my parents’ suite had an upstairs loft bedroom and I fantasized that one day, I’d go there for my honeymoon and have sex in a bedroom like that.

The swimming pool downstairs was a combined indoor/outdoor pool and it was magical to me to duck under the opening and find myself outside.

We played chess and checkers in the little library just off the lobby. We wandered down the streets of Vail, eating lunch at Pepe’s and afterwards, browsing the outrageously expensive Gorsuch store. I was desperate to have the lovely alpine themed clothing they offered. I loved the jackets, especially.

Erika Kneecoat, $1998.00 – Gorsuch LTD.

It was in that hotel, in their 5 star restaurant, that I had the best steak I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.

We had dinner there one night. I still remember precisely what I ordered: surf and turf. The red lobster shell gleamed temptingly in the candlelight. My knife flashed through my tender filet mignon. I raised my fork to my mouth and suddenly I never wanted to eat anything else for my entire life.

I can still taste the succulent, juicy texture of that steak. It was so soft you could cut it with a butter knife. I’ve eaten steak hundreds of times since and it has never compared.

I ate slowly to make it last. I never wanted that moment to end. I thought about it longingly the next morning as we circled the breakfast buffet. It was the morning after walk of shame, wishing the night had never ended.

Over a steak.

My dad spent $600 on that meal for my family of 6, my youngest sister barely old enough to count. All of that was on a credit card.

1.7 billion dollars has still not arrived. It’s 2014.

It was a lovely fantasy, after all… because of that fantasy, I:
-spent enough time on corporate jets that if I sat in one now blindfolded, I could tell you exactly where I was.
-walked through $6 million dollar homes for sale, feigning interest in buying one.
-still remember my regular order at the restaurant at Denver’s corporate airport.
-can tell you about finishing schools in Switzerland, Prince William’s 3 middle names, the royalty in Monaco, corporate jets that can cross the ocean without stopping, how money can cross illegal borders (i.e. Iran to the US) and a thousand other things I’m forgetting now because there’s too many to count.
-know how to feign an air of the elegantly wealthy and hold up impeccable pretense.

It was unrealistic, ridiculous, totally delusional. I hate even the thought of wealth now and shy away from any mention of even winning the lottery.

But sometimes, I still think longingly about that steak.


 

An update on how I’m working things out with my family now – It’s Complicated

Writing My Own Rules

I’ve spent a lifetime living by other people’s rules. I still have to detach them from my own mind and decide which ones I want to follow, and which ones I need to leave behind.

When the lovely Sandy (who I am an unabashed admirer of) asked me to write a guest post, I knew what it was that I needed to say. It’s time to write my own rules.

You can read the rest of what I wrote here: Writing My Own Rules

Legacy

We’re not up for that.

The countless times I heard that phrase as a child. It started with disinterest. It became a lack of time. It became a lack of motivation. It became a lack of energy.

It was too hard to interact with the world, to interact with life, to interact with others. So much easier to shut it all out. I think my dad was really, really afraid.

I see his legacies still hanging as paintings in corners of my mind.

BIG

 

They’re lovely dreams, really. My dad just thought that because something was painted in technicolor, it was real. Or perhaps it’s just that he wanted them to be and was afraid of what real truly was.

Some days I don’t blame him, either. Living in a low-income apartment complex carries a certain amount of stress with it. Children throw rocks in the street for entertainment. Heroin needles are littered by the trash can. We were awakened in the middle of the night to drug busts, hysterical drunk women calling for taxis, and overdramatic boyfriends driving pickup trucks across the lawn. Murders happened first down the street in shocking drive-by fashion. Then one day an apartment is boarded up and you’re told it’s because someone murdered his wife/girlfriend. Posters for sexual predators are hung on light poles, and your sisters are followed home by strange men.

I can’t understand why we stayed so long. 10 years in the same apartment. 1997 – 2007. In the beginning, we were on food stamps. At the end, my dad made almost 100K a year. And yet he felt somehow trapped. Perhaps those paintings had become reality.

Or maybe it’s just that when you shut yourself away from life, from reality, the light can never reach you enough for you to grow. Energy disappears because you have nothing to innervate you.

I’ve gone through periods of anger at my dad for his fantasies of riches.

1.7 billion dollars, Dad? Really? And did you really have to maniacally twist my life around the stunted tree you were growing from the seeds of your delusion? Did you have to ruin my life for your dream? I had to listen to you every damn night for 10-15 years, talking about what coincidence that day “PROVED” that God was going to give us this money.

So many words became loaded with the bullets of your desperation. Persia. Imminent. 1.7. Montana. Any time Iran was in the news, I knew about it. Every Montana license plate or moving truck that drove past our car, becoming an endless blur of reasons. Riddling me with holes.

We were

We were all shot through with the emptiness by the times my sisters were shot in reality.

Maybe that’s gratuitous of me to say, but we were all slowly dying anyway. When your 16 year old sister is desperate to move to Virginia to live with her best friend, there’s a problem. When you’re slowly suffocating inside your life, there’s a problem. I lived in a glass box.

I heard “no” so often. No, it was a family day so I couldn’t go to a concert with my then-boyfriend. No, our family was busy so I couldn’t go hang out with this or that friend.

Louder were the silent “noes” inflicted. No friends nearby because church was 2 hours away and we were homeschooled. No boys because courtship was the name of the game. No speaking up because Dad was head of the house – ok… that wasn’t a silent no, it just became one after we spoke out one too many times and had to face wrath.

My parents slammed the door in the face of Life, a wragged wraith disguising the sorceress beneath. They became the beast, but I was the one locked in the castle for years while the rose dropped petals and I waited for love to find me.

It’s legacy.

I still struggle to open the door.

I have flashes of insane rage at my dad for doing this to me. But somewhere down the line I calm down because I realize I’m still doing it. I am my father’s child, just as he was his father’s child.

My dad used to come home in the 1960’s, and no one was there to greet him. My grandma says he used to ride the streets on his bike trying to stay away from my grandpa. My aunt says the atmosphere at home was abusive. I don’t know what the truth is, but I know that my uncle is a sociopath and my dad has very obvious delusions.

So it’s no wonder that my dad carried this legacy on. The anger that he unleashed on us if we “crossed him” although it almost always was never our fault. The way he pushed away life as if he couldn’t bear it. He had never been able to. He had never been taught to. And reality gets very heavy sometimes. Especially when your dreams fail, and you have to eke out a living on food stamps for awhile after making 20K a month, as he had in his younger years.

He just closed his eyes and shut it all away. And in fear, he shut all of us away, too, lest we threaten his world with our unique version of earthquake. With our uniqueness in general. He disguised our prison with beautiful visions of future wealth, and they became our virtual reality.

I have learned well to shut out the light. I still do it. I was taught all the right phrases. “It’s too much for me right now.” Maybe though I’m just really, really afraid. Because I have learned how the pain of loss aches through your bones long after the loss has passed. To let light in means I might lose it soon.

Why do I feel such exhaustion? Maybe it’s not because I’m too tired to open the door. Maybe it’s precisely because the door is closed. Growing things can’t create food without the sun.

It’s been so long, though, and I was taught the ways of caged life so well that I struggle to learn what it means to live free. Liberated. I still stand behind the door feeling too tired to pull it open. Or that’s what I tell myself because that’s what I’ve learned to label it as. That’s the story I’ve learned about this dogged weariness.

I'm frozen in fear of even the beauty of

I’m not in constant anger at my dad anymore. Compassion is more often the norm. I have no desire for anything more than a shallow conversation with him, and I will never ask his advice. But I understand it now, the way that reality can feel like a stalker haunting your steps. I understand because I run away from it, too. Reality can equal hollow, endless loss.

I shut out good too, though. Just as the Universe extends its warm loving arms. I don’t know how to accept it because I’m always waiting for the backstab.

It’s legacy.

And I know it’s time I start a new one, for the sake of my future children. It’s what I continue to strive for. Backstab is no legacy to pass on.

But please hold me in the light, because some days it feels like too much for me to find on my own. Just know that I am trying.


 

An update to how I’m working through things with my dad now – It’s Complicated

Wolves

I’ve been absolutely outraged by Ferguson and the events there, and this is what came out tonight. I felt compelled to share it with you. Excuse my stumbling words; please know that I don’t know how to write about this. But I’m trying. I recognize my own privilege and the role that it plays in this situation and it breaks my heart. I want to be part of a change.

When Anders Breivik
dressed up as a policeman
on July 22, 2012
and took the lives of 77 people
we were horrified
that someone could be such a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Could not believe that someone
took on the clothing
symbolizing safety
and used it to disguise
attack.
Yet when officers who
every day wear the uniform
“accidentally” take a
minority’s life
the news doesn’t talk about it.
everyone goes about their day like
sheep aren’t sometimes
wolves
and sometimes it’s hard
to tell the difference between the 2.
This is a poem
I’m not even supposed to write
because my skin has spoken enough
I have a wolf
hiding under lily white
there are no words
that I can say that
do less damage
because I come from a long line of people
who appear safe in society
until they show their teeth.

But for what it’s worth
(and it may not be much)
my two sisters were gunned down
in a church parking lot
a paragon of what is perceived by
society as safe
(nevermind what they say about
gays and gun rights and women)
and ABC, CBS, NBC begged me
to put myself on display
it was a “tragic loss of innocence
in a place you’d least expect.”
Every day
there are people just as young
as my sisters were
terrified to walk down the sidewalk
or through the grocery store
or anywhere really
and honestly I’m just sorry
that this society deems my story
as more “worthwhile”
more “horrifying”
because of the color of my skin
when the very ones who swore
to protect and defend
instead, take innocence
steal it in the places you’d least expect
so please
from me
keep telling your stories
and I will sit down
I’ve had more than enough airplay
I’m just sorry, and broken
that instead of a one-time occurrence
you face this every day
hundreds of Anders Breiviks
hunting you down and they don’t stop coming
and honestly…
I could be one of them.

Return

%22...pero vendras conmigo...%22-2

I have another post coming soon, and this post will likely be a bit raw. But I felt the need to share it tonight.

This evening, I’ve been thinking about the words “come with me” and “return.” I hear them not only in English but in Spanish… “Conmigo. Volvere.” These words have been bouncing around in my heart since last night. I have had a rough couple of weeks with long hours at work, family reunions, and an emergency trip to see my best friend. All things I wouldn’t trade for the world, but I’m tired.

I’ve been thrown off, away from myself. Fear has rocked me like a ship on the ocean. I’ve lost myself in the maelstrom. Anxiety has been a path I’ve worn well. So last night I went for a hike in the woods to one of my favorite spots. It was time to re-center or drown.

I heard that whisper. “Come with me. Conmigo.”

It brought me to tears. I am hearing it everywhere right now. There’s a line from Lord of the Rings:

Lasto beth nin, tola dan nan galad” – Listen to my voice, come back to the light.

Come back to the light.

Return.

It just now struck me that I call my writing page “Resilient Audacity.” Resilience is bouncing back…

To me, resilience is RETURN.

To return to the core, the essence of myself that has always been there. The light that shines at the center of myself.

“Conmigo” is from a Neruda poem –

“Oh tú, la que yo amo,
pequeña, grano rojo
de trigo,
será dura la lucha,
la vida será dura,
pero vendrás conmigo.”

“Oh you, the one I love
little one, red grain
of wheat
the struggle will be hard
life will be hard
but you will come with me.”

This hearkens back as well to my favorite spoken word of all time that I posted about here a couple months ago: Andrea Gibson’s The Nutrionist.

I heard another poem by her recently and it said,

“You don’t have to leave to arrive.”

The Universe so softly, lovingly, wonderfully whispers to me: to come with, to return to the light. The one that’s been there waiting for me all along.

Life-Hacking Skills

It is widely known among my friends that I do not, in fact, own a smartphone.

Yes, I know, it’s quite the tragedy. As they have assured me many times. How do I get along without it? How do I live without a portable camera and Instagram filters? How do I know where anything is?

To which I say – just fine thank you, cameras have always been portable, photo-editing can be done on my computer, and MAPS, thankyouverymuch.

But as a result of this caveman philosophy, I constantly surprise myself with how much I can actually make life work for me with simple stonelike tools such as a LAPTOP and THE SHITTY INTERNET ON MY PHONE (5 year old platform) and GOOGLE MAPS – BEFORE I go somewhere.

First of all, I have the insanely weird talent of being able to look at a map 1 time and know exactly where I am going, and it’s a pretty sure thing that I’ll always remember how to get there after that, too. I look at it once, and my brain holds it forever.

Pretty nifty tool. Who needs a fucking GPS? I’ve got MY MIND (it’s better than yours).

So normally, if I need to get somewhere, I simply look up directions beforehand and handily take myself in that direction. I first learned I had this skill when I lived overseas for 3 months and successfully navigated myself on the Metro, the bus system, and to church. Alone. At 17 years old.

LIFE. HACKER.

Except, this morning, all went awry. I am in Kansas City for the weekend for my grandma’s 90th birthday. It’s an epic family reunion and includes people I haven’t seen for 6 years. Some of them for longer. And with some of them (mostly IMMEDIATE family ones aka Father) it has the potential for extreme awkwardness.

So, I decided in order to cope with sharing hotel rooms and cars for the weekend, I was going to rent my OWN car for 5 hours and 5 hours only, so I could have a zen-like afternoon before everyone else showed up.

I planned out where I was going to go. Good coffee had to be a part of this, obviously. I literally cannot go to a city without having their best coffee. When I was in London 2 years ago with my best friend, we had not a drop of tea in the 2 days we were there. BUT I HAD 3 CUPS OF COFFEE. At least.

Enter problem 1. I get off the plane, get my bags, and get on the rental car bus. WITHOUT turning on my trusty laptop to look at Google Maps. I had no fucking clue where I was going.

The lady at the rental car place asked if I needed directions, so I asked her how to get downtown. Inside, I secretly sparked with the adventure of having absolutely NO idea where I was going, other than two directional cues (LEFT, then RIGHT).

I’m a badass, so of course off of these 2 directions, I got myself downtown. Within 2 minutes of arriving in the downtown area, I inadvertently turned onto a street I had planned on going to, anyway – the Kansas City Library and its supercool parking garage.

WINNING. I then proceeded to meander around downtown and then landed myself in the ARTS DISTRICT.

WINNING x2.

It was at this point that my skills almost evaded me. Though I drove around for an hour, I could not track down a coffee shop. I just KNEW they were right out of my reach (spoiler: I was correct).

But just in time, my life hacking skills saved me as I spotted a Panera Bread. As anyone with life hacking skills knows, Panera Bread has the most accessible free wifi ANYWHERE.

MWAHAHAH. I promptly parked in the nearby mall parking structure (FREE), walked over to Panera, and SAT OUTSIDE (FREE) at the outdoor tables while I mooched their FREE internet to find out where I was and where I needed to go. Turned out that earlier, I had literally come within 7 blocks of a coffee shop I’d been looking for. (See, told you they were just out of my reach)

So with my trusty Panera wifi as my guide, I headed back out and within 10 minutes had parked and ended up in Oddly Correct, a lovely little hipster coffee shop (The Costa Rica they have on their brew bar right now is epically delicious, FYI).

So the next time any of y’all say “OMG YOU DON’T HAVE A SMARTPHONE?” here’s what I’ll say:

OMG YOU DON’T HAVE LIFEHACKING SKILLS?

Suck it, bitches.

Do you have any lifehacking skills? What street smarts do you have that you’re most proud of? Do you have a weird brain likemine that retains directional information? Holla at yo booiiii!! I mean… girrrlll…

Constellations

“It seems we struggle for a lifetime to become whole. Few of us ever do … Most of us end up going out the same way we came in — kicking and screaming. Most of us don’t have the strength — or the conviction. Most of us don’t want to face our fears.”
― Darren Aronofsky; Kent WilliamsThe Fountain

Sometimes, something shows up in your life with the force of divinity behind it. It’s as if the very cosmos aligned with your gravity to pull something to your life. It’s a huge dot to dot and constellations are connected and created by the lines.

The picture becomes clearer and clearer and as it does, it’s like looking at the night sky.

It’s so much bigger than you and the immensity of it matches the immensity of your soul. And of theirs, too.

Yes, theirs.

Because sometimes a constellation is drawn between two people. Two lone dots are interlaced and connected to other dots sprinkled between them, and suddenly, it becomes clear. A nebula explodes and a constellation is born.

“The design in the stars is the design in our hearts.” – Derrick Brown

This is not necessarily what I was expecting to happen after I wrote my last post. The one about loving without fear. I’ve been petitioning the universe for awhile for a chance at that, at dating, at relationships, but I don’t think I expected such an instantaneous response to that post.

And yet, it was just after that when I started finally waking up and noticing something. Lines were being drawn between my soul and someone else’s. It had been coming for awhile, but my fear had run away from it. In fact, what strikes me is that this person had actually started the process for me. It was interacting with him that had changed the way I approached relationships in general, because I saw how I was limiting myself when with him. I was not being my true soul.

Kevin and I met in March. First really spoke in April. At the end of April I ran, because I was terrified. I was still too afraid to let someone that close. But that experience launched me into a new phase of self discovery. Why was I terrified to let someone that close? Why was I so afraid, in general? Those interactions with him sparked in me an upheaval in how I lived my life, an entire change of perspective.

When we started talking again in mid-June, I was different. I was not building walls out of fear. I was open.

And then Tuesday, June 24 happened. My sister’s best friend was in a horrible car accident. I went to the hospital to be with my sister – it was the very same hospital my sister Rachel died in. My sister’s friend was in the same ICU. It was hard. Seeing my little sister cry was gut-wrenching to me; seeing that in the same place my sister Rachel had died was torturous. I knew that after I left I needed support. And I knew that when I texted Kevin, he would drop everything and be there.

There was no doubt in my mind.

I deliberated. I knew what I was doing by asking for his company. I knew that it would bring us closer. I mustered up my courage and asked anyway. We went to get tea (my favorite calming beverage) while I tried to quiet myself from the difficult evening. We didn’t even talk much about it. And one question he asked stopped me in my tracks.

“What’s the best thing that happened to you today?”

My mind was full of negativity and that was what I needed to redirect. I needed to remember the gorgeous run I’d taken with a friend, just that morning, in Garden of the Gods. I needed to remember that good things existed.

The next day, I got to return the favor. A difficult situation came up for Kevin, and I was able to be there in return. As a result, conversations arose – about life and death and cycles. Both of us had experienced the death of loved ones and understood the strangeness that life somehow continues in the wake of their passing. That energy is not destroyed, but changed. He sent me a spoken word poem about it. Life after death. Their death, giving back life. Over, and over, and over. It was the theme of our week and a conversation we returned to.

On Saturday, June 28th, we watched The Fountain.

We hadn’t planned it at all, but it quickly became obvious: The theme of this movie is what we had talked about all week. Life, death. Cycles. Over and over. Stars explode, create life. Drinking from the Tree of Life creates death, creates life grown from the body of man.

“It seems we struggle for a lifetime to-3

She said it, a second time, and it resounded and echoed through the space-caverns of my heart. Because that phrase, used in more than just one movie, had been echoing in my head already since at least my last post. Trinity, in the Matrix, had been the one I was thinking of. But then Izzi said it in this movie – The Fountain – that tied together life and death and cycles and stars – all metaphors that I have carried inside me throughout my life. And I knew.

This wasn’t an accident. This wasn’t random. This was a constellation being born through an exploding nebula. This was life come from death come from life. The funny thing was, we both knew. We both experienced that strange shared moment of realization that the Universe/A Higher Power/Something Greater was definitely arranging this.

As I have walked this path the past 2 weeks, I have realized constantly the reason that something Bigger moved it all forward with this particular movie. Why, too, I had written that Love Without Fear post just before the beginning of this journey. Staying openhearted, for me who has oft been so closed, is a daunting task. But there is one spark of knowledge that reminds me of how to stay, not run. How to face my fears:

I am held by something larger than myself.

If I can remember this, living and loving without fear ceases to occupy my mind so much. Overanalyzing is laid down. Anxiety dissipates. Scrutinizing for problems in order to protect myself is no longer necessary. Self-preservation ceases to be an issue. Because death or life, it’s still part of the same cycle. Death happens so that life can be reborn again. It’s not an ending – it’s a changing of energy. I don’t have to protect myself – I’m already held by something much more vast than just little ol’ me. So when fear rears its ugly head (and believe me, it HAS), I return to this truth every time.

The last 2 weeks have changed my life. This journey has just been so obviously put together by something much bigger than myself. And that’s something that Kevin and I, both, fully recognize. It’s immense. It’s infinite. It’s a constellation of stars with the same design as the constellations of atoms in our hearts, a design so much bigger than us, but one that chose to draw us together. To connect us with constellation lines and draw us, together. And it continues to grow larger as we continue to walk this path. So we move forward, openheartedly.

“I’m not afraid anymore. When I fell, I was held.” – Izzi, The Fountain