Monday, September 26, 2011
We stood there on the side of the road right near the exit onto I-90 just outside of Butte, MT. Rach had been coughing for the pass couple of days and we thought it would be better to hitch a ride over the continental divide rather than ride it. After waiting there with our thumbs out for 15 minutes and watching pick-up truck after pick-up truck pass us by, our ride came in the form of what looked like a badass older couple with a licence plate stating "Union Paid". This indicated to me that we were in for a good 25 mile ride.
Immediately we started talking politics and Rich asked a very profound question to us, "Along your travels, what would you say is the mood of the people in this country?"
Oh man, what a good question. I asked Rich, "do you mean political?" He had a quick response, "yeah, but really just the general feeling."
Both Rach and my first response was "ANGRY!"
Throughout this trip we have gotten into conversations with people from all over the political spectrum and the resounding feeling was that the system itself is broken. It's not a debate of Democrats or Republicans. I can't tell you how many people just said to me that they just want something different. Polls continue to say that people don't approve of Congress's job or the President's job with an overwhelming majority of people in this country wanting another option.
The only problem is that people don't see or have an alternative, they see a 2-party corrupt system that doesn't care for ordinary working people. In 2008 we saw an extreme amount of hope in President Obama, who represented an end to the Bush-era policies with no reigns on Wall Street, endless wars and the continuation of tax cuts for the most wealthy people in this country.
The past 3 years have shown the world that Obama's polices are a continuation of the Bush Administration, which includes the continuation/increase of the U.S. occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Libya, the continued handouts to Wall Street and no change to this unbalanced tax system. Currently this economic crisis has made it even more clear where the government's interest lies: drum roll please, with corporations and the war machine (I know it's a big surprise). Both parties always have money for tax cuts and war but will have no problem cutting money for education, health care, programs that actually health ordinary people.
Throughout this trip most people I meet say we need to end these wasteful wars (even the military contractor I met). Does Obama or the Republican Congress listen? NO!! War has always been the ultimate bipartisan issue in this country. This is the fundamental flaw in our current system, the Democrats and Republicans are in bed with corporate leaders, a clear example is the health care system "reform" which was basically a handout to the health insurance companies and had absolutely nothing to do with actual care. This is how capitalism works, it has enough food to feed the whole world while 1 billion people go hungry everyday, there is a housing "overproduction" crisis while we have homeless people, you will find CEOs making millions of dollars in bonuses while they will try to cut benefits and lay working people off. Does this sound like a fair system? The reality is both the Democrats and Republicans are pretty staunch capitalist and we can't count on them to change things.
Unemployment, poverty and inequality will continue to grow unless we build an alternative movement. That's why we need to build an independent left wing movement separate of the Democrats that promotes democracy in all aspects of our life. We have already started to see the fight back with the events that happened in Madison, WI, the Verizon Strike and the "illegal" Tacoma, WA teachers strike that won a new contract. Working people are standing up! Though these struggles are small, they show the anger people have as they see the backwardness of our current leaders/system. They are asked to take a pay cut as banks have received $16 trillion from the government since the beginning of the economic crisis. This also shows that people CAN fight back and win.
These opinions I have aren't just shaped in my mind, but rather they are developed through experiences I have had with working people throughout this country on this trip, whether it's at Wendy's, in a coffee shop or at a protest. I would argue that now is one of the best times to go out there and talk to your neighbor, your co-worker, attend a protest and join an organization to fight the injustices in this country and throughout the world. Just remember you are not alone.
The politicians won't get us out of this, the media won't get us out of it. People power will be the only thing that gets us to a level where we can actually end these wars and end the attack on working people and have real justice in this world.
So don't just get mad, get out there and join the movement.
Here is a thing you can get involved in immediately. They are looking to lay off 120,000 post office workers. Join the post office union in a protest at your local post office happening everywhere in the country on Tuesday, 9/27 from 4:00pm to 5:30pm. Check out more information here: Save America's Postal Service
For great media coverage of events that the mainstream media won't cover go to: Democracynow.org, Socialistworker.org, commondreams.org, thenation.com and there are plenty more.
Friday, September 16, 2011
I pushed, cried, lost my shit, laughed, paused, doubted, stretched, hoped, and proved possibility out of an INSANE endeavor.
Now is not the time for rushing. Not the time for explaining. Not the time for "imparting wisdom".
Now is the time for Integration & Gratitude.
For letting it all sink in.
For getting close to my godliness.
Some part of me has expressed some part of my highest self. BIG TIME. In other words...
Some part of me... my body, mind, spirit & heart... carried me into my DEEP WELL OF POWER.
That well, in essence, is the breadth of life and love I've been given as a human being, part of the family of all living things, by whatever mystical power or pattern created me.
Tapping into that well is NO SMALL DEAL.
Tapping into and living out a version of "me" that is beyond "me", but belonging to something larger, calmer, stronger, more free & also more reckless... it felt like the biggest "accomplishment" of my life... the most fulfilling thing I'd ever done.
And what, exactly, did I do?
I let go.
And then... I kept going.
And then... I went all the way.
The story began like most, with Brian packing up three fourths of our belongings, while I did everything in my being to simply get myself dressed and psychologically prepared. Then a talker came over to us at our ghetto-fab campsite. A talker from Chicago. A talker from Chicago who--hahaha--wanted to know what--hahaha--was taking us so long to leave--hahaha--not like someone was holding us up or anything--hahaha. She was amusing, with her ripped button-down shirt and post-smoker baritone voice. I'll give her that. But now it's 10 am and we have a mountain to cross.
So we're pedaling with our daunting destiny in sight. I'm listening to Lakota flutes and drums and praying hard-core because God knows I don't think I can do this on my own. Then, POP! My front tire's flat.
Now it's 10:30 am and we still have a mountain to cross.
Tire's fixed and we're back in commission. Except I'm having physical anxiety over what I think is a metaphorical dilemma, but is, in fact, just the way it actually feels to cross a real-life mountain on a bicycle with 50 pounds of luggage.
The mind-trip is that we are still on the "outskirts" of the mountain, looking at what we're about to dive into, and our positioning is such that the road we're traveling LOOKS flat but is actually VERY FUCKING STEEP. Nevertheless, I am all why-the-hell-is-this-so-hard and I'm-always-so-god-damn-slow and Jesus-Christ-I-just-need-to-sob-because-nothing-makes-sense. And then I sob.
I feel better, emotionally, when we get into the thick of the mountain, because at least then the incline appears as hard as it is.
Still--tears, body aches, doubt, shame, fear, fighting, cursing, stopping, looking for ways out around every single bend, and did I mention shame?--are all present in overwhelming ways.
Every 10 minutes I take a 3 minute break.
I am pushed to my physical/spiritual/emotional edge. Completely. Who knows what's going through Brian's head. I assume he wants to kill me because I'm falling apart completely. You'd hope that on a trip like this, you'd learn to be more compassionate with yourself and be able to assume that others will extend the same tenderness. Not so much.
Eventually it's 3 pm and we've traveled something like 12 miles in 5 hours. We realize this 36 mile climb will not be completed in one day. Egos blown, we decide to rest, digest our troubles, endulge in renting one of the only cabins on the whole mountain, which is, of course, over priced and also cute.
We get to the place a few miles later and are instantly questioned by some know-it-all dude who gives us crap for not finishing the mountain in one day. Shame-dagger twisted, I proceed to curse the man for a total of three hours after our interaction, as Brian and I eat ramen noodles with pre-packaged Indian food.
Wake the next morning with a new sense of confidence that sounded like this: Even if I have to stop every five minutes, I will still reach the top. I Can Do It. Shamelessly.
Then I get on my bike and begin again. Things feel easier. More familiar. Less terrifying. Just as hard. Not as important. More holy.
We ride and laugh and cough and rest, and finally, four miles from the peak, with 25 mph head winds and cool air circling round, we take yet another water break. Only this time, I can see in Brian's face that he's losing momentum from stopping so much. So I let myself hear the call, let myself own my power, let myself go completely. I promise: No More Breaks.
I will not get off this bike again until we reach the top. Pinky swear. Hugs and kisses. Cross my heart.
Why? Because I know I can. Simple.
We mount our bike and 30 seconds later, POP! Flat tire number two.
Eager to maintain my promise, we fix the tire in record time and jump back in. The promise still holds, cutie! All the way to the top!
And I swear, it's like a movie. The sky turns dark grey, the winds gust faster, harder, less lovingly, the thinning pine trees sway violently, unfriendly cars pass quickly, and there's nothing left to hold onto. So I just let go.
I climb, one heavy leg at a time, as if ascending a never-ending winding staircase that's leading me to the pinnacle of my life. My eyes tear uncontrollably, the thin air barely enters my lungs, I think, I'm definitely going to need a double-knee replacement and I don't even care. Brian passes me with strength and exhaustion in equal measure. I breathe in "everything". I breathe out "surrenders". I recognize my unflappable determination the same way a mother must as she's giving birth: with deep knowing that nothing will stop her from bringing this new life into the world, even if it means the end of her. So it goes. This will be done.
And it was. I finally see the sign, Brian waiting for me 100 yards from it so we can reach the top together. We cycle forward, cross the road, and collapse completely in our sweaty shivering bodies as vacationers in RVs sit inside their temperature-controlled mega-huts watching in wonder the way they watch buffalo in the pastures. I sob, only this time it feels like hope rather than hopelessness. I sob for a half hour, holding my new born miracle in the arms of my dying fear.
Brian whips up a tripple layer peanut butter and jelly sandwich that feeds both parts of me. Then I sob some more. We get onto the bikes to descend the mountain, and still, I cannot stop sobbing.
Something broke crossing that mountain. Something huge. Something in me, that for so long doubted so much of myself, no longer seemed valid.
Nothing's impossible, I think.
Will sweating, cursing, doubting, fearing, crying and wanting a way out all emerge when I attempt INSANE goals? Of course.
Will that stop me? Nope.
It takes a mountain to break a mountain. It takes a mountain to build a new one.
And I know mountains.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
|The morning we left on our bicycles. READY written all over my face.|
You wouldn't believe it if I told you that pre-bike trip I was neurotic about organizing my Inbox. Like a kitchen sink, it's better off if you don't let shit pile up. Ah, and then I took up bicycling as a full-time job. The first full-time job I've held for over five months since graduating college! The kind of full-time job that doesn't require gazing into a screen for 8 hours a day. The kind of full-time job that, actually, doesn't allow for it.
All this to say, I just sorted through over 300 neglected e-mails. To all the overflowing-kitchen-sink people out there, this will sound like nothing. But to the wipe-with-sponge-three-times-daily people, you will understand that this was a big deal.
Here's an e-mail from the trenches that's living proof of how much we sign up for our destiny.
dear dear friend,
it's 1 in the morning over here and i just finished watching eat, pray, love. despite the glow above every single person's head, i loved it. here now, lump in throat with the image of her getting in the boat, crossing over, choosing the "physics of the quest"--that everything matters, every interaction a clue, every person a teacher. i can't help but think of you--of your story and the books you'll write and the movies they'll make, because how could they not? i can't help but get a lump in my throat over the journey i'm on--even now, even before my feet ever touch the pedals for that first long ride 10 days from now. i'm choosing this hard-core, mama. really fuckin' choosing this. i know you know. it's just that sometimes i can't believe the choices that choose us. it's taken a long time to choose this one back, and i'm sure i'll go back and forth. but it's about that--about choosing to say yes to the truth you find, to the thing you were seeking in the first place, to it all. lately, i keep quietly admitting that i want it all. in a way so far from fairy-tale that's it's crazy. i want the bruised broken knee. i want the lingering taste of let down. i want the paralyzing doubt. and then, i also want the 12 track ukulele album. i want the sex under the starlight. i want the floating in the river with my six pack abs. it reminds me of your words, of your beautiful, beautiful poem, of the way that even with a life full of companionship, i can have a heart that still lacks a fullness of love. there's a love that's waiting for me. that is in this letter. that is in these tiny words and in my tiny tears. like you said, love was right there all along.
i am so ready, love. not a fists up ready. an arms out ready. ready to receive. dear god, here it goes.
love you so. let's see each other soon.
That e-mail said it all, knew it all before it happened. And still, there are centuries of wisdom to be lived. You know? We can't just stop at our hunches, leaving them unexplored. We have to go forth, live, get messy, go deep, go light, back track, rearrange, re-find what we never needed to look for to begin with. That's the kind of living that creates fullness in our hearts. The kind of living that feels like love.
What hunches do you have these days about where your life is leading you? What do you expect will happen as you walk willingly into your destiny? Create the story you want--the story that has you arms out, ready to receive, surrendering to all the magic and mystery.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Oh man--it has already been 3 weeks since we left the rez and now we are in Montana! Since we left DC five long months ago, we've gone 2,890 miles, and we're now less than 800 miles away from Seattle!! How the hell did this happen? One day at a time.
Well, we left the rez and saw our amazing friends, Jodi, Judy, Ruby and Rachel, in the Black Hills. They were heading to volunteer at Re-Member for a week, so we rendevouzed in the middle. The Black Hills were a beautiful ride and it's understandable why the Lakota revere those mountains as their most holy land.
Once we got to Wyoming, it began to hit us that we hadn't been on our bikes for five weeks. Exhaustion kicked in. We tooks days off, hitched hiked, met beautiful strangers and climbed mountains.
On our way into Wyoming we were having both a physical and mental break down (aka--sobbing on the side of the road, wondering if we still want to do this) when Wilbert, from Fargo, MD came to our rescue with his pickup truck. Rach saw a car from Maryland at the rest stop and talked him up. He was great! He was driving across the country to Yellowstone and the Tetons then to Las Vegas and back. He was such a great spirit with a huge heart and drove us about 70 miles to Gillete, WY. When he dropped us off, he said, "I feel like I should just take you guys with me!"
In Gillete, you can find the largest open air mine in the country, thus practically all the jobs in Wyoming. People would come up to work in the mines for a couple weeks, staying in hotels, then rotate home while a new crew comes in for a few weeks.
After a handfull of small towns and hot, shade-less sun, we arrived to Cody, WY, about 50 miles from the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park. At the end of a 55 mile day into Cody we ran into Ramona on her bike as she was going for a ride. After some talking, she and her husband Jeff invited us to come stay the night at their beautiful house just outside of town. It was so nice because we haven't been able to stay with people becasue recently we didn't know anybody. It was refreshing and we had a great night of conversation, food, beers and more. They made us feel right at home! Better yet, Jeff offered to drive us into the park the next day, which he and Ramona did for 80 miles, taking us to our first campsite in Yellowstone! We were so greatful for them and now we know where to go next time we come to Yellowstone.