So there’s this badass *and* adorable, idealistic, feminist bunny with Violet Eyes who can solve crime, change the world, kick a soccer ball around, befriend and rescue (twice!) her fox friend, all wrapped up in a movie that treats “cute” as a slur, features social justice themes, stars Shakira, Idris Elba, and Jenny fucking Slate, references Breaking Bad and Speed (Speed! a ridiculous(ly awesome) movie I saw no fewer than 7 times in the theater because I was 17 and had a huge friend crush on Sandra Bullock), and… has a cameo by Kristen Bell as a sloth!? And it’s all gorgeously animated? If I had known they made a movie especially for me, I wouldn’t have waited so long to watch it. Today was such a good day.
ARGH, traffic. WHY? WHY must it take 30 minutes to travel 1 mile??
I have been sitting all day. I feel like shit.
I want to go for a run. I want to move.
Too bad I won’t be home in time for that.
Stupid Daylight Saving time.
There might be a little light left… no.
That is dumb; it is definitely going to be dark by the time I get home.
Yep, it’s dark.
Maybe there’s a hash.
Damn, it starts in 7 minutes and is 20+ minutes away. I don’t want to drink anyway.
Go to the Y, I guess.
Ooookay. (Eyeore voice)
I really just want to go for a run.
Maybe… nope. No. It’s a rule. No running alone after dark.
Just go to the Y, it’s fine.
GAH, that requires driving. I *DO NOT* want to get back in the car.
Just stay here and do a work out video.
But I want the air, the wind, the speed, the movement.
My guy friends would not be agonizing about this. They would just go for a fucking run.
I am pissed off that this is an issue.
It’s only 6:30.
Just go running. Neighborhood is relatively safe. Fuck the culture that tells you you can’t go running after dark.
I can stick to the lighted, populated areas.
Ugh, that means dodging people on Busy Blvd; I hate running on Busy Blvd.
Okay, go running. Seriously, you can do it. It’s worth it.
Anyway, nothing is going to happen to you; perceived danger and actual danger are different (and the same) and different.
Of course if something bad does happen, it will be your fault for going running alone at night while being female.
You’ll be back by 7. 7ish.
Mom would not approve.
You could still go to the Y or do a video.
Whatever, I’m going running. Fuck that noise that says I can’t.
Stay alert, stick to populated, well-lit areas.
I won’t run my hardest, so I won’t get too tired.
I’ll run the last leg, when I’m most tired, on Busy Blvd.
Yuck, I hate running on Busy Blvd.
Lights, I need lights.
Headlamp. Also something facing backwards.
Wait, will lights draw more attention to me than I want? It’ll make it obvious I’m a girl.
Maybe it’s safest to run under the radar, hope no one sees me.
You’re not a ninja. People will see you, lights or not. But they will assume I’m a guy unless the lights give me away.
That’s dumb, plus you don’t want to be hit by a car, duh. You have to wear lights.
I could put my hair up in a hat.
You’ll still look like a girl. And why would you wear a hat at night?
Forget it. Focus. You can do this.
Okay, two headlamps — both around my waist, one facing each way.
Headphones and music? Better not to so you can be aware of everything, but easier to run with music. Compromise — one earbud in, one out.
Plan the route exactly: X to Y, to Z, no, skip Z, too dark and there’s that one sketchy house. to A, then Busy Blvd, then home. No improv route-making tonight.
Get going, it’s only getting later and darker.
Fuck the patriarchy! Go running. You’re strong and brave and smart. You’ll be fine.
Ahhhhhh. This is good.
Is that a person up there?
Two guys walking towards me. Seem fine. Stay alert though, just in case.
Ahhhhh. Breath, blood moving, I feel better already.
Dark section, maybe run a little faster through here.
Another runner up ahead, female? Male. He’s turning right and crossing the street. I’m going straight.
Someone walking their dog (small one) across the street.
Body is loosening up, feels so good.
Big dog and male owner up ahead.
Take out the one earbud for a moment while you run up to them and past.
Or cross the street? Yeah, just cross the street.
Busy Blvd, dodge, dodge, oh cool, this street does have some good dirt and grass byways so I don’t have to run all on concrete.
This is great.
I did it! I’m badass! I do what I want! (Cartman voice)
I went running alone at night!
Now the seal is broken. Next time I’m home late, I can go running anyway.
I still won’t tell mom though. (haha, except for in this blog post.)
But I’ll never go after… 8, and I’ll always stay in a familiar, well-lit areas, of course.
If anyone ever read this blog, they would know that I have posted exactly nothing on it in a very long time. But obviously, no one reads it because *dramatic pause* I have posted nothing on it in a very long time. Today I’ve decided to abide by a common aphorism and stop allowing my idea of a perfect post, of a popular blog filled with excellent, insightful writing to be the enemy not just of me writing something good, but also to stop letting it be the enemy of me writing something terrible. I recently participated in NaNoWriMo, and it reaffirmed an important writing principle for me: writing something shitty is still better than writing nothing. I think I’ve known that instinctually since childhood, but I also want to toss some credit for that idea to Judy Reeves (who back in 1996 or so, taught the first formal writing class I ever took) and Anne Lamott. The former for always saying simply, “a writer is someone who writes,” and for introducing me to the latter’s brilliant book, Bird by Bird, and the latter for being so hilarious and right. Shitty first drafts forever! So here I go. I’m just going to write something. I declare this blog’s long period of dormancy officially over.
The job part of this adventure has been filled with the expected amount of bureaucracy, powerpoint presentations, and facetime with a computer screen, but thankfully the hiking has also lived up to expectations.
After five days in a place so outrageously beautiful that artists of every sort have devoted their entire lives to it, I had not been out exploring. Unacceptable. Obviously. So I got up early again, despite a sort of jet lag from being forced to trade my night owl lifestyle for my roommate’s earlybird one, and I went exploring; I made a quick discovery.
The island is not, as I’ve believed for most of my life, my favorite geographical feature. Turns out, I’m an isle girl. Isles are mini-islands, but instead of perching calmly amid the quiet waters of a lake or bay, or the rhythmic waves of the ocean, they sit serenely in the center of the relentless rapids and tireless currents of a river.
The billions and billions of drops of water that combine with gravity to make a river, can be strong enough to move boulders along with ease, but sometimes those boulders get the better of all that rushing water and manage to wedge themselves tightly into the river floor. This creates a resting place for other boulders, rocks, stones, pebbles, and bits of sand, which gradually collect and make themselves into the ideal destination for seeds floating or hurtling down the river to stop and put down roots. Those roots stabilize the whole concoction, enabling it to grow bigger, plants to thrive, new plants to cling on, and the process to continue until the isle and the river arrive at a comfortable balance.
Once this mixture of rock, soil, and roots becomes solid, it also becomes the perfect habitat for Jessicas with good books and a yen for meandering. An isle or three in the middle of a beautiful, raucous, bouncing river, with good sitting stones, tall trees, and various birds to offer distraction when I’m tired of reading or staring into the rapids will now occupy that place in my brain common culture likes to call one’s “happy place.” I’m not at all surprised someone named this place Happy Isles.
My next exploration ended at a recent rockfall, an event which transformed the trail from a loop to two separate legs. I stood near the base of all the fallen rock, gazed up at the pile of stones and granite sand that still towered a good hundred feet over my head even though it had been settling there for years, and still — still — could not comprehend the magnitude of rockfall.
The size of this place is difficult to come to grips with in general, but I’ve arrived at a comfortable relationship with my giant, nature-world now, except for rockfall. The scale of it is just beyond my comprehension. Even when I stand at the edge of a pile of talus, even when I look at pictures and diagrams of the most famous rockfalls in the valley, even when rangers explain it in a clear, logic-laden way, my brain simply can’t make the connection that a bit of something falling from waaaay up there, waaaay far away is actually a rock the size of a house or a football field tumbling with such force that it will bring down a gaggle of rocks just as big and create an airblast and a dust cloud strong enough to knock over trees in the vicinity and pose a serious, likely fatal threat to me maybe a quarter-mile away. I know it to be true, but I don’t believe it. A simultaneous contradiction.
This trail used to loop around Mirror Lake, a place notable because it exposes in the starkest way, water’s absolute two-facedness. There is one spot, at the edge of Mirror Lake, where the water abruptly switches from glassy stillness, to rough, white, chaos. The delineation was fascinating to me, and impossible to capture with my camera, so I tried to absorb it as I sat on the banks beside it alternately staring at the water and casually people-watching.
I returned to my isles again, before heading home, something I’m sure I’ll do countless times before the summer is over. Being alone with a good book beside rushing water is a special utopia for me.
Sunday was for a different kind of utopia, the kind you can create through challenge and triumph, the kind that makes you sore the next day. It was also a day to respect water.
I’ve always been drawn to water, calmed by it, at home in it. It’s the perfect metaphor for many of my fundamental life philosophies. Every thought and action matters, no matter how small. There’s space in the world for something or someone to be many things at once even if they are opposites; we’re all full of simultaneous contradictions. The world is not black and white; nuance rules the day.
A huge river, a monstrous waterfall, a rainstorm, a tsunami, an 8 foot wave, a persistent dripping leak, a glacier, a geyser — all made up of single drops of water. Enough of them together to make something deadly, jaw-droppingly beautiful, destructive and productive, life-giving, and earth-shaping. Water is the ultimate demonstration of perseverance and teamwork. It simultaneously adapts to its environment and shapes it to suit its whims. It has a complex, multi-layered personality, like all the masks we wear depending on our mood, environment, and goals. It can be mist, ice, lake, ocean, stream, cloud, snow, dew, vapor. My kindred spirit — I am in love and in awe, and I can never get enough.
We hiked and hiked, over bridges that crossed the rushing waters I was both drawn to and afraid of; I took a ridiculous number of pictures, all useless. But pretty soon we were on the Mist Trail — 700 wet, slippery, steps where tripping is potentially fatal. There are gusts of wind, thankfully blowing away from the falls and into the at least psychological safety of the rock wall on one side of you, but these gusts carry so much mist, that someone may as well be dropping buckets of water on you. In minutes we were soaked through. It was so loud, and the falls so close, and my surroundings so overwhelmingly beautiful that naturally I kept trying to take my camera out and capture some modicum of it all. This was a worthless pursuit, which I should have abandoned entirely. Once, we looked up towards the top of the stairs to see the sun behind a stand of trees, streaming down at us in a perfect starburst of rays through the mist. I did take a few seconds to gasp and blink and let that image seep into my memory, but I couldn’t help trying to capture it too.
All I got was a slide of overexposure (metaphorically of course; I was using a digital.) I’m learning that there are simply two different goals that are in conflict with each other. I can’t pursue both simultaneously. Experiencing something fully requires being present, using all my senses, allowing time to pass slowly. Capturing the level of beauty here in Yosemite on film (or in a digital file) requires the proper equipment, practice, and time and mind devoted to that goal. When you’re taking a picture, you can’t take it absent-mindedly with your phone camera while also staring at the beauty and trying to feel it. Either the photo or the experience must be your primary goal. They can exist near each other, and you don’t have to sacrifice all of one for the other, but you can’t get 100% of both, and if you don’t get 100% of a picture in Yosemite, why even bother.
As we hiked, I felt repeated bewilderment and appreciation for the trailworkers who installed this trail. It reminds me of the kind of vision and blind perseverance that must have driven the people who built the ancient churches in Europe. Behemoth structures that took more than one person’s lifetime to build. The US doesn’t have the same kinds of buildings. We have old things, and we’ll keep preserving/(accumulating?) more, but we build skyscrapers and bridges in a few years or maybe decades, not lifetimes. And the John Muir trail and beautiful stonework portions of the Vernal Fall trail are perhaps the same. I don’t know how long they took to build, or how many people did it. I don’t know if some died during its construction, or who conceived of the plan, but somehow, paved paths, stone walls, and over a thousand stone steps were transported up the side of Yosemite Valley to make a trail that is safe-ish and reasonable for hundreds of thousands (millions?) to traverse every year. We can safely walk beside a fall x thousand feet tall, inches away from that very drop ourselves, thanks to someone’s vision and faith that it was possible and then the ambition, determination, and flat-out competence to make it happen. Wow. Thank you trailblazers. The act of carrying a stone up a cliff face and placing it to form a trail, repeated over and over, created an experience for a hiker, and that experience repeated over and over, helped make Yosemite what it is today. Seemingly insignificant acts can be incredibly meaningful. Drops of water combine to make a raging river.
It is an odd experience to enjoy a book while finding its plot boring and its characters irritating. The story and characters were incidental, just vehicles for Tolstoy to show off his ability to break the world into its subtlest moments. He drops the tiniest of details without it ever feeling tedious, and he does it for nearly 1000 pages. I never cared about the characters, and like relatives that have overstayed their welcome, I was glad to see them go. Nevertheless, I read the whole thing with awe.
Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.
Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.
Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgivable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.
The greatest weight — What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into you loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumberable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence — even, this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!”
Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: “You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.” If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are or perhaps crush you. The question in each and every thing, “Do you desire this once more and innumerable times more?” woud lie upon your actions as the greatest weight. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?
–Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science
currently reading: Desert Solitaire A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey
I have always thought of places as existing in a category separate from people. People are portable, self-contained. Places are not portable, and they are connected physically to every other place in existence; no place is truly self-contained. Four chapters into Desert Solitaire, and I am questioning this fundamental separation.
“There’s another disadvantage to the use of the flashlight: like many other mechanical gadgets it tends to separate a man from the world around him. If I switch it on my eyes adapt to it and I can see only the small pool of light which it makes in front of me; I am isolated. Leaving the flashlight in my pocket where it belongs, I remain a part of the environment I walk through and my vision though limited has no sharp or definite boundary.” (p.15)
Perhaps place is not external. The boundaries the light of a flashlight creates sever the user from the environment. To be severed, one must have been connected in the first place. Place and person are one, as if all the creatures running around the surface of the earth are limbs, or at least extensions of the earth. I realize this is an obvious concept to a seasoned naturalist, but I am new, and although I’ve experienced a deep connection with the land while hiking or stargazing with my back against soft, damp grass, firm sand, or once, the cold asphalt of a deserted two lane road, I’ve never tried to articulate that connection.
We as humans are ambulatory and cognizant, therefore changeable and free. Yet, it is common for us to hunker down, make a nest, and establish a place that is not portable, that for the most part does not change. The vast majority of humans run patterns as predictable as a hamster’s. There’s a center, our home, from which we venture out and away from for varying lengths of time and varying distances. If we drew it, it would start to look like a flower with a dense center and thin petal paths shooting out and back in again, sometimes one would shoot far enough away for another, smaller flower to sprout, with a hotel or hostel or campsite as its center.
I think I could make a valid argument that this pattern is a capitalist function. It is because we have stuff that we think is valuable but that we do not always want to carry. We must have a central, unchanging place to leave it, and we return to that place simply to retrieve or exchange our stuff. But I am more inclined toward the argument that we instinctually know that we are incomplete without a stationary part of ourselves. Most of us choose to create a stationary part of ourselves that seems self-contained to us, that is small in the face of the entire earth. We prefer bedrooms, houses, cities, even states to call home. It is quite beyond my comprehension now to imagine feeling at home anyplace on earth, or in the universe. I suspect I’ll always need a building with a bed and pictures of loved ones on the wall to feel at home, but I like this concept as something to strive for: I am human, therefore the earth is my home.
I’m going to see The Vagina Monologues on Friday. I’ve seen it once before in ASL, so this will be the first time I see it in English. In ASL, I thought it was powerful, and fascinating, and important. I was not offended, not even when one performer emphatically signed “CUNT! C-U-N-T! CUNT!!!” and the interpreter yelled it accordingly. I was fascinated (the clitoris has more nerve endings than any other human body part!), I was horrified (it’s customary in some cultures to punish a woman for various affronts to social norms by throwing acid in her face), but I was not offended.
I’ve recently read a few articles that indignantly decry the horror of this play, (which, by the way, is put on by a non-profit organization that is devoted to stopping violence against women, such a horrible cause.) Apparently the writers of these articles think vaginas are inherently offensive (ridiculous) and that The Vagina Monologues is about vaginas.
This is much like saying that the Grapes of Wrath is about a family that moves to California to become farmworkers. It sounds true, until a person capable of thought spends a nanosecond thinking about it and realizes that The Grapes of Wrath is about social injustice, prejudice, class discrimination, labor, unions, government, food production, the strength and depth of the human spirit, etc.
“The Vagina Monologues are about vaginas.” It sounds true until a person capable of thought reads it, thinks about for a nanosecond and realizes it’s about social injustice, sexism, class discrimination, prejudice, violence, establishing identity and self-esteem, self-exploration, and the process of appropriating language, etc.
If you ever get the chance, go see the show. www.vday.org
Thanks for reading my rant. Here’s another rant and a link to one of the original articles: