w a k e u p & w a l k
I woke up early this morning in the bottom bunk of a hostel bed after a full 10 hours of sleep. It is the first time I have gone to bed at 9 pm in a long while. The fatigue of the windy day, the full schedule, the weeks of planning and work and engagement paired with an early full moon bleed finally sent me into a resolved slumber. I rose to the immediate draw of getting outside and witnessing the early morning hour, that time of watching the world wake up. I threw on my peach-colored ragged Carhart coat, threw up my hood, put on some real pants, wool socks and running shoes and set out on a bike path wishing I had grabbed my bike before heading to the coast these past few days. But it would have been too cold this morning anyway without proper gloves, and the frost still clung to baby stinging nettles and new sprouting grasses from the recent start of the rainy season. It is a clear and cold morning in Point Reyes National Seashore, not a cloud is in the sky and the wind is still. Venturing outside, I can hear the distant roar of the Pacific Ocean, at the tail end of this long meandering trail that follows a fresh water creek eventually merging with the wild ocean. I move my body along, with no agenda other than to just witness the place in its awakening, and to smell the moist and dank air: part salt spray, part alder and willow leaf spread out in a blanket of decay on the forest floor.
m o v e .. a l o n g
To walk, to move through this magical hour while still partially dreaming, is the best way to wake up. No speaking, no sound of cars. No need to do the motions other than to keep walking. Letting thoughts come and go, visions of the multi-chaptered tales of last nights dreams peak through yet slowly dissipate as this world’s details fill up that space left in my mind. The moments from yesterday’s inspiring activities and conversations come in tidbits. In other moments my mind is just reveling in the feeling of here and now. I am reminded of all the cold mornings I used to get up extra early while working at a nordic ski area, and did my wake up slowly while cross country skiing with frozen hands and a dream-filled mind noticing new fresh beaver tracks in the crisp snow.
Here, downhill from the Point Reyes Hostel, the birds sing and prance around in sunlight peaking through illuminating far reaching alder branches. At first the sun touches the tops of the trees at the peaks of the canyon, and then slowing sun paints things here and there everywhere.
A L D E R : B r a n c h e s
I move through a Beaver’s playground, immediately noticing the rushing creek spread out into a wet slow moving watered space with taller and more mature Alder trees. Chewed off stumps, and a carefully tended landscape. Then, right by the side of the road, a beaver’s house comes to view, piles of purposely placed sticks, surrounded by thick groves of sedge bent over from frost and wind and the weight of cold season.
I think about yesterday and the interview with Heather. Reflecting on the trying a new thing practice I am attempting lately. Ideas fill my mind of possibilities for collaboration, for creative projects, for the revisioning of ideas into new and more malleable forms. The precarious play of an idea shifting, of relationships changing, of plans moving along on their own carved paths. Yet, I also revel in the idea of simplicity, of non-manifestation, of resting in quiet being without the need to spring forth a kind of self-actualization.
/ s h i f t i n g
I awe at the imprints a hike along McClure’s Beach left with me, of sea-worn elk in the distance foraging, endemic Stellaria species sprouting up along the margins of a shallow creek along with with fresh Watercress, of closed flower succulents clinging to the sandy dunes. Of the conversations with a new friend as we walk under browned hillsides that reminds me of so many places yet is totally unique in itself.
Then, I am back and sitting writing quietly with a jug of fancy almond milk and hot strong jet-black pour over coffee, drinking one then another- not mixing. Overlooking the now sun-filled road to the beach, the yard with a humble garden, surrounded by forest of stunted Bay and Bishop Pine. A simple space to see. No internet or cell phone service eases my mind in the deepest of ways. Only four other guests stayed the night before, and they are either quietly sleeping or quietly watching too. The clarity that comes from a long night of dream-filled sleep, of giving into deep fatigue and letting the body be folded into layers of heavy blanket and soft warmth. The clarity from being in nature, from human connection. Of a walk first thing in the morning, of filling the mind with organic shapes and beings, rather than the harsh glows of cellular devices.
d e e p : R E L I E F
Now to being by the ocean, downhill from the hostel, parked and tucked into the back of the camper, windows open, curtains dancing. The air warm and pleasant, perfect. A gentle breeze, unlike yesterday’s blustery overwhelm out on the exposed point with Heather. No fog on the shoreline, just jagged edges of cliffs meeting the sea. The steady cascade of crashing ocean waves.
The wild ocean shoreline makes me miss home as some of my oldest memories are of spending time on the rare wild coast of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina growing up. Where the structures are kept out, the storms blow haphazardly through threatening to swallow the little island whole. These moments of nostalgia totally influence my thought processes and decisions. One minute I tend to the tendrils of one idea and reality, and the next my body sends me towards reaching out in another direction to recapture something that can never be done again in the same way. Because, you know, you can’t step in the same river twice as the old ones say, or even once for that matter.
n o s t a l g i a /
So appreciate the moment, I think. And I put down the pen and paper, close my windows and hit the trail to the beach. I go to say goodbye to the ocean before driving away from this wild Pacific coast on the other side of the continent from my distant nostalgic childhood memories.
But actually, this didn't happen. It was going to.
I was sitting calmly in the back of my camper, with my window open and a view of the grand ocean in sight. I was getting ready to stop writing, and go for one last walk to the water. Then appears a friend I met at the hostel with their phone number on a scrap piece of paper in hand. They walk over from their small white car. We were two of the three women sleeping in the women's dorm room last night. We had connected over being travelers, car dwellers, seasonal movers, perpetual guests while making dinner with Heather in the hostel's communal kitchen the day before. They sat down at the doorway of my camper and we began to talk.
They started to tell me where they had found safe places to stealth park in the city and south along the coast, and to not tell anyone for fear that people like them, who don't have a home, won't have a place to go anymore. This person wanted to help ME. The elephant in the room that many folks who choose to opt-in to a lifestyle of purposeful simplicity and or living on the road avoid talking about came clearly in full focus. To one person, van-life is literally survival, and to another it is an 'traveling plant-focused art project' (me) or an 'epic adventure into the wilderness with a VW van.' (many many others who obsessively instagram their adventures for all to see)
b e s a f e
I don't HAVE to live like this. I can stop any time. I have not been forced here, though I sometimes AM running away from toxic places, spaces, ideas and people. But this person who I befriended, is a queer POC woman who was screwed over by their family and has been bullied in work places for being 'out' and for being 'not a man.' They have to literally cover themselves in trash at night to hide and stay safe while they sleep, cloud themselves in extra masculine baggy clothes to lean their appearance more towards "I am a man so don't rape me." We talked about the reality of not knowing where you were going to sleep, where you were going to go. The stress of constant planning, thinking, figuring out of things. This is something I have experienced in big episodes in the past. I remember thinking about my safety as a female-assigned person traveling alone this past summer, and I often had constant anxiety. At other times, I felt such calm and contentedness being alone on the road, and didn't fear. I can empathize with aspects of this person's experience. Yet, my experience is different. I have skills that can get me a job that I like. I have a family farm I can always go back to, even if I don't fit in or always have a safe space there to retreat to. I have friends all over the country, and in different incarnations they have spaces or land I COULD fit into if I really chose to do so. I have things I want to do and accomplish, but I am not worried about being literally shit out of luck. If living this way has taught me anything, it is utter humility for the privilege I have as a cis-gendered white person who has financial and social access to wild spaces to find 'peace.'
w i l d : A c c e s s
This person wasn't on drugs (and even if they were, they are still human). They are in college. They are an herbalist. They took care of their mother for years. They can't afford rent in the place they grew up, can't get back the enormous amount of money stolen from them. Yet often are parked next to $50,000+ valued sprinter vans with folks on their epic adventure of a lifetime. What for one person is living alternatively, is for another a space of which they can't seem to get out. While I have always been cognitively aware of this reality while living purposely 'in poverty' when I tell myself it is about living lightly on the earth. I thought of this even when I was living off grid and on land and bathing in creeks everyday, but I sometimes lose sight of how lucky I really have it when I'm spending so much time thinking about how to make the world a better place. In a way I am just surviving too, to make something in this world with the ideas I believe in. My parents and friends do care about me, and would never steal from or abandon me. I have options. I have flexibility. Though intersectionally, I am oppressed in certain ways, I also have access to A LOT of spaces. And the ability to pay $35 bucks for a stay in a hostel for a night to do self directed 'botanical research' in the protected land nearby. And feel so damn good the next morning because I was just hanging out with plants all day. My ability to have access to this because of where I am placed in this society, where I am prioritized, which isn't always first but isn't last, still allows me the ability to do this. I will always do botanical research and engage the natural world, but how I do it, how I move about, how I place my body and what I do with the knowledge I gain is constantly evolving as I continue to be humbled by the real experiences of others.
h u m i l i t y
What baffles me the most is that we live in a society that doesn't easily allow a smart and capable person to be able to climb up out of the space of living in their car. They don't want to live in their car. The social services that are offered, after basically being shamed for needing help, are nimble. Homeless folks in San Francisco only qualify for $65/month in food stamps, they tell me. And we think that this is one of the most progressive cities in the U.S.? Our culture often thinks it is realistic that folks can pull themselves up by their bootstraps when the going rate for rent is thousands of dollars a month. Being homeless costs a lot. For this person, it is parking tickets, gas money to find places to sleep, figuring out where to shower and have hot food. Constantly. And some say that helping people like this is putting our country in more debt. I don't think we ever intend to actually get out of debt. Our world runs on debt. It is a classist debate, and real humans with real lives and messed up situations are not totally responsible for the cards they are handed. Our system doesn't make it easy for some folks to get out of those situations, especially when they are bullied and discriminated against in their workplaces because of their gender identity, sex, race, religious beliefs, etc. I think about the compassion we can have for one another, access to safe personal space, access to wild space, access to the freedom to have dreams.
Without the reevaluation of what we think we need to live, we are always going to think we need more. The fuel of a capitalistic society is driven by the marketing of false need. Greed is the result of being trained to keep needing more and feeling like sharing is not possible. Or that compassion is for the weak.
a l w a y s d e t a i l s
Sometimes the most beautiful places are the most expensive places to live. Those that can afford the luxury of a view, access to quiet hiking trails for their dogs is narrowed down to a few. The area where Point Reyes is located is one of the most expensive places to live around.
We continue to talk for an hour, just hanging out. I want to ask them if they'd like to go on a walk, but I am feeling the urge to get going to miss the traffic in the East Bay and Sacramento on my way back up to the foothills, because I actually have a place to stay at Eric's house. We exchange numbers and emails, and wish each other good luck. I think about this person the whole drive through the chaos of endless strip malls that is the East Bay, Davis, Sacramento, Auburn and hope they feel safe tonight wherever they park and sleep.
c l i n g t o c l a r i t y
I try to hold on to the calm I felt from being without cell and internet and being surrounded by the Alders this morning on my sunrise walk. I cling to that clarity, not wanting it to dissipate, though the chaos of the world takes it away so quickly. I think about how to better be present with the gift it is to have the freedom to find solace in the wild.