Monday, November 29, 2010


So far my favorite blog on here is Looking Both Ways. Or more accurately its the one I think is most acceptable, the one that follows the format of a typical good essay or blog post. Its essentially a rant, but besides going off topic for a moment, I stick to the basic structure of a linear, logical argument, embellished with a few personal insults.

The problem with linear, logical arguments, though, is that they don't allow for growth and learning to come about through the process of writing. I knew the answer before I began writing that post. I knew what I wanted to do: to complain about a behavior and explain why it bothers me, blowing off steam and hopefully persuading people to agree with me in the process.

Most of my thought processes aren't as linear as all that though-- they don't stick to this typical blogging format of telling a story with a point, a lesson, or moral. I appreciate learning something new about myself or the universe though the act of writing.

All throughout school I found writing conclusions to be the most difficult part of essays. Conclusions always seem so cliche. Everyone ends chapters in nonfiction books the same way-- with a short sentence that's meant to sound profound and make the reader feel warm and cozy or inspired, but above all else to agree with the author (Barrack Obama's The Audacity of Hope is one of the most obvious examples I've ever seen of this).

In school they taught me that an essay goes like this: tell the reader what you're about to tell them (introduction), tell them it(body), and then tell them what you just told them (conclusion). This always seemed redundant to me. I had a hard time being redundant on purpose, and I am bothered by it when authors do this too obviously in books. Also known as a 'recap', I hear it in my head as a lecturing voice, automated, not authentic.

Life has taught me that any time I think I reach a conclusion, there is always something new to be learned. For example, after I wrote about the old man and the red light, I started wondering about his perspective. That got left out. I don't think I will come back to it here, but the process has continued for me. Conclusions are an illusion. They are inherently temporary. Although that ironically sounds like yet another conclusion. Ah, the eternal paradox strikes again!

So this is fair warning. I am not a linear, logical person, at least not most of the time. And I can't guarantee that I will ever come to much of a conclusion.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Giving Thanks

Someone said on 'Thanksgiving Eve' that this is the only holiday that isn't corrupted by commercialization. On Thanksgiving, you don't buy gifts, or candy, or tons of little plastic eggs, or even boxes of cardboard valentines. You get together with friends or family and appreciate each other. Safeway trying to sell you discount turkeys is about as commercial as it gets.

I have a new appreciation for Thanksgiving this year. I think it is a special holiday. Not the history of it-- I of course hate the land-thievin' native-deceiving settlers as much as the next decent person-- but the idea of having a day devoted just to gratitude. In my case the whole week has seemed like Thanksgiving because school is out.

I am grateful for so many of my experiences this week. I am grateful for going on a walk in the park with a new friend and his dog, where the pathways were strewn with leaves and we sat on logs overhanging the creek, chatting about life. I'm grateful for spending the night before Thanksgiving with my silly drunken neighbors, playing Pokemon Monopoly and wrestling on the floor, after baking pumpkin pie and making cranberry sauce. I'm grateful for going to the hot springs on the day of Thanksgiving, sitting in warm water looking up at the blue sky, surrounded by mountains and trees and naked people everywhere, with my boyfriend giving me a massage. I'm grateful for the deer I saw yesterday, and the good food and friends to eat it with.

I'm also grateful for the growth I'm experiencing in my life right now. I'm becoming more centered and grounded in myself. I'm learning to meet my own needs, to take care of myself. I give thanks for all the abundant support I receive.

Feliz Dia de las Gracias!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Education That Matters

This morning, as I have done other mornings, I biked to the park to do my homework.

Sounds normal enough, though not many college students take the time and energy to enjoy the refreshing life-force of our urban riparian sanctuary. To be honest, I probably wouldn't either, if it wasn't required of me. I wasn't doing homework for Chico State, the school that I attend so I can get Financial Aid and a degree that will serve as something to fall back on in case civilization doesn't collapse as soon as I think it will. I was doing homework for Ecotherapy, a program through University of Earth.

U of E is a radical, evolutionary college program that was founded by Rich Silver, the same man who founded the Endangered Species Faire which takes place in Cedar Grove every year, which is where I ran into him last May. I feel touched when I reflect on that day, hearing an adult say the words my heart speaks: that there are two possible impending disasters. One of them is the disaster we will all have to face if the economy, and potentially our entire ecosystem, comes crashing down upon us. If suddenly food is not available, or clean water, or transportation. If the crops won't grow and there is fighting in the streets.

The other disaster, the disaster with a capital D, is that business keeps running as usual. This Disaster will have species going extinct at ever increasing rates, will have more and more children growing up in cities where they don't even see trees, or ground that could grow something. This Disaster will (and is!) sucking up people's souls like a fleet of Dementors, keeping them in high-rise cubicles computing all day. Ultimately, too, this Disaster will inevitably end in the first disaster. Rich told me that day that he prays for a third option-- a quick and graceful transition to a sustainable human society.

I think this path is the least probable. That doesn't make it not worth trying for though, and that is what University of Earth aims to do-- to educate people in appropriate ways for the times we are in, by offering degree programs in Ecotherapy, Eco-education, and Ecoguides. Although I turn in my homework online, because there is no campus, the Ecotherapy program I am working on has me at the park, observing, breathing, and learning about how I relate to nature and how nature nourishes and affects me. I highly reccommend this school. I would love to see all my friends take courses through this school. They have an Orientation course (called "Our Sacred Living Universe"), which I did this summer, that can be taken by anyone without having to enroll in a program.

I never knew there is already a whole school of thought based around why mainstream psychotherapy isn't working, and is perpetuating the socio-economic system that destroys and corrupts our psyches and all life. Now I do, and I am greedy to soak up all the knowledge and insight I can from our class texts.

How grateful I am to have just come from the park, having watched the leaves fall magically from the sky, to sit by the creek and ask myself, "Who are you?" as the stream rolls by. This is where education should take us. I am so grateful, and so inspired to have a community of classmates on the same page (literally!) as me in these times.

To learn more about this, go to

Monday, November 22, 2010

Looking Both Ways

Today as I was crossing the street to Tin Roof at 7th and Broadway, an old man crossing perpendicular to my companion and I said something along the lines of, "So red lights have gone out of style, huh?" Feeling defensive already, I replied in an annoyed tone of explaining something to a small child, "There were no cars coming." In retrospect, I wish I had said, There were no cars coming, dumbass. He in turn responded by saying that it didn't matter, the point was that its illegal to cross at a red light. The conversation quickly became a three way argument, my friend and I trying to point out to him that the whole point of lights is to keep traffic flowing smoothly, and that when there is no traffic, its ridiculous to wait for a light to change before crossing the street.

I felt riled up and exasperated with the disgusting degree to which this man had conformed his decision making to the structures of laws, rather than actual functionality. He raised his voice over us, saying something about how we'd rather argue than be 'correct' (or maybe 'corrected', which is what my friend heard). As he disappeared from sight, I yelled after him, "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery! Don't be a robot!"

This situation pissed me off. To use NVC terms, I felt pissed off. I feel enraged. I need a shared reality, and functionality. And since anger comes from fear, I think on some level I am terrified at how deeply people have entrenched the forms of laws, rather than their purposes, into their psyches. I am really scared that anyone would propose for a moment that you should wait to cross a street when there are no cars coming, unless there was a blind curve (which it wasn't, we could see for blocks). This isn't just about the red light, although the actual situation alone is enough to aggravate me. Its symbolic for all the ways in which people conform mindlessly to society's rules and expectations.

Of course, this was an old man, I could rationalize to myself. He comes from a bygone era, in which the government was always correct. No one our age would agree with his ridiculous time-wasting conformity. Although I doubt that's completely true, regardless, there are plenty of other examples of ways in which people follow rules simply because they were taught them at a young age, when they were impressionable, when adults could answer the magical question "Why?" with, "Because," or, "That's just the way it is." And eventually most people stop asking why, stop asking and just accept orders from anyone above them in the hierarchy. This is what allowed the Holocaust to happen. This is what makes prison guards abuse prisoners and get away with it. This is what created Abu Ghraib. This scares me. I am very afraid.

One of my favorite quotes goes, :"Rules are guidelines for people who can't make decisions for themselves." I don't know who said it, but a lot of people have thought of it independently. I read it recently in a book, or on Facebook. It doesn't matter if I cite it, because that's just another rule. I was thinking about anti-copyrights today. It's something that anarchists often put on publications. It'll say, Every sound, word, thought, and idea you hear is free for you to use as you please. I like this. All our ideas are shared anyway. Like when you think of something new, and then you google search it and get 3 million hits. It's all shared consciousness. And if you don't get any hits, now someone somewhere else is gonna think of it independently of you. Who gets credit? Whoever copyrights it first? How is that fair? Its not.

Not that I don't think anarchists and hippies shouldn't copyright their shit. I think we should. Because if we don't, some capitalist will. Might as well copyright or patent it, and then let the public use it for free. Only sue the big guns when they try to make money off your idea.

I digress. The point is, lets liberate ourselves from the forms of things, and remember the purpose of social agreements. If the purpose is important, we can all find our own way to make it work. Like looking both ways before crossing a street, and then crossing if no cars are coming, even if it is a red light.

And fuck you, old man. I feel sorry for you. Its too bad you were so easy to indoctrinate. But don't push your mechanical way of living onto me. I'm alive, and I can make decisions for myself.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hitchhiking, Halloween, and Elections, Oh My!

I'm telling myself the title of this blog is cliche. So be it.

Curiously, I spent my second Halloween hitchhiking in the Bay Area (or points nearby) this past Sunday. Even stranger, the last time I did it Halloween was also on a Sunday. Which confuses me, because that was six years ago. Something to do with leap years, although I would have thought that would make it eight years until we got a repeat day, not six.

Allow me to compare. Last time I hitchhiked on Halloween, I was 14. I was returning from Davis, en route to Chico, after a failed attempt to go to San Francisco for Halloween with my traveling buddy at the time, Courtney, who was two years older than me. We were not in costume, but dressed as bums, as usual in those days.

I wanted to make it down for an animal rights conference put on by PETA (I now hold PETA in much contempt, when I think about them, which isn't often, but that's another rant). We abandoned our mission in Vallejo late Saturday night, and returned to Davis, which was completely dead. No parties to be found. Courtney and I spent the evening in a hot tub at an apartment with our puppies, a random dreadhead who later turned out to have poor communication skills regarding physical boundaries, and his dog. The next morning, Halloween, we ventured to the Davis co-op (I found this very exciting, I had never been to another co-op besides good old Chico Natural Foods), and then headed home by thumb, stopping at a random burger joint to beg for free food. (We got hooked up. Veggie burgers, french fries, and drinks. Yum.)

Unfortunately hitchhiking wasn't going well that day. Long past when the sun went down, we had only made it to Sacramento. As any hitchhiker knows, Sacramento is comparable to the pit of despair. We were having a fine old time at a gas station in West Sac though, where at least it was well-lit and crowded with friendly people willing to stop and chat a moment, or give us a souvenir mini-baseball bat. Our doom descended with a misguided and somewhat overweight taxi driver who told us she knew exactly where we should hitchhike from if we wanted to go to Chico, and then offered to take us there for free.

I didn't notice what a dark and desolate place she had brought us to at first. Or maybe I did. Either way, all that surrounded the highway on-ramp was a closed Chevron whose parking lot was under construction, a diner, and empty industrial buildings. Looking back, we didn't have a chance in hell at getting a ride that night, unless we broke the law and passed the "No Pedestrians" sign half-way up the on-ramp, which we were too scared to do. We were used to getting a ride at the bottom of the ramp, staying within California's legal bounds for hitchhiking.

After a long-time and quite a few cars passing us, a car full of guys blaring gangster music slowed down. There was a moment of hope for both of us, until we saw that the car was full, no seats available, with four or five young men who didn't look very friendly. Though I'm not sure I even heard this, my friend heard one of them say, "Get in the car!" and one of the guys in the back seat started to open his door. She stood her ground, and told them never mind, and waved them on. Luckily they left, and she immediately started panicking. What if they had dragged her in? What if they came back? She wanted nothing to do with hitchhiking there anymore.

We left our post by the highway and tried to sneak into the nearby diner with our puppies in our jackets, to spend our last few quarters on hot chocolate while we figured out what to do, but the puppies were quickly discovered and we were kicked out before we even got seated. (We may have tried to go into the diner earlier, the time line is blurred now). If I was in that situation now, I would have asked the diner to use their telephone, telling them we were in a desperate situation.

My younger self, though, followed the 16-year-old whom I looked up to so much through the industrial section of town, into a dark neighborhood, past a lonely looking drunkard who crossed our paths (I had my knife in my hand for that block), and to a very closed Pacific Pride gas station, across the street from Goldie's Adult Superstore, ran by transvestites, and apparently a meeting place for prostitutes and their customers.

Long story short, the rest of the night involved calling a friend to drive two and a half hours in the middle of the night to come get us, pooping behind the adult video store, approaching a Salvation Army Headquarters for help only to be traumatized into flight by a costumed security guard in a faceless dummy mask, and another taxi driver, this one with vampire teeth that Courtney insisted were real. We made it home to Butte County that night, safe and sound, exhausted enough to get great sleep and wake up at our rescuers home, a solar-power run sanctuary in the woods.

This year's hitchiking adventure was quite a bit different. I awoke Sunday morning in San Francisco (perhaps this means I completed my mission in some way) in an unfamiliar but comfortable bed in the Haight Ashbury area with my friend and sort-of-roommate Michelle, having danced the Spiral Dance the night before. We made our way to Berkeley via BART. (I, with very little cash, managed to do so for less than a dollar. Ask me how.) We conversed with a friend few the afternoon, and then walked to the nearest highway. On our way, we passed the Berkeley Natural Foods store. I didn't even notice this parallel to the previous journey until now.

There were no rides to be had, especially not when our options were limited to trucks and other large vehicles because of having a bike in tow. I'm guessing we spent at least a couple hours by the side of the road, me in costume as a Witch and Michelle with her Bluebird gear on. Our only visitors were a cop who told us not to hitchhike ("Hitchhiking's lega!" I yelled as she passed, and she responded by telling us not to hang out there as she drove away. Well how are we supposed to hang out somewhere else unless we leave, which is what we're trying to do?) and a woman who would not stop talking for what seemed like forever. She was blocking our view to the street too, infringing on our ride-getting potential. She went on and on about how Berkeley is full of crazy people and is the most racist, sexist place on the planet. She guessed our signs and got them completely wrong, and then went on about astrology when we told her what our signs actually are.

Eventually we decided to try to walk to another on-ramp where we might have better luck. We managed to walk all the way to the next town, Albany, without realizing it, where we got kicked off the premises of Arco and found ourselves in The Pearl House for most of the evening, charging our cell phones, drawing on our place mats, eating chow mein, and looking up rides on Craigslist (needless to say, we made it to Vacaville, and from there, home with our good friend Alyse).

Not long after leaving the Arco, I thought, hitchhiking is a great way to quickly become disgruntled about everything that's wrong with society. Everyone's scared of each other, which is why we couldn't get a ride. And if you look poor, there's no where for you to be. You get caught between a rock and a hard place, as when the cop told us not to hitchhike, and not to hang out there. If we didn't hitchhike, we had to hang out there, because that was our only available mode of transportation. And if we were not to hang out there, we needed to hitchhike. Sitting down at a gas station for a moment of rest is bad for business, so you get kicked out. When Michelle asked the man why he was telling us to leave, he said the police are really strict about 'it', which is a lie because a gas station is private property and police have nothing to do with it unless the owner calls them. She had the audacity or maybe just the innocence to ask him where he recommended we go then. He of course had no suggestions, because he didn't really care. When you look or act poor, your very existence is treated as an inconvenience.

After being grumpy for most of the afternoon though, I began to appreciate the beautiful sky as the sun was setting. Albany has quite a few trees. As I took this in, a crow swooped past my line of sight and landed on a streetlight. The bridge we had to pass to come to Albany was also worth appreciating. The architecture had taken bikers and pedestrians into consideration through an elaborate system of underpasses and curving pathways between Berkeley and Albany, for which I was grateful. In some places pedestrians are more likely never to be considered and end up having to go five miles around to get where they want. All in all it was an absolutely beautiful day.

I'm dog tired of writing about now, so I think I'll sum it up by saying that, yes, I went as a Witch this year and I have at least one fantastic picture to prove it (my hat came out of the gutter in SF!). And as for the elections, its great that 23 got shot down, but it reminds me of what Derrick Jensen says about how environmentalists fight so hard to stake our territory, and then we have to spend much of our time just defending it and not making further advances. So maybe we need some new tactics. He has suggestions for this, which I'm not necessarily opposed to, but I have my own, which lean more towards upping our involvement on the psychic plane. Psychic forces are available to all who call upon them, and get stronger as we do so. The corporations weave their own dangerous magic, so let us respond by blasting them out of the water with the force of every deity known to humankind, and maybe even some unknown ones too. We are as strong as we believe. And while doing magic is not a substitute for planting community gardens or smashing the state in more physical ways, I do not think we can save this planet with out it.