My seasonal job is over, cash stacked, money saved for the CDT, now it’s time to hunker down in a half-empty room somewhere and work on my book until spring while cobbling together odd jobs to pay the rent, like I always do. But no, I haven’t hiked in two months and I feel crazy- all wound up inside like a spring, a woodstove full of fire dampened down all the way, glowing and glowing and then the embers slowly dying out in this great cooling bath of a life. But no! I don’t want to live like this! I feel frustrated with this dull sedentary existence that so many of us tolerate, working dull jobs empty of possibility and stealing moments staring at screens. And we are always being sold something- what if you were thinner, and the sunsets were always over-saturated? What if you harnessed the power of nature in a crystal necklace? I want to smash everything with a tire iron. I start picking fights on instagram with rich white women doing yoga on stand-up paddleboards and then I know it’s time to go.
I’ve got to hike! Florida trail or bust, and I’ll finish the book after. The idea to hike the Florida trail started out as a bit of a compromise- I am too poor to travel internationally and it turns out that in this frigid country there is only one long trail that is not frozen over in the winter. So the Florida trail it is, or “the poor man’s TA,” as I like to call it. I asked friends who’ve hiked it for advice and everything they had to say was disheartening-
“800 miles of roadwalking”
“Mosquitoes so bad they once suffocated a cow”
“Canals polluted with agricultural runoff as your main water sources”
“Walking through Orlando for two days”
and especially this-
“The only reason I’m glad I hiked the Florida trail is that now that I’ve hiked it, I know that no trail will ever be as shitty again.”
So I back pedaled and was like, “JK, not doing it!” and then these same friends were like-
“WAIT! You don’t understand! The most glorious sunsets I’ve seen in my life! The prettiest forest I’ve ever walked through! Sub-tropical beaches! ALLIGATORS!”
And so I was like, fuck it! And I bought my ticket to Miami. I also downloaded half a dozen audiobooks and bought a turquoise dress on deep discount from patagonia- because if there’s anything that makes me excited about adventure, it’s a new hiking outfit.
It’s not just hiking and our relationship with screens that I’ve been thinking about lately- I’ve been thinking a lot on the death of Eric Garner and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. I tried to be an activist for a few years in my early twenties, which is when I first realized how deeply rooted in injustice everything around me was, but I got too excited, burned out, and then sort of faded into apathy over the years. I hadn’t even realized this was happening until a few weeks ago, when I started obsessively following the progression of the #BlackLivesMatter events via newscasts while I was working- the first time, in fact, that I’d listened to the news in a long time, and as a result I was vigorously and somewhat painfully re-politicized in a matter of days. And then it suddenly dawned on me just how close I had become to being the sort of white girl who lives in LA, does yoga on a stand-up paddleboard, makes dream-catcher jewelry and documents it all for her 60k instagram followers. For a couple of days after realizing this I alternated between horror and rage as I saw the current version of myself as though for the first time and wondered what the fuck I could do re: helping to rock the boat at this pivotal moment while also being a useful ally to people of color. I read a lot of online articles, watched some youtube videos, looked at a lot of twitter, and the distillation of what I learned is this:
-Don’t center whiteness. I am white, and this movement is not about me. It’s not #AllLivesMatter, it’s #BLACKLivesMatter. Sure, all lives matter, but we are talking about the police brutality against BLACK folks specifically. That’s what all of this is about. #AllLivesMatter derails the conversation. We live in a white-supremacist culture that steers the conversation and the attention back to white people whenever it can. Seek out black media. Seek out black bloggers. Seek out black twitter. Try and keep the conversation centered on the voices of black folks. It’s amazing how difficult this is, how strong that inertial pull back towards whiteness is.
-Go to protests and donate money. The basics.
-Stay active. Stay informed and involved. Keep reading. Keep listening to the news. Keep devoting a certain portion of your emotional bandwidth to this thing that is much larger than yourself and that you actually genuinely care about. In other words, DON’T slip back into the easy apathy that your white privilege allows, whereby you can just, like, repost a few articles on twitter and then go back to your life of drinking kombucha, going on roadtrips and pretending the world’s not ending.
This last part is the hardest one for me. I understand how to do the first two, but the third one eludes me. I want to offer up something of myself, but aside from the first two, I’m not sure what I have to give that can be useful. I have this blog, is there a way that I can make it more useful? More about something other than hiking? White people hiking, specifically?
I don’t know the answer just yet. I am going to keep thinking and reading and reaching out to others who have thought about this a lot more than I have. I don’t know the answer yet but I do know that I am really fucking sick of myself, or rather that part of myself who documents a sunset for instagram or comes up for a new way to describe the color of tannin in water (tea-colored? no. broth-colored! I patent that one!)- and calls it good enough.
Here are some really cool inspiring awesome resources for you, right now in this pivotal time in history.
Clever, funny video: Five Tips For Being an Ally (to a community you’re not a part of)
Why being “nice” isn’t good enough: White America’s Silence Enables Black Death
Invigorating history of this young movement- “Black Lives Matter goes beyond extrajudicial killings of black people……..it is a tactic to (re)build the black liberation movement.”