Wild Olympics

Here Be Giants
Once there were giants
Not creatures of myth
– though they too are for another story –

But beings of earth and water and sky
They stood, gathered sentinels
Roots reaching as deep into the earth
As their trunks rose to the sky.

They were the center of everything
entire ecosystems existing on every square inch

They helped make us, protected us
Their breath our breath
Reminding us of our role here:
Stay grounded, reach for the stars
Form communities, shelter each other
Be the union between earth and sky.

But we forgot how to listen
Ignored the whispers in their branches
We felled the giants
Severed them from the earth
Severed ourselves from the connection

The giants fell
So then shall we,
to rise again only
in their grace.

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Clearcut along the Hoh, Photo by Syren [Image Description: land scattered with stumps stretches toward a forest of closely planted farmed trees and then rises to a green mountain in stages of regrowth]
I drove north along Highway 101, the Washington coast rising and falling in great curves that seemed to match the sound of the waves breaking upon her shore. I was at the wheel of a 20-foot moving truck, navigating the road that was bringing me to my new life, my new home, on the Olympic Peninsula. As I passed clear cut after clear cut, I couldn’t help but feel that this stripped landscape reflected so much of my own loss. Then the view shifted: great trees dripping with moss leaned beside the roadway, the rain no longer pelted my windshield but fell with gentle grace, slipping softly down the trees’ branches. Every shade of green filled my sight, an impossible vision of life and growth following such desolation. I was home.

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Quinault Rainforest, Photo by Syren [Image Description: a ray of sunlight through the forest illuminates moss hanging from a tree and a large downed log]
In the short time that I have lived here, I have placed my feet on dozens of trails. When I experience the Olympics, awe and gratitude often strike me to the core, like a ray of sun suddenly slicing through the canopy and illuminating the forest floor in a shocking glow. This has inspired me to protect this place and all who live here: human and nonhuman, plant and wildlife, rock and river. I think of all those who are no longer with us and all those who are yet to come. I want to honor the memory of the past and preserve the inherent possibility of the future. This love drives me to protect clean water, forests, and fish, now and for the future.

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[Image Description: two open clam shells are placed on a green mossy rock, resembling butterflies] Photo by Syren
Love of this place has also inspired me to give back to the community and welcome others. Disabled Hikers was founded to help support and inspire the disabled community to explore the Olympics – you are welcome here, too. There are a number of trails that are accessible for a range of abilities, and there is a growing movement to improve accessibility and options for disabled people. It is definitely one of the things that I love about this place. There is so much potential here, but if the sources of our inspiration and the reasons for visiting are destroyed, that possibility is lost too.

The Olympics have given me a home. They have been a source of beauty and joy and solace; they have challenged me and taught me about who I am. Nature reminds us of our own wildness, of the connection we have with the world and with other beings. This connection remains whether we acknowledge it or not, and demands our attention and reciprocation.

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[Image Description: the sunset backlights Akalat/James Island at Rialto Beach. The island is dark against a orange and blue sky. Waves are in the foreground.] Photo by Syren
The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers Act is one way to ensure that the rare beauty of this precious place is protected. The act would permanently protect over 126,000 acres of new Wilderness areas in the Olympic National Forest, and 19 Olympic Peninsula rivers and their tributaries as Wild & Scenic Rivers – the first ever Wild & Scenic Rivers on the Peninsula. Designed through extensive community input to protect ancient forests, clean water, and enhance outdoor recreation, the Wild Olympics legislation has been endorsed by over 550 local businesses, sportsmen organizations, outdoor recreation groups, faith leaders, conservation groups and local elected officials; and more than 12,000 local residents have signed petitions in support. Sign the petition and help preserve these amazing lands. Learn more at WildOlympics.org

An Open Letter to Everyone Joining the Fight

Dear people who are aghast at the abuse in this country and the presidency and want to do something,

Welcome. Glad you could make it. We need everyone to jump in on this.

But here’s the thing: you’re late to the party. If you’re white and middle+ class, you’ve just arrived from the airport with coats in arms and bags on the floor. But coat check is full, and your baggage is tripping people up. Find another place for it, maybe at your white neighbor’s house.

Rather than making a “fashionably late” entrance, come in quietly. Listen to the conversations in the room to figure out what has already been said – you’ve missed out on hours of discussion. Pay attention to what people are doing, and ask if you can help clean up a bit so the party can continue. This is not the time to climb up on the counter and propose a party game.

Find a group that is talking about something you want to be involved in, and ask if you can join the conversation. Listen and ask respectful questions – again you’ve missed out on a lot of discussion.

Leave the party to check on your baggage frequently.

Once people at the party have gotten to know you, you’ve listened to their conversations, and you’ve unpacked your bags, you can propose the next activity. Always remember that this is not your house, and that you are a guest of the First People here.

If you find yourself succumbing to a cycle of rage and fatigue, remember this:

The news cycle is meant to inflame and desensitize you. Watch for the patterns:

A horrific story breaks. In a rush for ‘ratings’ (which also means likes and shares now) articles are published that highlight the horror. People rightly become enraged and want to do something.

And the articles keep coming, and keep coming.

A few days pass. Right about the time everyone is feeling overwhelmed, new information rises from the grassroots level (which is how long it takes for thorough information to be released). This information contains nuance that was previously missing.

Unfortunately, this cycle of overwhelm does not leave much space for the understanding of nuance. Everyone is experiencing some level of fatigue and secondary trauma.

This information is received as a relief, as a sign that “oh it isn’t as bad as we thought, thank god.” It becomes a reason to question the entire atrocity.

So shortly afterwards, the rage is forgotten, the story is shelved, and we wait for the next cycle with little change happening.

There is no conspiracy in this. It is the nature of information = profit and the enforcement of the status quo. But if you know the cycle, you can break the way it influences you.

Yes, what is happening is that bad. Yes, there is nuance and information that is lacking, especially at first.

Here is my suggestion: pick 1 – 3 issues that you will commit to working on and focus on those. You will be more effective and less fatigued. This is especially important for spoonie fam, and for all people who are experiencing the direct harm of the oppressive systems in this country.

Gratitude

A portion of this was originally published on my blog The Forks Poems.

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Photo taken from Undi Bypass Road, Forks, WA

It’s true that the dark days can make us appreciate the bright ones more. When the clouds clear and the sun makes a sudden, stunning appearance painting the sky in an impossible play of colors, the gratitude I feel is overwhelmingly blissful.

Gratitude changes everything.

But I have gratitude, too for the dark days. The days when a different set of eyes allows me to see the play as the clouds pass over the sky, in as many shades of grey as there are colors in a bright sunset. Oh there is beauty and magic in that play too.

I read this excerpt from Wild Comfort: the Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore (one of my favorite authors) the evening after I took this photo:

…[H]ere is the work of patience: to be ready for the world to slit us, the full length of us, opening our hearts with the pellucid attention that is the watchfulness of the heron in the cove at the end of the day, when wood smoke slides onto the rising tide and slanting rain pocks the water. This patience is the birth of gratitude. pg 109

I found this to resonate with such truth. The US has just celebrated Thanksgiving (which I abstain from, as I do not celebrate the colonialist and genocidal roots of the day) and expressions of gratitude have filled our tables and our media. But what is this gratitude that comes around once per year, expressed when so many people are sitting around incredible bounty that, for the most part, they are disconnected from?

Gratitude is relational; it’s opening is found through our connection with others, be they human, plant, animal, or spirit. In our willingness to open ourselves to the experience of being in relation with the world and all of its joy and sorrow, we open ourselves to the experience of deep gratitude. It requires steadfastness, attention, and patience as the world goes by, not to be swept away by its tidal pulls. Gratitude is not appreciation as someone spoons another helping onto our plate. Though it is a building block of gratitude, appreciation so often begins in entitlement and passes as quickly as the spoon to our mouths.

The day that I took this photo, I realized that I had gone over a week without talking to or seeing a (incarnate) human being, but I was very much ok with that. I had spent the week settling into my new home, getting to know the Place and patiently watching the storm clouds roll in and pass away. I was missing the Place that I had come from (by which I mean the plants and spirits) but feeling very joyful to get to know new ones. My heart was opening into deep gratitude.

In that space, I put my very excited dog into the car and went to check out the State Park down the road. I quickly realized it was primarily a campground and there didn’t appear to be much hiking but decided to wander around, noticing the trees and variety of mosses in a small area. As I wandered I ran into the campground host who was also out for a walk with her dog. The pups made quick friends and she warmly invited me to join her on their walk. She took me to a trail I never would have found on my own and we talked about mosses and how many ferns can grow on a tree and how creeks each have their own individual sound. Giving me more tips on hiking in the area, she invited me to her church and to come back to hike with her anytime. In accepting this offering of connection from her, I left full of gratitude.

From there I drove up the hill over a gravel road through logging land, and as I rounded a curve the trees sparkled as the sun dipped beneath the clouds and the sky started to clear. I gasped with surprise and delight and my heart burst open. The joy I felt in this moment, after days of patience and the offering of my attention to the world, was indescribable. Then it clicked: it was my gratitude, the gratitude that I have held on to through all of the trials I have endured, that was the key. It was the key to my grief and sorrow and my bliss and joy.

If we open to it gratitude has the power to slit us from stern to bow, to show us the power of connection and relation – even in our sorrow.