What happens when you have the right voices in your ears. And follow them.
I am two days away from leaving for Africa for five weeks. That plan could still get scuttled. Right now I am on hold, again, with Lufthansa, trying to secure the right seats for long flights. I end up with searing migraines if I can’t get the right seats. In a so-called “normal” world, this would take me minutes, if not seconds. So far I’ve invested more than four hours on hold, just to get the right seats. This is our world right now, like it or not.
Will this stress me out? Will this drag me down? Does this cause me to feel like a schlub or a failure? Will I feel as though I can’t control my environment, AS IF there were such a thing in the first place?
WE DO NOT CONTROL OUR ENVIRONMENT. We never have, never will. The sheer notion of “control” is very male, patriarchal, and a fool’s journey. We get supremely stressed out because of this ludicrous, asinine lie, this idea that somehow we can “control” our environment, other people, life, kids, our jobs, futures, happiness. Nature, for crying out loud.
That kind of stress kills.
I saw a title the other day by one of my favorite Medium writers, saved it in my reading list, and read it this morning. There are a few folks whose writing closely aligns with my own for damned good reason. Those writers vary widely in color, gender, country and experience. However there are powerful threads that run through that writing, and I want to use Yael’s story today to make that point.
I want to feature some quotes from her story. First:
Am I listening to my body during my workouts? Or just pushing myself to meet that daily standard out of the terror that if I don’t, I’ll gain weight? Am I perpetuating my obsessive-compulsive behavior by being so ritualistic, so consistent? Can I be more flexible and forgiving? Can I listen to my body and do what it asks, what it needs? Do I have to always push myself so damn hard?
The last line in that paragraph could have been my life motto some time ago, and for a long time. Much of my life, as it were. At this point, now that I am barrelling towards 70, I have put myself in a very different environment. While I am getting ready, Covid allowing, to leave for five weeks in Africa on Tuesday morning, my motivations are different. Let’s talk.
The urge to dominate, which is so very male, is the urge to destroy. Whatever man dominates, he decimates. Just look around for proof. I felt, after being raped, assaulted, abused repeatedly during my life that if I could just CONTROL my environment I could feel safe. First of all, that’s a serious misread of life. Mama Nature doesn’t work that way. While she can be pretty rough with her babies, and hurl tornadoes that tear up trees and all the life in a forest, she isn’t as stupid as man. We destroy life and carve condo canyons into her prettiest areas, making life impossible for anything or anyone else other than Gucci-carrying assholes pumping filth into her air. Not a whole lot that we create creates beauty and life the way Nature does.
When I see an ancient Sequoia, I see a living, breathing, thinking entity. Too many men only see money and profit. Such has been the dissonance for centuries. We are running out of what is worth having for all those determined to turn every single thing of beauty for a profit. Along the way, we are increasingly finding out that fish have consciousness and personality, feel pain. Plants do too, they can even see. They have brains. I do NOT care if you agree with this, science disagrees with you if you don’t. I have forever intuited this stuff, and part of me is delighted that it’s being proven. However, we are killing our wildlife as we are killing ourselves so fast that what those entities might teach us will be long lost by the time we figure out that we aren’t the most evolved species. What species wipes out everything around it?
While admittedly that’s overly simplistic, I am simply making a point. Nature is female. She is receptive, nurturing, and wild as fuck. What she tears up makes sense to HER, even if it is inconvenient to us. Ancient tribes found ways to deal with what they were dealt. What’s left of those tribes still do, although as with tribes in the Amazon, they are being wiped out by mining companies because of course they are in the way of profit and progress.
Don’t get me started.
Yael’s article points to a critical journey for those of us, male and female and otherwise, redirecting our lives to be in more in alignment with life as it is rather than life as we try to force into what we want to be. One is in sync with (what’s left of) the natural world. The other is diametrically opposed to it. That mindless, idiotic, destructive Man vs Nature argument.
Kindly, go spit. That is what is killing us. Domination destroys.
We are living with results of centuries of bad decisions driven by domination, mostly by men, and by too many women who believe, quite wrongly, that by being more like authoritarian and dominating men they can have a better life.
Not only does that way give us madness, it is how we kill Nature. Again, just look around.
Do you really, honesty TRULY believe that all those attempts to hold back a rising ocean, thanks to climate change, to save all those ridiculously overpriced Miami condos is going to work?
It’s like standing on the stranded shoreline, when a tsunami has sucked the water far, far back in preparation for a distant, massive killing wave, and flipping a bird at said wave. As if. You and I have no choice in the matter. She’s coming. Our overheated condo prices on every shoreline in the world are meaningless.
Kindly, I would argue that “adapt to rising seas” means don’t fucking build more fucking condos on the fucking shoreline, but that’s just me. What do I know? From the article:
But conversations about the magnitude of the change that’s coming and the limited options for adapting, most of which will cost billions of dollars, are difficult. The most recent project under consideration would be a six-mile seawall built along the edge of Biscayne Bay through downtown Miami. It would be 20 feet high in places and cost $6 billion, according to an Army Corps of Engineers conceptual design. The magnitude of the wall as well as the price tag have horrified more than a few Miamians.
This kind of argument with Forces We Can’t Control isn’t just foolish. It’s a continuation of the mindset that somehow we’re God, and we can force Mama Nature to our will.
Wanna see her in action?
I grew up in Florida. Lived through my share of hurricanes. This marble may be tiny, but on it Mama Nature reigns supreme. Don’t respect her, don’t listen to her, you pay. We are paying for centuries of abuse. We didn’t listen, anymore than patriarchal, domineering men have ever listened to the world’s wilder women. The world’s native tribes who have found ways to work with, not against, Nature.
The reason Yael’s article resonated, and the reason one of my other favorite writers Elle Beau ❇︎ highlighted it, is that women and men like these are my pack. They are eschewing a great deal of what centuries of male-dominated behaviors and policies have taught us. That shit don’t work.
Years ago I came across a phrase which appealed to me immensely: Be open, soft and curious.
That is essentially feminine. Vulnerable. Accepting. Being in concert with our sacred Mother requires the utmost respect and regard, neither of which our species has offered. While there are many, many people over time, male and female, who have strenuously argued for a different kind of life, developers even now salivate over ripping out more precious forests, which are the lungs of the world, to lay down more concrete, to suffocate our mother. Brazil burns the Amazon forest for profit, killing billions upon trillions of life forms about which we know nothing.
Gotta have money, right? Girls, cars, condos, jewelry, dope, all that shit which is ultimately, horrifyingly meaningless.
Among the wisest of all voices, voices that we have wiped out in the American habit of genocide and killing off anything and anyone in the way of the Progress Juggernaut, I share a few tidbits from people who knew how the hell to be in nature:
“If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys.” — Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, British Columbia, Canada
“The American Indian is of the soil, whether it be the region of forests, plains, pueblos, or mesas. He fits into the landscape, for the hand that fashioned the continent also fashioned the man for his surroundings. He once grew as naturally as the wild sunflowers, he belongs just as the buffalo belonged….” — Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux Chief
This is what being open, soft and curious looks like. This is what it means to be in concert with our Mother, live with her, not imprison, control, beat her senseless, and force her to bend to your will.
White folks do a great job of wiping out wisdom. Gets in the way of progress.
Yael’s story, which to me is a sharp cry for freedom from the constraints of a Western society gone horribly wrong, is what happens inside us when you and I begin to pull away from what we intuitively know is just bad. Any society which commits female genital mutilation, which forcibly takes land from native tribes, which destroys, damages and pollutes everything it touches, which perpetuates racism and hate, which allows subjugation of others because of a religious belief (don’t get me started) is sick. Sick beyond redemption.
What’s sicker is that we can’t admit we’re sick.
Yesterday I scanned an article about face-altering filters. That any mind-suck moron would come up with a product that leads to such misery, speaks to where we are as a society. Any fool who comes up with food that makes us sick, a system by which hate ourselves, and others for being prettier or more handsome, that rewards domination of ANY form, that engenders wars and long lasting emotional scars, well.
I’m with Yael.
From her article:
How does my workday look? Am I focusing on filling 8-hour blocks of productivity because that’s what I learned to value as “work” in a capitalistic society? Am I producing, producing, producing, trying to grind out more content to be consumed and then forgotten, like intellectual fast food?
What are the metrics I’m using to determine success? Money? Time spent at the keyboard? Amount of content created?
Indeed. As I age, I increasingly question what that ridiculous, manufactured notion of “success means.” Where I stand on this is in no way is driven by my age, but more so by a lifetime of being led around by the nose ring to produce, achieve, produce, achieve. Nobody gave me a hero button for killing myself every day to live up to some manufactured idea of success.
At some point, I took a dogleg. I care about my body, so I exercise and eat well. I don’t care about being seen as a badass. That used to matter. Not now it doesn’t.
I care about my mental hygiene. So I don’t watch TV, don’t go to news sites, and avoid reading comments that I know will do damage.
I care about what success means to ME. Success to me means being fully in life, which at least as long as I can do it, includes travel, animals, and my friends. Success means having as much of that as possible. To stop starving myself of what feeds me. THIS feeds me:
Yael and Elle, and other Medium friends like Eric Guisinger and others all realize that while in Rome, we work and pay taxes. Part of being as free as possible under what can only be seen as a repressive regime is ensuring that we get the bills paid. Once that happens, it’s up to us to self-determine. How much of the overarching bullshit are we going to buy into? How much of that domination are you going to emulate before you and I realize that it isn’t just wiping out Mother Nature, but in the name of Almighty Profit, we have killed off much of what was good and beautiful, condemning animals and mountains and rivers and lakes and oceans to pollution and death, including near space, which is now Trash Central?
I struggle to see how this is progress.
On a more personal note, this also got my attention by Yael:
If I didn’t care what our culture called “beautiful,” if I didn’t care if men found me attractive, how would I dress? Style my hair? Would I wear less makeup? Proudly take my hairy legs out in public?
Am I giving enough love to my crow’s feet? My age spots? My thick thighs? My stretch marks? My cellulite?
When you get past sixty, and time and wind and sun and adventures have done what they have done to my face, and the ills I have visited on my body to try to align with societal beauty standards have left me with all manner of internal challenges that I have to juggle every day, you realize the costs, and the utter stupidity of such costs. The real cost is to our overall health as a species, but also the amount of hate, jealously, viciousness that we are manipulated into feeling because one girl is pretty and another is fat, or one man has a six-pack and another has a dad bod. You can see the judgment imbedded in the terms I used. Pretty. Fat. Dad-bod. Society has taught us how to think of such words.
We’re all just different.
While it is human to be drawn to whatever we consider beauty, how is it healthy that we willingly spend all our treasure to look a certain way, when ultimately nothing about that improves our ability to live well within the world that Nature gave us? Her message is that we are enough as we are.
But that doesn’t make money. Profit.
When the manufacturing of beauty products and bad food means wiping out Indonesian rain forests and condemning an entire species to death….well. To that, and I have both been to Borneo and seen the animals that the Pepsi-and other corporation-paid workers have relieved of their hands. I didn’t make that up. It’s unbelievable:
Finally, as I sit here in the early dawn, the overcast sky hiding the stars and the sounds of a light breeze caressing the stressed-out firs (from heat, thanks to us), here is what rang most truly for me from her article:
Do I know if the moon is waxing or waning right now? Have I gone outside to look at it recently? Am I paying enough attention to the world to notice one of my favorite scents — that indescribable scent of approaching autumn that teases my nose around this time of year?
I just stacked another cord of sweet smelling wood. Bought big used storage bins for a mass of kindling. I deserve to warm my feet by the fire. I deserve to look out on the drying and dying forests that surround my house. I have no idea if any of those trees will be there in ten years. Within a year after I moved in, one massive fir has already died. I mourn that loss. I consider these trees my community.
Moving to the forests of the Pacific Northwest, just as those forests are starting to fail because of us, was a statement of caring for me. I’ve been struggling with restarting many of my previous exercise programs, and finding a rhythm. In her way, Yael has underscored why. Part of it is that I am challenging the same things. If I do my one hundred men’s pushups, is it for me or for bragging rights? If I head out overseas, is it for me or for accolades from people who don’t know me? If I eat well is it for my body or to prove a point?
What’s happening is that scary-wonderful process of coming into my Wolf being. I am challenging my habits, taking this massive move to a new world after fifty years in Denver as the final opportunity to question my motives. If I work out, it is because I love my aging body. Not because I need a man. If I eat well, it’s because I love my aging body. I deserve to eat well. It’s not a fucking contest. Not because I want claps or eyeballs. But because it supports life.
None of this is easy. Not a single bit of it. For I bought into the domination thing, after being assaulted too goddamned many times, and after a lifetime of simply bad men. Part of me believed that if I got strong and aggressive and dominant I could feel safe. Remember the Eighties of big shoulder pads and Women Masquerading as Men? We massacred our womanhood by following men over the cliff. We denigrated kind and vulnerable men in our elevation of Rambo and Arnold. Now it’s Thor and The Rock.
Success for us needs a fundamental redefinition.
That is why our world is so out of kilter. The softer I become, the more time I spend with animals, the less time in the steel and concrete world of man, the happier I am. For no animal attacks me for the wrinkles in my face. No horse mocks my age. No dog bites me because I am not young and beautiful. No elephant spews vitriol because my hair is fuzzy while I’m scratching the inside of his ear canal. No bull eviscerates me for having dentures when I cuddle him.
Who is sick? Not Nature. But for the illnesses we have visited upon her.
“I do not see a delegation for the Four Footed. I see no seat for the Eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior. But we are after all a mere part of Creation. And we must consider to understand where we are. And we stand somewhere between the mountain and the Ant. Somewhere and only there as part and parcel of the Creation.” — Chief Oren Lyons, Oneida in an address to the Non-Governmental Organizations of the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, 1977
If I am wise, now that my house is largely finished, I will take more time to sit in the gazebo and watch the birds decimate the suet. Water the fledgling plants. Make fun of where the deer inevitably eat what I have done every possible thing to prevent them from eating. That is, when I am not out adventuring, Goddess willing.
I will exercise because it feels good, I love being strong. Not because having muscles gives me the moral superiority ticket. I fucking like being strong and healthy.
I will give myself endless orgasms, because I can, and after a lifetime of waiting and hoping for a man to care enough to do it for me (BWAHAHAHAHA, all but one), that’s my job these days. That’s self-love, self-care, and my goddamned fucking BIRTHRIGHT, since that organ has no other reason to exist but to please the owner thereof.
And I will cease buying into the Man subdues Nature lie. I’ve been there for a while, but I am further and further into the deep, dark, cool woods on this one. We have taken “dominion” to its utter, horrific extreme. Stewardship might be a more thoughtful interpretation. Working with Nature to allow Nature to flourish, which allows us to flourish.
There is a wonderful scene in Out of Africa where Karen Blixen, a woman who wanted badly to control her world, had many in the Kikuyu tribes (“MY Kikuyu, as she says in the movie) stacking sandbags to prevent the water she needed for her coffee plantation from heading downstream:
Karen Blixen : Forget it. This water lives in Mombassa anyway.
We bend with the river. We shiver with the frost. We quiver in the face of beauty. Autumn is coming in our world, north of the equator. I am in the autumn of my life, with the very first of the leaves started to drop to the ground in which I will be planted in some distant time. But I can see that shoreline in the distance. I can hear the waves far away.
At some point, the waters will carry me home.
Between now and then I plan to spend as much time in my Mother’s embrace, with my pack, with those who see what I see and love the forests and the mystery and the challenges of life as they are, and have no need to bend an unbending Force to our will. Too much of what I came to Oregon for is now burnt. Too much of what I hoped to see the world is already gone, extinct or on the way. That is our doing. I will treasure what is left. Create an oasis for the birds, the deer, and the squirrels and turkeys. Adventure as I can. Report, as is my passion, on what I see.
With any luck at all, I hope to inspire more than a few to do the same. Taste what freedom is available to us, which is our birthright. How we were designed.
But above all, I continue to decouple from the vicious standards that nearly cost me my life. Are costing millions their lives, younger and younger. I choose wild. And like Yael I don’t give a shit if society doesn’t approve of my aging face, the occasional hairy legs, the proof of life on this skin suit that has allowed me a most extraordinary life.
You can’t control Mother Nature. You can only find ways to walk with Her, appreciate her great beauty.
What there is left of it.
And yes, I got my seats. I leave for the wilds of the Maasai Mara on Tuesday. I can’t wait.