I fear that I will never overcome my pure hatred for the humans.
I wake an hour before dawn and walk ten blocks to my nature spot where Eleventh Street turns to dirt. Sage brush, cacti and spindly trees overlooking a small red rock canyon greet me along with a family of deer who just stare at me as I do a shoulder stand, a back bend and warrior poses on a large, flat rock. I sit down to try to meditate as the blues and purples turn to deep red.
But my mind cannot stop thinking about that fucking asshole who was running his pickup in his driveway when it’s not even fucking cold outside. Three more assholes were heating up their cars on my walk back home. What is wrong with people? I could hear the overwhelming whirr of the engine from the shitty old truck two blocks away and as I walked past I could smell the gas fumes. It’s not even cold outside why must you heat up your car and disturb this peace and poison the world?
Meditation tells me to be filled with love instead of hatred, hope instead of despair, light instead of darkness, with the goal of realizing that a unifying spirit courses through all beings, rocks, plants, birds, dirt and water.
But these humans don’t give a fuck about any of that. They are all fat. They don’t care for their own bodies. They are overweight and unhealthy yet when I walk through the grocery store and stand at the checkout line they purchase soda, candy, cigarettes, meat, cow’s milk and they walk out with a sugary bullshit Starbucks drink in their gross fucking paws. Then they get in their massive F-150 that costs more than their manufactured home and they don’t feel like using their turn signal today.
They act against the interests of their own bodies and don’t even think about acting in the best interest of the fucking planet they live on. They are the 42.3 percent of Americans who support Trump and live in a post-truth society. They like him because he is an asshole just like them and because a black man used to be the president. The planet is here for ours to take, they think. It’s was all made for us to harvest and benefit from and we don’t consider that maybe these are limited resources. And it’s really too bad we can’t own slaves anymore. A shame, really. Also fuck our grandchildren and the planet they will inherit.
Wow. Ok, buddy. But what about on Monday morning when there were no assholes.
There was a quiet man with a gray beard wearing a blue flannel jacket with the hood pulled over his bald head walking with loyal, aging black dog. We knows the secret of sunrise, the mysteries of time. We said good morning as we passed, walking on the street without sidewalks in a broken town, and on the way back we gave each other that nod that all men know.
Then I watched the sunrise and did my asanas and everything was fine. I felt refreshed and poetry came to me.
Why do they show me the assholes some mornings and the nice people on other days?
When there are assholes, the deer do not greet me. Maybe they could sense my emotions and decided to avoid me on this morning.
I realized something was wrong with the way I think when a woman at the Sabido vigil was nearly in tears, lamenting that she has been working too hard in her graduate school studies and has not been helping other people or spending enough time with Rosa, the Mexican national who had been living in sanctuary as an ICE fugitive at a Methodist church for 600 days.
She used to devote herself to helping others, she said, but apparently had lapsed in her ways.
I couldn’t understand why this young woman was so upset with herself. I typically don’t care about anyone but me. I don’t know if that is a side effect of being a reporter and feeling like I am not allowed to participate in the community that I am covering, or that journalism is the only form of community service I was allowed to perform. Or living alone and only thinking about making enough food for myself, providing for myself, playing video games when I want, rarely if ever thinking about calling a friend or being around other humans in my free time. I can do everything myself. Except be happy.
Eknath Easwaran says that’s the wrong way to live and I believe him. He writes:
I am told that people now want to be loners and live by themselves. If you ask why, they will say it is more convenient; they can do what they want, when they want, in the way they want. When they shuffle in the door from work, tired and edgy, they don’t need to concern themselves with squabbling children; they can kick off their shoes and drop their clothes anywhere. … All this is called freedom. I call it sterility and the surest road to making ourselves more separate and self-willed.
Ouch, man. That’s exactly how I live — in sterility — and it will take time to change that behavior and outlook on life. How can I unlearn my habit of being self-willed and understand that it is in giving that we receive, it is in loving that we are loved if I am always alone?
I’m reminded of a Desmond Tutu quote: “A person is a person through other persons; you can’t be human in isolation; you are human only in relationships.”
When I stay in my apartment with video games and marijuana and darkness and isolation, I feel less and less humanlike, more robotic as I interface with screens all day.
A toxic thought crept into my mind when I was out for a walk a few weeks ago. My brain pondered the concept of making a friend. Of meeting a like minded man or woman and spending time together, maybe invite them over to my apartment to do… what? Hang out and watch TV? Talk? What do people do?
I immediately thought that that was the stupidest idea I’ve ever had. How weird that would be, to make a friend and spend time together. Then my brain told me that it was exceedingly weird to think that making a friend is exceedingly weird.
At least I’m checking those thoughts and recognizing that I need to change. That’s the first step in this process, I think.
My byline sat atop every story I wrote for the past two-and-a-half years but with each edition I slowly lost a part of myself.
The reporter was stealing my life. There was a monster inside of me, in my mind, always lurking above, below the surface. I was afraid that if I didn’t kill it, it would kill me first. [REDACTED] stopped being a reporter so I could live. By the way, who am I?
There was a day that [REDACTED] couldn’t go to work. He couldn’t be a reporter that day. He couldn’t stop thinking about suicide. He was trapped in his bed, filled with anxiety and depression and fear and guilt and so many emotions that ended in hopelessness. He didn’t want to go back to the newsroom that another called suffocating or that courthouse where poverty, mental illness, substance addiction and overwhelming sadness are always present. I imagined what it would be like for my Mom and Dad to travel to Colorado from Virginia and walk into the duplex where their son died. I told my Editor I couldn’t go to work that day.
[REDACTED] stopped caring about covering these fucking redneck assholes who can’t seem to understand the concept of returning a damn phone call. They all love their guns and spreading fear more than they care about living. There is a victim mentality, a sense of entitlement, in rural, white America.
This is our land. We’ve been here for four generations. If you don’t like how we do things, then leave.
Excuse me, sir, but the land itself has been here for many, many more generations. What even is a generation to nature? You do not own it. You have no claim. Your rights do not exist. You follow the law of man but you seem to have forgotten the laws of nature, my friend, and what about the Natives? Or the Anasazi? The ruins are right over there, but, I am sorry, you have been grazing and homesteading this land for the past four generations. I should step out of your way. Sorry. I don’t belong in the world you stole.
Hey, [REDACTED], stop thinking that way.
I want to get back to that feeling of standing in the kitchen of my childhood home knowing I would never step foot in that house again, as my Dad kicked me out and was going to sell it, and that I might go to Australia. A beam of energy surged through me — as I thought about the possibilities of life — from my feet to the crown of my head. I want to find that feeling, harness it. Untethered freedom.
That feeling of sitting in the dirt on the side of the rough, two-lane road beneath the Southern Alps with my thumb out, heading further south further south further south more south than I have ever been. Back then, I was on the spiritual path. I was trying to figure out who I am, but I lost all sense when I became a reporter in chains.
For the first time in two-and-a-half years, I feel like I am back on track. Me. Not [REDACTED].
Page views is all that matters here. Shock and awe. Death and disaster. Chaos. Staff cuts. Newsroom consolidation. Parent company sold. Publisher fired. Editor quits. HR rep quits. Reporter quit. Everyone quits. Downsize. Misery. Two papers. Two-and-a-half years. The train never stops so you better keep up.
Car crash on the bridge, fatal, run past cars parked on the highway. Take a picture, not knowing someone died in that classic yellow pickup. Call sheriff. Call fire chief. Call state patrol, fatal, he said. House fire, fatal, interview the man who just lost his partner, burned. Take a picture. Call sheriff. Call fire chief. She died and you interviewed a man who just lost everything except his dog.
Do you hear that siren? It’s snowing. Turn on your police scanner app. Dispatch just said what mile marker the semi vs. subaru crash is at so you better get your jacket and and grab your camera and start driving. Is was fatal, later, after a coma. I didn’t follow up.
Drive to three car crashes in one day and send your photos and info to the Editor on his day off, but he never takes a day off. Chaos. Protect yourself. Don’t get sued. Don’t get in a car crash. You should just stay in your house where it’s safe and you can smoke weed and perseverate about your stories.
It’s dark in the newsroom when you come back from the last crash and the Editor is sequestered in his office. I’m on two hours of overtime now, so I shouldn’t work anymore. I gave him everything but the story isn’t up. I can tell he is sad, maybe frustrated, definitely lonely, when I leave. He is alone with his newspaper. I felt guilty, leaving him there with the car crash and Facebook.
Now I’ve completely abandoned him. [REDACTED] had to do it so I could live. I’m sorry.
My first day as a housekeeper at the Holiday Inn Express by the National Park was unusual.
Me and Patrice — who commutes one hour from the reservation in Utah for a job that pays Colorado state minimum wage for five or six hours a day — were supposed to watch Cory, the veteran, clean the fuck out of a hotel room like she has done for 20 years, but Maintenance was going to turn off the water in an hour so we had to clean all the bathrooms first. I didn’t really get the whole picture of how to clean a room. It’s not rocket appliances, though.
I quit being a reporter on a Friday, had a job interview at the hotel on Saturday and started cleaning on Monday. I have worked in hotels and resorts before, in food and beverage, but they were all in Australia so now I constantly fight the urge to call everyone mate and say, “How ya goin?”
The work isn’t bad but it gets stressful when your cart wasn’t refilled the day before and Laundry hasn’t restocked the storage room. It’s not bad if you’re assigned to the first floor, but when you’re on the far side of the third floor and have to briskly walk across the entire hotel to find a queen firm pillow case and you’re supposed to clean a room in 25 minutes, the stress can build. Breathe.
Today, the first day of week two, went swimmingly. Everything was in its right place. Rooms not too messy. Satisfaction. Clock out and there is no monster lurking because I killed it. I’m still lonely though. It’s hard to meet people out here in this isolated town — especially if you never try. Change that, please.
I have now returned to the spiritual path and I already remember what I began to learn in New Zealand. I have time now for it and space in my mind, now that I’ve killed the monster.
They, the unnamed spirits, have already reminded me that if I ask for help, they are there. If I slow down, if I listen, if I am willing to accept spiritual knowledge, they will provide it. They provide happiness, affirmation that you and now are all you need.
Go for a walk, clear your mind, they will drift in.
I started reading a book called “Meditation,” by Eknath Easwaran. He told me to wake up early and don’t be rushed. He told me working constantly, eating unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes and giving your body little to no exercise is a recipe for a heart attack, which is something I am concerned might happen to the Editor.
Easwaran told me that the first stage of meditation is to realize that you are not the body. The second step is to realize you are not the mind. So what are you then? That’s the third step. Figuring that part out. I don’t know where it leads.
I am starting down a long path that I believe will help me control my mind, control my emotions, manage my stress, manage my depression so that [REDACTED] can someday be a reporter again. Journalism needs me, at least that’s what a reader told me once.
My therapist said today that he is excited for me. I am excited too. I don’t think I’m crazy.
I jumped off the train that never stops. Journalism is grueling, toilsome work with pay that doesn’t match the emotional damage and mental stress. You finish a story that took several days, hours and then all you hear is negativity. Nothing changes. Your story doesn’t matter. And tomorrow you have to find something new to write about that won’t matter.
You never hear from the print readers who genuinely appreciate your work. Reporters only hear the anger and hatred. They are forced to live in it.
[REDACTED] had to stop being a reporter so that I could live. The spirits have told me that [REDACTED] is a powerful creator, but I need to work on myself before he can save the world, save humanity from itself.
I’ve entered the most wonderful territory, my darling Martha. They call it Colorado. The laws are quite novel and fascinating. A strange herb is sold just about everywhere and I did purchase a quantity as soon as I crossed the border. They call it cannabis. It has strange properties that can change perception and make one feel quite funny. It’s marvelous, my darling Martha.
I entered this Colorado Territory on my iron wagon when the sun was high, the air hot and the land desertous. This landscape is vast with sagebrush hills and buttes of red ochre. Brutal and violent if you lose your wits. Constant wind saps the strength from man and beast alike. I have spent some time in such a climate in my previous travels, my darling Martha, and I believe I know the basics of survival here. Do not fear for me. In my iron wagon I hold a large supply or water, beans, grain, oats, coffee and now this cannabis, which they also call marijuana. For it is legal here. The people of Colorado are lucky now to have this cannabis
There is one thing, however, about this Colorado. The air turns to grey in the not-so-far distance in all directions. Before coming here I heard reports of wildfires to the south of Colorado, which certainly motivated me take the northern route, which is more remote and less populated. Smoke is also floating in from the burgeoning California Republic on with west coast, the people here say. It is possible that new wildfires could form here as it is like a tinder box, my darling. I can only hope these wildfires stay far from me.
Yet this Colorado is wonderful. As I crossed the border, I entered what they call a Welcome Center. A fine gentleman greets you at this Welcome Center and simply exists there in this small building to inform you of your whereabouts and the surrounding area as well as advice on where to pitch your tent for the evening. Why, my darling Martha, you’ll never believe what he told me.
This here is state land in the yellow, he said pointing to a map that he gave me free of charge, and that means it’s public land. Nearly all of the surrounding areas around these parts are state lands, the kind man said. I inquired about a suitable spot to lay my head and he recommended that I use one of two dirt tracks that branch from the main road in the public land, where camping is and all sorts of activity are permitted. I asked if I could venture there with my small iron wagon down these dirt tracks, for I do not have one of these larger wagons that can traverse nearly any terrain. He said he recommended this one here as he pointed so that is here I went.
I first drove to the lookout point with a public restroom, in which I did urinate, my darling Martha, and I saw from there the most spectacular views of vast crimson cliffs and sheets of rock down in the valley that seemed to have been formed by lava flows, for the texture was rippled. There were far off ranges yet, as I mentioned, the air is quite thick with this smoke from far off wildfires.
It was time then to set up camp. I used my hatchet to drive my tent stakes deep into the hard-caked red dirt. Yes indeed, my darling Martha, it is a strong shelter. Do not fear for me.
Upon erection, I rolled some of this marijuana of the sativa variety in a cigarette paper, for they smoke this herb similar to the manner in which a cigarette is smoked, and upon smoking this marijuana cigarette, I began feeling quite different, as if my mind were programmed differently, my darling Martha. For I began to hear the silence of this Colorado desert, for there is not much wildlife here or loud insects or any noises at all. As I began smoking that marijuana cigarette, I became aware of the overwhelming silence of the desert. I listened to the silence and took another drag of that marijuana cigarette, for it is legal here, and listened to the sizzle and burn of the cannabis. And then, again, silence. It makes one lethargic and content, I have found. Hungry as well.
I have purchased cannabis of the indica variety which they say acts as a relaxant and a sleep aide. I will try that one before I turn in this evening, and I hope to sleep much sounder than I had been in recent days in being in my apartment in the city.
It is good, my darling Martha, to be away from the city. The life of a newspaper reporter in that pioneer town takes its toll. The land is wild there and the people are still learning to govern themselves as society grows. It is much different from the established cities dotting the eastern coast, my darling, where you reside and where I am headed. There is much talk back there of personal freedom, yet here in Colorado there is cannabis in every town and vast tracks of public land and a Welcome Center open on this day, a Sunday, and there is a kind man there.
Now I will need to get some rest, for I plan on heading deeper into this land on the morrow and I wish to rise early to travel ahead of the heat. For it is hot and dry, my darling Martha, in this Colorado Territory.
When I was learning to drive, my Dad would tell me that people are stupid. People are stupid, he would say, they might pull out or slow down or turn off. People are stupid and you shouldn’t trust them.
He was talking to me, a teenager, about how to drive, but I knew that he meant it about people in general. I thought people are stupid for a while and then I lived and traveled and met people from from the World and I thought maybe people aren’t stupid. I thought my Dad was wrong. He felt superior, maybe. And then I came back to my own country and I’m not so sure anymore.
I went shopping in a Walmart in Utah this morning and just looking at people I wondered about their lives, about what goes on in their heads. What do they think about when they pick out the milk and the meat and the sodas and the processed foods. What do they think about when they put on those clothes or put their hair up in that way or put that makeup on their eyes. I wondered why they would have so many children and why they all just stand in front of my cart until I say excuse me after 30 seconds, just waiting. I wonder if they know what it’s like to just be alone and think. Do they just live?
I wonder about people when I write stories for the newspaper and I read the comments from people in this isolated valley and I wonder why people think these things. I wonder how people can be so stupid. Why do they hate people who are different when their God tells them to love. They water their lawns in the desert and they drink sodas and eat meat and they farm dairy and they drive big, loud trucks and they have a boat, a trailer, a camper, a four-wheeler. They fly Confederate flags and pray.
All these things I am morally opposed to. The Hydrologist told me there isn’t going to be snow in Utah by 2080 if humans continue emitting carbon. That’s where the water comes from out west, from the snow up in the mountains. Like a bank. They won’t be able to keep their lawns green and they won’t have water to grow crops to feed their dairy cows. Why don’t they think about this. It will be 2080 in a few days. Why doesn’t anyone care?
They have lived here for generations, in this isolated valley, like their grandparents and parents and they always hear the same thing. Life here is one big tradition. But I am an outsider and I have been to the upside down. I have seen the Truth and I have seen what we are. We are wrong and we are killing ourselves and we consume consume consume without thinking. I don’t think they have seen that. They think their god tells them that everything is for them and they are the Israelites. Everybody thinks they are the Israelites. But there are no Israelites. Somebody just made it up to make you feel special.
I dropped acid with my sister at our cousin’s wedding with our whole family in the hotel, below, and I was compelled by the forces there to do yoga in the hotel room. I saw it. When I did yoga I was able to see it. Everything. I saw us. We are all in the twisting, shifting, malleable nether and we are all floating through, in, out, up, down, around. Across. We are moving in it. I saw everyone. I saw my Mom. She had so many dark hands and arms pulling her down. My brother was holding hands with his wife and they were floating on, in peace. That’s how I saw them. But my Mom, she had so many dark pulses around her. It was her Mother, her Sisters, telling her she is a coon ass. Her husband telling her who to be. Her children sucking the life out of her. They made her. We all made her. I understood, just then, that you can’t judge anyone for anything. We are all a product of moments, relationships, struggle. We didn’t live the life they lived. How would they know any better.
None of us are ourselves. We are a reflection, a mirror. I have lived for 27 years and six months and I am here, now, thinking these thoughts because of every insignificant decision and random event. I went to a therapist in Virginia when I returned from it all and she told me I should do what I want to do. Dance in the rain, she told me. Dance in the rain. If she didn’t tell me to dance I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t write for the newspaper and see the stupid comments or go to the Walmart in Utah and see the people. I don’t know why they wear those clothes or why they put that makeup on their eyes because I am not them. I wasn’t born where they were born. I didn’t grow up with parents and grandparents telling me to move the cattle, to get up early and milk the cows. I grew up with sidewalks and property taxes and well-funded schools. I grew up with a Dad who told me people are stupid.
But we change. We see things, experience things that change us. If I didn’t work on that dairy farm in New Zealand with Digger and steal the baby cows I wouldn’t be vegan. I would still be lost and ignorant. Before the farm, before I was me, I slammed the cabinets in the home where I grew up and my Stepmother kicked me out. So I went to the other side and saw everything and I would never have gone there or be here if I didn’t slam the cabinets. Maybe people aren’t stupid. Maybe they just never slammed the cabinets.