I am not hiding


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A six year-old named Grace asked to meet my cat. The cat was sleeping on the camper bunk, buried deep in the blankets on a cold winter day. He would not be coaxed out to meet a child he did not already know and trust.

We retreated. Grace was good-natured about the whole scene, though she didn’t understand why the cat would not greet her.

“Kitties are like people.” I say, “They all have different personalities. Some are shy and like to hide.”

“Like you?” she said, “I’ve never seen you before. Have you been hiding?”

A very astute comment from a six year-old, I tell her. We leave it there.

BC camper

Yes. I have been hiding for a long time.

For a long time being seen came with too many issues.


I want to see the world. I want to be a part of it.

Yet, often, I try to slide in through the side door and hope that no one will notice.

Of course I want to be seen. No, wait. That’s not what I want.


First, being seen came with consequences. Attracting attention also meant attracting criticism. Being heard attracted dismissal, condemnation. Being invisible was safer.


Then, being seen meant attraction of a different sort. A physical presence that was not understood drew attention. Being seen was flattering and dangerous in a different way.


Later, being seen meant jealousy, distrust, anger, withdrawal. Better to be invisible again.


I choose not to be invisible. I am not afraid of other people and their realities. I no longer make apologies.


I am not hiding.


Disassembly required


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The couch left first, about a month ago. My bed went next. A week after that, the kitchen table and chairs walked away. Unworn clothes, unwanted gifts, and unused kitchenware, old books, plants, and appliances have all gone. Things I have dragged around for thirty years; same box, new place. Things that I never liked, things I felt obligated to hold onto. No more. They are all gone.

Assembling a life is often an unconscious thing. Pieces come together a little at a time, each with some emotional tie. The slow accumulation is almost unnoticed, a new job here, a new chair there, a blender, an end table, a relationship, occasionally mixed with a toy, say a bike or skis, a bigger house, more rooms to hold more stuff.

So often we come into our adult self in the form of an unconscious, slowly accumulated, life. We are pieces of our childhood and our schooling, our learned behaviors and inherited objects glued together with time, maybe with love. We do not always see that these things formed us but we do not have to be them alone. We can choose what to keep, what to give away, and what to change. This requires first taking apart the pieces.

Disassembling the life I have accumulated has been almost an act of joy. Removing the physical objects has been emotionally cathartic. Yes, it has been difficult to choose what stays and what goes. Yes, I have mixed feelings about many things I have given away. Yes, there may be some regret down the road. Regardless, I feel like a house that has been gutted in preparation for a complete remodel. The 1950s asbestos tile? Gone. The 70s shag rug? Oh, so gone. The 80s avocado-colored refrigerator? Yup, junked. The bad 90s couch? Toast.

It is my turn to be refurbished, to build an all-new interior. I will start with an open floor plan so there are no walls, new windows for lots of light and beautiful views, and new floors for a solid grounding. Nothing that is not beautiful, functional, and joyful can enter this new space. The exterior may look a little worn but there is a new life being assembled inside, this time with careful thought.

Societal Insanity v. A Safer World


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In 1997 I moved from western Massachusetts to Maine. Several people asked me, “Are you going to get a gun?” I laughed. I thought this was an odd question.

When I left Maine to work in Alaska, many people told me, “You better get a gun.” I guess Alaska is a scary place relative to Maine.

After that summer in Alaska, I spent the winter in Utah. I went back to Alaska the next summer and then worked in Wyoming the following winter. I moved to Montana. Each step along the way, people said the same thing, “ You better start packin’.”

I left Montana and moved to eastern Washington State. My boyfriend at the time gave me his shotgun. It remained in the back corner of a closet until we broke up and he asked me to return it.

Now, I am leaving Washington. I have bought a camper for the bed of my pick-up and plan to spend a few months, maybe years, cruising around to the many places I haven’t had time to visit during other busy travels. And, once again, people have begun asking me if I have a gun or if I am going to get one.

I have never owned a gun. I have used them for clay pigeon shooting on occasion, I have carried one as a mandatory safety precaution in polar bear country, I shot at woodchucks when I was a teenager.

How many school shootings, mass shootings, random shootings have there been this year? How many people have been killed in the U.S. this year by a gun, self-inflicted, accidental, or intended?

I’m not anti-gun. I don’t think gun control will resolve all of the insanity of our society.

I may lead a charmed life.

I choose to step into the world unarmed. I believe that adding a gun to my travel gear will not make me safer.

Rather, I believe that choosing not to carry a gun will make the world safer.




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In 1974 when I was in third grade, the elementary school principal came into our class to speak with the students. I don’t now remember what the primary reason was for his visit; what I remember is only a fragment of his lecture.

He stood at the chalkboard and wrote in large letters:


Stepping to the side so everyone in the class could see what he wrote, he said, “Without man,” he stepped back to the board and wrote “wo” before completing his sentence, “you cannot have woman.”

On the board was the word:


I recently turned 50 but I can still see this man saying these words, spewing ignorance and sexism across a new generation of children.

I think about this more often than I would like to admit; it still irks me beyond reason. I have been told more times than I can count that I am too independent – what is too independent? And has anyone, anywhere, ever told a man he was too independent?

Innovators, explorers, scientists the world around and for generations back have been told they can’t do whatever it is they are pursuing. And, yes, many have failed at achieving their goals but many more have succeeded and some have succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.

To be told that your very existence is entirely dependent upon men fundamentally undermines all that we intuitively know to be true about ourselves, our place in the world, and all that we think ourselves capable of doing.

For many years everything I did was an act of defiance. I was told girls don’t do these things; I was told I couldn’t; I was told I shouldn’t.

Imagine a world where all genders, orientations, colors, and religions are celebrated and every one of us is told, “You can.” What an amazing world we could create.


Photo: me in crow pose; credit: photographer unknown

Home is a fluid thing




I’ve been talking about leaving since I arrived.

I’ve said this town has grown on me, sort of like a fungus. The slow, steady extension of hyphae into my body has become systemic.

I bought the house as an investment; the market crashed.

I made the house mine, tearing out walls, cabinets, and floors, replacing windows.

I recreated the space to my own ideal of efficiency and calm.

I can do this again in another place.

Home is a fluid thing.

I flow on.

A Conversation


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frosty morning

Working on the Colorado-Wyoming border a few years ago I was approached by a local guy. The following is our conversation. He opens the dialogue.

Do you own this property?


What are you doing here?

Watching eagles; seeing if the construction bothers them.

They don’t give a goddamn about the construction. There are dope-smoking hippies down by the river all the time. The eagles don’t give a goddamn about them.

Well, pipeline construction is a little different than dope-smoking hippies, you have to admit.

Ah, they don’t give a goddamn about the construction. Where are you from?


What the hell are you doing here?

Watching eagles.

Too many people, that’s what bothers the eagles. You got any kids?

No. How many do you have?


So, you’re pissing off the eagles. All those goddamn kids.

No, I don’t have any kids. How old are you?


And no kids, what are you waiting for?

You said it, too many people already.

What do you think about the prairie dogs?

I think they’re kind of fun.

They’re not goddamn fun. I poison and shoot the goddamn things all the time.

Yup, well, the beauty of prairie dogs is, just like coyotes, the more you shoot them, the more they reproduce. (I didn’t know if this was true or not, but seeing he was working so hard to get my goat, I thought it seemed only fair to throw something back at him.)

I know it, goddamn it.

Then why bother to kill them?

What do you eat?

Elk. Bison. (He seemed deflated; he couldn’t defend killing prairie dogs to someone who didn’t eat beef.)

You been to Baggs.

Yup. Stopped there to use the bathroom.


At the Drifter’s Inn.

That goddamn place, they don’t know how to run that place. How was the bathroom?

Better than some.

It was not, that place is a dump. They don’t know how to run that goddamn place. You never been married?

I said I have no kids.

Well, what the hell are you waiting for?

The eagles.

Goddamn eagles, they don’t care about the construction. They care when the land gets all cut up into goddamn sub-developments. The goddamn hippies, they’re doing that, moving in from all over the place.

Guess I would rather have a pipeline than a sub-development.

Or the goddamn hippies.

No, I would take the goddamn dope-smoking hippies over a sub-development or a pipeline.

It’s the goddamn hippies building the sub-development.

They can’t afford to live there.

I know it, goddamn it.

So, I would still rather a few dope-smoking hippies down by the river than a sub-development.

You should come dancing with me in Baggs sometime.

Where do you go dancing in Baggs?

The Drifter’s Inn.

Why would you want to go there? They don’t know how to run that goddamn place.


You keep trying to get me flustered and to get my goat but it’s not working, is it?

No, goddamn it.

Found in Lostine


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Yesterday morning I took the road to Lostine, Oregon; I drove to the end, the Two Pan trailhead at the edge of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. It was 38º in the shadow, but, above the trees and the ridge to the west, the sky was blue and the fall sun strong.

The trail was flecked with slivers of gold, tamarack needles in spirals and geometric patterns. I passed through a troop of kinglets squeaking in the treetops, then across the single-log bridge over the East Lostine River and up through the switchbacks.

I came out into the meadow at the base of Eagle Cap; ponds, the river, and sun-dried grasses stretched a couple miles south before dissolving into the dark trees at the foot of the mountain. The air was absolutely still and the entire meadow was silent.

Days like this always draw me away from whatever else life insists I do. They are the perfect days to play hooky from work and from memories and old thoughts that linger in my head. To me, the last days of autumn are a reminder that life is short and I need to soak in every drop of sun and life and possibility.

I hiked to the river crossing, sat on the footbridge, ate lunch. Then, with a wild chipmunk circling the perimeter of my lunch space, I leaned back and closed my eyes. The water sang under the bridge. Two ravens had a discussion far up the eastern ridge. The chipmunk scolded me for leaving no trace. I absorbed all that I could.

The sun leaves early this time of year. Rather than continue up, I turned back.

The pikas, silent on my way in, now chattered and scorned me for giving up so easily. Alas, I don’t have a fur coat and haven’t collected grass through the long summer days.

Although the trail back is mostly downhill, I moved more slowly. Yes, I’m getting older, but more than that, I am less willing to leave this place.

Everything is changing so rapidly. How much longer will the pikas survive here? They can only move up the mountain as the lower elevations warm. Late-October and there is only a dusting of snow on Eagle Cap. Maybe I can squeeze in one more trip before winter arrives.