So How About These Screens, eh?

You are reading this through a screen. Think about how strange that is. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t tell you what to do. But then again if you’re here reading then you don’t have too much resistance to my directing your thoughts for the duration of this written elegy. I’m not sure why I used that word. But seriously, think about how strange this is. How long have human beings been able to read? A long ass time. Like, thousands of years. Actually people a lot smarter than me said we started reading and writing in 3200BCE, so we’re talking over 5,000 years. You can’t even comprehend that much time. Now think about how long human beings have written and read on screens. Like ten years. Maybe twenty. But to the extent that they do now—iPhones with newspapers, Kindles and Nooks and shit—I mean it’s been like five years since it’s really taken hold. That’s nothing. If humans have read for 5,000 years, and if we take 5 years as the time that they have read on screens, that comes to 0.1% of the amount of time that we have read that that reading has been done on screens. Sorry for that clunky sentence that I’m not going to revise. But that’s really goddamn crazy. One one thousandth of the total time. And we don’t even talk about it. We just accept it. And we say that books are outdated, that it’s time to move on. I mean that’s a big ass tradition to let go of. What does it really mean that we’re reading on screens now? It’s a fundamentally different experience of the same words. I sometimes read short stories on the page and on the iPad and I often feel like I’m reading two entirely different stories. One involves looking at a piece of paper. The other involves looking at a huge amount of light shining directly into my eyes. One is a singular, enclosed item. The other typically contains multitudes of possibilities, endless roads of potential directions and distractions. I won’t lie, it scares me. There’s something disturbing about our willingness to so quickly pass off the tradition of the physically written word without acknowledging how long it has played a fundamental role in our species. Even now I am not writing these words by hand, but creating them by punching my fingers in patterns that I learned in elementary school. The words don’t feel like they exist physically, but rather within some hardware that I have little knowledge of and that could fail or malfunction at any given second. Maybe I’m being pessimistic and overly conservative. I understand that the universe is in motion and the eternal reality is change and impermanence (except for that law itself, of course, which proclaims to be fixed and unchanging and thus an ironic refutation of its own decree, but who really cares?). Like everyone else, I read stuff on my iPhone while sitting on the toilet, and if I find myself sitting on the toilet and iPhoneless, I typically feel a sense of dread and panic. But I also have three bookshelves in my apartment stuffed full with more knowledge than I can ever hope to take in, and it’s there, physically, able to be touched and smelled and, if I so desired, tasted. And I don’t feel overwhelmed in a Kindle or Nook app at some infinity of possibilities. It’s just all so strange and so new. And the strangest part about it all is how little people acknowledge its strangeness. I want to acknowledge its strangeness. Because it’s all become familiar far too quickly.

Let’s Think Happy Thoughts

For the last three months I have been seeing a therapist every week or two. We had our final session yesterday and I feel like an entirely different person than I did when I first met him. I wish to share an umbrella insight that arose in his calm and comfortable office.

The insight is that we create our realities. Nothing too revolutionary, right? Philosophers and mystics have been saying it for millennia. But what does this phrase mean? How does it apply to the modern world?

First of all, I feel it is clear this statement is not absolute or all-inclusive. I am currently sitting in a library surrounded by dozens of students. I, Sean, am not creating these students. They’re people, and they’re just there, along with the tables, chairs, carpet etc.

So what, then, do I create? Good question. I would say I create my perception of that reality and my response to that reality.

I used to believe that we can control very little, if anything at all. I now see that we control much. While I cannot control the movement of the sun, I can decide whether to sit amidst its rays or to find shade. At the grocery store, I can choose which foods to purchase, even if I cannot control where those foods come from. Saying we have no control is equivalent to submitting to apathy. Instead, let us humbly recognize that in the face of a massive universe comprised of many forces beyond our control, we possess the power to navigate and choose at the whim of our own wills.

So in this library, I might look around and feel depressed about the fact that 90+% of of these students are on their iPads. I may allow that feeling to deepen my prior conviction that the new generation has gone awry in the realms of interpersonal communication and satisfaction. But instead, I choose to see that these students are gazing into a tool of endless resources, and it is my job as an educator to help them learn as best as possible how to use them. And I choose also to recognize that this is the first moment in universal history that these tools are available, and we are all learning how best to relate to them. What an amazing moment to be alive!

My conversations with the therapist, who is an extraordinarily patient and kind man, helped me recognize how many “realities” I’ve convinced myself are absolutely true are in fact groundless products of my own creation. My “default” mind often veers toward the negative, spouting thoughts like I’m not good enough, or no one enjoys being around me, or I’ll never write anything of value, or I’m selfish and a terrible friend. I initially saw this therapist because these thoughts had become so stifling that I felt I could not properly function.

But that was then. 2014. This is 2015. A new year of existence. And January 27th is my 27th birthday, my Golden birthday, the birthday that some believe yields a drastic change in energy (these believers may purport that it is no coincidence so many die at this age). And in 2015, in Now, I, with the help of my therapist, have chosen to see myself in a positive light, and thus my negative looping self-created records no longer distance me from the world I encounter. Now, I recognize that I am a healthy, intelligent, compassionate person who always seeks new directions and expansions of knowledge of world and self. And I admit that aloud without succumbing to the 2014-Sean fear that I will come across as a selfish, conceded asshole. No. I am a confident, compassionate person who loves humanity. And in choosing to create this positive perception, which I much prefer to the negative perceptions I have created for too long, each day, I feel that love expand in its breadth, communicability, and power.

Life is good, my friends.

The (Un)Reality of False Realities

So much of what we convince ourselves of as reality turns out to be our own creations. Some might call these convictions the “false constructions of the ego,” or perhaps the “wall of self.” Whatever words one uses to describe the phenomenon, we cannot doubt the mind’s tendency toward creating realities and then becoming entirely convinced of those created realities’ Reality.

Much of this tendency connects to our purported projections of how we are viewed in the eyes of the other, manifesting as concerns regarding our appearance, our status, and our ability to “measure up” to some elusive standard that seems always just beyond what we have attained. Can we help ourselves? Should we help ourselves? Probably in some way.

Folks often say that meditation–as a path and practice, not simply as the occasional ten-minute endeavor–will lead to awareness of the false ego construct. However, I am not certain this “false ego construct” is so quantifiable a “thing” that can be boxed up and wrapped under a glittering tree of such concrete terminology. Rather, this “construct” strikes me as a tendency of the mind, an habitual behavior, an ever-elusive something (or perhaps nothing) that cannot and will not ever be “grasped.” Rather, it can be observed as the physicist observes quantum particles: as an unpredictable field of energy outside the realm of logic, forcing the observing mind into a certain unlogic, or on-the-threshold-of-logic, in order to be understood (or, at least, understood as much as possible, which may be equivalent to as little as possible).

Can we control these illusory thoughts, thoughts that can be so unforgiving in their self-loathing? I do not know. I doubt it. But I do believe we can train them, in a sense. Or perhaps we can train ourselves to choose whether to not to listen to them at all.

Charles Baxter Interview

Back in September, I had the pleasure of interviewing Fiction Writer Charles Baxter for the innovative online journal Wag’s Revue. Huge thanks to Mr. Baxter and all the Editors as Wag’s for dealing with my relative ineptitude and helping the interview come to fruition. 

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Mr. Charles Baxter

Mr. Baxter and I discussed elements of craft, writerly intentionality, and maintaining an unceasing “fuck you” attitude as you struggle to get published and make it as a writer. 

The interview can be read here

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Thanks for reading. And, if you have the time, check out a book by Mr. Baxter. His enchanting writing transports you to a magical place, an “ineffable” place, as he may phrase it, which, as magical as it may be, is always and forever here and now. I strongly recommend starting with The Feast of Love. 

Have a fantastic day. 

 

Just Go

Just Go

                The simplest word in the English language is “Just.” When Zen Buddhists explain what meditation is, they do not say “sitting”—they say “just sitting.” This distinction is important. Just, in this adverbial/adjectival form, really cuts down to the basic core of action.

With that said, there is no better travel advice I can offer than the following two words: just go. We live in an age of planning—we, as individuals, tend to be very ahead of ourselves, preferring to talk about a “5-year plan” instead of what greets our senses in this moment, even preferring to believe that the former is more practical (and practicality, by modern standards, is understood by looking at the long term). Beyond the individual mentality, our entire societal system is based upon what should be, how we want the future to be. In our modern world, you are about as likely to see a Cubs World Series victory (yes, I know it’s a cliché analogy, but it’s so true) as you are to hear a top American political figure talk about embracing the present.

When ideas of travel are filtered by these implanted futuristic standards, those ideas immediately become fragmented by a belief that we are too busy to travel now, that we don’t have what we need to travel, and that maybe we’ll travel a few years down the road, when we find the time. I think we’re all still rational enough to admit that when we speak of something as abstract and elusive as “time” as something to be found, something that is not already here at our disposal, we have gone a bit off course in our conceptual understanding of the world in which we live. Does it make any sense to think that five years from now Time will have increased in Quantity? I’m no physicist, but I presume Einstein would not be too keen on the notion of Time as a finitely quantitative entity. Time is not something to be accumulated (I mean doesn’t this just sound funny: that over time, I will accumulate more time, and then I will have enough time to do what I’ve always wanted to do); time is always at your disposal.

So, recognizing this strain of excuses as just plain silly, the two words come back to teach us: just go. In my experience, the more something becomes planned, the more potential it has for self-destruction. This is because planning is nothing more than the attempted control of often uncontrollable variables (and I hesitate to include “often” in this sentence). When one endeavors to set such controls, one begins to limit possibilities—one tires to package future moments into a visualizable entity. Not only is this method another instance of our preference to live in the future, but more importantly, it is really lame. Where’s the fun I knowing exactly what is going to come?

Think about what you consider the best moments in your life. It could be meeting your significant other, cruising wildly with good friends, eating an entire White Castle crave case on your own… whatever. Now ask yourself: were these moments planned? Or did they just happen? For me, every single memory I regard in high esteem refers to a moment that just happened. Do you want your travels to be filled with planned occurrences, or do you want them to be filled with unanticipable and unexplainable adventures? I opt for the latter, and I have found that it is so easy to let those adventures happen. In fact, it’s the easiest thing in the world: just go.

I’m not here to judge you or tell you what to do; I’m here to share my perspective. And my perspective believes that the only thing keeping you from just going is excuses. These excuses may be disguised fears, insecurities, or legitimate concerns (excuses are not necessarily invalid)—only you can answer what they are. I just ask you to take some moments of quiet reflection and evaluate yourself, honestly answering the question: what is really stopping me from going? If it is something as simple and overcomeable as a fear or insecurity, then you might want to push this self-evaluation a little further.

My parents instilled good values of saving in me when I was younger, and after saving almost all I earned for many years, I found I had no excuse not to just go. And after just going, I found that it can be so much cheaper than you ever thought possible—while traveling, I spent way less than I do on a day to day basis at home. Please, for your own sake, be real with yourself, and realize what, if anything, prevents you from going.

When you treat every day as a just go enterprise, impossibly amazing things transpire. Some of my personal favorites have been busking with San Fran street musicians til 2AM, hitchhiking 900 miles, clubbing with Australians in London, every moment of every relationship I have ever been in, skinny dipping with beautiful people in a river at 7AM, sleeping on top of a Mayan Temple, and ending up in a profoundly life changing one-month spirituality course in Guatemala. And that, to use another cliché, doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Mayan Temples are Sweet

Really, just going comes down to a few simple things: 1) trusting in what comes (and believing that “what comes is better than what came before”), 2) knowing yourself (and therefore your ever-changing limitations), and 3) saying yes, I will. It’s as easy as just getting out of the way and allowing the Universe, the moment, to act through you. It is allowing the Moment to manifest, to bring what it brings, and not feeling like you always must be in control of the future. I assure you, the future is so much more incredible when it remains shrouded in the Unknown (which, no matter how much planning you do, it always remains shrouded within). Maybe the girl of your dreams will be standing around that corner that your gut begs you to walk towards. You never know what waits around the bend, and that is not a bad thing—it is what makes life so magnificent.

Trust yourself. Know you have what it takes. It is your nature to adapt to circumstances; don’t let your fears convince you otherwise. Let the Universe flow through you at ever moment, and your life will become defined as a radical embracing—you will flourish, and your Light’s Love will never cease expanding.

 

Awakening Anew

Here is the chronological continuation of the journey… the day I made it to Spokane to rejoin my great friends, Peter Nixon, Alan Densmore, and the Jace-man. I wrote this in my journal in scattered short-story-like format. Hope you enjoy!


Awakening Anew

When I awoke to the sun shining through my tent after five hours of sleeping fifty feet off the side of the US-20 in Western Washington after the coldest recorded historical temperature on this particular night, I felt like I was being born again. And thus I shivered in the cold.

5 A.M. Standing on the side of the road, thumb out, desperation in my eyes – please just let me enter your warm car and take me to a place where buildings exist. Long time standing, hands crossed, pleading. Then, a car.

“Thank you, O God!”

Run over to car with gear, toss in back, hop in, close door. Shake hand of and thank Barry, balding Kyle Gass look-alike, the driver. Says he can take me to Mt. Vernon – off the intended course, but must stay true to claim that I will take the first ride that comes. He acquaints me to this new location and warns me about going E on the 20 – says I might get stuck by Cascades in snow and sleet in negative temps with no one passing and nowhere to go. I take his advice as that of a local and thus wiser than my ‘just-passing-through’ consciousness. He calls it that I’m “Kerouacing it” before I tell him that Kerouac has always been the initial seed for this trip. Drops me off at 5-S on an onramp, recommends I go to Seattle than 90-W – still not sold on Seattle – drops me off and says:

“God loves you. Very much.”

“Thank you, Barry, that truly means a lot.”

Downtown Mount Vernon, WA

Stand on 5 onramp for a good forty-five minutes, more comfortable than first position – warmer, more cars passing, better pull-off spot. Morale still low. Eat a great banana, have a good pee, know that there’s a grocery store and coffee shop within a short walk, if need be. Pick-up truck pulls over.

Run ahead. Toss stuff in rainy back. Hop in front. Shake hands with James, forty-something, earring in his right ear.

“Where ya headed?” he asks.

“Everett” (town before Seattle, connects to 2-E, an apparently beautiful stretch according to the great Ryan Campbell and Natalie… the road avoids Seattle, so is thus ideal).

“Good, me too!” he tells me. Much warmth in his seat. “Stuff good back there?”

“Yessir.”

“Cool.”

We drive on for about forty five minutes – his daily commute to support his family of seven – wife and five kids (and him). Says he took an RV trip around with the fam for fifty-eight days back two years ago. Both he and his wife finagled the time off from work. Says Amelia Island off the coast of Georgia is his favorite spot in the country. He’s from St. Augustine, FL – oldest town in U.S.

“But no one ever talks about that and how the Spanish colonized it!” he tells me. He takes genuine interest in my Grad School, especially when I tell him about the teaching-at-a-prison program developed by Chatham, as he is involved in the probation-rehabilitation system, just got a Master’s in Public Administration, and intends to help fix the fragmented system. He warns about the 2-E – says I could easily get caught in the desert, with the rattlesnakes. Drops me at the bus station in Everett at 6:45 AM.

“Maybe they have buses to Spokane…” I realize.

“Yes. They do.”

“Maybe I’ll take one.”

“Yes. I think that’s a very good idea.”

With a handshake, he wishes me good luck in Grad School and drives off to work, having gone at least ten minutes out of his way, making himself late, never complaining. I enter the warmth of the station, get a coffee and breakfast burrito, and write, contemplating my next move, reflecting on the situation.

Signs from within told me to take a break, informed me that I am really pushing my limitations, and reminded me of past times when I pushed too hard and ended up with a broken knee and three cracked front teeth (two separate occasions, mind you). Decided to get the bus ticket -the decision the new world I entered this day told me to make.

I smile, looked down, and finished the most stylistically influential book I have ever read, Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace. Wrote about the new developing style. I rode the six hour bus to Spokane, got off the bus, and my friends were waiting for me with smiles on their faces.

Hitching through Washington

We are headin’ North.

Ah yes, the blog, much to be said, much to be said.

A little update on where I am: Home. Yes, I have found my way back to St. Louis. I got in two nights ago at about 12:30 and surprised my family. I caught a ride with an awesome young Vietnamese girl named Shorty – we got in contact through Craig’sList RideShare… so it was kind of like online hitchhiking. As this trip developed from a single-minded “I will hitchhike everywhere” view to an inclusive “I want to travel in as many different ways as possible” view, I decided I must try RideShare… and I really didn’t want to get stuck in Rural Kansas. That would have been really lame.

So in Christopher Nolan style, you are getting these stories very unchronologically. If you read my last post on hitching through WA, you saw that I left it as a “To Be Continued.” I will now continue that story.

A little recap: I was following the route Maybo left for me: Ferry over to Whidbey Island, head north, then start heading East along the 20 toward Spokane.

I hopped onto the Ferry to Whidbey Island at 6:45 PM after cruising through Olympic National Park all day with Brett (aka The Man… the best “adventure ride” of the trip, without a doubt). I looked forward to a calming 45 minute ride where I could write and collect my thoughts. Instead, a school bus full of kids came on board and ran around yelling, and their 4-toothed bus driver named Hank sat next to me and told me his life story involving studying English and teaching people how to ride motorcycles.

Got off the Ferry, and walked out onto the island. Was prepared to camp here if it came down to it. Hank told me which direction to go, so I stood by the Ferry dropoff with my thumb out. An intense looking guy who I had seen on the Ferry rolled down his truck window and said “I can take you up around Coupeville, but that’s just a few miles up the road.” “That’s fine,” I said. Tossed my stuff in his truck bed, hopped in, and started driving up the island with him. His name is Olie, and he is a retired Air Force pilot. He told me a brief history of the island and how it was a naval base and the home of many officers. The island was tremendously beautiful and tranquil, an ideal vacation getaway. Olie dropped me on the side of the 101 near his place, 16 miles from the northernmost point of the Island, and he drove away, his final words being, “Good luck, kid.”

Goog-image photo of Historic House on Whidbey Island

My journal entry for the spot at which I stood began: “So remarkably peaceful here – Sun is out, blue skies, thin grey clouds in distance – quiet calm, birds chirping.” Yes, this place was fantastic. I stood in this spot for thirty or so minutes, said no to a ride from a guy heading just a few miles up the road, and decided that was a mistake – I should take all the rides I can get here. Then a small car stopped. The window came down, and I saw a young kid blaring rap or dub step or techno or something in that mix. “Hop on in, man!” he yelled. Hopped in, and the 22 year old kid introduced himself to me as Derek. We were laughing and grooving and he said he could take me to Oak Harbor, where he currently lives. Derek told me stories of his life, and I sat enthralled at the level of experience he had attained. Entirely open about his history, he told me about he youthful rebellious days, and I mean rebellious days. He told me about how he used to be addicted to heroin, how he used to steal from random folks on the island, how he had been kicked out of his house, how he dropped out of high school, how he cruised the country getting messed up and getting hookers. I was not uncomfortable, for I could tell I was talking to a young man reflecting on his past through transparent vision. He said he went over to California a few years back and stood on the side of the road with a sign that said “Cheap Labor” and had a picture of scissors under it. In no time, someone stopped and gave him a job picking marijuana, and soon he was making a few thousand dollars a month. Now, he is finishing his work at a restaurant and just got a job that he plans to do for the rest of his life, a corporate job with much stability.

We stopped at a WalMart and Derek told me about a small shed that I could crash in, a shed he lived in for a few months when he had no home. I told him I’d try to continue as I still felt much energy. I asked him if he could take me a little further up the road, to the outskirts of town, and he agreed. As he drove me further, he told me about how when he was younger he got hit by a semi-truck and broke his back and neck. “How are you alive?” I asked him. “Because I can’t die,” he told me, continuing to tell me stories of separate instances in which he was shot, stabbed, and beaten to a pulp. “But you know, man,” Derek continued, “the way I see it now, I had it all coming. I was a little piece of shit for a while, and I worked up some bad Karma – I’m big into Karma, man. So I had to have that happen to me to even the score. And now, I regret that stuff a little, but I’m just so happy to be alive, and I just want to help people, you know? That’s why I’m taking you further up the road, to help you.” I was inspired as his transformation, and he was not lying – he took me miles out of his way to put me in a better position to catch rides. We had a kind parting when he dropped me off, and I told him that I will write about him, that I have been inspired by his transformation and current understanding of balance. He gave me his number, and we parted ways.

I crossed to the other side of the road, hoping at least to make it off Whidbey Island. I was just ten miles away from Deception Pass, the bridge continuing off of the island, a fantastically beautiful bridge to which many people travel from all over the world to see. Once again, a truck pulled over in front of me.

I hopped in, tossed my stuff in the back, and stared into the compassionate and gentle eyes of a young man dressed in all Camo. He shook my hand and introduced himself as David. His eyes glinted with curiosity, and after he told me he’s in his early 20s and in the Army, he began to ask many questions about my trip. Each question he asked, he was genuinely interested, and his knowledge of the outdoors was reflected as his poignant questions directed themselves toward the subject of my tent, my bag, and my provisions. He seemed inspired by the idea of hitchhiking, and he told me that he stopped to pick me up because he has hitchhiked briefly in the past and knows that it can be rough just standing there on the road. He told me of his incredibly diverse travels to 15 or more countries, and I wished we could have driven further together, for the conversation was great, and his kindness was inspiring. He went a bit out of his way and dropped me off at the Southern end of Deception Pass, and much to my enthrallment, I realized that the Sun was just setting over the horizon and the tremendous kaleidoscopic sunset colors were reaching across the open Sky. David wished me luck and told me that he had never heard of anyone trying to hitch as far as me. I took that as a compliment. He gave me his phone number, and he told me that if I need anything that I could call him. “I’ll bring you firewood, if you need it,” he told me. David spoke with such directness, such compassion, and we took a photo together right where he dropped me off.

David and I at Deception Pass

Just South of Deception Pass, where David dropped me off, there is a State Park. The site was so spectacularly beautiful, and I considered camping there for the night. I walked down toward the beach and marveled as the streaking setting sunlight stretched even further across the Sky, revealing delicate shades of Pink and Blue to calm my mind. How lucky was I that I arrived here, the most beautiful place of the entire island, right at Sunset? Truly incredible how it worked out.

I walked across the bridge and stared down at the furious water below, the tide pulling in several directions simultaneously, and I wondered how anyone gets to a point where jumping off of the bridge becomes a good idea. I stared out into the Tremendous Colors and thought back to the beginning of my journey, to seeing my cousin Jenny in Palo Alto, to staying with my good friend Averi, to exploring San Fran with my British Pals Nathan and Stefan, to cruising in the Rig with P-Nixon and Dens, to Sasquatch. What wonder has come my way!

Sunset Seen from Deception Pass (Bridge)

I finally made it across the long bridge and decided that if I could not get another ride I would hike down to the beach and sleep there for the night. I knew I would be cold, as the winds were extreme and the weather was quite cold, but I knew I would be fine for a night. I stood across the bridge by a nice pullout and saw the Sky gradually darken. I looked back to the bridge and saw a Bald Eagle soaring over the pass, the perfect embodiment of freedom – Bald Eagle through the Sunset Over the Ocean in the Homeland Country. Then a van pulled over a hundred yards in front of me.

Not sure if they were pulling over to give me a ride, I approached tentatively. A woman got out of the passenger seat, and through the darkness of the evening I saw her smiling. She entered the back seat of the van, and she greeted me through a thick Spanish accent. She let me sit in the front seat, and she introduced herself as Sonia. I hopped in front, and her smiling husband at the wheel introduced himself as Cuci. They were from Mexico and had lived on the Island for many years. I briefly practiced my Spanish with them, began to feel self conscious, and reverted to English. They were heading to an Indian Casino 15 or so miles down the road, in the direction I wanted to go. I cruised with them, and when we arrived, Cuci invited me to join them. “Sure, why not!” I responded. We went into the Northern Lights Casino on the Swinomish Indian Reservation, and they left the van unlocked so that I could leave if I so desired. I laughed at the absurdity of the situation as I gambled away some money. I decided to walk around and pick the first slot machine that really caught my eye, and when I saw one with a giant picture of a Mayan Temple on top of it, I knew I had found my place. I made twenty bucks on that machine. Then I lost it all in Roulette. I drank a delicious beer. Some lady taught me how to play the slots… she was an expert. People were strange here, and even though I was tempted to just stay here for the night and head further in the morning, I knew I could not do this. My destiny for the night was the side of the road.

Casino Lights on Swinomish Reservation

I said goodbye to Cuci and Sonia and continued onward. I tried to swindle the hotel to let me stay for about twenty bucks, but they would not go below their $80.00 offer. I went back to the 20 and headed east, a route that took me to a tremendously lengthy on-ramp and a VERY LONG and TERRIFYING bridge. I decided to cross it, my mind thinking, “My Mom would kill me if she knew I was doing this,” for the bridge was at least a mile long, the night was extremely dark, and the shoulder was very very thin. Each time a car flew by, I felt a jolt of fear that I’d get hit. I would sit on the bridge’s edge, shine my headlamp wildly, and make sure they knew I was there. Finally, I was across the bridge.

It was after midnight, and I was feeling very isolated, albeit relieved to have survived the passage over the bridge. I looked at my phone and had a text message from P-Nixon, and I felt some soothing affirmation, realizing I am never alone. I decided to post up at the next patch of grass I found, and soon I came across a small outlet called “Skagit Wildlife Recreation Area,” a place I learned is reserved for hunters. I walked around, found a semi-dry spot, and laid out my sleeping bag, not wanting to pitch my tent and separate myself from the world. Soon I realized I was freezing my ass off even under my layered wardrobe and semi-decent mummy bag, and so I pitched the tent and crawled into greater comfort. I dozed into half-asleepness several times but was always jolted awake by the roar of a passing car made all the more unsettling by the accompanying blinding headlights that would shine through my tent and into my eyes, causing me to jerk awake and wonder where I am until I realized my strange and freaky scenario, realizing my position, fifty feet from the side of Highway 20. I rose with the first sign of the Sun, no more than an hour of very disturbed sleep, determined to get the hell out of this shivering cold and move on further toward Spokane.

Tent on Side of Highway 20

I will leave you with a poem I wrote just after I arrived at my place on the side of the road, written at 12:28 AM.

 

Walking across a bridge
with fifty pounds of gear
on your back,
the shoulder diminishes
and every headlight approaching
from behind
ignites a new fear.

Days of traveling,
lower body exhaustion-
positive fortune
to negative impulse,
light of headlamps
statically infused
with nothingness
around.

Cars down the highways
exhaust fumes pumping
discovering parts of Amerika
existing beyond the fears-

as uncomfortable as can be
becoming comfortable.

 

 

To be continued once again…