The blur of grasses
gives way to trees
again and again
a loop that is a line
that leads
to the desert
where the trees are sparse
in their singularity
blithe by the roadside
where they happened to grow
without knowing
the trucks would fly right past
toward some place
never known
perpendicular to the view of the fence
the impossible cows
the other,
like you,
far at the edge of the flat,
with its shadow dancing
the slowest dance
round and round for a hundred years
in the turning of the earth.
“Oh, how she is lit by the light of the moon!”

I only saw you for a second.

At the end of the day,
because I remember in pictures,
and in sense,
there is a collage
of rushing shapes,
and the feel of the sunlight,
my left arm,
the sound of boots on pavement,
and the wondering fear at the lip of the curb
“Why are they slowing down? Looking at me?”

^These are two poems, written this morning, right now, a moment ago, after waking up in the dark, planning to go to the Y and renegotiating that intent upon realizing that my head hurt, and that I had slept fitfully and hot, that I was still tired.

I got tired in Escalante, and haven’t quite been able to shake it, that feeling of needing more rest, of wanting to sleep until my body wakes up naturally, to fall back asleep if I want to, if I still feel tired.

I knew that I needed to get up, had a lot to do through the day – too much to do, though not really, just a couple of meetings and time with the youth, a mandatory parents orientation practice with my daughter at the pool where the swim team trains. The sun will be going down by the time I sit down.

There is also the matter of a grant summary to tend to.

Somewhere, I hope there will be art, or at least the feeling of art. The first meeting is a two hour computer meeting with state-level stakeholders in the Peer Support movement, and I am reminding myself that the viable employment of people with lived experiences of struggles related to social and economic determinants of health in the work of supporting other people and communities in recovery is absolutely related to justice and absolutely related to systemic transformation and is absolutely related to accountability in regard to systemic harms and ethical responsibilities.

The two hour computer meeting presents unique potential stressors relating to orienting and maintaining attention and connection through a mediated platform. Being in my home and listening for the sound of my friend waking up and simultaneously being a rectangular block on a screen, saying things and listening. Compartmentalizing the other things I might need to be doing, wanting to go outside, having ideas. Trying to stay present, to watch the people’s faces as they speak, to really try to hear their words and what they are saying, to figure how what they say relates to the bigger conversation, to try to be sensitive to their experience as a person speaking, alone in their car or in their home, sharing something that matters enough to them to say something.

As a listener, there are tasks of orientation to experience that require a lot of focus and awareness of attention.

They say the brain uses a great deal of energy in processing experience. Some aspects of my measured processing are operating a couple of standard deviations from the norm. I don’t really know what this means for me, but I know that I get tired after meetings.

After a 1/2 hour break, I will drive across the river to go to a listening session practice meeting at a notoriously underresourced and troubled public housing community as the Observer, which means I sit quietly and watch what’s happening in the room and I try very hard to capture that as it unfolds. I try very hard to write down everything that is said, or to summarize points in process. One thing I noticed during the last listening session up in Big Ivy was that it was difficult to attribute obvious emotion through verbatim documentation and that there was something of a double catch in trying to uphold the right of the speaker to have their words recorded accurately and representatively of what they actually said, and to not interpret or attribute meaning through the recorder’s perspective, and also to honor the truth of the way that what a person is saying makes them feel, what they feel about the story they are telling, about their friend who died, their child who died, the loss and harm they’ve known in their life related to the topic they are speaking to – which is the Justice System – because to see these people’s faces and to hear their voices as they speak, to see them sitting there in a chair in a circle, surrounded by community, some new and some known, whole lives in a circle under fluorescent lights and crying, getting up to leave as they say, “I hope you all can do something about this. People are dying.”

All I can write down is something like: ——Name: “I hope you all can do something about this. People are dying.” (leaves listening session, appears tearful, speaks strongly.)

Even in the descriptor of ‘strongly,’ I am making a vague interpretation.

I wish that these sessions could be filmed. Perhaps at some point they can. The grant runs for another two years.

If I had time to put together an LLC, I could probably contract with the county to do documentation and qualitative reporting on the community feedback and recommendations these sessions are designed to gather.

I think that brief, well-edited media is a powerful way to communicate the grave reality of the impact that certain practices and tendencies in the justice system have on people’s lives and qualities of life.

I have about 15 minutes of writing time left before I have to get ready to go to the computer meeting. I expect that the executive director will probably be in contact with me at some point in the morning, about the grant thing. I have to text someone a confirmation of my not going to the jail and the plans for coverage.

I think I would rather go to the jail this morning, than go to a computer meeting.

I haven’t seen those guys in a month and they asked me to tell them about my trip.


Hi you all –
Due to a glitch in my scheduling while traveling, I realized that I had a commitment to the people I do a group with at the Buncombe County Detention Facility (“jail”) that was double-booked with this meeting.
I arranged coverage for the “jail group” so I could be here and check in w you all, but this morning I began to recognize that I wanted to go to the jail, and that it was important to show up for those guys because I told them I would come back and follow up with them on our discussion of triggers and self-advocacy, ways to cope with the circumstances and realities of being detained and incarcerated.
It feels important to me to show up for the group today, and I regret that I can’t be a part of this meeting.
I still haven’t quite been able to figure out my participation and capacity here, but am trying to keep somewhat in the loop and trying to find ways that I might be able to work effectively here while also maintaining my other work.
This morning, I was doing some writing, thinking about this meeting:
 I am reminding myself that the viable employment of people with lived experiences of struggles related to social and economic determinants of health in the work of supporting other people and communities in recovery is absolutely related to justice and absolutely related to systemic transformation and is absolutely related to accountability in regard to systemic harms and ethical responsibilities.
Much appreciation for all you do and for your understanding of my not being here today.

19 thoughts on “decides

  1. This morning, I got to the jail on time, after running across the street and up the steps in a light rain. Then sat there and took in the look of people waiting for their scheduled visitations in the little room of video phones near the main check in desk at the detention facility. The ladies behind the counter were doing what they do, which is essentially act as nonplussed controllers of the flow in and out of the facility, unsmiling unusually, all business, studying the screens. I have seen them turn away a hysterical woman, saying calmly, “There is nothing we can do.” Looking down and not looking back up as soon as the woman turned to storm out of the building through a door that refuses in its weight and buffers to be flung open or slammed shut, her hands in fists with the sheer panic of her existence and the frustration with the building.

    It was the right thing to do, to go to the jail. Apparently, there had been scheduling issues and the group had been cancelled with no announcements two weeks in a row. The people who have come every week, who look forward to the experience, wore looks of disgust, and explained how disappointed they’d been, how they felt skeptical about the group mattering, how I had forgotten to send the information about the safety and justice challenge grant to be printed off for them.

    We made a note to bring the information next week, and I apologized for the disruption in expectations, explained that it should probably be expected that sometimes things will happen that up-end the intent to be there and that, yes, it is a problem that there is no clear means of communication to let them know what was happening, whether the group will continue, if it is cancelled.

    I learned today that one of the people, the person who reminded me again and again to write my penpal on Death Row back, had sacrificed his mattress to be able to look out the window. I knew that he liked the window, and that he had said that looking out the window was one of the ways he kept himself okay in the set of circumstances defining his life. I figured that maybe he was tall enough to see out of it, that maybe he had to stand on his toes, but that he could perhaps stretch himself to catch a little view out the window. Today, I learned that in order to look out the window, the person had deflated their already-thin mattress, and devised an accordion-style platform, bolstering the folded mattress with sheets and contraband extra towels in order to be able to see out the window. He had had his room search ‘every day,’ and the extra towels confiscated. He had been sent to solitary confinement for having extra towels. His mattress, once deflated, cannot be reinflated, and so he sleeps on a thin pad every night in order to be able to look out the window.

  2. Modest mouse – coyotes

    These are the eleven haikus I wrote this morning, after going to the Y and listening to pop music, before going to work. It is still raining here. It feels like, save for Sunday when it was warm and sunny and Black Balsam was seeping, watery and we climbed the rough trail down to the saddle, walked up to Tennent, back down on the Art Loeb, past where I had stood on a big rock and promised my friend I would not be envious of the travel he was doing, trip before last, that I would not be bitter about not being able to go, about having to stay behind, go to work, and Tuesday – it did not rain Tuesday – when we went to Linville after work and bushwhacked across the face of the rise to get to the trail down to the river where we took off our shoes and crossed, walked for a bit in a peculiar suspended twilight, back up to the top, and then back down in the dark, both of us with headlamps in our bags but making the unspoken decision to not disturb the dark, to just walk carefully, seeing with our feet.

    It has otherwise rained everyday since I left the desert.


    The coyote laughed
    Grown up American sulk
    scowling tired baby


    a moment knowing
    the canyon doesn’t care none
    ‘bout wanting water


    There is so much held
    in caught refractions, sun, cloud
    rain not yet falling


    the white board declares
    anxiety opposite
    of humility


    Air leaks out slowly
    a sound like hissing, sighing
    ruining the bed


    Get back to work, brain
    talk the talk, walk the walk now
    chairs in circle, wait


    The house is the same still
    boxes hidden upstairs


    Lives no longer live
    old cotton gathering must
    the space breathes in, out


    In the parking lot
    they told about the hams they bring
    to reservations


    I held his hand soft
    old man from out of nowhere
    watching ravens fly


    take the towels, hide them
    with the sheets tucked, folded in creases
    to look out windows

  3. Last night, we slept on the floor in the space that we call ‘the main hall,’ which is the big open space that is at the front of the house, beside the room that used to be the living room and is now a combination of living room and sleeping space, with boxes and small piles of books and papers, pictures to be hung set in their frames on the seat of a chair.

    Leaving work in the afternoon and waiting for a break in the traffic on S. French Broad, rain coming down and the day already gone dark, I noticed that I wanted to be camping, wanted to be hiking in the desert. I missed the simplicity of setting up the sleeping systems at the end of the day, how good it was to sit down, how amazing cold rehydrates ramen tastes when you’re really hungry.

    I slept well on the floor of the main hall and didn’t set my alarm this morning, woke up well after sunrise despite the room of windows, felt rested for the first time since returning.

    As I moved through the day, I had a couple of thoughts that I want to make note of, experiences.

    We decided to go walk out at Bent Creek, a familiar and unambitious place. “It’s not a walk to see a particular or spectacular thing, a destination landform or feature. It’s not a walk to go far. It’s just a walk to go outside, to be outside.”

    I needed to be back in town in the afternoon to pick my daughter up from school. Friday’s aren’t usually a day that I pick her up, but I told her I would when she asked and have wondered recently if providing transportation is one of the love languages spoken between adolescents who can’t yet drive and their parents.

    As we got ready to go walk, I realized I was excited, that I felt an excitement in my body. I was happy to be going to see the beech trees. I hadn’t been out to Bent Creek more than a few times over the past couple months. Even twenty five minutes seemed too far to drive, and through August and September often opted for the closer-yet-smaller patch of woods up by Richmond Hill for my going-outside-at-the-end-of-the-day and for my training walks with a weighted pack, to get my core used to carrying a load.

    Often, I have thought about the ways that familiar places are special – different in experience from brand new places and places that one passes through quickly. Because I am a person who has not gotten to travel much over the past 17 years (though have certainly gotten to travel more than some, and saw the ocean most every year), I have had to find ways to experience the awe of seeing new places while moving repetitively through familiar places. I appreciate that I’m familiar places, one can get a sense of the life cycles and seasons that define a place, the relationship between certain aspects of the topography and ecosystems, the way that no day is ever exactly like another day, and the subtle ways these changes take place, the phases of the growth and death cycles all around me, and within myself. Familiar places offer a valuable template for considering personal growth, because they invite me to consider the processes by which change occurs, the coming and going of leaves and light, damp soil going dry and the soft formations of frost on cold days that will inevitably become warm again. I pay close attention to how I am moving through the world, how I am seeing things, how I feel. I watch my thoughts and sensations in existing within and as a part of the spaces I inhabit. This isn’t to say that I am perfectly mindful, or that my perceptions and ability to shift attention or change experience based on what I observe is always (or even frequently) operating in integrity. If that were the case, I’d probably be peaceful most of the time, and would not have noisome fears/anxieties creating dys-ease within my nervous system and psychological tendencies. There have been plenty of times that I have entered the forest in a state of deep trouble, agitated or sad, my mind churning with some problem or another. However, running and walking usually help me to work these things out, to reconcile, to make sense of, to find a way to make peace with what is troubling me. The running and walking help because they allow my physical body to release the energies and reactions of fight and flight, and I am able to think through things as I move, watch my thoughts, figure out why I feel the way I feel about something and whether or not those feelings are a) based in reality, b) justified, c) helpful or unhelpful, and d) in alignment with my values and in integrity with who I want to be.

    Familiar places offer up the experience of recognizing through remembrance the phenomenon of being in an environment and feeling very differently than one may feel on any other given day. This proves to me, over and over again, that all things pass, and that some days I will feel wonderful and full of lightness and other days I will be wrestling with some difficulty, my body may be tired, the air may be hot, my mind and heart troubled. It all changes though. Nothing stays the same. Even the most familiar trails are never the same twice.

    As we approached the highway, I realized that I was going to have to merge right and then cut across two lanes of traffic coming around a bend at the top of a rise heading out of town and I felt a small twinge of anxiety, because you never know how much traffic will be on the road or how fast people will be traveling. I visualized the road being perfectly clear, easily crossing the lanes like a little win. At the top of the on-ramp, I found quite the opposite, and almost laughed at the sea of slow moving cars on the highway. Instead of no cars, there was a packed solid double-laned sea of Hardly moving cars.

    It was easy to merge, slide between two trucks, and when I needed to get over again, a black Camaro slowed to make space. I waved, and the driver waved back. We crept up to the exit, which was also suddenly crowded while the traffic cleared on the highway, people deciding to take a detour, moving off from sitting in traffic on one road to sit in traffic on another road.

    It is the day of the dead – Dios de los Muertes. We talked about sugar skull make up, the video for Prayer in C, and then my friend read a Baudelaire poem as we passed by the car dealerships. It felt like an invocation, a perfect and honorable poem to read on the day of the dead.

    “The new update is weird.”

    “Everything seems different, a little off.”

    “I’ll be used to it by this afternoon.”

    -> thoughts about habituation and ease of technological adaptation and the implications for human consciousness and faculties as related to both the way we use tools and also to the way that even bizarre, absurd, harmful things become normalized in our usage to the extent that aspects of our lives which are objectively and functionally strange don’t seem strange at all.

    My friend went into the bathroom and I wandered over to the forest information display, the maps and noticed. I turned as I leaned toward a map, and decided that I didn’t need to look at a map, there was no purpose. I knew all the trails we might walk on, and – besides – it is good to exercise the internal faculties of navigation, orientation to where one is without reliance on external depictions of the territory.

    Driving past the big discount shoe store, I had thought briefly about the practice of the derive – a walk without specific direction or directed by the random, such as turning right when one sees a blue car, some other prompt of circumstance.

    I like to do derive by feeling out my curiosity – going the direction I ‘feel’ like going, pausing when it feels right to pause, looking closely when I am inspired to look closely.

    It’s a silly thing for people to take pictures of trees changing color in the autumn. This happens every year, and the trees neither know nor care that they are beautiful. They are not trying to be anything at all. It is silly for people to take pictures of anything. We are a sentimental species.

    I had a few thoughts about the difference between photography that is done to capture a certain subject in a certain way as to either show the subject being captured in an accurate representation of that subject, or to show the subject in such a way as to reveal something of it that may not be apparent in other capturings, to evoke a feeling or association related to the viewers experience of the subject, and photography that is done to give the photographer something to remember a particular place or subject by, a visual note, a way to remember the experience of being somewhere, seeing something.

    It might be pointless to try to remember our lives, or to imagine that what we experience matters – at least so far as all things are fleeting?

    I guess the experiences we have contribute to the people we are, the people we might become based on what we see and what we learn, the impressions that certain experiences leave on us in measures of love and fear and beauty, the way that some days change us.

    It was good to walk in the familiar forest today, to see the beech trees.

  4. I slept curled in a ball on a mattress last night, in a regular bed, and had dreams about driving in the desert, some weird scene. Early in the morning, I woke up with a clarity around the need for me to simply structure my time in such a way as to regularly work on creative projects, and the potential for me to outline said projects in such a way as to be able to smoothly and progressively work toward their completion.

    It’s so easy, in the very early morning, to see how it will all work out.

    Of course now, a couple of hours later though still in the morning, cold sharp grey day here in the mountains, damp chill and heavy fog that makes the sunrise blunted, dim, like smoke from a wildfire, I realize that the problem is not nor has ever been an issue of me not being able to structure my time or work on things coherently.

    There is no lack of ability to organize tasks, to outline projects, to finish things.

    I do that all the time at work.

    The problem is simply a matter of time. It would be difficult for anyone to figure out how to write a book and create a suitable creative container for the work that one does while maintaining employment and tending to the needs of the household and of the body. I cannot stay up all night for weeks feverishly penning my story in a haze of nicotine and caffeine, bedraggled and wild- eyed writing my masterpiece.


    I tried that. It only led to trouble.

    Today, my goals are to ‘work on house stuff’ – meaning possibly patch and paint the southern wall of the main hall, or scraping and peeling a portion of the ceiling of the northwest room. I would like to go run in a familiar environment, and feel the cold of the day. I have been meaning to draw and paint for days, as a way to study a photo from my trips though I am not sure yet which one I want to spend time with. Possibly the ponderosas, one tall and living, the other tall and dead, or maybe just the shapes of the land. Factory butte.

    I’ve continued to read the words of Everett Ruess. I find such a friend, such a comrade in him. He lived during the era of communists and poverty in the American west. The thick of the Depression. He seems young and unabashed in his writings, though clearly thinks deeply and strives toward wisdom. Everett Ruess had an apparent devotion to beauty, and came to conclusion that he had little use for the cities, preferred the wild.

    “The perfection of this place is one reason why I distrust ever returning to the cities. Here, I wander in beauty and perfection. There one walks in the midst of ugliness and mistakes. All is made for man, but where can one find surroundings to match one’s ideals and imaginings? It is possible to live and dream in ugly, ill-fitting places, but how much better to be where all is unscarred and beautiful?”

    “…when I go, I leave no trace.”

    – Everett Ruess

    I think I understand something of how Everett might have defined perfection, and the distaste he seemed to have for environments where ‘all is made for man,’ what he might have meant by ‘mistakes.’

    Maybe some exceptionally sensitive and contemplative people are prone to come to the conclusion – through both reason and experience – that much of the world as we know it is a construction, and has little to do with the natural way of things, the realities of the wilds, places much older than cities upon which the cities were built atop of? Maybe some people, with exposure to certain ideas and perspectives, exposure to experiences of beauty and scarcity, inevitably and deeply know that they do not need any of the conveniences and entertainments of modern cultures and industries, that they feel happier and more at peace in the act of existing in still-wild places, witnessing the world as it is in the absence of humans?

    Yesterday, before we walked, my friend read this quote from Willa Cather, which is noted in the Ruess book:

    “It was the Indian manner to vanish into the landscape, not to stand out against it. …[The Indians] seemed to have none of the European’s desire to “master” nature, to rearrange and re-create. They spent their ingenuity in the other direction; in accommodating themselves to the scene in which they found themselves. This was not so much from indolence…as from an inherited caution and respect. It was as if the great country were asleep, and they wished to carry on their lives without awakening it; or as if the spirits of the earth and air and water were things not to antagonize and arouse. When they hunted, it was with the same discretion; an Indian hunt was never a slaughter. They ravaged neither the rivers nor the forest, and if they irrigated, they took as little water would serve their needs. The land and all that it bore they treated with consideration; not attempting to improve it, they never desecrated it.” – Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop

    This morning, I randomly looked at my LinkedIn profile, and saw that I have a link to my unfinished and unimproved website in my profile. I should do something with that. Either delete it or improve it, reorganize it, update it.

    I really don’t like spending hours in front of a computer. It’s hard to hold that attention, to look at the screen, to copy and paste and format and save and upload and resize and link to, etc etc.

    That website will probably just sit there until I have time and focus to do something about it.

    That’s okay. It doesn’t matter.

    I read through old content from my autoethnography thesis, and thought about how I probably have at least a couple of creative nonfiction books already written, and at least a couple of books of poetry, maybe a few zine-type publications, how-to manuals for learning how to pay attention to your own story and notice the ways it is formed. Personal autoethnography. Autoethnography as a practice of critical deconstruction and reflection of identity and experience.

    It’s 9:01 am, and I haven’t brushed my hair. Since returning from the desert I have been less vain, not caring to put on makeup, not worrying about whether my hair is brushed on my days off.

    I still have to look ‘presentable’ to go to work, wear clean clothes that are appropriate for the job, the nonprofit professional environment, the meetings at the county, going into the jail, etc. etc.

    Living outside in the desert and spending the day walking through canyons was much, much simpler.

    This afternoon, I am going to provide transportation for my daughter so that she can go to friends house, and my son has to go to work at a franchise artisan pizza place on the south side of town. He fractured his collarbone a couple weeks ago, trying to beat a time record on a mountain bike trail. I was in Escalante Canyon considering the range of mountain lions when it happened. He was okay, called his grandparent, went to urgent care. He took care of himself, and other people took care of him. He didn’t want me to make a big deal out of it, didn’t even tell me about it, but called my friend and told him, because they talk about mountain biking together, adventure travel.

    On Nov 2, 2019, at 8:16 AM, Faith Rhyne wrote:

  5. This here below is a free write draft of what might become an essay. I haven’t gotten to my point yet, and may have lost it in the scope of things. There are other articles I need to look up. References. It’s semi-coherent, which is encouraging. “It’s good to practice things like writing essays, because it is important to be able to communicate ideas clearly.” <~ I don’t know if I really believe that and am inclined to think that might time might be better spent on poetry, wailing gibberish like a code to the gods. Nonetheless, there may be some utility in my practicing articulation on the topic of planetary health and mental health.

    I might turn this into a zine, if I have time. I probably won’t have time.

    The weekend is o-v-e-r and I still haven’t drawn a picture.

    I took my friend over to Big Creek to start off hiking for a few days, had a nice drive home with the mountains in the last burnishing of leaf hold and the pale skeletons of poplar and birch already showing through as glowing grey among the bands of conifer.

    Heard the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the radio, saying something about can’t stop the spirits when they need you.

    This essay-in-draft has no proper beginning, no proper ending. That is okay. I remembered the other day why I am so devoted to showing imperfect process. We live in a slick world, a simulation that often scorns the foibles.

    From: Faith Rhyne
    Date: November 2, 2019 at 8:44:28 PM EDT
    To: Me
    Subject: Planetary health and primary care: what’s the emergency? | British Journal of General Practice

    “…human activity is accelerating disruptions in the climate system; the biogeochemical cycles; land use and land cover; and the availability of resources, including fresh water and arable land.2 By the time our privileged lives in high income countries feel harmed, there may be runaway changes that cannot be halted.2 These changes will damage population health with worse problems from nutrition, infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, displacements and conflicts, and effects on mental health.”

    The editorial, authored by Terry Kemple and published in the British Journal of General Practice, establishes the climate reality and the need for immediate coordinated actions, citing recent climate data pertaining to CO2 emissions and protocols for reduction with reference to reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and shares the multisystemic interventions recommended by the IPBES: incentives and capacity-building; cross-sectoral cooperation; pre-emptive action; decision-making in the context of resilience and uncertainty; and environmental law and implementation.

    The editorial does not offer speculation as to what the specific impacts on mental health may be in light of planetary health declines. Planetary health is defined by Kemple as the relationship between “disruptions of the Earth’s natural systems caused by humans with the resulting impacts on public health.” As a practice and discipline of medicine, planetary health “develops and evaluates evidence-based solutions to secure a world that is healthy and sustainable for everyone.”

    The author acknowledge the ‘dirty habits’ of the healthcare industry, such as greenhouse gas emissions resulting from health care related travel, with recommendations for policy changes, compliance with regulations, and – more locally – encouraging general practitioners to talk with their patients about planetary health as part of their work with them addressing physical health concerns, helping people to learn more about lifestyle changes that may be beneficial to both the patient and the planet.

    “All GPs and their teams are role models and act as educators in their communities to protect their patients’ health. Reframing their advice to benefit both the patient and the planet will include sharing with patients the urgent need to decarbonise our lives, rethink our diets, be more active, and to expect green and healthy buildings, neighbourhoods, and transportation systems. Whenever possible, we need to give a ‘it’s good for you and it’s good for the planet’ prescription nudge to boost more healthy and sustainable living.“

    This article – while certainly informative of the responsibility of the general practitioner to talk with their patients about planetary health and acknowledging of the connections between our individual physical health, the health of our communities and ultimately the planet we live on – speaks primarily to practitioners who are committed to providing ethical care to their patients and assumes the comfort of these practitioners in talking with their patients about planetary health as it relates to individual physical health, the ways that our lifestyles are making us sick and also harming the planet.

    Many of the people who are likely to be first affected and most affected by climate change and declines in planetary health, and the people whose lives and health are already being significantly impacted by the planetary health crisis and associated industries – poor people, rural people, workers, people isolated in cities, people who are marginalized or disenfranchised due to involvement in the justice system, people who are struggling with addiction, homelessness, trauma, toxic stress, and resultant mental health challenges – do not have access to consistent medical care and may not have a general practitioner.

    The lifestyle recommendations that are absolutely necessary to begin curbing consumer contributions to polluting and unsustainable industries through lifestyle habits and compulsions may not apply to people who do not have access to resources or people whose culture of origin may be very different than the social and economic spaces where commitments to only eat healthy, organic food and to calculate ones household carbon footprint are commonplace.

    The article invites questions around what the specific impacts on mental health may be as planetary health declines, and begs consideration of how different socioeconomic strata may be directly and indirectly affected by climate change and complex ecosystemic breakdown in our environments and economies.

    It is well documented that there is a relationship between stress and health outcomes and that stress is highly correlated with poverty. Relatedly, the U.S. Adverse Childhood Experiences strongly proves the relationship between stress and trauma-producing experiences in childhood and negative health outcomes later in life. Many of the stresses that engender trauma may be tied to poverty, and evidence across disciplines suggests that the stresses of poverty are compounded by increased vulnerability to addiction and mental health challenges, likelihood to experience domestic violence, increased rates of incarceration and involvement in the justice system, and other significant life challenges which affect physical, social, emotional, and psychological health, community inclusion and access to resources such as healthcare, all of which compound stress and present complex difficulties for those experiencing poverty.

    The mental health impacts of declining planetary health are happening now to people all over the world. Those who live in places that have been destroyed or become toxic by climate change related weather activity or a critical infrastructure failure, a disaster of industry, are having a hard time. The people who have lost loved ones because someone violently lost their mind are having a hard time.

    It is possible that the immediate and current impacts of climate emergency and planetary health on what we consider to be mental health extend far beyond the obvious effects of traumatic loss on mental health and beyond even the subsequent difficulties that traumatic loss may be tied to in people’s ability to rebuild their lives with limited resources and under significant duress due to grief and ongoing stressors.

    Social determinants of health are interrelated with our economies and cultures, and significantly affect health outcomes. The industries and lifestyles that create disadvantageous conditions for physical health and mental health are directly linked to the economic behavior of industries and compulsory consumer-lifestyles which perpetuate harm against the shared environments and interconnected ecosystems of this planet while also being detrimental to physical and psychological health.

    The rates of loneliness are skyrocketing.

    In the United States, we live in an economic system based on the premise of property and wealth, consumption and provision. Socioeconomic status strongly influences health outcomes and likelihood of success in life as measured by mortality rates and susceptibility to disease, and – in the Western world – factors such as home ownership, employment, and lack of justice involvement.

    The socioeconomic bracket that one is born into shapes ones lived experience and potential to access resources that may support health and development.

    Entire communities are marginalized in our economic systems due to lack of access to resources to learn the skills and develop the attributes and attain the credentials which may facilitate successful participation in the world of work, but which certainly do not guarantee a satisfying or rewarding occupation.

    Many people are not able to pursue a vocation that is meaningful to them, an occupation which employs their personal skills and interests. For the vast majority of unemployed Americans, if they are able to find work their jobs will be ‘a job,’ something they must do in order to earn wages. Among the underemployed, wages earned are insufficient to consistently provide for the needs of existence within modern societies – such as safe shelter, transportation, clothing that is appropriate to the social and economic settings one is participating in, utilities, health care for oneself and one’s children, food.

    There are many people who are trying to simply survive, and barely getting by, due to circumstances and barriers within their lives.

    Those who may be characterized as poor and marginalized due to their lack of capital and lack of access to full community inclusion, participation, and resources are vulnerable to feeling the ill-effects of planetary health and climate change more immediately than those who have access to resources which allow them to buffer the reality that the world is sorely ailing.

    This buffering of reality is made possible by wealth that allows for prerogatory manipulations of physical environments, such as air conditioning and gated communities, and allows the wealthy and relatively wealthy to only go where one finds conditions to be pleasant and to one’s liking, creates access to constructed environments of comfort which only those with money are able to participate in.

    However, even those who are not immediately and directly affected by planetary health concerns in ways that are obvious and traumatic are immediately and directly affected by the realities created by climate change. The natural world itself shows people, even people of privilege and wealth, that things are changing. Places once beautiful and loved are burning and flooding or simply dying. There aren’t so many fish to catch with that big boat. The dividends are down. The reports are in, and they don’t look good. There’s a problem. The latest gadget does not impress, does nothing to assuage the growing sense of unease, unhappiness, emptiness.

    Given that rates of mental health difficulty and substance use challenges have gone up across demographic groups, and the well-established fact that what is happening in the world affects us, and the current and immediate effects that planetary health consequences are having on millions of people, shouldn’t we be talking less generally about the potential for climate change to impact mental health and begin sharing ideas about how practitioners of care and service, citizens, and policy makers may begin meaningfully exploring the ways that we might consider depression, anxiety, substance use, anger, and madness to be outcomes relating to what is happening in our world and the ways we are living our lives?

    We cannot talk about planetary health without talking about industry and lifestyle, and we cannot talk about mental health without acknowledging that what happens in our world matters to us, what happens in our lives affects us, what happens in our homes affects us, whether or not we have a home affects us.

    We are emerging from an era in which poverty was popularly seen as a moral failure, a perceived deficit of character which reinforced and impelled ambition toward success and self-sacrifice to work by establishing social shame in being poor, as well creating demographic lines and social hierarchy between people with differential access to economic resources.

    Poverty is designed by the systems that create it. Whether or not this design is intentional at this point, the operations of systems design what the system will become and determines the outcomes of those operations. In many countries, disenfranchisement laws have historically been created to limit political and economic participation for certain populations. Although laws may be repealed, the effects of de jure disenfranchisement continue to impact marginalized communities.

    When we consider the populations most likely to impacted by systemic failure to meet human needs for safe shelter and quality foods that may result from planetary health consequences which affect global ecosystems and economic structures, we cannot separate the harms of Western capitalism upon the people from the harms of Western capitalism upon the planet.

    In addressing planetary health it is imperative that we recognize the existing impacts on mental and physical health that have already been created by the industries and lifestyles that have defined the modern Anthropocene, and question the ways that recommendations from the public health and scientific communities may be implemented effectively in an already fractured social and economic landscape, particularly in regard to the ways that quality of life – for both humans and all associated ecosystems – are affected by unsustainable industries which are oriented and motivated not toward health but to profit for the benefit of few at the expense of many.

    In responding to challenges both current and forthcoming, we must consider the ways that recommendations require coordinated and cohesive investment in change and the difficulties inherent in such efforts within existing systems and in a landscape of competing interests and values in which the most influential power holders benefit from current economic systems. The people most significantly and immediately impacted by harms against the planet and the consequences of those harms – in the way of climate-related natural disasters, loss and obfuscation of traditional life ways, barriers to meeting basic human needs and compulsory dependence on exploitative industries – must be supported in responding strongly to the forces which affect their lives and the lives of their children, their grandchildren.

    Ultimately, this is all of us, though some will feel the reality of planetary health consequences much more immediately and much more directly than others, the fact that we live in a shared world and must witness the realities of lives other than our own guarantees that no life will remain untouched by the state of planetary health and the consequences of our systems.

    Is it possible that we all know that the state of the world is troubled, even if it all seems normal – the traffic and smoke and news and wartime and ugliness? That we know it in the dark, and just before waking? That we know in moments just after joy and confusion that all of this is fleeting, and very strange, the way we live, what happens in the world, the foolishness and atrocity of it all. Is it possible that there is a part of us that is absolutely aghast at what has become of places we love, at what has happened within our lives, what became of our homes and communities?

    Is it possible that some experiences of depression and anxiety and loneliness and anger are related to planetary health in that it is scary and disturbing to humans to see in their own lives the reality of a changing world?

    Loneliness is increasingly acknowledged to be tied to the unique human stress of disconnection and social isolation. Loneliness, then, may be attributed to lifestyles that undermine opportunities for human connection and relationship through busyness, distraction, the pressures of scarcity and perceived scarcity, and reliance on digital transactions as a form of social activity.

    and economic health as determined by systems of industry and consumption

    From article:

    ”Three recent reports confirm this urgent need to preserve planetary health.

    First, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.3This reported that the world could be 1.5°C warmer as early as 2040. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) need to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. Any continuing CO2 emissions must be balanced by removing the excess CO2 from the air.

    Second, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).2 This report has harsh news for the future of humanity. The biosphere is being corrupted and biodiversity is declining too fast. The biggest impacts are from changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change; pollution; and invasive alien species. Five interventions are recommended to tackle the causes of this crisis: incentives and capacity-building; cross-sectoral cooperation; pre-emptive action; decision-making in the context of resilience and uncertainty; and environmental law and implementation:

    ‘It is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global.’ Sir Robert Watson, Chair IPBES .

    Third, the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC).4This provides independent advice to government on building a low-carbon economy and preparing for climate change. It recommended a new emissions target for the UK: net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050 to deliver on the commitment that the UK made by signing the Paris Agreement. It says this is achievable with known technologies, alongside improvements in people’s lives, and within the expected economic cost that Parliament accepted when it legislated the existing 2050 target for an 80% reduction from 1990. However, it goes on to say, this is only possible if clear, stable, and well-designed policies to reduce emissions further are introduced across the economy without delay; current policy is insufficient for even the existing targets:4“

    “Health care has many dirty habits. For example, the US healthcare sector accounts for nearly 10% of all US greenhouse gas emissions9 and NHS-related travel accounts for nearly 3.5% of all road miles in England each year with over half of the resulting air pollution generated by patient and visitor travel.10 We know that improving preventative care in planetary health, public health, and providing better access to high-quality primary care closer to where patients and staff live will always be better than allowing undermanaged problems overwhelm the more distant, downstream, and dirtier secondary and tertiary care services.”

    Five interventions are recommended to tackle the causes of this crisis: incentives and capacity-building; cross-sectoral cooperation; pre-emptive action; decision-making in the context of resilience and uncertainty; and environmental law and implementation.

  6. I had the experience this morning of realizing the world seems a little insane, and that the way I think about things is not the way a lot of people think about things. This realization came about after seeing a broadcast of the news being played on a screen mounted on a treadmill where an elder woman was exercising in front me as a I listened to a Monbiot talk on the economic and environmental idiocy of farming subsidies for sheep farms and the practice of rewinding and allowing for restoration of natural spaces through the return of removed species and the allowing of ecosystems to self-govern without human intervention. The news was muted, but played on in a red and white and black and blue blur of faces and scrolling text bars, the man we call the President waving his hands and red faces like a child, the makeup and hair of the broadcasters impeccably like plastic. Advertisements for credit companies interrupted the Monbiot talk, the songs I listened to after I made my way to the bench, news images still in my mind and the overwhelming sense of how truly difficult it may be to create change in a world dominated by television and advertisements.

    I don’t want to think people are dumb, but when I see the news it is hard not to believe that. I don’t want to think people are suckers, but when I see the shit we are being sold, that billions are spent each year, that people go into debt to Try to achieve and maintain these lifestyles that benefit corporate industries and wreck the planet while making us collectively miserable…it’s hard not to think that people are dumb, that people are suckers, that people don’t care.

    That’s just it. I know people care. Every person I talk to cares deeply about their lives and the world.

    It doesn’t make sense to me. If we care, why do we let these things happen? Why do we buy into it? Why don’t we just stop?

    The power of addiction and compulsory participation is real.

    I am impaired in my understanding in so many ways, an idiot myself.

    It created dys-ease, seeing the news for a second, and made me feel very aware of the fact that the reality I live in is not the reality that television creates and reinforces and reflects. That is not my world.

    We all live in different worlds.

    It is entirely possible that not watching network television with any regularity since September of 2001 has severed me in my awareness of popular consciousness, how busy and upset and hungry and slick it is, how little people are thinking about things like planetary health and poverty.

    Sure, lots of people are thinking about these things. There might be a blip on the news every now and then, but – really – I saw the faces of men in suits this morning and one of them looked like the congressman who talked back to Greta Thunberg like an arrogant and condescending adult. I did not see the real world on the news. I saw people in suits, talking fast. Even the look of it made me anxious, and the poll projections created a dismalness in my thinking about the world and whether or not people are really buying this shit, really still watching.

    Tragically, the American government has tremendous power, and so it is important to know what is happening in policy and wartime, the perspectives and actions of our supposedly representative elect.

    There is something so horrifying to me about the power that the American government has.

    I mean, the American government is stupid, and corrupt. Stupid by measures of function and outcomes, stupid by costs and benefits and corrupt by equity and ethos and operations, interests. War machines, land rapists. Meat brokers. Fuel industries. Pharmaceuticals.

    It’s so crazy for me to recognize that these are not the ranting conclusions of a delusional, but the summation of objective and rational analyses based on measureable aspects of function, outcome, and ethics.

    It is not crazy to say that fossil fuels and big beef are fucking up our planet. That’s well documented. Reliance on fuels and overconsumption of meat, among other things, are fucking up our planet. It’s not crazy to say that there is a military industrial complex with deep ties to our American government. I mean, Eisenhower (a president!), talked about the potential for this sort of thing to happen and its well established that corporations such as Halliburton profit tremendously from war.

    None of this – me saying these things – is crazy.

    What’s crazy is that this stuff is happening in our world, though even that isn’t so crazy, given the inevitability of planetary malady and systemic dysfunction arising from colonialism inspired by western civilization and its penchant for accruals of wealth and power at any cost, over any life.

    What’s crazy is that not only are the vast majority of people not doing anything about it (it being the public health And ecosystemic crises associated with planetary health declines), the vast majority of people are still buying into it, still watching and buying and voting for measurably incompetent unethical people like idiots.

    I don’t know if they are incompetent.

    If the aim is to create an imposing chaotic spectacle of politic that generates upset so that business as usual for the money makers can go on…well, then, job well done.

    Very competently executed.

    It is crazy to me that it is scary to speak against power, to call people with power stupid, even if they are obviously stupid, as evidenced by their participation in and support of things like turning forests into resorts or timber or sending people’s sons and daughters off to war endlessly and with no support when they come home, or allowing industries to make products that make people sick and to play to our fragilities – our habitual hungers and imagined comforts, our fears and the glamor of popular dream lives – to make us buy shit we don’t even need or want, to make us feel things in response to sounds and images, messages that are designed to get our attention and lodge in our minds. To get us watching, get us engaged, make us watch.

    I quit watching television in the few days that followed 9-11.

    I still watch a show on Netflix a few times a year, maybe Once or twice. I don’t think I have seen a whole movie in a few years. I don’t know. I don’t keep track. I just don’t watch too many things. I forget that television exists, that it’s a thing.

    i watch/listen to some videos on my phone, mostly George Monbiot and music lately.

    Today, I talked with a psychology student about why the language of mental illness is problematic – that it was pathologizing, and that it put a certain fixed explanation/definition onto someone else’s experience, and that the idea of a disease is not hope producing at all, especially when the symptoms of the disease are so similar to the symptoms of things that are not diseases, like trauma and poverty. We talked about how the concept of a mental illness assumes a causation which may be false, and denies the possibility of factors existing outside of the individual affecting their wellbeing in ways that may produce crying, anxiety, anger, depression, isolation, low self esteem, paranoia, distorted perceptions, dysregulated stress responses. We talked about the biopsychosocial model, and I told her why I don’t use the language of mental illness in talking about myself, why it is not a useful term to me, in that it doesn’t do what terms oughta do, which is to give solid, representative information about something. It is a harmful term in that it distorts the situation and the person who the term is applied to, makes people see them as sick and not able to get better, sets up the lens of symptoms that behaviors and emotional expressions or ideas are then seen through.

    I feel tired all the sudden.

    I guess I got up early to go to the Y.

    It’s been a busy day. I earned wages as a underemployed American professional.

    I am getting ready to scrape the ceiling upstairs to make Low cost rooms for short-term travelers to be able to maybe save a little for my own travels and endeavors of the young people.

    It’s worth noting that I wrote by hand for a few pages this morning – about the television and also about an awareness of wanting to be in the forest and the strangeness of knowing that I am living during the time the hemlocks are dying, being decimated by the woolly adelgid, even the old growth.

    My friend is in the mountains and it’s the first full day we’ve been apart in a month, after not seeing each other for 6 months. Somehow, having a best friend who is a traveler works for me, makes sense in my life, for the person I am. I miss the person when they are gone, are glad when they are here. I am a traveler, too – I just don’t get to travel as much yet. At the very least I understand and deeply respect the need to explore, to be outside, to be a creature moving through the wild, far away from televisions.

    I wrote by hand to stimulate and exercise the faculties of handwriting – the parts of the brain that function with the activity, and also for the experience, because I used to write by hand a lot, until I discovered it was far more efficient and editable to email myself.

    I am going to try to write by hand more often. It’d likely strengthen my ability to draw as confidently as I once did, at ease in the movement of the hand, the holding of the pencil, the shape of the line.

  7. Here are the haikus I wrote this morning after going to the Y. There were no televisions on today, and that was a good thing. I listened to a reading of Ch. 2 from RD Laing Politics and the Voice of Experience.


    the world seemed insane
    but it didn’t bother me
    more than a quiver


    flash of moving screen
    brief and inspecific weight
    shifting in my core


    before the sun came up
    the elder woman walked slow
    a moving treadmill


    Watching the news play
    silent, muted, on flat screen
    uncertain futures


    the only knowing
    is death, continuation
    the earth keeps trying


    Bones turn to soil, rock
    under the constant pressure
    air, water, wind, sun


    grandbabies, beloved
    they won’t have this world we have
    lives will be harder


    Child born today, woe
    There will be much to clean up
    of the mess we’ve made


    The planet heals quick
    pavement is broken, seeds sprout
    animals adapt


    Our interventions
    fumbling, arrogant, foolish
    to think we know best


    proof is all around
    in measures of joy/suffer
    the health of rivers


    Strange to think I live
    during the death of hemlock,
    the forests changing


    I stopped watching it
    the news the ads, politics
    all too real/unreal


    Watch the trees instead
    small movements of time and wind
    so much action there


    It’s never the same
    Nothing is, that’s why it’s weird
    to exist today

  8. 1.

    Thirty five minutes
    before out in street, move
    “Get up, get going!”


    Different urgencies
    seventeen syllables speak
    protest eviction


    Not my life today,
    no boxes, no signs, no plan
    Except go to jail


    I get to go home
    hour is over, door open
    clang shut behind me


    step back to the day
    My life basically the “same
    As it ever was”


    So far as I know now,
    a lot can change in an hour
    wrong place, the wrong time


    “I just got to go…”
    only to work, regular day
    car, jail, computer.


    No big deal, today
    It will be good, interesting
    if I pay attention


    Keep my fingers crossed
    for luck, circumstance, standing
    moving through traffic

    (Notice bald cypress,
    as I walk by the courthouse
    feel the steps, go down

    The heft of the door,
    hard seats, a screen of face, word
    Print the yellow pass

    Wait, go up, air warm
    Stuffy, indoors, flourescent
    banging metallic sound

    Looks on people’s faces
    Speech, smile, vocal timbre, words
    Like a preacher says)

    (^these are extra, addendum haiku I wrote to remind myself what to pay attention to as I transition to the workday, going to the jail.)


    There’s 22 minutes
    before brushing hair to sit
    in seeming quiet


    Thoughts: bicameral mind
    Link on Facebook, hemispheres
    books about the brain


    Wernicke’s area, Broca

    These are notes I took this morning, after reading some wikipedia articles in the 35 minute window of time I had before going to the jail to do a peer recovery group and share information about the county’s effort to reduce jail populations by 15% through seven strategies, including diversion to treatment and services and racial equity.

    I have 16 minutes left before I have to get ready to go to work.


    #haiku #journal

    A couple of years ago, I did NaNoWriMo and maybe I am doing kind of a similar hyperexpressive production of writing thing this year, except with haiku.

    (…maybe this is productive, as practice. Is a haiku a product? Does writing do anything?)

    I have to get ready for work now.

  9. It has been a long day. I had a meeting this morning at 8:30 and didn’t go to the Y, but stretched and drank lots of water and lifted the kettle bell until my back and shoulders wanted to paddle and to paddle far, texted with my friend about the rain in the smokies, plans for a canoe trip.

    I will request the time off, leave without pay, figure that out, find cover for the jail – it will serve a purpose, give someone an opportunity to serve. Talk with the youth, go on days they are busy. I can sell some of my old records to make up some lost wages. Motivate myself re: the necessity of turning unused space into a resource, an asset for travelers.

    I really want to see that bald cypress, the oldest bald cypress, that is over in the Black River Preserve, but that’s too far for a short trip, a 3 or 4 day trip.

    I took notes for the meeting at 8:30 – listened close, considered the increased utilization of peer support services in programs seeking to address the health outcomes of social determinants of health and the need for expanded respite services and capacity to meet the needs of the most vulnerable populations, a) high use of crisis and emergency services due to homelessness, addiction, and lack of safety, b) individuals who are transitioning from detox, rehab, or behavioral treatment who may not have access to safe, supportive shelter in early recovery from mental health or substance use related crisis, and c) individuals who are being released from detainment or incarceration at the detention facility. The state Division of Mental Health was on the phone, and a representative from the Local Management Entity offered clarification on the peer service definition changes. I took good notes and said reasonably intelligible things, and was aware – if I noticed – that my body felt tired, and that the room was too full of people to pay attention to, that it was a little hard to listen. So, I just shifted into meeting-participation-and-note taker mode and forgot I had a body and just wrote down everything people said, tried to orient my attention to them as they spoke, to understand what they were saying and how it fits with things other people have said and the perhaps unspoken bigger picture.

    I had another meeting at 10:30, and – again – took quality notes and participated in a way that was acceptable and expected for my employed self without having to try to hard. Since I have been back from my trip, I have gradually shifted back to my regular modes of activity and endeavor. I worked a full day. I will go pick up my daughter from swim in an hour, I will wake up early and go to the Y. I will either a) take my daughter to school and come home and clean or do a home improvement project or just try to collect myself and feel out where I might be in my energies and inspirations, or b) take my daughter to school and then go to Charlotte for the youth climate strike and be home in time to pick my daughter up from school, or c) take my daughter to the youth climate strike with me and have her home in time for swim. Or go pick up my friend in the mountains if he opts to get off the Benton Mackaye and come back into town. It’s a good season for hiking in cold, and I’m encouraging him to keep going. I like the time alone. I also miss my friend.

    I have a lot of options tomorrow. I am kind of trusting that the ‘right’ thing to do will present itself in circumstance and feel.

    It would not be a bad idea to stay home and paint sky on the ceiling in the upstairs room. I could get down with that.

    Also, a run would be nice.

    Is it stupid to drive to a climate rally and contribute co2? Yes, probably.


    I went to the jail this afternoon, the women’s unit. Two people were detoxing on the unit, hollering about feeling like they might die, throats closing up. The women in the group talked variously about this being *it*, the time that will be different, and also about planning to go right back to dope. We talked about barriers and the difficulty of following through with a self-directed plan to stay in recovery when one is released to the open street and has no options, no transportation, no housing, no money, no clothing sometimes, and the addiction brain kicks in with the idea of trying to find a friend.

    They listened to the person I do the group with tell their story about being in jail and getting ‘clean’ and getting into treatment, not using dope, working as a peer and a substance use counselor. I gave them some photocopies of resource directory sheets the homeless coalition made, cards for the Justice Resource Center.

    I went to a supervision group this afternoon and listened and paid attention some more, felt that I was very tired and quiet inside, that it was a little bit of a muster to be there, but I said some alright things and made people laugh a little and felt basically at ease as I spoke about doing work that matters, and about gratitude.

    I have been looking at artists grants and grants for writers, free literary contests. I think I need to be entering more things, asking for support in more effective ways.

    There is so much to do. Even working part-time for an organization – selling my time and cognitive and emotional labor to them for wages earned in working on their work in the way they want and need you to work…it’s exhausting…at least some of the work of the organization is also my work and I am lucky enough to be able to create opportunities for myself to learn about and be a part of different aspects of the nonprofit and grassroots recovery community world. I mean, it’s not like I would be doing work that is much different than I am doing now – but, I’d be doing it in different ways, ways that allow me to do other work, too, like writing and art and consultation and research design and experimental expressive documentation.

    I still have about 35 minutes til I need to go pick up my daughter, so that’s cool…

  10. Well, it turns out that it was a dumb idea to go to Charlotte. First, it makes no sense to drive to a big city to attend a climate strike when there are climate strikes happening here in my local community. Dumb to use the gas. Second, the logistics of getting there were a mess. I spent a lot of time studying the Charlotte transit system map and routes last night, and while it was a good exercise to consider navigation by bus and the various circumstances that may impede travel – many, many people at the Government Center – it seemed like we would need to plan to not have to be back at a certain time. It is good to have ideas, to be inspired to do something bold and spontaneous, to want to see the people in the streets and to feel the energy of that, to want to learn more, to want to witness a bunch of young people gathering for climate justice. To want to see that and feel that, be a part of it, a grown person standing up and standing behind.

    That idea/inspiration is a good one, something to pay attention to.

    However, it is of vital importance to me to use my time, energy, and resources in ways that make sense, and going to Charlotte was a good inspiration and – when all things were considered – a dumb plan.

    Which leaves me to develop a non-dumb plan for the day which is cold and windy, damp cold from the rain yesterday. I think I am going to go and run at the small stretch of woods by the river, and then stop at the feed and seed to get some pellets for the stove, keep a fire going, clean my room, work upstairs. Listen to whatever songs come on.

    I have so much work stuff on my mind. There is a running list of flyers to make and emails to follow up on. I can feel a tightness in my chest when I think about it, all the things I need to do for my job. The website update. The flyers. The emails. There is almost a breathless feel. That’s my ‘anxiety’ – which really is a stress response to things I perceive as threatening to me in my uncertainty about my ability to perform in the situation, whether it’s a rapid with a clunky flat-bottom canoe or a series of carefully worded emails on topics that I don’t immediately care about, which is not to say that these topics aren’t important or relevant, but that they are not anything that I feel deeply and strongly pulled to work on. I will find inspiration once I begin the tasks, shift into work-mode, say the things, finish the design, start the conversation.

    I am really feeling the work-avoidance today, and it comes from simply not-wanting-to-think-about-or-spend-time-on-these-things-in-this-way. Not wanting to turn on the computer. Not wanting to talk with anyone. Wanting to play piano while I still have a piano, and wanting to paint a sky on the ceiling upstairs. Wanting to clean my kitchen and work on putting together documents of poetry and excerpt to try to support myself in finding the people that might help me with all of this business of being who I am and having this tendency to sometimes write thousands of words in a day, day after day, what does that mean for me?

    What the fuck am I supposed to do with all this – the person that I am, my gifts, my experience, my limitations and patient belongings and this almost absurdist back trail of notes about living and thinking?

    It is almost like this suffocating heaviness in my chest when I realize I don’t even know what it would be like to take myself seriously as an artist and give all my time to exploring that aspect of who I am, in a free way, a way that would allow my intuition and energies to direct my interests and attentions, my endeavors.

    I feel overwhelmed when I realize the extent to which I have never had much of a time to do creative work without constraint. I have – as a result – gotten better at doing creative work within constraint, not necessarily well or coherently or to completion, but I have – at least – found ways to keep my internal processes of contemplation and creation alive while not having much time to give to art most days, and not being able to have an expansive window of time to be in process.

    My processes are truncated.

    No wonder I feel ‘anxious.’

    I haven’t written any haiku. Yesterday at work – all those meetings and conversations, the sheer length of the day – took the haiku out of me.

    I did write one. And thought about whether there is any value in haiku about feeling tired and brain dead.

    There isn’t much here
    in the empty of my head
    ‘cept staccato rain

    I’m gonna go run in the cold. That will wake up my brain.

    • And will also help me to reconcile the biochemical effects of ‘anxiety’ that came about in thinking about work that I ‘need to do’ through the production of ‘stress hormones’ like cortisol and adrenaline, and will adjust my dopamine and endorphins levels, as well as my testosterone.

      • From Quora –
        ”At what point is IQ relevant?
        Victor Simões Leal
        Victor Simões Leal, Freelance Translator
        Updated Oct 9
        I recently scored 148 in a Hagen IQ test applied by a neuropsychologist with a PhD. I got that score despite having been interrupted over five times. That means I am squarely in the 98th percentile, which most people refer to pretty damn intelligent. Why is all that BS relevant anyway?

        Well, I flew 3 hours to meet this professional so he could administer this and a whole bunch of other personality and neuropsychological tests because my life is a mess. I really can’t seem to be able to adjust in any sort of profession I have tried, even though every boss I ever met recognised my intelligence. Still, cousins and friends whose IQ’s do not even come close to mine have much better adjusted lives.

        Here is the kicker: even though I had absurdly high scores in IQ, decision making, working memory, etc., I had absurdly low scores in planning (executive function), maintaining focus on a given task, self-motivation, clarity of objectives and the ability to develop new good habits. The guy who tested me said that these are pretty common traits among high IQ people (98th percentile and above). The guy who tested me (who also belongs to that group) said that we are weird, freaky, have a hard time adapting.

        Here is the point at which IQ becomes relevant: If you have a stupidly, absurdly high IQ, you need help. You need help developing skills that come naturally to most people. You also need help to develop your potential, because normal school will be super boring to you.

        This is my opinion, based on what I gathered from my conversations with my tester, who I’m starting some sort of counseling and orientation work with. However, if you are well adjusted in life, IQ is absolutely irrelevant.“

        “I also have an IQ of 147+ with variance between areas of processing….and my experience in being “a successful and effective” adult within the norms of function and expectation in my culture have been….well, a mess. I was tested and evaluated when I was 12, because of ‘depression’ and ‘anger’ issues, ‘trouble at school,” and although the evaluators and my family learned that I process information differently, in the late 1980s, all that meant was I was ‘very smart’ and ‘didn’t have trouble getting good grades.’ I got diagnosed with depression under the framework of a ‘chemical imbalance’ and medicated for that, was entered into mental health treatment. Nobody ever talked about ways that my intelligence or the way I process might have something to do with the “problems” I was having. They just didn’t know, I guess. After a bunch of school placements and a couple of psychiatric hospitalizations and a slew of medications, I finally dropped out of high school and was able to scrap together a college education because I could choose what I studied and the physical and social environments of college were not as stressful as they were in high school. I have been lucky to find work as a peer support specialist because of my education in sociology and psychology (because I have been trying to figure out how to function as a human in society, haha) and my work in social services (because I can’t focus on or do work that doesn’t matter to me or that conflicts with my ethics, can’t force my brain to bullshit like that) and yet I still have no health insurance, don’t work full time, etc. I have a MA in psychology. I earn less than 24,000 most years. I constantly ask myself: “If I am so smart, why can’t I just figure this out?” As a peer support specialist, I have met and known so many people whose unidentified learning and processing difference impact mental health and wellness in huge, unrecognized ways. It is frustrating (and unethical) that people’s complex human experiences of needs and struggles and responses and reactions and realities are reduced down to psychiatric diagnosis so often and that only people who have access to resources can learn more about their unique processing styles and how that impacts learning, behavior, and stress tolerance….as well as how their gifts might be nurtured and developed.

        thanks for posting, Victor. There are not many spaces where people can talk about having differences in intelligence, and a weird kind of stigma that surrounds anyone saying that they are something like a genius. I get that, and think that everyone is a genius in some way.

        Me? I’m also a total idiot, apparently, when it comes to putting together a generative and sustainable life.“

  11. I didn’t get much done today in terms of tasks accomplished. There is no sky on the ceiling, and I didn’t log on to work. I ran for 7 miles, starting off slow but not slow enough and then walking for a while, feeling the cold and considering the light in the thin woods. Then I ran again, adjusted my gait, relaxed my body, figured out how to run on this particular day. Once I stopped pushing myself to run in a way that didn’t feel comfortable and that my body didn’t like, the run felt good and I kept going, was able to enter into the 5+ mile state of forgetting that I was running and letting the mind wander without much attention as I kept an eye on the trail.

    Even though the trail network out there is small and the same, it is rooted, rocked, and rugged enough in spots that you always have to be a little conscious of one’s footing.

    One of the things I like about running on uneven ground over varied topography is that it holds my attention without me having to try much to pay attention. There is a little bit of adrenaline involved. It’s cool to think about all the sensory input and muscle response that happens during a trail run, calculating footfall and leaf depth, the softness or hardness of the ground, the slight changes in pronation, footfall. All of that happens without me thinking much. I just see and feel the ground and move my body over it.

    I picked up my daughter from school early, because she wasn’t feeling well, and we went to get provisions in the form of almond milk and spinach. I felt tired – maybe a little on the edge of sick, fighting something off – and so went back to sleep in the afternoon. Took her to swim. Now sitting and getting ready to go pick her up from swim.

    It’s already dark out. The sun set a little while ago.

    I didn’t get much done today, and am trying to feel okay about that.

    While I was running, I considered the contest I had entered, and wondered about my chance of winning, and why I likely did not win, why I would win, despite not winning , I imagined what that would be like, to win, and reflected on the small window of time that led to my entering the contest, the day that Daniel Johnston died and how I stayed up late and happily, easily figured out how to turn photos into videos and stitch together everything I felt like I wanted people to know about me, including the fact that I am not perfect, nor am I concise.

    I have thought about the contest a lot, really considered what it would be to have funding to be the person that I am and to figure out my work, find the projects and people I need to help me to develop my strengths and interests, and the ways that I have realized that I can and am actively doing this, refining my work, developing plans…and that maybe I actually will figure it out, and if nothing else, I will at least continue to take notes on the process and maybe those will be useful to someone other than me someday.

    Funding and flexibility would help immensely, and there are lots of ways to go about securing funding and generating flexibility.

    So, that’s good to realize.

  12. She woke up early, as usual, though not so early as most days. Her body felt like a tired, heavy thing, with no movement in it, no vigor, no desire to be in action. Her mind was the same, sluggish and without pull, no traction in her thoughts, a dull and thwarted resonance in any idea that she tried to muster energy around, trying out the possibilities of the day, going through the list of things she ‘needed to get done,’ to see if she felt like doing any of them, if any of the things on the list of things to get done felt like the right thing to do.

    They didn’t. She had no energy for any of it, didn’t want to do a thing on her list of things to do.

    There was a slight tremoring of interest around painting a sky on the ceiling of the room upstairs, but it was not deep, this tremoring. It did not come from her gut, but from her head in the thought that maybe if she tried to make something beautiful, she would find herself in that small state of Grace, the seamless drawing of steady hand to surface. Sometimes, when she makes art, she has the sense that the spirits of the world are pleased with her pleasure, that her own spirit is bright and clear, happy as a child at home drawing horses at the kitchen table.

    She thinks that whatever she might do that creates beauty in the world is tied, somehow, to this sense. It frightens her to consider the possibility that she – like some artists do – might lose her ability to inhabit that sense, that she will atrophy, forget – eventually – that she was an artist, forget – even – the sense.

    Waking up, she had none of this sense in her, was only a weighty configuration of sinew and bone, dull pulses, a tired animal that wanted none of the animal wants, wanted only – it seemed – to lay, to rest, to sleep. It did not want to run, or to eat, or to mate, or to be around any other animals at all. It just wanted to rest, alone, and not be asked to do anything, or to have to do anything.

    Surely, if the animal were hungry, it would get up. Surely, if the animal had to move, it would move.

    (I did not feel tired like I felt tired day before yesterday, and yesterday, when I was in the desert, not often, because I knew I had to move, to walk, because I was hungry. Food is amazing when a person walks all day. Here, the food is right in the kitchen, less than fifty steps away. There is no real hunger. I am fed, and tired.)

    She is tired from work, she recognizes, sitting in the old chair that was red and then green and is now blue, that once belonged to her great-grandmother, because she is from a family that holds onto to things like chairs, from a family that has things to hold onto, and places to hold them. She has a chair, and a roof, despite its slow leaking. Even though her house does not have a furnace, it has a stove. She has a house, a relatively safe and comfortable, exceedingly safe and comfortable by some standards.

    Sitting in the chair, in front of a fire made by the combustion of pelletized pine, she considers all the things she is ‘supposed’ to do to keep her loose-held wage-earning position with the nonprofit. She is tired from the week, from the meetings, from having to force her mind to work when she said work, when she had work to do, emails to write, grants to finish, meetings to attend. Listening and considering things she does not see as deeply and immediately requiring of her participation or need-for-knowledge, communicating carefully her perspective, trying to see and understand the perspectives of others.

    The house was empty when she woke up tired and there was nothing immediately demanding anything from her, save the old orange cat that eats and quiets, meows in the well-practiced way that he had taught her to respond to, the way that gets him fed, then resumes his sleeping.

    The place is quiet except for fire noises, the whoosh of hot air. She doesn’t have to do anything, and feels a little sheepish about that, about her sulking, her tiredness. She knows that people all over the world are tired. They wake up tired and they go to work.

    She does that most days.

    At least she doesn’t have to work in a meat processing facility, or the Department of Motor Vehicles office, or one of the giant box stores at the edge of town, some squalid greasy kitchen where the voices are always barking orders while pop music plays in the lobby, or some job where she has to put together endless, pointless parts for products she neither uses, nor cares about, or even believes in. She couldn’t do it. She knows she wouldn’t be able to. Despite all her tricks and all her efforts, all the ways she tries so hard to find beauty and meaning and peacefulness in simply being, she could not do it. Maybe she’d get used to the loudness, the brightness, the tedium, the smell, the feel of the body sitting or standing all day, the scent of the uniform, the flourescent lights. Surely, she’d get used to it – adapt, become accustomed to what the day asked her to experience and to cope with, have to cope less and less, become numb to it as a way of surviving. She would adapt. She knows she would adapt, by some process or another, and she knows – also – that peacefulness and lightness of human spirit can be found in many terrible situations that go on and on in their harms and stressors, that stressors can be mitigated, can become non-stressors, can become opportunities for perspectives of peace and equanimity, appeals to the self that cannot be harmed by any everyday brutality.

    She knows that people all over the world have a strength of spirit that allows them to cope with what they have to do in order to survive within their societies, and that people have such grace as to be deeply grateful for a simple job, the most meager of paychecks, the most gruesome of ways to have to earn a living, that people make sacrifices, grace sacrifices, life/death sacrifices, just to try to earn their way, to get a little food for their family.

    She thinks, though, that she couldn’t do it. That she would rather die than live in brutality.

    She knows that isn’t true, that in living there is some solidarity, and in trying to live and to not forget all the other people who are living there is some allyship.

    She thinks, she knows. It goes on and on.

    It is two days past the morning when she woke up tired, two full days of not getting much done, and contemplating the feeling and reality of that, with an edge of overwhelm and urge to retreat, pressing dull tiredness in every move. She ran 7 miles the morning she woke up tired, hoping that it would wake her up, and it did for a little while, and then she became tired again, very tired.

    She went to bed at 6:30 last night, not even caring to talk with her friend in the mountains via text, only wanting to lay in the dark and be quiet.

    She has got to take better care of herself. It’s two days past the tired morning and the day after she went to sleep so early. She still doesn’t feel quite correct. Something is amiss. She is writing because she is trying to find it, sat down to recount the days, figure out where she is with it all, what she needs to do, where her energy is. She doesn’t need to write – she needs to move.

    She doesn’t know what direction to go in. Start anywhere, she tells herself. Go paint the fucking ceiling, if nothing else.

    Just move.

  13. What she meant, when she wrote that there is solidarity in staying alive no matter how difficult and painful and thoroughly less than ideal your circumstances may be, even if they are gruesome, and you want to die every day, is that in staying alive we honor the people whose lives might be far worse off than ours, who might be living through something similarly terrible or even worse than we can imagine, and that by staying alive, we might be able to find a way to help the situations that create suffering, or to at least be beside people in the struggle.

    The ones who decide to stay alive, even when they want to die, assume a personality responsibility to try to Live and to find things worth living for, and a larger responsibility to find the things worth fighting for.

    There is no shortage of things worth fighting for.

    It’s like our individuals lives are so bound up with the world we live in. If one person stays alive and finds the things that bring them light and strength and learns about the things that cause harm, that alone could save more lives than we will ever know, reduce more suffering, just by showing up and being in the life that one has made after they decided that they no longer wanted to live a life that made them want to die, just by showing up and being a person who is in their light or in their strength or even in their struggle still, but trying…and with a little light.

    When people decide to live because one day their being alive might really fucking matter to someone, they are in solidarity with all of the people who struggle to live and with all of the people whose lives are far more brutal.

    That is what she meant, when she said that living is an act of solidarity.

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