I Come Back to Myself

Thoughts pour in; they swirl, forming a current, pulling more thoughts into the depths, growing tumultuous. They darken and become dangerous. I am caught, swept in by the undertow. 

It’s loud and I can’t escape. I try to distract myself with other people’s stories, but more words and information makes it worse. I resent the people on the other side of the screen.

I say to myself, “wherever you go, there you are,” but I start my car anyway.

Outside city limits, traffic thins until I am alone on the road. I slow my pace, enjoying the view: farmhouses, oak trees, cattails growing from wet earth. I crest over a bend to see a wide open sky and rolling hills. A lake rests between peaks. 

I arrive at the Buttermilk Bend trailhead. Signs announce Wildflower Tours at 11:00 am. It’s evening now, but I know I’m in the right place. I step onto the trail; the noise inside my head fades, replaced by the sound of the blue green river. 

The Yuba rushes below me, through a valley she’s carved between foothills. I look into her. I see myself in her water; I am made of her, but she is greater than I. She is a force of life — mother to creation. She brings me back to myself, calling to her essence within my veins. I am not the dark and stormy waters of my mind; I am the observer of a free flowing river.

The trail follows the river’s path. We turn together. Curiosity ebbs and flows with the bends. Wildflowers line the path in blues, yellows, whites, purples, reds. They are compact, expansive, delicate, broad, intricate, simple, in boxes and in circles, fragrant and without scent. 

My plugged-in lifestyle, the one that makes my head loud, is like eating plastic information out of plastic bags; I scroll through photos that have been altered; I read inane comments; I watch videos of people pretending; I question every news article, every statement; the part of my life that is lived through squares plugged into outlets makes me forget my true nature. 

Wildflowers are a simple joy. When I see them, I feel a softening in my heart, a growing tenderness, an up-swelling of pleasant emotion.

The river sounds like the river primordial. It speaks the language of my soul. It washes my mind of the chaos and clutter I’ve accepted into it.  

Nothing to plug in, no buttons to push, nothing to sell or buy.

Amongst the wildflowers, next the river, I come back to myself — the pure, unaltered state of breathing and living.


    

Save Bear River

I drive down Dog Bar Road along narrow twists and turns. I pass green, rolling hills; Victorian farm houses with blossoming trees and horses out front; abandoned barns that are hauntingly romantic; and ponds that are full from recent rainstorms. 
In the distance, a group of female turkeys step out of the lush greenery and onto the road. I slow to a stop and see a male, with large plumage, chase after them. He passes behind daffodils and out of sight.
I arrive at the Bear River crossing and pull over. With my hands on the railing, I watch the water, knowing that 75% comes redirected from the Yuba. It’s hard to believe this fast-flowing river may soon become a reservoir if Nevada Irrigation District builds its proposed “Centennial Dam.” With two other dams on the Bear River, this is the last remaining stretch of free flowing water.
At the end of Dog Bar, I turn left for the Bear River Campground. 
People gather along the river panning for gold. I see young children, teens, parents, and older folks. The stormy winter unearthed far more gold than we saw during the drought, I’m told.
I walk the entire length of Bear River Campground, listening to the river’s soothing music. When I come to a patch of Miner’s Lettuce, I sit down and eat a few leaves. The river lulls my senses as it spill over rocks and laps against the shore. Native bees add their notes to the song, pausing when they alight on wildflower petals. The wind brushes against the river and caresses my face; it feels fresh, as if it has never been sullied by man’s emissions. I place both my hands to the ground. My heart fills with dread thinking this land will be entirely underwater if the dam is build.
When I reach the trailhead, I see a man collecting data next to a county truck.
“Mornin,” he says.
“Howdy.”
“You picked a good time to visit the campgrounds.”
“Because it’s empty?”
“That’s right. You been here in summer?”
“No, I just moved here recently. Is it a madhouse in summer?”
“Oh yes, lots of people camp here. It’s only $10 a night.”
“Wow! That’s the best deal in California.”
He laughs, “I wouldn’t doubt it. Where’d you live before you moved here?”
“My last home was in San Luis Obispo.”
“Ah. I went to Cachuma Dam a few years ago,” he says.
I look in his face and see the monstrous cement wall and dead zones lining the perimeter of the reservoir, the hallmarks of a dam. “It’d be a shame to see that here.”
“I’d hate to see that here,” he looks down at his spreadsheet.
“I’ll leave you to your work,” I say. “Have a good one.”
“You, too. Enjoy your walk.”
The trail follows the river closely at the base of a steep incline covered with ferns and wildflowers. Deer trails split off and lead to secluded nooks at the river’s edge. As a child, I would have played pretend in these nooks, imagining a time before modern development. I wonder if these are the locations where the indigenous Nisenan tribespeople continue their ceremonies with reverence to ancient traditions; I remember learning the Nisenan people in our area were stripped of their land and hunted like animals during the gold rush.
I pass beneath a flowering tree, petals flutter to the ground like a gesture of love. Cottonwoods sprout bright green foliage on every branch. 
Finding a large rock at the water’s edge, I listen to the river’s song and commune with the beauty around me. Soon, when the rain subsides, the river will return to a brilliant blue, all the trees will be green again, their leaves will flutter in the wind like tiny fans; the banks will recede below the tree line, and people will enter the river on kayaks and rafts finding refuge from their busy lives.
I think about the Nevada Irrigation District. They say the dam is a solution to climate change-driven water shortages, but don’t they know water evaporates rapidly off the top of a reservoir? Don’t they see that their other two dams on this river are never at full capacity?
I think about our Congressional Representative Doug LaMalfa. Nevada Irrigation District has requested he sell them our public land, the land I sit upon, so they can build the dam. He has already voted to pull back the EPA clean power plan, lift the moratorium on federal land coal leases, and roll back environmental regulations. I ask him regularly to share his stance on selling our land, the land I sit upon, but I have not heard back from him. I can only guess at his intentions.
I place my hand into the cold river, the snowmelt. It brushes through my fingers and against my palm. I savor the moment, knowing I may not have this opportunity next year.  

The Glam in Glamsient

A few nights ago I met with a group of friends in Nevada City, CA at Three Forks Bakery and Brewery. The five of us sat at a large, sturdy wooden table; our group consisted of three musicians, a photographer, and me (a writer). We spoke of art and politics, festivals and hiking, our latest projects and our recent travels. The restaurant buzzed around us. 

After a round of drinks, we ate together in my favorite manner — family style. Between the five of us, we enjoyed a multitude of salads, small plates, pizzas and desserts all made, for the most part, with locally sourced, organic ingredients. Collectively, we indulged in a wide array of the eclectic menu; choosing independently, we brought an assortment of tastes to the table. We took each other in unexpected and unplanned directions, and the result surprised even us! Each dish, distinct and flavorful, brought new notes to our palette. We all loved every dish we tried — and that’s not an exaggeration!

Life within a community is rich. We try new things we never would have tried on our own; the people around us bring their unique flavor and tastes to the table. We can have more and try more through our networks. Sharing our joy and passion multiplies our happiness; sharing our gifts and talents increases our ability.

So it is living a glamsient life. In the beginning, Linney introduced me to the glamsient lifestyle and my friend, James, made it possible; to keep the glamsient times rolling, I have created work and trade relationships with my friends and family for money, housing, and furthering my career as a writer — something I never did when I lived an insular 9-5 life. 

Immersing in community is a vibrant effect of the glamsient life. Now I am more connected in mutually beneficial relationships with the people I care about and I can focus more on my art. Travel and luxury are amazing facets of the glamsient life, but a stronger sense of community is the true glamor in glamsient — I feel more inspired, vital, and productive than ever before. Just as the family style dinner at Three Forks allowed me to dive deeper into their menu than I would have on my own, living more fully in my community has taken me in new directions and added new meaning to my life. 

I am truly grateful for my community!

By the way, if you visit Three Forks in Nevada City, try one (all!) of my favorites: the pozole, the Aw Snap and If I Only Had a Grain salads, the bacon-date bread, and the lemon tart. Enjoy!
 

The Aw Snap Salad; photo courtesy of Three Forks Facebook; facebook.com/ThreeForksNC