It was a dry morning and my first day off in a while, so I rode my bike to find some blueberries.
I had filled a yogurt container and was sitting, listening to the woods, when I answer a phone call from representatives of the Democratic party. They’re hiring for a part-time campaign worker, someone who would round up volunteers, host house parties, and go door-to-door in Petersburg. The candidates are all better than their alternatives, so we make plans to talk more later in the evening.
A customer came into the bookstore and told me he was finishing what would probably be his last trip. He’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and, luminous, proclaimed his time on the small cruise ship traveling the Inside Passage had been a rebirth. He was leaving the next day, flying to Boston before he continued home to Vermont.
When he left I smiled, and told him to take care. I fought tears for the rest of the afternoon.
I doubt he is the only person I met this summer who came to Alaska with that knowledge.
They traveled to my home to have the experience of a lifetime.
In a month I will vote for myself as a member of the Borough’s Library Advisory Board.
I’m concerned about working for a political party while having my name on the ballot for a nonpartisan community position. Though it seems to sum up my political schizophrenia pretty effectively. On one hand, the dominant political system as it exists is broken. The structure and motivation of our economy (more, bigger, always) is pushing us into a potentially catastrophic future and our politicians, Democrats included, are cowards about facing it.
On the other hand, I could use some extra money.
And there’s no saying I won’t learn some real skills while in the process of taking theirs.
I have the informational interview with the more senior campaign official.
It turns into an official interview, and he offers me the job. I say I’ll call the next day with my decision.
I was explaining daily life in Petersburg to an elderly visitor and her daughter.
She replied, “Oh, I see. You take care of each other up here.”
K-12 school started in town this week.
This is the beginning of the second year since my most recent graduation.
I’m still reading hundreds of pages and writing every day.
Maybe I am still in school, but my new major is Debt Relief While Enjoying Life.
My thesis could be called,
The Real World: Learning How to Function Without Official Structure
My first chapter would be,
How to Give a Damn Without Giving Everything; Except When You Need To
I have six hours to decide if I will take the campaign job. It’s not that I want it. I don’t.
But my energy is scattered, and this might be a good place to direct it.
That is a dumb reason to sign up for something like a political campaign.
The Mount Polley mine tailings dam collapse is terrifying. For some obvious reasons, but also because I am afraid we won’t do anything differently in the future. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to start standing up and actually doing something, rather than just shouting into the void, but I don’t know if I can live with myself if I don’t start.
I don’t think working as a political hack will make me feel any better about myself as an agent of change.
I read articles like this and I’m glad somebody’s fighting the urge for apathy, but I reject the concept that because we’re disgusted with the political parties and systems we are somehow doing it wrong. There are different ways to measure impact, and not all of them fit onto a spreadsheet or filling in a bubble on a sheet with the right kind of pencil.
Some horrendous no-good-get-it-off adhesive found its way onto my skin while doing a project on the National Geographic cruise ship. Apparently it even adheres underwater. It mimicked tar as it traveled from my hand to my forearm, elbow to fingernails.
In the shower I was distracted by the sunshine I was racing to catch, and scrubbed until the pumice made my arm bleed.
A friend dropped off some rockfish, so I made curry and tacos over the course of a few days.
Then, out of rockfish, I had nachos. Twice.
I may help take care of others, but I think I am still learning how to take care of myself, too.
Now I have less than three hours before I need to have made a decision. My mind is racing. I’m writing, reading, and occasionally sitting absolutely still, forcing myself to focus on the decision at hand. I find myself drawn to a passage from The Coming Insurrection, like I have been in other moments such as this.
FIND EACH OTHER
So what is this truth? That the uneasiness so many of us feel is bigger than the smaller crises the news wants us to care about. That our future on this planet needs us to be radical, even when our politicians are scared of us when we’re like that. That we need to be good to each other, even when we’re facing hard decisions and murky futures.
The truth is I don’t know what’s next. For somebody who has always had an institutionalized focus, it’s a scary reality.
But the truth is also that our institutions have failed us, so it might be time to pick up the pieces and try something else.
I am running out of time. I have all the time in the world, and it's never enough.
I have energy, drive, passion. It's spinning in circles, because I'm scared of where I know it should go.
Not towards a campaign. Or a government agency. Or a 501(c)3.
I don't know if I have the words for it yet.
Until I have them, I'm just going to keep working at my small bookstore, and stay connected with those close to me as we support each other through the changes life brings our way.
This is the truth that I know.
I have returned to the world of my childhood, the world in which I first sowed the seeds of my being and becoming, a seeker on the path, the contemplative intellectual choosing solitude, ideas, choosing critical thinking. Here in my nature place I embrace the circularity of the sacred, that where I begin is also where I will end. I belong here.
At least for now.