On the path to enlightenment

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On the path to enlightenment

Monks inspire me.

This morning, Connor and I woke up around 5am to watch the Monks of Luang Prabang, Laos, receive their alms. Monks are allowed to eat from dawn until around noon and they can only eat food that has been offered to them.

So at dawn, every morning, all the villagers wait on the street for monks to come walk by. All the villagers offer little bits of extra food- sticky rice, mangos, apples- and the monks take just what they need, for their one meal of the day.

This happens every morning.

When our alarm went off at 5am,
we rolled over and said we’d do it tomorrow.

Monks inspire me: their personal will to find enlightenment.

These villagers inspire me: their personal sacrifice of food, of sleep.

Connor inspires me: his honest intentions to sleep later.

Maybe we should all just own it.

All of these things, they come from bearing our soul, out loud. They come from knowing ourselves, knowing what we want and what we need and what the difference is and what the difference feelings like.
They come from helping others.

I don’t know much.
Lately, I’ve found myself floundering in an ocean of unknowing.
That’s just the way I like to live my life- constant questions bombarding and slapping me.


I’ve climbed mountains before and I’ve heard glaciers break. It is the single most epic thing I have ever experienced. It is poetic beyond my ability to do it justice. It is historical. The ending of history; the apocalypse is real time; slowing breaking Mother Nature’s white velvet gown, ripping it’s seams, thread coming undone, unraveling and you pray to Her that you only hear it’s crash and you don’t see it’s tumble.

I imagine it’s similar watching and hearing a bomb go off- falling from the sky like giant droplets of robot rain, running and looking back, running and looking back, and grabbing the ground and feeling the earth dance under mankind’s greatest hand, a royal flush of greenery and scenery and blood, shrapnel piercing the skin of trees and the skin of teens and you pray to Him that you only hear it’s explosion and don’t see it’s fire.

Similar yet, to being shot by someone who is supposed to protect you. Eyes open, unable to run, unable to breathe, frozen in a slow motion of emotion; the revolution at your finger tips. You are finished and you are just the beginning and you are an all out ending to the greatest story ever told: your story. Reduced to a video, reduced to blood on the pavement; blood near the car seat; blood dripping from a hoodie, blood dripping from the poplar tree.


I am sorry.

I find myself lost in a field of unknowing.

I do not know what to do. I cannot own it-
my intentions, my truth.


Did you know that most mountain climbers die on the decent? We take photos at the top, we celebrate with meditation and lunch and calling our mom’s with the only chance of good cellphone service. And then we go back to real life, away from our wannabe second home. We bucket step into the snow, we rappel from high rocks, and our feet fail us and we let go of the rope and we rush and we fall and we plummet: gifts from the sky.


Did you know that Laos is the most bombed country, per capita? The Second Indo-China War made sure that this country became a land of unexploded objects, freckling rice fields and schoolyards with gray balls of fire from the sky, must be a toy, must be a gift from the sky. It will take 100 years to water that fire out.
 

Did you know that “…An unarmed black person living in [the 100 largest US] cities was 6x more likely than an unarmed white person to be killed by police. An unarmed black person was almost as likely as an armed white person to be killed by police”; while walking in peace and power, walking to work, to school, to home; land of the slaves and home of the silenced voices; guns are our right, in the right, white, hand; Uncle Sam’s finger pointing, saying, ‘him, selling CD’s, him next’, saying ‘him, in the car with his girlfriend and small child, him next’, that point, that ‘I want you’, like a gift from the poster in the sky.

I am sick.

Traveling is dangerous?

Life is dangerous.

Life is dangerous and gruesome.


Benjamin Franklin once said,

“write something worth doing
or read something worth writing”

Right now, I’m sitting in the eighth country I’ve visited this year. I’ve written, for the last sixth months, about adventure and political learning’s and frustrations and the happiness in smelling a new place for the first time and the sadness of goodbyes on the road.

I often think

‘I am doing it. I am living life. I am living the life’.

I am fortunate.

I now confess, to Franklin and everyone else: it’s not worth reading, not in the truest sense.
We need to write with the blood on our hands, about the blood on our hands.

“Sit down at a type writer and bleed”,

says Hemmingway.
There has been enough blood. 

Again, for the people in the back:

There has been enough blood. 

Let us write about the blood: tell me the color and the texture and more importantly,
tell me the purpose of all that blood.

And, to Franklin, none of it has been as worth doing, not nearly as worth doing and accomplishing as the change that must now occur.
This world needs to change; our country needs to change.
It is time to ask and answer some long time coming questions.
It is time to be quiet and let other voices fill the space and the void.


The mountains, they echo.
They call and they echo and they say ‘climb’. They never say ‘descend’. And the people say ‘we surrender’. And we call it a ‘secret war’.
And our politicians say ‘you don’t matter because you’re brown’.
And our police officers say ‘hands up, I’ll shoot anyway’.

Let us stand upon the mountains we’ve climbed thus far.
Let’s us help our friends to the top.
Watching struggle is a sick and twisted fetish we’ve developed.
Let us stand upon the mountain of the 1920 Women’s Right to Vote, the mountain of the 1965 Civil Rights amendment. 
And let us demand more,
from the gift in the sky,
for the rattling earth,
for fire within us,
for our true intentions.
Let us scream at the top of our lungs

‘This fight isn’t a fight. This isn’t a war. This is peace in it’s truest form.’

Let us be like the monks and ask for what we need, silently, every dawn until enlightenment. 

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Call me a climber

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Call me a climber

I decided to spend the summer climbing in South East Asia
because two things I’ve always wanted to be identified as is a traveler and a climber.

The climbing started first, when I was small, and it's life within me grew as I did.
When I hit my angst filled teenage years, my climbing did as well- I hardly ever touched rocks, instead focusing on cheerleading, boyfriends and getting a later curfew.
My climbing blossomed when I like to think I did, as well: my first year of college. What began in at the small climbing wall within Portland State’s rec center, flourished into a nearly full time job at the epicenter of indoor rock climbing in Portland: Planet Granite. I spent my weekends begging to borrow cars from friends to head to local crags; when my parents gave me my own ride (I know, right, how lucky am I?), I filled any free day with new heights, rough hands and rope burns.

The traveling has taken much longer to grasp hold of. I’ve always made the joke that I picked the perfect major- international development. I’ve never faltered from this choice, even though it mostly came from an idea of a person I wanted to be, rather than a true interest. I was, up until spring break of my fist year at college, the international development student who had never left the country.

These two titles, these identifications, are important, right?


We humans, we group ourselves and we group others.
We want to be part of something, something bigger and greater than our own self.

And sometimes, we feel like we have to prove our way into that something:

baptisms, frat initiations, leading your first climb outside-
they’re all really the same exact pleading, the same offering, the same asking.

 

So I decided to spend my summer making myself into the person I’ve always wanted to be, which is actually quite frightening and also a rather large undertaking, meaning
tons of pressure.


As our little wooden boat pulled into the make shift port at Railay Beach, Krabi in Southern Thailand, the grand scenery brought me to tears.
 

Imagine Jurassic Park mixed with a climber’s wet dream: 
literally, wet limestone aching, almost screaming for a calloused hand to grab, pull, and set it free.

After a few complications forcing us to call the day early (malaria but not really), I went in search from cheap and spicy food. I walked the five minutes to the opposite beach and saw tiny ant-humans trying to wrangle rocks and ropes.
And I smiled like the first time I fell in love.
I stubbed my pinky toe in a rather ineffective jaunt through slightly sinking sand covered with crabs, on my way to meet these fellow rock warriors.

I walked up filled with butterflies and sweaty palms, then noticing that most if not all the climbers were being guided by some local organization.

Immediately, I sighed and thought “oh. Ugh.”

I wandered around the beachy crag,
grinning and coming dangerously close to once again crying and climaxing.

A couple guys were about to head up a route, and here, let me just note that both were wearing socks with their climbing shoes,

once again forcing me to think “oh. Ugh”.

I asked if they knew the name of the route or the name of the area, or even the grade.

They didn’t, and asked if I want going to try it (climbing) out.

Offended, like CAN’T YOU TELL I’M A CLIMBER, UGH!, Irambled off some words about how


yes, duh, I’m on a climbing trip and have my own gear and everything, ha, like I need a guide, lol*

(*actual quote)

And then, I felt like a total ass.

These two guys, nice enough, really
do not care
if I am a new climber, strong climber, guided or otherwise.

So why do I care that they know my (wannabe) title of rock climbing, pebbling wrestling, gym rat mermaid?


Recently, Connor asked what my goals of the trip were.
I babbled along something about

feeling confident in my lead head

imagining myself returning to Mecca (Smith Rock) with the ability to throw for big moves, clip without shaking, and get high off high exposure.

In reality, I guess I want to find my climbing purpose.

That is, after all, why we travel.
And, oddly, it is also why most of us climb:

that existential moment of feeling simultaneously so large from conquering earth and time and space, while also so small because look at all this earth and time and space. And look at all this rock, kicking my ass down again and again.


I yearn for these titles, like climber and traveler and beyond that, writer and yogi and academic and photographer and philanthropist, because I don’t want to walk up to random people and feel this urge to prove myself.

I want to climb for myself.

I want the self-confidence that comes with silent glory. 

 

And I do try,
to climb for myself.

I remind myself before every climb who exactly I’m climbing for.
I say the words out loud: “I’m climbing for me, no one cares about this outcome, so why should I”. I talk to myself while I climb: I say “breathe”, “calm down”, “move with intention” and maybe, most importantly, I ask, “who are you doing this for?

It’s not easy- I still want everyone to know that

I AM A CLIMBER, SEE ME SEND, WATCH ME FALL BIG AND YELL LOUD AND KICK AND SCREAM AND CRY AND SWEAT AND BLEED.

I will still take and post endless photos.

I hope one day, my climbing becomes like Lynn Hill’s climbing:

“a moving meditation” 

she calls it here.

But, until then,

Cheers to the ego of a climber, with stories like sailors.


Cheers to the world travelers we all wish we could be.


& Cheers to exactly who we are, where we fit perfectly,


without asking for any attention.


*I’m too poor to buy extra water (or beer), so I trust you all will do the drinking half of this cheers

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The long and winding road

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The long and winding road

I am surrounded by privilege. I take the bus home everyday, from my internship or from the climbing gym or from the beach and I ride up a mountain.

I pass by building on my school’s campus named after Levi Eshkol who was the third prime minister of Israel, who held office during the 6 Day War, during the preemptive Israeli strike against all of it’s neighbors; buildings names after Yitzhak Rabin, who was the fifth prime minister of Israel, who was both the minister of defense during the first intifada, the first Palestinian ‘uprising’ and a prime minister known for his embrace of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

I pass by these buildings on a campus made up of Arab students by almost one half and wonder why no buildings are named after their great leaders, their war heros, their advocates for peace?

Little bits of privilege.


I am privilege. I was reminded of this when I was traveling in Europe about a month ago, staying in hostels, staying up until dawn, staying young, feeling young, the forever kind of young.

I looked around and saw all these young people who wanted to drink and cheers and laugh with you. All these young people who have the ability to travel and the money to travel and the motivation and support to travel.

And I saw myself in these people.

And, if I’m honest, I was flattered.
I’m a living a Pinterest life, filled with epic scenery and exotic food and seemingly endless time to read and write.

But. A reflection can be a powerful thing.
In hostels, there is privilege: a vast blanket of white with specks of brown and black.

In this mirror image, you see yourself and you feel your privilege and you wonder how you can feel so blessed and so guilty all at once.


The other weekend, I faced my privilege more than I ever have before. I went into the West Bank. I sat across from a mirror, another 20-year-old young woman, with long black hair tucked away under a pink, flowered headscarf. I talked to her as she nursed her 2-month-old baby.

A mirror.

But a mirror from a circus house where I’ve been born in a different country with a different colored passport and different colored skin.

I have the privilege of living in Israel. I have the privilege of going to Ramallah for the weekend and I have the privilege of going back into Israel. When people in Ramallah would ask where I studied and I’d say ‘Haifa’, they’d smile without showing their teeth, like fangs of jealously would peep out if they opened their mouths.

I have the privilege of leaving Israel for good, if I want.
When I want.

I’ve been to Jerusalem.

That is a privilege beyond measure in this part of the world. That is a privilege endless blood has been spilled for.
Jerusalem.
The apparent and argued center of the universe: 
An old wall versus an old dome.
Do we ask which is older or which is more beautiful or which is more powerful or which is more ‘right’? Is that the solution we all so desperately grasp for, in our peace and conflict classes, in the offices of Washington D.C., in the apartments of families displaced from Palestine and families displaced from Poland, alike?


I’m leaving Haifa in tomorrow.
I’m leaving Israel in 14 days.

A while back, I was staying in Tel Aviv, which is basically Berlin Middle East. I was wearing my hair in braids: long and thick and heavy with water from the Mediterranean. Walking down the beach with hostel friends, a man stopped me and asked if he could take my photo. He said my hair was beautiful against the bluish purple sky of the sunset.
I said yes because I’m a narcissist and also, I love talking to people.

He asked what we were all doing here which led him to ask what we were studying which led him to discover that I was in a program called “shalom an sekhsokh”, “peace and conflict”. He smiled with his teeth, showing his amusement, and cheered, jokingly as only Israelis can 

"you’re here to solve it! you will solve it for us, right?”

And I said

“yes!”

because I was a child; because 4 months ago feels like a lifetime ago; because I thought there were only two, maybe three, solutions on the table; because I had no idea there are in fact no solutions but only opinions and confusions.

“Yes!”

I said. And I smiled with my teeth and laughed and felt beautiful and young and I’m sure I felt very privileged without realizing just how often that privilege would manifest itself.


I’m leaving Haifa, and then I’m leaving Israel. I have no solution. If I’m being honest, and I try to be honest, I am more confused leaving than I was when I arrived. I’m lost in the last 100 years. Do I dare analyze every mistrust and every communication gap and every wrong calculation? Do I dare even think of a peaceful solution- at some point it feels sacrilegious, like the two most extreme views, the two who love this wall and this dome the most would scream at me and tell me my foolishness in thinking the other would even consider peace?
Do I leave and forget because I’m left with nothing?



It is my privilege to leave Israel. I mean it. You know how we say “it’s my privilege!”, like it’s my honor or duty? Yeah. It’s my privilege to leave Israel. It’s my honor. I’m leaving while a quarter of the population is stuck here- or, really, stuck there, in the West Bank and Gaza.

I’m leaving Israel. It’s my privilege. I get to leave Israel- leave Israel safely, with inspiration and thoughts and ideas circling through my tired head; with narratives from every side: the father of an IDF solider whose volunteered to return to service for the second Lebanon War, only to be killed in the cross fire; and a 90 year old woman who left her southern village in Palestine in 1948, the night of Al Nakba, left for Gaza and then the West Bank, who has never returned to this now foreign and abstract concept of home.


Traveling breaks your heart. You meet endless amounts of beautiful souls and you leave a piece of yourself with all of them. I wish I could list all the people I’ve met that have forced my thinking deeper, taken weight off my heart, or shaken me out of my comfort zone.
Everyone once in a while, I’ll be walking down the street and my heart will be broken because I wear it on my sleeve and every goodbye is a little death in my life. I’ve become good at dealing with death I expect and accept it. But when your heart breaks as often as mine does, sometimes it’s necessary to remind yourself that it’s beating. I like to feel my heart beating. I put my hand on my chest and experience the rhythm of life- the rhythm to my life.


I’m leaving and I don’t have to come back. Or maybe I do have to come back.
What we do with our privilege is the only way we have to combat its destructive path.

Maybe it’s my privilege to return.
Maybe I need to keep my word to the man from the beach.


This was long and winding, so I'm sorry.

Haifa is the most bittersweet goodbye.
Goodbyes, however, are this important and a crucial part of life.

So.

Goodbye Haifa. 

Cheers to you

 

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