Dread

Sat down to take a breath in my office and wondered how much time I had left before school started. I looked at my calendar and realized it was still on July. I flipped it over to August and noticed the “Welcome Back!” message, and all I felt was dread. “All the teachers are coming back,” a coworker told me. “Yeah,” I said. “I think I miss the kids more than I do the teachers.” She laughed and said, “Me too. The teachers are just so needy.”

I’ve spent the last week taking down one computer lab and refreshing another. My fingers are sore from plugging and unplugging cables, and I’m tired from lugging desktops and monitors from one building to another. There’s a certain sense of accomplishment, though, when everything is ready and I push the On button on two dozen desktops and see them all spark with life. I’ve been at this job for six years, and I continue to feel joy when the machines I’m in charge of hum happily in the background. I can’t wait to see the kids use them.

Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris as his running mate last night, and I felt the same vibe when Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination twelve years ago. Four years ago, many of my coworkers and friends in Montana voted for Donald Trump to be president, a stark contrast from twelve years ago when my coworkers and friends voted for Barack Obama in California. All the pollsters and pundits predicted a Hillary Clinton win in 2016, and all the pollsters and pundits predict a Joe Biden win this November. I don’t know if I trust anything they say, but in my characteristically contradictory nature, I subscribed to the New York Times last night for the first time in my life. Other than unlimited access to their reporting, I wanted access to their crossword and their vegan recipes. Like with anything else, I’ll see how it goes.

Muzzled

Like I feared, the pain in my lower back has impacted how I spend my time. It hurts to get out of bed, it hurts to stand up from my seat, and it hurts to bend down or twist to the side when I’m standing. But I’ve been here before. With enough rest and time, the pain will fade until it no longer hurts. Can the same be said about wearing masks?

Over the past couple of days, I’ve noticed more and more people not wearing them inside grocery stores with signs on their doors that mandate them. People are brazenly and shamelessly defying common sense and altruism for what? A twisted sense of patriotism? Of liberty? Of not wanting to be muzzled? At this point, I’m tired of this. Yesterday I received a package of more masks for me to wear, and I’m going to wear them. I believe in their effectiveness, and I want to do my part to ease the pain this godforsaken virus has caused and will cause. Because like the rest of the world, I want this to be over sooner rather than later.

Lazy

Drove my car through a car wash and enjoyed the show. After, I took my car for a drive and tested my new tires. They drove beautifully. I went and bought a tribal conservation permit, but instead of putting it to use immediately, I drove back home and spent the rest of Sunday lazily. I turned on my PS4 for the first time in almost two months and played The Last of Us Part II. I finished watching I Know This Much is True on HBO Max, and I thought Mark Ruffalo was incredible. I watched the season finale of Perry Mason and enjoyed the conclusion. I went to bed and watched another episode of One Piece before I fell asleep. I think I dreamt about Taylor Swift, but I’m not sure. I woke up with a pain in my lower back, and I’m afraid it’ll sideline me for the week.

In The Last of Us Part II, Ellie keeps a notebook to document her thoughts and sketches, and her pages are beautiful. I love notebooks so much, and hers inspired me. I thought about this website and how it reminds me of a notebook. Every photo is taken the day before I write my entries, and along with my words, they constitute my journal, my notebook, and I love it. I’m eager to see where this goes.

Magician

Bought new tires for my car and imagined the unknown and untravelled journey that lies ahead. This followed a dream from the night before where my car wouldn’t start. I turned and turned the key in the ignition but all I heard was the sputtering of the engine and no spark. An omen, perhaps, or just a dream. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I lived in a time of magic and wonder, where dreams were taken more seriously and where my night terrors are caused by the devil and his minions. But we live in a time of science and enlightenment, a time with its own magic and wonder. One of my favorite memories of my time in Montana has been when I enter any of the elementary school classrooms and fix a teacher’s technology problem. The eyes on the kids when they see the computer working again is intoxicating. Their eyes are full of their own magic and wonder, and I’m the magician. If only I can fix all life’s problems like I can a computer.

Reopening

A few nights ago, the school board approved a tentative reopening plan for the 2020–2021 school year. A majority of our students and staff will return to school if they choose; there is an option to offer remote learning to those families who don’t yet feel safe sending their kids back. School will shift to a four-day school week with every Friday being a remote learning day. Masks are not mandatory in all situations; teachers have the option to either require them or not, and there will be zones around campus where masks are required. Sports, as of today, will return in the fall, and I think that’s what most people want more than anything else. It’s safe to say that staff, parents, and students are tired of this godforsaken virus and want things to return to normal, and I hope this plan gives them that.

However, I foresee God laughing at our plan and our desire for normalcy, and the next few months will be a playground for misery and despair. The MLB can’t keep their adult players from going to casinos and contracting and spreading the virus, and I can’t see our kids doing any better. Our plan allows kids to do both remote learning and sports, and I can’t follow the logic there. We still don’t know how adept kids are in spreading the virus, yet people take this lack of knowledge as permission to do what they want. I overheard a parent say he’s against mask wearing, but he will send his kid to school with a red “Trump 2020” mask in protest. I imagine he shares the same type of brain as the person who designed this Mexican restaurant’s logo and thought it a good idea: a Mexican with a sombrero holding a taco and riding a skateboard. It’s illogical and racist and I doubt anyone in the valley feels the same way.

Month

The Waning Gibbous Moon
The Waning Gibbous Moon

Woke up to a power outage, and my first thought was, Shit, I can’t make coffee. I order my coffee beans online on a weekly schedule, and each bag is different. One might come from Texas this week and the next one might come from Peru. I have a coffee grinder that can hold an entire 12oz bag of beans, and I have set it to a fine grind, suitable for my AeroPress. I’ve been making AeroPress coffee for the majority of my time in Montana, and I haven’t switched it up because this device makes delicious coffee. I have an electric gooseneck kettle that allows me to control the water temperature to the right degree. 205ºF, if you’re wondering. Finally, I have a kitchen scale that helps me weigh it all down in 0.1-gram increments. It’s a beautiful morning routine, one that helps me start my day my way. Friends have ridiculed me for having this routine, but I don’t care. It’s mine, it makes me happy, and I love it.

The moon no longer looks full in the sky. I’ve never studied the phases of the moon, but perhaps I can start. Some cultures have personified the moon as a deity, some God with supernatural abilities. Others have used the moon to help them keep track of time. In fact, the etymology of the English word month stems from the moon and the interval between one new moon and the next. But for me, the moon can be my anchor while I try to figure out what comes next. When I feel lost, I can always look up at the sky and see the moon and understand its phases and perhaps feel its supernatural abilities to help me figure out what might come next. Right now it’s telling me that I need to make another cup of coffee, so that’s what I will do.

Stasis

“Still more cows than people.”
“Still more cows than people.”

The other day I asked a friend if she had read any of my entries on this website, and she said she hadn’t. I told her I wanted to know if it sounded like I hated Montana. “No you don’t,” she said. “You love it.” I have my doubts. The thing is, I don’t think I’ve ever felt love toward any of the places I’ve lived in throughout my life. Settling down in any one place scares me, and I don’t know why. It might be a fear of stasis, of seeing the road ahead and not walking it, of leaving things alone. As much as I have lived my life in fear of so many things, I’m afraid of not moving the most. Every time I move, I discover something new about myself, something that prepares me for my next journey, and it’s that realization that fuels me, that gives life meaning. I understand that not all journeys require a new place to live. I’ve yet to be married or have kids or own a house, things that will take me on new journeys, on new paths of self-discovery, and perhaps that’s where I’m headed. The thing about life is that no one what’s coming next, but the thing about humanity is that we have the power to shape our paths, to forge our own destinies.

I just wish I knew what to do next because I’m not sure. I guess I have to keep walking to find out.

Moon

I watched the moon hang full and bright in the night sky as I dreamt about night trails and camping alone somewhere. I have studied maps and made countless lists of places to visit for years, but I haven’t done much about them. A few years ago, I made a detailed itinerary of about a dozen national parks in the western United States that I wanted to visit and explore. I told myself that I couldn’t go until I had built up enough leave from work to take the two weeks I thought it would take me to visit them all, but that was simply another excuse in a long line of them. And two weeks? How about two months? Or two years? I yearn for the open road and a day without time. I yearn to escape this world and enter a new one, a world as unexplored and alone as the moon.

Weird

At the post office
At the post office

On my walk, I stood by the street corner on Main St. and waited for a car to drive by before I crossed the street. A man in the backseat stared at me as they drove by. He wore dark shades and had the car window rolled down halfway. I half expected him to say something, but he didn’t. I crossed the street and kept walking. As I stuffed a package into the blue collection box, I watched another man drive by and park his car near me. He said, “I never realized you could stuff a package into the back of those things.” “Yeah, me neither,” I said. “But it’s pretty cool that you can.” I didn’t know what else to say. We nodded and went on our way. On my way home, I waited at a different street corner and waited for a different car to drive by. This time, the driver stared at me as he drove by, and as I began to cross the street, the man did a U-Turn and parked across the street. We locked eyes for a moment, and when I realized he was dropping a friend off, I walked away. After arriving home, I thought that was the weirdest walk I’ve had yet. And I want to do it again.

Roar

“Fuck Trump”
“Fuck Trump”

Went for a drive. I needed to feel the pavement and the illusion of freedom the open road provides. I understand my contradictory nature. I chastise those for not wearing a mask, for not doing their part in preventing the spread of this godforsaken virus, yet I yearn for the open road and long walks through nature and cities. I finished my rewatch of Breaking Bad earlier this week, and I never felt as much of a connection to any piece of media more than I did on that shot of Jesse when he drove away from his past, his hand hammering the steering wheel and his roar of freedom and pain, his eyes looking ahead at the open road and toward an uncertain but liberated future.

What am I trying to run away from? It feels like I’ve been running away from something my whole life. One of my first memories is of my dad striking my mom and dragging her across the living room floor as her hand reached out toward me, her eyes wet with fear, her face roaring with pain. Fear and pain followed me throughout my childhood until I escaped and moved to Los Angeles. It followed me again when I moved back to San Diego after college, after trying and failing to find a job during the 2008 recession. I thought I had escaped it when I moved to Montana, but I can see it lurking behind me through the rearview mirror and no matter how far I drive, it’s always there.

Maybe I need to stop running away. Maybe I should stand up and fight whatever it is that’s stalking me. Or maybe it’ll always be following me, and I will need to keep running from it for the rest of my life.

Debts

Flipped through an old notebook in search for the reasons why I moved to Montana eight years ago. A month before I left California, I wrote about the debts I owed and the money I didn’t have. I tell people I moved because of family, but that has always been secondary to the truth: I moved to Montana because of money. I didn’t have it, and I needed it to pay off my debts. In a year, I will pay them off, fulfilling my original reason for moving here. The question I’m asking myself now is what comes next.

I want a new life that doesn’t involve California or Montana. I want to hit the road and travel the country. I’m craving the open air and paved roads, late nights and early mornings, new friends and new memories. I want to be remembered and forgotten. I don’t want to settle down. I want to keep moving and see where my feet take me. Because life is too short and I want to see as much of the world as I can. That’s where I am in August of 2020; I wonder where I’ll be in 2021.

X

A former presidential candidate died from the coronavirus earlier this week. A few weeks before, he attended a Trump rally without wearing a mask. I heard secondhand that a Marine living here in Montana justifies not wearing a mask by comparing it to someone who won’t carry a gun: If someone won’t carry a gun to protect him, why would he wear a mask to protect them? People in my community believe the coronavirus has been blown out of proportion by the media and that it’s nothing more than a glorified flu. Normally, I would be shocked, but when the president retweets a video from a pediatrician who believes that gynecological problems are caused by sex with demons and witches, then it’s tough to be surprised by anything anymore. I wouldn’t be surprised if this picture came from an alternate timeline, one where true joy is an actual thing to experience.

Our school continues to discuss plans and contingencies for when school reopens later this month. Our discussions are good and productive, but there remains disagreement that I don’t think will be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Something like this can’t be resolved amicably, especially when people choose to believe what makes them feel better rather than what’s unpleasant. I miss the kids, too. I miss seeing them, laughing with them, and taking care of them, but how can any one of us live with ourselves if we inadvertently infect one of them, and they either get sick themselves or cause someone close to them to get sick? What if someone dies because of us? School staff are trained to protect kids from school shooters and earthquakes and nuclear attacks, but we’re okay rushing through a school reopening plan when an invisible enemy continues to run rampant in the world. But when we have Marines acting selfishly around people they have sworn to protect, then none of this surprises me.

It’s like God put an X over America and told the devil to do his worst, and the devil sent his demons and witches to fuck us from here to next Sunday. But instead of getting off, we’re killing each other with selfishness and ignorance.

Identity

If I grew up in Montana, would I be a cowboy today? Would I walk into this shop and be excited to pick out one of these cowboy hats? Prior to junior year of high school, I loathed writing. I was never any good at it, and I hated that I couldn’t plug in sentences into my essays like I could numbers in math. But my junior year English teacher changed that. She made writing fun. She assigned more creative writing projects than any of my previous English teachers ever had, and my creativity blossomed because of it. I had fun writing my stories, and she told me she loved reading them. She was the one who told me to apply to the screenwriting program at USC, and when I was accepted, she was one of the first teachers I told. Her name was Mrs. O’Connor, and I will never forget her.

However, by the time the plague shut down the world and we were all locked inside our homes, I had decided that I didn’t want to be a writer anymore. Ever since I first met my other screenwriting classmates at USC, I’ve wondered if I was ever meant to be a writer. My stories were always different, the way I viewed writing was always different, and my tastes compared to theirs was always different. One day, when I was locked inside my home wondering how I would spend all my newfound free time, I reminisced on the moment when I decided to walk down the writer’s path, and I realized it was in Mrs. O’Connor’s English class. Before I entered her class, I was on the path of becoming some sort of engineer. I was always good at math, and I figured I should do something that was heavy in it. But Mrs. O’Connor made the prospect of becoming a writer fun and exciting, and I based my life decisions after that on fun instead of logic. What if I didn’t?, I thought. What if I had gone to UCLA or UC Berkeley to study engineering instead of USC? God knows I wouldn’t be in so much student debt today.

I spent those subsequent months of lockdown unproductively. I dabbled with my guitar and with the idea of making electronic music. I thought about learning animation and creating funny skits based on moments at work. I bought photography courses and wondered if I could make a living taking pictures. I did anything but write, and looking back at that time now, I felt okay. I was neither happy nor unhappy, but I felt I made the right decision when I “quit” writing. I felt relieved finally letting go of the writer persona I had built during my adult life, and I felt excited to embark on this new journey of self-discovery. But then something unexpected happened.

An old friend from USC asked me if I wanted to start a writer’s group with her and another friend of ours, and without any thought I said yes. The idea of hanging out with my friends felt exciting but the idea of writing again didn’t. I hadn’t written anything in months, and I felt comfortable not being a writer anymore. But I didn’t have the courage to tell anyone that. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever admitted this publicly. As the idea of becoming a writer again started to sink in, I decided to commit to it full bore, hence this blog. If I was going to be a writer again, I was going to write. And you know what? I’ve never been this happy in a long time. I’ve been writing a daily entry in here for about a month and a half, and I haven’t had a day yet where I wasn’t excited to start writing. There have been days when I’ve felt stressed because I hadn’t taken a picture yet, but each time I do take a picture, I feel happy. There’s value there that I should never forget.

There are things in life that just feel inevitable, and even if I grew up in Montana and was a cowboy, the role of writer was always going to be the path I took eventually. And that’s cool.

Haze

The day was hot and thick with smoke, the type of smoke that seeps into your skin and clouds your thoughts. There’s a fire burning west of Dixon named the Magpie Rock Fire, and they say it’s around 1,000 acres, but the smoke is too thick for helicopters to get an accurate size estimate. There’s another fire burning near Polson named the Horseshoe Fire, and that one’s about 20 acres. I used to crave the smokey air and the burning earth. Now I crave relief, a short break from this eternal nightmare of death and despair.

I expect more hot and hazy days, more days filled with introspection and doubt. I feel doubt whenever I listen to my inner critic, that voice in my head that tells me I’m not a good writer, that I’m a mediocre photographer, that I shouldn’t be publishing my thoughts online because no one cares. I remind myself to keep writing anyway, to keep taking pictures, because I’m not doing this for anyone or for anything other than the sheer joy of it, something to take me out of the world for a bit and into something better.

The road ahead might be hazy, but I know if I keep walking I’ll get to where I need to go eventually.

Ghosts

At one point yesterday the weather said it was 94º and raining. I looked outside and saw one dark cloud to the west of me, but otherwise it was sunny and beautiful. Even the weather feels like it’s losing its mind in this long and lonely summer. Throughout the day I kept seeing movement in my periphery, but every time I turned to look, I saw nothing. I wrote down ghosts in my notebook and moved on. My feet carry the memory of my walks, and it feels good. My confidence in not only going outside but also carrying my camera has grown, and now I don’t remember why I was scared to do so for so long.

About a year after I moved to Montana, I told an old friend a goal I had that had been forming in the periphery of my thoughts for a while. I told her I wanted to walk across the country and meet new people and see new places. It was nothing more than a dream then and a fading memory now, a ghost of who I used to be, but the desire to undertake this journey has grown again, and I can’t shake it. I’m on track to pay off all my debts in a year, and about a year after that, I will have lived in Montana for ten years. Ten years is a long time to live in a place, and I wonder if that’s not a good spot to leave and start on a new journey. I don’t want to look back on my life and feel ashamed for the roads not taken. God knows I’ve felt enough shame in my life.

Warning

It’s sandal weather. I’ve been wearing them on my long walks around the neighborhood. Can it be called a neighborhood when it comprises a majority of the city? I miss the pace of the city. And the anonymity. I think I had stopped taking long walks when I moved to Montana because people would remember me here. The thought of being in a stranger’s memory felt unnerving, and that thought kept me from walking. I recognize the contradiction. I write to leave a legacy, to be remembered. Then why does being seen by a stranger feel unnerving?

I woke up yesterday to the words mentally ill in my thoughts. Remnants from a dream, perhaps, or a warning by some higher power. When I was in college, I saw a therapist every week for two and a half years. I took Zoloft and started journaling. Maybe there’s a correlation here, but I can’t see it. Maybe if I keep walking I’ll figure it out.

Sunflower

Went for a long walk yesterday. My shyness and anxiety seems to be fading away, and I was reminded of all the long walks I used to take when I lived in LA. I don’t remember anything stopping me from doing so back then, so I wonder what changed. I guess I had more places to go to then. And more people to see.

Now I’m focused on the flowers. Sometimes they make better company anyway.

Fair

“Fair Is On!!”
“Fair Is On!!”

I went for a walk yesterday and found out Lake County will hold their annual fair this summer. A few days ago, Lake County reported its first death due to the coronavirus. He was a man in his 70s. Yesterday, Montana recorded over 200 new cases, a majority coming from young people. Last week, Dr. Fauci said that young people are propagating the pandemic because they don’t care if they get infected. “[I]t doesn’t end with you,” he said. “You get infected and have no symptoms. The chances are you’re going to infect someone else, who will then infect someone else."

School starts in a few weeks, and the voices of parents who are worried for their children are getting drowned out by those that are against wearing masks and want things to return to normal, at whatever the cost. Death has come to Lake County, kids don’t care if they get infected, and the adults are propagating ignorance and selfishness. I enter commercial buildings with signs up stating that masks are mandatory, but I continue to see people not wearing them. I’m reminded of Jonathan Hickman’s amazing East of West series. On the cover of each issue is this quote:

This is the world. It is not the one we were supposed to have, but it’s the one we made.

We did this. We did it with open eyes and willing hands. We broke it, and there is no putting it back together.

As long as we can have our fair then who cares about everything else, right?

Tired

Some notes on sleep
Some notes on sleep

I’ve been more tired this week than at any other time in recent memory, and I don’t know why. I’ve been battling ever increasing headaches and laziness at a time when I want to be doing more. But yesterday I slept for nine hours, and I spent the day feeling well-rested for the first time in a long time. I wrote a simple schedule in my notebook with the goal of getting eight hours of sleep a night, but I fear I’ll need more. I wish I had the chance to sleep when I felt tired and to wake up naturally, but I don’t, so a schedule is necessary.

My plan for the weekend is to rest and to look after my body.

Heritage

Tools of the Trade
Tools of the Trade

Growing up, I never felt like I fit into any group. To paraphrase Miguel, I felt like I was too white for the Mexicans and not white enough for the white people. I felt like I always had to push myself to prove myself to either group, from how I behaved around them to what languages I spoke.

When I was around ten, one of my white friends asked a group of us over to his house. This friend had everything. His room was full of expensive lego models, books, and video game consoles. He had all the cool N64 games, and I was jealous because I didn’t. His fridge and pantry had all the expensive snacks that my mom would never buy because we couldn’t afford them. Outside, he had a big yard with a trampoline and a pool. I remember playing with them throughout the whole day and feeling both lucky and out of place. When it was time to go home, we went to find his mom at her office. She was a children’s book author, and she had a computer with dozens and dozens of reams of printer paper stacked up all over. My friend had told her that I spoke Spanish, and on the drive home she asked me many translation questions that I dutifully answered. How do you say this? How do you say that? I remember feeling so ashamed when I told where I lived because I lived in an apartment building where they lived in a beautiful big house. The next year, my friend moved away, and I never saw him again.

By the time I went to high school, my friends were mostly Mexican and other people of color. In classes, I sat next to them while the white people sat next to each other. I don’t think this was a conscious decision by any of us, but this pattern stayed consistent throughout my four years in school. But by this point in my life, I started to become my own person. Where my friends took Spanish class, I took French. Where my friends took regular college prep classes, I took AP courses. At home, my mom would speak to me in Spanish, but I would answer back in English. At school, my friends would speak to each other in Spanglish, and I would speak to them in English. There was one time when a friend asked me over to his house. Because I spoke English to him when he spoke to me in Spanish, his mom spoke to me in English and not in Spanish. She wasn’t fluent in it at all, but she tried anyway. When my friend told her that I knew Spanish, she gave me a look I’ve seen so many Mexican people give white people that I felt ashamed. I started to speak to her in Spanish, but it came out broken and slow because I had stopped speaking Spanish around the time I started hanging out with those white friends years before.

When I’m around white people, I feel like I blend in easily with them because of how I look, but there’s this gap in our experiences and upbringing that I know is there but they don’t. That chasm is huge here in Montana. I often feel out of place and disingenuous when around my friends and co-workers, but when I speak up about my culture and heritage, I feel this pushback from them that feels dangerously close to racism. When my co-worker started throwing out the n-word so nonchalantly the other day and asked me why black people can say it but white people can’t, all these feelings about race and my place in the world bubbled up again, and I’ve been battling with them ever since. I feel insecure when I speak up for people of color because of how I look but also confident because of my upbringing and experiences growing up Mexican and being Mexican.

A few years ago, I took one of those DNA tests to see what ethnicities I was composed of, and I remember feeling relieved when the results came back and said that I was 44% Mexican, 27% Portuguese, 12% Spanish, 5% Italian, and 12% a mixture of other ethnicities. These results affirmed my identity both to me and to the world. White people have a privilege that other people don’t, and before they acknowledge that, we’re always going to have a problem. For me at least, I know where I stand and now other people do, too.

Normalcy

Kids (0-18) Free Food
Kids (0–18) Free Food

I finished Ling Ma’s Severance yesterday, an entertaining plague novel that took me out of the plague novel we’re currently living in. What the novel got shamelessly and maddeningly right is our compulsion for normalcy at whatever the cost. We’re all guilty of this. I’m guilty of this. I continue to use the same route to drive to work, do the same job for eight hours, drive home on the same route, buy groceries at the same grocery store, workout my same workouts, make the same dinners, watch the same TV, talk to the same people, and sleep on the same bed. But we’re not living in normal times. If wearing a mask reduces the spread of the coronavirus by even a single percent, what’s the harm in wearing one? I don’t get it. Montana is the oldest state in the West. Shouldn’t we think of our elders before we think of ourselves?

Aflame

Temperatures will reach the 90s this week, and I’ve been without an AC in my office for weeks. Fortunately, a few of my co-workers installed a new AC unit and a window in my office yesterday, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I’ve worked in this office for almost six years without a window so working with one now will be fun. I’ll now be able to tell what time of day it is without looking at my watch. That’s important for a guy whose job is to stare at screens all day.

I saw the president wear a face mask the other day, but I continue to hear people in my county protest them, their yells about rights and freedoms fueling our increased case counts. My county now has the second highest active coronavirus cases in the state, behind Yellowstone County, home to Billings, the biggest city in the state. We don’t have big cities in my county, so these high numbers are concerning. On Tuesday, the U.S. reported over 1,000 coronavirus deaths for the first time since May 29th, but nearly one in three of us don’t believe the virus’ death toll is as high as the official count. More countries are denying American’s entry into their countries, but that’s okay because instead of traveling, we’re spending our time online spewing more than three times as much hate speech since before George Floyd’s death in May. I continue to hear people proclaim that “All Lives Matter,” and someone in a position of power recently asked me why black people can call each other the n-word but white people can’t. If that’s not enough, a couple hundred acres started burning on the reservation on Monday night and more land should burn in the coming weeks and months.

The world is aflame with literal fires, a pandemic, and an infodemic, but all we seem to care about is ourselves, our rights to not wear masks, our right to infect everyone around us with our bullshit because we’re Americans. That’s the American way, a populace no one else in the world wants, a populace that is okay with unmarked vans kidnapping innocent citizens to who knows where because “All Lives Matter,” as long as that life is white. Science has never moved this fast to create a vaccine but that won’t matter because so many of us won’t even take it. How many will have to die before we realize how stupid we’ve been? I’m afraid the answer won’t matter because we won’t believe the literal death happening around us until it’s too late.

Anew

I poured wine into a wine glass last night, and I noticed how the light interacted with it, and I thought there was a grace to it, something worth remembering. As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed how easy it has been for me to disregard things I’ve seen or experienced before. A flower is a flower, a sunset a sunset. But ever since I started journaling here, I’ve begun to slow down and notice the things I’ve been taking for granted. With my camera, I’ve been able to see things anew. Bees are no longer just bees, flowers are no longer just flowers. With my notebook, I’ve been paying attention to my thoughts more. Emotions and random ideas are no longer fleeting but worthy of writing down and examining closely.

I don’t know where I’m going or what will come from this, but if I can remember to slow down and open my eyes, then things will turn out okay.

Endless

I walked to the park and took photographs of flowers and insects and birds. I walked along the creek and saw insects striding across the water. I saw a bird hunting for worms on the grass and snapped a photo of a worm dangling from its beak. I saw a honeybee burrow its body into a purple flower and come out with its face covered in pollen. I saw kids riding their bikes and swinging on swings. I saw a man sitting alone by a table, his gaze turned toward the trees and the quiet. As I kept walking, I wondered why I’ve never walked this way before. I kept discovering new things, new sights, new sounds, new experiences. Is this what the world is like? Vast and beautiful and endless?

Bravery

The other day I asked a photographer how she has the confidence to carry a camera with her everywhere and photograph people. I will remember her answer for the rest of my life. “The important thing,” she says, “is not to let your shyness get in your way. The thing about photography is that it throws you into direct contact with life, and that can be scary at times, but if you want to do the photography you want to do, there is simply no way about it except to go out bravely and shoot.”

I picked up my guitar for the first time in a week and learned about time signatures and the F chord. I’m having trouble with this chord, but I know I’ll get better with practice. I know I won’t get anywhere if I’m afraid of failure. Is not all art a tribute to the artist’s battle with fear? A testament to their bravery?

I remember how much my fingers hurt when I first started playing my guitar. I also remember how badly my chords sounded. If I had stopped then, I never would’ve developed the callouses on my fingertips that made it easier to play, and I never would have experienced the joy of producing my own music. That, in itself, is an act of bravery I will always be grateful for.