6/99 ~ to live like the wild ones

“Before our white brothers came to civilize us we had no jails. Therefore we had no criminals. You can’t have criminals without a jail. We had no locks or keys, and so we had no thieves. If a man was so poor that he had no horse, tipi or blanket, someone gave him these things. We were too uncivilized to set much value on personal belongings. We wanted to have things only in order to give them away. We had no money, and therefore a man’s worth couldn’t be measured by it. We had no written law, no attorney or politicians, therefore we couldn’t cheat. We were in a really bad way before the white man came, and I don’t know how we managed to get along without the basic things which, we are told, are absolutely necessary to make a civilized society.”

-John (Fire) Lame Deer


it was already dusk by the time we made it to the banks
of the Red River, exhausted
we dumped our bags on the wet sand and flopped down
taking in what lay on the other side
bright city lights and the faint sounds of sirens and engines revving

‘i don’t know why you’ve been acting so ashamed’
my travel pal said mildly disgusted, as he often tended to
‘we aren’t the problem. just take a look around. we aren’t the problem’
i knew in my heart i wasn’t necessarily a problem but in my head
i was a slug, a burden, a no-thing

after spending a few weeks stuck in a city
living on the fringes
with my home on my back
the endless seas of cars and faces that
avoided my gaze or didn’t see me at all
had left me downtrodden

i looked out on the water, and then at the trash and debris caught on the shoreline

‘we aren’t really much different than that guy you’ve been reading about,
Lame Deer, doing his best to live free within the confines of a civilization that has taken it all away’

the deep breath i tried to take met with the constriction in my diaphragm
and i just sighed and sunk deeper into the frayed canvas of my overstuffed backpack
‘yeah, i dunno’
i could usually count on this guy to shake me up out of my limiting beliefs
but bringing up the suffering of Lame Deer and his people
just made me feel ashamed for feeling ashamed

the sun had long since sunk below the horizon by then
and under the refuge of darkness we relaxed enough to set up camp

in the morning i tried to imagine what this bank
on the Red River would have looked like
what it would have sounded like
200 years ago
before this land had been claimed
to be anything other than free

surely i would have felt free to be there then

eh, but

no matter,
we had to pack our things up quickly before too many eyes
saw us

the rest of the day i imagined
the houseless people of the city as
the nomadic people of a time that once was
when this land had been the home for the
wild ones

and now, how those unable to adjust to a society that required them to
live in four walls, and
pay taxes
who didn’t want to pay
for living on the earth
were cast aside and overlooked
the low layers of a
sickly society that poisoned
the same river they drank from

in a city of millions
how could one man’s freedom
endanger the freedom of another?
was freedom truly found in the dollar
and did it somehow justify the brutal intolerance
of anyone who chose to live outside the margins?

i know the answers
and i proclaim that without hesitation, for
the answers are weaved into the fabric of all creation
the shoreline on the Red River waxes poetic of freedom reigned
and the free peoples of times before find their voice in those that
still live
like the wild ones

5/99 ~ it could have been a missed connection

i had lied to him
that afternoon
hanging out sun-drenched, legs splayed on the dock
the strait of georgia
and an anticipation of me having to board a plane soon

a lull in the conversation and i say
‘yeah, i had a thought about finding an edible for the flight, but no luck’
not true
‘oh? i can help you out with that! come see’
it was time to get going anyways

so we’re in the truck
i’m thc sober going on nine months
and a pit of nerves sits in my stomach
‘is this a good idea?’
i don’t know why i said i wanted this

‘oh, you’ll be fine’

by the time i pass through security, life starts to tilt
and i wander around in an impermeable bubble of anxiety
and everyone surely knows that i’m not quite right
so i sit alone in the corner of a waiting area
trying to appear normal

i sneak a peek around, no one is watching
of course

life is full on tilt by now
and i have to paddle my bubble to the shores of
my waiting area
it’s going to be time to board soon

i sit next to a woman who is stretching
and she’s moving her body this way and that
and it looks like it feels SO GOOD
so i start shimmying in my seat,
the thc forcing my body to do the same

it’s rare to see someone in a public domain
such as an airport
so zoned in and focused on their own body
maybe she was a yogi, or a dancer
and i could completely relate to her need to
stretch out her bits and bobbles
and because it’s such a rare sight to see
i just had this feeling that we could connect on something
so personal

i was just so drawn to this woman

i sat up straight in my seat
and raised my arms up overhead, face towards the ceiling
and sighed with relief as tendon and muscle
found their proper homes

‘stretching is as contagious as yawning’ i say to her
as i stand up to join her
and now we’re both contorting our bodies
in the busy waiting area

she looks at me wide-eyed, coming out of her zone
and leans over and whispers to me
‘i just consumed an edible. i like seriously can’t help myself’
and i start laughing
and any anxiety i had left me
as i said, ‘oh my god, me too! i just knew there was
something about you …’
and we looked at each other and laughed and laughed
and stretched
comforted in sharing this tilty life together

it wasn’t long before we parted ways
boarded flights
i still remember what she looks like
and what she was wearing
it was maybe only 15 minutes of a lifetime
but it lingers

it serves as a juxtaposition to
all the missed connections
i can still vividly remember
where fear overruled the incredible desire to connect
with someone who stood out from the crowd
with someone who really caught my eye
all of the times i wanted to reach out
but walked away instead

and it gets me wondering about
all the missed opportunities to really
find solace in another human
to share just a moment that could linger
long after

i’d like to think that i won’t let these snippets of life
pass me by
i’d like to think so
but i’m still missing far more connections
than i make

i’d like to think so