I am in Spain for a workshop I helped organize and was feeling similarly conflicted. Then I spoke with a young person in our group who is doing some incredible work in Mexico. He said how being here and part of this experience had saved his mental health, as the work he does is very important but emotionally draining because there is so much suffering it’s hard to bear. Because of being here, he will return feeling stronger and able to throw himself back into his work, and he’s been able to connect to others who can further his goals of changing the circumstances of his community. I share that to say, you never know what ripple effects your workshop on the Missouri may have. I wish everyone could experience the power of the river and your workshops, but maybe this one will inspire the people who attend to do similar (or other great) work in the world and contribute to making that happen. I know the workshop on the Blackfoot did that for me, and many others. As you say, nearly everything we do in this capitalist hellscape is flawed and exploitative in some way, but I truly believe that this particular adventure will do far more good than harm. I hope you can find some peace in that. Thank you for all that you do.
As usual, welcome and timely advice. Thank you for the helpful perspective.
I say so as I enter a junction, professionally, that I have chosen in perhaps a similar spirit...one that scares hell out of me but also lightens my heart because I may be able to pay more attention to the daily graces of my life more fully instead of being unproductively preoccupied with shit that doesn’t change, no matter how much will and expertise I apply.
To leave a (teaching) career a little bit unfinished after 30 years is a kind of crossing that involves both compromise (I have no idea what comes next, but it’s time to go.) and the enforcement of hard boundaries in the initial decision to step away.
So when I think of compromise, I wonder about a compromise of compromises, and I think you’re onto something important here - that we clearly need to compromise our daily expectations to get along. But there’s a choosing, isn’t there? We all have hard lines that we should not yield or rarely yield. I suspect the energy to keep those lines is probably sourced from flexibility and tolerance in other places.
Like the infinitely flexible river you are about to encounter. It perpetually yields. But when it speaks, it speaks with the force of ages.
Consider the Yellowstone: as I floated it a couple weeks back with my wife and a pal from Colorado, I noticed the flotsam of house parts along the stretch near Point of Rocks. Other signs of the massive waters of last year’s spring were all along the 10 miles we floated.
My perspective is continually informed by moving water.
I hope your experience on the water is transformative and the fellowship sublime.
All we have are moments. I just completed my treatment for breast cancer and I have been walking in the shadow for the past six months. Thinking deeply about moments. The keen beauty of the world. It's so ugly--all we have are glimpses. Or else, maybe there's more. I'm happy to be here. I appreciate you and giving me things to think about. <3
As so many of your essays do, this one deserved reading through twice. And i might come back to it again. I also spend a lot of time wrestling with my privilege and the many ways in which I compromise what I say I care about (the Earth! climate change!) from the moment I get out of bed each day. For me the difference is those who are conscious and it hurts (you!) versus those who if they are aware, or have it pointed out, feel no remorse because they are somehow entitled to whatever it is - and it is really tough when the whatever is a beautiful wilderness experience that now requires a level of wealth and expenditure of resources to enjoy.
For me also the antidote - not an antidote offsetting or justifying, just what keeps me putting myself out there to take care of the people places and ideas I care about for one more day - is presence and gratitude. For the mynah bird that spoke to me loudly from the rack on my housemateʻs Kia this morning, for the avocado gifted to me by the wind and my third avocado tree while I walked my dog this morning, for the multiple Saturday emails and comments and texts and calls reminding me of the commitment of my precious community to love and take care of each other.
Mahalo for continuing to share on this platform.
Yes: living the moments, one by one.
Another perfect post, Chris.
Your writing is a gift because your musings always make Montana palpable. It was my ten years in Missoula and western Montana that transformed my heart and soul. Much of that was a communion with nature that took place during my six years in a small cabin on the Blackfoot River. That peaceful place, just across the swinging bridge, gave me a taste of the holy grail of spirituality, an introduction to the larger circle of meaning... flashes of many one-with-the-universe emotions... and the refreshment that comes with the sudden cool breeze... the plunge into the cold current... the moment that both the lone deer and I meet suddenly on the forest path, go eye to eye and freeze in our tracks.
"My hide is my sun hoodie" hahaha excellent.
Enjoy your retreat! Hydrate! Hope you will share the experience with us here. I am not an extreme elements type but I have always admired when people push themselves to brave the cold and heat.
I’m a bit ashamed to say that as I near my 60th birthday next month, I feel more and more overwhelmed/exhausted by contemplation and even action. I am, rather, almost grateful to not have to adapt to the future even as it’s created in the present.
Here's to a safe and fulfilling journey on the Missouri, Chris! I am envious. If you sight an old Mandan village breathe deeply and tell me about it.
Always wonderful to read your words. I love the book you quoted, "Embers" by Wagamese. I have started to reread a passage before writing. I am also reading and absorbing, "Braiding Sweetgrass" per your recommendation. It is magical. Thank you!
I hope rain has taken some of the dryness away by the time you read these comments!
Excellent! Enjoy the trip. My old friend Hannah who introduced me to your workshop will be on the trip as well and I am envious, even of the hardship. Love, laugh, sweat, write? Something like that.
Thank you, again, for your words. I hope your week is full of adventure and connection!
“What would it mean to make a return to that again, a series of celebrations not bound by nationalistic bullshit but of global experiences of togetherness as solar events are?” May it be so!
How timely your essay is! I truly enjoyed it, and thought about how, just yesterday, I was thanking the larger universal consciousness some call God for the nice things I have. I have a nice big house, warmth in winter, plenty of food. I am very grateful and I think about what I can do to help other beings. I've tried to be aware of my footprint on the earth by riding the bus when I can, or walking to town if I'm able that day. You are inspiring me to think of other things I can do.
Enjoy your trip! It is always wonderful to be on the river. The Colorado River runs practically past my front door - I respect and love it.
Have the most brilliant time. I wish I could be there! My love to you and Chandra <3
The dog pleading “What about me?” thanks you for your gentle, inclusive attention.
I'm driving up to spend time with my niece and nephew.