the sound of rain

in the foggy distance lies sheets coming loose from their moorings

stationed in a cloud

a battalion awaits above me

frogs in my ears

when i loosed the volley 

not gunshots did i hear

but rampant ringing and footsteps piercing through the air

and then through the violent undertow a message did come here

fast among the waking brittle now

in deft shoes i kept going

but as my heart begins to give out

i can’t help but slowing

and shaking i go down

doing nothing less than knowing 

that through the foolhardy sludge the river will keep flowing

so to the honor that will stay unsung

to the violent skies and the rains shall they come

with the silent fleeting screams a river will run dry

Your Vegan Thanksgiving is still a Celebration of Violence!

Photo via Pinterest.com

A vegan Thanksgiving is more sustainable and animal cruelty free. Supporting semen being sucked out with a straw from 46 million male turkeys’ anuses each year is cruel.  But having Thanksgiving at all is not necessarily cruelty free. The only ethical way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to spend it educating yourself on indigenous rights. 

“Happy Thanksgiving” I am so thankful for the Native Americans who continue to fight for their rights, their lands, refuse to abide by the societal expectations of pretending nothing terrible happened to their ancestors on this holiday. 

As we are having a beautiful Thanksgiving feast with our families and friends, remember that today is a national day of mourning for native Americans across the country. So while you’re thinking, “wow, this holiday is so incredible and based upon gratefulness and love between humans,” please don’t forget that thousands upon thousands of Native Americans have been brutally murdered in cold blood (partly) for their lands by white colonizers. 

And this question shocks me… but how many people across the country will celebrate Thanksgiving today having never even engaged with or met a native person, can’t name five tribes, can’t name the tribe whose lands they occupy or even can’t name a living native person? 

So… why not celebrate gratitude daily? It is one of the most important self-care practices a person can do. Daily practices rather than on just one day covered by blood which is just another white supremacist holiday. I’m not saying we should completely cut Thanksgiving from our yearly tradition but being less arrogant and realizing what this holiday truly represents. Being “woke” can be very emotionally taxing and difficult to talk about; but it’s worth doing the right thing rather than taking the easy way out and staying silent. 

Ignorance is not bliss. Even though it would be much easier not to post about these topics and just pretend today is a wonderful day of giving thanks…like everyone else does… so I don’t hurt any proud Americans’ feelings. If you’re not speaking the truth, you’re part of the problem. 

So bon appétit, but don’t forget!  As we celebrate thanks, for Native Americans Thanksgiving is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the assault on their culture and history of colonial violence.

Burpees

Burpees – a kind of cardio exercise people do to strengthen their heart and burn their fat. Today, I started doing burpees again.

It’s a kind of workout that requires you to first do a push-up, then jump, do another push-up, jump again… The repetition of push-ups and jumping is going to accelerate your heart beat, therefore getting rid of your fat through breathing and at the same time, improve your heart conditions. 

However, burpees are hard, at least harder than jogging. In a small amount of time, you could be trying to catch your breath. While the high-intensity of the burpees is considered unnecessary for cardio by some, others like myself believe in hard-work—that hard-work should exhaust you.

Other cardio workouts have proven to be sufficient for fat-burning, such as jogging, rowing, cycling, jumping rope, even HIIT. Nevertheless, I believe in burpees. I’ve been doing burpees for about 5 years now, every now and then I would stop and jog, sometimes they are simply put aside or replaced by other workouts… but I’ll never forget about burpees.

Today I started doing burpees again, it brings me nostalgia while takes away the fat.

Photo credit: pinterest.com

a diary from the valley part 1

the various moments i experienced in the valley:

  1. A seven hour car ride where i skipped about 80% of my music library.
  2. The smell of fresh pine everywhere I went.
  3. The smell of smoke embedded in my hair for the entirety of the trip.
  4. Freedom.
  5. Shock when looking at the sheer face of El Capitan.
  6. Pain as I slowly walked up the seven million switch backs to the top of Vernal Falls.
  7. Astonishment as I looked down at the waterfall.
  8. A freezing cold lake.
  9. Burning thighs, calves, and feet.
  10. Being really cold.
  11. Feeling incredibly lucky as I am able to be in a place that is so treasured.
  12. Eating too many PB and J sandwiches.
  13. The strong urge to see a little bear.
  14. Moments where I did not feel anything, no stress, jealousy, anxiety. And it felt really good.
  15. Seeing the valley in a new light. Literally and Figuratively.
  16. The mist blowing against my face as I looked at the waterfall above me.
  17. A seven hour car ride back where I realized that I really enjoy a good podcast.
photo credit: pinterest.com

living in deep mountain

The meaning of life is to try everything that you have not tried yet.

Maybe this is the reason why I am here right now.

I grew up in a big, big city that has numerous tall, tall buildings with lots and lots of people.

Somehow, I decided to come here, the Ojai Valley, a year ago. And I got into a school where there are no buildings that have a second floor with less than two hundred people in total.

photo credit: kcet.org

After living here for days, I am starting to feel that I am part of nature. What a weird thought this is, and I have never had such an idea before. 

Especially on the camping trip, we just slept in sleeping bags, and considered the sky as the quilt with the ground as the bed. 

And with fewer people, there are fewer distractions. I have plenty of quiet time to sit outside in nature, to be deep or lost or sunk in reverie.

Also, I have had the chance to watch the sunset since we have some free time after dinner. This is a really incredible experience to enjoy the sight of clouds and sky change their color and shapes slowly and fast. 

The Coffee Dilemma

Many people prefer beginning their day with a cup of coffee. One of the most famous coffee shops in the world would be Starbucks. To some people, nothing really compares with fueling themselves with warmth and energy with a tasty drink. However, it’s proven that coffee causes cancer. 

I went to a Starbucks shop last week and discovered a notice sign that put me in shock. The notice sign’s title was “Proposition 65 Warning” and it indicates the existence of acrylamide in coffee, baked goods and other products of Starbucks. 

Acrylamide is an organic compound that’s often found in food where sugar or amino acid is present. The American Cancer Society have stated that acrylamide is likely to be a carcinogen—a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue. Although it is also mentioned that dietary acrylamide is unlikely to induce cancer, the fact that it has the potential to be a carcinogen panics many. Starbucks claim that their products are without acrylamide at first, whereas it’s the process of baking them that leads to its existence. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t risk my health for coffee.

It is indeed a dilemma, that coffee-drinkers should either forgo the beverage they enjoy for health or drink for pleasure. Whilst we should indulge in the joy of consuming coffee sometimes (which is the drink some of us need to survive), our health weighs much more. So, it is necessary for us to find a balance in what we put in our bodies. The coffee dilemma isn’t much of a dilemma when you side with health.

Photo credit: dailycoffeenews.com

state to state

As a student who moved from Texas to Connecticut and to California, it is always refreshing to live in different states. Each state has different vibes for sure. The winter of Texas felt super short, and in contrast Connecticut’s winter felt super long. I realized that the climate of each state affects people subtly yet is still discernible, and those subtle changes accumulate and then makes each state’s unique vibe. The weather in California is indeed beautiful yet whimsical, and people in California seem to have another unique vibe compared to other states. This is my first year in California, and it is indeed mesmerizing to observe the beautiful state of California. And I can’t wait to watch the other side of California that I have not observed. I am really fascinated to stay in this state for a while, and I hope the good impression from the beginning will still stay in my head till the end.

photo credit: unsplash.com

A Man and his Mule

This one will be a lot shorter than the last one I promise.
Nearly two years ago, I was camping with OVS, 15 of us out in the sandstone canyons of Utah, unspeakably peaceful. In fact, I enjoyed the tranquility of that small, isolated river valley so much, I decided to spend the night in my hammock so that I could swing as the whirling breeze carried me to sleep. However, that night was a wild one for me and you’ll soon understand why.
Around 10 o’clock I get into my hammock, laying down as I watch the moon rise over the other side of the valley, a few stranglers dragging themselves into their tents, and I decided to retire as well. Maybe three hours later if I remember it correctly, I awaken to the sound of voices coming from the kitchen area, they all seem to be laughing, having a great time, then I look at my watch and it reads one o’clock. INSTANTLY I freeze- this isn’t right, I say to myself as I peak towards the opening in my sleeping bag, the absence of light confirming my suspicions.
I try to play it off as a dream, my dream continued even after I awoke, I tell myself unconvincingly, the voices are incredibly vivid, I can hear their laughter bouncing against my eardrums, it has to be real. A few minutes pass and they begin to call my name, like the sirens that taunted Odysseus on his travels, I too was being deceived, their welcoming calls making me all the wearier. I am fully awake now.
The minutes crawl by as these voices continue, situations changing constantly, from their beckons for me to get breakfast, to claims of me missing out on a glance at a nearby fox, they become eerier. These voices, maintaining their soothing tones, vary in their distances from me, somethings being five feet away, sometimes their voices traveling for seeming leagues before reaching me. But don’t doubt my account yet, because it only gets worse. After maybe 20 minutes of the voices, I begin to feel something brushing up against my swaying hammock intermittently. This feeling of helplessness consumes me as I can only fumble for the pocket knife buried somewhere in my sleeping bag (I sleep with one while camping now after that first encounter).
My senses take over and my imagination runs wild, the voices grow stronger, and with only the light of my watch reading 2:15 to convince me of my awakened state, I can’t help but feel as if a man is standing over me, watching my hammock sway, letting it brush against him in the periodic gusts. I can’t believe what is happening to me, the winds continue, but they don’t blend with the voices, they still call me to reveal myself, to emerge from my safe place, my empty tent four feet away, but impossibly out of reach. I feel a large round object protruding from the darkness against the left side of my back, maybe a foot away from where the man must be standing, the object stabilizes me, I cannot move now.
Maybe the winds pushed me into a branch, jutting from the sickly tree holding up the feet side of my hammock, further inspection the next morning revealed that there were none near me. I am trapped in my own sleeping bag, unable to find my knife, unable to escape the voices, the man, the fear that’s overtaken me. I lay still in this sweaty hell until 3 am as I remember it, then I must drift off at some point, exhausted by the sheer terror I felt that night.
The next morning I approach my classmates, bemused as to what transcribed the previous night, upon recounting my tale, I am met with blank stares, concerned faculty, and one bright face. One teacher, my advisor, recounts a story of a man and his donkey, this man traveled into this river valley in Utah some 80 years before and was never seen from again. He suggests that this man tried to beckon me out of my hammock for a companion to wander the endless nights of these canyonlands, the voices were his attempts, the brushing was the man standing beside me, and the object jutting into my back was the donkey, standing loyal at the man’s side.
I don’t know what I believe, I don’t believe that I could ever believe that story my advisor told me, but if you ever find yourself in the desert, and you hear the voices of your compatriots, calling you into the night, take heed of my warning, but make your own choice, for if I were to return and hear them again, I may just see what the endless nights have to offer.
Also, I slept in a tent the next night, wasn’t about to lose another nights sleep to a ghost donkey.

Far from Home

“You need to fulfill your camping requirement,” the tall, built, bearded teacher who wears a Hawaiian shirt tells me. In order to graduate OVS, students must go to 2 campings a year. “You are going to Mount Pinos.” I don’t want to go.

Mount Pinos is located in the Los Padres National Forest. Its summit is 8,847 feet high, which is the peak of Ventura. I’ve been assigned to this Mount Pinos camping trip for 3 years. Relatively speaking, it’s an easy trip. Unlike the many backpacking trips that make you walk for 50 some miles. Once I went to Topa Topa backpacking trip last year and got bitten by a tick and had to dig a hole for bathroom. 

Mount Pinos still looks the same: the tortuous path, the fast-moving clouds, the pine trees… Good old Mount Pinos, here we go again. It gets bitterly cold when it’s dark, so we’d start a fire. Starting a fire is easy, but keeping it going is difficult. Taking one from warmth, from civilization, from your weekend… it just seems like masochism. I don’t get it. Do people actually go camping because they like to be tortured? 

Mount Pinos doesn’t have as much pine cones as it did in the previous trips. We only found 1 and a half pine cones this time. In the past, we’d burn all the pine cones we found and it would smell amazing. Maybe it’s because of the newcomers—there are way more campers than before. They would smoke stuff and play loud music. But Mount Pinos is still the same even without the pine cones. It still gives me the feeling of being far from home.

Photo credit: 100peaks.com

The Outside Ghost

In the past few years, I’ve developed a love for the outdoors that is indescribable, I live for the moments I spend in the backcountry. I yearn to lounge on my hammock, strung between two awkward trees, uneasy about my weight. I dream of not getting back into the vans, of staying near the spot where I dug my favorite latrine. But I have to say one of my favorite things about the outdoors is the chilling experiences.
The first one very vivid to me occurred nearly three years ago in the Eastern Sierras. I had gone backpacking with my school about 10 miles up into Little Lakes Valley, a quaint spot along the John Muir Trail, and we had set our packs down by a lake snuggled into a cliffside. A few of us, being the adventurous souls that we were, decided it would be fun to summit this peak, towering around 1,000 feet above us.  Half an hour into the climb, I had to stop, at our elevation, nearly 13,000 feet above sea level, wearing a heavy ski coat, I was winded. I was given a walkie talkie, water bottles to hold onto, and told to standby as they submitted.
Being on a neighboring peak, just slightly lower than the peak I originally set out for, I had a nice view of the three that continued on. As I sat alone, talking and singing to myself, using up 30 minutes of footage on my phone, I felt a sense of tranquility I hadn’t experienced since starting high school. Around 15 minutes into my time alone, as I carefully examined the pockets of snow that lay in the distance between the jagged rocks that covered the mountain where I would occasionally see the hikers jumping through as the continued to summit, something interrupted by solo jam sesh. In the footage, you can hear me rambling about a second rate animated movie from my childhood, and all of a sudden a voice maybe 40 feet behind me interrupts my train of thought. I hear the click of a walkie talkie as the gruff voice says, “OK hold up.” However, the walkie talkie sitting beside me remains silent.
Now at this point, two things are running through my mind, either there is a stranger hiking by his lonesome and he’s for some reason communicating with another hiker far another away where he needs a walkie talkie, or that there’s a ghost. Seeing as I have turned to face the source of the noise and there was no face to put to the voice, I quickly jumped to conclusions that it was the latter. Regardless, as my experience from horror movies dictates, if I acknowledge the ghost as a ghost, it will mess me up. So I narrate to the video what just happened, and QUICKLY change the subject so that the ghost believes I am just a naive little freshman, not worth the trouble. I increase the amount of panning shots in my video so I have opportunities to look around for the voice that is intermittently speaking, traveling, but maintaining a consistent distance from me so that I can keep an eye out for the ghost without it catching on.
A few minutes later the voice disappears completely, but as it does the weather takes a turn, I see the hikers running back as they indubitably saw the storm cloud moving in our direction, completely invisible to myself until the hikers were almost back. Now I’m not saying that the ghost made it dump snow on us for the next 12 hours, but if he did that was a pretty crappy move. Regardless, when we get back to camp I refrain from telling anyone because I am convinced I’m still within earshot of that petty man, so I go about the rest of the evening and kind of forget about it. When I wake up in the morning, sore from the number of times the gusting winds slapped the roof of the tent into my unsuspecting face, I hear stories that convince me that the ghost man didn’t like our group.
One tells of how he heard trailing footsteps when he went off to pee shortly after dinner but saw nothing, no indication that he was being followed. And the three girls all corroborated that in the night, in the worst part of the storm, when the howling winds would’ve prevented any sane man from leaving his tent, no matter what capacity his bladder was at, they heard footsteps circling their tent, unaffected by the storm, oblivious to the bitter cold, definitely a ghost. When we hiked out of that canyon the next day I vowed never to return, but I actually did a year later when I school offered the trip, and I had a really splendid time. However, everyone who went on the night hikes heard footsteps in the woods around them and experienced wacky flashlights malfunctions, which is to be expected when the ghost man is out there. That is precisely the reason I didn’t go on the night hikes, I knew about the aggravating spirit that lay waiting in the darkness, so instead, I elected to stay in my tent, on my phone, where I had downloaded a Patton Oswalt comedy special and had a very enjoyable evening.
Next week I got another doozy so keep an eye out for that one.
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