One Year Art Meditation

Something really extraordinary happened over the last year when we moved to the forest. We packed up all of our belongings, down to the barest essentials, and moved into the forest hills around Fairfax. Earlier during the pandemic my partner just said to me one night over dinner, we have the ability for you to focus on art for a year, why don’t you just try, so I did, I still took on assignments here and there, worked at coffee shops off and on, generally following the traditional roles as an independent artist. But long periods of studying meditation when the anxiety started to develop while I was in school started being brought into the foreground. I had originally wanted to try studying at a Buddhist Monastery, I begged my teacher for a work-study program and was denied, and was finally accepted at the San Francisco Zen Center. I moved in for one night and left after there was a series of commotions and increased traffic outside the room I was in. But the moments I spent inside the Zen Temple were magical. No one was around in the covid wing of the building, relegated to a two-week quarantine. It was right next to the main meditation hall, vacant from the height of the covid pandemic denying visitors. I went in one morning before I left and walked alone through the hall, just feeling its presence and openness. Everything was still and quiet, an enveloping warmth in the morning light.

Let’s go to four months later. We were in a small apartment in the forest hills of Fairfax, a town outside San Rafael, not quite rural but not quite urban either, barely a suburb. It was here I just said to myself, let’s try this now, I decided to work on two central concerns: my art and climate activism. I joined a small committee, eventually becoming vice chair, and I wanted to do what I had set out to do when I had earlier in the pandemic dedicated myself to studying zen. I wanted to ask myself what hate was, and how I could understand it. After a long year, of fighting constant threats and harassment, I finally saw just what that looked like. I saw the tormented emotion and defeated it, it was something I didn’t expect, and it came from the fact that my art, I realized, was meditation. While each painting was tried to be stolen for personal gain, I now see each step as a constant motion of progress towards a realization I would never have thought to enact from any direction or guideline, there was nothing like this experience. From painting to painting, each step kept motioning toward aspects of different emotions, if you look through all the work I made in the last year, it’s an epic story, one that would be impossible to film and impossible to write, it’s a combination of so many forms. It’s one story, it’s all an epic poem tied together, and then I realized what I had been facing all along, an ineffable face I had made as an image of torture from the years of harassment, it was almost a force made by some kind of spirit that was created to describe what I saw in the unified face of those who have been assaulting me. I finally saw it clear in its form in a final rendering, and I realized something, my own agency, so I took a look and modified it. Simple. It was over.

So what did I find? I don’t understand hate, but it feels like a carried trauma, yet in my process, which I could almost describe as mysticism because there were physical things that happened during this time, it feels like a lie. Hate is the lie of separation. Truth is the unity that binds all things, and our freedom is the opportunity to choose, and that’s where the truth exists. I posted a video message when I finally saw it for what it was. It may seem like another tik-tok, but I may not post anymore. It’s the final chapter of a long multimedia epic poem, it’s all there if anyone ever wants to see it. If you want to look at my work it is one story, one central story of love. It’s undeniable. Every moment in the forest was worth it. I am overcome with joy just thinking about it, it’s everything I ever wanted to do as an artist, so much so that I may never make art again. I can’t believe this. Yet there was more to other aspects, of the It’s the journey of my soul through time. This is the story of my spirit, so misunderstood that I could finally say it very simply, and that’s just it. And I now know it for a fact. I see it completely. Everything is in there, in all of its forms. It makes no sense to write this down,

Last night at the Committee meeting I was late and I finally signed on after receiving several phone calls from the mayor, I jumped online and logged in and did my job for the meeting, keeping time. I found a stopwatch counter online and launched the site, and then I saw it. I saw time defeat the concept of time. For every single moment that has been used as a system of division and hate, I saw the clock for what it was, yes there were seconds and minutes, but there was also a clock of infinitely fast number combinations in all forms that reset and started again every second. Want to use time against each other? The stopwatch defeated the lie. Time resets every second in the numeral system, moving so fast that it becomes a simple motion for which numbers are just abstract units that are not necessarily important. That’s all it is.

But what did I learn? Wow, the soul is like an ocean. It is the deepest space and brightest coral reef, it’s as light as wind and as heavy as a mountain. And we all, every single one of us has it, and hate denies the truth of what’s there. Hate is a Lie. Love is truth. And that may be what I was most upset about. Love each other, everyone, love each other, that’s the truth of our realities. I can’t write all this down in a way that is concise, but today I feel, for the first time, Like I completed my goals in art, I may make more as time goes on, but I know who I am, I know what the truth is, and I know what love is, and for anyone who still has hate, I urge you to one day, look at all of my art and imagine it as the journey of a spirit for someone you may have never met, you’ll find so much there, and for now, I’m headed into other things, new worlds, new assignments, with a renewed love for life, and deep joy, and no one, absolutely no individual, can take that from me, because you know what? It belongs to everyone.

Climate Legislation

For almost a year, I’ve been working as a climate activist, marching, constant outreach, organising book clubs, joining a local climate action committee, and eventually becoming the Vice Chair of the Fairfax Climate Action Committee. I learned the basics of ecology, began to identify the life forms and plants in our environment in the forest, making it the central part of my research, and redesigned and volunteered my skills toward rebranding efforts and film development for the town here. We do so much, we have set out a plan for our town here, yet I knew that I had to act wherever I could, at the local level, state level, and national level to make sure that it’s recognized. What Biden is signing today includes the best yet attempt to mitigate against climate catastrophes, far from its original scope, but enough for us activists after two years of intensive efforts, and for some in the climate community much longer, stretching decades and even more than half a century. This was critical legislation that I know a lot of us are grateful for. We finally are doing something. We need to do more.

If you’re inside the climate community you can really see how dire the situation is. We share resources and are dedicated to very difficult issues that the mainstream media and other sources sometimes do not highlight, though with increasing urgency, they are heroically starting to cover more, and it couldn’t be starker. The climate disasters that have been around us for the past two years, and even longer than that demand it, and it’s becoming clear that we can’t look away. It’s also a central part of compassion. Recovery in disasters puts vulnerable populations at increased risk, and nowhere is safe, for all the cost of the original climate provisions, cost estimates of disasters and displacement caused by climate change will far exceed the allotments given to climate change initiatives that we are currently planning. I’m celebrating the wins today, but we have to do more. We are finally, for the first time, giving our planet a chance for survival, and all life within it itself.

If you see climate change from the problems that it will cause, beyond measure, you have to see how we have to act as boldly on this as we do for any emergencies. The survival of our planet is just that important. Can we look into our children’s eyes and promise them that we’ve done everything we can for their survival? Can we look out into the trees and landscape around us and hear the wind as a whisper that calls us to imagine a world with a life destroyed? Can we imagine the ocean like a rising storm that threatens our coastal communities? Can we tell our friends in the animal kingdom that we can’t let them live another day? As refugees move from climate disasters to where they don’t know? This is the reality if we do not act more on climate change. Today is an absolute win for environmental activists, but it is this activist’s personal belief that we need to do more, every day, and perhaps that is what I’m most excited about. Things like this should have been done decades ago, but as someone who grew up with artists speaking out before politicians would, I will take that position and align my work with theirs, as an artist, I will never stop pushing for a more equal and just world, founded on the principle that we have to preserve and protect all forms of life, and it is without question that that call is first answered by protecting against the problems since the Industrial Revolution. There are critical issues facing our time, but the very foundation of all of them should be the preservation of all life on earth, and if that doesn’t bring us together as a community, both on the most local and personal to the embracement of all the world, I don’t know what will.

Last Press Briefing

I kind of knew before I started my daily practice that I wouldn’t have time for the press briefing today, I had been going every day for over a year, and it was one of the best experiences. I wrote a bit about it at the time but it was the best way to learn about journalism. Listening to all of the reporters and giving a human experience to so many of the news organizations is vital. It should be required viewing at some point for anyone interested in our world’s culture. Journalists are some of the brightest and most brave individuals I’ve ever met, even in passing. I was there for them. My family has a history in journalism, and some of my favorite writers who aren’t journalists got their start there. It’s a beautiful form, a series of questions instead of answers, a researcher’s mind. I felt an instant kinship. Officiated by White House staff, I deeply asked my own questions in my mind and heard what they had to say. I put together a Twitter list with as many of them as I could find the names of in passing, I missed so many but I’ll still keep up with the Press Corp there.

It’s possible that my understanding of our country happened in the hour-long press briefings, so many different views, conservative, liberal, and internationally focused, brought a completely different world into my consciousness, and it was exhilarating to watch. But I’m getting too busy to keep up, I may view occasionally but in the amount of news I read it just means I get to what they’re looking for an hour or two after the briefing. I’m trying to reduce my news intake so I can be more focused in the day, and this was something I really needed. I don’t know any of them but I do know my work is seen, so I’d like to spend one entry just stating very impactfully that journalism is the cornerstone of our democracy. The Washington Post goes so far to say that “Democracy dies in darkness”, I’m not sure that that is extreme at all. the press is a vital form of every aspect of our culture. It was a deep honor to hear directly from them, but it’s become something I’ll have to let go of. I’ll never get a sash from Jen Psaki for being one more person watching the briefings. But I was there because I feel like sometimes my experience is a platform to allow for the sight of information, and I don’t regret a single second I was there.

Good luck everyone, you’ve got really difficult jobs to do, and I’m sure I’ll see you occasionally on twitter, thank you for being here for our country, and good luck the rest of the way, we need it now more than ever.

Four Eyes

The process of making Four Eyes, which I started right after my graduation from art school was the deepest experience of my imagination. When I write comics, and when I make art, it so consumes me that it becomes my world, I work at a relentless pace without stopping. I first made a short zine comic tracing a narrative arc, and then moved over the course of my only summer out of school to make six issues and get it released in time for the Alternative Press Expo, which in many ways was a disappointment, as convention-goers seemed less than they had before, but something happened when I picked it back up, I realized I didn’t need half of the plotlines and even less of the drawings. I only chose the best work and compositions to carry forward, and then spent a month and a half, actually between all of it probably three months making the new version. I started putting it on webtoons and amazon, and then I realized something. I didn’t need a second part.

The best parts of the story are already there. Like most things, every thought, every turn of events doesn’t matter. Polly saves Tam, and Tam saves Polly, not by any action, but by simply loving and caring for each other. I was able to catch Polly’s emotions in ways I didn’t think I could, each of these panels is its own painting, and it was emotional. They both travel to the underworld, a world of dreams, the entire work is a dream, which overtook my mind as I wrote it, constantly changing at each step, going deep into repressed memories and something else entirely. This is a story of energy, this is a story of love and compassion. So what’s happening in my mind as I was writing this, and what does it mean? Polly gently guides Tam back into the safety of their home after a difficult journey out giving up her busy day, Tam gives up his second sight to meet her parents, and after the story ends his eyes open again and he sees a vision, of a gentle pond with a flower in the middle on a boulder, a depiction of both water, motion and safety, knowing that the currents of their love for each other keep them safe. It is also of the planets moving around the sun, as a flower in the center.

From what I can piece together this is about focus, and while my heart almost breaks for leaving this world, which is so like the one my partner and I lived in for more than a decade, I realized for me to heal I had to go through it. The world of Four Eyes will always be preserved in place by the work I’ve done over the last few months, and I almost don’t care if it never gets noticed, the more and more I think about it, the dream at the end is a reflection of the journey of the book, a long journey of the course of three months in swirling water, that almost overtook me but ended up producing a flower of the. mind, expanding ever outward. I don’t know if I’ll ever return to Four Eyes, I had a lot planned for it but it seems less important now, there are other things that need my attention, but if you ever want to know about the journey of our illusions, or even the personal transmuted alchemy of doing deep healing work, it might not work for some but it just might inspire for a few.

It’s a tragic time in the world but I hope you enjoyed this little story, it’s as complex or as simple as you want to make it. In the depths of the night and the tragedy of the day, I hope it cheered everyone up, or brought a sense of the mysteriousness of the day. It’s here.

Fear of Sexuality

Lets talk about something a lot of folks in our culture are afraid of or embarrassed of, let’s get real, sit down and talk a little about sex. Is that embarrassing? Why? Let’s look at a few things. My first girlfriend used to see phaliic symbols in everything, she talked about how it’s structure defined so many of the objects around us. From pencils to doorknobs, she was obsessed with the process of design in phallic symbols, it’s really interesting to look at. I don’t agree or disagree with her. Is that a remnant of phallic structure from a male dominated society or is it not? I’m not sure but it was interesting, so I dove into something yesterday and just said, OK, lets break a taboo and look at it.

Americans consume pornography and light pornography in films in record droves. Our society is so obsessed with sex that we barely talk about it, leading to the most hypocritical stance imaginable. Even I used to look at it, though I haven’t in almost a decade. It’s just not interesting to me anymore, and I realised I was just looking to try and prove to myself that I wasn’t queer. Self-hate from queerness is something I experienced from the culture I grew up in, ultra-conservative Texas, which contains so much hypocrisy.

Morality and monogomy is something I’ve always lived by. The only reason I’ve been interested in even slightly flirting with anyone is because I may have, what might be called a healthy love addiction. Though that has dissipated over time, it used to be quite strong. It had nothing to do with sexualty but it was the strongest form of happiness. It’s like a drug. This is common in many cultures. For example, I did some research into the Bhutan culture, which is phallus based. The presence of the phallus is everywhere, so different from our culture which is afraid of erections. Which are actually a form of blushing. Here’s a difficult medical academic article which looks at it, warning, this could be a trigger for some folks

I personally do not feel sexual desire. That’s part of my chemical make up, which I tried for years to try and disprove. It was only until I discovered the ace community that I realized, oh my god, this is a thing. The same way that people view phalluses everywhere, might be akin to the process of always seeing faces in things, something that people do with my art in a political constuction to decieve and acheive their own ends. The only reason I have any response in my body to sexuality is because of fear, which is well documented in medical journals.

But lets talk about sex more. It’s everywhere and it’s nothing to be afraid of. Want to talk about the patriarchy and combat it for more equality? We’re going to have to think about it. It’s like blushing, and that’s it. In an embarrased society that is puritanical in nature, perhaps we can look at the complete hypocracy and see it for what it really is, it’ s just part of being human, and the cult of puritanical culture defies and undermines our stated principles of religous freedom.

On Building Imaginary Worlds

I just wrapped up a deep journey into past experiences in a story I wrote more than six years ago, it was a deep journey and I covered all of the essential frames of the story. The rest remain as storytelling exposition that wasn’t that important, so I finished exactly what I came for. I wanted to reapproach the past and come to understanding of my own mind and consciousness. It covers a lot of ground: social, gender equality, peacework, climate, queerness, ecology, biodiversity. It is its own imagined world, in many ways a rough guide to how I saw the world back then. I explored it with vibrational patterns of color, blended in ways I could never do in the physical space of painting, I realized I had to leave the original materials aside, and that’s when something happened, I realized I was almost in an emotional and physical state of movement, each record of motion in fast brush strokes that was almost a transcendental experience.

It’s probably something that could only be done with digital paint. I hesitate to call it a dance but it may have well been, it took over my mind in physical motion. Making worlds is complex, yet somehow natural. It’s possible that all we know is an invented reality, only transcribed with our limited tools of measurements and mathematics. World building isn’t something rarified, its methods are developed over time but we all have it. The ability to see is relative and natural to our mind. What do we know of the external world? Is there an interior or exterior, is all we perceive something we understand ourselves, and unto ourselves? I personally don’t believe that there is. I think that’s why I feel so violated when my art is misunderstood because I think it goes against the moral foundation of what art is. It’s how we, as artists, express our most vital truths, our ability as artists to describe our world in a way that we define as our own. Walt Whitman says this through poetry but I’m having this dialogue on paper as a conversation with myself, this may be what I’ve been working toward, a way to understand the mind.

We are each a sovereign country, and the most horrific thing one can do is take away our rights as individuals who create the work to express our perceptions. It’s silencing, and in each silence there is a kind of death, an unspoken, invisible dullness that wraps our souls in a shroud of the thoughts of another, it takes away our most fundamental language, one we know from childhood, our inalienable right to our imaginations, one that is forgotten over time. In the same way, Four Eyes was a record of a kind of childhood. I had just graduated the San Francisco Art Institute and there was kind of birth, my first steps back into the world outside of the monastery walls of its interior landscape. Back in the East Bay I started to make a zine, and I studied so hard, so much I may have forgotten. Long nights in the drawing studios, spending time drawing lines on paper and on a tablet, hard won classes on anatomy and physical movement, and a study of art going back to my earliest memories, and academic study for almost ten years, dropping off flyers in the east bay, having small art shows, it was my world, something I almost left behind.

Going back was like going into another world, and for almost three months between the first few issues, I was in that world, literally. I almost couldn’t think about anything else, I felt like I had to get back as quickly as possible, so I could add the dream sequence that was building in my mind. And that was when I realized I didn’t have to make it, the dream was simply through the liberation of color in my mind, past programming. At first, I was terrified, then hesitant, and then, immediately, into a sudden ecstatic state in my mind as a rush of color of all the panels. The dream was beautiful: it’s a state I’ll never truly be able to express. It was a deep travel into the world of my inner consciousness, and I communicated it past all the hate and misunderstanding, which violated and threatened my life and reality, a complete and total invalidation of the deepest realities and love in my human soul. When I look at these images as a series, in my personal view, I find the presence of something beautiful, it is perhaps Buddha, perhaps God, or some other name or combination. What does it matter, those are only words describing our perception. I’m not a theologian, but I experienced something I know for a fact, now, that art is mysterious and perhaps can never be understood, and in that I can always believe.

And that is why I’ll never stop fighting against the misuse of my art and misunderstanding. Because that, to me, is worse than death, it’s a complete and total invalidation of my rights as a living being, not just death but a complete erasure of who I am and what I believe. My worlds are my own inner home and reality, and the people I let in I invite in, and as Walt Whitman says, I sing the song of myself. No one can take that away from me. Colors do not belong to people. They belong to the world, and our own specific human perception, that’s how we understand the world, it’s not through some absurd and ridiculous game. In the last scene of Four Eyes, Tam removes their blindfold and saves their partner, in that way I rescued in my work my deepest beliefs and concepts. I have seen so much this week, my mind is on fire, and the record of that work remains.

Open Heart, Open Mind

So I’ve really been enjoying alternative viewpoints of psychology and healing, but I really realized something. I think the healing I’ve experienced just comes from an open heart and open mind, a willingness to give and receive, and a faith in the wonder and mystery in the world. Yet tonight I went outside and went to see the moon, yet a distant star, so much farther than anything else in the sky, was shining brightly in the night sky, among the lights and other reflections across the expanse of space, and looking up made me think of the numberless stars in the sky, and I really felt something greater than the world around me, yet this distance across space and time enveloped the warmth of the earth in perfect harmony and allowed me to return to the center, realizing my beliefs in our purpose to protect the natural world. I wrote a few words yesterday in a journal I placed on the windowsill and went to open it.

It was filled with wishes for a more peaceful world, one more just and beautiful, and I immediately thought of my garden outside, almost without thinking. That’s the transformation I really needed to feel tonight, which was really a return, a realization of the absolute beauty of the world, both within me and without me, and I see a passing flame in the darkness of the night, one shining brightly across the sky, and I realized something again, something I always saw in the town we used to live in, from a university in a town nearby, it was the words, so beautiful: “Ten thousand minds on fire”.

Is that what the heavens remind us of every night, that we are all lights in the depths of the sky? As a teacher, I feel that one of our most vital roles is to kindle that fire within all of our hearts, and all of our minds. That may be the greatest secret to uncover, so plainly in sight, every night in the brightness of a dark sky. I can’t wait for morning when light will cover the world around us all, a chance to grow and look up, and never forget, that the wonder of the world around us, and in the beautiful expanse of the heavens, a brightness even in the night. An open heart and open mind, may we never forget, for there is so much here, in our world, our hearts, and the limitless wonder of the stars in the deepest night, across our hearts, and the limitless wonder, across the earth and sky.

Alice Neel

Yesterday, my partner and I took a day together to go to one of the art museums in San Francisco, The De Young Museum. It was the last day of the Alice Neel show. I didn’t know anything about her and didn’t know what to expect. But it was good to get out of the house and we were so happy together. I didn’t pay attention to anything in the car except for talking with my partner. We were so happy. I made her an album cover earlier that morning and we were in the best of spirits, even in the fear I live in day to day. The day was incredible.

There were so many people out, so many people. I have crowd anxiety. I let my partner know this was going to be a very hard day for me. We supported each other completely, even leaning into each other in line, completely supporting each other in total trust. I tell her everything that’s going on inside me. She may be the only person who truly knows me. A lot of people think they do but they don’t. They’re limited by things they think they understand. The world is a vibrational pattern and so many people muddy it with horrific games.

We walked through to the exhibit and it was crowded, and I do what I usually do. I started with technical analysis, reading the information, acknowledging and studying the technique, and then moving at lightning speed through the exhibit. I read paintings fast, I do it all day. I study painting and photography sometimes for 15 hours a day, and exhibits are no different.

So what was the show about? To me it was a really interesting balance. The first thing you read at the show is that People Come First. And Alice Neel did this with attention. The color pallettes, while abstracted, reminded me of Flemish masters by way of Expressionism, as she examined her cities and the world around her, the people she knew, but that wasn’t the miracle, technically they seemed rushed and muted. But the spirit she captured in each of her subjects tended toward universal principles that we all share. It’s really difficult to capture work like this. Each work was to me, someone who did not know their histories, as a kind of emotional landscape as we moved throughout the exhibit. Finally leading toward something very few people were looking at, an offer for the general public to send their own paintings of people they knew, which I watched longer than any of the other works.

I finished quickly so I went up to the cafe, and got a coffee. The cashier and barista was busy. Since that was one of my jobs this year, I saw myself in her work. I know how hard those jobs are. She was busy so I finished the transaction on the computer screen myself, from one worker to another. We both laughed.

I went and sat down and waited for my partner. She finished almost as quickly as I did. We’re both visual and I wasn’t surprised. We were having fun. My fear of crowds almost completely went away in those moments, even though it was still a difficult day, but I got home and realized something important.

A lot of people think my work is indicative of specific people. They’re not. They represent pure emotion and vibrational frequencies that we all carry within us. Thinking they represent individuals is a violent attack on my life’s work. In the same way that Neel, to me, captured something essential to the human experience, that’s what mine do as well, so in my mind, and in my work, I finally broke free of what’s been so difficult over the past year, people literally trying to destroy my work to push their own political agendas. I refuse this. I will not have my work serve as a place of division and hate.

What I make is something transcendental. It’s an incredible experience I can’t quite describe, border lining on a kind of ecstatic, mystical relationship with colour and sound, shape and form. I live to make art, and the violence of comparing my work to living people is something I refuse and stand against. My work is not that at all. I refuse to believe in some oligarchy of people who are taking advantage of my work and pushing their own agendas, for what I do not know.

My work is for everyone, and I finally stated this fully on my sites. I am taking my work back, the abuse ended yesterday. No matter what, I have my partner, my beliefs, my dreams, and my work that is the outpouring of my soul, my deepest realities, and denying this is a violent attack that I refuse to believe in, while people push their own agendas. In a few weeks, my work, which is stolen often, will only be on my site, not other places that have done nothing for me.

If anyone ever reads this I want you to know, that what is happening with this abuse against my work, believing that it represents other people, is wrong, it’s almost a form of brainwashing. I am leaving these thoughts behind and trusting myself. My work is my soul made visible, not for people I’ve never spoken more than a few words to. I’m taking my work back, and I refuse to believe this violence any further.

But yesterday my partner and I blissfully spent time together. I’m more in love than I have ever been. And that’s what matters to me. I am finally free of fear, and while I’m not yet ready to make work this morning, I see my art for the first time in over two years, free of hate that I will continue to ignore.

Who are We?

I don’t know what got into me, but after about a year and a half of expressing my life through art, fiction, and anyway I could to assert my own position in the wave of misunderstanding that faces us at times as artists, so mediated by films and popular perspectives, I just got to a place and stopped. I’ve been giving so much that I was almost exhausted, almost worked to the point of where it became unhealthy. I woke up during the night and worked with only maybe five hours sleep sometimes. I never thought I would get to this point but I covered ground on everything I thought I missed out on in the academic demands of school. My work is good, and I’ve had shows and sales, I even sold an NFT. So sometime today I just said, now what, and began to pick up the pieces.

But the most important things happened today by way of synthesis of sensory inputs. My emerging work as the main cook in my family, without a recipe book to go by, just learning from the internet to make new traditions to pass on someday. By dawn I had a collection of new research materials into the history of cooking , gardening and home working. I poured through entries as vast as mythology of the goddess of the hearth in Greek and Roman mythology, I looked back through all of my work and wrote about it in a way that I might never have to explain it again. I started listening to People’s History of the United States. I was back to studying, and then I felt released. Tonight’s my night off of cooking so I’m writing this post instead, and I think this is important for me to do, so what happened?

I realized I had a blank slate, no real traditions passed down to me, almost no trace of lineage, except in off-hand remarks given to me by my parents, off-hand ephemera about far away Scottish Castles that had to be symbolic and odd at best, because in reality, my particular family came from something they never spoke of, there was never any desire to create a tradition. We observed everything in the community but we never really went anywhere except for cursory experiences in a Methodist Church, but I think I studied at an Episcopal church in Berkeley, far away from where I grew up, more than at any other time than when I was growing up. The Christian tradition within my own family really started with me. At least my own family. My extended family is much more traditional, with a strong sense of identity and robust accounts with our elders, but here I am, without my original family to really help guide my way.

So I tried to learn what I could, and all of this came from a simple desire to know what happened at kitchen tables throughout my family’s history. We were as new as a faceless suburb, but didn’t that have it’s own specific reality as well? What do I know of the traditions we pass on, what do I know about tradition? What is anyone talking about when we are trying to return the world to some imaginary state that never existed? Did my family exist? What were we? These are all questions I have in my mind as I head into the holiday tomorrow.

An American flag blew in the wind on our way to get some of our chores done today. There was no music and only a few birds, it was slightly cool outside, and from the silence of the car approaching it just seemed to state it’s own significance. I have to admit I was a little in awe. Because I don’t know what it means, but I know it’s beautiful. This year has been significant. I’ve probably met hundreds of people at this point working in coffee shops. And here’s what I know about America. Of the hundreds if not thousands of people I met this year, I only felt aggression from less than 25 people. This country is kind, beautiful, brave and giving. It’s not what you would expect if you weren’t out in the front lines of retail, something a lot of us can do.

Peets was at times absolutely relentless, it was the most difficult job I’ve ever had and it didn’t pay that much. I was originally working there because I wanted to open my own shop, but after a certain point I didn’t even know why I was there. In the four months I worked as a barista in training, what I did make was expert level, because I cared so much. I practiced for hours and hours, but that wasn’t what was important. I got to see this country in all of it’s aspects. Everyone needs coffee and the coffee shop, its own revolution, allows so many people to meet together. America is like that place, together for a moment and then going on into our own lives, each of us finding our own definitions, yet carrying with us togetherness. This probably could happen at any job like that. Try it out. I have faith that this world is better than it may seem.

But what are we, as I walk away from the sense of togetherness of the moment of having a coffee. I picked some up on our way out today, I’m having it as I write this. Who is my family, and what do I know? In terms of my direct family I know very little except what I learned today. My Mom and Dad never talked about tradition, for them they seemed entirely new. We had no faith or anything we could make tangible other than popular culture. My Mom was an atheist and the few things my Dad ever said to me were almost Catholic and Tibetan, yes seriously, almost Tibetan, it was really weird for a Texan of his generation, but then again, maybe not. The things he wanted to pass on to me were the Beatles and John Coltrane, and sci-fi, he got his point across.

From what I can tell, my Mom was named after her father by adding an extra feminine phononym to her name. And while I don’t want to give too much away, in my research it’s quite possible that our family’s history is Jewish, as well as Welsh and possibly Irish. I don’t know that much about it yet, and does it matter? I don’t have the family member to keep track of all of this. There is no cookbook, which is what I was originally looking for quite innocently. there is no Genealogist, we were just working people without a tradition, and for my entire life I feel like I’ve been a person making a home wherever my partner and I can, always trying, never quite fitting in.

Flags are defined in many ways by the medium through which they appear. They are carriers of the wind yet are unmoved by it, there are so many. What ours mean I may never know, so many people work so hard, all their lives, no matter how long or how far we travel. Yet I catch myself saying, and almost gasp at it, that I so offhandedly wrote “ours”. The unity of our country is without question when it really matters, even though I almost can’t read the news anymore because of all the vitriol. It makes me realize that it is in fact a shared reality, that we really come to a point to everyday, and one day like tomorrow in a year.

I’ll always remember this year from the people I met, the hundreds if not more names I have forgotten but made sure to try and remember today. I just did a calculation. It’s possible I met thousands of people, face to face this year. And I know this, this country is united, we’re all busy and working really hard. We’ve got to finish our morning chores and we’re organizing and getting everything done, I’ve seen people protesting and in agreement, having fun, and yes, some absolutely horrific forms of hate. But those are the exceptions. What I know whoever my family is, I’ve met enough people to think of America, without question, is a loving and caring family. We want our families safe, we believe in the world, we want to help each other out, and I have definitive proof of the soul of America. I’ve seen it. It’s strong. It is beautiful, and it is brave.

So much time spent reading and researching to try and understand what was going on with my situation, so many attempts at finding answers for two years, so many promises of someone who could tell me exactly what was going on with my life, yet not one step closer to understanding what’s happening to me every day. I have no idea what’s going on, I’ve seen countless battles between old friends who knew and wanted to take advantage of that situation. All of that ends today. I am withdrawing from the world, seeking solace in the mountains. Even then, I am not safe. I have no idea whats happening, no one is telling me, when any of them could. Not one brave spirit among anyone, where is the truth that I seek?