It’s been almost two months since we’ve ended our travels and already it seems like years ago. Time is strange that way, how it can stretch and elongate itself or compact and shorten depending on the situation. What once seemed distant can suddenly spring forward as memory is sparked from unusual sources. Standing Rock is that spark for me.
I’ve failed several times to write this blog, my first attempt being last spring. It always starts with how our road trip refreshed and further educated me on American history. Crisscrossing such routes as the Oregon Trail, Pony Express Trail and the Old Spanish Trail gave a clearer picture of the challenges and accomplishments our ancestor’s endured. Then there was the Japanese internment camps we passed and nuclear testing grounds, reminders of darker times.
There were many other historical markers we came across but the one we followed most was the Lewis and Clark Trail. This was not an intentional decision, but one of pure accident but perhaps rightfully so. Just like Alexis and me, Lewis and Clark set off to explore the American West and find an easy route to the Pacific Ocean. Like these two adventures, Alexis and I followed parts of the Missouri, Yellowstone, and Columbia river until we reached Cape Disappointment where, just like Lewis and Clark, we set our eyes on the Pacific Ocean for the first time in our travels. These two explores helped open up the West while also starting the long and unfortunate demise of the Native Americans living there.
Having lived both in the West and now East, I find there is a great absence of Native American presence in the East. Other than their casinos like Mohegan Sun, there are few physical things to remind us that other tribal cultures once thrived in our 13 colonies. The majority were pushed west and that is where they have remained. The West is where over 90% of the reservations are and it was the West that reminded me of the tragic relationship between the United States and Native Americans. Actually being in places where Chief Joseph and his 3,000 Nez Perce trekked while fleeing the United States Calvary paints a clearer picture of their hardships and mishaps. Another trail we came across several times is the Long Walk of the Navajo. This was the path used to march over 8,000 Navajo, 300 miles, and have them live on 40 acres of land. We drove through many reservations, catching a glimpse of their lifestyle and circumstances in which they live.
Our history is riddled with such happenings and filled with broken treaties. The relationship between the United States and Native Americans is an unhealed wound, ignored in the hopes that it will go away. It is a situation our government has all but given up on. It’s an embarrassing disgrace that our government and media choose to give little attention to the Native Americans and would rather focus on how other countries mistreat their people.
Our media has diligently covered every tweet Donald Trump made for over a year paving the path to his presidency. Meanwhile, a conflict slowly began brewing between the Sioux and oil industry. Scarcely covered in the news until the shadow of the election seceded, even now this story is barely mentioned. Instead the media would rather listen to the talking heads make assumptions on how Trump will lead this fine country of ours. Ironically, once this peaceful protest finally did get some press, the government decided to shut it down, forcing the thousands of protesters to leave by December 5th.
You would think our government would have some remorse towards the Native Americans, given how much we’ve screwed them. You would think our government would stand up for them and say- hey; we got your back on this one. But just the opposite, once again, America has spit in their face.
Originally, the oil pipeline was to cross the Missouri above Bismarck, ND, a predominantly white city. But Bismarck feared their drinking water could get contaminated and so the pipeline was moved down river next to the Standing Rock reservation. The Sioux have the same concerns as their white neighbors but apparently their concerns are valued less. Why would the oil industry move the pipeline for white Americans and not Native Americans? Why would our government allow this?
Its no wonder the Native Americans have mostly chosen to remain to them selves and not intermingle into our society of racism and inequality. We have proven to them time and again that they are just a nuisance to our own development and will disregard their rights and liberties for the betterment of ourselves. We are not a united nation, far from it.
When Hilary Clinton’s slogan is “Stronger Together”, or Donald Trump’s is “Make America Great Again”, or Obama’s “Change We Can Believe In”, or John McCain’s “Country First”, or George W. Bush’s “Yes, America Can!”, or John Kerry’s “Let America Be America Again”, how much do these campaign slogans resonate with Native Americans? Do politicians even try to win their vote? People like the Sioux, the Navajo and Nez Perce have been swept under our nations rug long ago. They have faded away in the barren and expansive West while the politicians in the East try to forget whose land this was in the first place. As our politicians discuss the rights of muslims, blacks, hispanics, gays, transgender, and women; they turn a blind eye from the Native Americans, the first and last people to suffer discrimination by the United States of America.
How to celebrate Thanksgiving on the road?
Last year we could have been out of cell service, camping at a pullout along route 1 in northern California. We’d been hopscotching up and down this stretch of coast just south of the redwoods for several days. We’d met some hippy kids who were tent camping the same route, and they planned to cook in a fire pit on the beach.
We parked the Cricket on the street in Mendocino and slept there in stealth mode, which means the pop-top was down and the window shades were closed. The days were sunny and sometimes even warm enough to walk barefoot on the beach, but the nights were cold. We slept in hats and jackets, and I woke to find my breath condensing on the wall next to me. Brrr. Our journey down this stretch of coast would have been slower, had the weather been warmer.
We spend months exploring the 750 miles of coast from northern Washington to San Francisco, and still I feel like we haven’t even begun to spend enough time there.
Last year, it happened that we were in Mendocino for Thanksgiving. The town reminds me of Vermont in a way (Victorian wooden homes and an interesting cast of characters in a remote but well visited small town) so it wasn’t a bad place to spend Thanksgiving. We could see a sliver of ocean from our garden-side table. We had thought about being at a mountain lodge, and that would have been nice too.
Please stay here with me in Mendocino,
Where life’s such a groove,
Thanksgiving was our first big holiday on the Cricket adventure. We weren’t sure what to do, disconnected from our annual rotation of being with family in Colorado or Connecticut. It caused us to have some interesting conversations about what the holiday means to us, what we want in a Thanksgiving experience.
Nine years ago Chris and I flew to Japan on Thanksgiving Day. It was a great day to travel. I can’t remember what we ate on the plane; our real Thanksgiving meal had been at home, a week or so prior, when we could schedule it with family.
In the Cricket, Chris and I had each other, the setting was awe inspiring, our days were carefree. I miss it already! (Like, seriously. I think about running away to California. Yesterday, a conservative publication called it “Hillary’s Utopia.” That sounds good to me.)
Last year’s day was awesome, but it still helped us decide to go “home” to Colorado for Christmas. I wrestled a lot with the meaning of Christmas, and it seemed to be the same things we had missed while in Mendocino for Thanksgiving — being with our people, performing familiar rituals. Cooking, drinking, eating, being together. So this year, that’s exactly what we are doing.
This December, these two crickets are the “artists in conversation” at Gallery A3 in Amherst, Massachusetts.
If you’re local, please join us for an evening of photos, stories, snacks, and art! This event is in coordination with A3’s December “small wonders” show.
Travel Tales with the Curious Crickets
Join Chris Nelson and Alexis Fedorjaczenko as they reflect on their fifteen-month road trip exploring the American West. They traversed over 26,000 miles pulling their little Cricket trailer, camping the whole way, living in a variety of natural landscapes.
Where: Gallery A3, 28 Amity Street, Amherst, MA
Contact: 413-256-4250 or email@example.com
When this travel adventure was still largely a fantasy, I wrote about the benefits of getting off your butt and I set a couple of goals related to walking more during my time off. And I did walk. A lot.
I’m not actually an avid “hiker” by which I mean, I avoid big elevation gain. What I do like is to stroll. I also like to walk briskly. I like to listen to music, to daydream, to look around at the landscape. Sometimes I sit for a while. I like walking to get places and, when the landscape doesn’t offer my usual places to get to (like: work, or home), I like making up destinations to get to (like: that big rock, or the ocean). Sometimes I like difficult terrain, when it offers an interesting challenge. Mostly I like to stroll to music.
I like walking because it helps me think. I also like that walking helps me not think. Although it’s possible to ruminate on a walk (and I’ve done it plenty), being out in the landscape can offer something more here-and-now for the soul to come back to.
This week I’ve been listening a lot to Leonard Cohen’s new album, “You Want It Darker.” I love the title track: he sings things that make sense to me, makes sounds that resonate. Evenings are literally getting darker, moods are low, Leonard Cohen is a good poet of shadows and we’ll miss him. And yet what I love about Leonard Cohen’s music is also one thing that’s so good about walking: it makes me feel brighter.
Walking lightens my mood. Movement lightens my mood. Music in triple time lightens my mood, as does beauty of various kinds. Walking is a good, easy example. It’s not just true of walking though: time and time again, I find that movement isn’t just good for my physical body, it’s also good for my spirit.
Sometimes the simplest things that contribute to well being are difficult to do though. Our travel adventure provided so much time and space that I almost had to walk. Now my goal is to keep these routines that I’ve come to love while I add all sorts of other distractions back into my life.
On that note: It’s a sunny bright fall day, and I’m going for a walk.
When humor fails, there’s poetry. This morning after election night, Wislawa Symborska comes to mind, particularly her poem “The End and the Beginning” (to honor copyright, read it in full here; it’s worth it).
There’s also running away. Another of Symborska’s poems, “Consolation,” begins: “Darwin. They say he read novels to relax, but only certain kinds: nothing that ended unhappily.” Darwin’s supposed approach reminds me of my own escapism during this travel adventure. It also reminds me of how I felt at Burning Man.
The awesome XKCD recently tackled that question, and suggests the result would be something like the Salton Sea. Yuck.
We haven’t written about our visit to the Salton Sea yet, but that and Slab City will be a good post-apocalyptic story for … after the election. Yuck.
Go vote today! If you need help voting, check out this resource from another XKCD site.