Day 36: Safe Space

People come to this trail with so many different goals in mind: friendship, endurance, speed, self discovery, and on and on. And while we all start with different goals, I hope that by the end a deep love of the wilderness and a hope for its future become part of the goal.
We woke this morning to the sound of power lines crackling far above us–the sound of a power far greater than me rushing through the cables. Then, beginning to rustle in our tents, we heard signs of life as the entire group we camped beside wriggled awake.

After the wriggling came voices, good mornings and “why are you up so early”s were exchanged. We munched breakfast and packed our items away in that way that has become just like home.

After the morning rituals came the hiking, and with the hiking came a tumbling of thoughts. Along this trail I have had all sorts of conversations with all sorts of people — the vast majority are wonderful, uplifting, helpful, inspiring, joyful conversations. And then there are a tiny portion that aren’t.

With so many people from so many backgrounds on the trail, it is understandable that there will be some disagreements or missteps. That is to be expected.

Today I have been thinking about the power of words. They are able to create beauty, empathy, wonder, they are able to change the world. They are also able to wound, cause violence, and turn our society back in time.

Today I have been thinking about some conversations I have heard on this trail, and the way they create a unwelcoming environment.

It is disturbing to me, born and bred in New York City, the land home to so many, and resident of Seattle, the land of the impossibly polite and P.C., when talk runs so close to hate speech. It is disturbing, when People of Color are being murdered in the streets, to hear a group of people on the trail use racial slurs. It is disturbing, even as LGBTQ youth are committing suicide in our communities, to listen to gay jokes and use of “faggot” tossed around lightly. It is disturbing, in 2015, to hear men perpetuating the same sexist tropes that were acceptable 100 years ago. It is even more disturbing, in this insular community bound together by the wild and our professed love thereof, to listen to people discuss leaving a trace as much as possible — with feces in the open for all to find and a complete disregard of the wilderness we are suppose to be enjoying.

I hope this trail offers all of us the chance to be still with our hearts, to find what parts are bitter and unsympathetic to human and wildlife suffering and toss it away. I hope we all are capable of working toward a brighter future where inclusivity and thoughtfulness resound.

Most of all, I hope I work toward using my voice as an ally for those who can’t speak, especially in the moments when I can confront bigotry or hatred right away. Today I was silent about my deep horror, tomorrow I hope to raise my voice to let compassion come through.