Sunday, June 11, 2017

you can't eat it

I wonder sometimes -- quite often actually -- what the hell people think that they are doing that is all that bloody important.

It is June.  Fruit is coming in by the basket full.  Maybe not bushel basket but, harvested diligently there are TONS of gooseberries, and harvested and weeded diligently the ever-bearing strawberries and whatever kind of dual harvest raspberries we have are producing wonderfully.  Luckily we have a daughter #2 to be diligent and encourage the rest of us.  And then there is the Trump factor which has put a bit of urgency to the task.  And today the blueberries joined in although today ran out of daylight enough to make the harvest what with everything else going on.

Everything else?  Normal chores first of all.  All animals have to be fed, including humans, and then there is clean up.  There are projects and I don't really know what happened on those but I'll bet something happened.  The farm I work at had a horse that had to be put down due mostly to age catching up to him.  We had a load of garden hay here already to unload, and another short load (15 bales) of good hay to haul home and unload.  The food adventure today was making Indian (from India) food for the first time -- kachori and samosas.  The diligent harvest of berries, including a smattering of the blueberries before the call for all hands on deck for them tomorrow.

But most of the garden hay today went to mulch around the raspberries.  We have a nice area reserved for raspberries now and they are being well taken care of and are doing well.  We're going to put some of that barrier fence up around them but are still working toward that.  But in the last few days there have been some unexplained losses -- the tops of some of the plants wilt, or break off.  What is going on?

In checking, there was some borer something making little lines and above that line would die.  Back home to google.  Turns out something is laying its eggs in there and the life cycle is thus:  it lays eggs.  Tops of plants die but that isn't a huge problem.   Eggs hatch, larvae migrate down the cane and eventually back up, doing some damage, maybe not fatal damage but some damage, and repeat the process.  The best control is simply to go behind whatever is laying its eggs and cut the cane off an inch or a few below where it is damaged.  Voila, eggs have nowhere to migrate, maybe never hatch even, life cycle interrupted.

We all thought that was pretty neat.  I told someone else about it.  Her reaction?  "That's a lot of work."  Do you see my furrowed brow at that?  What else exactly are you doing?  How long do you think that takes in a small patch like that?  When you are harvesting the daily ripe berries anyway?  You do like to eat, don't you?  Do you think that shit just appears on your plate?  In the produce section?  In the freezer?  Do you think whoever harvested it deserves starvation pay?  Do you really think laying waste to the earth, the water, the air is a solution for anything?  Do you want to eat those berries after you've laid chemical waste to whatever that little bug is?  Who are you?  Did you vote for Trump?

Well, yes, she did.  She also said, "That's what I believe and you aren't going to change my mind."  Classic Red Queen, "Verdict first!  Evidence later!"  Which really, that's religion, and especially the asshole Christians and racists and Christian racists who are behind this whole Trump fiasco.  "Some of my best friends are black" doesn't actually hold water.

It has always seemed to me that since we have to eat, we might as well be passionate about food.  It has always seemed to me that eating is vital to health, and health is worth more than your insurance is worth so why are you willing to pay so little for it?  Whatever it is you "do", you can't eat it.

Live smaller.  Grow food.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

It is delight

This is what you need to understand:  At times it kills you.  It is hot, hard, blistery.  It fails, and at the last moment too, after lots of hard work and hope.  Or right at the beginning, gut punch, feels like you can't even get up.  It is hot and your back hurts too.  And it is slow -- two hours turns into four.  Nothing works quite right.

But here is what else you need to understand:  It keeps you alive.  Not just in the physical sense, not just in the health sense, but in the real sense, the spiritual sense:  ALIVE.  It is family.  It is personal.  It is meaningful.  It is challenging.  It is rewarding.  It is risky.  It is beautiful.  It is love.

It is LOVE.  It is love but not "oh you are so wonderful" love: it is love bedrock, got your back, will tell you when you are wrong, will risk your wrath as well as your joy love.

It is reclaiming 20 feet of rectangle garden in which to plant four rows of sweet corn and sweating and sitting in the shade and getting dizzy and drinking water and breaking your back and straightening out your back and watching the buzzards wheel wondering if they are waiting for you to fall over and working and resting with each other in that work and rest dance that you do and thinking about ice cream and sweet corn and bears and beans and corn bread for supper and finding two tiny terrapins in the tilling.  And a baby red salamander in the potatoes.

It is delight.  In your heart and in your fellow travelers' voices and eyes.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


even if I did neglect to get a photo of the strawberry bed.  I didn't forget to weed it a bit.  I swear that May has become my favorite month.  Even if it never stopped raining this May.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

satisfied mind

She said, "I don't really want to go down there and take care of the strawberries.  But there is something very satisfying about having done it."

That was a daughter before she took her boyfriend from the house down to the garden in the rain and put a net over the sour cherry tree and harvested a few strawberries that are about to flush.  This is where we are.  Cherries.  Strawberries.  Poke.  Salad.  Peas except something ate those and that always happens to something, you just don't know what it is going to be.  Trump favas.  The potatoes are about beyond hilling.  The corn is waiting for a break in the weather (actually, it isn't waiting at all, it is growing madly) for us to thin and hill it and plant in beans.  I know there are squash up too and there should be melons but I'm not sure they germinated.  And seed beds.

And death.  Our last parent died.  There is no one now between death and us, illusion tho that is, it is still true.  The last parent and do you have a relationship with your siblings or not.  For me that was a no.  For him, hopefully a different answer.

And dreams.  Such vivid dreams.  Do dead people talk in your dreams? Because they do not seem to talk in mine.

And I'd like to talk about the "something very satisfying about having done it" but in all these years I don't think I've managed it.  It's a good life.  I don't know that even the Nearings managed to really talk about it.  It may well be a way to save your life, but it is definitely a way to LIVE your life, not DIE your life, not do kindergarten to get ready for first grade and high school to get ready for college and career to get ready for retirement but a way to live, now and forever in as many different ways as there are ways and stars and bean varieties.  It isn't without stress, but it is stress you can live with -- it doesn't make you want to kill people or yourself.  Do you hear what I'm saying?  It isn't perfect because nothing is perfect.  Perfect wouldn't be perfect.  But it isn't soul sucking.

And it really helps to teach you what is really important.  And so much what is NOT important.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Despite everything of all this "living differently", of all this "consuming less" stuff, we've never successfully recycled long term.  That's the confession.

We only really tried one time, when we first moved up here and were so fresh, so idealistic.  We bought the bins.  They blew over and even when they didn't, they filled up with water.  Stinky water.  Then we couldn't find a place to even take the recyclables to.  That isn't to say there wasn't a place, or even places, but just that we couldn't find or happen upon anything that really met our needs.  It didn't take long to quit trying. We still did mostly cloth diapers during all those years in diapers, but we still did buy some paper diapers and I'll tell ya, I'd never be so holy again as to do cloth diapers when traveling as we did with our first.  Nope.  We mostly consume a lot less.  Period.  Of everything.  This is facilitated by poverty but honestly there isn't much we'd actually want.  Sure, if there were a windfall, a few things would change.  There wouldn't be any dirty kitchen towels anymore, there would be a pair of Muck boots for everyone, I wouldn't put off dental cleanings or worry about car repairs, I'd probably have all of us on the family plan at the chiropractor.  But the family motto of, "have less, be more" didn't come out of nowhere.  "Things" and having them are usually bandages over festering sores.

But now the kids are grown and we're basically adults living cooperatively.  And one of the kids said, "Why don't we recycle?"  And so we looked into it again and the county now has the recycle bins in a permanent place not far out of our way on our way to town and so now we do recycle.  Glass, plastic, cans, aluminum -- and also the disposable grocery bags go back to the grocery.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

sexy, year to year

It seems that 5 years ago today we were doing a first plow (we usually did two plows, then several harrow days with a horse) on the rectangle garden.  Today, although a year we don't have access to a horse to work it with, the corn and potatoes are in, along with some squash and melons and cukes and stuff.   And Jerusalem artichokes flourishing from those we didn't eat out of there last year.

Corn and potatoes aren't sexy.  They are calories.  They are also pretty faithful, pretty steady, pretty reliable.  It is good to go for a lot of calorie bulk plantings because you don't know what will fail, what will spoil.  After the cukes and summer squash and probably melons make, we hope to use that ground to bulk sow turnips and beets.  People don't think about being hungry. The US doesn't have food stores anymore: they should.

The Trump fava beans have BEANS!  Beans are a good bulk calorie planting, if you use them as dried beans.  To have greens during the winter is a bit iffier, at least it has been so far for us.  Can or freeze green beans of course.  Hopefully we can grow some greens and let them sit out the winter and harvest as we need.  Hole up some cabbages.  Make some kraut too.

But right now 8# of kale already got harvested (mostly eaten), and the poke and stinging nettles have added to that, along with stinging nettle dried for tea.  It is time for the annual mess of locust blossom fritters.  Some critter, most likely a rabbit, is harvesting a few things too -- a trap must be set.

I always say, "Grow food."  People will start, and probably should start, with "sexy" plants.  Tomatoes.  Green beans.  Salad.  Oh and yes, all of that.  And you could buy a sack of corn and a sack of potatoes and play with the idea of bulk, non-sexy food.  That would be a good idea even.  But even just a few potatoes in a tire will let you realize how much better your own potatoes taste.

Today a couple rows of potatoes actually got hilled just a little, they'd broken ground that much. Today one goat is in milk and another one has a bag swelling and we all wish the cow's bags would swell so we could eat that bull.  Today I can no longer see the mountain swing away south from the highway when I stop waiting to pull out onto it because all the leaves are out.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

solitary pursuit

It is quite the solitary pursuit.  As I age it seems more and more that is true of everything.  Why talk?  

So I walk and look, thinking "morel".  Thinking "they are invisible".  And I see wet because it has been raining except for yesterday and today.  I see where the creek has been up over the growing things and is still bold, and the wet spot there where it doesn't drain where it used to.  I see the green that is now everywhere, so that I even have trouble finding the may apples because now every second year tree is green at the same height as may apples and "all of that is trees" and "oh there are the may apples" after I go look where I know they were a couple weeks ago, where I have a reference.  But that's at the end of the walk and no, I don't find any dry land fish there.

Because they smell just like fish you know.  There was one really fresh shelf mushroom that I must look up so see if it is identifiable, edible.  "There are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters but there are no old bold mushroom hunters."  Only the really identifiable ones, thanks. And even then, go through the safety checks.  Puffballs are easily identifiable but if you assume it is a puffball and don't cut through the center, well, misidentification of puffballs is the most common cause of death for mushroom hunters.

I walk and stare and sit down now and then to try to make sure I'm not missing something. I look up to check the species of trees.  I look at the base, the moss, the sunshine, the rocks.  There's solomon's seal and enough stinging nettles to gather for supper and fragrant bedstraw and wild ginger and teaberry and cohosh.  There's violets blooming, and white violets.  There's whatever that is that I misidentified for years as bloodroot, and the bloodroot, evidently offended, won't show itself to me now.

I think of snakes, out here by myself.  The family knows I'm in the woods, they will discern my general direction, but I'm off the paths, not far but that often doesn't matter.  I have on boots, I'm careful with my hands.

Crossing the creek I hesitate.  We've just had flash floods.  It is high but not that high, strong but I've done it before.  Is there a good place?  The old place isn't good.  I go back along the creek a ways, still mushroom hunting but also creek contemplating, danger contemplating, mushroom contemplating.  Oh, there is Tennessee iris blooming, so much of that out this trail, and there is a mushroom and another under the leaf litter and while not edible they beckon me to go on, to cross the creek.

My boots are old and worn and no longer entirely waterproof, but I can still cross and only a heel gets damp.  Rocks are slick.  Current is strong.  Really strong.  People don't realize. It is so doable but only with respect for how strong that is.  And it could still bite your butt.  Which is really what life is like but people don't realize that either I don't guess.

I cross the creek and look to my right and gasp.  There is a golden morel.  Right.  There.  Bold.  Not hard to see.  I search and search there for more and find three total -- that one, a small one, and one emerging.  I take two.  I pay attention.  Poplar.  Slightly north side of bank.  I search that area a lot.  I go on up the path until I decide there are too many pines here, and not enough water, and productive out this way is further than I want to go today.  The flat behind our pasture instead of out this way, maybe I'll get someone else to go look there today.  Maybe I'll come back for those nettles.  Huge patches of irises.  I get called along a bank and think I see one . . . but it was just a leaf pretending to be 3D for a moment.

What if you ate like this?  What if you ate by fishing?  What if you ate by someone actually taking these things and cooking them?  What if it were up to you and skill and tenacity, not money?  What if you weren't so damn self-important?  I am so fucking tired of self-important people.  Like presidents.  And rich people.  I'm sick of heaven and hell.  I like mushrooms.  And bees.  And muddy, bumpy, itchy horses.  I like turnips, and kale, and stinging nettles.  And abandoned cats.  And the sounds of my family in this house.  And walking around with my horse girlfriends, the ones I actually like, the ones who aren't fucking self-important.  Gawd, you know, have some humility.  Have a swarm of bees; a garden; an old cat; a clothes line; be a mushroom hunter; a gardener; a horseman; have some passion (lawd I will just about forgive anything for a passion); actually know how to do something.

Find some dry land fish.  Gather some nettles.  Be home in your head.  And your stomach (and thus every cell).

Monday, April 10, 2017


Persisting through Trump or anything else, although he and his idiocy has certainly given some immediacy to the need.

The original tRump fava beans are blooming
 the original nine
The nine, the next set, and then the next bulk (not up yet)
discern the seed "beds" (gallon water jug size squares of started seeds we transplant from)
 some lettuce, some palm kale, and something just transplanted under tubs to keep the sun off and moisture on
 some spinach, some other stuff, I think the fourth bed down is daikon
 two radishes and some lettuce (the radishes have been replanted)
 Buckets of rabbit manure going on the to be planted strawberry plants. The rabbits, this time of year anyway, can and do eat mostly weeds, and we eat some rabbits, and their manure does this.  To create this much organic material as a vegetarian requires a LOT of space which is why vegetarianism in general, and veganism in particular, is untenable.  Grow food.  Eat your friends.  Because "rescuing" a chipmunk is not a kindness.
 Russian kale.  And rhubarb.
 the strawberry bed, half transplanted
Since the horse is sick this year (will he be rehabbed enough for next year? We just don't know but are giving him more time to see), SIL has let us borrow her tiller and this was first day's work with it.  It will be different this year without the horse, but this winter was different too, not being able to use him to drag up wood.  I hope he stabilizes enough to be useful.

And that is where we are at the moment in the garden.  Grow some food.  No matter who you are.  No matter where you are.  Grow some food.  Use less gas (travel less, stay home).  Be colder in winter, warmer in summer.  Consume less period.  Do more for yourself.  Clean your own toilet, wash your own dishes, cook your own food.  It isn't all or nothing, but it is what is what you value.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

after evening chores, late winter

Sun setting red washing the mountain's usual winter shades of brown, and grey, and green so dark it seems black, with glowing red ember red glow, the ridges and hollers, the crinkles and creases, the backbones and furrows brought forth in high relief.  The whole mountain range marches away but I head to one gap and then don't go there, turning before, entering into my very own mountain.  Other people can rest their eyes on my mountain but I rest my bones here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

the three bucket campaign, writ large

I've written before about roads being alive and the efforts to maintain them and water saying hahahaha. 

Well, right now, we happen to be in a position to be able to buy a small dump truck load of rocks ("dirty rocks", these are) and have them dumped at the barn, and have the tractor at the barn give me a front end loader full at a time in my truck, which, it turns out, does not take too long to unload and is easy to do into the tracks of the road, and, well, so far it is working.  Who knows, maybe by the end of the summer our entire road will be nicely rocked.  But any rock, placed any where, helps.  And so far we've brought five scoops home and yes, you can really tell the difference.

We've still got to haul buckets of big rocks to make water humps in the road, and always dig the ditches out more.  I suppose if you had unlimited money (which isn't really unlimited, just more than we manage), you could "get 'er done".  But why?  We didn't walk much this winter.  This is good work for our bodies, and good work for us together.  But this is 20 minutes and pretty much any three of us at any time can do it.  What else are ya gonna be doing that is so all fired important?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

the family persisted

My first reaction on election night was disbelief -- I really didn't think it was possible that that many Americans were that stupid.  But I had a bad feeling when Ohio went.  I went to bed.  I woke up about 3 or 4 and checked the computer.  There it was.  And my first reaction to that was, you just elected Hitler.

I still think that; I still think every action this administration has taken has been in that direction.  I hope our institutions and resistance is strong enough to withstand.  We'll see in this crisis if those founding fathers were smart enough after all.  But like a person who believes that they themselves could never succumb to something, some action or inaction, well, that's the person who is actually most likely to step in that dog pile -- like that, Americans have thought themselves better than Nazi Germany.  I see people who I know to be nice people, good people even, who in a heartbeat will carry out the Fuhrer's orders, accompanied by buzzwords like "national security" and "borders".

The first action I took after the election, though, was to order fava bean seeds (and a few other seeds).  The last few days of November or the first few of December, a daughter and I went down and planted three seeds each of three types of fava beans, and some palm kale.

It is true that really good gardeners would have had winter greens up and riding out the winter.  It is true that any seed, even cold loving seed, planted in that cold a ground will take some time to germinate.  And it is true that we grew fava beans for several years before we actually figured out how to eat the darn things.

These are the favas the day we planted them.  It was the tail end of the drought, it still hadn't rained yet (it's plenty wet now) so watering and water retention was huge, thus the covered seeds.

And this is the palm kale.  That's the bottom of a gallon jug o' water if you can't tell, covering a small "seed bed".
And these are the two beds, littered with the very nice willow leaves.  Because yes, those are willow trees in the garden, started from poles temporarily placed that grew roots.

This winter has been fairly warm, but there have, of course, been cold spells.  After the drought was broken, at least we didn't have to worry about keeping the seeds watered (which is a really sensitive thing -- they cannot dry out or they are dead), but we did have to keep them from freezing.  Well, not so much freezing -- these are cold loving types of plants -- but when it was below 25, and certainly when it was below 20, they needed to be covered and somewhat protected.

This is the kale, under its jug, under an empty feed sack, under some dirt.

And these are the fava beans, under their rocks/boards, under feed sacks, under I don't know it looks like an old sheet.  Old sheets make good frost covers and good shade cloths too.

And so it took awhile.  In the kale, we had the cotyledon leaves and still nothing up top for the favas.  Eventually they all emerged.
The kale is there on the right with the true leaves, ready to be transplanted anytime now.  And yes, this is now, today, I made these photos.  As you can see, the husband has been very diligently starting more types of cold loving plants, and everything is going well.
And these are favas, behind the netting that is used on round bales of hay.  We've found this netting to be useful stuff in thwarting various critters.  It's free, we generally can untangle it until it gets in briars, and it is easy to throw away when it gets too many holes to be useful anymore.  There are three different kinds and thus the plants also look pretty different (size mostly).

This is what the next six rows of fava beans look like -- it's all happening under the ground still!  They will soon be up tho, and then we'll plant the next six or nine or whatever we decide at the time!
 We're excited about this bed -- daikon radishes!  Looking good!
And this cute little thing is a spinach plant.  I love spinach.

I feel like I should say a few more things about the importance of a garden, of growing some food.  Anywhere you are, no matter what.  It is independence.  It is usefulness.  It is not exploitative of anyone or the environment.  I haven't yet come up with a better example of how to live in the world.  It doesn't really matter if it is a freedom garden a la WWII, or a patio tomato and a windowsill basil.  It is always a learning process.  It is always a humbling process (something always fails).  It is a discipline.  It is a practice of living in the here and now.  This is the husband's garden and I am always part stranger in it but I love it and I could not do without it.  It intimidates me some, and always runs ahead of me, mocking that I cannot keep up.  But with Trump in power, I have thought more than once of Anne Frank and those who hid her and fed her, those who broke the law to do what was right instead of following orders, instead of staying safe.  I've long known the over-consumption of our culture 1) is wrong and 2) cannot sustain, but even more, that living smaller is a key not only to physical sustainability but to mental and spiritual peace.  Happiness if you will, if maybe not quite that.  The most important way to undermine a corrupt system is to not participate in it.  Through the years I've seen that same truth through various lenses of how to not participate.  Growing food, to eat, for yourself, is always a way.  This year it is perhaps the most meaningful political statement you can make too.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

it felt like a calling ~ not one single arrest

Not one single arrest.   MORE than 500,000 people marching FOR and  So really, all you have to complain about are the f-bombs.  Well, fuck you.

And fuck everyone who said "be careful".  Now is not the time to "be careful".  "Careful" makes you afraid and leads to bad decisions which can kill you.  PAY ATTENTION.  Pay attention.  And if "fuck" gets their attention, if pussy hats gets their attention, well, then pussy pussy pussy as one of the itinerate preachers at the march was saying.  "If you are not one tough pussy then you just a ho ho ho," he said.

The going, it felt like a calling, that moment when a link came across from a recently acquired friend of a friend about a bus ticket that was very affordable, and a timetable that meant only one day that I couldn't cover the barn.  Not only do I not get paid if I don't go to work, but I need to make sure *someone* is there to do the work.

It felt like a calling, like I had to do this, like "can I think of any reason at all we shouldn't be doing this?  Because otherwise I have to do it."  I booked the bus tickets, I believe, on November 27.  Pretty early on.  And yes even the threat of violence from those not supportive of human rights were not a reason to not go.  As in the civil rights marches, they were a reason TO go.  But in the face of 500,000 women (and their supporting men and children), even the ones who would like to be violent become afraid.  Wall of meat-head bikers, indeed.

I tried to think of everything.  Of course you can't, but I had stuff if anyone had a blister from walking so much, I had period pads, sunscreen, rain ponchos.  I had my mother's shoes, a good decision.  I had on exactly the right amount of clothes.  Except for snacks and water and money and maps, we didn't use or need anything we took in those clear bags.  I actually can't remember now what I forgot, except for my toothbrush.  And we forgot to take the beer on the bus so we just bought more in DC.

I thought I would take photos but there were two problems:  the new batteries were duds, and it was too cumbersome to get it out and put it back up, and I decided to just let it go.  I got a few, the girls got some good ones.  But it did mean that I didn't get what I'd hoped to of us.  Other people did but I haven't found them yet and likely never will but if you ever happen to see my signs in the photographs of the march, please let me know.

It felt momentous.  It felt like history.  It felt like I couldn't not do it.  I had to add my body to the masses that said, "No, this is not normal and this is not ok."  Because, simply, it is not.  I cannot believe people were this ignorant.  I cannot believe people were this bigotted.  I am a woman, and I have felt the weight and the walls of patriarchy many many times.  And it is time for it to stop.  Period.

And it is time for the lies, errm I mean the alternative facts, to stop.  There was no crowd at the inauguration, the 1st amendment is as important as the second, and refusing to sell one's soul to a corporation does not make one a bum.

Let's see if I can tell the story straight through.  The girls and I left leisurely.  I forgot my pad but we knew it not a mile away and came back and got it.  We drove up.  Ate something.  Checked out the bus pick up point because that exit sounded like a clusterfuck and it was and it was a good thing because I missed part of it in the dark and it was only having already done it that helped me find my way back.  We went to the motel, really really nice for a low end motel that was even at that giving us a huge break.  Allies.  We went to the grocery store.  We repacked for the bus.  Turned on some TV because we never actually see any.  Wondered if we'd sleep.  Sort of slept.  I got up at 1:30 and started coffee to brewing and took a shower.  We got dressed, poured coffee into the nice thermos I'd bought just for this and have probably needed for a long time.  I'd also bought, I admit, new underwear, a new bra, and new nice wool socks.  Pink and turquoise.  We put the "do not disturb" sign on the door and left.

Then I had the trouble getting there but then we got there and, once again, I left my pad.  At least it was in the truck.  We settled in.  It was exceedingly foggy.  Two pee stops.  I lost at earring at the first one and daughter #2 found it.  I didn't take advantage of the second one and should have.  As the sun came up, I tried to peer through the tinted windows and see something.  It was just flat.  Turns out it was just outside Mannassas.  Almost there.  We opened the coffee.  It was hot and good.  Daughter #2, of course, had made a friend on the bus.  She always does.

Everyone was up and paying attention as we drove through DC.  There were already lots of buses but not nearly as many as would be there when we got back.  When we got back a sea of buses stretched out and we thought, oh my lawd, how will everyone find their own bus?  We got out of the bus and didn't have a clue where to go.  And then people just started moving.  And then there were more and more people.  And someone directed us up if we were walking.  And then, there we were, on East Capitol, walking.  The sidewalk filled.  The bike lane filled.  Shortly it spread out a little bit, or we found a hole in which to walk and there were no more buses unloading onto the sidewalk to maneuver around.  Shortly we passed a church with a man outside telling everyone to come in if you need water or a clean bathroom or just to sit down for a minute.  He would still be there making the same offer when we came back, and it would bring all of my emotions to the surface and I would almost break down.

We walked and daughter #1 fussed because none of us knew, exactly, what we were doing, but I had a good idea and mostly it was to flow.  I don't like to get behind slow walkers.  I don't want to be rude but if you waddle, could you at least not take up the whole sidewalk.  I understand that is your pace.  That is not mine.  Especially not right now.  I need, I NEED, to get there.  I don't remember passing a whole lot more interesting on the walk in, except the really really nice city workers.  One traffic cop in particular, just sunny and smiling and directing so nicely.  One trash truck in particular, leading us in whooping, and we must have passed him (or him us) three or four different times on the walk in.  All the MLK quotes in the yards.  Lots of signs in windows showing support.  And people.  We thought then, it was a lot of people.  We didn't know anything yet.

So when you get in close the houses give way to BIG government buildings.  And then there's the Capitol.  "It's a lot bigger than it looks in photos," the girls said, and we weren't even very close yet.  "It is where both houses of Congress meet," I said.  I know they know this but to really grasp it is another thing.  We go around by way of Independence.  I think about getting off of Independence but don't.  I don't know quite where we are when we basically get stopped.  There is a big building, and a woman dressed as Justice who is beautiful, just absolutely beautiful.  It is all Art.

Big A Art.  I'm not a big Big A Art person.  I think a lot of people think they are engaged in Big A Art when they are just, well, not.  Art with a Big A has something to Say.  She had something to say.  Big A Art touches something, resonates somewhere, and like beer or wine, people have different tastes, are touched and moved and angered by different things.

The signs were Big A Art, taken as a whole.  So many signs.  Saying so many things.  Passionate, disturbing, hilarious, creative, clever, and unfailingly gramatical.  A word about "vulgar".  It is ART.  Art has something to say, and its purpose is not to make you comfortable.  Learning does not happen in one's comfort zone.  Women walked around dressed as vulvae because women do not yet have autonomy over our bodies -- the ability to say no (or yes) to sex, the ability to decide to have or not to have an abortion without some nosy busybody trying to stick their nose into it.  Vulvae parade around
BECAUSE of this.  Because you have no right to have any say over my vulva.  And until you shut up about my vulva, I guess it will parade around, making you uncomfortable.  Well, maybe not me, but I loved the vulvae.

We got to whatever is before 3rd and it was pretty much a standstill.  We went around the other side of the Museum of the American Indian I think it is, the first one there, all round and interesting.  Although "went around" is misleading.  We were generally standing so close together that I thought, if something goes wrong and there is a stampede, we are dead.  I thought it enough that I told the girls, "If there's a problem, don't worry at that point about staying together, worry about standing up.  Just stand up.  Because if you fall down you are dead."  Yeah, catastrophizer me strikes again.  But I
believe in having plans.  Because sometimes the bottom falls out.  Moving felt like molecules of water rubbing against one another.  Set an intention to try to go in some general direction and flow that way.  Eventually we got around to the other side of it and it was no better.  There was a fence around the Mall, and Don's Johns in there, and maybe a foot per person, maybe a little more some places.  Let's go there.  Eventually we made that.  And we just stood awhile relieved to not be crushed but still a bit claustrophobic.  We thought to move up the mall to see if we could get over to Independence and perhaps see the stage but it kept getting more crowded and we'd been in that crush once and no.  We moved to the johns on the other side of the Mall, got in line and used them (such a nice system that), found a gate out of the Mall.

We joined throngs moving toward Constitution.  We were still, or back, on 3rd at this point.  Past the corner we see a hot dog street vendor.  Let's get in line.  We discover it is only 11:30.  We wait a long time.  We help the line move so that it goes along the sidewalk instead of across the sidewalk and into the street.  We get three hot dogs from two black men with accents I can't quite identify.  They are out of chili but have kraut, caramelized onions, and relish, plus mustard and cheese on the side.  I take the onions and the cheese.  It is the best hot dog EVER.  Spicy hot.  Paying for them, the guy says, "You guys are great!  We didn't sell half this many yesterday and we were here all day!"  Their tip jar was also filling up rapidly.

We walked up Constitution.  We passed the "wall of meat-heads" Bikers for Trump -- six whole guys sitting demurely by more Don's Johns under a sign.  We took a photo, laughed at their absurdity, and went on.

I think we went to the bleachers and sat then for a time.  We could see the Newseum and were in front of Natural History I think.  We sat there with our signs displayed in front of us and enjoyed the signs that walked by us.  Every so often, all day long, a high and loud "wooooooooo" would start somewhere, often the stage I think, and it would run through the whole crowd, through the whole city, like a wave except auditory.  It was thrilling.  Daughter #1 had to remind me to wait until the wave reached us as I was always wanting to just go ahead in my excitement and wooooo away!  We sat there a good while.  Someone needed directions and I got out my maps.

At a bit before one we thought we'd make our way up to try for the March.  7th was packed.  I think the spontaneous drum circle was at 9th.  There were a couple of fire and brimstone preachers who, when they'd start their spiel would get drowned out by the chant, "Love not hate!"  At one of them, my daughters sang, "If you're happy and you know it, it's a sin." I think at 12th we walked over to Madison, and at that corner was the most colorful preacher:  He was just a guy standing there with two megaphones and mostly what he said was, "Pussy pussy pussy," over and over again.  At one point he said, "Pussy pussy pussy.  If you aren't one tough pussy you just a 'ho'.  Ho ho ho."  He was pretty entertaining but I can't figure out quite how he worked God and Jesus into his spiel.  We also got a "Jews for Jesus" card about here. 

At 14th Street we sit on the curb to wait for the parade.  There had been no "day of" updates, never a place we could see or hear the stage, no official word about anything going on.  Daughters had asked how many people I thought there were and I said, a lot more than they expected because this isn't handled well.  It was fine, because the energy was fine, because we as women are determined to have our rights and the rights of all humanity peacefully if at all possible.  And because this was us, taking care of each other.  The energy was incredible.  The care was incredible.  But the organization for the other 300K was not there.  So we organized ourselves.  Before long and at about March "time" (scheduled time), people started going down 14th as if it were the March.  We had no idea if it was or wasn't.  We watched and enjoyed for awhile and then joined in, marching and chanting.  And that was really incredible.  There were still people on the sides, people recording, everyone cheering, everyone happy.

But when we got to the Ellipse there was only a seemingly very nervous Guardsman waving people past the entrance.  There was a food truck right behind him and that really made him nervous, people going there.  Beside of him was a woman yelling that the organizers had confirmed that we were more than 500,000 strong, that there would be no ending ceremony, and to please march on down (somewhere) then disburse on the sidewalks.  Emphasis, on the sidewalks.   The chants changed to primarily to, "Whose House?  OUR House!"

We walked to the next cross, which is 17th.  Some marchers continued forward.  We turned right.  I thought, hey, at least the girls can walk past the White House and see it.  I know it is closed to traffic now but I didn't figure it was closed to foot traffic.  Before we got there, however, a Secret Service cop was parked in the road and rather unamusedly telling people to get on the sidewalk and out of the road.  People complied.  Then forward progress stopped and no one back there knew why.  It was because this cop had stopped them.  Nope, you can't cross the street.  Everyone is looking around, people are continuing to walk forward past those of us who had stopped with polite body space.  And then a motorcade drives by.  Oh, the high pitched woooooo, the jeers, LOUD.  Secret Service cops looking just a tad concerned.  People did step off the sidewalk, just to be seen.  I'm sure the cheeto was leaving with his cheering section to go to the CIA for his self-aggrandizing talk there.

Then we get up to Pennsylvania and we can't walk down even.  Basically with that closed, you can't even see the White House.  "Whose House?  OUR House!"  So we walked on up, to H and across.  You might glimpse a bit of the WH from across Lafayette Square, but it is pretty far away.  It was really the only anger I felt all day, to be denied OUR House, to even walk by it.  It was all fenced off, all of Lafayette Square.  One guy was inside the fence, going for the fence, with a Secret Service guy close on his heels.  We walked on instead of watching what happened (probably nothing) but I don't know how he was getting out because I didn't see any opening in the fence.

And that was pretty much it for us.  We walked on down H Street toward JFK where the buses were.  Somewhere around NY Ave we ducked into a McD's for a rest and a milk shake.  When we came out, part of "the march" was continuing right down the middle of H Street!  Going with traffic so only disrupting behind them, LOUD so probably pretty big.  Daughter #1 wanted to join in but I said, "I *really* don't want to get arrested in DC."  And so we didn't.  But this group or others we saw and/or heard several more times on our walk through the city.  "Whose streets?  OUR streets!"

We must have gone down 7th because we passed the Verizon Center, a street musician who got our $, and found Capital Spirits or some such and bought some beer for the bus trip back (since we'd
forgotten what we'd brought to the hotel room at 2 in the morning).  It was a long way to lug it back, but we saw plenty of other people doing the same thing.  We must have then gone up E since we passed a metro, and then we passed Union Station where I think we sat on a bench for awhile.  Daughter #1 was whining in the funniest manner, "Carrrrryyyyy meeee.  I want the strollerrrrrr."  We all laughed.  We didn't go far then, to Stanton Park for another rest.  We had LOTS of time and knew it.  And we were really tired. 

Ingram Memorial Congregational Church came to our rescue next: "Come in!  Do you need water, a CLEAN bathroom, just to sit down awhile?  You are WELCOME here."  They either were having or had had a birthday party in the basement.  It is amazing I can find little to no information online about this church.  But it was an amazing place and people.  And that was when I had my emotional breakdown.  The girls, you see, went in first and I waited on the steps.   And these people were all just so welcoming to us.  We who have too often been, not enemies but skeptical of each other, wary.  Will we old white women really be there for Black Lives Matter?  We must be.  We must all be allies.  There are hard questions to answer, like will we stand silent when we see racism around us, coming out of people we love, will we risk that?  We must.  And I wanted to hug him, but I was crying and trying not to and I knew I'd ugly sob if I did it so I sat there, wiping my eyes.  And then I went into the bathroom and stood in line and tried to act like I was normal just dabbing my eyes and people would talk to me, church members and people in line, and I would talk back and my eyes were just shining and it was all ok with everybody.

After the church, there was another street musician.  We stopped to pull $ out and he started singing and I started crying there too.

And then we were back to JFK and finding our buses.  We were early.  The bus driver was late.  We sat on the somewhat damp asphalt, waiting.

 Back on the bus, everyone was excited, talking, for about an hour.  Yes, I think our society is one of the worst patriarchies ever (isn't it amazing that the election of a black man brought the bigotry hiding in every heart to the fore, and the election of a bigot has brought misogyny to the fore?).  Yes, I think the 1st amendment is in GRAVE danger.  Not two hours out we stopped at a rest area, surprised to do so so soon.  After that, pretty much everybody was asleep for the ride.  I woke only as the bus changed gears getting close to our drop off, maybe 5 minutes before.

I feel like I cannot shut up.  I feel like I must do SOMETHING political  And that doesn't mean post on facebook or sign a petition either.  I must call, I must write, I must visit, I must plan and support, and yes, I must march.

And I must wear my pussy hat everyday.  I will make more versions, some for summer.

"Tell me what democracy looks like.  THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!"  Yes, we are a democratic republic.  No I do not want mob rule.  I want rule of LAW, no respecter of persons.  The whole and entire Constitution, 1st Amendment, 2nd Amendment, 4th Amendment, 14th Amendment, 15th, 19th, 24th, ALL of them.  And yes, tangerine jesus is my president, meaning he works for me, not me for him.  He best watch his step.