I don’t know if you’ve heard…

But I’m training for an obstacle course.

“Hey, how would you feel about coming to my city and watching a bunch of hot people do exercise?” Asks a friend.

Thus begins my journey into Spartan Racing.

2020 was a big flop for me. I was burned out by January, in shape but plateauing, and a few months later all the gyms closed. When the world stopped, I stopped. I stopped everything. I didn’t take walks, even though I love them, I didn’t work out at all, despite access to a home gym setup, I didn’t run or hike or anything, and I picked up a nasty carbs habit. I rode the crest of the wave I had built up with regular pilates practice, but as it ebbed, I did nothing to replace it. It took years to get back to a baseline, but it wasn’t a baseline I was happy with.

So when I found myself at a crossroads, this innocent question held far more appeal than my fitness minded buddy thought it would.

Previously, in this particular group of three, I take on the caring role. I feed, I drive, I shop for supplies, and they do whatever sporting event they’ve dreamed up or decided to join. They would be forgiven for assuming I’d rather watch than run.

Too bad this time I wasn’t ready to stand by.

My gym has made some changes to their class structure so instead of daily pilates, I have to stick to twice weekly. How am I supposed to build this fine, fine booty on only two sessions a week? And how am I supposed to get excited to work out when I have nothing to work toward? Sure, I’d love to have an athlete’s figure, but cheese is far too easy to get around here so without a LOT of work (and a LOT of motivation to get it going) that’s impossible.

Enter the Spartan.

I think most people are familiar with Spartan races (and Tough Mudders and other such obstacle races) but if you’re not: imagine a 5k run peppered with monkey bars, climbing walls, enormous tires to flip over or hop through, vertical climbs, horizontal poles to clamber over and under, and more. Basically it’s a playground for adults who like structured play time. Sometimes it’s in a stadium and you have to go up and down the stairs. Sometimes they’re much longer, with even more grown-up playground equipment to navigate.

Suddenly, I had the perfect storm to hand. Plenty of time to train, a variety of very clear functional goals, and a social motivation component. It took me a week to decide to actually do it, and we’ve made a tiered bet so there’s actual money (and if I do well enough, a very nice bottle) riding on my performance, but now I am locked in and have a deadline.

For the past three months I’ve been trying new ways of exercising. I’ve been hiking (LOVE IT), running (only like it when it’s cold out), sprinting (not sure yet, that’s new), lifting weights (love the results), keeping up my twice weekly pilates (love it), and shoving yoga in here and there where I can.

Also for the past three months, I can’t shut up about it. My friends, my family, my patient, darling clients hoping to sneak a kiss in between words… have all put up with me waxing eloquent on pull-up drills, weight lifting form, how much I truly hate running, and the many details that have consumed my life of late.

I would just like to thank you for your support, your patience, and for being one of the reasons I can afford to do this. I marvel at the life I have available to me and it’s you who make it possible. I only hope that my stamina, exuberance, and impressive new muscles are enough to make listening to me gab on about my new journey worth it.

Good Grief, 2023!

We are moving toward the end. The year moves inexorably to a close and we find ourselves reflecting. We hope. Planning for a better year next year.

I believe 2023 was the year of grieving, for me. A year of loss and pain and endings.

In September 2022, a professional conflict that had been simmering between me and my former friend and mentor since the spring resurfaced. She did something I didn’t agree with. I did something she didn’t like. The conflict got personal, then nasty. I couldn’t relax, nor could I reconcile, and the stress of it all had my hair literally falling out. In December we parted ways permanently, and with bad blood.

In November of the same year, a friend’s boyfriend kissed me. The kiss in itself wasn’t a problem, but it brought others to light and over the next few months, I tried to establish new norms of conduct between us. It did not go well. By September, other fractures in other relationships had grown and the tension in ours was the final fissure. The entire social group, one that sustained us through pandemic and saved at least one life, had shattered by the end of the month.

In the meantime, my best friend suffered a mental breakdown. A variety of stressors (stolen car, job woes, a loved one’s failing health, among others) turned my mild-mannered, self sacrificing friend into a ball of rage that careened through her closest relationships at the slightest provocation. It was touch and go for most of the summer but I have reason to expect that this relationship, at least, will emerge stronger than ever. Of the three of my friends, people I was close to, shared secrets and time and love with, only she is committed to our future. She has apologized and she is working diligently toward a permanently stronger position and with her, so am I.

For most of my life, I’ve been a pushover. A people pleaser who would rather suffer quietly than possibly, maybe, potentially upset someone. More than that, I would solve every problem around me, not out of selflessness or love, but to avoid proximity to other people’s upset feelings.

It turns out that when you stop doing that, people who liked you when you did, don’t really like you anymore. For the first time in my life, I stuck up for myself. Like, really stuck up for myself. I pushed back on things I didn’t feel were right, and when the pressure turned up I didn’t run away.

Finally. After doing it over and over for 34 years, I didn’t run away.

I am walking away from these relationships, from this year, grateful and proud. Grateful for the learning opportunities, for the tools I’ve walked away with, and for the good times I had before things fell apart. Proud of myself for making the effort to change things I didn’t like, and for not giving in this time. I feel so much older, so much less afraid. I feel more prepared for the future, more able to handle what others might do. I’m a little more cautious, which is good but also makes me a little sad. I have more patience for other people’s feelings, but less now for their actions. I am willing to tolerate others’ discontent, and unwilling to tolerate bad behavior. I feel victorious in a battle of wills against my old self and after a year long battle, ready to be calm for a while.

Because dear god I’m so glad that’s over. At every stage of every conflict I second guessed myself. I had to constantly remind myself (when I had the presence of mind to realize it) that what I felt was real, that it was reasonable, and that what I was asking for was also reasonable. In dozens of conversations, poring over comments and asides, looking at situations from every possible angle, I checked and rechecked my assumptions. Was I being fair in my descriptions when seeking outside perspective? Did other people’s opinions confirm my conclusions? Was there any room at all for me to be wrong, apologize, and fix this by once again sacrificing my own well being to ease others’ anger?

For weeks on end I could think of nothing else, and the stress of being in the thick of the process grated on those around me. Now that it’s over, I almost feel weird being at peace. Taking a long walk and thinking about the answers to my crossword puzzle and the events of the book I’m reading instead of writing and rewriting messages in my head, jumping at every turn, afraid to say a wrong word and set off another tirade. To say “not much” when people ask what I’ve been up to and realize that’s the truth. To feel normal and sure of myself.

It feels weird.

It feels good.

That, my beloved readers, is one reason I’ve been away so long. Instead of inspiration, my waking hours had been taken up with some things I simply couldn’t share. They were too personal, they were often someone else’s private business, and they were muddled. And now they’re done.

Though my writing schedule is unlikely to return to the weekly notes I once sent, I do have a few things in the wings, fun things I hope you’ll enjoy.

Thank you, again, to my dear patrons who have supported me, listened, and yet been too wise to pry. This year has been a wild ride and I couldn’t have done it without you.

Winter Hours are Coming

How delightful, that as time passes in its inexorable flow, people can grow and change, try new things and learn from them.

Previously, I have encouraged my lovers to meet me in the broad light of day. When an engagement requires I be at a certain place at a certain time, I and my various anxieties prevent me from relaxing in the time leading up to the appointment. This isn’t a problem when I’m only awake for a few hours, but when hours bleed into whole halves of days, I feel more keenly my inability to relax.

Well.

It turns out that those anxieties can be curbed through deliberate action. I have discovered that, while eight unfilled hours with a time bound task at the end of them unnerves me, eight hours that hold six hours of tasks within them feel very different.

I’ve recently taken on a challenge. The challenge involves activity. Background on the challenge will come with time but for now; the challenge craves daylight hours. You may have noticed that daylight hours are scarce this time of year, and between the challenge and my seasonal dejectedness, I’ve decided to try something new.

Enter: Winter hours.

Currently: I encourage people, both by my calendar and my rate structure, to visit me during daylight hours. For the near future: I propose an experiment.

I’m going to run an experimental special from Sunday, November 26 through Friday, December 1. My evening minimum will be two hours, down from four, and three hour appointments will be upgraded to four. I hope to test a hypothesis while also potentially meeting both friends who can’t make time during the day and others who could, but prefer evening dates.

Pending evidence for my hypothesis, I plan to continue the change with a small modification. Between December 3 and February 16: my evening hours will be a minimum of three (instead of four) and my four hour engagements will enjoy a loose upper limit (meaning we shall have our up to two hours En Abode and then dinner will take as long as dinner takes)

Terms and Conditions: I moved to my current location near the end of 2019. Right about when I settled in and got excited to explore eating in the area, Covid hit and they all shut down. I require that four hour appointments include food out in the real world and for the duration of winter hours, I strongly prefer we go grab a bite to eat somewhere nearby during three hour gatherings. I also require that appointments (excepting overnights, of course, and the occasional special event) be planned to end at or before 10p. I encourage a start time as close to 6pm as possible.

So get excited for cozy evenings in crowded restaurants, exploratory adventures to unknown eateries, and perhaps the odd fancy dress ball. If there’s a place you’ve always wanted to share that’s only open for dinner, now is the time.

Thank you my friends for your patience. It’s been a long time since I posted anything new and yet I’ve felt, and in some cases seen, your affection sent my way.

To winter!

Making Friends in Spokane (and Walla Walla)

I’m not a big touring girl. I love travel, but I don’t do it often and I generally don’t do it exclusively to work. There are, however, a few places I go regularly and am even looking to meet some new friends here and there.

During the summers, I generally head in the direction of Spokane once a month or so. I am not *in* Spokane, I am about an hour away, but I am nearby. It’s not impossible that I’ll “retire” there eventually, and I wouldn’t mind having a few friends to keep me company. Until that happens, I won’t have a permanent location to host so appointments booked for Spokane will look a little different.

First, the good news. Spokane has a lower cost of living. Spokane *also* has a lower cost of me! Spokane rates are as follows:

90 minutes – 700
2 hours – 900
3 hours – 1200
Overnight – 2500

Now for the catch: you must provide the room (or deposit equal to the going room rate plus 10%). And not just any room. We’re talking Davenport or equivalent. I want both of us to feel secure, comfortable, clean, and sexy. Once we have met a few times and gotten to know one another better, we can discuss meeting at your clean bachelor pad, but I like to stick to one new thing at a time. If I don’t know you, I’d at least like to know where I’ll meet you.

You’ll also want to plan ahead. Like I said: it’s a long drive into town and when I’m back east, I often have things to do I’ll want to plan around.

The other Eastern WA location I visit more than once a year is Walla Walla. Spring and Fall release are a tradition to attend and I require small prompting to visit throughout the year. I stay at the Marcus Whitman (when it’s not 100% sold out) and would LOVE to see any locals who want to share their time. Walla Walla rates are:

90 minutes – 800
2 hours – 1000
3 hours – 1500
Overnight – 4000 (and something from the Patisserie in the morning)

Again: planning ahead will be crucial. And if you don’t see a Walla Walla date on my calendar but you’d like to invite me down, feel free to reach out.

Fun bonus: all my darling Seattle clients may avail themselves of these special lower rates if they see me in Spokane or Walla Walla.

Screening requirements are the same and I cannot provide FBSM at this time. It’s a bit too conspicuous to travel with the table and conspicuous is the enemy of safety, especially in a big little small town.

I am looking forward to meeting, or re-meeting in some cases, darling friends from the rural areas who take their pleasure as seriously as I do but find a trip to Seattle a bit more than reasonable. See you soon!

A Walk to Work Wonders

It’s been a busy few weeks for me. Usually, that brings me joy, but coming on the heels of a very slow couple of months and at the same time as the release of Tears of the Kingdom, I found myself resenting things that I would otherwise enjoy.

Now, this doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy being busy. An evening at the opera, a night of sleepy snuggles, new friends, an outing with the folks, all brought their own delights and I am happy to have done them. But it contributed to an uncharacteristically black mood on a glorious early summer day.

I love walking. To the store, from the bus, around Greenlake, I will invent chores and destinations so I have an excuse to walk somewhere. I am fortunate that I have a variety of pedestrian friendly places to roam without needing a plane, train, or automobile to access them. As part of my self care, I try to take at least a short walk every day.

Which is why I was surprised at how resentful I felt towards this walk! I knew it was good for me, I had made plans to chat with a friend along the way, the sun was out but it wasn’t too hot… in a few words: the day was perfect, I was about to do something I enjoy, and I wasn’t happy about it.

I’m glad I did it anyway.

It took almost the entire walk to bring me around. An hour it took me, of soaking in sunshine, reminding myself to enjoy moments for what they are and not worry about what they aren’t, and listening to music. I was a few blocks from home when Chandelier by Sia came on my playlist and one lyric jumped out at me: “I’m gonna live like tomorrow does’t exist.”

What if today was my last day on earth? What would I wish I had done by the end? Would I really be upset that I spent a day with my best friend instead of gaming? Would I regret staying in bed all day instead of having a face-to-face heart-to-heart with my mom? Would I lay on my death bed wishing I hadn’t stopped quite so many times to say “I love you” to those I love?

And suddenly, my perspective shifted.

Instead of wishing I could abandon my professional and personal responsibilities, I remembered that there is a reason I opted into them, and those reasons are still real. I realized that there will always be tomorrow for frivolity, that I was glad to have done these important things, and that I could have it all. Eventually.

Sometimes it sucks to be a grown up. To have only yourself to blame when you can’t take a day off. To fret over the future and choose to do the responsible thing instead of the fun thing. But it is also empowering. I can choose to work hard at the things I value: my relationships personal and professional. And at the same time, I can choose to appreciate them. And I can choose to play, too.

So today I exercise, because it’s good for me and it feels good. I work, because it’s good for me, and it feels good. I tell my people I love them, because it’s good for me, and it feels good. I play, because it feels good, and that is good for me. And I take a fucking walk, because it turns out it’s good for me, even when it doesn’t feel good.

Taking the day off.

I had a delightful post ready for last week, or I thought I did, and I have plans to write about the opera in the coming week, but for today, I am taking my first day off in a week. Between a terrible cold, a friend in town, cat sitting, and some delightful visitors, I have had a tremendously full week. Next Thursday you’ll have much to see as I’ll have a backdated post for last week as well as a new one.

In the meantime, I am receiving heart containers from all my darlings and spending the afternoon enjoying the beautiful sunshine.

A Night at the Museum

I’m on the Stranger’s mailing list for citywide events so I learn about all kinds of things to do. Most of the time I’m not that interested. Most concerts aren’t really my thing (I don’t like crowds or loud noises), and a lot of the “events” are just restaurants making up occasions to sell more food. Which is fine, but again with the crowds.

However, every few weeks something really jumps out at me. The Ballet was one. Turns out I’m not really that into ballet, but at least I tried it! HUMP is another. I knew about it, but having a timely reminder meant I got tickets and found a date this year instead of realizing too late that it’s time. And last month I saw an opportunity to spend an evening on the dance floor…. With fossils!!!

Burke After Dark is an event where the special exhibits area at the Burke Museum of Natural History is cleared out and in it’s place they put a dance floor, an open bar, and some nibbles. You can dance until you get sweaty and out of breath, then wander through the displays and exhibits for a while, then wander back to the dance floor. A little Lady Gaga, a little T Rex. A little Michael Jackson, a little cladogram. A little Disco, a little marsupial specimens.

It was a small group, most of them in their thirties or so, and as I took a moment to people watch, I felt this wave of warmth and belonging. I didn’t know a soul (other than my exceptional date, thank you my dear) but I knew them. The one guy getting super dirty with his girlfriend. The nice lady who kept checking to see who was watching her sweet dance moves. The crowd of girlfriends giving zero shits what other people were doing. It reminded me of prom, specifically of going to prom with my theater nerd friends. And all of these strangers gathered here, now, for this unusual crossover event.

There’s a special feeling of safety and belonging for me in those spaces. A place where there’s a crowd of people (but not a large crowd) and enough space to stand apart and observe. Soak it in a bit. I feel like this at parks, or book readings, or sitting in the corner alone at a restaurant: there are people, and they are happy, and they ask nothing of me. They offer without knowing it their camaraderie and I am free to accept it, or not, when I’m ready.

I remember one night, years ago, when I took my book to dinner. I sat up at the bar with my charcuterie plate and a glass of wine and my book, when about halfway through, we noticed each other. Down the bar, another woman and her book, and her charcuterie plate, and her glass of wine. And at the same time, at a table in the middle of the room, another. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was the coincidence, but we gravitated to each other and wound up migrating to the table. “What book are you reading?” “Do you do this often?” “I’m so glad we met.” An hour later we had traded life stories, three of us spanning six decades, and shared a unique moment of community with strangers.

These moments, of solitary community, of serendipity, of solidarity, don’t come often. Sometimes I can manufacture them, but usually I just have to stay open and see what happens. This evening was a created opportunity. The organizers, myself, my date who let me talk them into an extravagant evening, the students and faculty tirelessly working, and the other attendees all had to go out of their way to make this happen. I am so grateful to everyone who did, and I am looking forward to the next one.

Ants

Funny how things come in threes sometimes.

I spent an afternoon with the cuttlefish and less than a week later, was gifted a book. Science fiction, about alien worlds and megalomaniacs and regular old humanity trying to survive. It featured sentient spiders and computers made of ants, and followed a man, a language nerd upon whose shoulders rests humanity’s last chance, as destiny jerks him to and fro.

After the book ends, a few generations pass, and the next book begins. The spiders and the humans and the ant-colony-computer-based AI all troop off toward a mysterious radio signal and a distant world.

This world is full of sentient octopuses.

Ten days after staring my cuttlefish friend in the eye, I lay on my sofa, reading a scene where an octopus, a human, and a giant spider meet, stare each other in the eyes, and try to learn how to communicate.

It was surreal.

And today, less than a week after closing the back cover on what is essentially a space opera, I stopped, crouched, and stared in wonder at a colony of ants, bustling around living their little ant lives. I wondered if, perhaps, the author of Children of Time didn’t have an interesting idea. If electron based computing power operates on a series of ones and zeros, ons and offs, who’s to say that an ant colony, properly guided with pheromone signals, couldn’t become something more computational than a massive bridge or giant ball? I couldn’t see a pattern in the colony’s movement, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.

Out of curiosity, I puffed a hefty breath at them, enough to life some off their little bug feet and roll them a few centimeters one way and the other. Immediately, their pace increased. The clover leaf patterns and long lines moving in, out, and around the little ant hill sped up wildly, but it didn’t look like anything else changed. The patterns I didn’t see before still didn’t emerge, nor did I notice them changing.

But change they did. Before long, the clover leaf leaves grew and a few individuals found my shoe. Whether or not they recognized it as enemy, I figured it was time to go. I tried brushing them off and that’s when another instinct kicked it.

She bit me!

Not on the toe, but on my glove. I was wearing some simple knit gloves and this tiny little creature latched her tiny little jaws on to the tiny little threads of my glove. Held thusly in place, she bent her booty around to spray what must have been the tiniest, weakest spray of bum acid at me.

This is how they fight other insects and take down prey. Mindlessly, she fought on behalf of her colony, against this monstrous enemy, and she held on tight. Like, surprisingly tight. So tight I couldn’t just brush her off. I had to pinch her body between thumb and forefinger of my other hand, break her fast little grip, and be quick to shake her back onto the ground before she got hold of the other glove.

How wild, these little things! Several people passed me as I crouched entranced, on bikes and on foot. I’m sure they thought I was an absolute nutter. My favorite walking shoes don’t look as comfortable as they are, and the combination of winter gloves and sunglasses can’t have fit in, even in Seattle. Add to that me intently staring at nothing, head bent down close to the ground, a joyful, incredulous, possibly maniacal under the circumstances grin on my face, and you get a bit of an odd sight. At least, the thought occurred to me once or twice while I watched.

I do this sometimes. Watch the world go by at it’s impossibly slow, frantic pace. I once watched dragonflies hatching, moving occasionally from one bursting shell to the next, observing each one at it’s separate, communal point in development. They have to climb out of the water, get high enough on a branch they can get some sunshine but not so high they get spotted by predators, then they split their backs open and push their torsos out first. Though I’m not sure it’s the same for dragonflies, I know that butterflies have to struggle in order for their wings to function. Each wing is threaded with dozens of capillaries that must fill with fluid in order to full expand. I watched wings start crinkled like badly packed vacation clothes and slowly, millimeter by millimeter, straighten and expand into the flat, iridescent wings we’re used to. Then, they start moving their wings. Slowly at first, drying and strengthening them. And then they lift off.

There’s something meditative about watching nature. Children, insects, small creatures of the woods, just going about their lives, carrying out programming that goes back to the dawn of time and led, over generations, to the creature they are right then, right there.

The books are Children of Time and Children of Ruin, respectively. I found them a simple pleasure, if a little predictable. Your “nerd just gives peace a chance and the wildly overpowered other guy turns out to be just like you and wants peace, too” trope is heavily used here, and is spreading. Season two of Picard did the same thing. But the descriptions are vivid, an important literary tool for those of us who see the worlds we read about rendered in our head, and I enjoyed the speculation. What would society look like if we were all jumping spiders? What if we were octopuses? What if we were us, but those others existed? How would we talk to each other? What if my little cuttlefish buddy and I had, over time, been able to communicate with each other and discover, to both of our surprise, that the answer to many of my questions was “yes”?

Twenty Carat Clients

I adore my clients. I never know when a new face will materialize out of the fog of websites, advertising platforms, referrals, and the vagaries of economic fortunes. I never know when they will disappear into the next relationship, a different city, a new favorite provider, or simply reshuffled priorities. In the vast majority of cases, this is just how it is. The nature of the demi monde is one of uncertainty. Mystery.

On occasion, however, someone sets themselves apart.

Gig work is unpredictable. This industry even more so. We constantly advise each other and ourselves to save as much as possible when things are good, because it will not stay that way. We try. We sometimes succeed. But there are ways our clients can help.

If you find yourself returning to the same person over and over, you may find yourself becoming a 20 carat client. This is a term I have manufactured, and I define it thus: a twenty carat client weighs significantly in a provider’s books. A twenty carat client provides an unusually significant portion of her income and holds her in unusual esteem. My threshold for that is three or more meetings per month, or 20,000 in total revenue in 12 months.

If you hit this threshold, Congratulations! You are almost certainly a twenty carat client. Your ATF spends time in her personal life thinking about you, she goes out of her way to make time for you, she goes on special trips with you, and trusts you with her financial stability.

With this achievement comes some responsibilities.

While we like to know if we’ll see you again, most clients can come and go freely without putting our financial stability in jeopardy.

You, unfortunately, cannot.

We like to think good things will last forever, and we hope they will, but people change, life moves forward, and people even die. When it happens that you have to end your professional relationship, it is your responsibility to take care of her.

Now, there are no contracts in this industry. No policies, no worker protections, no unemployment insurance, no easily accessible precedents to which we can refer. You won’t get arrested, fined, or even really shamed for not putting in your notice or offering severance. When I say this is your responsibility, I am speaking to your conscience as a person who cares about the woman you’ve spent so much time with, and has forethought and resources.

Caring for her means giving her adequate notice (at least a month for every year of your professional relationship) or providing a financial cushion to ease her transition back to “active duty.”

I could give you reason after reason why this is a good idea, but those who will take this advice don’t need it and those who won’t are unlikely to be swayed. That’s fine. I find that I am almost exclusively surrounded by those who will, as long as they know they should.

Financial arrangements are always a fraught conversation for me. Women are not encouraged to advocate for themselves, particularly not in emotionally charged situations. I am deeply appreciative of my colleagues who have cajoled, reasoned, and sometimes even shamed me into sticking up for myself. I am also grateful for every single person who has heard me set a boundary or ask for aid and has not only respected it, but thanked me for sharing.

I see you, and I love you.

The End of the World

Last month I made a pilgrimage. It wasn’t spiritual, or at least, any more or less spiritual than any other travel for me. But it took me to a temple in a remote, dense jungle, and for a half a moment, it connected me to times past and future.

The Mayan ruins of Ek’ Balam are not well known. After the crowds at Chichen Itza, the Zona Arqueológica de Ek Balam was an oasis in the jungle. A low wall surrounds over 20 acres, includes a number of excavated structures, and hides even more still undiscovered.

It was the end of a long day. We’d been up since five thirty and wouldn’t be home until seven or eight. It was our last stop of the day so we already had a great deal of background on the Mayan Empire, its reach, and its eventual fall.

I am a lone wander, on occasion. I like to linger at my own pace, moving on quickly from things that don’t interest me and contemplating those that do. Guided tours, however, rarely offer that flexibility. I chose one that offered free time at each location, and for just a moment, I really got some.

We had wandered the city of Chicken Itza, swum in the cool green waters of cenote Hubiku, and been walked around the discovered perimeter of Ek’ Balam. We stumbled on an active archaeological dig and got nervous at some suspicious sounds from a not distant enough for comfort distance. And in the last few minutes before heading back home, I took myself to the edge of an ancient platform to sit, my legs dangling over the edge, a twenty foot drop into dense jungle below me, and contemplate.

Being high up gave me a sense of safety, so when the jungle rustled and groaned, instead of shrinking away in fear, I searched for the source of the sounds. I saw the ubiquitous lizards, some little scuttlers and a few big old iguanas, climbing trees in search of food and mates. I saw squirrels with their fluffy tails hopping about, being squirrelly. Far above, local birds of prey circled. And beneath my feet, a colorful assortment of plastic bottles, wrappers, and other human trash.

In answer to the question “Why did the city die?” Our guide gave us depressingly familiar answers. Overpopulation. Pollution. War. History repeats itself.

Which is why I almost laughed out loud to myself when I first noticed the trash. A bitter laugh. Where has humanity not touched? Corpses litter the highest mountains and the wasted husks of our food and drink sink to the bottom of the deepest oceans.

Can we ever learn from the lessons of the past? Certainly. Will we? I think not.

We have been warned. The warnings are old, ancient, and more insistent every day. Not content to poison our water, we have now belched toxic waste into the air, filled vast oceans with unkillable plastics of every size and shape, ripped mountains to powder and ground thousands of people under the churning wheels of industry. Corporations externalize the cost of picking up after themselves into debts that we pay in the currency of our lungs, our drinking water, our cancerous growths, and our guilt.

As a little girl of about ten or eleven, I once asked my dad why the economy needed to grow. (My mom listened to NPR a lot.) He replied that it needed to keep up with people having children. As the population grows, so does the economy need to grow, to keep up.

Even then that didn’t make much sense to me. I couldn’t quite figure out why but it has since become obvious. The world is finite. We cannot grow indefinitely, kids or not, and expect the planet to supply our needs. We have made some incredible technological leaps that have staved off the end, but they have also given us a false sense of our own ability to mitigate.

More accurately, perhaps, it has given us a false sense of when and how much to mitigate. We allow tourists to lug single use bottles into the heart of the jungle and when they toss them over the edges of centuries old structures, structures that themselves stand mute witness to the inevitable consequences of exactly that behavior, we shrug and get back in the van.

I only sat on the edge of that wall for a few minutes. Just long enough to tap out a few quotes. I wanted to remember what it felt like to feel awe, anger, despair, all at once, all only enough to squeeze out a rueful laugh.

I’ll spare you, my beloved reader, from the end of this train of thought. I do think it’s possible that things will turn around. My generation cares more than the one before, and the ones after are downright pissed about it. Vegetarianism and teetotaling is rising in popularity, as is a movement to hold corporations accountable for their shitty single use packaging and over reliance on unbreakable plastics.

There is hope. It can be hard to see, sometimes, but there is. Even in the worst case scenarios… the world has been through an awful lot and look where she’s come. She’ll be ok. Eventually.