an ode to the salty

'cause humans aren't meant to be pasteurised

At the urging of some people that I respect and at the behest of the ever-evolving situation we find ourselves in, I’ve made the decision to open up my subscription to a paid or free option. If you have the means and the desire to support my writing, you can click on the subscription button and go for a paid option. If not, for either category, just stick with the free version. They’re both the same content, either way. Should I ever move towards adding content only available to paid subscribers, I will let you all know first and I will always make everything I offer free to anyone that needs it to be so. No questions asked. Ever.

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There is a couple that we are friends with. They are quite a bit older than us, many of our friends always have been. He’s a retired welder, drinks diet cokes and rye instead of water, eats white bread and game meat as a daily practice. There’s a painting of him on the wall of his hunt camp that shows the time when he moved from man to legend. In the painting, we see him, sitting on an outdoor “shitter”, pants around his ankles, taking aim at an 8 point buck that walked into their camp. Yes, he had his rifle with him while having a poop. Yes, he took the shot and got the deer. Hence the legend.

I wouldn’t and couldn’t talk to this man or his wife about most of the things that make up the things that we are most passionate about in life. There’s no discussion around nutrition or regenerative farming or connection to nature. He’s about as salty as they come, gruff and rough with edges that life never did smooth down. He is broken in all the ways that life breaks us. His lungs are burnt out from childhood asthma and decades of welding in a time where the air we breathe in wasn’t all that concerning. His back no longer serves its purpose. No matter, he never complains and just keeps on going. He would, quite literally, give us the shirt off his back. 

We know more people like this, most of them older. Most of them inhabiting their lives free of a sense of duty to conform. I was thinking about this the other day when I got a random comment on my Instagram telling me that a comment I made sounded transphobic. It was a comment on a story about a dictionary I had just found and how excited I was. I have been looking for an old dictionary, one worthy of archive status, for a long while. This beautify is bound in leather and written in 1934. It’s gorgeous. 

In my instagram story I commented on my belief that we all need to be book keepers now. The books, like the knowledge and the skills, will continue to erode if we don’t have the real life, hold in your hand paper versions to share and pass on. I also made a comment that words like “woman” can still be found in old dictionaries. How are these words being used and redefined now?

The comment I received was that what I wrote made the commentator “sad” as it smelled of transphobia. I read that before I headed outside to get some of my garlic into the ground so I had plenty of time to tease out my frustration as I worked, hands in the soil. It got me thinking about a few things which got me thinking a little more. My knee jerk reaction was to just come back to the comment and point out the fallacies in it, the conditioning and superficial thought and what I think is the most obvious, the fact that to stand for and support womanhood is not the equivalent of hating a group of people that were not born women but identify as such.

Can I not hold alignment with other women, a little thing I know much about, without holding malice for anyone else? It really speaks to the over-simplified, black and white thinking of our time. The schools and the perverted culture and the silos of social media have trained an army of little bloodhounds that snarf around the ground, looking to pick up any scent of injustice so that they can rise up and alert their posse with their alarm bark. “Bigot, bark, bigot, bark”. Blah.

Aside from the politics, which I care nothing of, there is the heart of the matter here. This superficial substitute of goodness and action. This keeping a close eye on the words of another, making sure they are presented and shaped just so. I was wondering, as I planted my garlic, how many of the most down to earth, kind humans that I would call “friend” would be disregarded outright by people like that commenter. What would they make of them? These friends that swear and cuss and have calendars from 1982 on their shop walls with women with naked boobs bending over muscle cars. Are they simply so low as to not be counted at all?

I suppose so. They would be relegated to the junk heap of humanity. Too far gone. That’s too bad because what I’ve learned in my time on earth, is that those people, the ones least like us, are often the ones that will surprise you. They’re often the ones that come through when everyone else goes out. They’re the ones that teach you.

I am also cognisant of the fact that as much as they are different from me, I am different from them. And yet, there they are, again and again offering a hand, giving me encouragement, laughing with me while we share our stories, sharing space and time and life.

We have never been all that interested in aligning with people that we thought worthy. Instead, we have collected a diverse group of human beings that we are blessed enough to call friends. We spent an afternoon with other friends of ours recently, a retired electrician and his soft spoken wife. They were teaching us how to play euchre. They used to live in the country but have recently moved to a little condo in town. We spoke about children and they told us stories about their past. It was human and connecting and if we drilled down into the nuts of it all, we probably didn’t share a single political or present-day-goings-on position. But who would talk about such crap when you have a little group of friends together that are enjoying one another’s humanness? You can’t look for the divisions when your sights are set on what you share.

I have another set of friends who would define themselves as crusaders of social justice issues. They are younger than us and see life differently. Know what? We can spend time together and speak to and about our shared love for nature and living our lives with meaning. They are kind and funny and principled. I like that about them. To be principled, I think people often forget, includes making room for the values of others.

I could go on and on. I have friends that insist on putting out plates of Peek Freans for me every time I go over and then chide me for never touching a one. I have friends that speak with so much twang that I have to constantly ask them to repeat themselves when they’re sharing a story of their latest bear hunt or telling me about some crazy story that happened on a recent volunteer firefighter call. Sometimes, I inwardly cringe at some gruff remark or another, nothing hateful, just so far away from the polished speech that is becoming the only acceptable way of communication. I find this trend worrying.

There is not a thing about any of these people that would satisfy the bloodhounds. There, somewhere, a whiff of wrong-speak or wrong-think resides. But, there is no cancelling a genuine human being. They don’t need approval for survival.

I’ll tell you what, here’s what I love about people: common sense, common goodness, authenticity. Authenticity goes hand in hand with honesty. If you can’t be yourself, wholly and without edit to satisfy the censors, you are not honest - not to yourself and certainly not to others. A good heart often needs to be excavated. It’s worth the time and care of excavation, a delightful gift earned through time-in. And common sense? It’s a radical thing in today’s screen world. But it’s not a radical thing in the real world, the world that needs us to show up to survive. Common sense is paramount. I, personally, hold that common sense dear.

This is the world I inhabit. So when people send me a message saying “you made me sad” and that my comments were “transphobic”, I am startled. In my world, blaming another for a feeling I am experiencing is a call for reflection. I can’t read a book and when I come to a line that makes me uneasy, drop it, get out my pen, write to the author and say “you made me sad”. So what? What of it? What am I supposed to do with that information? We have arrived at a time when children, having been raised into adults, believe that their feelings are of such significance that others must tune themselves to their frequency. It’s a strange phenomenon. A weakening of self by the dependancy on the validation of others. It’s in some ways, seemingly, a deepening of human expression, but when you look closely, you can see how superficial it actually is. It’s become a weapon of manipulation.

Imagine, we have a feeling as reaction and then look outside of ourselves for resolution. “They made me feel that way.” That’s it? That’s the extent of our awareness? No, they didn’t make you feel any thing at all. How could that be? You just had a feeling bubble up in response to something. A feeling. What of it? A feeling is not truth or a message from the heavens, it’s just a feeling. Feelings are pokes that there’s something to look at here, something to consider, maybe some work to do, maybe not. Maybe a feeling comes up because we’ve been indoctrinated into a way of thinking that’s not even our own. Maybe that feeling should be observed and considered. Maybe we blow away the chaff of conditioning and come up with something that is genuinely our own. Who knows? Maybe we don’t. Either way, that’s our work to do.

And if we take that work on, we quickly see how adept ego is at masquerading as feelings. Ego loves to ride in on her marauding, stampeding horses, screaming “DO SOMETHING!!!” She knows her very survival depends on us righting the wrongs that have befallen us. She hides in the dust-up she creates so we are blinded to her presence. All we know is that our eyes are burning and our breath is laboured and damnit, we have been wronged! I’m getting better at listening for those pounding hooves and stepping aside. Still, every now and then, before I know it, I’m up on that horse, riding along in righteous solidarity with ego. But my ride isn’t as long as it used to be. I’m getting better at noticing my vantage point when I’m up on that high horse, yet again. I’m learning to recognise when it’s time to pull back on those reins and get the fuck off. Humility, she’s a tough one. She kicks ego’s ass. She is the true warrior.

The irony is that the feminists would say I am a devotee of the patriarchy for my love and adoration of real and good men. They don’t want me either. In fact, I can’t think of a single flag waving group that would accept me in my totality. You figure that out pretty quick in life. You figure it out and then you realise you have a few choices: conformity, silence, or go your own way. Conformity in any situation, to any issue that you don’t hold to be a genuine truth, is a betrayal of one’s own heart which is, ultimately, a betrayal of why you are here at all. Silence does the same, our hearts are always listening. Sometimes, silence is warranted, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a pattern of living where our words and our actions are kept sealed behind our mask so we can go along to get along. That leaves the only other option - go your own way. That one takes practice to build the confidence to stand with conviction. Each virtue takes time to build and shape. You will be battered and bruised, a scuffed up human. But you will also be tastier, saltier, juicer, a wonder. True.

Let me tell you something, if I may. I am a pretty salty woman, too. I suffer no fools. I love my people, the natural world, the animals around me, humanity as a whole. I also swear like a fiend, have to force patience that doesn’t come naturally, and I am resistant to anyone or anything that tells me “this is the only way”. No, that’s a lie. I am sure that within a conversation, I would say something, or you would find something in my mannerisms or off handed remarks, to be offended by, should you so desire. I live in greys, nuance really. I am bored with black and white thinking. I recoil from slogans and dictates. That’s not me.

I am flawed, just like you. Flawed, but true. I am, and continuously strive to be, authentic. I was given this life by a God who saw it fit to make me different than anyone else. That makes me uniquely un-unique. Shouldn’t the meaning of our lives be to honour that creation? Grit and all.

It’s too bad that more young people aren’t subjected to characters of all sorts anymore. Parents, I think it’s our duty to mix these people into your children’s worlds. I cannot tell you how often people comment on our daughters ability to be in any room, with any collection of souls, and delight the people around them. Our oldest daughter is a millwright. She is gorgeous, has a good work ethic, is personable, and athletic. She is well liked by her bosses and co-workers. She has the gift of harmonising her strength and good humour with a genuine interest and compassion in people from all walks of life. She will never disregard anyone. I’ve seen her get grocery store clerks into lengthy conversations about their struggle to make ends meet and grumpy motorcycle repairmen talking about their loneliness. Her sisters, too, always revelled in the real and the raw. Our youngest daughter used to come home from her job at a gas station and write about the characters she met there. Each one of them, from the Jehovah’s Witness that came in weekly to convert her, to the man that yelled at everyone and threw napkins all over the store but gave her a tip every time because she “was the only one that cared”. They all delighted her.

And isn’t that what we want our children to witness? The humanity in us all? Or is it the pasteurised/homogenised/sanitised human that we want them to know and emulate? The one that knows how to repeat and chant, but has little understanding of themselves? The ones that disregard the ones they deem unworthy? Is that what we want? Because it seems to me, that’s what we got and it’s not going so well. 

To the rough around the edges, good hearted lot, then. I’d like to meet you one day, warts and all. May we look for the deeper commonalities we share instead of allowing ourselves to be pawns in a game with ever shifting instructions and an objective we can’t fully understand. And me? Take me or leave me, but I’m still here, fully me as only me can be.