I am currently in a tent in Western Nebraska, taking on windstorm, which I’m sure will soon turn to rain.
If I close one eye and only chicken peck on my tiny phone screen with one finger I can almost imagine I am a pirate out to sea. A one eyed, one handed, pirate. The sound of the blowing wind and rattling leaves are the crashing waves, and my flapping tent is the sail on some old sailing ship. It isn’t true of course, but it sure is comforting.
I’m close to Kansas so the other part of my imagination is taking me to Dorothy’s house before she was transported via twister to a place much farther away. There is a barking dog outside, it belongs to one of the campers in the RV park I am currently stationed at. It is a small dog, reminiscent of Toto when it yips, so it just makes the scene I’m running through my head seem more real.
However, I’m not concerned or worried about a twister, I’m a badass pirate with a hook and an eye patch. I’m waiting out a storm in my ship, waiting til morning when I will safely arrive ashore to rejoin my trusty steed, Little Wing, as we make our way onward to the land of Colorado (a place I shall not go tonight by way of my humble home and twisting wind gusts. I just won’t).
Something I have to keep reminding myself of is the fact that I’m in Nebraska, wind is normal. Actually wind is normal everywhere. The flatter the landscape – the more plains combined with less trees – the stronger the wind seems. In the Dakotas and Wyoming I experienced this; the world is windy. I know it is a fact, but it is a reality I have generally had blockaded by trees.
I remember one summer, sometime in middle school, watching pieces of windmills go past on their way to distant places. There were many semi-trailers with ‘WIDE LOAD’ banners plastered on the front. Flashing helper trucks leading and proceeding the trailers containing the large pieces of metal on their way through Northern Minnesota. There would be at least one full disassembled windmill a day that would pass. Pieces on their way to be constructed on some gustier piece of land.
It wasn’t until recently, the start of my adventure actually, that I saw a fully assembled windmill in Minnesota, well one of the newfangled ones I’ve been talking about anyway. It was on Highway 75, the nearest north/south highway bordering the Dakotas. I was riding along, enjoying the beautiful scenery of Minnesota knowing it would be the last I would see of it for a while, when I saw them. A field of windmills off to the west. It was County Road 13 I recall (though I don’t remember which county), and like I said, it was pointed West. So was I, so I followed it.
The enormity of those giant structures is something I couldn’t comprehend until I was riding under them. Intense, gorgeous, and loud — windmills are fascinating.
I often see windmills now. The gustier states are home to many. I always take it as a sign that I need to brace my arms on Little Wing, prepare for the berating force against our side that is the wind. And berate it does. Right when the bike feels stable and my arms feel tight along comes another gust, forcing me to tighten my arms more and lean my body into the wind to stay upright. My spine remains stiff as I hold my head motionless, pointing forward to keep my helmet securely in one spot as the forceful gusts push on it. Windy days result in sore arms and a tense neck. Both of which I am nursing at this moment, as the thunder and lightning sweep overhead, and the gusts make the sails of my ship billow in out in out innn ouuuttt in out n out n.
The rain just started. I’m awake again after falling asleep. I dream’t of Dorothy, Toto and Pirates only to awaken in my own bed (sleeping bag and ground pad) to thunderous claps and sky splitting light. The rain is coming down in sheets, warring with the fabric of my tent walls. The wind and rain appear to have the advantage right now, but my tent hasn’t gone down for the count yet.
It was windy today, and I know the cause was this impending rain. It rained some last night when I was in Neligh, NE and then moved West. When I woke in the morning I followed it. Little Wing and I got the better of it and beat it here to this campsite, but the clouds that graced us the whole afternoon acted as a fore warning for what I am now sitting in.
The sails of the ship go in out in out. In. Ouuutttt. Innnn. Dorothy is relaxing, the thunder has gotten farther away, headed North, and the lightning is faint compared to minutes ago.
The trip was full of clouds and wind and windmills. As I fought the heavy gusts the windmills I passed spun lazily around. And around. A stark contrast to my aching neck and stiff arms. It was a pleasant sight actually. It was relaxing to see something benefiting from the breeze that was pushing Little Wing and myself around.
The windmills brought me back to this weekend. The underlying discussion that brought everyone to a once-in-a-lifetime concert in which Willie Nelson and Neil Young teamed up.
I was informed that when Harvest for Hope was looking for artists to come and perform for the protesting of the giant pipeline Neil Young came forward and asked to do it. He ASKED. Of course they said yes, and then he, Neil Young, went and asked Willie Nelson to join him.
To be honest, leading up to the concert I was aware of the protesting nature of it, but I was going more for the music. I volunteered with the hopes of a ticket, which I got, and the good cause was an after thought.
The pipeline is a controversial topic. I knew this from the Enbridge pipeline that is currently being discussed in Minnesota. The fracking, the tar sands, the ruined drinking water, I know of it, I just know little about it. Excuse me, KNEW little about it.
I am a green type of person, I try to live sustainably. It comes from a childhood of being poor and using the resources we had to make a home and a nice life. Awareness of the harm we do daily to Mother Earth has always been a constant in my brain. I remember taking on the topic in almost everyone of my high school reports from age fifteen up until I graduated. It was something I was passionate about, AM passionate about, but something that became less real once I graduated. How does one take on the topic of sustainability and protecting Mother Earth when they aren’t going to school? What does one do when they are young and broke and voiceless (or so it seems)? It is hard to be passionate about large topics when working a minimum wage job and having to live in apartments where sustainability – or the lack of – is actually not really up to you.
I do my part. I buy locally when I can, though it is super hard to afford. I use as little plastic as I can and recycle the stuff I do use. I stopped buying brand new clothing for everyday use, instead going to thrift stores. I stopped supporting the inorganic cosmetic industry. Reducing the purchase of petrochemical filled products and instead use coconut oil, vinegar, and baking soda as my main methods of keeping clean and fresh. However, I don’t know if that’s enough.
This weekend I was surrounded by people who had opinions about the pipeline. Some were for and some were against, but the main thing was the passion. They all had a voice fueled by passion. The loudest voices, the ones we came to hear, opposed the pipelines. So much so that they volunteered – just like I did – to be there. In front of 10,000 people Neil Young spoke out against the pipeline and spoke up for sustainable energy.
The problem with the Keystone pipeline that is being discussed is that it would cut right through one of the largest aquifers in the U.S. It is being proposed by a foreign company that would ship the oil overseas, so the benefit to be had is not actually coming back to us Americans whose water is being put at risk; at least that’s what Neil said.
I am of the opinion that we all have to decide for ourselves. I think that each and everyone of us should be passionate, but if it doesn’t come from within it doesn’t mean anything. I believe strongly in being sustainable. I believe Mother Earth needs us all to get over our self-fish, possession-honoring ways, and start giving a crap. However, I don’t like to preach, other people may have differing opinions and I accept that. As far as the pipeline goes, I have a small opinion forming but nothing that is passionate enough to live by quite yet.
I do know something though; it seems a lot like the wind. The wind that bothers me is natural. Mother Earth needs the wind, but I dislike it. At the same time it is providing sustainable energy to the Mother by means of windmills, and yet I still complain. I don’t like the wind, I want it to go away so I can ride Little Wing in peace. My inorganic, petrochemical based, engine that is emitting Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere, I want life to be easier for the two of us. The reason there is so much wind is because there aren’t many trees on the plains. They have been removed for the fields of crops that are now on either side of me, fields that now tunnel the wind. The small amount of trees that were here were edited down for farmland (think Dustbowl). The crops are now shipped all over the country by way of petrochemical based engines to feed people in less than local ways. The Carbon Dioxide being emitted is being fought by the trees we are chopping down, and to make it all more sustainable we put up noisy windmills to capture the natural energy. The noise pollution they cause can be as disliked as the wind that I complain about while astride Little Wing.
The wind, the trees, the windmills, everyone somewhere has a reason to dislike one or the other.
When Neil Young, Willie Nelson, and others preach ‘windmills not oil spills’ people stand up against the oil energy. The same way people are standing up against the wind industry. Us humans just won’t be happy with what we have.
I have a motorcycle. I’m riding across country, a choice I made. It is supposed to be joyful and relaxing. Instead, here I am, complaining about the wind and how tough it is on my body and bike. I made a choice to ride. I am emitting Carbon Dioxide everyday into Mother Earth’s atmosphere yet I bitch when she hands me a bit of her own medicine.
It is very much like littering. I was on trash pickup Sunday at the concert venue. There was practically nothing to pick up. Out of 10,000 people we maybe gathered ten garbage bags worth of waste off the ground. It was crazy. The thing we were all saying to each other after we were done is that all the attendees were there for a good cause, a sustainable cause, so it makes sense they would respect Mother Earth more than just tossing their crap around on her. It was interesting because I see trash on the side of the road everyday. One can see people in cars with a great superficial appearance tossing plastic waste out of their window. Humans who care about washing their car and vacuuming it out, but who have no thought in regards to keeping their home clean. Immaturity forcing our Mother to handle our mess.
The hypocrisy of our complaints as a human race can start to boggle the mind after awhile. Wanting sustainable energy, but not recycling. Buying ‘Made in America’ products but wanting a foreign pipeline to be built in our freshwater. Wanting a nice superficial appearance, but tossing trash out on the side of the road versus waiting for the next gas station. Wanting things to change but refusing to vote. Complaining but not standing up and being passionate when it really counts. Hypocrisy, us humans have it mastered.
Pitter patter. Innn ouuuttt. Innn. Ouuutttt. Pit pat pit pat. The sails are settling, the waves aren’t crashing as hard. The ship hasn’t even required buckets to bail ‘er out. The storm has moved north and Dorothy and the pirate are in the clear. Toto is somewhere outside though, giving the thunder the what-for. Honestly, he may have single handedly saved us from that hour and a half worth of storm. His yipping is enough to make anyone go north (said the whiny, sore, pirate in the tent).
I am privileged. Here I am in a tent I was given by a good friend. I have a warm sleeping bag, and good gear to keep me warm and comfortable. Out side sits Little Wing, the bike I’m taking across our beautiful country, all that is privilege. All the things easily taken for granted as the wind buffets and the rain crashes is privilege. There’s the answer.
When someone is privileged they learn to take for granted the small things, like the landscape. Our Mother is forgotten because we have a nice petrochemical based, Carbon Dioxide emitting, engine to carry is around. Our Mother is forgotten because we don’t like noise pollution and would rather ignore water pollution (I think my bias is starting to show). We forget those are not our only options. Harnessing the sun and wind are very sustainable, but there are other methods of oil that don’t make our water source nonrenewable. A little research will provide curious minds with answers aplenty, there aren’t just two.
I’m coming from a windy day and a concert that was right up my ally. I feel that everyone should make their own opinions and I believe they should be passionate about it. If this bit of writing spurs you to go do some research, yay! If it doesn’t, so be it.
The worst thing I experienced this weekend were people who had an opinion, but no clue what they were talking about. For or against the pipeline, saying loudly one’s opinion with no facts to back it up.. that isn’t passion, that’s privilege.
Freedom of speech. Freedom to the pursuit of happiness. The freedom to vote for who you want in office, those are simultaneously rights and privileges. People put there life on the line for those rights and we citizens of the U.S.A are privileged enough to benefit from them. I have found that the best way to honor that is to have passion and seek knowledge. Just my opinion.
The rain has settled. So has my mind. Pit. Pat. Piitt. Paatt. The rain is lulling me to a dreamland. Dorothy and the Pirate have no reason to hold the sails any longer now that the wind is slowing down. Toto is still yipping, but it is after midnight and dreamland is approaching.
I’m going to sink into my cozy sleeping bag in my warm tent. I honor all those who have allowed me to be here in Nebraska, holding out against this storm, thank you. I appreciate the passion that has allowed me my privilege.
Sweet dreams all.