What is possible right now? Do that thing.

I’m not on my bike today. I’m sitting here on the couch instead, feeling slightly dazed, with orange sky around me from all the fires in the area. Here in Portland it’s not really too bad, but my Facebook feed is full of photos and accounts from friends in suburbs and more outlying areas—here in Oregon and also up and down the West Coast—including friends who have had to evacuate, and friends in prison in Salem who have had other prisons “evacuated into” their population.

What a surreal and frightening reality.

I am reminded again that I was bicycling blissfully several days ago, not thinking of fires. One place that has been evacuated is Estacada, where I biked about a 50-mile round trip a couple of weeks ago to sample vegan cinnamon rolls at a locally owned bakery. I wonder how the owners and workers of that bakery are doing. Have they had to leave their homes? Will their homes be there when they return?

Friends are posting that they don’t know where they will go if they need to evacuate. I don’t have a plan for myself at this point, and I really hope I will not need to.

I feel strangely numb.

One gratitude has struck me, though: When the weather was lovely, I got out and biked. It was what I wanted to do, even though I faced a familiar internal resistance.

Thinking about this reminds me of a life principle: 

“What is possible right now, in this moment? Whatever it is, do that thing!” 

This applies when conditions are “good”: optimize them! Do the very coolest thing you have access to in that moment. You don’t know how long that cool thing will be available to you as an option. It also applies in difficult or more limited situations, like right now: maybe I could pack an evacuation bag, just in case. Get some affairs in order. Organizing a few key things in my life is crucial in an emergency, but also helpful even if the emergency doesn’t come to pass.

I’m thinking ahead to my plan to bike around the country. In all likelihood, I will encounter many unexpected obstacles, including forest fires and/or other natural disasters. I will need to work with whatever is possible in any given moment, and accept whatever reality I encounter, with creativity and pragmatism.

What realities are you facing in this moment? What can you do with those conditions, in this moment, to best serve you or others?


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Labor Day, and “reality” intrudes

(Photo credit KGW)

Today feels very different from yesterday. This is the Labor Day weekend in the US: the cultural, if not meteorological, end of summer. People usually spend it outdoors. If you’ve been reading this blog for the past few days, you know that I was outside on my bike on Saturday and Sunday. Today I thought I might take a rest, partly because the weather forecast showed heavy winds, which are almost unheard of at this time of year in Portland. I figured it was some 2020 weirdness, and I was just going to flow with it by staying close to home. Maybe talk to some people about their dreams, and possibly write about that here.

I suppose it was indeed 2020 weirdness. The physical events descended, and then seemed to crescendo, and my emotional response followed. 

In the late afternoon, not only did the winds pick up and lend a surreal feeling to my brief trips to the laundry room and corner store, but the sky filled with smoke from nearby forest fires. The winds carried the particulates quickly. I went inside and made sure my windows were closed, even though it was hot and I would have otherwise appreciated the ventilation. Local friends on Facebook began reporting that the power had gone out in their neighborhoods as a result of downed trees from the wind. The sky darkened; the sun glowed a surreal red; the neighbors who had been out chatting in the back retreated to the safety of their homes.

Scrolling my Facebook feed, I also learned that a group of “Proud Boys”—aggressive white supremacists—had been holding an armed rally today at Oregon’s state capitol building in Salem, 50 miles south of here. A friend of mine posted that she had gone to the capitol as a peaceful counter-protester, and one of the rally’s attendees had snatched the sign out of her hand and pepper-sprayed her in the face when she had been pleading with him not to hit someone else with his baseball bat.

I also read that that same group of Proud Boys had rallied in the sleepy outer Portland suburb of Oregon City, earlier in the day. A different friend posted a testimonial from a local mother in that area who said that her Black son had been repeatedly racially harassed in that town, including by a local police officer who pointed a taser at him. The officer had responded to the call of several bullies who had used racial epithets toward her son, who had been simply minding his own business in his car in a parking lot at the time. As a result of these recent incidents, she felt that her son was unsafe in Oregon City, and they were planning to move.

I had cycled right through Oregon City just yesterday, on the way to that beautiful park in West Linn. I did think briefly of my white privilege at the time, wondering how different it might be for me cycling through small towns if I were not white. And then, today, I read these two stories.

Just a few hours later this evening, another friend posted a story about a 12-acre brush fire that had damaged four buildings in Oregon City tonight. I had biked right past those buildings yesterday, along a beautiful riverfront path. Lots of families were out along the path and on the water for the holiday weekend. It all seemed so calm and pleasant… and now, today, the literal and metaphorical winds have changed, bringing natural disaster and violent racism in their wake.

The juxtapositions are a lot for me to sit with tonight:

Sunday vs. Monday

Pleasant weather vs. fire and smoke

White vs. Black

Safety vs. danger

A lovely, challenging bike ride vs. holing up on the couch, windows closed

There is a context to this dream I’m moving toward. We are living in times that feel apocalyptic, ecologically and socially. Beneath the outward normalcy of bike rides, days in the park, and people going about their business, lurks a palpable, collective sense of fear that the world is starting to burn, literally and figuratively. 

Will this nation even be hospitable enough for me—in a variety of contexts—to see this trip through, a year from now? What will have been destroyed in the intervening time? So much hangs in the balance this coming November, but regardless of who ends up in the White House in January, so many destructive processes are already underway, and building momentum. How will we, collectively, find our way out of the place we now find ourselves? How will we dream into a better future for all of us, and for the planet that sustains us? This is a big part of what I want to do with my time and energy on this planet, however much time and energy I may have left. I want to help us all to dream into the future we want, and to then take the concrete steps to get from here to there.

Do you have ideas? I would love to hear from you, to help you hold the vision and flesh it out if need be. If you’re open to it, I may write about your dreams here. We need to start now.

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Overcoming fears, finding new challenges

I am finding that blogging about my fears seems to help dissipate them. I love this, and hope it continues. (I recommend some version of this to anyone reading: if you don’t have a blog, maybe post about some of your fears on Facebook, or tell them to friends. See if it helps!)

Case in point: Yesterday I wrote that I had a hard time getting myself out of the house in time to go to the nature park I had hoped to visit in West Linn. While that ended up turning out fine, because I chose to make a new plan and do some “hill work,” and enjoy beautiful views on Mt. Tabor instead… I am pleased to report that today, after my livestreaming concert ended at about 2:45, I got everything together in time to head out the door at 3:15, bound for the park. (Mary S. Young State Park, if you’re in the Portland area and want to visit yourself.)

I had a lovely ride, and found the park to be incredibly beautiful, with forested trails and river access. I decided to take a different route on the way back, so that I could do a bit more hill work and enjoy more beautiful views in the Tryon Creek Natural Area, as well as the River View Cemetery. The views and time spent in the perfect-temperature September evening were definitely worth it… but I did find myself facing another, now-familiar concern: How do people build up the stamina to handle all the distance and hills I will need to cover on my trip? How will I be able to do this? I estimate that I climbed less than 500’ on this trip today. I covered about 30 miles total in my loop. And I didn’t have any luggage or gear, except what I carried in my small backpack. On my nationwide journey, I expect to travel probably an average of 50 miles per day, and sometimes as much as 60. Elevation gains could reach 3000-4000’ on any given day. And I expect to have either a trailer with a suitcase, or possibly some version of packs rigged directly onto the front and rear of the bike. (I’ll figure out such logistics later, maybe next summer.)

How do people do this? It seems really challenging. I know people do it. How do they do it? I’m in decent shape, I think, and at 47, frankly I’m on the low end of the typical age for Brompton touring folks. 

So… I guess if they can do it, so can I? I sure hope so. Maybe after a week or so of putting in the miles every day, I’ll just get used to it? All I can do is hope so, and continue to give myself local excursions to practice between now and then. Maybe next summer I can begin “training” in earnest, with more and longer trips, and carrying a load.

One day at a time, eh?

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Scaling my first “mountain”

Today, I got in the saddle on the Brompton for the first time in a while. It was time to begin “training” for this dream! 

The bike had had its first-ever tuneup the other day, so the ride was extra smooth. I headed up Mt. Tabor, the extinct-volcano-turned-city-park in my neighborhood. I was pleased to discover that the gears—which go lower than those on my “everyday bike” 1979 Free Spirit—made the climb feel entirely reasonable. When I got to the summit, I found many other bicyclists and pedestrians—car parking is partway up the mountain, so one must use human power to get to the top—enjoying the beautiful late-summer, late-afternoon sun. I imagined how many beautiful public parks I will encounter all across the country when I make this journey.

It’s early in my visioning stage, and I’m still brimming with excitement. Yet, there are always internal obstacles to be aware of, and to do my best to navigate consciously. For me, today—as with many days in most of my life—I struggled to find the motivation to get going. I was “attending” a live-streamed musical event on my computer until 2:30, but I had told myself yesterday that I would get out and get on my bike no later than 3:00. In fact, I had originally had another destination in mind: a suburban park that would probably take me about two hours to reach. Given the waning daylight this time of the season, I thought I should leave by 3:00 to make sure I had enough time to enjoy it, and to enjoy the return trip during daylight.

But for two hours today, I found myself feeling antsy, and finding excuses not to leave the house. I checked Facebook. Then Instagram. Then Facebook again. I had a snack. Then another snack. Then checked FB and IG again. I felt my own familiar frustration with myself: “Are you going to do this again? Are you going to sabotage your perfectly reasonable plan? Why do you do this to yourself?”

Finally, at 5:00, I was disappointed with myself for having apparently indeed sabotaged my plan. But, I realized that not all was lost, and I could enjoy a closer destination. I put down the laptop and phone, and headed out the door… and thus began a lovely couple of hours.

And, maybe I could do my original plan tomorrow.

Does this sound familiar to you? Do you find yourself sabotaging own your plans at times? When you do, are you able to be flexible, and take some smaller, more manageable steps if the original plan feels too scary at first? I am appreciating my willingness to be gentle and patient with myself at this time. It’s a stressful time in the world. And, I have time to prepare for this journey. I can do this.


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Dreaming of Earthships

I think I’m at the point in this journey, and this blog, where I’m ready to start talking to some people about their dreams, and sharing those dreams with the larger world. I’m not sure yet what form(s) this may take: Written interviews? Video interviews? General summaries of my talks with people?

I’m going to start here with that last one. I had a talk with a friend the other day about some of his dreams. One of those dreams was to live in an Earthship. I was inspired to hear him say this, because I had vaguely heard about Earthships, years ago, but hadn’t thought about them in years. 

The concept was conceived and popularized by architect Michael Reynolds in the 1970s. An Earthship is a dwelling structure that is fully self-sustaining. It is built simply, with natural materials sourced from the local area, and/or recycled materials such as glass bottles; powered by sustainable energy and independent from the municipal electrical grid; and its water, sewage, and waste material handling systems are all natural and self-contained.

My friend has a vision of living in a structure like this with a community of like-minded folks who value living simply, kindly, and in harmony with the environment.

I love hearing these kinds of dreams and visions. While doing my reading on this topic after talking with my friend, I saw that Reynolds’ Earthship Biotecture is located in Taos, NM, and they offer tours of their Earthship building. I am tentatively adding Taos to my bike trip itinerary, so that I can tour it myself.

To anyone reading: I would love to see any other stories or resources about Earthships, or (especially) to hear your personal stories of visiting or touring one, or maybe even building or living in one. Please share! Also, I’d love to hear others’ dreams about your ideal living situation. Are you already living in your optimal living situation? What does it—or would it—look like for you?

(Link to the Patreon, if you’re moved to support my vision in this way.)

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Cycling the nation for change

How are you holding up?

I don’t need to tell anyone reading that this is a time of extreme bleakness for the United States and the world. Living here at the moment (Portland, Oregon, no less) I feel as if our entire human civilization stands at a precipice. We are bombarded at every turn with new horrific headlines about injustice, violence against marginalized communities, a plague that keeps harming and killing, and environmental destruction that seems to accelerate at regular intervals.

It’s hard to keep our emotional selves OK at a time like this.

Without a doubt, it is a time to fight for what we believe in and the world we want to live in. Political and direct actions are crucial, and most people I know are engaged in some combination of in-person protests; phone calls, emails, texts, postcards, and/or petitions to politicians and other decision-makers; donations to activist organizations; boycotts of certain companies and extra efforts to financially support others; and using our social media platforms and conversations with friends and family to talk about our values and how we live them. These actions are crucial. Please, let us all continue to take these actions, from now through November and beyond. As Alice Walker famously said, “Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.”

At the same time, I have always been personally inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s quote, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” While I would argue that the first part is a bit naïve—fighting existing reality is important, especially at times like this—the latter part does really resonate with me, and it feels like a good fit with who I am as a person, and the skills I personally have to bring to the world.

As such, a vision has recently coalesced for me, and I hope you will follow along with me as I work to manifest my own dream in the coming year: taking a year to bicycle around the United States, talking with people about their dreams for themselves and for the greater good.

We need vision. We need vision connected to action. I want to serve as a catalyst for people in this country right now to think about the world they want to live in, and how they would like to contribute to bringing about that world, in concrete ways. I want to offer people emotional and strategic support to help them to bring about their dreams, and I want to network people I meet in my travels, so that they can work together, and we can all be more powerful as a whole than as individuals.

To do this, I would need to step away from my day job—my primary source of income—for at least a year. So, I have launched a Patreon to begin working to replace that income.
I’m hoping you will do a few things for/with me:

1) Take a look at the Patreon, and read my fuller story about my vision there

2) Consider supporting me with a monthly pledge of any amount

3) Consider sharing the Patreon page with like-minded friends or via your social media, to spread the word

4) Think about your own dreams and visions! I may not be able to physically hit the road yet, but we need vision and action now. To anyone reading: I would love to offer you a free (no strings) one-hour phone or video call to talk about your dreams and get you either started or re-energized on bringing them about! (With your permission, I might also blog about some of these dreams, so that others can help to hold the vision and/or offer resources to help.) Message me at maren@dreamintochange.com to schedule a time!

This is our time, people. We need to dream into the world we want to live in, and we need to dedicate our time and energy to bringing it about.

I’m not sure yet what role this blog and the Patreon blog will play in sharing this story as it unfolds. At this point, I will probably share updates on both, so stay tuned. Thank you for your support. May we all bring our dreams into reality!

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Black Lives Matter: Statement of support, and June benefit for empathy and strategy sessions

Let me start by saying that I’m afraid of getting this wrong.  I’m afraid I’m going to say, or do, the wrong thing.  But my Black friends, and folks I follow, are urging us white people to speak anyway.  To do what we can anyway.  To know that yes, we will make mistakes.  We will need to allow ourselves to be corrected, with humility, and then go out and keep risking making more mistakes.  So I’m doing this, and I hope that all of you—especially my fellow white people—will join me by speaking up, in your own ways and in your own spaces.

Racism, and specifically anti-Blackness, is at epidemic proportions right now.  We’re seeing people mobilizing to change this, in many and varied ways, including in-person protests; calling and emailing elected officials; signing petitions; donating to Black-led and Black-justice-focused nonprofits; financially choosing to support Black-owned businesses; talking with friends and family about racism, and gently but firmly speaking up when we hear them making remarks that may in some way uphold white supremacy.

We need to recognize that the United States (and surely other countries as well, but I will speak to my own) was founded and built on white-supremacist beliefs.  And we need to now do everything we can to reverse that.  To dismantle it.  To replace it with a society that truly reflects liberty and justice for all.

I’ve been asking myself in what ways I can best lend my power and privilege to the cause.  So far, I have donated money, signed petitions, emailed decision makers, joined Facebook groups dedicated to unpacking and overturning white supremacy… and I have been making more efforts to speak up, both in person and on social media, when I see and hear statements that uphold white supremacist systems and ways of thinking.  I have also been posting action alerts on social media, encouraging other people to take these actions.

I plan to continue with all of these efforts.

But I also think that my greatest strength as a person, and as a professional, is in my abilities to empathize and to strategize.  I want to bring these skills to the revolution.

So, for the remainder of June, I am doing another sliding-scale, pay-what-you can offer for my empathy and/or strategic planning sessions by phone or video chat.  My normal rate is $95 per hour, but I ask that you pay whatever you are able and willing to pay, and I will donate 20% of June’s proceeds to Black Lives Matter. 

If you are Black, I will offer these services completely free of charge, and I will also donate $20 per session to the organization of your choice (up to $200 total). I recognize and respect that you may not want or trust a white person to hold a safe space for you to express yourself, and I completely accept that.  If you are open to it, I promise that I will listen and hear whatever you say, without any “yes, but” or “well, have you considered…” or similar nonsense.

White people (and non-Black people of color), if you need someone with whom to process your feelings of shock, sadness, anger, guilt, shame, or stuckness, please message me to schedule a time.  I will hold a no-judgment space to help you work through these.  We have all been steeped in a racist society, and we need safe spaces to help us talk about it, unpack it, and begin to move forward.

An hour with me could look like me simply listening to whatever you need to say, holding space and offering minimal feedback.  Or, it could be more of a dialogue if you prefer.  Or, it could be helping you to brainstorm ideas for actions you would like to take.  Regardless, I will listen with respect and care.  And 20% of your sliding-scale payment will go to Black Lives Matter on July 1st. Message me at maren@dreamintochange.com to schedule a session.

We are in this together, folks.  We can do this.  Let’s be gentle with ourselves, while taking consistent action.  The momentum has begun; let’s see how far we can shift our culture, together.

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“This is how life is unfolding right now”

Here is another verbal/cognitive reframe I find helpful to reduce irritability in times of stress (like right now!) I invite you to try it, and I’d love to hear if you find it helpful.

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“What can I savor in this moment?”

Here’s my second video, sharing a technique I discovered years ago to help ground myself in stressful times. I hope you find some value in it.

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Exploring video: Some thoughts on flood, pandemic, and a surreal time

For some time now, I’ve been thinking I should record some videos for this blog, sharing my perspectives on various topics and hopefully offering some resonance, camaraderie, and support to readers.

I’ve been nervous and shy to put myself out in this way, so I have been procrastinating.  But this surreal time is calling me to stretch myself and try something new.  I hope the following will be the first of many such short videos… yet, as I mention herein, I’m also choosing to be gentle with myself and not make unrealistic commitments.  So, for now I hope you will find something of value and/or resonance here.  Feel free to comment or message me with ideas of topics you might like to see me discuss in future installments.

And, as always, I hope you are taking good care of yourself.

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