Travel Log: Somewhere in Montana

Copyright 2016, Photo by Laura Riggs

When S and I decided to move from Oregon to Florida, we packed our stuff up and hired a moving truck to haul the load so that we could sightsee some of the country.  After our 8-day trip, I can decidedly say, we live in a big, damn country.  There were parts that we decided we could skip next time we get a hankering for a road trip, but a must-see for anyone is Montana.  I don’t know how they do it, but the sky truly seems bigger there.  Maybe it’s because the prairie is expansive and quiet; just the place to go to free yourself from the anxiety that naturally occurs when we are burdened with the responsibility of day-to-day life.

Even as the prairie collides with the fast rise of the Rocky Mountains, there is enough space for the sky to open up and let the sunlight pour down on the evergreen trees and the crisp, clean river that cuts through below.  I can see why people show up for a weekend getaway and never leave.  One can find great peace in the solitude. Some of the locals told us that it gets down to 20-below in the winter, so that may be the time for me to leave.

It could be because there are fewer people, buildings and roads to scar the natural landscape.  You get a glimpse back in time of what life may have been like for our ancestors (as well as life for those our ancestors stole the land from), before the Industrial Revolution.  We saw so many animals, who have long since been driven out by the steam of ‘progress’,  but can find great fields of tall grass and wild flowers to roam.  We spent two of our nights here, and mouths were agape for most of it, as we stared in awe of the beauty, power and genius of nature.  When most people want a relaxing vacation, they opt for the beach.  For me, it is the mountains.  To just sit and breathe, and be quiet, so that I can listen to what the universe has to offer.


Sweet Bun

Sweet Bun (July 17, 2000 – August 30, 2017), pic taken June 2016

Over the past few days, I’ve thought about what to write, and came up with a million wonderful things to share about you, about how much of an impact you had on my life, but none are truly sufficient.  To a certain extent, I’m in denial that you are gone, and there’ll hopefully be that one time when I put the key in the lock and I will hear you trotting for the door.  In reality, all of the light you brought to my life is suddenly missing, and the house is now painfully quiet.  I’m not sure how to adequately express my gratitude for how much you enriched my life, but I hope you know how much you were, and still are, loved.  You were my best friend these past 17-years.  Not once did you ever cause me pain…I don’t think furbabies ever do.  You were there with me through most of my 20s, all of my 30s, and the start of my 40s – you saw so much.  And, you got me through so many painful moments, with the utmost care and concern, and above all unconditional love.  Oh, dear Bun, how I miss you.

I miss your meow. I miss your smell. I miss our snuggle-time. I miss you laying with me while I worked. I miss when you would head bump me at 3am because you wanted breakfast. I miss how pokey your paws were when you walk on my back, when I didn’t get up and get you breakfast until 4am.  I miss you reminding me at 6pm it was time for dinner. I miss that you would get mad when the suitcases would come out. I miss you running to the door after I got home.  I miss you dragging out every single one of your toys and carrying them to me, one-by-one.  I miss how much you hated the car.  I miss you loving cheese and summer sausage and croissants and tuna and bacon and salmon and ice cream and radicchio (who knew?).  I miss you wanting to be carried over my shoulder.  I miss you standing on the side of the tub, talking to me while I took a shower.  I miss you pawing at me when it was time to be done working on the computer for the day.  I miss you sticking your head in between me and the screen of my phone because you needed attention (and Instagram most certainly does not).  I miss you sitting under your orchids.  I miss you batting at the ornaments on the Christmas tree.  I miss you wanting to curl up under the covers with me in bed.  I miss how you loved everyone and wanted to chew on their hair products.  I miss the sound of your purr and how soft your fur was.  I miss your green eyes, and your sweet little face.  I miss how worried you were when I would cry.  I miss you watching the birds from the window.  I miss you curling up in the sunlight.  There are so many more things I miss.  Each memory comes to me in the middle of the night, or while I am getting the mail, or when I’m at dinner with S and I cry….wail, actually.  While I know that you are no longer in pain, you now only live in my memories…and I am afraid because memories fade with time.  You were too good of a friend, so I will do my best to never these beautiful memories fade.

After we lost Ginnie, a friend told me, “When they get old, or when our beloved pets get sick, we’re urged to do the right thing. [We are] told they are depending on us to do the right thing. So, we do it. It’s a selfless and merciful thing to do, but dear GAWD the pain of it to ourselves is searing!”  She was unequivocally correct.  This pain – the pain of having to walk you (and Ginnie and Missy) to the door, sears my soul.  There is massive void left in my life, now that you are gone – a void I don’t think can ever be filled – so I will cope with this gaping hole and do my best to walk through this transition, knowing that you trusted me to free you from suffering.  And so, my dear Bun, you will shine on in my heart, until (with hope) I see you again one day soon.  I love you, little one.  I love you will all my heart, for you have my whole heart.

At Home: Portland Pride

I took this photo in June 2015, while attending our first Portland Pride event.  This is an iPhone photo, with no filter.  My company had a float in the parade, so I went to meet some of my co-workers while everyone was getting set up.  This beauty was stretched out in front of the old US Customs House on Park Avenue in Old Chinatown, waiting to lead the procession through the neighborhood, along Burnside Avenue to the riverfront where we would all join the festival, culminating a weekend of celebrations.  Without such a large LGBTQ community, Portland has little diversity to speak of.  It is literally the “whitest” city in the US.

We had moved to the city a few months earlier, for a new opportunity which also afforded us the chance to escape the steaming injustice of the South, where I had also spent the 3-years prior advocating for the expansion of the Human Rights Ordinance in Jacksonville (it finally passed in 2017, without the mayor’s signature…ain’t that some shit?!).  Although no LGBTQ person is truly ever safe in America, it was refreshing to see friends, families, companies and churches come together to revel in the distinctiveness of each of us, after bearing witness to the painful, bitter battle to get Jacksonville’s HRO through City Council.

For all its rainbow flags, however, Portland lacks a rainbow of skin color.  As the city tries to overcome a history tainted with racism, the current wave of gentrification has pushed black and brown people even farther out of a city that claims to be open and welcome to all.  Welcome as long as you have enough money to pay the escalating rents and mortgages in a booming real estate market.  While the city has written provisions for income controlled housing into law, those units can’t be built fast enough.

For as much as we loved Portland, it became unaffordable for us as well.  With a bitter taste in our mouth, we moved back to Jacksonville.  It is nice to be in a city that is truly diverse in color and orientation, but the bigotry here is so much more pronounced, and the challenges to create equity living in a red state are harder to overcome.

Is there anywhere we can meet in the middle?


Travel Log: Venice – Grand Canal (3)

I took this photo in October 2011, when I had the good fortune of visiting this beautiful, but sinking, island before it is gone.  According to the BBC, both the rate at which Venice is sinking, combined with the threat of rising sea levels, the city has felt an 11-inch shift over the past century. This has resulted in Venice flooding ever more frequently – 100 floods in the past year alone – leading to further erosion of the city.  Most of the shift can be directly attributed to climate change (suck it, Republicans – the struggle is real!)

If there was any doubt that 45 is a giant hunk of shit, well….here’s your sign…

  • The POPE believes the science is settled
  • Exxon thinks we should keep the agreement (as do other large companies)
  • North Korea is on board. NORTH KOREA, y’all!
  • We are now one of three (yes, 3) countries not participating: Syria (they get a pass), Nicaragua (they thought it wasn’t tough enough), and the US (because the Cheeto-in-Chief is a racist, misogynistic twat who wants to undo anything Obama did – good, bad or indifferent – in hopes of erasing the fact that we elected a BLACK MAN as POTUS)

Guess what, Shitgibbon? You can’t erase it, because me, and all of the people like me, who voted for Obama know that we voted for President Blackenstein, and we know the truth. And the truth is this: you just sold our children’s future up the river with your little, vengeful temper tantrum, so you can take your “pro-life” stance and suck it. If you are truly pro-life, then you would want to protect the thing that houses all of it.


Travel Log: Obidos – Rua Direita (2)

This is probably one of my all time favorite photos, taken on the Rua Direita in Obidos, Portugal, during my visit in 2011.  The photo has remained relatively untouched, other than I’ve added a soft vignette border.  There isn’t anything particularly spectacular about it, but I love the contrast of blues and white, specked with hints of flowers the residents planted along this path.

Established by the Romans sometime in the 5th century, Óbidos is one of the oldest cities in Europe.  Following the Romans, came the Moors, then the Christians, and finally the first King of Portugal took it back from all of them in 1148, during his conquest of the Estremadura region.  His son gave the title to the Queen in 1210 and the town has been known as Óbidos: Vila das Rainhas (the Town of Queens) ever since.  Carrying this noble title, the citizens living within the town centre have made a commitment to the constant upkeep needed for the buildings and walls, that are centuries old.  There have been a handful of occasions when the town went through a reconstruction phase: additions to the castle in the 14th century by King Dinis; the Church of Santa Maria (the patron saint of Óbidos) was built in the 15th century so that the King and Queen could marry (they were 9 and 10 at the time….creepy); renovations after an earthquake in 1755 (resulting in the loss of much of the Arab and Medieval architectural influence from the the buildings, walls and churches); and finally, the nearby Battle of Roliça, fought during the Peninsular War in the early 1800s.

Óbidos has fared pretty well over the years, and is one of the few towns left in Europe where the ancient buildings and city walls remain in tact.  As I rounded the corner of my walk through the village, something about these stairs gave me pause.  The wind stopped and the chatter from my fellow pedestrians grew quiet.  In that moment, I could hear the whispers of history, winding down the stairs to fill me with hope.  The ancients spoke softly that day, to remind me, “the most beautiful things can grow from ruin.”