HONEY ROCK DAWN

Caveman Motivations

The other day, my mind wandered into wondering about the motivations of early humans. Here’s the list I came up with, in order of priority:

To make their lives
• safer
• easier
• more secure
• more convenient
• more beautiful
• more meaningful (to find/define the meaning)

And then I wondered what has changed. And then I realized NOTHING HAS CHANGED. Nothing has changed, in regards to general human motivations, in 50,000+ years. The technology with which we attempt to achieve them has changed (vastly and drastically), but our incentives? Still the same as cavemen.

And then I decided to assume, for the sake of a mind game, that these motivations are no longer sound. Let’s say we’ve solved them, wholly and completely and permanently. I decided to try to see if I could:

TO MAKE OUR LIVES SAFER: Einstein said, “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” Platitudes can be found in many religions, spiritualities, and philosophies which all boil down to “you are always safe (if you believe).” I say “platitudes” because it is hard for me to reconcile the words “you are always safe” when juxtaposed against the facts of this speech and this book and this story and the truth that I could continue this list of examples for pages. So let’s circle back to this one.

TO MAKE OUR LIVES EASIER: “Easier” isn’t a sustainable thing. What if we collectively let go of wanting things to be easy all the time. I’m taking this back to the premise of my commencement address: you can’t avoid pain. It does not matter how much money one has or how much power one has or how much love or how much sex or how many awards – these things do not magically make people exempt from pain and difficulty. To attempt a life of permanent easiness that is free from pain is futile, and therefore a waste of time, energy, and opportunity. So let’s take EASIER off the list.

TO MAKE OUR LIVES MORE SECURE: “The illusion of safety” is a concept my aunt and I came up with right before my cross-country Vespa ride. I did not have room to bring a tent. And I didn’t want to bring mace because I didn’t know how the pressurized canister would handle the extreme heat and elevation changes of my ride (I didn’t want it to explode on me). And my aunt and I came to realize that “tent” and “mace” do not guarantee safety, or even do much to mitigate potential harm the way my helmet and leathers did. And even my helmet and leathers didn’t guarantee my safety. We want guarantees so badly and we just don’t get them. Perhaps a better term is “the illusion of control.” The ancient Greeks called it the “caprice of the Gods,” and built their entire mythology around it. I have an IRA and I wear my seat belt and I recommend both, but they don’t guarantee anything. So let’s take SECURITY off the list.

TO MAKE OUR LIVES MORE CONVENIENT: Convenience is killing us. I decided this when I was living in the cabin, which was glorified camping, especially through six Wyoming winters. I didn’t have a furnace and I had to chop wood for the woodstove and haul water from the horse trough but I was in excellent shape, just from living – I got strong because I didn’t have a button on the wall to make my hovel warm. And while I wouldn’t really wish that kind of lifestyle on anyone, nor on myself at age 50-plus, going from furnace-heated-house to car to elevator to office to sofa to bed with some take out meals in the middle is not great for our health. So let’s take CONVENIENT off the list.

TO MAKE OUR LIVES MORE BEAUTIFUL: I love art, I make art, and, in my opinion, music is utter magic. But we’ve got nuthin’ on Mother Nature – her work is the best. I don’t NEED jewelry when I have a sunrise. So let’s accept that there is BEAUTY all around us all the time and take that off the list, too.

TO ASSIGN MEANING TO OUR LIVES: I may have become a bit cynical after so much loss and death in the past few years, or maybe I’ve become more realistic, but I’ve come to think that so much of the meaning we try to assign to our lives (and to death) are bedtime stories for grownups. Stories we tell ourselves to feel better, to feel less out of control, perhaps to guide but mostly to comfort. Here’s the meaning I’ve assigned everything at this point: all we have is right now, and we really don’t know f*ck-all about any of it. So that takes MEANING off the list.

And then I wondered what’s left. If we can go back to the first point of safety and determine that we are not in imminent danger, and everything else on the list of caveman motivations has been refuted, what could motivate us? What WOULD motivate us?

And I decided the answer is KINDNESS. Kindness to others.

Vonnegut was right: “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies – God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

And if we were able to do this, REALLY were able to, collectively… the first point of safety would be granted to so many who don’t have it now.

It’s been interesting, fun, and disturbing to analyze myself since going on this mind trip – my thoughts, my choices, my actions – am I leading with a caveman motivation or am I leading with kindness? It is a work in progress.

My Star Brand Beef Kickstarter!

STAR BRAND BEEF KICKSTARTER

I lauched a Kickstarter! Click HERE to check it out!

What is a Kickstarter? Some use it for fundraising, some use it for pre-orders. I am using it for both! My goal is to get a reefer trailer for Star Brand Beef deliveries. I am offering some great rewards – special edition products I have never had in my shop before and will likely not have again. The Kickstarter lasts for one month. Then, poof!

I put my heart and soul into this. I really hope you enjoy the video and will help me spread the word. I don’t consider this Kickstarter to be just about me and Star Brand Beef – I hope it will help spread the message and mission of humanely-raised meat and continue to “kickstart” that conversation. Har har. I launched the Kickstarter yesterday to the Star Brand Beef mailing list, and we’ve already met my goal! And we made it to the “What’s Popular” food page on the Kickstarter site! This is really thrilling. Anything and everything the Kickstarter brings, above and beyond the goal amount, will go straight into improving and expanding Star Brand Beef.

I apologize in advance for the Kickstarter pimping I’ll be doing for the next month – as I said, I put my heart and soul into this and I want to see it fly. If you’re not on the Star Brand Beef delivery route, or if you don’t eat meat but want to help change the status quo of the industry, please consider checking out my Kickstarter, backing it if you see something you like, and sharing the link. I’m hoping the the Kickstarter will be a catalyst for discussion and contribute to the expanding awareness of the conventional meat industry, of feedlots, of the treatment of the animals that produce and become our food, and how all of that needs to change. I want people – consumers and ranchers alike – to see that there are other options, really great options that support the autonomy of ranchers and the welfare of animals and the environment.

And just in case I haven’t offered enough links, click HERE to visit my Kickstarter!

If you’re interested in ordering Star Brand Beef and missed the email blast yesterday, here’s the latest and greatest:

★ 2016 DELIVERY ROUTES ★
The 2016 delivery routes are posted HERE. Chicago, I’m coming back! Phoenix, I’m coming back! California, I’ll always love you! With a successful Kickstarter, I hope to be able to do SO MUCH MORE in coming years, including more routes and smaller FedEx orders.

★ BUTCHERY APPRENTICESHIP ★
This winter, I spent a few weeks apprenticing with my butcher. What an education. I learned so much! I’ve made some changes to the standard mini and quarter order cut lists based on my new knowledge. You can see the cut lists for mini and quarter orders HERE. As always, half and whole beef orders may be fully customized by the customer, and I am happy to answer any questions or give suggestions if needed/desired.

★ 2016 ORDERING ★
My early bird beef specials on the Kickstarter sold out almost instantaneously – but my exceptional, humanely-raised beef and lamb is still available through my Star Brand Beef website and Shop. If you gather a few “partners in dine” and split a whole or half together, you will get the same discounted pricing as the early bird specials!

Pricing on smaller orders went up this year. It had to happen; I’ve been staving it off as long as I could. I really like the pricing situation I came up with: larger orders come with larger savings. You can still get my original, heavily discounted pricing when ordering a whole beef, and darn close to it when ordering a half.

If you are on a budget: Gather everyone you know and go in on a whole or half together!  It’s so do-able. Cooperation is my new obsession and motto – it makes the impossible possible! I am happy to cut whole beef orders the same way I cut minis to make it super easy to split up amongst a big group once you get it. Eight people at $690 each = the same amount of beef as a mini, per person, at a huge discount. With a half beef, you only need three other people.

And lamb is back for the second year! And it is already almost sold out…. so, please act quickly if you’d like lamb.

Thank you all, so much – none of this would be possible without your support and enthusiasm and encouragement and your trust in me.

THE KICKSTARTER

THE STAR BRAND BEEF WEBSITE

THE STAR BRAND BEEF SHOP

I Am Not A Writer

I do not self-identify as a writer. I am a person who writes. I am an author only because my books give me that title, just as my measurement in inches gives me the title of “tall.”

My retreat from public writing began long before the last two years of death and health ish ground it to a halt. Back when my readership was getting bigger and the comment section was getting louder, I started hating a lot of very small, separate bits of what blogging had become for me – things which, together, became a large negative influence, far greater than the sum of its parts. The only option I saw was to retreat, and I literally moved to a mountaintop and lived at 8500′ for three months. And when I came home again, I started the slow fade.

I was surprised by the responses to yesterday’s post. It brought back some of the past. Some of the smiles and some of what I’ve spent years trying to flee. It would be crazy to say that I don’t love positive feedback… but it also made me uncomfortable.

Those who create do not create good things all the time. On The Daily Coyote (I’m two months away from nine straight years of daily photos of Charlie), sometimes the pictures are mediocre, sometimes they are downright bad. That’s what happens with the discipline of sharing consistent output, rather than keeping most of it on a hard drive. Over the years, I’ve noticed sometimes – often, actually – a photo which I may not love means something special to someone else. It may resonate with another in a way it does not resonate with me. And that is true between viewers, too, across all media – meaningful for one person is blah for another. Neither is right. Both are right. Neither should influence the creator. And yet both often do.

When people who create talk about being affected by comments, it’s often assumed we’re talking about negative comments. But praise can have a stalling effect: “well, how do I follow that up in the same way?” Because following up one creation in exactly the same way is unlikely, and, if possible, bound to get boring for the creator.

Blogging with comments enabled is a new form of sharing – it’s so, so so completely different than a print columnist from days of yore, who may have received snail mail responses to their pieces but received them weeks to months after their column was printed, which in itself was delayed from when the piece was actually written. So much space (time) to separate the creation from the critique (be it positive or be it negative). The immediate reckoning came from the creator herself, perhaps a known inner circle, not from the anonymous outside. Similarly, gallery artists had to compile an entire body of work, a full show, before sharing that work with the general public. And with scheduling and lead times and all the logistics involved, those artists were probably well on their way into new work by the time the show was available for public consumption.

I’m not saying the ways of the old days were better. I’m not saying that feedback and critique (positive or negative) are bad. I’m just saying they can mess with your head. How does one care about the effects of their work upon others and also, simultaneously, be immune to the feedback when it comes to creating more? How can one adore the special phenomenon, so specific to blogging, of strangers sharing their thoughts in real time, without being paralyzed by praise, or irrationally annoyed by occasional lack of reading comprehension, or fed up by inevitable nastiness? How to take it all in without digesting it completely? It’s a paradox I haven’t figured out.

I’m not alone in this quandary. Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose readership trumps mine by orders of magnitude, went into this on his twitter the other day: “You lose the right to say “I don’t know” and then opine on everything. No more searching or wandering. Just “Perform smartness or GTFO.” You lose the right to “do the best you can” because a bunch of people started looking. And they want firm answers, dammit. Thing I miss most about the old blog was the ability to just publicly journal. Basically gone now. Everything is seen as definitive. Have basically not written about Paris for that reason. Too many people looking. No room to pick my way through and study. Everything is definitive. No searching allowed. So I do most of my searching privately now. Not sure that’s right but it’s where I am.”

Perhaps, here is another lesson from my cows: to grow four stomachs in my mind. Comments – the good, the bad, the ugly, the immediate reactions from others – go into the first stomach and get broken down to their essential mush. Perhaps they get held there, quarantined in that first stomach. Or perhaps, once they are mush – by definition no longer personal, just the essence of each person, thought, and moment – that mush can enter the next stomach chamber, along with everything else I see and feel and notice and learn, and all this, together, can be refined in the remaining stomach chambers of my mind, as fuel, as life force, as art.

The Words

Slowly but surely, I’m catching up on all the things with which I’ve fallen behind this year (which is everything). Back in May, I got requests to post the written words of my commencement address. Finally, here they are. Please feel free to share, print, re-post, facebook, etc. I’m honored and happy that my words have had an impact on so many. There’s a lot of backstory to the speech itself, which I’ll share in a later post. In the meantime, the words…

.  .  .

I’m going to tell you one of the secrets of life. You can’t avoid pain. You will lose money. Probably more than once. You will lose a loved one. Probably more than once. Your body will fail you, in some way, at some time, possibly more than once. None of us are exempt from the hard times and the heartbreaking times.

Now why would I make such a dour declaration on this day of celebration? Because, when you understand this truth – and accept it – you are immediately granted a very special kind of power, which brings extraordinary freedom. When you stop making decisions based on what you think will keep you free from pain (which is a false assumption to begin with), you start making decisions that are aligned with your unique truth. The hard times will find you whether you follow the rules or you follow your truth. So why not follow your truth?

I realized this a couple of years after I graduated from college. I was in Death Valley, alone, in May. It was 111 degrees, and the only other person I saw was the guy working at the gas station jiffy mart. I had gone to Death Valley because I was in the midst of my quarter life crisis. My health was failing, my finances were failing, and the things I felt like I was “supposed” to be doing weren’t fulfilling to me. And I had a big chip on my shoulder about it. I felt like it was all really unfair. And out there, alone in the desert, I realized this truth, that you can’t avoid pain. And that it’s not necessarily a mark of some kind of failure. It’s just a mark of life. And as I drove back home to San Francisco, I felt OK for the first time in a long time.

While camping in Death Valley, I was eating little more than trail mix, and this helped unlock the mystery of my health crisis – it was celiac disease. Ten years ago, “gluten-free” wasn’t part of the lexicon, and as I healed, I wrote one of the first books on gluten intolerance, the book I wished I’d had to help me. A few days after I signed my first book contract, my apartment building burned down in the middle of the night. Barefoot, out on the sidewalk, my neighbors and I huddled together, watching the flames. Suddenly, I possessed nothing but the few boxes of film negatives I’d grabbed as I ran out. But I held on to that Death Valley truth. And this time, while I certainly felt the shock of another Hard Time, I didn’t take it personally. I moved to a tiny studio and, instead of replacing my furniture, I got a Vespa. I loved riding my Vespa around San Francisco, and when I decided to move back to New York City, I rode my Vespa across the United States.

That ride lasted two months and exactly 6000 miles. I took the scenic route and spent nights, sometimes several days, with people I met when I stopped for milkshakes or directions. That ride changed the way I saw the land and the people around me, and it changed how I saw myself. By the time I reached New York, the country had put its spell on me and I turned around and moved to Wyoming, with no job, and knowing no one. One day, out of the blue, a new friend brought an orphan coyote pup to my door. I was not expecting this, nor prepared for it, but Charlie moved in with my cat and me, and he is now eight years old. Caring for Charlie gave me a crash course in commitment. He anchored me, and this opened the door for more animals, another book contract, and work I love and am challenged by.

Each opportunity was born from a previous choice I had made, choices that were aligned with my unique truth. With each choice, a very large percentage of my friends and family said “DON’T.” They were worried about the potential pain. And each time, I said, “the hard times are going to come whether I follow your wishes or my intuition. And so I’m going to pack in as much good as I can in the times in between.”

Each one of you knows what this means for you. You will always know what this means for you. Stay in touch with your truth, and allow it to inform your every choice.

— Shreve Stockton, Colorado State University Commencement Address, May 2015

.  .  .

Also by demand, I’ve created mini posters of the text, signed, printed on heavy stock, and available here.

Marching On

March was tough. I cannot lie, working my way through the aftermath of a thyroidectomy has been hard. Yet I would not trade everything I’ve gone through, and what I still have ahead, if it meant going back to being the person I was January 1. The growth and shifts this has inspired and required have made it worthwhile… I’ve said similar before: about being stalked; about living through my oldest, greatest fear of having my home burn down; about the terrifying downward spiral of my health due to undiagnosed celiac disease nearly fifteen years ago.

So much of this traverse reminds me of that time – celiac and gluten intolerance were virtually unheard of back then, and I dove into researching, recovering, getting healthier than I’d ever been before, and writing my first book. That foundation, that history is serving me now. Back then, pre-packaged gluten-free food did not exist. If I told someone I was gluten intolerant, I’d get the response, ‘You’re allergic to sugar?’ Glucose was a more familiar term. So I’d say, ‘I’m allergic to wheat,’ and the reply to that was always, ‘Don’t worry, this is made with white flour!’  Such exchanges are hilarious now, and it’s thrilling how far things have come. I can go out for gluten-free pizza in the miniscule towns of Wyoming, “gluten-free” is an ubiquitous marketing catch-phrase, and while people may still roll their eyes or think it trendy nonsense, it is so freaking easy for people to make the transition now, and to get healthy without feeling like their entire life is being dismantled while they are floating in a sea of question marks.

Ten years ago, when Eating Gluten Free was published, I dreamed of things looking like this – of such awareness, understanding, and convenience for those dealing with gluten intolerance and those suffering undiagnosed (when I went to a gastroenterologist at UCSF and told him my symptoms, he offered me Xanax, and when I declined it, the door). And it’s here! It’s reality! And it happened so much faster than I expected back then. Ten years is a long time, but not when you consider the transformation that has occurred in the lexicon, in marketing, and in medical care. It is so awesome. And this probably seems like one very large tangent – I started this post on the topic of thyroids – but I needed to write this all down for me because once again, I have dove into research, and the state of affairs regarding thyroid issues and the number of people suffering and the dated (dare I say dangerous) “conventional wisdom” is very reminiscent of how it once went with gluten. What I have read and what I have been told makes my blood boil, but the shifts I have seen (and been privileged to be part of) with celiac and gluten intolerance give me hope.

All this to say, despite a bumpy month, I cannot call this a Bad Thing, even though I haven’t yet found the sweet spot with my meds and it’s been scary and expensive and there have been a few days where I just plain haven’t gotten out of bed. I had an epiphany in the shower a couple weeks after surgery; I was sobbing – like hysterically crying – about all the things I wasn’t getting done and POOF!  Epiphany. I suddenly realized just how much of my self worth was wrapped up in what I accomplished (and, of course, the inverse – how much self loathing appeared when I wasn’t accomplishing All The Things). And I have spent much of this month letting that go. Practicing patience and practicing grace – two traits that do not come naturally to me – with myself and with others. Patience is another form of will. And grace is a gift.

One of the big themes of this year has been cooperation, and, for a loner like me, it has been new and scary and enlightening and uplifting. Surgery itself was cooperation, and a massive trust exercise. As was posting the donate button here – that was so difficult for me to do, not because I felt it was wrong but because it was new. And vulnerable. And the first day it was up, I felt very uncomfortable. Remember growing pains, in your ankles and knees? It was like that, in my psyche. When leaving a donation, there is a place to leave a message, but I didn’t see these notes until the next day (I saw the donations, but not the messages), and the blog post itself received very few comments that first day. So I had to spend that day determining my feelings about what I’d done and what I was being given, in a vacuum, without being comforted or influenced by the opinions of others. This was such a blessing. I had to reconcile it within myself, and after the period of uncomfortable newness, my overwhelming sense was of holding hands. The connection of holding hands with people out there, of holding hands with you. And then when I finally discovered and read the notes, that feeling intensified exponentially.

It was so intimate. Regardless of dollar amount, with each donation I saw this: ‘Here is a part of me that I am giving to you because I can and because I want to. You don’t have to do anything to deserve it; by being, you deserve it.’ I think getting that message from outside, from you, opened me enough to be able to get the message from within, from the shower epiphany. I don’t think too many of us are where we want to be – by which I mean, we have goals. But to have that kind of acceptance – of ourselves and of those around us – before we reach our goals, is profound. It takes patience and grace. And we all deserve it.

.  .  .

PS: I finally joined instagram. I take so many photos that never end up here, on the blog and now, they will have a home. If you don’t have instagram and don’t want to join, you can still see all the photos by clicking HERE and bookmarking the page.

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