In a few weeks, I’ll be teaching a course at Portland Underground Graduate School with my favorite co-teacher, Gretchen Leigh. It’s called Sex Skills Bootcamp, and it welcomes adults from all backgrounds, experience levels, and relationship structures to explore their erotic curiosities, boost body confidence, deepen relational skills, and unleash their bedroom prowess.
You can see the full class description by clicking here. It’s a 4 week course, which Gretchen and I have never taught before, and we are thrilled to have 8 whole hours in which to pack tons of sex education and live demos! We’ll cover everything from communication and consent to hand skills, oral sex skills, and kink. We even have some very entertaining roleplaying scenarios ready for you.
Friends & fans – use these money saving codes:
WELOVESHEBOP = 10% off the course
YOUVEGOTAFRIEND = 20% off when you sign up with a pal or partner!
I hope to see you there — please let your friends know, too! These will be some of my final workshops before I go on maternity leave. <3
About a third of my Facebook feed today is filled with #420 memes and statuses and another third is filled with people who are annoyed by people who are into weed.
For most of my life, I was in the latter group. Most stoners I knew growing up were trashy white boys who listened to Sublime, made jokes about Funyuns, and mocked me for being a straight A student. In my younger brain, I thought pretty much all stoners were lazy, and probably also smelled like skunk. However, after cannabis was legalized in Oregon, it was suggested I use some for my chronic pain, mood disorder, and nausea. So, I tried some. Sure enough, it made me feel a whole lot better.
I had been taking pills for pain, which sometimes made me feel like a zombie (and made my nausea worse). I used to drink booze multiple times a week to help with anxiety, but I’d feel terrible later, and it honestly made me way moodier overall. Discovering the healing that cannabis could offer me, and realizing I had no negative side effects the next day and I didn’t even have to smoke if I didn’t want to (hooray for edibles and oil!) was actually life-changing.
I also discovered other types of weed lovers too — high femmes, successful stoners, chronic pain warriors, cancer survivors, and everyday people who used it to help themselves feel better about their bodies, sex, stress, etc. Yes, there are still plenty of smelly slacker stoners out there, but I’ve grown to appreciate cannabis culture. I love that anywhere I go where people are smoking weed, they’ll invite me into their circle and share both their cannabis and their stories freely.
I love that when I’m high I am in love with myself and my brain and my body (which, when I am sober, I struggle to appreciate). I love that cannabis has helped me work through trauma without shutting down, helped me make new friends easily, and truly helped my career by allowing me to have less pain and anxiety so I can accomplish more. It’s also made me hear songs in brand new ways, taste foods more intensely, and helped me process two back to back heartbreaks that surely would have crushed me a few years ago.
So, yes, I recognize that this “holiday” is completely goofy and maybe even obnoxious to a bunch of folks. But for lots of us, it is a day to celebrate that we have a plant that helps us more easily handle all the bullshit life can throw our way. For me, I use cannabis not as a way to escape, but as a way to become more connected — to myself and to others. I use it to let my overactive and frequently worried mind have some moments of solace. I use it to zone in on relaxing and relieving parts of my body that are chronically tense or in pain. I use it as a social lubricant, a libido booster, and a creativity booster.
I am outraged that so many people, most especially POC, have been sent to prison (or worse) for buying, selling, or possessing weed. I am sad that cannabis is still not legal in many places where I know it would help many members of the population. I’m frustrated by restrictive laws and ridiculous punishments. I know I am lucky to live in Oregon and be able to travel easily to Washington, so that I can enjoy cannabis legally and safely. I wish and hope that one day everyone will have access if they need it. Until then, I’ll keep being a vocal and passionate supporter of cannabis rights, decriminalization, and reparations for communities that have been disproportionately affected by America’s War on Drugs.
To all who celebrate – whether you celebrate sincerely, humorously, with a heavy heart/conscious mind, or every damn day – Happy 420!
Read this heartwarming, sexy, sweet little personal essay written by our very own magical intern (Intern Courtney) for Autostraddle! It’s about her experiences with our Femme Sex Coven (also featured in Episode 9 of our podcast, Sex on the Brain with Amory Jane)!
This made me cry happy tears. So much love for my intern and friend, Courtney, for my community, and for all of the witchy wonderful femmes out there! <3
Episode 10: Intergenerational Relationships (& “Cougars”) Our tenth episode is on the topic of intergenerational romantic relationships – or significant age differences between partners – and the unique considerations, benefits, and issues that tend to come up in these relationships. We’ll hear from The Date Maven, Suzanna Mathews, author of Revising Mrs. Robinson – a book that dives into ageism, sexism, and the “cougar taboo.” We’ll also hear from sex and disability educator and advocate Robin Wilson-Beattie about the intersections of age, race, and disability when dating polyamorously.
Our sixth episode is on the topic of polyamory – the practice of having more than one romantic relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. This episode features candid and personal conversations between Amory Jane and her guests (Kevin Patterson ofPoly Role Modelsand educatorAnnamarie Stockwell), from one polyamorous person to another. They talk about the real pros and cons of ethical non-monogamy, the heartbreaks, and how others have reacted to their non-traditional relationship styles. They also talk about intersectionality in polyamory (and about how intersectional feminism is often lacking in the media and polyamory communities in general).
Now that things are settling down after the end of my tour, moving into a new home, and my hit and run accident, I’m excited to share details about my time at kink camp!
Boundless is a four-day kink retreat located at a beautiful private resort about 2.5 hours north of San Francisco. Boundless 2016 took place September 30-October 3 and I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship to attend. My partner, Matias, also joined me there (and it was his first time going to a kink camp as well).
I first heard about Boundless when we received some of their promotional posters/fliers at She Bop. I had missed a few kinky camp out events earlier in the summer when I was traveling the country in my sex ed mobile, so I was glad to see something scheduled for early Fall when I was at the end of my tour. The Boundless website said that the cost was $335 for the full weekend and covered all meals and workshops, which didn’t seem like a bad price. Still, it was out of my budget, especially if my partner and I were both going to attend, so I almost just closed my laptop and moved on… until I noticed something in fine print about offering a scholarship for sex educators.
Good thing I got my eyes lasered to perfection in 2009 and can read the tiny font at the bottom of a website.
I sent an email to the organizer, James, asking him about the scholarship application, and he sent back a friendly response encouraging me to apply. I answered a few questions in essay format (I always nailed the essay portion of my tests in school) and was feeling pretty good about my chances of being accepted. Sure enough, James got back to me a few days later offering me the scholarship, which covered all costs of the retreat, including a camping spot! He even said I was the exact candidate they were hoping would apply. Sweet!
When the time came to head to camp, I made sure to pack everything I thought I would need: a tent and lots of blankets, condoms, lube, edibles, a couple of my favorite sex toys, and lingerie. I also overpacked cute summer camp clothes and underpacked clothes that would keep me warm, which means I ended up spending the majority of the time in one pair of fleece-lined leggings and an extremely unsexy sweater. Next time I will remember that California + “summer camp” does not equal warm and dry. I mean, it was October and we were north of San Francisco, (and I’m always cold), so I should really have known I couldn’t survive only wearing a corset and my Sasha harness. Plenty of other people there managed to be comfortable in their kinkiest costumes, sexiest lingerie, and completely nude though. Maybe handling cold temperatures with a smile is a special skill reserved for masochists, which I very much confirmed I wasn’t over the course of that weekend.
More on that later.
Matias and I spent a good portion of our drive to the retreat discussing our boundaries, desires, and concerns. We both wanted to primarily play with each other but were open to making connections, we wanted to learn/practice new skills, and we wanted to sample kinky things we hadn’t yet had a chance to try. We had been to plenty of play parties, BDSM events, kink nights, munches, and sex workshops during our 2+ years together, but never an overnight camp or a multi-day event that wasn’t a conference. I had also attended sex clubs and swingers parties while in a previous relationship and am part of a femme coven, so I love kinky spaces and feel comfortable with consensual sex happening all around me. Still, a kink retreat would be a new experience and neither of us really knew what to expect.
After a long (but beautiful) Autumn drive through Southern Oregon and Northern California, we found ourselves driving alongside a large freshwater lake called Clear Lake. We knew we were close and speculated what kind of welcoming committee would be at the camp. Would people already be walking around naked or clad in latex and leather? Would we show up presenting as the most vanilla people there? Turns out, we were fairly accurate with our hypotheses. As we pulled in, there were some people hanging out wearing little to no clothing, some people in Boundless crop tops, and one gentleman wearing stilettos that were chained together and a very frilly tutu. We were in hoodies and jeans with beanies on our heads. We looked very much like we were from Oregon. Still, we were greeted with a wave and a smile and the volunteers helped us figure out where to park our car and set up camp.
After putting up our tent, we went into the main lodge for dinner. There were at least 50 other people there, from all walks of life, and most of them were already sitting down to eat. Meatloaf and veggies were on the main menu, along with vegan options and gluten free pasta. The food all weekend was really good, and they always had snacks available. As a person who needs to eat every few hours, it was a relief, and it helped me stay fueled for all of the workshops and sex adventures. While we mostly took in everything around us and kept to ourselves during dinner, we got out of our shells more during the opening address and formal mocktail party. Matias and I volunteered to walk around with drink trays and offer tasty beverages to attendees, which took me back to my days as a cocktail server, except for that instead of serving hipsters at a karaoke dive bar, this time I was serving kinksters in their finest fetish gear. I also helped get a sexy lady into her corset, which I had never done before, and it turns out it is only sort of like lacing up a pair of boots. Definitely more tugging and gasping and overflowing cleavage. It wasn’t an easy task for a first timer, but I have zero complaints.
After the opening address, which included info about the weekend and a talk about consent and dungeon rules, Sinclair Sexsmith presented a fun and interactive icebreaking workshop called Flirting Dirty. We got to practice being turned down and saying no, negotiating boundaries, and asking folks if they wanted to play. I was paired up with the stranger sitting in front of me, who had a completely opposite flirting style, and that was sort of eye opening. He was telling me about how he’ll just say hello and start a nice mild conversation that is not at all sexually charged, and I appreciated his low pressure approach. However, it was in stark contrast to my approach, which is usually more like, “We seem to be checking each other out, which is cool. I really like your nose and I would be down to ride your face if you’re interested.”
That was only the beginning of eye opening things I discovered and/or reaffirmed about myself that weekend.
After the flirting event, Matias and I stayed in the Heart Lodge as they transformed it into the dungeon/play space. Multiple spanking benches, sex swings, St Andrew’s Crosses, rope suspension areas, massage tables, and mattresses for the floor were set out. There were also towels, wet wipes, condoms, gloves, and extra sheets. Hooray for a well-equipped dungeon!
We spent most of that first night hanging back and observing. We snuggled and made out on a floor mat while watching people get whipped, tied up, and fucked. We talked about what turned us on, what didn’t seem like our cup of tea, and what we were curious about trying. We listened to the sounds of a woman riding a Sybian while giving her partner a blowjob, watched some artful Florentine flogging, and took in all of the hedonism that filled the room. Eventually we realized that we were exhausted from the long drive, and went back to our tent to have a quickie and pass out for the night.
I slept on an under-inflated air mattress and woke up in the middle of the night to baby deer prancing around on the tarp right outside of our tent (which was adorable, but kind of scary to hear at first, since we were in the woods also surrounded by bears). Still, even with a bad night of sleep, I woke up on time for breakfast and attended a workshop called “How to Be a Successful Male Submissive.” I found myself nodding my head on most things, disagreeing on a few points here and there, and generally daydreaming of a harem situation where an assortment of submissive men serve me and worship my body whenever I snap my fingers.
That first workshop put enough ideas in my head that I decided to skip the second one to go back to the tent with my boyfriend. After a few orgasms, we fell asleep and accidentally napped through lunch. Fortunately, we woke up with enough time to find leftovers before the next session. That session was the Heart Centered Needle Pull and it seemed to be getting a lot of attention around camp from nervous but curious attendees who wanted to know what it was like to be pierced in the chest and connected to a pulling cord while ecstatic frenzy was being whipped up all around us. The Boundless website describes the Heart Centered Needle Pull like this:
Join a community ritual to open our heart centers and bring us closer together as mindful individuals. Facilitated by Fakir Musafar and Cleo Dubois, variations of this ritual have been used for centuries by Native Americans (the Sun Dance) and other cultures as a way to develop mind/body awareness and connection with others.
The ritual consists of an invocation and invitation for traditional sources of spirit and our own higher selves to join us in creating an ecstatic state. Each participant will be safely pierced in their heart Chakra with two small needles by Fakir or Cleo and attached by a sterilized cord to a common point. Music, chanting and drumming will then propels us to ecstasy. Sound interesting?
If you join this ritual you will be guided every step of the way by experts who have facilitated this ritual for over 30 years in the USA, Canada, England, Portugal, and Italy.
We were “cleansed” with sage as we walked through the doorway into the dungeon, which had been converted again into a new type of space. This time there was a horizontal pole in the center of the room with many cords hanging from it, a very large suspended gong, and tables filled with unopened boxes of sterile gloves and needles. We took off our shoes and found a seat, facing a person who appeared to be in his late sixties (it was Fakir Musafar and it turns out he is 87). Then, after everyone else finished walking through the door, Cleo joined Fakir at the front and they proceeded to tell us about the history of the ritual and what to expect.
Matias was definitely nervous, but I was feeling incredibly calm about the whole thing. Piercing has never bothered nor scared me and I had read enough to know about the possible risks and about the incredible strength of human skin. I was ready.
We stood in line and waited our turn to get pierced. Fakir was using hooks on the more advanced campers and Cleo was piercing those of us who were new to the ritual with 22 gauge needles. With each new participant, she had an assistant help her put on a fresh pair of gloves and she would pinch the skin (above the breasts, below the collarbone) and slide the needles through. On my turn I took a deep breath and looked at Cleo’s face as she pierced me. The first needle went through perfectly but the second one went through a little too easily and poked her finger as it came out of the other side. She immediately started gushing blood, even through the gloves, and I could tell this was something that didn’t usually happen. I felt bad that she was hurt, but I wasn’t freaked out, and it didn’t have any sort of negative impact on my piercing experience. After getting cleaned up and bandaged, she put a small carabiner at the end of my string loop and I felt the weight of it gently pull at my skin. Matias was pierced next (he did really well), and then we walked together to the room’s center point to connect our carabiners to the hanging cords that we would use to pull ourselves.
Music swelled around me, the smell of incense was strong in the air, there were people (who weren’t pierced) drumming and dancing, and the rest of us (who were pierced) were leaning back with the skin on our chests stretched out. It was like a mini suspension, but both feet were on the ground, and as the music grew faster and louder, many of my fellow campers started having stronger responses. Some had their eyes rolling back in ecstasy, some were swaying to the music or testing their bodies. A couple of people were crying in a way that you could tell they were releasing something more than just tears. I pulled harder and focused on the feeling, hoping to also feel something powerful or release grief, but I couldn’t feel any adrenaline running through me. All I felt was a tugging, a very literal tugging. It wasn’t a bad feeling by any means, but no matter what I did, my body just stayed very neutral and I didn’t feel anything strong or spiritual. I even unhooked from the main point after a while and hooked my carabiner to Matias’ carabiner and had us both pull back and stare into each other’s eyes. Matias kept breaking eye contact when his eyes would roll back into head, but it still felt very bonding, very novel and was a unique experience to share. However, I admit I was slightly disappointed that my body just wouldn’t get into the intense energy around me. Empath-types are supposed to feel all of the energies, right? – that’s what normally happens to me in crowds – but this time I just felt the most basic sensations in my body without any sort of energy rush. It was curious, and not the only time something like that happened to me that weekend.
My favorite part of the ritual was when a percussionist was dominating the room with the sounds of the hammered gong and Cleo was going around and whacking our tautly pulled strings with a cane so that the vibrations were sent into our chests. She also used a vibrating sex toy against the strings for the same purposes, and I enjoyed the rumbling and shaking sensation. Of course I did. Because I love vibration in pretty much all of the ways it comes to me.
I also enjoyed coming down after the ritual, watching people sort of float back into their bodies and then have their needles removed. Matias and I were some of the last to have our needles taken out, and the twenty minutes or so that we sat quietly waiting for that to happen were some of the best moments of the afternoon for me. Hearing about what the experience was like for him and watching his eyes light up as he talked about it made me feel very happy that I was attending Boundless with a partner. Even if my body has a hard time with adrenaline production or I am sometimes too much of a control freak to stop my observation mode and fully let myself go, at least I was experiencing new things, learning a lot, and feeling closer to someone I loved.
That night in the dungeon, Matias and I were both flogged (at separate times) on a St. Andrew’s cross by a trained professional with a very extensive set of hitting implements. There were leather floggers made from different animal hides (deer, elk, rabbit, buffalo, etc.), skinny whips, rubber toys, and a few items I had never seen in person. It was an impressive collection…but you’ll have to wait to hear about our flogging adventures in a future post.
My First Time at Kink Camp: Part 2 will be all about our second and third nights in the dungeon, what it’s like to be on edibles at a kink retreat, what I learned about mental health at the workshops I took on day 3, and my newfound love for sex swings. Stay tuned!
The stresses and rewards of the road have been pummeling me with full force since leaving Wyoming. It certainly hasn’t all been idyllic, but the journey has been worth it and I have grown much closer to travel companions, learned more about RVs/cars, and have done tons of self-care and reflection. I feel like a lot has happened in the past week, and if you follow me on my Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, you may already aware of some of the struggles and triumphs. If not, the full updates are below.
Amber, Amari, and I went to Colorado after our magical night in Wyoming. We went to Boulder first, to meet up with one of Amber’s friends at a karaoke bar (yes, you are noticing a theme – we like karaoke). Driving in Boulder was a pain in the ass (the roads were confusing), but the Rocky Mountains were beautiful and brunch in Boulder reminded me of the amazing food in Portland, so that was the first time I missed home. We made the shortest drive of our road trip from Boulder to Denver last Sunday, and it was nice to not have a day that was spent completely in the RV. Especially since Edna the Sex Ed Mobile had started driving a little funny and seemed to be under the weather.
Amber had to get back to Portland, so we took her to the airport in Denver that evening. It was hard to say goodbye, but I was thankful for the time we had spent together. With just Amari and me left, we decided to spend some time getting to know Denver’s cannabis culture. We visited dispensaries and noted similarities and differences to how Portland sells/promotes legal cannabis, and I personally was very excited to check out Denver’s enormous selection of edibles. Amari and I spent much of our time in Denver at a place called iBAKE; a cannabis café that had free Wi-Fi and friendly patrons. We managed to get quite a bit of work done there on our podcasts, and we also got news that Amari’s passport, wallet, and phone had been found, so our time in Denver was rather uplifting (and not just because of the weed).
We slept in Edna in a 24 hour restaurant parking lot and took showers at a truck stop the next morning, which made us feel like real road warriors. Then we hit the road for New Mexico. We had no solid plans for New Mexico, other than driving through on our way to Texas and finding a place to camp. We had originally intended on staying at a state park near the grasslands, but we got caught in a storm and had to pull into an RV park off the highway somewhere in Union County. The lightning in the sky was pink and white, and the thunder boomed immediately after each flash. Chickpea sized hail and strong winds attacked Edna all through the night while Amari and I stayed put safely inside her shell and watched the violent sky from the RV windows. In the morning, we realized that we were camping between a crater and volcano, which felt pretty bad ass, and then we enjoyed a picnic at the Capulin Volcano National Monument before setting off on our long journey through Texas
It was in the sweltering and sticky Texas heat that Edna really started letting us know she was sick. She was having a very hard time getting up to speed and was going through gas far too quickly. She also would occasionally shut down when put in reverse or while waiting at a stop light, and that problem was occurring with more and more frequency. So, we decided that we would go to Denton, Texas for the night since Amari has friends there, and we would get Edna fixed up while we were in town.
Denton ended up being a really fun place to visit. The food was tasty, the people were very social and inclusive, and the nightlife was actually pretty hoppin’. This was a pleasant surprise to me, and it was fortunate that we enjoyed Denton, because we got stuck there for an extra day while Edna was getting repaired. It was hard being away from St. Edna, since she is more than an RV to me: she has been my home, my companion, and my literal shelter from the storm. We ended up having to sleep on a floor of a jam space on our second night in Denton, since we didn’t have the comforts of Edna, but we were in good company and Edna was in good hands. The fine folks of Ace Tech Automotive Repair Center treated Edna right and got her running on all cylinders again (and they were honest and very helpful). Thanks, Andrew and Dusty!
We left Denton at night and drove through the rest of Texas and Louisiana to get to New Orleans at 5:30am. I had to pick up my sweetheart, Matias, from the airport in NOLA at 10:45am (P.S. Yay, Matias is here now!) and teach my Anal 101 class that night at Dynamo: A Romantic Boutique in the Deep South, so stopping to sleep somewhere wasn’t really an option. The minute we arrived at Amari’s house, we parked Edna, shuffled our exhausted feet inside, she had a happy reunion with her cats, and then we passed out. For Amari, the road trip had come to an end. For me, one chapter had just ended and another was about to begin…
Wyoming is a beautiful state and we came across some serious magic there.
On Friday, my two travel companions (Amari and Amber) and I drove from Idaho for over seven hours, through the mountains and high desert then on unpaved roads through the dark without having any real idea where we were going. Eventually we discovered an isolated but perfectly set up campsite with wood for a fire already in a pile nearby. It felt like a gift or a prize that was waiting for us after a very difficult day where Amari lost her wallet, phone, and passport and Edna decided that she wanted to temporarily shut down when she was put in reverse. We needed a victory, and finding an empty, free campground in the middle of Wyoming after a long journey felt like we had won.
Since we were basically in the middle of nowhere, we saw the entire sky, including bright clear constellations and the Milky Way. Seeing our galaxy made us feel itty bitty and filled with wonder. We realized we were truly newborns on the cosmic calendar; so young compared to the age of our universe. We felt insignificant but comforted. We felt introspective and open to possibilities. I even saw two shooting stars! I took that as a sign that we were exactly where we were meant to be and I needed to allow myself to fully embrace my new life plan and let go of the things from my past that were holding me back.
It was a new moon and I had just started bleeding. In fact, all of us were bleeding, even though two of us weren’t expecting that to happen. For whatever reason, that felt important/symbolic. Amber gave Amari a tarot reading that helped Amari find closure and shed her former self. It was so moving and empowering for her that she ended the night by shaving off all of her hair.
While that was happening, I felt called to be alone in Edna. I had my own healing to do. I stared out of the cab window at the vast night sky and felt like I was in a spaceship. It felt good to be alone. I was happy to be with me, in nature, feeling tiny yet connected. I wrapped myself in a blanket and caressed my arms for warmth. My skin was cool, smooth, and sensitive. It felt incredibly nice to be touched, and it dawned on me that I was the one doing the touching. I was doing this thing called “self-soothing” that I have struggled with for the past few years, especially when I was angry with my body over infertility and chronic pain. I continued to hug myself tightly and rub and squeeze my arms. My body felt less sore and uncomfortable than it had in a long time. I sobbed and let the grief and stress come out with it. I rested my hands on my abdomen and sent gentle energy to my uterus, which I had cursed so many times over the past three years. I breathed deeply and slowly and thought warm and compassionate thoughts, and I let my mind fill with happy memories. I imagined my lover’s embrace from afar and pictured his sweet smile, and my heart swelled with love.
Just then, Amari and Amber walked into Edna. They checked in on me and I checked in on them, and we all agreed something magical was happening there in the rolling sage grasslands of Wyoming. I rubbed Amari’s fresh and fuzzy bald head and we all expressed our love and gratitude toward each other. Amber sat down on the cushioned bench in Edna and Amari crawled into the overcab bed with me. We took all of Edna’a curtains down and turned off the lights so we could feel like we were floating through space. With no light pollution we couldn’t even see our hands in front of our faces, and we commented on how it was a darker darkness than we had ever experienced. Then some really special energy kicked in.
We stayed up for a couple hours more, laughing until we had tears streaming down our faces and our stomachs were cramping. We bonded and wrote songs and poured out all of our album ideas into Amari’s handheld recorder. We talked about how we felt like sisters, like a coven, like a little family. Amari pointed out that our coven would be complete if only we had four members, but Amber wisely noted that St. Edna was our fourth. Then we wrote a song about Edna as the fourth Beatle and fell peacefully asleep.
We woke up to a storm, heavy rain pouring down around us, and the sound of the wind and water beating against Edna’s fiberglass body. We were safe though, and the storm passed just as quickly as it had arrived. The next time we awoke was to a pink and orange sunrise, and we finally got to see the wonderful place around us that we had discovered in the dark.
We walked down to the Teton Reservoir and took a few photos then said our goodbyes. We left Wyoming that afternoon feeling revived, more creative, and closer than ever.
Ten years ago, on August 31, 2006, I moved to Portland, Oregon. I had spent the summer of 2006 heartsick, couch surfing, and working as a nanny in Indiana. I had gotten out of a long-term relationship around February of that year, graduated from college that May, and found myself ready to move out of the state where I was born and raised. I needed a change, but I couldn’t decide where to go or what to do with myself.
I had interviewed for two very different opportunities in two very different parts of the country, and had been offered both jobs. One was to move to New York City and work with Teach for America and the other was to move to Florida and work as a camp counselor for a year. One would have required me to live in a giant city, in an assigned apartment with other teachers. The other would have required me to live in a teepee next to a lake. While they both sounded like amazing (and kind of terrifying) life adventures, neither housing option would allow me to bring my dog.
My dog, an old blind pug named Buckeye, was my best friend. That little buddy and I had been through a big breakup and homelessness together. He was with me the day I moved out of the house I shared with my college sweetheart, he was there with me when I decided to skip my college graduation ceremony and go camping, and he kept me warm by curling up at the very bottom of my sleeping bag. There was no way I could abandon him. I had to find a place where my dog was welcome, where I fit in better than I did in Indiana, and where I could get a fresh start.
I knew that place was out there, but I hadn’t yet found it. I asked my older sister, who had done quite a bit of traveling, if she had any suggestions. She suggested I visit her in Portland to think about my next steps in a new environment. Of course, as soon as I spent my first day in Portland, I fell in love with it. I think she knew that would happen when she invited me there. That tricky bitch. 😉
I could write a novel about my life in the Rose City. I have experienced a lot during my ten years there; the highest highs and the lowest lows of my life have all been in Portland. In a lot of ways, it has been a wonderful place to call home and I am grateful that I experienced the majority of my twenties there. However, I have a complicated relationship with my city now, as do many people who have lived there for a while. Oregon is a lovely state filled with natural beauty in every direction, Portland is a special city with gorgeous green parks and lots of rivers and bridges and art and rain, but it is not paradise. In fact, it has some major problems that seem to be getting worse. Portland is becoming more and more expensive by the month, gentrification and overpriced housing are pushing out long-time residents, beloved businesses and buildings that once gave the city character are being demolished and replaced with pretentious condos that most Portlanders could never afford. In many ways, the city is losing the charm and uniqueness that put it on the map in the first place. Homelessness, the rapidly rising cost of living, and a lack of jobs have already caused many people to leave, and it certainly contributed to my decision to buy an RV and convert it into my tiny house on wheels/sex ed mobile.
When grief and the end of my marriage were added to the list of things I was dealing with in Portland, it became obvious to me that I needed to get away from my city. So, it seems fitting that on the ten year anniversary of moving to Oregon, I left the state. Yesterday we crossed the border into Idaho, and today we continue heading east. We plan on visiting the Craters of the Moon, Lava Hot Springs, and having another night in the woods to think and heal and reflect.