We spent 3 days at Ft. Peck Marina. We got to chat with Mike, an airplane mechanic content to live the rest of his days “working as little as possible” in order to live as much as possible and Cookie, a sweet terrier-cow dog mix with a penchant for bar food and being adorable. It was fun to lounge with fellow river travelers for a few days.
Finally having cell service and a little bit of wi-fi after about two weeks of nada, we also spent a lot of time playing catch-up with our reflection posts and curriculum, calling friends and family, and reading up on current events. We were really, really impacted by the tragic news of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas police officers losing their lives to senseless violence.
Philando Castille lost his life just minutes from our unofficial headquarters in Falcon Heights, MN. Our hearts went home to our neighboring community and to the communities of others who are living through the effects of violence, bigotry, and fear on a daily basis. For us, three white women afforded a lot of privilege in our lives, we recognize that we need to take a position of listening. We need to listen to the voices of the people who have been disrespected, neglected, over-powered, undermined, and largely unprotected. We need to listen and pay attention to what is happening around us. We need to use the privilege that we have been afforded, which for us is a skin color that has not been systematically discriminated against, to listen and speak up for equity. It’s hard to show direct support of all of these lives, in particular the black lives, that matter while we are so remote. What we can do is start with ourselves. We can define our values and live by them. From there, we can encourage those we are in direct contact to do the same. From there, we can encourage the greater communities we each live in to do the same. For now, we have ourselves and this expedition. We have our words and we have our actions.
One of my deepest held values is respect. To me, language is tremendous way to convey respect or disrespect. I am impressed by people who are able to take care with their language. Great orators have the power to change the direction of communities. A great speech can start a movement. I strive to be considerate with my words, though am far from perfect far too often. Here is a bottom line I try to hold myself too when all else fails: if the words I’m about to use would deprive a person or group of their human dignity; if my words would disgrace a person because of traits they were born with or parts of their identity, that is not okay. That, is a foundation of disrespect and also the foundation of bigotry. We have control over the language that we use to describe people, places, and events. Sometimes it can be hard to think of the right words to say in a situation and that is often a good time to just listen.
Speaking of listening, Viki arrived! Viki is a great listener. She spent a few days with us as we recovered from our travel days and caught up on work. The three of us had some more courageous conversations with each other about our fears, the future, and what we need from each other. These conversations can take a while and certainly a lot of energy, but they always help us clarify and refresh our goals and team-mentality.
On the 10th, we paddled the last few miles to the end of Ft. Peck Lake and did the 1.2 mile portage around the Ft. Peck dam. Easy-peasey. We then spent the next three days hunkered down at the Downstream Ft. Peck Campground while the wind and lightning we had raced so hard to get ahead of caught up to us. We were okay with it though. Our bodies were thankful for the rest which included the luxury of shade, fresh drinking water, and unlimited electricity.
This will be different from my usual daily break down and will be a recap of the week. The act of writing everyday has caught up with me, Lisa and my brain is in need of a break. Everyone should take breaks or vacations and I am no exception. It’s just hard to do that in this context, when the desire to share my experiences with the outside world nags at the back of my mind and I just can’t seem to relax. There also is trying to meet the expectation of what we set out to do: that being sharing our experiences, learnings and failures. Along with creating our confidence building curriculum and sharing that too. Sometimes it seems like too much. Did I promise too much? Did I create unrealistic expectations? These questions start and I go down the negative failure spiral, where I think I am not good enough and am just not doing enough!
I am getting better at stopping myself and pulling out of that spiral. I am doing the best that I can do. I am sharing my experiences with the outside world when I can, when it’s realistic. One of the things I have learned: know your cell phone providers range of service and how much roaming data your plan allows. For Me this has been a challenge, as my phone service is not good and I can’t use my fancy iPhone/computer to access the Internet because I’m in roaming here in Montana. Something I didn’t think about: access to Internet. In Minnesota I became so accustomed to fast and reliable and unlimited internet that it was easy to promise posting every week and posting videos too!! Not realistic here in Montana. So that has been a good learning, that I can apply to future expeditions. Also there will always be these types of unknowns. No matter what you are doing in your life, you cannot be ready for everything. You can prepare as best as possible and then just go and do it. If I let a fear of failure Stop me, I would be on my coach (well my moms coach) in Minnesota. Failure can be debilitating, when not harnessed properly. When viewed as an avenue for learning and a positive, it can provide so many opportunities. I wonder how long in my life I will keep relearning this lesson?
This week was spent resting, recalibrating and resupplying. It was also a tragic and violent week In our country. On July 7th I learned of the murder of Felindo Castile, in Falcon Heights Minnesota, blocks away from where I use to live. Another person of color killed by institutional racism. From my privilege, when I’m out in the wilderness, away from the Internet and society I get to forget. To forget about the horrific injustices and daily aggressions that people of color deal with. Because of the kindness and generosity of total strangers while on the river, my privilege allows me to be able to forget that as humans we do a lot of horrible things to each other. And that we have a lot to change here in our country. That I as a white person have a lot to learn and a lot of work to do. That it is my responsibility to talk with other white people and call out racism and the daily microaggressions that occur. That if I see something on Facebook that is racist, I need to say something. I have the privilege to say something, so I must. Now this is also easy to think and say, when I’m siting by the river in Montana. Though I must vow to myself to say something and support change. The goddesses know we need it in our country right now.
The rest of this week went by all to quickly. Enjoying time with Viki and singing all together. Having productive and challenging conversations, related to the business side of source of confidence and moving forward. The unsexy behind the scenes work (including thinking about having to pay taxes on the money we raised, along with properly thanking all our funders) is the backbone of source of confidence. It allows Lisa and I to paddle the river and live out our dreams. Without Viki managing all of that and putting in the hours to get the work done, we wouldn’t be here. And it would be much much more stressful. Also, since Viki is behind the camera, her contributions are not always properly highlighted. Thank you Viki!
On July 10th we paddled the 4.5 miles from the marina to the portage take out. Viki had scored ahead and knew exactly where we needed to land and then go. It was an easy 1.5 miles portage, on paved roads, to the west end campground. Although not actually on the rivers edge, abundant paved paths lead down to the water. We set up camp, organized gear and went into town to find Internet and get groceries. The hours flew by and evening started to creep in. Back at the campsite Lisa and I completed our food and gear resupply. While we were doing his Viki made a feast of steak and pesto paste! Complete with cherry tomatoes! All cooked over the open fire, with Owa prancing around. Dinner finished, dishes cleaned and all gear stored for the evening we retired to our tents for the sweet nectar of sleep. We needed to get up early and go back into town for fuel for our stove, as the store was closed by the time we got there. This would also provide an opportunity to purchase more candy, for I feared I did not have enough.
On July 11th we got up to our alarms, made our town run and Said farewell to Viki and Owa! Always such an enjoyable time to be with these two! Our thoughts of getting out on the water were dashed, as the wind was really howling. The day was spent reading, writing and Jair relaxing. I made a dinner of rice and meat (thank you Patnode dairy farm for the beef! It is a real treat and tastes amazing). We ate under the tarp because the rain had started to fall. We set a wake up time for 6, with the aim of getting on the water early. The forecast was still calling for wind tomorrow, so we called it a night and hoped they weren’t right.
The morning of July 12th started as predicted: really windy. We gave our selves an extra hour of sleep and at 7 walked down to the water. Yup, to windy to paddle, with large white caps everywhere. Another wind day. Probably good for our bodies, after paddling fort peck basically non stop because we had amazing weather. I didn’t mind. I had new books to read and phone calls to make. Even on days like this, the hours pass quickly by. Yet again it was all of a sudden the dinner time! We ate dinner and checked the forecast. Less windy. Good. After this many days in a row of not traveling, I was ready to get back on the water. And with that we said goodnight!