Well, I survived another dark and dreary Washington Winter, and eagerly await the start of Spring and the 3-4 months of warm, sunny weather that is life in Washington before the neverending rain and cloudy gloom begins again. Though the air is clean and the land perpetually green, the weather here can test the moods and mental well-being of even the most stable of individuals. All human have a need for sun, after all. I have belief about people here: most just do what they can to get through it, anything they can, hibernating inside and balancing that with plenty of time outside in the precious few months of glorious Summer.

Here are some photos of the area where I’ve been living in Bremerton, Washington.

 

Bremerton sinclair inlet Bremerton sinclair inlet night

 

Fortunately, the Winter has been made far easier by an opportunity to work with my good friend Lee on some businesses: among them Embleholics.com–designing custom memorabilia for military and other organizations; another being an Amazon business selling other kinds of products. Self-employment suits me well, though the work is challenging, long, the pay minimal since almost everything has to be reinvested back in, the outcomes extremely uncertain, and there’s always an endlessly growing list of tasks to be done. But it’s rewarding in the sense that you see the entire results of your efforts, and I get to work with the closest friend I’ve known in years. As a bonus it’s extremely liberating, with the freedom to work or don’t work whenever you want, whatever day or time you want or don’t want to work.

In other news, I’m also trying to buy a domicile in Gig Harbor, WA. It’s a nice house that has lots of room for landscaping but also room for plenty of home improvements, ideal for a still-young and strapping lad with lots of energy and a need for ways to direct that energy. My hope is to rent out 2 of the rooms in order to pay for the entire mortgage. I still have an unbearably long 4 weeks to go until pen is put to paper, but at this point–given the fact I am willing to talk about it–things are looking good as far as the deal going through. I hope to have some pictures to show when I’ve moved in and started landscaping my own natural paradise.

Finally, I’m looking into starting a public foundation. It will be focused solely on improving the lives of veterans by pooling 10% of our profits, money from businesses that want to help veterans, from crowdfunding, and through Facebook advertising. Although I don’t have fond memories of my time in the Navy, helping veterans is about the only cause I care strong for, and given the wealth of knowledge I have from focusing my graduate studies and research on veterans issues, I believe I can do so in an ethical, informed manner. Essentially, the foundation would pool that money and use collaboration and my expertise and knowledge of nonprofit best practices to then fund promising nonprofits and innovative programs that are impacting veterans’ lives in powerful ways rather than those running wasteful or ineffective programs. More on this, including the name, logo, details, and website in the coming weeks.

The adage “When it rains it pours” is more true than I could have believed, as I have quickly gone from coming home with nothing to do to taking on quite a heavy load within just a few months.

Here are more photos of the Seattle area that I’ve taken, mostly from the ferry. The first was a strange but brief escort by flanking Coast Guard vessels as the ferry left Seattle’s busy waterfront.

 

 

Once Upon a Time in America

It’s hard to avoid talking about what’s going on in today’s America, let alone do it without going completely negative, and I’m still going to avoid it here for the most part with this one exception. My reasoning for this is, sadly, the seemingly assured outcome of destructive interactions between people who do decide engage in political discourse with each other and almost-certain outcomes of such discourse or individuals’ experiences, which seem to all strike a similar chord. Generally, arguments between opposing views ensue which, while entirely fine on their own, frequently lead to the cessation of friendships, blocking people on Facebook, and even in some cases the excommunication of family members due to opposing views. Fortunately none of this has happened in my life, but I know many people for whom events like this have occurred.

I finished the Camino missing my country and home, seeing not only the negative as repeatedly told to me by Europeans friends and acquaintances, but also the many positives which my European walking compatriots did not always appreciate; in any case, wanting to return. But now that I’m here, I grow each day increasingly bewildered by the rapidly growing divisions within my country, and it disturbs me to no end that people here would ruin close relationships based on a rigid adherence to ideology and belief structures. Hopefully people can realize and accept that differing opinions will always exist in humans, that people will disagree on every fundamental of how life should be lived, but that those disagreements can remain an agreement to disagree such that people do not try to force their view upon others; hopefully we can all someday accept all those differences and come together on the basis of some common thread of a shared human spirit. Otherwise the divisions everyone is seeing in my country may only deepen and the end-result may be a United States that is longer United, but rent asunder. It’s difficult for me to accept widely differing beliefs and views and opinions, but that’s part of what being human is: we interact daily with people who incite anger and revulsion within us, people who make our blood boil, people who hurt us emotionally, and almost all of us cause some such harm as well to those around us. One of many excellent sayings by Marcus Aurelius aptly fits this occasion, a saying which I wake up to and read from a sticky note on my wall every day, wisdom which I hope I can someday internalize:

“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.”

Sometimes while lost in thought, I often find myself wondering how the events transpiring in the United States must appear to all the friends I’ve made from Europe, Brazil, and anywhere else in the world. A word of caution amidst all the headlines and apparent chaos happening here: life in America more or less goes on regardless of the headlines stirred up by pandemonium in a distant capital. Within a few days on the Camino, I realized this truth in relation to a country and world gripped by the fear of terrorism. While France was reeling in the aftermath of a religious zealot beheading a Catholic priest near Paris, the fear and paranoia spreading throughout the rest of the country and world because of that event had no effect on me and, had I not been told of it’s transpiration, would never have entered my consciousness.

With this in mind, perhaps we owe it to ourselves to question a little more the importance and keeping aware of the goings-on of the world. Is our awareness of events outside our local communities relevant to our ability to enjoy life? More importantly, does that awareness instill any kind of positive outlook on our fellow humans or on the world as a whole? Or does that awareness cause us to retreat, to lock our doors, look over our shoulders, to avoid looking at or talking to our fellow man we come across throughout the day? If awareness causes the latter, perhaps it makes sense to tune out the headlines and look to our own, to make sure our shit stinks a little less, to take care of our families and our neighbors before worrying about immaterial and peripheral concerns of ideological movements and causes. If joining the military and getting out taught me anything, it’s that the world is full of movements and causes and revolutions and wars and group thought–lots and lots of group thought. And I’d rather enjoy the little bit of time I have on this Earth before I–like every crazed human who thought the world needed changing one way or the other or ever thought it a good idea to rope other humans into their beliefs and causes–pass on and become an increasingly distant memory.

Food

Traveling around constantly makes certain tasks difficult or impossible. Now that I’m geographically stable, I’ve been able to try out some new and old food creations. The first is Kombucha, which is a living bacteria culture which ferments and which you then drink. It’s supposedly good for digestive health among other things. I don’t know whether that is true or not, but I enjoy it nonetheless and it’s pretty neat to have a colony of growing beings right in your home.

 

Andrew-Kombucha

 

That scary looking mass is the wafer of bacteria culture which feeds off sugar and creates a couple gallons of fermented glory after 1-2 weeks.

The other is my ginger tea brew I learned from time in Los Angeles. Steep ginger in simmering water for 8-12 hours, or more, cool, drink, and voila, a kick of natural energy. But beware! It has quite a strong flavor.

 

Ginger-Brew

 

Game Of Thrones

In other news, I finally watched all of this TV show over the Winter. If you’ve never seen it and if you only watch one TV show in your life then I heartily recommend this one, if for nothing else than the incredible characters on display. My theory is that the characters all embody a certain idea or virtue, such as honor, redemption, loyalty, motherhood, power, family, tradition, truth, and justice. In other words they all perfectly embody various psychological archetypes. Some adhere so strongly to their internal beliefs and motives that it even gets them killed. There is an interesting allegory in the show which reminds me of today’s world. Early on, most of the characters, the women in particular, live their lives beholden to causes, families, and men. Over the course of the show, many of them start living for themselves, taking control of their own lives. Others fail to rise above and are ground into dust. The women, many of whom one might call ‘weak’ and obviously dependent on the men in their lives in the beginning gradually all become incredibly strong and independent in their own right and stop living their lives in the shadows of men or tradition. Many of the show’s male characters, too, seriously come to question the paths they are led on by their fathers, their families’, their lovers, and when last the characters were seen, you could see a flicker in some of their eyes, a question of why they (and in an allegorical sense, we) risk life, limb, and mental well-being fighting other people’s battles.

It’s fascinating stuff if you can get past the violence and nudity.