Welcome to my Moonbox: a gathering of musings, learnings, and aspirations held (perhaps, sometimes only briefly) by the many expressions of me, Sarita.
From the desk:
Content warning: medical & emotional trauma, surgery, grief.
The snow radiates with the brightness of a star I can never look at directly. Still, the snowlight hurts my eyes. It is almost like the heat that radiates from an enormous bonfire, one you are not particularly close to but feel, how hot the burn must be. The center of all the energy must be cacophonous, something unfathomably distilled into the essence of itself. This can be a metaphor for many things, but I have recently been contending with thus: my own body in the context of knowledge.
Turmoil – a state of great disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty (Oxford Languages Definitions).
Funny that it is a word of unknown origin. But I imagine it as an ever-moving plasma. It has weight to it, there is undulating sound, and there is novelty in its constant regeneration. It both creates and destroys. Turmoil has its own body with its own properties. The uncertainty of it breaks apart the promise of time and distills what it touches into more of itself. The more I compartmentalize it, the more it just sounds like any other body spinning around in space. Like the sun or a black hole or the center of a great burning here on earth. Even like the bodies of ourselves and others. The emitting, the shedding, the radiating — at times, too close, at times, too far — each of us a ruckus of sound and heat. We often pull or take or are pulled and taken. By it, for it, with it — for many of us, we give turmoil both vessel and name.
The bath of knowledge I have recently plunged into is also knowledge I have held for some time. I have a memory of my mother sitting on the couch in the small living room of our second-story apartment. I am in 7th or 8th grade and I watch my grandmother place pillows around my mother to help stabilize her upright position. My mother moves the draining tubes out of the way of the pillows. She has no shirt on. Her upper torso is completely wrapped with a white compression bandage. She looks tired. Thin. Because of her diagnosis, she had to undergo a bilateral mastectomy. Her chest is simply that, a chest of ribs instead of breasts.
For the last twenty-something years, this memory has haunted me. But the haunting has changed shape over time. It was once a tragedy that had befallen my mother, a sudden burst of hot turmoil. She had become something akin to the sun and looking at her hurt. I could not fathom anything she was going through, but my body internalized all of it anyway. More than a decade later, when I was 26, the haunting morphed as I listened to the oncologist relay grim news over the phone: I had inherited the same genetic mutation my mother died from. Suddenly, the memory became a limb of fate, an oracle of time possibly repeating itself. Patrick and I were at the start of a long road trip, on some highway in southern Idaho. We left the pullout on the side of the road and stopped at the first restaurant we came upon, a small diner. I think I ordered pancakes. I think we held hands across the table. It was Patrick’s 30th birthday. Happy birthday. I’m sorry.
I will be turning 35 at the end of this year. Both my mother and her sister were diagnosed when they each turned 38. If you do not already know this story of mine, the BRCA1 mutation claimed both their lives. I recently sat down with my new oncologist here in Durango and for most of the visit I was tossed into my grief. She had sternly reminded me that the success rate of preventative surgery is astronomical, that I needed to have it done. No more denying it. The haunting morphed once again. No longer was it an omen of a distant future, it was a matter of here and now. Of this aging, adult body. The one I’ve learned to love over and over again. But the difference between my mother and me is knowledge, isn’t it? And I’ve been bathing in its turmoil for decades.
I’ve decided that next winter, in early 2024, I will undergo a bilateral mastectomy. There is no cancer at this point, only prevention. But there is also no mother to place and puff up pillows and there are no children to directly witness the gore of unwanted transformation. Next winter, the haunting will become yet again something new. I will not know its body until I wake up from one of many surgeries still yet to come. Maybe it will eventually return to its original form. But after so much time, I wonder why I have considered the haunting as something so separate from me. I suppose in trauma, that is what the brain does to protect the body. Nonetheless, the haunting has become a brightness that radiates with the heat of all my inherited pain, it is an ever-moving plasma with weight and sound, it is a body spinning so wondrously in the vastness of space. It is the snowlight and it is the sun. It is the earth I cling to and the chest of ribs I use to call Patrick’s name. I live by it, for it, with it, in spite of it — oh, turmoil, my greatest body of work, we are not done yet.
(Note: I intend to write a full essay about all of this, so this is a good start. When I began writing this From the Desk intro, I had no idea it would become what it has become. But, here we are. Thank you for reading and sharing this space with me.)
Other life updates: It has been one year since I began Moonbox Notes! The monthly has truly become something I look forward to creating. It is a form of accountability but also an expression of sharing, of creativity, of connectedness — and I hope that you find the monthly interesting, valuable, or simply something to pass the time with (though I admit, sometimes the topics are rather intense). I don’t receive much website traffic in general, but, the work is important to me nonetheless. If you do find value in what I’m doing here, make sure to leave a comment or subscribe.
[Related: Moonbox Notes #11]
La Vida Mundial:
If you’re an active Strava user, there’s an interesting and informative video about the recent Strava Drama pricing debacle that the company has gotten itself into. I use Strava a lot myself as my main training/activity diary (in tandem with a personal excel spreadsheet, ha), and it also has some social qualities to it that I enjoy. For now, I am privileged and willing enough to pay for a subscription (my renewal actually happened before the recent price increase), but we’ll see how long that’ll last if prices continue to go up. Strava as a company and platform has blown up immensely over the past several years and I’m wondering if they’ll offer tiered subscriptions like they used to.
It’s February and the ReNew Earth Running team applications have opened to the general public! As a team member, you set a fundraising goal for yourself in addition to your general support and stoke for the RER mission: “running together to restore land to the stewardship of Tribal Nations and Indigenous leadership.” All funds raised are donated to indigenous-led stewardship initiatives and organizations. Too, when you reach certain fundraising tiers, you receive RER Team apparel, like a singlet or tech shirt. You do not have to be indigenous yourself to apply or to participate, nor do you have to be a fast or avid runner, really. As long as you’re willing to support the mission, support your fellow teammates, and fundraise, you’ll be a wonderful ally.
In the previous Moonbox Notes, I announced that I wasn’t planning to reapply for the ReNew Earth Running team, but I have been having second thoughts! Not only was I encouraged by the founder to reapply, but there is also reassurance in 1) there is room for me and others, and 2) the connection I’ve created with the founding group is really important to me, so of course I want to continue to support them. I plan to run a lot this year, so I was starting to feel an emptiness when envisioning the running without it also contributing to RER fundraising, or using the running as a way to communicate to others about the RER mission. So, yes, I will reapply, and as I say above, you should, too!
On a different note: With all the recent Electric Vehicle hype, I found this article by GearJunkie to be rather pertinent to an important message: we need a more holistic approach to addressing health and climate issues. For example, instead of using the bandaid of creating EVs as a means to decrease emissions, we need to re-think the value of keeping the cars we already have (read: stop buying/making new) in addition to revitalizing public transport and pedestrian access/commuting in our communities. EVs are still quite destructive to the planet to make and as the article points out, EVs are only increasing vehicle contributions to health problems, road wear, and waste. A car is still a car no matter how it is powered, so again, we need to incentivize the use of and access to alternative, human-powered, and shared transit.
It was a great reminder when I recently chatted with my Spanish tutor (who lives in Chile) as to how reliant US society is on individual cars. She was amazed that taking a bus through town to run errands or attend appointments isn’t the standard where I live. And I must admit, public transportation hasn’t ever been habituated into my thought processing. I grew up east of Los Angeles, so, cars were (and still are) everything there. Durango does have a trolley system around town that costs $1 per ride or $3 for the day (& they have other pass types too), which I’ve yet to take advantage of. We can always do better, but we can also ask for and advocate for better as well.
HBD to all February birthdays!
Recent Top Pick Reads:
+ “An Oral History of the National Brotherhood of Skiers,” by Bill Donahue, Outside Online, Outdoor Adventure Long Reads, Jan 5, 2021. The author talks about the historical importance of the National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS) and their legacy of 47 years (at the time of writing), in addition to showcasing the self-told stories of NBS members.
+ “What Counts as Seeing: A conversation between Alice Wong and Ed Yong,” by Alice Wong and Ed Yong, Orion Magazine, Online Articles, July 2022. A really great interview between two very perceptive people. They discuss ableism and the limits of imagination in the context of human (mis)understanding of not only each other but how other species experience the world through their senses.
+ “The Histories We Traverse: Biking and Learning Across the Sierra Nevada,” by Eric Arce, The Radivist, Reportage articles, Feb 9, 2023. Eric Arce went on a biking journey from Los Angeles to the Sierra Nevada region of Paiute lands. Along the way, he stopped to learn from and about historical markers, from the hanging of Josefa in Downieville to the tragic concentration camp of Manzanar, all as a means to inform the sport he loves: mountain biking.
+ “The Soldier and the Soil: An Iraq War veteran’s struggle to cultivate peace, both inside and out,” by Barrett Swanson, Orion Magazine, Online Articles Food & Agriculture, Dec 2017. The author does a great job of investigating how and why veterans become anti-war through the story of Steve, a veteran turned activist farmer.
Books/Mags on the Shelf:
+In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
+Imaginary Peaks by Katie Ives
+Deluge by Leila Chatti
+Creative Nonfiction Magazine, Issue 76, Winter 2022
+A Place Called Doña Ana by James J Drexler
+ “Breaking Trail,” directed by Jesse Roesler, Outside Online, Documentary, 2021. As the first woman and first person of color to thru-hike the 1200-mile Ice Age Trail in winter, we witness what it means for Emily Ford to take on this journey, learning from history, from Ojibwe origin story, and from the kindness of strangers. A very powerful film! (Note: Outside TV media does require an Outside+ membership, unfortunately.)
+ “Sergio Avila: Intelligence of Animals, Using Your Voice and Privilege & Showing Up for People,” You Are A Big Deal Podcast with Becca Jay, Apple Podcasts, Jan 15, 2023. Sergio and Becca (both RER teammates of mine) discuss language, advocacy, and how showing up really matters, particularly as a man in regard to women’s issues/injustices.
+ “Terumi Murao: Sustainability, Surfing and Navigating Privilege,” The Trail Ahead Podcast with Faith E. Briggs and Addie Thompson, Episode 22, July 18, 2022. A wonderful and sobering conversation regarding fashion sustainability, privilege, racism, and representation in the outdoors.
+ “Stewardship Hereafter,” Black Mountain Radio Podcast, Season 2 Episode 4, Feb 20, 2022. Food activism and liberation with Jocelyn Jackson and Cheyenne Kyle; the history, impact, and revolution of river damnation with artist Carolina Caycedo; the reimagination and the inheritance of the Declaration of Independence with poet Faylita Hicks.
Writing/Projects: (updates are highlighted)
+I’ve begun writing a new short fiction piece with a temporary title of, “How I Came To Be.”
My online writing course with Orion Magazine, “Writing Resilience through Our Relationship with Wildness,” has been postponed until September 2023 due to the instructor having a family emergency.
+I currently have zero general submissions in the ether.
+ “When We Visit,” a short creative nonfiction essay for Campfire Stories Volume II anthology: Finished stage. The book is due to come out this Spring, 2023.
+The hybrid essay I wrote last year, “Chuckwalla,” still needs some major revision before I consider submitting again. I’ve begun another research phase as well.
+I have a Science Fiction novella that I’ve been slowly working on since 2017.
- Patrick and I celebrated 8 years of being together this month! Happy anniversary to us. 🙂
Thanks for tuning in to Sarita’s Moonbox.