In Vino Veritas: Of Writing, Reading, and Travelling

Television. I’m loving it. It’s a limited-time offer, so act now! I’ve paused during an American Masters biography about Alice Walker. Man, she kicks more ass than I thought. I love a smart, confrontational woman.

These lazy nights with movies and TV, they’re an indulgence I know I’ll be foregoing within the year. When I’m travelling, I won’t be watching much TV or film. I’m really seeking a “writer’s life” abroad. I’ll be hopefully working about 30% fewer hours in my editing dayjob, down about 50% overall since a decade ago, and that may help with reading.

There are two things I want to do more — be still, and read. Being still is self-explanatory. Put down the phone, be in the moment. Stare at whatever’s ahead of me.

Reading’s another beast altogether. My dayjob really gets in the way of wanting to read. I edit and read all day long. Between reading the day’s news on the web (which I do a lot of) and work, I don’t have books left in me.

The whole point of going abroad is that I want to try to live well for $2000 a month, not the $3000 or so it can be here. While I want to save more, I also want to work less. Work for for other people less, that is. Read more, write more for myself on projects of interest to me. As I said, the latter isn’t “work.”

The Unreading Writer

snoopy-writing1I have a lot of ideas. A murder mystery. Short fiction. Non-fiction series ideas on food and terroir. But mostly I want to journal and write about life and the people and experiences that come with. In another lifetime, they’d have called me a diarist. In this, I’m a “blogger,” for good or ill.

When I was a Duthie’s bookseller (RIP), I used to read probably three books a week and four newspapers a day. Nothing quite like the joy of a job that lets you read while you work, right?

I don’t read now. That’s not oversimplifying it. The things with pages? They don’t happen here. Every now and then that scene flashes across my brain, where Matt Damon rants at Robin Williams that he doesn’t “understand” the people who surround themselves with all these books, and they’re “the wrong fucking books.”

I have the right fucking books but they’re going unread in lieu of digital media. I used to be the kind of writer/reader who always said profound and snazzily-worded things at engagements and now I’ve become the type who needs to drink a couple glasses of water just to be sure I don’t mumble like some anti-social reject.

Ahh, the old days of being literate as a matter of course. Good times!

On the Clock

So I’ll be abroad, where I’m sure there will be many who bedazzle me with their command of English as a second language, but then there will be many who make my soul weep as the ancient language of my peoples gets bludgeoned into oblivion. I’ve taught ESL. I already know this feeling.

As an antidote to the bludgeoned lingo, I will forego filmed entertainment much more, and turn to words, words, words.

It’s pretty enthralling to think of writing abroad. I think some people travel so they’ll have something to write about later, but I’ll push “pause” and fulfill my promise of writing daily.

I have no illusions of how lucky I am to be able to do this. And by “be able to do this,” I mean simply choosing to do so. I’m not the only person who works from home, isn’t in love, and doesn’t have kids. Others could do this, they just don’t. Or it hasn’t occurred to them.

But I can. I am. I recognize that the only thing holding me back is people I see maybe a handful of times a year and some material belongings. There’s an entire planet full of amazing opportunities, cultures that are changing by the minute, landscapes that are here today maybe gone tomorrow, and my clock is ticking. My mother had 16 years left in her life when she was my age. 16 years. That’s it, man.

Aging Like a Bad-Ass

I’m a first date and a driver’s license away from her death. That’s not a lot of time. Of course, my granny died at 88, so those are the genes I’m hoping I scored. Piss, vinegar, a great smile, and persistence, my granny Mae in a nutshell.

I’d like to be one of those old ladies owning her white hair, great glasses, a caftan, and smoking a bong, laughing with similar-minded old writers and artists in some secluded community, like I’ve seen in documentaries. I love those old artist types. “Fuck you, I’ll say what I want! I’m an artist at 80. My friends are all dead and I’ve earned the right to speak for us all.”

I’m not as good of a writer I can be. I believe writing is an ever-improving craft and it’s not just about the words. It’s about all the stuff that bubbles under my skin and whether I have the guts to go in there and pop the bubbles. The stuff that scares us and provokes us and enrages us, that’s what we need to tap into. Not just _____ character in ______ setting. It’s that inner-battle that makes anything worth reading about. Give me pathos and passion.

The School of Travel

I suppose that’s what my travel plans are. Pulling back all the safety nets, distilling life down to a few tech gadgets and a single suitcase, going full-on “no fixed address,” it’s all a way to really see what lurks within. I can’t wait to see what comes out of my head when I’m in 24/7 newness, with cultures confronting my own preconceptions of the way things be. I want to see what overcoming fears, adapting to new situations, meeting people I couldn’t have imagined, and busting through personal barriers results in as a writer.

I can’t know. You can’t know. That shit’s like alchemy. You put it in the pot, melt it down, and wait. You get lucky or you don’t. I personally don’t see how this could make me a worse writer, though. That shit doesn’t compute at all. It’s not a factor. Not possible.

That’s not cockiness, that’s just reality. There isn’t a person on this planet I don’t think could benefit from travelling through other cultures and trashing their prejudices. It makes us all better — writers included.

My Not-So-Secret Life as a Recluse

It’s funny, because in some ways, it’s like I moved to Victoria in 2012 and pressed the “pause” button on life. I haven’t sought out new friends, I’ve barely lived beyond a five-square-kilometre area here.

But I mean, seriously, if you asked me five years ago how I would feel about living a life where I didn’t have to see anyone, didn’t have to go anywhere, and didn’t have to work in an office, while having the freedom to walk to a beach, downtown, or to a world-class park, all while avoiding buses and not owning a car, I would’ve laughed at you and said it was a no-brainer, sign me up.

This life I’ve led of virtually no one, no events, no obligations, no belonging — it’s been a kind of dream come true too. I may never, ever have this opportunity again. I’m sure other people would go “But how much did you miss out on? What have you NOT seen?”

I’ve seen hundreds of sunsets or sunrises. I’ve eaten great food. I’ve heard silence often, and for long stretches. I refound my love for writing. I rediscovered photography. I’ve learned more in cooking. I doubled my income. In a year where I wrote under 50 things, one was read by 200,000 people. It’s been a great ride here. It’s been the ride I needed to have.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve grown here, how much wisdom I’ve gained, how much I’ve lowered my expectations on what I need back from life — in a way that makes happiness easier to have and enjoy.

No, I’m not “happy.” Not yet. I work too much, I’m tired, I long to travel, but I’ve found a creative solution to that, haven’t I? I want to “work” as much as I do, but I don’t consider writing like this to be work. This is more like waking up and being myself. That’s personal time spent in a way I love to spend it.

There’s a whole planet out there that I’ve only seen two-dimensionally. I feel like my life’s about to go from black-and-white to Technicolor.

As a writer, man… phew. That’s got me wound right up. It’s not often in life that we have the privilege of knowing when fast-paced personal growth is ahead of us, let alone what the catalyst for all of it is. Even more seldom is when our whole life becomes something that’s more play than work, for years.

I’m going to travel the world, bitches. For years. I’m going to flip the switch, become one of the most social people you’ve ever seen, and be a true woman of words on the road. I just cannot wait to see the other side of who I can be. What a fun ride is ahead.

And now, back to my scheduled program.

My Kicked-Up Cocoa-Chipotle, Espresso Stout, Black Bean, & Bison Chili

I’m a cooking nerd. I have a cookbook for sale (prelaunched last summer, it’ll be “relaunched” in the late-spring, and if you get the Gumroad PDF, you’ll get a free update when one comes out in the next three months).

This is my latest invention in the kitchen and it’s pretty awesome, plus super-healthy.

Bison is basically the highest in protein and lowest in fat when it comes to meat, and when it’s grass-fed local free range bison, you’re talking seriously flavourful low-fat high-protein. I’m trying to nix the inflammatory things in my life (like beef) and replace them with better choices (such as bison).

Bison & Black Bean chili with homemade skillet cornbread (see NY Times recipe for maple & brown butter skillet cornbread -- yum) and a lime-cilantro yogurt.

Bison & Black Bean chili with homemade skillet cornbread (see NY Times recipe for maple & brown butter skillet cornbread — yum) and a lime-cilantro yogurt.

I doled out $13 for a pound of bison reared less than an hour from town. I had a couple 19-oz cans of $2 organic black beans, two 19-ounce cans of high-grade organic tomato pulp from Italy, and a $7.90 bottle of local craft beer, Hoyne Brewing’s Voltage Espresso Stout — a seriously coffee’d beer.

All that translates to a batch of chili ringing in above $30. Zoinks. This won’t be a regular occurrence at my house, but ohmigod, hello, happy place.

Thus I would like to share with you my labour-of-love long-stewed uber-expensive chili that will make you think maybe there should be a little more high-end chili on the menu in this hipster joints around town.

Without ado:

Steff’s Kicked-up Cocoa-Chipotle,
Espresso Stout, Black Bean, & Bison Chili

Best made in a cast-iron Dutch oven. You’re gonna need a 5qt thingie for cooking this. Lid, too.

  • 1 pound bison (or organic beef or pork)
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat or olive oil or butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin*
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander*
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder*
  • 1–2 canned chipotle peppers chopped finely — 2 is VERY spicy, 1 medium, go for ½ if you’re timid
  • 1–2 teaspoons adobo sauce from the canned chipotles (same heat scale — 2 very spicy, etc)
  • 750 ml espresso stout (or other strong stout but the espresso is a nice touch, beef stock if you avoid booze)
  • 2 x 19oz tomato pulp or diced tomatoes (not puree or sauce)
  • 2 x 19oz cans black beans (drained and rinsed well)
  • generous salt (taste as you go; salt absorbs over time and the flavours change, so taste it after 2 hours then every one hour, and adjust each time. Overall, I used a couple tablespoons of coarse sea salt.)
  • chopped or diced avocado to garnish
  • lime-cilantro strained yogurt (see recipe following)

Brown the bison. Reserve. Don’t bother straining the fat; there’s very little and it’s the “good” fat, plus: flavour.

Heat your bacon fat/butter/oil in the same pan. Add onions. Cook for about 5 minutes over medium. About halfway through, add your spices, cocoa, chipotle, and adobo and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the garlic, cook another minute. Deglaze the pan with your bottle of beer. It seems like a LOT of beer, but you’re cooking it down for HOURS and all that’s left is the espresso-stout flavour, not liquid.

Let it cook for 2–5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bison, black beans, and a whack of salt. Let it come up to a light boil, then simmer on LOWEST HEAT for the next 4–6 hours. After 3 or so hours, start to cover it. Stir it regularly. It’s done when your wooden spoon stands straight up for at least a minute and the flavours seem to make a symphony of yum in your mouth.

See below for lime-cilantro yogurt.

See? The spoon stands up. It was still standing three minutes later. This is when you know it is done. Seriously.

See? The spoon stands up. It was still standing three minutes later. This is when you know it is done. Seriously.

Lime-Cilantro Strained Yogurt

You can do this with sour cream too, but I’m assuming you’re spending $13/lb for grass-fed bison because you’re trying to be healthy like I am, so let’s go for yogurt.

Now I believe in the “healthy fats are fine” axiom which means my yogurt’s a 6% fat minimum. Use Balkan Style or Greek yogurt. If you’re going for low-fat yogurt, seriously, just skip it, because that shit’s not even good for you, and the lower the fat content, the less strained yogurt you’ll have to work with. Similarly, the higher the fat, the less wasted whey to throw out at the end.

Either go for the fat and eat natural food or skip the processed low-fat crap. Sorry, but someone’s gotta straighten people out and I volunteered.

Anyhow, to make strained yogurt: Line a sieve with thick paper towel, position it over a bowl, dump your 750ml of full-fat Balkan or Greek yogurt into it, let it strain for 4 hours, and it’ll be thick and rich and you’ll not miss sour cream at all.

  • 750 ml full-fat Balkan or Greek yogurt (rinse and keep the container for storage; expiry date = yay!)
  • Juice of a large, heavy lime (heavier = juicier)
  • Cilantro to taste (I used ½ a medium bunch, plus stems)
  • Salt to taste

Puree this all together, season it, and refrigerate until needed. Good until the yogurt expires or cilantro tastes funky.

Use as a topping on chili, tacos, baked potatoes, hash browns, etc.

*If you’re scared of HOT stuff, just cut back on the chipotle and the adobo sauce. The * spices won’t really move the Richter scale. They’re all about flavour, and you like flavour, don’t you?

In Which Steff Gets Nerdy About Genealogy

Down the rabbit-hole I go.

Genealogy, which I’ve been interested in for the last few years for some reason, is starting to be a thing, officially.

I’ve learned in just the last 24 hours that my family, Clan Cameron, fought on the side of Robert the Bruce in the Scottish wars of independence, 1314. I’ve learned that my Cameron in particular emigrated to Canada on a ship called the Rambler out of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, 1806 by Clan Cameron records but recorded as having left their island in 1790 by my family’s records. They had lived on the Isle of Barra, southernmost inhabited island of the rugged, isolated Outer Hebridean islands, and possibly they moved to Mull for a while, or elsewhere, before ultimately taking on the new world in 1806. This coincides with the Highland Clearances, so perhaps it wasn’t an “optional” departure.

Okay. Best family war cry EVER, right? SERIOUSLY.

Okay. Best family war cry EVER, right? SERIOUSLY.

There’s even a Clan Cameron DNA project! And we have a MUSEUM, bitches.

We have Irish blood on my father’s side too, the Monks. Some of my family have opened relations with the Monks remaining in Ireland, which I didn’t know, and now I might be able to have a whole new kind of adventure in the British islands, one filled with meeting kin I never knew I had. Gosh.

Leaving Home to Find Home

Then there’s my mother’s side, which I know others have compiled information on, which hail from both Ireland and France. Normandy! Brittany! In my blood. Hers was the first generation to not have French as their first language, a fact which troubles me even now. But still, all of these people were a coastal people. I’ve always said saltwater was in my veins, but it’s proving more true now than ever.

I cannot tell you how exciting it is to start having a sense of these things. I didn’t know it would mean so much to me. I’m thrilled to go digging over the next couple of years. The idea of being able to investigate church records and archives on the ground in communities that my families have had ties to for centuries makes me bubble with giddiness.

It’s funny how it seems like only one generation in the whole of my father’s ancestral history might have moved off of an island — he and his generation. Our people moved from the Outer Hebrides’ rugged isolated island to Prince Edward Island, famous for similarly brutal winters, and there they farmed for the next two centuries. Many of my family remain there and throughout the Maritimes.

My father was the first to move to terra firma mainland, but here in the next generation, both his children have moved to a new island, where I am today. My brother and I are both now living on Vancouver Island. Both of us report feeling more “at home” than we have in literally decades.

Are these things really imprinted on the DNA? Are we truly islanders at heart, and have we been for centuries, if not millennia? Is that why it feels like “home” to be separated by a ferry from the Mainland again, after a generation of having been backwards about it?

I don’t know. But I’ll love finding out.

History Is Cool

Later this year, once my trip plans are solidifying, I think an expedition to the UK looms for next spring, summer, and fall, to learn who I am, where my family heralds from, and what the history entails across all branches of my family tree. Eight families, eight histories.

The modern Clan Cameron crest. The motto is "Let us unite."

The modern Clan Cameron crest. The motto is “Let us unite.”

History will be a huge theme in my travels anyhow. I want to stay in all the old buildings — I’ve already found a 15th century Tuscan farmhouse, Spanish villa from 1683. I’ll wander Roman ruins, gape in awe under massive cathedrals, pore through museums. If you want to find me, wherever I’m visiting, head for the Old Towns. It’s there I’ll likely be.

I really do dream of tracking my Irish family as well as my Scots side. I want to learn how the potato famine affected my people, whether we were in workhouses for the poor. I want to know if we were shit-disturbers from ages ago. It seems to run as a theme in my family, where we’re all straight-spoken sturdy sorts.

We’re also survivors. Hard-workers who overcome adversity and roll with whatever life presents us. No doubt a necessary trait for people eking out a life on a scrub of a rock in the southern Outer Hebrides, staring off into the gaping maw of the Atlantic for possibly centuries of wind-battered struggle.

I don’t expect to find fame and fortune in my line. I expect a lot of adversity and challenges, social conscience and diligence. There’s no shame in being the hard workers, the line fighters.

Will I feel my life more validated by knowing the history that precedes me? For whatever intangible reason, yes, probably. I don’t know why that is. We’re a tribal people, I guess, and that sense of belonging is just another attribute of our DNA, perhaps.

In any case, Steff the Sleuth gets to don her inspector’s cap this year, with the help of cousins and other family members, and get to the roots of her family tree.

I’m a very happy camper about this. I’ll tell you some tales as I learn them and share some of my methods with you.

If you’re curious about your family tree, definitely take to social media and ask about it. Your loose connections with family on Facebook may have done far more research that you realize! After all, it’s 24 hours later and I now have a stack of papers with four lines of my family’s names in front of me. Monks, Hynes, and Whites… I’m comin’ for ya.

Trusting in the School of Life

Something flipped my switch, making me think about trust this morning. Trust and asking for help. I don’t really do these things well.

In my full-nomad life of globetrotting to come, I suspect the lessons I’ll learn fastest, hardest, most often will do with trusting others and asking for help from folks who’ve got nothing to gain from helping me.

I could tell you I’m travelling the world alone, and sort of I am, but really, I’m not. Every trip will mean me relying on the kindness of others, and trusting that everything will work out so I get where I need to be when I need to be there.

People after people after people. Flashes of life before my eyes, and then they’ll be gone again, all playing a small, fleeting moment of importance in my journey.

It’s All in the Fix

There are no rules, really, to travelling the world. Most people I know who have travelled long-term did it on savings and didn’t have to work, so hostels were a great way to keep costs down.

Not an option for me. I’ll have to work 30 hours a week, perhaps more if I’m writing well and often. At the very minimum, I’ll need a private room. I also want to do a lot of cooking when I live in towns with famous markets.

For the cooking and the penchant for panstlessness, it’s in my nature to want to have apartments entirely to myself when I travel. Still, I’ve recently made a choice that at least ⅓ to ½ the time, I will stay with hosted AirBNB places.

Bonus points if it’s run by:

  • A Granny
  • A savvy middle-aged artsy woman who makes bold life decisions
  • Foodies who offer opt-in meals that are traditional and regional

Options include lovely families on farms, an avant garde female journalist in Morocco, a Frenchman who enjoys cooking at a professional level, and so many other stories and biographies of people I can stay with.

Megolithic stones of Camaret, France, in Brittany, where I hope to spend 4-6 weeks. By y.caradec.

Megaliths in Camaret-sur-Mer, France, in Finistere, Brittany, where I hope to spend 4–6 weeks. By y.caradec.

The Gift of Limitations

It’s easy to think that having to travel on a budget is a “downside,” but I think it’s a gift.

One of my “limitations” in my travel plan is the goal of spending under $750/month in lodging fees. That excludes a lot of cities unless I want to splurge for a week and follow it up with a budget stay. It also dictates when I can visit popular places (since winter months are cheaper), and it will make me have to make difficult or creative travel choices for a while.

It’d be easier to achieve that budget in South America, but I just want to see Europe in-depth so badly. There are a lot of travel-free years I have to atone for. Plus, I want to eat all the foods and drink all the wines. They encourage drinking at lunch, people. AT LUNCH. And naps!

Why wouldn’t I want to start travelling there?

Lost in Translation

As time passes, I start realizing what it’ll be like with people who often don’t speak English or who do it badly. This will further hone my ability to trust because I won’t understand them very well either and we’re apt to have mixed messages.

Then there’s travel’s unpredictability. One of my neuroses is how it sends me for a tizzy when things don’t work out PRECISELY as I plan. This is exactly what’s going to test me the most. At least I can take solace in that I usually roll really well with adversity and changes in the plan — after an initial freak-out phase, before I take a few breaths and sort that shit out. I suspect travelling will streamline how quickly I transition from freak-out to sort-out in the future, though, and for the better.

Waiting On My Soul to Change

It will all be worth it, though. The biggest classroom, the best lessons, the longest learning experience of my life. They will all be worth it.

I’m excited to see how living-on-the-road travel changes me, how being immersed in other cultures and values reminds me of what’s important in life.

I’m even excited to have WiFi and data plans become problematic, because I’m looking forward to life where I’m engaged and observant all the time, not distracted and staring into my phone.

I’ll also appreciate food a lot more when I seldom have a kitchen I can just walk into and cook in, or when I’m constantly ordering meals in different languages only to find out after the fact that it’s something I abhor. “Oh, look. It’s tripe stew.”

Daydreaming Through Dreariness

My adversities of my 30s really taught me a lot about what the “big things” in life are, and how stupid so much of what we worry about is. I expect for these lessons to be amplified when I’m on the road. All the things I can’t change. All the things out of my power. All the things that can be improvised.

All the things.

It’s increasingly hard for me to live in the present, but I think that’s less about my wanting to get out on the road and more about the fact that January just kind of sucks. Got the no-good winter blues, baby.

When spring comes here in Victoria, it’s a magical time, and it’ll be easier being in the moment and remembering that all I need is a good coffee, a seaside seat, and the time to enjoy it. While I can, here.

A friend just asked me this morning if I would move back to Victoria when these travels are all said and done.

Gotta tell ya, the more I look at the rest of the world, the more that answer’s likely to be no. It takes so much to have the money to live the “good” life here. The swish-swish-zoom-zoom of traffic isn’t really my idea of bliss anyhow. I think a more remote life awaits me in the next chapter after travelling. It’s just a matter of where in the world it’ll be.

The funny thing is, I trust that I’ll find a place that completes me and makes me feel like I have everything I want. I know it’s out there. I know it. People will tell you they travel because they’re looking to find something, learn something. I’m sort of travelling to find my tribe, my place in the world, my passion for people. If there’s anything I trust already, it’s my ability to find that.

That’s a good start.

Imagining Where In The World I Am: En Route to Morocco?

Every few days, I think of a new possible combination of places to go in my first year abroad. Overnight, I had a nine-hour sleep but awoke with a headache as the forces of weather good and evil battle it out and days of sun establish themselves off the coast here.

This headache and the dread with which I approach work also makes it possible for me to daydream about the life I might be leading one year from now.

I’m pretty firm on where I’ll be in my first three months. It’s Croatia. After that, that’s when matters change. Will I do Northern Spain and Portugal, then France, then Prague, as I first thought? I don’t know.

This week I’m imagining a different route. Pack up around now in January, 2016, spend a couple days in Venice, then make my way down through Spain, staying here and there, exploring Andalusia a bit before spending a bit in Tarifa, especially with a car rental. (If you’ve ever read the wonderful tale about following your dreams, The Alchemist, it largely takes place around there.)

I found a 330-year-old building I want to stay in for a bit in Tarifa. Amazing architecture, and to live inside a building that predates the first German settlers arriving in North America, where someone might have sat reading the first edition of the just-published in 1684 Principia by Sir Isaac Newton… I mean, this is mind-boggling stuff to someone still impressed her apartment is from 1931.

Then a ferry to Morocco, specifically Tangier, where I’ve found a B&B decorated to 1800s Moroccan glory. It’s jaw-droppingly beautiful and would be a real splurge, but Morocco is my dream trip. Like, dream trip.

I have a little town on the coast of Morocco I’d like to stay in, possibly for up to a month, just writing, relaxing, photographing the water, eating Berber food, and planning my future.

This would take me to about April or May, avoiding the hottest part of North Africa’s year. Then, off to who knows where? Perhaps Prague, Georgia, and other less-scorchy places for the summer months.

The best part of not committing to a plan is being able to dream of the endless opportunities I might have to explore and wander. All of them are good. All of them are enticing.

Dreaming is a lovely thing.

For now, time to work.

Photo by Odolphie, looking toward Spain from Tangier's ports.

Photo by Odolphie, looking toward Spain from Tangier’s ports.

Je Suis Charlie”

There was a time when I wished I was born in another era. I had romantic dreams of journalism as a youth, and still do. I believe media changes the world.

I know there are bad journalists and there are corporate entities fucking it all up, but if you talk to the average news journalist, they’re genuinely in it to tackle things they see wrong in the world. They’re in it to spread truth, challenge corruption, and effect change.

Journalists are always people I hold in highest regard. And rightly so.

Je Suis Charlie at AFP Paris


Night has fallen in Paris and the streets have been taken over by protestors and those wanting to pay tribute to the fallen members of Charlie Hebdo, the satirist paper that has never shied from controversy. They brandish pens in the air, shouting “Charlie! Charlie!”

Apparently Parisians have failed to realize they’re supposed to be terrorized in the wake of this attack. This is what happens when you attack what is arguably the birthplace of modern democracy as we know it.


Somehow, when life takes a turn for the evil, the horrible, or the immeasurably stupid, I seek a moment of beauty or humanity to remind me that it’s all going to be okay again.

Evil, inhumanity, these things aren’t modern inventions. They’re part of what mankind is, and we’ve had evil and badness among us since time began. Look at slaughters in Ancient Egypt, invasions by the Mongol Hordes.

We’ve simply improved efficiency (yay, guns!), and media is omnipresent, ensuring these events seldom go unheard today.

These shootings, slaughters, murders, and more — they’re going nowhere. Neither are the bad guys. You may dream of that day, but good luck coping with the inevitable truth that it’s simply a part of our (in)humanity. Nature is a beast, after all.

The animal kingdom does it too. Lions eat their young. Dolphins can commit infanticide with intentional impact injuries. For whatever reason, this ability to act with ultimate cruelty is stamped in DNA across species.

With 7.2 billion people on the planet, perhaps killing each other has been partly of biological/environmental necessity, but our ethical code teaches the majority of us that, even if our survival depends on population cull, it’s not something that most of us are capable of committing or ignoring. We’d rather be in it together with a compromised planet than witness mass loss that might save ourselves.

Look at the hundreds of thousands dead in the tsunami of 10 years ago. It felt like a gaping wound was ripped into the planet. We all felt the loss and horror of their adversity.


So days like today, when 12 people are killed because of one evil organization’s intent on squelching the freedom of the press, it’s strangely affecting. Just 12 people, out of 7 billion, but it’s 12 people who died for a reason that no person should die — because they wanted to challenge ideas, inspire dialogue, and push the envelope.

There is no sense to be made of this. Aside from spreading the news, not allowing it to happen in a vacuum, what else is there for us to do?

Admittedly, I’m a newshound. I follow these stories like a dog on a scent. It’s what I do. But I also walk away. Go back and find all the incidents of terror and mass shootings — outside of America, that is, because mass shootings in America have grown tragically all too common — and you’ll find 90% of the time I’ll take a long walk or bike ride to remind myself that the planet is largely beautiful, most people are kind, and it’ll remain that way most of the time.

The sunrise this morning, what I chose to seek after getting the news of this senseless slaughter. The world is beautiful. This trumps the evil of a few.

The sunrise this morning, what I chose to seek after getting the news of this senseless slaughter. The world is beautiful. This trumps the evil of a few.


Still, it’s a sad day. A horrible crime. A terrible thing to die for.

It’s a day that reminds me why I’m so outspoken, why I don’t censor myself. My language, the news I circulate, the opinions I raise like a flag, all these things are because I believe we need to speak truth to power — every one of us. Change happens on a personal level before it can take hold in society.

If you are too timid to say what you think, too scared to stand up to power, too apathetic to get involved — then the terrorists, the corrupt governments, the bad people, they all win.

Remind yourself that it’s a beautiful world. It’s worth fighting for and standing up to speak your truth. Otherwise why did these 12 people die?

Like the publisher gunned down today once said — he’d rather die on his feet than live on his knees. I like to think he was standing when those motherfuckers opened fire.

Today, my heart is with all those journalists and editorial cartoonists who feel emptier and less safe after this terrible attack.

But they’re just one small part of the fabric of humanity, and we good guys have strength in numbers.