Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Hello 2013

Snowy morning at the sanctuary

Snowy morning at the sanctuary

WordPress sent their annual “year in review” link recently. In 2012 I had 24 posts, and 12,000 views. I went back to look at last year. Last year was 21 posts and 15,000 views! Clearly I’m posting too often. :D

I’m not really one for new year resolutions or year-in-review retrospectives, but seeing the numbers does get me thinking. Also, reading Mary’s blog gets me thinking – more on that in a minute.

I’ve never had a very specific purpose for this blog. I started it when someone I was friends with at the time said something along the lines of: you should start a blog about activism, with pictures.

And so I did. Slowly, inconsistently, but generally somewhere along those lines. I know she had in her head something maybe more photojournalistic. And perhaps that’s sometimes what I do. It has evolved to be mostly about the sanctuary, which makes sense, because that’s mostly what I do as far as activism goes. That’s where most of my pictures are taken, and that’s where I find most of my inspiration.

Geese in the snow

Geese in the snow

So my activism has essentially become that of sanctuary photography. I’m happy with that. I actually love that. And maybe there is more I could do with that. Perhaps I’ll explore that more this year.

And that brings me to Mary’s post! I read it just as I was struggling with starting this post, and I immediately bought “Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard” to read on my Kindle. I had a couple hours to kill while I waited for word from the mechanic on my poor old truck (final verdict: it will live), and so I started reading it immediately, and was energized and motivated and excited.

I’m only 65% through it, but based on what I’ve gotten from it so far I’d highly recommend it.

But start with Mary’s post.

Darcy, Tally, Gloria and Sal heading out into the snowy day

Darcy, Tally, Gloria and Sal heading out into the snowy day

I have a lot of things pinging through my head, most of them about how important support is. How overwhelming it can seem when you want to start out, but aren’t sure where (or how) to start. I think a lot about biking, perhaps because I found transitioning to vegan easy, but struggle a lot more with biking. (I bike commute about 6,000 miles/year — 26 miles / workday — but am still as likely to drive the 2 miles to the grocery store as bike there.)

Biking was, and sometimes is, hard. I love it, but it is sometimes intimidating for me. When I bike to new areas, I tend to research a lot. I use google maps to get a start on the best route. I will alter the route to take me along already-known paths/roads first. I use the street view to have an idea of what to expect en route as well as at the destination. I’ll email locations to find out ahead of time if they have bike parking, or ask friends on twitter or Facebook if I know they’ve been there.

Biking is a lot easier for other people than it is for me, or that’s what it has seemed like to me. I know a lot of people who describe their switch from driving to biking as if it was simply a fun thing to do. And there is some truth to that: biking IS fun. I enjoy it so much more than being in the car. It’s just that I have to think so much more about it.

I’ve explained to many of my coworkers when they say “you rode in THIS weather?” that aside from certain limits that I’ve set (more than 5″ of snow, or wind gusts greater than 60mph) I bike every day. I don’t give myself any other option, because if I allow myself excuses one day, I will find excuses every day.

This is me. I know myself well enough for this, at least. What I have learned in “Switch” is that by setting very specific rules (ride every day that there are less than 5″ of snow on the roads and the winds are gusting at less than 60mph) I made bike commuting both my habit and part of my identity, and those are both extremely powerful forces.

But going vegan was easy for me. Sure, there were some challenges, but for whatever reason there were never challenges that stumped me, or that made me backslide. I was lucky enough to have support (online), which definitely made things easier. Some insight from “Switch” is that perhaps one reason I found it easy to go vegan is that shortly after I went vegan I realized that many of my favorite vegetarian meals were already vegan. Or easily made vegan. Being partway to a goal makes us more likely to accomplish that goal. (This is why Mary mentioned in her post that she will point out to people everything they already eat that is vegan.)

Bernard, Caryle, Charlotte and the herd in the snow

Bernard, Caryle, Charlotte and the herd in the snow

So when I go into vegan advocacy mode, I very often think about biking. Going vegan isn’t easy for everyone, and I know from my experiences with biking, and from my experiences reading what others say about it, that if you are struggling, reading someone else talking about how fun it is just isn’t always helpful. “Just hop on the bike and ride! Don’t think about it!” Except that I have to think about it, or I’ll end up at work with no breakfast or lunch and no decent place to get food. I have to figure out not just what to bring (and how much), but how to bring it. I have to bring my work clothes because a hour-long hilly bike ride requires (in my opinion) different clothes than business-casual-desk-job clothes, and I have to bring tools and tubes in case of a flat. Biking, for me, requires strategy.

On the other hand, reading about how rewarding it is, despite the challenges, is helpful for me. Reading about how other people tackle these challenges is motivating.

Jonathan and Dexter, greeting in the snow

Jonathan and Dexter, greeting in the snow

I had a very miserable ride home from work last week. Even as I rode, I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t that miserable. And maybe it wasn’t. There was a certain element of satisfaction that comes from battling the elements, but after about 40 minutes I was just tired and cold and drenched and pretty much miserable. My entire focus was on how much longer I’d have to be on the bike, outside in that crappy weather.

And even as I acknowledged this, I was thinking about how I’d answer the inevitable question at work the next day: “how was your ride home?”

And how I would spin it. Because being the only bike commuter means I’m representing bike commuting, always, every day. It’s a lot like being vegan, it’s just more visible.

Finally, I decided that there was no point in being anything but honest.

“That was a miserable ride,” I admitted to myself.

And once I admitted that, the very next thought – unprompted, unscripted, and absolutely honest – was, “and it was still better than driving.”

That’s my truth.

And maybe that’s the truth when we’re sitting at the most vegan-unfriendly team lunch nibbling on a pathetic salad with our stomach growling, and miserable both because wilted lettuce with shredded carrots isn’t going to cut it and also because a “team” lunch that ignores the need of some of the team members is a slap in the face: those are miserable experiences, but they are still better than not sticking to our ethics.

After all, we can bring snacks with us to the restaurant. (You can bring an entire meal into the restaurant if you want.) We can eat before or after. We can survive being hungry until we get home. It isn’t ideal, but miserable team lunches aren’t the every day reality of being vegan. Being vegan doesn’t mean deprivation and hunger. Though it does sometimes mean incredibly crappy team lunches.

Most of my bike commutes are great. I ride through a short but beautiful wooded section. I see turtles and snakes (not during the winter, granted), and deer and turkeys and foxes. I get a huge boost of endorphins, and a huge release of stress. Biking is an overwhelmingly positive thing in my life. But sometimes I have a miserable commute.

And that’s okay. I think that’s the point. It isn’t always fun, it isn’t always easy. But it’s still worth it. And usually it is fun, and once it’s our habit it is usually easy too.

Pigs, waiting for treats

Waiting for treats…

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3 responses to “Hello 2013

  1. illuminary January 2, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Deb~
    I am not sure I could ever be “enthusiastic” about a bike commute. ~laughing~ but then I walk 3 miles to the post office and am at some point invariably diving into the dith as some rock truck tries to kill me. We have had 3 cyclist Fatalities in this area in the past year.
    So.. I think there is PLENTY to consider.
    ~smile~
    and your team lunches, sound like a slice of hell…
    I love the photo of the geese!

    • Deb January 5, 2013 at 8:10 pm

      Full disclosure: I expected to *hate* bike commuting. True story! And I was so intimidated at first that I rode to work at 5:30am the first few times so I wouldn’t have to deal with much traffic.

      As far as fatalities…there is much that could be done most everywhere to improve safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. I don’t find it all that helpful to point out statistics for just one mode of travel, however. We, as drivers, simply accept that some people die in car wrecks, and never use it as a reason or argument against driving. However, it is the reality. Anytime we get in the car, we might die. The most dangerous activity a child engages in is riding in the car. (For real.) But we never talk about that. We know the risk, we accept the risk, we ignore the risk. But as soon as we talk about biking, suddenly the risk is a huge focus!

      Yes, I could die riding my bike. Or walking to the store. Or driving to the sanctuary.

      In terms of numbers and statistics, in order of greatest likelihood of leading to death, it goes:
      – walking
      – driving
      – biking

      I mean, I understand the nervousness. I felt the nervousness. I took a league of american bicyclists class in preparation for the bike commuting, and learned a lot about how to make sure I am as safe as possible on the bike. (hint: be visible and predictable.)

      What my actual worries are, and what requires strategy and thought from me with regards to biking places, is related to getting lost. Sad, but true. For the grocery shopping, it is the fact that I have a fairly large hill to climb to get home from the store. I ride bigger hills than that every day, but with groceries?

      And also, carrying the volume of groceries requires a fair amount of thought in terms of attaching it to my bike.

      I think that these are very similar “classes” of worries that people feel when they think about going vegan. “How?” “‘What if” And things along those lines. For me, going vegan was easy. For many people I know, biking everywhere was easy. For others, going vegan is not easy. For me, biking everywhere is not easy.

      It’s really not something we have to overcome physically (though that does play a part) as much as mentally.

      And that’s where the concepts in “Switch” really come in handy. Understanding what’s going on in a lot of these cases helps!

  2. Provoked January 8, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    A bike-riding, vegan, sanctuary photographer/activist. With photos and a story like this it’s clear you’ve found your niche’. Happy biking and picture-taking! Love the herd in the snow. <3

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