Adding the Words: What We Agree On

Add the 4 Words protest January 2017 Idaho State Capitol.
Add the Words Idaho Legislature. Say discrimination against gay and transgender people is wrong.

The first amendment of the US Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of speech and freedom of religion is one which I and other advocates for Add the Words respect deeply. We respect it every bit as much as Idaho legislative leaders do.

Out of this respect, some of us have agreed and have a willingness to make clear in the bill, to spell out and reiterate the exact nature of first amendment rights as they relate to the inclusion of gay and transgender people in Idaho’s human rights act. Most notable is number 5 which assures business owners that they can not be compelled to produce speech (as in writing on a cake or printing on a t-shirt. I myself for example would never make a racist t-shirt if I owned a t-shirt shop.) This is a fundamental first amendment right. In fact, recently, higher courts appear to agree with what the language in number 5 below states.

Yes, we agree, a business must bake a cake or sell a t-shirt, but that business does not have to write on a product a message that’s different in meaning from what they would write on a product for any other customer.

The language below is what we have proposed could be included in the Idaho Human Rights Act at the addition of the enumerated classes “sexual orientation, gender identity.” The act prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, education, and public accommodation, meaning business and government services.

The inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in this act

1. Affirms the individual religious liberties guaranteed under the provisions of the Idaho Human Rights Act, federal law the U.S. Constitution as well as other sections of Idaho code

2. Affirms the rights of churches and clergy to refuse to solemnize marriages on church grounds or as a part of activities organized by a 501c3 religious organization

3. Affirms the rights of clergy and church staff in performance of their religious duties as part of a 501c3 religious organization, to refuse solemnize any marriage or to refuse to participate in or celebrate any marriage or union

4. Affirms the right of business owners to refuse to provide products, accessories, decorations or other items not otherwise produced, included, or offered for sale to other customers by that proprietor’s businesses

5. Affirms the first amendment rights of individual business owners, including the right to refuse to customize products or produce individually tailored services if the entire product, decoration of the product, or service itself is written or verbal speech which differs substantively in content rather than in context, from that produced or made available by the business to other customers

6. Affirms the rights of business owners to establish standards of dress if the standards do not otherwise violate this act and are applied equally to all employees, with the exception of persons with disabilities needing accommodation or those exercising their rights to religious or other expression as established by federal law and the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution

We Are Not Utah. We Are Idaho.

Add the Four Words protest Judy Cross and Ty Carson end of legislative session 2014Yesterday, after another year of work asking Idaho legislative leaders to include gay and transgender people in Idaho’s longstanding and well tested nondiscrimination laws, I received the following letter from Senate Leader Brent Hill on behalf of himself, Senate Leaders and Governor Otter:

 

It was titled: “Thanks”

Dear Nicole,
Thank you for the note. I appreciate your desire to work something out on legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity that is still respectful of religious rights and freedoms. Please understand, though, that “public accommodations” are not on the table. If you are interested in a balanced approach resembling Utah’s compromise, I would be happy to visit, but, as I have already indicated, feedback I am getting from my colleagues clearly indicates that there is not sufficient support in either the House or the Senate to advance even a Utah-style solution.

Again, if you and your associates want to help advance legislation not addressing public accommodations and similar to Utah’s, I would be happy to work with you to see if we could garnish enough support to give it a try. Anything more aggressive on your part is not achievable.

Sincerely,

Brent

 

This is my response:

Senator Hill and Senators Davis, Winder and Governor Otter,
I am surprised by and do not understand your answer. I have asked over and over to understand why you are comfortable with the idea of Idahoans working next to gay and transgender people or renting housing to us, but will not ensure that people sell us groceries, serve us food, pump gasoline, fix our broken cars or repair our washing machines. Why is public accommodation like this unacceptable to you? I’m mystified to hear you four state leaders –whom I consider compassionate, humane people– I’m mystified to hear you insist that gay and transgender people are not human enough to be fully included in our state human rights act.
Do you see us as deserving of the daily humiliation of being turned away from businesses in communities across the state?
Do you not care that young people, especially in small communities, will simply continue to despair knowing this humiliation awaits them, even after the brutality of high school?
I don’t understand. I thought better of all of you.
I also think you grossly misunderstand the will of the body, in both the house and senate. A majority are waiting for your lead in somehow solving this problem. Because of Senator Lakey’s fundamental lack of openness on this issue, using him to conduct a head count is a grave error. Many members have gay and transgender children, siblings, friends and family they feel should live with a greater sense of security and the liberty to work hard, support their families and do business in their own communities and the state they love. You will never know or see this because of the way you approach this issue with them.
I will publicly respond taking the Utah bill point by point to show why we in Idaho would never want legislation like that in our state. Not only did it set back Utah cities in the protections they had been able to afford to hard working citizens of their communities, but language included in it essentially destroyed the very protections it pretended to extend. I think you all, including Senator Davis, respect my intelligence more than to think I would ever agree to harm the very people I am trying to save from lives of uncertainty and loss.
I think you understand that attitudes which set us apart as lesser, as undeserving of the protections extended to other classes of humans, simply reinforce the idea that we are deserving of hate and violence. And you must know by now that we do face hate and violence.
This is not a proud day for our state. Not a proud time. I gave you years of work, language to place within public accommodation to genuinely try to address concerns and solve the problems you were willing to share, and yet that is not enough? And after asking again and again to understand what further in public accommodation remains a problem, you still won’t answer?
I am saddened beyond belief by your failure to show compassion, your failure to be willing to stand up and say what is right and what is wrong. I am saddened that instead you would like to write into law a lessening of our humanity, a trojan horse of kindness to save face for yourselves.
This is a sad day but perhaps a necessary one. I have honestly defended each of you to the good people of this state. I am done with that role. I am done having faith in the hearts of each of you.
…nicole
Former Senator
Nicole LeFavour
You can send a letter to your legislators explaining the harm done when they again fail at passing legislation to fully include gay and transgender people in Idaho’s non discrimination laws. Persuade them it is time and that we need their support in moving Senate leaders to finally add the words.  includeusidaho.org

These Issues Matter to Idaho

These are some of the critical issues voters will consider in the congressional campaign and election on Tuesday November 6.

Senator Nicole LeFavour is a teacher and former small business owner who grew up in rural central Idaho. She’s served eight years in the legislature standing up for education, small class sizes and to stop budget cuts which have eliminated thousands of Idaho jobs.

 

 

I’m an Idaho Democrat because Democrats care about working people, families and small businesses. We believe in communities and that people pull together to overcome great obstacles. We believe a strong public education system and a more affordable college education are the foundations of the American dream.

Our nation needs new congressmen and women determined to solve problems and lead our country back to prosperity and the values of compassion and cooperation that made us great.

THE ECONOMY

Our nation’s job creators are not millionaires or corporations but small businesses and regular working people. Americans create jobs when they can participate fully in the economy, when they can afford replace a broken washing machine, buy clothes for their children, fix the car, eat out at a restaurant or afford a home or college degree.

FINANCIAL CRISIS

Congressman Simpson voted again and again to loosen the federal banking regulations that led to our nation’s financial crisis.  Sadly he also voted to spend $700 billion to bail out banks without providing any help for the small businesses struggling to get loans to create jobs across Idaho.

FAIRNESS

Our nation has reduced taxes on millionaires at a time when our national debt has reached record levels. Congress should allow the Bush era tax cuts to expire for everyone making more than $250,000 a year and keep the cuts and credits in place for working families and seniors. If the most wealthy 1% in America again paid their fair share we could trim more than $1.2 trillion from the deficit.

EDUCATION

Four years of budget cuts have created fiscal crises in our neighborhood schools, caused property taxes to rise and led to a loss of critical resources teachers need to make sure every child achieves his or her full potential. I strongly oppose forcing kids to learn in crowded classrooms as a result of state and federal budget cuts.

HIGHER EDUCATION

No American should feel that taking on a lifetime of debt is the only way to complete a college degree. We can lower the cost of a college education by using federal funds to incentivize colleges and universities to lower student fees. Increasing accountability for tuition increases and using $1.50 federal incentive for every $1.00 reduction in tuition I believe would pay for itself in the economic benefits of making a college education affordable to more Americans.

SENIORS

Unlike Congressman Mike Simpson, I oppose further cuts to Medicare that jeopardize the security of American Seniors. The nation's budget should not be balanced at the expense of school children, people with disabilities or our seniors. Cutting Medicare violates a promise our nation makes to each American who pays taxes or funds these programs that we will have some level of security in providing for ourselves and living out our lives in our communities as we age.

JOBS

I will dedicate myself to restoring jobs, not eliminating thousands with irresponsible budget cuts. Food processing plants have closed and most Idaho products are now exported as raw materials, sending Idaho food producing jobs overseas and across state lines. I’d ensure grants, (not incentives which shift taxes to small business and families) are available for Idaho businesses to open food manufacturing facilities that create jobs and prosperity in Idaho. 

POLLUTION and HEALTH

I believe that weakening the EPA will only put at risk the clean drinking water and air that the next generation of Idahoans must depend on for a healthy start in life. While we all may trust some industries not to pollute our water and air, others we are glad are watched and regulated by an agency whose job it is to protect human health. Sadly, Mike Simpson has made it a priority to weaken the EPA the one agency charged with using science and solid research to protect American children and families from cancer-causing pollution and toxic contamination.

EQUAL PAY AND RESPECT FOR WOMEN

Today, Idaho ranks 43rd in the nation for how much more a man is paid compared to a what a woman doing the same job is paid for the same work. Unlike Congressman Simpson, I support the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act because it improves families’ ability to bring pay disparities to the attention of our state and nation when they do occur. Fair wages improve our economy and keep families independent and strong.I oppose allowing government to intrude in private matters by mandating that women undergo invasive medical procedures. I believe government should respect the private health decisions of women, families and individuals. 

RESPECT & HUMAN DIGNITY

I have worked for decades to advance human rights and respect across Idaho. In contrast, Mike Simpson has refused to address our broken immigration system in a way that unites families and best serves Idaho communities, agriculture, commerce and our economy. Additionally, in Congress Mr. Simpson has consistently opposed legislation to end discrimination against gay people in employment and military service and has even voted against ending the violence too many still face in their communities.

HEALTH INSURANCE

I was never a fan of the Mitt Romney-style mandate to buy private insurance as it was included in the nation’s health care law. Sadly Congress made the industry more powerful by mandating that everyone buy private insurance. A strong nationwide non-profit program would be far more affordable and could simplify the current system which has created endless administrative costs in every doctor’s office and hospital. There are some important new consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare." Telling insurers they can't deny coverage to Americans because of pre-existing conditions has saved many families and individuals from going without any insurance. I also support the provision which allows young people to stay on their parents plans until age 26. There's still much work to do and it's time for congress members to start proposing solutions and stop playing politics with people’s lives. It's time to fix the law to ensure no American goes bankrupt over medical bills or fear that the cost having of insurance is out of their reach.

Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/go-nicole

To volunteer or get involved go to http://4idaho.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=29&Itemid=31

To find out where you vote: http://idahovotes.gov

Even if you have never voted and are not registered you can go to the polls on election day and bring your photo ID and something with your address (like a utility bill) and you can vote! No need to vote in every race for your votes to count.

 

 

Add the Words Events Statewide today

For immediate release
January 24, 2012
Add the Words Continues to Post Sticky Notes in Capitol

In an ongoing effort, members of the Add the Words, Idaho campaign, continue to post sticky notes daily on the doors of the House and Senate Chambers in the Capitol Building.

"It was a bit tense the first week when the state police still seemed determined to stop our volunteers from peacefully posting any of the hundreds of stickies we've gathered from around the state," said Mistie Tolman, spokesperson for Add the Words. "Still, volunteers and members of the community are posting the notes every day on the glass doors of the chambers and committee rooms. In meeting with the ProTem and Speaker they wanted us to understand that the notes will be taken down as soon as they are posted.It's frustrating for some of our volunteers but at least no one is being detained by the troopers. People's words are there in the statehouse. For some of us, that's a start to a powerful conversation that's constantly improving the outlook for the legislation this year,"

Lisa Perry was asked more than once to stop or she'd be removed from the building, "I went in there last week for my gay and transgender friends. We're determined to make sure people's voices are heard since in years past the community's never been given the chance to speak at a public hearing. People still live in fear and too often face discrimination at work and school and in renting houses and apartments."

Add the Words campaign member, Cody Hafer, explained that every day volunteers read the following statement as they post sticky notes: "This is the most peaceful way we could think of to both protest the fact that year after year we are denied a public hearing, and to make sure that those across the state can have their voices heard inside the capitol. Our sticky notes are simply words, not a permanent fixture, just our calm way of respectfully and quietly bringing the voices and stories of thousands of Idahoans here."

"We find that many lawmakers still believe that gay and transgender people have legal recourse when they get fired from their jobs or denied housing just because they are gay or transgender." said Emilie Jackson-Edney of Add the Words. "Many in the statehouse don't know how the Human Rights Act works. It created a process already in use in Idaho to investigate, mediate and make findings to protect both businesses and employees should discrimination happen. Even after six years there's still a lot of education work to do to explain that we are not asking for anything new or different, just to let the Commission work on those cases that involve us."

Add the Words, Idaho is an all volunteer organization of people across Idaho working to demonstrate the level of public support for inclusion of gay and transgender Idahoans in the state’s laws banning discrimination in employment, housing education and public accommodation. Add the Words has gathered over 500 of messages to Idaho legislators written on sticky notes from people in more than 50 Idaho towns. Add the Words is working with organizations and individuals in more than 13 towns to hold public candlelight vigils, rallies and events on Saturday January 28th in support of passage of legislation to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act.

Those wishing to send sticky notes to law makers or hoping to participate in the groups vigils, rallies and other events statewide on January 28 can go to http://addthewords.org , for more information.

For More Information please contact Mistie Tolman 208 861-4371 mistie@4idaho.org

 

Add the Words First Video: The Sticky Note Story

 

You are changing Idaho! TODAY is the day.

Sharing this from Add the Words:

Friends Statewide,
     Today's the day.
From Coeur d'Alene to
Idaho Falls we'll
gather. Bring a pen and,
if you can, a sticky
note all written out. If
there's no event in your
town, PLEASE gather
yourself, a friend, a
sign and take a photo.
Send it to us at addthewords@gmail.com
Post to facebook. Tell
friends.

    Thank you for being
part of the amazing
progress this year in
legislator's attitudes
toward gay people. We
now have a hearing for
introduction in the
Senate. The next step
would be a public
hearing. Our first ever.
But we need YOUR
legislator's vote. Let
them know you care.

    We CAN
finally end the fear
and legal
discrimination still
faced by so many of
our gay and
transgender family
members and friends. Please
stand with us TODAY.
Let's make history.  

        —Mistie
Tolman, Cody Hafer,
Lisa Perry, Emilie
Jackson Edney, Rialin
Flores, James
Tidmarsh, Victoria
Brown, Stacy Ericson,
Lucy Juarez, Ashley
New, Lee Thompson,
Hannah Brass, Jim
Huggins, Jennifer
Whitney, Jonny Carkin
& all of us across
the state working with
Add the Words.

Julie Zicha from
Pocatello: "I
lost my son to
intolerance
last January.
Please Add the
Words so we
don't lose any
more kids."

"Let's add the
words already!,"
Emily Walton
from Declo,
Idaho.

"Please think.
There are many
kids wondering
what they did
wrong & the
answer is
Nothing. Please
Add the Words."

Former HP
Executive Don
Curtis Sr. says,
"I want all my
children equal
under the law.
Please add the
words."

Jazz Musician
Curtis Stigers says, "Add
the Words, Idaho!"

…………………….

 

Like
you, we are
dertermined
it's time for
Idaho law
makers to
finally add
the words
"sexual
orientation"
and "gender
identity" to
Idaho's human
rights act!

Together
this Saturday
we can bring
friends and
gather from
Weiser to
Coeur d'Alene
from Idaho
Falls to Twin
Falls and help
make Idaho a
better place
for our gay
and
transgender
friends.

We
now have over
500 sticky
note messages
from over 50
Idaho cities
and every
legislative
district in
the state
.
Email yours.

Share
with friends
and ask them
to sign the petition
and write a 20
word message
for us to post
for them in
the statehouse.

 
Live
in Boise? Post
your own
sticky note
on glass doors
inside the
Capitol in the
weeks ahead.

Watch
our video.

On
mobile/phone.

Click
to hear radio ads
for events
around the
state.

 

RSVP
and LIKE us on
Facebook.

 
………………
 
STATEWIDE SCHEDULE of
EVENTS this SATURDAY
JANUARY 28

IDAHO FALLS
RALLY with signs
and hot cocoa.
Elizabeth Cogliati &
Rev. Lyn Cameron
Broadway Bridge
(East-West route
crossing the
Snake River in
the center of
town adjacent to
the Green Belt
and parking.)
12:00-1:00 PM

TWIN FALLS
RALLY with signs.
James Tidmarsh.
Twin Falls County
Courthouse (427
Shoshone Street
N. Twin Falls,
Idaho 83301)
RSVP on Facebook
1:00-2:00 PM

LEWISTON
STICKY NOTE WRITING & DAYLIGHT VIGIL
Jennifer Whitney
Sticky note
photos followed
by a daylight vigil
Lewis-Clark
State College
SUB Room 225
(500 8th Avenue)
(Starting in
SUB, ending in
amphitheater.)
10:30-11:30 AM

PLUMMER
STICKY NOTE WRITING & DAYLIGHT VIGIL
Co-sponsored w/
Benewah Human
Rights Coalition
Plummer
Community Center
& Park (5th
and C Street)
(Starting in
Community
Center, ending
in park.)
2:00-3:30 PM

WEISER
CANDLELIGHT VIGIL
Tony Edmundson
Weiser Post
Office Post
Office (106 W
Main St Weiser)
6:00 PM

NAMPA
CANDLE LIGHT VIGIL
Victoria Brown
The Fountain at
2nd St. South
and 12th Ave
6:00-7:00 PM

BOISE
RALLY With
Music, Speakers
& Sticky
Note Writing.
Lisa Perry
State Capitol
Steps
RSVP & LIKE
Add the Words on
Facebook.
1:00-2:00 PM

CALDWELL
RALLY with
Speakers College
of Idaho Campus
Chelsea Gaonoa Lincoln
(2112 Cleveland
Blvd. Caldwell,
ID 83605) (Right
on Cleveland
Blvd. in front
of college.)
11:00 AM-12:00
PM

COEUR
D'ALENE

VIGIL and Sticky
Note Writing
Human Rights
& Education
Institute
6:00 PM

MOSCOW
Gathering for a
presentation on
the Human Rights
Act and Sticky
Note Writing
Jim Huggins
1912 Center St
11:00 AM

POCATELLO
MARCH, VIGIL and
Sticky Note Writing w/ photos
Thoshia Harke
4:30 PM Add the
Words Idaho
Workshop
Sticky
note writing to
law makers
starts at the
Canoe Room in
the ISU SUB
(1065 South
Cesar Chavez)

MARCH
5:15 PM From ISU
SUB to the
Bannock County
Courthouse for
Vigil (624 East
Center /
Pocatello)
CANDLELIGHT
VIGIL

at Courthouse
5:45 PM

(Let Cody know if you would like to help organize
an event in your town.)

You can help: addthewords.org

Legislative Hell

We are the minority.

By definition we don't have the numbers to win unless the majority bothers to care.

Some of those we represent this time will die if the policy in House bill 221 passes.

Some will lose their independent lives and go into institutions.

But we are told there are no options.

Even asking Idahoans to pay $50 more a year is not an option allowed on the table in this debate

To save those lives.

What are lives worth?

Not even $50?

Yet we must stay here and debate as if this were a sane process

A process where rational people act in the best interest of our state.

Are we collectively better as Idahoans, as people, if we willingly let people with disabilities die?

Let families suffer?

People we could have saved with mental health support?

With adequate in home care or therapy that keeps someone independent in their home?

Really.

When the crisis you create grows, everything stops.

Even our theory that this will save money.

Hospitals, funerals, prisons and emergency rooms are not cheaper than simply providing care.

Ever.

Where on earth has our civility, our compassion and humanity gone?

 

 

Joint hearings on HB221 begin at 1:30 Tuesday. Are these your values? Let your law makers know.

 

Inauguration Photos

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On Saturday DC was cold and the mall was empty, expectant.

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Endless rows of clean porta-potties flanked the monuments.

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The Sunday concert had Bruce Springstein, John Melencamp, James Taylor and the Obama family grinning and dancing and singing with the millions of us.

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People were so polite and kind.

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We were close enough to hear the horns and the choirs above the loud speakers sometimes.

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The day before.

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With fabulous Twin Falls folks.

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Richard speaks to Walt.

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 Kassie’s cake. Happy birthday Martin Luther King Jr. as well.

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On inauguration day at 6 AM we headed for the capitol with our tickets tucked under layers and layers of clothes. We didn’t drink anything for fear we’d never find a free porta potty.

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Being polite people we followed directions of those in line and went to the end, deep in the 3rd St. tunnel.

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We met wonderful people, started a wave down the crowd but at 11 am still had not made it outside again. The ceremony was supposed to start.

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At the gate we were very lucky to make it in. Our friends Ted and Rebecca were right near us. We lost them and they never made it in. We ran down an empty street to where the crowds waited, hoping we had not missed the swearing in.

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With others we watched from the sides of the monument to peace, as, after almost two years of work, Barack Obama, became our president.

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With the millions we cried and laughed, listened to Aretha sing and the 21 cannons boom.

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We waved good bye.

Journeys in the Wilderness

Journeys in the Wilderness

by Nicole LeFavour for Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
February 10, 2008

I am honored …….and deeply humbled by being invited to speak with you here this morning.
I will share with you today my journey in the wild, a personal journey, one which may have elements in common with your own journeys, what ever they may be.

I come from a family which has left me something of a comfortable stranger to any house of worship. In my family, around the dinner table, complex questions of physics and science were an art to be prodded and explored. My father is himself an explorer of sorts.
    He left college just months before graduation to canoe one of the most wild and then uncharted rivers in northern Canada. He met huge grizzly, and while portaging with canoes across the tundra became the object of at first somber, then playful hunting practice for a pack of wolves with young. One of his party died on the river in the cold water, rations grew scarce and there is much from that trip my father never speaks of, but in him and from him I gained a reverence for the wild. He seemed to always seek it and when Colorado grew too crowded and indulgent he and my mom moved us to Idaho to live in Custer County along the Main Salmon River at the edge of a great expanse of the wild.
…………………………………….

In college I studied science. In the summers before I came to Boise I applied to the forest service to become a fire lookout and spent seven years working summer seasons in the wilderness of central Idaho.
Three of those summers I spent on top of two peaks in the Frank Church Wilderness, in the most remote area in the lower 48 states.
There I would arrive by pack string, my food and a few clothes packed in card board boxes for three months living 16 miles from the nearest road and 10 miles from the nearest air strip.

    I spent those summers in a 15X15 foot wooden house with four walls of 1920s divided light windows, mountains, tress, sage brush, valleys, rocky canyons, and peaks as far as they eye could see in every direction.
From there in the day time, not a single human feature was visible on the land all the way to the every horizon.
I cut my own wood, carried my water up from the spring on the mountain side, cooked my food on a propane burner and baked potatoes in a tiny wood stove which was my only heat.
At Night the silence was immense and complex.
    The first nights after I arrived each year, my ears would strain and even the tiniest noise of a rodent in the metal strapping under the lookout sounded huge and sent my adrenaline racing. I would lie with my ears covered shivering through hours in the immense darkness, wishing for morning.

    Soon each year I’d grow used to the silence, stand on the catwalk at night listening to elk hooves knocking against logs in the lake basin below, a branch breaking somewhere off in the deep black.
No radio, no TV, no music, for weeks at a time no human conversation; only brief coded check ins on the forest two way radio, but nothing more.

……………………………….

Time then would become so long and elaborate that it was impossible not to venture out, to see where trails led, try to reach distant mountain tops and make it home before sunset.
Out there I was followed by owls, studied by mink, chased by moose, struck by lightning.
I grew fond of leaving the little building, walking out from lookout to lookout, sleeping in a tent or under the stars.

    Eventually I left the lookouts altogether and spent four summers alone with a backpack on my back as the first wilderness ranger to walk the terrain of the South half of the Frank Church on foot.
I walked alone for ten days at a time along ridge tops collecting data from almost every speck of high lake on every mountain side and along nearly every trail in those thousands of acres of roadless wild country that make up the upper Middle Fork of the Salmon River drainage.

………………………………………….

Out there, there is of course the beauty of all of it all, the chaotic perfection of things untouched by our hands.
SMELLS
pine needles roasting in the hot sun
elk and deer, sometimes cougar scent marks pungent and repulsive
morels, puffballs and suillis mushrooms growing in pine duff, in sage, in the mossy velvet shade of aspen trees

LIGHT
the brilliant slant of sun streaming down in evening  through the smoke of a forest fire
the loft of towering clouds boiling above drifting over shedding patterns of dark and light on the undulating expanse of ridges from my feet to the sky line

LIGHTNING
in bolts, like great overturned trees, like waves between great clouds rolling across the sky,
simultaneous cracks of thunder, distant rumbles echoing between granite peaks

………………………………………….

Most of all though, there is nothing like living with your own thoughts for months on end. Whether I wanted it to or not, my whole life would stream before me, replaying itself for days, then weeks on end.
Of course if you are not OK with yourself, not settled with your own actions or with the events of your childhood or past I suspect that those thoughts can nag at you.

    There were stories of lookouts who didn’t make it. Many stories. One of the years I served as head fire watch, one of my road side lookouts started lighting fires. At first, within a mile or two of his little building, after his evening walks, we’d spot the smokes and the choppers and fire crews would descend. Later, as he was given a motorcycle, the new fires sprung up in more distant stands of tree. I hiked down 12 miles to the forest air strip and sent a note to dispatch to report my concerns, feeling hesitant to call over the forest radio where so many could hear my words.

    Another lookout before my time called dispatch in the middle of the night when typically no plane or helicopter can fly. He was panicked that there were people there to get him. Station Rangers who hiked up the trail hours later with a flashlight found him huddled in some bushes, the windows in his lookout building smashed out from the inside.

…………………………………………..

Up there it is as if your mind gets a will of its own.
At home I could distract myself, stay busy, the noise of life, volunteering, taking 20 credit hours or studying late into the night occupied me. I could avoid thinking about things I choose not to.
For me on those mountaintops, there was no keeping any of my thoughts at bay.
I was lucky, at worst what I had to confront were regrets. I’d sit on the catwalk dangling my legs over a thousand feet of air, or lay on my metal bed as the rain pattered, and I chewed on these regrets for long hours until they lost their flavor.
What I was bitter about I could turn over and over, replay until it grew dull and lost its ability to flush me to anger.

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Of course in any kind of solitude, where we are or where to ourselves we exist inside ourselves is not solely controlled by where our bodies are or our location physically on earth or in time.
As a ranger I could walk for days replaying the same moment in time or a single series of events long past. This moment or moments would cycle through me, as if my mind was stuck on instant replay. And I would be gone, far off again reliving a conversation, trying out other phrases, other responses, living out alternate scenarios of reality for that time and place far, far away.

    I found a curious mix of kinds of presence out there.
I could live in books until I ran out of them. After that it was all my mind, my life and me and the wild alone.

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I’m sure it is clear that there is a danger in this. In being alone with your thoughts. As with loss or with grief or anger we can get truly stuck in a feeling or obsessive thought. I remember a time years later, after a difficult break up where repeating a feeling or thought simply wouldn’t wear thin this emotion, instead it actually scratched it into a deeper painful groove. It became a place which hurt, a chasm I could try to skirt but always fell into. I found those years later that I could come to dwell in a place of pain inside myself and my avoidance of it could make it larger, thicker with gravity, so that like an addiction, my life could only be spent in conscious, all consuming avoidance or else deep in the pit of it.

    To escape and find my life again it was as if I had to grow new muscles, a strength and determination to pass that door in my consciousness, to think of other places inside me which felt warm, which might draw me in as a better place to be. I thought about the wild, about all I’d seen, I knew if all else failed I could go back, again feel the quiet the solitude, the strength in myself– and knowing this, I survived. I learned then that I could draw on that experience, that place that was now inside me as my own.

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Of course in those seven years in the wilderness I knew moments where I could feel my physical life and the limit of it only inches away from me.

–In the power of water, crossing a river, roaring ice-cold from spring run off. I couldn’t turn around because I was forty remote road and trail miles from town, having been left on a road corridor rarely traveled in spring. I remember standing hip deep in the pressing water, picturing my body dragged down under the weight of my pack, each boulder and log a place I might wedge and never rise from.

–I also felt this edge to my physical life in the power of gravity on a peak one day crossing a snow field which vanished below in jagged rocks. There my legs shook but I had to cross. I unsnapped my waist belt, swung my pack carefully off and let it slide down the mountain. I steeled myself, trusted my legs and kicked one step at a time in the snow to solid granite on the other side.

–Powerful animals, bears, cougar and wolverine tracked me in the wilderness like prey. I lived weeks knowing that lions watched, but coming to feel agreement that if they had not chosen to bother me so far, they probably would not.

–I came to know that bears have less acute senses and like least to be surprised, and so I had a special deep “hey ho” that I would call out in brush or creek bottoms where they might be rooting with cubs, head down never hearing my feet clomping on the trail.

–Twice in the wilderness I met wolves.
    Once in the late 90s before any had been re-introduced to Idaho. My boss had reported hearing one but I had joined the many who were certain he was mistaken and that it had been elk or the play of his own mind in the woods. Day hiking with the elderly wife of a station guard, fighter jets flew low over head and a sonic boom ripped the clearing where we sat eating lunch. Out of the fading sound of the jet engines we heard what seemed at first to be a voice, but then clearly was wolves, not one or two, but three, their voices rising and falling eerily, beautiful from the edge of the clearing where we sat. The sound reached into my chest, deep and brought tears to my eyes. They had traveled the forest parallel to the trail so that, as we walked– had they not howled– we never would have never known they were there.

    Years later my partner Carol and I hiked out from a remote part of the Frank Church. Our dog Pinza with a red backpack on trotted ahead on the trail. We were following the tracks of an elk and saw repeated wet spots in the trail. Then, oddly, the dog insisted on walking between us while we speculated how an elk would urinate several times in a row on such a short stretch of trail. Behind us, the sound of a helicopter’s blades suddenly thudded out of the valley where ten miles away a crew was fighting a forest fire. A column of smoke had towered all day, rising into the deep blue above. Suddenly out of the apron of tiny high alpine spruce on the hillside near us, the sounds of wolves voices rose one by one. Judging by the marks they left on the trail, at least six. They howled and we stood for a long time fixed still staring toward where they hid in the trees.

–Once in my later years in the backcountry, at dusk I clambered over logs on a long abandon stretch of trail in a huge remote valley bottom. An odd sound made me turn to see a light brown form on a log up hill from where I stood. I can only guess that this was a wolverine. I had seen a flash of one once from a truck driving to a trailhead. This one was standing firm in an avalanche shoot, unafraid of me, sending warning that I was where I was unwelcome. I did not sleep well that night, again and again picturing that I had transgressed, strayed this time where I did not belong.

— Of course I have felt also the fragility of my own life in the power of the elements and the chill of wind blown snow on a peak far off in Nepal. Living there for three months one day at 14,000 feet I felt the power of the sky to suddenly throw down a great weight of snow, like hands holding feet, paralyzing, wind rendering flimsy the tent until you huddle in the fluttering cloth trying to heat water, feeling hypothermia picking at you until you flee wallowing straight downhill breaking through crust, mile after mile to where the snow turns to rain —because you are not prepared for this…

But sometimes in the wilderness there is no luxury of flight.

Waking up after a day like that, after any one of those days where the end of life is even slightly visible, finding morning so brilliant in its warmth and welcome, is as close as I know to a symbol of beginning.
That simple sense of survival in face of powers so huge
has given me steadiness.
In my late 20s, at a young age I felt I’d lived a long life. I felt strength which I hold with me today, strength which puts my life and trials in perspective, strength which gives petty problems less hold on me, helps me hold my determination to see others find their strength, their health, their own sense of security, humility, self and belonging.

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Perhaps too in my mind that is part of the definition of the wild:
a place where we learn humility
where it is not possible to control all things
where we adapt rather than making all things adapt to us
a place where we can be reminded how fragile we are
that place we grow humble, set aside the great powers of ourselves in our immense multitude and recognize that like a single ant, a single mole rat, or a single bee we are, except in rare instances, not entirely capable of surviving all on our own.

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We look around today and where there were once forests, there are now cabins; and where there were fields or endless stretches of sagebrush, there are subdivisions, roads, shopping centers, RV parks and gift shops …
It would be selfishness to want to keep these places to myself.  I wonder though more genuinely if it is not also selfish to want to close the door behind me and just leave the wild for the wild — keep it there untouched, even if I could never go back.

In the wilderness each year I could mark the increase in the number of people on the trails, the missing branches and scars on the trees, the fire pits burnt into the moss circling the high lakes, the tree wells gouged by hooves, the planes over head, the cars on the dirt tracks– and I would feel a sense of panic

    What I and many of us hold sacred in our own very different ways is vanishing for our love of it, for our collective need for it.
I wonder are there too many of us now?

Have we created a drought of solitude?

A famine of humility?

    We can pull over by the roadside, let the camera pan out and we have the beauty still, but what about the solitude?
Too often we take so much of home with us. Now in some places, every hundred yards, every few minutes there is another walker a mountain bike or pack string.
What happens when that solitude it is gone?
What happens when we have no place like this for confronting our lives, our pasts, our beliefs?

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Some of this at least in part we can create for ourselves, setting aside time and place in our lives to hear our own voices or hear the past or nothing but the wind or our heart beats and our breath for awhile.
But how do we save a place where we may be forced to recognize that we are vulnerable, a place to feel our dependence upon others and the fragility of our lives?

—There is great power in the microscopic world and in the betrayal of our own bodies through cancer. We may learn humility there. A best we learn, find some strength within ourselves and survive.

—The ocean is still vast and humbling but few have the skill to go there alone.
What is the destination of a people with no wild? With so little humility?

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    My years in the Frank Church rest in me like a place I can retreat to. A sort of well I draw from. I can stand in a street in the snow-blanketed early morning darkness on my way to the Statehouse and feel the power of a huge over turned bowl of stars spinning invisibly above me.
    I can run in the foothills as the sun rises and feel that same wind from the knife edged ridge-tops in the Salmon River Range, where the sun shines, illuminating the white shape of an old she mountain goat. The wind ruffles her fur and the universe freezes as, curious but trusting, her big black eyes stare right into mine. In that moment the blue sky rises and I grow tiny a dark speck with a white speck on a rock face. The eyes I stare into are like time itself. They have seen what I will never. They know things I will never. They feel the roots of a world I can only visit to graze the surface of.

    What ever goes wrong in my life, I consider myself one of the fortunate to have found a place, a source from which to draw humility, a world full of stillness and silence I carry with me, where if I look, I find a deep well, a place huge inside my own eyes but beyond them, a place where my own inner voice is humble, but clear, and strong.

More on Senator Obama

Obama Photos

Campaign Organizers Kassie and TJ with Senator Obama

Obama Photos

Kassie and Katie with Gov Andrus and Bob Kustra

Obama Photos

Former Mayor Munroe meets Senator Obama

Obama Photos

The Senator speaks of a united America, health care specifics and Idaho’s hopes

Obama Photos

The Julie Fanselow and Audience on the Floor

Obama Photos

Elected Officials Leave the Speech Smiling

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Carol
& I woke at 4 AM and lay in bed a bit before deciding just to get
dressed and drive down to BSU and the arena. There were very few cars
stirring at 6 AM but here and there you could see people in neighborhoods scraping off ice, headed down
the dark streets to hear Senator Obama speak. We walked through the
snow with people cheerful and still warm from their cars. At the gates,
some had clearly been there waiting at the arena for hours already.

I think the idea of getting the general public inside was simple for
organizer Kassie
Cerami and the bee hive of people of all ages at the Obama office. They
have endured impromptu auditions from folks off the street and children
who want to perform for the next president. The had to turn back offers
for food, music, and who knows what else from Idahoans who have been
inspired to generosity by Senator Obama.

I have a feeling though that we
public officials were the head ache to manage. Local organizers had to
get creative with seating for dignitaries at such a huge event where a
chance to meet the Senator was almost
everyone’s dream. I’ve not been too much of a fan of sports heroes,
musicians or rock stars, though I know a few who are pretty fabulous,
still this feeling of really wanting to get to say hello, face to face
to someone I admire so much is a
little new. For some people meeting senator Obama might be connected to
their perception of what power is. Some
think power is about who you know.

Frankly I never would expect to have Senator Obama remember me,
though it astounds me both times I have met him that he seems to.
(Carol pointed out there are not a lot of lesbian elected officials
from Idaho so maybe that could be helping him a bit.) There is I’ll
admit, also something wonderful in
being able to tell good stories. I heard this same story today from
several ecstatic
Idahoans: "And then I reached out and shook his hand. He smiled at me
with his big smile, looked in my eyes and he said, thank
you for coming!"

Volunteers who made 100 calls and a mixture of other folks got green
tickets for
the standing room on the floor. We opened the doors for them at the
same time as the general admission in the seats. People flowed in like
a cold, bouncing river for literally hours. Once the floor filled, I
went inside, done with my job of directing legislators, super delegates
(I’ll explain later) candidates and other Democratic Party folks who
were supposed to go to a special section of the bleachers together. I
think it
was no small feat to be sure everyone in this section felt equally, or
perhaps I should say, appropriately treated. Remember a legislature is
a hierarchy and right or wrong there is an order of seniority and
tradition which is pretty foreign to the lives of most of us. As
forceful as that whole order may be, it was beautiful today how hard
work on Kassie and TJ’s part went so well recognized and how they and
Brett Adler and others who have dedicated their lives often without any
pay got time with the senator.

Kassie and TJ were to open the rally with chants and talking about
the caucus, but I missed it because they heroically pulled me out of
the crowd on the floor and hauled me backstage to the green room
through a maze of black cloth clad tunnels to where Governor Andrus and
BSU President Kustra were waiting for Senator Obama. I was supposed to
stay with them, my staff badge and my Obama buttons on, feeling like
I’d just been mistaken for someone important and had made it under the
rope so far undetected.

I waited and the super delegates were brought down from the special
section of the bleachers. Gail Bray explained what the mysterious super
delegates are. I think there are five of them out of Idahos 23 total
delegates. Cecil Andrus and two Tribal leaders, Chaiman Axtell and
Chairman Allen (none of whom are super delegates) came in with the
delegates so together they looked like a wonderfully dignified group
which included new Democratic party chair Keith Raork, Grant Bergoin,
House minority leader Wendy Jaquet, Gail Bray, Jeanne Bhuel and Jerry
Brady who I understand is the Idaho Obama Campaign co-chair.

Super delegates exist in all states. They are not like other
delegates and so are not bound to vote for who the caucus goers choose.
They are free agents elected in parts of our party process and can go
to convention and choose the presidential candidate they please. In my
opinion, the number of them and power they have potentially skews the
simple democracy of the process, though I am sure there is a reason for
it which relates to the power of states. In some states in fact many
super delegates have long times ties to the Clinton administration and
that has fueled speculation that Hillary Clinton, while she has won an
equal number of primary races and fewer state delegates than Obama, may
have more total delegates when you count super delegates. If
presidential primary races are anything like Idaho’s recent House
Speaker’s race, the idea that you might promise those voting for you
something in exchange for a vote is not unheard of.

So I stayed in the green room with its
TV-set-simulated-mini-living-room corner and striking photos of rock
stars and athletes on the walls, until Senator Obama himself came in.
Let me just say this, as someone who has spent far too much time at
caucus-watching parties getting my photo taken with a card board cut
out of the senator: he is about as tall as his card board cut out.
(Which went missing last weekend from the Bouquet on main street where
a music event for Senator Obama was taking place. Let me know if you
have it. Jerry Brady, who carried it everywhere for a week, is heart
broken.)

The Senator came in the room talking casually with Kassie who has
met him several times now I think. How can he not be grateful and
pleased by Idaho today? He seemed it. Cassie, TJ, Brett and others came
together last year spontaneously as soon as he announced he was
running, some even before, and put together a grassroots campaign
determined to organize Idaho for the senator whether Idaho was a
targeted state or not. That Idaho now does matter only makes those
efforts more amazing. With staff here now there is groundwork, and
networks, and a base of volunteers in place ready for the caucus on
Tuesday.

The local Obama campaign created a community, one of the few things
I suggested early on and which I’m sure this group of warm, passionate
young people would have done anyway. It makes being involved feel good.
It reminds you how much you are part of something greater. If Change is
the operative word of 2008 then may Idaho politics look like this day
for decades to come.

One arena filled beyond capacity with more cheering bodies than
probably caucused statewide for Democrats in Idaho ever before. For
Democrats everything has whispered to us that this would be a great
year. This day today yelled at this sleepy state that if we work at it,
this will be a year where our hope sees strides rather than simple
steps. Senator Barack Obama is giving voice to something we all feel.
We tire of so much of the same leaders who look and sound and limit
themselves to what they have grown accustomed to limiting our nation
to. We can be more than a nation which promises prosperity and
equality. We can inspire change in a nation, ask ourselves to give a
little more to make this place grow closer to the dreams those leaders
generations ago had for us. Why would we give up on hope for that?
Compromise is an option after all else fails, but where lives are at
stake, no other skill is as valuable as rolling up our sleeves to
persuade, bending down to listen and ask for consensus, knowing how to
look into the eyes of others to change minds and change what is broken
in health care, in energy production and consumption, in poverty, in
overcrowded classrooms, in our bullying relationships with other
nations and our wordless relations with each other. We don’t ask enough
of ourselves in terms of what we can give others in need. If we did,
what might we accomplish as a nation? What might we finally be?

We are ready Idaho. Tuesday is the day that matters. The votes at
caucus are proportional, and are not "all or nothing" so every vote for
Obama could mean another critical delegate.

Obama Photos

The Line Stretches Across Campus

Obama Photos

Inside Where it Was Warm

Photos

Senator Obama Arrives

Obama Photos

The Green Room with Super Delegates and Dignitaries

Obama Photos

Arena Full to the Rafters

Obama Photos

Senator Stennett Looking Good After Surgery with Chief of Senate Democratic Staff Marie Hattaway

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