I am about to embark on the longest human-powered journey I have yet attempted, traveling by bike from Virginia to New Hampshire. I expect to encounter some inhospitable conditions (cold!) and things will surely not go as planned. But my prevailing feeling is excitement— to be out in the open air all day, seeking out natural spaces, meeting people along the way. I am leaving one home where I am welcome (my family’s) and heading to another home where I will soon be received (my new place of work), and I have confident hope that I will find hospitality all along the way, and a warm place to sleep each night. During the weeks of my trip there are many other folks in my country who are also pursuing human-powered journeys which are different from mine in almost every way— perhaps going was the only option, and being in wilderness is not awaited nor sought out. People move towards a place where they will not be welcomed, and there is low hope of finding hospitality (let alone water) along the way. This is a reality on the Mexico- US border, where 6,029 human remains have been found during my lifetime as the Border Patrol pursues a strategy of ‘prevention through deterrence’, intentionally using desert wilderness as a weapon. No More Deaths (No Mas Muertes) is an humanitarian aid organization providing relief to migrants in desert borderlands and immigrant rights advocacy, including reports of human rights abuses around the border. It is volunteer-run and relies entirely on donations. I learned about No More Deaths through the work of thru-hiker and writer Carrot Quinn, who wrote a fantastic article about No More Deaths in the Guardian, and has stunning images and a great blog.
I considered traveling to the southwest to volunteer for No More Deaths this March, but decided that at this moment I couldn’t justify the environmental impact of taking another flight (from the east coast to Arizona and back) for a short time, and the thrust to my movement now was towards the north, towards meeting places where I was dedicating a relationship of greater longevity. As I reflect on my own freedom of movement and that of those around me in this country, it also becomes clear that the border is not so far away; ‘the border is everywhere but most people think they have never seen it.’ I am still going to use these weeks in support of the work of No More Deaths, and my fundraising goal of $700 reflects both the amount I would contribute to cover my volunteering expenses, and the number of miles I will ride on my journey.
My sister recently helped me think about the importance of lifting up resources from communities who are able to give in the direction of where those resources are needed— even when it’s uncomfortable to ask for money! I'm grateful for the donation of any amount. As a thank you for making a contribution I’ll send a handmade postcard from the mile mark that your donation helped me reach (eg. from mile 43 if your donation brought me up to $43, etc.). I make good handmade cards!
Alongside fundraising, it is just as important to me to cultivate awareness and mindfulness (in myself and others) of privileges of movement through space, the manipulation of wilderness as receptive or hostile for certain people, and hospitality and belonging in local place and national community. Join me in finding moments to feel into the bodily sensation of moving through space (whatever that means for you and wherever it happens— walking, biking, driving, on public transport, on an airplane) and use that feeling as a reminder of gratitude. Pay attention to who is around you in those spaces. Pay attention to how your body feels, moving. Read past poems on my blog on settlement and borders and read updates from my bike trip, where I'll be investigating place, movement and hospitality in the context of the histories and presents of my own country.