Leave no trace

What Annie Dillard has to say about how to learn to write:

By “ruining [the page], but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless, because acting is better than being here in mere opacity.”


I went to the Utah backcountry last week with two other women. We took wag bags which is a nifty little setup for carrying out your own poop. (This is required when rafting the Colorado River.) I also learned about a toothpaste disposal option called aeration where, when you’re done brushing your teeth at camp, you spit your leftover toothpaste into the air so it spreads out as much as possible and has little effect on the land. An even more enlightened toothpaste disposal option: swallowing.

For the record I did not hate wag bags but I did hate swallowing my toothpaste.


I liked to think of myself as a good outdoorswoman before I moved to Colorado but the truth is it’s not the same here as it is in New York where you can ride your bike all day and still be in the City. One year I made the mistake of riding my bike to Maine over Labor Day weekend and every campground was full so I ended up sleeping between two multi-million dollar estates and you know, carrying out my shit and aerating my toothpaste didn’t feel relevant. Another night I made camp on a public beach and got up pre-dawn so that hopefully no one would find me there but when I went to use the bathroom there was someone and I startled him. “You scared me,” he said.

Sir. You scared me.

I guess my point is there weren’t clear lines about what was wild and what was civilized. You look at maps of the Eastern Seaboard at night and it’s just a string of uninterrupted light.


Here though, we try to make lines. There are dark night sky parks where you can escape light pollution. We have heated arguments about what to do with our used coffee grounds at our backcountry camp spot. They don’t belong beneath the conifers and the sagebrush. But, do they belong in big canvas bags on shipping containers waiting to dock in the Brooklyn Navy Yard? Does the Brooklyn Navy Yard even belong?

You might have to pack out your poop on the Colorado River but you cannot escape the bachelorx parties (we saw two!). And I’m not mad about it they made me smile and I rocked out to their stereos as we passed.


I got my period on our second day in Utah. New moon. Dark sky. Fresh blood. I brought my divacup which is reusable. Yay. This was the third time I got my period in Utah this year (jesus christ are you for real?) and every time I poured out my divacup into the red ground and so now Utah is my most blood-saturated state. I liked it actually, pouring my own blood straight into the earth. It seems a relevant human urge, like etching a name into a rock. Do I ruin this earth when I touch it? Maybe so, but at least it won’t forget me when I’m gone.

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