Doctor’s (marching) orders


I typed up notes for this post in a flurry of activity after I got home from the Womxn’s March and then decided not to finish and post it. Enough has been said on this topic, I thought. But then I said it out loud, finger poised to click “delete post” and I thought, as though someone else had spoken, “Are you fucking crazy?” So here it is: the gajillionth take on the Womxn’s March. My hot take: A) I was in Seattle and B) I was marching for women who aren’t much like me.

Also, I was there at the behest of my doctor.

Let me back up. My mom and I see the same doctor. We also have both been laid low by anxiety and creeping dread (and out-of-control emotional eating) due to the election. We have lost friends, stopped talking to relatives (in my case), and (in Mom’s case) stopped attending a once-vital club, all due to Trump and his spiteful minions.

Mom told our doctor about her feelings of helplessness and sadness at a recent visit and she prescribed activism. She said that taking action would help in a way that pills would not. She said that she and her husband and a group of friends were going to the Womxn’s March in Seattle and that we should come.

So we did.

We took advantage of the fact that most of  our neuroses are sort of like puzzle pieces (I can’t drive on the freeway, Mom can’t drive in Seattle – she has no problem with the freeway, I have no problem with Seattle) and worked around the ones we share (neither of us can drive in the dark, so we stayed overnight).

Still, we were both nervous. But being there together we were able to pretend that it was excited-nervous and not shit-imma-puke-nervous. (Or at least I did. Maybe Mom wasn’t faking. She’s a lot tougher than me. At some point during the march she told me that it wasn’t her first – she and my dad had marched for union rights a few years back and there had been police snipers on the rooftops!)

Stewart? What the fuck, Amanda. You’re on Jackson. In the International District. Where you used to work seven years ago?

The skyline and my mom (center, pink hat).

A post shared by Amanda Sterling Fink (@sterlingfink) on

White Feminism

But this was all we had to overcome: nerves. Not even full-blown clinical anxiety. (And I’ve been there. There was a time when I was having a panic attack a week while medicated. Now I haven’t had one in a year and it’s been five or more since I was weaned off my medication.) But other women were prevented by much bigger blocks: disability, inflexible jobs, lack of child care, or disapproving significant others. I decided to deal with my low-level anxiety and march for them. This mindset, in fact, was crucial in getting me over my nervousness.

When current events feel overwhelming and personal and the fear and confusion make me dizzy I try to remember that this is what it is like every day for women of color, indigenous women, disabled women, trans women, gay women. This is new for me but daily life for them. And I get angry on their behalf. I channel the anger into phone calls, emails, research, and tweets.

It took me a long time to come around to feminism in the first place (because like most people I had been lied to about it all my life) and after that to figure out what “white feminism” is. White feminism isn’t feminism at all. Feminism is an equality movement. It is named for the party that is being repressed in exactly the way that Black Lives Matter is. OF COURSE ALL LIVES MATTER THAT IS IN FACT OUR POINT. But in practice they do not matter equally and both feminism and Black Lives Matter work to address the inequalities.

White feminism is “feminism” that excludes non-white, non-straight, and or non-cis women. White feminism is just as bad as the GOP party line because it says “issues that have never personally affected me aren’t problems and should be ignored.” I do not believe that just because I, a straight white cis woman, have never experienced discrimination due to the color of my skin, my sexuality, or my gender identity, that it doesn’t happen to other people. When other people tell me that bad things are happening to them I do not respond “Well, they’re not happening to me, so you must be lying.” I respond “That fucking sucks, what can I do to help you?”

If your feminism isn’t for all women then it isn’t for any woman but you – and that isn’t feminism at all.

If you are white and a feminist (as opposed to a white feminist) here’s what you can do: you can use your privilege for good. In fact, I feel that I have a responsibility to do so. If I am closer to the goal I will claw and scrabble to get it and then happily hand it around.

As the amazing lady feral said on her tumblr “I also know that once all of these police-hand-shaking white ladies finish taking their cute activism selfies and put their pink pussy hats away in their keepsake boxes, they’ll pat themselves on the back and then they WILL leave the rest of us hanging. Maybe literally. They will retreat into the relative safety that being white and cis and straight gives them and leave trans women and disabled folks and black women and queers and nonbinary folks and sex workers out here flapping in the fucking breeze.”

I don’t want to be that asshole. I don’t want that on my conscience.

Next time there’s a smaller rally, maybe one that will have counter-protesters and more cops, I will do my damndest to figure out a way to attend. (I used to be a genius at bus schedules – I didn’t drive until I was almost 20) and I will use my whiteness and cisgender as a shield and march with women who need to be heard.

Something I cannot repeat enough is that back in the day the majority of white people thought that the civil rights marches and demonstrations like lunch counter sit-ins and the Freedom Riders were unnecessary, disruptive, and/or counterproductive and should be stopped. Now, of course, those same people claim that they were supporters all along. They may even believe that they were. I want to be on the right side of history from the get-go, thanks. I don’t want people of the future trawling through the archives of this blog and my Twitter and tsk-tsk-ing at my hypocrisy.

Getting Emotional

This was a very peaceful demonstration, and catered heavily to white women, but it was still a good start for me and a lot of other women who had never marched for anything in our lives. Though I knew this was sort of Activism Lite I still felt empowered because there were so fucking many of us (the latest crowd estimate I heard was 130,000 and only 50,000 were originally expected) and I still felt solidarity because there were women marching on all seven continents (yes, Antarctica, too) and in tiny little cities where a march of fifteen people made up 23% of the population.

Indigenous women led us (specifically Indigenous Women Rise) and I will follow them to hell because they are stalwart in the face of injustices I cannot fathom.

I didn’t cry until approximately halfway through the route, just after we had turned onto 4th Ave. I looked up at the classy Prefontaine Building, the monolithic Columbia Center, and the absurdly phallic Municipal Tower and I got a lump in my throat and my eyes burned. I was suddenly overcome by the sensation that our 130,000 person march was at least one short. I knew that my late mother-in-law would absolutely have been there next to me, had she been alive to attend. She would have had the loudest outfit, the biggest sign. She would have hooted and hollered and brought a mob with her from the Cascade foothills in a convoy of minivans. She would have thrown glitter on everyone who marched and thrown kisses at everyone who waved at us and flown the bird at the three (count ’em three, just three) counter-protesters.


What I Learned

This is physical work. I smiled the whole time (excepting the five minutes I choked back tears about my mother-in-law), but Jesus, it hurt. The route was just 3.6 miles, a length neither my mother nor I thought excessive – but because we were packed in like sardines we could not take normal steps. We shuffled. I took probably four tiny little mincing steps for every one stride I would have taken when walking anywhere else. We began our exit from the starting point, Judkins Park, at 11:00 am and we didn’t hit asphalt until 1:30 pm. And the whole time we shuffled. I wasn’t able to take a normal-length stride until somewhere on Jackson Street. And at that point I had been moving abnormally for so long that the muscles in my thighs and hips were clenched tight and shuffling was all I was capable of. I had walked 3.6 miles but I felt like I had taken 10 miles worth of steps – but in miniature. My legs didn’t really work right for the next two days. I had to get a new pair of jeans when I got home because the shuffling, combined with my rather generous thighs, rubbed right through the crotch of the jeans I wore to the march.

This was easy. (I know, I know, I just said this was hard. It can be both.) This was a sanctioned march on an approved route, fully permitted. There were portable restrooms every few blocks. The police officers who lined the route were mostly parking enforcement officers. Most intersections had just one officer each, just there to keep people from trying to drive up side streets and into the march. They leaned on their cars. They waved. The scene was dramatically different than the impromptu, non-permitted protests we saw the night before from our hotel window. There were a dozen cops per block, the protesters wore black, not pink, and most of them ran. There was a shooting on the UW campus, for fuck’s sake.

Liquid antacid is hard to find. They didn’t have it at WinCo or the IGA. I had to go to a proper pharmacy. (Liquid antacid containing aluminum hydroxide or magnesium hydroxide, mixed with water, is recommended for washing pepper spray out of your eyes.) I didn’t need it, but I wanted to have it on hand because if I (or someone else) needed it we weren’t going to want to wait for someone to run to a pharmacy.

130,000 people wearing Gore-Tex are very loud even when they are trying to be quiet.

— Amanda

P.S. I didn’t know where else to squeeze this in, so here, have a picture of a doggy that smiled for the camera when we were assembling in the park.


P.P.S. I moderate my comments, motherfuckers. Nobody but support is gonna see your hate.


Anniversary 2015

You’ve waited patiently, and as of this morning I’m more or less caught up on chores and e-mail, so here it is: the image-heavy recap of our annual trip to the Olympic Peninsula. This year, as in 2013, we were able to get a cottage at Lake Crescent. Last year we went to Lake Quinault instead, because we didn’t make reservations at Lake Crescent soon enough. They are both incredible, both are in the Olympic National Park, and I highly recommend both, but for whatever reason we prefer Lake Crescent.


Our 2015 cottage, #21, was next door to our 2013 cottage, #20.


We spent a lot of time recuperating in the lodge’s main room after indulgent dinners. Those are Matt’s legs.


Tipsy after-dinner selfie in the lodge.


The lodge at night.

We ate like kings.


Granny’s Cafe is one of my very favorite diners of all time ever, equal to Beth’s and the Iron Skillet. We ate lunch there both days we were on the peninsula. Both times I had a grilled cheese with tomato and a heap of sweet potato fries and both times Matt had a patty melt.


Breakfast in the lodge on morning #1: I had the smoked salmon plate and Matt had the Lake Crescent Scramble.


Dinner on night #2 in the lodge: I had the gnocchi with corn and caramelized onions and Matt had the slow-cooked pork shanks over garlic mashed potatoes. On night #1 I had the fried trout over mushroom risotto and Matt had an enormous bacon burger.

We saw lots of wildlife.


On our first day, just after check-in, we ran into this guy so close to the lodge than you can see our new red and white truck in the background.


There were lots of ducks, as usual. This little one, who still had tufts of down on her neck, seemed to like us best.


On our second morning we saw this raccoon sneaking from porch to porch across the front lawn, hunched over and furtive, like he was coming home late from an illicit Dumpster party.


There were plenty of my favorite (very judgmental) Douglas squirrels.

And, of course, there was the lake itself and the mountains around it.


A rainbow in the morning mist on day two.

dscf6193 wm

The dock and Pyramid Peak as seen from our favorite Adirondack chairs.


Crepuscular rays busting through the cloud cover in the morning.


From a distance the lake is a dark teal color. But if you lean over the water it is crystal clear down to about 60 feet.

— Amanda

Going to my happy place

anniversary 6 (46)

Our chairs as seen from the breakfast room. Chairs in the lawn are largely blocking our chairs from view. I didn’t know I was going to have such fond memories of chairs, so I was taking a picture here of the lake and mountains.

anniversary 6 (48)

Our chairs as seen from the sunroom. Our chairs are the ones fortuitously lit up by the sun.

anniversary 6 (50)

Our chairs seen from a different part of the sunroom on a different day. I had no idea those chairs were in so many of my pictures.

anniversary 6 (6)

One of our duck friends at the shore.

When you are stressed or scared you are often advised to go to your “happy place.” Until recently this advice was useless for me, a habitual panicker, because until just a few years ago I didn’t have a happy place.

We don’t have a lot of money and we don’t get a lot of time off. Matt works two jobs and neither are terribly lucrative. So we just get one week off a year and if we want to go somewhere we’ve got to save up for it. So it had better be worth it.

We take this vacation annually on the week of our wedding anniversary. It falls on the week after Labor Day, when the weather is still good but the crowds are thinning and in many places fall rates have kicked in. Originally the plan was to stay somewhere or do something new every year. We went hike-in camping, we went on epic road trips, we stayed in some extremely nice hotels on islands and lakes. But in 2013, at the recommendation of an old Sunset Magazine write-up (the source of inspiration for many of our trips) I booked us a lakeshore cabin at Crescent Lake owned by the National Parks Department. By the time we’d been there just a few hours we were so besotted we declared that we could very happily come back to this place every year. So that was the new plan. But last year I booked in April instead of February and there wasn’t a single room to be had! Clearly, the secret was out! We opted for the next best thing, Crescent Lake’s sister establishment on Lake Quinault. It was pretty goddamn nice, too, but . . . just not Crescent Lake. I don’t regret going to Lake Quinault by any means – we had a fabulous time – but I do wish I had made our booking earlier so that we could have stayed at Lake Crescent again. Lesson learned, I booked in February again this year, the very day that our tax return money was deposited. And we got a cabin at Crescent Lake.

Enough self-congratulation. The point of this diatribe is that the first time we went to Lake Crescent was the first time I achieved true empty mind meditation. It was also the second time in my life I can remember being really, truly inside a moment of time, living without doing anything else – not narrating in my head, not making a mental note to do something later, not comparing this moment with any one of the almost 17 billion moments I had already experienced – in short, not running any background programs.

Prior to this moment the closest I had come to real mindfulness was a brilliant stretch of minutes I will likely recall on my deathbed, in which Matt and I were winding around Chuckanut Drive on a beautiful day with all the windows down and the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” blaring on the stereo. We had just been to my favorite junk store and we were on our way to Village Books, no doubt. But I don’t remember. Probably we had overdue bills and a sick cat and a moldering house at home. Probably we would come home to the darkness of returning to jobs we hated. It might be we were spending money we should have put towards those bills. I know we didn’t have current insurance on the car. I’m sure the car was knee-deep in trash (I only cleaned Gertie once a year). But all I really remember is the flickering light coming through the madrones, Mick Jagger’s voice in our ears and the smell of the tide at the base of the cliffs. I can replay it infinitely in my mind’s eye like a perfectly looped gif. And every time I do I get to replay the feeling, too. The weightlessness of being truly carefree with my favorite person in one of my favorite places. Reliving it sometimes makes me giddy (especially if I overindulge) but at the time I did not feel silly or heady or rushed or overwhelmed. I simply was.

Amazingly, my moment at Crescent Lake two years ago was even better. It was about 8:00 am on our checkout day. It was already late morning for us, but most vacationers were still asleep. We had had the breakfast room almost entirely to ourselves. On our way out of the lodge we hit the bar, which at this point in the day was just warming up the espresso machine. We armed ourselves with thick mochas, wrapped ourselves in sweaters, and commandeered two Adirondack chairs just feet from the lake on the pebbled shore. The chairs were grey from sun but smooth from wear, like driftwood. Our coffee was fragrant and hot but not as fragrant as the clean, wet smell of the lake as the mist burned off to reveal the nearly vertical, densely forested wall of mountain directly opposite the lodge. Ducks – female mallards – waddled around our feet and in and out of the quietly lapping, razor-thin edge of the dark water.

We sat there a very long time. I don’t know how long. I didn’t have my phone on me. We finished our coffees (and I am a very slow drinker), and the sun heaved itself up over a peak behind us, and the ducks swam off to the other side of the dock where other people were starting to stumble about, and the mist was just a memory.

But while we were there, before the coffee ran out and the people broke the long note of near silence and the ducks gave up on us, I managed to truly, completely, (and without intending to) utterly clear my mind. I wasn’t thinking “this is so fucking awesome,” or “shame we’ve got to leave all this in a few hours,” or “damn, that was one hell of an omelet,” or “I should go get the camera.” Unlike on Chuckanut I did not even think “I will remember this forever.” I didn’t think. No thinking at all. Nothing went through my mind. Nothing. I simply sat and experienced. I was my five senses and my autonomic functions and nothing else. No worries, no coherent thoughts, no judgments, nothing. And it was incredible.

So now when I’m at the dentist’s and I’m tipped back in the chair with four hands and a rubber dam in my mouth and I suddenly forget how to swallow and I want to flail and gurgle, and I feel the carbonation of hyperventilation starting to boil in my blood, I shut it all down and sit my ass back in that Adirondack chair at Lake Crescent. By the time my doctor can ask me if I’m OK I’m already peering through the mist, and I can feel the warmth of my mocha in my right hand and the ridged grain of the chair in my left and the cool, damp morning air through my jeans. And I just give her a thumbs up.

We check in again in 14 days.

— Amanda

The 2015 Deming Log Show

You missed it. It was the second full weekend in June. But you should go next year. You really should. This was my 6th year.  If you remember enjoying the county fair but hate how noisy, gross, expensive, alternately commercial and broke-down, and boring it has become, you might like the Log Show. It’s got all the small town pageantry and field day feels you remember. Damn good food, reasonable fees, clean and plentiful bathrooms, buttloads of unique entertainment, gorgeous setting.

Look at these pictures and see how cool it is.


Dominating the grounds outside the arena is this Skagit yarder. In the winter it is strung with lights to look like a 100-foot tall Christmas tree.


There are dozens of cool trucks competing for various prizes. The grille on this one caught my eye. My brother’s truck wasn’t there when I was or I would have taken 3000 pictures of it, instead.


Horse and carriage rides around the grounds (which also house several baseball diamonds).


Some trucks arrive loaded to compete for Best Load of Logs. This is the one I was pulling for. If I had had the guts to get on the back bumper that middle log would have come up to at least my shoulder.


Over in the antique machines area this steam tractor was chugging away manically beside some drag saws and hit-and-miss stump pullers. Attached to the long drive belt was a shake cutter. This thing was kind of terrifying, as it was essentially a half-size locomotive, lurching and shuddering. The whistle was so human and desperate-sounding that it gave me goosebumps. The stack blew smoke rings.


The arena itself, one of few permanent log show arenas worldwide and one of (if not the) biggest is about the size of a AAA high school football stadium.


I look forward to the barbecue all year. As always, I got the salmon. As always, it was perfect. Also shown: baked potato, garlic bread, baked beans, coleslaw, extra sauce. Not shown: 100 napkins, fruit punch.


Matt opted for the Combo 2: chicken and roast beef. (And potato salad because he is morally opposed to coleslaw and all other cabbage products.) They gave him half a whole chicken because they thought he “looked like he could handle it.”


This was the biggest friggin’ loader I’ve ever seen outside a mill yard. Look at the guy standing by the fence. He’s just ten feet from the tracks and he looks like a toddler.


Opening ceremonies: all the contestants and the past presidents (in green shirts) line up for photos, announcements, and the National Anthem.


Speed climbers! One of my favorite events and one that goes on throughout the day. Children and amateurs compete as well as world record holders.


For scale, here’s the same shot, zoomed out. The spar poles are 90 feet tall. These amateur climbers will go only to the green line at 70 feet. But they will do so in seconds.


SPOILER ALERT: Every year a professional log show clown climbs one of the spar poles, hooks up to a safety line, and proceeds to scare the ever-loving shit out of children and newcomers by juggling, dancing, and doing handstands. At the end of the act both he and his stuffed owl, Spot, are “shot” by a jealous husband. This clown is the son of the clown who did the show (and others) for 35 years.


The grounds are littered with cool stuff like this stump chock full’o old chainsaws. There’s a working blacksmith shop, retired equipment from the days of oxen and old growth, and shrines to fallen men.


The show is a benefit, so it gets serious at times, but mostly a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor prevails. There are lots of signs like these strewn about.

The whole name of the game is The Deming Logging Show For the Benefit of Busted Up Loggers. When my oldest brother’s leg was smashed in the woods when he was still a faller (the crew member who actually cuts down the trees) Log Show money helped pay the bills to get him, literally, back on his feet. Since 1963 the show has raised money through sales of admission tickets, food, souvenirs, and by auctioning donated items (like firewood, sand, and gravel) to help loggers who get hurt on the job.

In the events, actual loggers young and old, both solo and as teams, do the kind of work they do every day (and, in some cases, like single and double bucking and the standing log chop, work their grandfathers did) but at top speed. There’s axe throwing, log rolling (in a purpose-built pond right in the arena), relays, speed cutting competitions, trailer backing, truck loading, you name it. Some events are a little more loosely based on the practice of logging, such as ma and pa bucking, in which husband and wife or father and daughter duos race to cut rounds with old fashioned cross-cut saws (also known as misery whips).

And then there’s the infamous hot saws. Hot saws are the whole reason some people come to the show. According to the program, the hot saw competition “has the least number of rules of any event in the Log Show.” The objective is to cut a round as fast as possible. You can use whatever kind of equipment you like as long as no more than two people are required to operate it. The usual suspects range in size from my brother’s triple snowmobile motor through Harley-Davidson engines up to small and big block Ford and Chevys and one Land Rover. The noise is indescribable. The speed is incredible. The ungodly shriek of that little snowmobile motor makes children cry (which, of course, makes me grin).

The final event is an epic tug of war: children versus loggers, with a maximum combined weight of 1500 pounds of people and gear per side. As far as I know the loggers have never won, but I often take this opportunity to scamper out to Karl and zip away into the cooling, golden evening, windows down, warm breeze in our sunburned faces, cruising down back roads, bursting with good food, covered in sawdust, waving at the cows in the fields.

— Amanda

Book review: Guidebook to Puget Sound by Byron Fish

Guidebook to Puget SoundNot unlike the last book I read and reviewed, this book was both a ridiculous bargain and a charming read. En route to Village Books in Bellingham (my annual pilgrimage) we stopped at my favorite junk store, Bonnar’s Trading Post, on Chuckanut Drive in Bow. Bonnar sold me a very interesting chapbook/zine sort of thing produced by an organization called the Ecotope Group bursting with technical information, charts, graphs, and building specifications for Pacific Northwestern greenhouses (for 75 cents!) and the book I am reviewing (for 25 cents).

Guidebook to Puget Sound (subtitle: The Water World That the Indians Called Whulge) is a travel guide for daytrippers looking for marine view drives. It breaks up the undulating, crenelated shoreline (which runs anywhere from 1,700-2,200 miles, according to chapter 1) of the inland sea into 8 parts.

Given that this book was written in 1973 not all the information is correct. The SR-16 bridge, for instance, is once again a toll bridge.  At the time the book was written, the bridge that replaced the infamous Galloping Gertie had paid itself off a few years prior.  At this time, though, tolls have been reinstated because a twin bridge has been added to the Tacoma Narrows. Not that I expect anyone to tote this little book around in the digital age with expectations of it being 100% accurate. Even modern-day ebook versions of Lonely Planet guides come with with disclaimers about accuracy.

What is going to keep this book on my shelf (and in my hot little hand when the Volvo and I head toward the big salt water) is A) the tone and B) the local color.

The tone is pleasantly sarcastic. The author, a local boy himself, clearly loves the region, but at the same time remains somewhat less than sentimental about history. Note the scornful use of quotation marks in the opening passage of the foreword:

In the mythology of Europeans there was a belief (later inherited by Americans) that the first tourist of their race who visited any land or waters hitherto unknown to them had “discovered” it, and he was thereby privileged to “name” it in his own language.

Or this reflection on one of my least-favorite former Seattle landmarks:

The downtown waterfront is marred by a two-level viaduct, which, with hindsight, many residents wish had not happened.

Areas that were sleepy and quiet in 1973 may now be bustling and once free parks may now charge fees, but the underlying topography of the Puget Sound shores hasn’t changed. Mr. Fish’s advice on which roads have a pleasant view of the Sound and which hills are nice for a picnic, his still spot-on. With this book I also have the intentional history lessons (the names and dates of settlers and founders and native peoples) and the unintentional history lessons (what the price of camping sites and hot dogs and ferry fares was in 1973, for instance).

And I did learn things I did not know – such as that Chief Sealth is buried in the churchyard of an Episcopal church in Port Gamble, and that “King Clams” are really chopped-up geoducks, and that this area once was home to not one (as I thought) but two anarchist communes.

— Amanda

Book Review: Island in the Sound by Hazel Heckman

Island in the SoundI scored my copy of this book for a dollar at my local library’s Friends of the Library book sale for $1.00. A steal!

This is one of those atmospheric portraits of a place and its idiosyncrasies that wannabe travel buffs like me love to sigh over. It is, in fact, a love letter to a place that, given that this edition was published in 1976, probably doesn’t exist any more. But it the portrait is painted so lovingly and with such detail that, even though I live just 70 miles away from Anderson Island (as the crow flies) I became homesick for my own region.

The people, flora, fauna, history, boats, pets, and buildings of Anderson Island, from its settling to the author’s present day are poetically detailed. We get a strong image of the fog-shrouded little evergreen island with its rocky shores and oddball characters rowing about in the choppy sound or hacking their way through the dense underbrush of bramble, huckleberry, and swamp. It’s cold and it’s damp and it’s a little backward – and the locals aren’t thrilled about visitors – but it sure sounds scenic. And as someone who recently spent a day neck-deep in the huckleberry bushes of the Key Peninsula, just across Drayton Passage, only about a mile away from Anderson Island (as the rowboat plies), I can attest to the accuracy of her physical descriptions of the land.

Not a fast-paced book, but colorful and quietly engaging. A good book to tote on a vacation or to read over coffee or tea on a slow day. A book that has earned itself a permanent home on my bookshelf.

— Amanda