New Beginnings, by Jacob Boise

The class trip to the Susquehanna River opened my eyes to the history in our backyard. The idea of the petroglyphs excited and intrigued me pre-trip, but nothing compared to its unveiling with a touch of water. With each swipe of the delicately damp sponge, the rocks came to life. Native animals and their footprints, human depictions, and various symbols representing core aspects of the Native American culture, all came to life as we dampened the rock’s surface.

The story and meaning of these petroglyphs remind me of teachings in The Spell of the Sensuous. David Abrams comments on the abstraction of space and time and the effect written stories have on the importance of the land itself. Abrams writes, “as the technology of writing encounters and spreads through a previously oral culture, the felt power and personality of particular places begins to fade” (Abrams 239). While written stories promote transportation and sharing, Abrams begins to point out a serious drawback. Continuing his point, “certain stories might be provoked by specific social situations, their instructive value and moral efficacy [is] often dependent…[on] contact with the actual sites” (Abrams 240). The petroglyphs seen are highly specific to that site, and the Native Americans that created them. Hearing that certain stone carvings represent the locations of solstices is noteworthy. Physically uncovering the petroglyph, and looking in the direction where the solstices occur, uncovers a part of a previously never acknowledged culture. The intelligence required to determine the direction of summer and winter solstices results in serious appreciation for the Native American culture.

Re-living the trip as a whole, in looking back through the pictures taken on our trip, very few of them hide a hydroelectric dam. If I took a video along with pictures, sirens signaling the dam is releasing water would pollute the serenity of the river.

Today, sitting on my log, watching fallen sycamore leaves glide through White Clay Creek, listening to the playlist of various birds singing and hidden animals crunching leaves with each step, the image of the dam intrudes. This day, more than any in recent memory, the dam seems more relevant than the beauty of White Clay. The utility of the dam overrides the utility of the nature, according to those with the power to make such determinations. Acknowledging the elephant in the room in my mind, this Election has shown how wrong I have been in the aspects of human cognition.

When we talked about the mindset of Americans, we drew something like this on the board:





Up until November 8th going into 9th, I just thought “our ideas”, specifically on climate change, was the problem. Cooler heads would prevail, and the more facts and studies come out, people will acknowledge the absurdity with climate change doubters. When our country chose the elect they did, it showed me “our ideas” is not the problem. It is the barrier around it. The impenetrable wall between our minds and the outside world results in closed-mindedness that potentially has destructive side effects. In The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abrams often circles around the dichotomy between the internal and external. Abrams writes that if we acknowledge thoughts and feelings external to ourselves, “we begin to turn inside-out, loosening the psyche from its confinement within a strictly human sphere….intelligence is no longer ours alone but is a property of the earth” (Abrams 339). What Abrams speaks on, and what this class has taught me, is to make “nicks” in the wall. Once we, as a society, find the instrument to make this “nick”, and let ideas flow in and out of ourselves, I truly believe we can begin to fix the problems that ail us today.


As I am leaving my spot in White Clay, I notice stacks of rocks. There are about 7 or 8 such stacks and I immediately recognize them as vortexes. Whenever my family went on vacation to Sedona, these vortexes were prevalent on hiking trails. In nature, vortexes signal an area alive with energy. Energy is sucked from the surrounding area into the vortex-specific area. In various places in Sedona, spiritual vortexes exist. My family, each trip, visits one at Cathedral Rock. Although hard to explain in words, when at Cathedral Rock, your emotions amplify. The feelings of tranquility and appreciation of nature magnify to create an extraordinary experience. Hikers “create” their own energy vortex by stacking a series of rocks along the trail. I join those before me and take 8 rocks, stack them from largest to smallest, and signal a point of energy at the spot I frequent each week. Hopefully it affects others like it affects me.

Appreciation, by Mackenzie Campbell

How can I appreciate nature at this moment? I’m not saying this in a how-could-I-POSSIBLY-enjoy-nature kind of way. I’m asking: How am I able to appreciate nature? I actually want to know the answer. To me, appreciation is the foundation of happiness. It is the complete comfort that you are surrounded by everything you need, and you don’t need anything else. It is contentment. It is not searching for beauty, but finding it. Appreciation is the profound understanding of your place in this world. It keeps our minds and hearts balanced and at ease.

How can I appreciate the water flowing down the creek, over the dark gray rocks, blurring the reds and yellows of the leaves at the ground underneath? How can I appreciate the robins calling to each other in their sophisticated language? How can I appreciate the squirrel rustling in the leaves on the right riverbank, showing its face every ten seconds or so with an acorn between its brown, furry hands? How can I appreciate the air that I am breathing and the feel of it against my cheek? How can I appreciate these fundamental pleasures and necessities of the world when my mind is not at ease, is not content, is not balanced?

Appreciation is a tricky thing. Appreciation means accepting something for what it is. It is refraining from making any outside changes because things happen the way they are going to happen. Appreciation is the absence of complaints. I recognize the robin’s song and understand it is more complex and intertwined with the whole ecosystem than I will ever comprehend. I recognize that there is a squirrel here that is gathering food so that it may survive the harsh, barren winter. I recognize that there is air present here and that I need each breath. But I cannot appreciate these things today. Appreciation for the birds and the colorful leaves that are the forever symbol of the beginning of the warm holiday season will only make me feel the pain of what is ahead more acutely. Appreciating the squirrel and its existence and meaning will only make me think of its innocence and helplessness. Appreciating the air will only make me think about the times to come when people may not appreciate breaths of fresh air because they do not know what those are. Today I cannot appreciate, for I cannot refrain from pushing for change. And I have a lot to complain about.

How can I appreciate that I am not a minority when that should never make me feel lucky? How can I appreciate the air when the thought of it immediately brings me to the reality of pollution? How can we appreciate how far we have come when we have been stripped of our progress and made clear of its lack of effect? How can we praise our diversity when it is denounced by them?

After we recognize that our souls bloom from the same spirit, after we understand that we cannot only take from the world but must give to it, after we overcome injustice, our hearts and minds will be balanced. Maybe prejudice needed to triumph on a sweeping and indisputable scale in order to get the waters of our minds and hearts flowing more powerfully. I’m sitting out here today, unappreciative, hoping for a day when I am content with the reciprocity of our souls, for a day when we are not lacking in comparison to anyone else, for a day when the earth’s protection and fortune equals my protection and fortune equals theirs equals his. On that day, I will truly appreciate.

“I’m not giving up, and neither should you.”

The Listening Shaman, by Shivam Patel

With each subsequent visit to White Clay, there’s an increased feeling of familiarity. The magnified solitude and quietness strengthens the connection I have with the land. It’s something that, to my dismay, I have never actually experienced with depth. When David Abram talks about shamanism, specifically in that in Indonesia, he writes:

It is this, we might say, that defines a shaman: the ability to readily slip out of the perceptual boundaries that demarcate his or her particular culture – boundaries reinforced by social customs, taboos, and most importantly, the common speech or language – in order to make contact with, and learn from, the other powers in the land. His magic is precisely this heightened receptivity to the meaningful solicitations – songs, cries, gestures – of the larger, more than-human field (9)

Sitting cross-legged on the soil that I have come to love, I toy with the idea that because I feel so connected to my perch in White Clay, that just maybe I’m a shaman too. Here in White Clay, I too slip out of the comforts of my culture. In my new culture in White Clay I am more empathetic. While hearing the trees’ songs, as the wind whispers to their leaves, cynicism bends to assurance. Shallow thoughts dealing with work, the “future”, or inadequacy are hushed by the rhythmic sound of water caressing the rocks. I feel wistful here…

If I were to not come here every week, I wouldn’t get to hear the song of the American Robin. I wouldn’t know the nuanced pitch differences between the calls of a Belted Kingfisher and Red-Pileated Woodpecker, and that I prefer the call of the Red-Pileated Woodpecker. Nor would I still come to White Clay with the hope of hearing a Mourning Dove or Wood Thrush. How many other people can express the same sentiments?

Abram mentions that in many cultures shamans are revered. They are almost isolated from the rest of the community, which enforces the idea that they are to be respected: only bothered when needed. Here in White Clay, I enjoy the pristine moments of solitude. However, there’s a part of me that wishes I can bring people to my perch and have them sit and marvel at the nature around them like I do every week – that may not be very “shaman” like though.


I noticed rustling in the bushes near me. I stood up. The rustling stopped. I eased my way to the bush. There could be anything behind it, after all, Halloween is shortly approaching and who knows if there are “spirits” haunting me. I was nearly two feet away from the bush, when I heard a loud rustle, and saw bushy grey tail and a branch swinging up and down as whatever was– a squirrel, probably, hunting for nuts for the upcoming winter— behind the bush scurried up the flimsy limb. I then thought of Abram’s description about the life forms on this Earth.

These Others are purveyors of secrets, carriers of intelligence that we ourselves often need: it is these Others who can inform us of unseasonable changes in weather, or warn us of imminent eruptions and earthquakes, who show us, when foraging, where we may find the ripest berries or the best route to follow back home. (14)

The grass at my spot has lost its buoyancy. It is now grey-brown and its tops are hugging the ground. Leaf debris encircles the rocks in the water. Various nuts drape the forest floor. These other signs of life are in constant communication with us. Moments before, the squirrel’s journey and the slow decay of grass dictated to me the transition of seasons. However, this is only one thing that we converse about. It is, and has been, constantly telling us stories. I have realized this too late in my life, though. I have been too preoccupied with the easiness of the culture around me. And I think, what other conversations with nature have I missed? What is it telling me now? If I just listen, then I will know.

I Made a Million New Friends Today, by Grace Hassler

Once I spoke the language of the flowers,/ Once I understood each word the caterpillar said/…Once I heard and answered all the questions of the crickets,/ And joined the crying of each falling, dying flake of snow,/ Once I spoke the language of the flowers… How did it go?/ How did it go?

-Shel Silverstein, “Forgotten Language”

My junior year at my Catholic high school I went on a religious overnight retreat with my classmates. For one of our activities, we were paired up and asked to talk about a topic I can’t recall. I ended up with my good friend PJ, and we sat in a field and watched the sunset as we talked. I asked him, “have you heard the song ‘I Saw God Today’, George Strait?” It’s a song about seeing God in little things all around you. I continued “because this sunset reminds of that song.” This still holds true for me today. I look at a sunset, a flower in the desert, a burning tree in autumn, and feel a spiritual connectedness that I don’t experience anywhere else. Maybe this is part of the reason why I’ve departed from the religion I was born, raised, and educated in.

My trip to the woods this week reinforced those feelings I first expressed five years ago, and David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous helped me to better verbalize and understand them. I started on the trail to the place where I visit with the advice Dr. Jenkins gave last Tuesday: view the world around you as a subject. It was much harder than I expected, but nonetheless I tried. I began by looking at the trees all around, and recognizing that each was a unique individual. Although I did my best not to ascribe human characteristics to them, I wondered if it would offend the trees to be referred to as just a “tulip poplar” or “maple”, let alone a “tree”, if trees could get offended. Either way, I worked very hard to see a grove of individuals rather than just “trees”, and beyond that, all of the organisms around me as individuals. It was overwhelming and eerie at first, to be surrounded by a forest of Others, or spirits. Never had I walked through these woods before and thought about the fact that not only am I perceiving, but I am being perceived by everything else at the same time, even the things I cannot sense. So, I did the only thing I could think to do: be polite. I greeted everything I saw with a shy and reserved “hello”. It felt very silly at first. I was saying hi to a tree. But, it was not about the words, it was about the gesture, the acknowledgement that I was among others. I was fascinated to read my feelings reflected in Abram’s writings, and hoped that one day I might reach the point where my “experience of the forest is nothing other than the forest experiencing itself” (68).

After a while of verbally saying hello, I realized I could take my salutations one step further: I could touch each tree I walked past as well. Although I saw it as familiarizing both of us to each other, Abrams made me realize that not only could I feel the tree, the tree could feel me just the same. It was just another reminder that I had a long way to go before I truly transitioned from instinctive objectivity to conscious subjectivity.

By the time I reached the field, I was overwhelmed by and cloaked in the vitality that surrounded me. I made it about halfway across when I finally just couldn’t walk anymore, and dropped to the ground. I laid on my back, feeling the contact between myself and each leaf and blade of grass. The wind was blowing, and each tree was dancing in unique, unrepeatable movements. I watched one particular sycamore tree in front of me; it completely entranced me. I watched the leaves, in their various shades of green, yellow, and red, move both as individuals and as one. It was hypnotizingly beautiful. I took turns trying to turn off each of my senses: I closed my eyes and felt and listened. I tuned out noise and just watched and felt. I listened and watched as if I were floating on nothing. I could have laid there for hours, just watching the world go on around me. In that moment, I swore I could feel the roundness of the earth.

It took me 30 minutes just to reach the stream. I sat down, and I looked at all the fallen leaves around me. Each one is a story, and has a million stories to tell. Soon, these leaves will break down and return to the earth, where they will then support new life. Sitting there, surrounded by my newly recognized companions, the concept of reincarnation gained a new meaning for me. When something dies, it goes back to the ground where it decomposes and becomes nutrients for new life. Our bodies nourish a seed, which feeds and insect, then a bird. The water in us eventually becomes rain, or enters a stream. And we slowly travel all over the world, becoming new. Reincarnation is both logic and magic.

Before I left, I found myself singing to the life around me. I don’t exactly know why. I couldn’t discern if it was my way of breaking what I now found to be an awkward silence between me and my nonhuman companions, or because singing is the really the only socially acceptable way of making noise when not accompanied by other people, or because singing is what you do when you are with friends. Regardless, I sang to them. As I was leaving, I thought about Abram’s experience of returning to U.S. and losing his connection with the natural world, and how this happened to me every week once I left the woods. I hope one day I can hold on to it. As I walked out, I did the only thing I could think to do: say “thank you” to the place that I entered every week for having me.

Warmth for the Soul, by Jack Sypher

Helena Norberg-Hodge identifies the transition in values from Lama to Engineer, in her book Ancient Futures. The paradigm shift from Eastern universal scope to the Western fractal scope shows a shift in how the Ladakhi accept the model of science and subsequently life through the eyes of a Westerner. All of the sudden, there is a “shift from ethical values that encourage an empathetic and compassionate relationship with all that lives toward a value-free ‘objectivity’ that has no ethical foundation” (p 109). What Norberg-Hodge does not explicitly analyze is the confrontation between economics and Buddhism. She notes that they are at odds, that progress is often not what it seems. The idea of capitalism is diametrically opposed to Buddhism.

Capitalism roots itself in efficiency, which means that in order to make someone better off, another person needs to be made worse off. This is counterintuitive with the sense of community established in Buddhism, where every living this has an obligation to respect each other. The shift towards capitalism is a positive feedback loop, which accelerates itself towards competition. The traditional way of life in Ladakh had negative feedback loops in place, which created a life of dynamic equilibrium and cooperation. As competition increases, religion deteriorates. Most acutely, the aspect of Buddhism that suffers is the idea of Mindfulness. As the Ladakhi are able to warm their houses, and live in more relative “comfort”, they become unable to warm their souls.

In a 2011 TED Talk by Matt Killingsworth, he studied the causation of dissatisfaction. He built an app that sporadically asked thousands of people who participated what state of mind they were in, if they were in the moment, or if they were allowing their monkey mind to wander. The results showed that every time a person let his mind wander, even if it was off to something pleasant, that he would shortly thereafter become less happy than if his mind was in the present moment. The traditional Ladakhi society was based on spending maximum time in the moment, whereas the modern version, with money at the central podium of life, causes much worry because it advocates for planning and mind wandering.

Yesterday, I made fire. I can’t say that it was the same way people have made fires for the past thousand years, but what matters, is that I did it mindfully. I decided that in yesterday’s radiating sun, I wanted to spend time in the backyard; on the cement slabs we call a back patio. I emptied the previous and mucky contents of the metal fire pit. I split some seasoned wood with a maul, and carried it over to the pit. Setting up the fire to promote burning, I built a lean-to, and stuffed newspapers underneath it. The newspaper caught after I flicked a few matches, and strategically placed them under the paper. Unfortunately, I forgot the medium sized tinder.

In searching for a way to sustain the fire as the second, and then third round of newspapers burned, and the wood remained hardy and seemingly unphased, I dashed into the house and grabbed a bottle of redneck lighter fluid and a shot glass. I walked outside and poured out the shot of Everclear and dribbled it over the fire. It caught instantaneously. Everywhere a drop landed, it would darken the wood, and no sooner could I identify where it had fallen, than it would dissipate, replaced by a stalk of undulating fire. Discouraged to see that the wood still did not catch, I let well enough alone and decided to keep this carbon dioxide sequestered in the wood another day.

Half an hour later, my friend Jase came over and blew into the bottom of the fire a few times, and the wood caught fire. He and I kept the fire going for the better part of 8 hours. It overheated us in the sunny times, it remained stoic in the face of torrential downpour, and the embers glowed well into the night.

The fire was never meant to warm my body. It created a sense of community. My friends and I took care of the fire together. The smoke cleansed each of us in its billowing plumes. The dance of the flames entranced us. We sat outside. We ate outside. We talked outside. The fire kept me firmly rooted in the moment by forcing my body to continuously care for it. This fire was meant to warm my soul.

In Medias Res, by Gianna Mercadante

in me·di·as res (adverb)

in ˈmēdēəs ˈres,ˈmādēˌäs/

into the middle of a narrative; without preamble.



Not the Beginning, Not the End

As a 24-year old who has only voted in one major election prior to 2016, I recently returned from six months of travel to a homeland distraught and divided over the upcoming election. I was and am excited to have been a part of such a historic time in history, but I was less than impressed with the childish and exaggerated discourse between both the candidates and the voters this year. And even today, after the constituents have cast their votes and our 45th president has been elected, the chaos in the United States ensues.

It may appear that the election is over, but our nation is nowhere near settling its disputes. We find ourselves once again with a vote count that leaves an almost dead even split between candidates, and for the second time in sixteen years the popular vote is different from the electoral vote. The outcome of the election can be called neither a total tragedy nor a total success because the fact remains that our nation is almost completely divided on some very fundamental values. Whether you are proud of the outcome or distraught by it, we cannot accept that this is the end of the conversation. We are in the midst of challenging time for the American people and great change is necessary in order to prevent such drastic divisions from happening again.

I acknowledge that there has been a very clear and present media bias throughout this election as well as a whole lot of sensationalism used in the majority of news sources that have perpetuated this madness. And I believe that the media has negatively pushed us to the extremes that our now divided nation finds itself in today. But I will not accept that this divide between the American people is solely a product of Facebook rants and NBC and Fox News, because we are the audience that is greedily taking in this overhyped information with open arms. We may be a long way from a mass media revolution, but that does not mean we can’t target the problem that current media is perpetuating.

There is a more crippling bias that exists inherent in every person on the earth: the one that comes from being who you are. And even after lifetimes of trying to understand and accept each other, we still find ourselves divided by values that directly correlate with certain groups and identities of people. How can we avoid bias when it is the product of our own minds? How can we begin to understand one another and see from alternate perspectives when we are only able to physically experience the world through one set of eyes? If we are all separate bodies living our own separate lives, how can we begin to educate ourselves on the experiences of others? If we cannot place ourselves in other shoes physically, can we do so emotionally, and how?

What we are lacking as a unified people is a unified perspective. I believe that we can achieve close to this, but that it will take real effort. It will take many of us having to change the worldviews that we have held our entire lives. It will take an amount of self-awareness that is difficult both to face and to maintain. It will take sacrificing our daily comforts and questioning our fundamental values.  It will take motivation, dedication, empathy, open-mindedness, and yes, change. Then eventually, hopefully, we will reach understanding.

That being said, I am attempting to write this with the least amount of bias possible.


Let’s Start Now, Right In the Middle

For us to unify our minds we must first take the time to understand history as it has led us to the differing mentalities we find ourselves experiencing today. We must ask the questions that are answered by the patterns that got us here, because in the pattern lies understanding. If we listen to each other’s stories, each other’s reasoning, each other’s heartaches and each other’s desires, we may find ourselves experiencing this feeling of understanding, that aha moment that happens when you finally learn something for yourself and you realize that it is okay, and beneficial, to question what you think you know.

I see the value in checking your privilege as it calls to attention the things we are not consciously aware of about ourselves. The point is not to accuse yourself of being ignorant and wrong your whole life thus fur, but to accept that you are not perfect and do your best to be a better person in the future because of what you continue to learn about other people.

I am a woman. This I can speak of confidentially as my perspective as a woman allows me to experience firsthand both the struggles and privileges of being a woman.

I am white. I am also privileged to experience firsthand the struggles and privileges of being a white person.

Who am I to say from my perspective what it feels like to be a black man or a Muslim at a time where such identities are facing outward discrimination? As a woman who promotes feminism, I do understand that what women want is to be paid and treated equally to others. From my distant perspective I can only assume that what black people and Muslims want is also to be treated equally to everyone else.

Maybe because I am a woman I am privileged with the ability to empathize with such a situation. When basic human rights are being infringed upon because of physical or sociological identities, it seems obvious to me that laws should be put into place to ensure equality on all accounts. But I am writing this based on my point of view outside of the situation and I do not claim to know what it is like to experience much of this discrimination firsthand.

It would be biased if I did not contemplate that there are also certain struggles that middle class and blue-collar white voters are facing as well. These people, who successfully elected our next president into office, supported a set of policies and values that paved Donald Trump’s path to the White House. And instead of bashing them for holding such opinions that are different from your own, try to find out why their opinions are different and understand what makes these issues such a high priority for such a large portion of Americans.

I hypothesize that many voters that took part in this critical election were facing a privilege catch 22 similar to this, a state of confusion from being caught between personal identity and socio-economic status and moral value. My thought is that Trump voters are not all racists and sexists and all the ‘ists’ that they are being called, and Hilary supporters are not all radical leftists looking for free college and hoarding illegal immigrants, but that we Americans are simply and rightfully stuck between conflicting priorities. It seems that many voters felt forced to put aside their social views to protect their economic assets and vice versa, and I am sure that many voters sacrificed their values in one way or another when choosing their priorities in this election.

We seem to be at time in history when many laws and policies created to protect some people are in ways infringing on the rights and freedoms of others. And many social movements starting out from a peaceful place are having negative effects or being reacted to in non-peaceful ways. I think that these conundrums exist on all sides of the political spectrum, and no matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat or other, we need to recognize that there are multiple sides to each story. And we need to find out why.


So, What Do We Do Now?

During this election I have seen that people of many backgrounds and with diverse histories are asking for the nation to understand their previous and present struggles. As a student, I learned in my American history class that these struggles are what have made our nation the great melting pot and world power that it is today. I was taught that we studied our country’s past so that we could better our country’s future.

I believe that we need to study each other’s pasts as well. We need to educate each other and put in the effort to learn about other perspectives so that we can make rational judgments. I look to the past and I fear that many American people are regressing. I wonder how we can still be making the same mistakes when we have an entire history to look back on. I know that we have to move forward, not backward, and that to do so we must become aware of our precarious place right now in the middle of our own history.

But when you start in the middle of things when things are this chaotic, you will find yourself quickly overwhelmed. You will realize that at moments like this, the past is as equally important as the present, and that we somehow have to organize our next moves very carefully in order to bring ourselves to a more stable future. But trying to find order in the chaos of our political system is like trying to find an eastern elk in Yellowstone. It’s not going to be there anymore.

In order to organize our democracy to best provide for the American people, I believe that we need to make changes as individuals and then the political system will follow suit. Perhaps it will soon be time to revamp our electorate to better fit modern times so that America’s freedoms don’t go extinct like its wildlife. But I do not think the whole of the population is in the mindset just yet, and trying to change the outcome of the current election would be a regression of its own kind. Half of the constituents in this nation may agree with this new vision, but it remains clear that the other half is not quite there yet. And we have to continue working proactively to target future problems, not perpetuate our current disagreements.

Where we are is right here, right now. And we have the spectacular opportunity to adapt and grow along with our country. And we have the opportunity to do so together.

I am not claiming to have the solution to the divide among American people. I am far from understanding how to make our country great again or greater or if it was ever not great in the first place. I am simply trying to find the unified perspective needed to create equality for all peoples without infringing on anyone’s rights. I may not be there yet, but I am questioning myself and doing my best to become educated on the experiences of people that are different than me. This is the best that I can do and this is the best that we can all do.

Take a look at history. Take on a new perspective. Put in the effort to find the why that makes us all unique, the reasoning behind why people feel and act the way they do. Because when we see that we are all different, we will see that we are always going to be different, and then we can understand each other and work together to best accommodate these differences.

‘Murica, by Michelle Schwartz

Yesterday I convinced my roommate to go on a hike with me through White Clay. We walked for miles and visited my mandala on the way back to campus. We talked about our futures and comforted each other about the post-grad years. The fresh air was delicious, and with every inhalation through my nose I felt an instant detox throughout my whole body. It was November 8th and I was feeling happy and grateful as I basked in the lovely 3 p.m. sun that only a warm fall day can offer. I looked down to see the carpet of leaves breaking down to become soil like walking ground. I looked up to see petals slowly fall from their mother trees, leaving bare space between branches. Life was good. I did not have much work for the coming week, I was enjoying nature with a good friend, and I was appreciating one of the last warm days of the season. Nothing would change my sense of wonder and happiness.

As we walked, I noticed a couple of snakeskins. At first, I did not believe what I saw. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me and the skin must have been plastic. As our journey continued, and could not deny that those long, paper thin pieces where in fact pieces of snake skin. Unlike the shedding of human cells, the snakeskin all comes off in one piece. Through some research, I found that a shake sheds its skin to allow for growth and to remove parasites that could have attached to old skin. The snake’s skin does not grow like our skin grows. It cannot stretch, so it eventually has to get rid of the old skin to keep growing. A new layer of skin grows underneath the old one. The snake may go into water to loosen the skin or rip the skin in the nose or mouth area with a rock. This process can occur two to four times a year. It thought about how cool it is that a snake can physically evolve so quickly. Little did I know that my whole society could evolve overnight.

Today is November 9th. Today Donald Trump became the 45th President of

The United States of America. And there was nothing my tears or my one vote to the liberal state of New Jersey could do to change this. I see our nation as the snake that ripped its old skin open forcefully against a jagged rock to pry open novelty. But the skin that is now on the outside is dark and full of blemishes. I suppose the new skin had always been growing underneath the old skin. It has been waiting to come to the surface for a while, and now enough people have created rips to expose what the new skin looks like. America (White Middle America) was looking for some new skin. And they officially shed their old skin today.

Today I watched Hillary Clinton deliver a speech filled with gratefulness for her supporters and sorrow for the coming days. At the end of the speech, she spoke to the women and girls who were listening. She ensured us that we still have mountains to climb but we will continue to climb them. She told girls that their future is still bright and one day there will be a female president. I was so ready for that day to be today. I read the end of Ancient Futures shortly after hearing the speech in order to distract myself from the world I was living in. I thought of Hillary as I read the passage,

“In an industrial culture, power is vested almost exclusively in men. Science, technology, and economics – the cornerstones of this culture – have been male-dominated from the very inception. Development has had the effect of leaving women behind – both literally and figuratively- as men go off to urban center in search of paid employment… considerations such as these lie outside the parameters of conventional development thinking. Yet they are, of course, absolutely fundamental to the cause of human welfare. That, lest we forget, must surely be the ultimate goal of development. As the king of Bhutan puts it, the true indication of a society’s well-being is not gross national product but “gross national happiness”.”

Today, I feel saddened as a woman. I feel guilty to live in a country where a republican strong Senate and the House will be more open to a white male than to a woman. I feel surprised and stupid for thinking for a moment that the rest of the country was as progressive at the northeast. I feel proud for voting, but I feel defeated for losing. We are still a country that values race and gender over intellect and experience. We value gross national product over gross national happiness any day. As a female, granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, college educated, liberal, future social worker, and yoga instructor, this all shakes me to my core. What is the American dream? Because a white picket fence isn’t doing it anymore. What is happiness? Money can support happiness but it is proven that after a family is decently well off money does nothing for happiness. What are our values? And what are we teaching our children?

What are the next four years going to look like? Will I have paid family leave when I become a mom? Will Monsanto continue to get richer? Will nothing be done about climate change? Will the 1% continue to accumulate all of the nation’s wealth? I know that I will probably be fine. I live in the North East, I will probably get paid a salary, I am not a visible minority, and I can afford organic produce. But it’s not enough that I will be fine, because a lot people won’t be fine. My hands shake as I finish this piece, because there is no happy ending I can bear to write, and I love a good happy ending. Time will tell what our futures will hold. And that’s all I know.