About Me

My photo

Traveling, living, loving, exploring and trying to make some semblance of sense out of this crazy world.  


Thursday, May 31, 2012

The fight goes on...

And I am tired.

Tired of causes, of interests, of hobbies.  Tired of the endless Internet chatter of affirmations and discoveries, secret plots and sunny family photos of nothing.  I am tired of writing hundreds of diatribes to idiots and slackers and stoners who all want to legalize cannabis but have not one single clue of how to get off their asses and get something done in a unified fashion.

I am deathly tired of lazy liberals who want to post about the revolution and call for Change but still cling to the same fake badges that wanted to cut them up for bait.  People who aren't ready to sacrifice and expect an easy path to revolution and victory.

The only thing guaranteed in a revolution is casualties.

Where does it start, and where does it end?  Do we rise up, and revolt, join the idiots at Occupy and immediately launch a coup to seize that movement before it is giving away useless college loans to univesities without the government support to offer decent classes or teachers? 

Do we re-invent the wheel and begin our own movement, or do we rely on the folks at NORML to finally end their comfortable rearguard action of polls and meetings and endless verbal jousting with the Federal government and actually call for a general strike?

Do we face armed Guardsmen and police with non-violence as we are teargassed and beaten and forced off of our own public parks and public lands? 

I have loved and defended this land, right and wrong, for most of my life, inside its borders and beyond.  I have accepted that the corrupt men in high places who sell poison to our children and old people have a right to make laws controlling my use of an herb. Instead of speaking out, or acting, I simply participated in the black market and reveled, to some degree, at my participation in the game that keeps such men in power.  I danced on my strings, grazed with the herd, and wished someone else would do something about legalizing cannabis.

Then I fell in love with an MS patient, and saw firsthand what prescription drugs were doing to her, and saw as well the heroic spirit fighting inside the pain and disability for just a little space to breath.  I saw the immediate relief when she tried cannabis, and I watched the fear she went through at the prospect of blood tests; tests that would reveal the damage the 'scripts had done to her organs; tests with the potential for positive THC results that would disqualify her for housing and grocery assistance, Medicaid, Medicare, and her SSDI monthly income.  It didn't matter that for $400 each month she could replace $2,500-3000 in prescriptions and the inevitable cost of damaged liver, spleen and kidneys. 

Or perhaps it did matter, to the very corporations that fund the Drug War while applying for (and getting) patents for cannabis-derived medicines.  Perhaps it is for this reason, and not any "gateway drug" propaganda, that the same Federal government which arrests MS, cancer, and PTSD patients for possession and production of cannabis has reserved for itself a patent on cannabis-derived medical pain and nerve applications.

I find myself at the point where Malcolm X once stood; I would seriously advise the leaders of this nation to heed those who would only see change come non-violently.   You have made non-violent change increasingly impossible, and you would seem to wish violent change to become inevitable, to justify the killings and beatings, the arrests and lives destroyed, the riot police, the teargas, the dogs and barricades, the FEAR and LIES used to destroy the textile industries and farmers of the south and the freedoms of a nation.

How can you expect men and women of honor to stand unresisting after such a long history of abuses and injustice from their fellow countrymen and the government which was formed to serve all citizens, without respect to economic or social standing?  After a decades-long war of  physical and spritiual assaults against our homes, families and selves, seizure of our properties and destruction of our state-licensed and approved businesses and thus our very means of earning a living; of public slander and distortion, of suppression of scientific facts and denial of succor to those in pain, how can you expect us to simply hold hands and sing as you wade into our midst, jackboots and nightsticks swinging in a fog of mace?

For too long have we remained silent.  For too long have we danced to the tune of a malicious piper.

Do not place your faith in the Vote.  All those vying for the Throne would wear the crown, not thrust it back into the hands of the People. 

Men will talk of States' rights when States are all that they can control.  But when a man stands in the highest office in the land and rules the destiny of ALL states, that appreciation for autonomy fades rapidly before the headiest drug of all: POWER.

The Vote is simply the Carrot, with which the forces of corruption and Tyranny will lead you on toward the unattainable goal of Change From Within the System.  It is a tragic comedy in which the masks change but the true players remain the same.  There can be no change in the system when there is no opportunity for outsiders to enter the system.  Those who have been bred and groomed to survive in the Political and Corporate jungle have closed the gates against outside interference or change.  The police, public opinion, your church, your place in the community, arrest, discomfort, imprisonment, public infamy and slander, these are all the Stick, used without compassion against those who would point out the fallacies, the Illusion of the Will of the People, and stand up rather than meekly bow before the show of force.

We stand at a crux, at a time of important decisions and great actions.  In flight navigation, in climbing mountains, in piloting uncertain seas, and at certain points in history, there comes a time of final choices, a Point of No Return.

The question is simple.

Is peace so dear and life so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?


I know not what others may do, but as for me, GIVE ME LIBERTY, OR GIVE ME DEATH!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A New Declaration

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all human beings are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creation with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. 


After three years of new business and job creation in one of the only dependable areas of recovery in the entire economy NOT driven by government dollars-



...even though people are dying in botched drug raids:




Using the courts to streamline competition and remove choice for their constituents:


Claiming the goal of smaller government while interfering in your personal life to a degree undreamed of by good old tyrants like King George (and didn't we fight a revolution against him?)...


...but saying little or nothing about the polygamy that their family helped make into a religion:


Declaring an intent to continue an unjust, destructive, expensive war against their constituents, in order to sustain the viability of their business partners and campaign contributors' enterprise; to force patients, the elderly and soldiers into consumption of narcotic and experimental drugs proven to have greater potential side affects and harm than any herb falsely defined by this government as being a drug.


Such has been the patient sufferance of these Citizens; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present Government of the United States is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

It has refused... Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.


It has forbidden the Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till Federal government Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, has utterly neglected to attend to them.

It has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.




It has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

It has dissolved Representative Houses or Seats of Justice repeatedly, for opposing invasions on the rights of the people.

It has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

It has endeavoured to obstruct the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others regarding their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

It has obstructed the true Administration of Justice by refusing Federal Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

It has made Judges dependent on its Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

It has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

On March 13, 2009 United States Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement that the United States had abandoned the Bush administration term "enemy combatant".   The statement said, ""As we work toward developing a new policy to govern detainees, it is essential that we operate in a manner that strengthens our national security, is consistent with our values, and is governed by law."

Am I the only one who believes they got those three priorities in the wrong order?  Now that the same rules and definitions apply equally to all United States citizens who chose to dissent or non-violently protest?  And we are "developing a new policy", no doubt requiring legions of regulatory bureaucrats and a study group or three, to re-invent the wheel; shoving through the fading line called personal privacy and basic Rights to spend more and more of our taxes denying us our freedoms.

It has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

Google "Blackwater", or check out  http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/12/12/9393006-former-blackwater-security-firm-changes-name-again?lite.

It has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

It has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:


For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting law abiding citizens of this and other nations beyond the judgement of their peers to be tried for pretended offences:


For abolishing the free System of Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:


For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

It has abdicated Government here, by declaring us outside federal Protection and waging War against us.

It has plundered our savings, ravaged our businesses, invaded our homes, and destroyed the lives of our people.

It is at this time allowing private corporations to create large Armies of Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the government of a civilized nation.

It has constrained our fellow Citizens to bear Arms against their Countrymen, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by government Hands.

It has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our lands, the merciless Internal Revenue Department and the Drug Enforcement Agencies whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.



A leader or government, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to foreign governments and multinational corporations. We have warned them from time to time of attempts to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us and to purchase the rights and resources of our land from beneath our feet. We have reminded religious leaders, soldiers, policemen and the Justice Department of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representative peoples of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united  peoples are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent citizens of the world, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the federal Government, and that all political connection between them and the State, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent citizens, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Union: the Business of Getting High in America.


 Watch and learn.  If this film doesn't leave you feeling pissed off and betrayed, you are either an idiot, or you died sometime during the film.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cindy's Story

Cindy Gray is an amazing woman.

She was born in the shadows of poverty, separated from her mother early in life, left for weeks at a time in conditions of abusive neglect by a traveling father and living a life unimaginable to most of us by the age of 5.

With her brother, she was adopted by a Mennonite couple with a son of their own who were active in church and community. When Cindy was a teen, her parents felt called to become missionaries in South America, building schools, clinics and churches deep in the mountains, driving often-repaired 4WDs over jungle “roads”, then often ferrying loads on their backs for mile further uphill to begin their work, all while teaching basic hygiene, nutrition, child care and English.

Cindy thrived in the jungle, surrounded by life and a new culture. She and her brothers explored the surrounding countryside and participated in all the functions and missions of the community.

The struggle between the Sandanistas and the Samosa government brought an end to the mission, in 1979, and Cindy and her family were forced to flee the country in the outbreak of violence. She and her brother went to Costa Rica, where they finished school and graduated with a class of missionary children.

Back in the United States, Cindy worked as a nurse’s aide for the summer, taking extra and double shifts whenever needed, riding a bicycle to and from work, catching a ride from her father when conditions were just too rough, and still managing to do her share of household chores and survive having not one but two brothers.

In the fall, she went south to the little town of Harrisonburg, in the heart of the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley; an old Southern city complete with Masonic Temple, picturesque courthouse, farmer’s market and town square, suffering from the growing pangs of becoming a university support system for two thriving schools.

Those schools were James Madison University and Cindy’s new home- Eastern Mennonite College (which would later become Eastern Mennonite University). Horses and buggies could still be see on a daily basis on the roads, and hitched to well-worn racks and posts outside grocery stores, farm implement shops and stock sales. Small groups of polite children rode bikes along the back roads and their humorous, plainspoken parents worked in the fields and the local stores, while New Wave and debates over the Reagan era dominated most of the rest of the world.

Here, Cindy met her future husband. The two of them dropped out of school to marry, disco went the way of the dodo and Ronald Reagan waved from the nation's saddle.

Cindy’s first child, her daughter Rebecca, was born five years later, in 1986, her son Andrew in 1989. Both children were (and still are) beautiful, healthy, intelligent and curious and sweet.

But while her life appeared on track with The American Dream, all was not well in Cindy‘s world.

Her relationship with her spouse had grown and changed, as many early marriages do. Her health was failing, the result of a lifetime of hard work above and beyond the call of duty, including work as a nurse, a firefighter, an EMT, a caterer, and the full-time demands of being a mother of two with an attendant group of neighborhood friends whose numbers ranged from two to a dozen.

On the spiritual side of her life, her church was on the verge of splintering along political and philosophical lines just when she most needed the support of her faith and many of her friends were suddenly silent strangers.

After years of silently enduring agony in her back and knees, and suffering splintering migraines, Cindy finally pushed herself beyond the ability of the flesh to accommodate even the strongest of wills.

In December of 2001, she suffered what turned out to be a stroke and was admitted to Rockingham Memorial Hospital.

She could not see without double vision. She could not communicate coherently, although she "felt like everything (she) said was perfectly clear". She was paralyzed down her right side and could not walk; not at all to start with, then only with two canes.

Nonetheless, three weeks later, she prepared for Christmas, including dinner, as she always had.

In March of 2002, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system. In layman's terms, her body was attacking itself, and the resulting half-dollar-sized lesion on her brain stem had caused the stroke. She was immediately prescribed a dozen pharmaceutical medications to deal with the MS, while simultaneously recovering from the stroke it had caused with more medications and physical therapy.

The strain of the rehabilitation worsened her already chronic back pain to the point of agony, and then the system simply failed. In January of 2004, she underwent reconstructive back surgery, in which her spine was reinforced with titanium rods and plates. Eight weeks later, she was walking; no longer using a walker, relying instead on two canes, sometimes only one.

Most people would have, by this point, surrendered to self-pity and a victim mentality, content to simply collect a disability check and slowly degenerate into a cripple.

Cindy is not most people.

To begin paying down the enormous medical bills and help support her family, she began part-time work at the Ottobein Grocery Store. Unfortunately, there were complications with the reconstructive materials used in her back, and in April of 2005, she underwent another surgery, wherein she was first opened along the original incision, along her spine, then rolled over and quite literally disemboweled, to allow access to the inside of her spine and pelvic girdle.

The second surgery took a much greater toll on Cindy, as you may imagine.

It took her two weeks longer to revert from using a walker to just a cane. Ten weeks total, from reconstruction to relative freedom of movement, all the while on meds for both the back surgery and the MS. During this period, Cindy and her family moved to Bridgewater, Virginia, a small farming and college town closer to the services she would require to deal with her MS.

By March of 2006, she was back at work, this time as Administrative Assistant at US Training and Development, a security training and operations center in the Shenandoah Valley.

In May of 2006, she underwent another surgery for a torn meniscus of the right knee. In six weeks, she was back on her feet. For the next year, she worked at US Training, keeping track of operations and personnel, raising a family, and trying to hold her life and marriage together.

In May of 2007, at the urging of her husband, she left that job to become a Volunteer Center host for Habitat for Humanity in Pendleton County, West Virginia's beautiful Germany Valley, near Cherry Grove.

In August of 2007, despite all her efforts and her continuing illness, her marriage dissolved. Alone and undaunted, Cindy continued to work as a Volunteer Center hostess, handling groups of 40-100 kids and adults who came from across the country to participate in HFH's volunteer building program; introducing them to the people, culture, and natural beauty of West Virginia.

I met Cindy in January of 2008, having just ended four long, frustrating years as a carpenter, foreman, and superintendent for a design-build general contractor in Louisa, Virginia, where I had help build or overseen the construction of theaters, restaurants, and multi-million dollar houses.
It wasn't love at first sight... but it was as close as you can get.

At the time, I was living in the basement of the old Smoke Hole Assembly of God Church in Smoke Hole Canyon, one of the lost and often-overlooked corners of West Virginia; putting up new climbs, hiking old logging roads, and searching for some meaning in my life. After four years of building un-needed things for unappreciative people with too much money and no souls, I hoped that Habitat would let me use a lifetime of carpentry skills to actually help those in need.

When Cindy walked into the very first staff meeting of my first week at Habitat, it felt as if the entire world stopped breathing for a second.

I know I did.

By February, we were seeing each other on a regular basis, as I attempted to knock out a year-long backlog of repairs, warrantee issues and improvements needed both at the center and at the assorted houses Habitat's volunteers had constructed over the previous year.

Unfortunately, as is true with so many non-profit organizations, especially on the local level, corruption and office politics ran rife through Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity of Franklin, West Virginia, our home office.

When I challenged the Executive Director's delusions of control over the operation by insisting that construction should meet the specs of the National Building Code from foundations to shingles, the National Building Code manuals mysteriously disappeared from the offices, both central and field. 

When I held my ground that building costs be accurately determined instead of simply ballpark estimates, this Director simply pulled out estimated costs from the year before and submitted them behind my back.

At the same time, she re-hired a previous construction manager, fired for incompetence and under investigation by the SCC as well as intensely disliked by almost all of the volunteer groups with which he had worked.

The final straw came when I insisted that the construction crews were my responsibility and thus under my control, as well as questioning why one of the highest income families in the county (the director's husband worked for Habitat as well, as Financial Director) lived in a Habitat house. On Valentine's Day of 2008, I was summoned to a joint meeting with the Director and the chairman of the Board.

After a half hour in which she stumbled over her excuses and reasons, searched in vain for emails to prove my insubordination, and finally flew into a red-faced rage at my calm acceptance and thinly-veiled amusement, I was summarily dismissed... less than 24 hours after the Director assured Cindy that "(she had) no intention of firing" me.  When I refused to surrender my phone before deleting the phone numbers of my family, I was threatened with arrest, which was hilarious coming from someone who had been investigated by WV Child Protective Services, as well as having herself been arrested for assault in a domestic dispute (Michelle, the Director in question, had left her previous husband after meeting and seducing a young priest-to-be on an AmeriCorps trip, and it was during this break-up, when she had used Habitat housing to carry on her affair, that she had struck her husband with a coat hanger and wound up in jail).

Eventually, this tempest in a teacup finally passed.  The Director realized that she really had no power over anyone more well-informed than herself who was not afriad to write letters and make phone calls, especially someone who knew where one or two bodies were buried, so to speak.  Cindy and I joined the Lambert Hilltop Park Association, the group that actually owned the Volunteer Center and the land it was on.  One of our first moves upon joining was to attend a meeting at which we convinced the Association NOT to give the Center to Habitat, as well as revealiong a bit about what went on "behind the scenes" and urging them to refuse to renew the lease when it expired in 2014.

There's more than one way to skin a corrupt non-profit, as you will see.

In July of that same year, Cindy resigned as Volunteer Center Host, on camera, at a Board Meeting, in which she read a three-page summary of the corruption and unresolved issues of this troubled branch of an otherwise noble cause. The Director and Board accepted this with seeming equanimity. Of course, they had no way of knowing that, minutes before the meeting, Cindy had mailed copies of this speech to every organization that she had encountered during the previous year.

When she finally learned of this uncontrolled information dispersal, the Director, quite simply, came unglued. She confiscated every available copy of the letter, and launched a spin-control letter of her own, which most of the organizations saw for the damage control that it was.

In the following years, this branch of Habitat was sued repeatedly, and lost seven court cases for nearly $1,000,000 in fines and restitutions. At present, there are other lawsuits pending, many groups have disassociated themselves from this particular Habitat, their lawyer has resigned, and warrantee work on the poorly-constructed houses still remains in limbo.

The same Director is still in charge. Her husband is still Director of Finances.  And they are still living in a Habitat house while making more money than anyone else in town, including the magistrate and most of the realtors.

This sort of corruption shackles the people of this region just as surely as the stereotypes and prejudices of visitors.

Cindy and I went on to explore the mountains and forests of Germany and Pendleton Valleys. I taught her to climb, and she reminded me how to laugh. We fell so very deeply in love and she moved into the apartment upstairs from mine in the old church.

We spent the next two years exploring Smoke Hole Canyon and the North Fork Mountain.  On the cliffs and boulders of that magical place, Cindy was transformed; from curious beginner to an experienced climber with an avid appetite for sport, trad, and multi-pitch climbing.  She worked through the inevitable pain that followed every day of climbing, learning to focus beyond the electrical shock feeling that came with any use of her hands on many days, finding her balance and morphing from catepillar to a beautiful butterfly before my very eyes.  Her general health and mental attitude improved, as her endurance increased and her belief in herself was reaffirmed again and again.

But the medicines which she took on a regular basis affected her mentally and physically.  She suffered from bouts of depression and self-doubt, as well as disorientation and lack of energy.  It was after a particularly bad period that ended in a trip across the mountains to stay in the hospital that I introduced her to cannabis as an alternative to the many experimental drugs and addictive narcotics whose side effects Cindy had endured for so many years.

Some of you may wonder why I would take the risk of admitting to usage of a control substance. 

To be honest, neither I nor my wife couldn't give a hoot in Hell about the law or anyone else's moral judgement when either one as stems from racism, corruption, or ignorance.

Having a badge is no proof against being wrong.

Cannabis and hemp laws are a product of all three; created to protect industrial timber and petroleum and cotton interests as well as preventing the intermingling of white kids with "lesser races", these laws now feed a soulless, multi-billion dollar rehabilitation and private incarceration industry, as well as pulling in millions of dollars for police unions and drug prevention programs that do little or nothing to keep kids off the pain meds they typically find in their Prohibitionist parents' medicine cabinets.  As many as 17 people die every day from the "medications" dispensed by revolving door pain clinics in Florida and other parts of the south, but the raids continue to focus on cannabis, which has NO recorded fatalities, ever, from simple ingestion or inhalation.

Those who may judge have never walked the Road on which we travel, and this is my wife, for whom I would gladly lay down my life or spend the rest of it in prison.  All other considerations are tangential to that fact.  Cindy has said that if arrest and incarceration is the only way to bring home the point of the tens of thousands of sick people and veterans who are harassed, forced to venture into the black market, arrested, and in some cases killed, then so be it.  Ours will be another story of the police going after a victimless crime, while the narcotics and meth market thrives around them, and sex offenders walk the streets.

The changes did not come overnight... but they did begin.  Over the course of the next two years, Cindy gradually weaned herself off meds that cost the taxpayers $2500-3000 per month (she was by now on social Security Disabilty); drugs that would have destroyed the function of her liver and kidneys, as well as posing the risk for brain tumors and other unknown side effects.  She lost weight, gained muscle tone and mental clarity, experienced fewer spasms and seizures, less day-to-day pain, and more quality of life in general.

For those of you who will now mount your lectern and pontificate about "welfare recipients buying dope with government money", remember that this is a woman who held a number of high paying jobs during her life, and who paid into the system many times over.  Consider, as well,  that I, her husband, could claim disability due to the condition of my back and neck, but continue to work, after paying over $30,000 into Social Security during the last 35 years in construction, food service, and concert rigging, moneys I do not intend to collect and will in fact never see, since they are being poured out into the pockets of the new Obamacare horde.

One of America's science fiction greats, I think it was Asimov or Heinlein, once wrote a story in which citizens who could design an automated system to do their job were paid the equivalent of one year's pay for designing that system.  If Cindy can save the system $3,000 every month in medicines, as well as avoiding the costs of the routine check-ups to see, not if but how fast her kidneys and liver were failing under the impact of all those meds, while avoiding the inevitable hospitalization from organ failure, doesn't she deserve the choice to instead use $500 of natural medicines to keep herself healthy, functional and engaged?  If you believe she does not, I invite you to give a coherent argument to defend your view in the comments section following this article.

After the winter of 2010/11 brought 28 straight days of precipitation and dropped over six feet of snow on the canyon, we decided to move someplace closer to medical services and civilization, such of it as may be found in the backwoods and small towns of West Virginia's Panhandle.  But we would never forget those amazing days and nights of discovery and wonder, love and laughter, shared triumphs and sorrows and life, there in that amazing place we had called home; Smoke Hole Canyon.

With little or no work for me (I routinely drove 2 hours or more to Virginia to do tree work or such labor as I could find), and only $1100 dollars a month coming in from her SSDI, we moved into a  decrepit apartment, little more than a slum, really, in downtown Petersburg, WV. Cindy could make a home from a refrigerator box, and soon our little nest was as cozy as any fallen-down, century old building could be.

From the beginnings, there were problems, as we swam counter to the notions of Petersburg's entrenched "gentry"; racists and' crackers, corrupt cops and crooked businessmen and -women with a highly overblown sense of their own importance in this tiny fishbowl of a town which had not changed significantly since the Civil War.

One of our only allies during this period was Darlene Casto, the lovely, laughing, warm-hearted lady who ran Buelah Land, a floral and gift shop beside our building.  Darlene is a descendant of the Ours family, one of the families that settled Germany Valley, and her memories and family history reach back to the beginning of the 20th century and beyond.  Some of the only bright days we had during the struggles of this period were spent sitting in comfortable old chairs amid the amazing displays and enticing smells of her shop, talking and laughing.

When Lois Grove, the slumlord owner of the building, tried to evict us after repeatedly entering our apartment without permission or prior consent, lying to us about her right to do so, and harassing Cindy over paying an electrical bill that was not her responsibility, we countered her action with a $20,000 lawsuit.  When her lackeys showed up to continue the harrassment, they found that not only did this child of the Ohio streets have a will of iron, she had a rather large dog named Michael.  The electrician Lois had hired to prove her assertions that Cindy was cheating her out of an electrical bill payment instead gave evidence in court that the building was badly wired to the point of being dangerous, while Lois had her employees there to commit perjury regarding statements they had made to the same effect.  Had Cindy elected to pursue the case, we could, no doubt, have won... eventually.

But life is too short to waste on stupid people. A decade had passed since Cindy's original diagnosis of MS.  Ten years is generally viewed as the "golden time" between diagnosis and deterioration with MS patients, and Cindy had too much living left to do.  She had never seen the Pacific Ocean, never been to the Rocky Mountains, could not remember the Grand Canyon and had never seen the towering majesty of Yosemite or the amazing shores and forested mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

After winnowing our apartment of possessions down to a single truckload and dropping the court case, we bid farewell to Darlene and our few local friends and left Petersburg; living out of an S10 pickup truck and a tent for several months as I began to sketch the outline for a climbing guidebook to Smoke Hole Canyon; climbing and swimming with friends, hiking and exploring the few remaining corners of Pendleton County and Germany Valley before finally heading west in July of 2011.

In Colorado, hopes of work and a place to stay fell to dust, and we spent a month slowly starving in the mountains of the Sangre de Cristos. Through it all, Cindy never lost her smile, her faith, and her ability to find a ray of sun on even the darkest of days.

We left for Flagstaff, Arizona on August 4th, 2011. They told us there that we would never find work, never find a place we could afford, never amount to anything.

It was nothing we hadn't heard before.

Two weeks later, I started a new job, we moved into a new apartment, and on August 16th, 2011, we were married in the Chapel of the Holy Dove, a tiny building in the mountains between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. With the wages from my job, we started a breakfast program for the city's needy and homeless; fixing up to 40 breakfast burritos at a time on a tiny hotplate in the microscopic apartment kitchen where we lived, handing them out to people in the city's parks and shelters. 

In December, I began working at the Flagstaff Family Food Center, a local outreach that provided hot meals to as many as 300 homeless, needy, and working-class families every day, as well as delivering 50 meals to the local mean's shelter, making donations of clothing available to those without, and providing a safe place to learn and study for the children of those we fed.  Cindy volunteered in the kitchen, where her laughter and wide-ranging experiences privded a welcome break from the routine stresses of everyday operations.   

In April of 2012, we returned to the East Coast, driving 2000 miles from Joshua Tree National Park to Harrisonburg, Virginia in 72 hours to tend to family matters, sort our remaining possessions, and see old friends. We stayed in the houses of friends and family, and and returned to the forests, camping once again in Smoke Hole Canyon. Three weeks after we arrived, we learned that Cindy's daughter Rebecca was pregnant with her first child, our first grandchild.

On May 4, we proudly watched as Becca was pinned after completing the first Eastern West Virginia Community College Nursing class for RN certification.

On May 11, we set out for Ohio, to see Cindy's Dad after a double-bypass heart surgery.  While she was truly glad to spend time with her father, the atmosphere there was still too strained for us to be truly comfortable.  Despite our marriage and my months of working as many as three jobs, Cindy's parents have never really accepted me.  She said her good-byes to her Father and Ohio, and we left the next day.
On Friday, May 13th, we reached Colorado Springs, 48 hours after setting out from the East Coast.
I have written all this in introduction to a lady I truly feel to be one of the most unique human beings with whom I have had the honor of sharing time and space.

That is no exaggeration… Cindy defies the need for invention or exaggeration. She takes life as it comes, as best she can, she deals with what is. She dreams of tomorrow and she does her best to live those dreams. Her hand and her mind are both open, as is, frequently, her mouth, especially when she sees stupidity, inequality, or injustice. She is quick to laugh and always ready to help.

We could all take a lesson from Cindy, and I hope you will take time to read her blog, Living Outside the Box, and to look at (and maybe even buy) some of the handmade jewelry she offers on her Facebook page, Owl Feather Productions.

In her life, through trials and sickness and sorrow, Cindy Gray has accomplished things that many born of privilege and surrounded by opportunity have not dared; she has overcome the kinds of adversity that make legends and heroes and heroines of simple decent humans caught in the inexorable tide of tragedy.