Now that Max Wilbert and I have stayed at Thacker Pass beyond BLM’s 14-day camping limit, a background dread has settled over me. While it’s unlikely that BLM officers will arrest us right away, if they really want to stop an occupation before it gets going, they could. And, Max and I could be charged with crimes that carry a sentence of up to one year in jail. This possibility forces me to ask myself if I am ready to take that risk.
I took a walk today asking myself if I was brave enough to go to jail for Thacker Pass. An intuition pulled me west, towards the setting sun, towards the death of the day. I trudged along through a foot of unbroken snow hoping that I could sweat the stress hormones out of my system, hoping I could walk away from answering my own questions.
But, I couldn’t.
The faster I walked, the more I sweated. With my legs wobbly from pushing through the snow, I finally stopped next to an ancient sage brush, four feet tall and at least as wide. I sat down beside her and confessed my fears.
All she said was: “How do you think we feel?”
The cold began to get to me. I was afraid of losing a year of liberty. She was afraid of losing her life and the life of everyone she had grown old with. At any time, I could simply pack up camp, get in my car, and drive away to my loved ones. Rooted, she had nowhere to go.
The winter air turned my sweat chill. Pain, and then numbness, crept through my fingertips, up my toes, and over the edges of my body until I pondered that time when my life would end and I would be completely numb. The wind asked me what I would do in the time before the final numbness.
I saw the day lighting up the sky with a final, fantastic splash of color as it died, leaving a legacy of strength and beauty for those of us who must remain to admire. Then, that ancient sage shook off the snow and I knew her taproot was clinging stubbornly to the earth. I felt my own begin to sprout.