I have loved the Earth since I arrived on this planet although I could never find the words to articulate my unnatural closeness to nature. That is until my mid-forties.
I have loved the Earth since I arrived on this planet although I could never find the words to articulate my unnatural closeness to nature. That is until my mid-forties. Growing up in Appalachia it was easy to spend time exploring my love without seeming unnatural. But as I grew older, I carried secret shame concerning the true object of my desire. I didn’t fit into the mandatory heterosexual scene that conscripted the destinies of my childhood companions. As soon as I could, I made a beeline to the urban gay artist ghettos in the big cities up North where I hid behind my punk lesbian identity mainly coming off as a healthy androgyne queer. But after suffering a steady stream of stereotypical jokes about Appalachian boys and their sheep, how an Appalachian virgin is a 12 year old girl who can outrun her daddy, speculations about tree huggers and criticisms concerning how unscientific ignorant old wives tales were, I became fed up with Northern homo-liberalism that bolstered its intellectual worth through tearing down others. I never felt truly comfortable defining myself as exclusively lesbian or even as predominantly queer. I had other desires that I couldn’t afford to let see the light of day. If I did I feared that I’d be kicked out of the sisterhood or my queer tribe would consider me too peculiar to even be queer. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore and with the help and support of my beloved ecosexual partner Annie, I mustered up the courage to claim my true sexuality. Now I define myself as a proud tree-hugging, herb loving, animal cuddling ecosexual and I will never return to any closet again.
I was born in Montgomery, West Virginia on the banks of the Kanawha River. Montgomery is mysteriously bifurcated by the border between Kanawha and Fayette counties. Charleston, the state capital is in Kanawha County and is the financial and cultural center of West Virginia. It is the biggest city in the state. Right next door, Fayette County is coal-county and as such it wildly adheres to its own laws and culture. Poverty exists alongside conspicuous wealth, a legacy from the days when the coal barons built their houses in plain view of the tiny little miners’ shacks that made up the main body of the coal towns. These mansions expressed coal’s power as well as its desire to survey and control the miners’ whose living was inexticalbly tied up with this ancient fossel fuel. These days the wealthy coal barons don’t like to mingle with the poor so they live in gated communities, gated estates or in exclusive parts of far away cities. But there used to be a time, not so long ago when both sides could see eye other across tangible physical space as opposed to through the contemporary one-way mirrors of television or the internet to be read as statistics on the unemployment lists or stock results in the financial times pages of the major metropolitan newspapers. In 1960 I may have been physically birthed in Kanawha County, but my birth certificate lists my birthplace as Fayette and that is where I officially let go my first eco-newborn screams.
Growing up in the mountains alongside the Kanawha River, the winter, spring, summer and fall nurtured this young ecosexual from the start. The fragrance of the mountains’ forests and waters permeated my every waking and sleeping moment. My body was tuned to the cycle of budding leaves turning to dark green fully unfurled then slowly dying in oranges, reds and yellows and finally cold winter browns dropping off to rot in the emptiness that reveals the naked mountains. Even in their nakedness the mountains were laced with rhododendron, mountain laurel, dogwood, redbuds, magnolias, wild azaleas, hickory, oak, sycamore and sassafras. There were also cherry, maple, walnut and beech trees and together they all created a protective canopy over the Queen Anne’s lace, Jack in the Pulpit, may apples, ramps, ferns, mushrooms and moss. Hunting salamanders for fish bait in the fresh water creek running down off the mountain and into Daniel Boone’s Bathtub, forming swirls underneath Suicide Rock, then passing below route 60, to empty into the slow, caramel green of the Kanawha, made for some of the dreamiest moments of my childhood.
Of course as a young ecosexual I enjoyed the Earth’s bounty which entered my body through the domestic scent and taste of homemade hot white rolls with fresh butter, sweet potato pie, green beans, pinto beans cooked with fatback, cornbread, baked apples, venison, roast beef and fried chicken. These ecosensual delights were interlaced by the scent of smoke wafting from my grandmother’s woodstove and the perfume that my aunts wore to the Methodist church that my Grandfather Stephens built. My eco-olfactory memory bank simultaneously maintains deposits of the slightly acidic smells of cutting oil, coal burning furnaces, hot welding rods, cigarette smoke and diesel that gathered in the corners of my family’s machine shop in Smithers. In my child’s mind these scents were as much a part of the earth as the smells of the forest and food as they too originated in the mountains and were tied up with coal, as was everything in my early ecosexual life. The coal trucks still thunder along Route 60 on their way to pick up or deliver their heaping loads of black gold and I can still feel them before I hear or see them coming around the bend.
The shop, Marathon Coal Bit Company, was one of those places like the woods where I was allowed to roam unsupervised, playing on conveyor belts and chain hoists, watching the machinists at work on their lathes, milling machines and welding stations. Today child protective services would have had that shop shut down and my father dragged to jail for allowing a young kid to wander around in a fully operational machine shop but back then it seemed normal because that is what my family did. I loved the thick grease caked on the ancient cement floor. I loved yellow-blue red-hot welding arcs that seamlessly stitched slightly dull dark grey plates of steel together. I knew not to look directly at that bright light or I could and would go blind. The shop’s dark corners were littered with prehistoric cast off metal tailings that curled like toy pigs’ tails. These beautiful and sharp twisted bits of metal could slice your finger off or put out your eye if you weren’t careful. I loved this place filled with danger and creativity. I knew that nature, even as it was translated into industry, could be extremely dangerous. I learned to be careful.
I learned this from the machinists who worked in that shop with their dark green and navy blue work clothes from Sears and Roebuck. Their shirts all had bright white patches embroidered with Spence, or Bob or Billy in red stitching right over their hearts. They had old black boots with steel toes that paid homage to the “Safety First” signs that were nailed up arbitrarily alongside the Snap On tool-girl calendars that decorated machine shop walls. A lot of these men were missing fingers and teeth. They had gotten their education in the military or other hardscrabble schools of life and this knowledge was cellular. They could tell a story all the while machining a perfect cutting bit to within one one-thousandth of an inch. Their machining kept the mines going every bit as much as the coal miners did, they knew this and they were proud of their beautiful precision. I wanted to be able to make things like them when I grew up so I watched carefully as they told me their stories about growing up in the woods.
Mattie Mathews didn’t work at Marathon, instead he worked further down the river at the coal fired electric plant in Glasgow. Mattie was an ecosexual. He loved the woods more than anyone I’ve ever run across in my life and he passed this love along to me through his love of animals, his stories about hunting and by taking me camping. I loved nothing better than to go camping on Summersville Lake with Mattie and his wife Aileen. I began to have eco-sexual feelings on these early camping trips. First we’d hook up their little pull-behind camper in the early morning hours. Then we’d drive the 30 crooked miles from Charlton Heights, turning left at Gauley Bridge where the Gauley River meets the New River to form the Kanawha. We’d follow the Gauley up to Summersville Lake. Even though it was only a short distance from home it felt as though we had driven all the way to Europe. My best friend Smokey, who also happened to be Mattie’s German Shepard, would always accompany us. In the middle of the hottest afternoons Aileen and Mattie would let me go skinny-dipping. Skinny dipping was not only a great way to cool down but just knowing that it was kind of naughty made it even more exciting. The water churning between my legs as I dogpaddled in place and the wind on my back made me feel exquisitely alive. My feelings of oneness with nature were boundless as the minnows nibbled at my toes and I peed in the water. Smokey swam around with me and if I got tired I could grab his tail and he’s swim me into shore. I loved nature and I knew that nature loved me because the water did not let me down.
We’d fish for hours from Mattie’s little motorboat on the calm blue lake. Everyone kept at least one fish and sometimes two as the fresh water nurtured the bass, the bluegills and catfish to full maturity. Whenever we caught a fish that was too small we would throw it back into the waters. Those were the lucky ones as I’ve always heard that a fish will not bite a baited hook twice. After the sun went down and the heat dissipated Mattie would fry up our fish with a mess of hush puppies, fresh corn on the cob and ripe Big Girl tomatoes. Mattie was an excellent chef. He was the first man I ever knew of that loved to prepare food and he would often insist on cooking. Mattie had a gay brother, Eli, who lived in Charleston and Mattie loved him dearly. This was the first straight man in my father’s generation that I knew who loved a gay man without it being weird. As with all things sexual, I was curious about Eli, whom I met a time or two and with whom I felt a strange connection. Maybe he was an ecosexual too. At night, under the stars of the West Virginia sky I embodied the knowledge that on the scale of ecosexual satisfaction there are few things more fulfilling than sitting by a hot fire, eating fresh bass and catfish that you’ve caught with your very own worm in the company of those you love and trust. The fish tasted wild and yummy and after this perfect meal I would sleep and sleep and sleep.
I also went on the farm in Virginia. My grandparents lived on the farm about three hours south of Montgomery. It was near the little town of Hillsville, Virginia, near the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains overlooking North Carolina. My father purchased this farm for my mother’s parents because my grandfather Marshall could not hold down a job due to his drinking. This was before I was born. In retrospect I think my Grandfather was an ecosexual too. Some ecosexuals tend to be high strung and nervous and sometimes their ecosensitivity leads them to alcoholism. I say this because alcoholics are very, very sensitive and deeply feeling creatures who drink to excess to try to stave off some of the dark pain and sorrow that permeates the world around them. Ecosexuals are tuned into nature at a level that is much more connected than the internet and more meaningful than all of the other modern conveniences in our contemporary consumptive society. Some Ecosexuals drink to cover their shame around loving the earth too much. Ecosexuals have also been known to drink to excess or take too many drugs in order to have ecstatic experiences in their quest to become even closer to nature. This is fine for ecosexuals who do not have alcoholic proclivities but for those ecosexuals who might be genetically or emotionally inclined to addiction, enhancement of their innate love of nature through the use of drugs or alcohol can be a daily game of Russian roulette. Luckily, becoming a farmer and working with nature on a daily basis helped my Grandfather Marshall stop drinking and ruining the lives of those around him. By the time I was born he was as sober as any alcoholic can ever be, which is to say that he quit drinking though his own love of nature and through daily connection to the earth. He became a loving a productive ecosexual farmer and I worshipped the ground he that he planted corn, beans and alpha-alpha on.
My Grandfather helped me discover my own ecosexuality although I was too young to share that experience with him at that time. I knewthat I was an eco-sexual was when I found myself delighting in the dirt under my fingernails gotten from digging around in my grandfather’s earthworm farm at the age of four. I loved the rich, black loamy dirt that the earthworms made with their shit. I loved their slimy purple pink ribbed bodies when I picked them up. I loved them more, especially after I learned that each individual earthworm contained both male and female reproductive organs. This seemed like a perfect way to be in the world, self contained, hermaphroditic, slimy and great fish bait.
Somehow my father and his brothers were able to keep their business going throughout their own drinking careers. This probably had to do with the nature of the Stephens clan, they backed each other up so that Marathon Coal Bit Co. would stay afloat no matter which individual Stephens was sinking at any given moment. The Stephens family was rhizomic and they took turns sinking and then bobbing back up to the surface like a well-choreographed aqua ballet or that Laurie Anderson song about walking and falling. Witnessing adult lives in various cycles of success and failure throughout my childhood taught me the importance of collaboration and support. It taught me that some issues such as ecosexual liberation are just too large to take on alone.
I loved everything about the farm. I even loved the chores that I was expected to do as my part of my familial responsibilities. This was where I learned to face my fears while enjoying the sexual thrills these same fears sometimes provided. This game seemed to mostly play out around my own fears of nature. My grandmother had two huge Chinese geese who loved to chase me. They would flap their enormous white wings while honking their snapping black, red and gold beaks as loud as the warning blasts of a coal train approaching a railroad crossing. These geese lived down at the pond and I knew that they savored the chance to poke out my eyes and eat them like two little mealy grubs. Whenever I visited my grandparents I had to feed those evil monsters as part of my daily chores. As a kid, there was nothing more thrillingly terrifying than bringing them a bucket full of goose feed, knowing that they were going to charge me as they always did. They’d charge, I’d spill their food on the ground, and then I’d run for dear life back to the farmhouse where I’d collapse on the porch gasping for breath and giggling like an idiot at the triumph of making it back alive. Even though at the time I thought my grandmother was trying to get rid of me, I know now that she was simply giving me guerilla ecosexual training. Ecosexuals must learn to deal with their fears of nature in order to protect their lover the earth, especially in the face of true adversity.
Sometimes I would sneak down to my Grandmother’s tomato patch in the afternoon while she was napping. It was forbidden to pick any of her tomatoes unless she had specifically requested a tomato for a salad or cheese sandwiches. I knew that if I ever got caught sporting unauthorized tomato stains on my shirt, or sticky tomato fingers, I’d get a spanking. I had to be careful sneaking through the tomato patch in the hot Virginia sun in order to carefully select the one, almost too ripe, tomato that was ready to burst out of its own skin and spill its life blood on the red clay below. I would take my time sneaking over to the reddest, plumpest tomato, careful not to disturb any of the other plants much less leave any trace of having been there at all. I’d pick my tomato and reverse my steps to make a careful exit imagining that I was a Native American scout, leaving no trace. Upon exiting the garden, I’d run to the hay barn where I had stashed a special cardboard shaker of salt and I’d have my way with the sweetest, most succulent big red tomato around.
I knew that Iwas ecosexual when I realized that I preferred to be lying on my back in a field surrounded by the tall alfalfa grass right before haying. Lying there with the sun on my face just gazing at the sky. Protected from the sight of others by the tall waving grasses created a completely electric charge that could not be turned off by anyone. Lying in a ripe hayfield with a stalk of alfalfa between my two front teeth studying the clouds, watching them turn into unicorns, lover’s faces, breasts, continents, letting them carry me away was a beautiful waste of time. In those moments I melted into the earth. I was nature. I was eco-static.
I wasn’t interested in having sex with other people until I was almost eighteen. I thought boys were gross and stupid in their pimply adolescent fake adult bodies. I’d much rather have a high spirited pony between my legs. I knew that I ecosexual when I had an out of body experience galloping through the mountains on a fast, sweaty, sure-footed pony. Not caring about anything as I flew, I was one with the animal beneath me. I just egged that pony on and she went faster than the wind. Wrapping myself around animal body, hanging on for dear life-hands in mane, reins let loose, legs gripping for all I was worth. My heart was in my throat in rhythm with the drumming of hooves on the ground and the world was a watery blur. The slow down, the cool down was a bit of a dream and when I came back to my body I was surprised to get off and walk away as a separate creature.
I preferred the company of animals to that of most people. I often still do. I grew up surrounded by dogs, cats, birds, snakes, gerbils, hamsters, cattle, goats and horses not to mention the deer, bear, possum, raccoons, skunks, groundhogs, squirrels, fox, coyotes, bobcats, rabbits, field mice, hawks, bob-whites, whippoorwills, blue jays, robins, barn sparrows, pheasants, turkeys and crows who inhabited the woods the fields and the riverbanks around me. Animals have a live and let live or kill for survival attitude that seemed more honest and much less emotionally complicated than the world of my parents and grandparents whose pain I didn’t understand and yet seemed destined to inherit. After my mother died when I was seven I began to realize just how complicated human relationships could really become. This knowledge was not accompanied by any useful self-help or psychological tools.
My ecosexual reverie was further sullied by my family’s expectations that I should increasingly learn to embrace societal norms as laid out in Readers Digest, Life Magazine or on the Ed Sullivan show. This all added up to my being expected to turn away from my beloved Earth in order to begin the process of becoming a well-behaved young lady who’d be eligible for marriage someday. The notion that I was supposed to abandon my ecosexuality and embrace straight culture only added fuel to my anger toward my family that had first flared when my mother died. I became increasingly volatile after my father remarried and after a couple of serious altercations with his wife, my anger raged out of control. My father sent me away for two years to the prestigious all girls southern boarding school in Virginia, Chatham Hall.
Unbeknownst to almost everyone else, and especially to the school administrators and my family, Chatham Hall was a hotbed of eco-activity. It was an ecosexual nunnery of spirited young women and we econuns loved nothing better than to go out into the hay fields, strip naked and commune with the earth, the sky and the water. These explorations of nature were accompanied by parallel explorations of the spaces between the physical and spiritual worlds. With the aid of marijuana, MD 20/20, a few Quaaludes, and a little acid we created visions of an ecosexual revolution where we would one day be free of the rules that bound us to our parent’s expectations. We spent hours naked together under the sun. We considered ourselves the more artistic students although others viewed us as the bad girl clique. I don’t really know what the other, better-behaved girls did together. I suppose they went to a lot of student council meetings where they prayed for our souls while planning to kick us out for breaking the rules. It was an Episcopalian school after all. But we, the closeted yet obviously ecosexual nuns, worshipped nature, drugs and art. Somehow this brought me great solace. Chatham Hall is where I learned to party like the rich girls who surrounded me. There were girls there with ecosexual names like Weasel, who heralded from families who owned the last of the great southern textile mills and sported mottos like, “Our blankets cover a multitude of sins.” It was our sin of imbibing sacred and illegal substances that resulted in the expulsion of many of the econuns from the halls of Chatham Hall. I for one, never got caught.
This both did and did not serve me well. I was able to continue to insulate my emotions around the issues that I was too young or fragile to handle while fortifying my anger in preparation for my eventual departure from the south. I ended up in Boston (after a quick detour to Alfred, NY) where I joined ranks with a bunch of lesbian punk rocker addicts and fellow alcoholics. It did not serve me well in that it was during this eco-nun period that I stopped being able to imagine a day without doing some mind-altering substance. I was taking communion all of the time and alcohol was by far my preferred drug. I sometimes regret that I didn’t know that I was an ecosexual lesbian when I attended the all girls boarding school. If I had known, I might have come out of the closet sooner than I did. I sometimes think that if I had only known then what I know now that I might have even gotten a rich eco-patroness as well. Although as I’m reading Derrick Jenson’s book Endgame I’m realizing that even this ecofantasy of how my teen years could have gone is a delusion. In order for the rich to stay rich they have to invest in the destruction of the environment in order to keep a steady supply of natural resources feeding their wealth. Getting hooked up with a rich girl from Chatham might have been the end of my own ecoconsciousness. Luckily, I managed to escape that particular fate.
After this bizarre stint at Chatham, I decided that I never wanted to go to school again so I moved back to the family farm. Some of my friends from Chatham would come visit me there and we would party like the exosexual animals that we had become. I had the pleasure of turning them on to moonshine, that fine homemade brew made from corn mash and that is nothing short of liquid LSD. We’d drink until we were crazy and run around in Dionysian ecstasy. It was extremely liberating until we woke up the next day not remembering exactly what the gods had led us into the night before. The best cure for any remorse was to simply get drunk again.
I fucked my first boyfriend under the full moon in the apple orchard on the farm in Virginia when I was eighteen. We were just playing around like the two randy young animals that we were. He Pan the horny goat and I was a wild Appaloosa. Once we started we loved to fuck in the barn, out in the fields, in the middle of the day, middle of the night, anywhere and every time we could. We fancied that we were in love and we were undoubted in deep lust. The only thing that could stop us from our wild animal escapades, especially when we first hooked up, was my father. He would come to Virginia on the weekends to get away from his work and to check up on me. My father accidentally encouraged my ecosexual proclivities. He hated Jimmy so much that I knew he would kill him if he ever discovered that we were screwing like two big rabbits in heat. So when Dad was around, I warned Jimmy off. As I look back many, many years later, I’m sure my father knew exactly what was going on. Maybe he didn’t mind as much as I thought because, as a fellow ecosexual, my Dad enjoyed sex as much as I did and maybe more. It’s just that we couldn’t talk about things like that. Although after I did come out to him as a lesbian, (I couldn’t bear to tell him that I was an ecosexual) we’d sometimes compare notes on the women we’d watch on the beach while sitting together outside after he had retired to live in Port Charlotte, Florida.
Upstate New York/Boston/Rutgers
I stumbled onto my first lesbian lover because of her sculpture. It was made of mud and hay and I smelled it before I even saw it. I’ll never forget, a little mud lean-to structure sitting in the middle of a dark brute caste cement modernist building in Alfred, New York. Mud mixed with hay, and it smelled delicious and reminded me of the mountains for which I was terribly homesick. My attraction to the piece was magnetic and I knew that I had to meet the person who made it. It was almost as though I knew that I would fall in love with that person but I never dreamed that it would be a she and that she would be one of the loves of my life. Mary was an ecosexual too, although at the time we both thought we might be lesbians. Well, we didn’t really know that for sure either. We both had southern boyfriends and both of the boyfriends would come up and visit us and bring the dogs. Separately of course because they didn’t know each other.
My boyfriend Jimmy would drive up from Virginia to visit me. He’d bring my dog Georgia and he had one of her puppies who he had named Roxanne. Whenever Jimmy came up I would exit my dorm we’d go camping up in the woods about a from campus. We camped like this from September through November, and even though it was cold as hell in upstate New York. We loved being outside with the dogs and wanted to be able to sleep together, fuck, talk and play music without any interruptions. The dogs provided great company as well as heat and protection. I don’t remember whose land we were camping on, as I think of it we were probably trespassing on someone else’s property but at that point in our lives the world was ours and could camp anywhere we wished. Jimmy really wanted me to marry him and he would ask me every time he came up but I was beginning to have an affair with the woman who had made the mud sculpture. I told Jimmy about Mary just as December rolled around. It had gotten too cold to camp and Jimmy gave up on me marrying him. He gave my dog to a mutual friend to take care of until I got out of school for the summer. That was the last time we ever spoke.
That first semester of school, Mary and I would make out and hang out in between going to classes during the week. We’d compare notes on our weekend dates with our boyfriends. Eventually she asked me to spend the night with her. Learning to fuck and be fucked by another woman was one of my favorite ecosexual educational projects. After awhile she also broke up with her boyfriend David and I moved into her apartment. We partied a lot and drank like fish. We used to also drop quite a bit of acid. Dropping acid out in the country was one of my favorite eco-trippy things to do in the entire world. We would drop a hit and then go wandering around outside. The acid made everything glow Technicolor, it was as if I was wearing special 3D sunglasses that added a magical glow to every single thing as the world’s true aura in all of its multicolored glory had just been revealed to me for the very first time. It was spectacular and it was a turn on which led to more lessons in lesbian sexual techniques.
Mary got kicked out of graduate school at the end of the year. She decided to move to Boston and I decided to follow her. I think that it was in leaving the countryside and moving to the city that my drinking really took off. Although I found Boston to be very exciting, I also thought that it was mean spirited and repressed as hell. Things weren’t going so well with Mary and by the time she decided to go back to graduate school in St. Louis, I wasn’t going to follow her there. She left and I stayed in Boston. It was during this period of time that my separation from Nature was getting the best of me. I reached the depths of my alcoholism fueled now by cocaine. It was the eighties after all and being an ecosexual in the city was considered to be passé. I drank to drown my sorrow at being surrounded by tons of concrete and friends who cared more about lesbian separatism than they did about art or environmentalism. I was miserable. Luckily two drag queens decided to drag me to AA. They took bets on whether or not I’d be able to get sober. I’m not sure which one bet on me and which one against but somehow, against all odds, I was able to stop drinking. This probably had to do with the fact that I was so terrified of each one of them that I figured if I just did what they said then they wouldn’t talk to me more than was absolutely necessary.
My next significant relationship was sealed when this hot woman who I had last seen at the skuzzy lesbian bar called the Marquee caught my eye at the AA meeting Crossroads on Tuesday nights. After the meeting Fredericka invited me to go apple picking with her. It was when we were both up the same apple tree that she revealed her gift of being able to pick apples with her toes. Being the latent ecosexual that I was, I was hooked. She picked apple after apple, as I got more and more turned on. After neither one of us could take it any more we climbed down the tree and took a roll in the hay that turned into a three-year relationship. Fredericka was fun when we weren’t in some fucked up power struggle. She too had ecosexual tendencies and must have sensed that we could explore them together.
After our apple picking sex date the next amazing ecosexual adventure took place in Mexico. I had never been out of the country so this was my first trip to another country. I loved it. We didn’t have any money so we hitchhiked or took buses all of the way around the Mexican periphery beginning in the Yucatan. We did the usual tourist trek from Merida through Chichenitza and then to Tulum. At Tulum we rented a cabaña with a thatched roof for six bucks a night right on the beach. This was the most ecosexual hotel I’ve ever stayed in before of since. There were no bathroom facilities, we shit in the jungle like a couple of bears and we bathed in the ocean. We slept in hammocks, which made it hard to have regular human sex so we practiced having mobile monkey sex. At least that’s what we imagined we were doing on the swinging hammocks in our cabaña by the sea.
We stayed in Tulum for a couple of weeks because it was so cheap and the ocean was extraordinarily beautiful blue green field with white caps dividing it from the sky. We ate very cheaply at the little restaurant, situated under a thatched roof a few hundred feet down the coast from our cabaña. They served perfect ecosexual fare like fresh fish, scrambled eggs and fried papas. It was simple but perfect. We’d often chase our food down with the not so ecosexual coca-cola or aqua mineral. Sometimes we would even brush our teeth in coca-cola. The amazing warm blue ocean held us like the two babies that we were, soft and buoyant in its liquid arms, its eco-oceanic arms.
We met Carlitos Nin at the restaurant in Tulum. He said that he was the nephew of Anias Nin, that in fact he claimed that she was the first woman that he had had sex with. This was the first person who I’d ever heard talk about having sex with a family member and it seemed as normal as sex with a stranger. Carlitos said that Aunt Anais had taught him everything he needed to know in order to be a good lover and he had no shame. He was an older distinguished looking man who turned out to be filthy stinking rich from the exotic timber plantation he owned and maybe some family money thrown in as well. I’m not sure about that last fact. I’m also not sure why he stopped by the little restaurant in Tulum as it was in the middle of nowhere, but he was taken with Fredericka and me. He immediately set about picking us up. Then, like now I was an ecosexual who was interested in adventurous monogamy. I mean we are all part of the same system are we not? Plus Fredericka and I hadn’t had a shower in a couple of weeks and we were in dire need of one. When Carlitos invited us to come with him to the town (which he owned) we agreed to go with him. Everything seemed ok as both he and Fredericka had gone to Yale. Now as I think of it, I realize that we were crazy. He had also worked for the CIA under George Bush Senior with whom he had been classmates at Yale. Basically Carlitos had been a cold-blooded hit man for the CIA who resigned when he realized that George Bush was a far more ruthless murderer than he could bring himself to be. But he sure was sweet to us. Carlitos bathed us in his shower, then Fredericka and I played around in bed for a while Carlitos watched. It turned out that all he wanted was to watch two young eco sexual lesbians make love and that was fine with us. We had great sex with each other while he watched, amazing what an audience can do for one’s performance. This was the first time I ever realized this and it was fun. Afterwards, Carlitos fed us a beautiful traditional dinner before sending us back through the jungle to Tulum in a cab.
We left Tulum shortly after our adventure with Carlos Nin and we proceeded to travel in a southwestern direction to some of the other Mexican ruins, Pelanque, through Chiapas and on to Oaxaca. Oaxaca City was beautiful but it was the Pacific coast of Oaxaca that seduced us both. We stayed in a little town south of Puerto Escondido called Puerto Angel. Here we daily walked through the jungle to swim in the powerful, clear blue Pacific. At night we would eat at either the crazy Italian’s fish restaurant perched high on a cliff overlooking the sea or at the Zen Buddhist vegetarian guesthouse in the jungle. I always wondered how they got their tofu shipped in because it seemed so far from any supplier,.
California-teaching at UC Santa Cruz, living by the ocean
The Seven Year Project
2005 First Year-Survival, Security-Cancer perhaps caused by pollution-
2006 Second Year-Sexuality, Creativity-would later lead to the idea of Ecosexuality-Moved to Boulder Creek.
2007 Third Year-Power, Courage-began to initiate a Systems based Environmental Art PhD
2008 Fourth Year-Heart, we married the Earth and formally became Ecosexuals
2009 Fifth Year-Throat, communication, married the Sky and Sea, Entered PhD program at Davis
2010 Sixth Year-Third Eye, intuition, married the Moon and Mountains
Seventh Year-Crown, enlightenment-start an institute, finish classes at UCD
We are on a writers’ retreat in Akumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico right down the coast from Tulum. This area is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Our current lodgings are quite comfortable and serve our writing well. Not to mention that Beth Pickens is cooking us the most delicious evening meals in all the land. My previous stay in Tulum felt more ecosexual as I was much closer to the elements but I didn’t know that I was an ecosexual then and so in some ways it was wasted on me. Now I understand more clearly who I am as I write four stories above the ocean in apartment ocho, listening to the ocean and the laughter below. When I desire I can come down from my perch to enter the sea for a delicious warm green blue swim under the enticing cloud laced blue-grey blue sky. From up here the horizon makes a perfect line across the space where the ocean meet the sky, where the Earth curves toward the Caribbean, in the direction of Europe. Europe that place that centuries ago sent its conquistadores to destroy this culture and steal its resources and enslave its people. That occupation continues even as Esther cleans this apartment and Ramon sweeps the stairs while others whose names I don’t even know rake the beach in front of Luna Azul on a daily basis. Esther even carries out our used toilet paper. As Jensen says civilization depends upon being an occupying force. But the earth resists in its beauty and although the economic privilege that our lodging represents is a far cry from the lowly cabaña Fredericka and I stayed in on the Tulum beach twenty years ago, I now feel even closer to the Earth than I did then. I realize how high the stakes are around keeping our planet healthy, happy and alive or being able to at least salvage what we still have. This morning walking on the beach, I turned to Annie, my ecosexual lover and partner extraordinaire and I noted that it felt as if the ocean was licking me over and over, again and again with her big frothy tongue. It was a gentle turn-on that I could experience forever. I felt inspired to write a watery equivalent to our vows to the Earth.
We promise to love you until death brings us closer together forever.
We are consecrated to you, Earth, through this dirt that we will become.
As I listen to the ocean going in an out later I feel more than a little sad at all we have done to destroy those magnificent and brave waters and how we have not only dominated the oceans but the people who have made lives beside the seas for centuries, like the Mayans who sweep and clean this apartment daily. In spite of this, they greet us every day with a warm and friendly “Buenos Dias.”
We did make vows to the Sea but now feels like a kind of shotgun wedding, less well planned-or not so much less planned but more chaotic as we our well-laid plans couldn’t have anticipated the crazy scene we encountered in Venice. In spite of the multiple breakdowns in communication that we suffered, our Blue Wedding to the Sea turned out beautifully, just not exactly as we had planned. In retrospect it was hilarious and Michelle Tea caught the gist of it beautifully as she sat in a café in xxxx writing her Believer article about our crazy Venice Wedding. But this morning walking along the edge of the Akumal beach, the ocean gently licking my feet, ankles and further up my legs I was thinking about what Justin Chin had mentioned as we were swimming together. He said that he had flown home just after the Tsunami hit Indonesia a few years ago and how the ocean had swept so many human bodies out to sea. The following year the seafood catch was more bountiful than it had been in a long time and the fish, shrimps and lobsters were huge. For some reason (for obvious reasons) nobody ever talks about this. I wouldn’t mind becoming fish food when I die. This would seem like a very ecosexual thing to do with ones dead body. By fish or by worm, entering either part of the life-cycle through death is ok by me. I’ll have to remember to change my will and get buried instead of getting cremated. I’ve heard that there are eco funerals, which are really old fashioned burials where ones body simply returns to the earth to decompose naturally. Returning to the earth would be a much slower more productive way of decomposing. Decomposition is a much more useful and less polluting process than going through a commercial incineration. I don’t want to be embalmed either because then whoever eats me will be poisoned by the formaldehyde, not to mention the earth itself. I am tired of continuing to participate in the cycles of poisoning that are killing us all. But it is difficult to decide where and how to get off and change the systems that control us all. Is simply declaring myself to be an eco sexual enough? Obviously not but it is a move, a move in the direction that feels right to me.
Eco Sweat Lodge
Seven of the nine of us Radar Lab writers, plus our guide Antonio went to do a Mayan sweat lodge the other night. For some reason there seemed to be a lot of fear among the group before hand. I’m not sure what this was about, but I selfishly didn’t care because it was my honeymoon with Annie. We were celebrating our first kiss nine years ago. I’d never done a sweat lodge before and maybe I should have been scared too. But this is one of the things that Annie has wanted to do together since we met so my anticipation was inspired by her desire. It seemed like a very spiritual thing for two ecosexuals to do with each other and a potentially bonding thing for all of us who went together to experience and hopefully enjoy.
Two young Mexican men drove us there in a huge green van that looked almost military. I’ve noticed that the vans here in Mexico are bigger and more business like than passenger vans in the US. On other trips I’ve taken to Mexico there has been a more obvious military presence in public spaces. But here in Akumal there is little of that. Akumal seems like a fairly well off resort where the mechanisms of control can afford to stay hidden. We all piled into the huge green van and drove down the highway, took a U-turn, headed the other direction listing to Cindy Lauper and Madonna on the radio until we finally turned off on a dirt road and headed straight through the jungle. Then some guy from the ancient band Boston stared singing and everyone except me knew the words. They engaged in a discussion about what this song had meant to them at the point in their lives when it was first released.
I looked out at the jungle and marveled at how impenetrable it looked but in reality how penetrated it had become. The sandy dirt road was in pretty good shape, as good in fact as the paved road that runs from the village of Akumal to Luna Azul where we are staying. Our driver knew how to dodge the pot-holes. After awhile we arrived at an amazing compound where discarded toilets, ancient looking stone-walls and equally ancient looking stone structures co-mingled with thatched cabañas of differing sizes and seemingly different purposes. It was a magical place were numerous dogs wandered around lazily. Their leader was a growly dachshund with enormous balls. A skinny monkey was swinging wildly in a tree. He looked quite happy swinging around until I noticed that he was chained to a thin wire run that gave him some leeway but would not allow him to escape into the jungle or go anywhere else feely. That made me sad and when this monkey charged Elyssa, I had an inkling of the kind of rage that might have propelled him towards her. If I were a monkey chained to a tiny tree in full view of the jungle that used to be my jungle but hadn’t been for centuries now, and someone approached me, someone who might have been in part responsible for taking my jungle away. I would charge them too.
This is part of the challenge of anthropomorphizing nature through my own ecosexuality. Can I assume to be able to enter into a sexualized relationship with the earth and the earth’s creatures, plants lands, waters and sky? How do I know what a monkey really feels, or whether it feels feelings like I feel feelings? How do I know what or if the earth feels either? Humans can take measurements of the phenomenon that we think are worthy of measurement such as the ability of fish to feel pain, the ability of life to survive in the sea, the amount of chemicals that we have ingested via water, air, fish or fowl we ingest but at the end of the day is this just scientific data? What about the spiritual, the emotional and the communal meaning of life on the earth and what does the earth itself experience?
Our leader, the macho wiener dog shaman, led us to the general location of the sweat lodge while watching every move we made. As we got closer we began receiving spoken instruction. Luckily Maggie Nelson was able to translate the human shaman’s salutations, instructions and invocations for us. But before the real ceremony began we each went to the bathroom and did what we needed to do. I must have been a little nervous as I took a big poop like I always do before a performance. This is my body’s way of cleaning itself out in order to be free to accomplish the more important work at hand. My body always knows when to do this. It feels good, although I will have to admit that I am still getting used to wiping my butt and then engaging with the toilet paper until I can get it into the wastepaper basket. In fact, I try to perfectly fold the toilet paper so that my shit is hidden. It’s similar to the way that I deal with my emotional shit. Our super effective toilets in America encourage us to wipe and throw away our used shitty toilet paper without ever having to think about what it means, where it goes or how much we waste. We just unconsciously flush and flush and flush, until all traces of our shit disappear out of sight. This is one of the so-called benefits of modern civilization; we don’t have to see or think about our shit. Sometimes I can’t help thinking about shit through, especially because I live in a city. All of the shit (not to even mention the piss) produced with its accompanying toilet paper plus the water that people waste is enough to provoke some real shock and awe if only we’d take a moment to calculate its volume. Ecosexuals like to ponder such things.
In the city of San Francisco where the population is about 750,000 within the city limits, if each individual shits once a day and wipes using two or three (we’ll say two) wads of toilet paper per dump, that equals 1,500,000 wads of shit stained toilet paper that travels into the San Francisco sewage system daily. 10,500,000 wads are flushed away each week and 546,000,000 wads of soiled toilet paper are flushed away per year. This is begins to resemble another version of our national deficit in the form of a whole lot of shitty paper. The Mexican system of throwing ones toilet paper in the wastebasket rather than flushing it into who knows where seems more sane than our own. It gives whoever is in charge of waste disposal more options concerning environmentally friendly methods of disposal. At the very least it provides options that might be less destructive than just mixing the toilet paper up with all the other wastes and clean water only to have to either separate everything out later or treat the sewerage with chemicals or both before releasing some of it back into the water supply. I’m just presuming that I have any idea what the SF sewer system does in order to handle the city’s shit as I don’t really know but I am curious. They could compost it like the young activists who taught us about composting toilets did at Mountain Justice Summer Camp earlier this summer but I’m certain that with the budget crises this is not a financially viable option.
I like the sign that is situated right over the toilet paper holder in the bathroom adjacent to our double room in Ocho. It reads:
PLEASE TO NOT
PUT PAPER IN
W STA BA KED
When I first sat down to use the toilet and saw this small sign on the wall in front of me, I didn’t realize that some of its letters had simply fallen off. I thought that I was being given ancient Mayan instructions about how to go to the bathroom. When I finally realized that I was simply being instructed to put my toilet paper into the wastepaper basket, which was provided, I felt a little sheepish that I hadn’t gotten the message on first read. I had enjoyed the feeling of receiving ancient instructions so much that I decided that I wanted to continue pondering this little blue and white message as if it were in fact an ancient and perhaps sacred epistle from the past. I like the fact that taking a piss or a shit is an act that joins us all together across race, gender and time.
This spring, on a man-made valley fill near Whitesburg, Kentucky I learned that it is harder to compost shit if there is wet material like pee or water mixed into it. Shit has to be as dry as possible with no toilet paper mixed in either for effective composing. Sawdust should be mixed into the shit as well as lime to help it decompose into rich loamy dirt. Then the whole thing gets covered with hay. That both the Mountain Justice folks and the Akumal Mayans request that we not mix our toilet paper with our shit forces me to actually think about my shit for a split second before hiding its traces delicately in the folds of the toilet paper that I then gingerly place in the waste paper basket. This gives me hope, hope for what I’m not exactly sure because it seems like such a small gesture in the face of the huge wave of corporate devastation that continues to take place on an ongoing basis against my lover the Earth. Maybe I will request that we start separating the toilet paper from the toilet at home. Then, I wonder if we are supposed to put our used toilet paper into the blue recycling bin or the green compost bin. I’ll have to call our garbage company, which recently changed its name from Sunset Scavenger to Recology. Does this name change make our garbage men ecosexuals too? I make a note to myself as I fold up my soiled toilet paper, put it in the waste paper basket and go outside the bano to wait for either the dachshund shaman or the human shaman’s assistant to lead us to the sweat lodge. As soon as Tamara joins us we go.
We moved to the sweat lodge as a group. The man who first greeted us when our van arrived led us to the shaman. Although I had originally thought that he was our shaman he wasn’t. Everyone appeared to be feeling more calm although later when we replayed our sweat lodge experiences this wasn’t the case at all. Some of us had applied mosquito repellant to stave off the blood thirsty mosquitoes while others decide to enter the lodge in a more natural state. Annie and I decided not to wear our bathing suites at all. This felt right and when we finally got to the real shaman who gave his permission for us to be naked. He was clad in a white outfit, white pants and guyubero shirt. His skin was dark and his hair jet black. The shaman was waiting for us in the middle of the circle. There was a young boy with him who was also assisting and who may have been the shaman’s son. Perhaps he was in shaman training, at least I would like to believe that this tradition is handed down from generation to generation but I have no idea as I would also have liked to have remained ignorant of the large group of German tourists who were in line close behind us for their own sacred sweat lodge experience. Well I guess even shaman’s have to make a buck. this shaman was beautiful as he stood by the impressive bonfire that he had created. At first I thought that the fire was made entirely out of huge tree limbs that I saw laying scattered about off to the side. But as time went by, I realized that the purpose of this fire was to heat the lava rocks, which would then fuel our sweat lodge. This heat in turn would remove our fears and other negative impurities. This fire, our fire was an ancient fire and it along with the glowing rocks embodied our ancestors who would shortly guide us and keep us safe as we performed the sacred sweating together.
But we before could enter the lodge itself, we naturally had to learn a thing or two. We had to thank our ancestors and purify ourselves. We had to learn how to blow the conch shell. The first male assistant led us into the first stone circle. He instructed us each to pick a conch shell from the ones that were sitting on the low circular mason wall. When we had all located ourselves around the inside perimeter of the circle, with our chosen shells, he demonstrated how to properly blow into them making a low mournful sound. We all tried to mimic him but our amateur attempts sounded really funny. Everyone was laughing nervously. I was reminded of the Dinwiddie Presbyterian Church on Snake Creek Road near our farm in Hillsville, Virginia. Sometimes, my father would take me and my little brother to church there. The farmer’s wives served a delicious harvest lunch after church and I always knew that that was the real reason we attended. The Dinwiddie congregation shared the same type of musical talent that we displayed on our first attempts to make a beautiful sound come out of the conch shells. We sounded hilariously terrible. I was surprised that I was eventually able to get my shell to sound half way decent. I even had to admit to Michelle Tea that I had been a clarinet player in another lifetime. I had some prior experience with trembling my lips together, just the right way in order to coax a solid sound out of the organically shaped instrument. We practiced our conch shells in preparation for calling in the spirits when the time was right. I was feeling excited about going deep within.
But we still had to thank the spirits. The Shaman gathered us in front of his alter, where there were many objects, burning incense, statues of various Mayan gods, pieces of black lava and other objects that I didn’t recognize. As our shaman spoke in Spanish, Maggie translated. He even threw in the Mayan phrase for thank you, which we all repeated as best we could while he conjured his gods and objects to guide us and to protect us as we shed our masks of negativity and fear. Then our shaman announced that we were all going to drink a very special honey flavored wine from a sacred tree. A heavy pregnant pause filled the air as four of the seven of us standing in this sacred circle are sober alcoholics. As Maggie translated we looked at each other in terror. This magic mead was intended to protect us from any demons that might be lurking about the sweat lodge, but alcohol itself was our number one demon, more baffling and cunning than any other haints we could imagine. Maggie started to explain that we had a problem when the Shaman, who seemed to be able to read our now activated masques of fear, assured us that there was no alcohol in our drinks. We all believed him and proceeded with the ritual. His assistant handed us all hollowed up smooth green shells which he filled the shells with the demon resistant liquid. We refrained from drinking until the Shaman fed the first drink to the fire. He did this in a beautifully ceremonial manner. Then we drank our honey mead and it tasted sweet and delightful, a true ecosexual nectar.
Next we were asked to take up positions around the circle and blow conch salutations to the four directions. We did so, our conch horns sounding much better than they did during our practice session. Our shaman had a huge conch shell. It was extremely beautiful and sexy in a ritualistic kind of way. The power of the sound that his conch emitted almost felt as if we were going to make a human sacrifice. Maybe the stories of the ancient Mayan human sacrifices at places like Palenque or Chichenitza were what everyone’s’ initial fears around the sweat lodge had been about. Blowing these conch shells felt as mysterious and primal as a any low deep sounds made during orgasm or animal sex. What could be better than summoning the spirits on the way to experience the unknown? The conch music felt as if an ecosexual vibrator was caressing my entire body. I was excited.
Afterwards the shaman’s adult assistant instructed us to put down the shells. Then we were invited to enter the next stone circle. The huge, hot fire was burning brightly in the middle of this space and we could see the sweat lodge just beyond. Again, we had to be cleansed. This time the shaman traced our bodies with incense as we held our arms out in the shape of a cross. We were purified by the incense in order to enter the sweat lodge. One by one we were cleansed by the shaman’s smoke. He used a feather to spread the smoke over and around out bodies. A sensual smoke massage that gently suffocated any doubt and fear. This is an old sophisticated ecosexual technique that I have practiced before but it had never quite been like this before. I think because this time it was outside in nature. Our shaman became all shamans across eternity and his incense was preparing me to meet my fears. It was a complete turn on. One by one he cleansed us all as we entered the circle. We took our places
We were given instructions to breath through our noses. Explicit instructions (which we never would have understood without Maggie Nelson’s ace interpretation job) were given not to stand up or try to get out by oneself, as the coals were dangerous and we might bump our head on the low ceiling as we would be in a different state of being. We entered the dark sweat lodge and took our places on folded Mexican blankets that were arranged in a circle, following the perimeter of the low round building. The assistants began to hand large glowing chunks of rock through the small low door on a pitch fork. Our shaman took them with a cry and the placed them in the center of the sweat lodge. Finally, then the small low door was tightly hammered into place, sealing us off from the physical world outdoors. I felt a little claustrophobic fear slide down the back of my throat as I hoped that I wouldn’t pass out in the heat, which was beginning to get intense. All I could think was thank god we didn’t do this in the middle of the day. I was already sweating profusely. It was pitch black inside except for the glowing embers-and a strange little light in the ceiling. If anyone freaked out and needed to leave they were to clap their hands twice and wait for the shaman’s assistant to come get them. I was determined to sit through the entire ritual, even if it meant passing out and having to be carried back up to the physical world of the living.
I closed my eyes as our shaman eco-lover led us through what seemed like four levels of the ritual.
The first level was intended to transport us to get through our initial fear of the heat and the darkness. Upon completion of this phase of the ritual we received congratulations for being brave warriors. I felt good as I was still sitting upright and ready for more.
In second level we sang, The Earth is my body, the Water my blood, Air my food and fire my sprit.” Of course we sang it in Spanish and we all heartily joined in together. We sounded strong.
Again, our shaman assured us that we were brave female warriors as we continued to journey.
In the third and fourth levels we were rebirthed by water and enjoined to find our spiritual path. I saw my spiritual path as being involved in environmentalism and I knew that we were on the right path with our explorations of ecosexuality.
Our shaman threw water on us to cool us down, to wash away the last of our fear and negativity demons and to prepare us for reentry. Upon initial contact the water was surprising even though I could hear it splash on the sides of the lodge and on the bodies of my companions before I felt it touch my own skin. After the first powerful splash I wanted it more and more and when the water mingled with the copious sweat from my body it felt as if the Earth had just ejaculated all over me and I was ready.
Our shaman took good care of us and would check in with an Esta Bien through out the ritual. Each time he would call out Estan Bien? We would answer in refrain, Si estan bien.
Then he asked if we were ready to go. After what seemed like a too short time, we all replied yes, we were ready.
We crawled out slowly animal like on our hands and knees counter clockwise around the edge of the interior wall. I was next to last and Annie was last as we exited careful not to get near the glowing hot embers of the rocks in the middle. When we came out we stood up slowly. Our shaman bathed us in water sweetened with special herbs. Then we were invited to swim in the cenote. Water and fire were the stars of this ritual which took me far, far outside myself and into the spirit world. The spirits gave me strength and vision to fight on behalf of the water in the world. As we swam in the cenote I realized that it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, the deep water perfect, cold and calm. The deep water holding us, water babies as we laughed and cooed. We regressed to a child state, some swinging from the roots of trees that grew overhead. We were glad to have made it through the sweat lodge without passing out or throwing up from the heat, we were glad to be received into the arms of the cenote. We were glad to be taken care of by these beautiful people who then welcomed us into their wildly florescent pink green and yellow cabana for a gourmet Mayan meal of chicken, rice, beans, chilies and handmade tortillas. The chicken tasted as if it had just been sacrificed for us. It as delicate and tender and restored any strength lost in the process of the deep sweat.