Erin recommended Angela to me and she had some very kind words to say about her as she did it, setting the tone for a lovely and comical email exchange as we set up a time and place for our meeting. It might have been the familiarity with which Erin presented her or some cosmic connection from another life, but I felt like Angela and I were old friends as soon as we met. We had a really lovely and warm conversation inside the At Liberty space in downtown Bend. It went in a different direction than most of these interviews go and Angela even interviewed me, which seemed to give her great delight. She’s got a rapturous laugh and a style of communicating which I found transferred very nicely to audio, so if you have the space for it, give this interview a listen.
Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
My name's Angel Reid. I am a writer. And an introvert (laughs). And a transplant from Seattle. And a mom and a wife and a daughter and a sister. And a dog owner. Newly a dog owner. We'll talk more about that. I have a lot of questions for you, as a dog owner.
What matters to you? What pushes you?
Hmm. Yeah, we'll just start with the heavy stuff. Okay. Well, I think that things change as you get older. Obviously. It's funny, I used to notice that my dad was getting really sentimental as he aged and I would sort of laugh about that. And now I see it happening to me. It's hard to not tie this into your project, but definitely finding those connections between people - I think is really important for all of us. You know, going through my twenties and thirties, I was probably looking for the meaning of life. Now, I think I've kind of accepted there isn't really one except to maybe leave it better than we found it. Leave the people around us better than we found them. Maybe leave the planet better than we found it, although we're not doing so well there. Just try to leave everyone a little better than we found 'em. If possible.
What does community mean to you?
Yes. It's funny - I always practice stuff on my husband at dinner. Things I'm working on or thinking about or writing about. And so I posed this question to him the other day. What does community mean to you, honey? And he was caught a little off guard, but I think he answered with what most of us maybe first answer with, which is it's sort of geographical or accidental community. But I also have noticed that there are those accidental communities and those intentional communities that we gather around ourselves. I love the accidental ones. There's the dog park community, right? There's the parenting community. There's all my fellow families. And we gravitate to each other for certain things. My son's into karate now, so there's this whole karate community that I did not even know existed. And I love it. It's a beautiful thing. I had no idea. And then there's the more intentional communities where we sort of select our people. The people whose values we share or imagine that we share or want to share. And we try to surround ourselves with them more. Like this (gestures to the space). I used to feel more like an artist when I was younger than I do now. And so I think I'm trying to surround myself more with the artist community to maybe find that part of myself again.
How does it impact you? Or feed you?
It is a reminder that we're not alone. Right? If we realize that we have more in common than we thought. I don't know if Erin told you about - probably the reason she thought of me for you to talk to - I had a project a couple years ago that was very simple. It was just a letter writing project. And so people were asked to write postcards to a stranger based on a theme. It was a little harder to execute than I thought it would be, so I still have lots of thoughts about this project and why it's not going on anymore and what I could have done differently. But the genesis of it was I was volunteering at Bethlehem Inn - homeless shelter - mostly to, I guess, explore this fear and confusion I had about homelessness and to get a little closer to it. And I'm glad I did because I think what I noticed that was surprising and more heart-breaking than I had expected was that it's not just - I know I'm going way down another path here, but I'll come back - it's not just the guy with the cardboard sign on the corner who might be homeless, but it might be a lot of people walking around right now who might not look homeless and don't want us to know they're homeless. It is so close to all of us, especially during a recession which is when I was doing this. It would be so easy for any of us to be homeless. You miss a mortgage payment or your spouse dies and you cannot pay your bills or something. We're all just one misfortune away from it. And I felt like I really wanted to help people see that we had more in common than we didn't instead of just seeing these divides. So, it's interesting. Communities are kind of tribes and that's good and bad. Right? If we feel like we only belong to one tribe and have nothing in common with other tribes, that part - that tension - is interesting to me. So I started this project to kind of help people see that we all had our stories. But I kind of like how you're doing this better (laughs). So I'm happy to pass the baton.
What is your role in the fight against social justice? What are we to do about it?
I don't know. All I can imagine doing right now is listening and learning. And being prepared to be uncomfortable. Because I think there's a luxury in being white and upper middle class and we don't even have to imagine, maybe, what it might feel like to not be. I don't have the answer but I do get a little impatient with the social media activism, which doesn't seem to amount to much except talk. It's been very frustrating - again, I'm going down another path, probably, than you intended - but in the last couple of years with politics and what's going on in the world, it's hard to know how to be effective and sustain that level of passion and effectiveness over the long haul. But I do like that there are conversations, at least, happening. And I think we're all trying to at least be aware. I don't know. I think it starts with awareness. It starts with some openness to the possibility that we're doing it wrong. That some things might need to change that make us uncomfortable. But I don't know. I don't know. What's your answer?
Well, my answer is that I don't think it makes any sense to accumulate wealth on any level. The things that I enjoy, typically, are things that don't cost much. I'm not upper middle class. I'm in a terrible financial situation because I spend most of my time making this project and asking questions and trying to figure out if I'm gonna be homeless and how people will perceive me in that light given that I ask this question all the time. The things that I enjoy about life are typically conversations and relationships. And it's hard for me to adopt an attitude of cheerfulness given the knowledge I have of how much shit is out there. And how many people are really suffering. Not just dealing with the inconvenience of having a scuff on their brand new shoes, but where they're getting food and water and healthcare and housing. So, my role is to talk about it, I think. My role is to make this project. My role is to encourage conversation and getting to know one another to the point, maybe, of cramming it down people's throat. I guess that's my role. But I'm fully aware that I have all of my own buttons and triggers and that I get frustrated in traffic or I get really angry at the neighbors when they don't pick up their dog poop. Or I have all my own social issues and it makes me upset and I wear all that stuff on my sleeve. I think we all have to do better, though. If there was less of a push towards accumulation, towards greed, towards contributing to designed obsolescence - I think there's a lot of things in this that I can talk on and on and on and on about, but I think they all fall under the same thing. And there's just a level of greed that, at some point, you're trying to have a little bit of a safety net and then, at some point, you've gone overboard. And I just don't know what the overboard is about. Or why to seek it. I'm happy with a second-hand vehicle. It's a dream to have a house that's under a thousand square feet. I just have different ideas. I don't want to make it sound like everybody should want those things, but I just don't have a lot of desires for a lot of expensive, fancy stuff. I don't know that that answers that question either, but I think that we owe it to each to try to be kind, to try to be understanding, to try to communicate. But this is an interview about you.
I know. You like how I keep doing that? That's my special gift. Yeah, I am conflicted about all that stuff because I like beautiful things. They don't have to be fancy things, but I do like art. But I married a very practical man who is good for me. That would be a funny interview if it were both of us. He'd be like, Really? His family's from New England and they had this piece of paper. I'm learning about New Englanders. Where are you from?
(Laughs) We still go to Maine every year. So they have this piece of paper on the fridge there and maybe we had it on our fridge for a while, too. You probably know the saying, Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. I think about that a lot because that's not how I was brought up. But it's this little voice now in my head. You know, when you just get tired of something or it just isn't quite new and perfect anymore. But it still works. So, anyway, that's the angel or whatever on my other shoulder who keeps me balanced. I think that's wonderful - if you can ever expand your family in that way, pick someone who balances you out. It's really great.
What do you wish for the future?
Oh gosh. I wish that my kids didn't have to fix all our problems. I feel like we are messing a lot of things up for them. I wish for things that won't happen - like technology would take a few steps backwards. Or that maybe it would take a few steps forwards and it would be more useful and not just a toy and a distraction. I think there's potential for it to help solve some big problems if we can use it right. It's hard to look at the future and not think about my kids. That's changed a lot of how I view the world - knowing that it's their world now more than mine. I hope that they feel empowered to make the world a better place, but they don't feel burdened at that task. I hope I have taught them well. We're still in it, so we're not done teaching. I hope people talk more. And listen more. And don't just Facebook more. You know? Simple things. A lot of big problems to solve, but I think there's also a lot little things in just how we go about our daily lives that could help.
Well, you still have your life to live again. In theory. I don't know if that's a good thought or a scary thought, but there's a lot left for you to do.
Yes, I'm not done. And, you know, the cool thing about getting older - it's not all bad - is that feeling a little bit more aware that we are all here temporarily is kind of interesting. It's kind of empowering. For me, anyway. I don't feel like, Ick, what's it all for? We're all gonna die. It's, Ick, we're not here very long. Let's see what we can do with this time. I think I've already gone through my mid-life crisis - I hope I'm done - where I was afraid of everything. Now I feel like there's really no point in being afraid of everything. Let's just do what we can. Not much time. You know?
Do you have any parting words?
I should have prepared this because I knew that you would ask that. I don't know. I think because I am more of a listener than a talker I'm uncomfortable delivering parting words (laughs) in a Here's my profound speech way. I think your project is really important and I want you to find an audience for it and I want it to grow. And I want it to go outside of Bend. That was also my hope for the project I was doing a couple years ago: I didn't want it to just be Bend. It's interesting because if I were to just sort of let it follow whatever path it wanted to take organically, it seemed to just move around on the west side of Bend. There's a lot of interest, anyway, in connection. And I wonder what that's all about. Is that just, I don't know. Is that charity that makes us want to reach out? Or is it loneliness? Or is it, I don't know. There are a lot of transplants in Bend - people from other places. And I think that maybe has something to do with it; we know that there's a world beyond our door and maybe we're eager to build a new community here because we're from someplace else. I don't know. I hope you won't give up. I hope you'll meet some interesting people.
I certainly am meeting interesting people.