When I asked Jill to think of some folks to recommend she immediately named Courtney and Amy from Sunny Yoga Kitchen. I had met them both previously, but never in a very personal way, so I was excited for this chance. I put a little scheduling pressure on them as I was scrambling to get the last of this year’s interviews on the calendar so I could then work on the book and prepare photos for an exhibition and, thankfully, they responded quickly and with care. I met Courtney after hours at Sunny Yoga Kitchen and we chatted at one of their dining tables. I felt a very warm and loving connection with Courtney and was so happy that she answered the questions below from her heart.
Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
That's a fun question. Who am I? I am a human (laughs). I am a wife. I am energetic and a hard worker. I guess I would describe myself as someone who's really excited to be on this journey of life, but often finds the struggles, as everyone does, of anxiety and things like that. But I think the beauty in how life is so hard - we have to remember that that's why it's so great.
What matters to you or what motivates you?
Gosh, there are so many things that matter right now that I feel like are scarily not getting attention. So, things that motivate me on a grand scale are, of course, voting and doing our due diligence and supporting our community in that respect. Things that motivate me on a smaller level, I guess on our own little community level, is my day-in and day-out interaction with humans motivates me. I like that I work in an environment where I get to interact with people all day long and it's different every day. And so, that motivates me to be a positive moment in their life - no matter if I'm just serving them lunch or whatever it is.
As a yoga teacher, I'm really motivated to help people understand the body that they're living in. I feel like that's my biggest role as a yoga teacher is to help them connect to who they are in that moment. So, that's kind of one of my roles that I really love and I am excited about. I don't think you often get the opportunity to help people understand their body and sort of give them a light on how to figure out, Oh, there's so much more going on! And being able to witness that is incredible - it's like super powerful. So, I guess, I'm motivated by trying to bring positivity into other people's life every day - even if it's just a small, little nugget (laughs).
What concerns you or what gives you a heavy heart?
I'm so concerned about politics and what's leading this country right now. I'm so concerned that there's people that seem to be complacent about where we are. I'm concerned about the state of our environment. I'm concerned about the state in which people live - like how they feed themselves and treat themselves and what they think is important. It's so disheartening, I think, the way we've gotten disconnected to just the organic, natural state of being. And we've created a life that's really, really complicated. So, that's disheartening. It also can be exciting and inspiring when you see someone come out of that and find their power and their peace and whatever it is. But that's I think what scares me the most is that it seems that the path that we're on that is destructive on so many different levels is so obvious, but so not obvious to so many people. And I think it's scary to think about how we help them see it. I think some people can't see past the money or the mud or the this or the that and to the basic human needs - that’s disheartening.
I feel like I see things like that on a every day level. Like, not just politics or what we're doing - of course that's just this time of year is so obviously about that - but I feel like I see it every day. It's such a crazy example, but a woman the other day came in and she wasn't feeling good and she was asking me about a few things and she was telling me that she drank LaCroix water and that that was the only water she drank. Like, she didn't even realize she had to drink water to feel good. And so how we've disconnected that even an adult wouldn't realize that just something as simple as drinking water is life and that we need that. You know, so things like that every day can be like, Oh my god. How do we help everyone (laughs) but still be a functioning, not at the bottom of the barrel human? 'Cause it can be really... it can be grinding, I guess, if you constantly let all of the disheartening things... But I think those things are the ones that makes me so... it's just such a simple thing that we can do!
What do mean to each other - person to person?
So much! It almost gives me goosebumps. I think to what we as a human and a human mean to each other has also gotten lost in a state that we've created our life - cell phones and this... I think the connection between us has gotten really interestingly difficult. I think for a lot of people it's hard to just sit down and connect like this on a very simple level of whatever it would be. But I think what humans mean to another human is that basic needs - connection. We, as a human, crave connection. And someone - as opposed to a dog or a cat or an animal - we're also human. There's that, I'm the same, but different - that common ground I think is important. And I think people totally forget that. People don't remember that we're on the same level - we're cells and fibers and we're human. So I think what we mean to each other is more than what we realize we mean to each other. We mean life; we mean connection; we mean support for each other; intimacy, love - we need all that. We need humans to talk to and to, you know, ramble against or talk about. Amy and I always talk about it, but whenever I feel fussy or I don't really know what I'm feeling, I'll just start talking to her and we'll just like talk it out, talk it out, talk it out until I realize that maybe it wasn't even that one thing I was fussy about but something else. So I think that connection of being able to just like verbalize each other with each other and communicate is huge in helping even ourselves understand. Like, if we say something out loud to you then it, Oh! - I heard what I actually said or felt. So, being each other's soundboard; listening to each other. I think humans for each other are huge.
I think of people with disabilities and things like that - it's harder for them to connect. Or learning disabilities or Asperger's - it's so important for those people to also have the same connections that an able-bodied person or whoever... I think we forget that we're huge for each other. We're everything, I guess.
On the grander scale, what does it mean to you to be part of community?
It's such a good question because I feel like community is a big buzz word, but it's also a really poignant word - it carries a lot. For me, being a part of community means being a lesbian in the world and knowing that there's a community like that out here. So being part of that LGBTQ community. It's been parts of my life that are threaded through into the community. Like, I have friends from college or whatever - back in the day - that I still feel like are part of my community in just a really different way. They might live in a different state, halfway across the world or country, but it's still that support. I could call you after who knows how many years and it would just pick up like that. So, it's having that sort of thread of support no matter where you are.
I think that community is more than just where you live. It's not just my neighbors and it's not just that. It's who you choose to support and create and bring into your community. I think it's like-minded people. I'm not gonna bring in people to my community who aren't supporting the same things I do - like human rights (laughs). So especially in this political climate, community to me are the people who are out there and who are doing the things for human rights and things like that. Voting for the right people that aren't just in it for money and things like that. So, yeah, in a broader range from just our small, little communities that we build every day, I think our labels get bigger. Like, being a gay person and there's my community. Or being in that and that's my community. I think it's fun that you can overlap threads of community. I feel like I have different communities which is cool. And some of them interthread. And sometimes I have to call on one community more and I'm really nurturing that and then sometimes the other community kinda comes out and is totally prevalent in different moments.
What are your thoughts on how do you deal with the challenge of the people in your community that aren't necessarily like-minded?
It's hard because I guess you can't expect everyone to always be on the same page. I guess as an example of just our community here that we've built, I certainly have people come through the door that probably aren't on my page - of the same page politically. I think that I try to then connect on that human level. You know, treat them like a human. And I feel like I almost try to also be a better me so I show that who I am isn't this horrible thing if that's what they're thinking. Be extra welcoming. I try to be transparent about who I am and what I'm standing for and offering, but that's hard because eventually not everyone is gonna be in your community. And you don't need them to be and they've got their own. So I think eventually, before you lose all of your gumption, you have to draw the line and be like, They're not in my community and that's okay.
But, man, we really do have to try to get something better connected because everything right now is just so extremely crazy in all the directions. Man, we really need to figure out a way to find that common ground again. It seems like there's just a lot boiling up. It is so much scarier than I had ever imagined. It's a lot of energy to hold up fighting. It's a lot. But I don't know how we find all that common ground for everybody because that's a lot. I don't know how we do it, but we need it.
I don't understand the idea of social injustice and this grouping of people together to then mistreat them. In your day-to-day, what can you do about that?
We have huge injustices in our life - in our society - racial injustices, gender injustices, transgender and so many things. I, on a daily basis, I try to be - god, and it's hard because you hear people say things that are so stereotypical - I try to be so non-stereotypical about anyone. Just human. See them as a human. And then I try to not engage if I hear someone generalize something that way. I don't respond to it - I'll try to take them another way. So in my just general interactions, it's like just diffuse and not give any power to the phrase or whatever it is. Man, but that's just my interactions with, you know, coming through the door. It's a fight every day to not... I mean, I don't turn the news on. I can't watch the news because it's so horrifying. So for my own sanity I choose not to so that I can sleep and drink water and have good night's rest and then pick up the next day and maybe I choose a battle and I sign a petition. It's like one thing can be done maybe at a time and I can give it some attention. And then I have to remember that I, myself, also just need... it's so much right now, I think, is what we're finding and feeling. And being a white person, it's not always directed to us, of course. It's minorities and things like that. There's not that many minorities in Bend, so it's like I wish we could just invite 'em all in and be a part of our community. I think it's just trying to create verbiage and trying to create... it's almost like you’re trying to create a city. I wish we had more of a city feel in Bend. Obviously we're growing and we're still a really small town, but more diversity, the better - would help everyone.
We always joke that this is still the wild wild west. It still very much has that feel. We don't go East because it's Redneckville and being two lesbian women, we don't hike East. So, we make choices like that. We would love to go to the Steens mountains, but those are way East, so we'll take a posse of people. Sometimes we have to make decisions like that just for our personal safety living in this world. I may not be a minority on the color of my skin, but I am with my sexual orientation. So, you know, things like that. I just can't imagine in this world being... there are so many minorities... it would be so hard. It's so much harder for them. I don't even know what to do to help everybody. But I think on a just basic level, we just have to see each other as humans and we have to help other people see other people as humans.
It's so hard to hear other people's banter. People in the world, you know, you hear it. And it's just like, Oh my god! And I think most people don't even know what they're saying - or sometimes they don't. They're just like, Blah, blah. You know what I mean? I don't know. You have to think of it on an every day level. Sure, like you said, go fight your fight and go do your marches - those are so important - but we also have to have those really basic interactions every day that also can help that. (Sighs) We've got a lot to work on.
Do you have a sense of purpose?
I do have a sense of purpose. I felt for a long time that I needed to have a drive of purpose through like what your work is. Which is obviously huge because we work so much now because of the life we created. So you have to figure out how to make money and live. So, creating a job where I felt like I was doing something, giving something to others that I appreciated gave me a sense of purpose. But then I realized that more and more my sense of purpose sort of changed and I realized that you're not really going to get fulfilled by what your job is. Maybe you could, but things change. Your dreams change. Things change. But I think my sense of purpose changed down to just, again, peeling away the layers and being a human. And trying to allow myself to be a purposefully living human. So I'm trying to do things that are good for me - take a walk and enjoy the outdoors and feed myself something good. But I think the sense of purpose and the way that I have to give it towards something had changed. It's just the last couple years, I think, that the purpose was just to be what you are and be doing what you're doing. And sometimes that's really frustrating to me because I need to figure out what's next and then I get all in a tailspin and then I just have to be like, Okay. But this complicated life just is what we've created and this sense of just kind of coming back to being human feels really good. We go camping all the time and it just reinvigorates us. And so maybe that's my purpose (laughs) - to be outside. And then it fuels me up to be a good person to interact with later. I don't know. I'm not sure that my sense of purpose is for anything except for just to be what I am. And I think if I'm my best me, then I'm giving permission for other people to be them, no matter what it is - if we feel like crap, or if we feel great, or rambunctious, or quiet, or whatever it is.
What do you want more of in your life?
Time. Yeah. More time just to be (laughs). Be in the woods and be with my wife and be with our dog - just more time. Simple. I used to think that we would want more and more stuff - bigger house, bigger car... No, I just want less and more time. That's what it is. We say it all the time. We just want more time to be together just being human, playing outside and doing the things that make us happy - climbing a mountain, laughing, swimming, swinging, singing, seeing Phish shows (laughs). That's my community, too (laughs).
Do you have anything else that you'd like to put out there?
Community - I've been thinking a lot about that word since you proposed the talk - I think it means so much to so many people and I had thought about it so much and I think what I was reveling in - what I was understanding in my own thought process - was just that there are so many different communities that we can all be a part of. And the way that they change. And the way they support. And shift and fall apart and come back together. I know that one of our basic human needs is connection and I think that community is huge. I think it's basic on a cellular level. We crave it. Right down to animals and plants - we're just the same. And I think it can be a simple beauty to just recognize community.
Do you have anything you'd like to ask me?
I would like to hear what you think community is. What's your vision of community?
It's definitely something I really struggle with. In many regards this project is my journey to find one, but I'm making it very public. I guess I just don't believe that I'm the only one person that thinks like I think or feels like I feel. There's probably a lot of people that are really - even if they've decided to fill that void with something else - I think that they're either experiencing a lack of community or they are really looking for one.
All these things come to my mind with the lifted-diesel-truck-black-smoke-in-my-face person and also with the Tesla driver and with these decisions to separate children from their families and these top-down but everybody along the way brutal decision-making things - sex trafficking and slavery - there's just so many things where I know that there are people behind all these decisions. And I know that there's people, of course, that are affected by them. What has happened where you can make these choices? When you're totally able to just disregard the well-being for everyone else along the way?
When I can really be my best I think I'm part of a community with every human on the planet and every being, right? It's so much more difficult for me to find those people that if I could choose my community - if I could pick the people I wanted to be around. I see so many people that I would rather not be around. And that just leaves me feeling, like, odd. I feel strange about it. I've got way more questions than answers. And I feel alone. And that's tiresome and frustrating. So, I think I'm trying to figure out what community really means to me given all that. And given how much I care. It comes with deep feelings.