Leaving home

I have been legitimately terrible about posting anything on here in the last two weeks. Normally, I would be beating myself up over this a little bit. Constantly reminding myself that I need to be writing, I need to be creating, I need to be keeping up with my commitments (like this blog). 

But I really haven’t been this time, for some reason. I think it is because I have given myself permission to relax, to turn my brain off for a while. I’ve been keeping myself busy doing art, journaling, being more social than usual, and watching the Olympics. Oh. And packing to move into my new house Tuesday. That too. I’m not sure I give myself permission to fully mentally relax as often as I should – these past two weeks have been really rejuvenating. I think I will keep that in mind for the coming semester. With 18 credits, it is going to be more important that ever to allow myself mental breaks.

This past week, I had a free afternoon where my best friend and I trekked up to the mountains for some chill adventuring time. We saw a beautiful water snake sunning itself on a rock in the middle of the river, and a bunch of giant (and terrifying) water spiders. We also found a beautiful little waterfall, and almost got swept away in the river trying to get to it. Here are a couple pictures from that afternoon. 

Tomorrow morning I set out for Wisconsin again. In some ways, I really don’t feel ready to go back to Wisconsin. – I like being at home. I love my family, I love Knoxville, I love being so close to the Mountains. But I also start to feel the need to resume my own life. Im excited to get back to Wisconsin, get back in the flow of things, and see some people who I have missed a lot over this wonderful summer. 

Afternoon in the Mountains

Yesterday I took the afternoon and went up to the mountains with one of my best friends that I have been close with for a long time. We don’t get to see each other often, so having a whole day together was really wonderful.

We drove up into the mountains in search of a river that was fairly accessible, and didn’t require too much work to find a good area to climb on river rocks and wade around a bit. After some initial exploration to find somewhere without any people around, we found a lovely little spot to spend the afternoon.


This was one of the highlights of the afternoon – we found a hellbender salamander! These are the biggest Salamanders that live down here – over a foot long! This guy just crawled up right next to us while we were hanging out on a rock. I picked him up and he was the squirmiest, gooshiest thing I have ever felt. That is the face of pure joy.



I swear mandolins sound better in the mountains.


the cost

still unfinished/unpolished: 

the cost of dead black boys is going down.
They used to cost
jailtime- the years taken –
an indictment – a badge is not the excuse –
and now it seems
the cost of a dead black body has sunk
to the cost of bullets that peppers the torso.

dead black boys are cheaper
than paying rent or filling up a gas tank
next time you need an oil change,
use instead black blood.

There is no humor in this,
it is survivor’s anger.

each city has their own roster
of hashtags, an unfinished list
ground onto tombstones and chalked into sidewalks.
how many names can we remember
before they are tally marks
I in falcon heights minnesota IIIII IIII in charleston, south carolina

these cities are your city.
you can taste their bodies in the ground water.




Busy with Summer

It has been quite a while that I have posted anything. Last time I wrote, I was sitting on my Grandma’s couch in Junction City, Kansas. Since then I’ve been back to Tennessee, then up to Wisconsin, and now back down to Tennessee (and I am leaving for North Carolina for two weeks, tomorrow). As a result, I haven’t had all that much time to write, either on here or inside my journal.

Even with the ongoing feeling of being constantly in motion this summer, the past two weeks or so have been great. In Wisconsin, I was able to go to two nights of Dead and Company at Alpine Valley. I hadn’t seen Dead and Co before, but they really were excellent. As someone who has listened to a fair amount of Dead for my age, I had some things I really liked about John Mayer as lead guitar and some things I wasn’t as fond of. Regardless, they were great shows. I had a ton of fun being surrounded by people who made me feel comfortable, eye-balling everyone’s outfits, and dancing my butt off. It felt good. Also in Wisconsin, I was able to go sailing for the second time. I love being out on the water – the hot sun, Wisconsin-cool lake – time disappears.


Madison from the sailboat.


Alpine Valley!

Since I have been home, I have been doing typical “Knoxville” things. In July, there is a wildlife/park where there are just fields and fields of blooming sunflowers. I spent some time there, goofing around in between the rows, taking silly pictures with my best friend. I ran around downtown, looking around all the little shops and having lunch with my Dad. Knoxville still really feels like home.


Little baby bee!


Bestfriend lookin’ good.


downtown ramblin’


Electric Forest

From June 22-26, my brother and I were at Electric Forest in Michigan. We got the early arrival pass, which allowed us to arrive Wednesday night instead of Thursday morning. The camping areas were huge, so in retrospect I’m really glad that we got there early. It made the trek to the actual festival a 1/2 mile walk instead of a 2 mile walk. Definitely worth it. 

Wednesday – we didn’t even arrive at the festival until around 7 pm. We drove slowly for the last 60 miles or so – there were an unbelievable number of police on the highways leading up to Rothbury. We passed several cars pulled over with 3-5 people handcuffed on the ground as police searched their car. I was determined to give the police no reason to pull me over. Luckily, we got there without incident. We set up the tent, unpacked and organized, played some mandolin/guitar, and walked around the grounds a little bit. There were a lot of vendors (both food and other goods) outside the actual festival grounds, which was nice for the early arrivals. 

Thursday – Thursday started the actual music. Most people were still arriving Thursday morning, so nothing started until mid-afternoon. We saw Marvel Years, Party Favor, Paper Diamond, Prof, The Polish Ambassador, Duke Dumont, Way Out West, The White Buffalo, Major Lazer, and Bonobo. My brother really liked Party Favor, but I didn’t think any of the groups we saw Thursday were particularly notable. Major Lazer was the only one I had seen before (last year at Wakarusa), and he delivered a very similar shoe- lots of energy, but not very interesting. Regardless, music is music, and it was still nice to get some dancing time in. 

Friday- one thing that was different about EF compared to most other festivals I’ve been to was how late the music started. For the most part, none of the bigger stages were up and running before 3:30 pm. It wasn’t bad, and it helped keep people in the shade during the worst of the heat, but it did feel like I was wiling away the entire day. Anyway, Friday we saw Dumpstaphunk, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Futuristic, NghtMre, The String Cheese Incident, and STS9. Dumpstaphunk, despite playing when it was still pretty hot, was great! I tend to prefer funky beats over the more droning/pounding beats that some artists put out, and dumpstaphunk was right up that alley. I had seen Nahko and STS9 before but they were still some of my favorite shows. Nahko is one of my favorite artists- his lyrics are very political, he does a lot of work for social change, and he just seems like a fun, genuine person who hasn’t lost sight of his goals and ideals even though he’s become relatively well known. And, as always, STS9 jammed. They never disappoint. They are such a good mixture of electronic/real instruments, and the crowd is always really pumped which makes everything just a little extra fun. 

Saturday- Saturday was a long day. It was probably the most intense in terms of the complete music festival experience – I won’t go into too much detail on that front – but it was a hell of a lot of fun. We saw a more relaxed set by STS9, Delhi 2 Dublin, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The String Cheese Incident again, Porter Robinson, Bassnectar, and Flosstradamus. Delhi 2 Dublin I had seen before, but they kind of disappointed me this time. In the past, he has really done his name justice, focusing on some traditional beats/sounds that really made his music distinctive. Unfortunately, probably in the name of becoming more popular to the general population, he’s lost some of that distinctiveness in favor of a more typical sound. String Cheese Incident, however, seriously impressed me. Friday night was the first time I had seen them, and they didn’t blow my mind all that much. But both my brother and I thought they played a 100x better show Saturday. It was captivating. They also had some fun stuff going on in the audience- like giant golden balls being tossed around, giant poles in the audience that acrobats proceeded to climb up and then stand on while they swayed above the crowd. Porter Robinson was also pretty phenomenal. Everyone who I talked to about that set either loved it or hated it. It wasn’t the typical driving beats expected by a fairly late night performer, but it was a much more experimental performance. The performance had a video that accompanied it, and after a few minutes it became clear that he music was designed as a sort of sound-story. Once I switched my perspective to experiencing it as a sound experience instead, it was incredibly cool. I would really like to see more stuff like that- I think that’s an area that electronic music can do a lot, because it can bring in so many sounds and it has so much flexibility because it is controlled by one person most of the time. 

Sunday- it was so sad to get to Sunday. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the festival mindset, and it’s hard to pull yourself out of it. We saw Sunsquabi, Rufus Du Sol, Manic Focus, The Floozies, and Griz. Sunsqubi and The Floozies were a lot alike, except the Floozies were 10x better. They were seriously awesome. Talk about funky dance beats- the Floozies have that under wraps. There was also a pretty awesome light show that accompanied that, which made it all the more worth it. The people who camped next to us were incredibly excited about Griz and thought he was the best show they had ever seen, but I wasn’t terribly impressed. It just didn’t seem all that different than anything else- there was nothing that made it distinctive enough to be fantastic. 

Overall, Electric Forest was a great experience. The forest itself was beautiful- during the day the trees were beautiful and it felt like being in Lord of the Rings or something. Everything was just a little magical. At night, everything was lit up in neon. The entire forest was colored light. It was beautiful, and honestly pretty enchanting. It definitely provided the feeling of being completely removed from society. Allowing myself to by wrapped up like that was exciting – sometimes I think I get really focused on experiencing things for a particular reason, whether it’s in the name of writing, being more adventurous, or keeping up with someone else. But this was just pure experience – I was experiencing purely for the sake of it, without focusing on anything outside of that moment. It was a good reminder to just experience stuff sometimes without analyzing or over-thinking everything that happens. 

Simultaneously, it also reminded me that even though I was having an awesome experience, it’s an experience crafted for me- the customer. Every night, the grounds were completely trashed. Every morning, they were completely cleaned up. Yes, it’s a genuine, organic weekend that was pretty magical. But tickets also cost a ton of money, and it’s something that makes me a consumer of more than just the music -it’s the consumption of the whole experience.  

Alright, I’ll stop rambling. Electric forest gets a 7/10 from me. Here are a couple pictures from the weekend. 

the little white thing up in the air is the acrobat up on the pole in the crowd

the forest at night


i am sitting in the driver’s seat of the car when she tells me she can no longer understand the language she was born into.

her eyes still bear the weight of their heavy lids, cheekbones still too found and high for her palm-flattened nose, but neither bring the Kanji into focus.

I ask how long it took to learn English, how long it took her to spoon out every piece of her heritage, sucking out the marrow one forgotten character at a time, how long it took her to start signing things Kay instead of Kiyoko.

20 years ago I stole her name – bloody and silent in sickness, I was given the name Kiyoko. An homage to a woman who had left the name to fill her footprints to America like rainwater. An homage to a woman who’s drivers license and birthday cards were both written in English. An homage to a woman who cloaked her name in a veil of assimilation, living quietly beneath her skin.

2 years ago she took back her name- spooning it into the throats of those who still called her Kay. That is when I know that even if she cannot remember the meaning of the kanji she squints over, America has not swallowed her. That even the most thorough baptism cannot scrub a woman clean of the waves of cane, snakes the size of a man’s thigh, the peak of her island with the ocean visible in every direction.

Home Again

After a month of traveling, I am back in Knoxville, Tennessee. I got home the day before yesterday – I meant to write sooner, but it has been challenging to think of what to say, and I still don’t really have anything concrete yet. That, and the last couple days have been kind of busy. Yesterday was my birthday (I’m not a teenager anymore!) which was celebrated with an afternoon in the pool, dinner downtown, finished off with carrot cake. It was a nice way to ring in the next year of life.

Getting home after a month of traveling has really allowed me to appreciate all of the things that are available to me most of the time: daily showers, good refrigeration, hugs whenever I need them. It was a long time to be mostly alone. It was a long time to be out of any sort of routine. It was a lot of granola bars, a lot of meeting new people, and a lot of days spent with a sore back from nights in the car. There were a significant number of downsides related to living like that, but I think overall it was positive. I feel different. More self confident. More aware. Readier for whatever is next.

Which, immediately, means heading out with my brother tomorrow morning to Rothbury, Michigan for Electric Forest. I’ll hopefully have a more comprehensive write-up about my trip at some point. But for now, it’s on to the next adventure!