Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Back in town

Hola, y'all.  The rumors are true; I have returned to Portland, and not a moment too late.  After being out in the SoCal mountains for 10 weeks I had gotten accustomed to living in an area where not much grows beyond what's native to the region.  That is not the case in Portland.  If you ever want to meet some of the happiest spinach on earth you should come meet ours.  I mean, it's, like, WHOA!  HAPPY!  SPINACH!  The kale and Swiss chard are equally elated.  Plants grow so well around here that I'm fairly certain that we would be laughed at if we actually bought strawberry plants.  They're so prolific in the Willamette Valley that even I am beginning to look at them as almost a weed.

In other news, I got a part-time job for the summer.  After all those months of dozens of applications and a handful of unfruitful interviews I managed to snag a summer gig after applying for, at most, two summer jobs.  Seriously, there's some incredible irony here.  So yeah, I started yesterday (Monday) working with the Vancouver Housing Authority across the river in Washington.  I'll be their Youth Activities Assistant for the next six and a half weeks.  Yesterday was just paperwork stuff with Human Resources so I don't know exactly what I'm in store for yet.  The preliminary vibe is that I'll be helping to run a summer drop-in facility similar to a Boys & Girls Club.  The commute to work may prove to be the biggest challenge associated with the job.  Yesterday took three hours to get there.  Now, granted, I'm still learning some of the odds and ends of C-TRAN (Vancouver's version of Tri-Met).  Mostly it was due to the MAX not being in service at 122nd Street because some guy that was strung out on meth leaned into the tracks while the train was coming and got decapitated.  Crazy, I know.  But I digress...  I think I'll figure out something that will keep the commute under two hours; it may involve some biking, which is fine by me.  The job is in the afternoons, Monday through Thursday, so I'll still have Fridays to do whatever as well as the weekends.

The summer job will also be ending just in time for me to head back to California.  That's right, I'm going back.  The ranch hired me back on for the coming year - woot!  I really enjoyed my time down there and I'll be interested to see if I still enjoy it after a full year (and a winter season) down there.  It's nice to finally feel like there's some direction with what's going on in my life as well as some financial stability.  If I save my pennies and dimes, I might even be able to finish paying off my college loans by this time next year.  That would be fan-TAS-tic.  I'll miss being here with the super cool community (in the house and beyond) I've found and connected with here in Portland.  At the same time, though, I'm really looking forward to what the coming year brings my way.

Well, I'm sure I could write a small novel about all the stuff that's gone on since I left and even with the almost-three weeks I've been back.  Instead, though, I think I'm going to take some homemade jam over to the couple that is letting me play in their community garden plot.  Ah, Portland, it's good to be back.

P.S.  Sorry for not posting any pictures with this post.  My computer is on the fritz so I'm using Jon's 'cause he's super nice like that.

P.P.S.  Everything Heather said about how sweet the race was is completely true.  It was such a cool endeavor; I'm glad we were crazy enough to go for it!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

6 Runners, 178 Miles, and 22 Hours, and 36 Minutes

Those numbers may not mean anything to most of you….but they sum up the weekend that our house just experienced.  This was the weekend of the Portland to Eugene relay that Ben and I first signed up for way back in November!  Unfortunately the other dedicated runner in our house, Chelsea, was going to be at Jr. High Conference on this particular weekend, so she couldn’t take part in this crazy adventure. Ben and I “pieced together” a team of six runners, which we appropriately named “Peacing It Together” over the last six months that included: ourselves of course, my sister Andrea, Tory- our good friend and a previous BVSer, and two folks that Jon went to Juniata with who now live in Portland- Chris and Kristen.  And our additional team member was Jon- who played a pretty vital role by doing most of the driving.  Most of the relay teams we were competing against consisted of 12 runners, where each runner would run 3 legs each of 3-8 miles, but we decided to take on a bigger challenge and have only 6 team members, meaning we would run 6 legs each of 3-8 miles.  Partially this was because we wanted a challenge, but even more so because we didn’t know 12 people who would be crazy enough to do this sort of thing.  So having only 6 runners classified us as an “Ultra” team.
Chris, Kristen, Andrea, Tory, Heather, and Ben...ready to run!

Ed Groff kindly allowed us to borrow his 1969 Chevy Suburban for the weekend, as we needed a vehicle that would hold at least 6 people.   And what a sight it was!  I think we had about as much fun riding around in this sweet vehicle as we did running!  When we pulled into the starting area, it was pretty clear that there would be no other vehicle quite like ours!
Here's Tory decorating our awesome vehicle

We were placed in the 7th starting wave with two other teams: “the Rock” and “Heck Yeah”.  We knew we were off to a good start when my sister finished the first leg ahead of the two guys that she was running against….the competition was on!   

Ben's truckin' it down the road.
A hand off between Kristen and Chris on
Saturday morning during the final legs.
The whole event was an experience that really was beyond words, but some of the highlights and memories included…gorgeous sunshine and views of Mt. Hood and Jefferson on Friday evening, Ben kicking butt on a long stretch of hills as nightfall approached, watching the full moon rise, giving friendly honks to all of the runners we passed in the car, running in the dark with only a headlamp to guide the way, total exhaustion on Saturday morning after getting only 20 minutes of sleep the night before, sustaining ourselves with power bars, trail mix, and granola, and realizing that we were actually making pretty good time in this race and that we were passing a large number of the teams.  When our final runner, Tory, crossed the finish line in Eugene, we were elated to discover that we were the first "ultra" team to finish, and the 3rd team overall to finish out of 40 teams!  Not bad for a team that was “peacing it together”.
At the finish line in Eugene!

And despite the sore muscles and exhaustion that we still felt the next day, I think all of us agreed that we’d be up for running another relay sometime in the future!


From the Other Side of the Country.

      Since I haven’t been in the Portland house for about a month, I thought I’d give a shout out to everyone and let people know what I was up to. 

     I’ve been traveling the East Coast for work – as of now, spending most of my time in Ohio, PA, or Virginia. I attended the Church of the Brethren Young Adult Conference – where it is always inspiring to meet up with other CoB young adults – many of whom I only see once a year at this event.  Had a retreat in Columbus, Ohio for Agape Satyagraha – that went anything but smoothly.  Lead workshops at the National Junior High Conference – where I realized how old I was and that Junior Highers eat more ice cream than anyone I’ve ever seen (7 cones in one day is even a little much for me lol).  And camped out in the backyard at Maire’s Farm (she’s my supervisor), where we worked on upcoming retreats and events, including next week’s Annual Conference.  

     I had my transitional periods in between events all figured out, but then a big kink got thrown in my summer plans, so old plans were thrown out the window and new plans now come day to day – so I often don’t know where I’ll find myself between events – Most of my time thus far has been spent at Bridgewater, Marie’s, Camp, or Richmond. It’s been tiring to be in a new place every couple days, but I’ve gotten to catch up with a lot of friends who I wouldn’t have seen before, and I’ve had other crazy adventures like having to kill my first rattlesnake, learning how to use a transplanter on the farm- to plant tomatoes, and helping to break up a fist fight.
      I’ll be out this way for about another month, but then will be heading back to Portland mid July – which will mean that everyone in the house will be there at the same time!!! Which I believe will be the first time since the end of February that that has happened.  I’m signing off from Bridgewater right now, but who knows where I’ll be tomorrow. 


Monday, June 13, 2011

Ben's back!

This week we welcomed Ben back home! It's great to have his wonderful enthusiasm and wisdom back in the garden! Our garden ambitions have more than doubled in the last week.

This weekend is the crazy 128 mile race that Ben and Heather will be competing in. More details to come afterwards.

Here is a good article to read about the meaning of work, security, creativity, and life:


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Not our woods

Yesterday I took Heather to 1/2 marathon trail run. While she was running I went for a solo hike in the woods. As I've said, for me time in the woods usually turns into a sacred time.

This has been an extremely long winter. As recently as two weeks ago the trail I was on got 2 feet of snow. Within 10 minutes of hiking I had to ford a snow melt stream that was 3 feet deep. I was extremely grateful for this, because it would hopefully deter other would be hikers and I relish my alone time in the woods. As I crossed the stream I ran into 2-3 day old elk sign. Then I noticed some cougar sign with about the same age. I imagined a cougar quietly stalking the noisy elk herd as it forged along it's way. The cougar watching for the right moment to strike a calf elk. I continued to walk along the trail trying to be observant and present to the great outdoors.

I came to a part of the forest that closed in. Instead of the open woods with tall older trees and a few rhododendron bushes with a good view, it became younger denser forest with a hallway cut out through the forest. With my visibility reduced, I focused on my other senses. I got the feeling of being watched. No sooner did I feel this, I walked around a corner and in the middle of the trail was fresh cougar scat, not just kinda fresh, but still glistening in a sunbeam fresh. The hairs raised on the back of my neck and I had a strong surge of adrenaline. My instinct was to get out of there, fast yet calm like. Instead I took it as a lesson the forest was trying to show me: It was a good reminder that this not my forest. I was a merely a visitor in the cougar's woods -- and not just their woods, but the trees', the elk's, the rhody bush's. I said an audible prayer -- "Brother cougar, I mean you no harm. I humbly ask for safe passage as a visitor through your forest. I come in good will. I respect and honor you." As soon as I said this I felt deeply at ease with the rest of my hike. It hit me that this is how I should always view the world. This is not my world, or humanities'. We share this small blue sphere with every creature, tree, stream, rock, and spring. This is a shared planet. This is not mine. I wish humanity could collectively say a similar prayer: "Dear grandfather fish, bird, forest, and creek, We ask humbly for your blessing as we tread softly through your land. We mean you no harm. We will leave only footprints and take only what we need." I hope that we can find this humility as a race, and quickly.