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Archive for January, 2009

Its 18 minutes but so worth the time, if this sort of thing interests you.  Thanks to my incredible Aunt Nancy for passing it on to me!

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html

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The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.

Although I’ve said it many times that I no longer really miss Texas,  there has been one thing that I will always appreciate about that state.  There exists down there a sort of hospitality and friendliness that I haven’t experienced in other places I have lived.  In great contrast to the warm smiles and easy, welcoming conversation one encounters in Texas, Washington showed itself to be pretty well the opposite.  I remember running out of gas on my  way back to Port Townsend one day with Mira and Shyam in the truck and waiting for sometime on the side of the road as countless cars drove past.  We were three twenty something girls stranded on a back road and no one seemed to care.  I eventually decided to go and knock on the door of one of the farmhouses nearby and explain my dilemma.  The woman who answered the door stared us down with incredible suspicion and begrudgingly called over her husband who sighed and finally offered to give us some of the gas he had out in his garage for his mower.  They trudged along and I apologized profusely as they made it clear to me what a trouble I was causing them.  He filled up a half gallon or so and walked back into the house without saying a word. 

In Everett I sat in my front yard with the truck pulled out into the road holding jumper cables and watched as every car pushed its away around my truck.  I knocked on my neighbor’s door and they said they were too busy  to give me a jump and preceded to step outside and smoke a cigarette while they watched me wait.

Its not that I think people here are mean, just not as thoughtful when it comes to helping one another.  They are suspicious of strangers and let it be known.  In the city everyone takes their sweet time to let you get to know them or open their “circle” to you.  I always wondered if the attitude simply comes from a a century and a half of hard living.  I would guess that pioneers in  this area had to greatly fend for themselves and saw newcomers as competition in an already trying environment.  Just the act of getting to coastal Washington was quite an affair and eking out an existence in the wet and ancient woods must have made one feel frightened. 

In Texas,  I have walked into restaurants or parties and been immediately greeted by others seeking friendship or friendly conversation.  This extends even to my generation.  Children wave at you and strangers in the checkout line start up conversations.  This is not an exaggeration, it is just simply the truth.

When we decided that we would be moving out into the mountains and not merely the foothill suburbs of Seattle we knew that we might have to lower our expectations about what we would hope to find from our local community.  Many of the mountain towns we have visited seemed dreary places with a kind of “redneck” I’d rarely seen even in Texas.  Some of the towns are so overwhelmed with methamphetamine use that they have been called the “Meth Capital of the world.”  Many seemed so depressed economically and energetically that we just thought it was a reality we were going to have to accept if mountain living was what we wanted.

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Then we found Darrington,  the valley between Arlington and Darrington rather.  The Stilliguamish River Valley seemed to offer everything we didn’t think we could find in this area. There were healthy homes and small farm holdings near the river, none of which were full of abanded cars.  The land itself felt vibrant and in relative good shape, as you cannot expect it to be perfect in the PNW due to years of logging.  The salmon run strait up the river.  The small community at the valley opening boasts a Vegetarian restaurant and even has African drum lessons and Belly dance classes.  It has an awesome intact old fashioned hardware store and a little healthy, but not touristy main street.  Keep going down the road and you come across numerous CSA’s,  Highland cattle farms, Organic dairies and the home of the Evergreen Land Trust, Pragtree Farms which started the Washington Tilth so many years ago.  Follow it further and you can definitely tell you are heading into back country.  Eventually Whithorse mountain and its “lowest altitude glacier in the the lower 48” loom magnificently above.  Only six miles beyond our land you enter the town of Darrington.  It is an old lumber town with history that used to be mining.  The road deadends there.  There is a path up, which leads to the North Cascade Pass,  but that road is closed for six months of the year.  Or you can head south in the summer down the dirt road called the Mountain Loop Highway,   it not really a usable thoroughfare ,but a recreation pass for summer excursions into the mountains.

     It is vain to talk of the interest of the community, without understanding what is the interest of the individual

The first weekend we really were able to work on the house we stopped by the little burger shack in the town.  We expected rigid people who would be suspicious of us “city” newcomers.  But we walked inside and were greeted by a sweet woman who had lived in Alaska and had a nine year old boy at the small school where all grades share one building.  She asked our names and our stories and told us some local information about weather.  She even remembered Dylan’s name when he went back there two weeks later and she asked after me. Then entered another man, somewhere in his late 30’s, getting a to go order.  He started talking to us directly about how he played Santa every year for the grade school and how hard it was breaking the news to his sons who were getting older that he was actually the person whose lap they’d been sitting on for the first number of years.  They were upset but reasoned out  that dad was only the pretend Santa and that the real one would still come on Christmas.

Another day we stood in line at the local IGA, and the cashier and two women in line behind us welcomed us to town heartily and stated that “Darrington needed some young blood.”  Last week a little child at the post office walking with his dad lifted his arm and waved to me in the car.  The woman at the corner store, who we had only met twice asked if we needed her to check on our house while we were away for Christmas.  Our nearest neighbor trudged through the snow and offered us the use of his snow shovel, knowing that all the local stores were sold out due to the recent storms.

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And yesterday Dylan called a man to see if he could plow our Driveway,  I had got stuck in the area Dylan had cleared and the car battery died at the same time.  The man was on his wayhome because with all the snow melting his house was liable to flood.  Dylan told him my dilemma and he said was passing right by us and came to the door and spent ten minutes jumping the car and helping himself to the shovel and digging the tires out.  Later they returned with their plow and I went to get cash for them.  I came back and just to be nice they had shoveled off the whole awning over the porch.  They came inside and warmed their hands on the stove and told me some gossip about the past owner.   They talked about their kids growing up there and playing Varsity sports on teams so small they were lucky to have one alternate for each sport.  I gave him a bit extra just to make sure he knew I appreciated all of his help.  He left by saying, “Be sure to tell Dylan we’ll meet one of theses days.”  All that pleasantry from a man and his son in law who were meant only to plow the driveway.

I am not saying it is a Utopia, there is a giant lumber mill in town and I suspect some possibly “no-so-liberal” ideals from much of the population.  It is not a hippie-town like Port Townsend, but  then again I never met a single person this gracious in all my time in Port Townsend.  Yet it really feels like a miracle to have found this quiet little oasis of neighborly kindness in this state that seems so wanting of it.

Its a strange thing to re-imagine community.  I grew up in a place you would call a intentional community.  It was a large Hindu ashram that had 70 permanent residents and about 20 kids.  We lived on 250 acres, with a pond, a hill, and a creek with beautiful swimming holes.  We dined together and worked together, and from the outside it might have seemed like an amazing place to live and grow up.  It did have its benefits, but people were constantly looking over one anothers shoulder, ego got in the way of everything, all of our attempts at being self-sufficient were utter failures,  and EVERYONE seemed desperate to establish which area they had authority over.  I moved as a young adult from one idyllic town to the next hoping that within these places I might find a “place.”  I hoped that thier might exist somewhere a community of like-minded people that contributed and worked together.  I hoped for a community of people that supported each other and welcomed differences.  I now feel that I was searching for a dream, at least in the big picture.  I feel blessed now to live in a community where people are kind to one another.  Why ask for more?  What else does one really need?  And besides, what could be better than living in a town that has a “Funeral Dinner Committee.”

Perhaps, in the end, community isn’t something a few individuals create, but something that occurs naturally given the right circumstances.  All my hopes in the past of finding  a community of open-minded and kind individuals has to start with my willingness to be open minded and except all the facets of my community.  If I were to try and merely surround myself with a bubble of “like-minded” folks then I would be discounting the reality of true community.  I would have to discount the lumberjack, the cocktail waitress who works the bar at night and the hardware store by day, the suburban expats and the sport hunters,  the farmers who still use chemical pesticides and the kids who never left their home town.    And despite everything they are my neighbors now and with their simple acts of kindness I can look forward to years of working with them.  I look towards years of  joining in to lay sandbags all night when the river floods and theatens neighbors house’s, of helping to dig them out of the snow, of sharing vegetables from my garden and fruit from my trees, of joining with them to commiserate on foul weather or rejoice when it is fine,  of supporting the schools sports and share in the happiness of new life and give comfort when life ends.  If I do all this I can only hope for the same in return.

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Homecoming

Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.

 I am so sorry for the long absence.  We spent the holidays in Austin and were gone for nine days.  Then next week we worked more on the house and spent New Years Eve in a fancy condo in downtown Seattle with the voucher Dylan gets from his work.   And then it was back to work.  This month of January should be a bit trying as there is so much work on the house to be done yet and moving to be done at the same time. There is still three feet of snow at the land and it says there will be more all week.   What a winter to move!

Last week I set out for the land.  The roads were clear but there was a ton of snow on the ground.  Up ahead something stirred on the shoulder of the road and from the ditch flew a bald eagle so close to my car that I had to break a bit to be sure not to hit it.  A few minutes more up the road a mottled juvenile eagle flew overhead.  The last week we have seen so many eagles landing in our trees and flying overhead that we have quit keeping count.  I suppose that there increased presence is tied in some was to the massive amount of snow that  lays even on the valley floor.

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It seems unbelievable in a way how at home I feel here and how my original home now seems foreign and strange.  I suppose trauma could have forced some loss of memory but I found myself in Austin a total stranger.  I never could tell where I was at, even the plants all seemed strange and unrecognizable, and I used to feel to confident in my ability to recognize the flora in central Texas.  The air was the  only thing that held any memories and luckily they were mostly pleasant.  The smell of BBQ mixed with the scent of the vaguely cool air of a 75 degree, overcast December day brought a flood of nostalgia.  The moist air at night, so heavy with water that you become damp on a though it is rainless, had me recalling nights of wandering down the pathways of my childhood land by full moon and by starlight.  But that was all that could still draw a memory for me.  What ever it was that held me there is long gone and I find myself here, in the wet Pacific North West.  I suppose there was a transfer of the emotional concept of home from Texas to here.  After all, when I was growing up in Texas all I did was daydream about the two years I spent living in the Seattle suburbs.  And now that I am here I feel inexplicably tied to this place.  Even the thrill of crossing the the Cascades and experiencing the dry air and ponderosa forests of the east side pales in comparison to the buzz in my body that I feel the minute I again see the overwhelmingly green forests and that first bit of mist in the air,  The trickling waterfall. 

I often had thought that I would move more.  I used to think New Mexico was calling me,  even when I was younger and living in Arizona I had thought that New Mexico would someday be my home.  But after spending a month there late last Spring,  I realized how much I needed water,  and not just a lone river that painfully makes it way down the high desert, sucked up at every chance.  I needed water that veritably bleeds from the ground. 

The animals became eager to explore more of the earth and wanted to leave the confines of the water, but the Ocean knew that the animals could not leave without her.  So the Ocean went with them.

Here,  there is water in the Ocean, only hours away,  the same water fills the lake like Puget Sound.   The Ocean gently shakes off bits of herself molecule by molecule and the sky eagerly collects all the pieces into clouds.    The mountains greedily hold the clouds here and pour the ocean down on the mountains and our faces.  The ocean water cum rain runs off these surfaces and fill rivulets, brooks, then streams, then rivers.  They flood over high rock cliffs and cut massive waterfalls into mountainsides.  The water runs in snake like streams off of melting glaciers and frozen ocean we call snow and fills enchanted alpine lakes that dot every bit of the Cascades.  And then this borrowed Ocean flows back out into the sound.  The Salmon know that all the water is the Ocean and they travel beyond its saltly limits back up these waterways and spawn and die.  They travel up the river by my land and thier bodies feed the eagles and the trees.  And all of creation is fed, like me, by water like that the Ocean so kindly pours upon my land freely.

I am so happy to be home.

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