Tuesday, July 28, 2009


We went to one of my favorite specific places on earth today. The Royal Museum, third floor, 1st people's exhibit, ritual house. A huge room in the museum with only a couple of dancing masks, a couple of ritual seats, and the large front painting. Dark, quiet 1st people singing. That's it. But the room has something of the mystery of a ritual house where a story of how Raven brought the sun, hence the light to the world.

The totem poles spoke to me today. I found myself wondering what kind of pole my family would put in front of our house. Four lineages. Does that mean four poles, or do we find something of the mystery and common character of our family.
Imagine building an art form so large we would need our whole village to come help us put it up in front of our house, strong so it didn't fall in even the most vicious storm and crush our house, or worse, a neighbors. None of us could do it ourselves. I could help make it happen, but we would need Jen and Harriet to draw and design. I can see Livy bouncing on the pole while we were trying to get it up, reading and telling us stories of other animals like ours or greek gods.
Would we put up warrior spirits, fierce, to defend out home and warn those entering to respect our domaine, or do we put up images of animals that represent what we want for our family, wisdom and hospitality and mischief. Jenn wouldn't want anything that embarrassed us. In fact, she would probably never let us put it up in front of the house. Love the doing, but embarrassed by the power of the images. A totem pole is embarrassing, I suppose. It waves who you are, good and bad, in front of the world and says, "Here I am. Here I stand. Deal with it."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Paddle together or opposite?

Plan it for the kids, do it for ourselves. As we were learning how to paddle, we asked the guide if it was better to paddle together or paddle opposite of one another. He said it was better to paddle together, to match the rhythm and depth of the stroke. I had tried a couple of different ways and couldn't really tell the difference, but it was fun to match the strokes with each other. It gave a quietness to the flow of the kayak. That is a bit of what we are struggling with in this move -- trying to figure out whether it is better to find a common rhythm or to key off our differences. Struggling with bumping into each other or trying to smooth the waters and not make waves. Today went well, can't say that about all the waters we have been going through.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

No Wind

You and I have been trying to get to Victoria for thirteen years. Last night I didn't think it was going to happen even though we were across the straits and already had tickets and a hotel room. But this morning, it was glorious, warm and windless, except for the tumult of moaning and complaining from the peanut gallery. Harriet, you are stunning in these pictures. (Of course you are always stunning, but look at this.)

We got to walk and hold hands and talk in one of my favorite cities. I am so struck by a city so dominated by water. That has been a theme in the last month. Moving to Fortuna, and traveling around, I am struck by all the water -- and moved by it. Water flowing, water surging, water floating, rolling in, and crashing down. Salt water, clear water, green water, fresh water, cold water and warm water. It is good for my soul, and here in Victoria, people are centered by it.

Sad Surprises

We started the day driving from Astoria across the bridge and into Washington. Unbelievable beauty all around us. And sadness. Some disappointment.

I am struck once again by the land so brutally logged. I am sure the whole issue of logging is far beyond my understanding and that there is a rhyme and reason to the carnage, but the clear cut stumps as far as the eye can see just seems wrong. Whole hillsides left in ruins with signs here and there saying that they were 20 years old.

At the same time, I remember us puzzling over how to take down a tree hanging too close to our house in Gualala, when someone has figured out how to cut down a whole state of trees, cart them off, mill them and build houses probably all over the world. I think on such a small scale.

The rain forest which has amazed me in years past was a dust bowl this year. Hardly any snow on the Olympics. A weird frustrated Twilight hunt in Forks and La Push. Unbelievably bad dinner but coming around Crystal Lake when all seemed dark, an unanticipated stunning sunset through the silhouetted hills down the lake. And then, no room at the inn, Port Angeles and the Olympics completely booked up so that we had to drive to Bremerton in the middle of the night.

Strange day.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Elk and Beautiful Places

It says something when in a first day of driving in beautiful country that the place that was the most beautiful was closest to home. Today we saw a large herd of elk (like twenty or thirty, grazing twenty feet from highway as we drove 45 minutes from home through the redwoods that we love so much. As we got out of the car, I had a short conversation with the kids because these elk were way too close to us to be really safe, though I think we could have gone over and patted them on the nose without too serious consequences – they were very used to people. But there was a nursery fifty feet off with about four or five calves.

Beautiful places to live are a blessing without measure. I noticed this in Boulder Creek, but didn’t really spend a lot of time thinking about it till I moved to Mendocino. There is something about a redwood tree in my back yard that completely changes how I wake up. My formative years were spent in Arlington, Virginia and I remember being at the top of a tree in our yard a lot of the time. The woods was just a block from the house and a stream with crayfish and snakes and rocks to throw. The pace of life and ministry slowed in the movement from Berkeley and Hayward to Boulder Creek. Certainly country living does this, but I think it also has something to do with walking around in a place that isn’t made by human beings, in a place that is nurturing life on the planet instead of poisoning it, where the predominant smell is bark not car fume.

In Mendocino many people just plane stopped a little before sunset, closed up the shop, walked down the street a block or so to watch the sunset. When I lived in Berkeley and was building the retreat center, I would often go up to the rooftop of our three story Victorian and sit on the chimney to watch the sun go down behind the golden gate. Now we watch evening fade slowly on the foggy hills beyond the Eel River. (Of course I never see the sun come up.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Home Sweet Home?


I think we are kind of interesting and funny, the way we meaning people, have such resistance and then end up jumping in with 2 feet. I know everything was kind of a blur when we arrived and I wasn't sure where I was going or where I was or what I was supposed to do (i.e. what are my priorities anyway?). The beginning of a move is obvious, unpack, clean and organize (over and over and over again). But then I would have these epiphanies, realizing we needed doctor's appointments, a good vet and that I still need to change most of the addresses from our past life. As I begin to make headway, I am finding time for other things like the weekly Farmers Market (every Tuesday afternoon on 10th Street). A new friend (?) took me around and showed me some of the important things like where to buy homegrown strawberries and the local feedstore/nursery, some in-town walks and such. I didn't have the heart to tell her I had discovered some (not all) on my own and realizing in the process that I am learning about this town and beginning to find my place in it. Now I need to help my daughters find their place and continue the process of exploration as I begin to see the community that isn't obvious to the eye, yet much more meaningful. So maybe this is about finding our place and who we are, who we can be in this new town, our new home.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Where the f*/k is the checkbook?

Excuse the expletive, but now we are tired and we are dealing with complicated things -- like figuring out our blessed health care -- and when we can't find a file, or a bill, or the stapler it is just aggravating. This is made more complicated because if things haven't found their place yet, it means we can't figure out what to do with it and it may be in the third box. We might remember what we packed the first time, the second is blurry, but the third box is impossible. Seems like there isn't that many boxes left, but enough to make this part of the journey infuriating. I know I have saved receipts that will maybe appear after the apocalypse, but I can't find them now.

This is made even more maddening because I am starting to do some of the planning and paperwork of the job. A little over a week to my first service, and I am planning and rallying ideas written on scraps of paper throughout the last few weeks. Now the little pieces of paper are all over and if I find them, I can't figure out what the chicken scratches I made two weeks ago mean.

I have been thinking a lot about order -- how nice it sounds. I have lived in chaos long enough. I want things where I can find them, I want the kids to behave for a few minutes, I want to not have to learn every bloody thing I am doing right now. I want to have something work the way I planned it, to do something the way I have always done it, to do something I am gifted at and do easily. A pox on all these messy, chaotic, dusty, piled up corners of cherished garbage?!*#^$!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hiking in Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Hidden Treasures in the Woods

Yesterday I had the most fun hiking through the woods with a group of women from this area. We went to Humboldt Redwoods State Park and although one of my goals was to find my way around the park, I might have left more turned around than when I started. We had a great walk through the forest, over bridges, down by the river and even through a meadow of sweet peas (which is where I found the fireplace left from an old homestead). I wish I could remember half of all the information I heard yesterday about this area and hopefully with time (and repetition) it will sink in. But in addition to exploring and discovering more of the natural beauty of this area, I begin to see more of the community and networking that goes on in this area. As with the richness we are enjoying through nature, at the river, forests, ocean and beaches, I am beginning to see a network of interesting people doing good works and helping to build community through a vision of ideals and dreams. I look forward to seeing the forest through the trees as well as the dreams as in time I get to know more people and what this area is really about.

Bull Ridin'

This is rodeo week in Fortuna.  Lots going on every day downtown, around the town and in the park.  Yesterday as I was visiting people, all sorts of sirens went off downtown and the person I was with smiled and said they had just arrested a tourist.  They have a jail that they drive all around town, pick up some tourist and put them up for the weekend, but they have to do different things for the rodeo.  The chili cookoff on Monday was fun -- all sorts of booths on Main street and a bunch of the businesses in town make eight gallon pots of chili and everyone gets a taste.  Very fun.  All week there have been things going on on Main Street and in the park.  An energy to the town.  Today Harriet and the kids got up for the pancake breakfast this morning, the parade is in a hour or so.  Tonight and tomorrow is the rodeo.  

We haven't been wrestlin' any cows but have been trying to get phone service changed and dealing with a dead cell phone and the seven second buzzer to end the rodeo seems like a good idea when you are endlessly on the phone with att or verizon or blue shield trying to remember which att id one uses when calling customer service.  My office is now the most disorganized part of the house.  Now we are into bull riding.  

Friday, July 17, 2009

Guests in the House

If you want to clean your house, invite over company.

It felt good to cook and clean for someone else in the house. Things get too weird when they are always turned toward oneself, in this case our family's needs. To let go of all of that and be a host is so refreshing. And we figured out how to do it without carting everything to some other mess. The boxes are emptied, most everything is put away, our house can begin to breathe. There are places here that don't nag me to do something. I can go to some parts of the house and rest, which I need because I am bone tired. My body is tired, my mind is tired, my spirit is tired. Moving is exhausting and now that I am seeing an end to it, I am beginning to let go and fall apart.

Inviting someone over is letting go. Others can now see my space without me feeling too anxious about it. I can serve food and have a degree of confidence that I can find what I need. It is now getting to be time to leave for a bit, get out of here altogether, so we can come back home.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Riverwalk Drive

Going for a Walk...
Inadvertantly discovered Riverwalk Drive the other day. Wanted to do a loop around Fortuna during my daily walk but the trouble with my idea was the Freeway and how it intersects the town. Walking around Freeway accesses was a drag and dangerous, not easy for a walker and I quickly discarded that plan. But along the way, I discovered this lovely walk along the river. Walked it yesterday and it took about 1 hour which is my daily walking goal. Did have to drive there to avoid walking through the Freeway mess but great walk with other walkers, obviously a popular place to stroll. Looking for different places to walk around town and this area. Tomorrow I will walk with a local walking group. We will be hiking the River Trail in Humboldt Redwoods Park. That's where Ted and the girls and I went last Saturday exploring different places off the Avenue of the Giants. I have been paying attention to the walking group but not ready to join due to the level of unpacking still required but this walk is calling to me. We all fell in love with that area. I'll report back (and maybe even bring my camera).

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weekend Exploring

Look Ma...

We spent some time over the weekend, exploring the area and being outside (plus looking and finding some sunshine). I was reminded of our first trip up here and the last hour of driving through this incredible forest of beautiful trees and winding river. I couldn't believe how beautiful it was. Most of which is through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. One of our stops was at Founders Grove, a child's dream come true, partly a forest of fallen trees which you can climb and hop from one after another. Then we actually drove through a huge redwood, something I have always wanted to do but never made the effort. The girls found a treehouse which they could climb up into to their delight. And then we scored big, a tip from a waitress as to a local river spot right outside Miranda. But I should take a moment to mention that the food, especially the pizza and calzones at this cafe, were excellent. We were able to sunbath, explore and swim at the river as well as watch some local boys jump off the rope swing (too tame), then off the top of the rock (not good enough) and then from the bridge (arrggghhhh!).
Last night after dinner, we jumped in the car and tried to beat the sunset to the beach. We weren't exactly sure how to find the beach from here but were able to find Centerville Beach which is 9 miles of coastal access and the northern gateway to the King Range National Conservation Area, known as the Lost Coast. And absolutely gorgeous.

I must admit to loving the natural beauty of this area and enjoying spending time outside and exploring. Came in handy as I am feeling very sad about moving and missing people very much...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Jumping off a bridge

The Avenue of the Giants is lovely.  I didn't know Harriet had always wanted to drive through a tree.  I thought it would be very turisty-hokey -- it was -- but driving through was strangely awe inspiring and fun.  Great day of driving and walking and climbing on dead redwood giants.  And then we got to the Miranda bridge.  

I have jumped off bridges and rocks into rivers before and it was fun watch a gang of kids come off the rope swing right up till I noticed this guy sixty feet or so up on the bridge looking over with purpose.  And looking.  And looking.  Finally, he backed up ten feet into the street, ran to the railing, vaulted up, and then stopped dead on the railing.  More slowly, he took a deep breath and plummeted over the side.  The sound of hitting the water was too loud and all of us looked to see if he came out ok.  He did.  Later I talked to him and he was very proud, glad I noticed, but his eyes betrayed a bit of "why did I do that?" wildness.  

Just before we left, a young child who had been playing at the edge of the river wandered too deep and was drowning when she was saved by a sister who was a little too far away, a mother way too far off yelling, and a Dad running into the water in his clothes.  

Olivia got a scare when she swam across a river current, swept off by it's force, suddenly finding a river that had been so tame was much more powerful than she could handle.    

All were ok.  

Why do we jump off bridges, wander into water, and try to fight the currents of the world?  There is a careless madness to it that doesn't just end when we are teenagers.  We got news this week that there is another way the Conference is not caring about us.  We are out of control on this one and will have to trust that nothing serious happens, that God will care for us, and that there might be helpful hands if we get over our heads in the deep currents of life.  Off we go!  

Friday, July 10, 2009

Local Hot Spots (Literally and Figuratively)

Grizzly Creek State Park
Very beautiful and not too far from our new home, just a quick drive down Hwy 36 to this state park. Great river with warm(ish) water for swimming and great rock jumping. We explored the river part of the park and didn't get to go through the trails in the woods but we'll return. The rangers were very apologetic that there wasn't sun that day. We are finding that although Fortuna gets it's share of typical coastal fog and overcast days, it's only a short drive to sunshine and replenishing the Vitamin D. We stayed for a couple of hours and played, explored. Long enough for both girls to fall in the river. The trees were tall and impressive but I'm still interested in going to the Garberville area and checking out the trees you can drive through (although Ted tells me that is in the past, we'll find out).

River Rocks

Busy day right up until the moment that we took off down Highway 36 for Grizzly Creek State Park. Driving the mountain roads is good for me. Walking in the redwoods is healing for my soul. Stumbling along a rocky stream watching for skipping stones is complicated. My feet have never made that easy, but I watch Jen leaping over the rocks and I miss the days with a younger, less complicated body.

And then we got to the rocks and I felt like I could stand there forever and never say another word again. The hindu masters advised that one learn to watch a river, not the stuff floating or reflected on the waters, but the river itself, bent and changing, flowing, cutting through all the hardness of life. It is the essence of enlightened meditation and I am sure the heart of prayer. How else could Jesus have done what he did without the stillness of this kind of prayer. There is a point where I just don't care anymore, which unleashes compassion, healing and life.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What is your name, please

Ann, no Claudia, no Sharon (er Shannon -- uh, Shawn).

We are now into it. This week I am graduating from strictly moving to unpacking and working. I am at the point where I feel consistently stupid, so many details to learn, computer programs to learn, files to find -- I already set off the security alarm; it won't be the last time. But the details are the easy part. As clumsy as I feel now, in a few weeks all that will be easy.

The hard part is learning the names.

I love ready science fiction/fantasy and over and over books talk about the importance of names. There is the public name (and right now we are all putting on our best public faces and names if we can). But, the true names call out the true essence. If you know something's true name, you have power over it. That is ridiculous at one level, there is no magic in this. But, at it's core knowing someone real name is everything. It is where ministry really happens. In a church of fifty people there are fifty people in crisis. There are a hundred and fifty gifts waiting to be let loose. If God has our secret names written in The Book, it is the magic of being known that is written. If Jesus had any power, it came from knowing people and also knowing God's name present in that place.

Right now everyone is nice -- they tell me that it is ok for me to forget a name. They joke and tell me that there will be a quiz at the end of the day and laugh. But, under it all they want me to know them, or, they don't want me to know them. They want their name to be the one I remember and at some trusting point, to know a deeper name -- to see them, to call them out, to send them forth. It all starts right now with getting to know a city full of names.

Car meets Car

More on knowing me...
For those of you who don't know this about me, I'm practically a guy when it comes to my car. I love my car and during this move, it has been even more important to me. A place where I can center and feel like I still have some control over my life during this period of chaos and change. So, this morning, when I backed up with my car full of recycling and limited visibility and backed into Ted's car, heared the sickening crunch of two cars meeting, my heart sank lower than I expected and all my good intentions and good attitudes and being there for my family and anything good in my universe disappeared into a black hole. Actually, maybe that is a silver hole and you can actually see it in the photos above (I do hope my insurance agent isn't reading this). My head says that it makes a lot of sense to make this kind of mistake when there is so much new territory and stress but my heart is having a gigantic temper tantrum that probably doesn't befit the image most people have of a minister's wife or even their realtor and especially not their mother. Or maybe it's not a temper tantrum but an incredible bout of self pity. Which might last a while. I hate having anything wrong with my car. And it just seems like I ought to be able to have some control over some part of my life right now. Seems like I was wrong...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Running Away

A Day at the Beach!
Time to take a break from unpacking and all the seriousness of relocating. Hopped in the car and headed north to Eureka (15 minutes from home). Drove by the harbour and discovered a place called Samoa Beach, a 300 acre refuge, island. Actually saw a river otter run past and jump in the water! Plus some good rock climbing or rock running as the case may be for Jenn. Also drove through old town and checked out some of the different areas of Eureka. Great lunch in a Thai/Vietnamese restaurant. Saw a knitting shop (one in Ferndale and now one in Eureka - I'm safe). Did some 'big city shopping' and headed home. Good day and now I'm ready to open some more boxes.

Good Morning from Fortuna

Exploring the Area

One of the nice things about the weather here that people don't think to point out is what great sleeping weather this is - definitely not too hot but chilly enough to cozy up and have a great night's sleep. So here I sit, sipping my morning coffee (avoiding the kitchen with the apple pie and homemade cookies), reconnecting with my technical universe and beginning the start of building routines here in Fortuna. There is so much to do it is overwhelming at times. I see the garden beckoning me (more fun than unpacking), the ants circling the kitchen (needs constant cleaning or beware), boxes, boxes and even more boxes.

At first, we were scared about the basics. Would the house work for us, does eveything function, where did I put my... Now that we have a semi-functioning home and know where a few things are (Starbucks, Safeway, Ace Hardwood & the movie theatre), we can relax and let in some of the feelings we have been too busy to experience (and working at avoiding). We all miss our friends and Morgan Hill family so much. I'm not sure I really understand this Methodist reasoning but will save that for another time. I think today will be an exploring day (and nuture the family). Time to take the girls and my husband out and around and check out Eureka. I hear there is a charming harbor and old town. Will take my camera and post some photos when we get back.

Check in later for an update!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Up and Down

Today was my first day at the new church and I had a good time. I didn't preach, which was a little odd, but sat in the congregation and worshipped with them. Got the gift of listening to a sermon by a retired United Methodist DS from the Troy Conference, soon to not exist -- the Conference not the pastor. Got drafted into the choir the minute I walked in the door and instead of leading it, was singing with about fifteen other guys in a men's patriotic sing. I haven't sung in all all male chorus in a long time, another gift.

Home was another story. I hit the wall today. Couldn't think, could do anything. My whole life seemed unmanageable and we got homesick, did things for the kids that were totally unappreciated. Couldn't find anything I wanted. Set up some stuff that mostly didn't work and didn't get anything done that I needed to.

I know from experience that there will be more days like this, and that most days won't be like this -- things get better. I am sure I will miss Morgan Hill forever, just like I miss the people in Fort Bragg and Boulder Creek. It is part of the process of loving and moving on in ministry.

But today, I am feeling heavy.

Both sides of the penny

There is something about me that I really like and dislike at the same time and that is my sense of adventure. Offer me a good adventure and I'll be hard pressed to turn it down. Which was part of my reaction when I learned Ted had been transfered. Fortuna, hmmmmm... I do love living out in the country and after living 16 years in Mendocino County actually enjoy the overcast days and coastal weather. A new place, a new adventure, feels like a gift wrapped package - who knows what is inside? Yet, it is also my impulsiveness that has landed me in Tel Aviv airport with a suitcase I couldn't lift, alone in a South American country without being able to connect with the many ways we now take for granted (including speaking the language). So it really didn't surprise me when I called my sister the other day and couldn't stop crying. Ted and I spent 13 years building a life and a family in Morgan Hill and have been a part of a vibrant and exciting community. I have met so many wonderful people there, shared experiences and made many good friends. And now I miss them. Arghhh - Why doesn't my adventurous spirit get that at the time of making important life decisions?

And yes, I wouln't give up my time in Israel, my Peace Corps stint in Chile, my jump from New Jersey to Gualala, California and my adventures along the way. So Fortuna, watch out, cause here we are and who knows what lies ahead.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Almost the 4th of July

There but for Fortuna continued...

Back online already (thank you Ted) after making the move up here 4 days ago. The drive up here was a long one, 7 ½ hours in 2 cars with 2 teenagers, one cat and one guinea pig. Arriving in our new home and not knowing what to expect, only having had a glimpse of our home from the outside. Nice surprise, great sunlight and a lot of the charm of an older home such as wood floors and good size rooms but with new carpeting and paint, very sweet. And frosted with the hospitality of a smaller town. We have had a parade of people welcoming us, beginning with one woman who greeted us at our door with dish detergent in her hands. Which wasn’t remarkable until the next person showed up and she also greeted us with dish detergent in her hands. I was beginning to think this was a Fortuna tradition and/or I was going to have to upgrade my cleaning skills. We had people coming through all day long, helping us unpack, checking to make sure everything was working, pointing us in the ‘right’ directions, filling our pantry & fridge with food and bringing meals along the way, making us feel very welcome.

We are just getting settled and have only begun to explore our town and this area which I am beginning to sense is bigger than Fortuna proper. Where is the beach access the locals use, the good swimming holes, the nearest place for kayaking and river rafting, what to see in Eureka and the best local fishing (for Ben and Jaime). There is a walking group I am eager to be a part of (hopefully by next week). But I have found a few things out, like where is the nearest (only?) Starbucks and have already been to the movie theatre (within walking distance from home). Looking forward to checking out the Farmers’ Market and the week of the 13th the whole town celebrates with the rodeo which sounds like a big event. Hopefully, I’ll be unpacked enough by then to find my cowboy hat.

3, 2, 1, 2, 3 and Counting

July 3, in Fortuna. They have indeed had a heat wave as we have arrived, but that means 75 degrees and gorgeous.

I am now in a country church again. I like it, but I knew when two of the women of the church walked all the way around the house and through a gate so they come come in the back door. Half the church has been in our home in the last three days bringing meals, checking to make sure that everything is done, offering to help unpack boxes and chatting a bit.

I am thinking about two images of moving that surprised me. Boxes and wires.

Boxes are a reciprocal process. Start with a normal mess, then piles of boxes, then an empty rooms, then empty rooms, piles of boxes and finally the normal mess. We had hoped that we would have cleaned out so the normal mess would be less of a mess at the end than at the beginning, but this whole equation will end equal. The most significant difference from one end to the other is place and soreness.

A modern move seems to be about wires and cables. (Maybe next time it will all be wifi). David made a good suggestion in Morgan Hill. Don't sort things out into their boxes, but put all the cables into one box and plug them back in at the end. Turns out that this works in theory, but doesn't account for movers who don't care about "open me first labels". (We had great movers so no disrespect intended.) A related problems is that there were a lot of boxes of cables, enough to either breed or lose -- I haven't found out yet. Finally, a box of cables is fairly light and can end up in the back and top of the box mountain and take weeks to find. Anyway, after you find them, a modern move is about plugging everything in and turning everything on. After the last two days, I figure I should dispense with a wall plug on every wall, and simply tile all the walls with outlets.
Soon, we transition from plugging in electronics to plugging ourselves into this new community. Those wires are even harder to find.