The Toll of Ashland

IMG_1609 - Version 2Twelve nights in a lovely cottage, a tree-house built on top of a garage with a view to die for. As the late-afternoon wind comes up, the place is filled with the sound of wind chimes. As the wind dies down, the hummingbirds take over. After dark, the hummingbirds are quiet, and frog-sounds keep me company all night long.

One thousand views of the mountain under the ever-changing southern Oregon sky.

One hand-knit sweater completed. 648 stitches cast on for ruffled sea-creature scarf.

Seven great workouts at Anytime Fitness, with calluses to prove it.

IMG_1601One worship service at Trinity Church, on Trinity Sunday, during which we sang all seven verses of I bind unto myself this day. Several journeys through the Trinity labyrinth.

Six visits to the Bloomsbury Coffeehouse, six delicious lattes, an undisclosed number of which were accompanied by a chocolate-dipped coconut macaroon. (Coconut is paleo, right?)

One hundred pages read (so far) of Joseph Anton.

Three great hikes, one much longer than planned, along a trail aptly named the White Rabbit Trail. One peek at Mt. Shasta. Can you see it? It’s there, right in the center of the photo hiding out like so much beauty of the world when we try to capture it.

MtShasta

A four-day visit, mid-stay with Mr. Wonderful.

One decadent dinner at Lark’s.

Three Plays: Two Trains Running, King Lear, and My Fair Lady. All were great, but only King Lear was both great and awe-inspiring.

Several heart-to-heart talks with myself about….myself! In which I reflect on received tradition about the family temperament vs. reality.

Ten thousand words written, more or less.

In which I attempt to reconcile the Spirit of Pentecost with my intense desire for solitude

pentecostMay 19 was the Feast of Pentecost, which marks the end of the Great Fifty Days of Easter and the descent of the Holy Spirit among us, life continuing on the other side of the Cross. You can read all about it. It’s been one of my favorite feasts of the church year ever since my husband and I attended Grace Memorial for the very first time. It was Pentecost, 1997, and the youth group created the rushing wind described in Acts 2 by running up and down the aisles holding opposite ends of an enormous banner that flew over–barely–the heads of all of us in the pews.

lego crowdThis year, I’m on sabbatical (into Week 3) and had a rare opportunity to get up on Sunday morning and worship wherever I wanted. I had many wonderful options and spent several days weighing them. The result? I went to the gym. This is something I do almost every Sunday before church, but my sabbatical celebration this week was to sleep in, drink tea in bed, and get to the gym right around the time someone was about to proclaim the Pentecost Gospel at Saint David’s. What I found was that the gym feels different at 10:30 on a Sunday morning than it does at 7:00. For one thing, there are more people. Lots and lots of them with yoga mats tucked under their arms. People working out in pairs, twos and threes, not just muscle-men who take turns being the spotter and the grunter and otherwise hardly speak, but dyads and triads of friends and couples, having fun together, visiting and laughing. The church of gym, a communion if ever there was one. I was glad to see everyone having such a great time, and glad for my ear-buds which provide solitude in the midst of community.

(The day before, I’d spent seven hours in a 12×12 room with 16 other people, talking. We called it a “retreat.” The people are wonderful and the conversation memorable and worthwhile, but a retreat it wasn’t. I–the extrovert–came away exhausted, wanting to tear my hair out and shout, like Liza Doolittle: Words, words, words!)

pentecost cupcakesIt was odd to go through Pentecost Sunday without any of the traditional things we do on Pentecost: proclaim the gospel or sing in other languages, wear tongues-of-fire red, or eat church birthday cupcakes. Instead, I spent the day looking forward to getting away from it all. That seems incongruous, to me. Pentecost is a community celebration if ever there was one, if only because for many churchgoers, it is the equivalent to the last day of school and the beginning of summer vacation.

solitudeWhat my intense eagerness for solitude has to do with Pentecost, I’ve decided, is that just as Pentecost is all about breaking barriers between people in order to establish communities of Jesus-followers imbued with the power of the Spirit, so can solitude, and time away from traditional forms of worship be a form of breaking barriers and crossing boundaries. Especially for a church-lady-extrovert like me. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In which I encounter the Raven

Welcome to Week One of my sabbatical. Or week One and One-Eighth, to be exact, but exactitude is over-rated, or will be by the end of Week Sixteen. I was talking with a friend some weeks ago about blogging on this four-month sojourn and she likened it to a treasure-hunt, and occasional blog posts to the coins I might toss out along the way. I like it.

IMG_1561I’ve been in Anchorage these past several days, where a frequent topic of conversation is the weather. As in “You’re from Portland? I bet spring is so much nicer there than it is here. Come later next time.” And “Just wait. In a few days all of these bare trees are going to POP into leaf and blossom.” I don’t mind it the way it is; bare birches and all sorts of trees with barely perceptible buds of promise.

IMG_1558My mother and I came to visit my amazing and fabulous uncle Vic and his lovely wife Jane who is The Greatest Hostess in the world. Vic has just published an autobiography which, as one of the reviewers says, reads like a thriller. It has been wonderful to read his stories, hear his stories, and share space with him and Jane in their house that backs up against these trees. We have been to the Anchorage museum, gone for lovely walks among the birches thick along a snow-melt creek, and eaten lots of great food.

Alaska is an amazing place; whenever I am here it inspires me in a dozen different directions. A highlight of the museum was the Portrait Alaska exhibit of photos by James Clarke Mishler. The range of faces and scenes give a phenomenal, vast picture of what it means to be of this place.

Whenever I am here I wonder: what is my Alaska story? How do I fit into a place like this, that is another world and yet quintessentially American, where my only living blood relative (other than my dear brother) on my father’s side of the family has made his amazing life?

Yesterday at the museum I encountered, again, the Raven, a familiar symbol in native folklore and mythology through the Pacific Northwest. In some native cultures, the Raven is the Creator; the sphere in the Raven’s mouth is the world. In other cultures, the Raven is not the Creator, but the Great Organizer. (I love that!) In some contexts, the Raven is both Creator and Trickster God. (Kinda like the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Jesus, right?) What I didn’t know until I bought a postcard and did some research, was how pervasive the Raven is throughout the world, not only in the Pacific Northwest. I love the postcard because there is the Raven with Edgar Allen Poe, there is the Raven on the sail of a viking ship, there is the Raven on medieval battle flags. And much, much, more (you can look it up).

So, thanks to this 1995 hand-colored linocut by Evon Zerbetz, the Raven became, for me, this week, the connective tissue between my own world and this Alaska world. IMG_1560