Day 18: End of the Road Trip
Today, a detour from the road trip: neighborhood organizing meeting of the local chapter of the Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT).
What happens when the next disaster — wildfires, floods, earthquakes, or ??? — strikes our peaceful community here on the coast? And the services we depend on — phone, internet, power, government, police, fire, food stores, ambulances, etc. — are all down, roads are cut off, safety agencies are overwhelmed, the fires are coming, and all we have are each other?
So, following some established CERT procedures, a group of us came together for the first time, introduced ourselves, and started talking. It was a chaotic cacophony, with some people loudly insisting that we do things their way, others seeking to edify and entertain us with their long stories, and others seeking attention and reassurance with endless questions. Everybody talking at once; not much listening.
And there I was, the frustrated facilitator, trying to see that each person had a chance to speak and be heard — with limited success.
But somehow, amazingly, we actually started getting things organized, initiating a planning map for our neighborhood.
I’ve got lots to do now to follow up. But first, I’ve got three more days on this Road Trip of the Imagination — a little more time to wander and wonder and dream. There’ll be time later for everything else.
Because of our peculiar circumstances this year, it’s the first time that Wendy and I have been together for Summer Solstice in many years.
At first we wanted to go somewhere special on the coast to have a special meal and watch the sunset over the Pacific. But as we thought about it, we realized that there would be hundreds of people driving here from all over, lining up at the restaurants to do the same.
So we decided to do something really special: celebrate being together. We drank our ceremonial Kiddush wine out on the deck as we quietly witnessed the last rays of the sun on this longest of days.
Using outer light,
Return to the inner.
In this way you are safe.
Tao Te Ching: 52
Trees in the forest generally, and redwoods in particular, provide aid to each other when threats occur, such as storms, insects, fires, animals. They can provide nutrients and even water to each other. They communicate through underground neural networks, as well as through smells and even sounds. The health of each tree depends on the health of the forest, so taking care of each other is important for everyone’s long-term survival. For those of us working to cultivate connections among communities, they have a lot to teach us.
In the wild places,
revealing the truth we lost:
we need each other.
Father’s Day in the urban wilderness: Noe and Adam treating me to lunch and a movie in San Francisco. (Adam’s good humor about getting there on crutches made it a fun challenge.)
Favorite line from the movie — The Last Black Man in San Francisco: “You don’t get to hate San Francisco if you haven’t loved San Francisco.”
Undeterred as the
coast is eroding, today
the thistle blossoms.
paths that others cleared, I can
enter and return.
Returning with no
map, I can find a new path
for those who come next.
I rinsed the lunch dishes, put them in the dishwasher, made sure Wendy was okay, checked the time, jumped into the car, drove to a nearby wild area, Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve, pulled into the last spot in the parking lot, checked the time to calculate how long I could stay, and got out of the car.
Not the same as living in a tent.
As I walked on the trail along the creek, I kept shooting pictures of redwoods, looking for that elusive, iconic image that would capture the essence of the day’s message. I couldn’t find it.
The forest was laughing at me. “You’re acting like a tourist!”
“So what am I supposed to do?” I said.
“How about just sitting?”
“Where you are!”
So I sat. And nothing happened. Until I started noticing things. Wind rustling the tips of branches, the bubbly sound of the stream, the conversations of birds. Carpets of clover, ferns, fallen branches spread out across the forest. And in the late afternoon sunbeams slanting through the tops of the redwoods, energetic circling swarms of tiny insects.
And before I knew what had happened, the whole forest was alive with magic. Wow! When did they sneak this one past me?
Essence of the day’s message: a physical road trip requires one set of practices. A road trip of the imagination requires quite another.
Okay, so now it’s a done deal for me: this year it’s a Road Trip of the Imagination. Home base each day: home. Why? Sometimes your family just needs you.
Daily agenda: Silence. Prayer and meditation. Tea. Writing. Wandering through wild places. A little inner travel; a little outer travel. Care giving as needed. Whatever else emerges. Time to laugh at it all. Gratitude.
I’m recalling a trail I walked last year, that guided me through the redwood forest. I’m still there, still here, still walking.
Your roots are deep and your trunk is strong.
But when the storms howled in,
the ones that blow fiercer each year,
to tear out your branches,
the ones you once spread to shelter your friends,
there was no one to shelter you.
I put my arms around what is left of your trunk,
and feel the life still pulsing in you,
in rhythm with the heartbeats pulsing in me, like prayers.
At the tips of your branches
little green shoots are reaching out toward the sun.
The trip was carefully planned.
Reservations, maps, supplies, appointments.
Then life intervened and shook it all up.
The thrill of not knowing.
The thrill of walking into the fog.
Opening to life,
preparing to let it go,
in the same moment.
August 23, 2012
I see men’s judgements are
A parcel of their fortunes; and things outward
Do draw the inward quality after them.
William Shakespeare, Anthony and Cleopatra
If Shakespeare were living in Ashland today, they’d elect him president of the Chamber of Commerce.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, with its magnificent campus downtown that includes three theaters, gardens, courtyard, and an outdoor stage, is Ashland’s second largest employer. In addition there are dozens of thriving businesses – restaurants, shops and inns – that serve theatergoers. As a successful businessman himself, Shakespeare would no doubt enjoy a hearty laugh at being a lynchpin of this economy.
In our visit this year, Wendy and I have also been drawn to something else about Ashland – Lithia Park. We began with breakfast downtown, at an outdoor table near Ashland Creek, picked up a trail nearby, and wandered up into the forested hillside. In the whole experience – the combination of wild forest with gentle landscaping, trails along the brightly flowing stream, picnic benches, duck ponds, and wild deer – we can feel the artistry of John McLaren, the landscape architect of Golden Gate Park, who was commissioned to design Lithia.
We get to a lovely place of open meadows near the stream. Wendy lies on the grass in the sun; I sit at a picnic table to compose my blog. I say hi to a female police officer walking through the park, making sure that everyone’s okay.
I’m blown away by what this town of 20,000 has accomplished. What have they done right? Is there a lesson here for other communities?
As a point of comparison, I think about the town where I live, Half Moon Bay, CA. Both places were settled by Europeans in the mid-1800s and began as agricultural settlements, both cover about 6.5 square miles, both are blessed with beautiful natural environments. Ashland, population 20,000, has Southern Oregon University within its borders. Half Moon Bay, population 11,000, is close to Stanford, UC Santa Cruz, and several community colleges.
Half Moon Bay has a well-educated population with an average family income almost twice that of Ashland. Yet our amateur theater and other cultural events, and small parks, don’t come remotely close to what Ashland has. And the town is in financial trouble, downsizing everything, even eliminating the police department. (We now get police services from the county sheriff.) And the merchants on Main Street are struggling to hold on.
So what can communities like mine learn from Ashland? Sitting here at a picnic table in Lithia Park, answering this question seems beyond me. Is it about the politics, the tax structure, the local leadership? Is it about accidents of geography or history? Is it about establishing your own university? I don’t know.
Suddenly four deer show up, very close, out of nowhere. Wendy is sleeping and no other people are around. They look like a family: a mother, father, two young ones. I stay very still. They wander across the grassy field to a spot near some trees.
Wikipedia offers an interesting clue about the Shakespeare Festival and Lithia Park. They both trace their roots to the Chautauqua movement . It was an independent movement of both religious and secular people that brought culture and entertainment to people throughout rural America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Shakespeare Festival began as a facility built in 1893 to house Chautauqua events. And Lithia Park began when members of the Ladies Chautauqua Club formed the Women’s Civic Improvement Club, which petitioned the city council in 1908 for the establishment of a park in Ashland.
Maybe there’s a lesson in that. What would be the equivalent of Chautauqua today?
I set my camera on the picnic table and snap some pictures of the deer. Whatever I wind up saying on the blog, this will make a good picture.