This week has mostly been accented by the usual drizzles and overcast skies of the Pacific Northwest. I’ve watched the South get covered in snow via facebook, seeing people share pictures and videos of their snowday exploits. We’re seeing the stage of the weather where people are excited by its newness. Those off work or out of school are building snowmen, sledding, dropping down for snow angels. Here on the coast we are getting something very familiar.
The camp office was closed Monday for the MLK holiday. The three day weekend allowed me the sort of rest I don’t normally open myself up to. It was a good mix of exercise, relaxing, reading, writing. I did not succeed, though, in coming up with a satisfactory way to honor the holiday giving me the day off. We have several national holidays memorializing something important, but that we haven’t yet come up with traditions for, beyond just watching TV and maybe barbecuing.
To me, MLK day honors an important figure of the 20th century and his sacrifice for sure, but I think the day has so much more wrapped up in it. The United States, since its birth, has had racial tension. It’s been the source for some of our ugliest moments and our most complicated disagreements. This day, in honoring one person, also honors many others, and that struggle for us all to figure this thing out, that hope that we work to get closer. That we won’t forget all the pain that came before us. That we will imagine a promised land where everyone has a place at the table.
Allyson and I got out that day when we found a stretch of no rain. We went to Oswald West State Park and walked among some old growth evergreens. I doubt the site of giants like this will ever get old to me. There are giant Sitka Spruces and Western Hemlocks. Amidst them are the Western Red Cedars with their needles that look like decorative sewing patterns. Necarney Creek flowed next to us, offering a soothing soundtrack to our walk. Let yourself get lost in a scene like this–all around you are trees hundreds of years old, towering above your head, shrouded in deep green. The air is cool and crisp. Every time you turn a corner, the sound of a creek coming off the mountain gets slightly louder or softer. Life is everywhere, movement both slow and rapid surrounds.
I don’t always know what to do with these sensations. I try to breathe it in, it’s something I want to hold onto, but don’t usually know the best way. I want to appreciate it in the moment, do something that will be the most powerful use of my time. It is likely, the less I worry about these things and the more I pour myself into the being there, the doing, the childlike need just to touch, dig, taste, the more lasting the experience. This is probably a good way to approach the celebration of a holiday–to do something that feels real, to try to touch something, to get to know something better.
Being a white guy, I’ve certainly heard my share of arguments that there’s nothing in this day for “us.” No one will complain too much, because a day off is a day off. But, I have spent enough time in parts of my life with the black population to count its effect on my life as one of the debts I can never pay off. Thinking about the friends I made in high school, the communities I was welcomed into unconditionally, even the way black writers and musicians have informed who I am and what I like. I really wish I knew these people more, that over the year I had done more of that exploration looking for something real. Something that expressed the appreciation I feel, the want to return that with no strings attached. I want to be more part of communities that don’t look just like me. These types of things take initiative, they take open mindedness, they take courage. One way to honor this day may just be for me to try to be more with people who aren’t like me. No agenda, just be there.
On Thursday we went to Portland. I had some meetings with church/camp/conference people, and we stopped by this big pottery store called Georgie’s to restock some camp supplies. One of the great struggles of moving to a new place, regardless of whether you are moving 2 hours away, across the country, or from some other part of the world is finding a new group of people. It’s not that you forsake your old friends and your family, but there’s no substitute for people in the flesh. We are slowly building that up, and there are some fantastic people here to build that with. As we sat down with people, I wonder who we may sit down with in the future, who will be the people who figure deeper and deeper into our lives.
I hope as we explore this rainy wonderland that we become a piece of the community in a meaningful way. I want us to have friends, I want that familiar feeling when you walk into certain buildings. We go to the Pelican Brewery for trivia night most Tuesdays, and this week I noticed a label on one of their metal kegs with a Smyrna, Tennessee address. I thought about these two places represented on this one piece of metal. One we know very well, one we are getting to know.
Getting to know something, I mean really getting to know it, takes some intentional time. It takes walking through a place on many days. It takes talking to people, listening to them, trying to understand. It takes living through good times and bad times. There’s a level of trust that must be built, and some people have a hard time trusting. This is the challenge of building something new, of taking a dream you had and turning it into something real. Dreams and good. Dreams inspire. But, there’s nothing like the real. The real gets into your body. You walk it and breathe it. You get dirty from it, you sometimes even come back with scars from it. But, it changes you. It grows you.
Here’s to the real. Here’s to going out and seeking to know it better. To building a table together where everyone eats, and where the food is good.