I began this week as the last week and the last year turned over, staying up with family and friends watching YouTube. I stayed up way later than normal. I slept in for a little while and felt the hurt but also felt no regrets. On occasions we chose to be special, we do special things, and things we deem special are worth the consequences. We woke up with just enough time to pack up our stuff, meet my parents for lunch, and make the two hour trip down I-40 to Nashville, to close out our holiday trip.
It is a new everyone. In our heads there is a clean slate. This day is not actually that much different than the days in the previous year, but don’t we sometimes need any excuse to start over, to make something new? I feel the most hope for 2017 as I have about any year in recent memory. I come into this year ready to see fruit from my work. I come into this year ready to reconnect with my creative side. I come into this year ready to spend more time in nature, growing closer to the living things in Oregon. I come into this year hoping to make something to make life better.
Our last few days in the South were spent with Allyson’s sister Laura, and her family, including husband and two sets of twins. While Allyson and Laura had extended sister time, sitting up in bedrooms talking for hours, I found a wide range of ways to occupy my time. Some was spent playing four square and basketball with the 7 year old set of nephews. Some was spent learning about YouTube vloggers with one of 10 year old nieces. I did some camp work. I caught up on movie reviews. I sat out on their back porch reacquainting myself with the Southern winter landscape of leafless trees in front of the gray cloudy backdrop.
I try to spend a lot of time in thought prior to any undertaking. For me, it is good to listen and soak things in before leaping into action. It gets me ready to work, and I don’t just mean from learning and developing opinions and philosophies. I find when I set with something for a time, there instincts that work their way into me. I grow to know a thing, a place, a process, more like I know myself. It feels more natural to work within it. Just those moments of quiet, sitting still. I am glad I was able to sit within 2017 before jumping right into it.
Christy Jo accidentally left her Christmas present when she left, but fortunately she lives in Nashville. I brought the bag of coffee grounds from Sleepy Monk, an Oregon Coast company who roast some pretty amazing coffee. I didn’t know if she would be free at all for even a drop-off, but it turned out she was free for lunch. We went to The Family Wash. CJ got the Sweet Potato Ghnocchi and I had breakfast sandwich call the Camardo. We ordered planning to share. It was this unplanned surprise to get to spend a long lunch catching up further, talking about where we’re at and where we hope to go soon.
Later I would also get to visit my good friend Russell who is the Director at Cedar Crest Camp just 45 minutes Southwest of Nashville. Russell started as director there three years ago, and has done amazing work. The camp has grown in huge ways, and I visited them in their new home. It was so comforting to see someone I know who has worked so hard and dealt with some very difficult times in a season of life where he is content. He is in the midst of achieving what he set out to do. It is happening. I am so proud to see that his hard work is paying off. It inspires me to stay passionate, to continue to do what I believe in. We have been on opposite sides of the coin in our time as friends. I know how life can turn. I know how it turns back. There are many times I feel this confidence just because I know we walk together in our field, because we are about the same things, because we are part of the same movement.
In order to get reasonable airfare, we had to take a late flight home, so we boarded the plane at BNA at about 5:30pm CST to San Francisco, then caught the 10:30pm PST flight to PDX. We landed in Portland just after midnight. We grabbed our car, packed it up, and made the two hour trip over the coastal mountains to home next to the ocean. We settled into our beds about 3am PST, which was 5am according to the time zone we woke up in the morning prior.
Still, we woke up at a decent hour the next day, ready to be back in our Oregon Coast world, ready to get back to the work of our camp. Allyson and I took the beach route to the office, finding the shoreline bathed in bright sunlight. It was colder than normal, below freezing, but the ocean was a brilliant dark blue, and our shadows were 10 feet tall. We could see Neahkhanie in the distance to the north and the houses of Manzanita in crisp, clear view. It felt so nice to be back in this beautiful place. I felt ready to get to it. To get back to building and creating. To love this place and feel the great pleasure that loving something brings.
In unusual fashion for the winter, we had two straight days of uninterrupted sunlight. It accentuated to us how beautiful this little section of the world is. Towards the end of Thursday, as the day was coming to a close, we noticed the last bit of sunlight casting a purple tint on the spruces covering the mountains to our east. Angie said, “I bet that sunset going to be beautiful,” and I felt a strong need to find out. Digby and I sprinted out to the beach to catch the sun just as it met the horizon. I try to make it a point to observe these sunsets whenever they are visible. It is a routine that feels sacred to me. I have not observed this ritual enough to put my finger on what it is, on what it means, but I know enough to know it is profound. I know it will be something that stays with me.
The next day I went for a run after work on the beach. The sun had gone back to its usual place for the winter behind clouds. The wind was whispering from the West and raindrops fell from time to time. It was in the 30s, and I was barefoot in shorts, but I was running. My blood was pumping, and there was plenty of juice in there to warm me up. I have missed those beach runs, seeing the mountains in the distance, Twin Rocks my quarter-way marker. This was my first run of the new year on the coast. God willing, I will make many more of these runs.
I think often about how my running feels like a metaphor for something else. I imagine that I am running into something, I imagine how I am pushing myself in ways other than the physical. I put them all together in my mind as I run. It represents the stepping forward into something big, beautiful, and unknown. That big open space feels much like this new year to me. I want to go running into it. I want to feel how strong my body can be. I want to run into it amazed, like a kid.
As I hit my halfway point and turned towards home, I listened to a podcast called The Pocket Conference Show which is about the art of making good audio stories. As the host closed out, she played an interview of the writer Ray Bradbury, and this is what he said:
There’s no use having a universe is there? There’s no use having a billion stars, there’s no use having a planet Earth if there isn’t someone here to see it. You are the audience. You are here to witness and celebrate. To witness and celebrate. And, you got a lot to see and a lot to celebrate. That’s your business. You put it in your work. You put it in your stories. Otherwise, get the hell out.
Otherwise, get out or our way and let us live, huh? If you’re gonna be a cynic, if you’re gonna be a pessimist there’s no hope for you. I can’t help you, you gotta help yourself. But, we are here as an audience. God cries out to be saved. Whatever God is–we have various names. We make him much too anthropomorphic. That’s not what it’s all about. Creation, Jehovah, the Universe, you name it. It’s all mysterious.
But, we are here to be the audience to the miraculous. We are privileged. You’re going to be alive once. You’re never coming back. Think of that. You got one chance to pay back. You owe. You owe to the universe. The burden of proof is in your lap and in your writing, and you gotta pay back. I demand it. Now you get the hell out of here and do that, and you’re gonna have a good life.
I felt like Ray Bradbury was talking directly to me in that moment, telling me exactly what 2017 should be about. Conveniently, I was right in front of Twin Rocks, three people also looking out on those beautiful rocks washed in ocean water, taking pictures with their phones. I slowed my run to take it in. To be audience to the miraculous. Later, when I sat on some driftwood putting my shoes back on, as the last bit of light waned, I saw many birds circling above me, mostly seagulls. Soon the seagulls fell away and two eagles were left, calling to each other, owning their sky together. I knew I needed to watch them as long as they would stay in the sky. And that is what I did.