Sunday morning came early, nudging me awake and into this week at about 6am. I loaded up the camp Jimmy, setting out for Portland to deliver the message at Fremont UMC. I encountered the typical foggy rain on the coast and through the mountains, until about half way along when the rain turned to slush, then to snow. It was already beginning to accumulate before I passed out of the coastal range into the valley.
Fremont has a beautiful church building whose architecture reminds me some of the church I grew up in. I arrived early and spent time mentally rehearsing my message, looking at the wooden ceiling panels the way I must have on so many Sundays growing up. My message had to do with the things we miss that we see everyday. The things we know are there, but we don’t spend enough time realizing. The realizing is what changes us, what makes us look at something with a different perspective. We grow from realizing things. We stagnate in the things we know. I tried to hammer home this idea that we could build something new, that we may be what these turbulent times need. Anyone who hears that likely agrees on some level, but do they realize it deep down within?
After spending time in the narthex greeting church members and telling camp stories, I scooted on to Rose City Park UMC. My friend Eric was delivering the message at that church, and I snuck into their beautiful sanctuary just in time to hear him speak. We went out for lunch afterwards at Vita Cafe. Eric and his family live very intentionally in a monastic community. He’s involved in Camp and Retreat along with several other church outreaches. I think a lot about the ideas that are hatching through the work Eric does and how I want our work at camp to hatch ideas as well. We are tinkering with how we approach and receive faith as the world shifts and we feel ourselves changing. I believe we are exploring a new wilderness, we are mapping out new outposts that will shape the way generations encounter God going forward.
It was raining as I left Portland, but I quickly encountered deep snow as I returned to the coastal range. I slowed to 30mph and began processing my surroundings, deciding if it would be wise to continue. The pass would continue to rise for a time and the snow pack would likely thicken. My driving felt sound, but I began to encounter more and more cars in ditches, motorists standing next to them on their cell phones, 4X4 trucks setting up to pull them out. I turned on the Jimmy’s four wheel drive and paid close attention to my traction.
The trip took a bit longer, but I never felt like I was losing control. I probably traveled 20-30 miles going less than 30 mph. This extended travel was not frustrating, though, because I saw the Tillamook Forest transformed. The Douglas Firs were caked in white powder, hardly looking real. The world was white from the forest floor, to the trees, to the sides of the mountains, all the way to the sky. I make this drive frequently, but I had yet to see it so gloriously covered in snow.
After making it through the thickest range of snow-pack, my back was tired, and I was itching to get out and explore, so I pulled over at the wayside near Bridge Creek Falls. It felt like I was in the forest all alone. Huge fluffy snow flakes fell. Little drifts fell off tree branches onto the shoulders of my rain jacket. The falls rumbled down and past, creating a small mist, hovering about the powdery landscape. I crossed the street over to the footbridge and looked down on the Wilson River. I tried to slow time down and be in this moment. I knew it was a special one, one that would not always be there to visit again in person. I stopped myself to look up at the snowy mountains, to let the flakes fall on me a little longer.
I had been contemplating a hair purge for several weeks and it finally came. My beard was fairly long–trimmed tight on my cheeks, but thick on the chin. I could pull on it and was in the regular habit of tugging or stroking it when I was thinking or fidgeting. I also had this urge for very short hair on my head. Cutting hair for me can seem like a sort of cleansing. It’s a new start at something. I’ve had this feeling that I want to begin anew, to start fresh. I don’t know if there is exactly something concrete I’m thinking about starting. I just want that for myself emotionally. I feel that slowly becoming real in my thoughts and feelings. Cutting my hair feels like a physical representation of that. So, I took the trimmers to the head and face, then followed up on my cheeks and chin with a razor. I stood under a hot shower, rinsing away the remaining cut hair, the dried soap, the dead layers of skin. I came out feeling fresh and new, feeling air on my face and head in a different way, trying to represent to myself something different inside me.
On Wednesday I returned to Portland to pick Hope up at the airport. She was in Colorado, packing up the last of her things to move out to the Oregon Coast. We went to Pok Pok, one of Portland’s most well-known restaurants and met Lindsay there. Allyson and I met Lindsay through KatyB, when they came out to the coast to hike in the spring. We decided then that Lindsay was friend material being so close by and such a cool person among other things. When Katy died in the Fall, Lindsay was one of the first people we thought of and one of the first people we grieved with. It was good to see her and catch up, good for her to meet Hope and us continue this weaving of our networks of friends. There is such chance involved in the people you find yourself connected to. We were seated in an outdoor area with a tent under some very high quality heating lamps. We tried each other’s food, told stories serious and funny, our heads nice and toasty from the heat lamp–one of those nights that’s good enough it might just have a chance to stick in your memory for a while.
The opportunity to show people new places is one of the most fulfilling things in my life. I love to explore, to learn a place, and then take people there and see if they share in that same wonder I have. This makes giving camp tours such a pleasing part of my job. One morning this week, I walked a potential retreat guest around on a drizzly day. I showed her the cabins, of course, explaining our options, listing off bed counts and toilet stalls. I showed her the ocean, because you can’t totally grasp Camp Magruder without seeing the beach. We toured the labyrinth, dining hall, the waterfront, the meditation patio. At the outdoor chapel she said, “You’re so lucky. You get to live here.” I said, “I know. I think about that a lot.”
On Saturday, I made my third trip of the week to Portland for an outing with Allyson to celebrate her birthday. We shopped for paint, books, and maternity clothes. We had Indian food for lunch at one of our favorites, Swagat. Allyson is tiring easier these days, and she was debating just going home without finding some place for dinner, but then decided she wanted hibachi. We found ourselves at Tokio Table, seated around a very warm table with several strangers, having hot food tossed around a few feet from our faces.
Allyson talked about how she was glad we didn’t decide to just go home, and I couldn’t help but agree. I put my arms around her, one around her shoulder, the other cradling her growing belly. I felt kicks every now and then. So many things are growing and forming
these days in this new place we are continuing to explore and know better. I spent so much time this week at the table with loved ones new and old. There is something sacred about sharing food, about tasting together, about nourishing together. There is something sacred about exploring, about sharing something powerful. I feel many of us longing for these basic human needs. I feel more whole in these days as we find moments to come together for all these moments that seem mundane, like something we have to do that with the right attitude can become something holy. I love the storylines I attach to these moments in memory. They are fresh, new air to a newly shaven face.