Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Slow Blogger's End of Summer Reflections

At Goddard College in Vermont for my daughter Sophia"s graduation
 This summer I have transformed into The Slow Blogger. No apologies, just some end of summer reflections on life, family, aging, and development of Sage's Play's programs.

In early August I traveled with my beautiful daughter Sophia to attend her commencement exercises at Goddard College in Vermont, where she graduated with a Master's from the sustainable business and community program.  I thoroughly enjoyed attending the presentations of learning that each graduate did. Fascinating and informative stuff on positive solutions in areas of agriculture, housing, new sustainable business trends, art and more. I find it astounding at times to realize that my younger daughter is now 30. Most of her education has been focused on independent and holistic learning-- from her years at Waldorf from kindergarten through Grade 8, into Wilderness Charter School and Eagle Rock School in Estes Park, CO in high school, then a stint at the Southern Oregon University, where she experienced conventional education formats and on to Goddard, a longtime bastion of independent thinking and learning. Now I hope I live long enough to see more of her marvelous evolution--how she moves out more into the world. I am proud of her.

Wildflowers by the railroad tracks, Montpelier, VT
 In Burlington, Vermont, I  had one of the best meals I've enjoyed in a long time at a restaurant called The Farmhouse Tap and Grill. It was simple, made with locally grown ingredients, and completely satisfying. A bowl of tomato soup, rich and rounded flavor, two slices of freshly baked bread, a delicious salad. Plus a rather wonderful beer from a local brewer Sophia loves. I've forgotten his name. If you get to Farmhouse they can tell you about him, though. He is well-known in those parts.

We stayed in Montpelier at an old, overpriced, stodgy hotel right by the capitol. Montpelier has a thriving food co-op and I visited that a few times to soak up the good colors and interactions, and to look for the delicious maple kefir you can sometimes find there, though it disappears quickly because it is so good. I took walks, including along the river and railroad tracks. Northern Vermont reminds me a lot of southern Oregon culturally. Both have a strong focus on organic agriculture and a farm to table focus. Both are largely rural, with towns and cities that are warm and full of cultural innovation.
A graffiti in the Music Room at Goddard

After the graduation festivities were over, I took an Amtrak train from Montpelier to Newark, NJ. That ride, moving from the bucolic green cornfields, meadows and woods of Vermont through Massachusetts and  the desolate industrial towns of Connecicut with their abandoned factories, past affluent towns in  Connecticut and New York state, led me to disembark in Newark, where I met my dear brother and Kimmy, one of my four nieces. Her beautiful little son Maximo was there, too, bawling his head off.  Usually he is a sunny, happy little fellow, but at that moment, he wanted to be somewhere else.

I usually feel like bawling my head off and being somewhere else when I am in environments like northern New Jersey, where I was born and raised. It seems like Mordor to me, just a couple of steps above Hell. Traffic, pollution, unhappy people, with a deep condensation of ugliness and despair coating it all. Nature is eclipsed, eradicated. For me, it takes effort to continue to bless it all. And that effort is a useful one.

May these horrid, toxic environments be transformed into clean and liveable places that are safe and comfortable.  May these people be uplifted and happy. This is a prayer, one among many that I put forth for the congested, miserable confines of that geography. Prayers make no sense on the rational level. They don't have to, thank goodness. How can we change this world? The world manifests from our collective thought, belief and intention. What a time to be alive. It's tremendously challenging and full of opportunities. It takes courage to meet those sometimes.

I asked my brother Phil to take me back to Lambert's Castle on Garrett Mountain in Paterson, NJ (what passes for a mountain is actually a hill), where my father used to take me when I was a child.

How magical those woods were to me on those childhood excursions.

 It wasn't the same, of course.  There were open fields where folks were playing ball. The woods seemed small and tired,  and the castle-- which was empty and full of the resonance of memory when I was a child-- had become a museum. Unfortunately, it was closed the day we visited, so I never had the chance to see how they dolled that big stone structure up.

I am glad I saw it again. Those times with my father looking at leaves, rocks, bugs, stones and sky were very special.

My brother Phil and my niece Kimmy
It's emotional to visit family and the place where you were raised, especially if you visit seldom. Here my brother is looking at an album that his daughter Kimmy put together. It contains photos of both my brother and his wife when they were young.

What waves of feelings washed through as I perused that collection of images. Long in the past, still evocative.

I love my brother and we are living very different lives in very different places. He is a loving, hilariously funny, intelligent guy. It was beautiful, touching and deeply informative to spend time with him, his sweet lady friend and my nieces and their kids.

Yet overall, I have to say that I would be quite happy never to return to northern NJ again. I hope my brother and my nieces make their way to Oregon instead.

I was glad to return to Oregon. I am grateful for so much in my life here. I enjoyed the respite, but was looking forward to returning to the work of Sage's Play and its conscious, creative aging programs.

I've been working on revising the script for A New Wrinkle, in preparation for an upcoming meeting with composer Laura Rich, business advisor Gary Einhorn, and Larry and Joy Marshall, who have a wealth of theater and fundraising experience.

I had a meeting with photographer Mary Landberg, who is going to start taking photos of elders for a book project we are collaborating on. I'm developing an outline for an afternoon workshop in September, "Playfulness, Pleasure and the Art of Aging." A lot of development is going on, in other words.

My main project is networking and preparing for the launch of our fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo on August 25th. I hope that you will help us raise the $15,000 we need to produce a staged run of our musical revue A New Wrinkle, and film it.

We need the help of many people to increase our visibility, community and audience. I will be sending out a blog with the IndieGoGo campaign link on it soon.

Thank you for any help that you are able to provide. Your donation of $5 will be a big help!

If many people donate $5 we will reach our goal. Of course, you are welcome to donate more, too. In fact, the sky's the limit on that.

Sharing news and information about A New Wrinkle's IndieGoGo campaign is another way you can help us move forward with this important effort. Thank you for whatever support you contribute. It's all about building a broad community that supports positive, conscious aging.

I hope that you have had a marvelous summer. It has gone by all too quickly for me. I went swimming and soaking at Jackson WellSprings yesterday and took a walk in Lithia Park.  Friday I am going to Betsy Lewis's Walkabout Woman launch, which is combined with her radical downsizing and going away party. She's off on a walkabout adventure, she is. What are you up to?


  1. I so enjoyed your summer's recap. Congratulations to your daughter on her graduation. Your engaging childhood memories reminded me of a trip I took after my husband's death a few years ago which included a visit to significant locales a part of my early years. I should write about it.

    I also recall my first visit to New Jersey fifty or so years ago. I had expected to encounter mostly congestion,but we went to the Trenton area which we discovered to be much more green and rural appearing than I had imagined.

    Hopefully your brother, other family can visit you in Oregon for the next get-together -- especially if they've never been to your countryside.

    Sounds like you're gearing up for the new Wrinkle and rarin' to go. Hope the fundraising goes well.

    My summer has been rather uneventful as I continue to enjoy my part time work. I've delighted with the new elders I encounter, being part of helping some of them return to more independent living levels. They continue to reveal having lived interesting lives -- each in different ways. More personally, visiting with family may occur in the future though everyone has such busy lives.

    1. Hi and thanks for your comment. I am looking for new PT work, because I was downsized the day before I left on my recent trip. Worked there for 12 years developing educational materials for caregivers of elders. May the next gig appear!