The Crow Who Came to Dinner

So fellow travelers, our first day of events came to a close with a marvelous dinner and concert by the band at an open air venue by the beach.

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Sitting around the tables, hearing the stories of how people first found Switchfoot’s inspiring music, what song was their favorite and why, where they came from and how they came to be at this event – so many connections made, fans becoming friends and family.

Switchfoot is a faith based band with the rare ability to express their beliefs inclusively. They have been criticized by so-called christian groups for not being more outspoken in their music; in some areas of the country fundamentalist christian protestors demonstrate outside the venues when they perform. Jon usually goes over to talk with them, to engage in a dialogue about love, acceptance and being defined by the compassion (or the lack thereof) in our actions and how we live our lives.

People who know me, or who have been following my thinking out loud here know I am more likely to seek wisdom and grace on a hike than by sitting in a church pew. I am more a follower of the Way than the Word. As I reflected a few posts back, if I have to identify as a believer in something, I say I believe that Light and grace and healing are found on many paths and no one teaching has the answer for every person.

To be immersed in a faith based community for five days of close interactions and feel completely at home with being myself, with sharing our stories of struggles, losses and hopes, to feel accepted without judgment is a rare experience. No one proselytized, no one questioned my beliefs or tried to impose theirs. It is a measure of the genuinely accepting spirit these talented musicians and their support team truly embody.

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During the dinner, we had an unexpected visitor at our table, when a large black crow landed on one of our tablemates. The bird literally seemed to fall out of the sky and just crash onto her. Jessica screamed in panic because it turns out she is petrified of birds. While the people on that side of the table helped her, I turned my attention to the crow, which had taken shelter under our table. It appeared stressed and possibly injured, as it hopped around with one wing askew. We did our best to gently encourage the bird to move away from our terrified tablemate, eventually we were able to guide it towards open space where other people helped it reach some bushes near the trees. Reassuring Jessica that the bird had moved away from our table helped her calm down. She told us she has no idea why they scare her so much, there is no specific reason, no point of trauma to explain it; birds just scare her into a panic. Naturally this incident wasn’t helping to ease her fears. I watched with great concern for both Jessica and the crow, until that bird gradually got to higher trees where it sat vocalizing as if laughing at us.

Ah! zen moment!

A message of how the things we fear will find us and confront us and challenge us to face them.

When I saw Jessica the next day and checked in with her, she said she felt a little shaken still, but was ok. She even laughed a little at how, of all people, this bird had to land on the one dinner guest with an intense fear of birds. From the moment comes this haiku.

 

Fear is like a bird

Crash landing when least welcome

Taking flight when faced

 

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Photos courtesy of Switchfoot Getaway staff.

Crow image from stock photos and sketched in photo editor.

The Diner at the End of the Pier

So fellow travelers, traveling solo there are moments when the reality of being alone washes over you.  Eating in restaurants as a single patron is one of those times, so finding a spot with a welcoming vibe is a blessing.

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Eggs on toast done right

Comforts of home with a view

Diners are a gift.

 

Nothing feels like “home” more than a good diner. To find one at the beginning of my week was a good omen. Oh and I kid you not,my waiter’s name was Jesus.

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready

 

The Fan with the Switchfoot Sneakers

We play music because we love it, but we also play music because we want to see things change… within ourselves and in the world around us. These are songs of hope and new beginnings, and we’re always trying to get better at living that out.” Tim Foreman Stories Behind the Songs: Vessel Bags Interview April 14, 2016

So fellow travelers, those moments when a new acquaintance says or does something and you both feel the “click” of Inner Spirits connecting and you know you have found another member of your tribe.

Linda V. fellow Friend of the Foot taking in the ocean view

I have written about them before and I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be writing about them again. Of all the bright, fun filled experiences in Oceanside, it was the always the moments of personal connection which brought the most joy.

Not long ago, when reflecting on the changes retirement and relocation will bring, I realized how much farther I would be traveling to get to family events or periodic gatherings with my creative tribemates and how much I would miss my phenomenal support team of friends at work

37630Toasting the last day of the year (the mugs say it all)

At every event during the Switchfoot Getaway I found connections and made new friends. Whether we were surfing, sharing meals or participating in a service project, over and over again the theme of community emerged. We extended beyond fellow fans and grew into a family.

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All photos courtesy of Switchfoot Getaway2018*

At the registration photo op** with the band, when they commented on my “cool” sneakers and I mentioned I wore them because I thought they looked like “Switchfoot sneakers” to me, it was a remarkable moment to connect and tell each of them how significant their music has been while I walk this path of seeking Light.

And the week was only just getting started~

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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready

*Photos from various events are provided by the Switchfoot Getaway 2018 team and used with permission.

** When I first saw my band photo, I was surprised I don’t seem to be smiling.  On closer inspection I saw it actually captures the look I get when I hold my breath as I feel a wave of absolute joy washing over me. It happened several times a day on this trip.

Coasting

So fellow travelers, grab some sunscreen and a towel, we are going to the beach!

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There is something sacred embedded in that moment of catching a first glimpse of the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean.  This time, that first glimpse came while riding the Coaster, a local train which runs between San Diego and Oceanside. The train is a local icon; numerous residents I met spoke of how much their kids/grandkids loved to ride it. Jon Foreman has song in his repertoire called Southbound Train, it ran as a continuous loop in my head while I took in the scenery up to Oceanside.

Those moments of sacred connection would manifest in unexpected ways through my week on the coast.

 

Blessings and grace beyond anything I could have anticipated or dared to expect.

Pack Lighter, Go Farther

So fellow travelers, packing ten days of traveling through multiple climates into one carryon and a backpack was easily the most difficult logistic to solve of this entire trip. My husband would be bringing a larger suitcase for the PNW segment of my travels so I had to coordinate which things to send ahead and which I most needed for the coast.

Which ones to pack or wear.

Space vs comfort.

Decisions, decisons.

 

Planning extended adventures is not new for me; last year’s was a road trip to mark my sixth decade, a pilgrimmage if you will, to Sagamore Hill, Theodore Roosevelt’s home in Oyster Bay Long Island. Friends called me brave for setting out on my own, yet I don’t seem to see my solo expeditions in that way. My determination to experience new vistas stems from the wanderlust embedded in my soul during my family’s travels in my childhood and teenage years. If there is something that peaks my interest, having to go alone rarely prevents me from exploring, whether it is an art class in town or a chance to tour the hometown and studio of my favorite band.

When I decided to get to the Bro-AM event at the end of June, I had the option to sign-up for a series of special events with the band. I’ve done “meet and greets” at previous concerts before. Those events are about much more than the autographs; they are opportunities to thank them all for the inspiration their music contributes to our deeply troubled human existence. The “Switchfoot Getaway” events would be a sequence of more extensive time with the band in a variety of settings, including a give back day where everyone attending would participate in a service project in nearby San Diego.

So I gathered my resources, both factual and financial and set the logistics in motion. After the Switchfoot Getaway* event in Oceanside and a side trip to Joshua Tree National Park, I would fly to Portland and meet my husband for our annual summer visit with our kids. The trip became the guiding Light at the end of the long dark tunnel of the final weeks of the school year; I seriously doubt I would have gotten through without it. I don’t toss that platitude out there lightly. I am at a point in my career where I can retire at anytime, but just because I can does not mean I will. It would take a significant calamity to push me to the point of leaving my team and my students. We drifted perilously closer and closer to that point. This was my chance to stand on the home shores of the music which pulled me back from the under currents over and over again.

 

As the process of preparing unfolded, I realized the lighter I packed, the easier it would be to find the Light I sought on this quest for renewal. You cannot move forward towards hope if you are weighed down by the burdens of anger and despair. Like Jon Foreman* often says “Don’t let the past rob the present of it’s potential for beauty and joy.”

Time to let the chaos of what had been fade into the brilliant rising sun of the present moment.

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

*You can watch a 2016 Ted Talk Jon gave about living our inherent purpose here.

Bookends

So fellow travelers, today marks the start of a new solar year in this grand adventure of life. Reflecting on the bookends of the first and last days

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Team Fairbanks-Rahalski at the summit of Pinnacle Peak Trail in Rainier National Park

I can see the origami of insights and growth created by the challenges weathered in-between two foundations: friends and family. As I embark fullspeed into the coming years of this sixth decade of solar returns I have my sights set on the adventures made possible by that foundation.

The road we travel

is made lighter by the Love

carried in our hearts

To all the beautiful points of Light in my community of family and friends here is a heartfelt haiku of gratitude for the love and support which has and will continue to bless my journey. You are the best gift anyone could ever receive.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready

Fading West*

So fellow travelers, a friend who reads my blog posts commented on the line I used at the end of a recent entry. Their point was well taken.

“Nothing in (my) life would ever be the same” is indeed a rather sweeping claim. Being aware of the hyperbolic aura it casts, I did not use it lightly. In fact I rewrote, deleted and retyped it several times, eventually coming to the conclusion it accurately reflected the impact of the week I spent in California.

Since writing is how I process my experiences, I am sometimes bound by self-inflicted parameters. An example of this is the prolonged stretch (five weeks, the longest gap since I began the blog in August of 2013) in my posts between the Verdi Requiem weekend and my current series of posts. When I returned home from that regenerative time with friends, I walked back into a malestorm of situations at work which rapidly escalated and deteriorated. It took every ounce of energy to stay focused, professional and compassionate. At day’s end I literally had enough left in me to walk our dog, eat a decent meal and tend to a handful of chores around the house, pond or garden before collapsing into bed.

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On weekends, my work at the dog rescue where I volunteer became my therapy; making a difference in one arena compensated somewhat for the frustration of not being able to get responses at work.  The affection and acceptance of these dogs who had been through so much in their quest to simply find a home where they would be loved became a beacon of Light and hope in a time of tremendous frustration. The sincere gratitude of the rescue staff for every hour I could contribute was a reminder that what I was able to do mattered, whether it was answering phones, cleaning crates, folding laundry or taking a challenged dog on a long respite walk.

Every Sunday morning I would rise early and write for a few hours but due to the confidential nature of my position (I work as a special education assistant in our local high school) what I wrote could not be posted. That I wrote at all came from the advice of several of my creative tribemates.  “Write,” they said “whether you can publish it or not, write for your own sake. Eventually you will find a way to share what you need to say.” I stopped worrying about the extended gap in the published blog posts.

 

So I wrote and walked dogs and got through the weeks, day by day and I focused on what became an even bigger adventure than going to Switchfoot’s 14th Bro-AM concert at Moonlight Beach. I signed up to spend four days with the guys who created the music which had kept me going for so long so I could thank them in person.

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

*The title FADING WEST is a reference both to the direction I traveled for my great adventure and a movie/music project the band undertook during their 2012 world tour. You can watch the trailer for the film, released in 2013  at this link .

 

Listen

“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout. Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks*!” King Lear Act 3 Scene 2 

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So fellow travelers, like many of my creative tribemates I write to process my experiences.  Yet, sometimes our experiences overwhelm our capacity to express what we feel.  Raging storms of emotions inundate the landmarks which guide us on our journey; chaos threatens to consume the weathervane* compass points we rely on to help us find our way.  If we cannot find ways to express what we feel, we will drown in our emotions or, worse yet, become so numb we move through life like the walking dead.

In those times, music and art can become the life lines which guide us back. This is the backstory of how I found the music which kept me afloat when swells of chaos and confusion threatened to engulf me and pull me under.

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When Favorite Oldest Daughter was a teenager, she used to make me playlists of music. This being back in the times before kids were perpetually hooked into their earbuds I could actually hear what she was listening to when she worked on the desktop computer in the family room. When there was a song she listened to often I would ask her to put it on one of the CDs she made for me. This is how I first heard the song 24 written by Jon Foreman**.

To this day the song moves me to tears; they maybe tears of loss, regret, confusion, relief, or happiness, yet most often they are tears of deep abiding gratitude.

When I listen to Jon’s music, whether it is from one of Switchfoot’s ten albums or a solo project like Wonderlands which created the 25in24 project no matter what state I am in, the emotion which inevitably rises to the surface is gratitude. Gratitude for glimmers of hope in times of doubt, for grace in times of failing, for healing in times of suffering even for humor to wake me from the hell of taking everything including myself far too seriously.

For over a decade now this music has been a Presence on my journey. At first a background harmony, then after my first Switchfoot concert experience (NYState Fair Chevy Court, August 23, 2009) a balance point during unsettled times and finally, in the past four years, a life raft carrying me through the tsunami of changes happening in and around me.

Since my first live experience in 2009 I have felt these musicans are more than a band and I have gone to as many shows as possible which came within a days driving distance. I have done meet and greet sessions with the band and Jon (who does tours of his solo projects) not because I am star struck but to have an opportunity to thank them for the gift of their songs, for being the ones who put words and rhythm and harmonies to the emotions I felt so deeply yet did not understand or could not find ways to express.

But there was one live experience I knew of, which I had not found a way to get to,

yet

so, when the chaos at work began to escalate and I needed set a Light to reach for I put a plan in place find my way to Bro-Am 2018

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(to be continued)

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

**listen to 24 by Jon Foreman on Switchfoot’s 4th album The Beautiful Letdown here

Poem: Even Madness Has Its Story

So fellow travelers, while the last few months ran with a kind of Alice down the Rabbit Hole feeling, the chaos often left me too perplexed and exhausted to find the words to process my experience. I was often blessed to find meaning through the writing of other members of my creative tribe. I am sharing this recent post from Tom Atkins with gratitude he found words to express what I cannot.

Quarry House

3_resizeEven Madness Has its Story.

There is fiberglass in the corner.
Battens balanced on an old beam.
A wooden woman pirouettes.
dust settles over it all,

a strange sort of museum,
no pattern, no themes, items on display
in odd corners and contrasts,
too like your own life,

and yet, in time you begin to see
that even madness has its story to tell
and a logic that becomes comfortable:
not quite true,

but beautiful none the less.

About this poem

Somehow this poem went from a poem about settling into a schedule, to whatever this is. Mondays do weird things to us sometimes.

The picture was taken at Salem Art Works.

Tom

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Push to the Finish Line

So fellow travelers, returning home from the Verdi road trip I received an enthusiastic greeting from my devoted trail companion Ms Delilah

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Granted I am blessed to be greeted in a similar manner when I come in from a trip to the grocery store. A greeting shorter in duration with less yapping perhaps, but just as effective at refueling my heart with the glow of unconditional love dogs radiate into our lives.

Delilah has been a placeholder for love and acceptance through the recent challenges of my journey. Whether I  arrived home and immediately grabbed a leash to head for a mind clearing walk or collapsed on the couch under the weight of incomprehensible stress, Delilah followed the cues. She even learned to gently nudge me awake so those naps did not stretch out to interfere with deeper sleep I would need later.

Because of the confidential nature of my work with special ed. students at our local high school it is not possible for me (at least not at this time) to detail the specifics of what our team was dealing with.  Suffice to say, there were connected situations which had been evolving for two years which had reached a point of tremendous concern for the team I was on.  What was most disconcerting was the struggle we faced trying to have those concerns heard by people in a position to address the issues. In my nineteen years working with students of diverse needs and abilities from elementary through high school I had never experienced anything like what we were being asked to tolerate as acceptable for our students as well as our teaching team and support staff.

20180626_131101Mural in Artists Alley Oceanside CA

I found myself asking  how long does one remain in a setting where it no longer seems possible to make a difference?

When you follow every protocol and send clear, well documented reports that help is needed and the response is dismissive, when you hear the policy statements about the importance of mental health but see nothing done when a crisis point is reached repeatedly, when you hear and are told to teach the message “if you see something, say something,” and you do say something, day after day, but it results in no actions, how long beyond these tipping points do you stay?

Reaching the end of the year, feeling discouraged and depleted I knew leaving my position now (which I could easily do by retiring a year ahead of schedule with minimal financial impact) would feel more like quitting than “retiring early.” I am many things, but I am not a quitter. I was mindful too of the impact leaving would have on my co-workers, many of whom I am grateful to also call my friends.

Through all of these challenges, there has been a soundtrack playing which kept me going even when I was sure I could not face another day of chaos. It is a soundtrack filled with songs of the restless quest for meaning, of reaching for hope in the face of doubt and a search for light when plunged into darkness. So two days after dragging myself across the finish line of unresolved dilemmas, I headed West to spend some time with the band who writes those songs.

Nothing in my life would ever be the same.

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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.