Back at the Oval Door, I have breakfast with a couple from California who have retired a week ago and are taking a month long drive along the coast from Los Angeles to Seattle and then back down again through the countryside. I've noticed people in Oregon and from California don't call it the ocean; they call it the coast. My landlocked perspective sees the significance is the ocean.
I meet Elena for tea at the Eugene Tea House. 100 choices of loose leaf tea! About 25 black, 10 chai, 15 green, 10 oolong, 10 roiboos, 5 mate, 25 herbal. Each choice has a description much like you would read for wine on the back of it's bottle, describing its origin, flavor, aroma, texture, and emotional producing quality.. Elena and I choose a Chi tea, hers a traditional Indian tea and mine because of the additional spices described as earthy and grounding. It's about a ten minute wait for the tea to brew and it is distinctly different from other Chai teas I've tried. Elena has a girlish happiness to her that I love. It's one of the reasons I'm glad I know her and that she's my friend. She has her own massage therapy business, a two year old daughter, and a partner, the father of their child. It's been nine years since I've talked to her, the last time at Jenny and Nathan's wedding when I was the officiant who married the two of them. I got my license online through the Universal Church of Light. Someone in this group of friends named me the Reverend Jimmie James. This time in Oregon, in regard to the two couples I married, Jenny and Nathan and Stacy and Josh, I've given myself the nomenclature the Minister of Love. Elena and I catch up easily, as if only months have passed rather than years. I find myself asking again why did I let years go by without visiting them. What are the reasons any of us lose touch with friends? We may drift apart because of differences but what if there are no noticeable differences? What are the reasons then? We get busy with our lives. It's easier to keep in touch with people who live in driving distance than in flying distance. There were so many friends in my case, I didn't know how to keep in touch with all of them on a consistent basis via phone calls and instead managed to keep in touch with none of them except to some extent Natasha.
We finish our tea and an hour later Elena picks me up at the Bed and Breakfast. She's gone home, fed her daughter and packed a bag for swimming. We're going to a beach in the country. The drive is beautiful. Rolling hills, winding roads, thick pine trees, clear blue sky, blue hued buttes on the horizon. The beach is along the Willamette River. It's not soft sand on the beach or in the river; rather it's rocks that hurt the soles of your feet. Nonetheless, the water is warm and the scenery soothing. I didn't expect to swim on this trip, although I did bring my swimsuit just in case and I love being outdoors in the summer, so this is perfect. Elena and I play with Scarlet as we share what we've been doing with our lives for the past nine years and what we believe brings value to our lives. Like all of my Oregon friends, we have a similar simple spirituality: love each other, encourage and support each other, nurturing your best and the best in others, promote physical, emotional, intellectual, and social health in yourself and others, become involved in a positive way in a community of like minded people with the purpose of creating change, consider the well being the earth and act accordingly with how you live, consider the well being of yourself and others and insist upon justice and equality, live as often as you can no matter what you are doing or what is happening to you with gratefulness, knowing that life is an amazing gift we are given,
After Elena drops me off at the bed and breakfast and leaves I realize I didn't bring my camera with me and therefore didn't take a picture of the two of us at the tea shop or the three of us at the beach. I wish I had documented in pictures this time spent together with Elena. I want to capture it because it has been nine year and it is a visit half way across the country. That adds a certain significance and specialness to the visit and to the brief hours spent together. And yet, how often in my life in Minnesota with friends and family am I not similarly aware of the brief hours spent together and because of closer distance don't always photograph my time spent with them or acknowledge that this time together is significant and special. All moments are fleeting moments. I may tell myself that my friends and family in Minnesota are only thirty minutes away and can see them whenever I want and because I know this and because they know this I often forget that all time spent with those people you love should be time savored.
Irelax for a while at the bed and breakfast, sitting on the swinging bench on the wrap around deck and then take a fifteen block walk to the University where I plan to go to the Art Museum. When I get there, however, the woman behind the desk tells me it closes in twenty five minutes for a special occasion, and not wanting to rush through the gallery, I decide to not see it and instead walk back to Natasha's parents' house for dinner, stopping for a glass of iced Earl Grey Tea, organic of course, at a small coffee shop along the way. Inside the coffee shop on the entire ceiling, I notice a mural of Michelangelo's Creation painting in the Sistine Chapel, except for one small detail: instead of God touching Adam's finger, instead he is handing him a tiny white espresso cup. And God said, “Let there be caffeine!”
Betty and Natasha, mother and daughter, slice and dice and saute and boil a delicious meal. I love that they cook together, a culinary duet, asking each other questions about the meal, telling the other what they are doing, collaborating and improvising as they go along, a synchronized homemade creation of food from the kitchen they currently share. There's love and gratefulness here. It's obvious each of them enjoys the other's company. I bought Betty a bottle of Rose—it's the year of the Rose—as a thank you gift for all the meals she's created and we have a glass with our meal, as usual, on the second floor porch overlooking Lincoln Street.
After dinner, Betty suggests we watch a movie she's seen and she thinks Natasha and I would like. It's called “Bernie” from my favorite writer and director, Richard Linklater. Somehow I had missed that he had created this movie and while typically watching a movie on vacation isn't how I want to spend my time, I enjoy the movie itself and the shared experience of watching it with Betty and Natasha and a glass of Rose and gluten free organic pretzels made it even more enjoyable.