Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My Journey To Oregon: Day Ten

Sunday morning.  It's coffee outside.  Josh is reading the newspaper, Nathan is doing a Sudoku puzzle, and I'm just sitting.  It's a morning to relax, a morning to slow down.  Ezra comes out and shows me around the yard.  They have goats and chickens and a  small pond they've cleared of weeds so they can swim in it.  It's the afternoon plan.  We have breakfast together.  Eggs from their chickens, organic kale, sausage, more coffee.  It's slow breakfast with a lot of talking and laughing.  Jenny, Nathan, Stacy, and Joshua have taught Finn and Ezra to not interrupt and they do a great job of this.  After breakfast the two of them run off and build a space ship out of cardboard boxes.  It's wonderful how they use their imaginations to create objects.  They call me into the other room where they've built it and we play it in for a while, pretending Finn and Ezra are the captains and we're defending ourselves from aliens. 

Later, Ezra asks Joshua if they can get the tech deck, the small skateboards mostly elementary boys collect.  He had mentioned it yesterday and Joshua said we didn't have time but would get one today.  Children never forget when they've been told they can get a new toy.  It's probably what he's been thinking about all morning.  Savor it, Stacy and Josh, soon it will be girls.  Or boys.  But probably girls.  I get that vibe from him.  Now that Ezra gets one Finn also wants one, so Josh, Ezra, Finn and I are off on a mission to find tech decks.  We stop at a the local department store in Venetta.  No luck.  We go to another one in Venetta, which in addition to the basic things you would expect from a department store also has a large selection of kitsch Northwestern items and high end art and ceramics.  It's not what I was expecting from the little store in the country.  No tech decks.  If all else fails, Target!  We step into the Eugene Target and it looks exactly like the Eagan Target.  There's an odd corporate comfort in this.  I typically don't eat at chain restaurants or shop at chain stores when I'm traveling, but sometimes it's nice to know what you're going to get, and if you're craving a sub sandwich, you can get a Subway and know what you're getting.  We head to the toy section and score! There's a huge selection of tech decks.  You can buy one of them or a package of them.  Josh thoroughly explains why purchasing the packet of five is the best deal, and why they significantly more expensive one with a glow in the dark tech deck seems cool but is a bit of gimmick for how much more Ezra would have to spend for it.  This is, after all, Ezra's money.  He chooses the package of five he wants.  Finn's been listening and learning the entire time and so he also chooses a package of five.  Children's needs satisfied, the two boys pay for it from the tiny wallets they keep in their pockets and then Josh and I tend to adult needs: coffee.  There's a Starbucks in Target and we get  a  coffee slushie with loads of chocolate shavings and whipped cream on top. 

Back home, Stacy and Josh take a run while I play with Ezra and Finn and then Jenny and Nathan take a run while I again play with Ezra and Finn. They are imaginative and fun kids and mature boys for their age which makes playing with them enjoyable.  Then Stacy says, “Josh is at the pond if you all want to go swimming.”  Quicker than you can say Josh iswearing a square cut black Speedo, the three of us are out there in our swimsuits.  Josh is floating on a giant round tube.  He looks immersed in the moment, entirely enjoying the leisure, completely relaxed, and one hundred percent sexy.  This is something I've noticed about Joshua while I've been with him.  Yes, he's sexy, and whatever he's doing he seems to just do it.  As he cooked meals and cleaned up the kitchen, swept the sidewalks and mowed the lawn, he did it with ease and effortlessness, a naturalness that showed him in the moment.  As he spke to other people—his wife, his adult housemates, Ezra and Finn, me, his friends--he exuded a calmness, contentedness, and confidence that I found inspiring.  It is what I do as a person of mindfulness.   It is what he is doing either knowingly or unknowingly as a part of his spiritual practice.  It is the Chinese Zen aphorism Natasha, his sister, said to me twice on this journey: chop wood, carry water.  Well done, Josh.

Ezra runs into the water first.  He's got a paddle board and has put Daisy, his dog, on the board and she's floating around, a bit scared but also thrilled at the adventure.  Ezra loves his dog.  He told me that when he got Daisy—Natasha got him from a humane society and then gave him to Ezra when she moved to Salt Lake City—it was “the best day of my life.”  I told  Stacy and Joshua this the night we drove home from the winery and they said he tells them this often.  You would think it would be their trip to Disney,  but it's the day he got Daisy, which I appreciate even more than Disney, because Daisy is a living creature he loves and who loves Ezra back and that says a lot about Ezra's values. 

I follow next.  Josh says, “Careful, the mud is slippery,” and sure enough, I step onto the bank and slip on the mud, fall on my butt and slide into the pond.  It's chilly and a bit muddy on the bottom, but these are simply observations and not complaints because in the pond I'm happy. 

Nathan cannonballs into the water, a huge splat and splash.  Finn, who's been swimming around doing the dog paddle and then the back float when he gets tired, sees his father enter the water via the infamous cannonball and so he's getting out of the water and then running back into the water again, knees to his chest, arms around his knees, and kaboom! keplunk! cannonball!  

We have another delicious meal together.  The whole house sits around the table, holds hands, and says their prayer, the Waldorf prayer before meals. It's a beautiful community building moment.  We have a bottle of exquisite rose with our our meal, to which everyone should now say, it's the year of the rose. 

Parents put the children to bed, and once they have, Nathan lights a fire in their large urn, and we adults sit in deck chairs in a circle.  The stars above us are so bright because the sky is so dark.  I live in a suburb near the airport and so for the most part light fills the nighttime sky and it never gets dark enough to see other than the few brightest stars.  But here in Venetta, in the country, I see millions of them, and several times shooting stars.  I look at the others as I talk, but often when I'm listening, I look up, and each time I'm amazed at how beautiful the night sky is with its pure black background and its glistening diamond stars.  

As we talk, I mention that I'm using a dating website and one of the questions asked in the user's profile is “What are six things you couldn't live without?”  I explain how guys, myself included, list things like family, friends, hope, my smart phone, my i-pod, books, etc.  Recently, however, I've been thinking about this question a lot.  What are six thingsI really couldn't live without?  To maintain my current life?  If so, then things like my job, a car, electricity, running water, a house take precedence.  But what if it meant not to maintain my current lifestyle and status?  Could I live without electricity, for example?  My first thought was no, but then I thought, okay, up until the 1920's most people lived without electricity, so certainly it's possible, although it would  be incredibly difficult. But yes, if I had to, for some reason, I could live without electricity.  It wouldn't make a necessarily enjoyable or easy experience given how used to electricity I am but I could do it.  And books?  Books were on my list.  Really?  I couldn't live without them?  Surely, I could still live if I didn't read books.  Looked at deeply, the question becomes quite interesting.  Josh commented that he could live without electricity and running water.  He, Stacy, and Ezra often go camping and for the most part rough it: tents, fires for food, water in jugs. 

“So it's just like camping,” Josh says. 

“Speaking of which,” Stacy replies, “could you remember to bring a colander the next time we go camping?  I hate trying to hold the lid on the kettle and pour out the water when we make pasta.  Half the pasta lands on the ground.” 

To which I say, “So you couldn't live without a colander.”  We all laugh. 

“Yes, I couldn't live without a colander,” Stacy says.

“What about you, Jenny?” I ask.  “What couldn't you live without?”

Without a second's hesitation she says, “Cashmere.” 

We all laugh.  I've not laughed so often and so hard with a group of friends in a long time.  It feels really good.

“Seriously,” Jenny says, “ I don't think I could live without coffee.  I just need it in the morning or I can't get going. I'm useless.”

“Well, you know of course, that means you also need electricity and water, so your one thing you couldn't live without requires two other things,” I say.

“I am willing to make that sacrifice for coffee,” Jenny says.

“Now what are talking about here?” Stacy asks.  “Things you couldn't live without because you're trying to simplify your life or have less of a carbon footprint or your doing a experiment in what's truly necessary to live?  Or are we talking the Zombie Apocalypse?” 

“Zombie Apocalypse,” Josh says.

“And what kind of zombies?” Stacy asks.  “The fast moving zombies or the slow moving zombies? Because the type of zombies change everything.  If it's fast moving zombies then I definitely want a good pair of running shoes, maybe several pairs. Because I don't want to run around barefoot and I certainly don't want to be chased by zombies in bare feet.”

“This is really nerdy,” I say, “and I'm sure if I listed this in my profile I wouldn't get a single date, but I don't think I could live without my glasses.  I'm not blind, but everything is a bit fuzzy without them, and especially in the case of the Zombie Apocalypse, I would want my glasses.”

Stacy, a glasses wearer herself, says,  “Me too.  Because I don't want to see some large object ahead of me and think is that a tree or a zombie and it's not until you get up to it and can feel it that you realize, 'Oh shit! This a zombie!'”

“Exactly,” I say, “because in that case, you better have said you can't live without a good pair of running shoes, because you are going to have run!”

“Especially if it's a fast moving zombie,” Stacy says.

“A knife,” Josh says.  “I couldn't live without a knife.  I'd need it to kill zombie and to cut the food I hunt.  Which means I also need a gun.”

This absurd conversation about the Zombie Apocalypse carries on for a quite a long time, with a lot of laughter.  It's what I love about this group of friends: conversation always goes into the fun and funny as well as serious and spiritual directions. The group tires.  Nathan, Josh, and Stacy all need to work in the morning so they head inside to go to bed. 

Jenny and I stay up, outside, as the fire fades to glowing embers, and talk for several more hours.  I'm glad we got the chance again, without her needing to be there for Finn.  She's a dear friend.  We too tire, however, and call it a night.  I valued my time with her outside under the brilliant stars in the pitch black sky with the sound of silence surrounding us and love connecting us to each other.  

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