In Portland my heart has been stired by a new kind of music

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Don't do it!"

So the fellows find themselves at another weekend getaway.  We walk into the door to the registration table and every head turns to us.  We look around in the awkward silence and realize that we are about 10 years younger than everyone sitting around and we don’t recognize a single face.  If there is one thing I have learned in my time in the fellows program it is looking forward to the good God has in each moment.  So when I am sitting upstairs later and turn to Jimmy, ‘why the hell are we here’.  I am quickly reminded that God doesn’t make mistakes and we can be excited for the good things he is doing in these times that we can’t understand it. 
                So it is Saturday afternoon and we are enjoying a beautiful Portland day.  The Oregon sunshine, aka the clouds, hide mr. sun from us.  It was a cold day but thankfully, being on the coast, the wind added a nice little bite to this day’s cold.  Like any normal 22-24 year old, we decide what better to do than go on a beach run on this lovely Portland day.  But because we are guys, it can’t just be a beach run.  We must add another element of stupidity to it to make it a real man’s run.  Beachgoers in there sweats and winter jackets watched four guys with no shoes, no shirts, and short shorts run by them as they probably thought to themselves, “idiots”.  They might have even said it aloud to one another.   But we didn’t mind, we knew we weren’t stupid, we were just men doing man things. 
                Jimmy was leading the pack (he loves to run), Brian was just excited (he loves doing man things), Enrique had stopped to shoulder pressing a log he had found (he loves to lift) and I was trying to get the others to hear my complain, “this is the stupidest thing I have ever seen” (I hate running and hate being cold).  But my complains fell on deaf ears and the man activities continue. 
                Jimmy had made this run once before, when I asked him how far we were going to go he points off in the distance, “the trail ends at that bend”.  I thought to myself, geez I am not a runner and that seems like a long way.  The cramp in my side was telling me that I wasn’t going to make it there and back.
A little more than a mile down shore we approach a river that cuts the beach in two.  This was one of those rivers that starts from snow melt off the mountains and makes its way to the pacific ocean.  So needless to say, the water was very cold and moving very rapidly out to sea.  It is spring time so the river was wider, deeper and moving faster than it usually does.  It is about 60 yards across.  As we get closer Jimmy calls out “ok guys we are going to forge the river”.  I figured he was joking but if he wasn’t I knew that was where I draw the line on this adventure.  Brian and Jimmy walk in the water a few steps.  ‘Oh hell no ‘I hear come out of brains mouth. 
Enrique must not have picked up on the joke because he had stopped behind us to pump himself up for the swim.   Like every good leader, he was working to set his reason behind him and motivate the troops by being the first to forge the river.  So we turn around to Enrique asking what he should do with his heavy shorts.  It wasn’t till after the experience did all the pieces make sense.  To me, this was always a joke, so I couldn’t wrap my mind around what was taking place. Remember when I was complaining that this was the stupidest thing I have ever seen?  Well what I witness next was legitimately the stupidest thing I have ever seen. 
The next few seconds of excitement were a blur.  I’m watching Enrique pump himself up, Brian has his phone out recording and Jimmy is cracking up.   The last thing I remember is hearing Brian say, ‘These could be Enrique’s last words”.  With one last ‘booyakasha’ Enrique was off. 
A minute and a half later Enrique is struggling to crawl out of the freezing cold river.  His muscles are no longer working properly for him.  He is on his hands and knees trying to inch his way to the water’s edge.  The first words that came out of his mouth (and he was serious) were ‘guys don’t do it!!’.  Thank you Enrique, I am glad I have your permission to opt out of this stupidity.  The next words were just as shocking, ‘I’m bleeding’.  His body was so cold it wasn’t sending proper transmissions to his brain. So while he ‘felt the bottom’ when crawling out of the water, he didn’t realize that he was crawling over sharp rocks that were cutting his hands and feet.
When all this was happening I believed in my heart that Enrique would take one step in the water, turn around and say ‘sike’.  But he actually did it, he forged the river!  We have it documented on video.  He sprinted into the water until the water got to deep.  At which point he dove gracefully (or fell however you want to look at it) in and started swimming literally for his life.  In the background of the video all you hear is hysterical laughter with an occasional ‘UNBELIEVABLE’ shouted through the laughter.  The laughter stops after he had been in the water for about a minute and we realize this is dangerous and he is getting tired.  At which point Brian’s voice turns into a more desperate ‘STROKE, STROKE, STROKE’. 
The next minute reality struck and we had to make some choices.  Enrique was struggling to stay moving.  He fell over every few steps.  There is no way to get to him except for running back to the jeep and drive to the other side of the beach to pick him up.  Jimmy decides stays with Enrique to encourage him to keep moving, while Bri and I run back.  This was the fastest I have ever run and the wind was strait in our face for extra encouragement.  We get back to the car and my whole body is cramping.  We drive a few miles and get as close as we can to the place Enrique was on the beach.  Brian runs to greet him with warm clothes.  When Brian got to Enrique and embraced him, Enrique lets out a cry that Brian described as a whelp.  I guess that’s all he could do being so cold.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

We spent the last two days in a seemingly sleepy mountain village, which turned out to be an adventure not to far from a natural geographic special.  We wound our way through the mountains on a single lane dirt road.  If the foot deep ruts left from the rainy seasons didn't slow our trucks down, the washouts or herds of cattle on the road did.  But it was one of the most spectacular drives I have ever been on.  The hillside was filled with plots of coffee, banana, and cardamom plants.  Land that has been owned and farmed by these families for years. We drove through a few small villages.  The houses here could better be described as shacks, build with make shift boards or cement with tin roofs to keep the rain out.  Cut outs for windows and doors kept air circulating through the house, which you could look into see the women enjoying some shade from the afternoon sun.   It is late fall here and already 90 and humid.   The smaller children ran to and fro around the houses keeping busy with their afternoon games.  Dogs and cats that looked more like walking skeletons wandered the streets.  Hens and roosters scurried about their business around the house.
We arrived to the village of Los Flores around 2 in the afternoon.  Just in time to catch some of the men on their last leg of the long journey home from the fields they were working that day.  It is so hot in the afternoon sun, that the work day starts at 3 in the morning and lasts until 12.  Well, its either to hot or no one can sleep past 3am when the hundreds of roosters begin their morning calls.  Some of the children from the Children's Villages have come from this region.  Suzanna came to the orphanage about a year ago from this village.  Before they got her, she had been working the fields with the rest of the able bodies in her family.  A victim of some kind of abuse she came to the orphanage and wouldn't speak a word to anyone.  Oscar was saying that is how it is with many of the kids that come in.  It takes time to build the trust in order for the children to risk putting their stories on the table.  Scott's response to this hit me in a new way, 'their is power in the story'.  All hurt has come through relationship and all healing will also come through relationship.  I think that is why on this trip I fell in love with all the beautiful face we came in contact with.  In each face, holds a story.  A story the depths of which I have no idea, but each story is beautiful and significant.  So attached are some photos of faces, faces of some of the beautiful people that we came in contact with on that trip on the mountain.  

That time will always hold a special place in my heart.  The hope of the trip was to meet with some farmers and learn some more on the production side of our business plan.  Word travels fast in a small village like that.  22 farmers came to the meeting that afternoon in a small schoolhouse.  These farmers have been stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty, they expressed their desperation in their words 'they feel like they are getting strangled and have no way out.'  To watch these men's faces as we spoke to them about their hardships and our vision and to see the mix of hope and distrust stirred up in them was a surreal experience.

We found out later that one of the farmers at the meeting has killed a few people.  Only four, but you can see why we would be concerned.  We were invited to sleep at his sisters house that night.  The two have been on bad terms for a while now.  But we heard of some kind of scuffle between the two that ended with 'if you don't give me the keys to the house I will break down the door to get to those gringos.  So when Oscar presented this as an option for the night we politely declined.  This is considered rude in the culture, to refuse someones generosity but we came to the conclusion that it was in our best interest.

We ended up spending the night at the same school house we held the meeting at.  The schoolhouse looked like a sort of building out of Jurassic Park.  Only one way to enter and exit and all of the widows were barred.  Which was perfect place for us with a murderer out to get the gringos.

Even with the aid of ambient I slept very little that night.  It seemed like each time you would fall asleep a noise would come echoing through the tin roofed room.  Millions of dogs barking, a nearby family argument, the snores of Scott and Oscar, the clopping of hoofs doing circles around the buliding, or thousands of roosters starting their morning calls at
3am.  Laying on the cement that night I told myself I would never take for granted the comfort and quite of my own bed ever again.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My First Blog

I laugh about it now but it hasn’t always been funny to me.  In fact for much of my life it has been something that was painful and crippling.  I was always a pretty good student.  I enjoyed the challenge and reward that came from conquering new material.  But my nemesis in school became the English language.  At an early age the insecurity sprouted of an inadequacy or incompetency when it came to reading, writing, grammar or spelling.  Math seemed to fit my brain well, but words were illusive to me.  When I took the abilities potential test last fall, the lady was interested in my educational experience as it pertained to the non specialized vocabulary portion of the test, because my scores were so low.  I remember looking through the words on the test sheet, is it possible to give a definition of a word you can’t even pronounce?  I worked hard in most subjects in school, but with English, I did enough to just get by.  The feeling of inadequacy kept me from investing myself into the learning process.  And frankly, grammar, spelling and even reading seemed rather boring at that age.  I remember my 6th grade language arts class, we would go around the room with whatever book we were reading at the time.  Each student had to read a paragraph.  I would get so worked up about my paragraph (try reading in public when you have a fear of reading and a fear of the public) that I would count ten people ahead of me and figure out which paragraph I would read.  I would practice reading that paragraph over and over again so that I would know all the words.  It never really worked, I would always fumble over the sentences, studdering on the words while my face got red knowing all the ears in the classroom were witness to this debacle.  If I got big paragraphs the teacher would sometimes stop me in the middle of the paragraph and give the rest of it to another student to finish.  Yes it was that bad.  So you might understand why it would be a scary thing to put my words to a public blog.  There is an insecurity that everything I write is worthless, but I have learned through the last few years that that is a lie.  I can only express myself in the best words I know how, but my thoughts, feelings, inspirations and creations are valuable.  I am so valuable to the Father and who else do I need acceptance from.  In who else’s love do I rest in.  So with this blog, I will jot down thoughts, stories, poems, lyrics about whatever has inspired me and fueled my creative energies. 
When we bring to the table only what we have, in honest vulnerability, it subtly works through the barriers and walls of life and slowly you find that others around you are freed to bring what they have also. I love art (all art forms but for me particularly literature and music) for this same reason.  It has a sneaky way of pulling us into the artist story.  In that space, the ‘art’ has a way of creeping in and out of the crevices of the soul.  Behind the layers that we have built to protect ourselves from the hurt and pain of the world it works.   It has the power to touch spaces in our lives that we can’t or don’t know how to reach and stir up dust, brush off cob-webs of places that matter to our Father.  Lenard Cohen says that you should say a poem and get out of the way.  My hope is that this blog has that feeling to it.  So enjoy and feel free to comment or email me with any questions, thoughts or follow ups.  
As some of you might know Josh Ritter is one of my favorite artists (yes Amy, I know I like old soul music), you can follow this link to one of the songs of his I have been listening to a lot recently .  At first listen, I wasn’t really drawn to the song, but after a few more listens the song has grown on me.  Listen to it while reading Edger Allen Poe’s poem Annabele Lee , which seems to have inspired a lot of the imagery and feel of the song.