Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Portland, December 2007 II

And the adventures continue....

The day after Christmas. Anticlimactic. Energy levels crashing. Post Holiday Stress Syndrome. All that sugar and build up anxiety and excitement melting away and leaving us all low, a little blue and definitely exhausted. Whew. What a ride, huh? Can’t wait till next year?

Leigh and I aren’t really that tired from the festivities (because we didn’t really buy into the whole consumerist nature of this man-made holiday – Christ is a Pisces people!), we are physically exhausted from the fun and adventurous snow shoeing we did yesterday. Five miles around a frozen lake during a white out snow storm at about 4,000 feet I think would drain just about anyone. It was gorgeous! It was so much fun! It was such a nice alternative to sitting around all day eating and drinking. Getting exercise and fresh air while enjoying what might be my first true White Christmas!

It must have snowed at least 2 inches in just the 4 hours we were out walking. And most of that probably came in just a couple hours. I loved ever second of it. And surprisingly (at least to me) so did Leigh. Seeing the glow in her eyes whenever we’d stop and look around at the winter forest wonderland was so inspiring and exciting. I’ve really wanted to find something outdoors we could do in the winter together here. She’s not skier or snowboarder and it’s too rainy in Portland to really get on the bicycle and take off for explorations. And hiking in the soggy woods is fun…for a second. Yes, green, lush, vibrant, and totally unique when it’s raining and everything is wet and mossy and spongy. Something very satisfying and healthy about that…but I wanted to find something we could both enjoy and not get so wet!

Considering she is already talking about trying cross-country skiing, I might have stumbled on it.

We got up not too early and not too late to a rare clear sky and view of the waning full moon. What a treat to get a Solstice (the real reason for Christmas) and a full moon within a couple nights of each other! Having packed up the night before we just made our thermos of coffee and hit the road in the new Subaru, destination Mt. Hood. Have I said how amazing it is to have this glorious dormant volcano so close to our house? Less than 80 early morning beautiful minutes later we were pulling up to my psychology professor’s cabin near the southern base of Mt. Hood right on the Salmon river. We met up with her, her son and another of my Fall term psych classmates for the snowshoeing adventure on X-Mas day.

Yes, that’s right. I spent X-Mas day with one of my professors, a total stranger, a former classmate and my wife. What strange bedfellows, no? Creating new traditions, connecting new peoples. Interesting to say the least. But I’m open to it. I like the newness, the uniqueness, the different nature of something like this. If you can’t be with the ones you love, love the ones you’re with…couldn’t have said it better than myself. Didn’t Jesus say that once? J

So we had a nice, filling late breakfast of bagels (a Jewish Christmas tradition), egg quiche, buttermilk drop biscuits and homemade grape jelly. Not bad, not bad. Then it was off to the trail. A short drive away, a couple thousand feet above snow level yet before we got to the ski resorts, we parked the car at the trailhead and found it packed with other crazies with the same idea! Except it was obvious these folks were much more professional about it. Grills, refrigerators, sleds, skis, beers, coffee…it was like a tailgating party at 4,000 feet!

Of course we started off the walk by getting lost immediately and having to cut through the backcountry and off trail to find our way back to where we needed to be. But half the fun of snowshoeing is going off trail! We had such a great time walking in the woods on the snow hearing hardly nothing, seeing occasional rabbit tracks. A winter wonderland where everything was covered in snow. The trees had their white jackets on. The land covered in a white blanket of snow. Mysterious humps and bumps. Random tracks of who knows what going off in various directions. The only animals we saw were a couple ravens cawing and digging for dinner in the snow. But above all was the muffled silence that a world wrapped in white cotton has. Sublime.

It was a hardy work out – 5 miles, 4 hours of walking. By the time we got around the frozen lake (which we could hardly see because it was snowing so hard), we were all spent. Muscles aching and sore, breathing hard. We were all surprised at how taxing walking in the snow can be. Fun, but tiring. Thankfully, we all stayed pretty warm from our workout and no one got too cold…even Leigh!

A defrost, several mug of strong coffee and stronger spirits and a great supper of tofu enchiladas, candied sweet potatoes and sautéed kale with lemon butter (can you guess it was a pot luck?) in the mountain cabin retreat and we were back on our feet and ready to head back to Portland for round 2: another dinner with friends and a White Elephant gift exchange.

Needless to say, we had a blast! The second round of food was even better than the first one and there were like 8 desserts too. One of which was this ridiculously rich and delicious non wheat chocolate cake with a raspberry crème freche that Leigh whipped up the night before. Jesus, I know it’s your birthday and all….but sweet little baby Jesus in the manger that was orgasmic to the mouth! And after dinner was a White Elephant gift exchange, which if you’ve never had the joy of having one, I highly recommend it. Everyone brings a present, usually the tackier or ‘re-gifted’ the better, you all draw numbers, then number 1 picks a present from the pile, number 2 can then take number 1’s present or pick from the pile, number 3 can then take 1 or 2’s or pick from the pile and so on until everyone gets a present. Obviously the one who draws the highest number gets his pick of anything….and that was me last night! Organic bath salts and 10 bars of homemade organic soap….come to daddy! Oh yeah….

So even though we missed the FIRST Christmas dinner hosted by my sister in her new house which seemed to bring the whole family out, Leigh and I still had a magical and memorable Christmas celebration full of adventure, beauty, laughter and fellowship. Might be time to start establishing this as a Christmas day tradition in our new two person family….

I hope everyone had great and sacred holidays!

With light and love from the Pacific NW,

Leigh and Jason

video

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Portland, December 2007

December 16, 2007

I love living here…

SCHOOL IS OUT!!! Woooooohooooooo! So stoked to be done. It was a tough quarter for sure. After 3 months going to school every M, Tu & Thu at night and being buried in the books learning things like Kolberg’s Theory of Moral Development, plasticity, resilience, tetragons, the Sodium-Potassium Pump, incomplete tetanus, Orbicularis Occuli, abduction vs. adduction, the radial tuberosity, epithelium tissue and sarcomeres, I can now finally take a deep breath and relax for the next couple weeks. My schedule won’t get any better then however. In fact, it’s going to get worse. Next quarter entails Statistics and Human Anatomy & Physiology II. Oh boy! I will say that staying in almost every weekend and working so hard paid off because I just got my grades and I got A’s in both classes. 4.0 baby! Oh yeah. Not bad for my first quarter back in school in over 6 years…feeling really good and very proud of myself. Yay! J

I can finally breathe deep and try to catch up on all the stuff I want to do now that I have some free time. The first thing on my list? Play of course! I went snowboarding yesterday! I can’t tell you how incredibly awesome it is to be less than an hour and half from 2,000+ vertical feet of snow covered beauty. Unlike my poor snow loving friends in Boulder and Denver who have to get up at times like 5:30am for 3 hour drives to the Rockies resorts, I was up at the leisurely hour of 7, with enough time still to make coffee, toast a bagel, put all my gear in the back of my new adventure mobile purchase (a 1996 LSi Subaru Legacy AWD) and still be one of the first in the lift lines! Incredible and loving it. The conditions yesterday were less than ideal – very windy, very crowded, not much new snow, pretty tracked out runs. But considering this was my first boarding in over 2 years (last time was Spring 2005 – ain’t no resorts in Tibet…yet), I was not complaining. I went with my old friend TJ from Athens (not TJ from Atlanta who also lives out here in PDX) and he was a great guide. We found some super nice runs and eventually found the uncrowded section of the resort where we stayed the rest of the day. It definitely took me a few runs to get my bearings on the board after so long away but I was amazed how much like riding a bike it was. Of course, I took plenty of spills but I didn’t mind. When rolling around in the snow on a gorgeous mountain isn’t fun anymore, go ahead and shoot me. By 2pm, exhausted and with screaming leg muscles, we headed back to Portland where a delicious smoked porter and a hot bath later, I was asleep on the couch by 8pm!

This isn’t me but it’s what all the gear, driving and pain is for!

I briefly mentioned my new adventure vehicle purchase. Right before Thanksgiving, I entered the market for a used car. Looking ahead to my school schedule for Winter and who knows where I’ll be working soon either, combine that with Leigh needing her car to commute down to Milwaukie (a suburb of Portland about 15 miles to the south) and you’ve got me needing more options than just a bicycle. I don’t feel good at all about expanding my carbon footprint with this purchase and actually looked quite a lot for a diesel options so I could get off the petroleum nipple by using bio-diesel. But with diesel options extremely limited (both by lack of supply and heavy demand); I had to start expanding my search. When I did, I had just a couple requirements – 4WD/AWD for the snow, rain and innumerable forest service roads; hatchback & 4 door for gear, dogs and baby [in that order!]; and I only had a minimum budget. I ended up with a 1996 Subaru with just over 110,000 miles that needed minimal work. Super excited. Great car. Still seriously concerned about my petroleum/carbon impact, I’m still commuting to work via my bike and the public transportation. I’m trying to walk the walk now. If I don’t absolutely have to drive a car, why should I?

The other things on my ‘To Do’ list over the break include applying for nursing schools. I will be sending off my applications to 4 different schools but 6 different programs in the next 3-4 weeks. Don’t be confused. Two of the schools, Oregon Science and Health University (OSHU) and University of Portland (UP) both have bachelors transfer programs and accelerated masters programs. So that’s 4 applications there, one for each school’s both programs. The other two applications go out to Linfield College of Nursing and Clark Community College. Linfield is a transfer bachelors and Clark is an associate degree. My preference order would be UP’s bachelors (only because I have a good chance of getting the whole thing paid for by a scholarship that doesn’t apply to their masters) then masters, then OHSU masters, then Linfield’s bachelors, then Clark’s associate, finally OHSU’s bachelors. I’ll know whether I get into these schools by March or April next year. Fingers crossed!

Some other things I want to do on my list involve photography. Yes, remember photography? Seems like 10 years ago when I thought that was going to be my field of dreams…and it actually might still be. I am not giving up on photography in the least. I am concentrating most of my energies elsewhere. What I’d like to do next in photography, and what I am working on over the next few weeks in between school quarters, is twofold. One I’d like to finish putting together my photo book on contemporary life in Tibet. I’m about halfway there but haven’t had the energy or time to focus on it the last couple months. Once I complete this ‘mock up’ draft, I want to send it out with a letter of introduction to several publishers. Going fishing and hopefully I’ll get some bites. The other thing I’d like to do is put together a couple different photo exhibitions that are more fine art than documentary. The book is heavily documentary style with some more artistic shots scattered in. For a fine art exhibit, I’d like to flip the body of work, keep it based on my Tibet collection, but have much more artistic shots with maybe a couple journalistic shots peppered in. So, I’m working on a documentary book and an art exhibit. That should keep both sides of my brain active!

Draft Book Cover

Speaking of my photos, the photos I took of a Tibetan artist’s Ice Buddha installation are being seen in Canada currently at the Doris McCarthy Gallery in Toronto. You can view them here (click on ‘installation views’ under more info).

The final thing on my ‘to do’ list is find a new job. One in the health care field. The one I have currently with Mercy Corps is wrapping up. I was tasked with finding them a new Digital Asset Management System (aka DAMS) and over the last 2 ½ months, working loosely with them, I was able to narrow it down to the final one. And on Wednesday, Mercy Corps decided to purchase it. Now stage two of the project kicks in and I’ll need to be around for implementation, migration and training but none of that will require full time. So finally, after months of thinking about it, I can now go out and find a health care job. I don’t care much about what it is right now as long as I can start getting experience in the field, start making connections and get my foot in the door in some hospital system. There seems to be a lot of options out there by looking at the local hospitals websites, ranging from administration to admitters to drivers to cleaners. So again, I’ll be going fishing with my resume and hoping for some bites. I am really looking forward to moving forward with my nursing plan. With the Mercy Corps job, I am paying the bills and utilizing my skills as a photographer and editor, but I’m also feeling stagnate professionally right now. It has been a good situation for both MC and I, but the time has come to move on and up…or at least into a new role, utilizing new, untapped potentials.

Enough about me!

Leigh is doing well. Still working the Waldorf School of Portland and enjoying it. We both wish she were making more money but the hours are good (12 to 4, M-F), it’s a great break from serious academic work, gives her time to write and as we jokingly refer to it as ‘practice’. For, uh, you know…the future. She has just returned from a conference (the American Anthropological Association or AAA) in Washington, D.C. There she presented a paper titled “Curating Contemporary Tibetan Art in Beijing: Minorities, Memories and Markets”. I think just the title speaks for itself. Unfortunately, her presentation time was at 8am on Sunday, the last day of the conference and everyone was still hung over (yes, I too was surprised to find out that anthropologists can party) or checking out to go home. She came back feeling happy she went but slightly frustrated at the lack of feedback. As a personal aside here, I imagine that it can only be frustrating and difficult to work on something so hard and for so long and not get any direct, constructive feedback. Poor thing. She has settled in nicely to Portland. She has great friends here who share her love of literature, intellectual discussions, yoga and hot tubs. The weather isn’t very ideal in her opinion – think coconuts, palm trees and lows in the 70’s for her ideal, but she’s been great about getting out most days for walks, yoga and swimming. She’s currently working on more articles for more academic publications. Always writing that girl! And slowly, ever so slowly, getting into the dissertation writing.

Last thing I should mention before signing off. A most miraculous thing happened! Leigh and I got to meet the Dalai Lama back in October. Yup, that’s right. Me and the DL…chillin’. It was my first time but definitely not Leigh’s. It was incredible and beautiful. He has such a presence and such a powerful smile. It comes from deep, deep within and shoots right into you like a beautiful bolt of love. Very powerful day. Very powerful being. This was a true blessing. For three days we attended the Life & Mind conference at Emory. His Holiness spoke many times over the weekend in the more academic setting and saved a free public talk for Monday afternoon in Centennial Park. Thousands turned out for that. He is a living saint, a great teacher, a leader in the truest sense of the word…but Bill Murray really sums it up best here.

Random thought #1: We both miss Tibet terribly.

Random thought #2: It gets dark early here! When the clouds are heavy (which is most days), it’s dark dark by 5pm.

Random thought #3: I think it should be Dennis Kucinich in 08!

Random thought#4: We both have serious ‘puppy fever’ right now, but neither one of us have the time to really raise and train a puppy. So for now, we’ll just have to go googily over someone else’s cute canine companion.

Random thought #5: When I bought the Subaru hatchback, the official car of Portland, it came with a dog and a baby. We returned the dog and sold the baby.

Final thought: HAPPY SOLSTICE EVERYONE!!!



Monday, October 1, 2007

Barry Bonds is a Cheater!

August 8th was a sad, sad day for professional baseball.

I write this literally with tears in my eyes. I cry from a deep part of myself, from a deep, deep love of the game of baseball, for a deep love of honor and fairness. Last night in San Francisco, ego maniac Barry Bonds finally broke the classy and humble Hank Aaron’s home run record. As a former baseball player of over 12 years, playing from Tee ball all the way up through high school, tears are filling my eyes to see a cheater – and make NO DOUBT about it, he is a cheater – take Major League Baseball’s most hallowed record. The guy used steroids. I don’t care what anyone says, what the commissions might decided, what ever comes to light now or later. I fully believe this man cheated the game, cheated his fans and used steroids. He cheated. He used drugs to win. Period. The man cheated to win and this is who we will remember for years to come as ‘one of the greatest’? I refuse to accept him as the new leader. I believe he must have an asterisk next to his name in all books if not omitted after his usage is proved. I don’t like him. I don’t respect him. And again I believe this is a sad, sad, sad day for baseball and professional sports. It just breaks my heart to see ‘the American game’ - a symbol of America that goes hand in hand with apple pie and jazz, a game that I have loved and played since I was 5 years old – to be tainted with cheaters and drug users.


Following up on this, I am thrilled to hear that the owner of home run ball 756, designer Mark Ecko, had decided to let the people vote on what he should do with it. The choices were to 1) do nothing 2) blast it into space or 3) brand it with an asterisk and send it to baseball's Hall of Fame. Well, the people have spoken! And branded it will be! Hurray for democracy! http://www2.vote756.com/marcecko/

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hideaway Lake, Sept 22nd 2007

Happy Equinox!!!

Just sat down at my local watering hole to catch the last of the NFL games on this weekend. And I gotta tell ya, I still think that PBR is the unsung hero of beers. Cold draft goes down tasting just a little better than water. Ah! Good stuff after a great weekend of camping with my wife in honor of our glorious mother, Earth.

It’s hard to believe that we have been in Portland now for a month. A mere 30 days and yet it seems like so much has happened in this one month that it equals a year from our perspective. Where to begin?

I guess I’ll catch you up form the beginning, but I do want to try and keep these to a briefer length. (Yes, I can hear some of you cheering already...). We spent this past month looking for things – sleep, friends, jobs, fun.

Obviously, Leigh and I were mostly focused on getting our life out of those many boxes that we drove across the country. But we also had to divert some attention to finding a new bed, because unfortunately (well for the bed anyway) when we went to pull it out of her parent’s basement, it had gone to mold. Really nothing you can do about a moldy bed except toss it. So with a small pang of guilt to my grandchildren, into the landfill it went. Leaving us with the futon/couch mattress to sleep on until we could find our new nest.

Finding a new bed was so much fun. I can’t think of any other shopping experience where you are expected to lay down for long periods of time frequently. Whether it was the running jump onto the bed, the vigorous ‘test’ bouncing or attempting to get out of bed w/o disturbing the other, bed shopping was like going to the toy store. And shopping for beds is just like shopping for shoes, how can you possibly find the right one wittout trying it on first? So internet deals were out. Our ideal bed was a totally green engineered 100% latex/cotton/wool mattress but if those beds are less than 1500$, I don’t know where. So with our very limited budget, we settled on getting a nice Sealy now (It sleeps great no matter what’s it’s made of!), knowing that as soon as we can, we’ll move it to the guest room and enjoy our nice future green sleep.

Being new to a town, we were also looking for friends. For me, those aren’t too hard to come by. As you all know I’m friendly and trusting…to a fault (anyone remember my Ethiopia ‘scam’?). We are also trying to form better health habits as well. So I’ve been using Craigslist to find Ultimate Frisbee friends. Here, that’s easy. It’s like the national sport of Portland. There are pick up games everyday and of all different levels. While my schedule has been allowed it, I’ve been playing a lot….much to my knees’ discomfort. Small secret: I’ve never had great knees and they don’t seem to be improving as I age. Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday there are games. Monday, Thursday, Friday I’ve been jogging in the morning (for some reason, I still haven’t shaken my early morning rises). Oh, and I’ve been riding my bike EVERYWHERE…literally. We only have 1 car and Leigh needs it to get to her job(s) down in an outlying southern suburb. Leaving me, as in Atlanta, on public transportation. Not that I really mind. I enjoy supporting it. I enjoy knowing I am not contributing to CO2 emissions. I enjoy getting in shape while getting around. I enjoy not supporting the oil companies. But I have this creepy suspicion that my attitude might change when the rains come.

I am a huge fan of Craigslist by the way. Anything and everyone you are looking for is out there. Whether you are selling (or looking for) a pair of used snowboarding boots, looking for (or offering) a job, looking for activity partners, got a cool new website to share with folks, want to call a protest rally against tasering University of Florida students (I gotta get “Don’t tase me, bro” on a t-shirt fast!)…it’s all there on Craigslist.

Continuing the tangent for a second, have you seen those eBay commercials recently? There’s two that I really like – one is a group of random people running around a race track after a vintage radio with this cowboy like dude finally winning (after the black guy pulls up gimpy at the last minute) and then the next shot is of the cowboy dude with the vintage radio in his fully vintage kitchen. The other one I like is a bunch of random folks on a fox hunt and they are all on horses chasing what looks like a fox but is really a metal lunchbox. The box goes hiding in logs and crosses creeks, etc to elude the horses and hounds but finally this one lady reaches in and hoist it aloft in victory. Very funny, very smart. Being a child of the television generation, you have to look for intrigue where you can find it.

Our main vein for friends is our friends who already live here. They have all been wonderful in introducing us to new folks and including us in activities. Our thanks go out to them for all their support and love! And as I was just saying to Leigh this weekend, meeting new people is always a great chance to re-examine who you want to project yourself as. Will it be the international spy or the local trash collector or the sex reassignment reject today? Every encounter is a new opportunity. Take it or lose it, I say. My only problem with that of course is I forget what I tell people. It’s so hard to keep it all in order...

Next order of business is finding some business, i.e. a job! Apparently, this was no problem for Leigh, who landed two (yes, not one but two) jobs in a matter of the first week or so. She’s working as a Waldorf teacher’s assistant for pre-K and kindergarten age kids from 11-4 everyday during the week. I think her job description includes rubbing feet, baking bread and wearing flowing clothes that aren’t black. Sounds right up a PhD’s alley, no? She’s then also working at a local coffee shop very part time in the mornings. Does she like it? OH NO. Does it give her (us) an extra source of cash (from the tips) and balance out the less than stellar salary of a Waldorf’s teaching assistant? OH YES.

What am I doing? Well, that took a little more time to figure out than I thought it would. Of course, I had a much, much shorter time frame to find a job than most of friends who have lived here and sought jobs had. Everyone I talked to said, “Give it a month”. So, what did I do? I waited until week 2, not 1, without a job to start getting pretty anxious. Not to worry my faithful few, for I have prevailed! I talked myself into a job at Mercy Corps, another large international relief and development organization like CARE. My primary responsibility is helping them find, purchase and implement a new Digital Asset Management System. My ‘official’ title is Photo Coordination Specialist or some such dribble. My days have been full of research about digital supply chains and multi-channel distributions and api programming. It is their hope that this consultancy will evolve into a full time permanent position. During initial discussions with some of their main players in the creative department, it is obvious to them (and to me after only a week) that what they need (and what I could provide) is a full time photo editor.

The job is 30 hours a week and pays fairly well. This flexibility gives me the time to focus on my school, which I start tomorrow. Crazy! I begin my pre-requisites for nursing school tomorrow. Yikes! My schedule is M, T, TH at night. I’ve got my days and W, F nights to do my thing. That will mostly consist of homework and studying but I hope there’s still room for camping weekends and the occasional concert. All work and no play makes Jack go crazy and try to kill his whole family in an isolated snowed-in haunted grand hotel…

Finding the fun is, as usual, fun. Portland is a crazy music town. There is always somebody coming through that I want to see (not that I can afford it). Crazy amounts of music. Dangerous and perfect. There are 1001 activities, clubs or groups I could join (see above re Craigslist). Portland is a town of young, active adults. In fact, it is a lot like Atlanta…except there isn’t any traffic, everyone recycles and composts, the most popular grocery store is the weekly farmer’s market, almost every street has a bike lane and it’s a blue state not a blue bubble! There is always something to do. In fact, Leigh and I have to turn down invites more than we are trying to find them!

There’s also the creative spirit of Portland. We went to what is locally called “Last Thursday”, much like a “First Thursday” in Atlanta. Where galleries open their doors to the public after hours. Great crowds, good to great art and just fun times all around. A perfect opportunity to experience first hand the ‘keep Portland weird’ population. And to think that when we went out, most of the art crowd wasn’t even there because they were at the Burning Man Festival makes me shake my head at the pure potential for sublimity. I can’t wait to dive right in. I can just feel the creative energies flowing!

And another difference b/t here and Atlanta is the proximity of the mountains, forest and ocean. All are no more than an hour away. Leigh and I spent this past weekend enjoying our local wilderness. Driving only about an hour and a half (from Atlanta that would take you no farther than the top end of Gwinnett!), we found a sweet spot on the banks of Hideaway Lake. But this equinox weekend was not about sitting by the campfire or making a long hike (neither happened). This equinox weekend was 100% about Chief.

Let me explain…

Chief is a dog, a dog that we found on our drive up to this place in the woods, Hideaway Lake. We were driving up Forest Service Road 57, a gravel road about 20 miles from the nearest town, when we came up behind a medium sized orange dog trotting down the road in the direction we were heading. Pulling up next to him, I stopped the car and rolled down the window. He came right up. No collar at all. Huh. He looked a bit beat up and kind of old. What’s he doing up here? Where are his human friends? Does he live up here? Do we take him with us? After trying to pet him a couple times (growls but no aggression) we fed him a couple pieces of jerky (which he gobbled up quickly). Seeing him so hungry, we decided to put him in the car and take him up to the campground with us. Maybe there’s somebody looking for him up there. As soon as he gets into the backseat, he’s out. And I mean dead asleep. We come to find out he’s pretty deaf to as he wouldn’t respond to our calls or whistles.

We get to the campground and he gets out. We warn the other campers that here’s this dog we picked up. He’s not mean but he may growl so best not to approach. Many of them said, “Oh yeah. We saw that dog but we didn’t stop”. We look around, no signs. We set up camp (the lake is gorgeous by the way). He sticks around. We eat some lunch and give him some, again he gobbles it up. We then decide to go for a hike and agree that if he comes cool, if he doesn’t cool too. Well, he tags along and slows us down but that’s ok because it’s really nice to hike with a canine companion. Chief seemed content to be with us but he wasn’t too attached either. We were forming a weary friendship, a hesitant but blooming trust. It was quite the wondrous challenge earning the respect and trust of a furry creature that can’t speak, is mostly deaf and is a total stranger to you. We had our hands happily full with this task!

The hike was mellow and took us from Hideaway Lake through some marsh and one flaming read clear-cut (maples and wild blueberry bushes changing with the season) to Shellrock Lake. The total mileage one way was only like 1 ½ or 2 miles. Not a long hike and really no elevation gain/loss either. Perfect for a older, lost, hungry, thirsty, beat up dog to accompany us. For most of the hike he was in between Leigh and I but after we had turned around he got distracted and went back down the trail to check something out. Thinking he knew the way and would follow when he was ready, we kept walking back towards our site. Within 5 minutes of leaving him to follow, I hear the most pitiful, mournful wailing and howling I’ve ever heard from a four legged friend. It was heartbreaking in its sorrow. Running back to find him, my suspicions of him being deaf were confirmed when he didn’t respond to my calls when I was only 10 feet away but turned immediately when I stomped the ground. Tail wagging and a grateful look in his eye, we finished our walk together back to the trailhead and towards camp.

Reaching the Shellrock Lake trailhead (different from where our camp was), my attention was caught by a sheet of paper lying on the ground near the map kiosk. The paper had obviously been out here for some time as it was starting to bleed and fade but I was pretty sure that I recognized a dog’s face. Picking it up my hopes turned to pure joy as I saw our little friend’s mug plastered all over the flyer. “LOST AT HIDEAWAY LAKE”. It went on to tell us that his name was Chief, he was 15 years old, growls a lot and had been missing since Sept 6th…TWO FREAKING WEEKS!!! This dog had been wandering around in the woods with no friends, no food, no shelter for two weeks. I couldn’t believe. I am still shaking my head about this. Two weeks. That, my friends, is absolutely amazing.

Our hearts were filled with immediate joy and relief. YES! We have found his mom. YES! We did the right thing. YES! We almost ran back the rest of the way to our camp and Leigh took Chief into the car and drove out until she got a signal on her cell phone (which as shockingly 35 miles down the road…good thing we didn’t need an emergency team, etc). Disappointingly, she only got her answering machine but left a message anyway telling her where we were, etc. While she was gone, I was watching the sun and clouds battle it out for supremacy of the sky and just feeling in my soul that not only did we do the right thing picking up this homeless dog but feeling that our decision to move here to Portland was the right one too. Strangely, after telling Leigh this, we discovered she was having the same thoughts on her drive back to camp, making those feelings all the more authentic for both of us.

The sun was going down by the time they got back and it was time for dinner: a veritable feast in the woods – Masaman Thai Curry with brown rice. Shared 3 ways of course. When was the last time this dog had any food much less free range organic chicken with cashews and avocados? Reminds me of the time when I lost my dog in Montana for over a day and eventually found him with a couple old ladies who had been feeding him steak! Anyway, after dinner we had a short session of watching the moon and clouds dance across the lake’s surface but it was getting cold and the temperature was continuing to drop. So with some coaxing and a lot of cussing we got Chief into the tent (a stubborn, crotchety boy as most old men get to be) and we all then settled down for a nice warm, if cramped, sleep. We didn’t get very far down that sleep road as only 40 minutes or so after we closed our eyes, and we were well into that state of non-awareness that happens as you drift deeper into sleep but you are still aware of sounds and things happening around you; we hear two girls whispering right outside our tent. Finally one of them, in a very loud whisper, “Leigh?”

It was Summer (Chief’s mom)! She had come for her dog! (insert triumphant trumpet music here). There was great joy and relief at the reunion (inside our tent). Summer had had Chief since she was 13 and he had wandered off while camping with some of her friends two weekends ago. She had come up to look for him but had to give up the search and eventually give him up for gone too because it had been so long and no spottings. How just heart wrenching awful! The really funny thing is Summer said that she was thinking about Chief really hard today and just knew he wasn’t dead yet but couldn’t figure out how to find him…and then just a couple hours later she got Leigh’s message. So she wasted no time getting herself to our campsite to retrieve her long though lost friend. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. What a story huh?

YAY FOR HAPPY ENDINGS!!!!

So that’s it for now. I have to get to bed. Tonight’s a school night for me. Whoa, when was the last time I could say that? Eek!

For those who missed the embedded hyperlinks check out my latest Picasa gallery here:

http://picasaweb.google.com/jasonsangsterphoto/HideawayLake092207

and the rest of my collection here:

http://picasaweb.google.com/jasonsangsterphoto