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

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.