Saturday, January 25, 2020

Standing in the field again

Over four years ago I spent the weekend at a writing workshop on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound. Our last activity was a ten-minute write on the famous last line of Mary Oliver's poem, "The Summer Day": "What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Ten minutes, from our heads, through the pen, onto the page. Here's what I wrote:

I plan to say yes. To whatever comes along, especially if it's unexpected. I've said this often recently: I'm standing in an open field, forest all around me. I'm waiting, with my arm stretched up and out, for what it is I am supposed to be. Not do. Be.

I have at my feet all my gifts: intelligence, articulate expression in the spoken and written word, the ability to listen with sensitivity and care, a passion for creating understanding between and among. At this point I have no idea how that will turn out. Who will enter the clearing? Will they arrive arrive on two legs or four or none? Will they be visible or just a spirit or essence? I am sure I will recognize their arrival quite quickly, regardless of their form.

Most of my bucket list items have been crossed off. What's left, I think, are the intangibles; what I don't yet recognize should be on that list. So far, I am still saying yes, knowing I'm on a right path.

Who am I to know what it is I'm supposed to do? What will the yesses to come be about? "We are all in this together" has been my mantra for a while now. Who are we, and what is together? I have to keep saying yes. That's the only way I'll know."

Less than a year after this ten-minute write, I said yes to volunteering at a refugee camp in Greece. Five times.


New arrival
Women gathering

Volunteer schedule
Afghan hospitality
Hallway to the bathroom

Team dinner

Laundry at the team house

At work with sleeping puppy

Then the refugee camp was closed by the Greek government, and the subsequent community center close for lack of funds.

I said yes to volunteering at an asylum seekers' shelter in Tucson, where we live in the winter.

Tracking device

These days, most asylum seekers are required to wait in Mexico for their asylum interviews in the US. The numbers at the shelters in Tucson are low and are likely to close soon.

That's why I'm standing in the open field again, my gifts at my feet, waiting. What will be next?

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Bag Lady reflects on Sedona

Art and I bought a timeshare week at the Arroyo Roble Resort in Sedona in 2006. We already had a timeshare at Whistler, British Columbia, and we weren't going to use it one year, so we traded it for a week in Sedona. We had such a fine time there that we bought a week. If you buy in the after-market (an owner no longer wants their unit and offers it for sale) you can get much better prices.

We like Arroyo Roble because it's not part of a chain, it's well maintained and well staffed. From our base on Oak Creek, we can explore the surrounding areas in this part of the state: Native American ruins, mining towns, even the Grand Canyon and Canyon de Chelly.

When we first bought our week, Art and I were both still working, and we used our Sedona timeshare in the winter, to get away from dark and gloomy Seattle. Each January or February you can combine your weeks from the prior year and the current one, so we'd come for two weeks every other year.

We did a lot of hiking in those first years. In a two-week period we'd take probably half a dozen hikes. There are over a hundred well-documented hikes, so we pretty much knew what we'd be getting into when we started off.

Sometimes we'd invite friends to join us. One year an old college roommate of mine, Ann and her husband, Larry  - they live in Toronto but spend several months in the winter at the Voyager RV Resort in Tucson - came up for a few days. Ann suggested that we stop by at the Voyager for a couple of hours before our flight home. We did. We were delighted with the place and spent two months there the next winter in a park model we rented, then bought a year later. We're currently in our eighth season at Voyager, spending more and more time there each year.

Once we began spending our winter time in Tucson, we didn't need the gloomy weather break, so we reserved only one winter week and invited our adult children to join us for a few days. A different combination of kids turned up each year: Laura has been here four times, Melissa three, Peter three, Greg one and, this year, Jason and his family came down. Seems like once they come to Sedona, they want to come back. This year we reserved two units for four days each, and there are nine of us. Laura arrived on Thursday and left on Sunday; Jason and his wife and son arrived on Friday and left on Monday; Melissa, Peter and his girlfriend arrived on Saturday and leave on Tuesday.

Art and Laura at dinner

During these times in Sedona with family, everyone has their own schedule during the day and we meet up for dinner. That gives the more adventuresome ones time to do challenging hikes or Jeep tours or mountain biking, while others relax, swim or spend time in the hot tub or sauna or browsing the many shops in town. Art and I are less active these days, so we get to sleep extra long and read in the quiet and enjoy the family when they arrive home from their outings. And maybe take a short hike.

It's a generational thing. We see ourselves in our offspring as they are still active explorers. There were many years when we paid for meals, and now they are picking up the checks. They are renting their own cars and buying their own plane tickets. It feels good to be passing the torch of responsibility and expenses to them. But it's bittersweet as well, as we look back and remember it was us doing that a decade or so ago.

As it should be.