Sunday, June 29, 2008

Because it's hotter than a mofo out there!

It's one of the handful of summer days where it is HOT here in Portland. While love the sun on a breezy day, I don't tend to love the heat. Normally, I would probably be complaining like everyone else, but it's been such a nice weekend - dinners out (shrimp tacos you and are delicious and if I could find you, oh inventor of the mojito, I would kiss you right now! I really must add making mojitos more often to my list of important things to do!), BBQs (how sweet is it that my supermeateating friend, Jala actually prepared some BOCA burgers, despite the obvious affront they pose to her carnivorous, Southern barbequeing ways?!), sleepover guests, and dinner plans later tonight. With such good times, I don't seem to have much right complaining about anything!

My long-anticipated (I even pre-ordered it before it was available!) Phillip DePoy mystery arrived in the mail from Amazon on Friday. His Fever Develin (mystery solving, mountain folklorist) novels are SO much fun! They are the sort of books that leave a book nerd wanting more. It's because of the feeling such books gave me that I got interested in writing as a kid. I can't tell you how excited my dorky, little heart was the day I discovered that The Devil's Hearth was the first in a series and not just a one off! Now that the house guests have gone home, there is plenty of time to lounge on the back deck with a frosty beverage and some fresh, sweet cherries. There I will read to my heart's content until it is time to leave for dinner.
Meanwhile, here are some cooling pictures from my fabulous June road trip (more on that later!)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What I believe...

From my horoscope today:
Regardless of your religious affiliation, today can be a profound day of spiritual renewal for you. But this may not involve church or even a formal service. The magic of creation speaks directly to you now through the beauty of nature, the contemplation of silence and the appreciation of the abundance in your life.

Oddly enough, today I had planned to wake up early to go to church. I haven't been going regularly lately and I have never been a Churchy McChurcherson. In fact, I've had some really bad experiences with religion (like the time a seminary student informed me when my father died that it was a shame that I wasn't saved, because instead of a reunion with him in heaven, I could look forward to an afterlife of eternal hellfire and damnation). Sorry, but that is not my God and if I wanted to join the Church of the Quivering Brethren ("There'll be no butter in hell!"), I'd catch a ride in Amos Starkadder's Ford van.

The church I go to, Bridgeport UCC is a special place. It is open, socially conscious and politically progressive. I find it comfortable, because it is a place that offers a warm welcome to anyone - die hard believer, spiritual wayfarer, gay, lesbian, straight, transgender, black, white, green, you name it. You don't need to be able to speak English, only kindness and love. While the denomination is decidedly Christian, it (or at least the church I go to) tolerates the notion that there are various paths and that they have validity. This goes a long way in dispelling some of my long held prejudices about organized religion and "how churches (and church people) are".

Truth be known, I always feel somewhat ambivalent about religion as an organized body. Evangelists will disagree, but to me faith is a very personal thing. I'm not even sure that I have faith - at least not in the way that I am "supposed" to. The overarching messages of kindness and goodness that span through most religions speak to me - dogma and perscriptivism not so much. I am still ambivalent about calling myself a Christian, but I am not ambivalent about seeking for greater meaning or doing it via various auspices.

I found Bridgeport one Christmas Eve when I was longing for some ritual, something to add a specialness to a holiday that was seeming kind of meaningless. As much as I enjoy my Santa mythology and a good gift, there has to be something more out there. I had wanted to go to the big, old UCC downtown (despite my ambivalence about religion, I've always enjoyed the architecture of a nice, old church), but was diverted to a smaller outpost in SE Portland when I started having second thoughts about the potential parking situation. (Yes, that's how devout I am. I can be put off by inconvenient parking.) So, instead, I found myself spending Christmas Eve in the smaller, more intimate setting of Bridgeport.

A few years later, I still remember my first impression of it as a place permeated with warmth. It was in the honeygold color of the wood fixtures, the friendliness of the reverend and the feeling that washed over me as I sang Dona nobis pacem with a bunch of strangers by candlelight. That is what made it feel like home. It is still my favorite part of the Christmas service there. Although the reverend there delivers a lovely (deep yet accessible) and well composed sermon, it is the music that makes even the regular services come alive for me. It is in it that sound community that I find something approaching God, joy.

When I first started going to Bridgeport, I felt like a bit of a fraud. When I looked around I naively assumed that the others were all so sure in their faith. And then there was me, the girl who is not even sure of what her faith is.

Do I believe in the Divine? Check.

Do I think S/He is necessarily what we think of as God? No. As near as I can figure, God is like the blaue Blume of Romantic literature - something we seek to find, but never completely know or understand. The Ding an sich that is commonly called God can't be known completely. It can only be known via our limited human perspective. If I'm looking at God's front, I can't see her back and vice versa. There is always going to be some "angle" that I can't see from my vantage point, some angle that I have to take on faith. The best I can do is keep searching for pieces until I can put the puzzle together. As a result, I think the most we can do is try to be the best we can be and know that if in making a good faith effort we fail, the Universe will forgive us.

Do I believe in The Bible? If I'm going to be honest, not literally. I believe the "red letter" parts about kindness and doing unto others, but I can find those in other religious systems and even just my own value system as well.

In contrast to my early days at Bridgeport, I now realize that we are all on our own journeys. We might sometimes walk together and share community, but our individual paths are our own. There is more than one way to get to the apex of a mountain. The only thing that I am really sure about is that my relationship to God is experiential. I don't want someone telling me how to how to think and that is one thing I love about Bridgeport. There, I can enjoy walking with a community of travellers without feeling pressured by them. Like a stubborn toddler, I don't want to be carried. I want to feel the Divine for myself. I want to learn for myself even if doing it means that I might sometimes fall and scratch my knee.

It is funny, but in writing this post, I now better understand what I meant when the following poured out in response to one of Wendy's lovely writing prompts. Maybe I am not so ambivalent after all.

Do not tell me what to think about God.
When you talk so much,
I cannot hear her breath
caress the strings of the universe.
Don't tell me who she is, but let me feel her in the quiet.
I don't want your books or your sermons
and, please, no shrill proclamations.
Her symphony echos not in the dry crackling pages
of dusty voiced prophets and old men.
It whispers through the soft rustle of the leaves,
the silent shimmer of blossoms
beneath the glow of a new spring moon.
I hear her as I breathe - quietly, deeply
hoping to match the cadence of her breath
as I listen for the song beneath the silence.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Roadside Lessons and Epiphanies

Even when gas prices have soared higher than the eye of an elephant on stilts, there is no denying that road trips are fun (as long as you don't have to hawk a kidney for fuel). As I work through uploading all my pictures from my last two trips and compiling a travelogue of sorts, here are some things I have learned on my last two road extravaganzas:

1. If you want to make a three year old smile, invite him on an elephant ride.

2. Now that the guy who whistled the Andy Griffith Theme has died, if only I could whistle, there would be a niche for my kickass skills. My inevitable TV variety show would be called "Look who's whistling now". Its spin-off "So you think you can whistle", would pit other whistlers against each other for the prize of a guest duet with me on my upcoming album "These lips are made for whistling".

3. Toppenish is the City of Murals. Its best mural (and possibly the best mural ever!) is the one of someone called Irish Dick being mauled by a bear.

4. I like Cumbia.

5. I like Beyoncé better in Spanish than in English, because I don't have to understand it when she exhorts me to shake my derriere in Deréon and then wonder if there is anything that woman will not shill.

6. In a pinch, it is possible to transform a yurt in to a DIY disco if someone in your party is in possession of a sparkly bag, a flashlight, and a cell phone that plays MP3's - and I was! P.s. Be sure to learn all the words to "I will survive". That way when your phone battery dies, you can teach them to everyone else and the party will go on.

7. If I am ever lost in the wilderness, I will probably wander in circles before ultimately being eaten by a bear. (And if I make it through the night, I will be cold, because I cannot build a fire to save my life.)

8. Even though I always thought ATV's were for rednecks, it turns out that a Dune Buggy + Sand Dunes + High Speed = Fun. I am, however, not going to act on my friend Mike's suggestion that I try out other redneck pasttimes like Nascar and meth. (P.s. Dear Mike - Remember that time we played Scrabble and I got almost ALL the tripple word scores? Those were good times - almost as good as that time I beat you! Love, Martina)

9. Food make with fresh seafood - especially clam chowder - should be eaten as often as possible.

10. KOA "Kabins" (their "K", not mine!) have VCR's/DVD players in case you want to watch a movie while you are roughing it.

11. A group of what I like to think are Wenatchee stoners in possession of some doobies, a bag of apples, a syringe, and some Welches grape juice have invented a wonderous new fruit called a "Grapple" (pronounced so the first syllable sounds like "grape", because they are tricksy stoners). I myself am waiting for someone in Tillamook to invent the crapple (a cranberry apple hybrid, pronounced just as you'd expect!) But for now, here is a box of half eaten Grapples, resting on a disco bag:

Friday, June 13, 2008

So, I haven't been around much since before the Lonely Goatherd Tour of Eastern Washington. Time is at a premium these days.

Work has been crazy (and not in the endearingly whacky sense, but the borderline evil one), I've been sick all week (and working overtime), and now I am tired and off to the beach for some much needed R&R. More on Washington, the ocean and other stuff, IF I decide to come back. If I find a nice beach house with no one in it, I may just take a lesson from that time on the Simpsons when carnies steal the their house by locking the family out and not letting them back in. It seems like a plan that can't fail, but if I get arrested I hope at least one of you will visit me in prison!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

In the before time

Remember last week when I was relaxed and having such a good time during my vacation? You probably don't, because I was having so much fun hanging out with batman and taking road trips that I didn't even bother to feel bad about not updating my blog. But life isn't all road trips, sunshine and unicorns. It is amazing to me how quickly work has the capacity to eradicate the good feelings. In the two days that I've been back, I have found out that we are restructuring again and that people are being laid off.

Because my job remains unaffected and we're "doing what's best for the company", I am apparently not supposed to care. After all, it's not a human thing but a business thing, right? What a crock! Even if my starry-eyed pseudo hippie mind gets that the purpose of business is for it to be profitable, that doesn't mean I can just forget that some of these people are my friends or that times are tough out there. Because I know that she actually is sensitive deep down, I think it's probably just my boss' way of coping, but she really does sometimes sound like she's been drinking the Kool-Aid. It's one thing to be pragmatic about the idea that a business will cut you loose as soon as your existence becomes unprofitable (and also keep your own options open for whatever will most benefit You, Inc.), but it's quite another to suggest that business decisions have no human impact.

And if that isn't enough, it turns out that my company has been sold yet again. In the six years I've been with them, we've had four owners - among them the Carlisle Group. If I had known who they were when I took the job, I would never have accepted it. Thankfully, I didn't help line their pockets for too long. I just hope this new parent company isn't evil, because if evil is X and Y is driving as far as I do to get to work, X+Y=Martina is looking for a brand new bag (and I'm not talking purses here!). Frankly, I have to wonder if it isn't time even if they aren't evil. It's a shame, because lately I actually have been liking my job for the first time in a couple years.

The thing is that gas has more than doubled since I started working for Instability, LLC. Even with my good gas mileage, it's costing me $200/month just to go to work. This makes the commute increasingly intolerable and this business of constantly selling/reorganizing does little to make a person feel secure in her job. There is always the sense of having dodged the bullet this time, and that carries a special stress all its own. So, I am waiting to see what happens, but priming my mind for the idea that it may just be time to move on. If I don't have to, it will be great! If do, however, at least I will be prepared.

So, if you know anyone who is looking for a new employee with an interest in the arts and the practicality to secure her future by getting an advanced degree in German Literature instead of studying something useful but does have a background in editing, translation, teaching, administration and operations, you know where to find me.

P.s. Go Obama!!! Who would have thought 20-30-40 years ago that a black man could end up the nominee of either of the major parties in this country? We as a nation have engaged in some major asshatery over the past decade or so, but today I'm kinda proud of how far we've come. Let's keep movin' on!

P.p.s More on my trip later!