January is empty for reservoirs. They hold the void. There is no water, wake, or waves. Hardly anyone is there. You’d see them if they were; there’s nowhere to hide.
I tromped around wondering about the emptiness. Which reminded me of the importance of being empty.
My friend recommends going into a room empty. Especially when offering support. Hold the space, but don’t fill it.
Here in this expanse void of water, I fill up on empty. I also feel it. It’s sort of nice to jump into. It radiates something, even if it looks barren and not promising at first glance.
January is not the same as July. No fishing, paddling, skiing, or swimming is happening. It’s a forced stop of action, or yang. The reservoir is taking a break, restoring its yin. And by being here now, I follow. I move in step with January. This is what’s happening.
What is there to do? Visit it. See it in its current state. Without. This leads to about one thing- walking around and observing what is contained in the emptiness.
Things seen were old shoes, wood, grasses, rocks, tires, beer bottles, plastic bags. Mud.
What to do when something doesn’t float our boat? Out of water? It does not fill any expectations.
When the water is low, or mostly gone, we can see the bottom. It’s a good reference point. What I like about this connection is it feels closer to the Dao. The ancient advice went something like, “be low, like water. Be close to the lowest points.” Walking a more humble and quiet route was encouraged, nothing much about running up mountains, pumping your fists. Instead flow like water, adapt to whatever shape you encounter. Just my loose interpretation.
The bits of wood gathered around the edges are connected to the earth this time of year. They lie there exposed. They are not covered by the muffle of water. There is no light and liquid creating beautiful illusions to mesh with. Most will float up again in a few months and ride the water and watch the sky.
What I like about the seasons is it’s not about me. It’s about everything. The status and state of everything, of which I am just passing through. I can appreciate it or I can complain about it. It’s a choice.
We can time travel, but nobody writes about it.
It’s not what you think.
When you put me down on the floor back in the winter, you said I didn’t move for days.
It seemed like 5 minutes to me.
Summer is my favorite time of year.
I like to eat the Grandpa Ott morning glories. The bright purple flowers produce hallucinations, though the effect wore off after they became a regular meal. They told me their name, the first plant name I learned. Now I eat almost everything and I wait for it to tell me stories.
I don’t like cilantro.
Some plants tell folk stories using a specific dialect of their native language. Others connect to satellites and at certain times, play international news shows. This is sometimes what I am doing when resting under the blueberries.
Other times, I am meditating. By meditating, I mean I am exchanging qi with the universe, which is currently called qi gong. T animals, the tortoise and turtle are masters. We process the scattered qi that people are constantly flicking around. It’s a little bit like recycling.
Back to time travel. I don’t know how to explain it to you.
I come and go. It mostly happens when I relax. I sink down, drop out of my shell and wiggle down through soft slippery fibers. When I get to the bottom, it becomes the top.
I pop up out of water. I am washed onto a rocky beach where I hear birds singing and humans have not yet arrived.
I practiced 20 different introductions as I walked toward the Flower Garden of Mystery. This is a large plot of sunflowers and nasturtiums on the corner of Hilyard and E. 25th.
“Hi, my name is Mary Ann and I love your garden and I wondered if I could interview you for my blog, which has very few readers….”
“Hi, I’m Mary Ann, your neighbor, and I write about stuff, and I like your stuff, wanna chat?”
I walked up to the door and knocked twice to no answer. I felt hopeful as I looked at gnomes, a small plastic draft horse, and other fun odds and ends in the flower bed off the porch. As I walked away on the sidewalk, a woman opened the door and called to me. She said she is often hesitant to answer her door, but she saw me and decided to open it. It wasn’t her garden. She said it was her landlady’s plot. “Bonnie just turned 80. She is sort of a legend around here, I think she’d love to talk to you.” I was directed to walk two houses over, to Bonnie’s house.
Turns out, this booming flower garden is entirely volunteer. Nothing was planted. By now, it blooms by habit. It’s 50 years old. “I love the feel of dirt and the fairly amazing concept that a little piece of nothing turns into something magnificent,” said Bonnie Brunken, the one behind the garden. She moved into the neighborhood in 1949. At that time, the land was swampy and cheap; flooding was a regular thing.
Zinnias are her favorite flower. Next, she likes nasturtiums and sunflowers because “they want to live!” My faves too.
Several years ago, I was inspired to have the audacity to plant a huge zinna patch by yet another 80+ year-old neighbor!
Bonnie said she learned to grow things through mentors. “I was mentored by Wilma Crowe, who is in her 90s now.” Wilma and her mother, Mrs. Zahn, taught her about “moon planting and all kinds of things.”
The big patch of flowers cycles like this: tons of mulched leaves from her Carolina Poplar trees are piled high on the bed in the winter. They are tilled into the soil in the spring. Next, she adds straw as the top layer. With some warmth and water, the soil pops to hundreds of flowers. After they are done, it all begins again.
What I like the most about the flower patch is its sole purpose is to be enjoyed. The flowers aren’t sold or eaten. They’re just there. The profit is in the eyes of those who notice.
Back to moon planting. Mrs. Zahn came by one day and checked in with Bonnie who had planted carrots about two weeks before. Mrs. Zahn gave her more carrot seeds and said, “plant these about 6″ out from yours, in the next row.” Bonnie said, sure, but why? “Because today is the right moon day to plant carrots.” In no time, the moon planted carrots grew stronger, faster, larger and didn’t have as much problems with bugs. Bonnie said, “I was a convert after that.”
Her mentors were organic farmers. She also read Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson in the early 1960s. Carson stands out as one who brought forth awareness about the harm caused by pesticides. She is credited with starting the environmental movement. At 56 and dying of breast cancer, she testified in front of the senate, “our heedless and destructive acts enter the vast cycles of the earth and in time return to bring hazard to ourselves.”
Upon this read, Bonnie said, “o.k, I’m not going to add to the problem.”
Besides seeing the results of moon planting, she saw a study done about 25 years ago by the University of Iowa. The final analysis ended up being about 500 pages with the conclusion: we understand a little bit about it; we don’t understand most of it; we just know that it works.
Sometime before this study, Pliny, the Elder, the first-century Roman naturalist stated that the moon “replenishes the earth when she approaches it, she fills all the bodies; while when she recedes, she empties them.”
Moon planting is also referred to as agricultural astrology as it relates to moon phases and astrological signs.
Bonnie has two great dogs: Dandelion, the Parson Russel terrier, and Sage, the very soft beagle. Before I left, she wanted to show me the third pet, who lives in the back yard.
Perched in a patch of dragon lilies, snap dragons, daises, and other grasses and flowers, was a huge metal dragon! Bonnie named it, “Joyful.”
For more about organic and biodynamic farming, check out my article featuring draft horses:
“You ate your dessert first!” She said, stating the obvious as the fudge brownie was already half gone.
“Yes. I do that,” said I. The sandwiches were taking forever. I have little self control.
We were having lunch at the Metropol to celebrate the first paddle of the new kayak. Mariann, my friend and paddle partner for the day, was pretty stoked about her new sit-on-top inflatable kayak.
Mariann wanted a clean run-through, to go through all systems, work out kinks, sync with the kayak and water elements. She is a Virgo. So am I. We understand each other. Yet, are quite different.
Her: “I need to attach my leash for my paddle.”
Me: “You will not lose your paddle in this reservoir. Let the fussing begin. No worries, I will practice my breathing exercises!”
Her: “Your commentary will not be helpful.”
Me: “Ok, understood. This is gonna be great!”
She: “Do you know what this is? It is the maiden voyage!”
A woman stopped to talk with us about the pros and cons of the paddle board vs. the kayak. We gave her feedback.
She: “I like to have a place to sit, to be, defined and with back support.” Me: “I like the freedom of movement, unrestricted, free form.”
She: “That pretty much sums up our personalities.”
We carry our watercraft toward the ramp.
She: “What if I have a panic attack?”
Me: “Do you have panic attacks?”
She: “No. But what if I did?”
We hit the water at the perfect time. Soft gentle motion on top, no wind. Ideal.
After a couple minutes on the water, Mariann smiled. “You have to be like when you’re on a plane and you are just there in that place and not worried about what’s above and below.”
“I like it!”
The weather changed. The wind came up and the water got tossy. We were getting pushed around. After being blown downstream, we decided to turn around. She made good time, got ahead of me. When I caught up she said, “I got a tad panicky. There were white caps!”
We made it back and explored a little more- I wanted to go under the bridge and into a protected canal.
She: “You’re going to make me go under a bridge?”
She: “You are pushing my limits!”
Me: “Someone needs to.”
She: “Yes, but most don’t.”
The reedy canal was peaceful. I pointed out a red-wing blackbird. Mariann said, “oh yes, I’ve seen those in the store- you squeeze them and they make that sound!”
It was the perfect maiden voyage. The weather was good and not good, which made for excellent practice. We had most of the lake completely to ourselves. We talked about how lucky we are to live here and take part in the nearby nature as often as possible.
I helped her with boating, as she helped me with Nordic skiing this past winter. Both things made us smile and be happy and grateful!
I pushed off at Sellwood Riverfront park. The plan? Paddle the board toward the city. I wouldn’t make it all the way, but the journey looked good. I parked on a street nearly under Sellwood bridge and headed toward what I thought was a boat launch. It seemed that it had been one a long time ago. As I approached, I saw a vague hazard sign. It didn’t explain much and there was no fence. I couldn’t see anything scary, so I went in. After launching, I looked back over my shoulder to see a warning sign about a cable and 11,000 voltage! I paddled much faster. Note to self: don’t exit this way.
Going north toward town was a push against current and wind. The water was a little choppy, not too bad, no white caps. I dropped to my knees a few times when I came upon cross currents, water stitches, surges, and bucks. I absolutely did not want to fall in. Too cold. This was more of a workout paddle, not a cruise. I really wanted to get a good view of the city and the first bridge, so I didn’t take the side route through calmer water that diverts east, just off the yacht club.
Also on the east side, just before the yacht club, is Oaks Park. Sounds of people screaming on the roller coaster bounce out and off the water.
I was glad to not have my chihuahua mix hood ornament dog with me. She would have hated the water splashing across the front of the board.
After close to an hour of paddling, I pulled into a small gathering of snags in the middle of the river. A perfect rest area and a place to sit down and take a few pictures of the still far away city. I noticed a small board held between roots and branches. I plucked it out- my next sign! It was imperfect in perfect ways- part lumber, part river wood. It had aged and ripened in the river.
The only other boaters out were people fishing and kayaks. I like to throw a friendly wave and hope that doesn’t cause me to pitch off my board.
It was getting late or I might have pushed it farther. I needed to get off the water before dark, and that meant I needed to turn around. Two hours of solid paddling is enough anyway. Coming back was faster with the wind and current; however, the river still had surprises in movement. For example at random times, there would be drops and surges, or it felt like the board was goosed and pushed me forward toward the nose. No idea what that was but it made me laugh.
The way out? Just take the stairs. Right before the last dock prior to Sellwood bridge, dart left, and there are two different sets of steps leading out of the water. Incredibly civilized. Sort of like Venice, only concrete rather than marble. Close enough to make for a magical water outing.
I made a day trip today, a coastal loop. From Eugene to Yachats to Newport to Eddyville to Corvallis back to Eugene.
The first ocean outing was Florence at the big beach behind a resort my brothers and I call “Shiftwood Drawers.” Its real name is Driftwood Shores, not nearly as catchy.
The dog had to come along for cheer factor, company, fun, and as the photo muse. She is a feature, draws in people, at least those who like animals.
When we tumbled out of my car toward the beach, a woman immediately said “hi sweetie!” I knew she wasn’t talking to me, and her husband did too. He said, “you never call ME sweetie….”
I stopped at the Green Salmon in Yachats for lentil soup, hippie style. And a giant authentic mug of hot cocoa. This was now a perfect day.
I had to head for Newport. I was on a mission to see the Oregon Coast History Center. I donated some things a few years ago- one item was the Eddyville post office. Yes, I had that. My grandmother was the postmistress of Eddyville in its heyday, way back. Picture the 1940s. Somehow I inherited this giant oak and glass antique wall of little boxes and a greeting window.
They told me they built a base for it, to properly display it. but I’ve never seen it. Until today.
The museum was closed. I missed it by a day! I knocked on the door. Soon, someone unlocked and opened the door. “Museum’s closed.” I said yes I know that but I drove from Eugene to see the post office I donated on display. “The Eddyville post office?!” Yes, that one. “Well, o.k., I’m not supposed to do this but come on,” she motioned with her index finger reeling me toward her.
I took about four steps and there it was! Looking smaller and more serious than I remember. There were also pictures of my great-grandparents in front of their feed and seed store, my mom on the steps of the same store, with her dog. This was cool! There was my family, a piece of Oregon coast history! I thanked her for letting me in, and left quickly, not wanting to keep her.
I stopped to look at sea lions at the waterfront before leaving town.
I didn’t get to see my great aunt Eleanor’s Women’s Army Corps (WAC) WWII uniform I also donated, but I’m proud it’s there. She was among the first women to serve in the ranks of the US army, besides nurses. She also at one point lived in Eddyville.
I never lived in Eddyville. I’m just related to people who did. It’s now just off Hwy 20 between Newport and Corvallis. I don’t recommend going there. Last time I passed through with my brother, Lance, years ago, the house that used to belong to our grandparents had burned to the ground the night before, and was still smoldering. Someone had been heating the run-down dump with a propane heater in the kitchen.
Things are different there now. I don’t know anyone and it is barely recognizable. Yet, I still have fond memories of the people and that place. What remains is a sense of familiarity with the trees, blackberries, the creek running through.
I work out for emotional fitness. I work out for heart health. No, not just the cardio blood-pumping heart health. Sure, that’s good common sense, which we all know. I like to work out to make my heart feel stronger on an emotional and spiritual level. Yep, that’s right. I think emotional fitness is where it’s at.
Exercise has been a lifelong habit. I work out when I am sad, happy, bored, lonely, anxious, depressed, excited, joyful, or worried. It fits all my moods.
Fitness is encouraged to support physical health, fight off disease, and for sex appeal. It is also encouraged for stress relief. What does it mean to reduce stress exactly? I think it means that we take care of our emotional fitness.
I have a list of reasons to exercise to support what is referred to as mental health. I would rather call it living.
My list includes familiar methods, but instead of listing the obvious physical benefits, I share how I am effected on a mental, emotional, or spiritual level. I am sure everyone experiences these differently. I’d love to know how others feel their emotions are enhanced with workouts.
I do intervals of jogging, sprinting, and walking. Intervals, the mixture, is ideal for me. I find jogging boring and slightly miserable after a while. Walking makes me slow down and see things around me more closely. I learn to appreciate my surroundings. Running fast makes me feel like a stone skipping across water. I like the short maximum demand, like a speeding bullet train (at least in my head).
For me, running burns off anxiety. It reduces fear.
It’s quiet under the water. I come up with new ideas because I am less distracted by reasons why I can’t do things. It’s just me and the water. The water’s fluidity encourages a more flexible way of thinking.
I have to take deep breaths and hold it and release it, and that creates a lot of bubbles that I can float through. I move through space differently and that brings forth creativity in problem solving.
For me, swimming is forgiveness. Swimming makes me feel the most loving. I love everyone after a good swim.
I feel strong, and therefore confident when I lift weights. This makes me less paranoid, less concerned about perceived threats. I like to hold weight, to lift it with control. When confident in this arena, I am more likely to bring myself stronger to whatever I am doing. This includes things that don’t require obvious physical strength. Another bonus: I don’t feel as vulnerable to negativity.
Lifting weights can offer stability and build confidence.
It is good for me because it makes me go slow. My favorite instructors offer a bit of history about the poses rather than powering through it on a purely physical level. Yoga can be a great blend. It offers a good dish of humility. My best life teachers have been humble. Knowing these teachers taught me to be vulnerable, to ask for help. I like yoga for making friends with myself, for practicing flexibility.
Yoga encourages me toward a more humble and yielding position in the scheme of things.
Burpees: Falling to the ground and getting back up again, over and over when it seems impossible, is pushing it. This is about perseverance through discomfort and even fear. After I do burpees I feel like my cells have been washed, purged, and rinsed repeatedly. By the time I am done, I feel more clear. I feel my body, mind, spirit have been flushed and hung out to dry. I’m ready for anything.
Burpees reduce negativity. You’re simply happy you lived through it. They also reduce stagnation. I am cleansed. I feel nearly euphoric.
A little shout out to the heart and lungs on a emotional level: Older health paradigms assigned emotions or feelings to organs. For example, in Chinese medicine the heart can house anxiety, but also joy and enlightenment. The lungs can store grief, but also can produce generosity and integrity. In my thinking, the more we are stagnant, the more negativity builds.
This does not mean we cannot be still. Stillness or meditation is absolutely essential in good mental health. Being still for wellness is a completely different blog, so I’ll save that for later.
In summary, the above listed methods of exercise offer me:
a sprinkle of euphoria
Sometimes sanctuaries are just sitting there. You have no idea. I found one today, just a few miles from where I live. Cortesia Sanctuary is in the woods of South Eugene. Cortesia comes from Cortese, a 900-year-old French word, which means “quiet.” Just kidding, actually, it means “a deep, noble courtesy and reverence for the sacredness of life.”
Once you step out of the car, it is quiet. This is a private home setting of 22 acres. It is surrounded by tall 150-year-old fir trees. It has a personal feel, like you are stopping in to see old friends. We were greeted by Forrest McDowell, one of the owners. He and his wife, Tricia, started living here in 1986.
Forrest emerged smiling and friendly, providing us with a map and background about the property. Soon, we were off, heading down the Fern trail. This passed the labyrinth on the left, then branched to the right with two bench options: St. Francis or Gandhi. These were near the edge of the ridge. Though the trees, you get a lovely view of west Eugene, Fern Ridge reservoir, and Mary’s Peak off in the distance.
The garden has many herbs, flowers, and even some opportunities for simple rituals. One such thing is a prayer shrine. You can write down a prayer on a card and then hang it from a small tree. They had several dwarf apples trees.
This organic garden space grows their vegetables and herbs, which they turn into flower essences, tinctures, and salves. They sell their products locally and on the web. The McDowell’s wrote the book, The Sanctuary Garden, in 1998. It is said to explore the personal, philosophical, spiritual, and practical aspects of creating a natural garden that emits peace and harmony. From walking around on their land, I’d say they walk their talk.
The place has a real sense of peaceful purpose. It even has an 18-year-old healthy and happy cat. Permaculture methods are in place, compost is revolving, nature spirits are dancing. It’s not flashy or pretentious, rather just being here now, as is, rustic.
Back to nature spirits, there are a lot of them. By that, I mean people have been talking about them since the beginning of time. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of them, from every part of the world, with exotic names and colorful personalities. If I had to choose one for this place, it would be: Aranyani, Hindu goddess of the forest, and the animals that dwell there. Just my opinion.
There are cute sheds and yurts on site, and even a “cob grotto.” We spent about an hour onsite. You could certainly stay longer, maybe have a picnic. It is not large enough for long walks, but better suited for a slower and more thoughtful time.
Chance Fitzpatrick is over halfway through hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, from Mexico to Canada. I asked him some questions about his journey so far.
MP: What would you tell your past self, prior to getting on the trail?
CF: Just relax and trust the process. The trail always provides and everything will be given to you at the perfect time. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or need at anytime.
MP: What would you tell your future self, upon finishing this journey?
CF: Hmmm… A bit harder to answer since I’m imagining what I might want to hear. Don’t be afraid to follow your heart’s desire. What is it that you truly want to do? What scares the shit out of you? Find out what it is that you’re most passionate about and take the leap of faith.
MP: What do you love the most about your experience?
CF: Being able to spend 10-12 hours a day hiking in the wilderness alone with my thoughts and no distractions. Living such a simple lifestyle with purpose is extremely rewarding.
MP: What do you love least about your experience?
CF: Balancing wants vs. needs can be tricky. Just because you want something doesn’t mean that it’s needed. To make sure what you’re carrying on your back is essential. Another thing that’s very important is to make sure you keep a positive attitude at all times. There are many reasons to keep going, and even more to quit.
MP: Favorite sound?
CF: The constant churn of my footsteps on the earth along with the clicking of my trekking poles.
MP: Least favorite sound?
CF: Noisy hikers that talk way too much and don’t respect your need to be alone in nature.
MP: Favorite smell?
CF: The fresh mountain air is always changing on the trail. The desert smells very different from the pine forests and grassy meadows.
MP: What has been the most unexpected thing?
CF: How the trail can change drastically from one moment or day to the next. One minute it’s foggy, then it snows. Next day you’re one ridge over and it’s windy with scorching heat. I’ve experienced all of the above in a 24-hr period.
MP: Has this experience, so far, effected your relationship with yourself?
CF: I am much more patient, loving and forgiving. Not getting all worked up with circumstances and situations that are out of my control.
Chance has a great blog: chancingit.com. You’ll get a good feel for what it’s really like to be out there and see some stunning photographs.
Water is a great mood stabilizer. Even a bath or shower improves the attitude. I like to hop on my stand-up paddle board (SUP) and glide just on top of it.
I drove to Dorena reservoir, Harm’s park, and unloaded easily. There were only three people there, swimming at the boat ramp, ignoring the no swimming sign. This park is no frills compared to Baker Bay across the lake, which has an entry fee. It also has a swimmers’ area, campground, and more picnic areas. It was a very warm evening, 84, so it made sense to go paddling. I made a quick picnic dinner and strapped it on the front of the board. I wanted to eat off-shore. I slipped on my water shoes to protect against the rocks and potential broken glass. I love to push off silently and get that instant water connection, completely shedding the land underneath me.
The wind was calm, only some movement brushed the water. This was about 5:00 p.m. The air smells good coming off the water. It’s quiet. You can hear bird sounds. Some traffic, but not that much around the lake. There was one other boat and they were fishing so not making noise or a wake. I stopped for dinner in a slightly protected no wind area.
This semi-protected little cove was the perfect place to munch on a casual meal of lentils, raw yellow pepper, mozzarella, and a splash of olive oil. Everything fits easily in my trusty dry bag that snaps onto the bungee cords that are attached to the front of my SUP.
I wonder why I seek water. Why does it feel both soothing and invigorating to me? It must be the exchange of ions. This theory popped into my head. It sounded so true! But was it? I don’t know. I looked up ions on wikipedia. Yes, water did seem an important part of the transfer of chemical compounds and sea water is mentioned a lot because of the salt. But then it became too much to digest and interpret for this blog. This blog is more about spirit rather than scientific explanations.
Speaking for myself, I feel an exchange of molecules in and around the water and the air and the surrounding trees. Even the rocks and sticks, of which there are many, play along. I absorb and breath it into my pores.
It is incredible to be alone on the water, paddling along, choosing my path, noticing the light, sky, water, wind and surrounding hills that look very old. Yet, they are not ancient really, they are totally current, responding to each other every minute.
While among this, as a guest in the midst of it, I feel within and among the source. After our visit, I go back to life refreshed. I have exchanged energy with what feels like the vibrant base of life.
What’s your element? Visit it often. Make time for what feeds your source.