Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


2012 in Review

It has been a Year. I'm very seriously glad to see it in the review mirror, as it were, but before it ends a moment to reflect on the whole year.

Heart-shaped Jasper - 2012 - Yachats, Oregon

2012 started off with rather a bang when events in Mom's life happened while we were at some training for not-for-profit board members. By the time CK and I arrived back in town a considerable amount of damage had been done and as we close out the year, we're still working on the clean-up. Mom ended up at a retirement community for seniors, with a cafeteria, etc., but wasn't thriving there. Much of the year was spent in rushing out to be with her, take her to ER, and the moments in between worrying about her.

Another bang came in June when I was rear-ended on the commute home, thus realizing some of CK's fears in my long daily commute. Between the stress of trying to take care of Mom, while watching her health degrade out in Gresham, and the increasing wear-and-tear on my body from the commute, CK sat down with me, looked things over, and said we should try to buy a house.

In the middle of all of that we ran another successful Open Source Bridge (June, I also taught my annual "Yoga for Geeks" class) and presented a workshop at OSCON on event planning (July). I also spoke at the BusinessObjects User Group in Orlando and co-chaired Ignite Portland 10 in February and our 11th event in September!

We closed on the house in mid-September, as soon as we came back from Orlando, moved at the end of September and end the year in a larger, newer home, that reduces my commute to 20 minutes most days (from the frequent 90+ minute treks home before). The new house, situated in the southwest hills of Portland and boasting a beautifully landscaped yard, is also laid out in such a way that everything is accessible to Mom, who came to live with us at the end of October.

Yes, it is a Big Change, but already we've seen significant improvements in Mom's health. After Christmas was over I was really happy to learn from her it was her best Christmas ever. We've honestly had some really lousy Christmases, Mom and I, despite all the flare-ups between us, I'm really happy to be able to have her living with us and so grateful for CK's support, insight, and help in caring for Mom

Mom and Tree - 2012

My job change back to hands-on IT administration is now (un)officially 2 years as of this December (from when I started as "contract-to-hire"). I'm the administrator for all of the BusinessObjects applications servers for one of Oregon's largest technology companies. It is challenging and reminds me yet again that in the long run I really would like to move away from hands-on administration and move more into project and team management. In the new year my manager will be trying to find space in my project load to make sure I get to do more technical lead work, particularly on projects with lots of user acceptance testing.

My yoga practice still includes teaching, although much of the year has seen both my teaching and personal practice severely hampered. The minor fender-bender took a toll on my right shoulder and my neck, taking far longer to heal than I'd have expected (wanted). As 2012 ends I'm only just getting back to real weight-bearing on my shoulders and arms. Hopefully a return to shoulderstands will brighten my 2013!

Amidst the upset CK and I managed to visit New Orleans. The trip was sadly overshadowed by worries about Mom which added a lot of fatigue and stress. Despite all of that we hunted for letterboxes, enjoyed some good vegan food, and saw Indians. We look forward to a return trip when our attention is not so divided.

Indian at Louis Armstrong Park

CK and I got in a long-weekend to visit Bend and Central Oregon. Having spent so much time there, particularly during the summer while growing up, I'm surprised it has taken us so long to visit there. CK fell in love with the high desert and the mountains of Central Oregon. We're really looking forward to more visits.

Dora may hate water, but she LOVES snow! Obsidian Flow - Lapine, Oregon, June 2012

Having my talk on application tuning and team engagement at the 2012 BusinessObjects User Group meant a trip to Disney World. Given that the conference happened during our wedding anniversary and that CK had always wanted to go to Disney World, we added some time on the trip and I was delighted she joined me. The little bit of extra time meant we also got to see the Space Shuttle Endeavor hanging in the gantry, waiting to be loaded on the plane for Los Angeles. We also saw the Saturn V rocket and had an all around amazing day filled with space exploration artifacts.

Saturn V Rocket!!!

I also managed to squeeze in a few days in August to visit friends out at Mercer Lake. It was nice to spend a relaxing weekend, including a kayak trip around the very-still lake, and some letterbox discoveries.

Newt spotted along the trail up the north side of Heceta Head (letterbox hunting grounds)

In December CK convinced me to take a long weekend away for myself, just to rest. I had to admit that the only trips I'd ever taken alone were only done so under the guise of work, either for my actual job or for such things as yoga training retreats, and Zen sesshin (retreat practice). I had a lot of anxiety about going, but in the end had a really wonderful time. I was utterly delighted by getting to see a shooting star during the Geminid showers (a clear night, on the Oregon coast, in December - amazing) and getting to enjoy the major storm that blew in to accompany the King Tides. My return day was filled with cold, December sunshine, as I made my slow way back home.

Near Seal Rock

It has been quite a year. Looking back I'm grateful for the really positive experiences and accomplishments that have happened. Given the rather extreme stress and upset the year has brought, it would be easy to lose sight of these things. I know I'd not have made it this far or done this well in 2012 without the support, understanding, and encouragement of my loved-ones, CK at the very top of that list.

Tonight there will be vegan Japanese food and a very small handful of friends over for games. Not sure how Mom will like the food, but she's sure to like some of the things we have or I'll make her a Gardein 'Chickn' patty! Beautiful food, laughter, and our little family is just the right way to end this rather hard year.

Obie and I Sharing a Quiet Morning Snuggle



King Tides

King Tides at Strawberry Hill + Big Log - December 2012

This has been a heck of a weekend for weather drama. Meteors my first night and the sound the wind trying to pull the cabin off the hill, with sea foam flying outside my windows as though it was snow! All the while seals and seabirds bob along in storm-tossed waves as if this wasn't anything big.

CK wouldn't enjoy being here, exposed and alone out on this bluff as I am. This tiny cabin is literally buffeted on all sides by powerful wind (gusting at up to 70 miles-per-hour) and the waves are truly enormous. She finds these sounds of water and weather unnerving, but for some reason they comfort me. I've been cultivating a mental image of the sea foam being blown through the air as a reminder that my little collection of anxiety and fear is so small, that wind like this just blows it all right through me.

After the terrible headache yesterday, I woke up feeling rested and clear. I went out to try and find treasure in the low, morning tide. I've come to the conclusion that winter is not agate-hunting weather as I only found one in my time out in the morning. I did find several interesting rocks and a few very interesting pieces of driftwood. I came back, ate breakfast, warmed up and went out again to watch the enormous waves.

I'm fascinated by the seabirds and seals out in the pounding surf, just bobbing along. I anthropomorphize them as "intrepid", but I'm called to re-read the Genjo Koan and find them instead,in their element.

Played with ATCs today and decided that I'd stay in. There's Christmas celebrations happening in the lighthouse keeper's cabin at Heceta Head, but the wind makes driving a challenge and I'd rather stay safely, warmly inside even if it sounds like I'll be blown right off the bluff!

Today has even inspired  a bit of poetry. Of course, within minutes of writing it I was telling myself it was too pretentious to be shared. Maybe so, but here it is regardless:

King Tides

They name them
King Tides,
Being higher
And stronger than
The usual waves
Blown by the
Fierce winds
Of December.

Some might say
God is in those waves.
Proof of a Masculine deity
Pounding the shoreline.

Others will say
There is nothing more
Than mundane science
In the shifting of water
As dictated by a rock in space.

Some see the tides
Called by the Moon
As the sure evidence
Of a Divine Feminine.

None of these arguments
Matter to the waves
Or the rocks they crash into.

No conversation changes
The way the wind catches
The top of each crest or
Is considered by the intrepid
Sea birds floating amidst
The relentless movement
Of the sea toward the shore.


Winter Retreat – 1

I've never actually taken time away without some "reason" for it. Work trips are obvious and account for the largest number of solo trips I've taken. I've also spent time away on my own to pursue yoga training, definite structure there. Then there's Zen retreat, which is nothing but structure and silence. One weekend meditating and learning about calligraphy from Kaz Tanahashi. A multi-day, Buddhist retreat for women with some guided writing practice.

Trips alone have to involve purpose. That's my way of allowing myself to go. I have to work for it.

So to be here, perched on a little bluff, in a tiny cabin, overlooking the crashing waves and buffeted by howling winds, is entirely new. A retreat from the humming and drumming of my very busy, everyday life. A retreat from structure.

From work I enjoyed the view of the barest sliver of the new moon appearing behind clouds. Once I hit the forest a long, winding, dark, and foggy drive took up all of my attention. I was grateful to stop in Waldport for a few groceries.

I arrived to the cabin outside of Yachats to find the sky miraculously clear for winter on the Oregon coast. I bundled up in my beautiful wrap, in the two blankets provided just for the purpose of sitting on the tiny deck, and watched the night. The vastness of sea and stars and wind and cold surrounding me.

Orion was bright and huge above the forested slopes of the mountains, with Betelgeuse glowing intensely red. The brightest glow, streaking out toward the sea and seeming to illuminate a patch in the center of my field of vision, was Jupiter. Eventually, my cold attention was delighted by a meteor, one of the Geminids peaking so beautifully this year. It streaked directly overhead, shooting out over the sea, or so it appeared.

This morning I searched the beach below the bluff, but struck out in my agate-hunting. In 2010 the largest agate I've ever found was hunted on the small beach here, but of course the rock field has changed considerably. I came back in as the rain picked up, my head pounding, and ate some breakfast while watching seals out in the waves. I lay down to watch the waves from the warm bed in front of a large window, eventually falling asleep again.

I could have gone to rock hunt elsewhere, but the cold made my head pound more. I went into Yachats, thinking I might go by a spa that a teammate at work recommended, or have a late lunch at a restaurant recommended to me. Instead I bought some crackers and soup before driving slowly through town, checking out some roads I've not gone down before. I stopped to watch the crashing waves from the car.

I've mostly rested today, my head intermittently pounding. The weather has stormed all day, the wind howling so fiercely at times that it feels like it is trying to blow us up the mountain! I made some food, ate some, read, slept some more, watched a movie, and listened to a new guided meditation one of my therapists gave me. I ate too much ice cream.

I have another full day tomorrow. I can choose to act on the impatient energy that compels me to do something (go for a hike, go to the Christmas celebration at Heceta Head, go to the spa, go rock hunt) or I could spend it inside again reading and napping. I'm trying to not make a plan, not to add structure. If tomorrow I feel like I want activity, it is available to me, but I'm just staying with the idea that it is also perfectly fine to just sit here with the sound of the waves and weather, resting.

Searching below Ocean Haven - March 2010


Gift of Time

CK has insisted I do something for myself. That I go away for a long weekend. By myself.

No dogs. No Cats. No Mom. No Work. No wife.

Just a total break away from everything. Her gift to me is to take care of it all so I can well and truly rest.

I've been struggling with this gift, to be honest. I feel a bit guilty, like I'm leaving behind a mess to pick up. I feel like I don't deserve such a luxury.

I don't think I've ever really taken a trip like this. Any time I've gone away by myself it has been for work, training of some sort, or sesshin practice (which is most certainly not restful). I've never been in the position to afford this luxury - afford the cost or the time. I've never had the kind of support that would let me do something like this.

She suggested Vancouver since it is such a short flight up and I had my passport redone this year for a work trip up there. She also suggested a little one-room cottage I've wanted to stay in at Ocean Haven. Situated up on a bluff, separate, and complete with a cozy bed before an enormous window overlooking the rocks which are popular with the sea lions.

So next weekend I'm going. Taking off from work a little early on Friday and coming back on Monday.

I'm even starting to look forward to it.

Exploring the rocks below Ocean Haven, March 2010