Posted by: MC | February 2, 2010

ROAD TRIP!

 

“When life has been given to you,
you must take it very seriously.”
Calvin Hecocta

 

There’s something about the open road.  Something about road trips.  Something about how there is just no way any amount of planning and dreaming can remotely predict what will happen in the way a road unfolds time.

A year ago today I drove out of Portland.  I had organized my small bag, small supplies and impressive stack of maps in the Mini Cooper.  I had turned the key, started the engine and navigated the little EX:Change pod onto the highway headed South.  Seems it was sunny that morning – a decidedly uncommon thing for any day in Portland’s winter months. 

Groundhog’s day. Mid-winter. 

I just saved this writing to the hard disk – you know, the way you’re supposed to so you don’t lose stuff.  It’s now listed as 2-2-2010, just below 2-2-2009 in the file called <CHANGE Road Trip Blog Roll>.

Yes, there’s also something about anniversaries. 

A completion and a beginning at the same time.  A backward gaze across the way dreams and reality matched and didn’t.  A review of the reliable wealth of challenges, surprises, aches, joys and learning that plans and ideas may never anticipate.

My first stop on the way out had to do with coffee.  It also gave me a chance to say goodbye to my friends at the corner Starbucks.  They’d seen EX:Change from idea to launch to getting in the car to go.  I and the project had already benefited so much from their support.   

I’m sitting there right now in that Starbucks, writing this.  This morning, Wendy, Dan and Star have all checked to see how the project is going.  They always do. 

A year ago, I’d had the opportunity to speak a little more with Wendy, the store manager.  Wendy Lincoln is a White woman in her late 20’s and a manager extraordinaire.  She’s also a chef, entrepreneur, political organizer and a survivor of an adolescence that was none too kind. 

About change, Wendy said, “What I specifically wish to see as change will need to happen between individuals.  I wish that someday we could all move past race, gender, sexual orientation and appearance as the ways we judge each other.  Instead, I would like to see people analyzing each other with a different set of measurements – like according to energies, demeanor, respectfulness, body language.  That would allow strangers to get to know each other without all that fuzzy, vague skepticism around how people look and where they came from.”

Wendy’s soon became one of the common themes I encountered all across the country.   Like in my next stop to talk with Lena Baucom.  Lena is bilingual and bicultural.  She speaks Spanish and teaches English language learners.  She is not Latina.  She is African American and European American.  She is well traveled and well educated.  She is also thoughtful and creative in her seemingly limitless devotion to the wellbeing of youth and community.  Lena gives her life to that.  In her teaching and her family she draws on what she’s lived – the roads she’s already traveled as a mixed race woman in her 30’s. 

I left the time with Lena and drove to Ashland, Oregon.  There I made my way to the hillside home of my dear friend Dia.  Dia was the first of dozens of generous souls to volunteer space for me to sleep – friends, family and people who had never met me and opened their homes nonetheless on the recommendation of friends, or even friends of friends. 

I wrote that night about interviewing Lena, about chatting with a young guy in Roseburg who made me a latte (yes, more coffee – but decaf that time) and about the stars over Ashland. 

It was mid-winter.  Half way between the solstice and spring equinox.  More light every day.  It seemed a particularly perfect time to begin a journey. 

The next day I would head over to Klamath Falls to interview my long-time friend Calvin Hecocta, an environmental activist, addictions counselor, and carrier of a long span of ancestral wisdom.  For our conversation, Calvin chose not to have his voice recorded.  Instead, he spoke clearly, slowly – the way he’s spoken with me across the 16 years of our friendship.  This time the subject was change.

A few of Calvin’s words seem good to leave here because they point to the way life itself is a lot like a road trip – the universe of beings, the generational progression, or the singular life we each experience as ours alone.  Both lives and road trips are filled with variety, with wonder and with responsibility.

When life has been given to you, you must take it very seriously.  I was raised in Beatty, Oregon by a Paiute dad and a Modoc mom.  I was born on December 7, 1942.  I remember standing on a mountain side looking down on the valley with the Old Man.  The Old man told me I would be a spokesman for my people.  For a short time I thought he was meaning the ones in my tribe – my clan.  My grandfather eventually explained that what the Old Man was meaning was the people that have no voice:  The trees and the people that live there – the swimmers and the flyers that have no voice – the children.

I was told that by the Holy Man and every day I live with respect for that responsibility. 

How many young men have received such instruction around the world?  Too few.  This has led to our psychosocial unrest and illness.  In this country and others individuals, families and communities have become profoundly deprived of spiritual connection because of the absence of rites of passage for youth.

An important change would be to look at these rites of passage again as a blessing – as a mainstay of strong community and good government. 

At the end of our time together Calvin gave me a necklace strung with beads made of shells and hematite.  Hanging at its center is a large flat bone shaped as a spiral, the direction of a journey – from inside out. 

Then Calvin hugged me and wished me a safe trip. 

I drove down Highway 97 toward Mt Shasta.  Less than two hours later I ran off the road taking a photo of the white mountain resting against the pristine backdrop of that day’s blue sky.  The car required a few patches and limped a bit the rest of the journey.  I stopped with the multitasking thing.  I take this life seriously.    

Today, as I write, I sit here pretty awed.  Grateful, for sure.  Beyond any blog or book. Beyond any retelling of any of it. 

A year ago I got in the car and drove around this land abundant with diversity of geography, weather, people, circumstances, opinions, dreams.  It likely was, for me, a rite of passage.  Those 100 days were also a rite of passage for our country. 

By topic and experience the journey was defined by change.  It was ushered by the wisdom of the people I spoke with along the way like Wendy, Lena and Calvin.

Change, I found out, looks as vastly different to the people with whom I spoke as does the land across which they live and through which I drove.  Different and remarkably the same when it comes to things like valuing liberty, justice, peace, clean water and air, good relationship, and the cooperation and kindness all of that takes. 

It seems to me that each of those values, like life, is a road.  We can’t know how traveling them will look, but we know we want and are willing to risk trusting the change guaranteed by the trip.

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Responses

  1. Calvin is also an old friend of mine (and former house-mate, when he was in the Portland area). I’m going to be going through the Klamath Falls area soon, and would like to connect with him.

    Do you have a phone number and/or address for him? I’m searching the Web right now… Mine is 503-281-1813.

    Thanks.

    Peace,

    Sharif


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