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Saturday, February 19, 2011

A typical Saturday...

'Twas a beautiful Saturday morning. The sky shown bright blue and as we lay there deciding what to do with our day, we heard Finn's voice from her room - "I'm awake now Mummy and Papa!" We grabbed both kids and brought them back to our bed for a little snuggle time. We told stories, read a several books we'd recently checked out from the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, and reflected on each others dreams from the previous night's dream-scapades. And lest we be late for pancake breakfast at our friend's Dan, Janel and Lynn's place, we quickly showered, packed our bags for the day's adventures, grabbed the dogs and scooted out the door.

Breakfast consisted of Cafe Pasqual's whole wheat organic pancakes, organic Shelton's Farms turkey sausage links, and some natural pork sausage parties, seasoned up by Steve's Customer Meats out of Lebanon, Oregon - the pig delivered and raised by a friend of ours. And, of course, the prerequisite coffee and tea. After some wonderful visiting and watching our respective children play together, we gathered the kids up and headed over to LaSells Stewart Center at Oregon State University to meet some other friends and their kids for an interactive science fair put on as part of the "Song for the blue ocean" event. Kids and parents alike played and learned about things like water quality, ocean acidification, pressure and depth, coral bleaching, and the impacts of garbage in our oceans and on its inhabitants. We ran into several people at the event we hadn't seen in years - one I hadn't seen since around 1998. As the kids started winding down, we gave hugs and kisses and said our goodbyes and decided the day called for a little more exploration. It was just too sunny out not to take advantage of.

Neither of us were still fully recovered from our last bought of the winter-time cold/flu bugs so we decided that a winter drive around the backcountry roads and a shorter family hike in the woods was in order, so off we went. To where, we didn't yet know. But we did manage to find a benefit garage sale along the way.

We soon found ourselves traveling south on Bellfountain Road then heading west up to Alsea Falls recreation area, operated by the BLM, along the South Fork Alsea River National Back Country Byway. It had been quite a few years since we'd been up there so we decided to poke around the campgrounds and trail system for a bit. The campground-falls loop looked good so off we headed, the lot of us. It sprinkled some on us but all in all was perfect hiking weather. We walked the loop and by the time we got back, both Finn and little Jeremiah were beat tired and slept on our lazy drive back to Corvallis through the countryside.
The trail sign pointing the way.
The kids forging their own path.
Cat's cool bark piece find!

Finn's moss beard - "Like Papa's!"
The fam on one of bridge crossings...

On our way home, we stopped by the Samaritan Health Services Urgent Care Clinic to get Cat's sinuses checked on (she'd been miserably plugged up for weeks). Sure enough, she had a sinus infection so we got her taken care of then headed home for the evening. When we got home, we made supper with the kiddos and ate together at the table, something we like to do every night. Little man is now in the habit of reminding us to say our prayers and he does so by grabbing our hands and saying "Amens! Amens! Aaaaaaaaa-mens!" It's awful cute. Later that evening, Finn and I headed off on a date, just to the two of us, to see film "A Sea Change", a documentary film on ocean acidification, the showing sponsored by the "Songs for the Blue Ocean" symposium as part of OSU's Spring Creek Project. I wrote about that experience here. All in all, it was a wonderful Saturday.

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A Sea Change

This evening, I decided to take my four year old daughter on a date - a date with our history, the present, and our future.

So on the back of my bicycle she hopped, helmet, gloves, warm jacket, and all. And away we rode, off to LaSells Stewart Center on the Oregon State University campus to see "A Sea Change" - a movie about ocean acidification, moral and social responsibility, and the future. The film was showing as the culmination of the "Songs for the Blue Ocean", a symposium on Oceans and Ethics put on by the Spring Creek Project.

The film is a touching account of the relationship between a grandfather and his grandson and their interactions around the ocean - interactions they, and millions of others like them, may not be able to continue having if our oceans continue changing at the rate they currently are. Given that nearly 71% of our planet is covered by oceans, it's not surprising that our oceans are absorbing pollutants we put into our atmosphere - pollutants that include carbon dioxide (CO2), the focal chemical compound discussed in this film. The gist of the story is that as the oceans absorb carbon dioxide, they are becoming increasingly acidic - a process known as ocean acidification. And while this change in pH may be seemingly very small (akin to pouring a can of soda pop into a bathtub), it's becoming large enough that many of the ocean's critters, specifically the ones with calcareous shells, are unable to adapt - they are either unable to build suitable shells or their shells dissolve too fast - and, as a result, they are either already dying, or are likely to die (e.g., coral bleaching).

(Bleached elk horn coral; Flikr - World Resources)

While this may seem like heavy material for a four year old to digest, you might be surprised by how much they DO absorb - their minds are like little (non-calcareous) sponges. And the message was driven home by an experience we had midway through the movie during her restroom break. In the lobby, we bumped into Sven and Barbara, the writer and director couple from the movie. She couldn't believe her eyes that they were actually here - right in front of us. We visited for a few minutes, snapped a picture, then headed back to watch the rest of the movie.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time together and on the bike ride home, she melted my heart more than she has yet to date. We were riding home, well after dark, our bike lights flashing and casting curious shadows about, looking into the well-lit windows of OSU's Dixon Recreation Center when - after a moment of silence - she says to me "Papa? You take me to see some of the coolest things" and then was quiet again. I was so moved...speechless and full of love.

(Sven, Barbara, Jeremiah and Finn...who's acting shy in this picture)

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Valentine's Day Story

Fifteen year ago today - yes, that's right, 15! - a nervous young man parked his car in a a crowded space at the 5th Street Public Market in Eugene, Oregon, got out and opened the door for his beautiful girlfriend and they walked arm in arm around the Market together. They eyeballed pretty flowers in the center square, smelled the aromas coming from the freshly baked bread, peeked in the windows of the upscale clothing shops, people-watched together while sitting on a bench, all while the sun set slowly over them. As the last rays of the sun silently danced across the treetops, they walked across the street to a little hole in the wall juke joint called Jo Federigo's (affectionately called Jo Fed's by those in the know) - a well-known jazz establishment with wonderful nooks for cozying up together to listen to some wonderful live piano jazz together. Little did that young, beautiful woman know, but there was a surprise in store.

They sat down together at a second-floor table, overlooking the central foyer and piano, below. A beautiful bouquet of flowers had been set at their table, the only one in the establishment that had them. They exchanged loving glances across the table as they looked over the menu to see what they fancied. They had heard good things about the Italian food and were eager to sample some of the wares.The young man fidgeted and fussed, seemingly nervous but also excited. She eyed him with curiosity and wondered if it were her piercing gaze that was making him squirm. They ordered their meals, her a linguine-style pasta dish, he a heavily seasoned meat and pasta shell dish. Although the place was packed, both were so engrossed in each other, they hardly noticed anyone else in the place - the world outside of them simply didn't exist for a spell. And, aside from the young man consuming countless glasses of water and looking a little nervous, they were delighted to be lost in the moment, together.

Part of the way through their meal, the piano music stopped and a familiar-sounding tune began to play over the restaurant's PA system. Both looked at each other with a knowing glance, each knowing that this was one of "their songs". As the tune played on (it was Depeche Mode's "Somebody"; see links below), the young man got up from his chair, opened a secret compartment in a well-disguised faux rose that was part of the table's bouquet, pulled out a ring that had been in the family for many decades, got down on one knee, and asked her to be with him through thick and thin, for better and worse, to spend the rest of their lives together. As tears streamed down the young lady's face, she paused for what must have seemed like an eternity for the young man, gazing into his eyes, then smiled, wiped her tears...said "yes" and tenderly kissed him.

As they kissed and were enveloped in their own solitary, "time-stood-still world", they became rapidly aware of the rest of the world outside of their own table. Cheers and applause rang throughout the multistory establishment and all eyes seemed to be resting solely on them. They both flushed with slight embarrassment but reveled in the moment, happy to be holding each other, secure in the knowledge that they would be sharing the rest of their lives together.

A waiter brought over a bottle of their finest wine, compliments of a couple a few tables down. They had apparently been watching the couple all evening, figuring from the nervousness of the young man that he was about to propose marriage to the young lady. Neither of them could figure out where the ring might be and had guessed that it was in the young lady's pasta and they had begun to worry when the young lady only ate half her pasta and only poked at the other half. They were delighted when the young man had pulled the ring out of the flowers (why hadn't they guessed it was the flowers?!) and felt honored they had been able to witness it. The wine was their gift to the couple. It couldn't have been a more magical experience

Life has changed a bit in those 15 years - the distance between here and there sometimes feels like a long ways and at other times, just a flash. The couple no longer lives in Roseburg, Oregon. They both have worked in a variety of jobs over the years, some not so flattering, others seemingly well-suited for them. Both have earned advanced degrees, have adopted several needy animals along the way, and now have two magical children gracing their lives. And they've grown even closer together over the years. It hasn't always been easy - indeed, far from it. But it has also been the most rewarding experience for them both. And they continue to rest secure in the knowledge and certainty of each other. And their future together.

I'm sure you've already guessed it. That young couple those 15 years ago was Cathleen and me. And I remember many of the details from that day as if it were just a few hours ago. Other details, Cathleen remembers better than me. Together, they paint a beautiful story. One that is still being painted and will be for many more years...

Happy Valentine's Day, my beautiful bride!


Note: Sadly, Jo Federigo's is now closed, replaced by the Granary Pizza Company, a place with mixed reviews. Sad, too, because the venue is so wonderful!

Listen to the song, with lyrics in video format.
And lyrics from the official Depeche Mode website:
Appears on: "Some Great Reward" album
"Catching Up With Depeche Mode" album

"Blasphemous Rumours" single
Lead singer: Martin L. Gore
Songwriter: Martin L. Gore
Publishing credit: ©1984 Grabbing Hands Music Ltd/EMI Music Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved. Lyrics electronically reprinted with permission.

I want somebody to share
Share the rest of my life
Share my innermost thoughts
Know my intimate details
Someone who'll stand by my side
And give me support
And in return
She'll get my support
She will listen to me
When I want to speak
About the world we live in
And life in general
Though my views may be wrong
They may even be perverted
She will hear me out
And won't easily be converted
To my way of thinking
In fact she'll often disagree
But at the end of it all
She will understand me

I want somebody who cares
For me passionately
With every thought and with every breath
Someone who'll help me see things
In a different light
All the things I detest
I will almost like
I don't want to be tied
To anyone's strings
I'm carefully trying to steer clear
Of those things
But when I'm asleep
I want somebody
Who will put their arms around me
And kiss me tenderly
Though things like this
Make me sick
In a case like this
I'll get away with it