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No rhythm, dance anyway…

Day 67   Wednesday, September 14   Eureka to Klamath, CA   77 miles

Written Wednesday, published Thursday

First view of ocean

My first view of the Pacific Ocean on the trip

Well, it was one of those days.  It turned out to be a more challenging day than I had expected.  I never seemed to get a rhythm going today.  I left a little later than usual having stayed up too late suspending my daily discipline and routine momentarily.  In the first 15 miles I toured my way through two towns—Arcata and McKinleyville.  Unfortunately, there were numerous detours and found myself backtracking on more than one occasion, stopping frequently to check my map, and adding miles that I hadn’t planned on.  One detour caused me to overshoot the town of McKinleyville where I planned a late breakfast.  Having put breakfast off earlier I had to backtrack to the town rather than risk over-depleting my reserves by shooting for the next town.  After all that I had a flat tire.  No big deal except that all of the smaller events eventually caused me to alter my original plans to get to the town of Crescent City.  As it was, I arrived at a small pleasurable oasis (Woodland Villa Cabins and Country Market) 15 miles short of my goal at 7:00 p.m. and had to race around to get checked in to the cabin and order food before their 7:30 closing time.  The owner, Sharon, has a good thing going there and is a terrific host!

Flat tire

Only the fourth flat tire in 3600 miles--not bad!

I am much more tired tonight than I anticipated.  I have never completely adjusted to the overcast, drizzly weather of Portland even as I love the city and feel very much at home there.  Today was a prelude to getting back to Portland as the temperature never passed the 60 degree mark and most of the day was laden with a consistent blanket of fog.  I rode by the ocean for a few long stretches, but rarely could see beyond the beach.  Although it never really rained the fog eventually coated me with a slimy mixture of sweat and moisture that left me cold and uncomfortable (not to mention gross!).  I have told friends that I am an “avid fair weather cyclist”.  Today sort of confirmed that for me.  I was never really able to settle into a good rhythm as I was focused on staying warm and dry.  I may need to rethink my jersey/jacket options as it appeared that my jacket wasn’t breathing.  Between sweating and then the weather being both chilly and moist I ended up a soppy mess.  In the end, I arrived at my night’s lodging more mentally tired than physically as I just never really relaxed into the beauty of the day.

Ocean on a foggy day

One of the moments where the ocean was visible on an overcast, foggy day

Despite the fog there was still plenty for my eyes to feast on.  Eureka is on an enclosed bay so I was able to see hints of the ocean with the boats docked on the waterfront.  Today I came over a hill north of McKinleyville and as dropped back down the ocean appeared before me with rocky points reaching out t the ocean beyond that I could not see.  Twice I came upon a herd of elk grazing 100 yards off the side of the road.  One of the delights was taking a small stretch of land between Arcata and McKinleyville because of a detour.  The detour wound me through manure-covered farm roads, past tractors, cows, goats, and sheep.  I am not so sure what enthralled me with it, but I could have ridden on those roads all day long.  I could have a spent a day just in Arcata as well.  I rode through it fairly quickly on my way to get breakfast in McKinleyville, but the town square with its shops and restaurants was very inviting and calls for a trip back some time.  By the time I reached Prairie Creek State Park I was in the frame of mind to just find lodging for the night.  It was nearing 6:00 p.m. and the fog was starting to turn to mist.  I re-entered the redwood forest again.  There were times when I was tempted to stop for a picture, but I ended up pushing past the moment unwilling to linger any longer into the evening.

Joyful Healer

A visit to a creative mainline church in McKinleyville (www.umc-joyfulhealer.org)

I did spend a good deal of my time today discerning the breakthrough I experienced yesterday just before entering Eureka.  I can see now that so much of this pilgrimage has been about discerning my call in the Church and the community.  It is interesting that as I have reflected back on prior weeks, I have noticed how much anxiety I was feeling and expressing about the future of the church.  After yesterday, I can see more clearly that I have been working through my own sense of call more than I have been articulating the issues of the Church.  This doesn’t nullify the issues that the Church is facing or the validity of them.  Those are still real issues.  But the presence of the anxiety that has been revealing itself in my writing lets me know that this is really more about me and my sense of call than it is about the Church.

Elk

A herd of elk grazing near just a stone's throw from the ocean

Since yesterday the predominate feeling has been one of relief.  I am still trying to find words for what took place.  I don’t know the form that the breakthrough will take or how long it will take me to discern what it means.  What I do know is that I have been feeling unsettled and mildly frustrated for many years.  I think I have been feeling like I am the victim of my circumstances.  With the ongoing decline of many of our Presbyterian congregations I wonder if I have been feeling trapped in a system with no hope.  My breakthrough yesterday wasn’t a sudden epiphany that will reverse congregational loss.  The breakthrough was centered on realizing that I don’t have to feel trapped or allow myself to be trapped.

Whatever happened yesterday, I felt that that sinking feeling of being a victim of my circumstances was replaced by a feeling of empowerment.  I am not sure exactly what this means yet, but at its core I think I made the psychological shift that said, “The circumstances of the Church don’t get to determine my future.  My sense of call gets to determine my future.”  Somewhere in there the two got confused and I can see that I have been riding hard trying to push through this psychological barrier.  A dam of built up expectations and frustrations finally broke and now I’ll see where the water begins to settle.

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A subtle Eureka…

Day 66   Tuesday, September 13   Garberville to Eureka, CA   70 miles

Garberville

Leaving the town of Garberville, CA

What a day!  I continue to be asto

Large redwood

There are trees and then there are TREES!

unded by the process of pilgrimage and what seem like coincidences.  At some point a pattern of coincidences becomes a contradiction of terms.  I will get to that shortly.  I don’t know how many times I can say that I rode through some of the most beautiful scenery of the trip thus far.  I realize that I can look back at the Sawtooths of Idaho, Yellowstone Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and even some of the desert stretches of Nevada and say the same thing.  Today’s scenery was wholly different in that I wasn’t gazing at whole mountain ranges but at the mystical forests of the redwoods.

Avenue of Giants

Another cyclist slices through the Avenue of the Giants

I was unaware of the special route through the redwoods that parallels Hwy. 101.  I had not looked at my map that closely, but when I came upon the 30-mile alternate route that only added about 5 miles to the ride it was an easy decision:  stay on a Hwy. 101 and compete with the logging trucks or veer off into the Avenue of the Giants and wind my way through these remarkable ancient trees.  The ride through the forest was truly magical.  There was very little traffic and the road wove its way through the forest with the redwoods often straddling both sides of the road.  It is obviously a favorite of cyclists as I passed at least 20 other cyclists going the opposite direction touring down the Oregon coast and likely to San Francisco and beyond.  I have heard repeatedly that I am going the wrong direction.  The wind flows down the coast from north to south and most cyclists choose that alternative.  I, on the other hand, have to just be different!  And you all know how much I like wind!

Fallen redwood

I was lucky the tree wasn't any bigger when I ran into it!

It was also a strange day.  As I begin to make my way back to Portland I can feel myself emerging from the deep reflective space I have lived in for so many weeks.  I began to think about and project what all needs to be attended to when I return.  I was thinking about the coming months and my work at Eastminster.  I was reflecting on reconnecting with friends and family and how my new priorities would take shape in coming weeks and months.  Quite honestly, I was working myself into a place of anxiety.  Repeatedly, I had to remind myself to stay present in the moment.  With the beauty of the redwoods around me it didn’t take much effort to get my focus back.  But, I fluctuated most of the day between feeling anxious about putting life back together in Portland and staying with what was real right in front of me.  It actually was a good reminder that even when I do return I don’t have to take everything on all at once;  I can handle one conversation, one issue, and one moment at a time.  That’s always been good advice, but I had to repeat it to myself a number of times today.

The river bed

Between redwood groves the riverbed winds its way to the coast

And then something happened.  This is the part that still leaves me a little baffled by what seems like a pattern of coincidences.  My destination today was Eureka, CA.  I didn’t think much about the name as I have become used to simply thinking of it as a city name without much meaning. (sort of like saying Los Angeles without ever thinking about its literal meaning as the “city of angels”).  Eureka literal means “I have found it!”

Eureka bay

Finally at the coast and cooler, foggier weather. Portland must be close.

It wasn’t but maybe two miles before reaching the city limits that this strange day of emotion suddenly clicked.  I am not sure what caused it, but it happened all at once.  Something broke loose.  All the pushing through the miles day after day made sense to me.  I have been trying to push through and break through some mental and emotional block.  Despite trying to slow down I found my legs and my will propelling me forward more days than not.  I have written before that I have spent the last five years financially and emotionally surviving my sudden divorce in 2006.  Surviving is good, but I had begun to feel that all my energy was focused on surviving something from the past rather than building for the future.

It is too early to draw too many conclusions about what this means and looks like right now, but I did recognize the feeling.  There have been a few times in my life when I could tell in my gut that something felt absolutely right.  I felt that kind of a breakthrough and clarity today.  I had just experienced the breakthrough and had allowed it to settle for just a bit when I rode by the city limits sign to Eureka.  I just shook my head at the uncanny timing of having ridden 3500 miles vaguely aware that something was nagging me and driving me and the start of the breakthrough happens as I enter the town of “I have found it!”  Eureka, indeed.

I am going to spend the next couple of days making sure that this wasn’t just over-exertion or exercise induced euphoria.  What form this takes I don’t yet know.  What I do know is that my work of the past few years all seemed to make sense.  My role as a spiritual leader and my involvement in the community (I am the interim designee for one of our county commissioners and on various city committees) came together as one coherent whole.  I suddenly felt like I wasn’t just clawing and scratching to survive, but that all this hard work of recent years was leading me into my future.  Despite the uncertainty of life as a minister in this time I could feel my future actually drawing me forward.  I have not felt this for years and it was great relief.  If I feel the same way tomorrow and the tomorrow after that I think I might be on to something.

I passed through Eureka, Utah and nothing happened.  I stayed the night in Eureka, Nevada and just got rained on.  I rode into Eureka, CA and something seemed to break loose.  Third time is a charm, I guess!

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Soft eyes again…

Day 65   Monday, September 12   Ukiah to Garberville, CA   91 miles

Mendocino Valley

Leaving Ukiah and Mendocino Valley

I made the decision a few days ago that I needed to spend the last few days before arriving back in Portland savoring the experience with a return to more solitude.  Ukiah was the last planned stop to meet with members of churches to share what I have heard on the road.  With the open road once again ahead of me and no scheduled conversations I found that I relaxed into my riding again.  I could arrive at Garberville whenever I wanted and stop as often as I wished.  I found that my gaze softened again much like it felt during the first two to three weeks.  With the absence of an evening agenda I was able to enjoy the present moment more.

Northern California scenery

The beautiful scenery of Northern California

Speaking of the present moment I am sitting watching the Raiders/Broncos game on Monday Night Football.  I don’t follow football like I used to.  It’s become so technical and precise that it has begun to feel less like a game and more like two lawyers trying to outwit each other.  Having said that, I grew up in Colorado during the “Orange Crush” days of the Denver Broncos.  For years my mood on Monday was often dependent on how the Broncos performed on Sunday!  Anyway, I was in a market earlier today when I overheard two clerks discussing what two games were being played tonight.  The Raiders/Broncos rivalry was to be televised and it sounded like the perfect way to allow myself to relax and go mindless (football will do that to you!).  Plus my son has picked up the passion for the Broncos as well and it is something we can share.  Good boy!

A lot has transpired in recent days (as well as weeks).  I can feel myself now beginning to process and reflect on what all this means for my return to Portlland and Eastminster Church.  Truthfully, I don’t really know what it all means and what the implications are.  I do, however, have a positive feeling.  I do feel like it all represents a breakthrough in some way.  Most of all I can feel my own sense of call being clarified.  I can see that my mind is going there while I am riding.  My thoughts are not yet clear enough and consistent enough to know myself or to share.  But, I can see that I am now moving into this phase of sifting through all the experiences and conversations in preparation of returning to Portland much clearer about what gifts I do bring and don’t bring to the Church in this time.

I took a lot of pictures today–a sign that even with significant miles I had softened my gaze again to what was around me.  The rest of this day is best captured in pictures as any more writing would be forcing reflections that are still premature.  Here are some highlights of the day:

 

The UPS truck

Inside Joke! I took my son on a coming of age vision quest and the UPS truck is something I'll never live down!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elk Crossing

Now I know what an "ElkCrossing" really is. I saw about 50 elk, mostly single file moving over the hill. A highlight of the trip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Area 101

Looked like an interesting place to stop and get a drink. Turned out it was a Cannabis Club. I feel so naive sometimes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Redwoods

Enjoying riding through the Redwoods of Northern California

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandfather Tree

My bike looks almost lost against the trunk of this amazing tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott and Emily

What a kick...meeting Scott and Emily on the road who happen to live 1 mile from me in Portland

 

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Divine Justice or Divine Comedy?

Day 64    Sunday, September 11   Kelseyville to Ukiah, CA   45 miles

UUCLC

The UUCLC community gathering for worship 9/11/11

She opened the door and I immediately recongized her.  I was to be spending the night with my new host, Kelsey, and her husband and young children.  I only knew her by Kelsey (the last name held no significance for me), that she was the associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Ukiah, and that I might be speaking to her youth group later that evening.  I had spent the morning with my Unitarian Universalist community that I helped found after Kelseyville Presbyterian Church was not able to support  their growing presence years ago.  The split was on my mind as these two congregations worshiped just two blocks apart from each other–one that I belong to by ordination and tradition;  the other that I belong to in the same way that one belongs to an extended family.

Mt. Konocti

Mt. Konocti which overlooks Kelseyille on Clear Lake

She opened the door and began to ask if I remembered her.  Before she had a chance to remind me I stated her maiden name and smiled, stunned by the strange convergence of events.  Kelsey is the child of members of Kelseyville Presbyterian Church.  I was her family’s pastor while she was a young teenager.  She was there during the years of new growth, the ensuing conflict and my eventual messy departure.  Unbeknownst to me she went went on to become a camp counselor, finished college, became a youth director, graduated from seminary and recently became ordained as a Presbyterian minister.

UUCLC in park

A posed picture of the UUCLC after a water ceremony

There I was at the door ready to share the same issues with her youth group that cost me job years ago at Kelseyville.  After I settled in with a good shower I immediately assured her that I was not there to undermine in any way any work she was doing with her youth group.  I told her to use my experience on this trip any way she felt it would best benefit her youth.  She assured me that she had no concerns and we began to share our similar experiences of the loss of youth and young families in the Presbyterian Church.

Lake Mendocino

Passing by Lake Mendocino near Ukiah

We had a great meeting with about 15-20 youth and their adult leaders.  As I began to share about my experience the youth themselves opened up about their experience of church as well.  There was near uniform agree

ment that most of them were there for the people in the group.  It was the sense of community, fun, and mutual sharing that they enjoyed.  At the same time they shared that they felt the church was not often open to their questions, experiences and needs in church.  They talked about their friends who feel that the church brainwashes people (I’ve seen the machine in action!) and think it is weird to go to church.  They asked about my most embarrassing event on the trip (it’s just between me and them) and my most difficult (the day to Carson City in the headwind wins that one).  In the end there was a theme emerging:  “The Church needs to honor people’s real questions, be a safe place to share those questions, and be more welcoming to the outside community.”

First Pres. youth

The First Presbyterian youth group of Ukiah gathers to meet

Is this divine justice or a divine comedy?  15 years ago my attempts to guide a church toward these words got me in all kinds of trouble. There I was with one of the children of members of that church hearing the same thing from the youth that she is guiding along in their faith.  Rather than feeling threatened she was welcoming and encouraging the youth to say more and share more about how they really feel about the safety of sharing deeply and authentically in the church.  I appreciated that they shared how important the community was to them and also admitted that they aren’t sure how honest they could be with their real questions.  I also appreciated how open Kelsey and the other leaders didn’t defend the church, but just allowed the youth to be honest.

It was an incredibly rich day.  I attended the Unitarian Universalist service where a very moving poem by Maryann and Frederick Brussard was read that they had written on the afternoon of 9/11 ten years ago.  I was amazed by both the growth of the congregation since I last visited them and how few of the faces I actually recognized.  A sign of the growth and the mobility of our modern society.  I rode the short 45 miles to Ukiah and focused on really enjoying these last few days before returning to Portland.  My host and friend, Kathy, asked me that morning if I need to watch for “barn sour”.  I wasn’t sure what that was and she explained that when you go on a trail ride with a horse often when you turn around and start heading home the horse will power ahead with a singular focus of getting back to the barn. I told  Kathy I have to watch for a little of that.  I am really ready to return home now.  I know where home is.  I know who my people are.  I know where I belong.  I  would be tempted to turn in a “Beam me up, Scotty!” card if I had one at this point.  But, I do know that I would regret it.  I really do want to take advantage of this time to decompress and let my last images be of the Souther Oregon coast.

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Maybe a little acceptance…

Day 63   Saturday, September 10   Kelseyville, CA Rest Day   15 errand miles

Gary and Pam

Good friends, Gary and Pam, who were busy landscaping in preparation for their son's wedding

It will be hard to force myself to leave Lake County tomorrow.  I have visited places where I woke up in the morning and knew that I needed to move on.  As much as I might have enjoyed a place I knew that it was not home, that I belonged someplace else.  Such is not the case with Lake County.  I had a place here.  I still have a place here.  If I let myself I could almost fall back into the rhythm of the friendships, the local politics, the natural surroundings and life here.  There is no need to rush off except for the fact that my life is in Portland and much of the richness I experienced in Lake County I have also nurtured along in Portland.

Windrem's house

Enjoying a night under the full moon with good conversation and friends

After being on the road for so long and having only a handful of close friends to visit with I am yearning more and more for those deeper connections.  I have enjoyed and received so much from all the conversations with people I have met on the road.  But, I am also ready to be back with the people and the community who really know me, understand me, and sometimes tolerate me.  I have that here in Lake County.  It is just a taste of what I am returning to in Portland.  700 miles separates me and this return to home.  It is a wonderful feeling to know that the life that is awaiting me there truly is a return home.  I wonder if it is how Dorothy felt in the Wizard of Oz as she returned to Kansas and Auntie Em?

Ever since the desert of Nevada the word “acceptance” has continued to work on me.  Today it was coupled with “trust”.  It is ironic that as I have been working with the larger Church on embracing a more accepting stance regarding the shifts of our religious tradition, I don’t feel that I have modeled that same level of trust.  As I encourage our congregations to “let go” of the reins guiding their future, I find myself having a hard time letting go of trying to control my personal future security.  I want someone to assure me that I have a place in the Church and the community where my gifts and skills will be honored and useful.  The old models of “climbing the corporate Church ladder” don’t seem to apply anymore.  I can’t give Eastminster a blueprint of what their future will be like as they let go of church as they know it.  And no one can give me a blueprint of the future of ministers in a time when one form is dying and something new is being birthed.  That doesn’t keep me from wanting it and worrying about it.

Quilt Trail

One of many barn quilts around Kelseyville (www.lakecountyquilttrail.com)

After 3300 miles in the saddle and a full two months on the road I have not been successful at changing the world to better fit my image of how it should be.  I have not suddenly created a bridge of communion between the tradition of the Church and emerging spiritualities.  I am, however, slowly moving more into a place of trust that I will have just a bit part in a much larger unfolding drama in this new world in which we live.  Phyllis Tickle who wrote The Great Emergence said that paradigm shifts of this nature often take 150 years to play themselves out.  I am slowly accepting that the best I can do is to be faithful to honoring the Spirit of this time.  I don’t know what it means for my future security.  I can’t predict how it will shape and reshape what it means to be a minister.  I don’t even know if the gifts that I bring will be the gifts that the Church needs to negotiate this time we live in.  I would like to have more foreknowledge.  I would like to be able to control my future more than I have been able to.  But, in all fairness I am asking the Church to let go and trust and maybe I was pushed into this pilgrimage by my own fears around letting go as well.  A growing acceptance is working on me and with it a little more peace about a world I can’t control.

Tomorrow I will attend the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lake County service.  I am leaving Lake County with a much deeper sense of pride for my role in the development of that congregation.  I have  written a couple of times about feeling like I am more a “chaplain of the Spirit” rather than a “pastor of the faith”.  It is here in Lake County where that became truly apparent and was at the root of my sense of failure and pride.  As a pastor of the faith I failed miserably when I was not able to integrate this community of people into our Presbyterian Church, community and tradition.  If I had only been a pastor of the faith I would have left it at that.  But, in my heart I am really more a chaplain of the Spirit and it was never my ultimate goal to make someone Presbyterian just for the sake of being Presbyterian.  When these folks who had begun in the Presbtyterian-sponsored Quester Community approached me about consulting with them about forming a spiritual community my chaplain’s hat went on immediately.  It wasn’t about steering them toward Presbyterian faith.  It was about listening for the structure, the beliefs, the spiritual values, and the religious narrative that would best suit them.  After many months of discernment the decision was that forming a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship would best honor their sense of spiritual community and identity.  It was a rich time for me as we worked together over three years to get that community off the ground.

Clovice and Carol

Reunited with good friends, Clovice and Carol

Today I can say that I am proud that I did what was right for them even as it meant setting aside my Presbyterian ordination in order to keep the process clean and avoid any charges that I was competing with the Kelseyville congregation that let me go.  Now, twelve years later, I hold an entirely different view about the events of that time.  I no longer see this as a failure.  Today I see it as a feather in the cap of my ministry.  In fact, I would see it as a mark of maturity for any congregation that gave birth to a new spiritual community.  Our territorialism doesn’t serve us well.  Our narrow view of trying to nurture good Presbyterians rather than trying to help people connect with God or the sacred in a broad variety of forms makes us look like we like any other business competing for a place in the market.  This doesn’t seem to mirror the Jesus I know in our tradition.

I am a Presbyterian minister, but tomorrow I will worship with Unitarian Universalists even as Kelseyville Presbyterian worships just two blocks away.  Both will be doing special commemorations on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.  If I have my theology correct, God will probably show up in both places.

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On the way home…

Day 62   Friday, September 9   Santa Rosa to Kelseyville, CA   76 miles

Santa Rosa fog

Riding into the chilly fog in the Sonoma Valley

Kelseyville is a small town made up largely of farmers and retirees from the Bay Area.  I live in Portland now where I am lucky to have an assortment of independent theaters, hundreds of restaurant options, museums, and concert halls all within a few minutes of a ride on the public train system.  Plus Portland has Powells–the coolest bookstore in the whole nation!  Even with all those cultural options I had mixed feelings about leaving Kelseyville in 2002.  It did make the best sense for our family at the time for economic reasons, but I also knew I was leaving a piece of my heart behind.

Wine Country

Riding through the wine country of Sonoma and Mendocino counties

As I turned onto Kelsey Creek Rd. just a few minutes ride to my dear friends, Kathy and Peter’s home, I started to feel a little closer to home.  Portland is still a good 700 miles off, but I still feel like a piece of me belongs here.  I have a few friends here who walked with me through the entire journey of our Kelseyville experience–from the shaping and development of the Quester Community, to the subsequent conflict and controversy, and finally to the chartering of a Unitarian Universalist congregation which is thriving and growing.  It felt really good when Peter said, “Look what you started with the Quester Community.”  I replied that I was pretty proud of what we did here in Kelseyville.  I was not also able to say that.  I internalized my forced resignation as a sign of failure as a minister.  It is only in hindsight and with the benefit of age that I can see that losing a job is sometimes a part of the process of birthing something new.

Clear Lake

Viewing Clear Lake below from the top of Hopland Grade

I will take the day tomorrow to visit with old friends and get reacquainted with some I have not connected with for years.  Since my two impromptu naps yesterday in the park I am savoring and looking for ways to allow for more unscheduled time.  I don’t want to relish it so much that I don’t continue to move forward toward home, but I am finding that as I near home I am looking to create a pace that I can carry with me as I return.

Free Thinkers sign

I immediately checked to see if fluid was coming from my ears as I rode by!

Today was a picture of extremes.  I left Santa Rosa while the fog was still sitting fairly heavy in the Sonoma Valley.  I dressed lightly knowing that eventually it would burn off, but I was chilly for the first few miles of the ride.  By the time I neared the town of Hopland about 25 miles from my destination the heat was scorching.  It was even hotter than what I had experienced in the Nevada desert.  In Hopland two men, Mike and Scott, reported that it had gotten to 106 degrees just before I had arrived.  I can’t confirm that that was the actual temperature, but I do know it was hotter than the high 90’s I had experienced in Nevada.

The night is cooling now.  Peter, Kathy and I sat out on their patio under a near full moon and caught up with each other.  Deer were silhoutted out in their pasture.  Crickets were chirping.  The moonlight cast long banners of light across the fields and hillsides.  The beer was cold.  The food was elegantly and tastily prepared.  But, the Giants lost to the Dodgers.  So it wasn’t quite a perfect night.  I will sleep well tonight. It isn’t my bed, but it feels a little like home.

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Day 61    Thursday, September 8   Petaluma to Santa Rosa, CA   22 miles

Written Thursday, sent Friday.

Cornelia

Petaluma host, Cornelia, a minister colleague with whom I had a good conversation about religious "discipline".

I feel like the day was split into two pieces.  There was the bulk of the day that is hardly worth reporting because I allowed myself to go mindless.  I only had a short hop into Santa Rosa of about 15 miles from Petaluma that took me just over an hour.  I landed at Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa. This was a favorite location when I was living in the more rural Lake County over an hour northeast of here.  I would often come here on a day off to shop for books, enjoy a meal, and maybe catch a movie.

 

Shultz sculpture

Santa Rosa is the home of the late Charles Shultz, "Peanuts" creator.

I had about five hours to myself before meeting my host for the night and I just stopped.  Stopped riding, stopped thinking, and stopped reflecting.  I allowed a deep tiredness to overtake me and I laid down under the rays of the early afternoon sun with children playing nearby and the hum of an afternoon lunch crowd lofting above me as I fell into a dreamy sleep on the small green lawn of the downtown park.  I faded in and out with the sounds of the downtown city noises startling me awake at moments.  This was all about completely stopping and simplifying and I made my way to the old Mexican Restaurant a block away and ordered something simple and fresh—cold gazpacho soup made entirely of fresh vegetables and avocado.  Then I went back to the same spot in the park, leaned back and fell asleep again.

The Rhodes house

Liz, Chris, Roger and I explore the shift in our churches and culture over Red Tail beer.

The second part of the day was arriving at Chris and Liz’s house where I am staying for the night.  Chris is very involved in the church at the local level, the regional level and the national level flying to Louisville twice annually for meetings related to the national direction of the PCUSA (Presbyterian Church USA).  He invited Roger from a nearby Presbyterian Church to join us for a conversation.  Roger grew up in India as the son of missionary parents and has a broad ecumenical view.  I have promised myself that I wouldn’t think too much today, but here were some highlights of some of our questions and thoughts:

  • Chris’ church hosted Peace Camp this year instead of Vacation Bible School and it drew three times the usual number.  It fits my understanding that our culture does honor spiritual values and is less interested in whether those values are formed from the Bible or not.
  • We all discussed how our churches seem to connect with the community pretty well on service-oriented projects, but that expecting the same people to show up for worship is too much of a stretch.  I am wondering if “worship” carries with it an assumption of honoring an external God while so much of our theology and spirituality has shifted to an awareness of the god who is reflected in our own lives and community.
  • Roger, who is a retired social worker, brought up the question about how this seismic shift we seem to be in isn’t limited to the religious world, but seems to be part of a shift in our political, culture and economic worlds as well.  I intuitively feel that is the case, but can’t get my mind around what this larger shift is and what role religion and spirituality are playing in it.  Just more questions with no clear answers!

                OK…that’s all the thinking I am doing for tonight.  I do feel I am beginning to decompress and starting to allow myself to relax after pushing so hard physically and mentally.  I think that is why I felt so tired this afternoon and just let the sun soothe me to sleep in the middle of town.  I do want to come home feeling refreshed rather than burned out.  There will be plenty of time to write and begin exploring the implications of this trip.  I don’t need to cram it all in in the last two weeks.  Tomorrow I am off to Lake County where I have dear friends to visit and reconnect with.  Yay!

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