Monthly Archives: November 2011

Support Systems

Life lately has been interesting, and by interesting I do not mean easy.  It has been actually extremely difficult. Set in a backdrop of dissonance on a national and global scale, we are all expected to maintain a certain amount of strength and accountability more than ever.  It feels hard to ask for help and support, even as unavailable as things may seem, but it’s important more now than ever before to do so.  While I feel like we are awakening to a new consciousness in these crazy times, our senses are heightened, and we holding each other accountable in new ways with our own responsibilities.  But it is equally important to remember that there is magic in the minute; deeper meaning in the subtleties.  This is not so much a post about 5 things as it is a testament to people who have been important to me lately, regardless of how often or infrequently that I see them.  People who have helped me with the simplest of tasks, by mere suggestion, by a kind word or message.  Like making candles with Anna, riding bikes with Kristen, Nathan making dinner or video-chatting with Emily.  Just seemingly little things that remind me that I am part of the fabric.  That we are all part of each other, and are bound together by admiration, dedication, hardship, understanding, creativity,  joy, assistance, strength, stamina and belonging.  Oh, and Love.  There’s a lot of that too.  All of these folks have been on the higher point lately, helping me navigate my time in Portland, whether they know it or not.   Thank you.  I want to give it all back to you tenfold.

These are people and some things.  Photo credits are labeled, all other photographs are by me.  Sorry I am not very good at formatting this shit.  I will work on it.

Photo by Bloodhound Photography

Photo by David Andreko


Ice Cream Series by Larry Yes

Photo by Christian Johnson

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Examples of the Smaller/Bigger Picture

Hello!  It really has been an inexplicably long hiatus.  I have no excuses, and I will own my own part in the recent gap.  There.  I just had to get that off of my chest.  And now I feel better.

5 THINGS  for November 5, 2011 – A Saturday of Epic Proportions

  1. My radio alarm clock is so much nicer to wake up to than a cell phone alarm, so I prefer to use it.  However, since I have moved to Portland, I haven’t really been into finding a local radio station that I like, (meaning I just haven’t taken the time to spin the dials to find the stations, and my clock is old so often it feels sensitive in finding a clear station, like breaking into a safe, and I just can’t be bothered).  The only clear station I have found has literally been a right-wing conservative Christian talk-radio station, and I am open-minded.  The last couple of mornings I have been setting it in the hopes of breaking my new bad habit of sleeping too late, and so I wake to stories about finding Jesus.  This morning I woke to stories of loss, which is something I am not unfamiliar with, though I have my own methods for dealing with such things that call for a different kind of spirituality and presence.  I crossed from dreaming into waking, listening to a story of a woman talking about how she deals with her own loss of her child.  “When someone asks me many kids I have, I am faced with a choice…I decide whether I should tell half the story, or a quarter of the story, or tell the story at all and say that I have three children” (I am assuming she at one point had four).  I sleepily ponder the truth in this, and think about the many situations where I’ve had to decide just what and how much I should or feel comfortable with sharing.  I hit snooze.  In nine minutes, the radio comes on again, and it’s a different woman.  “I want to ask ‘why have you taken this child from me?’  I have many questions to ask God when it’s my time to meet him, but in the meantime I have learned that He’s telling me ‘You have a choice.  You have a choice to either be angry, or to serve Me.'”  I decided this morning that I need to find a new radio station to wake up to.  I also thought it was apropos of the day ahead.

    Gahr Farm

  2. I had a scheduled coffee date with Elizabeth, and had started driving down Fremont to meet her at her house when I realized that there was a plume, a tendril if you will, of white smoke inside of my car.  I switched the heat/defrost/off and pushed the dial to cold air all in the same motion, simultaneously pulling over as fast as safely possible, called Elizabeth.  When she picked up, I frantically and matter-of-factly stated: “I have to do coffee another time, there is smoke inside of my car.”  I practically hung up on her, turned the car around and drove the four blocks home, all the while trying to feel the dash with my hand, trying to feel where there would be heat, or smoke.  I have a suspicion that the problem is linked to the heat/defrost, as in the past week it sometimes smells like exhaust when I am running those things, but never has there been an actual plume of smoke.  This is problematic for obvious reasons.
  3. I call Alan, who is the owner of an exceptional shop in Salt Lake City called Clark’s Auto Service.  He is an old friend, and I try my hardest not to call him for mechanical advice unless I am at a true loss.  This particular incident falls into that category in my opinion, as I have Harriet’s* funeral to go to later this afternoon.  He calls me back while driving from Las Vegas.  I give him my rundown of the cars behaviors and he tells me, “Don’t drive the car.  It sounds like it’s starting to have an electrical short,” and proceeds to tell me that I could potentially start the car on fire and fry up the whole thing.  I do not want to deal with this problem on that level.  After the hypothetical prognosis, we catch up a little and he asks me how I am doing.  I tell him about my hard week, but then change the subject and ask about his happenings.  He tells me that the shop is doing great and that his family is doing well.  He tells me to keep my chin up, and that things will be okay on my end.  I know he’s right, but I have to admit I am pretty tired of telling myself that all of the time.  It is nice to hear such a warm and comforting voice though, from someone who knows me so well for the last fifteen or so years.  Hours later he sends me this text, which literally brings tears to my eyes:  Ryder, your lessons learned are carrying you well. Hold your course. You learn nothing from sailing smooth seas.   For all of you Salt Lakers with cars, go see this guy.  He’s amazing, and honest, and does good work and he gives solid, strong, and loving advice (though sometimes it will be about your carburator).
  4. I get a ride to and from the memorial in McMinnville, OR from an old friend of Thea’s named Bethe, and her husband James.  Bethe and I have known each other peripherally for a long time.  We both have the resident eldest dogs: Mine is Lucifer, a 14 year old husky, and hers is Evilla, a 13 year old chihuahua with a temper.  Evilla doesn’t really have any more teeth, so it’s nice that she can’t bite anyone any longer, though she can still angrily gum them.

    Lucifer at Gahr Farm

    Evilla under the kitchen table.

    On the way to McMinnville, we chat about Harriet and the farm and the family and the Christian Scientist traditions of death.  James admits that for a long time he thought that everyone meant Scientologist, which is the crazy religion that all of the movie stars belong to.  For the record, Harriet and Ted were NOT Scientologists.  I tell them about waking up to the christian talk-radio this morning.  On the way back, we talk about dog ailments and old-dog problematic behaviors.  Everything feels nice, albiet weighted, yet comfortable.

  5. The memorial itself was full of moments that cannot really be broken down into number 5.  Anyone who has witnessed a loss has contemplated everything that was summarized, observed, witnessed.  The sincere and the superficial, the recognition and the necessity of what it means to just be a support. Navigation.  The frailty and complexity of relationships, of the human experience, of the human body.  Specific things about the memorial of Harriet Gahr:  Sitting close between Alex and Eden.  We are shoulder-to-shoulder, my right hand holding Alex’s hand and my left arm linked through Eden’s.  The physical heat of our presence together is comforting and electric.    Bearing witness to the many people Harriet housed and ultimately adopted, many of them refugees unable to speak English, and also the local teens, troubled and addicted, she housed them all, she adopted them all, she loved them all.  Out of 14 kids who went their own ways, and/or learned English, and/or fucked up their own lives and families, nearly all came back to pay respects to this wonderful woman.  Bearing witness to the amount of people Harriet brought joy and love to: one woman who spoke said she had met Harriet in the 70’s, a man who spoke had only known her for 6 months, “but it was like we knew each other all our lives,” he said, holding his hands over his heart.  My own brief window with Harriet was only since the year 2000 and it felt like a blink, but it felt like forever.  She loved us all.  She absolutely loved us all.

    Young Harriet and Ted

    Old Harriet and Ted

  6.  After Bethe and James dropped me off I rode my bike to Mike P’s house and we drank beer and played Atari until two in the morning.

* Harriet Gahr was the mother of my dear and great friend Thea Gahr.  Thea introduced me to this family, and I’ve hung around ever since.  I’ve maintained a close relationship with Harriet and Ted (her husband) often staying out at their property usually for a few days at a time, but sometimes weeks and months at a time.  I have gotten to know many members of the large Gahr clan as well as other long-time friends of the family who’ve gotten sucked into their generous and magnetic pull.  That was just the kind of people they were.  Harriet passed away on Tuesday Nov. 1, 2011 (also Día de Muertos), after a year-long and heroic battle with cancer.  It is an honor and a gift to be included in this family, and to have been able to spend such good time with Harriet in the past decade.  www.gahrfarm.com

Thea and Harriet in 2009

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Back from An Inexplicably Long Hiatus

Hello-o-ooo again (to Mary and everyone)!

I have so little plans today and this weekend except to enrich my brain, eat sweet potatoes, read more about corporations, bake something with a sh*tload of apples (I have about four pounds in my cupboard), maybe make phở with Food Club and draw pictures. ‘Tis lovely.

Oh yeah, Halloween happened!

Pioneer Murderess Juli and Cool Mummy Isabelle

5 Things – November 1 – 2011

  1. Woke up around 6 a.m. to slight pat-pat-pat rain on the roof above our back stairs. I hear this early in the morning and it usually means weather is on its way. I’d heard it was supposed to get rainy-snowy later on Tuesday but I had high hopes that perhaps I could get on the bike early enough to escape the worst of it. Not so! It was full-on raining when I finally got out of bed to make coffee. Then as I was bundling up in the front room, I looked outside and big white flakes began to fall. It’s always kind of a magical, bizarre thing to see, the first snowfall, but it’s not surprising or early or anything. So I put on my “GIDDYAP” attitude and saddled up to a very slushy, chilly, exhilarating ride into work. My feet got completely soaked and were slightly numb, as were my hands, but my face/ears/neck were bundled, and my waterproof pants and jacket did their job(s). Fortunately we have a big heat dish at work and I plugged it in immediately to dry out my cycling shoes + sox. Getting ready for winter riding! Max Baer posted something on SaltCycle to the effect of “Sometimes when I am putting on all of my gear to go out riding in the winter I feel like I’m preparing for battle,” which is a very accurate analogy, I think.
  2. I actually arrived at work on time despite the crazy winter ride. Passed the probably freezing cold Occupiers and sent a “Bless you.” their way, to myself. I will admit that I’ve been spending more and more time lately listening to NPR podcasts, Radio Lab, reading stories about our economy, OWS, corporations, elections, ballot initiatives, “personhood” laws and their bogusness, and “Move Your Money” aka National Leave Your Bank Day. I feel like there’s so much going on right now, politically and internationally, with the protests and activists, that I’m distracted and what’s worse can justify it because I believe in the causes for which others are so bravely sacrificing warmth, security and the comforts of home. I say, At the very least I can be an informed, intelligent, independent-thinking citizen who is aware of her rights in this country. I downloaded the first 50 or so pages of this Study Group on challenging corporate personhood and revoking corporate welfare. IT’S SO GOOD. And free! Free information that we should be providing our kids in school instead of the inaccurate depiction of how the Constitution was this awesome democratic document (did you know that the word “democracy” never once appears in our Constitution?) written by sovereign, working class folks. Not! It was written by rich, privileged white men who created it with basically the sole interest of protecting their PROPERTY from England/other challengers. They wanted the freedom to exploit the riches of the Americas by themselves. I am fired up about this. Fired. Up.

    From OWS

  3. I’m listening to the new Laura Veirs album! It’s called Tumble Bee and it’s for kiddos. Some of the songs are kind of WOAH SILLY and some have been really enjoyable, as “an adult” listening. You can stream the whole thing on NPR.org in the First Listen section. I do love this woman’s voice. It’s interesting to hear new projects of hers, and think about what musicians start to write once they have children and might be easing out of their rock-and-roll lifestyles. I can/can’t believe you saw Laura Veirs at the grocery store. Of course you did!
  4. Called Mary around 3pm to check in. I still find it incredible that her consciousness knew she should head to the farm on Monday, something was coming up for her and she didn’t question it. That’s some powerful intuition. Although the family saw it coming, and may have been preparing for it, that obviously never makes it easier or less crazy to hear that someone is “gone,” and like Mary has said, there’s never a “timeline” with this sort of thing. Sending lots of hugs and warmth and love that way.
  5. I had dinner with Mom & Dad tonight and was feeling in general really grateful for the presence of both of them in my life, and my ability to hang out with my parents, NBD, kind of amazes me each time. I’ve gone through a lot of different feelings about it; when I first moved here I still needed my own time and space apart from them and living with them at first made me totally crazy. I created all sorts of stories like “This is unhealthy, I’m __ years old, I can’t live with my parents, I need my own place,” yadda yadda yadda. Now that I’ve spent four years living so close to them, going over for dinner, taking weekend trips with them, helping them when they need it, taking care of their house, car, dog(s) and cat(s)… I’m really lucky. I love having them in my life so frequently. I know it will be something I miss, deeper than I can even predict now, as it’s not reality yet, but living in another state will be difficult for me, the same way Charlotte has experienced living in (ahem) Mozambique for so long and now, NYC, which feels like another planet. But maybe it’s time for me to switch out of my role as the parent-guide, parent-caretaker, parent-liaison, parent-charmer and parent-friend sibling. Thinking about this a lot.

    Mom playing the melodica last spring.

  6. I was telling my parents about the RadioLab podcast “Loops” (HAVE YOU HEARD IT) and the story about the woman and her older mother getting Transient Global Amnesia, the kind of amnesia that’s pretty inexplicable medically, occurs suddenly and only within a 24-hour period (short-term), then the sufferer regains all normal memory functions. It has been known to happen after strenuous activities in adults ages 55-75, like SEX for instance, and I told my mom this and she was like “Help me! Who is this strange man on top of me!!!!!” burst out laughing. Then I burst out laughing. Dad changed the subject.   it was AMAZING
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