Friday, June 22, 2007


i just got noah some garden tools and he LOVES them. the green shovel especially. he wants to take it everywhere. and we've been having lots of fun digging, patting and raking the loose dirt beneath the birch tree in our front yard. maybe sometime soon we'll move on to actual gardening. hopefully this positive beginning will solidify for noah a greener thumb than his parents have! (more gardening here.)


last weekend we finally made it south to visit maryka in her new digs. she organized a day of adventure for us, including the "world-famous" fremont fair, a visit to the seattle aquarium, yummy indian food in the university district, a tour through the lovely university of washington campus, and last but not least, an evening stop at a scrumptious chocolate cafe. we had a really fun time.

noah enjoyed the aquarium, though i think he may have been more interested in his fellow humans than in his aquatic buddies. he did enjoy touching the starfish, though, and would have climbed right into their little pool if i hadn't stopped him.

more pictures here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

options for adventure

since we sent out an email asking for ideas for our future, we have received a lot of responses. thanks to all of you who read the email and thought about us and our situation. we really trust your ideas and opinions, and continue to mull over/pray about the variety of options that came up.

some of you also requested that we share with you the ideas we receive, so here they are (culled from emails, anonymized and quoted semi-directly):
  • Check out the Caretaker Gazette (an online magazine that has all kinds of opportunities for caretaking other people's homes and properties all over the US and in several different countries). Most of them are work for a place to stay situations, but they all vary.
  • Also, once I found a cool opportunity posted on Craigslist to live in South Africa and trade construction work for room and board on a wildlife reserve where they were building a small eco-friendly bed and breakfast. So you might look on Craigslist and see what you can find.
  • And then there is the Eco Village Network. You could check out the website...there are places all over the world, and several of them accept volunteers.
  • My daughter just went on a three week raft trip down the Grand Canyon with a couple that works at Holden Village. I'd never heard of it before and she told me much about it. They plan to visit there this summer. This sounds like such a special place and I was intrigued by the whole concept.
  • We tried communal living several times when our children were small, but we never found quite the right group. It just seemed and seems such a healthy way for children to grow and parents to share. My children's favorite living adventure was living above Taos, NM on 35 acres where we and another couple grew all our own food, had chickens, 3 green houses, an irrigation ditch to swim in, no running water and an orchard. They were 5-7 years old, so could run, play and pretend everywhere.
  • Have you thought about The Farm in Tennessee? It has been a place I have always wanted to go.
  • I think that Holden is a must. My son is still there and really finds it to be a place of growth. I still go up and work a few weeks a year and hope to retire there as well. Right now Holden is a very healthy place with families and wonderful people. No strife and you 3 would make a wonderful addition.
  • As for a possible place to go, we recommend you check into Holden Village. Our daughter's very close friends lived and worked there for two years. They've been going there every year for many years -- they love the inspirational spirit there.
  • before you even mentioned it, i was like - HOLDEN. it so screams you guys and your lifestyle and noah would love it there. ; ) aaron's skills would be handy there and i know you have been there and liked it. i would love to spend a year there after seminary - maybe right after, maybe later.
  • I think you are in a place that is becoming more and more common. If I could do it, I would get a self-staining house near a creek near Mt Hood. I've spent quite a bit of time there and it is out of the hustle bustle. You can grow food etc. There are a number of families there just like you. It is somewhat of a spiritual place and a center for natural living. I met a Western/Eastern physician who has a treatment center overlooking the Sandy River. They are typical of the community...natural health, high education, not materialist etc.
  • Since I'm attracted to the self sustaining lifestyle, I've also looked into a similar community in Northern New Mexico where solar works very well. Also, another community that is spiritual is Borrago Springs in the desert Northeast of San Diego. It gets very hot in the summer but is a priceless place. The very large Anza Borrego State Park surrounds the little town. It is a close community with retirees, artists, forest service people, and a lot of scientific types who come to study the desert and participate in the archaeological digs.
  • Have you thought about international work? For some reason when I was reading your post I thought of those essays in the sun a few years ago by a couple who went to Haiti (maybe a little extreme) and wrote so beautifully about the new kind of life they found there, including a connection with the real work and presence of Jesus. Also, when my family went to Africa when I was young it really changed me.
    Anyway, I don't know if the Episcopalians or Lutherans for that matter, have any interesting mission work where Aaron could put his building skills to work. Maybe this doesn't fit into your need for it to be free....
    My own transformative experiences have always happened in Canada! And, I think, when I encounter a good balance between security and difference/change/newness.
  • What about teaching at an international school? Teaching certificates are not needed. (2-year commitment, I think.) My daughter and her husband spent 4 years in Lusaka, Zambia and loved it. Pay was really good, too. Housing was free and they saved half of their salary. International schools are all over the world and mostly cater to international students. My daughter taught 4th grade and her husband was the school administrator.
  • 1.) Hike the AT. Or the PCT.
    2.) My older relatives have landed a gig wherein they manage campsites for national parks. They do Rocky Mountain National park every summer, and Everglades national park ever winter. They get paid some microscopic stipend and live out of a Winnebago. They have sold their home, and have what I would describe as a model of the perfect retirement.
    3.), which is neither cheap nor work-for-board, but still, very cool.
    4.) Another friend managed to find a homestay in New Zealand, keeping bees.
    5.) Americorps. I had a wonderful experience, I know many who did, but I also know it's a mixed bag.
  • I would like to register that I think you, Aaron, could make a great teacher and role model for young guys, and would attract people to your projects or classes or schools with relative ease. And Jess, our recent imagining of our life in Goshen, had we stayed here, involved giving my wife a lot of time for writing and crafting and so on, so I would encourage you too to shape your life in such a way that you have space to devote serious time to those kinds of things you want to be serious about even if they don't generate so much income... Work towards whatever gives you the space to experiment with stuff like that. Doula-ing seems (as it also seemed to my wife) to be a possibly wonderful complement to that kind of crafty living.
  • You're asking for adventures, and my recent wife and I have moved into the Boston Catholic Worker community, Haley House. We live in community, run a soup kitchen for homeless men, and work extensively with Boston's marginalized populations.
  • I vote for return to Southeast Alaska! - although I can't promise sun. At the very least we are all hoping for a visit.
  • Just brainstorming about your adventure here - it seems that you might be able to find some sort of internship, say working on an organic farm, or the like, that would provide housing. You might start your search by looking at online mags - like organic gardening magazine or mother earth news. Both of those also have monthly stories about families living organically in which you could probably glean some contact info. Organic farming is such a huge thing right now that I have a feeling there are definitely programs designed to help young families get started. You should also talk to someone at Sustainable Connections here. I know that they have start-up programs & could probably refer you to ones in other parts of the country.
  • As far as re-locating (as that sounds like what you're itching to do at least for awhile... ugh!) I seem to remember that when I read the Birthing From Within book, the author talks a lot about doula training & I think she runs a program down in New Mexico or Arizona. I bet you could even email her or her rep personally for some ideas & to see if scholarships are available. You wouldn't be near water down there, but you could combine the growing things idea with doula school & the southwest is a singular place to live.
  • Another idea, yet a place I haven't specifically been to, is Ithaca, New York. I was reading a lot about it in a back copy of Mother Earth News & it sounds like a fab place for the organically minded. There was also a town in southern Iowa mentioned in that article that is near a college and actually bans the sale of non-organic foods within its city limits - wow! So - both of those towns sound counter-cultural enough to maybe afford some possibilities for you. I don't know much about Holden other than it's a bear to get to from here (but that's not really an issue - and on the contrary, probably a good thing).
  • Glad to read your good questions, for which I don’t have any brief responses!--they’re too close to our own life and values. Well, here in Orvieto, we walk everywhere, don’t own a car, stop for a cappuccino break every morning — and yet life has become complex enough that it’s not at all some extended stress-free vacation...
  • As usual folks, my advice would be to come back up here (to Southeast Alaska) to work your magic at my shipyard. But what I will offer, is if at any point y'all want to take a break from south, come back for a small vacation, you are welcome to crash here any time. Our son is actually quite good with toddlers, and your company would be very welcome.
  • the only place i recommend would be the north house folk school in grand marais, mn. i was an intern there 4 years ago and it was wonderful. gm is a cool little town on lake superior.
  • My friend definitely feels you two are Maritimers at heart, and should be living in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. She says you seem attracted to blue collar types, lore and history, craftsmanship and intellectual stimulation all at the same time, and Lunenburg offers all of that. Of course, we would not encourage a move to Nova Scotia! She did say that Lunenburg (or Mahone Bay, NS) do not offer any good community of thoughtful, sane Christianity that she knows of. (The granddaughter of the designer of the Bluenose is raising funds to build a third Bluenose in Lunenburg!
so many wonderful ideas! it's awesome to hear everyone's stories and things you all have dreamed about doing.

currently, we're working on finishing up our application to be long-term volunteers at holden village (a very lengthy process!). as of now, spending a year at holden seems to be our top choice. it has a lot going for it: relative proximity to bellingham and to aaron's parents; would not cost us money; health care provided; welcoming place for noah; flexible work options; simple, communal life of hospitality; daily communal worship. we've had lots of affirmation about holden, both from folks who have been there or who know people who have been there. nearly everyone who knows something about holden thinks it a good option for us. seems pretty convincing!

that said, we are still open to being led to other places/people/work. aaron will likely send resumes to a few boat-building and craft schools, and i will hopefully apply to do the doula training program in seattle sometime soon, which could lead to...?

we also, of course, like the ideas that would let us be closer to friends and family in either new england or southeast alaska. maybe this adventure will end up being a longer pilgrimage of cobbled-together pieces, places and people. and we hope to cross paths with some of you as you journey on your own pilgrimages. hopefully this wealth of ideas can be helpful to us all!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

peace vigil

yesterday noah and i went downtown for the weekly peace vigil and the ending celebration of evan knappenberger's week-long stop-loss protest. we heard people speak about evan, about the war, about their own experiences, about their hope for change. one mother spoke about her son, evan's best friend, currently stationed in korea. she said she knew if anything happened to him she would become a crazy person. i felt the truth of that in my gut. i don't know how mothers deal with the losses of their sons, particularly through this kind of impure, unnecessary violence.

evan spoke after her, and he thanked everyone for all their support, and he told his friend's mother that he knew his friend would be okay. i really really hope he's right.

while i can't really say noah participated in the vigil, he did enjoy watching the colorful flags wave in the wind. many folks smiled and said hello to noah, mostly older folks, some of whom we knew from garden street united methodist or the quaker meeting. above is our friend leonard, who is nearly blind but full of passion. i also recognized one woman as ellen murphy, who was recently on trial for trespassing during a non-violent protest outside of representative rick larson's office. you can read more about her story here.

this experience has inspired me to start noah's "conscientious objector file." a few years ago i read this article in mothering magazine about how to help your peace-loving son avoid the draft, and i guess now is the time to put its ideas to use. considering noah does become a lover of peace... (did george bush's mother pray the same for her son?)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

amazing young people

recently i read an article in mother jones magazine about ava lowery, a 16 year old christian homeschooler and peace activist from alabama. ava has a website and blog called peace takes courage, where she writes mostly about the iraq war, politics and peacemaking. she is also gaining renown for her short "animations"--mini films that deal with issues mostly related to the war. i watched one, "WWJD," which was very simple but very moving. mostly it is just images of wounded iraqi children, set to the soundtrack of children singing "jesus loves me," and at the end she adds the text from the beatitudes. it was hard to watch. which probably means it was really important to watch.

i felt so moved reading about this articulate, passionate, talented, fearless, christ-like young girl. it gives me hope for our future. i'm also so impressed by her parents' ability to let her follow her own path, both in education and in life. i hope that aaron and i can figure out both how to let noah grow most fully into his own unique character and also how to best nurture in him christ-like qualities.


and on sunday evening aaron and i met another passionate young person, evan knappenberger. evan is a 21 year old iraq war veteran from bellingham who is staging a week-long vigil downtown to protest the military's stop-loss policy. here's a quote from his statement:

I am spending one entire week on a scaffold in downtown Bellingham in protest of the US military’s STOP-LOSS and INACTIVE RESERVE (READY RESERVE) policies, which are being used as a substitute for conscription in a political war, under the pretense of a non-existent national emergency, and destroying our military readiness as well as the lives of our young men and women.

aaron and i talked with evan for a few minutes and were impressed with his calm, peaceful and articulate manner. i kept thinking that this boy has experienced things that i never will--and hopefully that noah never will. and yet he is using his experiences toward positive ends, to help his friends be allowed to come home and live normal lives, and to help US citizens reverse their loss of freedoms.

i'd heard the term "stop-loss" before but didn't really understand it. basically, it seems to be a way to legitimize a sort of draft for people already in the military, preventing them from resigning and/or coming home. it's crazy. and it's crazy that our country is doing this in the name of "freedom." it makes me feel crazy that i live in a place where this sort of thing can happen--and the only explanation i can come up with is that everyone must be going crazy! sane people can't justify these things and truly believe they're okay.

i just keep thinking there are so many other beautiful young boys who are dying or being wounded physically or emotionally, and i grieve for them and their mothers.

evan's vigil will end on friday in connection with bellingham's regular peace vigil downtown, and i think noah and i will go. maybe i will take a picture and put it in noah's "conscientious objector file," tucked away in the event of more craziness in the future.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

aaron's big day

last saturday was a big day for aaron. it started with a 7:30am television interview and ended with a dramatic slide into home plate...

the interview was with local station BTV-10, regarding the annual york neighborhood dumpster day, which aaron was in charge of. (if i can figure out a way to post the footage, i will!) every year local trash company SSC donates a huge dumpster in the parking lot of nelson's market, as a service to our neighborhood. we try to time it for when students may be moving out and leaving strange items on the streets and in alleys, and we send trucks to roam the 'hood gathering trash. the dumpster fills up within hours, and in fact we had to turn some folks and their trash away.

aaron did a great job as the dumpster czar, and it was clear he enjoyed the hands-on nature of his work.

later that day was the big seaview north vs. seaview west baseball game, at a public field in arlington. it was a lot of fun, although it was super HOT! each team had shirts that said "northenders" or "westenders" and with their player names (aaron's was "hoser"). we met some nice folks from the other yard, including a pregnant couple who live on a 30-foot sailboat and intend to sail around the world after the baby is born. suddenly my fears about sailing to the san juans seem a little tame!

here's aaron the jock. (it's funny to see him with a baseball bat in his hand instead of a plane or a ruler.) he did have a dramatic slide and has the battle scars to prove it.

in the end, the westenders won, which wasn't a big surprise. they were wearing cleats, after all. (more pictures here.)

Friday, June 01, 2007

island stories

in eugene we spent some time in the smith family bookstore, which we all love. aaron got a new book on sailboats, noah got one on trucks and i picked a few island stories.

as aaron's little boat nears completion, i'm getting excited at the prospect of family sailing adventures out to the san juan islands. (did i just say that?) i'm nervous too, of course, but it is such a romantic idea. and i really do want noah's childhood to be a "time of wonder."