Archive for May, 2007
Hyrum's been having a little trauma lately. His big tooth is hanging by a thread and the thought of separation causes him intense agony. Now, if I even mention pulling it out he starts crying immediately. Who would have thought? I seem to remember facing my loose teeth with a little more stoicism, pride even. Bribery (aka the tooth fairy) doesn't seem to work in Hyrum's case.
We're in for a lovely weekend--the weather forecast predicts 90 degrees on Saturday, which is about as hot as it gets in this part of the country.
May 31st, 2007
I'm starting to see more people wearing shorts these days. This is a very good sign that summer has come to our latitude. Of course, the shorts worn per capita are not always a good indication of the weather. I had a friend in high school who, as far as I can recall, never wore long pants a single day during four years of rain, snow or shine. But tonight certainly qualified as a quiet summer's evening. I worked on the new poultry fence which, hopefully, will repel the neighborhood dogs and keep our laying hens safe this year. The boys played outside, digging in the dirt and looking for adventures in the long grass behind the shop. Even after two hours of outside work we still had time to go on a long walk around town. Sunset at nine p.m.... I could get used to that.
May 29th, 2007
We had planned to leave for Canada on Saturday morning, but Friday night Kayla and I held a quick conference: I mentioned that the weather was perfect, and she concurred by stating that she didn't want to make dinner anyway. So by 6:30 p.m. we were heading north with our van stuffed with gear and kids ready for camping. We took the western route, following Crowsnest Highway up over the pass and down the other side of the Selkirk Mountains. Two hours later we rolled into Nelson and set up at the municipal campground. We had planned to camp at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, but the lateness of our arrival forced a change of plans. The city campground backs up to a forested hillside but is otherwise unremarkable. It does sport a very noisy population of crows (as we found out early the next morning). It is also extremely handy for exploring Nelson, being only about three blocks from the historic center of town.
Saturday was spent exploring and walking around Nelson. The lakefront park was filled with hundreds of kids playing soccer, along with their parents and families. We picked our way across fields full of seven year-olds kicking indiscriminately, then spent some time at the playground. In the afternoon, we took the car and explored southwest into Castlegar, then played at a little regional park on Pass Creek. That evening I took a drive and explored more of Nelson. The interesting thing about the town is its hilly, vertical nature. In fact, nearly every residential street has a grade of at least 15 degrees, some much more. Being from a similar climate I am astounded that people can even access their houses in the wintertime on such steep slopes. There were some streets that extended like playground slides for a mile or more up the hillsides.
This morning we awoke to a slow drizzle. It seems like camping trips always end this way for us... beautiful sunny skies at the outset, slowly devolving to overcast skies and ending in rain. Maybe it helps us want to go home more. We packed up and, on Kayla's request, attending the Nelson branch of the LDS church. We had been there once before, two years ago. I have to hand it to the stalwart members in Nelson, because their congregation is as near extinction as any I've seen. It must take an unusually high level of dedication to persevere in the face of such small numbers. I pondered why, in a town of 10,000, the Mormon church has so few adherents. Our home town has a meagerly population of 2,500, yet has two large Mormon "wards" (congregations). I suppose history and happenstance have more influence than population.
May 27th, 2007
... and the garden is growing, no thanks to the cold spell we've been having this week. One of the perils of living on the 49th parallel is that gardening season tends to be a bit short. The last two years I've attempted to grow sweetcorn only to see the plants mature just as the autumn frosts start moving in. This year, I went after an early maturing variety that is supposed to shorten the time to harvest by almost a month.
The other areas of the garden are doing well, though the soil this year has been unusually dry (we're behind in spring rainfall). The peas are about eight inches high, and the potatoes have been hilled twice already. I am trying a bit of fertilizer this year, as well as lots of compost for the hot-weather plants like canteloupe and pumpkins. This year I moved some of the heat-loving vegetables to the front hill, so that freed up some space to experiment with cover crops. After scrounging around two counties I finally found a store that sold buckwheat seed, which comes highly recommended as a quick growing summer "green manure". If it is successful I'd like to use it to cover some of the areas vacated by early summer crops like peas and lettuce.
The weather has been chilly and rainy this last week, but at least partial sunshine is predicted for Memorial Day weekend. We're taking the kids camping in Canada (hoping to escape vacationers from the States). Two years ago we discovered Nelson, a beautiful little town on the west arm of Kootenay Lake about two hours north. There's a nice 30-minute ferry ride to cross the lake that is always exciting for the kids, so we're heading that direction this weekend.
May 24th, 2007
A couple of months ago, my employer signed a deal to create an executive MBA program from the University of Idaho at our campus in Sandpoint. Coldwater Creek's CEO, Dennis Pence, is a longtime Sandpoint resident and has been jockeying to get our company listed as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For". Bringing an MBA program to a tiny resort town is one of his many strategies for upping our rank in the polls. At first, I dismissed the MBA idea as being a bit shaky. The University of Idaho has never had a graduate business program, and frankly I don't expect the world's best faculty to be hanging about in north Idaho.
But my attitude changed as I began to consider my options. I've always had the MBA card tucked away in my back pocket, but I had envisioned a full-time two year program, preferably at some amazing school overseas. Then I began to do the math. Financially, a two-year MBA would be quite a setback. Tuition would run about $80,000 (taking as an example the University of Washington in Seattle). We could probably get by on $80,000 for personal expenses during the two years, including rent. The lost salary from my current job would be substantial. So we're looking at a hit to the bottom line of some hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ouch. Goodbye house. Goodbye savings. Goodbye north Idaho. Hello student loans!
After taking that cold shower of financial reality, the MBA program in Sandpoint started looking much, much better. What really set me on the path back to school was Coldwater Creek's offer to pay 75% of the tuition cost. It turns out money is a great motivator. Plus, classes are scheduled every other Friday and Saturday, so I am only missing two days of work each month.
Of course, this means I'll be insanely busy for the two years of the program. But my hope is that at the end of the experience, I'll have something significant to show for it. Some of my long-term career plans foresee the need to have an advanced degree, and this is a way for me to accomplish that goal without blowing my entire life off course to go back to school.
May 23rd, 2007
I've been contemplating several ideas lately from the book Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse. Since first pulling this book randomly off the library shelf seven years ago, Siddhartha has become a significant cornerstone of my personal religious philosophy.
The book, a short work of fiction, traces the life and development of a spiritual seeker who lived at the time of the Buddha. Siddhartha begins life as a favored Brahmin's son, performing his religious duties to perfection and becoming the model young man, full of promise and sincerity. Yet Siddhartha is not truly happy. While others praise his goodness, he remains unsatisfied with the provisions of his own faith. He leaves his home and family for the life of the ascetic, seeking the elusive spiritual goal that his teachers cannot give him. Over time he realizes that asceticism cannot provide salvation either. After meeting the Buddha and realizing that no teacher can ever exceed the Enlightened One, Siddharta becomes a merchant, eventually losing the inner conviction that once drove his quest. Finally he realizes what he has lost, abandons his comfortable life, and becomes a ferryman's companion to learn the ways of the river. In this desire-less state he learns the meaning of wisdom, finds enlightment and achieves the goal of his lifelong quest.
My short summary cannot even begin to do justice to this masterful allegory. But the main reason the book has such meaning for me is that I see my own life traced in Siddhartha's experiences. Siddhartha's life mirrors each stage in my own spiritual path so far: believer, missionary, skeptic, materialist. I too have encountered the amazing teachings of the Buddha, but withdrawn from the promise of joining a larger religous community to follow my own path. I see my own spiritual arrogance in Siddhartha's impatience and individualism. The dangers of Siddhartha's immersion in the material world are constantly present in my own life. The abandonment of desire that Siddhartha undertakes late in life still looms in my future. The book has become both a guide and a warning.
I have become convinced that each person has a unique spiritual path to enlightenment. Like a fingerprint, each path traces a unique line through the same territory of desire, suffering, death, and rebirth. We encounter thousands of fellow seekers along the way, but each must ultimately find that course for which they are suited, whether by instinct or intent. I feel that the path I have chosen is more rare than otherwise. I have encountered very few fellow travelers. And in some sense I feel that the path has chosen me as much as I have consciously chosen it; as if I were living out a script that was foreordained from the foundations of my genetic inheritance.
May I be as fortunate as Siddhartha in the outcome of my own journey.
May 22nd, 2007
Where has the time gone? Not only is Madeleine four months old, but I have completely neglected to post her pictures on this site. So to remedy this situation, I've uploaded a number of photos from the last four months to our Picasa albums.
And Google has finally come up with a clean way to integrate Picasa slideshows into any blog. This will make posting my photos much simpler. If you click on the slideshow you'll see some controls which will pause it or move through the photos manually.
If the slideshow above isn't working on your browser, click here to view the photos.
May 21st, 2007
It seems like most of the year's activities are packed into spring and early summer. This is the period when I have the most energy, the most ideas, and the best weather to accomplish them in. I've been working non-stop since the snow melted on our landscaping. In the last two months I've planted a garden, built about 100 feet of retaining wall, dug up the entire front hill and planted dozens of landscaping bushes, flowers and vegetables. During the same period I started outdoor soccer and have been rehearsing for our community choir, Wild Mountain Thyme, which culminates this weekend with three performances. I'm really happy that we've finally reached this point, because performing is much more enjoyable than practicing. Even with the inevitable faux pas.
I feel lucky to have found such a good singing group in a town as small as ours. Apologies for the blurry photo (courtesy the local reporter up in Creston, B.C. where we performed last weekend).
May 17th, 2007
Kayla and the kids are down in Spokane this weekend, so I have the rare opportunity to sit at the keyboard alone, listening to the Vienna Boys Choir, thinking my own thoughts in an empty, dark house. It's a rare privilege.
I never realized how solitary a person I am until I got married and we had our first child. The need for peace and solitude was suddenly urgent, and I have never really stopped loving that moment when you leave the rest of humanity behind and find yourself alone. To be fair I should say that in the intervening years I have truly learned to like people, in a more genuine sort of way, than I ever did before. I love my family. But it is heavenly to have a piece of quiet once in a while.
Tonight I'm in a reflective, nostalgic sort of mood. I found a few blogs of former missionaries I knew in Russia and have been catching up on their lives (at least the part they commit to writing). There's nothing like the distance of the past to bring out the meaning in the daily meaninglessness of life. I recently saw a film called Everything is Illuminated, based on the book by the same name. The film's title comes from a line in Milan Kundera's novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being: "In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine." That's how I feel tonight. Little rays of the past, all but forgotten, stabbing through the fog of the present to illuminate the way forward.
I once thought I lived a relatively sedate lifestyle. Replete with small adventures, true, but still slow-moving and serene. But in the last year my life has seemed to accelerate, speeding off into a horizon that unfolds so quickly that it is difficult sometimes to see exactly where it is heading. Really it's just little things. They all add up after a while. I've suddenly become involved in a community, which for me is a big deal. I didn't realize the impact moving to a small town would have on me personally, but it has truly made all the difference. I can't be anonymous here. I'm starting to recognize people at the store or walking downtown. I have an identity that is tied to a place... something so rare as to be almost nonexistent in our roaming, faceless culture. I am involved in two different singing groups here in town, as well as the indoor and outdoor soccer leagues. I like visiting the local art gallery and the farmer's market. I'm on first name basis with some of the librarians. All signs of a person beginning to set down roots after a wanderer's life.
I think a large part of this process has been my change in attitude toward my career. When I was fresh out of college, a job was an expendable thing, something easily won and easily exchanged. I had nothing to lose. Now, five years later, my job has become one of the major foundations of my life. (Reading that again, it sounds pitiful, but it's true... look at your own life and you will probably draw a similar conclusion). It's fashionable these days to disparage work, to long for the day when you can sit on the beach and sip Hawaiian punch and not deal with the grind of making a living. But I'd be completely dishonest if I didn't say that my job has become a huge part of my identity. As I've grown in my career, I have also become a much different person. Five years after graduating from college I suddenly find myself in a position where I value my job. I value what my job means to my family and my lifestyle.
I think I may be growing up after all.
May 13th, 2007
Here are some family photos from the last two months. There are several of the kids and from a camping trip I made to Lake Pend Oreille in early April.
Click here to view the Picasa web album.
May 7th, 2007