Some days ago, I wrote that the first roast log would be arriving soon. It took longer than expected. There were a few false starts. I’d get something down, and a morning later it wouldn’t sit well with me. Finally, pen swiped paper in the right way, and I liked it. I had written something I liked.
On biblical interpretation.
Oh well. It was on my mind, so fair enough- it was going on here. I folded it up, stuck it in an envelope, gave it to a young woman named Hadley for safekeeping, and took off for Switzerland. Details are fuzzy, and involve a train station and a briefcase, but I never saw it again.
Or something like that. The important thing is that it’s gone, so in the interest of getting something, anything, down, here are some cut-up thoughts. For you.
I’m fascinated by collectives, and the arts, and culture, and spirituality. I’m fascinated by their intersection. I don’t have much interest in coffee in a sterile, industrial context, but when I consider roasting in terms of the aforementioned, I get excited. I get excited to learn, to study and craft and excited in knowing that I can, and will, do that this very day. I imagine my heart rate goes up, and I smile much more easily.
I used to give myself pause in writing certain things for thought of not having enough to offer. I thought you had to have a complete picture and understanding, and your work would carefully expound that understanding, and feed it to whoever was reading. That style though… That belongs to technical manuals- the least imaginable works around. They may be practical, but they’re better known for putting men to sleep than waking readers up.
Now, I work through things as I write, aware but not threatened by my lack of grasp or understanding. And I tell you, regardless of whether or not it wakes any readers up- it’s good for my soul.
A few mornings ago I had my best roasting experience to date. The mountain valleys dark green, and ranges beyond grayer as distance increased. Selective mists coupled with the morning light made the scene surreal. Every “walk to daylight” while checking roast progression was beautiful.
And what I heard… Normally, here at Sandra Farms, roasting is accompanied by the sounds of beans tumbling in the drum and the faint whirring of mechanization. This is what many roasters prefer. When asked what music they listen to while roasting, about three quarters of the competitors profiled in 2013’s World Roasting Championship revealed that they never listened to music while roasting. Auditory cues can be very important, such as in detecting first crack, and music can be awfully distracting.
And worth it. If you’ve driven in a car with me, you probably know how stubborn I can be in my insistence upon listening to music. This morning was no different.
1.) Phosphorescent- Song for Zula
2.) Red Tail Ring- Katy Came Breezing
3.) Isaac Joel- Take Care Of
4.) Propaganda- Forgive Me For Asking
Six batches were roasted that morning, many milestones were reached on target, the smell of slight caramelization unparalleled. All of this to say- it was quite nice.
Watching raindrops slipping down a window pane I remember what I remembered then When I knew not what I know now. How much has slipped away. Yet how much is given- Again and again.
I’ve come back to this video every few months or so since it came out. Every time that I watch it, it strikes something new in me. It’s an incredible witness of purpose and love being found through brokenness, confusion and pain and is full of parallels regarding our own redemption. I hope that you’re able to find something in it as well, even if you’ve seen it before.
That’s a great question, yet one that I dislike answering in person. I find it difficult to come up with a brief answer on the spot that fully expresses “why” accurately and comprehensively. If I speak at length on the subject, I usually find myself quickly digressing and, again, end up dissatisfied with my own answer.
Truth is, as I’ve included in my response several times, my answer isn’t simple. I don’t have a quick “college is a racket” or “I don’t have the money to stay in school” answer. My decision to drop out has been the result of much introspection, evaluation of values, goals and purpose, input from persons whom I love and trust (some suggesting I stay, some suggesting it may be best not to do so), and reflection upon where I feel I’ve seen the hand of God very much at work.
Every once in a while, when asked what my reason for leaving is, I hear instead someone accusing me of doing something foolish rather than someone looking to understand my motivations (the chances that I’m speaking of you are slim- rest easy). That’s fine. The fact that this might offend or upset me makes myself more aware that I may be a bit prideful. Maybe more than a bit. Anyway, in their eyes, I am doing something foolish. A column in this morning’s Jackson Citizen Patriot states, “All of the data says the same thing: getting a college degree is about raising your standard of living over a 40-year career.” The fact is, raising my standard of living over a 40-year career isn’t high on my list of priorities, let alone on it to begin with. I’ve lived in a trailer without heat, a canvas tent in the woods and a camper without electricity at different points in my life, and I didn’t feel like I was particularly suffering. Each were wonderful experiences that I look back upon with fondness. It’s funny thinking about times in my life when I felt “displeased” by my surroundings or “trapped” in a sense and the conditions I was living in. I’m a fairly flexible person and don’t require much. I understand that I’m young, but won’t always be and I understand that I don’t have a family to provide for, yet may someday. Matt. 6:31-34.
I also know that my main focus in finishing my degree at this point in time wouldn’t be in order to better prepare myself to live in the way that I think God wants me to live. My aim moreso would be attaining a degree in order to gain the security of being able to more easily find employment and esteem in the eyes of others. I don’t think that those are good enough reasons. I don’t want my story to be one of pursuit of security, comfort and man’s approval, although I absolutely get caught up in those from time to time.
Where Am I Going?
Life is something unfolding, something to be experienced. At the beginning of March, I’ll be flying to Puerto Rico and staying at Juana Diaz’s Campamento del Caribe for a period of time yet to be determined. My uncle is the executive director of the camp. I’m really looking forward to seeing him and his family there.
I don’t know how indicative of the camp as a whole these pictures are, but they were my favorites of those that I looked at:
After that, I’ll most likely be heading back to the U.S. Chances are good that I’ll first head back to Yosemite National Park or possibly to Mt. Rainier National Park. After some time there, I’m thinking of joining the Americorps (much like the U.S.’ domestic Peace Corps) for a year, and I also think living in a L’Arche community for some time would be beneficial as well. Of course, this is all tentative and absolutely subject to change. There are plenty of other things, groups, and endeavors that I’d like to get involved with or pursue, but there’s no sense in trying to live that far into the future.
What do I want to do or plan on doing? Live simply and holistically. Appreciate and be grateful. Use what I’ve been given responsibly. Gain understanding. Cultivate something beautiful. Be open to leading. Love. Things like that. When I think of persons whom I most admire and respect, I see gentle people living in uncommon ways. People who look others in their eyes and listen and take time to be thankful and breathe and care.
Erich Fromm says, “One cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often.” I think he’s right. But this pain and sadness and sacrifice is something that God can work through so powerfully. A humble, broken, and contrite spirit is fertile ground for making a difference upon the world.
I hope that this answers some of the questions that some of you have posed. If there’s anything I should elaborate on or any more questions, don’t hesitate to let me know.
Listen/ W.S. Merwin
Listen with the night falling we are saying thank you we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings we are running out of the glass rooms with our mouths full of food to look at the sky and say thank you we are standing by the water thanking it smiling by the windows looking out in our directions back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging after funerals we are saying thank you after the news of the dead whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you over telephones we are saying thank you in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators remembering wars and the police at the door and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you in the banks we are saying thank you in the faces of the officials and the rich and of all who will never change we go on saying thank you thank you with the animals dying around us our lost feelings we are saying thank you with the forests falling faster than the minutes of our lives we are saying thank you with the words going out like cells of a brain with the cities growing over us we are saying thank you faster and faster with nobody listening we are saying thank you we are saying thank you and waving dark though it is
Thoughts with some reservations. Get them out- and then aim for clarity and centeredness.
-I’m sitting in a Panera Bread in Grand Rapids, MI. There are some very classy people in here. I mean- fantastic scarves and overcoats and it all seems so European chic. But it also seems so cold. Some people have recently remarked- my thoughts are interrupted by, judging from the looks of it, a wonderful elderly couple. Back to what I was saying, I’ve heard more than one person talking about the “coldness” of people and interactions here in Michigan, especially certain parts. I hadn’t ever really given that any thought, but- after hearing it- I can see it. With awareness… perception changes. But not everyone here is cold. Not at all.
-I finished my first semester at Spring Arbor. It was good. Someone asked me last week if I regretted coming here.
Nope. I don’t. Not at all.
I haven’t enjoyed all of my time there. In fact, I’d say most of the time I haven’t necessarily enjoyed. This is due mostly to 1.) the atmosphere and 2.) the concept.
I’ve always found myself more apt to truly pursue the meaningful in settings that aren’t necessarily considered “Christian”. I don’t want to get into the nuances of that statement. The effect that the setting oftentimes has on me is very sterilizing- I tend to forget things because they’re taken for granted. It’s difficult at times.
And the concept- I’ll just use an M. Scott Peck quote to summarize my thoughts- “To be organized and efficient, to live wisely, we must daily delay gratification and keep an eye on the future; yet to live joyously we must also possess the capacity, when it is not destructive, to live in the present and act spontaneously. (Road Less Travelled, p, 64)” The struggle is in the balance. Which is true for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
Facets of this experience have pushed me and stretched me in several key areas, and I’ve met people that I’m so thankful to know. I see so much room for improvement in my own life and, in all honesty, though I’m constantly pining for the mountains or “freedom”, I’m looking forward to the challenges… opportunities… that lie ahead.
-I saw Kenneth Thomas last night. He did well. He definitely didn’t stick to melodic progressive trance or house which is unfortunate in my eyes, but it was a fun evening. He did drop Hot Mouth/Chris James- “Totally Worth It” though- which I was so down with… It’s so far from his roots, but that bassline… yeah. Was really blessed with good company as well…
-I’ve got some Thomas Merton in front of me and a whole day to spend with him. And Adam Haslett. And M. Scott Peck. And God. Good deal…
-I pick Trevor up from the GR airport at midnight tonight. Really looking forward to that and his time here.
– I slept in my car last night. It was absolutely wonderful. It’s no fluke that I was so very much into “vandwelling” in High School. I wonder how my old inspiration Two Knives Katie and her dog Mutt are doing…
Anyway-I hope that one day travelling aimlessly but absolutely meaningfully by vehicle will somehow not be as morally repulsive from a resource management perspective as it is to me right now. Waking up and driving off, not knowing where I’m going but fully taking in the warmth of the glowing sunrise, sleeping bag on my lap, pillow at my back. It was so nice… Someday…
-Listened to Michael Moore speaking on “Democracy Now” this morning. He absolutely killed it. So much of the reaction from notable recent events has been that of calls for treatment of symptoms- gun control law and reform, better contingency plans for chaotic happenings, etc. These are absolutely on topic and debateably useful, but so much is left unsaid about treating the root causes of many of the maladies that cause such happenings throughout the world. “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” J. Krishnamurti. It was nice to hear someone taking a look at the whole rather than isolated events and actions- absolutely a sociological perspective. Totally off topic, but I’m going to bring it up anyway- “Want to stop terrorism? Stop participating in it.” Noam Chomsky. Anyway- I’ve read some of Moore’s books and while I’m not his biggest advocate, I really appreciated his perspective this morning.
-As of about a week ago, I have a kitten 🙂 Her name is Tazo and she’s wonderful. I think she looks like a little brown lynx. When I get back to Jackson I’ll have to put up a picture. She’s staying there now- a friend is visiting the house at intervals to take care of her.
“I have suddenly woken up to the fact that somebody needs to be teaching theology the way St. Augustine did and not the way textbooks in seminaries do. Someone should be able to find the Living God in scripture- and this is his word- and then lead others to find him there and all theology properly ends in contemplation and love and union with God- not ideas about Him and a set of rules about how to wear your hat.” -Thomas Merton, The Road to Joy (p.172)
There was a point last year, when I was in Yosemite National Park, at which I decided not to write on here for the time being. I can once again understand the feeling.
Yosemite is a wonderful place for experiencing and reflecting. The downside is that with all of those new experiences and reflective moments, documenting them regularly is sometimes easy to forget about.
With that said, I will write a little.
The Present: I’ve been enjoying my time here. I live in a wonderful tent in the woody village known as Boystown. I wake early in the mornings, either for work or for Yoga and drink much tea (and good South American tea too, thanks Mom. .. ) I’ve been cooking and preparing much of my own food which has been an adventure in and of itself. I will say, I have come a long way since I started. I make copious amounts of yogurt, oatmeal raisin bread, whole wheat crackers, tomato basil hummus, serrano/tomatillo salsa, banana oatmeal milkshakes, parmesan kale chips, cinnamon apple granola, quinoa salads, rice pilafs, peanut butter and some other things that I’m forgetting. Probably about 75% of my diet is there on that list. I’m quite nearly a vegetarian.
I still enjoy riding my bike and do so every day. I’ve been blessed with a Brooks B17 saddle which has been wonderful. Meditation/contemplation/solitude and reading are some of my favorite things to do as well. There are no thrift stores in Yosemite National Park, but when I make it out of the Valley I make my trips worthwhile (purchasing the bulk of my food as well- although not at thrift shops.)
I’m working as an Inventory Clerk at the Studio Warehouse here in the park. The job is good, although I don’t often feel very good about what I’m actually doing (a cog in Delaware North Companies sleazily efficient retail machine.) There’s a drum set hidden up in a corner on the second level of the warehouse which has been enjoyable from time to time. I work with a guy about my age from Mississippi (the son of an English vagabond), a middle-aged Prison Sergeant away from his previous job because of stress/health reasons, a computer programmer, a blind man with a wonderful heart (who amazingly works as a crushing machine operator for recycling) and several other stressed-out adults with too much on their minds and not enough rest.
I miss my family much. It was wonderful being able to spend time and travel with them, but now they’re off, either on another continent, about to swing past me from Michigan to LA (USC!) as I head back to the Midwest or in other random places. There are others in different spots, although I think most would call them friends, but I think they’re more than that due to the heart bonds. They’re above friends, but not family- I don’t know what they’d be exactly. Anyway, they’re all over the place as well… And I miss them as well.
Near Future: I’m taking off soon. Actually in less than two weeks. Longest solo trip thus far in my life- Greyhound, 63 hours across the country. I’m headed to Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Michigan, in order to study either Social Justice or International Development. Some friends that I made here, who are involved with ACMNP (A Christian Ministry in the National Parks*), are currently attending SA or recently graduated. The fact that I’ve really enjoyed my time with them and have been impressed by their demeanor, actions, faith and reading habits, played a large role in my decision to head over to their school. Prayer as well as guidance from friends and family also played a definitive part in the choice. I’m excited and anxious, as well as nervous. I do hope that it goes well and I am planning on putting much into it. First semester should give a fairly good idea of how it is, and the second semester may possibly be spent in Guatemala (I’ve gotten conflicting reports on the likelihood of that.) I’ve hear very good things about happenings at the school and the Professors as well. Of the two graduates that I know, both have spoken highly of the school. The only shortcomings that I currently foresee have to do with regulations against candles and incense in housing and a required meal plan. I suppose both are surmountable. I am a bit bummed that as Trevor heads to California from Michigan, I’ll take off for Michigan but such is life I suppose.
Reading: In the past two weeks I finished “Eat Pray Love”, “The Death of Ivan Illyich”, “Into the Wild” and “Car Camping”. The middle two books I loved. Both are very good, for very different reasons and I recommend them both wholeheartedly. If you could only read one, however, I’d say you must surely go with Tolstoy. “Eat Pray Love” wasn’t terrible. A fantastic concept, but borderline shallow- almost reading like a Salon editorial. It has some internal inconsistencies as well, but all in all was an entertaining read and it had more quotable parts and concepts than I guess I’d like to admit. “Car Camping” was a wreck of a book.
I’ve also started David Platt’s“Radical”, Tozer’s “Pursuit of God”, Lewis’ “The Four Loves” and “New Spanish Self-Taught Revised Edition”. “Radical” is quite good so far, “Pursuit of God” is fairly amazing, “The Four Loves” has been hard to get into and the Spanish book has been on par with what I would consider to be quite average.
With that I’ll end this thing. I hope that this finds you well, as well as growing in vulnerability, conviction, trust, faith, truth and dependence.
*Correct, “A” stands for “A”.
PS. While bicycling over here (Degnan’s Pizza Loft) I enjoyed some Enya. Always nice…
PPS. I’ve developed quite the affinity for Mason jars.
Rapha. From London. Good stuff…
A bicycle is a means of transportation for all of us who have runaway hearts. -L.A.
This video brings back a lot of recent memories. These places are all so familiar. They’re like home, though they aren’t home.
I think the park would probably draw more tourists if there was always classical music playing in the background. For that reason I’m thankful that there is not.
Friday morning I flew out of Santa Cruz. It was tough. When traveling, if I consider myself leaving somewhere, rather than going somewhere I suppose I’m a bit down about departing. I already miss my family.
That being said, the trip was a good one. While in the Santa Cruz airport I hung out with a Pulitzer prize winning author. In Miami, while in line I spoke with Kirk Cameron’s mom (who also happens to be DJ from Full House’s mom…). Sleeping in San Francisco was a surprisingly pleasant experience. It was the best airport I have ever slept in by far 🙂 Along with sleeping in the airport, the next morning I spent some time relaxing and watching a movie. It’s kind of surreal having such a huge structure seemingly all to yourself… San Francisco itself was pretty awesome. The palm trees, farmers market and live music were highlights. It’s fun being in a place where you know that if you’re willing to walk for five minutes, you’re going to see something interesting for sure. After San Francisco, it was time to take buses and a train to Mariposa. That all worked out perfectly. I had never been on a train in the states before and I really enjoyed it. Though, I should confess, I did sleep a fair amount of the trip and the guy with the crazy beard sitting across from me was a definite plus. I made it to Mariposa eventually and there was snow here. I’m thankful that I can say “was”. I need to pick up some shoes and another pair of socks wouldn’t hurt. Alright, I’m taking off… Night.
Views like this… I took this Saturday morning while on my way to donate plasma. I stopped and sat on my bike and then remembered I had my camera in my backpack. Although it’s a bit fuzzy, you can still see the colors and glow in the sky…