Monday, September 17, 2007

Back to Opal Creek...

“You can't always sit in your corner of the forest and wait for people to come to you... you have to go to them sometimes.”

~ Winnie the Pooh

Yeah, Winnie the Pooh! Got a problem with that?

Wisdom comes in all shapes and sizes, in all colors. Sometimes even the stuffed shirts can utter a bit of wisdom, so it should come as no surprise that a stuffed bear can as well.

When I arrived at Opal Creek I was little aware of the battle that raged over these trees. I didn't know that I would be a virtual outcast in the communities around the area in that neck of the Santiam canyon. But as always, no matter which side of an issue you are on, your best bet is to act as an ambassador for your views. And if you don't have any views... you better find them or step back out of the line of fire. Opal Creek didn't allow for feigned support or have much room for the weak hearted.

Thats why Pablo and I were such a fit for Opal Creek. When George Atiyeh and his friends began reclaiming the old town of Jawbone Flats their goal was to save the forest and the town while having one of nature's jewels as their home. So it was that the task was handed off to Hoos, Pablo and me. Of course there others, plenty of others, but the day-to-day was on our shoulders and I'm proud of the way we 3 carried our weight. We held fast, welcomed doubters and believers, hosted the rich and famous and the poor and unknown. We were there when the tipping point was reached and we were glad it was so... that the 3 of us would be the ones to be guardians of the monumental change that occurred. Proud still, to be the last miners.

For over 60 years children were conceived, born and raised in Jawbone. Elders were common visitors. Grampa Semu, Twig Smith from the Persis Co. (the landowners back then), Vic Atiyeh and lots of folks just hiking in, both old and young. I wasn't even 40 years old when I arrived at Jawbone and I'm 56 now. Where once I was young and in my prime I'm now considered an elder.

In my work with Harmony Events Medicine I am the old guy. if it weren't so funny it would hurt. But really... it changes a man to know that young people sometimes look up to you, that perhaps your experience has worth and yes, as scary as it sometimes seems, they respect your experience and at times have an expectation that a bit of wisdom may lie within you.

I was out at Nanish Shontie a couple of weekends ago for a sweatlodge. We had a couple of young men join us who had not done a sweat before, both in their mid to late 20s. That was the age when I did my first sweatlodge. That first lodge is (or can be and for sure should be) a grand and eye opening experience. Sometimes a life changing experience. It was for me, which is why I'm still doing sweats instead of sitting in a pew.

Opal Creek was a life changing experience for me. Paul told me often enough that Opal Creek was a sea-change for him as well. He lived his life as if it were too. Which is why he is remembered so fondly by so many.

3 years ago one of my bestest buds in the world passed away. But I know Paul, having died in his cabin, in Jawbone Flats, went out a happy man. If he left with regret it was that those with him that day had to suffer through their pain in witnessing him pass. So Micah, know that Paul wouldn't want to have been anywhere else, or with anyone else...

And I know Paul will always be there, keeping one eye out for Jawbone's caretakers...

In this quiet, in the shadows and mist, voices are heard, secrets whispered and songs sung. Lovers embrace and families laugh as the seasons, years and generations pass... again and again and again... trees now ancient were once young among elders who were once young among elders... respect this quiet and listen close... walk knowing that here, you're never less alone, than when alone...
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