Reflections on my birthday…

As my birthday comes to a close, I wanted to reflect on a few conversations I have had throughout the week. People close to me asked throughout the week what my plans were for my birthday. While I did go out to eat with family over the weekend, today was generally just another day in the life of Josh. A good day at work, beautiful bike rides to and from the office, a board meeting at an organization I volunteer for, and a spirited jog this evening. In my eyes, it was a great way to spend the day.

As a kid I can remember being really excited about my birthday. I can remember camping trips, crazy cakes that looked like cheeseburgers, and all the assorted birthday games. However, over the last several years I have been apt to let the day slide by without a mention to anybody.

Facebook and Myspace have eliminated the ability to keep your birthday secret, but my desire to not “celebrate” the day has not changed. Friends have been debating the merits of my ‘cynicism’ or ‘grouchiness’ all week, so let me just put it all out there and lay this argument to rest.

Birthdays are traditionally about celebrating your life, the year you’ve had, the future that is coming, the accomplishments and successes, etc. Of course at that magical moment of 9:54 pm, or whatever time you were born, you don’t feel some big change, but its a recognizable milestone that passes another year.

That’s fine and dandy I suppose, but why not celebrate each and every day? Call me cliche, but isn’t life worth a joyous attitude every moment? Today has been no different than yesterday or last Monday. To celebrate today as anything else, discredits every other day of the year!

In no way am I arguing that one ought to be a grouch on their birthday. Rather, one ought to live each and every day to its fullest and celebrate life. Birthday’s ought not be the occasion where we send a quick birthday message and make our annual reconnection, but we should be living through those relationships throughout the year.

We get so busy and scattered in life that we believe sending a quick card or message of celebration on a special day makes up for the rest of the year when we rarely speak. If you’ve been frustrated at some point this year that I “forgot” to send you a message on your facebook account, fear not! Rather, I’ve been feeling guilty that it was only your birthday that caused me to think to say hi.

So for my birthday, and for your birthday, let’s truly reconnect. Let’s move beyond the simple card at work and get to know each other better over coffee. Let’s forget about the gift cards to iTunes and go work on a house for Habitat for Humanity. Let’s think of all the silly things we could celebrate each day of the year and have a Happy Festivus. Let’s enjoy life together every day of the year, so when that “special day” rolls around we both forget to even celebrate!

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More reflections on my previous post…

Another beautiful night outside. Perhaps the most beneficial part of owning dogs in the city is being forced to take them for walks. Early in the morning as the geese and beavers are just waking up, after work as people are milling around the parks, and late at night while everyone else sleeps, these walks are quickly becoming an important part of my day.

For the last three years I have had a favorite place to walk at night. After hopping a few fences and cutting my way through the tall grass, I would arrive at a beautiful spot where the sky seemed to never end. From this vantage point I could hear the call of the ducks, the hooting of the owls, and the coyotes wrestling over their recent kill. I havent found this place from the new home yet, but Im sure finding some great spots to sit and relax…

I had an interesting phone call today regarding my post from yesterday. Incidentally, you may have noticed that comments have been closed on my last few posts. I plan on keeping it this way for now, if you want to interact or share your thoughts, feel free to get in touch.

The caller had just read my post on leaving Sauvie Island. Much to my surprise, their big worry was whether I was alright. I suppose I would have wondered the same thing reading my post as an outsider. It is not a very positive thought to reflect on whether the last seven years of your life were spent in vain. I think my reflections were misread however.

The last seven years of my life were wonderful. I met some very incredible people, positively affected people and organizations around me, and did my best to be a good person in the community. My frustration is not because I was not recognized, thrown a party, or begged to stay. My bitterness has nothing to do with the community moving on without me. In fact it has nothing to do with the folks of the community or the way I was treated.

The question that remains unanswered is why was it so easy for me to move away? After seven years in a community, why did it feel so right to just pick up my things and walk away? Its been four weeks since I left and Ive only called one person. Its been four weeks and I havent taken the twenty minutes to stop by and see how things are going. If anything, Ive taken these last few weeks to distance myself even more from the people and organizations of which I was a part. Those are the feelings that haunt me still. Why was it so easy, and perhaps even crucial, for me to get away as fast as possible?

One last reflection. I think what surprised me the most about being asked if I was okay was my opposite feelings on the obvious tone of the post. Leaving the community and starting life anew has revived me. It has been a long time since I have felt positive about the work I am doing and the interactions I am having. Perhaps my lack of openness on this blog over the last few years has made my readers question when I open up and externalize my thoughts and feelings.

I dont know if this sharing of my feelings will be a normal aspect of this blog from now on, but in my day to day interactions, things are going to change. Authenticity is the word of the month folks. Life is too short to not live true to yourself.

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“Faith and Fiction”

A quick post, as I wanted to share a section of the text I am reading this afternoon. From the anthology “Spiritual Quests, the Art and Craft of Religious Writing,” an excerpt from Frederick Buechner’s essay entitled “Faith and Fiction.” Well worth a read in its entirety, including the other essays in the book, but just an excerpt for now.

Is that why we write, year after year, people like me – to keep our courage up? Are novels like mine a kind of whistling in the dark? I think so. To whistle in the dark is more than just to try to convince yourself that dark is not all there is. It’s also to remind yourself that dark is not all there is, or the end of all there is, because even in the dark there is hope. Even in the dark you have the power to whistle. And sometimes that seems more than just your own power because it’s powerful enough to hold the dark back a little. The tunes you whistle in the dark are the images you make of that hope, that power. They are the books you write.

And in the same way, faith could also be called a kind of whistling in the dark. The living out of faith. The writing out of fiction. In both, you shape and you fashion and you feign. And maybe, finally, what the two have most richly in common is that they are a way of paying attention. Page by page, chapter by chapter, the story unfolds. Day by day, year by year, your own story unfolds – your life story. Things happen. People come and people go. The scene shifts. Time runs by. Time runs out.

Maybe it’s all utterly meaningless. Maybe it’s all unutterably meaningful. If you want to know which, pay attention to what it means to be truly human in a world that half the time we’re in love with and half the time scares the hell out of us. Any fiction that helps us pay attention to that is religious fiction. The unexpected sound of your name on somebody’s lips. The good dream. The strange coincidence. The moment that brings tears to your eyes. The person who brings life to your life. Even the smallest events hold the greatest clues. If it’s God we’re looking for, as I suspect we all are, maybe the reason we haven’t found Him is that we’re not looking very hard.

So pay attention. As a summation of all that I’ve ever had to say as a writer I’d settle for that. And as a talisman or motto for that journey in search of a homeland, which is what faith is, I’d settle for that, too.

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Long winded tonight…

An overdue update tonight on all things Josh. The few of my readers left I’m sure know what is happening in my life, but perhaps there are a few lurkers out there that have been left in the dark these past several months.

As I walked along the river this evening, dogs in tow looking for their favorite spots, the words I wished to share came from all directions. Now sitting down in front of the computer, I am at a loss to describe the events and emotions of the recent months. So forgive me as I ramble and vamp in this long winded post.

After seven and a half years on Sauvie Island, I recently made the decision to disconnect and move away from the community. It was not a decision I took lightly, but as opportunities arose to change jobs and move into a new location, it became apparent to me that it was the right choice.

I must admit that I have been hesitant to blog the past several years because of the nature of my position. Working in a government job, representing the tax payers and residents of the community, I never felt as though I was able to be honest and authentic on the web. Unfortunately, this hesitation spilled into my normal life in the community. I lived to fit in with the customs and traditions of those around me. Good people of course, but at times my core values would not be in tune with theirs. Having left those folks behind, I now realize that very few knew me for who I really was.

While I have no regrets for the last seven years, I do at times question what it was all for. Sure the experiences I had out there are great for the resume, and in my heart I know I made a difference within all the projects I got involved in, but there is still a part of me that is left feeling bittersweet. It has only been four weeks or so since I detached myself from nearly all activity in the community, but my departure has seemed to go unnoticed.

Six years ago, when I was much younger and naive to the culture of the community, I penned the following words as part of an application for the grange scholarship fund:


For I have realized that community is not a place where you park your boat or meet your neighbors. Communities do not exist in one time or place, for they are intangible. Community is built upon relationships and the power of sharing our lives together. I am part of several communities in this world, but none am I as proud of, as Sauvie Island.

Beyond the majestic beauty of this place, beyond the incredible way of life we are all blessed with, I am part of this community because of the stories we tell, the moments we share, and the relationships we build.

I place no fault with the people of the community for my dissatisfaction for the last seven years; I was blessed to meet many good and honorable people in my time there. However, I remain perplexed and confused on why I feel so frustrated by the way things have transpired.

I may never fully understand why my story has unfolded the way it has. I’ve learned enough over the years to know that understanding the story isn’t as important as simply recognizing it as your story.

I feel blessed to have ended up where I am now. New places and pictures, new responsibilities and activities, new faces and friends. I have yet to decide where this blog, if at all, will fit in to the daily fold. For now I’m simply catching my breath, remembering the things I love to do, catching up with old and new friends, and enjoying the moment. As time and desire allows, I’ll try to bring you all along the journey.

I’ll finish tonight with words from the last time I lived on the water. I’ve returned to the river after many years; these experiences continue to rejuvenate me.


And so I return home, to the banks of the river, where nature and humanity exist in agreement. We all share this place, this sacred area, as family, as creatures put in this world solely looking for peace and happiness. Life moves much slower here, trying to cherish each and every moment, as though it is the last. The endless sky, the rose petals floating down the river, the majestic eagles, the morning fog, the cries of the heron, the shadows of the moon across my bow: living here, I am already in heaven.

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A parting show from Sauvie Island…

DSC_0048

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A few more pictures from 2009

This blog is quickly becoming solely a picture blog. I suppose I am alright with that.

A few pictures from the coast today and another from Sauvie Island.
I’ll be moving away from the island in the next couple of weeks. With that comes less pictures of this place I have inhabited for 7 years, but many pictures from my new playground…

As always, click on the picture for a larger view…

A stranger

A stranger

Sidney up close

Haystack Rock

Sauvie Island Tree

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Moving on…

If you haven’t heard through the grapevine yet, I recently gave notice for my job on Sauvie Island to take a job with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Leaving my job also requires finding a new place to live. Unfortunately, after seven years of living in an absolutely beautiful place, it looks like I will be leaving Sauvie Island.

It seems almost fitting that in the last week I have been blessed to see some amazing sunrises over the island. Here’s five shots of this past week. Click on each one to see the full size beauty.

Mt hood Sunrise

Oak tree sunrise

Mt hood Sunrise

St Johns Bridge

Mt hood Sunrise

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Snow Pictures added…

Pictures from the last few snow storms here and in washington. Enjoy!


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Pictures Finally Updated!

Well it has been almost three months since I last uploaded pictures, so there’s a lot to catch up on today!
Click on any of the pictures below for that particular set, or just navigate to my flickr account to see them all. Enjoy!

Table Mountain Hike, September 2008

Table Mountain Pictures

Hiking and other Adventures in Vermont

Vermont Pictures

Grace’s Birthday party at the Plumper Pumpkin Patch

Grace's Birthday Party

Thanksgiving 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Day Trip to Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast Pictures

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What’s left from the house fir…

What’s left from the house fire Location: http://gpstwit.com/fjg

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Still going Location: http://g…

Still going Location: http://gpstwit.com/fiy

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House fire Location: http://gp…

House fire Location: http://gpstwit.com/fiw

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