To All of My Readers:
My sincere apologies for not being able to keep this blog updated more effectively over the last three months. During my time in Austin, Texas I was moving around a lot between various hosts, many of them students, and in many situations I did not have internet access. I've also had some issues here and there more generally with getting my iPad to recognize wifi transmissions so I could connect where it was available. Finally, preparing a full blog takes quite a bit more time and effort than I can squeeze in with only an hour here and there, especially when I have to use at least some of that time available for checking my e-mail, etc.
Nevertheless, I am back in Santa Barbara, CA now with a comfortable living situation and INTERNET access, and I figured it was time I posted an update here...finally!
Starting from the last weeks of July...
I began my official tour of Austin, Texas with a stop at the home of John and Eve Koonz. As I mentioned in my previous blog, John and Eve are living examples of how ordinary people are making a difference in their homes and in their own back yards.
They keep chickens, and they grow meal worms to help utilize food waste and to have protein rich snacks for the chickens. At first glance, the meal worm habitat might seem "icky", but it did not smell and it was actually quite fascinating to see the bugs going about their business.
John and Eve also dry their clothes outside, commute regularly by bicycle and/or public transportation, and, as I had the opportunity to experience very directly, they were supportive and very generous WarmShowers hosts. John was particularly helpful in planning my route to my second Austin host and even accompanied me through some of the trickier parts of that journey.
|Saying Good-Bye to John Koonz in Austin, Texas|
My Beverly Hills host asked me not to share pictures or her personal info on my blog. Nevertheless, I am very grateful to have experienced her hospitality and she helped me connect with Pastor Karl Gronberg of the Gethsemane Lutheran Church as well. That connection eventually led to my staying at their "Hospitality House" for a couple of nights.
From the Beverly Hills address I made a little side excursion with the Austin Sierra Club members via MeetUp. We toured the Mayfield Park well known for its Peacocks.
While staying with Austin Sullivan, I went for a hike through the Barton Springs Greenbelt along with his brother's fiancé, Kira. We mostly followed the relatively dry creek bed, and then it started to rain. Given that it was summer in Texas, it was actually a welcome shower.
On the trailhead we found a turtle. I kind of recognized it, but picked it up to take a closer look. That's when it urinated on me and the smell was all I needed to confirm that it was a "Musk Turtle"!
At my host on Beverly Hills Dr. and at Chad Greene's house, I did not have access to the internet. So to keep myself occupied while I was "resting", I selected books to read from those available to me. Since I spent so much of my young adult and adult life reading more non-fiction (and a lot of "self-help" style books), I decided to read some of the shorter classics that I've heard about but never actually read. These included War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.
From Chad's I had a short but Very Hot 4.5 miles or so to Anika Fassia's house. Thinking that it would be a fairly easy ride, I was not as careful as I would normally be and failed to use my damp camp towel under my helmet, and I did not have enough water either. Reaching the peak of the last of a few decent hills, I found myself growing a bit nauseous and light headed, so I pulled off to the side of the road, got onto the sidewalk/curb and rested, holding my bicycle up while I did so. At that point I was probably less than a quarter mile from Annika's house, but every time I stood up to get back on my bicycle, I started getting dizzy again. What was even more frustrating was that there was what looked like a public pool within 50 yards of the concrete retaining wall that rose up over the sidewalk behind me, and that wall was also blasting heat all around me.
Eventually I recovered enough to walk my bike across the multi-lane road to the opposite sidewalk, and down to the street where Annika lived. Even as I walked though, I was still not feeling well, so I had to stop again, within what turned out to be about 20 yards from Annika's house, and sit on the curb once more. Eventually, she and one of her housemates came out to meet me and we all walked back to the house together. All in all, it was a "lesson learned" to never take the heat for granted, no matter how short a ride might be!
One thing I noticed shortly after I got settled in the house was that it seemed Anika's guest bathroom toilette was not shutting off properly. When I helped her understand that the water was simply flowing out and through the sewer pipe, she welcomed my assistance in figuring out how to repair it. At first we tried a new flap, and then once it was clear that was not enough, and that the leaking was coming from the valve itself, we decided to replace that as well, "we" as in Anika paid for the parts and I installed them!
|And here I am "modeling" the finished repairs.|
Another benefit of staying with Anika was being around for the beginning of an artistic transformation of her living room fire place. Artist Stefanie Distefano was in charge.
|Me and Anika at the beginning.|
|Stefanie at work.|
|The Completed Fireplace|
What was particularly cool about this project was that Anika got together with all of her friends to make many of the tiles that Stefanie eventually assembled into the mosaic. Along with her friends, I appreciate the investment of energy and attention that Anika has chosen to put into her relationships, her home, and into her neighborhood and community in Austin, Texas. And I'm really glad she has chosen to be a part of the WarmShowers community as well!
From Anika's I was generously transported back to the northern part of town by Pastor Karl Gronberg of the Gethsemane Lutheran Church. I felt it was okay for me to accept his assistance since I had already covered the distance by bicycle previously, and I would be leaving on my own to travel back south in a couple of days. While staying at the church "Hospitality House" I was once again without internet, or television, but I did have access to Pastor Karl's library in the house/office next door.
One of the books I pulled from the shelves was a massive volume entitled Psychological Aspects of Pauline Theology by Gerd Theissen. On Page 9 I read: "The Bible was able to become one of the most important textbooks of human behavior and experience precisely because in it 'dominating' models recede and models that first fail, but overcome are so numerous."
In other words... It is full of UNDERDOG Stories! (Something that Paul K. Chappell also writes about in his most recent book The Art of Waging Peace....)
Boy! Did that set my mind on a tangent?!
What I have come to appreciate from reading Lila... by Robert Pirsig is that...in truth...the evolution of Life Itself is an ongoing drama of all kinds of Underdog Stories! (More specifically, the interaction of what he describes as "static" and "Dynamic" "Quality".)
The bottom line is...the actual probability of ANY of THIS existing is so remote, that for it to have all arisen the way it has means THE Underdog - i.e. Life Itself - is WINNING, beating the odds, over and over again, and...moving the process of evolution towards more and more highly evolved and adaptive organisms - including human beings, who, for all their presumed "faults" (i.e. "sins"), have the greatest capacity to Interact Dynamically with their environment(s) than any other organisms on this planet! (Although...some research is pointing a finger at viruses and bacteria that may be living out their very own "underdog stories" and using Us to help Them!)
And now we are in a stage where we are evolving our cultures to catch up with our evolving technologies. I'd say we got a little ahead of ourselves with nuclear weapons, among other things, and Now it is time to re-evaluate Why we are doing the things we Can do, with more of a moral compass for what we Should Do. Furthermore, we have a Central Nervous System - the Internet - that we never had to work with before and it is slowly but surely linking all of us as individual cells into a more coherent, Body Human, that includes more and more individual human beings.
That's a lot to be thinking about, so I'm going to pause this update for now. I will add though, that I was able to share some of these ideas at the talk I gave to the Millville Quaker Friends Meeting in Pennsylvania, and the talk was very well received. (I promise I will share more about that in a future post.)
As always, I am grateful for ALL of the different experiences I have been able to have on this, my own "Underdog Journey", and I am grateful to ALL of the people who have helped me along the way!
Please stay-tuned for "Part II" of this blog series...Coming Soon!