Back to the 45th Parallel

Trip Start Nov 01, 2007
Trip End Apr 30, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Oregon
Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Just north of Burlington, Vt. is a small sign indicating that you are passing the 45th Parallel, the half-way point between the North Pole and the Equator. On January 7 we passed the 45th Parallel again while walking south into Salem, Ore., having gone as far north as the 49th Parallel during our trip across Canada.(see picture). Seeing this landmark felt a little like coming home. As we move away from the winter solstice and walk farther south, we notice the days getting longer at a pretty quick rate. When we continue into California, it will be great to not be so worried about walking in the dark when arriving at our destinations after eight or more hours of walking.

We want to begin this entry with a reflection on our experiences with Friends in the Northwest. Often when we told Quakers in the East that we would be visiting with Evangelical Friends out west, they responded in such a way as to imply that we would be working very hard to communicate and develop relationships with "those" Friends. The truth is that we have found many kindred spirits on many levels among Evangelical and unaffiliated Friends of the Northwest. We've found a great openness to explore ideas, with the message of John Woolman as a common touch-point. We've made close friends and have felt very comfortable everywhere. The differences we've found are sometimes in the form of worship or the place of the Bible in their lives. But we've also found much comfort in all the forms of worship and in the deep discussions of theology. We're not being pollyanna-ish about this and do recognize that there can be significant differences if certain issues are pursued; however we've tried to focus on our commonalities, recognizing that it's most important to open the channels of love and communication, which we've managed to do.

One of the stereotypes is that the evangelicals are narrowly fundamentalist in their approach to the Bible and other issues. We have not found this to be true. We see a wide range of views, as we do among all Friends. And many of the Northwest Friends that we've met seem to recognize that the guidance of the Spirit goes hand in hand with discerning what the Bible means for us today.

We thought you might be interested to know what our mornings are often like. Packing up to leave is a rather comical sight, especially if we've settled into a place and have our gear all spread out. We have learned to allow up to an hour for this before we can expect to be actually on the road. We first have to fit all that stuff back into our three packs. You'd think we'd have a routine by now, but you'd often hear us exclaiming things like; "Where does this go?" or "Oops, I forgot to put the such and such in first so now I have to re-pack." Ruah often forgets to put on her fanny pack before her backpack and has to ask Louis to hold out her pack from behind so that she can clumsily secure the fanny pack. Louis is often saying, "Where did I put my such-and-such?" It takes some patience on both of our parts to see the humour in the moment and have true sympathy for the other. Our biggest problem is that as we are walking, we find we had packed away in an inconvenient place something like a pair of binoculars that should have been more accessible.

The first mile or so that we walk each morning is also rather comical as we readjust our clothing and gear for the day. Ruah is usually tightening her shoe laces and changing hats and gloves. Louis is often cinching up his pack's hip strap and readjusting the elastic waist band of his rain pants, which tend to creep down with first steps or whenever he bends over. So we start and stop multiple times in the 20 minutes of our walk. If we're all dressed for rain, inevitably the rain will stop and so to keep from getting too hot we'll take off our ponchos and find a way to secure them to the cart. A little while later it will start raining again, so we'll have to stop and awkwardly do the reverse procedure.

Louis then remembers to start the t eacGPS (instead of when we first get outdoors), in order to enter our
destination address so we can know how far we will be walking that day
and to check how far we have progressed ah rest stop. However, the GPS will sometimes guide us in a puzzling detour, and we'll have to stand in the middle of the road deciding whether to follow those instruction or a printout we got from MapQuest. For example, on one rainy night it directed us around the block when the entrance to the motel we were looking for turned out to be only a short block straight ahead. Ahhhh, the joys of technology.

While walking we are usually side by side walking against the traffic, though when cars approach and the shoulder is narrow Ruah drops behind Louis since his cart has a white  banner and makes us more visible. While walking behind Louis, Ruah oftens feels like she's the "good little woman" walking her 5 steps behind her man. This doesn't set easy with Ruah, as you who know her would understand. She quickly returns to her "equal" position beside Louis.

We've included a picture of a nutria, small beaver-like animals that we had seen feeding on the roadside next to a wetland while we walking along a back road the day we entered Oregon. At first we thought they were beavers, but Louis noticed their round tails and guessed they were nutria. We were able to get quite close and observe them for a while.
Ruah had never seen or heard of them
before. When she called them "cute" the other day, Oregonians scoffed and
compared them to rats (Ruah thinks rats are cute too). They have in fact become a big nuisance in the Northwest. They were originally imported from South America in the 20th century to be raised for their fur--in what some today describe as an illusory get-rich-quick marketing scheme. Many nutria either escaped or were released. Since they  reportedly reproduce about as fast as rabbits, you can imagine how many are running around wreaking havoc on widlife habitat. This is another example of human interference with nature by not giving careful thought to the consequences of introducing non-native species.

Back now to our travels. The morning we were prepared to leave Portland, Dan Davenport guided us through the bus system and handed us over to Julie Peyton, who rode the bus down to our starting point that day in the Portland suburb of Sherwood. She would have walked with us, except she was going to be running a half-marathon the next day and needed her day of rest. It was wonderful to have some additional time to get to know her. We were sad to be leaving many new-found friends behind, a downside of our travels of the heart, but we knew there were more friends ahead to meet.

As we walked into Newburg, we found ourselves in a community with many Friends churches, as well as George Fox University, a Quaker school. Once again we were on a very busy, noisy highway with rain drops a-falling on our heads. We arrived at Louise Clements's house, whom we had met the night before at Reedwood Friends Church. We felt immediately at ease with Louise and fell into far-ranging conversations with her. She was raised Quaker from a long line of Quakers, including ancestors who came to America with William Penn, and her mother spoke plain language (this means using thee's and thou's in familiar talk). Louise owns Heritage Roses, a large mail-order rose business that includes beatiful rose gardens at a nursery in nearby St. Paul that are also a tour bus destination. Her love and knowledge of roses and appreciation for all things beautiful helped to cement our friendship. As well, she's a gifted artist.

Louise had invited several people to her home that evening to meet us and to give us another opportunity to share our presentation. The next morning we attended services at the North Valley Friends Church and met the pastor, Stan Thornburg, who has carried a long time concern for the care of Creation. The spirited music that began the service was presented by a small ensemble of church members, including guitars, drums, flute, piano, and vocals. We were impressed with the vitality of the congregation, which included many young families with children. The service included "open" worship, and they also have an early morning unprogrammed worship each Sunday.

Louise gave us a lift for a few miles out of Newberg so that we could make our next destination before dark. As we walked through farm country, we saw that plant nurseries are a big industry in this area, but there were also dairy and berry farms all around. It was quite pastoral. We've also noticed how many Latinos live in the area and learned from Louise that many are farm workers. Some Latinos have worked at her rose nursery for many years, and she has come to know and respect them. This has confirmed our understanding of how are country has become dependent on Latino laborers, especially farmworkers. When we speak of immigration issues many people don't fully understand how fragile the food production system is and how vulnerable it is to change. We must find ways to respect those who are here now and those who are still entering the U.S.

That night we stayed in a motel for the second time during this trip. We realized how much we had missed having alone-time on this trip as we spread ourselves out in the room, feeling like we had so much extra  time because of not always being obligated to talk with hosts. (We often come into a host home asking for some nap time, which gives us a buffer and the rest we need from a day of walking.) On the other hand, we have thoroughly enjoyed our times with all the people we've encountered. The next morning we walked to Salem, where Peggy Parsons, pastor of Freedom Friends Church, kindly picked us up at the outskirts of town and delivered us into the hands of Barbara Thygeson of Salem Friends Meeting. She lives in a large continuing care facility, Capitol Manor, and had reserved a guest room for us. We rested from our walk and then headed out to our evening's joint presentation to Freedom Friends and Salem meeting.

The surprise of the evening was seeing Louise Clements once again. She brought some Friends and her grandchildren to see our presentation, describing herself as a Peace for Earthwalk groupie since this was her third time viewing the presentation. We again appreciated the depth of the conversation and questions following our talk.

In the morning, Barbara had arranged a breakfast meeting with Friends and others in the Capitol Manor dinning facility. One man at breakfast, Paul, works with the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) in Oregon. We enjoyed learning more about FOR's work in the Northwest. We then did some computer catch-up and had lunch with another arranged group in the dining facility. One woman, Lisa, was a fellow birder and we compared birding notes. Barbara's brother, Horace, was with us at all the Salem gatherings and lives in the facility as well. (During conversation with Horace, Louis was amazed to discover that he and Horace were actually blood relatives, their common ancestor being a Quaker named Robert Peelle who lived in eastern North Carolina in the early 19th century.) We thoroughly enjoyed them both as well as Barbara's husband, Bent, a boat builder from Denmark.

We then walked to South Salem Friends Church for our evening's presentation. Following that, Jim Leonard, the pastor, took us to his home for the evening. We stayed up late talking, and the next morning met his wife, Jeanne, who cared for us in spite of her not feeling well. (We're taking lots of vitamin C to help us avoid catching whatever others might be carrying!) Our next destination was Buena Vista, and Jeanne gave us a ride to a safe place to start walking.

Over the next couple of days we walked, stayed overnight with Virginia Tyler in Independence of Corvallis Friends and walked some more and stayed with Jay Thatcher and Linda Johansen in Corvallis, also of Corvallis Friends. We again enjoyed thoroughly our stays with Friends and found many things of common interest. We had a successful gathering with Corvallis Friends. One phenomenon for Ruah is the feeling of being close friends with our contacts because of all the emails sent in preparation for our being there. We often hug at first meeting one another.

Our next two days of walking had long mornings with no services available. The first day we walked 10 miles before coming to a cafe for lunch, and the next day it was about 15 miles through farm country without services. Both days were somewhat more taxing than usual--the first because heavy traffic frequently forced us onto the rough ground of the unpaved shoulder and the second day due to constant head-winds. The countryside was lovely with many  sheep. We were fascinated to see a number of Bald Eagles among the sheep. We were told later by a farmer we met by his house that this was lambing season and the eagles were in the fields making meals of the placentas. We were delighted to see many other birds, including a Western Meadowlark, which we heard was in decline in the Northwest. Another farmer told us that this part of the Willamette River valley is the biggest producer of grass seed in the world.

These comments by farmers leads us to comment on the opportunities we've had to talk with people we might never have encountered were it not for our walk. Because of our vulnerability of being just a couple and because we're such a curiosity, many people are interested in learning about our purpose. We talk with people in large pickup trucks with four-wheelers (ATVs) in the back and folks with caps  and shirts decorated with flags and other patriotic symbols. We talk with street folks and store clerks and restaurant waitstaff. We love this aspect of our pilgrimage.

We spent the night with Chuck and Carole Pearce, members of Eugene Friends Church. They took us into church the next morning for the early service, where we gave part of our presentation during the service. Then Dick Lakin, our church contact, took us over to Eugene Friends Meeting for worship. This was the first time we spent a Sunday in an unprogrammed worship since we were in Vancouver, B.C., and it felt quite familiar. We then had lunch with the over-55 group from the church and were taken to Sakre Edson's home, where we would spend the next two nights. Sakre, our EFM contact, had invited people from Meeting for a potluck meal and conversation on our first evening with her.

During the next day we met with students from Wellspring Friends School, talking in an ethics class and addressing a general assembly. The second evening we gave our presentation to a joint gathering of Eugene Friends Church and Eugene Friends Meeting. About 50 people attended the potluck and program, including some people from the Mennonite Church and the Church of the Brethren. We see as part of our ministry providing the occasion for Friends and others from different traditions to get together and possibly find unity on caring for Creation.

We now head out for two weeks in southern Oregon and then we'll be on to California. We have now walked 443 miles (and found more than $10 in lost change along the roadsides). Our next blog update will come from Redding, Calif., at the end of January, so don't worry about the coming gap in our entries. We will be taking a bus from souther Oregon to Redding since the pass over the mountains is accessible only by I5, and it's often closed due to bad weather and deep snows. It's hard to believe that we are now talking with our contact people about our routes in northern California!
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