09 Jun, 2011
Great adventures do not begin or end. They are grafted into the eternal so seamlessly that vestiges of their temporal nature become buried beneath the bark of lore and legend. Like great relationships or romantic love, their inceptions are shrouded with a feeling of immediate ease that hints they have always been and always will be. Such is the current into which I now dip my toes.
The first chapter of this tale comes in three parts: the sendoff and camping with Thad’s; a visit to a CSA and Episcopal intentional living community in Oxnard; and a visit with Ched Myers and Elaine Enns.
PART 1: The sendoff from Thad’s will count among the best days of my life. As I biked there through the eerie emptiness of Sunday morning in LA, my eyes and ears witnessed intimate scenes lost to those traveling by car: a hipster biker exchanging waves with a homeless man; a grocer whistling as he lifted his metal rolling gate; birds defying concrete with their incessant song in search of food.
When I got to the contemporary art nook that Thad’s calls home, I felt the unmistakable comfort of community. The service was both calming and inspiring. Thanks to all of the Thad’s community for making that happen! It’s always an honor and a pleasure to preach there. The bike rested fully loaded at center stage throughout the morning. After the dialogue that follows the sermon in the Thad’s liturgy, I announced the bike’s name: THADDEUS–in honor of the community who not only provided the bike but also inspired the spiritual development that led me to seminary in the first place. It is extra fitting, as the term seems to be a nickname that developed from the Aramaic term for breast into a nickname meaning something like “buddy.”
After the service, I initiated the tradition of having hosts sign the bike. I had Jimmy Bartz–pastor of Thad’s, surfing compadre, and my mentor– do the honors. Thanks again to Jimmy and all the Thad’s crew, without whom this trip would not have been possible!
To the tune of cheers from a small groups of folks from Thad’s, I hit the road for the first day on the bike. In true Forest Gump fashion, I reached the Santa Monica Pier, turned, and kept on biking.
At Day Mile 45, I pulled into the camping area at Leo Carrillo State Beach and was accompanied for my first night by a handful of great friends from Thad’s. We did a little surfing– long boards at Leo Carrillo; short boards at County Line– and reconvened for supper, songs, and ‘smores. Our less-than-luxurious campsite transformed into a star-gazing platform under cover of darkness. Thanks again to mis compañer@s who made it out that night!
After a sound sleep and an early morning outing to the tide pools, my camping companions and I parted ways in a rain that shifted from drizzly to steady as I rode. The coast was quiet, cool, and calm. No water could have halted my tranquility. The rain gave up as the narrow cliffs opened to a valley, and I stopped to watch egrets fishing. Soon, I was pulling off the highway and onto the wide agricultural lanes of Oxnard.
PART 2: My first stop of came outside of Oxnard at a community called Abundant Table (see: http://theabundanttable.org/). This project has two elements: an intentional living community affiliated with the Episcopal church, and a CSA.
A small group of people live in the farm house visible in the distance in the picture above. Aside from living together, they also operate a non-profit that educates local children and the community at large about nutrition, organic farming, and sustainability. These folks also work at the for profit CSA just down the road. When I pulled through town, they were making their rounds for the week to assess what could be harvested. As part of their extraordinary generosity, I had the opportunity to speak at length with each member of this crew. Each conversation was intriguing and deserves to be highlighted in some way. However, it will have to suffice to say that these folks are doing incredible work. Go to their website to learn more: http://theabundanttable.org/.
PART 3: I bid farewell to the great folks at Abundant Table and headed further north to the small town of Oak View. There, Ched Myers and Elaine Enns live in a beautiful home surrounded by edible and native plants. The home is exceptionally environmentally savvy. Ched and Elaine have intentionally considered the various aspects of their habitat and put their knowledge to work through various practices such as acute water conservation–use of buckets under faucets and showers to catch excess water– and use of shades and windows instead of central heating and cooling– neither of which they have. In short, Ched and Elaine are exceptional role models for those hoping to be environmentally mindful.
I had the pleasure of connecting to Ched and Elaine through my dear friends Russ and Kristy Powell. Russ spent a month last summer living in the shack above and constructing the beds you see in the garden. Kristy is in the process of an incredible year that you can read more about at: http://onedressprotest.com/. In solidarity with these two, I opted to stay in this wonderful abode, which Ched and Elaine have christened “Croatan West.” This is a reference to the phrase that was carved into a tree in the early European settlements, and it suggests that the colonists were not killed but went off to live with nearby native peoples.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, let me give it to you straight: Ched and Elaine are incredible. When I arrived, Elaine was visiting with one of her mentees from the Word and World program, and we all jumped into conversation. Elaine specializes in restorative justice, but she also informed me on everything from vocal performance to Mennonite history. For more on her work, check out: http://bcm-net.org/. Aside from being one of the heaviest minds in Christian theology, Biblical study, and social activism (see: http://www.chedmyers.org/), Ched is a fifth generation Californian–like someone else whose words you’re reading– who acts with a deference for the land to which we should all aspire. He also makes a very tasty cactus fruit margarita.
In the morning after breakfast, we went out into the garden and harvested garlic. This was followed by the bike signing ritual, which is quickly becoming the highlight of my visits. Soon thereafter, Elaine became my first official biking companion on this journey. We biked down to C Street in Ventura, where Ched joined us with a few longboards. Yes– aside from being an intellectual inspiration to the world, Ched also surfs.
After a great little surf, I headed north along the coast to Santa Barbara for a day of rest.
That’s all for now!
Until we meet again
more loving and mindful than we thought possible.