The amazing Vanessa Pan and her Calvillo ecovillage

1/1/24

Happy 2024, everyone! I hope that the new year will bring us all, individually and collectively, closer to our dreams.

I have just finished up a two-week cat sit for a sprightly orange fluffball named Viggo!

During that time, I also completed all the medical tasks I had returned to Portland to complete. In the span of about three weeks, I donated plasma four times; attended three OsteoStrong sessions; had two doctor’s appointments with blood draws; had my first colonoscopy; got my latest COVID and shingles vaccines; received an IV iron infusion; and even had a surprise visit to an urgent-care clinic when an incident on a city bus soundly bonked my (thankfully bike-helmeted!) head into the wall of the bus. (Fortunately, I seem to have walked away from that incident unscathed—whew!)

I am so glad to be on the other side of all that. I plan to stay in Portland another month—through January—and then, depending on finances, I hope to spend February and March in a warmer place, such as southern California, Arizona, or possibly even Austin, Texas. We’ll see! (Know anyone with extra Amtrak points they’d like to gift to me? Feel free to put us in touch!)

The good news is, I did have some downtime during my sit with Viggo, which allowed me to have a few magical meetings. One of these I would like to share with you: the force of nature that is Vanessa Pan!

In early December, I spent two nights at the cohousing home of an amazing woman named Elisabeth Seaman, in Mountain View, California. During our visit, I told Elisabeth about my magical-meeting practice, and asked if she knew of anyone I should reach out to in that vein. She told me about Vanessa.

Vanessa grew up in the Bay Area as well, but now lives in Guanajuato, Mexico, where she is partnering with a group of people—both local and non-local—to build a sustainable ecovillage, Calvillo, just outside the city.

Vanessa is an amazing person. Early in life, she set a goal for herself to learn three languages by age 30, by immersing herself in three different countries: first France, then China, then Mexico (Guadalajara). She also spent time living back in the Bay, as well as Maui.

Just a few weeks ago, she moved from Maui to Guanajuato, and is partnering with local folks—as well as her French boyfriend, who recently moved from France to be with her, and is currently learning Spanish—to build this ambitious and beautiful ecovillage.

The ecovillage will sit on 12 acres of land, currently owned by a local Mexican woman whose family had held the land up until now. That woman will sell six of the acres to the ecovillage community.

Although Vanessa is American, her vision is for at least 2/3 of the residents to be local Mexican folks, because she does not want this ecovillage to be an “expat Disneyland,” like some other ecovillages in Mexico and Central America seem to be.

The property will consist of eleven plots, with one to three households per plot. The community will be multigenerational, and will allow for aging in place. The early community members have already planted a “natural fence” of cacti and other prickly plants, and soon they will plant 100 fruit trees.

The ecovillage is situated near one of the country’s top universities. Vanessa has a vision that the community may offer free housing to a handful of graduates of this university, such as physicians and elder- and childcare providers, in exchange for offering their professional skills to community members. For example, they might agree to spend 5-10 hours per week sharing their services, as well as to mentor their successors when they feel it is time to leave the community.

Vanessa and Elisabeth had met when Vanessa toured Elisabeth’s cohousing community, Mountain View Cohousing Community, as one of six cohousing communities around the United States that she visited for research during the planning stages for the ecovillage.

(She also visited FrogSong, in Sonoma County’s Cotati, which some of you may recall I also visited in my year of travels, back in November of 2021. Vanessa told me that Marcin, my FrogSong host, was a great resource for her in her planning, since he had been one of the original planners of FrogSong, more than 20 years ago.)

I also shared with Vanessa some of my experiences at Louisa County, Virginia’s fossil-fuel-free intentional community, Living Energy Farm, which you may recall I visited in April of 2022. After she and I talked, I found these two recent video interviews with Living Energy Farm’s founder, Alexis Bledel, which I encourage you to watch if you want to be inspired:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKJH9YZ5nqQ 

www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXvgp1q8Rfw 

I love meeting inspiring community builders like Vanessa! I am excited to watch her bring this dream to fruition.

If you know of anyone she might appreciate talking with—or vice versa—feel free to let me know, and I can put you in touch.

And, as always, if you know of anyone I might have a great magical meeting (one-hour video chat) with, please let me know as well!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)

A miracle of human kindness in Portland

12/15/23

I had quite a scare yesterday, but it turned into something beautiful.

I had set out from my wonderful friend Sandi’s house in north Portland, where she had kindly hosted me for a couple of nights between cat sits, to my new Host a Sister wonderful friend’s house, Cindy, in the beautiful neighborhood of Ladds Addition. (It was cool to be back in that area; for ten years I had lived on the edge of Ladds, in the Mulberry Apartments on SE 12th just south of Hawthorne, from 1996 to 2006.)

To make the trip, I loaded my rig onto the MAX light rail. (Sometimes I bike between houses, but if the weather is cold or rainy I prefer the MAX. Buses aren’t an option; the rig is too clunky to carry on board.)

I boarded near the New Seasons on Rosa Parks and Interstate, and disembarked at the station closest to Ladds Addition: Clinton St/SE 12th Ave.

I carefully rolled the rig off the train, making sure as always not to catch the hub of the trailer wheel on the closing door.

I cycled off the platform and into the neighborhood—probably about a 5-10 minute, quite pleasant, ride to Cindy’s house.

I arrived at the house, and was about to go up and ring the bell, when I discovered with shock that the trailer was not behind me. I was just on the bike by itself. (My Radical Design Chubby trailer—a product of Dutch ingenuity and engineering—is so well designed that I often can’t even feel it behind me as I ride, so I hadn’t noticed.)

I was stunned.

This had never happened.

What should I do??

I texted Cindy that I needed to go searching for the lost trailer, and would be back later. I hopped back on the bike, and retraced my route exactly, even riding the sidewalks the wrong way on one-way streets to make sure I could see everywhere I had been. I looked to the left and the right, everywhere.

No trailer.

How could this have happened?? Without my noticing it? It was so surreal.

I got back to the train platform, hoping to see it sitting there.

It wasn’t.

Ooofff…!

OK. Stay calm. Breathe.

Now what?

First, I called the TriMet lost & found number, and left a voicemail there with all the information. Their outbound message said that they would call back if, and only if, they did find the lost item.

OK.

I then reasoned that the train I had taken was close to the end of its line in the southern suburb of Milwaukie. I estimated that it should be less than a one-hour turnaround for it to get to the end, and come back through on its inbound run.

I figured I would wait for the next inbound train, and look for the trailer onboard.

After all, if it wasn’t on the platform, and wasn’t anywhere along my short route, I must have been mistaken about having rolled it off the train? Maybe in my haste, the hitch had given way (I knew this was possible, though it hadn’t happened often, and again, I couldn’t imagine it happening without my noticing) and I had somehow rolled off only the bike, leaving the trailer on the train…?

The next train arrived. I hurriedly scanned the front car.

Nope.

Argh.

But realistically, that train would have been too early. This almost certainly wasn’t the same one. Maybe the next one…

My time constraint was that I had an appointment at my OsteoStrong bone gym, in Clackamas, at 2:30. I had disembarked the train about 12:43. By now it was after 1:30, and I knew I wouldn’t make it to the gym on time.

I stayed as calm as I could, and called the gym to see if I could push back my appointment. Yes, they could push it back until 3:15.

Great! Maybe I could resolve this by then.

Then I noticed a TriMet maintenance employee, in a lime-green vest, on the edge of the platform. I walked up and asked if he had seen my trailer.

No, he hadn’t. But when I explained the situation, he suggested when the next inbound train arrived, I should flag down the operator, and ask if he had seen it.

Great! Thank you for the tip, sir.

He also told me that the TriMet lost & found office was just another stop or two south on the line, at the company’s headquarters, so if need be, if the trailer was found and turned in, I could go pick it up there.

Soon, the next train did arrive, and I flagged down the operator. He opened his window and talked to me as I stood on the platform. He said he wasn’t aware of any unaccompanied trailer on board, but he would pause a moment for me to check.

Thank you!

But no. No trailer on board. Then I asked if he had been the train to depart this platform southbound at 12:43. He checked his schedule said no, he was already in Milwaukie by then. So it should be the next train.

OK!

He pulled away, and I did my best to relax and have faith in the best-case scenario: I would find the trailer, full and unharmed. (As many of you know, this trailer contained all my clothes, except for what I was wearing; all my toiletries; my bike spare parts; my laptop; and important documents, including my passport. I could have worked myself up into a good freakout. I chose not to. I visualized that I would somehow find it, whole and unharmed.)

I posted about my situation on Facebook, and asked everyone to help me hold this vision. I was heartened and buoyed by dozens of friends, from around the globe, putting care-reacts and other supportive reactions on my post, and offering words of empathy and encouragement. It really helped to feel this outpouring of concern and support.

The next train arrived. I tried to flag down the operator, but instead of opening the window, he just looked at me and gave me the thumbs-up. Hmmm… kinda weird, but did this mean he saw me with my bike, guessed what I was asking, and was letting me know the trailer was indeed on board?? I chose to assume yes, and jumped into the first car. (Portland’s light-rail runs almost entirely above ground, so given the short block lengths of the city, all MAX trains are only two cars long. I can only imagine how much more overwhelming my task might have been in a city like Boston or New York or San Francisco, with six- or eight-car subway trains.)

But alas, no trailer.

At this point, I needed to board that train anyway to be able to make it to my OsteoStrong appointment. Maybe I would just have to concede that the trailer was lost… maybe it would be found later, and I could pick it up at the TriMet HQ.

I sat down, somewhat dejectedly.

But then I noticed another lime-vested TriMet employee across the aisle from me on the train. I asked if he had seen the trailer. He said no, but helped me to realize that it would be on the rear car of whatever train I had boarded. I remembered boarding the front car in north Portland, so it was only the front cars I had been checking. But he reminded me that the trains don’t turn around in Milwaukie, at the end of the line; they just reverse direction. So if the trailer was still on a train, it would be in the rear car!

Wow.

At the next stop, I jumped off the front car & looked at the rear… but that was not a low-floor car.

Weird! I knew I had initially boarded a low-floor car; it’s the only kind I can board with the rig.

I had been pretty certain that this was the right train. Apparently it wasn’t.

Could it be the next one…?

I knew if I waited for the next one, I couldn’t get to my OsteoStrong appointment in time. The time slots are only 15 minutes, and if you miss your slot, you probably miss the whole appointment. After all the hassle to get out there, I didn’t want to risk that.

But I also didn’t want to miss what might be my best chance to possibly recover the trailer.

I jumped off the train at Pioneer Square, and called OsteoStrong again: What was the last appointment of the day?

4:15.

OK, I’ll take it!

I texted Cindy to update her on the situation. She was flexible and supportive; whew!

I looked on the next yellow line train that approached. No, no trailer.

OK. I thought maybe my best bet would be to get back to TriMet’s lost & found. They hadn’t called me, but if they later did, it would be best for my timing if I were already there.

I now had time for this. OK.

So I jumped on the next #17 bus, and headed right back to where I had come from, this time going a bit farther, to the TriMet offices and lost & found.

I burst in—bike in hand, not folded, not locked outside—and blurted out to the man behind the desk my situation.

He said, “Are you looking for the lost & found?”

Doh!

“Sorry, yes!”

It was the next window over, around the corner.

It took me a minute to get that woman’s attention, but when she looked over, I blurted it all out to her.

She seemed mildly annoyed, and said they hadn’t seen it: “I just called dispatch eight minutes ago, to check on this, and no one had seen it.”

Oh.

I was disappointed by the news, but glad to hear they had at least received my voice mail and started working on it.

But… now what? Where was my trailer? I still chose to envision that I would get it back, intact… but how? And my mind couldn’t help starting to wonder about how catastrophic it would be if I really didn’t.

I trudged out of the TriMet building.

Right outside the doors, I heard my phone ringing.

The Caller ID showed my storage-unit company.

Weird. Why would they be calling me? I hoped this wasn’t some bad news about something happening to my belongings there; I knew they had periodic break-ins there.

When I answered, the woman said, “This is a really weird phone call, but did you lose, like… a bike cart?”

“Ohmygod, YESSS!”

Wow. Was this really happening? But how would the storage unit be involved? They were not particularly close to that train line.

Apparently, she said, a woman had found the trailer, and opened it up, noticing various valuable items and realizing how scary it must have been for me to have lost it. She wanted to get it back to me. She had looked in my checkbook register (Who still uses those? Me! And now I’m extra glad I do!) and saw that I had made a recent payment to the storage company. In an amazing coincidence, she herself had also rented a storage unit at that location in the recent past.

She realized the company wouldn’t give her my number, but she thought she could leave her number for them to forward to me.

So the employee texted me this Good Samaritan’s number, and I was ecstatically hopeful.

Her name was Michelle, and I immediately called her. She said that she and her boyfriend, Cody, had found it on the train platform. OK, so that solved one mystery: the trailer must have come unhitched as soon as I disembarked. She said that they had gone through my belongings—seeing my laptop, passport, checkbook, etc—and had taken it upon themselves to get the trailer to the address on my checkbook, near 50th & Division.

Wow. What a kindness! Of course I don’t live there anymore, but they had thought/hoped I did, and proactively took the trailer there.

This trailer is bulky and hard to move, even with the hitch attached. It weighs about 72 pounds (33 kg) with everything in it.

They didn’t have a car.

They must have rolled it at least five blocks to Division, and somehow carried it onto the FX2 bus, then carried it off at the bus stop at 51st.

Above and beyond.

“Ohmygod, thank you, thank you so much!”

I was overcome.

“Should I meet you there right now? I could be there in like 20 minutes on my bike.”

We agreed to do so.

She also mentioned that they had found my alternate address—my mailing address, about a mile away from there on Hawthorne—and, thinking that might be my residence, they had been planning to schlep the trailer onto the 14 bus to take it over there and try to find me.

The kindness, and time and effort, were so humbling. These guardian angels were looking out for me!

I hung up the phone and hopped on my bike, riding as fast as I could up to my old neighborhood. (But not before dashing back inside to jubilantly let the TriMet folks know it was found! They both celebrated with me, as I ran back out the door.) When I arrived, I found Michelle and Cody at the intersection of 50th & Division, eating burritos at an outside table.

I rushed up and thanked them profusely.

Michelle said, “You know, right there by that train platform is a homeless camp. Someone could have found it and taken everything.”

Wow. I hadn’t known that, although given the ubiquity of homeless encampments throughout the city, it was a good bet. And so many people right now—housed or not—are struggling, and might have seen my belongings as a potential bonanza for themselves.

She went on to explain that she and Cody themselves were homeless, and had been living in the Urban Alchemy tiny-house village near that MAX platform*.

Wow.

Wow.

New layers of meaning.

She said they had just been approved for an actual apartment, with a year lease, and were planning to move in the next day. She added that they are both about 30 days sober, and looking forward to starting their new life.

Wow.

I wanted to offer some money to them, as a show of gratitude and especially when I learned of their own circumstances. At the very least, I wanted to cover the food they had bought while they waited. But I had only about $7 in cash on me, and I knew that was not enough to even pay for the food. And my own finances are in a rather precarious state these days.

I did offer to Venmo her some money, though I also added, somewhat sheepishly, “If you saw my checkbook, you saw that I don’t have much right now either…”

She nodded, having indeed seen my bank balance, and said they would appreciate some funds, given their situation, though she also wished they were in a position to refuse any financial offering.

She had recently had a problem with Venmo, losing money to the app that she could not recover, so she no longer had it installed, nor PayPal. She did have CashApp.

Darn! I didn’t have CashApp. Maybe I could install it… regardless, I would find a way to get them at least a small amount of money.

I needed to rush off to get to my OsteoStrong appointment (which was prepaid, and not cheap, but which I pay for by selling plasma, since I want prioritize anything I can do to preserve my early-onset osteoporotic bones) but I thanked them again, and said I’d be in contact soon.

I rushed off to the gym, making it to the appointment three minutes late. It was OK; the folks there are cool, and they understood and accommodated me.

While on the train to the gym, I made a brief Facebook update with my almost-dead phone battery, letting everyone know I had indeed recovered the trailer intact, and briefly sharing the story of this amazing couple.

By the time I left the gym, I saw that many of my friends had taken it upon themselves to send me money, via Venmo or PayPal, to pass along to the couple.

By the next morning, thanks to the generosity of my friends all around the country, the “housewarming gift” had reached $300. I wrote a note of gratitude to go along with it—on a card that my host Cindy contributed—including the impact that Michelle’s and Cody’s act of kindness had had on so many of my Facebook friends who had read about it.**

I was so overwhelmed by every aspect of this situation.

I’m about to go out now to meet them and give them the card and cash. I will also retrieve my water bottle; Michelle had texted to say she noticed after the fact that it had fallen out before they brought the trailer to me.

I’m not religious, but this all feels kind of like a Christmas miracle.

I’ll resist the urge to wrap this up with any sort of platitudes or “lessons”; I trust they are all apparent, and that everyone who reads this will take your own gleanings from the story.

I will just say, I am filled to the brim with gratitude.

*Michelle’s words about Urban Alchemy, from a later text: “They are the ones who changed our lives. They are also currently in the process of trying to raise more money to change more lives. They are a full circle nonprofit, who employs felons and other hard to employ minorities at a living wage. To monitor, and serve the houseless community. These people are literally saving lives every day. I can’t tell you how many houseless people I met that had previously refused other ‘shelter or housing options’ because they were horrible. At Urban Alchemy we had heat, air conditioning, shelter, laundry facility, showers, as well as snacks and coffee provided daily. We felt like they truly cared from day one.”

**Michelle’s words on the card and cash, from a later text: “Regarding the gift you collected for us. Cody and I have both prided ourselves on remaining good people. Not falling into the dirtbag culture others seem to turn to when desperate for money and/or drugs. So more than the gift, those words of encouragement meant the world to us. It felt like through you hundreds of people could see who we are finally without having to look past the addict or homeless lenses we have been viewed from for so long.”

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Santa Clara, California

11/27/23

After my recent Vancouver Island sojourn, I’m back in California… at least for another week, until I head back to Portland for some medical stuff and cat sits for the month of December. I’m soaking up the sunshine here while I can!

Two weeks ago, I boarded a small propeller plane out of Comox to Vancouver, then transferred to a jet back to San Francisco, followed by a couple of hours on the Caltrain before I arrived at my new sit. The cloudy and overcast views out the airplane window in Canada were kind of cool.

At the end of that long travel day—during which I arrived to a heavy rainfall in California—I finally landed at this lovely house with a Spanish-style backyard, complete with lime and avocado trees, across from a Carmelite monastery.

The two cats, Angel (white) and Buttercup (calico) were both strays rescued by this couple years ago; they suspect that people sometimes abandon stray cats at the monastery.

After the adorable-but-high-strung cats in San Jose, these two have been refreshingly low-key. Buttercup stays outside, and Angel mostly does too, just coming in at night for several rounds of treats followed by a snuggly overnight sleep on the bed with me.

The temperatures have been slightly lower than my preference—mostly highs in the low to mid 60s—but definitely warmer and sunnier overall than Comox or Portland. I have enjoyed the sun as much as possible, even pulling a porch chair out into the driveway today to catch the last few rays.

Last week, I went over and walked the monastery grounds. It’s a lovely and peaceful spot, with a large olive grove directly across from the house.

I also found time to return to the San Jose Japanese Friendship Garden, on a particularly warm and sunny day. I love that spot.

I spent Thanksgiving with my gracious former Warmshowers hosts Vikki and Mark, in nearby Campbell. Vikki made a few special vegan dishes for me, which I really appreciated. I will also be staying with them for the next three nights, after I leave here tomorrow, and then with a really interesting Servas host in nearby Mountain View.

On my way back from Campbell that day, I stopped once again at the beautiful rose gardens and Rosicrucian peace garden. There are so many wonderful public spaces here in the San Jose area.

Oh, and an amazing small-world coincidence: the couple I am sitting for right now have been visiting the husband’s sister in the tiny town of Lovettsville, Virginia… which happens to be the neighboring town to the tiny village of Waterford, Virginia where I grew up! They will be returning next summer; perhaps they can meet up with my parents then for a walking tour of historic Waterford.

I’ll leave you here with a few more kitty pics.

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A bittersweet journey to Vancouver Island

11/21/23

Hello from Santa Clara, California. I returned here, to the San Jose area, about a week ago, but I’ll make a separate post about my time here. Right now, I’m behind on reporting my travels to Comox, British Columbia, on Canada’s Vancouver Island.

As some of you know, my maternal grandfather was Canadian. His parents had immigrated to Canada from England in the late 1800s. His father—my great-grandfather—was an architect who built a house in 1912, when my grandfather was 7, in an idyllic Vancouver Island hamlet called Comox. The house was situated on about seven forested acres, with the open front yard ending in a bluff overlooking the ocean (and nearby Denman and Hornby Islands).

My grandparents retired to this home in the 1960s, after my grandfather had spent his career in the United States, where he had met my grandmother and raised my mother and her two siblings.

I was born in 1972, and during my childhood and teen years, our family would make the trek from Virginia, every few summers, to visit the grandparents in this wonderful place. My grandfather was a forester, and in addition to the wonderful vegetable garden and berry vines they cultivated, he also planted fruit and nut trees, including an apple tree with at least eight varieties of apples grafted onto it.

My grandparents passed away in the mid-late 1990s, but we have been able to keep the house in the family, sharing it among various relatives, since then. As an adult, I have visited a number of times, although living in Portland without a car made it difficult to travel there. (Even from Seattle, it was a full day’s journey, including a drive to the Canadian border, a wait at the border, a wait at the ferry, a two-hour ferry crossing, and then a nearly two-hour drive from the ferry to the house. Flying was possible, but expensive and similarly time-consuming, since of course there is no direct flight.)

Sadly, our family has finally come to a time when we will soon need to sell the house. Life marches on, and things change. I accept this, but saying goodbye to a place I have known all my life is sad.

So, I made a (probably) last trip up there a couple of weeks ago, which happened to allow me to celebrate my birthday in this special place and spend time with my parents, who have traveled all the way from Virginia to spend a couple of months there.

It was a very special trip, and I’m so glad I went.

I flew up on November 6th. I would have preferred to avoid flying, as usual, but the logistics, time, and expense of doing so from San Jose were unfortunately prohibitive.

I spent my first night on the island in a hotel, since my flight arrived late, and then, since my parents had not arrived yet, I chose to spend the next two nights with a Servas host, to give myself a non-family perspective on this place I had only visited with family over the years.

I’m so glad I did! Jane, my host, was in her mid-70s, and had grown up in a Servas family. Her parents had hosted dozens of people from around the world; she actually showed me two thick binders of letters and photos from these folks, mostly from the mid-1980s. How cool!

Her cottage was magical, situated directly on the beach(!) and with a special outdoor guest bedroom, set up to be very cozy and inviting.

The day I met her was the last warm(ish) and sunny day of what is a very dark and rainy season in that area, and the rain and windstorms had not yet taken down the autumn leaves from the trees.

We went to my family house to see it in this golden state, and I’m so glad we did. A few photogenic deer made their customary appearance, and we even picked apples from one of my grandfather’s trees, from which we later made applesauce.

Then she drove me around the area, and we took a hike at a beautiful nature park called Nymph Falls.

The next day—my birthday, the 8th—we took a walk along the beach, and then back through her neighborhood, passing a glorious red Japanese maple.

That evening, my wonderful vegan Facebook friends Fireweed and Mike, who live on Denman Island, took the ferry over with their electric car, and took me out to a sumptuous birthday dinner (for Fireweed, too—her birthday is the day before mine, and her late father’s birthday was the same as mine) at a nearby Greek restaurant that boasts a separate vegan menu. The meal was wonderful, with an assortment of flavorful appetizers, entrees, cocktails, and even dessert, and I had leftovers for another meal the next day.

The following day, my parents came to Jane’s place to pick me up and take me to the family home.

Sure enough, we got plenty of dark, rain, and wind over the next six nights—enough to knock out the power (and thus well water supply, too) for five hours one night.

But it was wonderful to reconnect with my parents in person; the last time we had seen each other was over Mothers’ Day, a year and a half ago, during my cross-country travels. My mom even veganized my grandmother’s bread recipe for me, which was a great treat that reminded me of childhood summers in that home.

I did do a small amount of outdoor exploration while there, including a short woodland hike that showed me the largest, coolest fly amanita mushroom I’ve ever seen!

I also took the ferry over one day to Denman Island, to meet up again with Fireweed and Mike. They fed me a homemade vegan lasagna lunch, complete with peach tarts made from their own tree’s peaches! (I was shocked to learn that peaches could grow in such a wooded and rainy environment, since they are difficult to grow in Portland.) They have a beautiful art studio for Fireweed’s photography work, which doubles as a guest cottage. The inside and out were beautiful.

They also took me on a hike that afternoon, in Fillongley Park, which included wonderfully tall trees and also stunningly blue sea views.

When they dropped me back at the house, there was just barely enough daylight left for Fireweed to capture a few photos of my parents and me on the bluff and in front of the house. I’m glad we have that documentation, as well as one of the most beautiful sunsets I can ever recall seeing there.

I’m really glad to have made that trip.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Chapter 5 begins

11/1/23

Wow. It’s been more than a month since I’ve written, and everything is so different.

Horrific violence in Israel and Palestine. What is happening there is beyond tragic, and feels so overwhelming, on so many levels. I have contacted my Congressional representative and Senators about a ceasefire. I don’t know how things will unfold, but I continue to envision a world in which every human being is safe, fed, housed, and living with dignity and human respect.

In my own world, things have changed quite a bit as well, mostly for the good. I’m in San Jose, California now, having traveled by train from Portland overnight from October 12th to the 13th. I had some wonderful spontaneous magical meetings on the train, which is always my hope. The weather is warm and sunny here, exactly what I want! And I am continually dreaming into a bright future, including my dream of traveling Europe by train and bicycle next summer.

My birthday is approaching (a week from today, the 8th) and I’m looking forward to a family trip at that time to Vancouver Island, Canada, where my great-grandfather built a house in 1912 which has been in the family ever since. I am looking forward to reconnecting with my parents, and with the house, land, and ocean there.

I’m also realizing that with my recent move to California for the season, I am entering what I am coming to view as the fifth chapter in the transformation of my life.

The first chapter began on January 7th, 2020, when my world started (seemingly) falling apart. During my then-annual sunshine-seeking short trip to San Diego, my condo in Portland flooded when a radiator pipe burst in the living room. I was forced to relocate for three months while the condo was restored from all the damage. During that relocated time, the pandemic fully arrived on American shores, and I feared for both my life and my then-livelihood (at a retail party store) and began reflecting deeply on what was most important to me. Shortly after I moved back into my condo, my then-partner of seven years suddenly left me to pursue another relationship.

Yikes. Talk about all possible rugs being pulled out from under me.

Chapter 2 began in early August of that year, when after all those blows, I came to the realization that I wanted to make a dramatic change. I dreamed up a yearlong multimodal journey around the United States and Canada. I spent 13 months planning and preparing for the journey, and that year was one of the best of my life up until then—especially wonderful as a contrast to the previous seven months.

Chapter 3 was the journey itself, and as those of you who followed along with me here well know, it was also an incredible time of joy, exploration, and expansion for me.

Chapter 4 was when I returned to Portland for what I thought would be only a few weeks, but then got “stuck” there for another year when I had a variety of medical and dental issues to attend to, including a fractured foot that happened shortly after my return. I was disheartened, but spent the year beginning a brand-new lifestyle of cat sitting. I found that it was a perfect segue after a year of large-scale travel, staying in people’s homes with them for a few days, to switch to small-scale travel mostly around the Portland area, getting to know cats better and having longer stretches and more privacy and solitude at each home. I even managed to do some traveling to places around Oregon, including Eugene, Bend, Silverton, Corvallis, and McMinnville, and even a January jaunt to Los Angeles and Pomona.

Chapter 5 began a few weeks ago, when I boarded that train to combine my cat sitting lifestyle with my wider-ranging, warm-weather-following travel lifestyle.

San Jose has been lovely. These two Russian Blue cats, Sergei and Vladimir, have kept me on my toes, but have made up for the challenges by being so adorable and snuggly.

The apartment is centrally located, and I have made great use of that by visiting the rose garden, the incredible Rosicrucian peace garden, the San Jose Japanese Friendship Garden, the San Jose Art Museum (with last year’s Warmshowers host Vikki!) and the lovely downtown plazas.

I got an overdue bike tuneup at the local Brompton-certified shop. I’ve been attending the local OsteoStrong gym.

The other day, I even took an excursion by BART train to the charming outer suburb of Livermore, to catch up with my wonderful friend Mimi, who had hosted me two years ago during my time in Berkeley.

I hope you enjoy the photos.

Meanwhile, I’ve continued doing magical meetings with people around the world, per my ongoing vision of strengthening the rainbow network.

And, I’m moving ahead on seeking donations and godfunding to continue my work and travels around the world. (If all goes well, I will work my way slowly east across the southern US this winter, visit my parents in Virginia in May, then fly to England to begin a five-to-six-month adventure in the UK, Ireland, and Europe from Scandinavia to Spain and Portugal—all by bicycle and trains, of course!)

I completed one component of this fundraising goal yesterday: I made a page on my blog with testimonials from many people who have experienced my Happy to Listen, Dream Into Change, and/or Magical Meeting sessions over the years. (Follow the link and scroll down to see the testimonials.) I am very proud of my work, and it brings me deep joy to read the wonderful writings that so many people took the time to share about how my holding space with and/or for them has made a difference in their lives. This is how I can do my part to strengthen that rainbow network, one hour and one person at a time.

My current fundraising goal is $60,000. With this money, I could pay off my mortgage, top up my “emergency fund” (which has unfortunately dwindled this past year as some unexpected expenses have arisen) and have enough left to continue my (very economical) travels. I visualize that this $60,000 is flowing to me easefully and joyfully, from people who become acquainted with my work and my vision as I continue it.

I want to thank you, my readers, so deeply for all the moral and financial support you have offered me these past few years! I probably haven’t expressed enough how much your support means to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

*If* you happen to feel moved to contribute any additional amount in honor of my taking the leap of faith to begin “Chapter 5,” and/or my upcoming birthday, I would of course gratefully receive it. If you don’t feel moved or able to do so, I absolutely celebrate that as well, trusting that the money will flow from where it will.

And regardless, as always, if you would like a free magical meeting, by phone or video chat, please let me know that as well! I would love to support you in your life and dreams.

I hope you are all doing well, enjoying life and the season!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)

A bicycle adventure, season-turning trees… and more kitties

9/23/23

It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote. I’m feeling much better, thanks to many supportive friends and a change of scenery.

And… it’s a new season now! Fall is always bittersweet for me; the leaves are beautiful, but I mourn the loss of the warmth and light. Hence my plan to head south, in just a few weeks; I’m looking forward to California!

As I do my best to wrap up my time here in Portland—where I’ve been back for a year, as of September 17th—I’m feeling mostly good, but some of my medical appointments may require me to come back briefly in November or December. I’m not looking forward to the cost, weather, nor logistics of this, but it is what it is, and I’m choosing to move forward and enjoy California as much as I can, starting on October 12th.

Meanwhile, around here I was generously gifted a ride back from Bend (thanks again, Raven!) and then a ride across the Columbia River into Vancouver, Washington (thanks, Lindsay, if you’re reading!) to care for an adorable little orange munchkin named Clementine.

Clementine lives near some lovely parks, and I went out several times to enjoy the late-summer sunshine and beautiful trees.

My ride back to Portland, though, fell through. I had assumed that bicycling back would be more challenging than I wanted—even at only 11 miles—with my rig. I had biked the I-205 bridge once before, years ago (on my old bike, no rig) and remembered the uphill and headwind on the bike lane (in the middle of the freeway) though to be fair those were mostly on the northbound journey. But this day was to be 90 degrees (32 C) and I had just given plasma that morning, including a one-hour round trip bike trek to and from the plasma place.

I can’t take my rig on a bus, though. And when I thought of ordering a Lyft, I worried that drivers might be loath to allow me to put all my (sometimes grungy) traveling components into their car.

So, I figured, why not just do it? Yes, plasma, yes, 90 degrees, yes, some hills… but it’s 11 miles! Don’t be ridiculous! You can do this.

And… I could, and I did. I admit I felt a bit wilty and tired in the heat at times, but there was some lovely scenery, and I took a few rests.

And at the end of the day, I arrived in SE Portland to my new cuddly and vocal charge, Lavender!

I spent several days enjoying his snuggly energy, and then it was time to move on to a more regal kitty, in SW Portland, named Quinny. She gives the most deluxe kitty boops I have ever experienced; I have dubbed them “Quinny boops.”

Arriving here to Quinny’s abode did involve a hill challenge: right at the last leg of the journey, there is an 80-foot climb in a one-block stretch. I cannot bike that angle, with or without a rig! So I hoofed it, remembering similar “hikes” from my year’s travels, including one in San Francisco and a gravel one between San Jose and Santa Cruz.

I’ve got one more night here with Quinny, and then tomorrow I’ll be staying with a bicycle friend in NE Portland for a few nights.

Happy fall to those of you up north here with me, and happy spring to those in the southern hemisphere!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Bend, Oregon

9/11/23

Two years ago yesterday, I set out on a life-changing journey. I bicycled south from Portland to Salem, in the first day of a year’s worth of travel around the US and Canada.

Now, I’ve been back in Portland almost exactly a year, and I’m preparing to embark southward again in about a month.

But right now, I’m finishing up a six-day cat sit here in Bend, in central Oregon. Despite having lived in Portland since 1990, I had never before visited Bend. I’ve never owned a car, and passenger rail doesn’t run here. There are intercity coaches, but I never felt enough of a motivation to visit here, despite having heard that it is a pleasant—albeit very fast-growing and gentrifying—little city.

So, at the beginning of this summer, I promised myself I would do a week-long sit each in Eugene in Bend. As you may have recently read, I completed the one in Eugene a couple of weeks ago. The smoke sadly trapped me there, for the first three days, but here I was very fortunate to arrive just a couple of days after weeks of severe smoke had cleared out of the area. It started to creep back in this afternoon, but luckily my (modest) explorations of the area were complete.

I managed to catch a ride with my friend Raven (hi, Raven!) from Portland, so that made the travel even easier than traveling by bus. We will be returning to Portland tomorrow.

The two cats here, Scout and Luna, are very cute. Unfortunately, though, I found the sit to be rather stressful overall; I was “off my game” a bit and made a couple of mistakes (which I considered pretty minor, in the scheme of things) but the cats’ person was having a stressful time herself, and did not react very well when I told her by phone. Her responses to me triggered my childhood traumas around being scolded or shamed by adults, which then set me perpetually on edge, ironically making me more likely to make future mistakes. (I’m very thankful that this sort of feedback loop happens very seldom in my life these days! This week gave me an opportunity to practice gratitude for that.)

Meanwhile, however, Bend itself was lovely, with perfect weather, beautiful bike trails and tunnels, ponderosa pines, junipers, and yellow rabbitbrush shrubs everywhere.

I had the chance to visit a few friends here, too, including my friends Ed and Wendy (and their adorable tabby cat Simba, whom some you may recall I had sat for a couple of times this past winter before they all moved to Bend). I also met for lunch and a farmers market stroll with my longtime vegan-community friend Donna. And, today I did an OsteoStrong session at their Bend location.

I’ll leave you with some photos of this week’s kitties (Scout is the black one, Luna black and white) and also with this hilarious TikTok video about pet sitting. (Apologies if it won’t let you watch the video without signing up for TikTok; I’m not sure about that.)

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Smoke, stress, and beauty in Eugene

9/5/23

Happy September, all!

I am back in Portland, between last week’s sit in Eugene (100 miles south of here) and my upcoming week’s sit in Bend (125 miles southeast of here). I’m loving these mini-excursions within Oregon this summer. It will be my first time in Bend, and I’m excited about that!

Eugene’s trip was rewarding, but not without its challenges and stressors.

First, the smoke.

This was at least my third time in Eugene when the smoke was severe enough that it was inadvisable to be outdoors. (Mental note: visit Eugene in early summer, not late summer.)

I was pretty disappointed about that, because over the years I’ve never had more than about 2-3 days in Eugene at a stretch, and this was to be a full six days. I was looking forward to settling in a bit and getting to know the place better. With the smoke, though, I only got about the last 2-3 days of that, once again. Oh, well; I made the most of it.

The house sit was challenging, too.

I arrived at the house—having bicycled about half an hour from the train station in air deemed unfit to even sit still in, let alone exert oneself—to find that the key code the host had given me for the door did not work. I tried it many times, on all doors, and the locks would not budge. I texted the host, and received no reply.

So, I sat an additional half hour on the front step, inhaling yet more smoke into my lungs. (Fortunately, I do not have an extra lung sensitivity, like many people I know do.) Finally I decided to try calling the host, and luckily I did reach her and she gave me a different code. That code didn’t work either, though, so she surmised the lock must have been jammed somehow. She walked me through getting the emergency key from its hiding spot in the backyard, and eventually I did make it into the house.

The two orange cats, Cayenne and Ancho, were adorable, so that softened the blow.

The next day, though, I took a shower in the master bath, and despite the host’s instructions to “be careful” to make sure the faucet was vertical when turning it off, and my best efforts to do so… the faucet would not turn all the way off. I stood in the shower for probably an extra thirty minutes, struggling in every way I could think of to turn off the water. This was during the last few hours of the earning week on Cambly, and I really needed to make my weekly quota.

As I stood dripping and exasperated in the shower, I texted back and forth with the host to try everything to turn off the faucet. (She had already indicated that the previous sitter had struggled so much that she thought she would have to call a plumber. In this case, the host herself wondered aloud if she might need to do that… but it was a Saturday, so he probably couldn’t come until Monday. I cringed to think of all the water—and power, since it was warm water—that might be wasted in such a scenario. The host was very eco-conscious, too, so I cringed on her behalf as well.)

Finally I took a break, dried off, and did a half-hour Cambly session. Then I went back into the shower to struggle anew. After about fifteen minutes, I somehow magically unlocked the power to turn it off. (I still don’t remember what it was that finally solved it.) Hallelujah!!

After that, the rest of the sit went pretty smoothly, and after another day or two the smoke cleared up. I got to go out and explore Eugene’s vast network of wooded riverfront bike paths. Breathtaking!

I also enjoyed the classic Sundance Natural Foods, the new Acorn Vegan Café, and my stalwart favorite vegetarian Morning Glory Café, right next to the train station as I departed.

I also got to see my friends Mike, Gordon, and Karen, and even got in a long riverfront walk with Mike around the golden hour.

All in all, a worthwhile week!

Upon my return, I did a repeat sit for my friend Celine’s cutie-pie kitty Moxie, who enjoys surveying the landscape of Celine’s gorgeously abundant backyard garden.

I’m staying with my friend Sandi and her kitty Lima for last night and tonight.

And tomorrow, Bend!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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California plannin’

8/22/23

View of downtown Portland from the Morrison Bridge bike ramp

Happy August to all! I hope those of you in the northern hemisphere aren’t sweltering too much. We did have a string of three or four 100F+ days (37C+) last week here in Portland. Fortunately, I was in a very pleasant air-conditioned apartment taking care of a wonderful kitty named Drogo (photos near the end) so I just stayed inside for a few days.

But, it’s time for me to start thinking ahead to the fall! And that means heading south to follow the sun.

From the Amtrak network map

I have taken my first leap in that direction by booking a two-week cat sit in Carmichael, just outside of Sacramento, for the second half of October. I think I will really enjoy the gig. I enjoyed my first visit to Sacramento, back in October of 2019 immediately after I got my Brompton—that was my first trip with it!—and Carmichael is within easy cycling distance to the suburb of Rancho Cordova, where there is an OsteoStrong gym.

That is one of my three main priorities as I look for sits going forward: 1) Is it reasonably near an Amtrak station? 2) Is there an OsteoStrong within about an hour by bike or transit? and 3) Is the area/neighborhood relatively flat, not too hilly for me to lug my rig up?

My general plan is to spend the fall in California, following Carmichael with November in the Bay Area (especially near San Jose, since that is the closest gym in the area) then early December around Santa Barbara and possibly a short stint in LA, then late December in the San Diego area, especially around north county spots like Carlsbad and La Jolla where the gyms are. (But I love the Hillcrest and Ocean Beach areas of San Diego, so I hope to be able to spend a week or two around there as well. I may also be willing to stay in the San Diego area into January, then possibly head toward Tempe, Arizona.)

If you know of anyone in any of those areas who might be interested in hiring a cat sitter (who now has a full year of experience, and 20 5-star reviews!) I would love your help in sending them this link to my cat sitting page.

Meanwhile, I’m still thoroughly enjoying the Portland summer. Since my last blog post, I have sat for two sister tuxedo cats in a condo overlooking the Willamette River; two sister tabby cats (my third time with them!); a gorgeous Bengal cat; and my current charges: three cats and a pondful of koi! (Sorry for the less-than-optimal photo of Max, the gray cat at the bottom here—who is still scared of me, so that is as close as I could get—and the lacking photo of Darryl, the outdoor kitty who is hard to photograph.)

Lily
Abby
Acorn
Bird TV for Dora and Acorn
Drogo welcoming his new subject
Requesting a drink from the faucet
After his thirst has been thus slaked
Making biscuits
Being adorable
In his lair
Bowie exploring the new person
Max skeptically regarding the new person
Koi greeting the new person

During these various sits, I have also done my best to enjoy both the nature parks in the area and all the beautiful urban bridges. This place is so lovely in the summer.

Tualatin Hills Nature Preserve
Steel Bridge framed by roses of Sharon
Steel Bridge at dusk
Steel Bridge at night
Steel Bridge from below
View of downtown from the Steel Bridge
View of downtown from the Steel Bridge

I’m loving my life, and looking forward to its future unfoldings!

Broadway Bridge
Under the Broadway Bridge
Under the Fremont Bridge

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Jubilant July

7/28/23

Wow. How did an entire month go by??

After the vulnerability of my last post, maybe I needed a bit of a rest… or, maybe, life just gave me a rest. The month of July has been full of impossibly adorable cats and impossibly beautiful trees and nature walks. I truly do seem to be living my best life these days, and I am so grateful.

I did also go to a naturopath, to talk about a couple of issues, and she suggested that maybe it would be good for me to take a rest from the plasma, to avoid “depleting” my body. Fair counterpoint to my last post, I suppose… so I’m now doing that, and trusting that another source(s) of income will come flowing joyfully and easefully toward me so that I can continue paying for my weekly bone-gym sessions. Sure enough, a few more paid cat sits do seem to be falling into my lap for the coming month. Two of them will be repeat clients, and the third is for a couple of acquaintances of mine with three cats and a koi pond!

And the other day, I built on this momentum by finally adding an official cat sitting page to my website! If you know of anyone who might be looking for a responsible and reasonably priced cat sitter, please feel free to send them my way.

I’ll end with some photos of the kitties and the trees. A bit of explication:

For the first half of July, I cared for a welcoming orange kitty named Booker. Within 15 minutes of my arrival at his home, he had hopped up into my lap on the couch. Our time together continued in that vein for the remainder of my stay. Every time I would return home after an absence, he would run up to meet me at the front door, and flop happily at my feet.

That house also contained a blueberry bush in the back yard, which had just begun producing when I arrived. Booker’s people had encouraged me to eat as many as I wished, and they even left some almond milk in the fridge for me.

My next—and current—sit, for the second half of July, is back with Marcel and Bertrand, the stunningly photogenic kitties you may recall from last February. I cannot get enough of these two. Bertrand, in particular (the lighter one, who often looks comically grumpy in photos) is actually so affectionate that on several evenings I have declared a “love fest” (and encouraged Marcel to join in, but he usually eyes us from a safe distance) where I kneel on the floor and Bert rubs back and forth against me—coating me in his fur, as is right and good for cats—for about ten minutes, purring loudly.

I am really going to miss these two again, when I leave on Sunday. Perhaps I’ll have the chance to return again some day.

The back yard in this place is also beautiful, and the tomato plant on the front steps also happened to begin producing exactly as I arrived. It has given me one beautifully ripe fruit each day since I have been here.

I love summer!!

Yesterday, after my bone gym appointment in Clackamas, I biked over to the nearby Mount Talbert Nature Park. It was my third time to visit this place, in as many years, and each time I have been struck by the absolute enchantment of the forest. The photos (including the one of the bridge at the beginning of this post) don’t completely do it justice.

My upcoming sit on Sunday, for about a week, will be for two littermate sister cats in a condo right near the train station! I’m so excited to experience this particular location.

I hope your summer (or winter, in the southern hemisphere) is going wonderfully as well.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)