Welcome to A Community Thread! I'll introduce you to a neighbor and remind you that we have much more in common than not. I'm hoping that celebrating our commonality and sharing that with you will help grow the notion that we are better together and so many of us are working for the same thing - peace.
As former colleagues at Saving Grace and now both members of Allyship in Action, Erin Rook recommended LeeAnn to participate here. Before we started recording, I asked LeeAnn why she decided to accept the invitation and she said, “… because, as a woman of color, I wanted to provide a voice and a face that had not been represented much in this project yet and have the opportunity to connect other voices from marginalized communities to the project.” That’s a pretty good reason, if you ask me. This interview is full of LeeAnn's heart and thoughtfulness. It was a pleasure meeting her and I am happy to introduce you to her here.
I met Ari through his wife, Lisa, at the end of the year show I had this past December. He and I only chatted for a moment, but Lisa mentioned she was going to refer Ari to the project then. I arrived at Ari's office on a very wintery Valentine’s Day and as we chatted we could see the snow falling outside - quite romantic, really. As is often the case, we talked for quite some time before turning on the recorder. I often wish I could share that part of the conversation, but doing so would inevitably change the course. Anyway, Ari and I covered many topics in the interview and you should get a good sense of how it went. Things get pretty real towards the end. Ari’s got a huge heart and a deep capacity for empathy. I enjoyed talking with him and getting to know him and I am so glad to introduce him to you here.
I originally met Erika through Donna Burklo sometime last summer. With neither of us having a proclivity for nonsense, we dove straight into the all the big topics during our first conversation. Due to my tumultuous upbringing in extreme religiosity, I tend to not have lots of room for it in my life these days. I actually associate it with more potential for bad than good. So, going into our first meeting, I knew that Erika was a pastor, but I did my best to lay my judgments aside. The resulting conversation was one of my favorites since moving to Bend and by the end of it, I considered Erika a friend and an ally.
We heard each other as we spoke our individual truths and respected each other through our differences while we discovering a path toward our common ground. We've met on a few occasions since then and I've felt an affinity for her each time. Because I thought sharing our story might be meaningful to others, I asked Erika to participate here. She accepted and, just as I hoped, she showed up in a real way for it. I'm delighted to share her interview with you here. Erika is a super smart and resilient woman with a huge capacity for empathy and compassion. And I'm proud to call her my friend.
Ian Carrick referred Tiffani to participate here after having met her at an ecstatic dance event. I’ve yet to personally experience ecstatic dance in any kind of structured setting, but I can say I have had some really wonderful times while dancing and have come away from them with a feeling that could probably best be described as ecstatic. Tiffani is now the third participant of this project who has mentioned ecstatic dance with great praise, so I might just have to try it one of these days. Anyway, it was so wonderful to meet Tiffani. We had a very warm and sincere conversation and I am so happy to be able to share it with you here. She and her dog, Banjo, and cat , Wiggin, all made me feel very welcome in their home. I spotted Tiffani out and about in town a couple of weeks after our interview and walked up to her to say hello. It warms my heart to recognize a new friend after having newly met and I always wonder how many times we might have unknowingly crossed paths previously.
Tim Hellman referred Marcus to this project. I had already spent some time with Marcus as he and Tim and I have been getting together to play some basketball. I met Tim through this process and I’m so grateful for our growing friendship. I’m also so grateful that he’s been willing to share his other friends with me as that camaraderie has contributed to this year’s positive start. It’s often the case that I don’t know much, if anything, about these folks before I interview them, so the dynamic changes a little bit when I do know them. It’s really fun to sit down and formalize a conversation with an acquaintance or a friend. My experiences with Marcus so far all have shown me his kindness and encouragement and what I would consider a strong tendency toward positivity. I’m happy to have made a new friend in Marcus and I’m delighted to introduce him to you here.
Mandy Butera referred me to Leslie and then I ended up meeting her soon after at an event that Mandy put on. I love to meet people for the first time when I show up for our interview, so we kept that initial encounter brief. A few days later, I met up with Leslie at her studio space and we dove into conversation like we were old friends. We must have recognized each other’s sincerity because our conversation carried an authentic and vulnerable tone. I easily could have chatted with her for the rest of the day. I’m happy to introduce you to Leslie here and I hope you have the great pleasure of meeting her in person. Until then, this will have to suffice.
Jesse Locke recommended Paul to participate here. He accepted immediately and enthusiastically, which led to my really looking forward to connect with him. We laid some plans to meet up at his tasting room and then make a trip to the brewery together, but due to time constraints, we stayed at the tasting room. After a short detour to the neighboring coffee shop, where we ran into Brandon Harris, we sat down at the bar and talked shop about beer and life and all the things you will read or hear below. And as we chatted, Paul’s wife, Staci, worked away on the computer and Hans kept busy in the other room. The place was full of life - quiet and productive life. It was so great to chat in Paul’s work space while that work was going on. That authentic scene set the stage nicely for our authentic conversation. If you’ve not stopped by The Ale Apothecary, I highly recommend it! And be sure to seek Paul out. You won’t be disappointed.
Ian Trask recommended Russell to participate here. And due to his soon-coming trip to Mexico, we almost didn't meet up this morning, but we pushed through and I'm super glad for it. Russell's big dog, Bub, met me in front of his home and then Russell's wife, Brook, treated me to a hot cup of tea and made me feel at home. By the time Russell got home I was already comfortable on his couch. He sat down with me and we started chatting and after just a couple of minutes, his cat, Boo, made a home at my side and purred throughout the rest of our talk.
This interview is quite different than the rest. Each interview has its nuances, of course, but this one has a heavy lean toward the philosophical and existential. I hope you’ll find some food for thought here. I always find a little relief in the fact that no one of us really knows much of anything. We have our thoughts and feelings based on our own experiences and sometimes we refer to them as beliefs, but they are just that and not the same as fact. So, is there any room in your beliefs for new ideas? For broader understanding? For more compassion? For new perspectives? I hope so.
I met Richard as my friend and I were taking down the exhibit of this project at Crow's Feet Commons. He was sitting on one of the sofas and asked me if the work was mine. Then he proceeded to offer his thoughts on the material, going as far as to offer me one of the truest and kindest bits of praise I've ever received. He referred to my portraits as "confrontational". I encounter many people who have some aversion to that word and that practice. I am not one of those people. Don't get me wrong, I don't seek out trouble, but I rarely avoid dealing with the situation at hand - no matter how difficult. And I can understand what Richard meant. I am presenting these people to you in a very honest and straightforward way, allowing - or maybe gently forcing - you to take them in as they are.
We spoke for several minutes and discussed photography and art. Richard showed me some of his own work on his website and we just kind of clicked right away like two matching puzzle pieces. He left an impression on me and the thought of inviting him to participate in this project excited me. So, I reached out via email the next day. He accepted immediately and we made an appointment to meet at his home the following week.
Richard toured me through his home and made me a cup of coffee and we talked and talked and talked. About art and design and photography and what it all may or may not mean. By the time we wrapped things up, we had spent nearly four hours together. And I can honestly say that every minute of it was a delight. As you'll hear, Richard is articulate and kind, thoughtful, and wise. And he's funny. It was a pleasure to see him smile and laugh. And it was touching to see him shed tears. Due to a variety of circumstances, I don't have a patriarchal influence in my life, so talking with Richard gave me an idea of what it might be like to have a grandfather.
After Cate Hollister and I reconnected at the end of the year exhibition I had, she put me in touch with Elaina. I can't say exactly what caused it, whether it was her forgetting about our first appointment or my forgetting my gear on the way to our rescheduled meeting or something else entirely, but I would use the word strained to describe our time together. It felt as though the point of what I am doing and why I was there with her was totally lost -you will likely hear it in the interview - and there was a confused and maybe even combative energy.
I left this interview feeling deeply affected by that and full of so much doubt and trepidation for embarking on the third year of this endeavor. It happens like this so rarely in a face-to-face meeting. We all have the encounter in more anonymous ways with other people who don't come into our sphere with all the love and joy and encouragement that we want, right? Ordinarily though, when I meet someone face to face and look them in the eye and talk with them, I feel connected to them and part of something much bigger. I didn't feel that with Elaina and even as I type this now, more than a week later, I am still searching for why. And even though we don’t see the world through a similar set of eyes, I still think there is value in our conversation. And despite the fact that Elaina and I didn't become fast friends there is a lesson here, not just for her and for me individually, but for all of us.
I first met Mandy through Shanan Kelley the night I was a guest on The Night Light Show. Shanan auctioned off some T-shirts that I designed and Mandy “won” one for a generous sum. Then, a short time after that, Alyson Brown officially recommended Mandy to this project. It took us some time to meet as I was compiling all of the 2018 interviews into a book and having an exhibition and all that jazz. I am very glad to start off the third year of this project with Mandy and I’m very happy to introduce you to her as the first interview for 2019. She’s a friendly, smiling, warm, caring, thoughtful, and kind lady with a very handsome dog named Booker. We met for this interview above Forge Humanity where she had a pop-up version of her shop Wren and Wild while waiting for her new location to become available.
As I mentioned in the last interview, Jill Rose immediately mentioned Courtney and Amy when I asked her to think of someone to refer to the project and I can see why. Amy marks the final interview for the second year of A Community Thread. So, she's the 60th for this year and the 110th since I began doing this. And I couldn’t have asked for a better way to wrap up this year. Amy’s heart and compassion shine through all of what she says below. She’s got zest and fire and an ever-ready smile, too. This was another of the more conversational interviews - a sign of what I hope is to become more regular in the future.
When I asked Jill to think of some folks to recommend she immediately named Courtney and Amy from Sunny Yoga Kitchen. I had met them both previously, but never in a very personal way, so I was excited for this chance. I put a little scheduling pressure on them as I was scrambling to get the last of this year’s interviews on the calendar so I could then work on the book and prepare photos for an exhibition and, thankfully, they responded quickly and with care. I met Courtney after hours at Sunny Yoga Kitchen and we chatted at one of their dining tables. I felt a very warm and loving connection with Courtney and was so happy that she answered these questions from her heart.
When I asked Barbara to recommend people to this project, she immediately mentioned her husband, Ian, who I had the chance to chat with briefly at Rose's house in the summer. We found some time that worked for both of us and then put something on the calendar and then we pushed that date around a bit. We met at Ian's mother-in-law's house which is serving as the Trask basecamp while they work on their own home. And we dove right into meaningful conversation over some coffee and traded loads of stories and experiences before I turned the recorder on. Ian has an incredibly kind affect and finds easy access to his emotions and tears - a trait which I find very becoming likely because I share it. Ian's brilliance and articulation seem to only be surpassed by his compassion. It was an absolute treat chatting with him.
Quite a few months after her interview, Sarah connected me to Michelle. It took some time for us to schedule an interview and when we finally did meet Michelle was coming off a really difficult week at work. She is the founder and “Chief Culture Angel” at Humm Kombucha and had to make some really challenging decisions earlier in the week. In the end, I think it left her feeling more exposed than usual, which likely contributed to the depth of our heart-to-heart connection. Talking with Michelle in what was part storage room and part office came so easily and I left her feeling reenergized and a little lighter than I was feeling when I arrived. I’d venture a guess that she often leaves people with that gift.
Stephanie O’Brien recommended Jill to this project. They met rather serendipitously during Stephanie’s recovery at one of Jill’s yoga classes and became fast friends. Within seconds of walking through Jill’s front door, she offered me tea and set a large plate of freshly-baked scones on the table in front of me, foreshadowing her later statement of being a mother at her core. We had real talks throughout our entire time together and a great portion of it is here for you to enjoy. I appreciated Jill’s sincerity and vulnerability and I am very much looking forward to our next gathering.
Moe Carrick made another great contribution to this project by introducing me to Bruce. I believe they met each other through TEDx. Bruce’s role in that as well as his being a physics professor at COCC are just a couple of the ways he leaves his mark on this world. We met at the Science Center at COCC and chatted in one of the sky boxes that look out over the mountains. Bruce was so upbeat and energetic and, as he mentions later in the interview, he was wholly present with me during our conversation. Bruce, much like his wife Dawn, is so kind. I can definitely understand why Moe suggested I meet with them together. I’ve yet to have that experience, but I’m looking forward to that happening.
Erin Collins introduced me to Stephanie and I am so glad she did! We connected as soon I walked through her front door as we chatted about thrifting and vintage finds and then connected even deeper over, as odd as it my sound, cancer. My mother was diagnosed with cancer in the early ‘90s and has been in remission since. She and Stephanie are not just survivors but, more importantly, they are thrivers. I have been interested in exploring how having cancer has changed the individual’s life for the better and Stephanie had lovely things to say about that. She is also a single mom as my mom was, so we had lots to talk about in that regard, too. Stephanie is upbeat and excited for life and full of smiles - a combination of characteristics which makes for a wonderful human.
Moe Carrick recommended Dawn to me with high praise. She actually recommended I interview Dawn and her husband Bruce together, but I haven’t quite figured out how to make those logistics work, so perhaps Bruce will be a future interview. I made the drive out to their property in beautiful Terrebonne and Dawn met me in the driveway. She gave me a short tour of their home and some of her paintings and then brought me out to her studio where we sat and chatted for about an hour and half before I turned the recorder on. It’s often that it happens like that during these interviews - that we click and have so much to talk about - so I keep a large window of time available for it. It’s one of my least favorite things to cut a conversation short. I hope you’ll get a sense in the interview below of Dawn’s kindness as she seems to be nearly overflowing with it.
Moe Carrick referred a few folks to me and one of them was her son, Ian. We ended up meeting for this interview at Carol Delmonico’s house, where Ian was housesitting. Within minutes we dove right into deep topics and our entire conversation had a very solemn tone. It’s obvious to me that Ian spends significant time contemplating and is working hard to live in ways that honor his heart and values. We share a sensitive and curious nature and while that has plenty of perks, it also tends to allow for some heaviness - at least that is true for me. These days I don’t encounter too many 25-year-olds, but I can’t help but hope that they are all thinking about the world as actively as Ian is.
Both Courtney Christenson and Shanan Kelley mentioned Jesse to me, but I have to give the formal referral credit to Shanan. Either way, I’m happy for the connection. The interview below is pretty different than many of the others. Maybe it’s because Jesse and I are peers or that we have a similar outlook or we are both into making pictures or maybe it’s all of that combined or something else entirely, but this interview felt like a conversation with an old friend. After their guard dog gave me the okay, Jesse and I chatted for quite a while before the interview and then chatted some more with Jesse’s wife. And we could have gone on and on. I highly recommend listening to this interview as Jesse’s got an enthusiastic way of speaking and a contagious laugh that I couldn’t figure out how to translate to the text. He’s a really good guy. I’ll stand by that. And I am so happy to introduce you to him here.
Erin's name was sent my way on a couple of occasions, but I can officially give Amanda Stuermer the credit for connecting us for this interview. And then again, just after Amanda's referral, I met Erin briefly at a Community Conversations event. So, without reading too much into it, it seemed like we were meant to meet. And it might not have as much significance to him, but this being interview number 100 means quite a lot to me. Erin is so obviously doing heartfelt work and so articulate about it. Whenever I meet someone who seems to be living in line with their values, it warms my heart and encourages me. We don't always get to know the effect we have on folks, especially as we go about some of the more mundane details of our daily routines, but people are watching and taking note and we are having an effect. I'd like to say thank you to Erin for the positive impact he made on me and likely whoever takes the time to listen here.
Jim Radloff referred Wade to me way back in early summer, but due to a number of scheduling conflicts, it took a few months for us to finally meet. In answer to my needing a quiet place to record our conversation, Wade suggested we pile into his truck and head out into the woods. On the ride out there, Wade pointed to swaths of forest where logging and controlled burns had taken place. He pointed out healthy and unhealthy patches of forest and he gave me a political and cultural education about logging. I loved seeing the world through his eyes. I was once again reminded that there are so many things I don't know - so many things I have an opinion on that I simply just don't understand. And I'd venture to guess that the same is true for you. I enjoyed my time with Wade very much and I'm excited to introduce you to him here.
Tim is another Liz Goodrich recommendation. And another gem! We exchanged a few emails before meeting and each of them brought a smile to my face as Tim's got a lovely way with words. I find it really interesting to correspond with a stranger and then show up at their door without any idea of what they look like or how old they are or anything about them other than a few kind words passed along from another. After sitting in the wrong driveway for several minutes (I'm habitually early) and then realizing it at the last moment, I made my way to Tim's front door and only made it a few paces inside before we were deep into conversation. Tim and I have many points of commonality in our backgrounds and likely the most impactful is our growing up in and then leaving the fundamentalist church. There are many things to discuss in that realm, but one of the more interesting and lesser discussed points is what that does to the use and understanding of certain words. Purpose is one. Belief is another. Good and evil are a couple more. Anyway, it's a long list. I loved chatting with Tim because he seems to have found a way to put judgment aside while navigating life. I'm still working on that, so I'm thankful for the example.
I met this Barbara at a gathering that Rose Archer and her husband put on. Barbara Hastings was there, too, and she recommended I interview this Barbara. These community connections sure are starting to thicken. I found chatting with Barbara to be very easy. She has a lovely, no-nonsense way of getting right to the point while still being soft and welcoming. And she's not afraid to be real. I'm not afraid to be real either and I'm learning that that either works or it doesn't for some people. We've managed to create quite a facade, haven't we? And some people seem to be quite comfortable there. Well, not me. And, if I may speak for her, not Barbara. Enjoy the interview below. I'm quite happy to introduce her to you.
Liz Goodrich recommended me to Dan. She asked if it was okay to send some Redmond folks my way. It sure is. Especially if they are of Dan's caliber. Dan and I share a deep sense of curiosity and I enjoyed learning about how Dan's has shaped his experiences. He exuded kindness and humility and openly admitted to his accumulation of information and knowledge and experiences as having helped him change his mind on some pretty significant social issues. I like that. I'm pretty sure we could all (me, too) use some mind-changing. And the time is now. You can put off some other things tomorrow, but let's get right down to it today.
David Lutz introduced me to Jamie. We had only conversed through email prior to our meeting for this interview, so I was surprised by his accent when he met me at the door. Because he’s such a joy to listen to, I do highly recommend listening to this interview, but Jamie's got a lot more going on than his accent. I particularly enjoy that he speaks his mind and has a solid set of values including caring about being a good man. It's not every day I meet a man who openly admits to wanting to be a good one. I share that desire. When the time comes for someone to remember me, I hope that is one of things that comes to mind. I love it so much when I meet a stranger who is ready to engage in real, vulnerable talk right away. Thanks for that, Jamie. We sat on some cushions on the floor in an empty yoga studio and I spent our time together thoroughly embarrassed by my poor posture...
My partner and I had a yard sale some months ago and we advertised free coffee to lure people in. It worked and ended up bringing Andrew by. We chatted for just a minute and I passed him my card on his way out. Then a couple of months went by and, seemingly out of the blue, I got a text from him, asking if I wanted to meet for coffee. And, just like that, we became friends. I don't meet many people like Andrew. He comes across as happy-go-lucky and optimistic. Nobody would ever refer to me as happy-go-lucky and optimistic probably isn't the word that comes to mind when most think of me, although it might actually be a fair descriptor. Anyway, I found Andrew's take on things to be refreshing and thought he might have something to contribute here. Be sure to keep an eye out for him. He will surely brighten your day.
Carol Delmonico referred Ed to me. We met for the first time at his home and dove into good conversation right away. While he graciously made me a cup of coffee, his cats, Katniss and Norton, sized me up and quickly gave me the okay. A grandfather clock served as a metronome to our time together - you might hear it in the background if you pay close attention. My grandparents had one of those clocks and I think of my grandmother whenever I see one. She used to always yell, "Pick one!" when I would make frequent trips in and out of the house, the screen door smacking the frame with every back and forth. That was back in Maine. And it turns out that Ed also spent some time back there. I like meeting New England folks; they have a different way of talking and I realize how much I miss it every time I reencounter it. It's matter-of-fact, but not rude. Ed has that way and I really enjoyed chatting with him. Maybe you'll recognize it as you read or listen below.
Carol Delmonico introduced me to Liz at a Stoke Your Woke event at the library and recommended her to this project right then and there. Not even two weeks later we were diving deep into it in her office. Liz is fiery and really fun to talk with. She's got a lot on her heart and mind and is putting really positive energy and good work out into the world. Our interview ended up being quite a bit more conversational than many others have been. If you listen to the audio, you'll hear a bit more of our back and forth than I transcribed. The main course is below, though, so you'll get a fair portion even if you choose to read. Liz tells it like it is. I like that. I come from Maine and maybe I'm romanticizing it or suffering from some nostalgia, but talking with Liz brought me back there. High-five, Liz! I'm looking forward to talking with you again and again.
My dear friend Adam introduced me to Britt a few months ago. He was in California for a wedding, so I made the beautiful drive down there to meet up with him. And Britt, a friend of Adam's from college days, made the trip up from Southern California. Somehow our first meeting felt like a reunion and, without missing a beat, we got along splendidly. We tried to do this interview then, but it just didn't fit into our busy social schedule. As luck would have it, though, Britt came up to Oregon for a wedding and came through Bend with a lovely group of people in tow. We all became fast friends and the entire day was filled with love and a special kind of camaraderie. We carved out a little time for this conversation, which, for the first time in this history of this project, took place in my home. Britt is a lovely human who is incredibly thoughtful and patient and kind. I am so grateful for our friendship and am very excited to introduce you to her here.
Amanda Stuermer put me in touch with Shanan, recommending her with high praise. And Shanan enthusiastically responded to my invitation to participate here. We met for a coffee to get to know each other and to chat about some other things before meeting for this interview, so it seemed like we were old friends by the time we finally got down to it. It turns out that Shanan is super easy to be around. She's got a great, contagious energy and seems to be filled to the brim with encouragement. She's a real busy lady, but finds time to genuinely and deeply connect and, from what I've seen, she has an incredible knack for bringing people together. I look forward to all future things involving her. Keep an eye on the schedule for her Night Light Show with Shanan Kelley and Magnificent Guests.
Rose Archer very kindly put me in touch with Barbara Hastings to learn about my Enneagram type. While chatting with her she highly recommended that I interview her partner, John. She patched us together via email and, without delay, John and I set up a time to meet. He met me at their door and we immediately dove in. We were well into a deep conversation by the time we even reached the top of the stairs and over an hour went by before I got my recorder out. After getting a little acquainted, I learned that John's a musician and he often won't let anybody listen to his music. He pointed to boxes and boxes of music files, so I found it impossible to ignore my urge to lovingly chide him about his similarities to Vivian Maier. John's a very wonderful guy. And he's challenging himself to look for more opportunities for connection, so I'd like to encourage you to say hello if you happen to encounter him. I am grateful for our meeting and sincerely looking forward to our next time together.
Alyson recommended I connect with Erin. In our first correspondence, she mentioned that we had previously met at a workshop with Mark Montgomery at Bend Community Healing. It must have been close to a year ago, but I remembered meeting her. We played the scheduling game for a few weeks, but we were finally able to meet up at her home. I am so glad we made it work because we had a wonderful conversation and I am really excited to share it with you below. I felt very peaceful chatting with her. She talks about some of the recent changes in her life and I got the sense that those changes have allowed her to become a fuller and truer version of herself. I wonder how different our conversation would have been last year. You never know how you will cross paths with someone and when you might meet again. Maybe you can go about your day with that in mind? Try it just for today and see how it feels.
Rose Archer recommended Amanda to me, which is just one of the many things I have to be thankful to her for. When I asked Rose to think of some folks to refer me to, she mentioned Amanda’s name immediately. And we managed to just catch Amanda in her last window of availability before heading out on some extensive international travels. She welcomed me into her home and we seemed to connect instantaneously. I had the chance to briefly meet her husband and one of her sons and her trio of dogs and each of those interactions was quite warm and lovely. Amanda is dedicated and accomplished while maintaining humility - a rare and admiral combination of qualities. We don’t talk about it directly during the interview, but she is the founder of The World Muse, an organization focused on inspiring social change for women and girls.
I owe Carol a huge thank you for introducing me to Courtney as we had a really lovely time together. It will likely not be our only visit and I am already looking forward to the next. We chatted in her kitchen for a short time, surrounded by her daughters and their neighbor friends and the productive sound of renovation work coming from the other side of the house. We eventually made our way into Courtney's work space and dove into some very great conversation. After over an hour of chatting, I had to insist on firing up the recorder - and the beautiful interview below is the result. Courtney's perspective is so refreshing and provides us all with an example of the grace and compassion we should be striving to interact with. There are nuggets upon nuggets of wisdom below, so I hope you enjoy.
I used to tell folks that the interview process would take about an hour, but that is proving to no longer be the case. I should change my pitch as it occasionally goes well over that mark. For example, I spent four hours with Rose! We talked in her kitchen over a very tasty homemade smoothie. Then we chatted in her backyard, serenaded by the birds and the neighbor's welding project. We later moved into her living room for the recording portion. And, finally, out into her front yard for the photos. And I can assure you we were not just talking about the weather. I am so grateful to Casey for connecting us together. Rose offered me nugget after nugget of inspiration, hope, and encouragement and told me many powerful stories about her journey through this life. I hope you'll get a sense of the power and impact in our conversation as you read or listen below. Rose has wonderful things in store. Keep your eyes out.
Throughout this interview, you will likely notice a number of longer-than-usual pauses between questions. And that is because I am processing what Dorothy just said. I don't know that I've ever had so many revelatory moments in a single conversation before. Casey recommended Dorothy to me and she promptly and happily accepted and invited me into her home. We got into real talk right away and, after quite some time, I had to insist that we do the interview for fear that Dorothy might have to repeat herself for the interview. And then after the interview, we dove right back into it. I probably should have just left the recorder on because I found much of our continued conversation to be profound. Dorothy gifted me with her wonderfully unique and refreshing perspective and I will do my absolute best to keep a firm hold on her words of encouragement. She is a life coach... should you be looking for one.
I could sing any number of high praises for Darlene, but I am going to keep this introduction short because you will know them all to be true by reading or listening to this interview. Meeting her was one of my greatest delights. She exudes kindness and joy and love in ways I have rarely, if ever before, encountered. Just being with her offered me very welcome encouragement and she will long remain a source of inspiration for me. I owe a big thank you to Susanne for connecting us together. Darlene's participation in this project is a gift to every single one of us.
She met me at the entrance to their community-focused neighborhood and walked me up the hill to her home. We sat across from each other in the sunlight and immediately dove into a deep and warm conversation. We spoke for close to an hour before we officially started the interview and that thing I couldn't name in the introduction to my interview with Josh came alive again during that time. Carol has beautiful words to describe whatever it is that settles into the conversation between one and another. She and I share a skepticism for the system and the way it demands our participation and it is likely the source of that doubt that is responsible for our pursuit of a different way of navigating through this life. We talked through some tough questions and shed some tears together. I didn't feel like a stranger when we first met and I certainly left feeling like a friend. Thank you, Carol, for being so real with me today.
Lisa told me that just after she made a new commitment to participate more fully in community, Darlene reached out to her about this project. Funny how things happen like that, isn't it? Lisa and I had a lovely conversation in which we both expressed a desire for change and growth while recognizing and admitting not having all the answers. I believe there's a lot of power in admitting we don't know. I'd love to see us all coming together to support one another for the greater good and communicating and listening about how best to do that. Lisa left the impression on me that she really cares about our path forward and moving in that direction together. She was so obviously sincere and thoughtful and seemed quite comfortable in those characteristics. I can't help but assume she's like that all of the time.
I met David through my partner as they often overlap in their work. David has been nothing but smiles and genuine friendliness every time I've seen him. He's a pleasure to be around because of his optimism and his seemingly effortless way of being present. He's one of the few people to recommend someone (Susanne) to this project without having already participated. And then, with a splash of irony, the person he recommended ended up recommending him. I am so glad for that because he has so much to offer anyone who will take the time to read or listen below. I enjoyed chatting with him and getting to know him on a deeper level and I look forward to our next encounter.
If seeing the Roman Collar inspires a reaction in you, I'd like to encourage you to put aside your initial response and read on. I went into my meeting with Jim with an open mind and an open heart and left feeling handsomely rewarded. I mention this only because I spent a significant portion of my life involved in religion and have been deeply scarred by it. Many years ago, I decided to live my life away from the church, but I believe it is very important to allow others space for it. I try very hard to withhold my judgments around all things religious, but I'll admit that I often fail at that. So, I don't want to tell you what to do, but if you have any judgments of your own on this issue, please put them on hold and hear what Jim has to say. I know I was deeply moved and inspired by our conversation. And I'll even go so far as to say that I felt some healing take place in my heart as we talked.
Susanne is a slight diversion from the usual method of meeting someone for this project. A mutual friend of ours, David Lutz, reached out to me and her and highly recommended that we connect. Shortly thereafter, she called me on the phone to suss out my ideas and goals with the project and then agreed to meet me at her home. I was struck by her enthusiasm and found it all too easy to smile with her as she so passionately spoke about things that matter to her. We had a very lovely and very warm visit and made plans to engage further about potential future partnerships. She definitely lives her role as connector.
Angela recommended Casey to me. She had very nice things to say about her and also sent me a link to this article that Casey wrote. It was pretty great to get a peek at who she was before meeting her. We were able to set up our meeting quickly and she invited me to come to her co-housing community. When I first arrived, Casey gave me a tour of the grounds and we chatted about any number of things. By the time we sat down for the interview, we had already developed a level of trust for each other and it made for an open and honest conversation. It is clear to me, and I am sure it will be to you, that Casey sincerely gives a damn about community. She brings a lot of heart and skill into her work and is an absolute pleasure to be around. Keep an eye out for her and her projects.
Shimiko introduced me to Alyson. I didn't know her, but I was familiar with her name as she has been following this project on Instagram since it's early days, coming to know about it after I featured her friend, Libby. She also knows a handful of other people I've interviewed, which seems to be a testament to the quality of this community. I met Alyson in her home and we got right to the interview. She wasn't feeling at the top of her health game on this particular morning, but she was gracious enough to keep our appointment and managed it just fine. It's obvious that her relationships and her work mean very much to her, as does her role as a mother.
Paul Evers passed along Josh’s information. Josh immediately accepted the invitation and invited me to join he and his family for dinner before even having met me. The timing for dinner didn’t line up, but Josh’s hospitality proved to remain rich throughout our conversation. Quite a lot of chatting, or maybe connecting is the better word, tends to happens before and after the official interview and I haven’t quite figured out a way to present that aspect to the world, but maybe that’s part of the future of this project. I can’t quite put a name to what happens when two strangers meet and immediately decide to be real and raw and honest with each other, but, whatever it is, it happened at Josh’s kitchen table. It felt very warm and restorative - the conversational equivalent to a homemade bowl of soup when you’re ill.
Erin facilitated my meeting Moe and warned me she might be very busy but encouraged me to persist because my time with her would be "golden". Well, it is true that Moe is very busy, but she graciously made time for this interview and we set up a time to meet at her home. And Erin was correct in saying the time would be golden. Moe's husband, Jim, made me a cup of coffee and I acquainted myself to their sweet dog, Finn, while Moe took care of some last-minute business. Moe's got irons in many fires, but put everything on pause for our chat and was completely present. I was so impressed with her introspection and capacity for empathy. And I genuinely appreciated every moment with her. She gifted me with refreshing feelings of hope and inspiration and I can only hope that was reciprocal.
Katie recommended Cate to me. In our initial correspondence, Cate warned me about the plastic cows, but I had forgotten that tidbit, so they came as a surprise when I saw them along her driveway. She was walking her four dogs when I arrived, which was just perfect because I brought my dog along. So, the first thing we did was take a walk to let the dogs acclimate to one another. And that set the tone for what would be a few hours of learning about each other. Cate made some cacao and we chatted and shared experiences and thoughts. She was up for it wholeheartedly. And I was up for it wholeheartedly. And when two people are equally up for it, a really beautiful energy settles. I got the sense that Cate is pretty much up for it, whatever that is, all of the time.
Angela got me in touch with Paul. He tried to get out of the interview by immediately referring me to his wife, but I twisted his arm. I make a point to not do much research on folks before I meet with them as I prefer the genuine nature of meeting someone face to face. My only point of reference for Paul was an image that Angela sent to me as Paul (spoiler alert!) dressed as Santa Claus, so I was surprised when Paul answered the door as a much younger man than I imagined. We exchanged a few emails before meeting and even spoke on the phone and his kindness in every interaction really made me excited to meet him. We sat over coffee in his living room and chatted about many things before we got into the particulars of the interview and it was during that time that I understood his genuine, kind nature and the sincerity in his interest and care for others. We ended our time together with a hug. That’s how nearly every one of these interviews ends. And isn’t that remarkable?
I came to know Kristy by way of Katy. And it just so happened that I heard some of Kristy's story on the Dog and Pony radio show on KPOV just before meeting her. I didn't know what she looked like, but as I made my way into the front door of her office, she was standing right there with a smile and an anticipatory look that likely matched mine. We sat and chatted for about an hour before the interview even started and chatted for another hour after it was done. Her warmth and enthusiasm are such wonderful traits as is her willingness to ask questions and listen and learn and share. I really enjoyed my time chatting with her. It's no wonder that she is finding success in her endeavors.
Mindy introduced me to Katy. They met at a Ladies' happy hour event and Katy had her cracking up. A friendship ensued and now here we are. I met Katy at her home and we chatted in her living room. Katy's a comedian but, fair warning, you'll have to make plans to see her live because she didn't tell any jokes during our interview. She's also a DJ, but you'll need to go to Maverick's to scratch that particular itch as we also didn't do any dancing. We did have a lovely conversation, which you can read and listen to below. She seems to be someone who says Yes! often. And she seems to hold space for our differences while focusing, instead, on what we have in common. Post-recording, Katy shared some material with me, but I'm yet to see her perform. Maybe I'll see you at her next gig?
Donna introduced me to Shimiko. They know each other from crossing paths at Family Kitchen. Shimiko was all smiles and enthusiasm and sincerity. Hers is an absolutely contagious energy and one the world certainly needs more of. She managed to free up some time for me in her packed schedule and her newborn did us a favor by napping through our entire interview. Not feeling completely herself because of the lack of sleep that often accompanies a fresh baby, Shimiko tried to convince me to forget this interview ever happened, but I wasn't having it. She's got great things to say, as I am sure you'll agree.
I find very few things more gratifying than meeting a stranger and then becoming acquainted and sharing stories and laughing (and sometimes crying) with them. That happens organically here and there, but I have the privilege of experiencing it quite often with this project. I don't take it for granted. In fact, I consider it my responsibility to reflect that connection so that you might get a sense of the power of open communication and listening and honoring vulnerability. I am sure we all do this with our friends and family, but it can be done more regularly with folks we just happen to meet, too. Here's another example of that. Darlene was immediately wonderful. Immediately present and raw. Immediately honest. I got the sense that she consistently brings a lot to whichever table she happens to be sitting at. I encourage you to look into this lovely space she has created in which people can play and experiment with creativity and laugh at themselves and loosen their inner child.
I am so thankful to Danielle, who came through with another powerful recommendation. Katie had to cancel our first appointment due to illness and then we got some dates mixed up and then, on this day, a snow storm had come through and it was debatable whether or not my little car could make it down her road, but we finally made it happen. And what's interesting is that it felt like we were meant to meet today. We started the interview with a hug and chatted over a fresh cup of coffee and, within just seconds, Katie had made me feel very much at home. She and her husband Doug have created a very lovely space they call the Harmony House, which is home to drum circles and concerts and grief healing and Eric's tipi and many other powerful and lovely things, I am sure. She has a lovely and inspiring slogan, which I will try to remind myself of on a regular basis - "If you can envision it, you can create it."
Danielle recommended Hillary to me. It turns out that Hillary presented at TEDx and they met because Danielle was assigned as her coach. What a lovely connection! In the company of her cats and dog, Hillary and I chatted at a little table in her living room where she does her readings. She spoke with passion and experience and confidence and I genuinely loved every second of it. She gifted me with many kind words and a stone and a hug and even some hope. I go into these meetings most often with very little information about each person but with an open mind and willingness to be pleasantly surprised and I continually am. I think the same would be true for all of us. Give it a try - I dare you.
Danielle referred me to Kevin and I'm so glad she did. Kevin invited me to his home and we sat on his floor over a cup of tea and chatted about all sorts of things. I can honestly say I haven't encountered sound healing to this degree before or even thought about it much. One of things I really love about this project is that it exposes me to a variety of experiences I may not have had otherwise. And I imagine the same is true for you as the reader. I am certainly guilty of more than my fair share of judgments about things unknown and unfamiliar, but I am sure we would all be better off if we would let curiosity and potential learning replace those more critical and negative responses. Kevin was kind enough to give me a short sound session after our interview, which I found super interesting. You can see what services he offers and get in touch with him here.
Mindy recommended Bill to me by saying, "What inspires me about Bill is that he is willing to say and do what he believes in regardless if it aligns with popular opinion. He is willing to spend time and energy to change Bend so that it is more in alignment with values he holds in high regard. He is able to do this with a balance of grace and assertiveness that is rarely mastered." And that says it quite nicely. While I don't know Bill as Mindy does, I was completely impressed by how matter-of-factly he says things like this, "I'm pretty compassionate and filled with endless hope and energy. It's a blessing." Bill has a level of self-awareness that we could all aspire to. And I think we are all much better off for having him as a community leader.
Erin recommended Angela to me and she had some very kind words to say about her as she did it, setting the tone for a lovely and comical email exchange as we set up a time and place for our meeting. It might have been the familiarity with which Erin presented her or some cosmic connection from another life, but I felt like Angela and I were old friends as soon as we met. We had a really lovely and warm conversation inside the At Liberty space in downtown Bend. It went in a different direction than most of these interviews go and Angela even interviewed me, which seemed to give her great delight. She’s got a rapturous laugh and a style of communicating which I found transferred very nicely to audio, so if you have the space for it, give this interview a listen.
One of my dear friends (Hi, Maggie!) from back in New England reached out to me and Sarah to connect us because she knew we both lived in Bend. It took a few months to organize something, so I finally just asked Sarah if she would like to meet by participating in this project. And she was keen on it. Oddly enough, after we spent about an hour together, we realized we had run into each other not long ago on a dog walk, too. Small world. Sarah and I have mutual friends in the realm where outdoor education intersects with social work and counseling and she is currently working in that field as a crisis support specialist at Youth Villages.
I met Danielle at an Opportunity Knocks event that Aly Waibel asked me to photograph. As the event was closing down, Aly began introducing me to some folks and Danielle was one of them. I recently interviewed her partner, Eric, too. We tossed around the idea of doing a joint interview, but separating them proved to be easier to schedule. I am not a relationship expert, but these two seem to have a really great thing going on. They are both full of genuine love and it shows on their faces and it comes out through their thoughtful words. I left both of them with a strong feeling of connection and the excitement that comes when you've made new friends.
Because Erin is pumped about this project and wants to get some other people pumped out it, too, she introduced me to Mindy. And she did so with very high praise. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Mindy and I found it very difficult to not smile as she spoke because everything about her was smiling. If you have the space to do it, I highly recommending listening to this interview because so much of Mindy’s positivity comes through in how she speaks. Keep an eye out for Mindy and say hi when you do see her. I guarantee you’ll be better for it. And if you are in the market for a life coach, she might be the one for you.
I met Albert at a recent Community Conversations meeting. I greatly appreciated what he brought to the table so I asked him if he’d be willing to participate in this project. He not only obliged but also offered to begin actively seeking out other folks to send my way. I look forward to seeing how that develops. Albert keeps it real. I love it when people keep it real. He shared a few stories of his life with me - and now with you - but I imagine there are so many more. I look forward to gleaning more wisdom from him. He says this about halfway through the interview, “But I know that if we were all the same color, we would pick out some difference and find a way.” And that simultaneously made me sad and gave me hope. We seem to be hard-wired to treat each other poorly. But there are folks all around us that don’t subscribe to that and Albert is a really good example for us to look to.
A woman named Cheryl Parton reached out to me to discuss a potential collaboration. And then, after we met and chatted, she referred Donna to me. Donna saw herself more in the connecting role than in directly participating, but I twisted her arm and she graciously accepted. She’s a hard worker and full of dedication. And she’s so thoughtful. She reached out to me later in the day of our interview to ask me to include that she considers herself a friend. Here’s what she said, “My friendships are so important to me. I owe much of my recent state of calm and positiveness to a few very sweet, well-timed friendships.” It says quite a lot about a person when they want to give credit where it’s due. Imagine the community we could have if we all did that.
I met Amanda about a year ago at Good Dog, an off-leash dog area just outside of town. Our dogs were playing well together and that got us talking and then we found out we had photography in common and that turned us into casual friends. Then, sometime later, I interviewed and photographed her daughter Arden for this project. We’ve gotten to know each other in fits and spurts and eventually I asked her if she’d be willing to participate here. I haven’t interviewed too many folks that I’ve known beforehand, so it was interesting to feel a bit more relaxed in the processes. And interesting to do two interviews at the same kitchen table separated by many months.
I took some pictures at an Opportunity Knocks event several weeks ago and met Eric’s partner there. We exchanged information and made some plans to meet for this project, but it turned out that the timing was better to meet with Eric first, so here we are. Eric invited me to his tipi outside of Sisters, making this a first for the project. We sat sheltered in there, kept warm by a fire, while birds chirped a winter song and light rain drizzled down outside. His thoughtful and deliberate answers combined with our being in his element made for a truly powerful conversation. It is a lovely and rare occasion to meet a man who is capable and smart and powerful while simultaneously being humbly aware of his struggles and determined to do better.
Tor is the neighbor of a previous participant and she recommended we get together to chat. It took us several weeks to connect, but it was well worth the wait. Tor is a lovely human. He has a very gentle demeanor and such kind eyes and seems to share that with everyone he comes in contact with. Tor is a writer and a journalist and attributes much of his optimistic worldview to his curiosity. We sat in a research room that occasionally doubles as his office at the Deschutes Historical Museum, where Tor serves on the board. The catalogues that make up the background of his photo are archives of the Bend Bulletin, which he uses as reference material for his books.
A few weeks ago, I asked Charlie for a recommendation and he passed along his wife's information to me. That's high praise, right? I've only spent time individually with Charlie and Kelly, but the way they speak about one other leads me to believe that they have a very loving relationship. I met with Kelly at her co-working space on a quiet Sunday morning and something about being in a very productive space on a non-workday was simultaneously energizing and relaxing. And Kelly was an absolute pleasure to speak with. She's very thoughtful and so obviously full of kindness.
The same person that introduced me to Ian introduced me to Preston. We exchanged a few emails before officially meeting, through which I learned that Preston is a very busy man with irons in many different fires. We sat on a couch behind his desk at Five Talent and chatted with the hum of a room full of people at work as our background noise. I left our interview with a lot to think about. I suppose I could summarize it by saying that I find it really interesting what stands out to each of us during the course of this life. Things, mostly of a social nature, being broken and the sadness I feel about that motivates me to try the best way I can to fix them or, at least, shine some light on them. I got the impression that for Preston the motivation is in the progress. He put it best by saying, "What pops me up out of bed is kicking the ball forward somewhere."
Ian came to me as a referral from a referral, which makes for a great example of the thread of community. I tell everybody that this process takes about an hour, give or take, but chatting with Ian was to become the exception, as we talked for two hours in his studio before I even started recording. He mentioned Boston in his first few sentences and that led to our talking about Portland, Maine - where I come from - and that led to stories and stories and stories and many different layers of connecting. And that connection is what I'm advocating. It's what I think most of us are capable of experiencing on a regular basis. In it is the joy of being alive here and now with all these other folks. If you normally read these stories, I'd encourage you to listen to the audio of this interview as Ian and I talk about much more than I've transcribed below.
I reached my goal of making 50 stories this first year, so this interview with Erin marks the first of the next batch. I'm going to dig a bit deeper by asking more challenging questions in hopes of gaining more understanding about each of us.
We sat in a quiet and very lovely classroom in a couple of rocking chairs while piano music from a practicing student in another room faintly serenaded us. Erin is a force of good and kindness. Speaking with her was calming and somehow even reassuring. She has a wonderful passion for bringing people together through art and it was a delight to talk with her about it.