This past week has been more stressful than usual. Last Saturday started out like an ordinary “quarantime” day. I finished my coffee & headed up the hill behind the property with the dogs for our morning hike.
Of course, they got into the muddiest of puddles on the way back down, so I got out the hose to clean them off before they could go in the house. Blue was first … it’s always easy to see the mud on him! Then I turned the hose on Mick … as I started spraying his chest, I noticed a big stick stuck in his fur. Hmm, I mused. How’d a stick that big get tangled in your fur? I reached out to gently disentangle it, then realized it wasn’t stuck in his fur, it was impaled in his chest!!! Of course, my initial instinct was to get it out, but I was afraid it was plugging a hole in his heart or lungs.
I ran in the house hollering for Justin to come help me & then we called the vet. Of course, since it was a Saturday, our usual vet wasn’t available & we had to call the emergency vet. (This has been the case every single time our dogs have needed emergency help.)
Three hours & $500 later, we were able to take Mick home. They had to slice the stick out because it had barbs in one end, but at least it didn’t poke into any vital organs or arteries!! I should also add –for history’s sake– that all human interactions at the vet took place outdoors, and everyone wore masks.
Today he got the stent out –again all human interactions were outdoors– and the stitches will come out in another ten days.
The hardest part now is keeping him still. He wants to go leaping about at high speeds chasing after Blue again, but he’s only allowed outside on a short leash to go to the bathroom.
We will continue to keep him clean and still until the stitches come out at the end of next week.
I am so grateful the stick didn’t puncture arteries or organs!
It’s so easy to “feed the bad wolf” during this pandemic. There is so much fear and anxiety and resentment in the world right now. This course will help you honor and acknowledge the emotions you’re experiencing as part of the human condition. But it will also help you feed your good wolf, by teaching you simple tools that allow you to access more peace, joy, love, hope, empathy, and compassion even in the midst of chaos.
I have been guiding clients in these tools for nearly a decade, and I’d be honored if you’d allow me to guide you through this time.
I believe I was put here on earth to hold space for the part of you that yearns to unite your desire to belong with your ache to be authentically you, and to help you define, own, express and be appreciated for the gifts you bring to the world.
The world needs your strength and your gifts NOW more than ever.
Yet it’s hard to hold it together when you’re anxious and scared of what’s coming next in this unpredictable world we’ve all been tossed into.
I opened Charles Eisenstein’s book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible, this morning to find the best quote for my live meditation. I opened to the chapter on naivete. He quotes Goethe in the opening: “I love those who yearn for the impossible.”
Maybe I AM naive, but I believe that we can create from this pandemic a better world. Unlike 9/11, which pitted country against country and forced “sides”, this pandemic is sweeping the entire world. We are ALL affected, which means we are all in it together.
It feels like an opportunity like the one during WWI when everyone stopped fighting for 24 hours on Christmas night to listen to the song Silent Night.
So what can we do as a collective? Not just you, although I am talking to you, but what can we all do together to create the change we wish to see in the world rather than just going back to business as usual when it’s over?
I’m sure you are pondering this along with me when the immediate stress of our wellness, and our loved ones’ wellness, and our economic future, (and whether or not we’ll have enough toilet paper to survive this apocalypse) fades into the background. 💖
So this is just a note to say thank you. Thank you for your support of me and my work. Thank you for supporting your families. Thank you for supporting good in the world. Thank you for “pondering this in your heart” as we all keep tiptoeing our way into the unknown.
All this social distancing has affected each of us in different ways. For me, it’s a little like the time I was learning the HeartMath Stop Emotional Eating program to teach to clients … I’d been in control of my own emotional eating for years. But as soon as I was told I couldn’t do it, I started craving Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream, (NY Super Fudge Chunk or Coffee Heath Bar Crunch are my favorites, but sometimes Chubby Hubby when I’m feeling super indulgent. Or mmmm, they used to have Creme Brulee. Yum!)
But I digress …
My point is that my ordinary life is rather socially distant … I work from home, see my family, and have friends I occasionally talk to on the phone or via text or even more rarely see in person. (I know … it’s my introverted side. It’s an area I’m working to change.) But now that we’re all supposed to social distance, I find myself wanting to talk to other people every day! (So I’ve been reaching out to friends all over the place.) I know that’s a normal response to crisis … to want to reach out and connect and make sure everyone else is okay.
But I also found myself standing in front of the refrigerator much more frequently than usual. And THAT I know is not the same as reaching out to friends. So I used my tools.
I’ve heard from other contacts that urges like impulse shopping (on-line,) or emotionally eating, or binge whatevering are suddenly omnipresent.
There’s nothing wrong with that of course. Unless you really can’t control yourself when you want to.
If none of this is a struggle for you, good for you! Please consider forwarding this blog to friends who might be struggling.
PS) I got a chance to get to the lake yesterday. My partner and I care for a home near my mom’s. Mom and I were shouting to one another across the water from separate docks until I remembered we could use our phones. So I called her and we chatted across several hundred feet of water. I love technology. Imagine what boat we’d all be in now without it!
But I’m also watching this whole thing unfold with a growing level of concern. This is definitely one of those situations where we have to surrender what we can’t control, and take action on the things we can.
Every morning I wake up with a fire hose of ideas both around how I can be of service, and (truthfully,) how I can also earn a living in the midst of it all.
Both my partner and I are self-employed, so it’s not like we’ll be collecting unemployment or picking up a government check when this is over. My sister and her husband are local farmers, so they are also affected. Another brother owns a chiropractic business, which is pretty hands on. No patients = no money. My mom’s primary income is a rental cabin.
I’m sure at least some of you are also in this boat, and even if you will continue to get a paycheck, you probably have other concerns … about staying healthy, figuring out how you’ll handle your kids all day when they’re home, parents or grandparents or other loved ones who are in the “danger zone” … the list goes on.
As I said, I wake up every morning with a fire hose of ideas … but only so much time in my day to execute on them.
I’m putting together new programs focused specifically around this pandemic –one offering a fun challenge to virtually combat the very real effects of loneliness as we are required to socially isolate, and another offering practical tips to move through the very real effects of stress and anxiety. More details coming soon! (Both mini-courses will be in the $27 price range, which I hope will be affordable to most. If these sound like exactly what you need, but you can’t afford $27, shoot me an e-mail or give me a call and we can work something out.)
One thing I can offer right now, is a link to piles of guided meditations designed to help calm your nervous system. These are my Transformation Tuesday recordings from prior years. I think you can access these even if you don’t use Facebook, but if not, I’ll try to put a few of them on my youtube channel soon. (I have limited bandwidth from my home office, so each takes a long time.)
I can also offer 1:1 coaching at sliding-scale “Pay What You Will” pricing for those who may be experiencing anxiety or other pandemic related unwanted emotions. (Sliding scale starts at $75 & runs through my “normal” price of $225 for a 45 – 60 minute session.) To schedule a session, click here to be taken to my booking calendar.
Here are three simple tools I always use to handle an upsurge in stress:
Get outside. If you live in close quarters in a city, try to get to a park or wildland. Take a walk. Look for bulbs and buds, listen to birdsong, watch the clouds. Anything that takes your mind off your troubles for a little while and allows you to experience the emotions of wonder, awe, peace, contentment.
Breathe. Count in for the count of four. Hold it. Then out for the count of four. Do this three times, then drop your awareness to your heart. Continue to breathe. In. Hold. Out. Try to breathe a little gratitude or compassion or awe into your heart. (All my Transformation Tuesday meditations guide you through this process.)
Dance. Put on your favorite dancing music, and dance in your living room. (Btw, did you see this one of Kermit? I joked with my friend that I do this even without the wine. Shhh. I wasn’t really joking. (If you don’t have Facebook and can’t watch this, imagine Kermit the Frog dancing to Fleetwood Mac’s song “Dreams” and the caption says “when you’re on day 2 of your quarantine, but your 8th bottle of wine.)
I’ll be back in a few days with more love and details on the two programs.
It’s pretty nuts out there, isn’t it? I’m with you. Shaking my head. They are calling this the worst public health crisis of a century.
[And WHY are people hoarding toilet paper? I can see grabbing one of those Costco bundles, but …?]
Right now, as far as I know, all my loved ones are safe. But I know that’s not true of everyone, and quite a few people I know are immune challenged.
I’m not really sure HOW to respond … with prudence, certainly. And Grace. Kindness and Love, obviously.
The important thing is that we all work together to flatten the curve, though, so we don’t overwhelm our health system.
However, this pandemic also provides a few opportunities for us.
One of the potential benefits is an opening of precious time, a chance to take a collective pause. An opportunity to slow down, listen to the birds, take naps, and take care of a few things on your to-do list without the stress of all-the-things that have to be done in any given day..
What have YOU been saying you don’t have time for, for far too long?
Why not use this time to …
☑️Go for long walks in nature. ☑️ Read. ☑️ Draw. ☑️ Paint. ☑️ Write letters. ☑️ Sing. ☑️ Dance in your kitchen. ☑️ Rest. ☑️ Renew. ☑️ Take long hot baths. ☑️ Do sit-ups. ☑️ Organize. ☑️ Declutter. ☑️ Video chat with old friends. ☑️ Clean out the your closet. ☑️ Meditate. ☑️ Pet your dog. ☑️ Fist bump the children in your life. … or hug them if they’re your own. ☑️ Give your lover a massage. ☑️ Binge watch stand-up comedy. ☑️ Have leisurely dinners. ☑️ Nourish your body. ☑️ Drink wine. ☑️ Journal. ☑️ Reflect. ☑️ Learn something new.
Schedule a 1:1 call with me (50% off through March)
This is the universe giving you time to step into the saying “be the change you wish to see” so you re-emerge renewed, refreshed, clear and ready to participate more fully in a better, simpler, more joyful world.
Use this precious time to connect to the truth of your deepest desires, make new discoveries, and grow into “being” the amazing women you are.
I’m also loving the poetry that is arising, and the beauty that is being shared.
Lockdown Yes there is fear. Yes there is isolation. Yes there is panic buying. Yes there is sickness. Yes there is even death. But, They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise You can hear the birds again. They say that after just a few weeks of quiet The sky is no longer thick with fumes But blue and grey and clear. They say that in the streets of Assisi People are singing to each other across the empty squares, keeping their windows open so that those who are alone may hear the sounds of family around them. They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound. Today a young woman I know is busy spreading fliers with her number through the neighbourhood So that the elders may have someone to call on. Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples are preparing to welcome and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way All over the world people are waking up to a new reality To how big we really are. To how little control we really have. To what really matters. To Love. So we pray and we remember that Yes there is fear. But there does not have to be hate. Yes there is isolation. But there does not have to be loneliness. Yes there is panic buying. But there does not have to be meanness. Yes there is sickness. But there does not have to be disease of the soul Yes there is even death. But there can always be a rebirth of love. Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now. Today, breathe. Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic The birds are singing again The sky is clearing, Spring is coming, And we are always encompassed by Love. Open the windows of your soul And though you may not be able to touch across the empty square, Sing. – Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFMMarch 13th 2020
Where else have you seen beauty arising out of this time?
I just read an email from Michelle Obama, celebrating International Women’s Day. It starts out: “When I was growing up, my parents made it very clear: I could do anything my brother could do, from playing sports to going to college. That was one of the greatest gifts my family gave to me—a belief that, as a girl, my voice and my talents mattered.”
I have to say, that wasn’t my experience when I was growing up. My parents loved me, no doubt about that. But my sister and I were the ones who educated THEM about what girls could do. They “matured nicely” (as my dad would’ve said) as we proved to them over and over that women could do things that weren’t as … accepted … when they were growing up. And my nieces are reaping the rewards today.
For example, we played sports, but my coach had to talk my parents into allowing me to play basketball as a freshman, because when I begged as a 7th grader –and again as an 8th grader– they thought it was “too rough a sport for their little girl.” (Our team made it to state when I was a sophomore, and I was scoring 30 points / game by the time I was a senior.)
We were expected to go to college, but the “reason” was so that we could meet an eligible man to marry. (Neither my sister nor I met our partners in college.)
As a woman who was raised Catholic, I was taught in subtle ways over and over that my voice and my talents weren’t as important as those of men.
[“But what about honoring Mary!” (That’s my mom’s voice in my head. –I love you mom … she’s a subscriber and a huge supporter of my work.) That’s one of the best parts about Catholicism over other Christian faiths in my opinion, but I’ll leave that whole topic for another day. Forget the president, my mom wanted to be Pope when she was little, and is a fiercely strong feminist role model in her own way, although she might not call herself that. She still water-skis at 80, for example. And the times we missed mass when I was a kid, she played the role of priest. When my niece, Lily, was in 7th grade and racing the 800 meter relay against a boy’s team, her voice was right with me yelling, “BEAT THAT BOY!” and almost crying in pride as Lily did.]
I’ve been thinking about this whole women empowerment thing particularly over the past week as I’ve been finalizing my self-judgment detox and writing about the inner scripts that hold us back from becoming the amazing women we are born to be.
Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the presidential race, leaving us with two old white men to choose from. (No offense to Bernie and Joe, both are WAY better choices than the godawful mysogynist dude in the office today.) But wouldn’t it be nice to have a woman president? Wouldn’t it be nice to show our daughters / granddaughters / nieces that it can happen in our country in our lifetime?
I learned about the awful sticker some Canadian oil company created “as a joke” that depicted Greta Thunberg being forcibly raped. (!!)
I read a statistic that said that 90% of the world still holds a sexist viewpoint (57% in the US!)
And read that the # of witches (mostly girl children) being burned in the world is on the rise.
And then there is the on-going devastation of the planet, Mother Earth
Each of these topics bears more attention than I have time for this morning. And all of them bring me to tears.
As a woman dedicated to helping change the story of women and the planet, on this International Women’s Day my call to you is this:
I am extremely grateful to all the women who have come before us, and done some amazing things to pave the way. But WE need to be the change we wish to see, and we haven’t yet done enough.
We need YOU to step into your full potential and take a stand for women and the planet.
I believe we women are uniquely positioned to shape the world’s future through our influence on our family, our community, our workplace and beyond. For most of us, to do this to our full potential we need deep transformation in the areas of self-belief, relationships, wellness, and purpose.
I believe I was put here on Earth to hold space for the part of you that yearns to unite your desire to belong with your ache to be authentically you, and to help you define, own, express and be appreciated for the gifts you bring to the world. My goal is to help you find your OWN way back to the part of you that knows EXACTLY what to do, and to listen to that wise inner voice that I call your Wild & Wise Heart.
I’ve dedicated the past twenty years of my life to learning about deep transformation, and spent the past twelve guiding women on this journey to step into their potential.
What’s holding YOU back from becoming the influential woman you were born to be?
If it’s that inner script than runs your thoughts, it’s not too late to join my 30-Day Self-Judgment Detox Challenge.
It’s so important that we ditch these inner critical voices, so that we can step into the most capable empowered versions of ourselves.
So I decided to open up the Self-Judgment Detox challenge throughout the month of March.
“My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. … Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but in stretching out to mend the part of the world within our reach. … Any small calm thing you do makes a difference, but the most calming and powerful action you can take is to stand up and show your soul.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estes
We need YOUR voice and YOUR heart and YOUR passion and YOUR most capable amazing self to STAND UP and SHOW YOUR SOUL.
Personally, I’ve always had a love / hate relationship with Valentine’s Day … here’s where it started:
When I was in the 4th grade, I had a huge crush on this new dark haired boy in my class named Daniel.
I’d like to tell you that it was because he was kind, or brilliant, or the best speller in the class. But honestly, it was just because he was new, and I thought he was cute. And maybe because he was shy, and that seemed sweet.
I kept my feelings hidden to anyone but myself and my best friend Sherry –who liked him too– for months. We both spent many a daydream sitting by him in class, hanging out with him at recess, and other acts of 4th grade love.
Finally, on Valentine’s Day, we decided to reveal our secret crushes.
I scrutinized my entire box of Valentine’s cards to find the perfect phrase — one that said “I really like you a LOT” but that could also pass for just an average valentine’s card in case I needed to save face.
Probably something like one of these:
Next, I spent days agonizing over whether or not to sign my name or to be anonymous.
In a big burst of courage, Sherry decided she was going to sign her name to her card, so I was encouraged to risk it too. And then just to be certain he knew it was a special card for a special person, I also added a handful of cut out hearts inside the envelope.
Man. I still remember the breathless anticipation of waiting for acknowledgement… in vain … inspecting each of the valentines I received … breathlessly anticipating one with his signature. … Nothing!
And then the masterfully orchestrated denial that fell into place …. First, I convinced myself he hadn’t given valentines to anyone.
And then, once I knew I’d been dissed after Sherry reluctantly showed me her card (with such grace and genuine sadness for me, and no gloating at all) she suggested that his card to me must have fallen out and been accidentally thrown away by the janitor.
Because that’s the kind of friend she was.
My second major Valentine’s Day memory is from years later, when I was a junior in high school. I was the publicity manager of our student council, and that year we decided to sell carnations as a fund raiser.
By lunch time, it felt like everyone in the school had received a carnation –except me!
I was pretty forlorn and feeling sorry for myself, and my best friend Sherry had transferred to another school, so there was no one there to convince me my carnation had been dropped and accidentally thrown away by the janitor.
Just when I was ready to throw myself off the second floor balcony, the delivery person handed me a pink carnation –for friendship– from one of my guy friends.
I will never forget that small kindness.
Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Let’s pause for a moment to consider …
It’s wonderful to have amazing friends who will either help you concoct the perfect face saving excuse when you didn’t get that valentine from the boy you liked, or that interview … or that second date, or whatever.
Or one who will supply you with exactly the encouragement you need at exactly the right time … whether that comes in the form of a pink carnation or a beautifully selected card, or simply kind words on a rough day.
I wish those kinds of friendships for you. Always.
Wouldn’t it also be amazing if you could always be that kind of friend … to YOURSELF?
Here’s a little quiz for you:
Do you often call yourself names (like dummy or stupid or ugly or fat)?
How often do you treat yourself with sarcasm?
Do you criticize yourself frequently?
Do you always say kind things to yourself when you look in the mirror?
Do you isolate yourself when you’re feeling most down?
When you’re having a bad day, do you obsess or fixate on everything that’s going wrong?
How do you treat yourself when you’re going through pain?
When you’re feeling inadequate about something, do you compare yourself to everyone else who seems to be better at it than you are?
How do you treat the parts of yourself that you don’t like?
When something painful happens, do you find yourself thinking about it over and over?
Based on your answers above, if YOU were your own best friend, would you even hang out with yourself?
For most women, the answer is no. And if someone was treating OUR best friend the way we treat ourselves, we’d tell them to end that friendship immediately. Right?
Even if not all of your answers to the questions were terrible, I bet there is still room for improvement, am I right?
So what can you do to practice being a better friend to yourself?
Perfect timing for me. I’m sooo ready to welcome in the light and relinquish the dark.
I was going to try to host one of my mini-retreats for you today, but as has been this year’s “normal,” that intention did not get off the ground in the way I’d hoped.
Speaking of this year’s “normal,” up until a month ago, if anyone asked me about my year this year, my answer was “it has been a hard year.” I would have said that my overall feelings this year were sad and depressed, and that my lesson was failure.
I started the process last month by answering the question, “what were the highlights of the past year?” In my head, before putting pen to page, I started with all the negatives … Josh’s death, nothing from my business got off the ground, I even found myself being cynical during the valedictorian speech at my oldest two nephews HS graduation(!!) which would ordinarily –any other year– fill me with hope in the future. My overall “corde desired feeling” words from The Desire Map process last year were supposed to be “vibrant, rooted, and blooming” and I did NOT feel the year went that way.
In fact, most of the time I felt like a big fat failure … with an inability to fix ANY of it.
But … when I put all that negativity aside for the purpose of introspection, and answered the question with the emphasis on word # 2, “what WERE the highlights of 2019?” a whole new side to the year sprouted forth. I realized that, in fact, although I may not have felt vibrant or blooming, I rooted in a LOT. As part of my grieving process, I gave myself permission to feel sad and depressed. I gave myself permission to binge on fantasy Netflix and unabashedly enjoyed getting caught up on ALL the Marvel Comics series. (Not surprisingly, Jessica Jones with her cynical but save the world outlook was my overall fave.)
With that as inspiration, I gave myself permission to be angry and even cynical. I gave myself permission to be unsuccessful in my work and –even more heretical –to not even bother to try after some more sad news in May rocked my world again.
Because it was one of the few things that made me feel good, I also prioritized my extended family. I drove one niece to and from club volleyball practices every other week for several months (2 hours each way) and picked up another niece after school a few times. Justin and I worked on renovating my brother’s rental home all summer. I assuaged my disappointment that my backpacking pilgrimage didn’t sell well by backpacking the High Divide with some nieces and two other brothers. I went to my cousin’s daughter’s wedding.
The Desire Map process helped me discover that even though the year was hard, I grew through it. In fact, I rooted in. Strong and deep roots, of course, are important for a plant to be vibrant and blooming.
And when (this Fall) I started to feel like taking action in my life again, I knocked off a whole list of things I had been “tolerating” … from painting the exterior of our house to cleaning some of the rooms that still had junk from past house occupants, even getting my teeth cleaned and scheduling that physical I was procrastinating on.
And truthfully, I feel the difference. I feel more honest and true to my whole self. I feel more deeply connected to –and even tender toward– my shadow side. And as a result, I’m beginning to feel that old revolutionary spirit gather strength and courage in my root chakra.
And instead of blindly following instructions, doing it exactly the way it was explained, I found myself taking The Desire Map process deeper and eliminating pieces that didn’t work for me. In other words, making it my own.
Which means I’ve got my mojo back. ❤
And so, today, on Winter Solstice, the day filled with the powerful energy of regeneration, renewal, and self-reflection. The day we celebrate the Moon Goddess, I invite you to join me in introspection, not just of the past year, but of the past decade.
You can do this via purchasing one of Danielle LaPorte’s books or planners and going for the deep dive her way. Listening to Marie Forleo’s Decade in Review exercises.
Or, click here to participate in my winter solstice retreat from bygone days for FREE. You’ll be taken on a guided meditation, participate in a creative writing exercise, and welcome back the light. Use code wintersolstice2019 at checkout.
* [If you’ve never heard of The Desire Map, or Danielle LaPorte, she is a bestselling Canadian author, inspirational speaker, entrepreneur, and blogger. Her book, The Desire Map, was published in 2014. To be honest, when it first came out I was just annoyed that she beat me to it. By then I’d been working with clients on flip flopping their lives to align with their desired feelings for just over two years, and had seen some amazing results. It took me a few years before I finally decided to see what all the hype was about.
As I worked through the process for the second time, I decided I love The Desire Map process so much I decided to become an affiliate. This means that if you click through using my link and decide to purchase any of her products, I get a commission. No extra cost to you, bonus for me. Bonus for both of us, actually, because you get a great planning process too. And if you organize in fits and starts, like me, there are several undated versions to choose from as well.
I still wish I’d written the book first, but oh well. Commissions are nice too, and we share a passion for beautiful things and living from our heart.]
What I’m loving right now (that you will probably hear more about in 2020:)
Effy Wild Book of Days course. Can’t WAIT for the official start. I’m especially excited about the companion sweet trash journal. And maybe (if it doesn’t feel overwhelming) Moonshine.
And of course, although I have to seek these out because I don’t catch them elsewhere, the best Holiday Ads. Which one is your favorite?
Reply to let me know which ad was your favorite of if you already ARE a Harry Potter and the Sacred Text fan, or if you had a year you thought was sh*t only to discover the magick was underground the whole time.
My phone rang at 10:38 pm, Tuesday, January 8th. Ordinarily, I’m in bed by then, but my partner and I were enjoying our hot tub. It was a crisp, cold, starry night. I glanced at the phone. It was my sister-in-law Denise. I picked up.
“Where’s Justin?” she asked, and I could tell by her voice that something was the matter. I put her on speaker and walked outside with the phone, holding it near the hot tub. “What’s up Denise?” Justin said. Words spilled out of her … Josh, and the bar, and the Coast Guard …
She tried again. “Josh called me to come down to watch the boat come in tonight. The captain was being stupid, and he said he was scared. He put on his life jacket. The Coast Guard was there to escort them over the bar, and I watched them make it through, but now there’s all these lights and the helicopter!” She was frantic, and despite my own concern, my training kicked in.
“Denise, it’s going to be fine.” I walked back in the house, away from Justin, who was saying words to the effect that Josh could already be dead. It scared me to hear him say that, but he habitually jumps to the worst possible conclusion, in order to prepare for contingencies, and I didn’t think that’s what Denise needed to hear right then. Instead I said, “He’s wearing his life jacket. It’s Josh. He’s going to be okay. Think how big and strong he is.” I continued my attempts to be comforting, adding, “he’s going to come home to you tonight and have such a story to tell you and he’s going to be so pissed at that captain!!” We both laughed a little, knowing how Josh is, and how he would be angry, and how he would tell her that story. And then be done with it (although never take a job with that captain again.) He had forgiven tattooed on his knuckles, and he did his best to live like everyone else was worthy of forgiveness, too.
I wanted to believe my own words as much as Denise did. And I always hold onto hope until I can’t anymore. But Justin knew first hand how dangerous the Newport Bar can be in a storm, and he was more realistic. He toweled off, put on his clothes and came inside.
The Yaquina Bay Bar in Newport, Oregon is the area where the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean meet with the shallower waters near the mouth of the Yaquina river.
According to the Oregon State Marine Board safety publication, “most accidents and deaths that occur on coastal bars are from capsizing. Improper loading and/or overloading are major causes of capsizing. Improper/overloaded boats have less stability and less freeboard, which can allow seas to break into the vessel, causing the boat to become even less stable. Boats are more likely to capsize when crossing the bar from the ocean because the seas are on the stern and the boater may have less control over the vessel. Boaters must make sure the bar is safe prior to crossing.”
I stayed on the phone with Denise that night off and on for over an hour as she drove back and forth across the bridge, desperately trying to find out more information. I was worried for her safety too, all alone with that news, and driving … but the last time she called me she found some friends and was going to go try to talk to the cops to see if she could get more information from them.
Meanwhile, we were continually checking the Newport breaking news. And I prayed, & talked to Josh in my head urging him to hold on, & even called upon Poseidon & his wife Amphritite (one of the goddesses from last summer’s Greece retreat) to help him get to shore.
We learned at one point that a person had been found and taken to the hospital. “See, that’s got to be Josh,” I said to Justin. “And he’s going to be okay! The coast guard was right there!” But it wasn’t Josh. And the person wasn’t okay.
After a while, we saw that another person had been found, and again we had hope.
Justin called the Coast Guard twice, telling them he was Josh Porter’s next of kin, but they couldn’t –or wouldn’t—give out any information because they were in the middle of the rescue.
Then finally, around midnight, we got word that Josh’s body had been found. That he didn’t make it. Writing these sentences still makes me cry.
According to the Coast Guard report, the boat hit the tip of the North Jetty and a 20’ wave capsized it. Two of the crew were washed overboard, and the captain was still on the boat, even though it was upside down. Josh’s body was found on Nye Beach, which is about 3 miles north of the north jetty.
My heart still breaks.
Josh was an experienced, hard-working and sought-after fisherman, who fished various fisheries (salmon, crab, tuna, halibut, squid) from the Bering Sea to Southern California. He started fishing with his mom and dad when he was quite young. In later life, he was often hired to be captain, but if a captain’s position wasn’t available, he was always willing to work as crew. He was only filling in on the Mary B II for one trip before his next official crew job began. Josh’s boat, the Fearless II, was harbored in Crescent City. It wasn’t licensed for crab.
Vincent Van Gogh said, “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
It’s impossible to explain the life of a commercial fisherman to one who has never been out there. It is hard work. Dangerous. And yet the fishermen and women I’ve known also have an amazing eye for beauty, have an adventurous spirit, and an unconventional lifestyle that modern hipsters can only dream about. And many are as erudite as a college professor.
As for Josh, he was larger than life. I looked up that phrase to make sure it was an accurate description. The internet says someone who is larger-than-life has a very strong or lively personality that impresses people very much. For sure, that was Josh in all phases of his life.
I first met Josh in grade school. He was a couple years behind me, but we were in band together. One memory that stands out is a moment after band, when we bumped into one another in the doorway. He was reaching for the Silmarillion, (the book J.R.R. Tolkien wrote that goes into more depth about the land and the people that the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were based upon.) I grew up in an area where most of the guys didn’t read much at all, and definitely not for pleasure, so to find him reading the story behind the story that was one of my favorite series was remarkable. He read and collected volumes upon volumes of books, stored in his gear shed, in his home, and on his boats. One of his dreams upon retiring was to open a used book store.
Josh was also a great musician …. Our high school band went caroling one Christmas. We lived in a very rural location, so rather than walking around city blocks, this meant we piled into pickups and cars and vans and drove to people’s houses. I ended up in the back of a truck with Josh and some others. Josh started playing Stairway to Heaven on the guitar; to me he sounded as good as Led Zeppelin.
Flash forward to present time. Josh loved to play the guitar, which is another instrument you often find on commercial fishing boats.
Josh and Denise lived on the family property with us for a few months last spring between fishing seasons, harvesting trees for a little extra money. Most mornings, Josh came in to use the bathroom and then sat down on the couch, picked up the guitar and played a few tunes before starting his day.
Family outings with the Porters always included music, whether we were outdoors camping, or inside in the living room.
Two Christmases ago, right after Justin’s dad died, Justin and I hosted a joint family gathering on Christmas Eve, and requested that everyone bring their instruments. It was a magical moment to look around and see our two families united through music.
Josh had a great laugh: full throated, head back, eyes closed. He loved silliness and puns and plays on words. One time when we all went down to Newport to spend a few days together as a family, Josh was in the middle of a challenge to make up hundreds of puns about Oreos. One example: What do they call a Tuna that eats Oreos? Albacoreo. I know, right? Imagine hundreds of puns about Oreos, all in one day.
In the Fall of 2016, Josh and I flew together to visit Justin in Alaska. Josh was looking to buy a boat, and Justin found a 49’ wooden sailboat / fishing vessel in Petersburg. My family gifted me with an Alaskan trip to visit Justin for my 50th birthday, and it happened to coincide with Josh’s visit to look the boat over before buying it. While we were in the airport waiting for a taxi to take us down to the harbor and Justin’s boat, Josh saw a little kid wearing a bright yellow Pokémon outfit.
“I want one of those!” he said. We laughed, and someone asked him where he would wear it. “In the captain’s chair,” he said, without missing a beat. It wasn’t a stretch to picture him sitting in that chair wearing the Pokémon outfit.
In the days after his death, I cyber stalked his page, reading all the hundreds of comments from people who knew him. A few examples stood out to me because they seem to capture so many pieces of him at once: generous, kind, open-hearted, unconventional, loving ….
The first was from a woman named Olivia. She said, “I hadn’t spoken to Josh Porter since the week we met, but I want to share my memory of him. I was hitchhiking in March of 2011 and was severely ill with bronchitis, or possibly pneumonia from being outside in the Washington rainy and freezing nights. Someone named Sarah and her dog were with me. It was dark out, no idea what time, near Newport, Oregon in the rain on a small road. Josh drove by and picked us up when no one else would. He brought us to his houseboat on the dock: pink and called The Grumpy Dragon and insisted that we stay the night. He introduced us to his wife, Denise. They stayed on a separate boat on the dock. The two of them showed me so much kindness, insisting we stay for several days to recover and renting us movies. Denise gave me these little gold colored metal butterfly wings that I still have. I’ve stayed Facebook friends with Josh for almost eight years and have always thought well of him, and I was really sad to hear about his loss. Rest in peace <3.”
After the memorial service, another friend, a college professor, wrote this:
“SAYING GOOD-BYE, JOSH PORTER
How did a former drug addict and hardworking fisherman with little [formal] education get 4,369 Facebook friends? Why did over 200 people come to an unpretentious church in a steel-clad warehouse to celebrate his life? Why did the Siletz Tribe send their best singers and drummers to honor this white man?
Because everyone there knew of the lives he had changed forever among fishermen, criminals, drug addicts, and many more. Because he had never been known to boast of any special ability, no less of saving lives. Yet when the program turned to Stories and Memories the first two volunteer speakers were a boy from middle school to say how Josh always made him feel good, and a young man with Down’s syndrome who said how his giant friend always made him feel warm. Then followed many men and women who said, “He saved my life.” They meant it in the most literal sense.
After the service everyone stacked and cleared the chairs, rolled out tables and sat down for a sumptuous supper. I ate with a woman and her 15-year-old daughter and with a 40ish couple. All three adults told me how important Josh had been in saving them and their families from addiction. The man who had spent half his life in prison for burglary, robbery and car theft to get drug money is now a licensed contractor and just bought a house for his family. The mother of the teenage girl is about to get her diploma in social work.
No newspaper wrote about Josh except three weeks ago when they ran the story that a 20 ft wave had overturned the FV Mary B II as it tried to cross the bar coming home with a load of crab at night and one of the dead was a crewman named Josh Porter. Several newspapers and TV stations ran stories three more lives lost at sea. I saw no news media at today’s service. Perhaps they don’t think they might find stories in an evangelical church in a warehouse. They missed story after story about a quiet hero.
Has America ever been more in need of such heroes?
In the lines below, the “Master” whose hand plays the violin and touches lives is probably God, but today the hand that men and women and children in South Beach Church felt in their lives was Josh Porter’s.
The Touch of the Master’s Hand
—Myra “Brooks” Welch ’Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer Thought it scarcely worth his while To waste much time on the old violin, But held it up with a smile: “What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried, “Who’ll start the bidding for me?” “A dollar, a dollar”; then, “Two!” “Only two? Two dollars, and who’ll make it three? Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice; Going for three—” But no, From the room, far back, a gray-haired man Came forward and picked up the bow; Then, wiping the dust from the old violin, And tightening the loose strings, He played a melody pure and sweet As a caroling angel sings.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer, With a voice that was quiet and low, Said: “What am I bid for the old violin?” And he held it up with the bow. “A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two? Two thousand! And who’ll make it three? Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice, And going, and gone,” said he. The people cheered, but some of them cried, “We do not quite understand What changed its worth.” Swift came the reply: “The touch of a master’s hand.”
And many a man with life out of tune, And battered and scarred with sin, Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, Much like the old violin. A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine; A game—and he travels on. He is “going” once, and “going” twice, He’s “going” and almost “gone.” But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd Never can quite understand The worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought By the touch of the Master’s hand.”
And finally, the last post I’ll share was from another guy who met Josh only briefly. He said, “Josh Porter … We met thru the Facebook Page Commercial Salmon Albacore and Crab … We came to know each other … I will never forget the day we met for coffee in Newport down on the Bay Front. A day that changed my life forever …. You inspired me from the day we met not only as a Fisherman but a Winner in the World of Recovery …. You are and always will be a True Miracle … the name of your fishing vessel so much described your outlook on Life “Fearless.” May you Rest in Peace my Friend ….”
And then he quoted this poem:
Not, How Did He Die, But How Did He Live?
Not how did he die, but how did he live? Not what did he gain, but what did he give? These are the units to measure the worth Of a man as a man, regardless of birth. Not, what was his church, nor what was his creed? But had he befriended those really in need? Was he ever ready, with word of good cheer To bring back a smile, to banish a tear? Not what did the sketch in the newspaper say, But how many were sorry when he passed away.
There are other stories I could share: of Josh’s wide open heart, his generosity, his sense of humor, adventurous spirit, wit & intelligence, friendliness, love for his family, as well as the battles he fought with nightmares and depression. I am so incredibly sorry these stories and this life came to an end so soon.
Rest in peace Joshua James Kahlil Porter. You are so missed. ❤