Tag Archives: Slow_Happy_Living

“We’ll brew!”

At some time during the getting-to-know-you-better phase of our relationship, CFL pointed out to me that I have a habit of saying “we’ll see.” I hadn’t really noticed this small verbal tic, but it made perfectly logical sense to me that I would say it. I do have a sense of reality as an emergent phenomenon… and of my life as a process of continual becoming. Given that everything is always up in the air and in process, then so much is unknowable at any given time that “we’ll see” is as close as I’m going to get to predicting the future.

At the time, of course, I replied that he had a knack for filling every potential gap in our conversational space with a long, drawn-out “so, anyway…” that kept me from ever getting a word in edgewise.

That generated a most lively conversation.

Since then we’ve negotiated a few things and learned to love one another’s unique characteristics. We’ve now reached the point where we can affectionately mock one another’s habitual speech patterns and laugh together about them.

Last weekend we took a road trip down to southern Oregon to visit some family members. There were long hours in the car during which we talked about many things. Beer was a major topic. We’d planned several opportunities to visit microbreweries and sample some well-known Oregon beers. We also had upcoming batches of home brew to plan. At some point I inevitably said, “we’ll see.” Suddenly we both laughed and simultaneously exclaimed, “we’ll brew!”

Has a brewery slogan been born? We’ll see… um… we’ll brew!

As for the beer tourism… a night’s stop in Eugene allowed us to take in Ninkasi, Falling Sky, and Rogue’s Tracktown Brewery.

Ninkasi’s fermentation tanks were impressive. This photo includes a studious-looking CFL, carefully positioned in my attempt to provide scale. However, he’s standing in a large doorway so you can’t see the tops of the tanks. Oh well…

Ninkasi is well-known and features big, bold, hoppy beers with names like Total Domination IPA. We shared a flight of several 4-ounce tasters and that was plenty.

In contrast, Falling Sky is only a year old, grew out of the home brew supply store next door, caters to locals, and features relatively low-alcohol “session” beers that nicely accompany its tasty, simple pub food. We might have stayed there all evening, but the Rogue/Tracktown brewery promised good pizza so we carried on. The pizza lived up to the hype and the beer was good too. We ended the evening quite satisfied.

During our time in my family’s small town in southern Oregon I got out for a nice run along the Rogue River. Eventually this trail will connect with the one a few miles further south where I ran the Rogue Run half marathon last September. On this trip I did an easy 6 mile run and then spent the afternoon with my family, while CFL took at bit more time and ended up walking about 8 miles.

It was a good trail.

This part was even better! There was a half mile side trail that ran right along the river bank, for those who like to bound over roots and mud puddles. That would be me!

That afternoon we held a family tasting of eight of our home brews (numbers 2 through 9). The verdict: They’re all good! (Thanks guys.) We ended the day with a visit to the nearby Wild River Brewing and Pizza for — you guessed it — microbrews and pizza!

Through all of our travels and other adventures we have kept our activity streak going. We walked — in a downpour — to all those breweries in Eugene. We stopped to do two laps around a shopping mall in the midst of our 550 mile drive home. We’re now 29 days into 2013 and I’m approaching 120 running/walking miles, while CFL has a larger number of walking/biking miles. At this point our streak will not be broken for anything short of an unimaginably dire emergency. The longer we continue, the stronger is the imperative not to stop.

But you know what? It’s still one step at a time, one day at a time. This streak wasn’t envisioned as such beforehand. It’s an emergent phenomenon.

What will happen next? We’ll see.

We’ll brew!

A slow, happy, and well-lived life

A dear friend passed away the other day, and I’m remembering him today with a soft, pensive joy.

I didn’t actually know him all that well, but in a certain sense we were close friends… because Charlie was the sort of guy who made everyone around him feel valued and valuable, loved and loving. He was a faculty member at the school where I did my PhD. We always said we’d work on something together but somehow we never did. I knew his name before I started my PhD program; he was one of the “founding fathers” of the discipline of organization development. I was speechless with awe the first time I met him ten years ago.

As I got to know him, my awe decreased while my admiration and love for him grew. How could you not love a ceaselessly smiling elderly man in a red shirt, suspenders, and a baseball cap? His humility, his perception, his empathy, his goofy sense of humor, and his obvious relish for life were all endearing and contagious. He sang and laughed with gusto. In conversation, he looked straight at you with absolute attention. He was completely, utterly present in everything that he did. He led workshops on “the use of self” in consulting, but his life practice was to simply be himself, and in so doing to make space for others to discover, become, and be themselves.

When I first described myself as a slow happy runner, it was almost as an incantation to myself. I didn’t have all that much to be happy about. Yet I was committed to running and to the idea that “slow mileage is better than no mileage,” and I knew from bitter experience that in the worst of times my running had the power to carry me through the pain.

When I met CFL the idea of slow happy living inspired both of us as a vision of a way of life. We’d both hit unanticipated bumps in our lives, and we’d both been jolted into an awareness that life is short and moments are not to be wasted.

CFL can be literally slow — when the calypso orchids are in bloom he can take an hour and a half to walk just one mile of trail. He… counts… every… flower… and comes back the next day to count… every… flower… again. He is very happy in the moments that he spends with those flowers.

I’m not such a slow runner anymore, but I find increasing happiness in the places I can go as I continue to gain strength and agility. Trail running in a beautiful place is the closest thing I have ever found to the sheer, simple joys of childhood.

I define happiness in the Aristotelean sense of “a whole life well-lived.” When we walk, run, bike or hike we are living fully in those moments and finding happiness in them. When we brew beer, we fumble our way from one step to the next with lots of joking and laughter. When we open a bottle of our homebrew four or more weeks after brew day, we are happy, satisfied, and proud of what we have done together and of how wonderful this moment feels. If we can add up enough of those moments, they might just total up someday to a whole life well-lived.

Not that we’re keeping score or anything…

For now I’ll just take the moments, and let the moments accumulate, trusting that as they accumulate I will be living each one as fully as I can.

When we realized that we were both on an activity streak and that neither one of us intends to break it, we told each other we would not be competitive; we would be mutually supportive. Now we each make room in our daily routine for the thirty minutes or more of activity that brings us happiness — whether we walk or hike together or he rides his bike while I run behind him. It’s already becoming something that we simply do each day without fail… because to do so is to live this day: fully, slowly, and happily.

Charlie wasn’t a runner, but I think he would understand and applaud our conscious approach to these moments.

I’ll miss you Charlie… and I’ll never think of you without smiling. You were a truly happy man, an exemplar of happiness, a model of unconditional positive regard, and a most cherished friend. Farewell!

Calypso Orchids

Activity streaks, blogging friends, and other wonders of life

2013 is starting out to be quite the interesting year.

The thing about an activity streak — as with any sort of conscious behavioral change — is that the longer one is able to maintain a new behavior, the more psychologically painful it is to contemplate breaking the streak. I didn’t plan to start 2013 with an activity streak, but I did set some ambitious goals with respect to running, hiking, walking, and biking mileage for the year. About five days into the year, I realized that something quite new and exciting was happening, and that I needed to pay attention.

Now here it is 14 days into 2013, and I have logged 55.63 miles, of which 30.38 have been running miles; the rest are mostly walking miles. That’s almost 4 miles a day! I haven’t yet missed a day. When I had a couple of hours at SeaTac airport before my flight last Wednesday, I walked the length of all four main terminals several times, a distance of at least 4 miles. I have walked in the rain and run in the wind. I wake up in the morning thinking about how I will work my activity into my day.

So while I was in Santa Barbara I ran barefoot on the beach. I walked all over downtown. I kept moving because moving felt so much better than sitting. I kept moving because somehow, unbeknownst to me, I had made this commitment to myself to keep moving every day.

We’ll see how long the literal streak will last, but this new habit of waking up in the morning and planning for how I will be active each day seems to be well on its way to being an integral part of who I am becoming.

On my last morning in Santa Barbara I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting one of my blogging friends face to face. There is an inherent irony to this statement — I had come to Santa Barbara for the national winter session of Fielding Graduate University, where I had completed my PhD by writing a dissertation exploring how people who work from home for large global corporations experience and interpret place. I had spent the last dozen years of my corporate career learning to be entirely comfortable working closely with people whom I had never met. Still, I knew that there is a certain satisfying something about those rare moments when you do actually meet and spend time with someone who until now has been, at most, a voice on the phone.

In the case of blogging friends, it’s more like having a pen pal than being co-workers across distance. Someone comments on a post. I reply. I decide to follow their blog. We begin to exchange comments regularly on one another’s posts. At some point I realize I have a friend out there — a real person who has an interesting life, a person with whom I’d like to spend time in the real world if the chance ever arises.

By a timely coincidence, Debra of Breathelighter and I realized that we were going to be visiting Santa Barbara at the same time! My daily exercise for my last morning in Santa Barbara was a one-mile walk down the beachfront street to a restaurant where Debra, her husband Jay, and I enjoyed a long, leisurely breakfast. It was like reconnecting with an old friend — albeit one whom I’ve never met before! We talked for so long that Jay finally took a walk while waiting for us to wind down. He then kindly returned to take this photo, which Debra graciously shared with me.

I think you’ll find a similar shot on her blog post about the day. I love the synchronicity of our getting together and then both writing about it!

It was a great week, but I’m happy to be home in the Pacific Northwest.

CFL and I will be doing some more traveling very soon, and I expect to regale you with news of beer tourism. We have some long driving days planned and it will be a challenge to figure out how we’ll get our daily activity in, but I have a feeling we’ll both manage to do it. It’s a new habit, but a decidedly sticky one.

I’m definitely packing my running shoes!

How much slow happy living can we fit on the calendar?

Ten months after I left the corporate world, I still marvel at how busy my days are. One of the things I’d hoped to do was write more — a lot more.  But CFL and I have been so busy doing that the block of time I try to set aside each day for writing gets wedged in between other calendar entries, and then somehow squeezed out. I’ve got a whole lot of “happy” going on but not so much “slow.”

One of the big post-corporate life changes for me has been turning off the alarm clock. I’d jolted awake to an alarm most days of my life since high school. It takes a while to catch up on decades of lost sleep and develop a natural wake/sleep cycle. Most days I awaken around sunrise, which in the Pacific Northwest is earlier than 5:30 AM between mid-May and mid-July. When your summer day starts that early and stays light until 10:00 PM or so, it’s easy to pack in lots of activities and still find time to write! But now, with the sun rising around 8:00 and setting around 4:20 (and when entire days go by without much sign of the sun), it feels like the day is already half gone before I’ve had my first cup of coffee.

Currently my “morning” runs are turning into noon-ish runs or no run at all. I run outside as often as I can and use the treadmill when the weather outside is frightful, but sometimes there doesn’t seem to be time for either. CFL follows a similar regime: hiking or biking on nice days, climbing stairs indoors when it’s stormy, and sometimes foregoing his exercise completely.

In addition to the seasonal schedule adjustments, we’re finding that brewing beer can be time intensive! We spend a lot of time reading about, discussing, planning for, and producing our beers. Then there is beer tourism.

In my last post I mentioned the winter beer festival that we’d planned to attend. It was quite enjoyable and extremely educational. About 35 local microbreweries were there, pouring more than 60 beers — each beer meeting the general description of “winter beer.” There are basically two different types of winter beer: (1) spiced beers and (2) high-alcohol beers like “old ales” and barleywines meant for sipping in front of a crackling, cozy fire. CFL and I share a belief that the only truly proper ingredients for beer are barley, hops, yeast, and water. We’re not enticed by orange peels, coriander, cinnamon, peppermint, coconut, or any of the other weird things that some brewers put into their “spiced” winter beers. But a nice English-style barleywine? Bring it on! It suits us well up here in the seemingly endless PNW winter. So we sampled lots of barleywine, talked to a bunch of friendly brewers, and had a great day! (I do approve of the current trend of aging barleywine in bourbon barrels…)

This past weekend we managed to fit beer tourism into a weekend trip that we’d already packed with events. We made a quick jaunt down to Las Vegas to see the Moody Blues!

I’ve lost exact count, but I’ve seen my favorite musical group the Moody Blues about 40 times since 1974. They usually tour the west coast about every other year, so I guess I’ve managed to catch two shows on many of their tours. About a third of the times that I’ve seen them, it’s been in Las Vegas. I have made a bunch of trips to Las Vegas over the years.

This year’s show was their last one of 2012, winding up their “Highway 45” tour commemorating the 45th anniversary of the release of “Days of Future Passed.” High energy and enthusiasm and great musicianship made for a wonderful show as always. These guys aren’t that young anymore, nor are we, but we all still know how to rock.

While in Las Vegas I had the pleasure of introducing CFL to my brother and his wife, who’d come over from southern California for the show. The four of us spent an afternoon with an old friend and her husband. He’s become a bit of a celebrity as a regular in a popular reality show filmed in Las Vegas (I’d tell you the name of the show, but I’ll keep some privacy for my friend’s sake). As it happened, he was scheduled to make an appearance at the show’s location for a fan meet-and-greet.  The four of us got the “celebrity” treatment as well — we bypassed the line outside, hustled through the door with my friend and her husband, and spent a couple of hours onsite checking out the ensuing madness. Given that I watch almost no TV, I haven’t seen more than a few episodes of this show. So I was honestly surprised at what a big deal this is!

As for Las Vegas beer tourism, we hit a couple of brewpubs, one a franchise restaurant and the other a truly local place called Ellis Island Brewery and Casino. It looked rather dubious (read “local dive”) from the outside, but inside it was authentic vintage Las Vegas, with polished concrete floors, low ceilings, and a cave-like bar. Their beer was decent (and a dollar a glass during the football game!), the service was prompt and courteous, and the locals were friendly. The world needs more places like this!

I intended to show you photos from our trip, but I never took the camera out of its case. I was having too much fun to stop and take photos.

Yesterday we bottled our 8th batch of beer and purchased the ingredients for batches 9 and 10. We’re now tweaking recipes and trying to improve on previous beers. I’d like to get us on a schedule of brewing every two weeks, but with everything going on it’s tricky to fit so much slow happy living on the calendar.

I guess that’s not such a bad problem to have, but in this busy holiday season, I’m trying to create some white spaces on my calendar and make a little more room for sloooowwww and happy.

I hope you can find a little slow and happy too. Cheers!

The weather outside is frightful!

Those who know me well are aware that I have a rather low tolerance for Christmas songs… but there is one song that I not only enjoy, I collect! I confess to owning, as of this moment, 65 versions of the song “Let It Snow.” One of my holiday pleasures is playing my “Let It Snow” playlist softly in the background when friends are over — I enjoy watching to see how long it takes them to figure out that they are hearing the same song over and over. I have versions from such a wide array of genres that it can take a while for people to catch on.

Looking out my window today, the weather is indeed frightful. It’s not snowing — yet — although friends who live a thousand feet higher than me had a flurry this morning. It’s 40 degrees, raining, and very windy here. The sun will set, somewhere to the south and hidden by clouds, at 4:20 PM today. Welcome to Pacific Northwest almost-winter!

CFL and I saw a new movie last night, the world premier of a 48 minute documentary called “Out of the Mist” (the link will take you to the official trailer) about the Olympic wilderness. The film played to an over-packed house at our local college. So many people showed up, in fact, that they opened up a second theatre and had two simultaneous screenings! CFL has met and hiked with one of the people featured in the film, while a couple of their names were familiar to me. In the audience we saw lots of people whom we both know. This is, after all, a film about the beauties of “our own back yard!”

Most of the places shown in the film are far in the back country, well beyond where I have ever ventured. CFL was able to identify many of the locations (he can boast of having climbed Mt. Olympus, a feat I can only imagine). But although I haven’t seen the specific places shown, I’ve seen front-country places that are enough like them that I left the theatre homesick for our mountains… and impatient for next summer when I’ll be able to get up there again.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Ridge looked like this earlier today:

Hurricane Ridge 12/07 1:51 PM

There are 69 inches of snow on the ground, with, obviously, much more to come!

I do find it a challenge at times to stay active and upbeat this time of year. But this morning I decided to make the best of it and did 6 miles on my treadmill. Even though it’s a boring old treadmill, at the end of my run I did feel a sense of accomplishment and just a touch of runner’s high. That’s not so bad!

This evening CFL and I are going to our local homebrewing club’s holiday party, where you can bet we’ll all pass around our various masterpieces. And then we’ll bundle up and walk home — no matter how frightful the weather (well, unless it gets really frightful in which case we’ll call the designated driver whom we have waiting in the wings). Tomorrow we’re off to Seattle for our first beer festival, at which local commercial brewers will showcase their special winter/holiday beers. For that outing, we’ll park the car an hour-plus away and take the ferry and bus to and from our final destination.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a pot of veggie chili simmering for tonight’s party. Downstairs our “Beyond the Pale” IPA is quietly winding down its fermentation in the secondary fermenter, while our second iteration of “Up the Elwha ESB” is bubbling away at a mad 65-beats per minute pace in the primary fermenter. All is good.

How good is it? Here’s what Hurricane Ridge looked like an hour later, at 2:51 PM:

Hurricane Ridge 12/07 2:51 PM

Things are getting better! Surely summer can’t be too far behind…

How about you? What keeps you going in the dark cold days of December? What places do you dream about revisiting next summer when the world is once again warm and green?

Slow happy dining extravaganza

Tonight I sat down to a simple but very meaningful meal: homemade sauerkraut (six weeks in the making after months of growing the cabbage), homemade 100% rye sourdough bread (a week and a half from beginning the sourdough starter to baking the bread), and a couple of nice cheeses (not local but excellent), all topped off with an Angeles Porter from Slow Happy Brewing (now about a seven weeks since brew date).

Is this slow happy dining or what?

While CFL and I do carefully control the ingredients and environmental conditions for our beer, the sauerkraut and bread are wild and crazy!

The cabbage fermented on its own in a crock, happily doing its thing on whatever wild yeasts had chosen to inhabit our cabbage. When we finally tasted it, we were amazed at how crisp and crunchy it is! Really flavorful too — it’s not like the limp store-bought stuff at all.

I kicked off the sourdough starter with whatever wild yeasts happened to be hanging out on an apple from a tree in my front yard. My first attempt a month ago failed because I got lax about feeding the starter more flour after it began to bubble. I kept a close eye on my second attempt at a starter and caught it at its prime, just in time to start my first loaf of bread. It then took me about two days to get a lively bread dough going in my cool kitchen. When baking day finally came, I used a brand new cast iron loaf pan and held my breath.

The bread came out perfect! CFL and I consumed almost half of it in the first half hour, and then we had another large chunk of it at dinner.

The bread, sauerkraut, and beer complemented one another perfectly, with the cheese adding a few nice notes as well. CFL tells me his pastrami completed the ensemble nicely; I’ll take his word for that.

I forgot to photograph my plate, but here is a photo of our Angeles Porter. In contrast to our first batch, this beer has an impressive head! This particular bottle was actually a tad more exuberant than most — which is why I’d grabbed my phone to capture that moment.

There is something immensely satisfying about eating a meal that you not only prepared yourself, but waited a loooooonnnng time for! As I write this, the second batch of cabbage is aging in my pantry, to be enjoyed beginning about two weeks from now. It will be a lovely shade of pink, as it’s two-thirds red cabbage.

Two batches of beer are aging in my upstairs loft, to be debuted this weekend (Up the Elwha ESB) and next weekend (Grand Festivus XII). The still-unnamed strong Scotch ale is downstairs in a carboy, enjoying a long cozy relationship with a bunch of oak chips before it will be bottled (probably next week) and then aged another 45 days. Today we bought the ingredients for our second porter. It’s a recipe that I invented based on a lot of reading and my determination to create something as true to the “robust porter” style as possible. We’ll brew that one this weekend and plan to debut it just before New Years.

I think I’ll wake up the sourdough starter and begin another loaf of bread tomorrow morning… and maybe bake on Sunday.

Although CFL and I are committed to living one day at a time and enjoying each moment as much as we possibly can, I’m coming to love the long slow happy rhythm that fermenting requires. Especially this time of year, as the nights get longer and colder, it’s good to know that there is genuine, living, local, healthy food growing all around me. It’s good to mark the calendar and anticipate the first tastes. It’s good to plan a couple of batches out and realize that I’ll be eating or drinking them next year.

We’d both lost so much — we’d both lost the person whom we hoped and expected we’d spend the rest of our lives with. Somehow, when we create the slowest of slow foods together, it’s an affirmation that for us, life will indeed go on.

Slowly and happily.

Autumn Reflections

Even though CFL and I are dedicated to the slow happy life, sometimes we still need to remind ourselves to slow down and look closely. The other day we walked a trail that I usually run. We stopped on the bridge and spent a long time looking at the coho salmon in Morse Creek. I have lived here ten years and never before seen salmon at this location.

They huddled almost motionless here, about a mile upstream from the mouth of the stream. I’m not sure whether they were still adapting to their return to fresh water and would soon move further upstream, or whether this was at or near their final spawning destination and they were gathering strength for their last hurrah.

The light wasn’t right for photographing them in the water. However, to give you an idea of the scene, here is a similar view that I captured in Sitka, Alaska last summer. As I recall, these were pink salmon. The coho are a little darker than these.

I spent a long time trying without success to find an angle that would reduce the glare off the water and allow me to photograph the fish. But I just couldn’t get it to work.

Then suddenly I was struck by another view. This is what was hiding in plain sight, all the time I was trying to get the right shot of the fish.

As you go about your busy day today, I hope you take the time to slow down, pause, breathe, look closely… and reflect on the autumn beauty surrounding you.

Living and blogging the Slow Happy Living way

We (CFL and LKS) have been dreaming about starting a blog called Slow Happy Living for a while now. Between us we have a whole lot of ideas that we’d like to share with all of you. But, because we are SLOW and happy, it can take a while for us to launch new things. Sometimes we’d both rather just dream about them, keep perfecting those dreams until they are designs for the most amazing things we can possibly imagine. Sometimes we get stuck in the design phase. That can happen when two designers get together.

But life doesn’t always leave time for the launching of perfect dreams. So we’re going to start now, imperfectly, and see what might develop.

Right now, between the two of us, we’re:

  • brewing beer
  • teaching home school classes
  • finishing up training for two half marathons to be run in the next three weeks
  • hiking as much as we can before autumn sets in
  • doing a little home remodeling (new windows? maybe a skylight?)
  • making sauerkraut
  • writing, writing, writing!

You know, the usual stuff that two busy people do in the too little available time we have for the fun things in life.

Trying to juggle all of this and still be slow and happy can be a challenge sometimes, but sometimes the challenges are funny in themselves.

We hope you’ll join us on our adventures, and we hope you’re slow and happy too!