Sacred spaces

I entered the room with an anxious spirit. I haven’t played guitar in years. By play guitar, I don’t really mean creating beautiful music like my very talented friends Mark Clawson, Beth Bishop, or the members of Old Town Tonic. It is not meant that I can actually play music at all. I really just play enough chords to sing along and to lead children in simple tunes. While the mere presence of my guitar awes most every first grader, real musicians know that I am not one of them. My chord sheet downloaded from the internet, I enter the room hoping my hands are recovered enough to hold the neck of the guitar and pick, that my fingers have regain enough dexterity to press the strings to create sounds of the G, D and A chords.

Singing is foriegn to so many children at my school. They seem to have the idea that somehow singing skills are given to some people at birth while others are skipped over of this skill. It seems having red hair or being tall is just like singing to them. It seems they have not had a lullaby sung to them, sat at the dinner table to sing grace or celebrated life events with song. They have missed the sacred space that song creates. Yet, here I come inviting them in with a simple tune and gusto as I strum in mediocrity. I invite them to consider that singing can be learned and developed.

I get to enter sacred spaces with children everyday. I roll my cart of wonder into classrooms all over my school. I get to sit and watch as the lightbulbs go on, as kids explore the world for the first time in new ways considering all the wonder the world has for the first time. I get to carry simple instruments into spaces and march with children as they discover that making sound can be a glorious adventure as we create a marching band transforming a bland blacktop into a grand parade. I get to work in the classrooms of educators that do seemingly impossible things everyday, all in a day’s work. The sacred space of learning is a mystery and precious joy. My colleagues create this space each day!

My sunmer bicycle adventures were filled with a sacredness that I carry through my days. It has helped me view the seemingly mundane and routine with new light. I cherish in my heart the people I met along my way and the joy of having my world opened up in much the same way my colleagues and I open the world for our littlest students.

To be sacred, is to be set apart, but it does not have to be extraordinary. Sacred can be plain, but given the space and authority to be sacred. Can all of life be sacred? Can I live a sacred life that embraces gratitude, mercy, and grace?

My cousin Joseph gave me a great gift a few weeks ago. He sets his alarm for a certain time each evening. As the alarm sounds, he pauses and he invites whoever he is with to share three gratitudes. Dinner was over and my cousins, boyfriend and I were having dessert when the alarm sounded. Each in turn we entered the sacred space of sharing gratitude. This moment shifted each of us to refocus as we contemplated our gifts, shared our thankfulness and embraced gratitude.

Sacredness is not reserved for the religious. Sacredness is a pause to recognize the fragile nature of life and relationships, the wonder of innocence, the joy of intentional living and the embracing of suffering.

Do you have sacred spaces in your day? Where can you pause to create a sacred space? Who can you invite into sacred space with you?

Back to Ordinary Time

Image result for bellingham wa

Re-entering ordinary life is a curious business. I have not really had the words to describe it and still may not be able to fully communicate the experience fully. It has not been as I had expected or hoped. It has given me an opportunity to retool, and rethink, to reprioritize and to reevaluate my decisions.

The local media has been kind and lovely. Keeping up with my schedule in the days following my return was a bit of a blur for me. There were so many interviews (some links posted below). I was not ready to multitask and coordinate all the pieces of my life. I found myself longing for the simplicity of being on bike tour and yet so happy to be home. I found myself hungry to connect with all my people and searching for the solitude that I had grown accustom. I had found a rhythm on the road, and was eager to reestablish a rhythm at home, but still had a couple of weeks of the whimsy of summer. I was a bit lost, and yet settled as I reconnected in my community.

Eggs podcast with DJ Ontic

Skagit Valley Herald

Anacortes American

I have experienced some shifts in my relationships closest to me as a result and now have the opportunity to hone my skills as a listener, to re-examine my boundaries and to practice patience as healing continues and brings new life. My new job has started and I am feeling like I am right where I am supposed to be at work. It is stretching me professionally as I learn to teach tiny cherubs and how to collaborate with an excellent partner teacher. My life remains full, growing and full of hope.

Image result for central elementary school sedro woolley

It is now close to month from my return home and I am beginning to take a deep breath and reflect on the beauty of the summer. So often I am asked, what was your favorite part? The beauty of my summer could be summed up in the places I visited, the Appalachian Mountains, the Adirondacks, Niagara Falls, the Badlands, Glacier, Sandpoint, and the North Cascades. However, this only tells a small part of the story and not the most important part. For me, the most beautiful part was the chance encounters with beautiful people along the way. It is the lovely faces that fill my brain as I reflect on this adventure that is shaping me even still. My favorite part was the conversations at picnic tables in a park or campground, at dinner tables in welcoming homes, or even outside gas stations along the highway.

The next question I get asked often is, what’s next? This question is even harder. This adventure was not merely a bucket list item, nor was it an adventure as a step to another adventure. It was a need deep in me to adventure out, to be transformed and to transform. Dreaming of this adventure was a distraction to me as I lived in the ordinary, engaging with the people in front of me. I needed to go, so I could return and love more deeply. I needed to gain more compassion and passion for the lonely. So now comes the hard work of taking an honest look at the ordinary time, allowing all that I learned and experienced to transform my thinking and reorder my priorities. It is time to set my boundaries in order to love those around me well. The time has come to dig deeply into my community and offer myself with love and gratitude. I need to reconnect to people I care about with fervor.

My next adventure is yet to be defined, come along with me as I explore where this transformational summer will lead me next!

What is transforming you? What values, boundaries, ideas, etc. do you need to revisit? What adventure is distracting you from ordinary life?

A Strong Finish

It was a lazy morning, probably the most relaxed of my entire tour. Since we have made it to Concrete, WA the day before, we only had about 45 miles to go. Emotionally charged, I was awake early as usual and took a walk in the damp morning while my friends slept in. We had a rigorous schedule, but not many miles and I was ending this epic journey. My dear friends had put a ton of work into making my homecoming a beautiful dream come true. So I took these few moments to reflect and enjoy some silence. I would be joined by many people that day, the media would be there and my friends, family and community ready to receive me.

Packed up and bellies full, Katie and I mounted our bikes and headed for the first stop of the day, my school. Central Elementary in Sedro-Woolley, WA was 24 miles away. There I would be greeted by some of the staff and a couple cyclist friends that would ride with me into Anacortes. I rounded the corner and was overwhelmed by the wonderful little crowd holding signs and cheering as I pulled up. I was finally home! This Art Deco building built in the late twenties greets the beautiful little cherubs that I was raising money for every school day. It is where the amazing people I work with pour out their lives for a better future for these children. I was standing in front of the place I spend my time each day hoping to impact students by opening a world to them that they did not know was possible. Hope is a powerful motivator!

At a loss for words with tears just below the surface, I greeted my colleagues and friends. A few of them would ride the 25 miles to my next stop. It was glorious to ride with people, to enjoy conversation and the scenery together. A few miles out from the stop, my family lined the side of the road holding signs. My parents had driven up from near Vancouver, WA and my brother had flown in from Bend, OR. He was on vacation with his family and flew in from their vacation to see my finish. It was amazing. Stopping for a few quick hugs, I hopped back on my bike and pedaled hard to get to the next stop.

Awaiting me at the park and ride was a group of more cycling friends! These people had been encouraging me all summer and I was so honored to have them ride with me the final few miles. It was a beautiful embodiment of my words. The community was beginning to physically surround me, in the same way they had emotionally surrounded me for the past 55 days. I was once again speechless.

The parade of cyclists was captured by my friend, Eddie Murdock, with his drone. We pedaled along the Tommy Thompson trail in Anacortes. It would be just a few more minutes until I dipped my front tire in the Pacific and headed to the finish line event. As I led the parade many familiar local faces passed me on this trail in my sleepy island hometown. The flat paved trail winds along the stunning shoreline that leads to the center of Anacortes. At the four mile mark we turned right to make our way to Seafarer’s Memorial Park.

I dismounted my bike and pushed the 82 pound loaded frame toward the water.

I plunged the front wheel into the sea and with that my journey had ended. I had done it! This epic journey that started as a crazy, bucket list ride was complete. My heart was full and I was ready to celebrate with my friends.

Waiting for me several blocks away in the heart of downtown Anacortes was my community; friends, family, colleagues and the man I have been missing for 55 days! I crossed Commercial Ave at 6th St. The Rockfish Grill and Anacortes Brewery was hosting the event and the sidewalk was completely full.

Tears streamed behind my sunglasses as a slowed my roll approaching the outdoor garden behind the restaurant. I parked my bike and caught the eye of my beau. Before I knew it, I had sprinted to him and he was embracing me as I attempted to pull myself together.

My dear friend Marlo and her amazing band, Old Town Tonic was playing and I was surrounded by the people I love! I was home!

That would have been a fabulous ending to this story, but my community was not done with me. Rich Riddell, the town crier, dressed in his traditional garb made an official proclamation from the city of Anacortes welcoming me home. Laurie Gere, Mayor of Anacortes, declared August 12 as Elizabeth Jenkins day from now on.

Rick Star, owner of Anacortes Brewery donated the proceeds of the event to CHOW and renamed their IPA Beautiful Exhaustion IPA. For the next week the proceeds of the sales of that beer would also benefit CHOW.

Old Town Tonic played followed by DJ Ontic to keep the party going. Skagit United Way and Skagit Publishing represented Skagit CHOW. It was a full event with incredible people. I am not sure I could ever really absorb all that was happening. Most importantly we raised more money for this crucial program.

My heart is exploding! All the loneliness of the road and long gruelling days melted away as I was held tight by the ones I love. I am not sure how I will fully comprehend and assimilate the outpouring of love in this place. It was an incredible day and a strong finish!

The familiar comes into view…

Tears rolled down my face. My eyes leaked uncontrollably as I read the sign. North Cascades Highway, Burlington.

Climbing a pass, crying is not really possible. I had to stop and pull myself together as I began my 18 mile ascent up Loup Loup pass. On the other side would be a familiar face and the beginning of my homecoming. A few miles in I pulled myself together and was passed by the women I had only heard rumors of days before. This group of 5 Seattle teachers had left Bar Harbor on June 3rd and like me they were ready to be home. Their support vehicle was driven by the father of one rider. I had met him at breakfast that morning. Beaming with pride he told me to look for his group of cyclists that day.

Cresting the pass, the smoke grew more intense and the temperature was beginning to rise. I was happy to snap a quick photo, eat a snack and chat with a friendly cycling tour group coming up the opposite way on the pass. The forecast for the next three days was in the 100’s with intense amounts of smoke from the wildfires burning just 16 miles outside of Twisp.

The descent was quick and I found myself in Twisp a few hours before scheduled. I was camping with Melinda that night at her friend’s property on the river. She is a paraprofessional at my school and the first person I would see from my daily life in 51 days. So I grabbed an iced tea at the local coffee shop and rested before meeting Melinda.

It was pure joy to see her. One more sign that I was almost home. We got settled in, cooled off in the river and had a lovely Mexican dinner in town. Emma Lou, Melinda’s granddaughter and a student at our school joined us as I rested and prepared for the coming days when I would climb my final mountian passes and head into Skagit. It was a sweet time.

At first light, I said good bye to Melinda and Emma Lou and pedalled off to go as far as I could before the heat of the day would be too much. The forecast was for over 100 degrees for the next couple days. The plan was to pedal part of the way to Washington Pass, then head back to Winthrop to meet another friend Katie for a true rest day the next day. She planned to pedal over the mountians with me and her friend Kathy would drive support for her (and carry my panniers over the passes).

It all went as planned! I made it to Klipchuck campground, 12 miles from Washington Pass. That meant Kathy would drive us to that point on Saturday for our ride over the passes. I pedalled back to Winthrop and rested at Katie’s cabin until she and Kathy arrived. Then we got to the business of resting. We ate good food, relaxed and floated the river. With the thermometer reading 104, we were happy to be resting.

Saturday morning came with no fanfare. We loaded the car pre-sunrise and began to drive to our starting point. The rumble of thunder followed by dramatic lightening concerned us as we drove toward the mountains. We watched carefully as the lightening moved to the north and the sun began to rise in the east. We decided the storm was moving away from us, so we unloaded the bikes and began the ascent to Washington Pass.

I hate climbing. Katie heard this repeatedly from me, and I was just glad to have some company in this misery.

The views were spectacular, but two mountain passes seemed ridiculous.

We reached Washington Pass with adequate pain and suffering, but I was more worried about the next pass. Five miles away, but the map showed a descent and then a gain of 1500 feet with in five miles. That seemed like it would be steep. Yet when we reached the summit, I was surprised that we were there. It was not nearly as challenging as I thought it would be.

A couple photos snapped, we pedalled onward with beautiful views and not much to report other than Katie getting a flat at our lunch stop in Newhalem.

It seemed like minutes later and she and I were in Concrete, at the 5 B’S bakery, where we met our host for the evening.

Jody has been my good friend for many years and has been to many of my crazy adventures. My first triathlon 13 years ago, she was there. We raised our kids together. Even though in recent years we have not been in close contact, we pick up our friendship on occasion like no time has passed. She graciously hosted the three of us at her little place at Lake Tyee. This was just the respite we needed for my last day. It was going to be an emotional day filled with so much love and joy.

Things I Learned

  • 104° weather is tolerable if you can river float and eat ice cream.
  • Cyclist friends can make mountain passes seem almost like flat land. Riding with a friend is so lovely.
  • A friendly face after 51 days will cure any loneliness plaguing me.

Roadkill Count (Omak, WA to Concrete, WA)

  • 3 snakes
  • 3 skunks
  • 2 deer
  • 2 birds

Re-entry….

**** See the previous post for info on the finish line! Come join me as I finish on Sunday, August 12 in Anacortes!

Sandpoint, ID would be a respite for me. I was staying for a rest day with my friend Rachel. I was anxious to be home and wanted to power through, but the finish line event had already been set and publicized, so I was forced to stick to my plan and rest. I am so glad I did.

The pedal from Libby, MT to Sandpoint, ID was gentle and enjoyable. The only exception was my own fault. I had stopped after a dog had been chasing me. I pulled into the gravel pull out area with a large sign saying welcome to Idaho, a good place to regroup after the dog and snap a quick photo. I unclipped my right foot as always. I have learned on a loaded bike it is best to unclip both feet when stopping even if I’m not dismounting. Well this time I didn’t, because I planned to move along quickly. A distraction over my right shoulder caused me to turn to look putting me just off balance enough that down I went with the bike on top of me. I laid on the ground for a moment deciding I was fine, just bruised pride and a scraped, bloody knee. I worked my left foot out of the pedal, pushed the bike off and dusted myself off. After snapping a quick photo, I climbed back on and rode, dripping blood down my leg for the next 10 miles to the next town.

A little convience store gave me the perfect opportunity to stop. I dismounted, bought a cold drink, cleaned up my knee with my first aid kit and gathered up my last bits of energy to ride around Lake Pend Orielle into Sandpoint. It was beautiful!

Rachel was there to meet me, but just as I was getting settled she was called away to deliver a baby. She is a midwife and is always on call. So I rested and snacked. When she returned, we went to a great little restaurant, Beet and Basil in Sandpoint. The delicious locally sourced food hit the spot!

With a full belly and a rest day ahead, I climbed into the sleeping loft in her apartment and slept the night away. With a renewed spirit she and I went to church the next morning, to Starbucks and then she sent me with some of her friends to go sailing on the lake while she worked on some tasks at home. It was a grand adventure! We swam and sailed and just genuinely enjoyed a Sunday on the boat. This was turning out to be a fabulous rest day.

Rachel’s new husband Kyle was just returning from a golf excursion when I returned, so they grilled a yummy dinner and chatted as the day turned to evening. Another fabulous rest day and such a wonderful time catching up with a dear friend.

Monday morning I was ready to be on my bike and head into my home state. I had arrangements to stay with my friend Treva’s mom in Colville, WA. With another bed in my future, I eagerly pedalled at sunrise crossing into Washington in time to get a cup of decaf for my first morning break in Newport, WA. The barista told me about two crazy teachers that were in yesterday that were riding their bikes across country. I just smiled….

There was a climb looming in the future today, so I was gearing myself up mentally to get on to climbing. The next several days would be climbs as I headed for the Cascades.

My next rest stop in Tiger was at the base of my climb. Twenty five miles and I’d be done for the day. The climb from Tiger to Colville was not steep, but very long. It was just brutal enough to really zap my energy. By the time I reached the house just outside Colville, I was ready for a shower and a nap.

Nancy was an amazing hostess. She snapped some photos for the local paper and then set to getting me settled.

Showered and a quick nap, I was refreshed and headed down stairs. We happily chatted away as she put together a lovely meal. The fresh fruit and orzo salad coupled with grilled pork chops and chicken, was just what I needed. Then she brought out homemade lemon bars and delightful chocolate macadamia nuts. She was taking such good care of me.

After a solid night’s rest, Nancy made a great breakfast and sent me off. She followed me in her car into town to snap a few more photos, pointed me to the nearby Starbucks and bid me farewell. I was once again filled, not just physically fed, but emotionally cared for as well. Good thing too, because the day ahead was full of challenges.

I knew the terrain was going to be rough. I was hoping to climb two passes that day leaving one more pass for the next day before some rest and two more passes. Washington is so full of beautiful mountians… darn it!

The first pass was Sherman Pass it is the tallest pass on Highway 20 and it is no joke! Sherman Pass was a huge mental challenge. I crested the top after 3 1/2 hours of climbing. As I was approaching from the east side, another cyclist approached from the west. He was on a short week long tour making a circle around Washington. We snapped photos for each other, offered encouragments and advice about the route and then pedalled on each in our own opposite directions.

The descent was just as challenging as the ascent. One of my front racks snapped and was loose. I stopped, removed the bag, strapping it to the rear rack. I then hastily propped the rack on the front fork and cautiously proceeded the 5 miles left to Republic. If the rack came loose on the descent and caught my spokes it would be very bad news for me and my front wheel. I checked my map for a notation of a bike shop and there was one…. by appointment only. So I called the number. No answer, no voicemail.

I pedalled a little further hoping to find a local person to get some idea of who might be able to help me. I pulled into a parking lot with a carwash, service station and bar. A man in a firefighter t-shirt was walking toward me. I asked if he was local and with a positive reply I told him my dilemma. He looked across the parking lot and summoned a gentleman in a truck.

I then told this man my dilemma. He gave me directions to his house agreeing to try to fix the rack. It was beginning to get hot, I was tired from the climb and hungry. I listened to his directions and followed them as best I could making one wrong turn. He saw me and signalled my mistake. I arrived to find a chair set out for me to sit while he worked to fix my rack. I pulled some food from my pack and satiated my hunger and we chatted as he worked. Jeremy is a border patrol officer with a specialty in K9 handling. He actually trains other handlers as well. With some on the fly problem solving this kind man rigged up a workable solution.

Now the only problem, climb another pass and try to get to my intended destination for the day. Jeremy offered to shuttle me up the pass with his flatbed truck, putting me back on track to make my stop for the night. So I took him up on his offer. We loaded my bike and off we went.

I offered to pay him for his work and gas, but he refused. He only said, just come back and visit Republic.

Off I pedalled to Omak, 25 miles further than expected. That would make the next day even better. Loup Loup Pass and the Methow Valley were so close.

Things I learned

  • Republic has a large fossil field and a museum to showcase them.
  • I am not thrilled with the salsa racks that are on my front forks. They will get a strongly worded email from me.
  • I have missed fresh fruit! We really are spoiled in Washington with the bounty of summer fruit!

Roadkill Count ( Libby, MT to Omak, WA)

  • 6 deer
  • 3 turtles
  • 6 birds
  • 9 skunks
  • 4 snakes
  • 1 frog
  • 2 bats
  • 1 mouse

Announcements!

  • If you are one of my students, don’t forget to do your summer packet…. see you in a few weeks at school!

FINISH LINE!!!!!

SUNDAY AUGUST 12, 2018

3PM. At the Rockfish Grill in Anacortes ( in the outdoor area)

Live music! Great food! Come celebrate my journey and Skagit CHOW!

This event is family friendly… there will be a special menu outside in the garden for the event. Rockfish is donating a portion of the proceeds from the event to Skagit CHOW!

DJ Ontic will be there followed by the amazing band Old Town Tonic! Come and be ready to dance with me…

Ride with me that day…..

  • noon…. meet at Central School in Sedro-Woolley. We will leave by 12:30
  • 2pm meet at the March’s Point Park and Ride. We will leave at 2:30 and ride the Tommy Thompson Trail to Seafarer’s Park, then on to the finish at the Rockfish.

Montana, still…

All I could think was at least it looks different. The mountians appeared through the smoke as I approached Browning. I pedalled on to East Glacier, happy with each stroke for the tall pines and change in the horizon.

I got settled in my campsite just on the edge of town. It was perfect walking distance to the historic Glacier Lodge (which is now on my adventure list of places to stay) and to the quaint little town with a variety of shops and cafes.

As the day faded to evening, one of the other groups camping invited me to dinner with them. I had already eaten, but said I’d tag along for a beverage. The old cowboy, Al and his young friends, Emily and Dave were adventuring themselves. Al had spent a lot of time in Montana and had brought these two young friends from Tennessee and New York to experience the grand beauty of Glacier. They had been hiking all day and were awestruck by the vastness of the views. Al had spent the day connecting with old friends. They were a welcome social outing as I was beginning to feel homesick.

Filled up with lovely conversation, I headed back to my tent to prepare for the next day. I would climb over the Rockies through Marias Pass. This day had been on my mind since the beginning of this journey and I was nervous. Climb the Rockies? Could I do that?

I started early and was prepared to take all day to climb. I had planned 2 short days and then a rest day. I was sure this climb would be epicly brutal. Much to my surprise the pass came quickly and the climbing gentle. Later, a park volunteer told me it is the lowest pass in the Rockies and made Burlington Northern Rail very rich because they could move their trains through more efficiently than everyone else.

I arrived in West Glacier early in the afternoon, giving me time to explore and get ice cream after getting my camp set. It was almost like a rest day.

From West Glacier I had an easy day heading a little off route to stay with a friend of a friend for a rest day.

This wonderful family was a bright spot for my increasingly homesick heart. They cared for me so well and I was able to rest before the last push home. Their beautiful home was just the beginning. Twila made delicious meals from the food in her garden. Jessica and Zach with their darling children kept me company. Tess had just returned from a mission experience in the Ukraine and shared about her recent adventures and mused about what to come. Twila’s husband, Cal delighted in his beautiful family. It was such a joy for me to just be present with them.

Twila, Tess and I went to Kalispel to shop. I ended up wandering into the Community Action Office. They shared about the many ways they are feeding people in the community. They pointed me to United Way. So after a yummy lunch, Twila took me over to the old mall. The mall had been deserted and sat empty. United Way had the vision to reopen the mall with all the local community services in one place. They converted the food court into a place to feed children, the stores are offices and event spaces for senior services, literacy, Americorps, and United Way. They are working to add after school care and senior day care. It was inpriring to hear about the vision United Way in Kalispel has to take care of its community in relationship with other nonprofits and churches.

With that, my rest day was over and I was pedalling off to Libby, MT. What should have been a pretty straightforward day of pedalling, turned out to be a huge challenge due to the headwind. I had to work to pedal downhill. Exhausted, I finally reached Libby and set my camp in the city park.

The world is small sometimes! As I prepared for my evening in the campground, a couple came by and asked about my adventures. She happened to be the cousin of long time mayor of Anacortes, Dean Maxwell. They gave a donation to CHOW and offered me a steak dinner. I was already set up for the night so I declined. This little interaction reminded me how connected we all really are and made me even more homesick. I went to sleep knowing that the next day I’d finally leave Montana!

Things I Learned

  • Food directly from the garden trumps even the finest restaurant.
  • This California native has turned in her card for the PNW. I would not want to live anywhere else. Well, because coffee!
  • Wildfires are no joke and the smoke is such a problem! Be safe firefighters and thank you for all your work ( Love you Tori Clawson and Mackenzie Cooley. Be safe!)

Roadkill Count

  • 9 birds
  • 1 large rattlesnake
  • 6 deer
  • 1 rabbit
  • 3 skunks
  • 1 turtle
  • 1 lizard