Sunday, January 27, 2008

We See You

I am trying this livejournal thing to help me keep in contact with everyone. Anyways...

Erin and I went to the doctor about the baby this week; strange places doctor's offices are. We are being seen only by midwives: folks that I think have a pretty good grasp of the fact that Erin and I don't really fit comfortably into the American medical system. Not unlike pair of Yugos in a lot full of Hummers, our cultish existence of practicality and simplicity is occasionally met with misunderstanding. (What do you mean you don't want your baby to be put in an incubator?) We are attempting to have our baby at a place called The Birthplace. A quick gurney ride (100 yards) from the regular maternity ward in the hospital, this safe-haven of natural birthing boasts a secluded and intimate setting to commit an act that humans share with any other species of animalia on this planet (and a whole lot of non-animal species). This whole baby-making experience is fast becoming the most overwhelming and beautiful expression of emotional and physical change.
We did opt to have an ultrasound. And I mostly wanted to share the pictures.

Presenting baby Johnderson:

Expected date: August 5th, 2008
The second two are this funky new ultrasound 3D/4D imaging and I must admit its pretty sweet. Those fuzzy ultrasound pictures never really did it for me. But show me a waving hand and some toes, and all of sudden I realize that its my demon spawn in there.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A New Start

I'm going to begin this thing with an email I sent some folks a couple of weeks ago:
So it’s been a crazy year…

I’m sorry it’s been a while since I’ve talked or written to many of you, but this year has been pretty amazing and eventful. I thought I’d just share some of the escapade. Sorry it’s long…

This time last year Erin and I were just settling into the tranquilo life of the tropics in the little town southwest of San Jose , Costa Rica called Mastatal. Life there was simple, comfortable, and easy. We lived and worked on what I have been calling a Sustainability Ranch. Funny, since it’s really not totally self-sustaining, nor is it much of a ranch. Rancho Mastatal was started a few years ago by a couple from NY State. It’s located in a town of about 150 people in the farming country of Puriscal county, an area rarely visited by foreign tourists and pretty much forgotten about by native Ticos (Costa Ricans).
The Rancho is a hub for foreign (American and abroad) educational institutions to hold lectures, classes, and full semester abroad programs on topics ranging from natural building, wilderness medicine, community service, or ecology. So, they facilitate these groups with ecological ethic, sustainable style, and general community participation. It’s hard to escape the latter since the mayor of Mastatal and his entire family are employed by the Rancho. The facilities are small and can really only handle about 40-50 people including staff at their site. The Rancho is more than just an eco-lodge, however. Abutting the newest National Park in Costa Rica and having 300 acres of virgin rainforest to itself, the ranch was as much an ecological preserve as it was a classroom. It also acted as an outlet to the surrounding communities of new (or old, depending on how you look at it) natural building techniques involving cob, wattle and daub, straw bale, or bamboo. And the ranch was tremendously proactive in community affairs; in fact the President of Costa Rica visited while we were there.
So, Erin and I were volunteer staff at this ranch, helping with daily chores of cooking, cleaning, and preparing for the next group. Beyond this, we were integral to many of the natural building projects, our main project being the construction of a composting toilet. We were in Costa Rica for four months, and spent nearly all of that time at the ranch. We did get to travel some ( Nicaragua is an amazing country, probably more socially hospitable than Costa Rica ), but not enough. All in all our time spent at Rancho Mastatal was exhilarating.

Roman"> Upon our return to the States we prepared for our summer traveling and working for The Student Conservation Association. Now, looking back at the year I realize how hectic it really was at times.
We started after returning from Costa Rica in New York State doing hiking trail construction on Bear Mountain, part of the Appalachian Trail which runs from Georgia to Maine . The project that we worked on was amazing; it’s the most technical trailwork that Erin and I had ever done. There are steel cables attached to trees attached to a crazy looking gear box, and two thousand pound hunks of granite slung in the air hanging from these cables, and there’s a guy over there shaping a rock to fit into a stone wall with a hammer drill and chisels and hammers, and a girl smashing giant rocks into itsy bitsy rocks for crush fill behind the retaining wall. It’s just a hiking trail I thought to myself, what the hell do you need all of this for. Well, it turns out it’s not just a hiking trail. We were thirty miles from New York City and this was the most heavily trafficked section of the AT and some folks put up an awful lot of money in order to make it ‘sustainable’ (i.e.: a trail that requires a lot less maintenance than a typical trail and won’t just wash away in a couple of years). So, working on the trail for a month gave us a good warm-up for the rest of the summer.
Next we went to training for the upcoming crew leading season in upstate New York . Then we flew to Seattle , WA for another week-long training where Erin worked as the cook and I worked as an instructor. By the beginning of June, we were in Anchorage , AK basking in that big Arctic sun. Alaska was amazing, as most can no doubt guess. Granted the majority of the country-side is low-rolling hills with tiny pine tress and not a lot of typical Alaskan panorama. It resembles the Dr. Seuss ‘land of the Lorax.’ The views of that Alaska did offer of that oh-so-big sky, beautiful glaciers, and crystal waters were truly a sight to behold. A good representation is in the movie that just released this year, “Into the Wild” based on a Jon Krakauer book (a good read too, I might add). Our work was cool too. This crew was a high school conservation crew where we take high schoolers out for a month to work, live, and have fun. Good Times. What else can I say? Alaska was great, just great!
From Alaska , Erin and I were off to Michigan to take a two-week working vacation at an organic, bio-dynamic, sustainable farm. The time spent on Jayne’s (the owner) farm is always amazing. The food is beyond compare, daily swims in the clean Lake Michigan waters are unbelievable, and that section of northern Michigan is gorgeous.
After Michigan , it’s off to California , into the Sierra Nevadas, where Erin cooked and I co-instructed a trail skills workshop for six weeks. I love the Sierras. When I get old and oatmeal is dripping out of my mouth, I want to be dropped in the Sierra wilderness in the dead of winter. It’s been said that hypothermia patients receive a rush of endorphins, making them warm, cozy, and content before they push off into the Big Sleep; many are actually found naked. That’s how I want to go.
From the Sierras, we flew back to NY State to work on Bear Mountain again. Good times, good friends, good work. A month later (this is now early October in case you needed to catch up), we were back in Cali were E and I met my bro Stephen and drove to Tucson, AZ for a month-long work crew in the Rincon Mountains just outside the city in Saguaro National Park. This crew reinvigorated my deep love for the desert. It is serene at times yet tempestuous at others; a quality not too much unlike me I suppose. Tucson is a nice-enough town (a million or so folks) I suppose; it’s got a cool old downtown.
We were back to California for Thanksgiving and quickly left for a drive to the East Coast. As always with positive there is negative. My dad had open-heart surgery this year, so we spent a lot of time visiting him. He is doing very well though. And we had to leave the West for the East because we got word that Erin ’s grandpa had to have emergency surgery. He, too, is doing much better.

So, now we are back in New England , had an awesome Christmas and things finally feel like they are slowing down for the year. It’s not snowing nearly enough for my tastes, and everybody else around here seems happy about; I don’t know why.

And just when things seem like they are settling down a little, Erin and I get news that is sure to get things back up to speed…

Yeah it’s true; if all is well, there will be a little one out and about by next fall. Crazy, huh! Who would have ever thunk it. So needless to say, our plans will be changing a little. Stay tuned for more information.

Anyways, hope everyone is well and doing good in there own way. I hope you all have a good New Year. Write back when you have a chance. It’s OK if it takes a year, like it does for me.

# of ______________ in the past year:
Flights: 10
Nights sleeping in a tent: 284
Loaves of Bread baked: 146
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Good books I’ve enjoyed this year (I’m on a big food & farming kick right now):
One Straw Revolution by Fukuoka
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Hand Sculpted House by Ianto Evans
a David Sedaris book or two

Good Tunes:
Strawberry Jam by Animal Collective
Purse-Seine by Blackbird Raum
Me Music by Stephen Johnson
Godspeed! You Black Emperor
Ditty Bops

There’s more I just can’t think it them now!!!

Peace & Love,
Mike J.

P.S. Please forgive all grammatical errors and non-sensical sentence structures; I started this at 3:00 am because I couldn’t sleep.