Linda and I just returned from a vacation to the west coast to visit good friends, visit Portland, and unplug. We in fact did take the train, along with an unplanned stop stuck on the tracks in Western North Dakota for about 7 hours…. I intentionally listened repeatedly to poet Bob Dylan’s Dream….

While riding on a train goin’ west

I fell asleep for to take my rest

I dreamed a dream that made me sad

Concerning myself and the first few friends I had

With half-damp eyes, I stared to the room

Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon

Where we together weathered many a storm

Laughin’ and singin’ till the early hours of the morn

By the old wooden stove our hats was hung

Our words was told, our songs was sung

Where we longed for nothin’ and were satisfied

Jokin’ and talkin’ about the world outside

With hungry hearts through the heat and cold

We never much thought we could get very old

We thought we could sit forever in fun

And our chances really was a million to one

As easy, it was to tell black from white

It was all that easy to tell wrong from right

And our choices there was few

So the thought never hit

At the one road we travelled, we ever shatter or split

How many a year has passed and gone?

Many a gamble has been lost and won

And many a road taken by many a first friend

And each one I’ve never seen again

I wish, I wish, I wish in vain

That we could sit simply in that room again

Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat

I’d give it all gladly if our lives could be like that

There is so much we have not experienced over the past two plus years due to Covid Isolation…

We had not visited the west coast in 8 years… so much has changed, and so much unchanged. Portland is still weird, proudly.

Portland has become increasingly populated with homeless camps, tiny houses, and wandering lost people. The growth in just 8 years is shocking. We are so isolated in Saint Louis Park. Like Thomas, it was overwhelming, and blessed with the experience.

Traveling through North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington, the stark landscape of ND, a visual history of abandoned farms, equipment, oil rigs, the remnants of parts of human civilization…reminded me of the Valley of Dry Bones. Granted, Amtrak has a prescribed route and the scene is defined….nevertheless stark. We learned that the passenger train must defer to freight trains…we are also learned how much work we need to do to rebuild our travel infrastructure. All of this a lesson in the divide between urban and rural America in most aspects of our lives.

And then, the great beauty of the mountains and rivers in Montana, Oregon, and Washington….green, lush….I am still processing the contrast.

We spent several days with our old friends Bill and Norm, both native Minnesotans, and former SJ members… the retelling of old and new stories of our mutual lives prior to their moving, and their new life in first Seattle and more recently South Western Washington, as well as our lives since we last were together. Their new home is an old very used house in a very rural, very conservative area near Raymond WA.

Their work to transform this into a very urban looking multi bright colored home, with 2 acres of walking paths, more shrubs and flowers than I can imagine, chickens and vegetables..  was a notable Easter surprise after this unending winter in Minnesota. Their authentic selves set against a most non-urban setting was hopeful, demonstrating once again the importance of showing up and speaking your own truth. In so many ways there are living voices crying out in a wilderness.

I took the time to listen to the audio book of Brene Brown, read by her….this passage which I located in writing struck me throughout our time away…

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

We were gifted with a period of uncommon vulnerability.  No connection to the world (internet), complete lack of control of the pace and direction of our travel..  (train) an unfiltered look at the world in slow motion, (more about train travel at another time), and a wake up to our world outside of the restrictions of an urban home and covid times.

We also are impacted with the vulnerable time in history that we have been given to experience. National unrest, seemingly unbridgeable divides, reversal of decades of human social progress. Poet-Prophet Dylan with great vulnerability cries out, I wish, I wish in vain we could sit simply in that room again.

Take some time to recreate this spring and summer..  allow yourself space and time for vulnerability to happen..  to remove the lenses of our often nearsighted vision, to breathe an air that is not our own.

It can be frightening, disorienting, and in the midst, resurrection is happening.

Rex McKee
Deacon