Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sweet Summer Nights

They are laughing on the porch again.  The creative writing lessons Jules has begun to give a couple times a week are over for the evening.  They have shared their stories and life moments each found interesting, critiqued the use of descriptive adjectives to create imagery in the setting, but now the conversation has digressed into just talking.  In many ways, I recognizing this creative writing to be much more a segue into the teenage years.

From the couch in the living room, I do my obligatory email and Facebook checks while I hear them both smiling from ear to ear.  And then quiet.  So quiet all there is, is the dog huffing as she looks longingly at the door.  Then 2 pffh's just seconds apart, a small plink as the BB hits, and more squeals of delight.  The boy is becoming quite a shot and Dad is now having to really try.  As it gets dark, The Barracuda begins to chatter.  He will talk about anything and everything.  Talk, and talk, and TALK.  A word gets fit in edgewise here and there by Jules, a clarifying question or two, but generally the idea is just to listen.  Listen, and laugh, and banter back and forth in a decidedly male way.

I'm inside making tea and trying to figure out just what late night snack I'd like to share with Jules.  The changing of the guard happens when The Barracuda goes to bed.  Then Jules is mine.  We get to sit out on the dock and chatter together (though I must admit, I'm the talker).  By that time, the swallows will have been replaced by the bats as they dance about eating all the insects.  By that time, the stress of the day will have melted off.  By that time, we will be able to just be adults dating again.  He'll have wine; I'll have tea.  He'll be sweating in a T shirt and shorts; I'll be wearing my favorite wool hoodie and snuggly sweats.  He'll have on two pairs of socks and sneakers; my feet will be bare.   It is the same all 77 days of these long, slow summer nights, but it never gets old.

It is on these nights that I remember we live in a land of postcards, in a place that time forgot. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

At It Again!

The usage of trains to cart strip mined coal from Montana and Wyoming is looking less and less likely in Washington State.  The projects are far from dead, but they are wounded quite heavily.  In the fall, we begin working again with high school students, and once again taking trips up to Olympia to talk with Governor Insley.  For now, our attentions have turned to Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality.

With a new proposal to now barge 9 million metric tons of coal down the Columbia River, our household has once again mobilized to take on this impending environmental threat.  As much as coal trains bothered me, coal barges make me borderline nauseous.

A Starbucks cram session to work out timing for his testimony and the inflections.  You only get 2 minutes, and the surroundings are pretty intense.
At this point, The Barracuda knows the drill quite readily.  The speaking isn't his point of focus as much as the organizing which goes in to play.  He actively watches how the various groups interact, the positive aspects of each testimony, the things opponents are doing, the ways the gatherings could be more successful.  He's into the networking now.  I don't exactly know where that is going to take us next, but it is definitely an unexpected turn of events.

The Clean Energy Bike Brigade took to the streets in a parade while people marched with a giant blue fabric river waving in the wind over their heads.  Behind them, a flash mob danced to blaring rock music.  It was a pretty cool production.

The rally was quite enjoyable, even with the extreme heat.  Heavy, bright red T-Shirts aren't normally the chosen attire in high 80's temperatures, but at least everyone was sweating together.  As always, Portland's signature flare came out in style.  There was a clean energy bicycle brigade, loud rock music, and a flash mob.  It has been quite neat to expose The Barracuda to all different types of protest.  I'm enjoying watching him develop his ideas and become stronger in his knowledge of political action.

Since it is the summer, this was the first of The Barracuda's testimony which Jules could attend.  He got to finally watch the process from speech writing, to signing in and practicing, to speaking.  He got to see how many people know our son now, and are proud of him.  As a homeschooling parent, you sometimes get nervous that perhaps your judgements about your children are skewed.  I mean, who isn't just a bit biased about their awesome, gorgeous, hard working, brilliant, fill-in-other-incredible-adjectives kid.  But watching my son grow in his confidence, craft a persuasive argument, deliver the rhetoric, and network with adults of various ages in a field he is interested in shows me that maybe I'm not totally off the mark.

People don't discount The Barracuda now; they get the cameras ready when we walk up to the microphone.  I often times have to help him readjust the height, or the chair, but people watch in anticipation instead of "oh-isnt-that-cute" faces.  I still don't know how he does it, but once he starts to speak, he's got you.  Today was no different.

Perched up on his knees to be able to reach the audio equipment he began:

Hi, my name is [The Barracuda].  I am here to ask for your help.  I need you to stop the coal barges. 
I have no power.  I can't vote.  I'm not the governor.  I don't sit on a fancy board or commission.  I am only 8.  I am just a kid. 
But I do matter.  I am a human being.  I live on this planet too, and you are deciding my future. 
Coal barges will change the dynamics of the Columbia River.  Coal and coal dust will fall off the barges into the river, killing the fish.  Both wildlife and people depend on the fish.  The osprey, eagles, heron, and many other of the birds our area is known for require the fish to live.  Coal dust in the water will become coal dust in the fish.  The precious salmon who are currently fighting to come back from extinction will be threatened again.  Their eggs and spawning grounds will be disrupted by the coal causing the populations to drop again. 
Native people have built their lives around the salmon.  As a culture, we haven't been very nice to Native Americans.  We tell them they are in the way.  We move them and kill their ways of life.  Isn't it time we stop that?  They are human beings.  Just like me.  Just like you. 
I recognize people need money to live.  It is important.  But the paradise of our Gorge is also important.  The water is important.  The fish and birds are important.  A future for kids like me is important. 
So, I need your help now.  I need you to stop this.  Thank You. 
Please be responsible with my future.  My generation trusts you.

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