December 18th, 1918
Updated: Jul 9, 2019
Thank you for the business and encouragement this past year. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season. Make some good resolutions for the coming year. The days will start getting longer again in just a few days. I wonder if the tradition of resolutions has anything to do with the diminishing darkness?
I am pretty sure resolutions have something to do with our culture having a deep connection with hope. Not all cultures have that connection of hope in the same way. I say this because of what I heard when I spent New Years Day, 1991 out in the countryside visiting Haitian farmer friends at their mud and wattle homes. January 1st is also Haitian Independence Day so it is a double duty holiday. In most homes people had a pot of pumpkin soup they shared with me and other who stopped by to greet them on the special day.
As I walked from home to home, a surprising number of times the response people gave to my buoyant greeting of, "Bon Ane" (Happy New Year) was a subdued, "Sa se yon jou m-pat panse m-ta oue." (This is a day I never thought I would see.) I was looking forward, with expectation, to the New Year. It seemed to me many of them were looking back, at the year just ended, relieved to have barely survived. New Years resolutions weren't something people there thought about. Dread and fear were pretty strong themes in their worldwiew.
I learned a lot from walking for a number of years among my Haitian friends and I have great admiration for their resilience. There were many days of tragedy, loss and sorrow I shared with them. Even though they knew Grief on a first name basis there was plenty of shared laughter.
I learned from them but I couldn't help sharing who I was and what I believed. I carried a traditional bag woven from palm leaves called a macouti over my shoulder as I walked the trails between farms and homes. In the bag I carried water to drink, seeds to plant and a Creole Bible. When new people would see me and my bag they would often ask, "Blan. Ki sa ou pote pou mwen?" (White guy. What are you carrying for me?) My response was, "Espwa." (Hope.) Years later, I still can't help sharing who I am and stories of what I observe. Thanks for reading my stories and thanks to some of you for sharing your stories with me.
My current list is attached. There are quite a few inventory entries that have a Dr indicating that I still have a lot of trays of seed yet to clean in my drying room. I'm not doing much collecting now though so the list is starting to get more accurate. Let me know if you need anything.
Our annual A to Z Christmas letter that we send out to friends and family is below. Feel free to read it if you want. For those who participated in the seed cleaning workshop you might want to click on the link in N below to see a few photos from the day. (If you want more stories from the Haiti days the letter I below has a link to information about The Gospel of Trees, my daughter Apricot's, memoir about growing up in Haiti.) And there is a link to photos of the two-day hike my brother and I did right after Thanksgiving to get water flowing again at a remote spring in A below, at the word "flowing".
Keep Hope alive,
Jonny Native Seed
In the letter below you will find numerous links. Clicking on these will lead to either essays, captioned photo albums or videos. You can practice here. There is no obligation or expectation that you view them. Some folks tell us they enjoy taking the time to see the expanded version of the stories hinted in the A-Z paragraphs. We put in the links for ourselves because the format makes it easy for us to access the stories, months and years later. Agua Alta Spring, on the south side of Martinez Mountain, now has water flowing again. Jon and his brother Lyle worked on the spring the day after Thanksgiving. Jon was also at the spring on two other hikes in April. One was with other hikers, in search of the elusive 1948 P-80 Shooting Star crash and one a solo hike, scouting out Shangrila.
Bishop Pass was our last portal as we departed the beautiful high Sierra wilderness. Flip, Jon and 3 young friends backpacked 56 miles over three 11,000 ft+ mountain passes and strolled through stunning meadows for 7 days. Was this Flip's "last hurrah" or the beginning of more to come?
"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you like sunshine flows through the trees. And the storms will blow their energy into you, while cares drop off like autumn leaves." Words from John Muir. Jon wrote 4 more verses and put them to a tune. He sings it a lot.
Drying apples became the morning ritual this fall after Flip received a spiralizer attachment for her mixer with "peel, core and slice" features. Quick as a wink, whole apples became uniform rounds, ready for the food drier or an apple pie. Eighty-nine year old Grandpa Lee (Jon's dad) died on August 12th. It was not a surprise. He was ready to go and we are glad he is no longer suffering but we do miss him and his caring heart, sharp memory, wry wit and the twinkle in his bright blue eyes. There was a wonderful memorial service for him on August 25th.
Fort Clatsop, 5th graders' overnight field trip, was Grandma Flip's opportunity/excuse to immerse herself in the world of grandson Oak. What a busy, energetic time of life! She had a splendid time. Oak is an engaging conversationalist and a charming young man.
Glaciers and sound of birds filled the air as the cruise ship drew into the bay. What a privilege for Flip and her sister Mary to experience the massive ice packs in Alaska in May. It is sad to realize the glaciers are diminishing from their former grandeur. It's time to take the threat of climate breakdown seriously and build a better future than the one we're currently heading towards. (https://www.drawdown.org/) Hospice began for Jon's dad at the end of May. He did relatively well until August 5th, his and Lois's 68th anniversary. From that point it was a quick decline to his passing a week later. Jon was at his parents side on the family the date farm for 2 1/2 weeks when Lee first went on hospice. Every day there was a significant event that made Jon grateful he was there. (Although 103 gophers wish he had stayed in Oregon.)
Interviews, readings & book signings - Apricot's Gospel of Trees is published! There have been TV, radio and podcast interviews, readings at libraries and bookstores near and far. Many personal responses thanked her, saying her book helped them process their experiences as missionary kids. Apricot also had an article published in a magazine about the Eagle Creek Fire that caused her family to evacuate in the fall of 2017. Joan and Lois (Jon's aunt and his mother) both love visiting Oregon. With the passing of their husbands, the two sisters are now at liberty to travel to Oregon together. They enjoyed the autumn colors, apple & walnut harvest, and being with Lois's Oregon granddaughters and great grandsons. We enjoyed their visit and hope they can come again! Kids First is the name of 4-year-old Lucian's preschool. He's discovering how to read and write but perhaps his biggest personal discovery was Skittles candy in his Halloween trick-or-treat bag. "Will I have to wait a whole year before I can have Skittles again?" Living plants and living words in her pottery and life, Meadow joins together beautiful forms and beautiful hopes. We are thankful her studio is open and bringing more people and business her way. "Live generously so that others may flourish." - https://www.instagram.com/p/Bg_wje-Ar2m/
Many hands helped with the JNS seed harvest this year. Some helped more than others but all the buckets and bags of seed were filled one handful at a time, so every handful counted. Thank you Rachel, Ian, James, Claire, Mercy, Elise, Sage, Mark, Flip and Meadow.
NPSO Presentation January 8th on seed collecting was given by Jon to the Corvallis chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon. This led to two more presentations and two seed cleaning workshops later in the year. It was a pleasure to teach eager learners how to collect and clean native seed. Jon isn't ready to quit collecting but he is starting to share some of his secrets, knowing he won't be doing this forever.
Oregon Garden, lavender farm, blooming tulip fields, kite festival at Lincoln Beach, Mary's Peak are destinations Flip and Bangladeshi friend, Sisil, her 2-year-old daughter Amana, and her visiting Bangladeshi family toured. With her husband busy with grad school, Sisil became her own travel agent, finding seasonal destinations to experience the beauty of Oregon. It has certainly helped Flip see more of Oregon. Pantry remodel and more tile laying keep Andrew busy and learning new skills. He and Rose are focused on finishing up home improvements with an eye towards finding a home with more garden space. Quercus vaccinifolia (huckleberry oak) is one of 20+ new species of seed Jon collected this year. He now has 425+ species on his availability list. He keeps learning new things and sharing what he learns. Jon is alarmed to find some important species are dying out as the temperature rises and summer rains drop off. The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly noticeable in the woods. It's hard to grasp how quickly the change is happening, but the plants are sending a message.
Radiation for Mother Divine (Flip's mom) occupied the month of July. Happily the cancerous growth on her shin completely disappeared when the procedure was over. She can't see well or hear well but she managed on her own to Skype son George at his 46th annual Turkey Feed last month. We cheer her on as she braves this last journey of old age.
Sacred Harp singing has somehow managed to grab Jon's interest. It's the very first choir he has voluntarily joined. Two or three times a month we sing old hymns a cappella (without instrumental accompaniment) with a delightful group of people of all ages in 4-part harmony. We have "raised the roof" on occasion with our joyful, loud singing. Teenager in the family! Isaiah is a delightful teenager, who can recite all 18 stanzas of "The Raven," leap over hurdles in track, confidently paddle across lakes and rivers, give impromptu piano concerts, solve a Rubik's cube, and hike miles into the wilderness with David for a father-son overnight backpacking trip. Under the house, digging and hauling out soil for 40 days, Jon started digging January 1st and pulled out 429 sled loads of soil by the end of March (and one sled of the desiccated carcasses of 10 long dead cats). With crawl space under the house we were able to install new water pipes and have the house anchored to the foundation in preparation for the impending Cascadia subduction zone earthquake.
Violin? Not this year but music has been David's latest hobby as he is learning to play the Banjo. Progress is slow, but he enjoys learning something new. Wallet story. Well, it started when we stopped to fill up with gas. We were hauling a freezer to Rose's house on the back of the pickup truck... (This is an amazing feel-good story but it is too long for this format. If you have time for the entire story read more here.) eXtra large walnuts. A friend of a friend invited us to pick walnuts from under her tree. Some were the size of lemons! Many many buckets were quickly and easily filled as they dropped from the tree over several weeks. We were so impressed with this variety that Flip went and bought one and planted it on our property. As Flip's father would say, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is today." Year 70 for George. Flip's brother drove up to Oregon to celebrate his birthday with all his siblings. It was a happy family reunion on a lovely summery September day. We feasted under the grape arbor and played whiffleball on the grass. Happy Birthday brother! Zillow is a website that Rose (and Andrew) spend a lot of time on these days as they try to decide if they should move. Will they find the perfect neighborhood or stay in their current house? Stayed tuned for next year’s A to Z to find out. "I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself." Psalm 89: 1-2
Love, Jon and Flip