Friend #13-14: Phillip and Sarah

I began the morning in Albany (adjacent to Berkeley) having stayed with Kevin and Nikki the night before.  The gas station on the corner had a 2-cent drop in gas prices!  That was a treat.

I was excited for the drive ahead because I was venturing into new territory.  Except for a trip to Seattle in 2009, I have never been north of Napa Valley.  I could not believe the beauty around me on this leg of the trip.  California is so diverse and so beautiful.  There are mountains still packed with snow in the middle of June.  A week ago, I could have gone to the beach!  I made my way to Redding to locate my friend Phillip, who is in school there.  He let me know as I was on the way that he was actually back in Los Angeles for the summer, so we caught up with a quick phone conversation as I drove around Lake Shasta.  That part of the world feels like Switzerland, and Lake Shasta looks like an alpine lake.  As I wove around the lake (and in and out of phone reception), Phillip shared with me his ventures integrating spirituality and creativity.  Phillip is a talented performer–a spoken word poet and professional dancer–who has graced the stages of Broadway and So You Think You Can Dance.  Currently, he is also in the midst of a ministry program.  We didn’t have much time to connect, but I was reminded that Phillip is a wonderful integration of a dreamer and a doer.

During my stop in Redding, I saw Mt. Shasta in the distance, and as I drove north, it got closer and closer and the view got better and better.  I was stunned!  At some point during the drive, I was on the phone with my 91-year-old grandma, and I ended up giving her a play-by-play of everything that was going on around me.  There was a long, low, agricultural valley that led right up to the base of Mt. Shasta.  I entered Oregon for the first time.  I passed the highest point on Interstate-5 (at 4310 feet above sea level).  It was a pretty eventful few minutes!  And I was grateful to share it verbally with grandma, even if she couldn’t see the beauty that I was seeing.

Mt. Shasta from Redding, CA

Mt. Shasta up close

Eventually, I landed in Eugene, Oregon, home of the University of Oregon, and my youngest cousin Sarah and her boyfriend Jordon.  For the most part, we have become a weddings and funerals family.  So the last time that I saw Sarah was at our oldest cousin Nancy’s wedding.  It was a week after that event that she and her boyfriend moved across the country to Eugene for Jordon to go to law school.  Now Jordon has passed the bar and is clerking for a judge and Sarah is going back to school to be a science educator.  Now, I remember when Sarah was born, so she’s always had a special place in my heart, probably accentuated by the fact that I never had younger siblings.  Since she moved to Eugene, she has done a variety of outdoor educating, which suits her absolutely perfectly.  I never could have predicted it would be where she’d land, but now I can’t imagine her doing anything else.

We swapped a few stories about our Grandma who was 95 the year Sarah turned 16 and her older brother turned 21 (their birthdays are 9 days apart).  Grandma called Sarah on her brother John’s birthday to wish Sarah a Happy 21st Birthday.  Right age.  Right day.  Wrong kid.  But Sarah went with it and Grandma said, “You’ll have to come over so I can make you one of my whiskey sours!”  I never knew Grandma was a 95-year-old bartender, though whiskey sours were her favorite drink.  It was a cute memory I hadn’t heard before.

When I arrived, I was feeling quite overwhelmed and behind, but Sarah was steady and easygoing.  A night of sleep helped, and the next morning, she and I got breakfast.  She shared with me a loss that she and Jordon had experienced recently, and I was struck by how common, how foreign, and how life-altering loss can be. Then she showed me around campus.  I love college campuses and the environment of college life.  Before long, it was time to get on the road and head to Seattle.  Sarah is so special and so dear to me, and I am grateful that I got this time with her.

Sarah and me touring the University of Oregon



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