Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bike Paths and Walkways

This post is a little different from my usual subject matter, but given the popularity of cycling today I think it is an important consideration.

I am a retired senior who takes daily morning walks of two to three miles along the Greenway Park bike/pedestrian trails in Beaverton.  It is a lovely area that serves the neighborhood well and is a safe way for bicycle riders to commute to their workplaces.  Unfortunately, the majority of those riders have not learned to use rider etiquette of announcing when they are passing a walker from behind.  Courtesy suggests ringing a bell or announcing, “Passing on your left.”  This allows the walker to safely stay to one side.  My gait is not always as straight as it used to be and from time to time I stumble to the right or left.  This has caused me to narrowly escape injury more than once from a speeding cyclist passing at the same time as I waver.

One morning this week as I walked along I met another walker coming toward me.  Just as we reached the same spot a cyclist whizzed in between us without notice.  The other walker could see him coming, but I could not and also could not hear him coming.  The path is barely five feet wide so perhaps you can guess how close the encounter was.

Before returning to Oregon and my current home after retirement I lived in the Seattle/Bellevue metro area and often rode my bicycle or walked along the Sammamish River Trail.  It goes for a number of miles between Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington.  Seldom when I walked was I passed by a rider who did not announce he/she was passing from behind.  Both the metro eastside area of Bellevue and Redmond and the Portland metro area are considered bike riding capitals.  They offer great places to ride (and walk) because of the well planned and paved pathways.  Being used to this courtesy (and safety) announcement and using it myself when I ride, I have been disappointed by the lack of this behavior, at least in Greenway Park.

So for any of you readers anywhere who may also be cyclists, I hope you will consider the safe riding behavior of announcing yourself to walkers on your path.  Pass the thought on to other riders you know.  Thanks!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Travelers

I awoke at 4:24 AM PDT without benefit of alarm.  I wanted to share in the 9-11 memorial ceremonies in New York, Washington, DC and Shanksville, Pennsylvania along with the millions of others taking time to remember one of the most challenging days in our history as a nation.  I did not know as I began listening to the CBS TV presentation of the ceremonies that I would be writing these words.   However, it soon struck me that I was experiencing a deeply personal connection with those whose lives were lost on 9-11 and with their families and friends.  I did not personally know any of the people whose lives we were commemorating in these services, but as the coverage ended, I realized I do now know them and care about them as though they were members of my own family.

As the names were being read I realized, as I am sure you did as well, that every ethnic, cultural, religious and national heritage was represented.  How many times the words were repeated:  “We will never forget you.”  The photos accompanying the names listed the span of ages.  We are a special people in many ways, probably due to the manner by which our country came into being and the steps we have taken through the years to improve our understanding of each other, our likenesses and differences, and to honor each other for the contributions we make to our society.  We honor the living and we respect the lives of those who have gone on before us.

The gentle, reverent touch of the bronzed names of their loved ones and the tracing of those names onto the memorial program gave expression to how we care and how we share our love.  Many were shown embracing one another or simply touching an arm or shoulder in a moment of shared knowing.   Every form of relationship was represented—mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, partners and lovers and friends.   I was reminded that, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.”  While the surviving families have experienced an individual loss, they have gained the oneness of spirit with all of us.

We are all travelers on the journey through life.  May these words, penned many years ago by my mentor and my friend as he experienced his own personal loss, enfold and comfort us all in that journey.

The Traveler
By James Dillet Freeman
They have put on invisibility.
Dear Lord, we cannot see--
But this we know, although the road ascends
And passes from our sight;
That there will be no night;
That You will take them gently by the hand
And lead them on
Along the road of life that never ends,
And they will find it is not death but dawn.
I do not doubt that You are there as here,
And You will hold them dear.

Our life did not begin with birth,
It is not of the earth;
And this that we call death, it is no more
Than the opening and closing of a door--
And in Your house how many rooms must be
Beyond this one where we rest momently.

Dear Lord, we thank You for the faith that frees,
The love that knows it cannot lose its own;
The love that, looking through the shadows, sees
That You and they and we are ever one.

As Bob Schieffer reflected so clearly at the end of the broadcast, “We saw America at its very best.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back To School--Remembered

As I started my morning walk around 7:30 AM I passed by Greenway Elementary School and suddenly found myself thinking, “Boy, am I glad I am not heading to my first day of school!”  I watched the teachers arriving early to get the final preparations of the classrooms done before the onslaught of students.  It wasn’t just that I was glad I was not starting school as a student, but also glad I was not a teacher facing perhaps the toughest year yet in their careers due to the cutbacks on spending for education.  No wonder I felt like I didn’t want to be there!

The interesting thing for me is that I always liked school.  I was born literally next door to Vestal School on 82nd street in Portland.  I started kindergarten there before our family moved to the Rose City school district.  I remember walking to school alone when I was in the second or third grade.  It was probably about a mile and no one was afraid of child molesters or other dangers that seem ever present for children today.  I was free to walk along, partly watching the houses and other physical sites, but even more I was able to walk along my imaginary paths (much more interesting and exciting).

By the time I was in the fourth grade we had moved “way out in the country” just off Walker Road in Beaverton.  We bought two and a half acres of tree covered land with a small two room unfinished house.  I walked daily to Barnes School, then a two-room school about a mile from home.  At one point two sisters were the teachers.  They lived in a mobile home behind the school.  Sometimes my dog would follow me to school no matter how hard I tried to stop him.  One day at recess I was sitting on the front step, Patsy, my mutt friend was sitting beside me.  My teacher came out and asked if it was my dog.  I said, “Yes.”  Then the teacher said Patsy could come in and sit by my desk.  You think that could happen today?

Today along that stretch of Walker Road the Nike Company has taken over what used to be a horse farm and much more of the surrounding land.

I had so many wonderful adventures while living there.  My dad finished the house, which became a three-bedroom home with an indoor bathroom!  It only had a two-seater outhouse when we moved in, and the bedroom my sister and I shared was a separate outbuilding.  The house is still there and is the only one in the neighborhood that looks pretty much like it did when we lived there.

After my parents divorced the family moved back to NE Portland where I attended Ockley Green grade school.  I went from a two-room school to the largest grade school in Portland at the time with about 1000 students.

My high school days began in Astoria, Oregon.  My mother had remarried and my stepfather was working a dredging job on the Columbia River at that time.  Days at Astoria high school were something else.  Strict “rules” applied to freshmen with harsh consequences for failure to comply.  One “rule” meant that freshmen could not wear corduroy pants.  Unfortunately, washday didn’t come soon enough and instead of wearing jeans, I had to wear my cords.  The punishment was being ushered into the boy’s restroom and given a few whacks with a paddle!  I shouldn’t even mention my “sports” activity there.  It consisted of freshman football. I was on the field for two plays.  Unfortunately, I was supposed to be on offense and I played as though on defense.  Oh, and my mom who had come to watch the game didn’t know the school colors so rooted for the other team!  You get the picture, I’m sure.

Things improved dramatically after leaving Astoria in the middle of my freshman year.  I entered the freshman class at Tigard Union High School, the old school on Main Street.  (A MacDonald’s stands there now.)  I was literally the last person to graduate from that school.  As senior class president, I presented the graduating class.

Many of these thoughts passed through my mind as I completed my morning walk.  I chronicle them here as a reminder to myself of the educational journey I began in Oregon and that continued in other schools in other states.  Also, I offer this story in appreciation for the friends I joined along the way.  Most of them are in other places doing other things now, all continuing their experiences, as have I.  My last connection with my 1953 graduating class was our 50th reunion.  Of course, a few of us have reconnected on Facebook.


So, it’s back to school for all the children of today.  I hope they have even half of the joy I had in school!