Proposal Work

“So, Charley, what have we got going here? What are we manifesting with this thing?“

Molly and Charley were sitting next to each other on the couch in the Neadatagi House living room with papers spread out before them on the coffee table. They were about to merge various drafts and project ideas into some coherent form for a funding proposal to the Fed’s “Greening Rural Economies” program. The deadline for proposals was looming so they had the whole day blocked out for concentrated work.

For once it was quiet in the house. No PSU interns organizing their Fall Sustainability Festival. No Michael getting things set up for next term. Even Fe-Lion was curled up quietly a comfy chair.

“Let’s start with an easy one to add in – the Bagless Town. Ursula came up with this idea from a place a customer told her about in England. All the stores got on board and stopped giving out paper or plastic shopping bags and instead had canvas bags to sell or give. I figure we could use a sum to get a bunch printed up that say something to the effect that ‘Mahonia-Nekelew is a Bagless Community.’ Stores can use them as is or have their own name printed on a supply.”

“Or decorate theirs distinctively somehow.”

“They can either give them away as advertising or sell them to make back their investment.”

“So we’re not giving each business the bags?”

“What about going halvsies with them? It will look good on the proposal to have the matching buy in.”

“Good point. ReBound could also save the any bags (the printed ones or others) that come in for redistribution so we’d be demonstrating reuse as well.” Molly was adding these points on her laptop while she talked. “But don’t we also need some funds to pay someone to organize this? To talk it up among the shops, get people committed?”

“Yes and also funds for advertising both in local papers and beyond. The word needs to get out. Ads could have a line on them that says ‘Your community could do this too – ask the Neadatagi Center how.’”

“Good self promotion,” Molly laughed. “Are you imagining that some of Michael’s crew would do this or are we hiring someone else?”

“Either will work and I think we should fund it either way. Michael says he is going to need to bring in some money for his program and this kind of thing might help so I think we should have staffing as a line item. We can always shift it later if it gets done by a volunteer – either one of Michael’s interns or someone else in town. But the more funds we bring in to hire people the more we’re helping the people and jobs side of the equation.”

“Okay, I’ve got it on the list and we can do the budget numbers this afternoon. What else?”

“Parking in the lot next to the community center. Clearly it’s an economic development need for local businesses especially in the summer. Some group of us should have bought that lot years ago but I think there’s renewed interest now and the price has come way down for a variety of reasons. I have a private donor willing to do a challenge match for individual donations. The City is willing to chip in for a down payment as soon as we have the rest of the package together. I think if we add some through this proposal we’ll be well on our way.”

“I would still rather stop the traffic and make everyone park at the top of the hill where the highway comes past so we can be a carless town as well. But perhaps that needs to wait a little longer.”

“Yeah, I don’t think we’ve got critical mass on that one yet. We’ll get there. Step by step.”

“Let’s at least include a couple of RCar slots anyway. Or one of them could be from Portland’s company.

“I do think we can slip a little magic into it too. Ursula came up with an idea the other night for a doing labyrinth along with the parking. Ta da!” He whipped a drawing out of a folder. I got Crystal to rough it out. We can get as many cars in there with this plan as go in there helter skelter now and we’ll still have room for a pavement labyrinth.”

“Way cool. Do you think folks will go for it? It’s not too woo woo?”

“I’m trusting that this sort of thing is accepted enough now that it won’t raise too many eyebrows. They have one at the Episcopal Church, for heaven’s sake. I’d like to include it under the 2% for Art and Heart so we can pay Crystal for her design and have someone really craft it with beautiful tiles.”

“How ’bout including tiles done by local school kids. I’m sure Ariel could get into helping with that.”

“Even better. Community involvement with kids always sells. It’s high time we got that bit of manifesting underway.” There was a pause while they sipped their tea and eyed their notes.

“Here’s one on my list,” offered Molly.

“Go for it.”

”Putting a glass foundry on the land next to ReBound that we acquired with the last grant. You know I’ve been dreaming of this ever since the beginning of the Center. We’ve got all that bottle glass. We pay way too much to ship it to Portland for the little bit we get for it. There’s no reason we can’t create a way to melt it down here. We can even include window glass as long as it’s in separate batches. I’ve checked on the state of the art equipment from St Vincent dePaul’s in Eugene where they’ve been making sun-catchers and things for years. I keep waiting for someone to come along who wants to take charge of organizing our own version that might include architectural blocks and dishware. But I think we need to get the funds – realistically for the true cost – and advertise for someone even if it means hiring from outside the community.”

“Maybe someone will come along.” They grinned at each other knowing how often that was happening these days when the time was ripe.

“What else do you need over there on that land? Johan’s metal works is going well.”

“He’s booming as is the community food composting area supplemented by decentralized stations around the towns. I’m so glad we put money in last time to hire a coordinator advocate to work with restaurant owners and neighborhoods, but we need to re-up those funds. I don’t know that it will ever pay for itself.”

“Not ‘til composting is just a matter of course everywhere. Some things need to be subsidized. Most large cities subsidize garbage collection, why is this any different?”

“Then there’s Raven’s dream of a full time gallery out there. He’s frustrated at always having to move his stuff around or waiting til the once a year show at our Gala. I think we can make a good case for it.”

“Speaking of which is the Trash Art mini-golf course still on the wish list?”

“You bet! Here are Crystal’s drawings for it. Raven and others are hot to design and build holes so it will fund both the artists and ReBound. I am convinced it can be a moneymaker and an additional eco-tourist draw. Does RCar need refunding?”

“No, it is now paying for itself, just as we predicted and use continues to go up. I hear the equipment rental set up is paying for itself as well. We can include references to those successes in the proposal.”

“Ok, I’m feeling like it’s time for us each to settle in separately for a bit now to write up our pet projects to add to those already in the narrative section. Then after lunch we can add it to the background materials & success stories we’ve already gotten down.”

“Then to conjuring the final budget. We’re probably getting up there but I think we can squeak it all into the maximum allowable request. Michael said he’d be happy to look over our numbers tomorrow. He has a great eye for that side of things.”

“Good job, by the way, on getting the support letters already. We’ve got some weighty ones that speak well to our community’s progress.”

“Yup, the October 31 deadline is getting close but we’re in good shape.”

Ursula on the Earth Plane

Inspired and refreshed by her rememberings as well as the beauty of the morning, Ursula knew it was time for the prosaic tasks of what Molly called “earth plane reality,” starting with a search through her closet. “Hmmm. Wheat color, I think, is calling.” She reached for a gold-brown flared skirt of soft hemp fabric to go with a jersey top and cotton sweater in different shades of yellow. Layers, of course, because who knew what the weather would bring. No bra, of course. She only donned that third chakra energy constriction on formal occasions when she felt a need to hide her looseness or conversely wanted a little sexy pushup. If she couldn’t afford to risk other people’s judgment, who would? She did her part daily to help change that fashion and modesty paradigm by not binding up what Nature had given her – not that she had all that much. She huffed indignantly as she always did when the subject came up. Truth be told, she sometimes even let her three or four chin hairs grow too. She assumed people noticed but nobody ever commented on either unconventional practice.

She found her spider web earrings after a few minutes of digging in her little box. “Might as well carry that energy into the day.” An amber pendant seemed to jump into her hand as she moved it over the various necklace strands hanging from hooks over her bureau. Amber would help keep her spontaneous, yet calm and give energy to any manifesting she might do this day. Running the brush through her shoulder-length gray curls, she smiled back at her reflection with a twinkle at her wrinkles. She liked looking her age (on the good days) and mostly enjoyed thinking about the fact that next year she would be turning sixty.

Glancing at her calendar to be sure nothing had slipped off her radar screen for the day, she grabbed her light brown jean jacket and gathered up the things she would need at the store, the new books she’d brought home to read, an extra load of papers from the proposal draft Molly had given her to review (maybe she’d have time this afternoon to look at it), and Stella, her trusty laptop.

She usually rode her bike down to Mahonia from her perch on the Mountain when Charley had their little car (especially if she could get a ride back up with him), but she had decided to walk the half mile to the RCar lot on the road to borrow the pick-up. Their recycling bins were overflowing so a trip to ReBound couldn’t be put off much longer. It would be nice to get a hug there from Molly and see if she wanted to help lead an upcoming Women’s Medicine Circle. Communing with the Goddess Demeter this morning had given Ursula an idea about a ritual.

She’d checked the night before on her computer – the RCar pickup was available for the whole day. She usually borrowed the truck every couple of weeks. “’Borrowed?’ Probably the proper term is ‘rented’ but it never seems like a financial transaction somehow,” especially since they’d been part of starting it as a neighborhood cooperative with a couple of people’s second vehicles. Now there was a newish Prius in their lot for longer drives and at the main lot in town one could get a van or a bigger pick-up, among other things. The little pickup in their neighborhood was old and funky but it served well for just this sort of thing. Charley had used it last week to haul firewood and just yesterday she’d seen it loaded with stuff the Bradys were clearing out before their move.

“Drat them for leaving the community!” She understood why the elderly couple was going back to the city but it always hurt her heart to lose the interesting ones. “Couldn’t they see how important the work is here and how much they are needed?” Sometimes she wondered why she trusted the local medical resources so much but she just did. She sighed as she closed the door.

That little dip in her energy didn’t last long. She dodged most of the spider webs across the shortcut to the road, noticing them all over the huge Sitka too. Goldfinches and Wilson’s warblers still chittered happily while the white butt of a flicker flashed away from her into the woods. A couple of jays squawked in their distinctive voices so she hollered back.

“It’s an interesting neighborhood,” Ursula observed as she often did walking down the hill. There were still a few houses on Mountain Lane not actually lived in, some of which were used regularly, either as second homes by those still able to afford such things, or as short-term rentals. There had been a fuss early on about the two recently established B&Bs, but she had always maintained that it was more neighborhood-friendly to have the houses used and certainly better than a new bevy of motels in town.

She waved to the elderly Crowes out on their deck. They had divided up their large home, converting part of it into a “granny flat” which was now rented affordably to a young couple who kept an eye on them. Ursula wondered how she and Charley might downsize in some way from the all space they’d needed with a big family.

As she walked past the spring she realized there was another reason to use the car this morning. She needed to pick up the empty gallon jars to refill with water. She and Charley and their family had been using the spring for ages but it was only in the last couple of years that it had gotten more general use after it had been decorated into a community shrine. There was often a car at the pull-off as more and more people realized that it wasn’t good for their bodies to ingest the chemicals required to make tap water officially potable. There was nothing like the lively chi energy in the water coming right out of the Mountain. Charley and Owen had piled stones in a cairn up around the copper pipe that streamed water year round. Someone had added a ceramic water sprite and tucked a few crystals into little niches. Watercress grew in the run off. She might as well pick some for tonight’s salad while she was there.

 

Arriving eventually at ReBound, Ursula eased the pickup into one of the parking spaces in front of the dark green bins lined up under signs for various recycling categories. It wasn’t always easy to get a spot this close but she’d lucked out today. As usual, before she attended to the overflowing boxes she’d brought with her, she did a quick scan of the yard to see what was going on.

A volunteer whose name she couldn’t remember was busy explaining the difference between gray board and corrugated cardboard to a well-dressed woman who had obviously never been there before, while a boy of seven or eight was showing his grandmother where to put the egg cartons so families with chickens could pick them up. Ursula waved to two friends in heated conversation in front of the aluminum can bins and smiled at a new employee who was getting ready to empty the plastics milk jug tote.

Looking further down the recycle line she caught sight of Molly Burns with her arm around the shoulders of an older woman. They were looking together at a photo. As Ursula watched, the woman was enfolded in Molly’s arms for a long minute and then, beaming, went inside the resale store while Molly picked up speed in the opposite direction towards the trash dumpster. On the way there she gave a thumbs up to a man loading a pile of folding chairs into a pick-up and patted the shoulder of another who was tinkering with a mysterious metal contraption as if it might be made to take off any moment.

Ursula chuckled as she saw that the purpose of Molly’s beeline was to greet Pia Rosen who had just finished tipping her trashcan into the dumpster. Molly’s short, round figure in plaid shirt and dirty Carhartts, enveloped the taller, thinner Pia with her unruly tangle of hennaed curls, purple tie-dyed harem pants and swirling orange poncho. It was delightful – literally made her full of light – to watch the connection of the two, and Ursula couldn’t resist joining them.

“Hey, let me in on this!” she chimed.

“Look who the bear dragged in,” teased Pia as Molly laughed. They both opened their arms to include Ursula in their embrace.

Pia ducked a little so their boobs and bellies lined up and they swayed in synch feeling the energy swirling sweetly between them. Long years of tears and triumphs in various organizational endeavors, agonies over children’s growth pains, and laughter over mates’ foibles, they’d seen each other through a lot. They’d had some awful fights among themselves too. It all added up to a special intimacy that tingled between their bodies now.

Ursula was the first to break the spell, the story of her morning bursting within her. Pulling back a little, though still entwined, she told the others about the spider and bird magic leading to her connection with the Goddess Demeter. “So I was thinking that maybe we could do the Women’s Medicine Circle next Friday evening on the mothering of adult children. In honor of Demeter.”

“Heaven knows we all need help with that one,” agreed Molly.

“It might give the young ones some perspective on the boundary dilemmas between parental involvement and non-involvement….” Ursula’s voice trailed off as images of her four kids flashed in her head.

“Send money or not,” said Molly.

“Butt in or not,” added Pia.

“I was thinking we could have us older women be Demeter and the younger ones be Persephone.”

“So we’re talking daughters. Maybe line up in two rows facing each other and each call out our fears and joys about separations past and future.”

“Tie it in with the losses of the season.”

“I can gather grasses for Demeter,” said Pia.

“Good,” said Ursula. “Cuz I don’t really want to cut any more of mine than I’m taking now for the store shrine. Could we get pomegranates for Persephone? I’m not quite sure how we’d use them but in the Greek story, Persephone was fated to return to the Underworld every year because she had eaten one pomegranate seed.”

“I wonder how we could adapt that so the return each year was less a consequence of that and more because of Persephone’s love of the dark lord and his realm. It might help all us moms deal with our kids responding to a call we don’t quite understand,” Molly mused.

Ursula gave her a thumbs up and a knowing grin.

“I’ll bring my flute,” said Pia. “Maybe pipe the young ones off?”

They were still scheming when a voice called out from across the way, “Molllllleeee.” They looked up to see a figure wagging thumb to ear and little finger to mouth in the universal telephone symbol.

“Gotta run,” said Molly. I’ll provide the pomegranates and think of how we might use them in a new way. Can one of you put out an email?”

“Sure thing, sweetie,” said Ursula. “We’ll cover what we think of and the rest can be improvised.”

“I’m glad serendipity and our brainstorming skills are working today,” said Pia. “This will be good for all of us.”

“Oops, I’ve left the pickup in front of the bins,” said Ursula. “I’d better unload and head to town to open the store.”

“But where shall we meet?” asked Pia.

“Didn’t we say last time it was my turn to host? I’ll check with Charley to be sure the men are gathering somewhere else.”

“I just saw a cool cornucopia basket inside that seems to go with this somehow – Demeter’s bounty, you know,” said Pia. “I’ll go get it and send out the email announcing our theme. Let me know if you think of anything else we need.” The two gave each other another quick hug as they parted.

 

Once parked in town, Ursula schlepped her stuff to the purple one story building, the smell of sage and lavender enveloping her as she opened the back door. Cindy’s lavender sachets and eye pillows seemed especially potent this year. The sage had come from some folks passing through.

Bear Essentials was Ursula’s storefront in Mahonia on the corner of 4th and Main. Started as a resource for the area’s burgeoning spiritual community, she’d even included a book and DVD rental service to encourage exploration of genres. Until recently the local library didn’t have much woo woo material and Charley had gotten tired of the space their own extensive collection took up in the house. Bringing them down where they were more available and where loans could be tracked and replaced if lost had worked out nicely. She rounded out the inventory with magical paraphernalia – crystals and stones, figurines, divination cards, smudge sticks, a little ceremonial clothing and some pretty geegaws. She rarely bought stuff new unless it was locally made, preferring to rely on things others wanted to sell. ReBound had done a great job of accustoming locals to passing on what they no longer wanted. Now people clearing out just brought this New Agey stuff to her to sell – often on consignment.

The store had a south facing back room looking out on a little fenced-in garden where she could do her tarot readings and which she sometimes rented out to others wanting to give psychic sessions or healings of various sorts. Several locals had gotten their start here before moving on to places of their own. She and others in the Healers Guild had worked hard so that the town was becoming rather a Mecca for city folk wanting to re-treat, re-group, re-generate and re-create here by the Pacific.

She settled her armloads of stuff behind the counter and unlatched the front door. The shrine just outside, between the building and the sidewalk, was an eclectic collection of little things around the three-foot high bear that she had commissioned from Arlo Rosen, Pia’s woodcarving son. People were always adding or taking away stones, sand dollars, feathers and the like. She smiled to see the bouquet of blue cornflowers and a plastic leprechaun, new since yesterday afternoon. Rubbing the bear’s head affectionately, she placed the wild grasses behind him and said a sympathetic prayer for Demeter, soon to be childless again until spring’s return. She also sent a plea that the upcoming ritual would ease her own motherly pangs – and perhaps Demeter’s as well. Of course, in a tourist town they all lost something to the year’s turn towards the autumnal season, though if one was going to thrive here they had to also, like Ursula, enjoy the intense rains that called for cozy indoors time.

Turning to go back in she flipped her open sign outward. It sported the Charles Schultz cartoon of Lucy at her consulting booth with the sign, “The Witch is in.” Indeed.

Molly’s Morning

Molly Burns stood smiling in the early morning air and surveyed her domain. Domain? Did that make her a queen? To many it would seem like Queen of the Dump was a dubious title at best. But as she turned to listen to a raven call from a tall Sitka Spruce at the edge, she knew it was an honor well earned. Not that she did any of it alone. There was a cadre of folks – paid and unpaid – making it all happen lo these ten plus years and she thought gratefully of every hand, heart and brain all dancing now in her mind’s eye. Such an amazing cohort keeping the place blooming, despite the challenging times. With the Mountain as backdrop, how could it not?

Rearing up on the other side of the town from her with its feet in the ocean, the 1600 foot Mountain was capped this morning in cloud while down here the air was clear and amazingly dry. She probably wouldn’t need her raingear like she did on days when the Mountain was fully cloaked. It was chilly though, and she’d left her beret in the car. She thrust her hands into the pockets of the red down vest she wore over deeply stained and streaked Carhartt overalls, her left fingers curling around an invigorating piece of carnelian she’d grabbed this morning. Her other hand fiddled with the tools of her trade – a black Sharpie, a battered mini-notebook, the key to the gate she’d just opened, and a zero waste button she’d picked up from the ground yesterday. She pinned the button on her vest and then saluted both the Mountain and the raven thanking them for their help in making ReBound a booming hub of Mahonia’s sustainability efforts. By the end of that thought she turned back towards the work of the day feeling her brain shift into higher gear.

To her left were neatly sorted bins of different kinds of metal. Oops. Almost tidy. Yesterday’s last load still needed to be broken down. She would get Gabe and the crew on that first thing. The two high school kids doing court mandated community service for some misdeed could take apart the rest of the aluminum lawn chairs that had piled up over the recent weeks. She wished for the umpteenth time there was something creative to be done with the damn plastic ones with a leg broken off or even a way to melt them down to make…. sand toys? This is a beach community after all.

The busyness of summer over, she and her staff were digging out from the overload that always crescendoed on Labor Day. Yet the rows of recycling bins behind her were still brimming as locals got caught up. It looked like the plastics tote was almost full. If only there wasn’t so much packaging in the world.

She sighed thinking of the large load of resale goods to be sorted inside the building. The church rummage sale had good leftovers but there had also been the cleanout of the Brady’s move back to the city that arrived at the same time. The intake area was pretty overwhelmed. She knew those wool rugs would go fast though they had to find someplace to display them. And so would the kitchen appliances. The Bradys must be getting all new stuff. “Silly people,” she scoffed disapprovingly. “‘Use it up, wear it out or do without,’ as the Shakers used to say.”

She glanced over at the lovely pennants the new painter in town had made that fluttered gaily from the peaks of the dumpster canopies and loaded racks nearby. The faded, tattered old ones had definitely needed replacing. They were good at wearing things out around here. “Thea, that was her name. Thea Culver.” Maybe Thea could calligraph that slogan for the wall over the recycling bins.

Ah, well. They would tackle yesterday’s incoming resale items with good cheer enjoying the treasure hunt aspect of it all, though undoubtedly other large loads would appear or at least the usual steady trickle. She was just glad they’d finally gotten good systems in place to deal with the inflow. It was lovely to think how far they’d come since those earliest days. They’d had no idea what they were unleashing. “We thought I could handle the resale from a window in the office while I did other stuff as well,” she chuckled. “That lasted about two days.” There was really no true catching up in this business. “Would I really want it any other way?” she lectured herself. “Just think how far we’ve come.”

She thought back on the nightmares she’d had in the very beginning as the metal piles grew taller and taller because they had yet to figure out a system for hauling the stuff away and didn’t know how it should be sorted. They’d finally gotten a reasonable contact in the city but some years it cost more than they took in to haul it there. At several low points she’d had to recruit volunteers with pickups. She was so grateful now that Johan had built a small foundry next door on the land they’d been able to purchase as part of the Big Grant and the Stimulus Funds. Now the bins of aluminum and ferrous got fork-lifted over there and he was turning out some wonderfully artful fences, gates, and hardware. He would probably need an apprentice soon…. In fact, she knew just the kid for it. She made a mental note to call the career counselor at the high school. Maybe she could get someone to help with small appliance repair as well. At least it would be a few months before she needed to think about setting up the kids’ trash art workshops or the adult ones for that matter.

What a joy that the old lawnmowers and bikes that used to pile up by the metal area were now neatly stacked next to their own sheds on the land next door. Alex Coulter had set up the lawnmower operation when he retired from his construction business. Now he repaired those that could be fixed using cannibalized parts from others truly at the end of their life. He did a steady business and was glad for the respite from the heavy work of building houses. He still had plenty of time for surfing too. Two young bicycle fanatics from the Growers Coop up river did the same thing with the bikes that landed there. They taught classes in bike repair too, the parts hanging enticingly on a wall for people to buy.

Of course, not every item had a happy ending. She figured she had about half a day before the trash dumpster was full and she would need to call the hauler. They were always whittling down the items destined for this last resort but there were some things that just couldn’t be salvaged. “We keep paring down the ‘irredeemables’ though. As the sign next to the dumpster says, ‘There is no such thing as ‘away.’”

At least the returnable bottles and cans didn’t need to be sorted so laboriously any more since they were all picked up by one distributor. She wished the state would take the next step and standardize the bottles so that they could get sanitized and reused without having to be crushed and remade. What a waste of energy that was. That thought triggered a possible local solution as she remembered hearing that young Jay Goodwin-Brown and Pia’s son Arlo Rosen were thinking of setting up a local brewery. “I’ll have to talk to them about using bottles that we could supply directly. I wonder what a sanitizing machine would look like? Surely they used to have such things and it wouldn’t take too much to adapt. What do they do in other less wasteful countries?” Now that could be added to the new grant she and Charley Goodwin-Brown were cooking up for the next steps towards their mission of inching towards zero waste. The brewery could be another pilot project – a first stage for the research and planning, a little travel money even, and then funds to buy or create the equipment….” She’d better call the budding brewers and get that ball rolling….

”Down, girl!” She fingered the goddess shaped piece of hematite hanging from her neck to ground herself. “After you’ve called for the dumpster pickup and talked to the folks about the upcoming beach cleanup. Oh, and checked in with Locus, the new local adjunct to the Portland State Sustainability Program, to see about the start date of their interns.”

Molly watched a battered blue pick-up pull into the staff parking lot. Her crew was arriving. She turned to wink at Raven who called encouragingly again, this time from the top of the cedar. She also took note of the spider webs draped between the arms and legs of the trash art figure in the garden. She missed Seth, her eccentric old pal and co-worker, who had made the sculpture from metal junk from the yard just like what was piled up today. “I can’t think about him right now,” she sighed as she turned to go inside to check her email.

What she didn’t see – and nobody else did either – was the shimmering, iridescent rainbow-hued Dragon who tossed her head and settled on top of the motor oil collection shed (another Seth invention) to watch the day unfold.