Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Reason to Celebrate

What makes you want to celebrate being American Matt?, 
Jenny interrupted the silence of our pedals spinning up the steep hills of Vashon Island.  

Rarely at a loss for words, I stubbled dumbfounded by the question, paused and answered honestly, 
I am going to have to think about that one Jenny.  
Truly, no one has asked me such hard of a question in quite a while.  

I tried to get it out over dinner as we watched the last of the sun cast a salmon pink glow off Mount  Rainier's Sunset Ridge across the Puget Sound, but somehow couldn't articulate just how I felt.  So I dedicated a bit of thinking time to the question, and a month later I find myself a little nearer the answer and hopefully a bit wiser for the effort.  

Those who know me can attest to the fact that I tend to be fairly critical of the direction our Nation seems to be headed; at times that makes it pretty darn hard for me to celebrate this American life.  I guess I got a little jaded somewhere between the second oil war, bank bail-outs and the widening gap between the super-rich and super poor.    None-the-less, it really troubled me that I had such hard time coming up with a few things that would cause me to raise a glass of beer and toast this great American experience.

One of the most important things that I have learned in my life is that the sky is often the color you  paint it, and focussing constantly on negative tends to make one a cynical individual.   The truth is that our country is full of people and organizations that are fighting for a future America that makes sense.   I decided that in honor of the Independence of the United States of America, I would not be a pessimistic prick and instead celebrate a few things that represent the America I dream for the future.  

Thats how I roll,


Barak Obama.  I don't know about you, but I feel a lot better about the future of our country than I did four years ago.  The man has made decisions which have brought me disappointment and not followed through promises that defined his campaign.  Despite, I still believe in his vision and respect him enough to send him a few bucks for his campaign.  He likes to to drink beer too.  

Skagit Land Trust.  Not to far from where I live there is a valley where conservatives and liberals alike recognize the value of fertile farmland, productive forests, clean water and native wildlife.  The Skagit Land Trust works with private landowners, the community and conservation groups to preserve natural lands and wildlife habitat in Skagit County.

The Happiness Initiative.  We live in a culture that constantly sends the message that consumption and collection of material goods is the path to enlightenment.  Work more to make more money to buy more shit that you don't have any time to enjoy we are told by our consumer driven economy.  The Happiness Initiative challenges that model, invites individuals to examine what truly brings them joy in life and is amassing data that supports the contention that the best things in life really aren't things at all.

Adventure Cycling Association.  One of the ACA's main projects is building the US Bicycle Route System (USBRS); a network of urban, suburban and rural paths, roads and highways to facilitate interstate bicycle travel.  A year from now Jenny and I will depart on a bicycling adventure across this vast country of ours and I am happy to know that there is an organization that is working to make it a safer and more enjoyable experience.

Elwha River Restoration.  The largest dam removal project in the history of the United States began in September of 2011 and already wild steelhead are returning to spawn in the tributaries of the Elwha.  This makes me hopeful that with concentrated efforts, we can preserve vital parts of our ecosystems for future generations to enjoy.

Teaching Tolerance.  I have been to a conference put on by these folks and read their magazine on a regular basis.  Teaching Tolerance was founded  in 1991 by the Southern Poverty Law Center and is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable schools for our nation's children.  A young man stopped by my Front Door today promoting the organization's new anti-bullying curriculum and we ended up having a good conversation about his experience of being run-out of his high school because of assumptions of his sexual orientation.  Every boy and girl in our country has the right to attend a good school and pursue an education without fear of persecution because of color, creed, religion, income or sexual orientation.  These people are pushing this agenda forward and I support their work.

My Peace Flag.  I  am a patriot and I like to think that motor vehicles will be less likely to run me over if I am flying the colors.

Reaching Vashon is reason to celebrate when you forget to get off the ferry the first time around.  Yes, we were THOSE people.

Vegetable delight by Jetboil.  Jenny is the master of the the outdoor kitchen.

Nothing says Happy Birthday America like hot buttered corn on the cob... well except maybe blowing off hundreds of thousand of dollars worth of Chinese-made fireworks directly over the Puget Sound.  Magnesium and phosphorus are probably good for the salmon and whales though.

My type of fireworks from our room with a view.

Don't worry Mom, Jen and I are not foraging for seaweed salad quite yet...but it kind of sounds like fun.

My wife is easily motivated to ride up steep hills several miles in the opposite direction of our destination by the prospect of good coffee and fine pastries.  

Tasty morsels from Bob's Bakery on Vashon Island, WA.

Our new friends don't say much, but are happy to pose for lots photos.  

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