I just arrived back from my visit to Oregon, and was greeted by a cold blast that (allegedly) dumped four inches of snow on central Texas yesterday. I leave Texas for three days, and see what happens...

The weather was much nicer in Eugene this weekend. A brilliantly blue sky sheltered the towering Ponderosa Pines, the flowering lilies and the impossibly green rye grass that stretched all around the University of Oregon campus. I spent all of Friday morning visiting the Oregon Community and Regional Planning Program. The students were all very nice, and for the most part seemed to be overachieving activists that want to make a difference in the world. They had a craft room in the Student Union, and a group of students in a plaza giving out "Free Hugs." I walked by Hayward Field, the Carnegie Hall of US Track and Field, where Steve Prefontaine was undefeated and Coach Bowerman introduced jogging to America. Eugene is a great place, and Oregon is a great school...

...but before I left the campus, I had made my decision: Texas. If I am going to school to learn to make better cities, I feel the best place for me to do so is in Austin, the city I know and love more than any other. It's my home, and though I'm certainly willing to leave it in the future, now is not that time. Therefore, I went to Autzen Stadium, bought the ugliest yellow Oregon shirt I could find (which, incidentally, features an angry Donald Duck "donald-duckin' it"), and took off for Portland.

After visiting Oregon, I drove up to Vancouver, Washington to visit my cousin Leo and his family. Vancouver is just across the Columbia River from Portland, and attracts a lot of residents because you have the advantage of no state income tax in Washington and no sales tax in Oregon. Leo and his wife Lennie have a nice townhome that practically overlooks the Columbia River, and just had their first daughter 13 months ago.

I last met Leo seven years ago, when he asked me to be a groomsman in his wedding. The wedding was a fun one all around, and featured the Greatest Wedding Moment that I've ever witnessed: Near the end of the reception, Leo, dressed in overalls and no shirt (it was a casual reception) and slightly drunk, got up to give a toast to his bride. He gave a short speech talking about how he and Lennie wanted to make the world a better place, and announced that their first dance would be to the anthem of the Communist Catholics (At this point, let me mention that Leo is a Communist). Leo and his bride and a few others then danced to a uplifting chorus singing something about "the New Revolution," while my grandfather, Gregor, retorted, "Boo! Boo! You ruined Eastern Europe!" Good times...

As was the case on my last trip to Oregon, my time with Leo was the absolute highlight. On Friday night, we played three hours of basketball at the gym, then talked religion and politics into the wee hours of the night. Though our philosophies are diametrically opposed (Leo is effectively agnostic, I am a Christian), we had a mature conversation where we both communicated what we believe and why we believe it, and came out with respect and esteem for one another. Two things struck me in particular:

1) Leo and I are both unusually motivated to make the world a better place, and struggle with how to walk that out in our lives.

2) When I posed the question to Leo, "What is so different about Christianity that would cause it to grow and survive as a religion for 2,000 years?", he responded that, after his daughter was born, he was astounded at the power he had over her, and saw God the Father of the Bible as a metaphor for parenthood, and saw the whole Christian religion as a guide for good parenting. I was astounded by this insight - though I think he had the relationship backwards, it was as if God had revealed a little bit of himself to Leo through his relationship with his daughter.

On Saturday, Leo and I continued our conversation as we visited an autonomous camp called Dignity Village. Dignity Village was started by a small group of homeless people (with the help of Leo), and I thought it was a great example of broken people working together to build a responsible, loving community. We also went a pub to have some West Coast microbrews, and to Powell's Bookstore, the largest independent bookstore in the U.S. That night, we watched Once Upon a Time in the West, which I definitely need to buy on DVD, and I went to bed.

I returned on the morning of Easter Sunday, having dined on a Denver Omelette on a stopover in Denver, and returned to a colder Austin than I left. I had missed church, but this did not change the things I know most deeply: Christ is risen, God is good, and by His grace, I'm going back to Texas. Can't complain about that...


At 3:19 AM, Blogger Caleb said...

Hey Nate, next time you come to Oregon, give me a heads up and maybe I'll be able to meet you somewhere.

Caleb de la Rice


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