Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Pause That Refreshes

No, I’m not going to write about Coca-Cola. I’m referring to my going back on the road (outbound for the opening weekend of an eight-part, two-year facilitation training in Portland OR).

After working every weekend since Sept 19-20, I was ready for a break and Thanksgiving came along just in time. I was able to spend the last eight days in Duluth with Susan, recharging my battery (and minimizing my time communing with my laptop). Feeling refreshed, I’m ready for an intense stretch of teaching and consulting Dec 3-13, after which I’ll split time between my two kids (Ceilee in Los Angeles and Jo in Las Vegas) for the fortnight that will take me through Christmas. Having enjoyed time off duty last week, I’m ready to get back at it.

While Susan and I produced a whiz bang dinner for five on Turkey Day (we started cooking at 8 am and went more or less nonstop until we sat down to start eating at 6 pm), mostly we just took it easy. We only went out to eat (with friends) once, went to a movie (Brooklyn), ate gobs of leftovers, watched some football, shopped a bit, did a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle, tag teamed our way through the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday New York Times crosswords, and went to bed early most nights in a valiant effort to make up for all those weeks that we've been sleeping apart.

For the next 38 hours I’ll be chugging across the northern tier of states (mostly following US 2 if you’re tracking my progress at home with an atlas) from St Paul to Portland. There will be a whole lot of flat North Dakota, followed immediately by more of the same in Montana. By the time we get to the Rockies in western Montana (where the flatness ends) it will be dark. Thursday morning I’ll enjoy the last few hours of the ride prancing alongside the Columbia River from The Dalles to the City of Roses.

We departed from Union Depot in St Paul in rainy skies hovering in the low 30s. (I was grateful to dodge ice.) The forecast for Portland calls for rain in the low 40s, with the landscape between the terminals featuring a 1800-mile necklace of frozen farm ponds and ice-clogged river courses. I figure Portland weather will be perfect for meetings. (Who would rather be outdoors?) 

The facilitation training is being hosted by Know Thy Food, a natural food store that’s making the transition from being privately owned to worker owned. The students will be helping the co-op board, managers, and staff sort out how it wants to operate.

The following week I’ll travel down the coast to Lake County CA, where I’ll be working with members of the Adidam Community as they sort out whether (and how) to rebuild after losing more than 50% of their housing to wildfires in September. While the fire was a tragedy, there was minimal loss of life and the devastation has given this spiritual enclave (followers of the teachings of Adi Da) a unique opportunity to reconfigure their housing to be more of a cooperative community. I’ll be an adviser for that effort.

On the train today I’ll complete the last of my reports from the consulting I did prior to Thanksgiving (I promise clients that I’ll get these out within two weeks of completing live work on site), tread water with email, enjoy the subtle winter tableaus of North Dakota and Montana while rumbling along at 60 mph, and do some recreational reading. There’s nothing like a long train ride to settle the psyche and prepare for the next job.

As someone who tries to work at a high level, it’s essential that I also have down time. While that’s often little more than half a day, or the private time I can carefully husband while en route from one job to the next (it’s one of the reasons I prefer traveling by train—it’s slower), I’ve found that I occasionally need longer stretches as well, mainly to enjoy the relationships that I espouse being the center of cooperative living.

Having this time for reflection, it occurs to me that I’ve come full circle as a process consultant. Exactly 28 years ago this month I boarded a train in Mount Pleasant IA to conduct my first job as a consultant. I took The Pioneer (a now defunct Amtrak route through Denver and Boise en route to Portland) to work with Appletree Community, an income-sharing group in Cottage Grove OR. Interestingly, Appletree is now defunct as well.

Thus, while the trains and communities have shifted with the times, I’m still plying my craft. And still enjoying the slow times interlarded with the busy.

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