The Q & A below took place in September, 2009, with Breckenridge physician Craig Perrinjaquet (PJ). A small medical clinic in the Langtang region of Nepal that was established by Doc PJ in 2006 was the beneficiary of Amazing Grace’s first “Good At The Grace” fundraising day two years ago, which raised $1200 for his work in Nepal.   We hope you’ll enjoy this small glimpse of the good Doc’s good work around the globe.

COMPASSION = ONE SKINNY LOCAL WITH A BIG BIG HEART

Doc PJ, outside The Grace with his trusty steed, in 2009.

What do Tamang tribesmen, bugles, Pygmies and Alexander Graham Bell have in common? Local physician Doc PJ’s goodwill.

Physician and longtime local Craig Perrinjaquet (Doc PJ) pedals into Amazing Grace every morning before work to scarf up a fresh-from-the-oven scone. Then he grabs the bugle that lives on top of the Grace’s aging fridge, leaps out the door, and trumpets out his daily enthusiastic endorsement:  “Fresh Buttermilk Mango (or buttermilk strawberry, or chai chocolate chip ) scones!  They’re really, really, really good!”

Twice a year PJ misses his morning ritual in order to spread a different kind of message. When he boards his flight to West Africa next week, it will be simply one more leg on a long, altruistic journey of extending medical work to communities in need.  He’s worked with refugees in Darfur, with tiny collectives deep in the Honduran jungle, and Buddhist villages in Nepal. For our first issue,  PJ discusses two decades  of dispensing his version of grace.

Much of your volunteer work has been in Honduras.
I’ve been going to Honduras since Hurricane Mitch. Last spring was my 15th trip. I go to a very remote area of the Patuca National Park, near the Nicaragua border, that has no access by road.  So we go by 4WD vehicle, and then mule, and then canoe, and then hike a day or two (through the jungle, by machete) to deliver some very basic health care to people who don’t have access to it.  We provide Read the rest of this entry »

The SDN deadline for Letters to the Editor was April 1st, unbeknownst to me.  Of course, I sent my letter in on April 2nd.  Following is my letter in support of this stalwart councilman and friend. Though I’m probably singing to the choir, I wanted to get these words out to the world.

Re-Elect Rossi!

Dave Rossi’s long history of serving on Breckenridge boards and commissions ranging from Open Space to the Breckenridge Resort Chamber has given him a deep awareness of the range of social and economic issues that affect our town. Dave used that wealth of knowledge during his previous term to be a thoughtful, integrity-driven voice on Council. We still need that voice.

It’s important for a community with Breckenridge’s economic tensions and growing diversity to have leaders with broad vision.  Dave has the intellectual depth to grasp the complexities of municipal issues – and also a broad worldview that allows him to listen openly to conflicting views. Dave is capable of collaborating respectfully and effectively with individuals possessing vastly differing positions from his own in order to work towards resolution and common ground.  Crucially, he works hard to represent the people who contribute greatly to Breckenridge’s health as a community, yet struggle economically to live here.  Dave has shown that he carefully considers how Council decisions affect the fiscal, social, and environmental health of all income levels of this community.

Most important, I believe, Dave is not afraid to ask tough, targeted, and critical questions to players whose power exceeds his own.  I believe this is an essential trait for all local decision makers. Long into the foreseeable future, Breckenridge will likely be negotiating with big corporate players that have strong interests in leveraging our recreational and real estate assets for their own gain.  Our town leaders need to possess the vision, integrity, and resilience to ensure that other’s profits are in balance with our own community’s needs. They will need to continue to ask hard questions – and occasionally stand up to people waving big, impressive swords. Dave has shown that he is willing to put himself out there for slicing in his commitment to ensure fiscal and ethical accountability from all players.  We continue to need that now.

Rossi ‘s got my trust -and vote – on April 6th!  Ensure that Breckenridge continues to have a strong, authentic, voice of integrity on Council. Vote for Dave!

Today I listened to an interview on NPR’s Sunday Edition with a physician from Medecins Sans Frontiers.

Tom Krueger, a surgeon, has worked with the group on missions in the Sudan and Liberia, among other countries.  Amid the interview with Liane Hanson, Krueger spoke about the struggles of the work, particularly, about how hard it is to try to explain it to friends back home after returning.  “You can’t describe…. the feeling of the heat on your body, the sweat running down your back, the smell of the unwashed bodies, the closed rooms, the (lack of) circulation;  the smell of your own panic when you don’t know what to do,” Krueger articulated, in a documentary film on MSF that will be previewing in thousands of theaters worldwide tomorrow. “You can’t share that stuff.

Krueger’s words touched a deep chord.  This physicians grounded and humble sense of the real work was an important touchstone for me as I currently navigate a pathway towards my own involvement with a non-profit I have donated much time to the past 2 and 1/2 years.  When NPR interviewer Hanson asked him about the convenient myth of the valiant physician sacrificing him/herself for the greater good of mankind, and whether it felt like that, Krueger did not run off with the opportunity for self aggrandizement.  His response seems modulated by years and years in the field, in the dirt, the hot, sticky, sickly smell of underresourced clinics around the world, the sticky humidity of tropics and too many bodies pressed too close in too tight a space.

I loved hearing Kruegers’ words on the radio. They describe what it does feels like to be part of that world for long days, weeks, months at a time.  It expresses that reality that doing good work in the developing world, like anywhere, is intensely more complicated than a sound bite.  It means acknowledging a lot of gray areas, it means getting out of the guesthouse and romantic adventure and doing your work in often intensely uncomfortable and unclean situations, often without any recognition at all.  Most of all, its not about promoting your own mythology. Instead, it tends to make you more humble everyday.

Trying to do good amid that daily reality, notes Krueger, doesn’t feel like being a part of anyone’s myth of the valiant savior.  Instead, he explains, the reality you are surrounded by and making decisions within “Is a  lot muddier than that.  When you see the problems that these people have to contend with every day…you find a lot of these decisions to be a lot more painful than you find them in the scripted situations that we most of face, say, in hospitals in this country. “

What the work does give you, despite the doubts, the muddy areas, the discomfort, is this:

“It leaves you more dissatisfied a bit with who you are, with the culture in which you live, the medical system under which you live, the world as it is. And also- you see things with different eyes. You become a lot more invested in the world.  After being in many of these places, I have to try and follow the news about what is happening, because, once you connect with the people in these places, they become a part of your life, and you worry over them.

On a one to one basis -with everybody you work with – they’re really no different from us. People hurt. People suffer.  When you take care of people at times of illness like that, they’re at they’re most vulnerable. It changes you in ways that you process in an ongoing fashion from then on. “      http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121388800

:

“Water Meets The Sky”  is a film created via the efforts of the organization Camfed- a UK/US based non-profit which supports educational opportunities for girls in Africa.  The film is the result of Camfed’s belief that films can be a deeply important piece of social change.  The film was made by a group of women in a remote region of northern Zambia, most of whom are very poor, illiterate, and have rarely seen film before. They worked with two filmmakers to learn how to make a film as a way to speak out about their lives.  The women chose the topic, an issue that had been traumatic for them all, and also one that was rarely spoken about:  the challenge of young women orphaned by AIDS.

The project began as a workshop about filmmaking, but evolved to become, as the site professes, “a journey in empowerment”as the women challenge long-standing silence about the issue, “and press their community to change.”  Such work is becoming more and more prevalent throughout the world, as non-profits, NGO’s, and advocacy groups utilize the tools of telling stories- film, audio, photography and social networks- to share the stories of their lives.

Camfed | Where the Water Meets the Sky | Home | Play the trailer

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Intensive, affirming, humbling:  my recent week long workshop immersion at the beautiful Anderson Ranch near Aspen, Colorado.

The focus of the class was digital video editing.  The intent was to have each participant create a small piece from one to three minutes long by the end of the week, a short piece focused on the theme of remembering. How we remember a person, a place, an experience of life.  How we deconstruct those memories, piecing them down into ideas and feelings so that we can then piece them back together – representing them in photographs, small segments of narrative and spoken word, text, or small segments of video, all weaved together into a final piece.

The people in the workshop had a wide range of backgrounds:  amateur artists to one photographer who had worked on stories with National Geographic for twenty years. The final short pieces which each person created were wonderful in some way:  either as deeply moving stories, or  simple explorations of sheer beauty.

My own piece took me back through six years and seven trips with the non-profit organization Interplast, a group comprised of interchanging physicians, nurses, and translators who volunteer their time several weeks a year to travel around the world providing free reconstructive surgeries for children suffering from burns or congenital disfigurements.  I wanted to revisit the rich depth of stories I had the joy to experience by working with this group. I wanted to explore the impact these experiences  had on my own life; how they mirrored aspects of my own journey. I played with words and still images from the trips I photographed for Interplast,  trying to create a small, poetic memory of the feelings it engendered as a springboard for a longer piece.

The affirmation of the experience comes from several levels. It was deeply important to be,  once again, in an environment filled with other creatives, other photographers who understand, at a deep, core level,  what I am also passionate about.  Watching photographs I’ve made move people deeply : that feeling of- yes, it worked. Yes, these stories mean something. As do these lives of the children featured within their frames.  All photographers engaged in this work need a dose of that, like any other artist.  A place which supports the vision, and the work.

Peru_Rosa

Just in from trip number two to the desert.  What an amazing amount of beautiful terrain we toured through. Becoming one with your bike- as Eric says.  Ten through twelve hour days in the saddle will do that to you.  Bike Zen.

It’s once again time for The 45 Hours of Eric’s Birthday event:  Day 5, and we are up to hour 40, thanks to two amazing tours on the east and west sides. Unplanned adventures:  the best kind, when the weather stays within the range your outerwear is meant for and the calories and H20 are …just enough.  So that you are famished, dusty, worked, and deeply thirsty- in that cleaning-you-, out kind of way and not stretched so far past your limit you are incoherent.

Old and now new favorites:  discovering the world’s longest ‘downhill’ when my 6 hour mountain bike ride + run turned into the discovery that we were at the top of the new singletrack  above the UPS trail in Moab.  Up, up, up all morning- 27 miles from town to Warner Lake high in the La Sals, then down , down, down Hazzard Mountain trail to Kokopelli to UPS to LPS to Porcupine to the highway and back up to our campsite on Sand Flats.  Sixty miles of amazing views and singletrack:  paintbrush and wild cliffrose and penstemon blooming all over lower down, then up into wild iris, golden banner, delphinium.  So incredibly beautiful.  An amazing day.  To pedal into town and slam down 24 oz of cold, cold carbonated Coke after a day like that:  the best feeling in the world.

Yesterday: another adventure:  our ride over Hurrah Pass to Lockhart aborted at Hurrah when the rain we’d been riding in for an hour turned into a wall of endless gray to the south and west.  Riding back down into the valley, the rain let up and we decided to head down Kane Springs Canyon just to add in a few more miles.  The rain made the sand tolerable, the rain let up, and the canyon narrowed to an intrigue and temptation:  so on we went.  All the way out to Hwy 191 and Hole in the Rock. Early morning birds in the tamarisk and cottonwoods along the narrow winding creek sounded like the Amazon: warbling and singing and tweeting.  Sweet smells of rose and tamarisk.  Eric has always wanted to see Beyond the Rocks, so we rode back over to Pritchett Canyon and back out.  Deep, dark, omninously brooding clouds gathered over the La Sals all day:  riding out through Pritchett, lightening and thunder and dark sky mixing with beautiful afternoon light.  Another 10 hour day of beauty and wonder.  We get to do this, says EB, reminding me.  Yes, I think. How incredibly, incredibly lucky we are. To  get to do this.

It’s such a bummer.  I’m thinking this again now as I watch my favorite running buddy in the world have to be on leash duty. Something’s up with his hip and leg:  it looks like a doggy ACL, the bane of mud season for all mountain dogs.

I often call Toby my four footed godchild.  I was sharing a house with Megan November when she brought this handsome, intriguing, curious, spirited and friendly guy home from the shelter.  She was only going to look. But it was obvious right away that she was meant to be Toby’s Human.  He knew that immediately.  Luckily, Megan picked up on this during the first visit, even though she planned on actually getting a dog six months down the road.

The house we shared was Megan’s parents, a beautiful cabin high up on Hoosier Pass, at 11,000 feet.  I worked from home then, as a photographer:  Toby spent his first six to seven months with me daily while his real mom went into town to work.  Every morning, if we hadn’t been out the door for a run by 9 am,  a dark wet nose would politely and delicately plant itself on my right leg while I worked on my computer, editing images and writing.  If the nose hadn’t been attended to my 9:20 am or so, it would begin to push and prod a bit, followed by a hopeful smile and tail wag.  By 9:30 am, all bets were off for any more accomplishment at the desk. It was time to go out and say hello to the spruce trees and tundra, chase some more squirrels (Toby had already been out once at 6:30 am with his mom) and see what was going on in the big outside world.

Like all good mountain dogs, Toby gets to run and ski nearly daily, hiking up with his mom or dad in the brisk winter mornings and joyfully skiing the powder down. Running up Quandary, running French Pass, chasing squirrels and smelling all manner of great things.  Spring brings with it amazing smells as everything begins to melt away from the winter snows, but also the postholing treacherous to mountain dogs and their knees.

Meg and her husband took off for a trip last week, and my role as aunt/godmother gives me first call on any opportunities to dog sit my old friend. This time, Meg noticed he was limping before they took off.  And so Toby was constrained:  to walks on leash, a four letter phrase for any mountain dog worth his salt.   I share his sentiments exactly.  Being constrained is such a bummer .

toby

I just finished up seven months of rehab, and now it looks like Toby will likely also be on the mend. Its going to be the Cone for my little buddy this summer, for awhile, I’m afraid.  He’ll have to learn patience, and look forward to a beautiful fall.

A gem from the novel The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak:

“A DEFINITION NOT FOUND IN THE DICTIONARY:

Not leaving: an act of trust and love. often deciphered by children.”

These words strike a like a mainline to the heart, from a hundred angles.

The power of words can move one to tears: a certain shift in perspective, a connection of beauty,  a recognition of a truth one believes with all one’s knowing, a resonance with an experience of life.

Sometimes the smallest acts and offerings are our greatest kindnesses.

I think of Raimundo, traveling with his sons from some small village in the state of Rio Branco, Brazil.  He passes them off to strangers, who take his small sons into the foreign worlds of operating rooms, sewing back together the clefts in their palates that keep them from being whole. When they wake up from anesthesia, he is there.

I think of the young adults in Mississippi and Arkansas, working for Save The Children, returning to burnt out, prejudiced, tired and frayed communities to mentor children younger than themselves, showing a pathway out.

I photographed Roberto, in Maine, the Colombian street kid whose life was changed dramatically with his own adoption and migration to the U.S., who ended up embracing every new immigrant child he later met in Portland Maine, children from Somalia, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Serbia, Guatemala, Vietnam.

All these stories of kindness, and connection, small acts of simple grace.

But what happens when leaving happens instead of not leaving? This question haunts me.  Can a late in life reparation- like the surgeries that bridge these children’s structural gaps- cross over the distance, healing what has never felt whole?

Cameras and words skim over the surface, wondering, seeking, searching for answers that lie buried beyond years.  If what is missing in your life was a belief in yourself that was never instilled by others- than turn that lacking into a passion that shifts that chasm for other young people, towards hearts full of hope.

Its’ my own heart’s belief that all good things in this world grow with patience, and time, with depth, quietness, and a deep humility.  First is one’s own sense of peace, solid foundations and grace. Next comes the ripple in the world that you will send out towards others, all part of the same weave of life as ourselves.  A friend passed on a blog which reminded me of this quote about doing any kind of aid work:

“Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say ‘We have done this ourselves.’”

One of the main characters in Zusak’s novel has “silver eyes of kindness” .  His incredibly brave, direct acts of kindness go unnoticed by much of the world he lives within, and are, in fact, in Nazi Germany, shunned and at times berated.  But his ripple of goodness he left behind saved two lives of quiet goodness.  Perhaps it is enough to see the world through silver eyes of kindness, and use that view to stretch oneself towards the good you can do in a handful of lives.

Just back from another road trip to Moab.  It’s becoming a ritual each spring and fall:  to return to this Utah landscape of sandstone, sun, rivers, and sky.

I’ve spent much of my life seeking connection to landscape:  the high mountains are home.  I write often and have created many photography projects around the theme of community:  exploring the idea of how long term inhabitance develops a deep connection to one’s place.  Each time I return from the desert, I feel a resonance grow:  the idea of returning, as a visitor, to a landscape again and again can also grow a deep thread of connection.

We come here, to pursue the R’s.  On the surface, it’s for recreation:  just two of the thousands who run, ride, climb and boat through this sere, elemental landscape, warming our bodies after months of snow, frigid mornings, and wind chill.  But something deeper also drives us:  a desire for rejevenation, renewal.  A rekindling of our spirits.  A reflection on our lives, and how we might live them with consciousness, clarity, and grace.

This trip is no different:  we camp under the stars,  the full moon.  The desert comes exuberantly alive with color:  each root drawing up life affirming water from the rains and the river, swelling with run-off from the mountains we have temporarily escaped.  This trip, we run by the crimson of Utah penstemon, paintbrush,  and scarlet gilia, purple hues of lupine and delphinium,  orange globemallow, sunbursts of Indian plume and sunflowers.  Sun burnishes our bodies and burns our winter skin; red sand works its way into everything.  We slap on running shoes and travel early, and light:  leaving at daybreak to commune again with favorite canyons and mesas, and exploring new ones to add to our list.  Sunburnt, dusty, bug bitten, and exhausted:  our spent bodies sweat out the stifled desires and frustrations of darkness, winters, and feeling stuck in our lives. The bikes let us travel further:  four, six, seven hours- we see a largess of terrain that reminds us that the possibilities of our own lives are likewise as vast. Traveling solo, or just the two of us, we travel humbly, respectfully, aware we are crossing ground that is elemental, even sacred if you look hard, and approach quietly, with a sense of gratitude for what might be found there.

Renewal.

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