Category Archives: spirituality

Portland Fruit Tree Project

Earlier today, I wrote a post for the September 11 anniversary about overcoming hate, anger and fear with acts of love.

And then I realized that a project I helped with today is one of those acts of love, and I’d like to tell you about it.

The Portland Fruit Tree Project is a nonprofit that brings together tree owners who have excess fruit, people who are willing to pick the fruit, and the regional food bank.

Homeowners can register a tree or trees with the Fruit Tree Project, and the nonprofit will organize a group of volunteers to come and pick the fruit. Half of the fruit picked goes to the Oregon Food Bank, and half goes home with the volunteers. Volunteers are asked to make a small donation toward the cost of the program.  Spots in each harvest party are reserved for low-income individuals and families, who are not required to make a donation.

Today was my first harvest party. We went to a small, private apple orchard on Sauvie Island (near Portland), and within two hours had picked over 500 pounds of edible apples and cleared the orchard of non-edible apples to help keep it healthy.

I brought home 19 pounds of apples to make applesauce. And it was super-easy. The Fruit Tree project provides tools, ladders, crates, aprons, work gloves, etc. And “many hands make light work?” It’s absolutely true.

The Portland Fruit Tree Project also offers workshops on food preservation and tree care.

I’m really excited to have been a part of this today, and I look forward to doing it again.

Sacred Spaces: A 13.5-Mile Bike Challenge

Today I messed up. I didn’t even realize I’d broken my commitment to bike to destinations within two miles of home until I was on my second car trip of the day. Silly, because I certainly could have done at least one of those errands by bike (I still haven’t figured out how to carry a Papa Murphy’s pizza on a bike).  So tomorrow will be a day of renewed commitment.

My bike ride yesterday wasn’t part of the two-mile challenge. I had signed up several weeks ago for a Sacred Spaces East Portland Urban Bike Tour, sponsored by the East Portland Advocates and led by Pastor Brian Heron of Eastminster Presbyterian Church. I was nervous about the ride, and wasn’t entirely sure I was going right up until I left! I didn’t know if I could keep up with a group for 13.5 miles, especially going up certain hills.

I needn’t have worried. We had a terrific group of 17 people, and while I was occasionally in the back of the group, I never felt like I was holding anyone back, and I wasn’t the only one who needed to walk part of the way uphill from NE 122nd and Shaver to I-84.

The sites we visited were interesting, too. They included two Christian churches, a ghost bike (a white bicycle set up to remember someone who died in a bicycle accident), a labyrinth, a non-view of Mt. Hood (too cloudy), an Eastern Orthodox church, a Buddhist temple, a big tree, and an urban forest.

The Buddhist temple impressed me most. This was completely different from any other religious building I’ve been in. Having grown up Catholic and been in a variety of Catholic churches, I’m used to a fair number of statues and a fair amount of ornamentation. The temple is in another realm. There are statues, incense and candles everywhere, beginning with a huge golden Kwan Yin outside.  Hundreds of small Kwan Yin figures line the walls in the main room, and grimacing, larger-than-life statues guard the main shrine. Really. Someone asked who the “mean guys” were, and our guide said that they are guardians who are supposed to drive away bad thoughts. And then at the front are golden statues of the Buddha and Kwan Yin and someone else. And in front of them are piles of fruit and water bottles (offerings). The room is furnished with low sitting or kneeling benches and a padded floor (we were asked to remove our shoes).

This temple (it’s the Kwan Yin Temple in Portland) is definitely Chinese, although our guide was Caucasian. Nearly all of the printed or written materials in the building were in Chinese script, and most of the people there were speaking Chinese (chanting services are conducted in Mandarin). The building does include an office and a parish-hall-type room, which looked like those found in any Christian church (in fact, the building used to be a Christian church).

I’m sure there are Buddhist temples that look and feel different, too! But this is the first and only one I’ve been in. I felt both welcomed (our hosts were wonderful) and completely out of place.

I’m still kicking myself for not taking the camera along. I’m hoping to get some pictures from another rider. But meanwhile, you can see pictures on the temple’s website (it’s on Geocities, so hurry and see them before they’re gone!).