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We Mourn the Passing of Eric Ellis, Dear Friend and Community Member

Published September 22nd, 2018 in Community Perspectives

By Peter Moore

Hello friends, Peter here. I have known Eric Ellis for more than 20 years. I would like to tell you a little about him now.

Back in 1997, Eric came to Breitenbush. His first job was to update the Breitenbush events database, converting it from a rather primitive Microsoft Excel DB to a comprehensive File Maker Pro DB. Among other tasks in the Events Team, Eric worked at this complex conversion for four years. His developed expertise in this, combined with great aptitude and attitude, led to him being hired into the role of Marketing Director for a couple of years in the late 1990s.

Eric left Breitenbush in 2001 to pursue other interests, the dominant ones being two-fold. First, he was a committed spiritual seeker. In this time he connected with a celebrated author, Catherine Ingram, author of “In the Footsteps of Gandhi” and other books. For some years he managed her events calendar and other details. His other interest was real estate. Eric’s innate skills with clear communication, numbers and contractual covenants all combined in Portland where he became quite successful as a real estate broker.

Eric returned to Breitenbush in 2010 and remained here since then. Once again he applied his skills in programming to solve a vast array of outstanding little problems, including filling in some holes that BLISS (Breitenbush Living Information Sharing System) did not address. In 2012, Eric was hired into a unique job on the Admin Team called “Team Support”. Ever the documentarian, he developed the Info Tab, various “Tickler” alerts, and many other systems that help our Office, Events, Finance, Personnel, IS and other workers. He was the rare person who could pass effortlessly between the digital realm of the “back end” and the practical management realm of the “front end”, meaning that he could as easily be the worker behind the desk as the developer of the systems that worker worked with. He filled in regularly for Office and Events teams. Eric was also an awesome trainer for Office workers, Event Coordinators, Personnel persons and others, including Board members. He was probably the most effective and successful writer of proposals in the history of Breitenbush, developing the Elder policy, Parental Leave policy, Car Share policy, and other complex policies that support workers in the co-op life.

In his years living and working with the Breitenbush Co-op, Eric was entrusted with many important jobs. In addition to his roles in the Events Team including Marketing Director, and the Admin Team as Bookkeeper and Team Support, he was at various times elected to serve on the Community Council, the Board of Directors and the Facilities Council, among others. Every job performance evaluation on file for him is “Excellent”. A note from his 2014 Annual Evaluation sums it up: “Excellent work with FMP, organized, focused, calm, and has clarity in seeing to the heart of things. Easy to work/share space with. Helpful, fun to work with, great proposals. Brings joy into the workplace and community, very competent.”

Cougar Medicine: A Lesson in Gratitude (part 1)

Published September 13th, 2018 in Community Perspectives

By Eric Muritz

I’d been living at Breitenbush for 6 years. There had been many a night, driving home on Forest Service Road 46, where I had hoped to catch a glimpse of an animal fabled to roam these mountains. How cool would it be to see a cougar in the distant headlights?

So, imagine my surprise on the morning of June 21st–just a mere hour after the celestial solstice–suddenly finding myself face-to-face with this apex predator: a powerful force of nature that would momentarily unhinge my world.

* * *

That same week my beloved house cat, Beowulf, had disappeared. Though he liked the outdoors, he never strayed from the cabin for more than a few hours without checking in. I work nights, and he often waited for me to return at the base of the footbridge. On the morning of his disappearance I did a brief walkabout, calling for him, but he was nowhere to be found. Instead, I observed some odd tracks near the bridge: it looked as though something had been drug through the gravel, but I had no basis for jumping to conclusions.

Four days later, my partner and I were sitting on the back porch of my cabin in the pre-dawn light. It was 4:15am and the landscape was a shadowy web of foliage. We had been up all night, mourning and processing the unexplained disappearance of our feline friend (Beowulf had been my companion for 12 years–we had traveled to Oregon together from the East Coast, and I was quite distraught to have him go missing). We sighed with heavy hearts, reconciling ourselves to the sad reality that Beowulf, for whatever reason, was gone. We held one another tightly and closed our eyes.

My eyes couldn’t have been shut for more than 10 seconds; when I opened them, my brain had difficulty processing what I was seeing. It was like a dream! There, crouched down and slinking towards me, was the answer to our question: what had happened to Beowulf?

For just a moment, I had been looking square into the yellow eyes of what was otherwise a ghostly shadow. The big cat had stealthy approached to within two feet of me–so close I could have touched it! All I could stammer was “Whoa–whoa–whoa–whoa!” as I stood up and waved my hands defensively, as though trying to ward off a bad omen.

The mountain lion sprung backwards, leaving pronounced tracks in the earth; it hissed loudly and bolted into the brush. And that was that!

My partner and I ducked into the cabin and slammed the door shut, staring at each other in disbelief. “There’s no doubt about it,” I proclaimed, my eyes as big as saucers. “That thing got Beowulf, and came back for us!”.  Sitting down and prone as we had been, it seemed we had narrowly avoided a violent encounter.

It was a profound reminder that our relationship here, in the midst of nature, is one of giving and taking. As the only human enclave in the midst of millions of acres of Nation Forest, we do a lot of taking. Breitenbush has given me so much. This summer, I was called upon to tithe: sacrificing pieces of my life to the all-powerful Spirit.

To be continued…