I started the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) program at a pivotal point in my life in 2006. Desperately needing to experience something different than my cushy 9 to 5 cube and suburban “dream”, I left it all behind and posted up in the great northwest. Along with 20 or so others who all had their own interesting pre-RARE stories, I began 11 months of volunteer service supporting rural Oregon communities. I’ve never regretted it for a second.
Throughout that year, a handful of us living across the state took whatever chances we could to get out and explore our new home together, often traveling great distances to meet up and enjoy the company of the only other people who knew what it was like to be in these unique circumstances. (Must resist the pun. Must resist the pun.) Anyway, it was a great way to forge several friendships I expect will last my lifetime. RARE is all about the people you meet.
Being an introvert, though, the idea of socializing in large groups wasn’t something I was particularly interested in initially. But along with all the other change in my life, it was a time to open up…even if just a little….and share myself with something larger. And because RARE seems to attract a certain type of individual, many come into it with the same frame of mind.
I ended up sharing my music and photography with this most tolerant and supportive group. Ultimately, the whole experience gave me a confidence I hadn’t found up to that point. In the years since, I’ve written and recorded two full-length records (with another on the way soon), performed live, had my first gallery show, went to grad school (as embarrassing as it is to say), and started my photography business….all in the name of community service if you ask me. I wouldn’t want it any other way. And I really do owe it to the RARE program and all the great people I met through it for being the impetus for what I consider to be my life’s work.
Over the last three years I’ve split my time between Phoenix, Arizona and Eugene, Oregon, getting to enjoy the best time of year each has to offer. But because making a living as a freelance artist is really, really, reeeeeaaallly hard I had to finally make a decision on one or the other that didn’t factor in high and low seasonal temperatures. For the direction I need to take my business, Phoenix penciled out best.
This past weekend the RARE program held it’s 20th year reunion. It was a chance to reconnect with old friends, make some new ones, and enjoy a beautiful summer day in Oregon. It’s appropriate that my time here ends exactly the way it started, with a great group of people who know that simple truth- the more you give, the more you get. In typical RARE fashion a community service project was also on the agenda. Nothing glamorous at all, but pulling blackberry, an invasive species, has to be done sometimes and RARE-dogs are the type of people who will do it selflessly. I saw it as an opportunity to make a few portraits of these fine folks…just a small way of paying homage to something that gave me so much at a time when I needed it most.
Finally, here’s a little recap of my year in RARE (Year 13 woot!) way back in 2006-2007, set along to the closing track of my first record “A Chronology of Change”.