William S. Burroughs said, “When you stop growing you start dying.”
Tethered to keyboards and screens, we do more work in the same time slot, then take work home with us. Human interaction has faded to texts and tweets.
Life is about more.
Life is about meeting new people, learning new skills, enriching our lives and the growth that comes with that.
Southwestern Oregon Community College is a good place to start.
“Enrichment might mean auditing a Spanish or autobiography class. Tons of people take classes and audit: You’re not working toward a degree, you’re learning something new, making new friends,” said Karen Helland-Moine of the Extended Learning office at SWOCC.
“You might start off with a yoga class and come back for tai chi,” agreed Brenda Rogers, assistant to SWOCC’s Dean of Extended Learning.
People don’t sign up at SWOCC just to get a degree. They go to the recreation center, art classes such as pottery, stained glass and life drawing. They meet people they would never have encountered otherwise — students and faculty, and enrich their lives.
“They want to get out and meet people,” said Rogers. “They might be retired, or a stay-at-home mom or dad who wants to get out in the evening. The college is a good way to meet people, and we see them term after term.”
Ann Collins found friends and flexibility at SWOCC’s yoga and tai chi classes.
“The worst thing you can do as you age is to sit,” Collins said. “That’s a great way to grow old painfully.”
Wise words from someone who, at age 71, took classes that helped with balance, stress reduction and mental clarity.
Want to enjoy something new you won’t take a test on? Try the Civil War class at SWOCC. Donna Penny is a fan.
“I have three master's degrees. I found family history in the Civil War. No required reading, no test. We even tried some of the foods the Civil War soldiers ate, like hardtack,” she said.
She’s learned about the daily lives of the “common soldiers” of our Civil War, from the way medicine was practiced in the 1800’s to the ammunition they used. Penny says she’s found the class so much fun she’s brought co-workers with her.
Old cooking methods and recipes perk along at Oregon State University’s Extension Office in Myrtle Point.
“Mothers learn to can, put up their garden produce and know what’s in their kid’s food,” said Samantha Clayburn at the Extension office.
The Extension office offers Master Gardener classes, which will teach you how to grow what you eat, as well as Master Food Preservers classes.
What’s old is new again in knitting and crochet as well. They’re also good ways to meet people, learn a skill and relax.
“Knitting is new this year,” at Coos County Extension office, said Clayburn. People began asking about the old art and the possibility of getting together with others to share knowledge and patterns.
What was a once or twice weekly gathering has grown to about 16 people every couple of weeks who share time and what they know.
Kerry Joyce joined Coos Bay Knitters.
“It’s fun, relaxing, and makes a beautiful end product, which I usually give away. I’ll be thinking about that person while I knit,” Joyce said. “Hand made things have more beauty and meaning because I know how they were made. I know the person who made them.”
“I’ve asked around and found others who said they’d like to learn to knit,” Joyce said.
Meditatively working with your hands, whiling away the time in conversation, you could also join the knot tying class at Coos History Museum. Their basket-weaving class is sold out, but you might be able to get on a waiting list for that one.
In the meantime, check out a fermentation class and learn to make kombucha or sourdough.
“Kombucha is a fermented tea,” that has a tart, almost vinegary taste, said Deborah Semrau, collections manager at the History Museum. “It’s actually good,” she said.
For getting back to the basics, sourdough starters can’t be beat. You might find that baking is your link to mindfulness.
Or perhaps combine art and food at Coos Art Museum’s Art Cart in the Park.
“I see a large demand for children’s (art) classes. The community seems to gobble that up. There is a need for art in children’s lives,” said Josie Keating, education director at CAM.
Three days a week free lunches are provided to children ages 18 and under. After lunch, Semrau and volunteers set up a free art program.
“Parents are helping, assisting the children,” Keating said. Good thing, too, since the first day 19 children came, the second day 71 appeared.
Back at CAM, grown-up art camp consists of mothers of young children who want to get out of the house, Keating said. “Some are artists looking for ways to work with their peers, but there’s also something for non-artists, such as felting, painting with acrylics, geared to all skill levels.”
Some say art is found outdoors, and here, art is all around us. Take a walk around our South Slough. Take a paddle trip or an herbal class.
“People want to do something different from their day jobs,” said Deborah Rudd at the South Slough. “They want to interact with nature, get away from stress.”
Most of Rudd’s email list consists of local families who are looking for things for the kids to do. Then there’s those who are new to our area, the semi-retired and those who are sliding into “nature things.”
Herbal classes are offered at South Slough. A local herbalist shows how to make remedies with live plants, as well as cooking tips with wild edibles and seeds.
“Being green is a trend now,” she said. “Ten years ago the herb class would have been people we used to call ‘hippies.’ Now it’s your average housewife who wants to know more natural and organic solutions.”
Some who visit are avid birders who have studied migration seasons. Others like to hike the trails. All are coming to our South Slough for the outdoor experience, people who are heading for a whole weekend of outdoor things to do, Rudd said.
That’s about as far away from a screen and a keyboard as you can get.