Today I am supposed to write a flash fiction post…. and perhaps later I will. But in the meantime I offer a special post – something special and close to me.
Between 2011 and 2014 my husband and I lived in the Roseburg, Oregon area where we taught and worked at Umpqua Community College. My husband taught math for three years and I taught yoga and worked in Enrollment Services. I graduated college from here. In the course of those three years we built relationships beyond friendships – we built a small family. And that’s just what UCC does – that’s just the way it is: a family.
So yesterday when my family felt panic, terror, anguish, confusion, and loss I felt my heart twist inside itself. While I am thankful to be safe two states away from the shooting, a strong piece of me wishes I could be there with them as they have been there for me in the past. I am fortunate to say that although my old office, our Welcome Center, was only a pathway away from the building it occurred in, all my people are safe and accounted for. But there are still students who I’ve worked with, helped, pushed to follow their dreams… there are still colleagues from around this incredibly gorgeous campus that I haven’t heard from. And my heart is dreading the list that is to come.
Roseburg and UCC have suddenly found themselves in the spotlight in the media. The name “Umpqua” has been butchered by newscasters and the sensationalism of this event rankles my feathers because this is something horrific, not something to make advertising money off of. That aside, I want to share with you what UCC really is. The UCC we all know and love. The UCC that will rebuild and the culture of this campus that will shine through the murkiness of this event. A stronger UCC is to come.
Roseburg is a gem tucked away in rolling hills of trees, valleys of pasture, and a stunning river which floods and recedes every year. It is home to farming and timber industries – they have commercial businesses for shopping, eating, and employment. They have a small community feel in a big little city. The people are helpful, encouraging, and, at times, struggling.
On Spring weekends you’ll see trailers pulling into the woods in the early hours of morning to collect firewood approved by the Forestry Department and in the autumn crowds flock to Kruse Farms to pick out pumpkins. In the winter it can snow, rain, or shine within minutes of each other. The summers are filled with music at the Half-Shell in the park.
It’s a small town with great local business and delicious food. And pockets of beauty hide in plain sight:
Then there is UCC – sitting on the hill on the north end of town overlooking the winding path of the Umpqua River. When you walk on campus in the early morning you’ll cross paths with deer as they take breakfast in the many patches of grass. Bald Eagles fly overhead as you walk to your car in the parking lot. It’s a campus that has an almost magical feel to it. I’ve hosted yoga classes around the main fountain. I’ve gone on a scavenger hunt for chocolate. I’ve been to plays and art shows. Taken classes and volunteered here.
|Romeo and Juliet|
|Romeo and Juliet|
Staff, faculty, and administration gather together after the holidays for a Snowflake Social where gifts are auctioned off, food is served, and wine flows. It’s a time to build friendships, unwind, and dance! UCC is where I met my best friend – her husband started teaching at UCC the same time as mine, in a different subject. It was a sistership the moment we met. I was present for the birth of their first born, they were there for me as I struggled through coping after the death of a stranger. They are family and I am so glad they are safe.
|Our first year at UCC. Circa 2012.|
|My best friend and wife.|
In the spring they host an event outside where students and community members can play – get out of the office – break the routine and dust off the chill of winter.
It’s a place where people celebrate when the pool finally has water in it again!
The culture of this campus, as I’ve said, is one of family. The people here are the type who inspire you – like the 70 year old history teacher who summits mountains, bungee jumps, and sky dives in his free time.
They are people who hold on to you tightly when you find out your husband’s teaching contract hasn’t been renewed.
They are the people who celebrate your birthday in style for no reason other than they love you.
|My cubicle and favorite foods.|
They are the kind of people who do whatever they can to make the day better, brighter, run more smoothly for those around them; staff and students alike.
And on your last day working there, they are the kind of people who make you laugh so hard you cry.
This is my UCC Family, my Welcome Center crew who I spent two years befriending, spending 4th of July with, running amuck at conferences with. They are safe and they are my people.
|Waiting for food at the conference, my partner in crime.|
|A Hobbit Hole we found at a conference.|
|My last day – a hard, hard day. I love these women.|
|Helping with Graduation 2014 in the gym. Amazing women!|
They are people who stick with you, in your heart and consciousness, forever.
People you miss when you are away.
People you look forward to seeing when you come in to work.
People who make you better.
I love you all!
This is UCC.
Not what’s happened.
Not this singular event.
THIS, all of this, is UCC.