What do Iraq, Rice Pudding, Mountaineering, and a Streetcar have in Common?

They are all found in Ashland, Oregon... at least, they were when we were there!

We like whimsy. We love innovation toward community flourishing. We also adore unique lodging opportunities! So, when we discovered an ability to spend the night in a streetcar in someone's backyard, we joyously rode the rails of our delights to Ashland, Oregon and A Streetcar Named Inspire.

Melissa Orion is the heart and brains behind this lovely streetcar. After remodeling it and using it for years as a food cart in Portland, Oregon, Melissa relocated to Ashland and launched a non-profit organization centered around serving the community and the world via kids' camps, programs, and renting the streetcar for events.

One can also stay the night in the streetcar. If additional rooms are needed, there are rooms to rent in the adjacent, big, Victorian house. We traveled with Neel's brother and mom; and they enjoyed their stay in the house. The main downside of the streetcar for lodging is the absence of a bathroom. Ergo, one must make a three minute walk to the house for bathroom use. That's minor compared to the fantastical nature of the streetcar though.

We found the experience sublime. The details on the streetcar are impeccably artful and beautiful. From the pillows, which are prints of Melissa's artwork, to the joyful stained glass windows, to the tiny electric faux wood burning stove, to the letters "I N S P I R E" welded into the outer awning's skeleton, the place is alive with wonder. Melissa's hopeful heart toward making the world more shiny and ignited is catching. We left with fresh inspiration, radiant like the window panes. 

"Inspiration" was a theme for the weekend.

My husband relishes running. One of his main running muses is an ultra-runner named Rich Roll. Neel often listens to his podcast. A while back, Rich interviewed Conrad Anker, extreme mountain climber and captain of the The North Face Athlete Team. Conrad was part of a team which made an ascent in May of 2011 of the Shark's Fin on 20,700-foot Mount Meru. This is what the film, "Meru" is about.

The lovely folks at Meru gave us media passes to the showing; and so, we went.

Again, inspiration awaited. Through the rich narrative, the heart tugs, the awe-provoking mountain views, the film takes one's soul on a journey of continually redefining possibility. For us, this is the stuff of life. This is the grit of glory, dreams, and resolve which daily nips at our heels. The film was absolutely wonderful.

Watch the trailer below and figure out how/when/where to see this epic, roaring adventure.

MERU-ving on... we found further inspiration in food! We drifted down Ashland's Main Street and into Pangea, a charming cafe which successfully embodies our food philosophies: nourishment, creativity, kindness to earth and people, and tastiness! Plus, they have ample vegan and gluten-free options! Places like this captivate us.

We were particularly awed by two things: a Lemon Basil Cookie and Coconut Ginger Rice Pudding (both vegan and gluten free).

The lemon basil cookie enchants. The lemon tantalizes one's tastebuds to a fuller awakening; and then the basil reminds you of calm, nature, and refreshing. To have all of that ensconced in a a soft, but slightly crispy on the outside cookie (big enough for a 2+ people to share) is positively delightful!

As for the rice pudding, my husband Neel is Indian-American and rice pudding was a prominent part of his childhood. He's a bit of a rice pudding aficionado. He also LOVES ginger. However, it is rare to find vegan rice pudding; and so he was immediately smitten with the very successful carryout of these flavors and attributes in one, sweet (agave sweetened) dish. The pudding was cool, smooth, and yet quite enlivening. If a baby was born in an enchanted forest, this would be said baby's first dessert.

Again, we took in deep inspiration. Our time at Pangea reminded us of the difference a small group of people can make when working toward a unique, somewhat counter-cultural, innovative vision.

Beyond Pangea, our inspiration train brought us to the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival. There we were joined by my former intern, Susan. At the time, Susan was overseeing Hope Iraq, a movement I started 5 years ago prior to my trip to Baghdad with Canon Andrew White. I've been passionate about the Middle East for 20 years. Thus, when I learned OSF would have a play wherein an Iraq War vet, turned movie star, was filming in Jordan, I was elated! "The Happiest Song Plays Last" was outstanding. It successfully pulled back layers of psychology and culture in a highly human, authentic, relate-able manner.


The play allowed the intricacies of war's effects, culture gaps, and overcoming trauma to bring the audience into a place of introspection and reflection on world events. Daniel Duque-Estrada did a fabulous job as Elliot, the war vet gone actor. He led the audience on a journey, as if walking through the pages of Elliot's journal, replete in vulnerability, self-discovery; and an increasing awareness of the big picture of life, people, and sociological dynamics globally. It was healthy. Strong. Inviting. Insightful. 

As we exited the theater, we spotted Daniel and snagged a few minutes with him. (My apologies on the poor quality of the video. I don't know what caused that.) Check it out!

I hope this production educated and equipped the audience with more understanding, compassion, and hope for the Middle East and its people. Creations like this are paramount in re-explaining to us the crucial centers of value within and outside us. It's not simply in our elevated ideas that we develop impact, but in our willingness to meet people where they are, to see their destinies even when they feel too bogged down to see them, and to champion nations with the utmost love.

Thank you to the playwright, Quiara Alegría Hudes, for being willing to explore these places of potential.

For information about upcoming productions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival go here.

Get inspired, live inspired, give inspiration.