Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Moonrise over the Columbia

It had been a very busy week. I had spent Monday through Thursday in Bakersfield, CA, busy on numerous topics, leaving early Friday for a flight connecting to Pasco, WA. I was heading to Eastern Washington to visit our Bolthouse Farms carrot fields and plant in Prosser, but also to attend a memorial service to honor the passing of my friend Will’s father. Will’s dad, Bud, passed away last week, and a large memorial service was planned for Saturday to be held on the ranch in Prosser just down the road from our carrot plant. In fact, the carrot plant was a legacy of Will’s dad, as our company bought the operation from him a number of years ago.

Will and I spent a good part of Friday together, driving the 60 miles to the plant, touring the operation (which was running like a top!) and touring his family’s ranch. The ranch is in the “Horse Heaven Hills” area of Prosser, an area famous for marvelous vineyards, many of which are on this ranch. After a day of conversation and reflection, I dropped Will off at his uncle’s home and headed back to town.

After the 60 miles, I found my way back to my hotel on the banks of the Columbia River. It was a bit past seven, the air was warm and the sun was bright. I noticed a few bikes in front of the hotel and I asked the woman at the front desk whether they were for rent. “Absolutely,” she said, “five dollars for four hours.” I told her that I would be right down and by 7:20 I was back in the lobby, in my workout clothes, and ready for a ride. There was a bike path running next to my hotel, also adjacent to the river, and I quickly found my way and headed north. After a few miles I saw a sign that I was on the Sacagawea Trail, named after one of the true heroes of the Lewis and Clark expedition. What a great ride! The night grew steadily cooler as the sun set and the moon rose over the barren hills and into a cloudless darkening sky. It was stunning, seeing the moon’s reflection on the river as I was heading back to the hotel. I wondered whether Sacagawea had seen this moon, at this time of year, at this point along the Columbia River – a topic for further research! I made my way back to the front desk, totally energized by the experience along the river, and ultimately headed to bed.

Saturday dawned with rain and clouds, and after checking out, I headed to the memorial service. The gathering was large, held outside on their ranch with a stunning view of the vineyards. The service itself was very moving, with a scripture reading by Will and a number of remembrances by close friends. One of the individuals spoke about Bud and shared what an inspiration he had been to him. He summed up his thoughts by saying that “an inspirational person gets you to try harder than we want to and to do more than we need to, and Bud was that man.” What a powerful and focused tribute. Shouldn’t we all strive to be that kind of person, encouraging others to achieve more than they might think possible?

Three of Bud’s well-known quotes also were shared:

“Question with Boldness”
“Hold onto the Truth”
“Speak without Fear”

As the service ended I kept going over those three phrases, wondering how I could model them better and how could I encourage my team to bring them to life more fully. All three statements reflect a philosophy of life, work and leadership where anyone’s ideas are respected, and everyone is encouraged to actively bring their ideas, their beliefs, and their questions into the discussion! Will shared a quote from his dad that sums it up well,
"go do good things!"

I hadn’t expected a leadership lesson at the memorial service for Will’s dad, but I certainly got one. In the same way I hadn’t expected to connect to a heroine of our nation’s history on an evening bike ride, but I certainly did. As I arrived in Pasco on Friday, I had no idea that I would be so inspired by these two wildly different people. My encouragement is for all of us to stay “open” to what might affect us, always looking for ways to learn and grow from any circumstance, whether a bike ride along the banks of the Columbia River or a memorial service in Horse Heaven Hills.

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