How We Came to be Oregon Ducks by Mary K. Jensen

September 23rd, 2018

Author of “Rudy’s Rules for Travel: Life Lessons from Around the Globe”

“You’ll find yourself relaxing…that’s right, deep breaths, calmer and calmer…” The audience is as tranquil as any we’ve ever had.  A winning combination: teachers rescued from a Friday at their schools, brought to a hotel conference room with soft colored walls and classical music, invited to doze or nap, heads down on the tables.

My training partner Roy and I nod and smile at each other over their heads.  We  are off to a strong start for a weekend training in Superlearning.  Gaining control of their own anxiety means these teachers can better affect classroom atmosphere and student learning.  We are here to help them see the connection.

The measured music of Vivaldi plays softly and a few little purrs of tired teachers keep pace, until some minutes later I sense a change in the rear of the room.  The audience at the last row of tables is getting restless, turning towards the back of the large room, looking puzzled.  There is a man at the back door, holding a newspaper aloft, pointing frantically at one page, mouthing the words “Look.  Look.” He clearly is not here for relaxation training.

I recognize the man.  He is my husband Rudy.  I try to use good classroom management techniques—ignoring him, moving him out of my sight-line—but he has more messages to convey.   “Call a recess.  Call a recess,” he mouths.  “Emergency.” Now he has our attention.  Roy slowly wakens anyone who has managed to slumber through this, and announces a short break.

Audience members take a long time to gather purses and bags.  As appealing as an early break sounds, no one wants to miss the encounter between their instructor and the madman in the back of the room.  Considering himself freed now to speak, Rudy’s voice is loud and clear: “Mary, we can’t move to Arizona.  It’s a hundred and eight degrees today and it’s early May.  We have to find a school where it rains.”

Admittedly, it does not rain much in Tempe, Arizona where I have been accepted to graduate school, with a scholarship starting in two months.  I have a leave from my job, our house has been leased and our belongings are making their way to storage units.  Worse yet, we have bought Arizona State University sweatshirts and I don’t even look good in brown and orange.

Roy is a psychologist and he has a practical way to ensure Rudy leaves the conference room: “Maybe you’d like to go to a library, Rudy, and start researching places with rain.” My spouse becomes a man with a mission and I am left to answer audience questions:

“For real, that was your husband?”

“He’s a Californian, right? So then he can’t be serious about the rain part.”

“So, do you do relaxation training at home?  How does that go?”

The training segment stretches longer than usual.  I am not feeling what you would describe as “centered,” but I tell myself this too will pass.  Rudy is a creative man and has a lot of ideas.  Thankfully not all of them take shape.

On the long ride home after the workshop, one hundred and eight degrees in early May dominates our conversation.  I have to admit this is an issue and I agree to listen to Rudy’s research on alternate colleges.  Rain is most predictable in Oregon and the state universities have degrees in my field.

You likely know about the theory of “six degrees of separation.”  All living things, it says, are six or fewer steps away from each other, connected in those chains of “a friend who knows a friend who knows a friend…”  We find a four degrees chain and within the week I am talking to an admissions officer at the University of Oregon in Eugene, a predictably overcast city.  My enrollment is secured but any scholarship or work-study job will have to be postponed a semester.  In one of our many serious talks that week, Rudy and I discuss the financial reality of seeking rain. “You’ll have to figure out how we can afford tuition, Rudy.  We’ll need a savings plan.”  This was a door I should not have opened, a responsibility I should not have delegated.

Late that summer, on our pilgrimage north to Eugene, Rudy is in the lead, driving a U Haul truck with his SUV trailering behind, his usually frenetic German shorthair Beau Jensen sitting proudly next to him.  That is, Beau is sitting proudly until overtaken by the vet’s relaxation pill, at which time he lies his head on Rudy’s lap and spreads his legs across the bench seat.  I am behind them, driving our old sedan, the one with a special feature—it periodically stalls on left turns.  I am not worried; there could be no left turns off Highway 5.  Jeopardy the gray cat is my companion. Jeopardy does not need a vet’s help to sleep; the motion of the car is enough to tranquillize her.

I am tranquil too, enjoying the mountain scenery, singing along with the radio, peaceful …until I see the smoke rising from the SUV in tow.


To be continued,,,,,





Back to main blog page