A Note from Jane Acker

My name is Jane Acker, and for nine years, we lived just through the meadow and up the hill, and although we didn’t get to know Pat, Buzz, McHale, Alex, and Adam until the last few years of our time in Corvallis, once the connection was made, we sure made up for lost time.

Our family moved away from Corvallis in 1995, and although we’ve maintained a close friendship in the intervening years, the period when I knew Alex best was thus his middle school years. Alex was unlike many boys in that 12-14 age group in some significant ways. At a time when it’s pretty common for noses to be the wrong size for faces, and for arms, legs and feet to lead uncoordinated lives of their own, Alex was both strikingly handsome and possessed of natural athletic grace, qualities that shone throughout his life.

And in the past several weeks, I have been reflecting on more profound aspects of Alex that were evident in his young adolescence but revealed their significance far more fully in his adulthood. Like most of you, I have been rereading some of Alex’ blog posts and other writings, and one that Pat brought to my attention, from the Dolomitesport blog in 2009, captured some powerful themes for me. Alex’ contribution to the blog describes vividly and very personally his rides over some of the most challenging passes in the Dolomites, and in his introduction, the blog’s editor comments insightfully on Alex’ remarkable strength and incredible attitude.

And that brings me back to Alex’ 8th grade year. I will summarize one aspect of it that, in retrospect, is powerfully evocative: Alex, wearing shorts, and our daughter Katherine, rode their bicycles to school every day for all of 8th grade. I’d like to take a few minutes to deconstruct this statement for you.

First: “Wearing shorts.” For whatever reason, Alex had decided that his emerging identity required abandonment of long pants, and he persisted in this commitment through cold, rain, snow, and ice. Frankly, on many occasions, it seemed ridiculous, but he was indifferent to appearances, the opinions of others, or indeed, to common sense. There is a fine line between teenage irrational stubbornness and mature courageous adherence to conviction, and Alex as an adult knew where that line was. He was truly intentional in his thoughts, words, and actions, with a passion that animated every hour of every day. Although tolerant of the beliefs of others, he was unafraid to hold tight to what he knew was right for him.

Secondly: “With our daughter Katherine.” When we first got to know Pat and Buzz, I asked Katherine, who was in Alex’ grade at school, if she knew him. “He’s in my band class, one of the percussionists, SO annoying!” I guess Alex had noticed the impact loud and unexpected noises could have on classmates and took full advantage. Nonetheless, they became good friends, and when Alex came up with this bike riding project, Katherine signed on. I will note that Katherine was not at that time an eager riser. Morning was a tough time of day for her, especially as she was still too young to drink coffee.

Yet for that entire year, she was up and out extra early on her bike, knowing that Alex was waiting at the end of Jackson Creek Drive for their ride. His vision of this undertaking, his commitment to the project, and his belief in both the satisfaction and the fun of the ride, got her going, and indeed, they even recruited a third friend to meet them for the last leg of the trip. Even as a boy, Alex was truly a charismatic person, and he continued through adulthood to inspire others through his teaching and the extraordinary example he set in so many ways.

Finally: “rode his bicycle to school.” Unless you came by helicopter this morning, you will have noticed a very significant hill that lies between here and the flatter ground to the south and east that leads to Cheldelin Middle School, and that’s the route they took every single morning. It’s not the Dolomiti, but the strength and determination that Alex brought to the Italian mountains were evident all those years ago.

Most of us, cyclists or not, are willing to put up with the challenge of going uphill for the sake of what you see at the top or how easy and pleasant it is to go down. Certainly Alex appreciated broad views and the effortless speed of the descent. Yet Alex also embraced the ascent. The pain and difficulty of going up were precious to him. He did not limit his joy in life to the parts that were easy or even happy, but extended his full acceptance to all that was hard, finding there the possibility of growth and increased understanding and self-awareness.

With legs burning, sweating, gasping for breath, Alex scaled the heights and reached the loftiest of peaks. He sought challenge and did not shy away from what was daunting or even frightening. So now, facing the truly awful challenge of life without Alex, it is time to summon our courage and endurance and emulate him to the best of our abilities. Even as a middle school student, Alex was ready to confront the rigors of going up. Inspired by his example, perhaps all of us he left behind can do likewise.

Notes to Alex

A note from Alex’s colleague Debbie Murphy

I apologize for not sending this sooner. Perhaps it will help to expand just a little more, the picture of who Alex was to so many people.

An introduction:  I worked with Alex at The Siskiyou School for a few years before I retired a year ago.  I no longer live in Ashland, so it has taken awhile for the news of his passing to reach me.  I am deeply saddened by his loss and wish to extend my heartfelt condolences to his family, of whom he always spoke so fondly.

My sixth grade class was one of the first that Alex taught when he came to our school.  They were a challenging bunch of rowdy 12 year olds, but he was a miracle worker with them.  Because of the Waldorf system, 6th grade was the first year that my class had ever experienced a new teacher for math.  Every day was a dance as the new teacher (Alex) and the students (25 of them!) got to know each other.  I was coming to the end of my career and he was just starting his.  I relished watching him teach because he brought fresh ideas and energy.  I enjoyed my role as a mentor and observer, but Alex really didn’t need much advice.  He had great intuition about how to reach the kids.

I usually was in the classroom working on lesson plans and correcting papers while Alex taught.  One day, I heard a loud slap against the blackboard and a collective gasp from the class.  I quickly looked up to see what Mr. N-B was up to!  He had just attached a $100 bill to the board with a magnet.  He told them that he was willing to put his cash on the line. If every student got an A on the math test the next day, he would donate the money to our 8th grade trip fund.  What a buzz!  A couple of thoughts were racing in my head:  he was just a young guy working 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet – how could he afford to do this?  (sort of the mother in me I guess)  And would the students understand the message?  Well, I didn’t interfere with his plan.  So…everyone vowed to study hard and get an A the following day.  I checked in with him before the test to see what he thought would happen.  He was pretty sure his money was safe, but he was honestly willing to give up the money if need be.  As the students settled in, hard at work on the test, both Alex and I slowly walked through the classroom checking over shoulders to see what was happening.  Within minutes I caught his eye and said, “Your money is safe Mr. N-B.”  Sure enough, the usual suspects hadn’t really put too much effort into their studies and they didn’t get As.  It was a bit of a gamble for him, but it definitely caught the attention of every student.  They came to realize that he had real faith in their ability to do well.  His approach was inventive for sure!

Another time, the students were having a really hard time understanding about adding and subtracting unlike fractions.  The concept of converting the fractions so the denominators would be the same just wasn’t getting through.  Alex noticed two girls who were dressed practically identical from the waist down, but had different shirts.  He brought them up to represent two different fractions (9/8 and 3/8 for example).  Everyone had to draw the two girls into their books.  He showed the class that these fractions could be worked with because the denominators were the same and allowed them to just work with the numerators. From that point on, he just had to mention the Emily/Tori fraction and everyone got it!  In fact, at their 8th grade graduation, the class honored each of their many teachers by repeating phrases that had stuck in their minds as a result of their constant repetition.  The phrase they attributed to Mr. N-B was “and the denominator stays…THE SAME!”

I gather that you have heard many memories of Alex over the past few weeks.  He was such an amazing young man – a real gift to humanity.  He was inspiring and caring.  Thank you for bringing him into the world to share with the rest of us.  He is truly missed.

Blessings on your family,

Debbie Murphy


Notes to Alex

The Messenger by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird
Equal seekers of sweetness
Here the quickening yeast, there the blue plums
Here the clam, deep in the speckled sand
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,
Which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here, 
Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
And these body clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth, 
And the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all, over and over,
How it is that we live forever
Notes to Alex

A Note from Carl Niedner

I have many stories about Alex, but I will share one.   I once made the mistake of telling him about the railroad trestle I had found trail running in Ashland.   That, in itself, wasn’t the mistake.   The mistake came later.   Of course, as soon as I mentioned the trestle, I knew we were going there.   The thing is 200’ high in the center span, if it’s an inch.   They give you open steel grids to walk on, or the railroad cross-ties, with six-inch gaps.   The steel grids bounce and flex when you walk on them, and some of them are not completely tied down, and, if a train comes – which has never happened in the dozen or so times I’ve run across the thing, but is bound to happen eventually – then God help you.   So as soon as the word “trestle” left my mouth in Alex’s presence, I knew we were going there.   Word, deed, fait accompli.

The next morning, we decide on a hike rather than a run, and leave the car where the tracks pass near the road.   We hike in for an hour or so, and came to a tunnel.   This is a small tunnel, maybe 150 yards, and you can see light at the other end.   Immediately afterward is the steep shortcut trail that cuts off another two miles of track with a switchback and a Really Long, Dark, Curved Tunnel.   I start up the shortcut, and Alex asks where we were going.

Now comes the actual mistake.  Terminally honest, I explain about the shortcut, with a sinking feeling, instead of just lying and saying, “this is the way to get to the trestle.”

After a few minutes of friendly debate, we agree to go look at the mouth of the other tunnel, but there will be no coercion, and we’ll turn around and come back after we’ve looked.   As soon as he sees the mouth of the tunnel, Alex says what any of us could have predicted: “Oh, we have to walk through that.”

“Are you crazy?   We’re not walking through that.”   (Colorful, emphatic idioms omitted).     Try to visualize this: we are at the mouth of a tunnel built on a curve in the tracks.   It is, as a friend used to say, darker than a cat’s ass at midnight on a cloudy new moon in January.   Google Earth tells me that the tunnel is three quarters of a mile long, and curves 45 degrees in that distance.   And Alex wants to walk through it. “We’re here,” he says, “how could we not walk through it?”

“Very simply,” I replied, “we can turn our reasonable, rational asses around, walk ¾ of a mile back to the cutoff, and then hike out to the trestle.”

We continue in this vein for a few minutes and then I find myself in a very strange situation. I am old enough to be his father, for God’s sake, but Alex’s enormous personality somehow makes me the timid younger brother who would do anything for the big brother’s approval.   Of course we walk into the tunnel.   Of course, we have no light source.   Of course, within 200 feet, we can’t see anything: rails, ties, walls, each other, our hands in front of our faces and, least of all, any light from the other end of the tunnel.

It takes forever.   We check in periodically.   We figure out that if we each walk just inside one of the rails, we can probe the rail with our toes and figure out where to put our feet.   The experience of absolutely no discernible light at all is very, very strange.   I experience terror, both rational and atavistic. The rational terror is this: I have spent perhaps 30 or 40 hours running on these tracks, and never yet encountered a train, but given the idiotic thing we are doing, one is practically guaranteed to appear. And then?   I can think of a few choices.   One, lie down in the gravel, hands over head, and hope the train isn’t dragging anything. Two, stand in one of the pockets between two of the ten- or twelve-inch ribs in the walls, press my face into the wall, and try not to fall backward in the roar and the shaking and the gut-loosening terror.   Even thinking about Option Two makes my guts feel funny.   Option Three is to jump in front of the train and abbreviate the terror.

I don’t share this with Alex.   We trudge, trip, trudge and strain our eyes.   For a while, I walk with my hands straight in front of me, irrationally scared that I’ll walk into something that will poke my eyes out.   We don’t talk much.

At one point, I trip and almost go down. We stop periodically, thinking we’ve heard something.   Our eyes play tricks; one of us says, “stop!” and we both strain our eyes to see the light that one of us thinks he’s seen.   No light.

And then, finally, maybe there is a little light. Both of us think so.   Another few minutes, and we’re sure of it.   Not the end of the tunnel, but the faint outlines of the rails, a couple of hundred yards ahead of us.   We test by waving our hands in front of us: sure enough, the rails go away when our hands are roughly in the right position. We still have to walk slowly, because we can’t see feet, track or anything near us.

When we emerge a few minutes later, it doesn’t take me long.   “You bastard.   You’re totally impervious to fear, but I was more scared for the last half hour than I’ve been in twenty years.   I was sure the train was going to come and we were going to spend forever pressed up against the wall of that damn tunnel, crying for mama and pooping our pants.”

He replies, “Are you kidding?   I was petrified.   About ten minutes in, I could have sworn I heard a guy walking behind us and breathing.   I could hear your breathing, and my breathing, and then this third dude, in a completely different rhythm. I was sure we were about to get knifed in the back for most of the walk.”   That was the first I’d heard of it, of course.

Then he says this: “What a great adventure! Utter darkness and absolute terror!   Doesn’t it make you feel alive?”

Half an hour later, as we are staring down at the tops of the firs far below, he exclaims, “Wow! Isn’t this open space awesome?   We need to come back with a long rope and rappel off of this thing!”

Later, when the tracks come out of the woods near a freeway exit, he realizes where we are, and explains that we can take a shortcut to the car.   It does involve a bit of a mud glissade down steep hillside, and then running across I5. Oh, and scrambling over the concrete barrier in the narrow median.   As I wait on the other side of the barrier for a couple of trucks to roar down the grade in the far lane, I can tell, at the edge of my vision, that Alex, already across, is up to something.   As I sprint, I realize what it is and yell, “you bastard, don’t you dare!” as he clicks the shutter on his iPhone.   When I’m across, he shows off his picture of me in full sprint, raincoat flapping, with the back end of a truck just downhill.   “OK,” I said, “I won’t make you delete that picture… but Jeannie must never see it.”   He vows discretion.

That evening, after we had recounted our adventures and Jeannie had – of course – seen the picture, we fell to discussing that particular part of the highway.   He noted that he’d often ridden down it on his bicycle, as a shortcut back into town when he was doing repeat training on the brutal uphill to Mount Ashland.   That way, he explained, he could spend more time going uphill and enjoy a briefer, but more intense experience of going downhill.

“How fast do you think you go?” we asked.

“Probably forty-five or fifty.   But actually, that’s nothing.   Last month, I figured out that if I timed it exactly right, I could wait at the top of the on-ramp, and as soon as I saw a semi crest the hill, I could pedal as hard as I could, and hit the bottom of the ramp at exactly the right time to come up behind and draft behind the trailer.   If I’m about 30 feet behind the trailer, it just pulls me along as it gathers speed.   Half a mile down, we’re going seventy, easy.”

On a bicycle.   On a six-mile downgrade.   At seventy miles an hour.   If you mess up even a tiny bit, we inquired, aren’t you going to die pretty quickly?   “Oh, of course,” he replied.   “One time, I passed what I think was a bottle cap.   I realized if I had hit that, it would all have been over.   When you’re going that fast, you don’t even shift your weight like in normal riding; all you do is think, as gently as you can, about how you want the bike to move, and it does.   Everything quiets down and you get very focused.   You notice every breath, and you feel tremendously alive.”

The hard truth is that people who live like this – in the brilliant life that exists just a whisker from death – sometimes don’t live as long as we wish they could.   But thank God that they live!

Many of us need demigods, saints, to mediate for us in the life of the spirit.   The Divine Mystery is too abstract, and often too scary, for most of us to grok, most of the time.   Saints let us approach It in human terms.

So, let those of us who wish now canonize Alex in the cathedrals of our hearts.   Let him be our patron of open-eyed, stone-cold-sober, sacred madness.   Let him be our avatar of the unlimited friendliness in the diamond-clear Life that exists only in the immediate consciousness of death.   Let him remind us to invite a friend for dinner instead of working late; let him counsel us to do that utterly irrational, absolutely essential thing; let us follow his example and push ourselves until our eyes bleed, just because it’s fun.

I won’t ever be Alex, and it’s not my job. The race that he ran in 4:20 took me 6:18; he finished with a smile, and I couldn’t stand up.   I can mentor one young person at a time, and that from an arm’s length.   But I can bring a bit of him into my life.

At his memorial, I did maybe ten percent of what Alex would have done for me.   I packed four rocks from the Old Siskiyou Barn – a sacred and beautiful place near where Alex lived – to the memorial.   They’re a peculiar, glacier-smoothed stone that looks good enough to eat, and that Alex dearly loved.   Three of them bore the letters “L,” “O” and “V.”   The fourth is waiting to be inscribed with “E”, to replace one lost in a winter mudslide.

Then, as Alex might have done, I took them for a trail run.     Of course, I went 6 miles and 1200 vertical feet. Alex would have gone 60 and 30,000.

It was hot, and I was slow.

I stopped to take pictures.


Here, the rocks and I pause to honor Sam Holmes, who was playing “Wild Horses” on the second-to-last switchback of Horse Trail the year I ran the Mac 50.   Then, when his daughter showed up, he strapped his guitar on his back and ran the last eight miles in with her.   Pretty Alexian, in my opinion.


We made the top of Dimple Hill; this is the view that made me know I wanted to move to Corvallis, back in 2000.


But the biggest lesson from Alex is that adventures are just punctuation between times with the bodhisattvas with whom we learn, laugh and love.


Notes to Alex Photos

A Poem, written by a friend.

ENTOMBED  (8-21-14)

In a box, full of sand
They carry me
and talk to me
Ceremony and vacations
Holiday dinners and friendship reunions.
But it’s not me
Its a box
full of sand
I am eternal
Grace and wisdom
Sunshine of the summer day
And the crisp cold air of January
The turning leaves of September
The blossoming flowers of spring
I am the Earth
and the stars
I am the wind the water and the mountain
I am the first light of dawn
and the last orange hue of the setting sun
I am bow pose
and savasana
I rest
And I am Alive!

Notes to Alex

Thinking of Alex – August, 3 2014, from John Wilson

In my dark place. That’s what he called it. That pain cave when you were deep into anaerobic burn. Alex was a master at this. Managing the dark place.

Alex had a thing with Mary’s peak. It was in his back yard and the perfect place to push yourself beyond your own limits. I rode Mary’s with Alex a couple of times. Or I should say started at the base with Alex. I couldn’t believe it when we finished at the bottom. I totally spent, longing for home, food, rest, and Alex turning around for another climb of the peak. Alex was so amazingly, and beautifully driven. He knew how to push into that dark place.

I met Alex in 2004. Jim Fischer had pulled Alex onto our bike racing team. He was in a transition from graduating College to what was coming next, and decided to give cycling a serious try. Back then he rode a single speed everywhere. I used to tease him to get some gears on that bike. I think it was the only way I could keep up with him. The thing that struck me most about Alex, was how he talked to you. He had this way of making you not just feel, but know you and that conversation was the most important thing in the world at that very moment. He made such a strong connection with people. He was so interested, and cared so much.

Like most athletic endeavors Alex pursued he adapted and excelled immediately. In 2005 he went from Cat 4 to Cat 2. Alex left our tiny little team and joined one of the biggest teams in the North West. We all knew great things were coming.

Alex had become a fantastic climber. One of the best climbers Oregon had ever seen. Alex had his eyes on a state hill climbing championship, but when Jim Fischer decided to promote the Mary’s Peak Hill Climb in 2006 it immediately became a huge target for Alex. His home mountain. His special training ground. His dark place.

I had the amazing luck that day to ride in a follow Car with Buzz to watch & video Alex dance his way to the top of the peak. Doug Ollerenshaw was there. Another local great. An OSU grad and cycling collegiate champion. In 2006 Doug was riding on a professional team. He was the guy to beat. Jim Fischer arranged for Doug to be Alex’s 30 second man. The rabbit up the road tempting Alex all along the way.

What a gift to be an observer when Alex caught Doug. Then to witness that moment where Doug just couldn’t hang on anymore. The elastic snapped. Alex free to fly. Then to be able to shout encouragement out the window. Both Buzz and I. And to see Alex respond with even greater ferocity. Mastering the dark place.

Like everyone else, I was so proud of Alex that day. Doug Ollerenshaw was awesome in his graciousness up at the top.

Alex would go on to win multiple state hill climb championships. As far as we know, consulting all the OBRA historians & data, his time on Mary’s Peak from that day in 2006 is still the official record at 37 min, 31 seconds.

I hadn’t stayed closely in touch with Alex the past few years. I saw him occasionally. Read his blog now and then. I am sad for the missed opportunities to be around him. I am heartbroken that I won’t get to live vicariously through his certain ultra-marathon accomplishments to come. And most of all, I am terribly sorry for Buzz, Pat, Adam, McHale, and the huge void left behind.

Like all of you Alex has been wandering through my mind these past several days. Pushing his way in with a pang of deep sadness, but also with appreciation and joy for the amazing individual he was. Alex is reminding me how to live and appreciate what I have. He is reminding me to remember him for the great example he set, and how he so positively influenced and touched so many people; reminding me to make NOW the most important time.

John Wilson, August, 3 2014, 

Notes to Alex Photos

A Note from Alex’s Brother, Adam

During my first days of grieving for Alex, I was panicked to remember every memory I ever had of my brother. Searching for those images and stories was like trying to catch leaves falling from a giant Oak tree. The leaves were beautiful and of many colors, but I knew that if I did not catch them, they would decompose into the soil, to disappear forever.

I feverishly wrote down every recollection I could uncover, searching for that singular anecdote that would sum up my relationship with Alex, desperate to find that shining example of who and what Alex “was” to me. Nothing perfect came, my anxious mind and broken spirit lacked clarity.

As time passes, I discover that yes, my memories of Alex are like thousands of falling leaves, all unique and beautiful. I run myself dizzy and ragged trying to catch them before they hit the Earth, terrified I’ll lose them forever. But these leaves, I’m realizing, feel so small in my hand when caught. They are only pieces of something much larger.

I stop grabbing for the falling leaves, and allow myself to find breath.

I feel stillness.

I feel light.

I open myself, and I lift my eyes from the ground.

What I am left looking at is the tree itself, standing strong in front of me.

This tree isn’t the memory of Alex; it is Alex.

This tree is everything my brother stands for, everything he has ever taught me with his words or actions, everything I’ve ever learned by being his brother. His roots, I find, are deeper and more entwined with mine than I expected. The limbs are long and crooked, and while not always sure of their final resting place, grown with courage and intent over time.

It has been a privilege to stand in awe of this tree, to bear witness to Alex’s continual growth. I’ve stopped searching for the man Alex was, and I’ve begun seeing the infinite manifestations of what Alex has been, is, and will always be. A brother, a friend, a teacher, and a reflection of my own tree of life.

When I allow myself to listen to him, Alex tells me to go to nature. He tells me to use my body, and to respect it. In the wilderness I can open myself, and I see him. Sometimes he’s a buck, roaming the wilderness while deftly plucking wildflower blossoms from their stems. Other times he’s a fat, furry, whistling marmot. Many mornings he’s a beam of sunlight, sifting through the forest canopy to find my face. As I return from nature, Alex tells me to care for and protect my family. He tells me to be honest with myself, and to look, without fear, into the shadows my own branches cast.

I have many memories of Alex, and if you’d ever like to sit down with me, I’d love to share one with you. But no singular story could possibly represent my brother. Alex’s spirit is so much more complicatedly simple than that.

Alex is a silent walk in the woods. Ales is a naked dive into an ice cold creek. As you push past your body’s limits, Alex is a sparkling, salty bead of sweat on your nose, cheering you on. Alex is the dreamiest nap on a green patch of grass. Alex is the loudest, most outrageous giggle from my beautiful niece. Alex is the sweetest bite of the ripest fig, surreptitiously picked from a neighborhood tree.

If we allow ourselves to listen, Alex will continue to tell us his story. He is infinite.

I am beginning to find clarity, and I am discovering new ways to face the day. When autumn comes, Alex’s leaves will descend toward me. I will watch them pass by me, and I will witness them with gratitude. I will not panic and grab at them. I know they belong to the soil. They will nourish the growth of this forest, and in turn, nurture this tree as it continues to grow. I remind myself that the leaves will return come spring, and the tree will still be standing strong and wild.

I’d like to revisit one of Alex’s poems. I rediscovered this last night, and not until after writing what I have just read to you now. I hadn’t read this poem in years.

what it means to be happy with today

I wake from a nap on a park bench,

winter sun skimming the horizon sinks subtle

twenty, thirty, maybe forty slow breaths I took, asleep,

while the sunshine poured radiant, warming my body


blue sky, empty, flaccid

like the naked birch tree standing over me

its leaves let go, leaving the tree to endure the cold winter, alone.

they flutter and flip below me, as a north wind runs across the ground


the trunk, its thick body, feeding a linear pattern of branches.

predictable tangents, ending with summer’s supple growth,

naïvely thrust forth to experience the reality of its first winter


The entire life, span, height, of the birch,

meditation, repetition, on a whole of similar parts.

like my own twenty six years broken into months, weeks, days,

inhales and exhales entire.

as a human animal, simple flesh and bone born of natural causes,

I am prone to patterns, cycles


In spring, I grow my leaves,

a vibrant green to hide the safe comfort of my familiarity.

but even in the veins of my leaves repetition persists.

green turning to a fiery fade before they fall to the ground

where crows push them aside with the same beaks used to sort through garbage


My biggest fear is to be old, look back,

and be fooled by the illusion of a life entire and unique.

but on the air of my last breath look closer

and realize that when I was younger,

if I wanted to know what the rest of my life would be like,

I needed to only look at this one day, a small branch on my tree.


The sun’s warmth makes my roots eager

I will keep growing, a life each day my own, and when I die,

my tree will be the most gnarled, asymmetrical, goddamned unrecognizable, in the forest.

Alex's Writing Notes to Alex

A Letter from Jessica Lamanna to Alex’s Parents

Buzz and Pat,

My husband Ryan and I have only known Alex for a year or so, but it was not enough. We can’t even begin to imagine what you are going through as his parents.  We were initially neighbors when we both lived on B street, however our lives didn’t cross for a year until Alex took a shared interest in Ryan’s wheatgrass. Alex was very special to us and we miss him dearly. As Ryan put it, “he is a friend that we will never be able to replace. We will never meet someone like him again.”  He was such an incredible person and I know you two were an integral part in him becoming the man he was.

Yesterday at the park, many people shared stories about Alex. It really brought together all the different parts of Alex’s life and the people he had an impact on. We enjoyed hearing the stories that his colleagues and students shared. I thought that I would share a few memories and experiences that we had with Alex.

The first memory I have of Alex is before I met him, when I knew him as the neighbor that I would always see walking down the neighboring streets, oh so slowly. He truly took EVERYTHING in, never in a rush. The first time I ran into him on the trails I remember thinking, “oh wow, he runs!” and fast.

I will miss the dinners we would share. Alex would have us over, or he would come over to our place with a bag full of food and just cook. He was an amazing cook, truly appreciating the flavors and ingredients of what he put together. He loved to share this with people and it was fun to watch him work in the kitchen.

Many weekends, Ryan and Alex would go on adventures on the Ashland trails. For hours hiking and biking and talking.  I always looked forward to hearing fun Alex-isms when they returned, which leads to…

Alex’s humor, oh we will miss this. Subtle at times, but always good for a laugh. He used to joke that he thought we should chop off one of Willow’s legs (our dog) so that she would be on par with everyone else. As a puppy she has much too much energy, which I knew could wear thin on Alex, but secretly I think he loved her. He would say, “If I’m not back by such and such time, send Willow for me.”

Alex loved to teach and share his knowledge, and we loved to just listen and learn from him. The most valuable thing that he shared with us was his time.

Alex perfected bars. Ryan perfected joooose (juice). They talked of opening a “Joose and Bars” business.

I never truly enjoyed a yoga class until I took one of Alex’s. His silent yoga class was so powerful; even without talking Alex could teach and he had such a presence and impact. Sometimes, in between poses, he would come out with a one liners and have the whole room cracking up. No one will forget the glittery short shorts on holidays either.

For the several weeks leading up to Alex’s trip, we would make weekly trips up to Mt Ashland; packing Vanna White full of bikes and picnic stuff and spending the day on the trails. This weekend will be my first 50 miler, on those very trails. I will carry these and other memories with me during this race. Although jokingly at the time, I said last Saturday that I would wear tie-dye, his outfit of choice, for the race. As promised, I will be wearing tie-dye for him on Saturday. Alex’s presence and wonderful spirit is everywhere in Ashland and will live on in the places he loved and through the people that loved him.

You are in our thoughts,

Jessica and Ryan Lamanna

Notes to Alex Photos

A Note from Timothy Tillman

Hello All,

I’ve never met anyone like Alex and am forever grateful to call him friend….Thank you all for sharing your stories and love of him. It was especially moving to receive Buzz and Pat’s words.

This Sunday morning as the skies opened up and rain fell for the time in months here in Southern California my heart cracked open realizing my friend Alex was really gone. I met Alex right after he moved to Ashland and got to share close time together playing, riding, visioning the beauty of the world and drinking strange concoctions he would make in his blender.  His openness and joy for life touched me and we quickly became buds.

Again and again Alex’s willingness to lead with his heart in a gentle yet direct ways opened me and others around him. I loved his willingness to be himself at every turn and simultaneously demonstrate great care for those around him. By being truly himself he helped me to be more real. His insatiably curiosity and passion for adventure was contagious and took me places I would not have gone without him. Mostly, I want to praise Alex for his courage to let his light shine brightly into the world and to his parents for birthing and guiding such a pure love into the world. His light is alive in me as I am sure it is in you.  May we all foster this light in Alex’s honor.

Love to Alex and all of you, Timothy Tillman

People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.




Notes to Alex Photos