Member Profile: Jeff Williams

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Bove: Here’s what we know: You retired, purchased an olive grove in Esparto, CA, and opened an olive oil company called Moonrise Grove. Wow! What has been the most interesting part of this new chapter in your life?

Williams: A hard question to answer since everything about ‘retirement’ has been an interesting adventure. During the last week of my old job I wrote a Dr. Suess’ style poem as a farewell letter to my coworkers. It probably best reflects the excitement I feel about this new chapter of life:

Need Time

Grandchildren that need spoiling
Olives that need toiling

Orchards that need mowing
Crops that need sowing

Fruits that need picking
Ice creams that need licking

Plans that need making
Dreams that need waking

Rivers that need running
Parts that need sunning

Trout that need catching
Ideas that need hatching

Books that need writing
Friends that need inviting

Bonfires that need tending
Beverages that need blending

Mountain trails that need hiking
Country roads that need biking

Photos that need taking
Romance that needs making

Rocks that need climbing
And, poems that need rhyming

B: That is beautiful! What has changed the most?

Sacramento Pipeworks W: For those of you old enough to remember the Green Acres TV show where the head-strong city dweller Oliver Wendell Douglas dragged his wife to a dilapidated farm in the country, possessing none of the skills needed to succeed as a farmer – well, our story isn’t much different.

Nowadays, instead of managing soulless computer networks in the city, I’ve started from scratch, learning on the job how to manage our grove of old Mission olive trees in the Capay Valley region of Yolo County. When I get up each morning the first thing I see isn’t fifteen feet of manicured lawn; now I’m liable to see chickens, sheep, cattle, galloping horses, you name it, and green fields to the horizon. Although I was born in Calaveras County and spent a lot of time in rural and mountainous settings as a kid, when in the company of our agricultural neighbors I still feel like a city slicker, mostly because I have such a long way to go mastering specific farming skills, physical operations, and business-wise.

Sacramento Pipeworks

B: I know firsthand that the quality of your product is exceptional! What can you tell people about Moonrise Grove that we may not know?

W:Jayne and I dubbed our new digs Moonrise Grove, because we look forward to each full moon when the rows of knurled trees cast beautiful elongated shadows in a surreal scene reminiscent of Van Gogh.

Approximately a century old, Moonrise Grove was not irrigated for at least thirty years before we arrived. Fortunately olive trees are resilient and under the right conditions can survive untended longer than a thousand years. The semi-arid Mediterranean type microclimate in the Capay Valley seems to be perfect for olives. The one hundred and thirty-five trees comprising our grove more than survived the neglect, thriving in an herbicide and pesticide free naturally organic state.

Sacramento Pipeworks We happily discovered that the age range of our olive trees is desirable for producing the most flavorful and healthful extra virgin oil (EVO). Our family and friends raved about the oil resulting from our first harvest in the autumn of 2014. For 2015, the California Olive Oil Council’s taste panel, as well as an independent lab, confirmed the superior quality of our EVO!

We wouldn’t be off the ground without our climbing community friends going all in and supporting our fledgling olive oil business, from helping with the harvest to promoting and purchasing our product. The entire Pipeworks community and staff have been very supportive from the start, and we truly appreciate it.

B: You’ve been a staple of the Pipeworks community for years! How did you to find a home here with us, and what keeps you around?

Sacramento Pipeworks W: Working downtown near the Capitol, I would often drive by the Pipeworks building and find myself drawn to the industrial-retro look of the place. So one day, shortly after my friend introduced me to gym climbing at Granite Arch, I decided to give Pipeworks a try! From the moment I stepped inside, I felt welcome and at home.

B: Finish this sentence: I climb mostly because….

W:…it was a primal, formative, and nature-connecting experience when I was young. Now, it is still is a physical and beautiful activity to me, but it is more about the relationships I’ve built.

B: If your friends would be able to describe you in 3 words, which would they choose?

W: I prefer to believe they would say loyal, empathetic, and introspective. In reality, they might say eccentric, absent-minded, and dreamer. Wait, that’s six words ….

B: In life, would you rather be liked or respected?

That is a really interesting question. My wife, Jayne, often describes me as a ‘recovering pleaser’. Through much trial and error, I have learned that for my personality type I have to be ever vigilant that my deep need to be liked doesn’t get the upper-hand on common sense. Self-respect is everything. Without it, respect from others means little and being liked, even less. Compromising core values to be liked corrodes the soul and is downright dangerous.

I have many stories from a misguided youth (and beyond) when the powerful need to be liked/accepted by my peers or an older admired person caused me to do foolish things.

An early but prime example would be an incident during my freshman year in high school (1971) when, in the course of trying to impress a clique of seniors in the hope that they would invite me to hang out, I accidentally and spectacularly over-dosed on the barbiturate, Seconal, in front of nearly everyone at my school.

The day it happened I had ingested a 40mg ‘border red’ pill every thirty minutes from first-period class onward. After some wildly inappropriate behavior on my part during the class preceding lunch and a cool teacher who didn’t turn me in, I staggered to the outdoor campus area and ordered a milkshake from the snack bar. That was when the barbiturate came on like a freight train and I hit a concrete deck face down, splattering my milkshake in front of most of the student body who were outside eating lunch on this warm spring afternoon. I remember the coolness of the ice cream on my face as everything went black. I don’t remember the ambulance at all and I don’t remember having my stomach pumped at the UCD Medical Center. I do remember a brief time where I became conscious and, for no reason, violently swept a bunch of stuff from the top of a rolling tray all over the ER floor. This resulted in being forcibly tied down in four-point restraints. I didn’t wake up again until a day later.

Anyway, I’m sharing this unflattering episode (which earned me the ignominious nickname “Burnout” for the remainder of high school) to illustrate how an early close call and some doozies yet to come well into my adulthood, helped shape my thinking about likability versus respectability.

Susceptibility to peer pressure can be as strong a force as gravity, especially in a life-risking pursuit like outdoor rock climbing. A few years out of high school I connected with climber a bit older than me and more experienced whom I admired quite a bit. Fortunately, he turned out to be a more self-actualized and centered person than I was. He modeled for me how not to follow the trend or the popular, but rather make one’s own decisions about equipment, technique, and most importantly, whether or not to lead a climb on any given day or any given conditions or, with any given partner.

As a pleaser type by nature and having a propensity for taking certain kinds of risk, especially when wanting to impress and to be liked, I have always considered my old friend’s early mentoring to be a life-saver. I respect him and I like him – because I respect him.

Now, nearly 61 years young, I am extremely fortunate to have a great group of close climbing friends, anyone of whom I would trust with my life because I respect them.

B: Being an appreciator of art, music, and food, how do you feel that each complement one another?

W: I have to confess that I have been relatively illiterate when it comes to art, music, and food – in the sense that I don’t really follow developments or know who is who – I just know what I like when I stumble across it. I guess most people are that way, maybe not always by choice but the demands of modern life have a way of pushing personal delights to the bottom of the priority list.

Being newly retired, I suddenly find myself wanting to become current with art, music, food, and not least, my early loves – reading fiction and seeing films.

I hope to integrate my renewed interest for these things into our daily life, intertwining classic and contemporary creative elements into a country lifestyle, partly to retain a connection with civilization but mostly to try and foster a love for the arts in our five grandchildren, who visit often. And, of course, who doesn’t like great food, music, and art around?

B: Which artists, living or dead, would you invite to your perfect dinner party?

Artist: Van Gogh
Musician: Bob Marley and the Wailers
Chef: Tyler Florence
Film Director: Federico Fellini
Author: Harper Lee

I think this would be a fascinating mix and it definitely wouldn’t be a slow evening with Bob Marley and the Wailers performing – I can attest to that.

B: Miracles can happen, so if you won the 1.5B Powerball jackpot, what would be the biggest change that would happen in your world?

Sacramento Pipeworks W: That’s easy. I would fund the non-profit organization my wife recently founded called All Leaders Must Serve. It is a youth leadership program in Yolo County formed to empower young adults 15-25 years of age by instilling purpose, character, work ethic, and the desire to give back to their community as self-sufficient adults through the service of mentoring. The pilot program is flourishing in a public continuation high-school, and awareness of ALMS is spreading throughout the county. It’s wonderful to see ALMS becoming known for its unique integrated approach to helping solve the intractable problem of under-privileged and under-served youth in some communities.

We’re so lucky to be surrounded by an amazing community at each Touchstone Climbing gym. Each month, Jason Bove interviews and profiles one member at Sacramento Pipeworks.