Seth Bowersox: Confusion's not a bad thing

This Seth Bowersox, the Seth Bowersox who directs donations onto the receiving dock at the Washington County ReStore, is an artist, a thinker, an observer of life.

Born in Portland, Seth and his family moved to a farm in Sunnyside, Washington when he was about 6 months old. Seth remembers four years spent growing asparagus and raising pigs and rabbits before the family moved to Forest Grove.

He's been out and about since then. Recently he moved back to Forest Grove after his landlord kept raising the rent on his southeast Portland apartment each month.

"[Forest Grove] is weird. There are like 27 churches so there's that dynamic," Seth points out. "There's a quirkiness that they don't want to accept, but it's there, it exists and that's why I like it."

Seth has always been into the arts. He's a painter, a sculptor, a musician, a photographer, a songwriter, an essayist.

On his one-hour TriMet commute to work, Seth takes note.

"Just little observations, like 'My Day on the Bus.' It's eventful always, ALWAYS!"

Seth Finds the Real Thing

Last year while helping remodel his parents' 1897 home, his dad brought Seth to the Washington County ReStore in search of some reclaimed trim.

"Right when I walked in I kind of fell in love with the place," Seth said. "There was a vibe, I guess would be the best way to explain it. Again, it was the quirkiness-there was a personality behind it, and you don't get that with a lot of places."

Soon Seth was working part time as a ReStore associate. Then in October, he stepped into the receiving supervisor position. He says working with donations keeps his creativity fully charged.

"It makes me think instead of just going to a dump, what can somebody do with this, or what would it take to make this appealing to somebody?" he said.

Seth is also refurbishing a set of old lanterns that were rusted and peeling and might have gone for scrap. He lightly sands each one and applies a brilliant coat of paint to finish it out. He talks about a shopper who upcycles corrugated irrigation pipe and turns it into giant decorative earth worms for gardens. Seth has plans to show off these makeovers on a DIY Projects wall (coming soon).

Working at other places you just clock in and clock out, but at The ReStore Seth says he finds warmth, an honesty, a realness. Substance.

He explains: "I got a big hug from a lady. She had just lost her dad. That's a weird thing to navigate, so I tried to navigate the best way I could--human to human. I let her know, 'Hey, we can take our time. It's cool. I'm in no rush.' And at the very end she gave me this big hug."

Still confused

How does Seth describe himself?

"Still confused after all these years," he says.

What  about? His response: "Everything. But, it's fine. It makes me feel like I'm continuously learning and trying to figure things out. It's not always going to be easy, and that doesn't mean that's bad. Every day you don't know what you're going to get - which is exciting. I find there's comfort in confusion because you're constantly on your toes. In my life, I've run into just the weirdest situations."

Seth the observer. It comes from the time he has allotted to observing human behavior, observing life, living it, and living homeless.

From Santa Monica then back to Portland, for a year and a half Seth Bowersox observed and experienced the homeless condition.

"I just kind of did the 22-year-old 'I'm hitting the road' whatever, and then, 'Oh, this is serious out here,'" he recalls.

He spent time working for Sisters of the Road, a non-profit cafe in Old Town serving meals to the homeless, and really taking in Portland's homeless dilemma.

"They are shadows to most people," he said of the homeless population. "They are almost like ghosts sometimes. Most of them just want to be listened to and heard, basically that they exist."

Seth the thinker.

He's heading back to his work now, climbing up into the forklift to shift a pallet of goods and make room for the next donation. A brief conversation with a volunteer, a quick but thorough assessment. He's got this.

"You know there are characters, there are people that you'd love to kind of spend time with. Like, even if I wasn't being paid to be here, I'd still-if I met these people, I'd want to hang out," he said. "I tell Brie [WCR store manager Brieana Weaver] all the time, this is like my family. So, I'm personally invested in making sure that everyone's alright."


ABOUT THAT NAME: BOWERSOX

According to Seth, the name Bowersox is an Americanized version of the German name Bauersachs. Apparently, in the 1500s two Scandinavian families, the Bauers and the Sachs, decided to settle in Germany and were united in a German church that still is still standing today. Bauersachs means "neighbor, fellow citizen" according to a Google search.

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