Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ange -

And if it should not be you, after all -
Down the long passage, turning in the hall;
Or slipping at a distance through the light
Of streetlamped corners just within my sight;
I will not then turn back into my room,
Chilled and disheartened wrapped in angry gloom;
But warm myself to think the mind should send
So many shades of you to be my friend...

Gordon R. Dickson

A real treestory from Highland Park, Rochester NY

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Wrench

Sometimes, when a wrench gets thrown into things, the results can be beautiful...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Goodbye Four Eyes!

I have been dependent on corrective lenses for sixteen years. For the last five or so of those years I have been contemplating laser eye surgery. Just the thought of being able to open my eyes in the ocean or wake up in the middle of the night and see the time on my alarm clock or watch a movie from the back row or go for a jog on a windy day or go camping and not have to worry about dropping a contact in the dirt - all of these things would be a dream come true - and finally that dream came true. For the last 24 hours I have had 20/20 vision - without glasses or contacts. Yesterday I underwent the Lasik procedure to correct the myopia that has been a burden since I was sixteen years old. It is a miracle. I could see immediately. Riding home from the surgery in my sister's car I began laughing robustly. My sister asked me what was wrong. Nothing was wrong. I could read every street sign and every business sign as if I were wearing glasses. But I wasn't! I was giddy with delight. I could see! I could see everything! This gift of sight is phenomenal. I can only imagine how much better it will be once my eyes have completely healed and my vision becomes even sharper.

Now for the educational part (because I'm a bit of a geek):

LASIK stands for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis and is a procedure that permanently changes the shape of the cornea, the clear covering of the front of the eye, using an excimer laser. An instrument, called a microkeratome, is used to cut a flap in the cornea, leaving a hinge at one end of the flap. The flap is folded back reavealing the stroma, the middle section of the cornea, and pulses from a computer-controlled laser vaporize a portion of the stroma changing the shape of the cornea. Then the flap is replaced and smoothed back over the eye. The cornea helps focus light to create an image on the retina, much like the lens of a camera focuses light to create an image on film. By reshaping the cornea its focusing power can be improved and, thereby, vision corrected.

My attractive post-op goggles

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Imperial Cities of Morocco

After getting used to seat-less toilets, persistent touts, and pervasive feral cats, Morocco really is the most invigorating of places. My sister Sarah and I took a whirlwind ten-day trip this past October to get lost and wowed by a country that is equally old world and bustling metropolis. From the daily calls to prayer infiltrating the cities through loudspeakers to the mule drivers shouting "balak" (look out) in the medinas, to the pungent smell of the Fes tanneries - this small North African country is a sensory overload.

Knowing zero Arabic and little French, it was a big relief to meet up with my AT hiker friend, Mack, who was doing a semester abroad in Ilfrane. She can carry on a whole conversation in Arabic (which turned out to be a disadvantage when we found ourselves on a 40 minute taxi ride with a loquacious and persistent driver who wanted Mack to marry his son). All Moroccan craziness aside, we had great time fumbling around the medinas, sipping mint tea at sidewalk cafes, and searching for hotels with clean sheets.
See more pictures on Shutterfly - click on the link at right under "Moments Captured".

Sunday, July 20, 2008

From Anthracite to Adventure

Near the end of West Broadway Street in Jim Thorpe, PA the Mauch Chunk Creek flows freely and visbly underneath an old stone factory from the 1800s - now an eclectic restaurant called Flow. It is a working example of a local farm to table enterprise, and the food is varied and delectable!

I took off to Jim Thorpe to hear some music - the Ryan Montbleau Band to be precise - and ended up loving the area, its complex and tumultous history, muliple recreational possiblities, the beauty of the Lehigh Valley and Pocono Mountains, and the independent shops and cafes that lined the town.

I treated myself at Flow Bar + Restaurant to the Blind Moose Cabernet Sauvignon and for dinner chose the pan fried planko pork with strawberry asparagus salad and local rhubarb chutney. They also served homemade bread with a red wine butter. It couldn't have been any better if I had my own table in a private nook of the restaurant overlooking the flowing waters of Mauch Chunk Creek - but it was! Because I did! The food was delicious and the ambience was warm and comfortable - especially for someone dining alone.
Jim Thorpe was bustling this weekend, likely because of the damn release and the triathalon on Sunday, and lodging was hard to come by. I was fortunate to find a cozy room just outside of town at the Canal Side Guest House, an 1820s house on the Lehigh Canal. After an amazing show by the Ryan Montbleau Band at the Mauch Chunk Opera House, I went back to the guest house and slept soundly until daybreak when I woke and prepared to head out in search of some bike trails.

The Jim Thorpe area is the perfect hub for multiple outdoor pursuits, including biking, hiking, and boating. I spent three hours pedaling on the Lehigh Gorge Trail, stopping occassionally to watch as the rafters and kayakers floated down the Lehigh River. The day was incredibly hot and even I took off my shoes and waded into the river to cool down.

Later I went to a little cafe called Through the Looking Glass, where I had a Cheshire Cat pizza for lunch, then took a tour of the Carbon County Jail in town (where the Molly Maguires were hanged in 1877), and wandered around looking in gift shops and marveling at architechture.

By 5pm the shops were all closed and the hot humid day had taken it's toll. I was ready to go home. 574 miles, 24 hours, and 2 tanks of gas was all it took for me to explore a little bit of the history, culture, and activity of the old coal mining town of Mauch Chunk. Well worth with.

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Oh the miraculous energy that flows between two people who care enough to get beyond surfaces and games, who are willing to take the risks of being totally open, of listening, of responding with the whole heart. How much we can do for each other." -Alex Noble

Monday, April 7, 2008

How Many Times?

"There's a friend that I once knew and before his days were through, he was dark and stormy but he could laugh at all the world. I loved and took it all in stride and though I laughed on the outside, I'd give my life to take the loneliness that he had to endure ... How many times? How many times did I get to see my friend alive and think nothing of it? How many times? How many times did I look upon his face, how many times? And though he's gone now, I have this song now. And I still get to sit here, remembering the lines. And though I'm not yet under, I can't help but wonder: will I get this chance again and how many times?

There's a simple understanding in the moments undemanding of our notice. Years build up from months and days until we're suddenly afraid of what we've chosen. Have I done all that I can? Could I have been a better man? I need to do more with these moments, need to do more with less time..."
Ryan Montbleau

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Vision Is Not Enough

Life is good here in Rochester NY. I haven't left yet, or even had any great adventures since returning home from the trail. Just brief travels and small pleasures. It was quite what I needed though. To be home. Near family and friends. Work a mundane desk job. Get into a "normal" routine. All this has been a good thing. Because it reminds me how much I hate normalcy. Complacency. Mediocrity. Because now I'm ready to crack the shell. Do something a little more challenging. Attend to my curiosity.

So, what's next? Not exactly sure. But I'm always thinking and scheming. Written on my bathroom mirror is "Vision is not enough. It must be combined with venture." (Vaclav Havel). Just a little reminder that, although planning is good, it can't be all there is. I know when the time is right, I'll make my move. In the meantime, I'll be getting ready for the next thing.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Way Young Lovers Do

We've had the heavy white stuff here. I was so intent on walking to the public market this morning, but with the wind chill it was about a whopping 17 degrees, so I split the difference and parked at Village Gate and walked the second half of it. It was such a beautifully bright sunny morning that I almost didn't notice I couldn't really feel my fingertips. A brisk one to be sure! Didn't stop me from perusing every booth and buying some red onions and ginger root, which I promptly made some tea with upon returning home.

I love days like this. When you know that spring is teetering on the brink of center stage, but winter has to make just one last appearance, so they compromise, and the result is blue skies and sunshine, bitter cold winds, and dahlias poking their noses out in overgrown flowerbeds while branches arch toward earth, heavy with precipitation.

I most recently saw Into the Wild and, since reading the book while backpacking, would have to say the director did a phenomenal job at sticking to the story. Most movies rarely do justice to their source, but this one did. In a remarkable, gut-wrenching, inspiring, horrific way. I had to re-read the book again immediately after watching the movie to be sure. And yes. It's there. Beautiful and powerful and moving. Something about that story just gets me at the core. Sure, there's lots of controversy over the story - particularly about Chris - but you either "get it" or you don't. I'm sure you can figure out which camp I'm in. And if you have no idea what I'm talking about, then I'm sure you could figure it out anyway, just by knowing me.

Well, Van Morrison's vocals "dreamed of the way we were and the way that we wanted to be" are belting through my speakers, drowning out the party upstairs, and I am reminded that another day is on its way out. I am reluctant to let go of it. Wanting to squeeze every last drop from it that I can. But time comes when one must just accept enough is enough and succumb to sleep and the prospect of a new day.

I hope there are more like this one to come...

Intellectual Adventure

I had hoped that the 24th of March would be a bright, sunny spring day. But it is a brisk, sunless, snowy morning here in Rochester, and that is okay too. You know, I'm not keen on talking about the weather. It is what it is and there's not much we can do about it, so I say we just go about our business regardless. But for some reason, people just love to talk about the weather. For one thing, it's easy. It's right in front of us - we can feel it, see it, smell it, taste it. Requires little or no intellectual capacity to discuss. We can be objective about it. Never have to reveal any true feeling or emotion. And it's always changing - for better or worse - and change is exciting, no matter who you are.

Change is what I thrive on. I yearn for it. Seek it. Try to induce it. Someone asked me recently what was the last intellectual adventure I went on.

That question has been on my mind for weeks. I love that question. I want to ask everyone the very same thing. More out of curiosity as to how they would interpret it than what their actual response would be. I have not decided exactly how I want to interpret it, but that is probably because I am analyzing it too much, as I do most things.

Intellectual adventure. Wow. The concept intrigues me. Probably because adventure in general intrigues me. Excites me. Gives me hope. In some ways, I feel that most of my adult life has been an intellectual adventure. At least for me. A day in which I do not feel motivated to learn something new or step outside my comfort zone or seek understanding in uncommon ways - even in the slightest - is a day in which I have not felt alive. A desire to contribute to a higher purpose, to push my limits, to learn from others - this is what drives me.

For the last eight years I have anguished over whether or not to go back to "school", get a Master's degree, move farther up the "professional ladder". This thought process has been especially pertinent in the last two years since finishing my AT thru-hike and trying to determine which path to go down next. I believed more and more that getting another degree would be my next big intellectual adventure. I even got a job in higher education. I had a program and a school picked out. I was ready to apply for this upcoming fall term. And for a moment in time, the decision seemed effortless. The years of wondering whether or not this was the right course of action finally seemed to pay off. Of course I should go back to college! This is next logical step. This makes sense. This is what people silently expect of me.

But then, recently, I had an epiphany. I came back to reality. My reality. The realization that everything that has ever really mattered to me in life and the things that have molded me into who I am I did not learn sitting in a classroom. Nor, surprisingly, can I only learn by sitting in classroom. I am primarily self-taught in all the things I have accomplished. I have learned by living. And I prefer it that way. A Master's degree won't actually make my life any more complete than would binge-shopping out of self-pity. A Master's degree won't actually make me more money because it would put me further in debt to acquire it. A Master's degree won't actually make me any more qualified to do the kind of work that I love to do. I am already as qualified, if not more, than the person whose experience is relegated to text books, powerpoint presentations, and purposeless exams. For me, a Master's degree is not the answer to my searching, my longing for intellectual adventure.

Don't misunderstand. I love education. I love learning. I thrive on it. And I do take classes. All sorts. And I am not repudiating the value of a Master's degree (or any certificate of higher education), but I have finally had the epiphany that I no longer need to worry about whether or not it's for me. Whether or not it's what I'm supposed to do. I no longer feel compelled by some unknown force to go through with it. At least not right now. Some day, maybe. I may want to go back to college. I may want to commit to one thing. But, not right now. My interests are too varied and diverse. I cannnot settle on any one program of study. Just as soon as I think I've figured out exactly what my concentration should be, I am reminded that to take that path would be to forsake all the others. And I can't do that. I want to learn all sorts of things. I want to try my hand in an array of jobs. Work for all kinds of people. In all kinds of circumstances, situations and environments. I cannot settle. I cannot pick one thing. This used to bug the hell out of me! I used think I was flawed. A freak. Why couldn't I just figure out what I'm supposed to be doing and do it? But I've accepted that I am not that person. And it doesn't bother me anymore. I understand now that what I'm supposed to be doing is living my life as an intellectual adventure. And an adventurer does not confine herself to one trail, one path to go down indefinitely. An adventurer is always open to possibility. Always learning. Always seeking out new challenges, new places, new people. And that is who I am content to be. Indefinable.

So, that may or may not have answered the question but trying to answer it has helped me remember who I am and what I love.

I have always had an agitation of the soul. And only recently have I interpreted this as a good thing.