Archive for the '26in26' Category

J is for the Jazz

Before confusion sets in let me say the Jazz is not Jazz music. While I do enjoy all types of music this is about a different kind of Jazz.

Jersey, Cleats and Nostalgia

I played for the Jazz from 1996-2002, ages 8 to 14. That is a lot of time in kid years. Soccer was my life when I was growing up. It was my identity.

There are many memories, some more vivid than others, that are stirred up as the fall weather makes its appearance. There were the countless hours I spent in my dad’s Saturn driving to games all over Jersey. The myriad of tournaments we played in, where often the highlight of the day was getting to eat junk food, a hot dog wrapped in tin foil and a can of coke. There was the breakaway on a rainy day where I shot the ball and promptly slipped on to my back in the mud. As I spun around and stared at the gray sky I remember hearing the cheers from the sidelines. As soon as I heard it I knew my shot had found the net. It was like a scene from a movie.

I’m thankful for all the things being on a team taught me. The value of practice, perseverance, responsibility, teamwork, self-control, graciously winning and losing, and the list goes on. I’m still learning many of those lessons.

I’m especially thankful that my father was the assistant coach for all those years. It didn’t occur to me until a few years after I played my last game how lucky I was to have him there (even when he drove me crazy). He sacrificed time and energy to be at all the games (and many practices). I wish I could tell him how much it means to me now but, I guess the best thing I can do is do the same for my own kids someday.

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I is for Ithaka

Killarney National Park on Bike The first time I heard C.P. Cavafy’s Ithaka was at my father’s memorial service. My mom chose it, as I recall, because it was a poem my father admired. It was fitting for the man he was, a man who viewed life as a journey, whose reward was the journey itself. That is one lesson he passed on to me (and one I’m still trying to learn).

I come back to this poem often. It reminds me of the kind person I want to be, the kind of journey I wish to take and how at this very moment I am already on the road.

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

(Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard – Cavafy Archive)

Road to the Shore

H is for Home

Once again I am back at my 26 in 26 I started three years ago. I’m still working my way through the alphabet of things in my life that I am thankful for. Maybe by the time I’m 30 I’ll reach the end of the alphabet.

Sending Letters From Home

Home. If we are lucky home is a word associated with good feelings. Most of my life home has been a small suburb of New Jersey.

Jersey is home to the cul-de-sac I ran up and down during my childhood summers and distant memories of countless skinned knees and scars. It holds the foundations of  the schools whose halls I walked for 13 years. The lessons of the teachers that changed me. It is filled with the fields I played hours of soccer on and all the goals, fouls, wins and hard fought losses that go along with them. The bridge I had my first kiss and the cafeteria of my first dance. The roads I spent countless hours driving nowhere in particular with my friends. The final resting place of my father and the garden he grew.

I was very fortunate to grow up in a good home. With cousins who lived two houses down from me, best friends who lived three down and grandparents who lived  just a few more miles away.

Even though I live in Virginia now and consider it my home, Jersey will always be where it all began. Its soil holds the roots of my story.

Yellow & Red

G is for Grass

I know that grass sometimes gets a bad rap in this day and age. The idea of the gated-community with its pristine lawns, perfectly green, manicured and weed free, seems to be a symbol of upper-class indulgence. Rather than focus on the sometimes crazy things that people do to show off their wealth I want to focus on what grass meant to me as kid growing up.

L-R: Thom, my brother Tim, Me, Kate (Thom & Kate are essentially my siblings too)

We always had a nice thick lawn. My father had the ability to make just about anything grow (in fact I could be doing this post on his garden). The kind of lawn you could run barefoot on and not worry about hitting a bare patch with a potentially deadly rock shard embedded in it. But it seemed like every kid on our street had a good lawn to play on. Whether we were playing running bases, tag, or any number of pretend games, you could be sure that the lawn padded us from the many spills we took in over exuberance to get somewhere. I still enjoy the look of grass stained jeans.

 

Thom and I at a Tee-Ball Game

Of course big grassy areas were the best. On these fields you could play outfield in tee-ball (a position where you mostly stared at the grass because the ball never came out that far) or if you drew a big rectangle on a patch of grass you had a soccer field waiting to be played on. The smell of spring and fresh cut grass still beckons me come to a field with a soccer ball at my feet. I spent countless hours at these rectangular soccer fields all over NJ. Sweating, running, kicking, passing, shoving, sliding, diving.

Grassy hill on MW campus & my feet

I still love walking barefoot on grass or sprinting across a field after lacing up a pair of cleats. Grass is the plant that prevents suburbia from being washed away in the rain, the stuff that childhood memories are literally built upon, a space to play. And if you are lucky enough to stare up at the stars in the middle of a big field, the grass will provide a soft place for you to lay and get lost in the cosmos.

F is for Feynman

Last November I started a 26 letters in 26 days. I never got past the letter “E” but I figure it is worth picking it up again and see how far through the alphabet I can get again.

F is for Feynman, Richard Feynman. If you don’t know who Richard Feynman was check out his wikipedia page. Feynman was more than a brilliant physicist. He was a teacher, bongo player, safe-cracker and whatever else he put his mind to. I discovered Feynman back in late 2007 when I was taking a physics class at the University and enjoyed it much more than I thought I ever would enjoy a physics class.

For Christmas I asked for a book of his and my brother bought me The Meaning of it All. Feynman’s book, which is actually a publication of a lecture series he gave, examines meta questions of science and of life and the joys of uncertainty. He deeply understood that learning was more than remembering a series of equations and that being able to apply knowledge to new and unknown situations was what what deep knowledge was about. Feynman is both insightful and humorous and the wisdom he shares has helped shape my own journey as a learner and someone that wants to better appreciate the value of science. It is not enough to read Feynman though, you need to see the man in action. He is the type of guy whose enthusiasm for learning is so great he literally cannot sit still when he talks about ideas. Go to YouTube, there are plenty of Feynman videos there, but here is one on atoms:

I adore Feynman for his honesty, brilliance and wit. I am thankful for people like Richard Feynman who have inspired me in many ways and who have pushed my thinking. Lastly I’d like to share what Feynman said about Nature through the examination of wine:

E is for Eyes

A complex piece of evolution that sits right above our noses everyday (hopefully!), the eye is sweet piece of human engineering.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Look Into My Eyes

Somehow I have managed to avoid the blight of poor eyesight that plagues the rest of my family and so I feel doubly blessed to see unimpaired. Considering that I’ve never experienced what it is like to not be able to see clearly, I find it hard to comprehend not being able to see the nuances of the world that surrounds me with my own two eyes (pun sort of intended). And I know I need to value my good sight because who knows how long it will last.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Thomas Shahan

Besides the fact that I have good vision I find the evolutionary development of the eye fascinating. When you look at the emergence of basic forms of life (in the Animal kingdom) they seem to across the board evolve towards being able to see. From the first photo-sensitive cells to more and more complex forms of vision, life on this planet has a strong desire to see. In addition, when we consider how everything in this universe is connected by basic elements that were birthed in the bellies of stars long ago; the evolution of eyes can been seen as a deeply connected universe’s desire to reflect on and appreciate itself.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Thomas Hawk

C is for California

I have only been to California twice in my life for a total of 2 weeks.IMG_0382 But both those weeks are intensely ingrained in my memory as times of physical exuberance and spiritual exploration. The two trips were at a small camp of 20 or so people and each day had a different adventure in store. Whether it was climbing mountains, kayaking or mountain boarding the camp kept us moving. In the midst of all this action there was time for deep conversation, questioning, frustrations and tears.

Before the trip even began I was excited to go to California because it was the place my father and my aunt spent a good part of their young adult years. I know there are many stories my father never had a chance to tell me and I wish more than anything I could have heard. My aunt does her best to relay the stories she remembers and she was a part of but, she’ll never be able to tell me what it was like to hike in the sierra mountain range for weeks at a time. So in a small way journeying to California was a way to reconnect with my father’s past as if somehow it still lingered out there in the mountains or on the streets of San Francisco.

IMG_0764

I remember that on the day we hiked a moutain (whose name I can’t recall) on the way back down the mountain I was separated from everybody in my group. Initially I thought nothing of it but as the way back down took longer and longer I became increasingly nervous. It was the most alone I have ever been in my life, no one near me, no sounds of vehicles or “the world”. In the middle of wondering whether I had gone back down the right way a butterfly appeared and landed on my shirt. I remember freezing and just staring at this creature, who just as quickly as it landed took off again. It was the first time in my life that I felt there was something out there that was bigger than me on this planet. I nearly fell to my knees I was so overwhelmed with emotions and to this day I can’t accurately explain what happened in that brief moment.


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