Tag Archives: Personal essay

I Just Had A Birthday . . .

I just had a birthday and I realized that my life is a mess.

Well maybe that is a little harsh, but I did just turn 43. That in itself is a soul shaking event.  Most people talk about how turning 50 is a big deal, but how about 40?  Then it keeps going, 41, 42, and now 43.  I feel as lost and unfulfilled as I did 3 years ago.  Except now I am staring down that slippery slope of “it’s too late”. 

The bright side of this horrible revelation brought on by the aging process is that my professional life is good.   I have two jobs and I like them both.  I make enough money to not have to worry about food and can pay the utilities.  The people I work with are decent and sometimes even fun to be around.  It is that other part of life that is a struggle for me. That side of life that is supposed to bring you joy and happiness: the personal side.

My marriage has become stale laced with undercurrents of animosity. My social life has dried up and is almost non-existent.  Any hobbies of mine have all but disappeared.  My goal of being able to write and travel has faded into the background.  And I am 43.

Maybe it’s just a midlife crisis.

I remember when I had my quarter-life crisis.  That was an upheaval.  I quit drinking (been sober ever since), broke up with my girlfriend, and got a new job.  I moved into this little one bedroom apartment with my dog.  The rent was cheap and I still think I paid too much.  The walls were drafty, I fell through the bathroom floor, and my neighbor was a seriously strange character.  I had two spoons, two forks, two plates, two bowls, and two glasses.  I stopped by the grocery store on the way home most nights to pick up dinner and sat on the porch during the summer eating TV dinners and watching the world pass me by.  Ahh, the good old days!

I am not sure if this is what I want now.  But I have decided that I am not going to go quietly into the second half of my life.  I have declared that this year I am going to take back my life.  I am going to recreate my world.  I am going to reestablish my sense of self.  I am going to renew my life and find the joy and happiness that I have been missing.  Now I am sure I will run into road blocks and fits of depression, but I have set some goals and created a personal manifesto of change.

  • I will exercise and run more. (Today I ran 4.5 miles in 29 degree weather. It was a little cold and well worth it.)
  • I will join a running club. (Done! I ordered my shirt today.)
  • I will write more. (Started writing again last week and gave the blog a face lift.  I can’t believe it has been 4 years since I last wrote anything here.)
  • I will stay connect with friends. (I finally joined Facebook. Thinking this might help me keep in touch with those old friends.)
  • I will stand up for myself and take back my time. (This will probably be the hardest thing to do because it will cause conflict.  I don’t really like conflict.)

I know it sounds like I have just made a list of New Year’s Resolutions, and maybe I have. The challenge with these, and all resolutions, is sticking with them.  Every year the nightly news does several pieces on how all our resolutions fail and that we are really looking at change in the wrong way.  We should be making little changes that we can incorporate into our lives and not disrupt our patterns of behavior.  I get that.  But I want to go big.  I want to be the person who says, “The best decision of my life was to follow my dreams and everything else just fell into place.”  Now that would make for an epic 43rd year.

 

 

 

 


Eyes in the Dark

eyeshine from flong.com

eyeshine from flong.com

It’s cold, dark, and quiet. I can hear the gravel crunching under my boots with every step.  I glance upwards to see the silhouettes of bare tree branches in the night sky.  It’s early still and I am out before most people wake up.  Stirred by bit of insomnia and a quest for solitude, Ava and I begin our 2 mile morning walk. 

Soon my walk becomes darker as the road bends and trees shift from mixed hardwoods to a collection of softwood trees.  The Fir and Spruce trees, with their branches filled with needles, diminish the amount of moonlight that reaches my path.  The increased darkness becomes paired with a gentle cold breeze that sends a chill through me. As I continue up the road, passing the old logging path on the right and then the entrance to the hunting camp on the left, an uncomfortable feeling sweeps over me.  The darkness and the cold has transformed my peaceful morning stroll into an eerie hike into the unknown.

The woods thin out on my left and my eyes are drawn toward to the clearing.  At first I don’t see anything, but then my light catches the reflection of a pair of squinty eyes out in the darkness.  The eyes seem to stand about six feet tall.  They are steady, persistent, and look back at me.  My mind races to identify the owner of the eyes.  Maybe it’s a cat . . . no  a raccoon . . .  a deer . . .  a bear . . .   a werewolf . . .  a monster . . .  a hatchet wielding maniac.

eyeshine-from-askville-amazon-com.jpg

“Ok, slow down and breath”, I say to myself, “these horror movie marathons you are watching are not helping right now”. 

 

I soon recognize that I have engaged in a staring contest with the eyes in the darkness. We are locked in battle to see who moves first.  Ava, who has become bored with this part of the road, finally tugs on the end of her leash. I lose my balance, stumble, and look away from the eyes.  When I regained my footing and look back into the woods, the eyes are gone.  Our encounter is over.

Coming to terms with the fact that the eyes had slipped back into the woods, Ava and I continued on towards the end of the road.  As we walked, I contemplate the idea that even in the darkness of the early morning on a deserted road you are rarely ever completely alone in nature.

 

 


Salamanders

The weather was different that morning.  It was warmer and just the start of the fall season.  It was early morning and I was comfortable walking the dogs with just an old sweatshirt to keep the occasional cool breeze off my skin.  It was dark, very little moonlight and a patchy cloud covered sky.  You often really can’t tell cloud cover at night, but you know when it is thick because things seem darker than normal and the LED lights on the headlamp seem to struggle to light the ground.  But that morning, the light moved more freely and it reflected off the moisture of the rocks in the road. 

I have traveled this road many times before, over a thousand times perhaps.   That morning things were moving along as normal until my light glistened off a dark object near the edge of the road. 

 I approached the object slowly, mainly concerned that it might be something that I didn’t want the dogs to eat.  As I got closer, my eyes focused in on the object.  It was slightly rounded and presented the classic crescent shape of a resting salamander.  Yet it was larger than most salamanders I have seen, and much larger than the Red Efts I see on many spring mornings. I quickly realized that I was looking at a medium size Spotted Salamander. 

A Spotter Salamander photo borrowed from Maine Audobon

A Spotter Salamander photo borrowed from Maine Audobon

A Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) can grow up to nine inches long, but this was seemed closer to six inches long.  Its bluish black body had several yellow spots irregularly spaced on its back which provided great contrast in the reflection of my headlamp.  The Spotted Salamander is the largest of Vermont’s salamanders and spends most of its time living underground in mole holes or mouse tunnels.  This was truly quite a treat to see this creature in the wild.   The Spotted Salamander is an elusive animal and I have spent several early spring evenings searching for migrating salamanders in the wetland and woods around my house with no success.  Unfortunately, my excitement was short lived as I began to suspect this Salamander was dead.

I kneeled down on the side of the road.  The Spotted Salamander became circled in a beam of light from my headlamp.  I slowly reached down and touched him.  He was cold, moist, and made no attempt to move.  I picked him up and he showed the distinct indications that it had been run over by a car. I held him for a moment before I moved him off to the side of the road.  I placed the Salamander in the tall grass on the side of the road as I felt like this was the best way to show respect to this beautiful and mysterious creature.   I took a moment to let the mixed emotions of this event pass over me before I got up and continued on my walk a little more aware of the fragility of life.

Picture of a Spotted Salamander borrowed from www.wildlife.state.nh.us

Picture of a Spotted Salamander borrowed from http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us

Red Eft picture borrowed from National Geographic

Red Eft picture borrowed from National Geographic

 


1985 and today

On Monday afternoon I was driving north on I-89.  I was heading back toward Stowe from a meeting in the southern part of the State.  It was a clear day, probably about 70 degrees, and the start of  fall foliage season.  My cruise control was set at 68 mph and my radio was tuned to the independent radio station.  They were playing a song from the 1980s.  It was that title track from the movie The Breakfast Club, Simple Minds’ Don’t You (Forget About Me).  As the song played and I could almost see Judd Nelson strutting off over the football field behind the school after getting the prom queen’s earring, thrusting his arm into the air in a hormone filled victory.  Classic.

As the song began to fade out and the DJ came back on the radio, the monotony of the road and the weather report began to take its effect.  My mind drifted back to 1985 as the radio slipped into 10 minutes of commercials. 

I was probably about 12 when I first saw the Breakfast Club.  At that time I really connected with the movie.   My teenage angst was emerging and their story was my story.  The characters were so real and the actor’s lived as I could only imagine.  As I grew older, my angst increased and my anger grew.  When I was 16 or 17 I had my first Saturday detention, but it was nothing like theirs.  There was no smoking pot in the library and I never did get to kiss the prom queen.  But at that time I was still alive with emotion, optimism, and self-righteousness.  

Twenty years later, here I am driving 68 mph in my economical Honda, cruise control set to keep the speed down.  No more detentions or speeding tickets for that matter.   As the more daring and reckless drivers passed me by, I wondered where did my angst go?  What happened to that edge of anger that surged through me as a young adult?  When did I slip into the world of the professional human services worker wearing the khakis and button down shirt every day?  

In the 1980s I felt alive; in 2013 I am searching for what it means to be human. When I was 16 it was so simple and the world was new and exciting.  Now that I am pushing 40, I question the meaning behind everything and strive to find the simplicity that will bring life back into the

 And sometimes, as I am filling out paperwork at my desk, looking at budgets and running numbers for grant reports, I sigh as I realize the passion has slipped from my life.

breakfast-club

 

 


Bird Song

It is 5:30 in the morning and I am out with my dogs. It is a normal morning. Dark, not that cold, and quiet. Me and the two dogs meander up the hill to the road crossing. I was pleasantly caught up in my own internal rantings.

“Why do I always have to walk these dogs?”

“Why is it always dark when I come out here?”

“Its Saturday, why is it that I have to go to work again?”

“Why can’t I live a life that isn’t filled with with all this crap?”

As we reach the flats, before T in the road, there was a light breeze. This breeze was unseasonably warm. The air disrupted my thoughts and brought my attention back.

I noticed the sun breaking into the darkness. The dogs were diving into the smells on the side of the road that were left over from the animals that wandered the night. I heard a few small chirps from a unknown bird signalling the beginning of the morning chorus.

Then, just as quickly as my mind was drawn to the present, it retreat to the past.

I remembered sitting in the desert with a gun by my side, praying the patrols went alright, watching a similar sunrise, and wishing for the song of a unknown bird to break silence.

Single shrike in trees