I got out of my little truck, gathered my daypack and hiking stick, and headed toward the group that was – strangely enough, I still think – waiting for me.
And from a distance, I glanced at their feet.
March is a month of unpredictable weather in Alabama. Within a span of hours, the weather can go from sunny and 70 degrees to snowy and 20, and that’s something that can happen more than once within a few weeks. That day, however, this group of hikers and I were enjoying the highs: Low 70s, a slight breeze, and partly cloudy skies. It was a beautiful day for a hike.
I’m a volunteer hike leader for the local land trust, and I had a group of about 15 folks who looked ready to go. I’ve always enjoyed leading these events, and it’s always fun and interesting to see who’s in the party.
Now, the system sort of ensures the group will be a good one. Everyone who shows up is typically a Land Trust member since the hikes fill up shortly after newsletters go out; sign-ups don’t go public for a few days. They’re also familiar with the types of trails we’re walking on, as most of our properties are, ahem, hilly and rocky. Finally, they almost always enjoy being with a group, and as we move into the third year of a pandemic, it’s nice to be outside in the open where conversation and gathering is more comfortable.
All that said, it’s always with a bit of trepidation that I look at everyone’s feet, and this group’s feet were looking great: Nothing but hiking boots and solid walking shoes. No carpet slippers, no flip flops, and no crocs. Yessss!
We gathered and talked for a bit, renewed a few friendships (a major benefit of hiking with a group), and headed out. The trail was wonderful, despite the 450+ feet of elevation gain, and the Falling Sink waterfall – probably the highlight of the trail – was gorgeous. I can’t wait until next month when we get to do it again!
“The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” -Douglas MacArthur
I promise I’ll write a happy slice soon. -Me
It’s March 5, 2022, and for a variety of reasons we’re once again “watching” a war on television and social media. This morning I saw, for the first time, a video clip of what was most likely a Russian helicopter being shot down in Ukraine. I watched it on the CNN website, but soon saw it begin to appear on Twitter.
All of the tweets I saw were celebratory, with gif replies like one might see on a tweet announcing the win of a sports team.
An aircrew lost their lives in that video clip. Two men or women aren’t going home to their families. They died. Maybe they were fighting for a cause they believed in, or maybe they were scared and fervently wished they were not there in the first place. It doesn’t matter – lives were lost.
I do not, of course, support the Russian aggression, but nor can I celebrate the loss of human life. The job of a soldier is to sometimes take the life of another, but I don’t believe it needs to be celebrated like a touchdown or home run from sidelines thousands of miles away.
As an aside, I’m starting to not be so crazy about social media either.
In other news, the daffodils in my front yard have opened. That’s something to smile about!
When I write for my blog, there are topics I rarely touch on, and when I do, I tread lightly. There are other opportunities to write what’s on my mind when I want to tread heavily, but – for me – this isn’t the place to share everything.
My time (a lifetime ago, or so it seems) in the military is one of those topics.
Current events being what they are, though, I found myself thinking yesterday and now writing today about a book that sits on a shelf in my bedroom. I haven’t opened it in years, but there’s an image on one of the pages that’s still as clear in my mind as it was the first time I saw it.
The book is a “cruise book.” A cruise book is to a long-term deployment (a six-month western Pacific “WESTPAC” cruise, in this case) as a yearbook is to a year in high school: lots of pictures and lots of memories.
The cruise was in the mid-80s, and I was deployed with a Marine Corps Fighter Attack squadron as a radar and weapons system specialist. The photo, taken by one of our aircrew members, is of an F-4S Phantom escorting a Soviet Tu-95 “Bear” bomber somewhere over the Pacific off the coast of Japan. Two airplanes, and two aircrews, both flying what they certainly thought of as deterrence missions.
Nearly forty years later, I’m more than ready for plowshares.
There was not a pickup truck. There was not a ladder leaning against my house. There was no one on my roof. Shingles weren’t being replaced, and a leak was not being repaired.
Just 45 minutes earlier I figuratively pushed my last student out the door, emptied the trash, plugged the computers in to charge, and locked up behind myself. I made it out of the building without getting caught in a conversation, and I drove home without getting caught breaking any traffic laws. I got out of school in record time. I had to be home.
I wasn’t expecting my driveway to be empty.
Yet, with the exception of my own vehicle, its engine cooling in the afternoon sun, it was. I glanced at my phone and saw a message from my wife: “They can’t come today.”
Given all that’s going on in the world on this first of March, I simply counted my blessings and smiled at my good fortune as the late-afternoon sun brought to mind a lyric from that old song, “Arkansas Traveler.”
And, when the rain came down on the cabin floor, The squatter only fiddled all the more. Why don’t you mend your roof, said the traveler bold How can I mend my cabin when the rain is wet and cold? Squatter pick a sunny morning when the air is dry and nice, Patch up your cabin, that is my advice. The squatter shook his hoary head, and answered with a stubborn air, Cabin never leaks a drop when days are bright and fair!