We had been enjoying the February sun on the turquoise blue waters along the Mexico / Belize border. I was telling her the story of the day I found myself riding (accidentally) in a car immediately behind Yasser Arafat through the streets of Gaza City following the Palestinian leader’s return from exile.
“You’re right,” I laughed. Random and unpredictable. Life’s been an adventure all along the way.
This journal represents the most recent chapter in a life that has most certainly been like Forest Gump’s “box of chocolates.” As with the fictional character, I never know “what I’m gonna get next.”
I’ve had the great fortune of growing up in a small, rural town in eastern Vermont. (There has always been a debate as to whether I’m a “real Vermonter” because I was born in a hospital on the other side of the river that borders Vermont and New Hampshire.) Today, I live just “over the hill” from that childhood home, on a mountainside in Tunbridge, Vermont.
The journey from Bradford to Tunbridge wasn’t as simple as a short westward trip, however. There have been many, many miles in between.
In my high school years I was a dreamer, a “long-haired hippie” who would as likely be found on a homemade raft drifting the Connecticut River as in the classroom. My mom still recalls that on a sunny day she’d drop me off at the front door of the school and I’d go straight out the back door, headed for the woods or the river.
After graduation I left more than a few folks scratching their heads when I joined the Air Force for a stint as a green-suited radar technician. (I just needed a job and I wanted to travel, I’d explain.) I went to boot camp in Texas, technical school in Biloxi, Mississippi, saw my first “duty assignment” at the southern end of the Navajo Reservation in Holbrook, Arizona, and then transferred to Caldwell, Idaho for the rest of my enlistment. That’s where I met Marion. We quickly became best of friends – two progressive-minded misfits in the land of Ronald “Ray-Guns.”
I served my time and earned the recognition of a “master technician” along the way, but while my military peers were throwing back cheap beer at the local bar in their free time, I was traipsing through the Arizona and Idaho backcountry with a pack on my back, trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Over the years that have passed since, I’ve found myself working for an Idaho mountain rescue unit, surveying National Forest property boundaries in Arizona, New Mexico, and California, designing receivers for satellite TV systems (yuk!) in Tucson, Arizona, bicycling cross-country, earning a degree in Natural Resource Economics and Natural Resource Planning, hitchhiking cross-country (I’d read Kerouac’s “On the Road,” and it sounded like fun), working for U.S. Fish and Wildlife in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, motorcycling across America (must’ve watched Easy Rider), married, bicycling cross-country (again, but this time via Alaska), working as a natural resource planner and geographic information systems manager for Vermont’s largest city, founding the Lake Champlain Kayak Club and the Lake Champlain Paddlers’ Trail, enjoying fatherhood, working as a consultant to the U.S. State Department in Gaza (crafting a municipal management assessment for the newly autonomous Palestinian cities in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank), founding a sea kayak touring business (PaddleWays), labeled a “shore hugger” by local press in response to my lake advocacy work (protection of the public trust doctrine), gunk-holing the remaining wild places along the east coast from Maine to Georgia, working in a “cube farm” designing ecommerce applications aimed at online shoppers (Dilbert is soooo right), teaching youth rowing teams how to “pull together” in Cornish pilot gigs, divorced, moving aboard my 34’ sloop, Raven, reconnecting with my long-time friend, now wife, Marion, captaining sailing charters, building a tiny (150 sq ft) home, moving to our Tunbridge mountainside, and finally, today, trying to sum it all up in a single paragraph. Impossible!
Did I answer the question? Just what do I want to “be” when I grow up?
I’ve been there all along.