Archive for outdoors

Maybe This Time

Adair,

It’s odd how January never seems like the new year to me. I’ve mentioned how my birthday is usually my marker for the beginning of a new year, both because July is a more optimistic time than the dead of winter, and it’s in line with my inflated ego to reorient the calendar around me. But there are other moments, my anniversary, the beginning of the school year, and Christmas that also make me pause and think about the year past and the year ahead.

If I had to look ahead right now, I’d be thinking about another year in New York. Another fall that just makes me feel like I’m in When Harry Met Sally, a winter that snows us in just once, a spring that begs for pictures in parks, and another summer sweating in the subway and longing for relief.

The next year is going to see a lot of new projects, and a push like never before to create things on my terms. Working with you has opened me up to working with other partners, and those relationships are beginning to blossom into new ventures that may well be “the project.”

Another year will bring another year of marriage and the wonderful joys and inevitable hurts of a life long partnership. We are also striving to create together, which brings us back to the army days of our friendship working together. This summer’s production of The Last Five Years reminded me of the importance of our creative connection and what beautiful richness that adds to our lives.

My apartment is changing layout and design, I’m changing my diet, having a car is changing our transportation, and the relationships in my life keep changing the creative means I have at my disposal. The next year is going to be one for the record books, no matter how it all turns out.

But why am I looking ahead in the middle of September? What marks this as a moment of reflection and resolve? I’m giving pause right now because in a year we won’t be writing these letters. At the end of this month, we will be finished with this project and moving on to another. I won’t begin to tackle what that means in this letter, but I know that whatever comes next, we’ll still be bothering each other about it every week.

Same time next year?

-Dan

Home from Home

Hi Lexi,

You touch on a great point regarding identity. I, too, had people asking me months before I came back to the States what I was going to do once I returned. I found it hard to answer because I didn’t have an answer. I know I want to live, and live passionately. I’m searching for my next opportunity to do that and I’m thankful I have a degree that will allow me to lead life with my heart. And I can only hope that I can be as happy as the Scottish grocery clerk you speak of.

In my transition back to living in Montana I’m realizing more and more that we are minorities. Especially in our big, low population, state. We’ve spent continuous months traveling the world and having cultural experiences. While I consider us lucky to be a minority in this situation I also find it difficult at times. We can turn to few friends to reminisce about long train journeys, flight delays in foreign countries, or trying to order a meal in a city where the only words you can say in their language are ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’

In my twelve months of living in Switzerland I averaged more than one country every month. I’ve walked many historic streets and had much time to wander. I’ve developed into the type of traveler who would rather walk the streets of a new place to find cities best-kept secrets instead of riding the metro from point A to B. I have put in countless steps in some of the most beautiful places in the World. I once stumbled upon a park in Brussels that a local had never heard about. I sat in a restaurant in Rome over the Christmas holiday for three hours talking to the owners while drinking house wine. And I’ve walked the streets of Istanbul where suicide bombs went off just weeks before.

I’m overwhelmed. When I see people I haven’t seen or talked to in a year and they ask questions like “How was it?” How do I answer that? It was great! It was humbling. It was the best year of my life. Travel, experience it yourself! I want to share, but not too much. These memories are intimate and sharing too much feels like I’m giving my heart away. And then there are people’s reactions to what I share. Fear, awe, amazement, shock. To me, my adventures seem so normal so I’m finding it hard to grasp when people have such exaggerated responses.

The things I’ve learned are really important to me. I’ve learned to not take convenience for granted. Grocery stores being open all night, shopping on Sundays, and owning a car. These are things considered normal in our country and when I first moved to Switzerland I found it odd to not have these things. Now I find it weird to be able to shop on Sundays, grocery stores being open 24/7, and I miss my nine-minute train into Zürich. My thought-process is different now, I think differently. How do I take my newly wired mind and adapt to what used to be my normal?

I was telling my mom and her friend the story of terrorism causing me to have to cancel my flight from Prague to Zürich because of a layover in Brussels just five days after the airport bombing. While speaking about this I was reminded of something. These journeys and experiences made us brave, courageous, strong, fearless, and strong-willed. And whatever obstacles we face in our hometown, state, or country we can take on. I know we can because we’ve conquered other things with more barriers than I could speak to. We’ve got this.

I hope you enjoy those long talks with your dogs and I wish you luck in answering the “what’s next” question. Enjoy these moments.

All my best,

~Vanessa

I’ve Heard That Song Before

Adair,

Life has taken me around to a few places. I’ve been lucky enough to travel abroad a time or two and to live in a few different places. At twenty six, I’m no Jacque Cousteau or Gary Johnson, but I’ve traveled some. Right now I’m traveling over two thousand miles with my wife from Flathead Lake Montana back to Brooklyn with our new (to us at least) car. It’s been interesting to get from Montana to Chicago and see the sameness of parts of the country and the vast differences. The distances, the geologies, the accents, the industries, and the politics: all of it changes or stays the same even from county to county. And I’m barely halfway back right now.

This constant ebb and flow of landscapes and peoples has got me wondering about what galvanizes us together as a people. What do Americans have in common with each other? Do we have a binding agent, a glue that keeps us as one, or are we distinct regional tribes all floating on distant islands? A couple of poets once said that “everything is an island.” But does this include people and especially Americans?

If we look to religion, politics, ethnic heritage, or taste in Television you would have a hard time finding a binder that holds us all together like preschoolers crossing the street. From before Columbus or the Vikings before him, to when the first people crossed the land bridge into this part of the world, things have been different in some regards. Even our government, the laws of which we live under, is not a unifying factor. When rights are applied to some and kept from others, when the constitution is political chessboard rather than a statement that can be changed as needed, when the law is enforced or not based on class or race, we have no governing body that unites. We have a government that rules as it sees fit.

It would seem then, that America as a rule has no one people or idea that keeps it whole. So how are we still here?

Some would say that we aren’t. They would have you believe that this is a new state of chaos and the plight of modern times. Others would tell you that we are closer than ever to realizing the dream of unity, but those they push aside for not being unifying enough would beg to differ.

I think the truth is that we are both whole and broken. Because the only thing that makes America, America is our experience of her. It’s the shared memories of our people as a people.

Those of us who saw the moon landing were forever changed. It is a moment of public memory that changed everything. Some dreamed of flight school and the chance to see new worlds, others began writing of the perils and heroism of far off imagined worlds, and some spent their lives trying to prove that footage was directed by Stanley Kubrick.

We all remember 9/11 differently, but we all remember it. Some are still shaken by the horror of those who jumped to their deaths, others share pictures of a melted metal online and demand more answers. We all remember, and though our lives and experiences lead us to see different things that day, and to remember different things, we share in the experience of having seen it.

This is what makes America whole. We either see greatness or sorrow or a mix of both in wars, monuments, politicians, and American Idol results. We are a tribe of many tribes, but we have all seen the same story. Some parts are well told incorrectly, others hidden from view for their harsh truths, but the biggest moments were felt by all. How we saw them and what they did to us varied wildly. But our shared and varied memories makes us a country. More than that, they make us America.

Taking a moment to remember,

-Dan

I’ve Seen Better Days

Adair,

You and I both have a good deal of experience leaving. We’ve moved from home towns and states to faraway places. We’ve left lovers, friendships, and more than once a bar vowing never to return. Leaving is a natural part of life and it’s healthy and necessary. But for everyone who is leaving, there is someone who is left.

Being far away from the people you know and love best is always hard. The distance is easier to make up for with phone calls, texts, and blogs. But no matter the distance, it is always harder for those who are left behind than for those who do the leaving. While one moves on to a new adventure, the other returns to status quo only without whatever joys the now missing person in their life brought.

This apt, albeit dramatic interpretation of the experience of being left isn’t far off from my memory of being twelve and watching Norman Tang, one of best friends in the world drive off in a U Haul. While Bozeman isn’t far from Billings at all, when you can’t drive and your friend leaves, that town might as well have been another country.

I can’t remember when Norman told me he and his family were moving, but I can remember being pretty upset about it. As time went by, we had the last big water fight in his backyard, the last birthday party he would come to, the last time he tried to get me to be better at video games. And with each “last time” I could feel the end ticking nearer.

When the day came, I helped his family pack up. As a thank you for helping them, they took me and my sister with them to Golden Corral for some “food.” We laughed and told jokes, Norman informed me that the human stomach can expand to the size of a basket ball and that he was taking full advantage of that fact by hitting the buffet as many times as he could. But eventually the day ended, and they drove off Fairway Drive never to return again.

Of course we visited. I took the bus over, eventually we could drive and I would stop in. We talked on the phone a lot, and worked on a comic book scratch or two. But with time Norman went on to school in New York, and me to Missoula. We’ve seen each other a few times, my 21st birthday, a New Year’s Eve. But over the years it’s been hard to maintain the everyday friendship of our youth. More than the reality of moving apart physically, we have the reality of getting older too contend with.

No matter how life may twist or lead us away from friends or towards new adventure, there is a constant need to break bonds and move into new situations. Stagnation is death for some people. But the truth is far more complex. And for every new adventure, there is a forgotten story of all that came before. This is why leaving will always hurt, no matter what we run towards. And this is why I still miss my friend.

Looking back and sighing,

-Dan