Birthday musing

Last week I turned 59. I took the day off from work and made a pilgrimage to Walden Pond. It’s not far from where we live — under an hour’s drive — yet I’d not been there in the 14 years we’ve lived in New England

Henry David Thoreau made the place forever famous when, in 1845, he built a cabin not far from the shore and spent two years living deliberately. His subsequent book, Walden, tells the story of his experience and fueled the spirit of personal independence — marching to the beat of one’s own drummer.

While Walden Pond is bordered by roads and commuter rail tracks today, my walk on the path along the lake was quiet and reflective, seemingly like what Thoreau experienced, although he had to create his own path, no doubt.

My trip to Walden Pond was indeed a pilgrimage: I went for inspiration, to hear the echoes of Thoreau. As my birthdays have slowly yet inexorably brought me to this point in life, my perspective has shifted from a nearly infinite sequence of tomorrows to a limited number of todays. How I spend these days is important. Do I continue to let the river of life carry me along or is it time to pick up my drum and set my own cadence?

For the past three years, I feel I have been on a treadmill, each day a marathon with a faster pace. My days have been filled with meetings and administering the flow of  activities among corporate functions. The cartoon I imagine is a little man with an oil can, lubricating a series of interlocking gears. I yearn for time for listening directly to customers, reflection, and strategy formulation, those items that both energize me and where I feel I most contribute to the success of a company.

This treadmill and my dilemma are ending within a couple months, and I need to choose the next path. I know what Henry David Thoreau would say. Do I have the courage to take his advice and blaze an independent trail through the woods? Or should I find a more secure path, one that doesn’t expose my family to the risks of an uncertain future?

Grateful that I have a choice. Anxious about choosing.

Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. — Henry David Thoreau

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Sunrise, sunset

For the first time in my life, I watched the sun rise and set on the same day, while flying.

Homeward bound on Wednesday, I saw the sun rise above Finland on a Finnair flight from Oulu to Helsinki.

And I saw the sun set somewhere over western Europe on my Swiss Air flight from Zurich to Boston.

Nothing quite so inspiring.

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Prodigal son

I feel a bit like the prodigal son, returning “home” to this site after a long absence.

In the Biblical story, the prodigal son returns after wasting his inheritance. In my case, I return reminded that if gratitude is to continuously uplift my spirit and outlook, it needs to be a habit and treated as a discipline. Otherwise it gets lost in the blur of the passing days.

My reminder came courtesy of Rev. Kim Crawford Harvie, who delivered a sermon on blessings and gratitude, including the benefits of keeping a daily gratitude list, at the Arlington Street Church in Boston last Sunday. You can read her inspiring sermon and see if it motivates you, too.

In addition to Kim Crawford Harvie’s moving reminder, last weekend included many blessings worth savoring:

  • Enjoying a long-overdue reunion with our minister from our time in Dallas. She married Lori and me and dedicated our two children.
  • Staying with her and her husband just across from the Boston Common, pretending to live in the heart of Boston and imagining the incredibly rich history that played out within steps of our doorstep.
  • Appreciating the unseasonably warm temperatures and clear, sunny skies.

Looking out over the Boston Public Garden shortly after sunrise

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My favorite holiday, doubly celebrated this year: yesterday at the church, today at home with the family.

As with all my Thanksgiving celebrations, the iconic image is a plate — more likely two — overflowing with comfort food, eaten with family and good friends. The image and holiday symbolize security and loving community.

Unlike my mother, who grew up during the Depression, or millions of others even today, I have never suffered deprivation. Yet a heaping plate of food at Thanksgiving surprisingly provides some assurance, security against “outrageous fortune.” Gathering with family and friends, people who love and accept me, conveys another comfort. Whatever may happen, people care.

Two celebrations is a gift, as the rest of the country moved on to Black Friday and Christmas shopping, which began even before the luscious smells of Thanksgiving had faded from the kitchen.

The leaves are off the trees, the days grow short, our world is troubled. I’d like to hold on to Thanksgiving a bit longer.

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Sea of clouds

Sea of clouds above England

This week I flew to Sweden for a one-day meeting. That humanity even has the ability to do that is a miracle and something to be grateful for. But that’s not the point of this post.

My flight left Boston shortly after 7 pm Tuesday evening, and a short five-and-a-half hours later, I was changing planes at Heathrow. Although it was morning in London, my body clock was protesting that it was still the middle of the night, albeit confused seeing the sun.

This photo was taken somewhere over England, on the flight from London to Gothenburg. The combination of morning sun and the usual cloud cover made for a spectacular view.

The warmth of the sun’s rays streaming through the window even made up for the short night.

And did I say that it’s a miracle we can do this?

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