Saturday, October 13, 2012

Autumn Thus Far

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: autumn is bittersweet for me.  My favorite season comes at the busiest time of the year. Be that as it may, I thought it high time to give y’all an update, one month into autumn.  It’s been a while.  I suspect my parents would like to see more details on the Viator family than I usually offer in this blog.  I’ll have to backtrack a bit to cover the late summer, however, as my last blog entry was early August.  Like last year, I spent two weeks at an Army depot near Richmond, Kentucky for annual military training.  It was a bit more tolerable of an experience this time around, but it still left something to be desired.  On the upside, it involved getting to know and talk to junior enlisted and junior NCOs.  On the downside, it involved herding cats, namely fulltime senior NCOs who lack a work ethic and love playing the blame game.  I shared a trailer with a few officers from another company; they helped make my two weeks more enjoyable.  Great guys.  I was able to go off base a couple of times and get to know my new first sergeant or watch a movie.
 
I started teaching the first week of September as a fulltime faculty member at Hexington College.  This means I’m on campus more and meeting more people.  It’s been a good experience so far, and I enjoy talking to students, faculty, and staff alike.  On the downside, the more I'm around, the more they see how unconventional I can be.  Being a maverick has its pros and cons.  Memo to self: Err on the side of caution and don't put all your cards on the table.  I'm part of a planning committee for a new course that starts next semester.  We had a little get-together last Monday evening, a nice experience.  I'll enjoy working with these people.  Imagine that?  Der “Lone Wolf” Viator!
 
At the end of the first school week I participated in the Tough Mudder in Wisconsin with four other soldiers.  The course involves 11 miles of obstacles: huge walls, a vat of ice water, electrical wires, monkey bars, pillars of fire, and plenty of mud.  It was fun, and September 9, a Sunday, couldn’t have been a better day for it.  It wasn't quite as rigorous as I had anticipated, in part because the other members of my team weren't quite as fit and I had to slow my pace for them.  Part of my intention was to motivate and encourage these soldiers to improve their physical fitness, but for the most part I just enjoyed their company.  Such team effort was good for me: we depended on each other to overcome some of these challenges.
 
At the end of September the Viators camped at a state park that I love.  My boon companion John also joined us, bringing his yellow lab, canoe, and no small amount of wit.  My youngest daughter Monika and I drove up first and set up camp.  John showed up quickly thereafter and the four of us (Chloe the canine included) walked the trails and made our way to the water's edge of a mirror lake framed by autumn trees.  My wife Teri and Jessi arrived a bit later, as the latter had a swimming meet earlier in the day.  They brought along Balt, my wife's black lab.  We stayed up into the wee hours of the night around the campfire.  I had set up jack-o'-lanterns and other candelit accoutrements of Halloween around the campsite just for fun.  When everyone else finally hit the sack, I lingered on next to the “caveman TV” (i.e., campfire), dreaming and longing for things I know not.

A highlight for me was canoeing the next day with John and my daughters.  Teri stayed on the shore with Balt.  We celebrated my wife's birthday after breaking camp by going to a fancy restaurant at the Wisconsin Dells.  From there we parted ways: I drove north and they drove south.  Switching gears, I presented a paper on the Dominican friar Bartolom√© de Las Casas at an academic conference last weekend.  This paper is a first step in networking with scholars in my field and rebuilding an academic career after wandering in the desert for years as an adjunct instructor and soldier (and even part-time musician until 2004).  The conference was small but I had a nice time sharing my views on this great Spaniard and my use of his writings in one of my courses.  On the heels of this event I've been organizing a conference panel for next year in Puerto Rico.
 
As I pen these words, I’m recuperating from a half marathon I ran today.  My pace was 8:31 minutes per mile; my running time was 1:51:33.  I hoped for better, as I trained a bit more this time than I had for the same event last year.  After the Tough Mudder I felt like a million bucks, ready to take on another physical challenge.  I suppose I didn't pace myself well.  For the first six miles or so I was competitive, trying to stay with the 1:40 pacer guy.  By mile 8, I started losing some steam and resolved simply to finish the run in one piece!  Oh well.  In my paltry defense, I'm as old as the hills, having been born during the Lincoln administration, and perhaps more significantly I'm a bit large in size to be running such distances.  This was my fourth half marathon, and I haven't been able to match the time I got for the first one in South Carolina two years ago.  I should be in great shape, however, for the Army physical fitness test at the top of November, provided I lay low on the whiskey and chocolate.  :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Red Leaf

A grown middle-aged man almost wept in public today.  He most definitely got misty.  He’s bald and his initials are D.V.  He's generally shy and withdrawn in his heart of heart, though he relishes the spotlight on occasion and has cultivated a public persona.  He doesn't so much walk but traipses, like Big Foot in that famous 1967 footage.  I guess what I’m trying to say is…well...it was me.  I was the aforementioned wretch, and I’m not proud of it.  I’m sure it was a pathetic sight.  Little children were pointing and laughing, or so I imagined.  “Mommy, look at that idiot over there!”  I found a new place to go running a few weeks ago and have tried to get away from the university environs to run there at least five miles on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  That's been a tall order, given my efforts to pursue two careers simultaneously.  I’m getting ready for an upcoming 13-miler.  Moreover, I told myself back in late August that I refuse to let the fall come and go as I usually do, without having gone outdoors to enjoy it a bit, however difficult it would be to make such time.
 
Anyway, today must have been the best day of the year.  It’s peak autumn here and the weather was perfect.  One red leaf has the power to make me weep.  Imagine a person like me being surrounded by thousands of them!  Well, it was a lost cause for my pretense of old-school masculinity.  Why did I get wistful and weepy, you ask?  I don’t know for sure.  Perhaps only romantic souls get this way when gazing upon the splendor of autumn.  The foliage tells a tale of transcendence; those multicolored leaves appeal to something higher than this life—with all its rigors, routines, and heartaches—seems to offer.  Likewise, the autumn breeze whispers in my ear perhaps my own hopes for an ideal world, a transcendent and  boundless love.   Yet most people are aware of the familiar metaphor of autumn, a season of decline. This orange and auburn enchantment, these magical spells, also bespeak of an imminent end, a “consummation devoutly to be wished.”  For the record, what you read here stays here.  I dont need rumors going around that I have an emotional side, much less a mind rooted in the ethereal.  Once I get past autumn I should be my normal austere and humorless self.  So cut me some slack, would you?  And mums the word.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Walking Without Body Parts

I had the strangest experience yesterday as I was taking my autumn walk.  Six of my body parts—no, seven, I forgot about my genitalia—fell off.  They literally detached and dropped to the ground.  How this happened, and how I could even continue my walk relatively unscathed is bizarre to me.  Anyway, I was admiring a particular fiery red maple tree next to the reservoir where I live when my left arm disengaged.  I didn’t notice it at first, for I felt nothing.  What alerted me was a dull thud on the pavement.  Before I could even process what had happened, I could feel both of my ears peeling off as if they had been applied to my head with adhesive tape.  Yes, I could no longer hear the leaves flapping in the breeze or the sound of children laughing at the geese.  What really freaks me out in retrospect is that I was more concerned about what people would think than the loss of my body parts.  Next I could feel my aforementioned private parts sliding down my pant leg.  When they landed on my shoe and rolled onto the sidewalk, I nearly shat my pants.  What was happening to me?  How was this happening to me?  I didn’t cry out for help, nor did I run to the nearest hospital.  I kept walking.  You probably don’t know what it’s like to have your body parts fall off like that.  It’s a surreal experience and surprisingly less painful than I think it could or should have been.  Why did I just keep walking? Again, I don't know.  It's as if fate, or destiny, or just an inexplicable resignation, governed my soul.  True, I was startled at first, but an eerie calm came over me.  I decided to take a detour to the parking lot through a less-travelled woodsy path.  The minute I turned onto the gravel I lost in quick succession my legs, right arm, torso, and head.  Yet I continued to walk into the trees and fade away.