Metamorphosis

We are who we are, but only for an infinitesimal moment. Change may be happening, if we’re lucky. So we are who we are, but we’re not who we were. Not exactly.

Things that have “always” mattered, at some point stop mattering.  We may even pride ourselves on “consistency,” which is commonly held to be admirable but is ultimately impossible.  Perhaps it is for the better that consistency is at best a steadied mirage.  Immutability can be comforting, but in its soil, nothing grows.  

So we are who we are.  On a journey that may deliver growth, or abdication, or triumph, or discontent; more likely a combination of some or all of them.  At the moment of experiencing any of these possibilities we find ourselves to be “who we are.”  

Comfort can be found in the notion that “who we are” is but a momentary flash between who we were, and who we are yet to be.

Deep Down

Deep down, everyone wants to feel loved. It doesn’t seem like a big ask.

Oftentimes, facing our own history, unraveling it, then making peace with it in the present is a necessary first step. 

Gazing into the mirror we unknowingly ask, and answer a question in silence, “Am I lovable?”  

This unspoken answer serves as subliminal instruction for all those we come across in this lifetime.

Phosphorescence

Starry starry night.  Raging infernos casting tiny lights across the night sky.  Cool to our eyes they are, but at their cores emotionless, cataclysmic turmoil roils to near infinity.  All that they may exist and, that others who exist may experience their communal gathering as a hunter, a scorpion, a ram or a guiding light to the north.

So much energy, so much creation, so much destruction, and for what?  Is it better to burn out than to fade away?  Perhaps.  The life of a star is predictable, like the life of a human.  Birth, growth, temporary stability and ultimately death.

Light from without, a star, in our galaxy, the sun, draws the eye, warms the flesh, and the soul.

What about light from within?  Is it a myth?  Surely not as many have documented their experience of it in song and prose.  If we’ve never felt it how can it be found?  Once found how can it be sustained.  Is this inner light like that of a star; explosive, tumultuous, destined to consume itself?  At times this would seem the case.

When a fire ignites it may burn white hot, for a time, but like all fires it is destined to run its course.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Out of the ashes of many fires may come a new perspective on the nature of what it means to bring light to one’s life.  Perhaps the raging of a sun doomed to extinguish becomes a burden.  Perhaps instead the desire for light, or meaning, sheds the thought of creation through destruction, and instead leans into a less brilliant yet more sustainable goal.  In this desire for light without conflict we may in time become phosphorescent.

Pillars

Independence [ in-di-pen-duhns ]

Definition: Freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.

Freedom [ free-duhm ]

Definition: The state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.

Society [ suh-sahy-i-tee ] 

Definition: An organized group of persons associated together for religious, benevolent, cultural, scientific, political, patriotic, or other purposes.

Coexistence [ koh-ig-zis-tuhns ]

Definition: A policy of living peacefully with other nations, religions, etc., despite fundamental disagreements.

Survival [ ser-vahy-vuhl ]

Definition: The act or fact of surviving, especially under adverse or unusual circumstances.

The Summit

June 1997 – Mammoth Lakes, California.

It was a sweltering summer day in Mammoth Lakes, California. In anticipation of my pending nuptials Dave had taken me to the Gyepes family condo for my bachelor weekend. No party, no strip club; just two best friends in the mountains spending quality time before the first of us got married. We went running in the high desert heat. We took long hikes each day. But mostly we talked. We talked about the state of the world, about our childhoods, about our dreams, and about the change my world would undergo on my wedding day, and of course. Because it was Dave, we also talked quite a bit about food. We spent endless hours of sharing thoughts and ideas. That’s what I miss most about my best friend. I call him my best friend because he was, though since he was so special Dave had more than one best friend. I imagine many people felt like I did about Dave. They probably felt he was their “best friend” too. Dave’s special gift was making everyone who came in contact with him feel special. A rare talent to be sure. But I digress, Back to the story at hand. The Summit.

It was probably 90º when we pulled into the parking lot at Lake Mary. We were dressed for the heat, wearing shorts and hiking shoes. Dave probably had his UCLA cap on, and probably made me apply sunscreen like the big brother he was so good at being. We hadn’t planned a single thing for the weekend; with the exception of dining as often as possible at Roberto’s. So it was with this adventure. No plan, no map, no worries. It was the conversation that we came for, and it was conversation that had formed the bond which at the time of these events had been in place for 17 years. Dave held so many interesting perspectives on life, love, triumph, and tragedy that I was always learning from him. Also, he was the best listener I’ve ever known, and always had something wise to offer when it came to advice. 

So it was this day that the hike was a way to make time to talk while walking off our burrito-based overindulgence from the previous night. We struck out down the trail dripping sweat as though in a sauna. The relentless summer sun hammered away at that UCLA cap. As we walked along the forest path we spied through the trees the monolith that had been our winter playground for so many years, Mammoth Mountain, peak elevation 11053 feet. It was around noon when we decided to leave the forest trail and climb. We had the self-assuredness of two thirty-somethings with Peter Pan complex and decided we would climb to the top. How hard could it be, right?  Typical of optical illusions the peak seemed easily within reach when we started our ascent. We climbed and climbed through woods, then past the tree line and onto boulder fields. Much to our dismay after an hour and a half of climbing the mountain top looked nearly as far away as it had when we started. 

As we climbed the temperature dropped steadily. Our breathing became labored and our conversation waned. Still, we climbed, minute after minute feeling like hour after hour. I finally stopped and sat on a boulder, cold and tired. “Maybe this wasn’t a good idea,” I said, beginning to think longingly of chips and salsa. “We can make it Borden!” I loved Dave’s optimism. “Alright,” I said and hoisted myself up off the rock. We climbed.  And we climbed.  Snow patches began to appear between the boulders as the temperature continued to drop. Dave took a break. “Maybe you were right B. Maybe we should turn back.” “Dude, we’re so close, we can do it,” I said. He issued an exasperated sigh, then up he rose, and up we went. I don’t remember how many times each of us dropped to the ground, convinced that we should give up, but those moments were many. We stumbled. We fell. We climbed.  Each time one of us decided we’d had enough the other found the words and the will to turn the tide. I’m not sure why reaching the top became so important to us. Perhaps we had both decided on that afternoon, on that mountainside, that the outcome of this challenge would become a metaphor for our lives. Failure was not an option. 

Hours of climbing passed, the last few of which involved much heavy breathing and very little of our precious conversation. We were now in the clouds. The 90º swelter at base camp had given way to temps in the 30s. Finally, breathless and bruised we found ourselves on the snow-covered top of the mountain. We had reached the summit. We hugged, laughed, wrote Dalai Lama-esque messages of peace in the snow with our frozen finger tips then paused. We took a moment to drink in the majesty of the world, of our accomplishment, of our unwavering commitment to each other’s success.  

Many years later Dave and I discussed our memories of this day.  We agreed that reaching the summit had been one of the pivotal moments in our lives. Not many people are so blessed as I have been in the realm of friendship. In my relationship with Dave, I was gifted with true companionship, support, loyalty, and love. If the world were flat and held no mountains to climb my friendship with Dave would have always been, and will always be my definition of reaching the summit.

In Memory of David James Gyepes, 1962-2020

Taking Flight

Some baby birds jump, others are pushed.  The ensuing moments involve either falling, flying, or most likely a bit of both.  Regardless of individual baby bird trajectory the outcome is two fold; a new adventure, and an empty nest.  We’ve likely all found one, an empty nest.  Pruning a tree or shrub, or walking through the woods, we spy it.  An abandoned nursery.  Quaint.  A little bird home that served its purpose and now sits vacant, slowly succumbing to the ravages of the time and the elements.  How different it feels when it is our own nest that becomes empty.

Today my youngest graduated from high school.  Like his brother before him he is taking flight.  Adult life beckons and shines with opportunities and possibilities, the denouement of which I will hopefully not witness.  Funny how we nurture and coax, guide, and when wisdom prevails know how to remain silent in the run up to this taking of flight.  Funny because we pour ourselves whole heartedly into the shaping of a story, the final chapters of which we release unfinished to the wind.   It’s a beautiful, heart wrenching, bittersweet reality.

Go in peace my sons.  Fly high and free.  From here the journey is yours to define. That said, please know as you make your way that you have always been, and will always be loved beyond measure.

Milestones

Early on the future seemed eternal.  Summers held the world in endless, sun drenched glory.  Possibilities fell like autumn leaves on a windy day, dancing and beckoning in the brilliant blue sky.  Winter came on like a white Christmas coupled with anticipation of the new year to come.  We were forever young.  Untouchable. Unbreakable.

Along the way we unknowingly passed a milestone.  It laid at the side of the path covered in moss and shrouded in vines.  Something had changed, not for better or worse, but for the fact that life can be no other way.  The time had come to leave the world of endless summers behind, whether reluctantly, or otherwise.  

With each milestone passed, the world has changed little, yet looks very different as we ramble on.  The paths we walk began from an infinite number of starting points and scatter hither and yon on the wind of randomness.  Free will plays its part, but is no match for the unseen forces that command the unexpected taking of one path over another.

With many mile markers behind us we may now find the same autumn leaves to be the clear and present harbinger of coming winter.  Each year has it’s four seasons and they are not shy about the play they are acting in honor of the cycle of life.  As we journey from year to year that cycle becomes ever clearer in our own reflections.  

Milestones passed mean we leave some things behind, and if we are lucky, take new treasures with us.  Though some would beg to differ, there is no more true beauty in youth than in old age; for not all that is beautiful manifests in a looking glass.  In passing the stones, walking the road, we make trades of old thoughts that no longer serve us for new ones we can carry as a guiding light.  A light that becomes ever more comforting as true winter approaches.  We have no choice but to continue the journey.  Knowing the way is not an option.  Knowing ourselves is.

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