Endings and Beginnings

Hello again from about 34,000 feet.

We are on our way East, jetting along from Phoenix to Philadelphia. The five-day trip to Eldorado County is now an experience gained for Melissa and Jordan and another chapter in the 7 years of episodes to a place I find the most relaxing on earth. I am so richly blessed to have met Marco almost 8 years ago on a Saturday afternoon as I went to visit Miraflores the first time. Little did I realize that the following summer I would return for an extended stay and that my life would be permanently changed because of this Renaissance man. Not in my wildest of dreams might I have imagined that I would bring two young people who have also become so significant to me that I have been even more changed and blessed.

I am hoping that in spite of the three hour time difference, which made the days seem longer and the sleep schedule more tenuous, they will both remember this trip as an experience that was well worth the time, even though the turn around before classes begin is ridiculously short. From the first night when Melissa inadvertently “face-timed” me to Jordan’s arachnophobia and their marveling at the difference in landscape, I have my own memories. I was pleased that they both met some of my closest friends and that Melissa might have created some long-range options for herself.

As noted it is the place I am most able to let go. I am not sure if it is the terroir or something more. It is certainly the ability to gaze across the hills and valleys of the vineyards and to feel the sun beat down and warm every inch of my being. It is the gentle morning breezes and the quietness of the vineyards as the sun makes it’s ascent to a midday zenith. Perhaps it is even the memories of that first summer. The reacquainting with a person from that first summer was certainly unexpected. It was both extremely pleasant and exceedingly sad. Ann is still beautiful and caring; she also continues to live a life so much less than deserved, but that is because of choices made or not made. I am hoping both through conversation and encouragement, she will find the strength to do what she should; what she must. It is the end to living in a manner in which one is the victim and the beginning of working toward living, not merely existing.

I think that is the most important lesson I have learned this past year. I have begun to take much better care of myself. I have begin to realize that much of what I professed in my words and believed in my head, I was not practicing with my heart. The very thing I have told others about giving to yourself before always giving to others, I could not seem to put into practice. I felt, and at moments still do feel, selfish. I have realized for instance, in spite of the care and feelings I have about someone, I must realize that I am important and care for myself first. To not feel guilty about that is something I am learning to do. Amazing that it had to take a relationship with another family to understand that. Then there is Jacqueline. She and I had some long conversations about this when I was in the Dominican Republic. I think she would have been proud about how I handled the week, for the most part. It is the end of a trip; it is the end of the summer, and what a summer it was. It began with fevers and taking on new challenges. It was followed by pneumonia, which has taken the remainder of the summer to conquer. It included a visit to Corning, NY and a house becoming a home. It involved some crash-course experiences in using my nascent Spanish skills and realizing that I can listen, speak, and comprehend. It included a trip to NYC and the most expensive parking ticket I have ever gotten. It contained visits from California, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. There were trips to York, Pennsylvania and back and there was the continued journey of eating more carefully and the purging of my cupboards of processed food by the most hard-core purger one could ever meet. It has ended by taking journeys with two generations of the same family. It has been a time to grow personally in ways I could not imagine. While I did get some miles in on the Harley, not as many as I would like. I will try to remedy that to some extent while the weather still cooperates.

It is the beginning of a new year of school. It is the recommencing of schedules and expectations. It is the finishing of some documentation and the need to get even more organized. It is the picking up and starting over on some other things that will hopefully end in the creation of a major. I am hoping that academic internships will continue to grow and the value of being paid will become common sense. I also realize that getting people to understand how and why things like assessment are not evil. It does take time and it leaves a trail, so to speak, but it allows us to be more reflective. That is not a bad thing. I am always excited to begin a new semester. Growing up, the beginning of a new school year was one of my favorite times. I am not sure if it was the change of seasons, the chance to be in new classes, or that my birthday would be soon coming, but I think it was mostly the opportunity to learn new things. It is, in some ways, reminiscent of Luther’s understanding of daily dying and rising again. You have in that a continual ending and new beginning. It is a new opportunity to have something commence. It is the changing or becoming what we can be. It was actually something that was part of an earlier flight conversation. Am I the person I was seven years ago, when I first stayed at Miraflores? “May Gneto!” (this is the transliterated spelling of the Greek phrase) certainly not! I do have some of same values; I have some of the same personality traits, but seven years and the subsequent experiences have profoundly changed who I am, even what I prioritize and what I believe. Anyone who has followed this blog would probably be aware of some of those changes.

At this point we are a little over an hour from Philadelphia. In a little bit longer than two weeks I have traveled 8,000 miles. That is amazing to consider. However, more than the miles traveled were the experiences gained. The Dominican Republic was like nothing I have ever experienced. I am still missing the amazing people who worked so hard at “El Cocinero” and the joy they brought to each day. I will go to Allentown to the restaurant here. While the food will be similar, and there will even be a couple familiar faces, the experience cannot be replicated. I am looking forward to a new one, and so it is. Each day is an ending and a beginning, not in some cliché or maudlin way, but rather in a truly transformative way. It is unfortunate we seldom take the time to see it that way or to make the necessary changes from lessons learned. Perhaps that is the most significant thing I have realized in this calendar year. That learning is due to a number of things, but it has been predominately because of the presence of one person on my life. Thank you for your honesty; thank you for your example; thank you for teaching me.

To the rest, thanks for reading as I end a summer and begin a new academic year.

Dr. Martin

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