I spent this last day of 2008 tromping around Briones Regional Park with Amy. It was our first visit to this spectacular corner of the Bay Area, and we couldn't have picked a better day for it. The weather was perfect, but there was almost no one on the trails.
If you climb the Old Briones Road from the park's western entrance, as you approach Mott Peak (just over my shoulder in the shot above) there's a crude plank bench where you can sit and look back on the ground you just covered. Here's the view:
It was an apt moment to do a little reflecting, and one thing I thought about was how little I've written this Fall and why. My last post was nearly three months ago, on October 9th. The following day three of our students--Viet Nguyen, Chris Sahm and Micah Springer--were killed in an accident when their car went over a cliff on Highway One near Big Sur. I didn't know them personally, but the GSB is a small, tight-knit place, and their deaths affected me in a number of ways. The accident also followed a 14-month period in which both my wife and I lost family members and had colleagues who did as well.
In the first few days after the accident, I didn't even have time to think about writing, but as the logistical burden and emotional intensity eased, I found that I still didn't feel like it. My sphere of reference shrank and I was much more focused on the people I saw each day and my immediate experiences, and I was much less focused on interpreting my experiences or reaching out to others through my writing. I continued to file away ideas for posts and made occasional notes, but I was hibernating and conserving energy, not expending it.
I see now that in keeping with William Bridges' model of transition, I've experienced a number of endings over the past two years, and I needed to go through a "neutral zone," a fallow and unproductive period, before anything new could begin.
But that view of the valley today has me moving again. There's the symbolic renewal of December 31st, of course, but it's not simply the calendar turning over. The personal losses that Amy and I experienced in 2007 followed shortly after my 40th birthday, and that period prompted a lot of thinking about mortality. I emerged with a deep appreciation for my continued existence--that sounds trite, but it's the only way I can say it--and now I particularly value physical experiences that heighten my awareness of the preciousness of life.
And today was just that. See you in 2009.