Monday, September 30, 2013


    There are black and white forces in nature that can influence our inner being the way gravity introduces us to the ground when we try to venture out on weak branches.  We can look to the water and see salmon swim with unwavering determination upstream, or look above as geese hold a steady formation on a journey that spans whole hemispheres.  This is migration; a calling that drives life to fulfil a destiny.  For some that journey is necessary to reach a place where they will live out their days, while others must travel away from home only to close the last chapter of their life.  It can be easy to define these journeys amongst birds and fish, a clear path from A to B, however labeling the actions of man as a migration can be almost too easy, a cope out of sorts.  Surely our purposes, our dreams and goals are not governed by such baser instincts...we are evolved!  While there is truth in our “higher calling,” I feel the basic drives within us are no more than primal forces that have been dressed up and re-named to distance ourselves from our animal past.  Sometimes it is hard to know what stage of the journey we are in, or where our trajectory is carrying us, but we can always look back and take stock on the past in order to gain a perspective to our future.

      A good deal of who you will become depends on what you are exposed too and how you choose to deal with change.  I was lucky to have been well traveled at a young age. I experienced climates from the deserts of Nevada to the rainy hills of Scotland.  Most importantly, I recognized how tough it can be adjusting to new friends, different cultures and the restructuring of a family dynamic.  While my mother and father were not destined to remain a couple, they were still a team whose goal of raising two boys would be realized no matter what personal issues got in the way. It is from their example that I learned a journey does not end at the first sign of bad weather, but rather that life requires a willingness to jettison that which is not working in favor of reaching your ultimate goal.

    When I look in the mirror I think of my own parents who spent many years swimming upstream in order to make me the man I am today.  It is a signpost of growing up that you come to realize how you have been guided, nurtured and cared for in ways you might have overlooked.  A good portion of my mother’s life was spent carrying my brother and I along, while the mere memory of my father’s life and career continues to be a guiding star in my journeys and my understanding of what it is to be a man.  Some lessons are learned by mirroring their lives, and yet others come from recognizing missteps and learning from their mistakes, however few they might be. 

    My most impressionable years were spent in the mid-west amongst good hearted, honest and caring people.  I remember finding an escape from small town USA in the books of Roald Dahl and Michael Crichton and the attraction of New York through the films of Woody Allen.  My journey felt insignificant amongst the corn fields and calm shoreline of Lake Erie.  Now, having been gone from Ohio for ten years I can imagine no better place to grow up.  There is an honesty in the land and a genuine character to the people which I learned to appreciate fully after being away and seeing my past in contrast.  Like the Georges Seurat painting “A Sunday Afternoon”, up close it all appears to be static noise, just a bunch of dots on canvas…but as you gain some distance from it you see the dots all merge together, blending seamlessly into something beautiful. 

    I do not mean to speak in generalizations.  There are always exceptions to this rule and I certainly do not mean to place all of my best times in one area.  I have met some of the best friends I have ever known in recent years, people that have become like family to me.  If Ohio was my more or less my safe harbor, Miami would serve as the place in which I “cut my teeth” on independence.  Although I had spent the better part of five years away from family in Toledo for college, I was still an hour or so away from a good hot meal or a place to crash when I needed to get away from it all.  Miami is the antithesis of Small town Ohio.  Miami is like a party you think is going to be very fun and exciting, but it turns out to be all marketing and no substance, but you stay even though you don’t really want to because you came with a friend who really wants to meet the girl that works at Segafredo’s down on Biscayne cause she mentioned she’d be there after work.  So you wind up sitting in the corner listening to techno while some dude name Arturo talks about how brilliant Swedish House Mafia is and you politely nod in agreement even though you are counting the cornrows in his hair and wondering how long it has been since he has had his teeth cleaned.  At least, that’s what it felt like to me after spending five years working a job that placed me in the heart of South Beach and Downtown Miami lifestyles.  On a positive note, I spent many days with my fellow ocean travelers swimming in the warm waters of the Atlantic and some great nights with friends who will remain with me until the end.

    If there is one migration that is tends to lend itself to popular culture and, amongst my friends, seems almost an inevitability, it would have to be the migration west.  Although there is no more frontier to conquer, I find friend after friend following the call to California.  One of the hardest things about life is having to answer that yearning call to move on, take to the wind and leave what you have come to know as comfortable.  I have felt that nervous excitement many times and now, as my good friend prepares to make the move to LA, I romanticize over living the lyrics of Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California,” or Neil Young’s “Out on the Weekend “ and once again I am reminded of my own journey and wonder what is next.

    Leaving a place you have come to know as home or watching a friend answer his call to flight can be bittersweet, but there is a kind of joy that comes from closing a chapter or being part of someone else's life story.  Our drives, while different in shape and form, can be linked to an overall goal which cannot be explained in equations, theories or long winded blog entries.  It exists primarily as a feeling, one that must hit you at a per-determined time.  For the creatures of the land and sea that might be governed by a change in temperature, the position of the moon or a shift in the tides.  Man, however, has lost our tuning and must focus in order to hear that call which has become distorted by social constructs and can be easily overlooked as mere daydreams. 

    I do not mean to glorify the act of travel as the overall means for change.  My journey is my own and I would not recommend anyone try to blindly follow another's path but rather to define their own.  In a way, travel has afforded me the ability to run away from responsibilities of growing up, in other ways it has given me a broader understanding of who I am and where I fit in the world.  It is a balance.  I have great friends whom I consider weathered navigators of their own inner journey.  I see friends grow exponentially by becoming fathers, businessmen, doctors, ect. while staying in the same geographical location.  They have answered their own call to change and the ones whom I respect will forever be a part of my own story.  I have amassed many close friends from different times in my life, all of whom make up constellations in my night sky.  When I need them to navigate through a dark night they are there to guide me.  Some are brighter than others but they all help illuminate my path.
    As I sit on the beach on this remote island in the pacific, I think of Herman Melville’s words in Moby Dick: “Meditation and water are wedded forever.”  While I am sure this is where I am supposed to be, I cannot avoid taking stock of my short and brief time on this earth while standing on the shores of something so vast and smile as I see it alive with travelers.  I feel connected to all the creatures that stir and jump out of the sea, following the warmest current while patiently moving forward into unknown waters.  Birds pass above; some use this oasis as a resting point, others sail right past, and still others see it as the final destination.  All life is motion, even when it appears I have landed in stagnant waters, there are currents swirling inside that will one day set me on a path, part per-determined and part decided by the tide.  I think viewing that migration not as a finish line but an overall journey is something we have forgotten and perhaps can re-learn by watching those travelers of the wind and sea.