To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
Words adapted from the book of Ecclesiastes, recorded by the Byrds
I suppose it is normal on the beginning of a new year to take time to look back at the old; to recall with nostalgia; and to marvel and the experiences and events of the last twelve months.
This year my wife and I rang in the new year quietly at home; watching Dick Clark's countdown and realizing how out of the loop I am with regards to popular music these days (I think this establishes my descent into curmudgeon-ism ). I wondered at the volume and number of fireworks being set off in the neighborhood; it sounded like Sherman marching on Atlanta.
I thought I would try to capture a few significant events in my life this past year, month by month. It certainly is not exhaustive or complete, and has only been fueled by one cup of coffee this New Year's day. So with those disclaimers, I begin my year in review.
2011 was an eventful year for me personally. In December of 2010 our president of the Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited chapter passed away after a series of heart attacks. Bill Higdon was more than a chapter president. He was a Vietnam war vet, one of the first trout guides on the Guadalupe River, mentor, and friend. He lived on the banks of the river he loved, and his house was a regular stop for many of our trips to the Guad.
Bill's house was the site of his memorial service, and his ashes were spread in the river behind the house; the same waters where was baptized. Below is a pic of Bill on the oars on the Guad:
As Bill's VP, I assumed his remaining term. So in January I was grappling with those realities, as well as mourning the loss of a friend.
In February, the chapter held its first big Trout Fest, complete with celebrity guests,a showing of the Fly Fishing Film Tour, and keynote speaker Carter Smith, exec director of Texas Parks and Wildlife. Those of us on the planning committee were tired, happy, and relieved that the festival was a success.
March was not particularly eventful as I recall. White Bass runs wee delayed a bit, but I did have several successful outings with my friend Kevin. Enough to plan a fish fry...that we still haven't had. Maybe that should be one of my resolutions??
Probably the most significant thing I recall about April is that I attended the first planning meeting for a mission trip to Tanzania. It was an exploratory meeting to understand something of the mission, the country, and the commitment. Thus began several weeks of prayer and trying to discern God's leading for me. It also marked my fifth wedding anniversary to my amazing and incredible wife. (I Cross My Heart!)
In May, I reached the half century mark in my life. Suddenly the AARP mail invitations became a bit less of a joke...well at least for me. My family still gets a kick out of them.
My wife and church family conspired to give me a 50th birthday party that I will never forget. It was a complete surprise (I don't really celebrate birthdays), and very appreciated. It was very humbling to have my family, church family, and some of my work family there with me. Definitely a highlight!
Planning for Tanzania continued, and I began all the immunizations needed (over $700 worth) to guard my health. The mission team continued to meet to learn more about the country and the people we would be working with. By June became very evident that a serious drought was well entrenched in central Texas.
Planning for Trout Unlimited's annual meeting in Bend, OR were underway, with me working on some award nominations for a few of our stand out Guadalupe River chapter members.
On the 26th, we began the long journey to Tanzania with a drive from the Austin area, to the airport in Houston. I would be away for two weeks. The longest my wife and I had ever been apart prior to this was probably two days. It was a life-changing journey for me, but as is often the case when a husband leaves on a mission, the real burden is carried by the wife at home. Without her support none of it would have been possible.
In July we lost another of "The Greatest Generation"; one I was privileged to know. M.F. Kirby, WW2 P-38 ace
I returned from Tanzania, healthy, happy, but exhausted. I will never be able to look at hot water, clean water, (any water), good roads, and American affluence in the same way again. Nor will AIDS be merely something I read about or saw on television. When I hear the word "orphan", no longer will I think of nameless, faceless children. I checked off one of the things on my bucket list after participating in a safari; though I should asterisk it. This safari was a photo safari of a few hours. I still want to come back for a true hunting safari someday.
I have been immeasurably challenged and changed by my experiences in Tanzania. Only God knows to what end.
Most of the month was spent getting back to "normal". But just as I thought normal was possible, my wife decided the time had come to meet her biological father. So we began to plan that direction.
Once again I was on a plane, this time bound for Nashville. We had a whirlwind weekend, meeting my wife's biological father, her stepbrother and stepmother on the banks of the Cumberland River. Interesting; so many monumental moments in my life have occurred on, in, or nearby rivers. But I digress. My brother lives in Nashville, and we were able to pay him a long overdue visit, and then drive to the Chattanooga area to visit my parents, my sister and her family. It was a very good, but emotionally exhausting trip.
Archery season (my second) for whitetail deer opened. I experienced the disappointment of shooting and losing a buck, not once but twice. Something that I am still very discouraged about. But it drove me to improve my bow hunting skills and fine-tune my equipment. I am now more confident in my abilities; but far from over-confident. October 17th brought tragedy for my family. My brother in law Jim died suddenly at 50 years of age. We flew to Tennessee to be with our family during that time, which was both painful and healing.
No surprise, I find myself back on a plane. This time headed to Heber Springs, AR, for the first ever mid-south regional meeting. The meetings were a great success, new friends found, older friendships strengthened, and much information to digest about hydro-fracing, aquatic invasives, and the TU organizational structure. One more river, the Little Red, was added to my "fished" list.
The year ended with me spending each day of the week after Christmas hunting, fishing, or both. I was excited to receive an iPhone (my first smartphone, look out world!) and some awesome gifts from my kids, some purchased, some crafted, and all very much appreciated.
Well, if you are still reading, thanks. I hope to be able to post more this coming year, and do so well enough to attract more regular readers. Now I guess I need to get up from the desk and begin the new year with some outdoor activity while the weather holds.