Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Gift

Dear Joseph,

Papa has a gift for you. I brought it home from my trip up north where I was camping and kayaking. It is not a gift like a toy, so I will give it to you when you are old enough to understand its meaning. If I am not able to give it to you when that time comes, it will be among my things in an envelope labeled a stone for Joseph. Why a stone?

I an active in a men's group which has adopted many Native American practices. The Indians who originally inhabited this country held sweat lodges (more on this another time) in which water is poured on hot rocks to produce steam. Because the stones/rocks are so old, they/we refer to them as the ancient ones or grandfathers.

When a man travels away from home he sometimes collects a stone from the beaches or water of that area to bring back as a gift. A Native American told me that stones know how to get you to pick them up, carry them to where they want to be and, when they tire of you, make you put them in a new place.

I gathered this stone specifically for you. It comes from the cold waters of Lake Superior or, as the Native Americans named her, Gitchee Gumee. Within the stone is the energy of its place of origin and is a connection between its holder and the place from which it comes. Giving it to you makes it a connection between you and me.

You may keep the stone as long as you like, toss it somewhere or pass it on to someone you wish to have it. I only ask that what ever you do with it that you do so with intention. I hope we will have time to talk about this more one day.

Papa loves you

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Dear Joseph,

Tomorrow, Papa will leave on a ten day trip to teach kayaking, to paddle and to do some camping. sounds like fun, doesn't it? Well, it is, but it also is somewhat dangerous, and I'd like to talk to you about that.

We guys like sports and all sorts of out door activities. Generally, sports fall into two categories. In the first are sports in which we keep score and judge our success by whether or not we win. Success, therefore, is achieved by beating someone or some other team. This doesn't tell us much about ourselves since we can play poorly and still win if the other side really stinks. But there is the other type of sport, the one that is inherently risky while offering a different reward.

Kayaking, climbing and skiing are such activities. They are somewhat dangerous and can be done with no one else around, at least no competitor. Success here is achieved merely by doing it. Go out in a kayak into a 6 foot surf, have a good and safe time, and you've won without defeating another person. You've won by your wits and skills, and you have to be good enough to beat the elements. The victory is not in the score ( there is none) but, rather, in the self satisfaction of knowing what you can do and having the courage to go out and do it. The only "competitor" is yourself and the elements.

This is the kind of thing I enjoy in life. Marathon running was like that for me. It was me and the clock. I had no ambition to beat anyone else, I was never at that level anyway. I wanted to be able to train and complete the 26.2 mile run, and I did it at an 8 minute/mile pace.

On the other hand, I loved Judo and taught it for years. Once in a while, I would enter matches where the whole idea was to win over my opponent. But, even there, my real challenge was waiting as I stood before a bigger and equally skilled man and going inside myself. My challenge was to remain absolutely calm as I stepped onto the mat, sometimes before large audiences, and took hold of the other man's Gi. Weaker and smaller, I had to remain fully relaxed and calm so that when the other guy made that very slight off balance move, I was able to act out of reflex, with no thought, and with lightening speed, and throw him to the ground.

I hope I get to see what things you like to do, and I hope you find the activities that satisfy your inner callings. I hope you choose what gives you satisfaction and fits with who you are. If you want to play baseball fine, but it isn't for everyone, and you are not everyone. You are Joseph, and I love you.

Papa loves you.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Another Step
Dear Joseph,
This week, your mom sent us a video clip of you WALKING. I mean, really walking. All of a sudden (so it seemed), the little baby we had come to love was standing on his own two feet and...well, walking.

As you read this now, you may wonder why in the world I find this to be so wonderful. After all, by time you read this you will be...well, reading and, of course, much older. Well, I will try to explain why Papa and others are so happy about your first steps.

Sure, we all went through these stages, but that was years, even decades, ago. Now, having passed most of the milestones of life, I still take delight in seeing you go through them. Your very presence makes me happy. To see you accomplish something new amazes me. You see, Joseph, when you are young it seems as if time passes slowly. Very soon you will want to be older, like the big kids. Very soon you will enter a stage of life where you will give your age in years and months because you will want to be sure people don't think you are one day younger than you are.

During our youth we all want to be older. We believe it is better and, in some cases, it really is. When you are 15 you will want to be older so you can drive. It is normal, and we all go through that time of life. It won't be so long after that that you will find yourself actually being older, in your prime of life. Then, in a blink of an eye (so it seems), we are older, and time seems to pass much more quickly. At that time, many years from now, you will wish you had the body of a younger person along with the agility and strength that body held.

So now, right now, when you are still young, I want you to savor every moment of every day. Like me, I want you to take great joy in each new accomplishment...like your first steps. Then, I hope, you will store those moments in your mind so that when the day comes, a very long time from now, when time passes quickly, you will have wonderful memories of these days. Even better, I hope you will have a grand child like yourself who will delight you with his or her new accomplishments.

Papa loves you.