Saturday, July 30, 2005

Seeking answers in the flames...

Every once in a while, when I have deep questions that need answered, I rely on an old technique I love- build a fire, let the world go silent around you, and listen. Answers are usually given, and pretty clearly.

The flames have been asked many questions through the years- med school, life and love, trial and triumph- and they have never failed me.

Last night, when I was walking through Miakonda with a friend, I kept picking up this distinct sense of unease. Something was wrong, something was foreign. I have walked those woods for many years, and seen many things, but this was unusual. It wasn't the loudness of the gathering in the dining hall, as the green woods have seen that for over 80 years. It wasn't the weather, as I have ridden out storms worthy of Noah in those woods. There was a great confusion in those woods, and one that I cannot place. All I did know was that it was time to leave. I've walked those woods for years without fear, but this night, something was telling me to leave, and quickly, that it was not safe. The woods were presented with an enemy that they were confused by, and it was not for me to fight.

So, I did what I could. After leaving, and praying for the easing of the discontent, I asked the guidance of the flame. My answer was given. There was a great disharmony there, which I already knew. However, the years of Scouts wandering those woods, the decades of pure hearts, made it immune to that. Time would heal it, I merely needed to escape, as I have no such immunity.

Now, in the light of a new day, that darkness has been cleansed. I will not venture there without a friend at my side, but it will heal. Sometime soon, we will wander those woods again, and we will see them as they have always been- quiet, but not silent. Guiding, but not forcing. Immutable, but not incapable of feeling.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Memories in metal.

Over the last few days, I've been steadily working on my coin collection- pulling coins out of my change jar and adding them into the books, each in their neat blue cardboard collar, shining like stars.

Yet, then, I got to thinking. Wandering through the collection, what have some of these seen? That one, in back, that 1833 half, what has it seen? Besides a major financial crisis or three, nine American wars and about twenty-five Presidents, what else has it seen? Where has it been? What has it gone through? Whose hands played over its surface, wearing Liberty in all the high spots? How did it get here? Won in a poker game, paid out as cash to a Civil War soldier, dropped as payment on a house, given to a little kid as a present? What has it seen?

Using one of my lucky pieces, a 1911 penny, what has it seen? I know in my pocket it has seen every OA Degree and Scout rank, nine states and Canada, and was passed from grandfather to grandson. But how did it end up on the sidewalk at Monroe and Erie in 1987? Who left it there? What wonders and horrors has it seen?

The new ones, the last twenty years or so, those have no memories yet, aside from blue books and cool safes. They sleep soundly and peaceably, never to feel the pain of being dropped, or the searing heat of being used as a fuse.

Riding in my front pocket is a 1944 Walker half. Think about it- 1944, FDR was President, the Germans were a mortal enemy, and the Russians were allies. Spitfires and P-51Ds roared over Europe, and most things we now know (including what I'm using to write this) hadn't been invented yet. UT was still run by the City of Toledo, one of the medical schools I'm applying to didn't yet exist, and gas was still 19 cents a gallon.

So, take a look. Pull out the oldest piece you have, and see if you can pick up where it has been. You may be surprised what a coin can tell.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Wandering through the green.

Many moons ago, I was a highly active Scout. Eagle, Order of the Arrow Vigil Honor, Jamboree, all of it. I basically lived at good old Camp Miakonda.

Then, internal politics (and an OA Lodge chief who hated me passionately) led to my losing my job. I quit, walked away from those woods, and returned but one last time- to see my father through his Vigil. November 28th, 1999, I walked out of those woods, and resolved to not return unless I was ready. Too many hurtful memories of how I left.

Five years and more, and I didn't so much as set foot in that camp. It wasn't that I didn't want to, it wasn't that I didn't love that place dearly, but I wasn't ready.

Then, one day, a friend of mine came to town. We spent most of the day walking through one of the parks, but when the sun started to set, we needed somewhere else. Miakonda called out to me. The woods, the legends of the Crescent Moon, they began to pull me back. So, I swallowed my fear, and walked in again.

It hadn't changed. 5 years and more, and the green is as it always was. The trees and the wild still speak softly in my ear, the creek running through still whispers of decades of Scouts gone away, and for a while, I was 15 again. All was well. Sure, I was burned by the staff, but that is not the fault of this place.

Biggest help was my friend. :-) The more we walked, the more she liked it, the more she loosened up. Time in the concrete jungle was forgotten in favor of time in the green woods. Old wounds began to heal with the green around us, as surely as if they were bandaged and cleansed.

The woods accepted her, my friend. They accept her as they accepted me lo those many years ago. She knows them, and knows their ways. From the incredible light show of a thousand fireflies, to the quiet dignity and sacred silence of the chapel, this place heals. I will be back soon, and I will never leave for so long again.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Confidence is a funny thing.

Back a year and change ago, I radiated confidence. Swagger. I was an Honors graduate, cum laude in Biology with departmental Honors, going to med school in the Fall. My research had gone well, I'd presented it at a major symposium for undergraduates, and it was to be published in a medium-level journal in Spring.

I had it all.

Then, it all slid away. Med school? Sorry, bud. Try for 2006. Publishing my work? Maybe by 2007. Back to UT, taking a mix of classes I hated, starting on a Master I really didn't want.

Confidence? What's that? My Midas touch had turned to dust. What once turned golden at a glance now crumbled as if it were sand. Me, the guy who had laughed at 4000-level classes and found As easily, had to wrestle Satan for a C in a 3000-level.

But, that started to turn around. Friends began to stand with me, and hold me up when I seemed about to fall. One friend, in particular, was invaluable. She listened when I needed an ear, held me close when I cried in fear of what was out there, and stood West for me when I needed her aid.

Now, she claims I walk with a new confidence. A swagger without arrogance, she calls it. And it fits me. :-)

My friend, one who saved my confidence and brought my swagger back, I thank you with all my soul. :-)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Seeing the world through different eyes...

Today, working, the world started to get to me. The broken glass bottles in the street, the ubiquitous peeling lead paint, the rusted, dented hulks roaring past me, the heat and the weeds, it all wore. After a while, the decay and the filth rub on you, and you need something to get it off.

I found it. :-)

Standing there, pinning a lock together, I just started looking at things the way I would have 15 or 20 years ago. Then, it all changed. Those broken bottles? Look closer. See how they glitter like diamonds when the sun hits them right? See how that one on the end is casting a rainbow in the street?

That peeling paint? Look closer. It's not paint, it's a highly sophisticated Ant Interstate System. There's one now, hustling North on AIS-75, but it looks like there's a bridge out at the 96 interchange. Hope he sees it.

Those cars rolling down the street? The last True American Iron. The roar of a 400 cube Pontiac, the soft growl of a 289 Ford, the purr of a Ford pickup, hauling lawnmowers.

So, folks, an experiment. Look to the world with a child's eyes. See what happens.

Monday, July 25, 2005


Relax, friend, I do not mean animal dissection, more one of a dissection of logic. :-)

Driving home the other night, I was listening to the radio, when a song I rather like came on- "Live Like You Were Dying", by Tim McGraw.

Heck, who am I kidding? I love this song. :-D Sung loud and strong, there is much power within it. Normally, I would just crank the radio up, and let the music take me where it wished. That day, though, I stopped to think a little.

"Live each day like tomorrow was a gift, and you had eternity to think about what did you do with it..."

I'm not going to do anything stupid. I'm not going skydiving any time soon, and mountain climbing is not on the agenda, but I do like that line. What is my tomorrow? I think, after much pondering, I know.

My job, my calling for the morrow, is healing. Learning to heal bodies, helping to heal hearts, and trying to help heal souls. I can't be as the song says and become the husband that I wasn't, as I am single. I can, however, learn how that is supposed to be. I can try and help others feel the light of love, and see what happens from there.

For that is an interesting paradox. According to Brigg's Law, the intensity of Light decreases as a function of the fourth power of the radius. However, according to simple logic, lighting one candle with another doubles the amount of light. We'll have to see which is right.

You are not...

The other day, I was thinking deep about what matters. Along the lines of what I would grab if the house were burning, I was thinking more "What would mean anything if people were apart from me?" What, if anything, would people have as an impression of me if we had to part?

Most things have no value. The red, white, and blue silk of an Eagle badge only show me at 15. The smoke-stained linens and stitching of my Order of the Arrow Vigil sash? 16. My HS diploma, still displayed proudly in my room? 18. My college diploma and gleaming bronze Honors medallion, both encased in blue velvet? 22.

Now, what really means something? What would I want people to say about me, ten, fifteen years down the road? When someone is wondering where I am, how would they describe me?

That, I can answer.

Last week, I performed one of the ancient Native cleansing rituals, allowing the pain of what people have done to me to vanish in a puff of steam and sage. As I knelt before the flame, a friend of mine countered each offense, revealing whom I am instead.

Honesty, integrity, intelligence, compassion, love, the ability to heal and the willingness to seek healing, these are the real things of worth that define me. They cannot be taken out of the house if it were on fire, as they are part of me.

The Joy of Snopes.

As another blogger also does, I post regularly on the Urban Legends Message Board- It's a fine bunch of people, always willing to help another. We can debate abortion for a month and duel as Hatfields and McCoys, then join together around a member mourning a loss. No 133tsp34k, just people, using a message board instead of a phone to speak.

Over the weekend, a bunch of us got together for a meet. Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, all were represented and well. We didn't scare people too badly, though 8 grown people excitedly asking about the location of the naked mole rats does cause some confusion! That, and I think that commenting about our plans to steal the waiter's kidneys after our meal didn't help much. ;-)

Very much worth it. Very nice to put names and faces to board handles, very nice to finally see how people are when they are out and about. I felt incredibly comfortable with these people, though I knew only one prior to the meet. Now, I consider each of them friends.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Why Tirithien?

Why Tirithien? It makes no sense at first blush, though some LOTR fans may see the roots of the Fortress of Minas Tirith contained within.

Yet, it does make sense.

Tirithien is White Elvish, and a literal translation of my first name. As Casey means the Vigilant in Scots Gaelic, Tirithien means the same in White Elvish. Yet, there is more beyond a simple direct translation.

When one views my family crest, lettered below its masthead are the words "Be Watchful." We are lowland Scots, we fought with Wallace at Sterling Bridge, and that heart of the warrior poet still beats within me. I am a healer by calling, but my history and my destiny has me also as a protector.

So, who is this guy, and why should you care?

Me? You're asking about me? All right.

I'm a college graduate, Honors in Biology. Currently attending postgraduate courses, and looking to enter medical school. I'm a fine listener and a voracious reader. Lord of the Rings, Bathroom Readers, C. S. Lewis, it matters not- if it is a printed word, I want to read it.

I'm also a weightlifting buff, and try to take care of myself as best I can. When my friends need me, I am there, always and without reservation.

I guess, if you really want to know whom I am, an answer I once gave in a medical school interview will suffice.

He said, "You meet the girl of your dreams, marry her, and have a handsome and brilliant son. At 16, he comes to you, and asks of you one question- what matters the most in this world?"

My answer. "There are three things that matter the most. One is honesty, or how you keep promises to others. If you are not honest in your dealings with others, you are a shell of a man. Another is integrity, or how you keep promises to yourself. Without that, you have nothing with which to fight. The last is love. Your friends may desert you, your family may age and die, but love still conquers all."

That's me.