The Waters Above, The Waters Below

I got wet Sunday. Absolutely soaked.

Which sort of makes sense, since I spent hours in the Tennessee River, but I don’t know that anything above my calves actually got wet from the river.

I had the opportunity Sunday to go kayaking for just my second time, and had a great time. I had seen that there was a possibility it might rain, so I told the person that invited me that I would defer to him on weather we needed to cancel because of weather. Not a drop of rain fell until immediately after we got in the water, at which point the bottom fell out. Motor boats were coming back into dock as we were putting out, their occupants looking at us as if we were crazy. John had actually told me ahead of that he may be the wrong person to defer to, since he’s gone sailing in lightning before, which is arguably a bad idea. I replied that I was expendable, and he said that if it got too bad, it would make either a great story for us to tell, or a great story to be told at our funerals. And there are worse things in life, right?

As it turned out, we weren’t in any danger Sunday, though there was lightning in the distance for a while. But it was rather exhilerating while the rain lasted — it’s been quite a while since I’ve been outside that long in rain coming down that hard. Eventually, it cleared up, and we dried out slightly.

There were three in my group — myself; John, whom I go to church with, and who has participated in many kayak races; and Randy, who organizes multiple weekly kayak events, and who holds the speed record for the route we paddled Sunday. In other words, two serious kayakers, and a guy going out for his second time. My goal was just to not slow the others down too badly. That said, I was pleased with how much I remembered from the first time, over a year ago. I was pretty pathetic that time, but managed not to get grounded once this time. So, progress.

The advantage of John being a rather serious kayaker is that he had a rather serious arsenal of kayaks, each with different features. The one he picked for me was rather interesting — in addition to serving as a conventional kayak, it had a second mode in which it could be operated with pedals and a rudder, propelled by “flippers” underneath. (It actually could also serve as a sailboat, but that would require the addition of additional parts, which we didn’t bring with us.)

I pedaled for a while. Part of the reason that I stopped was that my legs got tired and I wanted to switch back to my arms, part of it was that I couldn’t get quite the same feel for moving through the water with the pedals, and part of it was that the kayak couldn’t be maneuvered as well or as easily. But possibly the biggest part was that I just felt downright silly pedalling was John and Randy were wielding their paddles like real kayakers.

And, apparently, I’m a bit competitive. Myself, I thought I was just trying to keep up, but John and Randy both agreed that they could see a competitive streak in the way I would paddle just a bit harder when someone would pull too far out. And maybe so. This time, I really do feel like I was just trying not to slow down the masters, but I’ll cop to the fact that I probably did the same thing last year.

Regardless, it was very encouraging when, at the end, John and Randy both said we’d made pretty good speed around the island, and that I did pretty well. I look forward to doing it again sometime.

Costume Party

jon_robert_davidJon Meek, 2009 Space Camp Hall of Fame inductee Robert Pearlman and I after the banquet.
schof_ceremony07Astronaut and Homesteading Space co-author Owen Garriott and I at the Space Camp Hall of Fame banquet.

For me, it’s like Halloween.

You put on a costume, you go to a party, and you get to be someone or something else for a few hours. People joke with you as if you really were whatever you’re dressed as, or treat you differently based on your costume. You do that for a while, and then go home and are you again.

Days like this past Saturday are like that for me. The only difference is, the person I’m dressing up as is, sort of, me.

Saturday evening, I went to the Space Camp Hall of Fame 2009 induction, at the invitation of my friend Robert Pearlman, founder of collectSPACE, who was one of three people being inducted this year.

And I was cool, in a very event-specific way. Basically, the person I was dressing up was space author David Hitt, who, I guess, I technically am, but, at the same time, is very much not me. People were wanting me to be in pictures, or to have their pictures made with me. (Of course, the argument that I am kind of cool is supported by the fact that some of the pictures were made in front of a display at the museum that includes a picture I signed.) I was listed as one of the special guests attending the event. Nobody wanted me autograph this time, but that has happened before.

It’s just bizarre, and it was actually kind of reassuring to go home afterwards, change into shorts and a t-shirt and go to a movie with a friend, back to just being me.

But I try to enjoy it. This is a phase of my life, and like any, this too shall pass. In the meantime, however, I am incredibly blessed.

And the greatest blessing is that I know some amazing people. While I feel like I’m playing dress-up at things like that, I was there with people who most definitely weren’t. At the banquet, I sat with Robert and his family and with my co-author astronaut Owen Garriott and his wife. Forget whether I deserved to be at the table, I was, and it was great sharing a meal with people I’m lucky and grateful to count as friends.

Driving the point even further home was the fact that this was the second time in less than a month that I got to sit at the table of a friend of mine while he was being inducted into a Hall of Fame; I blogged a while back about my former editor Jim Abbott being inducted into the Mississippi Press Association Hall of Fame.

If the measure of a man is the company he keeps, then maybe I’m not doing that badly after all.

She’s A Big Sky

“I want to hear what you hear / A harmony loud and clear / Custom made for your ear, / when you hear what you hear.”
–Garrison Starr, “Big Sky”

I don’t know what was in Garrison Starr’s mind when she was writing the lyrics to Big Sky.

But whatever her intent, the song speaks to my concept of the Tapestry; that God perceives the world in a way we can’t, seeing past all the overlapping threads to be able to observe a beautiful picture too large for us to comprehend. And that He can rearrange those threads in real time; as we make decisions that would seem to mess up the order, He makes a countermove that restores the beauty. I’ve used parts of the song as a prayer, to be able to look beyond my mundane view to better see the world the way He does and to be able to act accordingly: “I want to see what you see / A special kind of beauty.” And on.

I had a small picture of that Saturday night. I got together with some friends to watch fireworks, and we had to decide where to go. A few months ago, I had gone for a walk with my pastor near his house on the mountain, and he had commented that this one particular spot was a great place for watching fireworks. And so, that’s where we went.

The “downside” was that the big shows, most notably Bridge Street, were well in the distance, and lacked the magnitude that they probably would have had up close. But that completely missed the point. What you realize from that vantage point is that the real show has nothing to do with any of the official shows at all. From that vantage point, the entire valley is one big fireworks show — with rather impressive bursts at Bridge Street and Madison and elsewhere, to be sure, but those are just a fraction of what’s going on in neighborhoods and other locales all over, some of which were very impressive in their own right.

So it was neat getting a glimpse of the Tapestry, seeing a fireworks show that we normally miss because we’re too close to what we’re looking at, but that was even more amazing in its own right.