On My Small Scale, a Good Year

Remembering some good walks & looking ahead to others…

Granite State Walker

Five hundred miles. The app on my phone assures me that’s how far I’ve walked and hiked this year. Not far by comparison with many (most?) other hikers, I know. Still, I covered some fine southern New Hampshire places. Thirty-three towns, according to my trail notes, plus a probably-once-in-a-lifetime visit to a place way beyond the border. Not a bad year at all.

image6 August in Winant Park, Concord: mushrooms, not blossoms, bedeck the trails.

Nashua’s Mine Falls might be my favorite city park, but Concord’s Winant Park was a contender this year. I frequently have business in Concord, with Winant only a short drive away. All by itself it justified keeping a pair of trail shoes in the car for spur-of-the-moment hikes.

I visited Miller State Park one late-spring day just before sunset, and had the usually-busy Pack Monadnock summit and fire tower to myself. In thirty years of…

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Happy Birthday to the Cohos Trail!

I’m on a business trip in a faraway city right now, when I’d rather be in Stewartstown, New Hampshire. There’s a celebration going on there in honor of a place and people who have come to mean a lot to me. The Cohos Trail is turning 20, and the coming-of-age party is happening today.

In twenty years, I’ve spent maybe eight hours on trail maintenance up there in northern New Hampshire. That’s not even a blip in the tally of volunteer hours and days and weeks given by countless people over the past two decades to build and maintain the CT. If I were at today’s party, I’d be able to meet some of them and offer face-to-face thanks. As it is, this meager post will have to do.

Read the rest of the post at Granite State Walker.

Choice in Connecticut

On the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook School shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, here is an essay I wrote in the immediate aftermath of the event. This piece was originally published at Leaven for the Loaf.

It’s hard for me to take in the full horror of the massacre of children in Newtown, Connecticut. The culture of life can seem like a lost cause in the face of this atrocity. That’s “atrocity,” not “tragedy.” A tragedy is something that happens due to an element of mischance or mistake, devoid of intention.

Choice matters. The fact that we are able to make choices cannot be where the lesson ends. What Adam Lanza chose to do made a horrible and bloody difference. He wasn’t striking a blow for some philosophical “right to choose.” His “choice” was to kill people. I may never know his reasons, though I am sure some enterprising journalists are even now digging for clues.

I can barely fathom the grief and anger of the parents who survive their children. There’s more than enough suffering to go around: the first responders who found the children and their teachers dead and dying; the family of Adam Lanza; the surviving children who had to learn much too soon that evil is real. I pray for the consolation of every one of them. And I wonder how many parents of troubled children are thinking to themselves “there but for the grace of God …”

I have no lessons to share. I am simply venting some of my own shock. I don’t blame God. The news out of Sandy Hook School came from human free will at its worst.

And about that free will: one of the most challenging prayers in my faith tradition was written by Ignatius Loyola, a 16th-century man of tremendously constructive energy and faith. I find myself praying it now. It’s called the Suscipe, and it’s sometimes known as “The Radical Prayer,” in the sense of getting to the root (radix) of a matter.

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.