Last night, on February 4, it was another freezing outdoor viewing party with my friend Domenic. We’ve made it a weekly date to watch three episodes of the Turkish show “Resurrection Ertugrul”. I’ve been watching the show since the Fall, but hadn’t gotten anybody else to watch it with me until finally I convinced Domenic. He’s liked it alot. It’s packed with history and action. We enjoy discussing it as we watch it.

A theme both of us picked up on during episodes 13 through 15 was how the templar antagonist named “Titus” is always creeping and spying behind a bush. After the third time or so that this would happen we would laugh and call it out. Also whenever Ibn-Arabi, the muslim mystic, prays to God for intervention against the enemies or when others call to God for help the following scene begins with a shot solely of Ertugrul. Ertugrul is their hero who will help save them and the editing intentionally supports this. I shift Domenic’s attention to roaring fire and he instinctively places his hands over it for warmth. “Oh wait, maybe shouldn’t do that as last time (he begins to chuckle) my gloves disintegrated from the fire!” We then go on our weekly tangent discussing questioning theology.

Towards the end of the second episode we stood up to wrap our blankets securely around our bodies. This made us appear dressed like the Turks we were watching which made us laugh. Furthermore, Domenic held the stick I had been using to manage the fire like a sword. As the Turks were fighting Domenic was mirroring their cuts and slashes. “These guys don’t miss.” he observes laughing “I don’t think I’ve seen them miss once” as he slices the stick through the air. We hugged and said our goodbyes with the farewell parting of, “See you in the Spring.” Then I packed up the furniture arrangements: the t.v, the table it’s placed on, the two lawn chairs, 2 collapsible tables, and our blankets. Tossing the paper plates into the dying fire I reflected on our weekly hangouts and how much I had enjoyed them. I’ll miss him.

With everything back in its place I rip my facemask off and enjoy the feeling of unobstructed breathing. I kicked my shoes off and hung my coats appreciating the warmth inside a warm house. I joined my parents who are seated opposite each other at the dining room table. They were talking about what Dad has learned from the habit guru James Clear and his book “Atomic Habits”. As I sit down I’m asked how my time with Domenic was. Splendid.

I shared how pleased I was with my 8 mile run that morning. Though I had fun exploring by myself, it’s always better to run alongside your Dad or close friend. Glancing at my phone I read a text from Kaleb which said, “any chance you could meet me @ a golf course in Peabody around 6:30 am?!” I read it aloud and they cheer me on to replied with a simple “yes, see you then”.

Seven hours later I’m back out in the cold, but I’m energized when I see Kaleb pop out of his car. With no delay we began our jog. Entering a neighborhood I pointed out the stark contrast between one house painted red and the other houses painted in more muted grey and white tones. That person must have a little moxie, I said. Sure enough a man drives a truck into that houses driveaway opens the car door with a cigarette in his mouth. I waved and said hello.

We jog in the center of the road keeping an eye on the only vehicle ahead of us, an amazon delivery van. It pulled to the side of a road and out came the worker with his arms full of packages. I saw a man whose out in the early morning cold doing a thankless job. I can relate to him, as I’ve worked at the golf course in similar conditions. I respect him.

Kaleb found the trailhead and he laughed because he had the humility to share he barely remembered the way to it. His family has just moved to Peabody, so he is still just trying to make sense of his surrounding town. He expressed his thankfulness to be well during these hard times. We entered the golf course though you could hardly at first tell because it was blanketed by a layer of snow. We followed the trail of imprinted footmarks and every fifth step or so broke through the frozen, crusty top layer. We climbed our way to the top of a hill and paused to take in the view. The sun was climbing too. It was a fierce orange red and we only wished to feel its warmth. Kaleb shares a few cold realities of his college’s students: there incessant drinking habits and excessive privileged lifestyles. The two go hand in hand at any competitive liberal arts school.

He’ll return to this spot he says perhaps for prayer and reflection.Back down the hill we went praying that our feet wouldn’t slide out from under us. Kaleb descended more conservatively than I did; he’s probably also smarter than I am. We discovered that we each had taken a break from social media and were disheartened by the lack of authenticity we saw. Sometimes we aren’t talking, but just running side by side. And I cherish those moments too. It is long after we started that returned to the parking lot. Kaleb was in a bit of rush to get back home in order to leave on time to go back to college. I reminded him to bring plenty of underwear and he laughed at that. We hugged and said our goodbyes with the farewell parting of, “See you in the Spring.” I watched as he drove his car down the street until it made a right turn. A few more cars passed too. I got back in my car and drove the long way home.

There’s a lot of lenses you can use to “examine” my gap year, so to speak. The broadest lense would be my work stints at Myopia. The first stint of seven months followed by three to four months when I was furloughed. My first day was a cool 60 degree day on June 2 and my last day was a 2 foot snow storm on December 18.

Then if you dial in a little bit, there’s lenses that identify common patterns. One lense is the friends who I spent time with but then had to watch leave me. Sam Rothwell who I worked with for 4 months. We grew really close. Isaac Bleeker who visited and hung out with me. Will Krogh who played a lot of tennis. A part of this lense would be understanding how I had to say goodbye to nearly everyone. Goodbye to Sam. Goodbye to Isaac. Goodbyes to several coworkers. I’ve had to send off my friends to two semesters of college while I’ve stayed home.

But above all else, there’s the lense which captures all the small moments I’ve shared with my family at home. There’s been so much joy. Dance parties. Dinners. Walks. Hanging out together doing puzzles. It’s a lense that I often myself overlook. I see all the small interactions. Me putting away dishes while my mom chops a pineapple and us laughing over something my sister said. All the mundane stuff. No, it hasn’t been a sexy gap year. No backpacking across Canada. But I would never need that, because everything I need is already what I have here in home. Thank you God for the gift of my family.

Love begins at home. If we do not love one another who we see 24 hours how can we love those we see only once?

Mother Teresa, “Words to Love by”

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