Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Be Curious

"There is something which all the greatest artists and writers, naturalists and scientists, voyages and explorers, poets and pioneers, share. It is an interest in the external world and the ability to contribute something creative to human life in this world by means of taking parts of the world to pieces and putting them all together again. The ability to observe, and the ability to see the little things that seem trivial at first, may become amazingly important and meaningful. Out of little observations huge ideas may grow; and if a mind, made receptive by training in the use of the sense, can store away a mass of observations, the time will come when the whole collection can be unrolled, connected together as a great novel is planed, in a compelling pattern that tells us something new."
- Harold Gatty 

The themes of exploration and adventure are constant companions as we travel from place to place on this grand medical school journey. There have been places where curiosity comes easily and places where those themes seem to lose their hold. The trick is to keep them alive regardless of the ease or difficulty. 

We went from a developing country with Rastafarian farmers roaming among 9 volcanoes in tropical heat to an off season deserted and frozen beach town with flat farm land leading to endless ocean. Then we went from swaths of highways coating alligator filled swamps with faceless houses gated in on either side to hillside homes serving as an escape from NYC with classic bridge and skyline views. 

The places in between those temporary base camps were just as diverse. 

Each place requires a new curiosity and provides a fresh perspective. Much like people. In all of our moving I am working to cultivate the ability to see the little things amongst the larger happenings. Because, as Gatty says in the quotation above, "the ability to see the little things that seem trivial at first, may become amazingly important and meaningful. Out of little observations huge ideas may grow." 

Dominica (view from Segment 8)
Ocean City, MD. (bayside view from 32nd st.)

Everglades, FL. (view from the drive to Shark Valley)
Great Neck in Long Island, NY (view from a hill on my run)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

115 Miles of Dominica in 6 Minutes

Wonder what a trail over volcanoes, under waterfalls, and through rainforest looks like?

Here are the 115 miles of the Waitukabuli National Trail of Dominica condensed into 6 minutes! It was incredible and I'd do all 115 miles all over again if I could. (Watch on full screen for your viewing pleasure!)


1. short clip from Gilligan's Island theme.

2. You Make My Dreams Come True by Hall & Oates.

3. Wombo Lombo by Angelique Kidjo

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Mountains of Life

"Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. Here grow the wallflower and the violet. The squirrel will come and sit upon your knee, the logcock will wake you in the morning. Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill. Of all the upness accessible to mortals, there is no upness comparable to the mountains."

Dominica was full of that "upness" that John Muir references in the quote above. The view of the volcanic mountains and the contrasting far sea horizon gave a glorious upness to the often difficult day to day in which we lived. (And our difficulties rarely compared to the Dominican's day to day.) The university gave us a cushion in many ways but the mountains too gave us a cushion, one that was harder to name, harder to recognize, and one that I miss dearly now. 

I stopped blogging in our last semester there. I think the idea of wrapping up a life somewhere that took real grit to settle into was difficult to comprehend. I had just figured it out and now we leave? Packing, crossing things off the Dominica bucket list, and saying goodbyes certainly didn't lend itself to a quiet stillness in which to reflect and write. Its been over a month now and I think those reflections are starting to show themselves. And the mountains are a recurring vision. 

In Dominica I was an outsider. I wasn't from there, I didn't recognize the foods, I didn't know their slang, I didn't share their history. There were figurative mountains I had to surmount in understanding how to cook there, how to buy food, how to get from place to place, how to communicate, how to be a foreigner in my day to day reality, how to live. Plus, in the med school community, I was in a sea of other outsiders struggling to do the same thing from their own experiences. 

I think some of it was just a little too much to wrap our minds around and so many of us climbed literal mountains, hardships we could see, name, climb, finish, and succeed. I think we needed those mountains, those concrete challenges and successes, in order to mentally surmount the day to day. Each mountain, each swim and run and yoga session, each physical venture pulled us out of ourselves, pulled us out of the insatiable desire to explain what was, at times, inexplicable. 

Being back stateside is full of delights (phone calls, blankets, baby spinach, affordable apples, potable water, book stores...) and many things are comfortable again, recognizable again. But after the shock of these renewed delights passed, the figurative mountains of the day to day returned. It is not foreignness but life itself that offers us daily mountains to vanquish. We exhaust ourselves trying to explain, reason, and think them away. In that exhaustion, I think of John Muir's idea of repose and upness; the woods, the sea, the mountains, the plains given as places of rest. 

Andy and I still live by the sea now but without any mountains for miles. Some days I run up to the ocean to look out on the waves and the horizon and run home again, once again pulled out of myself, slightly accepting the inexplicable and taking a deep breath in the reality that we are given work to do and it is ours to do it.