A Whale Adventure in Baja – Part 2

Follow your passion, be prepared to work hard and sacrifice, and, above all, don’t let anyone limit your dreams. ~ Donovan Bailey

Last week I wrote part 1 of my whale adventure in Baja in the Gray Whale calving grounds two-hours north by plane of Cabo San Lucas. This part will focus around my first whale experience once arriving in Baja, and some really cool history.

We landed on the beach and boated to our island camp. They correctly assumed after being picked up at 6AM, it was now 11:30AM, that we were starving. We had a lovely quick brunch, lox and bagels and sandwiches. After getting settled in our tents we set out on our first whale watch experience in the San Ignacio Lagoon Whale Sanctuary. In the US a typical whale watching experience of three or four hours is considered a great experience if you see six or seven whales.

Between the camp and the sanctuary boundary was about a fifteen minute boat ride. By the time we entered the sanctuary I’d already seen blows from at least four whales. Once entering the sanctuary and slowing down the motor it became really clear how amazing this would be. You see we had incredibly flat water that first day which gave us incredible visibility. Slowly trolling through the sanctuary there were whales in every direction. Pretty quickly we were up close, within about twenty feet of several different whales and I was thrilled.

Now this trip was a bucket list item for me and I had some really specific hopes related to this trip. Of course I wanted to see whales, and see whales up close. But I also really hoped to be close enough to look a Gray Whale in the eye. My next hope was that I would get to touch a Grey Whale and finally, the grand slam for me would be getting to hug a whale. I honestly never thought that would happen, but if I got the rest I’ve be incredibly happy.

We had been in the sanctuary for about twenty minutes when a whale started making a bee line for our boat, our guide Tony said to the captain, “este Loco.” In fact it was Loco, a whale that the guide was very familiar with. Loco came right up to the boat and slid right up beside us. Within a few minutes of showing up I was actually able to reach out an touch a forty foot long, eighty thousand pound Gray Whale.

Hello Loco

What would happen over the next thirty to forty minutes would be one of the greatest experiences of my life. Loco would in fact play with us like a Labrador puppy, he would swim up, spy hop to the boat, then like a puppy does, he would rip his head away, spin around in the water, swim under the boat, bump us around and then do it all over again. It was amazing. Loco spent so much time up next to us that I pet him at least seven or eight times, I got to look him squarely in the eye. At one point, he opened his mouth and I was able to reach in and rub his baleen plates. Our guide leaned up and kissed him at one point and then it happened, he spy hopped right in front of me and I wrapped my arms around and hugged him briefly.

Loco up for a visit

The question I first get is what did it feel like? The skin of the whale was really smooth except where the barnacles were attached. The whale felt like a raw roast, firm but a bit giggly underneath, actually felt quite nice. You could tell Loco enjoyed the interaction it was so content to hold itself in front of us so we could touch him. In order to stay so close he actually had to gently move in the water as the boat was moving in the current.

petting Loco

Getting to look him square in the eye was magnificent. If you’ve ever looked a cow in the eye you can see the kind of vacuous stare of an animal not doing a lot of thinking. It was very different with Loco, you could see him focusing around looking at each of us, this was very much a sentient creature I was connecting with. Rubbing the baleen plates was fun, I was a little tentative reaching in but the whale allowed in and then very slowly and gently closed it’s mouth as it was falling away. My hug was quick but amazing, to connect with a whale at that level was literally a dream come through for me.

Looking Loco in the eye

Loco would in fact come back to our boat two more times briefly in the 90 minutes that we were out on that first trip before swimming off and interacting in a similar fashion with another boat. I would do eight more trips during my three days. No trip would match the first one and I was fine with that, as I told my guide on the way back from the first trip, everything I could have possibly imagine happening had happened with Loco. This doesn’t mean the other eight trips weren’t great. I would be fortunate enough to touch four more whales, and miss touching another three or four by a couple of inches. We would get to see a number of pairs of mothers and young calves, one who even tried and comically failed to breach. I did not realize that Gray Whales breached, but I got to watch a number of whale breaches and they often breach three or four times in a row. We had so many whales spy hop around the boat including at one point three whales spy hopping at the same time all within about fifteen feet of the boat.

On my last trip we had a rhythmically bumpy ride out of the sanctuary. I sat there on the bow of the boat, looking back at the sanctuary. Bouncing along and taking in the amazing beauty around me, the occasional whale or dolphin breaking the surface and it was absolutely magically. It had been a magnificent three days, after nearly three years of the pandemic, of no travel, there, bouncing along on that belt I felt like myself again, the person I’m meant to be, the nomad I’ve always been. More next week. ~ Rev Kane

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A Whale Adventure in Baja – Part 1

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. ~ Jawaharial Nehru

I’m a nomad, anyone who has read this blog for any amount of time knows that. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve always been an addict, travel is without a doubt my strongest addiction these days. It’s been three years since I’ve done any significant travel and it was wonderful breaking out and hitting the road again. A week in Baja with grey whales was the destination.

I was a biology (ecology) major in college and as a senior I took one of my favorite classes, animal behavior. In addition to the academic understandings of basic animal behaviors, we also learned about a lot of cool behaviors. We discussed things like the great migration, grunion runs on the Pacific Coast, all the crazy and amazing ways that animals attract mates. One of the things we talked about in that class back in 1988 was the fact that down in Baja, in the gray whale calving grounds, the whales actually interacted with humans. That in fact, people actually touched the whales who willingly swam up to the small boats they were in. I was fascinated by this story. You see I’m part of the generation of kids that first grew up with the Jacques Cousteau specials. Those specials touched in me in a very deep way, they drove my imagination and growing up I wanted to be a marine biologist.

In particular what fascinated me most were whales and dolphins, while being amazing creatures in almost every way, what really attracted me to them was their intelligence. In terms of brain size and demonstrated intelligence, dolphins may be as smart as humans, whales are similarly believed to be highly intelligent. Of course knowing exactly how that intelligence is utilized is one of the things that scientists continue to study. One of the things that I was interested in. Unfortunately the reality of becoming a marine biologists means a lot of years of college in one of the most competitive fields in biology, as well as difficulty in getting jobs and then when you do, they have a tendency to be low paying. This reality at some point meant that I decided to pursue a slightly different pathway. I have been fortunate enough early in my career to do some marine work. I worked on sustainable fisheries projects and even a project that built a black lipped pearl oyster hatchery in the South Pacific. I also had some great experiences like measuring green sea turtles and literally catching the eggs as they were being released. But whales and dolphins have always held a special place for me and I’ve done many whale watches in a lot of different locations.

So when I was deciding what would be my first adventure since COVID started, it was an easy decision as to what item to pick off of my bucket list. And I decided that it was finally time to go to the gray whale calving grounds in Baja and see if the stories were really true. So I set out for my first time to Cabo San Lucas.

I spent two days in Cabo San Lucas and it was really quite surprising. Although I’ve heard people talk about Cabo many times, I was not expecting what I got. Cabo San Lucas turned out to be an American tourist haven. American tourism is the driving engine of the economy there, as such, everyone who works in any service industry speaks English. Most of the restaurants and shops take American dollars, you can even find ATMs that distribute American Dollars. The place is loaded with America tourists. This is typically not my kind of vacation vibe, but it was the jumping off point for my trip. What I can really positively say about Cabo San Lucas, is that the resorts are lovely, the beaches are lovely and it is a great place to find activities. Whether it’s fishing, diving, snorkeling, sailing, whale watches or even riding a camel on the beach it’s a great place to find almost any kind of activity. For me, it meant the jumping off point for a two-hour Cessna flight up the coast to the whale watching camp I would be staying at for the next four days in San Ignacio Lagoon.

The morning leaving for San Ignacio was an early one, picked up at my hotel at 6AM and at 7AM we arrived to pick up two more passengers. One was Dr. Tony, pictured at the top of the page, he would be the only other guest in my group. Groups can be up to twelve people so we were really fortunate to be in such a small group. The other person joining us was Fabiola who would be working as one of the hostesses in the camp.

It was a beautiful two-hour flight up from Cabo to San Ignacio where we landed on a dirt runway near the beach. We quickly left the plane, had a glass of champagne and jumped into the panga to head to our camp. Pangas are the traditional fishing boats that have been historically used in the lagoon. What I hadn’t realized pre-trip was that our camp was actually located on an island in the the lagoon.

Our camp was located just outside of the borders of the whale sanctuary. This was absolutely a luxury tour, and my very fancy fully carpeted tent was the size of my studio apartment and quite nice with a living room, king sized bed and full bathroom with running water and shower, we also had wifi.

The sanctuary is one of two protected areas that serve as calving and mating grounds for gray whales in lagoons on the central coast of Baja. During the mating and calving season hundreds of whales gather in the lagoon. While I was there, they estimated that there were 150 whales present in the lagoon. By the height of the season there will be over 300 whales in the lagoon. What this means is that you have a very different experience doing a whale watch in San Ignacio than you see stateside.

You see normally in the US, you get on a 30-40 foot boat, or larger, you sail out for a three to four hour cruise and during that time hopefully you see some whales. Often you get to see a couple of groups of humpbacks, if you’re really lucky you get to see one breach (jump out of the water). Occasionally you see some other whales cruising, a pod of dolphins or rarely some Orcas. In San Ignacio we’d often see four or five whales before we even hit the sanctuary. Then on a 90 minute whale watch, you would see 30 or 40 different whales. You’d see at least 10 very close up, and on average at least one or two really close to the panga. Of course, the pangas are only 15 feet long and close to the water. So when whales got up close at times we got to touch them, and many times had whales blow (exhale) all over us, we were that close.

Over the next couple of posts I’ll lay out in more detail the experiences I had during the nine trips I took whale watching in the lagoon, including my experience with Loco, the whale pictured at the top of the post.

Have a happy day my friends. ~ Rev Kane

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I’ve Always Been an Addict

Selfie with my new friend Loco and the sun in my eyes

Addiction is a tough illness, and recovery from it is a hard but noble path. Men and women who walk that path deserve our support, encouragement, and admiration. ~ Sheldon Whitehouse

Hello friends, I’ve been gone a bit, this maybe the longest quiet spell I’ve had on the blog in the eleven years I’ve been writing. But like previous quiet periods, it was for a good reason, I was preparing, executing and recovering from my first real adventure in three years. I will talk a little more about this at the end of this piece and more to come over the next couple of weeks.

I realized very early in life that I’m a person prone to addiction. It manifested itself in small ways early on. I’ve always been one of those people who could eat the same meal a hundred times in a row if I liked it. When I was young I did get addicted to some good things, I got addicted to reading and read like crazy for years. Once video arcades became a thing, I got addicted to video games and dropped an amazing number of quarters into video games. I got addicted to Dungeons and Dragons for awhile as a teenager, and contrary to popular theories at the time, I didn’t turn into a sword wielding serial killer.

My addictive personality took a significant darker turn for me around 18 when I first went to college. I got addicted to alcohol and drugs and spent two years loaded. It took a pretty significant toll on my life and probably the most destructive thing was that it lead me into bouts of depression for the next ten years while I got clean and sober and dealt with the underlying issues of both the depression and the addictions.

While I did a lot of work in my thirties and forties to get my head straight and become a happier person. The core nature of my addictive personality has not changed, I’ve been addicted to a lot of things. I’m a lifelong pizza and Coca-cola addict, I’ve been addicted to love (cue Robert Palmer) in particular I’ve been Athena’s Addict for nearly 20 years, which is also the title of my second book of poetry. But without a doubt my biggest lifelong addiction has been travel and adventure.

With the pandemic happening shortly after I’d taken my latest job I’ve been unable to travel. It’s been almost three years since I did any type of travel that I would consider adventure. The pandemic has been hard on all of us for different reasons. For me, it’s felt like this nomad and gypsy was trapped in a cage. It wore me down and honestly killed my motivation for most things, it dulled my soul and made me basically numb. I was very much existing in a low-level state which is not who I am. I don’t think it really hit me how bad it had become until I was packing for my most recent trip.

Boarding that plane to Los Cabos was like emerging from being underwater, holding my breath and finally surfacing to get that first huge gulp of air. I’m not sure I can convey how much I love every part of an adventure. I love the planning, I love the escape, I love the madness that always ensues at some point in the process. I love solving the problems that arise, rolling with things in a way this control freak doesn’t embrace at any other point in his life. I love who I am on the road, I’m freer, easier and friendlier. My disdain for social situations nearly disappears and I’m excited to meet new people, I love learning about and experiencing new cultures.

Most of all I love doing things that I have dreamed of. I’ve known about the human gray whale interactions that occur in San Ignacio lagoon for almost thirty years. It’s been on my bucket list ever since to visit those calving grounds. What occurred last week in Baja literally blew my mind, met every expectation and woke me up from my pandemic coma. I literally hugged an 80,000 pound, 40 foot long whale!

That’s great in some ways and tough in one other. Giving an addict a taste of his preferred drug makes him crave that drug and want it all of the time. I’ve been back for four days and all I can think about is what’s next? As close as I am to retiring from my current gig, I know I’ll be road bound again soon, and maybe even for a big adventure. I’m starting to think that a year from now, I might just find my feet on a long distance trail again.

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A Moment for Mindfulness

Thich nhat hanh, mindfulness

Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Tonight a simple post in honor of an incredible man, Thich Nhat Hanh. A lifelong Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Nhat Hanh, who wrote over 130 books is perhaps the single most important figure in the mindfulness movement in the United States. His books have been incredibly popular in the United States and have made a great impact on the interest of Buddhist philosophy and particularly mindfulness. I have written about him and mindfulness before, so tonight I will bring back some of these pieces in an effort to honor a truly great man.

The words of Thich Nhat Hanh

Happiness Resources: Mindfulness

A mindfulness day as way to happiness

The benefits of meditation

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Let’s all lose weight in 2022!

Let’s all lose weight in 2022! The weight I’m talking about is not the pounds around your mid-section but the emotional weight we all carry. These are incredibly stressful times, so it’s time to do some of the things you need to do to lessen the emotional baggage you are carrying, which in turn will reduce the stress your facing and in fact, less stress may make it easier to lose those pounds as well.

The first step in this process is really looking at yourself, not with the blinders we typically wear, but from the perspective of others. So take a look and think about what relationships in your life are causing you the greatest amount of stress. Those are the relationships that you need to cut down or lose to reduce your emotional weight.

Now I know this can be hard, very often the relationships that cause us the greatest stress are relationships that we feel obligated to be in. Typically this means it’s a relative, a long-time friend, or someone you’re romantically involved with. The very act of doing something about these types of relationships can be stressful in itself, however the net effect will be lower stress in your life.

The first step, particularly with relationships that you feel obligated to continue, is to speak up and let the person know that there is tension. It’s imperative to clearly and calmly share your feelings, let the person know how you feel and what is bothering you about the relationship. Your first hope should always be that having an honest conversation can lead to repairing the relationship to a point that it isn’t as stressful.

It’s important to remember that you and your feelings matter, you have the absolute right and responsibility to take care of yourself first. So if the relationships can’t be improved or repaired it may be time to move on from them. My best advice here is the way you end anything, be clear, unambiguous and emphasize that this is what is best for you and that has to be your priority. Try to not be angry and emotional when you make that statement and if you’ve made a good faith effort to make things better, than don’t get guilted into giving people additional chances to change.

Sometimes the relationships, work or other stressors in your life are difficult to deal with, that’s when it’s time to get help. There is no shame in getting help, the stigma around therapy and counseling has really diminished in recent years. Help has also become exceedingly accessible, there are traditional services, but also apps and therapy by phone and online and they’ve become much more affordable.

Finally, a reminder we’ve made here many times, that exercise can help reduce stress. While it won’t fix your relationships, exercise does reduce the hormones in your body that are caused by stress.

So let’s all make a concerted effort this year to lose some emotional weight, I promise it will lead to happier days my friends. ~ Rev Kane

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2022 is going to be a big year

I believe that 2022 is going to be a big year, big good, big bad is of course the question, but I believe big never the less. The first thing to acknowledge of course is that at the moment we are seeing the highest umber of COVID infections since the pandemic began two years ago. Happily, due to vaccines and better treatments, hospitalizations and particularly deaths have not similarly spiked. We still are looking at 1500 deaths a day, which is horrible, but that number has not spiked the same way cases have, one day recently we had 1,000,000 positive COVID results in one day. However in particularly bad spots hospitalizations have risen high enough to impact the ability for hospitals to function and this is still a problem.

As such of course a lot of us are beginning to once again have significant work disruptions. My college is shifting to virtual meetings this week and has an emergency board meeting this Tuesday night to see if we will be going to full virtual instruction as well. So regardless of what is decided, we are looking at another chaotic start to another semester in the pandemic era. I’ve already had more staff report positives for them or their families since January 3rd, than I did all of last semester.

But 2022 is the year where I will hit the number of service years I need to both reset my retirement salary level and my years of service. Which of course means that this year is a year that I can make a major career change until either I hit medicare age or universal health insurance comes to America.

It’s also already been a huge year on a personal front. I met someone nearly twenty years ago who undoubtedly will be the love of my life. That our relationship was incredibly complicated, utterly non-traditional, amazingly intense and undefinable even to us is more than accurate. That we have a connection to each other than neither of us can explain or escape is also more than accurate. But too much time, distance, uncertainty and complications has drove a wedge between us over the last few years. And in 2022 it has all come crashing down and we’ve said goodbye, big year.

But 2022 is also shaping up to be a year of milestones. I’ve quite accidentally bounced into setting an initial pace of bucket list items each month, so what the hell, let’s see if we can’t go 12 for 12 this year. Yesterday I completed my pistol training safety course that both qualified me for my license to purchase in the state of California but also my concealed weapons permit that’s good in 25 states. It was an interesting experience, while I grew up hunting and shooting rifles and shotguns, I’d never fired a pistol before yesterday. Within the training I was able to handle and fire .22, .38, .40 and .45 caliber pistols. Using firearms is always very intense and while we were not shooting over a lot distance, I was happy to see that I had some proficiency including shooting a bullseye on my very first shot with a .45 caliber pistol.

In February, as I’ve mentioned in a recent post, I’ll be heading to Mexico to have an up close grey whale experience in the San Ignacio Lagoon in the Sea of Cortez. So the question becomes, what’s up for March, I’ll have to get back to my bucket list and see what I can check off next. But of course I’m always happy to hear suggestions from you my friends, so feel free to make some recommendations in the comments.

May your 2022 also be big year with lots of happiness for you my friends. ~ Rev Kane

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Happy World Introvert Day

Yes, in our over commercialized world everyday is some kind of day like world day old bagel day. Literally every single day has a cause or recognition including today January 2nd. Today is four national days including national: buffet; cream puff; personal trainer awareness and national science fiction day. But seeing a post earlier today on Twitter wishing everyone a happy world introvert day of course struck a chord with me.

I’m a huge introvert and that part of me has grown over the years. I took my first Meyers-Briggs assessment when I was 18 or 19. At that time I tested as a mild introvert, I would take the test a number of times over the next 10-15 years and each time my introvert score got larger until the point that the last couple of times that I took the test I topped out on the introvert scale.

Being an introvert is just one more thing that makes me feel like a damn alien on this planet. Introverts are generally misunderstood. People actually often argue with me when I tell them I’m an introvert. You see most folks think that all introverts are weird, socially awkward loners who are unable to socialize or speak in public. Since I do pubic speaking and interact well in crowds it confuses people.

I think the best way I’ve ever heard how to define the difference between introverts and extroverts, is that it is how people charge their batteries. Extroverts gain energy by being around and interacting with others. Introverts charge their batteries by being alone. So as an introvert I can be social, can interact with people but it drains me. I work in a job that is all about interacting with people, so at the end of the day I need time alone. This has been a problem in relationships with women who are not introverts. Often they don’t understand this need and feel that I’m avoiding them, and this has happened throughout my life with all kinds of people who are close to me.

So today lots of love to my fellow introverts out there in the world, my wish for you is that today you find time alone with a good book, a cup of your favorite beverage and no interruptions from the world of people.

Everyone is different, we all have different needs in order to be happy. We know what those needs are and you don’t do yourself, or anyone around you an good if you don’t get those needs met. So if you’re an introvert find some time alone, if you’re an extrovert find a way to interact with people, if running makes you happy run, if it’s baking, bake and BTW I’m partial to oatmeal chocolate chip cookies if you’re looking for baking ideas. Life is short, too short not to do what you need to do to be happy so go out there and get it.

~ Rev Kane

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What 2021 taught us.

New year 2022 and old year 2021 on sandy beach with waves

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. ~ Alan Watts

I always start my annual New Year’s Eve post with the same sentiment, happy amateur night! My neighbor Jack Wrigley originated this line, at least in my experience and I’ve always thought it perfectly encapsulates the evening. I’ve haven’t gone out to a party for New Year’s Eve in over 30 years. In my early twenties I made the scene a number of times and it always seemed to go the same way. People, overly dressed, drinking at a level they were not accustomed to (amateurs) and getting more loaded than they normally do. This always led to far too many sloppy drunks, somebody puking on my or my date’s shoes. Even worse, far too many drunk dudes with bad manners or chip on their shoulders. I don’t suffer idiots, even drunk idiots, so it seemed every New Year’s Eve I would end up escorting some idiot out of the party, or have to walk away from a ridiculous potential fight. So I packed it in some time ago in terms of New Year’s Eve celebrations. By far the best New Year’s Eve (NYE) celebrations I’ve been part of have involved a few friends and a fire pit. So happy amateur night however you celebrate.

Every year teaches us something and 2021 was no exception. But I want to start with NYE a year ago, I remember the sentiments twelve months ago very well. We were excited and ready for the pandemic to be over, we had fond wishes that 2021. Fairly quickly that optimism faded as we all watched in horror as rioters stormed the capitol on January 6th. We all got re-acquainted with COVID via the Delta variant and found out how vulnerable our global supply chain truly was. We’ve seen even something as wonderful as a COVID vaccine become the subject of further political polarization. Hell, Betty White even died today a few days short of her 100th birthday. A universally loved star whose death sort of contained the feeling of the whole year.

So what are the lessons that 2021 taught us that we need to take into 2022? The first is to temper your expectations. I’m not big on this one, I without a doubt have always been a dreamer and believe that you should dream and dream big. I’ve taken on big adventures in my life and done things in ways people didn’t think could be done. I’ve been able to do this by not ignoring reality and thoroughly planning those adventures. So dream, but don’t ignore reality, keep your expectations within the realm of the realistic. Which 2021 taught us meant that you can’t ignore COVID, find ways to achieve and do the things you want to do but be realistic about what doing them in a COVID world will mean and do them safely.

We were also reminded by 2021 of that universal idea that the only thing that is constant is change. And 2022 will bring loads of it of course, as any other year does. I hear the term the new normal, stop looking looking for normal, embrace the idea that things will change and adapt to make the best of the new world that we are in, we are never returning to the old normal. I know you’re tired, I know you’re stressed, but it’s time to accept the changes in our world, embrace them, do the best you can and find new ways to provide a happy life for you and your family.

So Happy 2022, a year where you will learn to adapt and make the most out of our new reality and find a happier you. ~ Rev Kane

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Acceptance and Action for Happiness

Acceptance has never been an idea I’ve been very comfortable with. I think it comes from the fact that I had some tough times as a kid and the idea that I couldn’t change things was too horrible of an idea to believe in. And of course, there are many, many things in your life that you can, and should change if you want to be happier. The Serenity prayer that I first got introduced to in Alcoholics Anonymous says it incredibly well.

Although I learned this prayer in the early 80’s, the idea of acceptance is really something that didn’t settle in until I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail in 2015. It was on the AT that I really learned acceptance, the trail taught me all about it. You see on the AT, one of the most important things every day is the weather. The temperature, whether it’s rainy or snowing, or how hard the wind is blowing all have a massive impact on your day. In my first two weeks on the trail there was precipitation almost every single day. It started with snow and freezing rain and transitioned to cold rain for days and days and days. Being cold and wet, day after day is a miserable state of affairs. But you can’t change the weather, what is going to come, is going to come. I started out on the trail fighting that idea and I was miserable, it culminated in me almost quitting the trail in Helen, GA. Happily a couple of nights in a hotel to dry out and some surprisingly good food got my mood sorted and allowed me to go back out onto the trail.

I’m so thankful it worked out that way, because it was the beginning of my journey to understanding the importance of accepting things you can’t change. As I adapted my attitude on the trail to paying attention, preparing for, but generally not caring so much about the weather, everything got better. By the time, three months later, that I finished my AT journey the weather had become almost a non-factor. It had to in order for me to effectively keep my mood up and keep going on the trail day in and day out.

The same reality exists with the pandemic. I think some of the frustration that all of us have felt has been our denial of the reality of COVID. The 1918 flu pandemic effectively lasted for three years. We all believed with better medical knowledge, medicine and vaccine development that we’d get out of this quickly. I remember the optimism in March of 2020 that this would over in months, then surely within a year and now as we enter the third calendar year of the pandemic, with a new variant raging across the United States, it’s time for acceptance and action.

Let’s talk about acceptance first. While there is an argument to be made that we, as in humanity, could change the pandemic. I’m talking about people wearing masks, social distancing when appropriate, and people getting vaccinated and boosted. This doesn’t seem to be what we as a society have chosen to embrace. As such, we all need to accept the reality that COVID is with us for some time. If for no other reason than the vaccine inequality that exists globally. As long as we have countries that still have vaccine rates in single digit percentages the virus will have plenty of bodies to infect. And the more infection that occurs, the more mutations will occur and sooner or later new variants and subsequent infection waves will follow.

So this means that COVID is with us for some time and that likely means at least some of the time being masked up in public settings, needing proof of your vaccination status for travel and likely at least annual booster shots. It means keeping our social circles smaller and making better decisions about who and how we spend our time. It means that safety will have to be a more conscious part of our decision making process. This is what acceptance looks like with COVID.

But as I said, it’s about acceptance and action. Taking a deadly disease seriously is not weakness, living in a safe and prepared way and making smart, safety related decisions is not living in fear, but living smartly, prudently. We do this with all sorts of things. We wear seat belts and strap babies into carriers when driving. We’ve learned over time that drinking and driving is a bad idea, we don’t burn brush in the middle of a windy, dry summer day. We take these sensible precautions to keep ourselves and our family safe. And we must do that with COVID as well.

We of course have to live our lives, we can’t just shelter in place forever. So the action part of this is a two part type of thing. First, we stay safe and prepare and second we carefully choose the things we want to do. This will mean changing things in our life, we all will need to decide what level of risk is acceptable. Will you have a family gathering at your house without making people take a fast COVID test that day or the day before? Will you continue to socialize with unvaccinated people? When traveling how careful will you be? Will you continue to pick less crowd related vacation opportunities. Camping, renting AirBnB properties and other less crowd intensive vacations have continued to become more popular during the pandemic. Likely these type of vacations will remain popular.

For example, I’m taking my first international vacation since the pandemic began. While it will include a couple of days in a resort, most of the trip will be in a beach camp. The main activity will be going out on boats to get up close to grey whales. So except at night sleeping in my tent, the majority of the trip will be spent outdoors. While I’m a bit concerned about flying, I broke the flight into two shorter legs instead of one long leg. I will be double masked on the plane, a K95 and cotton mask over top. I don’t plan to eat or drink on the plane. Given that I’ll be in Mexico I’ll have a required COVID test before returning and plan to take an at home test two days after returning, and not going back to the office until I’ve done that. We all need to do a better job of not just being worried about our own health but considerate of our impact on others as well.

Once we accept our new reality and take the appropriate actions, we can feel safer, more comfortable and happier in our COVID times. ~ Rev Kane

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A thank you to teachers

Tonight a joint post on two of my blogs the Ministry of Happiness and Higher Ed Mentor. It’s been a crazy year in education and as we wrap up the fall semester and I’m seeing what some of my faculty are doing to help students, and helping some students get their teachers to do what they should, I started thinking back on my own teachers.

Teachers are such an incredible part of everyone’s life, it’s rare that someone doesn’t have some teacher along the way that did something amazing and impactful in their life. For those of us who have decided to work in education, this is especially so. Tonight I wanted to just reach back and thank some of the most impactful teachers in my life.

First of all thank you to all of my teachers and teachers in general, it’s a much tougher job than people realize and an incredibly important job in our society. I think the first teacher I have to thank is my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Garno. She showed up at my house one night to express her concerns about me to my mother, and officially was the first teacher to call me on my shit. You see, I was a street kid from the wrong side of the tracks and ran with some serious juvenile delinquents. I pulled a lot of shit in school but I had learned early on, if you were a white kid with straight A’s, you could almost always get away with pointing the finger at someone else. But somehow, Mrs. Garno saw through that and actually prevented me from participating in something extremely stupid, thank you.

I have to thank my third grade teacher Mrs. Nicholson for making me feel special. That woman loved me, she believed in me, she saw potential in me no else had seen and she wasn’t shy in telling me about it. And she kept up with my life until the day she died. She was one of the few people in my early life who made me feel like I could be someone special.

In eighth grade I got put into an advanced math class, doing high school work in junior high. Ms. Spinelli, in addition to being smoking hot, (that was impactful to a 14 year-old boy), she was also a great teacher. It was in her class that she brought out the best in me academically and made me realize that my path to success in life would certainly start with academics.

In high school I had two teachers who were married to each other, one in Biology and one in Calculus who taught me how to be rigorous academically, whatever academic success I had in college is in some part to the skills imparted on me by Ma and Pa Russell.

The greatest teacher I ever had was my 4 year, high school English teacher Frank Sullivan at Hudson High School in New York. He has been the best teacher I’ve ever seen in action. When I became a teacher I emulated him more than anyone else I’d ever seen teach. He was crazy, active, dramatic and he hit us with what was really important in life and he did so while expanding my cultural experience on a massive scale.

As an undergrad at SUNY Plattsburgh I had one truly unique teacher, Larry Schaffer. I took his elective Biopsychology class because I had gotten to know him a bit and because of what everyone said about his class. Of course the semester I took the class he completed revamped it and we spent time working through in a discussion format, books by Stephen Jay Gould. What Larry showed me was that it was a ok to be a personality as a college teacher and the importance of being willing to shake up what you do, even if it was already successful. He also emulated what a student centered caring professor looked like.

As an undergraduate I had student teaching assignments and as a student teacher at Plattsburgh Junior High School I worked with Maynard Jubert. They called him Mr. Science and he was a master at active learning. He taught me so much about integrating hands-on activities into the classroom setting and how to do so in such a way that it enhanced the flow of the classroom.

The last teacher I’ll talk about is Professor Philpott at UTK. I took his graduate level multi-variate statistic class as an audit because I needed one technique within the class. But the class was so good I attended every class and even took the exams. What made his class so good was that as an education major I had always been taught that the best thing you could do is to teach every concept three ways. Talk through it, show it visually and then have students experience it with their hands. Philpott said he would do this in multi-variate stats, and he did. He had this crazy board with coat hangars set into it that he would bend around and then stretch a knit cap across it to allow you to hold an actual three dimensional model of every function we discussed, a true master class in teaching and statistics.

So thank you to all of them and all of you who teach, you do so much and have impacts you’ll never know about but are so important, to so many people.

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