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Wading in The River Dispirited

A couple of weeks ago we had our last short cold spell. The wind howled out of the north and the temperature dropped to 39 degrees. I grabbed my jacket and went out back by the pool and laid on the cold cement deck and spent some time just staring upwards. I was depressed.

Fort twenty-five years of my life I have traveled with my friends the first weekend in May. It’s a long tradition and has involved over 100 friends. Each year about 35 of us make the journey, and I have never missed a trip. Until now; and this year we will all miss the trip.

I recalled numerous moments in our decades of adventure: swimming in oceans, kayaking rivers, fishing lakes, mountain summits, hiking deserts, and dashing through trees on ATVs. This year I will only be wading in the river, Dispirited.

Heraclitus writes from 500 BC, "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." This would be truer than ever this year.

I was 25 years old on the first “May Club” trip and now I’ve crossed the threshold of my 50s. Amazingly I still have the same energy, but not so much the same resilience.

I’ve watched my friends age with me and our sons join the club. Some changed greatly and others remained the same. Some endured hardships and others have enjoyed smooth sailing. All of them have taught me great lessons in living, though not all of them still attend.

My melancholy grew stronger when I thought of those who no longer attended. Two friends have passed from this life, a few faded away, and one or two I never want to return. I think the latter pained me most because while their actions led me to a decision, it remains a choice I wish I never had to make. When nearly 40 men head out on adventure for five days a year, you are bound to find a couple who don’t fit.

I have found few groups quite like ours, while men’s clubs are hardly a new idea, a group of men from all walks of life celebrating and enjoying adventurous activities for five days a year is certainly different. This group would never fit under the banner of a country club, civic group, sporting club, industry conference, or church event, although we make up all of those in some way all at once.

Men of different faiths or men of no faith, blue collar and white collar, wealthy and barely making it, and all the colors of the rainbow make up our crew. Our differences have taught us life lessons in acceptance, tolerance and daily living as well as learning- we are all not that different.

It is dispiriting to think we will not be celebrating at the top of mountain with a beer, or that we will not be laughing until 1 am as Jimmy Buffett plays in the background. There will be no early breakfast conversations about family or our traditional “Lunch that Lasts Forever.”

Amidst hiking, climbing, fishing, boating and more our lives have become intertwined and bound. Even through this Coivd shutdown we have been on the phone seeking ways to serve one another.

So while I will not cross Devil’s Bridge in Sedona this May with friends, I am grateful for all the lessons and love birthed from decades past, and I will hope the stored energy from 2020 will make the 2021 trip all the better.

I’ll end with our annual toast, “To the goodness of friendship, the love of family and the greatness of God!”

Press on and see you soon.

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