What binds my hobbies together?

I’m a man of too many hobbies. I like backpacking, sailing, astronomy, photography, woodworking and electronics tinkering. Long ago, as I was applying to become a deacon, one of the people I met with pointed out how many of those hobbies are introverted in nature. He pointed out that people who have leadership roles often have introverted hobbies as a way to “get away” from their leadership related interpersonal issues. And to that end, he encouraged me to make sure I kept some of those hobbies despite the added burdens of becoming a deacon.

But recently I saw two similar quotes about the sailing and backpacking communities. One was an example of a sailboat that detoured hundred of miles to help a disabled boat that had lost its mast. The captain spoke of how this was not charity on his part but a “law of the sea”.

The other was a quote about the backpacking community by Jon Tullis:

“If everyone in the world took care of each other the way folks do out on the trail, and if everyone approached each day with as much hope and optimism as hikers do, the world would be a better place.”

What occurred to me is that while most of my hobbies definitely ‘scratch my itch’ for my introverted side, they also very much have a community of people who are uncommonly supportive of each other. Sailing and backpacking have explicit ethical principles of putting the needs of others above one’s desires. But if I look at the others, in particular astronomy and woodworking, they have a collaborative/cooperative thrust within their communities that is pretty noble as well.

I bring this up not to brag, but to encourage others to find similar things in their life with their interests. We live in a cynical and selfish world that too often lacks in compassion. The more time we spend interacting with that world, the more we too become jaded and cynical. We too will bend towards being selfish.

We need to find communities that counter-act this, to have relationships with people who are self-less and giving, who put the needs of others above themselves. In part, this is what our families are for. I would also hope that our interactions with members of our parish communities are similar. But I don’t think that is enough. We need to see it in others who are “outsiders” as well. So I think it would be wise for us to look at the communities we interact with and take stock… which of them bend towards being just like the rest of our cynical and selfish world and which bend towards something more noble?

And I think we should use the results of that introspection to change our priorities to emphasize those places that encourage us to live by a higher code of ethics and self-less-ness.

Reflection of the Day (ROTD)

For those who have talked to me in the last few months, they know that my summer plans didn’t exactly go as expected. I had two big trips that I’ll review:

The first was a big “RV” trip where we rented a travel trailer to hook up to my truck and did a big loop around the Southwest. Minus minor detours, the basic driving path was Home -> Reno, NV -> St. George, UT -> White Sands, NM -> Tucson, AZ -> Reno, NV -> Home. It was a total of 3400 miles in 11 days. The goal of the trip was two-fold, to see a bunch of national parks (Zion, Grand Canyon North, Petrified Forrest, White Sands and Saguaro) and to do a bunch of Astronomy stuff, including visiting the Very Large Array in New Mexico as well as trying to get some imagery of our own in some really dark places (Lunar Crater, Kaibab Forrest and SW New Mexico).

Even though we completed the loop, I’d have to say the trip was a failure. The first astronomy stop was too windy to get good imagery and then we broke a suspension spring on the travel trailer while driving a gravel road to the 2nd site in Kaibab Forrest a few days later. And that started a series of dominos falling where everything after that, while completed, was never quite on track, including never getting any good astronomy done. Frankly I tried to cram too much into one trip, with too many risky things plan and then paid the price for that aggressiveness.

The second trip was for my son Andrew and I to hike the John Muir Trail. It too ended up being a debacle. We originally had a permit to start on July 14th on the Mt. Whitney side of the trail. But with 2023 having been a historic snow year, there was still too much snow on the trail at that point. With about a week to go to the planned start date, we pulled the plug. That started a month long process of scrambling to get a new permit for later in the season and adjust our plans, including moving my large work vacation. The good news was we were able to get a permit for a start date of August 18th, but it was definitely chaotic and left the summer in an extended period of stasis/waiting.

When the time for the trip came, weather was our downfall. On the 2nd day of the trip, already most of the way up Mt. Whitney, we had to turn around and head back down the mountain due to Hurricane Hilary, which arrived later that afternoon. We hunkered down in the town of Lone Pine as the eye of the storm passed overhead the following day (the center of the eye was just 3.5 miles to the east of us). We ended up stuck in town for 5 days, first because of the storm itself, then because all the roads were flooded/closed and finally because we couldn’t get a permit to get back on the trail. We finally got a permit to start at Piute Pass, and missed nearly 100 miles of the southern part of the trail.

After that we had a good week of hiking, covering over 70 miles and making it to Red’s Meadow. However, when we arrived there, another storm was brewing. This one was likely to dump a notable amount of snow over Donahue Pass. (You’ll remember the storm if you saw the news headlines about Burning Man turning into a mud pit.) We again got off the trail to ride out the storm. But when the storm was even worse than anticipated, we “cried uncle” and phoned family to come pick us up.

Needless to say, this was not how I had hoped the summer would go.

Ever since, I’ve been having a feeling of disquiet in my soul. I’ve been feeling like I’m missing something that I’m called to do and I’m filling that hole with as many distractions as I can, in some vain attempt to avoid discerning that call. I’ve made discerning what this is a big part of my daily prayer routine.

I haven’t yet come to any firm conclusions, but I have a growing sense that I’m called to write more. I used to do a lot of it. I used to be a prolific sports blogger, so much so that it ended up resulting in a side job doing sports reporting for Rivals.com for a handful of years. I also in parallel wrote a Catholic blog. Later I turned toward longer form writing. I “currently” have 3 books that I’ve either outlined or written at least a chapter of… but I haven’t done any meaningful work on them for a few years. Something in me thinks that I’m called to return to writing more frequently.

So, all of that is a long way of saying that I intend to explore that intuition by doing a “Reflection of the Day” (ROTD) most days moving forward. Stop by here to see what’s on my mind.