16,071 days

This birthday weekend I wanted to step out of the COVID haze – the fog of teaching, the smog of social distance, the stink of politics, the taint of racism – to celebrate these days I’ve had.

Still from Ari Aster’s film Midsommar (2019).

16,071 days in this life of mine.

Only 16,071. Seems that there should be more… or that, at least, I should remember more of them.

1,664 days since I suffered cardiac arrest. Almost 10% (9.658%) of my entire life I’ve lived AFTER that moment.

2,301 days since my first Wakonse.

2,301 days since establishing a new foothold in Michigan – I’ve had to miss Wakonse (Conference on College Teaching) twice since 2014; in 2016 when I had the heart attack I mention above, and 2020… thanks COVID.

Slogan icon from Camp Miniwanca, where Wakonse takes place.

2,764 days since China.

2,764 days since traveling around the world to meet a daughter, touching ancient stones, letting the jade work, and seeing the Emperor’s dragons.

3,783 days since Miranda.

3,783 days since my first child was born. I’ve had more radical changes in this quarter of my life than the rest… well, maybe not; the first ten years of a life sure consist of a lot of upheaval. I suspect Miranda’s 10 years have been at least as intense to her as my ten years with her have been.

Self Portrait, 2017.

4,760 days since I started teaching at Mizzou.

4,760 days of late night lesson planning, a few really long faculty meetings, a couple dozen graduate students, and many hundreds of undergraduates. 4,760 days of learning as I went. I’m still learning, even (especially?) in this COVID era, how to be a better teacher.

5,589 days since Italy.

5,589 days since the Uffizi, Pontormo, squid, table wine, cathedrals, trains, the infamous forehead hickie, and walking 10 miles per day.

Alison atop the Duomo in Florence, Italy. May 2005.

6,295 days of marriage.

6,295 days of ups and downs and the mystery of where the road leads. In spite of it all it’s been grace and peace along the way. Mountain tops and dead ends, safe havens and strange switchbacks… I can still see the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain in Maine from here.

7,045 days since Ox-Bow.

7,045 days since arriving at Ox-Bow for the first time – a three month summer fellowship. Mmm…. Michigan. The transformational influences of the ancient Lake are still effective.

Me, at Ox-Bow, July 2001.

8,630 days days since I made a choice to change.

8,630 days days since decided to go to school and try to get trained as an artist. One of the best choices I ever made… I made it under a pickup truck in the snow and ice at 2:30 in the morning.

10,258 days since I was too old.

10,258 days ago I was too old to participate in the Rod and Gun Club Kids Fishing Derby at the Camden Reservoir. Seems minor, but it was a watershed moment.

12,641 days since the shuttle disaster.

12,641 days since the day in a Grove City, Pennsylvania classroom where my classmates and I watched the Shuttle Challenger blow up live on a TV in our 3rd grade classroom.

I’ve got a few more key memories from days prior to (or around) the ones above… but no solid dates. Shooting guns with Frobisher. Steaks with Palmer and Brett. Touring tornado devastation. Frozen drops of water on the picnic table in a smoking Yellowstone Park. Driving off the road into a cornfield with Chris. Sore throats with Robin. Reading Nabokov. Sweaty bread with Hoyt. Scratch-offs with Peter. Swearing Elaine.

So many. Each day more.

Photo from inside Luray Caverns, Virginia, 2016.

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