“Life is a journey that's measured not in miles or years
but in experiences, and the route your life takes is built not of roads but of songs.”
― Jimmy Buffett, (A Pirate Looks at Fifty)
I went to sleep one night and woke up fifty. Wasn’t it yesterday I jumped the waves of Wilmington Beach with my brother? Minutes ago I walked along Willow Creek next to Danae with sweaty palms as she tossed her strawberry blonde hair. Seconds ago I sat with our kids under the shadow of the Sawatch Mountains in the cool air of Labor Day Weekend.
But the days have passed. Thirty three years Danae and I have adventured. My oldest is getting married in September and moving to Germany and my youngest flies me around in airplanes.
I discovered the long discography of Jimmy Buffett when I was in my early twenties. Buffett was already a pirate looking at fifty himself in the 90s. His music is the backdrop to my life, and this same music lead me to places I may have never discovered without it.
“Incommunicado” sent us to Leadville in 1995 and we’ve returned countless times each year to hike the mountains, fish the streams, and drink at the Brass Ass and Tennessee Pass. I’ve shared more moments with friends there than I can remember. We drank and sweat in “Captain Tony’s” in Key West. “He Went to Paris” and “Frenchman for the Night” sent me to walk the streets of Paris at times alone and other times hand in hand with Danae. “Coast of Carolina” returned me to my youth on the Outterbanks and “Dukes on Sunday” back to Waikiki Beach with my family.
My parents were the first to instill a wandering spirit. My father would take us into the Blue-ridge and Smoky Mountains where we would hike the woods, ski the lakes and spend time at small roadside stops. My parents took me to New York, DC, Chicago, Philly, and LA and taught me to manage myself before intelligent men and women. My father was at home in the presence of intellectuals as well as hillbillies and he taught us to mold to others and to not make others mold to us.
I’d seen most of the country by the time I was twenty thanks to my parents, and Danae and I just picked up from there with our kids. We spent our nearly twenty years with Sarah and Beau going further, experiencing more and meeting amazing people.
We never had a checklist - we went where opportunity presented itself. Each of our adventures is not a scrap book of photos but a book of stories. Beau and I reading by the Pantheon fountain in Rome, Danae and I paddling in the remote regions on Glacier National Park, Sarah and I laughing at small cafe in Paris on the spot where Thomas Aquinas wrote the Summa Theologica. Celebrating with people from around the world and drinking Sangria after my run with the bulls in Pamplona. Staring at the Lincoln Memorial in awe.
Experiences can also be dangerous things. Falling 50 feet in 2012 on a rappel and surviving, dodging political unrest with Darrin Kirby and Maria Cortez in Central America to name a couple. Jimmy Buffett says of such things, “One of the inescapable encumbrances of leading an interesting life is that there have to be moments when you almost lose it.”
As I reflect, it is fifty years of experiences I am grateful for as each experience changed me in some way and brought me closer to my family and friends. It wasn’t just doing something or being somewhere it was that someone was there - someone to share the moment.
All these experiences would have been shallow and pegs on a map if not in the context of faith. If there were not something binding and eternal I don’t think I would have found a reason to see and seek places and people. It is because I learned of Jesus from my mother that all of creation gained an incredible beauty to me. The Bible gave me a view of God’s love of his creation and his endless and selfless love for the people he placed in his creation. If there were no one at home, if I were merely a fleeting molecule then I think we should spend little time appreciating anything or caring about what comes after us. Coming to faith in Jesus Christ offered the reasons and an understanding of reality. Without this faith: family, friends and experiences would be for nothing but some finite self satisfaction.
Without faith I would of never understood the awful truths about myself. I was a lying kid, a disobedient child, a disrespectful student, a mean spirited young husband, and a sometimes angry father. These sins would of paralyzed me if not for the grace of God and the finished work of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness made it possible and makes it possible for me to move foreword, to try again, to fail again and to try again. “As a pilot I know, that if you are flying from point a to point b and a big storm blocks your way, you don’t just barrel on through. You either land or do a 180 and go back to point a,” writes Buffett
In my writings over the years I’ve quoted the Bible and Jimmy Buffett lyrics more than any other sources. Some might see this as a conflict and as a life pulled in different directions, but I simply see it as the great paradox of life: In the world, but not of it. Buffett lyrics explain our feelings and experiences in the moment and Scripture puts them in a timeline with context. Both will take me into the coming years however long or short they may be.
Nothing is greater than forty years of faith, thirty years of life with Danae, and twenty years of being a father. The next best thing is a wealth of friends for including me in their stories.
This pirate hopes to sail the seas as grandfather in the coming years. I also hope to improve as a husband, father and friend. I covet your correction and comfort on the journey and I pray our experiences continue to mold us and bind us.