Subject: Late Christmas letter
Date: Sat, 23 Jan 1999
Ann and I got to visit Doc Bennett and Diane last September at their ineffably northern California rural home. It's was a visit to cherish. They live in the sun and wind swept hills along the pacific coast, just over the brow of the ridge that separates the ocean from inland valleys. They treated us to an afternoon on their boat, an old Alaskan fishing boat with a diesel inboard, and we actually saw and swam in a slough. Not a sluff, not a slow, but a slew. I've been turning that word over on my tongue ever since running into it in some PA english class. If you ever have a chance to visit them, don't pass it up.
Here's our recent annual communication. Sorry that you otherwise hear so little from me.
Life gets fuller and more topsy-turvy every year. What'll it be like when we're 80?
80 you ask! We are maintaining a modified Pritikin lifestyle loaded with vitamins, minerals, mind-memory-and-circulation enhancers, flu suppressors and general all round strengthen-the-good-and-inhibit-the-bad elixirs. In recent months, I've only revealed 2 clues that I might be over 40: hip and knee joints that stiffen up when I sit for any prolonged period and take 3 or 4 seconds to engage when I stand up, and suit case sized bags under my eyes. A few weeks ago, one of my brothers introduced me to glucosamine chondroitin sulfate, and I think I've left the joint stiffeners in the dust. A sister gave me a Body Shop salve which I'm trying on the eyes. Safer than preparation H, but results yet to be confirmed.
Well, actually, we admit to a third clue about our ages, but it's generally in our closet: how in the world do you understand TV ads aimed at gen-x?
Our entrepreneurial adventure with Air Lift in 1998 resembled a rodeo ----- where you're a blindfolded rider and never know what you're riding till you come our of the shute: a mutton buster, a brahma bull, a 5-gaited prancer or a bronco. Our business plan forecasted a banner year selling nursing bags ---- and the balanced budget act of '97 cut medicare reimbursements for home health and hospice agencies so severely that the nursing bag market disappeared, leaving us holding a container full of bags that we had imported in '97.
Hewlett Packard purchases had grown steadily for 5 years accounting for a substantial percentage of our sales. Chaos in asian markets resulted in these sales declining 50% from January through September. Then, HP, acclaiming our service, quality, flexibility and pricing designated us a preferred vendor and invited us to manufacture 6 more cases.
In July, we spent 3 weeks on an exquisite adventure in Peru. After months of planning, studying and great anticipation, we flew down on our mileage plus credits to start in Cuzco, the capital of the Inca empire when the Spaniards arrived. Our daughter and son-in law, Nicole and Gray, and 3 other close friends were with us.
A couple of weeks before departing, Ann had learned of Eva, a Peruvian girl from Cuzco who has been living with an Evergreen family and attending Colorado Academy where our daughters had once gone. We tried to reach Eva, only to find that she had already returned to Cuzco for the summer. Her Evergreen family gave us her family's phone and fax numbers, and we sent a fax to her father asking if he could help us find a dependable guide service for our trek on the Inca trail into Machu Pichuu. Daniel Concha, Eva's father, got right back to us to advise that he runs a guide business and would be available to help us, and we arranged for his services.
In planning for our trip, we had read a great deal about the Inca empire, and had anticipated an adventure in anthropology and archeology, but Daniel brought a spiritual dimension to the trip that we had never anticipated. His insights into the Inca people, their customs, their accomplishments, and their devastation at the hands of the Spanish made the entire visit seem magical.
We found ourselves feeling anger toward the Spanish for their total annihilation of the Inca culture . . . and then found ourselves reflecting about the conquest of North America by our own ancestors. Why have we of the occident been so destructive in the name of the cross or in our search for riches? And in the 20th century, were the rebuilding of Germany and Japan at the end of the second world war a sign of promising evolution, or an abberation when followed by the desolation of the war in Viet Nam?
With Daniel, we spent 3 days in Cuzco becoming acclimated to the altitude and visiting numerous Inca ruins. Then, we spent 4 days trekking the Inca Trail into Machu Pichuu. We had heard during our planning that Machu Pichuu is especially beautiful by moonlight, and so had timed our arrivial to coincide with the full moon. Daniel arranged for us to be permitted to visit the ruins at night, and we toured the entire city by moonlight.
The Inca people worshiped nature. The sun was at the zenith of their pantheon of deities, and at Machu Pichuu the temple of the sun and the hitching post of the sun are 2 of the most unusual aspects of the city --- unusual because they still exist. The Spanish never found Machu Pichuu. In all the other Inca cities, they destroyed all places of spiritual or religious significance, frequently building their own churches and cathedrals on top of the ruins. The hitching post of the sun is at the highest point of Machu Pichuu, and was the place where Inca rituals were conducted to "tie" the sun to their community so that it would never disappear.
Upon arriving at the hitching post, Daniel initiated a spontaneous ceremony, hitching Nicole and Gray's souls together in a reaffirmation of their recent marriage. It was one of the special, mystical moments of our lives. We were completely undone.
After Machu Pichuu we spent 5 days at Manu, a wildlife preserve in the Amazon jungle. Machu Pichuu was a hard act to follow, and our memories of Manu are mainly lots of time on the river watching caimans slither into the water, LOTS of birds, and lots of walking QUIETLY hoping to see wildlife, even if only a monkey.
Then, 4 of us continued for a week of hiking and trekking around Huaraz in Huascaran National Park --- the highest region in the Peruvian Andes. With glorious sunny weather for our entire visit, the highlight was a 4 day, 30 mile treck. We went through picturesque farms and villages, over a challenging 16,000 foot pass flanked by 20,000 foot glacier capped peaks, and down a lovely valley with spectacular views of glacier capped peaks, plentiful trout fishing and colorful flocks of sheep and goats. We had a guide, a cook, a muleskinner with his 10 year old son and 3 burros to carry our gear.
Ann's brother, Dale, continues an extraordinary odyssey with cancer. He was diagnosed over 2 years ago with inoperable lung cancer that had metasticised in his liver and hips, and given 2 to 6 months to live. He is writing a remarkable journal about his life since the diagnosis, and was recently featured in an unusual seven-installment series in their local newspaper. The article describes his unswerving faith, his candid contemplation of death and preparation for it, his lifelong commitment to peace and nonviolence, and the rallying of his friends and family around him as he passes through this ordeal.
You can see this series on the web at: http://www.carrollcounty.com/dying/index.htm
If you don't have access to the web and want to read the article, let us know and we'll send you a circulation copy. It's 75 pages long (letter size, 12 point font).
We are experiencing all of the joys of grandparenting, particularly with Grant whom we see a lot. Music making with the Evergreen Chorale and Baroque Folke is our primary pastime, with projects at church (diversity dialogues) and local politics (open space election issues) taking their fair share of time.
We hope this finds you well and thriving. Please keep in touch.
Air Lift Unlimited, 1212 Kerr Gulch, Evergreen, CO 80439
303-526-4700 ext 12
res. 1150 Kerr Gulch, Evergreen, CO 80438