frozen water holds the weight of winter
reflecting moon, scarred by skates
frenetic lines, puck glides without
a mark made
hard circular rubber, a speck
existing, cold on the surface
then slapped by wooden fiberglass
quick journeys forward and back
drops of sweat
melt the ice

Hitting The Moose

I never thought about death, except maybe that one time when I told my sister that it was all darkness, over, done. Like at age 10 I knew what I was talking about. I definitely didn’t think I would almost die under a moose carcass on an empty highway in a blizzard. February 18th 1992, a Tuesday, my friend Patrick wants to celebrate his 19th birthday in Canadia (as we call it) with me and Brandon. The plan is to eat an early dinner, get to the border town of Armstrong by 7pm, drink a couple of beers, head back to Waterville, Maine.

Patrick drives a maroon Honda Accord, the vehicle barely contains his 6’3 frame, 6’4 with his wild curly brown hair. Patrick wears glasses, ran cross-country at St. Andrew’s (where Dead Poets Society was filmed), and wants to travel around the world when he graduates from college. Brandon is from the Chicago area, likes to imitate his favorite rappers, has the quick intelligence of a stand-up comic. We get in the car as Patrick cranks up “More Than a Feeling” by Boston.

We arrive at the Canadian border around 7:30pm. What is the purpose of your trip? The officer asks. We are just going to Armstrong to have a beer, then come right back to Maine. Patrick replies. How much money do you have? We are questioned. Brandon gives the officer a shit-eating grin. Sir, we have $30 and one condom. In our pre-9/11 world, this is met with a smile. You boys aren’t going to find beers in Armstrong, that place only has lumber, no bars, you’ll need to go to Saint-Georges.

Crossing into Canada the landscape changes, darkness still encompasses, but fewer trees block the cold night sky. About an hour later we manage to get off the highway and find a bar in Saint-Georges. The place is all beards, flannel shirts, loud French voices, and cigarette smoke. We order some Molsons. The longhaired band looks like a cross between Poison and ZZ-Top. They play covers of “Enter Sandman” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in Québécoise. We shoot some pool; sing “O Canada” (it has the same tune as “Hail, Colby, Hail” our college song) to a couple women who find us amusing, then decide we need to go before it gets too late.

The lonely midnight air outside the bar is a sideways torrent of cascading snow, huge fast-falling flakes. There are three inches on the ground already. We could have been smart, used Patrick’s credit card, found a room somewhere. I’ve got Spanish at 8:30am tomorrow. I say. Yeah, we’ve got to get back tonight. Patrick adds.

Decision made, we set out to drive the 135 miles through mostly barren wilderness in a thick white storm, without snow tires or four-wheel drive. Pulling onto the highway Patrick is tense, I glance at him as he grips the wheel like a seven-year old on a roller coaster. The road is empty; we are the only dumb asses driving to Maine at 12am on a Tuesday night. Somehow we make it back into the U.S., the tires are dragging but the pavement is mostly still under us. Near Jackman the car begins to feel like a big snowball with headlights, the storm has absorbed us as we swerve through five inches of unplowed quicksand.

By 2am we are driving in the middle of the vacant two lane highway. Looking out my snow-caked shotgun window I see only pitch black. Out front billowing tufts of mesmerizing pale powder reflect our lights with a visibility of maybe eight feet, as we putter along at 35 mph. Patrick is fiddling with the AM stations when I see a large brown figure just before hearing the left part of our bumper hit the Moose’s back right leg. It’s a Moose, It’s a Moose, It’s a Moose, Patrick yells with more excitement than terror. The moose turns it’s head with a surprised dejected look, then like an animal ghost, trots into the wispy shadows. Had we been going a little faster, we would have hit the legs dead on like bowling pins, 800 pounds of toppling weight hypothermically crushing us. Patrick’s initial National Geographic moment quickly wears off. We need to get off the road, get a motel room. He says in a panic. Patrick is agitated, but there is nowhere to exit, we must continue south. I’m turning off the lights, we can see better without them. He says. I don’t believe him, but Patrick’s right, we can see the sides of the highway and the pure white for about 15 feet. As we slow to 25 mph, the thought never crosses my mind that hitting two moose in one night is almost statistically impossible, we are all beyond shaken.

2:30am and we are a sleigh, we are Santa, we are pioneers, completely alone immersed in the silent fluttering of a frozen sky surrounded by drooping pine trees. As we get closer to Waterville, the flakes become flurries, then rain, then nothing. Just 30 minutes earlier we were on the surface of the moon, in arctic wilderness hitting a large wild beast, now passing Skowhegan, we read signs; see the double yellow line again. As if out of a surreal dream we arrive back onto the sleeping campus. 4:30am my head hits the pillow; I imagine the moose trodding through tufts of snowdrift, the memory of us already forgotten.

Interview with ABC News Anchor and Author, Dan Harris

I had the opportunity to catch up with ABC News Anchor and Author, Dan Harris.  Dan is the author of 10% Happier, a New York Times bestselling book that explores his discovery of meditation and mindfulness.

I asked Dan about the role that mindfulness can play in the lives of young people.  He mentioned the clear benefits of mindful students being able to better maintain focus, while improving behavior.  He stressed that mindfulness can help kids be less emotionally reactive.   In particular, we spoke about the recent developments in Baltimore.  He cited the Holistic Life Foundation as an organization in Baltimore doing incredible work teaching mindfulness in high risk, urban environments.  He stated that there has been an economic divide within the mindfulness community, with some people feeling that mindfulness is largely an upper middle class pursuit, but that he sees diverse socioeconomic communities embracing the practice more and more.  Dan went on to share the insight that practicing mindfulness can help take the bias out of decision making.  With mindfulness practice one can better see how things truly are, getting past stereotypes and preconceived assumptions.

I asked Dan about how his life might have been different had he learned mindfulness meditation when he was younger.  Dan said that he would have been a better student growing up and that it would have helped him focus.  He also said that he probably would have been a little less obnoxious to teachers.  Later as a reporter, mindfulness would have helped him make more reflective decisions before venturing into war zones.  Upon return from covering conflict zones in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, he expressed how mindfulness could have helped him be more self-aware and perhaps avoid depression related to those often traumatic experiences.

Next, I asked Dan whether he thought that mindfulness could compete with drugs and alcohol on college campuses.  He said that college will probably always be a time for experimentation with drugs and alcohol, but that mindfulness can play a role in reducing binge behaviors and sexual assault on college campuses, while also helping to alleviate stress, anxiety and depression.  We spoke in particular about his alma mater Colby College, where he recently addressed students.  After concluding his talk there, a handsome, big, charismatic male student got up and made an announcement about an upcoming event for the “Colby Mindfulness Club.” Dan said that that never would have happened when he was a student there.

I went on to ask Dan about how mindfulness connected to his work reporting for ABC’s Good Morning America and Nightline.  On Good Morning America he mentioned how he often tries to use his mindfulness training to be more aware.  He is able to deeply listen to his co-anchors, slow down the moment, and be fully present in the now.  For example, there are times when he is able to notice when someone on the show is being ignored.  He went on to say that this isn’t something he is always able to achieve, but that he certainly makes the mindful effort.  As a reporter in the field, mindfulness has made Dan more sensitive to others and a better listener.  This sensitivity in turn, has translated into him being a more careful, accurate, and mature reporter.

My last question for Dan was focused on Global Citizenship.  I asked him if he felt a sense of responsibility to parts of the world outside of our nation’s borders.  He cited three levels of mindfulness practice: personal practice, interpersonal practice, and global collective consciousness.  He said that he has made real strides in his personal and interpersonal practice, and that his opening up to a global interconnectedness was a work in progress.  He went on to share that the third practice of global collective consciousness, if achieved by many, can contribute to improving the overall happiness of the world.