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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Destiny's butterly effect

A new year is upon us, vacation is over and it's time to resume the usual routine. At this point in life I've stopped making resolutions, knowing that they're most likely to be broken and with the knowledge that the first of January is an arbitrarily drawn point in time that is ultimately meaningless. If you're resolved to do something to change your life, why wait until a certain day of the month in the calendar? In any event, my goals for 2016 are simple:

1.) To pass my Russian exam in the spring and then take up my next post in Vilnius;
2.) To survive through to the end of the year; and
3.) To enter 2017 not suffering from something that will eventually kill me.

The last two points also go for my loved ones and pretty much everyone else who strives to be a decent human being. 

I was asked today via Facebook whether I believe in destiny. The answer is simple: no, I don't. I also don't believe in fate or karma, nor do I think there is a supreme being who finds time from running the entire cosmos to make sure that I can carry a football into the end zone or that my house is spared from an oncoming tornado. There are things in life that I can control, but many things that I can't (like tomorrow's weather, or whether I'm going to get run over by someone texting while driving). As I write this, somewhere in the Amazon there's a butterfly flapping its wings. The chain reaction set off by that simple action will eventually have an effect on what happens to us here in the northern hemisphere - hopefully, we'll make the right decisions and take appropriate courses of action to ensure that the ups will outnumber the downs as the year progresses. 

My daughter and I welcomed in the new year by driving 90 minutes into southwestern Maryland's horse country on a cold but beautifully clear Saturday morning to do some hiking. Greenwell State Park is a 600-acre (243 hectares) stretch of beaches, creeks, fields, forests and horse ranches on the banks of the Patuxent River. Here, Amber pauses for a photo on the beach as we set off on our walk:

An old historical tobacco barn:

Another old barn, set up like an museum inside, with various implements on display:

Any clues as to whether hunting is permitted within the park?:

"This land, this...America"*:

Reaching the Patuxent River again, after three hours and 4.5 miles (7.2 kilometers) of walking:

A beautiful old manor house (circa 1880), with a prime location on Maryland's Western Shore:

Wishing everyone a safe and ultimately satisfying year!

*a line from a skit on The Benny Hill Show (yes, really)

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