I recently had the privilege of spending some time on the Chesapeake Bay; a whole week in fact. The community I was with was passionate about many things but the common bond was this: learning about the world and themselves through the power of experience. The commitment to learning in this group was lifelong; all had lived rich and meaningful lives filled with joy and sadness, accomplishment and failure but each one of these seasoned citizens was still eager, engaged and excited to meet the challenges of learning more about the world and themselves.
The common experience we shared was this: we were on the water in a small but tidy ship surrounded by the history and culture of a region that has seen more than its share through the years. As we explored together we simply became part of that history.
We met island people who speak a dialect all their own, met with craftsmen who create household goods and necessities just as they did 200 years ago; we dined on local foods, heard ancient tales of the sea and somewhere along the way, the years melted away and we were simply part of that continuum.
I had the distinct honor of sitting with a 90 year old World War II veteran of the 10th Mountain Division. Sharp and agile we connected on a few topics; photography - food - family. I asked him when he got to Europe, knowing with some certainty the answer. “December 1944”. “You must have a story or two” I said. He smiled and told me how he came to be in the 10th Mountain Division as the Nazis retreated; I asked him about his battalion and the men he was with. He earned two battle stars and lost many friends. As we talked he remembered clearly and with passion those days and how important they were to him and to the world and while the events were somber, he was young and there was joy in that; they all were young and his memory was one of being a young adult on an important mission. To see it through no matter what came.
When we parted on the final day he looked at me across the room while everyone else chatted and did something I will never forget: he saluted me. Why? I think because he knew that I knew his story and would treasure it always and share it in the years to come. Our eyes met one last time and I could do nothing but point at his heart, thank him and walk away.
This is the power of experience. You learn because of how you feel; the memory becomes a part of you. This is why I love what we do because once we learn this way, we never forget.
©2015 Minerd Music Works LLC