1986 was the year Jack Nicklaus won his last green jacket. I remember watching the final round, never really having much interest in golf before or since, but captivated by that magical moment. As that Summer went by, the Amazin’ Mets wove their magic to win what remains their last championship. But 1986 is memorable for the many weekends I spent at what is now known as the Mohican Outdoor Center, now operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club but at the time operated by what is now known as The College of New Jersey (but then called Trenton State College).

Through a good friend, I had special access to the camp, in exchange for labor, mostly in the form of cutting several cords of firewood every year to keep the camp manager’s girlfriend warm. We nicknamed Olga Quinones[1], of Puerto Rican heritage and thus not appreciative of the cold, “Nanook of the North”, because she liked to keep her house at 85 degrees and dressed like she lived in the Arctic!

The camp had a pickup truck, and I would ride on the tailgate, watching the gravel road flow under my feet. It was interesting to watch, because directly underneath, you couldn’t tell the individual stones apart, it was all a blur. As your gaze moved farther out behind the truck, there came a point at which the individual stones were visible. The transition between these two states was the most interesting. The blur seemed to slow down, but I never really could catch the exact point at which the blur froze. At other times, I would sit at a certain spot in the middle of the stream leading from Catfish Pond with my back facing upstream, and watch the water flow over some rocks. Just like the gravel, the ripples were a blur until I looked out a certain distance. (You can see Mohican in Google Earth at: 41.039969, -74.996315) On a recent vacation to Niagara Falls, I observed a similar effect; the water coming over the falls was a blur at the top and then you could clearly see the water blobs (not sure what to call them since they definitely weren’t “drops”). But still, I couldn’t quite grasp the moment where it changed.

Every Autumn, I undergo some sort of retrospection, and, this being 1986 +25, my mind has drifted to that year, that place and somehow I got to the idea of watching events unfold like the gravel and the water. The events of our lives are oftentimes blurry as we go through them–we can only see them clearly in retrospect; in some cases only after the emotions have faded.

And yet, the pebbles soon retreat out of sight, and new water is constantly flowing down the stream, or over Niagara Falls, well, except for 1969, which also saw man land on the moon and, of course, the Amazin’ Mets FIRST championship! So you can’t linger too long on the past, because things are always changing. When I camped at Mohican, I pitched my tent near a picnic pavilion. It’s still there, but a third of it rotted away to the point where it was hacked off and removed. Beavers have damned up the stream, greatly altering the landscape downstream. Niagara Falls is changing too, as the base of the American Falls is eroding.

But just as you can’t linger in the past, you can’t just flit along in the present while life whirls by in a blur. What makes the right balance?

[1] Olga, who had a friendly smile and an infectious laugh, was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in 1994, and she is sorely missed.


About jeffmershon

Director of Program Management at SiriusXM.
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