One of the perks of being the Canon for Music at Trinity Cathedral, is the opportunity to take a three month sabbatical every five years. With summer being the least busy time of year, these have always fallen during June through August.
My first sabbatical was in 2004. Wanting to do something really outrageous, I decided that my sabbatical challenge would be to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, at 19,340′, the highest peak in Africa. I spent the summer training and acclimatizing, and on July 19th, with my friend and colleague Dr David Deffner, stood on the summit of this massive mountain.
My second sabbatical came in 2010. I spent the summer riding my new bike “The Red Baron,” and training for a thru-hike of the High Sierra Trail… a seventy-two mile backpack trip across Sequoia National Park. This stunning trail starts in the west side of the park, climbs over the Great Western Divide, drops down into the Kern River drainage, then climbs the Eastern Sierra Crest with a grand finale at the top of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. With a whopping 19,000′ of accumulated elevation gain, it was a epic challenge, but worth every blister!
Now as I celebrate my thirtieth year at Trinity Cathedral, I am easing into my third sabbatical.
One of the trips which has been on my hiking bucket list for some years, is the ninety-two mile “Wonderland Trail” which circumnavigates Mount Rainier. Perhaps the biggest hurdle in hiking the Wonderland Trail, is actually getting a wilderness permit. The process is exceedingly convoluted, and is still done by the park rangers by hand. The park received a record number of applications to hike the Wonderland this year… 2,500 in all. My permit application managed to work its way to the bottom of the pile, and I was unable to get a permit for the whole trip (some are calling this the “Wild” effect… the result of people watching Reese Witherspoon struggle with a mammoth pack and mammoth blisters up on the big screen. Gosh that looks like fun!).
However, I was able to work with a ranger to put together a five day backpacking trip in the northwest corner of the park, taking in one of the most scenic parts of the Wonderland trail, for mid-August. I’ll spend a few more days in the park afterwards, exploring some of the other highlights of the trail with the lightness of a day pack. I am very much looking forward to exploring this iconic national park, which I have not visited before.
My ultimate goal for the summer is to get into the best shape of my life. Being away from the cookie-monster which is my place of employment will help. And I have lots of time to work out and get into shape. JoAnn and I will be spending a few days in Mendocino in July, and we are taking Justine and her friend backpacking in Yosemite too.
Today was the first Sunday of my sabbatical. Truth be told, it felt a little odd. I slept in an hour later than usual (6:30!), enjoyed a leisurely coffee and breakfast, and went for a bike ride on the Delta. I even had a dream last night, that I snuck into the Cathedral in the morning, to spy on my substitute organist!
Now, this whole sabbatical thing may just seem a bit self-indulgent. But I do find myself needing a time away from church music… away from questions, and rehearsals, and meetings, to clear my mind, body, and soul. It is a time to re-create myself and rest, and to do some things I wouldn’t have the time to do in my normal schedule. And I have found with my previous sabbaticals, that I return in the Fall, refreshed and rejuvenated, with lots of energy and enthusiasm.
I want to thank the good people of Trinity Cathedral for giving me this opportunity every five years. It is great appreciated! And I am truly thankful for the wonderful celebration of my thirty years of ministry held a few weeks ago, and for the generosity of so many to make this a memorable sabbatical.
I look forward to being back with you all in September. We’ll have lots to do!