Holiday 1995
                                        Holidays, 1995

Lechiam!  With only a week before Christmas I have been struggling to get this letter out of my
head and onto paper as I am desperately late on sending out my Holiday greetings.  The task has
been made all the more daunting because I've received some charming letters and well as some
extremely thoughtful cards.  I am also painfully aware that no one is interested in reading a
one-sheet summary of my life during 1995.

AND, 1995 has been a year that is somewhat difficult to summarize.  I'm still gainfully employed
as an AIDS educator with Catholic Charities and more or less love it.  My professional highlight
for 1995 would most likely be that I was able to present the AIDS Education program at a
couple of national Conferences.  Small potatoes, but it felt good and gave me the opportunity to
see Chicago.  In May I found an apartment and with the help of some wonderful friends was able
to move into my very first apartment by myself!  The challenge as of late has mostly been to figure
out who I want to be and what I want to do when I grow up.  Oddly, however, the students tell
me that I am grown up!  So, like everyone else it seems that I am struggling to find my niche.

A highlight for the year came on October 15 at the "Humboldt County, Avenue of the Giants"
marathon (just shy of the Oregon boarder).  I've run two marathons this year and this one is most
significant because of the circumstances that surrounded it.  You see, around about the time I was
getting ready to run, I also was buried in preparations for both the LSATs and GREs.  I've
resigned myself to return to school in the fall of '97, but I'm not exactly what I'll be studying.  
Also, week prior to the run I got an early season flu, so come Sunday I was not in the best of
shape to say the least.  I did finish but only for a few reasons and the most important of which is
my friend Mark who volunteered with me and really made an impact with the kids.  Mark died
recently of AIDS, but before he did I was able to spend some time with him and at one point he
asked, "Why the heck do you do all this running?"  Instinctively I answered, "Because you can't."  
While running this crazy marathon--fever and all--I decided to keep going to honor Mark and the
gift of health.

Additionally motivating was the area that I ran through.  The "Avenue of the Giants" is a stretch of
road that runs through one of the largest and oldest reserves of giant Sequoia Redwoods.  As you
may have heard, this recent conservative congressional turn has opened up many previously
protected areas to un-inhibited logging.  This "Avenue" is one of the most beautiful places on earth
and yes, unfortunately is being threatened by political winds.  Their majesty merits a bit of
description, so here is goes.  Please bear with me...

They are big trees.  Really big.  The kind of big that makes you arch your shoulders backwards
and your head upward as you struggle to glimpse their tops.  They nestle themselves in groups
generally like family and offer shelter to everything else around them.  Their trunks are mostly bare
and their bark almost lumpy and furry.  Their tops are spreckled with branches that fan out and
their hand-like needles reach and blend together to provide a canopy of shade, quiet and peace.  
They are so well adapted that even their seeds germinate under conditions only California can
provide.  As a fire sweeps through a Redwood grove and clears the underbrush their cones heat
up and pop like corn kernels shooting their seeds into areas where the fire has already passed.  
The falling ash even provides a fertile bed for the new seed to begin its life.  The bark, which often
shows the bites of fire burns from years past, is thick enough to absorb water and insulate the tree
from the flames.  So, I ran this 26 miles feeling like I was going to die yet always aware that Mark
would too soon be dead.  And then the trees.  These age-old trees, some more than 2,000 years
old with their testimonials to God and life and struggles and survival, beckoned with their burns
for me to finish.  Often when I'm running I feel quite alone, but in the midst of these giants I felt
small, insignificant and surrounded my something much greater than myself and yet oddly enough
not alone.  It were as if nature herself was cheering me on (as well as the other runners) and
letting me know that all of this mess in life--AIDS, grief, stress, loss and loneliness--are but a
glimpse of struggle in the joy of what life is supposed to be and what is to yet to come.

A Bumper Sticker Reads:        EARTH FIRST, We'll log the other planets later!

No, I will not end this by suggesting you write or call your senator and representative and ask that
he/she oppose all logging of Giant Redwoods, however I will suggest that life's gifts are many and
that these trees are among some of the greatest.  We have no right to deprive our grandchildren's
grandchildren the trees that gave shelter to our grandmother's grandmother.  If you get a chance,
spend your extra day this year (it's a leap year) with trees and share that gift of God-life with
someone else.  Have a safe, peaceful and warm holiday seasons!
-Randy