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Building a Frame Saw
Forging a Copper Kettle
Making a pair of leather work boots
Forging and Fletching a Bodkin
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Friday, September 19, 2014

A Farewell to Troy

It is not too often, or perhaps more often than we would like, that we are uprooted from our lives and forced to say farewell to all that we have come to know in comfort. Four and a half years passed since I first moved to the great city of Troy, and in a beat of a heart, they have gone. Looking back I will never cease to be amazed at how much has come to pass through those formative years and the impact they will have on the rest of my life.

I have come to know the company of friends who will remain, if not in presence, in the company of thought, for a great many years to come. Since my ignorance of first departing the midwest to the wilds of the north, I have found an education in ways that no books can tell and experiences that no vicarious use of technology can replace.

When first I stepped out of the door and undertook the deceivingly innocent quest, it was not without its trials. Theft from the uninvited hand plagued our caravan, and even before it all began, everything had been turned on its head. Several thousand dollars later, a semblance of balance had returned, and just in time for a whirlwind of unexpected journeys.

Troy is the birthplace of 'Uncle Sam' and is naturally a hero of the city. A meat packer during the mid 1800's, Sam Wilson became a small legend that eventually transformed into the image commonly portrayed in the recruitment posters during the first World War.

Beneath the shadow of his legacy, the city shaped me in its own unique way. Early during my stay, I joined a local swing band, and through it I was able to perform in the Albany 'Egg', a performing arts venue that one night held a silent auction to which I livened, and Rensselaer's Experimental Media and Performing Arts Centre (EMPAC), which is pictured below.

In the small hours of the night, I realized my love of the stars, using one of the largest public telescopes in the northeast. Being able to see the craters of the moon and the cataclysmic destruction that rent its surface Ages ago was not only mesmerizing but also a curiosity I saw every day without every paying the respect of notice. Due to the moon's lack of atmosphere, smaller gravitational field, and unique composition, the largest of the scars bore a fascinating anomaly. When a meteor collided with the surface, the rock was liquefied and, like a droplet of water, pulled back towards the centre from the surface tension. As a result, the crust hardened in that position, leaving a needle-like island in the middle of a tremendous crater.

Although there are countless treasures nestled in the city, one of my favourite places in Troy is The Brown Bag, a small burger joint that serves the best food I have ever eaten. Combined with the friendly faces that make it like a second home, The Brown Bag stays open through the night, making it one of the few places for a midnight meal. The owner, Terry, became a friend and served up the last meal I had in Troy.

While not in the city, Troy offered something else to me that I will never forget. The mountains. Part of the Appalachian range, the Adirondacks became a place of calling for me, and in the two years I ventured out into them, I hiked 15 of the 46 High Peaks. Fostering both my love of the outdoors and a growing interest in photography, they were my first real taste of mountaineering that has only just begun a lifelong passion of adventure.

When I could not make the long drive north, the last four years also developed an old hobby of climbing. In my youth, climbing was one of my favourite things to do. Whether rock walls or trees in the back yard, it did not matter. Around a year and a half ago, a few friends and I became more serious with climbing when we found a great local wall. The Edge, outside of Albany, is the best I have ever been to (admittedly few as they have been). With over 50 top roped walls and a bouldering island, we grew from climbing 5.7 and 5.8 walls to 5.11+ in the time we had. Being able to find the control and patience in the sport is something I will surely miss in both the absence of the sport and the friends who joined me in it.

Contrary to the mountain heights, delving into the depths of the underworld became a more recent but no less appreciated passtime. Caving is a curious thing. Approaching a crack in the ground and knowing that an entire world exists beneath your feet is simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. Wrapped in utter darkness, supported by pillars of rock and carved by water of the centuries, so much lies there that so many will never experience. In the span of the past two months, we visited three caves, each of which holding their own special beauty and lure.

Looking back on those four years, I realize now that I have come to do things which I never would have imagined possible when first setting foot on the road that led me there. Three years ago, and I find it difficult to believe so much time has already passed, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in DC, which to this day is one of the most surreal memories I have. Running beside tens of thousands of others along the National Mall was like nothing I have ever experienced before or since.

In those years, I have travelled three countries and sailed both the Atlantic and Pacific, 15 states and a dozen others between. Through the opportunities afforded to me I embarked on warships and flew in attack helicopters, rode in nuclear submarines and ran in bomb suits, trained with the Marine Corps and with them, was able to fire M203s and AT4s.

Encouragement from the greatest professor I have ever had, I was able to undertake the writing of 4 novels and, more importantly, develop my own sense of identity. Although she left the institute over a year ago now, the impact she made on me will remain for the rest of my life.

Beside the friends I have made and the countless experiences I have had, there remains one that will ever be more than that. Three years ago I had a second calling to the world of craftsmanship. More specifically, smithing. Blacksmithing and bladesmithing, cartography and to a lesser degree bowyering and leatherworking, woodworking and armouring, have opened so many doors into the most soul nourishing experiences of my life. The craft itself fills something that, in its absence, I feel hollow, but it is the people- the brotherhood- that has made the most significant difference. In the passing years, I have made friends who have made such a profound impact on my perspective on life and spirituality, on understanding and in the sharing of this journey with humanity. Despite the condemnation of experience to fade into memory, the bonds they have formed and the foundation they serve as will never be forgotten.

The last four years have led me to the corners of the world, to knowledge and wisdom and life experience that is worth to me more than words can describe, and now I must move on once again. Out into the wilds of the world and the corners of the oceans, to wherever the winds blow, to those who I have come to know and must now leave behind, though our parting is but an ending, it is not the last.

I bid you all a very fond farewell, and may we meet again.

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