Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hiking with Mike

Mike, middle standing, 1983
Click to enlarge photos
Mike Phelps played soccer on my Rumford High School team back in the early 1980s. Hard to believe it has been 30 years. Since then, he and his wife Karen have been terrific community people. They have two wonderful sons… not surprisingly, both play soccer. Mike spent many years volunteering as the Greater Rumford Community Center soccer coach. He'd have scores of kids down at the fields; often, he worked with the littlest kids. Big Mike and all those rug rats and ankle biters.

Mike and I hiked Whitecap Mountain the other day with our dogs, Fergie and Bailey. They know each other from their time at Sharon's daycare, so they had a terrific time wandering and sniffing the mountain trail. We went up the main trail, crossed over onto the Connector, and looped back down crossing the bridge with its water falls back to the main.

We didn't get into any deep conversations during this hike. We told dog stories and "Remember when's" about soccer and former players. It was an easy-going couple of hours--the kind of time old friends spend with silences that surface and linger like memories unspoken.

Mike & Fergie
    For the full album, click here.

Fergie in a Blueberry Field atop Whitecap.
Click to enlarge photo!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mt Zircon (again)

We headed up Mt Zircon yet again today. The road to the trail head is now one lane after the micro burst we had on July 3rd. On the way down, Bailey ran into a porcupine and decided to nose it. He ended up with 8-10 quills in his nose and lips. I yanked them out right on the trail. He didn't like it, flinching when I pulled them out, but he was happy to eat a treat after the surgery was complete. To see the full album (taken with my el cheapo TracPhone) just click Album from Zircon summit. 

Looking west from the summit of Mt Zircon.
Click to enlarge.



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sam's Journals, part II

Sam and some of his many years of journals and workbooks. 
"Sam's Journals," my recent article about US Ski Team member Sam Morse and his writing, prompted another article by Mike Lowe, sports writer for the Portland Press Herald. Lowe's article, "Journal for the Journey," landed on the front page of the sports page. The online version of the article includes most of the manuscript and photos, though it has a different title found here. This ongoing promotion of my work is helpful on may levels… and I'll admit it's kind of fun.


Sam made the US ki Team's develop squad this spring. 
    

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Why We Run

Click on book cover 
Currently, I'm reading Why We Run: A Natural History by Bernd Heinrich, a retired professor of biology from the University of Vermont who lives in Weld.  This book is a fascinating piece of writing for its glimpses into the author's youth, his wonder of the natural world, and his love of running. I've read several of his other books, including A Year in the Maine Woods.

While researching material for a nature writing class I'm teaching this summer, I found this short video featuring Dr. Heinrich and why he runs. It's shot in the woods of Weld and offers several quick views of Lake Webb and the Tumbledown Mountain range. If you're a runner, you might enjoy it.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Fly fishing Weld

I had friends from the university at Weld for the weekend. Hamish, a biologist and fly fisherman from New Zealand, enjoyed the lake. He caught a large small-mouthed bass and worked at perfecting his paddle boarding while casting. Here's a link to a video of his balancing act and casting. There's something about sharing Weld with friends. It's like sharing a hike or a long car ride or a life struggle. The place offers a common reference point, a common experience.






Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hiking Mount Will (37/60)

We hiked Mount Will today for the first time. Parking is just across from the Bethel recycling center. The 3.2 mile loop took us about 1:40 of steady hiking. The views up the River Valley give an interesting perspective; North Ledges' vista offers a terrific view, as if from a plane. Near the top of the loop there's a 5-minute detour that takes hikers to the Gray Memorial, a bronze plaque marking the area a plane crashed in 1992 (2 killed, 1 survivor). A small piece of the plane rests next to the plaque. There's a water source near the bottom for dogs, but nothing higher up. For most of the hike I could hear the traffic on Route 2--I found the din of weekend traffic a distraction.  For the full photo album, click here.

River Valley toward Rumford… Click picture to enlarge
Bailey waiting for the cameraman. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Onward, Victoria!

Bailey's GodDogMum graduated joining her parents as alumni from the UCLA (University of California Los Angeles). I remember the day I met Victoria, a tiny two-month old with a pink bow wrapped around her head. Now… she's all grown up. Congratulations, Ms. Vic!
Lots of Love,
Uncle Richie


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Flashing the hardware…

At our final college meeting of the year, I received the 2014 Research & Creative Achievement Award. This award, focused on my work studying athletes' writing, should help me move toward full professor, the final hoop in academia. Ready… jump!

The Dean & me
 

Perspective

When I start writing an article or book, I fuss with perspective (point of view), audience, voice, structure. These issues of style can be confounding because most times I think they should happen automatically. If I'm writing for athletes or coaches, teachers or teenagers, I feel like I know the audience and therefore should have a sense of my approach with diction, voice, and other stylistic issues. But for me, adapting a style as a writer is not an automatic. Almost always, I have to write my way in to a manuscript.

Rumford at -30 degrees F … click to enlarge photo
When folks from away drive through a mill town like Rumford, especially if they hail from more privileged areas, they notice the vacant buildings, get a whiff of the mill smoke, and catch parts of town that are in disrepair. Some of those travelers make judgements about the town and its people with a simple drive-through. But, travel on Route 2 on a cold winter's day with a fresh layer of snow and a pristine blue sky… the town can look like a winter wonderland.

Or fly up the River Valley along the Androscoggin River in midsummer, the town looks like the quaint Bedford Falls from the movie, It's a Wonderful Life. 

Rumford from above
(click photo to enlarge)
In the 1980s and 1990s, we invited teams of teenaged soccer players and their coaches from Chorelywood, England to spend 2 weeks in Rumford. The exchange allowed our players to play "up" with the skillful British kids. Another byproduct of the exchange proved to be the English kids' enthusiastic perspective on our town. It's a point of view that escaped many of our kids.

The English city kids loved what the small-town American kids enjoyed: lakes and ponds, mountain trails and ATVs. "Blimey, you have your ski area in town?" And wonder of wonders, most of the Rumford kids had the ultimate freedom of a driving license and a car.

Beyond the trappings of an active rural life, the English kids enjoyed the family atmosphere and the welcoming ways of the Rumford/Mexico community. Wherever they went, the English boys had townspeople saying "hello" and asking, "Are you enjoying yourselves?" "Drop by to use our pool." The welcoming way left a lasting impression on these boys. It's a perspective that those driving through our town on a stark November day would rarely get.

In an earlier blog post, I spoke about writing my way into a manuscript that tells the story of taking 30 Maine soccer teams of 500 players to England over a 13-year period. I'm not there yet with the manuscript because I'm unsure of my audience (coaches or players?) and whether the manuscript should be chronological or episodic. I've even played with fictionalizing the experience in a novel. I'm not interested in being the central player in this piece, so as I write and experiment with being narrator, I search for perspective.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Planting the writing seed

I remember her words as if they were spoken yesterday.
Rich @ 18 years old

The faculty at my high school here in Rumford offered short, 8-week courses on selected topics. These innovative offerings gave students a chance to jump into a topic of interest and give it a ride. For the late 1960s and early 1970s, these mini courses proved to be very popular among the long-haired, bell-bottomed student body.

I'm guessing my friend and then assistant principal Ken Nye had a lot to do with the courses. Ken had just finished a PhD in educational leadership at Northwestern and ended up here in Rumford. He also introduced independent study week (I studied law!) and a decade later, he approved the soccer club I proposed.

For one of my mini courses, I selected creative writing with Mrs. Catherine Puiia. In this class we played with lots of approaches and there was no such thing as wrong. Although I was not an "A" student, I received a lot of "As" on my papers from Mrs. Puiia. That's not why I loved this class.

For all its innovation, Rumford High School couldn't quite get rid of labeling kids. I floated in the B and occasional A or C "division" known as "A-2." A-1's were the brains of the school. A-2's and A-3's were destined for college. B-1's to B-3's and vocational kids found their labels took them straight to the service or better yet to the paper mill or the woods to earn good livings in the middle class.

(I may be wrong in this, but I believe kids in different divisions were allowed to choose any of the mini courses. I hope that's true because mixed or heterogeneously-grouped classes are what we now know to be the most effective in 21st century schools.)

In creative writing class one day, Mrs. Puiia walked through the classroom passing back papers. I received--oh-hum--yet another A. But something else was about to happen that, in my mind today, changed my life. Up until that moment, no teacher had ever spoken about  my future to me. But Mrs. Puiia did. She placed the paper on my desk and said, "Richard, you could be a professional writer some day." I'm sure I blushed--heck, I spent half my teenaged life red faced with my eyes averted.

Obviously, I've never forgotten those words, and I suspect it's why as an English teacher at that same school nearly 20 years later I spent a lot of my time helping kids think about their futures: "Man, you could be a (insert terrific job)." "You really think so, Mr. Kent?"

In 1971-72, my plan included college and becoming a police office with a law degree. Don't ask… I have no idea. I probably watched too many episodes of TV police shows like "One-Adam-12" and lawyer dramas like "Perry Mason" or "Ironsides." Funny thing is, I did become a police office while in college for 2.5 years at Old Orchard Beach, but eventually bailed on policing and law school to take a job in Indianapolis. After another mind-expanding creative writing class, this time with Walt Whitman Award-winning poet Jared Carter at Indiana University, I quit my job and moved back to Maine to devote time to writing and piecemeal a living by coaching, subbing, and odd jobbing.

One of the first people I saw when I went back home and visited the high school was Mrs. Puiia. Now an assistant principal, Mrs. Puiia introduced me to a new faculty member saying, "Here's one of our most successful graduates!" Bless her… I'd just quit a three-piece-suit position, with a secretary and 2-hour lunches, to substitute teach, coach skiing, and write.

Fortunately, Mrs. Puiia never stopped seeing the better me.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Search

I took Bailey out for a walk yesterday morning. While hoofing around Sunnyside Terrace, a woman pulled up beside us. "I'm searching for my dog," she said, handing me a flyer. A lump filled my throat. I could see she'd been crying.

Bailey has taken off only once when we went running with Simon last summer. Simon shot ahead of us on the trail, and Bailey went with him… then 5 minutes later he came back to check on me. Once he saw that I was still coming, Bailey took off up the trail to be with Simon. The next 45 minutes of not knowing if Bailey took the right trails drove me crazy. (Naturally, Bailey's sense of smell had him on Simon's track, but I didn't know that!)

Joe Pond & Glass Face
The woman's Basset-Hound/ Beagle mix had run off the day before chasing a rabbit. She lives on the other side of Glass Face Mountain. When we got back to the house, I stared at the little dog's picture on the flyer and that was enough for me. I posted the Lost Dog announcement on Facebook for my Rumford friends and then packed up the Subaru and headed off to Red Hill Road to spend a few hours looking for "Brady," the Basset Hound / Beagle. We had no luck, but it felt right to head off looking for the little pup. I'm hopeful we'll hear that Brady has been found. If not, I think we'll try again tomorrow.
Red Hill Road

New books in the works.

Lea Maurer
I've had great luck in connecting with two more top-notch coaches and former athletes. We've been discussing team notebooks. First, US Olympic medalist Lea Maurer, a swim coach who is taking time off from her work at Stanford University to raise her two boys. Lea and I have started working through drafts of a Swim Team Notebook. I loved when she wrote to say she had a "cartoon of a life."  Man, can I relate. Lea is unassuming and thoughtful… I admire that she has taken the time to be with her boys.
  
Ben Guite
This past week I met up with Ben Guite, hockey coach at the University of Maine. An assistant captain of the  University of Maine's NCAA National Championship team in 1999, Ben went on to play 13 seasons of professional hockey. I enjoyed having coffee with Ben. A Montreal native, Ben took a BA in English at Maine and recently completed an MBA. Ben has two young ones at home. He and his wife, a UMaine graduate, are excited to be back on campus for the community it offers.  

What a great time it is to work with such interesting and accomplished professionals. Ha! Lea just sent along some revisions, so it's time to get to work. Thanks, Lea! 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Hiking with Friends

Tucker Kellogg & Bailey Tuckerman Kent
Click to enlarge photo. 
Home for the holiday weekend, former student-athlete Matt Kellogg called last night wondering if we'd like to hike on Memorial Day morning. Having been cloistered in meetings for a week, I loved the idea of hiking with Matt, his wife Michaela, his sister Jen… and Bailey's new friend Tucker Kellogg. To see the full album, click here.
Michaela, Matt, and Jen
Click to enlarge photo. 

Rich & Bailey
Click to enlarge photo. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Soccer Lessons

Doug, Mark, Darin, Jeff
(Click on photo to enlarge.)
For several years I've been mulling over a story about the state soccer teams I took to England: 30 teams, 13 years, 500 players, and 7 arrests. This story could be framed as a memoir; problem is,  I'm not interested in being the centerpiece of the story. I could see it being a young adult novel not unlike Play On! Small-town kids in the big city of London. Naturally, creative nonfiction would work. I'd narrate but I keep stumbling over how to band the 13 years. Should I focus on a few players or perhaps write about one specific team and bring in the stories from other years?

Now, I'm playing with a multigenre approach that would capture the experience by using a variety of genre like essays, stories, poems, photographs, "This I Believe" essays, syntheses, songs… I like the idea of this approach, and now it's figuring out how to go about it. I think I'll give this genre a go and see what happens.

These photos come from 1984 and 1992. The '84 team, one of my first, played a match on a quagmire of a pitch. We wore short molded-soled soccer boots while our English opponents wore foul-weather studs. Needless to say, we fell down a lot and they stood up… they scored and we did not. Even the referee and our bus driver helped us out in the second half when the score stood 10-nil. You can tell that Doug Watt was not pleased.
Doug Watt 1984

Most of the '92 team sang wherever we went: on trains, in our hotel, on the streets, in the stands at professional matches, and notoriously, in one of the largest Underground stations in London. Some of us were robbed in the hotel on this trip, so the boys concocted a story and drew up signs. They sang in the Liverpool Street Station at the base of the escalators with signs at their feet:
PLEASE HELP! 
American Soccer Team Robbed. 
Need Money to Get home.

Coupled with the acoustics of the Underground Station singing The Beatles' "Hey, Jude," they were good… the money started floating off the escalators and into the bucket from smiling tourists and pale-faced Londoners. And then the London police appeared…


Maine Team 1992 | St. Clement Danes School, Chorleywood, England

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sam's Journals, an article


"Writing for me is a way to process what is buzzing around in my head. When I put my thoughts on paper, I begin to see things more clearly." --Sam Morse

Over the past couple of years, I've interviewed Sam Morse, a ski racer from Carrabassett Valley Academy. CVA is an elite ski racing school up near Sugarloaf/USA. They have produced a slew of Olympic skiers and snowboarders.

For the past 9 years, Sam has been a devoted journal writer and notebook keeper.  When it comes to his ski racing, Sam keeps lots and lots of notes. And as he says, "Writing never fails, whatever amount of effort I put into my writing, I get back!"

I wrote an article for Independent Teacher Magazine that features Sam while introducing the concept of athletic team notebooks and journals. That article can be found here. Just last week, Sam became a member of the US Ski Team at 18 years old!  Believe me, this kid paid his dues.

Silver Medal at World Championships
Start House at World Championships
Reviewing his 9 years of journals and notebooks

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Big "4"… Happy Birthday, Bailey

Bailey at 4 weeks
Bailey turned 4 on May 14th. It's curious how a dog's life can make us mindful of our own. Four years have passed since first visiting Bailey, his two sisters, and Maggie, his mom. Smitten with the three puppies, I made the decision. Since I was on sabbatical for the fall, I had the time to do the basic puppy training necessary.

If Bailey were to live the American average for Bernese Mountain Dogs, his life would end at 7.5 years. I sure hope that doesn't happen! But if it did, I've enjoyed this joyful mutt. Every single morning he awakes and howls and climbs up on my bed with his front paws to celebrate the day. Naturally, he's happy to see me, but part of his joy surfaces because he's about to eat. Each and every morning, I smile.
Bailey at 8 weeks.









Four year old with his special Birthday Bone!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

New book: Water Polo Team Notebook (36/60)


Last month we finished the Water Polo Team Notebook. I had the great good fortune of working on this book with John Vargas, Stanford University coach ... former Olympian, US National Team and Olympic coach who also has won a NCAA national championship as a coach and as a player. This is John's 13th year with Stanford and his 35th year coaching and playing the sport on the professional level.  


There's something special about working with people at the top of their professions. In John's case, he's ultra organized as well as responsive and respectful. He didn't ponder life while coauthoring this book with me; we got to it. He invited players to write models for us; he shared drafts with fellow coaches, players, and former players. Even his 84-year-old mom got into the act providing feedback and finding a typo!

This summer, John will direct the Junior Olympics festival at Stanford. He and his partners will host 8,000 swimmers in a slew of pools around the city. Eight thousand…   

Writing is hard. Collaborating on a creative project like a book can be extraordinarily difficult. But working with a thoughtful professional like John Vargas made this project not only an enjoyable experience, but also an opportunity to make a friend.  

Go, Victoria! Go, Bruins!

Victoria Kent, UCLA #6
Bailey's God-Dog Mom, Victoria Kent, plays for the national championships today with her team, the UCLA Bruins. I love thinking about athletes who have given years to their sport and then, make it into the final game. Of course, it'd be great to win a national collegiate championship, but just being there means for a lot. We'll be watching the match on the computer today and thinking about the many years Victoria and her teammates have spent in the pool to earn a spot in the last game of 2014. Here's to UCLA, their opponents, the Stanford Cardinal, and our Victoria… play well and enjoy the moment.

Semifinal Game vs. USC

A win over the cross-town rivals USC Trojans

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mt. Zircon… April 20, 2104

Mt Zircon
With a big sun and no leaves on the trees, the snow in the woods is disintegrating. I discovered this on a hike in my backyard that heads up to Joe Pond. With the success of that hike, I decide to head off to Mt. Zircon, a mountain across the river and in plain view of my house, especially from my second floor bedroom and the sports' room.

The trail had bare spots and areas with 3 feet of snow. Most of the time the trail with snow was firm with just an inch of soft snow for footing. When I did break through the deeper snow up to my shin or beyond, that's where the work came in. That didn't happen much, but when it did, I knew I'd pay for it the next day. And I have.
Barbara Kent Trevett c. 1948

Along with Easter, April 20th was also my sister's birthday. She would have been 70 years old. She would have liked knowing how her brothers and husband celebrated her on email, how her granddaughter Caroline posted on Facebook a late-1940's Easter picture of her, and how her younger brother thought of his sister and her influence on his life as he climbed Mt. Zircon. Happy Birthday, Barbie.

For the complete album of pictures from the hike, click here.



The Presidential Range from the top of Mt Zircon

Bailey on top of Zircon

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Close Encounters with a Moose


We went hiking on Red Hike Trail today and headed up toward the top of Glassface Mountain. Not 10 minutes into the hike we ran into a moose. Bailey stared; the moose stared. If you'd like to see the full album from the hike, just click on this sentence. And remember to click on the photos to enlarge. 

Bailey and Bullwinkle have a staring contest.


Click on these photos to enlarge. 

After the April's Fool Hike

April 1st, 2014…. We went hiking around Black Mountain's cross-country trails and the alpine slope this afternoon. How great to be in warm weather. Now, out on the back deck, we soaked in the sunshine and lay in the snow to cool off. Spring is here!


Sunday, March 30, 2014

"This is going to melt? Say it ain't so!"

On what was the first real day of spring, we hiked around the Joe Pond trails and then enjoyed the sunshine and near-50 degree temperatures on the back deck of the house. Bailey just loves the snow, and I know if he could talk, he'd say "Let's go north for the summer." But then again, I think he loves mountain streams during a hike and the brook at Weld when we're hanging out.


"This is going to melt?"
 














"It's getting warmer." 
"Time for a nap."