The Extra Mile

The Extra Mile

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of Second Breakfast, and I cannot begin to articulate how relieved I am that, after everything I've been through – the book, the pandemic, the death, the grief – I've started to write again. Thank you so much for subscribing to this newsletter and helping me re/discover my voice. (These Monday newsletters are usually for paid subscribers, but I'm making some of this one available to all readers – and there's a birthday discount if you follow that link and upgrade your subscription.)

Tomorrow is also Isaiah's birthday. He'd have been 31, which is almost unfathomable. For the past two years, Kin and I have spent his birthday re-treading some of the hikes that the two of them did during their "drone recovery" summer in 2016.

The burn, Bolan Lake 2022

Here's what I wrote, back in June 2022:

The plan for today’s hike was to head to Bolan Lake, one of the places where, according to Kin, Isaiah had some clarity, some levity even, when they hiked together to the fire lookout six years ago.

But Bolan Lake was burned — devastatingly so — in the Slater Fire in 2020, just a few months after Isaiah’s death. The lookout, the site of a rare picture of Isaiah smiling, was completely destroyed. Two years later, the area is still scorched. And the road to the lake was closed today, a small crew still slowly clearing and salvaging what remained.

So we drove across the valley to Babyfoot Lake, another hike Isaiah and Kin had done in 2016. Babyfoot Lake, it so happens, had burned during the Biscuit Fire of 2002, and when Isaiah and Kin visited, it was in the early stages of regrowth. It was a place where Isaiah recognized the importance of trail maintenance, Kin says, not just for one’s own passage but for the passage of others and the health of the trail and its ecosystem.

Today, some twenty years after its fire, one could see even more recovery from that fire at Babyfoot. The new growth was abundant. There were so many beautiful wildflowers, some opening in the time it took us to walk in and back out again. Yet the new fir trees were so tiny compared to the giants that had burned. It was, no doubt, a testament to how slowly — how incredibly slowly — recovery from a traumatic event takes.

“It’ll never be the same,” Kin lamented, mourning the devastation at Bolan Lake, “not in my lifetime.” Indeed.

This year, we did something a little different, opting not to return to the Pacific Northwest – for a variety of practical, professional, and psychological reasons. Instead of hiking through the woods, we undertook one of Isaiah's favorite activities: clothes shopping – something I find far more exhausting that climbing up and down mountains, truth be told. Kin and I visited several boutiques in SoHo, places Isaiah'd have loved and surely convinced me to spend far too much money indulging his passion for, of all things, Ralph Lauren. (Yeah, that was me, trying not to sob into the brightly-colored polo shirts in the basement of the Prince Street store.)

Speaking of anniversaries, it's been six years since I spent a week going through B. F. Skinner's archives at Harvard, and I must say, I still think about this story all the time, one that I learned from a newspaper article Skinner had clipped and saved – how one of his early teaching machines was used to train Ham, the chimpanzee, for his launch into space.

This must have been such a horrifying experience for Ham. Not just the ed-tech component of the training, obviously, but surely that too.

Elsewhere in foundational educational technologies that can only lead to bad things: "The CEO of Zoom wants AI clones in meetings," The Verge reports. Apparently Eric Yuan thinks it'll be great when you can send your "digital twin" to attend meetings or classes for you. Phew! Good thing schools haven't gone all-in on Zoom, otherwise we'd have some real problems up ahead, eh?