Wednesday, May 29, 2013


"Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens." Ralph Waldo Emerson (from 'Circles')
Daniel Mast - 05.21.2013 (Photo I took of Dan in 2005)
Last week was marked by the dramatic succession of a literal/metaphorical mountain and a strictly metaphorical valley:

The mountain: Monday afternoon I received a call from my climbing friend Phil with an offer that I could not refuse: he would cover the cost of climbing Denali, if I could swing the trip in 2014. Already cleared for leave from work and mentally prepped for climbing Denali in 2014, the final, unavoidable hurdle was money. With a career in the not-for-profit world, money is something that I never expect to have in abundance. Of course, I said "yes" to Phil's offer. I won't embarrass Phil here, nor will I exhaust the reader with endless exhortation of Phil's gracious gift - that would be poor form - but I will say this: I am forever indebted to Phil for his friendship and financial support to make this shared dream come true. 

This is one of those life moments - like true love or companionship - where a set of seemingly unrelated variables reveal themselves as truly related and, in fact, are not variables at all. Suddenly, a sense of order and purpose becomes clear and the series of events threatens to substantiate claims of a 'master plan', 'fate' or God. A series of fortunate events. Phil and I came along at this moment in time to meet, enjoy a sense of kinship and fulfill a shared dream: Denali. Giddiness upwells within me at the mere thought!

The valley: Tuesday afternoon, moments after getting off the phone with Phil discussing registration for the Denali trip, Jackie, a friend from photography school called, notifying me that Dan Mast, a friend and classmate of ours from school, died that morning as a result of a fall he took at a construction site. The news was shocking. Inexplicable and awful and tragic and without rationale, I simply cannot imagine the hurt and pain felt by his wife, kids, family and closest friends. Survived by an expecting wife and two little ones, Dan left behind not only an incredible family unit, but a gaping hole in the hearts of all who had the pleasure of knowing him. 

Coming from the perspective of an endurance athlete, what struck me most about Dan was his high pain tolerance and uncanny knack for understatement, which gave one the impression that Dan would, without question, live forever (and I hope now, more than ever, that heaven might be real and that statement is true - heaven exists for people like Dan). Dan was seemingly unflappable in spirit. Often, he carried on his face a mischievous grin alerting his friends of an imminent slap on the back or practical joke. On the other side of the coin, Dan was uncompromisingly gentle in spirit and a firm man of integrity. Dan possessed an unbridled zest for life that I have seen in few others. 

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Dan's passion made profession: photography. He had the rare gift of capturing a person's true spirit on film by drawing out their subtle personality traits. Half grins, forced smiles and even wrinkles were no match for Dan's charisma. Native American lore and the bastardization of Native American myths regarding photography may have had some merit with Dan: he may have been stealing our souls all along. At minimum, hearts, that much is for certain. Dan stole the hearts of kith and kin and will be sorely missed. 

Here's to Dan and the joy that he conferred upon those who had the pleasure of knowing him. Rest in peace, Dan. Thoughts and prayers go out to Dan's family and friends.

Onward and upward,


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