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The joke is, you don’t need bug spray — just bring Michelle.
And so they did. We were four adults — ages spanning four to six decades — standing in a field, but in the dark we could have been mistaken for being 4 to 6. Fireflies danced while every mosquito in the neighborhood laid in an intercept course for my right ankle.
We left our bug jars at home but brought along an iPad, whose glow displayed the coordinates we sought: west-northwest, just beyond the cottonwood tree on the rise, behind from which the International Space Station would emerge in minutes.
Four grown-ups, a few up past even our grown-up bedtimes, waiting for the 33 seconds when that orbiting hulk of metal would catch the rays of a sun spreading noon on the other side of the planet and make the ship visible to our bits of human existence, necks craned, staring at the vastness of space.
Makes our world feel small, and leaves us in awe.
It’s not a revelation that happens only when standing in the dark. In full daylight, when our senses are otherwise occupied with work and flat tires and family and cupcakes, we get a nudge that wakes us up, the unseen hand of an origami artist folding the corners of our wide world until we all meet.
Flyers know what I mean.
In this issue, Art Elias ’75 tells about running into Flyer fan Harry Delaney while on a walking tour in Florence, Italy, and Dr. Dan Curran strikes up a conversation with a two-time grad in a hotel lobby in Xi’an, China. Flyers have met in a countryside pub in Ireland, law workshop at Harvard and a beach in Thailand.
For this Flyer, it happened on a hike up to a waterfall.
In the Columbia River basin, just east of Portland, Ore., Multnomah Falls sends water crashing 620 feet into a pool below. The parking lot feels like Disney, with children pleading for ice cream while adults with short fuses smolder in the mist. My own extended family, there in August to celebrate my sister’s wedding, added to the mayhem, with my 85-year-old cousin forging up to the falls while my brother and his brood planned our next adventure before this one was even complete.
It was not the wildlife I had hoped to see, so I grabbed my husband’s hand and started up the verdant pathway to the overlook.
The last thing I thought about was what I was wearing; the second to last thing were the strangers passing by.
Then a voice stopped me.
“Hey, Dayton Flyers. I went to Dayton.”
It was Corey Woodson ’05, who had spotted my Flyers soccer jersey, a prize from a raffle two years ago.
We talked only for a moment, about his move west, about the wedding that brought me there, about him sending the magazine a class note. Then he continued on his way, and we on ours.
It’s not science — like how a mosquito finds its prey — that explains these encounters. In a world of 7 billion people, 106,950 alumni are but a blip. But still we find one another.
Maybe it’s pride that makes us voice our affiliation, or that Marianist spirit of welcome that compels us to reach out to others. Maybe it’s recognition of the vastness of space and the awe that a simple hello can inspire.
Want to make our great, wide world feel small? Just bring a Flyer.
Send your story of Flyer encounters to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll run some in the next issue.