When along came "THE BUG."
First it struck my granddaughter.
Then my daughter.
Then my son in law.
Then my daughter's friend's mother.
Well, you get the idea.
Five days later, I crawled up off the bathroom floor and headed off to work.
And there - on the shores of Passamaquoddy Bay, where Maine kisses the Atlantic Ocean and if you had radar vision you could see Europe - is where I found Molly, Suzie and Donna. They also seemed a bit surprised to find themselves there.
Three old ladies, they called themselves.
On just two days' notice, they flew 15 hours from Seattle to watch the sun rise over Eastport, the country's easternmost city.
They are 62 to 70. They've watched husbands die, lost their parents, worked entire careers and retired, and one day about five years ago, they took a good look at each other. They saw three old ladies. Gray hair. Sweet wrinkled faces. Bodies that sag into themselves. And they said What The Hell Are We Waiting For?
And so they hit the road - together.
They've been swimming with the dolphins in the Bahamas.
Flew by bush plane into a remote village in Alaska, seeking long-gone gold mining relatives's graves and found them.
Watched humpbacks breaching in the cold Pacific and sat in a yurt in minus 30 degree weather waiting for the Northern Lights - which didn't show up.
They've experienced the Ernest Hemmingway Look Alike Contest and all the rowdiness that entails at Key West.
They've seen volcanoes at Maui.
At Eastport, they dove up the elbows in their first Maine lobster dinner while tipping Coronas.
They put on silly pointed party hats and watched a four foot sardine fly from a building at midnight.
And they stood together the next morning overlooking the ocean and watched the first sunrise of the year, and pondered their own insignificance.
Through it all, they told me, they have one goal: to find out what makes each place they visit individual, what the heart of the place is. All along their travels, they stop and talk to all the people. They don't just stand at the rim of a canyon, snap a photo and sigh. They turn to the person next to them on the ridge, in the train, at the tourist shop, and begin a conversation. A dialogue about life. They ask. And then they listen.
And by engaging with those around them, they learn. They learn about the place they are in, about new places, about dreams, about love, about loss, about all the good bad and ugly details that make this a life. And through this process, they have learned the most about themselves.
And isn't this just what we all want? To get to the heart of a place, a person, the matter? And while we making that trip, to get to even the most deep part of ourselves?
The rock in the bottom of the stew of our lives is always the question "Who am I?" and the quest is always to find the answer.
So here's a New Year's toast to Molly, Suzie and Donna - they have truly embraced the premise that life is REALLY all about the journey and are willing to step out on that ledge and leap.
Where next? I asked them. "We have no idea," they answered, with a hearty laugh. They seem to laugh alot, these three.
Let's start our own journey of discovery this year. Let's look a little deeper, be a bit more reflective, and - along the way - have a grand adventure or two. I for one am more than ready.
Who else is coming along?