Monday, April 14, 2008

AP Bio

Of all of the numerous activities that are honed and perfected at boarding school, one of the most common, sneaking around, receives the neither accolades of year end medals nor varsity letters. But if it did, I would like to think that Mark Metherell would have been the team captain.

At first it seemed an unlikely hobby for him. Tall, and a likely future in medicine he loved creeping around bushes and hugging up against walls. While most nocturnal explorers tended to be interested in trying to head to the girls’ dorm across campus or a stash of beer on the side of the Mesa, I think he enjoyed the adventure most of all.

The truth is that I joined him only a couple of times, my nature - a short, dark, and cynical runner was different from his disposition of blond, calm, and Christian surfer. But what we had in common, the things that would bind us together as friends senior year, was an appreciation of mirth and AP Biology. The former greatly helped with the later.

Our teacher, Mrs. Powers, as a trained biologist must have loved to experiment, and our year she thought a great research hypothesis to test would be “if I made a bunch of very hormonal teenagers study plants for a couple of months, would their attention span crumble into small wrinkled mendelian peas.” I have over the past decade done a fair amount of endurance sports, but nothing training me quite so well to run up hills than having to go through the various kinds of algae. For a brief moment there was the hope that we would quickly get to trees (not to mention things that might actually move or eat), but this was quickly dashed into a long digression into mosses followed by an even longer one about ferns.

Mark and I, lived two doors apart and were AP bio partners and great friends. The little jokes we had back and forth made the class one of the most enjoyable of the year. One of only three seniors on my hall, we studied late together often and as the homework wound down the conversations would shift into more immediate speculation about the girls in the classl. Afterwards I am sure he sneaked out. I have no idea where.

Perhaps learning about vegetation would have helped him in the career he chose.

He had that duality then of wanting to follow his father into medicine and the need to seize life's experiences. He wasn’t alone in this conflict and as we age the dilemma between family responsibility and career passions loom even larger.

But the difference between him and most of us was that he decided to follow his calling. I shouldn’t have been so surprised when I found out that he became a Navy Seal, but there was a large sense of awe and respect for someone to go and follow his beliefs.

He wrote over a page in my year book (after a long section on how I should be more mellow) the following:

Every man has a destiny and only when you find what you were truly meant to do will you be truly happy. Learn to be quiet, contemplative and to listen. These are some ways to happiness. This is my advice to you!
You are my true friend. Be happy in life and never forget me or the things that I have said. I love you like a brother and will always miss you.
Good bye …
P.S. Always remember God. For he is the true key.

He told me that I should read it after we left the mesa, and I did on the way home up the California coast. I always thought I would be able to talk to him about it at a reunion, to learn more about how he was doing with his destiny, but he never came back. The best I could was ask Ueberoth who kept in much better touch and he would always say that Mark is doing fine.

I now won’t have the chance.

The emails came yesterday that Mark Metherell died by a roadside bomb in Iraq and I have been in a half daze since.

Despite this weekend’s gorgeous weather ( a rarity for San Francisco) I headed to a museum to gather my thoughts. Mark loved photography and told me how he would love to be a photo journalist. Annie Lebowitiv had an exhibit and all of the images seemed hyper real. She had her nudes, and landscapes, but was her portraits - her ability to capture a soul with lord knows how much chemicals and patience. The exhibit felt the way that news of Mark's passing did: the images were larger than normal, with drama that couldn't possibly be true, but then the realization that yes it was true.

I came back home and hit the internet to see more pictures of Mark l online and while he as aged since our time under that Santa Barbara sun he still had that enormous warm smile. He must had so many great photos of the places he has been, of a family that loved him, of friends to he was dear. His life was hyper real.

He was one of the happiest, kind, passionate people I know.

Mark, I will never forget you.