Last week, I was honored to once again join St. John’s School on its annual 8th grade field trip to Big Bend National Park. Though I haven’t taught there for over a decade, I am somehow still welcomed back as a guest chaperone and hike leader. The title I go by, privately, is barnacle emeritus, for I often employ a dramatically caustic style of dialogue in order to shake up the mindsets of the 14-year-olds, and sometimes the adults too.

There’s nothing like talking non-stop to make a 15-mile hike through the high desert of west Texas go more smoothly. Besides the staff of teachers, coaches, and administrators, there were also about a dozen doctors (parents of attending students). I was privileged to engage several of them on topics ranging from medical research on immunology to current events to – you guessed it – politics and cosmology. I enjoyed some great conversations, several of which took me into uncharted territory.

I even shared a very brief sketch of my next project with one hike group. While I know it can be a curse to one’s creativity to toss out virgin ideas to the uninitiated, I decided what the heck. “What’s it gonna be called, Mr. Easton?” “Hmmm … well, it’s just a working title, mind you, but I think the first installment (of a trilogy?) will be Agents of Order.” They responded enthusiastically and began asking all kinds of questions, very few of which I was able to answer. Not because I was withholding, but because I only have the merest seeds of the plot in mind.