Peacock Tales • Winter 2013

Reflections Upon Time

By Jonathan Higie

On December 10, 2012, I returned to the office from my six-month sabbatical from Peacock Keller. I am the tenth partner at the firm to have been afforded this wonderful and enlightening opportunity. The English language is replete with adjectives, but none seem quite adequate to describe my experience; extraordinary, remarkable and life changing, however, come close.

First and foremost, I owe thanks to the partners and staff of Peacock Keller for allowing me this rare opportunity. For their efforts and support I am eternally and indescribably grateful. I was able to stay away from the firm and the practice of law confident that the partners, associates and staff would serve each of my clients with attention and professionalism. My sabbatical was the most special consecutive six-month period of my life. Hopefully, after reading this brief report, you will appreciate how and why.

My sabbatical began on June 8, 2012. My family (wife Lisa, 12-year-old son Ben, 16-year-old daughter Kyleigh and I) departed Chautauqua, New York on that day and drove to Toronto to catch a flight to London the following day. For the next four weeks we traveled together through many of the most interesting and beautiful places in Europe: London, Paris, Nice (with a day trip to Monaco); then on to Italy: Cinque Terre, Lake Como (with a day train trip to St. Moritz, Switzerland), Florence and Rome. In each destination we saw all the sights, immersed ourselves in the culture, attempted to speak the languages and thoroughly enjoyed the food. The trip was at once educational, hectic, relaxing and transformative. Each stop on the trail was unique in its own way, and in each we learned different things about the particular country and its people.

After returning home at the beginning of July, and ridding ourselves of the jet lag, I commenced to enjoy my first full summer vacation since the 8th grade. Most of the month of July was spent traveling back and forth from Pittsburgh to my parents’ home on Chautauqua Lake. In my humble opinion, there is no better place to experience America and its culture than Chautauqua Institution. The comparative experiences of the first eight weeks of my sabbatical were not lost on me.

At the end of July, my son Ben and I embarked on an old fashioned “guys” road trip. We drove to Cooperstown and visited the Baseball Hall of Fame, followed by a trip to Boston to see the sights and catch a Red Sox game with my brother-in-law and nephew. The trip was amazing and although there was much time spent on the road, there is no one I would rather have been with. We followed it up with a much shorter trip to Columbus in mid-August to see a Major League Soccer game (preceded by a day at a water park). The summer concluded with a couple more trips to Chautauqua with the family before the kids returned to school.

During the second week of September, my brother and I drove to Bennett Spring, Missouri for a week of fly fishing. The weather was perfect, the fish were plentiful and the company could not have been better. After returning, however, I must admit being ready for a break from the car. The remainder of September was spent attending Canon McMillan cross country meets (for both kids at the middle and high school) and spending time with Lisa and our Samoyed, Kali.

At the beginning of October my father had some surgery which, although not life threatening, was going to affect his mobility for a couple weeks. The procedure went well, although some complications afterward extended his recovery and hospital stay longer than was anticipated. During this time, I was fortunate to be able to help him and my mother as much as possible (both in Pittsburgh and at their home in Bradford, Pennsylvania). I was grateful to be with them during this time and, at least most of the time, I think they were glad I was there as well.

The middle of October saw my last travel experience as I flew to San Francisco to visit a lifelong, dear friend and his family (including my goddaughter whom I had not seen since her baptism a couple years ago). We spent a long weekend at a house in Pacific Grove, California (on the Monterey Peninsula) and visited the sights of Monterey, including the Aquarium, Pebble Beach and Spanish Bay. We also drove down the Pacific coast and spent a day at Big Sur; truly a spectacular setting.

With my travels completed, I had time to begin the contemplative process of what the previous five month respite meant and what effect it had on me. The trips and the various other experiences were what I did, but I felt that I needed to evaluate their effect on me for my sabbatical to be meaningful. I thought about these things on long walks with Kali, on drives to Chautauqua to cut grass and while sweating away on exercise machines at the gym. Here are a few of my thoughts:

  1. There is beauty everywhere, whether in Europe, California, or on a crisp fall morning on the Montour Trail in Cecil, PA. There is little to be gained by ranking the beautiful places you visit and the kindness of people you meet, but much to be taken from the unique characteristics of each. To have the time to notice something different in your 20th walk through the same woods is a wonderful thing.
  2. Indeed the gift of my sabbatical was really a gift of just that: time. Time to travel, time to help, time to love, time to contemplate, but most of all time to spend with the most important people in my life. Words cannot express how much I enjoyed and appreciated being able to spend wonderful times with my friends and family. Few people at my stage in life are given the gift of time and for that I am blessed.
  3. The ability to step back and experience all of these things has given me a renewed energy and perspective with which to rejoin the firm and continue the practice of law. During the time spent with my father in the hospital I was awed by the dedication, attitude and professionalism of the nurses that attended to his care. These amazing professionals were attentive, calming, at times humorous and always competent under difficult and trying circumstances. Experiencing this from the perspective of the client made me appreciate what it means to be a true professional at your chosen vocation. I hope to look to those people and their dedication to their profession as inspiration.

I admit that I was somewhat anxious about my return, much like the first day of school when I was younger. While it has been somewhat like that at times because of many new faces here since I left, it has been mostly seamless and, in many ways, reinvigorating. I return with a sense of renewal and excitement. I look forward to continuing to serve the firm’s clients, and doing so with the special group of people and professionals here at Peacock Keller.

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