Thursday, December 27, 2012

Awakening to Acknowledge Life's Beauty!

I woke up this morning to the audible and persistent voice of my roommate's lady friend, in town visiting from another state. I was at first annoyed that she was insensitive to those that still may be sleeping; namely me. Though, in that short-lived selfish space of me feeling slighted, beauty emerged.

I sit here, less than an hour later and have nothing to think of but love and appreciation. I'm not sure what exactly led me to this space, but perhaps the bread crumb trail of life's knowledge and experience, the voice of intuition - knowing better than to be poor in disposition - has led me back to positivity and appreciation. Perhaps the moonlight walk in the snow last evening with my roommates down by the river helped; perhaps putting on the necklace/bracelet gift from a dear and bright spirit helped; or, maybe it was the early morning Yoga pose - directly succeeding the crude-seeming awakening.

The beauty the lone tree exudes, regardless of what broils overhead - all part of the necessary process!!
Nonetheless, I am so glad to be sitting here, typing, tapping, assembling words on this screen to share with you. Once again, I have nothing but thankfulness for life! In the simplicity of what is, there is nothing I do not have! Perhaps that is another reason why I am glad. I'm glad because someone or somebodies have been thinking about me, and sharing their love from afar - whether in the form of baked goods sent to me, a Christmas card and family portrait, or pictures of sunsets and moonscapes that continually put me in a state of awe and wonder at nature.

The temporary, short-lived, shortsighted-ness of my Ego's fade leaves me here in smiling appreciation. And as I shake my head, agreeing with what flows forth from my mind, through my fingers, guided by my eyes and heart, I feel complete as Jimi Hendrix plays from his soul to the willing reception of my ear drums, my consciousness - the acknowledgment of music - simply beautiful! It feels the longer I sit here, the more I absorb the truth - not my truth, but that which is always under, amongst the essence, the rudimentary, the necessary in life - waiting to be acknowledged by the appreciation constantly brewing somewhere in all of us!

I feel to know now that this love received, via the spiritually-loving airwaves, has brought to enrich my morning. For example, I've been putting off phone calls to dear friends because of strain with work, but now in day 2 of 2 off from work, I feel like being outside of myself and calling those that have helped shape my love for life. This feels good!

Thank you. Thank you for helping me shift my lens and attention to something far more beautiful and enriching for all. As the lyrics to Stairway to Heaven go:

"Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on.

And it makes me wonder..."

Happy pre-New Year's Thursday to you and your loved ones. May the day seem as beautiful as life truly is!

Shared smiles and appreciation,
Alan

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bathing and Meandering in the Out-of-doors

I have developed a habit out of necessity. I do not know how my life would be if this new habit were not so because I am living this and learning to love it with unforced ease. I was introduced to the concept of wilderness bathing by a spiritually-connected friend in North Carolina a few months ago. Ever since this abstraction crossed the outer known limits of my mind, I have idled on what it meant fully in my life; until recently that is. Last evening, while chatting with my dear friends and roommates - the Halliwell brothers, the idea of a wilderness bath was brought to discussion once again. We three, in polite unrestrainedness, all exclaimed(!) how invigorating the wilderness is when we are privileged to experience its colossal love.

For Pete and Ryan, they had ventured often into the backwoods of Jackson Hole, WY to bathe near where they lived in years past; for me, my 4+ months spent on the Appalachian Trail seemed to fit the bill of needed hygiene. In these physically separate, yet allied experiences, all three had sampled the warm, relaxing aurora of the wilderness bath (bubbles optional). I say sample because to truly bathe, one must continue living the life, the cleansing day-in; day-out. Being that our conversation is past-tense now, it is hard to speak for the Halliwell brothers, but I feel that my sentiments to that affect would mirror theirs: when immersed in the loving waters of Mother Nature, one experiences a sense of inwardness, dimensionally-deep and profound in its staggering feeling; voids created only to be filled with awe, inspiration, and wonderment. 



Current research being studied in support of wilderness bathing affirms hand-fulls of medical benefits; including, but not limited to: lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels (in diabetes patients), and a decrease in stress-related hormones - as a result of passively inhaling soil bacteria and other microorganisms in the wilderness; increased production of white and red blood cells (sunlight induced), cholesterol conversion in your skin to Vitamin D, which aids in calcium absorption (think strong, dense bones), and finally a refreshing lift in people's moods (especially when in proximity to water). Though, don't just take my word for it; the proof is in the pudding. Take this excerpt from my recent adventures last week:



* * *


Sitting in the woods upon a downed tree, up the gulch and across Highway 6 from where I live: through scrub brush and sage I have traveled into the Aspens and pines: lush green Spruces of some sort - my time and exact knowledge spent working at the Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania 4 winters ago escaping me. Easily forgetting, or trying despite the narrow swath of audible calamity that is the major through fare of Interstate 70, from the direction which I had came. Sitting and listening to nature around me: this space, the contrasting forgettable-ness of human society, at least for an afternoon. Good for the soul, the spirit, body and mind!


Indeed!
When I first released into this grove of Aspens, the wind noticeably increased directly to my forefront. The trees gently rocked and swayed upon their off-white colored bases, issuing creaks and groans - perhaps alerted to my presence. In this particular moment, intuition - that loving and subtle voice of guidance - spoke. She whispered to me just below my consciousness:


'Open yourself, ye who cometh to this spot!; what are your intentions!?'

Desiring to open and share, beckoning willingly to her inquiry, I opened my heart - spreading my arms wide to let the wind enter my soul, my existence. I half-expected to feel different after such but didn't as I proceeded to the downed tree-turned-weary-hiker's-seat. Resting on my haunches, recollecting in this, my journal, I realized the nature of my intentions in that moment: impure - selfish in their desired outcome; unlike that which is all around me here and now in this nature space. Surely, I am to leave today - returning to the human society in which I belong - having been taught a subtle lesson.

Still recollecting my thoughts, like a squirrel collects and sorts nuts, fuel for winter, I recreated the meandering hike up to this space, thinking as I scribble: Mother Nature places - for good reason - obstacles in our path. In this case, scrubby brush and trees, tight in their coupled occupancy of space; downed trees laying this way and that, providing essentially necessary organic material for the fellow organisms come spring time and new growth. Barriers requesting that those proceeding in love enter; turning, otherwise, those not ready for this discourse back, towards the human association from which they came. 


I think of bulldozers and other human-created machines, that, in their soul-less existence, do not, could not answer or beckon to Mother's request of intention. What is it like to run, to rule one of those beasts, as it tears its way over and through life; ending, terminating. Tis just a job that pays, and that reveals why it happens; at least in one case amongst many. 

I then think of cutting into an apple. With sharp paring knife in hand, given to me by my mother 4 years ago, I dissect the apple into unintentionally unequal halves - revealing the innards that will be cut out before consumption. Committing such discards to a compost, as to assist in renewing the cycle of life and growth that I, we are a small part of; a seemingly insignificant but important action, I feel. 

Bulldozer and Kinfe: two similar exterminators - finite in their end results; though, contrasting in their approach to balance. Ahh, to live in balance; that which we as a human society are not doing very well. Wow. What an unfortunate notion. 
I wonder: will it change? 

Hmmm. Hard to say. I feel, sitting here in nature, guided to an answer of yes. Mother will balance her Kingdom, and everything in it. However, we need to assess how we may organically assist in this, before her temperament runs out. 


* * * 

Forgetting once again what is it I had written in those moments of passive scrubbing, I recall now why it is that I have formed a new habit: to ride my bike to and fro work. Out of necessity for the vehicle that I used to call Freedom Jr.; no longer residing in my possession. In this human-powered transportation of myself, I feel reconnected - on a daily basis - to nature, regardless of sunlight, moonlight, or starlight; warm, or sub-zero temperatures. Connected. To the Eagle River rolling along the bike path, teeming on its course towards the bigger, grander Colorado River; coupled, with the wind upon my smiling-stupid, clean-shaven-for-work face. Undivided. United! 


Near Lake of the Clouds; White Mountain National Forest, NH. 
Nature, that thing: perhaps out your back door; at Grandma and Grandpa's house in the country; the organic promenade that isn't a leveled terrace of black top with neatly spaced trees and bushes hinting-yet-failing at natural surroundings; a memory perhaps not quite so vivid as what you received in gifts last Christmas. But maybe I'm wrong.

Maybe the love has already begun to reach you, and your understanding and immersion is on-course with the catharsis that you, I, we! all need do. Like the pile of laundry on my bedroom floor, I, too, am in need of a reminder to go bathe; just ask my sister Stephanie. I suppose I've attempted to ease its inclusion in my daily life by choosing to ride my bike, to human-power myself; to me-power my human-ness. Or, to choose options that maximize efficiency in natural-resourced-fueled transport; like ride-sharing.  

Ohh, tis enough from me; though, how I do plead you, I, we, to heed this call of love enunciating, yearning-to-scream, from the relative distances of nature. Experiencing the full lull and complete care of nature, with nothing but a creasing smile upon our naked, loved-filled faces (with maybe a towel near by to dry off).  


In loving support to you in your steps towards the bath tub of tubs,
Alan 



Monday, December 17, 2012

Listening and choice in acknowledgement: the affordable guarantees in life!

I desire to write, to sketch out the thoughts in my head, the feelings in my heart. To share the greatness that is life! I cannot think of one thing to be upset about; at least, one thing worth mentioning. There seems to always exist the subtle complaint under the surface - our Ego's sentiments - rounding out the full portrait that is us. To observe our Ego's echo is one option, to admit it, over our lips and through our tongue and vocal chord's movement, is another. The first option acknowledges but does not give credibility; the later, however, sets in motion an ugly beast with many ugly heads wanting to rear themselves in our lives, our person.

Life is a beautiful thing, I think at least. There was a time when I felt and thought differently. As I age and grow - becoming influenced by many other loving souls in this life,  I choose to acknowledge the things that are truly worth mentioning: people (and their loving potential) would be one; mother nature (and it's vast, impressive, indescribable beauty!) another; and, life's great plan for us (that is, when we learn and trust to let go of things realistically out of our control) a final worthy mention. So, let's tip-toe to stand erect upon our two strong feet; to support what is within us; verifying that we are loving-capable human beings!

The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch Hotel property
So far, after two days on the job as a seasonal Bellman at the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch Destination Club in Avon, Colorado, I've witnessed some interesting characters. Our guests, many of them kind and engaging, are the 1% that demonstrators this year on Wall Street where remarking about. As you can imagine, they have plenty of things in surplus in their lives: property, vehicles, time to travel, material possessions, and of course large sums of money. They make for an interesting population to observe and learn with. I say with, because I will be engaged in their lives in some way - whether superficially, as in: 'how are you today?,' or 'how may I assist you?'; or, on a spiritual level (if we ever reach that depth). Even these guests, the seeming elite of America, and sometimes the world, are not estranged to their Ego's divulge. In this, we can understand that having everything in life does not necessarily warrant an exception to complaints deriving from the individual Ego within all of us. Though, I smile upon all of this.

I smile because I identify: with them, with you, with life's intricate occurrences! So, as the snow continues to fall outside here in Edwards, Colorado, I immerse into an acknowledged appreciation for life and its guidance. I am thankful for intuition's guiding voice, softly uttering wisdom and love to my accepting mind and loving heart: a complete spiritual presence when I willingly facilitate balance. With this holiday season, find a balance; find a growth that is beyond what you've done before. Life's wonderful opportunities wait for us in the wings. It is my belief that we need turn-down the volume of I, and instead, turn-up the sublime symphony, bellowing just outside the acknowledgement of our conscious, perceiving minds, of us. What a sumptuous notion!

"The greatest tool you have is to listen."  Listening till I smile at life's happenings out my back door. 
Happy Holiday season to you and your loved ones in this beautiful maze known as life.

Always striving in love,
Alan

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Comes A Time...

There comes a time when I feel like sharing music; again and again. For whatever reason, music is the ultimate glue, the duct tape that never fails, the mysterious-piece-now-known to my life. This Neil Young song seems to capture a bit of what it feels like this morning, waiting to hear the outcome of my car - knowing that I need to be on the road to Colorado soon. 

I gotta smile though, the patience games brings its pieces to the board of life once again. In this, I find my deep breathing, recalling the soothing feeling of calm it brings, as I settle to wait for life's next move. Indeed, a worthy ally. 

Listen to the song here (on the blog site itself is best; the link will not work via email):
Comes a time
when you're driftin'
Comes a time
when you settle down
Comes a light
feelin's liftin'
Lift that baby
right up off the ground.

Oh, this old world
keeps spinning round
It's a wonder tall trees
ain't layin' down
There comes a time.

You and I we were captured
We took our souls
and we flew away
We were right
we were giving
That's how we kept
what we gave away.

Oh, this old world
keeps spinning round
It's a wonder tall trees
ain't layin' down
There comes a time.

I believe in some ways that we assist in creating our reality. With that in the forefront of mind's possibility, I sip my coffee and smile as I regard the sunshine shinning bright outside; illuminating the whole world that is visible to me in its loving light. Simply and easily beautiful! 

a seemingly magical sunset viewed from an AT shelter atop Killington Peak in Vermont
Happy sunny day,
Alan 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Freedom Jr's last stand?

Freedom Jr. (FJ), the self-proclaimed name I've given my green Mazda Protege, has reached its last legs...I think. As I continued on my road trip back out to Colorado from Pennsylvania last evening loud, physically animated protests of disgruntlement were voiced as FJ finally quit and died 7 miles outside of Urbana, IL.

Freedom Jr.: "I can go no further! Tow me." 
The faint noises, first heard emanating in eastern Ohio from somewhere low in the front of the vehicle, gave way to loud, washing-machine-in-spin-cycle-headed-for-Outer-Space-type sounds. At this point, near 400 miles past when the first noises where observed, FJ's check engine light flashed, then turned solid - signaling its final surrender. I had pushed, and pushed hard: often keeping the volume of music up as to not hear the audible complaints for 4 hours on end.

After the tow truck came and took my car, and the subsequent rescue by my sister and brother-in law (thank goodness they lived close!), we arrived to their house around 11 pm. When the task of unloading my belongings - 2 bikes, a desktop computer + screen; hockey skates, stick, helmet and gloves; a spider and Jade plant; books of many types; clothes, shoes and all - was finished, I settled into a long concentrated space of thoughtful amazement. I began to journal, to capture what had just happened. To try and make sense of what little I could comprehend. I was bewildered by the rare happenings of the past few hours. I had taken the car's growing complaints into consideration, but knowing that on a Saturday - late in the afternoon - that my chances of getting my car looked at by a mechanic were slim. So, I drove on; knowing that if I made it to Champaign, where my sister lived, that I'd be able to spend the night and get my car assessed on Sunday or Monday. Alas, though, it ceased-up just short of town; signaling to me that it was spent, finished, kaput.

How is it that I made it that far? Did Freedom Jr. give me everything it had before it quit? I know it is just a cold, hard machine without a consciousness, but as I laid down to sleep a little past midnight, I was still in a daze at the effort that transpired. If the car had quit say 100 or 200 miles earlier, I'd been in for some sort of interesting night - not to mention that assistance of the mechanical sort was miles and miles away. It still has me wondering...

Nonetheless, here I sit in my sister and brother-in law's house, warm, fed, and loved. I'm not exactly sure how Freedom Jr. will fare. That could have been its last ho-rah. Hmmm. I gotta chalk this one up to the powers that be for watching over me. That, and the love and care my family was silently uttering for me from afar.

Thank you for this. THANK YOU, INDEED!

Alan

Friday, December 7, 2012

A road tripper's ramble

I'm on a 3,200+ mile road trip from the West to the East and back again in 5 days; not to mention the 1,700+ miles that I drove 3 weeks ago to get out West from North Carolina. So you could imagine that space: vast stretches of seemingly endless roads, tractor trailer after tractor trailer, gas stations, fast food joints, and neon signs out the wa-zoo; characters of every sort, including character numero uno - me. 

In this space of time and life, I've had many things stick, and subsequently many things not. I do not have an associated feeling with this. Though, often in the absence of original thought, music comes through in ways indescribable. 


Taking my first shower this afternoon in over 5 days I had the following Incubus song enter my brain as I began to think about my short, 24 hour duration at home here in Pennsylvania:


Will I ever get to
To where it is that I am going?
Will I ever follow through with what I
With what I had planned?
I guess it's possible
That I have been a bit distracted
And the directions for me
Are a lot less in demand, in demand

Will I ever get to where I'm going?
If I do, will I know when I'm there?
If the wind blew me in the right direction, yeah
Would I even care? 
I would

I take a look around
It's evident the scene has changed
And there are times when I feel improved
Improved upon the past
Then there are times when I 
Can't seem to understand it at all
And yes it seems as though I'm going nowhere
Really fuckin' fast, nowhere fast

Will I ever get to where I'm going?
If I do, will I know when I'm there?
If the wind blew me in the right direction, yeah
Would I even care? 
I would, I would, I would

Will I ever get to where I'm going?
If I do, will I know when I'm there?
If the wind blew me in the right direction, yeah
Would I even care? 
I would, I would, I would, I would, I would.


So many emotions enter and leave in a 1,000 mile stretch. What seemed as genuine and real as the cold, hard concrete underfoot often vanishes as easily as it came - leaving me in a space of beautiful nothingness. Beautiful because I am choosing to call it and accept it at that. 

Life leads, I follow...thank you for this!

Happy miles,
Alan 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What direction shall I go?

Today is not any special day in particular. Just another day in a life of wonderful opportunities. While such has not been short in my life, and the people helping to facilitate said wonder as well, the direction has. I felt led to come out here to Colorado, and I don't regret that. Not in the least. I'm only admittingly involved in the patience game now.

I've been without work, almost entirely by choice, for almost 7 months now. I thought with the 6 month threshold that work and purpose would ensue. Now, easily past that threshold and approaching 7 months I still wonder. Though, in my wonderment, I hear the calm echo of patience rebounding back toward my conscious and perceiving mind.

My friends in Western Colorado have taken good care of me; often bending over far past horizontal, so-it-seems, to accommodate and accept me into their lives and living spaces. I cannot truly express how this is the support structure I thrive on, and without it, I feel I'd be down and out. I also acknowledge the role my family plays. While it is less than in times past - most likely due to my distance from home - they still are my strong foundation, from which I have chosen to roam.

Writing and floating through the day seems to be what calls me. My drive is steady, but my intensity seems low. Perhaps I expressed myself overly last evening while dancing with friends to a funk band playing in a Crested Butte bar... hmm.

The sun is out today and vast acres of open land are within easy approach; though, I remain here, pecking away at a black keyboard.

I think to openly query the powers that be about the status of my life's purpose, but I know the answer, again, will reverberate patience. This is calming at my core, the level of my heart. Though, the chaos of this acceptance, in the peripheral and cerebral space of my body, nudges at my inner tranquility.

For too long now, it seems, I've been showering and sleeping in places not my own. I've slept in a real bed once in the last month and a half - opting willingly to lay down on my Thermarest sleeping pad; the same one I was sleeping on the Appalachian Trail with, for the sake of an established and consistent comfort familiar to me.

Sigh, what to do? What direction shall I go? If I turn, will I put distance between me and my seemingly displaced-or-out-of-touch purpose? Questions bring curiosity; curiosity eventually brings acceptance. Here and now. A few deep breaths and I shall continue on; not knowing where but willingly going forward.

Thank you for allowing me to share.
Good day,
Alan




Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Indian Creek-sgiving (Part 1)

The Freedomobile was packed, the coffee brewed and steaming silently in our insulated mugs. Luke and I were on the road from Durango to Indian Creek. It was Thanksgiving morning and cell phones were turned-off and stashed in the glove compartment, along with other items we wouldn't need in the desert; namely money and IDs. The Freedomobile, aka a late 80s Mazda 2-door car painted freedom to boot, with working turbo and oscillating interior air vents, was on its last legs. Luke dubbed it: "Freedom's last stand!" I couldn't agree more. We were off to a special place, and if it happened to be our last stand, then I would have accepted it all beautifully and without struggle in stride.

the view out the cockpit of the Freedomobile

For those unfamiliar with Creeksgiving, a lot of things compromise this event of friends, shenanigans, and climbing in the southeast Utah desert. The events had already kicked off a few days before Thanksgiving day; namely the story telling event, Teabag Takeover, and other various competition-offs: showcasing people's propensity to entertain their fellow Creeksgiving-goers. So, imagine rolling up on-scene: 40+ people that you know, or will know, tents, cooking stations, and the expansive Utah desert - in its many shades of red buttes, mesas, and rocks, offsetting the contrast of the wonder-full blue sky. Red sand and dry, scrubby brush kindly interrupting the expanse of red rock as far as the eye can see in all directions of the compass rose.

Now, imagine this scene with more shenanigan spices: grown men and women in wild, expressive costumes finishing their morning coffee, hoping to be done using the single pit toilet in the Superbowl campground before the start of the annual Turkey Trot fun-5K race. Shaun, the race organizer announces the 5 minute courtesy warning till race start. Those not already lined up waiting at the starting line scramble to assemble their final costume flair. This year, there are many iterations of wild and colorful costumes; among them a man dressed as an Indian Chief, a man in a tight tiger/cat suit complete with tail, and a diapered man posing as some sort of Freedom super-hero-type. The ladies present tend to trend more conservative in their dressing, leaving the off-color opportunities to their male counterparts.

If people aren't smiling and laughing already at the display of characters this year, then this isn't their scene. However, this rarely is the case. Though, each year new people are introduced to the antics of Creeksgiving; and this year certainly was no exception. With all who will participate gathered, Shaun announces the race course and any other various obligatory items necessary. With the smokeless spoken bang of his toy gun, the race is off!

Red dust swirls as the feet beat the sand out the only entrance to the campground. Many divergent and bright colors scamper across the earthen tones of the desert, vying for a place among the 30 plus competitors in this year's Trot. After a short spell, as the front runners reach the half-way point, high-fives are exchanged amongst the race runners as all pass one another on this out and back course.

Adam's Arch
After what seems to be a half-hour, the final participants rumble across the finish line: an arch of prayer flags dedicated to a friend of many, who died in an avalanche this past winter. At this point, all are still gathered to lovingly welcome back the final finishers. High-fives, hugs, butt-smacks, and back-pats are given as people settle down for the brief awards ceremony. Shaun has done his public relations homework this year: Black Diamond has donated items - new carabiners, a few brand-new cams, and The Climbing Zine as well as Pagan Mountaineering and the Moab Diner have also kicked in items for the race and other events. Though the ceremony is brief, and the group picture following, too, the events of Creeksgiving are just getting started, so-to-speak. For many, a day of climbing the countless Wingate Sandstone splitter cracks ensues; for a few others - nine, plus one dog this year - preparations begin for the 3rd annual Turkey Shooter race: America's Greatest Foot Race, as it has been dubbed.

The south & north Six Shooters, and the Freedomobile, respectively
The Turkey Shooter is not for the faint of heart or mind; perhaps why only 9 entrants and 1 dog participated this year. This seems about par for the participation-course. The Great Foot Race winds 6.5+ miles from camp out the sandy wash to the base of the talus cone of the southern Six Shooter - a desert tower standing vivid against the bright blue sky. After a vertical sojourn up and up the talus cone - over loose rocks, sand, and massive boulders - Turkey Shooters arrive at the base of the wall. Now comes the equalizer: jugging (ascending) a fixed climbing rope to the top of the tower. Race volunteers, who make this whole thing possible, await the Turkey Shooters to assist them with the technical gear necessary - harnesses, helmets, jumars, aid ladders, daisy chains, and locking carabiners to safely ascend and rappel the towering wall 150+ vertical feet above.

Upon rappelling back down the single fixed line on the wall, a Turkey Shooter racer is only just passed half-way. The complete reverse of the course: back down the loose and steep talus cone, through the expanse of the sandy wash, known as the back 6, out to the paved Creek road and back into camp awaits. At this point, aside from the front runner or two - who are actually competing for 1st place - Shooters are teaming-up with fellow runners near them to complete this challenge, this unique life adventure, together. Perhaps that is one interesting thing about the desert: you may come alone, but you surely desire to share it with another, for it is a wide expansive place, full of solitude and vast amounts of beauty.

Luke, Dave, and Adam Ferro descending from the Broken Tooth wall on a day of rest and route scouting after the Turkey Shooter race.

Before America's Greatest Foot Race had even begun, I had sought to team up with a good friend, Timmy Foulkes: desiring to cement our partnership to the finish as one. Having run this race 2 years ago, I knew the loneliness of the back 6. I vowed not to finish alone, in the dark, this year. Having only ran 2 days in the last month since finishing the Appalachian Trail, I knew I'd be slower, but still energized of heart mind and spirit for this adventure. To Timmy and I's surprise, Lindsey from Astin, TX - and the only female participant this year - wished to team-up with us after realizing that she, Timmy, and I were the last three Shooters left.

Upon entering the sandy wash, after a brief stop at the base of the talus cone to ditch our technical gear, grab food and water at the truck used by the race volunteers, we smiled and agreed aloud at the relative coolness of the afternoon sun. As our feet pitched, one in front of the other, the sand puffed and floated around our lower bodies. If the desert had a recipe for baked goods, the sand would easily be the flour, as its dry consistency seems exactly identical, save for the red color.

peaceful nothingness tinged with everything all-at-once!
We paused for a few seconds every now and again to take it all in: the presence of nothingness and everything all-at-once. Without wind no sound registered to our hearing. No other forms of animal life seemed visible in this dry vastness besides we three, and Lindsey's dog - the Freedom Four - as we aptly named ourselves. Vastly intricate mesas and buttes of red colors, toned by the desert sun stretched as far as the eyes could perceive. The only evidence of humans was the footprints and tire tracks of other Shooters visible in the wash. Collecting ourselves from the powerful pull of the moment, we continued on our course; pausing another once or twice to give Tim and I's legs some reprieve from the bodily anxiety of the day.


Arriving back on the dirt road to camp, we happily agreed to join hands as we crossed under Adam's Arch - the finish line! Awaiting, in the lessening light of day, 4 or so hours later, was a hearty crew of fellow racers and others welcoming us back! In the moments preceding the finish I couldn't help but notice the energy present in our joined hands, as the perceived pains of my body - specifically my IT bands near my knees - disappeared in the love of experience at  foot, hand, and spirit. Hugs and whoops of joy ensued as all present embraced and smiled with the thrill of life and adventure.

This would mark the end of the races for the day, but not for the competition-offs. Still to come was the communal Creeksgiving meal - complete with turkeys cooked in the ground, the mustache contest, and of course the coveted and highly entertaining dance-off!

Luke prepares the dance floor for the evening's showdown

(to be continued....)




Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Indeed, just that...

Yo!

Wanted to take a brief moment to drop some life love. The wilderness therapy job I applied for has postponed hiring till a later date, but life goes on!

In the meantime, after a beautiful trip to the Utah desert - which I intend to share about, I have been once again approached by my dear friend Ryan about a job in Vail, Colorado. This for sure is serendipity in action. While waiting for this to unfold, please consider sending a smile out spiritually for me; I know it all will work out as I continue to love this whole beautiful process.

Thank you for your love in my life!

Lots of love,
Alan

Friday, November 16, 2012

Goodbye North Carolina, thank you!

Heading West: living in freedom and loving in reality. Goodbyes aren't easy but life leads us when we open to it. As thanksgiving approaches I'm grateful for the time spent in NC and for the wonderful people I know and love.

I look forward to seeing ya'll again one day. Till then I'll leave you with the quote on my Yogi teabag hanging from my rearview mirror:
"Real happiness lies in that which never comes nor goes, but simply is."
Ahh, completeness; like a fully blossomed flower that knows no season nor distance from the sun.
Smiles and Love!

Always,
Alan
A grainy rendition of my final sunset in Boone. Taken from the abandoned house atop Howard's Knob. 
Freedom is my captain! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lovingly breaking through the shells in life...

Breathing deep, concentrating in this moment what else matters? Like a passenger train out of the station, I witness my concentration and attention in the moment disappear down the tracks. Breathing again, this time deeper, I find my center: the space lovingly niched within the expansive space of the heart. Here I am at peace, despite the calamity racing circles in my conscious mind. 

I take a moment in this space to recount the beauty...where to begin? What quantifies beauty? What qualifies? Hmm... Beauty is simple; let's start there!

In Yoga class last evening, Leigh Ann bridged the idea that, similar to the belief of creation from the Polynesian god Ta'oroa, we continually build shells around ourselves in life; and, that during the course of said life and its happenings, we find ourselves stretching to crack through the shell we've hardened into a new and beautiful space. In this new space, we may find that we had the potential all along to stretch wide and expansive, though we had yet to acknowledge it. Children, for example, go through these shells as they age in life without conscious realization. One day, in their cognitive years they may look back and wonder how it is that development occurred without the consent of their higher mind. 

We, as cognitive and capable adults, have this ability. Our minds sometimes seek to control so much of our destiny that in this meddling we miss the opportunity to connect with the niched space of beauty within our hearts. If you could tap into it, to understand it more deeply, what would the voice of your heart say? 

I've continued journaling the thoughts of my mind and the voice and desire of my heart since finishing the Appalachian Trail last month. As with other human habits, this act of expressing my thoughts and desires has become comfortable and rudimentary. My focus, without longing for conscious control, has been soft; and in this eased expression I find simplicity; beauty shining through. An entry from last evening before Yoga class:

Sitting on Grandma's back porch...the sun, once again, has begun its course - parabolic and predictable - towards the horizon. I suppose its course was in the down-swing once the zenith passed earlier today sometime. Hmm, time ticks, ticks, ticks on. I was reflecting far too briefly this morning. Grasping the notion that my time here in [North Carolina], as well as the East, is coming to a close. 
In following my heart and/or my desires, I've decided to go West again; irregardless of a given job or not. I've been treated well here but my ties are free and in this freedom I am choosing to go West. Seems odd, I was just thinking - day dreaming most likely - how far off going West seemed. Now, the time is almost here!
Perhaps one day that'll be my remarks when upon my death day (as opposed to death bed) I lament something of similar affect. Shit, I could die on the drive out; I could die in my sleep tonight or tomorrow night. Nothing seems given in life except death. 

I suppose that moves me to appreciate this moment here and now: the sun upon my notebook, the wind - moving from right to left across the exposed skin of my hands and neck, and of course the beauty and grandeur of the mountains to my forefront. I pause now to take them in...
I feel, and perhaps that is the key: feeling, that if and when the world ends - for me or for us all - that I'd been glad to follow my heart and wait for this love that offers, teaches, and gives me so much; now, and to come. 
Perhaps I feel too much and fail to acknowledge reality, but the older and freer I become, the less I crave the reality of man. So to simply state a complex answer underfoot: I love, I live, and when I express as such I share and choose to share with her: that golden blue-eyed wonder that has held my loving attention for this long. 
Perhaps this will change. Perhaps perhaps will change. Who knows! Can only move forth, acknowledging and accepting; thanking and learning; living and loving!
Thank you for this in Life.

I believe the shells in our lives exist to hold us lovingly. But, there comes a time when we need to expand ourselves, to lovingly challenge ourselves so that we have an opportunity to slide on the slope of life instead of sticking. This is possible within the seeming chaos of our train-station-type minds. Leading with our hearts for a change, if not a moment or two; flowing forth knowing we can enter our niched space to re-center and breathe deep. Smiling in these moments of peace.

I acknowledge and accept all of you.

Love to you in your day,
Alan

the simple and complete beauty of the sun and earth :)

 
 
 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

See You in the Sky!

I sometimes feel to write on this blog space but come short when the moment approaches to release what is inside swirling. In this space of acceptance for what is, words have come to me; in this case to my email inbox. The following passages are from Leigh Ann, a Yoga teacher at Brightwater Yoga in Hendersonville, NC that I have taken class with. She is bright and cheerful, yet realistic in this world of love, light, and beauty. I'd like to feature her words below to encourage you in your own paths.

Happy wanderings!
Alan


See You in the Sky!
Last night I dreamed I could fly! The dream felt so real and so visceral that I can still, today, feel the sensations I felt while flying in my dream. The sensations of freedom and pure abandon were so exciting that when I awoke, my heart was racing. Yet, I also felt this wash of calm and peace running through my body and mind. It was an exquisite beginning to my Saturday morning.

It was also a very timely and affirming dream, as my family and I are entering a period of great transition in our lives, which can be a turbulent, uncertain, and challenging experience. To me, this dream was reassuring me of my potential to let go, flow with the changes, and trust in the outcome. Another affirmation came to me just a few hours later as I walked my dogs.

I had decided to take them on a long walk since it was such a beautiful, warm autumn day, with the most amazing foliage I’d seen in several preceding falls. We traveled what I’ve dubbed “the Bear Walk” because I, as well as several neighbors, have actually spotted bears through these neighborhood areas over the years. 

Visit from a messenger

It wasn’t a bear we spotted, though, but rather a magnificent Cooper’s Hawk perched on a fence post across the street that we were approaching. When we crested the hill, this skillful flyer flew right toward my face and veered quickly to my left, soaring low to the ground at a steady, impressive speed. 



For a moment it looked almost as though it turned its head to look back at us, as if trying to relay a message. Instantly I was once again in my dream from the night before and could feel the amazing power of flight I had experienced through my dream. In addition, I felt an irrefutable connection to this splendid creature, as if I were in a secret club.

Once at home, I quickly retrieved our Medicine Cards* and looked up “hawk.” “Hawk … messenger of the sky, circle my dreams and teach me the message as we fly.” These were the first words I read when I opened to page 45. As I read on, my heart beat faster and faster!

“Hawk is the messenger of the gods. Hawk medicine teaches you to be observant, to look at your surroundings. Observe the obvious in everything that you do. Life is sending you signals.… Right now a clue about the magic of life is being brought to you. This magic can imbue you with the power to overcome a currently stressful or difficult situation. The test is to observe the nuances of power lurking nearby.… Pay attention! You are only as powerful as your capacity to perceive, receive, and use your abilities.… Remember: Hawk has a keen eye and a bold heart, for Hawk flies close to the light of Grandfather Sun.”
The power of presence

The message couldn’t have been clearer. This, combined with the teachings of maitri I’ve been sharing with my classes over the past three weeks explained my feelings of calm and peace. One beautiful translation of maitri as taught by Pema Chödrön in her audio soundtrack, Fear to Fearlessness, is “unlimited, unconditional kindness toward one’s self, which then naturally radiates out to others.” On the same soundtrack, she later saysmaitri is “to place the fearful mind in the cradle of loving kindness.” It’s all about the power of presence—the ability to stay present to what is happening around you while remaining grounded and centered in yourself … even while flying!

And this, the season of change! I am always astounded at how eloquently the trees release their beloved leaves each fall, only to be left standing completely bare, stripped naked of their protective coats without even a glimpse of insecurity. There is so much evidence of our ability to let go, flow, and trust in the outcome right outside our doors, if we would only just look!

We don’t need the same keen eye as a hawk, just the ability to see and recognize our natural world and all the magic it bestows on us. The next step is to simply open our hearts to receive the gifts bestowed. Allow life—and all its magic—to flow into and through you so that you too may take flight.

One more note: at the end of my dream, a stranger approached me and advised me that it is not my role to teach others how to fly, but rather to remind them of their ability to fly. This advice is analogous to the way I approach teaching yoga. I am simply a guide, there to remind you of the potential within you, and I am honored to utilize the path of Hatha Yoga to awaken that which is already there! It takes a bold heart to fully embrace and experience this life that we live, and it takes a keen inner eye to recognize the truth. I’ll see you in the sky!

Namaste,
Leigh Ann 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Day Spent in Love and Appreciation

I've been reading a lot of Edward Abbey lately. The late author, born in my hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania in 1927, is well known for his written love and defense of the West; specifically, the desert nature-scape of the Southwestern United States.

I find an irregularly pleasant sense of comfort in reading his words. In his book Desert Solitaire, my most recent reading from his collection, I am struck by the words he employs to describe the desert and its intricacies. A particular paragraph captures a sense of what I'm trying to describe:

"The wind will not stop. Gusts of sand swirl before me, stinging my face. But there is still too much to see and marvel at, the world very much alive in the bright light and wind, exultant with the fever of spring, the delight of morning. Strolling on, it seems to me that the strangeness and wonder of existence are emphasized here, in the desert, by the comparative sparsity of the flora and fauna: life not crowded upon life as in other places but scattered abroad in spareness and simplicity, with a generous gift of space for each herb and bush and tree, each stem of grass, so that the living organism stands out bold and brave and vivid against the lifeless sand and barren rock. The extreme clarity of the desert light is equaled by the extreme individuation of desert life forms. Love flowers best in the openness and freedom."
Ahh, that last line really captures me, places me in a willing and captive space unparalleled by human confines. I was glad to be reading this passage in the presence of natural beauty, atop the flanks of Elk Knob, a venerable and moderate 5,000 plus foot mountain near Boone, NC.

The byproduct of Hurricane Sandy's offensive left remnants of snow and rime atop the knob, and I couldn't of been more joyous in my smooth stroll to the top. Once firmly afoot, with plenty of man-made time at my disposal, I sought the seclusion and solitude of a secretive lower view point from the top of the knob. Gingerly placing my booted feet, one in front of the other, I made my way through the expanse of a stunted, high altitude patch of Beech trees - a rare breed found in the Southern Appalachians. Coming to the large boulder, out of view from the top lookout, I paused to take in the natural aurora of beauty around me.

I cannot recall a time recently past when I paused for such duration to look at nature before me. Surely my time spent outside on the Appalachian Trail led me to the here and now of appreciating what is in the moment: beautifully without want for anything else. Complete. The way the wind carries the precipitation and how it lands deftly upon the meager branches of the Beech, organic crystallization. I paw at the eloquence before me, bringing the white and seemingly pure medium to rest upon my black, gloved hand. Man meets wild; man stares on in enchantment.

The pause in my consciousness leads me next to a snow-covered face of rock, no taller than a man, no wider than a car.  Amongst the lichen, in my deliberate absence of acknowledging time, I see water, embodied in a frozen medium, just below a clump of moss. If I were thirsty and unsure how to satisfy, nature can provide. I marvel at this as I drink the last of my water. The view behind me, out into the expanse of mountains surrounding this knob is veiled by an early afternoon dusting of white powder in the air. Down low, near Boone, rain falls; but up here, higher in the mountains, further in the loins of nature, blessings of water nourish down in a frozen form.

With my copy of Desert Solitaire I read aloud to the rocks and trees, to the birds, but certainly not the bees on this cold, early winter day. I don't remember the last time I stood atop a rock and read aloud; especially with no one as my audience but the beautiful bestowment of nature. Annunciating yet still stumbling in my spoken words I finish the chapter from the book, and encouraged by the nip in the air, decide to descend back to my car. Perceptions of safety.

In my meander back to the beaten, well-worn path I feel coaxed by nature to tune into my senses - letting the retreat to my car become secondary in this moment. I pause again, lulled by the beauty of the wild. The noise from my receding boots shuffling through the snow and crunch of dead leaves ceases, and in this void I hear harmonious bliss: snow falling upon the clay-like brown of the Beech tree leaves. Its tracks from the milky sky above gracing the leaves in its gravity-fed path to the Earth. In the stillness of this primary moment I willingly acknowledge what has sparked my senses and calmly captivated my attention. Desiring to know more, to expand my narrow human understanding of nature, I extend my gloved hand. The snow meets my poised digits. Connection. Simplicity. Beauty!

The first pieces of frozen precipitation lay quietly upon my open, gloved limb. A granule of snow unlike the others, complex and visibly akin to a frozen flower blooming bright in the peak of its season lovingly eases into my upturned palm. Captivated by the visual fragrance of this iced flower, beguiled into a willing state of perplexity, I peer painlessly upon its unique beauty. Again, in this moment, nothing more beautiful and inline with love exists to my semi-conscious mind. As the bloom melts and dissipates into the warmth of my physical body's extremity I come back from my minute departure from reality, fully aware that what I just witnessed was exactly the fruit I needed in this moment of life. I para-sympathetically emit gracious waves, from the inside outward, of thankfulness for this simple, yet undeniably wonder-full spectacle I just experienced as I continue my trek down the mountain.

Arriving back into town, my day plays out as a typical day of life in human confines typically does: clocks ticking an unheard tune of things to do, places to go; mechanical noises of people's machines assertively attempting to navigate their way over and around other machines as they all coalesce over the cold concrete; hustle and bustle and things of a different type of wonder - though, of a wonder not quite so full. All to say until I am treated to a flower of a different type: this one human.

Her presence is like rain on a parched patch of browned grass in late summer; her smile like a graceful melody in a song: essential to comprehend what lays within the full expression of sound; her light bright and attractive - refracting, begging the beautiful fireflies and bugs of nature to come and bask; her eyes, those wonderful eyes, like golden sunlight upon the open blue sky. Though, it seems as soon as this peaceful moment has begun, it draws to an end: spastic and upbeat for the shared space and mutual love that is life.

Whirling wonders and beautiful brights aside, I pause for a final moment near day's end to smile - from left cheek to right cheek, from the top of my bald dome to the bottom of my rough feet, and from as far front to as far back in the limitless space of my heart and spirit.

Thank you life for this day, and the moments of beauty - stretching me wide and expansive within to greet the 'morrow with optimistic positivity. Thank you, indeed!


-Alan


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ten Thousand Words....



Care to Listen?: http://grooveshark.com/s/Ten+Thousand+Words/4x8lfL?src=5

Ten thousand words swarm around my head
Ten million more in books written beneath my bed
I wrote or read them all when searchin’ in the swarms
Still can’t find out how to hold my hands

And I know you need me in the next room over
But I am stuck in here all paralyzed
For months I got myself in ruts
Too much time spent in mirrors framed in yellow walls

Ain’t it like most people? I’m no different
We love to talk on things we don’t know about
Ain’t it like most people? I’m no different
We love to talk on things we don’t know about

And everyone around me shakes their head in disbelief
And says I’m too caught up
They say young is good and old is fine
And truth is cool but all that matters
Is that you have your good times
But their good times come with prices
And I can’t believe it when I hear the jokes they make
At anyone’s expense except their own
Would they laugh if they knew who paid?

Ain’t it like most people? I’m no different
We love to talk on things we don’t know about
Ain’t it like most people? I’m no different
We love to talk on things we don’t know about

And after we are through ten years
of making it to be the most of glorious debuts
I’ll come back home without my things
‘Cause the clothes I wore out there I will not wear ’round you
And they’ll be quick to point out our shortcomings
And how the experts all have had their doubts

Ain’t it like most people? I’m no different
We love to talk on things we don’t know about



Friday, August 24, 2012

 I wish to express my heart's duress, 
To exude Love in all its glory -
Honoring and empowering me and others in this life story. 

The second decree would be,
To live life free.
To fleet and skip,
As we all dip into the soothing waters of life.

Naked,
But in honor of truthfulness and light.

This is what I wish to express,
Without duress anymore. 

To flow in, 
Out,
And all about. 

Like water over our soul. 



Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why no new posts recently?

Hello friends of Lessons of a Young Life,

If you are reading this, great! I appreciate your viewership. Because I am currently on a southbound thru hike of the Appalachian Trail (AT), it will be rare for me to post on this blog site. Though, you can find me posting on my other blog site for the AT: http://serviceontheat.blogspot.com/

Hope life is ebbin' and flowin' along its way.

Smiles,
Al


Friday, May 18, 2012

Here Comes Everyone

Listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1W1JWjAioY


Here comes everyone, 
Lining up with bucks and ask for phantom consolation prize, oh 
Here comes everyone 

Blunted, bleached and massed produced 
It's amazing what we can get used to 
What will we say, when our children ask, 
"What have you done? You've gone and used up all the fun" 

Oh, yeah, we're only treading water 
Whether yours or whether ours 
Yeah, we're all in the gutter 
But some of us are looking at the stars 

Everyone 
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/b/brandon+boyd/here+comes+everyone_20690189.html ] 
Here comes everyone, 
Conductor-less runaway train and 
Only have ourselves to blame for it 
Here comes everyone 

Fast food fed and god fearing 
All panic and alarms, alarming 
What if everyone simultaneous disobeys? It aint a game if no one plays, oh 

Yeah, we're only treading water 
Whether yours or whether ours 
Yeah, we're all in the gutter 
But some of us are looking at the stars. 
Oh, here comes everyone 
Here comes, 
I come, 
Here comes... 
Everyone.




Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wild in Freedom

I feel wild lately. This flooding feeling of freedom has captivated me. I am living life as a free anomaly; spaciously robust. This is a contrast to the serious relationship with another person I just knew a few weeks ago.

Why is it that I feel better in singleton than I did in a relationship? Are there personality traits about me or my psyche that express themselves most when I'm free? Is it my Ego that desires freedom; could its interest in self  first cause me to seek what I then perceive to desire? 

Questions and answers, like freedom and security - complementary - though, best when mixed together. Patience...perhaps this is something I have built a tolerance and appreciation for, but I'm still impatient when it matters most: sharing my life with another.

Although, what is it about the intoxicating juice of freedom that keeps me coming back for another sip, another gulp? Surely, I can peer back through time's lens and see how I had a unique chance to practice and commit to selfless expression; so, what is it that holds me back? Will I overcome my desires for personal freedom in life enough to share with another? Perhaps the meeting of another who values freedom selfishly like I will make for an understanding of those like us. Perhaps not.

Hmmm....I think upon this, but not for too long; the moments for life and living are beyond these digitally-expressed thoughts. Thus, I shall readily embrace them. Spiraling out...finding comfort and inner peace amongst the alluring chaos of life. Wild in Freedom. 

Where will the spiral lead? I must trust in the process of Life to know...