Category Archives: Spiritual Well Being

MERRY CHRISTMAS 2017!

The first time in a long time, I really felt like writing a Christmas letter. Looking back, there were so many landmark accomplishments in 2017, we don’t even need to talk about toils, trials and setbacks.

For location, location, location, you can’t beat sleeping in a beautiful place whether in the company vehicle or your own camp worthy conveyance. Here’s a sampling of my favorite, beautiful, sleeping in the car locations:

Ouray Colorado

Notom Road just outside Capitol Reef

Moki Dugway near Muley Point

Williams Arizona near the Grand Canyon Railway

Bluff Utah for a star party

Dixie National Forrest

The main difficulty with sleeping in the company vehicle lies in remembering to transfer all the necessary items from your own, perfectly outfitted Subaru, into the company car while still leaving room for the merchandise you are delivering or the event you are supporting. I spent the night in the company vehicle four times in 2017. I matched that number in my Outback. Though smaller, my Subaru has lots of little niceties- things like curtains, a sleeping mat, a fuller range of hiking gear.

You make discoveries when you sleep in a car – whether the company vehicle or your own. You acknowledge things like:

Burrrr it’s cold. All I really want for Christmas is a zero degree, down sleeping bag.

I spent the first two and a half months of 2017 at Natural Bridges National Monument where I am pleased to say I hiked all the trails. On March 15th I arrived in Page AZ. I waited through a long hot summer in Page for a chance to really get out and hike and explore the area. With temperatures often breaching 100 degrees, all hikes had to be completed before 8:00 am. While I waited – not so patiently – I swam in Lake Powell every night after work just to lower my core body temperature to a comfortable state.

September temperatures slacked off enough to start seeking beautiful trails. In October came reward in a big way for a tedious and difficult summer. With my daughter, Andrea, I hiked the South Kaibab Trail into Grand Canyon, stayed the night at Phantom Ranch and hiked out the next day via Bright Angel Trail.

In November I got the serendipitous chance to drive to Kanab and spend a few hours with son Philip. Also in November, I spent a weekend near Torrey with my brother and sister-in-law. There have been scattered trips to Grand Junction to visit family, friends, son Kevin and grandkids, though not enough to satisfy my parents.

I continue to write and make music-mostly for my own fulfillment. A few more experiences are in my inspirational arsenal and a few more guitar chords under my belt.

I wish you a Merry Christmas 2017!

In the coming New Year, I wish you the healing tonic of getting out in Nature. Nature is beautiful. Nature heals. Nature is God’s gift of love to those of us who are unable to find solace in the arms of a human lover. Whether you hike, bike or drive; camp, glamp, or pamper, I wish you Beauty – and the Great Outdoors.

Sipapu Bridge largest of the Natural Bridges
Sipapu Bridge largest of the Natural Bridges
Lake Powell from the air
Lake Powell from the air
Andrea heading down the steep and multitudinous switch backs of the South Kaibab.
Andrea heading down the steep and multitudinous switch backs of the South Kaibab.
Me smiling at Bright Angel Bridge
Me smiling at Bright Angel Bridge

 

Wherein my daypack retires but I continue working

I am unpacking my daypack today for the last time. It has become an old wineskin, unable to hold the wine of new adventure without bursting. The seams are frayed. The entire shell is pocked with evidence of tight squeezes and adventurous crawls.

A compact and stuffable travel model, it was designed to be carried in a suitcase, pulled out and quickly packed for spontaneous day hikes; it was never intended for backcountry trips or overnighters-but it served.

There came a time in my hiking life when I knew I needed to graduate from a simple drawstring pack to something with shoulder strap padding. Hikes were getting longer, the climate more strenuous. A water bottle sling fit the bill for morning walks around the neighborhood but not for six-mile hikes down Monument Canyon.

And so, I splurged. In October of 2013, smack dab in the middle of a government shutdown, I used my employee discount and invested in a Chico Travel Pack. Red, of course, to match my adventurous Subaru. Soon I added a 2 liter water reservoir. An emergency rain poncho. Three or four bandanas. A small first aid kit. Then, a change of socks. And still more recently; a pop can stove, matches, a box of soup.

The daypack became my poster child for “Oh the Places You Will Go.” Here are some of the places it has been:

  • ALL the trails and more at Colorado National Monument
  • Crag Crest and snowshoe trails on The Grand Mesa
  • ALL the (non-permit required) marked trails in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park – those under 11 miles
  • The Ouray Perimeter Trail – again and again
  • Most trails in the south rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison
  • ALL the marked trails of Natural Bridges National Monument
  • Two trails in Zion and two trails in Bryce
  • And this week -as one last hurrah- the South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails in Grand Canyon

So today, with great ceremony, I unpack the frayed and worn and torn body glove of my past outdoor adventures, snap a photo, and retire the side.

My red Chico travel pack daypack must be replaced immediately with a nearly identical new model. Spontaneity happens. Opportunity knocks. I need to be packed and ready. Yet, neither my red Chico travel pack or its successor is built for overnight backpacking, so I will invest in some additional expensive outdoor gear, something properly framed and fitted to my body type and build. I am in need of more straps for jackets and bedrolls – and I need a brain. Hiking in the great outdoors is habit forming – and it is a very healthy habit, this habit of putting one foot in front of the other.

IMG_20171110_053331547daypack

 

To be fed by ravens

“Vaya con Dios,” Friend said.

“Who is this Dios of whom you speak?” She asked. “I will go out into the desert to find him. Perhaps I will be fed by ravens.”

And Friend replied, “40 days and 40 nights?”

Forget a mere month and 10 days; it had been over 40 years since the two friends had actually talked face-to-face. This cogent Facebook exchange was fraught with meaning. One friend was tired, exhausted, the journey too much. She was moving to the desert, hoping to reclaim a portion of her spiritual and emotional health – to find herself. And with this four-line dialogue, she had communicated an identification with the emotions of the Prophet Elijah.

A minor prophet from ancient Hebrew literature – not even major enough to have an entire book of the Tanakh (Old Testament) named after him – Elijah stood up to a wicked Queen Jezebel (1 Kings 19). He called fire down from heaven (1 Kings 18). He succeeded in his ambiance beyond wildest dreams and expectations. Yet, after the fact, exhaustion and depression nearly pulled him under.

She knows there have been great victories. Victories huge enough to be followed by great desponds. There have been supernatural successes. Successes rewarded by jealousy and threats.

Now, she is in the desert for healing and nourishment. It may take being spoon-fed by ravens. It may merely take daily hikes into the wild and beautiful. She has enough faith left to believe this will happen.

 

 

 

 

A Little Christmas Wine

She was just 18-and-a-half and not a drop of alcohol had ever touched her lips. This was partly because of temperance promises made as a youngster and partly because she lived at home until she turned 18. During those first 18 years of life, her parents kept pretty strict tabs on her activities. Not legal. Not allowed. Not according to their standard? Not allowed. This was her first Christmas away from home. She was now a full-fledged adult, married five months previous.

Along with her teenaged husband, she was living in Germany, land of cautionary beer. Her husband was on the fast track for sampling everything adulthood had to offer. The young woman was doing her best to cling to the strict religious rules with which she was raised. There were times they clashed. Christmas Eve was a narrow escape.
The young couple was invited downstairs, from a tiny attic apartment to the living quarters of the landlord, to share in the festivities. Sparklers on a Christmas Tree. A full spread of breads and cold cuts served at the family table. An exchange of gifts around the tree. And then, a cut glass decanter passed round with tiny crystal cordial glasses.

A quiet soul and not given to making scenes, the young woman endeavored to pass. But the 19-year-old son of the host noticed. “Why do you not drink?” he asked with some suspicion, re-offering the decanter. The new husband, who could make a scene when the principle warranted it, knit his brows and glared at his teenage bride. The meaning was clear, “You are embarrassing me!” Meekly, she took the cup. Not out of blind submission or intimidation, but in respect to her hosts. In her quietness, she had been reading earlier that day. And what she read, loud and clear was: “ [When you are invited to a feast] eat or drink whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.” Obedience to a higher ideal.

An hour later she became violently ill. But it was not due to a fastidious reaction of conscience. Nor was it caused entirely by the abundance and variety of bread and salami urged on the couple by hospitable Germans. The illness continued four months. In late July, she brought forth her firstborn son. And they named him something rather Irish sounding that meant handsome by birth. To the young woman, he was the most handsome baby she had ever seen. But he was only the teeniest tiniest bit Irish and not a bit German.

I would like to say she never gave a second thought to rules about what she ate and drank ever again, but that is not the truth. The truth is, she still had a lot of growing and learning to do and she had only just begun to think for herself.

When did revenge become the right of the righteous?

Oops I did it again.  I followed one of those links.  You know the ones that begin, “You’ll never believe….” I hate them.  They lack credibility. They don’t make me LOL or cry like they promise.  But then, I am a bit more analytical and skeptical – less easily entertained than the average bear.

In this case, I considered the source and took the bait. Shared between a good, mainline Christian couple, with many years of marriage to their credit; I thought it would be a comedy. What followed was a video reenactment of a young man getting revenge through publicly humiliating an unfaithful bride. Right on the wedding day. Interrupting the ceremony. Though it made some people laugh, to me it seemed more like a Shakespearean tragedy.  It made me squirm. Was the groom hurt?  Yes. Irreparably. A cuckold through the actions of his best man. Did complete and pre-meditated revenge make him feel better?

Does revenge make any of us feel better? Does it solve or salve our hurt to humiliate someone else? With all my heart and brain, I believe there are consequences when we are untrustworthy. Justice demands consequences.  Punishment may be necessary. But does justice demand public humiliation? Overkill? Unnecessary roughness? Is gouging and turning of the dagger somehow more healing than precise extrication with a surgical knife? Mercy and righteousness say, “no.” Truth must be spoken. Yes. Relationships may need to be severed. Yes.  But revenge has never been the domain of the righteous.

Judeo-Christian ethic teaches that vengeance belongs to God and God alone.  Forget your WWJD? zeal and the resulting 70 X 7.  Look a few years B.C. and ask yourself, “What would Joseph do?”

Joseph, you may remember, was engaged to Mary.  Mary was pregnant and Joseph knew he had not slept with her. “Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”

A pox on your “Joseph had an angel,” excuses.  I refute them. Joseph had already decided to keep the law.  He had determined to keep it quietly, rather than vocally bludgeoning Mary and all her kin over the head with it. Consequences would be leveled, but without the catalyst of revenge.

Whatever happened to civility and good manners?  Why does hurt trump love? When did humility become humiliate?  What happened to doing good to your enemies? Or the golden rule?  And when did revenge become the triumphal war banner of the righteous?

 

May you be happier than you have been in a long time

She looked happy and healthy there in the staff picture and I told her so, whereupon she confessed to being happier than she has been in a long time.  So where does this happiness come from? I say it comes because finally, her basic needs are met.

Some of us are able to soldier on indefinitely without one or more of our basic needs being satisfied.  She is one of those toughies. It is arduous work. We may be hungry for a time, homeless for a week, not belong or not be loved for a season. Relentless poverty eventually takes its toll. Often, we are so consumed by basic survival needs that we cannot create or produce at optimum levels. Our creative work, our self-actualization suffers.

“If these “deficiency needs” are not met – with the exception of the most fundamental (physiological) need – there may not be a physical indication, but the individual will feel anxious and tense. Maslow’s theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire (or focus motivation upon) the secondary or higher level needs.”

In this case, she is happy because her basic Maslowian needs of food and shelter are met and she is free to relax in joy and create. She is dependent in the sense that part of her job security includes room and board, yet she is not totally dependent.  She is independent and interdependent because she pursued this position and works hard daily to earn and maintain it. Someone acknowledges her value, promotes her well-being, provides the right amount of training and challenging outdoor activity; all in a beautiful mountain setting.

How would you like to be happier than you have been in a long time?  Why not set about to take care of yourself?  To consciously address your basic needs?  A good job may be the first step – preferably doing something you love that includes serving others while taking care of yourself. It is hugely fulfilling to be independent enough to take responsibility for yourself and have enough to share.  Frequent beautiful places.  Exercise.  Don’t quit on your music, or writing, or reading, or things that enrich your life and nourish your soul. Sleep well.  Eat well. May you be happier than you have been in a long time.

 

Detour to self care

Surprise!  I took a detour on the way home! It’s about time!  At the ripe of age of 60, I am finally learning how to take care of myself.

When I left work on Monday night, I knew it was high time for a little self-care.  I was stressed, rattled and burned out.  It was the beginning of my weekend.  What could I do to restore my spirit? Piano practice, walk meditation and even a bit of sleep were preempted in a bid to pack, load and get on the road early Tuesday morning.  Severe weather warnings forecast snow above 10,000 feet and portions of I-70 I would be traveling. The scenery through Glenwood Canyon was gorgeous. Snow was falling to the west and the east of Vail. Georgetown Visitor Center was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

I lingered there in Georgetown, to fortify my body and emotions for the climb through Bergen Park, Evergreen and finally to the cabin I called home for seven years. I collected my daughter Andrea and her belongings at high noon as previously agreed. 12 o’clock straight up turned out to be lunchtime, so we joined her dad for a quick sit-down meal at Qdoba and then moved forward.  At teatime, we dropped in on an old college roommate in Gunnison. We arrived at AEI basecamp at 6:00 p.m. after a few miles of power driving in the mud and were hospitably welcomed by the staff. A quick unload and a nice evening walk through the woods ended up in the chapel with a piano.  A walk. A piano. I slept well. Another mountain hike next morning continued the work of beauty and restoration on my spirits so I was not in bad shape at all as I made the descent from Black Canyon to Montrose.

And then, it happened. Spontaneously I made the best decision of the day, I turned left toward Ouray.  I checked myself in to the Wiesbaden hot springs and was the only individual in the pool and the vapor cave for nearly an hour.  The first dip had my heart and voice crying thanksgiving. Wow.

Proper self-care requires thought and work.   Good, intentional choices.

Sometimes, self-care costs a little extra in terms of logic – self-talk to keep yourself from feeling guilty. I was raised not to play until my work was done.  Not to take care of myself until I finished taking care of others. I learned early on; my work was never done.  Over the years, I discovered the needs of some others were like a black hole – the more care you lavish, the more they need. While self-sacrifice is an essential component of love, self-sacrifice as a goal in itself is not worthy.

When I am not quite at peace for known or unknown reasons, a combination of good choices seems to put me back on the right track.  Putting yourself on the right track is the only way to stay fit to care for others or work efficiently.

Good choices in self-care may entail leisure, a vacation, a favorite activity.  Many of those activities cost money.  So I work, and I work hard, to be able to afford to take care of myself.

This time my little detour cost me about $50. I had to get through the guilt of spending $50 on myself with nothing tangible to show for it.

It would not have been possible to take care of myself in this way – or even support my daughter with transportation – but for my full time job and a difficult choice I made last August.  I moved in with roommates.

It was a hard choice, because the solitude of living alone is also a way I care for myself. On the other hand, shared expenses leave more wiggle room for travel and spontaneous detours. What do you need to take care of yourself?

Music? A good book? A hike?  Travel? Sleep?  A 60-mile detour and dinner out?

Get on with it ! May you be energized by a new perspective!

Ebony and Ivory -Confiding in the keys

I got a bit historical at the piano the other night.  My roommate, who was baking muffins in the open kitchen just above me, got a glimpse into my very heart, soul and spiritual journey in that moment – ‘tho she may not know it.

Rather than rehearsing through my usual repertoire of folk and pop, performed predominately at nursing homes, I let memory and experiment have free expression.  Using all 88 keys and liberal glissandos, I took my childhood musical memories on a tour into adulthood. I dredged up Sunday school songs, folk songs and a smattering of top 40 – mostly things I had never tried to improvise before.  What came out?

Dormant feelings. Repressed pain and joy. Snippets and pieces, long forgotten and now ruminated on.  Thankfully, my roommate loves piano and overlooks the imperfections – especially when we are both doing common ordinary utilitarian things like baking and practicing.

She hummed along and danced about her work.  We share the same birth year and a similar religious upbringing so most of the melodies were familiar to her. She did, however, pause for a chuckle when I came flourishing down from a rollicking “Do Lord” to a sultry “Imagine.”

No one.  No one knows me so well as my piano. Every now and then my soul is laid bare and then healed – comforted. 30 minutes spent on a wooden bench addressing 88 keys yields more self-awareness than an hour with a therapist who knows me not. 

Help Me, and other difficult phrases

I hate to ask for help,” she said. Clichés are often true.  In this case, apples don’t fall far from the tree. Go ahead, Google “Hardest words to say,” and see what you come up with.

I am sorry

I am wrong

I don’t know

I love you

Help me

That is a list I can identify with.  How about you?

Why is it so hard to ask for help?

I fear rejection. They might say no. They may think less of me for needing help.

 

I fear to impose. They might want to say no, yet feel like they have to say yes. They have so many other burdens to carry.  I don’t want to be just one more.

I am independent. I can do it myself. Besides, others often fail me.  If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

If I ask and they help me, they may hold it up to me forever saying, “You would be nothing had I not helped you.”

I want control of the outcome.  They might help, but not help in the way I want.

I need affirmation – support for my plan.  They might offer advice. Opinion.  Tell me how to do it instead of just supporting my plan.

Have you experienced some or all these anxious feelings when you needed help?

What if you need help and you don’t ask for help? You may injure yourself.  You may get burned out, exhausted or ill, trapped. What if you just wait for someone to see your need and offer? You kind of huff and puff and hint and sigh. They may reject you anyway. Seeing your need, they may offer or foist help on you whether you want it or not -give you pink preppie skirts when you needed hiking boots. One way or another, they will doubtless offer advice and opinion.

So why not ask specifically for what you need? Choose your confidant or potential benefactor carefully.  If you need a car mechanic, a medical doctor is probably not a good substitute. A multi-level marketer may not be your best counselor, nor does your great grandma a sturdy piano mover make.  Go ahead and choose with care.  Ask. Then trust them a little bit. A wise helper might teach you how to fish.  They might lend you their fishing gear.  They might have greater insight into your roadblocks and challenges and give wise counsel – a needed boost rather than a ruthless kick in the pants.

But if they say, “Hey, I know you are desperate for money.  Let’s talk about getting you a loan! (or buying lottery tickets – or robbing a bank – or some other get-rich quick scheme).”  Nah! Withdraw your request and run the other way. Helping you spend or helping you into debt is not helping you.

You can ask for help and still remain yourself and guard your heart.  We all need a little help of one kind or another from time to time. May you – and I – have the wisdom and discernment to know when to ask for help and the dignity to receive help without selling out our deepest dreams or indenturing our spirits to shame.

 

I want to die in a beautiful place – The Ghost of Christmas Future

I want to die in a beautiful place.

That’s my long-term goal.

Since most of us do not know where or when we will die, I have to make some short term-goals that insure my long-term goal comes to fruition.  Therefore;

I want to work in a beautiful place.

I want to live in a beautiful place.

I want to travel and see beautiful places.

I want to be happy.

I want to be at peace.

There were times in the not so distant past when I walked along a beach and said, “Now God?  Could I just die now amidst all this beauty?” But that was not to be, so I continue to make sure I frequent beautiful places and take inspiring walks.

Until recently, I was not bold enough to confess that I want to be happy, nor did I  realize how much peace and happiness depend on my own choices or actions.

And always, I continue to explore what is meant by love.

I want to die in a beautiful place.

Until then, I want to live a life of love, happiness and peace.

That is going to take much thinking and a good deal of writing.

Onward!  To 2015!