family, friends, & strangers • inner & outer journeys • the outdoor experience • an active 2e mind • dad, writer/storyteller, teacher/nurturer, student, traveler, climber, yogi, & runner • free spirit • working on listening more & not talking so much
A prelude to a bigger piece: remembering the lessons Marc Canter taught me when I was just starting out in the working world (at MacroMind in Chicago and then San Francisco). Words by the perennially wise Seth Godin:
As an eleven year old in New England, I read Colin Fletcher's The Complete Walker and dreamed of wandering the wide open spaces of the west as he did. I set off on excursions into rainy and dense local woods that are littered about Massachusetts's small cities and small towns. Wide open, big sky spaces were few. Off-trail travel involved bushwhacking, swamps, and poison ivy. You'd get to the top of a peak (well, really a glorified hill but we're talking imagination here) and... you'd still be in a forest. These places are wild in their own ways and do have their share of wonder and charm. But I wanted to go big and I would eventually find my way to the west years later. But even within the claustrophobic confines of these eastern forests, I still to happened upon small sanctuaries of inspiration, quiet, and solitude.
From The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth
Around the same time, I began my life a distance runner, inspired to run marathons. My runs took me far and wide on the backroads where I lived. I sought out the wildest places possible. And, during the process of that training, I discovered the power of the journey. It's no accident that I was reading Homer's Odyssey at this time; I couldn't avoid its influence. Completing a marathon was a joyful achievement for me. And the actual journey of running the marathon was also joyful. Yet, most significantly, the months of training that lead up to the journey delivered the most joy and reward of all. All those hours on the road in those woods, each mile with a myriad of moments—from here is where the greatest pleasure arose.
Inspired by The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth, author Chris Burkhard/illustrator David McClellan, Dreamling Books.
One of my yoga teachers noted when I was just starting out my practice, "If you just show up, you are doing the practice."
This reminds me of my teen and college days when I felt strongly compelled by both marathons and Homer’s Odyssey. In case you're wondering, both are about very long journeys. For the marathon, this includes the months of training prior to the actual race.
It’s become cliche, but the journey is as important, if not more so at times, than the destination. The journey often is long , so it's useful and fulfilling to be present when you are in the midst of it. It’s that continued presence that can also make the destination fulfilling too. Though the destination is but a fleeting moment, it’s no less deserving of present, mindful attention than the longer, preceding journey.
In the early 90's I was doing a lot of solo backpacking in the Sierra. I was gravitating toward non-trail hiking and peak bagging. Some of that peak bagging was starting to get a little "airy" for me (if you know climbing grades, this was probably 2nd or 3rd class terrain at best). So I decided I needed to get some more skill so I'd feel more confident. Then I'd be able to decide better about what I was getting myself into.
My pal and I played hooky from work a few times and took a bunch of classes at the Yosemite Mountaineering School over a spring and summer. On a lightly rainy April day in 1994, guide Doug Nidever showed us how to boulder on these invisible (to me at the time) "rugosities and nubbins" that make up the surface of Yosemite granite. What the heck, it worked! Next day, Dave Bengston (now head of the Mountaineering School) showed us different kinds of crack-climbing techniques and some very basic anchoring. Then he took us up our first real technical climb: Oak Tree Flake and Bay Tree Flake linked together
I was hooked. The view was sublime and I realized that very few people, relatively, ever got to see Yosemite Valley from that vantage point. Many thanks to Doug and Dave, even though they have no idea who I am at this point.
I was at work at the recently funded start-up I worked for at Fifth and Townsend, on the third floor. A very old warehouse converted into funky office space. Things started shaking and we were freaked out. Concrete and brick walls started flexing and I swear I could see waves flowing though them. You could have ridden those waves! Power was off and we got out of there quick. I just wanted to get back home to our apartment in Pacific Heights where my first wife and 3 1/2 month old daughter were. It ends up my workplace was a building that also had survived the 1906 earthquake. I think it's still there today.
I immediately saw that another building's walls had collapsed on a side street off of Townsend. This was right next to the 280 freeway exit ramp that was completely garfunkled off its moorings. Under all of those bricks lay the bodies of two editors (John J. Anderson and Derek van Alstyne) from MacUser who'd just met with my boss. When searching for the rare street parking space in the area, I'd sometimes ended up parking on the same street in the same location. I recalled wondering, "What would I do if I was here and an earthquake happened?"
I very gingerly drove home trying to avoid passing beneath overpasses (very difficult in those days in SF). I was hearing about all the damages and mayhem on the radio in my car. I finally made it back to Pacific Heights and, compared to what I'd been listening to, things seemed normal. I raced up to see my then wife and kid. I was about as white a sheet from what I'd seen and heard.
My wife greeted me and appeared very relaxed. "You don't know what's happened?" Of course, she hadn't heard. No power so no way to get an update. She told me that there was a lot of shaking, but only a few pictures were unbalanced (Pacific Heights is on bedrock; I was in South of Market, which is filled in marshland). Our daughter slept through the whole thing. She said when it was done she looked out the window and saw a guy walking his dog, nothing unusual. And then she said a sentence I'll never forget: "Things looked OK, so I thought this must be what they mean by California having frequent tremors." We'd recently moved here for the first time.
A good friend of mine, who I'd later hire to work at the Fifth and Townsend location, was commuting home from Vallejo and heading up the Bay Bridge when the earthquake struck. Fortunately, he was a way off from part that collapsed. He had a very long trip home that night all the way down around the south bay.
I’m number 3 for sure. I can get anywhere, once I’ve been there one time (even years later), but can’t describe how I did it for beans. I like to say, I “feel” my way, one visual memory triggering the next.
Once, when I was a teen in Massachusetts, some guy pulled up and asked for directions. I started attempting to describe the route (especially challenging in New England where what was once a cow path 400 years ago has gradually been updated by multiple committees over the years into something sorta, kinda resembling a superhighway). Anyway, before I could even finish, the guy just drove off without a word!
Now, you’ve got to remember that this was rough and tumble working class central Massachusetts. Many of the people you’d deal with bore a striking resemblance to the way characters carried themselves in Marty’s The Departed. So I was lucky I didn’t get a head punch!
"Always changing, never twice the same..." (Robert Irwin). One of the beautiful elements of this world. I try to remember it every day. The dirtbagdad is always evolving. Sometime the movement is a few steps back, but in the long view, it's always forward.