Posts tagged "Nature"

Togetherness and the Japan Disaster

A week ago, Japan, and arguably the whole of humanity, was rocked by a devastating earthquake and tsunami that captured the attention of people from around the world. In a sense, this tragedy is yet another reminder us of just how fragile we are. In the days since this disaster struck, I’ve been thinking a lot about how this event has lessons for us as a society and a species. I believe it’s possible for positive things to come out of disasters and this post is about looking at the potential for good in the presence of untold suffering.

The support has been substantial in the aftermath of this disaster, with companies and relief organizations stepping forward to help with monetary support, supplies, volunteers, etc. Even Governments from around the world have pledged support, particularly in the efforts to contain the nuclear emergency that has elevated the level of concern during this past week. This type of coming together is encouraging to see, and it shows what we are capable of when we truly want to help others who are suffering. Read more…

The Journey – part 3, The Colorado Trail

Continuing from my earlier posts on my experience in New Mexico and Vista Caballo, this entry details my experience the day that I left Vista Caballo and headed up into the San Juan National Forest for another adventure.

I started the morning off with the group at Vista Caballo as we had breakfast and wished each other well on our respective trips home.  Before I left, I had spoken to David and Bruce who know the area well to get some last minute advice from them.  David had recommended that I check out Molas Pass – about 45 minutes north of Durango, so off I went.  I checked in and got a map from the Forest Service visitor’s center in Durango before heading up to Molas pass.

I arrived at Molas Pass (10,900 ft. in elevation) around 11am and gathered my things together and packed for the night.  I remembered David and Bruce warning me about the weather and how storms can pop up quickly in the higher elevations.  They told me that if it looked like the darker clouds were already forming, I shouldn’t go in.  Well, the clouds were already forming, and I ignored the advice and went in anyway.  I was very well aware of the risk I was taking, but decided I was ok with it.  About half an hour into the hike, the storms were clearly visible and there was lightning popping up all around the area.  Finally, my luck ran out and it opened up into a wet and windy snow shower.  I hastily pitched my tent a few yards off the trail and rode out the passing storm.

Sitting in the tent with snow and rain falling, claps of thunder rumbling all around, I sat quietly and took a few minutes to admire the awesome power of nature and give thanks for the opportunity to appreciate this magnificent display.  I felt very connected to everything around me and despite some initial anxiety with getting the tent up, I wasn’t really fearful.  I was certainly very vulnerable, but not fearful.  When the storm passed, I took down the tent and resumed my hike.  The storms were still in the area, but a pocket had opened up where I was – enough for me to feel better about proceeding.  I hiked in a couple of more miles until I started to get pretty tired and I needed a break.  I was near two small lakes and in a fairly open area – I had the choice of stopping there or continuing on into the more dense forest.  It seemed like I had gone far enough, so I stopped and pitched the tent there and gave myself plenty of time to relax, eat, and explore a little bit of the area.  I was having camera problems, but when the camera started working again, I recorded a quick video of that experience:

It’s interesting to me looking back on this video and how different my energy was compared to the first video in the Pecos Wilderness.  Certainly, I was exhausted from a long weekend and a few miles of hiking at relatively higher elevations, but beyond that I found myself to be fairly contemplative after the experience at Vista Caballo.  I was processing a lot of information, feelings, emotions, etc. and I supposed I needed some down time to let it all sink in.  That’s exactly what I had that evening.  I went to sleep early that night and slept fairly well at first.  About halfway through the night I heard the sound of an animal calling out somewhere nearby.  I didn’t recognize the call, but it sounded pretty big!  My heart started racing as I played all sorts of doomsday scenarios in my head initially.  As I was laying there imagining what this could possibly be, I was able to ground myself and remember that we are all connected, and this animal, whatever it was, was just doing what it normally did every night.  I just happened to be there to hear it this particular night.  There was a realization in there for me – it wasn’t about me.  I was lucky enough to be a participant, but the fact that there was wildlife in the area did not mean that it was out to get me.  Sounds funny, I know.

The next morning I awoke to a beautiful sunrise and a gorgeous scene across the valley and onto the other ridge.  I sat outside looking down toward the two small lakes, and I could tell that there was wildlife down there, but it was so far away that I couldn’t say for sure what they were.  I’m guessing most of them were deer or perhaps elk, but I saw one of the larger animals wallowing around in a dark patch of soil right beside the lake.  It seemed to be exhibiting behavior more in line with a bear than a deer.  Of course, I’m no wildlife expert, and this might have just been a playful deer or elk.  I was hoping to find out for sure, but I wasn’t about to go invade that scene with my curiosity.  It was enough for me to witness it from a distance and hike out quietly in the other direction.

This experience was definitely one that I will remember my whole life, and it provided many valuable lessons that I can apply to daily life back in the city.  Perhaps most importantly is the enhanced awareness of the connectedness of all things, and the role we can play in our interactions with nature and with each other.  I was just one participant in a much larger system during this experience, and by maintaining awareness, treading lightly and observing, I was able to be a part of it without exerting too much of my influence into the equation.  I’m very thankful for this opportunity to be a part of this and learn, and I appreciate all the help and guidance I was given that made this experience everything it was.

The Journey continues…

The Journey – part 1

I have just returned from what I can only describe as an epic, life-altering journey to New Mexico and Colorado. I have always felt drawn to the West, and any chance I have to visit, I take it. This trip was on a totally different level however. I’ll do my best to explain, but please know that nothing I can write here will do the experience justice.

The trip came about as I was introduced to Lisa Dee and Vista Caballo through my friend Lewis. We are in the process of doing various work together, and during this work, the inaugural Horsewhisperer Experience came up. Before this, I had very little knowledge of horses or equine culture, but I felt a connection forming from a distance. In my work with Vista Caballo, I poured over all the website content and got a sense for the possibilities that awaited me. Little did I know just how much of an impact it would have on me.

Before I go on, it’s important to realize that I’m not the type of person who likes to have these things scheduled and structured too much. In fact, I like to sort of let them unfold as they will, and just roll with it. Part of this experience for me was driving instead of flying. I’m so glad I did, for multiple reasons that I’ll describe later. The other caveat is that I was totally offline for 3 days, and parts of 2 other days during the trip. In effect, I was out of communication for 5 days straight, which I have not done in a very long time.

I’m a road warrior and the drive out sort of flew by. I did Atlanta to Amarillo, TX with only 2 stops in between. Yes, I’m that crazy. It helps that my car can go 600 miles on a single tank of diesel and I have a strong bladder. It really does make the drive go by much quicker to just roll on through. Anyway, day 2 was New Mexico play time. I was looking forward to this the entire drive out, as I’ve had such amazing experiences in New Mexico before. This trip was no exception. Before I left Atlanta, I had received the July/August issue of Sierra magazine, which had a picture of a guy jumping off into a beautiful lake. I commented to a friend of mine that ‘I want to be that guy.’ I brought the magazine with me and had it sitting on the passenger’s seat of the car the whole drive out. I suppose on some level, I knew I would manifest that experience, and I did – almost exactly.

While I was driving through the desert, I stopped a couple of times to have a little picnic and take some photos. As I continued, I saw signs for Conchas Dam and Conchas Lake State Park. I couldn’t resist turning in to see what it was all about. Amazingly, this lake provided the exact scene that I had seen on the cover of Sierra magazine as seen in the picture below. I parked and went down to the edge of the lake and walked along the rocks where I ran into some local kids that had been swimming. They sensed that I wanted to jump in and asked me ‘You looking for a place to jump?’ They showed me the spot on the rocks and before I knew it, I was recreating the scene from the magazine. The water was cool and refreshing – an incredible departure from the hot, dry desert I had been walking in just minutes before. Awesome!

After my brief swim, I got back on the road and headed off toward Santa Fe. I didn’t know where I was going to camp that night, but I had some general ideas of the area. It was getting late, and I wanted to find a ranger’s station to get some advice. That was served right up to me in the form of the Pecos National Historical Park. I went to the visitor’s center just as they were closing and talked to the rangers Christine and Rick. They gave me some advice and sold me a map of the Santa Fe National Forest and Pecos Wilderness. I drove up along a long winding road through the incredibly aromatic evergreen forest, and arrived at the Panchuela campground trail head at 7pm. I hiked in a couple of miles and camped for the night in an area that was truly one of the most spectacular scenes I’ve ever witnessed in my life. Check the short video about my experience:

In the next entry, I describe my incredible experience at Vista Caballo! The journey continues…

Sierra Cover Photo:  Kristy-Anne Glubish/Designpics/Aurora Photos

Lessons From An Ant

This weekend was truly remarkable in many ways.  I attended a childhood friend’s wedding in Waynesville, NC (about 30 minutes outside of Asheville) on Saturday and I had a chance to hang out in Asheville a little bit on Saturday and Sunday.  I had not been since I was in high school, so I was pleasantly surprised that the town had progressed so far in the 20+ years it has been since my last visit.

While I was visiting, I happened upon a cool coffee shop with an attached store called A Far Away Place that sold spiritual artifacts, stones, scrolls, books, etc.  The shopkeeper Kathleen helped me pick out the perfect wedding gift on Saturday, and when I returned to thank her on Sunday, she suggested I check out this place nearby that she called the boulder fields.  She gave me the name of a town and another shop to visit that would help me find the place, as it was one of those ‘locals only’ spots.  I followed the directions that the guy in the shop gave me and I ended up at a trail head on the mountain opposite Chimney Rock Park.

Now, I love a good adventure – especially when it involves going somewhere remote where nobody else is going to be.  It turns out that Chimney Rock Park is quite popular – especially Memorial Day weekend, so I was delighted to discover something totally away from all of that madness.  I started up the trail and quickly got to a fork.  I picked my path and started to hike.  The trail was wide and rocky, but had deep gulleys where rains had eroded the soil extensively.  I didn’t have proper hiking shoes at the time, but I made the best of it.  As I ascended, the trail got steeper and more rocky.  Eventually the clouds that I saw forming across the ridge opened up and I got a refreshing Spring shower.  My thoughts turned toward the eroded trail and I decided to head back down in case the rain got really bad.  Not long after I started back down, it stopped raining and I decided to take a quick break in a clearing about 1/4 way down the mountain.  I sat on a huge rock in the middle of the trail and began to eat the clementines that I had brought along for a snack.  It was then that I met the ants.

I noticed a couple of ants crawling around where I was sitting, but then I realized that one ant had a piece of a leaf or something that it was dragging across the trail.  Whatever the thing was it was carrying was about 4 times its size, yet it never let go of it, regardless of the obstacle.  I watched intently as this ant pulled the leaf through seemingly impossible terrain.  At one point the ant ascended a rock that was at a 90+ degree angle to the trail (the rock on the right in the picture below).  The ant never let go of the leaf.

While I was watching this ant and marveling at its dedication, I softened my focus just slightly and suddenly I noticed other ants around me.  Not right beside me, but far out in my peripheral vision.  I could see them all concurrently – their movements seemed to be in unison, although they were not in close  proximity to each other.  I noticed flies, gnats, bees, and various other insects buzzing about.  All of this I noticed just by sitting still and becoming Present.  The best way I can describe it is that there was a symphony of movement all around me that I never would have noticed had I not stopped and sat perfectly still for those few minutes.

I thought about the ant that was dragging the leaf and the movement of all of the ants and insects together, and it seemed to be telling me something.  First, it was amazing to watch this tiny ant pulling something much larger than itself, but then when it got to an obstacle that I was sure would divert it from its path, it kept going anyway.  What this ant achieved was incredible from my perspective.  Then, the collective movements of all the creatures that were in complete harmony with the forest reminded me that we are all connected to each other and to the Earth.

I believe the lesson that I was there to learn is that no matter what the odds seem to be in our lives, we can overcome them if we are dedicated.  Right now, there are challenges around the world that seem to be daunting at first glance.  Pick your crisis – there are several.  For instance, the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico – it seems hopeless sometimes when we see the devastating images, and many of us are asking if it is really worth gambling with our environment in the name of oil.  It seems that we are at a critical point on our path – perhaps even an inflection point, and we would be well served to remember the dedication and perseverance of the ants as we turn our attention toward alternative energy sources.

All of us have our work and our struggles, and we can achieve remarkable things when we hold the vision and keep moving through the difficult times.  I’ve seen this play out in my own life time after time.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to have the experience out on the mountain this past weekend.  It’s moments like this that remind me why I like to return to the woods as often as possible.

I’ll close with an incredible quote from Henry David Thoreau:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Thanks for reading.