Becky had a brilliant idea for our trip to Madison this morning. She grabbed her Wisconsin State Parks map and found a couple parks we’ve never explored just off the beaten path we were traveling.
Talk about enjoying the journey and not just the destination!
Nothing like almost empty state parks early on a fall morning shortly after the sunrise. Fresh and crisp autumn air, a cool breeze, and the smell of forests and leaves were all around us as we saw beautiful vistas and fantastic rock formations.
The drive up the Mississippi River Valley was so stunning I felt compelled to pull over and grab a picture. The steam was again rising from the river into the cool air while the sky was positively pink and purple in one direction and blue and orange in the other.
When a day starts like this there is no doubt it will be a great one should I choose to carry the stillness of that moment into my day.
Later in the afternoon I was looking for a book on my shelf. In the process of looking I moved a couple of books around. For some reason my eyes were drawn to the back of How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins. Most books have a summary on the back, but this one had a quote instead:
Whether you prevail or fail, endure or die, depends more on what you do to yourself than on what the world does to you.
Sometimes the world is trying to help us hear the message we really need at a specific time. Other times it goes so far as to tie it to another message – in this case the irony of the title in the context of a recent challenge. Regardless, I am very thankful for the serendipitous shuffling of books on my shelf today!
My drive to Eau Claire was a very calming endeavor. The sun slowly rose while I drove. Rather than a book, podcast, or music I chose the sound of silence as my driving soundtrack. With all of the busyness of the last weekend it was refreshing to pause and think. With few cars on the road it was easy to focus my thoughts on what I had going on today as well as a handful of near and long term future projects and decisions as well.
This quiet time also helped me better live into one of the goals I set for myself for the year. By taking time to prime my brain in the right way I found it easier to still my mind and focus on listening more than talking. It made a very positive difference in the results of my day.
Another thing I’m thankful for today is the reason I’m currently blogging while laying in bed rather than driving back from picking up Gavin from soccer… we’ve got Student Uber in our house. Dominic offered to take Gavin to practice but instead I asked if he’d pick Gavin up so I could head to bed early. How awesome is that? A few extra zzz’s for me tonight!
My first reaction to seeing the schedule for Gavin’s soccer games in Eau Claire today was a very loud sigh. An 8am game in Eau Claire meant waking up at 5am to get there on time. The 2:40pm game meant a 5 hour gap in between games when we’re 90 minutes from home. That seemed like the worst possible schedule to me. An entire Sunday of soccer, well over 12 hours away from home. Then I took a deep breath and remembered to appreciate the time rather than wish it away.
Becky had a perfect idea to fit in between our games. We drove a half hour west towards Menomonie and did some hiking. The trails were stunningly beautiful with so many colorful leaves drifting slowly to the earth. The sun caught each in just the right light and it made for a stunningly unreal sight:
Afterwards she had the idea for pizza at the Lucette Brewery, the place we ate for Kala & Dylan’s wedding reception a little while back. The wood fired pizza was THE BEST pizza I’ve ever had – dee-lish!!!
We headed back to Eau Claire, ran a couple of errands and then headed back to the field. Rather than being a terrible schedule it became an opportunity to spend more time with my family enjoying the types of things we enjoy doing. It was the perfect way for us to fill the gap in the schedule and looking back I wouldn’t change a thing.
At the second game Gavin had his own cheering section! Becky’s parents and the Hause family all showed up to support Gavin and his team. It was obviously a success as Gavin’s team won the match 3-1. Pretty awesome to have an extra cheering section 🙂
Tonight we celebrated Steve and Kathy’s tenth wedding anniversary. Spending time together as a group of friends was fantastic! After the past year and a half I am so much more grateful for events like this. It’s always been a great time with friends, but after experiencing prolonged time without event like this I appreciate each gathering so much more.
Thinking back to ten years ago was a trip and a half! Going through old photos brought back foggy memories and has us laughing all over again. Spending time together to reminisce was an awesome way to spend the evening.
One of my favorite songs, Lucky by Seven Mary Three, has set my brain wandering. The line has been my foundation today.
“Son, time is all the luck you need.”
Jason Ross, Seven Mary Three
Today I’ve been lucky, another day around the world. Another opportunity to live. The fortune to grow further into myself. The chance to practice gratitude for all the splendors of life.
Why this has hit home so hard today is rather interesting. So much of my life I do out of habit, good or bad, for better or worse. When I operate on auto pilot the blinders are put on.
On days like this my mind focuses on seeing clearly and through a different set of lenses. Two questions really put those new glasses on for me.
Today both of those two questions came up for various reasons several times. They helped me see potential paths to a better future, one in which I live into my truest self. The questions led me to some slightly unexpected answers, answers which both clarified and muddied at the same time. No decisions made today, only opportunities created. Time for winnowing will arrive soon, but not yet. More opportunities are to be created before they are to be sifted through.
Quite honestly, these two questions have made my life more complex and yet somehow more simple. The beauty lie in distilling the complicated into the pure essence. While I’d love to boil it all down quickly the aging process is where the magic happens. In so many ways the aging in of itself is the true magic….
So many new thoughts, so many new possibilities, all from asking two questions, all from looking at the world through a different set of lenses.
Today I have been lucky. Lucky to have the opportunity to grow, collect, process, and age. I was given the gift of time.
BTW – I’d be remiss to not mention how much I appreciate our family viewing of Free Guy this evening. The metaphor of lenses comes directly from it as does some of the perspectives drawn today. Fantastic movie with many wonderfully well timed themes for my life.
The right opportunity always awaits, do I pause and heed its call?
Today I listened to the pull of nature. My plan to meet my brother before Dominic’s game changed slightly, just as I happened to see the sign for Natural Bridge State Park. I hit the brakes, abruptly turned right, and was on my way to heeding the call of the outdoors.
I am writing this blog in a pocket of autumn paradise. The smell of fall surrounds me. The beautiful color changing leaves are all around me. The rock wraps itself around me. In all directions I hear the sounds of wildlife.
I am present. I am at peace. My heart is full of joy.
Ahh… there it is, the first break in the action today. Sitting on the couch right now is the first time I’ve really had to take a deep breath and relax. Even my car rides to and from Winona were full of focused thought. The day has been very productive and I’ve made more progress than I’ve lost. Some frustrations, more wins, and a lot of ground covered.
At one point in my day I was reminded of a story of Thich Nhat Hanh, also known as the calmest human alive. Each day he spends an hour drinking his cup of tea. He smells it. He feels the warmth of the mug in his hands. He slowly sips it and takes time and care to focus on the taste. For an entire hour he focuses on drinking his tea. This is the process he uses for calming his mind and focusing only on the present. In pausing to intentionally enjoy his tea he sets his focus to the moment at hand. No stress. No worries about the past nor the future. Only the cup of tea in his hands.
As nonstop as my day has been it has been lived wildly. I’ve been mired in the past. I’ve drown in the future. I’ve been in one conversation and yet mentally preparing for another. My mind has been racing all day long in many directions. I’m exhausted.
Then I sit down to write my blog. Everything else clears. My mind is focused only on this task at hand. It doesn’t last an hour, but for the moments I write my mind is focused on the here and now, on my gratitude. This is my time to pause, to breathe, and to focus only on the sensation of thankfulness.
Today I am thankful for my daily cup of tea, writing my blog.
Tonight was the first round of regional playoffs for Dominic’s soccer team. They turned in their best performance of the season so far with a 9-1 dismantling of their opponent. Courtesy of the win they will now travel to outside Madison for their next game on Thursday. As always it was a blast watching his team and him play.
Less than a few minutes after the conclusion we were off to his band concert. He and a few teammates had to skip their post game wrap up in order to high tail it to the middle school for their band concert. In a very short period of time he had switched from one uniform to the next! The high school band put on a on impressive pep / marching band display. Again, it was a blast watching him play with his band.
After the concert we all rallied at the house and talked about the game, the concert, and what was next. I really appreciate and enjoy those moments of all of us together spending time as a family doing nothing but talking with each other.
Now I’m exhausted and ready for bed. The alarm will go off sooner than I’d like, but I’m okay with it. The daily double of Dominic was well worth being tired for.
What a day it has been! This is about the first time I’ve had to sit down, relax, and think today. For sure, it’s been a great day, busy and full of many wonderful moments. Now as I pause and reflect there are three specific gratitudes that really stick out… all along one common theme.
Our run early this morning was the first one of the year to be just below 40 degrees. Running in my usual shorts and t-shirt felt truly refreshing, and I say that without an ounce of sarcasm. The temperature was almost exactly my favorite running temp. At one point I felt like I could run forever. Cool enough to cool my muscles and not drip with sweat, but not so cold that I was uncomfortable in the least. When we hit our turnaround point we both paused for a moment and looked up to the stars and watched for satellites and falling stars for a moment. The steam from my breath, the starlight above, the cool air in my lungs, and the quiet stillness of the fresh new day in the woods reminded me of…
My drive to work in Winona runs along one of the most scenic drives in America, running up Highway 61 along the bluffs straddling the Mississippi River. The sun started to slowly rise above the horizon in deep reddish orange hues. The air was just cool enough and the river just warm enough create specters of fog rising from the water. While I drove my eyes wandered to the quiet shores of the river, the small little bays of tall grass and plants in the water, the embankments which would provide perfect habitat for muskrat, and the beauty which lie behind it all and my mind drifted back to…
When I got home Becky shared her experience of the funeral for a wonderful neighbor of ours. She and Gavin had gone to support our neighbor and one of his grandsons, Gavin’s classmate and friend. They both shared how eerily familiar it was to Dad’s funeral a handful of years ago. Our neighbor was an incredible human who always showed kindness and love. He helped others all the time in many ways. Every time we’d see him he’d smile and wave. I just saw him a couple of weekends ago and his smile brought a smile to both my face and my heart. John was an awesome person who brought much joy, strength, and love into the worlds of all he knew. As Becky shared the stories from John’s family and pastor at the funeral I kept thinking about…
…spending time with Dad in the fall. A morning like this reminded me of so many we’d spent in a canoe long before sunrise under the starlight in cool air. We’d wake up so early and load up into the truck. The drive was usually a quiet and dreamlike trip to the lakes. Unload the canoe quietly, slip into the water silently, paddle slowly but purposefully, and occasionally look up at the stars in awe. We’d go from trap to trap to check our success, sometimes in silence, sometimes joking, and other times engaged in serious conversation. I was about Gavin’s age now, give or take a year, and this was some of my private time with Dad. In moments like this I learned to appreciate time in nature, the peace which can only be found before sunset in the wilderness, and company of a loved one in which no words need be spoken to share appreciation of all the beauty around us. The smell of the fall is everywhere around us, the falling oak leaves, the pine, and the lakes. The specters of fog slowly rise from the water and start to dissipate into nothingness as the sun slowly rises.
Mornings like this, beautiful fall days, always remind me of some of my most sacred time with Dad. One day when we are are together again we will again paddle our canoe under the stars and soak in the beauty of the wilderness surrounding us. We will joke, we will talk, and we will quietly enjoy each others company. My heart will be beyond full. What I would give for one of those mornings again.
These are the times when I miss Dad most. They are the times when I realize just what a gift he’s given me. They are the times when I remind myself that the hurt I feel from missing him is because of the love he shared. I am so blessed to have created so many memories like this with him. I am grateful for the days like this, these perfect fall days, when I somehow appreciate him most.
Love you dude! Thank you for all those memories for all those fall days, they brought me joy then, they bring me joy now, and they will bring me joy all my days. Love you Dad!