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.
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.
I have a tendency to make life so much more complex than it needs to be. Busy schedules, technology, financial management, business, and so on. There is so much I pack into life that is unnecessary and self imposed.
In the woods everything fades away. The noise of daily life is muted by the simplicity of existing in nature. Trees who’ve stood before I was born demand my attention. The rocks and hills I observe have existed long before man walked the Earth will remain long after I’m gone. The sounds of the streams provide a more beautiful music than any I would play on my iPhone. Everything I need is there in the woods, in the simplicity, and in that exact moment.
In that moment all of the busyness of life fades from existence. There are no deadlines and tasks, only serenity and wonder. My ego is replaced with the reminder of how small and temporary my life is compared to so much of what exists around me. I am lost in the moment at the very time I find my true self in the woods.
The simplicity of nature surrounding me is deafening.
Today that simplicity was shared with Becky and Gavin (Dominic was refereeing soccer games). The ridges we hiked were so amazing. I could bring a hammock and backpack and stay up there for days. The peacefulness provides a profound state of chill and introspection while my wonder and curiosity often lead me off the trail to observe interesting plants, rocks, and tree roots. Those heavily canopied maple and oak forests are some of the most magical places in the Driftless.
Before getting into my Uber from the airport I was hoping for a driver who wouldn’t want to talk much. It had been a long day and I just wanted a little bit of quiet to chill and unwind. As luck would have it I got the exact opposite and that was exactly what I needed.
Within a minute Alex and I were laughing and trading vacation stories. He shared that he and his wife had just been on a trip to Miami and shared all fun they had by the beach relaxing.
About 10 minutes in Alex shared the story of how he had moved his family away from a rough part of Chicago only to lose his only son in a tragic act of violence. We talked about family and faith.
Another few minutes in and Alex shared the story of how they just had a surprise baby girl not too long ago – even though their other daughter was 21 and they had been told that they couldn’t have any more kids. We talked about the joy of being dads. We talked about having trust in the plan of The Big Dude Upstairs – especially when we don’t quite understand his reasoning.
As our ride was wrapping up we talked about his son and my dad sitting up above and laughing at the two of us in the car joking, laughing, and loving life. We shared our belief that life is best lived with kindness and love for all people. Alex reminded me of the impermanence of life and to appreciate each and every moment we are blessed to have.
Alex brought so much joy to my heart that I can’t even begin to explain it fairly in words. In his willingness to engage in conversation with a stranger, his openness to sharing all aspects of life – good and bad, and his courage to stay positive and optimistic in the most difficult of times reminded me of what is truly important. Love and kindness for each other.
Alex dude, thank you for an incredible ride, amazing conversation, and a truly inspirational time together. Before I got in the car my heart was closed and my skies were cloudy. Big hugs to you and your family Alex, you made my world a better, brighter, and more beautiful place today. I cannot thank you enough!