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 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 🙂
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.
I’ve read portions of Walden by Thoreau but haven’t read it all the way through. When I went to order a copy online I happened across a book with that story as well as a handful of others. My plan was to read from Walden through the rest of the book, but last night I felt compelled to read the last story for some odd reason.
Laying in my hotel bed last night I read The Artist of the Beautiful by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I could hardly lay still in bed afterwards as my brain was consumed by the tale. The story has been on my mind all day long for a variety of reasons. I have a suspicion that it will haunt my thoughts the entirety of my life moving forward.
I do not want to spoil it for you if you have it read it before and will do my best to describe without giving anything away. If you’d ever like to talk with me about it in more detail I would be happy to.
While reading it there were many emotions stirred in my soul. Grit – the determination to see something through to completion. Self-worth – doing something specifically for oneself specifically because one can and also possesses a desire to do so. The stoic mindset of controlling only what one can control was seen throughout. Belief in one’s own ideals and a refusal to bend to the thoughts of the world. The beauty and simplicity found in nature. The passion that drives one to accomplish great things. Sacrificing desires for the grandest of dreams. The importance of living into one’s true self. All of these thoughts, themes, and emotions in one short story from a century and a half ago!
As I face my own personal trials and am at a crossroads of pursuing my true self this story has inspired me to be the best me I can and to trust and follow my dreams of creating something beautiful. I plan on revisiting this story often both as reminder and warning to help my choose and stay on my right path.
There’s a scene in Men in Black burned into my brain that surfaces every so often. Near the beginning of movie Will Smith and a few other candidates are given a battery of tests. One of those challenges is taking a test in an ornately awkward room.
The chairs are too small and uncomfortable. There are no good writing surfaces for each person. The paper for the test is flimsy and easily penetrated by the pencil. The pencils break. It is one of the worst test taking environments ever.
After suffering a few seconds Will Smith’s character notices a table in the room away from everyone. He casually stands up and slides it across the room to his chair and proceeds to take the test in relative comfort while everyone else squirms.
Often times in life I find myself being held hostage by my own learned helplessness. I am the elephant tied to a stake I could easily rip out if it weren’t for memories of it holding me back when I was an infant. There is nothing getting in my way but my own dogmatic mental constructs.
When I remember to take a step back, to pause, to zoom out, the conclusion is so easy to see. It is so simple once I see it that I laugh out loud at myself afterwards.
Today I remembered to step back. I saw the table and moved it. Problem solved.