I am currently sitting outside our hotel and convention center. If I look with my eyes there are people everywhere, buildings, concrete, fake grass, and palm trees with 2×4 board supports. Anything but being outside in nature. The smell of chlorine, food, and cigarette smoke linger in the air. The breeze blows the sounds of people talking, traffic, and rushing water from the water park towards me and into my ears.
I can choose to focus on this if I wish. If I choose nothing specific to put my attention towards they suffocate my senses. They lock me into a place I don’t find peace, the put me into a self selected purgatory of sorts.
I have made the choice to not see it, to not hear it, to not smell it. I am outside, under the sun, and in nature.
I close my eyes and think about my recent walk around the large pond. Though it may technically be a retaining pool it was a treasure trove of the outdoors for me. The only sounds I heard were those of turtles splashing into the water as I walked by, the wings of birds propelling themselves across the lake in search of fish, and the quiet stillness of the breeze. I don’t see the traffic on the nearby interstate, I choose to see all the miracles of nature in the water. So many birds, fish, and turtles. No gators like earlier in the day, but still so much to see.
I am thankful for the reminder today of how being out in nature is a mindset that is ours to choose and seek out, even when surrounded by people and in urban areas. It’s all a matter of intentionally choosing what I want to focus my thoughts and energy on.
Dominic is starting to work on his Eagle Scout project. The potential project includes creating a dog park in our neighborhood. The first step before he can even put his proposal together is to ask all the nearby home owners if they would be okay with that.
No worries, Dominic just put on his Scout uniform, grabbed his notepad, and started knocking on doors. How wild is that? Even better, he doesn’t know who more than half the people are! Dominic is basically going out and doing cold calls voluntarily in support of a good cause.
That simple action makes me so proud. It’s be so easy to take the easy way out and find a different project, use a over, or some other form of communication. Nope, he’s grabbing the bull by the horns and has received some tremendous feedback already.
One more reason I’m proud of Dominic, he understands that some of the best things in life lay well beyond the point of discomfort. Never give in to fear when courage is the right answer.
Rather than boarding a flight to an ocean beach I was wandering the woods in the snow. Quite the contrast, right? I was exactly where I should be.
Becky and I spent most of our morning at Pike’s Peak outside of MacGregor, Iowa. Due to the cold weather and snowfall we were amongst the few in the entire park. Once we were more than 100 yards from the observation area we never saw another soul.
I drew in breaths of fresh autumn air through my nose and concentrated on soaking in each exquisite little detail of the sights and sensations around me. The bright red leaves and even more scarlet berries of one type of plant. The drops of water resting on the waxy underside of oak leaves. Each little “brick” in the elaborate lattice work of the limestone rock outcroppings. The sensation of the cool winter-ish breeze and snow rushing against my face and tickling the hairs of my beard. The lighting of the woods shifting and transforming as the sun danced amongst the clouds. The music of Becky’s voice as we shared our joys of the wilderness. Each step. Each breath. Each individual second. Pure magic, pure joy.
Our morning was spent in a walking meditation in the stillness of the woods. Exactly where I was called to be in those moments.
If this were my last day I would go peacefully, full of joy, fully satisfied, and with a heart full of love. Today I have lived.
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.
A little before noon today my mind was going a million miles a minute. I had an excellent conversation with another franchisee and there were so many thoughts rushing through my brain. Couple them with the insights and ideas from the last week and my brain was positively spinning.
I paused. I set my pen down and closed my laptop. I took a slow and deep breath… and then I went for a walk.
No music, no podcast, no audio book. Just me walking on a perfectly sunny day with no sense of direction or purpose other than letting my brain work everything out with no distractions.
Forty five minutes later I got back home, jotted down my notes, and was ready to start taking action.
What wonders a walk can do for the thought process!