For those of you not aware of what “overdrive” is in a car, I’ll try to simply explain it. Overdrive is a gear in the transmission that is less than a 1:1 ratio with the engine. Effectively, the wheels turn faster than the motor.
It's great for cruising at higher speeds. The engine doesn’t have to work as hard, so it’s a more efficient use of fuel. There is so much weight and momentum behind the car that it could happily glide along with barely any input, needing only to overcome wind resistance and the occasional uphill segment of highway with a millimeter more depressing of the accelerator pedal.Read more
If many of my posts sound like a broken record, it’s because they are. For those of you old enough to remember, the slightest scratch on a vinyl album could stop the music in its literal track and replace it with two seconds of repeating sounds. It was aggravating when it happened. You could hope that it was just a blip. A speck of dust or an oddly perfect combination of bass vibrations that was causing the needle to jump back in time.
It usually wasn’t. Being that the spiraling track of a record was actually a groove cut into the plastic, you couldn’t just “buff out” a scratch all that easily. You couldn’t completely erase that imperfection. Every time the turntable spun to that exact point in your playlist, you would be greeted by a reminder that you didn’t handle your album with enough care, or that someone else mishandled it.Read more
There were so many reasons for Megan to be proud of Shelby. From her sheer intelligence, to her love for reading, to even her quirky weirdness. She appreciated that Shelby had a love for nature, at least tiny animals and flowers. We would take Shelby camping at least once a year, but due to Megan’s condition, that was the limit.
We took one “backpacking” trip as a family. Shelby was about 5 years old, and carried nothing but a few stuffed animals and granola bars in her pack. Megan had received her transplant, and thus was just healthy enough to schlep some weight and contribute to a one mile hike into the wilderness of West Virginia to camp.
I was proud of Shelby at that point for her enthusiasm. We hiked in a thunderstorm, to a small patch of territory in the middle of nowhere, and she loved it. There was no apprehension about not having four walls, light at the flick of a switch, or running water. She, like me, actually wanted that lack of modern conveniences.
Since Megan’s death, Sarah, Shelby and I have taken a few more “easy” trips. Each has had the same effect of me being proud of Shelby, although I’ve had to be proud for both Megan and I. She’s still been carrying a very small load, considering there were two adults to shoulder most of the baggage for her.
A big first happened this past weekend though. Shelby and I took our first trip together, just the two of us, and she started carrying some of her own baggage.Read more
“You bathe in these spirit-beams, turning round and round, as if warming at a camp-fire. Presently you lose consciousness of your own separate existence: you blend with the landscape, and become part and parcel of nature.” -John Muir
It is no secret that John Muir inspires me to no end. While my love of nature and being in the wild places has done more to heal and calm my soul than any other aspect of my life, Mister Muir made it his religion. Every time I step into the woods, I lose connectivity with not only my cell service provider, but with the likes of the modern world. What wild refuge would John Muir have found in today’s endless series of hashtags, shopping centers, gluten-free water, and email? What would his sermons be in this year’s existence?
“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul” - John Muir
The excitement of new.
The knowing of strife.
The frustration of sickness.
The commitment for life.
The determination to protect.
The joy of more days.
The newness of health.
The fear it won’t stay.
The sliver of hope.
The knowledge of none.
The witnessing a demise.
The grief that begun.
“The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step” - Lao Tzu
It’s true. It the most literal sense, one cannot achieve a goal, or complete a journey, without taking a step towards the goal. No matter how trivial a task may seem, this quote is meant to bring perspective that even the most inconsequential of actions is needed to complete a journey...a single step.
Where this quote leaves much to be desired, however, is the scope of the journey. Not every side journey is “1000 miles”. Some goals are, figuratively, only feet away. Others may seem so distant that a single step would be insignificant. Regardless, the second step, and the third and forth and so on could not occur without that first step.
As Sarah noted on Sunday, I stepped off into the mountains last Friday, disappearing into the wilderness on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. It’s no surprise to any of you that have read my posts for these past two years that backpacking, in isolation, is the most transcendent experience that I personally can have. No matter how my wanderings unfold, they always mean something to me.
However, I haven’t really experienced anything new in the three plus years since Megan was first admitted to the hospital. I’ve went to familiar places. Places that I could ramble into, disappear for a few days, and feel the comfort and safety of a home away from home. Places that I had been to so many times that I could navigate every trail blindfolded and say “Hello, again” to every tree.
Way back in September of 2012, Megan, Shelby and I took our first backpacking trip together. Shelby was only 5 years old, and Megan was almost two years past her lung transplant. I meticulously planned the trip, choosing the Blackbird Knob trail in the Dolly Sods Wilderness, in West Virginia. I was already intimately familiar with it, knowing the various campsites, creek crossings, and hills along the way, but neither of the two of them had ever been.
I chose it because of the safety factor. I knew that we could ramble in about a mile before we came to a creek that I wasn’t comfortable having them cross. Just downstream from that point, there was a beautiful backcountry campsite where we could spend the weekend. I limited them, purposefully, so that I didn’t have to worry about Shelby trying to rock-hop across a fairly sizable creek, slipping, and being washed downstream. Nor would I have to be concerned with Megan, who was still getting her feet under her on dry, flat ground in her recovery, experiencing the same.
This past weekend, Sarah, Shelby and I took our first backpacking trip together. Shelby is now 10 years old, and Megan has been gone almost three years. I barely planned the trip, deciding on Monday that we should leave on Friday for the Blackbird Knob trail in the Dolly Sods Wilderness. I’m still familiar with it and all of the campsites, creek crossings, and hills. While Shelby had been briefly acquainted with it, Sarah had never been.
I recently heard an interview with Pema Chodron, a well-known Buddhist nun and author of the book When Things Fall Apart. This woman is chock-full of wisdom. And she got my mind turning about something this morning. In the interview, she talks about a graduation speech she gave recently, telling those brave young folks about to embark into the world, that the most important thing is to learn how to stumble well. To pay closer attention to our pain when we are stumbling through it, and allow ourselves to be fully in our losses and our pains so that we can learn what lessons they hold.
As I’m thinking about this idea, of stumbling well, I realize that the walk with grief is really one of stumbling greatly. Because, after all, losing your partner leaves you in a treacherous landscape, am right? Imagine for a moment what your grief landscape looks like. To me, it’s a mountain range. A vast place of ups and downs, with jagged edges and surprises at every turn. For you it may be a desert, or a barren, underwater world. These images of the landscape of grief can hold a lot of value for us.
Grief is not a minor thing in life. It’s not just tripping you up. It’s not just potholes and speed bumps along the road. Losing your partner is not stumbling and hitting the ground in front of you. It’s stumbling and suddenly there IS no ground to fall on anymore. It is falling off a cliff in slow motion… into a whole other landscape that you were not prepared to travel...
Suddenly, everything feels dangerous to you.
The American Chestnut is a large, stately, useful tree. At one time, over a quarter of the eastern American woods were populated by this tree. The wood is rot resistant, the nuts are delicious, and even the oils in its bark has medicinal properties.
Nobody wanted to see the Chestnut go away, and it didn’t want to die off. Over eons it evolved into the strong, prolific queen of the forest. It provided shade, shelter, and nourishment for the rest of the woods, and it provided it’s resources for the native Americans and settlers in the areas in which it grew.
But it got a raw deal.Read more