Posted by: walkerswalkabout | April 13, 2013

Experience

Experience

They (the ubiquitous they) say that experience is the best teacher. Is there any other way to be taught? It is also the best bringer of wisdom…and joy.

I had two experiences in the last 24 hours. They taught me many things and brought me, yes, joy.

Money bought one of them for me; time bought me the other. We can buy things with our money, or we can buy experiences with our money (best use of money), or……we can buy things that enable a myriad of experiences.

The one that time bought:
Today I experienced something I had never before experienced—a bookstore with an escalator. A very small and narrow and cute escalator. It escalated me to the top section of the store, where children’s books and the latest titles for adults co-existed peacefully on the same floor.

I asked the nice woman at the desk about Nooks. She said, with deer in headlight eyes, she was the children’s books expert, and knew nothing about said contraption. That the Nook expert was on the first floor. His name was Jeff. Indeed he was—on the first floor, named Jeff, and a Nookish expert.

I need a Nook that does not panic and crack its screen at the first sighting of a GRIZZLY BEAR. It became unreadable the third day on the trail last summer in Glacier National Park, and I had to settle for being alone with my own thoughts in the dark night in the midst of brown bear country. I asked Jeff to prevent this occurrence. Jeff did not know for sure if he had such a resilient Nook, nor could we think of a way to test this particular resilience on the streets of Kansas City. I settled for believing that a hard case (for the Nook) might suffice. Of course, there is only one way to find out for sure.

I also noticed, as part of this same experience, that a distinctive calming influence comes over me when I am in a bookstore thumbing through the titles, reading snatches of thought. Just being with new ideas—what a peaceful joy it brings me. How empowered I feel with new world upon new world begging to be explored, standing at attention on shelf after shelf and calling out to me.

The experience that money bought:
The second experience I bought with money, or rather a kind person bought me for Christmas. A zero degree down sleeping bag. Good to zero Fahrenheit. Weighing 2 pounds, 7 ounces. Amazingly light. Shiny black. Top tech gear. 900 fill goose down. Quantum Pertex shell. This is gear that can only be appreciated by those who have been out of doors and have frozen nigh to death when the temps dipped at night below the capacity of the bag they were in, enduring hour after hour of numbing cold, longing for day to dawn, with the cold turning the minutes to hours (thanks Gordon Lightfoot for the language), as I have.

I have a lot to say about sleeping bags and gear in general….but suffice to say I daresay I was the only person in our neighborhood sleeping out behind their house last night, (on the side of a cliff, really) during our freezing night. Testing the bag. Before deciding that I would trust it on multi-day backpacks (for the next 10 years, which is how long my last bag lasted). The new bag performed well. It was a damp night given a lot of rain recently. So my bag got quite wet on the outside and the damp became a frozen coating of ice by morning. But I was cozy warm as can be all night. Just my nose a little cold.

HEAVEN!

This bag will enable many experiences, and travel to many places in the next decade. It will likely be mentioned in my will, so the kids don’t fight over it.

Still deciding on the Nook. Paper is so dependable and bear-proof.

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Posted by: walkerswalkabout | February 18, 2013

Fire is All You Need

We lit a fire in the fireplace tonight. What took 50 years to grow we burned to ash in 50 minutes. It warmed our faces, hands and inner parts.

Once as a teenager, in my hunter-gatherer days, I tracked a wounded deer for hours into the evening and darkness in the Hills (mountains most would say) south of Oakley, Idaho. With my young cousin. We walked many miles. We came in sight of the animal once, but my hurried shot missed. Twilight stopped us; I knew pitch darkness and dangerous walking was close and set us both to gathering firewood. The rule is—gather twice what you think you will burn, then gather twice more. That will be the right amount. This is analogous to many other situations in life, like investing time in children, or your marriage. Four times what you think you need.

The stars turned electric-bright in the dark night. For all we knew, we would be out there until morning, so we had a lot of firewood stacked ere the sun set and the afterglow darkened to inkiness. The fire took our minds off our fear, as many things were moving around in the night, but not coming within our circle of light. Occasionally we glimpsed the reflection of bright eyes staring at us. Later we learned they were cows; but not until later. Meanwhile we gave ourselves to the hypnosis of the flickering flames. Especially whenever fear threatened to overwhelm us. A few times my young cousin whimpered and shed tears; I bade him to look into the fire and the whimpers ceased. I stayed dry-faced, to shore him up.

My dad and my uncle found us about midnight. My uncle, who survived many an island firefight as a marine in the Pacific Theater in WWII, saw us safe within our ring of light and remarked that you could endure anything so long as you had fire. I figured he knew what he was talking about.

Now the domesticated  fire in our living room hearth is crackling and fading, the heat a soft push against our skin. The memory of fire a soft push against our primordial stash of fear.

You can endure anything so long as you have fire.

 

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Posted by: walkerswalkabout | January 18, 2013

Good Question

Adam, my apologies.

You  asked me an important question.

Forgive me.

I gave half an answer.

I shortchanged you.

We were working 2 months ago, sitting in a hotel lounge, munching on pizza with cheese two inches thick. You asked me, from your perspective of the low 30’s, to share some wisdom from my perspective of, well, more than that. A lot more.

I remember saying something like remember the importance of regular exercise.

That has bothered me for months now. Not that I ever obsess about anything. But I do hate incomplete answers. Hate.

My thoughts are fuller now: Exercise is the elixir of the body. Exercise tunes the body to not interfere with the mental, spiritual and emotional richness that comes with having a physical body… but rather to enrich the richness. Exercise is therefore necessary to the highest levels of  intelligence. Lifelong exercise is one of the fountains of youth.

If you want more energy, exert more energy—via frequent exercise.

Why would I say this to you, a young and healthy consultant? Well, young consultants have access to great food, via expense account, and a proclivity/necessity to work long hours, leaving little leisure time to do things like, well, exercise. Over time, young consultants become less young consultants. And absent a commitment to regular exercise, the body becomes a pear-shaped object, one that ambles instead of rambles. Everything slows down before its time.

That’s the dote. Exercise is the antidote.

Said another way, “If you want to keep your body moving, keep your body moving.”

There you go, Adam. Now I can sleep.

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Posted by: walkerswalkabout | December 26, 2012

Today

Today was a good day.

I had food to eat all day.

I had warm air blowing into the rooms of my house all day from pipes in the walls and floors defying the teens-temperature air outside.

I sat in front of my computer for 12 hours and produced.

I learned several new things.

I spoke to an old friend several times today and he helped me be visually creative.

I several times pushed my brain so hard she balked.

I shopped at Trader Joes and bought organic popcorn popped in olive oil and laced with sea salt .

I wore a blue warm down  jacket and stood with the sun on my face several times.

My cat followed me from room to room dog-like and slept where I worked and meditated. He also spoke to me.

Some of my children invited me to come eat soup with them.

A good day.

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Posted by: walkerswalkabout | November 17, 2012

Glacier National Park by the Numbers

In August I solo hiked a week in Glacier National Park, Montana. I almost did not do this hike, as I missed the April campsite lottery and not much was available. I told the park ranger over the phone, after route after route was “sorry, already reserved”, that what he was really saying was that I should wait til next year and sign up earlier. He paused, then shared that whenever he made such comments to his wife, her reply was “next year we might be dead”. I could think of nothing to say to that. I went ahead and paid the fee and committed to show up and take my chances for last minute openings. Turned out to be no shortage of great routes. So here is my hike, by the numbers:

255 = # of thousands of dollars my Kalispell airport shuttle driver paid for his new motor home the month earlier (I decided he did not need a tip)
1 = # of black mother bears seen in group camp the first day
1 = # of black baby bears seen in group camp the first day
6 = # of pieces of “beware of grizzly bears” literature I was handed the first day in Glacier
450 = # of grizzly bears in the park
1 = # of park rangers who turned up missing on a solo hike in the park the week previous (never found)
2 = # of grizzly bears I saw one hour into my hike, that ran the other way when they saw me (which suited me just fine—they sounded like a pair of monster trucks crashing through the forest)
5 = # of times I read the instructions on my bear spray canister after experiencing the bears, and after my heart stopped pounding (the operative instruction is to start spraying when the bear is 30-40 feet away— i.e. 2-3 seconds)
4 = # of members of Dragon Thrust team (coed ultimate Frisbee team that has competed well at the national level) that shared my camp the second night out. Sarah and Mike had to drop off the team when their child was born. Alicia and Pete still going strong. S and M did their honeymoon right a few years earlier—mostly hiking and camping in Glacier Park.
87 = # of gold fish crackers the Dragon Thrust team gave me at the campsite
45 = # of pounds my pack weighed
40 = # of miles I walked in 4 days
6800 = # of feet of elevation gain and loss over the course of the hike
40 = # of times I just had to stop and stare at the beauty
350 = # of fotos I took
3 = # of people (2 succulent, 1 rangy) I hope go with me next time (assuming I will again see 2 bears, and that should satisfy both bears if they happen to be hungry, and I will still have someone to hike with)

 

Posted by: walkerswalkabout | November 5, 2012

Invisible Excellence

I notice I like an audience when I chop excellently through a tree in the forest and it falls. Truly for me, no audience, no tree-fall.

This truth came to me while riding my road bike three days ago—when I ride I think, and I remembered an event from 40 years ago, when I was in my callow youth. Married, with a child on the way, but callow (rhymes with shallow).

I was a scoutmaster in midtown Manhattan in New York City. Every so often I would grab my city-boy troop and we would head for the wilderness in upstate New York (the largest wilderness area in the lower 48, last time I heard) to teach them what real men do. I am embarrassed to say this consisted mostly of a lot of uncouth sounds that they couldn’t get away with in the presence of their mothers. Anyway, this time we took our guns— .22 caliber only. Nothing big. Not like the .45 that would have been nice to have when the troop was running a compass course in Central Park one evening, and one of my scouts got mugged. He came running back, early, to the starting point, out of breath and with eyes big as campfire pancakes to tell us that the bad guy took his watch, his money and even his compass. He wanted to start a new merit badge—the revenge merit badge, but instead we did the laugh-it-off badge.

Anyway, there was a lot of snow upstate and we built a huge snowman. We then stuck a dime-size orange peel in the middle of his chest and started target practice. Everyone, boys and adults alike, were missing.

I watched for a while and noticed everyone was shooting high and to the left. The rifle’s sights were misaligned. No one else was figuring that out. I asked for my turn, anxious to show how it was done, compensated by aiming low and to the right, and nailed the orange peel, driving it out of sight into the depths of Mr. Snowman’s belly. I looked around for the ooh’s and ahh’s….none came. The easily distracted scouts had moved on to something else. Oh, well. Not that I took note…just happened to be thinking about it 40-some years later.

There is a point of maturity where one always does excellently just for excellence’s sake, audience or no.

Hope I get there someday.

Posted by: walkerswalkabout | October 26, 2012

Water Once Was Water

When I was very young, growing up in Idaho, I was surrounded by great water. I fearlessly drank the water no matter where I was. When I hiked in the mountains, the Idaho mountain spring water was especially refreshing, almost tangy. The artesian well water near the Snake River was likewise cool and delicious. When I worked under the hot sun in the potato fields, I buried my entire head in the stream that gushed out of the ground into the concrete reservoir and drank my fill at every opportunity. The act of taking a drink of water was artless.

But now everything has gone designer: apples have stickers, squash has labels; I saw an Idaho potato in the grocery store the other day wrapped in plastic and labeled as from Idaho.

Water especially has gone designer. I never dreamed I would be paying more for water than for soda pop.

A recent bottle of water was especially intriguing. It contained:

Wild-harvested flower essences in premium spring water to help refresh and revitalize, i.e.

Bush iris—circadian rhythms

Crowea—calming and centering

She-Oak—balances water retention

Grey Spider—fear and worry

Pink Mulla Mulla—circulation

Tall Yellow Top—adjusting to new environments

I guzzled the whole thing and my life immediately improved.

I predict that some day we will have opportunity to buy “natural fertilizer” that will have a sticker on it that tells us what they fed the cow.

Can’t wait.

Posted by: walkerswalkabout | September 30, 2012

Gratitude Attitude

Gratitude consists of a deep appreciation for those things that we have; we also consider them to be not of our own making, but proffered to us by the goodness and grace of others.
Gratitude is the primary multiplier of human happiness and accomplishment.
Those who live a life of gratitude see everything as a gift; they are grateful, and they want others, e.g. followers, customers, bosses, children, friends, colleagues to have more of what they need and want. They take actions and provide opportunities that multiply these things.
The concept of gratitude is best taught during childhood, though it can also be taught later in life. Children receive many things of their parents. Early in life, they only know that it is provided; they do not realize it could be the opposite—missing.
One of the signposts of maturity is to gain understanding that the good things of our lives are being provided out of the love of a benevolent provider or creator (or co-provider, i.e. parent). We must teach this to children. They will not “get it” on their own. Notice how long it takes to teach a child to say “thank you” when something is provided.
Conscious teaching of gratitude can take many forms. One is the aforementioned coaching of the child to say thank you when something is provided. There are other ways to augment. Early in my wife’s and my parenting career, we came across some cassette tapes (this was long before the time of CD’s) that taught different positive attributes via song and story. The one on gratitude was called gratitude attitude. We listened to it quite often. Soon, we noticed the children singing it on their own, and referencing it in their conversations. Now they are grown with children of their own. They still talk about “gratitude attitude.” And they are men and women (woman I should say) of gratitude who attract many good things into their lives.
When we are grateful for what we have, our everyday opportunities and possessions, we find more joy in the day. We see our lives as filled with bounty, and want to share that bounty with others. We want others to feel supported and blessed.

Posted by: walkerswalkabout | July 22, 2012

Deer Curses

The worst drought in 50 years has my world turned upside down.

People at the nursery tell me deer are eating all manner of shrubbery they don’t usually, and losing their fear and ranging farther afield as thirst drives them to brazen behavior.

My problem— a doe, a deer, a female deer ate all my pond plants, including the lily pads, in my fish pond in front of the house.

Thursday night they were there; Friday morning I had a flatwater pond uninterrupted by green. After 8 years of no trouble, I have a deer problem.

The nursery had ready answers, for a price. They sold a substance that mimics the smell of dead deer, and supposedly the deer stay away when you spread it around the forbidden area.

Not exactly. I bought new plants yesterday, spread the artificial death in a perimeter around them, and this morning 2/3 of my green was still there. Some plants, however, were half eaten and dropped in the driveway. That’s progress, anyway. Maybe the deer panicked at the thought of snatching food from the maw of the undead, and dropped and ran.

So I spread the death smell in an even thicker circle. I also may have muttered a few curses. We’ll see what happens tonight.

I am actually pondering on the taste, not smell, of a different form of dead deer—venison.

Or maybe it’s not a deer problem at all. Maybe this guy followed me home from my Wyoming backpack.


Posted by: walkerswalkabout | July 8, 2012

Life List Year

2012 will be a life list year.

Life list means do, or die first; usually we do the latter. Life list events seldom are easy, convenient or “logical”. Schedules, obligations, grownup responsibilities without fail assert themselves as more important.

Besides eating lots of sweet corn, that most sublime of all activities, which is always on my list, there are 14 things that have made it onto my life list. Some have been accomplished, many yet to be (this is not to be confused with a bucket list; I made my Life-List-14 long before that movie came out).

Things on my list are yet to be— live with 3 bonsai trees, sell a song, kayak open water, paint six paintings I wouldn’t mind displaying (50% done). Some are decisively done— like carbon fiber bike.

I have life list hikes. Two are done— Alaska and Australia. Many have just been vague dreams. Until now.

Tomorrow I leave on my tenth annual Wyoming Wind Rivers Range backpack; in September I will do the Zion Virgin River Narrows. I had hoped to someday do a Glacier National Park hike.

Last week a space opened up on my calendar— I decided spur-of-moment 2012 is the year for Glacier. I called the ranger in Big Sky Country to inquire about the “Crown Jewel of the Continent”. He told me that people start to make reservations on April 16th, that not much was now available. I inquired re: several options; none worked. He kept telling me to just show up and they would put me together a good hike. Much ambiguity. I finally threw up the proverbial hands and said, “Be honest with me. Should I just wait until next year, and apply in time to put together a good hike?” A short pause, and then he said, “When I have a question like that, here’s what my wife says to me— next year we might be dead.”

In four weeks I fly to Glacier for 6 days of walking on the ground by day and sleeping on the ground by night.

Next year will be a life list year too. And the next.

I recommend the life list process. It starts with making a list. What’s on your list?

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