The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice – – –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations – – –
though their melancholy
was terrible. It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do – – –
determined to save
the only life you could save.

It’s around 6:00 a.m. as I stumble down the stairs trying not to become entangled with the small herd of cats eager for their breakfast. I push the button on the coffee pot as I pass by, open a can of cat food, distribute it among the six bowls on the floor and watch as they begin to devour it.

I pour a steaming mug of coffee, settle in at the table and open my journal. As I pull out my pen, our oldest cat, Chocolate, leaps onto the open page, head butting my hand to make sure she’s gotten my attention. What a wonderful wake up call she and the other cats are. My interactions with them are a direct indicator of how fully aware I am. If I shoo Chocolate off of my journal to get down to the serious business of writing, I know I am in my “doing” mode, believing what’s most important is to get stuff accomplished. And if I fail to take time to connect with the cats, I’m pretty sure I’m doing the same thing with humans. If I pause to play with Chocolate, as I do this morning, I know that I am in the flow, in touch with the best part of myself, connected with the web of life and all that it contains. (more…)


Love is the ability

Shonnie, Brad Brown & me at WOW

Shonnie, Brad Brown & me at Way of a Warrior

The other day, I apologized to my wife Shonnie three or four times for various instances of inconsiderate behavior, including speaking disrespectfully to her. I’d certainly recognized and owned up to what I’d done, however, after the final apology, I was reminded of a quotation from my mentor, Brad Brown: “I’m sorry,” said often, easily, and without tears, is a sure sign that we will do the same thing again soon.”

Ken & Loyd at their mountaintop home

Ken & Loyd at their mountaintop home

I first met Ken Kinnett and his wife Loyd in 1987 at Way of a Warrior, an intensive weeklong workshop that took place outside of Dahlonega, Georgia near the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. During the week, we went whitewater rafting on the Chattooga River (where Deliverance was filmed), participated in a ropes course, and on the final night, camped solo with just a plastic tarp, water bottle and sleeping bag.

As I settled all alone into my makeshift shelter, listening to the solitary sound of the nearby river as the last rays of sunlight filtered through the forest canopy, I was momentarily overwhelmed by what some Eastern mystics refer to as an ecstasy of unity—a feeling of connectedness, as if I, all humans, all living things, the entire universe was connected by some invisible web. And I realized in that moment that the southern Appalachian Mountains were where I was destined to be.

Before we left the workshop for home (home being a relative term for me at this point in my life since I’d just been fired from my job in Orlando and was still separated from my wife in Texas), Loyd suggested that I visit her and Ken at their mountaintop home near Hendersonville, North Carolina. I went for a weekend and stayed almost three weeks. (more…)

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