Off The Beaten Path

When the path ignites a soul, there’s no remaining in place. The foot touches the ground, but not for long.

Most people—by which I mean most of us who grew up on the outskirts of the American Dream—grow up, get an education, find a steady job, and then after time has passed, maybe fall in love and get married.

Yet in reality I started working at the ripe old age of fifteen years old, fell in love numerous times, married twice, partied like a cliché, and never managed to graduate.

In other words, the order I have chosen to live my life is well on the opposite end of normal and most, more than likely, consider crazy.

Since my adolescent years, even before surrendering my childhood to puberty, I’ve despised the idea of working a stagnant, nine-to-five, cubicle ridden job.

I mean hell, I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up. I found it fitting for my personality, all winded and flown. Maybe that is why I have come to admire writing so much, because these words often carry my mind away with them, while giving flight to my soul.

In my late teens and early twenties, after I had managed to burn a few bridges with some that were close to me, as well as the local law enforcement, I was eager to find my way elsewhere, and I wasn’t the only one who wanted to see me on my way.

So after much deliberation as to what I wanted to be at the age of twenty-three, I decided to head west to try and figure it all out. I went in search of a place where I could find and be myself tried and true. I went looking for me.

It was a simple, rather happy-go-lucky sort of idea: running away from all that you know, on the prowl for a freedom that had its roots firmly embedded beneath a dream bound by a white-picketed fence with a few beautiful children running wild, all the while living a life so carefree.

But I didn’t necessarily want the security of mediocrity, or at least that was what I told myself. I found that I was at ease on the road. Something about it felt like home. I was relaxed, readily patient to find my niche, no matter what it took.

It was then that I found myself forty-two hundred miles away from my home. The first leg of the search for myself had led me to Denali, AK. I had one friend at my side, only to be surprised as I stumbled upon the lifelong kind of friends when I arrived.

Still I was sort of terrified, yet somewhat excited about having not any idea as to what my future held, or what I might find. That summer is still etched with perfection amongst the canyons of my mind. The winds of life had carried me to the place I was supposed to be. I was at home not knowing where I was going next, and it was an ecstatic feeling.

There was nowhere to go but everywhere to be, so I just kept rolling right along through life like a star shooting through the night. Little did I know though that I would soon find a place where my restless carbon dusted bones could settle down for awhile. It was soon thereafter my time in Alaska, I found my way to the place I have called home for almost eighteen years now, that being Lake Tahoe.

There was a budding counterculture vibe taking root in Tahoe back then, still is, and probably was long before I arrived. It was a vibe that vibrated deep in the depths of my magnetic soul. I felt like a cicada longing for the light of paradise in the night, I couldn’t contain myself. It was my kind of place and I didn’t want to leave.

I managed to lockdown a steady job playing Chef at a little off the beaten path ski resort, just south of Tahoe, nestled away in the beautifully serrated Sierra Nevada.

Even back then, not so long ago, at the turn of the century, a place like Lake Tahoe cost a lot less to live than it does today, though it was quite easy to exceed the cost of any given liver on any given day. Life was wild, livable and lackadaisical, always on the go just to slow it down.

But I was always broke, working like a slave on a snow farm, all so I could afford to stay comfortably alive, while wetting my whistle with the blowing winds of adrenaline, if you know what I mean? Man is quite the universally thirsty race. Always thirsting for something one doesn’t need.

Lost souls like my own were running from all corners of the country to this metaphoric fountain of youth, on the hunt for just a hint of never-ending bliss.

My newfound friends and I were hellbent and determined to live a not so ordinary life far and away from any attachment, for a life we could call our own.

Yes indeed, life was headed in the right direction of love and light. I had found my niche. Yet even still, knee deep in myself and paradise, something was missing.

I soon began to realize that no journey carries one as far unless, as it extends into the wild around us, and that is as far as it goes into the wilderness within.

Before I continue the journey, now is the time that off the beaten path these written thoughts of mine must go…

All throughout time, yet not so much as of late, man has been eagerly pursuing, ever so curious at the precise whereabouts of “Heaven on Earth.” This exact curiosity could, and should be applied to ole Christopher Columbus. When he set sail upon the ocean blue, he went looking for bliss, in search of a different kind of freedom, and by God, he found it.

While the pilgrims brought with them bits and pieces of purity, scattered about spirituality, they also brought with them violence and supremacy. Let’s be honest, Plymouth Rock stood as promised with the poise of paradise and the white man was going to call it his own at whatever cost. And to make sure to institutionalize paradise, they, of course, quickly created a bank and a university.

Still spiritual men and sacred clerics throughout history believed without knowledge—even warning those on the hunt for something else—that to be aware of a certain inner kingdom was the foundation of freedom long built in a man’s heart. And to find that freedom, man had to travel to all ends of the earth just to find himself. And just as Augustine spoke of the path, “it is not with steps, but with yearnings,” to truly find one’s self.

See the journey has always been about moving away from one’s “fallen” condition. The condition in which we are not free to be who we are to be without the need to please. You see, freedom is about the journey and not the arrival. And to finally come to understand that after all this time…

Paradise simply exists in you, the person, the self, the untethered soul, but mind you, it is the radical self in its uninhibited freedom. It’s the beast, stripped of pride, no longer weighed down by the winter clothes of ego, call it a spiritual and enlightened nakedness if you’d like.

It’s instinct unleashed. It’s the soul set free from one’s own stupendous ways. It’s a light within that rises with the sun upon the land of milk and honey. It’s an inner salvation that shivers ticklish up the spine.

Yet how I came to the realization of all of this took thousands of petty mistakes along this journey through the depths of myself. And if I may be exact, it was up until this precise moment. Better late than never one would guess.

Til the next time…

—BeLove

Passing By

The best thing to do with solitude is to play it cool, but today something is heating mine up.

The sky is silver and warm. There is a patch of bare aspen at the bottom of the valley.  The dying limbs sing their song with the wind that can be heard even up here. I hear a machine, a bird, and a clock. The clouds bloom astronomical and cosmic.  Through them the inevitable airliner passes.  It’s undoubtedly full of commuters from San Francisco to Salt Lake.  

What kind of commuters? This I have no need to decide. They are out of my world, way up there, sitting busy in their isolated, arbitrary lounge that doesn’t even seem to be on the move—the lounge that somehow picked them up off the earth in California to suspend them for awhile with instant coffee and timeless cocktails just to bring them back down to earth in sunny Utah.   It’s mere and marvelous, the suspension of contemporary life in contemplation that delivers you somewhere. 

There are other worlds high above me.  Other planes pass over, with more contemplation and complex modalities of concentration.  

I see the armed plane, the warship of the sky with the bomb in it.  It flies lower than the rest.  I look up from the wild, in the direction of the closed bay.  It’s but a pewter-steeled crow pregnant with eggs of destruction below its breast.  A womb easily and instinctively opened by lack of patience!  I do not consider this technological beast to be related to anything I believe in. Much like everyone else, I live in the shadows of these apocalyptic cherubs.

 It is more or less likely that we are being surveyed by it, on an impersonal level.  Its number distinguishes my number.  Are our numbers preparing at some point to correspond in the benign mind of a supercomputer?  Should this concern me, though I live in the solitude of my own soul, out here in the wild, as a reminder that I am free enough to not be given a number?

This is, and there always has been, in fact, a choice.

BE YOU

In an age where there is so much conversation about “being yourself” I reserve to myself the right to forget about being myself, since in any case there is a very vague chance of my being anyone else.  Rather it begins to seem to me that when I am too intent on “being myself” I run the risk of impersonating my own shadow.

Still I cannot pride myself on the freedom of being me, simply because I am living in my own wild.  Should I come to be accused of living in the wild like John Muir, instead of living in the desert like John The Baptist, all I would be able to answer is that I choose not to live “like anyone.” Or “unlike anyone.”  We all love somehow or the other and that is that. It has become a compelled necessity for me to be free to embrace the necessity of the soul of my wild, or in other words, my very own nature. 

I exist under the canopy of a forest wild.  I walk through the woods of myself out of necessity. I am both prisoner and escapee of my own prison. I cannot necessarily tell you why, born in Mississippi, my journey has led me to the foothills just east of Lake Tahoe in western Nevada, the perfected beautiful fusion of both desert and wilderness. I have considered going further, but it is not certainly practical.  It makes no difference.  

Do I have a “day?” Do I spend said “day” in a “place?”  I know these trees here.  I know the birds here.  I know the birds in fact very well; there are precise pairs of a dozen different species chirping in the immediate surroundings of my own expanse.  I share this expanse with them, forming this landscape of ecological balance.  The harmony alone from this gives inspiration to the idea of “home” as a new pattern. 

As to the crows, they form part of a different pattern.  They are strident and self-justifying, like man.  They are not two, they are many, and they are brash with vulgarity.  They fight amongst each other and the other birds in a constant state of war.

BE FREE

There is a mental ecological expanse, too, a living balance of spirits in this corner of my wild. There is room here for so many more songs besides those of the birds.  Of compassion, for instance, or hope, energy, maybe essence, or a newfound delight, or it may just be the dry confusing voice of myself, a half-assed poet with windy promise.   

There is also love, whose climate is perhaps most suited for the climate in this corner of my woods, hot and humid, damn near smothering at times.   It is a climate though that doesn’t warrant a need for explanation.  

It is a good thing to find these feelings deep in these woods, to hear these songs in my own wild, but they also choose themselves to be here in the present in my silence.  In any case, there is no lack of feelings. 

Solitude is cool.  It is a self-sufficient feeling of low definition in which there is little to decide, in which transactions are few and far between, if not non-existent. There are no packages to be delivered, nor do I bundle up packages and deliver them to myself.  There is no intensity.  There is no give and take of questions and answers, problems and solution.  Only prayer.  Problems begin down the hill.  Over there under the waterfall at the fork in the path you will find the solutions.  

BE REAL

Here there are woods, and wolves. Here there is no need for rose-colored glasses.  “Here” does not look to warm itself up with references to “there.”  It is just a “here” for which there is no “there.”  Solitude is cool, calm, and collected.

Community as a whole is a fiery core.  Fiery with words like “must,” “ought,” and “should.”  Community is devoted to high definition projects—“making it all so clear!” The clearer it gets the more clarity must be had.  It branches out.  You have to keep clearing out the branches.  The more branches you clear out the more branches grow.  For each one you cut, back grow four or five more.  On the end of each branch is a big bright-eyed and bushytailed question mark.  

People are running all around with branches of meaning everywhere.  Each to their own is very concerned and anxious to know whether all of the others have received the latest message.  Has someone else received a message that he has not received? Will they be able to pass it on to him? Will he understand it when passed on? Will it be necessary to argue about it? Will he be expected to clear his throat and stand up and say, “Well the way I look at it is my…. way?”  

The best thing to do with solitude is to play it cool, but today something is heating mine up.  They keep thinking that you have a unique message. When they find out you haven’t…Well, that’s up to their interpretation and worry.  Not mine.  I’ve got my own war to win inside.

-BeLove

Wisdom’s Will

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.

In what a way does this valley awake today?  At four-fifty in the morning there is not a single noise except in this sleepy head of mine—the bells ring, thoughts begin.  Outside, nothing, except perhaps the cicadas, singing songs of yin and yang. The surreptitious and ceaseless whooping of a whippoorwill begins about five-fifteen; some mornings she is not always near.  Sometimes there are two whooping together, a mile a way in the wild just west of here.  The sun will soon wake without a worry. 

The first chirps of the waking birds mark the point of that blind, sweet spot of a new day, under a dark and deep sky that is yet to fathom light, except that of the distant sparkles of Heaven.  There is a twinkling of reverence and inexpressible innocence in this moment, when Heaven in perfect silence opens its eyes.  The night sky begins to fill bright with pastels of purple and purpose. 

The birds tweet towards Heaven, not with any kind of fluent song, but with an awakening question that is their dawn, their state at that virgin point of creation.   By the sounds of their condition, they are asking if it is time for them to “be.”  He answers “yes.”  One by one they wake up.  They manifest themselves as what they are, birds, and they begin to sing.  In the present, they will be wholly themselves, and they will fly. 

In the meantime, the most delightful part of the day fast approaches.  That moment when creation thrives in its innocence and asks permission to just “be” once again, as it had to have done on the first day that ever was.

Wisdom has always sought to collect and manifest itself at that blind, sweet spot. That point of innocent creation.  

My wisdom though does not always succeed, for I have fallen into a shoving match with self-mastery and do not seek the permission of anyone.  I have too often faced these mornings with a lost and fearless purpose.  And still I am not entirely sure what that purpose is, but I am breathing, and that means there is still time.  

I know that time is what I have, to often, used as a method to dictate my own necessary terms. I suppose I was born with a inward ticker within my chest that has proven this to me from the very start.  I know what the time is and isn’t important.  I am more than in touch this morning than most days with the inward universal and divine law.  I talk to myself out loud as to what I wish to lay with the day ahead. And if necessary I must maneuver my steps with the necessary adjustments to make me meet whatever it needs.

As for the birds there is not a time that they are aware of, or I’m not aware if they are. But it is at that virgin point between darkness and light, between nonbeing and being, when they awaken.  

I tell myself the time by their waking, this from my experience of timing.  This folly though is left to my own undertaking, and not theirs.  What’s worse than said folly is that I think these birds and this rising sun are telling me something I consider to be useful, for example, it’s six o’clock in the morning. I’ve got to start getting ready for work.

So the birds awake: first the stellar jays and some that I do not know.  Later come the song filled sparrows and pacific wrens.  At last, come the doves and the crows. The waking of crows is most like the waking of myself—querulous, boisterous, fresh, and a little raw.

I listen to the silence of the wild. In the silence I hear an unspeakable secret, spoken with the sun and through the whippoorwill. Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. 

Heaven is all around us and we do not understand.  We cannot see, because with love we do not listen.  It is as wide open and free as this sun saturated valley.  

The blade of reverence is being ripped from our hands, and we do not know it.  Each and every one of us are off, “each to our job and another to their merchandise.” 

Lights on.  Clocks tick. Thermostats rise.  Ovens cook.  Cash registers cha-ching. Smartphones fill the universal radio with static. Reverence for life suffers.

“Wisdom,” cries the morning sun and the birds beacon, though we choose to ignore them.

“But should we?”

—BeLove

Finding Finesse

My real self wanders elsewhere, far away, wanders on and on invisibly and has nothing to do with my life.

When someone goes searching for something, they don’t allow themselves the time to see what they have found. To search means to have a goal.

To find something means to let it be free, to be wild, when you find it. When searching—the goal is all our eyes set themselves upon—unable to see anything else, let alone allow a liberating thought into the mind. The suffocating grip of expectation clutches at our well-being and we lack the ability to see what we truly want without any clarity.

When I started writing again, I was searching for meaning in life. I didn’t feel like I had anything of clout to leave behind. So I searched.

STAY INSPIRED

Now that I look back, meaning was all around me. I just wasn’t looking at it right. Writing was my way of harnessing madness and the self-imposed crises that I stared down in the mirror of myself everyday—and my way of somehow weaving them into a form of inspiration. I thought that maybe I had the ability to turn my life around by volunteering my own self towards the universal dream, and that it would trickle down amongst the rest of you.

But above all else I picked up the pen again to leave my child with a piece of me, a bit of my wisdom, in case if I ever found the Pearly Gates a little earlier than He or I had planned. I thought maybe, just maybe, I could turn things towards a more promising direction for future generations, because in my self-assessment of the shit that surrounded me, I thought the future was doomed.

LOOK WITHIN

I searched nonstop, high, low, and in every nook and cranny for any clue as to what happened to love, where did love go astray?

How could its flames be relit with a passion unlike anything the world had seen. Was unconditional love just a pipe dream? Why was love left to mere ashes, while man fanned the flames with hate.

Both spread like wildfire, so who was the arsonist responsible for the fire of hate set upon love’s wilderness? Somebody is always responsible right? No, my perception was.

And all the while my soul was wandering elsewhere, far and away, it wandered on and on invisibly and wanted nothing to do with my life, yet my ego was thriving. You see love and goodness has always surrounded me. It is only human of me to sometimes focus on the negative instead.

In that never-ending search for my soul, I got lost, very lost. I was looking with inelasticity through myself, as well as all that I saw. I was looking too hard at the extremities of my surroundings, instead of looking into the depths of me. I was looking at the edge of the inner me from those outside, and it made me question my worth. So I went to work.

I was seemingly eager to take the pilgrimage into my own self but never eager to get down and dirty with what I might find. Instead, I would often drown what I found in a bottle of whisky and flush whatever goodness I did find, down the drain of disbelief. I have done it more often than not since I once spoke of the Zen In Zest.

As this whole derogatory approach to my dream has taken an inconsistent shape, it is shaking itself dry, with one line at a time. I still see the dream, and now I know the approach in which I must take.

THE WAY

The other day I took my son to one of the places my heart calls home. It’s one of those places that you don’t get to see everyday but when you do get to see it there is a quaint feeling that touches your heart. It has an effect that ripples through the soul for an eternity.

It’s the river on which I learned to fly fish, which was more rambling about from rock to rock with my head in the clouds, fly stuck in the trees kind of fishing, very similar to someone’s personality you’re growing to know.

That was years ago though, and it was those same years ago that the very wound which still burns within was indeed smote upon the banks of this river. We will not talk about that wound just yet. This story is about healing not suffering.

GOOD VIBRATIONS

As we came to the river, I felt something. It washed over my entire being—the hair upon my arms stood alert with chill bumps, or it is possible they were simply being industrious as progressing towards the sunshine. After scaling the surroundings much in the same way a wolf protects its pack, I saw no signs of impending danger. And I allowed the boy to run as wild as he wished, while for words, I fished.

I sat down upon the banks of that river and stopped listening to myself and allowed the river to overtake my reflection with it. My senses became sharp with the subtle swelling of green, the summer surrounded us, the clarity of the water with its granules of sand lingering between my toes pushed my thoughts to memories I have carried around since my childhood.

I remember the happiness I felt as a child after spinning in the sun all day upon the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. I remember my mother’s beautiful smile, my little sister and the bewilderment of her first time seeing the ocean. I remember the painted airbrush aroma that filled all those little whimsical beachfront markets. I remembered the bright lights and endless echoes of childlike joy from an amusement park once called Miracle Strip.

Everything in this moment of my mind was so gentle, pure, clean, and most important it was real.

SILENCE THE MIND

We were by that river for so long that time must have stopped. I rested with folded hands, while listening and watching him explore his new surroundings without searching for anything particular.

I started to see things in a way I never thought possible. I started to understand through his eyes, that he was teaching me more than I could ever teach him. He didn’t set himself upon any goal, at least not that I am aware of, he was just living in a moment of pure freedom. I saw the simplicity in the valiant wild of his finesse; he was grasping his wild and I must admit I gently wept. As I pulled it together, I started to pray.

I prayed for those that I love dearly, and those that I know are in pain, and those whose hearts are filled with hatred, division and fear. I prayed for him and his future. Then I moved on to myself and as I was wishing for some kind of sign, a burning of the bush, so to speak. Then I prayed for forgiveness, that forgiveness was for myself and from those I’ve hurt in my life.

It was then it came again—that sensation. It was reverberating; my soul had become a conductor of infinite proportions, as a current of electricity sent shockwaves through my entire body. Everything tingled from my head to my toes and my mind—it mingled. It floated away with the timeless stream of the river.

TIME HEALS

Everything was silent, except for the river. The once swiftness and churning of a rushing river had moseyed into a babbling brook. My senses were reeling with the aromatics of a summer’s day, the scent of a blooming wildflower, the purity of gentle stream flowing so clean, and the heat of the sun all coming together, with the finesse of a refined awareness.

The wound inside slowly started to blossom, my soul was ripening with the realization, or the knowledge, as to what wisdom was in all of its practicality. Had I reached the goal of what seemed to be a never-ending search?

You see wisdom is nothing but an eager finesse of the soul, a gift, a secret art to think gently in every moment while living life to the fullest—it is the experience of oneness, to be able to feel love for its divinity and not attachment. And for the first time in awhile, I began to breathe with cohesion.

And then it happened, a memory of pleasantry began to fill my heart with delight and as a tear trickled down my cheek, my mind had officially surrendered to my heart. This tear told me all I needed to know, after all a tear, means that love still lingers.

Getting Lost. Finding Finesse

As something wise was blossoming from that wound deep within me, I opened up an eye and there was the boy within inches of my face staring, smiling at me, like he knew that I was waking up with inner harmony, grasping at the knowledge of eternal love of enlightenment.

As I came to, he looked at me with eyes that I seem to have known my entire life, my own. And out of nowhere he said, “Dad, I love you, but you don’t need to look anymore, you know what to do because its right in front of you.”

In the blink of a teary eye I no longer wanted to give it up, and by the grace of God my child had just shown me the Way.

-BeLove