Canyonlands, Moab

Canyonlands

  I just finished reading You are A Badass, by Jen Sincero. I wasn’t really looking for a self help book, but this one just came to me, and I am so glad it did.  For the most part, I feel so full in my life right now. Genuinely happier than I had felt in a long while.  I have the least materialistically that I have ever had, but I have what I need, and I have a few simple fun wants, turned reality, that make my life a little more fun…. 4-wheel drive, a bike rack, a mountain bike, a cool dog, a fun relationship, a gold sofa... In the book she talks a lot about the Source Energy, whatever this means to you- the universe, God, all that is and all that is connected. She makes note of how when you were a kid, you just knew how to be. You came into the world knowing your true self, because that was all that you were. No extra external factors had, at that point, told or shown you otherwise. Not only that, you were who you are because your brain hadn't even physically developed in a way that your subconscious memory tank could yet be affected. 

Many of my favorite moments form this recent desert hiking adventure were because of a 13 year old boy that showed all of us what to do and how to be. Seeing and feeling the negative effects of a computer age, the ultimate energy sucker as I sometimes refer to it, social media in our lives and our kids, and its effects in life, relationships, etc. That kid showed a group of grown up kids what to do and what we should be doing more often, like waking-up first thing, exploring every rock nook and cranny, chasing lizards, picking up snakes (only after consulting with his father, of course), planning out his next breakfast on the highest rock, asking questions, being excited about this alien like landscape we were we lucky enough to be present in. We had hit the mother load!  Surrounded by good ‘ol mother nature, natural beauty, soil and rocks that had formed over thousands of years. We were face to face with the source energy!! 

Going on this trip and coming across this book, made me think more about what we are doing here.  If  aliens did come back from say, a 7000 year hiatus, what would they say about us? Their first visit since humans were just figuring out the wheel.  While hiking, we laughed at this possibility. If aliens came to visit, to see how humans had progressed since the time of the wheel, and if they landed in the desert at this very moment, they would probably first run into this skinny guy walking along the hiking trail with a metal pole, skin fully covered with sun protective clothing, not even a toe left exposed, with the exception of his face which is so thickly caked on with sunscreen that a laser beam wouldn’t even stand a chance of permeation. They would continue to walk and next come across eight people soaking and cooling their feet in the same stream were they were pumping their drinking water. After their findings they would then turn and agree "Let’s give them another few thousand years…”

As I said earlier, I am genuinely happier than I have been in a long while, but I took a little time, some waking-up, some life changes and self analyzation and exploration to get here. Though I am happy, I feel like I am just getting started. While life will never be perfect, I can still improve and grow in this big life I have. Bringing all this Source Energy, find-the-kid in you, happy alien talk full circle now… In 'You are a Badass’ she suggest an exercise that I love..’Imagine that you are an alien floating around in outer space and you suddenly swoop down to Earth and inhabit you own body.”  Well, this is going to be fun… “As the alien, everything about this life is new and exciting to you…As the Alien, what do you see? What is this person good at, what does he/she love to do? ….As the alien, and everything being new and exciting, there is no past, no risk, nothing to lug around. As the alien, what are you going to do with this incredible new life? What fabulously awesome thing will you create with this new body while you are here?”  Well, first, I’m going to go climb this rock;) 

 

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Cumberland Island, GA

Boarding the “Lady Cumberland” ferry, I wandered how in the hell I managed such a heavy bills bag for only three days of camping with me, myself, and I. Before boarding, two others and I were given a brief island orientation. I was excited. More excited than I had been over anything in a while. I got there early for God’s sake. I am never early. I had wanted to visit Cumberland Island for a while but my eagerness was fuled, like jet-fuled,  after reading the book Untamed and the fascinating life of Carol Ruckdeschel - A real life character. A girl who hated the way the lace from her Sunday dress rubbed against her legs and would sneak out of church to feed the stray cats with the leftovers she had hidden there. Yes, tell me more.... An environmentalist, a naturalist, a biologist, a turtle expert, DOR (Dead on Road) culinary connoisseur, wild horse riding, whiskey drinking, gun shooting badass. In contrast, on the island you also had the remnants of extreme wealth and the superfluous lifestyles of the steel tycoon Carnegie family. Both extreme degrees of living at opposite ends of the spectrum and both existing like this vitruvian macrocosm, each seeming unable to exist without the other.

After orientation, I grabbed my bags and off I went. On the ferry, thinking both about the history of the island and my own feelings of being at home.  Literally returning home to Georgia and where I grew up. A place that is so comfortable an familiar to me. Now having a different perception and deeper appreciation and coming back to explore it in a different way. Stepping onto Cumberland I was like a kid in a candy store.  I grabbed my map and the only remaining cart with functioning wheels and headed off to my camp site. Zig-zagging through the palmettos, canopied oaks and hanging moss I was enchanted. My site offered a small foot trail that lead up the giant dunes to my own private patio. A view of the dunes and the ocean, my patio also later became a star gazing and solo 'My Morning Jacket' dance party platform. Another story for another day...

I set up my tent, threw my food in the raccoon proof food box, and off to the beach I went. I emerged from under the oak canopy and seventeen miles of beach stretched out in front of me. Not a single other soul in site. I walked leisurely for about fifteen minutes and realized that I still had on my shoes. What the hell? On the beach with shoes on? What’s wrong with me? Have I become and inlander? Gasp. I ditched my shoes and walked for a while collecting shells, taking photos, and breathing in the thick humid coastal air. Understanding more and more what all the fuss over this island was all about. Walking and thinking more about the now seemingly petty details and worries in my life. I found a sharks tooth and skipped, elated, back towards camp. Before returning to my site, I took my seashell bounty and a beer I had shoved in my pack, sat and dug my toes in the sand and watched the sun melt behind the dunes. Content and open to what a beautiful place I had come to, ready and looking forward to whatever other small adventures may come my way while visiting here. If I found a sharks tooth my first afternoon, imagine the possibilities! 

Over the next few days I had the most surreal simple adventures. Barefoot bike rides, random trail photo shoots and conversations with visitor and island employees, self-reflection, more beach walks, sunsets, mansion tours, wild turkey and feral horse encounters...a wild island with a bizarre mix of industrial tycoon vs. wilderness, but still offering a happy peaceful solitude. Thank you Cumberland. I will be back. 

"At our core, we hunger for something deeper. We long for contact with raw wilderness, where we can see our connection to the bigger picture. In wilderness, we find something far greater than ourselves.” Carol Ruckdeschel 

Thank you also to Big Agnes, Poler Stuff, Red Hare Brewing and Novo Coffee for making my stay more comfortable. And to the author of Untamed, Will Harlen for taking the time to write your book, and to Carol Ruckdeschel for allowing him to share your story.

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