A Soul’s Opening

“Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet                                                                                      confinement of your aloneness to learn

anything or anyone that does not bring you alive                                     

is too small for you.”                          David Whyte, “Sweet Darkness”

There’s no doubt that the Western Frontier has always been associated with exploration and even facing the great unknowns.  Many left what had been known because of an aching in their own soul, looking for something more in their lives and headed West.  It’s a part of our history as a country but it is also closely associated with a deeper reality of who we are in trying to find our soul in a world that often lacks depth and meaning.  For myself, there has always been a radical opening that takes place within myself when I go West, as if I encounter, for the first time again, the wide and vast area that has yet to be explored or taken over by human innovation, still holding onto the natural that has a way of speaking, or even screaming at times, to places deep within ourselves when we confront in the lived reality what’s really going on within ourselves.  As much as I think I know myself, or God for that matter, I am once again knocked down to a world yet explored, a world unto myself and yet far greater at the same time.

As humans, there is probably nothing that scares us more than confronting those places within ourselves.  At times it seems as if it’s easier to see such vastness and emptiness projected on the frontier to make the task less daunting.  What scares us more than anything is that we may just be proven to be a fraud in our own lives, not living up to the expectations we have placed upon ourselves or others have done for us over time.  Whether they come from the roles we play in our family or in our daily lives, the more we separate ourselves from the last frontier and all it has to offer in exploration, our soul and its vastness, the more daunting it begins to feel to any of us and quite frankly, the less satisfied we become with our lives and the lack of depth and meaning that often becomes associated with it.  It has a way of reminding us of our own shared creation, grounding us in something much deeper than what the world has to offer.

When I spent last week visiting the West, in Colorado, I knew that I couldn’t leave without some time exploring some of the most beautiful spots this country continues to offer, places like Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, Seven Falls, and simply the experience of driving through the high desert area that never ceases to catch you off guard by its unpredictability.  It’s probably the least we can do for ourselves, in our lives, especially when we become so conditioned and domesticated in what we do and when the mundane seems to become the norm of our lives, the loss of mystery, adventure, and unknown, to go out and explore.

So there I was, wandering the Garden of the Gods, at times simply being overwhelmed by the vastness and the intricacies of it all, driving through narrow cutouts, feeling lightheaded by the altitude, a mouth parched from the aridness of the air around, the feeling of being vulnerable as I wander alone in places yet explored.  Will I find my way back to my car?  Do I have enough battery life in my cell phone?  Would someone be able to find me?  Of course, all fear and anxiety I was placing upon myself!  As crazy as it seems, though, the deeper I moved into the area the further I wanted to go, to see, to experience, to understand, as if something within me became enlivened in those moments, knowing that I am no longer bound by the routine and the known, but being invited into the last frontier, the wild west, one more time in my life, and for that matter, my own soul.  For a few moments it seemed to be inviting me to escape it all and reconnect with a deeper reality just now being revealed.  It’s as if, once again, for the first time, you begin to look at life through a different lens that begins to expand and yet mirror how small we sometimes become in our daily lives.

The whole experience was somewhat overwhelming to the point of tears, as if love was revealed again in a different way, a more profound way, and yet questioning whether I could ever accept such a gift that was being revealed in those moments.  In the distance, the snowcapped mountains gleaned, mounds of stone perched, empty vastness that seemed to go on for miles, and there I stood so small before it all and merely an instrument trying to put into words that which could not be described but only experienced, a moment that could never be captured by camera or phone, but one that only speaks soul to soul, that we are dust and unto dust we shall return.  There it was, in a single moment, where all seemed and felt to be one, not wanting to end, not wanting to separate, not wanting to leave but try to absorb a beauty unlike any other.  There I was, not only witnessing what was lying before me but also within me.  It’s times like that when my own fraudulency is revealed and an invitation to go deeper, further, opens up to something more, a deeper understanding of me, God, and love, when what I had become accustomed to no longer was enough but called out for more.

Like most experiences, I go thinking it’s for one reason, to celebrate and vacation a bit, spend time with friends, but a change of place, time, landscape, the normal, has a way of breaking down our own defenses, our own walls we build, to open us up to something new that we could never have expected or even know we desired.  Yet, when the soul becomes dissatisfied and desiring more, it will awaken us to our own complacency and once again invites us to go West, to the great unknown, to open us again to life.  We can all become beat down by life and the challenges that we encounter, relationships that can deflate our souls, but we’ll never be satisfied with anything less than what it desires of and for us.  In those moments of exploration and the loud silence that ensues, we make that promise that we’ll never settle and never be satisfied with anything less for our lives as co-creators with Mystery, with God, with the great unknown that the West has to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pushed Through

Isaiah 2: 1-5; Romans 13: 11-14; Matthew 24: 37-44

In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr gave what would then be his final speech and sermon in Memphis. It is often referred to as the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon and then assassinated the following day. It was often scripture, like the one we hear today from Isaiah about climbing that mountain that inspired such sermons. He used some poetic language in that one along with so many other sermons and prophetic speeches that he had given in his life. One of the images was something along the lines of that it is only in the darkest part of the night that we can truly see the brightest of the stars. For those of us who live in the city that should mean something knowing how much artificial light has a way to swallow up the stars as much as darkness can seem to in our lives. We become reliant on the artificial light that we, at times, begin to believe it’s the true light shining through, almost lulling us into a false trust as we often find ourselves journeying through the darkness.

Now in that speech King was addressing the economic injustices that he so frequently spoke out against, along with racial injustice. Of course, even as a message of hope there were some that could not see beyond their own darkness to embrace a larger heart which will lead to his untimely death. But like the prophetic voices, especially Isaiah whom we will hear from during this season, it was a message of hope that was being delivered. King imagined himself being asked by God as to what period of history he wishes he would have lived. In the end, King said right now. He believed, that despite the darkness of his day, with racial and economic injustices, along with others, that God was trying to break through at this very moment and God was using him to do just that, and to offer hope to people that have become swallowed up by darkness. He does this march through history, beginning with people Israel who knew first hand the plight of suffering and darkness.

Isaiah did as well and this theme of light and darkness will follow us straight through Christmas at this point. Not only have they been led through the darkness of the years wandering in the desert, but also in times of exile, war, famine, and this perpetual moaning to a God who had somehow abandoned them through it all. In the midst of such darkness they begin to despair and lose hope that they will ever get beyond it, or better yet, be able to push through or be pushed through. As it was with King, God grants Isaiah this panoramic vision of life in a time when the people needed it most. Israel once again finds itself at a low point and Isaiah, rather than condemning as can often be done, offers a message of hope, to walk in the light of the Lord, and that, even in their darkest of days, God continued to break through and offer hope to a people that hurt and suffer. Like them, we begin to identify ourselves by our darkness, whatever that darkness may be. We begin to identify ourselves by our sickness, by our cancer. Or we begin to identify ourselves by our unemployment or underemployment. We begin to identify ourselves by our addictions or whatever that darkness may be for each of us. But that darkness is not me and it’s not you.

Paul too continues that theme in today’s second reading to the Roman community. He reminds them to throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. For Paul, it was a motivation to be love to one another and to recognize that this journey through life is one that we do together. If someone finds themselves wandering in darkness, they we are there to push them along and not to give up, to encourage. If we don’t, again, that darkness has a way of taking hold of our lives and we lose that panoramic vision of our lives and begin to despair and no longer believe that this God is not only breaking through in our lives but pushing us through that darkness. I’m mindful of the giving tree here as we also help people in need. We also mustn’t fall for this idea that somehow my darkness is worse or not as bad as others. Darkness is real in our lives, no matter what form it takes. Rather, it is a journey we do as one.

Jesus is preparing his disciples for the greatest of darkness, this experience of his impending death as King did in his speech. It will be one of the few times we actually hear from Jesus during these weeks. That’s why the message these weeks is to stay awake and to awaken from our slumber. The invitation these weeks is to climb that mountain, as difficult as it can be at times, and continue to allow ourselves to be pushed and not be so quick to give into the darkness of despair. Jesus knew it would not be an easy task for his disciples, but it is one that they must do together. They will quickly scatter but eventually find their way back to one another and push through the darkness of death together in order to be light to others.

This season gives us the invitation to take the journey that so many of the prophetic voices have invited us throughout salvation history, like Isaiah and King, along with Paul and Jesus. We are invited to the journey up this holy mountain of our lives and take a panoramic view of who we are and to ask ourselves where we have allowed darkness to define us. Where have we allowed ourselves to be lulled into believe that this darkness in normal and somehow have become a victim of our own circumstances, even questioning, as Israel did, how God could do this to us? When all along and through it all, God continues to break through. King was right in that it often is in the darkest time of the night that the stars shine the brightest, but it us who are called to be that light. We make this journey together, as one, in darkness and in the light. No, we are not the darkness that often defines us, but it is real. We are called to put on that armor of light and to be that light for all who find themselves climbing that mountain in what often seems as the darkest part of their night.

Arrivederci!

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Today is our final day at Sea. We’re currently sailing somewhere in the vicinity of British Columbia, or at least that’s what I believe we were told. It’s a full-day at sea. It’s been a day of final shopping for a few things. It’s been a day of packing and unloading and preparing for disembarking the Island Princess tomorrow morning in Vancouver and then fly out in the evening. Before I do all of that and get on the treadmill of travel to get home, some of this day has just been sitting on the deck of the ship and taking in the quietness of the waters. As a matter of fact, although I can see some land in the far-off distance, it’s pretty much all water and the lapping of the waves beyond us and up against the ship as we sail.

As I write, I’m up on the eleventh deck of the ship so there is much below me. Even as the birds fly by below, they seem so far away from where I sit. I was thinking, though, just how much life is below me here. I don’t necessarily mean the people that are below me on this Ship, although there are more than two thousand on board, but rather the thousands of feet of water that lies below and all that calls that home. We never get to see much of it at all. We were told we’d most likely see whales among other creatures living in these waters, but this time we’ve seen none of it here. We all certainly get credit for gazing toward the horizon, day in and day out, seeking to catch a sight of something, and yet, all I see is the lapping of the waves, both here and far. All I see are the land masses that pop up from time to time and the gulls that seek food below. As much as we can’t see below, I at least know that they can see into the depths as they search for food.

But that is the hard part of any journey and what we call life. It’s, at times, nearly impossible to see what lies below the surface of the waters. We tend to live in a world that seems better suited for what we can see and what lies on the surface rather than seeking something more, rather than taking flight like the gulls, and seeking what it is we are looking for. I even know, that, once I step outside my room here, I will enter another world, so often seeming superficial in trying to buy and sell and shop until you drop on the cruise ship. Now I’m fully aware that it is vacation and there is an element of that for all of us. We like to have a good time, celebrate, and be with friends. But in many ways, coming to my room here has been a sanctuary, sitting out looking over the waters before me calling me back home to myself and to the mystery that I am as well.

We will never completely know what lies before us, beyond us, and even beneath us. Why would we want to anyway. Without some unknown in our lives we no longer have a need for faith and hope. It’s when we stop taking flight out into the great blue yonder or allowing ourselves to enter into the deep waters of our own lives that we become content with what we see and what we know rather than seeking more. It’s the more that continues to enthrall us, invite us, even seduce us to a dissatisfaction with the flashing lights and the latest gadget rather than falling overboard into the depths of the ocean with the faith and hope we need that God too will swoop down and lead us to greater depths and take us to places we’ve never seen.

As this experience draws to a close and I continue to try to take in as much as I can, of all that I can see, I’m mindful of what lies beneath. There too the splashing of the waters lapping against the heart bringing about new life and new opportunities. Sure, the sea often feels the roughest at those moments, but it’s also what makes it exciting and and adventure. There is so much I can see and yet even more so that I cannot. All I can do is continue to accept the invitation as much as I can, without fighting it and allow the depths to take me away to new places, to new realities, to new experiences that are always within reach.

North To The Future

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Today we end our final stop on the Alaskan tour before heading up to Vancouver to head home after two weeks of adventure from gazing at Bald Eagles to trying reindeer for the first time, and even liking it! If you don’t know, Alaska’s State Motto is North to the Future. It was adopted on the centennial of the Alaskan Purchase and is described by Richard Peter, a Juneau journalist at the time, as “a reminder that beyond the horizon of urban clutter there is a Great Land beneath our flag that can provide a new tomorrow for this century’s ‘huddled masses yearning to be free’.”

Ironically, anything that I’ve seen, experienced, and witnessed seems to come in contradiction to what we, in the lower 48, deem as the future. When we think future we think progress and the ever-increasing presence of technology. Yet, most of the time traveling around the state I had very little internet access and phone service for that matter. It seemed as soon as I had the chance it was the first thing I grabbed for, that somehow I had to tell the world what I was doing, seeing, and experiencing here in Alaska. It’s become our way of life in many ways. We begin to adopt this mindset that the rest of the world cares about everything I am doing with my time! It’s easy, as I’ve mentioned in other posts on this trip, to get lost behind the camera and phone and miss what is before your very eyes and allowing it to speak to you and change you in some ways. Maybe the future isn’t all about technology and advancement, but back to the very basics of human contact and relationship and the experiences we share.

For many of us, suburban life has also become part of our way of life. We want to escape the ‘urban clutter’ that Richard Peter referenced and problems that have come to exist in our many cities in the country. There is very little city life, as we know it, here in Alaska. Many of the towns that we visited have no form of government. They manage to work out problems on their own. Of course, that has it’s downside as well when it comes to hospitals and the basic care of the people, which is lacking in many parts. The capital, Juneau, can’t even be accessed by road. In order to arrive in the city you must come by boat or plane. It’s incredible to think, knowing that I can get in the car and drive to Annapolis whenever I want back in Maryland.

At the same time, I don’t want to glorify, idealize, or even somehow romanticize Alaska. We met many who have spent their lives living off the land here and calling it home. Not one said they would ever leave it behind, however, they would also never deny how hard it can be. We have become so accustomed to running to the grocery store rather than living off the land, hunting, fishing. We have often lost that sense of hunter and gatherer that has been in the very DNA of the founding of this country and even prior to becoming a country, Natives who lived the life. Them too, though, we deemed as an obstruction to what we call progress. That doesn’t mean that all progress is bad. In many ways it is necessary and helps humanity. But if we lose the struggle and tension within ourselves of progress and yet remaining grounded, we begin to lose sight of our very humanity and the magnificence of a God that continues to reveal new ways of relating, understanding, and simply being ourselves.

Progress does not always mean getting better, despite that we’ve often equated them that way. Progress as humans on this journey, keeping our eyes on the future, means so often falling and facing defeat and finding within ourselves the hope to get back up, learning from it all, and growing deeper in love. When we view it through that lens so much of the other stuff just doesn’t seem to matter and can even go days without a phone or internet. It’s amazing to think that it wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t even have that ability and yet we somehow think we can’t live without it. We can.

This was always a ‘bucket list’ trip for me and I don’t even know what would be next. It’s the one place that I have always felt drawn to visit. There was a mystery to it all being so far away from the lower 48, even, at times, feeling like I was in another country! It was a lot of traveling, miles and miles of traveling, viewing, reflecting, experiencing, laughing, among other things, but it in no way has disappointed. One of the best things about it, that mystery is still there. There really is a mystique to the place like none other. Maybe it is the fact that it remains so undeveloped in a world where we can’t go a mile without another building, Wal Mart, or Starbucks, so often showing my own selfishness and ‘better than’ attitude. We have become so accustomed to convenience that we have so often become less patient and so impulsive, thinking we can have what we want and when we want it.

In many ways, Alaska has slowed me down and quieted me down. One of the hardest things is going back, knowing that the chatter of work and life will soon take over. That’s not to say that they don’t have their own version of it all, but this time, as hard as it is to believe at times, especially considering the fact that I’m currently sitting on a Princess Cruise ship, was a time of pilgrimage into the often ruggedness of my own soul, from the icy glaciers, the deep, blue waters, and the wild peaks of Denali. It’s all here and it’s all within me now as well, catching a glimpse of the way God not only creates the world but continues to recreate me with each experience. I

n some ways, Alaska probably is the Future, but not in the ways we have come to expect. It may, at times, be considered the last frontier, but after spending time here, I can say it’s more the beginning of a frontier to a deeper reality of the mystery of our lives and the frontier journey we’re all invited into in our lives. As they can tell you here, life really is what you make of it. Sometimes the more we think we need to advance and make progress comes at a great cost. As a country and world we have to ask ourselves what really is most important and just because we can do things doesn’t mean we should. What’s most important is relationship, encounter, experience, human contact, life. We truly have all we need for our future. Can we now accept the invitation to live counter-culturally and find value in what matters most in our lives? That’s really the question and reflection for all of us in this life.

A Salmon’s Journey

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Now I already know what you’re thinking in regards to salmon. There’s probably one fact that everyone knows about them and that’s that they swim upstream. Big deal. But if that’s all you know, you probably don’t know much about what it is so many eat. And by the way, I don’t ever recommend visiting a salmon hatchery before you go to a salmon bake! If you don’t believe me just try it.

So alright, they swim upstream. Actually, it’s rather fascinating to watch them in the streams trying to do this, as if they were holding onto something with dear life. It looks somewhat abnormal and tiring in a way. It seems to explain why bear are such a predator to them being that it looks like you can just stick your hand in and grab one…although I’m sure it’s not that easy. There’s also the fact that they lay their eggs at the time when they are swimming upstream. Once they are born and ready to head out to salt water they will spend anywhere from one to five years out in the ocean waters, swimming thousands of miles, before returning where their lives began. It’s a rather fascinating story that they return to where life began, to the beginning. Whether they know it or not, though, it’s also the beginning of the end of their lives. When they return, if they are lucky enough to return, to the stream where their lives began and eggs are deposited and fertilized, it marks the end of their lives. It truly is the beginning of the end of the salmon’s life. As soon as they give life in this way they can die, and we saw several simply floating, dead, but also become dinner for so many.

It’s a rather fascinating story and of course can teach us about our own lives as well. I would hope when I come closer to the anticipated end of my own life that I still wouldn’t be fighting to swim upstream. It seems like a lot of work from one end of the spectrum. When we’re young it still feels that way sometimes. We’re still trying to give birth to something new in life, trying to recreate ourselves and redefine who we are. All of which can be a lot of work. It feels quite often as if we are swimming against the tide while at the same time trying to swim with it, adapting, adjusting to new environments, trying, so often, to feel free! Yet, that feeling of swimming upstream can lead to new adventures and opportunities as we grow up and almost seems necessary.

However, as we age, the swim upstream seems to change with us, or should as we grow older. We no longer should feel the need to fight the current so much and learn to accept so much of what comes flying by us, whether upstream or downstream for that matter. We no longer have to take things so seriously. As the salmon age and return home, a journey which probably seems long and arduous, they begin to lose their silvery color. In many ways they become more beautiful and probably even more noticeable in the water, maybe as a sign of the journey that they have made over their short life span. There’s always that part of us that wants to make a difference, wants to give life in a generative way, and as we grow in wisdom, we begin to learn that it’s not so much about swimming upstream or fighting the current, but rather about letting go.

Maybe deep down all those salmon out there today know what it means to make the journey home, to where it all began. What began on the bottom of the creek always is calling them back to their true home and their truest place. It is there that they not only encounter and give life, but in such paradox, where they also face death. In a short span they model the extremes of our own lives. Where we so often avoid and fear death. They learn to embrace it and are called to that place that when new life forms death is inevitable. Maybe it’s not so much the salmon that know all this but we sure do from our own journey’s in life. The more we hang on the more we seem to cling to death, get stuck, become jaded towards life, when in the simplicity of letting go, yet there is nothing simple about it, new life forms and the cycle begins again and for us humans on this journey of moving up and down stream in our lives, mystery deepens and continues to call us home as well, to the home not only in the depths of our being but so far beyond and so much mystery that we can never completely see or understand the journey home.

Glacial Sanctuary

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This is the first post I’ve been able to do since boarding the cruise. The blessing and curse of this experience, and certainly cruising up here in Alaska, is there’s been very little phone connection and even less internet connection! There’s a gift in being able to disconnect in that way and reconnect with the world around you. Even as I type this, I’m looking out into Glacier National Park, chunks of ice floating around me and the sunshine beckoning so many different shades of blue, among others, all around me.

Before we arrived in Glacier, we listened to one of the Park Rangers here explain what it is we were going to see and experience, but he also pointed out his own experience and moving from Virginia to Alaska with his family and living without any regrets. He mentioned that people come for a variety of reasons, but once here something begins to happen. There truly is that disconnecting from the wide world and reconnecting with a world that is so often beyond words and often only experienced. Even typing this I know I want to say something but I know fully I can never express what it is I have experienced here in Glacier.

There are also a wide range of animals that migrate here each year, none other than the hump back whales. You would think, why on earth would they migrate from the stark beauty of Hawaii and travel thousands of miles to glacier country in Alaska. But like many of us, this too has become sanctuary for them. It is the place they come to be fed. It is the place they come to give birth to their young. The glaciers provide a safe haven for them to come, not only for that place of sanctuary, where birth can take place, but also the sustenance that they need for the continued journey. As crazy as that sounds, there is even a species of bird that flies from Antarctica to glacier country in the summer for the same reason only to prepare them for the journey that is to come as the weather begins to change here and ever so slightly, nightfall begins to return to the land of the midnight sun.

It’s quite the spectacle of not only learn about but also witness with my own eyes and heart. As I step out on deck right now, sailing down Glacier Bay, all I can hear is the sound of the sea gulls, the gentle flow of the water below, and from time to time, the crashing of pieces of glacier into the chilly waters. That alone is a spectacle to witness in this sanctuary as the thunderous roar awakes you from a nap, a sanctuary of my own, of sorts.

There’s been nothing quite like it in my experience, what it is I have seen up here in Alaska. Beyond vacation and a bucket list trip, I am amazed of the never-ending places I have called home in that sense, that brings you back to your core as a person, to a personal sanctuary that connects you in ways that you sometime lose in the day to day life. From the hustle and bustle of city life, work, relationships, and all that comes with it, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s available to us and what has been made available to us not only by a God that creates in such a way and allows us to participate in this great wonder, but also the many people and generations that have gone before that have made these lands a priority for what they are, a place of sustenance and sanctuary for so much wildlife but also for everyone that has been given the opportunity to step foot on land and ice over the years, and now myself included among them.

Like life, it can all be so fickle. As beautiful as it is cruising by right now, I also know the weather in this sanctuary can change in an instance. With great, high peaks around us, weather has a tendency to get caught up, raining down clouds, fog, and even some wet snow these days. Yet, despite it all, we keep returning and they keep returning to a place that is so much more than a vacation destination. For those of us who do sometimes get caught up in the rat race of life, myself included, it’s easy to lose sight, even when you try to make mystery a priority in life.

With each passing day it seems as if we move ourselves further away from what’s most important, and I have made note throughout this trip that we’ve been lucky enough to miss both political conventions, and we seem to have such short-term memory when it comes to this great mystery and what we’re called to in life. But in these moments, and the opportunity to share it in these words, coming to what is sanctuary for so many living beings, provides the space to disconnect in order to reconnect to the sanctuary that provides the eternal sustenance we desire in life. If it works for whales and birds traveling halfway around the globe to come to this place, then why not for us. The paradox of it all, we should’t even have to leave the confines of our own home and yet we do and so we did to come to this glacial sanctuary that offers warmth and care to so many.

A Wilderness Solitude

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Wilderness appealed to those bored or disgusted with man and his works. It not only offered an escape from society but also was an ideal stage for the Romantic individual to exercise the cult that he frequently made of his own soul. The solitude and total freedom of the wilderness created a perfect setting for either melancholy or exultation. ~ Roderick Nash

Today is our final day on the land portion of the trip to Alaska and begin the transition to the ship early tomorrow morning. For the final day I opted to set out on a guided nature tour down the Cooper River with our guide, Blake. It provided a little more time to simply sit and be in the presence of the majestic nature that surrounded us, from snow-capped mountains to the depths of the forested national park that surrounded us on the ride.

I’ve been so struck by the number of young people and listening to their stories of what brought them here to Alaska in the first place. So many started with doing similar type trips at some point in their lives and then find their way back for one reason or another. The same was true with this guide who spends the rest of the year in Minnesota with his wife but still manages to come here for ten years to work the river in one capacity or another, from salmon fishing to white water rafting with visitors from around the world who come here to Alaska seeking something. What may start as a vacation for some turns into something much more when they encounter the vast lands that continue to speak volumes and for generations to come.

Blake mentioned how is father has given him a hard time over the years, wanting him to use his college education to be a part of the work force, in the corporate world. I’m guessing that’s what many parents would expect of their sons and daughters. He did it for a time and yet never felt satisfied, as if there were something more for him that exceeded the expectations of his father and his education. It was amazing just how much he knew that river, every twist and turn that led us further down and deeper into the forest. He knew it. He feels it. He lives that river like nothing else and keeps returning despite the demands and expectations to “grow up”, whatever that might mean.

There’s something inviting about the river. Those that know me know that the river has not always been my friend over the years. After nearly losing my life while white water rafting nearly thirteen years ago now, I feared returning to it, despite it often calling my name to return. I may never white water raft again, but I haven’t allowed myself to be paralyzed by fear to return in one way or another. Today was yet another one of those days and listening to Blake speak about it reminded me today just how strong the current can be within us to seek adventure and take risk in our lives, even if it means breaking down the stereotype of what we have called success to live a fuller life, one that continues to feed us in a way that many others will just never understand.

I have found that it is practically necessary to return to nature, even when it has arisen fears within us that we feel will paralyze us for life. I think about Phil the other day who had been attacked by the grizzly in Denali. He may have to face the aftershocks of such an encounter over the course of his life, but it’s not going to stop him from living from that deeper place, that place that runs deeper than fear, the river that runs deep within our soul, yearning to be emptied into the vastness of the sea that continues to feed.

As much as it has been a place that I have had to face my own mortality, the encounter and experience of water remains the place that grounds my very being. Maybe it’s because I have witnessed its power and has taught me to reverence and respect it. Watching it flow so quickly around me today reminded me of the strength that it has to bring about life and death, so often when we least expect it. Yet, there we were, snow-capped mountains, freezing water temperatures, trees in full bloom, and trying to take it all in at the same time. The vastness of the lands around us pale in comparison to the vastness of what landscape of the soul that lies within. Sure there are parts of us that will terrify and feel as if we’re out of control, but a trip down the Cooper today reminded me that it’s not just me but all of the natural world that continues to be invited into deeper mystery and when we can finally begin to let go and accept it, all we can feel is the wind blowing through our hair taking us to places we never could have imagined!