Authors

The 8-day Wilderness Canoe Immersion

 It’s Fox here and I’d like to share about my experience in the first session of the 8-day Wilderness Canoe Immersion, a course designed and guided by Abel Bean with the Teaching Drum Outdoor School.

Check him out:

He’s been dreamin’ about this course for ten years. Participants learn:

  • Basic and advanced canoe maneuvering techniques
  • Efficient paddling methods
  • Stealth canoeing
  • Scouting for the best campsites
  • Making fire by friction and advanced fire tending
  • Navigating the wilderness without the help of a compass or GPS (lost-proofing)
  • Predicting the weather without instruments
  • Primitive cooking (without the help of pots, pans, or utensils)
  • Setting up a cordless tarp for shelter
  • Wildlife tracking

I signed up knowing very little about any of the above skillset; mine looks more like playing guitar (half-assed), tent camping, riding a bicycle, etc…However I’m no stranger to a canoe and I do love the river. Our group was 7 people: Abel, Amanda, and OdeMakwa, along with myself and three other men of varying experience and reasons for joining. Surprisingly I did feel some anxiety coming into the experience, not only to face the challenge of learning these new skills, but to live and work as a team with this group of characters for 8 days in the wild sounded terrifying.

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Our objective: To spend one week on the Pine River with the bare essentials for survival on a guided canoe immersion in the Headwaters Wilderness of the Chequamegon-Nicolet Forest -Wisconsin Northwoods.

My equipment: A solo canoe, paddle, tarp, sleeping bag/blanket, clothing, towel, knife and sheath, water filter, brushes (tooth and hair), pencil, and journal.

**While there was an emphasis on wilderness survival and canoeing skills, we were also guided towards a deeper relationship with ourselves and the natural world through team building and dream sharing.

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Each day began at first light, we woke up under our cordless-tarp shelters, on the ridge above the frosty lowlands along the river below. We gathered in a circle around the hearth for a fire and the morning dream share. What’s that, you say? Well here’s a real dream that I had and shared with the group during our experience:

~We’re on the beach, Christina and I, she smiles and laughs and then her sister walks by rubbin’ her belly and for the first time it’s obvious to me that she’s pregnant, her sister that is. I voice that to Chris and she nearly slaps me; smiles are long gone replaced with anger like I called her sister fat cuz she’s not pregnant and I’m a dick. ~

I woke up feeling frustrated. By sharing a dream like this with the others out loud, I began to learn that the feelings in dreams are most important and I’m guided to look at each character within the dreamworld as an aspect of me in the waking life. I am the one who sees the obvious but feels misunderstood; I’m also the one who’s easily offended, and I’m even the one who walks by having an impact on others without knowing. So maybe in my real life, I continue to encounter situations where I think I’m right about something while someone else has an opposing viewpoint and frustrations ensue. To come to an understanding like this through dream recall and to share the process with the others each morning was one of my favorite parts of the canoe adventure. More on dreams later…

Before we left our first camp, we learned how to set up cordless tarps as shelters. I can definitely see this coming in handy in the future when stealth camping.

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Next we learned about our solo canoes, how to carry them, how to get in without tipping, and basic paddle techniques.

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Abel showed us how to stand in the middle for balance and how to sit cross-legged in the bottom of the boat.

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It wasn’t long before we all had the hang of it and loaded our boats to push off for the next camp.

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We crossed a dozen beaver dams like the one below…industrious little critters.

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We found a potential spot to camp so we brought the boats on land. First we scouted the area and found our hearth location. Next we set up shelters and then we took care of our water. We found fresh water springs and drank from the earth. The food always comes last. Our cooking was done over the fire, no matches, no pots, no pans.  We ate venison, fish, roasted fat, cabbage, leeks, squash, peppers, nuts, fruit, etc…Yup, that’s a deer head on a stick. You won’t find that at the state fair.

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“He sat by the fire with a roasted head in his lap and put on his reading glasses before he cracked the skull open with a rock. I ate some of the brain; we nibbled on the nose; the ears were crunchy; I tasted the tongue and he popped an eye ball in his mouth.” -from my journal

More deer head? Nah, I’m not a big fan. I do appreciate how the entire animal is honored though, everything can be used. We used the skin for raw hide which became the string for our bow drills. We each had the chance to make our own fire kit. To bring flames to life the old way instills a new respect for the power that comes with a small coal.

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We saw geese flying south and found our cardinal directions with the rising and setting of the sun. Using these directions, we hiked as a group through the forest without a compass and we came upon a fall zone where severe weather had caused a down burst of wind and rain that flattened 1,000 trees. Abel tells us about the history of this forest and why it’s so lumpy. We learned to read the clouds as they come in low and fast. What might that mean for the weather?

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We pay attention to the trees. The Birch and it’s wonderful bark and the Cedar of course, the Aspen and her short life, the White Pine towering over them all with her teardrop-top which was shaped by the prevailing winds, and the golden needles of the Tamarack. The Balsam Fir (your Christmas tree) is a favorite. Her flat boughs can be quite comfortable to sit on around the fire or you can place them under your sleeping bag for extra padding. The needles have an antiseptic value and work great for cleaning hands. The trunk of the tree has blisters filled with sap and that pitch is more effective on cuts than any salve you can buy at a drugstore. I saw the blood moon eclipse through a small hole in the forest canopy.

This all sounds great but it wasn’t easy out there and we did have conflicts.

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How’s that for a look of frustration? Wanna fight? I usually run from confrontations. It’s always been a challenge for me to confront people calmly without blaming or shaming; it seems far easier to avoid those encounters and to take responsibility for my own frustrations. This might be why I like to work alone? Speaking up in the moment with a clear, concise and respectful truth is a skill I wanted to develop further while on this adventure.

Having Amanda along on the canoe immersion was a blessing and she’s been a great teacher for me. She and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum with many of our personality characteristics. Where she’s enthusiastic I’m skeptical; I have a need to be heard and she struggles with listening; she wants to be engaged with planning and strategy and I desire spontaneity; she dives into the details of a situation and I look at the big picture…the list goes on. As you might imagine, her and I got into some dynamics out there but through conflicts with Amanda I’m coming to know myself better and I see that maybe we’re not so different. At the root of it all, we both believe we’re right and we both show attachment to our own way of seeing things, like Christina and I in the dream I shared earlier. So through this relationship I see a place to heal old wounds, to lose attachment, to open up and truly listen; I see a powerful opportunity to speak my truth and communicate clearly with empathy and understanding; I see a chance to greatly improve my ability to get along with others and to be more comfortable and effective in a team work environment. These are the most valuable lessons I learned during the canoe immersion. Just like the dreamworld, every character in my life is an aspect of me and I’m grateful for the guidance I’m receiving. I learned a lot out there with this group.

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canoe

My dreams were vivid on our last night and this one seems worth sharing here too…

I had lunch with mom and sis in a busy corner cafe. The line stretched out the door as we finished and left. On the way out we ran into my friend Alyssa who I embraced. Mom and sis parted ways and I said farewell and began walking down a steep sidewalk. It reminded me of the hills in San Francisco. I felt like I forgot something so I turned around but then it was clear that I hadn’t forgot anything. Right then my shoes seemed to sprout wheels and I started cruisin’ down the hill. I did a 360 and jumped a curb. I took off and flew high above the road. On the way down, I felt a little scared as the ground approached fast but I totally landed it and I woke up with that.

As I look back at the canoe immersion, it all feels like a dream. Now that I’ve returned to the school and I’m back in the flow, it’s time for me to use what I’ve learned -time to stick this landing.

Coming into the course I had some doubts about leaving behind my responsibilities for a week and I wondered if I should spend the tuition on other things. Would it be worth it? Now that it’s all over I can honestly say it was totally worth it! One day I’d like to use these new camping skills on another bicycle tour and it’s always been a dream of mine to have a long-distance canoe trip with my father when he retires. It’s gonna be sweet to share some of these skills with him.

If you’re interested in participating in a course like this, visit: http://teachingdrum.org/

**Photographs courtesy of OdeMakwa

Vulnerability

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Dear Friends,

I was laying in bed the other morning -manic- and I couldn’t get up. Crippled with a stream of negative thoughts that clouded my usually positive outlook, I just kept laying there, miserable. The Fox Trails just turned 1 and after promoting the book for an entire year, I’m finally realizing that it has a bunch of mistakes in it. And I’m not just talking about the many questionable choices I made during the course of the adventure, I’m also referring to missing words, a few grammatical mishaps, and a horrible font. I just sold a ton of books too so these errors are on my mind now.

I imagine the reader’s judgements; they terrify me. However, not one person has come to me after reading the book to give me a harsh review.  Still though, I was laying there in my bed, stressed out and worried that these errors might prevent people from seeing the beauty behind the imperfections. I was scared that the mistakes might stand out more than the truth within.

I wanted to share this vulnerability with you; I think there’s a parallel here and a metaphor for relationships. When I judge someone on their issues or their imperfections, I build a wall between us. I’ve found that when I have the courage to push passed my fears and to knock that wall down (or at least see through it), something beautiful waits for me on the other side. It’s like me looking for the perfect woman (perfect woman you say?)…if I don’t have compassion and understanding to see through what I perceive to be flaws, I won’t have relationship; I’ll be constantly searching for what’s ‘out there’ rather than engaging with what’s right here.

This doesn’t mean that we have to settle for something subpar or squint our eyes to see the potential of a situation -we can engage fully with what is, right now. To get beyond our egoic mind and our judgements, to break down the walls we build, to see through the scariness, without this approach, how many enjoyable books and beautiful people will we dismiss prematurely?

I have the gift (and the curse) of being able to share deeply without much preparation, whether that be a public presentation or some improvised music for an audience, even publishing a book. I’m honored to share that with you as a part of my process and I hope it’s encouraging… throw it out there, make some mistakes, take a chance and be real, be vulnerable, be adventurous. In the next post, I’ll be discussing the idea of Animal Guides (spirit animals) and the gifts they bring us. Until then…

Happy Trails,

-MJ

P.S. I’m currently revising The Fox Trails book 1 and I’ll be releasing an updated version with a fresh font and a thorough polish. I have a number of speaking engagements on the calendar this summer at local libraries and such. I’ll be giving readings and book signings with live music and a photographic tour of my bicycle trips.

Adventures with Greyhound

Greyhound Bus

Dear friends,

Not that I’m trying to smuggle guns or drugs, but the Johnny-Depp-in-Blow days are long gone and airport security remains in full-patriot force like 9/11 just happened. The Atlanta airport is especially crazy and now that I’m preparing to leave the city, did I choose to take the bus or a plane? I chose the bus and here’s why…I’m cheap for starters. The bus ticket was $125 and the flight would have been $350, plus baggage. Being that I’m not in a hurry, it’s no contest; thrifty wins. When I travel by air I do prefer to fly first-class though, so that I can drink heavily and steal those tiny blue blankets (which I use as fancy scarves). It’s true, airports are among my least favorite places to be, but Greyhound Bus Depots are right up there too. However, the bus station doesn’t have metal detectors or drug-sniffing dogs, and the threat of terror is, well…sort of exciting to me.

It’s a 30-hour trip north and the bus can be a wild ride, but this is far from my first rodeo. For anyone that’s never rode a Greyhound, one thing is bound to happen if you do: you will meet some characters. I’ve had confrontations with horrible mothers; I’ve listened to the stories of elderly men reliving their glory days; I’ve snuggled with temporary girlfriends between transfers; I’ve waited for hours in depots on layovers and wandered the worst parts of America’s dirtiest cities; I’ve witnessed shoplifters get arrested on fuel stops; I’ve smoked pot with complete strangers; I’ve read more books than some people will read in their entire adult lives, all on weird bus trips.

 Unfortunately, America’s fast-food industry is a major sponsor of Greyhound and the bus makes frequent stops at these sorry excuses for dining. Pack a lunch, or take the opportunity to fast and cleanse your system. Your belly will thank you. Not eating food for a stretch can be highly beneficial for your stomach and for your body, much like not thinking thoughts can provide your mind and spirit with a break from the ego. Fasting and meditation can do wonders for consciousness, but the bus is a challenging place to practice mindfulness. Someone is bound to use the on-board bathroom after a Big Mac attack, stinking up the cabin from the back to the front. You’ll smell the farts of neighbors and the bad breath of the snoring passenger next to you as she unconsciously leans on your shoulder and drools. You’ll feel the kicks of the nervous feet twitching on the back of your seat. You’ll overhear the egotistical phone conversations of people who like the sound of their own voices. You’ll be offered drugs you’ve never tried and denied those that you’d like to use to numb your pain. You will be hit on, by men and women. You’ll quite possibly lose a piece of luggage, misplaced during a transfer. I would strongly suggest that you keep your valuables with you at all times. I also recommend that you pay attention to where the tires are and never choose the seats above them. The vibrations from the wheel wells provide for a nearly unbearable ride on bumpy roads. There is no first-class tickets on the bus folks; pick your seats wisely because you’re in for the long haul.

“Thank you for choosing Greyhound,” the driver says as he directs our attention to the front of the bus. He gives us a run down on the rules for the ride and some social advice that everybody seems to hear as an invitation to immediately headbutt. He does his version of a flight attendant’s safety precautions with hand motions and mumbled speech over the old-school radio…“There will be absolutely no drinking on this bus,” he says, and glug-glug goes the bottle behind me with a belch. “There is a bathroom on the back of the coach if you need to use it. Do not throw trash in the toilet! There are garbage cans at the front and the back for that. Please clean up your wrappers and don’t make a mess,” he says, and someone shoots a spitball in his direction missing terribly but hits the old woman in front of me right on the left ear. Undeterred, he says, “Also, please keep your cellular phone conversations to a volume that won’t disturb those in your general area. People do not want to hear your personal business,” and a woman a few seats back tells her lover on the other end of the phone that she fucked his best friend and that he is not the father of their child. The driver shakes his head in disgust and sits at the wheel. I feel like I’m on the way to a high school wrestling meet…

Hopefully the bus doesn’t get hijacked like in that movie, The Siege. I don’t wanna have to go all Denzel Washington on any terrorists (my body could be weak from fasting), but a strong hero tale would add some excitement to the story of my return. I’ll let you know when I arrive safely. Did you know Greyhound turned 100 last year? Check out this article (or at least read the words in the link if you won’t click it) and give the bus a try next time you’re in the mood for some adventurous travel. http://www.boston.com/business/news/2014/05/21/greyhound-turns-hijackings-accidents-decapitation-and-now-wifi/LwRQxSRlZdh4WVITtCNsrO/story.html

Happy Trails,

-MJ

Another Bittersweet Farewell

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Dear friends,

This is about love, and the journey home…

My time in the South is nearly over again and I’m preparing to say another bittersweet farewell. The weather is exceptional, quite the contrast to where I’m going. I can hear the birds sing as I write this. I migrated to Georgia in the fall to work on book 2 of The Fox Trails trilogy, and to study as well. I did much of both, and some amazing things have happened in the last two months. A stranger at the Salvation Army gave me a bicycle. He planned to give it to the store but donated it to me instead. I’ve rode it all around the outskirts of Atlanta and made countless ten-mile white-knuckle trips to the library. The roads here aren’t meant for biking though. Traffic is relentless and unforgiving; no where else in the country have I felt so endangered on two wheels. Biking is a huge part of my life -a true love- and it seems like maybe this place wasn’t meant for a guy like me.

You can’t easily put a lady on the back of a bike and women do tend to like a man with more money than I care to carry. I have found romance in my travels across the country on bicycle, but it’s always been short-lived and a thing of the moment. I’m just passing through, lets have some fun. I’m appealing as a wanderer; there’s no risk of attachment. I bring charisma, a wealth of experience, and the entertainment of song and story. Love and I are no strangers, but that level of trust and appreciation takes time to develop and I haven’t been still long enough to have a depth in relationship like that for many years. You might say that I sacrificed my chance to have deep romantic love when I chose a nomadic lifestyle. Maybe that kind of love wasn’t meant for a guy like me.

A funny thing happened here around the time I was gifted that bicycle. I met a woman who doesn’t much seem to mind that I don’t drive a car, and she isn’t worried about my lack of savings for the future or the little money I have now. She has her own, with a grown-up job and a condo in the city. She read my book and became intrigued with the message. I came into her life at a time when she hoped to speak her heart and to live courageously, following her dreams in the moment. And she came into mine at a time of feeling greatly misunderstood and lonely, wishing to live healthy and to expand my connection with the inner and outer energies. Of course she happened to be practicing yoga and meditation. I knew that my stay in Georgia would most likely be a temporary one and I laid those cards on the table right away. We decided to dive deep though and developed a wonderful spiritual connection; the kind of connection that makes a guy like me think about the future and maybe hanging around.

At a certain age, we’ll say around 25…most women have a robotic instinct that takes over and a voice in their head starts to say something like, “Must marry, have babies.” I guess that’s normal, the drive to procreate and fashion a nest. There’s outside pressure too, from society’s idea of success and from family of course. Every mother wants her kids to find love, get married, and make her some grandchildren. My mother especially; she might adopt a grandchild soon. People say that I’m so lucky to have these experiences (some people also say I’m stupid), traveling freely and living spontaneously. Well, a little dumb luck, yes maybe, but I haven’t had children! I’ve been extremely careful about this, and that freedom has allowed me to wander in the ways of my choosing. To settle down and have a cute little baby and to share the gift of bringing life into the world would make mama proud, no doubt. I love my mom, but the path of the heart births a life of its own; that life always seems to take me away from her. It breaks me up a little each time it happens, but this is the only life for me right now.

In January last year, I left the South after writing the lion’s share of my book and I returned home briefly. That’s when I first heard the call of the drum. I was invited for a trial stay at the Teaching Drum Outdoor School to work in editing and promotions with the author Tamarack Song. It became so much more than that though. To live intentionally, with a tribe of conscious people connected with nature in a healing environment…that was life changing for me. There were so many challenges, but it was enriching and I developed skills that would prove important down the road. Feeling the calling to pursue personal dreams, I departed on short notice with the snow melt and I left much unlearned there. However, I was able to publish my book and cross the country on a bicycle, surviving in the wilderness with my newly acquired skills. It was the adventure of a lifetime. What a year!

So here I am, down South; I’ve been writing about these experiences. I thought my adventure was finished in San Francisco (that the book series would end there), and that I might be ready to settle down and do the writing while starting a more normal life with contributions to family and society. However, I know that my journey has to come full circle now, to show me where I’ve been from a new vantage point. Finding a spiritual connection with a woman who understands and appreciates me has been an eye-opening experience. It’s definitely had me imagining life in Georgia, long-term. This encounter almost seems like fate, or a manifestation of intent (whatever you wanna call it). This time in the South has definitely shown me what I want, and what I don’t want. Atlanta has millions of people spread out over a gigantic metropolitan area and the city is rapidly expanding with busy roads and noisy chaos. I miss the quiet of nature and clean water; I want community. I love those things. For these reasons, I’ve decided to return to the Northwoods of Wisconsin and the community life at the Teaching Drum Outdoor School. Travel plans are still up in the air, but I’ll be arriving at the end of the month, right around my one-year anniversary.

Love is fascinating. To this wonderful woman I speak of, I am forever grateful that we explored life together and shared so deeply, even with the knowledge of my impending departure. It was never clingy or possessive. We could’ve saw our time together as if it was ticking off the clock, but we chose to experience its unfolding and we watched it blossom around us. We could’ve saw our relationship as a beautiful bouquet of flowers that would one day wither and wilt, just to be tossed in the trash, but we saw a fertile garden, and we planted seeds there and nourished them. May they flourish and be admired by those with loving eyes, and a vision with no end. Happy trails are paths that cross in the heart of adventure. Walk them attuned, with courage and enthusiasm.

Another bittersweet farewell,

-MJ

Happy Sunday

Sunday

Dear friends,

Sunday is typically not a great marketing day for social media campaigns. People are busy with their un-work-related business, and then there’s that whole football congregation thing, and church as well. Friday though, that’s a day for marketing. Talk about work, and what you’ve earned, people just got paid and they’ll buy it. Sunday however, is a holy day, and this post is about the work of a spiritual nature…

Ever since we brought in 2015, I’ve been unusually quiet as far as social media is concerned. In The Fox Trails, I never use the term Facebook; I call it Egosystem. My hesitation to share lately has something to do with not wanting to come off as boastful or preachy. The more I learn and experience, the more I wish to teach it, but your free will is an important factor in that equation. The other night, my grandfather shared this story with me…

He said, “When your father was a child, I would take the kids to church on Sundays, followed by a family dinner. After the meal, each of the kids were encouraged to voice any issues that were going on. One Sunday, when your dad was about 15, he told me that he didn’t want to go to church anymore, and the rest of the kids agreed. So we stopped going together and I regret that to this day. I should have kept those kids in church.”

“Do you feel like he didn’t turn out alright or that he doesn’t have an appreciation for the Creator?” I asked.

“Well, not like I do,” he said.

“Everyone should have the right to their own appreciation, grandpa,” I told him.

“Not when you’re too young to know what’s best for you,” he said.

I didn’t argue that further. Who am I to attempt the conforming of someone to my thinking? My grandfather is an old man now, retired after a long life of hard work and raising children. He still goes to church every Sunday. I could’ve told him about the procession of the equinoxes and the universe within us, the evolution of the ancient myths and Kundalini, but I didn’t. There is this huge piece of me that wishes to have influence, to teach and to help, and another that wishes to always honor the free will of others, whether that be family, or friends on Egosystem. More and more on this path, I feel the outside pressure to conform to the thinking of others; everyone seems to know what’s best for me. Do you know my destiny?

This morning, on the Yellow River, I sat on a rock island and listened to the water. I sang a song, thought of you, and then I wrote this poem.

~

The river yellow

gliding waves

 a gentle farewell

always moving

a timeless hello

the water sings

and blesses

Life’s momentum

the message brings

calm and soothing

 ~

We are going in different directions, but in you, I see my reflection.

Like the river flows from source, continue on your course.

Does moving water seek guidance to reach the sea?

You know where you’ll go. We all flow to one place.

So I listen to your song and give thanks, as you pass along at your own perfect pace.

  ~

There was a time in my life when I was dedicated to material pursuits, and I accumulated what many dream of attaining. I can have those things again if I choose, but everything changed for me. It changed from within. I became a penniless wanderer, relinquishing it all on a single-minded quest for awakening. My studies, my travel and my writing, these have become my job; this work is spiritual in nature. Sacrifice and I, we’re not strangers.

Now I’m not against hard work, as a matter of opinion, I think that what I’m doing is the hardest work of all. To cultivate the soul is an undertaking that most modern men would never choose to pursue. The riches of the spirit have become taboo. My personal course to the sea involves studying and writing; one day I’ll teach, if I can figure that out. I know where I’m going and I will not be dammed.

This is not an easy concept to share with loved ones and I don’t expect you to completely understand. How could you? I’ll attempt to explain this further in the next post, with a metaphor on love. My stay in Georgia is nearing an end and I have some news to share with you all. More on that next time though, for now…

Happy Sunday,

-MJ

Happy New Year!

Dear friends,

It was a great year on The Fox Trails! I quit smoking, published a book, made a pilgrimage to a sacred place, and survived the 3,000 mile bicycle journey into the west. I couldn’t have done these things without your love and support. Even your doubt and worries are appreciated. My resolution for 2015 is to work twice as smart, and I aim to publish two books 🙂

Be safe tonight and I hope the coming year is blessed with learning and love.

Cheers to the new year and happy trails!

-MJ

new year

What Happened to Kerouac? The Beat Goes On…

Dear Friends,

Beats, Beatniks, Hippies, Yippies, and yup…yuppies. Maybe the yup, yes-sir mentality of conformity led to that name..

The Beat Generation rose up and questioned everything. They questioned the postwar consumerism of the 50’s and they opposed the conventional structures of a materialistic society. They brought the freshness of postmodern art to the masses and they pushed the limits of censorship. I admire the Beats for that, especially Kerouac. His love for nature and travel was spiritual and pure. His strange patriotism, his wish for recognition, his love for his mother, his awkwardness around women, his drunkenness, his sensitivity, his loneliness, his dedication, and his poetry…I can relate.

Some friends undoubtedly read On the Road, some didn’t. Some of the people that I consider to be the best of friends, have yet to read The Fox Trails –maybe never will and I understand. But who out there really understands Kerouac, or the Beats for that matter? The Beat Generation inspired the Hippie Movement of the 60’s and the wonderful leaps that we made in social equality and civil rights. Those who protested for peace and justice, they made it possible for people like me to wear long hair and speak freely like I do today. Yet even now, we still struggle with the same issues. We’re very separated, violent people ruthlessly competing, and I yearn for a compassionate community, conscious and intellectual. I feel so alone.

Not that you’re not. There is a wonderfully hip community of musicians in Minneapolis that I totally dig. I love them, and I will return one day. But I had to go moan for man. I had to go moan, go groan, go roll my bones, alone.

What Happened to Kerouac? The Beat Goes On, tells the story of Jack and the Beat Generation. In the deluxe edition, you’ll see a conference with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Timothy Leary, Paul Krassner, and Abbie Hoffman. They debate the question: Was the Beat Generation a cultural movement of the social kind, or the political?

We live in amazing times. I was born in 1981, the year when MTV started broadcasting on television and IBM released the first personal computer. Technology really changed everything. It’s hard to separate the social and the political nowadays. I believe that race and sex will no longer divide the living, if I evolve my ego and see you all as family, plants and animals alike. I believe that competition and greed will no longer dominate the economy, if I slow my consumption and focus my consciousness on refining the worldview. Can you dig that? Will you do that with me? Can we do it together?

I gave away my possessions and a successful life in the city, to live the way I do.

I march to my own drum, and I bet you think I’m crazy.

Maybe I am, but the Beat goes on,,,

-MJ

Book Two

Dear friends,

Reporting live from Georgia, writing from my grandfather’s house.

A wonderful house it is, filled with a lifetime’s worth of accumulations and character, only seen behind the doors of America’s retired citizens. The gas fireplace burns a clean flame contained below a mantle adorned with steins of every kind, lined up next to hand-carved figurines of Cowboys and Indians and different dogs and what-nots arranged in no particular order alongside Mayan spacemen and Aztec warriors in feathered-bird headdresses accompanied by stone pyramids and random statues of Elvis. This bathroom has a seashell/ocean theme in baby blues with creamy pinks and I wander on to see shelves with old tube radios and antique record players with hundreds of 33’s and dust-covered vinyl just waiting to be explored. I see knickknacks galore and paintings with intricate-wood frames on every wall in every room with abundant fake plants in huge vases and a collection of tarnished-silver spoons, one from each state and some from countries that I’ve yet to travel to. Reporters babble the horrible news on multiple televisions and I’ve never seen so many lamps under one roof. A variety of ceiling fans spin around, at least two for each dog and I open a closet filled with vintage dresses, ballroom gowns, and old clothes protected in plastic. The mysterious guest room has the masks of the Mardi Gras Parade hanging on the walls, and the vanity mirror and the headboard on the bed are both draped in beads. Strange joker-like dolls with painted faces stare at me with their porcelain-Chinese eyes and they taunt me and haunt me like the ghost of New Orleans. I see ancient furniture with skeleton-key locks on drawers with gargoyle-brass handles, candles never burned and old chairs not meant to be sat upon. A fancy dining room table sits there, lonely in the main room and hungry for attention. The kitchen has empty wine bottle decorations and odd-shaped glass jugs stuffed with garlic and peppers in a fall cornucopia of colors, filled with oils and spices, vinegars not meant to be tasted. I open a cupboard door and a coffee cup falls out and shatters on the marble counter top and grandpa says, “Easy does it.” More mugs are stacked inside though, next to the never-ending rows of glasses, a dozen-dozen maybe and I figure, why not put these to use. So I fix a drink and clean the mess, but I do wonder about these things.

I have one mug. It traveled with me all the way from Minnesota and it functions as a bowl to eat from and a cup to drink from. I have one spoon, and it cuts just as well as it scoops. When I’m done with these things, I wash them and they serve me well. I have one pair of pants -my old trusty black jeans. There’s a pair of shorts and two or three shirts in my collection with socks and underwear of course. Likewise, I wash these items and use them without a want or a need for more. I haven’t had the room for more and now that I do have a room, I still see no need to fill that space because I’m happy with what I have.  

I complain about Walmart and not wanting to work a job that I don’t believe in and I moan and groan about our country’s over-consumption and the greediness of a capitalistic society -never satisfied and always wanting bigger-better-more-more-more. I’m now better acquainted with my grandparent’s home and the “stuff” that they’ve collected over the years and I do wonder about these things but I see this and all of the above to be totally normal. This is the American Dream, to have what you wish for. What I want and what I value happens to be different. To live simply is what I wish for and I’m fine with not being normal.

I feel like a curious child in this house with so much to explore. Not many people in their 30’s have the chance to spend quality time with their grandparents and there is much to learn here. I’ll earn my keep and lend a hand around the house. My needs for food and shelter are taken care of and I’m grateful to be in a safe place where I can be creative.

*an unedited excerpt, copy/pasted from the recent writing*

**I need a hyphen expert**

Some days I sit down and type 5,000 words and the manuscript for Book 2 should be ready for editing in about a month. I’m excited about the content that I’m creating and it’s the perfect prelude for the finale. When I wake up in the morning, I’m immediately thinking about writing. During the afternoon when I’m not at the keyboard, I’m either napping or reading. I fall asleep at night and dream about writing. I had a dream last night actually. I saw The Fox Trails trilogy on a bookshelf. Three books -one red, one white, and one blue, but in the opposite order. The American Dream, a little backwards and upside down but if you do a headstand…

I’m going back in. Where ever you are and where ever you’re going..

Happy Trails,

-MJ

Flying South for the Winter

Dear friends,

Reporting from snowy Wisconsin, on a visit with family. My return to Minneapolis was ‘Minnesota Nice’ but it’s always a little strange to come back to the city after being away for a while. People are busy and the scene seems to have passed me by a bit -unanswered messages and missed connections. I imagine it being hard for most people to relate to the life choices I’ve been making over the last two years. My coming and going may even seem selfish to some. However, I truly believe my travel and writing will prove to be the most beneficial contribution I can give to my friends, family, and humanity in general.

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.”

-A song from the Star Children-

My Twin Cities reunion was a little underwhelming to say the least and I do wish that I would’ve seen more of you. Although I did have some quality time with loved ones (you know who you are), I mostly decompressed and invested my days in reading and research for the next writing project. Recently my studies have been focused on the monetary system, addiction/recovery, capitalism/consumerism, Freud and the evolution of marketing, Buddhism, community living, ancient societies, bicycle advocacy, Taoist sexology, and our evolving DNA.

The decision has been made to winter in Georgia while I complete book 2 of The Fox Trails trilogy. I have a one-way ticket to Atlanta and I leave on Tuesday, the 18th.

-MJ

Final Thoughts on the Summer Tour

Dear friends,

San Francisco was 3 weeks of madness: urban camping, music, trippin’, hoppin’ trains, rackin’, working above Mission, staying at the L Hotel (squat house), teaching Mycology 101, chasin’ guhs, studying addiction/compulsions and Capitalism…

-mind blowing-

It isn’t cheap to live in the Bay area. Studio apartments run about $1,500 a month! 10,000 homeless people reside in San Francisco and yet 30,000 vacant housing units sit unused.. the math isn’t hard. Squatting consists of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied area of land and/or buildings – usually residential – that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have lawful permission to use. The L Hotel has been operating for 2 years with electric and water, rent free and catering to travelers and those in need. Two interesting men occupied this house during my stay and I’ll keep them anonymous for confidentiality reasons but I can tell you that I found a job in the city and they paid me $30 an hour while I lived with a man who doesn’t even use money. There was also the contradiction of my smoking and drinking while I watched the other gentleman in the house get sober before my eyes. It was something else to end my explorations of freedom in America with this investigation into alternative ways of living. After saving the money for my return, I flew into Minneapolis for a wonderful reunion with family and friends and I’m ready to share my final thoughts on the summer and what’s next up for The Fox Trails.

Bicycle Dream Ride : The Summer Tour Overview

Purpose: to explore modern-day America on an old bicycle, examining freedom and collecting the characters and stories necessary to complete The Fox Trails trilogy.

June 20th – July 4thMinneapolis, Minnesota to Lake Itasca State Park and back to Grantsburg, Wisconsin. I rode north along the Mississippi River to pay homage to the source and from there I pedaled to my family’s home in Wisconsin, arriving to celebrate the 4th of July.

July 19th – September 28th: Grantsburg, Wisconsin to San Francisco, California.

Overall distance biked is estimated to be in excess of 3,000 miles

Equipment:

The bike: A Raleigh M-40 hand-me-down.

I wore no helmet and never locked the cycle. Without the use of panniers or trailer, I carried along all the gear needed to be self-sufficient on the road.

My touring set-up was placed on the scale at the Adventure Cycling Association headquarters and the total weight registered at 125 lbs. The average touring cyclist travels with 50-70 lbs. The photos below will give you a detailed description of my equipment and how it was carried…

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The foundation for the rear rack is Some of the Dharma by Jack Kerouac. A two-person tent and a bedroll are both secured to the rack with bungee cords.

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My backpack containing books, a computer and writing materials, toiletries, tools, etc.. is strapped to the seat post with bungee cords. A canteen was used as a spacer between the seat and the pack.

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A side view of the rear set-up. The pack on the back acts as a backrest and I could even push into it for leverage.

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The guitar case is simply hanging on the handlebar. The neck of the guitar extends back to the bedroll and leaves just enough space for my left leg to do its work on the pedal. A stuff sack containing my food/cooking equipment and clothes is dangling from the right side of the handlebar, secured with a bungee around the front fork. I kept the guitar in a leaf bag within the case and the stuff sack is lined with a trash bag for easy water proofing.

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The front view shows my handlebar bag where I kept the tools for bicycle repairs. Some of the tools I carried include: an extra chain, brake pads, oil, grease, wrenches, tubes, patches, air pump, tire…

Funding:

Leaving home with only $50, I knew that stopping to work along the way would be inevitable and so it was. Kind people showed me love everywhere I went and I received a number of generous and timely contributions throughout the journey into the west. The states that I biked through include: Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California. I’m pleased to report that America is still a land of opportunity and despite the unemployment rate, I was able to find work when needed and I also received a monthly direct deposit for royalties from book sales which helped greatly in funding my summer travel. Big thanks to everyone that purchased a book!

Observations:

Pristine and seemingly untouched country still exists in America. I fell in love with the Yellowstone River and the diversity of Montana’s sparsely populated land. The North Cascade Highway in Washington is the most beautiful place I’ve ever laid eyes upon, even surpassing the breathtaking views of the Oregon coast and California’s Redwoods. However, on the other end of the spectrum, I passed through oil country in North Dakota and the ugliness of what I saw was disturbing. Wages are higher here yes, but so are the price tags on everything. Cheaply constructed prefab houses (not meant to last) are poppin’ up all over and people pay top dollar to live in them. One day, the wells will be capped and the workers will no longer be needed. The oil men will take their fracking techniques to other places of exploitation and a ghost town will be left behind for the new boom. I see this model repeating itself on different levels throughout the country and the world for that matter. We take and take, working jobs we don’t believe in, for the purpose of funding purchases, only leaving the evidence of our insatiable desires through the torn packaging of products we don’t even need; the litter of America is the proof of our careless consumption and lack of foresight.

Highlights:

The history of the trail I chose is rich and the people…I had visits with old friends and family along the way, I met new friends and told my story to many. There was romance and the naked bike ride in Missoula. I had encounters with animals and the serenity of nature.  I passed through places where cannabis is now legal and saw the early effects of this new development. There was the mountains and of course the unexpected whitewater rafting adventure and ferry rides through the Puget Sound. The misty coast of Oregon and its beautiful state parks and nature reserves, the mystical Redwood Forest and the immensity of the Pacific Ocean…I may not agree with the government but I am a patriot to this land.

What’s Next?

I’ll be laying low for the winter, writing book 2 and 3 of The Fox Trails trilogy.

Book 2 will pick up in New Orleans and take me to Tennessee for the writing process and my reintegration into city life. From there I briefly returned to the Twin Cities before taking an opportunity at Teaching Drum Outdoor School http://www.teachingdrum.org/ where I learned Native Lifeways and mentored under the author, Tamarack Song. I spent months of sobriety here, putting the finishing touches on my memoir before coming back to Minneapolis for the publication and book release. Falling back into habits of consumption, I struggled in the city before riding my bicycle along the Mississippi to pay homage to the source. I intended to begin my journey into the west from Lake Itasca State Park but the river told me to go home and so I did, passing through landmarks from my past along the way and arriving in Wisconsin to spend the Fourth of July with my family -freedom on the mind…

Book 3 will take readers on a journey into the west, through oil country and along the Lewis and Clark Trail, over the mountains and down the coast to San Francisco as I explore ideas of freedom while riding a bicycle across the country. This trilogy will deliver a snapshot of modern-day America, with my personal struggles as a man evolving in our confused and rapidly changing country.

~

Thank you all, for your support and love along the way. You’ll be the first to see this outline unfold in my writing and I look forward to sharing this process of creation with you as it happens. Until next time..

Happy Trails,

-MJ