Nature

Indigenous Peoples Day

Some call it Columbus Day, some call it Indigenous Peoples Day, others call it Native American Day…call it whatyawanna but this is a special day for me. October 12th marks the day I landed in New Orleans and finished my first bike tour! Not only was The Bicycle Adventure Along the Mississippi River a journey of personal discovery, it was also a conscious choice to leave behind my life in the city for the chance to explore nature and society with the hopes of finding a new way of life in harmony with the land. So two years later and here I am at the Teaching Drum Outdoor School where Wilderness is the classroom, Ancient Voices are the Teachers, knowing Self and Balance are the quests…I’ve been learning Native Lifeways and I’m proud to call this my home; I’m humbled to live in this community. Rather than conquering nature and exploiting her resources for profit, we honor this land and all that lives on it. We’re grateful for the abundance and we value the examples of those who were here before us.

You can learn more about Indigenous Peoples Day here… http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/11/indigenous-peoples-day-columbus-day-native-americans

In other news…

Tomorrow kicks off a week-long lodge building event at the school and you can help us build wigwams at Mashkodens October 13th – 20th! Come for a week or just a few days. We’re offering free camping and wild organic Paleo food in exchange for helping us build two lodges. To reserve your campsite, or for questions, contact Jules@teachingdrum.org, or visit this link http://us8.campaign-archive1.com/…

In addition there’s one more session left for the Wilderness Canoe Immersion (October 23rd – 31st). I participated in the first 8-day immersion and it was a really wild week! Check back here for my full recap of the experience

See ya soon and happy trails,

Fox

I Found Treasure!

Agate

Walking along the shores of Lake Superior, you might just find something amazing. Agates!

Little Girl's Point, Lake Superior

Last weekend I spent some time on the beach at Little Girl’s Point on Lake Superior in Michigan. This is a favorite spot for rock hunters. You’ll see miles of rounded pebbles and only 1 in 10,000 is an agate. So what is an agate and how are they formed?

 Agates are semi-precious gemstones. They were formed in the lava of a once volcanic earth. Air bubbles were trapped in this hot liquid rock and rising mineral rich water filled the air bubbles giving room for an agate to be born. This was a billion years ago, literally. These rocks were formed before the plants, before the animals, back when the atmosphere was methane and ammonia without oxygen. The moon was much closer then with a gravitational pull 100 times stronger than we know today. A 3 foot tide now would have been a 300 foot tide back then! Can you image a moon on the horizon, 100 times the present size in appearance? It was a far different world then. Continents were shifting and colliding; life was forming. 70,000 years ago, the glaciers started to move over our continent. They dug up the land and spread the agates around with their icy fingers. You can find them all over Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Lake Superior agates are known to be the oldest in the world and the most sought after.

Below you’ll see some of the stones I found last weekend at Lake Superior…

11692944_103381439976661_109550115_n agates

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Some of these are agates, most aren’t, but each of these stones has a story of its own. When I hold an ancient rock, I hold something older than life as we know it. Within these stones lies a living history, evidence of the early tides, volcanoes and lava floes, fossils, and mountain ranges. So next time I’m at Lake Superior, I won’t just look for agates, I’ll look at the landscape and the wonderful water, I’ll imagine what the world was like when these rocks where being formed and I’ll remember that the stones have a life of their own. If you ever decide to go rock hunting, I recommend you educate yourself before going so that you know what to look for. Check out this link for an informative website on agates in the area…http://www.superiortrails.com/rock-hound.html

I hope you find a ten pound agate!

Happy Trails,

-MJ

Wolf Walking

Wolf in snowDear friends,

Gentle giant snowflakes fell upon the Northwoods all day, as if to taunt Spring. A fresh white blanket brings us another chance to wolf walk (to walk in each others footsteps). As I move between the buildings here on campus, I see the tracks of others and follow the trail, stepping in each footprint, leaving as little disturbance as possible. To see a trail where a dozen people have walked like this intentionally is a simple and peaceful sight..

Wolftracks

New tracks in the snow, solitary and beautiful.

Two wolves were spotted walking near the school today. They left their scent markings and moved on into the woods like ghosts. A rare sighting so close to home.

Wolves tend to travel in packs. They use very efficient, fairly straight paths through the landscape. See the tracks below…

wolf-tracks-7

 Now you can show a child how to wolf walk. They’ll love it, and it will snow again so don’t worry, you’ll get your chance.

Guardian training is well underway. Exercises are building now and I’m stirred up and pushing my edge constantly. More on that in the next post, but for now here’s the newest addition to our exercises…We met in a circle at 6 a.m. this morning and then went for our first group run. When I say run, I don’t mean the typical jog on the road. Native running is different. The idea is to run as a group -a single organism- through the woods, finding challenging trails, ducking under branches and even crawling at times through the low areas, all the while following in each others footsteps and leaving as little disturbance as possible. All communication is done non-verbally. We saw the sunrise through the trees, and what a gorgeous morning. You can watch this short introduction video on Intuitive running if you’re interested in learning more:

And to find out more details on the Guardian training and what I’m going through check out this video:

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Hope all is well in your neck of the woods…

Happy Trails,

-MJ

Fox Walking

fox walking

Greetings from the Northwoods,

Bright stars and mustache icicles, the snow and the silence…I love these. There’s a certain quiet cold that you get up here in this part of the country. Community and understanding, pure living water and a real connection with the food we eat…I love these too. Natural teachers surround me and to be back at the school is an honor. I have much to learn, and as I do I’ll pass it on to you.

A few moons back, we cooked over the hearth at Mashkodens. A snaky half-mile walk through the snowy woods and around the frozen ponds on a skinny deer trail brings us to a cluster of birchbark wigwams and earth lodges. We started a fire and roasted venison and vegetables over the open flames as we told stories well into the night. It was time to head home. The moon was just a sliver and my eyes began to adjust to the darkness as I walked the trail with Thorn and Nanada. I was tempted to shine my headlamp on the path but the ladies encouraged me to walk like a fox. I thought they were just being funny with words and I continued to struggle at keeping my feet on the narrow trail.

“Have you heard of Fox Walking?” they asked me.

“I can do the Foxtrot but I’m not sure what you mean by Fox Walking,” I joked back.

“Try this,” they said…”Start with your heal and move slowly. Be mindful and put the outside edge of the foot down first and roll it flat. Before you put any weight on it, feel what’s beneath you and reposition if necessary.  Feel that connection with the earth and find your foothold, strong and silent. Repeat.”

So together we walked that slow half-mile through the woods in total darkness. What a beautiful lesson in patience, to be mindful of each step. Try it for yourself. Fox Walking will stop your feet from snapping twigs and these quiet steps will allow you to see more wildlife, enhancing your hearing as well as your sense of smell, which will help you feel a stronger bond with nature.

Now you can teach a child how to walk like a fox…

Happy Trails,

-MJ

CHAPTER 9

PINK PONTIAC PRANK

“Water flows humbly to the lowest level. Nothing is weaker than water, yet for overcoming what is hard and strong, nothing surpasses it.”

—Lao Tzu

September 20, – Waking up under the roof of a park shelter for the second day in a row isn’t a good feeling. I’m disappointed in myself for a moment as I stand up with a hangover and a sore back but it’s not my style to dwell on negative thoughts. It rained all night and I am thankful to be dry. Filling my water in the restroom and washing up a little I get ready for the day. Food is low and I’ll have to stop for supplies before crossing back over into Illinois. My odometer stopped working around the time I hit the casino yesterday so I take a moment to troubleshoot. It looks like the sensor spun around backwards on the spoke somehow. I turn it the right way and pull it down as close to the wheel as possible. I’m getting a reading again as I leave the park.

            The business district in Muscatine is on the north side of the city. I pedal by the Pearl again and push uphill past the river bridge that I’ll be taking back to Illinois. In the business district I find all the usual stores I’ve come to expect and disdain. Fast food options galore, gas stations and a plethora of convenience stores. It seems wherever there’s a Family Dollar there’s also a Dollar General. I make multiple stops and score some trail mix, protein bars, soups, Snickers, cans of vegetables, chicken and tuna. I’d rather not ride with this extra weight but it’s nice not to think about where I’ll get the next supplies from. I despise spending money here. I spend some though. One last stop at the Kum and Go for a coffee and I’m ready to roll.

            Back in Illinois, I’ve already clocked many miles from my trip to the north side of Muscatine and back. On the 14, the cities are few and far between but the sign says I’ll reach New Boston in seventeen miles. This country road is trashed. The ditch is filled with litter! The large majority of the garbage I see along the roadside here in Illinois is beer cans. An unbelievable amount of beer cans! Busch Light cans to be specific. Why are ninety-eight percent of the cans I see in the ditch this brand in particular? Well, it’s cheap beer that country white folks typically drink. It’s not only cans everywhere, I’ve seen cardboard cases all over the place too. This leads me to the conclusion that Busch Light customers in Illinois, are usually white males with pickup trucks who like to drink and drive all over trashy country roads while throwing their cans in the ditch without a second thought of littering. Now keep in mind, these folks may be armed and hunting illegally. They’ve been drinking and driving enough to the point where they’re actually finishing cases of beer and then proceeding to throw that cardboard in the ditch as well. Call me a beer profiler if you will but I’m out here seeing this up close and personal. If I collected cans I could probably fund the rest of this adventure. I’m scared that a drunken hunter might drive by and shoot me down in the ditch, mistaking me for a deer. I truly apologize to any responsible Busch Light drinkers out there. Help your Busch brothers, please.

            I have to say New Boston is a disappointment. I’ve never been to Boston Massachusetts but I’ve heard great things. I’m not sure what they were going for here when this city was established but if they were attempting to improve on the original Boston I have to imagine it was a huge failure. I have an early lunch in the park and play guitar. Friendly people wave as I’m leaving. I do enjoy the niceties of small town residents being welcoming to a stranger. Back on the 14, it takes me through Keithsburg and then turns into the 25. These roads are desolate and farmland is all around me. I see nothing truly notable to write about here but peace and quiet is something to embrace without much thought. The temperature dropped about fifteen degrees from yesterday but the sun is still hot and my burnt skin has had enough.

Miles of biking take me through the towns of Milroy and Oquawka. The 164 leads me through Gladstone and down to the 34 which runs from east to west with much heavier traffic. Chris Tucker traffic. I pedal down the 34 and see a sign for Burlington, Iowa. I can either turn left up the way down the Great River Road or leave Illinois and cross the river again. My instinct tells me to head into Burlington. Traffic slows unexpectedly and I start to pass cars as I ride on the shoulder. It appears there must be an accident ahead. There’s a crew of road workers diverting traffic down a detour around what seems to be a horrible crash. I can see a semi-truck turned over up the way and I’m forced to follow the detour with a long line of cars behind me. This detour takes me down about ten miles of congested two-way traffic on a tiny county road that’s only used to seeing local farmers. Semi- trucks eagerly wait for their opportunity to get around my bike. With no shoulder to ride on and a seemingly never-ending stream of angry motorists zipping by me, this stretch of road is extremely dangerous and one of the most stressful sections of my tour so far. It takes me over an hour to make it back to the Great River Road and now I have a decision to make. Should I backtrack north to the 34 and ride west into Burlington, Iowa? Or, shall I continue southbound with the uneventful landscapes of Illinois?

            Turning left on the Great Litter Road, traffic lightly lessons and stress is lifted a little as I forge onward. The shoulder is minimal but the frequency of passing cars is far lower. Two oncoming motorcycles whiz by, identical almost. My attention was captured but the wave I gave went unnoticed. Motorcycle owners normally give a wave or a nod of acknowledgement. It’s a two-wheel courtesy. These guys are ninjas on a top-secret mission obviously. I’m off in deep space mind, fantasizing about ninjas saving drugs stashed in the back of a flaming semi-trailer. Climbing a small hill, my thoughts do the Foxtrot, off in my own world and BEEPPP!!VVROOM!! Sudden cardiac arrest: pink Pontiac prank. I didn’t even hear them come up behind me and just as fast, they’re gone zooming off with dual exhaust roaring and some obscenity screamed. I yell in rage! I was so peacefully not expecting noise that loud that I instantly react with hatred and anger. Shockingly pissed at them and disappointed in my reaction, I feel miserable. I think that asshole hooked a foghorn up under his hood. Wow, still angry. Breathe deep. Relax. Murderous thoughts. Now I’ve been known to become maniacal at times but I’m not even drunk. Why am I so fucking heated? I didn’t think I had this in me anymore…

            Ten or fifteen miles ahead, the road T’s and I make a right turn into the city of Lomax. Low and behold, there sits the pink Pontiac off to the left at a biker bar on the 96. I touch the knife on my hip and imagine slashing his tires. Instantly I picture him roaring up behind me down the road with new rubberI also entertain the thought of stopping in for a drink and giving the guy a piece of my mind. Immediately I envision him not appreciating that gift.I put the knife hand back on the handlebar grip and keep moving. Turning the other cheek isn’t something I do too often. I have a devil and an angel on my shoulder, their perceptions of this reality are completely opposite. I’m happy with my choice to forgive him for that prank and leave it all behind with the thought of him just having some juvenile fun. The guy drives a Mary Kay pink seventy-two Pontiac for crying out loud. Empathy and forgiveness have an interesting relationship.

            Down the road I come through the City of Dallas, Illinois and find an advertisement for camping. Crossing the railroad into an RV park right off the Mississippi, I see the office and stop to inquire about prices. No one’s around but the self-registry says its $16 to pitch a tent. I roll in free, passing about five RV’s and spot a couple of tents at the end of the park. I set mine up not far from theirs by a fire ring of my own. This is bad-ass! My first priority is starting a fire. The sun is setting as I gather wood to sacrifice to the future flames. I walk by my neighbor’s camp and notice how expensive their gear is. These tiny tents look like the $200 variety and both have top of the line mummy bags inside, not that I’m spying, I’m just really observant. These aren’t your average campers though and this I know. There’s a lady in a lawn chair alone by the water. She has a car. The only other people here are up towards the entrance with the RV’s. Weird.

            I sit down with the sun’s setting and eat my dinner. Chicken breast with green beans and a side of Mary Kay’s pink and purple clouds. The fire swirls around and I eat from a can. I walk over yonder and introduce myself to the closest neighbors with an RV. They’re a father and son combo from the city of Pontoosuc a few miles downriver. It’s their first time here at this park as well. They’ve got a fire going and offer me a beer. The son has Busch Light in his cooler and Pop’s has a chest of his own full of ice and Busch Originals. I can’t help but to laugh at this! Without a mention of the litter, I take a Busch Heavy, drinking half of it in a two gulps. I got to telling them about my trip as I finish my beer and open another beginning to mention the Busch Light observations of earlier. Just then, two identical cycles cruise by to their tents. Wouldn’t you know? It’s the ninjas from earlier. I thank my Busch brothers for the beers and say farewell, returning to my camp with intentions of speaking with my other neighbors.

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Bryan and Tim’s campsite on the Mississippi in Dallas City, Illinois

Walking over, I notice their bikes first. They rode in on matching off-road orange KTM 990 Adventures with top of the line panniers. These brothers must be on quite the journey of their own and I’m excited to speak with them. Approaching their camp I say, “Hello fellow travelers. I’m your neighbor tonight,” gesturing toward my tent, “and I wanted to introduce myself. I’m Michael.”

            A well dressed man, dark and handsome shakes my hand and says, “I’m Bryan. It’s nice to meet you Michael.”

            The other gentleman seems familiar to me already as he shakes my hand saying, “I’m Tim Schneider. I met a man once that shook my hand and told me his first and last name. I did the same in return and that left a lasting impression on me. Welcome, have a seat if you like.”

I like that story and offer my last name to both of them and in return, Bryan says, “I’m Bryan Phillips,” he smiles and sips on a PBR. Both of these guys are geared up to the nines. Tim has a great beard and a very unique style about him. He smells of money, from his hat down to the designer boots he wears. Functionally stylish. I can tell they’re both successful in what they do.

 Taking a seat and rolling a cigarette, I ask, “Where are you guys coming from?”

“We’re from Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” Tim says as he’s starting a fire. “We’ve been on the road for two weeks out west and now we’re on the way home. It’s been an epic vacation with my best buddy Bryan here but it’s not over yet!”

I chime in with a short version of how I came to be here tonight. I wasn’t sure if they would understand my minimalistic views on this trip but they both seem to have respect for what I’m doing. A train rumbles by only fifty yards from our camp and it’s loud! This is part of the old Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe rail. Judy Garland sang about these trains way back when. I’m somewhat of a train buff and already know about the 1996 merger of Burlington Northern and the Santa Fe. BSNF cars roll by on the tracks and I can tell the guys are more fascinated with the power than annoyed with the noise. I like that about them. Bryan is especially intrigued. He seems to be the quiet one. When they passed me earlier they must’ve been going into town to get food and beer.

There’s a pizza box near me with a few slices left over and Tim offers me the rest, saying, “Are you hungry? If you eat meat you can take that pizza. We’re finished eating so help yourself.” Popping the top off of a Corona, he throws another log from the woodpile on the flames and says, “This is what it’s all about. A hot fire and some cold beers at the end of the day. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

I eat a slice of pizza and say, “If you don’t mind, I’d like to save this for breakfast tomorrow morning. It’s delicious! Thank you for sharing.” I explain to them that this trip has been an experiment in trusting the current as I left home with only $120 and minimal gear, yearning for a more simple way of living. I walk off to my tent to put the pizza away for tomorrow’s breakfast and I hear my name yelled.

“Michael, come over here,” Tim hollers as he and Bryan are both digging through the panniers on their bikes, “do you want some food?” I walk over and he tells me, “Here take these, we don’t have too far to go now and this might be our last night camping,” he hands me a bag of powdered cheddar broccoli soup and a few packages of add water pasta sides along with some candy.

Bryan hands me some canned goods, jerky and some protein bars. He says, “These are one thousand calorie nutrition bars. They don’t taste like much but they’ll give you the energy you need on the ride ahead.”

I give thanks, walking back to my tent, barely able to carry this armload of food alone. Adding this to my stuff sack of supplies puts me in a surplus that I’m not used to. My fire is out and it’s dark now. Taking my guitar from her case, I walk over and offer some music in exchange for their generosity as I sit with them by the fire. There’s something special about gathering around the flames with friends and music. I start to strum as I tell them about leaving Minneapolis to pursue my passions and dreams, beginning to sing a humble song. Telling stories by the fire is a favorite pastime of mine and I start to spin the tale of a man who went from luxurious living to becoming disenchanted by the American Dream and the consumerism around him. I find songs in parallel with the story and sing them as interludes before continuing on with my thoughts on social media and the direction of our youth. I tell them about how I’ve shut my phone off and disconnected my Egosystem account, embracing the road as I travel south. Bryan shoots video on his iPhone as another BNSF inter modal train tears by on the tracks. They ask me if I know any Eddie Vedder songs and mention their mutual love for the “Into the Wild” soundtrack. We talk about that in-depth as I too love the story and the music behind the movie. I play “Society” for them as Bryan takes another video. The flames flicker and swirl in the reflection of my guitar. I can tell they have a special connection with the message in the music and I’m extremely impressed with their abilities to listen but I know they have a message of their own as well. I haven’t heard much of their stories yet and I put the guitar down with questions on my mind, ready to ask and to take to my turn in listening.

Tim says, “Bravo! That was truly amazing! When you said you play a little guitar, I didn’t get too excited. We’ve heard many people say that over the years and all too often it’s just mediocre at best.”

“That is awesome,” Bryan says, “you need to be a singer Michael.” I tell them I am a singer and Bryan says, “Yeah, but you should be singing songs for a living!”

I thank him for the compliment and say, “I love to sing and play people music but I have no desire to make this my career. The praise of the people isn’t what I seek from music. You have to be so obnoxious and loud today to stand out from the competition. It feels unnatural to yell above everyone and the lifestyle of a musician is too stressful for me. Plus, I’ve only played guitar for two years and really I know very little. I’m just an amateur but I do know that I love to sing and share music when the moment is appropriate. My greatest passion is writing though and I have the dream to be an author. I’m grateful that you like the music but I feel like I’ve been talking too much and I’d most enjoy listening to your stories now if you’re willing to share.”

Tim says, “This trip is really special to us. Bryan and I work very hard. Every year we bust our asses and get this small window of time to go out and explore like we are now.”

Bryan agrees saying, “We’ve been out to Utah and Colorado together, riding through the dunes, camping and having fires. This time in nature, away from the city and work –it was needed. It’s been an amazing ride.”

“What do you do for a living?” I ask.

“I work at a bar in Milwaukee,” Bryan says without expanding.

Tim says, “At an early age I showed a mechanical aptitude for engineering. I could always see the way things worked and had the ability to find improvements in functionality. I started working at a production plant and made my way through the ranks to upper management. I invented a number of ways to improve the machinery and even received a couple of patents. By the time I was twenty-two I was making a ton of money providing consultation for companies on ways to improve the efficiency of their business. Although the money was great and I’d become successful, it wasn’t what I wanted deep down. I’ve always had a wrench hand and loved to ride bikes. I started to restore and race vintage motorcycles and my attention began to drift from my job. About fifteen years ago I left the shiny career I was in to follow my passions, opening a motorcycle repair business in Milwaukee called The Shop and I haven’t looked back since.” He hands me one of his last Coronas and says, “The Shop is hard work and it isn’t easy to get away for trips like this, but I love every second.”

“I imagine you’ve trusted someone to do your job in your absence. Has it been hard to be present on the road, fighting the temptations to check in and be involved?” I ask this question as I put myself in his shoes. Bryan passes a bottle of bourbon to me. Jim Beam, don’t mind if I do. I pass that off to Tim and we all have a pull.

Tim smiles and says, “It sure has! But this trip has been about turning that off and tuning in. Turning on to the moment. I’ve been in touch and called occasionally. They assure me all is well, ‘everything is under control Tim, stop worrying and enjoy your vacation’ and I trust them. You see Bryan over there with his iPhone.” He hands him back the bourbon and says, “I don’t get it,” shaking his head with a laugh.

“It’s not like I’m constantly on it texting and updating my Egosystem status posting pictures of our campsite. I don’t do that,” Bryan says, “but this trip means a lot to me and having some photos or video —look at this video of you singing ‘Society’ with the flame’s reflection on your guitar. See how you turned your guitar toward the fire as you sang the chorus there?”

“Damn! It does look amazing. Nice shot Bryan,” checking out his phone I can tell he was there in that moment as he shot this video. Bryan asks me about my family, if I have any siblings and if my parents are still together. I tell him about my sister and my mom and dad briefly and he wonders what they think of me taking this trip. I say, “Believe it or not, they don’t know yet.”

He looks baffled and says, “You mean you left home to bike across the country and didn’t let anyone know?”

“I let a few people know I was leaving but not my family. We see things so differently and I couldn’t find a way to tell them. I figured I’d cause them more worry than anything and put it off thinking I’d call them one of these days to check in and let them know what I’m doing but I haven’t found the courage to have that conversation,” I explain. “I turned my Egosystem off before leaving and haven’t really updated anyone. That time will come though. What about you?” I ask. “Are you close with your family Bryan? Do you have any kids?”

He says, “I don’t have any kids but my woman does and I’ve really enjoyed being a part of their lives. It’s challenging but has many rewards. As far as my dad goes, we just recently started speaking again. We’ve had some issues in the past and we’re still working through that.”

Tim says, “Bryan has been wonderful with his woman’s kids. He treats them like his own and I’ve seen him grow through having that experience.”

“What about you Tim? Do you have any kids? Tell me what your relationship is like with your old man?” I ask.

It seems like I’ve hit a sore subject. Somewhat of grudge shows through as he says, “I wish I could tell you our relationship was great but the truth is, I haven’t spoke with him in years. My old man left when I young and my mom raised me on her own basically. There were guys around at times but they were always terrible with me. There’s a lot of resentment there and I haven’t been sure how to deal with that. I don’t have any children and possibly never will but if I do, I guarantee I’ll be there for them with all the love I have.”

Here we are together, three guys with different upbringings and family situations. I think about how lucky I am to have a mom and dad that stuck together and were there for me as I grew up. It makes me appreciate my family and I feel a little guilty now that I haven’t called or let them know where I am. I stare at the fire contemplating all of this as train after train fly by, clicking along the track. That’s the sound of money moving and Bryan runs off to take another video of the inter modal’s passing. Tim looks disgusted like he wishes his buddy would put it down and forget about trying to capture the moment and just live it right now.

“Differing views Tim. We all see it and remember it differently and you know what? I can’t argue with either of you. I have an iPhone with me,” pulling out I say, “I battle with balance, especially monetarily. I imagine having the highest quality equipment on a trip like this and I know I could have that but instead, I’m riding a hand-me-down mountain bike with just enough to get by. I’ve had money, fast and slow. You see, I’m a convicted felon, Tim. At the age of twenty-two I began a four-year, three-month federal prison sentence for a bank robbery. In my early twenties, I laundered money at the strip club and the casino. Fast cash doesn’t last. It’s what you work hard for that hangs around and stays relevant.”

Bryan walks up and catches the end of that. “You did four years in prison for a bank robbery?” he asks, shocked.

“Yeah man, it was like college for me, except without the girls and the raves. I lived with men and boys from all walks of life. It was a criminal tour of American culture. You learn a lot about yourself. Can you imagine going for four years without a woman?”

They both say no, having a woman home alone, even two weeks is a long while. “It wasn’t easy being a twenty-six year old felon released in Minneapolis. I worked hard though, got a job at the Hilton and fell in love; a few times, monogamously. I was making downtown money and speaking about my story to at-risk youth programs all over the place, living well in a big city and rubbing elbows with talented people. When I went single, I dated extensively chasing after an idea of love. I went on over fifty dates from O.k. Cupid, taking notes on my observations of those women with the hopes to put that in a book one day. That changed the way I perceive ladies and I grew to disdain money almost. Serving and tending bar probably didn’t help my opinion of people in the city’s light either. Depressing as that sounds, it all started to seem like a big fake dirty free for all; a greedy competition, sponsored by advertisements and marketing so clever no one knows they’re being tricked. Thoughts like this are what led me to pursue success in the opposite way of America’s majority. I sold my car, moved to a smaller apartment and downsized everything slowly to the point of my belongings fitting inside of the trailer on my bicycle. Meeting you guys gives me hope though. Hopes that I can have money one day and not use it like a dick. That challenge will come again but right now, I have everything I need.”

Their trip is obviously well-financed and lacking nothing for comforts. Mine on the other hand is mighty minimalistic. We’re so different in our financial dispositions but at the root of our muse is a common appreciation for nature and travel. I love how we find ourselves at this crossroad on completely different journeys, opposite ends of the spectrum but on the same path. With that thought, I say goodnight to my new friends and retire to my tent for the evening. The path of the heart will forever bring people like us together.

The Next Chapter

Hello friends,

I left the Teaching Drum Outdoor School yesterday with my belongings strapped to that old bicycle and a new adventure about to begin. The first phase of this journey will take me across Wisconsin to my father’s house. I’ll spend some time with my family before returning to the Twin Cities for phase two: publishing and releasing my book! There’s much to do still but I see it being available for the public with the coming of June. I started writing on October 15th, and the process has been an adventure of its own. Giving this completed work to the people will allow me the freedom to begin phase three: another bicycle tour across the country, writing the next installment in what’s to become a series of my travels and observations.

I cried in saying farewell to my new family at the Teaching Drum Outdoor School. Living within an intentional community was a new experience that brought much learning and evolution. I came to work in editing and book promotions for the author Tamarack Song, pictured below.

    This learning paralleled my own editing process as I studied the world of publishing and ways that I might promote my own book one day. Tamarack’s work ethic and desire to put his writing into the world is a huge inspiration to me. I leave to do just that, with warm memories and new skills to take with me on the road to my dreams.  My mind is clear now and hunger sharpens the senses as I track my destiny.

Hide tanning with Adjul at the klondike days

Hide tanning with Adjul at the klondike days

Chocolate makes me smile too

Chocolate makes me smile too

Jennine and her daughter Lilia

Jennine and her daughter Lilia

Bryan and his bike

Bryan and his bike

out for a ride

out for a ride

I won and essay contest and the paper with Coyote

I won and essay contest for library week and made the paper with Coyote

009

Skinning and butchering a deer with Alyosha

The Foxfire is everywhere

The Foxfire is everywhere

The Teaching Drum Outdoor School

The Teaching Drum Outdoor School

    From the first time I saw this logo, I heard a calling to come to the Drum and now that same calling, the one that brought me here with perfect timing, has once again sounded. It is the call of the wild. You remain in my heart and we’ll meet again. Westward on I go…

Love,

Fox

Chapter 5

5

The Devils of Bagley

Rivers are the primal highways of life. From the crack of time, they had borne men’s dreams, and in their lovely rush to elsewhere, fed our wanderlust, mimicked our arteries, and charmed our imaginations in a way the static pond or vast and savage ocean never could.” — (Tom Robbins, Fierce Invalids from Hot Climates)

 —–

            September 16, – There’s a tourist information center at the foot of the bridge leading to Iowa. I was late to wake today but not late enough for the rest area to be open for questions. Outside, there’s a big map of Wisconsin and its bordering neighbor. I take a look trying to decide which side of the river would be a more enjoyable ride. I’ve heard that Southwestern WI and Northeastern IA are both demons when it comes to hills and I hope to choose the lesser of the two evils. Unfortunately, most maps don’t provide topographical information. Eenie-Meenie-Miney-Mo… Well, this bike hasn’t seen Iowa yet and we’re off to the third state in five days.

I roll onto the massive bridge before me and begin to cross it. Coming up to the sign marking the Iowa state line, I stop and think for a moment. On the map, you’ll the see the river as the border between many states but how do these cartographers know where that line really is? The state line for Iowa isn’t even close to the middle of the river here. I picture those old politicians arguing and negotiating over such imaginary lines. Is the river not enough?When it comes to land a man can drag his foot in the sand and stand in command of what he claims as his. In this; there’s glory, defending that border from those who might intrude upon his territory. People kill over such trespasses.

There was a day in Minneapolis while staying at my friend Nelson’s house that I was mowing the lawn at the line of the property. I thought how silly it all is, this green, green grass and these imaginary lines. I made an extra pass into the neighbor’s lawn and he walked over to point out what’s his and what’s mine. It was the first time we spoke in the two months I’d been living there. All of this makes me ask myself, why do we draw these lines? Ego is the answer that comes to mind. We’ve put up fences all over the world, real and make believe. They separate us from our neighbors; more accurately speaking, they create the illusion of separation. As long as we continue to divide ourselves in the name of greed and the ownership of that which belongs to the ego, we will never work together as one. I see this to be our greatest downfall as a people.

Still on the bridge, daydreaming these thoughts; I snap back to action and proceed into Iowa, coming into the town of Marquette. I pass through the city in route to my southern path as gigantic hills wait in the distance on a road with a tiny shoulder and a rumble strip. Every fiber of my instinct tells me to turn around and head back to Wisconsin. Three miles of backtracking and I return to the tourist information center in Prairie Du Chien once again. This time it’s open and I approach the information desk.

The friendly lady at the counter says, “Good morning! What can I do for you?”

“Top of the morning to you as well,” I say with a smile. “I’m on a bike tour and not familiar with the area and I was hoping that you might have some advise on the best route to take heading south in regards to the hills and the scenery along the river.”

She’s says, “Okey-dokey. I think I can be of service.” Reaching under her desk she comes up with a map and turns it to me saying, “This should help you. There’s a four hundred mile bike loop that wraps around the southwest corner of the state here following the river roads. Now you won’t be able to avoid the hills but it should be a lovely ride.”

Folding the map, I ask, “May I have this?” She nods a silent yes and I put it in my back pocket thanking her for the help. Outside I sit down and eat my breakfast as I look at the map and plan my day’s travel. The sun is already powerful in the eastern sky and I can tell it’s to be a hot September day.

Following the bike loop from the map I pass through small farming communities but the road takes me away from the river as I enter the heart of Wisconsin’s cropland. The lady back at the rest area wasn’t lying about the hills. They come one after another in this endless sea of corn and soy beans. The climbs are painful to my muscles as I crank the pedals with everything I have; only going two or three miles per hour at times. Gripping the handle bars tightly I breathe deep and growl as I push to the top of yet another hill. On the down slopes I register speeds of up to twenty-five miles per hour so I guess it evens out in the long run with my overall average.

The sun beats down relentlessly on my already bronzed skin. Cotton candy clouds come and provide me relief from the heat ever so briefly. I packed away the boots and cargo shorts in favor of something lighter today as I ride this bike, practically naked. The thin silky athletic shorts I have on were formally worn as boxers at times in the past. They rise up on my ivory thighs as I pedal, exposing skin that’s never seen a sun like this. Sandals on me feet, a sweatband on my wrist and a binder in my hair completes the get up as I blaze this trail.

Every time I defeat a hill I see two more waiting on the horizon and morale is waning. Six and seven degree grades on these slopes force an occasional dismount. I walk the bike, heavy trailer in tow. The sting of sweat drips into my eyes as I bite my salty bottom lip, struggling to keep going. I feel like quitting! I’m too far from home to turn back now though as I wonder how long I can continue like this. I didn’t know Wisconsin had mountains. This hill is ridiculous! Cars pass by and must think I’m insane to have scaled toward this peak as far as I have. The only thing keeping me motivated at this point is my belief that the top is near. With the road winding around there’s no way to know that’s true for sure but I do have faith that this is almost over. Finally, reaching the summit, I relax and enjoy the view.

Jumping back on the saddle I pedal down the slope until the bike gears out and I coast, tucking low and reaching maximum velocity. I’m flying down this hill without braking, my trailer follows behind me. I know the dangers tearing around these corners as fast as my wheels can possibly turn. With no helmet and most of my skin exposed, one slip up and I’m dead. I didn’t come here to die though. I have a destiny to fulfill; and plus, I refuse to let fear slow this speed I’ve earned. The descent is nothing short of exhilarating and makes the climb behind seem almost worth it. Almost. Rolling to the bottom, I cruise into the town of Bagley, stopping to refill my water.

In the filling station I mention the war I just fought back there and the cashier says, “It’s not over yet. That was the smaller of the two hills. Bagley sits in the valley between them and down the road leaving the city you’ll find your next enemy waiting.”

In disbelief I ask, “Is there a way around? I’m not sure I can make it up another climb like that with this heavy load.”

He says, “Your only way out is up that next hill I’m afraid.”

I walk out shaking my head angry as I hop back on the bike. At the foot of the hill I stop for some sustenance and self talk. Beckoning the strength inside, I know this will be a case of mind over matter. I need to pump myself up though. Let’s do it! It’s a slow crawl and every rotation of my pedals sends a burn through my muscles as I claw my way up the hill. Having to walk the bike for a stretch; I feel demoralized, shedding tears and struggling to continue.

Digging deep I find the animal within, the beast I discovered during my years as a high school wrestler. As an athlete, I dominated the competition because I worked harder than anyone else was willing to work. Wiping my forehead, I summon that old beast from his resting place and as he rises from his hibernation. I let loose with a primal battle call. The call of the wild.

Visualizing myself on top, I feel that triumph as if it’s already happened and in so doing I find my second wind. I get back on the bicycle and push. I push myself further than I think is even possible and that drive inside finally takes me to the top. This type of self motivation is an art form that few practice and even fewer learn to develop. The fear that holds you back will chain you in stagnation. Now I stand upon the head of my opposition and look back at the hill and I look back at myself. To conquer the mind is our spirit’s hill; the conquest of faith, I lust for this victory as all champions must. The wind blows through my hair as I coast down the devil’s back. I see my magnificent shadow and feel exalted, gliding to flatter land.

The water bottles are empty again and thirst steps up as the new challenger. Dehydration weakens my stamina to its breaking point. An apple tree filled with fruit appears like a dessert oasis. I sit with my back to her trunk enjoying a moment of rest under the shade of her canopy. Eating four of her apples, I savor each to its core. Their juice becomes my breath as I thank this tree for the gift. With the four cardinal directions in my sights, I throw the cores as far as I can in the hopes that one day, the seeds will grow other trees on this land beneath my feet and that those trees will grow plentiful, bearing the sweetest fruit.

Satisfied and rejuvenated, I hit the road with a new energy. The appreciation of nature’s beauty always raises my life force and brings me to that special garden of gratitude where the seeds of dreams are manifested into my reality. The road finally brings me back within sight of the river and I enter the parish of Cassville. I find another river park with a shelter and pull my bike under the shade of the roof, leaning it on the table. Plugging my phone in, I sit down and poke a few one hitters. The granulated salt of my dried sweat has accumulated on my skin so I run to the river and dive in. It feels amazing to rub my body with some soap and rinse off. Swimming around, I float effortless on the water. A tug boat pushing a barge passes by sending a wake my way and I let the waves carry me toward shore. Feeling cool and refreshed, spreading a blanket out, I lie down and dry off in the sun while I read a few passages from my book. I fall asleep for a spell and wake up with a breeze that sends goose bumps over my sun burnt skin. This was a pleasant place to rest but the day is still young and I’m inspired to see where this path will take me next.

Two blocks down the way I see a group of female high school athletes getting ready to run. I spot the coach and for whatever reason, there’s one boy in the group and he’s pointing at me laughing as I pedal near.

I heard him say, “Ha-ha, look at this guy on the bike!” He has a big hole in his smile where he’s missing a tooth or two. The girls stare.

I haven’t seen many ladies on this trip so I’m staring too as I glide through without a word; but in my head I say, “You shouldn’t point. You might lose another tooth.” Looking that young man in the eyes I see his smile vanish and it’s obvious that he received my telepathic warning. I think the ladies got my message too. Until next time, Cassville -stay classy.

As I get back into the ring with the road, I take note of the Sun’s fading strength as the day begins to concede. I figure I have about three hours left to bike this evening. Those girls are still on my mind. It’s a weakness of mine and I’m definitely missing my connection to the energy of my lady friends. Women are my favorite inspiration and at the same time, my greatest distraction.

Twenty miles down the road and I’m surrounded by farmer’s fields as far as the eye can see. Up and down I go like the slowest roller coaster ever. At the top of a hill there’s a bar ahead on my right with a sign advertising happy hour deals and what do you know? The hour of happiness is upon us and I stop for a cold one. Right when I get off my bike I notice a huge grasshopper on my trailer. I’m curious as to how long he’s been there. He’s most likely hitched a ride with me for many miles. I hope he likes his new home. Retrieving my cargo shorts from my backpack, I pull them up and over what I’m wearing and put a shirt on before walking into the bar. It’s a little place but there might be twenty people in here. Even though it’s supposed to be illegal, everybody seems to have a cigarette and the room is filled with smoke. These country bars do what they want. Some of these folks have been coming here for years to socialize while they smoke and drink and there isn’t a law the state can pass that would change that routine.

It’s all eyes on me as I walk to the bar and it feels like the Wild, Wild West for some reason. The bartender is at my service immediately as I take a seat. I like that about her. She’s flirty too.

She says, “Hey there, what can I do for you?” as she twirls her hair around a finger, doing a little dance.

“I’ve Got Friends in Low Places” is playing on the jukebox and I can’t help but to smile at this woman, saying, “I’d love a shot of whiskey and a PBR.”

She pours me a shot and drops the beer in front of me. “I bought the shot for ya darling. It’s a dollar for the beer,” she says with a wink.

I like this place! These are my kind of prices. I put a few dollars on the bar and roll up a cowboy smoke. Taking the shot, my belly warms and I light up, surveying the room. I’m craving the touch of woman. Unfortunately, it looks like the ladies are slim pickings around here. It feels strange to be indoors and smoke at this bar. That doesn’t fly anywhere in Minnesota. Well you know what they say, when in Rome… I have another beer and roll one more cigarette and even though PBR’s are only a dollar and I can smoke where I sit, I still feel like I could be doing something more enjoyable. The truth is, this really isn’t my scene. It was nice to stop but I finish the beer and thank my bartender as I get up to go.

Outside I take the shirt off my back and let my hair down. My grasshopper hitchhiker friend disappeared while I was in the bar. Pulling out onto the road, I’m immediately happy with my choice to leave the low price temptations of that drinking hole behind me. I’m compelled to continue this journey. It isn’t but a mile down the road and I see legs and blonde hair on the opposite shoulder in the distance. She’s far away still but I can already tell she’s fine. Must be a local girl out for a walk. A truck zips by me heading towards her and slows down to investigate. They give a honk as they pass by her and she waves back. As I get closer, I start to feel a strong magnetic pull. Her curly blonde hair flows down to the middle of her back. She has on a pair of volleyball shorts and her tan body is perfect. Damn. I slowly pulled up parallel with her, catching a glimpse of her face for the first time and she’s far more lovely than I can begin to explain. We make eye contact, smiling at each other.

Sitting up tall on my seat, I bow my head slightly in respect and say, “I’m riding this bike all the way to New Orleans. I started in Minneapolis four days ago and you are the most beautiful thing I’ve seen on my trip so far. My name is Michael. May I walk with you?”

She blushes a little and says, “I’m Charlotte. It’s nice to meet you Michael. Come over here and walk with me. You really came all the way from Minneapolis on that bike?!”

I say, “Yeah, I have a long way to go too!” laughing as I cross the road, pushing my rig next to her as we begin to walk south along the shoulder. “I feel like I’m dreaming. I’ve been craving the company of woman and this is a pleasure for me to speak with you.”

“Awe, you’re too kind. You came all this way to be here now, so I have to think we met for a reason,” she tells me as we walk.

I see a small gravel road to the left that runs along a corn field. There’s a gorgeous oak tree down the way and I direct her attention toward it. “Would you sit with me below that tree? I have a blanket in my trailer and a guitar. I can think of nothing I’d rather do right now than sing you the sweetest songs I know.”

Her eyes light up and she nods in agreement. There’s something in those eyes. Passion and enthusiasm. An excitement and appreciation for the moment. It’s contagious and inspires me to give her my best in this time we share. I spread the blanket out beneath the tree and we sit as I take my guitar out. Those blue eyes are wide and fixated on me. A breeze blows through the leaves above us and I can smell the coming of fall on the air.

I tune my guitar and begin to play. She watches, curious and encouraging. I feel so comfortable in her presence. My voice finds wings and my fingers do things they’ve never tried. The tune I sing is about the infatuation of a man with a woman he just met and whether he should run or fall. When I finish the song I notice a tear run down her cheek. Reaching up to her face I wipe it away and kiss her gently below her eye. She leans in with no hesitation and I find her lips with mine. True Divine. There’s energy between us that arks and our kiss is the spark that ignites the love flame eternal. No past. No future. Only now. We both have a magical present. I open her gift and she unwraps mine.

Looking at me in bewilderment, Charlotte says, “What really made you leave home? You’re such a talented handsome man. What would drive you to leave your family and friends behind to ride your bicycle across the country? Was it a woman? You have a broken heart don’t you?”

I think about that for a moment before answering, “No Charlotte, my heart isn’t broken. I’ve only loved three times and those women are each amazing in their own ways. I always wished for more though. I desired a mutual acceptance and appreciation that I never completely found. The balance was always off . My leaving wasn’t due to a broken heart; quite the opposite, it came from my love for life! I wasn’t enjoying my work or my living situation any longer and things got too complicated. Too fast. I wished for simplicity and the solitude I was missing. I love my bike and the river has been a great muse of mine, but more than anything I dream of being an author! Riding my bicycle along the river, camping and playing music while writing a novel: that became an idea that I couldn’t shake from my mind. Why suffer? Why not have what I really want? Tomorrow is no guarantee Charlotte. Experience what you wish for right now!”

She leans in to kiss me again and with a breathy whisper, she says, “I wish for you to make love to me, right now.”

“Your wish is my command,” I say this last truth as we begin to speak the language of no words.

We lose ourselves in each other and find ourselves with the joining of spirits, transcending time and space. The love we make is more than a physical ecstasy, it’s a joyous union of soul and consciousness, a harmony of being that reverberates through the ether. We create a melody that launches off into the cosmos and travels through skies of alien landscapes as a bright shooting star upon which wishes are made and dreams come true.

In our brief time together, I appreciate her presence completely and immerse myself in the very essence of her being, as she does mine. Collapsing in the arms of my lover, our heart beats syncopate and stay this way as we breathe a breath of life together, timeless. With love like this, the conception of genius becomes possible. It wasn’t until this moment that I realized the true message that I have to give to the people I’ll encounter on the road ahead. The past is but a memory and the future is only fantasy. All we have is now, so appreciate this moment, this moment is your life!

Her phone has been beeping with text messages and it rings as we get our things together. Someone is missing her. I kiss Charlotte once more and with all of my gratitude; I thank her for seeing me, seeing the real me and appreciating me fully with those angel eyes. What a vision. Packing my things away, we say farewell, wanting nothing more and nothing less. With this maturity and understanding, our moment together remains perfect, for now and forever.

Riding off into the sunset like a scene from a movie, my face hurts from smiling and I move like the wind without looking back. I could pedal all night with this energy running through me. My heart flutters as I think about the road I’m on and the way people’s path’s cross. We seem to have an ability to manifest our desires with a faith in life’s abundance and this is no great secret.

Darkness comes in and the night sky is crystal clear. Finding a wayside rest area after the town of Tennyson, I pull over and put up my tent. Before climbing in and attempting to sleep, coyotes howl as I look up at the diamonds in the sky and ponder this existence, thanking my lucky stars to be exactly where I am, right here, in this eternal moment.

A Timeless Secret

Michael J. Fox and I share a number of things in common, including our name.  I can act like “Back to the Future” didn’t have a huge impact on my life but that would only be an act and a shaky one at best.  Hover boards are finally real and thanks to Nike (and slave labor), you’ll even be able to buy sneakers with power laces next year, alleviating the bothersome need to bend over and deal with shoestrings.  Yes, the times are a changin’.  A wise man once said, “The future is now.” Oh yeah, that was me and you can totally trust everything I say because after all,  I did graduate from Sandstone Federal University where I obtained a master’s degree in Time and the Moment of Now.

An old tree was chopped down in our forest for unknown reasons.  Her stump rises up to my heart and I was barely able to vault my body on top of her many rings this morning.  After succeeding on the second attempt, I remained there and sat alone in the woods for quite some time before the sunrise.  This will be a pedestal of morning meditation for the great spirit and a place where the circuit of Life’s Cycle can be plugged in and powerfully completed ~ within and without-above and below.  Much is yet to be learned on this connection but the Wilderness is a humble teacher.  The following is a list containing the categories and areas of knowledge I wish to deepen along with the educational goals I seek to accomplish during my studies at the Teaching Drum Outdoor School:

  • Writing and Publishing  -publish my book, study writing and improve technique, refine editing skills, learn marketing strategies, create and maintain an author website, outline the next book, expand platform and gain income through writing.
  • Wilderness Skills  -learn about wild foraging / natural cooking and food preservation, participate in the ricing season, experiment with tapping maple trees, fabricate clothing from wild materials, improve camping and canoeing knowledge, skinning animals and utilizing their hides and meat, expanding fire skills and earthen shelter building as well as primitive fishing practices.
  • People Skills and Personal Studies  -the circle way, the gifting economy, truth speaking, dream works, co-parenting, nonviolent communication, psychology patterns, enneagram research, music and my relationship with money.

My book has become quite refined and I’ve been enjoying the editing process thoroughly.  Progress has reached the point of the manuscript being ready for proof readers and I’ll be asking for some official critiques, as bloody as possible, before my final changes are made.  I’ll be opening up the opportunity for a number of trusted people to read the memoir very soon so let me know if you’re interested.  Also, I’d like to hire a talented artist to design the book’s cover with an original drawing.  The tentative title page looks like this:

The River Song

Following the Mississippi on a Bicycle Dream Ride

by

Michael Jason Fox

I’m not sure how long I’ll be at the school or even here on earth for that matter but I am extremely optimistic about what the future holds.  To back it up to the beginning momentarily, the point of all of this is living in the present -that is the key to freedom and experiencing your dreams coming true.  This eternal moment of being; it’s the door you’ve knocked upon for answers, it’s the gift you’ve already been given and you can open it right now.  The greatest challenge with my work has been walking the fine line between philosophy and preaching, teaching and learning.  After this book is published and even after I die; people will chop it down and use it for what they will. However, I do picture a curious youth finding it on the path and sitting upon it thinking, peacefully.  I hope she feels Life in the roots and stays still long enough to see the present within -a timeless secret.

20140329-103827.jpg

Walden

 

Image

“Welcome to Paradise,” says the sign in the background.  In the foreground is everything I own.  I can carry it all on my bicycle without the help of panniers or a trailer.  I got here with the power of my legs alone and that’s a great freedom to experience. 

Over the river and through the woods, to Tamarack’s house I go…

CouchSurfing in the city was a pleasant surprise and really couldn’t have gone any smoother.  I am truly humbled by the generosity of strangers and their willingness to help travelers like myself.  Both of my hosts were intelligent and courteous, welcoming me into their homes with open arms and treating me with trust and respect as if I were a family member –and essentially I am.  The city; although quaint, was fast and far different from what I’ve become accustomed with over the last month at the wilderness school.  I couldn’t help but to feel a little like Henry David Thoreau, leaving Walden and going into the village to observe the lifestyles of the people, much like they might venture into the wilderness to observe the animals.  Overall, it was an enriching experience, full of insights and the chance to focus my energy without distraction, into projects that were demanding my attention.

The Teaching Drum Outdoor School offered me an extension on my stay and welcomed my return after the week-long vacation and reflection in the city.  Happily accepting this invitation, I began the journey back to Three Lakes from Rhinelander on my bicycle yesterday.  Being that it was the nicest day of the year so far; temperature wise, I decided to MapQuest a scenic bike route with the hopes of avoiding traffic and soaking up some of the beauty on the way home.  Carrying everything I own, my guitar and stuff sack balanced on either side of the bike’s handle bar and a pack on my back, I started what was only to be a twenty-six mile ride through the countryside among the many lakes of northern Wisconsin.  Everything was lovely until my directions took me to a road less traveled, unplowed and impossible to navigate.  I attempted to cut across the snowmobile tracks on Stella Lake with the hopes of reaching a plowed road on the other side.  Pushing my bike through the snow with a heavy load, I spent two full hours on the lake alone, exploring.  In the end, I was forced to suck it up and turn around, backtracking all the way to County Road C on melting roads with a sloppy preview of the spring to come.  Cars shot water eight feet high in passing and brand new rivers ran downhill as I broke trail through the muddy slush.  Expecting the trip would only total two hours, I left ill prepared and brought no food or water.  Eating snow got me through my thirst until I was able to take alms from a man working outside.  An Elder from the school just happened to be driving by as I pedaled down the road.  She stopped and lightened my load, taking the guitar and stuff sack off my hands in exchange for an apple she had.  What a trade off that was.  The rest of the trip was into a gusting north wind, mostly uphill.  I stopped and took a short nap in a snow bank but eventually made it back to Teaching Drum, exhausted.

Trusting MapQuest as the authority seemed to be a mistake in this venture.  It’s most likely a gorgeous way to pedal in the summer time but whoever wrote that route must’ve never attempted it in the winter months.  Although it was surely one of the ways to get to where I was going, it wasn’t the only path and definitely not the best route for me at this particular time.  Remember that when dealing with others opinions on the right way to go.  When I say ‘the right way to go,’ I’m referring to everything from simple choices to travel directions, to spiritual paths and beyond.  We all find our truths a little differently and no one has ever reached enlightenment through another person’s doctrine.  There are many paths and no one right way to get to where you’re going; so try them, try all the paths if you will.  Find your own truth and live by your own doctrine.

The most important thing I learned from this trip deals in my relationship with creative expression.  Being back on my bicycle was amazing because I was reminded that the greater majority of creative ideas come to me through movement and physical activity outdoors.  That’s where the brainstorming happens and the seeds for intelligent sharing are planted and nurtured.  Having a quiet place to be still is where my creative expressions take fruition and to have that balance between motion and a stable place to work is essential in my creative process.  It’s interesting how we forget our truths sometimes and rediscover them through our struggles.  I am at the school again and getting settled, back at my Walden, ready to put this knowledge into action with new projects and I’m excited to explore the trails around here with the green season, finding new paths and old truths, awaiting discovery and remembrance.  Thoreauly ready for spring’s blossoming.