How many times have I been here, right along with you. My thoughts twisted into injustices and corruption, real and imagined, slights festering inside the incessant blabber of consciousness.
Oh! how do we recover? yet we do.
After the fear comes silence, breath returns.
Look far, look to the horizon, past that impenetrable forest, past that distant mountain. The sunlight, our way out, let us rest tonight and in the morning we will push on.
I grew up in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a beautiful state, that has been graced by nature with areas of truly awe-inspiring geography. From the tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay to the endless ribbons of wooded mountains and valleys stretching down its spine.
In 1783, Thomas Jefferson traveled to Harper’s Ferry (then Virginia) and upon seeing the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac River remarked that this natural wonder “is as placid and delightful as that is wild and tremendous. For the mountains being cloven asunder, she presents to your eye, through the cleft, a small catch of smooth blue horizon, at an infinite distance in that plain country, inviting you, as it were, from the riot and tumult roaring around to pass through the breach and participate in the calm below…This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.”
But Jefferson never traveled west of the Appalachians. He could only imagine what his Corp of Discovery, led by Lewis and Clark had witnessed and seen on their journey to the Pacific and back. As a teenager, I too hiked high above Harpers Ferry and like Jefferson meditated with the beauty of the confluence. But Jefferson never saw the sunrise in Eastern Montana, the sunset and alpenglow on the Mountains in Glacier National Park. If Harper’s Ferry is “worth a voyage across the Atlantic”, then Montana is worth low bagging to get to. Montana is worth all the pains of having your heartbroken while you’re a zit faced teenager knowing that things are going to be better. Montana is worth the late night insomnia of doubt about what you should do with your life. Montana is worth all this and more. Not just one view worthy, but thousands, from the soul swallowing immensity of the Missouri Breaks to every peak in the Spanish Peaks.
Thank God I was not born in Montana and never had these state backdrops of Montana infused into my life before consciousness. Every drive is a discovery, every trip across this state another opportunity to fall in love and realize the promise of life. Montana, worth a voyage from anywhere.
For My Daughter in Reply to a Question
We’re not going to die,
we’ll find a way.
We’ll breathe deeply
and eat carefully.
We’ll think always on life.
There’ll be no fading for you or for me.
We’ll be the first
and we’ll not laugh at ourselves ever
and your children will be my grandchildren.
Nothing will have changed
except by addition.
There’ll never be another as you
and never another as I.
No one ever will confuse you
nor confuse me with another.
We will not be forgotten and passed over
and buried under the births and deaths to come.
Tomorrow I begin my 18th year of teaching. Roughly 1,800 students can say that I attempted to teach them. I’ve grown an immeasurable amount since that first period bell rung so many years ago.
Summer break has come to an end. It really came together, much accomplished, much learned and the experiences I lived through recharged me, brought me back to a good place. I think I might finally be where I’m supposed to be. Thank you to everyone, I’m so lucky.
One final last trip into the backcountry this weekend. The weather didn’t cooperate, but even on her worst days Montana is where you want to be.
A decade ago somebody told me to find a picture of myself as a kid. I had to find a picture in which I looked happy. Furthermore I was instructed to think back to the mindset that I had when the picture was taken so that I could capture the innocence, joy, unmitigated happiness of youth, if only as a memory.
Perhaps life’s greatest tragedy is that we lose that sense of youth.
Some places are so iconic that they exist only in our memory and on movie sets. Gruene Music Hall is an exception. Nestled on the hill above the Guadalupe River in central Texas this little piece of Americana has the smell, feel and look of everything that is good about Texas, Country Music and America.
Just a few miles west of Johnson City, Texas, is the LBJ Ranch. Then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson bought the ranch in 1951 a few years into his first US Senate term. The ranch became the center piece of LBJ’s political career, the backdrop to many visits by world leaders, national politicians and cultural icons. When Johnson became president the ranch featured an expanded runway that brought the president to his home. A scorching August day seemed like the perfect time to take a look.
The runway on the ranch was not big enough to handle the full size Air Force One so President Johnson sourced some JetStars to bring him from Austin to the ranch.
MK and I have been driving across the landscapes of life for the past 17 years.
What a difference patience, wisdom and maturity add to any situation. This has been the summer of waiting for those first reactions to pass. There is power in letting fierce emotion blast through your consciousness and waiting for the right and true response to develop. Caught between the poles of getting things done and getting things correct is a sweet spot that allows for you to be genuine.
This summer I bought a good microphone. A Podcast is coming. No great theme, no great mission. Me talking to people. I love good stories, interesting people and intelligent arguments. Stay tuned.
The first book I read this summer was David W. Blight’s 2019 Pulitzer Prize winning biography on Frederick Douglass. The book is good, and proves that Douglass was truly one of the important Americans in the Nineteenth Century. I learned so much not only about Douglass, but about America in this book.
There is one thing I want you to know.
Douglass referred to the Civil War (1861-1865) as the Slave Holders Rebellion. No state’s rights, no question about the role of federalism, no war of northern aggression, he called it for what it was, the Slaveholders Rebellion.
As a young man a fell for the myth of the lost cause. I was persuaded that there really was something more than slavery, something noble. Those blinders fell off for good when I read Stephen Sears’ Gettysburg and paused when I learned that large number of Southern soldiers invading Maryland and Pennsylvania in the summer of 1863 were tasked with rounding up freed slaves in these Northern states and sending them back into bondage. R.E. Lee knew this, tell me, where is the honor in that?
In this age of disinformation, fake news and a resurgence in White Supremacy let’s us honor Douglass by calling it for what it was, no ambiguity. Take a moment to watch this short video of United States Army Colonel Sy Seidel explain that slavery was the core of reason we fought each other to make this nation what it is today.
Today’s reading in Ryan Holiday’s Daily Stoic dealt with recognizing joy. We often live in constant hunger for more, something we don’t currently have. Imagine that, with the blink of an eye, you have all that you desire. Would it be joyous? Bliss?
What if we have already achieved joy, but desire masks the symptoms? What would make you happy right now? Don’t let desire cancel joy. I spent three consecutive days floating the North and Middle Fork of the Flathead, pure bliss. My mind was unsettled, my conscious convicted and my attention erratic. Always ask, “Is this joy?” If it is, savor it.
I’m traveling far and wide in the next few weeks. I’ve also given up on Facebook (for now) which was the primary way people linked up with this blog. If you think what I have to say is at all worth sharing, please do.