“Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, inciting at once to work and rest! Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God. Nevermore, however weary, should one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, long life, short life, stormy or calm, he is rich forever. “ ~ John Muir
I woke up one morning recently overwhelmed by a sense of being in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong things. That usually means I had a dream about fly fishing. But the day job was calling so I hitched myself up and out of bed to get through the routine of another hum drum schedule.
I feel the pressure. Get up early, snake through five lanes of brake lights, a commute so familiar I arrive without remembering how I got there. Marginally engaged, I go through the motions of meetings, conference calls, and project plans, numbed to the outcomes. All of this justified by the bi-weekly direct deposit then used to pay for gas, car maintenance, an occasional pair of new slacks. Next day the lemmings are still out there headed for the precipice and I dutifully follow along, eyes glazed. And the next day. And the next.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Viewed through the lens of Western society I suppose I’m accomplished. I’ve held jobs where I’ve earned a living wage and learned a variety of skills. I’ve paid mortgages and multiple college tuitions, rescued a dog, and nurtured a partnership with a most incredible woman. I’ve had the honor of bringing into this world three compassionate, gifted children, in awe of how they navigate an increasingly confusing world. I follow a road map that seems to have been placed in front of me by someone I don’t recognize, a blueprint I didn’t create, one predestined and mundane.
It’s a strange weight I carry. I’ve lived a full life but haven’t lived fully. I don’t think I’ve connected to my most fundamental cosmic intention. Is this a mid-life crisis, a reaction to the vacuum created as the proverbial nest has emptied? The questions persist. I have somehow allowed weakness and doubt to seep into my worldview.
I’m simply not wired to work 50 hours a week, checking in and checking out, answering to someone else’s demands, following a pattern predictable and corrosive. In moments of clarity I silently shake my head at the counter-intuitive nature of this design. Archaeologists figure that our paleolithic ancestors “worked” maybe 12 hours a week. And then they would play in order to keep up the skills needed to hunt and forage. I have a primal urge to fish and hunt and forage and forge my path as artist and naturalist, philosopher and interpreter.
I’m a man too gentle to live among urban wolves. I long to stand in rivers. I seek sermons in stones. I want to live in the crepuscular moments of each day finding treasures in the daybreak and mystery in the dusk.
I spend every day reminding myself of this. I spend every day trying to sneak in moments of creativity. And of purpose. I must learn how to start trusting myself again, believing, giving myself permission to say, “my hands were meant for something else, my life can have deeper fulfillment than I originally thought.” There are other paths and other places to do what I was meant to do.
I know one path to such a place. A humble cabin in a wilderness carved by a trout stream. The moment I step into that vastness I am connected to an unmistakable divinity. My receptors become wide open, eyes dilating with rich color, nostrils flaring to draw in the waft of wood and pine needles and leaves goldening through the seasons. The spiritual energy is palpable, has substance, and I can actually run my fingers through it, feeling its weight.
I do not want to go to the mountains. I am ready to be from the mountains, to live in the woods and the waters, to paint on a canvas of sky, to stand in the tempest of storms and deeply breathe in the songs carried by the wind.