But Still I Walk

I was thinking about how often I rationalized staying in St. Louis, and working in the political world, even though I knew it wasn’t right for me, and the path I’m on now was always calling. So I started scribbling this morning on a smoke break and this came out.

I walk, and as I do it all lifts off of me.

I roar into the surrounding wilds,

and whimper as it roars back at me,

A combined strength built of bird calls and running water,

and any other creature that wants to lend its voice.

I am small, and unnecessarily defiant of the paths I walk through.

I snarl at the falling leaves,

and cloy at the fog as it envelops me.

I cannot understand why it lays this assault against me,

Nor can I stop raising my voice in defiance of it.

So I walk, and as I do it all lifts off me.

 

  I am older now by days or weeks,

The nights have run together with the days.

I have tried to maintain my rage against this wild thing,

This ever closing pincer that seeks to shut me within it.

I still cannot fathom it’s intent,

And after so long walking I do not care to.

I simply resist for resistance’s sake.

I thrash against vines as they lay in wait for me,

Entangling arms and binding windpipe.

I am losing this fight,

This act of being apart from the wild that is around me.

But still I walk, and as I do it all lifts off me.

 

 I do not think of days or nights,

Only of walking and my aching bones.

I have grown ancient and tired,

And it would seem the wild is overtaking me.

But with age comes wisdom and understanding,

So the sages say.

I resisted to resist,

Without knowing fully what I was shaking off my back.

The roar I heard so many years ago was not meant to threaten,

Only meant to invite me into the choir.

To add my howls to the growing chorus,

To make the wild that much louder.

I was offered a place in the fold and ignored it.

I could have raised my voice in unison with the gentle wild,

Could have had it all taken off of me willingly,

Instead of shrugging it off piecemeal for the wild to pick up later.

But I am old now and the walk has lifted it all off of me,

 

So now I whimper beneath an ash tree,

Adding what little voice I have left to the wild’s call.

I feel the vines grow down from above,

Not to choke or bind,

But to draw me into themselves,

And up into the oak.

All the fight finally taken from me,

And understanding to replace it.

The wild called me,

Said “join your roar with mine”,

And I resisted to resist.

So now I lay, beneath this ash,

And as I do it all lifts off of me.

~C.M.R

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The Final Stretch

img_20160327_122324991.jpgI don’t have a lot of wandering or outdoor stuff to talk about this week, as I’m scrambling to get everything moved out of my apartment. However, I thought I’d touch on something my roommate has taken to calling the “pre-road trip jitters”. Over the last week or so, I’ve been losing my mind, anxious to be on the road. At first, it was just excitement, and then it became outright crankiness with everyone around me. Not that they were doing anything to merit that, but when every word they speak is a reminder that I’m still here and not on the road, it becomes irritating. If I wasn’t working up until the day I leave I’d have already Irish goodbye’d everyone and I’d be back east as I write this. It’s a hard thing to deal with when you’re excited to get going, and can’t for whatever reason. So I figured I’d lay out a few of the coping mechanisms I’ve been using to keep myself sane.

  1. See the people you’ll miss most; I’ve been making the rounds and saying real goodbyes with the people who’s company I’ll miss in a month or two. Be as picky about this as you need to be, but everyone has two or three people in their lives that deserve an hour or two of your time before you leave. Sit with them, catch up if necessary, and remember all the good memories you’ve had with them. You’ll be grateful you did once the dust settles wherever you’re heading. It adds some closure to what could otherwise be a friendship that stagnates and fails because you didn’t put in a little effort.
  2. Do things you won’t have access to later. Electronics will be few and far between for the most part once I’m in Maine, so I’ve been enjoying rewatching some of my favorite movies and tv-shows. (Twin Peaks, you’re going to make any owls I see or hear in Maine pretty unsettling) It could also be visiting places that you hold close. I made sure to hike Castlewood’s trails a few times, and got some friends to go to my favorite bar in Stl, the Thaxton Speakeasy.
  3. Meditation;  I’m by no means a calm person, and I doubt I ever will be. However, I do like to take five to ten minutes most mornings to sit, and read some sort of philosophy, or outright meditate. Over the last week I’ve forced myself to make this a longer and more regular thing. It’s helped clear my head when I get frustrated with waiting, or to pass the time when it feels like it’s dragging by. img_20160328_055639614.jpg
  4. Rep. Rep, you crazy, energetic maniac. I’m going to miss waking up with your stupid paw in my mouth buddy. For those who don’t know, Rep is my border collie. He’s insane, and most days is a pain in my ass. Wouldn’t trade him for anything, and he was the only second thought I had when I started the application process for my program in Maine. Luckily, my family loves him and will take great care of him, but the thought of not seeing him first thing every day is a little rough. So I’ve been spending as much time as I can with him. If you have a dog or any pet for that matter, and you’re going on a trip, spoil the hell out of them for a week before you leave. They won’t understand why you’re gone and hopefully, you’ll get to see you again soon, but you can believe they’ll miss you as much as you miss them. I know Rep will, unless my Ma’ feeds him with as much ferocity as she feeds me when I visit. Then he’s going to decide she’s his favorite. Rep, I hope I come back and you’ve gained twenty pounds. Then maybe I can keep up with you when we go running.

So what about you guys? What traditions do you have before a long trip? Anything else I need to do before I disappear into the woods for a year? let me know in the comments below.

Hoc Opus, Hic Labor Est

I’ve been thinking a lot about self-reliance lately. I’ve always aimed for it, and surrounded myself with people who embody it as well. In doing so I’ve realized there’s a difference between the reasoning for some people’s self-reliant tendencies. I had a serious relationship with someone who I respected immensely for their ability to take care of themselves entirely, but as the relationship went on I realized it was rooted in selfishness. Not in a disparaging way, but in her desire to not be tied to anything or anyone, and it got me thinking about why I strive for being stoic, and self-contained. Yes, it allows me to take care of myself, but more importantly, it means that when someone I care about needs something, I’m there. I started scribbling down some thoughts and as things do with me it turned into something of a personal manifesto.

Make sure you’ve made someone else’s life better every day. Even a small laugh, or a task done that removes a bit of burden from them is better than spending the day self involved.

 

It will be hard. You will not receive thanks most days. This is not the point. The gratification comes from knowing what you’ve done. If you can end the day checking off things you’ve done for others that you can be proud of instead of slights against you sleep comes much easier. You are stoic, you are self reliant. The difference is that you are this way in order to be the bedrock other people can count on, rather than selfishly inclined. You must make yourself into a strong shelter other’s can hide in, rather than a castle that keeps others out. The walls must be sturdy, but there must always be a gate that lets in anyone who asks. You do not question their intentions until you have reason to. You do not wonder what you will gain from their entrance, only what can you give, and more importantly what they need. If it is in your ability to do so, supply that. if you cannot, help them find a way towards it. You will end most days drained, and you will grow to crave that emptiness as a reward all it’s own. Let it become cavernous, and know that the reason you bother to sleep is to fill it up so it can be drained again the next day.

 

Your own wants, desires and fears are important, but all we can do is hope that you will find others in your life who will aim to be bedrock for you when you need it. You will build relationships with people based on the first point. They will see dependableness in you, and if they are of the same ilk, will be the same. If they are not, they will drain you and move on. This is not your concern. Your worry is that you will not have done enough to inspire that trust in them, and you will do more. If they move on afterwards, which many will, you will still be able to find self respect and pride in the fact that you gave all you could. Holding a breach in the line is a trope for a reason. You are taking on more than others would, and at cost to yourself, but every minute of holding that line allows others to live better and that is your reward. Hold it until you fall, and if someone else rises to fill your place recover as quickly as you can then throw yourself at their side. Keep self gratification on a short leash. Small doses are needed, but only as momentary distractions, brief repose then back into the work.

 

Hoc Opus, Hic Labor Est

 

These are your words. remember them everytime you feel sorry for yourself. You choose everyday to live this way, and no one is forcing you to do so. Remember that at night you can lay down and repeat the names of those you’ve helped that day. Between each name repeat these words. I’m not much for meditation as a form of clearing the mind, but a mantra as a lullaby sung to yourself as you fall asleep makes your last thoughts about others rather than yourself and prevents you worrying about your own desires in a way that leads to those soul crushing “dark nights of the soul”. Go to bed proud not only of the work you did that day, but the people who had it easier because you shouldered part of their burden. The origin of your words are from the aeneid, describing the resolve to drag not only yourself, but someone you care for out of hell itself. Your task is much less daunting. Every tiny pain you take away from others may have been hell for them, and you will never know for sure, but they will. “This is the hard work, this is the toil” and it is the only way of living that will make your endless energy fuel for something greater than yourself.

 

You will answer to no one that tries to sway you from this path, and simultaneously to everyone that professes a need no matter how small.

The Rambler’s Bundle

“Ever since my childhood I’ve been scared, I’ve been afraid,
of being trapped by circumstance, of staying in one place,
and so I always keep a small bag full of clothes carefully stored,
somewhere secret, somewhere safe, somewhere close to the door.”

That’s a great line from Frank Turner’s “The Road” that exemplifies the need of wanderers to be prepared to leave when the wanderlust hits them. You feel the urge to go, and after it becomes an established pattern, it just makes sense to have a bag that’s always ready. The term “go bag”,  isn’t applicable since that’s gained connotations from the “prepper” demographic, and that’s not the situation here. This is more a collection of the things that should go in a bag to make it versatile enough that no matter where that urge is going to take you, you’re ready. It’s a hard thing to prepare for since your destination could be something outdoors related (a day hike location, an overnight camp site etc.), or a city whose street’s you’d like to wander for a few days

It should be stressed that this isn’t something that should be applied to a long trip. My ramblin’ bag has everything I need for a week at a stretch but is really more appropriate for a weekend trip. It’s something to encourage spontaneous trips, as opposed to those that take planning, and a specific set of gear, clothing etc. This list instead aims for versatility, and with the items in it, you should be able to adapt to whatever location has wormed itself into your mind and started calling to you to it. A lot of these are things people pack anyway, but what I’m advocating is picking up extras of those daily necessities and NEVER taking them out of this pack, so you don’t have to jump in your car and wonder “aw hell, did I bring soap”.

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  1. Clothes; this one goes without saying, but it’s worth mentioning. Go simple. I usually have two pairs of jeans, three or four plain black or white undershirts and a button down. The button down doesn’t get much use since the places I visit are usually for hiking, but if I stop into a city to see friends it’s nice to have the option. Shoes are another example of this. I’ve got a pair of boots I wear every day, but I usually bring along a pair of nicer shoes for the same reason as the button down.
  2.  A Toothbrush/Toothpaste/Soap ; I use my teeth like a goddamned multi-tool, so at the very least it’ll get the taste of whatever I just cut in half with my chompers out.
  3. $250; Look, things happen. I was hiking and camping in Tennessee with a friend, and when we got back to the cars I realized that at some point my wallet had fallen out of my pocket. Luckily, I was with friends so wasn’t stranded for gas money, etc. However afterwards I started this practice of having some cash always in the bag, just in case I wasn’t around friends the next time.
  4. Notepad; I scribble things down constantly, so this goes without saying. The other fun bit with having a pad that’s ONLY for this pack is that on the next trip you get to see all the thoughts you had on the last one, that you may have forgotten. It allows your spontaneous trips to build on each other in a way they wouldn’t without those reminders.
  5. Phone charger; An extra one. Don’t ever take it out of the bag, even if it means buying a new one when your everyday charger breaks. Your phone fills in for a lot of items someone a decade ago would have needed. It’s a great tool for orienteering, emergency situations, photography etc, and it can only do all these tasks if it’s charged.
  6. A utility knife; I don’t care if you’ve got an everyday carry that never leaves your pocket. Find a swiss army knife, or something similar and leave it in an outside pocket of the pack. If you think you need it, I also recommend a “hobo” style tool. If you’re eating on the road, or trail its a nice little bit of comfort, and definitely beats looking for plastic forks in gas stations.
  7. Something to read; I’ve got a big book of poetry that goes everywhere with me, maybe you’ve got a book that you can read over and over, or a textbook of some kind you’ve been trying to slowly learn. Toss it in, you’ll appreciate it.

 

If you need other things, go ahead and toss them in. I travel pretty simple, but if anything jumps out at you that I haven’t discovered, and has made your travels easier chime in below and let me know about them.

~slainte mhath

Musing on the “Gateway To The West”

 

I’ve lived in St. Louis for more than a decade now. Truth be told, it never really felt like home. I’ve made amazing friends and have plenty of spots in the city I’ll always think of fondly. I don’t write this as an assault on the city that I’ve lived in, but as a meditation on why I’m so happy to be leaving. The otherness I felt here, instilled a definition of being “at home” that is vital to my ability to travel and not get homesick.

This city is strange, and I say this not only as someone who tried very hard to NOT be from here. I lived in Baltimore just long enough to ascribe the title of “home” to it, before I came here and made life hell for my parents complaining about being here. There’s an odd duality to being in St. Louis. The city doesn’t sprawl out the way others do. In most there isn’t really a defining line where the city ends and the suburbs begin. St. Louis has tried to blur those lines over and over, but for whatever reason never really managed to do it. There is an undercurrent that likes those strictly drawn lines, as evidenced by the common greeting of “where did you go to highschool?”. It’s asked not out of interest, but as a way of shaping the conversation before it starts, of classifying the person you’re interacting with. I won’t go into the detrimental aspects of this, but I do want to talk about something good that came of this odd little tic of St. Louis locals.

Not being from here, and being asked that question early on made for some interesting self-growth. I was homeschooled most of my life, save one year of private catholic school. Not having a short hand answer that most of the people I met had (“Oh, I went to Eureka HS, Marquette, Fox, ETC”) forced me to explore myself in a way I likely wouldn’t have in any other city. I had to have explanations for all the weird b’more habits I brought inland with me, and that forced me to read about my home cities history and find the origins of things like “hon” and “Down ocean”. Simple phrases I used daily, that I wouldn’t have questioned otherwise. It also meant that I lived here, but if I wanted to feel home, but not concede to being “from” st. Louis, I had to create that sense of belonging internally. This is the greatest thing living here has imparted to me, this ability to be in any city, or part of the world and feel comfortable. It’s allowed me to have experiences with locals I meet that I likely wouldn’t have had if I was missing someplace. Secondary to my internal sense of comfort, is a curiosity about other places that wouldn’t have come about without being dropped into such a drastically different city right as I started to figure myself out.

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This town is a good one, and it’s taken me a long time to admit it. There are things about it that I love, and things I don’t, but I challenge anyone to find a town of people who’re prouder of their city (just don’t tell them I admire it. If I hear one more person tell me how great the cardinals are, I’m going to raid Busch stadium like an invading barbarian horde and raze it.) They have an ability to take all the cultures that float down the river to them and make it their own. Toasted ravioli might be the most midwestern idea I’ve ever heard, but christ is it a stroke of genius. Even folks I disagreed with about some of my most deeply held beliefs were always polite and welcoming. Sometimes to a frustrating degree for this Eastern kid. (You have no idea how much pent up argumentativeness is is inside me from having a disagreement interrupted by being offered food, or a beer.)

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For every memory of sadness that came from being landlocked, and not near my family or the places I loved, there is a memory of good times, with good people who’ll always be close to my heart. I met my best friends here, and that means leaving a small bit of myself in a city I railed against for years, and you know something? I was wrong. So incredibly wrong. This place formed me just as much as Baltimore did, arguably more so. The people here offered insight when I needed it, and shaped the path I’m taking by doing so. I’ll never admit to being a St. Louisian, but I’d be lying on an unforgivable scale if I didn’t admit to the fact that I am going to miss the hell out of this strange, bifurcated city. You have so much pride over such strange things (The arch is the most pointless piece of architecture in the country, and most St. Louis natives admit it happily to each other, but don’t you dare say it’s pointless if you’re not from here. You don’t know rage until you see someone defending that stupid silver rainbow that they probably went up in once, and never thought about again until this fight for its honor ensued.)

I’m going to miss you St. Louis, not enough to ever come back permanently, but enough to visit on occasion and eat all your weird food. Except your pizza. You can keep that weird cardboard.