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.

 

The Roots Of Wanderlust.

I’ve written about friends in a previous post, but now I’d like to talk a little bit about my family and how they influenced my need to wander as much as I can.

In trying to figure out why this thing in me exists, this burning urge to not be where I currently am, I’ve thought a lot about the people I grew up around and how much moving so much in my early years of life formed it.

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We grew up with an uncle who played the bagpipes, singing “Parting Glass” and laughing at my uncles and their boisterous approach to personal interaction. This is my father’s side, and I think they influenced greatly how I am with my friends. They bring to mind a deep desire to help those who need it, and a loyalty that I try to emulate and seek out in the people I choose to be friends with. They love to sit around a table, laughing at stupid things we’ve done, and somehow finding peace in the chaos that they produce. My favorite memories of them will always be the ones where other families would be quiet or reserved. Funerals, in particular seem to bring out a deep understanding of the joy life offers that I have never quite managed to master. When my great-grandmother passed away, we had the post-funeral gathering at a biker bar, and for every sip of beer someone had, another person was spitting one out in order to open up their mouths to laugh. Being around them and learning from them meant that even when we moved around so much, I never had a problem making friends. People love a fool, and thanks to the Russell’s I know how to be one if it’ll get a smile out of someone who needs it.

My Mothers side gave me my fire. They are tough, and they do not allow for others folly very well, but they’re the ones who passed on the rambler gene. They lived simply and with a work ethic that puts me to shame every time I thought about complaining about my office job. They spent as much time as they could outdoors, and because of that, I grew up taking long drives to places I’d never have found on my own so early in life. When we left the east coast, it hurt me deeply. I was removed from the base I’d gotten used to, and my Ma’s parents saw this and eventually flew me back to go on a road trip with them over the course of two months. That trip will always be the thing I identify as the beginning of my habit of disappearing for a weekend or two on occasion. We drove up the east coast to Maine, then west through the lakes and into Wisconsin before returning to the St. Louis. The time in Maine in particular has stuck with me almost every day, seeing the heather and moss early in the morning in Acadia park felt like being in another world, and everything I’ve done since has been chasing that feeling. Seeing thunder hole created a curiosity in me about the natural world, and seeign a moose early one mornign through the fog instilled a deep respect for nature. (I remember spilling coffee when I saw the thing and thinking “That is the biggest animal I’ve ever seen this close and I’m going back inside”) So DeArmitts? Thanks for “addiction” part of Primitive addictions, you crazy bunch of baltimorons.

So as I finish the final preparations for my time in Maine, I’m reminded of these little bits of influence that bred the desire to rove as far as I could. I’ll never stop now that I’ve started, and thanks to these two vastly different groups of people I have the burn to keep going and know enough songs and jokes to meet interesting people as I go.

 

~slàinte mhath~

 

 

The Priest Archetype.

I’ve got a lot of things I want to do once I’m finished in Maine. The one that’s come most to the forefront is a pet project I’ve thought about a lot before, but never cemented into a real idea until I read This article about the women who play the role of Shaman for the people of Tuva.

A bit of backstory right off the bat. I grew up really catholic. The kind that, to paraphrase Dylan Moran, doesn’t know which is nicer, pleasure, or the shame of feeling that pleasure. The role models I had were mostly priests and nuns, and my mother who’d converted was and still is one of the most devout people I know, teaching at a private catholic school, etc. I spent a few years as a preteen planning on becoming a priest and devoured books about them. Some of them led such interesting lives and traveled the world as they knew it, helping and healing where they could. I don’t ascribe to any religion now, nor do I consider myself a spiritual person. However, I am still fascinated with the role that “preists” fill in societies. In any culture, there seems to be a member of the community who forgoes their own personal desires to a certain degree for the good of the community. Sure, sometimes it’s a position of honor that brings with it respect and possibly monetary gains. Often it isn’t, and more often than that it’s draining.

There’s a reason therapists have to have a strictly professional relationship with their clients. Otherwise, you become increasingly emotionally invested in these people, and it’s hard to not ache when someone you care about comes to you and bares their soul expecting you to have all the answers. The priest/shaman/mullah etc. does this willingly for their community, and is active in said community otherwise. They form friendships with the people who trust and depend on them, knowing full well that trust may not be fully reciprocal. I admit that this is an idealistic view of these people, but that ideal is what I’m interested in. Is this an archetype that will fade as the world becomes increasingly connected and people have more access to information of their own valition? Or will we always want a figurative “Medicine man” in our communities that we can turn to when conflicts and struggles arise. Religious or not, most cultures seem to have someone that fills this role and that’s where the idea for the previously mentioned “Pet Project” comes from.

I’m going to start compiling a list of these people, and when I can,  visit with them wherever I can find them and try to suss out their reasoning for leading this sort of life. The more obscure the better, because it’s easy to give up personal comforts for the good of the community when you live in relative ease anyway. The Tuvan’s are definitely on the list, as well as a few friends who profess forms of modern paganism and have been gracious enough to point me towards people who can explain that viewpoint to me. If this goes the way I expect it to, the list will grow larger and larger as I go. That’s just fine with me. If you know of someone like this, and feel the need to pass it on please do, along with how best to get in touch with them. I don’t expect this to be a project that’s ever “finished”.

I’ll leave you with the quote from the article about Tuvan Shamanism that struck me most and planted the seed of this idea.

“During Soviet times the rituals were banned but the tradition was still passed on, and in mid 90s completely re-emerged from the underground thanks to Mongush Kenin-Lopsan, now the head shaman of the republic and a respected historian, writer and poet. This year he is 90 years old.”

This is the point that I find most fascinating, that even in outright conflict with the larger culture or society, smaller demographics find such comfort in these traditional central figures that they continue to carry it forward, even as they adopt modern ways of living such as cell phones and living in five story apartments.

As previously stated, if you know of a culture, or practice I should add to my list please comment below.

sláinte

“Anam Cara”

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I spent Christmas and new years back east visiting family. On new years eve after most of the other guests had gone home I was sitting in my Uncle Pat’s music room with all my uncles listening to them play, singing along when I knew the tune, and chatting about life. I’d recently been through the end of what in retrospect I’d realized was an unhealthy relationship, and ultimately a toxic friendship as well as some bad news about the program I was in at Univeristy and losing a job. In talking about it with them, I mentioned how amazed I was by the people that had stepped in and not only comforted me but called me out when I was being insufferable. It was a level of friendship I wasn’t aware was there until it was necessary. My uncle Jimmy, who’s the oldest of the gang, and usually the loudest, got very quiet for a moment then simply said “Anam cara”. I know very little Gaelic, but knew “cara” was heart and pressed him to explain. He told me that it means “Freind of my soul” and when I rolled my eyes at him, assuming he meant “soul mate” in the way it’s thrown around today, and was trying to give me an expletive-laden version of “Plenty of fish in the sea” he stopped me and in typical Jimmy fashion, dumbed it down into the saltiest version he could think of. “It’s like this Chris, everyone’s got friends, right? But the one’s who you know are the good ones will hold up a mirror to your face whether you’re all done up or smeared in shit”

The phrase itself really stuck with me, and the more I looked into it the more I could see that quality in the people who’d been there for me. Especially my gang of fools living in Chicago who I see once or twice a year. Even with that distance and time, as soon as we’re together the dynamic is exactly the same as it always was. As individual recognition goes, my roommate, who became a brother in arms long before we lived together, and even survived the big dirty with me comes out on top. He dragged me kicking and clawing through the rough spots and always made sure there was something good to eat on the other side.

This sort of friendship is easy to miss in others. It’s sometimes painful the way resetting a broken bone can be, but most of the time it’s boring. It’s the autonomic nervous system of interpersonal relationships. It’s there, it does it’s job, and doesn’t complain unless you push it too hard. Even when you do, it’s only asking that you slow down a bit and let it catch up. Time and reflection have to be taken to notice it, as is true of anything that has the potential to be taken for granted.

In realizing how important these select people were to me, I knew I had to say proper goodbyes before I left for Maine. I’m writing all this down so I don’t have to have a deep personal conversation with each and every one of them, and because a lot of them live in places that don’t make for a short trip.

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My approach to any sentiment that I hold dear is to create a physical symbol of that thing. I’ve got my home states flag inked into my skin  where I can always see it, I have little knickknacks from every place I’ve visited and that impacted me significantly, etc. I think of them as little totems for those overwhelming feelings, good or bad, that keep them outside of myself so I avoid my family curse of “keep it all inside and then one day you’ll die”. So I decided to pass that on. I took an old table leg and sawed of small circular slices of it, then burnt those words “Anam Cara” on the back, and asked each of these people for a small animal/symbol/word that meant something to them and burnt that onto the front, as well as making myself one with the good ol’ vegvisr burned into it.

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If you’re interested, Brainpickngs has a great article about this concept, and it links to John O’donohue’s (The poet credited with describing this term in a way modern men and women can relate to) Here.

This last paragraph and quotation about “Anam Cara” is really for those people who’ve been in my life in this way. Stay touch as much as time allows and know that even when I’m in Maine I’m just a phone call away. After the last year, I’ve definitely got some ground to make up anyway. Know that at some point through every day we’re apart, I’ll glance at my little totem hanging around my neck and think of each of you, and how much joy you’ve brought to my life.

The superficial and functional lies and half-truths of social acquaintance fall away, you can be as you really are. Love allows understanding to dawn, and understanding is precious. Where you are understood, you are at home.

~John O’Donohue

~slàinte mhath

 


 

“John Muir’s head exploded” or; the story of Cranky Bones

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So since I’ve still got a month or so till I head to Maine and start writing posts about ACTUAL outdoorsy stuff, I figured I’d fill you guys in on the Primitive addictions logo above. This version was created by my friend Haily Kaufman, and incredible woman who I met through my university. If you’re in the market for something similar you should check out her work Here and here. She’s got a wicked way with whatever drawing implement you put in her hand.

The title of my blog/internet persona originated from a little cross stitch that sits on the mantle of my aunt’s home. I was spending some time with them a few years back and saw it and happened to be reading “My first summer in the sierra”  by John Muir. I started doodling and came up with a really simple line drawing of a Muir-esque man with his head opened up and trees, mountains and a river springing out. I didn’t think much of the drawing or words until I was hiking a stretch of the Appalachian in Georgia. In my downtime I started carving the guy into a table top I’d brought along to carve. I didn’t finish it on the trail, but once I got back it was the only thing I spent my free time on for a week or so. Below is the finished carving.

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Eventually I decided that I’d get a tattoo of this guy to be the centerpiece for my “wandering sleeve” which is a fancy way of saying “get a little tattoo in every town I visit”. I took it to the shop by my apartment and met Justin Kennon (Check out his Instagram here if you live around St. Louis and need an artist). I gave him the basic idea and told him he could do his own spin on it. I’m really happy with the path he took with my basic design, and I can’t wait to fill in all the extra skin around him with storys from the palces I visit.

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So that’s the story so far. Expect to see cranky bones show up more often, and in weirder and weirder places.

Got a design that follows you throughout your wandering? tell me about it in the comments.

 

Avoiding Comfort

My family has this weird tradition (I say family, I mean my three boneheaded brothers and I, “king bonehead”.) Every year on the first snow we all strip down to our underwear and go see who can stay out the longest. I don’t really remember why this started, but it’s been an influence on my approach to life. There’s a strange trend in the human mind to seek comfort, and while I understand this entirely, the best things I’ve ever done in life have been uncomfortable, or downright painful.  So, I’ve become an addict for things that I don’t take a shine to right off the bat.

Boxing is my favorite example. I hate the feeling of being hit, everyone does. The first three times I got the wind knocked out of me I almost quit right then and there. A strange things happens though when you keep forcing your body to do things it doesn’t like. It adapts, and not in the way I’d expected. I figured I’d simply get better at boxing and get hit less. Perhaps with another coach that may have been the case. Mine has a slightly different approach. His favorite line is “If a punch doesn’t knock you clean out, it may as well be counted as a miss.” After three years of having this shouted in your face when you start complaining, you stop seeing the pain, and start seeing it as an opportunity the other person missed and acting on it.

This isn’t just true of sports, or being outdoors. It’s also incredibly true to pass times. There’s this desire for all the good parts, but without taking on the less than fun effects of it. I’ve always liked the smell of cigarette smoke. I grew up around it, and I learned something from it. It wasn’t a pleasant smell, but I saw how it calmed down the people who used it. It was a sacrifice to some unknown god. In the old days we killed a calf and burned it as an offering, now we light our own throats ablaze and spit the smoke out towards the heavens. There’s something meaningful about that. It makes the chemical reaction something we’ve earned. The same way with alcohol. You want the buzz? You’ll have to learn to stomach bad beer, or strong whisky down your throat. Everything in life should be that way. Sacrifice bits of yourself to get what you want.

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    I suppose it’s sort of  that way already, but we just don’t notice most of it. It’s sort of leeched out as we devote time and breath towards whatever it is we’re working towards. Those are usually the good things though. Anything you’ve devoted time and attention to has a worth of it’s own. That’s why the chemical reactions are so appealing to us. It’s instant, but we also immediately feel what we’ve given up. The bits of our lungs getting clogged, the burn of vodka down into our stomach. Those are good things, because we’re constantly reminded that we’re poisoning ourselves in exchange for that high we need.

   Personally, I like that concept of “poisoning” myself. I like being reminded that I’m burning off bits of myself, via fire or toxins. I know what I’m giving up for the few moments of calm that I get. Bits of my lungs in exchange for a train of thought I can actually run and leap onto as it blares past. I understand what I’m giving up in exchange for those little experiences. It’s modern day sacrifice. No god in between the burnt offering and the reward. We sacrifice bits of ourselves to our own desires. I personally enjoy that sentiment, and I’ve never understood the appeal of flavored vodka and things like that. The deliberate attempt to lose the harshness of intoxicants, but maintain the enjoyableness seems like a dangerous and greedy thing to me.

Maybe it’s because I’m rereading Jack London’s work, but I think this quote would come to mind as I write it anyway.

There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.

~Jack London, Call of the Wild

I adore this line, because it sums up perfectly something I’ve only ever felt when I’ve failed, or realize I’m about to. The most alive I’ve ever felt was when I fell off a small ledge while running at local park. I hit a patch of ice, and slid (In my head, I’m pretty sure I looked like a looney toon) off the edge. I fell about ten feet and cracked two ribs. the jog/walk back to my car? I don’t really remember it. I remember fear which turned into action, immediate and born of requirement. I’m not saying you should fall off cliffs to feel alive, but put yourself in situations where it could happen. Then at the end of the day, while you’re having a beer and a lung scorching smoke, laugh about the fact that it didn’t.