Archive for April, 2012

A Walk, a waterfall and a chance…

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

  I walked out of the cellar door into the morning darkness and began loading my truck with things I would need for the day. A thin sliver of the moon could be seen across the valley and bright stars lit up the sky. Once I was packed I double checked to make sure I had enough to eat and drink, along with my medication. As I exhaled before getting in the vehicle I could see my breath slowly drift upward. In another hour the sun would be climbing over the mountains in the east.

  The drive was pleasant. There’s nothing quite like being on a desolate road in the middle of God’s country. Although I had a cell phone I knew it wouldn’t help me if I ran into a problem.

  Around 7 o’clock I found the place I was looking for. It was a utility line encased in yellow plastic, which was anchored in the ground a few feet in front of  a large hemlock tree. In the past I had noticed there was enough room to safely park my truck there.  I quickly backed into the spot.

  After I loaded my backpack I began my journey into some beautiful country. I had only been in this piece of woods two times. Over the previous few weeks I longed for this time alone. I wanted to walk through the woods, take in the sights and sounds of nature, and enjoy my own company. While it’s always nice to have a companion by your side, it’s also nice to have that one on one time, too. This was a day that I had planned just for that reason.

   As I got deeper into the wilderness I felt a spiritual awakening of sorts. My senses became more alert. I could smell the fresh air like a bee smells a flower. I could hear the noises in the woods like I was an animal who lived there. I could feel a brisk breeze on my face as if it was saying goodbye to winter and hello to spring. I was definitely where I needed to be.

  The daily hassles of life have beaten me down a little bit over the last few months. At times I felt like I have been punched in the gut. There are some things that make a habit of sucking the life out of you if you allow them to. Although I try my best to avoid situations like that, I still confront them from time to time. After all, I am human, just like the rest of you.

  There are many people who constantly claim they’re happy. They wear their happy faces and any other emotions are non-existent. I’ve read enough self-help material to know people who are ALWAYS happy usually are trying to hide something. While I can fake with the best of them, I also show my cards when a bad hand is dealt. I don’t think it shows weakness to express your feelings. It’s essential to your growth.

  After a half hour of walking I decided to take a break. I found a huge yellow birch tree to sit under. I kicked the leaves away and nestled my back against the trunk. I fumbled through my backpack until I found the bottle of water and banana I had packed. I felt the cool water travel from my mouth to my belly. It was a sensation that’s hard to explain. After I peeled the banana I made quick work of it. Although I was only a mile from the road I felt like I was in the Alaskan wilderness. 

  After a few minutes I became quite comfortable, but I realized it was time to get up. I had so much I wanted to see and sitting there wasn’t going to help me accomplish anything.

  As I aimlessly wandered through the woods I kept thinking about my parents. They were on vacation in Hawaii. They were cruising to all of the Hawaiian islands for a week and then spending a week on-shore. They had asked me to go many times. I chose to stay home. Without anyone to accompany me I didn’t want to waste money and act as a third wheel. Their trip was basically a trip to celebrate their 47th anniversary. Wow, 47 years! I can’t believe that. I’ve always wondered how some people do it, especially in today’s world. It takes a lot of hard work, commitment, and dedication. I commend both of my parents for that. I’m sure there were many times they never imagined being together for this many years. I”m thankful for every one of those years. Their relationship has made my life easier and much more enjoyable. I’m able to share the highs and lows with both of them at the same time or separately.

   My mind bounced back and forth between my parents and my current status in life as I continued through the woods. I’m not where I expected to be at this stage in my life, but I also feel I have a lot left to accomplish. I’ve set goals and I’ve stayed on track in my pursuit of them. I’ve recently added a very large and probably the most demanding goal I’ve ever had; I’m going to write a novel.

  The two books I’ve written were relatively easy to write. This new project will require a little more patience, persistence, and determination. I’m unsure of when I’ll begin, due to my upcoming surgery. I could be laid up for 6-9 months, so it will give me a lot of time to come up with an outline. Since I won’t be able to write or type I’ll have to clear my mind to organize and analyze certain things.

  Before long I could hear the river down below me. It was a dull echo that resembled  something smashing off from rocks. It wasn’t overly loud, but it was distinct. I climbed onto a flat rock and took a seat. I looked across the valley in front of me and drifted from though to thought. My mind was quiet  but active if that makes sense.

  I’ve encountered a few things that have let me down over the last month. I’ve realized it’s impossible to be let down if I go into things without any expectations.  Sometimes when we really want something to happen we become centered on it and lose our direction. Our conscious minds become too involved, which creates chaos. We start babbling endlessly to our friends about our disappointment. We do more things to keep our mind occupied. We get wrapped up in the “why me” mindset and nothing seems to go right.

  I’ve been a little guilty of this, too. Instead of concentrating on things that don’t happen and searching for answers it’s probably better to focus on the great things happening. When our friends talk to us repeatedly about the same thing it’s obvious they’re distressed. The best thing we can do is listen. Sometimes they don’t even want us to offer advice.

  As I glanced across the valley I could see the waterfall a few miles away. It brought out a sense of freedom in me I haven’t experienced in a while. I have to jump into the stream like a drop of water and freefall over the waterfall.  My stomach might come up into my throat. I might break apart when I hit the rocks below. I might bounce onto another drop of water and ride along for the journey. I might gently land into a pool of water below and find comfort in the chaos. No matter what I choose to do I must take chances. Our greatest rewards come from our greatest risks. Give things a chance. Jump into the stream and let yourself fall over the waterfall. You never know what could be waiting for you after the unexpected leap.



A Refreshing Experience

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

As I made my way out of New Hampshire and into Vermont a light rain began falling. It was a typical spring day. Although I was in the car I could feel the damp chilly air settling into my bones. Being two hours from home I knew it was in my best interest to stop someplace to get a drink with caffeine in it. My eyes were heavy.

After stopping in Queeche Gorge I continued on my way. The stroll from the store to the car through the misty rain woke me up. There wasn’t a sound in the car as I drove through the Green Mountains. I embraced the silence and entertained some of the random thoughts that crossed my mind.

I was satisfied with the show I attended in New Hampshire. For the size of it I sold quite a few books. I never know what to expect at shows or book signings, so I try to go without any expectations. If  I approach it that way I won’t be let down if it’s a slow day.

As I made my way over Killington and down the other side onto Mendon Mountain I began thinking about the next day. I’ve been helping a 9-year old girl with archery. I recently showed her how to execute shots the proper way. It didn’t take long for her to understand what I meant when I told her to feel the shot. If you can feel the shot it more easily becomes a subconscious act. Once your subconscious mind takes over archery can become much more enjoyable. The next day some of the lessons would be put to the test. My little student would be competing in her first archery tournament. I told her all I wanted her to do was to make the best shot she could possibly make. If it went in the middle that was great and if it didn’t that was okay, too, as long as she had fun shooting. There’s no sense in doing things we don’t enjoy.

The next day came quickly. I got up early and took care of some things I needed to do before it was time for the tournament. I figured I would show up a few minutes before it started.

As I was getting ready to leave my phone rang. It was the girl’s mother. She told me her daughter was stressed out and wanted to go home. She was so nervous she couldn’t keep herself together. I asked if I could speak with her for a minute.

When she got on the phone I asked her if she was nervous. She told me she was extremely nervous. I asked why. I’m not sure what I expected for an answer, but the one I got clearly surprised me. She said, “I’m so nervous because I know I can’t win.”

I calmly asked her to tell me what we worked on and talked about earlier in the week when we were at the range. Since she was so nervous her mind drew a blank. I reminded her how she wanted to feel her shot and make the best shot she could. Winning or losing wasn’t important. I told her if she made every shot to the best of her ability she would be a winner. I told her that score isn’t as important as doing things the right way. If she felt her shot and performed as she had practiced she would get a good score.

When I got to the range she was just finishing up her two practice rounds. Her cute smile was somewhat reserved; she had her game face on. I was impressed how focused she was for a 9-year old.

After the tournament started I could see she was following her routine. She looked like a little robot. Everything we had talked about she was doing. She was following her shot sequence step by step and the arrows were finding their way into the two highest scoring rings on the target. It was a pleasure to watch. As I watched her shoot her arrows in the final end she looked exactly like she did in the first end. It was a compliment to her commitment. The kid is special. She has a big heart, she’s intelligent, she’s caring and she has the will and determination it takes to be a champion. She’s a true competitor. I don’t know if the motivation in archery will continue into her teen years. With everything else there is to do and with the adolescent changes she will encounter it’s hard to say what path she will take.  I have a feeling she will be an archer forever and a damn good one at that.

When the tournament was over all of the kids scurried around the range as they waited for their scores to be added up. There were happy kids, curious kids, carefree kids and sad kids, but one thing was certain; they were all awaiting their scores so they could find out who won.

When they started announcing the winners I saw my student’s face droop after they announced the 2nd and 3rd place finishers. Then first place was announced and the score was 5 points better than second place. When she heard her name called she couldn’t believe it. She had won the first archery tournament she ever competed in. I was proud of her. I shook her hand and gave her a hug.

I’ve been lucky enough to win a lot of archery tournaments in my life and some of them were really big ones. I’ve won some wonderful plaques, a few unique awards such as an inscribed clock and an arrowhead of excellence, some very large trophies and a lot of money, too.  I’ve written two books and traveled all over to book signings and shows. However, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as proud as I did when she won the tournament and in all reality she’s the one who was responsible. I gave her a few of the tools and she built the house.

After she got her award I asked her how she thought she did. She gave me an answer I would expect from a seasoned veteran. She told me she made quite a few good shots and her goal next time was to decrease the bad ones.

Since that Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago I’ve thought a lot about everything that went on that day. I realized her competitive mental state is far beyond most children that age. I honestly believe the sky is the limit for her if she takes it upon herself to continue learning, listening and trying new things.

It also made me realize that many of us face similar situations in life. She wanted to quit before she started that day. She was afraid of something that hadn’t happened yet. After talking to someone she trusted she regained her confidence and gave it her best shot. We all have to do that from time to time. We have to trust our family and friends and hope for the best. We have to use the knowledge we have from what we have learned and apply it to the best of our ability. As long as we stay the course we’ll be okay. The only way we can build confidence is to find strength when we’re confronted by fear. It doesn’t matter if someone helps us find it or if we find it on our own. The secret is to keep moving forward and never turn and run because at that point you are defeated.

Sometimes it’s amazing how much children can teach us if we’re willing to step back and watch them from a distance. This experience was one of the most refreshing things that has happened to me in a very long time.  If you’re looking for something to do spend a few days helping a kid learn more about something they’re interested in. It could be rewarding for both of you.