Saturday, April 19, 2008

Be Inspiring to People

When I was in Jr. High Youth Group we had a Sunday evening session about covenants. After discussing and explaining the meaning and importance of covenants/ promises our youth leader passed out a piece of stationary with a very cute seal on it. "I want you to make a covenant, as a seal of promise to yourself," she said, "and I will mail them to you 6 months, a year from now. I thought long and hard about what mine should be, wrote it down, handed it over, and quickly forgot about it.

Some time later I received a letter (which rarely happened via snail mail at that time in my life). The envelope had my handwriting, and I was pretty confused about the whole thing. I opened it, and pulled out the seal paper. "Be inspiring to people" was staring back at me. It changed my life.

I find a lot of value in other's life insight/ philosophy/ and musings. At the end of every summer at Camp Alta Mons Bob Giesy would read the summer staff this poem:

Bits and Pieces

Bits and pieces, bits and pieces. People. People important to you, People unimportant to you cross your life, touch it with love and move on. There are people who leave you and you breathe a sigh of relief and wonder why you ever came into contact with them. There are people who leave you, and you breathe a sigh of remorse and wonder why they had to go and leave such a gaping hole. Children leave parents, friends leave friends. Acquaintances move on. People change homes. People grow apart. Enemies hate and move on. Friends love and move on. You think of the many people who have moved in and out of your hazy memory. You look at those present and wonder. I believe in god's master plan in lives. He moves people in and out of each other's lives, and each leaves his mark on the other. You find you are made up of bits and pieces of all who have ever touched your life. You are more because of them, and would be less if they had not touched you. Pray that you accept the bits and pieces in humility and wonder, and never question and never regrets. Bit's and pieces, bits and pieces.-Anonymous

I believe that I am made up of bits and pieces of people, experiences, thoughts, that have crossed my path. SO in an attempt to shed light on the perpetual "why would you want to walk over two thousand miles and live in the woods for months?" here are musing, quotes, near and dear to my being. I hope you find them inspiring.

Found when working on a school project for 11th grade history/English class.
“You can’t count a river while it moves by you. The best thing to do is take off all your clothes and go swimming in it, then when you feel the water all around you you’re part of the total river. Where it’s been, where it is, where it’s going, Plunge In!”

Henry David Thoreau

Explained to me by Dietz in 11th grade, hung on my walls since. "Montani Semper Liberi" West Virginia State Motto, translation "A mountaineer is always free"

Found when researching what to put on girls XC team shirts, 12th grade.
Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village, though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farmhouse near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there's some mistake. The only other sound's the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I
sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost, Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening

Was introduced to Service by my 12th grade/freshman in college love who was very active in scouting and the OA.
Have you suffered, starved and triumphed,groveled down, yet grasped at glory,Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole?"Done things" just for the doing, letting babblers tell the story,Seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul?Have you seen God in His splendors,heard the text that nature renders?(You'll never hear it in the family pew).The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things --Then listen to the Wild -- it’s calling you.
They have cradled you in custom,they have primed you with their preaching,They have soaked you in convention through and through;They have put you in a showcase; you're a credit to their teaching --But can't you hear the Wild? -- it’s calling you.Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us; Let us journey to a lonely land I know.There’s a whisper on the night-wind,there’s a star agleam to guide us,And the Wild is calling, calling. . .let us go.

Robert Service"

Letter with High School Graduation gift.
"On the bottom of the box is a compass. This is so you will be able to find your way home. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you'll always have friends and family who will love you no matter what, and the compass will help you to find your friends and family should you ever lose them. Or if you're going hiking one day and you just really really need a compass, you can take it off of the bottom."

Found sophomore year of college in course text, reinforced by Dr.Scott. “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul."

John Muir

Found online, reinforced by Hasty. Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast....a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.

Edward Abbey, from a speech first gave to environmentalists in Missoula, Montana in 1978, and in Colorado which was published in High Country News in the 1970s or early 1980s under the title "Joy, Shipmates, Joy."

Found during college course work, read at my Environmental Studies Graduation Ceremony.
"Benedicto: May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets' towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you --- beyond that next turning of the canyon walls."
Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Part of a letter I received on my 23 birthday. "I think you have that gift of being able to see into people's souls, and I always worried you might see the twenty-two year old Ralph in there and the things he was all about...... All the Ralphs are still alive and well: The 12-year-old Ralph who loved hearing that new song or buying a new record; the 15-year-old Ralph who loved sitting by a lake and listening to the water; the twenty-year old Ralph who discovered that so many unique and beautiful things exist out there beyond the camera lens and how much he wanted to capture them all so they would never be lost; the twenty-two year old Ralph that (well--he was the wild one); and on and on they go....... little pieces of the whole that build a whole life. The ups and downs, the loves and lost loves, the laughter and tears they all go together to make days that make weeks that make months that make years that are like bricks that build our lives.Keep building -- you never know what it might look like in the end, but I think it will be something beautiful." Ralph Bratton

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

One Month

Sean Davis knows the countdown better than me. I was excited today about tommorow, just figuring I get paid and the normal good monthly stuff... then it dawned on me... I trade this world for the woods a month from today. I moved some furniture from the apt back to my parents this weeked. Today I got off work early and manged to remove most of my pictures from the walls of my home (if you've been in my home you know that's a lot! Angie was proud!)

So here it comes =D
About a year ago this time I was driving north on 581 through downtown Roanoke on the phone with Angie. I vividly remember a conversation with her explaining and deciding to "settle" into this life for awhile, commit, in order to save and plan for the trail. I've been in the apartment 16 months.

It's not that I'm sad to leave, just pensive. Life's brought many surprises to me in Raliegh Court and Daleville since entering this chapter of my story, and as we near the end, on the cusp of flipping to the next page I was thinking... how about a little recap:

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Detour Ahead

I spent some time in Libby, Montana Fall 2005. The intent was to interview and understand what everyday life is like in a town that made national news for its environmental degradation. I found myself sitting in the living room of an elderly couple struggling to live with the affects of "asbestos related diseases". Les explained how he came to Libby. He was on his way to Canada, or Washington, I don't know, en route from the mid west to the coast I believe. His car broke down in Libby. The part he needed wasn't available for awhile, then it was winter and terrible weather, he fell in love, got a job at the mine, etc, etc. There I was in his living room, a life time later.

So I've been thinking about all the little bits that make a whole, and how surprising it all is. I spent a lot of mental and emotional energy senior year of college trying to figure out what to do with my life. My decision to leave Montana for Virginia was rooted in a fulfilling job at Alta Mons for the summer, and supported with dreams of reconnecting with old loves; friends, family that hadn't been part of my daily life for three years. I wanted to cheer for my little brother at Cross Country meets, eat dinner with Cindy, run with Carrie and Susanna.

What I anticipated would be 6 months, a year, has turned into two. I have transitioned from summer staff to board of directors at Alta Mons. I have been to Brazil and back. I have rented and paid bills on my own, without a college loan refund check. I have watched a heart-bound genuine community rise out of loneliness and isolation. I have pulled 40 hour weeks and helped countless people in the store.

Every time I take more of life in Raleigh Court apart in preparation for the trail I think about memories from these years. Shooting for the Fincastle Herald, paddling with camp buddies, moving couches with Susanna, painting by headlamp, screwing orange and yellow wire caps to my dining room fan outlet, Erwin TN, road trip to Kristin's wedding, eating chocolate with Mark.

So here we are, gettin ready to uproot again and journey off, back in the saddle, and I'm singing a little