Dreaming about the Lions, the Mountain and the Sea

Come join me by the fire, friends. I’d like to talk, if you’ve got the time. I’ve been dreaming about the lions. Maybe you have been, too.

Do you know what I’m referring to? Yes? No? Let me explain.

From the first time I read Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea,” the book’s final line has stuck with me. “The old man was dreaming about the lions,” that line goes.

That sentence refers back to an earlier part of the book in which the story’s main character, the “old man” Santiago, is said to have found that in his old age he’s been thinking less and less about his own exploits and accomplishments. What’s stuck with him the most in his twilight years are the wonders he’s seen. One of those wonders is a beach full of lions.

Much has been made about these lions and about Santiago’s dreaming of them, and most of that much-ado is interesting and worthy of meditation. What resonates so much with me, however, and what has me feeling so sentimental today, is something different.

For me, Santiago’s dreaming about the lions is ultimately a hopeful thing. The most hopeful thing in this life of rust and despair, in fact.

For me, the dream of lions comes to Santiago because old age has softened his ego, and the softening of that ego has made him wise. Santiago in his final years has found the simple love of life for the mere sake of life, rather than life as a stage upon which to assert his own being.

To my view, Santiago has achieved enlightenment. This doesn’t mean he isn’t still a proud, strong, defiant man–indeed a “strange man,” as he so desperately wishes to prove himself. But, in that strangeness, he has learned to step outside of himself and appreciate the grandeur of life as it was and will be when he is gone.

I find that notion very beautiful, and very hopeful.

I’m not an old man yet, but I’m old enough that that line from the book has been resonating powerfully with me. As I find myself ruminating upon the things I’ve seen, the mountains and seas and rivers, I find myself thinking about Santiago.

And as I think about Santiago, I think about all my friends, too, and about all of their own inevitable endings.

I thank God for the mountains, seas, and rivers I’ve seen. Beyond all the hardships and the tears of this life, I’m grateful to have smelled and touched and heard nature’s music. I don’t ever want to lose that gratitude, and I hope that no matter how hard things get in the future, I find myself dreaming about the lions.

And to you, my friends, on your own hard, splendid roads, I fare thee well with gratitude. Through all the suffering life will inevitably bring, through all the loss and sadness, may you dream about the lions.

And when your present seems pale and twisted, your future dark and broken, may you dream about the lions.

And, most of all, when that good long night of forever comes to sweep us up into the canopy of mysteries, I hope you’re dreaming about the lions, my friends.

And I hope I am, too.

And that’s all I have to say, I guess, tonight around the fire. Thank you for sitting a while.

In Order to See the World, You First Have to Get Your Ass Off the Couch

Knock, knock…

If you answered “who’s there,” you’ve already failed, sucker, because that means you were home when you should be getting your ass off the couch!

Bam, I just got caught you in the act!

……

Okay, that was an obnoxious opening, I know, but that’s actually the effect I was going for (and the one I’m most personally inclined towards). You’ve heard of tough love; well, this is “obnoxious love,” and it’s even worse. You’ll probably hate me (if you don’t already) by the time it’s done but, hopefully, you’ll get frustrated enough to get your ass off the couch.

Seriously, I’m tired of hearing people talk wistfully about how they can’t wait to get out there and see things and finally be happy, finally really grab life by the horns, soon as they get the bigger paycheck.

Look, going on some momentous trip is a great goal, but unless you cultivate the passion to GET OUT THERE in the world RIGHT NOW, to see the things all around you, you’ll never make the big trip happen, anyway.

As I’ve been screaming at the sky ad nauseum: travel is wonder, and wonder is free. I’ll say it again: travel is wonder, and wonder is free.

We all think we want to travel in order to experience this or that place, but that’s not really true. It’s a trick we play on ourselves.

The real reason we travel is because of what we believe those external things will do inside of us. We’re after the emotion and the wonder. The object, the thing outside of us, is really just a vehicle to get to the inner goal.

There’s no doubt that hiking Mount Rainier or doing the Appalachian Trail are big, unforgettable experiences. But, if you cultivate the right mind-eye and wonder-heart, there’s just as much adventure right outside your door. Just as importantly, if you learn to cultivate that daily passion for life, then you’re more likely to make that big adventure happen, anyway.

Every town has its oddities, like the terrible, mysterious suspended bike of the Ruston waterfront, or the weirdest damn building in Tacoma, just as every town has its local stores full of history and character.

I fully encourage everyone to get out and make those big adventures, but in the meantime, why not strive to awaken your passion by exploring the world right outside your door?

You can get your ass off the couch, right now, choose to renew your curiosity, passion, and wonder, and revitalize your daily life. Isn’t that what you really want, anyway?

You don’t want the big vacation or adventure for the momentary thrill. No, not really. Deep down, you want that experience to shift something permanently inside of you, to make you a richer, deeper person.

That’s all fine, but the irony, is that if you first make the shift by looking at your own world with new eyes, you’ll rekindle the fire that is gong to make sure you actually book that big vacation in the first place.

 

If you’re fixated upon some big trip, then that means travel and new experiences are things deeply meaningful to your personality. It’s a driving force in your psyche, which means it’s potentially an engine for self-transformation.

So, harness that psychological power by getting your ass off the couch, right now, and getting out and seeing your own neighborhood, your own road or yard or the park up the way, as places of wonder.

Walk around the block. Walk down the street. Drive to the park. Whatever. Anything. Get your eyes off this screen and stop reading this stupid post and get out there into the world.

Life is waiting for you in all its weirdness and wonder right outside your door, and it’s in learning to embrace each day that you’ll stoke the soul-fires that will enhance everything in your life, including making it more likely that you’ll actually go on that big adventure that you’ve been saying “someday” about for the last 10 years.

Okay, that’s all I have to say for today. Hopefully no one is reading at this point, because if you didn’t get your ass off the couch and get out there, then I’ve failed.

Maybe I need to be more obnoxious next time.

Travel is Wonder, and Wonder is Free

I grew up in a family that didn’t have much money, where everyone was constantly telling me that it was too expensive to go anywhere or do anything. Only when I got older did I realize what a bunch of bullshit that was, and only after that did I begin to see how many people around me were feeding their own heads with that exact same bullshit.

Look, I’m fully aware of how stressful being poor is. I’ve been there. But I’m even more acutely mindful of the fact that stress will just keep you locked in those stressful circumstances you are if you let it. It’ll become your epitaph. Your prison sentence. And that, my friends, is the ultimate bullshit.

There are many ways to get out of stress, but the one I want to talk about today is one that doesn’t get a lot of press: the act of cultivating a sense of wonder.

It’s tough to rationally explain how much this topic has me pumped up and pissed off right now. I woke up at 3:30 in the morning with this post in my head. I scribbled it down right in the dark in the notebook I keep at my bedside. I realized in that moment that this is what Northwest Nomad was always supposed to be. It’s not just a travel blog. It’s a fucking mission to get people off their asses and out into the world with a fresh sense of life’s possibility, beauty, depth, and inspiration, because I remember what it felt like to have none of those things in my life.

I can’t stand all those travel blogs full of privileged pretties trumpeting the spiritual epiphanies they’re having in foreign locales and 10,000-star restaurants and bla bla bla. Those things piss me off because they make travel, wonder, and adventure seem like some inaccessible fantasy that the vast majority of people can’t hope to experience. That’s not what I’m about, and that’s not what Nomad is about.

Listen, I do big things like climb Mount Rainier and party in downtown Seattle, but that’s such a small part of life. For me, the adventure is out there every goddamn day, right on the streets and trails around me, just like it’s all around YOU if you’d just LOOK.

Do you realize that no morning is ever the same? Not even close. To say days are “foggy” doesn’t capture the totality of any given foggy day. Not if you’re really paying attention. There are different kinds of fog. Each one hugs the landscape just a little differently and smells a little differently and feels differently on your skin. No two rains are ever exactly the same. No two sunshines. No two breezes or snows. Every day is a once-ever-in-existence phenomenon, and that’s a fact.

Some part of you knows this, but you fight it or you deny it as something trivial. I’m writing this to tell you that it’s not trivial. To be washed over with wonder is to step outside yourself, outside your stress and fears. It’s goddamn transformational. It puts you in a state of expectation and optimism.

Wonder is what we really mean when we talk about travel. The trip is just the vehicle to get to wonder. And those big exotic trips are awesome, and I fully encourage everyone to go after them. But, in the meantime, finances should never be a reason to live separated from wonder and amazement.

That country road down the way; the road right outside your house; the train tracks and the marina; all of it, everything, is potentially wondrous if you’re willing to bring a sense of wonder to it.

I’m going to end up repeating myself, so just let me say, in this late-night-passion-borne post, that travel is just another word for wonder, and wonder is free.

Let me say that again more simply: travel is wonder, and wonder it free.

So get out there. Open that heart again. Open those eyes. See the moments and the spaces around you for the miracle they are feel how incredibly privileged you are to witness them. There’s beauty out there. There’s a world of wonder swimming in a sea of never-ending transformation.

Join it. Swim with it. Get out and drop the bullshit, my friends. That’s all I want to say. Get out there and take a deep breath, and take in that world around you and marvel at it.

Travel is wonder, and wonder is free, so drop the excuses and get travelling.