Friday, July 21, 2006

on adventure, risk, kids, and fear....

Deena commented on adventure and I found it an insightful comment. I want to follow-up with some thoughts. Here's what she said, "With the introduction of children, I find that my sense of adventure has lessened. Is it because I fear my own mortality and the thought that I may not be here for them. The realization plagues me daily that we all leave this earth some day and isn't it better to leave my children with a sense of adventure than a sense of is to reigniting my sense of adventure and remembering the bonds that brought us all together."

Of course, I can never think of adventure and Deena in the same sentence without thinking of her "fall" on Rainier. It was an piercing, earth shattering, warning - "falling"... after six inches it was pretty much over. It was a great moment.

Actually, this is a pretty weighty subject. When Alex Lowe died and left 2 kids there was quite a lot of banter. Both Tammi and I have been "chastised" for climbing. I think that adventure is equated with danger and rightly so, but it is an interesting pairing if you think about it. Adventure can't really be adventure without risk. I can't think of any other element that makes adventure "fun". (Not that there aren't other ways to have fun or other parts of it that arn't fun) Perhaps this is a whole other topic. What is risk for one person is not risk for another. Example - a commercial float trip with class two or three rapids wouldn't be too much adventure for any of my close friends. Sure, it would be fun to take the kids, but I think we would only say the day was ok. Add in some craziness and we would have a blast.

Now, throw in the kid factor to our adventures. Do I teach Bridger to climb? How about mountaineering? When I look at what I enjoy the most the answer is clear, but the answer is scary as hell too. And, as Deena pointed out - how about me? What do I do? I just went out into the desert for five days alone and climbed some things that most people would call crazy. For me it was like crossing the street and completely controllable risk (fun). (Why are these words interchangeable?) I truly do want to give my kids what I have enjoyed, but I can tell you one thing - it is personal and maybe genetic. I regret that neither Erin or Taylor enjoy what Tammi and I enjoy. I have had to accept the fact that they don't and it wasn't easy. I don't even completely understand it. It is so basic I think it universal - it's not.

Last year Tammi and I were mountain biking near Pine Ranch and we came across a dead guy. He was 52 and had a nine year-old daughter. He went over the bars and that was it. Broken neck - gone. On my vacation I went over the bars about six or seven times and thought nothing of it. I'm not sure why. I will teach Bridger to mountain bike - I just love it too much and he does too - already. And the dead guy - I' m not sure. Was he just "unlucky", inexperienced, or something else? I just didn't process it in a negative way. Although, I must admit Tammi snuck my name and address into my camelback - written with sharpie!

Deena's right - it is better to leave our children with a sense of adventure. Now, we have to figure out how to make them respect the limits - especially boys.

So Deena, here's to adventure and here's to us, and here's to the boys - once they see all the pictures and hear all of the stories it will be pretty much hopeless - we might as well teach them well!


Monday, July 17, 2006

just look around stupid...

Morels aren't well known, at least not like truffels. But, this gourmet mushroom has quite a following. Goggle it and you will get about 12 million hits. To its crazed minions it's called mycology, but that's so it has a fancy name. Hunting morels is like hunting snipe only they are real, and after you really find the first one it's pretty much like crack. They can be bought for around $40 bucks a pound, but don't ask anyone where to find them. There have been murders attributed to that knowledge escaping - these people are serious. And, rightly so - morels are good, really good. Scarce, hard to find, expensive, rare, and absolutely wonderful. This picture is in our flower bed. We have a morel factory there - go figure. No hunting, no fuss, no nothing. Just go out and see if they're done. What wonderful things do we miss because we just don't look around? A kids question, a moment that will never return, a lovers touch as they absentmindedly go by - I am sure it is simple things. We get busy and miss lots of morels in the flower bed.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

curiosity killed the cat

What is the difference between those who, for lack of a better saying: are simply insanely curious, and never stop learning; and those who never really care about much besides what is right in front of them? It is precisely that curiosity that drives the machine of humanity forward and, I think more importantly, each one of us forward personally. I think every one of my friends have this quality - I think that's telling and I certainly enjoy people who are insatiably curious. Tammi certainly has this quality. I don't think we would enjoy so much together without it. (By the way, this is a part of one of a very curious person's painting - Tammi's. It is Erin studying - the person on the wall doesn't exist in our house or on our wall. It is someone from the past looking out to the future. I thought it an appropriate picture!) Anyway, kids have an almost universal curiosity. When does it leave and why do some people retain it and some not? How do we pass it to our kids or at least keep it alive? It seems to me to be one of the foundations of success. Here are some good quotes about being curious.

  • I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.

Eleanor Roosevelt

  • Curiosity is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.

Samuel Johnson

  • I am neither especially clever nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious.

Albert Einstein

  • Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.


  • Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly.

Arnold Edinborough

  • The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity

Friday, July 14, 2006

just when thought you knew.... evil axioms

I have continually been fascinated by dichotomy - it's everywhere, yet most people, given a choice, will tell you that most things are primarily black and white. Suppose I asked you if the statement, "look before you leap" is a reasonable and applicable axiom and if you might generally apply it to you life. I think concurrence would be wide-spread. Now, suppose I asked the same question about the statement, "he who hesitates is lost". What now? What if I reverse the questions? These "truisms" are not as true as we suppose. In fact, I could argue that each is mutually exclusive of the other and therefore, neither is true. Yes, I can hear you say that it depends on the circumstance. That is precisely the point. What good is any axiom if it isn'’t a guide? In my book, they become subject to the whim of the user, perhaps USED to justify an action, or a result. So axioms are, in the end, worthless. The fact that I see "both sides of the paper" at one time drives my wife crazy. It makes it hard to get a firm answer and in fact, I know it to be true. Sometimes I think that I've done it, yes - whoever I'm speaking to understands - they see both sides. Mostly, I think it is fleeting glances and then it is gone. For me it is like understanding the theory of relativity. When I watch a special or read a book, I think, yes I've got it; I understand. Yet, in five minutes it is all gone again and I feel like a thick-headed moron standing around with his britches full. It is a nightmare to communicate, but it is a great way to approach any decision. For work, the partners in the company recently took management tests and I scored strongly in the big picture/little picture - both sides of the coin thinking. I just can't help it. It doesn't cripple me when decision making; it is terrific, but it is damn hard to communicate all the back and forth to more concrete thinkers. Because of this personal little wrinkle, I am interested in and I have collected axioms similar to the one given above for several years now. Some I ran across, some I brought together, and some are pretty obvious. This compendium will screw you up forever -– here it is!

  • Look before you leap; but, he who hesitates is lost.
  • Never judge a book by its cover; but clothes make the man.
  • The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder; but familiarity breeds contempt, and out of sight, out of mind.
  • If at first you don't succeed, try, try again; when the going gets tough, the tough get going; and where there's a will, there's a way, but don't beat your head against a wall.
  • Two heads are better than one, but paddle your own canoe.
  • It's better to be safe than sorry, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  • Many hands make light work; but too many cooks spoil the broth.
  • The bigger, the better, but the best things come in small packages.
  • What will be, will be, but life is what you make it.
  • With age comes wisdom, but out of the mouths of babes come all wise sayings.
  • The more, the merrier, but two's company, three's a crowd.
  • Opportunity knocks but once; but when one door shuts, another opens.
  • A word to the wise is sufficient; but talk is cheap.
  • A man's reach should exceed his grasp; but don't bite off more than you can chew.
  • You are never too old to learn; but you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
  • Birds of a feather flock together; but opposites attract.
  • When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and if you can't beat them, join them; but to thine own self be true. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, but beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
  • A penny saved is a penny earned; but penny-wise, pound-foolish, and if you buy cheaply, you pay dearly.
  • Haste makes waste, but time waits for no man.
  • Fools rush in where angels fear to tread; but seize the day, and strike while the iron is hot.
  • If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well; but half a loaf is better than none.
  • Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and there's no time like the present; but don't cross the bridge until you come to it.
  • Actions speak louder than words, but the pen is mightier than the sword.
  • Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know; but variety is the spice of life.
  • The best things in life are free, but no pain, no gain.
  • Nothing ventured, nothing gained; but, it's better to be safe than sorry.
  • A word to the wise is sufficient, but talk is cheap.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


  • "One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives."

Euripides, Greek playwrite

  • "You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes."

Winnie the Pooh

  • "To the soul, there is hardly anything more healing than friendship."

Thomas Moore

  • "A friend is someone who, upon seeing another friend in immense pain, would rather be the one experiencing the pain than to have to watch their friend suffer.”

Amanda Grier

It has been too long since I've seen my friends. Part of my vacation was spending some time with three of my friends. I haven't taken the time to see them and that silly little fat bear seems to know more than I. It has been a trying year and in some ways I was just attempting to keep my head above water - to make it through. I wanted to spare my friends when in fact they wanted nothing more than to help me. I mostly likely hurt them deeply in order to spare my own pain. The irony is that they are the only ones who could have taken my pain. Ah, what we do to ourselves! The very act of hiding is so counter to friendship. When I consider what I would do for my friends I think I might smack 'em up side the head for failing to let me know when they need anything - for not letting me be what I am - their friend. We have a number of responsibilities to our friends primary of which is to let them be our friends. That takes honestly and perhaps a little courage. Maybe woman do it naturally, but I think men do it poorly or at least I did. Maybe next time I'll get smacked up side the head.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Recreating Ones' Self

I think it is important to realize that we are still everything we have been. That is, everything we were is still inside us, still part of us, and still relevant, still real, and still very much alive. Once I was a boy of 10 roaming the fields and woods, dog in tow, and BB gun at the ready caring for nothing more than some new place to get wet and finding a tree and climbing with reckless abandon so I could possibly spy some new adventure. Once I was a winning gritty high school wrestler facing someone just like me and fighting like hell until an arm was raised. Once I was a Marine, shotgun in hand peering out into the night, or "snapping" the presidential flag for an arriving Reagan. Once I drove a semi along dusty, muddy, or snow covered roads loaded with diesel fuel looking for the lights of an oil rig and waiting for what surprise the rough-necks might pull out of their black bag of tricks. Once I was a mountain climber, ice tools in hand, leading grade 5 ice up a col; screaming calves, cold hands, and summit lust. Once I was a collage student running from class to class, hating my roommates, and loathing the fact that hunger met the dining hall. Once I loved for the first time and when she left I thought my heart was broken forever. Once I was a racer, pain banished, body flexed and honed working only for the love of sport. Once a master carpenter, fitting and working with fir, mahogany, redwood, oak, and walnut; creating beauty and very deep satisfaction.

Now I am a husband, a father, a construction executive, a mountain biker, an adventure racer, and a friend. Yet I am still a child of 10, still a Marine, and still that same carpenter. They are all deeply part of me - they are me.

Mark Cohen
has a song off the Rainy Season album about his father who did one thing his entire life or at least was seemingly trapped for most of his life. My father-in-law has worked in one place; a Mack assembly line, his entire working life. I don't know how he did it, but he has. It is more than I could do - the sameness would do me in. Due to responsibility, these men seemingly had no power to recreate themselves.

Rest for the Weary

My father was a working man
But his work was never done
He stood behind a counter
And he smiled at everyone
He bought himself a business
Worked seven days a week
Took a holiday for Christmas
Then he fell asleep beside the tree

But one day One day
There'’s love for the lonely
One day
They walk in the sun
One day
Rest for the weary
Rest for the weary ones

Now my mother stood beside him
She did what she could do
But if you look at some old photograph
She looks tired too
I hope there was some laughter
'‘Cause I know there were some tears
Now all I can say is I pray to God
That after all those years
After all those years

That one day One day
There'’s love for the lonely
One day
They walk in the sun
One day
Rest for the weary
Rest for the weary ones

Now I'’m just another traveler
On another winding road
I'’m trying to walk some kind of line
I'’m trying to pull some kind of load
Now sometimes I move real easy
Sometimes I can'’t catch my breath
Sometimes I see my father'’s footsteps
And man it scares me half to death

But one day One day
There'’s love for the lonely
One day
We walk in the sun
One day
Rest for the weary
Rest for the weary ones

I'm not sure if our "recreation" masks our former selves or magnifies our existing selves. Perhaps it will be as we make it. I think an intimate knowledge of what we were and a clear, ever-present memory of that person surely enriches our current life. Stop and remember what you "were". I am happy (and I think my temperament would allow nothing other) that I have had many "lives", many careers, and many adventures. I will have many more - what, I don't know. But, I am quite certain that I am not finished. After all, what better than to be a grandpa and a little boy all at the same time.

I just returned from vacation with some perplexing questions; a number I intend to pursue in some forthcoming blogs, that is when I get around to thinking about them.

It was typical vacation - go, go, go. Temperatures were outrageous (105 daily), sleep deprivation was common, and I came home with embedded soil samples and in quite a few different colors from purple to dark green. It was wonderful, life-giving, and each day holds memories I will never forget. My friends did the same and felt the same.

The question is why do some people go on vacation and waste themselves with activity while others prefer more sedentary leisure? Where's the difference? Each thinks the other's vacation is absurd and can't stomach the thought of either so much activity or so much inactivity. Many of my colleagues look at my vacations and know insanity lurks just under the surface, yet many other people I know envy the manic pace of my adventures. The truly wonderful thing is that my wife is on my side of vacation equation.

I don't question the fact that some people do not like sports (climbing, biking, backcountry exploring, dangerous activities or exposed situations). To each his own, but "the others" have to be passionate about something besides sitting around. History, art, cities, museums, or foreign travel come to mind. Why aren't they exhausting themselves with such endeavors? Where's the passion? Where's the spirit of adventure? Where is the zest for their particular passion? Are they bereft of passion or are they so spent by their daily existence that sloth is the only cure?

And what of you? Do you secretly wish for some adventurous vacation or do you loath the idea of the unknown, the untried, or simply the strenuous? I actually think the people with boring vacations are jealous. Perhaps they live vicariously though those who do break the mold. Perhaps they know nothing else.

About two years ago I met the woman who wrote Hitchhiking Vietnam. She falls in the great vacation category. As a matter of fact, I don't even believe it was a vacation - she just went Asia and ended up writing a PBS series. Beside a road in the pouring rain she rubbed my very muddy and very stinky feet, and also there's the potato, but that's another story...

Oh yes, and the worst - sleeping in. My god man, vacation is finite. Sleep when you get home, watch TV when you get home, lay around when you get home, but don't waste something so precious, so wonderful, so life giving as time SET ASIDE to have fun. Such times come only rarely and never can you get a bad one back. "My vacation sucked, I need another", won't get you very far and if it did, it might get you a very long vacation indeed. Go get crazy!

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