Being of the moment, now

Caotion

Soon the child’s eye is clouded over by ideas and opinions, preconceptions and abstractions. Simple free being becomes encrusted with the burdensome armor of the ego. Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn. The sun glints through the pines, and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise. After that day, we become seekers. – Peter Matthiessen

Years ago, I caught a vague, gossamer glimpse of the man I was to become. Or perhaps I should say the man I am still striving to become.

In The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen sought peace and self-reflection in the upper Himalaya. The book changed my life, planting the seed of desire to fashion my own writing on his elegant prose, and more importantly, to go to Nepal.

And now, decades later, I’ve done both those things and continue to seek out Matthiessen’s writing for inspiration and guidance. I turned back to The Snow Leopard again over the weekend as Meenakshi and I took our bikes out for the first ride of the season with Janelle and her brother Aaron and their friend Courtney.

Matthiessen had passed away the day before and though I had never met the man nor heard him speak, his death weighs heavily on me.  The kids tear heck over the pedestrian bridge that spans the Merrimack River, yelling and pedaling hard, April wind blowing warm and thick though the city valley. The trails are packed this day; punk kids testing their summer attitude, families blinking at the sun, wondering if this really is the end of this long winter and runners of all shapes and sizes in jeans and tech gear huffing along the path.

Manchester is never going to be mistaken for anything but a bump in the road, an old red brick rest stop. But today anything seems possible.

Meena pulls up next to me and we watch the kids, all pinks and purples and blues, oblivious to the graffiti; in their hearts there is nothing but speed and young muscle and joy.

We all stop for a moment a watch a ragged flock of pigeons floating on wires above the low river, the city our backdrop. But the kids are noisy and the birds want nothing to do with us. And I think of a quote from Matthiessen:

“Where to begin? Do we measure the relaxing of the feet? The moment when the eye glimpses the hawk, when instinct functions? For in this pure action, this pure moving of the bird, there is no time, no space, but only the free doing – being of this very moment – now!”

Being of this moment, now. The birds fly off and so do we. The raw power of the bike under my feet, the pull of the water below and the pure simplicity of  human experience surround me. I’ve found now in many places in my life. I’ve found it in the view of Mt. Everest from the top of an icy ridge and in the look in Janelle’s eye as a bright green grasshopper lands on her hand. I’ve found it in the streaks of red and green of my wife’s wedding sari and in the taste of a simple cup of coffee on a cobblestone street in Rome.

But it is elusive. Oh, how I wish that now could be with me all the time. But today at least, I’m here, in the moment, and I’m just a sliver closer, perhaps, to Matthiessen’s words. I roll with those kids, and with my wife, and the sky is blue and our shoulders ache and I think maybe this is what he meant all those years ago. I think of that writer, up in the silver hills of the Dolpo following the Snow Leopard’s tracks – I think maybe this is what he felt.

Maybe now… is just peace.

Categories: Press and Promotion, Updates and Plans, Urban Explorations | 2 Comments

New Cohos Trail guidebook available!

The Cohos Trail guidebook is out and features a pic of Janelle on the cover!

The Cohos Trail guidebook is out and features a pic of Janelle on the cover!

Just a quick note today to announce the release of the new Cohos Trail Guidebook! Why is this so cool? Well, two reasons. First, the book is the second cover that Tough Cookie is on! They used a shot I took of Janelle hiking down off North Percy Peak in the Nash River Valley. And second, it’s no secret at this point that we are going over the logistics of thru-hiking the Cohos Trail in August as a follow-up to the book. We both want to, and I know Janelle is strong enough, but we’re trying to arrange it so life does not get in the way. Stay tuned! In the meantime, follow this link for more info on the book and the trail: Cohos Trail Guidebook

And a quick heads up if you’re looking for something cool to do this weekend. I’ll be at the Made in NH Expo here in Manchester on Saturday. I’ll be hanging out selling copies of The Adventures of Buffalo and Tough Cookie at the Plaidswede Books table in the morning, then trotting over to the Hobblebush Books table to promote The Nepal Chronicles. Stop by and say howdy, here’s a link for more info: Made in NH Expo

Categories: Press and Promotion, Updates and Plans | Leave a comment

Hiking and corn pudding: Ruminations on the connectivity of adventure

Tough Cookie expresses her displeasure at seeing the cut trees along the trail in Manchester's Livingston Park.

Tough Cookie expresses her displeasure at seeing the cut trees along the trail in Manchester’s Livingston Park.

“I need rock,” Janelle says, entirely dissatisfied with the small boulder we discover along the trail around Dorrs Pond in Manchester. “I need to climb something soon.”

We have ignored the unusually cold weather and icy-crusted conditions in a desperate attempt to find an afternoon of hiking near our home. We settle on the trail around the pond in Livingston Park because that’s one place in our city we have not yet hiked together. We’re running out of such places in Manchester.

“You need a mountain?” I ask, knowing the answer.

She nods. “Or a climbing wall, or whatever. Just rock.”

This has been a tough winter; cold, busy and, for Tough Cookie, fraught with the confusing and sometimes difficult obstacles of pre-teen angst, barely controlled energy and, well, just plain growing up. She’s committed herself to our book tour and presenting with me with as much discipline and focus as she did to hiking, but it’s not the same. She needs hiking, and climbing, and running, as a means of head clearing. Being outside has become her meditation, and if I am to be honest with myself, I just haven’t been able to give her as much as she’s needed.

Feeding ducks on partially frozen Dorrs Pond.

Feeding ducks on partially frozen Dorrs Pond.

We swing around the small pond, slipping and sliding along on the icy, uncleared trail. We have big plans for the year: an overnight at Lonesome Lake Hut, a couple 4,000-footers on tap and maybe, if we can swing it, a thru-hike of the Cohos Trail. For now though, we satisfy ourselves with small hikes, local runs and occasionally an amazing event.

One of those presentations took place in Melvin Village last week at the Willing Workers Hall, a sort of community Grange for Tuftonboro. We were invited last year to speak as guests of honor for a women’s club known as The Hikers. (The club has been around since the 1930s and are known as The Hikers not because they climb mountains, but because they traditionally would hike to each others’ houses to meet each week!)

The experience of an old-fashioned New England pot luck social is something special. About 50 “Yankees” stopped by carrying delicate dishes of steaming, mostly homemade food. Everything from baked mac and cheese to boiled chicken to Ramen noodle salad to  treats like blueberry pie covered two long tables.

But the corn pudding, oh my!

Throughout this adventure, I’ve often considered the direction this ongoing experience has moved us. From the timely circumstances surrounding the twins entry into our lives, to the hiking path that has created such an amazing bond between Janelle and myself, which ultimately led to the book, which in turn has created a sort of career path at just the moment I needed direction.

Being introduced at the Willing Workers Hall.

Being introduced at the Willing Workers Hall.

But sitting there in that old social hall, with Janelle and Meena, surrounded by a group of kind, attentive, comfortable new friends, I finally figured out what this whole endeavor has ultimately been about.

And I’m here to tell you my friends, it is about corn pudding; creamy, sweet, perfectly baked, corn pudding. Before we left that hall, we befriended the amazing woman who brought that dish, and she kindly gave us her recipe. And now I know, no matter what the future brings, this incredible adventure – this earnest and deeply challenging quest for friendship that Janelle and I have undertaken with all of your love – does indeed have meaning. And that meaning can be found in a box of Jiffy Corn Bread Mix along with a couple of cans of cream corn.

Salvation is not as difficult to find as one imagines and can thrive in the most mundane of places. Perfect happiness can be found in a simple social hall, surrounded by friends and a heaping plate of corn pudding.

Categories: Updates and Plans | 4 Comments

Spring has nearly sprung, and not a moment too soon!

Pausing to enjoy the sunset from Rock RImmon during one of our runs. 2014 will be the year of running!

Pausing to enjoy the sunset from Rock Rimmon during one of our runs. 2014 will be the year of running!

Happy (nearly) spring everyone. Yes, we have snow in the forecast for the weekend. And yes, it’s freezing outside right now. But we are not letting any of that reality get in the way of our plans for spring and summer adventures. Buffalo and Tough Cookie will be on the road for the book, giving talks and slide shows all over New England. But we also have some big hiking adventures planned as well.

For some reason, Janelle has gotten it into her head that 2014 will be the year of running so we’ve already started getting outside when we can, doing a mile here and a mile there. The weather has been a little, shall we say, inconsistent, but the girl is already showing signs of that boundless energy she often displays on the trails. Even in our short runs, I’ve had to work to keep up. We’ll certainly participate in the Merrimack Rib Fest 5-miler in June and most likely run the Stonyfield 5k and Girls Inc 5k as well. Are you a runner? Come join us!

In adventure news, we’ve been invited to an overnight camping trip to Lonesome Lake Hut over Easter and big, big plans are underway for a long thru hike near the end of August. I could go on and on, but instead I’ll just say we’d love to see and meet some of you at an event or on the trail. Here is a link to our current, crazy, event schedule: Event Schedule 2014-15

Also, as you know, The Adventures of Buffalo and Tough Cookie has been nominated for a Reader’s Choice Award by the NH Writer’s Project. Today is the final day of voting and we would be very grateful if you’d consider voting for us. Here is the link to vote: Reader’s Choice Award

Finally, a personal plug. My second book, The Nepal Chronicles, will be released this summer. We’re having a big book release party at Gibson’s Bookstore on Thursday, July 10 and I’d love to see you all there! You can follow this link to LIKE our Facebook page and be up to date on news, give-aways and events: The Nepal Chronicles

Here we go! Let’s make this year unforgettable!

Categories: Press and Promotion, Updates and Plans | 1 Comment

Help us take Reader’s Choice Award

Writers-ProjectHappy Friday all. We hope you have something wonderful planned for the weekend!

I just wanted to drop a quick post about the New Hampshire Writers’ Project Reader’s Choice Awards. The Adventures didn’t win the Writers’ Project best of 2013 prize for non-fiction, but we are still in the running for the Reader’s Choice Award. So, I’m humbly asking for your vote to help push us over the top.

Voting is easy and will only take a moment of your time. Just click on the link below, punch in your email and scroll down to the non-fiction category Click the oval next to my name then click SUBMIT and you’re done! Thank you so much in advance. Your support and enthusiasm has made all the difference!

Here is the link: READER’S CHOICE AWARD VOTE

Categories: Updates and Plans | Leave a comment

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