So, why the title? I’ll spend the next several paragraphs exploring the reason. Reason? Nope, not close. Thoughts? Sure, but still mostly off target. Explanation? Maybe, but really there is no explaining my mind, just wonderment. Purpose, again very close, and really pompous. So, maybe I’ll discover “it” as I write this post. After all. I come to these posts with a thought AND just riff.
I have written about my upbringing in a family that communicated through conflict. This is really uncomfortable for most sane people to experience. It sure is for JDT, Niels and Blair. For example, I can just imagine my kids reading the title, and at best rolling their eyes and saying “Dad . . . ” And at worst just shutting down. In my earlier, angrier, much less mature days this was mostly about me and somehow satisfying my big E Ego. Yet, there was always something lurking in there that made me hang on to this habit for practically my entire life. Apathy! It is what I consider one side of the coin that has passion on the flip side. Or on a spectrum of “caring”, these two words fall at opposite extreme ends. LIFE IS TOO PRECIOUS TO GO THROUGH IN A STATE OF APATHY. At least this is how I see things.
I have “wanted” to write for the last 13ish years. It began with my love to tell my story of my journey with cancer. You know I believe it to be a wonderful gift, just never one I EVER want to receive again. NEVER! I’ve talked with many friends about this desire and they have provided wonderful encouragement. Some of them have told “their story”. In one very specific case it has rocked (in the best way possible) the foundation of his world. I look on in wonder. Yet something has kept me from writing. Is this writer’s block? I have never been a writer, so that isn’t possible. Now? Something has changed. I head out on my morning wanderings with a few things pretty much guaranteed. I’m in a mental fog (the fog helps me escape of “reasons not to” and “just do it”). I’m feeling low energy / high caffeine. I’m worried about my body; my neck / back; my dizziness. As the wandering progresses my internal voices carry on a dialogue that my inner self takes and screams – you NEED to write. Ah, that is it. MY WANT HAS EVOLVED TO NEED. And like all true needs, without them we suffer a compromised life.
Scott Kelley is Jim Kelley’s oldest son. He is also a dear friend, and in many ways has been a spiritual savant to me over the last several years. I think JDT has talked about Scott and his Green Man walks. Scott uses these wanderings while in San Francisco on work (week long stays as he lives in Montana) to push himself to walk into the unknown; to satisfy a sense of wonder; to discover the new.
My version of Scott’s Green Man walks (I don’t have a name yet) with similar intent is to find smaller one way streets that I can walk against traffic. I do this for a variety of reasons. My earliest days of recovery from my battle with cancer were spent with another dear friend at my side – Mike Quillin. I will never, EVER forget our first walk (likely in late 2008 after treatment ended) in the Walnut Creek Open Space. I think it may have been 300 to 400 yards. Maybe. Early on, he was so patient with me. Mike and I spent the next 8ish years “walking” together. We walked through Mike’s struggle to overcome disease and glimpses at his mortality. We walked through Mike’s hip replacement. We walked through it all! AND walk we did! We walked nearly all of the most iconic Bay Area trails (there are many!). It expanded out of the Bay Area to Yosemite (including a midnight Half Dome adventure I will remember to my grave) and into national parks in Utah, Nevada and Arizona (yes, the Grand Canyon). You learn things and create a deep appreciation during such adventures. AND a couple of the things Mike taught me was “don’t just look down at the top of your shoes” and a deep desire to explore the personally unexplored. We don’t walk much anymore. Mike has gone forward and has nearly completed the PCT. I’m learning to live through Mike’s journey and somehow know that a piece of me contributed to a piece of him. My practical reason for choosing small one-way streets. So I do not have to look at my feet when I walk. Sidewalks here are an adventure. I find I need to look down while I walk. This is terrible for my posture and contributes significantly to neck / back pain. So, while Mike’s reason for “don’t just look down down at the top of your shoes” advice was about so much more than safety, I find it is often a health and safety tactic. I walk on the street (it’s OK, it is completely normal in NOLA) facing oncoming traffic (the pedestrian / driver thing in NOLA is a thing with which I struggle). This also feeds my deep desire to confront life head on. AND the curious thing? While I am learning to accept my physical limitations, my desire for the mental impact and import of walking is, if anything higher today than it has ever been.
My new morning wanderings have to this point started with either a left turn or a right turn. I would never go backward. First, I don’t know what that means, and even if I did it is not how I see life. JDT and I were talking last night. She was telling me about her two or three walks that day. She mentioned across Governor Nichols Street. I said I hadn’t gone that way. It meant “going straight” out the door. I rarely think of that as an option, especially in life. Going straight, which I internally translate to “staying the course” somehow seems uninspiring. It somehow seems boring. IT SOMEHOW SEEMS TO BE COUNTER-EVOLUTIONAL.
GOING STRAIGHT IS WONDERFUL.