“Be rather the Mungo Park, the Lewis and Clark and Frobisher, of your own streams and oceans. Explore your own higher latitudes.”Henry David Thoreau
On a beautiful late October day I said goodbye to my friend Steve. I was leaving town, and so our almost daily rendezvous, along the lake or the ravines that dot the North Shore of Chicago, would be ending.
That last time I saw him, Steve stood outside my car window excitedly speaking of Thoreau, Emerson and transcendentalism, encouraging me to read their works. As he spoke, a utility truck zoomed by. “Be careful” I cautioned as he stood in the road on my drivers side window.” “I don’t think this is a great spot.”
A few weeks later Steve was struck down in the exact location, a detail too eerie for me to process. Beyond and despite the tragedy and shock of his accident, I remain inspired by him.
Steve was a nationally ranked runner, an entrepreneur whose life was upended when a catastrophic medical event left him handicapped. Despite his limitations, he remained devoted to his practice; a 5 mile daily journey-rain or shine, which took about 4 hours each day. Our friendship was founded on daily walks and a mutual love of nature and fresh air, finding both to be good medicine for the soul.
When I met Steve he was angry, and unapproachable, often yelling at cars passing close to the wide lane he navigated. He kept his gaze downward, later telling me that he often stumbled and fell if he didn’t focus intently on each step. He was understandably disheartened by his limitations.
Over the years I came to know him as an inspired man with curiosity, passion for life. It was amazing to see him regain a spark, as he spoke of his daughter and his interests. Our last talks were over his excitement about traveling with his wife to Idaho and California, not a complaint about his bloodied legs from a recent stumble over a dog gate from which he was unable to get up.
When I’m feeling disheartened or stuck or sorry for myself, I think of how Steve handled the wilderness of his life — with determination to keep going, keep practicing, and keep growing until the end. Although he wouldn’t hear of it, Steve’s undying spirit was, and remains, an inspiration.
I recently pulled out Walden, in Steve’s honor. I’ve learned that Thoreau walked 4 hours each day (Go figure!) and that he, too, died young, after catching cold while studying trees, which then triggered his tuberculosis. I am reminded: committed, curious, kindred spirits are found in the wilderness.
This Week's Practice:
Each day is a gift. And time spent in silence is a gift within that gift. The way to tap into the abundance of joy that rests quietly within is to simply be present with it. The time is now; do it for you! Try five minutes today.
This Week's Prayer:
* * *