A Writer’s Journey

Reflecting back over the years of my life now has taken on a wholly different character and sense of urgency. Each time I sit down to write these days, I am reminded by all of the objects surrounding me that the accumulation of years has also resulted in an enormous accumulation of memories and souvenirs of the many experiences of my life.

There was a prolonged period when I barely had even the shortest amount of time for such reminiscing, and I told myself over and over that the objects and documents and articles that I set aside would one day be a rich resource for writing about the times of my life. 

It seemed urgent to take this approach at that time since there were so few opportunities to review the important aspects of my experience of life. I feared I might lose the thread that would lead me back through the labyrinth of time when I finally was able to withdraw from the relentless burden of obligation to generate income.

$CoMmEntU

Even now, as I type these words, I am still not entirely certain that my intention to review the important objects which surround me will result in a sufficiently satisfying conclusion that will allow me to let go of them.  There are so many thoughts all jumbled up in my mind already—the flood of a lifetime of thoughts and memories often seems to overwhelm me—even as I attempt to organize them and convert them into some sort of coherent expression.

My online blog, “John’s Consciousness,” began as an earnest effort to begin to formulate the foundation of a much larger work.  While my current life is finally less crammed with the immediacy of unavoidable daily tasks for the most part, the daunting volume and immensity of the accumulated objects and documents weighs heavily on me. 

At first it seemed to me that all the efforts at preservation were primarily for my own benefit, and while I wasn’t certain about the specific motivation being employed at every moment, in the back of my mind, I supposed that the why and the wherefore would become evident upon review at some later time.

Looking back now over decades, there were many instances when I was either forced to choose a path at a crossroad or when I had to make a conscious, deliberate choice as I approached a crossroad, when I also found myself wondering if I was making the right choice. We cannot know with certainty, at any given moment, the full range of consequences which might ensue when making such choices, and we must often rely on some intuitive or instinctive inclination.  The perspective of time is needed to compare our achievements with whatever hard lessons may have resulted, in order to evaluate our current circumstance. Even though those hard lessons may have subsequently resulted in some benefit, it may not be sufficient to mitigate regrets.

Recent events and current circumstances have pressed me to reflect with much greater intensity on the balance of the costs versus the benefits, and it seems to me that there has been a reasonably fair balance between them.  We cannot reverse time nor can we untangle whatever confusion or uncertainty governed the circumstances surrounding any choice made in the swirling maelstrom of the past, but this acknowledgement hasn’t yet dissuaded me from meandering from time to time through the perennial realm of what might have been, or its close companion—what still might be possible.

Dwelling on anxiety over what might have been isn’t especially helpful, but traversing the road leading to what still might be possible is no cakewalk either. Whenever we project ourselves forward into the realm of what might still be possible, we are often limited by what we have already experienced as a starting point, so we must be able to somehow suspend our expectations based on previous experience in order to move forward.  What we sometimes describe as “thinking outside the box,” may provide the necessary degree of difference in our thought process, but it also requires an additional degree of willingness to venture outside of our comfort zone in important ways.  Such measures also require a degree of courage in treading a path previously untried.

In all of my deliberations thus far, I have steadfastly applied a deliberate effort to forge a new approach to the path forward, and aside from helping me to recognize just how difficult it can be to move ahead in this way, it has been suggested by my experience that failure is one of the best teachers, as well as an absolutely necessary component of any true success, which eventually appears when we make an earnest effort to forge ahead.

In the weeks to come I will be reviewing some of the components and accumulated memories, stories, documents and objects that I retained as souvenirs which surround me in my writing space, as I attempt to sort through them and decide which of them to keep and which of them I can safely let go.

Hopefully, in the process, my readers and visitors might find some benefit for themselves from following along with my struggle to sort it all out. As I happen upon important topics suggested by this review, I may veer off the beaten path for a bit to elaborate and/or mitigate the process, just to keep it interesting.

Looking forward to sharing this part of what continues to be a challenging journey with you all…..John H

Enriched Beyond Measure

View of the lake in the Pennsylvania mountains

Several times during the year, I have recently been able to enjoy the exceptional privilege to be invited to my sister’s lakehouse in Pennsylvania, occasionally for family gatherings, and sometimes simply for the pleasure of a visit. As someone who savors opportunities for communing with the natural world, over many years now I have also learned to appreciate well the bounty available in the mountains and woodlands as an avid camping enthusiast. I have written about my experiences in this regard several times in this blog, and posted photos of some of my favorite locations.

View of the lake in the Moreau Lake State Park in Saratoga County in New York

Far from the maddening crowd, completely removed from the daily grind and the routines of everyday home life, spending time out in the woods is always a welcome respite, which has very few of the creature comforts of life in our modest home, but is so rich in the benefits of being outdoors among the natural landscapes in the northeast corridor of the USA, that it outweighs any inconvenience or extra effort required to sustain whatever amount of time that is possible to participate in the cherished time away.

Creek along the Cascades Trail within the Jefferson National Forest in Pembroke, Virginia

My good friend and fellow blogger Anthony at zenothestoic.com recently inspired me to revisit a particularly important and relevant episode in my writing life by referencing the famous book by Henry David Thoreau called, “Walden.” In so many ways, Thoreau’s account of his years living in his “cabin-in-the-woods,” exemplifies not only the many benefits of spending time in solitude in the natural world, highlighting his extraordinary ideas about what constitutes “necessary” with regard to living well, but also presented him with numerous opportunities for personal growth and raising his awareness of what truly matters in life.

Sign at the site of Thoreau’s cabin next to the pile of stones left by visitors from all over the world

Visit to Walden Pond, Concord, Massachusetts, April 25, 1998

Sitting by the shore of Walden Pond, I experience an odd sense of euphoria. Dashing behind passing clouds, the sun, when it emerges, feels warm on my face, and the air is filled with the intoxicating aroma of the surrounding woods. It is early afternoon and there is barely a sound to be heard, aside from my footsteps crunching rhythmically along the stony path leading to the site of Thoreau’s original cabin. A gentle breeze stirs the tops of the narrow pine trees, which now sway in a graceful natural ballet.

At the edge of the pond, in the cove just below the site, I set up my camera to capture an image of myself, standing in the spot where I imagined Thoreau himself must surely have stood once, possibly admiring a glorious spring day like this one. A guided path for visitors to the site ends abruptly at the edge of the cove, and I am left to discover my own way. Surprisingly, there are no other travelers whatsoever on this path, and I am alone as I approach the famous pile of stones near the markers delineating the boundaries of the Walden hut.

Imbedded in the ground, a stone memorial is carved into the foundation for the cabin’s chimney, discovered in 1945 by members of the Thoreau Society. A wooden sign stands near the memorial displaying the well-known quotation pictured above.

The view of the pond from where the cabin once stood gives a good indication of why Thoreau selected the location. Near enough to make good use of the water, but not so near as to be exposed to any hazard, the dwelling sits in the high ground providing both seclusion and an advantageous sight line to the shimmering pond.

Standing in the very place where the words were written, Thoreau’s descriptions of the surroundings and the pleasures of solitude come vividly alive for me, and I am nearly hypnotized by the symphony of sights and sensations that surround me. I sat for nearly an hour, soaking in the experience, savoring the beauty and serenity of Walden Pond.

Included in the preservation efforts of the area by the Thoreau Society is a replica of the Walden hut, built at the Walden Pond State Reservation in Concord, which was constructed according to Thoreau’s descriptions and plans. He used mostly recycled wood and building materials from pieces of an abandoned shanty, hand-cutting many of the components, reportedly spending a whopping $28.12.

Along the return path, I paused periodically, reluctant to relinquish the moment. Turning to the panorama one last time, it occurred to me that I had not managed to make this pilgramage until the age of 44, the same age as Thoreau when he died in 1862. The writer in me grinned widely. Perhaps he was with me this day, whispering encouragement to continue writing. I drove away enlivened and enriched beyond measure.