That Time I Dodged Flying Manure, Found Authenticity, and Ate Chocolate from a Dumpster

20161027_083354While I was in Montana, I had one of my favorite experiences of my travels. Dave from a previous episode connected me with a few friends of his in Montana that were setting up their river camp for hosting a few students that they would be teaching some primitive skills to. A man named Barnes was who I got in contact with and as we exchanged texts and a couple brief phone calls, he determined they were comfortable with having me come and spend a night or two with them.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I camp, but I’m no mountain man, like what these folks sounded like to me. Barnes indicated that he wouldn’t be around when I arrived, but the others in camp were aware of me coming, so I could just settle in when I got there. Figuring I’d be out of cell phone service, I had written down a few directions to get me to the location. I got there without issue and pulled into the property. A great earth lodge was near the entrance. Driving down the dirt road a bit, there were two men out in a pasture, kicking a soccer ball at a makeshift wooden goal. I got out of my car and they looked at me and without a word kicked the ball in my direction. We made introductions and I got comfortable with Neil and Chris as we kicked a soccer ball around.

After a while, Neil decided throwing a frisbee around might be a little more low-key than soccer. So he ran and got his frisbee while I went to my car and changed into some shorts. We converged at the other end of the pasture that had been our playing field. A brown mound that had been at a distance earlier was now close enough for me to notice it was a rotting dear carcass. It seemed quite natural to them. The circle of life happening around them.

We tossed the frisbee a bit and then Neil joked that we ought to throw dried cow and horse manure at the frisbee as it glided through the air, to test our accuracy. Then somehow, we found ourselves actually throwing dried manure at the frisbee. The real challenge ended up being the task of catching the frisbee while dodging the flying manure. I joked that this seemed like a natural alternative to using meth, as there were a multitude of anti-meth billboards throughout Montana.

Soon Barnes arrived with another friend and we all converged, along with Chris’s partner, Bartle, on their hangout hut/kitchen. We ate and gathered around their wood burning stove, and started to chat. Often I find there can be some reluctance on the part of those that I record. But these good folks just carried on as usual. They talked about themselves, some for my benefit, but we joked and laughed and just enjoyed each other.

As we chatted, Barnes opened up and I was struck by how profoundly authentic he is. There is nothing contrived about who he is. He lives as he wants to. He is educated and chooses to live a somewhat isolated life in Montana and understands that life is a process and he’s learning just like everyone else. The beautiful thing in the whole experience was that he didn’t take himself too seriously. None of them did.

Here’s the clipisode with Barnes. You can also find it on iTunes and SoundCloud. Be sure to scroll down, because there’s a bonus clipisode.

The bonus below is the group chatting about dumpster diving. I was interested to get onto the subject, because when we first converged in their hangout hut, Neil went to a corner and walked back with a handful of unwrapped chocolate and handed it to me while he sucked on a bit of chocolate himself. I happily partook, being a man with an ever-present sweet-tooth. As I savored this delightful chocolate, the discussion illuminated the fact that the chocolate had been found in a dumpster, during a dumpstering adventure. I would’ve felt sick, but for the fact that I felt like the chocolate was vetted, as they were eating it too. Neil proudly displayed the large sack of reject chocolate after the revelation it was from a dumpster.

My time with these wild folks was sublime. Seldom have I felt like I was in the presence of such authentic people. And that authenticity made it feel so natural that it barely seemed weird to throw manure and eat chocolate from a dumpster.

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Me entering Montana the day before I met Barnes, Neil, Kevin, Chris & Bartle

Sow the Ancient Seed Waiting for Living Waters

Travel and meeting new people has been a remarkable journey for me. Truly I see a reflection of myself in the people I meet and talk to. A theme that often manifests itself as I talk to people is that we as humans are wounded. There is a pain that most of us carry. There is a longing that emerges in most my conversations. There is a desire to connect and a frustration that occupies the same ground as a deep hope that we can be better connected. I often find myself thinking about this desire to connect and I am in awe as I see that same desire painted by the conversations I have with others.

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And so with that emerges the question: what are we doing about that need to change something? What are we doing to heal our souls and reconnect to one another? As I traveled through Sandpoint, Idaho, I got to meet Dave. He and his wife have been on a journey of getting back to the basics. Former vegetarians and then vegans, they started to explore what Dave noted some call primitive skills. They started to learn about plants and seeds, animals and more. They learned how to find, harvest, and preserve food. They have been working to minimize their impact on the earth and more than that, live in sync with the earth as they feel—and I feel—we are meant to live. There is a spiritual element to all of this. Dave shared a journal entry about this awakening and beautifully suggested that we could, “sow the ancient seed, long lying dormant waiting for the living water to spring forth.”

 

In sharing Dave’s story and thoughts, I want to make sure that those who listen and read this podcast and blog understand that I’m not here to impose any specific view. However, if any of us feel like there is something more to life than what we are getting from it, I hope you’ll hear the beauty of Dave’s awakening that he shares. To me, his thoughts are sacred. His awakening is ours. It is for us, as his human brothers and sisters. His path is a call to each of us to travel the path to our own individual awakenings.

For those listening to the clipisode, you can use the embedded media below, or check out Ep9 on SoundCloud or iTunes.

I’ve transcribed Dave’s reading of his journal entry that he shared, for those that would like a written version. It gave me chills! Here’s the transcription:

We have forgotten how to be human. Like other animals that humans domesticate and corrupt and who no longer act according to nature. We no longer act according to our best interest in terms of health, mental well-being, social connection, nature connection or evolution. We think we are evolving as a species, somehow improving, bettering ourselves. But I think we have taken a fork in the road, left the good path and are lost wandering in the wilderness. Not the wilderness of nature, which would be good for us, and probably help heal almost all our sicknesses, but the wilderness of the soul.

We took the bait, fell right into the trap rather jumped in with both feet. The industrial revolution it was called, and that it was. A revolution that rot decay, sickness of mind, pollution of body and the earth. With promises of a better life we were lured from our birthright, our forest home. We lost our connection to the sacred, becoming stagnant pools isolated from the regenerating stream. The promise was always more time to enjoy your life, the idea of leisure time being the highest and best to be gained. Little knowing that we would so miss the work of our own hands. That in creating, providing, harvesting, hunting, weaving, carving, tanning and countless other expressions is the tapestry of life. Web of connection to place, one’s self, to nature, to one another, a belonging that we all long for. We lost the medicine of the wheel and wander, now lost inside our own minds, bearing grievous wounds which we know not how to heal, we wound one another.

The container is shattered, the shards, brittle fragments of a lost art. The once eternal cedar now hewn and fallen. And yet, seeds a thousand years old taken from the Hopi dwellings sprouted anew. Can we find the path back, turn our backs on the now all too obvious lies of mother culture, returning to our true mother, leaving the patriarchal father to find our birthright of old? It is not enough that some of us return, though all things start small and with time become the sequoias of majesty. There must be a great turning. What person knows at the beginning what will grow out of the seed they plant? Sow the ancient seed, long lying dormant waiting for the living water to spring forth. Sow it in your heart, sow it in your mind, sow it in your body, sow it in your soul.

May we all find our way back to our individual living waters. Drink up. Be renewed. Let’s connect and live.

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Episode 9 Dave Clips

In this clipisode Dave from Sandpoint, Idaho talks about the transition in life he and his wife have been engaging in to get back to the basics. He shares some of the things he and his wife have been doing to work with their hands, use the resources naturally available around them, and a profound moment of awakening to the need to get back in touch with nature and by extension ourselves.

Being Alive

I just wanted to share a quick thought. One person I wanted to speak with as I’m traveling the next couple months was a friend of mine that I met while I was serving as a Mormon missionary in Cambodia. He can often be found in Arizona where I was until yesterday or San Diego, where I am now. It just so happened that he got back to Arizona the night before I left to come to California. I was a little bummed to miss him, but gratefully, he called and we got to chat for a few minutes and laugh at ourselves for our crossing paths timing.

It struck me as we talked and he shared some projects he’s considering working on and as he talked about his relationship with the Mormon church, how different our paths can be when we are trying to honestly assess ourselves and what we value in life. It was almost sublime to watch the sunset behind the mountains as I inched closer to San Diego and to hear this friend talk about the backlash he’s had as he’s distanced himself from the faith that he and I both grew up with. I won’t delve into his reasons for his departure–that would probably be better left to him anyway–but I can’t help but respect him for trying his best to understand life and live it honestly. His path is different from mine, but the core of what he is doing is something I respect. I think of him as an honest explorer. I believe people like that are destined to find good things. Whenever I’m talking to people that are trying, though I may not see life like they do, there is always a good energy about them. That’s what I love and am looking for in people I meet and hope for in everyone. Let’s all follow our bliss.

Anyway, I’m here in San Diego and headed to LA and further north this week. Here’s to hoping I can find some people good enough to share their stories and get a few tidbits put up here.