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.

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

Episode 3 Alan Clips

In this episode I talk to Alan, a retired Lutheran pastor living in San Diego. As opposed to a fully produced episode, this is just a clip from our conversation where he talks about his decision as a child to become a pastor and where that led him in life.

More On Episode 2

As per usual, I just want to add a little more than the tagline post and provide a better in post media player.

Kate Hubrich and I got to chat towards the beginning of 2016. As we talked something that was very clear is how self-aware Kate is. She has a defined set of values that are self-refined and that come from thoughtful consideration and experience. There was a point as we chatted that Kate shared four pillars that she lives by: maintaining close family relationships, giving back to others, helping friends with their goals, and living a life close to God. It became evident upon review of the conversation that those pillars truly are a guide for how Kate lives her life.

Kate talked about growing up in Montana and some of her childhood difficulties in dealing with a health problem that was not diagnosed for some time, losing a sister, and her family moving to Utah. The way she and her family responded to those difficulties laid a foundation for Kate that established her four pillars. As her family supported one another in those difficult times and through the encouragement of Kate’s mom to get involved in community service as an adolescent, Kate’s life provides the evidence of how powerful her pillars are for living a fulfilling life.

What is particularly profound about Kate’s story is that she opens up about fear. She talked at length about how fear can interfere with living life the way we want to live it. In her case she shared that her ideal life would be to travel the world and live to help those that are in need, such as refugees, victims of violence and abuse, etc. As we talked and Kate considered fear, she illuminates many areas of life where fear can change us, particularly in holding us back when we get comfortable with a status quo.

More on Episode 1

I just wanted to give a little more detail about the first episode than what the tagline post gives and share an in post media player that’s a little friendlier.

At the beginning of the year I started to consider doing this podcast. As a low-key person with no experience in audio editing, it seemed like a far-fetched idea for me to spend time interviewing people about their lives and turning those conversations into podcasts. But having enough courage to try it out, Elise Bassett let me interview her to see what I could do. I sat on the result for a while, because I worried this wasn’t something I’d stick with doing. Also, as time went on, I noticed how the dynamic of our friendship changed, which gave me pause about sharing this. To make the idea of sharing more complicated, I noticed how much her life changed even in just the few months after the interview. But ultimately, this episode really embodies what I want Reflection to be. It shows how each of our life stories are always a work in progress and there is something that we each are experiencing that resonates with other people.

Elise grew up in Princeton, New Jersey. Now, most of us haven’t had to deal with the pressure of growing up in an Ivy League town, but feeling the pressure to fit in and be a certain way is certainly something most of us can relate to. Through Elise’s experience, she shows how challenging it can be to navigate the fine line between developing a personal identity and being part of a community. Elise also opens up about discovering the barriers that come with anxiety and depression. That was a very familiar theme for me. It can be scary when life shows us our limits, particularly when facing those limitations with anxiety and depression.

As Elise took me through her life story and seeing the difference between what she expected life to be to what her reality is, she shared a very hopeful outlook. Having hope can be really challenging when mental health issues stand in the way of the life you want, but Elise provides a personal perspective on what gives her hope and shows a will to keep dreaming.

I need to give a shout out to Elise too for not only letting me try this out on her, but helping come up with a name for the podcast and designing a logo.