Wilderness

 

The path gave way underneath my feet. The ground was soft…thawing from winter and IMG_9372still wet from the recent rain and snow. I glanced back behind me to see the imprints of my boots on the trail. My father’s words hung in my mind….

“Why are you looking behind you, you’re not going that way”

A smile spread across my face. I looked to see the impressions I’d made…to know where I’d been…the trail was clear, I certainly knew where I was going. I’d walked this same path IMG_9390thousands of time.

Time for me. Space for me.

Church in this place.

Antonio Gaudi, the great Spanish Architect who designed the Basilica in Barcelona believed that his church should mimic the forest and nature because that is where you are closest to God. I’ve never been to the Cathedral in Barcelona, but I’ve spent countless hours in this wilderness, which for me is God’s masterpiece. It’s here I feel at home, rooted and what likely drew me to Snowbird all of those years ago…

I Googled the term “Wilderness”:

 Wilderness or wildland is a natural environment on Earth that has not
been significantly modified by 
civilized human activity. It may also be defined as: “The most intact, undisturbed wild natural areas left on our planet—those last truly wild places that humans do not control and have not developed with roads, pipelines or other industrial infrastructure.”

How would I define “it”. How do I feel when I am here? IMG_9392Surrounded. In the wilderness I am alive, bound, warm, vulnerable and in awe of the world. I feel in ways that I can’t express in any other places or ways. While I marvel at cities and all that we create, they are no match for the creation here. Order and chaos together and yet perfect and “right” The world we create around us is all about “order” with little room for the chaos of nature. No give and take, no Yin, much less Yang. Cities are great for the culture, sophistication and convenience they offer, but I live here in this relaxed rural natural environment at the end of the power lines and it is here that I find peace and comfort in the woods, nature, lakes and outdoors. I like it here. This isn’t a race, you see this is life – and my devotion is deeply personal.

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The trail moved up and to the left, surrounding the big trees. I gazed down at the spider web of roots of the ancient poplar tree. Deep these giants tap deep into the earth, their feet running away from the base like spider legs all crisscrossed with an intricate weave of smaller veins feeding the enormity of the behemoth that stands before me. The top of the tree, towering 150 feet above had long since snapped away. The enormous girth of the tree takes the majority of nutrients from the soil and there isn’t enough to reach the vast heights of the tree, so eventually the tops die out….I wonder how long they will last?

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I watched as a brook bubbled…seemingly straight from the Earth. Looking closely I see the indentions where the water flows underground from a source high above the trail. The sound of the water flowing over the rocks and rushing down a small series of cascades sooths my soul much like music from a choir. I sit for a time on an old log and listen IMG_9362to the sounds. Several couples out on the same walk stroll by. Instead of taking in all of the beauty that surrounded them they are talking about what awful shape the trail is in, how much downfall there is, how muddy their feet are getting – they want the “Disney” experience and that’s not this place. This is one of God’s sanctuaries. A refuge from all that is out “there”. Fairly untouched by the hands of man. Where fallen trees are sawed by hand not chain saws. Where trunks are removed or cut with human effort, only to clear the path. Where bridges over creeks are built to meld with the woods around them. Where water flows where it wants…even if it’s down the trail.

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This is perhaps as close to true wilderness as we can get here in this country anymore…..oh, you can move further into the backcounty and get farther away and it’ll get rougher and more remote, but here….here in this cathedral you get just a taste…enough to make you hunger and thirst for more…trees….water….plants….animals of the world as intended….chaos….and order…..straight…and curved….twisted…and…..young….and old….I take off my boots and sink my feet into the muddy ground feeling connected to this earth, in this place, at this time. Ahhhhhhhh…IMG_9421

I’ve learned so much about myself here. About life, people, places, things and just “stuff”. I need this place…and places like it. I find solace here and with the negative feelings flowing in this country I need this walk in the woods. To be surrounded by God and his creative masterpiece is a blessing indeed. I am grateful. Sometimes you have to enjoy the quiet moments to be able to see the larger picture.

“no winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn”                                                                                                            – Naturalist Hal Borland

Spring is coming. The days are getting longer. The air warmer. Change is everywhere. Welcome. Ready. Here, in this place, like the walks I take beside the creeks or lakes I find the great metaphors for life. Endings, beginnings, seasons change, water flows. The wind blows. All constant. Always changing. Just as God intended. The Wilderness makes you better. Indeed it does.

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To be continued………

Robert Rankin                                                                              Innkeeper, Explorer & Adventurer

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Saying Goodbye…..

is never…ever….easy.

In all relationships there comes a time or an awareness that  you will part company, being closely held, a handshake, hug or just a wave, one begins to realize at some point that this may indeed be “goodbye”. A place and time where you understand that you may never see that soul again…..at least in this lifetime.

Over the years of my life I’ve said goodbye to many. Family members, friends, guests and others I’ve had contact with. I’ve waved from the steps of the Lodge, hugged many as they climb into cars, stood beside graves and placed my hands on coffins through the years, but recently came a goodbye that struck me to my very core. I’ve said goodbye to many animal friends through my life. Several while I’ve been caretaker and steward of this place, but this friend was something special……

 

PGT Beauregard, The General, Beau, Bo, whatever name you used, he was the dearest of friends…my real BFF, in ways that many can never understand. He and I wandered these mountains through thick and thin. In every type of weather, rain, sun, snow, ice, heat and cold. Never once complaining, always by my side. Tail always wagging. Happy, content and completely in the NOW….always. We saw each other through many adventures and greeted each other with love and affection every time we were together. He came here to be with us and  me through some of the most difficult times I’ve known and some of the best times too. Together we experienced all of the elements of life. We often could be found close together, but at the same time allowed each other to find peace in solitude.

In late January I noticed Beau acting a little odd and early in the morning took him to our vet and friend. It didn’t take Dave long to diagnose the issue and immediately performed surgery. Beau came through and continued to improve over the next 24 hours, crossing critical milestones. Two days after surgery, Dave, Elizabeth and I talked and decided that Beau would be better off coming home for the night. Elizabeth and I loaded Beau into the truck and drove him home. The trip home was the same as always and he knew immediately when we got close to home, raising up to see and make sure his senses were not wrong. As we got him out of the truck he wandered the yard briefly, smelling all that was around him and greeting his cohorts and friends, Max, Lakota and JB tails all waging high in the air in greetings and the “I’ve missed you”, “where have you been” that dogs know so well before coming into the house.

We had made a bed for him, but true to his very nature he moved to the foyer near the front door – his favorite spot inside. Elizabeth and I spent time talking with him, laughing at stories and being near. Elizabeth went to bed and I curled up behind Beau, putting my arm across him and holding him close. At a little after 10, his heart slowed and he closed his eyes for the very last time. He died in my arms and in just the way I think we would all want – at home, a very familiar place, surrounded by those he loved and that loved him the most. Peacefully, quietly….and…as for death….easily. As we cried, saying prayers and farewells that we certainly weren’t ready for, we decided to bury Beau in his very favorite spot.

Over the years I’ve witnessed many scatterings of ashes and memorials on this property. Guests and former Innkeepers that have passed from this life and wanted to be spread on this magical mountain. Many of our animal friends, cats and dogs that have shared this space with us and guests alike. All of those spots on this property hold a place of honor with us, but Beau’s place was one that was very close to him. A place that was and is special on this property. High on the ridge, overlooking vast amounts of forest, Beau could often be found lying in the leaves listening to all that surrounded him and watching for the comings and goings from that spot. It was here that we buried him.

For several days following his death we would go and sit near him. His other cohorts could often be observed, either sitting near or actually lying on top of his grave. I know many people that say animals have no souls, but I would argue that point. Seeing the way his other friends acted at his death and feeling him through the years as I did tells me otherwise. I’ve often heard people remark that they wish they were the people that their  dogs thought they were. I am…and was the person that Beau thought I was. He taught me much and always gave more than he took. Filled with warmth and love for those he cared for he knew when to surround you with that love and when to give you space. His life was a remarkable gift to all of those he touched – and he touched many. I know because of the way he not only touched me, Elizabeth and Sophie, but by the tears shed from both the Vet and his staff when they learned of Beau’s death. We’ve received notes and cards from those that heard of his passing and I have been amazed at how many were touched by this magnificent soul, but even more than that I am amazed, grateful and honored that he chose to share himself and all of his love with me.

the fear of loving a dog is

knowing one day they’ll be

gone, and you could never

find the eyes that express all

that you feel.

                        r.m.drake

         

There’s a reason that our animal companions don’t live as long as we do. That reason is that we could never handle their death and our loss if they did. The unquestioning love and devotion of these friends is remarkable and their total devotion and unconditional love to their friends and companions is something that we should all aspire to with every being we meet. Beau lived his life unwaveringly. He lived with complete vulnerability of heart and consequently lived his life very large indeed. The list of course could go on and on with the gifts he gave, but without question he gave me more than I could ever give him.

Snowbird marks her 75th Anniversary this year and we start a new journey here on the mountain. One that is marked without a dear friend and companion. No more coffee and IMG_8609shared sunrises from the deck. My eyes are still teary as I write this. Raw, vulnerable, open, courageous, scared, and humbled. All of these feelings are gifts that were given to me by him.

Beauregard, thank you for the gift of your life, the gift of your talents, wisdom, love and courage. Thank you for choosing to spend your time with me. I am forever grateful and humbled for your presence in my life and I hope I remember all you taught.

Until we meet again –I love you.

 

Robert Rankin

Innkeeper, Adventurer & Explorer

Moments and Memories

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I sat on the swing overlooking the mountains….Listening to the sounds of the evening, taking sips of my drink and listening to the one seated next to me…I felt the this place once again. In that space, over dinner, laughter, conversation, sharing lives and stories…..it is moments like that that make up memories……

My mother has a favorite saying – “Robert, you drink in life in giant gulps”. I always smile when I think about her saying it. IMG_4328Once I finally understood and became aware of how I was taking life in big gulps I refocused myself on all of the smaller…seemingly insignificant happenings that go on around me every day. The way the hummingbird lit on the feeder that evening, the way your gaze met mine as the conversation went deeper, the feel of the breeze as it brushed across my cheek on the porch, the way the dogs nuzzled up for a pat so they wouldn’t be left out. Those are seemingly the moments of everyday life and yet, sometimes I take it all for granted, but when I’m able to focus on them, to slow down and pause, those magical moments are created.

I was blessed to have one of them this week. These are the times that help sustain us. They are the memories that carry us forward for years and years. In particular I find these moments are the ones that I never want to end. It’s like reading a great book or seeing a fabulous movie. When I turn the last page or the screen goes dark and find myself saying, “wait, that can’t be it, it can’t be IMG_4133over!” It’s those times that I find myself wanting to know more….that is where memories are created, the places and times that we never want to forget. I was reminded that intimacy is never purely physical. It’s about the connection on deeper levels, a looking and caressing of each others soul…it’s about trust, truth and life. Theses are the seconds, minutes, hours or days where we are surrounded by the “magic” It can be a place, a person(s) or both where and when they happen, but oh when they do…..well…that carries us forever….

I once read that there was a difference between moments and memories and the illustration used went something like this…While we ate dinner on September 1, 2004, we actually don’t know what we had – this is a moment, we know ate, we just can’t recall what. When we can specifically recall an “event” in our mind and recreate it exactly….like a wedding…that is a memory…those are what creates the times that we won’t forget. As my father has gotten older and more forgetful his memories have become more pronounced and more powerful for him, but after that night this week in a conversation we had on the phone he reminded me “The best portion of life is in those small nameless moments you spend smiling with something or someone that matters to you”…to be honest I think it’s true for all of us. It’s when time stands still in those moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life to others that our memories are created.

When the night came to an end I found myself wanting more. I wandered out the front door, 2015-04-20 21-30-37 -0400down the drive and then up to the house, the dogs trailing behind. I stood outside, gazed at the stars and watched as the full moon drifted across the night sky. Fully intending to go to bed, I sat on my porch instead, lit the fire and gave thanks. For the day. For the night. For the moment. For the connection. For the depth. For the openness. For giving. Like all of us, I have no idea what the future holds, but I am really looking forward to it. And of this I’m sure, we’ll create more memories and certainly have more moments, but that night…oh….that night, I created a memory that will be in my mind for a long, long time…….

                                     Thank you.

Robert Rankin

                                                                  Innkeeper, Explorer & Adventurer 

Home and Love

It’s been almost thirty years since they left. Vivid memories of them are intertwined and mixed into my soul. With the help of their children, my aunts and uncles, we cleared out and packed up that house that held a lifetime of memories in Decatur.

My grandmother was a classic, old school southern lady…..exactly what you’d think of if you thought back to the days of Driving Miss Daisy…..she was that kind of woman, although without the means that Miss Daisy had. She held on to the past, gripping it firmly so that it might never see change…particularly in her mind. She held onto things that might have been sentimental….old dusty books…china and silver of our familys from the century past…photographs, albums, games, art, letters and dresses…oh my gosh..the dresses and shoes…At 90 something it was quiet the collection….

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My grandfather was a man’s man, tall, strong and firm. Rooted in his generation..the one that was on the cusp of the “greatest generation” – depression, war and all, he supported all of his family through hard work encouraging them all to be independent, strong and capable. He was one of 18 or so children and as I understand it, they were all that way, so perhaps it was genetic…I just know that fame and fortune didn’t interest him, but life did.

Their Decatur home was old school southern,  graced with wide open spaces and two very private bedrooms, a sun porch that stretched across the back that gazed into the woods and a large formal dining room where people were entertained on fine china and crystal. . Waited on by maids while they looked out over the expansive front yard, smoking cigarettes, pipes and cigars laughing about their world. A neighborhood was eventually built up around their home in the “country”.

They generally didn’t throw stuff away back then, they fixed it. They kept things longer, holding on to them, caring for and reusing…over and over. My grandfathers shop outside was filled with tools and designed to fix, repair and rebuild. He worked six days a week, five full and then a half day on Saturday when, in the afternoon he mowed the lawn fully dressed – in his coat, tie and dress wingtip shoes walking behind his large Gravely tractor. Even till the end of his life you could often find him splitting wood for the many fireplaces in the house or repairing something one of us had broken.

When they were young, families remained close…if not always mentally then physically. With the advent of trains, planes and cars families began to spread out. Ours included..moving farther and farther away from each other – spreading our wings and flying far.

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My grandmother always said. “you raise your children to be strong and better than you, and that’s what they do.” She was a classy, well dressed always, no-nonsense Irish woman, tough as nails.

My grandfather lived his life by some simple, set in stone creeds – “Always do the right thing. “, 

FullSizeRender (24)“Be kind and nice.”, “Live within your means.” , “Always…always..tell the truth.” I can remember each of those phases like it was yesterday. He spoke them often, but more importantly he lived by them. He was a simple, humble and a good “Southern Gentleman”…all the way to his core.

He worked hard, taught family much about life. They worked hard together trying to build a city back during the depression and while he was just a little to old to go off to war, he joined the US Coast Guard and served his country in that way. They both gave to their community, he through Rotary Club and she through gardening clubs. Family, church and community were their benchmarks.

After she died at close to 100, he pined away, James continued to go about his daily life, going to work, to church and passing time in the yard and watching sports on his old B&W TV. I watched the flame leave him with her. It was like seeing a candle burn down and the wick slowly choking out….They’d looked after each other for so long….Without her there, he was ready…

My parents & I went through the things in their home. Discovering treasures that I never knew they had. A $100 in bills in an envelope taped to the back of a drawer in her dresser –  what we’d call “mad money” and old letters they’d written to each other. It was like reading a love story from the deep southern past. A story that came full circle, youth to old age. He told her how he adored her, of her strength and beauty. He reminded her over and over of his feelings. When they were apart he asked her to please wait for him. It was almost a seventy year marriage, a lifetime of love. I’m sorry that my children never knew them, but they are still connected….through me, my parents and life.

They succeeded at fully living life.They did it, not because their life was easier, they had more or were any luckier than others. They succeeded because they worked hard at it, loved it and cherished it. Together and apart. They raised their family to be adventurous and independent. They loved, let go and then watched. What happened with that was AMAZING. Their children grew, lived and taught their children (me & my brothers) to do the same…..this was their gift. A gift that continues to pay forward…to my children and over and over…..

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As I sit and think today about their home on Brookmeade Road in Decatur, Alabama I have a powerful and warm force in the center of my soul…my heart. I don’t really remember all of their stuff, although I have some of their treasures in my home. I know that their house would never have been featured in Southern Living or any other home magazine

What I do remember is running through their huge two acre yard barefoot with my cousins, exploring for hours in the trees and grass. Hiding among the cedar trees. Putting lights on her fabulous Christmas trees…inside and out. I remember catching lightening bugs in mason jars on warm Summer nights. I remember eating warm, fresh oatmeal with sliced bananas and cinnamon at the breakfast table. My grandfather taking afternoon naps on the sunporch in his Lazboy. Walking in the back door late in the afternoon just before suppertime and smelling Matties wonderful southern food on the stove and the taste of my grandmothers cornbread smeared with fresh butter……..that very distinctive smell of being home that I’m absolutely sure still, must be there today.

“What will I leave behind?”

My grandparents home and that of my parents were successful homes. They both did what I think homes should do. That’s the whole point. Another gift. I always have it. It’s mine. It’s all of ours, my children, friends and family – all of those I love and cherish. You see….it’s really in my heart…my soul – the smells, the feelings, the laughter…all of it! In this age of instant internet we don’t have to wait a moment to see what’s new and cool, ..we can see it, feel it, buy it right now….But let’s not forget that it takes more than that to create a home. It’s a generational gift. The greatest gift of a lifetime. You can fill it with fancy furniture from the very best stores or things that aren’t so trendy, but when you build a home from your heart…well, that never goes out of style

Maybe it’s just a midlife thing..or a passing phase, but I see many of my friends building fancy new homes, second places at the beach or here in the mountains and filling them with crazy amounts of stuff and I get to feeling jealous, or that I’m less than…or just not good enough..I am reminded of Ivy Mae and James’ beautiful old home on Brookmeade Road and just like theirs……

Mine will always have open doors, welcoming friends, family & strangers.

Mine will always have a few muddy dog prints on the floor and laundry to be done.

My home will always be filled with love.and here’s my wish for you – I hope yours is too.

Because I know, that’s really all that’s left behind when our life is all done..Love.

Robert Rankin

Innkeeper, Explorer & Adventurer

Is there an App for that?

I stared at the screen far too long. I think that perhaps my eyes were crossed and for sure the numbers were beginning to run together. The accounting module on my office computer had pushed me over the edge. The closing of the books from the prior month, calculations for sales, taxes, payroll, loss, profit, margins…ugghhhh…..all were running together. Ahhhhhh, the joys of small business…..I needed to step out…..to step away….find my breath….I needed to remember to forget the fast lane, because when I really want to fly I have to harness the power of my passions. I wonder…do you ever feel that way?

There’s so much that I want to share with you. Dinner was magnificent with the culinary team allphoto (22)
on top of their game. Cocktails at the bar whizzed away under the skill of the tender. Fires burned, the hearths were warm as smoke curled from the chimneys. The wind blew as flashes of lightening and rain fell. The evening storms rolled through. All of these and so much more to share……this place, the magic in the air, the “blood moon” or eclipse that was happening early…very early Saturday morning, but I knew the earliness wouldn’t have mattered because it was another adventure to share….just like all of the rest. It could be that  you were to busy….to tired….or plugged in with all that you had to do. I understand….I get that way too…..sometimes I have those same fears…the same thoughts…..sometimes I don’t really know what I want….so…yes, I know…..I get it……that’s why this day was so special……..

IMG_3959 (1)“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also” – Harriet Jacobs

I left the dogs behind. This was now time for me. Time for solitude. It’s important for me to know the difference between the inner solitude that heals and the separation that can isolate me. I understand and have known both. The trail called me to a waterfall….another magical spot that not many people ever see…..because most of us won’t leave the paved road and take the tracks and trails less traveled by. I’ve taken this walk in all types of weather; storms, fog, cold, heat and in every season of the year. This day wasn’t any different, but after last nights storm the sky was a brilliant blue and you could sense the mood change in nature.

Spring was IMG_4082raising her head nodding to everything that is getting ready to grace the forest floor. The first flowers unfolding their petals and the last moments of winter are becoming a memory. Ferns were making “fiddleheads” as they began to unroll into their full beauty. For all of these things and so many more, I was grateful. I took my shoes off as I moved up and over the rocks and dirt. To feel the the soles of my feet on God’s ground. I walked slowly. Thinking back over time and space. Catching glimpses of the weeks, months and years past in my mind and healing. From computers and the office, to the staff and the hustle and bustle that is my life…yes….even here….at the end of the lines.

“the world is mud-luscious and puddle wonderful” – E.E. Cummings

P1010249Finally, I settled on a rock near the base of the falls. I laid out the blanket and lunch…..I poured a drink and just sat…..listening…..the sound of water cascading over the boulders and the wind through the trees….feeling the breeze that only rushing…..falling water can make and the coolness of it as it glazed across my skin. This was the spot. There is a pool at the bottom of the falls that would be perfect for “dipping skinny” when summer comes. You see, it takes settings as grand as this…as removed as this…as remote as this…..to shake me into seeing what’s really important in life. Places like this strip away all of the pretense, comfort, technology, calendars and confidence so that we can become one. This is why I wanted to share this with you. This place. This moment. Never to be repeated…….but trust me…there will always be another moment…another place….another time……that is, if you want there to be.

During that time…on that rock…I caught hold of a conversation that I’d had with a guest at dinner the night before. Making my rounds to tables, greeting and looking after people, a lady stopped me, “How awesome it must be to be you, tell me what it’s like”. I smiled…….and said, “yes it is great and when I was young I always wished I’d fit in…I’m thankful I didn’t get my wish”. We had a long conversation about what its like to be an innkeeper, adventurer, explorer, to be Robert Rankin….and yes, it is wonderful, but the truth is, it’s wonderful being YOU, whoever you are!

All of us spend time looking out..seeing the world and the others that are put in front of us….thinking wow…I wish I was him (or her)….aren’t they lucky! And yes of course they are lucky….but so are YOU! One of a kind. God only created one of you, one of me, one of each…isn’t that absolutely amazing? Some 7,000,000,000 humans on the planet right now and all one of a kind! YOU are an incredible and absolute gift. Even when you don’t realize it….or feel it….. you are. I know that being you can be exhausting, that there are pressures put on us to “be” all of those things that people, friends, family think we “ought” to be. I want you to take that thought…the thought of WHO YOU ARE. Grasp it. Run with it. Hold it tightly. Wrap your fingers and head around it and remember that it is awesome to be YOU, not the you that you may think you should be, ought to be, could be, want to be, but the YOU that you are…right now…at this very moment….that is the amazing piece of it…..just to be who you really are…I spend time in meditation now almost every day. I certainly wish it was something I had done earlier in life because it’s allowed me to become comfortable with that…”The Who I am” and being content with the person that is me….

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“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest
—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. 
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security.” – Albert Einstein

You and I are part of the whole. We dream bigger, connect bigger, think bigger and mostly live larger than all of those around us. While we may believe our experience is separate from all of the rest – we are all connected – in ways that we can’t begin to comprehend. This is my invitation – take a moment……today….right now……to reflect on how amazing YOU are. Realize that everyone you touch is part of the whole…part of you…and part of me…..Breathe deeply……deep down into your belly and then slowly exhale……and know that you, I and all others are magic!

I love the smell of the forest….especially this time of year. Easter and the celebrations of spring are a time to celebrate starting over. Being “raised from the dead” as it were. Freshness and newness in everything around us is starting again. My feet padded in the dirt and twigs snapped beneath my toes. The moss was soft and the stream still frigid, but I basked in the glory of of it.

My walk this day comes to an end, but my journey……..my journey……..has just begun. Is it me? Timing? Fear? It doesn’t really matter because souls cannot really live without love. Come, share with me. Walk outside….now…..take off your shoes…….feel the wonders of the grass, the dirt, the leaves beneath your feet. Wherever you are, join me in this magnificent journey, I promise a great adventure! As my father often says, “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” Remember that jobs fill your pockets, but adventures fill your soul. My discovery….There is no App for this.…..

Robert RankinP1010050

Innkeeper, Explorer, Adventurer

The Treasures are all right in front of us….

It was one of those perfect winter days. Not to cold. The sky a bright blue and sun shining bright. IMG_1454The creek was calling. Loading up the fishing gear and heading down to Santeetlah creek to try some of my winter luck I was full of excitement. For me, that time on the water can be sacred and not to offend anyone, but it is very much like church. Those moments when I am at one with all that surrounds me. Focused concentration on the water. Working hard on picking the right fly…casting in exactly the right way….and right place…trying to draw a trout to the surface…..and SMACK…..there he is……ready to reel in, be admired…and then returned to the water….awaiting another day…..pure bliss for the trout fisherman…..

Yep…this was that kinda day, everything was just right…….Except me! No matter what fly pattern I chose, none of my presentation skills. as vast as they may be, caused a fish to merge with the fly as it drifted effortlessly across theP1000941 water. Hunting the deep pools and the rapids I could see the fish…moving gracefully…darting to and from, hiding under the rocky shelves….yes, they were there….I just couldn’t seem to coax them to take what I was offering. Challenged, I continued the effort for a while, but after a couple of hours I’d had enough of “church”. Of course, it could have been JB and Lakota playing in the water, watching me and the fish with interest, but more than likely it was me and just that moment.

Laying down the rod and reel I began to explore the nooks and crannies of the creek as it wound through the woods. I’m always searching. Always looking to see what is out there.FullSizeRender (19) Finding cool twigs or branches and even large boulders to sit on and bask in the warmth of the sun on a chilly winter day. Grabbing sticks to toss into the water for the dogs to retrieve. Today the pebbles, rocks and stones caught my dreams. Wandering along the banks and wading into the pools I was on the hunt. Reaching into the water I picked out dozens and dozens. Sliding them in my pockets and then slipping some out, I skipped them across the surface like a kid. A short while later I sat…in one of my favorite spots…..on a large boulder that juts out into the stream and drew all of my treasures out of my pockets. Laying them out across my lap, I was searching…….searching for the very perfect one….you know the one I was looking for. Round, smooth, perfect color, perfect shape……..and then….it struck home….hitting me like the proverbial bat……they were all PERFECT!

I laughed out loud (the dogs looked at me as though I was nuts) and gathered them once again and headed along the banks. I was seeing with different vision, a new awareness in my eyes. I began to look at them differently…..no imperfections, only beauty…..jagged edges, rough bumps, cracks, all were perfect shapes and color…every single one remarkably different than its neighbor, but ….WOWZA…..what a moment.

I began to celebrate with that knowledge. Joy overtook the search and the discovery was complete. Those rocks are just like you and I….and…….well hell….everyone else. Once we stop trying to find the idea of “perfection” that has been placed or created in our minds and open ourselves to the possibilities then we can discover that we’re all perfect…..Oh….I don’t mean that we aren’t cracked, beat up, slightly out of shape, but we are all perfect in just this moment, all different and all shapes and sizes…..and in the scheme of things…if we look closely enough…we can see it……the beauty that lies within all of us……

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Well. that was it…my lesson for the day. I wandered back to the truck, broke down the rod, took off the waders and boots. Loaded the dogs into the back cranked the motor and headed up the mountain towards home. Come to the mountain for a visit. Let’s sit and talk. I’ll take you to that special spot on the water and let you see for yourself.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot…on the way to the house I felt those bulges in my pockets. I pulled out the rocks gathered at the creek and caressed them. Rolling each of them in my fingers. Feeling every nook….every bend…every crease and indention….noticing all of their varied colors…the warmth and shapes….I just grinned and grinned….I still am.

Life at the end of the lines, From the INNSide looking out and In Celebration of the Great Adventure Ahead!

Robert Rankin

Innkeeper, Adventurer and Explorer

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Success….

How we define success is shaped by the world we choose to live in, the way have been taught to believe, but what if we challenged that…..

What if you had chosen the easier way and been born knowing how beautiful, deserving, and important you truly are. Well then, if so by this time you’d be worth billions of dollars, have tons of friends, and own businesses that would make Warren Buffett look like a pauper. But then… you wouldn’t be exactly who you now are.

And isn’t that the point…to be exactly who we are know….with all the dents, dings, scars, blemishes and GREATNESS!The standard of success in life isn’t the things. It isn’t the money or the stuff — it is absolutely the amount of joy you feel. Keep your standards HIGH!!!

Rock your week
Zoom ZOOM Zoom….

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