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

Stripped Bare…..

I was worn out yesterday afternoon and needed an escape. The rain, work and me were all taking a toll. So as the sky cleared in the afternoon and the dogs needed to get out as much as I, off we went. I decided to walk down by the lake. The air was cooler and I could feel the change taking place in the air. One of the problems with walking alone can often be time spent with my head. It is where my sprit soars and I am most creative and free with my thoughts, but it can also be a time where my “self talk” can get destructive.

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After walking the old forest service roads for a while and catching some turkeys and grouse unaware we returned to the old dock. On the walk I did what I always do and gathered some pebbles and rocks…to remind me of my time. The boat has been out of the lake for a while as we prepare for winter so the cove where its normally anchored was really quiet. I pulled my camp chair out from the truck and set it up at the edge of the water and watched the dogs frolic, run and play. My head was playing games with me…..

               …….Enough…..

I stripped my clothes off and running to the end of the dock, dove..headfirst into the water of the cove. OMG….The water was cold….like daggers piercing the skin. A sharp change from just a few weeks ago. Maybe it was all of the rain…perhaps it was the change in the temps, but whatever the reason the chill ran straight to my core. Like dozens of sharp needles it swept my breath away. I began to swim out towards the center…long hard strokes pulling me into the deeper water and slowly I began to adjust and warm as I moved out. Glancing back I saw JB the wonderdog take the plunge after me…he matched me stroke for stroke as we moved towards the deep water channel. He’s an incredibly strong swimmer. We watched each other…I think we were seeing who might turn around first….I won that round though and soon, in deep water he turned and headed back towards the dock and shore.

I’m not sure how long I was out there. Maybe 30 minutes, maybe 45perhaps an hour. Long enough though to begin to clear my head and stir my soul……..

I’m writing this and I am afraid. Odd isn’t it, that I can be this way? After all of this time, all of the space, all of the places I’ve been and all of the mistakes I’ve made. You’d think I’d have learned. I have….and yet….I find that I’m still drawn back…..I see where you just “showed up”…..somewhere…..in the oddest place…there you are….even if it’s only in my mind…..

Why am I afraid? For thousands of reasons and thousands of battles I’ve fought. Some of those battles were just with me. Some wins, but many losses. I am scared.

What if it doesn’t work?

What if I hurt you…or I get hurt?

What if it’s just not meant to be?

What if the distance is too great?

“What ifs”, “what ifs”, “what ifs”… hundreds of them…banging around and around in my head to create the….

Fear…

my mortal enemy.

Then I remember……FullSizeRender (48)

“Take care of your thoughts when you are alone, and take care of your words when you are with people

I smile,  the first part of that phrase that I still have trouble with. I decided after my last relationship to take time off – to be alone – to figure out who I really am…and who/what I really want. I’m glad to have done that and am doing it still. It has allowed me space…for healing…something I haven’t really done since the breakup of my marriage. Oh….I’ve done the work….read the books….done the worksheets…gone to meetings, gotten “involved”, lived from my heart…been both honest and dishonest….allowed love…and lust….but……….I’ve never really allowed myself to just be…..

                                                              alone

Where am I now?

Elizabeth lives with me. At 15 she is growing into quiet the remarkable young woman. I’ve wanted to be the best example of a man, a father that I can be, so that when she finds the person she is to be with – that she’ll know him…and know how she needs to be treated because of the way I treat her – and the way I treat all people that touch my life. Oh, don’t worry – she’s seen my mistakes…I tell her….she knows them and understands how difficult it can be……but what I really want her to see is how magically right it can be….when it’s supposed to be….It’s good to have her here. She has taught me more I think than I can teach her.

               “It is important to visit that place inside of you.

                That place that no other human is allowed to enter.

                There you will find no fear, you will find the laughing sun

                And you will love there and rise there and fall there

                And break there and put yourself back together there.

                Let that be the only thing you live for

                And let it take you back to where you began.

                To begin within, I swear…that might be the most beautiful thing in the world”

                                                                                                                          r.m. drake

I visit that place within often and find much truth in those words. Beginning there is that place where I can do all that Drake said,

but…..

I’m still afraid. Afraid of failing again, not of being alone..well sometimes, but it would IMG_6676be great to be with someone – that right one. The one that gets me, like I get her. The one that “fits”…in all of those many ways. The one that’s willing to do the work – with me, beside me, to hold me as I’ll hold her. To cherish all of the moments, good, bad and in-between. The woman who is all of those incredible things and allows me to be the same for her….

You know what I’m talking about……you’ve seen me…..and deep inside, you know me….the good, the bad….and….well……all of the rest.

I’m more afraid of missing life than I am of living it. Can you live it with me? Here? At the end of the power lines, in the middle of nowhere? Where people like us are few and far between? Can you be in a place where the demands of “hospitality” and energy can suck the very marrow out of your bones? Will you take me away from it? Gently? Can you hold me when I cry, give me my space as I honor you and give you yours , make love to me with passion and abandon? Not only can you, but will you? I don’t want a night, or a day, or a week, month or year…I’ve had all of those, I want a lifetime. One where we build together. It will not always be easy, but I know it’ll be worth it.

As C.S. Lewis said, “To love is to be vulnerable”…I want to be vulnerable….again…..with you. I am not desperate. I have all of the time in the world to find you and for you to find me. I know people have fallen for me because of my words, my smile or even my looks, but I want someone that falls in love with my scars…all of them…and I have many….and they all tell a marvelous woven story of a life well lived.

Come and climb mountains with me, not so the world can see us, but so that you and I can see the world. Together. You know what I need…and want….tell me…no, better yet, show me what you need. That’s just as important…even more so……to me, that you show me what it is that you need. Can you do that for me?

Forgive me for wandering so….these thoughts just entered my mind and I had to let them go, get them out…so that maybe….they will find you……

…..I hope they do…..IMG_6668

Counting my blessings and the stones gathered along the way…I am celebrating the great adventure ahead!

Robert Rankin

Innkeeper, Explorer & Adventurer

Alone, I Surrender…..

August 18, 2015

I must admit that writing for me isn’t an “all the time” thing. I write when I’m inspired and this has been a tough summer for that. Inspiration hasn’t come easily….perhaps because I was too involved with all of the things happening around me. Lessons were thrown my way far too often for comfort this summer. Difficult ones to learn and constant, but I’m listening……and learning…..

I’m sorry I’ve been so quiet these few months.

 “if you wish to be a warrior prepare to get broken, if you wish to be an                                   explorer prepare to get lost and if you wish to be a lover prepare to be both”                                                                                                                               – Daniel Saint 

I’m alone here on the mountain and yet not. Sometimes it is overwhelming and sometimes not. Challenges that once were shared are now seen only by the face I see in the mirror. I don’t always like it, but this is time I need. To pause…..to reflect….to learn and to grow. Grow…yes, grow. As I watch others around me I am amazed at how we’ve become so judgemental….the “they should be this” or “they should do that” or even the “if I were them” seems to have become a cacophony resounding through our society. Our abilities to criticize overwhelms all of us and few are taking the the time to pause – to take a long hard look in our mirror at ourselves. It’s  those moments- the moments of “self” where we are able to really grow and learn….this is the side of the spectrum where I lean. Often inwardly focused on myself, my failures, shortcomings and lack of ability……not to blame, but to improve. My “self critique” is highly critical and often more tough than warranted. This inward focus can be very helpful, but often in those moments…….

we tend to forget how good we really are….

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“Who looks outside dreams;                                                               Who looks inside awakes.”                                                                                                   – Carl Jung

There’s a light breeze blowing across the mountain tonight. The prayer flags are flying, snapping back and forth in the wind, . Cicadas are calling each other, the sing song of their buzz is almost intoxicatingly loud….it is August after all…..Alone yes….Lonely…sometimes, but this is time for me. To heal. To become better and more focused. To see all of the gifts that surround me.

It’s in these moments where I discover. When I surrender. Surrender for me isn’t the allowing things to happen to me, but allowing things to happen for me. It is the constant unfolding of grace. It’s my active participation in the art of allowing. The silence of prayer, the motion of a meaningful smile or a new conversation that takes me to a place or person I never thought of visiting. It is the truth of where I am – outside of the expectations I create.

The simple idea that everything I once thought of as being bad that has happened has led me to a wonderful place. It is me honoring the present moment. That it is, or was, never as bad as I thought, or think. It is also the observation of the destruction between the end and beginnings that bring life, emotion, friends, family and love full circle.

I’m okay – even when I stand in the darkest place. The realization that I am who I am. Not bad or good, but Human. One who makes mistakes, tries to correct his path, one who believes in his journey, filled with good and grace. Certainly better than I thought I was or think I am. Fear is the anticipation of the uncertain end, of failure. It is an emotion that can hide the wonderful experiences of wind and rain…of snow and sand…of waves and the breeze that brushes across my face here on the mountain….it is life itself…this is exactly what I’m supposed to feel.

Head in the direction that makes you feel….well…..like you feel. To hell with people that tell you how to feel. When you are happy, be happy and angry, be angry. Don’t apologize unless you want to, unless the apology is real, flows from deep within and is who you are. Don’t pay attention or give heed to others – live your life the way you want. Surrender. Let it go. It’s going to be okay. I promise.

I simply want and need to stay out of my own way.

The summer is slipping by. It’s August ….fall will be here on the mountain before we know it. Snowbird Mountain Lodge is prepped…ready for it. School in Robbinsville started back yesterday and football season starts soon. Elizabeth is now enjoying her sophomore year. She made me smile as I took her to school. She was thankful that she was no longer a freshman – now a member of the “upper” classmen and in being so reminded me………

of all of the things I am Grateful for. I am so very thankful and my blessings continue to be counted. I am once again at peace…perhaps because I surrendered.

The sun is coming up now. Time to get Elizabeth up and headed in the right direction. Coffee. Then, I think I’ll head into the woods…to listen to the trees and wind…perhaps to even feel the rain. You’ll be there with me. In every leaf, every drop of tumbling water in the creek, in every footstep you’ll be with me…and I welcome your presence, your voice, your laughter…even if it’s only in my mind. Thank you for sharing the journey with me.

I continue to celebrate the great Adventure ahead!

Peace, Love & Light

Robert Rankin

Innkeeper, Adventurer & Explorer

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

Journey….

I wish I could remember what triggered the memory, but it came flooding back with all of the speed of the tide rushing in. Perhaps it was the conversation that I had with an old college buddy. Maybe it was the email exchange with a friend letting them know I understood how they felt and wanted to join them on their journey. It could have been the guest at the Lodge and something they IMG_9573said that passed through my brain, or the way the stars and moon looked from my deck late at night, but I really think it might have been Elizabeth pointing out the way the sky looked at dusk while we were driving home and the reflection of the late afternoon light as it reflected on Lake Santeetlah that launched the arrow that took me back………

It was years ago and yet not so far in the distant past. It is how people and events intertwine, tangle and mingle and that all things happen for reasons…even if we never know why. Or maybe they aren’t our reasons….or we don’t understand them for years and years….perhaps never…….our choice…..our awareness…..

I was in Sante Fe. I’d never been there before. Exploring….seeing parts and places I’d never been. We had actually traveled to a spa there. One recommended by Snowbird’s massage therapist as a place we didn’t want to miss. It was a fantastic place and I relished the down time…and the time away, but I was more drawn to the history, the people, the food, the light, the land…I spent several hours wandering through the old town. Looking at shops, watching people, smelling the air and the scents of food as it drifted through the streets. I was looking at the silver and turquoise for sale by the Navajo at Governors Square when I first saw him. Tanned face. White hair. Scraggly beard. Anywhere from late fifties to late sixties. Walking with a carved stick he was striding toward me with a broad smile and twinkle in his eye. Our eyes meet, we exchanged nods and as we passed I felt it. I can’t rightly name “it”, but it was there. Connection. I continued on past him, but at about 20 feet beyond, I turned my head to glance back. He too had turned. I smiled….and turned back. So did he. I introduced myself to him and told him that I felt as though we’d met before. He answered that perhaps we had….in this or another life. That chance meeting began a friendship that sparked me. Caused me to question myself more, made me more aware of our interactions and continues to affect my journey to this day.

ross

Ross was a magical man. A shaman. A wandering spirit, artist, father, grandfather, sentient being, man of the universe. He introduced me to many things. We shared meals. Laughter. Drinks and thoughts. He taught me about a different…new way to look at the universe and world. That we…as humans…don’t have all of the answers. That everything in the world…and beyond….is connected…..He introduced me to the Shamanic Institute in Santa Fe. A place where Shamans gather from all over the world to learn, discuss, talk and teach. Now Shamans are more than “healers”, they are spiritual guides that have wisdom passed down for generations and generations. They come from every society – every country and in many of them they are revered. In others reviled, but they have a knowledge that we all need…….Now rest assured, I am no Shaman…..

So, where’s this tale going?

Here.

Several years later, in the midst of crisis – one that encompassed all of my being – I reached out to Ross. I’d talked with him often, been back to see him several times, but this…well…this was different. I needed help that was beyond my connections. I called, but he wasn’t there so I left a message. I wasn’t in a hurry…and frankly thought I might not hear back. He was a traveler and might be away for months at a time. The next day I answered a call from a number I’d never seen before. It was Ross. “I thought I would be hearing from you” was all he said. I launched into my story for a good while and when I finished all he said was, “I know”. I breathed deeply for the first time in a long time. We chatted for a few minutes and then he said he’d be in touch. We hung up and while I felt better I was still at a loss. I wasn’t sure where to go or what to do and I wandered aimlessly for the next few days. The church wasn’t helping me, friends were there, but couldn’t. Family was trying, but I wasn’t really “there”. My faith was tested, both religious faith, faith in myself, friends and life…..frankly my faith in everything around me. I was losing hope…maybe I even lost it, unsure of who and what I was, I felt as though my identity was forever gone. Two days passed. One morning I checked my email and there it was. Ross sent me a note with a name and phone number. The note said –

This is who you need

Call

He is waiting.

Brief wasn’t it? I smiled and I think I even laughed. What? Call?? I don’t have any idea who the hell this man is. What can he offer me? Anger, frustration, bitterness all flashed through me…..then…slowly….replaced by comfort and ease. Breath I told myself. Ross knew what I was going through. He’d been there himself although it was 40 years ago. Trust I thought. Something that wasn’t/isn’t always easy for me…even now. I did. I picked up the phone and dialed.

“IGA” said the voice that answered the phone. “IGA”? I said. “Yep, what can I do for ya?”

I thought for a minute that I had the wrong number, but I swallowed…..hard….and asked for the name that Ross had sent. The man who answered the phone didn’t miss a beat, “he’s not here right now, but give me your number and I’ll get him the message”. I hung up. Shaking my head I wondered what I was managing to get myself into and what craziness was in Ross’s brain! Several hours passed when my phone rang. The voice on the other end might have been a thousand years old. “I‘ve been waiting on your call” he said. I began to tell him my story. Cutting me short……“I know” he said before I’d gotten two sentences out. I was stunned. He said he was waiting for me and gave me directions to where he was. It was Ely Minnesota. I went into shock – ELY MINNESOTA?? How the hell was I supposed to do that? I had a business, work, kids, responsibility…..and…well all the rest. I heard a deep breath on the other end of the line, “come” he said, “I’ll be waiting”.

It took the better part of a month to get it all figured out. To get 7 days free to go, but I did. I met Charlie and he opened my spirit to a universe I’d never seen. He was Chippewa or more correctly – Ojibwa – a medicine man by words, a shaman, a helper, a spirit guide, a Midewiwin to many. He took me into his home, fed me, listened to my stories and then told me what he was going to do. I was open, but felt unsure, scared and not ready for the next step, but, breathing deeply, I trusted. That night while I slept, he prepared the place. In the morning he walked with me out to a small lake and directed me to a smooth rock that overlooked the water. There, he’d drawn a circle with several markers around it. He sat me in the middle, took most of my clothes, gave me instructions, water, a blanket and told me he’d return. I was alone. In place I was totally unfamiliar with. Frightened. I sat and took in my surroundings. All day. It was stunningly beautiful. Lonely. Warm in the sunshine and cold as the dark came. I sat. My legs began to fall asleep, I began to fall asleep, but I didn’t…I think. The slight moon rose. The stars lit the sky. I dreamed. Wide awake. All night and into the next morning….. all through the next day and following night. I had visions and saw things I’m sure weren’t there..or were they? Animals, people, places, ghosts and things from my past crowded my vision. The following morning I greeted the sunrise and there he was….standing before me, he held out his hand and took mine and said “come”….I could barely stand, nearly frozen by the cold of the night and from sitting for so long.  He guided me back to his home. Behind the house, just down a hill was a sweat lodge that he and his friends had built. He opened the door flap and ushered me in. In time he took me back out and repeated the steps…time and time again….I was completely spent. Finally he took me back to his home again and fed me…rice…beans…bread. I collapsed into a bed……sleep…….long……long….sleep.

I awoke to the smell of breakfast. Getting up I wandered into the kitchen to find him over the stove fixing 2 plates of food. One for him, the other mine. We sat in silence and shared coffee and a meal. It was one of the best I’ve ever had. Afterword he nodded at me and said, “tell me”…..and I did…..of the visions, the night, the days, the birds, animals, the sounds, the sights…all of it. He nodded. Then he explained…..he interpreted all that I’d been through….Not just there, but life. Telling me that this life was a journey. On that journey we sometimes got lost, but during the journey of life we always could/should learn and understand ourselves. At times during our lives we need to be alone, to go to sacred places or spaces and pray, meditate, learn and heal. I was on my journey. Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew a leather cord with what looked like some twisted metal on the end. He handed it to me and said. “Wear this…keep it close to your heart, it will never allow you to forget who and what you are” He gave me the necklace. A simple leather cord with a twisted silver feather on it and words hammered into it.

I left later that day and have never been back. I’ve done other sweats and spent time alone outside. None have ever come close to that experience in the woods in Minnesota. I’ve often thought about and wondered what has become of that man…in that remote spot…..doing what he does…..but I have no worries about him for he guided me in a way that no one else could have. He reminded me of who I am and helped me rediscover myself….the “me” that I’d buried deep all those years before. The necklace remains around my neck to this day…the words are worn now from my fingers rubbing it…….close to my heart…..reminding me….keeping me “aware”. Often when I feel a little “lost” I’ll find that my hands have searched it out and will catch myself absentmindedly rubbing it between my fingers.

I talked to Ross often over the next several years. He died last year and with his death a part of me left as well. It is a connection I celebrate. You see, without David, Snowbird’s massage therapist I never would’ve gone to Santa Fe. I’d never have walked down the street and met Ross. I’d never gotten the email that sent me to Ely MN and met Charlie. Perhaps I’d never have found myself…….You see, everything happens for a reason…even if we never know it…..even if it takes years to find out why….and yes…even if we never do….it is about the journey.

I don’t often share this story….close friends mostly. Why now……Why here?……..Because it’s time. I may not know the reason, but rest assured that there is one. My journey is one that has been magic. Luck many would say. I’ve been blessed by everyone that I’ve ever come into contact with, friends and enemies. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know it will be….that I’ll discover much..much more as I continue to explore…myself and all of those I meet. I’ve loved sharing this story with you and if you’ve read this far you have my thanks…and my gratitude. You also have my very personal invitation to come join me on this mountain……to share a meal, some coffee or tea…perhaps a beer or some wine………to sit…alone…or with me and share your story with me…or not…as I’ll share mine with you….or not. To connect in a new and different way….to form a bond that will carry us forward to whatever the future holds….

It is really all about our connections…our journey, our relationships and how they form us into who and what we are.

“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.”

– The Dalai Lama

It’s late here on the mountain….or early depending on your point of view. I’ve been awake with these memories all night and embracing the magic of those moments. I can see the dawn beginning to break outside. Today is the right day! It looks to be the start of another amazing day. Thank you for letting me share this with you, I look forward to the great adventure ahead!

Robert RankinFullSizeRender (20)

Innkeeper, Adventurer, Explorer

A Night for That…indeed….

I live my life in real time. Here. It can be a never ceasing go-go-go and give-give-give. Sometimes it can get messy, and tangled and so easy to forget myself in the midst of it all, but sometimes, right when I need it the most there is a night when the universe gifts me with the path back home.

This night, tonight is a night for a hard pour of whiskey in the glass, the way the ice cracks and the heart says  “Oh yes, I know exactly how that feels.”

86fa46f7a09c799b86f7ef950a35c9d2It’s for sitting on the floor in front of a roaring fire, cupping both hands around the glass and closing your eyes and breathing and raising it to your lips and soaking in the ritual. This small act is a great gift indeed when you allow it. It’s the way the mouth feels as it hits the ice cold lip of the glass, and the perfect burn that remains after the glass is pulled away.

It is sage and cedar candles on the mantle and bedside and the burn down smell of matches and smoke. It is Hinoki oil rubbed deep and liberally on bare skin until the scent of it and you are ground together as one. It’s for music that hurts, the exact right kind of ache that has an edge mingling with its sweetness in a way that could never be untangled. That should never be untangled. Because there are some things for which ache is the beauty. It’s the night you stop avoiding the words that never stop chasing you. Where you sink into the solitude and finally breathe out all that air trapped in lungs, waiting to fully exhale.

It’s knowing that at some point tonight there will be a dance. That you’ll follow the movements of your body on the wall, silhouette painted by the shadows of candlelight. That you’ll move and look with long glances until something rises in you that has not risen in a long, long time. It’s a night for coming home and gathering in and calling in the powers of nature and the howl of the wolf. Looking at the moon and stars with wonder and awe. For laying out the stones and sitting still inside the space that is you and honoring all that is holy and remains when sound ceases and the quiet surrounds you.

tumblr_n68j5kU5ZA1sowezvo1_500It’s the way when you tilt the glass all the way up and the candle light glows through and you know your face is illuminated in the most holy of ways. And the song that holds an inexpressible ache plays with every last bit of memory it holds and you are thankful, especially for that. It’s for wood that looks like bone, for cigar boxes and rusted locks and for running your fingers along all the things you’ve collected. For feeling the memories that live in each one as it travels from fingertips to your center and hearing the whispers of all the stories you have yet to tell. It’s for knowing that some stories must remain untold in order for others to be born.

It’s for remembering and honoring the past.

That moment is also to know the hope and the struggle and the stay still and run away and come here and  push back. And also what it is to say yes, to be present exactly where you are. It’s for the space where missing and the gratitude for solitude meet in the center. Where you know that one brings fullness to the other and you can give thanks for both. It is a night for contemplating.

It’s the way the wax looks as the candle burns down. The mellow that the whiskey spreads like hot wax melting into tight held bones. It’s the expansion into space. It’s the cedar and sage and Hinoki rising and carried inside of those scents.

It’s a night for calling the ghosts and welcoming them. Sitting back while they dance, all liquid heat and the yearning skin of lovers long separated. It is a night for remembering. The words. The whiskey. The music. The candles. The smell. The loves long gone and the life that is here, right now.

It is a night for coming home.

To myself

Thank you for sharing the journey with me

Robert Rankin

Innkeeper, Adventurer, Explorer

Fill Your Soul

“Jobs fill your pocket. Adventures fill your soul”

                                                                   -Jamie Lyn Beatty

I just returned to the mountain and realized something undeniable. Spirit and adventure run deep in my soul—there can be no doubt. I am an explorer. Come, share the ride with me.

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The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest of wilderness”

                                                                                                        -John Muir

I love to ramble. I lust to wander and love the freedom that comes with the unknown adventure. My senses adore the feelings of the elements as they touch me. I want to travel and will aimlessly seek out adventures in cities, crossroads and in the woods. I often find myself taking dirt roads beside creeks, streams, rivers and woods just to see where they lead. I love the way it feels to be in cities, seeing the grandeur of the buildings, art, restaurants and the masses of people. Then always I return to the peace of my home. To think, reflect, share and be in solitude. Is that a contradiction?

If home is indeed where the heart is then this is where mine belongs. After returning from Atlanta I sat in the foyer, a spot in the house that often is just passed through. Drink in hand 2015-01-14 18-29-24 -0500I spent about 40 minutes gazing at the digital photo frame that sits on a table there. The pictures of adventures scroll by. Elizabeth sat with me and asked about each photo as it passed. We laughed at many. Every single one has a story, each a place or moment frozen in time. Oh yes……..while I’d love to be able to catch the next flight out and surf the world for a great adventure, that’s not where my life is right now. So I take time to find it in all of the simple things. Dinner, laughter, gazing at the stars, long walks and just everyday moments.

I seek treasure, but not the kind you think. I search for clues and answers, scrambling over rocks in the woods and through the minds of those who cross my path. I will not be pinned down or placed in a box. I don’t have a shelf life or expiration date. My imagination is both friend and enemy with whom I often question and argue, but I look at with awe and love to set free. Those pictures of friends, family, life, adventure and exploration set that imagination free. Sharing the sense of wonder with Elizabeth created a list of places to go and people to share it with. All of them are flames that burn bright. Brought out by those photographs….I realized that I forget to let my inner child lead the way. I allow myself to become mired in fog. My head gets filled with a thousand thoughts, I carry baggage and often absorb the mess. It was good to have a reminder.

“My scars tell a story. A reminder of times when life tried to break me, but failed. They are markings of where the structure of my character was welded”

                                                                                                     -Steve Maraboli

I am fascinated by the way we operate in this world. I watch people scurry about and wonder if they are on a grand adventure or just going through the motions…. We all do it, getting caught up in our routines so much that we fail to find the adventure in everyday life. I however, won’t be forgotten. We all should refuse to be forgotten in spite of our fear, tears, scuffed knees, broken hearts and bones that mark our lives. We are like treasures from deep in the mountain, We possess so much, yet we remain hidden gathering value until we sense that the time is right to be discovered. I don’t wish to disturb you or to be disturbed, but I hate to be labelled, discussed and placed on a table or shelf for all to view.

photo (33)I love to dig for the truth in myself and uncover things, trying to unravel an endless rope of hopes and dreams gone awry. I can be wild, my hair long, ride fast and am furious and untamable. I go slow down country roads, lost in the woods because this is where my magic can be found. I am a piece of art appreciated by a few, those who resonate with embers of the flame by the light of the fire. I like bare feet, my heart beating and my hands and mind open. My eyes are full of magic to be shared.

So, if you ever pass by my magical place on this mountain, I ask you to stop for a moment. Share with me as I will with you. Tell me about your journey, the adventure and exploration that you’ve had so far. Talk to me of your days and nights and let’s unleash our fantasies. We are blessed beyond belief and have time to rest. I will not tire, so sit with me, lie down on this meadow on top of this windy mountain and tell me where you began, let’s fill our souls. Purchase this image at http://www.stocksy.com/480968

“It is easy to be a Holy Man on top of a mountain”

                                                                -Somerset Maugham

In Celebration of the Great Adventure Ahead!!!!!!

Robert Rankin

Innkeeper, Adventurer & Explorer