What a fully lived day. Already, I feel like my time traveling across the country has been dense with some wonderful experiences and meaningful connections. I may have to attempt a Faulkner-like, flow of consciousness to capture just this first 24 hours.
I arrived to find the East coast erupting once more into the many-colored celebration of autumn (see below for a range of photos taken from around the UNH campus where my brother works – or click here for the album). Autumn is such a cozy sentimental time for me, when I can’t help but think back to big piles of leaves on the lawn, and the crunchy splash my brother and I would make jumping into them. Pumpkins on doorsteps, harvest wreathes on the walls, the sweet, cinnamon smell of butternut squash soup wafting up from the stove – I feel like I got in just in time to witness the peak of Autumn here in New England, and I feel so lucky to have had the chance even walk among the glowing trees today, before they relinquish their leaves and welcome the grayer ways of winter.
On top of that was the heartfelt time I got to spend with family. Unexpectedly, my Aunt, Uncle and cousin were in town, and my brother and I headed off to Exeter for the afternoon, where we spent a wonderful spot of time catching up with my Aunt in her room at the Hampton Inn (make sure to check this great perm shot). After a summer of romping through the wilds of Yosemite, getting to sit with my brother and Aunt together in the same room was a reminder of how important the family component of community is, and how lucky we are nowadays that we can keep in touch with family and friends in our lives, whether they live around the corner, across the country, or over an ocean.
My brother is such an incredible guy. As an older brother, it’s a big shift to see your little brother living an independent life, all grown up and suddenly able to host you in his apartment. He is absolutely holding it down, and takes me aback to see him all moved in with his fiancee, as they navigate together their first year after school, internships and graduate school. Just a few minutes ago, he asked me to be the best man at his wedding. Wow! It is hard to have a realer feeling than the feeling of gratitude I have now, being reminded of the depth and importance of our relationship as brothers. It is remarkable to begin to truly relate to each other as men, as we both take on responsibility for our lives and our dreams. I carry Mike with me on this journey, as with all journeys I have taken.
After a requisite evening frisbee toss in the parking lot, and a dizzying ping pong battle wherein he whipped me in our final best of five game, Mike and I settled down into conversation about the courses our lives were taking, how they differed, and what we thought about them. At one point, he brought up an interesting anecdote from our growing up together in Maine: He told me that for whatever reason, as he considered what he wanted for his own life now, he couldn’t help but think back how he used to sit in the driveway, pretending to be a catcher as he threw a baseball across our street, aiming it at a tree in our neighbor’s yard. Whether he missed or hit his target, he would simply run over at the end, pick up the ball, and repeat.
We both concluded that it doesn’t take much to find a sense of realness in life (and kids are often a lot better at it then adults*). The things that bring us true joy are rarely the things we buy, or what we watch on TV – but rather are the moments we spend enamored (perhaps inexplicably at times) with the present. The moments spent talking on a couch with a good friend, or sleeping outside for the first time (or second, or third…), or watching someone you love grow.
As we considered how to maximize our ability to achieve such realness in our own lives, I was brought back to a moment from one of the permaculture classes I was taking in Portland just this past week. I was looking over a map of a classmate’s yard, trying to figure out how best to incorporate the existing elements of her garden and yard into her ideal permaculture scenario, when suddenly it struck me, “why don’t we first imagine that there is an empty lot around your house?”. With the existing structures removed, we were suddenly so much freer to design and imagine and move forward with our brainstorming – and with new and exciting ideas to play with, we were then able to return (with the couple of minutes we had) to seeing where these ideas overlapped with the existing construct we were to work within.
Permaculture – it’s not just for gardening is all I’m trying to say. This road trip for me, and these past few months have in many ways have been a process of putting aside all the structures I had once tried to squeeze my life between, giving full room for my heart and mind to roam and to feel out what my part to play in this fantastic dance might be. We can only grow from there.
My love to you,
* If you’re interested at all in listening to a really great lecture about how our education system needs to change (I think to keep our imaginations vibrant), check out this amazing animated video my friend sent me (props to Heather in Portland!)