Tag Archive 'identity'

Dec 20 2017

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End Year Reflection

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Daybreak. Looking out the window of my study, I watch the dried leaves still clinging to a beech tree rustle in the wind against a dark grey and bluish-white background. The first light illuminates several inches of snow covering the ground. The denuded trees are motionless.

I have been up for a couple hours, printing out a recently revised manuscript, checking email, and reviewing the records I’ve kept of my activities stretching back through the years. The past year has been a busy one, to say the least. Then again, it seems like I’m always busy doing something. I’m lucky that way, I guess.

Whenever I reflect upon past events, I become a little melancholy. It’s not so much a sadness precipitated by any given event as it is a mounting awareness of the passage of time and a sense that things have happened without me fully experiencing them. This is silly, of course. We all live in the eternal present, and despite our best efforts mindfulness can only take us so far.

The past and the present are two different things. We live in the here/now. Our memories are something else – fractured, distorted, piecemeal, selective. There is always a separation between what I am in this moment and what I once was. And yet there is consistency as well. Memory is, after all, what shapes identity.

Sometimes it’s important to stop and think about where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going. This time of year seems like a good time to do that. The Winter Solstice is a turning of the page – the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Before striking forth courageously into the future, one should have courage enough to acknowledge the past and what one has become as a result. This is what I try to do this time of year, anyhow, despite the holiday hoopla. It isn’t easy.

 

 

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Jul 25 2013

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Identity

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Walt, trail's endI stepped away from my desk this morning to go for a hike.  It wasn’t a long hike – just long enough to remember who/what I am.

The moment I slipped into the woods I felt a tremendous sense of relief, as if a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders.  It’s always this way.  I am a denizen of the forest, first and foremost. Not so much a trekker, naturalist or adventurer as a simple woods wanderer. I wander, then wonder, then sit down to write about it all.

The other day a newspaper writer asked me to send a photo of myself to to accompany a short news release about my new book. She wanted a shot of me backpacking through the woods – an action shot, I suppose, or something where I look the part. I sent her  a photo of me sitting against a rock at trail’s end, instead. Lost in thought and scribbling in my journal, with by my dog Matika by my side. Yeah, that’s who I am.

A big part of book promotion, or any kind of promotion for that matter, is branding the work and its creator. In our culture of media hype, this cannot be avoided. That said, it is important to remain true to oneself, otherwise one can quickly become lost. The forest keeps me oriented. I can’t imagine trying to make sense of the world without it.

My dog knows who I am. She was with me during that grueling hike across the 100 Mile Wilderness. She has been with me on countless excursions since then. If she could be my publicist and speak for me, I’d be all set.

My wife Judy also knows who I am. After all, she’s the one who took that photo of me at trail’s end. She caught me by surprise that day, before I struck an inauthentic and self-conscious pose. Spouses are good at that.

 

 

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