This past weekend, I got together with some comrades and we hiked into the Appalachians. Our destination was Dragon's Tooth, the aptly named stone monolith at the top of Cove Mountain, a short but rugged hike of about two and a half miles, in order to set up camp there at the windy summit and camp out.
The gathering began on Friday at the Wolves' property outside of Lynchburg, where a friend brought up a hog from his farm in North Carolina and held a hands-on workshop, taking us through the butchering process all they way from slaughter to cooking.
For those unfamiliar with the killing and preparation of their own meat, this is an essential "man-maker." Not being prepared or willing to be directly involved in the process of life and death required to harvest flesh makes you unworthy to consume it.
The hog was treated with the utmost respect and care, and provided our crew with fresh meat for the entire weekend, with plenty left over.
We knew going into the camping trip that inclement weather was called for. The sunny 70 degree days of the week were expected to drop into the low 40's the next day, with all day rain, cooling to freezing temps and sleet once we got up to the campsite at the top.
Undeterred, we set out the next morning and convoyed the hour plus drive to Catawba, VA, and hit the trail. All present were more than up to the challenge, and camp was set up within a short while after conquering the hike.
The rain had really kicked in, and firemaking skills were tested and found fit. A blaze was going before long to dry out all the gathered wood, Operatives making good use of their War-tooth 'hawks and bushcraft.
Rain turned into sleet to the sound of laughter and pork sizzling over the fire. Excellent conversation and new bonds forged among those who were present- all remained up until late into the evening, precipitation ceased and a pleasant calm settled over the mountain, allowing us to enjoy the remainder of the night drying out.
I greeted the morning silently meditating in the fog that clung thickly to the mountain, considering the things that truly matter to me in life. There have been many instances the past few years when I have felt spread too thin, run ragged, short on hope and inner fire- confusion obscuring my way forward as surely as the fog and mist swirling around Dragon's Tooth.
Much of that uncertainty has been burned away in the formation of Operation Werewolf, but I wanted to share a few of my thoughts that crystallized up there on the mountain with you all, in the hope that it might aid some of you in some small way.
First, goals are not something that will magically make themselves known to you- they must be sought out. You must always be evaluating where you are going. Much like wilderness hiking, it is important to keep your wits and your sense of direction at all times, or you can find yourself alone and lost in vast unknown territory.
We have to align our goals with our true will- knowing what it is that we really want out of life means not only being honest with ourselves, but challenging ourself to constantly do better and re-evaluate if where we are headed is where we really want to be. It sounds elementary, but I have been guilty in the past of striving towards goals I FELT like I should have, but didn't necessarily feel truly invested in. Life is too short to set yourself on the road towards empty accomplishments.
Knowing the self with depth and honesty is paramount to the realization of our goals. Our inner landscape must be traversed by first recognizing where our own True North lies- that star that hangs forever faithful in the firmament is our true will, waiting for us to move toward it "with heart, breathlessly."
Identifying our endeavors and limiting them to a streamlined few is also important. What I mean by this is consonance and simplicity- understanding which undertakings are complementary to each other, and lie in the same direction, pairing them together like good wine and meat, rather than going in 50 directions at once, to the detriment of all progress. Not only that, but keeping the notes in our ongoing composition clear and clean, devoid of any unnecessary clutter, by once again constantly evaluating our progress and becoming, with a critical eye and ready scalpel.
By the same token, we must not limit ourselves to lives of mediocrity by confusing a richness of experience with "being spread too thin." I like to have many irons in many fires, because it challenges me to operate at a higher level each day, to compete with myself in order to become more capable, more efficient, more creative, more dedicated to my Great Work. Often people will create blockages for their progress through self-doubt or limiting thought processes like "I am too busy for this," or "I am not capable of this." We have to look closely and decide, are we truly too busy, or are we setting the bar too low?
I enjoy weight training and fitness, martial arts, hiking and camping, motorcycling, travel, art, reading, running my own business, consulting, and many other time consuming endeavors. However, my interests remain in a state of consonance with one another- they all function well together, and they are all moving me forward. But sacrifices have been made, out of necessity. I have had to curtail or remove habits and pursuits, that, while enjoyable, were limiting my ability to perform to the best of my ability in other, more important areas of life. I have had to put some endeavors on the back burner, in order to give more fully to what is important in my life now, at this glorious present.
Take some time this week to hike, bike or ride somewhere quiet. Take a notebook with you, your Master Log, if you have one. Create a roadmap of your own goals, and attempt to evaluate whether all of them operate in consonance. See what blockages are there. Decide if some of the goals are still valid for you, or if they have become outdated. Challenge yourself to keep doing more, to keep enriching your experience.
All we get out of this life are the stories along the way. Is yours one that you would read, and be inspired by?
"Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. " -John Mui