Addiction, Archetypes, Basketball, Body Image, character study, Colorado, Dichotomies, eccentric, Existentialism, Facebook, Faith, Laramie, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, mountains, Non-Fiction, privilage, Relationships, Running, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Trailrunning, ultramarthon, Wyoming, Yoga

why I run

I run because it feels good. Even when it feels awful theres some kind of satisfaction in burning lungs, tightened hamstrings, twinges in the IT bands. I started running in 2012 as I tried to fill my time with more wholesome activities. I had these cut off sweatpants and a cotton short sleeve because it had been so long I didn’t even own workout clothes anymore. In my 1998 model New Balance (I stockpiled shoes back in the day like I would some wear those Nike basketball shoes again) I hopped on the treadmill at the gym shadowy like a garage and ran for an entire two minutes. This was progress as I recounted thirty minutes on the Eliptical freshman year making me feel like an Olympic athlete.

I ran my first trail race in 2013–it was my first time running on the trails–ever–and I entered an endurance race as part of the Crossfit team. I was intimidated but felt I had practiced some, maybe not enough, but I was gonna do it anyway. I counted my first lap as the course test run I had trotted the previous day with my boyfriend at the time. Things got tense when we lost the course and ran 10 miles instead of 6. We exchanged word but shared pizza later as I apologized that he had to go to work at the local bistro right after. The next day, I showed up for my first lap and started off. Promptly got lost again (I do this a lot) and ran in about 18 minutes over my target to the questioning of the Crossfit team. Sorry, guys. I’m having fun!

The next lap was at dusk and one runner came in saying she saw a moose after the second creek crossing before the meadow. Well, shoot. I put in one headphone and heard my breath heavy as I waited to either die in the mouth of a moose or the thud of lightening in a thunderstorm. I was passed by a female ultrarunner who was touring the nation to run as many long races as she could stand. I rolled in at about 9 or 10 and went to go get more pizza for another lap. I arrived back at about 1:30 am and this time I didn’t care so much about what nature might serve up. Pepperoni fueled and phone charged up–I came in at 3 am and my team was asleep. We DNF’d but I could have cared less. I was now a trail runner.

I don’t have fancy gear to run and use a sock to cover my iPhone 5c while I wear the same UWyo running shorts, Lulu Lemon shirt and bra, and a pair of Brooks I bought for $13 on EBay. I use Strava but secretly wish for a Garmin because I get too caught up in things I do and things other people do and maybe I wish to hide my average status. I don’t think i will ever be a fast runner. I was 6 feet tall at the age of 12 and was always very aware of my body and often would not take any risks. I’ve never done a cartwheel in my giraffe frame and I remember going back to a playground in my 20’s to hang upside down on the monkey bars–I had never done this before. Running became freedom to me and the trails became home. I started to run my favorite loop at Pole Mountain in Wyoming almost everyday and recognized each aspen stand in each version of light.

I don’t enter many races running as it amps up my anxiety into overdrive. Heart pumping I start obsessive rituals and apply about 70 billion layers of chopstick, tie and retie my shoes, rebraid my hair. I was sometimes good at physical activity, sometimes not. Never confident enough, never aggressively attacking hills or anything really–that was always the gripe as I played basketball–”Get mad, Jennifer! Get really angry and just rebound!” Sometimes I think about these words if I am trying to dig deep but more often than not I walk because I can. I don’t think I’ll win and maybe that’s why I don’t want to. I run Sheep Mountain with the High Plains Harriers in summer of 2014 and slow the entire group down by hours. Embarrassing to be the weakest link but also informing how I work with other new runners–hey at least we are out here. Release in the breath.

I’ve been working the same hill here in Pagosa Springs of about 400 or so feet and have accomplished a few small goals of running the entire hill, snagging a PR on the way down–but these are all below average times on sections of trail that a handful of folks are recording on Strava. But, this is not why I run. I run because its mostly free–I haven’t bought a new pair of shoes in a few years and while a new pair would be nice my holed up Mizuno’s wont’ stop me. I run because its meditative. I love the rhythm of breath and feet slapping the trail or pavement. I slap my feel not on purpose but I don’t have any real technique or knowledge about how to carry my body better. I just run. I get some advice: lean forward, pick up your knees. Bomb the hills and run the flats. If you can walk or run, run. Run all the flats. So, I just keep running.

I run because it keeps me well. As a therapist, I keep many secrets and sufferings of the world locked inside my mind and heart and let them all shake out into my toes and heels on the hot pavement of an 80 degree day. I run to listen to music–sometimes I wake up with a tune in my head and add it a playlist and feel the rhythm enter my pace and every once in a while I stop to dance or grapevine–whatever bodily gratitude feels right. Running just feels right. I sometimes worry about the runners around me who have running streaks lasting 1000’s of days or put in 100’s of miles a week. But I try to step back and know that running is doing for them what it’s doing for me–we are healing with each step. Sometimes I will practice a loop 30, maybe 50 times, to understand each hill and switchback and think of this as practice for a relationship. Waking up everyday and trying again, running again, loving again. This, this is why I run.

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”
― John Bingham, No Need for Speed: A Beginner’s Guide to the Joy of Running

Addiction, Archetypes, Body Image, character study, Colorado, Dharma, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Faith, Fear, introvert, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, mountains, Non-Fiction, Relationships, Running, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Trailrunning, ultramarthon, Wyoming, Yoga

twenty six under three

286 marathons and we’ll call most of them sub 3 hour. When I ask how he was able to run that many marathons he says it was more than 300 and he runs them as fast as he can because he doesn’t like running. I don’t believe but sit and stare at the moon shining through my two sliding glass doors and wonder what goes through his mind. He likes to eat pizza and drink Mountain Dew–its like meeting an earlier version of myself but I have yet to run a marathon.  I am intrigued by the paradox as he eats an entire pepperoni pizza and his calf muscles pop out with each step. He’s not sponsored yet and I secretly think about helping because we wear the same shoe size and my Mizuno’s have gotten another hole in the left toe like clockwork. Enduance athletes are a safe zone of friendship–its guaranteed they don’t mind time alone and that they won’t ask questions when I say I just need to go on a run.

A little different this time–I don’t have to hear a laundry list of accomplishments but every once in awhile hear a story of sleeping in a car after winning a race or getting banned from a race in Wyoming because his 43 year old friend got with the race directors 23 year old niece.  I laugh having seen these situations play out in other ways in other circles. I ask if he lifts weights as I become fascinated with the human body–my own arms giving the deceiving suggestion of upper body strength when really I know the lengthened muscles start to pop out as I lose weight–you can start to tell a yoga body from the thinness and stomach and and arm muscle definition. I love course marshaling races to study the obliques of Boston marathon qualifiers and the quads of Tour De France qualifiers. Pushing the body to the brink confounds me and so I’m obsessed.

We talk about toenails falling off which is a thing–the shoes can be the best shoes in the world and after a certain amount of mileage in a week things just start breaking down. He’s the human version of my philosophy of running–to get better at running, just run. He explains he will do a longer, slower run one day and a short, fast run the next. He discusses using the treadmill (dreadmill) to crank up the speed and I think about this technique for myself learning to leap and glide to gain some speed. Seven minute miles for 32 miles impresses the heck outta me and while I might not ever do it, I like to deconstruct the feat in others. My marathon achievements are in the mind–26 miles of advanced degrees completing my coursework on time but hard to say if I qualify for the big race–the PhD. I’m fairly certain I want to go back and often muse on a dissertation topic revolving around rural areas and mental health care.

The pain in my shoulder that became so strong in March and April is coming back slightly and I wonder what this stress may be about–trying to fit in all my clients and doing good work, worrying about my next job and how to develop a program when I’m still working. Entering two metaphorical races, one right after the next, I will be digging deep to pace at both. School counseling different from clinical counseling I think about how much I will miss my sessions in the garden and outside but also excited to hold groups in a school setting and hear children singing and laughing. I’m intrigued by it all and just as I quiz my new runner friend I ask questions to the universe about how to be my best at this job.

Doing my best means being around others who are doing their best. A new friend who’s running inspires me and who speaks to me kindly will help me see my own assets. Course marshaling at races with world-class athletes inspires me to keep going in the race in my mind. I DNF’d my last relationship because it was becoming dangerous. Lightening on the peaks, mud on the trails, water alarmingly low. I have this tendency to try out a difficult hike knowing full well I may fail and then going back to understand where I messed up. But, I don’t need to go back to this race. I won’t improve my results because the whole thing was rigged. Like that crazy swamp in The Princess Bride, wild boars flopping all around–I’m gonna go ahead and leave the forest. And so I find the knights-of-running, some wearing shiny armor and some less obvious and soak in the bravery that will help me conquer this next dragon of life.

“Originally, I heard that if you get 10 states done, you could join the 50 States Marathon Club. I didn’t have I time goal; I just wanted to do them all. As I kept going through them, I got better and faster. When I did get through them, I realized I had 30 of them under 3:00. So I went back and did the ones where I didn’t run sub-3:00. I had a couple real close calls. Utah was the hardest—I missed four times before I got the time I needed. Some of the western states are tough for people because it’s hot or the altitude gets to people.The dumbest thing I did was I did a marathon in Missoula, Montana, and I drove the 1,150 miles home afterward because I had to work the next day. I’m really proud of the spreadsheet where I keep my results. It’s obvious I’m a nerd.”
-Gary Krugger 

 

Archetypes, Body Image, character study, Christianity, Church, Colorado, Death, desert, Dharma, Dichotomies, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Faith, Family, Fear, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, mountains, Non-Fiction, Nostalgia, object, poverty, privilage, Running, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Trailrunning, Universiality, valley, Yoga

turning of the canyon walls

I’ve been waiting to write in my blog about all the things I’ve felt as I move to Colorado after 32 years in Wyoming.  16 in Gillette and 16 in Laramie, half grown up in the belly of coal country, half deconstructed in the belly of precambrian granite and feldspar crystals.  Every part of the journey brought huge questioning and regret.  I said goodbye to my best friends—the few friends I had let in during the 16 years of trying to reinvent myself.  And now I reinvent myself in the San Luis Valley.

I moved here for many reasons which bring about all the reasons I had stayed in Laramie.  I’ve run into a few folks here and they always say the same type of stuff—oh it’s not for everyone here.  They say its isolated.  Nothing to do.  I’ve become the patriotic Wyomingite, talking about how Alamosa is Laramie moved south six hours.  Yes, Laramie was three times as big but I make my life very small.  I hear I may get bored in winter and I think of my writing, reading, or yoga—I know I won’t get bored just cold in the arid winters of the high desert.

I climbed part of Mount Blanca yesterday and am starting to realize what Colorado might mean.  Mountains are bigger.  Instead of my hour jaunt around Pole Mountain in the Medicine Bow National Forest, I now embark on hours long journeys I stop in the middle because it’s becoming clear I will not make these 18 miles.  Plans begin to be made—have I become the lusty adventurer going after 14’ers?  They are just where we all start—I want to become immersed in the microsystems as well. I want to find the desert parts of this place, to run in the greasewood and think about spiritual shit.

I think that’s why I came here—spiritual shit.  Not to seek the Ram Dass ashram just down the way in New Mexico or attend the Course in Miracles group I found in the local gazette—but to take a leap of faith.  To let go of the narrative that I’m a fifth generation Wyomingite, that my blood runs with the buffalo, that my soulmate is in the aspens of Happy Jack.   Turns out aspens are here, too. I’ve not felt that connection yet but I know the petals of my heart will peel and shake away as I uncross my hands from my heart and let the wind of the valley sweep things clean.

“Life is too short for grief. Or regret. Or bullshit.”

-Ed Abbey

Archetypes, Asana, Bible, Body Image, character study, Church, Death, depression, Dharma, Dichotomies, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Faith, Family, Fear, Health Issues, Laramie, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, mountains, Non-Fiction, Nostalgia, PTSD, Running, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Suicide, Trailrunning, Universiality, Verse, Wyoming, Yoga

cracks and stripes

Sitting in the plush couch across from Asian decorations staring at large red plates and sticks of bamboo creating geometrical patterns and shadows creating the backdrop as I relate the geometrical patterns of my life. I blandly tell my counselor how life is a dream, a projection, a fuzzy version of reality. A veil has dropped. Maybe it dropped a long time ago. I watch the plot, the characters, the scene, the story line with only mild interest. Mostly apathetic.

A familiar story for the thinkers, the depressed, the analyzers. Life a dream. Waves of light, color, emotion, people. A familiar story for those in trauma. Unable to fully open up to life undulating between numbness and extreme pain. I’ve told my story a hundred times and it’s really nothing special as folks die and individuals reinvent themselves over and over again, purifying in the fire. In each reinvention, the dreams, the disassociation becomes greater and greater and I go to matching lengths to ground down, to find the soil of my existence once again.

April 25th, 2014 a friend hung herself and I once again sank down, went deep, and struggled to decide on the appropriate response, the appropriate way to be with myself, to be with the world. And so I ran. I went into the physical body and the breath for stability, balance, to let the power of my thoughts dull in the burning light of my physical being. On Pole Mountain every day, moving slowly over rolling hills stopping to smell, take pictures, dance, stare at the sky, stare at the ground, and sit in the mud. I would bring friends, we would bring drink, I would bring drink alone. Playing with that point when the substance can enhance physical awareness and open up the senses to deep experiences while dulling the mind just enough to justify the tall bullets of barely pop.

I let go of expectations for myself. I walked away from the holistic practice of yoga doing only what felt good—run, lift, stretch, drink, sleep. I would push myself at times but found in the letting go of the practice of yoga I was able to truly practice yoga through direct experience, an opening up to the trails of life, the trails of my own veins. I felt like a crucible with ashes in my belly, appearing like clay but red hot on the inside. And so I buried myself in the cool ground to recalibrate what this all might mean and how to find my meaning.

On the trails, during the runs in forward motion and in the tiny catches of slowing down, I begin to see the patterns of nature. The times, ways, and slopes where the wildflowers grow. The ripple of the snow from the way the wind blows, the creak of the trees, the sound of thunder near and far. I begin to feel the sunrise and sunset and anticipate in some familiar way what to expect in this place and on these runs. The weather becomes a part of my system the breeze my own breath.

It becomes harder and harder to come back and to see the patterns in others’ behavior, the same patterns of nature. Only to know the patterns will not be seen. They are obstructed, fuzzy, blended with lies on the part of the person who has not yet accepted his or her own behaviors. They do not see what I see, and this is just perception, this is just human nature. They are not who they think they are. I am not who I think I am.

On the hikes of the human mind, I feel the wind of thoughts, the dark clouds of brooding, and the creak of the heart. Anticipating the seasons of the soul from unspoken words and intense observation I feel the sunset coming knowing that it may go unnoticed, go unfelt. It does not matter. All experience, good or bad is grist for the mill. Fuzzy, painful, manufactured, in nature, all a path to spiritual growth, a way to God.

“Sometimes I reason my life is a hideous illusion, and I dream of disappearing into the wilderness, leaving behind my past, my present, and all plans for my future, the hustle and bustle for a materialism I care little for, propaganda, politics, phonies, and all the patterns I’ve encountered from their words unspoken, that alert and alienate me to believe that this surely wasn’t meant to be my playground.”

-Unknown

Archetypes, Body Image, character study, Death, depression, Dharma, Dichotomies, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Facebook, Faith, Family, Fear, Health Issues, Higher Education, Jail, Laramie, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, Non-Fiction, Nostalgia, privilage, PTSD, Running, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Trailrunning, Universiality, Wyoming, Yoga

day one-the story behind my blog

I started my blog originally because I fancied myself a mildly talented non-fiction writer and I often am my most artistic during my darkest times.   The boyfriend I had at the time and myself named the original blog “New American Exile” as we both felt marginalized from American culture.  The blog went in conjunction with a zine we had started by the same name.  It fizzled out in one issue.  And that relationship got real abusive, real fast, and went down in flames more than fizzled.

I rose from the flames and wanted to bring back the blog because writing to me is so rhythmic, it helps me to notice all the details around me, to capture the face of a lover, to smell what only bloodhounds know of, to feel like a newborn baby.  It helps me to heal and to show others the rawness of human existence.  I started the blog under the name “fire or phoenix” in April of 2014 after I, the phoenix, had burst, once again, into metaphorical flames after ending a period of sustained sobriety.  My first entry:

i live in fear.  i live in confidence.  i chew the skin around my nails to shreds thinking about how i fucked it all up.  but we’ve all fucked it all up.  we are all fucking up together.  i’ve lost my words for months now and my yoga practice has fallen to the ditch where the beautiful wildflowers of summer grow, healing yarrow and miraculous dandelion.  there is much to be said for falling to the wayside with the wayside dwellers.  my life is not to overanalyze or to feel hurt by her or him but my life is to connect to others like misplaced branches of veins spurting blue and red blood because what is real is not gross.  what is felt is not wrong.  i am not here to feel sorry for myself and hate my existence because my thighs rub together.  whats really important, here.  whats really going on with my privilege.  whats most real right now is the rhythmic panting of my breath and steps as i run, run, run in no direction but simply closer to who i might be, who i really am, and the essence of us all.  today is the first and the last day, the beginning and the end.  today is god. 

This entry highlights my journey into trailrunning and my journey into recovery in which I allow myself to fuck up, to drink, to eat hamburgers.  I still find myself ashamed and embarrassed at my lack of self-control, but that is the old bird conceptualizing her life from a different space.  And so, as I constantly reinvent myself, I am a great many things.  I am the flames.  I am the bird.  I am.

“A mythical bird that never dies, the phoenix flies far ahead to the front, always scanning the landscape and distant space. It represents our capacity for vision, for collecting sensory information about our environment and the events unfolding within it. The phoenix, with its great beauty, creates intense excitement and deathless inspiration”.

Master Lam Kam Chuen.

Archetypes, Asana, Body Image, character study, Dharma, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Health Issues, Laramie, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, mountains, Non-Fiction, Running, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Trailrunning, Trains, Universiality, Wyoming

greenbelt lunch

Driving, showering, running. Epiphany times.  I think sometimes the blog I have created paints a picture that is not necessarily accurate.  I don’t feel my life is tragic.  I don’t regret anything I have done.  Do I question myself and pray to gawd e’r day to send me a friend? Well, heck yes.  But there is so much to admire in this world.  Things to take in, then let go, and prepare for death and the next transient experience.  These are the things I believe.  These are the things I feel.  Things are the things I want to be with.

I’ve started running five miles at lunch, sometimes it’s timed, but mostly it’s to take in these windy Wyoming high plains I have called home for 13 years.   I run from my house to cross the train bridge downtown to get to the green belt. On the west end there is a little garden area that is watered by the same woman every day.  She wears a floppy hat and khaki pants and we are like two hands of a clock passing each other at different tempos.  She a pendulum, I a metronome beating to the glorious rhythm of life.  Her hose sprays from patches of grass to hollyhocks as she takes care of this tiny pseudo-garden juxtaposed by trains and a tall cigar shaped Union Pacific landmark that would be too much trouble to take down.  She has surrounded three sunflowers with a small enclosure and each living thing has become its own landscape its own piece of art.  We never talk but I appreciate her so much for what she does and how she takes care of a corner of the world that I have come to love.

As I continue my run along the dark gray paved green belt I’ve started to see another wonderful woman whose beauty strikes me.  She has a curious gait and bends her elbows at ninety degrees swinging back and forth like the tin man yet so fluid she floats.  Animated yet subtle.  A wonderful paradox, a metaphor for running, for life.  She is so beautiful and smiles at me every day and I wave and smile back under my salt and sweat soaked ball cap.  I think as I reflect and remember she is some kind of temporary angel whose human beauty matches the beauty of the land.  Her smile becomes like golden leaves in fall and her eyes reveal the blue that is lost in the green gray of the Laramie River.  I want to see myself as I see this woman and how she takes care of that corner of myself that I will come to love.

The locusts are everywhere in August and September and they flutter and hop and greet me while I wonder how much frost it will take for them to become dormant and spawn again.  I occasionally mistake them for butterflies and who is to say they can’t be butterflies with short spurts of flight zipping across the path yellow, cream, gold, black, brown.  I mistook a frog for a locust friend the other day as he sat with his nature-green-paisley back to me and I wondered why this locust wasn’t zipping and then he hopped like a tiny surprise, an expected yet anticipated phone call.  Just a bit up the path there is a grove of trees like an inviting painted alley welcoming whistling, trotting, and other hidden street activities.

And then there are those things not as conventionally beautiful—the freezer company across the field, the row of billboards to the east, the college apartments around the bend.  The river goes down and down in the dry August days and in parts it has become filled with bacteria and algae and I look over a bridge and spit into the water thinking how I would never bathe there.  Its color a light stony green like the eyes of a ex-lover when he was stoned.  But it is the home of other living things that need that space to live.  I stop under the bridge too and see the “lover” graffiti that I see all over town—it’s not elaborate and I create a picture of an annoying seventeen year old in my head who things lovers are worth using graffiti tags.  While all isn’t pleasant it’s all there to observe, to witness, and then to let go.  And when I smell the whiff of a cigarette from a loud truck I remember it is often those things that are the hardest to love that we need to come love.

“Our minds influence the key activity of the brain, which then influences everything; perception, cognition, thoughts and feelings, personal relationships; they’re all a projection of you.”

-Deepak Chopra

Archetypes, Body Image, Dharma, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Fear, Health Issues, Laramie, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, mountains, Non-Fiction, Running, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Trailrunning, ultramarthon, Universiality, valley

there is no finish line

Using the sides of the washed out trail I bounce from left to right down a small hill on the trail I hear calls and songs of other runners.  I see all sizes, all body types, and folks who are sprinting, walking, skipping.  Running is one of those things that you can do anytime, anywhere, and for any reason.  It brings folks together, its gives us a purpose.

There are those who love competition and dig deep to find new places in the heart and spirit found by pushing through pain, bombing up mountains, falling down hills, traveling new distances, recording new times. These folks inspire me with their grit and determination.  These are the runners I admire, watch, and cheer on from a distance when I course marshal races.

There are beginning runners who find so much satisfaction when they realize they can run a mile, they can run a 5k, and they are capable and able.  These runners find gifts in the sport everyday as they realize their own potential and try out new shoes, new shorts, and slowly begin to realize their own worth as they put one foot in front of the other and progress minute by minute, day by day.

Ultramarathoners have a different goal to pace evenly, to breathe rhythmically, to find the meditative qualities of runs lasting longer than a day, runs lasting into the night.  These runners can sometimes be quiet and have the pensive look as if they have been sailing for months and their feet are not quite on the ground.  Their legs always show some measure of training and their philosophy is to walk, rest, but always move forward.

Trailrunners are out for the beauty, for the grounding element of nature, for the varying terrain, and the solace of the mountains and nature.  These runners might even carry backpacks or take on night runs like the ultramarathoner to converse with the moon and whisper to the aspens.  They find new ways to steady the pace up and down the trails and sometimes they like to get lost and to push the edge of the unknown path.

After our run we all break bread and as I look around I see the church of running.  We all sing hymns in our feet at different paces, different shapes, different steps, singing with our bodies and voices.  We know that running is something bigger than us, that it brings us together and feeds our spirits.  We talk of the races coming up, how we will crawl or sprint up Jelm mountain, put a team together for a relay in the desert, run one hundred miles in August, or simply plan the next run at the park.  Running is our heartbeat, running is our friend, running is an aspect of who we are, who we want to be.  It teaches us how to be with ourselves in the moment with our breath and to cherish each step that gives us the larger gift of running, the glorious gift of life. 

“The five S’s of sports training are: stamina, speed, strength, skill, and spirit; but the greatest of these is spirit.”

-Ken Dohert

character study, Existentialism, Expansion, Laramie, mountains, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Trailrunning, Wyoming, Yoga

the call of the wild

the call of the wild

Have you gazed on naked grandeur
where there’s nothing else to gaze on,
Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,
Big mountains heaved to heaven, which the blinding sunsets blazon, 
Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?
Have you swept the visioned valley
with the green stream streaking through it,
Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?
Have you strung your soul to silence?
Then for God’s sake go and do it;
Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.

Have you wandered in the wilderness, the sagebrush desolation,
The bunch-grass levels where the cattle graze?
Have you whistled bits of rag-time at the end of all creation,
And learned to know the desert’s little ways?
Have you camped upon the foothills,
have you galloped o’er the ranges,
Have you roamed the arid sun-lands through and through?
Have you chummed up with the mesa?
Do you know its moods and changes?
Then listen to the Wild — it’s calling you.

Have you known the Great White Silence,
not a snow-gemmed twig aquiver?
(Eternal truths that shame our soothing lies).
Have you broken trail on snowshoes? mushed your huskies up the river,
Dared the unknown, led the way, and clutched the prize?
Have you marked the map’s void spaces, mingled with the mongrel races,
Felt the savage strength of brute in every thew?
And though grim as hell the worst is,
can you round it off with curses?
Then hearken to the Wild — it’s wanting you.

Have you suffered, starved and triumphed,
groveled down, yet grasped at glory,
Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole?
“Done things” just for the doing, letting babblers tell the story,
Seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul?
Have you seen God in His splendors,
heard the text that nature renders?
(You’ll never hear it in the family pew).
The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things —
Then listen to the Wild — it’s calling you.

They have cradled you in custom,
they have primed you with their preaching,
They have soaked you in convention through and through;
They have put you in a showcase; you’re a credit to their teaching —
But can’t you hear the Wild? — it’s calling you.
Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us; 
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There’s a whisper on the night-wind,
there’s a star agleam to guide us,
And the Wild is calling, calling. . .let us go.


Transcribed from The Spell of the Yukon and other Verses by Robert Service. Entered/proofed by Alan Light, <light@rock.concert.net>, 7407-B Waxhaw Creek Road, Waxhaw, NC 28173. Proofed by THE GAR, <glwarner@samford.bitnet>. This text is in the public domain.