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“Your real duty is to go away from the community to find your bliss.” – Joseph Campbell

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9 February 2016

At The Bookstore: Connie And Red

Connie And Red

Connie And Red

I went to Battenkill Books with Red today to sign some books people had purchased from Connie Brooks and wanted me to personalize. I haven't put up a picture of Connie or the bookstore in awhile, and I like to mention them often, Battenkill is my local bookstore, a beautiful bookstore, and Red is deeply attached to it, we have spent many Saturday and other mornings in the store.

Red loves to greet people, especially children. Connie went to sit down and talk with me, and I had this idea that it would be nice to get a photo of her with Red. Red has never jumped up onto any chair, in our home or anywhere, certainly not without permission. I recall the idea flashing through my mind that it would be sweet if Red would come up to her, but I never asked him to jump up, and he has never jumped up onto a chair with or without someone in it.

He is not permitted on chairs, and as a therapy dog, he is scrupulous about not moving towards people without being asked.

Suddenly, he climbed up and onto Connie's lap and the two of them just fell into the other's arms, Red tucked his head against her chest and she held him for several minutes. Truthfully, it was a very beautiful thing to see. Red and I are telepathic, we know what the other is thinking, I only have to blink or turn my head – or even think of an image – and he responds to it.

We are both very connected to this store, it is a part of our community, of my creative life, and a part of Red's as well. We have been to many readings there, many books signings, many visits to see Connie or buy a book.

It was very clear to me that Red knew what I wanted and what I needed, perhaps more than I did. He is the most remarkably sweet and intuitive animal, I am ever grateful to Dr. Karen Thompson, one of the great breeders I have known, for him.

Posted in General
31 January 2016

Red: The Emotion Of The Therapy Dog

Therapy Dog

Therapy Dog

Red is a therapy dog, and I am often moved and genuinely astonished at his ability to read and understand emotions. His intuitiveness is always in play, and this is why I bring him to my writing classes, people are often anxious and uncertain about sharing their work, Red always moves whoever he feels is in need of him, he senses and smells emotion through voice and smell. Here, on Saturday, he went to the seat of Ed Gulley, a dairy farmer coming to the format of a writing class for the first time, and Red was right there, reading him, settling him, as Ed talked about his work, his hands moved back and forth on Red's head.

If people are not aware of it, they might not see that Red almost always manages to position himself so that he can see me, and he exchanges emotions and information with me, as he is here. Here, Ed is talking about his difficult, sometimes unintentionally cruel father, and I'm sure it was difficult for him to relate this, it is part of his writing, and here Red is telling me that he has chosen Ed and is working with him, he is looking to me for approval, he is trained not to approach people without their voiced permission or mine, and I met Red's eyes and nodded and he stayed there.

This photograph captured the emotion of the therapy dog for me, it is beautiful work for a human to do with a dog, and for anyone to do with Red.

Posted in General
22 January 2016

Red In Thought. Pathway to meditation.

Red In Thought

Red In Thought

Red is a contemplative, he grounds me with his calm and steady presence. Most mornings, we meditate together, he settles into the silence and is still. He is a pathway to my meditation, to inner peace and stillness, he shares this with me every day. As I write, his centered self also grounds me and helps me get to where I can see and feel.

Posted in General
21 January 2016

The Considered Life: Leaving The Ordinary World

The

The Considered Life

The Hero Journey And The Ordinary World

More than a decade ago, as I was approaching 50, I ran to a mountain – a big hill, really – and spent a year considering how I wanted to live my life, and what it meant to have a meaningful life.  I wanted to consider the rest of my life, not just live it.

I didn't know it, but that was the beginning of my hero journey.

The mythologist Joseph Campbell studies the most enduring myth of the world, and found many, if not all of them, had a similar narrative, the different stages of adventure, he called it.

The hero journey begins with the hero's normal life at the story of the story, before the adventure begins. There is the call to adventure, often a problem, challenge or crisis that needs to be overcome. The hero attempts to refuse the adventure because he is afraid. He encounters mentors and magical helpers who can give him advice and prepare him for the journey ahead. The hero leaves his ordinary world for the first time, he crosses the threshold into adventure.

He leaves behind everything that is familiar. He enters the realm of the unknown. If he lucky, he will return, whole. If not, he may be damaged forever, or lost.

There, in the new realm, he learns the rules of his new world, he endures tests of strength, of will, he meets friends, and faces enemies. Setbacks and failures occur, forcing him to try new approaches and come up with new ideas.  The hero faces major hurdles and obstacles, including the possibility of death. And then,  reward. After surviving near death, the hero earns his reward or accomplishes his goal.  The hero begins his journey back to his ordinary life. Resurrection. The hero faces a final test where everything is at stake and he must use everything that he has learned, and summon every bit of strength.

The hero brings his knowledge and wisdom back to the ordinary world, where he applies it to help all who remain there. He is never the same.

The hero journey was popularized by Campbell, it was applied to Star Wars, some movies and novels, even Disney characters and cartoons. But it has rarely been applied to ordinary life, the word "hero" is not necessarily heroic.

I am an ordinary man, it did not realize for the longest time that I was on such a journey when I left the ordinary world and came to this strange and mysterious place. There, I endured many tests of strength – savage winter, mental illness, loneliness and near ruin

I faced many hurdles, made new friends, nearly died. I was rewarded. I found Maria. I accomplished my goal – love and connection.  I was a writer, then a photographer as well. There was a kind of resurrection. I left my remote hideout and returned to the Ordinary World, not the original one but a new one, a world I shared with my love. In the past year I faced some final tests – my work, life and home were at stake. I have used every single thing I have ever learned, and summoned every bit of strength that I had.

Now, in my writing, my teaching, my photography, I seek to bring my knowledge and wisdom, such as it is, back to the ordinary world, and I offer it and apply it to all who wish it or need it. I see to encourage creativity, the call to adventure. My life will never be the same.

I didn't know the hero journey could be the life of someone so ordinary,  you do not have to be Luke Skywalker. It begins with normal life, before the adventure beings. A book writer, walking his dogs every morning in a safe and prosperous suburb of New York. There, I heard the call to adventure, and I attempted to refuse it, I was so afraid.

I understand it will never really be over, I am awed and humbled to have taken such an extraordinary trip. When I meet a fellow traveler, I know him or her right aware, we share an instant bond and understanding.

That is how Maria and I came together, we were both on the journey, we recognized this instantly in one another, and it connected us to each other in a powerful way. So it is my duty and mission to share what I saw and felt and learned, and I try to do that.

I am feeling a powerful urge to continue this experience, to once again stop and consider my life and how I want to live it. I do not wish to be a hollow man, reacting and existing and living a life of fear and caution.

The journey has ended. The journey has just begun.

 

 

Posted in General
17 January 2016

Talking To Red

Talking To Red

Talking To Red

Everywhere Red goes, people stop and talk to him. They touch him, hug him, hold him look into his eyes, Red has a rich dialogue with the world around him. He talks to old and young people, street people, wealthy people, working people. They seem to trust him intuitively, and he returns the favor.

Posted in General