Blowing zeros and other happenings during 90 days sober

When a reporter asks at the end of The Untouchables what he’ll do once prohibition is repealed, Eliot Ness responds, “I think I’ll have a drink.”

My own prohibition was repealed just last week. September 22 marked the end of my three-month commitment to sobriety. For 90 days – including 70 on the road to Seattle and back – I limited myself to a single beer per day in a journey for spiritual clarity and awareness.

Now that I’ve reached my destination, a good reporter might ask: What’s next?

Well, I’m not exactly popping the champagne to celebrate.

I may have one beer. And that’s about it. It turns out that I’ve kinda liked my return to sober living.

The Departure

breathalyzer blowing zero

Mark it zero, dude!

When I departed on this journey back in June, I wasn’t looking for big answers. I simply wanted greater clarity and awareness – of my self and my surroundings – so that I could live in tighter alignment with my values. That’s integrity, Holmes.

As I said back then, alcohol and I have an unhealthy relationship. With alcohol in my life, I have less clarity and less serenity and less sensitivity to my emotions. I’m more likely to get confused, to bottle up my feelings until they boil over, and to just generally make mistakes.

I’m not talking about the dumb things we do when we’re drunk. I’m talking about the way regular exposure to alcohol and other chemicals affects you over time. It turns out that regularly pumping a depressant into your system fucks you up a bit. Who knew?

A 90-Day Journey

Sobriety led to one of the more memorable episodes of this third Meander.

After a day of rafting at North Cascades National Park, I volunteered to drive our van back to camp. When rangers at our campground spotted an open bottle of tequila in the passenger seat, I had to pass a Breahtlayzer to avoid a ticket. I blew zero (of course) and the rangers were cool enough to let me immortalize the moment with a photo.

It wasn’t until about 60 days into my Meander that sobriety really began to affect me. Fortunately, there weren’t huge emotional swings like on my first Meander when I despaired over crushing a duckling with my Subaru.

But there was emotion nonetheless.

On the drive from Mt Shasta to Lassen Volcanic National Park, I cried at the mariachi version of Mumford & Sons’ I Will Wait. I had listened to this song repeatedly while watching my nephews watch in Seattle, so I intuitively knew it’d cause a reaction.

Spontaneously, I found the song on Spotify and played it. My heart knew that I needed an emotional laxative.

After that, throughout the two-week trip from Lassen to Tempe, my emotions were heightened. But the peaks were flatter and the valleys were shallower. I experienced low-level loneliness at times. I looked joyfully forward to my return home. I was far too ecstatic about the twists and turns of Survivor reruns.

Again, this wasn’t the dramatic emotional roller coaster of the first Meander or my seemingly endless depression following my eruption seven years ago. And, you know what, I prefer this calmer, steadier manner of feeling.

Emotions good.

Chaotic mood swings bad.

My Companions on the Journey

To be honest, making it 90 days wasn’t all that tough. For the most part, people were supportive of my mission. I got zero peer pressure from old friends on a brewery crawl in Ballard. The ASU Alumni Association’s annual booze cruise in Seattle was a little dicier, but I expected it to be so.

After all, we’re Sun Devils, man!

Big thanks to Joe for serving as my accountability partner, to Stephanie, Astara, Wendy, and others for listening, and to my Seattle peeps for understanding why I wasn’t drinking around the campfire.

Henry David Thoreau said, “I believe that water is the only drink for a wise man.”

I don’t quite agree with that. I’ll continue to enjoy a beer from time to time.

But more than one? No thanks.

After 90 days of sobriety, I’ve decided that water – or a single glass of beer – is the only drink for a wise Matt.


Just coffee for me. Thanks.

Defining my spiritual path so I can meet her on hers

On the second half of this third Meander, I’ve thought a lot about defining my spiritual life. For religious folks, it might be easier. There are sacred texts and revered teachers of the past and living leaders to help interpret both.

My spiritual inspiration is a hodgepodge of eastern philosophies like yoga, Ralph Waldo Emmerson, and the occasional Yoda-ism. I dig some of what the major religions have to offer. I leave the rest.

114 degrees in Death Valley

Is it hot out here, or is it just me?

So, why define spirituality? Two reasons.

First, it helps me to remember what fills my cup and prioritize all the stuff in my life appropriately. After all, the spiritual path is not always the path of least resistance. At least, not for me. I sometimes need a map to keep me on course.

Second, in my search for an equitably spiritual partner (equally yoked, in Biblical terms), I used to think “I’ll know it when I see it.” That has not proven to be true. Twice, I’ve fallen for women who had no long-term intention of proactively pursuing the path.

I used to think dating sites would help by forcing a potential match to identify her beliefs. Alas, the concept of spiritual not religious is just so broad. (Damn you, So, defining my own spiritual life helps me to know what I’m looking for in a partner.

Equally yoked or no thank you

I’ve thought about this second point a lot since my last breakup – and after each of the three breakups of consequence since my engagement ended in 2010.

I no longer want to invest emotional energy in women who aren’t on the path. I’ve even updated my dating profile. It’s now three sentences, one of which is something like, “If you don’t have an active spiritual practice, we won’t work out long term.”

In the past, I was afraid that being so open about this aspect of my life would limit my dating options. That may still be true. But fuck it.

It’s empowering!

Hell, I think everyone should do it.

If you’re eager to start a family, don’t go on a single date with someone who doesn’t want kids. If you want to share your faith in Christ with your partner, don’t respond to dating site emails from non-Christians.

Simple. Powerful.

Over the last six years, I’ve had similar fear about limiting my options by being upfront about my disinterest in alcohol. Again, fuck it. I’ve also updated my dating profile from drinks socially to drinks rarely. I don’t want it in my life. And I don’t want my partner or search for my partner heavily influenced by it.

But I digress. The point is that I’ve finally decided to define my deepest core values and put them out there for everyone – including potential matches – to see. Be yourself. Right?

Defining my spirituality

Now, imagine a potential match responds to my profile by asking, “What do you mean by active spiritual practice?”

Aha! I better think this through … and then write about it!

So, that’s what I’ve done. It’s long. It’s a bit stream-of-consciousness. And it’s definitely a work in progress. Because of all this, I’ve given these thoughts their own page where I can tweak and evolve them as I go. Check it out!

guy in hot spring

Hey girl. Plenty of room in this hot spring for two.

Five animals I love just as much as Cecil the Lion

I watched a family of ducks swimming as I drank my coffee this morning at Lassen Volcanic National Park’s Manzanita Lake.

It occurred to me that I was still angry about Cecil the Lion, but not for the reason you probably think. Every time I see a Facebook post about Cecil the Lion, or Blackfish, or the Salt River horses, I get angrier.

Not just because those beautiful animals are captive or dead, but because the response to those situations feels so disproportionate to the crime. After all, how many pigs do we hold captive and kill daily to feed our bacon obsession?mt rainier marmot

We care deeply about big majestic mammals like lions, orcas, and wild horses. We care so deeply in fact that many of us are willing to update our Facebook statuses.

Unfortunately, that level of care doesn’t extend to the vast majority of life on this planet. On my travels, I’ve had special experiences with many “lesser” lifeforms than lions and wild horses. Here are five of my favorites.

1. Salmon and steelheads on the Umpqua River. We all know that salmon swim upstream to spawn (making them the true opposite of tuna in Seinfeld wisdom). You can’t truly appreciate what swimming upstream means until you see them battling against the seemingly insurmountable falls along the Umpqua River in southern Oregon.

2. Canada geese at Tahoe and Donner Lake. My first Meander seemed to sync up perfectly with the northern migration of geese and I shared several lakes with them on warm days in Eastern California. When I see them on the Scottsdale greenbelt in spring, my mind wanders toward summer travels.

3. Banana slugs along the Pacific Coast. Life doesn’t get much lower than these slimy little guys that live along the moss-shrouded rivers of the coast. Long and yellow in the Redwoods, stumpy and green on the Olympic Peninsula, they always make me smile.

4. Marmots in the sub-alpine zone. When I first saw these furry oversized rodents at Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge, I didn’t even know such an animal existed. My favorite encounter was with a precocious varmint at Tuolomne Meadow who just couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t share my PB&J.olympic banana slug

5. Steller’s jays in the Sierra Nevada. They’re annoying as hell when you’re trying to crank out that one last hour of eye mask-aided sleep, but watching these beautiful blue birds hop from campsite to campsite looking for crumbs reminds me of lazy mornings reading and journaling in the Sierra Nevada.

My Meanders have often been about big majestic mammals. From bighorn sheep at Grinnel Glacier, to traffic-jamming bison at Yellowstone, to an abandoned black bear cub at Sequoia National Park, I’ve seen some amazing animals.

In my view, the banana slugs and marmots are also sacred and precious manifestations of God (or universe or spirit or whatever noun you prefer).

As I finished my coffee at Manzanita Lake, the relentlessly adorable fuzzy little ducklings passed out of sight. I thought how glad I was that they were paddling along here on this lake and not being fattened up on a farm on their way to somebody’s plate.

Their lives have gotta be worth a Facebook status too, right?


Note: Want more of my pro-life ramblings? Check out One Dead Duckling and My Choice to be Vegetarian.

umpqua river salmon

I’m a Superior Man. I’m not an Infallible Man.

“May I reach my destination in peace and fulfill my mission.” ~ The Traveler’s Prayer

As I drive north from Ashland to Seattle, I think about her.

First, I pass the turnoff to the Umpqua River and Crater Lake where we adventured together. Later, I set up camp beneath big mossy trees on the bank of the wild Santium River – the kind of campsite that drives both of us wild.

I don’t know what to do with these memories. These feelings. I suppose they just have to be. I don’t have the answers to this riddle. I guess all those people are wrong about me.

You really have your head on straight.

You really know how to live.

You really have it all figured out.

I hear lines like that all the time, especially when I’m living the Meander lifestyle. No girl. No gig. Just the road.

Wow. They must be right. I must really have my shit together.

Bull shit.

I may be better off now than seven years ago, but I have a long way to go. Otherwise, I may not be sitting next to this river by myself. I’d be here with the partner that I think and say that I want. The partner that I think and say I’m willing to “do it the right way” to find and keep.Travelers Prayer

And, yet, something is amiss. I’ve played a role in not finding the one and in not keeping the ones I’ve had.

I’m a Superior Man. I’m not an Infallible Man.

The Way of the Superior Man.

I was introduced to David Deida and his book The Way of the Superior Man last summer in Jaymin Patel’s masculinity workshop at Firefly Gathering. The book covers a lot of ground and it was pretty darn impactful.

To summarize from Deida’s website, a Superior Man is one who strives to live a masculine life of integrity, authenticity, and freedom in all areas – from career and family to women and intimacy to love and spirituality.

Or, in Jaymin’s words, “Masculinity isn’t about paternalism or machoism. We’re not here to talk about our cocks.”

I strive to be a Superior Man. Not superior to other men, but superior to the man I was yesterday.

A few key points from the book stand out to me still (from memory because I didn’t bring the book with me) …

  • The masculine seeks to compete and provide. The feminine seeks to commune and nurture. Men can have feminine energy. Women can have masculine energy. It’s all good.
  • A man must live in alignment with his values – with integrity – in order to access his masculine power, reach his full potential, and provide for himself and those around him.
  • The lack of coming-of-age rituals today creates a culture of taking man-boys who move from mom’s bosom to girlfriends’ bosoms to wife’s bosom without learning to provide as men.

I could write a whole post on each of these points. Maybe someday … when I have the book.

May I reach my destination in peace and fulfill my mission.

In the meantime, I want to focus on integrity. I strive to live with integrity in all my affairs, including my romantic relationships. That said, I’m not infallible. I get confused. I bottle up my feelings until they boil over. I make mistakes.

And one of the primary drivers of my fallibility is alcohol.

The second line of the Traveler’s Prayer is: May I reach my destination in peace and fulfill my mission.

I’ve identified my mission on this third Meander. I’ve made a 90-day commitment to myself and a few trusted friends that I will not be drunk. That means no more than two beers or two glasses of wine in a night. No exceptions.

Alcohol and I have an unhealthy relationship. It too often leads me out of alignment with my values. It leads me away from clarity and toward confusion, emotion stuffing, and mistakes. I seriously doubt I’m an alcoholic, but I’ll find out in the next 90 days.

I don’t seek answers. I simply seek clarity and awareness – of my self and my surroundings – so that I can live in tighter alignment with my values and take yet another step in what will be a lifelong journey toward having my shit together.

I’m 17 days into 90. May I reach my destination in peace and fulfill my mission.


Way of the Superior Man



My third Meander begins beneath the Giant Sequoias

At first, I was underwhelmed. Or maybe I was just tired.

I spent the morning driving into California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range and then bouncing from campground to campground looking for a decent spot for myself and some friends who’d be arriving two days later.

It was raining. We didn’t have reservations. And it was Fourth of July weekend. Oops!

Finally, I settled on a campsite, ate a quick lunch, and set out for my first visit to the ancient giants of Sequoia National Park.

As the Generals Highway swerved past its first Giant Sequoia, I got a brief thrill. Very brief. I was still grouchy. I tried to psych myself up for my 35th national park since 2012. It didn’t quite work.

I did not have a beginner’s mind. I compared those first few Giant Sequoias to the Coastal Redwoods that I’d fallen in love with two summers earlier. I regretted stopping at the smaller sequoia groves in Yosemite National Park the prior summer.

It was not a great start to a third Meander – a Meander that I finally kicked off after nine days of post-breakup soul-searching.

Fortunately, I recognized it. I prayed to see the trees through fresh eyes.Giant Sequoias at Round Meadow

Finally, I did. About 100 yards into my first hike, I was mesmerized. The trail looped around a large green meadow surrounded by 250-foot Giant Sequoias. The rain clouds finally parted, allowing the suns rays to bounce off the reddish bark of the titans.

The meadow’s expanse offered me my first opportunity to appreciate the entirety of a big tree – Sequoia or Redwood – in a single view. My attempts to photograph big trees have always been stifled by their enormity and by my lack of skill with panoramic mode on my camera.

Giant Sequoias aren’t just big ol’ pine trees. They’re conifers, just like pine trees, but they’re in a totally different class along with Coastal Redwoods and China’s Dawn Redwoods.

They’re so large (the world’s largest living things by volume). So rare (growing only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada). So ancient as individuals (living thousands of years). So prehistoric as a species (dating back to the time of dinosaurs).

They deserve protection, preservation, from all that man throws at them – from logging to industrial tourism to climate change.

The Giant Sequoias ringing that beautiful meadow snapped me out of my funk.

And then, this happened …

Black bear at Sequoia National Park

This black bear cub and its twin were abandoned by their mother earlier this year. Now, they’re custodians of the state, raising themselves under the watchful eye of the National Park Service.

Free from fear of a protective momma bear rushing to her cub’s defense, I watched the little guy stroll along the meadow snacking on grass for more than 30 minutes. At one point, he hurriedly crossed the trail within five yards of me. Again, thankfully, momma bear wasn’t around!

Eventually, the cub wandered too far from view, and I sat down on a bench next to the meadow.

The sun had broken through the rain clouds to cast its light on the meadow and surrounding trees. The birds chirped. The breeze blew through the 250-foot tops of the giants of Sequoia National Park.

Finally, I was ready to Meander.

Long hair don't care

Sitting in the fear in the summer heat

I was up until 2 a.m. this morning prepping for a third meander that seemed unlikely just six hours earlier. Forget the flight to Seattle I had booked for next week. I threw together last summer’s meander in days. I could prep for this one in hours and be on the California coast by sundown.

Why? Because I got dumped last night.

I suppose the breakup wasn’t entirely unexpected. It’s been a trying few weeks. I’ve caught myself breathing deeply to calm my nerves throughout recent workdays and I was pretty sure it wasn’t due to work stress.

I responded by returning to my yoga mat, doubling down on my journaling, and even resuming my spiritual reading. (I tore through Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl in two sittings!)

In the end, I was proud of how I showed up in the relationship.

On the road again

phoenix south mountain sunset

Phoenix summers aren’t so bad once the sun goes down.

Now, my car is sitting in the driveway halfway packed. My camping gear is organized and ready to roll. But, at around 2 a.m., with the adrenaline of an unexpected opportunity to meander exhausted, I ran out of steam.

I tried to psych myself up this morning. After all, I could be on the coast by nightfall and (after a few days of work) among the Redwoods by end of week.

I resumed packing. I laid clothes out on the bed. I emptied my kitchen cabinets.

My second wind lasted about 10 minutes. My heart just wasn’t in it. I didn’t want to spend the next two days driving through the California desert. I didn’t want to spend the next two weeks alone on the road. (Although there’s no better place to face the fear of being alone than on a long solo trip.)

I chose instead to indulge the conclusions that I reached at the end of my spring break solo trip to Arches.

I wanted to tie up loose ends at work, including a fun temp gig with a hospitality tech startup. I wanted to see through some awesome planned social events like my going away party – which just wouldn’t be the same without the guy who’s going away.

And I wanted to process this loss properly rather than running into a Redwood forest and away from the fear of being alone.

A Sign from Above

I heard someone say once that if God wanted to send him a message he hoped it was delivered with a two-by-four. As if my lack of energy for a third meander wasn’t a clear enough sign, my car failed to start this morning when I attempted to drive to Cartel to write this blog post.

I biked instead. It was hot.

Some people think I hate Phoenix summers. I’ll admit that they’re not ideal. However, I do love weekend mornings in air-conditioned yoga studios and coffee shops, amazing sunsets on bike rides around Tempe Town Lake, and the smell of the desert during monsoon season.

I haven’t been in Arizona during a monsoon since 2012. It’ll be nice to finally experience that magical time of year again.

Of course, monsoon season won’t be in full swing until August. Fortunately, I can wait for its arrival in Seattle. I’ll just get there like most people would this year – by airplane.

seattle skyline from kerry park

A decent place to wait for monsoon season …

Enjoying the flexibility of my new career at Arches

It was two years ago this month that Bulbstorm was acquired, finally freeing me to set up shop as an independent marketing consultant.

I tried to escape the 9-to-5 world twice before. Both of those attempts blew up on the launch pad. Two years in, this one seems to have reached orbit.


I’m celebrating the anniversary by meandering through southeastern Utah. Two nights at Natural Bridges National Monument. Two nights at Arches National Park. And two nights wherever the wind takes me.

The colors of Southeast Utah are amazing. In a single view, one can pan down from clear blue skies past snow-tipped purple mountains to red, orange, and earth-toned arches and rock formations dotted with dark green junipers.

Happy anniversary indeed!

yoga at arches national park

Enjoying my flexibility at Arches National Park. Flexibility! Get it?!

The Way of the Solopreneur

I define solopreneur as anyone who runs his own business without intending to hire employees. There’s a lot to like about being a solopreneur. The most obvious benefit is that you’re the boss. You make the rules.

An overlooked benefit is just that. Benefits.

Corporate perks are one size fits all. A Friday afternoon beer cart. A discounted gym membership. Bagels and benefits. There’ll be some variability in health plans, but if you don’t have a pet then that pet insurance subsidy is useless.

As a solopreneur, you choose your own adventure. Maybe you want to work from home instead of an office. Maybe you prefer to work only with companies with a conscious mission. I truly believe that a solopreneur should get more out of it than just not having a boss. It’s too hard and too risky otherwise.

For me, being a solopreneur has been all about summers off and the ability to work from anywhere that has Wi-Fi. Did you know that there’s Wi-Fi in Yosemite National Park? Sure, I pay 100 percent of my health insurance costs. But, yeah, benefits rule.

(I wrote more about my life as a solopreneur – including how I decide what to charge, how many hours per week I work, and more – at Scott’s Marketplace.)

sunset at Arches National Park

Enjoying my Ed Abbey moment at sunset in Skyline Arch.

End of an Era?

And, yet, I wonder if this way of life is threatened by, well, opportunity. My first Meander’s rallying cry was: No girl. No gig. Just the road. But the times, they are a changin’.

On the gig side of things, I recently doubled down on my commitment to the amazing Aly Saxe. I was already the part-time sales guy for her PR firm. Now I’m the part-time digital marketing guy for her software startup. That’s enough hours to make a big meander a little tricky.

On the girl side of things, I haven’t heard from my last lady friend since October. We had a complicated on-and-off relationship but I think six months is enough time to finally declare the patient dead. So, I’m looking … and, for the first time in a long time, I kinda like what I see.

With two epic summers and a number of amazing mini-meanders like Utah behind me, could the meandering phase of my life be nearing an end? Could it finally be time to take what I’ve learned sans girl and sans gig and apply it to life with girl and with gig?


Then again, while I was in Utah, I heard the high in Tempe hit 90 degrees. In early March. Ummm, yeah. Ask me again in June …

Damn, girl, your brain looks great in those yoga pants

Last weekend, I attended a private traveling exhibition presented by the Smithsonian Institute. The lobby of the Viad Tower was filled with high-society types (and me) and lined with tables manned by scientists and researchers from Washington.

My favorite was a paleontologist specializing in prehistoric whales. He had recently returned from Chile, where he oversaw the excavation of a huge whale burial ground unearthed during freeway construction. To hasten progress, his team digitally mapped each specimen in Chile then used 3-D printers to create scale models back in the U.S. How cool is that?!

As I strolled from table to table, I couldn’t help but think how much my ex-girlfriend Mulva* would’ve loved the event.

How to turn on a sapiosexual

Hey girl. What's that book you're reading?

Hey girl. What’s that book you’re reading?

If you’re a regular reader, you likely know that I was in an off-and-on relationship with Mulva for most of the last year-and-a-half. Sadly, we took Facebook’s “it’s complicated” to a whole new level.

When I returned to Arizona in September, my counselor asked me why I kept going back to Mulva.

My initial answer: Because I’m a sadist?

Then I got serious. Beautiful. Outdoorsy. Educated. Minimal. Spiritual. Sure, that was all there.

But it wasn’t until today – a full week after the Smithsonian event and well over a month since my counselor broached the topic – that the deeper truth struck me.

More than perhaps anyone in my life, Mulva possessed an intellectual depth and broad inquisitiveness that drove me wild. She read books. She attended lectures. She stopped at every goddamn turnout and scenic vista on drives through national parks. She had an open-minded passion for life that exceeded my own.

In short, the girl knew how to meander through the world. And I loved that about her.

Unfortunately, I’ve found this quality to be in short supply on the dating scene. Maybe they’re distracted. Maybe they’re comfortable. Maybe trying something different has never occurred to them. Hell, five years ago, it certainly hadn’t occurred to me.

Whatever the reason, far too often in the last few years, I’ve been underwhelmed and uninspired by my choices.

Friends with benefits (but no sex)

Fortunately, I’ve made a handful of valued friendships that fill my soul in the absence of a partner. I may not see these people often – certainly not as often as I’d like – but I know I’ll be inspired when I do.

What book are you reading? What’d you learn on your last adventure? What are you working on in counseling? The answers always deliver the goods.

As I’ve read Where Men Win Glory, the biography of Pat Tillman by Into the Wild author Jon Krakauer, I’ve been struck by Tillman’s passion for his life, deep intimacy with his friends, and love for his wife Marie.

Of course, I’ve heard all this before through ASU’s cult of Tillman, but it strikes much deeper when reading his own journal entries and letters. Tillman detailed one visit with his wife, brother, and childhood friend while on a short leave from the army thusly:

“The hours the four of us spent were not in a whirlwind of action, drinking, or traveling. We simply drank loads of coffee, ate coffeehouse treats, and talked for hours on end. We just ran for hours without a break, or a dip in quality.”

Substitute the coffeehouse for a campfire and that’s my kinda evening. Mulva would’ve dug it too.

Alas, in my experience, such meetings don’t come along often. And, five years after my engagement ended, I’ve decided romantic opportunities of the type are equally rare.


* Of course her name wasn’t Mulva.



Is the sequel ever as good as the original?

jump into the Skagit River

I posted a photo every day of my journey. Check ’em out!

I flip-flopped like a politician throughout August. One day, I thought I’d leave Seattle in time to be home by Labor Day. The next, I planned to arrive in Tempe the day of ASU’s first big home game against UCLA. Finally, I decided to rent an apartment in Greenlake and stay until October.

If you like your insurance, you can keep it.

In the end, the decision was taken out of my hands. I rented the apartment and still made it home in time for the UCLA game. Football wasn’t the deciding factor. My grandfather’s rapidly declining health was. I arrived home just in time to see him (and write his obituary) in mid-September.

My second meander was far different from my first. This time, I was outside Arizona for 85 days but on the road for just 17 of them. The vast majority of the time was spent based out of Seattle.

These were great times connecting with family, rafting with new friends, and having my own place in Greenlake. But these were not the deeply-inspiring times I experienced last summer.

So, like, what was the point?

As this trip wound down, I thought about a question I expected to hear. How was Meander 2.0 different? The big thing is that it was less intense.

There were fewer go big moments. Shorter hikes. Longer morning coffees. More time sitting by lakes and rivers rather than walking around them. More nights at “home” playing Settlers of Catan with Doug and Nicole or Legos with my little cousins.

Beyond the activities, my senses were duller too. There were fewer emotional moments. Fewer highs. Fewer lows. More evenness, much like the life I’ve worked to create back home. Here are a few thoughts as to why:

I’m used to adventuring. My first meander was epic. And in the months since it ended, I had smaller adventures to Southern California, Flagstaff, and Las Vegas and Havasu Falls. This summer, I tried to show up with fresh eyes, but some things you can only truly feel once.

I saw fewer new things. Eighteen months ago, I’d never seen a glacier. I’d never camped on a roaring river. I’d never seen redwoods or sequoias or Washington’s amazing moss-covered pines. On my second meander, there were quiet moments when I was still awestruck. But, sadly, there were also times where they felt commonplace.

I isolated less. Last year, I traveled large stretches alone and left my cell phone off for days at a time. My primary means of coping with loneliness was journaling or writing a postcard. This summer, I made a point to stay in touch with my people back home by (gasp!) calling them on the telephone. And I spent far more time among family and friends from Seattle.

I had less to figure out. Last year, I constantly wrestled with various emotional challenges. Finally, after eight weeks on the road, I had run out of things to process. My mind went quiet. That continued this summer. It seems like life just gets easier with every passing year.

So, like, now what?

Honestly, I’m not sure. Last year, I came home with big plans. Some materialized. Some didn’t.

This year, I feel a bit rudderless, a bit uninspired. There are no big plans. I’m just kind of blah – perhaps in part due to grandpa’s passing and in part due to other, smaller disappointments.

There was no doubt upon pulling into my driveway, that I love my home. I’m excited to return to my little communities, plant in my new garden beds, and even get back to something more closely resembling full-time work.

But the road doesn’t stop calling to me. I’m already thinking how I can make Meander 3 more like the original and less like the sequel. Hell, is it May yet?

Obituary for a great man at the end of the road

My first project of my first week back in Arizona was for the Eloy Enterprise. I hadn’t planned to be back in the desert so soon. And I certainly hadn’t planned to write my grandfather’s obituary.

For reasons I’ll outline in a future blog post, my second meander was far different from my first. This time, I was outside Arizona for 85 days but on the road for just 17 of them. The vast majority of the time was spent based out of Seattle. Not too shabby.

The plan called for at least a few more weeks on the road. Unfortunately, grandpa’s health didn’t allow it. After his second hospital visit this summer, I decided to meander home via the short (ahem, boring) road back through Idaho and Nevada.

Just 15 minutes from the turn toward Nevada’s desolate Great Basin National Park, my mom called. Grandpa had gone on hospice. An hour later and I may not have received the call.

That ended the meandering. I put aside Great Basin and headed south. Less than 24 hours later, I was home. The next day, I saw grandpa one last time. That weekend, he passed. And on Monday morning, I sat at my computer and cranked out his obituary.

Celebrating a life

Bud Kee obituaryThe assignment came with plenty of questions … and Google offered little help.

The obituary is a traditional vehicle with a very formal structure. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for creativity. But Bud Kee was more than a resume and a list of survivors. I remember him as a World Way II veteran, civic leader, family man, gardener, and hardcore Sun Devil. I imagine my mom remembers him differently.

How do you celebrate what made him him? How do you honor a man who was loved not only by his family but by an entire town? How do you inform the audience (the people of Eloy) while meeting the needs of family members, each of whom has her own stories and memories?

In the end, I played it safe. I followed the traditional format, but I cheated a bit. I lifted the first mention of his family above the chronological rundown of life events. I peppered in a few personal notes about his hobbies and his love of ASU and Santa Cruz High School sports. And I concluded with a thank you to the people of Eloy for their outpouring of love for our family on Facebook and elsewhere.

Saying goodbye

The funeral was on a hot Thursday morning in Eloy. I could feel the Arizona sun burning through my black golf shirt. This was definitely not Seattle. I found my eyes drawn to the prominent and impressive Picacho Mountains that loom over the tiny town grandpa called home since the 1930s.

When it came to writing an obituary, I was a rookie. When it came to delivering a eulogy, this priest was a pro.

I made note of a few key thoughts from the eulogy. My grandfather was a man of service. He was humble and always content. He looked after the community’s children and knew his neighbors. He understood creation and appreciated it, as seen in his love of animals.

These thoughts shook me. Am I being of service to my fellows and making a difference in my communities? Am I remaining humble and content, or am I yearning for more? Am I appreciating the beauty all around me, or am I rushing through life?

As I looked out at the Picacho Mountains, I lost a few tears. I haven’t quite recovered. I learned last year that returning home from a long journey is jarring. This year, the effect is compounded by a funeral – and some lesser disappointments that seem trivial by comparison.

I want to climb into those beautiful mountains and have a nice long think. I need another Meander to get my head on straight.


Roses at Sun Devil Stadium

Roses from grandpa’s funeral in grandpa’s old seats. RIP Show Papa. And go Devils!