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



After the eruption: From devastation to serene beauty

In over two months on the road, I’ve heard a lot of questions. One of the most common is, “What is this trip all about?”

Well, on the surface, I think it’s fairly obvious.

My month in California was about eternal things like oceans and redwoods and the Sierra Nevada. My month in and around Oregon was about volcanoes and their impact on the landscape. Devastation, like Mt St Helens. Rebirth, like Mt Lassen. And eventually serene beauty, like Crater Lake.

If you know me, you know that surface-level answers are rarely enough. So, let’s go a little deeper.


The Devastation of Mt St Helens

When Mt St Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, the devastation was complete. Whole forests were wiped out. Spirit Lake halved its depth and doubled its surface area. Fifty-seven people lost their lives. Devestation of Mt St Helens

I erupted in the winter of 2008-09. I had just got engaged. I was deeply stressed from grad school and a career change. I was experiencing incredible financial insecurity from the combination of home remodeling debt and the recession.

And then. Boom.

When I exploded, I took forests and lakes with me.

I’ve always liked an analogy from George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air. In discussing his minimalist ways, he said he had to remove everything from his backpack before deciding what to put back in.

Within months of my eruption, a lot had come out of my backpack. Old friends. Fantasy sports. Softball. Meat. Alcohol. My job at Insight. And, eventually, my engagement. The devastation was complete. The landscape of my life was as barren as the wasteland around Mt St Helens in 1980.


The Rebirth of Mt Lassen

While not as devastating as Mt St Helens, Mt Lassen did its share of damage to the California countryside when it erupted in 1915. Today, nearly 100 years later, life has returned to the landscape. In fact, it’s beautiful. Waterfalls. Wildflower-covered meadows. Even baby pine forests. Rebirth of Mt Lassen

The rebirth is so complete that my friend and I debated whether Mt Lassen should retain its national park status now that its once-devastated landscape is essentially recovered.

Interestingly, in the rush to repopulate, life overexerts itself. There’s competition as new life floods into the wasteland. It takes time for nature to find the right balance of trees and floor cover, predators and prey.

And so it’s been with me over the last few years. To return to the Up in the Air analogy, I’ve spent the years since my eruption deciding what to put back into my backpack. Unlike Clooney’s character, I’ve tried not to cloud my judgment with alcohol and womanizing.

I’ve tried a bunch of stuff – from church to meetup.com to Tempe Leadership. Some things have stuck with me. For example, I love yoga and hiking and gardening. Some things haven’t. I doubt I’ll return to sand volleyball or soccer or obsessing over HBO.

I’ve decided which friends to keep and which to let go. I’ve found a career path that makes sense for me. I’ve created a spiritual life essentially from scratch. Yup, things are looking pretty good these days.


The Serene Beauty of Crater Lake

Mt Mazama erupted 3,000 years ago and left a swath of southern Oregon as barren as that around Mt Lassen 100 years ago and Mt St Helens today. Over the centuries, its crater filled with rain and snow melt. Today, Crater Lake with its still blue water is recognized as one of our most beautiful places.Crater Lake

The eruption of Mt Mazama was over in days, but the transition to the serene beauty of Crater Lake took centuries.

Maybe that’s what this trip is all about. It’s about hitting fast forward on my evolution. It’s about creating space to do little more than think and reflect and journal and grow.

I’ve made tremendous strides recently. One area of focus has been visualizing and setting intentions for my lifestyle back home. Another has been reversing my mistaken belief that there’s a scarcity of suitable partners for me in Phoenix.

Progress has not always been easy. Some breakthroughs have actually been quite painful. But I seem to have hit a point of diminishing returns. In fact, on my most recent hikes, I haven’t thought. I’ve just connected quietly. I’ve walked in peace.

I’ll admit that I’m kinda ready to come home. So, perhaps I’ve done what I set out to do.

Don’t get me wrong. The view from Mt Simpson ain’t perfect. There are still some jagged lava rocks lying around. But that’s OK. As far as I’m concerned, a few lava rocks add character to a landscape.

Eyes, mind, and heart open to new experiences

I stayed at a friend’s house last weekend while mine was rented to travelers through Airbnb. Giving up my bed (or any bed) is a key piece of my plan to not go broke during the Meander. (What’s the Meander?)

On Sunday, with my day’s work done, I jogged toward Papago Park. The jog devolved into a slow, appreciative walk as I discovered a multiuse corridor stretching along a waterway from the city’s treatment facilities south to about Mill and Curry.

Moeur Park in Tempe

An unexpected pre-Meander meander through Tempe’s own Moeur Park.

The water flowed south through man-made waterfalls and hardscape built from urbanite. Mallards swam in pairs in riparian areas dense with reeds, palms, and mesquites. Walkers and bikers traveled along the shoreline while hobbyists played disc golf on an 18-hole course.

All of this is within three miles of my home for the last 12 years. I had no idea it existed.

This is the kind of fortuitous encounter I’m most excited to experience on the Meander.

When I visited Seattle two years ago, I fell in love with Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks. But unexpected moments defined the trip as well. I saw a four-our inning at a Mariners’ game, spent hours wandering downtown, and built light sabers out of pool noodles with a cousin I hadn’t seen in two decades.

Last summer in New Mexico, Taos’s art galleries and the natural wonders of the Jemez Mountain Trail didn’t disappoint. But I’ll also always remember stumbling into a free visual arts exhibition on a late-night walk around our hotel in Santa Fe.

This summer, I’m excited to trace the footsteps of Chris McCandless and to explore Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Crater Lake. However, I’m also excited to see what’s in Turtle Bay Exploration Park along the Sacramento River in Redding, Calif. I don’t know anything about it beyond the name and I’m not going to Google it before arriving.

I’m also eager for the conversations with locals that didn’t happen in Seattle because I was shy or in New Mexico because I was with my girlfriend. If I learn nothing more than how to connect with strangers even briefly, the Meander will be worthwhile.

The unexpected is why my itinerary is written softly in pencil. There are a few firm dates dictated by campsite reservations or friends’ flights. But, for the most part, I plan to not have a plan.

Eyes, mind, and heart open to new experiences.

My itinerary is very fluid. Know a can’t-miss spot? Got a friend with a couch? Let me know in the comments!