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



Truly aimless: Three days without a smartphone

On Day 46 of this adventure, I saw two incredible things. First, I hiked to Susan Creek Falls which became one of my favorite waterfalls of the trip. Then, I watched salmon swimming up the rapids of the Umpqua River. How cool is that?!

Alas, I have no photos from Day 46. I was without camera after my smartphone went swimming in Medford.

If you think about it, that last sentence would have made no sense just 10 years ago. Back then, a phone was just a phone. Today, a phone is a camera … and myriad other essentials. It’s the Swiss army knife of consumer electronics, and three days without one revealed just how reliant this traveler is on one.

Salmon at Cabela's

I didn’t have a camera when I saw salmon swimming up the Umpqua. Thankfully, I found these dead ones mounted at Cabela’s.

No camera. The loss of my smartphone compounded the damage done when I drowned my digital camera in Mendocino. Most alarming to me was the threat to my Facebook photo-a-day effort. This caused me more stress than it should have, so Best Buy was one of my first stops in Eugene.

No internet. When I left the Umpqua River bound for Eugene, I realized that my host’s address was in my email. So, I had to stop at the library in Roseburg to look him up. Later, as I played tourist in Eugene, I was rudderless. How do you find a coffee shop with free wi-fi and a vegetarian breakfast burrito without Yelp?!

No phone and SMS. Instead of texting my host with my ETA as requested, I had to email him from the library. Not a big deal, as long as he checks email. Also, I check in daily with my folks so they know where I am and that I’m alive. This’ll come in handy if my arm gets wedged behind a rock in a remote canyon … but only if they’re expecting texts and don’t receive one within 127 hours.

No social media. What’s the point of being this funny if you don’t have Twitter? What’s the point of looking this good shirtless without Facebook?

No music. I’ve been in love with Spotify for over a year now, but didn’t pony up for the subscription-only mobile version until this trip. With Spotify, I didn’t think to bring CDs. Without Spotify, I was listening to myself think … a lot.

A peach in Oregon

No camera? No smarmy pics of me enjoying PNW peaches.

No map and GPS. I wrote directions to my host’s house on a little scrap of paper. With a utensil called a pen. Crazy! Did you know that written directions don’t reroute when you miss a turn? It took me 10 minutes to circle back on the I-5 to start over.

No notepad. Speaking of scraps of paper, I used a lot of them in Eugene. Even on sabbatical, I keep a ton of lists in Evernote. Little tasks and to-dos. Addresses for post cards. Things to journal about. Without a smartphone, I was relegated to weighing myself down with an actual notepad.

No answers to life’s little questions. Here are a few questions left unanswered sans smartphone: What time is it? How far did I just run? Should I get out of bed yet? No smartphone means no watch, no alarm clock, no stopwatch, no odometer, and no answers to some of the more trivial questions of my life.

So, that’s an overview of what I lost in the bathroom that morning. Oh, what, I didn’t mention that I dropped my phone in the toilet?

Well, before you get any unclean ideas about me, I’ve developed a bad habit of carrying expensive electronics in my hoodie pocket. That’s how I lost my digital camera in the tide pool in Mendocino. And that’s how I lost my smartphone in the toilet in Medford.

So, yeah, the phone fell out of my hoodie pocket while I was standing. Not that I’m above toilet tweeting …

Thankfully, I now have a camera and a phone. Check out a new photo every day on Facebook.