Years ago, I began trying to put together a book of places to hike on the Olympic Peninsula for inspiration … not exercise or scenery per se, but places where inspiration and spirit might be found.
Everywhere I shopped my book, I heard, "You need maps, you’ve got to give folks details of the trails, how to get there, where to park, how long is the hike, etc., etc."
Everyone wanted to buy a trail guide; there was no market for inspiration.
I sometimes look at the two large notebooks that I put together with columns I have written and photographs and wonder, will the time ever be right for this book?
Today, folks seem more and more concerned with
the notion of "getting lost." They seem to want more direction, not less. Maybe my son will be able to sell it before he passes on to the happy hunting ground of heaven. Maybe the dead would clamor for such a book?
No matter what my topic is when I write, I always seem to end up talking about magic or mystery or discovery. What else is there to reach out and tug at my senses?
I’ve spent too many years measuring things, drawing or reading plans and proposals, counting things and accounting for things … being rational has lost its appeal. I always enjoyed writing poetry more than working on a technical paper. The "truth" and "facts" are always elusive anyway; they are like beauty, they are in the eye of the beholder.
And, the older I get, the more what I behold is magic and mystery.
Maybe the young are simply too busy, too stressed, too concerned, too focused on survival and success to take the time to look around them and see what is there? I know that I was. Success and survival were everything. Everything else was simply a means to ensure these two things.
Education was silly apart from success and survival. Family was equally silly except for success and survival. Careers and marriages were simply a means to better ensure success and survival. Even having fun was designed around success and survival.
The first encounter with mystery and magic takes place when you begin to see the results of your fixation on success and survival. Once you’re achieved those two, you start looking around for something meaningful to do.
These things, success and survival, are defined by the world around you; what do you seek from life? Is comfort the goal of life? What has happened to understanding and meaning? Does science or reason fulfill you? Or, is there something more out there?
Many folks begin to consider that making things may be better than simply consuming things. Making wine is a logical follow-up to drinking wine. Growing food is as much fun as eating it. Building a chair is far more rewarding than buying a chair. Raking leaves can even be fun! Watching a beetle cross the path you are walking on in the woods can be a rewarding experience … especially if no one else notices the beetle at all.
Seeing the world as you pass through it is a wonderful prize that you now have time to do. Noticing that you are no longer the center of the universe can be a wonderful experience. Realizing that you do not need to control everything is an opening to vast freedom.
I still have dreams that someday folks will want to take a walk simply to see what it is that is there. And, these folks also will realize that seeing and sensing and awareness are gateways to a wondrous array of experiences. It takes some time to fully appreciate a 1,000-year old tree or water … or snow.
Richard Olmer can be reached at columnists@