Over a glass of wine, a friend confessed, “I’m between stories. I used to have passion and a purpose. That’s gone now. I’m like a hermit crab that’s discarded an old shell that was too small for it, but hasn’t found the next one to grow into.”

Between Stories

Last weekend I went on a hike up near Mt. Rainier here in Washington State. I headed for a fire lookout built in the 1930’s, no longer in formal use, but a good destination for a clear summer day. After an hour or so, I rounded a corner in the trail and looked forward across a mountain side of scree to the distant, lonely building. A ways yet to go, I thought, with an uncomfortable twinge. A ways yet to go.

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But something stopped me for a moment. I realized I had been hiking as if all that mattered was the uphill effort and getting there. Already my legs ached a little from the climb. I stopped and breathed in the cool morning air. I thought to myself, “What am I doing? It’s beautiful here.” And I slowed down, suddenly more happy to follow a track of stones through a Zen garden.

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Flowers exploded among the rocks. A marmot on the trail scrambled quickly upward to peer down at me from a higher perch.

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Like my friend, I, too, was between stories in a way, but it was a gracious thing suddenly not to think in terms of origins and destinations, passions and purposes. My legs no longer hurt. The world had done it’s surgery on me. I wasn’t going anywhere. I was here. And true enough, when I reached the lookout it wasn’t as fulfilling a moment as I had thought it might be. I had to intentionally quiet my monkey mind from focusing on how soon I’d start my return.

Of course, all this made me reflect on my work and the places I do it. These are places that are never between stories. And when I’m there, I’m not between them either. There’s always a projected end-point. There’s always push. My legs and everyone else’s hurt from the climb. The urgency covers over the view, the actual seeing and here-and-now experiencing that releases its own creative force, that makes things simpler, obstacles smaller; where you just walk forward and enjoy the walk together.

In the back of my mind suddenly a refrain from an old Clapton song surfaced. Someone put it on the player in my head:

Everytime you think you’ve paid the price,
Seems you’ve always got to pay it twice.
Everytime you think you’re near the end,
You turn around and find another ticket.

Why must we wait until tomorrow,
When we already know the score?

Everytime you think you’ve run the course,
Seems you’ve got to ride another horse.
Everytime you think you’re near the end,
You turn around and find another ticket.

I turned off that music. I sat quietly in my own rocky perch. The moment had depth and openness to it. Maybe also a little vulnerability. What a perfectly magnificent place to be.

The next ticket could wait, maybe for a long time.

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14 Comments

  • Another wonderful post, my friend.

    Love the pictures. So peaceful and serene. : )

    The only thing we really have is right here.

    Right now.

    This moment.

    This breath.

    I’m happy to share this moment with you.

    : )

  • Then we can walk together for awhile, if you like, or just sit here and admire the view. Thank you, Samantha! It’s great to share the moment!

  • Dan,

    I look forward to your posts because I know when I read them I will be transformed. I will find myself transcending into something bigger than myself.

    Your post made me think, how many hikes do we take in our lives, how many times do we push ourselves to get to the top without pausing in the moment.

    Our life take us on many hikes and we need to set the pace. ONLY we can set the rhythm because only we know our essence.

    I LOVE the journey I take with your writing Dan.

    I truly admire your vulnerability and tenacity and strength and love.

    I love you yesterday
    I love you today
    and I will always love you tomorrow.

    with much heart
    Lolly

  • How deeply endearing are your words, Lolly. And yes it is up to us to set that pace, and not forget where the treasure of a single moment lies.

    In turn, it’s always a great pleasure to see your words here and feel your heart and soul come through, Lolly. Thank you so much!

  • Like Samantha and Lolly I wish to add how grateful I am for your invitation to deeper reflection.
    As I am writing you find me in a typical Parisian café in beautiful Montréal.
    Your post I believe emphasizes the importance of transitions and of stopping to allow what surrounds us to elevate us.
    Very powerful… I will add your photos to Pinterest with your permission they are so beautiful.
    Appreciate you.
    Johann

  • Dan,
    As your words “Flowers exploded among the rocks” hit my eyes, I flashed to summer days at the lake. After dinner I would go back down to the water and walk among the rocks.

    Without the daytime motor boats and skiers churning up the water, “water plants exploded among the rocks”.

    Makes us realize that so much is there to inspire us, to calm us, to welcome us — when we open our minds to receiving it.

    Beautiful post. Many thanks for the stroll down memory lane and a warm nudge into tomorrow’s happiness.

    Kate

  • Dear Johann~

    How wonderful to be sitting in that café — I wish I were there to have a cup of coffee with you. I love your phrase, “to allow what surrounds us to elevate us.” That really is the essence! Thank you again!

    I’ll email you separately regarding the photos and pinning them.

    All the best
    Dan

  • My dear Kate~

    Thank you for highlighting how the things that can inspire, calm, and welcome us may have been there all the time, just covered up by sounds and the churn of the day.

    I am so pleased to nudge toward a little more happiness. What a great way to say it! We can all use a little more of that — every day.

    All the best, Kate!
    Dan

  • Beautiful photos, inspiring prose and poetry … as usual.

    I’m so glad to that others’ experiences of your posts are so well aligned with my own.

    A riff on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book comes to mind “Wherever you hike, there you are”.

    I discovered several YouTube videos of hermit crabs moving to new shells. Here’s one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jZe_VGLRYI.

    In most of the videos I sampled, the hermit shell moves to an immediately adjacent shell, i.e., it does not leave one shell before another is found. Lingering between shells – or between stories – seems like a vulnerable, or perhaps vulnerability, proposition.

    In any case, it’s comforting to know that others can relate to this between-ness.

  • Joe~

    I laughed out loud at your reference to Jon Kabat-Zinn and loved the YouTube video– it’s great.

    I looked up hermit crabs, too. On Wikipedia, I found this curious reference:

    “Several hermit crab species, both terrestrial and marine, use vacancy chains to find new shells: when a new, bigger shell becomes available, hermit crabs gather around it and form a kind of queue from largest to smallest. When the largest crab moves into the new shell, the second biggest crab moves into the newly vacated shell, thereby making its previous shell available to the third crab, and so on.”

    So you see, growth becomes a possibility for an entire community if one member takes on the task of finding a new shell!

    Hope you don’t mind how I played with our conversation and thanks again for that glass of wine! It’s fabulous to see you back on the web. I’ll totally look forward to seeing your further take on being “between shells.”

    All the best
    ~Dan

  • Hoda Maalouf (@MaaHoda) wrote:

    Dear Dan,
    You said: “I turned off that music. I sat quietly in my own rocky perch. The moment had depth and openness to it. Maybe also a little vulnerability. What a perfectly magnificent place to be. The next ticket could wait, maybe for a long time.”
    And I feel now the same once I read this beautiful post and saw these magnificent pictures!
    It’s almost 5 am in the morning and I’m reading this post. It’s dark outside and everyone is sleeping, it’s quiet and serene and I feel happy to be here, reading this and having a quiet moment with myself.
    And the next ticket can wait, probably for just an hour!

    Thank you for letting us share your journey, your thoughts and expectations in this beautiful post!

    Hoda

  • Dear Hoda

    It is so lovely of you to to take moment of your morning peace to write. I know the time and the feeling you describe, when the daily world has not yet awakened. Thank you for noticing that we can be between stories at many times and in many ways, drinking it in, fresh water from the well.

    Much appreciation!
    Dan

  • Beautiful post, Dan! Thanks for reminding us so poetically of the value of the moment, and how the ever-present urgency can be such a joykill.

  • Dear Blair

    The tragic part of the joykill is how easily it creeps in and without our notice overwhelms.

    It is so good — and so needed — to find our own moments of renewal.

    Thank you, Blair. I always enjoy how you express things. In this case “joykill” is the perfect word for constant, unneeded urgency.

    All the best
    Dan

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