Off the Beaten Path
When we are born into this world, we are lost. Some of us may be blessed to have good parents, teachers, friends, and other guidance along the way. But no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in, we all must find our own path, alone. This is the ultimate struggle in life and has never since been more succinctly stated than in the words of philosophers and psychologists alike; “Know thyself,” “Know thyself to know the universe and God,” and “He who looks inside awakes.” We are constantly under pressure, like the diamond in the rough, taking shape under the pressure of our individual life experiences and the forces exerted on us through our culture, family, friends, and even our own expectations. To know ourselves is the key to happiness and personal growth—it is to know what one wants and to have the right motivation to pursue it. In the following pages, you will see a snapshot of this journey and some of the lessons learned. In some ways, it will be a poetic memoir, a journal, a fable. My hope is that anyone who reads this book will find some gem to take back home with them and incorporate into their lives. Oftentimes this will be something already known but long since forgotten, like a dusty childhood toy buried in the attic. Other times, it will come as a new thought, seared into the mind like a sun ray. My hope is that either way, it will be remembered and cherished.
Off the Beaten Path
As a child, I was intense. I used to write poetry on long car rides when my brothers and sisters would nap, trying to catch the essence of America, the way I felt in those moments. It was a brisk pine air that made its home in my head and taught me what real freedom means.
As a kid, I would give little hand-made gifts, when others would buy store-bought cards; these gifts were the firstborns of an eagerly creative mind. On Valentines, I bought the dark chocolate raspberry pieces while other students in class bought kisses.
In my mind, I would play out my fantasies, corrupted only by incessant worries that made their appearance on my face as early crow’s feet and a furrowed brow, traits I inherited from my mother.
The memories are almost nonexistent, or they exist in brief, uniplanar moments—the scent of rain after an Arizona dust storm, the heat, the sound of Nickleback on the car ride home after a bout at the dojo.
Mostly I remember thinking about the future and dreaming up new worlds—worlds that came to me in my sleep—or the still hours of morning after my Saturday cartoons, or while listening to music from the likes of Arcade Fire. The one constant in my life had always been my need to create and to live vicariously through those creations. Reality offered lots of stress with too few limitations. In that way, I would say I was a beginning addict, high off the offerings of the Muses that came to me unexpectedly yet not infrequently.
In the night I lay in bed, staring up at the ceilings and wondering when that intensity fled from me as if I were a dying planet. I wonder and hope and worry that life for me will be like Benjamin Button, where a return to innocence and youth will find me at the crossroads of my latter days and offer me another chance to dream. I wish with all the fervor of a child’s heart, but all the dullness of an adult mind, that I could evict the sense of stillness that progressively paralyzes the creativity left in me. But in this I am not alone, nor am I unique. Don’t we all sacrifice such childish notions of fantasy and hope on the altar of growth and maturity?
The moment my story began to
unfold like a modern-day folktale
I was in kindergarten or first grade
singing “This land is your land”
envisioning a man filled with adventure, towering over the treetops
casting apple seeds on the wind
I can see a blue bull running through Redwoods
from his footprint sprang the first American dreams
I swear I could sense the land’s heartbeat beneath my feet
breathing with the explosion of every
firework, melding with the guiding gleam of the North and
other stars, inviting me to join them watching
from above- the creation
of other noble pioneers
As a kid my older
brothers and sisters told me
a magical world awaited me
when I fell asleep
I would be taken there in my dreams
I wanted to go so bad
I shut my eyes tightly in belief
what was only a joke to them
became an inspiration to me
because when I slept
an enchanted vision was what I received
to this day I remember what it means
to have and to hold onto
my wildest dreams
I woke up with the sun in my eyes and brambles in my brain
to the sound of a woodpecker knocking away
the chilly midwinter breeze
that tugs at me
an escapee from the crack between window and wall
as I leapt to my feet
to behold the cornucopia nature left for me
the seed of the coffee tree
the flank of a beast
the frigid breath of a great metal behemoth
as it bellows expectantly
I search for some relief
between cushions made of synthetic stuffing
I find my wand waiting, eager to be pointed at the TV
Instead, I’ll choose to flee this concrete box
roaming the jungle free