Killing and Connection.
This past year I moved around the planet maybe more than I ever have before. I don’t know how long travel will be a required or desired part of my life but for now I’m enjoying every moment of it, and doing my best to square travel with my ethics and values. Freeskier Magazine gave me a chance to ruminate on this vexation and work out my various conflicting thoughts on paper. The article on: The Value of Travel in the Age of an Ecological Crisis, dropped in the January Issue.
I’m beyond grateful that my work facilitates this kind of exploration and will keep pushing to make the work more meaningful, beautiful, nuanced and interesting. Thank you everyone for making it all worthwhile.
Quick summary of this update (there’s a lot to catch everyone up on): After 6 years of working my ass off, I harvested an elk with my traditional bow, I experienced a sailing shoot in Greece, climbing trip to Cuba, street art and biking in London, I volunteered on the midterm elections with POW and Inkwell, plus all the work we executed as The Public Works including: A short brand piece for K2 skis, filming for CNN in Montana for First Descents, a ski shoot for Spyder in New Zealand, a river trip on the Danube in Hungry and Austria, (lot’s more TPW work here), and lastly some thoughts on the content I’ve been ingesting.
Elk Archery Hunting Season
Six years after I first stepped into the woods with a stick and a string to chase elk, 6 years of learning, sweating, failing, and trying, again and again, I had released an arrow. After the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest from basecamp 6 times (Average 2,000 vertical feet a day, average of 10 days a year, for 6 years, 120,000 feet and hundreds of miles total). After 60+ days of walking into the woods thinking “today might be the day”, then correcting myself to maintain the determination you need to walk through the dark and climb a mountain alone in silence again, and again “today WILL be the day”.
Hunting is a consistent and irrational maintenance in hope. If you allow the sneaky tendrils of doubt wrap themselves around your brain, it’s over. You stop paying attention, you stop thinking, planning, scheming, and most importantly you stop observing
This year I put an elk on the ground with a traditional bow. Still, months later, I am overflowing with gratitude and awe. I’ve spent the last months attempting to distill the intense and nearly ineffable experience. Below is a small snippet of the piece I’m working on. I’ll send another email to announce the full story when it’s published.
When you pick up a bow and arrow with the intent of killing an animal, you take on the responsibility of that animal’s personal pain and suffering. It’s easy for a thoughtful hunter to justify their intent to kill in regards to the herd (tags are issued in accordance with population and, for better or worse, hunting is an important factor in population control and conservation) but in regard to the individual animal, the ethics feel murkier. The utilitarian in me believes that my actions as a hunter have a net positive in the world but at an individual animal level I acutely feel my responsibility to cause as little suffering as possible. A good shot is a much quicker and more merciful death than most of what nature has to offer (freezing, starving, or becoming a mountain lion meal), but a poor shot could mean prolonged pain. I went to bed not knowing if an animal was suffering somewhere in the dark woods below because of me.
In addition to the swirling doubts about my actions and decisions, i was still coming down from the adrenaline coursing through my veins. I laid and tried to sleep on the loamy ground. The Milky Way twisted into my heavenly view between silhouetted pine boughs and the stars looked like one interconnected web of infinite light. I saw dozens of shooting stars. I watched satellites track straight and true in their perpetual fall around our earth’s center of gravity. A reminder that our reach as humans is visible even in the wildest feeling places. I felt my consciousness as a part of the great cosmic dance. In a fog of exhaustion I drifted off and then awoke again to a new starscape. Orion the great hunter appeared bright and vivid above me. I looked at his sword and remembered the great kiln of creation coursing in its second faint dot. I felt small, infinitesimally so, yet apart of all things. I drifted off again.
I’m excited to share the entirety of the experience including butchering and processing the animal with some of Denver’s finest chefs.
FREE Month of Waking Up
I couldn’t be more excited to offer my friends and followers a free month of this program.
Meditation has been a part of my life for fifteen plus years. In the last few years I’ve made a more concerted effort to maintain a daily practice and explore different traditions and techniques. In all my searching, no instruction, no book, no app or class has been more valuable to my practice than Sam’s first 50 meditations on this app. It advanced and opened my practice in ways I hadn’t imagined possible and it has forever enhanced all my other meditations and my inner life. I can’t recommend it enough. Do all 50. Take them seriously and give them thought outside the practice in your daily life. You’ll be better for it.
1. Click the button below, or visit https://www.wakingup.com/redeem
2. Enter your email address, and the 4-digit confirmation number we send you
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I also recommend his book with the same title and his podcast, now called Making Sense.
Last week I sat on sharp limestone rock in the mouth of a narrow cave in Viñales, Cuba, chatting with the small scene of local climbers. Huge magotes—steep, isolated humps of limestone— towered over us, carpeted in thick unforgiving jungle. Below them, fields of tobacco and the Cuban root vegetable malanga stretched into the plains below. Sufficiently isolated from the possible listening devices, chatty neighbors or government agents, the climbers, mostly in their twenties and early thirties, opened up and told us of the nearly insurmountable challenges posed by Cuba’s political and economic system. We learned about the real difficulty making ends meet for most Cubans, the impossibility of progressing or getting ahead, and the very real threats of speaking against the system. We also learned the inspirational and scrappy stories of making a life and creating a passionate climbing culture and community in an unforgiving environment. We also learned about the amazing personal generosity and national community, unheard of in America, that the system engenders. We did our best to be a very small part of that beautiful fellowship and left our rope and some gear (they rely solely on donations for equipment). The world is complicated but we left Cuba with a visceral feeling of the country and far deeper understanding of a place that was otherwise a passing headline.
The act of replacing rote tropes with real human faces, subtleties, inconstancies, gradients of thought; to see the on-the-ground reality of people’s lives and the effects of ideas otherwise only presented through scrolling and sound bites is the key to a more open, understanding and cosmopolitan world.
-From Freeskier January 2018
Greece was stunningly beautiful, filled with special moments and connections with people that will stick with my memory forever. Sailing the Mediterranean with your lover on a catamaran full of friends is one of those life dream kind of moments. We had some great conversations with locals and learned about their lives… but the whole experience left me craving something more “real”. It was all a little too perfect and easy and beautiful for a country in decade long financial crisis.
Strange as it may sound, rolling into gritty Athens felt like a relief. Like a connection to back to the real world. We stayed in a little bare bones apartment.
Over the past decade or so I’ve attempted to add more intention to my travels. Even the short trips where I know I’ll be mostly consumed with work I try to read a little history (at least do a dive into the wiki rabbit hole), and read a novel or poetry from the region. It usually serves to open my perception to windows into the place that would otherwise be invisible to me. On this trip, I failed. Work and life got in the way of any real prep. I went in blind and I felt it.
Luckily, Brittany had done some reading into the student riots of 2008 and how they formed the neighborhood we stayed in. Though we couldn’t read most of the omnipresent graffiti on the crumbling walls we were able to feel the sentiment. The evocative visual art and occasional English certainly helped convey the message but knowing the history brought it all together. In 2008, two special force police officers provoked a fight with a group of kids in a mostly student area of the city. The officers then retuned their patrol car to the station and returned on foot to the area where they provoked the kids and re-ignited the dispute. The fight ended in the fatal shooting of a 15 year old boy. The shooting was the last straw for the youth of Athens who had watched their economic future become increasingly threatened. Riots began that lasted years and literally colored huge swaths of the city for the next decade.
In our short 2 days here, it was fascinating to walk through the physical decay of a centuries old city adorned with the rattle can manifestation of twenty first century youth energy. The ideology bred amidst a crumbling world. Inside the dirty weathered plaster and concrete, a generation watched their dreams squandered by foolish adults who were supposed to steward a better world to hand down. We wandered into austere cafes, bars, dance studios, art spaces, and music lessons with heavy anti authority and anti capitalism messages emblazoned on the free reading materials and the walls. We felt a strong DIY vibe resonating through the streets and the youth owned cafes. We saw messages of solidarity and acceptance of refuges that pushed back against a larger national sentiment.
I’ve always been a little hesitant to share my shitty poetry but I think I captured something with these words that I wrote on the sunny balcony of our little Athens apartment.
Decay and life
This ancient city
Like a forest floor
Like sprigs of new life
Spring from rotten deadfall
Olive trees adorn
Patios of crumbling concrete and plaster
Beige paint flakes, chips, cracks
Behind the shadow of a potted olive
Or spiny flowered vine
The rattle can shouts of youth
Hover on walls over broken sidewalks
Piled with rubble
And tetanus rust wire.
A blue flag
Twists and dangles
An emblem of pride
The cradle of democracy
Worn and weathered
Strained and stretched
Like the ideals it represents
In an ephemeral and impermanent world
Anything inflexible crumbles, shatters
The inescapable arrow of entropy
Touches all things
Ideas too are things
And Become again.
We have the indescribable privilege
Of bearing witness
To the spectacle
Spyder – New Zealand
Last minute photo shoot in New Zealand for Spyder. I’ll spare you on the words and share a few photos.
2018 Book List
The Top 5 on this list, in no particular order, are my top 5 recommendations for the year. Sapiens and The River Of Consciousness were close contenders. To make my top book list these authors have either hypnotized and enchanted me with their mastery of the english language (Finnegan, Faulkner, Huxley) taught me something new that shifted my world perspective (Tegmark, Sacks, Harrari, Grazer) or transported me into the lives, ideas, and inner worlds of others in a way that expanded my experience, empathy, and understanding (Rhodes, Borges, Steinbeck, Noah, Barnes, Dostoyevski). Feel free to reach out and ask me about any of them!
The World as it is – Ben Rhodes
Barbarian Days – William Finnegan
Born a Crime -Trevor Noah
Life 3.0 – Max Tegmark
Labyrinths – Jorge Luis Borges
Notes From Underground – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The River of Consciousness – Oliver Sacks
Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harrari
The Sound and the Fury – Faulkner
The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat – Oliver Sacks
The Pearl – Steinbeck
The Doors of Perception – Aldoux Huxley
The Art of Raising a Puppy – Monks of New Skete
Hunting Open Country Mule Deer – Dwight Schuh
The Noise of Time – Julian Barnes
A Curious Mind – Brian Grazer
A River Runs Through It and Other Stories – Norman McClean
… to be continued. I’ve decided I’m going to break these huge emails into several parts and distribute them more frequently in 2019. At least that’s the plan… we’ll see how it plays out. In the next email: First Descents, NZ – Spyder, K2, Europe Avalon, Thor Mini-Doc on Shannon Galpin – Biking in the EU and Fez food and Muslim neighborhood in Vienna… and best of all… New PUPPY videos!
Thanks again to everyone that is a part of my community. I really honestly love you all.