While reporting a story recently in Cuba, I ended up stumbling into a boxing gym (I box at home in New York regularly) and I couldn't pass up the chance to share a few moments with the men training in the open-air ring. The coach, Alberto, saw me and asked, "Do you box?" I replied in the affirmative with a hint of sheepishness. "Today you spar." It was not a suggestion. Before I could reply, he was tying 16oz gloves onto my hands. And I sparred. I sparred with the #1 and #2 55KG boxers in Cuba--something I had no business doing. They both could have KO'ed me with a flick of their wrist (see photo of my face getting melted for evidence...he was taking it easy on me).
It was an incredible experience. One of my most memorable while traveling to date.
After three 3-minute rounds, we all sat down in the corner of the ring and wiped the sweat from our faces. I was the only one to have to additionally wipe away blood.
One of the other fighters came up to me and sat down. "You are sisu," he said.
"A task left undone remains undone in two places - at the actual location of the task, and inside your head.
Incomplete tasks in your head consume the energy of your attention as they gnaw at your conscience.
They siphon off a little more of your personal power every time you delay. No need to be a perfectionist, that's debilitating in an imperfect world, but it's good to be a completionist. If you start it, finish it - or forget it.”
– Brahma Kumaris
"I think the kind of landscape that you grew up in, it lives with you. I don't think it's true of people who've grown up in cities so much; you may love a building, but I don't think that you can love it in the way that you love a tree or a river or the colour of the earth; it's a different kind of love."
“I carry the landscape inside me like an ache. The story of who I am cannot be severed from the story of the flatwoods.”
-Janisse Ray, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
We all have a landscape inside of us. I like this thought. What would the land look like if you cracked yourself open like an egg? What places must a person traverse when they meet you?Read More
No corner office can compete with the view that greeted Lauren Steele when she worked as Columbia Sportswear’s director of toughness.Read More
And I think it all just goes back to our idea that we must live insatiable lives (more things, more money, more problems) instead of embracing our ability to be insatiable for life (more experiences, more happiness, more interaction)Read More
When did you stop hearing the ringing of the world in your ears?
I wonder, how did our thickening blood halt to the hurling of the planet?
Is the spinning of the axes the only chaotic routine we could never keep up with
Did your skin get tougher?
Did your senses get dull?
Did your heart tucker out?
Because I still feel dizzy when I spin away from the wind
And weak when mother nature breaks my bones.
I still feel small enough to need to look up
I still feel like the child
Who wondered what was that ringing in my ears
When all was silent.
(Hood River, 2016)
Here's to the long white road that beckons
The climb that baffles
The risk that nerves
And here's to the heart that reckons
The rough with the smooth and never stirs
Connect with the driving spirit in you that can stay true to that Faulknerian spirit of writing, voiced in the Nobel Prize acceptance speech of 1950. You know to write of the heart, not the glands. And you know that in your workshop should reside "the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed--love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice."
"It is difficult to get the news from poems – yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there. " William Carlos Williams /
Don't try to come undone
I ground a piece of chewed up spearmint gum into the couch.
I stirred cream into my coffee.
I left some bloody skin on a rock road and some gravel in my knee.
I baked an apple cobbler.
The gum won't come up.
The cream won't come out.
The stain won't lift up.
The cobbler won't unbake.
My grandma taught me how before she died.
I was baptized in the holy waters of a stock tank pigs drink from.
I learned how to make my eyes look bigger when I put on mascara.
I cheated on my college algebra final.
I told them that I love them,
and I meant it.
I would never drink milk.
Sometimes I would walk into bars acting like I was meeting someone there,
just so I could pretend and look pretty.
I told my secrets,
one by one,
until I had shared them all with someone else's eardrums and pounding conscience.
But the all the things that I thought were the ones that changed everything weren't.
Everything was what made nothing the same.
I taught myself that before I died.
Today I stopped by the roadside of a small village school. It was around 730am and all of the kids were walking down the red dirt road and across the large dried-up grass lawn to their brick school. I waved to a few little girls walking, and their mouths dropped. I asked our driver to pull over. He did. When I opened the car door the little girls shrieked and ran the opposite direction.Read More
A Batwa man in Kisoro, Uganda.
We all know we have weaknesses. And inside at our deepest knowledge of ourselves, we know there is the potential to fail. That’s why we need others. We need an audience. We need someone at the finish line, in the stands and at our sides who doesn’t believe in that failure. Because when the weakness does not exist in their eyes, you won’t let it exist inside of you.
I've had a little proverb from a fortune cookie in my wallet since high school. Its wisdom seems just as applicable now as ever:
"It is as bad to go too far as it is to fall short."
I'm in a minivan
I'm in a minivan driving alongside the Turn Again Inlet looking at fog and clouds and day-breaking sun fight over the dominion that mountain peaks have not claimed.
And I'm smiling.
Because I am here and all of you are here with me. All of the laughs and tears and late night talks and morning coffees. It's all here with me.
A running tab on a cumulative life that I feel so fortunate to share.
The ground is beneath us,
But the earth stretches out ahead.
Who claims authority?
There is ascendency onwards,
And superiority in the overhead
That I found only when I felt the air above the earth,
And saw the ground we had covered behind us.
Are you where you are
because of who you are?
Are you who you are
because of where you've been?