These days I’m spending most of my time back at the maple sugar shack stoking the fire. When I’m not collecting sap or chopping wood I have lots of time to sit there and read. It’s beautiful, the sap is bubbling in the evaporator and the brook is babbling just outside of the shack’s door. Right now I’m reading a book called “The Story of Blue Eye”. I purchased this book at the used book store because it had a herd of wild horses on the cover. I had no idea what the story was about!
The book tells the story of Blue Eye, an 18-year-old native Canadian Indian in the early 1800′s in the foothills of Alberta. He and a few of his family have survived a smallpox outbreak and run a small trading post and horse farm. He’s a smart kid and a natural leader, but I can relate to him because he is always falling off his horse! Life on the plains during this time period is hard, but this book focuses more on the uplifting aspects of this lifestyle and I have really been relating to some of the messages the author reveals.
Now I’m not the type of guy who wants to pretend to be a native Indian and outwardly mimic their ways. In fact, most of the people who do that sort of thing drive me a bit nuts. I met a woman like that just last week. She liked to talk about the power of the earth and her whole “spirituality” and back-to-nature mentality. Then when she left, she ripped me off on a bottle of maple syrup! One of the messages of this book is that a person is defined by their deeds and not their words. I wonder what this woman would think of herself if she could objectively see her deeds.
But I digress… Blue Eye is actually a quarter British and thus is not fully accepted by his band. So to show his worth he volunteers to take part in their Sun Dance. In this ritual, pieces of wood are skewered through his chest and he is suspended above the ground by this wood until he relents or his guide determines he must come down to survive. The purpose of this ritual is for the emerging adult to find his life path. Back then some of the life paths could be that of a trader, horseman, hunter, warrior… Apparently the pain of the ritual allows one to focus on what is truly important to them.
Later in the book, someone who sees his scars comments on how amazing it is that he endured the ritual. He responded that the ritual wasn’t something to be endured, but rather experienced. This was a telling statement in itself as I myself have learned some of my most valuable lessons during times of hardship. Most notably were the 3 months I spent volunteering in Guyana, South America, the two winters I spent building my house in Canada with no heat or running water and falling off the cliff….
At the time this story takes place, the British and Americans have traveled across the continent and have developed everything to the east and south of them. Blue Eye wants to learn the ways of the British and Americans before they arrive to his region so he will know what to expect and how to possibly defend his lifestyle. So he travels to Boston, Philadelphia and London. In these big cities, he sees how busy and urgent everybody is. All the people are running around working and doing “important things”, but he doesn’t see these people following any path. He doesn’t believe these people have even considered what their life path even is.
This sentiment only took a line of the book, but it really got me thinking. How many of us do know what our life path is? How many of us have stopped, sat down and taken the time to even consider it? I’m not saying we should drive stakes of wood through our chest and hang ourselves from trees until we figure it out. But maybe we should stop, sit down and think for a minute. And by “a minute”, I mean long enough until we figure it out.
In “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior”, Socrates makes Dan Millman sit on a mat behind the garage until he can come up with something profound. If I remember correctly, it took Dan quite awhile to realize that whatever it is that he’s doing he should commit 100% of his focus to that activity.
Life today is race as soon as we burst out of the womb. As soon as we are able to walk we are encouraged to run. All the kids I know today have school during the day, and their evenings are filled with dance, piano, gymnastics, soccer, hockey, homework… In highschool, the pace and the pressure increase. And before we know it, we’re through university and/or working. We have families, jobs, mortgages, car loans, and a job. How many of us have ever even questioned why we’re working at that job or living in that neighbourhood? We live in that neighbourhood because that is where people live and that is where we could find a house we could afford. And we’re working at that job because we need the money to pay for that house.
How many of us are actually following our own unique life path? How many of us have even considered that we might even have our own unique life path?
Personally, I spent the first 18 years of my life living my life as dictated by my parents. The next 18 years I spent traveling and educating myself. I lived/worked on the river’s of Ontario’s north, in the Canadian Arctic, the mountains of France and Colorado, Guyana, eastern Europe, and a few big cities here and there. I learned from universities and colleges but also from the lessons of life. After 36 years I found the love of my life, and after falling 35 feet from a cliff (breaking my arm, leg, and back) I had the forced opportunity to evaluate my life and values. For the past 5 years I’ve been building my house and lifestyle on 164 acres of the Gatineau Hills.
I think I have found my life path, but the past couple of years have definitely passed by at a fairly torrid pace. This book made me realize that regardless of the path I’m on, I need to take a minute (or more) from time to time, to stop, reassess and reevaluate my path.
What about you? Have you ever looked at where you are? Why you’re there? And where you’re going? It’s up to you, but I consider this to be an extremely valuable exercise.