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STOIC POETRY | Back into the woods

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

October 6, 2019

Dear Yumiko,

There's investment in adventure which yields return throughout our remaining days. For me, this is wilderness adventure and life adventure and the adventure of the mind. Each sort of exploration takes something from me in the process of living - directed living, living directed towards the outer edges of the territory I know, and the places I trust, and the life which is safe and sane and contented - and then returns something back, usually some time distant in the future, something more valuable than what I gave up, even if that value is less tangible or seemingly real. This is why I always go back to the wild. This is the reason I always return to the mountains or the desert and to adventure. And this is also one of the reasons I married you.

You and I are alike in this way, as we both are adventurers. I knew this of you the first day we met and after you told me the story of your coming to America. I knew then that we were kin. I understood that you were someone with whom I could make life itself an adventure. And so, we ventured out together then, thirty-years back, and what a journey it's been... So many places together. So many lives together.

You and I agree that when we push past our limits into new life we always lose something along the way, some part of us is expended and consumed by virtue of the decision and effort to step outside the garden gate, to climb over the sheltering wall, to let go of our community and friends and the warm hands which comfort and hold our own - not always forever, not even for very long sometimes, but just long enough to once again get dirty, bruised and bloody and to remember what it means to explore while there's still light in the sky. There is...still light in the sky.

We have now before us yet another opportunity of life adventure, me and you. Yet another life adventure. Not my adventure of the mountains and the desert. But our adventure of life itself. The opportunity before us today is a good one - though risky. But we like risky, don't we? Though what a change this would be! A new job - a better job - in a new city a few hours away. The transition would be big. The challenges many. But mostly, it's the challenge of the unknown. That unknown which always warns us to stay back and to close and lock the current safe doors. That ridiculous fear which cautions of risks which are indeed real, and which have already cost us so much - everything perhaps - but which are also the very risks we agree this life is all about. For the return on such investment is also real. And it is this intangible return which we really want from life. We've always desired the splendid return on the engagement of risk - though if we're honest, we've also always appreciated the loss that's always incurred along the way - no matter what the cost. The loss has always somehow been the best, even though it never feels that way at the time.

So, do we go again now into life adventure? Is it worth the challenge and the risk? What are we really after at this late stage of our lives?

We are not so young anymore - we're nearly empty-nesters - and our most important work is mostly almost done. What's our aim now after parenting besides being good people and living lives which are more gain and less drain for others for the fact of our having been alive? What's next in the time remaining? What's a good use of our remaining time?

Besides doing the good things we've already talked about and planned, I think It's still the adventure that we both really want... It's still the return that we're still after - and that cost along the way. The return which always comes later, and which is the fruit and blessing of our welcoming and venturing together into the unknown. It's the thing which comes of going where the road ahead isn't clear; again, into the thorns and across the rocks and through the cold waters into a darkening wood. The cost along the way is what it is, and is something we no longer attempt to tally or even recall. Let it go... Goodbye to all of that. We know better than to accept the risk of avoiding risk.

Night time is near. That's a concern. The last time we checked it appeared the sun was only a few hands above the horizon. We can't see the light clearly now for the dark forest before us - the trees are so high! - though we feel the chill of late afternoon and sense only coldness a decade or more out from now. That's something new...the coldness. Coldness is coming. The coldness which we cannot escape. The chill of night before night is even here. We can gather more blankets if we like, though these will only help a little... There's no use kindling a fire which is simply vain resistance to the dark. Eventually, the cold gets in, or maybe the cold comes from within? No matter...there will be no more genuine adventure soon. Soon we'll have to make a final stand. Will it be here in this clearing we've found and made in Orange County? We've done nice work here to be sure... The trees are cut, and the wilder woods are pushed back. We did good work, and it feels nice to enjoy the sunshine direct on the face. But we're not such people, you and I. We always go back into the woods. We stay for a time in the light and then we always go back into the woods. The chill is coming to be sure...but maybe if we keep moving we can stay genuinely warm just a little bit longer. Genuinely warm, that's the thing. Adventuring together is always a good way to stay warm. Shall we stay warm together one more time?

Shall we adventure a little more?


My name is Kurt Bell.

You can learn more about The Good Life in my book Going Alone.

Be safe... But not too safe.

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“Things do not change; we change.”

Good luck and much success to you and your family!

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