It was the evening following my quest of the naked kind at Caples Lake, and I had made a reservation at a restaurant that had been recommended to me at Lake Tahoe. I have to admit that another drive up to the lake wasn’t high on my priority list. But it was that little voice inside that encouraged me to go. I felt compelled to get ready for a dinner out, but something told me “Just don’t forget the camera!” And so, feeling a little tired from the exposing quest I had just conquered, and with the urging of someone I couldn’t see, I began to get ready for what I thought would be another tasty quest, not realizing that it might just take me down a road I wasn’t prepared for… memory lane.
It was a chilly night at the lake, one of the first real cool nights as the season is beginning to change. I wore a pair of jeans, a light top and my light grey sweater to wrap around just in case it was needed and my sling-back sandals as I was hoping for an opportunity to meander onto the beach. I had my camera packed and Siri with me to guide the way to this new Quest… and off we went over the Sierra Nevada Mountains!
As I began the drive up, I will admit I was still feeling a sense of euphoria from the naked quest I had just completed. It wasn’t so much about completing the quest, but rather the start of yet another transformation to be free and learn about myself. A year ago, I never would have even considered going skinny dipping, let alone the playtime that transpired or even recording it… let’s not forget sharing this intimate moment with strangers from across the planet! “Why?” I thought. Why was I so closed off from these experiences? Why did it take this long to start this metamorphosis? Hmm… I thought long and hard about these questions, and found it interesting because I believe that I had modeled a lot of my personality around the way my Mom was. She is quiet, a bit reserved, not engaging when it came to school events or social gatherings. Yet, I had tucked away the outgoing personality traits from my Dad and refrained from sharing them. I grew up very introverted and yet had this extrovert inside of me that was yearning to be released! Essentially, I was living as someone I wasn’t. When engaged in work, I was very extroverted, but outside of work I would crawl into my safe cocoon and let life pass me by. Until one day… ok, maybe not one day, but one revelation. I was lost… lonely… and not really living.
Without revealing too much of my personal life, my job entails supporting the lives of others and here I barely knew how to live myself. Let me correct myself, I know how to live to some extent and I know the value of what living really is. I see death quite often and I hear the wisdom of the spirits leaving this physical world…. Their last words are those that remind the ones left behind to not worry, to enjoy all that exists, to smile, to do all that they wish, to help others, to live a healthy life, to not get caught up in work and focus on family, to have no regrets, to live life to the fullest…
The words of advice seem not to vary among those leaving. No, the words are always expected, but to some family members it happens too soon. I have spent far too many years listening to the spirits as they leave with their priceless words of advice. Their eyes are clear, true, honest, expecting nothing in return for the wisdom they share at the completion of their journey. And year-after-year of listening, I still hadn’t changed a thing. It wasn’t until my last visit with my father, as he lay ill and preparing to move on, that I knew this Quest was what I needed to do. Perhaps it was his spirit that spoke the loudest.
My father…. Some in my family could not understand him as perhaps I don’t understand my own mother. I always felt close to him, as if I could empathize with the challenges that he faced and the desires that he held. I didn’t realize until later in my life how very similar we really are. I will share those stories in some later blogs, but for now I fast forward to one last conversation that we shared during a semi-conscious moment I was able to catch during my last visit. My Dad was in bed, a man fighting to hold on to every day as if he still had something he needed to do or say. He was always a physically strong man, about 6’4 and built like a linebacker, but with a soft heart hidden by a stern façade. He made all the ladies at the retirement home melt when he flirted with them. He never passed up a delicious meal but always knew the meaning of moderation and exercise. My Dad was always very protective over me and this was never taken for granted and always appreciated.
My last visit, I sat and just talked… about my life, my hopes, my dreams, my goals… He was always curious about my life and my adventures, whatever those might be. I had no expectation that he was even listening as he laid in a sleepy state. I held his hand and as I spoke, I fought back tears because my Dad always said, “Please don’t cry. It is not helpful.” Despite his words of wisdom, I will confess there were several tears that made their way down these cheeks and dropped to the floor. I sat and looked out the window to see if I could re-focus and he squeezed my hand as if to give me a hand hug… I told him I loved him and that I promised to run for him, as well as I could, as fast as I could, and for no other reason, than to smile… He knew when I spoke about running, it was really about something so much more. It was about living… truly living. Not just existing, but following through with the goals, hopes and dreams I had set. My Dad wanted nothing more from me than to be truly happy. He knew that I loved to travel and explore. He knew that I loved to express myself. He knew that I believe in saying what needs to be said; even when others would argue it is not polite to do so. He knew that I was strong and had a will to cross mountains and swim oceans. He knew that I had a message to share with the world. His life was what taught me that those who have courage have a responsibility to help others, to make a difference however big or small, not walk away when others walk away… to fear nothing and no one. Yes, that was my father! His very last words to me after saying he loved me, which I already knew, were “Go run… Fast…. Win!” I knew it wasn’t about a race; it was about the journey….
Those words run in my mind more often than I care to admit. I can still see and hear him struggle to let those words leave his lips and I can see the intensity in his eyes as if those words carried an immeasurable value. And yes, I can feel him with me on this journey… albeit, not all the quests, especially not the naked one! No, I know my Dad knows what I need to do and the path I need to go down. He has taught me everything I need to know about the mission in front of me. My only hope is that I can continue to find the strength to be more courageous as the days go by. The real mission isn’t baring one’s soul to nature, and isn’t trying a new dish…. it is helping others to see what courage looks like, where to find it, how to use it… so that countries and cultures and people can come together and leaders can be born. The truth must be spoken because in the end it takes one voice of saying what is right to change the direction to better times.
Deep breath, several tears wiped away and Siri had announced my arrival at Garwoods on the lake. I stepped out of the car and saw before me beautiful clear Lake Tahoe. A heavy sigh of contentment and with a smile so hard to refuse, I grabbed my sweater and camera and made my way to the entrance.
I was seated in the deck area and as I sat down I suddenly had an overwhelming feeling of understanding or clarity, as if someone had just handed it right to me. I set the menu aside and looked up and gasped at the sight before me! There on the horizon was the most magnificent full moon just beginning to emerge over the mountains. I was fixated on this magnificent sight as if I were in an absolute trance. The waitress came by and made the comment, “We rarely have nights as beautiful as this with a full moon.” I responded that I had forgotten tonight would be a full moon. I placed my order and looked down at my camera and thought to myself, “I never take the Canon to dinner.” Yet, I had that voice of instinct that spoke loud and clear tonight. I let the waitress know that I would be down on the beach taking pics to not worry if my food arrived and I wasn’t there. Off I went…
I felt the magnetic pull to click away and every frame was like a little gift from heaven. I was intoxicated by the moonlight over the lake and now that my soul was nourished I felt I needed to return to the deck for dinner.
Sure enough, my salmon meal had been waiting for me to return. I had ordered a glass of Rombauer Cabernet Sauvignon to help celebrate the day’s events. I sat and indulged in a delightful dinner while the moon dazzled me with its elegance and grace. The water was a rippling glow as it shimmered underneath the magical moonlight.
My glass of cab had arrived and in my mind I made a toast:
“To all good things the road less traveled has waiting for me…To the guide(s) that help direct me along this path…To the wisdom that is lent to me from spirits past and present that life be lived to its fullest with the great intent to light the way for others on the darkest of nights as the moon has done for me today… to courage seen and spoken… to the great Metamorphosis and the start of a Re-Enlightenment!”
My tongue was pleased with the delicate taste of wine that followed that toast!
I had finished dinner and as I left, I took one last walk along the pier… as if to thank the moon for its glorious display of beauty and confirming wisdom. It was a night that almost didn’t happen if not for that little voice that told me to go and not forget the camera! A drive that reminded me of what courage looked like, why it was important, who inspired it, and that it was very important to continue along this path of enlightenment. It was a long day full of exposure, revelations, immeasurable beauty, and a run down memory lane that had me feeling at ease. Although my father has passed on, the memories he gave me will stay with me as if they were created yesterday…. The priceless gift of wisdom that will always remain, glowing as bright as the moon on the darkest of nights.
Thank you Dad… Wondering what tomorrow will bring…