Yesterday, I was honored to be part of a planning session for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War for the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area... (the region encompassing south central PA, central MD, eastern WV and northwestern VA..)
It was a fine gathering...many friends and associates that I've come to know and respect over the years.. resource managers and planners, historians and educators.
..All are stewards of this precious cultural and natural resource.. this mountain-valley-river filled region.
The other common thread was the "fire" within...because even though the actual physical age of the participants ran the scale from 20s thru 70s.. each person's commitment to the task at hand was absolutely ageless. The call to stewardship burns bright within each.
My seating partner was my good friend Mike Dudash,(River and Trail Outfitters) a longtime river guide, paddler, teacher, environmental educator and steward of not just the Shenandoah River, but all of Earth's waters.
Mike has been living his calling, and the life he loves, for as long as I've known him, which is close to 25 years now... it was great to see him (not working) and to catch up on life and what's going on.
* * *And, again today, I had the chance to visit with another long-time friend, Arthur Kearns, (owner of Mountain Trails in Winchester and the Gendarme and Seneca Rocks Climbing School, in Seneca Rocks WV).. we had the chance to shoot the breeze on all sorts of things from our feelings about Corridor H to news of mutual acquaintances... from his new parking lot to Boy Scouts buying good outdoor gear.
So tonight, as I sat beside the fire, watching the flames, I kept reflecting on the past 36 hours and all those people I had seen and spent time with..
My thinking came round to focus on a group of friends and peers in this business (outdoor ed/adventure/guiding) who are absolutely ageless, amazing.. Mike and ACK, Clyde Hicks (of the Trail House),Chipper Chase (White Grass) Lester Zook (Wild Guyde), Steve Bair (NPS-Shenandoah) Dave Griffin (attorney.. but a great guy) and I just tried to connect the dots..
They are each CERTIFIED fire breathers... they don't just believe in their calling.. rather, they BELIEVE IN THEIR CALLING.. and if you know them, you know this is true.. they draw so much energy from what they do that it spins off in the untold amounts of pure exuberance for life. Joy in action. Their work is "play" in the eyes of others.
They are owners of few things but stewards of all things.. of life... lived passionately and fully.
They are all locals.. if not by birth, by choice.
.. and amongst the outdoor community of the region, they are known or known of, by virtually all..
I tried to recollect the mental images of each in turn.. maybe it was the glass of wild grape wine.. maybe it was the fire, but they all started to blur and blend. All I could think of were the common denominators ("short, tall, skinny, stout, thinning hair, weathered skin, wrinkles around the eyes from incessant grinning and squinting in the sun..")
It's hard to get past the sparkle in the eye, (a hint of the soul within).. and no one really gets past the energy.. (I think that people who are following their calling soon lose their physical appearance... all you really see and feel... all that really matters is the energy in their soul.)
so... the point of this ramble?
The thing is this.. to see these people is nothing remarkable.. just folks... but to know them, and the work they do and have done in these mountains is nothing short of feeling like you're in the company of giants..