“To see shadows and seek hidden rivers”

We think we would do well to read this wonderful poem, below, every morning. All too often we seem to forget that everything we need is already here, just out there and within reach. There’s a world out there, but too many of us go around stuck in our heads allowing thoughts to take us away from the moment to worry about the future and reminisce and/or wallow of what could have been from the glorious past… (yes, whatever did happen to that book deal and that Olympic gold medal for dressage then?).

We get trapped in our thoughts with our aims and drives, forgetting that, as the axiom, goes: “it’s not the destination but the journey”. Living in the here and now is an acquired skill, but if achieved must be a generally wonderful place to be. I write that it is “acquired”, but in fact perhaps more appropriate would be to say “remembered” – for children live in the now so wonderfully, and I believe we were all children once…

James Kavanaugh (1928-2009) is the author of this poem and he lived a life very much on the road. In the mid-60s he surrendered his priestly collar, packed his VW and headed for California to write books. After publishing his passionate cry for church reform – A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church – that became a runaway bestseller, James rejected lucrative offers to write what publishers wanted. “Feasting on bagels and peanut butter”, he wrote his first poetry book, There Are Men Too Gentle To Live Among Wolves. That book was turned down by a dozen publishers, only to sell over a million copies.

In the prologue, he describes himself beautifully, in a way with which many will I am sure connect: “I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret.”

“I will probably be a searcher until I die and hopefully death itself will only be another adventure. To live any other way seems impossible. I am aware of the power that guides each of us along the way, and provides us with the insights and people we need for our journey. There are, indeed, men and women too gentle to live among wolves and only when joined with them will life offer the searcher, step by step, all that is good and beautiful.

“Life becomes not a confused struggle or pointless pain, but an evolving mosaic masterpiece of the person we were destined to become.”

He went on to write several more books of poetry, most of which our house has and some of which will be heard being read aloud on our travels, perhaps from our motorhome’s roof while we address the mountains and beaches, skies and horizons. I think the enlightenment from James’s life is: follow your passion; become the person you’re supposed to be.

It would be criminal not to: you are you, and you are an incredibly unique person (not a shadow of yourself or anyone else’s vision for you). Go for it, and flow like a giant river. Now I’m going to kick my shoes off and read this incredible poem again.

I was born to catch dragons in their dens
And pick flowers
To tell tales and laugh away the morning
To drift and dream like a lazy stream
And walk barefoot across sunshine days.

I was born to find goblins in their caves
And chase moonlight
To see shadows and seek hidden rivers
To hear the rain fall on dry leaves
And chat a bit with death across foggy nights.

I was born to rub my hands in dirt
And walk green hills
To plant corn and make bread
To build a house strong against the wind
And to live free across sunshine days.

I was born to watch owls in dark forests
And hear coyotes cry
To feel trees tremble and the grass sleep
To taste cold air and smell the damp earth
And watch ghostly shapes disappear across foggy nights.

I was born to love a man wrapped in sunshine
And dressed in fog
To make a pact on a high hill
Ratified centuries ago by the sun
To walk together through sunshine days and foggy nights.
― James Kavanaugh, Sunshine Days and Foggy Nights

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