Playing in the Woods

I’m tucked away in the back of the RV parked at my mom’s in Northern Michigan. It’s a magical spot hidden away in the woods; the leaves, swishing in the breeze like a brush on a snare, are just beginning to change color while the random wildlife sounds punctuate the otherwise hypnotic rhythm this lovely fall day offers. It’s a respite waltz long overdue. We’re here as part of my 50th birthday present to myself. I grew up both in Texas and Michigan and while both geographies left their marks on me, a Michigan fall is hard to beat (Texas springs are a close runner-up).

Deep in the Michigan Northwoods (photo: L Shapter)

But it’s that 50th birthday that has my attention, a mark on the timeline of a life that beckons reflection and contemplation. And as I consider the significance of it to me, I am surprised to feel as young as I do. I suppose we all measure these things in our individual ways but for me, I thought I’d feel old. Oddly enough, I don’t feel that way at all. I don’t feel much different than I ever have. I think about a 12 year old version of myself (perhaps illuminated through the lens of a visit to the place of my youth) and I feel that I can relate to him as though I were still 12. It’s a great feeling. I wonder if Lauryn and I returning to music later in life is part of the reason for this. We traipse all over the country playing music, boondocking in truck stops, making new friends, all the while listening closely for the muse to whisper some precious insight to us that we can share with others. There are certainly times during this charmed and blessed existence that I feel like a kid in a candy shop. However, those 50 years bring with them a deeper bedrock of perspective that has to co-exist in this never-never land I just described. A bedrock of consciousness and self-awareness nuanced by 50 years of social conditioning, a social conditioning that nudges me to grow up. 

The Birthday Book (photo: L Shapter)

For my birthday, Lauryn invited the fearless souls on our mailing list to participate by way of writing some thoughts to me and she put them into a beautifully crafted accordion book, along with some photos and a hand drawn cover, doodles, and illustrations. As I flipped through the book, reading what people wrote, with tears welling up and my heart about to burst with gratitude, I felt a renewed sense of purpose that I didn’t even realize I was lacking. So much of the time, I secretly feel as though this creative endeavor is a selfish indulgence. I’m chasing the sounds I hear in my head with the words spoken to me from an invisible entity using a treasure map I found in a dream. I’m playing in the woods of my imagination just like that 12 year old, caught between the carefree days of adolescence and a longing to be an independent adult. But reading through the kind things people said to me, I got the sense that perhaps we’re playing in the woods together. Maybe you too wanted to stay out just a while longer before we’re called back in for the day. So, with the leaves around me changing color as fast as I write this and with the gray hint of winter in the background, let’s stay out a little longer today and shuffle our feet through the leaves making some of that joyful noise Lauryn sings about in “Poetry and Prayers”. We can call ourselves back in for the day when we’re good and ready. But for now, follow me … I think I hear something up ahead.

~Dennis
October 3, 2019

Turning leaves (photo: L Shapter)

10 comments

  • Greg

    Greg Nashville, TN

    One of the most beautiful blog posts I’ve ever read! Love it!

    One of the most beautiful blog posts I’ve ever read! Love it!

  • Tina

    Tina Iowa City

    You are such beautiful people. More time shuffling through leaves it is!

    You are such beautiful people. More time shuffling through leaves it is!

  • Dan

    Dan Kirksville, Mo

    Once again you take me on a journey through the past (and present) through your words....

    Once again you take me on a journey through the past (and present) through your words....

  • Julie

    Julie Carey

    What beautiful imagery and reflections to start my day with. Thanks and happy birthday hugs to you!

    What beautiful imagery and reflections to start my day with. Thanks and happy birthday hugs to you!

  • gene & jill nash

    gene & jill nash hale michigan

    hello dennis, were happy that we got to spend part of your birthday with mom and me.

    hello dennis, were happy that we got to spend part of your birthday with mom and me.

  • Gary

    Gary Des Moines, IA

    Gratitude is a door to bliss.

    Gratitude is a door to bliss.

  • Robert

    Robert Mad, hectic an d not very peaceful East Coast

    Dennis and Lauryn, would it be an invasion of privacy or you to share the inside of the Big D B-Day book?

    Dennis and Lauryn, would it be an invasion of privacy or you to share the inside of the Big D B-Day book?

  • Society of Broken Souls

    Society of Broken Souls

    Thank you all for the kind words! (Robert, we're not comfortable posting the inside of the book for all the world wide web to see.)

    Thank you all for the kind words! (Robert, we're not comfortable posting the inside of the book for all the world wide web to see.)

  • Tim Mickelson

    Tim Mickelson New Ulm,Mn.

    Your beautiful prose stirs up memories of my own childhood in Minnesota.Happy Birthday Dennis!

    Your beautiful prose stirs up memories of my own childhood in Minnesota.Happy Birthday Dennis!

  • KristinaSchoonmaker

    KristinaSchoonmaker San Diego

    Love you both!

    Love you both!

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