Girl in Camouflage

JT

JT

It has been said there are no more frontiers to conquer, no more Wild West places for young men to test their strength and courage other than war or the military, no more exotic places to explore.

They are wrong!

Because once upon a time, there was a real live young man who knew that the usual path to success would not serve him. He instinctively knew his path into the future was the Wild West of his imagination and the exotic places in his soul waiting for his attention. Raised in a family clan who treasured outdoor spaces and places, family gatherings enriched by cultural cooking and loving parents and grandparents, he learned early that nourishment was more than a plate of food. What captured my imagination were JT’s wanderings. They never seemed aimless. He has no trust funds to sustain him from journey to journey. He is young and can live on air and no more nor less than his to live from the land.

It’s a mythic tale really though his life is new. I have been in search of mythic journey’s that will change the world. New stories of creative living that will catapult our global community into sustainable, smaller and more local communities that enrich the small while energizing the invisible strings that connect us all. So I asked JT to tell me about his journeys and where he sees himself in ten years. Such thinking is so my generation but it gives a depth to my insights of his mythic tale so that I can weave my own story of JT, a universal JT, who holds within him the seeds of salvation for his generation who will need them.

He thinks of himself as a Bard which is perfect as they were originally paid by patrons as professional poets who would eulogize their patron; but, Bards became in Welsh, Scottish and Irish traditions the mythologizers. As the wandering poets of the day, they created the stories that bound the tribes and culture together. JT grew up in Santa Cruz. He attended Harbor high school while also attending a small Junior College. At a young age, he was disturbed by the divisions of how kids organized into groups. Mexicans were one group, athletes another, cool kid’s et al and none of them seemed to be cohesive enough or inclined to socialize with the others.

The journey of a thousand myths begins with a yearning for something more, something different, and something and somewhere to test one’s skills and bravery. He learned to surf with his father. He enhanced his love of the outdoors and survival and earth skills through Headwaters Outdoor School. Thus, like all mythic heroes the time came to leave the family ties and to venture into an unknown. At 17, he did a thirty day solo trip in the Marble Mountain Wilderness. HWOS takes a class for a week into the wilderness every summer to teach people to become more aware of the beauty of wildness. Those classes set his young man’s heart on fire for the tests that such a long trek would entail. Thirty days in the wild is a long time for someone to find their own food, build their own shelters, and contain their fears particularly at night surrounded by bears and mountain lions. I asked him what he learned and what he had hoped to achieve and he quickly answered to feel “competent”. With great parents and good mentoring, he experienced the essence of competence through other’s actions and teachings. He embodied the ocean through surfing with his father and he learned to hone his survival/earth skills and nature awareness skills at HWOS but the true test for him was in the doing.

The elation of coming into competence in the Marbles was quickly shattered upon his return when his plans for a future project as an intern in a permaculture organization fell apart along with his relationship with his girlfriend. No great hero can find himself without the journey into darkness. Failure, disappointment, heart break and the shattering of one’s childhood illusions are the challenges that define a person’s character. Are we irrevocably hurt and thereby become defensive and cynical, do we medicate with drugs or alcohol, do we give up deep inside and become mediocre or do we re-create our myth?

Our hero, JT, became sick with a staph infection that lingered; yet, he took his hurt as his traveling companion and hitchhiked and train traveled to Canada. In his meanderings and aloneness, he found an energy healer who worked on his staph infection. Ultimately, the hero has to die to his old self in order to be reborn and on this journey JT’s leg spontaneously opened and drained - a metaphor perhaps for his inner healing and inner clarity. With the staph infection gone and new insights about himself born from the aloneness and the traveling, a new ego and hero was born.

Our world is goal oriented. Children are taught early these days to have focus rather than play. Play dates are carefully arranged for toddlers, after-school programs are put on calendars, emphasis on getting into a good college stressed and pre-schools are politically correct environments where behavior is ordered and controlled by adults with the slightest outburst or confrontation. Kids don’t play outside or get muddy or dig in the dirt if there is inclement weather. They are wrapped like mummies and placed n tomblike enclosures to ensure no mess or wetness that might cause illness. What happened to the days of what we used to call “hot foots”. My brother and I played in the snow while it slowly crept into every opening in our snowsuits. We broke through the ice in the backyard pond until our boots sunk into the freezing water and filled them with the cold water, so cold that our feet froze until they seemed hot – thus – hot foot. Not so today. My grandkids rarely explore the outside in winter except in organized activities. No hot foots for them. And so, the adventures of JT seem born of a long ago time where the wandering spirit in all kinds of weather and circumstances toughens the journeyer to dream big.

Upon this mythic trail, JT has spent time in a Stone Age Project where everything was made from the landscape and he and the others lived off their endeavors. He learned that comparing himself to others didn’t really serve; yet, the idea of not comparing oneself, of letting go of comparison was the more difficult task. He wintered as an assistant sheep herder on an Indian reservation in Black Mesa, Arizona where he learned from an aging Indian shepherd precision of action and patience. One of his most memorable and heartfelt experiences had been living with and elder Bermudan on an organic farm in Cape Briton Islands where everything that sustained them was again made by their own hand. The elder died the following winter but his life sustaining gift to JT had been his example of humility. So few of us are humble, we exhibit "false humility which consists of deprecating one's own sanctity, gifts, talents, and accomplishments for the sake of receiving praise or adulation from others”. To be humble is to reach a place of acceptance that the gifts and talents that we are given are usually tempered by sorrows. For the reflective person, it instills a sense of wonder and gratitude for all those lessons and a sense of the immensity and oneness that he or she is just a small part of that whole - it instills humility.

So JT continues to travel and to weave his mythic journey into an enfolding pattern of what his life will be – from learning the concertina in Ireland so he can stitch the participation of a different culture into the fabric, to learning ancient Slavic songs, to teaching kids the power of nature at Headwaters and elsewhere. He has told me he wants to bring people into a space of what is possible and of what their lives could and can be. He is gathering and harvesting within himself the seeds that will be planted over the years in young minds. He will inspire magic within some, hopefulness in others and be an example for many of why a “road less taken” is one that leads to self-fulfillment and joy.

I recently read a commencement address by Paul Hawkin who asked the graduating class the Ralph Waldo Emerson question of what would you do if the stars only came out once every thousand years? Would you stay up all night recreating the world? JT would!

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