“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously.” – Thich Nhat Han

Facing fears, taking a risk to move across the country, leaving what was known to venture to the unknown has led to needed positive change. Previous posts of the Westward Journey only slightly tell of the challenging times. This is what transpired.

I left New England in darkest of personal times, unemployed, bankruptcy looming, an unsuccessful relationship, an estranged sibling relationship, and spinal health issues. Knowing if I didn’t take the risk at this time regrets would be haunting me. Traveling west along ice covered roads in high winds and snow distracted from the thoughts of future unknowns in Oregon, a state where I knew few people. Balancing those thoughts were stunning sunsets providing inspiration to continue forward to the area I connected to on previous travels. My mind can be an adversary or a friend.

This recent Thanksgiving marked the one year anniversary of arriving in Oregon with almost everything I own. The last and longest leg of the journey to Portland was a push of 700 miles and 11 hours from Montana. Physically and mentally exhausted I was welcomed and well fed at my cousin’s home. Taking a day of rest, possessions were placed in storage until locating a new homestead. While acclimating for a few days my truck was a casualty of a hit and run. Gone were the days of getting upset. There was more to be concerned about. It was disappointing, but the truck was drivable.

West of Portland and an hour from the Pacific Coast, Beaverton and Hillsboro were places of interest from a visit the previous spring. Three weeks into the effort to make it work there the area was no longer calling. A need for environmental connection to my surroundings was becoming apparent. Remembering Hood River, an outdoor town set along the mighty Columbia River, nestled between the double mountains of Hood and Adams is where I knew my effort had to be. This journey wasn’t taken to encounter failure. I made multiple trips each week as the Christmas holiday season began and year ended. This “knowing” of Hood River eased tensions as I had to keep moving forward and enjoy the upcoming holidays.

In Portland, friends provided a home base just off Alberta Street where good food, cafés and weirdness exists. The phrase “Keep Portland Weird”, is a change from conservative New England. The Alberta Rose Theater was the venue for The White Album Christmas: Beatles Tribute and Holiday Circus Spectacular. A truly Portland event with a band performing the Beatles White Album on one side of the stage while circus acts are performed on the other. Slightly different (weird), fun and enjoyable. New Year’s Eve was spent with an eclectic group of new friends from Anna Banana’s café for the relighting of an antique Rexall Drug Sign out for years. The event wasn’t the dropping of the ball at Times Square but a landmark time for the locals. New acquaintances included the café owners from Hawaii, writers, students and Bob, a radio voiced gentleman wearing a biker’s jacket and a multi-colored boa. All were welcoming to Oregon and supporting the effort of the move west. Keeping connected with the local scene and humankind was good for the soul.

After the holidays, against the odds of finding a place to live in Hood River, so I was told, an apartment missed on Craig’s List a week earlier was in the local paper. The owners are from Stonington, CT and Belmont, MA. Two areas I know well living close to each of those towns in past years. The lease was signed and a week later I relocated to the quiet place close to the town center overlooking the Columbia River with a sliced view of Mt. Adams in Washington. Moving to Oregon was taking the first big step, finding a new residence was step two. In the most uncharacteristic and unorganized way I went through everything as I unpacked and downsized yet again. A truck load of stuff brought to the local donation center would have kept things falling from the U-Haul trailer each time I opened the doors on the trek out.

Feeling better having a place to call home, now was time to find work. This was another challenge to overcome after being unsuccessful back east. I knew the drill. Network. Before moving to Hood River the task began at the chamber of Commerce learning of the Gorge Technology Association (GTA) and that the area is the unmanned aircraft capital of the world. Although considering to be away from high-tech, the surrounding beauty would offer the needed lifestyle change and environmental connection. January through February were spent at the library and using Wi-Fi at every coffee shop in town and across the river in Bingen and White Salmon, Washington. I networked at two local Rotary Clubs and attended every GTA meeting. Integrating into the community was the way of success to make this move work.

At an invigorating GTA discussion on the effects of social media causing disruption of community I exchanged business cards with the now director of business development at Sagetech Corporation. A small company of 50 designing and manufacturing transponders for unmanned aircraft. Going online that night there was an opportunity for an engineering project manager. Being a certified high tech project manager and performing this work before made it a great match. I applied the following morning, the day the position was closing. After the weekend there was a phone interview on Tuesday, onsite interview and offer on Friday, then gainfully employed on Monday. The challenge to find work was conquered quicker than I would have imagined by being at the right place, meeting the right person at the right time. Life was beginning to flow again.

With a two ton stone lifted from my shoulders I could now focus on health. Physical wear and emotional stress provided chronic spinal and leg pain for 2 years. Pinched nerves caused dual sciatica and other symptoms preventing the participation in outdoor activities. Mountains were calling and all I could do was gaze while symptoms worsened. Eastern medicine, energy work, massage, physical therapy and spinal injections couldn’t initiate healing. Employment supplied health insurance to begin the diagnosis process again. Surgery was the last option which was immediately recommended by neurosurgeon analyzing an MRI showing two pinched locations of my spinal cord. Preparing for surgery I tolerated discomfort attending yoga classes and gym training. In September a very successful spinal laminectomy was performed. Pain and symptoms were eliminated! Being a chronic pain free human again was another step to contentment. Currently physical therapy is helping hip alignment and strengthen legs and one with an atrophied calf. It will take time to fully recover. My goal is to climb Mt. Rainier with east coast climbing partners in 2017.

Settling into a new area, kicking off a new career, managing pain and surgical recovery has kept me preoccupied throughout the year. Time, patience and faith are providing success. There are other areas of life that need addressing. For now it’s one step at a time as I stay connected with my east coast tribe and focus on what is desired to continue moving forward and healing.

Many of us have our personal challenges with family, work, relationships, career, or health. Humble advice to pass forward is to surround yourself with the right people and address or create distance in negative or cynical relationships. If people don’t understand your difficult times or direction it’s your responsibility to move on. The right people will come into our lives as we align to what is important. Family and friends have been a force of support. Groups of interest including The Tracker School, Mankind Project and environmental education connected me with like-minded people and helped me do my “work”. Reading inspirational books and daily quotes, following people who inspire keep positive energy flowing. Bruce Lee has been inspiration for decades, not only of his martial practice, but of his life philosophy. The Navy SEALs are another because of the desire and will it takes to become one. It takes a strong mind, will and action to accomplish goals.

Notice the mind can be an advisory. Do not let it deter your path to achieve success as you define it. Pray, meditate, and seek professional help if needed. These might be new and uncomfortable. Find comfort with discomfort. Challenging times will make you a stronger person. Connect with nature. Find sacred spaces. Places where you feel at peace. Peaceful environmental settings can provide powerful moments of introspection and distraction from rigors of life.

I will enjoy the last month of this year then plan goals after the New Year begins. There will be more of the Peaceful Pathfinder. As always, thank you for reading.

Have faith and persevere.

In gratitude. Peace – Greg

Direction of the West – West is the spirit of water. It is the direction from which darkness comes. It is the power of change, the place of dreams, introspection and the unknown. The west signifies purity and strength. – Native American Philosophy