Destroying a hotel room.
Beauty is sometimes overlooked. It can be right, square in front of your face and you won’t see it. You may pass over that patch of blooming pine barrens golden heather, sat there in the grey-brown/tan hues of the sandy floor, only because you have other things on your mind. You have a destination at hand or the thought of a million ticks crawling up the crack of your ass. So those bright, yellow beauties you see, clear as crystal but you don't fully comprehend at the time. Perhaps they are an afterthought when you are back in the grind of your life…huffing it away at the keyboards in your cubicle. I’m sure if you looked, stopped and looked, you'd see that if you parted the bramble a little, peaked underneath you'd see that the forest floor was not only alive, it was booming with those blooms of golden gorgeousity. Life is about moments. I think we, as a collective, think to ourselves about that “moment” - a vacation, a smoke break, lunch, and we pine for it. We plan it and schedule it but the reality of life is that the best parts are the spontaneous ones. Like when you’re hiking and happen upon a sprawl of golden heather blooming in all its glory and you have to deviate from the trip for a moment and stop to take a look. Savor it. Forget about what you have to do later that day. For this moment is one that you will not get again. It will be yours.
This is the essence of nature. To look beyond what you see and look deeper into it. To eventually be able to unlock what seems like a secret but truly is not because all mankind is privy to the information and better yet we are all welcome to its bounty. There is no judgement in nature. A wild beast doesn't look at you and contemplate. It decides if you a threat or if you are a tasty meal and then instinct will have taken over and whatever the outcome is…well that may be up to you. The trees and plants are another thing all together yet they don't judge you either. They see you and they take you in just as much as you take them in. They are hear as part of the grand scheme of things. They exist for the same reasons mammals exist. They are a key factor, if not the most important factor, in the equation that is life. Without them animals DO NOT EXIST. Its hard to try to explain to people, when I’m teaching a distilling class, how trees and plants are truly alive. Alive in the sense that we are all alive and not just that they grow and you can see that they get larger. Somewhere along the line I think we humans have lost touch to exactly what life means for trees. We have segregated the idea that we are alive and trees are alive too into two different ideas. For the sake of not getting too far into a philosophical point of life, I will say this - flora and fauna are alive in the exact same way. We are exactly the same fundamental concepts.
Going back to stir up memories of this time wasn’t exactly easy. The road has been a long one and many miles have been covered. Where I am today is a far cry from where I was back when I was 24. The road to Atlantic city was, at the time, something I looked upon as droll, never-ending miles of trees, seemingly with no real definition of what it was to be beautiful when someone described nature. To me they were swampy, witch havens, tangled in overgrown greenbriar and wineberry. Ugly bramble that choked the true green from all that was summer. I had been well polluted with rum and light beer from the drive down from NY. Despite this I did have observations and although most of them where fragmented images collected in my head through the banter and recklessness of wild, 20 something dudes, with not much but a few things on their minds - more booze, any kind of naked girls dancing on stages and even more booze. There was nothing more then anticipation to get to AC and party. Twenty years later I am down on that same highway, heading in that same direction, quite often. Now that I am 42, a husband, father of a 3 yr old and an 8 month old, I have no desire to reach AC. The furthest thing from my mind is strippers and drugs. What is on my mind, more incessantly than my wild youth could ever explain or understand, is the beautiful swamps that I dismissed all those years ago. Now I am here specifically for the trees that grow in these vast, gorgeous, watery places. This is the largest of a very rare wilderness. The last of a mighty wilderness. The NJ Pine Barrens.
These forests grow only here on the Atlantic seaboard. The Native Americans that lived in these coastal forests feared and respected the dark woods - these thick, cedar groves, growing so close to each other, they snuffed out any sunlight from above and if you weren't careful you could get stuck in these claustrophobic swamps. After hundreds of years of growth these dense forests will need to be managed for their own good. I mean who are we to determine what a tree needs? Are we so fascinated with our own self awareness that we could make a call for the existence of another living thing, that in its own respect had its own system of growth and survival? It never quite made sense to me that we would intervene in nature to help manage a forests growth but perhaps, being in symbiotic relationship, this is something that is written. Personally I would let it be. Let those trees, in their forests just do their thing. I would walk under their reach and I would just take it all in. I was told by the forestry service in NJ that they would be cutting down a large part of the Atlantic white cedar forest in order to manage the thick population that was choking itself out. It was the 100 year plan. Log a section and in 100 years, when that has grown back in healthy fashion, they would cut the other parts of the forest. It seemed strange to me like hunting nearly extinct elephants in Africa seemed crazy. In my mind I had decided it was something people do - they figure out how to justify something they know, in the larger scheme of things, doesn't truly matter or make much sense. They wanted the logs and they were going to have those logs, so they figure out away to make themselves feel good about clearcutting a beautiful tract of land that had been thriving there for hundreds of years. The truth is humans don't much care about trees...only for their lumber and if you let them have their will, they would cut down the last of every tree on every corner of this planet with no regard to just how long they had lived here. All said I was don there harvesting the precious green cedar boughs that had been cut and left to the earth. It was bitter sweet but I knew better then to fight some battle that could never be won. At least not from my perspective. Admittedly so, there was a part of me that understood the logic there. With that said, we desperately need to protect our natural lands with a harsh, real and avenging purpose. We need to to save these places & come to a peaceful agreement, one that works for only one side & that is the side of nature itself. This must happen before the other side takes into consideration the forceful, violent tactics that the opposers of nature have taken all these years.
When I was younger I was always around nature. I was a boy scout and my father encouraged nature into my life. Weekends were spent at the beach or at some county park and any vacation we ever took had some sort of excursion into the wilds of our great nation. It was part of me and although there were many years I dismissed it because I was a reckless teenager or a rambunctious 20 something, I still had that seed stratifying inside of me. It took years for it to sprout but when it did I had the wisdom of being a bit older on my side. I could appreciate things unknown to me and I could agree with a dangerous sense of adventure. It was the foundation I have stood upon since I took up this wild crafting business and it is this same foundation I will keep building upon. That wisdom has taught me that building a foundation from an early age, whether it is intentional or not, is one of the best things you can do for your soul, your business, your connection with all living things including your fellow human beings, and most of all this will give you tools to which to survive in a world of competition on all levels. The most important of which is grit. Grit has gotten me here. Its an unwavering (well most of the time) set of procedures that get you through the hardest of times. These morals, these motivations, these things that drive you everyday. If you lack this you will most likely not make it. You see, grit will get you through, when luck comes knocking on your door because you will need that and it is that one factor you just never know about. I'm not saying luck will always come and give you that edge that will ultimately give you success but for those of you who have experienced luck you understand that if you didn't have that grit you may not have noticed that luck when it came. Grit got me through my rambunctious, asshole years. It gave me the wherewithal to understand that, when you are a wild, young man you sometimes get lost and getting lost is the only way to figure out how to find your way home again. So you wake up one day and you can tell yourself that you've gotten all that shit out of your system. The experimenting with mescaline, the drinking 25 beers in one session of day pollution near the pool, the endless pursuit of boobies, the destroying of hotel rooms because Jim Morrison thought it was cool too. Grit will be the thing that gets us all through in these trying times of environmental woe. It will be the survivalist key to the green castle. To the temple of enlightenment and you will need it in the hardest of times. So I recommend, (at a young age when you can still afford it morally and your parents can monetarily) you go wreck a hotel room. Get it out of your system and move on from those shit head days as quick as you can. Be young and never let go of that but be smart and let the wisdom of age creep into your life at its own pace. Realize that the things that got you high when you were able to morally deal with them, won't when you get older but the things that get you high when you are older, like a walk through the pines, a view atop a Grand Canyon vista, a quiet relaxing chill session, staring up at clouds in the meadow, get you higher than any drug ever did and you won't deal with foggy, detached hangovers and possible trips the ER.
So beauty is often overlooked and not because people don't recognize that something is beautiful. I think it has more to do how we prioritize things in life. I think it has to do with how fast paced our society has become- almost like a race to very end where the only thing you can see in front of you is the dark door to death. Beauty shouldn't be something you look back on and cherish. That will be there but you have to cherish it in the the moment to truly feel a deep connection with something you deem beautiful. So stop…………….take a moment. Let go for one moment and savor something. Catch yourself in the moment and feel okay about breaking away with it.