Archive for the ‘Boating/Water’ Category

Living Life, When Life is Short

14/06/2013
Tom on board his yacht in Bluff, New Zealand

Tom on board his yacht in Bluff, New Zealand

I had the good fortune to meet Tom Shepherd yesterday, here in the little town of Kingston, New Zealand.
Although he won’t admit it, Tom has a remarkable story to tell, which actually isn’t over yet. He’s half way through a “figure-8 circumnavigation” of the North and South Islands of New Zealand – and he’s learning to sail as he goes along. What’s more impressive is he’s approaching his 84th birthday next month, and, he has been diagnosed with cancer. Seven years ago he was given six months to live. Every six months after that, for two years, nothing happened. He finally decided he wasn’t going to sit around to see would happen.  Learn more of his story:

When he sailed in to the docks in Motueka, near Nelson,  people were gathering and walking down the dock to greet him with “You must be Tom Shepherd, the fellow sailing down the coast.”  Word had traveled before his arrival. Since then he’s been interviewed by the Maori Channel here in New Zealand. He was kind enough to grant me the interview (see above), but, half joking, said he was considering going into hiding.

The next leg of his journey would provide an opportunity as a recluse, as he heads from New Zealand’s southern tip into the deep fjords of the the west coast. I want to keep track of this man – who is an inspiration. He’s getting out there and doing something. He’s not posting on Facebook or blogs, he’s just doing it. Tom’s adventure is about being alive as much as it is the uncharted journey on his yacht. It reminds me of the quote by William G.T. Shedd – “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”

Please see the posShepherd, Tomt interview clip, (below) of how Mr. Shepherd “rubbed off” on a bummed out cab driver in the Christchurch area. It’s been said that one of the tenants of a spiritual person is to serve as a fire that helps kindle the soul of another. Tom Shepherd humble, but the results around him seem to be clear. He’s making this place a better world, just by living.

See this great video piece on Maori TV’s Native Affairs about Tom’s Journey

Mindfulness in the Mountains #2

30/10/2012

 Gunshots in the Wilderness
#2 in a Series – Mindfulness in the Mountains

The mist clears, the gunshots arrive

It seemed that spirit was working with us on this day on the water, during Mountain Spirit Institute‘s recent program with The Natural Dharma Fellowship Buddhist retreat center based at Wonderwell Refuge in Springfield, NH.  The six of us slowly paddled our kayaks through the mist on Grafton Pond. There was no one else to be seen on this drizzly Sunday morning, when normally 20-40 cars might be unloading their boats. It’s for good reason this place is popular. Actually a one-and-half-mile lake with a wilderness feel, complete with some 44 islands and great views of Cardigan Mountain to the north, this place has become overly popular with weekend warriors. We didn’t even have Grafton Pond on the schedule, knowing that private mediation and crowds weren’t conducive for contemplation in the wilds of New Hampshire. But there were no other cars to be seen on this day. Just us.

The weather forecast called for a short break in the rainy downpours between 10am and 2pm. Right on schedule, the rain stopped, and all was quiet, for the time being. We paddled  quietly to the southwest arm of the pond. The first exercise we gave our  participants was to drift in the big bay, slowly exploring the shoreline with presence of mind, quietly and slowly paddling from their kayaks.

All was idyllic, no rain, no people, just peace. Then,  like a tear in the fabric, gunshots from 3 miles away broke the silence. As we were each far apart from each other, we were not comparing notes about the noise until we reconvened one hour later. The shots rang regularly every three to five minutes apart.
We asked our participants, (not only on this day, but also at the end of the program), what their takeaways were from the experience. My co-facilitator, Tara Moon, shared that “the gun shots were” for her,  “like punctuation marks, reminders to stay present” . Unlike her, my first reaction was to swear at the offending firearms person, granted, under my breath. But as the hour drew on, I too accepted the state of the lake, complete with echoes of the gunshots heard on the water’s edge.

MSI Founder R. Richards on Mindfulness in the Mountains Program, Grafton Pond, NH
Image: Tara Moon

What has been most powerful though, has been the extension of this lesson learned, the transference of the experience, and how it has stuck with me in “my life away from the wilderness”, back in civilization. The gunshots are, to me,  like any disturbance that comes into my life, whether it’s an unkind comment that comes my way, or a bank that has overcharged me.  What I do between these disturbances is my business,  my responsibility. It is up to me to keep the calm, to remain in balance.

I also presented a metaphor of the lake and its waves during our kayaking program to illustrate, (from Eckhart Tolle’s example) that our lives are like not just the waves on the surface of the lake, but the whole lake. The waves might sometimes be windy and rough, but that is only part of the lake. Going down deep, where the water is undisturbed, or moved ever so slightly, is similar to staying focused on the goal of presence.
I love facilitating groups in the mountains and wilderness. I learn as much, or more than the students, and this case proved that again.

Contact us if you’d like to know more about the Mindfulness in the Mountains program, as well as our other programs in Peru, upcoming programs in France and New Zealand.

Adirondack Guideboats – A Work of Art

19/07/2012

Dan Embree’s Adirondack Guideboat

While putting in at the Connecticut River the other day in Lyme, NH, I met Daniel Embree, owner of Bunker Hill Boatworks in North Pomfret Vermont. Dan was jut pulling up to the landing in a beautiful double ended rowboat, the likes I’d never seen. Then again, I don’t get to the Adirondacks that much anymore. He explained his boat was an Adirondack Guideboat, which is quite common in “the ‘Dacks”.   Having started to understand the healing power and love of working on boats, (mind you, I only do minor repairs) I immediately noticed, as anyone would, the beauty of the workmanship of Dan’s craft, which is also…his craft. Dan built the boat.

Dan has been making boats since 1990, and has decided to build on and improve his traditional design based on 19th century patterns by D. Grant, and is considered by many the fastest fixed-seat rowing craft. The history of the guideboat is one of backwater travel for sightseeing and sport which was easy to row and portage, (unlike my beautiful but heavy Mansfield canoe which I just portaged to Morgan Pond the other day. My neck still hurts).

Dan uses a traditional wooden design with a the use of fiberglass. Each boat is first ribbed and planked and then coated with a fiberglass/epoxy resin. This increases strength and preserves the wooden look, and makes the boat easier to maintain. The Adirondack Guideboat is 16ft in length and weighs in at 75lbs. So make your portages short.  The boats are made of cherry, birds eye maple, and white pine woods.

Nice Work Dan! A great boat.

I was taken by the product I thought I’d include it in our blog and let you know about a nice guy doing good work. Dan seemed to have an aversion to websites, so you’d have to reach him by phone or email at 802-295-3552. He does have an email, but he might tie me up to the stern of his Guideboat and drag me down the Connecticut if I give it out..no just kidding – I’ll post it here later, if he’s interested in letting it out.  For now…
Dan Embree – Box 331, North Pomfret VT 05053