The Thing About Fog and Musings on the Nature of Beauty

You see, or, perhaps not, the Golden Gate Bridge is still just as brilliant even when obscured by the perpetual fog that squats over the strait in summer. Or is it?

If beauty and brilliance is there, but left blurred or altogether eclipsed by the upwelling of busy-ness and what ultimately matters little, is the beauty really there if not seen?

The vaporous mass of 2020 has held transformational change, a horde of emotions, division, life milestones, and more. It has left so much beauty obscured. Then again, other exquisite things have opened and become treasured.

The year began with a collision of personal loss of what was most dear paralleled by the slow and steady swarm of microscopic invaders whose indiscriminate and random attacks led to an overthrow of the human condition. Further and forever tainted by ideological division, conspiracy theories, social injustices, character vacuums at a time when we needed moral clarity the most, and a lack of dialogue.

The wounds remain fresh and unexpectedly raw. Their sting revealed in the late hours of the night and at first wake; in the artifacts and pictures and memories that cannot and should not be erased. Sometimes in dreams. Signs of healing are there, too. Stitches come in the form of new little lives, new love, the return of friendships seemingly lost or diluted, and inspiring ventures and adventures. The emotional rehab reveals new strengths and capabilities. Families and loved ones found intimacy and the proverbial “quality time” driven by an unwelcome quarantine whose ironic effect was to bring us…closer.

I will not try and forget 2020. I will work to embrace its lessons. I pray that its fury and toxic layer be appreciated but not welcome for a return. I will hope strongly that some things disappear forever; and I hope others will return and allow me to hold close their beauty and never let the fog steal its most permanent place.

History in the Faking

I celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day with a post and a thanks to some I have been honored to know and receive teaching from. I added commentary that I feel it is more appropriate to honor these people and continue the decades long re-think of whether or not Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” is really something to pin a National Holiday around.

One response was, “Hmmmm, revisionist history.” Well, yes, it is.

Unlike conspiracy theories — of which the “discovery” of America might be one of the great originals–our understanding of history can and should be revised based on new knowledge. To think that it isn’t used for personal and political agendas would be naive. However, most historians are looking for truth, such that it can be found.

This well-dressed Genoese Parrot Head, sailing on behalf of Spain, was off to find a new route to places not yet seen by THEM and to find treasures. Fair enough. He and his crew kind of bumbled onto some of what is now called the “Americas.” Folks were there. Millions. Living a life with families and commerce and pursuit of growth.

But noooooooo.

The claims of discovery have long since been debunked. Rightfully so. The facts covering the brutality and inhumanity on behalf of progress–totally driven by greed–were muted for so long. Until recent decades. Why? Because those facts, like so many others, mess with the myth of who we are or where we came from or what we value about our history.

Visiting and setting up residence in a new place isn’t bad. Most of our country is based on valuing immigrants (until the last few years). But to say it is YOURS because YOU haven’t seen it before has NOTHING to due with “discovery.” It’s more like this.

Seanus Greedus (mountain biking and coming across small village–let’s call it Waxhaw): I’ve never seen this place. I like it. I think I’ll call it Seanus Township.

Indigenous Person: Yo. We’ve actually been here a long time and we call it Waxhaw.

Seanus Greedus: You mean this isn’t Japan?

Indigenous Person: No. That’s a little East.

Seanus Greedus: Well, I don’t see anyone else wearing Lucky Brand 110 Jeans, Vans sneakers, and drinking Ka’Chava shakes.

Indigenous Person: Nope, don’t see that either. But you’re welcome to join us for a shot of moonshine.

Seanus Greedus: No, I am claiming this place on behalf of the Land of Lucky Brand Vans Sneakers Wearing Ka’Chava Drinkers.

Indigenous Person: You can’t do that. We already live here and it’s called Waxhaw.

Seanus Greedus: Well then, we will cut off your head, enslave all of your brothers, take all your women away to star in our show, The Bachelorette, and make your children slaves or keep the nice ones for Chick-fil-a servers.

Indigenous Person: That seems pretty extreme. Can’t we just have that drink and talk about it?

Seanus Greedus: Okay, but only if you name a National Holiday after me.

Note: To those anywhere on the planet whose history has been dismissed, exaggerated, erased, distorted, and otherwise stolen for the sake of painting a different picture in order to make the selected generations to come feel a false sense of pride and wild frontier bravado, a closer look reveals your beauty and a heritage we should all celebrate. What was stolen, or acquired, or, in some cases gratefully landed upon, can be shared. And honored with a bit of humility and truth.

Just a thought.


“Life, Liberty, and uuuhhh, what’s the last word?”

I was leaving the pristine mountains of the Pisgah National Forest after 3 exhilarating mountain bike rides. After a perfect weekend with friends I stayed in Asheville one more day in order to get a few more miles of crazy exciting trails and to say Thank You to nature and her wonder.

As I left Bent Creek and headed for the interstate taking me back into Asheville, I was struck by the number of State Trooper vehicles speeding past me in both directions. I counted 17. Then, the colors and the banners and the lawn chairs and the people in ball caps and camouflage pants and shirts started to appear. American flags and confederate flags and MAGA hats were everywhere. With each mile there were more and more and more. It was like the lining of the boulevard for a parade. I was reminded that is was the first day of the RNC and perhaps POTUS was going to have a motorcade detour to this wonderful region of North Carolina. I prayed for an exit.

The crowds grew thicker by the mile. Folks with smiles and some with scowls waving their posters and banners. It looked like the 4th of July, but had more the feel of a Slender Man convention.

I had to stop for gas. I slowed and pulled in to a station along Brevard Highway, my 3 bikes loaded on my orange Subaru filled with bags and wine coolers, a guitar, and all manner of what is required to sustain life in the woods or with nutty friends at an Airbnb.

I had no sooner opened my driver-side door when a friendly-enough guy walked up and reached out to hand me a bumper sticker and a pamphlet. The organization: The Silent Majority. He wore jeans and work boots. His hands leathery and dirty from what I am certain is an honest job and one that adds value. His voice gritty from the combination of a lifetime of smoking and a couple of hours yelling at orange Subarus.

This is a close transcript of the conversation that ensued between me (ME) and the Silent Majority Guy (TSMGUY).

Hi. I’ll take the pamphlet, but keep the number sticker for someone else.

Why don’t you want the sticker? You’re not one of those Obama-loving socialists, are you?

Well, I am not a socialist and I was and am a fan of President Obama.

Well, seems to us that if you liked that muslim guy then you must be a socialist.

Another two-parter here. First of all, President Obama is not a muslim, although that would not change my support of him in the least as a man or as a politician. And, once again, I am not a socialist; I am a capitalist with a conscience.

And once again, my new friend, I am not a socialist; I am a capitalist with a conscience.

Roadside chat Me and TSMGUY

What the hell does that mean? Capitalist…communist…same thing.

ME (looking very confused):
Do you have any idea what you just said?

TSMGUY (walking away to next target):
You have a good day, man. Make America Great Again.

You do the same. Truer words never spoken. But not with this guy.

I offered a peace sign as he slowly jogged away. He returned a hand gesture of his own, minus one finger.

All I could do was invoke the southern phrase that is usually mixed with a touch of well-intended concern and disingenuous affection, “Bless his heart.”

I Choose Light this Day

This morning’s news was dark. More and more illness and death from a pandemic. More protests from non-violent and peace-seeking people bewildered and oppressed during their lifetime and representing the generations before them, blended with others who stand with and for them. More violent protests and violent response from those perhaps misguided, misjudged, and misled — who am I to say? I am not them, the protesters or the law enforcers. Angry weather breaking and entering the southern coast. And the stories of the rich and powerful having their way; or losing their way.

And then, fifth in line, the news of the celebration of the life of John Lewis and his final crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. A metaphorical tapestry masterpiece. A bridge. A casket. A flag. A body of honor was on its way to rest in the Nation’s capital, but first crossing the very place it was beaten, just under the name of a man who was a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. A sweltering summer day in the south where the images of toil and suffering are not as distant as some would like to believe but where the hope and promise John Lewis labored for still shines as brightly as the July sun.

It would be easy to resign the day to everything that is dark. Easy to let cynicism overcome idealism in these days and in these moments. Easy to blame or subscribe to conspiracy theories in lieu of truth because the truth is less animate. Easy to just turn it off and pivot to social media to escape with dances and pictures of cats and memes of all kinds that serve as Teflon for the hard reality around us.

Today, I choose to focus on story #5. I choose to remember words that have the potential to unite humanity. A person who led with conviction and empathy, and kindness but did so with a strong will and a relentless quest of justice. I will bring my book with me to the woods and read some of my favorite passages from Walking With The Wind. I’ll be glad the rest of this day that despite the dark that so anxiously seeks to consume and divide and crush the spirit of good, we are…I am…seeking and appreciating what is beautiful in this life. My family. My friends. My love. My pursuits and passions. Nature. My opportunity, privilege, and burden to contribute to a better society and a better evolution of self.

“You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone – any person or any force – dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant.” ~ John Lewis

Not So Random Acts and the Blessings of May

It was late night. We were headed back from uptown when we saw a woman walking down Johnston Road. She was tugging a luggage cart with what appeared to be a suitcase and other items in strapped on. She wore a reflective vest. Vera said–in her emphatic and empathic voice–“We have to see if she needs help!” I was already headed for the next U-turn. As we pulled over near the Ballantyne Country Club, I got out of the car and approached the traveler. She didn’t appear too concerned or at threatened by my approach.

I introduced my self and she said, “Hello, my name is May.”

May is homeless—by choice. She said she was in North Carolina for a time and eventually headed for Baltimore. Vee got out of the car once she knew it was safe. We chatted with May for a few moments. As I observed her broken down cart I asked if she would allow me to give her one that I had stored in my garage that might be easier to tow. She was immediately grateful and said, “Why, yes. Are you sure?” We agreed to meet in a few moments as she journeyed further north toward Harris Teeter or the even further to i485. I raced home and got the beach wagon/cart and headed back to Johnston Road.

We saw her tugging her cargo of belongings just under the 485 overpass. We made the turn and pulled over on the shoulder just ahead of her. Our new friend was a little surprised at our return. I pulled the cart out of the Subaru and we started re-packing her belongings in it. May and Vee moved some things around and tested it for ergonomics and road readiness. It was an instant hit. We chatted a bit longer about her plans to stay in a local mission and eventually head for Maryland. We wished her well, gave her some money for meals and whatever else she might need, exchanged hugs, and got in the car and drove away. We worried about her, but we were grateful to have perhaps done something nice for someone in need.

Fast forward two weeks and our trip to Oak Island. We were driving on Interstate 74 on the outskirts east of Monroe, NC. We were actually talking about May and wondering how she was doing. Not five minutes later, Vee yelled (and I do mean, YELLED), “Look, look. It’s her. It’s May!” We couldn’t believe it. There she was, almost 80 miles from where we first met her, on the opposite side of the highway, pulling her green wagon toward the city.

I made an immediate U-turn and found a parking lot in front of an appliance store just ahead of her trek. We both jumped out and approached her. She looked a little surprised until I enthusiastically said, “Maaaay…It’s Sean and Vera…your friends from a couple of weeks ago that gave you the cart.” Her face lit up with the most delightful smile.

We gleefully expressed our joy in the serendipity. She said she was on her way to the library and working on getting some of her belongings shipped to Baltimore ahead of her upcoming quest. A few more moments of chat, another offering of some spending money, another embrace, a photo, and we went our separate ways.

We got back in the car and exchanged smiles mixed with joy and hope. This was a special moment. A reminder that we may not be able to save the world (today), but we can add something good to it from time to time. We can make new friends in the most unlikely of circumstances and we can find them again.

Godspeed, May. I hope you get home soon. Otherwise, we might find you again another day.

Sean’s Journal: Facing the Radical Bastards

It was a normal day. Not that any day is really “normal.” We gathered around the room to talk about the plans for the week. We discussed how we would lead through inquiry, narrative, rounding with purpose, and modeling what we are all about. It’s what we do.

I got a call. My dear friend and colleague asked that I take moment and be in a place that was private. The news was a diagnosis. Cancer. One that is relentless and stealthy. The news delivered almost as if a talking point in a corporate memo. Their intention was to offer it as news to those of us that are close and who care deeply before hearing it through the grapevine. I was numb. Quiet. I removed myself from my seat and stepped into the bathroom and threw up.

There were no signs. It began with a check up and a follow up with a concern and then another follow up and then the news.

Everyone responds differently. They will live fully and from a Bucket List perspective until the body says it can’t take another drop in it, so to speak. Others travel those last miles with different perspectives all their own.

I walk halls every day and see all manner of suffering and hope. I see men and women in white coats and in scrubs and in clothing dawned with artifacts and symbols that send visual signals we are there to do all we can to meet that suffering head on and be a partner in healing or transitioning. This work we do includes treatments and therapies and procedures in buildings and in rooms with equipment and beds lots of stuff aimed at making better. It also includes dialogue and support through conversations about the past and the future and the very real present.

We talked about it all. In the most ironic of twists, they also comforted me as my sadness and anger were clear in the moments together. Then, a few laughs at this mortality which is both villainous and heroic.

Cancer. A terrorist. It begins with a radical cell and moves through the urban streets of the body and consumes life. We fight back. We will, relentlessly. As many times as I visit its victims and its survivors, this beast does remind me of how precious and fragile life is. I am also reminded of how strong we humans can be in body and spirit.

To my dear friend—you inspire us all with your gift for healing others, through your leadership of those who hope to make their own mark in that healing, through your vision of care that looks beyond the barriers of bureaucracy and politics and the petty and the necessary pieces, and through your humanity and advocacy of the very patients of which you are now one. Fight. Live. Know you are loved. Know we will fight with you and fight for all the others who share your pain and your hope.


Sean’s Journal — December 22 “The doors behind me”

As the holiday approaches the meetings are fewer. Decorations and gifts and well-wishes lead to smiles and random acts of kindness. I finished one of those meetings with five of our clinical leaders. We spoke of what is possible and ideas around an early ’17 project that will effect people for the better. I left the nicely furnished and comfortable conference room and offered Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday wishes to the incredible executive assistants that line our suite. It was to be one of my last meetings of the year. As the sliding doors from the hospital to the garage closed behind me I heard the unmistakeable sound of grief.

the-healing-touch-jpg_sia-jpg-fit-to-width_800_trueThe sounds of prayer and weeping came from a family in a huddled embrace at the end of
the walkway. The gravity of sorrow brought two of them to their knees. It was clear they had just experienced a loss unimaginable and most likely unexpected. I approached and asked if I could offer them a place with some privacy. A woman turned and offered a muted smile through her tears and said, “Thank you, but we will stay here for a moment more.” I reached for her hand and she clutched mine as if we were old friends. We released and I slowly walked to the corner of the garage to make my turn for the line of cars waiting for those anxious to finish their rounds and their surgeries and their meetings and their small talk about plans and gifts and the little slice of joy that this time of year so often brings.

I glanced back at the family and offered a prayer for peace and comfort. As they so often do when I round and visit, my eyes welled up. I opened my car door and just stood. In just a few moments of uncharacteristic quiet, my mind raced through this last year. Its victories and tragedies. Its highs and lows and even the occasional uneventful.

My first thoughts were of those who were lost. Those whose lives ended so early and those who lived theirs out so well and just said, Farewell. No matter how expected or not, death takes away from the whole we know. The images of times we knew and experiences we had flood back in. There always seems to be a moment of doubt that they have actually “left”us.

My replay reminded me of how the depth of friendship can carry through the hardest times and complete the joy that comes with a milestone of good. I was awakened to the more shallow and fragile side of relationships when our flaws are exposed. I got to sing, and speak, and learn, and grow, and paddle, and pedal, and grow up how I hoped I would. I have loved well and have been loved so well. I realized how much I take for granted, especially with family and love, and I was ashamed. I became equally determined to change that; not in a New Years Eve kind of way, but in one of dialogue and awareness. I will battle cynicism and remain an idealist about this life.

To the family in their loss, I have thought of you every hour since walking through those doors yesterday. Peace be with you. And, in the most tragic of ironies, I am struck by how your loss—and tha
of so many others—gives me this grateful and grounded perspective.

Live well.


Sean’s Journal: Chronic pain and a little victory dance

We hold up in high regard those warriors on the athletic field who play through injury and pain. Impressive? Admirable? Sure.

But I see daily those whose pain is constant. Dull and then biting. Chronic. Genetic or illness-born. A product of a physiology fragile. Complex and mysterious.

sad-maskThey are among the heroes. They wake and face the day. Moving and stretching and finding ways to negotiate with their nemesis. They shower and make breakfast and raise their children. Go to work and labor through the tribulations of the day. They exercise to heal or to thrive in spite of the trials or to balance the pain here or the pain there.

Then, one day, after sucking it up and smiling through it, after finding ways to get the most out of life when the body says “I don’t want to,” after navigating through the maze of symptoms and root causes and the plethora of treatments, your patience and determination pays off. For the lucky few there is a potion in a script. A chemical cocktail that finds its paradoxical match.

Then, there is the victory dance. Hands moving freely. A morning wake without the long moments of adapting to the body’s need to move and greet the challenges ahead—holding a cup, writing a sentence, grabbing the wheel of a car, holding a hand, lifting a bag from the store. Things most of us take for granted.

Watching the ebb and flow has its emotional rhythm. Your quiet fight does not and did not go unnoticed. It isn’t the entertainers or the entrepreneurs or the athletes who command the respect stored in me. It is those who fight for our lives to live, and those who live to fight their own battles. You who war against demons that strike the mind or the toxins that grow and invade and steal us away. The spoils of injury. The aching that loiters and occupies the space between.

I watch with a quiet and empathic awe.

I am glad for you. I am inspired by you. I will do this work that might bring others to a place with less suffering and remember your example. Just wanted you to know.

Sean’s Journal: Godspeed (little man)

I looked in my son’s eyes at this reunion. Images flood as I retire to journal after the first day of time again. I see Lincoln Logs and Lego. Ninja Turtle moves and chasing a butterfly as goalkeeper while other 5-6 year olds mold around a soccer ball and move like tug-o-war somewhere at midfield. Laser Tag birthday parties and Pop Tarts after school. Later, at 15, walking in the den as I played and asking, “Dad, will you teach me that song on guitar?” One of my favorite moments. School plays where this peaceful teen transformed into animation and song. Baseball, football, wrestling and all things athletic while the arts tugged alongside. Books filled with the fantasies of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and of a boy named Harry. Flying in to Nashville just in time to hear him play his first gig and his first (and perfect) original. Pranks and bonfires and time with friends who stay friends. All boy. Always kind. Playful and pensive. Destined for something great

Then, the middle years. Somewhere between 11th grade, through college, and to this day. The years when when hobby and interests turn to passion and mission. When values and ideologies and philosophies are tested and changed. Or affirmed. A love. Vows, to a mate of a lifetime and vows to his country. And there are the dogs. Oh, the dogs that always seem to find a home in a Keyser pad. The decision to be a healer and a soldier. A leader of men and women. Between the studies, the weddings, the funerals, the contracts, the moves from base to base, the training, city to city, and hospital to hospital, we find ourselves here.

In these few days we did what we do. We talked about being human, being an American, a citizen. Politics and fast cars. Healthcare from the perspective of healers and administrators and advocates. We journeyed through the broken years and the moments and the days that have healed along the way. We laughed at the stories and how they are colorfully garnished with time. Watched a movie, and then another, and then another. Shared time in worship and song. We visited wineries and tasting rooms that line the hills and valleys of this pristine state. We offered our own tasting notes and made fun of the ones penned by others whose taste is something of another planet or palate (“graphite?). We placed targets along a pulley at a gun range and tested our skills and then watched my own Bonnie and Clyde at work. We went to the woods and gathered and chopped wood and built a fire and watched it light up the cool Washington night while the dogs chased and tirelessly played. Cheese and fruit and a bottle of Syrah. We walked through the personalities and the eccentricities of those we love and those we acquaint. We rested.

Then came time to leave. Breakfast and coffee. Small talk. A ride into the city and to the airport. A nervous look around the car for things forgotten just to add seconds or minutes. They never knew. An embrace and parting words like those as if returning in days. I walked into to a terminal full of hurried bodies. A glance back and the little Honda was gone. The tears find their release and the deep breaths keeps them at bay.


I don’t know if I have ever actually said those indelible parent’s words, “All grown up now.” But today, of all days, I find myself quietly offering them as my attention is fixed on the pictures on my phone while ignoring the TSA agent patiently motioning me through PreCheck, as if she knew.

To our beautiful Jenny—I love you. And I love the way you are.

Logan—I love you with a full heart and thank God every day for the treasure that is you.

“Godspeed, Little Man.”


Sean’s Journal: Personal Best(s)–More Lessons from the Trails

Personal best? The weekend’s rides were a series of little ones—not one overall. Getting to the best part of me as a son, a father, a partner, a businessman, a citizen, a musician, a writer, a paddler, a friend, or a rider, takes training and practice and a little gutsy resolve.

The trails are Nature’s mentor in many ways. Learning where the lines are cleanest and where the roots and jumps can be most treacherous. Constant attention and familiarity reduces risk and offers up a predictably better finish. But taking the familiar and continuously improving on the same path lures one into staying on that path because we know it. Living life, I mean living it, has much to do with trying, and failing, at the proverbial “less traveled.” I am drawn to the unknown. I love it best when the woods are quiet and deep and absent of other humanity, but full of an audience of wildlife whose bleachers are the trees and the creeks and under the logs and around the fallen things.

I rode various trails over the tGoatHillPosterPersBestwo days. For whatever reason, with each approach to the places that offered the safer (bypass) or Expert options, I chose only
the more challenging path. There are times I want to glide and enjoy the maturing of a faster outcome for the whole. But these two days were more about getting a little better at the edges, the hazards, the precarious. It was an attitude. I wanted to explore both new terrain and new potential.

So I pushed. I never clocked my overall time. I did find that my turns were sharper, some of my landings more solid, my acceleration out of the turns faster, and a little more air was under the frame.

Ramp2PersonalBestHippieAt the top of Whitewater’s Goat Hill, I smiled. The burn in my thighs was matched by a rapid pulse and mild gasps for the Spring air. I tried, and succeeded at single-gearing it all the way.

The next day, on the ramp at Beatty I did what I thought I would never do. I jumped off the down ramp instead of carefully leaning back and sliding through the descent. I landed hard but never lost stride. There is this adrenaline that is rooted in fear at the pull of the bars heading into the jump, then, an equal amount that turns to a rush of “Holy Shit, I just did that.” This chemistry of opposing highs mixed with the familiar racing through clean lines and the known paths made for a day to remember.

A blueprint for life.