Sunday, January 12, 2014

Awakening atop Mt. Katahdin...

*This story takes place at the beginning of my "Return Of Saturn" (<click here)symbolizing the next important stage, a turning point in ones life where self growth and awareness take place.


~An account of one man's experience as he reaches the summit~

September 18, 2012:

Today, is my 28th birthday and I have just walked over 2,000 miles. Breathing deeply, heart thumping from my chest as my life seems to be flashing before my eyes. How did I get here? All the events in my 27 years prior has been leading me to this moment atop the greatest mountain in Maine and the summit is only a few hundred feet away. 

First, let me back up a bit...

Maine is where I grew up. In a quaint little town they call "The Friendly Village", where everyone knows your name, locals wave as they pass by and always greeting one another with a smile. Looking back, I see how fortunate I was to have been raised in such a wonderful space. A real sense of community and humanity is one lesson I have carried with me from my childhood and for that I am grateful.

As a boy, I had quite the imagination with an energy that most teachers were challenged with. I guess sharing, laughing, conversing and connecting with others has always moved me. My active little aura kept me outside most days, playing into the late evening until my folks had to yell for me to come inside. Camping, running through the woods, town tag and building forts were a pass time. A sense of adventure intrigued me and around the age of 10 my good friend John and I made a pact, to one day become United States Marines. From that moment on, I never even considered another option. In hindsight, I see the pact was a dream for us to expand our boyhood adventurous minds and continue to explore unknown landscapes as strong, capable, exemplary men. This dream would eventually become our reality and it would all begin to happen so quickly...

At the speed of life, High School flew by as we surely made the best of those years and before I knew it, a greyhound bus was taking me to Paris Island where "Marines are born." My enlistment wasn't for freedom, it wasn't for god and it wasn't for country. At 18 I was just a kid and all I knew about life at this point is I was about to fulfill my childhood dream and that's all there was to it. The one promise I made to myself before leaving, is that I would never fall into the "brainwashed" stereotype. I didn't care if I had lost all my limbs, if I could just come back from this experience with everything from the neck up I would be OK. No one was going to take "ME" from me and in the end, some of me would be left standing.

I would be lying if I said I hadn't any inner demons after multiple deployments to the front lines of Iraq & Afghanistan...I soon realized the only thing we were over there fighting for was our brother to the Left & Right, nothing else mattered. After 8 years, I was somehow more lost and had more questions than ever before. A good Marine doesn't ask questions, you just do what you're told. So when all these unanswered questions clouded my mind following the war, I knew it was time for me to move on. I was ashamed for my part in such an unnecessary war, ashamed for the reasons behind the curtain and hidden agendas yet I was proud, for I had served my time honorably. I was a leader who upheld the rules & regulations as well as my oath but more importantly, I never lost sight of my own moral standards of how I conducted myself as a human being or how I treated others along my path, I valued this more than anything. To be proud and ashamed at the same time for a third of my life dedicated to this experience was a hard concept to wrap my head around. 

My eyes had been opened to one way of the world, a destructive way and it left a bitter taste in my mouth. Unaware that I would soon be introduced to another way allowing me to see the world through new eyes, I began planning the next chapter of my life 3 years prior to my discharge. I had my sights set on a 2,184 mile journey that would take me over the Appalachian Mountain range beginning in Georgia and I was going to walk home. I researched it every day, I yearned and longed for the day I would be able to set foot on the trail and experience the raw freedom America "believes" we all had been fighting for. I used to have the most vivid, most realistic dreams I've ever dreamed. Hiking the trail, meeting wonderful people, laughing and smiling up the mountainous coast...Then I would wake up in my barracks room, with over 2 years left on my contract. Those dreams were nightmares, painful, they felt like a cruel joke but patience for this indescribable journey ahead was a great lesson and definitely worth it.

September 18th 2012:

So, where was I...

Oh yeah, I'm almost at the summit and my entire life is catching up to the present moment. It hasn't even been a full year from my discharge date. Since, I've traveled 12,000 miles around the country through more than two dozen states visiting all National Parks & Monuments and hiked for 6 months over 2,000 miles up the East coast through 14 states. My goal to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail completely exceeded my dreams and expectations. The connections I discovered within other beings and in the natural world was beyond the comprehension of my younger self. This chapter was about to be fulfilled in the next few hundred feet... My heart pounding, breathing deeply, I can only focus on the summit sign. Moving forward, my body feels like it's vibrating immensely. The rest of the world seems to be slowly disappearing, almost like tunnel vision I can't even see my feet. I'm stumbling, kicking rocks and a maverick wave of emotions is building rapidly with every step towards the sign. You know how they say your life flashes in front of your eyes right before you die? Well, I believe the same to be true right before you wake up. It's all happening so fast, I see my family, my childhood, high school years, then all my experiences fighting the war, 8 years in service and all my life's obstacles are flashing towards me like a freight train. The beautiful landscapes and people I met over the last year flowing through me and the 2,000 mile journey I am about to conquer trailing behind. These are the most powerful moments I have ever experienced. The sign is now within arms reach, a combination of every single emotion one can feel is hitting me in the face as I reach out to latch onto the sign with both hands. A breaking point, just in time as I nearly collapse from this profound happening. Time froze as I lay here hanging on, tears of sadness and tears of happiness falling onto the rocks below...and then... I woke up. Silence, a very heavy weight seemed to be lifted from within, I had let it all go. I am awake for the first time in my life, towering atop the greatest Mountain in Maine and reborn 28 years later to the day. With a glorious smile upon my face I tilt my head back laughing boisterously at the sky. Peace, happiness, freedom and the clearest state of consciousness consume my being as I sit here admiring all of creation through new eyes with a Man I finally had the pleasure of meeting. ME. 




  1. Katahdin is life awakening. The Helon Taylor trail is one I ran up and down after reaching the summit and returning after going down once. Broke the feelings of confinement and freedom arose.

  2. Wow!! This is an extremely powerful account Ry, so well written and so intensely descriptive of not only the path you traveled as a young boy, your service with the USMC, your road trip around the USA, your AT walk home from Georgia but particularly those last few steps that felt like slow motion as you approached the Mt. Katahdin sign. You described it in such detail with intense feeling that I could picture the entire experience of you being reborn and meeting your new self. Fabulous!! Incredible!! Inspirational!! Publishing material I must say!!! You are very fortunate to experience this rebirth at such a young age. Not may folks can say they experienced something so profound.
    I too experienced a rebirth, an awakening, however not nearly the way you did but none the less very intense and extremely emotional. Unfortunately it took you deploying to the battle zones of Iraq and Afghanistan to awaken me. My old self was out of control, trying to do it all being wife, mother, friend, fitness instructor and rec. director and trying to please everyone at the same time...I was mentally a mess and spinning out of control..... that all changed beginning with Dad and I dropping you off at the Marine recruiting office with only the shirt on your back as you waved goodbye headed to Paris Island. Dad and I stopped at Gippers Sports Bar and the tears began to flow. This however without going into great detail of what Dad and I went through was just the beginning of my letting go. The real change came when you deployed, this is where I was hit hard with realization I had lost control of you, I was powerless, I could no longer protect you and I felt I was stripped of my second born son and could not do a thing about it. From that day forward I surrendered myself to God and let go. Then I prayed daily to the point of uncontrollable sobbing, many times at the top of the hill overlooking Mt. Washington, asking God to protect you, guide you, help you make the right decisions, keep you safe, carry you when you would struggle physically, mentally and emotionally and to bring you home in sound mind and body. This is how I made it through all 3 deployments and this is when I left the old Paula fade away as from then on Peace came over me and my life changed forever as I Let Go, Let God. I so wish I was awakened long ago when you and Tim were little, I know I would not have been running around crazy trying to do it all with zero patience, yelling at times, not paying close attention where I should, teaching my boys more than I did. So now I feel at Peace, I have lots of patience, I listen better, I love more, I teach more and just in time I feel for this next phase of my life. I no longer dwell in the past of "If I only did this" or "I wish I did that"..I only did what I knew. It happened all for a reason Ry. We are here on earth for a purpose and you discovered your purpose. I discovered mine, to make life more enjoyable for others. The many paths you chose led you exactly to where you wanted to be all along. Your adventurous spirit, high energy, challenging authority, inquisitive mind all with a loving soul back in the elementary, middle/high school days brought you to YOU. Enjoy your being YOU on your life journey!!! Your Loving Mother, Paula :D

  3. I summitted that exact day, CRAZY. We started climbing around 2 am so we got there by sunrise. Not sure when you did but it's quite probable we crossed paths. Congrats on the experience, I have never done anything more real and exciting as climb that final mountain of the AT. Truth.

  4. Wonderful! Very inspiring story, full of imagery and discovery. Awakening is a beautiful, and challenging experience, but in the end is always worth it. It allows us to open up to our true selves and discover the truth deep within. It inspires us to reexamine our choices and the way we go about life, in order to be sure we are living to our fullest potential. But the best thing about awakening is that it not only initiates the desire to better the self, but the desire to but others as well. :)

  5. This is so inspiring, Ry. At 28, I lost my mom, left my first husband, met your uncle and you ! Still in the midst of my second Saturn Return I'm hanging on for the ride. I am so happy we became family. There are no coincidences. Thank you.