Happiness Follows Me Wherever I Go
Maybe I told you this story… about living at the B-C Ranch deep in the Idaho backcountry.
For three years, I served as the full-time caretaker there. It was a hunting property for a Washington farmer & empty most of the time, but it was too nice a place to leave unguarded. You could drive to it from Challis on a Forest Service Road but no one did without a reason. It required crossing two mountain passes. In the winter, it was inaccessible except by snowmobile. But the owner wanted someone to live on the property, so I stayed there year-round taking care of the stock, fencing, and facilities. It was a nice setup and good situation for a modern-day hermit like me.
It was a period of time in my life when I was happy to be alone. A few years earlier, I’d gone through one of life’s lows and had to make a new start. Facing it, I used the opportunity to attempt something I’d long daydreamed of doing. Why not? I had nothing to lose and might never get the chance to experience a truly remote sabbatical again. Living alone as a real-life mountain man became an obsession when I really needed one and I pushed it to the limits. I lived the life I imagined… walking across mountain ranges alone from one side of the Rockies to the other… living winters in primitive conditions, isolated in the Frank Church Wilderness. Even when living civilized in the cabin at the B-C, I’d see only a handful of people for a couple of hours when I went to Challis to resupply. I stayed alone in the backcountry and remained detached from the outside world.
I was connected to the wilderness
and it was easy. Natural.
Can you imagine? For decades, I travelled the world and all of America working with people, talking with people, getting busier as a family man and entrepreneur. I lived in the suburbs and visited big cities. I spent my time entirely with people… mostly responding to needs outside my own. And after twenty years immersed in all that social turmoil, I changed my life to be alone with only Mother Nature to keep me company. Not another living soul for miles in any direction. No cars, no machines of any kind. No lights except in the sky. I listened to the river and the weather, and watched animals for entertainment.
Mostly, I liked to track them. Hunting was the prime attraction for most men in Idaho’s backcountry, but I liked to track the animals. They wrote stories with the prints and trails they left behind like letters or words for those who could read them. And the signs told stories rich in mystery and drama, sometimes even tales of horror and tragedy. A good tracker critically observed, collected data, and used his imagination to interpret and visualize the signs he discovered. Metaphysically, it was a way of connecting and there was a primal sense of calm in that experience. Studying their stories, I spent a lot of time quietly watching in the wilderness. Not hiding; I couldn’t hide. All the animals knew I was there and generally kept their distance.
Except that one crazy butterfly that came by to see me every time I went down to the creek. He was an animated little dude full of good energy, always bouncing through the air. It was hard to get a good look at him because he was never still, never flew in a straight line. About the time my eyes focused on him flitting through my view, he jerked up or down or otherwise changed direction. He flashed randomly through the willows that fenced the waterway, darting out and back in for cover from the birds. There was something familiar about him and I caught myself smiling the third or fourth time he appeared. I started anticipating his arrival when I went down to the creek and felt comfort every time he showed up. He felt like a friend and began to follow me on my travels.
I explored my corner of the Frank Church Wilderness as often as possible in every season during the years I lived at the B-C. From the bottom of drainages up ridges to summits, on horseback and afoot… I had the luxury of time and spent it lavishly while living that dream. Weeks alone without any human contact, I had only my thoughts to keep me company. I slept out under the open sky. One morning while propped up against a tree enjoying coffee, I was surprised by the white butterfly as he bounced through purple fireweed in the deadfall on the creek bank. Like a friend slapping high-five on my hand, it was a virtual fist-bump to remind me that life is as good as my attitude at that moment. And it was not the only time he appeared magically; he started showing up everywhere I travelled.
Imagine my surprise when I moved to Poland and he appeared. I was only there a matter of days when, while walking the dog by the farm fields around our home, the white butterfly flitted, bobbed, and attracted my attention with his trademark moves. I burst out laughing! I couldn’t believe he followed me to Poland. But there he was; immediately, I felt the attitude adjustment and walked the rest of the way home feeling blessed indeed.
I don’t have to be in a bad mood to appreciate him; a good mood gets even better when he appears. I am reminded by his presence to be mindful of and appreciate all the micro-magic in my life. My white butterfly is a spiritual reset button for me.
Don’t you find that SO MANY ‘bad days’ are not bad days at all? So often, it’s just a few bad minutes that we allow to set our mood and then they multiply and dominate our day. It’s easy to get in a bad mood but hard to get out of one. When I get sour, an invisible wall goes up and I need something to knock it down. I need something that will help me forget the bad thing that is bothering me and remember my good vibe. The Universe reciprocates; when I’m putting out bad energy, I get bad energy in return. I have to recapture a positive frame-of-mind, which is easier said than done.
My white butterfly resets my mood.
Other people use their own effective reminders. I know a combat veteran with a lost friend’s name tattooed inside of his forearm that reminds him to embrace the suck. A woman at work keeps her children’s pictures on the desk as a reminder of the good things in her life. My reminder is more dynamic, more active; I need something that grabs my attention. I want to be a good man and behave in a way that would please God (or create harmony with the world, or build good karma, or however you look at being ‘good’), but I get distracted. I am happy I found a way to reset my mood, a spiritual reminder, and I’m mindful to pay attention when he appears.