Beauty

“Cairns are little nudges from God, pointing you in the direction of the divine. You don’t have to follow, and there is no penalty for choosing the easier, safer path. But you might miss the beauty.” – Page 71

One of the biggest struggles I had in putting Cairns together was whether to include a subtitle. I ultimately decided to include a subtitle, but up until a few weeks before it was published, it was subtitled The Power and Beauty of Finding Your Way, not The Beauty and Power of Finding Your Way. I initially thought Power was more important than Beauty. But upon more honest introspection, I knew that, for me, Beauty was – still is – more important.

Beauty is a theme in Cairns. It has always been one of my pursuits, especially on my wilderness forays. And beauty certainly had a starring role on my journey with grief, as detailed in the book.

But I had always thought beauty was a personal pursuit, and perhaps even a selfish one at that. Maybe that’s because of its fleeting nature – you can’t hold on to beauty for long, except in your heart. Or maybe because of its personal nature – everyone finds beauty in different places.

But I am changing my mind on the importance of beauty, and its place in our lives.We’ve just returned from a 12-day trip to the mountains and high desert plains of west Texas, and it was filled with beauty. Unimaginable beauty, from the views on the mountain peaks to the bright fall colors of the Texas canyons, to landscapes of red berry-tipped agaves against the mesas and blue skies, to the sky dappled in hundreds of thousands of stars, the Milky Way on full display from horizon to horizon, shooting stars zipping through the constellations, and of course, sharing all this in a hand-held embrace with my life partner.When not hiking or rafting or biking, while enjoying down time in camp or late at night in the tent, I carried a book with me, The Carry Home, by Gary Ferguson. Ironically, I found the book while searching for an image for a Cairns facebook post. Of course my attention was piqued with a synopsis of the book, about Gary’s own journey through grief following the death of his wife, following his heart through wild places, too. And wow, my local library actually had the book available when I stopped in two days before leaving for our trip.

Gary’s writing is brilliant, packing an economy of words that efficiently conveys both description and conviction, connecting with the reader at a deeply emotional level. His passion and pain are shared equally, without embellishment, because the truth needs no embellishment. And there it was, in a chapter entitled Thanksgiving, read in camp in the Chisos Mountains after a day spent hiking since dawn; a truth I have known all along, but I didn’t recognize as a universal.Gary had been commissioned by a publisher to gather a collection of nature myths from around the world. Of course I have long recognized the ancient wisdom of myth, also evident in Cairns in my quotes of homage to Joseph Campbell, the godfather of mythology. And Campbell’s lifework, the hero’s journey, is the framework of both Gary’s book and mine.

In true Campbell fashion, Gary collected more than 1,500 nature stories and myths, from storytellers and anthropologists and tribal elders. From these stories, three qualities essential to living well in the world emerged – and the first of these is a relationship to beauty.

“The stories suggest that, while beauty may be fleeting, there is great reliability to it – a reliability so unerring, in fact, that it can pull the imagination to higher callings, to the outer edges of the eternal”, writes Ferguson.

Of course it can, I know this. But I didn’t trust the reliability of it; why, I don’t know. I am still learning. And sometimes it just takes someone else to point it out, to confirm your suspicions. But when those suspicions stand on the shoulders of timeless stories and myths – well, then it genuinely is a truth.

I put down the book after reading this, and watched the sunset through The Window at our camp, more than content “to see the world through the shine of whatever beautiful thing is in front of you.”

Beauty is reliable.

Of course, I will explore this concept in depth, and it will be a wonderful journey, buoyed by the same euphoria a scientist must feel with a hypothesis confirmed. While being present for the beauty, of course. Thanks, Gary, for doing the legwork.

The second quality Gary found necessary to living well in the world is community, and the third, mystery. I agree with these qualities, too, and of course they are main themes in Cairns also, especially mystery, but that is not the point of this post. This is about the importance of beauty. One quality essential to living well in the world at a time…

Down by the River

So last Thursday was my first author event – and what a way to debut, being a featured author at Word Associates “A Gathering of Authors”. Everything about the event was top notch professional – the venue (Riverside Landing Events Center, in Oakmont, PA), the pop-up bookstore, the entertainment (Bill Duff, a fantastic guitarist), the emcee (thanks to Bill Davis!), bartender Bill, our red-dressed professional model escort Jenna, and of course the hosts, Word Associates (extra special thanks to Francine and Tom Costello, and to Jason and April from the WA staff, for all their hard work on our behalf.) The little extras – the swag bags for attendees, the cookies from Oakmont Bakery, and the beautiful sunset reflecting off the Allegheny River – all made the evening magical.

Of course, this really ratcheted up the butterflies for me – this was my first “Cairns” speaking event. And boy did we have some really talented authors and presenters on stage! Presentations on pocket revolutionaries, K-9 canines, and 15-second fitness (complete with audience participation), on the subject of dragons, cats, and birds, presented by preachers, pilgrims, professors and proud grandmas, featuring stories of farmers and famous mayors, of wars and wandering, telling tales of espionage, intrigue, injustice, and mystery. Wow, what a great group, so able to work an audience! It was wonderful how everyone supported everyone and even continued common themes on the fly, like “the women in the red dress” thread that ran through the evenings’ speakers, in reference to a famous character from a famous author just up the river in Tarentum, PA, where WA is headquartered! I have a lot to learn, I learned…

But that’s what happens when you follow a dream – you have to get out of your comfort zone. I’ve dreamed about taking Cairns from a few excited brain synapses that kept me up at night to a real, live book – for over six years. And in the back of my mind, in these dreams, was the thought of doing something like “A Gathering of Authors” – and now that has come true, too.

No, I don’t have a best-seller, probably never will. But I worked really long and hard on my book to make it the best it can be, and to make that dream come true – and it did. That is more than worth it. And I got to debut my dream come true at such a wonderful event as “A Gathering of Authors” – how great is that?

The best part of the night, though, was sharing this with my family. Out in the audience was my longest supporter, my mom, and she brought lots of friends, too. My boys were also there, hopefully feeling a little proud of their old man. And Emily took time out of her busy schedule to drive up from Oakland to attend! Wow, thanks to one and all!

Best of all, I got to include my very own “women in the (kinda) red dress” in my presentation, and share a little of the spotlight with my biggest supporter (and impromptu editor, and ledge-talker-downer, and get-the-manuscript-out-of-the-garbage-again fetcher), and heroine in my story, my wonderful Kim. Thanks hon, for following these cairns with me. Let’s see where they lead…

 

Joe Part of “A Gathering of Authors”

Wow, I am thrilled to be part of Word Association’s “A Gathering of Authors”, Thursday October 24, 2019, at Riverside Landing in Oakmont!

With a line-up of more than one dozen local authors pitching their newly-released books, each of the authors has five minutes to engage the audience, which should make for lively and memorable presentations that are at once succinct, compelling and utterly entertaining. Mine certainly will be!

Doors will open at 5pm, and author presentations begin at 6:30. There will be a pop-up bookstore (Cairns will be there, and I will be signing them), complimentary snacks, a cash bar, live music – and a traditional Pittsburgh cookie table!!!

The event is FREE and open to the public! See the link below for full details, and make plans now to attend “A Gathering of Authors”,  a book and author event like no other!!!

http://www.wordassociation.com/Images/news%20release%202019.pdf

Joe Featured in New Book, “People Who Inspire”

I am honored and humbled to be a part of Mary Dreliszak’s new book, “People Who Inspire.” an uplifting book about ordinary people living extraordinary lives. Mary writes of amazing people right here in western PA who have extraordinary stories to share, which she expertly does in this new book. Stories of rising above, of just cause and goodness, stories of overcoming handicaps and obstacles and never giving up. I am not sure I deserve to be included in with these folks, but there I am on page 149, in the “Life is an Adventure” section. That much I’ll agree with, and I also agree that Mary is one of these inspiring people, too.

Check out her blog at http://marymotivates.com/ , where she first did my story, and make sure you check out her book, “People Who Inspire”, at http://www.amazon.com/People-Who-Inspire-Ordinary-Extraordinary/dp/1628652470/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448115122&sr=8-1&keywords=people+who+inspire+mary

People Who Inspire Cover

And btw Mary, your book release party Thursday night was wonderful, thanks again for including me!

Joe Featured on Fatherhood 360

Fatherhood360

I am honored to have been asked to participate in the Fatherhood 360 project, a wonderful effort that is passionately committed to providing programs, resources, and information benefiting all men who desire to be successful leaders, both in the home and in their career. Thanks David for allowing me to take part in your wonderful project!  You can listen to the Podcast here:

http://www.fatherhood360.com/episode-008-joe-walko-of-the-unofficial-guide-to-fatherhood/

Joe Part of “The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood”

unofficial-guide-to-fatherhood-pre-order

Announcing my next book project!  Proud to be part of this group of nine fathers and authors, sharing the struggles and successes of fatherhood in a medley of stories.

What makes a band of nine fathers want to write a book on fatherhood? We all felt the need to share our stories. Through our different struggles and successes, the authors offer their opinions and advice from the frontlines of fatherhood, taking you on a journey through parenting as told by men who don’t hold back their enthusiasm for being proud fathers. Whether it is lessons learned, lessons taught, or simple a-ha moments, the reader will find moments of joy, sadness, and triumph. If you are a father, mother, son, daughter, extended family member or caregiver, there is something in this book for everyone, and it will kindle your excitement to send a message of love.

Published by Motivational Press, scheduled for release mid-April.  Reserve you copy now by clicking the link in the picture above.

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