When I opened the unread message in Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine’s Facebook inbox last Friday, the first line that stood out to me was, ironically, the last.
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
Paul Hora, a reader of Blue Ridge Outdoors and fellow outdoor enthusiast, had used the words of John Muir to sum up his sentiments regarding a recent hike he’d taken with his wife Kerrie. Along with the message, Paul had attached a photo of the two along the Colbert Ridge Trail near Carolina Hemlocks Recreation Area. The photo, featured above, depicts Paul and Kerrie posing in front of a heart-shaped cluster of pink corundum.
In the message, Paul said, “Our purpose for going to the mountains this past weekend was to be in nature, to connect with one another and realign our hearts to ensure that we are on the same path going forward. After the ‘heart rock,’ we both felt the obvious confirmation in the purpose in our wilderness sojourn.”
Curiosity got the best of me. I not only thanked Paul for sharing both the image and the story with us, but I asked him for more. I wanted to know about the path, the connectivity they felt there on the trail, the lessons they had learned from time spent exploring the hills out their backyard.
So here, for what I hope is to be the first of many reader-shared adventures, are Paul and Kerrie’s responses. If they don’t inspire you to take the reins of your own life and steer it in the direction you want, I’m not sure what will.
JD: You mention this wilderness sojourn was meant to help ease your mind about big decisions you guys were considering undertaking. Can you talk a little more about that?
PH: My wife and I are both looking at making midlife career changes and it’s been a real struggle making the full commitment to change. In addition to that we are trying to adopt our first child.We literally stumbled across the heart rock on the way back down the trail in the middle of talking about “following our hearts” rather than worrying about making a mistake.
JD: And what are your current jobs?
P&KH: Paul is a Resource Efficiency Manager and does energy management for the military, located on Ft. Bragg, trying to reduce energy load through conservation and awareness measures. Kerrie works from home as Director of Business Development for a healthcare technology start-up, located outside of Washington D.C. My wife and I are in jobs we enjoy but are not so much passionate about. We want to “unplug” and lead more community oriented jobs which we call vocations of passion.
JD: Why is obtaining a vocation of passion important to you?
P&KH: Another way to describe ‘vocation of passion’ is a vocation that “fits” and makes us “come alive.” So many times when we introduce ourselves to new acquaintances, they ask what we do for a living, the token conversation starter, right? When we give our honest answer, we feel highly inauthentic and want to say, “That’s not really me though, let me tell you who I really am.” I guess most people probably feel this way but when you are in vocations that are so set apart from your true nature it feels heavy, disappointing, and a bit fraudulent. Our lives are subdivided into compartments — work, marriage, community, friends, extracurricular activities….they don’t connect. What our future life will look like is the intertwining of all these silos in life — connectedness. This isn’t just about happiness either, happiness is cheap but joy runs deep and is lasting. We love the quote that says, “Freedom is found when we let go of who we are supposed to be and embrace who we really are.”
JD: And how did that hike help you accept this turning point in your life? What have the woods taught you?
P&KH: Every experience (good and bad) you learn something new — it’s about perspective. Spend time in preparation but roll with it — unforeseen things always happen. Every season is valuable. Slow down, listen, and gaze — soak in the moment for it will be gone quickly.
JD: What is it like to have a significant other that likes to go outside and play, too?
P&KH: Thankfully we are cut from the same cloth and breathe a little deeper as soon as we get a visual of the mountains. On our 1 year anniversary we took a 7-day backpacking trip in the Grand Tetons and novice we were. That still is one of the most physically grueling feats we have accomplished, but it began a tradition for us and every year for our anniversary we take an epic mountain trip and go deep in the wilderness together. It’s one of the key components to our over a decade marriage and it’s way cheaper than marriage counseling. We have to depend upon and rely on each other in ways that we don’t in our everyday and it gives us a deep appreciation of each other. One’s strength is the others weakness and so it goes.
JD: The heart-rock-hike was obviously before Valentine’s Day — so how did you two end up spending the holiday of love?
P&KH: Paul worked on a reclaimed wood project for his side business. Kerrie painted. Made dinner together, like we do almost every night, while drinking wine and listening to some classic Tears for Fears in the background — that must give away our age!
As the travel editor for this magazine, I gather my inspiration from our readers’ stories and adventures. Like me, you are the ones that head to the woods to sort things out, think through things, or escape it all. We’re a lot alike, you and I. Let’s talk. I’m here to listen.
And as always, make time to #gooutsideandplay. Life’s too short, don’t ya think?