Wed, October 30, 2013
Without Noise in the Grand Tetons...
About a month ago, I was lucky enough to be hired by the Wyoming Nurses Association to come out and speak at their annual conference in Jackson Hole - a legendary, Western ski town that any powder loving athlete puts on the top of their Bucket List. I knew it would be an enjoyable 48 hours when I was picked up at the smallest airport in the country by a young ski bum wearing a cowboy hat and a grin. The trip did not disappoint.

I got to spend an hour with some of Wyoming's most trusted nursing professionals - we had a few laughs, learned a lot and then... I was tossed into the Western wild to do whatever I wanted. A rented SUV, some bear spray and a ticket into Grand Teton National Forest later, I was off finding my way into some of the most stunning land I had ever seen.

There is something about this part of the country that is stuck somewhere in time. Not only was having no agenda whatsoever one of the most exciting and alien feelings I have had in a while, the landscape immediately threw my perspective wide open and I was really seeing through unbiased observation, for the first time in a long time.

I cruised through the national park, took a walk into an old community of Mormon buildings, met a few cool folks that I would never have met if I hadn't been alone, drove through the mountains, sat in front of one of the most crystal, pristine lakes in the middle of two giant mountain ranges and saw wild animals (thankfully no bears) just doing what wild animals do...graze, eat and walk around somewhat aimlessly. But there is one place I visited that taught me the most.

The Cunningham cabin sits on the outskirts of the park, along the only road in and out of Jackson. It is just one of many "turn off" sites and I almost missed it. I jerked my car off the road onto the dirt road leading to the cabin and almost hesitated to go any further because I was the only one there; literally out in the middle of nothing, I could see a small log cabin, pressing into the earth from age and weather, up the path. Clutching my bear spray like a child feeling like an idiot, I scampered through the path. A chilly 48 degrees, the wind whistled in my ears as I daintily did my best to avoid the mud and then - I heard something.

I froze. All thoughts left my head, my ears felt ten feet wide as I honed in on the rustling. Hidden, beneath my feet, was a whipping stream making the most rich sounds as the water maneuvered around the rocks. I looked to the left to see the cabin, just sprawled out, bare and exposed, laid out in front of the range. I was struck by the raw, simplistic statement of it. I had never seen anything so beautiful than this simple structure that housed a man and his family in 1885-two small rooms joined together by a common area. Their was nothing around it-no movement, no trees, just the earth that stretched out for miles.

I went into the cabin and leaned against one of the large windows that naturally, had no glass, just a giant square hole in the wall. By myself, my family thousands of miles away, nothing to think about, no one to talk to, just to watch and listen to the nothingness around me was one of the most spiritual experiences I have had in a long time. I thought this: there was a time when this was all people had, there whole lives revolved around the land and the caring of each other, their animals and their survival. Though we are blessed now with modern conveniences, we are also cursed with the distraction of "noise" constantly filling our ears and our heads that threaten to deny us the purity of a moment like this - moments that I bet, are all around us.

After a while, another car pulled up and a man with a camera came out to the cabin. In that one instant, in that one distraction that my mind attached itself to, the noise returned and the moment sped up again.

Always looking for the leadership angle, I wonder; what are we using to stop the noise in our daily lives? Do we even try? Could we have an even greater impact on our lives and the lives of others if we can quiet ourselves to root ourselves in perspective and reflection?

My guess is yes. And though we would all love to, thankfully, we don't have to go all the way to Wyoming to do so. Find your cabin, do it now.

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