I have always felt such a strong connection to nature through trees, and especially the mighty sycamore. Countless lessons in life have been revealed to me as I’ve studied their forms and colors in all seasons.

Bruce knows that when the time comes, my ashes are to be scattered under the biggest sycamore he can find . . . one that stands alone in a field, its stark white branches spreading out from a massive trunk where it has spent years becoming strong and beautiful through all the storms it has endured.

When I recently overheard a guy talking about a ring of eight sycamore trees in the woods, I immediately asked for directions, knowing I had to find them to experience standing inside a circle of my favorite trees.

This magical opportunity – to be embraced by eight giant pillars of strength and energy, to feel their light and life wrapped around me – was something I had to do, a spiritual journey to connect with nature through my favorite trees, a worship service I couldn’t miss.

My whole being trembled with excitement . . . I spoke of the planned adventure, bubbling over with enthusiasastic anticipation as if I were taking off on a trip around the world.

I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to make the trek . . . the weather was absolutely beautiful for a hike through the woods . . . 84 degrees, blue skies, sunshine, gentle breeze . . . thank you, thank you,thank you!

Holding the sketched map in my hand, we followed the directions . . . park your car . . . cross the bridge . . . follow the dirt path . . . turn left here . . . turn right there . . .

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As we crossed the bridge, we were stopped in our tracks by the magnificent view of Hinkson Creek.

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As we walked along, my eyes began earnestly scanning the woods for a glimpse of the brilliant white branches. It wasn’t long before I spotted them, nestled off the beaten path, standing like a beacon of light . . . beckoning me to come . . . sit, explore, discover.

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In hushed voices, we carefully and quietly left the well-trodden dirt path and slowly made our way through the woods – walking on the soft bed of fallen leaves, stepping over limbs and trunks . . .
. . . our eyes fixed on the circle of trees.

It felt as if we were entering a church sanctuary.
God is the experience of looking at a tree
and saying, “Ah!” ~ Joseph Campbell

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I was awestruck.

Nature’s worship service began.

I laid down on the bed of fallen leaves and looked up at the majesty and glory of those eight sycamore trees . . . standing tall . . . reaching to the brilliant blue sky.

giant sycamores reaching to the blue sky
The wonder is that we can see these trees
and not wonder more. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

One sycamore tree top against the blue sky
Look deep, deep, deep into nature,
and then you will understand everything. ~Albert Einstein

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I am one with the sycamore trees.

I came to these woods to stand inside the circle of power and beauty and strength of eight giant sycamore trees . . . to marvel at the wisdom they impart . . . to sit, stand, lay down, jump and dance among these giants.

I received all that I hoped for, all that I imagined.

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It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim
upon men’s hearts,
as for that subtle something,
that quality of air that emanation from old trees,
that so wonderfully changes
and renews a weary spirit. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

We have thousands of miles yet to travel and thousands of trees yet to see . . . these eight sycamores that wrapped me in their arms will be with me in all that is yet to come.

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Sometimes, nature lines everything up perfectly and you find yourself in the right place at the right time to witness a phenomenon, to be the recipient of gifts from nature. The lasting memory is one of magic and beauty and gratitude and awe . . .

sunset over the river gift from nature

It is a gift of grace from nature to me.

Twice in my lifetime . . . I’ve been blessed with two amazing gifts from nature that were not doled out for the masses . . . precious and rare . . . a phenomenon.

And, as I write those words, I realize, of course, that every glorious sunrise, each majestic sunset, the powerful thunderstorms, gentle warm breezes in the spring and massive snowfall in winter, bright sunshine and gentle rain are all gifts from nature that are poured out continually.

sunrise majesty of nature

But a phenomenon in nature is an uncommon occurrence . . . something that happens by chance, something that occurs when you are in the right place at the right time . . .

something you’ll remember the rest of your days as a special gift from nature to you.

stars

Years ago, my teenage daughter and I headed out to the countryside to watch for meteor showers. She was so star-struck that her whole room was decorated with stars – glow in the dark stars painted on her ceiling, stars on posters, clothes, notebooks, bottles and jars. When we heard the announcement about the meteor showers expected arrival, we filled a thermos with hot chocolate, bundled up and drove away from the city lights to watch and wait for the magic to begin.

Perched in the windows of the mini-van, we held our breath and watched for the first sign of “falling stars.” In no time, they began to perform their amazing leaps through the night sky. No ballet performance will ever come close to the grace and beauty of nature that we witnessed. It was an endless dance of light. We started counting with the first appearance, 1,2,3,4,5 . . . 50, 100 . . . 500 . . . 600 . . . 900!

Never again have I witnessed the magnitude of that meteor shower. Oh, I’ve tried over and over to capture a repeat performance of that magical night . . . but nothing has come close to it. It was a gift of grace from nature that my daughter and I shared . . . one that we remember with a special awestruck prayer of gratitude.

another sunrise from nature

Fast forward about ten years, and that’s where you’ll find me rving fulltime, sitting outside our pickup camper one summer morning, coffee and book in hand, to welcome the day surrounded by the beauty of nature. I don’t know what made me stop reading and look up . . . but, oh, if I hadn’t, I would have missed the masterpiece that filled the eastern sky.

As I looked up, I saw all the colors of the rainbow displayed in vivid colors at the tops of the cloud formations . . . not a rainbow arc like we see after a storm, but a watercolor masterpiece of infused colors brilliantly adorning the morning sky. I was mesmerized.

I held my breath and took it all in. I knew not many would be witnesses, only a few would be recipients of this grand display from nature.

Fortunately, I had enough presence of mind to grab my camera and capture the moment. As I snapped dozens of pictures, the colors moved and transformed, following the path of the clouds.

This video I created will give you a glimpse of what I witnessed that morning. I called them cloudbows, although they are labeled as iridescent clouds by the scientific crowd.

I was deeply humbled by the whole experience . . . grand and glorious . . . given by nature to the chosen few, who became aware, who looked up and received.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

http://NakedHippiesRoadTrip.com There is an amazing, almost magical event at the river every Sunday – blues and bbq invades the quiet riverside campground at Katfish Katy’s in Huntsdale, Missouri.

It begins on the first warm days of Spring, endures the heat of Summer, swells in the cool Fall . . . and ends when the winter chill is too cold for the musicians’ nimble fingers.

blues jam and bbq at the river

Every Sunday, a crowd arrives for the afternoon of blues and bbq, bringing their chairs, coolers, blankets . . . their friends, families, dogs . . . arriving by boats, motorcycles, cars, trucks, bicycles and RVs . . .

To spend a few hours on the banks of the Missouri River, listening to sounds of a jam session from a mix of local musicians . . . feasting on grilled burgers and brats from the Naked Hippies BBQ . . . sharing a beer with a friend . . . laughing, dancing, relaxing . . . enjoying the atmosphere of fun.

Music, family and therapy all in one place . . . all in one afternoon.

This blues and bbq event transforms
and transfixes everyone who attends.

guitarist at blues and bbq

Musicians of all ages, from all walks of life, take turns getting on the stage to share their talents at the blues and bbq event. Some of them are there every Sunday . . . some show up every now and then . . . some have their first experience of jammin’ with the veterans!

Arlan Gaus leads the blues and bbq at the river

Arlan Gaus (pictured above) is the leader of this blues and bbq party. His passion is the blues . . . his dream became real when he helped build the stage that would provide the beautiful setting at Katfish Katy’s campground in Huntsdale, Missouri.

The stage becomes a melting pot for band members from various local bands who come because they love playing the music . . .

saxaphone player at the blues and bbq

The stage offers an open invitation to anyone yearning to join in the fun . . . to a nervous singer who has never performed with a band . . . or a young guitarist who is just beginning to master the chords . . .

The stage is a school . . . where the seasoned musicians become mentors to the young . . . to those who know the value of learning from the masters.

Colin Guill

Like young Colin Guill (pictured above), who has evolved over the past few years into a mighty presence on stage . . . playing lead guitar, bass, drums and keyboard . . . and belting out the blues as if he’s suffered years of heartbreak and loss in his short span of sixteen years.

It’s not just the musicians that are blended by the melting pot . . . people from all walks of life come together . . . they talk and laugh, dance and cheer, eat and drink . . . as the music plays and the burgers sizzle.

group of friends at the blues and bbq

Some are there every Sunday no matter what. Others come now and then, as their schedules allow. Some make the trip down to the river for blues and bbq for the first time, not sure what to expect, but always grateful they made the trip because . . .

girl playing washboard at the blues and bbq

A magical transformation occurs every time you come to the river for blues and bbq . . .

motorcycles at the blues and bbq

Once you cross over the levee, all the names and titles and professions and status that separates us in society disappears.

Everyone becomes family . . . everyone is welcomed . . . everyone connects on the same level . . .

crowd gathered for blues and bbq
Everyone knows that spending an afternoon at this blues & bbq event will result in feeling like you’ve come home.

It’s becomes like the TV show “Cheers” where everyone knows you name. All the stigma and stuffiness of the outside world fall away.

barefoot musician at the blues and bbq

You are a stranger only for an instant. The crowd takes you in, makes you feel like you should just take your shoes off and stay a while. And you do.

couple dancing at the blues and bbq

The blues and bbq event provides the best kind of therapy . . . and it’s FREE!

It happens every Sunday . . . someone remarks how much they “needed” to be here . . .

girl sitting on the riverbank

to let go of all the stress and worries of the week as they sit at the river’s edge, under the shade trees, stretched out in their chairs or on a blanket, a breeze blowing across their face . . . releasing everything that troubles them, letting it all wash away with the river’s constant flow.

enjoying the blues and bbq
For a few hours on Sunday, the crowd at the blues and bbq is fully present in the NOW. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow isn’t yet here . . . right now is all that matters.

dave and dave at the blues and bbq

It’s a glimpse of how we should live every single day – in the present moment – not just at the river on Sunday.

After the final song on Sunday afternoon, the blues and bbq dismantles. The band packs up its instruments, amps, microphones and chords . . .

naked hippies bbq

The Naked Hippies BBQ packs up the ice chests, puts away the grill, gathers the condiments and chips, the menu, the leftovers . . .

The crowd disperses to return home . . .

my favorite time of day

And the river waits for the next Sunday . . . when the blues and bbq will work its magical powers again . . . and for a few hours . . . all will be good and perfect . . . and fun!

http://NakedHippieRoadTrip.com

http://NakedHippiesRoadTrip.com Sometimes, we gotta stop all the scurrying, all the busyness, all the to-dos and planning – so we don’t miss the key to making our dreams come true . . . being happy NOW.

It’s so easy to get caught up in plans for the future, for our dreams . . . consumed with the where and when and how . . . easy and fun to talk about.

But, just as it’s vital to have a plan of action to reach you dream, it’s also a big mistake to ignore being happy TODAY. . . in this present moment . . . NOW.

Sounds a bit conflicting, doesn’t it? I mean, I write often about not waiting for “someday” . . . not sitting and wishing and waiting to live life on your own terms . . . not holding off until retirement to do what you’ve always desired . . . to live your dream now, not later?

And now, I’m saying you should be happy where you are right now . . . what gives?

How do you straddle both sides of the fence? How do you keep one foot on your dream and one foot in the present . . . and be happy about it?

How do you blend the two – your future dream life with where you are right now?

It all comes down to just being happy . . . always . . . every minute, every day . . . in every situation that develops . . . not just when things are going right, but in every big or little problem, every setback, every disappointment . . . in everything.

This is the magic key, and you don’t want to miss it: When you ARE happy, that breeds contentment, which brings peace, which builds assurance, which opens doors . . . to an awareness of joy and gratitude that allows life to change and grow and create your dream.

The state of being happy isn’t simply created by just focusing on thinking happy thoughts or writing a gratitude list, although those are worthy activities to get you started on the path to happiness.

Being happy isn’t something you do, it’s something you ARE.

It is a transformation of your very being.

In every way, every single moment you are . . .happy.

If your attention is focused on what isn’t working out as you thought, your happy tank is being drained of precious, vibrant, creative energy.

If your conversations dwell on problems and frustrations, happy has to take a back seat, move to the back of the line, getting lost in the shuffle.

But, if happiness permeates your thoughts and actions and conversations, your happy state of being will grow exponentially . . . filling you with contentment, peace and assurance . . . creating a state of more and more and more happiness.

It certainly isn’t easy being happy all the time. Life throws stuff at all of us that stops us dead in our tracks. It happens – it’s the ebb and flow of living.

I have shared with so many people that we are so so so ready to pull up stakes and hit the road NOW, to have a different view out our back door, to experience amazing places we’ve never seen, meet new people, living on a never-ending roadtrip . . . ready to live the next chapter of our dream.

And yet, it’s not time for our great escape.

So, now what? How can we be happy while yearning to hit the open road?

Well, we could do what we used to always do . . .allow the frustration and disappointment to take hold. We could complain and fret and worry about when and how and why . . .

But, that would drain all the happiness we have realized . . . living in the most beautiful setting where we are surrounded by glorious hills and fields, where sunsets are spectacular over the river, where coyotes and owls and eagles entertain, where a blanket of stars covers us at night, where we have shelter and warmth and protection.

So, as the Fall leaves dance through the air in the wind, we choose to dance with them . . . happy and content . . . right now, where we are.

Sing along with me . . . don’t worry . . . BE happy!

For pictures go to http://NakedHippiesRoadTrip.com

Camping season is coming to an end at Katfish Katy’s here in Missouri . . . at least for most tent campers. The nighttime temperatures in the 30s and 40s are pretty hard to endure unless you are well prepared and more of a survivalist . . . or unless you are in an RV.

The winter camping season will bring deer hunters and duck hunters who are acclimated to the cold, but soon, this campground will become our own private paradise for a few months.

The camping season at Katfish Katy’s reminds me of the old adage of Spring . . coming in like a lamb . . . going out like a lion.

Last April, a trickle of campers started the season – gently, like a lamb – so eager to get out to the river and frolic in the warmer weather.

But then came the drought and heat of this summer which brought camping to its own drought for a few weeks.

Finally, Fall awakened the camping urge and we have been filled to capacity during October . . . ending with the grand finale “roar of a lion” this weekend.

Hundreds of people were here this last camping season weekend . . .The Canoe for Clean Water group held a canoe race and provided booths and live music to raise awareness for cleaning up the Missouri River.

The Bruce Poe Band entertained the crowd for a few hours as they gathered on the banks of the river . . . he’s a familiar face to our Sunday afternoon Blues & BBQ event.

The most impressive booth we visited was the Raptor Rehab Project from the University of Missouri Vet School. Imagine standing two feet away from a Great Horned Owl . . . seeing up close and personal the majestic bird that sounds its haunting hoots at night.

Every time we see a hawk soaring through the sky, we stare in amazement and wonder . . . today we were delighted to see this Red Tailed Hawk right before our eyes . . . perched on the arm of the Vet School staff member who shared how they rescued him from a woman who found the injured bird in her back yard and was keeping him in her basement.

The Katy Trail is always busy with bicyclists and hikers who trek a few miles or across the country.

Today the trail was inundated with costumed riders for the Monster Bash Bike Ride. Cyclists of all ages dressed in Halloween costumes for the 15 mile trek from Columbia to Rocheport – families, couples, groups. Wildly entertaining . . . a showcase of creativity and fun!

I was drawn to the “Chick Magnet” . . . hee hee!

The One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eaters munched on their dyed “Barbie Dolls” – their faces smeared with the residue of eating purple people.

The most creative costume was the grasshopper . . . I wish I had taken a video of this guy so you could watch the legs move as he pedaled down the trail.

Camping season would not be complete without a Scout Troop invading the grounds. We love hosting Scouts . . . the leaders and Scouts are the most respectful campers we meet . . . we never have to worry about unruly kids running wild or a trashed campsite to clean up.

This Scout Troop comes every Fall – a highlight to camping season here – bringing its massive trebuchet to launch flaming pumpkins into the river. It’s crazy fun for the boys . . . each Scout carves his pumpkin and takes his turn pulling the pin on the trebuchet to send the ball of flame soaring up into the night sky – bringing squeals of delight from the Scouts.

The most wonderful part of the camping season here is the celebration of sunset at the “180” (named for the river mile marker on the Missouri River) where Danny John, a local river rat, has a private domain where his friends and family come to sit
around the campfire, watch the sunset and share stories and beer. He is in his element here . . . at the river . . . it shows in his face.

And, for the final culmination of a fantastic camping season, a fun weekend and a spirit of gratefulness, we were treated to the Orionid meteor showers in the wee hours on Sunday morning.

What a magical way to end our camping season. We climbed out of bed at 3:00 am, wrapped up in blankets and sat under the brilliant starry sky . . . watching and waiting for the magic show.
Finally, the Naked Hippies BBQ will once again set up the grill and feed the crowd that comes for the Sunday afternoon Blues & BBQ event. If weather permits, we’ll do it one more time before November, but the forecast looks a little foreboding for next weekend. So, this might be the last chance to get the “cheeseburger in paradise.”

Soon, all will be still at the campground. The nightly gathering at the 180 will succumb to meeting in Danny John’s garage, sitting around the wood stove instead of a campfire.

We’ll hibernate like the bears . . . snuggled up inside our pickup camper, spending the next few months of the winter camping season warm and dry . . . venturing out on
clear crisp days to walk through crunchy snow and see the beauty of winter glistening on the river and trees and fields.

It’s been a great camping season . . . this grand finale weekend was the perfect salute to a season of fun, adventure, work and play.

For pictures go to http://NakedHippiesRoadTrip.com

http://NakedHippiesRoadTrip.com

In our daily lives, there is hardly any time when we are unplugged – there is always some kind of electronic noise stimulating our sense of sound. .. except maybe when we are in a deep sleep. TV, radio, phones, iPods, computers constantly blaring, dinging, playing . . .to be unplugged, for some, is to be disconnected from reality – as they know it. It has become their lifeline.

How many times have you heard, or maybe you’ve even said, “I keep the TV on for noise.” How many people walk or jog with a headphones stuck in their ears?

Unplugged is a foreign idea to many.

We aren’t very comfortable with silence, just as we aren’t too comfortable with being alone.

All this constant stimulation from these electronic devices keeps us in a state of urgency and over-stimulation . . . we actually become more disconnected . . .we have become programmed to respond like robots when our cell phones beep, we get in the car and the first thing we do is turn on the radio, we keep the TV on even if we don’t sit down to watch it.

It’s as if we cannot function without some device making noise in the background to fill the void of silence . . . being unplugged is like cutting off the supply of oxygen we need to breathe.

But, just like too much of the wrong food can lead to an unhealthy life, too much stimulation from being plugged in all the time can deaden your sense to hearing the beautiful natural sounds.

Try this . . . become unplugged for a while and enjoy the sound of silence from these devices. Allow your mind to explore and wonder and create without any input from the influence of electronic means.

Take a walk unplugged – without your ipod stuck in your ear. Drive to work unplugged – without the radio blasting music and commercials. Keep the TV unplugged – don’t turn it on the minute you walk into the room.

You know what will happen when you become unplugged for a while? You’ll hear sounds of nature in their full glory, your awareness and connection to the beauty of creation will be heightened.

I’ve been reminded of the amazing sounds of silence from being unplugged this week. One evening as we watched the sunset on the river, the hoot owls began calling to one another. It was magical, it was breathtaking. No one in the group gathered around the campfire dared to speak . . . we waited in silence for the next hoots from the owls in the trees above us and then held our breath until the owls cross the river answered.

Wouldn’t have heard those beautiful creatures if a radio was blaring or cell phones were beeping.

Then, there was the rain last night . . . the soothing pattering sound of the gentle rain
falling on the roof of our pickup camper.

And, oh, when I hear the coyotes . . . I am transfixed on their yelps and howls and so
grateful that their glorious symphony wasn’t drowned out by the noise of TV or radio.

Of course, it’s not practical to remain unplugged . . . after all, we do exist in this technological world; but, taking the time to do this every now and again will be rewarding and fulfilling and entertaining.

Give your ears a rest from the noise . . . discover the joy of being unplugged and listening to nature.

http://NakedHippiesRoadTrip.com

http://NakedHippiesRoadTrip.com

My 21 year old daughter is a hypochondriac . . . she is always worried about physical symptoms becoming a serious diagnosis. Hardly a week goes by that she doesn’t call me to tell me about some pain or discomfort she is feeling. I do what I can to alleviate her fears and reassure her that it’s nothing, usually telling her to just watch it and see if it gets worse.

Funny thing is, I’ve come to realize the parallels of being a hypochondriac about health and being an internet marketing hypochondriac.

Mention internet marketing to someone and you’ll see the similarities between the two.

Healthy hypochondriacs have an inaccurate perception of their body’s condition. Despite the absence of an actual medical condition, no matter what reassurances they hear that it’s really nothing to worry about . . . they continue to be obsessed with the diagnosis.

The internet marketing hypochondriac is no different. Their perception of the industry is that it is all a scam . . . you’ll be swindled, manipulated and left for broke. No amount of reassurance can change their mind.

Your brain is so powerful it can convince itself of anything. You believe what you’re thinking, and what you’re thinking is what you perceive to be reality.

The health hypochondriac can have doctors examine them and give a clean bill of health. Doesn’t matter what the professionals say . . . they just know they are developing a serious disease.

In the same way, the internet marketing hypochondriac can have dozens of people share their testimonies and show their results from internet marketing, but it doesn’t matter . . . they just know it will end in disaster for them.

A simple sore throat brings an onslaught of fear in the hypochondriac. “what if this is cancer . . . what if I lose my voice . . . what if I can’t work . . . what if I am contagious and infect others . . . what if the test is wrong” . . . on and on and on.

Fear is the driving emotion for the internet marketing hypochondriac . . . “what if I don’t know everything . . . what if my family and friends think I’m crazy for doing this . . . what if I fail” . . . on and on and on.

A health hypochondriac is obsessed with worry . .. they go to the doctor over and over again, repeatedly ask for assurance, and convince themselves that something serious may have been missed by the doctor.

The internet marketing hypochondriac is also obsessed with worry and doubt . . . the idea of failure permeates everything they attempt . . . they look for the “easy” button
. . . they view the successful leaders as swindlers . . . they complain about every symptom (setback) they experience . . . convinced that someone isn’t telling them the truth about the internet marketing system they have joined.

Over time, as the hypochondriac obsesses with their fears about their health, anxiety levels increase and can result in debilitating depression . . . unable to live a normal, fulfilling and vibrant life.

It’s no different for the internet marketing hypochondriac whose obsession with fear ends to a debilitating end . . . he gives up on his dream of freedom, his dream of living life on his own terms, his dream of creating financial abundance for his family. He returns to the cubicle he hates . . . the boss he detests . . . believing he was right all along – internet marketing is a scam.

The health hypochondriac is sometimes treated with a cognitive technique called exposure with response prevention . . . which takes an obsession and confronts it directly. It requires a person to move toward the fear, spend time immersed in it until . . .ultimately the realization is that it is just a fear, not reality.

The obsession the internet marketing hypochondriac has with believing it is all a scam can be also be treated in the same way . . . by confronting it directly, spending time immersed in training and masterminding with leaders, doing what needs to be
done no matter what . . . until, in time the fear is vanquished and the hypochondriac realizes that their fear was not reality . . . it was an emotional belief that held them back from success.

This is not to say there won’t be setbacks and failures in internet marketing . . . it’s part of the journey to success and it happens to everyone.

Listen to the leaders and they will tell of the countless “failures” they experienced on their way to financial freedom.

When the health hypochondriac thinks their physical symptom will lead to a diagnosis of a serious illness, their continued obsessive thoughts can make them quite ill.

When the internet marketing hypochondriac thinks he can’t achieve any success, that everyone is out to “get him,” their continued obsessive thoughts will make them fail.

It all comes down to one basic element . . . your thoughts.

Thoughts turn into beliefs which turn into actions.

“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” ~ Henry Ford

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