Sunday, March 18, 2012

Time to plant some flowers

Musha Shugyo \ 武者 修行;  
1. Warrior’s quest or pilgrimage.

    I have spent the last twelve years in the southeast, specifically the Fort Stewart and Savannah, Georgia region, a part of the United States called, “Coastal Georgia.”  This week, I pack away my swords and move to the next chapter of my journey.

     It has been quite the adventure.  I spent the first half of my time honing my skills with the 3rd Infantry Division on numerous training missions and combat rotations in Iraq.  I faced the darkest parts of my soul and peered into the fire of my inner demons.  It would only be in the face of absolute adversity and on the verge of destruction that I would be handed an option – give it all up and grow or remain impenetrable and rot from the inside.  I gave it all up so I could grow.

     I was offered an opportunity to work for the US Army Corps of Engineers.  Hanging up my fatigues and grabbing a shirt and tie, I spent the latter half of my journey honing my counselor skills and becoming a teacher of leadership and diversity.  From the flames emerged those parts of my psyche that I would be well known for – the Disability Program Manager and veteran advocate.  It would be in this final half of my time that I would truly become strong.

     I depart coastal Georgia a better man, capable of unconditional love and compassion.  I know what is truly important in life.  My life’s motto, as always, silently whispers to me, “We need to keep exploring and learning.  Keep going!”

     I end with an observation from nature.  For years, I stood at a bus stop under the shade of a massive oak tree.  Its strong roots had buckled the concrete sidewalk around it.  Its branches stretched across two lanes of traffic to provide shade to the house across the street.  It was home to birds, squirrels and city mice.  One morning there was a sign stapled to its trunk – “Condemned.  Scheduled for removal.”  I remember feeling sadness that this majestic, decades old icon would fall.

    A few weeks later I walked up to the bus stop.  Beside the bus marker was a stump.  On closer observation the truth was revealed.  The inside of this four foot wide tree stump was hollow.  It had rotted from the inside out to where only a shell remained.  While projecting strength in all weather, the city arborist knew it was only a matter of time before it fell.  My classes on teaching perceptions to managers and employees leapt to mind – “Sometimes, things are not what they appear to be.”

     I passed that stump a few days ago.  The owners of the seafood restaurant by the bus stop had filled the hollow area with potting soil and planted flowers.  They were in full bloom, a reminder to find joy, positivity and hope in every situation.

     So, we bid farewell to Coastal Georgia.  It is time to go plant some flowers and enjoy the next part of the journey.   

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