Monday, March 30, 2009

cutting down trees

When I was a boy, in the sticky heat of Alabama summer, I would help my dad cut firewood. Our house was heated by wood, so the only way to stay warm in the frigid winter months was to store up logs over the summer.
My dad used a chainsaw. It was heavy, a little rusty and when you held it, you felt raw power, like gripping an element of nature - a piece of strength itself. At 7, I had a hard time just picking the damn thing up, much less actually cutting any wood.
I remember driving his red tractor into the woods and putting on thick leather gloves. The smell of dirt, the scent of sweat, muscle and forest filled our lungs as the wood chips flew. I remember my tee shirt sticking to my body, the dust of the wood and the drips of sweat running down my face - the heat was almost unbearable - it was glorious. I remember our thermos; filled with cool ice water it would sit out of the way, until the cutting was done - then my dad would unscrew the lid, lean his head back and take a deep sip.. then he would smile and pass it to me. The taste of cool water, on a hot summer day, when everything is dirty and sweaty - there is nothing like that first sip, it is absolute refreshment.
I remember seeing my dads arms lifting the logs, huge logs - he would pick them up and toss them into the red tractor. Powerful. Power like a river, or powerful like the way a bear stands in a raging river to catch a trout. It was raw and it was sacred. He wore a red, Fruit-of-the-Loom tee shirt with a pocket, it would be drenched in sweat, and I remember the way he smelled - it was the opposite of clean, the opposite of soap. He smelled like a human, like a man, like he had touched the world and bled a little, and was not afraid to survive. It was real, and I am thankful for it.

I have never met another person that showed me that you can do things.. hard tough rough things, simply for the pleasure of motion. My dad showed me what it meant to be a man.. to be part of this planet and not afraid of getting roughed up. Being a man is about strength, about fearlessness, about using your body, about sweat, about living for something greater than money, and dying exhausted by the beautiful fullness of the days you lived.
Thanks dad.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


There are places I haven't been yet.
There are deserts that I haven't walked across and thirsted for cool water.
There are small bars in lazy towns that I haven't played songs in.
There are roads that wind through mountains where you can see a million stars at night.
There are waterfalls that I have not yet played under.
There are tree houses that I haven't slept in.
There are lakes which I haven't explored.
There are friends that I have not yet talked to.
There are photos of faces, which have not yet been taken.
There is money that has not yet been given.
There are tears that I have not yet cried.
There are smiles and laughter that I have not yet shared.

How can we sit still?
How can we wait and wait and wait, and fret?
How can get comfortable?
We are part of this earth - embrace earth.

I am sitting in my apartment in Hawaii. I am looking out on the mountains at night, and I feel this amazing breeze blowing across my face.
Tomorrow I am learning to sail.
This place is alive .. alive with opportunities to grow and learn and change.
This is adventure!
But this is not the end. There is never an end - until I stop breathing.
I am so grateful for the day. For the chance to absolutely exhaust myself beyond measure. I will never stop wondering or being astounded by the motion of life.
25 is a number. My number.
How quickly it rolls forward... 26, 27, 39, 45, 59, 90...
We don't even realize!

And then what you did.. is all that you did. When you discover that each moment was a chance to be free, was a chance to do whatever it is that shakes your mind and makes you gasp with amazement.
Catch that.

(Andrew Tipton)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hiking through clouds

Hiking through the tops of Oahu's mountains, the raindrops splashing against my eyes, muddy hiking boots tearing through underbrush, surrounded by clouds - I imagine myself on a mission to save an endangered species of jungle gorilla.

High above the cities, away from the rumble and distraction of tourists, we trek across the edges of fern-covered cliffs in silence. I am lost in thought, but thoughts about where I am. I jump over a fallen tree, I climb past a few boulders and make my way up the washed-out trail. My breathing is heavy, and sweat is dripping from my skin, I can taste drops of jungle dirt on my lips.. and I love it! There is only the sound of rain and wind and we move along the trail - rain, wind, and my own body moving. I am aware of my feet, as they dart and nimbly maneuver across the path - good to have feet. I am aware of my hands as I grip trees and vines in an attempt to stabilize myself on the slippery descents. I am aware of my eyes, as the are ever searching for the next rock, or the next clean patch of trail - step by step.

At the summit, Charles shot me a grin. As we stood there, surround by a blanket of clouds, I felt like I was dreaming. I could only see a few yards in each direction - there was the sensation of absolute saturation; of being enveloped in nature itself. I felt like I was part of the wetness, part of the stillness, part of the mud, and the rocks, and the leaves.. I felt like I was part of myself.

I remember the trail, because I was there for it - every step of the way.

(Andrew Tipton

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Live like they do in the movies

“Life’s journey is not to arrive safely at the Grave in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways totally worn out shouting Holly shit, what a ride!”

Some days we wake up, and we're scared to act, scared to move, scared to say what we feel, or do what we want; we are obsessed with preserving our lives. We stay between the lines, we sit quietly, we go to our jobs, we pay insurance on our cars, we sleep indoors, we iron our clothes, we interact with the entire world in prescribed ways. Completely adhering to the idea that we are "given" freedom, we don't believe that we truly "own" freedom.
We live amazing lives - but only in our minds.

We watch movies about people that do what they want.
In movies, humans have incredible lives.
The go sailing across oceans, they make-out the in the driver's seat of the car while screaming 80mph down the highway; in the movies people kiss perfectly.
In the movies people are wild, they are untamed, they are brave, they are larger than life, only because our lives are so frail in comparison.

You know the feeling you get when you are doing something dangerous, and suddenly you make a mistake. You slip while rock-climbing, you crash on your mountain bike, or you narrowly miss a ledge while skiing.. you know the feeling?
Your heart skips about 10 beats, and you suddenly are aware that you barely missed death! You are still alive! It is like someone grabbed you a shook you.. to wake you up. That is a MOVIE STATE OF MIND. Life is thrown back into perspective. Its more an urgency, or a drive that makes us fearless, able to challenge it all, and do exactly what we want.. it is living, that makes life worth living.
Maybe you have to burst into a classroom and kiss a beautiful girl.
Maybe you have to sell everything you own and move away,
Maybe you have to paint something awesome.
Maybe you sing at the top of your lungs in front of anyone.
Maybe you jump out of a window.
Maybe you break into a swimming pool.
Maybe you strip naked and run wildly down a beach.
Maybe you buy everyone in the bar a drink.
Maybe you become a hero.
Maybe you write a book.
Maybe you start a revolution.
Maybe you do exactly what you've been aching to do your entire life.. because you can.

You are stronger than you know. You are wilder than you can imagine. Life is more exciting than you have been told. Adventure is everywhere.

(Andrew Tipton)

Friday, March 13, 2009

friends that don't speak your language

Music has taken off in my mind.
Over the last few weeks, I have become increasingly mesmerized by the effects of our universal language. Truly it is! I have met people from all around the globe: France, Belgium, Austria, Australia, Ukraine, Brazil. I took a bus ride with a girl from Sweden, I painted my surfboard with a Brit, I discuss photography techniques with an elderly Russian, while we drank Hawaiian beer.
There are moments when language works, and many times when words have no meaning.

Music, however, has yet to fail.
I brought my guitar with me - I'm glad I did.
I haven't been playing "songs", just simply melodies.
People listen, they dance, they smile, they come together in strange places and share what they know.
Last night, I spent a few hours just playing simple tunes around where I live. No words, nothing but the notes themselves. People stopped. They slowed down and congregated. At first it was about me, the focus was on the guitar.. but then I became the background noise to conversations and connections. It was as if the songs led people to one another. I watched as perfect strangers became acquainted; as the personal walls of fearfulness broke down and friendships were formed.

The people that could speak English began asking me questions - we laughed, we talked, it was raw. I want to practice my guitar more. I like learning new languages... or actually learning "the" language.

(Andrew Tipton)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

days that you remember

Two nights ago I got in late. Very very late.
After riding the bus 2 hours to the north shore, and then grabbing a ride in the back of a mud-covered pick-up truck, I arrived at a surf party in Haleiwa.
An Australian, two German girls, a photographer, and myself.. in the middle of nowhere; all of us with the biggest grins on our sunburned faces.
We hopped the fence and made our way up the wet driveway to an enormous house. Greeted by music, a hot-tub full of girls wearing not much of anything, and the sounds of surfer craziness - I felt immediately at home.
Sometimes you find yourself in unfamiliar places, with people you don't know, and you have no idea how or why you got there... but it still feels so good! So much alive and un-rehersed, and raw.
I met a surfer named Randy.
I met a surfer named Mike.
I met a surfer girl named Erika.
I played guitar with a guy named Bryan.
I got surf tips from a guy with a Mohawk.
I drank Patron with a drummer named Alex.
I had an incredible, intimate conversation with a blond girl - I don't know her name.
I watched the fog on the mountains with 2 girls in the hot-tub.
I laughed with everyone.

I have no idea how I got back to Waikiki.

The next morning, I couldn't move. Everything about me ached. I lay in my bed and drank water. I wasn't sleepy, but I couldn't move - the world was spinning.
As I lay there, I started thinking.. how long has it been since I was forced to just lay somewhere and think? I thought about the night before, I thought about my headache, and I thought about the breeze that was cooling me through my window. My entire day was taken up with "recovering" - and it was exactly what I needed.
I started thinking about the last few weeks, the last few months - days that had past me by, and the days that I remembered.

Days that are worth remembering.. have reasons to be remembered. They are the days that we filled with power, smiles, challenges, tiredness, joy, excitement... these are the days that were wild and un-ordinary. These are days which we were aware.
Aware... aware of what was happening while it was happening. What a great place to be!

Be aware, and do things that make you stronger.

(Andrew Tipton)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bought surfboard - surfed, crashed on reef..

I walked down to Diamondhead this morning and picked up a new surfboard. Its a 8' smooth and ready to be ridden. I took in to the surf beside Diamondhead beach, it is a remote section of waves hidden behind a few hundred yards of sharp coral - I waxed up and paddled out into the water. my knuckles scraped against the brittle edges as I propelled myself forward. 3 other surfers, all sitting up on their boards, waiting for the next set - no words, just nods and smiles.
I sat up and straddled my board, watching the sunlight glistening across the palm trees and through the branches. The bottom half of a rainbow climbing through the mountains - losing itself in dark clouds.
One of the best parts of surfing is not surfing; its the wait on the edge of the waves.
The wave was good. Solid.

Every time though I felt the coral tear at my feet and my ankles as I bailed off - the thought of sharks lingered in my head for a few moments.
Sharks hate surfers, they eat them out of spite.

The last wave was big, solid and strong - I took it all the way past the reef's edge - then slipped of the front of the board and landed head first on the coral.
I have a nice scratch on my forehead and one on my arm.
The surfboard is fine.

Can't wait to go out tomorrow!

(Andrew Tipton)

Friday, March 6, 2009

poems about love

What will you take from this life?
What things drive you to be wild, or to smile?

I adore the idea of separation, of keeping a distance between yourself and attachment - never being held or tormented by loss or gain, because you are aware.
I am aware of the simplicity of being. I am aware of the fleeting days and of my fragile body. And I am completely satisfied with these surroundings.
And yet, life is truly this brief.

I am to justify suffering? Or weigh the abandonment of suffering as a more desirable goal? What takes precedence, when all is equally as bright?

I listened to the most beautiful poem about love last night. At a poetry reading, in a dimly lit bar. The seduction of wine and of candlelight wrapping itself around the poets and trickling through the audience. There were all types of people there: sand-covered surfers with matted hair and firey eyes, there were elegantly dressed women clutching glasses of white wine, there were honest smiles and fake breasts. The room was filled with the hum of thoughts and wispers.
I watched as a man walked onto stage, standing clamly, as if he was waiting for the perfect and only moment at which he could speak. I watched him strip away his armor, and expose his thoughts - raw, unashamed, awesome. I do not envy him - he was ordinary in all respects, average in looks, unremarkable; and yet his words had such purity and such potency that I was completely mesmerized. When he spoke of love, I felt love: warmth on my face and a glowing ember in the deepest darkest corners of my chest.
I do not believe in falling in love. I do not ascribe to the notion of "finding" a soul mate, or drifting into perpetual happiness, but I wish I did. Part of me knew those words last night.. part of me connected with the hope and the pain and the pleasure of loving. As I listened to his poem, my mind was a blur of memories and faces. Smiles and experiences, and hugs, and screams, and the warmth of skin.
I saw my brother, and my sister, and my mother, and my father, and friends, and girls and mountains and the breathtaking beauty of clouds at sunset. The moments when complexity is lost, when all that matters is that person and that connection. Is that is love? I hope so. That feeling I want to believe in, I want to know - there is freedom and complete torment in enjoying life without others. Happiness was made to be shared.

Life is only a breathe. A heartbeat. A kiss.
forget attachment. But do not forget love.

(Andrew Tipton)

Monday, March 2, 2009

the edge of the wind

There is here.
I have seen photos and pictures and heard sounds.. but they do not compare. To know something by any other means that actually touching it.. is not real.

We are so very good at convincing ourselves that we "know" things.. yet we have no idea of them, no idea of how they feel against our skin, or how they make our eyes shine, or our hearts beat fast in our chest.

It is scary. I admit it. Letting go of yourself - clawing trying to hold onto what you have known and what you call your own. How good it feels though to let yourself glide on the edge of the wind. Letting it take you where you need to go, like a feather, or a leaf from a tree. You are swept off your feet; lost in the fragile magic of enjoyment. There are not parameters to enjoying life. You don't need meet a certain set of requirements before you can be happy... happiness is here, begging to be touched. Grab happiness and take it with you. Wherever you are, there it is, right at your side, in front of you - you become happiness.

I am so glad to be here tonight.
In this hostel.
In Hawaii.
I can hear the waves.
I taste wine on my lips.
And these two girls from Sweden are beside me sharing their beer.
This moment is perfect.

Thank you for today.