My friend, Stacy Ryan, an aspiring and inspiring writer, surprised me with a visit last spring along with our dear friend Dana. Subsequently she wrote the following piece about Denver, dreams, and friendship.
Although the story is a glimpse into my personal life it really captures the underlying principle of friendship that guides what we do at Wild Dream Walks. It’s a balance, much like Stacy writes, between having friends who see the world as it is and having others imagining what it could be, with us. That’s the power of our community. People, sometimes even strangers, who offer a listening ear to someone setting out on a big journey, or helping each other get stuff done at a work session for entrepreneurs and creatives, or one of us leading a wish workshop for our elders. We gift our listening ears, our helpful hands and steady steps towards what the world could be all the while keeping each other grounded in what our day-to-day realities are. It’s almost as if having these varied types of friendships provides us with an opportunity to move freely between our thoughts, our hearts desires and our daily actions with ease. Thanks Stacy, for capturing this moment of time and, even more, for your continued friendship.
Denver: Mile-High in the Sky Hopes
It may have been mile-high hysteria, but this warm-blooded California girl loved the aesthetics that snow gave the urban Denver landscape. As I walked in my heavy snow boots, I tried to keep up with Dana’s long-legged strides and Nicole’s enthusiastic ones. I mostly eavesdropped on their conversation, talking only when I felt it was needed, because I preferred listening to these two women wax optimistic. I can say this of their conversation: if Nicole saw pink snow around us thanks to her rose-colored glasses than Dana regarded the snow as potential water.
Nicole possesses a wanderer’s spirit, with a destination being more of a suggestion than a requirement. That’s appropriate because Nicole walks quite a bit. Through her organization Wild Dream Walks, she guides people to living their best life by joining them on walks and discussing their aspirations and goals. In an effort not to put a price tag on people’s dreams or the services that she provides, Nicole jumped into the “gift economy” where capital (payment) can be anything from cash, gift cards, meals, or even just helping Nicole find new opportunities. It’s the 21st-century version of being a hippie but with much more social networking.
Dana is a mother of three kids, all under nine, with a part-time job and a husband who travels quite a bit. Like me, Dana aspires for something to define her interests other than her kids, hoping one day to provide fitness and nutrition help to clients. Dana is the type who thinks cranberries are an excellent substitute for chocolate while I think the best substitution for chocolate is raw sugar. Dana is a goal-oriented kind of gal; her to-do list actually gets marked as done while mine keeps migrating to the next week (for instance, I still need to order my college cap and gown). But with each class she takes for nutrition and each person that comes to her for fitness tips, Dana steadily continues towards her aspirations.
Dana and I landed in Denver the night after a storm had hit and the snow stayed on the ground for most of the weekend. Blades of grass and buds of daffodils extended through the new snow, creating a world where spring tried to rear it’s head and winter smacked it back down. I was able to see the grass and flowers because the three of us walked everywhere we went as Nicole decided a long time ago that the expense of a car didn’t fit into her lifestyle. A funny thing happens when you become a person who walks everywhere instead of driving. Time seems to slow down, passing only as quickly as your footsteps. But more than that, it’s almost more conducive to talk while strolling. Cars insulate a conversation to only its occupants. When walking, ambient sounds, the natural and the manufactured environment, and even fellow pedestrians become part of the conversation as well.
So as we three friends walked, the conversation ebbed and flowed with our silences filled with the sound of our boots crunching the snow and ice on the sidewalk. Nicole suggested that we should head over to the Denver Botanic Garden. After viewing the tropical plants and the greenhouse complete with orchids waiting for planting in warmer weather, the three of us wandered out to the koi pond. “I was always curious about what happens to the fish during the winter,” Nicole told us as we peered down into the water at the swimming gold, black, and white figures below. “It turns out, the fish will secure themselves in the sediment and go into a sort of hibernation until it warms up again.” How smart of them, I thought.
We left the botanic garden, heading out through the surrounding neighborhood. Almost every home had Adirondack chairs and BBQ’s on their patios or their front lawns, each covered with snow and optimism of warmer days.
As I walked all over Denver with Nicole and Dana, it occurred to me that Nicole represents spring to her walking companions. They come to her because they realize something in their lives is missing or has stalled and just bouncing an idea off a stranger (or new friend) helps them feel grounded and ready for the next step. Whether or not she is there to untie the knot that has them stuck or to be the sounding board to help rephrase or rework their ideas, Nicole is there like a blade of grass is peeking through the snow.
On the other hand, Dana will remind you that the blade of grass was there because you planted it before the snow fell. The rewards came because you did the hard work before the long, winter months. Whether she is touting healthy eating or discussing the benefits of practicing yoga, Dana is always about putting the work in to see the results. She is the eternal ant to my grasshopper.
Both Dana and Nicole want the same things for the people in their lives: achievement of their goals. But while Nicole’s approach is one of a dreamer, Dana is one of a planner. Combined, they give me a sense of realistic optimism. Whether through long strides or excited little ones, the final destination feels that much closer with friends like them.