ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.

Artists and Illustrators

Artists and Illustrators, by Hallie Bateman

Artists and Illustrators, by Hallie Bateman (Source:

Perhaps you’re already familiar with Hallie Bateman (@hallithbates)? She’s a cartoonist and illustrator, and she will make you smile. And laugh. And think. While chuckling. At yourself…

This cartoon answers the inevitable and perennial question:

“What is the difference between art and illustration?” ~ Hallie Bateman

Smile. Laugh. Think. Chuckle. On with the adventure!

A Lot of Life

Karl Sprague (@karlsprague) just made my day! I met Karl at the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City last month, and his sunny, upbeat personality made him irresistible from our first handshake. He’s the quintessential poster boy for the Sunshine State. Here’s what he tweeted me this morning:

You pack a lot of life into a 24 hour period, don’t you? U keep us mentally sedentary folks updated on writing / travel / life

Karl Sprague

Wow. I think I’ll print and frame that when I get home from Costa Rica. Bold font. Hung front and center over my desk. Or my kitchen range. No, maybe nailed to a post by my garden. Hmmm. Duct taped to the wishbone of my windsurfer? Or the handlebars of my bike? Maybe I’ll just memorize it, repeat it like a mantra each morning. Or any time my enthusiasm sags…

I’m serious. What a gift! What validation. What encouragement. I wonder if Karl had any notion at all how his quick message would impact me. I’d like to think he did. He’s magnanimous, wouldn’t miss an opportunity to give, encourage, thank. And yet, I’m guessing he didn’t. I’m guessing he typed and sent that tiny little tweet out into the ether without thinking too much about it. That’s also the kind of fellow he is, generous with complements but totally unselfconscious about his generosity. Second nature. The kind of guy who smiles by default, laughs to relax, encourages because it’s his instinct.

Thank you, Karl. I’m not sure I could summarize my life’s ambitions better!

TrekEast: An Essex-Willsboro Rendezvous

Photo credit: Phil Lacinak

Are you following TrekEast? Essex resident John Davis (@trekeast) is changing the world one pedal, one paddle stroke and one step at a time.

Of course, those who know John would say, “He’s been doing that for years… His whole life!” True. But his latest adventure — an historic 4,500 mile, human powered expedition from Key Largo, Florida to the Gaspe Peninsula in Canada — is a bold challenge to life (and development) as we know it in the Eastern United States. John intends to inspire you and thousands of others to connect the Eastern Wildway in order to save it. Discover John Davis’ TrekEast!

John started out in Florida’s Everglades National Park where he was joined by a wayward band of Champlain Valley friends and adventurers:

That night, my Adirondack paddling friends Brian Trzaskos, Larry Barns, and Reg Bedell arrived, with a week’s worth of delicious food prepared by Brian’s wife Susie and my wife Denise as part of their Flying Pancakes food service. So our paddling team was gathered: Brian ( is a physical therapist and teacher of tai chi and other healthy disciplines who is himself extremely fit and strong. He’s an experienced climber, hiker, and paddler, and had done much study of the Everglades in anticipation of this journey (more than I’d found time to do). Larry ( is a professional photographer and outdoors person whose work has appeared in many magazines. Reg (essexlaw.organd is a southern gentleman turned environmental lawyer who longs to see restored the rich wildlife he knew decades ago in the South. Ron you’ve already met, as Wildlands Network’s conservation scientist and Southeast director – one of the best things to happen to our organization in years. We are a varied but strong five, with plenty of outdoor experience but little on-the-water time in the Everglades. (TrekEast Blog)

The laughter and storytelling that these characters enjoyed doubtless inspired John as he set out on his ambitious mission. John will be joined off and on throughout his ten month expedition, my wife and I among the fortunate ones who’ll travel with him in person. And many, many more will follow via social media data stream as John posts updates and tweets and blog posts to transport you vicariously into the bicycle saddle or the soggy kayak seat with him. Consider weaving yourself into the narrative…

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A Cadence of Choice

What is the “rhythm of stillness”? An oxymoron? An invitation to pause and ponder? A whimsical poetic conundrum?

Annie Q. Syed is drawn to the rhythm of stillness experienced in those “quiet hours of the early morning before a city, town, or village takes a big yawn and stretches itself into your routine.” She dubs these rare but sacred moments Still Sundays:

“These mornings are especially unique in New York because the City doesn’t sleep but she just takes naps. And the longest naps are on Sunday mornings. I love Sunday mornings in NYC. I try my best not to have anything planned, not even a yoga class, before 12:00 p.m. If my mind is quiet enough I borrow the stillness and share some thoughts with a few friends or family members via email or a phone conversation. Some mornings I  simply wrap the stillness of a Sunday morning around a pen and put fragments on a paper.

Are you making time to be still? To listen to the stillness? This past Sunday Syed pondered a conversation she’d had with a friend who decried the perpetual frenzy and commotion of life in New York City. She wondered if, how and why stillness is possible (essential?) amidst the whirring, screeching, bumping, jackhammering, phone ringing, car door slamming, elevator bell dinging “city that never sleeps”. It is. She knows it is, and she wandered toward the reason why. Her reason why.

“New York didn’t define me; I defined New York. I believe the stillness I speak of is borne out of that carving. I can hear a steady beat inside the multi-rhythmic pulsating blend of music that can’t easily be tuned out. The tempo matches my heart. Stillness then is a cadence of choice.

At least most of the time. Carving out a space for stillness amidst the throng will open up the possibility of stillness. But there must also be room for chance, for stumbling accidentally upon these somewhat paradoxical interstices, and then honoring them. Syed doesn’t say this, not explicitly, but she recounts an anecdote that trumps any explanation.Tucked into her familiar routine of yoga class followed by pizza at an Upper West Side pizzeria, a fleeting encounter with Nina — a 78 year old Greek lady dressed in a pink skirt suit — offers an invitation to wander into the unfamiliar. Syed accepts the invitation.

If the rhythm of stillness seems to be drowned out by din and routine, it might not be New York City or Los Angeles or Chicago that have picked up the pace or turned up the volume. It might be that we forget to stop, to listen, to wonder. It might be that we’re not quite as receptive as we could be. Should be.

I’ve lived in New York City. I’ve lived in Washington, DC and Paris and Rome as well. Plenty of busy-busy in all of them. And so many reasons to ignore the old bat who says “Hello,” at the pizzeria or asks you how to find the Jardin des Tuileries. No time to stop and wonder at the thousands of tiny black birds painting paisleys in the sky above the Colosseum. Too busy to pause and listen to the girl practicing her cello at Abe’s left foot in the Lincoln Memorial. But, as Syed reminds us, there’s an opportunity lurking beneath the quotidian. Whether it’s an early Sunday morning while the “To Do” list is still snoozing, or squeezed in between a slice of pizza and a bus ride, there’s rhythm in the stillness. Will you stop to listen? To sing along? To dance?

Acknowledgment: Special thanks to Annie Q. Syed (@so_you_know on Twitter) who’s inspired me plenty in recent months, and who is is one of the reasons I believe that Twitter is a midwife for real friendship! And a hat tip to the late Paul Zweig who’s The Adventurer: The Fate of Adventure in the Western World is where I first stumbled upon this idea of interstices.

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