Joseph Campbell says there are fateful blunders that catapult us through the doorway of our own destinies. Perhaps, at this very moment, the entire world is being thrust through the doorway of destiny by the blunders we have collectively made over thousands of years. But it’s not all about blunders. Nor even about “tipping points.” Sometimes we perform random acts of kindness that alter the course of our lives. Sometimes we inherit cultural and familial legacies that inform our destinies.
Now, more than ever, we need visionaries, forward thinkers who are willing to take huge, paradigm-shifting risks, leaders who leave legacies that model a new way of being in the world. We need writers who remind us, through stories and essays and novels and poems, that we are all visionaries, that we are all capable of great things.
My father, Loren Dunton, was a writer, a businessman, and a visionary. He loved life, and people. He believed in possibilities. He wasn’t afraid to take risks. In 1964, my parents called a family meeting and told my sister and me that Dad was going to quit his successful selling career in Denver, lease our home, take us to New York to see the World’s Fair, then drive north to Montreal, sell our station wagon, board a steamship, sail down the St. Lawrence Seaway, and take a year traveling around the world.
Ours was a middle-class family. We weren’t rich. Dad was born in a logging camp in British Columbia. Mom was raised during the depression by a deaf woman with five children to care for. (Read about the two pivotal tragedies that hurled my grandmother into her destiny in the chapter “Layers of Time in a Silent World” in my memoir In Search of Kinship.)
What are the “tipping points” that have informed your life? How do the creative gifts you give to the world help shape our collective destiny? Where have your passions led you?
Our family visited 27 countries during this year-long trip around the world. We learned how to say “please” and “thank you” in 27 different languages. We were befriended in country after country, invited into humble homes and spacious country estates. We shared meals with strangers and were later blessed by their hospitality. We spent our entire, modest nest egg but didn’t indulge ourselves with souvenirs or extravagant hotels. We took buses and handcarts and walked a lot, even in Russia at twenty-below-zero at midnight.
The day before we arrived back in Colorado, the notorious Platte River flood of 1965 struck. Our home was devastated. We returned to Denver jobless, homeless, and moneyless. But with a new understanding of how very lucky we were to be Americans. My father went on to found the financial planning profession and is now, forty years later, nationally recognized as “the Father of Financial Planning.”
Was my father, born in a logging camp, destined to leave such a lasting legacy? Was this trip around the world part of what thrust me toward my destiny? What are the “tipping points” that have informed your life? How do the creative gifts you give to the world help shape our collective destiny? Where have your passions led you?
I’ve been working with writers and mentoring people for nearly 15 years – teaching writing workshops and leading outdoor adventures and retreats. In 2006 Oprah’s O magazine featured my River Writing Journeys for Women as “one of the top six great all-girl getaways of the year!” This was a wonderfully validating thing, but not as validating as the transformations I see occur when people rediscover the intrinsic beauty and mystery inherent in their own lives. It is this reawakening and renewed faith in the world that keeps me loving what I do.
Sometimes, loving what we do is bittersweet. For twenty years, I lived on a small ranch in the Black Hills of Wyoming where I reared my son and daughter, and I loved it. More than loved it. I breathed it. The land and animals fed my work, my spirit, my body, and my soul. The literal land was the figurative clay from which I sculpted my stories. When I moved to Colorado in 2004 to take care of my mother, I was bereft. In the essay, “Living Heart to Heart with the Land” (Home Land, Ranching and a West that Works), I dive deeply into what it was like to leave the ranch.
When my mother died, she said, “Don’t worry about me. I’m just off on a new adventure!” I moved to Santa Fe a year later, but am now re-settled back in the small mountain community west of Denver where I lived as a child, and where my mother lived for 18 years. Here, I am surrounded by more than 10,000 acres of still-wild land and loving neighbors.
I often look out my window while writing and see mule deer browsing, or elk grazing. Sometimes, I see a red fox curled up in the grass. My horse is only a short 15-minute walk away. I open my heart and feel the weight of the land resting there, raw clay once again in the palm of my hands, stories waiting to be written, the bittersweet nature of life unfurling in all its poignant beauty.
(Prior to moving to the mountains of Colorado from the deserts of New Mexico, Page spent an inspiring month alone in a remote cabin in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming on a solo writing retreat: “No electricity, no computer, no television, no radio, no palm pilot, no telephone, no running water, no people – just half a dozen blank writing journals, a few good books, and the company of elk and mule deer, mountain lions and blue grouse.” She is currently working on two manuscripts drawn from her journals: Sweetwater and These Things I Can Love