"I do."

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as i peer down the aisle
and observe you walking toward me
with your arms wrapped around your fathers,
i wonder if i am breathing.
are my feet on the ground?
am i truly here in the flesh?
or is this all a dream?

as the ceremony begins,
i take a moment to feel the wind between my hands,
i look at the sun beyond your eyes and it warms my face,
i look at the mountains in the distance, and it is unmistakable by the golden spring light of the sky that You are near.

You are in under very crumb of bread and drop of wine in our communion, 
beneath every breath that i take in and
out of every prayer and blessing that comes forth from the crowd in attendance. 
and your glorious, loving presence is inevitable in the beauty of the Morrow’s mountain sky.

my vows are words awaiting decades of action,
my dad is speaking and prophesying with a gentle force,
and you... my wife,
are stunning,
more stunning than the bride in all my dreams

as i stand here, taking you in, i realize that you are such a beautiful, standing testimony of a God who deeply, deeply desires to generously and lavishly provide for me far beyond what i can ever dream up or hope for

and
this is why
today is a day beyond life itself

it is beyond any day i have ever lived
any love i have ever received
and any level of gratefulness that i have ever felt.

and i am undeniably tasting of God’s goodness in a way i didn’t know possible

if heaven is a day,
that day
is today.

The night the Carr Fire spread

We were gathering around the TV after work to eat and watch the Greatest Showman for the first time when we noticed the light shifting to an odd, orange color outside.

“It doesn’t feel right,” my wife said after she stepped out the door and looked at the sky.

She quickly came back in.

“It’s time to go.”

We read the news early Thursday morning on the way to work about the risks of the wildfires moving toward Redding this evening. I decided to leave work soon after I arrived at 8 AM to go pack our valuables after I heard about my coworker sadly losing his home outside of town the night before, only 5 miles away from our house.

I went back to work an hour later and we didn’t hear much more about the fires throughout the day, despite checking the news sites every ten minutes.  

It was 6 PM now and due to the lack of any new updates, we perceived that the coming fire slowed down... until we stepped out into the driveway, noticed that the sun was missing behind a wall of thick smoke, and that the sky was now an odd, smokey shade of dark orange.

It felt apocalyptic, eerie, as if some form of doom was coming. But no one knew when or from where. Or if the fire was close.

All Kelly had was a feeling and it was strong enough to make us leave. 

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We left and sped east with our cars packed with bags of essentials and valuables, and quickly began to see dark smoke clouds rising behind us. We knew then that it was close, uncomfortably close, as in a couple blocks away close.

We were relieved that we left when we did.

Cars around us were speeding through town towing boats and trailers packed to the brim, full of belongings, rushing to get away from the billowing smoke brewing to the west.

You could feel the panic in the streets and see it written on the skies.

I questioned immediately if there were any of my belongings still in the apartment that I would regret forgetting to grab if we came back to find our apartment gone.

If so, it was now too late.

There was no going back. 

We drove east, to our friend's house on the ridge above the Sacramento River because it would be safe, but also because it held a gaping view overlooking the mountains on the west side of town.

I pulled in, unloaded a box of our most treasured valuables and paperwork into the garage, and walked out onto their back porch to find many of the mountains that I spent the past 7 years hiking engulfed in orange-red flames.

There was one fire to the south and another to the north.  The one to the south was slowly marching toward Mercy hospital and the other larger flame was moving toward the northern part of town. 

There was no telling if the fires would stop, or if they even could.

Word soon spread that the fires hopped the Sacramento River with ease and were moving through neighborhoods. 

It was 9pm now. 

The night was upon us and the city was illuminated by mountains in flames.

All we could do was sit on the grass on the bluffs and stair over the dancing fire as if it were of a campfire.  Except this, unfortunately, wasn’t logs and kindling we were watching burn, it was the city we call home.

It didn’t feel real. 

I felt sad. 

I felt scared. Yet, still disconnected from it all.

Anxious, yet numb.

All I could do was sit and stare at the flames creeping closer toward the city while I listened to the nervous chatter of our friend's roommates pacing across the back porch trying to figure out where they would sleep for the night.

We also began to receive word of friends fleeing town.  Many were in panic on social media, telling everyone to leave.  And the stress, fear, and anxiety was bringing out the worst in everyone as no one was thinking or communicating clearly or making sound judgements or decisions.

Word soon spread about neighborhoods to the northwest were being leveled by hurricane like winds and 40-foot flames.

The updates from Cal Fire, the police, and the new stations felt slow, and at times confusing. All we knew was what streets were closing and being evacuated, but nothing about where the fires actually were.  It was too hard to tell from afar- which left everyone to his or her own exaggerated speculation.  Few perspectives felt even remotely accurate.

It was pure chaos both outside and within the hearts and minds of every person watching, fleeing, and evacuating.

On Facebook and Instagram, we watched videos of flames reaching neighborhoods, city trails, and parks.

We continued to watch from afar, in wait, until the flames, to everyones relief, slowly began to calm.

We soon left to go to another home further east, around 11 pm, to sleep further away from the fires just in case it spread throughout the night. 

We fell asleep around 1 AM, praying to wake up the next morning to our city still standing.

But no one knew.

After spending the night watching the devastation, if we did awake to the news that half the city was leveled in flames and we had to leave, I wouldn't have been surprised.

This was Thursday, July 27th, 2018 and my account of a night that I will never forget.

Thankfully, we awoke the next day to hear of the fire turning back toward where it came from. The fires started burning southwest and northwest.  

It's a week later now and according to the recent calculations, nearly 1000 homes were burned, five people died, and it has been marked as the 7th most destructive fire in California history.

———

To those who lost their homes in the fire, I am deeply sorry, and I am grieving with you.

And to those who's homes survived, I am deeply thankful for you.

I can't imagine what many in our community are going through at this time and my heart goes out to everyone.

I look forward to lending my support to my community in helping everyone rebuild, both outside and within.

*Also, Kelly and I are safe and so was our apartment. Thank you for all of your prayers.

 

 

 

foreign thoughts

when you stand in new streets,
gaze upon foreign colored skin,
hear a language different than your own,
and witness another way of life,
you assume there is a great difference between you and them

everything on the outside, appears to be different,
but after you stop and converse, hear their story,
their struggles, what they hope for

see a little deeper under their skin,

you realize
that
we are all the same

the language we speak,
the color of our hair,
the land by which we call home...

none of it really matters,
the further you go

travel enough and you see:

no matter where you go in the world,
people are still people.

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the voice of shame

“you're never enough”
so the voices go
down
down
in shame you go

“never enough”
you believe it so:

never the richest
never the strongest
never the wisest
“never enough”

“never enough”,
so the voices go...

down, down they pray you go
down, down to spiral so

shame comes in waves.

--

the desire burns
to be enough,
to have the strength
the looks
the honor
to be a man among men

but
no matter what you do,
the voices tell you
you are not.

in whispers, he anchors you,
in lies, he binds you,
hoping you never come up
with the rest of your kind,
with the rest of man.

together, men drown in waves.

--

though the tides are high
and many
are searching at sea

there is a voice in the distance
calling,
a voice from behind the light, 
a father’s hand
outstretched
from afar
calling out to you,
seeking to rebuild the ruins
of man

--

in following this new found voice,
you quickly learn
shame will never quiet your fear.
no matter how long you follow him
there is no end to his depths,

there is no life in his promised comforts.
in the end, shame is
nothing but a lie.

you see it too, in the eyes of the men passing you
down the street:

they feel it too.

together, we live
in a world where, before all we come across, 
despite our best works, days, and efforts, 
we strive and
feel as though
we are not enough.

some combat their insecurity with pride,
others blanket themselves in disgrace

it's not wrong.
for no one's been taught another way.

but
little do we know that
through it all
god's eyes remain.

little do we know that
through it all
god's eyes never waver
from love.

through it all,
god is within reach
waiting for you to turn to him,
to his arms, wide open:

he's waiting for you to fall in.

--

and so,
you must choose your voice
to cling to

you must choose which voice will shape you.

day after day,
you must choose
to identify yourself
with
love,
over shame.

you must choose
to
step into your skin

to take up your name

to take form
as you become
your dreams.

When Nature Speaks

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When does nature speak the loudest to you?

When I go backpacking, reading next to a lake or river in the woods is one of the things I look forward to most on my trips. I find it hard to believe that life can be any more relaxing than when you're sitting in a hammock in the mountains or laying on a boulder beside an alpine lake with a great book in hand. 

Time is slow, your thoughts are clear, and the inescapable silence is unbearably fulfilling. This for me is when nature speaks the loudest.

It was in these moments of reading over the past couple years that inspired When Nature Speaks. I wanted to write a body of poems to take with me every time I left for the mountains.  I wanted to create a work, purposed to be read specifically in the outdoors.   

For this reason, When Nature Speaks isn't for everyone.  It was exclusively written and fashioned for those who love backpacking, hiking, and nature.  The book is shorter for backpacking purposes and the poems were strictly written to be read in the wilderness.  Therefore, if you too live for new trails,  crave the wilderness, and long for night skies in the woods, this book was written for you. 

I believe that these poems will invigorate, move, and inspire you as you charge your own mountains in life as they did for me, and I can't wait to hear where these poems travel with you.

I'm looking forward to when When Nature Speaks reaches your hands.

*** the book is shipping out to buyers next week.  I'm excited to announce that the first order of books are already on the way, and I will be shipping them out immediately upon arrival.  To pre-order and claim your copy from the first shipment, you can visit my shop at: joshhuth.com/shop

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Fear

Last night, I was thinking back over every new endeavor and goal that I've pursued over the past couple years. I'm realizing more and more that it doesn't matter what I'm doing: whether I'm being asked to do something I've never done before at work, thinking about a poem I'm going to write, or climbing a mountain that's higher than I've ever climbed before, fear is present in everything I do.

Every book I write, I'm scared to share. Every project I start, I fear failing at. Every mountain I climb, I fear failing to reach the top.

As I look back, I see that everything I've ever achieved is something I once feared.

What if fear is not limiting then unless I allow it to be?

What if fear is actually a gateway to opportunity, an entry point to growth, a path leading us to discover more deeply who we are and what we're made of. But this is only if we choose so, only if we choose to dance with our fears rather than run from them.

This year, I've been learning how to welcome my fears and feel them, while still refusing to allow myself to be defined by them. This year, I've chosen what fear will be for me:

Fear is not my prison and grave, but the land upon which I will build my dreams.

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Limitations

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The "small" granite patch of mountains in the background of this picture is known as Castle Crags. Four years ago, they were the highest peaks I'd ever climbed, and the highest summit I believed I was capable of reaching.

After yesterday's feat on Shasta, you can see my self-judgement was wrong.

As I look back on the times that I held such thoughts, I'm surprised by the difference between what I could accomplish then and what I can accomplish now. 

I expected the strength of my body to be the differentiating factor between my summiting of Mount Shasta and what I could summit back then.  But the difference was actually in what I believed. 

Am I physically stronger? Maybe a little. But my will and what I believe I'm capable of is far from what it was.

Four years ago, I believed Castle Crags was as high as I could ever go.

Was it true?

Obviously not.

But back then?

It was... because I allowed it to be.

Subconsciously, I chose that peak as my limit.

I grabbed ahold of it and held on to it tightly as an identity to live from. In complacency's embrace, I had the choice to take what I'd accomplished on Caste Crags and say it was enough, and that I didn't need to push myself any further.

Once I had the thought, I knew I had to climb Shasta.

Four years ago I made a list and began to look higher.  And one by one I summited taller peaks around Northern California: Lassen, Grizzly Lake, Shasta Bally, Broke Off Mountain... Until there was only one mountain left on my list to summit.

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----

Yesterday, four years later from that day on Castle Crags, I stood on the top of Shasta's summit and looked down from above the clouds upon the peak of Castle Crags, upon the man who once held these thoughts, and upon the journey I took to get to where I was standing.

I remembered how little I use to believe I was capable of. 

I remembered how little amount of discomfort I use to be willing to endure before I would tap out and say it was enough.

I remembered how much I limited myself.

Today, when I look in the mirror, I see a different man. Not in outward appearance (though, I do have a beard now), but in heart, at my core, I am radically different. For I guard what I believe about myself.  I run boldly at the whispers in my head that try to tell me "I can't." And I hold little fear of the pain that comes when you try to find your end.

On my journey to the top of this mountain, I learned that when I dream, the only limitations I have are the ones I choose to place on myself.

I am done limiting myself by my beliefs, self-judgements, and perceptions of who I am.

I see now, that the limitations I thought I had were only true because I allowed them to be, not necessarily because they were my reality.

In seeing the ramifications of my small beliefs, rather than fearing what I might believe of myself in the future, I now encourage and challenge what I believe I can do.

I fear not testing my end, and I fear not the pain of failing and trying.

After this four year journey of summiting Mount Shasta, I now see the world and my dreams differently- as new summits to climb. And with enough time, hard work, and patience, I believe I can do anything I set my mind to.

Because again, the only limitations I have in this life are the ones I choose to place upon myself.

 

--------- 

Photo credits: Erik Olsen


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Summit 14,179 feet

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The view from the top of Misery Hill, before turning to walk the summit platuea.

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Walking the summit platuea.

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Hiking up Red Banks, around 5 am.

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Approaching the summit.