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Sunday Sermon: Bloom Where you Are.

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Wildflowers near Asheville, NC.

I love Quotes! I am a compulsive over-thinker so my mind is constantly churning and grinding and thinking things to death. It drives me crazy!! Some people call it “Analysis Paralysis;” when there are so many options and considerations you freeze like a deer in a headlight and do nothing.I have found the solution in simple but profound quotes that can cut through all the fog my mind creates and brings me down to a simple truth that shines through like a guiding light. I then latch onto them and take action based on their simplicity. I expect many of these Sunday Sermons to be based on quotes—that’s what we are going to do today. In others I will present an idea along with quotes to help you hold onto the idea. This quote is one of my favorites! I can still remember the first time I read it! It’s simple but vivid imagery grabbed me and spoke very deeply to me; it actually brought tears to my eyes. I want to share it with you along with some of my favorite wildflower photos, that way, if you think the post is nonsense, hopefully you will at least enjoy the photos!

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.  Anais Nin


Hatcher Pass, Alaska

There is so much visual imagery in these words. I can easily imagine a wildflower in a tight bud straining with all its might to keep from opening up. It’s afraid of change and the unknown and what will happen if it loosens its hold on the present. The pressure to let go was becoming unbearable—and painful. It doesn’t know how much longer it can hold on against the compulsion to bloom.
Finally, it had endured all it could—no more. It let go and slowly and inevitably the gorgeous colors unfold out into the waiting sun until it was in full, spectacular bloom. Shivering in the sun it adapted to its new existence. “Wait a minute, this isn’t so bad. In fact it feels pretty good!” Soon this giant, two legged, walking thing stopped to admire it. It bent down and sniffed at the bloom and smiled. Oh my, this felt more than good, this was wonderful! There was such a sense of worth and value, this is what it was born for, it’s very reason to exist. The rush of joy was indescribable. “Why did I fight this! I should have rushed headlong into it instead of dreading it!”

Cactus in bloom, Pahrump, NV

Day after indescribable day passed, each more wondrous than the one before. It worshiped the sun and in return the sun worshiped it. Flying insects came and browsed and it felt so pleased that it was playing such an important part of the ongoing universe. It felt so gloriously alive to be contributing to LIFE.
After what seemed forever, the magic of its life seemed to start to slow down. The wind no longer felt like a loving caress but started to feel harsh. Its delicate petals were becoming tattered and bent by the wind. Then one day some of its petals actually fell off and blew away in the wind. He knew his time was coming to an end, that his days were numbered. He thought back to those days fighting with all his might to not bloom. What a waste! It was his only regret. Every other minute, every moment since he bloomed was heaven, even the rainy, stormy days.

Maroon Bells, Colorado.

Finally the day came when he worshiped the sun one last time. One moment he was there, and the next he was not. But he is never really gone, just changed. He had learned his lesson from those horrible days when he fought the natural order of things. This time he embraced the change that was happening to him, knowing that the change was frightening, but what lay on the other-side was even more wonderful than what he had now. And so it was!
My friends, you and I are that bloom. If you read my blog it must be because at some level the American Dream has lost its luster for you and you long to make a change. Your current life is causing you enough dis-comfort that you want to change, but not so much that you can’t keep going a little while longer. Your day has not yet come! The pain is not so great as to force you to bloom. You simply can not let go of the old way.
That describes most of my adult life. I always hated the humdrum monotony of my jobs. They were meaningless and tedious, but they paid the bills and I was able to survive on them. So I went to work day after day, week after week, year after year, decade after decade. The older I got the more I hated my life. When I hit 40 and looked back I thought, “My life is half over and I haven’t lived a day of it. Yes I have had some adventures but the huge majority of it is mind-numbing, soul-sucking drudgery. And I have to keep doing this for another 20 years!” That thought filled me with despair and hopelessness. That led to some really stupid behavior on my part which then led me to the first of the dark days that finally led to my salvation: the day my wife said we were getting divorced and kicked me out of the house.
That was followed by many days not seeing my children and crying myself to sleep. Soon after came the day when my last credit card was maxed out and I realized I didn’t have enough money to live on and couldn’t keep paying for those credit cards. Soon after came the first of many nights of crying myself to sleep on the floor of a van.
There is much, much more to the story, but it’s sufficient to say that I can totally relate to the truth that there finally come one day when it was all too much. I couldn’t keep fighting; something had to give. When that day came, the pain was finally unbearable and I gave up and allowed my life to simply move forward without my controlling it. I screamed out with every fiber of my being. “Whatever horrible things you are going to do to me can’t possibly be worse than this, so do your worst to me!!”
Little did I know that by clinging so tightly to my little walls of self-protection that in fact I had locked myself away in a dark, horrible prison that had totally kept out the glorious transforming light of the sun. I had no idea that I could be changed into something entirely new and different; and dare I say it, changed into something beautiful? Today, the only way I can describe the experience is to say that I was changed at the cellular level.
What about you; are you fighting change in your life because of fear of the unknown? Do you cling to a present way of life that is painful and unpleasant because you think the unknown future might be worse?

Rhododendron Garden, Roan MT. North Carolina

If you still have the strength to fight against the natural order and flow of things; if you still need total control over your life out of terror of the unknown, then I am sorry for you. You are locked into an unpleasant and an increasingly painful way of life, but your strength of will is still too strong to surrender and let go to happiness.
Maybe you are one of the most unfortunate of humans, and your strength of will is so strong you will never let go of an unhappy or even painful present and allow yourself to be controlled by something else. And so you will go to your grave and you will have never bloomed. You will never have known the wonder of the sun beating down upon you or the joy of having someone else stop and be filled with joy by your beauty. Instead, you will have lived your whole life in a dark prison of your own making.
If you are offended by that last paragraph, forgive me. I’ve deliberately used strong language to try to  shock some people out of their stupor. If it doesn’t apply to you don’t accept it! Simply see it as a message for someone else who actually needs it and send it along hoping that those who need it find help in it.  

Am I a hypocrite?
Last Sundays post encouraged you to accept your life just as it is at that moment–and be grateful for it. And this Sunday I am telling you to not accept your life as it is right now, and to not settle for a mediocre life. They appear to be polar opposites! How can I justify that? Am I a hypocrite? 
Stay tuned, gentle readers, to this same time and same place next week and I will give you my answer! Until then I want to leave you with these quotes:

“Security is mostly a superstition.
It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.
Avoiding danger is not safer in the long run than outright exposure.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” Helen Keller


It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us.
Rather, our concern must be to live while we’re alive –
to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross 

Alabama Hills, California

Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California

Guenelle Pass, Colorado

Guenelle Pass, Colorado


Missouri Pass, Colorado

Missouri Pass, Colorado

Crested Butte, Colorado

Crested Butte, Colorado

Roan Mountain, North Carolina

Roan Mountain, North Carolina


  1. Al Christensen

    Back when I was in therapy (about 20 years ago) I told the shrink I just wanted to escape the crap in my life. Then he asked the $64,000 question. “If you were to escape, then what?”
    I hadn’t thought that far ahead. Probably because I believed I’d never escape in the first place. I had assumed that if I could free myself of the crap I could then just “be.”
    But he helped me understand that it’s not enough to run away from something. I need to be moving toward something else. Where, in the big picture sense, do I want to be? Who do I want to be? Just myself? Do I even know what that is? Who that is? How will I know if I’ve succeeded?
    And then another big question. “What are you going to do between now and that day all the crap is gone? Just tread water and watch the years tick by?”

    • Bob

      Al, those are all great questions that we each have to answer for ourselves. I hope you have answered them and they come true for you!

      • greenminimalism

        Wow, this is absolutely beautiful once more Bob. Reminds me of a time that I sat on the grass in California and just realized a profound fact about life – that most people on their deathbeds wish they’d bloomed instead of staying inside the shell. Foresight is amazing!

        • Bob

          greenminimlism, I think it is such a shame that modern people are so separated from death and have such an incredible fear of it. Death is the ultimtae teacher and coming to grips with it and learning from it is the most certain way to a happy life. Nearly every primitive culture had a rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood that included some experince with death. they were much wiser than we are.

  2. HoboHounds

    I love quotes too. When you made the comment about “the American Dream has lost its luster” it made me think of this favorite quote of mine…
    “The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.”
    ~ George Carlin

    • Bob

      Hobohounds, George Carlin knew how to ut through the BS and get to the heart of the matter. He did it brilliantly there!

    • Al Christensen

      I don’t know whether I had the classic American Dream, but I had some American Assumptions, like how if I worked hard things would always improve and that rationality and sanity would win against craziness.

      • Bob

        Al, I always thought we had a societal contract, if I did what I was told, worked hard, and followed the rules, I would be happy. But it never worked that way for me. It turns out society couldn’t care less if we are happy. They only care that we are “good.” Well, no more of that for me, I’d rather be happy.

  3. 77serenity77

    Reading your words was looking into a mirror – thoughts, experiences, pains that have been tearing at me for so long it’s now become physical pain, entrenched into my body. Pulling myself out of despair several years ago, where my only salvation I thought was just checking out was the lowest of the low I had to come to, for now I could only go up. Whilst my dream out of the drudgery and mind-numbing existence is not a quick-fix, I’m taking the steps towards freedom and there is light at the end of the tunnel. The greatest gift has been altering my mental reality – the difference between true needs as opposed to wants; what i really need to live day to day; what truly brings me joy; who I really am and how I love who I am. Thank you for voicing what everyone needs to hear, even if they might not want to 😉

    • Al Christensen

      When we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs we see that as we move higher up the ladder, there isn’t anything about material goods. There’s friendship, family, sexual intimacy… self-esteem, confidence, achievement… mutual respect, morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice…
      The material stuff is down at the fundamental physiological and safety levels. We need some basic things like food and shelter, but we can get trapped in those basic levels, thinking we’ll be happier if we have more or better stuff.
      So, yes, understanding the difference between material needs and what brings us actual joy can sometimes require a major rewiring of our minds.

      • Bob

        Al, consumerism is the true religion of western civilization. It tolerates other religions as long as they don’t interfere with our worshiping “stuff”. Most western religions just joined in and said it was our moral duty to buy more stuff. Buying stuff means we are patriotic. Funny how the “Holy Days” are the most important shopping days of the year.
        Yes, a total rewiring of the mind is the only solution.

    • Bob

      77serenity77, we are all so very much alike deep down inside. If we could just reveal who we truly are, we would find we had so much in common and we are all having a similar experience of being human. Unfortunately, most of us can’t admit it to ourselves, much less others.
      You are one of the lucky ones, when your day came when something had to be change, you were ready and able to start taking steps to change. The best is yet to come!!

  4. Calvin R

    So long ago that I have lost the context, I came across Thoreau’s statement, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” That has led to much of my outlook in life. I do not remember seeing the George Carlin quote, but it certainly fits. If a person wakes up, most likely he or she will be lost to the marketers and others hoping to sell him the parts and pieces of the “American Dream,” including vacations, chemicals, and other ways to get relief from the “dream” without actually escaping it. A few people share that dream, and they’re probably not reading this blog. The rest of us need to examine what we really want in life. What I want is peace and quiet. However I define that, it cannot include Thoreau’s “quiet desperation.” Desperation and peace cannot coexist.

    • Bob

      Very well said Calvin! they couldn’t coexist for me! Something had to give and I finally went along kicking and screaming the whole way!

  5. Brian Howard

    Well, I can always say your posts are interesting. I feel this way exactly, the bud that is to tightly wraped. Afraid to break out and afraid I won’t like what I have left if I do. I love nature and try to spend every day in it as if it were my last. Mid-life crisis I think. Feels like life is going on without me if I’m not out in it full speed. Confusing and I really need to get a handle on it. I load up my car just about every day and go out and play dwelling as if I’m doing the real thing. I go to parks and cook out and try to enact the things I would be doing if I was a full timer. When I ride my motorcycle I get some place and say to myself, if I only had a van I could pull out my comfy chair, sit by the water or in the woods, cook when hungry and just fall asleep in nature. Then the wake up, either get back on the bike or go sit on a rock. Wake up Brian! Thanks for all the wonderful posts Bob, I will figure it out. Brian

    • Bob

      Brian, there are no right or wrong ways to live, there is only your way right now. While you are waiting to figure it out, I’d like to suggest you find a way to love the life you have now. It isn’t perfect, it isn’t what you want, but it is YOUR LIFE. Embrace it and accept it and be thankful for it.
      The key is letting go to the joy of the moment–and there is joy in your every moment to be found!! The act of letting go creates the joy, not any of your outward circumstances.

  6. Nicole

    How I like these sermons and the comments that follow.
    As I started coming out of my dark place I looked around and saw people that were entering theirs. I came to the conclusion that we all have to visit that awful place at least once in our lifetime so we come out of it a better self. No amount of reading or talking can give us the same results. I’m glad it happened to me at the beginning of my life, now I’m equipped with strength that would not be there otherwise. I feel sorry for those of us that had an easy beginning and now have to face the difficult part towards the end of their lives. We all have to go trough fertilizer (sh*t) at some point. I’m grateful I had mine early on so now I can enjoy the rest of my days in relative peace.
    Bob, I think you are very brave to open up as much as you do in order to help others. Yes you are a beautiful person! I’m glad I found you in this ocean called the internet.
    Take care every one.

    • Bob

      Nicole thank you so much for your comment. I can’t read it without thinking of one of my favorite quotes:

      “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.
      These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.
      Beautiful people do not just happen.”
      Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

      You, my friend, are a work of art!

      • Nicole

        Hum, not so sure about that but I’ll take it anyway 🙂

        • Bob

          It’s not for everybody Nicole. There is no one right way in regards to anything in life, this is just one of many options towards a happy life. Take what works (if anything) and leave the rest.

          • Nicole

            Oops, little misunderstanding. I was referring to the work of art bit. I completely agree with the quote.

          • Bob

            Sorry Nicole. I don’t get your comments connected to any previous context so sometimes I’m not sure what you all are referring to, I either go back and read your previous comments or guess. This time I guessed wrong!

  7. Gary Stern

    These are excellent thoughts. They also apply to someone who has lead a seemingly interesting life, with considerable economic rewards. Many of us wind up living the life others want us to live and we never take the time to look inside and figure out who we really are. Some of us find ourselves living in luxury and yet feeling that quiet desperation to break out and be something else.
    Then a day comes when we finally internalize the wisdom to understand life a little better – and we first start the process to figure out who we are. All I can say is that it is overwhelming to have so many opportunities that your true path seems buried in the mountain of choices. I don’t know that I will ever sort it out, but I am so grateful for the wisdom to realize that the possibilities are endless.

  8. Martin Hamilton

    Another great one Bob. Keep them coming.
    Albert Einstein said this “If You Want To Live a Happy Life, Tie It To a Goal, Not To People Or Objects.”
    Words of Pure GOLD!!

    • Bob

      Thanks Martin, you are very kind–and Einstein was astonishingly wise for a man that smart!

  9. marshall

    Fantastic. I work hard at being my own man and following none. This fulltime adventure opened me up to being my own quotes and nobody else’s’. No disrespect intended, Bob. I think you are at that point. Peace!

    • Bob

      Marshall no offense taken! I understand your point and thank you for it!

  10. Naomi

    Oh, I love these “sermons”! So much food for thought. I became stuck in that “American dream” for so many years, and have found some peace now that I am no longer on that treadmill. As another commenter said, you are brave to share so much. I’d like to add that you are quite a generous soul to spend so much time, money and especially effort sharing all this information. Reminds me of some lyrics of a Guy Clark song, “… If money was the reason, then I would not be the same …”
    On a side note, I’ve always wondered what the Alabama Hills looked like (I’m a map junkie). I appreciate that photo particularly.
    Take care,

    • Bob

      Thank you Naomi! I subscribe to the theory that you only get to keep what you give away: he who clings to the least dies with the most. Everything I do ultimately has a selfish motive: I can’t go back to where I was so I keep giving it away as fast as I can. But with my terrible luck, my life just keeps getting better, and better and better and better. I can’t give it away fast enough!! Oh well, that’s not such a bad problem to have!
      I love the Alabama Hills!! It’s impossible to quantify but is is easily in my top 5 favorite places in the country! Over 300 movies were filmed on location in the Alabama Hills. The whole drive along 395 in California on the East side of the Sierras from Lone Pine to Lake Tahoe is just drop dead gorgeous!

  11. m.a.

    “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” Helen Keller – exactly the quote I wrote on my chair camped up in Ehrenberg last winter watching my life change.

    • Bob

      m.a, we think an awful lot alike!! There is no joy as great as to sit and watch your life unfold and bloom into something wonderful and marvelous. Yours certainly has! And it is only going to get better. I am really looking forward to seeing you again this fall!
      Unless you change your mind and decide sell your van and move back into your apartment? Any chance of that?

  12. Linda Sand

    As I began unfolding I learned I have a large need is to give back to my community. I find various ways of doing this but feel like I have not yet found the best way. Makes me wonder if there is a “best” way? I need to spend some time thinking about that.

    • Bob

      I understand, Linda! Joy hates to witness needless suffering, and it is all needless. Your posts on vandwellers are always helpful and you are giving back in a significant way. That is exactly how I started many years ago. Don’t discount their importance to many people!

  13. Staynavy

    Where else can you get sage advice on both cheaprvliving AND life? I love it! And lest anyone should think vandwellers illiterate 4-wheeled hobos, they can quote Maslow, Thoreau, Einstein and Carlin (well, OK, I’m stretching on that last one a bit)!
    Looking forward to next Sunday, too!

    • Bob

      Staynavy, thank you so much! Somehow, I have a remarkable readership, filled with wise and thoughtful people! just like you!

  14. Gennifer

    Your photos are beautiful as always, Bob! That Anais Nin quote is one of my favorites. I often use it when teaching new photographers to leave their fears behind and go exploring with their cameras.

    • Bob

      Gennifer, coming from you, I take that as high praise! have you ever looked into her life? She was a truly remarkable woman, decades before her time! In 1955 (the year I was born) she got married in Quartzsite, AZ (one of my favorite places). Nothing unusual about that, except she was already married to a man in NY City! She maintained two marriages (one on each coast) until her death!She was also one of the first female authors of women’s erotica. I think she knew something about blooming!

  15. Karen Abbe

    Bob — you are helping soooooo many people learn and grow, due to your stunning website, and all of your sage advice. It’s a pleasure being here with you and Bob #2 and Gloria and Judi and Steve. If I didn’t have plans, I would stay with you all indefinitely! It’s beautiful here. Well at least I can enjoy this experience for several more days, then I must go. Karen Abbe

    • Bob

      Karen, thank you for your generous words! Having you here has been a joy and we will all miss you when you leave!

  16. Bryan

    Another great post Bob! This quote really resonated with me: “My life is half over and I haven’t lived a day of it. Yes I have had some adventures but the huge majority of it is mind-numbing, soul-sucking drudgery. And I have to keep doing this for another 20 years!” Of course we are wrestling with this in our lives now trying to decide about making an immense/significant life change. We are stuck in the when is “enough” and analysis mode.
    The wife and I really enjoyed meeting you last weekend. It was quite apparent to us how well suited and adapted you are with the van dwelling lifestyle. Give a shout out to Steve, Bob, and Homer for us. We are hoping to join you at the RTR.

    • Bob

      Bryan, we are going to be so close to you it would be a shame if you couldn’t make it! Did you notice I stole your phrase “analysis paralysis?” I really do learn something from everyone I meet and I learned that from you.
      Bryan, it was my pleasure to meet you. Sometimes I meet people and hear their story and I am so tempted to just grab them and shake them and say “Just do it!!” But I know there are lots of considerations and no one size fits all. I’m sure you will make the best decision for you.

      • Bryan

        I smiled when we read the “analysis paralysis” comment in your post. Please use that freely since I picked that up from somewhere in my career.
        We left your camp thinking what must have been running through your mind – “why can’t these guys see how great things can be once they just let go?” I think we could use a good shake or as Mr. Money Mustache would say…. “a good face punch”.

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