Friday, August 20, 2010

The Donner Party, struggle and motivation

California was a land of lore and lure even before John Marshall found gold traces in 1848.

Farming, ranching, mild climate and vast unclaimed, untamed acres all called across the Sierras to Americans, even before the land had been wrested from Mexico.
Among those listening?

Jacob Breen and family. George Keseberg. And, the eponymous Donner family.

Unlike the Founding Fathers, these people had no fortunes to give. But they did give most of what money they had to make the trip. And, they certainly, in cases such as Jacob Breen, had honor, whether sacred or not, to pledge to their fellow travelers.
While on vacation recently, I visited some Donner Party sites. Though I had driven I-80 before through the area, I had never gotten off the freeway at the Donner State Party site. And, since I had come from the north, on a California state highway site, about 7-8 miles north of the interstate, I saw the Donner Meadows, where the Donners themselves wintered in 1846-47.

I asked myself, rhetorically, what would I be willing to do to get to California today? How much work would I be willing to expend? How much of my current “baggage” would I be willing to discard? What is my goal in getting to California — am I moving to something or just away from something?

I haven’t pondered those questions too much yet. Maybe I’m deliberately avoiding them a little bit. Maybe, like many other things in life, I want a surer goal before committing to them more.

That said, let me look at the Donners more. Yes, they knew about California the potential agricultural paradise. But, gold had not yet been discovered. They were simply looking for a better life, not to get rich.

Beyond that, how much am I willing to surrender of my old self for change today, in general? As I get older, do I get more attached to what I already have? Less willing to take risks?

How much is pain in my current life, combined with hope for the future, going to be a motivator?
And, by the time I had gotten back home, or soon afterward, I had at least one additional question for myself.

Is the desire to move to California a search for a “geographic cure” for issues that need help in other ways?

All good questions. To some of them, I don’t yet consciously know the answers, though I may have partial answers in my subconscious. Others I can answer more fully right now.

As for a geographic cure? No. I’ve been interested in moving to California for years.
As for pain as a motivator? It may continue to grow, and maybe I need that.

And, “surrender,” or another term? How much am I willing to let go of old attachments, such as what job or career path I should or should not follow, how much anxiety I can tolerate in daily life and more? At least at the conscious level, I don’t have answers here, though I suspect that I have more letting go to do — letting go of preconceptions about myself, letting go of attachments to old emotional patters, and things like that.

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