This episode features Gabe Cotton, a student in Campfire’s Advanced Storytelling class. You can learn more about Gabe Cotton on the Campfire website, https://cmpfr.com/events/winter-2019-advanced-storytelling/.
These episodes of The Campfire Storytelling Podcast showcase students who went through our Advanced Storytelling class. These students take a six-week class to prepare to tell a story about life and how they live it. Season 30 students told stories about false narratives.
This episode was originally performed December 2019, produced by Jeff Allen, and recorded live at The Focal Point.
Steven Harowitz: 0:12
Hello, Internet. I'm Steven Harowitz, and I'll be your host for this episode of Campfire at Home, recorded here in St. Louis, Missouri, Almost every month, we gather at the Campfire to hear stories about life and how we live it. Campfire at Home is how we bring that live storytelling experience to you wherever you are. In this particular episode, I have something special for you because we have stories to share from the capstone event of our Season 10 Advanced Storytelling class. These students signed up for a class through Campfire to learn about public speaking and storytelling. That first class, the students are always nervous, excited and looking around, not knowing who each other are yet. But then they slowly get to know one another as they collectively reflect on their lives through story. They started to see the output of their training and the power and the liberation of owning and sharing their own story. And even when it got scary or their nerves crept up, as it inevitably does, they kept choosing to take on the challenge. And then there they were onstage in the lights, delivering some truly delightful and some truly heavy stories. All in all, their Advanced Storytelling training went over six classes, with some additional time for individual coaching. This series of podcasts includes the four Advanced Storytelling students, Gabe, Javier, Jermar, and Potter, all telling a short story on the topic of quitting. And then beyond the hugs and smiles each storyteller got after the event, I got to say, as their instructor, a heartfelt congratulations to four people with newfound skills in storytelling, confidence in their voice and speaking publicly, and an understanding of the power of story. Let's head to the Campfire to listen to Gabe's story on quitting.
Gabe Cotton: 2:19
It's a cold September morning, and I am at Taum Sauk Mountain State Park with my friend Tim and we're gonna hike the Mina Sauk Falls Trail. He and I are both hiking enthusiasts, and we're there. It's about three and 1/2 miles long. The trail starts out kind of flat, and then it starts to its, if you'll excuse me. It goes from the highest point of Missouri to the tallest waterfall and then back up. So the trail starts out kind of flat. Um, it starts to incline downward and the rocks just sort of emerged from the path just waiting to trip you, roll your ankle. It's a pretty rugged path. After about a mile and 1/2, you get to this glade on the edge of a hill and it just opens up. And there's a lot of exposed rock. And there's the scraggly trees and a lot of grasses and bugs and lizards and that sort of thing. And you come to this overlook and across the valley from you there's these, these three mountains just covered in green, and they're all symmetrical and perfectly placed, and it's one of my favorite places in the world. It's also a really special place to me because it is the place that my wife and I decided to get married. She and I share a love of nature, and we kind of find connection there, and we find a sense of spirituality there, and we thought that was the place that we wanted to exchange our vows. But it's also a heavy place for me because about a year before this hike, I left my wife. Things had been, uh, things have been declining between us. We were having a difficult time finding understanding and the language, the common language that you need in a relationship to be successful. Um, we cared about each other very much, but things just weren't working. And I left her and I quit our marriage. So this is very heavy spot for me. Uh, Tim knows that. And we were standing there appreciating the view, and we're about to start walking down the mountain. And I said, "Tim, there's something that I have to do." And he said, "Okay." And he kind of stood off to the side and I pulled some pictures out of my hiking pack from the day that Christy and I got married and I knelt down at the rocks and I pulled a lighter out of my backpack and I lit those pictures on fire and I was crying and I said a prayer. In my prayer was, "Free me from your hold on me. Free me from your hold on me." You see, I had almost, it had been almost a year, and I needed to get her out of my mind and out of my heart. I missed her so much. Um, and nothing was working. So the pictures burned and I took a deep breath and I stood up and Tim and I hiked down the hill. So the trail gets really steep at this point, and it gets really rugged. There's tree roots and there's gulleys, and there's all sorts of rocks. But after about 20 minutes, you get to Mina Sauk Falls, which is the tallest waterfall in Missouri. That's not nearly as impressive as it sounds, because typically, typically, it's just a trickle of water dripping off a rock from a little pool up there. I've seen it after a snow melt, like we're going to see in about three days, with just water gushing down the hill and just crashing over the side and just splattering down, pounding these rocks and these pools below, like the symphony of of just natural beauty. And it's it's pretty impressive. But on this day it was just a trickle. So Tim and I sit down and we're eating our lunch and you know, I'm an older guy and Tim's an older guy, and we look we look for new ways to kind of stay fit and keep ourselves in shape, and he tells me about how he started doing yoga, and he isn't necessarily into the spiritual side of it. But he really appreciates the mechanics of it and the way it makes his body feel and he tells me about how when he when he's holding a position sometimes and he's trying to clear his mind that he tells himself the words, "Here, now," over and over again, like a mantra to where it becomes it, it gets in tune with his breathing and it becomes a temple of his breathing. And he says that it helps him to focus, and it helps him to clear his mind. And that kind of sticks with me. The way he's describing it, it seems really powerful, just these two simple words and how they can bring you to center. So we finish our lunch and we start hiking up now that at this point you're going back up hill in this loop, and it's warmed up a bit and there's a lot of rocks and we're climbing up the rocks. And, um, I'm starting to feel, I'm starting to feel the emotions of the day and the past year again and how I'm in this beautiful place, and I just wish Christy was there and I started thinking about the past year and our relationship before that and the things that I fucked up. The problems that I bring to a relationship and make it difficult. See, I'm an over thinker. Um, I tend to focus on the worst case scenario, the unknowns, and it's really difficult for me to let that go. It's really difficult for me to shake that. So were climbing up the hill and I'm thinking about all this, and I'm starting to get emotional again and I'm missing her. And the sun is on my neck and the breeze is in my face and the trees were just exuding this energy, and there's heat coming up from the ground, and I can't see any of it because I'm lost in my thoughts. I'm internal. I can't break out of that. And two words come to my head: "Here. Now." I want to be present. I want to be here now. I want to be able to let all that go and be in this beauty that I'm here to see and I'm here to absorb. And as we're finishing our hike, I'm thinking a lot about what I need to do to be able to not be an over thinker and to not listen to this devil on my shoulder, whispering in my ear, not letting me let things go, because I need to be here now wherever I'm at. So Tim and I finish our hike, we say our goodbyes and, uh, we go home. About a week later, as I'm coming back from another hike with my dog Saturday morning, Christie calls me on the phone and she's outside my apartment and she's crying. I almost didn't answer it, and I tell her I'll be home soon so I get home and without a word, we just embrace each other and we hold each other for probably four or five minutes, and then we sit down and we have the most honest and terrifying and hopeful and sad and optimistic and loving and genuine conversation that we probably ever had. Six weeks later, she moves in with me and we're in a good place and we have a better understanding on how to communicate. I have a better understanding on how to be present, and we have a better understanding of each other's value. You know my prayer that day was, "Free me from your hold on me," because I wanted to let her go. But what I really wanted to be free from were the things that I bring, the self-destructive behaviors within me that I have to let go of. And I'm working on that, and I think I can do it so I can be here now.
Steven Harowitz: 11:20
And that's a wrap. You can make sure to hear the other episodes from our Season 10 Advanced Storytelling graduates by subscribing to Campfire at Home wherever you get your podcasts. And if you like what you heard, please leave a review. It helps others find our podcast, and it supports our students. If you're in the St. Louis area, we'd love to have you come out to an event or take a class. Visit cmpfr.com. That's c m p f r dot com for all of the details. And for those of you that don't live in St. Louis who just want to know more about what we do here at Campfire, you can also visit our website at cmpfr.com that c m p f r dot com. As always a big thank you to the Campfire team, our photographer Jenn Korman, our videographer and podcast producer Jeff Allen, the home for our classes, TechArtista. Tonight's stories were recorded live at the Focal Point in Maplewood, Missouri. Thanks for listening to Campfire at Home. I've been your host, Steven Harowitz. Until next time.