365 Days in Aspen




.facebook_1468116084143Wildflowers. Isn't it incredible how nature finds a way? I love this post about plants growing through concrete.  Wildflowers seem to have a way to "push through."  And the variety of colors, sizes and shapes always blows me away.  





Check out the "sacred geometry" of this "weed."  Seriously, isn't it beautiful? And you have to honor its purpose, how it breaks apart in the wind to spread its beauty. 


When I see nature in this kind of form, my first impression is, "Someone must have been having fun upstairs." I think this variety of beauty (including the incredible diversity in plant and fish life undersea) is the result of the very "nature of creation" and a definitive sign of what Napoleon Hill called the "Source of Infinite Intelligence."  (I'll write more on a future post about my vision of how I think these things are created). 

In the meantime, I'll share one of my favorite albums of Sheryl Crow.  It's also one of the less celebrated. Is called "Wildflower." Sheryl_Crow-Wildflower























As Sheryl says in this song, "Live it up, like there's no time left."  

Here's a duet with Sting of a song from the album – Always On Your Side – a favorite of mine.


What’s Your Goal, Brownell?

Goal-Quotes-58A-goal-without-a-plan-is-just-a-wishset-your-goals-high-don-t-stop-till-you-get-there-vector-inspirational-meme-retro-looking-style-46110211When I told a friend about my move, she asked me, "What's your goal, Brownell?" 

My reply was "It's my goal not to have a goal."

W-w-w-what? Most people would ask. As the quotes to the right suggest, goals are crucial! Necessary! The only way to live!

Not so, says I. As smart as Einstein was, I can't agree with this quote to the left. At least not for me, not for now. Not anymore. And sorry, Albert, but I think experiences, whether they're people or things, are the components of a happy life. 

I'm not saying we should live an aimless life. It helps to entertain a vision, if not a destination. But if you're like me, it hasn't worked out that way. More like John Lennon's suggesting, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." 

Most – if not all – my goals and plans haven't worked out. In fact, I've become somewhat of an expert in "failure." Here's my talk at an event earlier this year:

So now to be able to reply, "It's my goal not to have a goal" is an incredibly freeing statement for me. It doesn't mean I'm going to stop doing things, to stop putting myself out there, to stop trying. It just means that I've released all attachment to the outcome. 

Here's a case in point: Yesterday I the first draft of a new screenplay I've written. To say I'm proud of it would be an understatement. That doesn't mean it's perfect, because I'm sure there are errors a more seasoned screenwriter would probably not make. But I do think it's exceptional. Very different, very powerful, and, yes, in true "Brownell" fashion, life-changing, if not world-changing. 

What's my goal with this script, you ask? 

I fear that as soon as I attach a goal to it, the magic dissolves. That attachment itself is the dissolving agent. 

Instead, I'll put it out in the world and see what happens. I'm even going to enter it into a screenwriting competition. (I hadn't planned on that, but since I found out right after I finished that a screenwriting competition had extended its deadline to 3 days later, I figure "what the heck."  Go for it. Put it out and see what comes back.) 

The following Aerosmith song got me through a lot of dark times.  First, read the lyrics below. Even the oft-used "Life's a Journey, Not a Destination" quote is poignant in this context.


And here's John Lennon's Beautiful Boy with Lyrics:


Yap or Bust?

yapWhen considering change, sometimes it helps to look at big, dramatic change. Like halfway across the planet thousands of miles from everything kind of change. 

Before deciding to come to Aspen, I applied to a 1-year Peace Corps program on an island in Micronesia called Yap. 

I didn't get the gig. If I had, this blog would undoubtedly be written from there. As the saying goes, "you can't get there from here" but there are stops along the path to your final destination, and considering a move to Yap helped immensely. 

The local populatin of Yap isn't that different from Aspen, although Aspen has much larger tourism populace. Both are fairly distant from large cities, though 917 miles across an ocean from Yap to the Philippines (or a mere 529 miles to Guam) is a lot more daunting than driving 3 1/2 hours (159 miles) across the Continental Divide.

So, no question that going to Yap is a lot bigger "stretch" than coming to Aspen. To paraphrase the Oscar Wilde quote I posted earlier – "A mind stretched by considering new experiences can more easily accomodate less dramatic changes." 

So – what kind of changes can you make to expand your own "horizons?"

As Sheryl says, "A Change Would Do You Good." 

And click here for the lyrics:

Your Body Is A Wonderland

Your bodyToday's post will share my view and philosophy about "the body." A lot of it comes from the research and revelations I got from writing my book, Five Reasons Why Bad Things Happen: How to Turn Tragedies Into Triumph.

As you might have read in an earlier post, I started this year certain that my body was in decline (due to a reaction to the refrigerated tuna salad from Costco). It was a slow-build, the perfect case study in how consuming a "seemingly normal but toxic" product over time (I ate a few bites a day over several months for a quick protein "fix") can nearly destroy you. 

So what was the "reason why" for that experience? What was my body trying to tell me?  

Well, if you read my book, you'll find out that the "Big Reason Why" is to get you to change something. So my body wanted change – BAD.  That, or "she" was so tired of trying so hard she willing to give up completely.  Talk about a dramatic change…

So, when you think about it, getting rid of just about everything I owned and moving thousands of miles away where I didn't know anyone isn't that big of a change, is it? 

And my body is a LOT happier!  She breathes more deeply, stretches more thoroughly and marvels far more frequently. 

The message in this post is that your body IS a wonderland. And he/or she is also a wealth of knowledge. The key is to get to know him or her. To listen.  I'll write more about "the body" in future posts, I'm sure. Stay tuned. 



Looks Like Another Perfect Day

perfect dayI know – I stole the lyric from Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." but I have to argue the weather here is better than Los Angeles. Certainly the air is!  

Sure, I've only been here a couple of weeks. "Wait until the winter comes" you say. Fair enough, though the idea of looking out over a beautiful mountain covered in snow and hitting the slopes doesn't sound so bad to me. And I honestly do prefer a change of seasons. As long as one of the seasons isn't extreme heat and humidity. 

There is a certain kind of guilt that seeps in when you live somewhere exceptionally beautiful with perfect weather. You feel a responsibility to be outside enjoying every minute. To stay up late and go outside to see the gigantic stars in the clear sky. To wake up for sunrise every morning, (even though it's 5 a.m. and looks almost as spectacular from my bedroom window). To "climb every mountain" even when your body wants to take a rest.  

And, remember, I prayed to never become complacent over the beauty of this place, right?

Still, I do have other things to do, too. Writing this blog takes time inside and alone. So does working on my new screenplay and marketing my books and… and… and…

Real life in paradise is still real life. Just easier to enjoy.  And enjoy I do.

No matter where you are, you have a sky to appreciate. A raindrop or snowflake or night sky. No matter where, you can find your "Beautiful Day."

To celebrate, let's look at the many songs on my playlist with a title like "Beautiful Day" or "Lovely Day."  Here are a few.  And don't forget to check out my playlist on Google Play Music!


The Randy Newman Classic… "We love it!" 

A classic… I dare you not to be happy listening to this…

One of my favorite artists – Donavon Frankenreiter:


On the Street Where I Live

Today I took a walk "on the street where I live" from one end to the other. "Does enchantment pour out of every door?" Yes, actually, it might. Certainly to a "newbie" like me. Though I hope everyone feels that way about the street where they live. 


2016-07-09 13.09.062016-07-09 13.09.16On my new street, there are several hiking and biking trails and two parks, one with a memorial to Albert Schweitzer, which I thought was interesting. According to this article, he'd been to Aspen in the summer of 1949 – right after World War II. In fact, it was July 4th – which makes this timing pretty close. (I love synchronicities.)  He came to speak "at at a festival celebrating the bicentennial of Goethe's birth." 

Schweitzer had refused previous invitations to the US, so his decision to come to Aspen makes it all the more special. 

It also makes you wonder if that event helped spawn the constant influx of some of the most influential people on earth who come here on a regular basis. 

Here's a tribute to Goethe, with a few of his remarkable (and relatable) quotes.


There's also a street fair on Saturdays and several restaurants and shops. Here are a few more photos…

whitaker parkhopkins





















And because I couldn't resist posting a relevant song. Wish I had a video of my very talented nephew singing it, but I guess the original will have to do!

Have some songs or quotes about friendship you want to share? Post on Facebook!  



Here’s to the Beginners!

positive_quotes_The_expert_in_anything_153progressHere's to the beginners! The first-timers! The risk-takers, the "go for it" folks! 

Today I was hiking the same trail I'd done three times before. (I know. Here I was just talking about the downfalls of routine. Sorry). Anyway, there was a teenage boy riding a bicycle up this very steep (800 ft elevation increase) trail. He was struggling a bit and wanted someone to talk with, and I was more than happy to comply. 

Yes, I became his cheerleader. I guess that's one advantage in my having done this particular trail so many times. I could help him!  

First, I told him that I was impressed that anyone could ride a bicycle up that mountain! He lamented and said the person at the bike shop said they though he could do it in 16 minutes. 16 minutes!  I couldn't imagine that! Heck, I couldn't imagine twice that! It took me 54 minutes to hike up the same trail – without a bicycle!


beginner5It made me sad for him – that this "expert" who had probably lived here for a long time – had set him – a beginner – up with that level of expectation. So I told him a bit of exercise physiology I'd been taught: 

I said, "Do you know that the more you do an activity, the more you store energy in the muscles you use a lot?"
He said, "No."
I added, "It's true. So for some people who do a lot of the same activity, it gets easier for them."
"Because they can access the energy easier?" he intelligently responded.
"Yes." I replied.  "Did you know why chickens and turkeys legs are the dark meat? Because those are the muscles used most. They don't fly, so they don't use their chests or breasts. They use their legs, so that's why the meat is richer, more dense, and has more calories."  

buildI'm pretty sure I made him feel better.  He made it to the top. 

We all need a "cheerleader" from time to time. Someone who encourages us, who helps us take the next step, who lets us know that none of us took our first step without faltering. And, in skiing vernacular, "no falls, no ____."  (You get it.)  No reward without risk. 

We also need to remember to be a cheerleader, too. To be there for people when they're struggling to climb whatever mountain is in front of them.




So – "Hello you long-shots, you dark-horse runners…" Two very different versions of the same great tune…

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You’ve Gotta Have Friends

friendship2This post is in tribute to friends. Old friends, new friends; Friends who are nearby and friends thousands of miles away. Friends who are no longer with me and friends who just joined my journey. Friends who I haven't seen in a long time and friends across the world who I may never meet in person. 

parts of yourselfThursday was such a lovely day with a new friend. Hours and hours of neverending conversation that could have continued for hours more.

The joy of discovery. 

It was almost like one of my favorite movies, My Dinner with Andre, that could have been recorded for others to watch. We covered so many topics, explored so much ground, it was exceptional. Macro to micro, discussing everything from funny stories from the past to matters of life and death. It was lovely. And not just because we were sitting outside in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. 

The magic of friendship. heart



I spend a lot of time alone. It's a choice, really. 

I woke up this morning thinking, I wish someone had told me early on, "You're going to live an unconventional life. You'll never marry or have kids like most people. You'll have a lot of challenges you will have to face alone. But it's all good. It'll give you freedom to create, to explore, to invent, to learn."

Like this Dr. Seuss quote from an exceptional book, "Oh, The Places You'll Go!"  In many ways, it was the inspiration for my own children's book, "Sometimes I Wonder." 

Yet even when we spend time alone, it's still all about love…

As Wise Men Once Said
What Matters in the End
Does the Love You Receive
Match the Love You Spend?


So here are some songs in tribute to friendship, from Bette Midler to B.J. Thomas, Randy Newman and more. 

Bette Midler classic… 


Randy Newman and his songs with Toy Story:

And his commentary… (I love hearing his stories about writing songs!)

Have some songs or quotes about friendship you want to share? Post on Facebook!  




Explorers Untie!

explorerexplorer2Yes, the typo is a pun. Explorers are less likely to "unite" than they are to "untie." To let go than to band together.

Isn't that what being an explorer is all about? Releasing the bonds of expectations?

Are you an explorer?  

Many years ago I was talking to someone I'd just met, explaining my view of how the world works, and his response stayed with me to this day. He said, "Brownell, you're an explorer. You'll always be an explorer." 

What he meant was that I'd always be searching. That I'd never be fully satisfied with one answer. 

How he was. 

Every experience of life opens up the opportunity for another lesson, another chance to grow, another world to explore. 

To be a true explorer, you need to be ready to get lost. To find the answers, you need to be open to asking questions. 






Mind stretched2









This song by Mary Chapin Carpenter is one of my favorites. 

And this one – by another favorite artist – was at one time an anthem of mine – a cautionary tale not to miss out on life. 

And another Mary Chapin Carpenter song – with deep, thought-provoking lyrics:

And since I'm on a Mary Chapin Carpenter kick today… 


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It’s A New Dawn, A New Day, A New Life

sunriseoverajaxSunrises. Symbolism for new beginnings. An opportunity to start fresh. 

It's easy to get complacent and bogged down in everyday routine. I think that's what makes moving to a new place so gloriously disruptive. It makes everything you do more conscious, and it gives you a chance to change things you used to do on autopilot. 


mayflyA Mayfly has the shortest lifespan of all creatures – living, on average, 24 hours. According to this article from The Mysterious World, "… Mayflies spend most of their lifetime as nymphs. The one and only purpose of Mayflies are reproduction. Within this short period of life, they form groups and dance together on all available surfaces."  So they spend the day dancing and reproducing. Sounds like a lovely way to embrace each moment. 


Here's a beautiful song from an oft overlooked group: Over The Rhine. My favorite lyric is: 

It's our favorite time of light
Just before the day kisses the night

And the closing verse:

When they lay me down at last
And this life is finally past
Just remember me this way
And don't forget to say
It's our favorite
Our favorite time of light

And, considering the title of today's post, here are some covers of the classic song, Feeling Good, both with the (not so coincidental) lyric:

Dragonfly out in the sun, you know what I mean, don't you know
Butterflies all havin' fun, you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when the day is done, that's what I mean
And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
For me
For me

The classic Nina Simone…

George Michael crushing it…

And Ed Sheeran in his low-key style:

As Synchronicity would have it – a song called "Mayfly" popped up on my songlist.  

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