The First Step I Took as a Man

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About Michael Carpenter

Michael Carpenter is a father, a son, and a struggling contractor who strives to spend more time in nature, and with his kids. He is working through his challenges in facing relationships to become a better partner, and to achieve true intimacy.


  1. Roger Durham says:

    Michael – those piercng moments of insight are quite stunning, aren’t they. I would be interested to know more about what, specifically, changed for you that led you into manhood with that step onto the dock. What, beyond perspective, did you discover about yourself in that canoe?

    • Insightful question Roger. The most powerful and new feeling that I embodied was self-empowerment. I had lived my youth staying small and out of everyone’s way. On this day I realized that I, Michael, had a way, a path that only I could walk. This allowed me a sense of presence that alters my decisions and thereby defines my character and affects in the world. Secondly was the knowingness of being interconnected with It all, which continues to amaze and intrigue me.

      • Roger Durham says:

        That is awesome, Michael. I could feel it in the telling of your story – the firmly planted step you took out of the canoe and into the rest of your life. Really cool stuff.

      • I heard a quote a while back about looking at life from a point slightly to the left. I think it may have been Buddhist, but I really can’t be sure. Does this resonate with your experience? I see it as a third perspective where you can actually analyze your own life and stop living it for a second. I’ve experienced it a little, but that sounds simply awesome.

        • Seems to me that the more fluid our perspective then the more able we are to see things differently, to face challenges and aspirations from new angles. There’s that Einstein quote that you can’t solve a problem from the same mind that created it (or something along those lines). So yes, always stretch to see things wider, brighter and farther. We can always remain in a state of growth.

  2. Wow, Michael your well-rendered vignette took me back a spell.

    About ten years ago my teenaged son requested my permission to do something that I thought was ridiculous, dangerous and foolish. He prefaced the request with something about becoming a man. That stopped me cold. Now, I could have debated about almost any issue, told him how to execute almost any plan, or how to find out nearly anything he needed for school, but I could never, ever teach him how to be a man.

    I reluctantly agreed to his request that I still believe was ridiculous, dangerous and foolish. But maybe it would look that way to any mom. Or any woman. Maybe that is part of the process to become a man. Robert A. Johnson seens to think that a man’s individuation is a process fraught with more perils than a woman could possibly grasp on all levels.

    Yours certainly was a unique rite of passage—thank you for the very personal and delightful sharing of that uniquely male mysterious-to-me event.

  3. All that, just to escape the mesmorizations of the “Great American Corporate and Capitalist Propaganda Whore’s” and their “Sales pitch bull Shiite”, and to find a reality every Canadian boy knows instinctively to be true. The frozen North-land a harsh teacher – never lick metal, keep your mitts dry, never work up a sweat on a cold day, and wax your moccasins daily or lose them to rot, oil the snowshoe harnesses every time you use them, to keep them soft and supple, guard the snowshoe mesh, your life may depend on it, keep your ammo dry, compasses know best, matches used properly can summon help, save lives, need to be dry, blow out easy, check your snare-lines before the fox does, or no supper for you, and much much more. Poor city kids, a whole other set of lessons taught by the True Cold north and Free – most keep gullibility at bay and encourage very straight clear thinking, judgement. The Socialist notion of communal strength, bred right into our souls, we share without hesitation, stand by our brothers, never kill without eating the victim, all of him, wasting nothing, giving thanks to the Great Spirit, and the animal, for its sustenance, we walk tall, say little, be heard when needed, and defend our brothers, our families to the death, always. The following wisdom not valid now, on the cusp of economic collapse, but will be understood well even by the most mesmerized:
    An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life…. He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me, it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf is evil—he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego. The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”
    They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win, Grandfather?”
    The Elder simply replied, “The one you feed.”
    To today’s mesmerized American mind, this has no meaning at all. That alone is cause enough for despair.

    • Thank you for the good, wise words Uncle. I always wanted to reconnect to the ancestors after some severed generations. We came from the Cherokee that walked the Trail. You sound like you are in the north lands. I hitch-hiked into northern British Columbia a couple summers after the above story happened, in the late 70′s. Went as far as Dease Lake, walked in there at night and laid my bag on the ground. The big Grizzly that came in never touched me, just circled and yelled, snapping big limbs. The bear was really big and circled me all night. I didn’t move, or breath. The bear taught me something about power, and didn’t take my peanut butter that was next to me. When morning came and I was alive, I went back to the beach for awhile.

  4. Michael, a great account of coming of age as a man; written so atmospherically too. It looks like those “pearly” mushrooms gifted you with the beginning of an awakening to your true self. Our western culture squanders and abuses these sacred gifts from the earth to get high, trashed, or ‘have a good time.’ There is little introspection and it’s a messy kind of life to live. While the ancestors knew to treat these gems with respect, as a sacred portal to glimpse the larger and deeper meanings of the Great Mystery and our role in it. I’m glad you found some answers out there, and I can only imagine how hard it was for you as a young boy to take those intimidating steps to becoming a “man” with no role models or community as you did. But, here you are defining it and co-creating it as you move forward through your life. Righteous indeed!

  5. What an awesome trip. That is an area I have always wanted to go to. The top of the world can really make you think about what is important.


  1. [...] a ‘real man’ must be.” On a heady note, we particularly enjoyed the piece, “The First Step I Took as a Man” about one man’s mushroom trip while traveling by canoe around India and Nepal. [...]

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