Things I would like to do before I Return.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Oct 31, 2013
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small town christmas norman rockwell


Read the first, Things I would like to do with you in the Woods.

Read the second, Things I would like to do with you this Evening.

Read the third, Things I would like to Remember about our day in Vermont.

Read the fourth, Things I would like to do with you in Time.

Read the fifth, Things I Would Like to do with You Before I Lose You.

Read the sixth, Things I would like to hear when you are Confused.

Read the seventh, Things I would like to say to you without you Knowing.

Read the eighth, Things I would like to do with you when you visit my Home.

Read the ninth, Things I would like for us to know before we Fall in Love.

Read the tenth, Things I would have Liked to Say to You the Last Time we ever Spoke.

Read the eleventh: Things I would like to do this White Winter without You.

“Like” Things I Would Like to Do with You if so inspired, if you’d like to get the book.



“Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.” ~ Robert Frost


Things I would like to do on a Weekend Retreat just before the Winter. Part One.

You and I, we have not met our Future yet.

When I lose at love, I do not lose love itself—but rather one possibility of love. So I pause—I turn from my past and commit myself to this new now—to the hard and worthwhile work of making friends with myself. 

Then, I pause again—and dive forward into an unknown future, with elation ballooning my heart. 


“Always fall in with what you’re asked to accept. Take what is given, and make it over your way. My aim in life has always been to hold my own with whatever’s going. Not against: with.” ~ Robert Frost


I said good bye to my Future with you; I turned and looked into my old fireplace mantle’s mirror, and at myself and then through myself—but I can not see my new Future.

I would like you to know that though we loved brightly (and I should therefore be sad to have lost us), I was only sad briefly. For I lost a future we did not wish to win.

Rather, I would like to thank you. I am grateful to have loved again, a little—my heart had gone quiet.

The Future, she is not here yet. I would like to find her name on The List. And so I date and date and date and date and date and date—and I am alone and alone and alone and alone and alone…furthering this difficult yet satisfying friendship with my self.

But now it is now, the Summer it is past and the Spring has not yet come: our Past is done, and my Future? She will come.


“The mountains are calling and I must go.” ~ John Muir


I would like to close up my yellow house this weekend.

I would like to retreat away up into the mountains where Autumn is all falling into Winter. I would like to bicycle, towing Red dog (in a dog coat, in a trailer). Red dog would like to run for awhile, it is more fun—but it is eleven miles out of my Small City and up into the cold Wooded Mountains, so he will spend most of his time in the bicycle trailer.

I would like to bicycle up: up, calmly, up, slowly, up, my breath visible, up—puffing rhythmically like an old metal steam train. The high roads may be frozen in spots, it is early morning: the trick is to keep the black tires straight, and when I turn, to turn gradually.

I would like to bicycle past pale farms and up, up into the cold mountains until I get to the half-frozen, noisy black river where I turn at my red dirt road, dusted white with snow. I would like to open the rust-polished wide gate. I let Red dog off his leash. Together we climb up to my closed-up cabin in the dark woods.

I would like to open up my cabin. This is where we first fell in love. It is cold, now.

I would like to spend my first hour moving good, old dry wood inside and chopping new wood, blushing, flushed with sweat. Deep breaths in and visible air out. The sun is setting.

I would like to light the cold fireplace. I set the dusty copper kettle out to make tea, and take off my sweaty clothes, and put on my warm red-black checkered union suit pajamas. I would like to spend the night reading the Collected Short Stories beneath many warm blankets. I would like to begin with The Rich Boy, again.

I would like to not eat much: now is a time for retreat, for brief asceticism, for rest—a time for alone, a time to make my acute sadness hungry and draw it out, and to sit with it at the barren kitchen table.

I would like to be alone; I would like to cry if I am lucky.

If I relax and cry I would like to smile, simultaneously: sunshine through water is rainbow. Heartbroken and yet cheerful where self-pity would otherwise lie. An exposed heart, full of appreciation, even joy. Tender pain as I let go of our future that is already gone.

My small cabin’s small bed is heavy, set against a small window. Before I go to sleep, I would like to open the window at my head, though it is cold: just a crack, so that when I sleep beneath my many wool blankets I can breathe innocent air. Air allows for space, gives wisdom and blessing to those of us who would guard space, and lends love to those of us who need space.

The window faces East, so that each morning’s first light pours over me.


“My sorrow, when she’s here with me, thinks these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be; she loves the bare, the withered tree; she walks the sodden pasture lane.” ~ Robert Frost


Oh, you had messaged me. You told me I was too much, and you were right: I was too much for us.

For I know I am too much, and that is not too much. So I am not defeated: rather I have lost something that was not enough: you did not want what I have to offer, which is all of me. If I am not what you would like you are not what I would like and so I can not let go of us—it is already gone.

And now we are gone to me, and I would like to think of us—but I see only gray ghosts in the mirror.

I would like to grow this red beard until it curls. A beard is good for mourning, and for bicycling in the Winter.

I would like to appreciate our time together: joyful, picnic, patience, New Yorker in the hot tub, sex, laughter, listening, forest beach, orange lipstick, sweet voice, your wide curving eyes, postcards, mosquitoes and sharing—and all of it in a season.

And I would like to thank you—even as the wide, white fog rises up the mountain hills around below my cabin retreat.

I would like to say, as a wise man liked to do, Jolly Good Luck, sweetheart!

I would like to add, Thank you for being you, just you.




This Winter may be long but this end of Autumn feels endless.

Alone, I do things and focus upon doing them fully. Tea, a walk in the forest with Red dog, reading a book: I turn from distraction to what is happening. Mourning is my meditation.

And so before turning to future Her I honor past you. I do not need to let go: time has already left us behind.

I need merely to ready myself to once again step into the flow of the already rushing river.

I would like to turn, and take a dance step forward now, without you: my feet are hesitant, but confident, too. I would like to turn my gaze away from our Summer love affair and toward my Winter, alone, away from Green Mountains and toward Red Mountains—to the fog clinging to our foothills below my mountain.

So, though I have lost our Future, I am patient and will open to another.

I would like to see what comes to me, and I would like to choose whether to swing at the pitches I see.

“Everybody needs beauty…places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.” ~ John Muir

I would like to look forward to other lovers, but I can not yet move my mind through this mountain fog. There are gray ghosts in the white fog: and my red beard has not grown in, yet.

So I move my body, instead: I take my old climbing rope leash and put on my light running shoes and my gray short shorts and “C’mon, Red dog.” He whines with excitement as we begin to jog around and up the mountain. For the future does not long wait before becoming now and I must run to higher ground to leave your fog behind.

I return in a salt sweat three hours later and the cabin is dusty and empty but warm.




I have been here for a day, or two days, then three days. I would like to stay for thirty more days, then ninety.

And so though I would like to stow my steel bicycle inside, and batten down for the Winter, I will not. For this long bicycle ride up into these flood-ripped mountains must be a round-trip journey: my Small City flickers back up at me. And so my bike stays outside, leaning against the cabin wall, not too well-sheltered beneath the old tin porch awning.

But for now, this retreat in the Mountains is a white and dark green delight.

The cool air pushing up against and through my tweed and cotton is a delight.

When waking in the cabin, or after snowshoeing, or while writing: drinking water or coffee or whiskey is a delight.

Today, I find new love in old things: I am a child, once again captivated for moments by the forest, the light, the occasional mountain snow, the wind, the wood, sounds—in love with the details of this natural world and this human life.

Gnomes still live in the old forests, according to this silly book I read when I was a boy.

Short, strong, jolly, horny, hungry, with white beards or rosey cheeks and tools and warm homes beneath trees. Are there are spirits here? I do not know. But the deer know the weather. The green leaves are gone the gold leaves are gone the faded dry crumbling leaves are gone. Last night the winds took the leaves away and now, suddenly: barren, gray, and white. Our world is ready for more winter.

I would like to be still, and listen to the subtle sounds of the woods. Listening relaxes the City out of me.

I would like to know how the animals and their hungry children live amongst the red barked pine trees sweet with sap when the cold—when the snow comes and does not leave.

“Crying and smiling at the same time is the ideal human emotion.” ~ Chögyam Trungpa


I would like to cry again, now that no one will know. I am alone, and it is dark, and it is water into water when I spend an evening hour in the old white bath tub outside. Two years ago I set it on a slope, built it up on top of heavy rocks with room below for an old woodstove that I bought at a mining town yardsale. I have spent evenings in it laughing and making love with a friend, too hot, looking at the crisp stars, drinking cold hoppy beer, and then letting the water drain out when we are done.

Now I am alone, with my ghost memories and losses and new space…and finally, salt tears merge with salt sweat.

A weekend retreat is a quick recipe for renewal.

A recipe for purification: juniper gin, the salt and sweat and hot water, night stars, the moon, cutting fragrant wood and smoke, reading, running, doing nothing, listening, dreaming, waking.

In my tears I remember your strongsoft body with silk blouse waving open in vague wrinkles. You are stretched before me, your mind rich with cozy second-floor cafés with poetry readings and dear friends and beeswax candles and debates about war with meaningful laughter and meals along long tables with photos of placesettings taken from above, just so, and lovers and more lovers and textbooks and paper-books and houseparties in hallways and new-old music and carryon-only travel and kissings in bed. Joy and desire, humor and dance. In my tears you are walking step by step back and away from me, receding.

Looking backward is as if looking at a shadow, or a movie: after awhile, we long for real. And so I would like to look forward, but the Future is not yet alive, and though Now is pregnant with it, all I have is Now. So I walk mindfully up the forest path, today.

In the Future I will jump into a waterhole on a hot day and skip rocks and ropeswing up, let go, splash, the cool water washing my hair back, blinking wetblur out of my eyes as we wade in water with dogs chasing tennis balls.

But for now I am alone in a cabin in a forest on a mountain, with countrybright stars reflecting at my unloved orange eyes.

“When I run through the deep dark forest long after this begun
Where the sun would set, trees were dead and the rivers were none
And I hope for a trace to lead me back home from this place
But there was no sound, there was only me and my disgrace.” ~ First Aid Kit

This morning for the first time the fog has cleared and I can see the gold lights below, and I remember that late Fall in my Big Town is a golden and blue delight.

This morning for the first time I would like to return to my Small City.



Next up: Things I would like to do on a Weekend Retreat just before the Winter, Part two.




About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


21 Responses to “Things I would like to do before I Return.”

  1. I adore this and I realized something too. An earlier reader compared you to Dickens (which, wow, what a compliment, right?); yet he's my favorite author. I remember being so relieved when I read the real and true ending for Great Expectations, because it was the only book of his that deeply disappointed me—until I realized that it was only the ending the publisher had demanded that disappointed me (the too-good-to-be-true and syrupy, phony, doesn't-make-sense-with-the-book ending).
    And I realized, with my readings lately—including this—that a good book (occasionally turned into a movie; i.e. romantic comedy) is nearly always one thing: predictable (but it will never be a truly great story); and many a bad story that pretends it's a great one is the simulation of what many truly great stories are (like Dickens'): unpredictable—and sometimes disappointing in how they twist and turn and often even end.
    And this is the making of a great story—what you've been writing—because you've not been afraid to take those unexpected detours. I look forward to each installment.

  2. Senseofenergy says:

    I have looked forward to each new segment and smiled eagerly to read when I saw a new one posted. I recently had someone come into my life for a very short but profound reason. Even though I knew the connection was not meant to last long, it was still sad to have it end. I take solace in knowing I helped him as much as he helped me, that we were two people meant to touch each other's souls to heal and grow…then move on.

  3. elephantjournal says:

    It's perfect. ~ B. xo

  4. elephantjournal says:

    Thanks, you of all people, who helped edit so thoroughly a few of the key first ones that helped set the tone. Sad day.

  5. Chantelle says:

    You paint a vivid picture of the most elegant way one could deal with the loss of love. Thank you for all of these beautifully written segments of your dreamy minds eye.

  6. StephD says:

    Heart-wrenching and so beautiful. You truly have a gift. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Hope says:

    I have been reading these ever since you started posting them. Somehow you seem to capture my experiences in all the words I wish I could express. Thank you for sharing your story and for allowing mine to come to life.

  8. Sara says:

    Beautiful and Inspirational!

    I would like to know you.

    I would like to hold your hands and look into your eyes and see into you. I would like to know each piece of you, even the ones you don’t fully know yourself yet. The person that you bravely choose to show the world, yes he is an important part of you, but just one part. Maybe he is the outer right corner of your jigsaw puzzle, or maybe you have still not yet figured out where he fits among the scattered pieces on the floor. Or maybe you have reached the place where you are comfortable enough to show the world all of your pieces, which makes them that much easier to share with me.

    Whether your puzzle is complete and on display or still in a box, it does not matter to me. For no matter what state it is in, your puzzle is a masterpiece. And sometimes when you have figured it all out and your puzzle fits perfectly together and everything makes sense the world laughs at your naivety and sends you an earthquake, shaking and breaking things until you are more scattered and confused than you have ever been before.

    I would like to hear the stories come pouring out of you. Because you have lived for years and you have a past with so many journeys and adventures and sorrows that have shaped you into what you are today. There are stories of the people that you have loved and the ones that you have lost and those that you still love and how you love and I find these stories fascinating.
    I would like to hear your stories so that I will understand. Not to try to change you, or accept the things that I don’t really care for. For that means passing judgment, and really, who I am to pass judgment?

    I would like to understand because I am a Scorpio and that it what we do. We are curious and ask questions and are not content until we have explored the depths of the essence of everything. And sometimes it gets uncomfortable and sometimes that makes people leave but you will not leave.

    I would like to be wrapped in your embrace and feel safe, your strong arms holding me tightly as if you will never let me go. You promise that you won’t ever let me fall. But the world can be a dark and cruel place and sometimes I will plummet and break into pieces just like Humpty Dumpty although slightly less round- it’s all the yoga I’ve been doing after all. And when that happens you know that all I need is the space held for me while I start to rebuild. I just want your arms to hold me and your soft reassurance that it will be ok. Because even though I am independent and strong and have had to rebuild so many times alone I feel safe enough with you to be vulnerable and weak and shattered.

    I would like to hold you just as tightly because you don’t need to always be the strong one. I would like to remind you that you are perfect and your sadness and anger is perfect and we are perfect together exactly where we need to be at this moment.
    I would like to know you, and I would like you to know me.

  9. carissa says:

    Spare. Winteral. Eloquent. Weary but not exhausted. Completely wonderful, Mr. Lewis.

    I kept getting the image of a big sleep or at least a very long nap…both good for the soul. As I hope writing these has been for yours. Reading them, experience-by-proxy, has been therapeutic for me and most likely many. Thanks for the inspiration.

    I am glad, and not surprised, about you getting them bound/published. Cannot wait to see that. Visual aides are always a helpful bonus.

    My earlier comparison to Dickens was more about the serial nature of the pieces and their popular appeal rather than writing style. Dickens can be a bit over-the-top. Believe it or not, that’s up to you, for me you’ve definitely demonstrated in this segment (and others) that your voice is more subtle than that… and sometimes “too much”. Both useful at different times.

  10. rslyzuk says:

    "And so I have taken my black pen to tan paper and curl black ink into the words of our red passion and longing and laughter: and so I take the winds of Nature’s winter and invite them to carry my voice."

    That was an incredibly beautiful sentence. Another wonderful piece. Well done, Waylon!

  11. Lara says:

    To know love like this exists, is eye opening, hopeful, and beautiful…thank you for sharing. 🙂

  12. elephantjournal says:

    Thanks, brother! They're beautiful only to the extent that they're real, and hopefully connect with others' experience of real..!

  13. Jacinta says:

    Once I stayed in a big old country house on a cold and windy November weekend, like now! I happened upon a book that kind of reminds me of the series you’ve written, except its a collection of love stories about how people met and found one another. The book is called “A Match Made in Heaven” (Susan Wales & Ann Platz). Now, I pull it off the shelf when I’m in a certain nostalgic mood and become totally unhinged every time – I cry, I laugh, I dream… again, and again. (Check it out -it needs a sequel).
    There was a couple also staying at the house, and when the weekend was over, they shared with me that he had proposed to her that weekend, while walking along this long stretch of empty beach… It was like another story for the book! There was magic in the air that weekend! Oh and I almost forgot the part when I stopped on the country road to pick up firewood, and the guy who was selling the wood …. Seriously, thought I stepped into a Harlequin Romance …. unbelievable, surreal moment. I recall not being able to say much, coherently, and he gave me the firewood for free. LMAO – fun to laugh at now.
    Ok I digress lol. (I think my writers block is becoming unblocked ?)

  14. audrey says:

    …..this is preparing my soul for a future past love. – since your 1st installment. grieving the past weeks as questions and answers swim in my heady mind. i try to stay quiet and contemplate. your writing unfolds my future. ~ n a m a s t e ~

  15. elephantjournal says:

    I think so, too!

    Follow your breath, as Ginsberg used to teach!

  16. fluxustulip says:


    I wonder how many hearts have been liberated by this journey of things & how many hearts those will liberate. Ripple-effect, Trickle-down. Healing tears & laughter… now THAT’S a collaboration.

    Good Work. Good Words. Good-Ness.

    Thanks for all the fish Dharma-Friend.

    Tare Tutare Ture Soha

  17. jacinta says:

    haha 🙂 thanks ej PS… saw this quote today: 'In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.'
    ~ Albert Schweitzer ~

  18. I just love you. That's all.

  19. Erika says:


  20. Georgie says:


  21. Alex Myles says:

    please stop writing so ridiculously beautifully… I need to get some work done