Consider this...

By Mike Johnson


The path carved through the woods behind a very quiet Cedar Manor Elementary. Fresh from the oven of Florida, I appreciated the cool, summer air, now silent, at once refreshing and reflective. Vacationing in the Twin Cities, I'd driven to my old grade school to visit -- and to think.

Life had gotten too busy lately, more accurately, my tolerance had gotten too low, and a week off in the old hometown was what I'd convinced myself I needed. A 20-year high school reunion was a good excuse to make it so.

Traveling solo, I owned seven July days free and clear. No family. No business. No obligations. Few things feel as rich as a full tank of gas and an empty week on the calendar.

I strolled the path behind the school, gulping cool, humidity-free air, noticing deer tracks running alongside. They followed the pathway for a dozen yards before crossing, leaving deep, double-hoofed impressions across a muddy spot on the trail.

It had been forever since I'd last seen deer tracks, let alone wild deer. In fact, it'd been forever since I'd been in the wild. Any correlation with a mind running wild?

Free from the rush of constantly doing and constantly going, 10 minutes into the hike, I was intoxicated by the contentment of just being.

And then it leapt into sight.

Not a deer -- an agate. The rock was smudged and half buried in the center of the pathway but I was sure. Reflexes pried the stone from the dirt, wiped off the mud and licked its edge, a rockhound's method for making stones more visible. Sure enough, the moisture exposed the beautiful, white pressure lines crisscrossing a polished red face. A bit on the small side, but a keeper none the less.

Not looking for agates, agates came looking for me.

How could I have forgotten the love of hunting them? Had the rush to "live" become so all-encompassing that it had suffocated hikes in the woods, scouting for wildlife and rockhounding?

Why do we allow our lives to become so complex? Aren't our jobs, our travels, our purchases and our relationships really just a search for contentment, for happiness? We chase things external to ourselves in the mistaken belief that when we get them, we'll be happy. Unfortunately, we know from experience, the lasting happiness we expected never arrives with the lasting achievement we caught. Our eyes have already settled on the next goal and we run after that, fooling ourselves again.

Because we always want more later, there's never enough now.

1,800 miles from home, agate in my palm, I'd regained the peace of mind I was looking for. But the solution wasn't tied to geography and it wasn't tied to geology. It was tied to psychology. When I stopped my mind from running, peace of mind caught up to me.

And once that peace overtakes you, agates start appearing in the last place we'd think to look -- directly underfoot.


Mike Johnson is an energetic writer & entrepreneur. Learn more about Mike's offerings at