We shall not cease from exploration

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” - T.S. Eliot

5 years ago today I was sitting on a porch swing in Lebanon, PA watching a beautiful spring day go by. One of my best friends, Nathan Winters, sat next to me and his dog, a Malamute mix, Chaya sat at our feet. Nathan left his childhood home that day with his family to drive to Maine to dip his bike tire in the ocean and begin his bike ride across America. He had grown skeptical of corporate America and 9-5 desk jobs and after having been laid off from a tech startup in LA was in the process of re-evaluating what he wanted to do with his life. He didn’t know for sure, but he knew that he needed a big adventure to help him figure it out. He also knew that he was endlessly curious about farmers in America and the sustainable food movement. As we sat on the porch that day, he was calm and determined. He said to me, “There is something there. I know it. I just have to keep digging to figure it out.”

He succeeded in his bike ride and dipped his tire in the Pacific Ocean a few months later. He had decided to become a farmer after visiting with dozens of farmers on his trip. It seemed like a crazy idea! He had no experience farming. So he did the logical next step. He became an intern on a farm in Vermont - at the age of 30! His motto, “Chop Wood Every Day” came in handy as he was learning new skills that he didn’t know before. Soon after, he met an amazing and beautiful woman, got married, had a daughter and moved to Upstate New York to her family’s property to turn a rolling hill with good sunlight into a sustainable and successful farm. They named it Hill Hollow Farm. Recently, as he was planting seeds for their second year’s CSA crop, he found out that they were expecting a second child and had begun work on a new cabin where they would live.

All of this happened in 5 short years. Isn’t life incredible the twists and turns it takes?

Today I return to Lebanon, PA but under very different circumstances. Today, I’m returning for his memorial service after a tragic accident happened on the farm last week and Nathan died. He was 34. In the blink of an eye, everything changed. Not just for the family he was building but for the family he came from and for his “friend family” that knew and loved him.

I have known Nathan for 13+ years and he will always be one of the biggest influences on my life. It’s because of Nathan that I first visited New Orleans on a road-trip to the South and it’s because of Nathan that I moved to Los Angeles. We drove cross-country a few times and my adoration for America’s landscape and my endless curiosity about people comes from these journeys we took together. The loss is deep and unfathomable to accept. I have so much more to say that I’m feeling but I’m having a really hard time processing all of my sadness, anger and frustration so will have to save those words for another time.

I do however have an ask. A memorial fund has been set up. Please consider making a donation to The Nathan Winters Memorial Fund. Give because you can, give because you would want others to do the same for you if the tables were turned. Give because it matters to his wife, baby and unborn child to continue his life’s dream and to give them a much-needed cushion to find a way to survive and thrive in the most difficult and impossible of circumstances. When the fund was set up last week, no one knew what would happen. Over $20,000 was raised in less than a day! A lot from people who never met him in person and only knew him on social media or through his blog. That is the kind of impact Nathan had on people, he moved people and they are moved to honor and celebrate his life.

I have endless stories about Nathan that I’m compiling for his children so they can know what a dynamo their dad was. If you knew Nathan and would like to contribute, please send me an email.

Thank you in advance and please hold your loved ones a little closer tonight. The clock is always ticking, we just don’t know it. Senseless tragedies like this are an all too real reminder that no matter what our life’s journey, we all go out the same door.

Click here to donate.

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