Brad Cavanagh

Brad Cavanagh


The walk begins with a steep ascent to the campsite.


The grass pathway beneath my feet is still worn from the winter’s snow, barely waking from its long slumber.  The expansive fields on each side of the path, tall and vibrant with color in the summer and fall, now stand waiting, silent.  The winds of spring push through the empty trees as sunlight illuminates the world at their feet, a world soon to disappear from view with the coming bloom.

As I reach the campsite, I take a look back.  I can see the city in the distance over rolling hills.  I feel lucky to live in this part of the country.  People who aren’t from the Midwest would be surprised to find this stunning terrain where they expect to find the open plains.

Turning back, I prepare for the next climb.  The path winds into the trees now, sinking deeper into the quiet shadow of the forest.  My mind has already begun its familiar race with thoughts flooding my brain as my heart and lungs try to keep up with my new momentum.

On the way, deer, wild turkey, birds of all stripes, and one supernaturally fast beaver all run to escape my advance, peaceful as it may be.  The path narrows as I approach my destination.  The trees squeeze both sides of the pathway with one final push, and then I emerge.

I call it The Summit.  Anyone who climbs real mountains can rightfully scoff, but I still feel like I’m on top of the world.  It’s one of the highest points for miles around, and I can see the distant horizon in all directions.

This is where I feel most alive.


It isn’t just the isolation, or the silence, or the resounding peacefulness.  It’s the creativity.  Whenever I need to supercharge my ideas or work through a problem that has me stuck in place, this is where I go.  There have been times when my pen can’t even keep up with my thoughts as I walk this path.

I feel most alive when I am creating.  This usually means writing, but I also get the chance in my life to create music, speeches, and lectures.  All of these things take me to that high we all feel when we reach the flow, that magical place when everything just happens.  We don’t need to think anymore as our brains go on autopilot, churning out ideas with wild efficiency.

One of my perpetual goals in life is to reach this stage more often.  I want to find ways to escape the daily grind and stoke creativity at every turn.  I am confident I can get there with persistence and patience.  We all can.  Until then, I always have The Summit.

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More about Brad Cavanagh: I am a writer living in Dubuque, Iowa. At any given point in any day, you will find me thinking about how we might improve this world of ours. Some people might find that horribly depressing, but I don’t. I find it invigorating. I imagine all of the ways we could be better to each other, and all of the ways we could solve the problems we have created.

The Realist Idealist is my journey toward finding solutions. It is my way of discovering and sharing what could be. I am also completing my first novel, Topos, exploring the origins of and solutions to poverty.