John Otterbacher
Author, Speaker and Adventurer


Niagara falls

After all these years, still the slack mouthed eight-year-old: the enormity of water, free fall.


Writing Paper

  To write requires attention, not unlike a call to prayer. To write requires respect – even reverence – for the sacred within the ordinary. Writing well demands that I be wide awake, both open to and honest about what I see, and lucid in the telling. Writing asks that I embrace a world that […]


“And suddenly you know: that was enough. all its longings and hesitations the shape of what you lived.” -Rainer M. Rilke


Yoda statue

It’s easy to confuse intelligence with knowing what I’m talking about. Not very smart, but easy. 


Tree shiloetted

“I have learned to look at the world in all of its darkness…and still love it.”                             Beethoven, on his deathbed.       I get to choose.  


Long road with blue skies

I made my first journey at three. If my mother was to be believed, I waddled out of the backyard and down the street to the bus stop. I leveraged myself up onto the first step of the Michigan Street bus. The bus driver bolted out of his seat, head swiveling, looking for a pursuer. […]


Fool Motorcycle

I throttle down the shoreline road to town in a brisk March breeze, close attention in the curves where the snow melt can freeze. I park my cycle outside a favorite lakeside restaurant. I shake off the chill so vigorously that I stumble through the doorway. The lunchtime crowd is long gone. The bored waitstaff greet me […]


Winding road in the mountains

In my late twenties I took a second foray into solitude. Fully aware that I might run for the legislature the following year, I longed for some time alone. That and the physical extension a long ride on a small motorcycle would certainly entail. For two months I made my way – on back roads mostly […]


No longer disguised by darkness, the storm shrieks in the shrouds and around us, whipping the Atlantic into unforgiving turmoil. “Another five knots,” Barbara squints up from the wind indicator. When I say nothing,“What can I get you?” “I’m fine. Are the kids okay?” “They’re just stirring. Got a good night’s sleep.” “Like us,” a weary smile. We […]



After every speaking engagement, tucked into the playful give and take, some form of “What have you been upto lately,  John?” It is shorthand for “since you sailed back home?” or “since you finished Sailing Grace?”  I explain – short form or long – that Barbara and I returned to our professional lives, she as […]