Yosemite – A Different Kind of Healing

Yosemite – A Different Kind of Healing by Harold Stearley at https://earthwalkingworld.wordpress.com/2021/06/17/yosemite-a-different-kind-of-healing/

Colors blind the eye.  Sounds deafen the ear.  Flavors numb the taste.
Thoughts weaken the mind. Desires wither the heart.

The Master observes the world but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
His heart is open as the sky.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 12

Traveling North, threading my way midway between the paved-over urban communities and the many Woodlands, I was about to make a right turn, East. To a land that can only be described as Magical. 

The terrain changed from golden rolling hills and densely planted fields to Forests. 

The Standing People.

The roads shifted from their North-South Axis into the Serpentine.  Slithering along in ever-repeating S-shaped fractals, undulating upward and downward as the terrain became more and more mountainous.    

It’s hard to paint of picture of how the coniferous forest just popped up from nowhere.  But there you were, facing Incense Cedar, Sierra Juniper, Pine, Hemlock, Fir, and Yew. 

Even a few of the monstrous Giant Sequoias gazed down upon you from above. 

Intermixed with these cone-bearing, needled-leaved Souls stood Birch, Alder, Dogwood, Laurel, Maple, Oak, Poplar, Black Cottonwood, Willow and the Quaking Aspen.  A thriving, diverse Universe that puts us humans in our tiny place. 

A bit of perspective on just how small we all really are. 

And as I climbed in elevation on those roads without shoulders or guardrails, looking into those endless valleys, the Northern landscape suddenly turned black and barren.  The result of a wildfire having scoured a portion of the gorge-lands.  Bleak and ever so reminding of how acting recklessly with Coyote’s stolen gift from the Gods could devastate such an expanse of habitat for all of the many Medicines of the Forest. 

But rebirth was beginning to reclaim all that was lost.  Being born from the ashes.  As we can be in our own lifetimes, if we’d only set fire to all that unnecessarily burdens us.  Artificially self-generated and perpetuated boulders and boundaries that can be cast aside, returned to the ash-pile, freeing our Minds.  Our Bodies.  Our Souls.  And if you can’t do that consciously on your own intention just drive through that “Tunnel.”  “Wawona Tunnel.”

A corridor to another space and time.

And when you emerge, it takes your breath away.  Completely.  And you no longer need oxygen to sustain you. 

The “Valley.”  Yosemite in all its grandeur. 

Sure, you’ve seen pictures, even my own with this post.  But the first-hand experience is totally different.  Hypnotizing.  Intoxicating.

Touching, tasting, hearing, smelling – you can feel it in every pore all at once.  Like a simultaneous explosion of awe and love.  Sight is something altogether different when our senses are flooded with such vastness.  Such majesty.

Synesthesia.

A place where you can hear Colors.  Taste the Air.  Bathe in distant Waterfalls.  Trace, by touch, the oblique and climbing Mountain Slopes.  Traverse the expansive Woodlands through your Mind’s Eye.  Speak, without sound, to the Bear and share in its introspection.  

A cross-threading of neural pathways.  Electrifying every cell in your Brain. 

And all while standing still.  In silence.

If there was anything that could convey the underlying transcendent Unity of all Truths, that Perennial Philosophy, the Quintessence of all Spirituality, it is Yosemite. 

“Ahwahnee,” or “Mouth,” as it was called by the mixed renegade members from the Southern Miwok and Paiute Tribes because the Valley Walls appeared to be an open Bear’s mouth.  They called themselves the “Ahwahnechee,” or dwellers of Ahwahnee. 

“Yohhe’meti,” as known to the Central Miwok Tribe, translates to “Those who Kill,” and referred to the Yosemite People, the Ahwahnechee, who were greatly feared by the surrounding tribes.  

Ultimately, as a result of mistranslations of Yohhe’meti and the phonetically similar Miwok word “Uzumate” meaning Grizzly Bear, the U.S. Military named the valley “Yosemite” – “Grizzly Bear.” 

And before I leave word translation, I should mention that the word “Wawona,” that is borne by that tunnel, came from the Miwok Tribe’s word “Who-Who’nau.” Which refers to the hoot of the Owl. Considered to be the Guardian Spirit of the Giant Sequoia Trees.  A Spirit I’m very familiar with.

It was here, in the former land of the Grizzly, that I’d embark on a few “jaunts.”* My base would be a tent awaiting for me on the Valley Floor. 

Now the word “jaunt” implies ease, and it was easy making the drive to Glacier Point.  Looking out over or down from this vantage point, one can see Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Half Dome and another dozen or more major rock formations.

It looked as though you could simply reach out and touch those waterfalls.  Feel those cold, clear waters between your fingers.  The distances miniaturized in the expansive landscape view.  But the hikes up to those falls, would not be a mere “jaunt.” 

In fact, while the hike up to the top of Yosemite Falls was on switch backs, it’s essentially straight up.   One of the hardest three and a half miles I ever trekked with a total elevation gain of 3900 feet.  

I guess I was sandwiched in the middle of the hikers that day. Between a mixed-aged group leaving me in their dust, and groups of “youngsters” in their 20s and 30s who were in my dust.  Seeing the pain in their faces, and hearing their labored breathing when taking breaks, many wisely turned back.

Look, and it can’t be seen.
Listen, and it can’t be heard.
Reach, and it can’t be grasped.

Above, it isn’t bright. Below, it isn’t dark.
Seamless, unnamable, it returns to the realm of nothing.
Form that includes all forms, image without an image, subtle, beyond all conception.

Approach it and there is no beginning; follow it and there is no end.
You can’t know it, but you can be it, at ease in your own life.
Just realize where you come from; this is the essence of wisdom.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 14

Each day in this wonderland, I was visited by my brothers and sisters Deer, a never ceasing reminder of the Medicine of Gentleness that I was receiving throughout my days on the road.  One morning, five juvenile bucks took their time crossing the road in front of me, by a pedestrian crosswalk no less, giving me ample time to enjoy their company. 

The number five, in numerology, represents being versatile and actively awaiting change. And, indeed, change was manifesting. A change in myself and my direction.

It wouldn’t be long before this group disbanded, the males all seeking solitude intermixed with brief encounters with the matriarchal doe clans.   I too was seeking solitude, and it can be found even if standing among a million faces.

“Ordinary men hate solitude.  But the Master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realizing he is one with the whole universe.” Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 42

Adding to the Deer’s Medicine of Gentleness was the Medicine of Introspection I previously mentioned.  I saw its representatives here during my hikes – two Black Bears.  They had obviously been out from their hibernation for some time and had duly brought their weight class back up from Winter’s rest. If you want to feel the insignificance of your own power, get close to a bear.

I embarked upon a new adventure daily, and my first major hike was to climb up to the top of Vernal Falls and then on to Nevada Falls.  I got off to an early start, but found myself rapidly enveloped in a sea of people.

Yet the further we climbed, as with all of my hikes here, the less people made the journey.  But there were some that were prepared to travel even further. Past Nevada Falls to make the hike up Half Dome, an adventure I wasn’t physically prepared to take on this trip.

Now I’m not sure if my words can convey the majesty of the views there, but looking down into the Valley from on top of these falls was simply incredible.  Water, one of the four major elementals that gives rise to all life, was truly in its raw form.  Not hampered by human interference, these rushing waters continued to carve that Valley, much like the glaciers of ancient times.  

Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.

The soft overcomes the hard; the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true, but few can put it into practice.

Therefore, the Master remains serene in the midst of sorrow.
Evil cannot enter his heart.
Because he has given up helping, he is people’s greatest help.

True words seem paradoxical.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 78

There’s something very satisfying about making a high climb and then looking down.  An exhilaration which might explain the addiction I have to such activities.  This exhilaration is also contagious, spreading to all around and feeding into an even greater high for everyone “present.”

Present in Awareness.

Once I passed Vernal Falls and reached the top of Nevada Falls, I violated one of my steadfast rules.  I always spot a turn-around point.  A place on the trail where my gut tells me is unsafe to cross.  I usually detect some sort of sign marking that point.  It could be a Butterfly, or a falling leaf, or just a shadow, or movement in my peripheral vision.  But there is always a clear line of demarcation in my mind where I just know it’s time to stop.

 As I prepared to do just that, stop and turn around, I decided to take a just a few more steps on the trail that leads up to Half Dome.  A huge mistake on my part as I tripped on a rock concealed by loose dirt and fell.

I shifted to my left to avoid my right shoulder instinctively because of rotator cuff tears and landed square on my left side.  On all of my previous injuries from my fall in the Canyon. 

But if there is one thing positive to be said about pain, it’s that it forces you into the here and now.  It brings you into the realm of immediate experience and pulls you out of the dream state of mind.**

Nevada Falls

It was during my descent that I met some real hikers, much younger men carrying 60-pound packs.  They had stayed in the Wilderness for 4 days and hiked some 70 miles in the Sierras.  My hike that day was ten miles with my 14 pound day-pack, and that was sufficient for me. 

There was, however, something of import that I did begin to feel on these ten miles.  Perhaps more significant than what those other hikers experienced. I’m not sure if it was in the way I walked. The spring in my step.  My bountiful strides. The way I held my head up.  Smiled more.  Greeted everyone with the shining in my eyes.

Or was it simply the Wondrous Souls I was meeting along the way.

Whatever it was radiating off of me, the people I was meeting were all receptive — looking and responding to me differently than others had in years past. I felt a glimmering kind of kindness. Of appreciation. Of Love. Love of others and love of self. Love of Nature and all that surrounded us.

Being on the road, on the trail, seems to be, for me at least, what brings out that shine. And I was rebounding from some years of trauma in both my personal and career lives. This constant motion in Nature was the Medicine. And I was receiving just the dose I needed.

I was healing, but it was a different kind of healing. It was a healing of the Soul. And I believe that when our Souls are whole, we radiate unconditional love. And unconditional love, from any source is an all powerful healer of any ailment.

Needing a more restful day before tackling Yosemite Falls, I headed North to Luken Lake,

Olmsted Point,

Tenaya Lake,

and Tuolumne Meadows. 

Such contrasting landscapes make you feel as if you are constantly being transported to different worlds.

I spent my early mornings and my evenings along the Merced River.  A perfect place for peaceful meditation.

And when the day came to ascend Yosemite Falls, I felt prepared for the inner battle that would take place.  The fight to maintain stamina.  To use will power when physical strength began to fail. And I would need it.***

The views on the hike up were amazing.

And they keep getting better as you reach the top to see Yosemite Creek, where it takes its mammoth 2,425 foot plunge to the Valley below.

There are signs at the top of the Falls to remind people to stay away from the edge as there are “No Second Chances.” Actually, this is not a bad statement to keep in mind as we face each day.

We can never reclaim the time that’s passed.

Being a wordsmith, I didn’t really expect that I would run out of words to describe this place of healing, and there is just too much to relay with words, or in a single blog post, so I will leave you with a few more pics . . .

Summit Meadow

Bridal Veil Falls

The Merced River from the Swinging Bridge

Reflections from a Bridge Over the Merced

“As the soft yield of water cleaves obstinate stone, so to yield with life solves the insolvable.

To yield, I have learned, is to come back again.”

-Lao Tzu Chapter 43

In Metta

All my words and pics are copyrighted and cannot be used in any manner without express permission of the author – Me 🙂

Quotes: All quotes from Lao Tzu and his Tao Te Ching came from the Stephen Mitchell translation of the Tao.

Photos: All of my photos are captioned with the exception of the feature photo – that being an old bridge over the Merced River. And the final pic, which is of Vernal Falls.

The imagery and metaphors associated with “Bridges” and “Falls” are just too numerous to list, so have a little fun with your imagination and think about how those analogies and metaphors fit into this story or perhaps your story. 🙂

Rabbit Holes:

* The reason I say the former land of the Grizzly, is that Grizzly bears were totally eradicated from California by 1924. When the European Alien Immigrants arrived it was estimated that 10,000 Grizzlies occupied the territory that came to be present day California. It didn’t take long for them to murder them all. See The California Grizzly .

** My Previous injuries from the Canyon. For those of you who missed some previous posts of mine, I took a little spill down some unforgiving rocks while in the Grand Canyon before I arrived at Yosemite. In short, the worst of it was five cracked or severely-bruised left ribs. When I left Yosemite, I had the opportunity to go swimming and when I tried to swim underwater my rib cage would start collapsing from the pressure. It took a few months to totally heal, but I couldn’t let that stop me from enjoying new adventures. 🙂

*** Stamina is the Medicine of the Elk, something that I plan to address more in a future post.

47 thoughts on “Yosemite – A Different Kind of Healing”

  1. Harold, this is beautiful. The photos are amazing and your description paints such peace-even with the fall. ( Which I think is a statement of who you must be and the perspective that comes through in your writing.) It sounds like a place that truly resonates with you.

    And, I do hope your doing ok after the fall. 💗💗

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks LaDonna! ❤ It is truly an incredible place. The feeling you have just being there is overwhelming peace and beauty. I met others who said the same. On the photos, Mother Nature is the true artist 😊 And I healed up nicely, thanks for asking ❤❤

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much Maggie !! The Rockies are so beautiful 😍 and I hope to visit the Canadian side some day. We have some amazing places in our countries. I have a particular fondness for the mountains and the desert 🏜

      Liked by 1 person

  2. One of my favorite places on Earth. We went every years with the kids, stayed in Curry Village, and hiked from sun-up to sun-down. An extraordinary post, you captured the majesty of Yosemite with beautiful words, and gorgeous images. Thank you, C

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So enjoyed your insights and the visuals, I do agree about so many things you’ve said. I can really relate to the pain bringing us into the present, and the turn around, ha, I thought that was just my idiosyncracy, but now I discover you do exactly that, amazing. So sad about the obliteration of nature, especially the Grizzlies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Paul ! Yosemite is simply magical. And I thought that was my own idiosyncracy too – lol. Glad to know you too tune in to the Earth and follow your gut. It never misleads us. The loss of the Grizzlies is tragic as is the history of how we treated the Wolf

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  4. Makes me feel like I’ve been “living” in a coffin my whole life… but I am happy for those that have lived life and experienced this majestic beauty of nature…. You are so fortunate!!!! Good thing I have a active imagination to keep me going…haha

    💗

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am tremendously fortunate. And I’m sorry you feel confined. Life is certainly challenging, and it may take a lifetime to even discover our passions. Both major instances of me hitting the road (in my 20s and now in my 60s) were preceeded by some tragic circumstances. I guess necessary to break free. I’m glad you have a great imagination, sometimes that’s all we have to hang on to ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am on the verge of just throwing a mattress in my car & taking off to Northern California…. I have friend that lives up there…in NATURE!!!!
        He lives a rustic life… but it’s the carrot 🥕 I think I need to follow to get me going….I already made some beautiful curtains for my car … and lay in bed all night thinking how to arrange it inside…. I am scared shitless to do this…I don’t know if I’m coming or going anymore….but I know it’s time for me to get out of my comfort zone…. It’s keeping me a prisoner….You did it … I’m so happy for you ♥️ You are a great story teller & adventurer & photographer… can’t wait till your book is out ☀️

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautifully written and the photographs are magical. I visited Yosemite in 1980 and it was a typical ‘whisk through tourist affair’ so taking time out to traverse the trails and experience Yosemite with you has been a truly wonderful read and experience. Thank you for sharing the magnificence and Spirit of Yosemite with all of us. .

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a magickal place deserves magickal words. You found them and crafted them into something even more beautiful than your photos. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that too Barbara. Somehow the quotes from the Tao just fit this story. Yosemite is ethereal. It is Magical. You can feel the presence of all life. You can feel the presence of the Ancestors. You can feel the emotions of those around you. There are a number of places I’ve been to that have that effect. Each pulsates a little bit differently. This is one place people should experience because it is Healing 😊

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  7. I feel the same way about the land being healing. I live in the country and feel that my land holds all my secrets. I was going to say that this felt like an ethereal experience, then I read it, and I glanced up at your comment and love that I received the same feeling when I read this. The photos and layout are amazing. When I read about your travels in the mountains, I think of my Pa. He loved the mountains. I feel like I received a little heart hug from him through your words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s wonderful Michelle, especially on Father’s Day! And thank you so much. I try to work with words to carry the images and putting together the layout of this one was great fun for me. Yosemite is an ethereal experience, much in the same way as your land holds your secrets ❤

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  8. Magnificent, the tour you took us on. The photos yes but the video with sound of the waterfalls is what personally stirred my inner-nature calling. I could almost smell the water and feel the spray! And the nights my friend, the dome of stars and the pull of the moon must have been magical! Thank you for sharing and reminding us of our ancient bond with nature.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Wayne. I think that bond is hard-wired in our genes and I’m grateful for that. Thrilled that the videos could transport you there. And yes, the night skies, just beautiful. I hope to go back some time, perhaps in a different season. I had to book my time there a year in advance. Crazy

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I so enjoyed this. I loved the photographs, the quotations from Lao Tzu, your descriptions of the landscape- all of it! I shared this post on my blog. I hope you don’t mind. I did, of course, direct my followers to follow the link to your blog. Too good not to share!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Carol! I love your posts as well. It means a lot to me that you enjoy these little adventures in the wilderness and into my Mind’s-Eye. I love being out in Nature. It’s truly my real home 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There is peace in nature that cannot be found anywhere else – at least that’s been my experience. 🙂

        And your are most welcome. You have a gift that should be shared. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

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