Tag Archives: Love

Photo Journal

If you had the chance to read my last post you probably noticed that I mentioned I was gearing up for travel again.  Consequently, I won’t always have the time I desire, at a given moment, to write out some of my stories.  At least not until I am settled long enough to hammer out some lines.

Also, there is a direct relationship, which could be graphed, between having adventures and writing about them.  Have to have them first in order to have something to write about 🙂

So I thought I would launch another category in the blog today – Photo Journal.  When I don’t quite have that next story put together, I can at least post a nice pic for the day.  Some positive energy.  Beauty without words.

I’ve noticed other blogs doing the same and they use the theme of being “Wordless.”  Makes sense and sometimes, as the old expression goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

I have many pics of wildflowers that I haven’t had the chance to identify and this is one of them.  Maybe someday I circle back with a name for this one.  In the mean time, enjoy 🙂

Another White Flower 2

***

Photo:  While I try to use all of my own photos for all of my posts there are times that I must seek out others to match the theme, but every post in this category will be one of my own.  I took this one on the trail yesterday 🙂

 

 

Monsoons and Mountains

I’ll be gearing up soon.  Time to cut roots, pick another dot on the map, and drive.  As the time dwindles in my current resting place, urgency grows to take in all the sights and sounds possible in this oasis.

I study maps and locate a pristine spot that holds great promise.  A place where perennial streams meander through desert canyons.  A place bursting with life.  But I discover you need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get there. Such are many places here.  Primitive roads where only a bulldozer has preceded you.  Signs warn that you’re driving at your own risk, and being out of cell range you want to be sure that car is up to the task.  It could take a day or more to hike out if stranded and returning with a tow truck may even be difficult depending on where and how you get trapped.

Forty years ago, I off-roaded in an old 1970 Plymouth Satellite.  It did ok for the most part.  I knocked the muffler off once and a while bottoming out, but I’d just reattach it and move on.

It would have been quite the sight, if anyone had been there, to see me driving that car right through the middle of forests, across open grasslands, or over rocky flats.  In search of the mythical Escalante.

Freedom then was being surrounded by Ponderosa Pine with fifty cents in my pocket, half a tank of gas, and some food to cook over an open fire.  Most probably food I had caught that day after making the proper offerings.

But the world has changed and I’m outfitted quite a bit differently now.  I’m driving a Prius with about 8 inches of ground clearance.  Smooth ride on the highways, but cautious trolling on the back roads.  I’ve had to turn around many times where the rains have washed out gullies big enough to swallow this car.

With one destination scratched from the list, I search out another.  It’s not far away from the original target and promises a good hike through the mountains.  Unusual mountains.  They look like some giant had fun rearranging and piling boulders to the sky in very unnatural configurations.  I wonder what this terrain must look like from the Eagle’s point of view.

How did this mountain range form?  Was it volcanic?  Was it upheaval?  Metamorphic stone smoothen by the rains and bleached by the sun over millennium.

I have good road most of the way, but the last five miles are primitive washboard.  I creep along at 10 miles an hour.  Any faster and the Prius shakes violently.  I bridge cattle guards in this open range country and cross four low-water washes.  They dip gently enough to cross, and a few inches of water reflects the recent rains.  If it rains again, they’ll fill rapidly.  Flash flooding is common during this season.

It is the Monsoons.

As I reach the base of the mountains, I discover the road is gated.  This segment of national parkland is “closed for the season.”  The sign doesn’t say what season, but I’m here and so I park on the road.

I check my gear, settle my backpack.  Essential to fit it correctly to avoid strained shoulders, neck or back.  But as I head towards the trail dark clouds start rolling in.  They appeared so distant on the horizon only moments before.  What appeared to be days away now envelops the area.

The temperature drops rapidly from the 80s to the 60s.  And as the rain drops begin to fall, I scramble back to the car.  This is not a time to hesitate.  I have to make it past those low-water crossings and can’t speed to do it.

As I splash through the first one, I glance back and the sight is amazing.  The mountains have virtually vanished in the veil of heavy rain.  Like a magic trick of monstrous proportions, the Monsoon rains have made the mountains disappear.

Chochise Stronghold 5

No time to gaze, I creep back the way I came and I’m grateful to make it across the last wash intact.  Now I can pause and reflect.  Marvel at what I’m witnessing.  But I can’t pause for too long.  Time to finish finding my way back to that paved road.

Once back on solid ground, and with hiking out of the question, it’s time to pick a new destination.  The rain forces me east, and I find an old historic town with the navigator.  The navigator wants to save me time, but I choose the backroads.

As I streak out on that gray ribbon and back into the warm sunshine, I notice I’m in a valley, a flat plain between 4 different mountain ranges.  The Monsoons blanket the north and the west, and I’m treated to a wonderful display of wrap-around lightening from the Thunderbeings.

This dessert grassland has been brought to life with water.  Water that hides in underground streams.  I’m driving through orchards, and pecan farms.  Corn fields and pistachio trees.

Vineyards and wineries dot the horizon.  The soil here perfect for developing the favor and sugar the grapes need for their fermentation.

Hawks ride on the trusses of the center-point irrigation systems that pull water from the buried aquifer.  The perfect vantage point for any prey attracted by both the water and cultivation.

I pass a gin factory and a bean plantation.  A cattle feedlot appears, surrounded by planted pines – an attempt to hide the final forced growth before the trip to the slaughterhouse.

Dust Devils spring up in the cultivated fields.  Mini tornados spawned by the Monsoon winds not far behind.

Herded out of the mountains, I find myself in an almost two centuries old town.  I park on the street next to the railroad tracks and soon a freight train rumbles through town.

First stop, a cowboy museum.  Not where I expected to be, but the storm brought me here so I explore the town the same way I explore the mountain trails.  I walk the streets and feel where my body is pulled.

Of all things, I find a bar of old-fashioned lye soap to purchase.  Something suggested to me to avoid modern soaps and detergents to which I now have chemical reactions to.  I didn’t know where I might find some, and wasn’t looking for it today.  But here it is.

Next stop, an antique store.  Now the Monsoon catches up with my retreat and as the high winds blow and torrential rain pours, I take my time in this shelter of shiny objects.  Glassware, military medals, old clothing, hats and rocks and minerals.

The proprietor turns out to be a Cheyanne Indian and she gifts me with a beautiful feather.

The symbolism associated with feathers refers to ascension and spiritual evolution.  A flight to other realms, Shamanic Journeying to gain knowledge.  Feathers also represent the Thunderbeings, along with the power of the wind.  Both clearly present today.

Feathers are also used ceremonially, fanning the smoke from sacred tobacco, sage, sweet grass and cedar.  A way to carry prayers to the heavens.

The proprietor and I talk and trade stories of life as historic figures might have traded coffee and sugar for furs.  It never ceases to amaze me how we meet kindred spirits on our paths.  In the middle of nowhere.  Some 1500 miles away from where I call home and a hundred miles away from where I’m currently based, my soul recognizes a familiar soul.  Had we walked together before, a different time and place perhaps.  Had I gifted her with a power object in that past life time, a gift now returned?

As we talk, she shows me many treasures in her shop.  I elect to add one to my collection.  A piece of rutilated quartz.  Quartz with inclusions of Titanium Dioxide – golden filaments.  This stone has also been called as the “Venus Hair Stone.”  It is said to be an energy amplifier to aid meditation and intuition.  To help free one from the feelings of suffocation or strangulation.  It is also said to connect the physical and spiritual realms and to aid in bringing out one’s true spirit.  It is an illuminator for the soul.  An interesting mirror image as the heavens touch the earth with life-giving water and electrical charges.

I am gifted again with a medicine bag for the stone.

The rain, thunder and lightening now paused, I give my thanks and say my goodbyes.  I make one final stop.  The retail shop of one of the local wineries.  A glass of wine to top off the day’s unplanned adventures.  As it turns out, the store’s owner, the only person in the shop, is a displaced mid-westerner from my home area.  So, we remanence of familiar times and places we walked before our consciousnesses had connected in this distant town of less than a thousand households.

What are the odds of any of these encounters?  These gifts – all cleansing, physical and spiritual connections, healing and growth.

Such is life in free-flow.  Chance occurrences.  Chance connections.  Compelling feelings to head into the mountains, to drive to an ancient town, to walk inside certain buildings, to converse with complete strangers whom we’ve seem to have known for lifetimes.

But is anything truly by chance?

The storm cloaks the mountains I sought, chases me out of that remote natural world to a place with spiritual gifts, kind words, and communion.

It was a good day.

***

Photos: All captured in the moment.  Below, a couple of shots before the rains.

Chochise Stronghold 7

Chochise Stronghold 8

Published ! Thrilled and honored that my story was published by The Urban Howl on September 12, 2018, under the title “Surrender Control & Let The Wind Take You To A New Adventure.”

The Bear

Safety can be Stifling.

Sometimes we need to take risks, to be exposed to the elements, and to leave our comfort zones in order to learn and grow . . .

I was hiking up into a beautiful canyon.  The transition from chaparral to tree line with over 4000 feet of elevation contrasts three completely different worlds.  From scrub oak and mesquite, to cottonwood, sycamore and willow, to ponderosa pine and alligator juniper.  All at finely demarcated lines of altitude or water course.  The canyon’s green armies of pines climbing beyond the highest point I would reach today.

It was hot and there was a dry breeze channeling through the mountain passes.  I stopped at an overlook, a cliff perched midway into the canyon.  I was taking in all that surrounded me.  It’s a mystical sort of beauty.  It draws you in.  Captures all of your senses.  Takes you on another journey.  An infinite landscape.

And then I “heard” something.  Maybe “sensed” is a better word, because I just knew I needed to turn around for a moment.  Turn my back to the captivating view because something else was happening.  Or was about to happen.

The feelings of curiosity, excitement, and fear all hit simultaneously when I saw it.  Bounding down the trail behind me and coming right towards me was a Black Bear!

I quickly stood on the rocks, and waved my arms to try to make myself look bigger and more menacing than I am – not easy to do.  And we exchanged growls.  Fortunately, the bear was just as startled as I was and it turned and ran off into the woods.  I continued to yell out and heard it scrambling further away.

This had all happened in the blink of an eye, so I replayed what I saw in my mind.  Over and over again.  It was a bear all right.  It seemed to me that it was in an almost playful stride.  Happy to be facing another day in this peaceful forest.  Its forest.  Until it saw me jump up.

This was the first time I had a close encounter with a bear.  Fortunately, it was a black bear and not so aggressive.

As you may know from my prior writings, I don’t believe in coincidence.  Everything happens for a reason.  Nature is constantly giving us messages, if we take the time to read them.  So what meaning could I derive from this encounter?  Regardless of how brief it was.

The bear’s symbolism is rich.  While awake it has been portrayed as having strength, courage and male energy.  It is also said to be a teacher of boundaries, for itself and others.  But it seems it greatest powers lie in its ability to sleep through the winter.

The bear doesn’t go into a true hibernation, rather its metabolism slows way down and it enters a state called “torpor.”  It can still wake easily, and the females can even give birth in this semi-conscious state.  The bear draws upon its fat reserves for nourishment during this time of prolonged rest.

While in torpor, the bear is said to be in a receptive state.  This energy of introspection is said to be female in nature.

The ability to go deep within to find resources necessary for survival mirrors a state of deep meditation.  Go deep within your soul’s den, draw upon your inner stores of energy and essence.  A time to awaken your personal power during this solitude to bring it out in the Spring.  Spring itself symbolizes birth and renewal.  Resurrection.

The bear is considered to be a messenger of the forest spirits.  It demonstrates more than just strength, but a supernatural power.  Fortitude.  The whirlwind.  The will.

It’s been immortalized in the constellation Ursa Major, the Greater She-Bear, more commonly known as the Big Dipper.  According to Iroquois legend, the quadrangle of the dipper forms the bear that is being pursued by seven hunters.  The three hunters who are closest form the handle of the dipper.  The four farthest hunters drop below the horizon in autumn and abandon the hunt.  At the same time, the bear rises to stand on its hind legs and one of the hunters wounds the bear with an arrow.  The bear sprays blood back on the hunter and blood falls on the forest to turn the trees red.  The bear is eaten but its skeleton remains, traveling on its back during the winter.  But in the spring, a new bear leaves the den and the hunt begins anew.

In Chi Gong, the bear is one of the five frolicking animals.  The exercise practiced mimicking the bear is believed to aid the stomach and spleen.  And these are considered the energy centers for applied thinking, for generating ideas, and for aiding memorization and concentration.  The digestion of knowledge.

To the Seneca tribe, the bear is a symbol associated with the West Shield.  Again, it relates to the pathways of attaining knowledge.  Entering torpor represents entering sacred space to be receptive of information.  This information is digested and integrated to discern truth.  And once we tap into our personal truth, we can seek out our desired goals.

So, what message can I derive from this brief meeting in the woods?

While many would think this encounter had little meaning, other than being glad the bear didn’t maul or eat them, examining the symbolism carries a major life lesson.  Recurring themes of introspection, digestion of knowledge, and attainment of truth span multiple cultures.  Once attaining truth and direction, one then should seek out their goals with strength and fortitude.

Recent times have been a period of solitude for me.  Other than contacts on social media, I have been pretty much resting in a somewhat semi-conscious state.  Waiting to be awakened.

In torpor, I examine myself, my life, my successes, my failures, my goals.  I must integrate this knowledge into action.

The appearance of the Bear marks a metaphysical inquiry.  Is your judgment or the judgment of those surrounding you in error?  Do you fail to see the beneficial things happening in your life?  Are you being too critical, or not discerning enough?

Time to venture inward and awaken potential.  And then emerge from the den.  Personal power must be brought out in the open to taste the fruits of such labor.

Whether you believe these messengers are sent by the Source, or that this is just mystical thinking, lessons can still be drawn.  Introspection is always good.  An examined life.  The integration of truth.  Acceptance of what has been.  Strength to face what will be.

To hibernate, or cut oneself off, to simply achieve safety is ultimately a sacrifice of living.  But hitting the pause button to gain knowledge, insight, and truth for a later emergence can lead to powerful growth.

Be the whirlwind.  Hit the trails.  Face the bear.

***

Photo: I found this photo on the Internet in the public domain.  The link tracked back to a web publication called Cool Green Science.  The article was titled: “When is a Black Bear Actually a Blue Bear?”  Black bears exhibit a whole range of coloration from black, brown, blonde, and even cinnamon.  I found a pic that closely resembles the one I saw.

Published ! Thrilled and honored that my story was published by The Urban Howl on August 20, 2018, under the title “Bear Wisdom — Venture, Awaken & Emerge From The Den.”

Luminous

Long, white, flowing dress.

Auburn hair,

hazel eyes.

Delicately stepping into the formless haze.

Breath quickening.

Anticipating.

Each gentle, awakening nudge.

A dizzying array of silver particles streak across the gray sky.

They dance across her cheeks,

lightly brush her lips,

soak deeply into her neck,

massage the small of her back,

caress her thighs,

stroke the length of her legs.

Cleansing, freeing.

Releasing her from her thoughts.

Her dress now clinging tightly,

taking her form.

Smooth and streaming.

A walking sculpture.

Luminous and divine.

***

 

Woman Rain 3 + Resized+Crop

Photo:  I found this photo on the Internet in the public domain.  I could find no further attribution for it.

Published !  Thrilled and honored that my poem was published by The Urban Howl on August 16, 2018, under the title “Release Yourself From Your Thoughts – Be Luminous & Devine.

When Spirits Call

We live in a spiritual world.  Every part and parcel of it is imbued with particles of awareness from the spiritual source.  So why not tune in and receive unfiltered spiritual guidance . . .

You may have noticed in some of my other posts, especially in the spirituality section of my blog, that I talk about communing with nature.  About being in the natural world and learning to perceive the messages that come to us through native signs and symbols.  And I refer to the natural world as being the “real world.”  Not an artificial or illusory construct by humans.  Not temporary physical structures that will revert to dust.  Mother Earth remains eternal.

People have changed the ways that they experience their worlds.  They have a tendency to think that they have “tamed” the natural world, when in fact, they have simply walled themselves off from it.  I think it’s better to open up and see what’s really out there.  Experience it firsthand.

I realize that many people do not believe in such things.  How can a coyote deliver a message about how to live, or awaken you to an inner calling?  I get it, and no one has to agree with the things I’ve come to believe.  That’s ok.

It may even seem counterintuitive that I would entertain such beliefs given that my educational background has largely been in either the sciences or in analytical reasoning.  But I also believe there are many things beyond what science can explain, at least for the moment.  And why write off such things and discount them simply because there is no logical explanation for them?

You can define your own reality in any terms you wish, but I encourage you not to deny what your senses perceive, especially your sense of intuition.

If it helps, a scientific way to look at this is that we are electro-chemical machines and we emit energy fields.  So does everything else.  And if our fields encounter one another there will be a communication of some type.  A relaying of signals that may not require a spoken language or physical touch.  Now you have to figure out what the signals you are receiving mean.

So, since this is becoming a recurring theme in my posts, I thought I would take a moment to elaborate a little more on just what animal “totems” or “familiars” are.  They have also been referred to as “Spirit” or “Power” animals.

Spirit beings have been a part of every major religion and culture.  Whether it be the serpent, said to be the devil, in the story of Adam and Eve, or the Greeks speaking to their gods through oracles, or aboriginal tribes taking on the forms of animals through symbolic dress and engaging in ritual dance to connect with the spirit realm.  The symbolism of ties between the natural world and spirit world are universal, and many of the “messengers” of “God” are depicted as being surrounded by various animals.  Why so, except for the symbolism they convey?

A totem can be defined as any natural object or animal or being where you connect with its associated energy or life force.  A totem has also been described as a spirit being, or a sacred or power object, or a symbol associated with a clan or an individual.  Once such a connection is recognized and accepted, the spirit within it can serve as a guide throughout one’s life.  More commonly than not, the spiritual totem takes the form of an animal.

One definition I found on the Net equates animal totems with “archetypes that work with the subconscious mind, tapping into the energy that is present in all things” . . . that “can be seen as channels or frequencies on a radio with many levels of understanding.”

And just what is an “archetype?”  An archetype is said to be a typical example of a certain person or thing.  Although I never look at things as being “typical,” nor do I like that word.  I find things living and inanimate, to be magical and unique, not typical.  In Jungian psychology, an archetype is a primitive mental image inherited from our human ancestors that is supposed to reside in the collective unconscious.

However you wish to parse the words, I think we can derive that a totem, or symbolic representation of a spiritual entity or guide, can be said to have certain characteristics.  A Bear strength.  An Owl Wisdom.  A Deer gentleness.  A Fox invisibility.  I’m using one-word descriptions for this example, but the symbolism for each is far more intricate.

As a guide, an animal totem can convey many different messages.  An affirmation or a warning.  Or you may be able to tap into that spirit’s energy at a time of need.  A totem is said to be a life-long spiritual partner and it will appear in both your physical world and your spiritual world.

Another term you may have heard is that of an “animal familiar.”  In its basic origins, this referred to a non-physical being, a thought-form or spiritual entity.  But over time, the term has been applied to living animals.  Familiars can be physical or non-physical, you can have more than one at any given time, and they can change over time.

How do we learn if we have a Spirit Animal?

Well, you don’t learn it from a “How Stuff Works” Internet quiz.  One commonality across cultures that applies to totems and familiars is that they choose you.  Not the other way around.  And the way such a totem enters your life can vary.  You might be visited in a dream.  Or have a vision while you are awake.  Or it may continually appear to you in the physical form, over and over again.  If you do have such a totem, once you’ve identified it, you can start being observant for any messages it may send you.

In my case, it appeared to me in a vision when I was 15, announced its presence, and told me it would be with me.  I then discovered its presence everywhere in various forms and I learned to interpret what its presence in certain situations meant.

Encountering an animal doesn’t necessarily mean it is one of your guides.  Or if it is you guide, its presence doesn’t always mean something metaphysical is in the works.  As Freud said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”  There are no meanings to unravel.  No symbolism being communicated.

So how do you tune into to your spiritual allies?  See connections and messages beyond the ordinary?

Well, I recently read an article by Lissa Rankin titled: “How Can You Tell If You’re Being Spiritually Guided?” where Rankin lays out what she terms as being “15 Discernment Tools.”  She provides a list of 15 questions you can ask yourself to attempt to answer this question honestly.

1–Does it feel like shackles on or shackles off?
2–Is it kind?
3–Is there Aliveness here?
4–Does it exhaust me or fill me with dread?
5–Does it nourish or deplete me?
6–Does it feel natural, efficient, easeful, peaceful and graceful?
7–Does it make sense?
8–Will it hurt anyone?
9–Would love do this?
10–How does this feel in my body?
11–Am I rushing?
12–Is it coercive or controlling?
13–Is it ethical and aligned with my core values?
14–Will this cultivate the stillness in me?
15–What’s true and not true about this situation?

I don’t think these questions are all required for every given instance in which you feel pulled or directed to take some course of action.  I also think you need to begin with the symbolism of the totem.  If you do feel you are being given some guidance, you have to know what that guidance is in relation to.  And I don’t believe you can accurately assess what the guidance is unless you know what the totem represents.

You’ll also have to learn to trust your inner voice because you’ll have to interpret the message and how it applies to you at that given moment in time.

I know I’ll have future posts on this topic that may help illustrate specific nuances.  I’m working a piece right now where I encountered a bear in the wild.  Close up for the first time.  It certainly got my attention, but did it carry any specific meanings other than “HOLY SHIT!?”  We’ll see 😊

***

Photo:  A Western Screech Owl, a father on guard.  It is intensely watching a rattle snake that is too close to his chicks.  Nothing could break this Owl’s gaze.  This could have turned into an epic physical battle, but this father won a spiritual fight.  Energy fields collided.  And while this snake may have been too large for this small predator, its intense energy sent the snake on its way.

Have You Ever Known Someone?

To be able to complete someone’s thoughts,

dance together in their mind,

caress their heart,

and see their soul through their eyes.

This is truly knowing someone.

Have you ever known someone?

 

Painted Ladies

***

Feature Photo: I found this photo on the Internet in the public domain. I could find no proper attribution for it.

Butterfly Photo: A couple of Painted Lady butterflies nectaring-up in the Midwest.  I added the butterfly image for a couple of reasons.  One is that is shows a “couple” like the feature image and duality is the theme.  But intertwined duality – two becoming one.

With duality, we’ve moved beyond a singularity.  It is the quality of having two parts to the whole.  Metaphysically speaking, it is the contrasts – negative versus positive; good versus evil; light versus dark; material versus spiritual; consciousness versus unconsciousness; Ying versus Yang; male versus female.

Numerologically speaking, the number 2 represents feminine, dreams and cooperation.

The butterflies, symbolically, represent transition, shapeshifting, and the dance of joy.

When two hearts come together as one the polarities merge.  A beautiful transition occurs as each half brings out the beauty in the whole.  Making that true connection is a rare thing and it results in a dance of joy.  Bonds that cannot be broken.  Not over space, time, or even lifetimes.

Dreaming of You

There is a place

where I have gone

when I am dreaming.

And it has been very rare.

Where I know I am dreaming

and there is no difference

between me the dreamer

and me the dreamed.

Who is to say which is more real.

And I can choose where I wake up

in my bed

where this body is sleeping

or in the dreamscape

where I am experiencing

On that plane of existence.

And tonight

if I have that choice,

I choose to be where ever you may be

because I know

you will be in that dream

Where ever it may be . . .

***

Photo: A landscape takes on more color and becomes a dream, but the image is just as real.  It was all a matter of perception and expanding our senses.

The Warm Desert Wind

The warm desert wind swept up from the chaparral.  Wrapping around my face before continuing its journey into the canyon, the place where I was heading.  Another gust comes from the opposite direction, the canyon itself.  A see-sawing of wind.  A vibratory force.  Alternating current.  An invisible infinity symbol.  The Mobius.  Lightly whistling at times.  Ever-bearing weight at others.

I was tracking up a wash.  A magical place that appears bone dry but it’s surrounded by vegetation.  What feeds it?  At different elevations, the hidden aquafer emerges.  Clear, cool, running water, disappearing beneath the rocks a hundred feet above and a hundred feet below.  Feeding Mohave Lupine, Sky Pilot, Scarlet Gilia, the Mexican Silene. Manzanita, with its dark, reddish-brown bark.  Bordered by purple Fairy Dusters.  A scattered box of crayons, melting into the brown, dusty earth.

Miller Canyon - 8

As lush and diverse as the growth is here, one might wonder whether this should be called a desert at all.  But there are different types of deserts.  And this is not a desert like the ones I’ve encountered in the furthest southern points.  So harsh that the ability to adapt can be short lived, as will you be if you’re stranded there.

Those deserts are bone dry and barren.  Every plant a spiky throwback to the distant past.  Where evolution stopped.  They tear at your ankles as you walk.  Shred your pants. Gouge your skin.  Like a pack of hungry wolves, they go for your Achilles tendons.  To bring you down.  Cripple you for the kill.  The earth soaks up your blood with a never-ending thirst.  The dryness, suffocating.

But where I’m at there are multiple biomes.  Sky Islands, so called because of the diversity that lives in each mountain range.  Volcanic uprisings now differentially worn by wind and rains.  Rhyolite columns stand like ancient warriors in the altitudes above the lowlands, guarding the pine forests and their inhabitants.

Chiricahua - Hike Droping Out of the Rhyolite Columns 9

And at the base of, or threading through the canyons, Sycamore, Willow, and Cottonwood paint ribbons of green along creaks, streams or rivers.

San Pedro River - 7

At mid-altitude, there are Pinon, Juniper, and Mesquite trees, as well as Emory and Silverleaf Oaks.  And in between these islands can be grasslands.  Vast stretches.  Tan waves of vegetation below blue skies and billowing clouds.  The land undulates, alive.

AZ Vista+Crop 1

In other outstretching plains below the floating islands lie infinite reaches of scoured desert floors.  Fictitious trails through Saguaro cacti, like standing in a perpetual hall of mirrors.  Where do they all lead?

Here, the sun bearing down causes an evolutionary reversion to the reptilian form.  Just basking in that sun raises your heart rate.  Exhaling water vapor that’s evaporated before you can see it.  Your skin desiccates and takes on the shape of scales.  It becomes armor you will need in this battle.

To tread here you must do continual 360-degree spotting, take snapshots in your mind, tracing landmarks for the path of your return.  At some point, your memory banks are full and the terrain all starts looking the same, and you must decide whether to turn around or march into oblivion.  Blood and brain broiling.  Unforgiving beauty.

Saguaro Natn Park 15

Rising from that depth, the air cools again.  The humidity rises.  Plants flourish.  Bare rocks become canvases, covered with Petroglyphs from those who knew how to survive here, how to build a community here, how to chart the stars here.  The songs of their storytelling still echo through the canyons.

For now, I’ll tread through the scrub land, rising into the pines and I’ll sit with my friends.  The deer, the javelina, the coyote, the falcon, the hawks, and my brothers the Owls.  And we’ll share the tales of our ancestors, for just a while longer.

Madera Canyon - 5 - Looking South From Josephine Saddle

***

 

Photos: I decided to include a few photos to go with my words.  Sometimes words aren’t enough to carry you there, to reveal the contrasts, the infinite beauty.

The Lesson of the Blue Jay

Forward:  Interesting.  Today I discovered that a group of Blue Jays can be called a “Charm,” a “Party,” a “Band,” or a “Scold.”  I think any of those terms could apply in relation to my story but Scold or Charm seem most appropriate 🙂  This article is bit longer than my usual posts at about 2140 words, but I hope you enjoy the read.

Publication Credit: It’s with great pleasure I note that my article was published in The Urban Howl on June 11, 2018, under the title of: “The Lesson Of The Blue Jay — How To Live Your Spirit Walk.”  If you’d like some great, uplifting reads on spirituality, imagination, soulful purpose and magic you should check out the Howl.

***

I heard what I thought was a Red Shouldered Hawk.  I was in one’s territory, and it would frequently make an appearance when I hiked this trail.  I once saw it on the ground and thinking it was injured I approached.  Instead, it quickly mantled the prey it had just caught, trying to conceal the now lifeless mole from me.  It showed no fear and I knew better than to try to get closer.  I said my hellos and continued on the path. But this wasn’t the hawk I was hearing today.

These last days of October felt like November, those days when it seemed a shade had been pulled over the sun, now hibernating until March.  It was one of those autumns where the conditions just hadn’t been right.  The moisture, temperature, sun light and the wind simply weren’t cooperating. Instead of the full spectral range of reds, oranges, yellows and pinks, mixed with the remaining traces of green, the leaves had rapidly browned out, and the wind hastened their descent to the now dormant ground.  Like charcoal drawings on canvas, the bare tree trunks and their branches silhouetted the gray, cloud-covered sky.

Although it wasn’t raining you could taste the humidity that thickly hung in the air.  That heavy air filled my lungs as I listened to my footsteps.  It was unusually quiet for this time in the woods.  It seemed all of the wildlife was napping, and then I heard it again.

I scanned the trees and located it in the lower branches of a bare hickory.  It was a Blue Jay mimicking the Red Shouldered Hawk.  The naturalists of old are said to believe that the Jay took delight in this deception.

But then they came.  More and more Blue Jays, and they were landing on both sides of the trail.  I found myself surrounded by an entire flock, all squawking at me.  Scolding me.  I had never seen so many Jays in a group before, perhaps twenty or more of them.  No other animal was in the woods.  No human other than myself.  I knew it was time to pay attention to the message being sent.  The Source was not going to let me ignore it.  And this message came at a particular time when I needed it.  I was sort of at a half-way point and needed to make that decision to push forward.

Once you do, there is no going back. The world will not be the same.

Blue Jay in Flight

For those of us believing in a more natural order in the Universe, there is a lot of “bird medicine” surrounding us.  And the Blue Jay has a particular lesson to teach, regardless if you subscribe to bird medicine or not.  But before we get there, we have to make note of the rising awareness that religion or spirituality is shifting in its definition and form.  It might be said that belief systems are returning to more tribal values and, perhaps, those are more valid and powerful because for many these systems hold more respect for the Earth and all life upon it.

I recently read the results from a study from by the Pew Research Center concluding that the American public is becoming less “religious.” Of course, being religious in this country is usually measured in terms of being a Christian, and my personal experience has taught me that many professing to be religious are living far from religious lives.  But I don’t think true believers and practitioners were screened out from the professors of religiosity in this study.

Putting mythological error, I mean methodological error aside, Pew surveyed over 35,000 “adults” (a topic for another day) and determined that a growing minority say they do not belong to any “organized faith.”  The overall Pew conclusion, which was partially attributed to the Millennial generation, was that: “Altogether, the religiously unaffiliated, also called the “nones,” now account for 23% of the adult population, up from 16% in 2007.”

“Nones.” What a strange term to apply.  While I understand the concept Pew was trying to capture, I think the terminology is off.  “Nones” implies non-spirituality and I believe many of these people are probably quite spiritual and probably much more faithful to their beliefs than many professed Christians, Muslims or Jews.  I just think spirituality is actually returning to its roots.  And there are many roots upon which spirituality grows.

The New Yorker recently published a piece about Anthony Kronman’s latest book titled: “Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not endorsing this guy’s book, I haven’t even read it, doubt that I need to, but he is supposed to be smart guy – a Yale Law School professor with a Ph.D. in philosophy.  If you want to check out the article, you can find it here.

What I think is important are the thoughts behind this work.  Basically, people are combining philosophy, metaphysics, theology, law, biology, and history, along with their own unique experiences to compose a set of beliefs that is “spiritual.”  After all, “spiritual,” at its most basic level, simply relates to the spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

And some fundamental and universal themes apply, like it’s not a good idea to go around senselessly killing living creatures.  This means all creatures as they all possess spirit.  There is also a common belief against raping the planet. It too, and every speck of dust upon it, possesses spirit.  It is alive, struggling under human kind’s relentless desire to exploit and poison it, but the Earth, and every part of it, is a living spiritual being.  No need to have someone wearing a special colored robe to tell us that, or to propagate the falsehoods that one creature is superior to another, or that particles of awareness exclusively belong to humans.

Being “pagan” is not some foreign concept, and maybe “born-again” doesn’t capture its increasing emergence in modernity.  It’s been around a long time and anyone can tap into that which is, ad lib. Being a “pagan,” minus all of the connotations applied by those whom might feel threatened by anyone not subscribing to their own particularized religious theory, means simply: “a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions” – the “Big Three.”

So yes, there is becoming more of an ad hoc, hodgepodge, create your own, make it up as you go along, system of “unorganized” spiritual beliefs.  And one can draw upon the Big Three, or Far Eastern religions that were around for centuries before the Big Three, or more native customs passed on through storytelling or apprenticeships.  I’m all for it because I believe that intuitively people know what it means to have a personal relationship with Great Mystery (just one term for the “Source” of all spirituality and life) than any one dogmatic doctrine could capture.  The more one gets in touch with and in tune with nature, the more one will touch, hear, feel and see the Spirit Source.

For me personally, this means an eclectic mix of Buddhism, Native American, Meso-American and Aboriginal teachings, and my own naturalistic contact with the Universe.  There are affirmations coming from nature constantly if one only pays attention and learns to interpret the language.  And this brings us back to animal medicine and particularly bird medicine and more particularly the Blue Jay.

Native cultures will teach that each living entity possesses its own personal power and the power described is frequently in terms of symbolism.  It is also symbolic in the cycle of life that if one species consumes another for survival, it absorbs or acquires the inherent power from that other species.  Symbolism is paramount, as with all religions and religious artifacts.  The symbols will differ, and so will their meanings and interpretations, but symbols are powerful.

If you think the Cross is a powerful symbol, you should take a ten-mile hike in nature and try to see and interpret all of the messages being delivered to you.  Some can be affirmations that you are on the right path, others warnings, others general lessons, many about recognizing true gifts and having gratitude.

Of course, having an “unorganized” system of beliefs leads to the criticism of “who gets to decide what means what?”  I’d say it’s up to the doctrines a person subscribes to plus that individual’s intuition, with one caveat, one must be “authentic.”  It’s not for others to decide for anyone else what someone should believe, but once a person decides what path, or combination of paths, they wish to follow, they should follow it (or them) and not constantly attempt to change the “rules.”  Master the doctrines or personal beliefs.  Don’t engage in a half-hearted horoscoping, cherry-picking and manipulating symbols to fabricate a self-aggrandizing prophecy of spiritual attainment or self-actualization.  Not all spiritual messages will be glossed over, ultra-positive, or rose-colored intoxicants.  Pursuing spirituality is hard work.  This is exactly what the bird medicine of the Blue Jay teaches us.

Interpreting symbolism can be a subjective endeavor, so drawing upon historical roots can be beneficial.  Personally, I like the work of Ted Andrews in his book “Animal Speak,” because he discusses historical and cultural interpretations of symbols and ties the common threads together to form a cohesive way of deciphering meanings; translating the language of nature.  His interpretations also seem to match my own personal experiences.  So, while some might say the Blue Jay signifies boldness, clarity, vision, truth, faithfulness, and solidarity, Mr. Andrews observes that this totem (an animal believed by a particular society to have spiritual significance) brings lessons regarding the “proper use of power.”  I would throw in the word “authenticity.”

Tracking the Latin and Greek origins of the word “Jay” and the symbolism of the bird’s markings and behaviors, Andrews notes the jay has the ability to “link the heavens and earth, to access each for greater power.”  While the Blue Jay can be fearless, the problem it presents it that it dabbles in both worlds, instead of becoming a master of either.  The Blue Jay is also a mimic.  So, when this animal totem brings its bird medicine message to you, it is time to decide if you are actually mastering ability in the psychic, metaphysical, and spiritual world, or if you’re dabbling.  Mimicking enough knowledge to give the impression of having mastered it.  As Mr. Andrews concludes:

“If the jay has flown into your life, it indicates that you are moving into a time where you can begin to develop the innate royalty that is within you, or simply be a pretender to the throne. It all depends on you. The jay has no qualms. It will teach you either.”

Blue Jay in Flight 2

Now this is taking a spiritual message and teaching it with authenticity.  It’s not all “feel-good” metaphysical-pseudo-religion, it is challenging you to take responsibility with the direction you take with your own spiritual path, regardless of what that may be – truly master it or mimic it, your choice.  It’s not a horoscopic prediction of finding your soul-mate or twin-flame.  It is saying that it’s time to get real.

Thus, the problem with the Pew study.  They didn’t measure authenticity.  If they had screened out the mimics, they might have found the majority to be less religious than believed, and the “nones” perhaps much more so.  That being said, I don’t wish to discredit any form of spiritual practice.  Regardless if you are a follower of one of the Big Three, or any of the Far Eastern Religions, or if you’re a Born-Again Pagan, if you can derive hope, kindness, and generosity from your practice; if you can demonstrate gratitude, tolerance, and compassion; if you can give unconditional love to every part and parcel of the spiritual creation, then you can become your authentic spirit.

At times, it may seem like we are always at a halfway point.  We’ve acquired knowledge, dabbled, and seem to be waiting for something to happen to us or for us.  I was at that point when the Blue Jays descended upon me.  Signaling it was time to decide.  And I did.

What we need to do is experience.  Practice what we believe to be the means to the spiritual path. It’s not about reciting, waiting, or even dreaming.  It’s about doing.  Doing will make you authentic.  Live your spirit walk.

If you want to talk, you can find me hiking through the many biomes, getting out of that comfort zone, exuding my unconditional love for all of life’s forms, taking a risk that this walking meditation will place my spirit in a place to confer with the Source.  There is no looking back . . .

***

Published in The Urban Howl on June 11, 2018.

Photos: I found these pictures on the Internet in the public domain.  It appears the feature photo was on flicker.com, although I could not replicate the search.  I was unable to track down a definitive source for the other two images.

Note: All weblinks are subject to link rot.

Warrior for Love

This is one of those quotes that kind of sticks with you once you discover it.  We battle for those things with the most meaning.  We can get lost searching for them.  But it’s worth the journey to find true love.

 

Photo: Tromping around somewhere in ancient mountains.

Morning Coffee

I can’t really explain time.

Right now, I know I’ve let days slip away without posting to my blog and it’s time to start writing.

Writing is sort of an addiction.  I love it.  And I am writing in my mind all the time.  But some days there are simply other things I need to do with my time, either to keep up with the mundane parts of life, or to find inspiration to bring stories to life.  Or maybe I should say, bring life to stories.  Creative time.

Of course, it’s not “my time” to begin with.  How could we possess something so ethereal?

Time has a way of standing still yet slipping by at the same time.  Especially when I’m with the people I love, or when I am taking time out in nature.  Time’s simply gone or was time there to begin with?  The true measure of time never really existed.  It is artificially set.  Having no more substance than turning hands on an arbitrarily numbered dial.

While time is an arbitrary concept, at least in the physical world, time is limited for us.  So, sharing that finite time with others is perhaps the greatest gift we can give.  Maybe we’ll have infinite time to share in the spiritual world.

For some reason we decided to define time by motion.  One day is equal to the time for the Earth to complete a full rotation on its axis.  To do that, the Earth is moving, rotating, at approximately 1,040 miles per hour.

In addition to its own rotational speed, the Earth is zipping around the sun at about 66,660 miles per hour.  A full rotation around our star takes what we’ve defined as a “year,” some 365 days in double rotational motion, more or less.

What’s more, the sun and our solar system are orbiting the Milky Way Galaxy at somewhere around 450,000 to 500,000 miles per hour.  This galaxy is huge.  It takes our sun about 225 to 250 million years of motion to complete that journey around the galaxy’s center – that’s called a “cosmic year.”

And if that’s not enough motion or time for you, our galaxy is moving in relation to other galaxies and is on a collision course with the Andromeda Galaxy.  These galaxies are moving toward each other at the rate of 252,000 miles per hour!

Are you dizzy yet?

And while time is an artificial concept based on motion, I can’t even tell you where I am at any given moment in time.  For I, and all of the atoms in my body, are in constant motion.

You see, under particle theory in quantum mechanics, anything, including us, have multiple probabilities of being in multiple places at the same time.  It is not until a measurement of some kind, often an observation of effect as opposed to seeing the actual subatomic particle, is taken that a “real” and yet temporary placement of anything or anyone can be defined.

My new goal is to be unmeasurable, so no one can place me anywhere at any given point in time.  I will remain in eternal motion.  How could I not be?

Actually, I’m really just having my morning coffee 😊

***

Photo:  My morning cup of coffee catches the first rays of the rising sun.