Tag Archives: Nature

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.

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.

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.

An Oil Painting for the One I Love

Sitting in the quiet,
contemplating the nothingness that surrounds me.
Imaging a different world,
one with color, with fragrance, tasting, touching.

An oil painting for the one I love.

I see the greens, yellows, oranges, and reds of autumn.
An old farm road, slightly overgrown, bending gently with the breeze, contouring an old barn, faded wood, peeling paint.

The character of a grandfather with aged wisdom.

A Great Horned Owl sings in the distance,
a soulful melody that echoes across the nearby lake.
It repeats at a slightly higher pitch.

A pause, an answer – this one lower and softer.

The synchrony begins as they call, urgency growing.
Powerful yellow eyes take flight and the couple unites,
the tone softens, is warm, in harmony, complete . . .

***

Great Horned Owl - 6 - 25th Nov + Crop

 

Photos:  A Midwestern sunset on the fly – one-handed, while driving with the cell phone.  And a Great Horned Owl sits majestically, the master of this territory, calling to its mate.

Published !  So grateful to have had this poem picked up in the Fall Issue of Halcyon Days.  If you have haven’t seen this online magazine, you should really check it out.  It is beautifully done!  

Red Coral – To Feel is to Heal

I hike into the canyon and I am marveled by what surrounds me.  It’s Fall.  Greens, golds, reds, oranges, pinks, a rainbow of leaves held tightly by the trees while others, released from that grip, float softly through the air to blanket the ground.  Painting abstract portraits.  Pastel pathways.

There are majestic mountains, and underground streams.  Dry stream beds until the elevation is ripe for the water’s emergence.  It trickles, then flows, then forms small falls over rock out-croppings.  A Damselfly lands on a Horsetail Reed.  Metallic green, it’s wings shine in the sunlight.

This land I walk, used to be on the bottom of the ocean.  Fossil remnants confirm its history.  Bivalves and crinoids and coral.  Once a shell inhabited by an animal, or symbiotic pairings of algae and invertebrates forming exoskeleton metropoles.  All forms of calcium carbonate taking on infinite designs.  All now limestone.  And eventually dust, from which something new will rise.

The silence is broken by the cry of a Hawk.  Its flight interrupted by a Raven that dive bombs it.  A battle ensues in mid-air.  And the Hawk acrobatically rolls onto its back.  Inverted in flight it claws back at its interceptor.  I’ve never seen a Hawk fly upside down.  Never.  I’m amazed at its agility.  What a true gift this vision is.

I am surrounded by life.  I hear it, feel it, taste it, smell it, touch it.  I perceive it.  Enter it intuitively.  And yet I walk alone.  Connected, yet separated.

Night time comes and I’ve returned to shelter.  And I think, how much better the day would have been could I have shared the experience.  To have gazed through more than my own eyes.  To share laughter and surprise.  A warm smile, shining eyes looking back at me.

Being alone is not the same as feeling lonely.  Tonight, I feel alone.

How nice it would be to hold someone in my arms.  Just hold them and feel their touch.  Infinitely.  Hear their breath.  Their heartbeat drum.  Feel their warmth.  Their fire.  Their love.

We all want answers to the big questions.  They usually start with the word “why?”  Why am I walking alone?  But then “where?”  Where do I find the answer?

My inner voice silent.  I look outside into the darkness.  The Coyotes synchronize their howls.  The Crickets, high-pitched chirping.  An Owl joins the chorus.  Life surrounds me in my solitude.  Why?

We all have places or entities to where we direct these questions.  Consult the ancient texts?  Cast stones or charms?  Read cards?  Deep meditation?  Extrapolate from dreams.  We find affirmations from the world around us.  Intuition is valid.  These sources nourish it.

Tonight, I pull a book.  Sacred Path Cards by Jamie Sams.  I draw an accompanying card for a daily reading.  “Coral.”  Some people might call this mysticism, paganism, or even heretical.  But isn’t it strange how these ceremonies end up being spot-on.

Coral speaks to the absurdity of my question.  It tells me to cut the “I am the only one” refrain.  We are never alone.  As the Seneca would say (Ms. Sams’ tribe), we are continually surrounded by “All Our Relations.”  It’s time to reconnect with All.

To paraphrase Ms. Sams:

Coral symbolizes the blood of Mother Earth.  It acknowledges that all “two-legged” have the need to be nurtured from their own kind.  But it reminds us who our true “Mother” is.  Red blood runs through every creature.  Water, the oceans, symbolize the blood of Mother Earth.  And Red Coral, arising from those waters carry that representation.  The “Water Nursery of Creation” gave birth to all life and Red Coral, and its connection to the sea water of its own origin, symbolizes our birth and the connection to the “Mother Of All Things.”  Every life form, “All Our Relations,” is sustained by Mother Earth.  Using Coral can allow us to reconnect to our own blood and the waters of Mother Earth.

Once we reconnect, we can “develop a communication with our physical form that is not based upon addiction, compulsion, fear, gluttony, or selfishness.”  We can recognize that our physical body is our vehicle for connecting with our spirit and our needs.  We, therefore, must learn to respect and care for our bodies.  All nurturing is dependent on our ability to recognize our feelings and needs.  And if we don’t know what we need, how would we identify the needs of others to give comfort.  “To feel is to heal.”

It is time for self-nourishment.  For reunion with the Planetary Family.  To listen to All Our Relations and acknowledge we are never alone.

While I ponder the message, I think back to today’s hike.  I fumble through my backpack and produce a stone I found.  I wipe it with vegetable oil and it comes to life.  Patterns emerge.  Skeletal patterns, flower-like shapes, concentric circles.  It’s fossilized coral. Coincidence?  I quit believing in coincidences a long time ago.  Why did I pick up that particular stone for the later discovery?

While I was on top of the ridge, and while I was down in the bottom of the canyon, I was standing on the ancient ocean floor.  The sea, the blood of Mother Earth, once flowed here.  The many connections I made today with my “Relations,” why did I try to separate myself from them?  They all visited for a reason.

The Damselfly with the power of light.  The Hawk with its visionary power, the guardian. The Raven, the magic shapeshifter.  The Coyote, the balance of wisdom and folly.  The Cricket, the bearer of luck and success.  The Owl, it’s silent wisdom, the visionary of the night.  And even the ocean creatures frozen in time.

While it’s true, I seek connection with another “two-legged,” I have that connection as I share my story of the struggle.  Like the hawk and the raven, we internally battle.  Visions versus fleeting images.  Mirages and echoes.  Our self-deception.  The denial of our eternal connections.

Others can experience what I have, see it through my eyes, brush my hand with theirs, share the joy.  I wasn’t alone, and I can be nourished by nourishing others with my words.

We are never alone.

***

Photo: I found this photo on the Internet in the public domain.  The link accompanying it tracked back to a New York Post article titled: “Forcing Coral to Have Sex Could Save the Great Barrier Reef.”  As with all web-links, this link is subject to “link rot,” and I can only say it is valid at the time I posted this article.

Attribution to The Urban Howl:  On June 18, 2018, this article was published by The Urban Howl under the title of “The Unmistakable Message Of Red Coral: To Feel Is To Heal.” I am honored to be a part of this wonderful publication.

Reflections

 

I hiked deep in the forest today,

Into the canyon.

Nature’s beauty all around me.

 

Mountain streams.  Pines and Firs,

Mixed with Sycamore, Willows, and Cottonwoods.

 

Loamy earth, perfumed wildflowers.

 

Colors dance in the wind.

The fusion of an artist’s palette.

En plein air impressions.

 

My body groans.

But my mind belongs here,

On this winding trail.

Surrounded by silence.

 

A young buck passes in isolation.

We nod to each other,

        The face in the mirror staring back at me . . .

***

 

Photo: A whitetail deer parallels me in the forest; the buck mirroring my steps.

Of Wolves and Hominids

Warning: I use a few sentence enhancers in this piece that might offend some. Not too many, but if you are easily offended you might want to turn back now. Apologies.

***

There’s a pretty crude joke out there about men that goes: “If they can’t eat or fuck it, they’ll kill it.” Now, that’s clearly a gross over-generalization and there are many good men out there that do not operate from this vestige instinct of the lizard brain. But there does seem to be an awful lot of killing going on, and men probably make up the biggest share of those pulling the trigger, or wielding the knife, or the tire tool, or the shovel, or whatever just happened to be lying around. Men have tempers, but worse, men often have big egos. Mix in some hormones and look out!

I remember reading a story a while back about a huge alligator in Florida. Of course, the first thing humans (and in this case men) do when they encounter such a magnificent animal is kill it. Now it doesn’t really matter what reason was contrived. It may have been rationalized as being for “public safety” or something else even more nebulous, but there are numerous examples of where people simply kill for the joy of killing, and more times than not, it’s the “man” doing the “killin.” And if wasn’t for “joy” then why string up the gator and take a picture standing next to it while smiling and broadcast it to the world?

It’s a “manly thing” to kill. I suppose it can make a man feel in control or superior in some fashion.

In my criminal law class there was a joke told about how in the South there is a justifiable homicide defense called “needed killin,” meaning if there was a just plain rotten person that terrorized the town (usually a man), then it was excusable to lay that person to rest. This, of course, is not in any criminal code, but apparently plays out in front a jury of the murder’s peers. And while I don’t agree with this defense, there are, after all, more lawful and moral solutions, that argument actually makes a little bit more sense to me than the trophy hunter trying to defend his need to prove how large his penis is.

Sorry, I don’t want to sound sexist, I realize there are women trophy hunters out there too, but I think the majority are packing testosterone and that fits better with my story today. I mean if we’re talking about men I can say stuff like, “Ok, how about this Mr. Big-game Slaughterer, why don’t you just stuff and mount your penis on the wall. I’m sure that would be impressive. And maybe you would calm down a little after that.” But hey, I won’t say that, because that’s crude 😊

The concept of being the top-predator is sort of traditional ideology and mythology that is perpetuated over and over again through socialization and acculturalization. This evolved over time where hunting was once required for sheer survival. Later, hunting was a skill for acquiring supplemental food, not the mainstay of the diet. For most, hunting eventually turned into a “sport” and spawned a sub-species of that sport; trophy-hunting. Killing for no reason whatsoever other than to mount a head on the wall and have bragging rights. And ofttimes, these senseless, violent practices are highly rewarded. All hail the great and powerful conqueror.

Hemingway captures this reward-rejection phenomenon in his short story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” where Macomber’s wife, Margaret, is enthralled by, and later shares a bed with, Macomber’s guide and big-game hunter, Robert Wilson. Macomber had shown fear and had run from a wounded lion, whereas Wilson showed no hesitation when he killed it, thus earning Margaret’s lust. Of course, Hemingway added the ironic twist of when Macomber later rises to the challenge and overcomes his fear, Margaret shoots him in the back of the head because she realizes he is now brave enough to leave her. He quite literally didn’t see that “reward” coming.

Now if some so-called trophy “hunter” (and I use that term loosely as they are usually led right up to the animal by a guide) could actually kill the lion or other large “game” (an ironic term itself, this is not a game) up close and personal and with more equal armament, I’d give them some credit. That would at least involve, strength and courage, and be more sporting than putting a bullet in the animal’s shoulder, lungs or heart from a quarter mile away, especially if camouflaged and hiding behind a blind. Can’t shoot the head for the most immediate and less painful kill, you know. That’s going on the wall.

And while I’ve been rambling a bit to get here, what brings me to be writing about the testosterone-fueled murder of innocent species was the killing of Wolf ’06. Wolf ’06 was a famous alpha female wolf roaming freely in Yellowstone National Park after the wolves were reintroduced to the region. The problem is, the wolves only have protection when they are within the boundaries of the park.

The U.S. has had a tortuous history with the wolf. Estimates put the country’s wolf population at anywhere from the hundreds of thousands to millions prior to European colonization. The International Wolf Center, proving the most detailed timeline for the gray wolf population in the U.S., states it is estimated that 100,000 wolves were killed every year between 1870 and 1877 alone. According to the IWC, in 1970, there were only 750 wolves in Minnesota, some scattered individuals in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and 18 wolves on Isle Royale.

It seems wolves were truly seen as being evil beasts of no value, and they threatened the profits of ranchers as livestock operations spread across the continent. Humans like to think that they are the superior predator and that their short-term gratification supersedes any other concern. Of course, this is ignorant. And that’s been proven time and again, and in a most dramatic way by reintroducing the wolf in Yellowstone Park.

The term used to describe the effects a major predator species has on the environment is “trophic cascade.” Nate Blakeslee was interviewed by National Geographic about his book “American Wolf,” and here is how he described the effects of reintroducing the wolves to Yellowstone:

“When they brought wolves back, it quickly changed and improved the landscape in ways that even the biologists didn’t anticipate. First and foremost, Yellowstone had way more elk than it could reasonably accommodate. Wolves brought that number back down to what it historically had been prior to Europeans arriving in Yellowstone.

They also began to see other species flourishing. The elk were no longer able to gather in the valleys in huge numbers and browse at their leisure; they had to be much warier and spend more time at higher elevations.

One of the effects was that streamside vegetation began to rebound. Aspen and willow returned, which in turn encouraged beavers to return to the park, as willow is their main food source. Beavers change the profile of a river, making it deeper by creating dams and pools, which in turn is healthier for fish.

Wolves also reduced Yellowstone’s coyote population, which was the densest in North America. Because of this, the rodent population had been kept artificially low. Once the wolves started to kill off some of the coyote population—not to eat them but to defend their own territories—there was a huge rebound in the rodent population.

As a result of that, other animals that eat rodents also rebounded, like large birds of prey, raptors, foxes, and badgers. The renaissance of all these species was a direct result of restoring the top predator.”

It’s also known, that natural predators cull the weak and the sick from the herds of their pray, actually strengthening their populations. Every species plays it role in this complex web of life. And each time a species goes extinct, humans are another step closer to their own extinction. I would think that modern humans would at least understand this principle, even if they never grasp that these animals, no different than the human animal, possess spirit.

But it just seems sometimes that humans just aren’t that far out of the cave.

Blakeslee tracked down the hunter that killed ’06. Basically, this guy was just happy to kill a wolf. “He considered it to be the pinnacle of his career as a trophy hunter to be able to shoot an animal that nobody had been able to legally shoot for a very long time.” He resented the wolves for decreasing the elk population and he was unable to kill an elk the season before. He also claimed he didn’t see the radio collar ’06 was wearing when she wandered out of Yellowstone’s protective boundaries.

So, because he blamed the wolf for preventing him from killing another animal, he was happy to kill a wolf. I don’t think there is any logic or wisdom there. Other species of predators don’t kill for joy or out of resentment. They don’t take pride in it. They actually do “hunt” and it’s for survival. There is no waste when other species hunt.

Just this past week, I read where the last male Northern White Rhinoceros has died. The Eastern Puma was also recently declared extinct. And how many other animals, plants, and other species are threatened or endangered? If we lose the bees perhaps humans will wake up because then we lose pollination and many of our food sources directly.

I’m not sure when humans will finally accept they are not top-dog. They produce no beneficial “trophic cascade.” Humans can’t exist without the other species on this fragile planet, yet they can exist without humans. It’s time to put ego aside. There is no place for a mythical, god-like, hunter figure that randomly takes life irrespective of the sanctity of that life and its interconnected purpose – survival of all species. Even cavemen were more advanced than this, they took what they needed for survival.

Since it is our species that has thrown the world out of its perfect balance, it is now our responsibility to restore it. One thing is certain, the one “species” that wouldn’t be missed at all, whose loss would not have a negative impact on the environment should it meet with its extinction, is the trophy hunter.

***

Wolf

Post Script: Wolf ’06 was killed in 2012. I only recently came across the January 2018 National Geographic article that got me thinking about this – thus, the time gap. Things are hopefully starting to change. The murder of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe by dentist James Palmer in 2015 brought world-wide attention to, and protests against, trophy hunting. I suppose you could say this “hunt” was more sporting because Palmer used a bow. But it was later discovered that he had not obtained the required permit, his guide team baited the lion to leave its protected wildlife preserve, and that Cecil suffered for 10 hours after he was first hit with an arrow before Palmer had the balls to approach him to finally kill him. I don’t think Palmer returned to the US as the conquering hero.

Photos: These are not my photos. I found them on the Internet in the Public Domain and have found no other attribution for them. Neither pic is of ’06. But I used the second one as the image for one of my tattoos.

**This is one of my longer pieces, but if you want more, I’ve included some quotes and links below just for fun 😊 All links are subject to “link rot” so I cannot guarantee how long any of those articles will be present on the web.
Quotes:

“The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.”
P.G. Wodehouse, The Adventures of Sally

“Sure, some find gunning down unsuspecting, innocent animals to be a real hoot. I mean, for Christ sake, they mantle the decapitated, formaldehyde-stuffed heads on the wall. Then, of course, there are the people who enjoy putting sunglasses or hats on it, even putting a blowout in its mouth as if it were an avid party animal. If it had any hands, there would surely be a plastic cup full of cheap beer in it, as well. We can’t forget that it would be named some horrendous name, such as Bill or Frank, something so plain, ordinary, and down-right ridiculous that makes me want to bitch-slap the perpetrators. ”
Chase Brooks

“Hunting and fishing involve killing animals with devices (such as guns) for which the animals have not evolved natural defenses. No animal on earth has adequate defense against a human armed with a gun, a bow and arrow, a trap that can maim, a snare that can strangle, or a fishing lure designed for the sole purpose of fooling fish into thinking they have found something to eat”
Marc Bekoff, Animals Matter: A Biologist Explains Why We Should Treat Animals with Compassion and Respect

“One saw a bird dying, shot by a man. It was flying with rhythmic beat and beautifully, with such freedom and lack of fear. And the gun shattered it; it fell to the earth and all the life had gone out of it. A dog fetched it, and the man collected other dead birds. He was chattering with his friend and seemed so utterly indifferent. All that he was concerned with was bringing down so many birds, and it was over as far as he was concerned. They are killing all over the world. Those marvellous, great animals of the sea, the whales, are killed by the million, and the tiger and so many other animals are now becoming endangered species. Man is the only animal that is to be dreaded.”
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Krishnamurti to Himself: His Last Journal

“I do not like the killers, and the killing bravely and well crap. I do not like the bully boys, the Teddy Roosevelt’s, the Hemingways, the Ruarks. They are merely slightly more sophisticated versions of the New Jersey file clerks who swarm into the Adirondacks in the fall, in red cap, beard stubble and taut hero’s grin, talking out of the side of their mouths, exuding fumes of bourbon, come to slay the ferocious white-tailed deer. It is the search for balls. A man should have one chance to bring something down. He should have his shot at something, a shining running something, and see it come a-tumbling down, all mucus and steaming blood stench and gouted excrement, the eyes going dull during the final muscle spasms. And if he is, in all parts and purposes, a man, he will file that away as a part of his process of growth and life and eventual death. And if he is perpetually, hopelessly a boy, he will lust to go do it again, with a bigger beast.”
John D. MacDonald, A Deadly Shade of Gold

“Wildlife, we are constantly told, would run loose across our towns and cities were it not for the sport hunters to control their population, as birds would blanket the skies without the culling services of Ducks Unlimited and other groups. Yet here they are breeding wild animals, year after year replenishing the stock, all for the sole purpose of selling and killing them, deer and bears and elephants so many products being readied for the market. Animals such as deer, we are told, have no predators in many areas, and therefore need systematic culling. Yet when attempts are made to reintroduce natural predators such as wolves and coyotes into these very areas, sport hunters themselves are the first to resist it. Weaker animals in the wild, we hear, will only die miserable deaths by starvation and exposure without sport hunters to control their population. Yet it’s the bigger, stronger animals they’re killing and wounding–the very opposite of natural selection–often with bows and pistols that only compound and prolong the victim’s suffering.”
Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy

“For us hunting wasn’t a sport. It was a way to be intimate with nature, that intimacy providing us with wild unprocessed food free from pesticides and hormones and with the bonus of having been produced without the addition of great quantities of fossil fuel. In addition, hunting provided us with an ever scarcer relationship in a world of cities, factory farms, and agribusiness, direct responsibility for taking the lives that sustained us. Lives that even vegans indirectly take as the growing and harvesting of organic produce kills deer, birds, snakes, rodents, and insects. We lived close to the animals we ate. We knew their habits and that knowledge deepened our thanks to them and the land that made them.”
Ted Kerasote, Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

“The more a woman appreciates the hunting prowess of her man, the more he will kill for her.”
Michael DiMarco, Cupidity: 50 Stupid Things People Do For Love And How To Avoid Them

“These enthusiasts often like to hang signs that say “Gone Fishin'” or “Gone Huntin'”. But what these slogans really mean is “Gone Killing.”
Marc Bekoff, Animals Matter: A Biologist Explains Why We Should Treat Animals with Compassion and Respect

“Modern life conceals our need for diverse, wild, natural communities, but it does not alter that need.. if you want to feel what it is like to be human again, you should hunt, even if just once. Because that understanding, I believe, will propel a shift in how we view and interact with this world that we eat in. And the kind of food we demand, as omnivores, will never be the same.”
Georgia Pellegrini, Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time

“The hunter, as Theodore Roosevelt defined him, a man who fights for the integrity of both his prey and the land that sustained it, is being too often overwhelmed by men concerned mostly with playing dress up and shooting guns.”
Gary Ferguson, Hawks Rest: A Season in the Remote Heart of Yellowstone

“This for many people is what is most offensive about hunting—to some, disgusting: that it encourages, or allows, us not only to kill but to take a certain pleasure in killing. It’s not as though the rest of us don’t countenance the killing of tens of millions of animals every year. Yet for some reason we feel more comfortable with the mechanical killing practiced, out of view and without emotion by industrial agriculture.”
Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

“We have never understood why men mount the heads of animals and hang them up to look down on their conquerors. Possibly it feels good to these men to be superior to animals, but it does seem that if they were sure of it they would not have to prove it. Often a man who is afraid must constantly demonstrate his courage and, in the case of the hunter, must keep a tangible record of his courage. For ourselves, we have had mounted in a small hardwood plaque one perfect borrego [bighorn sheep] dropping. And where another man can say, “There was an animal, but because I am greater than he, he is dead and I am alive, and there is his head to prove it,” we can say, “There was an animal, and for all we know there still is and here is proof of it. He was very healthy when we last heard of him.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez

“But it isn’t hunger that drives millions of armed American Males to forests and hills every autumn, as the high incidence of heart failure among the hunters will prove. Somehow the hunting process has to do with masculinity, but I don’t quite know how.”
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
Links

The Most Famous Wolf in the World Lived Hard and Died Tragically

Wolf Restoration – The National Park Service

Gray Wolf Biolouge – US Fish and Wildlife Service

The International Wolf Center

Wolf Wars: America’s Campaign to Eradicate the Wolf

The Fight for Northern Rocky Gray Wolves

Gray Wolf Conservation

The Psychology and Thrill of Trophy Hunting: Is it Criminal? Trophy hunting is gratuitous violence that can justifiably be called murder.

The Dream by Don Miguel Ruiz

I have read two books by Don Miguel Ruiz.  The first was “Beyond Fear: A Toltec Guide to Freedom and Joy” and the second was “The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book.”  In both books he included the passage below.

In Beyond Fear, he presented it as an exercise for us to dream.  In The Four Agreements, he included it as a passage titled: “Prayer for Love.”  The version in Beyond Fear was slightly different, I think better written, so I’m posting that one.

The author uses the word “Christ” near the end of the passage.  But as I have said before, I believe you could substitute whatever entity or title you wished, your own belief in what constitutes the “Source,” and the message still rings true.  Enjoy.

***

In this dream I find myself in the most beautiful forest at mid-day.  I am completely comfortable surrounded by beauty.  I see the sunbeams lighting the trees and the flowers.  I see butterflies, and I hear the sound of a river.  I walk to that river where an old man sits beneath a big tree. With his white beard and his strong, kind eyes, the man emits a radiant aura of beautiful colors.  I sit in front of him and wait until he feels my presence and looks at me.

I ask, “How can you send out these beautiful colors and can you teach me how to do it?”

He smiles at me.  “Your request brings back memories for me because one day I saw my own teacher doing the same thing and I asked him the same question.  As an answer, he opened his chest and he reached in and pulled out his own heart.  From within it he took a radiant flame.  He opened my chest and put that flame inside my heart.  From that moment on, everything changed inside me because that flame was unconditional love.  I felt the flame of that love and it became a consuming fire.”

“I shared that love with, and gave unconditional love to, every cell in my body.  That day I became one with my own body.”

“I decided to love my mind.  I loved every emotion, every thought, every feeling and every dream.  That fire transformed my mind completely and my mind loved me back so much that the fire grew even more and I had the need to share my love even more.”

“I decided to put my love in every tree, in every flower, in every blade of grass and all the plants in the whole forest.  They reacted to my love and they loved me also and we became one.”

“But still my love grew more and more so I had an even greater need to share my love.  I decided to put a little piece of love in every rock, in the dirt, in every metal on the earth, and they loved me back.  We became one.”

“My love still grew.  I decided to put a little love in every animal that exists, in the birds, the cats and the dogs.  They loved me back and they protected me.  We became one.”

“My love still grew and I decided to love the water.  I loved the rain, the snow, the rivers, the lakes, the oceans, and I became one with the water.”

“When my love continued to grow, I decide to love the atmosphere, the breeze, the hurricane, the tornado, and we became one and they loved me back.”

“My love did not end there.  It grew even more and I turned my face to the sky where I saw the sun, the moon and the stars.  I decided to put a piece of my love in them and they loved me back and we became one.”

“Again, my love expanded and I decided to share it with every human, with the elders, with every man, woman and child, and we became one.”

“Now wherever I go, I am there waiting for myself.”

Then the old man opened his chest with his hands and took his heart out before my eyes.  He took a flame from his heart and he opened my chest and my heart, and he put that flame in my heart.  When I awoke and opened my eyes, I felt that flame become a fire.  Now I share my love with you.

At this moment, I open my chest and in front of your eyes I open my heart.  I take a small flame and I open your chest and your heart.  I put that flame in your heart.  That flame of my love is the flame of Christ.

And that is the dream.

***

Photo: This is a great shot of my woodstove with a particularly expressive fire.  I can see a swan in the flames to the left.  Others have seen the devil in the middle and a woman in the flames to the right.  What do you see?  The flame of unconditional love?

 

 

Gray Days

In November, long before the Winter Solstice, we will experience the first of many “gray days.”  The trees now bare, having shed their leaves, draw charcoal lines across an infinite sky of nothingness.

Gray is considered to lie exactly between white and black and is actually called “achromatic,” which is a contradiction in terms – to have a colorless color?  It has also been described as refracting light without spectral color separation, or as having zero saturation and no hue.  And while we might struggle to find words to convey the absence of something, there are certainly plenty to describe the feelings that are aroused by these gray days.

As if they may be called “days,” residing, instead, somewhere between the light of day and darkness of night, a sort of twilight time.  An extended boundary between the birth and death of a day.

Simply stated, these gray days are depressing.  But that word is far too vague to instill a true sensory perception.  Drab, ashen, somber, leaden, stone cold, cineritious, favillous, worn, anemic, pasty, melancholic, sallow, blah, sullied, faded, dreary, muted, gloomy, caliginous, tenebrous, bleak, washed out, dismal, and uninspired.

These are the days that suck the spirit right out of you.  Drab, as in lacking brightness; somber, as in humorless; leaden, as in a weight too heavy to bear; ashen, as in the color of death.  And they come, one after the other, after the other . . . trampling the psyche.

Uninspired. Cold. Despairing.  Why would one bother exiting a warm, soft bed on such a day?  The coffee will taste burnt.  Cream putrid. The muffin, singed.  Butter rancid.  Life pales when Grandfather Sun fades, when he retreats to the southern hemisphere.

The winter months are described symbolically as representing death before the season of rebirth – spring.  But there is surely beauty lying within the bleak, even if buried or hibernating in the heart.

It can be unveiled in the snow. Crystalline water sparkling like diamonds.

It’s exhibited in the cedars.  Their healing ever-green luminescence.  Their balsamic, terpenic perfume.

It’s manifest with the birds.  Cardinals, Indigo Buntings, Chickadees, and Finches, even in their winter cloaks, radiate brilliant color and warmth.  They hang in the branches like dazzling ornaments on a Christmas Tree.

It’s uncovered when a doe emerges from her winter bed with her fawns.  Shy and diminutive, alluring brown eyes, graceful as they glide over the snow-covered terrain.

Even the cold, biting wind on these days has balmy stories to tell.  If we listen.  It whispers the legends of wolves on the hunt, devouring their prey to feed the fire burning in their bones.   It speaks of the silent flight of the Owl through the forest.  Their yellow eyes of the night, penetrating the hidden aspects of the soul.  Their tufted ears, hearing with clairvoyance.  They see and hear all.  You cannot hide.

The gray is really a dreamscape.  A blank canvass upon which our minds may paint surrealistic animations.  Silhouettes of structures.  Wild beasts and sensuous lovers.  Warm glows emanating from woodstoves and candle light.  Reflections as old as time.

This artistry, this imagery, burns brightly in our consciousness.  A fire in our hearts that can never be extinguished.  We are the keepers of this eternal flame.

As Thoreau observed:

“There is a slumbering subterranean fire in nature which never goes out, and which no cold can chill…. This subterranean fire has its altar in each [person’s] breast, for in the coldest day, and on the bleakest hill, the traveler cherishes a warmer fire within the folds of [their] cloak than is kindled on any hearth. A healthy [person], indeed, is the complement of the seasons, and in winter, summer is in [their] heart.”

Yes, why would someone roust themselves from their slumbers on such a bleak, gray day?  To write about it, of course . . .

***

Photo:  I caught this scene early one December morning.  The humidity and cold created “ice fog.”  This fog lifts, having painted the trees with a coating of ice.  The ice lasted about fifteen minutes before the air had become warm enough to melt it.  The world of images, ever transient.

** If you are wondering about the bracketed words in the quote, I replaced all of the male oriented pronouns with gender neutral ones.  The writers of old, while quite eloquent, often wrote as though women didn’t exist.  I don’t particularly care for that.