Tag Archives: Transitions

Yosemite – A Different Kind of Healing

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

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

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

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 12

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

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

The Standing People.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A corridor to another space and time.

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

The “Valley.”  Yosemite in all its grandeur. 

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

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

Synesthesia.

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

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

And all while standing still.  In silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True words seem paradoxical.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 78

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

Present in Awareness.

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

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

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

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

Nevada Falls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olmsted Point,

Tenaya Lake,

and Tuolumne Meadows. 

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

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

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

The views on the hike up were amazing.

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

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

We can never reclaim the time that’s passed.

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

Summit Meadow

Bridal Veil Falls

The Merced River from the Swinging Bridge

Reflections from a Bridge Over the Merced

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

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

-Lao Tzu Chapter 43

In Metta

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

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

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

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

Rabbit Holes:

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

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

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

Moving On – The Medicine of the Deer

Moving On – The Medicine of the Deer by Harold Stearley

I was unlacing my boots at the end of a long day.  As I zig-zagged the laces in reverse to free them from their hooks down towards my ankles, I could feel the heat escaping, the pressure lifting. 

Loosening the remaining half of the laces that extended through the half dozen grommets to the boot’s toe, I then lifted them, one at a time, off my feet and let them drop to the floor with an oh-so familiar thud. 

My right ankle throbbed. 

Ten hours on the road wasn’t that bad because I love being in motion, but I was in Bear country now.  Absolutely everything had to be emptied out of my car and carried to my room.  And I had packed for four months.  More than I needed on a daily basis, but I was prepared.  As were the Bears.

Bears are smart. 

They’ll tear up a car trying to get to a cooler, even if it’s empty.  Nothing that emits an odor can be left behind.  Leave a tube of sunscreen in the glove compartment and you’ll awaken to one ugly mess of an automobile.

Continue reading Moving On – The Medicine of the Deer

Reconfiguring My Blog . . . And My Reality?

Reconfiguring My Blog . . . And My Reality?

By Harold Stearley at Earthwalking

So, I took a short break from writing after my most recent experience in having my words ripped off.  That sounds funny, almost literal, as though the page I had written upon had been torn from my journal and pasted into another’s.  I suppose that’s as literal a vision as it gets here in this digital world.  One of mysterious computer languages.  Encrypted hieroglyphics.  Translated.  Captured.

And Manipulated.

As of the day of this writing, I had actually begun working on another travel story but my mind was pulled in multiple different directions. 

Continue reading Reconfiguring My Blog . . . And My Reality?

Shuffling the Deck

By Harold Stearley at https://earthwalkingworld.wordpress.com

It is time to change the layout a bit. 

I can rotate the stories I “post” to the top of my page with “post-it notes.”  And from time to time, I feel like it is time to change it up a bit.  Give the cover a different look so to speak.

This time around, I picked stories or poetry of mine that had the highest number of likes.  This is biased because some of my oldest stories really weren’t given much exposure because I didn’t have as many followers at the time they were posted.  Also, giving certain posts more exposure now at the top of the page necessarily fuels the bias.

Nevertheless, this is always fun.  I’ve noticed that readers seem to enjoy the posts that are really expressive, raw, full of emotion, personal, maybe even heart-wrenching, or conversely inspiring.  That makes sense because people have the desire to feel. 

They want to be touched.

I’ll be back with some new posts here pretty soon, but in the meantime, if you haven’t seen these six before, have a look. 😊

In Metta

Photos: These pics are from a dome-roofed structure on the grounds of the Atlantis Hotel in the Bahamas. I was not staying there as a guest. I was merely touring the place. They have no relation to this post at all, except maybe in the context of seeing new things, and being fun 🙂

“Match your Nature with Nature”

I love this quote. Of course, I love talking about “Heartbeats” and about “Nature.” Our Heartbeats might be our internal representation of our Universal Clock. They keep us in tune with the Magic of Life.

They should never be wasted.

“There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying.” ― Sarah Dessen

An amazing insight from Ms. Dessen. Ponder that one for a bit and comment if it resonates with you.

***

Well, with yesterday’s post, I hit the 300 mark. That’s really not a true milestone because I’ve already passed it by over a hundred posts that I’ve already taken down, but I kind of like the sound of it. It’s a nice even number, and the odd number 3, the sum of those digits, represents creativity, birth and the mystical. And WP certainly provides us all a great forum to express that magical creativity. Creating images with words. Pouring feelings on to the pages.

Synchronizing Heartbeats.

Now I mention this because I’d like to take a moment to thank the blogging community here on WP. I’ve been absent for most of this past summer, yet you guys still stuck around, came back to read my latest posts.

And I’m grateful for that.

When you read one of my posts, you are spending your time, your Heartbeats, your most valuable possession, to share thoughts with me.

That is a tremendous gift!

At the moment, I am working on the next chapter of Ongtupqa, and I hope to post it soon. In the mean time, I’ve gone back and updated a couple of my posts by adding video clips.

I added one about the Chiricahua Mountains to the post “The Miracle Half Mile.” And I added one to Returning to the Spirits: Ongtupqa – The Mu*, showing a little more about our River rafting experience.

If you have a few Heartbeats to spare scroll down to the bottom of those posts and you’ll find the links. I think you’ll enjoy the beauty in those clips.

You can match your Nature with Nature.

In Metta

Contrasts – Isahluko 6 – Southwest versus Midwest

I had spent about five months in the Southwest, and I was beginning a roundabout meandering back to the Midwest.  A few years ago, I might have called the Midwest my stomping ground, roost, flop, backyard, or some sort of other euphemism for being settled, but now I don’t really call anywhere “home.”

That’s too big of a word.  It carries too much connotation with it.  As a dear friend put it, home has a “heart connection.” 

After being in motion for so long things become a bit disorienting, but I think that’s a good thing.  Always striving for balance and always approaching each day as if facing a totally new horizon.  You usually are.

I had been staying in a little oasis.  Multiple biomes, where desert meets water and where mountains touch the sky.  Wildlife was diverse and abundant.  Trails unending.  Floating on soft ground.  Even rocky trails seem to give way and bend with your footsteps.  Meditative dreaming.

I made a turn west and found an incredible extreme in Yuma.  Desolate.  Sand baked to concrete in 108-degree temps.  Wind farms, sun farms, RV parks, hellacious cross winds, no visible wildlife.  In stark contrast, there was deep blue water, but it was running in cement canals siphoning from the Colorado river.  All to be used for local agriculture or industry.  No longer feeding the Earth.  No longer reaching the Sea.

I continued on for a brief visit to the ocean, the absolute opposite of Yuma, and turned right this time heading back towards the center of the country.  With a slight divergence north, I was now in 40 to 60-degree temps, picturesque mountains, spring-fed streams, towering vegetation, wildlife on steroids.  Simply amazing.

Mid-world again, I find myself on an asphalt trail.  No longer the soft earth.  No longer the coating of dust on my boots.  It’s an old section of railway.  The lines defunct, the tracks were torn up and they were paved over.  There are many paths like this here and they’re all named after the railroad that used to glide down the missing rails.  The Great Western Trail, Blue River Rail Trail, Katy Trail, Rock Island Trail.  The list goes on.

They’re hard on the feet, ankles and knees, but they can wind through some beautiful countryside and trace serpentine waterways.  But they’ll also be close to civilization.

One of the first contrasts I notice upon being back is the humidity.  I had been in the high desert, north and south – clean, crisp air – warm in the south, cool in the north.  The barren desert, with no trace of moisture.  And the coastal region, where gentle sea breezes moderate the air.  Here the humidity is so thick you could cut it with a machete.  I struggle to breathe, feeling a heavy weight on my chest. 

The high desert was full of wildlife, but it largely moved in silence.  Here the air is abuzz with birds and insects.  A constant hum, chirp or chattering.  Even the squirrels have something to say – clicking and barking.  Warding you off.  An angry wren gives its warning call when I get too close to its nest. 

The vegetation is radically different.  While both parts of the country share oaks, willows and sycamores, the varieties here are much larger.  Leaves can be ten times the size of those in the southwest.  So much more rainfall here to feed their roots, nourish their trunks, spread to their leaves.  They grow 65 to 85 feet tall, not 20 to 30.  A full-grown oak here can put 200 gallons of water into the air each day.  Respiration.  Humidification.  To come down as rain again later when icy winds in the upper atmosphere collide.

Plus, there are also hickories, elms, maples, sumac, sweet gums, catalpas, walnuts, cherries, plumbs, olives, locust, hedgewood, redbuds, dogwoods, and buckeyes.  Too many to name them all.  Most are second and third generation, or younger, this area having been clear-cut by the pioneers.  But a few first generation trees still remain.  Older than your grandparents and with trunks so huge it takes four or five people holding hands to reach around their circumference.

The stream beds here aren’t pristine like those I saw out west.  They’re totally polluted.  Agricultural runoff from crops and feedlots.  Toxic algae blooms.  Industrial waste.  Discarded trash.  Plastic bags.  These waters haven’t experienced respect in a long time. Fish still survive in them, but I wouldn’t eat them.

And there is a different kind of people here too.  In the high desert I encountered fellow hikers. Luminous glows.  Shining eyes.  Happy to be in nature.  Thrilled to say hello.  Knowing you were sharing the experience.

Here there are few enjoying nature.  A couple walks their dog, but turn away as you pass.  The homeless.  Looking for a place to wait out the day, and for another to stay warm at night.  Drinking two forty-ounce beers for breakfast.

Yes, there is still staggering beauty here, but also some depression.  Weight. 

It seems harder to settle in each time I come back. 

But along comes a familiar face.  A beam of light.  I wrote about this person before.  Maybe I’ll encounter more of the radiant.

There is hope . . .

***

Photo: Along the trail that skirts both countryside and city.  With pretty streams, but of polluted waters.  Through towering trees, but on an asphalt ribbon.  Many contrasts . . .

I wrote about this town in Echoes of Home.  And I hope this piece doesn’t sound overly depressive.  After you’ve experienced other amazing places it is an adjustment to return to what you’ve become accustomed to seeing as being mundane.  But persons visiting this area for the first time will probably be amazed at the unique beauty and history here 🙂

Prior Chapters of Contrasts:

Contrasts – Kapitel 1

Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

Contrasts – Chapitre 4 – Two Museums

Contrasts– 第5章 – Wild Spaces