Montana Wolf

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Hooked on a Hook

The sun was sinking as Teak, Hobo and I turned up a small wash. Within a few minutes our sandy path grew increasingly rocky and narrowed. Hobo, forever cautious, was beginning to doubt the brushy choice. I pushed on; I relished the challenge after hours at the computer. When I finally stopped and looked back, Teak and Hobo were ten yards behind, waiting for me to turn around. Time to give in. I pivoted. A piece of metal caught sun's final rays. A horseshoe? I reached and pulled a smooth, weather-hewn hook from the sand. It was old. Despite it's original hookn' yank  purpose, it possessed a soft, sculptured energy.

I almost tossed the rusted hook down, but I couldn't let go. I carried it home, all the while wondering about the riddle. A hook. Did it signify a hook for a story. No. Was it about hooking something in my life? Had I hooked something I shouldn't have? No and no. Pulleys. Rough'n tug. I mined the metaphors but nothing resonated. I put the hook aside and carried on.

I wasn't, however, the only one who wondered what it was about.

I'd forgotten about the hook when, a few days later, I picked up the phone. It had been over a month since I'd spoken to Jacqueline. We caught up over the next hour, covering subjects near and dear to our hearts. Our phone reunion was coming to a close when the subject turned to our tendency to overwork ourselves. For me, my nose-to-the-grindstone writing pace, most evident when I was finishing a book, which I was. We need to let up, I said, be more gracious with ourselves.

Yes, she replied, we need to play more hooky! 

That's IT! I screamed with delight; laughed as I related the tale of the hook.

Another burst of synchronicity hit the bullseye. I've since made out the worn word Durbin on the hook. It's an old manufacturing company. I doubt anyone associated with the company had a clue it would end up as a symbol for putting toil aside and kicking up my heels. It's now on my altar.

I'm taking hooky to heart.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Imbolc - Spring Towards Light

Good day and welcome back ... to all of us! You'll notice a new title to this blog, a start to several changes, as I consolidate the past few years of travel. WildWise came to me as I was writing my latest book, The Wild Road Home. It represents a body of information that stems from the wisdom I have gained through decades of retreat and spiritual practice, including ritual with Native medicine people, Buddhist mentors, including Thich Nhat Hanh, and o-so-many wise women, including Starhawk and the Sisters that inhabit my daily world. One's evolution, however, is multi-faceted. Wisdom gleaned could not have been possible without the courage to quest ... my push to leave the security of traditional roles behind and head into the unknown to witness, write and photograph. Whether years of cabin solitude at the edge of wilderness, solo travel to Guatemala Mayan land and a jaguar initiation, or over a decade full time on the road from Alaska to the tip of the Baja, ultimately, it was the wild lands, feral beings and fauna -- including very influential trees -- that delivered me home. It's good to be together again.

Imbolc. Why should you care? The olden holy days, of which Imbolc is one, are relevant because they relate to the natural cycles that live within our bodies. There are eight points on the wheel of the the cyclical calendar, four you probably know: Winter Solstice (December), Summer Solstice (June), Fall Equinox (September) and Spring Equinox (March). The mid-points in between these major days are less known, or known as something different from the original intentions: Imbolc (Groundhog's Day), Beltane (May Day), Lammas (county fairs), Samhain (Halloween). These eight seasonal points were acknowledged around the world for eons. They reflected survival of the human species through seasonal adaptations, fertility of body and field, and spiritual exchange.

Imbolc has everything to do with light, the point when we actually feel sun's heat against our flesh, the largest organ in the body. An old gaelic word, it is derived from i mbolg, "in the belly." Metaphorically, the light returns to our womb, the place where new birth dwells. What germinates within? What creations seep from winter's dark gestation?

The Celts celebrated Imbolc as the Feast Day of Brighid, the goddess of poets, healers, smiths and midwives. A strip of cloth or ribbon was hung on the door or upon a tree to receive Brighid's healing and protective powers. Imbolc was also known as Candlemas. Candles and fires were lit to coax and welcome the sun. Candles were made from bees wax. Bees wax was a source of light as well as a preservative, essential to humans. Thus, the holiness of bees.

My Imbolc rituals include burning my solstice tree. I like the double significance of burning a hearty ever-green symbol - goodbye winter! - and beckoning the sun. I also burn yellow candles. I acknowledge that stronger light hits my retina and changes the brain chemistry, opening pathways to creativity. I drink from a special glass adorned with three-dimensional bees. I take down the colored lights of winter that buoyed my soul through winter's deep darkness.

Punxsutawney Phil may or may not crawl out of his hole and see his shadow. It matters not. I will drum with friends and bid winter's deep dark goodbye. Give thanks; feel the infinite potential of dreams. Hallelujah! Days lengthen, shadows shorten. New bird songs fill the air.

Step into the flow. Bee real.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Courage to Quest

Not out of the wet woods yet!
Ready to Roll
Yes, it's been a loooong time since I've penned this page. Thanks for showing up. I'm in S. Arizona now. I departed Washington on 9/15. The odometer on the '99 Ford Pickup rolled over 150,000 miles as I departed Sedro-Woolley. You remember Sedro, the place I had intended to stay for three months and stayed just short of two years. The Skagit River wouldn't let go. I trusted the extension and even the broken elbow. It allowed me magical kayaks that culminated in a final exploration down the mighty River with friends and neighbors, dancing with community at the Old Edison Inn, and a final run at the next book. My departure was a leap of faith. I had no destination. I knew, however, I did not want one more gray damp PNW winter to envelop my body. I was dead set on being in the Southwest aspen forests in the autumn.

Shortly before departure I received word from Focus on Women Magazine that Drive Me Wild was finalist for the La Femme de Prose Books Quill Award. The awards gala was in Baltimore mid-October. Could I make it? I doubted it. I was in the homestretch of the next book, hoping for a fall book release in Taos. It would be a major diversion of time and money to go to Baltimore, but I didn't rule it out. Then I received word I had to move my 5X8 space of boxes from a friend's shed. I was Cortez, Colorado-bound, with stressful decisions ahead. Baltimore seemed a lifetime away. 

It was fabulous to be on the road again. Teak and Hobo took up the traveling rhythm with panache. Hobo waited patiently for the final day's stop when he could jump out of Perla and explore. He'd jump back inside in the morning, to travel to the next spontaneous stop. We dry camped the first night in Eugene to see Hope. Traveled east through Bend, across the Great Basin for a boondock of unbelievable beauty. We continued north to McCall, ID to see Ed Kral, a writer-friend. Then south to Twin Falls to see my ole RV buddy, Phyllis. Fate threw a new brake job into the mix before the momentous turn south into Colorado. I chose the slower mountain route through Orvis Hot Springs to meet Jacqueline from Boulder. The aspen were at peak as I crept through the neon yellow Rockies. I was ecstatic.

Across the Great Basin

Aspen in the LaPlata's - Mt. Herperus

I pulled into Mancos to park at Danielle and Tom's, gracious fun hosts. Fun to be around teenage boys again, learning the lingo, like "Netflix and chill." (Friends with benefits is so passe'.)

That blood moon eclipse shook the energy loose as friends offered spaces for my things. An heirloom sold to a member of the family who was willing to drive from Iowa to pick it up (bless you Tami and John). I was beginning to think Baltimore was in reach when Shanon, a friend in Prescott, offered a place to park and loving care for Teak and Hobo while I flew out of Phoenix. A friend of a friend offered me a place to stay at her AirB&B in Towson, Maryland. The universe conspired. I didn't dare say no. 

In the background of this movement was the new book, The Wild Road Home. I had put it aside in Washington and taken to the road. My critic was having a heydey. You need to get it done. You promised. You need the money. You're a slackard .... I told it to shut up. The name of the road was TRUST. Boarding pass in my Smart Phone, my die was cast as my savings dwindled. 

Aurhor's Night

The non-stop trip to Baltimore was a five hour meditation as I contemplated my invitation to be among a phenomenal group of women activists and writers from around the world. Linda Tucker, Founder of the Global White Lion Protection Trust in South Africa. Michele Rickett, founder of She is Safe, a global effort to rescue sexually exploited girls around the world. Consolee Nishimwe a survivor of the 1994 Tutsi Rwanda genocide. Joslyn Wolfe, the Publisher of Focus on Women Magazine. Bette Hoover, a radical Quaker who worked for peace across the globe and trauma victims in Nicaragua. And many many more women writing their stories from across the USA. Why me? I wondered. What was my contribution that spawned the invitation? 

I stepped out of the Baltimore airport to the curbside pick-up area. A handsome dude gave me a
w/ Joslyn Wolfe, Publisher
crash course in Uber. I should have asked if he wanted to share a car. My Uber driver was a man from Jamaica whose spirit and snow-white smile lifted the soul. I rode in front and we talked non-stop. He wrote poetry in his spare time. Worked at Comcast. Had a family. And he was working on a book of the most beautiful places in Jamaica for weddings. Forty-five minutes later he unloaded my suitcase as Jayne, the aerial dancer host in Towson, stepped from her door. We were sisters from the first glance. Her spirit tree loomed in the backyard, where she attached her apparatus and practiced her craft. Julia, my second host, loaned me some hiking shoes, led me into the deciduous woods and into the French Twist for succulent crab crepes and one of the best breves I've had. The Gala and book event was a two-night marvel. Joslyn did not call my name for a La Femme Quill Award. She called my name for something I didn't know existed: "The feminine energy espoused in Drive Me Wild: A Western Odyssey is surpassed by none. Christina Nealson brings us on an incredible journey to reach one conclusion: we must preserve, embrace the beauty and respect nature, the earth and all of its connectedness. For these reasons she has been chosen Focus on Women Magazine's AUTHOR OF THE YEAR." 

I carried the deeply humbling moment aboard the return flight to Arizona. The question, "Why me?" blinked neon red as the answer crystallized. I stood, I hoped, as an example for women and men to break free of the tethers that separated them from the quintessential germ of their souls. That they might feel their way beyond rationale - through faith and intuition - to their spirit home. For myself, to communicate the wildscapes vital to spirit and survival. For all of us, I hoped, I radiated the COURAGE TO QUEST. 
On the Edge of Canyon de Chelly

And with that revelation, the title of the next book changed.
There was a reason I didn't push the baby out in September.

I'm back to the book and planning a spring release. I pause in the Arizona sun, steeped in the warm reality that a quest, while a solitary soul venture, is never accomplished alone. The heart and generosity of loved ones throughout the years buoy me, sustain me and make every word I write, every step I take, every bird I identify, every snap of the shutter, possible. To YOU, my tears of thanks.

For the wild, Christina

Monday, May 18, 2015

How Hobo 'n Me Came to Be

I’d zipped along the British Columbia highway for a good hour before I pulled over to peruse old gravestones. I slowed the truck as a sharp squeal emanated from underneath. A kick at the tires and a walk-around garnered no clues. The next time I braked it happened again. Was it the bearings? Nervous, I decided to turn around, but not before I bit on a yard sale sign. I pulled in front and was walking towards the goodies when it happened again. I stopped dead in my tracks. Nope, not the truck. 

I scooted underneath the pickup on my back and there, huddled into a space on the frame of the truck, was a teensy golden kitten. Unbelievable survivor.  Hey Sweetie, I coaxed. I reached and she leapt. Took off running through the woods, stopped briefly at a stream where she lapped feverishly before she jumped in and swam away against the current. This was not just any cat.

I returned to the sale and paid Sandra for a rug. When I explained the kitten’s escape she said it wouldn't last the night in the critter-packed backwoods. Then I made a move that defied all common sense. I took out a business card and handed it to her. If she shows up again, please call me.

A cat, Christina?  Are you out of your mind? A seasoned author and photographer, I’d sold the house and been on the RV-road for seven years. Teak my Lab and I were doing just fine. But I’d also learned to pay attention and trust signs; this little scrambler was a huge bit of magic. 

I awoke with a dream of the kitten around midnight. My phone range at 7:00 a.m.

The kitten is here … showed up meowing beneath our bedroom window at midnight

I smiled and returned to the edge of the forest.

The long-haired hitchhiker was around four weeks old. She had made herself at home on the garage couch; cast me a what-took-you-so-long look as I picked her up and whoops! -- felt two little boy knobs beneath the tail. His eyes were matted with yellow gunk, his sinuses were congested, he sneezed and his marmalade coat was scruffy as heck. The last thing I needed in my adventure travel life was a feline. True that. Too late.

I named him Hobo. He joined the ranks of the undocumented when we crossed the Canadian border. Since then he has hitched the back roads of every western state with Teak and me, staring down deer and escaping coyotes. He draws a crowd and photobombs magazine covers; plops himself down in landscapes, lets loose with a gaze and nails your soul. With aplomb.

Hobo says this story balderdash. He had this all planned out. His Highness watched me from afar before he methodically climbed into that dark greasy spot underneath the truck and clung for dear life at seventy miles per hour. But that’s a tale for another day. 

Now ... let's get this show on the road ...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Death by Mouse

Road-ready La Perla is my definition of spring. While lilacs and new-born foals are ecstatic seconds, my bottom line is the open road. Roadtrip dreams that took a nightmare turn last week when I began to fill the freshwater tank. Water in, water out ... through the bottom of the rig. Niagara falls where it shouldn't be; the tank was empty within minutes. Online search prompted me to hope it was a joint or connection to the freshwater tank as opposed to a cracked tank. I hoped for an cheap fast fix when I dropped her off at the RV repair. Verdict: mice had chewed through the waterline. Not bad I thought: waterlines were cheap. Very bad, I found out. Getting to them --- lowering the water tank, disconnecting propane lines that crossed through the area, replacing lines and putting the tank back --- was four hours labor. It was going to cost $500 to fix what the little gray fkers did. $19 in parts. And there was more. The suspension system needed to be replaced. The wheels needed a bearing pack. The water pump had a slow leak. And the roof ...


It took a couple days for the greenback reality to sink in. La Perla needed several thousand dollars worth of attention. I couldn't go there so I allowed the work she needed to be roadworthy: all systems working and the trailer in safe towing condition. $1600.

Just do it.

When I picked her up I was shown the parts that were replaced. Truth was, I was dangerously close to a serious accident with worn bolts in the suspension. It was one thing to look at the shiny new ones affixed near the tires; quite another to hold the rusted worn ones in the hand. I was danged blessed. And I reckoned I had the mice to thank for it. I would not have taken La Perla into repair had it not been for the water tank. It's not a stretch to say the mice saved my life.

Okay. I take back the f-word. But I can't have a $500 waterline job every year and "Death by Mouse" is not a preferred epitaph. There's no Hobo option. It's pretty clear he was distracted by the multitude of outbuildings and woodpiles. Yesterday I picked up some botanical rodent repellent. It's called Fresh Cab. It's balsam fir oil, a botanical pesticide mixed with fragrance oil and plant fibers. It's from a company called Earthkind and has a money back guarantee. La Perla smells like a forest.

In the spirit of Plan B I bought a couple of mousetraps, just in case my mice take a liking to deep woods' fantasies. I'll wait to use the Victor traps. It wouldn't make sense to attract Speedy Gonzalez with cheese and peanut butter while trying to repel him. Sadistic I'm not.

Axles, roof, awning ... La Perla needs more attention up the road but I'm alive to do it. I hope Teak and Hobo like balsam. May The Wild Road Home be finished soon.