Montana Wolf

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Going Coastal: Shake Down at Sea



My arrival at Yaquina Outstanding Natural Area was not planned. It was a last minute acceptance as a seasonal Interpretive Park Ranger, following an interview that confirmed I could go up and down 114-lighthouse spiral steps several times a day and walk on seaweed-slick tide pool rocks. Yes, I assured the interviewers, I could explain Yaquina (ya-quin-uh) to the public -- I'd written about the wild and told her stories for years. Silly me: I wasn't aware that the field of interpretation had a body of literature and a national certification. My first two weeks in June were comprised of classes to acquire that certification and glean the natural history of Oregon's rocky shores. It was a straight-up learning curve. Of all my staff and college intern cohorts, I was the one without a degree that related to biology or oceanography. My inner-mountain west naturalist years had met their limits.There wasn't much rabbitbrush on the beach.

Yaquina Head, outside of Newport, stretches a mile into the Pacific. The basalt, rough lava headland was cooled and worn by weather and tides for eons. Rock clifftops were now spring breeding locales for thousands of penguin-like Common Murres. The headland's shallow coves were feeding grounds for summer resident Gray Whales; the steep cliffs were claimed by breeding Peregrine Falcons, fastest animal on earth. Their three chicks grew and fledged before my eyes. I had landed in one of the most captivating places on the planet, with a position defined by the changing tides and the ferocious beauty of the Pacific.

Common Murres




Peregrine Chicks


Teak, Hobo and I made Yaquina bay our home. Six miles south of the headland, it was a serene balance to the raucous energy of the open sea. I walked Teak every morning along the bay. She chased balls as I completed my stretch routine, readying body and spirit for the day's work ahead. Some days I stared at mud flats, other days the high tide swelled up to the steep banks. No matter the tide, however, I was in company with a Great Blue Heron who, well, took me under her wing.



It was as if she sensed I needed her. My job demanded every ounce of physical and creative energy I could garner as work on my book came to a halt. I hadn't talked so much in years; it was like an all-day book event over and over. I'd long considered the Great Blue the symbol of patience and perseverance as I watched them stand determined and still as death staring at the water, waiting for a fish to dart within reach. I greeted Heron every morning. I didn't think a whole lot about it until the morning she appeared in front of me, through the mist, on the trail. In all of my observant years, I'd not seen a heron do this.

Not too long after she perched on a dilapidated fishing dock. My stretches finished, I walked to
within ten feet of her and said good morning. She looked at me and proceeded to stretch her three-foot wing straight out, followed by her long spindly leg. Then she did it again. She had observed me stretching for weeks and now she mimicked me. Her communication brought me to tears: patience and perseverance would see me through. I took heart.

The summer flew by. I thrilled to watch the Peregrine dive at 240-mph. I tucked my chin and walked into driving wind and rain to reach tide pools that brimmed with colorful anemones, urchins, chitons and the occasional octopus. I excitedly pointed out visitors' first whale sightings, answered their questions, and spoke with passion of the Gray Whale mother and calf I observed in the Baja birthing lagoon years ago. And six to nine times a week I led a forty-minute historic tour to take visitors to the top of the tallest lighthouse in Oregon. "My" lighthouse: a working masterpiece.




Autumn equinox looms. The murres have migrated to the ocean, their giant rocks eerily empty and quiet. The swirling, diving whales will soon migrate south, as will I. Hitch itch has set in. It's time to unfurl the road map of initiations, a karmic tangle of purpose and desire. This place of changing tides has had her way with me. It will be awhile before I can set the rhythm to words. I will give muse all the patience and perseverance she needs, with a wink to my long-legged friend.

Nursing Harbor Seal


Gray Whale and Cormorants








________________________________

Thanks for subscribing! Follow daily updates and photos on Facebook.








Monday, April 18, 2016

Bobcat Medicine, Excerpt from WILD ROAD HOME, the next book


I was grinding the morning coffee beans when movement caught my eye. About thirty yards outside the sliding door, across the little river, was a bobcat. She sniffed grasses and alder thickets in no obvious hurry. I glassed her striped body. She was small with sharp edges. She proceeded to the mineral block, looked at me for a few seconds and disappeared into the brush. I hadn't asked for a sign, but had just received one. 
For the next few hours I delved into Lynx Rufus. Cat energy had long permeated my soul. I was a Tiger by the Chinese calendar. I’d had several potent encounters with mountain lions and a jaguar had named me. With this sighting I moved from big cats to small, from thick, mighty tails to minute bobs. 
Bobcats were solitary prowlers of the dawn and dusk, immersed in a silent, secretive world, like crepuscular me. They prowled through river bottoms; I prowled, pen in hand, through thickets of imagination. Bobcats were stealth hunters with keen senses. They had an uncanny ability to blend in and survive their environment. They averaged two to four feet long (including the tail), fifteen inches tall and twenty five pounds. The bobcat was my competition when it came to spotting a snowshoe hare. The white wonders were the bob’s preferred diet. Thus far I’d seen many tracks but not the hare. I longed to spot one again. To catch those pointed ears with my camera. 

The bobcat was often associated with wind in mythology and paired with coyote. Coyote as chaos, bobcat as order. My friend across the river was also considered the cosmological protector of Venus, the evening star and Goddess of love, which happened to be my astrological ruling planet. In my ancestors' Norse mythology, bobcat was associated with Freya, Goddess of love, beauty and destiny, who rode a chariot pulled by two cats (to whom Hobo, of course, claimed to be a direct descendant).
They range far and wide




A bobcat traveled up to seven miles a day and had a range of one hundred square miles. I would be lucky to see her again, as I reviewed the qualities she symbolized: stealth, power, camouflage and clairaudience – hearing sounds and voices not audible to most. Lynx Rufus. Lynx, from the word for light. So named for gleaming eyes; the ability to see in the dark, traits I could sorely use at this point.


Prime time for Bobcat


-- excerpt from WILD ROAD HOME, next book in the "Courage to Quest" series. Thanks for reading!!



Thursday, March 31, 2016

Journey of a Thousand Steps: Baboquivari's Cave of Emergence





Baboquivari at First Light



Baboquivari and I'itoi's Cave Cliff Face
     
The swoop of owl
silent wings through headlights at dawn          
foretold the power of I'itoi's Cave
where the Tohono O'odham People emerged
into this world on
Baboquivari's flank.
Her wake of wing beats
swept the ole truck
down the sharp stone two track
a desert oak campground
and a bathroom shaman
who emerged from the open-doored stall
a fist-sized flat circle of
woven grass hung from her neck
spirit stop sign
I forgot to pee
smiled and said
it's beauty-full
Her ankle length indigo velvet skirt
held sway
Her wizened face smiled
My People's maze she said
See here she pointed our spirit protector
a turtle. 

Double tie hiking boots.
Strap on the fanny pack.
Drink water. Drink.


Ascent
How many turtles have crossed the trail to I'itoi's cave?    
Step step
up a cactus-studded cliff face
one thousand feet steep
serrated thorn trail
thick climbing rocks
all the hiking stick way.

Drink water. Drink.
Take a deep breath.
Thank you breeze.

Pilgrimage
an act of faith
to an invisible cave
my calves rebel
breath puffs
the trail levels out
none too soon
upon a high ledge
Carole at Entrance
royal blue kerchief tied to a branch
sways in the wind
behold! before me
a slight slit through rock
plump boulders
passage into ebony.
On any given day I would have passed them by.

Drink drink.
I have arrived.

Slither and twist.
Push the body into the mountain womb.
I drop into darkness
two feet ker-plop
into a chamber and wait for eyes to see
braids of sweet grass, charcoal, rows of hiking sticks, feathers and bundles, beads, shoes, photos, a 20'x30' stand-tall womb
a gestation of hope
and daring dreams.


I squat, pray and offer my gift      
turn toward sunlight
to birth head first
a belly down squirm
momentary panic
rock hand hold
I pull forward
emerge
elbows into dirt
my feet hit ground
full body flat and free
forceps spurned.

Drink drink.

Descent
step by concentrated step  
down ball-bearing rock
reality askew
dimensions pool
behind my eyes
I am not the same woman
but know not how
in a daze
through teary haze
'round the shaman's maze
of blowing spirit dust.

Drink drink. Blink.

This will take time.    
I free scrunched toes
from the tip of my boot
walk the base of a rock uplift
spine outcrop worthy of
petroglyphs
pictographs
lemon palo verde blooms
don't-dare-swat killer bees
a man's sweet smile
a sister's hug.

Day's end nears.
A wind-ruffed Crested Cara Cara
stands one legged
apex watch
on a lofty old sahuaro
short flight from her Mexican home
we
breathe the emerald desert
below the slit of I'Itoi
migrants all.












Ever-present Baboquivari 
.









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.