Montana Wolf

Thursday, February 2, 2017

This is no normal Imbolc!

Down come the holiday cards taped to the kitchen cabinets. Down come the colored lights I gingerly wrapped around the mesquite tree in the yard at winter solstice. Bright red green and blue to ward off the winter doldrums. Granted, the doldrums don't take a hold in Arizona like they do further north, but one should not underestimate the biological and spiritual downturns inherent in January's long nights. Especially if one resists sleeping more.

Welcome Imbolc! St. Brigid's Day. Candlemas to some. Ground Hog's day to others. I cherish the cross-quarter holy days for their markers. Imbolc, half way between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, kicks off February (Februare: to purify) with Brigid, triple Goddess of flame, at the helm. Heat returns with the sun's journey north. Teak throws her coat leaving drifts of brown hair against the bed. I shed clothes in favor of radiant warmth on my skin.

Imbolc's caress is everywhere. Patches of green erupt outside my door; birdsong increases in volume and breadth. Energy explodes in the urge to mate. The birds at the nearby Cienega couple and call. Deer in rut lose their instinct for self-preservation while females' arch their bodies effortlessly over fences. I even spied a bobcat wiggling her little tail.

Tis the time to pay homage to earth's awakening. Light a fire to welcome back the sun from winter's southern house. Longer days warm the earth. The metaphor is melt: loosening, the beginning of flow. Contemplate what thaws; ask what remains frozen. The wheel turns; the spiral unfolds into the ephemeral.

Let there be no mistaking, however, this is no normal Imbolc. These are gut-wrenching times as we experience Mother Earth under assault. What thaws, for me, is the resolve to act on behalf of our planet home, justice for all and the wild; my daily reach to sisters and brothers in solidarity; the countless phone calls to Senators; the marches. My solitary life has shifted, making holy days like Imbolc more pertinent than ever. The seasons and wildscapes nurture my spirit; help me to maintain balance.

While tonight's fire will welcome the sun's return I will remind myself that I am not alone. The fires of resistance burn bright. Hell'YA.

Great-horned Owl 


Wild Road Home, my latest book, is finished! 
Watch for a release date this spring.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Taste of WILD ROAD HOME, coming soon, spring release!

Sharkstooth Peak 

Six days until my Alaska departure. Thus far I had scribbled my name across divorce papers, cashed CDs and traded my lavender Toyota truck for a trailer-towing V-8 Ford. Beauty for brawn. Packing boxes choked off my mountain view as I checked Verizon coverage in remote places. I roused, stepped onto the balcony and gazed at distant Sharkstooth Peak. Enough already! I hopped around a cardboard box, grabbed my pack and headed one last time into the Colorado high country.
The air was eerily warm for early June. Up, up I climbed, through the virginal green of newly-leafed aspen; across rushing streams of snowmelt and mountain meadows lush with marsh marigold.  Then just like that, tree line ended and I emerged into barren expanse. Exposed. The air thinned as exhilaration took hold. Ah yes, there it was again, that invincible woman-alive feeling, the connection with infinite possibility. I stared up at the twelve thousand foot saddle and caught my breath. Two-hundred feet to go – almost there – the trail disappeared under snow. I treaded gingerly across the sun-softened drifts, ten steps from solid ground when I sank through to my crotch. Mountains were ripe with metaphor. I struggled free with my hiking stick and trudged on up the steep slope.
I set my soggy self below Sharkstooth's craggy point; beheld familiar peaks south to New Mexico and west to my beloved Sangre de Cristos. I opened my water bottle, gave the first drink to the mountain and took a swig. Then I stood, feet apart, arms upraised and faced northwest, to Alaska and the nameless future before me. Praise be, I uttered, here I come.
Quests have no itinerary. I didn’t know if my tracks heading north would be there to follow when I returned south. Perhaps, like this day, they would melt into the earth, diminutive amidst nature's grandeur. Of this I was certain: a quest was little about reaching the door and everything about walking through the doorway. Stripped of the roles and rituals born of habit and protection, one traveled naked as a newborn. Light and darkness shaped the shadows, illuminating the way, one holy, hell-bent moment at a time.

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


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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.

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.

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
elbows into dirt
my feet hit ground
full body flat and free
forceps spurned.

Drink drink.

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
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
breathe the emerald desert
below the slit of I'Itoi
migrants all.

Ever-present Baboquivari