Montana Wolf

Friday, November 14, 2014

Solo Power

The sun had not yet surrendered to winter gray in the Pacific Northwest; she rose into an azure sky through a frigid blanket of air named the polar vortex. I donned long underwear and loaded the kayak, despite friends' pleadings not to hit the water alone. I understood their concerns, but going solo brought me closest to spirit. Me, my camera and binoculars, no chatter, free to follow instinct. Besides, I was never alone. The drive into the Cascade Mountains was soul balm; fifty elk lazed in a meadow, their frosty breath puffs sparkling through the sun.

I arrived the wooded shore of a small lake on the flank of Mt. Baker. As was usual for a nippy, shoulder-season day, no other humans were around. The weather showed her raucous side as gusts kicked up whitecaps. I reckoned the high altitude windchill to be around 25-degrees. Yes, I assured myself, I would put in. Yes, I would head into the wind to the east end of the lake. For a strength-building, elbow re-hab workout, but mostly because that's the end of the lake that called to me.

I wore one glove, freeing the other to press my camera shutter. Gusts stopped me still, despite digging hard into the water to paddle. Then the wind momentarily died. I raised the binoculars and confirmed that the three distant white objects were not pelicans swept far afield by the approaching storm. They were Trumpeter Swans. Accustomed to their sedate behavior on winter valley feeding grounds near home, I'd never seen them on a high altitude lake. Here, they took on mythical proportions. The wind cranked up and blew me backwards. I paddled between gusts to stay in place, shooting shot after blurry shot.

I had halved the distance between us when the sun suddenly spotlighted their pearly plumage against shadowed trees. They floated, cloud-like on the water of their protected little inlet. Three graces, I whispered, come to dispense Caritas (Latin) or Charis (Greek).  Writers and poets throughout the world had referred to the Three Graces as the emanation of the Goddess: Aglaia, Brilliant; Thalia, Flower Bringer; Euphrosyne, Heart's Joy. This, the power of solo. That space to give the invisible an opportunity to materialize.

They were, on this blustery day, what my soul beckoned. -- the grace defined since pre- Christian times as "beauty, kindness, mother-love, tenderness, sensual delight, compassion and care." I gained access to their still inlet in time to see them lift into the sky. I sat in their wake as their wingbeat blessing rode the wind.

Calm Between Gusts

The Graces circled three times and disappeared onto the opposite end of the lake. I leaned back into the kayak seat, breathing the pocket of repose. Cattails rustled. Stunning Hooded Mergansers dodged and dove.  Mystery and mythology merged; all hearts beat as one.

Alas, the mountain spine readied to devour the waning sun. Shadows nudged as the short day pushed me towards riled waters. I stroked towards home, a paddle-pushing wind at my back.


  1. Just lovely, beginning to end. Really like that last photo. High art.
    Nancy Rose

  2. Replies
    1. Yes. We are so blessed. Thanks for reading.

    2. Thanks for sharing those graces with us Christina. Traveling solo is not being alone (as you and I both know and appreciate). What a wonderful day that had to have been.