Skip to content

Posts from the ‘journey’ Category

Dragon’s Tooth: “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” HDT

 

The eagle’s aerie, a rock nest created by eons of wind and water, a bathing bowl for large birds, provided the perfect perch for meditating on the cragged mountaintop, Dragon’s Tooth.  This quartzite molar was not the actual tooth, which I could see from where I sat, but the aerie was flat enough, and spacious enough, to hold a human comfortably seated in a lotus position; thus, here I comfortably sat instead of balancing precariously on the jagged eye tooth of the dragon.  I planned to stay awhile

The view from the aerie looks out over the Appalachian Mountains, blue-green ridges running like long trains north to south or south to north, depending on your perspective

So much of life is about perspective, our singular vantage point from which we view the universe, dependent upon so many variables, person by person.  My perspective, the high wide-angle view felt definitely loftier, more hallowed, literally more insightful.  Good reasons for climbing, for spending three days and nights alone atop the tooth (and jaw) of the Dragon.  Me with my newly formed drum…seeking connections between earth’s offerings and its limitations, while exploring my limitless thoughts, in search of insight and a wider perspective: the whole reason I had climbed this mountain in mid-May.

On my way up, I passed several streams, healthy waters trickling, gathering, running down the valley cleft. The trail along Catawba Creek soon ascended higher, meandering away from the stream to follow a pine needle, leaf-littered path under a canopy of deciduous trees mingled with a community of conifers. 

Where the climb grew steeper, the mountain’s gently sloping hem gave way to crinkles of her ruffled skirt more steeply inclined. Because of recent rain, this section of the Appalachian Trail included slick stone slabs, narrow wet ledges, and even dripping iron rungs affixed to the rocks to aid with the ascent.  My forty pound pack weighed heavier on my back; determined still, I trudged up stone stairs, tripped over snaking roots, wiped the sweat from my forehead and neck.

A warning sign: CAUTION: the next mile of trail is rocky and steep.  Sheer cliff faces loomed ahead and I wondered if I wasn’t maybe just a little crazy to do this alone.  Rock edges provided a few inches of footing, toe holds, but I had to lean into the rock to keep my backpack, my weight, from shifting backwards.  If I didn’t, if I lost my balance, I was going over, way over.

Sweat ran in rivulets down my back. At one point on the trail, a white blaze arrow pointed straight up.  I took a deep breath, grabbed hold of an iron rung, and another, got beyond the rock face, squeezed between a pair of trees lining the path, too narrow to go forward with my pack, so sideways I inched through this challenging trail.  It was emotionally and physically exhausting, and I wanted to be done with it!

Reaching the top of the ridge did not put an end to the trek.  The trail Ts here… choose left or right.  

I had to fight the urge to de-pack then and there, but I knew if I let down my load, I might not ever heave it up, get it back on my back.  To reach the actual tooth, I turned on a side path winding around small and large boulders knowing that it would take me to an open flat area on the west side of the jaw.

Knowing the Dragon’s Tooth summit to be a popular destination for weekend hikers and campers, not to mention Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, I chose a Tuesday and planned to leave on Friday morning, hoping by chance or good fortune to spend all that time completely alone.  This woodland summit with its modicum of flat ground offered no shelter, no tables, no benches, no latrines.  Exactly what I wanted…as primitive a camping spot as you might find on the Appalachian Trail.  I quickly spread out the pack, set up my tent, and claimed as much space as possible in hopes of discouraging anyone else who might think to spend the night.  

By the way, if you’ve never done this before, you should know there is a guarantee that travels with solo camping:  You will be tested. You will face trials. 

My camp-making complete, I went to refill my water bottle before climbing into the aerie, but the gallon water jug was missing.  WhatHow could that be?!  Frantic, I rifled through all of my gear again.  Where could I have left it?  No way I would survive three days and nights on the mountain with just bread…well, of course I would live, but those days would not be one bit fun.  My mind raced backwards down the trail, retracing my hike… Please, please universe I prayed looking up at the sky.  Please tell me I do not have to hike back down to the car and back up here again…five miles more before I rest.  I thought I heard a laugh.  I had!  My own. The idea of hiking the round trip right now seemed so absurd I laughed, and laughed harder.

Disbelief danced with clarity.  I had two choices.  I could either abort my quest completely, pack up and head home, OR I could see this as the first test…was I true to my quest?  How hard was I willing to push myself?  The good news: I could make the roundtrip without 40 pounds on my back.  It would feel almost like flying.  Ha!  Five miles of mountainous trekking was still five miles; even so, I chose the challenge.  Down, down I went, back and forth, and around.

I tried to gauge the number of switchbacks remaining, but had to let that go because then came the verticals. I’ll spare you the pain.  The round trip was a lot quicker; still, my body ached by the end of my second summit.  I was spent.  I grabbed my loaf of bread and jug of water and took a seat on a boulder in the cleft, the narrow viewpoint in the outcropping between the incisor and the molar, eating my bread and drinking my water while my body recovered.  

When I felt rested and whole once again it was time to climb to the aerie.  Most hikers head left of the cleft and climb up the official Dragon’s Tooth.  But most hikers do not know about the molar, that not only is it accessible, but it also has a rock nest, the aerie, from which to view the world below.  That’s probably because reaching the aerie is neither for the incurious, nor the faint of heart.  

I carried my rosewood recorder in my smaller knapsack with my drum rigged by a strap on my pack. To warm her soft wood, I played scales a few times, then blew some wistful tunes…I was after all, alone, on a mountaintop…alone.  Soon a squadron of sharp-winged swifts swooped in keen-edged diagonals all around.  I chose to see this as a gift, this exhilarating aerial dance of precision, a heralding.

Altogether, I had spent six weeks of Saturdays with a master drum maker (see All things are connected) during which time I sanded strips of oak wood, stretched and soaked hides, drilled and bound wood to wood, plus other drum making duties for drum master, Gentle John.  But also for myself because, finally, after years of thinking about it, I had created a drum, a thing of beauty (from my perspective), sounding the deepest, purest notes, ringing with accomplishment.

Returning from the recollection to the rock, my senses felt finely attuned. I grew contemplative and sat in wonder taking in the view.  What was this affinity I felt for the Native American spirit?  What urged me toward self-imposed vision quests?  Why search for deeper earthly connections, for divine/universal conversation, for enlightenment?  What compelled me to seek the ineffable?

The summer before the most recent May, in the apple orchard on the outside perimeter of our campfire circle, I built with the help of friends a tee-pee made with twelve freshly cut bamboo poles (leaves still on the stalk) measuring 20 feet in length. Together we raised it into place. I never covered the frame, preferring the synchronous sense of shelter and open-air.  One night while camping inside, tucked into my sleeping bag, looking up at the stars, I knew in my heart, I even vowed, I would make my own drum to play inside my own, this very teepee.

Fast forward to my seat in the aerie with day’s light fading, tapping my drum, thoughts of my good fortune dancing swiftly about my head.  Lost in the rhythm and the dance, I drummed until twilight when it was time to leave.  I stood and bowed, asking for grace during my way back down to level ground. Grace was granted. Pleasantly exhausted, I took a pee then ducked into my tent, snuggled deep in my bag and quickly fell asleep.  That evening and the morning made the first day.   

“““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““

Wednesday was exploration time.  I hiked a few miles north along the ridge, stopping often to play a tune, to drum a rhythm, to sit as just another lump on a rock outcropping, no more, no less a part of this beautiful earth; to end the second night the same as the first – in the aerie, on top of the world.  To be one…to be none…….

Still, imperfection is always just around the corner.  Mine. Theirs. Those annoying voices, those southern accents scraping across my spine like metal grinding metal, or metal grinding teeth, like the dentist’s office.  It was now Thursday afternoon.  I sat in the aerie hearing voices rise from the trail below.  Sadly they, the three of them it sounded like, were headed this way.  Curses!

After spending more than two days blissed out on nature, I was shown a different reality…my prejudices.  I reluctantly observed one of many imperfections. Though I was supposed to be on the path…giving, accepting, practicing equanimity…sadly, now that I had opened to a wider perspective, I could no longer ignore the truth: I deemed anyone with a southern accent… dense, dumb, or dim-witted.  And because of that prejudice, that preconception, I hoped the humans belonging to those grating voices did not plan to spend the night.

I listened carefully, alertly, as the hikers rose higher, climbed closer.  I could tell by the tone of their voices they were young.  You can tell a lot about people if you listen, really listen to them (you will see the irony in this soon). I guessed the loud talking guys were somewhere between fifteen and twenty, as their twangy teenage voices rose to torment me.  Well maybe, I hoped, they had hiked just to sit on the Dragon for a bit, maybe not to spend the night.  For sure, I had been lucky to camp two days and nights by myself in an elevated state, a true gift.  But I had come to camp three days and three nights.  I did not want to leave, nor would I feel comfortable camping so far removed from civilization with three strange guys…three strange guys with those irritating accents.  No peace there.

Well, I would sit here in the best and highest seat on my rock outcropping; I would try to let go of my unworthy thoughts, my judgments. The true strength of my practice would be to meditate in spite of the disturbance below and behind me, to be thankful for the landscape before me, a view of incredible beauty, so sublime each siting caused a kinesthetic response.  And then, because of practice, the internal voice went into choir mode, Hummmm easily lent itself to Ommmmm.  While I followed my breath with my inner ear, my optical eye followed the rock wall outline of forests and fields once fallow, now bursting with green growth, a patchwork quilt of corn, alfalfa, and more.

Continuing to breathe in deeply, to feel my infinite connection, the voices behind me quieted to mere whispers, then disappeared…nature prevailed…a profound sense of complete, perfect bliss…soon “I” disappeared…just the rocks, the mountains, the trees, the wind…whispering a favorite Emerson quote, I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of god.

Moments passed, or maybe I floated once around eternity….. eventually, I returned to the present and saw that afternoon had rotated to early evening.  The silence was palpable……no voices. My prayers had been answered: I would have my last night on the mountain alone. 

I climbed down from the aerie…slowly, carefully…one could so easily fall off the mountain’s face. Tense fingers gripped crags while my boots poked around for spaces big enough to hold my tiptoes.  Soon I was back on the ground, making my way to my tent by climbing over and squeezing around huge boulders.  Looking down, being sure not to stumble over roots or rocks, thinking about my bread and water dinner, I was stopped short.  Oh dear, those three teenage boys.

“Excuse me, m’am” the tallest and skinniest of the trio spoke in his southern, mountain born drawl.  I tried not to grimace.  At least he had manners, even if his speech sounded like his tongue was trying to talk over pebbles rolling in his mouth. “Would it be ok if we camped here tonight?”

Disappointment emptied my hope, a deflated balloon my heart, yet what could I say?  “I don’t own the mountain.  I had hoped to be alone tonight, but I guess it’s ok.”  I sighed. “You’re not gonna make a lot of noise, are you?”

Again, the tall one, “No m’am, we’re just gonna do a little rock face climbing up the Tooth, have a little dinner, then go to bed.  Wanna join us?” He motioned first to his friends, then to the ropes already dangling off the fifty foot high cliff.  The other boys looked up at him, looked at me, and smiled.  I could see now they were early high school age, harmless enough…still.

“Ah, no thank you,” I demurred.  “I’ve never climbed with ropes and gear.”

“Well, you were up there in the eagle’s nest, so fear’s not stopping you.”

He called it the eagle’s nest, like I do, I thought.

“No, not afraid, just that, ehhh, it’s going to be dark before long. You can’t climb in the dark.” I was hedging, still not convinced I should trust these dudes.

“No worries; we came prepared with a couple of floods to light up the top, and for the lower rocks,” I saw as he pointed, a small fire burning in a nicely constructed stone pit.  A cast iron skillet and kettle sat on a rock in the middle of the fire.  These guys appeared to be quite competent.

“There’s nuttin’ to it. C’mon, we’ll show you. Oh, yeh, I’m Jake, dude next me, brother Billy, and the short one we call “Short Pants.”

“Johnny,” Short Pants corrected with a heavy sigh. Then Johnny turned and leapt to the rock face, scrambling halfway up faster than a lizard.

“Wow, you’re good,” I shouted to him. I had climbed this giant boulder before, but never from the west facing vertical backside, always from the somewhat easier sloping south side, the side everyone climbed to “conquer the Dragon.”       

Offerings: “I am grateful for what I am and have.” HDT

I collect stones, driftwood, shells, etc. It’s not an easy thing for me to resist bringing them home. But I have discovered that if instead I make an offering with them, and record that act, I am less inclined to acquire and more inclined to “let it go.” After all, how much do we need? And of course, some of those rocks are quite heavy.

IMG_20190529_130536843

I actually took all of the rocks you see on this ledge home with me. In the back of my mind I kept feeling gluttonous for that act. Finally, I went alone and gave them back from whence they came.

This second time, on my way return to the car, I spotted this boulder.  I held in my hand a lovely, palm-sized red stone I had picked up after replacing all the others.  I am a rock cleptomaniac. Should I take home my hand-held stone?  Should I leave it in this quiet place? 

” I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite, only a sense of existence. Well, anything for variety. I am ready to try this for the next ten thousand years, and exhaust it. How sweet to think of ! my extremities well charred, and my intellectual part too, so that there is no danger of worm or rot for a long while. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague, indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment. ” Henry David Thoreau

Moon Lit

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake”– Thoreau

Mythical sirens called.  Compelled to follow, I drove alone through the night toward Vulan, Dark and JA volcanoes where I parked in the outer lot, empty until my arrival.  I was exquisitely and cautiously alone; a warrior is always alert.

Leaving safety behind, I climbed through an opening in the locked, metal gate and walked along the moonlit trail, a somnambulant hypnotically urged forward.  The vast open plain spread out before and behind, hushed but for the soft whisper of wind through the sage.  I thought perhaps I might witness something magical, something magnificent even.  Nature often rewards our efforts when communion is our purpose.

Through a haze of fairy-book wonder, I looked up.  Magic had already taken hold….luminescent orb!

IMG_20181218_193101640I stopped to watch a shallow stream of clouds pass over the moon.

The slow current flowed north to south along the western rift edge of the Rio Grande River Valley.  The moon danced in ether, bathed in a billowing diaphanous dress, a glowing sphere of mystery. Perhaps this nomadic community of water vapor had coalesced from the earlier heat of the day, or maybe this mystical mist had been conjured for my eyes only; a pleasure I was witness to contemplate.

Me, my moon shadows, and the sweeping sky above, humbling in its boundless grace. I laughed and twirled around whispering, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

The intention had not been to actually climb one of the volcanoes.  The walk from the outer parking lot measures more than a mile and a half to the top, not a long hike during the day, but under moonlight one’s footing is always tenuous.  Plus, it was very cold.  I would return with wind in my face.  Yet, JA rose closest in the distance, a darkened silhouette, an old friend calling me.  An old cone calling an old crone.  I could not resist the summons, so I set out to climb the narrow jagged path to the crest, stumbling, sometimes tripping, but determined.

The top!  My reward (as if the sky were not enough): a dazzling, sparkling, display of city lights far below toward the east, toward the Sandia Mts.  Bewitched, I laughed with delight and twirled around again, arms outstretched, hooting and howling my “barbaric yalp,” no false faces necessary when only the gods were watching.

Cautiously, I tread across the ancient caldera and soon found a windbreak. Here I turned toward the stone, hugged the jagged wall of lava, literally hugged it…cheek to rock…forehead pressing cold, aged pahoe-hoe.  Silent, standing perfectly still, I swear I felt JA’s heartbeat against my own chest. Here I met with eons and millenia, with this 125,000 year old rock and a primordial sky.

Back around to face the east, I leaned against the lava while looking up at the night and nestled in for a prayer.  I thought of Thoreau’s good friend Emerson who said it better than I.

“Standing on the bare ground…all mean egotism vanishes…I am nothing;      I see all; the currents of the universal being float through me.”

I understood my wee proper place within the warp and weft, the fabric of the universe; I wept with gratitude. How fortunate am I…are we?

Sentient beings on a beautiful planet!

Vulcanized: Thrown into a Fire

“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”    Henry David Thoreau

The path I tread over and over again these days is very narrow, very crooked, very jagged.  It leads me to that which I am in love: volcanoes.  Well, not just any volcano, and not so much the lava spewing caldera (though I have dawdled in awe near such a one) but rather the five or six volcanoes sitting in a southerly row on the west mesa of the Rio Grande rift valley.  

 

I do not visit as often as I would like.  I would live on one of these ancients if I were allowed.  JA, Black, Bond, Vulcan, Anam Cara (soul friend), all beckon, ...a tiny hut would do, a one-room cabin like Thoreau’s, or a simple cave from which to safely watch the weather unfold.

Power dwells here, along with peace and possibility, but also danger.  Tread nonchalantly at your peril.  This rattler is but one example of the many inhabitants: 

Startled on top of JA

But where you might find hell, you might also find heaven.  The noisy world of the city is replaced by silence…..the air sometimes so still, so serene…where solitude, ceremony, and insight sit side by side by side.  Come!  Walk with reverence. You will see (Carlos Cataneda-type ‘seeing”) not only visual wonder, you will see what wonder is and what can be.

What wonder is: the diversity of our planet.  These critters can all be found on one volcano…Anam Cara.  They are various bugs of the beetle variety.  Wonder-full.

What can be:  the image below begs you to imagine…

As the earth rotates counter-clockwise away from the sun, I give myself over to the swirl of the planet, orientate to the dance, and feel myself moving…a speck on the edge of this great sphere, grasping my proper place in the immensity of that which I am part.  Feeling, also, my connectedness to the universe and to infinity.  

Sometimes I climb seeking the full moon, and try to catch  the rising moon in my hands, 

 

 

 

 

 

then release the setting sun with breath.

If I stand on a volcano and wave my arms, I might produce the “butterfly effect” sending new winds, new events circling the earth.

If I stand atop a volcano and shout, “Take care of our planet!  Take care of our beautiful home,” I might change the course of fate.  It is right that I should consider these things both heavy and light, light as a beetle’s wings and as calamitous as human demise.  Vulcanized.

Chasing Water…Finding Flowers

IMG_20160710_125206709_HDR

Rio Grande del Norte Taos, NM

Gradually, the village murmur subsided, and we seemed to be embarked on the placid current of our dreams, floating from past to future as silently as one awaked to fresh morning or evening thoughts. Henry David Thoreau

How blessed are we who can ride these currents, swim with the fish, dance in two mile high gardens?  Gratitude, humbled by the scope of nature, and the gift we have been given.

IMG_20160714_154838805

Clarity on the East Fork, San Juan River, CO

You there! Mingle in the mountains, waltz with the wind, float the rivers big and small.  Give yourself over to the current…cooling your skin wetting your soul.

We went seeking relief from the heat.  North! Taos, Pagosa Springs, Durango.  We went seeking water; we are Pisces by nature, if not by birth.  We will ride most anything down a river, including our will.  Lacking flotation devices, we often take up a mask and snorkel.  64 degree water is difficult to swim, but still possible.  These things are not without risk; though most people shy from physical discomfort.

Why…why not bear witness to universal truths using all of your senses?

Time is but a stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. It’s thin current slides away,
but eternity remains…(hdt)

Inhale slowly, smell the rain-soaked mountains, truly see them.  Stick your finger in a sun-dappled columbine and taste.  Sh-h-h-h, listen to the breathless wind call out while birds and bees sing their rejoicing!

Feeling acutely aware…the rivers, the mountains, the air we breathe come from almost forever.  We live here but a moment.   Let’s be OK with that!

 

IMG_20160716_143704258

 

The Unbearable Darkness of Seeing (Part 2): The Light Side of the Moon

“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” Henry David Thoreau

Though I have posted a couple of photo collages, I have not written my blog since January 2015 when I was body slammed by circumstances beyond my control (see Unbearable Darkness…Part 1 and before that Points of Convergence).  My belief system, my ego, my career all collapsed in a crumble of lost dreams and what I then felt were false “signs.”  Life kicked the chair out from underneath me, and I found myself wondering how, where, or even IF I fit in.  I was despondent.

Gratitude It took two weeks of mourning lost opportunities and employment before I could even begin to feel as though life were worth the effort.  Soon, my friend Louisa invited me to participate in a 100 Day Project.  Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to feel and express gratitude for all the good fortune I had received.

Augury Four days into my gratitude project (keeping a daily journal about the people, events, and things for which I give thanks), after he spoke at a UNM climate change rally, I met Dr. Bruce Milne: Director of the Sustainability Studies Program at the University of New Mexico.  Many people had told me over the course of two years that I must meet Dr. Milne for he and I shared a goal of sustainable lifestyles as a way of life.

Ironically, following on the heels of my Unbearable Darkness and false signs, upon introducing myself and quickly outlining my skill set, Dr. Milne said our meeting was a “sign”… the answer to a prayer he had sent out to the universe.  He described his prayer to me along with several other auspicious signs he had received just prior to my introduction.  As he spoke, I saw the sparkle of a tiny, joyful tear in his eye, as if to say, “The universe does deliver what we pray for.”  Turns out, he had wished for someone with exactly my skills (along with a minor in Sustainable Studies) to help him transform two of his dreams into reality.

Had his prayer changed the course of my life?  When, exactly, had he sent out that prayer? Did the fate of my true path require the collapse of an alternate destiny?

Gratitude Dr. Milne had also been deeply engaged in expressing gratitude.  To that end, he had developed and written “The Method: Mindfulness and Gratitude Practices to Achieve Personal and Collective Sustainability.” How’s that for Points of Convergence?  He wanted his text transformed to a book. Thus, a month after my world collapsed, I was hired by UNM’s Sustainability Studies Program (an alternate dream of mine) to help create a book. Additionally, through our collaboration, we brought Indian scholar, environmental activist and anti-globalization author, Vandana Shiva to the University of New Mexico where she beautifully encouraged a sold out audience to believe, “We are all seeds of creativity.”

…the answer to someone’s prayer.  Giving up on signs and no longer believing in fate, I had become someone else’s sign and fate.  One has to laugh.  By helping to  bring gratitude, peace and most importantly, light, into my community, I had allowed light to shine in my heart again.  Thus continues, the Circle Game.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Points of Convergence/The Circle Game

“The universe is wider than our view of it.” –Henry David Thoreau

Has this ever happened to you?  The answer, or that thing you’ve been searching for, was actually right there all along? You passed by it many times, but you did not “see”?  At least not immediately. DSCF1606But then, once you truly opened your eyes, once you zoomed in the lens and found your focal point, your vision became clear.  You had to laugh!  Laugh at yourself for being such a blunderhead. Laugh at the universe for playing games with you.

Do you see it?  The town’s name?  My blog: searchingforthoreau?   The town I have been passing through for weeks now.

DSCF1602Henry David Thoreau, one of my heroes, gave a great deal of his life over to communing with nature while transcending the material world.

I give as much as I can!   (Who hasn’t said that before?)  I could do with less.  I could give more.

Yet a man (or a woman) has to eat.

Plus, I love the classroom, a petri dish of human interaction where tremendous growth and change can take place  It’s always a grand adventure.

During my search for employment to get paid the bread, to buy the bread, it was necessary to travel to Crownpoint, NM a number of times.  To and fro my friend and I would go, across the vast landscape, in awe of the majestic scenery.DSCF1605 - Copy

Dreams and vows and lives converge…

One Dream: to live with Native Americans, to learn their ways. Many years ago my family immersed itself in the way by way of the of the cowboy and Indian genre on television shows.  We couldn’t get enough of them…shows that featured the wild west.  Who to root for? Simple for me. Who to pretend you were while playing with the neighborhood kids?  I played Tonto. I played Sacagawea.

I Vowed:

“Honor all with whom we share the Earth:
Four-leggeds, two-leggeds, winged ones,
Swimmers, crawlers, plant and rock…”DSCF1548

“Regard heaven as your father, earth as your mother, and all that lives as your brother and sister.” –Navajo Proverb–

I wanted to walk that path as closely as a white person is able. I found Henry David Thoreau when I was sixteen and understood: this nature-loving white man’s words and ways would help me hold the Navajo ethos close to my heart.

   Points of Convergence

100_7233 Destiny or Chance? Fate or Coincidence? What’s your take?

The desire to teach again, to live the Navajo way, to live like Thoreau: with nature while writing about nature (both human nature and nature nature) found me creating a blog, but also interviewing for a position on the faculty at the Navajo Technical University. The Humanities Dept Chair showed me around the campus.  We walked and talked and at one point we watched a huge bird, silhouetted against the sun’s own sky, swoop up and over an escarpment. Prof. Tallant confessed, “When I die, I want to come back as a bird, a raven to be exact; they have attitude and altitude.”  I quickly responded, “Me too! If I get to live again, I want to return flying, like a keen-eyed hawk.”

In the bookstore 2 hours later:  On a jacket and on a sweatshirt hanging on the racks, on the T-shirts folded neatly on shelves, I saw the NTU mascot, the university spirit animal.  One of the T-shirts proclaimed, “We are the flying hawks!”

I will be a flying hawk…reincarnation through teaching.  Very interesting, you must agree?

Not until I was back home in Albuquerque, recalling my wish for reincarnation and the flying hawks did it all connect…I have been passing through Thoreau twice a visit.  I will be teaching literature and writing to the flying hawks of NTU. I will continue driving every week through Thoreau on my way to Crownpoint, driving across (and soon exploring) some of the most magnificent expanses of nature a heart can hold.  Henry David would have much to say about that!

Destiny or Coincidence?DSCF0425

“Not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.” –Henry David Thoreau

Taos Dreaming…”Live the life you have dreamed.” –HDT

More than ten years ago, in July of 2004, I still lived in a glen by a creek that runs through Mink Hollow, near Highland, Maryland.  Mink Hollow was a magical place: a river ran through it, a forest surrounded it.  We danced.  Lovely, you say? Indeed!  Sadly, familiarity breeds, for me at least, a bit of the wanderlust. Which is why on Wednesday, July 14th, 2004 I found myself solo camping in Taos, NM after my first year of teaching high school.  I sought the southwest knowing I could easily find solace, knowing I could truly be alone; seeking, like Thoreau, to get “to the essential part of me.”  I needed a salve for the knocks and bruises accumulated during ten months spent butting heads with 130, sixteen year old students. I had learned and felt so much!

Sitting on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Rio Grande Gorge in 2004, I wrote this in my journal:  “Forgive me Mink Hollow for wanting anything, any place, other than you.  100_4615I do not understand this longing for the long view, but it feels so very palpable.  Sitting at the edge, here at the gorge, or on a mountain top in Magdalena, seeing the gold and green overlapping mountain ranges before me,100_5961 or the layers of earth revealed through infinity, I am filled with a lovely peace…the, I am truly  “home” kind of peace.  Here lies heaven: the smell of juniper and pinon; the rattle of snake and cicada, the whispering trees; the glorious blue sky yet more vivid juxtaposed against white clouds.

I am entranced…………..

To have access to mesas on the weekends, to be able to set out with regularity to the mountains…higher,  and higher still…where silence has a sound… 100_5602 100_5614To call New Mexico home would be beyond my most imaginative dreams…the senses in perpetual, delightful overload.

I cannot paint a true picture using only words; regrettably: my poetic palette lacks the range. Hopefully, photos and words metaphorically wed to help you see. How does one with mere syllables exalt mesas? or mountain peaks? or high altitude streams?   Instead…I return to breath, I bow.  I praise.  I listen to my soul’s longing.” 100_5648

Seven years after that journal entry, I moved to New Mexico. I found my Walden.  I call the wild places home.  Some nights you may see me running with the wolves!

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” –Henry David Thoreau

%d bloggers like this: