Angels have visited me in many forms in my life. I have felt their fiery presence from the unseen realms and have met them in the bodies of human beings. (If you’re curious, this is one of those encounters.)
In a previous post about my Pacific Northwest travels, I mentioned that I like it best when I’m lost. Driving around on inspiration leads me to the most unexpectedly astounding places and events. On this day after slate skies broke open to reveal the first rays of sunlight I had seen since arriving, I headed out with a bounce in my step. I hadn’t let the drizzle and grey skies get me down; had hiked the past few days despite the weather. Still, the sun was a welcome change, if only for its warmth.
This time I meandered and found myself at small wildlife preserve on the (Puget) Sound. Nobody was in the small parking lot, and when I got out of the car, I immediately spotted eagles soaring on the bluff behind me. It was nesting time, and these raptors were active seeking food for nestlings. Still, it was amazing to watch them soar. I walked down to the driftwood-strewn beach, marvelling at a snowcapped mountain range in the distance. I also noticed a brownish haze which I had also seen before leaving the house in the morning. I wondered if, like last year, there were forest fires in British Columbia and Montana. I quickly texted the friend I was housesitting for and she could only guess at the mountain range, as I had no idea what direction I was facing nor where I was. She didn’t know about the haze, thought it might be smog from Seattle, though we both thought that improbable.
Presently a car pulled into a nearby stall in the still-empty lot, and a woman and dog emerged. We made eye contact, the woman and I, and I asked her what mountain range we were looking at. The Cascades, as it turns out. And the haze? It’s the marine layer, she said, and filled me in as to what atmospheric conditions precipitate it. I loved her dog up a bit while we continued chatting about this and that, the way women sometimes do. Before we went our separate ways, she said, “Hold on, I have something for you in the car.” I could not imagine what it could be, as I waited a bit awkwardly. Then she turned back to me beaming, with something in her hand, “Here, this is meant for you. I painted it myself.”
Just when I dip into despair about the human race, my faith is restored by a simple act of kindness. And I must remember that, despite seemingly endless human assaults on Mother Earth and her children, I must remember our potential. And nourish those seeds with as much energy as I can possibly muster. Thank you, sweet stranger. Thank you. With all of my heart.
The concert grand stands indifferently in a palatial room built to house it; Hardly anyone spends time here, admiring frescoes and French lace, worn Italian club chairs gather in around no one, empty opulence marking privilege of the lost and missing inhabitants;
Halfway around the world, a bustling marketplace explodes with the din and stench of the streets, sweat mingling with rotting vegetable matter and the smell of human desperation; gnarled hands of laborers place goods in the manicured hands of tourists, a toothless smile exchanging empty symbols for a better life, benediction of the Foreigner whose life is inconceivable as a spaceship from Mars;
Who can fathom choices, freedom the elusive butterfly in a garden which must be tended by honest sweat and toil which, in the opulence of the parlor, slips quietly into shadow like the ghostly curtain remnants hanging limply on patterned walls.
I am but one minute speck on the face of this earth, the same countenance reflected back to me in field and forest, in the shriek of bats as well as the sonar they emit, the whistling and bellow of elk as they descend from higher ground for the winter, the piñon jays, sapphire blue bodies so different from their indigo Stellar relations, gliding in for their morning seed;
When I peer into a body of water, I see not a mirror, but a plethora of faces of untold numbers of creatures that dwell in the depths as do I, in my own element;
Yet what is this element spoken of? Is it the air I breathe? The earth walked upon, the blazing fire of the sun, cool slices of moonlight or the quarter-sized drops of rain that splash upon my forehead?
What am I, if not an assemblage of all these components, sheathed in the thinnest veil of skin, so transparent that I can glimpse blood coursing through a busy network of veins, necessary waters of my body, invisible synovial fluid keeping joints in motion, bending and lifting to the billionth degree, work I have happily performed since my youth, preparing for winter, spring, summer, fall;
It’s all the same, here on the mountain where life at altitude is as unpredictable as nature can be anywhere, anytime, only here it cannot be ignored, and the garden thriving in the heat today can be frost-encrusted by tomorrow morning, who can predict?
This time last year, birds were falling from the skies, a freak storm that bent trees over double, and some we lost while some grew back, and isn’t that life? Is that not, at its root, the existential distillation of our existence?
On the opposite side of my heart lies an echo chamber of silence where tiny bats dive and swoop, clearing invisible pathways in the open skies for those who fly by day; this pitch black of night finds deep comfort within me;
As light emerges from shadows, sweeping them away as dust from corners of a vast room, the heart engages, pumps greater volumes of life force, stretches out to encompass all the eye surveys, holding it close in order to enfold fully as might be, before all is compromised by those who suffer from lack of beauty and seek to destroy what is sacred;
And obvious to any who treasure this earth so, is the magic beheld in the space between spaces, the cracks in the fabric of accepted reality, eyes that see beyond daylight into the soul’s frontiers, a dimensional shift where beauty is all there is, gazing deeply into everything where others may perceive nothing, a deep river of potentialities and a place where all is possible in the realm of grace and pure love.
Awake in the pre-dawn, the fields look empty, vast; wild creatures have long claimed the night, daytime unsafe for them in the company of our species, and I know somewhere out there is a fox leaping onto a rodent, a bear padding toward her den in the nearby hills, mountain lion retreating to the mountain cliffs she considers home;
Stars slowly fade as light emerges, tentative at first, the black and white world retreating, pattern repeated for as long as memory holds, a glimmer, then a glow, and finally shifting gears into daylight, shadows retreating, colors emerging as if from slumber themselves, and I wonder;
If we are here to witness these cycles, to sync our bodies in rhythm with those of the planet, how is it so many court discord, mayhem, dark against light, light denying dark, when the brilliance of midday lacks contours, thus interest, to my own camera lens?
It’s a new day, and I awaken tired, having not slept much; perceiving the fear of the collective, the hum of impending doom, as a worldwide virus continues to mutate, according to a greater plan than we can imagine, and the vaccinated among us may actually be more culprit than cure, causing an explosion of variants to proliferate;
We are a world accelerated beyond any means possible, faster is better, internet warp speed lives, packages replacing hands in earth, chemical drinks in cans replacing pure water, food sources separated from our bodies by poisonous fertilizers, distance and desire, fresh tropical fruits delivered in winter, shipped green to ripen by gasses in warehouses, and how can this offer nourishment to strengthen our immunities?
I watch sick native people in our community, addicted to alcohol and worse; soda, canned food and the hypnosis of television, vulnerable to viruses, partisan news and soul sickness, shamans of old far from their rightful place as healers in the scheme of things, bowed and beaten into submission by priests, bent into homogeneity by the white man’s schools, forced into dubious medicine designed to fight perceived disease rather than working with the rhythms of the body and Mother Earth, and they are dropping like flies, one by one or in groups, whole families murdered by their own offspring, a sad fallout to the speed and separation our species was never meant to cope with;
I am a generally optimistic person, yet I am also sensitive to the greater vibrations of earth and her creatures, humans among them, caught now in a crux of our own making, having so thoroughly trashed our perfect planet with the byproducts of instant gratification, that we are faced with Holocene extinction;
Make no mistake, these are perilous times, and yet we must somehow be able to help ourselves and others to what extent we are able, to remain centered and focused, in order to best know how to move forward in spite of it all;
And so we retreat, again and again, to our beautiful high mountain vista with its varied wildlife, who seem not to have a care in the world, survival their primary mandate, as it has been since their time began;
And yet last fall, a freak snowstorm and cold snap caused songbirds to fall from the skies dead; the raptors are as mysteriously absent as bodies of water, while wildfires rage over most of the West, and it is hard to ignore the fallout of our Creation, not being gods in the least, so much to learn, so much to lose.
Mysterious new things move to the cadence of nature’s drum, the cry of destruction loudly rings; Aloha aina, care for the land, it matters not where we choose to root ourselves, the mandate is the same: we must return to the Garden, discover innocence lost when simple was subsumed by life so complex that some days I wonder how long I can manage it, threads frayed, threatening to unravel;
Yet when I walk out into messy, immerse my hands in soil, work at amending what has been stripped by too many years of consumption without consideration, my spirit calms, settles into what is there in front of me, head not spiraling out into orbit, here. And now, now, now;
This is what we are given, this moment, breathing in, then out, listen to the heartbeat of nature; observe with a raptor’s eyes all that surrounds, notice the little things, the seemingly unimportant, purpose-less details in a world fixed on production, and learn; for we might well need that sort of knowledge in the days to come.
I read him Mary Oliver’s luminous words
in bed at night, perceptions written nearer
her end, and yes, there is sadness, his eyes
well uncomfortably, who wouldn’t turn away
(were it even possible) from the degradation
of nature loved with the whole of our hearts;
The loons on Goose Pond, circling around us
with crimson eyes, echoes of their haunting
cries tattooed into memory, early morning
and dusk, nine chicks that year and two adults
and one would be hard pressed today to hear
a single pair if lucky, human encroachment
into nesting areas, refusal to admit error
in bulldozing sacred spaces for profit,
filling wetlands, giant killer bees building,
harmony absent, drones taking over the hive,
and what are we, if not complicit?
None are blameless;
It seems a lifetime ago, smoke cannot pour itself
back down the chimney, and opportunity lies
in discovering wonders of a pine forest far
from lake or ocean. I must ponder more deeply
the meaning of water.
My stomach lurches and rises, falls into complacency as I ponder events of the morning, neighbors meeting and greeting, my outward self effusive whilst my insides struggle with parity, and such is this life of introversion;
I yearn for the human experience, all of it, and I constantly question how to fit into the whole of it, how others seem to manage, socialization being a complication long dealt with by a trained persona, treasured heart-to-heart connections all too rare and fleeting;
Still, I surely know my place is ever to understand, to experience, integrate an unforced and unconditional acceptance, like or dislike stationed alongside a badly needed unity in this fractured human existence;
And then there are the squirrels, my love of all creatures, even unto feeling more akin to them than to my own species, and yet yesterday, one of these fat rodents breached the garden wall, slipped between wood and wire, destroying newly sprouted seedlings, eating them down to the roots, dahlia stripped of too many leaves to survive, flowers and lettuce decimated;
And I pondered guns and obliteration and dens and tiny ones underground, awaiting the return of an imagined parent, and I simply do not know some days who I am and what I represent at the core, if not the celebration of all life, just as the neighbors mentioned above offer a live trap, options to relocate, a solution not dreamt of at first, contributing to the juxtaposition of confusion and immense gratitude I feel nearly every day for my fellow imperfect, evolving human beings.