Bird of prey


Wind strips away the last of the leaves and sucks the heat of the woodstove out from between cracks in the log walls before warming the room.  The wind chimes rattle ceaselessly on the back porch.  Bare branches wave wildly as if saying their final farewell.

I sit in the cabin and stare outside at the browning hillside.  Flocks of geese on the Reservoir flats joining up to prepare their journey southward as the tourists already have done.  Those of us that remain prepare for departure or hibernation.  I will do the latter.

“The feast before the famine…” Or so the saying goes. But this feast is bittersweet.

Now is the season of birds of prey.

In the sharp shadows of early morning, from the kitchen window I watch a falcon fly through the flock of mourning doves. They are slow.  He is agile.  A fascinating combination, confrontation, obvious he will be victorious, and of little surprise when after I count one less dove scratching at the seed by the hay shed.

Late afternoon looking out the same window.  High above the field the Red Tail hawk dances in the middle of a whirlwind of what appears to be golden birds, whirling, swirling, fluttering, flickering in the lowering light.  At first I think he flies among tiny birds, a flock larger than I’ve ever seen here and strain my eyes to identify.  But it is only freshly fallen leaves caught up in the twisting air, a wild dance of nature, the bird of prey participates in what seems like a joyous display of fervor and wind.

So the season blows away, leaving the last of the orange leaves to glow like rare pale sentinels in the high hills, while the rest of the mountain fades to grey, silent and peaceful as a monk under a heavy hood. At once comforted and burdened by the weight.

It is time for me to withdraw. To give in to the brown and grey and barren wind.  To write.  I begin with letters I have put off for months.

From a letter written earlier this week to a friend who probably wished he never asked:


This will more than likely be way too long and rambling, or way too short and say only a fraction of what I want to say.

I’ve been going through an odd adjustment with Bob working in town a few days a week, Forrest off to college and trying to figure what his future holds, and myself trying to find more of my own self through work and business or lack there of. Not a big deal, just little life changes. And too much time to think. At this stage in the game, I should be doing more than thinking. Giving more than taking. I’ll figure it out. Just an adjustment period.

Where to begin?

I’d like to begin with the financial matters we first discussed back in August, I believe it was. Crazy the power money holds over us, even when we try to live so simply. I appreciate you sharing a bit of your story. Your honesty and openness have always been refreshing, though a harsh reality at times. You are right about the burden debt holds over us. Walking away (though of course I know, walking away still brings a tangled thread dragging behind) for us is not an option at this point. We are oddly in a state of having to wait it out. Let me explain.

Our debt is created by having to fight for ownership of part of this land, the part with the cabins and business my husband built, separating him from the “Evil In-Laws,” the part of the family that fought all the rest of us for no better reason than because they could, to stir the waters, or because conflict and confrontation are a way of life for them. Fighting to own what we have worked for was worth it on principle alone, though a hard fight, and a personal struggle, as family matters, you know, often are.

Fighting for ones land does one of two things.  It can turn you off and chase you away, or draw you closer like a mother and child.  For us, it has been the latter.  Only at times I know not if I am the mother to or child of this beautiful land.  I have only learned it does not matter.  We are connected now by blood, the blood I have shed upon this land, as sweet and rich, wet and warm as my tears.

But alas, “moving on” is this odd carrot before my nose. I grab but can never reach. I know it will happen. At least, most days, I know. Other days, I wonder.

And what does “moving on” entail?  For moving on does not always mean a physical move.  What it can mean is staying right where you are… only you are changed.

Here is everything my husband ever worked for, and what I have helped build and gave all I could for the past eleven years. It is not a miserable place to be, just rather “status quo.”  I prefer change, growth, adventure. My insatiable curiosity for what lies over the next peak of the mountain drives me. I just want to live life as full as I can, in my own quiet way.

But what can I do? What skills do I have now besides running a little business, raising animals (and a child), cooking, cleaning, riding, training, gardening… nothing of value in today’s world. I am lost.

We’re not operating the guest ranch in the same capacity we were, and we’re not outfitting any more.  This is hard because I so love horses and riding and even sharing the knowledge and experiences.  And both Bob and I have considered working with horses as such an integral part of our identity. We are still relying on our horses for work at the ditch, which involves riding and packing into Wilderness, back and forth, for 20 – 30 days per summer; and using the horse for dirt work. But it’s not the same, and not quite enough for me. So I’ve been compensating by doing these big, extreme, crazy rides trying to fulfill my horse time, miles, and unsaturated soul. It’s almost addictive. How hard/far/long/challenging a ride can I do today? And then return home grateful to have survived.

Horse time is almost over here. As soon as the snow begins to fly, and the north sides of the slopes and in the trees begin to ice up, it’s over. It will be soon.

And still, fun as it is, it is not enough. One can only “play” so much, enjoy ones down time so much. That point and purpose, direction, meaning I’m longing for is still so far away.  I am no closer today than I was yesterday.  Or is this a path I cannot see, and shall I wake one day and find myself… there?

Once again, you see I have foregone short and sweet and tended towards long and drawn out.  Stay with me if you’d like.  I will be here, and I will share. Though the season of withdrawing and crawling deep inside the cave is coming.  And I intend to use that time well and wisely…


23 thoughts on “Bird of prey

  1. Your writing is utterly extraordinary and quite beautiful. I do understand your sense of emptiness, your need for a fulfillment outside of your well cultivated relationship to the earth.

    I live in an urban setting and illness has diminished my closeness to nature. There have been a couple of times within my life that I have wondered … is this it? I have a very wonderful relationship with my partner, soulmate and best friend, coming up upon 30 years of marriage. I lack for nothing. The highlight of my professional life was the honor of being deeply involved with the HIV/AIDS community both professionally and as a volunteer. I have owned my own business. So, my life has been fulfilling and wonderful (once I got past a first disastrous marriage and need to do a 180 degree change on myself). I am going to be 66 in November. In October of 2005 having been retired for 2 years and doing volunteer work, I simply put it out there; “What am I meant to be doing? I will do whatever you wish.”

    What ensued was a massive spiritual experience, shamanic in nature, very painful and very exhilarating and frankly nearly cataclysmic. Incredible change and learning ensued (willing-self change). I asked again not long ago (weeks) and change is again taking place. I share this with you because it seemed pertinent. I really enjoy your writing.

    • Dear Raven, selfishly I do not often take the time to look at others blogs – seems I would always rather be outside than in. I read this comment before going out, and then visited your site upon returning in. In between were many thoughts with regards to you and your words above, then tenfold more after I began to read your writing… I am left with more questions than answers, as I so often do at this stage in life. (When will the wisdom of age befall me?) I would like to continue this conversation more but know not always the proper etiquette of blogging and wonder how best to do so…

      • I would say that wisdom grows within you daily as evidenced by your blog. Thank you for visiting my blog. I have found that life unfolds as it is meant to do.

        My page here upon your blog that I am replying upon just reeled past me and presented me with your reply to Dylan. It made me chuckle. I too grew up for a while in Westchester (Scarsdale until my family moved to Vermont – then I went back down to Dobbsferry to school) with one foot in NYC. Today I am quite midwestern.

        • Raven,
          Then perhaps part of gaining wisdom is in increasing the doubt of believing in what you thought was solid. And then we learn air too can hold us up… as we begin to learn to fly. Ethereal or firmly planted, I always wonder which is stronger.

          And then we are back to the small world (do you remember passing Pelham on your way to NYC?), and somehow, I take great comfort in that too.

  2. I love the view of the first one, its amazing who far you can see clearly. We have similar views in Hudson valley ny. The close-ups of the birds are beautiful, I would even say majestic for the hawk photo.

    • Thanks, Dylan. The Hudson Valley is truly beautiful, I remember well. I grew up in Westchester and in NYC – and have fond memories of trips “up river” into those mountains.

  3. Gin,
    Your blog allows for only “one” reply, I think. So, I reply down here as another comment. I do of course remember Pelham. I wish to tell you that I find much comfort within my childhood memories. But, I do not. And that is very much OK. I sort of finally understand why and why not. Your first sentence of your reply to me holds within it much truth (and wisdom). Liz

    • Thank you, Liz – I will see if I can fix that.
      I left my childhood behind long ago and am more comfortable without the baggage binding me. I consider it a part of growing up, which for many of us is a lifelong process. We should hold onto only what we choose to. It is not in the memories of my childhood that I take comfort, but in knowing even after or during our growth and travels, we find connections, neighbors of sorts, that draw us closer and remind us we are not alone or even so different.

      • How wonderful. It is for me all found within forgiveness. The pursuit of the spiritual has been nearly lifelong for me. Each new link in the chain made by personal change. By this time I thought that I might be done, ;) but alas, no. Even larger changes are required of me at an older age.

        To fully understand my mother and to fully forgive her, it was necessary for me to study war. The day she died I was able to get there from here … miraculous in itself. As the executrix of the will, manager of the estates and overseer of my father’s end of life care (3 more years) the morning she died I said: “She was as selfish in death as she was in life.” Then I began my duties, I went to the bank. Driving back home up Bromley Mountain I opened my mouth and simply said: “I forgive my mother for every thing that she ever did to me.” For several years afterwords I was able to to say and know that: “My mother did the best she could do as a parent.” That statement never felt right. A few years later I woke up one New Years Day and said: “Mummy did the best that she could, and it wasn’t very good.” That felt right for a time. Then I had an experience that required of me the study of war. I knew immediately that my father’s behavior was as a result of Combat PTSD in WWII. I woke up about 2 years ago and and said: “OMG, you have never Mummy any slack! She spent WWII in London working for the OWI during the Blitz … that is combat without the ability to protect yourself, i.e. with weapons. Yes Gin, I do understand and I am so very grateful today.

        Monday is a correspondence and email and writing day for me. I wish to mention your blog in a Thursday Occupy Blogosphere post if that is OK. I hope that I am not repeating myself and realize that I well may be doing so. Liz

        • Wise words of yours, Liz: “Each new link in the chain made by personal change.” Indeed! I recently read the words of master horseman/human Tom Dorrance: “The things you need to know first in life, you generally learn last.” So may we never stop learning!

          Your history with your mother, a painful story from which such strength and understanding has blossomed. You took the time and thought to figure it out (probably still do and are?) and I wonder how many just “rise above it” and let it go… Less painful for them, no doubt, but a missed opportunity for one of deepest growth. And those things don’t “just go away.” But are eased into understanding.

          I would be honored by your mention and no, you are not repeating yourself.

  4. Pingback: A Brisk Walk that Reminded me of the Beauty Around Me. « danajoward

  5. I Googled Tom Dorrance, what a wonderful man. I used to ride and grew up with horses – Pony Club. The horsemanship aspect of it was my favorite … just being with my horse and caring for him. Tom made me think of Dr. Temple Grandin, a woman who has changed for the better the lives of many cows, sheep and other animals. She was spurred on by her desire to understand her own autism. What she found out about herself and about her autism she connected to her own understanding of how animals communicate.

    • The pull toward hibernation pulses through my being as well. I enjoy the preparations. This year, for the first time, I hired a young man to chop wood while I stacked. He was quite green and nearly destroyed my best maul, but he lived in so many parts of the world because of missionary parents that the stories more than made up for a mangled maul! :D

      • P.S. – I began the Occupy Blogosphere (that Raven has now joined – YAY!) to give people a place to highlight a positive message they want to give the world. People use all sorts of different methods to present their message, but please consider your way and join in. Come around on Thursdays and put a link to your message on your blog in the comment section. The idea is growing and each Thursday, I see that
        hundreds read the post.

        • Thank you, Amy, for the invitation. I will be there, happily, and will quietly participate. I am not sure I will have anything worthy to share at this point, but will peek around and see what others are sharing and find some inspiration and understanding about what this Occupy Blogosphere might be about!

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