Mid morning after a pale sun rises over the silvery snow of pasture. The last herd of elk on the mountain, a few cows led by a young spike bull, nervously jump the fence, one at a time, each one hesitating, stepping back, moving forward, a slowly progressing wave. They are working their way down river, down mountain. The horses watch. Curious, not disturbed. They see this coming and going every six months, as they remain. Now colder, now warmer, now working hard, now not much more to do than paw through the snow just for something to keep busy with while waiting for the next flake of hay. Now is their wild time. As it is for me too.
Mid day I sit by the river. An open patch where the creek comes in. Most of the river and creeks have frozen over by now, ice covered with snow, insulation. The mountain is quiet.
The other day on a snowshoe, a warm hillside, a dead standing aspen having held onto its leaves. The updraft air moves through the dried and brown leaves. A rustle like walking through the big piles of dead leaves we raked and jumped into as children. The sound stirs me. Remembering seasons past, yet to come, the great cycle to which we are but witness. Or are we a part?
Now I am here to listen. The song of moving water. Rising from seemingly fathomless black depths only a few inches deep.
This soft sound, the little space of open river.
I gaze with soft eyes, unfocused, a peripheral view, and it is like I remember as a kid staring into deep waters and waves of the infinite space of the sea. Daydreaming then. Daydreaming now. Taken away by the water.
Now she shows me her veins. A small spot open to the elements, of the elements. The life blood of the mountain. Exposed.
For a moment I sit with her, her song, her movement, her flow, the primordial pulse, the connection of life and blood, movement and eternal migration. The low sun dazzling on the tips of the currents, tiny white caps that have yet to freeze. I too know they soon will. Winter has only begun.
Today I return to the mountain. Away from my desk. Both of which I am a part. In which we find balance, ever shifting. We adjust our stance and move on.
Somehow fitting that yesterday my final work of last season was submitted. Today a celebration of completion found in the quiet wisdom of Solstice, one that is only heard if we listen closely, only seen if we are still and wait and watch.
Deep within a primal stirring.
In this time of deep dormancy, dark days and internal energy, it all comes together, at peace in its center, like the center of the earth, guarding its molten core, the slow gentle breathing of the sleeping beast exposed in an unexpected gust of warm air.
I hear him sleep, his gentle breath, and deep down into myself I follow.
Nature, the nature of our beings, of life, the nature of my soul.
Now is the time sap gathers in the roots and the bark remains dry. Out there it appears nothing moves. Day after day of still and white.
Now is an awakening, and a transformation, and though it may be a while before we can hold the well earned throne of crone, before then there is the Matriarch calling, and so to her I am shifting, opening, serving, and finding how to become what is unfolding into the most powerful stage of life.
The wings began to unfurl only months ago. They are still damp, drying, learning to catch air and lift me. And when they do, I have found myself higher than I have ever been. It’s not a giddy stage, but a solid one. As if the ground beneath me too has risen.
And though I wonder if I will ever fall back down again, the inner wisdom in me tells me not to fear. We find our truth in those dark corners and hiding under places others dare not peak. And so we overcome as we become.
A sharing of reflection, evidence, found buried beneath the snow.
Solstice as a time of contemplation, withdrawing, looking within. Followed by The Gathering. Of resources, wisdom, strength, direction. Followed in turn by A Time of Giving. The natural evolution of things, the way the wilds work.
We learn from the seasons, the cycles of life. Now with our blindly outstretch hands in winters early darkness. Our fingers reaching, touching, exploring. We see with eyes closed that which is most essential to observe.
I may not have time to share words with you for a while. In the meanwhile, I leave you with a long one to take in as you like. This is on the notion of Natural Resilience. Inspired by a group meeting I was honored to be a part of here at our ranch recently.
This was written almost two months ago, on my retreat, scratching out the birth of ideas with pen on paper as the first snows fell and the river only began to freeze and I was upriver alone and so fulfilled and the great shift began.
This is not polished, it is not meant to be. It is a natural outpouring, and nothing more.
All it is. All it needs to be. A drifting thought no more permanent or important as stick floating down river. A quiet reflection on Natural Resilience.
It is hard to see in the plush season of summer or the stark covered winter. But now, in her season of exposure, of abandoned quiet grace, we begin to see again. This time of year is so clean. An open view. Bare branches, with leaves freshly shed. Upon the unadorned mountain, clarity surrounds us. Now is the season of exhaling, letting go. A natural allowance in the cycle preparing for the well needed dormancy that is descending. Balance. The eternal cycles of life. With every death, be it the fresh needles fallen and crushed beneath my gentle steps as I run through the woods, or burned hillsides standing cold before you… from this loss comes rich fertility, new life, new growth. A new cycle begins, or rather, continues. As with us, each trauma, each challenge, each new experience a lesson and a chance for natural expansion. The eternal rise and fall, death and rebirth. We are reborn every day, every moment. We humans have a tendency to hold onto the past, perhaps out of fear, comfort or laziness. We remain attached to the way it was as we are attached to identities and desires. Like the standing tree that refuses to shed its leaves, or the fallen tree than refrains from rotting.
Is this natural resilience?
Just down river from my camp beside a large beaver dam, past a swath of mixed live and dead blue spruce and vigorous willow bushes making walking through a challenge as in a labyrinth, I stumble upon a group of healthy, fat old aspen trees, all fallen down into what appeared a senseless jumble. The beavers had done this work which at first looks like vandalism, irrational human doing. Silly me – for nature rarely works in ridiculous ways, things coming and going for a reason, with a cause and effect, a part of some bigger picture that we may never understand. Unlike our man made ways, the rest is interconnected, parts of the wave, now rising, now falling, one moving and in motion with the other.
They, the beavers, as so much of wildlife we’ve noticed around here this year, are preparing for a big winter. They see signs we miss. Further, as we have observed numerous times, the felling of large old aspen springs forth a mass re-growth the following year of new shoots. A common biological reoccurrence creating natural sustainability. Upon further observation, I note there are few “middle aged” aspen. After t he so-called drought in this area lasting ten or more years, followed this year by the incredible rains, what I do note is a field of brand new shoots, healthy and prolific, having arisen from this especially moist year. The cutting of the old trees will allow these light to grow, and new life will be initiated in the process. This seems random and pointless at first to us, but when we look closer, longer, and do not interfere but simply, silently watch, we see. Natural resilience in action.
Sitting on cool damp sand surrounded by the silent calm of dead standing spruce trees, in small intimate opening down by the autumn river, I meditate. Ice begins to form along the banks and on the north sides of large boulders. The flow is lower now, more tranquil, serene, as the upper mountain springs begin the big freeze for the season. As if even the water prepares for hibernation, quieting the pulse of the mountain.
Here, by the river, with no further distraction than the occasional passing bird, and my dog patiently sitting on guard behind me, it is easy to become mesmerized by the water flowing over rocks in the river. The sound, the motion, the light. The continual movement, and the shift of attention from the fluid water above to the steady rocks below. I consider if we, as human beings, are more like the water, always changing, moving, following the path, and eventually ending up a part of the great ocean? Or are we the rocks, calm and unwavering and worn to a smooth grace by each passing molecule of water, like all the events of our lifetime, our lifetimes.
Starting from where, I wonder, what sweet seeping spring high up on the mountain has this water come? Endlessly, the water gathers, grows, flows and finds its way around each rock on a calling forever moving, together. And the rocks, each holding firm but worn so soft and smooth to the touch, as the waters continually flows by, taking a piece of the rock with it and leaving the essence of the rock behind to tumble, reset or remain in the ever changing waters.
And as the water would not be contained if not for the strength and direction of the rocks, and the stones would not be exposed if not for the gentle force of the water, I am reminded there is no separation.
And so it goes, the continual movement. As a drop of water flows, merges, stills, evaporates, and returns to the river once again in the delicate yield of a flake of snow.
And so it goes, the wearing, smoothing, settling of the stones. As the undying breath of the river continually brings forth and leaves, inhale, exhale, the eternal balance of that which will be, that which was, and the stone sitting solid in the here and now.
Now in my hand I hold one of those stones. And another. Each soft and round and smooth. A bit unusual and oblong. Each unique. With my open palm I smooth a small patch of sand beside me. Slowly, I balance and stack, a small shrine, and do nothing more than stare at this pile of rocks.
Perfection found in the harmony and balance of so much imperfection.
Is this not the key to natural resilience, this understanding, acceptance, and respect?
Here, by the river. That began as clouds, and will return as clouds, and back again, and so continuing as long before and far after me, in this one body, this one incarnation, this one chance at understanding more.
Yesterday morning. I wake to the silence of the river. Snow enwrapping my world. The simplicity of the monotone environment, washed in white. All inclusive. Without judgment or preference. Spruce branches, both living and dead, bow gracefully, and delicate limbs of the aspen humbly hold what they can. It is so much. And this intimate connection which becomes our shroud reminds us of the grace coming from above, sparing none. I step out and stand within the open air temple. I hear the song of falling snow. I stand beside the trees and too am covered, my lashes full and white, bow first, then my snow covered cap and shoulders. Snow embraces me. I shed tears which become a part of this eternal movement.
I can study the beauty and mystery of one individual snowflake. Each so remarkable and fleeting as they melt in my palm. And then see the whole forest turning white, covered, included, embraced. Can we see both the magnificence of one tree and the majesty of the whole forest with the same eyes and heart? And then look inside ourselves. One cell, and one whole body. The interplay, the interconnectedness, the interdependence, the unique beauty in all its perfect imperfections.
How connected we all are!
Why then do we keep ourselves so separate?
This, I believe, is natural resilience. And I am a part of it.
We all are.
And here is the secret the earth shares with me in our silence together. I know you know this too. In spite of human greed, fear, anger and lust, in spite of what we do to the earth, the water still flows. The seasons still come and go. The waves ebb and flow. The sun rises and sets. Places burn, epidemics spread, and new trees, new life, like new babies are born.
Nature is resilient. Are we?
Life. Life happens. When we open our eyes and our hearts to see the incredible eternal power and beauty of the natural way, how can we not be in awe and be humbled?
We are in a time of great change. In change, there is great hope. For what? Open our eyes. Behold! Open our hearts. Breathe in deeply. I need not say more for the answers are all there before us and within us. This beautiful, resilient nature. Of which we are a part.
~ ~ ~
With grace and gratitude.
For my beloved mountain, river and Earth.
For those with whom the fierce love of land, all land, all waters, and the deepest reverence for the Earth drew us closer.
For those with whom my spiritual quest and questions have blessed me with our connection.
For the new life and exciting changes being breathed into our guest ranch, Lost Trail Ranch.
For my dear teacher and friend of The Matrona from whom I have learned as much about life as I have about birth.
For my next book now birthing.
And mostly for my family, my boys, my two best friends, my team. Together on this mountain.