One really never knows what Life is going to throw at you . One never really knows what will cross your path in any given moment, or on any given day. What I am about to tell you is a true story. It really is …. This unique experience happened recently on my last camping trip in the forest nearby a couple of weeks ago….
My story begins on Tuesday, July 9th, when my friend Lynne and I set out on a 4-day and 4-night camping trip into a nearby watershed. Our camping location on Ash Creek is about 20 minutes outside of my tiny town in northeastern California. We arrived at our campsite late afternoon and set up our tents and other camp subsidies we would use for the next 4 days. I went out for some evening fishing, by myself, as I always do. I came back to camp at dusk….I staked the fish I caught in the cool evening stream, with the plan to clean it the next day. We went to bed….ending of our 1st day.
Day 2 – The next morning, I woke up and went to wash my face at the creek. During the night, something had removed my strung fish and placed it carefully on the grass. It was actually decorative to look at, no bite marks on it and it was still tethered to its string. Now, a raccoon or a skunk would have bitten it or even eaten the fish. But no, there were only scratch marks on the fish’s skin, not even deep enough to break through to the flesh. I asked Lynne if she had pulled my fish out and her reply was “No”. Hmmmm, peculiar. We sat in camp over a cuppa hot coffee and noticed the complete absence of birds. No birds, no critters, no nothing. We had camped out at the same spot last month. We saw and heard no critters at that time either. The Silence of the Forest was eerie to say the least. We pondered on potential reasons why, but came up with no answers. There were ample bugs for birds, and lots of fresh water…..
I headed out about 9am to fish, hoping the sunshine would make the fish hungry. I traveled upstream, alone as always, searching for some good ripples to put my line into. I was fishing in a remote spot…there was no access for someone to come in except by way of walking the stream. I caught one fish and was working on getting another for dinner when I heard voice(s) that sounded high pitch, kind of like a mother scolding a child. But, I was in a very remote area. “What would a mother with a child be doing out here?” I thought. I looked around, hearing the timbre of the voice, but I could not make out the words. Puzzled, I looked around carefully, and saw no one. I was located in a deep drainage surrounded by basalt boulders and talus slopes. There was absolutely no access from a road into the area. I returned to camp and told Lynne what I had heard. We continued on our day with no other incidents.
Day 3 – Lynne and I spend much of our day in silence, Listening. For hours, no kidding. It is simply something we do to hear and identify wildlife activity around us like birds on the wing, or a deer wandering in to take a drink. That morning a loud, trilling “chirp” was heard…. “What is THAT?” We both asked each other simultaneously. We both are avid birders, and can tell the difference between a warbler and a wren. Neither one of us could identify this call. The chirping was heard only once that morning, it was not repeated, and the rest of the day was uneventful.
Day 4 – Morning began early with hot coffee and our usual practice of Listening. No birds heard, but we observed a female white-headed woodpecker feeding her male juvenile seeds in the mountain mahogany. At about 11:15am, we heard what sounded like a hammer hitting a hollow tree. … “Thump, thump, thump…..thump!”. We turned ourselves to face the sound, “Thump, thump-thump.”
Lynne surmised that “There must be someone up there building a fence.” I told her that there was no road access way up on that ridge, it didn’t make sense, perhaps it was a pileated woodpecker. We walked up out of our camp with binoculars and stood at the bottom of the slope listening. This drumming went on for a period of 15 minutes. No particular pattern, but consistent. When we turned away and returned to camp, the drumming stopped.
After returning home, I went dumpster diving on the internet to try to find out WHAT would or could make that kind of sound in a forest. I looked at chipmunk, woodpeckers, bear, raccoon….the list was huge. I DID find a couple of MP3 recordings that matched the drumming we heard perfectly. I sent the recordings to Lynne and asked her if they sounded anything like the drumming we heard. She replied ” Damn it Barbara, they sound EXACTLY like what we were listening to!”. She asked me the name of the animal who could make such a drumming sound, and I told her, “It’s a Sasquatch”.
As strange and incomprehensible as it may seem, we had been in the presence of a Bigfoot, as they are called down here….. It spoke to me directly one day, whistled to us the next, and drummed to us the third day. The creature may have been warning us, warning others of its kind about our presence, or just interacting with us. We will never know. We were simply curious and felt no fear about the interactions. We had no idea we were being visited by such an elusive creature. Information from the Northwest Bigfoot database showed that earlier reports of sightings and vocal calls had been reported in nearby watersheds almost 20 years ago.
So, my question is: What Medicine lies in such an encounter? It spoke to me when I was alone. Both of us received its call and drumming….. hmmmm. I am still not afraid, but stand in wonder at it all. And yes, I will continue to camp in that watershed.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word RECEIVE has many meanings. As a transitive verb, which is an action that is characterized by having or containing a direct object, the word RECEIVE can mean “to act as a receptacle or container for; to assimilate through the mind or senses; to permit to enter; and even to “Welcome”.As an intransitive verb, which is an activity that is characterized by not having or containing a direct object, the word RECEIVE can refer to a person as a recipient, and even to convert incoming radio waves into perceptible signals. Interesting word, RECEIVE.I went out into the woods last Tuesday and returned this afternoon, Saturday. A mere 4 full days and nights to quietly hang with and in nature for a contiguous 96 hours. I spent this time with a woman friend who practices the fine art of “RECEIVING” when in the forest. To RECEIVE from Nature, one is required to stop, really stop all of the usual day-to-day activities which include unnecessary chatter, movement, busyness for hours at a time. One sits quietly and does absolutely nothing but use the senses to observe, to listen, to feel the daylight and shadows shift on your skin. No straining, no grasping, no projection on what should be there or isn’t, no seeking…..In the process of learning to RECEIVE, one begins to Re-member the interconnectedness of absolutely everything…. The beat and Song of the human heart, the perch of a damsel fly, the white headed woodpeckers, a mother and juvenile feeding in the mountain mahogany, scavenging food which is provided for free…. The cacophony of fluid voices heard in a creek as it bounds unbridled to the ocean. Everything free…everything nourishing, everything of Beauty, overflowing in Fullness. All things in a dance of Balance, giving and receiving in one giant flow of atoms and energy.For me, to surrender to RECEIVE has been no simple task. Sure, I could “visit” the idea of Receiving on a coffee break or a simple walk down a wooded path. It was not a characteristic I easily accomplished in a single day or even during a vacation to the back country. I was simply too busy moving, doing, talking and activating my masculine abilities all of time. To RECEIVE into ones skin, is strictly a Feminine attribute…. and, it takes time. Time to allow the veil we place between ourselves and the World to come crashing down. It takes time to release ones clutches on our assumptions of “control”…. To release our fear of what we may experience, or the nothingness of the open air.Lynne and I laughed together when we spoke about this time in our lives, Crone. “Hell, YES!” Lynne piped up. “We DESERVE to RECEIVE in our lives right now. What have we been doing all of these years? Giving. Giving, giving, giving! To everything… Our families, kids, culture, careers, grocery shopping, household chores, to friends, roles, cooking meals, sweeping floors, laundry…. Mm-mm-mmm! Not anymore. We DESERVE the time it takes to just sit and RECEIVE. Not just now, but for the remainder of our lives…My little truth-sayer. I could not agree with her more.
A little more technical….but still costs pennies to make. Construction took about 4 hours… My work almost always reflects something I see or feel while in nature. This bracelet reminded me of the exposed roots of old ash trees I have seen while fishing. The stone is a heart-shaped, aurora borealis Swarovski crystal….
A Tree Story…..I have known about Plant Spirits for a very long time, over 30+ years to be more precise. I came across a writing today in an old journal where I described a “visitation” by several plant spirits back in 1986. I use to write voraciously in journals as a young woman. I guess my propensity to write began back in the day when I simply chronicled everything about myself, even good sex. At the time, I felt that my life was invisible. So much energy and activity being put out that went unnoticed by others. I began to write so that I would not disappear in this ocean of Life…at least I would appear in print. It seemed to give me a sense of being more solid or real, that I had a fullness of experience I could witness to myself. Journaling at the time gave me solace in a world where I felt alone. It still does.In 1986 I had moved my family into a group living situation in the high desert of Nevada, at Scorpion Springs Ranch. The ranch was located many miles up in a deeply cleft canyon dominated by pinyon pine and sagebrush. The pungent smell of pinyon pitch filled the air on any given sunny day, even in winter. Encountering a plant spirit or entity in this place was a spontaneous experience, one that has been a challenge to duplicate ever since. This experience shook me to the core, so I thought I would share it.I was living in a 2 room rustic cabin with my daughters when I decided to soak up some sun rays in the autumn light. After laying down, I decided to relax by using a deep breathing method I remembered when giving birth 4 years earlier called the Bradley method. I put myself into a deep, relaxed meditative state. I remember letting “the Earth below me hold my bones, turning my muscles into fluid, commanding them to hold no strength, no power”. I became highly sensitized to the sun on my skin and how the wind “literally dragged over the surface of my skin… I “saw” the wind lick and curl, form small eddies, then dissipate into fine tendrils…like a layer of smoke actively curling into rings around my breasts, whirlpools in action under my armpits.” At the time I thought “What a trip! I bet this is what It’s like to be a plant, firmly rooted in one spot. This is what they experience”. I think it was a combination of my deep relaxation state and my openness that allowed me to experience what happened next.“… An image had risen in my mind moments before they appeared. It was like a stone being plopped into a thin soup of mud, or better yet, it looked like a bubble rising out of a mud pot one finds in Yellowstone. Only the outspreading rings of the droplet changed colors, ripples of rainbow – dull, as if looking through brown glass. As soon as the bubble plopped and the ripples dissipated, I experienced a soft pressure at the bottom of my feet…I was caught totally by surprise, and I sensed that They were too.”“I opened my eyes ever so slightly. I “saw” the energy fields of multiple pinion trees and strongly felt their presence. “They are always here!” I remember thinking to myself. I repeated the statement over and over in my mind, full of awe. Three smaller plant devas were along my left side…soft in pressure and just there, curious and observant”… their forms were “like those inflatable punching bags in shape, with a distinct entity in the center of the field. Two large ones were at my feet, I could feel them barely touch the soles of my feet. The smaller ones were on my left side. None of them placed themselves between me and the cabin, PREFERRING TO STAY IN DIRECT CONTACT WITH THE OPEN SPACES.”The energy fields appeared lightly translucent with definite forms outlined in the center of them in colors of gold, yellow, brown and light green. They have a form completely different from anything I have ever seen in my life. Not tree, nor shrub, flower, rock or water. Inhuman, yes. Absolutely. Alive, yes. Definitely.Spirits of trees are not demure, nor domesticated by any stretch of the imagination. They are nothing like human beings or other creatures. They do not speak in a form of language we can readily receive or even understand anymore. They are not easily coaxed into dialogue nor make themselves easily known.I have received tree and other plant spirits as visitors only a few times in my life. The visits always happen when I am fully awake, deeply relaxed and open to the moment. I continue to be surprised and often stand baffled, bewildered and in awe during one these visitations. I have even recorded them singing….. They are not objects, things to be looked at like a piece of furniture. Plants, trees especially, are incredible creatures not to be minimized by Hollywood illustrations. They Bless us by their presence, sages who stand in one place, for thousands of years sometimes, Holding as Sacred the boundary meetings of Air, Earth, and Water……
I find myself in the “Shadow of the Creek” …. That was the best I could come up with when talking with a girlfriend this evening. She asked me if anything was wrong between the two of us, and I said “No, there is nothing unfinished between you and I, it is just me….I am in the shadow of the creek”. I sense this Shadow …. Especially when my inner wind dies down, with nothing there to drive my sails. When nothing I have ever done, accomplished, dreamed about seems to give me an ounce of satisfaction…. When I lack feeling about anything, even myself.
Of course my statement is a reflection of a metaphor. I can have a long period of time where internal Balance and Clarity of eye and thought come with ease. I can write, produce artwork through various mediums, support others in their ventures and generally feel that the World is okay, despite the ecological precipice in which humanity stands. I feel that I journey with some knowledge about this World and what wags it, and even imagine I occupy a particular place in it….I feel a sense of Worth, and with that feeling I can somehow effect change, good change to this trajectory in which we find ourselves.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once wrote “Where there is much light, the shadow is deep”. So much for my period of light… it has been absorbed by the presence of Shadow… I know what has been said about Light and Shadow, that we exist in a realm of Duality. That the “Shadow” is an aspect of ourselves, represented by the Great Feminine Womb from which everything comes into being. Yeah, yeah…sure. I must be on some deep adventure to “Become all that I can be”, to look at and even embrace those aspects of myself I have not yet “chosen to become”. What a bunch of crock…. All I know is that I feel alone and pretty shitty, not able to see enough to place my next foot step.
Enduring a period of Shadow is a rudderless experience. I have no idea how long it will last or where it will lead me. Right now, I am choosing to cut off all of my engines, power them down, stop my personal sense of drive. Assume the position of “coast-mode”… not fight it’s pull or direction, but lay quietly in its embrace, with no anticipation of what may be coming around the next bend. I have to lay my trust in it’s nature, kind of like trusting in the characteristic of buoyancy in wild waters… I know I can float….
We crash and bash about as a species…we systematically disturb things. In a city, we primarily disturb each other. When visiting nature, we disturb other Beings. We are a noisy species, filling up the air space with the timbre of our voices, the clanking of our “stuff”, the movements of our limbs and clothes, the sound of our footfall, the slamming of car doors, our radio waves, satellite connections, the electrical whine along high tensile wires… you name it. We ride a wave of disturbance that crashes before our feet in much of our daily activities.
I entered a natural landscape this past week with a plan to spend quite a few days with a friend out under the stars. After parking my car, I busied myself in setting up a simple camp. The location I chose is a quiet one, but what I noticed right away was the complete absence of bird song. Zip, nothing. No sounds of the mountain chickadee, no chirps or peeps of a brown creeper or nuthatch. No robins or even a jay bird. The forest was eerily silent. The only visible company was a pair of crows that winged their way low through the pine trees.
The silence disturbed me at first, especially since my camp was located near water with a smorgasbord of insects present for easy pickings by any bird species. I settled into walking the creek banks for hours, watching the waters for potential trout habitat. Walking slowly and carefully so as not to further disturb the butterflies, snakes and other critters who lived in or near the stream banks. And the forest remained silent.
It took 24 hours for a lone male robin to sound in this territory. He circled our area of encampment, voicing his simple call every few minutes. He did not receive an answering call…. My friend Lynne and I hunkered down in our chairs, sharing soft conversation for a while. We spent time looking at plants, taking pictures, drawing or painting. Our conversation diminished into Silence… we bent our heads and closed our eyes to merely Listen to the sounds of the Place surrounding us. The churning waters of the creek, the rise and fall of the wind through the pine and fir stands… We fell into a deep period of Silence for many unbroken hours. We would speak to one another only if something new was heard, to validate if the other heard it too…
It took three (3) days, 72 hours of silence and quiet movements to entice any of the local animal residents to return for a visit. A doe and her newborn fawn clambered down an adjacent hill, running from some form of threat, to cross the stone creek bed into safety. Their hoofs struck the rocks with a resounding sound that fractured the early dawn hour. When sipping our coffee, we were visited by a brown creeper trilling it’s song from the top of a lone pine, and an all-female foursome of Common mergansers settling in the creek. We considered these visitations a gift from Mother. They came to us only after we dissolved our”selves” into the backdrop of the natural landscape through Silence.
We are a species who is full of our own noise and we move too quickly. No wonder so many of us feel “disconnected” to nature and the World around us. We are so full of our own noise and busy-ness that we are unable to see, hear, or be approached by all the Life that surrounds us…… Namaste.
Dawn comes early this time of year. The brightening sky woke me up at 5 am and encouraged me to venture out of doors with a hot cuppa coffee in hand. I ventured downhill to view Ash creek, forever curious to observe nature’s activities in the quiet stillness of the early morn. I had walked less than 100 yards from my house when I noticed s small, flowering shrub tucked in my neighbors yard. Somehow, I had missed seeing this plant in my 26 years of wandering my rural neighborhood. It’s peculiar flowers and heady scent drew me close. “Viburnum” it said to me, speaking its name as clear as a bell in my mind. I was startled by its direct communication and openness to me, and gathered a flower and leaf to properly identify it when I returned home. I offered it a gift of tobacco in gratitude while inhaling its sweet honey-like fragrance.Cramp bark contains several compounds found to enhance health, including ellagic acid (a chemical with antioxidant benefits). It is a natural remedy for arthritis, chronic pain, High blood pressure, inflammation, low back pain, menstrual cramps, restless leg syndrome and tension headaches. The best time for me to collect some branches for the bark will be in autumn. Duly noted…One of my favorite herb walks is what I call my “doorstep” version. I merely walk out the door and identify as many medicinal herbs and their uses within a one block radius. This morning proved abundant with over a dozen herbs including alfalfa (nourishing), amaranth (controls mucous, stomach irritations), choke cherry (coughs, congestion), cleavers (urinary tract and skin), dandelion (tonic and diuretic), gum plant (bladder infections), hops (sedative, tonic, antibiotic), cramp bark (nervine), wild lettuce (pain relief), pineapple weed (calming sedative), mallow and mullein (coughs and colds), honeysucke (coughs), plantain (anti-inflammatory), blackberry (tonic), Old World rose (mild astringent, diarrhea), cranesbill (astringent, excessive bleeding), and California poppy (sedative, analgesic).One really does not have to venture deep into the woods to find plants with medicinal benefits. As a matter of fact, disturbances created by humans provides ample habitat for these “weedy” species to emerge. Take a walk around your block with a good herbal identification book in hand….you never know what you will discover!