There is a quiet place, a secret place, that is yours for restoration. There is a realness in the stillness. Go there, when you can; when you need to. It's safe. For me, it is the Other Side of the Trees.
I stumbled out of slumber; resistance, prolific (an exaggeration). No turning back. Onward. Life moves toward the finish line, while some still live in the past, keeping a strong focus on memories, life in the rear-view mirror. I struggle at times, embracing present and future, vigilantly keeping the past at bay. I grieve for the loss of my dad, who honorably crossed that profound finish line in June of 2016; ten months have passed. I remember so much about my dad, the adventures; the pain of what I missed out on, important words unsaid. I shake my head with frustration: the grieving has gone on for just shy of a year. I want to wrap this up, move onward from my dad, let him enjoy the great festival of freedom and joy, released from this jaded world.
Even with my intent to be present, in the “here-and-now”, images, people, memories, drift in from the past. Intrigue. Curiosity. Recently, I stumbled across a picture of an Inupiat family in Noatak, Alaska. A good-looking family, from 1929. The Inupiat are in northern / northwestern Alaska, and part of the Northwest Territories. Inupiat traditional territory spanned Norton Sound on the Bering Sea to the Canada-United States border.
Noatak sits on the west bank of the Noatak River, 55 miles north of Kotzebue, 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle. This is the only settlement on the 396 mile-long Noatak River, just west of the 66-million acre Noatak National Preserve. Noatak was a fishing and hunting camp in the 19th century, evolving into a permanent settlement. In 1880, the census listed the site as Noatagamut: “inland river people.” A post office was established in 1940. So, you could probably send a letter there if you felt so inclined.
A beautiful woman, a radiant mother, exuding a quiet, authentic, joy. The man, with an enigmatic mix of confidence, strength, and peace. The little one, surrounded by fur and love. Below, a photograph, an Inupiat group heading out to fish in their kayaks, the same year, 1929, by the same photographer, also in Noatak. I wonder if the Inupiat man (above), is one of the Noatak kayak-fishermen ( below)?
I revisit stories and individuals in the past. I draw strength from them. Going back “there” empowers me to move forward, onward. C.S. Lewis’s words resonate:
Some parts of the stories, I do not know. I visit the lives of sojourners who have gone before us, highlighting mystery. Mystery is very much alive, all over: the mystery of how love works, how love looks; how to find meaning and joy in our circumstances and our stories; gazing into a ravishing sunset; seeing a harvest moon arise, especially when one is not expecting it; and the Northern Lights. Within this tension between reflections on the past and returning to the present and the future, I am there. The grieving process … mysteriously … continues, longer than what I would like. The grieving process continues beyond my timetable; I want to know more about the mystery of the man, my father; and the memories. My cell phone still shows me the current time. My heart continues to beat. My breathing continues. The future is around the bend, and I cannot hold it back. I live in the present, and I ride it like a wild bull. I hold on for the ride of my life.
April, I walked into the trees, climbed up on a rock, belted out a song and a high spirited howl of joy. Spring was (cautiously) emerging! Winter was waiting in the wings until our guard was down.
By May, winter left town. Summer came too soon, pushing spring out. An injustice, Spring had flown the coop, way too early. Seasons can be harsh, unfair, fickle. Indeed, spring had slipped out the back, Jack. In the “here-and-now”, leaves are turning their colors, gradually gliding downward. A one-time dusting of snow came, September. Other than that, we are holding on to fall as long as we can. I am in another season: I am pushing through a few barriers of resistance. Any of us, at any given time, may find ourselves in such a place; our awareness tells us that change is important; but the change is delayed.
The delay comes out of our reluctance to change; the reluctance comes because there is a “pay-off”. We are getting something we want from that which needs to change. To break through the barriers of a difficult season: I need a blend of specific, trustworthy, wise, supportive, and sensitive individuals to walk with; and I need some time to “sit in” a desert place of pain, to think through the process, the motives for wanting to leave what is familiar, and the implications of stepping into (again) the unknown. What will change look like? Peace be with you, sojourning bloggers. Keep writing.
This post was to go out a couple of weeks ago. Bummer.
I thought I would hold off before I stood up on a chair and belt out a song and a yawp of joy … Spring has been elusive, winter waiting until our guard was down, believing that Spring was bully here … and then rushing in like fierce snow birds, snow bunnies, snow squirrels. Now, I think that the snow is over, for the year. True, anything can happen. Snow in June?? Not yet. The injustice, here, is that Spring has almost flown the coop; slipped out the back, Jack; gone for the year … We may have a little Spring left. Those seasons, they keep changing. Such a simple statement, with profound implications. Our seasons in our lives, they look different for all of us. Me … I belief that I am in a season where I’m breaking through barriers of resistance. It is one thing to decide that it is your / my season … to break through barriers; and an entirely different matter to do it. This idea (you have already heard about) that sometimes the places we are at in life, struggling with certain issues, difficulties, offer us something, like a “pay-off”, and because of that we choose to stay, to linger, in these places. Those places might be in a desolate canyon with very few trees. Or, anxiety is dominant, or we wear depression like a heavy wool topcoat. And some might say that we struggle to move on, to move out, of those places … because we find some paradoxical comfort there. Maybe it is “the known”, versus “the unknown”. My final thought is this. For us to break through the barriers of a difficult season: we need a blend of specific, trustworthy, wise, supportive, and sensitive sojourners to walk with us; and we also need to embrace the reality that we must have some time to “sit in” a desert place of pain, to think through the process, the motives for wanting to leave what is familiar, and the implications of stepping into (again) the unknown. Peace be with you, sojourning bloggers. And, keep writing.
1993, August, Grand Teton National Park, on the Death Canyon trail to Static Peak, I came around a bend and saw the first bull moose I had ever seen (up close). I don’t have a picture of this magnificent beast. I will, however, remember that he was the biggest animal I have come that close to: the neck, massive; the rack, I estimated was six feet across; dark piercing eyes exuding a strength that convinced me to turn around … on the trail … and go back around the bend, and decide what to do, next. Here’s an image I found of a bull elk:
The trail is a profound place to be. I have followed paths through wildernesses that have enveloped me with fragrances; pristine colors; the wonder of trees; creeks, boulders … The trail is where I escape concrete, street lamps, and automobiles. Some examples:
Specimen Mountain Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park; Rolling Creek Trail, Pike National Forest; Mount Falcon Park trails, Indian Hills; Death Canyon Trail, Grand Teton National Park; Cedar Falls Trail, Petit Jean State Park; and Adam Falls Trail / Mount Craig Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park … for a short list.
I’ll close with this. There is a book worth looking into, entitled Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder, written by Richard Louv. Second item, I want to acknowledge that I have had some serious “blogger’s block” (like writer’s block). My continued visits to my favorite blogs have been a part of this “calling” out of my own wildernesses, to finally get a post written again. Interesting how that works, bloggers helping bloggers. We all have our trails, and sometimes they are difficult.
Summer is coming. There will be camping this year. Last year … too much happening … couldn’t pull the pieces of a plan together. This year, we’re going to make it happen. The kids take these little white things, stick them on thin sapling-like-sticks, and hold these little white things over the campfire. Ideally, they won’t catch fire, but instead take on a golden brown color. The kids either eat them as is, or put them on a graham cracker, add a square piece of chocolate, and top it off with another graham cracker. Thus, a sandwich-like creation.
However, Spring has to come first. Winter snow has been slowly diminishing. I’m seeing more and more of the brown earth; less and less of the snow that has covered the ground; and the Spring runoff, both powerful and beautiful, is probably already happening. I just haven’t made it up high enough to see it. I am being sprung by the Spring, as these processes are happening: the process of writing; and the process of my emergence from winter sluggishness. My passions, dulled by the winter. I am in desperate need of the Spring, water flowing, color, warmth, and the pull of the wilderness. I want to recapture my vision and my passion. And I hope for the same for everyone. Awaken, O Sleeper.
My understanding is that … everyone … crossed over the turbulent, rapid-ridden river, into the new wilderness, 2016. So, no no one needs to be left behind, although at there are times when we may feel that way. Once again, that familiar piece of wisdom comes up, “You cannot always trust your feelings.” So, let’s move. And hold on to your hats.
The pain of countless tragedies, in 2015, is is a given … we shall not debate that truth. Nor, shall we camp on those countless tragedies. A big difference, between remembering, redemptively remembering … and giving over our power to the losses. In one sense, we can say,”We have no choice. We must move forward into the hope.” In another sense, it is good to acknowledge reality, especially in order for us to move on with intentionality: “Some may choose not to move forward.” The choice is the reality. Move? Or stay?
Walk with me, and I will walk with you, as we move forward … into the hope and the expectation that there are good things ahead, into the knowledge that we do have what it takes, into the light. Winston said something like this: “This could be our finest hour.” And, do something else with me: hold on to your hat.
This has happened before. I get a little lost on my journey, a little disoriented, and then I see that months have gone by without writing a post. Not good, my friend. Hmmmm. Bilbo’s words come to mind …
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step on to the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Part of this relational disconnect has to do with memories from being in the trenches with homeless addicts in recovery (some were serious about their recovery, and some were posers). The stories and shadows are paradoxically haunting: the tragedy of that world is a given; yet, at times there is something illogically peaceful in the midst of personal chaos … with the exception, of course, of the bad people. What I was thinking of, when I acknowledged that I have been delayed in contributing a post, when I used the words “relational disconnect” from being in the trenches (17 years) with homeless addicts in recovery, was that when I was finished working I wanted to keep going west on I-70 up into the mountains, instead of getting off at my exit that would take me home … I wanted to be somewhere, alone, and sit by a fire, either in an old cabin … or in an old forest. But I could never do that. I could never escape. I always tried to”do the next thing”.
I’m a bit preoccupied with the cold, at the moment. For about 3 days, it’s been so cold. Last night it was 18. During the day, going to my car, my thoughts froze up. Fortunately someone came along and guided me to a warm place. Now I am thinking again … I think.