Dr. Joe and the Supernatural Genius

I know, it’s been awhile.  I started a post several times and couldn’t figure out how to write about the last 6 months without a lot of emotional content. I was excited to return to trail and in May hiked a portion of the Rogue River Trail in southern Oregon.  I took pictures, framed my shots so I could do another Wilderness of Women trail paintings, I was ready to rock the blog with new art and new adventures.

But, when I got home from the trip, I found out that my step-mother was in the hospital and my 83 year old Dad was home alone and having a hard time.  I had been in the river canyon with no cell reception, and it had been a marvelous time on a rough and tumble trail in some epic back country, so the news was unexpected. My Dad had been loosing ground with some dementia and relied heavily on his wife; they were staunchly independent in their life and totally unprepared for this sudden illness. Neither one of them would even ask me to come down to help, but I insisted and booked a flight to California. Dad was relieved, I figured it would take me a week or so to set up some care-givers and I could return to my life uninterrupted, free to be me, doing my thing, getting back to what ever it was I wanted to do. You forget sometimes that life isn’t always so predictable and it can change and rearrange everything.  Disasters strike and knock you for a loop. Fires, floods, famine, death, destitution, tragedy.  Life is not always roses and laughter.  We forget, sometimes that the other people that things happen to? Sometimes those people are us.

The day before my arrival, my father fell and hit his head.  He was cleaning the house in preparation for my coming; he was so happy I’d be there, my stepmother’s illness was his personal disaster and my arrival would be just what he needed to get through it. But instead, when I arrived, I went straight to the ICU and learned more about his traumatic brain injury caused by the fall and the subsequent bleeding that happened as a result of his blood thinners.

I spent the days in a daze, running back and forth between their rooms, her illness was severe, I’d never seen someone so sick before. His brain injury had him confused, affected him at first like a stroke, then later, more like a coma. I was numb and put one foot in front of the other, this was a tough trail , it felt like I was climbing Mt. Hood all over again.  But it also felt like a storm at sea, I was out of my element as I navigated uncharted waters through two sets of doctors, nurses, hospital staff, administration, social workers, not to mention Bay Area traffic and an empty house that needed bills paid, the trash taken out and a million and one other details left behind as these two peoples lives fell apart and sank into the ocean. Together we washed ashore in the Mountain View Hospital, surviving, but still castaways on an island of illness and tragedy. I sported the expression of one whose life is in upheaval, you see these hallway ghosts in most hospitals, they walk between their lives outside and their tragedies, inside. Now I was the one in the midst of the drama.

My father died two weeks later. My stepmother finally turned a corner and began to show progress on her recovery. She went to a care facility a few days later, and I made funeral arrangements.

I was sad and shocked and all the other words that describe the emotions of grief, but not angry, I skipped over that, I chose not to be angry. Death is a part of life, there was nothing to be angry about. I just faced it; I don’t believe in turning your back on it for even a moment. I will always be grateful I was in the room with him when he died. It was a privilege, truly. I didn’t know it would happen so fast, in the entire 2 weeks, no one had told me this was coming. I thought he’d eventually be released to a care home. I was distracted by my stepmother’s condition and unable to comprehend the seriousness of his injury. It was less than 24 hours after they put him on palliative care that he died, but I guess I must have known something because I had taken the time to talk to him and say goodbye. I reached in to his world as much as I could in those 2 weeks. I sang to him and he responded, somehow music making it’s way to a part of his brain that wasn’t being crushed and absorbed by the injury. Those simple songs were my comfort and I’m so very grateful for that last connection.

Now, I’m sure you are wondering, but who is Dr. Joe and what’s up with this Supernatural Genius stuff?  Ok, hang on, I’m getting to that.  Setting the stage here.

I spent most of the month of May in California, and came home as spring was turning into summer. In an effort to do something “normal” I put myself back into the studio and painted a scene from the Rogue River, from a time before the shipwreck.20180830_100316-1

Blue Lupines on the Rogue River

The Rogue River in southern Oregon is one of the last scenic and wild rivers in the country.  Thousands of people float this river each year, but you can hike the length of it through the Rogue Wilderness along a narrow, often ledge/precipice trail, that hugs the northern edge. Painting this for me allowed me to leave my tragedy behind and let the creative spirit soothe my soul.

I did a lot of self care this summer.  I went to see NY Times bestselling author, researcher and speaker, Dr. Joe Dispenza at the Science of Spirituality conference in BC, Canada. He rose to fame after the movie, What the Bleep do we Know? came out and has been working at studying  brain neurology and the cosmic connection for some time now. His books, The Placebo Effect, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself  and Becoming Supernatural  have, as they say, garnered much acclaim, and influenced me greatly in my own personal studies of the brain and personality.

Without getting too much into his work,  he is currently focusing on meditation as a way to heal the body of disease and faulty thinking processes that lead one into a diseased state.  Going to the conference helped me process as well as give me a respite from my life. I returned invigorated and ready to handle whatever was to come next.

My stepmother recovered and came home. I traveled down to CA again to help with the transition and to start going through my Dad’s things.  It is a monumental task, these things you accumulate in your life. As well organised as my parents are, there are still so many details to sort through; it certainly gave me a new perspective on my own life and how much stuff is in it and how much my survivors would have to wade through.  Perhaps it’s true what they say, at some point you don’t own things… your things own you.

The rest of the summer flew by with more backpacking trips, some major home renovations and then, just as I was getting on with life, another death in the family.  Our old Dog, Hank, finally reached the point where it was time to put his body down and let him go home. I couldn’t see it for the longest time, I wouldn’t let him go. I’m sure it had something to do with my Dad, but we were going through heroic measures to keep him safe (he was practically blind and deaf), to keep him clean (he had to be assisted when eliminating as he could hardly walk), to keep him fed (he would forget he was eating and stumble away). It took considerable effort to keep this old dog alive, but I had begged him to stay alive for me as I traveled from home and he was doing it, but at great cost. I finally realized it wasn’t fair to ask him this anymore, and so, we laid our little boy down and cried some more.

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Hank

Then, last month, we packed our bags again and headed back to Canada for a week-long advanced meditation retreat with Dr. Joe.  We had enjoyed the conference so much, my husband really wanted the full on experience. NOW, here’s where things get interesting.

Neither one of us realized how intense this workshop was going to be. In 7 days, we probably meditated approximately 35  hours!  3 sessions a day, 1-2 hours each, with  two 4-hour long sessions. In between the meditations were lectures and breaks for meals. We dragged up and back to our hotel around 7 or 8 each night, fell into bed only to get up at 5 for a 6 AM meditation the next morning. The 4 hour sessions started at 4 AM yet we were all lining up in the hallway at 3:30, eager to get in and get started.

I had amazing insights and healing; body, mind and spirit. Synchronicites abounded, every day was a new study in connection to the Universal energy of life, and I released all my angst and pain from the past few months and let my heart open to love. Every morning Dr. Joe would have us turn to the person next to us and introduce ourselves as Supernatural Geniuses. We all laughed, but we all did it because we were along for the ride and why the hell not?  We all committed to the affirmation, we were there to learn and to grow.

And to top it all off, just to test us on how coherent we could remain while faced with a challenge, we rappelled off a 30 story building. Yeah, you heard me, rappelled, as in ropes, harness, bounce-and-down-you go. I decided right then and there, I wasn’t going to be scared.  Fear was a choice I was not going to make. Our group went the second day right after breakfast, and I was glad I didn’t have to think about it too long.  I made myself NOT think about it, much easier that way. I just focused on the job at hand, stepped over the edge and belayed myself down.  I did take a few moments to look around and caught a glimpse of my reflection in a window, looking like a bad-ass urban mountain climber.

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Toronto Spiritual Spiderwo/men!

The conference was healing, magical, mystical and with all that meditation, a transcendent experience. It would be a whole other post just talking about what happened, but instead, I will leave you with the first thing I painted when I got home, I kept seeing this during some deep moments in the void. I’m calling it:

The Universe is Watching You.

Because, well, it is.  You are a part of the Universe and you see what you do and who you are. Especially if you get some awareness and really take the time to look. Nothing like tragedy and challenges to be that wake up call. But it doesn’t need to be tragic.  You can choose to awaken without it, and when you do, you too will be a Supernatural Genius!

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Reflections on reflections

I had something happen a few weeks back that took me aback.  By that, I mean, I wasn’t myself, I didn’t even recognize myself and my reaction. It’s not like me to get so distraught, the level of my reaction didn’t match what was actually happening, and so, being the introspective seeker I am, I had to reflect upon it.  While I was processing this, I was working on a painting I had started prior to the incident.  Now, you may be wondering what happened, but let me assure you, the actual event is not important to my story… it in itself, is inconsequential.

What is important is what I learned about myself in regards to my emotional reaction. I knew all this before, but  apparently I needed the reminder. In the Zen-mindfulness state I’d been working on, I’d forgotten what it was like to live through a downpour of emotions. My reaction had me pondering it’s cause, so I made a list of stressful events in the last few months and came up with a good dozen crises that, at the time, I’d rolled with just fine, until this last thing that suddenly seemed like life or death. Making the list helped me remember to be kind to myself and give myself permission to be human. It’s really okay to make mistakes.  Mistakes are opportunities to learn.

I also realized that oftentimes, people in your life are a reflection of yourself. By trying to have them change so that you can feel better is like reaching out to a mirror and brushing it’s hair. When what you see is messy hair, try brushing your own head, not the reflection that you see.  The problem wasn’t really what I was seeing… the problem was me.

Ironic that I’d be working on another Women of the Wilderness painting at exactly this moment, and that it would feature a reflection of the Three Sisters in a snow melt pond.  The painting helped sooth my ruffled feathers and as I reflected upon the reflection, it all became clear to me.

The mountains are beautiful, majestic and bold as they march across the blue sky, jagged edges against a perfect day. Below, the trees tumble down obsidian cliffs and spread out on the lava and pumice strewn soil. It’s a nice image, but its composition lacks interest until you get to the almost perfectly round pond. It reflects the peaks, but it shows just a riffle of wind, reminding you, it is not the thing you see, but merely a reflection… a mirror.

Just like life, the thing you see in a mirror isn’t the thing at all. You can’t climb a mountain in a mirror; if you are going to climb mountains at all, you’re going to have to tackle the real one.

Reflection on a Reflection

Mindful Eating

Thanks for the Good Lunch

My friend, author and blogger, Amira Makansi recently posted an article about eating lunch alone. Though it really was less about solo eating and more about taking the time to feed yourself and enjoy your food. Taking a break from your work life to really experience your food gives you a moment of pleasure and respite from your day that is missing when we divert our attention from our meal by distractions such as reading, watching media or multi-tasking.  She advised us to slow down and taste our food. Especially if, like us, you work from home and cook for yourself.  (Here’s the link to that article.)

Sentiments I had to agree with, and, being a stay-at-home artist and writer myself, felt compelled to comment upon. I pointed out how appreciating our food can go beyond the taste if you take the time to think about it.  With a little pause for reflection, we can consider where the food came from and how it even got to our plate to begin with. She suggested I blog about this concept and this post and painting are the result. Synergy at its best!

I often start a meal with a silent offering of gratitude. I thank the food, I thank the farmer who grew the lettuce or beans or artichokes. I think of and thank the people who tended the crop, who picked the produce, who put it on the trucks and brought it to the store. Did the produce wind up going to a cannery or plant where it was processed, maybe made into something else, like the coconut yogurt I used to make my creamy vegan dip? If so, then I thank the factory workers too.  I try not to eat a lot of processed foods, but coconut yogurt is clearly in the processed food realm, along with my soy cheese and even my tofu. There are so many plain ingredients that really are part of a process, so it’s impossible to avoid all processed food. I also can’t dodge the packaging, so there goes a thanks to the people who made the can or plastic tub. I also like to remember the people who took it off the truck and stocked it on the store shelf. When I take the time to think of all the hands that were involved in making my food, besides my own, the numbers are staggering.

With every meal, hundreds of people have contributed to get the food from the farmer to my plate. Even the spices and the salt and the condiments add to the party.  Although you may eat your meal by yourself, you never truly eat alone.

In the spirit of gratitude and thanks to all who’ve helped make my meal, I went out into the studio and created, Thanks for the Good Lunch. Earlier in the week, when I had a particularly nice-looking meal, I took a picture. That day I had made a cauliflower crust pizza with artichokes, olives, red onion slivers and spinach. I added cut apple, baby carrots and snap peas. I had a warm cup of chicory coffee with soy milk and an oat flour muffin with cranberries, walnuts, dates and orange zest. See what I mean about ingredients? With each one came hundreds of workers, a veritable army of food workers who collaborated to get their goods to the store where I could buy it and create a healthy lunch. I didn’t even include the woman who posted her cauliflower crust recipe on-line, or the electricity my oven used while I was baking muffins and pizza crusts. The interconnections can go on and on, so I try to keep my thanks to the food itself. Still, there are a lot of people involved in some way.

My food ritual may be time consuming, and yes, sometimes I am thanking the people while I am chewing thoughtfully on my concoction. I’ve taken the time to make this nice meal, it would be a shame to let it get cold while I ran through my mental list. I know I don’t remember everyone, but my point is this; by taking a few moments to remember, it connects me to my food in a very mindful way, my meal becomes a meditation in mindfulness and allows me to nurture my mind and my soul as well as my body. It also serves as a reminder how interconnected we truly are. All the way down to our salt.

And that, makes for one, delicious, mindful lunch.

And Now for Something Completely Different

If you are a Monty Python fan, you may recognize that title.  If not, sorry, you’ve missed out on kooky British comedy from the 70’s, though I imagine some quick web searches will put you in touch with their surreal and somewhat stream-of-consciousness act.

They often stopped their sketches with the catch-phrase: And Now for Something Completely Different.  So, here I go again, stopping my “ART” blog for something else.  Though, to be fair, it’s art in a different form.  Most likely inspired by writing this blog, and then definitely inspired by my Library and REI lecture series on the Wilderness Of Women, a lovely Powerpoint presentation I whipped up and delivered from Portland to Medford.  The feedback I received was very positive and it inspired me to start writing a book.  A book I’d been writing for over 30 years.  A book about my trail life and my off trail life, how they intersect and influence each other.  When my shoulder got hurt and grounded me from hiking last year, I took advantage of my in-firmed circumstances and used the time to write.

My book has morphed into something else, however, and just like all the best of my art, it took on a life of it’s own.  Part memoir, part trail journal, part coffee table art book, part philosohical and spiritual exploration, The Spiral Trail is heading for parts unknown.  Like it’s title, it spirals around and comes back to lessons learned, growing and developing into a story about a life lived on the trails and woods and translated into paint, guided by source.

I’m still working on it, and I’m still painting and hiking and doing all the things that need to be done.  I’ll try to pop into the blog from time to time to say hello and share a new piece.  For now, here’s an excerpt from  The Spiral Trail  to start my literary exploration into the writing of a book.  I hope you find it enjoyable and interesting.  Wanting more is good!  So, come with me and lets take a walk in the woods…

 

Chapter 21

Mushrooming

I took the dogs out on another gold hunting excursion. As I understand it, there are places where one can still pan for gold, actual gold nuggets that wash down from creeks and rivers, but that’s not the gold I am looking for.  I’m looking for Chanterelle mushrooms, a gloriously school-bus-yellow fungus that litters the deep woods of the Pacific Northwest each year when it gets cold and wet. They are delicious, meaty and mild tasting mushrooms, sought by gourmet chefs as well as poor college students because, for those of us who have access and knowledge, they are free. I was taught how to find Chanterelles by a couple of Dead Heads (fans of the Grateful Dead), both of who were deep into their respective studies at Oregon State University at the time.  One in Forestry, and the other in Mycology, the study of fungi, so they knew what to look for as well as where to look for them. My first taste of a Chanterelle had me rolling my eyes upward in delight, they are that good. I paid attention to the where’s and what’s of Chanterelle hunting and I learned my lesson well.

I began hunting for Chanterelles by myself the moment we landed in Alpine and found them at low elevations in those early days.  But the craze for Chanterelles took off and the economy did not, spurring hundreds of mushroom hunters to take to our local woods in search of quick cash.  Which in turn spurred another form of industry, the mushroom buyer, one of which put up a sign on their driveway and gave the hunters an easy stop on their way out of the hills to cash in on their gains.  I’d like to say “ill gotten gains” as they tromped over public and private lands alike and yanked up the mushrooms without regard to keeping the root system in tact and leaving a few to grow and spread their spores for future mushrooms. Chanterelles will return year after year if you treat their ground gently, but that was not to be.  Our woods were inundated with groups of hunters, they’d park their beat-up cars along the mountain roads and carry in white 5-gallon buckets intent on finding a large haul.

I felt a twinge of disgust at these interlopers, these were my woods they were bustling about in, yelling back and forth, disturbing the quiet as they raped the forests of their delicious yellow fungi fruit.  They pulled up every one and left nothing behind but beer cans, candy wrappers and toilet paper.  I frowned every time I saw them out there, failing to see the irony that I, myself was heading out for a mushroom hunt. Their presence was forcing me to range farther from home and I was irritable about the idea I couldn’t prowl about in what I considered “my woods”, which of course, weren’t.

I learned early on to keep quiet about my mushrooming grounds, having once taken a friend out and kindly taught him how to identify and find Chanterelles only to learn he later took a group of his friends back to my spot where they cleaned out the entire hillside. I never quite trusted him after that and our friendship suffered. But such is the nature of gold fever, it changes one’s ethics when you are in the midst of a find.

Since then, I’ve sworn friends to secrecy before taking them to known places but as the hunter hoards continued patrolling my local hills, those known places became found and decimated.  We had dry falls and late rains and some of my best spots were clear-cut, spelling the end of any nearby Chanterelles.  They need deep mature forests, cool weather and rain. I found myself travelling farther from home to find my gold.

Still, every year I’d get a few for dinner.  And sometimes I’d stumble across a new patch and manage to put up some for later, though really, frozen Chanterelles are never as good as freshly picked.  There were some good years before the big local clear-cut happened, I’d bring home bags of them and then spend hours cleaning them all.  But after they cut the hills directly behind us, it got harder on everyone.  Even the hunters began to range along the Alsea river drainage, the backside of our local hills and my last-ditch effort at mushrooming.  It seemed as if all the best spots were picked over, my hunts became hikes.  Those were lean years, it was lucky if I’d find one or two and that would be it for the season.

But still I tried, I felt as if I was missing something… there had to be a place I’d looked over, some patch of woods I’d yet to explore.  I’ve been riding and hiking my local section of the coast range mountains, keeping to about 5 or 6 square miles and had come to learn this land pretty well over 30 years.  But I hadn’t been everywhere between the roads.  Between the roads is lots of brush and the mature woods needed to cruise about without risking life and limb, or at the least, a few scratches from the dense understory, was getting harder to find.  But there were still a few patches of them, it’s just that I had transitioned from being a deer path following bush-whacking hiker to a road follower.  I could take my horses on the road, either an abandoned logging road or an active one, and had cut a few trails to link up roads so I could make a big loop rather than backtrack, so I hadn’t been doing much off road hiking.  Not even when I decided to return to backpacking and was planning and prepping for the PCT.  I was after miles and conditioning exercise and you can’t get a work out pushing your way through the underbrush.  That kind of hiking is slow and meticulous as I wander about, carefully taking note of the terrain and topography, making sure I do not get lost in the “it all looks the same” woodland.  My deep wood exploring days seemed to be behind me, and with it, my lack of mushrooming luck.

Until last week.

I took a friend on another excursion, hoping the old places would have some kind of nostalgic luck, but no luck was to be found.  Doreen is somewhat new to me as a friend, but we get along well and she was game for hiking about, looking for mushrooms. We drove further out to an old patch I knew of and when that panned out, I took her off trail and off road, but again, nothing. We did not go far from the road as I am reluctant to drag tourists along on these kinds of bush-whacking hikes. I’m quite concerned about becoming lost in the woods, so I work hard paying attention to the hundreds of details that will allow me to back-track my way to safety in the event I’m not sure where I am.  After my jumpy nerves at finding the staircase on the “moonlit” beach, I’ve had some concerns about my state of mind in an unknown situation where no map is at hand to guide me.  The woods beyond my woods are just the same kind of unknown situation as I am not nearly so well acquainted with their topographical peccadillos as I am for my own side of the mountain. This emotional state does not blend well with chatting with friends as we prowl the woods.  I have to concentrate out there and so, I have not been exploring as I mushroom hunt.

Needless to say, Doreen and I got skunked.  I found two mushrooms in the old patch, one for her and one for me.  We shrugged, it was a nice day and the dogs were having a joyous time racing about the forest, it was fun just to watch them and hike about.  We didn’t care all that much so we started back for the car which was parked about a half mile away. I guided us back to the road and took an alternate road, making a loop of our hike.  I always make a loop if I can, there’s something about a circle that makes me feel like my hike is complete, even if it’s a small circle at the end of a straight out and straight back trail.  I call those keyhole loops, and they serve the purpose of “not backtracking” that I like.

We were on this loop when I spotted an opening in the trees off the road.  Something about it said “check it out!” to me, so check it out we did.  I led Doreen off the road and onto a deer trail that disappeared through a brush tunnel and into a deep and open patch of mature forest.  It didn’t look like a deep wood from the road, choked by brush on both sides, I had assumed it was a young stand of trees.  These young stands are usually so thick with underbrush you can’t get through without serious effort, frequently jungle hacking your way through isn’t even worth the pain.

I was surprised and delighted by this find and after picking our way over the old dumped trash at the entrance (I will never understand why people uses the forest as their personal dump) immediately saw scores of mushrooms all along the game trail. There were pink ones and slimy brown ones, some yellow boletus and white death cap kind of mushrooms, not what I was after but still, there were mushrooms here and there were quite a lot of them!  I was encouraged to follow the deer path as it hugged the side of the hill just below the roadway, my boots cutting into the soft needle strewn soil as if I was marching across a snowy mountain field.  Continuing on, I came across our first white Chanterelle, a rare variety, but not that unusual for this area. I’d found white Chanterelles near where we parked the car once, even though, and it’s hard to believe this, but that was 25 years before and before the woods had been selectively cut.

A selective cut will only take say, every other tree, and even though it preserves the forest as a forest, it’s harder to do. I like them, but once the forest is opened up, more brush will fill in between the trees and the Chanterelles won’t return.  It’s too light and airy for them. Seeing this white Chanterelle here gave me hope.  I bent down, carefully pushing aside the fir needles and debris, I cut it gently at the base. Doreen came over to see the mushroom and exclaimed, “Here’s another one!” and she set to the task of cutting that one for herself.  Again, we had found two, one for me and one for her.  But this time, the conditions were better.  No brush and a swath of deep woods.  I followed the path as it paralleled the road above and came across another scattered patch of Chanterelles.

“I found some more!  Yes!”  I picked a few and left a few for her to take before moving down the trail to another scattered patch.  We were ecstatic at finding them, and I was happy to find them in such an easy place.  I didn’t need to worry about getting lost or loosing sight of Doreen as we fought our way through dense underbrush.  This hillside was open and the road was a laidback climb out. We left behind the small ones to grow and talked about coming back for them later.  I pushed on ahead of her and went from patch to patch, finding them and then calling for her to take the ones I’d left for her to harvest.  Sometimes she saw a few I’d missed entirely and her bag began to fill up with a good haul.  As she was delicately brushing off needles and dirt, I wandered down a draw to see if there were more downhill but came back empty handed, unwilling to get beyond earshot of Doreen leaving her alone in the deep woods.  Bringing her out here was my responsibility and I take that seriously. I seem to have been the pathfinder in most of my hiking relationships, it’s not like I tried to take that role, but that’s just how it worked out.  Jane once called me the “human GPS” and I laughed.  I may be good in the woods, however, don’t trust me in the city.  I get all turned around when confronted with streets and buildings.  There’s too much data for me to process.

I don’t think of myself as a confidant pathfinder, more like a nervous pathfinder, I’m worried about getting lost.  I try to remember Daniel Boone, that great Kentucky backwoods explorer who was supposedly quoted as saying he’d never been lost, he just didn’t know where he was for a couple of days.

But still, Pathfinder is my trail name and so, I have a reputation to live up to; regardless of my nervousness in the woods, I also know I have the skills and abilities to untangle myself from a backwoods mishap. What I don’t have, on this day, is an actual map of the area, which, without a compass would be useless as the woods are so deep, dark and topographically convoluted it renders a map useless without the means of pointing one in the right direction. I also don’t have a compass.  Just my faith and skill and backwoods prowess, somewhat like Daniel Boone! I also have my nervousness which keeps me close to the road and checking to make sure we haven’t wandered away from it as we go from patch of gold to patch of gold.

Eventually, we run out of mushrooms and of the deep woods as we get closer to an old overgrown cut which is full of brush. I suggest we climb out and head back.  We’ve managed to find about a couple of dozen mushrooms a piece, so we turn for the road.  Doreen takes the time to pick the ones we come across on our way out and I let her have my share as my bag is full and I’m content with my haul.

I’m content with all of it as I feel I’ve broken the Chanterelle curse that seems to have been hanging over my head the past few years.  I didn’t know if pickings were scarce because of the buyer (but I have noticed they aren’t in business anymore so that’s good news) the dry fall seasons and the new clear cuts or just my inability to get off trail and take the time to find a new place to hunt.  Probably a combination of it all, but the dry spell is over and now I have a new patch of woods to check out… the draw that leads away from the road has me intrigued.

 

The following week, after a solid week of rain, we get a gap between storms and I decide to take the dogs back to the woods and explore the draw.  I figured to look and see if I missed a mushroom or maybe two and then work the hill below this new spot with the hopes there are more Chanterelles to be found.  I go by myself, because I need to explore and not worry about another person.  I don’t have any confidence that the dogs will help me in any way, they are too busy sniffing and digging and running about doing their doggy thing.  I’ve never lost a dog but one time, though like Daniel Boone, she wasn’t unsure of her location more than a couple of days. I hunted all over for that dog, called through the woods and then knocked on any doors in the vicinity. She must have followed something deep into the forest and got turned around because it did take her two days to come home whereupon after much tail wagging and famished eating, she fell asleep for a good 12 hour stretch.

Needless to say, I don’t trust dogs to get me out of the woods.

I parked in the same spot and walked down the road to our exit spot.  I followed our line of mushroom stumps and only saw one seedling mushroom that had grown enough to make it worthwhile harvesting.  I put the Chanterelle in my little orange Osprey daypack, then after getting it back on again (not as easy of a task given my less than 100% shoulder range) I picked up my hiking sticks and headed down the draw.  I began to note the changes in terrain, the hill on my right covered in moss, the hill on my left covered in shrub. I went down, threading my way through small trees, ducking under and stepping over dead branches.  I came across a dry creek bed, noting the stump next to the bed was covered in small, translucently white, spindly mushrooms. I marked this as my landmark and stepped over the bed, forgetting to look behind me to see the path as it would look if I was returning the same way.  My plan had been to follow the draw down to a logging road that I knew was below me, but the hills had folds and contours I was unfamiliar with, I wasn’t sure exactly how far down the road lay and I was anticipating mucking about as I was hunting, crisscrossing the terrain as I went.  It’s easy to get turned around in these coast range hills, distances become hard to judge so I was expecting a long haul across and down slope before hitting the road.

On the other side of the creek, a hillside of tall timber opened up into what I thought was prime mushrooming grounds, so I began traversing the curve of the hill over to a set point before reversing my path and coming back to the creek.  I zig-zagged twice before getting all the way to the creek but instead of a dry bed, I now came across a flowing stream of water.  I guessed it was the same creek bed but that where I had crossed, the water had gone underground.  It was a significant amount of water and I followed it uphill until I came to a series of ponds, obviously springs tucked away in this fold of woods.  It was a lovely find, very private and nestled into the woodland like a love note hidden in a drawer.  Precious and sweet, I wondered how many animals used it as their personal drinking pool.  I looked over my shoulder quickly, I had come across a cougar kill the previous day and my neighbor had seen a big one crossing the road.  The odds were small that cougar even knew about this pond, but still, I glanced around before chiding myself for unfounded fears.  My two terriers would be thrilled to take on a cougar, or at least bark at one anyway.  They also were more likely to be a cougar’s lunch than I was, but since that’s a story I’ve never heard or believe, it doesn’t bother me to let the dogs have the run of the woods.

I wandered about the pond, checking its size and considering if would be a viable personal swimming hole in the summer, or if it would turn into a mush of mud once the rains were gone.  The dogs drank from the edge and we turned back to the creek, following it downhill.  But when I got to where I thought I had crossed the creek, everything looked different.  The hill on my left had changed direction, opening out into a wide flat spot with scattered grass.  There was a stand of alder trees I didn’t recognize and a bank of moss that hadn’t been there before.  I stopped, frozen.  How did this happen… in my checking out the pond, did I forget about a fold in the hillside, did I follow the wrong creek?  Is there another creek I missed? Nothing looked familiar and I began to cast about, returning to the creek bed, looking for my marker, the stump full of tiny mushroom.  There was no stump.  I stared at the creek.  How can there not be a stump?  Where is the stump?!  I crossed the creek anyway and looked at it from the other side.  Now it too looked unfamiliar.  I hadn’t crossed here, I must have gone downhill too far.

I took a deep breath, I wasn’t scared, not yet, I just needed to look about a little more.  I crossed the stream again and walked back towards the hillside where I had been hunting mushrooms looking for anything that looked familiar. I thought back to a movie I’d watched last week, On Golden Pond.  There is a scene where one of the main characters, an 80-year-old man, gets lost in the woods around his summer home.  He’s scared because nothing looks familiar, he can’t remember his surroundings and he begins to run through the woods looking for something, anything he can recall to place him in the world of known things again.

It’s a bit of a fear of mine, to be lost in the woods.  And it’s another one to lose my faculties.  My mother had dementia when she died, and before it became severe, she had these episodes of getting lost.  Once going out into the woods in the middle of a snowy New Hampshire winter and falling, laying in a snowbank for hours before she was found.  It was a chilling story for me to hear as I clutched the phone to my ear, 3000 miles away and a day after the event.  She wasn’t allowed to be alone after that, but now I’ve inherited the fear for myself.  What if I too forget where I am?  What if I forget what the woods look like?  It would be just like me to wander off alone as an 80-year-old and then turn left at the tree that looks like an owl’s head when I should have turned right. It’s not like my trails and paths have actual signs.  My hikes are full of personal knowledge, I know where to go because I’ve gone there before.  But not right now… right now I don’t know where I am because I can’t find my way back.

And so, I tell myself, I’m not going anywhere until I can find the way back and when I find my way back I am going back!  I had made all sorts of mental notes along the way, so I knew I should be able to find them again, I usually do. I took out my mental list and went over it in order.  The stump of mushrooms, the hill of moss, the hill of shrub, the pink flag left by a surveyor, the dented can, the narrow draw all the way up to where I found my last Chanterelle and then up and out to the road.  I walk a large circle, get back to where the stream still has water in it, before it goes underground.  I notice where the water actually becomes submerged, flowing between sticks and rocks and disappearing into the moist soil, dirt so fertile it looks almost black.  I look up stream and down, here there is water, and there, just a dry creek bed that shows where overflowing winter rains carve a funnel that opens out into a flat trench.  I take 5 steps to my right and suddenly, from where I’m standing, I see the mushroom stump. I take a deep breath and am relieved.  I had overshot the creek crossing by about 20 feet and continued on until the terrain had changed and I was unexpectedly surrounded by a scene that was unfamiliar both backwards and forwards. The whole incident feels like I’m reading a book where I’ve accidentally turned two pages and now the narration makes no sense until I find my missing page and the story line falls back into place.  I step back across and walk my path out but I only go about 10 yards before I turn back to the creek.

There’s no need to run back for the car.  I’m back in the land of the known.  I wasn’t lost at all, I just didn’t know where I was for a couple of minutes. It was disorienting and a touch disquieting but am I going to let this stop me?  Of course not.  I head back down the hill.

But this time, I do leave a few more markers, scraped boot prints in the duff, a couple of crossed sticks and I try not to veer off my trajectory by sticking to as straight a line as possible. It’s easier to see the way back that way.  I come upon an old skid track from the original cut of this forest, it’s barely perceptible as time has eroded away it’s clean lines and random trees have grown inside it’s borders.  It’s still clearly a flat place in the hillside, so I follow it down until I can see a road below me.  The dogs run ahead and are running up and down the road, maybe showing me that it was here all along, maybe sniffing the path of a wild animal.  Whatever their motivation, between the trunks of trees, I see their white bodies zipping up and down a horizontal line about 200 feet below me.  I’m still carefully edging my way down across the soft needle strewn duff, my boots sink in and I watch for slick branches as I’ve already slid down one that lay like a trap just a fraction of an inch under the carpet of forest debris.  I used to wonder why older people fell as if they were children again, but now that I am a little older myself, I get it.  We aren’t as flexible or fit or even as balanced as we used to be.  It’s easy and faster to get out of condition from hiking then when I was younger, my muscles don’t catch me and correct imbalances as fast as they used to.  And so, sometimes now, I fall and slip and when I do, it’s startling and strange.  I never used to fall.  But I never used to be 56, so I take it easy and use trekking poles, they’ve become a part of my new high tech hiking world, just like bringing a cell phone and a personal locater beacon (which I hope to never need).

I drop down onto the road, glad that I reached my goal and surprised that it was closer than I thought it would be.  Instead of hiking out, I make some side trips into the woods, continuing my search for gold.  I notice that every time I wriggle out of my pack, pick a mushroom, then look about for more, I will not find one until I put my pack back on and head out.  Then, sure enough, another mushroom!  I struggle out of the pack, my not-yet-unfrozen shoulder is somewhat uncooperative with all this on again off again gyrations.  But, if I only find one at a time, still, I am finding them, so I resign myself to fussing with the pack.  On my way out, I find one last group and decide I’m done for the day.  I have plenty for dinner and then some, so I hop on the road and climb up out of the draw.

The road is steeper than I remembered, I haven’t been on it for some time and can’t recall a time I ever actually walked it.  I’m usually on this road with my horse and they do all the hard work for me.  It’s good to get a feel of the road from their perspective, I gain a little empathy every time I walk a trail that I usually ride. I stop to catch my breath from time to time, glad that I am not the kind of rider that pushes a horse too hard, I let them stop and breathe as well. Hiking with a heavy pack helps me to relate to how hard they actually work.  Just when I’m about to reach the car, I see an opening in the trees that looks inviting.  Without thinking too much about it, I wander in for a last chance hunt for mushrooms.  What the hell, why not?

I find another old skid track, it’s faint and mostly gone, covered with moss and underbrush like huckleberry, salal, ocean spray and young alders who are trying to take advantage of the sunlight provided by the logging road I’ve just left.  I weave my way through the thicket but stick to the flat ground. The brush thins out a little further in, and I’m walking in a mossy fairy forest of tall timber and soft earth. There are sword-tail ferns, their ostrich plume like fronds are still, no breeze can reach them down here even though the tops of the firs sing with the winds that touch the canopy up above. I follow the line across a curve of hillside, sometimes stepping over downed logs and limbs, sometimes ducking under them.  I marvel in this hidden gem of a forest, surrounded by thinned timber stands and clear cuts.  Most of these forest lands are considered a crop and are usually homogeneously full of Douglas Fir, but there are bits and pieces of more diverse forest and it’s always fun to be inside a stand of trees that feel somewhat wild in nature.

I walk until I come to some remnants of old growth, stumps from trees that must have been 100’s of years old, these stumps litter the woods near my home.  They are as large as couches, rotted remnants of their former selves, they still fill me with a sense of wonder and awe at their immense size.  At the bottom of the stump I find more chanterelles, they ripple out of the duff, golden flowers with wavy fungus arms.  They push up the moss and the fir needles and curl around clumps of debris, hanging onto it like a baby’s fist.  There is one large one in front of me, then one to the side, one above on a ledge of dirt and as I look, I see them everywhere.  I’ve struck the motherload.

I carefully pull back the carpet of needles and cut my mushrooms, filling my bag, then another.  I’ve picked more in 5 minutes than I found in the past hour or so.  It’s lovely to find a place like this, a place where no one has discovered and disturbed.  I have such a plethora to choose from, I get choosey and only pick the best ones, leaving some to continue rotting or to grow up into adults.  I harvest so many, I run out of space in my bag.  Any more and I will crush them, so I settle my pack carefully on my shoulders and collect my trekking poles from where I planted them in the ground.

Before heading out, I take one last walk down my personal yellow brick road.  I want to see how much farther this streak runs and consider if I can return later for another go at it.  I also want to see if I can resist the “gold fever” that grips me when I find a patch.  Can I resist the temptation of taking more?  I see a few scattered here and there, but I don’t feel the need to add to my harvest.  The forest has been kind to me and provided a feast of mushrooms. I move deeper into the forest and come across a pristine patch of chanterelles in a bowl of moss.  They look almost staged, they are that perfect.  A shaft of sunlight streaks down between the trees and lights up their small golden glade, I can almost hear the fairy’s dancing about this sylvan fantasy.

I pause before getting closer to the patch, I don’t want to disturb the scene or be tempted by their beauty.  But I do walk over, just to appreciate and marvel at how lovely a fungus can be.  I usually see “delicious!” when I see a chanterelle, but this time, I’m thankful for their presence in the forest.  It says, “I’m healthy” and “I feel good, all is right in the world.”  Just seeing them makes me feel the same and I’m grateful for the bounty I’ve lovingly placed in my pack.

 

That night for dinner, I prepare my mushrooms in a wine cream sauce with garlic and pour it over white bean noodles.  And once more, I touch heaven on my plate and my eyes roll back in joy.  Yeah, they are that good.

 

 

 

 

My Three Sisters

I love the Three Sisters Wilderness.  It’s my home base wilderness.  It’s where I go to reconnect to the divine in a very deep and real and magical way. I’ve been hiking there for the past 32 years, so I call them “my girls”.  They are so beautiful, with their lava flows and cinder strewn meadows of wildflowers, an oasis of magnificence in central Oregon. For those who don’t know, they are named North, Middle and South Sister; AKA Faith, Hope and Charity.  Three characteristics that are well worth some effort.

I like that the girls have AKA’s, because I do too!  I rarely use my birth name and  since I’ve had three different last names in my lifetime, I don’t have a deep connection to the names given to me. I’ve chosen my name and my place in the world.  And I’ve chosen my totem mountains.

Which, by the way, are one of the very few mountains (named by the white man) with a feminine name.  Interestingly enough, they are rarely called by their “proper names” but are instead referred to by their relationship: The Sisters. Why do you think that is?  What does that say about our culture, or, our culture of the past, that a mountain could not have a woman’s name, nor be named after one?  Or if they did, it was best that we reference them by their family associations. Was it, that in the old days, men liked to label things that stuck up and out of the landscape as masculine? By that line of reasoning, then all canyons should be named for women, right?  Well, I’m doubtful as to that kind of reason, but that’s research left for another day.

Through my Facebook group, Women of the PCT, a sister hiker contacted me a year ago to buy the painting of Charity (South Sister) but the email was lost in cyber-space until I unearthed it and replied.  Did she still want the painting?  She did, but alas it was too small.  So, we negotiated a larger version to be commissioned and off I went, happy to oblige! I was thrilled to have an opportunity to paint my darling girls. To paint for a “hiker chick” was a bonus.  This is yet another trail painting in my series, The Wilderness of Women, only this time, it was a personal request and that made it even more special.

I chose several photos and compiled an image that doesn’t exactly exist in reality, to get them in this order, I had to squish them together a little bit.  I’ve used my “artist’s license”. You may not see this exact scene from a spot on the trail, but it exists in my heart.  An appropriate sentiment as that is where “my girls” will live forever. And when I am gone, please spread my ashes here, so I can be a part of them as they are for me.

Now, here we have it, My Three Sisters:

My Three Sisters
Oil on Canvas
2′ x 3′

Art In The Valley

I’ve been walking by this cute Gallery for years now,  a few weeks ago, something steered me inside… where I started up a conversation with one of the artists in this darling cooperative gallery.

Long story short, I’m now a member of Art In The Valley!  So, if you are ever in Corvallis, Oregon and would like to see my work in person, come on by!  It’s on second street in the beautiful downtown area, right by a great bakery, bookstores, great food and boutique shopping. We all take turns working the gallery, so who knows, maybe I’ll even be there that day.  Or, send me an email (Skyevans@me.com) and check with me for a schedule. I’d love to meet my readers.

Two of my horses and an abalone shell.

Alone in a field of Poppies Acrylic on Yupo approx 2′ x 3′

Gone Girl Comes Back

I’ve been thinking about my blog and how I’ve neglected it for so long.  Poor blog!  The longer I stayed away, the harder it got to make myself sit down and write a post.  I’ve been painting, and I’ve been writing, I just haven’t been putting it HERE!

So here’s a brief update:  I hiked in Sedona… and painted this:

Red Rocks of Sedona

Sedona was magical, I came home with a renewed love of the desert and so many more images to put onto canvas.  This is the first, but won’t be the last.

I hiked in the Three Sisters Wilderness with my dear friend, Amira and painted this next image. I struggled with capturing our faces and still feel out of sorts whenever I look at it.  But, I decided to add it to my blog so you can see that while I may personally have trouble with some of my work, I’ve learned that other people LOVE them!  And pieces I love, other people feel somewhat “meh” about. Who am I to say it’s good or bad?  It comes down to your own taste.

Cold July Camp

I was commissioned to paint a beloved family member.  Elkton was an older dog, and his photo’s didn’t do him justice.  I managed to shave off a few years and pounds and drop him into a regal hunting pose.  Here he is, surveying his kingdom:

Elkton the Wonder Dog

And I painted a portrait of my son and his girlfriend.  He was heading out for a job interview and Karen sent me a quick shot of their morning and a glimpse into their thoughts as she titled the photo.  I loved this selfie she took; I had to capture that smirk!

Dressed for Battle

Then I painted a view of my willow that seemed poignant, yet crisp and quietly vibrant. I hung it in the newly remodeled guest bedroom to bring a bit of the outside, inside.

Winter Willow

Followed by a few fantasy images to get in touch with my feminine side and to reflect the deep introspection I had been exploring of late.  I sustained an injury the previous fall that just managed to get worse over time. When you are dealing with chronic, long term pain, it helps to spend time listening to your body.  I kept asking that question…  what are you trying to tell me?  I think my body just wanted me to sit down for awhile.

The Hermit Girl Meditates

Connections of Love

Besides these images, I’ve tooled around with some odds and ends art projects and did some remodeling on the house.  I’ve had to readjust my life in the past year as I’ve been dealing with a shoulder injury that really set me back in my activity level.  You wouldn’t know it by the new flooring and slate tile I managed to lay down, but still, 2017 has been my year of recovery.  I couldn’t ride or hike or do my normal kinds of things, so instead, I took my “Wilderness of Women” paintings on the road.  Literally.  I created a presentation about my art and hiking, how each one influenced the other and gave my lecture/slide show at REI stores from Portland to Medford. It was inspirational for me as well as for others and after it was over, I began to focus on a writing project that germinated from this dog and pony show.  I’ll devote another post to it, later, but for now, this one will have to do.

I think it’s time for this hermit girl to come on out of her cave and say  hello to the wide world of life.

Hello world!

On BEing: a trail journal part 8

I finally take a zero day on the trail.  A “zero” is a day where I don’t make ANY miles. I had one at Timberline, but I like this one better.  I am tucked away on Mirror lake and while the lake is a popular destination for thru hikers as well as the day hiking and horseback riding set, I still have plenty of alone time.  I spend the day lazing about, swimming, reading, journal writing and generally not moving much at all.  I’ve left all my hiking on the trail.  It’s a complete opposite from my previous backpacking life where I short hiked in, spent my days exploring the surrounding lakes and trails and didn’t move my camp until it was time to go home.20160812_063236

Today I awoke at dawn and am listening to the birds as they start their day.  I heard a sandpiper family earlier. I peek out the tent window and see a mama and her two fluffy babies on the shore near my tent.  A gray jay swoops in to investigate my camp.  A flutter of wings, a shadow crosses the thin tent wall, then woosh!  He’s gone and surely disappointed that there are no scraps to be found.  I’m sure he’s hoping for some sort of handout as I hear him squawking and talking overhead.

I’ve opened the tent door to watch the sunrise.  There is a heavy mist over the lake, sun has yet to touch the surface except for the face of South Sister which rises to my left.  Yesterday she was on my right side, but I walked 9 miles around her and past her Rock Mesa flanks and now, here I am on a misty Mirror lake.  20160812_065725There is some condensation on my tent, but I’ve managed to stay dry.  Yesterday atop the ridge, even in the dry volcanic sand I collected moisture from the air the second I set up the tent, it acted like a perfect dew collector.  The sand may have been dry, but the air was not.  Strange how on this damp lake shore there is hardly any dew!  I’m sure there is some science to explain this, but for the life of me, my observational skills of what are the right conditions to assure a damp tent (or for that matter, a dry one) fails me.  I’m not alone.   Carrot Quinn, a woman with prodigious trail miles also attests to this “who knows?” phenomenon.

Oh my, it feels so good to go nowhere.  I’ve had the opportunity to practice “rock toilet paper” and it is surprisingly easy to do if you find a good rock and are somewhat limber.  I read about this in the on-line hiker community pages… hikers like to talk about how to “go” in the woods at length and most are far more descriptive than I am being here.  Here’s where being more old school and private comes into play, however, in the interest of sharing a way to lessen one’s impact on the land and promote Leave No Trace principals using native TP is something  the serious backpacker should consider.  As well as lightening you load by carrying less TP, by using a rock or two or three or four…  you cut down on what goes in your wilderness cat hole.  It’s a good thing and not that difficult.  Also the squat position helps and is far more natural and maybe even more hygienic than the Western “throne”.

As I was returning to my cozy tent for more lazing about, campers across the lake were hollering at another nearby camp.  Geesh!! What the hell… I mean, I know you are outside but use your quiet “in church” voice please!  Why do some people insist on disturbing the peace? By 9 AM they were hiking out, which had me suspicious they were section or thru hikers.  Tsk, tsk boys!

I had a lovely breakfast of rice, coconut and chia seeds.  I mixed in some dried fruit and let it all soak overnight in a Ziplock tub.  Wow!  So good.  I’m thinking I could go stove-less if I had more awesome no-cook meals like this.  One less thing to carry would be nice.  Though only on a trip like this where I’m moving every day.  Not sure I’ll do more trips like this.  The goal setting and planning aspect as well as the absolute need to move to make those goals, well, they set me up with a sense of urgency.  One feels the need to make time and I’m not yet so zen that I can do all that goal setting without the whole stress/anxiety-gap issue.

Just this morning I found myself looking at my maps and plans, yet again! I can’t seem to relax, I seem to be worried I’ve miscalculated and that longer miles are in store for me.  Sure enough I discover an error. Funny how I didn’t notice it the first, second and even third time through!  But just now have seen that following the PCT will not only add 3 miles to my day tomorrow but will also have to climb Mt. Koosah.  Sigh. I was going to take the Skyline trail and visit some old camp sites from my bygone days in the Horse Lakes area.  It would cut off those 3 PCT miles but the lakes are in a bowl, so I’d loose and gain another 500 ft. of elevation and there could be lots of blow-down to clamber over and under.  I had been thinking I could get farther down the trail if I took the shortcut, but I am loathe to loose elevation and dip into a bowl of mosquito hell. The hikers I talk to shudder at the mosquitoes.  They are thrilled to finally be out of the lakes basin. I do not have favorable memories of those trails and I see no point of taking an unmaintained trail and possibly missing a turn or two as well.  Even though I am the Pathfinder, I have become very, very fond of the PCT and her wonderful tread.  She’s well marked and mostly cleared.

I’ve hung out in the tent for so long this morning, the sun has begun to heat up my little home away from home.  I rigged up my chrome dome umbrella for an extra bit of shade. That thing is the absolute best piece of equipment ever! Having my own shade has helped tremendously.  Love, love, love my chrome dome! ❤

20160812_103634

Chrome away from home.

After all the campers cleared out this morning, things returned to just how I like it, empty of noisy humans!  It’s been quiet and peaceful and I’ve enjoyed my nothing day. I’m happy that I’ve been able to camp alone each night on this leg of the journey.  Definitely different than the first part.  And now that I’m not caught up in the miles I can relax more, although, I still have to pay attention to my planned route as I have to meet friends on Tuesday, 33 miles away.  No worries!  I got this!  I’ve planned and mapped and planned and re-routed until I am 100% sure I did not miss a thing.  Now, we will see how all this unfolds for the second half of the second part of my journey.  I had managed to hike farther than planned, but now I’m adding 3 miles (not a big deal by thru-hiker standards, but still, 3 miles is 3 miles). Finally, after spending another hour pouring over the maps and plans, I’ve laid to rest all my concerns and anxieties. I’m content.  I’ve turned off my phone. Now that I have a signal, I don’t want any interruptions from my other life. I don’t want my mind to wander back there either. It feels so good to have no one to attend to, no animal to clean up after, or feed, or pet, or exercise. Three dogs and three horses are a lot of work. (It’s worth the effort, but I needed a break!)  It’s nice that there is no garden to water, no house to clean, no beans to can, no raspberries to pick and jam, no floors to sweep, no studio to straighten, no obligations of any kind.  And today, no miles to hike.  I’m happy to just BE here, with no where I need to go.

Time is a funny thing

I only say that because I am learning how much I do not know about time and how I am realizing there is no time.  Just now.  Always now.  I mean, I remember the past.  And I can think about the future but neither one of those things really exist.

I used to be fascinated by the concept of time travel.  I loved thinking about how you could change the past, or influence the future. One of my favorite books is Audrey Niffeneggers’ The  Time Traveller’s Wife.  Such a great story and so well written.  We zip back and forth in time and as a real fantasy treat, they play the lottery, win (of course) and pay for their lives without toiling “for the man”.

BUT, the more I read and learn and think the more I agree with Eckhart Tolle, there is nothing but the now.  I’m coming to see time travel as what happens when you revisit old memories or project ideas into the future.  Suddenly one wakes up and realizes they pretty much left their body behind as they fantasized or maybe even tried to influence a past event by saying the things they wished they had said.  Well, we all know you can’t change the past… that’s the time travel paradox.  Now is where it’s at. So I go around and say things like: Learn from the past, Plan for the future but LIVE in the NOW.  And then I write it on a sticky note and post it somewhere prominent.  So strident of me!

I write this post because it has been 5 years since my mom passed and today I finished her portrait.  I’m not much of a figure painter… I didn’t think I was very good at it and frankly, I hardly ever try. In my life as an artist, I’ve done maybe a half dozen works with people and then a huge mural of the entire OSU baseball team after they won the World Series, (it’s in the Gallery under murals if you are so inclined) but I still thought I wasn’t very good at it.  However, this painting was to be a personal memorial by which I would embed Mom’s ashes into the image itself. It wouldn’t matter if it was poor or badly rendered, it was for me and I felt compelled to put a part of her into something more meaningful than just a little container on my shelf.

I’d like to think I was granted a stroke of genius with this idea, but I Googled it and I’m not the first.  Apparently though, there is a world of “funerary art” to choose from ( I especially like the ashes being made into glass sculpture, those are cool). And no, I don’t think it’s weird or morbid or even odd.  People put up huge stone markers and mausoleums to their loved ones, a portrait seems quaint by those standards.

Well, I perused the old photos and found this one where she is holding onto my toddler self on a cold fall day.  The leaves are gone, the sky is bluer than blue and she looks chic and stylish and oh so very young.  I love this image, even though I never really knew her like this.  I did know her well enough to know that if she could choose an age to be for eternity, provided she was still Claire, with all her personality traits and memories, if she could choose, she would choose to be this age.  With that face, hair and body and looking like a model on an exclusive photo shoot.  She did like to look nice.

I cropped myself right out of the picture… that would be an odd thing to include while I was dabbing ashes into the piece.  As I worked on it, I listened to her favorite music and some new stuff I’m pretty sure she would have liked.  I thought about how she was now adding texture to her portrait as well as becoming part of the sky and the trees.  I had a few “circle of life” thoughts and even shed a tear or two as it emerged better than I could have hoped.  My muse really came through for me today.  She looks awesome.  I think she would have approved.

mom

Golden Hair Claire

Thanks mom, for giving me your strength and courage and bravery.  I’ve taken them farther than you ever did… I know because you showed me your fear every time I went beyond your comfort zone.  And even though you were scared for me, you still encouraged me to explore. Thanks for rooting for me and for always, ALWAYS wishing the best for me.  You may have had a hard edge at times, most tough women do, but I knew your love was unconditional.  That is a precious thing because that is what real love is all about.  Thanks for teaching me that a mother’s love runs deep and true.  I became a better mother myself because I knew this. I love you, Mom. Always. Timelessly.

 

Post script:  A few days after publishing the above, I journaled about my experience, just as a way to record it for myself.  But what emerged was lovely and I’d like to share it with my readers:

Dec 5, 2016

It took painting a portrait of my mom as someone she used to be,

seeing her as a spirit that existed in a body

in a fleeting moment captured on film,

to teach me to remember what I really am.

Such is the nature of reality,

images captured on a sunny day-

a moment that passes

a now that is preserved

a ripple in time

where there is no time

only now.

By recording the moment we only preserve a  memory

but we never can capture what actually is.

We distort our memories

with these static images

and turn our present into flat,

2 dimensional realities.

Whereby we miss the essence and truth,

that we are more than what can be seen or felt or witnessed.

More than can be captured on film

or paper

or canvas

or even our memories.

We are more than can be imagined.

Trail Magic

Good Morning South SIster

Good Morning South Sister!

Trail magic is when you find something you need or suddenly someone is there with food and water or even an ice cold beer.  It’s incongruous things that seem to be provided magically.  “The trail provides” is an oft bit of shared hiker wisdom, but I think it’s really life that provides.  If “provide” is the right word, really.  It’s just that on the trail the need that is provided for is seen so clearly for what it is, it doesn’t get lost in the chaos that is most people’s day to day struggle.  But trail magic happens all the time.

The other day I had misplaced my keys.  As I was searching for them, I found a letter that had fallen under a table.  A letter I needed because it contained key information about a project I was working on.  Immediately after finding the letter, I found my keys.  Coincidence or “trail magic”?

I could probably come up with a list of these kind of serendipitous moments, but really, they’ve become so common place I just go “ahah!” then move on with my day. However, their common place-ness doesn’t detract from their wow factor.  They are for me the exception that proves the rule, with the rule being, life is an amazing and magical place.  We are here to remember our connection to the magic, the universe, the “god-ness” of it all.  These little markers are our verification that that kind of energy exists and we are a part of it.

The above painting is from the day after my own magical day on the PCT.  The day I met Mowgli and Raven and blissfully walked  from the Minnie Scott Spring to this exact spot.  I set up my tent just outside of the above image and took the snapshot first thing in the morning as I got back on the PCT.  South Sister was indeed that blue in the morning and I was full of joy and happiness as I made my way to Mirror Lake.

It seemed fitting that it was my very first painting after I returned home from the trail and this seems exactly like the best spot to leave it in my running commentary/transcription of my trail journals.  I still have a few more days to put together, sadly however, I recently lost most of my photos from the last leg of my journey.  A crappy SD card is to blame, but I managed to upload some images to the cloud so I am still able to illustrate my journey.  For now, I thought the painting would do, along with a reminder that trail magic is all around.  It doesn’t exist solely on the trail. You just have to notice that it can be anything from a stranger’s smile to that $20 you found when you were hungry.