Squat way down and peer up at that fungus

Squat way down and peer up at that fungus

The last time I drove out to Roland Lake alone, maybe four years ago, I was listening to CDs by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.  She’s the author of “Women Who Run with the Wolves”, an incredible book of myths and stories of the “Wild Woman Archetype”. 

She uses stories to teach, instruct and empower women (heck, I think the stories would empower both sexes!)  The CDs came from Sounds True, and I believe they were called “Theater of the Imagination”.  Stories like The Crescent Moon Bear, Skeleton Woman, The Three Old Ones and The Fisherman’s Wife sparked such deep feelings and spiritual connections.  I thoroughly recommend her works to anyone in love with magical words and stories, in love with the power of stories to wake us up beyond our everyday perceptions.

Today, without any stories in the background (except for the running stories in my mind interspersed with precious silence) I buckled on the snowshoes and began the slow meandering through swamp and woods, keeping the eye alert for treasures of nature.

First, tracks imprinted in the snow appeared.  I think I probably failed Tom Brown Jr.’s wilderness survival school all those years ago, because I had no clue as to the identity of the tracks today.  I probably failed Tracking 101 (if we’d received grades, which we didn’t), except in the case of deer, rabbit, squirrel, chipmunk, mouse and bird.  Perhaps I could identify a bear track in the heat of summer if it was encased in good dirt and accompanied by scat.

Today’s tracks looked like dog, coyote or wolf.  I imagined they were wolf tracks, probably due to the romantic myths dramatized by Clarissa on the CD during the last trip.  I pondered the appropriate behavior if meeting a wolf in the woods.  Run?  Stand still?  Growl?  Shout?  Look big?  Avert eyes? 

I am hoping some sort of instinct or guidance just happens.  You’ll see the wolf, perhaps even eye to eye, and a voice in your head will instruct, “Walk slowly away to the left with confidence” or “Run like hell!”  Anyway, that’s my back-up plan.  When meeting flesh and blood wolves or bear (as opposed to mythical story-wolves) , something inside will advise the appropriate course of action.   If it doesn’t….goodbye blog!

On that rather gruesome note, let’s interject another photo:

Mystical ladder into the heavens (or at least up in the tree)

Mystical ladder into the heavens (or at least up in the tree)

I know!  Just at the right moment, when a wolf or bear crosses your path, a ladder will appear in the middle of the woods.  You’ll calmly walk up, smiling down, admiring the fur and wildness of the beautiful creature down below.  You’ll begin writing a story in your head for the next blog as you peer down from the hand-hewn wooden structure. 

Speaking of stories, our local Annishnabe (Ojibway) say that many stories can only be shared in winter.  Years ago I remember asking about some of the traditional myths and stories to the elders.  “No,” one man told me, “We only tell that story in the winter when the snows are deep.”

Because it’s winter and the snows are deep, I am going to share this link:  http://www.mpm.edu/wirp/ICW-141.html  You’ll notice the first story is about Wenebojo and the Wolves.  Wenebojo (there’s many different spellings of the fellow’s name) is a trickster spirit.  All sorts of strange and funny and odd things happen to this man.  The stories were used to teach the young ones growing up, to instill moral lessons, to give strength and courage.  I must admit I was challenged reading some of these stories tonight, but I have faith that you’ll be better able to discern the teachings. 

Stories were considered medicine.  Instead of going to the pharmacy when you were ill, traditional societies often told stories as a first approach to healing.  The magic within them was known to heal, to open, to strengthen.  Of course, traditional medicines were also utilized, but I like the idea that a good story can teach us, wake us up, interject a little magic or faith into our dismal spirits.  What better time than deep winter?