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Hidden lake at dusk

It’s been 336 days now.  Three hundred thirty-six days of opening the door, walking outside.  In rain, in snow, in sunshine, in happiness, in resentment, in indifference, in delight.  The outdoors has opened itself to me, and I have opened myself to it. 

One month from now, on December 21st, the Winter Solstice will occur.  One year ago on the Winter Solstice we built a big bonfire back behind the house in a clearing in the woods.  My daughter, Kiah, was home and we invited a good friend, Catherine, over for the official commitment ceremony.  We each stated what we desired to accomplish during the next year and placed our slips of paper in the fire…which carried our intention to the heavens in the form of smoke and ash.  If you want to read about that first evening by the roaring fire please click here.

And now the year is winding down, as the hours of sunlight decrease each day.  Winter approaches.  We’re moving toward the depths of the year, toward the darkest hours.  Here is the place where we perhaps dream of next year.  Where the seeds of our next movements are born.

The tiniest of tiny green mosses, up close

We contemplate, we give thanks.  We dream perhaps of new directions.  Perhaps we’ve traveled west for a while; now it’s time to travel north.  (Metaphorically speaking, of course.  I am still aiming to travel ALL directions!)  We say goodbye to the green grasses and fallen leaves.  Snow’s sleep will come upon them soon.

Red berries over wooden dock

I spent lots of time outside today.  How shall I count the ways?  Outside helping Barry with his garage-addition project (two or three times).  Outside picking stray wet leaves out of the perennial garden.  And later on in the late afternoon, Barry and I decided to drive over to Keweenaw Bay to Carla’s Restaurant.  I really didn’t need to eat out any more after last week’s eating-out-extravaganza in San Diego.  But poor Barry hasn’t eaten out much lately…so over to Carla’s we drove.

A cornucopia of red berries!

On the way there I asked, “Would you like to see the hidden lake I discovered earlier this year?”  Yes, he would like.  It’s behind the Pow Wow grounds.  You can read about the magical day of discovering the hidden lake here.

We followed the almost-hidden path back to the little lake just as dusk descended.  He liked it.  I was pleased to see the placid waters yet again.  Ducks flew up in a squawking flight of wings as we approached.  It looked like they were running across the lake as they attempted to rise.  The lake was filled with invisible duck tracks that shimmered in the fading light.

Partridge on fence?

We walked back to the car.  “Hey!  Look at that partridge over there on the fence!” I said.  Grabbed the camera, stalked toward it (probably with all the finesse of a large elephant).  Triumphant because the partridge was not moving.  It would be the best partridge photo of the year! A National Geographic up-close wild animal shot.

But wait a minute.  As I got closer it didn’t look like a partridge anymore.  It looked like…

Owl wing

…an owl wing.

An owl wing?  What was an owl wing doing here on the fence?

But then I got the shivers.

The book I am writing for NaNoWriMo is about an Ojibway medicine man named Kookookoo’oo.  (Well it’s partially about an Ojibway medicine man, but he’s a big part of the story.)  And you know what Kookookoo’oo means?  You got it. 

Owl.

I’m not 100% certain it’s an owl wing. It could be some kind of little hawk wing.  (In which case the medicine man might be saying, “Change my name, will you?”)  But I have found many owl and hawk feathers over the years and these looked more like owl. 

OK.  That’s the story of how today’s outdoor and indoor adventures and dreams all merged together.

Ice

Ice

The Anishinabe (Ojibway) call this November moon “The Freezing Moon”.  We all know why.  As the angle of the earth tilts away from the sun, our northern hemisphere begins to cool.  Winter whispers in the ear of autumn, “You’re outa here!”  Autumn waves the last of her vibrant leaves, recognizing that it’s here time to go.

Vibrant oak leaves...last to go...

Vibrant oak leaves...last to go...

I’ve had a challenging day or so.  I feel overwhelmed; spread too thin.  The precious silence and simplicity that I love has been eaten away by too-much-busyness.  It’s not just the new novel-writing commitment for the month of November.  It’s simply that I am not making enough room for quiet space if my life.  My soul is begging for me to listen and I simply brush it away, “Oh, do be quiet now, I’m busy!”   It feels as if an inner voice keeps whispering, “It’s time to let go of a few things in your life right now.  Let go of a few of those autumn leaves that are ready to release into the wind.”

The Freezing "Moon"

The Freezing "Moon"

People often move to the woods or country desiring a less hectic lifestyle.  They want simplicity, quiet, ease of life.  That can happen if one cultivates it.  But more often than not, Life and Busy-ness have a way of finding you even in the backwoods.  Busy-ness can take over your life, wherever you go. 

When Busy-ness starts getting overwhelming, we need to have a talk with her. 

“This is what must go,” we might say to Ms. Busy-ness.  “This and this and this.  You might like all these things, but are they really necessary?”

And we know what is simply wasting precious minutes and hours in our day.  We know.  But it’s often challenging to let that autumn leaf fall off the branch.  To simply let go of that which is not serving us, in order to give more quality time to that which nourishes our souls.

Snowy bike

Autumn slipping away...

Snow fell on the morning of the full moon.  Less than an inch draped our car, scattering on the fallen leaves.  In town, at the top of the hill, as I drove to get my hair trimmed, I noticed at least two or three inches of white.  Amazing how one area has no snow; three miles away you almost need boots. 

Every person is different.  Some of us need huge vistas of silence, of space, of walking in the woods with the companionship of the sun and moon.  Another person is satisfied with much less.  The snow falls in different proportions everywhere; we must listen to our inner guidance and follow the quiet direction which prompts us.

A frozen Buick

A frozen Buick

Too often if we refuse to heed our wise inner voice, our body speaks up instead and suggests a nice vacation with the flu or perhaps some other illness. 

I’m going to try, starting today, to make room in the midst of busy-ness.  Perhaps the busy-ness will sit back and relax.  Perhaps she and I will share a cup of jasmine tea and some silence.

Perhaps the leaves will effortlessly release from the trees and drift in the autumn wind, beneath The Freezing Moon.

Perhaps.

Miracle

Miracle

Outdoors today:  helped Barry move and cover the wood splitter.  Then we carried long heavy boards for his garage edition.  Later we covered the woodpile.  More checks off our “to do list” before winter arrives.

Fire

Fire

Today rain wept from the leaden sky.  Rain pounded sideways, drenching.  The great Lake Superior roared.  Waves splashed with fury against the rocks along the Keweenaw Bay.  A walker needed to step oh-so-carefully on slippery rocks.  Place feet consciously, pause, take step, place foot again.  It was a treacherous rain-sodden walk.

Sweat lodge memories have been nudging the back of my mind recently, memories kindled a couple of decades ago.  When I was invited to attend sweat lodges with local Anishinabe people here in the Upper Peninsula.  It’s a long story which involved a lot of strange dreaming in my life.  At one point I dreamed a voice said, “I want you to learn about the Native American people.”  The story took a lot of twists and turns but eventually I was invited to attend sweat lodges and ceremonies.  This lasted about seven years back in the ’80’s and ’90’s.

Rock and waves

Rock and waves

The first time I entered the lodge and sat in the darkened womb of Mother Earth, I almost wept.  It was a feeling of remembrance, of returning, of being completely safe, of being held in the embrace of an ancient culture and spirit.  Something deep in my soul remembered this sacred ceremony.  It was a ceremony of prayer, of steam, of connection with the Infinite.  It helped me to remember who I was in a deeper sense than just a little white girl who only understood white culture.  It was as if the spirit of my great-great grandmother from a native tribe in New York whispered in my ear, “Wake up, Kathy, and learn to be truly alive.”

Sweat lodge rock

Any one else see the spirit-woman on this sweat lodge rock?

In the following years I probably attended two or three dozen lodges (a handful of these were conducted by respectful non-natives).  Hot lodges, cool lodges, challenging lodges, easy lodges.  They were all deep ceremonies of prayer and healing.  We witnessed prayers come true, healings happen, mystical occurences, quiet prayers, deep connections.  I cannot share what happens in lodges, because I promised to keep that sacred, but each experience offered a spiritual gift to the participants.  Some of the gifts involved learning how to grow up, learning how to let go of ego’s relentless attachments (um, still working on that!) and learning how to surrender.  It was like the church of my childhood in many ways, although in other ways in was very different.

Cedar over water

Cedar over water

Three people died in a sweat lodge in Arizona recently.  My heart breaks thinking about this.  Immediately I imagined that lodge, imagined the heat, imagined the suffering.  So many of us want to know more…how could this happen?  You feel perhaps the terror and disorientation of the weakened fasting participants and your heart clenches in sorrow.  I, too, have fasted before a sweat lodge. This feels very close to the marrow.

And yet, another feeling also comes in. Some people hear of this horrific incident and condemn all sweat lodges.  Thinking perhaps they shouldn’t exist; not understanding.  Not understanding the sacred nature of this, a ceremony which has existed for hundreds or thousands of years.  Perhaps thinking of limiting or restricting the ceremony.  And that also makes me sad.

Stone for fire

Stone for fire

I think of how all religious and spiritual ceremonies and groups and churches can be fraught with challenges, how good-meaning folks can screw up, how some folk aren’t perhaps so well-meaning.  How we need to be alert and aware with both our mind and our heart.  How we must be careful.  How we must listen to our deepest heart.  There are no easy answers. 

Another reflection in another mud puddle

Another reflection in another mud puddle

Today I stood in the pouring rain, stared out over a churning lake, and thought about fire, rock, lodge and medicine.  Said a prayer for the people who died.  Said another prayer for the sacred sweat lodge.  Asked permission of the ancestors to write this blog.  The rocks said, “yes.”

Catch a falling leaf and put it in your pocket...

Catch a falling leaf and put it in your pocket...

The Anishinabe (or Ojibway) call this October moon “The Moon of the Falling Leaves”.  This one isn’t hard to figure out.  The leaves are falling everywhere.  They’re not falling like they will fall in a week or so, but now they trickle down from the trees, splashing their red and orange and yellow colors everywhere.

It’s still raining.  Here’s what happens:  rain pours non-stop from the sky in a flurry of wet showers.  Then it ceases.  The sun even sometimes peeks briefly from behind the cloud-studded sky as if to say “Is it safe for me to come out yet?”  But then quickly ducks back in just as another rain shower pours from the heavens.  Yep, that’s how it’s been for days now.  The temperature stays in the upper 40’s or lower 50’s.

Three Leaves

Three Leaves

Today, in between rain showers, we pulled up the brown tomato plants and threw them in the woods.  Most of the tomatoes were rescued from freezing the other night, so the ripe ones already sit inside on the kitchen countertop and the green ones lie in the basement sandwiched between newspapers.  Just before we finished, the rain unexpectedly drenched us as another shower passed through.  I don’t know why I said “unexpectedly”.  These rain showers are getting quite expected every twenty minutes.

Colors lined up in a row

Colors lined up in a row

Good news!  The phone just rang and it was my mom.  She and dad are (hopefully) planning a trip up to visit next weekend. Hurray!  (This, however, means that I will need to spend a great deal of time INSIDE in the next several days cleaning up the house.)  But don’t worry, the outdoor commitment will still happen.

Here are some interesting photos from our trip to Houghton last night.  We drove down near the lift bridge when Barry said, “Look at that girl!  You have to take a picture.”  He prepared to stop the car.  I was full from dinner and muttering something like, “I don’t WANT to take a picture…” but the car was stopped and he gestured over toward the bridge supports.  I reluctantly opened the door.

But what a surprise!  How cool!  Some graffiti artist had drawn cool-looking figures on the supports.  Now, I know some people think this is defacing public property, and maybe it is.  But I loved all three figures!  Great art on the construction site.  (Much nicer than looking at all the construction vehicles.)  What do you think?

Girl playing violin in construction zone

Girl playing violin in construction zone

Somebody wants Change

Somebody wants Change

The Inspector looks around, wondering who the artist might be.

The Inspector looks around, wondering who the artist might be.

Rainy impenetrable world

Rainy impenetrable world

Sometimes it seems to rain, and rain, and rain.  Wherever you walk, you’re soaked.  The wet soaks into sneakers, socks, jeans.  Droplets pour off rain jackets.  It’s a Wet World.  Wet sky, wet foliage, wet branch, wet life, wet river. 

Is Mother Nature crying at times like these?  Or is that too much of a projection of human attributes on nature? 

I pondered crying today.  Not because I was feeling persoanlly sad.  But simply because many folks in our Upper Peninsula county may be suffering right now.  Struggling.  Trying to figure out what to do next.

Stumbling upon a hidden boat

Stumbling upon a hidden boat

Here is why people in our community may be crying in the rain this weekend, lamenting the passing of summer.  Approximately 24 percent of  Baraga County’s population is unemployed right now.  Up to 90 more folks just lost their job recently at Terex, a local employer, when the company decided to pull out and close its plant.

We’ve always had high unemployment figures in this area.  Our numbers traditionally top the state’s statistics.  On a good year, our unemployment hovers around 7-8%, and during slow seasons (like winter break-up when the loggers can no longer operate their heavy equipment on the roads) the unemployment tops around 9-11%.

It’s not a job-laden area.  People make a living in the woods, the state maximum-security prison, the casino, a few companies and shops, the mines over toward Marquette.  You might work in the hospital, the school systems, the county, the stores.  But it’s not like there are infinite choices. 

Often tensions have sparked between those desiring more jobs for our people, and those trying to protect the environment from companies without sustainable nurturing practices.  It’s a fine line which brings out tension on both sides.  How do we care for the earth, but not at the expense of the people?  How do we care for the people, but not at the expense of the earth? 

Dried flower merry-go-round

Dried flower merry-go-round

In July we made national news.  Our county had the third highest unemployment in the whole country, unless you added Puerto Rico. If you toss in that little island, we were number four. 

Strangely enough, shop owners have complained that they can’t hire enough skilled workers from our area.  They insist they advertise for workers–perhaps welders–and must hire out of the area to get enough skilled employees.  Many folks do not want to work and find ways to minimize their time on the job.  Yet, for every person who doesn’t want to work, there is a person who does.  They just want a job.  A way to put food on the table.  To educate their children.  To buy gas for the car and heating propane for the house.  To realize the “American dream”.

Splash of autumn reflects in the Silver River

Splash of autumn reflects in the Silver River

As the rain pours from the heavens and autumn temperatures dip down, how is the man feeling across the bay who doesn’t know where to work next?  How is the woman feeling who is pregnant with her third child and no longer has a job?  Can you imagine the panicked thoughts which might play in your mind?  What to do next?  How do we survive?  Is our world falling apart?

Shiny leaf suspended

Shiny leaf suspended

I try to imagine what this must feel like.  What about the people who love the land, and don’t want to leave to find work in the larger cities?  What about the people to whom family ties and closeness mean everything?  How do you learn to live with the pressure of not having a job, of not feeling the safety net of employment?  What if your skills are minimal and you have no time or money to go back to school?  How do you survive?

Cedar tucked away in a stump

Cedar tucked away in a stump

The Anishnabe people who have lived on this land for centuries often turned toward nature in times of need.  Cedar and sweet grass were burned, kindled with flame, the prayers of the people wafting upwards on smoke toward the heavens.  “Help your people,” the smoke whispered to the Great Spirit, “Help us.  Help all of us to survive and thrive during time when the rains come.”

Fallen tree ~ roots exposed

Fallen tree ~ roots exposed

Blessings to those who are scared today.  Who hunger.  Who worry.  Who wonder:  what next?  May those of us with jobs keep our eyes wide open to see what help we might share, if the opportunity arises.

Seems like we had an unexpected visitor during the night.

In fact the past couple nights, this visitor has been hanging around.

I’m scared to maneuver around in the dark.  Never know when you might step on this fellow.

And, guaranteed, you do NOT want to step on this black and white furry creature.

You’ve guessed it, I’m sure.  It’s a skunk.  He (or she) has taken to hangin’ rouind, maybe trying to get to know us.  Fortunately or unfortunately, we haven’t spotted him.  So you won’t see a real-live skunk photo to admire the quivering raised tail and alarmed-looking expression. 

Here are some reasons we know it’s a skunk.

Clue #1:  he's been digging up our yard

Clue #1: he's been digging up our yard

In past years, we’ve spotted the waddling fellow pawing his claws in the yard in the wee morning hours.  It may not be our current visitor.  It may be one of our visitor’s grandparents.  But in previous years we’ve witnessed this tell-tale behavior.  And we have seen the waddler headed toward one of the culverts.  Probably his guest house.

Clue #2:  The Big Bobber

Clue #2: The Big Bobber

A clever sleuth examines all the clues.  The next most obvious clue happened Sunday morning, before we were awake.  A loud clanging noise sounded from the front porch. The house’s two sleepers refused to even investigate the racket until full daylight.  At which time, the male householder discovered footprints on his Big Bobber cooler which was sitting leisurely on the porch until the visitor knocked it over and left a perfect paw print for evidence.  (Blog Photographer should have captured image with her camera.  She did not.)  Big Bobber cooler had hosted three dead fish caught in Lake Superior the day before, and male householder had hosed out the smelly cooler before bed.  Our guest was obviously quite enamoured by the fishy aroma.

Clue #3:  nibbled acorn shells

Clue #3: nibbled acorn shells

OK, OK, we really can’t link the acorn shells with the skunk.  It could have been chipmunks or squirrels lunching on the acorns.  But, for your information, here is what skunks eat (from WikiAnswers):  

Skunks are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal material and changing their diet as the seasons change. They eat insects and larvae, earthworms, small rodents, lizards, salamanders, frogs, snakes, birds, moles, and eggs. They also commonly eat berries, roots, leaves, grasses, fungi, and nuts.

In settled areas, skunks also seek human garbage. Less often, skunks may be found acting as scavengers, eating bird and rodent carcasses left by cats or other animals. Pet owners, particularly those of cats, may experience a skunk finding its way into a garage or basement where pet food is kept. Skunks commonly dig holes in lawns in search of grubs and worms.

Skunks are one of the primary predators of the honeybee, relying on their thick fur to protect them from stings. The skunk scratches at the front of the beehive and eats the guard bees that come out to investigate. Mother skunks are known to teach this to their young.

Now we all know more about the skunk.  But here’s the last absolutely definitive clue.  And you won’t get a picture with this one:

When I opened the door this morning there was skunk smell everywhere! 

I headed through the thick-smelling aroma quite rapidly at 6:45 a.m., looking furtively around for our visitor.  What a smell! What an aroma!  We definitively have a not-so-sweet-smelling visitor!

Lupine blooming

Lupine blooming

Perhaps that’s why the lupine is blooming at this time of year–maybe to add some sweet scent to our acreage.  (Just kiddin’, a few odd and eccentric lupines bloom in late August or early September, just to remind us that Anything can Happen in nature.)

Dandelion puffball

Dandelion puffball

Shall we make a wish that the skunk goes away?  No…I don’t think so.  Years ago a Native American friend heard that skunks liked to hang around our property at times.  She nodded slowly, wisely, and said, “Skunk medicine is good medicine. You are lucky.” 

Just so long as we don’t step on one, or run into one in the dark!

Wild rice moon shines on the Keweenaw Bay

Wild rice moon shines on the Keweenaw Bay

The September full moon shines upon us now.  With her lovely white orb, she brightens our nights.  Some call her the “Harvest Moon” honoring that many of our plants reach their full zenith now.  The garden produce finds its way into our kitchens, canning jars and freezers. 

The Anishnabe or Ojibway people of this land called this the Wild Rice Moon.  It was time to harvest the wild rice, known as manoomin, growing to full maturity in the small lakes or slow-moving streams.  The natives would often utilize their canoes harvest the staple seed which would nourish them through the long, cold winter.  They would bend the ripe grain heads with wooden sticks called knockers, threshing the seeds into the canoe.  For a more detailed explanation click here.

Many folks think that wild rice is a grain, but it actually is a seed.  We’ve been eating it more frequently in the last three or four years.  I like to add it to long or short grain brown rice and cook for 50 minutes.  In a separate skillet, saute some vegetables such as chopped onions, garlic, diced carrots, celery or other favorites.  Toss in the cooked rice, your choice of spices, and perhaps some soy sauce or vinegar.  Very good.  (Thinking about having some of this tomorrow with veggie and shrimp shishkabobs on the grill!)

Wild rice in wooden bowl

Wild rice in wooden bowl

The wooden bowl in the picture belonged to my grandpa.  It was a bean bowl.  I am not sure what that means, except he grew up in farming country in Michigan’s Thumb where navy beans grew plentiful.  We often enjoyed meals of baked beans while visiting on Sundays and holidays.  I am wondering if they sorted through the beans in this bowl, picking through the beans to discard the blemished or rotten specimens.  I am also wondering if the natives had wooden bowls like this in which they picked through the wild rice in the same manner. 

High school football game

High school football game

Right before the full moon rose last night, I traveled with Barry for an hour west to Ontonagon.  He had to take pictures at a Baraga High School football game, and  wanted to keep him company.  Even though I was tired of traveling.  It was kinda like a date.  We ate fish at Syl’s Cafe and then caught the first half of the game.

He suggested that I might want to title my blog “This was Once My Life”.  Because for many long years it seemed like we spent many a fall evening at football games.  Our son played for maybe five or six years before a knee injury required surgery.  And then I continued to attend many games that Barry had to cover for the newspaper.  Just so we could spend time together, you know?

The enthusiastic cheerleaders

The enthusiastic cheerleaders

On to today, Saturday.  Here’s the wrap-up.  The most delightful indoor activity of the day was going to the new coffee shop in L’Anse.  I have been so excited that we have been blessed with the first real coffee shop in Baraga County.  Yes, the restaurants serve coffee.  But we haven’t had such a selection of lattes and cappuccinos and wireless internet service.  I parked myself down there this morning for an hour with Ms. Laptop and we had a great time.  People in big cities (or even medium-sized cities) don’t understand what it means to get a coffee shop in a tiny little town.  It’s big.

Outdoor activities today:  harvesting the garden and sitting on the deck.   Yep.  And I’m sitting outside on the deck right now with the traveling laptop and it’s still 74 degrees at 8 p.m.  Life doesn’t get any better than this.

Happy Labor Day weekend, all.

Beaver pond along the "Triple A" road

Beaver pond along the "Triple A" road

Once a year we make our annual trek past Big Erick’s Bridge, down the Triple A two-track sand road, and out to the Yellow Dog Plains to pick wild blueberries.  Today was the day.

The sun was shining and the temperature slowly warming into the 60’s.  You have to drive really slowly down the logging road to reach the blueberry-picking land.  I drove out there, and apparently drove too fast, according to the passenger.  I was bouncing along at 25 miles per hour (over pit-run boulders, according to the passenger who is piping up in the background as I write).  The passenger drove home at a leisurely 15-20 mph.  We high-tailed it safely through a couple wash-outs which covered the road with murky rainwater.  We probably met about fifteen other vehicles during the course of the adventure:  a regular traffic bonanza!

Here’s what you have to do as you’re creeping along and another vehicle approaches:  you slow to a near standstill, hugging the shoulder of the road.  You have to watch to make sure you’re not about to drop off the side into mud, or run into boulders.  The larger vehicle preferably gives way to the smaller vehicle.  Since we were driving Grandma’s old 1995 Buick, we were kindly given the right-of-way quite often.

We laughed about this sign for five minutes.

We laughed about this sign for five minutes.

Congested area?  Who put up that sign?  This is one of the most remote areas in the state of Michigan! 

One of our several stops this afternoon was at “Eagle Rock”.  This jutting protrusion of rock which overlooks the Triple A road is a  Native American sacred site; Keweenaw Bay tribal members hold ritual fasts here during the spring and fall.  Kennecott Minerals proposes to build a copper and nickel mine in sulfide ore in the vicinity of Eagle Rock and this mine has been a controversial subject in the community for the last several years.  When sulfide is exposed to oxygen or water, it becomes acid and many folks are afraid of irreversible contamination of the land and water back here on the Yellow Dog stretch between Big Bay and Skanee. 

I could write a whole blog describing the entire scenario, but won’t.  Here is the Kennecott official page.  And here’s the point of view from the group Save the Wild U.P

Up on Eagle Rock (see the sandy road down below)

Up on Eagle Rock (see the sandy road down below)

It was peaceful to sit on the rock and breathe the fresh air and feel the cool late-summer breeze.  It was not-so-peaceful to imagine a time when this area might be filled with mining trucks and possible pollution and lots of people.  On the other hand, our county hovers between 20-26% unemployment.  My fervent desire is that people can find jobs, but in a manner that will not desecrate our natural environment.  I added that prayer to Eagle Rock and we ventured down toward the blueberries.

Sweetest blueberries on this planet

Sweetest blueberries on this planet

OK, we didn’t pick five quarts of wild blueberries like our 93 year old neighbor and his son.  Maybe if we didn’t have all those grape-sized cultivated blueberries (tiny grapes, anyway), we would have hunkered down for a long while between the pines.  Barry and I each carried a sour cream-sized container and filled them up.  After a short while, we smiled at a quart of wild blueberries.  And looked at each other.  Ready to go? 

Amazing find!

Amazing find!

But first, look at this find.  Do you know what it is?  You are looking at the underside of a shining copper-colored insect shell.  It lay hidden among the blueberry plants and I turned it over to discover this strange-looking “face” peering up out of the copper.  You really can’t tell how copper-colored the shell looked:  it shimmered in the sunlight.  The upper part of the insect’s body was black and smooth.  It felt like Magic.

So was it worth it to travel forty miles for one quart of wild blueberries, a sojourn on Eagle Rock and the sighting of a Magic Beetle?

You betcha!

All photos today courtesy of Nancy's gardens

All photos today courtesy of Nancy's gardens

People wonder:  “Who is Centria?” 

“Why are you calling yourself Centria?”

“Why aren’t you calling yourself Kathy in your blog?”

Sigh… It’s time to tell the whole story.  The truth and nothing but the truth.  (Except the truth is always a strange thing.  It kind of shifts shape in our memory, doesn’t it?  You think you’re telling the truth, but what you’re often telling is simply the memory of a memory of a memory, which may or may not resemble the actual happening.)

Why is the author of this blog calling herself a strange name like “Centria”?

Black Eyed Susan, methinks

Black Eyed Susan, methinks

It goes back at least ten years ago, to my wild and crazy youth.  (ha, ha, a story already!)  It wasn’t my youth and I wasn’t that wild and crazy.  Umm, was I?

I was camping out in Montana with a tent beneath the stars in a meadow filled with women on a spiritual quest.  We were given an assignment:  choose a name to represent the qualities we were attempting to bring into our lives in the next year.  Everyone was happily getting into the assignment and picking names which symbolized their deepest desires and yearnings. 

Except I was being stubborn again.  Refusing to come up with a name off the top of my head.  Instead, I decided, a name would have to drop out of the Montana skies and announce itself.  The Spirit of the Land or Sky or whatever would have to choose my name.  (Told you it was a wild and crazy youth.)

The trip happened to coincide with my birthday and I had a strange dream in which some dream-character of a voice announced very clearly:  “Your name is Centria.”

When I woke up, almost gasping at the strange synchronicity, I remember thinking:  “That had better not be the name of a car!”

So Centria it was for that retreat.  Everyone wanted to know what it meant, but I could only mumble something like perhaps being centered, the new century, the female version of the trinity.  Everyone was invited to guess as I had no idea.

Friends from that Montana visit would send cards and packages to the house for years after addressed to “Centria.”  The kids would look askance at the letters and at least one child was known to inquire, “Is that suppose to be YOU, Mom?”

Well, Yes.

The inner world of a hibiscus

The inner world of a hibiscus

Years later (when the Centria era was almost, almost, forgotten) I discovered an on-line world of blogging.  And you needed a name to describe you.  So what name popped up from the recesses of the brain?  Of course…Centria.  She could be resurrected.

Because, of course, at that time, I had heard horror stories about writing your full name in Internet Print.  You weren’t suppose to tell your name.  People could track you down and…well, it wasn’t safe.  So we were told.  (And maybe that is still the case.  I don’t know.  But I see lots of people sharing their full names and contact information on blogs everywhere.  And on Facebook my name now stands out in black and white to 100 friends, three quarters of whom I’ve never met.)  The fear of those early days has abated.

Yet the name Centria remains.  When it came time to write this wordpress blog for 365 days of outdoor commitment it seemed more natural than breathing to type in “Centria”.  The name from that dream, all those years ago, before the new century birthed itself. 

So now you have the full story.  You can call me Centria or you can call me Kathy.  (Or Mom, or daughter, to some of you!)  Or “Hey, You!”  Or maybe even the name some of the Ojibway (Anishnabe) around here call me.  But that’s another story.  And it’s just as strange as this one. 

P.S.  Looks like it’s Day 243 of the commitment. Kathy or Centria spent lots of time in the garden, some time with her mother-in-law on the phone while outside and sitting on the deck with Barry in the sprinkles before dinner.

The Slate River Falls

The Slate River Falls

Time for a river walk today!  Time to get moving and to see an old friend, the Slate River.  We have been friends for years and years and years.

Today, after work, I realized it had been a long time since this old friend and I had connected. 

What memories clamor in as you climb the steep hills and listen to the waters rushing way down below in the fast-moving river.  You think it must have been easier to claw onto roots and trees, hoisting yourself up and down the hills, back in your 20’s when you first met this river.

And do you remember all those years when the children clamoured up and down, as well?  And you held your breath for fear they would tumble down the way-too-dangerous hill and into the rocks below?  And how you chided yourself for being a bad parent, allowing all this? 

Can you tell how steep this hill really is?

Can you tell how steep this hill really is?

And remember how the children laughed and pranced like deer, never falling?  And how you, even then, walked so carefully and slowly, planting your feet just so. 

Do you remember the time (oh dear, where is your internal censor when she should appear?) when you took a couple friends on a hike up the river on a hot, hot summer day.  You were much younger and crazier then, you’re sure.  How everyone wanted to go swimming, but no one had the foresight of bathing suits.  So you decided skinny dipping was allowable, just this one time…and how lovely the river felt, all rushing and soothing and inspiring.

And then, drying off and getting back into your clothes, you looked up to see two men with hunting guns staring down at the three of you?  It was almost like a nightmare moment…men with guns!…but then they smiled and passed without comment and you remembered to breathe again and decided skinny dipping should really be done in some more secluded place.  Or at night.

More falls

More falls

Memories keep rushing in like precious jewels.  Finding the eagle’s nest, way, way back at a fold in the river, all those years ago when eagles fascinated you more than anything.  Sitting oh so quietly beneath the nest, watching the mama and daddy fly in and out.  Finding eagle feathers scattered like stars against the earth.  Bringing some Native American friends back to this sacred place.

Lovely light gleaming in river

Lovely light gleaming in river

Another memory of river walks with Teva sandals, right down in the river, tripping over stones and rocks and trying to stay upright.  Maybe not always staying upright.  Splashing along curve after curve, climbing out to portage around deep holes.  Loving the language the river speaks, its constant rush and roar and song.

Like liquid diamonds...

Like liquid diamonds...

Today, it was hot.  Sweat pouring, panting.  Even though it’s easy to walk five or six miles on flat land without too much challenge, it’s way strenuous to climb hills up and down.  I paused to stand still, often.  On the way up the river my Mind  filled with thoughts and stories that carried on like a loud off-key orchestra, trying to compete with the river’s music.  On the way down the river, mostly Stillness and Silence remained.  The river sang loud then.

Feet remember river...does river remember feet?

Feet remember river...does river remember feet?

The water felt surprisingly warm.  Not warm like bathwater, but warm like river water.  It felt invigorating yet soothing.  How refreshing to sit for a long spell beneath the old eagles’ nest.  A few thimbleberries and tiny blueberries provided sustenance.  It might be nice to nap beneath the cliffs, but Home called from across the bay.

Red rock cliffs above river

Red rock cliffs above river

I learned something on the way home.  About sound.  About how trees and landscape muffle and change sound.  Walking very slowly, not thinking much, I heard the river singing a new, louder song than before, with a different sound.  How interesting!  And then noticed that this particular sound only existed in a three foot area between a particular grouping of trees.  The landscape became a flute or a whistle or unique musical instrument, playing the song of the river in that particular way in that particular spot.  If you moved a couple feet ahead, the music of the river changed to its original song.  A couple feet behind, the same thing.  But in this small area, the trees and the cliff and the river joined forces to change the cadence of the riverdance.

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