Here’s the link to the relevant article I mentioned a day ago written by Four Arrows, aka Don Trent Jacobs. It’s titled: “Anthropocentrism’s Antidote, Reclaiming our Indigenous Orientation to Non-Human Teachers.” I still haven’t found my copy of it because I filed it so quickly and efficiently that I don’t remember where it is!!! That’s my trouble with being on top of things! I could probably have found it if it were in a pile of papers on my desk.
But I am supported in other ways. The day after I wrote about my frustration over losing the article, Four Arrows himself referenced the article and offered the link above to an email group in which we are both involved. A big smile spreads over my face with this effortless wish fulfillment.
Today, I’m still pondering my statement of yesterday: This complexity sustains itself without me.
Why does that seem so important? That truth stops me in my tracks that’s why. Being inconsequential to the big picture defies everything we moderns stand for. The truth of our circumstances bowls me over while standing in my waders in a muddy estuary. We humans think we can manage the forests, manage systems if we can understand them well enough, manage the wild. Isn’t that an oxymoron? We think our ingenuity will solve every problem and that more and more technology will cure all disease and more and more drugs will make us happy. We believe that somehow we humans alone determine our fate. I don’t believe it.
During the spirit bear trip, we spent hours inside the small galley of an elegant sailboat. Many times a day I sat at the table facing the wall opposite where a Canadian Sierra Club poster hung. “Think twice before you remain silent.” Remembering the impact of that sentence, I realize in retrospect this blog is my way of giving voice.
Experiencing the land, sea, creatures and culture of the Pacific Northwest Coast moves me still all these years later. Spending time in a functioning ecosystem moved me to tears then and moves me now. Something about being a non-essential component in the community of life liberates me. I belong to this earth as a member of life’s community. I am not in charge. As human humble I can never know enough to untangle the complexity. Here, standing in this humility, my senses tingle and expand – not just the typical senses like sight and smell but the unseen vibrational ones, too. Being tuned in to mystery, living aliveness, allowing myself to be awed, all that enriches my experience of being here now in a body. And seeing the spirit bear at home in its habitat amplifies my life. You know how they used to say, “Seeing is believing?” I appreciate that statement now. Seeing the white black bear elicits a response so enormous in me that words are limp descriptors. Poetic form helps:
We “bump” into a Brazilian film crew on the estuary.
After videoing an interview with the bear biologist,
they tell us they watched a white bear up Whalen Creek
only last week.
We decide to go for it.
Rainforest but not old growth,
the logging road is clogged with alder
and slippery with moss.
It still provides the easiest access
to the spawning pool upstream.
Rare sun warms our backs.
Alder leaves paint yellow across the cobalt blue sky.
We shed jackets as we move along, but legs are trapped
sweating under the ubiquitous rubber waders.
Finding perches on the slope above the stream,
we sit waiting,
watching just a few salmon congregate by fallen logs damming a pool.
A black bear flits in/out of view, another, maybe another.
Or it could be the same one thrice.
Unlike Canoona,the bears here are spooked by us.
Wayne whispers,” They’ve always been wary here.
That’s why I stopped coming seven years ago, but
the Brazilian film crew said they watched a white one with her cub
for a long time. . . only last week, so let’s be patient, be still, be quiet.”
For five hours we sit waiting.
No matter because I’m quietly satisfied sitting for five hours.
I feel like a real wild life photographer.
Even though my lens is not long enough to capture bear on film
I experience the patience and trust required to wait for animals
to come to me.
Sitting quietly for five long hours,
I do tire of watching the shrubbery across the stream
and begin to surreptitiously watch my companions.
One fidgets, frisking her pockets for snacks.
Another takes her fly rod and disappears downstream.
Another meanders quietly talking to whomever will listen.
One earns my admiration.
She sits on the steep slope, heels dug in and elbows on her knees.
She sits motionless, holding her camera ready in front of her nose,
finger poised over the shutter button for two, maybe three,
of those five hours.
Her still presence does not bring the white bear.
A chill creeps in as the sun wanes.
We rustle into jackets, pull on hats.
Still no bear.
Standing stiffly we finally decide to head back down the trail
to the Zodiac waiting to motor us home.
The day takes on that end of day golden glow.
I look forward to getting under way to find safe harbor.
Dropping anchor means it’s time to share the daily ritual
of a small glass of wine.
It will be especially sweet after sitting
for five hours waiting.
On board the boat we wrestle with gear.
Stowing unused rain jackets,
struggling out of our unbendable hip waders
and tight long johns.
Never an easy task where space under tarp is limited.
There, even my short legs loom long.
But tonight, we can stretch a bit out on deck
under a radiant sunset sky.
The skipper raises anchor, the boat turns,
steaming for open water,
making haste for anchorage before dark.
Half in and half out of my boot,
I hear him yell from the bridge:
“White bear, white bear white bear on beach.”
I think this is a cruel joke after waiting five hours . . .
But no – he’s cut the engine.
Someone else begins to yell.
“Oh my god, oh my god.”
And there it is.
A big one – a really big one
ambling along the beach
right near where we ourselves had emerged
from the forest not long before.
Its bearness clarifies my bones..
I see its head swing side to side
in rhythm with its lumbering gait.
With binoculars I can see its peach colored mantle,
I’m awkward jumping up and down,
half in and half out of my boots,
but jump I must.
I can’t stop myself.
I yell with joy
and then everyone is hugging
and everyone starts crying and laughing
and we’re all jumping up and down
and crying and yelling.
So beside ourselves in our need to clasp each other tight
we forget the bear for moments still ambling on the beach
oblivious to our jubilation on the boat.
Even the bear biologist from Montana,
a veteran of seeing bears, has glistening cheeks.
We can’t seem to stop.
A white bear,
a white black bear.
I’m seeing with my own eyes Creator’s anomoly.
A white bear in a dark green world.
I am glad that my first sighting
of the enigmatic miraculous spirit bear
just as it has been.
would have sent it scrambling.
I’m sure the wine must have tasted extra sweet that night,
but I don’t really remember.
The forest as home calls me back. My soul needs that forest, too, to remember the beauty of a fully functioning world which reminds me of my own true nature.
Breathtaking. What an amazing experience. To wait so long, and be that close to something so elemental. This will travel with me all day.
Thanks for bringing us with you on your journey:-)
Ahhhh Kate, your words inspire me nearly everyday. I think about picking up on some of your thematic threads from my perspective – some of your subjects of course are quintessentially English – which I love love – but others are universal. As are the lessons from the wilderness. Thank you for honoring my attempt to bring those epiphanies into our urban lives…
Dear Deborah, Although I have not been commenting as much lately, I want you to know how much your blog posts enrich my life. You make me think about things that would otherwise be off my radar. Your writing and your art are breathtaking/life-giving and I so appreciate you sharing your adventures as well as their impact on you. Keep on writing….I think you’ve got a book in the works here. Love, Alisa
Your comment means a lot to me, Alisa. I am so deeply committed to this process of blogging, as I know you are, too. It is a form of pilgrimage, isn’t it? Each post another step on a journey whose destination may never be reached because we won’t know when we’ve arrived! blessings wing your way…
To be humbled by mother nature has always been a loving gift to me. My back straighten, I take a different posture, my breathe becomes slow and deep, and I remember who I am. That magic moment when two opposite and contradictory thoughts collide….I am small and insignificant , a flick of dust on Gods furniture. I am truly an amazing human animal to be standing here having these thoughts. The third thought that is birthed – I am part of the whole – I am connected – I am a link in the chain – I am a hologram, each part is the whole – I become overwhelmed at this stage.
A teacher once told me, a God is anything that can kill you. LOL – I can’t remember the exact words but that was the idea, I think! I am not afraid of these nature Gods, I do not give pray and offerings to appease their wroth. I love the Gods, I am in awe of the magnificent beauty, the raw power and I am part of the whole and so are you.
thank you Cinda for this deeply moving response which adds so much to me and mine. Keep those thoughts a comin’.
And when I first heard that same teacher’s comment: that a God is anything that can kill you…I immediately knew the truth of that…The gods of the ocean, the tornado, the earthquake and the fire and also made me reflect on our human made gods, those of war for instance, or nuclear power. Really enlarges the discussion of what is divine, doesn’t it?
And here is a paradox too. That which kills, at least in terms of planetary forces, also gives life. Wrapping our heads and hearts around that one is realllllly HUGE for most of us who like clean neat compartments of what is good and what is bad.
again thank you for adding to this conversation.
Thank you Deborah, I laughed out loud when I realized as I typed that YOU were the teacher I remember saying those word. I thought, ‘well I better get the words right,’ which broke my train of thought…….you finished the rest with the skill of the professional you are. I love you and thank you!!!!
You may have heard me say those words, Cinda, but Emma is the one who talks about that in one of her books. She’s the teacher who taught us both. For those of you who read this but don’t know Emma Restall Orr, you’ll find her Druid Network site in my blog roll to the right of the posts on the blog. She’s a rare human and connects us to our ancient, European ancestors, those who still knew the earth is alive.