Outside my window there are planes passing overhead, marching in straight, sleepy lines from one crowded dream into another. When I stop and listen I can feel the tumbling and sucking of the Pacific.
Until I paused I had been very far away from this prickly, tired city with its now-scarce rolling hills, scrub oak thickets, and dry stream beds.
I had been seven years old, driving west across the colorado plateau at sunset. Peering out in hushed reverence through the sticky windows of my family’s mini-van, toward a mysterious and beckoning horizon of stacked, crimson sandstone… out across streaming prairie grasses that glowed like tiny lanterns with the exhale of day.
The buffalo carcass had been there for many moons before I found it. From the ridge it looked as if the whole divot of earth between myself and the far forested slope was holding that regal being in the basin of its body...reaching up to support its last and greatest act of generosity. The grass was stamped down in widening circles around the beached ribcage that echoed still with rank breath; curving past a hoof the size of both my fists together, to caress in gentle, pastured strokes the astounding, still-furred-and-horned head.
The air near the clearing was thick with presence as if the trees and the grasses and the little bones that were scattered all around my feet could not un- see the feast they had seen. Made richer, perhaps, or more full themselves having witnessed the stunning beauty of one that left this place in a good way.
The earth beneath reminds me how to pray. Her rumblings gentle my heart though it took me awhile to open to the staggering presence of earth here; to stop saving up my awe, and wonder for less inhabited landscapes. I had to learn to let this place into me - the Verbena and the possums, and the little caterpillars that eat my Bougainvillea… just as I have had to learn how to feel my own wildness; to let that one of me touch the world I have created for myself… to let her break my aloneness.
Behind the door I found the moose skull in a circle of dead cottonwood trees, bleached white from the sun - the skull and the trees both. In the eye socket a tiny purple Pacific Aster gazed yellow and piercing like the wolves here. The skull had been watching me with its flower eyes as I came upon the circle, so stark in death amidst life that it pulled off the impossible task of disappearing in plain sight, and I had to look twice to see. It had been watching me as I danced for those great mountains, whose peaks, regal and dangerous, rose out of the lakes like a rough Aphrodite.
I placed my hand on the skull. The dome of bone sloped up and over, ridge- like, to fit just-so in the trembling hollow of my palm.
Picture a she-wolf. Green-eyed, and grey-toned. Her long, lean limbs smattered ombre with mud from the nights rain. Her coat keeps a cadence with the wind as she travels. She catches a scent and lifts her head, a moment of pause. The forest is still but for the birds in the treetops, calling out to one another. Her paws are tender on the earth. She is not aware you are watching.
The forest is her world. A land of greens and golds, tawny red and dappled light. At night she sees the moon at its zenith, reaching out past tall pine pyramids. She smells the storms coming a long way off. She tilts her head at twilight and offers in sound the deep place from which her life flows. Her erie howls are not romantic to her, they are not strange, or rare, or something to awe or fear. Rather her song is simply hers to sing in the symphony of sounds that make her world; the scattering of mice, the hoot of an owl, the soft rustle of a doe at the river bank.
We live in a time of uncharacteristic change. A tumultuous moment of increasing complexity that has all of us stretching the way we participate in nearly every life arena. It is a time where adaptability and flexibility are a prerequisite to navigating personal and social change with skill and intention. We face an opportunity to either lean in to meet the emerging future, or regress back to old familiar (if dysfunctional) patterns at nearly every crossroads. We are at the threshold, in a crucible of change - no longer what we were, but not yet what we are becoming.
These are liminal times, and require liminal capabilities.
A quiet, strong voice, barely perceptible curves its way over my skin like water over moss rock, like red lipstick, like the smell of wet Jasmine. Beloved….beloved…
Inside my heart it is twilight and the shadows long. The last bit of heat from the summer sun radiates off the red rocks of my hidden self. There, down the sandy path, I can make out the day-old tracks of some large animal. Perhaps it is this beast who inhabits my body in breathy pants and guttural moans in moments when I forget myself. This one of me slips out sideways.
No, you, with the kind heart, and the trembling hands, and the downturned eyes are a force of nature even at your weakest - capable of shaping and being shaped. Without you - the fullness of you, we all lose.
These are the images that rise up from under, that remind me, as I remind you now, to accept the invitation at mystery’s hand, and to rise up - in the way you know how, to be a sentinel for the silenced ones - to be a beacon of possibility in the narrow corridors of our nation. To be the wild men and women you are as envoys for the earth.