wide awake and wild

elk3
I took one small step closer, cautious, curious and completely aware that all he had to do was take one powerful leap in my direction to spear me with those handsome antlers of his. His watchful, deep black eyes were on me. Though his munching jaws would seem to say that he could care less about my presence, we both knew better.
elk

This was the first of three encounters I had with wild animals this past weekend. The second was with the Gray Jay. We were over 9500ft. high having snowshoed nearly 2 hours into the southern heart of the Rocky Mountains. There was no wind, just the blinding whiteness that comes with fresh snowfall. The sound of our feet in deep snow and my breathe from climbing in it provided the haunting rhythm to keep placing one foot in front of the other. It was not an easy climb to Emerald Lake, but when we reached it, I understood wholly the meaning of the phrase “deafening silence”. Surrounded by jagged spears of rock resembling a crown, I would have fallen to my knees in reverence had I not already felt dwarfed in the mountain’s majesty.

emeraldlake2
(If it helps to understand scale in this novice photo, please look at the tiny black dot at the base of the mountains on the right. That dot is a person.)

Grayjay

After a few awe-inspiring minutes of quiet, I was startled by a low swoosh that came from behind and flew directly above my head. She landed on a branch 15 feet from me, looked at me while cocking her fluffy head, imploring me to see her, to be mindful of her. She wanted my attention and she found it. She posed left, then right, then looked at me again to make sure I was still watching. I worked quickly to get my camera out again, but she waited patiently, long enough for me to rattle off at least 10 shots before she flew back in the direction she came from. She, like the Elk, felt tame in ways that didn’t seem plausible. An unspoken language passed between us, one that I had forgotten, one that I might have understood again if I could have stayed there in that space with her just a little longer.

grayjay2

The last encounter was with two foxes. My husband spotted them first on our return to Rocky Mountain National Park the next morning. They were fast and they were less willing to take chances with a human like the other two. I jumped out of the car with the camera and ran to the edge of the meadow that they had run into. I followed them with my lens, first one, then two, too far to get good details thanks to the autofocus on my camera. There was no time to switch to manual, no time to play with light and catch the glint in their mysterious eyes. They were gray and they were very smart, dancing along and pacing the meadow, watching me to see what I would do next. They never left or ran away too far. As I walked back to the car, they got closer, comfortable with knowing that I was leaving their domain, their protected space that I was invading, that we all invaded long ago.

twofoxes

fox1

These wild animals are medicine to me, a balm to the coldness that comes with our reality and domestication. Once I dip in and wander among the messages these creatures provide, I find myself in the folds of something bigger. I awaken knowing that we are not so different. We are both dependent on the environment that surrounds us, both dependent on the the earth that provides for us, both hungering for a language that connects us all, both free and not free, bound by instinct, duty and limitations, both extremely fragile and weak at the helms of the unknown.

On a crystal clear yet windy morning, on our last snowshoe trail in the tall pines and bare-boned trees, I found a mark on an aspen, a mark left by someone that did not know it would be meant for me. I stopped to pull off my gloves and dug for the cameraphone in my snowpants pocket. A wind gust rushed in lifting the snow off their feet to sparkle and swirl in the air behind, just in time for me to take the shot. And I did take it, all of it. I am not sure when I will be back there again, but I will remember. I will remember how it felt to be wide awake and wild with the spirit of the earth.

MJtree

much love to you fellow earthwalkers…
xoxo

18 thoughts on “wide awake and wild

  1. This was a lovely read for me first thing this morning, awake at 5.30! I feel the ‘unspoken language’ too, my two dogs communicate so clearly to me…
    Thank you for your kind comment on my post, and BTW I purchased the book ‘The four agreements’ you spoke about sometime ago and have just finished reading it, this was inspirational. Thank you. Love Sue x

    • Hey Mon :), sorry the black dot thing wasn’t clear. If you look at the pointiest peak in that picture, the one that kind of looks like a finger (or a face on profile ;), then move straight down to the snow, there are actually two black dots, the lowest one is a skier. They hiked up then skied down :).

  2. Wow! Wow, wow, wow! Such connections you have made. And such depth you have experienced. I bet your heart is shining :). I have always been fascinated by Elk, but they have eluded me each time I went to the Smokies (one day). xoxo

  3. There is a special connection with nature when we vacate the relative trivialities of modern society and just breathe. You have captured the beauty of this essence with a very eloquent and poetic combination of words and images. I had a similar experience in Great Smoky Mountain National Park last summer. Although words were put on a page to share this commune with Mother Nature, only experiencing it firsthand can properly do it justice. Which I am sure you understand quite well šŸ˜‰ Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story and message, and for rekindling fond memories of my own.

    • Thanks Dave for your kind words. Ahh the Smoky Mountains, truly a breathtaking place. It’s no mistake that our spirits move in these places and it’s no wonder we crave more. Thanks for sharing your experiences as well.

    • there is such healing possibility when we pay attention and narrow the distance between ourselves and nature.

      “An unspoken language passed between us, one that I had forgotten, one that I might have understood again if I could have stayed there in that space with her just a little longer.” – i think you have understood the great deal which is difficult to articulate.

      xo
      erin

I love your comments! Thank you so much for taking the time :).

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