Receive. Worship. Create. Comprehend. Believe. Give. Sacrifice. Compromise. Courage. Newness. Unify. Yield. Hinge. Sway. Heartbeat. Focus. Dream. Build. Commit. Accept. Trust.
I woke up terribly early this morning, around 4:30AM-ish. I was out of bed by 5AM and I know why! I ate not one, but two cuts of antelope backstrap for dinner last night (keep in mind, this is American pronghorn we are talking about, an antelope steak is tiny compared to a beef steak). I was thinking about it and I realized that our diet here is pretty vegetarian. I know this probably comes as a surprise since we spend a lot of time hunting. But here’s the thing, we don’t eat meats every single day. We eat a lot of eggs. I think we consume red meat every 1.5 weeks or so and then, of course, upland meats here and there.
Last night I grilled that backstrap and then sliced it up to go on top of a huge pile of greens, artichoke hearts, toasted walnuts, carrots and cucumbers (this is one of our very favorite meals here, Robert swoons for it). But that red meat is so clean and wild and fresh and beautiful and a rare enough portion of my diet that it gives me a huge energy burst which signifies the importance of animal proteins to my very cells! Early mornings like this, in my life, are always a product of eating elk or antelope or deer the night before. Clean meat really works. I believe in it. When this body wants it, this body gets what it wants.
This is all to say, it was early here and I was outside right as night was turning to morning, the dusky quiet moment when all of the life on the river begins to stir in anticipation of the sunrise. I saw a flock of pigeons flitting about at the edge of the cliff, the white winged doves zooming about in pairs as they tend to do, Canada geese overhead and down on the water, a variety of ducks, cackling pheasant roosters above the house and the quail covey chattering down below, incoming herons, the bald eagle, yellow winged blackbirds, robins, meadowlarks (oh my heart) and down on the water, fish were belly flopping all over the place like they were performing for a cheering crowd at Sea World. It was beautiful to be out in the quake and clamor of it all.
I am reminded now of the time I went out with an acquaintance of mine who is a recordist (he makes recordings of nature sounds and is an incredible naturalist, to boot) to a huge marshland near Soda Springs, Idaho. He was hoping to capture the sound of cranes trumpeting in the early morning. We arrived at the marsh around 3AM, plugged in all the high-tech recording devices and sat down with headphones to listen to the world wake up. Lang’s recording equipment was so sensitive it could capture sound up to 8 miles away and you really cannot imagine what I heard that morning. I could hear ducks smacking their beaks, water swishing around the knees of herons…
The memory of it still blows my mind and I wish I could relive that symphony of sound over and over again. It was gorgeous to hear the marsh stirring in the tiny, dark morning hours and the depth and breadth of the murmuring under high quality amplification — it changed my awareness of sound. Forever.
I think Lang looked over at me as the marsh began to stir and he smiled when he saw my face, I am sure my expression was one of sheer rapture and elation. It was an experience I’ll never forget and one of the greatest gifts of sound I have ever been given.
After this experience, I began to wonder about micro-sounds. The tiny sounds that our weak human ears cannot register, like the musical tone of cotyledons pushing up through soil, the leathery sound of chartreuse leaves unfurling or the crunch of dirt molecules beneath the feet of ants. What does that sound like? Don’t you wonder? Does anyone but me wonder about these things?
I like to be able to really sit back in a wild landscape and spend quality time in sensory immersion. Sometimes I go crazy and let myself sense it all, all at once, but it’s also nice to isolate a sense and consciously go deeper with it. In these waking springtime moments, when the world is so fresh and pungent and stretching, I find the swirl of details keen and bright. It’s a wonderful time of year to squander the morning hours on sensory experience. Which is exactly how I spent part of the morning today.
Besides all the regular, wild-haired, nature girl stuff, I vacuumed up a black widow spider this morning. I’ve been letting her live in a wee nook in the kitchen window frame for months now but she has grown very large since we first met and lately I’ve had a sense of her watching me, not to mention I am terrified she’ll lay a nest of eggs. So I ambushed her with the vacuum at approximately 6:01AM and she made a *thunking* noise as she flew down the hose like when you suck up a nickel. It was disturbing.
I’m almost finished meeting a bevy of deadlines here and have been slowly re-entering into studio work after a few days away from the bench. At midnight, a couple of days ago, while waiting for my WIFI to ramp up so I could upload photo submissions, I was doodling in my sketch book and writing a poem when this ring design came out:
It’s a continuation of my Rags & Riches Series and it’s so delicate wearing! The bird and feather are one piece of metal, connected thinly by careful sawing and hammer formed in opposite directions (which was a challenge). I’m working on finishing an essay currently but am hoping to have a few more of these made for you by the end of the week.
I was so terribly lonesome. Robert was on week six of his deployment in the southeast and I woke up one morning feeling trapped, stuck inside the old walls of our farmhouse, stuck on the sidewalk between the house and the studio, stuck in the studio, stuck in my head, stuck in my heart, stuck like two feet goopy with tar. It felt bad. And I was lonesome, as I mentioned, lonesome for Robert specifically, but also for my sisters and my parents. On impulse, I ran away. I tucked a few things away in the truck, gave two of our three dogs to pals here in town and hit the road in our little red Tacoma.
I didn’t know where I was going when I started driving. I was thinking about Moab, Jackson and numerous other places. When I pulled the truck onto the highway I found myself merging towards Boise and suddenly I knew I was going shed hunting in one of my favorite wintering grounds out in the rim rock of the Snake River Plain. I drove. I sang along to the radio. I chewed at a hangnail on my left thumb. I drove some more.
Eventually I pulled off onto the back roads of Idaho, wove my way into some open country, locked the hubs and flipped the truck in 4×4, crept my way across BLM land on a deeply muddy two track and threw the whole circus in park (with e-brake) somewhere in the middle of nowhere — the perfect place to simply go walking and stone kicking and bone collecting. I had Tater Tot with me and he started quartering the field immediately looking for Hungarian partridge and chukar, zig zagging in front of me like a confused freight train, wagging his nubbin of a tail like he didn’t mind if it fell right off. His method, the method of bird dogs, is a miracle to watch — there is so much grace in the madness of their energy. I broke his heart a few times, flushing his points and telling him “no bird“. Dogs don’t understand hunting seasons, permits, laws…heck, I don’t understand that stuff either, really (Actually, I do. Wildlife management is a science and an art. I respect it.). I still, to this very moment, wish I could have rewarded his hard work with a bird.
We scaled the basalt cliffs, felt the wind slam against us, breathed the sage, closed our eyes and exhaled, and then we hunted for bones and antlers — with mediocre success (I only say mediocre because I usually walk away from this place with multiple skulls, the occasional sacrum or intact spine and usually at least three antlers). It would be a lie to tell you I was happy, alone and fulfilled out there. I was missing Robert something terrible. And when I say MISSING I mean it felt like the marrow of my bones had turned to thin water, dilute and pathetic, and was making its way out of me, out of my millions of pores, a weeping of the body and spirit under the heavy cape of lonesomeness. I could have cried. But I didn’t. Instead, I just walked, watched the world under the sunset, and keep my eyes peeled for the stark white of antlers poking up from the bunch grass.
I found myself thinking, over and over again, “I usually love to be alone. What is wrong with me?” When I am alone, which is often, it is by choice and there is a fullness to the aloneness that feels natural and good. Lately, I have wondered if my nature is changing? If I am sliding slowly out of introversion and into the deep, warm pocket of extroversion? Or maybe I’m an extroverted introvert? I don’t know. Two of our very best friends bought the house exactly next to ours, here in Idaho. I see them every single day and I love it. I have coffee or tea with them most mornings and eat dinner with them, at their house or mine, about four times a week and we are constantly talking over the fence between their house and ours. It is so special. I know this is a once in a lifetime experience, living right next door to best friends. I cherish it, already. I see so much of my people here, my little tribe built of wild land firefighters and their wives — there are about fourteen of us, you know, mostly married couples with a few spare men and women thrown in for good measure. It’s a nice chunk of friends who are like family, jingling around in the pocket of my heart like precious coins. I relish their company so awfully much lately that it truly has me wondering about my self-proclaimed hermit-ness. Maybe the fact of the matter is simple, perhaps I love our friends here deeply enough, and feel understood well enough by them, that I am willing to forsake my nature to be with them almost every day of the week, to laugh with them, to cook and eat with them often, to have them constantly spiraling in and out of my life like loving cyclones. They care for me in ways I cannot care for myself. They are important to me and important to my life, I realize this more and more as the days pass. Maybe my nature is not exactly what I have deemed it to be these past few years. What do you think?
Something in me is changing and I believe it has to do with the good and gentle hands of the people I love. They pour their grace into my very roots, I drink deep and grow up out of myself in their presence.
Tater Tot and I spent the night out there on the wind swept openness of the rim rock. I ate weird soup for dinner, shivered in my sleep and we continued our explorations in the morning. At some point, before noon, I acquiesced to the fact that I didn’t feel like being on the road. I took the scenic route home, climbing and sinking up and down mountain passes, snow blind and weary. I saw magnificent springtime squalls riding white across the horizon. I saw the steelhead running, feral and sterling, and wished I had a whopper fly rod with a fuzzy streamer to taunt a big fish into aggression. I saw antelope. I saw elk. I saw the Sawtooths in all their exquisite glory. I saw wide open spaces, void of cattle, void of humans, void of cities and towns, filled with light and sagebrush and mountain peaks biting at the spring gales. I saw magnificent things, but no matter how wonderful the landscape I passed through, I still just really wanted someone with me, Robert or Jade or Toby or whoever I love and trust in this world.
I wanted someone I loved with me, riding by my side, singing along with the country music on the radio and exclaiming at the same beautiful sights.
Somedays, I guess it’s good to be alone. Other days it’s a good time to lock yourself to the ones you love and share an experience unless the world and all its beauty should fall to rust in your mouth; other days are good to share.
Eventually I made it home to my little farmhouse — I liked the feel of being in my space again, peacefully submitting to this season of life where I find myself without Robert, my one and only.
I am learning so much lately, about life, about myself, about the land. On occasion, the lessons are uncomfortable, but I don’t mind, as long as I keep expanding like a morning sky.