Friday, October 28, 2011

The Slow Reveal

“No one changes, but instead becomes more of who they always were,” an English teacher told me. As a high school student, I held closely those words armed by their promise. At a time when kindness and backbone lay crumpled at the bottom of my locker suppressed by insecurity, I hoped my hidden, more honest parts were a better indicator of who I truly was and may more become. I hoped for change, became more honest, kinder at times, and slowly understood that becoming isn't really a change at all, but instead, a slow reveal, an uncovering of oneself.

The trees and the leaves have always known this. Each fall, the nights grow longer, the temperatures colder, and slow mountain roads become filled with leaf peepers looking for change between Dairy Queens and roadside rest stops. Except leaves don't change. They too become more of what they always were. The colors we photograph, the aching heart reds and rusted out oranges, were always there present within each leaf since bud break. It's not until the lengthening nights of fall when photosynthesis is stopped and chlorophyll recedes into darkness do our color blind eyes see more than green. But those colors, those gorgeous colors, were always there. Invisible, but existing beauty waiting to be revealed, wanting to be uncovered, and only the darkness could do it.   

This fall, as you toss on the lights at 3 pm or remark how much shorter the days have become, consider your own beauty unrevealed. Let whatever is covering it lose its fight. Feed it to the darkness. Allow your slow reveal to unravel the life you were meant to live; become who you always knew you were.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What Comes With Fall

Vermont is coming for me. Each October, her long branches point west across Lake Champlain and into the Catskills of New York. From there, she rides the thermals across the Great Lakes regions of Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Migratory birds call from the shores, but Vermont has her own migration and will not rest today. 

She tumbles into North Dakota with the sagebrush, causing a buffalo standing on the prairie to gaze into the sky wondering why her coat, already thick for winter, twitches on a still afternoon. Later, closer to twilight, a solitary wolf in Montana howls although there is no moon and a tree frog sings the hummingbirds to sleep. Vermont is on her way, and aren't I the last to know? 

She tiptoes across forest floors, skips stones to cross streams, holds her breath over bridges. She splashes into Coeur D’Alene, and trails an apple orchard into Washington. Three peaks, Three Sisters, point her to Oregon. Meanwhile, I long. I long for early mornings with my mom and sisters, family pets long gone, and cold mornings that call for homemade blankets. I long, too, for afternoon drives with Dad through the countryside as my sister and I point out the fall foliage and say things like, “that hill is on fire” or “that tree is solid gold.” Early attempts at metaphor; saying one thing, but meaning another. Go ahead, fill your cup with apple cider if you want; mine gets filled with nostalgia this time of year. 

By now, I've lived out of Vermont longer than I lived in it, but it's where I first breathed. Maybe all that we inhale in those first few breaths settles within, mixes with our blood and genes, and becomes another part of us, like shoe size, temperament, or balance. No matter where I am on the compass, every October Vermont comes for me, tells me I’m hers. Reminds me I was born on her turf. This year she finds me on a college campus. She wraps her branched arms around me as her crisp air slinks down my back. Air that's scented with mulch, sweetness, and the promise of winter. For a moment, I'm with my dad again in his orange van, the family cat, Gracie, is back on top of the fish tank, and the old kitchen table where my mom and sisters and I had tea in the morning has milk and spilled sugar on it once again, the way it did more than twenty five years ago. 
                  And I think, wherever we are, wherever we were born, 
it is our birthright to be remembered. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Photo by Luka Photography
Biked through the sunrise this morning with a headwind so stubborn it seemed to push me backward even on the long downward hills of Terwilliger. Was it trying to tell me something? Go back to bed maybe!?!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Walking Anan Creek With Bears in August

The float plane landed on remote Anan Bay with some surprising words from the pilot: He'd be back for us in four hours. WHAT? We were supposed to go into the woods, the woods with grizzly bears and black bears, alone? I mean, what if we saw one? Forgetting that was exactly the reason we were on this northern shore of the Cleveland Peninsula, somewhere south of Wrangell and north of Ketchikan. In fact, bear watching was our primary purpose for being in Southeast Alaska at all last August, but still, what if we saw one? "Make noise, sing, look big, and I'll see you at 1," he answered.

With that, he swung the nose of the plane south and piloted his three-seater down the watery runway toward Ketchikan and other adventurers eager to be dropped into their own Alaskan stories. We had four hours to write ours, and all that separated us from our story was a bear trail, one well-liked and well-used bear trail.

The trail to the Lower Falls at Anan Creek is an ancient bear trail going back perhaps 500,000 years. The Tlingit Indians used the path to reach their summer camps into the late 1800s, and Ronald Reagan walked it in 1992 when he visited Anan. As Reagan hiked to the falls, he fell, prompting a boardwalk to be constructed over the bear trail for easier access. Thanks to Ronald Reagan and his fall, Alaska bears received their first ever presidential boardwalk! At first, the boardwalk appeared to impact bear behavior; they wouldn't use it or cross it to access their fishing grounds. However, bears are adaptable. What's a boardwalk when your 15-20 million year history includes adaptations that allow you to eat a variety of food, hibernate when that food disappears, have excellent night vision, a sense of smell so keen that carrion a mile away is yours, and an ability to run up to speeds of 35 mph? Yeah, they had this boardwalk thing covered, and the bears were soon back to using their trail every time the salmon ran. The path in the picture to the left is a bear trail coming out of the woods down to the boardwalk. These smaller trails were everywhere; used regularly by bears on their way to and from the salmon.

Walking with bears awakens some internal, but dormant thread; one that backstitches patterns of today with yesterday's weavings. Anan is old, ancient in fact. Maybe it's this long passage of time that gives it the palpable energy felt by present day visitors. Wondering if the rustling in the high grass behind you is the wind or something wilder than yourself demands a presence of mind that is sometimes dulled in today’s plugged in world. Yet, despite nerves being on full alert, walking with bears is also peaceful, restorative, and at times, comical. I think it's because bears are all of these things and more . They are playful yet fierce; courageous, but shy; stalwart, yet yielding. In four hours, the bears at Anan gave me a story. They also gave me this: be more than one thing in any given moment, be dimensional, and know balance when those dimensions appear to oppose.

I'm still learning, so sorry about the layout of the pictures, but here is some of my story: 


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Goose Tales

I worry about paddling through life with my head in the mud wondering why I'm getting water up my nose, but not really knowing how to right myself either. Suffocation comes easily for those of us pata allegres, wanderers with happy feet.  At the wildlife refuge today, flocks of geese landed and departed, honked their hellos and good-byes, as I thought about Mary Oliver's poem Wild Geese. These lines specifically: Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Later, and deeper into the refuge, I stopped to review my photography notes. I wasn't getting any pictures, and was beginning to lose focus of my project. I simply wasn't seeing anything.  
Who knew I was being watched?  

Mantids are able to turn their heads 180 degrees to scan their surroundings. They have three simple eyes located between two large compound eyes.

Isn't that the kindness of the world sometimes? To be seen when you can't see.  

As it goes with wildlife, we eyeballed each other for awhile. With its five eyes it clearly had the advantage, and soon determined there was nothing more to see. With that, this three inch predator blended into its surroundings so perfectly, so seamlessly, that all that was left was a picture and a question.

                                               for whom is this refuge? 

Here it goes...

Welcome to Split pea for me; I hope it turns out to be something for you too. Split Pea Traveler is a name that came to me, like so many things, in a cardboard box from Amazon. A few weeks before the Amazon box though, I paid more money than I had for anything in years and bought a MacBook Pro. The joy my mac brought to me every time I opened it was a joy that called for protection. You know what I'm talking about. This thing, the finest piece of machinery I owned, demanded a case. And not a clear case either because when is joy clear? Remember a campfire on a misty fall morning, an Orca cutting through the blue water as she travels north to feed, or a rainbow crossing the sky daring you to pickpocket it for gold. Don't we think in color? Dream in color? No, a clear case clearly wasn't worthy.

Hello In 2007, the choices for cases were much more limited, so it didn't take long to find a lime green case that from the looks of it, promised to not only protect the joy my mac gave me, but increase it. Then it arrived. Lime green? No way. Sea green? Not even close. Split pea soup green? Totally. And in 2007, well, I hated split pea soup!

For some reason, I kept the case and even came to like it (the soup too). A year later sitting at my computer, which is named traveler, and dreaming of other places, I created a blog - Three years later, I'm actually doing something with it.


The woods in Sitka, Alaska