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Posts Tagged ‘aboriginal’

If you know any Virgos, I’m sure you’re already aware that we tend to have very busy, restless minds.

Because of my busy-busy Virgo brain, and in spite of all my spiritual and philosophical training, I have finally given up on traditional empty-your-mind meditation. Now I just let the thoughts run, and pay attention only when the nattering gets interesting. (Nattering is one of my favorite British-isms, snogging being the other. Nattering is superficial chatter.)

I’ve found that the two pastimes which elicit the most fun and useful nattering are showering and long drives. The shower usually unearths great writing ideas; while I’m driving, my monkey mind latches on to whatever’s passing by and spins off from there, sometimes with pretty silly results.

This particular train of thought was jolted into consciousness the day we left Banff, British Columbia and my brain was looking for diverting but not dangerously absorbing things to tinker with as I drove. (In case you’re wondering, my daughter Julia, navigator, critter manager, advisor and heavy lifter, is unable to drive due to disabilities … so that’s my job).

What triggered the mental journey was a truly gorgeous deer crossing sign which showed up for a brief period somewhere in eastern British Columbia or western Alberta.

You see signs all over the US, wherever deer or elk present driving hazards, and until that day I’d never seen anything but the homogenized leaping stag pictured below that I supposed every state must buy from the same source.

The unique Canadian deer crossing sign I saw that day had all the power and iconic punch of a cave painting. It was spare, evocative rather than realistic, and I wished I could have stopped the car to take a photo for posterity. It truly was a work of art!

I later googled “deer crossing sign” and learned that there are some other styles, and hundreds of both athletic and overweight versions of the homogenous, ubiquitous stag, and even duck, goose, otter, squirrel, horse and rider and turkey crossing signs, but nothing to match the Canadian cave painting version, sorry to say.

This, of course, started me thinking about my habit of always checking out deer crossing signs, especially in remote areas, to see if someone had gone to the trouble to give the deer a Rudolph Red Nose. I typically judge an area’s cultural personality based on whether or not the deer have red noses.

If there are people living there who are willing to go to the local office supply store for a sheet of big red dots, and then travel around in the dead of night decorating deer crossing signs just to make travelers smile, then that’s a place I’d probably like. In Humboldt County, California, in Redwood country just south of the Oregon border, which I explored thoroughly over a 16-year period, I don’t recall ever seeing a red-nose-less deer. And I loved it there.

The cave-painting-esque deer sign appeared for only a short distance on our route, followed by signs identical to the ones in the states, and then followed, once we entered Saskatchewan, by an odd creature with deer antlers, a blobby, moose-like snout, and not a red nose in sight.

And then, back in the states, we returned to the homogenized leaping stags, and I resumed my traveling pastime of assessing locales based on the state of the deer’s noses.

Until we reached Maine, where the first thing we saw was a big sign – words only, no images – cautioning us to watch for moose on the highway … and I haven’t seen a deer/elk sign, with or without a red nose, since we arrived.

I’m sure there’s something profound to be made of this, beyond warning me that we’re not in Kansas any more, Toto … but I haven’t figured what yet. When I do, I’ll probably post it.

Anyone out there have a deer sign story to share?

Well, it’s time to start re-packing for our move-in Tuesday. Talk to you again soon!

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When I realized that towing a trailer behind the car meant driving 55 or less for the whole trip, I thought I’d be constantly frustrated.

Maybe it’s because my Dad was a Marine fighter pilot, and he’s the one who taught me to drive … perhaps it rubbed off … but, for whatever reason, I’ve always driven right up to the edge of the speed limit – and my reflexes – and a little beyond. I’m one of those who always sets my cruise control at 7 miles over the posted limit. One traffic cop (years ago, before I was a mom driving my daughter around) told me that I’d been passing other cars like they were nailed to the ground.

So I was amazed to discover that being the slowest on the road and not being able to do a darned thing about it is actually quite wonderful. Restful, freeing, conducive to deep thinking, and – best of all – just slow enough that I could really look at the changing scenery, and even notice view points soon enough to take advantage of them.

I mean, think of it! No embarrassment, because people couldn’t think I was an idiot (well, not fairly, anyway) since I was towing a trailer, and everybody knows vehicles with trailers have to poke along. No physical tension as I geared up to control the car when taking a mountain turn well above the speed limit. (At least, since the advent of cruise control, I don’t have to watch for cops … often.) No strained watching the road beyond my current slow-moving vehicular obstacle to find enough running room to pass in relative safety, and then tensing up and metaphorically pushing with all my might until the pass was safely concluded.

Instead, I had time to see new things on frequently traveled roads, time to just set my dreaming mind free to wander, and time to remember happy moments from past journeys.

Cultural ecologist and magician David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous and Becoming Animal, tells the story of traveling by Jeep with an aboriginal shaman in the Australian outback. The shaman wanted to share his myths, but they discovered that the stories did not unfold properly at jeep speeds; they were meant to be shared in walkabout. In my case, the stories arise at 55 mph.

One of my favorites, one I hadn’t thought of in years, was the time my first husband drove us from Highway 101 at Paso Robles west toward the Pacific Coast Highway, and Cambria, Carmel and Monterey. I’d driven the Big Sur route before, it’s one of the most gorgeous and treacherous drives I’ve encountered (especially headed south in dense fog), but Ernie’s route was new to me. He got a big grin and started fiddling with the tape deck (yeah, it was quite some time ago), popped in some rich and fabulous symphony, and then drove along, looking smug for a few minutes. Then, just as the music crested, so did the road, and I was treated to the juxtaposition of a perfect musical moment and mythically beautiful, rolling hills softened further by oaks clustered in their feminine creases!

Another sight took me back to the first World Healing Day on December 31, 1986. The Healix Center in Orange County, CA, where I worked and taught at the time, hosted an all night event – because for this event there was no convenient “rolling” coordination of noon in each time zone. That time, everyone joined in prayer and visualization at the very same moment – which meant 3 pm Moscow time, and 3 am in California.

Amazingly, when dawn broke there were still nearly a 100 people there, and we were led in a closing ceremony by a young shaman woman from one of the Pacific Northwest tribes. The two things which stuck with me were her getting a good laugh when she referred to her “sacred Bic” (Harry Dresden, anyone?) while lighting her pipe, and her initiating us all into the Fireweed Clan.

Fireweed is known as a pioneer species because it can thrive in areas which have been devastated by things like forest fires. Years after the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption I visited, and fireweed was everywhere.

Since that morning in 1986, fireweed has become a messenger for me. When it appears, it comes to tell me “yes, here is the place,” or “yes, this is the right direction,” or “yes, all will be well.” Fireweed doesn’t promise ease and grace, but it promises not only survival, but a thriving future.

When we got to the state of Washington, in spite of the fact that I’d seen it before, I was shocked again to see the trashed and brutalized areas of clearcutting on either side of the highway. Honestly, they look like bones and bodies strewn around a war zone. Not that California and Oregon don’t clearcut, but usually it’s done offroad, and behind a polite curtain of trees and hills.

My mind automatically spiralled off into adjectives like “barren,” “devastation,” and “desolation” … until I saw the tall, fuchsia spikes of fireweed. They lined the road and appeared here and there around the pitiful stumps of ancient trees. And then I noticed all the other new plant life, even in clearcut areas only a few years old, and I was reminded that life goes on.

That doesn’t excuse slaughtering elder members of one of earth’s species, but it reminds me that even after the most terrible human acts, toward our own or other species, life somehow finds a way to continue.

By the way, the most powerful and touching case I’ve ever read for why ancient trees should be allowed to stand together in healthy ecosystems is in Joan Dunning and Doug Thron’s From the Redwood Forest: Ancient Trees and the Bottom Line: A Headwaters Journey. There is a chapter which traces human history as it paralleled the life of a redwood. Read it, and you’ll never be the same.

Today we’re visiting Hurricane Ridge, and tomorrow Lake Quinault, so I’ll entertain you tomorrow one of my favorite stories about my Dad, and report our travels later. My Mom and Dad are much on my mind because they made this trip possible, and it’s dedicated to their memory.

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