Archive for March, 2010

Leaving my tent, I walked out over the rise and onto the desert playa. A bright morning sun had just appeared, washing the distant Panamint Range a pinkish red, today dipped in a white frosting of snow at the peaks.  Water was flowing, unusual for this low desert terrain, a blessing for small animals accustomed to being masters of conservation. Of those animals, perhaps the one most associated with the desert is the coyote, more respected than loved by desert people, and branded with a Scarlet Letter by most civilized peoples. On this day, I heard a sound of distress that stopped me in my tracks and looking for the source. A coyote came to mind, but so did a dog, possibly strayed from the nearby campground.

There is a certain sound to a wild animal though, a certain immediacy, raw and rambunctious, panicky and urgent, especially among the young wild, that draws the attention of a parent nearby. Then it was a bark and a yelp combined, a signal that the animal was stranded, lost, or hurt. Using my ear as an antennae, I pointed it in the direction of the sound, then followed with my eyes to spot any movement that would tip off which species I was near. Sure enough, out ran a full-grown coyote from a coppice of Manzanita, followed close by the yelping baby. Then two more pups joined the family farther up the hill, all the young now scampering and running and straining to keep up with Mama who was loping over the stones like she was not at all subject to gravity.

This was their land, generations having staked out their claims, according to the rules of their ancestors. Survival carries with it its own (more…)


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There’s a long tradition of going to the desert for spiritual renewal and quieting the mind. The paradox of the desert is that such a place of extremes can bring about such a state of calm. I went to Death Valley, where even the name itself is a paradox, and its geological features are called Dante’s this and Devil’s that. I walked some, of course, but mostly sat in what Theravadan Buddhists call Dhutanga practice, or simply sitting in nature and letting the mind come to repose, usually under a big sky with billowy clouds. There really is no other technique, which was appropriate since my Lectio Divina for my retreat was Krishnamurti’s Commentaries on Living, First Series. The great sage was down on spiritual practices, (more…)

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“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”  John Muir

Ruth and I, and her son Theo, went to the Sierras recently to snowshoe at Tahoe Meadows, 8800 feet above sea level, near Incline Village, Nevada. As Muir says, nature does offer us her good tidings, her healing and invigorating energy, her ability to absorb and transform our worries. It is primarily why it calls us, I think, and draws us back to a connection that reminds us of a simpler time when the biggest  issue of the day was how many logs the stove would need. We traipsed and trudged and made our way up snowy slopes to huge granite outcroppings where we looked out over a breath-stealing landscape. We sat on the rocks and counted our blessings, one by one, until we had  three or four in our quiver, all wonderfully mundane and precious. Blessings like legs and knees intact; mind relatively sharp; eyes clear and focused; heart beating and healthy. We’d made it this far still able to “climb the mountains” and return to tell about it. Theo, with his good sense of direction, led us back, and we, being great lunchtime view finders, found a fine one for our meal in the car. We gazed out upon Lake Tahoe, that High Sierra sapphire in a circlet of mountains. As with good food, the conversation waned with a feast for the eyes, and we ate in relative silence, probably not even needing the actual food given how filled we felt from the lake sights. Before we went to the meadows, we’d snowshoed right on the shore of the lake at a state park further south, watching sizable waves lap the rocks and boulders as we advanced. What pleasures this lake gave us! I wish the whole area had been made a national park in the time of Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir.

But enough talk for now. Here’s what it looked like in photos (click to enlarge). And they’ve had more snow recently, so go up and get your own good tidings.

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