In October my sister and I spent a couple of nights at the Nauset Knoll Motor Lodge in Orleans on Cape Cod. The big draw was that the motel had a short path to Nauset Beach, a ten mile stretch of seashore facing the open Atlantic. We could hear the waves from our motel room. Pure joy!
Wildlife sightings: from the road we saw wild turkeys and a coyote; hopping across our path to the beach we saw a bunny; and at the beach we saw gulls of course, and a little piping plover running along the water’s edge, and a seal bobbing in the waves.
One afternoon we spent two hours meandering on the beach. Nothing but sand, sea and sky as far as our eyes could see. Beverly, the geologist, was collecting stones, and I was taking pictures. And contemplating the universe, the oneness of all things.
Being awake. Resting in the happening of this moment, exactly as it is. Relaxing the need to understand or to make things different than they are. Opening the heart. Just this — right here, right now.
~ Joan Tollifson
(Resting in the Happening of this Moment)
We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves — the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds — never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.
~ Pema Chödrön
(Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living)
Few places on the earth possess a nature so powerful and so unspoiled that it would remind anyone living in a concrete world that he once belonged to a pre-industrial civilization. ~ Liv Ullmann
It was windy and chilly and we were bundled up well. I even wore my mittens when I was not taking pictures. But eventually it was time to go back to our room and get ready for dinner. So back up the path to the motel. Our window was the one on the right in the white section of the building. There are only 12 rooms. A quiet, beautiful, windswept place to stay.
Last weekend we flew to a different part of North Carolina, where Tim’s brother had rented a vacation house in the southern Appalachians. So we had a little family reunion and an early Christmas there. We spent the better part of Saturday at the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville. It was very cold there in spite of the welcome bright sunshine!
We bundled up and enjoyed seeing many animals native to the Southern Appalachians. All of the animals there are rescues and could not survive in the wild. Katherine especially loved watching the river otters gliding in and out of the water, but I couldn’t get a good picture of them. They were moving too fast!
This little screech owl is blind in one eye and is being used to educate the public about rescuing wildlife. Katherine was paying close attention.
We stayed in Asheville for dinner out at the Tupelo Honey Cafe, “a southern restaurant with mountain south roots.” Tim enjoyed the food so much he bought their cookbook! And after dinner we took in the Christmas light and music extravaganza at Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland. There were so many light displays it took us a full hour to drive through the two-mile maze, synchronized holiday music playing on our car radio! It was a pretty dazzling experience.
Sunday we stayed in the cabin, enjoying each other’s company by the fire. Dima, Larisa and Fran whipped up some scrumptious dishes for us. A perfect weekend!
Once upon a time I was as curious as the yearling above, and in possession of a keen sense of wonder. The mysteries of nature and spirit were intertwined in my young mind. One early wordless memory I have is of lying on the cold winter ground in the woods and eyeing a little princess pine peeking through the snow. I was astonished at the connection I felt to the small precious life, and how thrilled I was to be aware of its presence!
My parents and grandparents were nature lovers, but from an early age I was locking horns with my scientifically minded father over the existence of the supernatural. It distressed me to no end that he refused to believe in anything that he could not measure in physical terms.
One afternoon when I was six years old I had a dazzling moment of transcendence when I encountered a stag, although I didn’t know enough to call it that when I later tried to tell my parents about it. As I was walking alone up the heavily wooded road from the school bus stop to my house, I strongly sensed that someone was watching me. When I turned around to look I was at first startled to see a huge stag with magnificent antlers. He was standing in the road, quietly staring at me, as if he recognized me, as if he knew exactly who I was. I was struck with awe. Completely enchanted, I was not at all frightened. In fact, I decided he was my guardian angel. A fatherly figure. Something about his presence was most reassuring. I never forgot him and have often felt his presence in my life, especially when spending time with my maternal grandfather in the years to come.
Forty-five years later, a few years after my grandfather died, I had wonderful encounter with another deer. (Some of my readers may remember me sharing this in November 2008 on my Gaia blog.) I was visiting my father at his house in the woods, where spotting deer, coyotes, wild turkeys and fishers is not at all unusual. We were starting to watch a movie when my brother-in-law glanced out the window and noticed a doe in the yard, quite close to the house. Being so enchanted with deer I jumped at the chance to see one and went over to the window to look at her.
She was so beautiful with her large soft eyes and large ears lined in dark brown. Our eyes met and she stood there transfixed for a very long time. I could not take my eyes off of her. After a while she lay down and continued to stare at me, occasionally looking about to see what a noise might be, but then fixing her gaze back onto me. She seemed so peaceful and I wondered what, if anything, it all meant. It was as if I had lost my child’s sense of inner-knowing for a moment. Then I started to worry that my looking at her so intently might be threatening her in some way. But she was tranquil and serene. At one point a buck appeared and walked right past her and started helping himself to my father’s rhododendron. My brother-in-law was going to go shoo him away but I begged him not to. After the buck had enough to eat he slowly retraced his steps and passed by the doe again, glancing at her but unconcerned with her behavior. She ignored him completely, and kept looking at me.
After another long while she stood up and started nibbling at the ground, looking at me once in a while. She slowly made her way downhill around the corner of the house, so I changed my vantage point to another window on that side of the house. She was now one story below me. But she looked up to the window and saw me again and started looking at me again with the same intensity as before. Her look felt so reassuring in some way and yet I felt the thrill of butterflies in my stomach. It’s hard to put words to it. She definitely seemed to know me. It was getting darker and darker until I could barely see her, and just at the point where I felt I could see her no longer she suddenly darted away. More than an hour had passed. What an amazing gift! Even my father had to acknowledge this was an extraordinary experience.
I did finally understand the doe’s message with some help from my Reiki practitioner a few months later. I’m keeping it safe in my heart for now. I will never forget this special doe and had so often felt her guidance while caring for my father in his declining years, as well as my mother’s presence, very strongly, in my life. And it was after the doe visited the house that my father, the skeptical scientist, started reporting that he had been seeing my mother. Sometimes he would ask where she was because he was certain she had just left the room.
Fifty years after my first encounter with a deer, when I was fifty-six, my father died in his sleep in the early morning hours of September 19, 2013, under a full harvest moon. My sister called me to let me know he was gone so Tim and I left to drive up to Papa’s house to be with our family. As we reached the end of the hour-long drive, we turned onto the same road where I saw my first deer fifty years ago. In about the same spot on the road, standing quietly on the side, in the moonlight, was a lovely doe. Tim slowed the car down and she looked right into our car, into my eyes. My mother was letting me know that she had my father now. What a feeling of relief and release came over me.
Beverly and I have often noted in the months since Papa died that neither of us have felt the presence of either of our parents. But Larisa has felt her grandpa’s presence down in North Carolina. And we all see in her new baby daughter, Katie, a remarkable resemblance to him, especially in her facial expressions and the way she moves her long arms.
As I continue to mourn the loss of my father I feel like I’ve grown to a place where I can embrace being in the elder generation now, a contented crone with my fair share of hard-won wisdom to gently share with my children and grandchildren. It’s a feeling of strength, stepping into the place where my parents and my grandparents once stood.
A couple of weeks I put out a couple of bird feeders and have enjoyed watching the birds who come to eat. My parents and grandparents were avid bird-watchers but I thought identifying birds was a tedious endeavor when I was a child. However, these past few days I’ve been amazed to discover that some of what they taught me got stored in my memory files. It seems like every time a new bird shows up a name pops into my head, so I look it up and find it to be correct! I’ve always loved and could identify chickadees, but when an unfamiliar bird showed up the other day and “junco” popped out of my mouth, well, I’ve fallen in love with another little one.
I almost posted the first parts of my deer story several times since I started this blog, but something kept holding me back. After I saw the doe the night my father died it became clear that the tale had not been finished. Yet something still kept making it seem like it wasn’t the time to share it. After spending three weeks with my darling new granddaughter, though, it feels like the whole picture has now been revealed.
After years of trying I was finally able to capture some good pictures of a mourning dove! She seemed to be posing for me on a tree in Janet’s yard and I was thrilled.
Janet and I had a great time celebrating the summer solstice on Saturday. We went strawberry picking in the morning, then made a lunch out of grilled eggplant with goat cheese and other veggies, devoured it outside on her sundeck and finished with our fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
We took a long afternoon walk in the woods and meadows at Machimoodus State Park. The day was breezy and warm – we could not have ordered more perfect weather! Back at Janet’s we had grilled wild turkey and veggies, enjoying supper outside as well.
Then, as dusk finally fell on the longest day of the year, we shared a campfire and watched the stars come out and the fireflies twinkle in the trees and eventually the embers dying down. We even heard a pack of coyotes howling in the distance. It was wonderful to have spent the entire day outdoors with the companionship of a good friend.
The past few days have been stressed with still another false medical alarm, although this time it was Tim’s… To deal with the stress I’ve been distracting myself by adding and adding to my quote site and family history site, and have not felt much like writing anything new here. Today after receiving good news about Tim I came home to find that a third cousin I’ve never met before had found the family history and wrote me a lovely comment. Our grandmothers were cousins, but because they were both an “only child” they felt they were more like sisters. What a wonderful surprise to have at the end of a difficult day!
Above is a new picture I took of Bernie a couple of weeks ago, on one of our walks. I decided to dig out my story about him from last year and post it now that it is spring again.
The following blog was originally posted on Gaia Community on 19 April 2009:
This cat is named Bernie, a delightfully domestic old fellow who is still in touch with his inner bobcat. He was born in New Mexico and is at least 17 years old. My sister and her husband adopted him from a shelter while they were living there. They also adopted an iguana named Lizzie and a spider named Olivia – all of them had the run of their hovel, which is what my sister affectionately called their very modest duplex. When it came time to move back to Connecticut Lizzie and Olivia were left behind to other good homes, but Bernie was brought to the land of trees and snow…
It was quite an adjustment for him. He is a very athletic outdoorsy sort of cat who used to love running just for the sheer joy of it. When my daughter’s cat was living there with him for a while he would try and get her to play tag, but she just looked at him like he had to be kidding… He enjoyed exploring the woods, but his main objection to Connecticut was the long snowy winters here. Whenever it snowed he would go from window to window yowling, hoping to somehow spot a landscape without snow. My brother-in-law took pity on him, and to this day shovels a few paths through the snow so Bernie can get his exercise without too much contact with the white stuff.
A few years ago he was taken to a veterinary ophthalmologist for a problem with his eyes. They think he may have Lyme Disease, but whatever it is it has gradually robbed him of his vision. They give him eye drops every day to slow down the progression, but he is now blind. He does very well, though. He still catches mice – we can’t figure out how. He gets around the house pretty well because most things stay where they are, but he bumps into people, my dad’s wheelchair and stray laundry baskets or shopping bags inadvertently left in his path. He seems to take it all in stride, though.
Since he had a run in with a fisher they aren’t letting Bernie outside by himself any longer. They’ve also had two coyotes near the house. He gets several walks a day with whoever is on hand to escort him. Last week Bernie and I took a walk and had a good time exploring the bushes, flowers and trees. And I got this picture of him coming toward me, only possible because he doesn’t run anymore. He walks very carefully, but doesn’t seem to feel sorry for himself. I admire his spirit of acceptance and adaptation, making the best of things.