Category: EcoSpirituality

Dreaming with Elk

Dreaming with Elk

It happened again. I awoke in the wee hours of the morning dreaming of elk bedded down all around my home and then, late this afternoon, I came upon a large gathering of elk as they begin to come together for their annual autumnal rut festival. According to a national park volunteer I spoke with, today was the first day of their gathering. And they told me in my dream.

A few years ago, not long after I moved back to the Smokies, I awoke and in a half-waking/half-sleeping state, I felt hot breath on my face. None of my four-legged companions was the source of the hot breath. I felt an elk standing over me, breathing in my face. Later that morning, I came upon a massive bull elk standing on the side of the road, as if he was waiting for me.

It has happened more than these two examples, but these were the most intense. 

I’m not sure how consciousness works, but I do believe we have helpers that show up in all manner of forms. The elk and I definitely are in sync. And I am deeply grateful.

Today I saw a cow and her calf in the river and they reminded me of Wading Women, my holistic fly fishing guide service name. They became the newest members of the team…wading women, indeed! 

No matter what species were are labeled, we all go to water for nurturing, healing, for life-giving fluids. Several elk were cooling off in the chilly, mountain water as it was in the low 90’s here in the Smokies. I’m in total agreement with them…let’s wade!

I’m grateful for the visitations, for the shared dreamtime experiences with elk. For their strength, power, and stamina—majestic rulers of the forest. Thank you!

Please note: none of these images were taken in close proximity to the elk. They were either taken with a telephoto lens, from a safe distance behind a big tree, or actually from within my car and the elk were alongside the road. The national park asks visitors to stay over 50 yards away (150 feet). Anything that disturbs elk or causes them to move, is against park rules and can result in fines and arrest. I have accidentally come upon them on a trail before and it’s a very strange feeling to realize you are completely surrounded by elk without even seeing them when you were hiking. This time of year, as we approach the ‘rut festival,’ we must be extra cautious as the bulls can be very dangerous when they are fighting for their gals. Please don’t harass any wildlife in the park. Let them remain undisturbed. Please.

When Rocks Sing

When Rocks Sing

The large bolder in the middle of the clear, rushing water was the perfect place to sit as I tied on new tippet and a new fly. As I focused on tying the knots, attention given completely to the task, I felt vibrations coming from the rock through my body. Must be the rock transmitting the water’s movement, I thought.

On I waded until I found a much bigger rock to sit on for my snack of dark chocolate and almonds. As I chewed the nuts and sweet treat, I felt the same thing. I’d never felt vibrations from a rock before…not like that. And yes, the water was moving but, still. 

So I sat and felt the rock trembling and wondered if it was my body shaking…but no, it was definitely coming from outside of me. 

What must it take for something as solid and heavy as a rock to reverberate with the energy of water? I’ve been at large waterfalls and felt the earth shake from large volumes of water. I’ve stood on cliffs over 700 tall on the west coast of Ireland and felt the ground shake far back from the edge as waves crashed into shore. So yes, it’s possible for earth to transmit vibrations of moving water. I had just never felt it on the rocks in the creek.

It’s rather amazing, really. Something as hard and heavy and big as a large bolder can convey the language of water through vibrations. And, I’m guessing I could have put my ear to the rock and heard the music of the interplay between rock and water through the rock’s interpretation of those vacillations of sound waves…of energy.

In my meditation before sleep tonight, I closed my eyes and listened to my body. It felt energized and alive, in perfect balance. That usually happens after four or five hours of wading and casting, but tonight I noticed something different. It was as if my body still held the vibration of the rock…the music of the rock…and continued to emit joy from that profound song. 

While I truly love dancing with trout and the relationship I have with them as they swim to flies I tied and refuse or try them or swat them or ignore them, it’s experiences like I had today–when rocks sing to me and I am still enough to feel the music–that nurture my life, my self. 



After an intense weekend of a NOLS Wilderness First Aid class and four days of insane, chilly winds, I finally found myself hiking and wading late this afternoon. When the wind is so high, it makes it dangerous to be out hiking…and today proved that point as several trees were across the creek in places where I often wade. Plus, the pollen was thick and swirling. I was so ready to be outside, standing in clear water, casting a fly rod.

I’d been wading, hiking, and casting a couple hours with great success and decided to hike upstream a bit further. I was about to pass an area, but felt an intense, magnetic pull to it. I turned around, hiking down a bit, and entered the creek to wade my way back upstream.

Some places just look fishy. This place was primo-fishy with deeper, slower water and a big log for cover. A trout could rest under that log and just wait for the yummy nymphs to flow right into its mouth. 

I’d caught and released several rainbows and was enjoying the beauty of the place so deeply that I momentarily zoned out. I cast to the head of the pool and as the flies drifted past the log, a nice-sized rainbow trout took the nymph and a fine dance ensued. As I gently brought the fish to the water at my left boot, I carefully took the hook as the fish remained in the water. It wouldn’t settle so I wet my left hand and carefully grasped the strong body and used my right hand to remove the barbless hook. In those brief moments of contact, I could feel the strength and fierceness of the trout. That untamed wild energy was powerful to feel. Hours later, I still feel it.

It is my hope that I can cultivate that kind of energy within myself and use that fierceness to walk my path with strength and courage. There are fish that make me smile…and then there are those that are fierce. Those are the ones that inspire me.

Elk for Dessert

Elk for Dessert

I awoke feeling out-of-sorts, a little off. I had a nice yoga practice but that didn’t remedy the feeling. I worked a couple hours and then felt Nature calling. Strongly. The sort of call I dare not ignore the magnetic force pulling me.

Heavy clouds threatened rain, but radar showed a decent window of dry air so I loaded up the fly fishing gear and headed to one of my favorite creeks in the Smokies. It was another relatively warm day for late February and I expected mayflies and caddis to be hatching after a week of higher temperatures.

As is often the case, I ‘listen’ to a place on the creek that’s calling me: an idea pops into my mind, someone tells me where the hoards of fly fishers are and I avoid that area like the plague,  or I simply feel how my body gets excited when I think of different places. That’s what happened today.

A couple weeks ago, I discovered an area new to me. When I thought of that place today, my body felt like it lit up with electricity. A long hike? Okay. Let’s go!

During the nearly two miles to the entry point, I worked to keep my mind quiet. I simply asked to be shown what I needed to see and invited animals, ancestors, angels…all the fun friends…along for the hike. 

Evidently the trout felt the same electrical current that I did because they were on fire! Mayflies were hatching in the first large pool I visited and the splashes and leaps had me jumping as I sat eating a snack. I caught and released two rainbows there and then put away the rod and sat on the green, mossy bank and ate an orange. If I catch one or two fish in a pool, I move on so everyone can get back to doing what they do best—gorging on insects.

Every trout I caught today was fat and strong-looking. I think they must be chunky from a week of sucking in massive quantities of hatching insects. I felt honored to be in their presence and sent them all on their way with massive amounts of love and appreciation.

After nearly three hours, I noticed the sky was especially dark and rain was probably coming soon. I found an exit from the creek through the woods and connected with the trail in my downward hike out. It started raining, but only lightly like gentle kisses on my cheeks.

Follow the energy is a bit of guidance I keep receiving over the past couple of months. When I feel tired or ‘off’ I just follow the energy of my body and mind and notice what’s happening. On the way down the trail, I had over two miles to track the energy in my body. It had completely changed from when I started, when I questioned if I should even be doing anything. I felt amazing! Light, energized, clear. Just three hours earlier I thought I was possibly coming ‘down with something.’ Yeah…down is right. Too much computer. Too many spreadsheets. Too much in my head. All downers to my energy.

One of the things I’ve been exploring, with a mentor from the UK, is that powerful place where my skills, talents, and passion intersect with the needs of the world. I’m wanting to feel passion about the work I’m doing, feel I’m making a difference, connecting with what I love and sharing it in a way that is helpful to others. 

Today, as I was walking out, I heard: Follow the energy, how have you changed? When I listened again to my body and felt the huge shift within myself, I felt that part of the answer came clear. Be outside more. Interact with Nature more. This is where I feel completely whole, completely at one with myself and all life. Do this! 

That sounds great, right? The part I am missing is where me feeling this amazing, after 3 hours of Nature exposure, helps others. Maybe just shifting my energy, shifts the energy around me and thus helps others. Or maybe the Earth feels my love and that’s where my skills and talents touch the needs of the world. Maybe taking people outside and helping them deepen with Nature is the way forward. I honestly don’t know. But I do know that when I follow the energy, every time I take myself outside, into Nature, I am healed in ways I don’t fully understand.

Anything that helps me feel so in tune with myself and Nature, that helps me experience Oneness, and clears my mind and body so completely, is my way forward. I don’t have to know how all of that helps the world. For now, I’m just going to keep doing it. Keep hiking into creeks and rivers and dancing with trout and water and moss….and receiving the bounty of beauty that surrounds and infuses me. And saying thank you, thank you, thank you.

As I drove through the park in a post-wading blissful state, I stopped for an elk jam. I pulled over and from inside my car observed the herd. I heard myself say, This is like dessert after a perfect meal. Elk for dessert. 

I was fully fed and nurtured as I hiked and waded over five miles. I feel alive, hours later, as I sit watching the mountains and feeling gratitude for such powerful Medicine.

Winter Wading

Winter Wading

The pressure of flowing water pushed against my legs as recent rains moved from higher elevations down through the creek to larger rivers. I stood in the 46 degree water, in waders, watching the fly slowly recirculate in the eddy, enjoying the embrace of the creek.

It had been a month since my last fly fishing outing and I was in serious withdrawal. Winter fishing in the Smokies doesn’t produce nearly the opportunities to dance with trout as other seasons; but, just to be in their element, in their temple, brings me into alignment.

With faster-flowing currents, cold water, and cold air, the usual focus is sharpened even more. Extra care of foot placement, balance, and choosing a way through small rapids must be taken to avoid an unpleasant baptism in the cathedral’s chilly font.

Of course, I love the water and rocks, trees and mountains….and trout. The physicality and challenge of staying upright on super-slick rocks in fast-moving flow is fun and satisfies the adventurer in me. But perhaps the greatest benefit is the absolute focus called for while winter wading.

It was such a relief to find myself once again immersed in the ‘zone.’ In this flow state I am totally connected to the present moment yet relaxed and at one with movement of fly rod, line, body, and water. There’s no need to think when I drop into this place. Everything becomes a dance of casting, stripping line, watching the fly drift, and repeating.

It’s nice to be able to merge meditation, movement, and Nature into something that occasionally brings shiny new friends into my life for a few moments, until they swim on their way.