Tag: Great Smoky Mountains

Elk of the Mists

Elk of the Mists

Before I opened my eyes, I felt the warm breath of the bull elk on my face. I had been dreaming and as I made the slow journey from Dreamtime to waking consciousness, the sensation of elk breath was so real, when I opened my eyes I expected to be face-to-face with a big elk. 

That dream was about a year ago and since then the elk have a direct line to my subconscious mind. And for sure to my heart. This season of rut, if I have a strong sense of elk, I go and they are there. It doesn’t really matter where I go, if I just pay attention to the urge to go somewhere, they show up. Or I show up. However that works.

This morning I felt that call but the fog was very heavy. I figured I would just drive through the area where they are found and go up the mountain for above-fog views. I took my Nikon and tripod so was also ready for flowing water should the fog and sunrise not reveal something fun to photograph. 

When I got to the park there was a bull laying so close to the road I had to stay behind my vehicle. A woman there said he had attacked two vehicles the day before and I wasn’t so worried about my car but I didn’t want to be skewered by his amazing antlers. Nor did I want to stress him.

I moved after I took a few photographs and parked in a more neutral location. He got up and tended to his harem of cows, carefully checking them. But a rival male, one a bit larger, started bugling and within a few minutes was herding out the cows of the bull nearest me, one-by-one, and taking them back to his territory. It was epic elk magic.

Normally photographing in the fog isn’t that great due to lighting and white balance, although sometimes correctable shooting RAW format (which I always do). But today, the fog added to the mystery. The energy of the elk was wild and watching the strength of the bulls as they ran and charged through heavy fog was elementally very pleasing to the senses. But the most haunting of all was (and always is) the bugle. There was a bull across the creek, hidden by trees, but traceable through his loud and high-pitched, with a low rumble, vocalization. To hear answering calls from the others that were immersed in fog, was glorious.

I’m unsure why the elk have chosen to speak to me so deeply. More and more I trust that little intuitive nudge to go-be-with-elk. I’ve never been disappointed. And it’s not that they are always there at other times, when I don’t get the nudge. I go fly fishing and drive through the area a lot and may not see any. For some reason, the elk and I have chosen to connect in the Deep Mystery.

Nature speaks to me through dreams, intuition, and sensory experiences. The more I listen, the more able I am to dance in that realm of wild wonder.



I’ve been wanting to write and yet every time I thought about it a field of intensity opened and I closed down the writing, closed down sharing. But today, as I was sitting at a small stream running into Deep Creek, I found myself settling, grounding, coming into stillness and when I did, I saw amazing creatures that I would have missed had I not taken the time to stop. To be still. And listen. And somehow those wild creatures freed me to finally write.

Two weeks ago a friend of mine posted on social media that nobody had heard from a mutual friend that lived with her two dogs in California. Friends from Europe and the USA started a search and it was discovered that our friend had passed. Of all the loses of the past year…the hundreds of thousands that have died just in the USA, this was the death that gutted me. She was alone. None of us knew what happened. And what happened to her dogs? We couldn’t light a candle for her, couldn’t help her dogs. And nobody in our beloved circle knew…

my two canine friends….Vern and Buddy

It opened up grief that seemed a chasm and fear that if I died my four-legged family would suffer and what would happen to them? 

In the meantime I had started a new job that I thought would be amazing because it helped connect people with Nature. I had turned in notice at my part time job at a university vaccination clinic. I was excited to be able to put my skills to use in a field related to the outdoors, specifically rivers. I began working both jobs…my space got constricted very quickly.

Then my farmer neighbor started clearing land and a scurry of woodchucks was uncovered when they cleared the brush. I drove by one afternoon and one of the adult woodchuck was standing at the entrance to their amazing den looking very concerned. And even though I offered suggestions to keep the whistle pigs home intact, it was in fact razed. A time when babies are helpless. It angered me and illustrated how humans continue to try and dominate Nature rather than work with it. That power-over mentality is one of the problems that destroys our planet…it’s just not okay. And I am still so sad…what happened to them? Where are they? Were they killed? Those ground hogs were my neighbors as sure as the farmer is my neighbor.

The new employer wanted me to start work while I was still committed to my university job and I did even though it was very stressful. But I am so grateful I did. I quickly saw that my ability to work long days…longer than I expected…and the intensity of the position left me exhausted emotionally, physically, mentally…and yes spiritually. While the Nantahala River was just across the street from the outfitter, I couldn’t ‘see’ it due to the overwhelming demands of the job. And that just won’t do. So I resigned three days into the job that I thought would be amazing. I was very disappointed but grateful to know I simply couldn’t handle the demands of a high-pressure job.

I want to be wild, not play act about wildness. I want to be in Nature, not within four walls with stresses associated with retail sales and operations. So this past weekend I had two things happen that upset me and my wild sense.

First, I found a showy orchis, a type of wild orchid, growing almost in the gravel driveway that is shared in our neighborhood. A big truck and trailer hauling equipment up the mountain came within an inch (literally) of squashing the orchid. So I researched it and found that moving them usually doesn’t work but I felt if I left it, it would die and if I moved it it might die but it would have a chance, even if it was slight. So when I finally got brave enough to dig, there was no bulb and just a very thin little root connecting it to another one. I tried my best, placed it in a downslope, bottom-of-the mountain sort of place but I feel certain it won’t survive.

Then I was digging up an old stump in my yard that was crumbling and found termites….YIKES! My home is protected with any outdoor system but still….so I decided to dig out the termites with a shovel, along with the crumbling pine stump. And then….oh….then I saw my little king snake friend down in the stump and I don’t think I killed her but if I didn’t wound her it was a miracle. She had the perfect setup with a food source, protection and I just mucked up her palace, her wonderland. And possibly wounded her. I tried to pull her out but she was strong enough to resist…which is a good sign. But after the ground hogs, the orchid, the snake, the job, my friend passing….it was a crummy culmination of two weeks of crummy-ness.

So as I sat by the stream watching the kaleidoscope of butterflies, I settled back into myself. Stillness and I became reacquainted. The reward was seeing a beautiful salamander scoot past in the shallow water under the rocks and then a crawfish scooted past. Roomies? Friends? Dinner? Had I been in a building, stressing over ordering retail items I would have missed the kaleidoscope, missed the salamander. Missed the crawfish…the dwarf iris!

Last year, just before the dwarf iris bloomed, we were in lockdown. The national park was closed. And I grieved about not meeting the little, wild iris that populate these mountain woods. But today…today I met them and sang to them and danced with them and thanked them for being here. My favorite flower in full bloom. I would not have missed them for anything.

And the showy orchis….everywhere! I felt they were saying, ‘It’s okay…you tried. And we are many!! Don’t worry.’ And they, like so many wildflowers, danced in the spring winds. 

I’m still working parttime at the clinic and I like it…helping people get vaccinated, helping the whole of our community and country become healthier, more resilient. And I’m still making native flute bags and taking photographs and offering yoga and coaching. And I’m still wild. And grateful. And now, after a magical time spent with butterflies, a salamander and a crawfish I’m a little more sane.

And…thankfully Marie’s two little dogs were rescued and were rehomed together. We were all so glad her precious elderly babies were saved and were able to stay together. That was a least one happy ending that came from our friend’s passing. She would have been very grateful.


I realized that today is the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil catastrophe. Eleven years ago…I documented it for a year, traveling from Asheville to the Alabama coast. It changed me. It helped me see how greed destroys everything it touches. I am grateful to have stood witness but it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

Peaceful Waters

Peaceful Waters

As soon as I stepped out of the car I felt it….deep peace. Tourists either gone or not up so early. It’s like the entire area was in a different vibe. I was immediately drawn to the water…the flowing, flowing water. Ahhhhh…..and everything within me melted into this same peace.

Gratitude for the beauty filled my walk on trails I have come to cherish since moving back to the mountains. It wasn’t peaceful during the 18 months of looking for homes, having mine for sale….but I was looking in the wrong place, a place that had been awesome for me many years ago but has grown into a busy city without the Nature energy that called me. So finally….I surrendered and asked…Where?!?  And on that visit I heard to go where I always wanted to live as a kid…the Smoky Mountains. Once I got clear on where, my home sold and the rest came together beautifully.

When the national park was closed due to Covid 19, I walked the gravel road that is my driveway every day. And that was a fantastic way to get to know the forest here. And when the park re-opened, I allowed everyone to flock there and waited patiently. Then started visiting early in the morning to avoid crowds. And I fell madly in love with this section of the park…the quieter side, less hectic, less loved-to-death.

There’s so much challenging happening now….readers, you know this. So how nice to have a place to go that calls me to the profound peace of the deep, inner waters. Thank you flowing waters…thank you trees and rocks and flowers. Thank you Great Spirit for helping me hear the voice of my heart calling me home.


Deepening with a Sense of Place

Deepening with a Sense of Place

There are over 500 hiking trails within an hour of where I live…or so I’ve read. At first, the stay at home order challenged me as I was walking or mountain biking nearly every day at Deep Creek, part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was a very short drive and the waterfalls, creek, forest…a wonderland of beauty. I missed that.

But then, as I walked the quiet little mountain where I reside, I began to make friends with it and the wildlife and trees here. I know where the hooded warblers hang out. The northern parula has one little area he inhabits and loudly proclaims his territory. The wood thrush lives near me.

And now, since I’ve started flying the drone most every day, I have come to know the mountains and valleys here, in this little dot on the planet. There are two places I fly. One near my home in a meadow and the other is my driveway. The driveway is a straight-up and down flight. And sometimes I want to explore further yet every time I fly up, I see my friends. The mountain ridge across the valley…national park, Clingman’s Dome…those big friends. But the smaller ones here are showing me their secrets.

For instance, one particular mountain–just northwest of where I fly from my driveway—seems to attract fog. It seems to send out the call to the fog tiptoeing upslope. Today, the mountain valley in front of my home had a small rainbow or fogbow. There’s something very sweet about knowing the place where you live. And perhaps, to truly live in a place there must be some level of intimacy that develops.

The park is open again but I haven’t visited. I don’t want to miss a morning walk here…are the hooded warblers still in their respective places? Is the northern parula still here? Oh, look! There are now three fire pink flowers shyly peeking out from the lush green foilage and only two days ago there was one. These are my friends. The mountains and valleys are my pals. There is a deepening sense of Oneness within my heart as I really open myself to this green dot on this blue planet.

I’ll return to ride and walk in the national park. But first, let me deepen my acquaintance with life here in the place I live.

The Sky Said Yes

The Sky Said Yes

The sky said yes this morning.

Before first light clouds gathered in the east. Predawn rays kissed their bellies with brilliant orange and slowly–oh, so slowly–light came and illuminated all those gathered in the cathedral of dawn.

The sky said yes to color, clouds….to awe.