Tag: wildflowers

What is Your Beauty?

What is Your Beauty?

White trilliums covered the side of the trail and the slope of the mountain. Wild phlox, their purple-blue blossoms bursting with color, mixed with the trilliums and created a mosaic of color. Occasionally white and purple butterflies lifted off flowers, appearing to be trilliums and phlox taking flight. 

Pink petals, the later stage of white trilliums, golden ragwort, yellow trout lilies, yellow and purple violets, liverworts, bloodroots, heartleaf foamflowers, mountain bellworts, dutchman’s breeches, louseworts, seersucker sedges, blue asters, thyme leaf bluets, twoleaf miterworts, Miami mists, showy orchis, dwarf crested iris…too many to name, much less count….covered areas of the remote trail and surrounding open woodland. 

At one point, I stopped and spoke to a flower: Your beauty is amazing! I stood admiring her and heard a question in return: What is your beauty? I thought just a moment and replied: My beauty is sharing your beauty.

I pondered the answer I felt and walked with it as a mantra, repeating and allowing clarity to come.

As I allow ‘doors’ within me to open, I become a clearer channel for love, for light…for beauty to move through me and out into the world. For a long time, I thought the doors had to open in the outer world for me to walk through; however, the flower taught me that it is the inner door that must open to allow in more light, more beauty. Then…the outer doors open.

My beauty is sharing your beauty–lovely flower, clear-water creek, moss-covered rock, wild elk, magnificent mountain, humpback whale…. The more I can open myself to allow your beauty to fill me, the more I can share with the world. 

Learning about Oneness from a flower….I highly recommend it.

Keeping it Simple

Keeping it Simple

Less is more.

My birthday gift to myself was minimizing the gear I wear and take while fly fishing. As the weather shifts to warmer days and my hikes increase in length to find solitude, I needed to drop weight and cool down. The key? Dropping a piece of gear that carries way too many things.

I like my fly fishing vest, advertised as having 30 pockets. Awesome!! (I don’t think I’m exaggerating). The problem is: it contains 30 pockets. And it’s quite warm. The obvious solution was to wear a waist pack. But before the vest, there was a sling and then a large waist pack. The sling remains as a colorful, fun outdoor pack but I didn’t like casting in it and the waist pack was too heavy and kept falling down unless I used the shoulder strap and then it was no different than the sling so it was returned. The vest was the perfect solution.

During colder months, when the extra insulation is appreciated and I’m not having to walk as far to find solitude, the vest is great. But these days, I’m hiking six miles or more with 70 degrees (and climbing) temperatures so a small pack seemed like a good idea.

While the idea of a smaller kit for my gadgets and tippet and fly box seemed great, what about the net? I visited my favorite fly shop in Townsend, Tennessee, and had some awesome assistance in figuring out the net. A simple holster was the answer. A smaller fly box was the only other essential I needed.

As I begin to unload the vest and store things like the small emergency blanket pack, the drying towel, the heavy fly box, I laughed at how much ‘stuff’ I was carrying on my fly fishing hikes. No wonder it felt heavy.

Figuring out how minimal I could go was actually quite fun. Lightening the load felt like a puzzle I was solving. How much can I leave behind? How much do I really need? Such important questions….not just for fly fishing.

Six and a half miles yesterday hiking and wading was the maiden voyage of the small waist pack. The overall feeling? Freedom. Nothing weighing me down, cooler as the temperatures climbed to 72 degrees. I felt lighter with more room to move and cast and bend over to photograph wildflowers that were blooming everywhere.

So often fly fishing (or wading-with-a-10-foot-stick, as I call it) mirrors life so perfectly. Letting go of things I don’t need is good, but letting go of thoughts I don’t need is even better. Once in a while it’s helpful to inventory what we are carrying–that we no longer need–whether it’s gear or thoughts or burdens. What keeps us weighed down? What can we do to keep it simple?

The Colors

The Colors

I stood on the moss-covered creek bank listening to the sound of flowing cold water. The intense purple of the dwarf crested irises was presented in such exquisite form. I’ve always loved these little flowers but this spring I have marveled at them, danced with them as the cool breeze rustled their velvety petals.

It’s not just the irises that are delighting me. There seems to be more wildflowers this year than I have ever noticed and the passion for seeing them, for being in their presence, for taking selfies with them has grown to the point of single-minded focus on my ambles through the national park.

Of course, the bright green of unfurling leaves excites me and the clear, cold water running over rounded rocks is amazing. But the colors…the colors. It’s a good thing I walk alone; otherwise, I would annoy any companion that had to witness my unbounded joy….oh LOOK! And there…look! OMG! That’s amazing. Oh, that’s a new one!! Yellow…white…purple…pink. Or perhaps the right companion is one who would be dancing with me or at least not stranding there all judgy. 

Today was off-the-scale amazing on my wander through my favorite national park area…maybe because it’s only eight miles from my home. Yesterday I returned to an area where a pink lady’s slipper was spotted a few days ago. I couldn’t find her but upon closer observation saw three blooming lady’s slippers. Then I went back a bit and found her, still not in full bloom. Lady’s slippers!!!! 

I think of these places as holy, sacred woodlands and when I slow down I see more beauty. John Muir once said he didn’t like the word ‘hike’ because if you hiked you had the goal of going from point A to point B and missed so much. He liked the word amble and he ambled all over…walking, meandering through some of the most pristine areas of North America, at the time. So I have adopted his word—amble.

I put aside my goal to walk a certain distance or to add to a list of trails I’ve covered or to be part of a milage club…although I think it’s amazing that people do that. I’ve become a person that walks and stops and absorbs the beauty without pushing for time and distance. A meanderer, a wanderer. That’s not to say I can’t push up a hill or past a rowdy group of annoying tourists…yes, they exist but thankfully not all tourists are annoying. It’s just now I want to be fully present with the surroundings….to see those jewels scattered along the forest floor. 

When we slow down and stop and linger we are able to truly take in the beauty….breathe in the beauty….feel ourselves as part of the living landscape. When we do that we can never feel alone.

Hours after the flower visit, the colors are vibrant in my body–circulating through my blood, swirling out through my exhalations. I drink deeply when the colors are offered and share their magnificent hues with unbridled celebration with others who can see…the colors.

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So Much Magnificence

So Much Magnificence

Chilly morning air, washed clean with an all-day rain yesterday, awakens me to beauty…more beauty. More magnificence. From my perch on the front porch, the far mountain ridge is draped with clouds—moving beings of white mist. Bird song fills the space between here and there…tom turkeys…wood thrush…nut hatches…blue jays…red-bellied woodpeckers…carolina wrens…towhees…and as I write this a hummingbird, the first of the season, buzzes the porch.

Colors of spring creep slowly up the mountain, each day offering a new shade of green or pink or light orange. My favorite color season is spring…the tom turkeys tend to agree as they gobble, gobble, gobble searching for their alluring hens. The near ridge is robed in those sweet spring colors but that far ridge, the one with the dancing cloud, is still winter-bare.

The other day I rode up Highway 441, the road that goes through the Smoky Mountain National Park from Cherokee to Gatlinburg. I started in a lush, green spring and climbed to winter where icicles still clung to cliffs. When the road lowered in elevation it was an amazing rush of colorful leaves that enfolded all who entered that tunnel of green.

Wildflowers this year have been amazing, probably due to a very wet winter. They are thriving and as the lower elevations fade, the upper elevations have yet to see trilliums, lady’s slippers, showy orchis. Spring seems eternal here. 

In spring the trees share their beauty by the daily movement of color up, up, up to higher elevations while in the autumn the colors begin at the highest peaks and slowly move down to lower elevations. It’s a never-ending dance of temperature, moisture, position of the sun…life continues on and on and on.

The sun illuminates the far mountain ridge now as clouds turn golden in their swirling, whirling—dervishes worshipping through sacred dance. The turkeys still gobble for their sweethearts, the wood thrush fluting near the creek below.

Sadness found me this morning as yet another loss of life shocked me. Not her! She’s such a light in this world. I felt a pull to the porch, to Nature…to life. Keep living, keep breathing, keep opening and opening and opening.

I just noticed the red bud starting to bloom as I glanced up and gazed into the woods. The turkeys must be dancing, their gobbling reaching a new frenzy. The sun kisses the closer ridge as it breaks through dark clouds…that green, the green of early morning sunlight, is perhaps the most precious of all the greens.

The magnificence of life reminds me to treasure each moment…the glorious ones filled with springtime magic as well as the sad ones filled with grief. We knew coming into this physical body that it would fade, just as the flowers fade, the trees fall during storms. Perhaps that’s what makes life so incredibly sacred. While we are here we have been gifted with a present so glorious…if only we would remember to notice…the colors of spring as they creep up the mountain…so much magnificence.

WILD!

WILD!

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.

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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.