Stillness

Stillness is:

Driving around the Skagit flats for two hours looking for a Prairie Falcon, an uncommon visitor to Skagit in the winter, I was about to give up for the day, but instead I parked near a habitat the prairie falcon likes. I got out of the car, scanned the area and scanned some more. After standing in one place for an hour the falcon flew right over my head and continued on to the west.
The Falcon found me.

Stillness is:

Walking around Lincoln Park in Seattle WA following the croak of a fledgling Raven, hoping to get a glimpse, but the Raven was always out of sight. So I sat down in my favorite Redwood grove for a rest and waited, listened to the trees and waited some more. I finally heard the Raven again, looked up towards the marvelous croaking call, and now it was on a low branch just a few feet away.
The Raven found me.

Stillness is:

Walking the beautiful sandy beach at Arch Cape OR looking for the smallest of sand dollars, no bigger then the tip of my little finger, a ritual I had done on my birthday for five years. The first four years I was able to find that smallest of sand dollars. I was back near my cabin after several hours of walking without success. I sat on the beach for a while, tears in my eyes, looking out at the waves breaking on shore, thinking that my tradition of finding this small sand dollar would be broken. I got up to leave, looked down again and there was the tiniest of sand dollars.
The sand dollar found me.

I learned that when I let go and stay still, nature provides.

Stillness is a gift
The gift one gives to oneself
Gift of clarity

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For the love of earth
I put myself on the line
Peace and calm arise

For the last few years and particularly since November of 2016 I’ve been anxious and worried about the state of our earth. I’m not an anxious person by nature, nor do I worry. I generally have a carefree, moment focused, “Pollyanna” personality. So the change to daily anxiety and worry has been profound and disturbing. I had no other choice but to act.

I have marched, kayaked, rallied, signed petitions, and monetarily supported many environmental organizations. And still our carbon emissions rise and greedy fossil fuel companies continue to extract tar sands and fracked gas, coal and oil, putting all beings at risk. Our earth is under attack and it feels like everything I love is in peril. According to James Hansen, NASA’s former climate science chief, we only have a few years to make a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions in order to have a livable planet.

So in an act of non violent civil disobedience, (fortunately still legal, but even that is at risk) I got arrested to show the moral urgency that is needed to act on climate crisis. As part of the action in Seattle on Oct 23 to disrupt business at 103 banks in Seattle that are some of the largest funders of tar sands and pipelines, myself and three others locked down to a Wells Fargo bank and refused to move.

As I sat chained to the large gate that closed the Wells Fargo branch, a calm settled in over me, almost immediately. An obvious peaceful calm, like after the air is slowly let out of a balloon, or the exhalation after a long deep breath.  The anxiety and worry slipped away, I had a sense of conviction and peace. I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. The feeling was deep, to the cellular level, enveloping my body and soul.

Ten days later, I still feel calm and at peace, with energy to continue the fight we must fight to save our beautiful earth, our only home, for our children and their children.

Many environmental activists have been arrested before me and put themselves at even greater risk. For their courage and inspiration I am grateful.

You can find out more about this bank action, the valve turners, and other important projects that need our attention and action at:

shutitdown.today (you’ll have to type it in the search bar)

350seattle.org mazaskatalks.org

Everyday Awe

Fireball, eclipse
Osprey, eagle, gull and crow
Raven begs, kingfisher dives
Stand up, act, protect

In the last month and 1/2, I’ve been awe struck by two celestial phenomenon.  I saw a large meteor fireball while camping on Vashon Island on July 29 2017.  Standing outside with friends, we looked up and saw it gliding across the sky. Wow.

It was the shape of the following photo, but color the ball green and the tail orange and yellow. Thats what I saw!

 

Stock photo royalty free from
dreamstime.com

 

 

 

 

Then I saw the partial solar eclipse in Seattle on August 21 2017.  Also a surprise because I didn’t have glasses to view it and I was at work. But a co-worker brought in eight extra pair so most of us could go outside and watch. Nice!

 

 

 

 Telescope/camera photo sent to westseattleblog.com by Jamie Kinney

 

 

Such events provide me with a refreshing ‘glow’, a calmness for a few days after. But I also strive to find awe on a regular basis, if maybe not as grand, just as much a part of my mental health care as the big events.

Often I find it on a routine walk with my dog in the woods when I discover five young ravens begging for food. Or during my commute to work aboard the West Seattle water taxi when I see a kingfisher dive. Or while waiting for the Southworth ferry on my way to go camping when I see a young osprey being chased by an eagle being chased by two gulls being chased by three crows.

These experiences of awe are rejuvenating too, chance encounters reminding me that I am a part of nature, not just connected but a part of nature.

But in between these times of awe creeps the reality that our natural world is changing, its heating up with dire consequences. Humans are committing climate crimes and creating climate chaos. It makes me very sad. As a human part of nature, all that I love is under attack. I worry about what kind of world my grand nieces and nephews will have.

I’ve intentionally tried to stay away from politics in this blog. But I can’t anymore. The natural world that provides awe and wonder and solace for our collective soul needs our voice and our action. We don’t have much time to stop catastrophic destruction.

In chaotic times
Nature is a source of strength
For hope and action

Ever since her 110th birthday on May 27 2017, I’ve been obsessed with learning more about Rachel Carson. And I dare say that I feel as though I’ve been channeling a part of her as I
Wawnder: walk with awe and wonder.

In her essay, now published in a sweet small book “The Sense of Wonder” Carson writes:

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.
If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, re-discovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in”.

The purpose of wawndering is to re-ignite and keep alive the sense of awe and wonder we knew as children when we explored nature. It consists of walking with intention. Intention to notice everything as if seeing it for the first time, to awaken that child like wonder and excitement of discovery.
I believe that those of us that already love and care for the earth can especially benefit from time spent with intention, a ’wawnder walk’ to keep the awe and wonder alive and nurturing us just as Carson wished for 61 years ago in words that bear repeating: “…that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”

When I started the wawnder project 14 years ago, it was for my own survival while living in the heart of San Francisco. Now, in our current political time of such hostility towards the earth, I feel a sense of urgency to share the idea of wawndering for the survival of all the earths creatures in all living forms.

And so I find that the best thing I can do to keep my focus in this chaotic time is to wawnder more. Take a walk, anywhere, find nature, stop and examine it, and notice how you feel when you return home. Remember:

In chaotic times
Nature is a source of strength
For hope and action

Here and There

Its been a pleasant spring and summer in the PNW. This spring Seattle Peregrine falcons settled down in their eyries with eggs and fledged 18 young. Ravens and their young were heard all spring and summer as they nested and raised young in Lincoln Park. Black capped and chestnut backed chickadees were abundant in my yard.
I stayed close to home wawndering my familiar and favorite nature spots; Lincoln Park and the shores of West Seattle, Arch Cape beach on the Oregon Coast, often looking out upon the Salish Sea.
Staying home makes me work harder at discovery. However, one day in Lincoln Park as I came out of the woods at the end of a downhill trail, I walked into a grassy area and a group of dragonflies surrounded me, flying around my head, greeting me at trails end.
One day I saw a pod of dolphins from the water taxi on my commute home from work. And one day as I walked my dogs along Harbor Ave in West Seattle, I saw an Osprey dive, shake as it came out of the water holding a fish, and gain altitude as it turned the fish head into the wind and flew south to one of three nests near by.

With these wawnderings at home in mind, I now embark on a trip south. I’ll be in New Zealand and Australia for three weeks, where everything is new.

Here and there I’ll roam
Discoveries everywhere
That follow me home

We Are Nature

As we are nature
Nature’s actions are our own
Connect protect act

Often when I’m wawndering I find myself focusing on fascinating details of specific features in nature that catch my eye as I ramble.  However, recently the weather in the Pacific Northwest has been clear and cold and crisp offering grand landscape views that grab my attention with awe. The Salish Sea is a shiny ever-present foundation for these landscapes of beauty. Snow capped Olympic mountains in the west shine pink from the light of the sunrise in the east, Mt Baker peeks through the north end of the Seattle city skyline while more of the Cascade Range shows up at the south end of the city skyline. Farther south Mt Rainier looms so big and majestic on the horizon that it looks like it is sitting right on the Duwamish River, a river that flows into the Salish Sea on the south edge of Seattle.

All of this grandeur invokes awe and wonder everywhere I look and often it can be seen in the same day.  I am so grateful that I am of and connected to the Pacific Northwest, it is a part of me as much as I am a part of it, for as David Suzuki writes in The Sacred Balance “We are the air, we are the water, we are the earth, we are the Sun.” (his italics). For me, we are nature.

It is with this connection that I’m inspired to do everything I can to help protect our world and live lightly on the land to mitigate the changes happening from climate chaos. For as our world changes, so will human life change.

Connection can happen in any landscape any place in the world at any time, all the time. My wish for this new year is that all may find that place that inspires love and stewardship for our natural world. As Rachel Carson wrote so many years ago, “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” *

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Olympic mountains pink from the sunrise

*Rachel Carson quote found in the article “Saving the Salish Sea” by Audrey Della Benedict and Joseph K Gaydos, NW Magazine, Seattle Times, April 12 2015

A Walk With Raven

Summer in the Puget Sound area was hot and dry this year. Hot enough some days to keep me inside, oddly enough, to avoid the midday heat. But one perfect day in August still stands out in my memory.

I was on a routine walk in Lincoln Park with my canine buddies, Sadie and Beasley. I decided to start in the woods and head to the beach path. We took the first path into a quiet part of the forest, dogs with noses to the ground, me with nose and eyes in the air. Then I heard it; a croaking sound, the origin unknown to me. I stopped to listen and look and soon I saw a raven with its throat blown out like a pouch making that sound. It croaked again, cawed, flew a short distance and hopped among tree branches heading our way.

I’d never experienced anything quite like this so I stood still. The raven came right to us, landed above us very low in the tree, cawing and croaking over and over, then hopped to a branch a little beyond us. Of course I knew it was talking to us and telling us to follow so we did, the dogs glad to be moving again.

The four of us; Raven, myself, Sadie, and Beasley moved through the forest with Raven leading cawing and croaking, hopping and flying. After what felt like a long while, but was probably only five minutes or so, Raven flew into a thicket too dense for me and the dogs. Raven perched on a branch silent with its back to us as if to say “I’m done, good-bye” The dogs and I stopped, gave thanks, and continued in the direction that Raven had been leading us to find ourselves in an open field where we ran with joy and abandon.

With a croak and caw
Raven calls us to follow
Joyfully join in

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 Sadie and Beasley at the beach in Lincoln Park

Of Sea and Sky

Falcon and Orcas
Intense flight lumbering glides
Sea and sky alive

On a recent fall morning as the King County water taxi was docking at pier 50 in Seattle, a peregrine falcon suddenly appeared, as if she had flown in from another dimension. She was flying fast and low, stooped on a pigeon twice and missed twice. Then the peregrine circled low over the boat and kept flying just off the edge of the waterfront as if playing, as she dove at pigeons and gulls, scattering the less adept fliers out of her path. With surprised delight, a few of us stayed aboard and watched her play until she flew out of sight as quickly as she had appeared.

Witnessing that two-minute interlude of wild grace against the city landscape afforded me a pep in my step that I didn’t have when I boarded the boat ten minutes earlier.  It’s always a good day when one sees a peregrine.
Ten days later, on an Argosy tour boat traveling from Seattle to Blake Island, we found ourselves in the middle of a super pod of Orca Whales. The naturalist on board informed us it was Puget Sound’s southern resident pods congregating, and among them was the baby born this spring.
Our boat slowed, as rules warrant when a boat is near whales, and we watched as they rolled, spy hopped, tale flapped and swam around us. Most people on the boat were outside in the wind, smiling and quietly cheering at our good fortune.  Having the chance to be so close to the whales during this yearly ritual is a rare and magical experience.

These two encounters of sea and sky didn’t allow for picture-taking; with the quickness of the peregrine and the blending of the Orcas with the steel-blue water. The images, however, are as sharp in my mind as the day they were encountered, stored somewhere in the pathways of an ever grateful mind.

Falcon and Orcas
Intense flight lumbering glides
Sea and sky alive

It’s been three weeks since I spent three nights camping on the beach at Cape Alava, on the northwest coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.

I’m still assimilating my experience.  Not just because Cape Alava is a beautiful, wild, magical, and sacred place; but also because of the people I shared those 4 days and three nights with.
It was a celebration for my sister Susan’s  60th birthday; it was her idea to backpack out to Cape Alava, the place she celebrated her 40th birthday.

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Arriving at camp with Tskawahyah in the background and calm seas 

People came and went, some stayed a day, others camped two, three, or four nights. We had ages from 16 months, my sister’s granddaughter, Marin, who got a ride down the three mile path to Cape Alava with her parents, to folks in their 60’s. As well as family, the group was made up of people that Susan has known for over 20 years and all have developed a deep and caring relationship with each other. Those relationships enriched and elevated this experience to a level of abundance I’ve seldom felt.
Hugs exchanged, laughter and play easily engaged, quiet solitude enjoyed, and all with love, care, and pure heart.

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Luna, Susan’s daughter, with Marin, the third generation

We stayed close to camp, explored the sea stack island, Tskawahyah, with its round rocks and tide pools exposed at low tide. We took leisurely walks along the shore and simply sat on the beach, watching nature and becoming part of nature’s time. Sea otters played in the surf, shorebirds flitted at the shoreline scouring the generous amount of varied seaweed gracing the beach, and the waves kept moving, their soothing back and forth motion, ever changing and always the same.

The days were long and relaxed, allowing time to ponder and wawnder as we gave way to the spell of Cape Alava and Tskawahyah. And the days also felt too short as the light softened into the best sunsets the west coast has to offer.

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Together at sunset with ‘heart’.

But the awe did not stop with the sunset. Just in case we weren’t already full of gratitude, the dark night illuminated a glacial blue phos fluorescence that twinkled wildly in the waves as the white water curled over to the sand. A sight that mesmerized us each night and sent us to bed with oohs and aahhs.

Then, on our final day, during one of nature’s dramatic moments, the last 5 of us to backpack out left in a thunder and lightning storm. Thunder pounded, lightning streaked the sky, and rain soaked our trail, all as if saying fare thee well and hustle up the trail!  Seemed like a fitting crescendo ending to such a rich adventure.

Spending time in a beautiful place such as Cape Alava can be a healing experience. Add to that people that obviously love and care for each other, people that care for the wild land we inhabited, and you have a transformative healing experience.

Thank you Cape Alava, thank you friends and family, and especially thank you sister Sue for bringing it all together.

Thunder drums farewell
Blessed with Cape Alava’s grace
Transformed we give thanks
Transformed we go home

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Susan now                                             and 20 years ago with daughter Luna
Seems Luna has a strong back or just likes to carry people.

Chance encounters with the wild are precious and exciting. They reinforce our connection to nature and nurture the spirit, mind, and body. Recently, nature has been quite generous with such close encounters of the wild kind and fortunately I’ve been a grateful recipient. This is truly a spring to remember.

4/22/14: Earth day. Lilacs in boom in mass in my backyard for the first time in 5 years.

Stepped out on the deck in the evening after work and smelled the lilac’s fragrance wafting through the air as the blooms swayed in the gentle breeze. Oh, the intoxicating smell of lilacs. Now some grace the kitchen table too.

4/23/14: Orcas in Elliot Bay swimming south towards the mouth of the Duwamish River seen from the morning water taxi.

During my early morning commute to work aboard the King County Water Taxi, Orca whales swam so close to our boat the captain had to stop until they passed by. We watched in awe at their proximity to us, their tall black fins a stark contrast to the blue gray water.

4/24/14: A solitary loon just off shore at Lincoln Park, yodeling in the rain.

I was walking with my dog Sadie in Lincoln Park on a rainy afternoon. We were alone near the water and suddenly I heard an unfamiliar bird call. I looked through the hard rain all around and above me until I finally gazed off shore and saw a loon. I was hearing a loon yodel; the awesome sound of a loon yodeling.

There is something special about wildness in an urban area. Here in the Pacific Northwest we are blessed with a rich habitat that supports humans, wild creatures, and lush vegetation, existing together, boundaries blurred. It is a daily reminder that chance encounters with the wild can turn an ordinary day into an extraordinary memory. This excites me.

Grace of wild things
Savor the chance encounters
Live in nature’s glow