Chocorua Part 2: The First Messenger

The plan was to stop for brunch along the way, but our late departure called for lunch. I hinted at the opportunity to save more time by picking up sandwiches, but my husband’s quiet response told me he had his heart set on a sit-down meal. As we neared our destination, we spotted a diner offering “All day breakfast” inside a homey log cabin facade, so we pulled in beside a queue of locals.

A “cash only” diner, the service was friendly and quick. The food ample and satisfying. And, there were bathrooms, which might not have been available had we followed my meager suggestion of “just grabbing sandwiches.” Later, I would be grateful for the full meal, only wishing it had been less laden with sodium, and those bathrooms.

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

We pulled into the dirt road leading to the trailhead at about 1:30pm, and found ourselves face-to-face with our first messenger of the day. A large crow sat in the middle of the roadside looking staring at us through the windshield. I sucked in large gulp of air as it raised its black wings into the air. Flying towards us, and then away, before it disappeared into the woods where we would soon future. My husband turned to me, “Is that a good sign or a bad one?”

“Good.”

Crows have a way of preceding my arrival in magical landscapes, and the presence of this one did not seem to be a coincidence.

The parking lot, if you can call it that, was full with five cars, so we squeezed over on the side of the dirt road, nestling in behind a large pine. We gathered our two, not quite full, metal water bottles and stuffed them into the sides of our backpack, which also held a small first aid kit, two granola bars, two apples, and a can of animal deterrent spray. Just in case. As we pulled our hiking poles out of the back of the car, I spotted the bug spray I always keep in the trunk and threw it into the pack. Just in case.

It wasn’t long before the bug repellent made its way out of the pack as we stopped about 1/8 of a mile into the trail to shower our heads from the invading army that buzzed around our ears. “The comments said the trail was buggy and to bring DEET,” my husband offered belatedly. Our spray did not contain DEET, and proved to be less effective than my sunglasses, which did a fine job of keeping the invaders from diving in for a swim in my eyes as long as I kept them over the bridge of my nose.

I had let my husband worry about the minor details, you know: getting to the trailhead, figuring out how steep the climb was, and how many miles the Hammond Trail was…while I had let my head fill only with the legend of Chief Chocorua. Which meant neither one of us had really and truly prepared for the full journey of eight miles it would take to reach the summit of the mountain via Hammond, followed by, we soon discovered, another trail or two, doubling our anticipated hike. I was soon thinking about the four miles to the summit the sign had promised, and four back to the car on this hot, humid July afternoon. Our lodging for the night another half hour car ride away.

We are not regular hikers. Instead, we are those intermittent types. Dragging the teenagers up a modest mountain or two maybe once a year, and every other year or so getting a chance to climb without them. Eight miles. I tried to do the math in my head as I walked along the buggy trail that was eerily quite aside from the mosquitoes whining in my ears. How long would it take us? And, would we make it to the top?

To be continued…

 

 

The (dead) crow, the red fox & the turkey (feather)

I used to keep a journal just for animal encounters. Not just animals, insects too, and birds, and all manner of non-human life forms I met up with each day. I was interested in their symbolism and what it might mean to me. Synchronicities and patterns. The universe talking in code. I used to do a lot of things I no longer do, and these days I am acutely aware of how much I am allowing myself to be wrapped up in the mundane, favoring it over the magic of life. Not because I want to, but because I have somehow convinced myself that I must. I must search not for encounters, but for artificial messages. Messages that I must send to get readers for my new book. It is a task I do not like, but that in itself is a lesson and, therefore, a gift. How do I make magic out of the mundane? Somedays it’s easier than others.

When the jobs we feel we must do become a chore, should we continue on in toil, or should we pause and breathe into the depth of being to find the magic contained within the moment that is always offered to us? The moment upon which we trail our breath and our thoughts, whether they be rapid, or peaceful? Today there were many encounters throughout my day which felt forced, labored, without fruit. Yet, there were also pauses when I stopped to be present.

I watched the squirrel, boldly wearing red fur as it masqueraded as an acrobat climbing up, then down my apple tree stealing apples in its mouth and leaping through limbs as though gravity was a ruse. I could almost believe anything was possible until I returned to the drudgery of musts. “You must do this to sell books.” “You must do that.”

The voice inside my heart forever whispering against the pull of musts, “just let it be.” “They’ll find the words you wrote for them, somehow.” I don’t always believe in somehows, but the voice inside me tells me I should.

The crow that stopped my feet today was dead. Its head pointed downhill. Black feathers tucked above the vibrant green of grass on this sunless day. I couldn’t help but think of magic extinguished. It had fallen beneath wires. Was it electrocuted by too much force? Energy coursing outside its bounds? The owl had been found in nearly the same place, also dead, one month before. I cannot help but think of the two bird messengers in my book. Grandmother Crow. The owl who haunts the last pages with a warning…

Yet death, I am reminded by yesterday’s snake, is not an end, but a beginning. Decayed life breeds new life in that ever-lasting cycle. How can I forget the wisdom of Shesha? Did I not write his story upon the pages too?

Briefly, today, I thought about fairies. Sue had reblogged a post about the fey and for some wonderful moments, I was transported into the realm of magic not often seen. Perhaps that was why I was lead by the turkey feather, which floated up from the blackened road as though wanting to be seen. To be caught, as I drove home. So I took the ever-willing dog for a walk, and there it was still. In the middle of the road. Large, curved and perfect. Banded in brown. A solitary turkey feather waiting for my hand to receive its gift.

So I twirled it in my fingers, feeling the life still present. Blessed life. A reminder of abundance. Down the road, a red fox wandered from the twilight woods and stopped to fix my gaze. We stared as though each daring movement, until a car passed by. Some say foxes hold the secrets of the fey. Cunning, bold, stealthy. Red, like the squirrel. Have I lost touch with the red blood of Earth? I wrote the words in this book, in part, to save her. Created six warriors with a mission to repair her broken veins, forgetting, after I had finished, that one must care for the inner body, always, while caring for the outer. And so I look back upon today. To the red squirrel taking with ease the fruit of the apple back to its nest. The dead crow charged with too much power. The lone turkey feather in the middle of the road. One perfect blessing waiting to be held. And the red fox, who had ventured, for a moment, out of the hidden realm to say hello.

 

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Grandmother Crow speaking her ancient wisdom from the pages of The Labyrinth

 

 

A Briefly Guided Visit to The Spinster’s Rock

After our visit to The Hurlers, Sue and Stuart drove us to our car parked beside Brentor.  “Give our regards to the Spinsters,” Sue said with a mysterious smile before we received hugs and watched our guides return to their car for their long road ahead to Penzance.

As we loaded into our rental, Larissa remarked with astonishment at the generosity of Sue and Stuart for driving us to The Hurlers and back, adding hours to their day which would end at the tip of the Michael Ley line before it enters the sea. One of the many aspects that make the founders (Steve included) of the School so remarkable is their unconditional generosity and genuine desire to share their love and wisdom with others.

The Spinsters is a rather strangely situated dolmen, at least in the modern landscape. One can’t help but wonder what surrounded it thousands of years ago. Now it stands oddly in the middle of farmland, and seemingly out in the middle of no-where. There is no obvious signpost marking its spot, and we nearly passed it by driving the narrow and twisty roads of Devon.

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Spinsters Rock Dolmen

Considering its remote location, and lack of a parking lot — we pulled over into the hedges and hoped for the best — it’s not suprising we were the only visitors there. Or so we thought…

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The stones often have stories to tell, and its worth stopping to “listen”

Years ago, before digital photography, I visited the Poulnabrone dolmen. Arguably the most famous and visited dolmen in Ireland, the Poulnabrone dolmen is awesome to behold. The Spinsters appears lonely in contrast, with its small herd of cattle guarding it. Yet, there is mystery here too, and a bit of magic left in the site. The stones still feel alive and they seem to observe their surroundings with an eye of discernment. The capstone has a particular anthropomorphic quality to it, with its face looking outward as though placing judgement upon those who might wish to pass into its portal. I thought it had both a serpent and whale-like quality to its form, and I had a strange urge to crawl onto its back. It was a little difficult to resist. Perhaps others had also, as the stone has fallen at least once from its perch and had to be replaced.

 

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The sign at the gate to Spinsters Rock

 

Larissa and I spent no more than fifteen minutes at the site among the stones while the disinterested cattle grazed at a distance. As I mentioned above, aside from the cows, we thought we were alone, but as we turned and began walking the short distance back toward the way we came, Larissa and I stopped simultaneously in our tracks.

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The Mysterious Mark

 

The feather, we were both certain, had not been there when we entered the field to visit the dolmen. Yet, there it was, black as night, placed like a flag marking our path as we exited. Another corvid feather from an unseen guide. Too obvious to miss.

The Beginnings of Endings

 

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

The owl appeared as the resurrected phoenix during my last, formal meditation as a student of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness. At some point, the seeker becomes the seen as the threshold to the mysteries are opened. The wisdom that always lies in wait within is always just a conscious breath away, but humans can be shallow breathers. In my young adult novel The Labyrinth, which is due to be released in a month or so, the voice of an owl cuts through the darkness as teens search for what they cannot find.

“Whoooo Loooooks for Yooooou?” The owl calls out to them.

Ultimately, are we not all looking for our own selves? The truth of the soul that is often only allowed to exist fully in the false protection of the shadows. The eyes, therefore, must turn inward and grow accustomed to the dark, where eventually they learn to see the light held within.  We are all seekers of wisdom, but sometimes it is worth asking what is the wisdom we truly seek?

The crow was waiting at the top of the building when I stepped outside the door of my final day of yoga teacher training. She cawed loud and strong, least I miss her presence, looking down at me as her eyes followed me to my car. Don’t forget who brought you here, she seemed to be saying, along with, you know this is only a beginning.

I have learned, over the course of these last three years in particular, how much endings are really just beginnings. Once we have crossed that threshold that marks the completion of a road along our journey, another road awaits us. The road is often unmarked or vaguely marked at best. if we knew what was waiting, would we walk with the open heart that requires trust and surrender?

And so I find myself walking across the threshold with eyes that have learned to see in the dark. Fear has become a friend that sometimes takes my hand to remind me of courage and I have grown comfortable with what is waiting to be known. I have learned that within each moment I can find the presence of teachers surrounding me. They are the trees outside my window and the birds that pass by. They are the people I encounter on the streets, and the dogs who share the couch as I write. My computer is my teacher, with all its quirks and challenges. And there is always, that ever-guiding light within.

I have become also, a friend of wait. Patience provides a soft hand that is worth holding for as long as it is offered. Magic is, after all, held in the present moment and if one pushes against the ever-flowing current of time it is lost.