I had surrendered to the wisdom of the Universe, but it gradually became apparent: these goats were still with me. I crafted a new post to the community message board, coming from my heart. Jen had been doing some thinking since my first post and was ready to have the conversation. I met with her and her husband, Kel, to explore the possibilities.
The idea of creating a partnership around raising farm animals is genius - sharing responsibility, chores, and expenses to allow both partners a lighter load and time off to travel and focus on other things, like our creative practices. I was moving into a room in town, a 9-mile drive to their land on Bone Mesa. They offered a tiny, off-grid camper for me to use when I wanted to camp close to the goats. It was a leap of faith on both sides, but we decided to move forward and commit to one year.
The three of us worked together to build a small, fenced-in enclosure to keep my kids separate at first, so they could all get used to each other before being thrown in.
It was partly for my benefit, because I admit I was intimidated by Jen’s herd at first. I wasn’t used to so many goats in a large open space, and they had a different culture of how they were accustomed to being around people. They were assertive about asking for affection and were apt to use their heads and even horns in the conversation. It was reassuring for me to have the safety of a fence between us as I was getting to know them.
Jeanne said moving the kids would be emotionally difficult. That was an understatement! We planned the move for a time when I could spend several days with them to help them adjust. We gave them Rescue Remedy and used the new collars I bought to help maneuver them into the back of Jen’s pickup. It was enough of a struggle to keep my mind off the emotional impact of the separation. Jasmine retreated to one of the shelters, refusing Jeanne’s entreaty to say goodbye to her daughters. She had been through this before. This is the hard part of the whole arrangement.
They were quiet for the ride, but once we got them out into the enclosure, they began to cry. They kept looking at me like, “We’re going back home soon, right?”
I learned from them how personalities can change under duress. Jewel, before always the loud, confident one, would only whimper pitifully and tremble. She wouldn’t eat or drink. Amanita became the louder and more outgoing one, and she wailed heartbreakingly. It turns out she is a comfort eater.
On top of the grief of leaving their mother, they were going from princesses in a small herd to orphans in a big, unfamiliar herd, not to mention being weaned cold turkey.
AND - what the heck are these three huge white predators doing milling around?!?
They had never been around dogs before. They were fairly terrified.
I put a flower essence for healing trauma and calming nerves in their water and stayed close to them as much as I could. I felt their fear and sadness as my own. I wished I could take it all for them, or at least ease it. But they had to go through it, as we all do. I once saw a tear roll down Jewel’s cheek as I gazed into their heartbroken eyes. “I’m sorry, babies. I couldn’t stop you from having to leave. At least you have each other. At least we three still get to be family.”
As the only familiar being around, I became like their mom. They would scream anytime I walked away from them and until I was with them again. The other goats responded sweetly to their cries, gathering outside their enclosure to lie down close to them. They sniffed each other through the fence. My girls were always far braver when I was with them. When the other goats would go out to pasture, the girls would cry.
I stayed with them for three days and nights. It took that long for us to figure out the sleeping situation to keep my kids safe from the mama goats and Jen’s kids safe from my slightly bigger kids. In an enclosed area they could injure each other. For the first time since the night they were born, I got to sleep with my girls. The first night was in the empty outdoor chicken enclosure where the night winds coming down from the mountains chilled us. I covered them in one of my blankets. The second night we slept in the milking parlor with Stella, the mama dog. My girls were too scared to sleep. By the third night, we were all three so exhausted we finally slept, their sweet heads nodding onto my body.
Jen built a hog panel gate across the kidding pen, so they had their own area at night, where they could see the other kids and one mama goat, but everyone felt secure. What a huge relief that first night after we got them all in their spots and everyone was calm! I went out and looked up at the Milky Way and hollered, “Thank You!!!”
At first I left them in their enclosure when I had to go to work. I didn’t trust the two younger dogs not to chase them. The pups had never been around goats who would run and thought it must be a game. Not a fun game for the goats!
It was hard for them to watch the herd go out to pasture without them, but they got to watch from a safe distance and figure out the dogs weren’t hurting anyone.
The dogs had to learn to be careful, too. These new goats were apt to use their horns if a dog got too close.
The lower-ranked goats were the ones who would chase off and try to butt my girls, to establish their superiority.
Jen’s three kids were the first to show curiosity and welcome to the two strangers, and soon they were exploring together and playing. They all have the same daddy goat, thus the spots.
I finally started leaving them out when I had to leave, and eventually if they were busy eating pasture, they sometimes wouldn’t even notice I was gone. Bit by bit I would see signs of acceptance. Goats drinking together at the trough, goats allowing my kids to lie down nearby, eventually I even saw my goats standing up to bigger goats.
They were coming to be at home in this new place.
They each had some hard times early on: one then the other had mild bloat while adjusting to their new diet, Jewel got stung on the head by wasps, and Nita got her head stuck in the perimeter fence twice in one week when no humans were around to help her. The lower electric fence is supposed to prevent that, but it wasn’t working properly. Still it was probably shocking her periodically. By the time I got there the first time, she was hoarse and exhausted from calling for help. I held her for a long time before I left that night. Now the fence is fixed, and I was actually glad to see her bump against it and jump away when it shocked her. "No more head in the fence!"
Jen once called them the two-headed goat. They were together mostly all the time back then, and seemed to find strength in each other. I was thankful for their bond; they had always been close.
Thank you, Creator Spirit in All, that these sisters could find a home together, and that I still get to be with them. This is a life-long love.
The ad I posted to our community message board:
I've been on a journey of learning and love with a family of dairy goats, and I wish to carry it forward into the next chapter of my life. I’m not sure exactly what this will look like. What I do know is two of the kids born this spring especially have my heart, and I am looking for a way to remain in relationship with them. We’re in Paonia, Colorado, and ideally we’d stay as close as possible to here. Just to be clear, I am NOT currently interested in romantic relationship.
I don’t have land. I do have a love and interest in animal-care, gardening, “sustainable living” models, and what I like to call “Village Life”. I’m looking to step forward more fully into the life I envision, connected with community and the land. Maybe you have wanted goats around but don’t want to do it alone. Maybe you have other animals and would like to set up a chore share so you can have some regular days off. Maybe you know you want a couple of goats and wouldn’t mind if I visit them and possibly help care for them. I am open to talking over ideas, mainly hoping for a place that is set up for goats (or easily done) with plenty of well-fenced pasture for them and reasonable shelter/protection from predators. (I’m particularly interested in expanding my learning about livestock guardians, like dogs.)
My idea of Village Life is an evolving conversation. Some of my influences are Martín Prechtel, Sobonfu Somé, Rudolph Steiner, Sacred Fire Community, Plant Spirit Medicine, The Continuum Concept, and the Nourishing Traditions cookbook. I’m a former Waldorf teacher, Red Tent facilitator, and collaborative experiential artist. Please pass this on to anyone who may be interested. Thanks!
(Made summit on 09-30-2019)
Jumbo seemed the obvious choice for my 8-er. It’s one of the most visually prominent land features around Paonia. Its western side presents dry, Juniper scrub and enticing red cliffs to our valley’s residents. This side is accessible via a system of trails winding out of the Apple Valley neighborhood. It’s a popular mountain biking area.
One section of cliffs has been said to look like a face wearing sunglasses, though I had interpreted it as a goddess figure from certain angles. Either way, the mountain has personality.
From town Jumbo has some communications towers plainly visible on what looks like the top. This was a promising clue as my climbing partner and I were working out a route to the summit. If there are towers up there, Julia and I decided, there must be a way up.
Let me back up. I mentioned the trail system on the west side, right? Well, rumor had it we could get as high as the “Grassy Knoll” on trail, and maybe we could scramble to the summit from there. It sounded difficult, uncertain, and possibly treacherous. Hmmm…
DeLorme’s Atlas of Colorado shows some sort of trail going up from the road out past Minnesota Reservoir. The Atlas is not super detailed and sometimes is unclear as to what exactly sort of path we are talking about. However, if my calculations were correct, we could head up that way and follow trails all the way. It could be long, but it was unlikely to be dangerous.
We couldn’t seem to find anyone who had actually been to the top. “How can something so popular be so mysterious?!” asked Julia. The Forest Service office was no help. We couldn’t find a map that showed more pertinent information. This was going to require some reconnaissance.
We set out on the first mutual day off we could muster. A rainbow touched the mountain from our starting point and seemed to bless our intention. Here’s where the interpersonal part of the terrain made things interesting. I had once driven my little car as far as the Minnesota Reservoir, but it was not a feat I cared to repeat as far as the road conditions were concerned. J’s car is far better for this sort of driving, but it’s not a 4X4, and I knew she tends to be more careful of her car than I am.
Since I didn’t know what shape the road is in beyond the reservoir, I suggested we park there and try a trail I had partway explored before. It led up a draw above the reservoir and looked on the map like it would intersect the main summit trail. If so it would also cut off some of our hiking distance.
Well. We put in a good effort, but we didn’t ever find that “summit trail”. Our trail petered out into braided ribbons of game trails and enough dense brush to have J’s inner-dad-voice warning of hidden bears. We turned back.
It looked like Jumbo was not one to reveal its secrets to the faint of heart. “It’s going to make us work for it,” said Julia.
It was several weeks before we found another workable day. Again the interpersonal terrain came into play. I had suggested a joint expedition between Julia and I and a couple of friends: C and S. Okay, so I admit part of the reason I proposed a joint expedition was in hopes that we could use their truck, in case the road got worse. Awkwardly, however, C ended up having a schedule conflict but said S was still up for coming along. So we became a trio for the one exception to me duo-climb perameter. (I explained our predicament to S and held faith that at some point on the way up we would “just know” it was time to separate so Julia and I could have our duo-summit.) Turns out we couldn’t have used their truck anyway. Der.
Still it was nice to have S along. We talked about the cliffs appearing as either a face or a goddess. Julia said she always felt a masculine presence from this mountain, while mountains and the land in general have a feminine presence. During this gender-fluid conversation it started to seem appropriate that I had both a male and a female climbing partner along. I relaxed into the inevitability of what was. Okay then.
There were some other amusing details adding to the overall mystery. Just before we set out, we finally talked to someone who’d been up — on an ATV. This only served to further confuse things as he apparently didn’t remember well, telling us the road gets so bad he wouldn’t bring a Jeep on it. His advice to “stay left” was good though.
We just didn’t know how far it was going to be, and when we came upon this sign, we got a little worried….
Did the decimal point fall off?
It turns out that what looked like a trail on the map was actually a road — a very good road — all the way to the summit. We parked probably four miles away expecting the road to get bad. Ha! But we did get our exercise. Only the summit itself was anticlimactic: a gentle rise in the road. Probably this explains why so few have been there. Turns out the towers are quite a bit lower than the top. Now we know.
It was a lovely autumn day, Aspens turning and everything. Great views all around. Julia and I both found our homes from the mountain’s-eye view, adding to our internal maps of place relationships.
I found it interesting to notice how difference in elevation can seem greater when looking down than when looking up.
After the summit ritual of song, photos and offerings, we took a brief rest and snack break and started our descent.
My listening with this Peak had given me to walk softly and go slowly, to be in contact with every step along the way. I wore my elk skin moccasins and did my best to slow down. I considered walking in silence, but it felt more in the flow to allow the meandering of our conversation. It also felt like our chatter would alert any animals of our presence and avoid startling Julia’s bear. (We saw a variety of tracks.)
It was good to feel my feet upon the earth. The rest of my offering I keep between me and the mountain.
It’s like color theory. Well, my own personal soul-based color theory. People I have the closest relationships with are primary colors, like my mom, dad, and brother. Then there are secondary colors: my nearest aunts, uncles, cousins, and my grandparents. Tertiatry colors are those who are related but not in contact with me as much. These two goats showed up in bright primary colors to my soul’s eyes. Even their brother and the other kids born that spring were secondary. I felt like we were heart family. I wanted to know them when they got old.
“These little cuties are going to grow up into goats!” warned my logic brain. “Yeah,” replied my heart. “I love goats!” I could honestly say I loved my daily life working with the herd, doing farm chores. They had taught me so much. Even the difficult parts never invoked the dread response I had watched my dad go through every Sunday before another week of work.
I knew this dread intimately myself from most jobs I’d had. I learned well: I must be doing something “right” if it’s hard. “That’s why they call it work,” I can hear my dad say. A friend recently pointed out to me that I also use this barometer on my intimate relationships, to stupidly-long-term unsatisfactory results. What a relief it would be if it didn’t have to be that way! (Pause to breathe deeply and let that sink in…)
So since my heart was all in, and I’ve been trying to learn to be guided by my heart, there was nothing left for me to do but buckle down and figure out where we were going to live. The sheer terror of having two beloved beings dependent on me with no home, no income, and a huge life transition looming over me was minor compared to the shock and grief I felt at the idea of them riding off in the back of some stranger’s pickup truck, never to see each other again. It tore me up. “OK fear. You’re on. Let’s do this.”
Somewhere along the line, my dear friend, teacher, and healer, Deanna, lightly threw out the idea of, “Bring a few goats, come live with us and help us build our house!” I thought, “Does she mean it?” Deanna is a founding member of the Mesa Life Project, an intentional community seed sprouting just over the Grand Mesa from where I live now. They live on a rental property just down hill from the land they own and had just gotten a loan approved to start building a house on their land. At the time they expected to move up onto the land in a year or two.
These folks are family of my heart, and the vision they hold for this village-to-be resonates deeply with my own vision for living on the land. I had already been contemplating my place within this tribe for years and participating where I felt called. Mesa Life had felt like a potential future home for Eric and me, especially since I met him at a ceremony on the land there. At one point we considered moving there together. Deanna’s suggestion was not completely out of the blue. Some part of me has always been longing to live with them.
It took me awhile to navigate the question of whether I could actually come and bring goats. It was part of the community vision to raise animals, but it was assumed to be sometime down the line once they had the house finished and moved up to the land. I was in the midst of ending my intimate and business partnership with Eric, they were just starting to dig the foundation to build the house, and we all were preparing for a major ritual event on the land. Life was hectic, chaotic and full.
Somehow we managed to meet and come up with a proposal for creating a space for the goats at the rental and a plan to house me and explore our relationship moving forward. I felt ready to dive in. These were things I had been craving: creating a foundation with like-minded others to build a life together and a sense of moving forward toward my dream.
The pressure of the timing was intense. My deadline for moving the goats was mid-August, but I had to have a bulletproof plan in place by the end of June. The Mesa Life ritual was in early July, and we would all be wrapped up in that for almost two weeks out of contact with the outside world. I didn’t know who would be available to help me and how we would get a home set up for my goats by mid-August. I had to come up with something to tell Jeanne. She was giving me a chance, but her bottom line was firm.
Finally I presented her with our proposal. She cried, saying it just wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t connect with her tears. I just kept hearing some inner voice saying, “These are my goats.”
I left for ritual space with the uncertainty of ever seeing my goats again. They were posted for sale. Jeanne had exacting standards, but still, they were livestock. Whoever bought them would own them. I prayed for guidance. I prayed for help. I wrote Jeanne a letter pleading my case. I didn’t know what else to do.
My prayers were amplified by the ritual that held us. I went in knowing I had done my best. The shortcomings of our situation were obvious. It would take a scramble to get things set up for goats at the rental. I had meager money, resources, and physical strength to do it all myself, and no-one in the community had extra time to help me. The reality of the one couple who wanted goats was raising a three-year-old and starting a school on top of everything else. Even if we could pull it together, we’d be moving to the land in a year or two and have to start over. The land was wild and home to predators. A neighbor had recently lost a goat to a bear, and Jeanne had heard about it. If we were to have them there, we would need some livestock guardians, and I knew next to nothing about that…
The prayer shifted to “May these goats find the best home for them, where they will be safe and all their needs will be met. And if possible, may I at least be able to visit them.” I had to surrender them to the hands of Great Spirit.
It broke my heart wide open.
Returning from the ritual I was scared to learn whether they were still at Jeanne’s....
They were! Jeanne and I had a really good talk — mutual respect and understanding prevailed. No-one had enquired about the goats who met her standards.
I still had a chance for a miracle...
We’re on the land, Mesa Life. A group of women, possibly the same group as for the 2019 Sacred Emergence. It’s a retreat of some sort.
We’ve each been assigned a woman to contemplate and then write 4 assignments for her on 3X5 cards. I am writing cards for Jane.
The dream opens on me writing out cards #3 and #4. #3 says to go to the altar to Minerva and to gaze upon her beauty. The altar to Minerva is a mirror with part picture, part 3-D sculpture around an oval where one sees her own face in the mirror, sort of like those tourist photo-op boards people can peep through and take on a persona. Minerva’s dress and wild brown hair, surrounded by vines and plants. Card #4 says to write a description or poem to the beauty of the Minerva you see there.
When I go to give these two cards to Jane, she says she doesn’t have the first two. I say I remember giving them to her, but she still doesn’t have them. So then I’m trying to remember what I wrote on them, wracking my brain, until it occurs to me to just write them again from this present moment. So I get still to find the inner guidance I can offer for Jane. The first thing that comes is “I want you to write a list of 100 things you like about yourself.” So that is card #1. At this time I don’t remember what went on the second card.
I had to look up who Minerva is. She’s the Roman counterpart to the Greek goddess Athena. "Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom, medicine, commerce, handicrafts, poetry, the arts in general, and later, war." from https://www.ancient.eu/Minerva/
On April 13 of this year at about 10:30 at night, my life was changed forever: these two beauties were born. I knew I ultimately want to live in a community with goats. I knew I have loved working with and learning about goats on Frugalbundance Farm since late last summer. I would revel in how cute, funny, and charming I often found our goats, and Jeanne would say, "Just wait until the kids are here."
These are Jasmines' daughters, Amanita and Jewelweed. Jasmine is special to me: the goat who challenged me when I first started working with the herd. I had to learn quickly how to keep myself safe from a charging goat. She took the most work to allow me to milk her, too. I used to have to count a few squeezes, stop and give her a raisin, scratch her chin and rub her face, and then bargain for twice as many squeezes, three times as many squeezes... I used to call her the math goat. She's also really pretty, a calico goat perhaps.
The night Jasmine kidded was my first time. Jewelweed came out first, little nose and front hooves leading the way. I was toweling her off and didn't see the other two arrive, Amanita second and their brother Juniper shortly after. I helped towel off Amanita, too - we wanted to dry them quickly because it was so cold that night, dipping down below freezing after a warmer spell. I was amazed how quickly the kids got up and started trying to walk around, very awkwardly. They and their mama were calling to each other, learning to recognize each other's voices. When I talked to the babies, they would come right up to me. "It's like they know you," commented our neighbor. They had heard my voice before: when I milked Jaz, I would say hi to them in her belly. I felt like I knew them, too.
It was a zoo for a while, kids staggering around on shaky legs, Jasmine going here and there, licking first one kid, then another, then my hands and face, then another kid, four of us humans trying to be helpful. Then suddenly the kids started dropping off to sleep. Jeanne and I slept in the barn that first night to make sure Jaz didn't accidentally step on anybody. Despite Jeanne's careful arrangement - you here, kids here, mama here, and me here - we each ended up with kids in our sleeping bags and I had Jasmine smooshed up against me with her head on my hip. I was in awe. Amanita was curled against my chest, and Jewelweed by my belly. At one point I needed to move Jewel, confirming that she does indeed have the loudest voice. I barely dozed all night, seems like every few minutes I reached over to make sure they were there: here a head, here the legs, breathing, yes.
For the next few days it was hard to be apart from them. I kept hearing in my head, "These are my goats." My mind would argue. I can't have goats! I don't have land. I'm not in the community yet with other people who want goats. My partner doesn't want goats! But my heart was quiet yet insistent. It was a big deal for me to admit I wanted them. It was scary.
Especially when I started realizing I needed to transition out of partnership with the man I had been in life and business with for the past four years, leaving me to start over with close to nothing, was it scary. "The South Moon Node is about releasing what no longer serves." I kept thinking we could make it work, that something else needed to be released for the relationship to deepen.
I stayed in denial until I couldn't.
Right around this time I learned my mom had breast cancer. It hit me viscerally. She assured me she was fine, that the surgery would be no big deal, they caught it early, etc. I arranged to come home for the surgery to lend a hand with whatever. It was a pretty good visit, all in all. The surgery went well and her recovery was relatively speedy. My mom is tough, and she maintained a good attitude.
At some point I talked about my goat dilemma, telling them how I'm looking for a new living situation where I can have these goats with me, how it's part of my eventual dream of living in community on the land. (I can't stay where I'm at; we don't have enough room in the barn to keep more goats.) Both my parents responded with something like, "Well, that doesn't sound very likely." And my dad followed up by telling me intentional communities don't work out, I'm looking for utopia, and basically something along the lines of, "Get real, kid." I was feeling particularly sensitive and easily discouraged that day. It was hard.
The next day some kind of miracle happened. My dad said, "I think I know a way you can find a place for your goats. You write a book. It's called Have Goats, Will Travel. Most of it is already written: it's your life up until now. You put an ad on Craigslist, "Have Goats, Will Travel," and you write the next chapter from there. Either you write it about whatever happens next, or you make something up."
That is my dad. That's the creative thinker I've hardly ever seen him allow himself to be. Also interesting is how close he comes here to how I actually live my life, and how I'm mostly reluctant to admit to my parents how I live my life. Yup.
To be continued...
I've been living in Paonia, Colorado for almost the past 9 months. Yeah, that sounds about right for the gestation period this has been. One day I was doing one of those repetitive, artist-brain type activities that so deliciously occupy my monkey mind and pull me into the present moment, while gently mulling over what it is about this place that tugs my heart and has me wanting to stay. It was then within my mind's eye that I saw a vision of all the mountains that surround this fertile valley - standing as if living sentient entities forming a delegation to give me this message: "We'd like to have a word with you." And then it was gone, such a fleeting image it could be dismissed as just another thought, except for the lingering depth of feeling that accompanied it. My heart replied, "I'm willing."
It's been a slow unfolding for me to learn to listen to what the world is speaking to my heart. Somewhere along the line during what I call my "Vicarious Mountaineering" obsession, I wondered if the mountains weren't nudging me toward these stories and the questions they brought up in my soul. Something inside me whispered, "Yes." So I flowed with the go, so to speak. I am gradually learning how to trust my heart's path through the world, no matter how much it doesn't look like anybody else's. In fact, that's one of the best ways to know it's mine!
I've also been working with The Artist's Way course again since moving here. Layer upon layer this tool for recovery has helped me reclaim my own Life. Thank you! I can now claim my purpose as an artist, know it is important, and take steps to move forward more fully into the life created by my joyful participation. And pictured on the cover of The Artist's Way book is, naturally, a mountain.
Birthed out of this process of reclamation is one of my latest projects: my 2019 Peak List. I'm looking for climbing partners! Always, always in alignment with my heart's joy.
(Photos coming soon!)
We got up early in the morning to begin our quest. We wanted to have the whole day ahead of us, to go at a relatively leisurely pace, and to be prepared for any potential adventures, as both of us were unfamiliar with the mountain. We had scouted possible ascent routes earlier in the year, while snow still lay upon the ground from top to bottom, and we were leaning toward tackling the steeper North Face - ice picks in hand, crampons to foot, and oxygen masks at the ready.
However, by the time a day arrived that combined time, availability, and inclination for both of us, the snow and ice were long melted from the flanks of our fair peak, and we decided at the last minute to drive to the southwest slope, where my esteemed climbing partner had identified a known and safe route to the summit. Actually, we didn’t get going that early either, and we parked at the trailhead around 11:30 AM, in a quiet, hilly, suburban neighborhood. Gathering our supplies from the vehicle didn’t take long, and soon we were happily on the trail.
The conversation, I recall, was excellent. L and I have a way of playing off each other’s energy to become more and more animated and excited. We talked of thoughts and ideas; plans, dreams, and visions; books, movies, music, and dance. Of course we talked much about relationships, in true feminine form, with people, with the land, with the unseen… And we took in the world around us. It was a glorious sunny day, soft and alive with Springtime. It was Mother’s Day - I remember taking pictures of wild bouquets of red Paintbrush, blue Larkspur, and yellow Asteraceae in bright bloom to send to my Mom. Butterflies fluttered indulgently from flower to flower.
We accidentally passed by the unassuming summit at first, and were deep in conversation when we realized we were starting to head down the other side. “Oops!” We turned back smartly and located the highest ground we could find. Juniper trees shaded the gentle slope, thwarting my idea of a stark, barren summit pose photo - flag blowing in the harsh wind and goggles caked with frost. Alas. But we did snap a few photos and sign the summit register, basking in the glow of our achievement. I sang my Mountain Song three times, as is my custom. Then we wandered a short ways away and sat down for a rest and a snack.
We each took some solo time to be with the place and offer what we had felt moved to bring as gifts. Before we set out I had focussed my attention on this mountain to ask what might be appreciated. I had written a draft of a poem, intending to rework it up there, but it turned out I didn’t bring a pen, and it seemed better for the purpose anyway in the rough form it came in. Yet again circumstance dictated what the mind may have tried to force another way.
I also had a hunch this mountain wanted something made by my two hands, which I would be led to make once I got there. After sitting for a while in contemplation, I stood up and walked in openness. I found some clay that only needed some liquid from my body to become a modeling compound, added a bit of plant fiber and carried it with me, allowing my hands to form it as I went. Soon I came to a gorgeous Juniper skeleton all turns and twists and exotic, flamelike projections of trunk and limb. It gracefully reached out a hand to receive my tiny sculpture. I admired the effect for a moment and considered taking a photo, but this piece was for an offering. “This is between you and me.” And I left it to the Wild Beauty That Surrounds Us At All Times. My heart felt peace.
On my walkabout to rejoin with L, a hummingbird came to greet me with curiosity, hovering a couple feet in front of me for a few moments suspended, eye to eye. Swallows were dancing through the air on the South Side in seeming joy at their own movement in space. I felt included in their play as they swooped and flitted in grandiose arcs all around me.
I saw a look in L’s eye that told me more than words could that her solo time had been good for her as well. I read my poem aloud with our human ears for witness and buried the biodegradable paper beneath a tree.
With a last parting gratitude we started back to the world of people.
Photo credit: all photos of me, the Junipers with mountains in the background, and the flowers on the left all taken by Laura Zick.
(Made summit on 01-24-2019)
For my first stunning feat of daring adventure on my Peak List I chose to summit the first peak I see now as I raise my gaze from my page steadily upward past the crawdad shell on my windowsill nature altar, past my blue Toyota Echo, past the "gun" spraying ditch water out over paddock 2 in the goats' pasture, some Cottonwoods, a distant cherry orchard, and a stretch of yellowing grass: our beloved "P" Hill (AKA Cedar Hill), its P for Paonia turned to my left toward downtown at an angle that looks like a white smudge from my vantage point. It's the closest peak I see from my tiny house, the most in-focus amid the summer rain that's falling now and obscuring all the mountains in my view to varying degrees.
The feat of this ascent was perhaps not so much in the climb itself, as in motivating my chosen human climbing partner to undertake it. N is a self-professed lover of yoga, dance, and some other forms of exercise, but a hater of hiking of any kind, particularly uphill. Also, it was winter at the time, so at least one of my peaks was climbed under cold and snowy conditions. "Wear boots," I told her, though for the record I failed to take my own advice on that score. As you can see in this photo. It's ok, though. I'm tough.
We drove (yup) to the cemetery on the southwest side of the mountain and parked at the bottom of the last bit of road (yup) leading up to the summit. There was a good bit of snow on that last bit of road, and it was satisfyingly steep, though not terribly far. Unless you're N. Then it was very, very, very far. She did, I believe, complain piteously almost the entire way up, as I had been duly warned she would do. She was, however, smiling. I suspect she may have been sneaking some fun-having along the way.
After a herculean struggle up slippery slopes trodden only by a couple of brave souls before us, we arrived at the top. "We made it!!!" We cried. We had to wade through thigh-deep snowdrifts to gaze out over the Paonia downtown. N's spirits were considerably brightened even beyond the fun of grumbling up the hill. She positively glowed.
As we were admiring the view, a sprightly little willy-willy of a wind funnel bounded up the hill toward us, stopping just feet from where we stood, as if to say hello. Clothed in sparkling snow, it could hardly be called a dust devil. N expressed our mutual awe and wonder by exclaiming, "What is that?!?" with emphasis at least seven or eight times. I could only grin.
We then made our way over to the two picnic tables (yup), where I sang my Mountain Song to set a tone of reverence, and then endeavored to fulfill what I felt the mountain was asking of me as an offering. It asked me to describe what I saw from there through my human eyes. Somehow it seemed that my seeing could enrich the mountain's "seeing", could enhance its slow knowing. I don't know for sure, but I did my best. It certainly awakened me further to my surroundings, to pay closer attention to all I could see from there, how much there was to see and notice from there, and how much I tend from necessity to overlook. My inner map of how things are connected was strengthened. I felt how my human way of seeing and knowing is only one tiny way among many, but none-the-less bright and magnificent for all that, and I was struck that a being like a mountain might possibly be interested in what I saw.
N and I sat in the sun at the picnic tables and talked for a while. The snow had melted and refrozen into cylinders dropping through the holes in the metal of the table tops. From below it looked weird and interesting. Our conversation took a turn to the depths, tracing childhood trauma evoked by current relationships and our desire to hold and heal our inner children. I felt gratitude to feel the safety of revealing deeper aspects of ourselves in our budding friendship.
We did snap some summit photos to show we had been. "Now, N, you can say you climbed a mountain!" It was relatively painless, wasn't it? Perspective was gained - in the heights and the depths.
My Peak List had begun!