Wonder Round (Sept. 23-29, 2018) / by Hayden Michelle

I had the privilege of going away for the week, which ended up being chock-full of experiences. I am happy to return home and get into the swing of the fall, and carry with me the energy of the mountains. Wishing you all peace in the week ahead…

(“As I prepare this morning to take my son to the mountains for a 4-day group learning experience while I camp alone, I am aware of the privilege of time spent by myself. Despite the forecasted days of rain, I am looking forward to being out in nature, having a roomy and protective tent, and plenty of art supplies to keep me happy, should I be seeking shelter inside my tent. Although disorienting to be without internet and cell service for 4 days, I know it will be good for me, allowing me to sink into my own thoughts and the simplicity of meeting my basic needs while I am in this beautiful place. I will make my morning circles, collecting them to post when I return home, and hold space for all those who need it, sending the peace and restorative energy of the mountains outward while I am inward.”)

(“As I gleefully skipped down the trail that paralleled a rushing stream, I was almost instantly stopped by mushrooms, pale yellow, almost like butter. I stopped to photograph them, because I could not resist documenting their beauty, only to return to the trail, discovering orangey ones a few steps down the way. These were followed by reds which were as vibrant a red as you can imagine, and away my little camera clicked. I was delighted to be able to stop without concern of slowly anyone down, as not only was I hiking solo, but hardly a soul was yet on this soon-to-be-busy trail— a gift, indeed. By the time I made it to the half way point, surprised this time by bright fuschia spiked pods that housed crimson orange berries that burst out from below, the dreaded red battery symbol that had been flashing most of the way gave way to the “battery depleted” reading. I had to laugh out loud at the truth of this short announcement, and relished in the fact that hiking along this beautiful trail at inconsistent pace to stop, look, and breathe in, was doing exactly the opposite— recharging my depleted battery. I could hear my 11 yo old speak into my ear as he wisely did one day, saying, “Mom, you could just remember what you see in your mind...”. And he was right. Although there were lovely bits I am sad to have missed with my lens, perhaps I was able to take them in more fully because I only had my eyes and senses to record them. So today, the painted fungi are from memory, in honor of my son :).”)

(“When I arrived Sunday evening and checked into my site, the rangers told me to be extra careful, as a bear got up on the side of the Girl Scouts’ tent at 3 a.m. that morning, and proceeded to try and get into their car (oh, and that it was yards from where my tent was to be). OK, I do know better than to leaves Cheetos on the ground, let alone by my tent, but I was not super reassured. I eventually slept, but awoke from multiple dreams that were not so calming, and early in the morning, heard a loud brushing against my tent, which sent me into a straight-up position in about .5 seconds. Nothing followed, and the wind was blowing very loudly, so I could not hear anything on the ground. When I awoke, I left to hike, and upon return, was told by my new neighbors that the rangers set up a live trap for the bear, who was heard brushing against tents early this morning— and that the trap was just catty-corner behind my tent. Hmmm... not super excited for round two, and underneath that, sad that the bears are so acclimated to humans being careless, putting people at risk, and especially endangering the lives of the bears, who are at our mercy.

Much to my dismay, I had a return visit again the next night, in a dead silence that followed intense storms and wind. This time, it pushed against the side of my tent, and then brushed slowly along the length, and paced around for 50 minutes, chomping on what I found out later was acorns from the generously-producing tree outside my tent. Ugh. I sat with my fear the whole time, bear spray in one hand, air horn in the other, not wanting to alarm the elderly naighbors that had come in that night. Eventually, the footsteps left, and relief washed over me. I came to my senses on the hike that day, and realized I was not up for a third-time’s-the-charm, and booked a room at the Tally Ho Inn in the closest town. Such relief in shelter, and in sleep that felt safe. (Part II to follow in next post, as this one’s too long! BTW, that’s my orange tent in the circle, in close proximity to said bear, surrounded by waves of protective energy— because a magical force field comes in handy at times, even if only in your mind!).

The following day as I walked in a downpour, a group of hikers ahead of me but out of sight, I had the feeling I should turn around, but kept walking for a few minutes, not feeling at all ready to hit a halfway point, but then a very clear voice in my head told me to turn around NOW, and as I did, two cubs crossed the path that I had just walked through. My humming turned to loud singing, and I waited to make sure a mama was not following the cubs... with shaky legs and a few shallow breaths, I proceeded to walk down through that same path— bear spray in hand, singing loudly and with a bit of stacatto, scanning for any sign of movement in the close rhododendron that lined the trail. Never have I been so relieved to reach a parking lot at the end of a trail! I certainly experienced my fill of bear energy this trip, and will make sure I am in sight of at least one hiker the next time. Lesson learned, and happy to be home safely...”)

(“As I set out to hike yesterday, I knew the rain would keep many people off the trails, and that I best find some fellow hikers to follow for safety. As I made a final stop before driving to the trailhead down the road, two men approached the building for the same reason I did (last bathrooms before the trail!) and after sizing them up independently as we all stood in line for the bathroom (life as humans :)), I deemed them safe and took the risk to ask if I could follow behind them a good distance while on the trail. They were more than willing, and I assured them I would not interfere in their time/space, and they reassured me it was no trouble, and that they were happy for some new company. Still, I kept some distance between us as we began the descent up the hill and checked the tread on my boots in case I needed to run (truly), and we began to engage in easy conversation about who we were (names are always a good idea!), where we were from, what we did in our current lives— off to a good start.

As the miles passed, we engaged in deeper discussion about various parts of our lives, and were absorbed in listening as each spoke more of their personal story. There was intermittent silence, support, and respect for each person’s sharing, and we dipped into experiences about nature, art, jobs, life, death, afterlife, marriage, children, and spirituality (one man was a psychologist steeped in decades of studying spirituality). I never would have guessed that there would be such a profound sharing between myself and two strangers, or that we would finish the trail almost shoulder to shoulder as we walked back down the path. We all agreed that it was a gift to have met and shared this small bit of life’s journey with one another (even having met a bear on the trail, which determined our turn-around point!). For me, it was yet another reminder to trust my gut and remain open, reinforcing that unexpected goodness can come from unlikely sources which in the past would have most definitely made me turn on my heel and go the other way, alone. I am thankful for the growth that years of healing and life experience can bring...”)

(“As I drove home last evening with a van full of tired and contented kids and most every belonging, waterlogged, I was reflecting on the many experiences that got packed into just a few days away... lessons about facing fear, trusting myself and others, sinking into the beauty and stillness of nature to replenish depleted mind and body... feeling deeply grateful for it all. As the van wheels transported us across pavement filled with heavy rainfall and returned us safely home, I felt the relief of being back in familiar territory, and the privilege of returning to a home and family, and friends near and far. I am grateful for the paintings that came into these circles (this one in a downpour by a swollen stream that roared so loudly I would have strained to hear someone speaking next to me) to help remind me of the essence of this excursion. Although happy to have gone, I am happy to be home, and to be in this space again :).”)

(“As the light of warm colors came into this circle, I was reminded of the inner light that resides in all of us, and reflective about the things which bring me closest to this awareness. What makes you most deeply connect to your own glow, as well as that of others?”)

(“Being screenless in the woods for much of the past week, I missed the unfolding of the news— until last evening. There are not enough words to describe my feelings for Dr. Ford and all those who know what it is like to speak the truth and not be believed or to keep it locked inside (fearing this very denial), and who carry the burden and shame that inevitably comes from being victimized. There is tremendous courage and strength harnessed in living every day, whether or not the words are ever spoken. The least we can do is connect to our compassion, respect, and support— basic human decency— and surround with healing energy rather than that which further traumatizes. Wishing the light of healing and love to all those in need...”)