No idea where these images are from. My Aunt Liz sent them in an email.

Ah Valentine’s Day… A chance to remember love, yes? If we let go of the chocolate, diamonds, and Hallmark cards what is left? What is love beyond this day of hearts and flowers?

It is your complete awareness of your beauty alone in the dark.
It is laughter at your own jokes.
It is a willingness to be yourself despite what anyone else thinks.
It is dancing badly and singing even worse.
It is having such faith in the sacredness of all life you leave all to be who they are.
It is remembering why you fell in love with a person, a place, a song.
It is risking your former self to discover who you haven’t met within you yet.
It is making sacrifices because your inner love can’t help but spill onto all whom you love.
It is an inner well of such goodness you withhold judgment and criticism
It is a generosity of spirit that sees and expresses divine beauty and grace to all whom you meet.
It is filling your heart with the smallest, most mundane moments of your ordinary life and feeling immense gratitude for them.
It is knowing that the Universe pours love on you as a great river without ending.

Nothing brings love through the front door. It grows out of you as the oak from the acorn. It rises up a great fountain and floods your Universe. You are not empty and given love. You are love and when you anchor your mind there the world explodes in more facets than any diamond you have ever seen.


Lakeside: Photo by Noelle

Lakeside: Photo by Noelle

The bench is on the west side of the lake. The trail on this side is little more than mud in January’s warm up. The Eastern side has some stone trails that are well cleared and thus, more trafficked. I am alone, for the moment, and commit to listening and little more.

The wind rubs the winter grass stalks at my feet against each other, dry even in the mud. A warm sun would turn them green, but in these short days their rattle is little more than a reminder of summer snakes long asleep in their holes. Prairie dogs bark incessantly at me, at first. My stillness conquers. Eventually, they chatter amongst themselves no more than old women over a mahjong board. Even in the animal kingdom, neighborhoods have their gossips. The jet passes to the north heading up the spine of the Rockies. I think of travel and vacations both taken and imagined, but the real fly boys bring me back, as the geese come trumpeting off the icy lake heading for fields to dine. I marvel at the pattern. Squawking and honking begins until some unknown pitch is hit and then part of the flock suddenly rises and flies off. The length of this flock must be more than a city block. The group that rises comes from one end of the lake to the other. Some of the groups head east, while others to the south, as if they are aware where the group before them headed and know to seek pastures elsewhere.

I can hear the jogger coming for some time as her running shoes slap the surface of the mud. She is breathing hard and there is the faint tinny sound of music coming through earbuds. Another flock takes off and the wind pushes back my hood. Two women cut through the grassy hillside to beat the muddy trail and talk about teenagers with piercings. The longer I sit the more I’m aware I seem to have left the machine. The swaying cattails are riveting compared to nose rings. I wonder, briefly, where this disengagement with the fast moving world will take me, but even that thought seems more intense then this winter sun will allow. I rest back against the bench and listen.


The lake: Photos by Noelle

Winter is richness, not death. Riveting blues, stark vistas, animal tracks seen in a brilliant sun. After her tail quickly vanished into the ravine only her tracks were left on the snow. Cheeky coyote.

Night Walk: Part V

Free Bing Photos

Free Bing Photos

A twenty minute walk would normally take you to the lake, but on this night it was closer to thirty five. The the road I cross from the marsh to lake is poorly cleared and there is a field of six to eight inches of snow to cross to reach the lake. I followed the cross country ski lines I saw so clearly in the light of the moon, from someone who had passed this way earlier in the day. I knew in all this crunch of snow and steaming breath no wildlife would be caught unaware. An owl can here a mouse crawling under snow a half mile off. To any Great Horned nearby I am sure I sounded a fire brigade to its ears. By the time I reached the lake I was sweating and hot and pealing off mittens, coat and hat as fast as I could. Temperatures enough to freeze the lake solid and I was as close to naked as I could stand amidst huge billows of steaming air.

As my breath slowed I became keenly aware of the sounds around me. Someone scraping a shovel on a sidewalk not quite a kilometer off. The highway to the west that runs below the hills that nestle the lake. A dog barking and someone calling out to a passerby. Sound carried across the snow as if we were all swimming in water. The ice on the lake cracked near where I was standing, but was muffled by all the snow. I was alone out here. With the light of the moon I could see for miles. Nothing along the lakeside moved. I stood very still and looked all around me. I am not even sure how to describe how the moon turned the lake into an iridescent opal of blues and purples. How tiny bits of light winked up off the snow in the moonlight, made all the clearer because of the darkness. How tree limb shadows snaked out across the snow in the deepest shades of purple and violet. The snow-capped hogbacks rose beyond the lake peppered in evergreen and patches of tall grasses positively glowing. The stars sat deep in their velvety darkness humbled by the moonlight and I too bowed to her power.

I redressed quickly as the sweat began to cool me off more than I wanted and picked the lower trail. I knew I needed to keep moving. I passed near a neighborhood that borders the lake. All the shades had been pulled that faced the mountains of these houses and I wondered at all they were missing. If I lived at the corner house I would never close my shades. On a night like this I would sit in my darkened home with the curtains wide, sipping hot cocoa enjoying an immense view.

On the far side, farthest from the neighborhoods and the roads and nearest the hogbacks, I stopped and listened for a long while. If you listen carefully you realize there is a deep silence even in the noise of neighboring life. It is steady and persistent. You may stand to listen for a moment, but it enchants you the longer you stand there. In all that silence, in all that open space covered in moonlit snow you forget yourself. You forget the cold and the distance for home. You forget you are a mere human in all this grandeur, and yet, that is when you realize you are the grandeur, too. The moment you stopped to appreciate all that beauty and silence you became a part of it. Instead of moving through, you moved in. In that moonlit field by the lake you have become, like the wild buckwheat and tall prairie grass, another motionless figure adding to the rich texture of a majestic landscape.

Night Walk: Part IV

Free Bing Photos

There is a low howl in the eaves and an increasingly smaller voice in my mind says, “Stay in”. My coat hangs by the door, ready. My boots neatly coupled together below. It is surprising how quickly a habit can take hold. In just a few weeks it is difficult, even in this bitter cold, to skip the evening stroll. I bundle up tight and step out into the low wind. The snow falling feels wet, but in these temperatures I know it is just the quickness with which it melts upon my warmer face. Though snow falls the moon is apparent behind a thin veil of clouds. The walk begins with the wind at my face and I consider just a short-circuit around the block. I come to the northeast trail and there is a man ahead of me. He does not turn, so I am not sure he sees me. He doesn’t have a dog and, at first, I am very impressed that he is out for a stroll, too. This lasts less than a minute before I find myself mildly disturbed by his presence. Yes, I, who only a few posts ago noted how stuffy we have become hole up in our houses at night. Inwardly I charge, “Who is this rogue to enter MY domain?” I laugh at my own contrariness, as I trail along behind him. There is a tree at this point that appears lit by a fire beneath it. The fence is too high and the slats too tight to see how the effect is achieved, but this snow-capped tree with a light flickering up its trunk is beautiful to behold. When I look back down the lane the man is gone, likely through a side gate, unless of course, he is a changeling. In which case, he turned into a wolf and slipped stealthily into the wooded creek bed to the south. I laugh, but keep my eye on the wood.

I am left alone for the rest of the journey and I breathe deep of the solitude. It is done. The night has spun its magic and I will not turn back now for home.

I am aware I am staving off aging on these nightly walks in a way I had not expected. A curious feeling has settled in. The length of the journeys grows and the time in the wood or field lengthens, too. I have yet to cross over to the lake beyond the marsh, but I feel it coming on. No lights are present on that larger patch of land. A hunger for greater levels of darkness, quiet and solitude has settled into my soul in a way that is difficult to describe. The moon has become a balm that settles a restlessness that so often roams the bony rooms of my head. I see the easy path is to remain inside where it is warm and enjoy cocoa while watching the Christmas lights out the dining room window. Yet there is suddenly a somnolence in that image for me; a story of a coming death.

The night is cold and foggy, while at the same time sharp and vivid. It is stark while blinding. Sound has a curious way of moving across a field or between the trees. Nothing moves, while everything moves, as shadows have a life in them. Like the owl and fox, the darkness stirs a wildness in me. A hardiness is seeping into my veins and enlivening my spirit in the most magical way. I find my heart picking up and even when my toes begin to complain of the cold another drift is upon me and I am calf deep in it. At no other time do I feel quite so connected to the life force of the Earth. Something primitive and deep stirs the moment I leave the threshold of my warm cozy den. Something so fresh and clean, I can taste it landing in the flakes upon my tongue.

Night Walk: Part III

image Free Bing Photos

The skies have just a few wispy clouds accenting a moon a third full. In the distance a blue glow eminates off the Hogbacks now fully swathed in a winter blanket of snow. Stars wink in the depths of the heavens and it is surely a perfect winter’s night.

The moon is enough to cast my shadow long upon the snow. Unfortunately, not bright enough to highlight the black ice leaving me committed to walk on the crunchier, and thus, louder snow. Years of yogic balancing now my only means to avoid landing loudly on my backside as I head down the north path. I fear I’ll see no wildlife tonight, but I am not the only noisy beast out this evening. Children whose parents are dining and drinking in the warmth of the house down the lane have taken to playing on the porch in the Christmas lights. It is clear they delight in hearing their giggles carry across the pond and echo off the houses on the other side.

I shift direction and take the deeper path Northwest and plunge into the eight or so inches of snow. My nose may be frozen but my feet are warm and dry in my trusty winter boots. I pass the house of the spirit fashionistas aglow in white Christmas lights and the ambient warmth of stylish living room lamps. I have been passing this well dressed house with its beautiful furnishings and art work for more than a year. I have never seen a living human inside it or decorating the outside. I have given this an embarrassing amount of effort, craning my neck and walking nearly into their yard. I have come to the conclusion that the ghosts of dead editors for Architectural Digest live there.

Once at the open fields and the marshes the world changes again. Deep snow and black tree trunks pepper the hillside and the moon turns it all into a storybook scene. Shadows of tall, snow-capped cattails break up the marsh in patches of midnight blue and I hear the ice crack on the farthest side. My coyotes are nowhere to be found and in this light I could see a mouse cross the marsh ice. I stay here a long time until my fingers ache with the cold.

Night Walk: Part II

On Christmas the snow had been more ice. It came down tapping the forgotten leaves of fall still hanging on the trees. Tap, tap, tap, but not like rain. More like rice thrown at a wedding, softly. It was the only sound I heard along the trail. Tonight, the ice now lays underneath and my feet crackle as I walk, but the night is much quieter under the fluffier flakes of this snow fall. At first, the cold air has me withdrawn into my coat, but as the trail winds on I slip out further from the hood, a rabbit leaving it’s burrow. The sad tragedy is we have too many lights at night and so it is never truly dark. The wonderful benefit of this sad tragedy is the city lights cause the winter storm clouds to glow. A ghostly sight of orange, gray and cream colored apparitions floating across the sky. I sometimes feel as if I have entered a surrealist’s painting, with the way shadows move at night. As a child, I remember standing very still in a wood, turning my head ever so slightly to make out the shadows along the wooded path I traveled for home. Now, there is so much light, it creates a very different sort of play of shadow both on the snow and along the horizon. Obvious and yet peculiar all at the same time.

The wispy clouds moving steadily eastward are only eclipsed in beauty by the two coyotes who dash across my trail. Unlike foxes, coyotes are not as curious about humans. A fox, if you stop to watch it, will often turn and watch you. Even moving a bit closer to sort you out. Not a coyote. They are wild through and through. It will be mating season soon and the pair travel close together. One almost as black as the night should be and the other like the cattails they run through across the frozen marsh. They stop deeper in the wood and watch me. Cattail doesn’t move and stares back at me. I feel, for some irrational reason, that he must move first. My breath sounds uncommonly loud standing there. I imagine he is listening to every breath, while I pretend to stand a statue. I realize he is much better at this and likely in need of a meal. I am delaying their night hunt, which given the snow may be more work and so I move on.

The night is always the same. It holds the same serene pace it always has had. No, it is me that changes along the path. I grow increasingly peaceful and in harmony with the night and the cold and the slowly falling snow. I wonder at times that I am alone. The nights are so beautiful like this and yet there is not a soul in sight. This possibly, more than anything, has drawn me out again and again each evening, no matter the cold. The night is mine and outside of my coyote friends rarely interrupted. So even as I am perplexed by man’s loss of interest in the mysteries of the night, I am as delighted as a child to have these snowy footfalls all to myself.

The Bench

Couple at Johnston Lake: Photo by Noelle

Couple at Johnston Lake: Photo by Noelle

It is not a loss of passion toward the end. At this level, you appreciate the subtlest gifts of time together. You need do little more than sit in silence enjoying the geese and you are made a bit more whole.

Story in Mud: III: Clarity

Mud: Photo by Noelle

Mud: Photo by Noelle

I touch the surface with my fingers. I find it’s kind of an artist’s Braille. There’s something about the craggy mess, especially when there is moist gooey mud underneath that captivates me. Sometimes I wonder if what I’m really looking for is a picture of Elvis or Jesus to appear. “Look… Don’t you see? Right there next to the half squashed dragonfly and below the willow stick. If you turn your head slightly to the side you’ll see President Putin’s face.”

I don’t know what I’m after honestly. A great masterpiece in earth and water. In my smartphone apps you can clarify a picture, which is to say you can pull forth all of the color and light available in an image with much higher clarity. It doesn’t add what isn’t there or detract, it just shows you the mass of what is available. I’ve had photos of pink and purple mud, blue green and so forth. The camera pulls up the conglomerate of minerals and rock debris in the mud. Sometimes it has algae mixed in or red stone sediment and voila! we have something completely new.

Clarity in all things is like this. The clearer I see myself, circumstances, other people and events, the more I perceive the depth of light and color in each. I see who I am, really, in the presence of all of these other things. I understand the mineral make up of my mud. A great masterpiece in earth and water.

Night Walk

Free Bing Photos

Free Bing Photos

We think splitting an atom is the most powerful thing we humans can figure out or do. I’d argue breaking a habit is. Without focus and discipline changing habitual patterns isn’t just difficult it’s nearly impossible, because the very nature of a habit is you don’t have to think about it, you just do it. This is great for driving to work in the morning, but if you have a habit of eating too much or never giving yourself nice things, it’s a problem not a help. Of interest, however, is inside our well-worn habits is the power of celestial black holes. When we break out of them it’s a bit like releasing the energy of a quasar. This, of late, has become my focus. I’ve challenged myself to break a few of my own.

Tonight I went for winter’s walk. I often step out onto the deck and think I should walk the neighborhood before bed. The air is crisp and clean and it always feels like there’s magic in all that darkness. Invariably though, I talk myself out of it with such pressing matters as there’s lunch to pack for the next day. I’m in cozy socks. It’s late and I have to be up early. I decided tonight I would make a different choice. On death beds all over the world are millions of people lamenting the night walks they never took and the sunsets they forgot to appreciate. That shall not be me, I decided. I left on my cozy socks and slipped on my sneakers.

The air was, as I expected, crisp and almost electric. Christmas lights dot almost every house and as I walked along the lake the colored lights lit the water. I heard the geese commenting on my passing, more than I could actually see them. At this hour, there is so much quiet that the subtlest rustle of leaves could be heard. I held my keys, as even their jingle in my pocket seemed a marching band. What I think may have been an owl flew over my head as I stood on the bridge that crossed the creek. The coyotes in the field beyond the houses announced the start of their night hunt and I listened to them yelp for several minutes before moving down the path into the wood.

To experience the night, it’s movement and its odd manner of light; stars, a crescent moon, street light reflections, is to awaken something truly mystical in your soul. I am certain it was this mystery that so often whispered to me as I stood on the deck. A mystery in me I can only feel when I walk in darkness and allow the sounds of the night to move around me. There’s power in allowing yourself to be partially blind. To accept the way isn’t all that clear past the next few steps. That you can be happy in all the black uncertainty. It’s curious that when we meditate it can feel hard to silence oneself, yet take a walk along a deserted lane at night and it is as if your skull has become the most beautiful chapel, your thoughts saffron wrapped monks bowing to the moon.