Sacred Camouflage

 

Last night I slept out at Valley of the Rogue State Park in southern Oregon, a place of merry adventure as the handsome name implies. That land has particular sentiment to me, the first place my tribal outdoor school camps as it caravans to the south every February, the expanse of the arid wilds under the milky way mountains. Setting up camp alone on this night, I turned away from the flickering lights of the unknown travelers and chose instead the dark, unoccupied place where my friends and I laid seven months previous. People have a way of leaving the scent of their spirit like a loving ghost in the lands they pass through.

The night was drawing down as I pulled in to pay. Clouds were rapidly gathering though the night lingered at 68 degrees fahrenheit. I set up my tarp and sleeping bag between a grove of low hanging conifers, Doug Fir and Incense Cedar. My tarp is brown, brown as the ground, blending in. Alone without light I swallow a portion of food and water and I lay down, satisfied and free in my element.

I have become more of a scout than I realize. I awaken soon to a bright artificial light illuminating my tarp in its shadows, hearing the nearby voices of two bewildered men, “Where is she? Not in that tiny car, but there’s no tent!” It was the rangers come around to check the sites for payment. I was invisible in my low brown tarp and sparse conifer grove behind a barricade of Manzanita. After basking in amusement a moment I revealed myself to their relief and humbled apologies.

A few weeks ago, on a night after acting in a scouting scenario for the teens at their overnight camp, I was walking back down to my yurt. There are no street lights in this rural and wooded neighborhood, but starlight lit the path around me. At once a car came speeding down the drive, approaching too quickly, and I knew they could not see me on the road in the darkness. Without thinking I dove into the thicket beside the road to avoid getting run over, hoping also to avoid being seen jumping off the road so comedically. I can feel the surprising speed and grace of that moment as I think back on it, the fluid rush of right movement without stopping to think, allowing my instincts to take over bodily coordination, right hand lifting the hem of my cloak over my face to conceal my identity, like a polar bear covering it’s black nose in the snow. I rolled aside from the road with an unexpected, effortless lightness of body, and I became small and unseen as the behemoth lights sped past.

“And you were comfortable in it, too,” Grandma pointed out when I told her the story.

That light, it was a kind of darkness, whereas the natural darkness became my light by which I saw. In wilderness scouting, the night becomes a cloak of belonging. Like an animal you become fluid with the day and the night, a member of both elements in a sacred way.

 

 

Journal entry from September 3rd, 2013

 

 

image source: pixabay license

In Search of Us Creatures

Though I have come to love the night, I remain a creature of the day. I am happy to see you, Light, familiar guide! You parted the watery seal of my blind infant eyes. Through you, in many angles, I see the beautiful world. In night you come to us, too, in small glimmers of stars so that we learn to see in the dark. We have all loved light from the time of our ancestors’ fins, climbing out of the ocean womb onto land.

Some landscapes I never had to learn to love as a separate thing outside of myself. They were a part of my cosmology from the start. The morning light fluttering the oaks and the pines, spilling over wheat-grass hills, my valley’s rivers, unassuming neighborhoods anointed with a secret glow in the desert dawn. As a child I did not have words to describe what I knew: the presence of something profoundly beautiful and holy infusing my encounter with the humble everyday-world. Before the time of consciousness thought, I saw there is a brightness that hums within things.

I remember thinking, in my later childhood, what if it is not only the Light itself, but what it touches that makes it so beautiful? The light and the land are always delighting in each other’s company. The hallowed forest, land-and-sea-creatures, the quiet soil all call out to you, Light, to come find us and fill us with your warmth and strength. Give us visible form, so that we know each other.

If the cosmos were without matter or form, what would give the Light his own lovely face if he had nothing to touch, and so nothing to reflect his beauty? Light’s glory and colors are seen when reflected in the physical world. Maybe that is why God is always in search of us creatures.

 

 

image: Creative Commons CC0

A New Kind of Top Predator

 

Walking out to my sit spot last night in the dark, I listen to what is around me, and what is in me. An excitement and subtle fear surfaces, and I ask myself what I am afraid of. Of course the dark is still spooky. But I am one of the top predators, I assure myself. My back straightens. The Big Cat and I have a treatise to keep our distance. We are equally terrified of each other, and for that, we have sworn to not see each other as prey. Then another thought, one that makes me weak in the knees for the love of it, like a treasure remembered. I turn my face upward to the lighter ribbon of starry sky through the canopy, and I know that I have been given a great gift, a birthright. I am of that species of top predator, the only of its kind, who has the ability to choose it’s actions compassionately, to employ forethought and empathy in my predation. Yes, I eat meat. Yes, my species currently rules the whole world, and not often with our better selves. But we can choose: that is what sets us apart. A feeling of entwined humility and power came through me, and I was thankful, and at peace.

 

Photo by Unsplash. Public Domain. Pixabay.com