Look how far we've come. Luckily I was saved by the grips of the wild savagery of the West.
The word sylvan refers most directly to a setting associated with the woods. Reflecting on the vigorous life that abounds in sylvan settings is a very powerful force in my life. For me, this word evokes feelings of transcendence, clarity, and unity.
A Sylvan Dream is a dynamic compilation of my life dream. It is an attempt to seek out and document the truth, beauty, and clarity that exists in this world.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
It was priceless and cliche all at once. The most beautiful sunrise of my life awaited me around the corner one morning as I came into a clearing on Hwy 101 passing through Olympic National Park along Lake Crescent with Mt. Storm King in the distance. Now, I have been witness to a myriad of breathtaking sunrises, but this one was just beyond majestic.
While working at Olympic Park Institute, I had began to loosely time my commute to work with the sunrise in the early summer. Some days I rode my mountain bike down a gravel road to the bus stop, while other mornings I rode it the other direction four miles along the lakeshore to a canoe that would take me, or some days several of us along with our bikes, across the lake to work. Some days we would canoe the whole distance from our house to work, never quite sure whether a placid fog or three-foot rollers would meet us along the way. And of course, we would drive some days as well. This morning I drove.
Above the shadow of a coniferous canopy, twilight was breaking into a peachy indigo as dust swirled behind my car. It looked to be a little early, so I drove on a little unexpectantly.
As I pulled over along the lakeshore and pulled out my camera I couldn’t help but smile, stand, stare, and scream a little. I might have cried, or at least now in the fiction of my memory there were tears involved. What else can you ask for in life when the day entrusts to you such an intimate and virtually transcendent view of reality?
When I wonder about the existence of heaven, I like to imagine myself high in the mountains amidst a field of wildflowers, beneath an endless sunrise whispering the promise of a new beginning. But then again, here it is, right before me.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
It has taken me quite some time to finally find the time, energy, and inspiration to get back to what I love more than most things. This year has brought me perhaps the most upheaval I have experienced, at least since days of adolescence. I have a child, a beautiful daughter now, a wonderfully loving and amazing wife, a job that promises the potential flourishing of many dreams, and I am in a place that will continually push me to seek out this path I began on who knows when.
Several times I left the Olympic Peninsula of Washington with trepidation, wondering if I could handle life away from there. On the Peninsula I feel at home, which, for me, is a place where no explanation of my beliefs or actions are necessary. It is a place where I feel understood, accepted, and encouraged to follow whatever path I perceive before me. I thought perhaps I could take this mentality and way of life with me elsewhere in hopes that I could spread this feeling to people in other areas of our country. This proved to be rather challenging. I found each time I left, something was missing immediately. Realizing this, I began to reflect on how the environment in which we live influences who we become, how we treat each other and ourselves, etc. I found that the environment in Washington tempered many people who live there in a way that seemed to fit me best. Lush, really lush vegetation shrouded by gray clouds, the peppering of storms and rain with fleeting moments of sunshine - it is in my heart and soul, part of my daily thoughts, yet I struggled to take that love anywhere else.
Now, I live in New Jersey, and I teach science in a high school only 20 miles from the Big Apple, and I am finally finding a time and place in which I am able to retain the life I relish in Washington. The hope is that I will be able to share some of that life, that Sylvan Dream, with those around me here. There are perspectives of life I don't believe we get until we look outward and deeply inwards. When I see some first glimmers of smiles of knowing wonder in the people around me, I feel some of the lush rain from the West falling inside me.
In this new place and time, I am finding I am learning and growing together as a part of something larger and very special as a father and a husband. Look where dreams take us...
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Listening mainly to her nose and occasionally my voice, our pointer, Sierra, runs through the fields with a directed abandon that brings me liberating delight. She circles back around to me from time to time, breathing heavier than I can imagine doing myself. She’s a huge pointer. As she runs past, a rooster tail of mud sprays behind her, her feet pounding the ground like a horse.
For a few minutes as the sun rises on Little Conewago Valley, everything is cast in a warm glow. The glistening cornstalks throw long shadows across the crunchy soil, and ice crystals form on the hairs just below my nose.
Watching Sierra run out ahead of me, my eyes follow the land to the north towards the hills where our burnt house waits to be demolished. I know I am home here, but don't always feel it with the people. My wanderings and lifestyle have brought me to appreciate a calm and welcoming demeanor. However back in Pa, I often pass awkward and cold conversations with most people. I try to remain warm and welcoming, but jeez is it ever tough to do so with someone so gruff and short as a clerk in a super market or a nine-fingered man cutting trees off his land in the woods I grew up hunting on.
Last week my sister and I took a walk in the woods. I don’t know the last time we walked through these woods together, but it is highly likely that neither of us were yet into our teens. We walked up the deeply rutted jeep trail that served as a perfect luge track for us in the snowy winters of the 90’s, and passed the rusty refuse fridge – a well-known landmark on these trails that has been there my whole life. We spliced together a walk of several miles between jeep and deer trail, circling the land we know, sharing stories of the places we passed.
Approaching our favorite hunting spot, we diverged to the trees we spent so much time in. The triple tree, a spray of three oak trees where Tiff and my dad used to hunt across from me, was now a triple stump with sprays of new growth coming up around it. The double tree where I hunted the most was now a single tree, its sibling just a stump as well. Standing directly beneath the tree I could see the black hook sticking out from the main trunk about 25 feet up where I used to hang my bow in waiting. Tiff and I pointed out some of the spots Dad used to position scent canisters around the deer trail that passed between our trees, and then waded through the next generation of head high saplings towards the jeep trail. Much of this land was beginning to enter a rather mature status as a mixed hardwood and hemlock forest. However, these woods are also quite valuable. Each year I come home, I find freshly cut stumps in some section of forest. The briars thicken for a few years as the saplings race skywards and then take over just in time for another round of their larger contemporaries to disappear to the needs of humanity.
Watching the forests change like this has made me quite sad in the past, but I am beginning to feel rather numb to the whole process. However, this scares me more. Nonetheless, there is much to enjoy.
Standing beneath a small hemlock I once sat under for a whole day during college, I told my sister how I feel there are these pockets of time and place in these hills that make everything hum in an almost silent unison. It is then I feel the quiet I seek. I would love to have a minimal shelter here in this one spot, so I could watch these woods change more closely.
Even better yet, I like to envision a small environmental education center here where the local school students come and learn about the forests, their history, and their heritage. I like to tell myself, if I had a place like this here in Pa, maybe then I could return with ease.
For now, it is back to the magic of the Pacific Northwest, the Olympic Mountains, Lake Crescent, and LeSage for another year in paradise. I can’t say how excited I am to return to what is for now, undeniably my home.
Friday, December 4, 2009
From the beach:
I have always loved coconuts, and when I was in Australia I climbed the trees every chance I had to get some fresh ones. Feeling satiated by some fresh coconut milk immediately after arriving to Playa de los Muertos, I set up my hammock and settled in. In the shade of some whispering coconut trees, I had one of those moments that you know will stick with you.
Pelicans were sunning themselves atop the rocks overlooking the waves reeking havoc on the otherwise quiet beach, fragile frigate birds cruised high above the trees on thermals, occasionally bombing into the surf for small fish. Drifting in and out of sleep, at one point I remember looking around at the few other lucky people who had found this small beach and just thinking, "Wow, I have three more weeks to do nothing but this if that is what I want. Dis is a good life."
In the City:
On the subway one afternoon in Mexico City on my way back to Lindsey and Carolyn's apartment in Tlalpan, I was impressed by the diversity of ways people cruised the subway cars scraping out a living, or maybe not. People with speakers in their backpacks played homemade mixes of anything from salsa to Christmas carols, classic rock to classic orchestral. Other people walked around selling small bags of candy or packets of gum. The going price for most items was rarely more than 5 pesos, that's less than 50 cents. Some played beautiful songs on a guitar then walked around asking for spare change. Others took it to the nth degree, circumventing a 'fair' exchange or even guilt, and moving straight to shocking pity with self mutilation.
As one guitarist made his way onto the next car, I watched a boy and a girl about my age walking towards and past me as I clung to the railing over my head. The black wife-beater the girl was wearing said 'Puerto Vallarta Pirates' in faded white letters. The boy wore a white wife-beater and held a flannel shirt with some contents in it like a sack. I noticed huge, fresh scars on his shoulder, some with dry beads of blood still on them. The girl started spouting out a well-rehearsed pitch, and the boy dropped his sack to the ground with a clinking sound. I looked over, and there were some coins in the sack, mostly mixed with a pile of glass shards. I then realized where the scars had come from. As the girl told a story I mostly didn't understand in Spanish, I did manage to understand something to the effect of, "We have nothing else to do, all we have left is our body, and we are willing to cut it if you will help us." The boy sat on the subway floor and slammed his shoulder into the pile twice. It seemed a solemn shutter pulsed through the onlookers. As the car came to a halt, they picked up the sack of shards and coins, and walked around with their hands out. A lady my parents age dropped a 10 peso coin in the sack. That's about 80 cents.
Monday, October 12, 2009
So, here are two photos that I thought were rather awesome the other day. I was hiking with a group of Seattle kids, and this buck walked up to us, and I saw I could frame Olympus in the background. The quality isn't the best, but it is pretty cool!
Sunday, August 2, 2009
A momentous occasion last night – the northern lights. A group of us sat around a small fire on the lakeshore, picking out constellations, satellites, and shooting stars. As the sun passed barely beneath the horizon to the north, green bands stretched out tendrils reaching skyward. They were subtle in presence and motion, undulating faintly, and flowing like a creek across a beach. As one tendril would diminish into the horizon, another would rise at its side. After less than ten minutes they subsided, leaving just the faint luminescence of the lurking sun, teasing the night of its ensuing return.
And now this morning, things are distinctly calm, or perhaps it is just my mind that has subsided into the current of the life around me. I sit in the middle of the field here at work, nearly surrounded by forest, the lakeshore glassy-calm in front of me. A doe picks her way through the salal along the edge of the field. The voice of a brown creeper falls from the heights of a doug-fir like a lazy clump of moss. Various crossbills pipe away atop the conifers, and I strain to decipher their distinct calls. There are possibly four subspecies of this bird here, each with slightly distinct vocalizations, and each with a slightly different crossed bill, which is specialized to prying open the differently sized cones of the various native conifers.
As I stare into the treetops, picking out, identifying, and observing birds, at moments it becomes silent enough that the faint tapping of the tiny white flower petals dropping from the wilting bush fifteen feet away is all I hear. Like most things so delicate, the silence is ephemeral, and seconds later it gives way to the restless crossbills. Only hours after watching the northern lights dance below Polaris, the silent sunrise explodes across the mountainside, welcomed by an awaiting chorus of birds. I can feel time dissolve into a stream of unimportance. I watch the sunrise drift down towards the lake. My eyes wander to the swallows as they swirl around. Orange ripples dance across the lake, and soon a soft breeze accentuates the crisp turns in the swallows’ flight.
Once the sun peaks above the mountains on this side of the lake and washes the field in daylight, the birds quiet down and focus on foraging. Once again time slowly precipitates upon the day as people emerge from their cabins full of sleep and wander to the dining hall for coffee.
Regardless of their duration, experiences such as these remind me that so much endlessly awaits us. I believe I can find no better way to find the power latent in each day than to seek these moments, for once they have passed, it seems only then we realize they can scarcely be described as a moment at all.