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.
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.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Mid summer. Sheesh, where is the time going?
Hiking out the valley we stopped to watch trout in the alpine lakes while picking out the songs of many birds around us. Our conversations were punctuated by moments spent in silence listening to the ethereal water-like song of the hermit thrush. To me, there is no sound that compares to the song of a thrush in the mountain meadows amidst the wildflowers of the summer.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
This morning I went through my usual routine. I woke up in the twilight to the soft keeer of an endangered Marbeled Murrelet filtering down through the blanket of clouds hovering halfway above up the mountains. The reflection across the lake was so still I could make out individual trees in the calm.
After a breakfast of barley, quinoa, oatmeal, goat yogurt, honey, apples, currants, and mate, I stretched out with some yoga, and hopped on my bike to head down the road. I pedaled slowly down the gravel road, across a steel bridge, and then up into the forest, along the Spruce Railroad Trail. This is an old railroad that was built during WWI to transport spruce from the coast so it could be used in the planes that were in high demand in Europe at the time. The war ended before the railroad was finished, and now the tracks have been removed and a small overgrown bike trail exists in it place. Along the five miles I bike on my way to work, I pass through forests of doug-fir three and four feet wide. From time to time the trail descends to the emerald lake shore. The water quickly drops off into sapphire depths.
Once I get to the canoe that is hidden under some trees directly across the lake from OPI, I usually just stop and lock my bike, but this morning as I was slowing down, a bird of prey dropped out of the trees and glided directly in front of me for awhile, before curling up into the trees above. It was a Barred Owl fledgling! It landed maybe thirty feet from me up in the trees, and let out a little wispy squeal like I have never heard. Another one answered it from further in the forest. I watched them fly around for awhile, eyeing me up from time to time with bobbing heads, and finally after they made their way upslope and out of sight, I hopped into the canoe and headed across the lake.
On my way across the lake I watched barn swallows swirl around above the water. A kingfisher made a lazy arc up in the air, and landed up higher in a tree along the lake shore, while a deer reached up high with hits neck outstretched to graze some doug-fir buds. What can I really complain about?
Friday, June 26, 2009
Last night I moved into the downstairs master bedroom of my house since it became available in the last two weeks. This is a large room, with 4 bay windows facing the lake. The walls are white and pocked all over with thumb tack holes. I decided to move down into this room in an attempt to give myself more time alone, more out of necessity to write than anything else. LeSage is a very social house, and this is one good way I can find some space to focus my thoughts and energies a little more comprehensively.
I spent last night hanging my posters and maps - A Geologic Tapestry of North America, a World Map, and a Wonderful Map of Washington. A large print by Caspar David Friedrich, one of my favorite realists. Two Monet paintings, and then a ton of 8x10's of my favorite photos from Pa, Co, Wa, NM, and Nicaragua. My walls are now covered with colorful memories of inspiration.
I woke up this morning to the beep of my cell phone battery dying. I left it on accidentally over night, and we don't get signal here. I stood up on my bed to look out across the lake, and as I scanned the colors rippling softly in a calm breeze, my eyes fell upon a Bald Eagle by the water's edge. Perched upon a piling, it was finishing the last bits of a small fish it caught. Things were calm and beautiful. This room might be nearly perfect for me.
Pictures to follow.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
At first I thought I saw a Stellar’s Jay bobbing through the wind high above the lake, but then as it curled its wings into it chest and spiraled into a sharp dive I called out, “Eagle diving outside.” I pointed to it through the sliding glass windows as the friends I live with quickly came over to the window. Higher than I had ever seen a bald eagle soaring above the lake, this eagle had spotted a small trout near the surface of the water more than five hundred feet below. Spiraling several times and leveling out to control its speed, we watched at it dove past a backdrop of steep mountains. The dive was long enough for me to get my binoculars on it and watch its feet plunge into the lake. I saw no fish thrashing in its talons as it turned and labored towards the shore, but its bright yellow feet hung below it the hole way across the lake.
I watched the eagle slowly cross to the edge of the lake and turn west. It was climbing harder than usual, making me think it was headed to somewhere specific farther above the lake, perhaps a nest. Perhaps it did have more success than I could see from a mile across the lake. After making several switchbacks above the forest canopy, the eagle abruptly turned into the forest and swooped up to a dark mass hanging on the side of a huge cedar several hundred feet above the lake. We have a nesting pair of eagle just across the lake from where I am living!
We knew they nested on the lake here, but no one I have worked with has known the whereabouts of a nest. I waited fifteen years to see my first bald eagle staring down at me from its perch atop an old hemlock in the Little Pine Creek drainage near Lock Haven, Pa, and now through my binoculars I can see one or two heads bobbing above the massive brown nest far above the shimmering surface of Lake Crescent. Below the nest, logging trucks heavy with our timber boom down the road as it snakes along the lakeshore. Impatient locals scoot past the #14 Transit Commuter between Forks and P.A. Sometimes we can see tourists parked along the road snapping pictures of the Lake Crescent Valley. I feel very fortunate to live in such a place, but I also feel it should be a fortune more people can experience.
Park laws have grandfathered these houses into existence inside the boundaries of the National Park. However, in a long-term plan, the Park Service slowly acquires houses from families looking to sell. Many of these houses get torn down, and native saplings are planted after the land has been wiped clean of domestic remnants. We are lucky to live in one of these amazing houses that have been retained by the Park Service. Named after a previous owner who married into the Belford family, we call this amazing octagonal house Lesage, and more recently some of us have taken to calling it the Rocktagon.
Some Friday nights we educators stand around a fire aside the lakeshore and share stories from the week over some drinks. On good nights, some of us leave our clothes behind for the freedom of the icy lake water. I recently made a three-man slingshot to rekindle a love for projectiles I can’t deny. However, this time a little more maturity and a lake full of water and rocks make this endeavor much more innocent than my juvenile years.
I have a room upstairs in the back of the house, but I fall asleep most nights in my sleeping bag, staring out the sliding glass door leading out to our deck. When the weather isn’t completely terrible, I try to sleep outside as much as possible. Each month I await the waxing moon. Sometimes I sit up for hours waiting for it to rise above the mountains across the lake. I trace the constellations I know and try to gage the time as the big dipper rotates around the North Star until finally white light begins to dance through the trees. A white streak dances across the calmly rippling water, and it soon is bright enough to walk around Lesage by moonlight alone. On these nights, four deer often bed down in the grassy lawn by the lakeshore, and ducks can be seen nearby. In my opinion, there is no finer time or place to be when I am staring up at a full moon from this house, on this lake, within these majestic mountains.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Rain whispers through the roof. Even though it is late May, it is raining like March. Marbles of exploding rain scatter across the deck. Deep blue twilight makes my eyelids heavy as I trace the reflection of the mountains across the lake. Seurat could pock a canvas no finer. As calming as this all is, birds and bees are bouncing around inside me. The eye of spring has opened with the awakening trillium along the trail. The fuscia salmonberry blossoms have the hummingbird flashing through tendrils of misty sun in the early morning. The wren has been singing her demanding song tirelessly in the depths of the forest for too long, and now with the tanager taking his post in the tops of the doug-firs, it is time for this rain to end.
Visiting the east coast this spring during my birthday was quite a pleasant tease. Not only do I look around getting glimpses of the tardy season, but also now subtle banalities remind me of the pleasant awakening I found there. Tired of hugging my knees to my chest as I stare out the window, the expanse of this continent has become more evident, and again I am tempted to migrate towards this wonderful feeling.
It has been a great winter, and a lazy but heartening spring. Despite the distance, I feel her within me, solid as a mountain reclining across the landscape. Those curves my body has explored, my fingertips now impatiently retrace. With the clearing of the skies I feel freshness only a new day can bring. The reflection across the lake shimmers as clear as the dark pools of her eyes.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
From time to time I think I will post some passages from his poems that strike those membranes deep inside and sound the depths I have been searching for years.
Mi vida, no hallaras
en el pozo en que caes
lo que yo guardo para ti en la altura:
un ramo de jazmines con rocio,
un beso mas profundo que tu abismo.
This poem is part of 'el pozo' the rest of the poem is beautiful as well, but this section made me sit back and think. I keep for you a kiss deeper than your abyss - what a wonderful use of words to show someone how you feel you could fill any abyss within them with nothing but the love in a true kiss.
A bouquet of dewy jasmines - what a beautiful image. I have no clue what it could have meant to Neruda, but how beautiful. I love dew. It evokes for me a sense of morning awareness, and a freshness that only a new morning can bring.
Monday, April 13, 2009
However, at the moment, I am in Winston-Salem, NC visiting a friend I met in Peru. I turned 26 yesterday. The past several years I have taken pictures of all the flowers I can find, but yesterday we drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway, winding through early spring in the oak and pine ridges of Appalachia. We stopped at Mt. Mitchell, highest place east of the Mississippi, where at roughly 6680 feet we had a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains for long distances.
Spring awakens my spirit every year reminding me who I am, and how vibrant life is. A new leaf, delicate and bright green, slowly unfurling as it bounces around in the warm spring breeze stirs something within me as I stare. It is a feeling that, to me, just feels like perfection.
After several weeks of watching the catkins growing and swelling to an arousing shade of red on the alders along the lakeshore, it finally happened. The leaf buds swell as the pollen tassles lengthen. The chickadees dangle from the branch tips inspecting for larvae poking their black heads from the buds. Then, one day a memory of a song echoes across seasons, and spring is really here. I hear the first excited song of a yellow-rumped warbler coming from the top of a doug-fir standing high next to the lakeside alders. After arriving from somewhere in California or further south, they begin blocking out a territory with their ethereal voice while frantically gleaning larvae and hatching insects from the awakening alder trees.
Within a few days of their arrival, the catkins open, casting powdery waves of condensed sunlight through the warming air. The wind gathers the pollen in streaks across the lake, sometimes reaching several miles unbroken. This year, the catkins on the large alder next to the boathouse opened the day after the warbler arrived at Lesage. I live on the North shore of the lake, where sun is much more abundant, and spring comes a few days earlier. On the South shore of the lake where I work on Barnes Point at OPI, winter holds on a little longer in the shade of Aurora Ridge and Mt. Storm King. The warblers didn't show up there for another 5 days.
With each free day I have, I sit for hours on the deck at Lesage, watching the awakening. The kokanee snatch stoneflies from the surface of the water, while those that escape into the air glitter in the sunlight like snowflakes returning to winter clouds. Stellars Jays hawk through the trees, and tear clumps of moss from the maple branches in search of the recently emerged large black beetles that I have yet to identify. Sometimes I think that I could live forever in the vibrance of this season.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Some days I may be drawn into the forest, and find myself staring at a moss-laden conifer wider than my childhood bedroom that towers above from a rooted foundation that predates the ‘discovery’ of North America. These trees teach me a lot about true steadfastness in life. Other days, from a canoe I may watch a small yet zealous stream plunge into the lake, spreading rocks it washes from the mountainside into the lake, rocks that were previously washed into the oceans some fifty million years ago. Then after ages of slumbering below the ocean floor, an ongoing dispute between two tectonic plates scraped these sediments back up onto the edge of the continent some twenty million years ago, leaving the Olympic Mountains. Streams like this remind me of what immense growth can come with change.
Today, I find myself staring out the window of the café where I sit overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and watch a small sailboat bob like a tired seagull in the tide. I scan the restless water for aberrant signs of life. I track the birds cruising in the ebbing tide in hopes of seeing one previously unknown to me. Turning from the window after many minutes, the empty seat across from me momentarily takes me back to where two years ago I sat sharing this view with someone who is no longer here with me. I flinch, and stare back out the window, wondering what place pain has in all this...
Punctuated by sweet sips of white lavender tea, I watch movement around me, but eventually I notice my attention lapping back to the bobbing hull of the small, solitary green and white sailboat as it circles around its mooring a hundred yards offshore. It circles, and circles, never discerning, just circling. In these moments, I am glad I have friends on the water, for they help me realize many things in this world are forever adrift. We may have some say where we go if we are aware of the world around us, but the flow is there to take us along, not to be controlled.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I will get to posting some reflections soon, but until then, there are some words that I read back in high school, again in college, and were shared with me again back in June that now encapsulate some of the pinnacle views I have been experiencing for awhile now. More coming soon! Oh! These words are from the Bhagavad Gita. Read it!
Thinking about sense-objects
Will attach you to sense-objects;
Grow attached, and you become addicted;
Thwart your addiction, it turns to anger;
Be angry, and you confuse your mind;
Confuse your mind, you forget the lesson of experience;
Forget experience, you lose discrimination;
Lose discrimination, and you miss life's only purpose.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Today marks one month that I have been back in the states, and all that matters is after spending 4 very important weeks with family and very dear friends across the country from Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Colorado, to my home here in Washington it is clarity I see surrounding me. It is a clear vision of who I am, and what I want for this life, and this world.
I do not know why, but I have always felt inspired to live a life experiencing new things, from braiding bracelets as a 6 year old, to catching my first native trout as a 15 year old, to throwing pots on a pottery wheel after my science classes at Bucknell, to shooting my first deer with a longbow on my terms in Colorado…There is always something more to learn, something compelling me to search for something that doesn’t bore me in short order. For most of my life, renaissance has meant something much different to me. It has meant simply amassing skills to create things that are useful in my life.
Now, with Peru in memory, I do feel very much like I have been reborn into my country, and I am in love with this life, this opportunity, each moment, every blink. It feels like a true renaissance. Not a sea change, but a long awaited arrival.
I do not know what I will write on this blog this coming spring. The only culture shock I am really recognizing at this point in my readjustment to the U.S. is how I view communication and communicate with people differently than I used to. So, I am going to take some time to think about how I use this website and my writing to communicate this sylvan dream. There is much to come. I am living in a place where my life feels balanced between my mind, body and spirit, and in the balance of these three elements of my life, I feel my light, my love, and joy becoming amplified into pure energy, shining on my surroundings. I wake up in the morning excited to throw back the cover of my sleeping bag, and watch the coming of another day fade from the stars that glitter on the shimmering lake outside my house.
I am also having trouble keeping in touch right now. A phone feels useless to me, and my energy for writing e-mails has waned. It will return, but for now, I hope you all will contact me, and not take my aloofness as nothing more than an indication of how content I am in each moment right here, right now. I want to share this place with you all, but e-mail is not going to do the job. Come out here and love a little bit of this life with me.