On the Trail & ‘Round the Campfire

Welcome to my little diversion from the daily grind. Pull up a log or, just sit on yer’ fist and lean back on yer’ thumb (put a smiley face here) and let’s share a moment. I’ll throw another blog in the fire every now and then and, we’ll chew the fat about such mundane things as birds, nature, cowboys and the southwest, USA. I may even wax poetic or philosophical occasionally, but always honoring our creator. If you like something you read, please leave yer’ tracks.

Spirit of Place

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—Some esoteric thoughts and intro to a nature poem

What is there about a certain place that we feel its influence pressing on our spirit? What are the elusive influences that make themselves felt along a faded trail rising from the desert floor to the piney woods? What particular spirit seems to color our mood or quicken our feeling of existence? Are they not the guardians of our very being, the sentinels of our longing?

Why do the rugged mountains seem deep in thought, solemn in the wind, overlooking dark arroyos and brooding canyons and bleak cliffs rising in the morning sun from a purple edge to a high blue sky—a barren blueness like huge wings of sapphire arced overhead.

The nature of wilderness is the continuous expression of its spirit. The spirit of place is the connectedness of our past, not a ghost or apparition or wind spirit, but a sense or feeling—a connection and sensation—an awareness and recognition.

No trail to follow, I had hiked since early morning up the, rugged, shaded canyon. (Snow Creek; no longer accessible) My destination, 7000 feet above the desert floor (Mount San Jacinto Peak is 10,000 feet). At mid-day I paused in the saddle of a mountain swale covered with chaparral and clumps of red manzanita. The narrow saddle offered a relief from the steep climb and the breeze was refreshing. I scanned the towering alpine walls of the escarpment ahead and had this momentary feeling of hesitation. The canyon route quickly becomes a steep narrow chute between shear walls and spires. One slip can pummel a body into submission.

NolinaSuddenly, I was distracted by the appearance of a golden eagle, screaming as if shot straight out of the mountain. Skidding across my eyes, it banked and soared on the updraft. Reaching the crest of the mountain, surfing the sky back and forth it then plummeted out of sight over the horizon, leaving a contrail of silence and mystery, of spirit and presence. How many times had it been here on its circumpolar migrations? Indeed, the majesty and strength of eagles and mountains, all such wild sounds and movements give meaning to the spirit of place. And then, glowing backlit in the sun, the yucca-like Nolina, scattered about in spectacular bloom, seemed to suddenly appear as gigantic candles of yellow flames. Nature poems: BardSongs and Seasons

I left the faint animal trail of mountain sheep and deer and wound my way higher up to a dripping spring toward the summit. It was the trickle of musical waters, between lichen covered rocks and lush green ferns and moss that beckoned me. Tuned by the surging breeze, the waters and sound of whispering Coulter Pines above, invited me to sit on a flat rock, overlooking mountains of eternity. As I was enjoying the natural opus, the spirit of place began pressing in—an awareness of connection. Could it be that I was the first to ever sit on this rock, the first on this exact spot? Is mine the only ear to ever capture such notes, or, my eye to ever trace such a scene?

The nature of true wilderness is felt by its indigenous expression, a spirit of place. Wild as its animals, forests and rocks, there may yet be islands substantially unaltered by human intervention. I wondered, are there any original corners of earth that still persist despite human intrusion? Am I sitting on one?

And then, off to my right I discovered a small hut-like enclosure of stones made by an ancient aboriginal Indian. Evidently a blind, built for shooting mountain sheep or deer with a bow and arrow at close range; meat on the hoof that frequented the dripping spring, or, that other hunters drove up toward the summit. I pondered the spot where I sat and felt a kindred spirit of presence and survival with those before me. I knew that I was not the first.

So, what is this spirit of genesis—the desire of being first? Is it not a desire to experience our roots? What is there about a certain place that we feel its influence pressing on our spirit? What are the elusive influences of nature that make themselves' felt? Is it not the majesty and strength of eagles and mountains and the Creators Spirit itself—is it not all the wild sounds and movements that our ancestors experienced that give meaning to the spirit of place? Are they not the guardians of our very being, the sentinels of our longing? ... Is it not "an endless journey" yet to be fulfilled?"

© Ed Keenan

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