Of Moose and Meditation
James Audubon observed, "When the bird and the book disagree, believe the bird." The book says moose eat the same way giraffes do, with their heads up high, plucking willow leaves, but I watched a cow standing up to her belly in a swamp sucking grasses and water for a long time, like a horse grazing. I read that line from Audubon in monk Jack Kornfield's book on meditation, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.
While I was staring silently at moose, and the places I hoped moose would suddenly appear -- and they do materialize, it seems, out of nowhere, impossibly silent and invisible in the approach, I realized this is a mediation too. There we sit, in a tree stand or on some slough, or in a buggy snarl of alder trying not to slap mosquitoes and biting flies (they are are tenacious, and have survived the frosts) giving up hope, then, "shh-- a moose" we whisper or just mouth and point and lift binocs, as carefully as possible to take a closer look.
I laughed when I heard Sally on the radio explain the trick of determining a legal bull with the antler restrictions of our hunt-- three brow tines, a spike or fork, fifty inches wide-- she said it practically means catching one and tying it up to be certain.
Karl, the state biologist, said it best at the pre-hunt informational meeting, noting that one reason for the restrictions, is so we can have more fun hunting, and do it longer. With over 200 permits, and a harvest goal of 20 bulls or so, this means it really is more of a hunt than a shoot, and that's fine with me. A woman could do worse than spend time in the woods with a purpose.
So while my friends were in a meditation workshop this weekend, I was in one of sorts too. I spent of lot of time watching and listening to this little creek, and thinking about water, and rivers flowing, and life and why trusting the current is probably better than fighting it. Another time I focused on a leaf and a drop of water clinging to it, and waited for one or the other to drop- but neither one did. Was the water drop holding tight? The leaf? No-- there were simply "being" as the Buddhists say, and there was strength and endurance in that.
I know, that's a lot of thinking, but that is what happens when you tread quietly and look and wait and listen for hours, and sometimes it takes a day, or two to settle into that mind set, and when it happens, there's a peace and a kind of courage that comes from being at home in the wild world.
I am reading Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons and his stories of life in the mountains of North Carolina in the early 1800s are remarkably relevant to camping and hunting in Haines today. (We can only stare at leaves so long, so reading helps us stay in the tree stand.) It rained half of one day, and Chip produced an umbrella to keep our books dry. I smiled, and said I bet we are the only hunters with an umbrella, and then right after that, I read how Frazier's hero strapped an umbrella onto his back pack, noting it may look funny, but it kept him dry.
There have been fourteen bulls taken so far, so we may have another weekend at camp. That's why I'm making sure I go to the play, about the tragic sinking of the Princess Sophia a hundred years ago this fall in Lynn Canal, on Thursday night at 7:00 in the Chilkat Center. It should be great.