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Does the Land Weep for Us?

I just returned from 7 weeks away. I had to leave for a surgery that I was unable to have performed here in town. I stayed with friends in my old haunts of the Bay Area; had Christmas with family; and when I felt well enough to haul my own wood and take care of myself, I returned home to my little cabin in the woods. I’m still not healed enough to hike, or even walk around much, but happy to be back in the wildest lands in lower America.

In California after a few weeks, I began dreaming of home. I flew into the Absarokas in a small plane, landing high up in rugged country. I found elk, moose, and bears living in Marin County so I tracked them. Eagles soared overhead, wolves howled in my dreams in friend’s homes where I stayed. I missed my home and my dreams said so.

DSC00895

Flying in my dreams over this place near my home

I arrived home last night. No moon, the stars crowded the night, shimmering like millions of ice crystals in the sky. This morning some young buck deer came into the yard, looking for corn I’d thrown out for the wild turkeys. The turkeys milled easily around the deer while both fed. At dusk I drove to the flats above the cabin where hundreds of winter elk feed. I knew they’d be there as they are the Lamar migratory herd that arrives in December.

elk moving up the hillside

Lamar migratory herd

It’s getting cold now and I’m back at the cabin, windows closed, when I hear familiar sounds calling faintly outside. The wolf pack is howling, getting ready for their nightly rounds.

(Wolf sounds I recorded last year)

Winter is the best time here. Tourists are gone. Local townspeoples are gone. Even the residents, mostly snow-birds, have left. The valley belongs to the wildlife and their evidence–tracks–is everywhere.

Back in California, I pictured myself walking through my little woods which I like to do on a daily basis. I’ve spent ten years here–appreciating, loving, serving this place and soaking it up with my whole being. And now this tierra and all its surroundings where I’ve wandered, have gotten deep into my blood.

But does the land miss my regard when I’m gone?  In some small way, I like to think it does. But I’m only one person. What the land, and its community of wildlife, was adapted to long ago was a tribal presence that cared, and did ceremonies of thankfulness.

When I lived in California, I learned about how native clans gathered yearly each October to harvest acorns, do ceremonies, dance, give thanks to the trees, find mates amongst the neighboring clans,and tell stories. Some clans had special Oaks they claimed and served. During the rest of the year they’d prune these trees, and clear brush by fire around them. Acorns were their life blood and also the king-pin for forest food of thousands of other animals.

Miwok preparing acorns

But now no one dances nor eats the fruits of the oaks. No one comes to tell stories and give thanks to the trees and the trees suffer with strange invasive diseases. I believe they are suffer from this lack of regard.

Maybe our trees in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, infested with beetles, suffer this loneliness as well.  Scientists study these trees, but perhaps a different approach is necessary for their healthy response. White Bark Pines shared a similar history for the native peoples in our area. Whole encampments centered around White Bark harvests; now those camps are buried and forgotten, and the trees weep with their sap.

Sheep Eater Shoshone harvest site called High Rise Village

Maybe in my absence, my nearby forest missed my presence just a little, as I missed it.

 

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3 Responses

  1. Welcome back, Leslie, hope you are soon able to continue your wanderings in the mountains. Hope to see you soon.

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  2. Acorns, especially from the black oak family, are hard to process to make them edible. I tried once and gave up. Acorns are packed with bitter tannic acids. The tannic acids need to be leached out by soaking them or boiling them in water, then continuously dumping the water out. It’s a long process, and I just got tired of having to boil and dump out the water. They were getting less bitter, though.

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