Previously, I described how a wealthy third grade friend sparked a love of nature within me. She led me through woods, across swamp, and to the bank of a river that were all part of her family’s property, and I found them every bit as voluptuous as the mansion that fronted their land. Then I had the great fortune to spend summers at my grandfather’s cabin in the Pocono Mountains (the grandfather who fed me ice cream, not the grandfather who fed me wine). It was a time and place when kids could roam freely, and play by circadian rhythms…
Cool mornings were for exploration, as we made our way in devotional silence under a canopy of oaks and pines. We scouted for pieces of wormwood and the occasional bone (“Fox!” I‘d whisper dramatically, though it was just as likely to be someone’s diminutive pet.) When the sun was high, we’d drag our inner tubes down to the creek and spend the afternoon squealing and splashing our praise. And as darkness fell, we’d swat mosquitoes and find the Big Dipper before falling into sacred sleep. In my 20’s, I moved back to the west coast. I wanted to shake off the white cold and gray stone of the east and revisit the warm memories of my earlier childhood. In the diverse ecosystems that surround Los Angeles, my lover and I learned to camp. We bought a used VW bus, made a bed in the back and stocked it with the things we needed to hike, cook over a campfire, imbibe liberally, and love voraciously. And each venture brought some miracle. On the beach, a school of dolphins, or the spout of a whale. In the mists of coastal forest, a bottle of champagne shared inside a thousand-year-old redwood. At a deep lake, a near-drowning that reminded us ‘nature don’t talk no smack.’ In the heat of the desert, bodies squirming, life-affirming, under the stars. Regrettably, that love didn’t last, but I found future loves as well as friends who helped to strengthen this faith. I wanted to bring nature closer to my daily life, so I moved to a house in the foothills. Walks with my dog were like daily prayer. And eventually this led to one of the most spiritual events of my life: In a town where cathedrals outnumbered bars, I studied the beauty of nature’s predators (a hobby of mine), and found a human version whose ugliness could rival a television drama (another hobby). Talk about providence!
Irrational fear of wolves caused them to be hunted nearly to extinction. What and whom should we fear? In my book in progress, Licking the Spoon, I address many of the fears of men that inhibit women in their sexual relationships.
OK, so I’ve used a little poetic license. The coyotes were 100 more or less – I didn’t know the exact number. I didn’t actually find the human predator, but rather, I found out how near and recently he had hunted. And the killer himself was convicted of one murder, not a series (although two additional sexual assault survivors who testified against him begged the question, were there more?) Nonetheless, alone in a rickety trailer, 30-degrees-below, winds howling, coyotes howling, and at a crossroads within myself, I grappled with fear and longing, life and death, and my own meaning of faith.
I don’t know if there is an afterlife, and I learned that I don’t need to guess. Isn’t this life a miracle? And can’t we spend a little more effort figuring out how to stop ruining it all?