If Only the Moon Would Still the Tides

When John took this photo of my favorite knoll at the ranch in Wyoming, eight years had already passed since I'd climbed to her barren top and peered down at the redtail hawk soaring beneath. Yet the stories I continue to tell about this land create an ongoing dialogue that pulses through everything new.

During the last half of 2021, I shrugged off guilt as each monthly blog post went unwritten, in part because new chapters of the novel on which I was working continued to unfold. The writing experience had become less about interpreting the world, and more about listening. 

Immersed each morning in the novel, I listened to the Colorado wind blowing through the ponderosas outside my window and to the woman whose story I was telling. When Monique rested her hand on the back of her grandfather's gray horse, I felt the horse's warmth beneath my own.*

When Monique slid onto Nishiime's back and draped her bare legs around his ribs, urging him along the lakeshore and into its watery depths, I could hear the churning of his legs and the bellow of air rushing through his lungs. Imagery flowed onto the pages, however imperfect. I became less the weaver and more the witness. 

This morning, on the first day of the new year, still wanting to listen, I opened the January Full Ecology newsletter from my dear friends Gary Ferguson and Mary Clare. Gary has been writing and teaching about the wilderness for more than thirty years. His enduring voice is rooted in knowledge gained from decades of intimate sojourns into the wilderness. "I began my writing career by exploring the tracks humans have left in nature,” he tells us. “Now I’m mostly interested in the tracks nature leaves in us.”

I love the ten-year-old photo below of my daughter Sarah because both horse and rider seem an integral part of the landscape, not separate from the mountains rising beyond nor from the sage-covered grasslands flowing beneath. The tracks she leaves depict both the external and internal journey.

Nature, I believe, has brought Gary and Mary closer to a state of grace and wisdom because their hearts are open to the immenseness of all that they do not yet know. Nature is more than the conduit that connects them. Nature is the eminant source. 

In today's Full Ecology video, Mary reminds us that we are more than the waves breaking on the shore. "We are an expression of the entire ocean." 

If the moon would still the tides and allow me to go back in time for just one day, if I could dive again into the Hawaiian waters pictured above with my sister, and swim out to the reef with Marta's and our father's ashes, I would watch more intently this time, listen more earnestly. 

We wore snorkels that day and, with our faces submerged, watched as the ashes flowed from the cremation sack into the gentle current. We pointed excitedly at the sparkling trail of particles, watching as the ashes - lit by sunlight - spiraled and unfurled. When we could no longer dicipher Dad from ocean, ash from floating sand, we raised our heads into the bright blue day, ecstatic by what we had seen. 

"They glowed like the Milky Way!" We laughed. "It was like the whole ocean just swallowed the heavens!"

We floated that day unaware for a few moments that we were not part of the ocean, not part of the sky, not part of the father who floated away. Suspended in a wholeness that knew no separation, no division, we floated for that one moment in the timeless Truth of connection. 

*Painting of my gray gelding Farside, the inspiration behind Nishiime, by artist Sybil Hill.
**An artist’s concept of the early Milky Way. Image credit: NASA / ESA / Z. Levay, STScI, AURA.


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