Salmon Trees by Stephen Corke
At this point the mid-day sun had found its way directly overhead penetrating down to the ocean floor. The sun's rays bounced off the slowly separating family of fish, reflecting what appeared to be a flowing river of pink gems. The Great White Shark and Eel were captivated out of sheer astonishment. "While I am the wisest of the sea creatures, I have never seen a creature of such beauty ever before", proclaimed the Eel. "And I the Great White Shark have never seen a creature of such magnificence. Tell me, what creature are you?" The family of fish ever so flattered responded "We are the Salmon, a creature in search of a place to thrive."
At this moment from the dark shadows of the underlying crevasses came a raspy voice "I the King Crab, protector of the sea creatures agree with my wisest and most respected comrades, in that the Salmon are the most beautiful creatures of the sea." The King Crab who had obviously been listening and watching from the beginning further stated, "You the Salmon should not only have a place in the World of the Sea, but also have a place in the World of the Land, so that all creatures can witness your beauty."
The Salmon were shocked yet very pleased by these ideas and asked, "How do we get to this World of the Land?" The Great Eel being the wisest responded, "You must impress the Heavens by showing them your extraordinary beauty, and only then will the Heavens grant you the ability and direction needed to enter the World of the Land." The Salmon still unsure asked, "How are we to show the Heavens our beauty when the eyes of Heaven only gaze upon the World of the Land." The Eel, Great White Shark, and King Crab all gave gestures of unknowingness.
The Salmon were stumped by this dilemma yet were very excited and hopeful in thriving in not only a new place but an entirely new world. After thanking the creatures of the sea floor, the Salmon like hundreds of miniature torpedoes uniformly propelled themselves upward in hopes of showing the Heavens their great beauty. Overwhelmed with excitement the Salmon did not let up their ascent as the waters surface approached fast. Unexpectedly piercing the waters surface with utter ease the Salmon exploded outward into the crisp warm air above, where momentarily the eyes of Heaven gazed upon the glistening pink creatures flowing out of the vast ocean. Time was frozen for only a moment as each of the Salmon displayed their beauty to the Heavens above. And during this brief moment each Salmon sensed the pleasure their beauty had provided the Heavens. And as the Eel had predicted, the Heavens out of their appreciation for witnessing this gift of true beauty instilled within the Salmon, the knowledge, guidance, and physical ability to enter the World of the Land.
SPLASH... SPLASH... SPLASH...
CUR-PLUNCK. A large black awkwardly moving creature broke the water's surface grabbing a Salmon. SWOOSH. A fast moving creature glided swiftly overhead, with a quick motion piercing the waters surface, jarring a Salmon out and airborne. The Salmon that remained in the corridor started to physically transform for which they knew was soon to be their path into the World of the Land. One way or another all the Salmon within the corridor were overwhelmed with an anticipated darkness.
And as soon as the darkness came it was gone. The sun appeared much brighter to the Salmon now, providing a very satisfying feeling of warmth. The Salmon like in the ocean were still all flowing or now swaying within what seemed to be a current of water, yet it felt somewhat different and much lighter in force. Looking around the Salmon got a feeling of happiness and relief now knowing their journey was finally complete. They could see they were very high up and overlooking several minnow sized fish thriving in the flowing waters below.
Chirp - Chirp - Chirp. A bird sang a song of thanks to the Salmon for their now very different yet still just as beautiful features, which held the bird's nest and young.
~ Stephen Corke
I pass through a parted veil and enter the woods to hear the stillness. Chickadees chirp and wind stirs the leaves on the fallen trees. Old rotted tree trunks surround me, covered in faded leaves in gold or umber hues.
Small birds burrow through the tangled and aged tree branches to their nests. Sounds grow louder: birds’ cries, wind, and the creak of the boughs. The deep stillness fills my soul.
I climb over knotted trunks slumbering into eternity. My feet grow cold and tingle. A peace fills me as I feel the pulse of this ravine, of nature. The ground of the ravine is matted in leaves and pinecones. I am immersed in nature and a part of a world little seen. Ferns, rocks, and leaves greet my eyes as I explore this untamed wilderness.
When I return to the urban world, I experience culture shock, leaving the tranquil woods behind to return to a hectic one. Skyscrapers mock the ancient mountains. Sirens rage and cars roar past me. The gray sky above me and concrete road appears dull and lifeless.
Patches of grass poke through cracks in the sidewalks and dandelions thumb their bright yellow heads at the pavement. Why do we screen ourselves off from nature?
I return to the mountains, to the cabin and settle in by the woodstove. Heat from the burning logs comforts me. A woodpecker gnaws on the walls of the cabin and squirrels visit the birdfeeder. Moose gnaw bark off birch trees and coyotes roam through the forest. Ice drifts on the surface of the ocean. It is so quiet at the beach I hear the ice blocks hit each other.
The ravine yawns before me as twilight darkens the sky. I shall roam the woods again, with moose and coyotes, squirrels and chickadees, alive with the spirit of nature.
~ Heddy Johannesen
One day, when I was watering my garden, I noticed a commotion around the feeders. Suddenly, the shadow of a larger bird appeared, and the sparrows all fled in different directions. Then I heard something banging into the side wall of the house.
I looked around the corner and saw the Cooper's Hawk lying motionless on the ground with one wing spread open and her eyes closed. In pursuit of prey, she hadn’t managed to turn or slow down, but had knocked herself unconscious.
I ran into the house to grab my camera. As I came back and approached her, she opened one eye and attempted to move. Then her wing lifted and out flew a sparrow, free and unharmed.
The hawk, seeing me getting very close started moving slowly, but her wing was still hanging down. I ran back into the house for a towel, intending to catch her and take her to a wildlife rescue center, but when I came back she hopped away from me. So I stood still and let her rest.
After a while she hopped into a nearby tree, up and up, from branch to branch, higher and higher, and disappeared somewhere in the top.
Two days later she was back. I never liked her before because she harassed my birds, but this time I was happy to see her. She was well.
~ Mark Habdas
It Was a Glorious Place
~ Joy L. MagnussonA Pygmy Owl Surprise
I live in the small village of Rosswood, a 35 minute drive north of Terrace, B.C.
I've been a birdwatcher all my life but I was 69 when I saw my first pygmy owl. A friend and I were doing some clean-up on my son's property, when she said: "Look at that birch tree. There's a very tiny owl in it." The owl was only 6 inches high so it took me a while to nail down its position. It was staring at us as if hypnotized. AMazed, I said: "It must be a pygmy owl, one of the tiniest owls in the world."
Suddenly, the amazing creature flew noiselessly to the other side of the road, as if we didn't exist. Then I remembered seeing some strange feathers near my feet. I asked, "I wonder if that owl has anything to do with these feathers?" Sure enough, after another staring contest, the pygmy owl flew down, and landed on the side of the road. He grabbed a bundle of feathers and began to drag the body, in two foot increments, right in front of us. We didn't dare move. Once the owl reached the other side of the road, he quickly pulled the feathers into a tangle of hardhack, grass, and roots. He was gone.
I walked to the spot where the mystery body had been. All that remained was the head. I identified it as a Varied Thrush with its orange eyebrow. The pygmy owl had rescued its prey, as if to say: "I'm not afraid of you idiots who are in the way of my breakfast."
The pygmy owl shold be a inspiration to al of us, when we consider his courage per ounce.
~ Sylvia E. Johnson
The snow comes fast and with purpose. I spot her through the woods. As I round the trail bend, she is filling a bird feeder with niger seeds, " For the Americans." She responds, "Goldfinches." to my quizzical face. Tiny, yellow-feathered birds flit with anticipation around her head.
After, we walk together, heads down against the weather. "When we came here, I thought I owned these woods, could do whatever. One day there's this very tall, dead tree and I thought 'let's cut it down before it hurts somebody'. Then I heard a rat-tat-tat and looked up, saw this woodpecker happily at work."
She stops and points at the dead tree still there, full of holes, leaning at an ominous angle.
"How can I own anything that really belongs to that pileated woodpecker, or... those red squirrels, the wood-boring insects, the barred owl?", she asks, rhetorically.
She walks over and circles the barkless tree with her arms, loving it like a child.
"Go on... give it a hug", she smiles.
I do it and as my cheek touches the smooth surface, I notice a very large ant emerging from a bore-hole.
"Carpenter ants. At the low end of the chain, not very beautiful until you watch them close up. I'm blessed that I can see so much more of life here".
"Thanks for that", I say as we part. As the snow thickened, her head was haloed by a blur of yellow.
~ Morgan Earl
In a time far from anyone’s reach there was a tribe of people which inhabited an extraordinary yet magnificent area of land. This unnamed land was made up of large rolling mountains that sprang forth from an immense bed of water. In the distant horizon several scattered islands appeared to be floating and occasionally throughout the day would rise out to define their presence. The weather had the ability to tear down even the strongest of men, yet could be very inviting if embraced in all its wonder. This tribe could be considered first nations by today’s society, yet to the tribe itself they were thought of as a family, as any other, coexisting with life on the unknown and sacred planet. Within the tribe there was no hierarchy between any one individual, but more of a defined place or position all of equal stature to one another. Each position had a roll in allowing the tribe to exist and none were taken for granted. Some of the positions included cloth makers, tool makers, hunters, gathers, and food preparers. Everyone within this tribe, no matter their position, had a Spirit God, which was a sense of finding ones self.
The Spirit God was not given to one, yet instead it was discovered at a young age. The Spirit God guided and protected the individual throughout their entire life. It gave a sense of being and purpose to the individual. More defined, the Spirit God was a natural element within the universe that made a unique connection with an individual. It gave an understanding to ones life.
One member of the tribe had built the fastest, strongest, and quietest kayak out of seal skin. He was able to cut through water without a sound and sneak up on Sea Lions with ease when hunting. His Spirit God was discovered to be the seal, which gave him a sense of purpose and well-being.
Another member of the tribe at a very young age was swept out to sea while learning the strokes of kayaking. After many nights of cold, wet, and windy air eating away at her flesh, she spotted a gull in the dreary sky. The gull directed the exhausted girl back to the dry coast and reunited her with her tribe. The gull turned out to be the young girl’s Spirit God and guided her throughout the rest of her life.
Members within the tribe must discover their Spirit God before the transition from youth to adult had occurred. Tradition held that if one did not discover their Spirit God by this transition point they were asked to leave the tribe only to return when their discovery was made.
A young man named Kaw-Sea, which means silent sand, had gone through the transition of becoming an adult, but had not yet found his Spirit God. Kaw-Sea had always been a misguided and lost child as a result. He had not yet determined a sense of purpose and did not hold a set place within the tribe. For this reason the tribe had come to a collective decision, the way all issues were settled, to send Kaw-Sea away on a solitary journey to find his Spirit God. And, as tradition held Kaw-Sea was not to return until he had discovered his Spirit God. Kaw-Sea packed his kayak only with the tools and equipment needed to survive and the tribe gave an encouraging farewell with thoughts of hope and well-being in mind as he departed.
The waters carried Kaw-Sea as if he was being pulled by an invisible hand, to several islands a great distance from his home land. At some points in his journey it was difficult to decipher where the sea and sky divided. And at others, the tip of the kayak was not visible when the clouds were too heavy to rise. The eagles showed Kaw-Sea where the salmon gathered. The defined thumping of the eagles wings warned Kaw-Sea to only take what was necessary, for there were others feeding nearby. Ravens were constantly gazing from a distance and flew into the vast clouds when approached. Kaw-Sea knew his tribe was watching over him through the raven, which gave him a warm feeling, even when chilled.
Hollowed out trees and overlying rock shelves provided shelter for Kaw-Sea when the cold nights or unfavorable weather neared. The many rivers and waterfalls formed by the warming ice above supplied drinking water, almost sweet in taste. The fresh crisp air fed Kaw-Sea’s lungs when starved by a strenuous paddle. The land journeyed was rich with life and more than willing to offer Kaw-Sea a diverse mixture of food, including seal meat, pink salmon, dungeonous crab, watermelon berries, and a variety of edible vegetation. When sick, the cedar needles provided a soothing tea remedy. Where the clouds had drifted into the forests depths, large wispy cotton-like sheets had been snagged throughout the many tree limbs. This had a comforting effect on Kaw-Sea knowing that the forest would grab hold if he strayed too far in his journey.
As the birds sang to the suns farewell and the darkness overtook, Kaw-Sea entered into a state of harmony. The silhouetted mountains gave an uneven border for Kaw-Sea to view the night’s sky. Wolves surrounded him from a great distance howling or announcing that life still persisted when the shadows encompassed. The moon appeared as a circular incision within the black abyss. This was a time for Kaw-Sea to reflect on his life and his journey at hand.
He could not understand why his Spirit God had not been discovered yet. Many months had gone by and Kaw-Sea could not see anything that even resembled what he thought was a Spirit God. Frustration and anxiety were building due to Kaw-Sea’s worry of not being able to return home again. These and several other thoughts flooded his mind during one particular night.
As Kaw-Sea stared up into the scattered array of stars, reflecting in deep thought, he saw something where he wasn’t even looking. The stars, for which Kaw-Sea’s entire life had appeared scattered, started to form very distinctive shapes. There was suddenly a bear, an eagle, a fish, and a milky river, along with several other natural objects within the night’s sky. The stars seemed to invisibly connect together into these many forms. And it was at this moment that all of Kaw-Sea’s questions were answered.
Kaw-Sea realized the land was communicating to him through the stars, and had been constantly throughout his entire life. Like the stars Kaw-Sea saw the environment as a scattered array of objects and hadn’t realized any connections until now. Kaw-Sea had been searching too hard through his eyes and had not spent any time to feel or listen for the connection now experienced. Kaw-Sea’s problem was expecting to understand something by only using a one dimensional perspective. What appeared to be scattered in the environment was actually a constant array of interactions relying on one another for survival. Kaw-Sea had now formed a connection with the environment and realized his interactions within it. The land, sky, water, and creatures had all been speaking to Kaw-Sea and he now was able to hear them. Kaw-Sea had finally discovered his Spirit God and realized it had been guiding, harboring, and interacting with him his entire journey. His Spirit God was the World.
~ Stephen Corke