Walking back home from the Boise River, Willa and I paused in front of the Fish and Game Department when we heard the tch, tch, tch, chatter of a squirrel. As I turned to say hello, it twitched its tail—a signal to others that it was uneasy or suspicious.
While assuring it that we were friends, not foe, another squirrel popped its head out on the other side of the tree— the stately oak now looking like it had squirrel handles—to confirm the first squirrel’s admonition, “Monsters! We’ve been invaded by monsters!”
And while double vision isn’t typically a pleasant experience, in this case, it was. Quickly dubbed Jekyll and Hyde, these two held the now famous “Squirrel Handles Yoga Pose” long enough for me to snap the photo—all the while tch, tch, tching a dire warning to others lest they end up in our evening stew.
Cairns—we saw them aplenty when we climbed Ben Nevis. We noticed quite a few in Nova Scotia. We spotted them as trail markers in John Muir woods, on Palomar Mountain near the observatory, and now in the shallows of the Boise river—in this case, parents built them symbolically, one cairn each for a family of seven.
Used by people around the globe, cairns — human-made stack of stones — serve many different purposes:
Utilitarian: to mark a path, territory, or specific site
Spiritual: inviting passersby to stop and reflect
Ceremonial: when placed within a circle of enclosing stones
Memorial: when friends and family members voice a fond remembrance of a loved one while adding adding a stone
Symbolic: the uses are endless including love, prayer, and artistic expression
Living close to the Greenbelt along the Boise river we have tremendous opportunity to see a wide variety of wildlife. When we relocated to Idaho, one of the first tips we received was, “Look up!” Why? In Idaho, a large concentrations of bald eagles are found along Lake Coeur d’Alene, Lake Pend Oreille, and sections of the Snake, Salmon, and Boise Rivers.
We were thrilled to see not one, but twobald eagles on a recent jaunt along the Boise river. We heard them before we saw them. One—already majestically perched on a branch in the treetop—was calling to the other circling high overhead. Like greased lightning, he made a downward beeline, flaring his six-foot wingspan just before landing in the same tree as his mate.
I recently learned that in their first four years of life bald eagles are often mistaken for golden eagles because they sport mostly dark brown plumage with only small amounts of white. Not until their fourth or fifth year does the bald eagle’s head and tail turn all white, indicating that it’s reached maturity.
When you “look up” in your neck of the woods, what are you likely to see?
Our daily walks take us along the Boise river. Depending on the time of year, we see kayakers, anglers, inner-tubers, and people enjoying all manner of fun.
Strategically placed, the river swing is an ever-popular pastime on hot summer days. To enjoy the fun, all you have to do is gain enough momentum so that when you release your grip, you’re well past the sheer drop-off, splashing feet-first into the bracing, deep water.
In July I eluded to a secret. I’m not quite ready to reveal it, but I’ve gained momentum, am well past the sheer drop-off point, and am about to release my grip into the invigorating deep.
When was the last time you let go and joyfully flew head or feet first into the deep?
Walking across one of the many bridges that spans the Boise river, we spotted something bright red in the distance. Drawing closer, we saw that it was a nylon camp chair—empty. We looked in every direction for someone who might be the owner, but there wasn’t a soul in sight.
During one of the classes I’m teaching at UW-Madison’s Writers’ Institute in April, 2016, I’ll share that life is about showing up. So is writing. Failure to show up—be present—yields puny results. For a writer, that equals a blank page.
There are many different ways of showing up. We can arrive with a chip on our shoulder and a cup-half-empty attitude, or…
Remember Aunt Clara on the television series Bewitched? She may have fumbled and bumbled and usually arrived—covered in soot, hat askew—after tumbling down the Stephens’ chimney, but she showed up with a positive, go-get-’em attitude and a ready smile.
Located less than a half mile from our door, I’ve come to think of this bench as my serenity bench. A peaceful location to lift lids and check the progress on various pots simmering on the back burner of my mind.
In front, the Boise River moves languidly, dotted every now and again with Canadian geese and mallard ducks. Behind, I hear the chick-chick sound of birds and squirrels rustling for food; nature’s addition to the hushed steps of walkers on the Greenbelt — a peaceful serenade.
This serenity bench is my go-to place for plunging into some of the deeper pools of thought, and letting go of perceived control — allowing myself to be breathed by that which is greater than I.