Maple Pass Loop

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Mountain wildflowers, obscure peaks.

A lovely day-hike or a difficult trail run as I learned. From Rainy Pass Trailhead – out to Lake Ann, up to Heather Pass then on to Maple Pass and back via the knife ridge between Lake Ann and Rainy Lake. Over 2,000 feet gain in elevation and 7.5 – 8.0 miles. Lots of smoke but less than down in the Valley. Spectacular alpine scenery and wildflowers galore! Plus a good excuse to stop by the Mazama Store for a slice of pie and a coffee (or beer if you prefer).

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Smoke enshrouded mountains.
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Taking a break.
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Lupine loveliness with Whistler and Cutthroat Peaks in the background.

Written by David LaFever

Unobstructed Spirit

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Twisp River, mid-summer.

 

River gonna take me, sing me sweet and sleepy
Sing me sweet and sleepy all the way back home.

~Robert Hunter

I waded out into the flowing water, careful not slip on the slippery cobble of the river bottom, and stopped in mid-river to gaze into its clear waters. Staring into, nay through the water, I could see each and every rock and pebble as though looking through the clear, rarefied air. I was looking directly without the intermediary of flowing water with nothing to obscure my gaze. But if I cocked my head to the side, the angle allowed me to see the glare off the water’s surface and a thin veil of water-glare came between me and the rocky river bottom. I looked straight on again and there was nothing between me and stones; nothing except my thinking mind of course.

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We think of water as being blue because we have been taught to name it like that, to “know” that water is blue. Rivers, lakes, ponds and oceans are blue. We all know that, right? And because of this knowing, we usually perceive it that way too. Not only does our perception affect our cognition, but our cognition (what we think and know) affects our we perceive the world. This river was definitely not blue – it was multi-hued and calico like the cat I had been petting that morning at our friend’s house. Looking in directly, I could see greens, browns, whites, grays, and speckles. No blue to conceive of.

But there is a time and an angle when rivers do look blue (reflecting a blue sky) or green (reflecting streamside trees) or white (opaque with glacial melt). At times I can look directly and deeply into a river and other times when I see the world reflected like a mirror. At both of these times, if I don’t think too much, I see myself in the river. Do I see my true self or the narrow self that I all too often think I am? Can I see, as Han-shan wrote, that “the unobstructed spirit is clear.”

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A fisherman and the Twisp River in bright sunshine.

written by David LaFever

Cold, Healing Waters

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Glistening evening light of Wolf Creek.

Here is an excerpt from my journal from July 16, 2017:

I almost forgot to do my daily ablutions in Wolf Creek today. This is rare. I finally did them as the last rays of sun filtered through stream-side trees making the creek look like flowing mercury. I soaked my legs – knees to ankles, which are itching and oozing from an encounter with poison ivy near Twisp. There isn’t much of it around here but of course my skin found it. I had had a day dream of perhaps never getting it again but then again our dreams aren’t necessarily realty. The cool water of Wolf Creek soothed my legs by basically making the numb.

The creek was breathtaking and I paused to watch the water tumble over rocks, sending spray skyward, catching the last rays of sunlight and refracting the light into multitudinous sparkles. Each spray of water seemed to hang in mid-air like the sunshine created a net upon which molecules were suspended in animation for a moment before falling back into the flow to join billions of others.

I knelt into the flow, splashing water on my face and realized that ablutions is not quite the right word for what I was doing. Yes, it involved water and prostrations of a sort but I wasn’t cleansing myself in any deep sort of way. Namely, I wasn’t washing away sin but rather I was saying hello to the creek each morning. Its a greeting and a way of connecting with place and by doing so the true self that is not separate from place. So “good morning Wolf Creek. How are you today?” And thank you for your cold, healing waters!

The Glittering Light of Aspen Leaves

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Stone Meadow, mid-summer.

Nearly two months to the day after we arrived in the Methow Valley, we left Stone Meadow and moved a mere mile farther into Wolf Creek. Stone Meadow is both the house and land which welcomed us so warmly and completely upon our arrival. We didn’t know just how important it would be to have a first place to stay and one that we already knew so well (we stayed here every other visit to the Valley). Stone Meadow was where we first fell in love with this place and it made sense for us to return there before launching forth to an unknown nook of these amazing mountains. I remember our very first night, nearly six years ago, as we awaited the arrival of our friend. Kristin and I stood upstairs, sharing a beer and gazing wondrously at the land all around us. That very first night, we felt we had come home to a place we had never been before, and I knew that this was the place where I would live out my days and return to the earth at the end of them. My Great Changing would occur here. With each subsequent visit we were reminded of the deep, intuitive calling to live here and we have heeded that call. This all began at Stone Meadow. And now it is time for some place else to weave its thread into our tapestry. In gratitude I wrote these words on our final day:

This place, these stones, this sky

Intimate, still, and vast

Has seeped into my bones, and in my marrow

The ceaseless sound of flowing water.

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The top of the Cozy Turtle (our bus/tiny home) and Stone Meadow sunset.

And so with a bittersweet taste in our souls, we loaded up the bus again like a covered wagon and moved on down the road. We are now on the land of a friend of a friend of a friend, still in the area known as Wolf Creek but farther northwest into the woods. There are towering ponderosa pines and Douglas-fir trees above the bus, which are home to nuthatch and the constantly chittering red squirrel (two of whom visited us in the bus on each of our first two nights there). This new land has a completely different vibe, view and feeling. There are views to the east and we awake each morning with the force of the sun, heating up the bus and shining on our faces. We cannot hear the ceaseless sound of Wolf Creek but the Methow River is a short walk away. There is the sound of wind through trees and the glittering light of aspen leaves fluttering in the sunlight. We don’t know how long we will be here but for now this place contains the whole of existence.

The Newness of the Day

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Methow River at sunset.

I step out of the bus, into the full light of morning and I feel the sun’s warmth and energy on my skin. I wipe sleep from my eyes and then stretch my arms toward the bluebird sky. Grabbing my binoculars, I meander my way through a stony meadow, snaking my way around boulders and bitterbrush, serviceberry and choke cherry, heading towards the creek. As I slowly pick my way to the creek, I hear the songs of yellow warblers, cedar waxwings and others I do not know and the omnipresent background roar of the creek itself as it rushes down from glaciers high atop Gardner Mountain. I reach the tree-lined bank and take off my glasses as I crouch down to wash my face in the frigid water. This morning ritual of washing my face with cold water, awakens me to the day. I hear the whine of a mosquito and watch it alight on my forearm.

This is something I do every morning here and it now has become a ritual, which somehow makes it more than a random or careless act. In fact, I take great care with this ritual and even bow to and thank the creek and flowing water. Thanking it for what, I don’t know. Just thanks I suppose.

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Methow River at sunset.

These morning ablutions, create a sense of newness and renewal and I let go with each splash of cold water and turn towards the burgeoning day. This day is a new day and this simple ritual may allow me to step more lightly upon my way. What if each step was taken as a ritual? What if each place was seen as sacred? What if each moment was seen as magical and all people chosen? What would our days be like then?

As this thought lingers a moment in my mind, I become reabsorbed by the rushing water and noise of Wolf Creek. Before turning towards the possibilities of the day, I pause a moment, bow and thank the creek for always being there – refreshing, cleansing and invigorating.


Written by David LaFever

 

Magic in this world

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Here are two moments from my day, both shared with one of the most amazing people in this world:


Sitting across the wooden table from each other, quietly eating our lunch – mac-n-cheese for her and leftovers for me – and she turns to me with a deadpan look and says, “There’s magic in this world. I know because I saw it.”

Like a hammer striking the sky, I was stunned by such a revelation, which of course I know to be true (but all too often forget due to being a “grownup”) and hoped she did as well. The world is full of magic but we seem to forget to see it.

Her eyes were ablaze with magic, excitement and wonder. They were twinkling like stars on a moonless night, like so many nights here in this valley. We looked at each other, smiles slowly emerging from within, creeping up from the corners of our mouths and spreading across our faces until we were both laughing. We laughed because we knew – there is magic in this world!


She’s sitting at the table, both elbows resting on its wooden surface for stability,  a purple marker in her right hand. She is drawing and concentrating so hard on what she is doing that her tongue is sticking out ever so slightly. A quintessential act of concentration. Her map, of trails, campsites, lakes and rivers, is really coming together and now she is adding footprints to the trail.

I sit watching her, enjoying the look of concentration on her face and how it changes ever so slightly from moment to moment, especially the tongue, its position and how much is exposed beyond the lips. I guess I could be distracted by something – a book, dirty dishes, a smartphone or this journal – but this is far better than all that and more. Just here, just watching her drawing is enough and I am at peace.


Written by David LaFever

Relax Completely

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The rare Methow River fairy captured at long last on film.
Let go of thousands of years and relax completely.
Open your hands and walk, innocent.
~ Shitou Xiqian (8th Century Chinese Zen Master)

 

Out for a bike ride, I headed up Wold Creek road past where it turns to dirt, on over a rattly cattle guard and turned around at the second cattle guard. From there I left the road behind for mountain bike trails, both single track and old roads. I had climbed some hills, sweat forming on my brow even in the chill of late evening air, and now had the joy of descending, winding my way down to the river. After going through a couple of cattle gates, I found myself on the banks of this magnificent river who had turned a pewter silver in the quickly setting sunlight. The color of liquid mercury, coming from the river reflecting the clouds, reflecting the already set sun. There were holes in the cloud layer through which I could see the tops of clouds glowing pink and peach in the westerly light. It was breath taking and like an idiot I stood there in amazement trying to capture  and hold on to what I was seeing.

Later, as I pedaled up the driveway past marmot rock, whose namesakes were surely underground sleeping or doing whatever marmots do in their burrows (having a bit of tea, perhaps), I was suddenly struck with a realization that caused me to relax completely and smile. “You can’t hold on to anything,” the universe seemed to be shouting at me. Not the sunset, not the river, not my daughters, not my wife, not my health and certainly not my life. Definitely not my hair, which is already leaving me, and not my cares. I can’t hold on with these ridiculous words nor photographs nor memories; not with who I think I am, who I tell myself I was nor who I want to become. There is nothing to hold on to and no one to do the holding anyway.

With that flood of understanding, I took off my biking shoes and felt a deep relaxation that I had not felt for days. I let go of everything, for a moment, and rested free in this world.