Wednesday, September 29, 2010


It was one of those partly sunny, mostly cloudy, anything can happen morning, so I grabbed my rain jacket and headed out to the trail for a walk while I could. I got back to the T-intersection, and listening to my intuition, veered right. This was the way to the rocky outcrop that overlooked ‘Treasure Island’, one of my oldest and favourite contemplation spots.
Treasure Island only appears to be an island but is in fact a peninsula that can be accessed by carefully crossing a beaver dam or going all the way around a fen. I gave it the moniker after exploring and finding two large white rocks with long, crinkly veins of gold. They were too big for me to carry so the plan was to come back with a knapsack. When I did, the white rocks were there but the veins of gold were gone. How strange. How curious. Oh well, the name stuck.
We have other names along the trail like Buck Point, the outlook where I’d seen a mighty antlered one, and White Pass, a shortcut through the rock cut that was named after the spectacular railway line in the Yukon we had recently visited.
It’s fun creating names, and necessary. “Meet me at Buck Point” is much more direct than “Meet me out back past the dead oak trees, to the left of the sweater trail and before you get to the steep rock.” But nothing is all good or all bad, and sometimes names can be shortcuts away from real meaning in life.
When we first started coming to the lake, I saw a peculiar bird that walked headfirst down the tree. I’d never seen anything like it so watched for long periods of time curious about its behaviour. Later I learned it was a nuthatch, and for some reason, after finding out the name and a few facts, it lost all its charm. My curiosity was satiated and I moved on to other things.
Later it had occurred to me I’d never spent any time watching robins. I was familiar with them so once the red breast was spotted, my eyes and interest moved on. What do I actually know about them other than the colour of their breasts and the colour of their eggs? I doubt they spend all day pulling worms out of the ground as they’re so often pictured. It was like once I had a label for something, I thought I knew it. Hmm, this was probably how racism and wars happened – taking shortcuts and not spending the time to get to know about the life within.
When I got to my lookout, I saw a big bird down on a point and not sure at first if it was a wild turkey or turkey vulture, I sat down to watch. The rain was coming but this was a rare gift I wasn’t going to miss. Because it was alone and because it had a featherless head, I deduced it was the vulture. My confusion was the head colour; I’d only known turkey vultures to have red heads and this one was dark gray - a young bird, I’d later found out.
I very much admired how it soared but had never seen one on the ground so gently moved over to a rock to sit and get to know it. At first I was the observer noticing how it hopped around, hunted and pecked in the ground and was curious about what carrion it was feeding on. It noticed my movement and when it did, wow, what a display of power and majesty. The wings opened out to about six feet across and after a while, when no threat was detected, tucked back in again. That’s when my head turned off and my heart opened up. Oh my, what a beautiful moment – a beautiful moment of recognition of other and of self...and of the fact that no one gets a free ride.
This lovely young turkey vulture opened up to me a few more times then hopped on a stump, pumped its great wings, and was soon back riding the thermals. For me, these connections, these moments of intimacy are what make it all worthwhile. The life within each living being is precious and the real treasure is knowing we’re all in it together.