Not Always Warm Inside Mother Earths Womb

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For us humans who view earth as a living thing, we often like to use metaphorical language to help shape our understanding of the mysteries of the natural world.  Of course, for me, taking a winter jaunt into the frozen landscape is just another seasonal variance to expand my consciousness into other realms of mystery.

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At this time of the year, in my neck of the woods in Idaho, that be Riggins area more specifically, high pressure has brought sub-freezing temperatures. That spells hunkering tight for wildlife and scraping out a means of survival when conditions get tough, but also some particularly interest works of art written by some unseen hand of nature.

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Just yesterday I had this urge to go out looking for nature’s artwork.  Locally, there is an unusual rock (limestone maybe) formations that contains a cave hidden behind a curtain of waterfalls. It requires a steep hike to gain access to the entrance, then a rope for the last pitch to actually get inside the cave.

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But on this day, the upper portion of the rope (a permanent one left behind from climbers of long ago) was frozen under a slab of what looked like a micro river frozen in time. And the lower section of the tilted wall was so slippery, without crampons it was impossible to negotiate. I thought my chances to get inside were over, so I settled for photos from the outside only. But, I began thinking maybe there was another way in, so scrutinized nearby potential routes. Never had I needed or even seen one before, but soon saw some potential. It was not easy and required some serious moves in two places that came with the risk of a near vertical fall of about 30 feet, as a consequence of a mistake.

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Why didn’t I bring a rope?  Of course, I didn’t think I would need one, but how many times do these sorts of things happen that by now I should have known to come more prepared. So, the next best thing to do would be  put  my “what would MacGyver do”  thinking into play and entertain another solution from my bag of mindful tricks.  I did have a tripod with straps for carrying it on my back to free my hands for climbing. Flash, that was my light bulb.  Take the straps off to use for anchorage, (expert climbers use petons in solid rock for a good foundation) albeit shakey, to be sure, but better than nothing all the same. I really didn’t want to give up too easily.

So I managed to get a 6′ cam strap around a giant icicle for self-belay (granted, a little marginal) but reasonable with careful negotiation. Whew, I made it.  But, it did remind me of the fact that often times it takes degrees of risk to find deeper rewards offered by nature. While certainly not an expert,  I did rely on some of my semi-serious rock climbing days to make the harder and very calculated moves required to gain entrance.

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I knew my chances for success were actually high, if I did the precise moves required. All it took was seriously focused attention. No distractions, just unadulterated laser beam concentration. But having the experience of using this technique to negotiate serious rapids by boat when the river is not frozen gave me a high confidence level.

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I knew it would be worth the risk, and it was. Inside was a room full of magic-land. The shapes and formations of ice reminded me of entering a well kept secret of enchanted fairy land, where I could run rampant in fantasy world. The sound of dripping water that contributed to building all the little elf and pixie like figurines also created a surreal feeling of being able to see and listen to the heartbeat of mother earth from the inside out.

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There I go again with that metaphorical thinking and anthropomorphism. Such is the inspiration  of natures beauty and mystery. And such is it to be merely human. Ah, the birth of a new year.

Note: for those who would like to see video of this awesome place, go to our facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/Riverdoryfun

 

Law of the Jungle

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All actions that take place on planet earth revolve around the Law of the Jungle. Eat or be eaten is the relationship game, no matter how tiny or sophisticated any given species becomes. Man often forgets his place in the scheme of things, elevating himself above the fray into  a false sense of security. All life systems function the same under nature’s law.  No exceptions.

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While some animals are called apex predators, by their position at the top of the food pyramid, it is a marvelous deception.  Because they too are food for those at the very bottom.  Microbes turn even the biggest of brutes into nutrients to recycle through the broad range biological spectrum again.  Predator-prey relationships is the foundational dance of all earthly entities that ultimately define the struggle for life and death.  One feeds the other in perpetuity.

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Even folks who go to the supermarket to buy food are hunters. They are looking for what they want, weaseling here and there when crowded stores create competition for limited resources on the shelves.  Trophy shoppers buy gourmet products while meat hunters look for cheaper ways to feed their families.

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In the natural world on a finite planet ecology is a closed system. Populations of any given species goes up and down in response to the supply and demand of various elements in the natural economy.  Equilibrium occurs between predators and prey  only when they pass each other on their way up or down, depending on which direction each is heading at the time the board is the same distance from the ground on each side.

Politics functions under much of the same rule, with each side trading places over time in who is up in power, and who is down. Unfortunately, the decisions of the elite whom supposedly represent the masses, are often out of kilter with reality. Their board has fallen off the fulcrum when decisions are made that may sound good on paper, but cannot be supported by ground truths.  Archeologists whom have studied all major cultures have noted this dire of circumstances common to all great civilizations,  when carrying capacities have been undermined by misinformation,  denial, and/ or distortion of the truth.  Good solutions require facts, not fiction. Poor judgment comes from  faulty reasoning and ignorance.  Not knowing and ignoring are two different forms of ignorance. One is vacant of facts, while the other pays them no attention. Both lead to the same wrong answer to any question about natural resources.  There is no escape from the Law of the Jungle.

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When ivory towers tumble, grass again begins to grow. Grass root efforts essentially undermine the highest of sky scrapers that ignore their own foundational shoring. Once the foundations crack, no technology or ideology of man is immune from crash and burn atrophy. When man is out of sync with natural processes, harmony is disrupted and progress heads off into helter-skelter land ruled by nature’s whip.  It is her way of discipline in maintaining earths  Law of the Jungle.

Native

Synchronicity Update:

Extraordinarily, just after I posted this essay, I ran into some very disturbing information concerning predator prey relationships still being carried out by our Dept of Ag through an agency called Wildlife Services.  (misnamed to be sure). It reveals an ideology and practice that still  permeates a segment of our culture that needs to be changed.  As ugly and disturbing as this video is, it is important to watch, if you really do care about our wildlife legacy:

http://www.predatordefense.org/exposed/

Remember: ignor-ance comes with a high price tag. In this case, to wildlife.

Two Camps On The River

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When it comes to land management and issues that pertain to the natural world, there are two primary streams of thought when considering “wise use,” of our earthly  resources.  In one camp is preservation, in the other conservation. Both have a common goal of saving natural resources. However, each has a different perspective about how much of the various  resources get  used in the process of being saved.  Preservationists wish to save an area by restricting everything except viewing, including the sport of hunting, while conservationist wish to save it while allowing sustainable levels of animal  harvest.

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When boiled down, it becomes a matter of hunting verses non-hunting.  Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to animosities and  environmental battles that can divide the two camps (hunters vs anti-hunters) that could better be served for saving more areas and wildlife in the long run, by joining forces to resist the more extractive factors that consume far more of our natural resources.  It would be a shame to lose natural resources to unlimited extraction industries, by diversions that divide and conquer. Such is the case, in a world unwilling to control its own human numbers,  that is  ever-increasing the need for yet  more consumption on a finite planet.

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Moral fights about how many animals, or any at all that might get killed  is a diversion that works against the very fundamental natural resources being fought for.  On a planet with a limited carrying capacity, ups and downs of every natural resource is the law of nature.  Predator-prey relationships is the constant life and death struggle that defines existence, or not, for any species of plant or animal on this planet. Bottom line.   There is no escape from that condition.

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The interesting thing about having two camps on any  wild  river is that each has its own special beauty. And it would behoove us to visit each camp and appreciate the good qualities inherent in both, than to ravage one or the other. If we wish to save ourselves from ourselves, the challenge it to resist entrenchment and seek enchantment. The oxymoron of real magic in the land of enchantment, is the mystery that helps keep fantasy alive.  From mysticism to science, it is the carrot that keeps both going forward in pursuit of answers to the unknowable. Dream on with feet on the ground, or we will lose the very ground we stand on.

Wise-use is in the eye of the beholder, but the final results will be judged by nature.

Butterfly

Tribute to Jack Kappas (1946-2013) – Jack’s Last Run

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Unlike a straight line, defined as the shortest distance between two points, a circle continues on forever. Like some folks description of God, no beginning, no end, just always was, always is.

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Many things in nature are round and cyclic. The shape of our planet, all celestial satellites, billions of suns and zillions of galaxies, all spin forever re-looping back upon their trajectories, over and over like a natural perpetual motion machine.

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Such is the way of life and death on our home in a restless universe, as we whirl about the immensity of space. When those of the living lose a loved one, through all the terrible grief of the untimely moment, comfort can also be had in the realization that nothing really is ever lost.  Chief Seattle once said, “There is no death, just a change of worlds.”

So, though none of us know for sure what the Great Mystery will tell us, if anything, when we pass on to be recycled cosmically, the spirit trail we leave behind will still fill the hearts of the living as memories and stories as evidence of our presence in the giant scheme of things.

All will be touched differently as they think back of their experiences with a loved one that has passed, perhaps remembering their face in the maw of a huge whitewater rapid, or a simple smile in the reflection of a calm pool. All add beauty to the circle of life and death, and will always be in motion just as nature intended it so.

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Our good friend Jack, a cherished member of a beloved dory boat family, used to row the Glenn Canyon when he worked for Martin Litton’s Grand Canyon Dories back in the days of old.  It was a fitting dory boat name, as Jack was a staunch supporter of breaching four dams on the Snake River to help bring back salmon and the true life spirit of the river. He appreciated science and the natural free flowing way as the proper law of nature.

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When he first came to the dory world he came on one of his first apprentice trips with me on the Owyhee River. I remember him in the front of my boat when I entered the wrong side of a bad rock garden and all hell broke loose. Not sure how we made it without a bump, and right-side up, but we did.

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So, now that Jack has moved on to navigate the celestial Milky Way, and even bigger cosmic challenges, perhaps I will come to do some apprenticing behind him, in some future time. Such, is the way of the circle.

As an old boatman’s saying claims: “We never grow too old to boat, we just get a little dingy.” That is, before we all eventually step into our eternal spirit boat. As Jack follows those boatmen and boatwomen before him, and we who will eventually all follow, shall the circle be unbroken.

The one thing about legacies, especially left behind by river people, is a fitting line from Philip  Pullman,  taken from the famous dory tale of the speed run through the Grand by fellow boatmen bonded by common dory world friendships,  in a book by Kevin Fedarkos (now also a part time dory guide) entitled the Emerald Mile:

“Thou shalt not” is soon forgotten,

but: “Once upon a time” lasts forever.”

On one of Jack’s boat pads he wrote the line: “I’ll be right back.”  To that I might add, see you in the stars, Jack, once upon a time.

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Butterfly

Invisible Doesn’t Mean Unreal

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If you gaze up at the night sky with the naked eye and catch a glimpse of Jupiter, it would appear simply to be a  solitary bright object high above. But if you were to take an amateur back yard telescope and train it on the same planet, you would discover four moons on a parallel plain surrounding the planet. If you had access to a professional large-scale observatory you would enlarge that view to include twelve moons.

The conclusions we reach about the measure of reality thus becomes changed by depth and scope of additional aids to our vision, and it would soon become evident that things are not always as they seem. In fact, just because something is invisible at first, does not mean that it does not exist.

Nietzsche once said: ” the strongest ties are the invisible ones.”  This is typically true of many things in nature, especially that long-established recognitions by native people’s and ecologists, that all things in the world are interconnected. We might not see how all things are tied together,  but invisible threads do unite everything in natures web. Thus, when something happens to something else, everything is affected by the ripple. Nothing stands alone and can totally escape an impact,  no matter how small it might be.

Many things in nature can be correlated with other things. That is, anything can be correlated to some degree with any other thing. Why? Because everything is connected, rather we can see by how or what those ties might be, they are still there in some form.

A maternal instinct that ties mother to child is held together  by the bond of love. What is love? It is a thread, though perhaps not visible by any man-made means, but very real, all the same.  The thread is invisible to the eye, but can be felt by the heart.  The same can be said of romantic relationships, and many other emotional ties that humans experience during their life time. Human nature is just a part of natural nature.

In my world, this time of year is when I spend time steelhead guiding. When fishing, getting a line in front of fish for a potential bite, is the name of the game. While those lines may be hard to see, sometimes even invisible, they are still real. In fact, to a fish it  can mean the difference between life or death.

Why are unseen connections such an important principle of natural law?  Because it means that what we do as an individual or community, does matter.  It is the foundation for taking personal responsibility for our own actions. The significance of this might best have been described by  Chief Seattle: “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

So it becomes relevant that we might also take a lesson from Zen: “the frog does not drink up all the water in the pond in which it lives.” This might be a more  philosophic way of applying one of the most basic laws of science:  Conservation of Energy. It says that  energy  cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one state to another. Fundamentally, the idea of paying attention to how man impacts (potential change) natural resources became the basis for the concept of “Conservation” and “Environmentalism.” It is the “change” part that we must pay close attention to.  Converting winter grounds for deer and elk to subdivisions for trophy homes, to  draining wetlands for farming, or shopping centers, everything we do matters. Our actions cause change.  However, nature cares not, as good or bad is always a human value judgement. The problem is  that  often  the good for a few , is bad for the  many.

Oil spills in the Gulf is a good example of this, yet some politicians and social pressures continue to fight for still more drilling there, as well as more  pipeline plans  to accommodate yet more extraction of the same energy sources that lead to climate change in a man-made negative way. All this ignorance of collective history,  rather  than to search for cleaner, safer alternative energy resources to invest in for the future, comes at a perilous cost.

Why does this matter to me, a simple river guide? I use wooden boats, and motor vehicles to escape into the river world to leave all my cares behind.  I still depend on extraction of natural resources to get me into areas left in their natural state. So,  escapism is a relative term. We can’t really escape from ourselves, no matter where we go. But we can find places to enjoy enough solitude to allow ourselves time enough to slow down and examine more closely our inner workings and who we are.

When we travel to the river to get away, we are still tied to the outside world by those invisible threads that binds all things together in one way or another. One web, but many strands. When people come to the river, they soon get connected to all kinds of invisible ties. They don’t leave them at home or get disconnected.

Often people on trips ask me what I do for a living in the real world?  As if my job is happening in an unreal world, I ask them to explain what they mean by real. It is easy for people to lose sight of these minute connections that bonds everything together in the one world we all share.  But it also brings home to me, how important it is to maintain the integrity of the ever shrinking wild places, because they allow us a crucial  place to temporarily escape and have a chance to  smell the flowers.  With enough time for  slowing  down,  we might catch up to our run-away selves,  so we can  ponder the question of rather we should leave the flowers alone, or pick them  all for a slow death in a vase. A conservationist would say leave a few flowers for a seed source.  A native elder might remind us about the importance of doing things during our life time with respect to how it will impact the “Seventh Generation.”

We might not see the invisible hand of nature, but it is very real, all the same. If we don’t want to get spanked, then we better  pay close attention to our own actions.

For more river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.com

or (more pics)  Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Riverdoryfun            

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Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.