Ecological Cogs – What is Education For?

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nov 24, 2013 steelhead fishing 009

River trips are more than just an engagement with the water.  Our boats are vessels  into a world full of exciting mystery where something new can be learned at every  bend.  Adventure is more than a “doing, ” it is a way of  “being.”  And we can only “be” by the “becoming” that additional knowledge helps create as we move along the course of the river.

Fireside Grande Ronde

Here at Wapitiland, we like to think of ourselves more as navigators and facilitator for people to help expand more understanding about our natural world. An ecological education is fundamental not only for the benefit of human growth, but also to the ability of humans to live more harmoniously with everything else in the world. Why is it so important to know more about the basics?  Perhaps a few quotes and wisdom from some highly respected pillars of the academic  community are in order here:

“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, “What good is it?” If the land mechanism as a
whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”  – Aldo Leopold

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“The question is, does the educated citizen know he is only a cog in an ecological mechanism? That if he will work with that mechanism his mental wealth and his material wealth can expand indefinitely? But that if he refuses to work with it, it will ultimately grind him to dust? If education does not teach us these things, then what is education for?” – Aldo Leopold

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The other reason any kind of education is important, is because, as Mahatma Gandhi put it: “A man is but a product of his thought, what he thinks, he becomes.”  What we become determines where we go and what we stand for. And if we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything, a famous song line warns.

Closed eyes are as good as no eyes, and only leads to a blindness in the mind. So it pays to keep eyes open, so the brain can see better.  Yet, as Carl Sagan once said: “it pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.”  This is why critical thinking is so important when it comes to evaluating any new material that comes before you.

So what is the cost of a good education? Well, it is far less than the cost of ignorance.  And to us in the Wapiti Clan, the real value of education is that the more you understand of nature, the more likely it is that you will help protect it. It is after all, the foundation of our home, no matter where it is.  More importantly, as Einstein warns: “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”.

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One of the fundamental survival mechanisms of any biological organism is adaptation; how something adapts to a situation to increase the likelihood it will live on. So when it comes to how we deal with ecological processes of the natural environment, we might do better to question how we can become good adapters.  Or perhaps, more  appropriately, as the educator David Orr once said:  “It makes far better sense to reshape ourselves to fit a finite planet than to attempt to reshape the planet to fit our infinite wants.”

What to do?  Finding truth and understanding is no easy task. This is made all the more difficult in the  massive information-swamp created by the internet and social media.  As the country with the highest rate of natural resource consumption on the planet,  comes the highest order of making responsible choices.  Like trying to find gold, you have to move a ton of dirt  just to find an ounce. Such is it to sift through the vast sea of information to find that tiny ship of facts.  Not easy, but necessary if you plan on  making a good decision.

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Even with all the facts it isn’t always easy to reach a good understanding or know which direction to lean. However, an old native tale of truth and wisdom story might most aptly apply here:

“An old Cherokee is telling his granddaughter about a fight that is going on inside himself. He said it is between two wolves. One is evil: anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.  The other is good: joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The granddaughter thought about it for a minute and then asked her grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one I feed.”

 

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Reading about how to track a wolf , is not tracking  the wolf. You have to first go into the wilds for that.   Simply reading about nature, is just not the same as knowing it.  You have to go to know, and there is no better place to go than to the river. That is where the essence of the wild resides.  It is, as stated by the signature phrase of Sherlock Holmes fame: ” Elementary, my dear, Watson, elementary.”

“Only those who partake of the harmony within their souls know the harmony that runs through nature.”

-Paramahansa Yogananda

At least, if we are but a mere ecological cog, then why not an enlightened one should we not aspire to be. Which wolf inside, will you choose to feed?

Remember, holistic thinking sees the forest, while individual thinking sees the tree. But, you can’t have one without the other, because all ecology is a system that requires interaction between the two.  But, you have to start somewhere. Where?  One link, that’s all: www.doryfun.com  for confronting new experiences and ideas pushed  to a greater depth of appreciation.

Nature Einstein

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Pushing the River’s Last Frontier – Looking Back

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steelheading dave baum nov 2-3, 2013 002

Being human on planet earth contains a yin and yang dynamic during the process of living.  Unfortunately, living life is time limited. That can be  both good and bad.  The bad thing is that the older one gets the closer they get to the terminal end.  The good thing is that the longer one lives, the  more experiences and stories are gained to better appreciate acquiring potential wisdom along the way.  As each additional experience accumulates to the total sum,  the more meaningful becomes the big picture of existence.

Looking back over my career of river guiding, enough time has now  elapsed to allow me a chance to see a broad spectrum of change over the years.  Unfortunately, meaningful does not always equate to better.   Like any antipodal position, anything can be seen with  an optimistic or pessimistic  worldview, depending on which way is chosen to look at the glass when it is at the half way point.  However, it is rare that the glass if at the half way point and in any case the more water that we drink, the less there is to satisfy our thirst.

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What do you thirst for? Thrills and adventure? Security and certainty? On a planet  defined by multiple boundaries, we live in a world that might best be described by containing a limited supply of  glasses.  Even concepts contain boundaries and are limited by our thinking, so lets just say one of those glasses holds our thoughts.

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If the earth contains ten full glasses of water, where each glass represents a frontier and water its natural resources, then the more glasses we drain, the less frontiers we have left. Once empty it is gone forever. Water is a closed system, which means there is always the same amount of water. However, how humans appropriate  that resource determines how much is usable.  Exploitation results when natural resources are victimized and extracted beyond sustainability.  Aside from human behavior, our own population numbers can also accelerate the rate of resource decline.

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Each time a glass reaches empty, we must find another full one to satisfy our thirst.  The more people we add and glasses we drink, the less chance of living longer we have. Even concepts like undeveloped and unpeopled areas, where we can still go in search of unlimited opportunities to  engage nature and experience new things, is diminishing at a faster rate in our modern times.

Each human we add to the equation, acre  paved over, tree  cut down, element mined, soil tilled, fish caught, or animal killed, at a rate where mortality exceeds recruitment, resources diminish until eventually extinction results. Likewise, concepts like frontiers are also not exempt  from total exhaustion in this same process of diminishment.  In my example, the tenth glass is the Last Frontier.  What will be do with it?

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In the early days of river running, I often went alone, exploring uncharted waters or rivers  that escaped the exodus of mass transit  wilderness travelers. Even when I eventually began guiding, we often had the drainage to ourselves and we certainly had only the most rudimentary of equipment.  Anyone and everyone that traveled with our own group, was an integral part of making a success of the shared adventure.  Unlike the more passive corporate rafting of today, we engaged raw nature eye to eye.

These days what passes for adventure, is more of an illusion and artificial experience.  Many guides are becoming more like glorified baby sitters. With the aid of modern highly advanced technologies and hyped up, but non-engaged type of encouraged zombism, trips today perpetuate more of a filtered experience.”  The entire affair is often dominated more by its entertainment value – where inactive participants can view the show as they would from a recliner with a bowl of popcorn.  Corporate guiding has become more like a magic show, where guides do everything for people and fool them  into feeling they are getting something which they aren’t.

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Nature deficit disorder is promoted by this kind of trickery.  It also describes  how much of our educational system works, or more aptly, does not work in today’s world.   When we get absorbed by our highly sophisticated technologies we ignore the real world at a perilous expense.  Biology and ecology are never not real, and  abra-cadabra won’t ever make artificial things anything other than what they are.

In the business world today in our country, everything  possible is done to reduce every possible risk because our culture has become so litigious. The entire system feeds itself and encourages more people to become less responsible. It is an atrophy of accountability at its nadir. Corporate rafting is a highly regimented,  overly scheduled, and extremely organized  to reduce risk and potential lawsuits.  In some cases, it reminds me of rafting with a straight jacket on.

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No amount of technology can replace understanding raw nature. The real beauty of education is that the more you learn and understand something, the more likely it is that you will work at protecting it.  Peeling back the onion, that is, disrobing ourselves from the machinery of sophisticated contrivances will better  reveal the center of the onion.  That is where the essence of an onions onionous resides.

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Why is knowing nature more intimately, important?  What if you are in the middle of a wilderness area and your gps breaks down  or loses power?  And you have no compass. What then?  What if your guide falls out of the boat, never to be seen again, then what? Will you panic or keep your wits? Throw your arms up and run, or sit back and relax to give your brain a chance to work more coherently?

FLAMES

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Do you know how to read nature so as to determine which way to go and how to get out? Can you start a fire, find safe water, make a shelter, crudely net a fish, navigate rough terrain, and have enough self-reliance to get yourself back home? Not that this would happen on one of our adventures. But at least, with us you will build confidence by actively living in nature for a brief pardon from the busy, hectic, high paced  world. There is no substitute for real world experience. “Good judgment comes from experience, and  experience comes from bad judgment.”

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Ironically, my theory is that often concentrating hard on what not to do, may  have more of a chance of making what you are trying to avoid actually materialize. Also, the more responsibility you to give people for their own actions, the more they will pay attention to what they do and their own well-being.  Inclusion, adds to group strength, exclusion reduces it. This in turn reduces risk in potentially harmful activities.

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Different rivers and rivers at different times provide various moods that affect experiences of those whom choose to travel these waterways to adventure. Having lived long enough to have floated far and wide, with a gazillion oar strokes along the way, I have been fortunate to have witnessed a lot of natural beauty “the river” always reveals. I’m also stubborn when it comes to keeping things simple, and focusing on sharing the essence of active engagement with nature to  more fully appreciate our common world.

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So, if you would like to join with us in an old-fashioned, more traditional, unadulterated, dance in the untamed wilds of otherworldly river adventure, give us a call:

Wapiti River Guides 800-488-9872 or if by cell phone, call 208:628-3523. For more info see: www.doryfun.com and our facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Riverdoryfun

Philosophers with more wisdom than us have offered more profound words that better describe the mysteries and experiences you may feel on one of our trips:

“You cannot understand life and its mysteries as long as you try to grasp it. Indeed, you cannot grasp it just as you cannot walk off with a river in a bucket. If you try to capture running water in a bucket, it is clear that you do not understand it and that you will always be disappointed, for in the bucket the water does not run. To “have” running water you must let go of it and let it run. “

Alan Watts

from The Wisdom of Insecurity

“Life is like a river. There is no precharted way; there are no maps to be given to you which are to be followed.  Just be alive and alert, and then wheresoever life leads you go with full confidence in it. ……Allow it to lead you, don’t force it. Surrender to it and allow it to lead you towards the sea. Just be alert, that is all. While life leads you towards the sea just be alert so that you don’t miss anything.”

 -Osho

 You’ve been walking in circles, searching. Don’t drink by the water’s edge. Throw yourself in. Become the water. Only then will your thirst end.

-Jeanette Berson

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What Is The Frontier?

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Which frontier? The last frontier? The first? Yesterday’s, today’s, tomorrow’s?  No matter what kind of frontier one might think about, the one thing they all have in common is “place.”   Whether physical or mental, they represent a special place that we can go to.  They all provide great value because they are bound by horizons, which help define a goal of where we can travel to and push understanding forward. Each boundary has an edge where the “event horizon” falls off into the unknown. So frontiers might best be appreciated by their representation of where we can go to ponder the unknowable. Beyond the edge is where potential for new knowledge resides: a transition zone for transition zone where ignorance can be changed into understanding.

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Not knowing, is the carrot that keeps us jumping for that shinny object of our obsessions. It is innate curiosity that propels us through life, always wondering what the next event will be, or when we will reach our final one. Then what?  We may cross the line into the knowable, and then again, perhaps not. Only when we die will we know, or not know.  By definition, the unknown is precisely that. Something that can never be known. Knowing the unknowable does not qualify. The real unknown can never be reached or appreciated by those who know.

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What does it matter if we know or not? Or that there is or is not any kind of frontier? Some people might claim that it matters for its own sake. That is to say, like  mountain climbers who say they scale the mountain because it is there. Or people who say it is wise to save animals from extinction even if they seem to have no value to humans, but for their own sake. As I was thinking about the value of saving wildlife for their own sake, a lone coyote began howling in the wind. It seemed to be speaking directly to me and I was reminded of my synchronicity project with those sentient others whom I share the environment with.

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I write down the timing of natural events that happen simultaneously, or nearly so, with my own thinking that seems to be  linked to some kind of meaningful message.  Is it confirmation bias? Possibly. Does it matter? After all, are we not all biased towards many things in our lives?  No one can stand at the tip of their tall forever, they must succumb to some kind of lean eventually.  The important thing is to question our lean and the why of which direction it is in. Are the messages from god, nature,  myself, or nowhere at all? And what difference does it make?n fk payette june 17, 2013 040

The more number of people that can find themselves leaning towards the green of nature, the better is the potential for us to save the blue  planet from the more nefarious side of ourselves.  Any kind of frontier is a concept, and out there, somewhere.  How we choose to engage it matters. Do we gobble it up, or only eat part of it and leave more for others and the future? Our treatment of “place” has consequences. Every voice counts, as much as any rock can start an avalanche.

 PBD

 

Our internalized frontiers are affected by what we say to ourselves, and are important because they give rise to what we externalize and thus ripple out to impact the natural frontiers.

 

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Salmon With Feathers

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If one was to track down the DNA of a salmon, that is, it’s true signature, they would be astounded by where all it has been and eventually ends up.  It might seem that when a spawning salmon dies, the river bed is where if finally  ends up. Wrong. The salmon becomes food for many organisms once it is dead and is far more reaching than one might first imagine.

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How so? Well,  dead fish often end up in other places than just  the waters from where they came.  For example:  when a bear eats a dead spawned out salmon, it may drag it into the woods.  So, the carcass of the dead fish itself then becomes food for land organisms that may also eat on it.   Or a bear may  defecate  in the woods, leaving nutrients that plants eat to make berries.  In turn, the berries are eaten by birds.  Interestingly, new genetic studies indicate that feathers of birds can contain some dna chain of the salmon’s signature.

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So a salmon’s signature can be found in many places.  Simplifying natural processes comes with great difficulty when  deciphering ecological tracks and using various tools to measure them by. But now, with the science of genetics, we have yet another tool to help trace movements of fundamental elements that are vital to keep ecological cycles pure and functioning properly. With more sophisticated technologies comes ever more simplified revelations of the elemental. We may use telescopes and microscopes to see beyond the naked eye, but in the end everything is simply just a part of something else.

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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.

What is the Nature of Nature?

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steelheading dave baum nov 2-3, 2013 002

What is natural? What is real?  Are things that are man-made natural?  It seems to me that the fact that anything exists at all, is in itself evidence for belonging to the natural world. Human nature comes as a result of humans acting out in relation to all of nature, or simply put, our dance with the environment.  So whatever man makes becomes intertwined with the natural world and becomes either good or bad.  Our choices determine cost or benefit, or that which will either enhance life, or undermine it.

Similar to the question of what is natural or not, are dreams real?  Or are they just another reality that influence our behavior in the physical world.  Our dreams, be them unconscious ones that come about during sleep, or those we conjure up as we create ideas about our future, still help bring about their degree of reality in the physical world. We take steps based on our dreams to help make them come true in some kind of form or another.

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Philosophically, naturalism and supernaturalism has always been a big question to mankind and a huge influence on how humans act and re-act while they are alive on planet earth. Supernaturalism gives rise to ghosts, gods, religions, and purpose for which man has always tried to answer why he is here. Humans need explanations for everything to help satisfy a curiosity about why things are as they are. Wanting to know, is the carrot that keeps our wheels turning and motors running.

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Supernaturalism comes about when we have no evidence for something, but still feel the need to explain their reason for being.  So we make things up to give them purpose, otherwise we would just be, rather than being.  Nouns are what we are, but verbs are what we do. So having purpose helps us in the doing, and going, as we wade through time as a living entity.

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We give spirit to everything, as a way to help us define how or why things are as they are. Rather it be the spirit of adventure, or the spirit of an animal, or a person, all things in nature have spirit as we allow them to be. Man is not satisfied to just be, as we question what it is that is behind our brain making it work. A soul? Our inner self? The dimension that we cannot adequately understand or explain, is about spirit.

All things in nature have spirit, because we allow it to be so.  Even when an animal dies,  it’s spirit is like a scent that can be followed. A vapor like essence that is made visible just by thinking about it. Spirit trails, star trails, and story tales, are clues we human kind like to follow.  They lead our way in the search for truth.

That there is some male throne figure lording over the universe, is highly unlikely, though some sort of power may flow through everything, never to be fully understood in human thought, but perhaps always a “Great Mystery” during the lifetime of each person.  In passing to whatever the next dimension is, perhaps the mystery will be solved, perhaps not. But at least, mystery and curiosity help shape our perceptions of why and how everything is, for humans are never satisfied that everything just is.

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The nature of nature is a circular puzzle with spherical pieces that may perpetuate unsolvable solutions into the far beyond where infinity can never be fully comprehended.

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The Beauty of a Circle

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Jack’s send off ceremony was held on Oct 13, 2013 on the Salmon River, ten miles upriver, at the giant eddy at Spring Bar Launch and Campsite.  This was and continues to be an ancient Nez Perce place of importance, but now more of a bi-cultural mixing grounds where all those who truly love this place often gather.

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After ending our sacred boat circles at the Spring Bar Eddy on the Salmon River, in tribute to our passing river friend Jack Kappas, the power of circular motion continued on.  I learned later that while a few people shared more stories around a shore side campfire after our more official ceremony, other friends were fishing below the sacred eddy as their chosen way of extending memories. They hooped and hollered when they caught 5 fish, as they were listening softly to ipod music, Jack would have liked, and felt his help urging steelhead to bite their lines, was with them.

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In addition, when Charlie and Lesile headed homeward, they spotted a bald eagle sitting on the rocks at Hippie Beach, which then flew upriver towards Spring Bar. They too felt like it was Jack heading back upriver again, keeping an eagle eye on the river he loved and friends who loved him. Perhaps that eagle’s flight was part of the help for those fishermen upriver and their prized steelhead.

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The day after our memorial three of us (Kristin, Barb, and me)  that were also close friends with Jack, gave his  “Uncle Ernie”, a  tour of the canyon and showed him a few of Jack’s favorite places.  He felt bad that he had never visited our area to take advantage of Jack’s many invites to get him on the river. But, we assured him he was now here and fulfilling that need, all the same, though in different form, Jack would be happy.

Before we left the canyon we had one more final tribute to pay, as the two girls forgot to get Vic’s (Jack’s favorite chocolate lab ) hair and a few fragmented bones that Jack had saved after his dog  drowned in the Salmon River, and I forgot my drum for our original ceremony, so we gathered at the side of the sacred eddy to complete or intended circle of both in a special riverside ceremony.

After entering Vic to the river, then some drumming with three last solitary beats, one each for the 3 ceremonial  boat circles, as Nez Perce consider that number sacred, ending with one moment of silence. Astonishingly, but not surprisingly,  a fish jumped near where Vic had been entered to re-join Jack.  It reminded me of a favorite  quote: “Silence is the voice of the Great Mystery” and how mystery permeates everything in nature.

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A couple of days later I took Charlie fishing upriver, and we had a wonderful day on the water. We shared many stories, about Jack, other river friends, and a gamut of subjects. Kirk was also fishing below us, and I had to tell Charlie about some “Wapiti Moments” that Kirk and I had on the Grande Ronde years ago, along with the original 5 (including Jack) of us who attended the ground-zero salmon and dam breaching hearings in Lewiston years ago.

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The day was long and we did not see Kirk again until end of the day when we both arrived at the ramp about the same time. the three of us shared more stories about Jack, those crazy “wapiti moments” (when things go south, and ingenuity kicks in for survival) and other pertinent things that tie river people together, especially this special  place in the canyon.  We all have  our own life circles and stories, and as we ended our fishing day united at the ramp from our separate loops, did we yet come full circle again as the sun slowly set into the far beyond.  We all had smiles on our faces, just as the ancients smiled down on us. Knowing all the while, with each new day, all  those smiles will soon be returning.

Great beauty is truly found in the circle.

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Erosion is the way of nature.

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Roll on river, roll on.

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