This elder is generations old, twisted and gnarled by its journey of adaptation. Steadfast in its determination to live and hold place on this precious earth, it reminds me of my own father.
I am just back from my trip to Minnesota to be of support as he fights to recover from a stroke. The hearts of both the old bristlecone and my 86-year-old Dad pulse on. Other bristlecones in the high mountain grove of this old one stand in companionship just as Mom and Dad’s 65-year-community is offering good support.
Life needs other life. We cannot stand alone. My sisters and I have been sustained by the outpouring of love and help. The elder lives on for a while longer.
On the last day of 2012 I headed out with my backpack to spend a quiet night with the earth to give gratitude for the year past and to set intention for the year coming. Temperatures were slightly above freezing. There was a light drizzle. Darkness fell at 5 p.m. and daylight rose about 7 a.m. The last creature I heard before total darkness and the first one at daybreak was the tiny golden-crowned kinglet. “Teez, teez, teez,” is their high-pitched call note.
How do they get through 14 hour nights at freezing temperatures? I had a warm sleeping bag, a good ground pad, and a superlative tent. This little, secretive creature is barely larger than a hummingbird. Scientists still have not figured out exactly how these birds survive—Do they go into torpor and lower body temperatures overnight? Do they huddle with others of their kind? Do they feed later and earlier in the day than other birds? You can read more about what a lone researcher in Vermont has spent decades trying to figure out: http://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2012/12/winter-and-the-golden-crowned-kinglet.html
My island home is only about 15 miles from my little solo spot. Every day sitings of golden-crowned kinglets and extensive vistas of mountains and sea are found in both places. I am reminded again that the secret to a calmer, more centered life at home is to attend to both the small and large wonders that hold my life in place. There is no substitute for time spent outdoors.