Alexis Rykken

AlexRykkenFeatureThe essays included here are a part of a collection of essays that were first jotted in my field notebooks as phrases, observations, sightings, encounters, or thoughts. For quite a number of years I was pulled out of my comfort zone, compelled to follow my muse, my gypsy soul, to live in remote  villages or small towns on the edge of wild land. Each place I lived became ‘my study.’ A book emerged, The Place Where Wildness Dreams.

“In the Time of Rivers and Wolves” speaks to the intrinsic workings of the natural world as the core of who we are. Interrelationship, community, balance, spirit, are just words if we forget the ultimate value of the more than human world in our conversations.

“If You Go to the Mountain Take Only a Little of Yourself” honors the importance of gesture, of listening, being quiet; this essay honors the mystic, the private one within us all. This essay honors the mountain and her wild inhabitants; their words, their voices are our words, our voices uncovered.

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“The wind, the rain, the mountains and rivers, the woodlands and meadows and all their wild inhabitants; we need these perhaps more for our soul than for our physical survival.
THOMAS BERRY
The Dream of the Earth

In the Time of Rivers and Wolves

What dreams may come if we entered the dream of the Earth?
What dreams may come if we opened to humility?
What dreams may come if we allowed ourselves to grow deep, revealing the wind-tossed,   sunbaked, rain-washed enduring spirit found in wild open spaces?
At night beneath the moon, a river dreams, introducing the flower, the bird, the sky, the fish, the insects, the animals, the trees, the moment.
At night beneath the moon, a river dreams the promise of community.
The oldest dreams of Earth are water. A single droplet holds life. Fluid. Clear.
Reflective.
Intricate.
A film of water envelops Earth, as a newborn.
Protective.
“What dreams may come” if we “set in to the work of truth?”*
What dreams may come if our thoughts were with the river and the wolf.
What dreams may come if we envisioned a life of heart and grace and motion?
What dreams may come if we explored the experience of the present moment?
What dreams may come if integrity guided our decisions?
At night beneath the moon, a young wolf dreams the broken pieces of his land whole.
At night beneath the moon, a young wolf dreams the promise of continuity.
What dreams may come if we honored our sacred compact with Earth and merged our dreams with Wolf and River, as keepers of Earth, as keepers of the laws of nature?
What dreams may come in the time of rivers and wolves?
What dreams may come if we regarded Earth’s sensuous body as our sacred body?
Something true.
What dreams may come if we lived from this place?
What might the river, the wolf, think of us then?

* “What dreams may come?” (Shakespeare, from Hamlet); “…set in to the work of truth” (Heidegger).

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If You Go to the Mountain Take Only a Little of Yourself

I follow a stream leading into the highest ridges of the Sangre de Cristos. Tiny rivulets of water sound beneath ice crystals, carrying songs of renewal, birth and age. Lichen-covered boulders shoulder the stream banks, attentive to all who pass; shaped and textured by water, mud, fire and time, their sturdy old spirits breathe life from the center of the Earth. Fish and insects and plants embedded in each massive, rough, granite body live on from a time when earth and shallow oceans tumbled, shifted, shattered, formed and dried. I lean in, nose to stone, to breathe the musty scent of humus, fog-shrouded sloughs, and saltwater. Images of Earth form in my mind as a kaleidoscope of molten rumblings, dense clouded skies, sea creatures bellowing in lightning-blasted waters, prehistoric beasts. I place my hands to feel a drum-like pulse. My fingertips scan winged edges of white shell, the bumpy structure of pebbles. I savor subtle diversities of color—red, green, black, white and gray.

Stepping back, I stare at the complex map before me, of life caught by faces etched in stone. Turtles, lizards, dinosaurs—great old beings from swampy seas of long ago remind me that I live in a slip of time. Wending their way through millenniums, these tranquil old seers know the true turning of history and what is to come.

Where I walk today, young Fir and Spruce perhaps a foot high stand lush and green, shimmering in the stillness of this sunlit morning. Groves of Aspen, ethereal in early-morning light, cradle baby shoots under a blanket of moldering leaves. A single tree’s root structure may push hundreds of quaking seedlings above ground—tough resilient sprouts fired in silt and clay and lime. Home to generations, an aspen grove’s root system expands outward beneath the soil, in community with mountain, light, moisture, and creatures winged and furred and scaled.

The mountain is filled with stories—birth and love stories, wizard poetry, stories of truths encountered, stories of beauty and passion and loss, stories of fear, sadness and longing.

If you go to the mountain let the mountain take you in—to the place inside where you feel how it all flows together. For this is who you are.

Far up the mountain in the tundra, hidden beneath a certain overhang of rocks, near where cougar rests his bones, lives a spring, the birthplace of rivers. The climb to the headwaters is difficult and long. I want to be here, in this secret place where water bubbles up catching light, returning again to darkness. I practice my longing here, my dreams. Coyote comes by with Wind to show me pages from their story…a story of forever. Cougar comes by with her cub to show me pages from their story of boundless grace, invisibility and terror. Rabbit hops by carrying his pages proudly, but he is too shy to share.

Water comes by with Light to show me pages sparkling with tears, pages wet with tears of River and Wolf and Grizzly, Eagle and Whooping Crane. Pages filled with dreams of oceans, sun and rain, snow and ice and clouds. Prairie Dog comes by carrying pages containing stories of community, of the subterranean world of roots and soil, of water and rock, of fellows who tunnel and aerate so soil breathes moisture, calling down the rain.

All of nature sends the gift of interconnection. Our genetic coding reminds us we are connected hand and foot, heart and soul, to a destiny unfolding.

In geological terms Earth’s surface is called fluff. Humanity has laid superficial worlds onto Earth’s surface, worlds we superimpose over reality, imagine as real. It is easy to lose our way here, become captive, forget the brightness of silence, water, air and earth. Serious homage is given to distraction—the frenzy, the insecurity, the fractured busyness, the gadgets, the noise. Easy to get lost here. When we bury our hearts and souls in the surface worlds of cement, technology, entertainment and being cool, how do we find the wild place within? How do we know the sightings of the moon, the patterns of the stars, the heart-raw awe of sunset and dawn, the communication of other species?

Beneath the fluff, Earth is alive with beginnings. Patterns for creation are found in a labyrinth of tunnels where Earth dreams a most delicate dream. Powerful stories live in the elemental world of darkness. A sacred place remaking future. All wild nature remembers how it is to be here.

My footprints fade into the gravely trail I follow toward my home in the valley. Rumpled Earth reminds me that I walk again through the sleeping place of bears. The Earth pulses with the steady rhythm of their breath.

I stop to feel the deepening music flowing out of the ground. My feet shuffle, raising dust. My body shifts and turns, I bow down a bit, my shoulders expand, my arms spread out to the side. I beat my palms against my thighs. I lift my feet to circle. Circling in and out, I stomp and twist and shimmy. I dance while tears fall. I dance, and the sweat of the dance is like beads of quicksilver on my body. I remember the importance of gesture. I dance as a gesture, just to let Bear know I know his place is here, grounded in the center of miracles. All the lifeblood of the world is here!

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AlexbioAlex has lived in remote areas of the Southwest for most of her adult life, captivated by wild lands, nourished by the mystery and the grit. Alex holds a M.ED. She works as a writer/ecologist/educator. In 2005 she designed and implemented Mapping the Rio, an interdisciplinary field study, fostering partnership with the land through science, art, writing and hiking.  Alex partnered with San Antonio Elementary in Southern New Mexico. This partnership resulted in a professional field guide, The Bosque del Apache NWR Through the Eyes of Children. Alex has worked with Mission: Wolf in Southern Colorado as a volunteer. She has worked with Rivers and Birds in Taos as part of their staff. She has produced a DVD featuring the Rio Grande. Why do we need wilderness? Alex asks.  In her recently published book, The Place Where Wildness Dreams, Alex writes of her love affair with wilderness – ‘It is here I feel connected hand, foot and heart to my inner spirit, to earth’s dream, to my own dream for earth.’

 

One thought on “Alexis Rykken

  1. Pingback: 15th Featured Thinker: Alex Rykken | Thinking Wilderness

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