Silver Fox Dreams

A defining landscape. Oak grasslands.

While driving up to Shasta County on Friday, I thought, “This is it. This will be the visit where I will finally realize that I am not meant to move back. I will make peace with having to let go of this homeland, and I will be freed up to put my roots down somewhere else.”

So deep, so cold, so wide. Sacramento river.

I have been feeling more grounded in the Bay Area, which often happens for me in the spring and summer, when I am gardening, and the days are longer and city folk open up to engaging. And so I thought that perhaps this would counter my experience with being home. However, like an amnesiac who convinced herself that her pieced together story was true, as always, the land reached up through me and woke me up to the real life inside.

The thought that kept reoccurring this weekend was, “There is room for me here.”

Manzanita "Little Apples"

A sense that I could stretch out, and also simultaneously be received. There is a competitiveness in city living, both literally as shown in a struggle to establish career and also metaphorically…there is only so much ground, so much space, and everyone is vying for it.

Surprisingly, I rarely have a conversation with folks in the city about ecopsychology. From lack of interest or from oversaturation, I often feel like my therapy practice is a little bubble inside a bigger bubble. Isolated and kept by those in the know. This is part of the challenge of working in an emerging field. But there is something else going on. Because this weekend I had three separate conversations with total strangers about ecopsychology, and I’m not someone who really gets into chatting with strangers in the first place. What I discovered was a deep thirst for this kind of work, and each time I heard, “Wow, I never get to talk to someone like this, it’s so refreshing.”. At the farmer’s market, I got into a deep connection as the mustard greens were being weighed, about “Last Child in the Woods” and the conjoining of the nature of politics with nature herself. The message was loud and clear.

18 eggs from pastured hens, $2.50. A dozen of the same eggs costs $8.50 in the city. *sigh*

“There is room for me here. I could make a go of it, and be successful. They want what I have.”

My experience in the Bay Area is the exact opposite. I have to expend all my energy just to be heard above the din of all the other professionals in my field, all the other folks crying “Look at me! No, look at me!”

Dogwood in bloom

Perhaps a trite, but very telling example in the difference of my experience, is the stark contrast in my thrift store luck between there and here. Here, I often have the sensation that someone else got lucky, that someone else scored and I am picking over what the other scavengers left behind. This weekend, I was the one that was lucky. And I left plenty for someone else. Abundance vs. scarcity, plenty for all as opposed to eking out sustenance. (Hey man, thrift store luck is what I live on.)

The first book on wild edibles, written in 1962. Cal's books is a treasure trove of used books, with so many rare finds (wildflower books from the 1920s, aaaah!) it was hard to choose just a few.
Sweet little handmade quilted vest, scored at the motherload of thrift stores. They were closing in ten minutes, but oh if I'd had more time! And also, the lettuce went bonkers while we were away.

Some of you new to this blog may be thinking, “We’ll, just move then, silly!” (We’re in a complicated situation with our desire to live rurally, our financial situation and our need to live close to Jeff’s son.). Others of you may be thinking, “Heard it all before.”. It’s true, it’s the same old story. I guess I’m just surprised at how strong the pull still is, given how open I’ve been to being pulled somewhere else.

Hiking to Whiskeytown Falls. Don't be fooled by the sweetness of the picture. She screamed until I carried her in my arms. I hiked 3 miles carrying her deadweight when she fell asleep.

Whatever our future holds, the deep truth of my love and sense of belonging in this funny redneck corner of California begs to be accepted. Like a woman separated from a husband of many years, I keep trying other lovers only to realize they just can’t compare to someone who knows your soul.

Whiskeytown Falls was a secret until 10 years ago. I had friends who knew about it, but I never went until the forest service built a trail. This is only the top quarter of the falls. I felt energized by the mist, all that power and enthusiasm rushing down in glee.

On Saturday we visited the Turtle Bay Nature Museum and Preserve. As we rounded a corner we encountered the wild grace of a captive grey fox. As it leaped around its enclosure, it was nearly able to climb the walls, pouncing and prancing better than a cat. I was transfixed, and I was reminded of the baby grey fox I rescued 12 years ago. I scooped him up from near death on the side of 299, gave him water, and he pressed himself against me with such gratitude, mewing sweetly. This past weekend I dreamt that the fox we saw leapt onto my lap, pressing his delicate paws onto my chest and staring intently into my face. It was a look that said, “I know who you are. I see you. I recognize you. You recognize me.”

Shasta Dam and a thunder storm.

That sense of being known is my quintessential experience of this land. Being held in all my totality, all my fullness. It is bittersweet, but I am so grateful for it.

Happy to be back. I missed you all and I have some fun foraging tales for later this week.



19 thoughts on “Silver Fox Dreams

  1. This was a beautiful post, and can I tell you, I know exactly how you feel. Barry Lopez wrote an essay called “A Literature of Place” ( where he describes the relationship between an individual and the place in which they grew up. Okay, so it IS about writing, and about how the place you grew up shaped your imagination, but he also discusses something almost exactly like what you were talking about. When you open yourself up to a place, it acknowledges your presence and you really feel at home.

    I grew up in NY, but moved to Turkey a few years ago. I’ve had a lot of trouble adjusting to this place; it’s just not the same. The landscape has felt so foreign to me, but slowly, I’ve realized that I’m starting to feel a connection to this place. I went riding in the woods today, and the smell that the sun stirred up from the pines and soil was just the sweetest thing. The hill have started speaking to me in resonant tones, the trees in their low rumbles. Birdsong fills my heart with light, and I smile at the lizards that don’t run away from me anymore, but come to sit by my side and listen to me sing.

    I hope that you get to go back to your home some day. I don’t think a city can speak to you in the same way a natural landscape can, and you deserve to feel connected and whole.

    1. thank you for such an insightful comment. i read that article, and it is right on. especially when he talks about the need to be in love with the land, rather than in a power struggle…i do feel so deeply in love with that place. this also made my bones sing: “We keep each other alive with our stories. We need to share them, as much as we need to share food. We also require for our health the presence of good companions. One of the most extraordinary things about the land is that it knows this–and it compels language from some of us so that as a community we may converse about this or that place, and speak of the need.”

      in terms of land forming the imagination, i do think it is true, and i also think that it informs intuition, so that the stories, mythologies and spiritual beings are described in the colors and shapes of place. i had a hard time accepting the landscape as a kid, especially because we spent our summers in maine and i was so in love with the lush forest there. as i grew older, and learned to see the beauty right before my eyes, i simultaneously was able to recognize my own beauty, my own voice, my own imagination…i hadn’t been able to see it before because i expected it to look differently. the land opened my eyes, to the inner and outer.

      i know what you mean too, about the way a place slowly befriends you, and i love how this can be shown in the smallest of ways, like your lizard friends. thank you for sharing and understanding. this ache about my homeland is often a very lonely one, and it helps to know it
      is familiar to you too. it’s a brave thing you have done, to attempt to put down roots in a far away land. courageous spirit. it shows. xo

      1. I’m glad Lopez’s essay resonated so well with you!

        “in terms of land forming the imagination, i do think it is true, and i also think that it informs intuition, so that the stories, mythologies and spiritual beings are described in the colors and shapes of place.” That’s very true. We can see differences in myth and religion (art, too), across varying regions. Humans, like all other living beings, are of the earth, so the land we inhabit having such a profound effect doesn’t surprise me. The unfortunate thing is that (I think) a lot of people don’t realize this because of the extreme distance “modern” humans have placed between themselves from nature.

        ” i simultaneously was able to recognize my own beauty, my own voice, my own imagination…i hadn’t been able to see it before because i expected it to look differently. the land opened my eyes, to the inner and outer.” That resonated with me quite deeply. While the forests and fields of New York did have a dominant hand in shaping the being I am, my gradual opening up to *this* landscape has helped *me* to see my own beauty, voice, and imagination. I find that whenever I try to write forests into my stories, they’re these dry, fragrant pine woods rather than the verdance I was accustomed to. New York shaped this little pot, but southwestern Turkey glazed and fired it.

        You may have read this book already, but if not, I really recommend Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place. I had to read it recently for a nature writing class and am glad I did. It’s all about the author’s spiritual connection to the land and how it helps her to cope with emotional flux in her life. Kind of relevant to this whole subject we’re talking about.

  2. It’s pretty awesome to read about encounters on the “other” side of the 299… (I live on the coast)! I WAS thinking “just go ahead and move then!” – but honor you for doing what is best for everyone. That’s the true, giving spirit of a wife (?) and mother… Thanks for the lovely sentiments about living in the wilds. I’ve heard about whiskeytown falls several times! Now, I’m gonna have to make the trek!

    1. i know the other side of 299 well, as i used to live in humboldt! is that where you are? arcata? i love it there so so much. i’m looking forward to vicariously visiting through your blog. i’m so glad you said hello. have you been to shasta county? it is quite the culture shock from the coast, and so different geographically…but my guess is you will have eyes to see the magic there too.

  3. I understand the feeling of ‘pull’ places can have. I love the picture of you walking in front of the dam.

  4. I understand you 100%. Coming from a funny, rural, slightly redneck part of the world too full of magic, married to a piece of land. I always feel like part of me is missing when I’m away from it even though it’s complicated and hard and almost impossible to make a living here. Yet here I am, back after trying 2 months in the city, lying in my new room in my old house. All I can see is the moon and fields, it’s worth every second of money worry to have this level of freedom. I know your situation is very different and much more complex, I just really hope you find a way some day of getting back there. Something tells me that pull will never go and at some point the universe will convene to make it possible for you to return! xxx

    1. charley, i often think of you as one of the few people (up until this post, gosh!) who REALLY knew what i was talking about with this whole homeland thing. i’m really excited to hear you are back….i know you’ve been going through a lot of struggle around to be or not to be there. when you went to london i thought “good for you!” but i am secretly gleeful that the wild and the woods and the moon drew you home. i can’t wait for the continuing story. xoxo

  5. I so badly want to reply to this beautiful piece right now, but I have to be off to work. So I just wanted to say thank you and that I’ll be back all my thoughts collected and ready to commit to the conversation.

    Bright Blessinsgs and morning sun!

  6. i think i found you through rachel’s blog (6512) and i wanted to say hi and say what a beautiful blog you have. i also had to chime in on the sense of place and i do understand how it is a kind of torture to make this kind of choice (living in a place that is not our place…) i’m sure you have made a place for yourself there in the bay area, but to tell you the truth, i lived in berkeley for 5 years and never felt connected to it, and was never happier than when i finally left. that sounds so negative, but i guess i wanted to say your feelings are valid and make sense. 🙂 also, that i now live in yet another part of the world, not my girlhood home, and love it and am totally soaking in what it means to find home and develop my sense of place here in the new place, and it’s not impossible so keep hope alive. cumbersome writing here but all of this to say, i hear you! 🙂

    1. I hear you too MB! What you speak of is also my hope…that if home must be someplace new, that it will be somewhere I have fallen deeply in love with, where I am grateful to find another connection so rare. I have loved other places…Humboldt, Maine…so I know it is possible. But like you, I just have never felt that connected to the Bay Area (and I’ve been here for 14 years!). Thank you for giving the hope of a fresh start, and thank you too for allowing me to hear your voice. 🙂

  7. I came to you for the first time today via Rachel’s 6512…
    I live in New Mexico, in a city two hours south of the land I came of age on and where I feel most at home. Where I live now has become my home, even more so because my last real link to the old place, my parents, are also now displaced and living down the road from me. So I seldom have cause to visit anymore.
    For years I struggled with my longing to move back to Taos, to be there even when it began to seem that I had outgrown it. finally I came to cherish the longing, how present it made me feel on visits home, how it inspired me and reappeared in my creative work.
    Everyone needs to know they have a home somewhere. Not everybody does.
    It’s okay to love it fiercely, and to leave and return again and again.

    1. “Everyone needs to know they have a home somewhere. Not everybody does. It’s okay to love it fiercely, and to leave and return again and again.”

      This is so precise and beautiful. My heart cried out “I can’t bear it” and I also found myself tearing up at the truth. I can tell you speak from the heart, because it is only that kind of wisdom that contains the type of razor’s edge paradox you describe. Thank you for sharing your experience with me.

      And welcome!

  8. It looks like this post resonated with a lot of people. I moved to the Bay Area during college and wanted so much to be there. I got a lot out of trying on an urban identity, first in the East Bay and later in SF. But while your words about the land are so powerful and poignant, also your observation of the competition for space and attention are so true and were so hard for me. We left SF 5 years ago (wow time flies) and I left kicking and screaming. But here in this little community on the coast, just out of the peripheral vision of the city, we’ve made a life where we don’t feel like tiny fish in a big sea. Don’t get me wrong, I miss having all that… stuff right outside my front door, but I also don’t miss having all that stuff right outside the front door. This is all to say, I hear you and I haven’t even mentioned my own longing and pull to where I grew up- Carmel Valley and Big Sur. That landscape is just part of my DNA, and no matter how similar the flora and fauna here is, it is no replacement. I think I just have to accept that at this point in my life. But, that doesn’t mean, for me and for you, that circumstances in the future won’t be different. Maybe its just a timeline thing.

  9. These comments are so beautiful, I love the connection to place that we all feel. So powerful and instructive.

    But mostly I want to say that when Col was in the NICU in Denver, Dan and I took a hike in the Colorado foothills and were followed by a silver (albino?) fox.

  10. god. i think i know that feeling. i really do feel some intense knowing and being known when i’m in arkansas. like in a very effortless gnomey magical way. aaaaaaaa. it makes me feel crazy right now like if i don’t get that feeling NOW i’m gonna freak. well. in a way, as i feel into this, i believe i am just beginning, just barely barely beginning to get a glimpse, just a glimpse here. a glimpse of that feeling. oh god. i need to figure out how to lightening speed it up. i forget, forgot about that known knowing feeling with land, but now that i’m remembering it, i feel crazy not being able to feel it. oh. i will go outside right now and pray to this mountain to help me speed up our sacred relationship. to the mountain and all her creatures and realms. oh yes. i am praying right now. i hope you get to move there though. or something. whatever is in store for you, i hope it means more of that feeling. you are so magical. the transmission through the words and photos into my heart and my imagination and spirit is so cool. i like to slow down, read your blog, and be inspired. i really really like it! thank you for this gift of your creative soul. it is such a gift.

    1. hey you!! you’re supposed to be taking an internet break! i just found your sneaky comments. gosh i’ve been missing you like woah…i’m so glad you tip toed in here. and you are welcome…thank YOU for seeing me, for getting it, for mirroring it back. takes one to know one, queen bee.

      yup. effortless gnomey magical way. that’s exactly what i’m talking about. you KNOW. i forget about the feeling too, and so does my friend shane…we talk about that a lot. in a way, it’s healthy, means we are in the present. but in another way it totally does induce panic…because when you remember the feeling, at least for me, i remember how much more deeply i am connected to my SELF, to a core way of being.

      wherever i go, i hope it means more of that feeling too..that’s the priority. i’m terrified i will have to settle for something else.

  11. wow, your stories of silver foxes speak of unknown connections even deeper than our own roots. i think that is what being in your home land does, it stokes those old fires, tweaks the cosmic tendrils of your greater web. makes you feel part of something larger, someplace small is also someplace vast, because it mirrors your own soul. and i do think it has to do with space. maybe someone feels a sense of space in the city? i have heard people say (i guess facetiously) that they can only breathe in the city. i myself have found it more and more difficult to venture OUT of these hills and into the city. it is like pulling teeth to get me to sf even for a great show! much less sacramento, where i do have many friends. the driving, the freeways, the traffic, the sidewalks, the cement and brick and concrete…i grew weary of it long ago and now find it easy to give in to my deeper spirit.

    i so enjoy reading your thoughts. the conversations shared with strangers also suggest a deeper sense of home, a place where connections are possible and flourishing. even the thrift store finds. another type of connection. good luck to you in your journeys through the various places and homes of your life.

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