First off, the ‘writing’ part is pretty straight forward. I’m a writer.
Second, the moose. This is easy and at the same time kind of a long story.
Moose are my spirit guide.
Now you don’t have to buy into spirit guides, I mean, I do because I’m 1/234 Cherokee, on my mother’s side. Actually, I’ve never given spirit guides much thought beyond Native American Folklore.
And when I was 18, a spirit guide was the farthest thought from my mind. At that time, I was busy buying into being lost and not sure what I wanted to do with my life.
My senior year of high school was full of the normal ‘I don’t know who I am or what I’m doing with my life’ angst. My first year of college I followed in the footsteps of several friends and got lost amid the collegiate crowd at a State University. I didn’t belong there, but where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do, I wasn’t sure.
Then came an experience that would change the trajectory of my life. I was invited to visit my great aunt and uncle for a few days. It would have been one thing to visit my aunt and uncle at their home, in Boise Idaho. But this particular summer, they were volunteering for Idaho Fish and Game; in the middle of nowhere.
Oh, give a fledgling writer of a confused girl with a gypsy soul the opportunity to go to the middle of nowhere and she will jump at the chance knowing no other information.
After making arrangements that would be needed, I found myself at Stonebreaker Ranch in the middle of Chamberlain Basin in the heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area. Quite a mouthful, huh?
With a fistful of babysitting money in hand, I invited myself to stay, not for a few days, but a few weeks.
Now, for this story, it is important to understand two things. I have always had a wild gypsy spirit, a wanderlust if you will, to travel and go and see and be. And secondly, I spent my developmental years in Southern California. Busy-hectic-smog filled-O.C. before it was a TV show-graduating class of 500-Hollywood is only 30 miles away-Southern California to be exact.
I went from here:
The first task in my journey was getting to the Ranch.
Often refered to as the backcountry, the River of No Return Area is 2.3 million acres big. There are 2,616 miles of maintained trails in the area. The Middle Fork of the Salmon River runs through the whole thing and offers 100 miles of whitewater rafting. The ONLY way into this haven of wildness is by horse, backpacking, or small plane. No wheeled vehicles are allowed in this area. Small planes are allowed to land on makeshift airstrips. I went by small plane.
Here is a landing strip in the backcountry:
Now if you are like me, you noticed that there is nothing but a grass field cleared of trees that consists of a landing strip. What you don’t know, is that my first decent into the area, all smiles and white knuckles, we flew over the landing area twice because the pilot needed to “buzz the elk and moose that were standing in the middle of the field so we could have a clear landing space.”
I exited the plane and was greeted by the sight of the only buildings I would see for the next few weeks.
I put my suitcase away, arranged my sleeping bag and was ready for the tour of the property.
My Aunt and Uncle were volunteering and while here, they were helping to fix up the property as it had been newly acquired by the Fish and Game. First I was shown the bathroom, ‘we have plumbing’, my aunt said happily. It was a nice flush toilet, located in a nice outhouse sort of building, about a hundred yards from the back yard. Which in the middle of a darkened night with only a flashlight, there wasn’t much comfort this city girl found in plumbing.
The house was set up with propane that heated water for showers, a stove, and propane lanterns found through the house. There was a hand radio for emergencies and to get in touch with whomever it was that took grocery orders. You see, the plane that brought me in would be back once a week, on Wednesdays, in order to deliver mail and groceries.
There was no electricity and our water came from the river. We boiled the water so that it would be drinkable, but there was this rustic light brown tint to the water that was just part of the experience.
I don’t know that I was much help but I hiked around, I helped where I could, I pulled yards and yards of old barbed wire that was tangled in the grass and dirt so animals wouldn’t get caught. I walked the ditch that carried our water to the house to make sure it was clean of debris and obstructions.
Idaho is further North than I’d been in my 18 years. So the summer months give sunlight to this grand area until about 930pm, when dusk finally come upon the land. After finishing the work day there was still several hours of daylight before bedtime. So I played card games, read, hiked, read, wrote, or read.
The other thing I did was hike all over that wildflower covered country as much as I could. So I was informed how to handle myself if I ever came across a cougar, an Elk, or a moose.
My uncle had told me that if I ever came across a moose I should just get out of his way. The best thing to do was get to a group of trees where the moose couldn’t get his horns through. If it was a female moose, I needed to slowly back away and make sure I wasn’t between her and her baby, if there was one. But then I was assured, they would be afraid of me and run away from me before I even saw them.
So there I was, tromping around part of the 2,616 miles and I heard a rustle. I looked up and there he was.
My heart in my throat and I looked around me a bit manic because no one told me what to do when you come upon a moose and a group of trees is NOT nearby. I stood still and taking a deep breath tried to back away, v e r y s l o w l y. But then, my moose caught my eye. We stared at each other for several heart beats and he turned his head, heading on the path he had been, but stopped, looked back and me and gave me a nod. I thought my heart had fluttered into my throat when I first came upon that moose, but after that moment, it dropped into my shoes and I started crying.
Like a crazy uncontrollable I’m in the middle of nowhere by myself and I had an experience so spiritual that I hadn’t been looking for and for some strange reason everything in this moment right now makes sense…that kind of crying. It shook me to my core and I sunk to the ground with the weight of it.
Maybe it was a lot of things at that point in my life that I had figured out, or not cried for. Perhaps it was exhaustion and all the work I’d been doing. Mostly though, I think it was that moose.
On a side note, I applied to Bosie State University when I got back to Southern California, was accepted and moved to Idaho a year later.
So why Writing Moose? Well simply, I kind of believe that the moose is my spirit guide.