Perhaps if my young adult life had not derailed so completely, I might never have discovered the restorative power of nature. I would never have hiked so far into the mountains alone and caught my breath as I rounded a bend and came face to face with a majestic moose. If I hadn’t lost my family, I might never have realized that I could pour my heartache into the winding stream that sustains the life of the magnificent, four-legged, awkward creatures who revived my will to live. From hours spent alone, questing in nature, I began to discover a new way of belonging. I started to hear everything in the natural world speaking to me in its own language—about itself, about me, about life. I breathed deeper. And I gratefully took it all in.

When we traverse paths through the natural world, we may begin to hear messages from the earth, sky, trees, plants, and animals. Over time, we learn to decipher and believe each one, as we would a trusted friend. This becomes our medicine, the spiritual antidote for what ails us. We tread deeper into our inner nature from wisdom we glean from the outer. Even through unimaginable difficulty and sorrow, we experience being seen and held by the larger world, reassured that spring will surely follow winter. Moose Medicine seeks to wind you through the backcountry of your own consciousness, where a pristine remembrance thrives. May you track your own form of Moose Medicine well.

Table of Contents
PART I The Medicine of the Elements
Chapter 1 Animal Dreams
Chapter 2 Sound Bites
Chapter 3 Buffalo Ribs
Chapter 4 Mountain Magic
Chapter 5 The Good Earth
Chapter 6 The Standing People
Chapter 7 The Stone People
Chapter 8 The Air We Breathe
Chapter 9 Mysteries of the Deep
Chapter 10 River Songs
Chapter 11 Fire in the Earth
Chapter 12 The Power of Place
Chapter 13 The Fairy Councils
PART II The Medicine of Plants, Place, and Animals
Chapter 14 Returning to the Open Trails
Chapter 15 All That Renews
Chapter 16 The War Within
Chapter 17 No Longer A Poultice
Chapter 18 Whose Greed?
Chapter 19 All On The Same Rope
Chapter 20 Arid Passageways
Chapter 21 The Nature of Time
Chapter 22 No Earthly Escape
Chapter 23 The Shaman’s Way
Chapter 24 When You Believe
PART III The Medicine of Two-Leggeds
Chapter 25 From Shadow to Light
Chapter 26 From Abandonment to Belonging
Chapter 27 From Shame to Consciousness
Chapter 28 The Art of Loving
Chapter 29 Intimate Broken Places
Chapter 30 Reconstructing Conflict
Chapter 31 Recognizing Your True Purpose
Chapter 32 The Medicine of Conscious Prayer
Chapter 33 The Grandmothers and Grandfathers

Willows grace the sides of the slow-moving streams that meander through the mountains of Southwest Montana where I am wandering. The fragrance of clean water pours into my lungs and I scoop it in greedily. I have once again arrived here at the West Fork of the Bitterroot River to seek adventure with Moose. Having already left my vehicle and county-traveled dirt roads behind, my eager feet are now guided by seldom-used deer trails winding far into the high mountain valley floor. Flies buzz carelessly and sun warms my grateful skin while I lose human thought with every step. My breath deepens, and I simply absorb trees, sky, water, grasses…

Soon I will spot one of my favored moose in his quiet habitat. His long, dusty brown muzzle will open deftly to chew on streamside branches. Tall willows might camouflage his massive body, but I will spot him by spotting a willow whose top branches tremble with the feeding. I will tremble too, thrilled with such danger and awkward beauty so close to my own. After feeling amazed and slightly afraid, I will begin a conversation by tumbling out complaints about my life’s sorrows. Yet this bad habit will soon subside as the wonder at the majesty of life- his and mine- begins to grow. I am fully alive, safe and at home on wild ground. This I know. This I can count on.

My journey of learning how to thrive through the unexpected rigors of my early adult life began with the realization that Moose were becoming my personal ‘medicine’. Perhaps destiny decided to help me survive the daunting loss of marriage and lack of children by drawing me into the heart of nature as a way to rebuild my heart. That first summer of depressive absence of all my hopes and dreams of a happy family, I had been aimlessly winding through willowed streamside trails alone. Upon rounding a wide forested curve, I happened upon a large bull moose immersed in the stream, sloshing along only 12 feet away. I froze mid-stride. He simply raised his head and glanced my way briefly, flipping bugs away from his large ears, and returned to browsing the middle of the slow-moving stream. With huge withers and in full rack, he clacked along the underwater stones, dipping his entire large head deep into the stream, raising it up again with a mouthful of dripping green fronds.

Fear turned into admiration. My first close encounter with Moose! I began to feel myself altered into an odd but deeper reality while gazing at his large brown eyes, his curiously- rounded muzzle rising out of the water and descending back in, his quiet slurping around the willow-side waters. He was alone and content. As if in a dream, I started to relax, to feel something from him about the capacity to survive, even thrive, alone. I sank into a sit at the base of a small aspen that could no sooner protect me than I could protect it. I was aware he could lunge and strike me with his powerful front legs, yet I couldn’t leave his presence. He lifted his head a few times to just gaze at me. The water kept lazily curling along, birds singing their summer songs and wind teasing the branches of the trees surrounding us both. Who could be afraid now? Soon his wellbeing began to infuse my own, until my breath at last seemed to be his. We stayed close like that for some time, breathing in tandem, him grazing on long green stream fronds and me transfixed, cross-legged and still.

He eventually ambled off with only one more casual glance in my direction. In the aftermath, I breathed in the air to capture last bits of his musky scent. That he was surviving so well while so alone profoundly impacted me that day, and has since informed my own ability to survive the un-planned solitariness of my own life. The fact that I could share a moment of profoundly-felt recognizance with him was incredible; to live to tell about it was even better.

Native people worldwide describe learning from wild animals as a type of “medicine”. They believe that you can be actually ‘adopted’ by any animal species in the wild, either for a season of specific need or for your entire life. Perhaps you have already had special experiences with one or more animals in the wild. When you realize it has  important lessons for you and begin to discern it’s “messages”, that particular one is understood as your ‘medicine’. When writing about and referring directly to such an animal, such as  ‘Moose’ or ‘Eagle’,  out of respect, you capitalize the name, just as you would a human’s. Their appearance and resulting encounters are nature’s offerings to restore peace of mind and connection to your body in the midst of personal and even global stressful events.

Moose Medicine invites you on a virtual retreat by day (or a bedtime read by night) luring you  into nature adventures through the power of story. You may find yourself traversing the pristine backcountry of your own psyche, where your senses will come alive to the Zen-like presence and teachings of Moose, water, earth, and sky. You might hear rivers reminding you how to flow with life, touch the ‘Stone People’ to access their ancient wisdom, and feel the flutter of those elusive fairy beings flitting around to lighten your wearied mind. It is my intention to trot you through my own first-hand experiences to engage your heart and feed your mind, renewing your spirit and inspiring you to discover-or rediscover- your own capacity for magical experience in the natural world. You may then remember how keenly you belong-to nature, to the world, and to yourself.

Through reading these narratives of experience in the natural world, I hope you will be inspired to ‘get up-close and personal’ with nature, or to return to time alone in the natural world if you have strayed from it. In the process, may find yourself spending more contemplative time in nature and experience more of your own cadenced balance and sure steps. Moose Medicine seeks to wind you through the backcountry of consciousness, where a pristine remembrance thrives. We are living in the great Knowable Mystery. May you track your own form of Moose Medicine well, with all the wild encounters appropriate to such a magnificent journey.