Friday, November 25, 2005

Eulogy for Ingwe

I first met Ingwe in Lincoln Vermont when I was fifteen years old. His stories and his presence brought out the life in the natural world around me. Whether I'm climbing a tree in a city park, walking in the African bush, or camping in the Adirondacks, I could always feel Ingwe's teachings and his love for the wild, present in me. I visited Ingwe once in New Jersey and would write to him occasionally about the experiences I had abroad. He was a powerful teacher, a huge influence and a compassionate man.

These days I don't have to get in too thick to feel the city start to weigh me down. It's isolating existing in a habitat only fit for your own species. It crumbles slowly, and new faces cycle in to replace the old. I can't always put a positive spin on the strength of the human spirit, I don't always want to recognize my face in theirs

The orange pine needles that blanket the forest floor and pile up as we push the back to form a circle of brown earth, moist and cool. The tiniest twigs leaning precariously in a tepee form, the thicker branches mimicking them above, we crack the deadwood off and patiently construct a fire. The tinder bundle burning in the cupped hands, before it is gently eased within the dry structure.

Steaming cups of chamomile tea in gloved hands as bodies rest on a ground preparing for sleep, beginning to freeze. The sky grows a darker shade of blue until you begin to feel like you could fall into it. The stars glow whiter and looking up makes your breath come softly from you lungs into the air.

The coyotes call in the distance it makes you feel like a teenager, over confident and knowingly reckless. They run through your inner ear canal and down the back of your spine, burying their kill along you lower rib, storage for the long winter ahead.

We would leave parties, girlfriends, drugs and status just to walk into the woods. We would listen to the highway miles off and wait for it to gently rock itself to sleep. We'd come crawling from human tragedy's infected or scarred and lie broken in hidden fields, while the wind cleaned our wounds and the chickadees stitched us up.

We'd challenge Spirits of Thunder and Lightening, Frozen ponds, Rockfaces, Gravity, Snowstorms, Moose and Bear, Crocodile and Lion, Rapids and waterfalls, and the natural unknown, just to prove to whoever was watching devil or angel, ghost or god, that there are a few mortals left on this Earth that still remember where they came from and enjoy the challenge of returning home.

Of all the senses we lived in smell, sight, sound, touch, the sense of humor was always the most prevalent. No other group of folks I've ever known could switch from sex jokes to solemn thought and prayer so naturally.

In the rivers, under the summer sun and the blue sky. Swimming among the rocks carved by the winter runoff of thousands of years. The sweat from climbing, body over rock, body over root and soil to the Adirondack peaks washed into the water and rushing away.

Walking home today,
stopping at a track,
set in dry mud,
barely recognizable in the frozen ground
the sky is grey and everyone civilized is inside their house,
I ignore the cars moving nearby,
I hear the dogs barking in the twilight,
my toes are numb and ache in my shoes,
I have places I should be
as I bend down until I'm eye level with the print
and begin to try and uncover

Dedicated to the memory of Ingwe and the memory of Chris Gelineau, Jim Dobkowski and all those that walked in the bush with me.