Cody entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

In today’s world…. this.

Politics to lie where they may… this.

Freedom… this.

On the open drive from Cody, Wyoming, to the Yellowstone entrance… this.

The right to drive it… this.

I have said “this” enough times.

This.

A Five Foot Wing Span and 72 Bananas

Dusty gravel slid under my truck wheels as I turned into the small parking lot and stepped out into triple digit heat.

As I walked into a quiet, unassuming building on a hilltop in Mineral Wells, Texas, a bat door knocker welcomed me. In the small foyer were bat photos and a mail tray. And inside this building was a place like no other.

As I tell you about it, it seems important to stress that I am not an employee, nor receive any compensation for this blog entry. I never even intended to write it. It was to be a private thing. I am doing so as a person overcome today with emotion at what she has seen. I am revealing to you a piece of my life story, just as I shared about the night of tornados and the day a whale showed me her dance while deep at sea.

Seven years ago, my “Adopt-a-Bat” packet arrived from Bat World Sanctuary, the largest sanctuary in the world dedicated solely to bats. They help and then release bats who can survive on their own and provide lifelong sanctuary for those who cannot.

I delicately placed the packet on my glass-topped coffee table in eager anticipation. As I sat on the floor, deeply immersed in bat details, my wine glass was forgotten and my cheese tray went dry.

Within a week of receiving it, I met Rocky. He had a very small wing span but created a huge influence in my life. He was so named, as we met at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. His story starts out hard and ends in beauty.

Tiny Rocky was being abused in a parking lot. A group of people were alternately frightened of him and cruel in curiosity. They were attacking a small creature who, in size, could fit into the palm of a hand. A store manager approached with a broom for the final blow.

I had no idea what to do, but when the proverbial smoke cleared, the people had run off and I had possession of Rocky. A rehab person arrived to take him. Saved, doctored, and eventually released… Rocky flew free again across the Colorado sky, in true beauty and excellent health. The Adopt-a-Bat packet held new meaning for me.

That was 2015. It had taken those seven long years to apply as a volunteer to such an impressive place. I was stunned to receive a positive response. And I had no idea of how my world was about to change. Listen up, Rocky!

There are many bats at this sanctuary. They are all unique. I could speak of how bats are beneficial to man and the globe he lives upon, but much more so is an individual with a complex personality and a soul with a right to life.

The namesake of this post is The Captain, an Indian Flying Fox rescued from a zoo. He does indeed have a five foot wingspan and he is beautiful. He now lives in luxury in an open enclosure with no barriers, plenty of food and enrichment, and doting caretakers. Many others live in this same luxury, having been rescued from the pet trade or research.

But they are also allowed to be wild animals in this habitat. They are not pets.

If I were them, I imagine happily hearing this: “You are safe now. Go in there and be a bat.”

On another writing day, I will tell you of the very moving experience of being inside a bat enclosure during the day and inside the completely overturned world it becomes at night. I will tell you of the song of many species together as they sang in freedom, the elation of soaring with their wings sounding like a baseball repeatedly hitting a glove. I will tell you of how, walking through them, I was the air between a baseball and a glove.

I may also delicately speak of bat droppings in my hair and exuberantly tell of another who is the loudest bat I have ever met. I will definitely tell you about 72 bananas.

Meanwhile, here is a photo of Rocky. He was a Little Brown Bat. Is he not incredibly beautiful? I am also keenly aware that his name could also refer to the boxing hero, Rocky, but it didn’t occur to me until after the fact. Either way, “Eye of the Tiger” and a flight into a sky the color of the Denver Broncos… at the foot of the great Rocky Mountains, this little bat was something else! If you are still out there, Rocky, hello and good hunting tonight!

(I also included some links for you to enjoy)

If you meet a bat in need: https://batworld.org/what-to-do-if-you-found_a_bat/

Fun things here: https://www.facebook.com/batworld.org/

The ultimate of fun things here: https://batworld.org/bat-cams/

Coastal blips and a bee….

With my RV set up in a small town in Washington state and my soul restless, I got in my truck before daylight and wandered for several hours off the beaten path.

I soon found myself in a tiny place, a coastal blip in the road. Blips in the road have long lured the curious traveler. This was a rough blip, far from other towns, tourists, and much of anything at all. It backed into the foggy rain forest hills and looked out upon a small sheltered cove cluttered with seasoned fishing boats.

Bait and beer were the shelf staples at the town store, which was also the fish weigh station. The coffee was wonderful and they kept it coming, even when I wandered out onto the creaking wooden porch in search of poetry.

A cold mist slowly drenched everything. The wind cast the sea about the docks and rows of fish cleaning stations, salt heavy on the air.

They were wary of me. A young game warden drove up and quickly started a friendly conversation about my intentions, clearly summoned.

I lingered half a day before anyone could be coerced to chat. I then heard tall tales about storms, fires, eagles and a bear. “We are the top of the world, can’t you tell?” But then, abruptly, I was told that I should be careful on the winding rain forest road out, an explicit farewell.

Nonetheless, in the dusk I stepped into the small diner to warm up before leaving. I received curt nods, as people kept to themselves.

I had stayed too long. For all their cautious friendliness, I was still the outsider who was expected to leave.

When darkness fell and they drifted home, my light spirit drifted into the darkness as well. I began to feel alone, utterly and starkly alone.

Soon the diner was deserted. Though the hours stated they were open, I suspected they were not.

As I was gathering my raincoat, the damp that pooled in the windowsill and clung to the faded orange/brown curtains with prints from the 1970’s brought a bee to my side.

I shared the salt on my wrist and the cool sips from my water glass. Thank you for seeing me, little one. This lonely outsider needed to feel seen.

I named him Jeremiah

Whale Dancer

Tonight I write with no plan, no goal, no structure. I open my desk, take up an ink fountain pen, and let my thoughts flow.

Off the coast of Monterey, California, the sea was cold and fog rose from her breath. The morning was short and tense as the sun rose above the compass engraved upon her salt pier.

The sun was not to fully appear, for the fog was as thick as my ink pen upon this page. I was aboard a science ship, my boots gripping the deck as I walked, my fleece shirt drinking the joining of sea and sky.

Would I see my quarry in the cold fog and rough seas? No. The science students said it was not “whale weather.” So I would sit back and enjoy this, the thing my pen breathes upon this page… my perfection, my happiness, my soul screaming to the sea that I am within her depths and I feel her power. I bend over the side, into the spray, and I tell her that she is my fire. I close my eyes and shout silently from within.

And then she breached. A Humpback in full breach. She joyfully expressed the wonder within her own heart, matching my own, at full breach in cold fog. She was dancing in fog. She was singing in fog. She was embracing the cold. Her calf was nearby, she was as a shout, my ink fountain jar tipping and spilling would-be words across the rumpled pages….the black ink dashing across the page and onto the banks of the salt pier, the decks of the science ship, the surface of the open sea, uncontained.

Then back into the cold fog. Did I see her? Did we share a dance? Did she have one joyful, delighted scream within the depths, as did I, into the spray?

Shadow in fog, you shared my fire.

Below the Belt

Sometimes life hits you below the belt. With it, you run to sit, looking at this, with a homemade sandwich and a coke, for a pause… the maddening waves, the battering wind, the voices of sea creatures in their depths, and an earnest longing of a ship for the “Light to the Sea” hits you, ancient, cold, hard, honest.

And all is well.

Cape Blanco Light out of Port Orford, Oregon.

Tornados and kittens in a backpack

“Night of tornados” – wasn’t that the name of a horror flick?

We will get to the whales next time.

Today we are backtracking from my notes. It was May 21, 2019. Don’t let the older date fool you, the moment will never leave.

San Angelo State Park, in Texas, is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The area is shrub trees, mesquite brush, cactus, rolling hills, stone cliffs, deer, coyotes, jack rabbits, bob-whites… forget meditation apps, just visit this place at dusk and dawn.

Camped a few miles from the town, I had the perfect spot in the isolated southern section. I was on a ridge facing down into a little valley, the town quietly in the distance. There were no lights in this area and the night sky sparkled without “light pollution.” It was so perfect that I have a mind to request it each time I return, and return I shall.

Just look at it.

The day was splendid.

At almost dusk, a park ranger drove to each sparsely placed RV, warning us with the proverbial ominous stare into the distance… a tornado had wiped out several town blocks two days earlier. It was looking well to happen again.

“It is too late to leave. We are locking the gates and will not be back until morning.”

What?

The storm came quickly and I did not yet know Seashell, my 5th wheel, well enough to determine when it was safe to stay inside or when she would go over. I had trouble walking without grasping something. Later my Fitbit watch told me I had accomplished this:

I lost electricity early. I still had cell connection and in the dark, I checked my Facebook weather feeds. *refresh refresh refresh*

The night provided horizontal green lightning that enveloped San Angelo like a lasso without a lead. Seashell was a shuddering mess as the wind slid across her roof, under her belly, and around her sides. A green “lead” of the lasso soon extended over me.

The park bathhouse, a place to seek shelter, had looked very far away. Now it looked farther. I gathered important papers and the newly burned DVDs of family 8mms and slides into waterproof bags, acutely aware it was all I had left of them.

I learned that two cats will almost fit inside a backpack if they are terrified enough and to look there first before panicking and tearing a trailer apart because they had left their carriers. Moving them, I apologized in soothing whispers through puffs of loose fur.

Raincoat, handgun, water, medicine, headlamp… the door would not open. Why had I not gone sooner?

The green stretched and wobbled, with roiled black within. The blue and yellow lights of electrical surges popped as sections of town went dark. When green flashed on the other side of me, where there was nothing, I solemnly watched for a dark shape there as well.

None of the other RVers were heading for the bathhouse. Were we all waiting for someone else to go first, thereby asserting the seriousness of the moment?

I thought of Iowa, where in my youth a tornado had introduced me to a graphic human death by Mother Nature. I felt underwater. I curled onto the couch and dozed off, somehow. It had been hours.

My phone app tornado siren put that Old World banshee to shame.

My phone flashed: San Angelo, seek shelter. San Angelo, false alarm. San Angelo, keep watch. San Angelo, seek shelter immediately. It is south of you. It is southwest of you. It is moving north towards you. It has touched down three places. There are now more than one.

I knew people were in basements and interior rooms. I was on a ridge. I switched off my small battery candle that had kept me sane through the night. The dark felt like velvet. I sat on the floor with the kittens and trembled. We waited.

A friend from afar stayed up with me all night. She must have been exhausted. She gave me encouragement, weather reports, comfort, humor, a presence in a void. Her name is Veda. She was my angel.

The culmination of this blog is not that a tornado never reached the ridge. No, it brought the realization that I was not prepared to be the person I saw in Iowa. It made me wonder why I had not put a bible into my backpack. I had a tiny New Testament. It would have fit. Why was it an afterthought?

The storm put on an Old West dance hall show that night, complete with raucous fistfights and howled curses. Blessed first light brought views of downed tree limbs, scattered shrubs, slumped fences, and the defiant songs of birds celebrating victory.

Defiance. Let us all have it in times of peril.

Finis.

May of what and Whales

Really, one should write consistently or not at all.

I came here tonight to write about a small town called Depoe Bay, in Oregon. I came to write about 4 gray whales.

That is when I realized how lax I have been, not only in writing, but in answering. A precious soul read my May words and it took me until January 23rd, 2021 to read them. That is so very wrong. I hope he is reading this and forgives me.

I want to make an effort to write consistently. I have much to express. I am seeing, feeling, and experiencing so many things that my head is spinning and I am frozen. Literally frozen. I have never been this frozen. Suspended. Alienated even from myself.

Time to start again. I’ll start with 4 gray whales in the next chapter. They were not frozen. They were on their way from Alaska to Mexico. So intent is this migratory drive that they do not even stop to feed. They move at 4 miles per hour. But they move.

They were magnificent. I cannot wrap my head around the idea that they are just swimming around out there… such splendid and huge creatures, just wandering in our ocean. Or that’s an oops… it’s *their* ocean.

Isolation within Isolation

I was born with a severe hearing loss. I read lips and faces and eyes… it is my only portal.

Someone is addressing the problem of masks for the deaf and hard of hearing by showing some that have a see-through section. Is this mask going to be available to the whole country? The whole world? Everyone has one? Will it be cleaned every five seconds for visibility and spittle from speaking? Will it fog up from breathing? Will it have little windshield wipers with cleaning fluid per each sentence so we can see?

I like that someone is inventing them and realizing the problem. But it makes me angry that all I see is a wall of isolation. I am not in the deaf community and I do not know ASL. I was not allowed to learn as a child and every time I try to learn as an adult, I fail.

So all I see when I look out in the world right now is a world that is a brick wall. I meet kind people, but I’m tired of seeing a constant visual evidence that I do not belong… that I’m shut out of this “new normal” which is a phrase that I despise.

It is on television, it is on video, it is on the newspapers, it is everywhere I step outside. Fashion masks are becoming all the rage.

All I see is “you are locked out” and I’m bitter and angry. I used to be able to straddle both worlds. Now I belong nowhere.

DejaVu dear Self…

Oh dear readers and dear self, I’ve been looking back on my first journey westward in Serenity, detailed here on WordPress, and bigbangboom, what the hey…???? I’ve traveled the same path on my trip in Seashell so many years later?

I know much has happened and my brain had relapses of enough multitudes that we shall pretend it didn’t occur, but again what the hey?? I’m following the same route without realizing it?

Ok, girl, get a grip. Perhaps you are following a long-dormant-memory path from your youth, from your dad later in life, from… who knows. Or perhaps you are just seriously picking the best route.

And they are all the same.

I’ve gone back to review where I stayed on my first trip compared to the second and it’s been an eye opener. I’ve changed. They’ve changed. Life’s changed. The black water dump at the KOA in Barstow, California has changed. I’ll leave you guessing or grinning or groaning at that.

I must make a conscious effort to pick different routes, even if it means perhaps choosing bad ones (with safety and preparation). It must be done.

As I head back home to Texas from Oregon, this will happen. And it will be risky because those familiar routes are the safe ones.

Hold onto your hats. And your water jugs and your diesel fuel cans.

Thankfully, I do have some time to prepare for this.

In the meanwhile, how about those ferocious winter coastal waves? Oregon, you amaze me.