Breathing in the freshness of the place and appreciating the natural world, I went to work. Because Laurie knew that I would surely cut a load of oak, which we had no need of, she had already promised it to a friend who would put it to good use. While she cared for her mother down the hill in Monticello, I got busy and fired up the Stihl. It didn’t take me long to cut a pickup load of 8-foot logs which had the bed of the truck riding on the frame and the rear shocks overloaded to the point of fatigue. Feeling as if I had accomplished something worthwhile, I took up a lunch of an Arizona Mango Madness and a bag of Jack Link's smoked turkey jerky. Walking further into the forest, I found a small open space, sat back against a fallen Quakie, popped the top on the tallboy, and began to partake.
Although it may sound silly, but because of the associated colors, refreshing taste of the drink, and spicy kick of the jerky, this slim repast always reminds me of a brilliant early winter sunrise over the mountains, mesas, and monuments of our beloved canyon country. If you are up and out just before dawn and look to the east you may be privileged to see a spectacular, watercolor-scape eruption of light and color upon the skyline. From behind the wildly varied and still deeply shadowed landscape, the resplendent God of the Sun slowly but steadily emerges, bursting forth in all his might and majesty. A light show of radiant orange, passionate pink, and fiery red---along with every shade of purple---ebbs and flows in an ever-evolving tide of diffused and refracted luminescence. The backlit feminine form of majestic mountains and linier staggered and stacked buttes stand out in softened silhouette. Closer in, twisted and gnarled groves of our wind- and weather-formed juniper trees along with bushed-out shapes of yucca, sage, and rabbit brush add depth and dimension to nature’s painted palate.
As I sat there, leaning upon a tree stump amongst a grove of pine, oak, and quaking aspen, enjoying the sounds of silence and smell of cut wood, I heard something scampering through the leaves and underbrush nearby. Opening my eyes, I saw one of the most amazingly attractive sights on our mountain. A glorious Abert's squirrel stood poised on a log only yards away from where I rested. Through my work at the trading post, I was aware that in Native American folklore, squirrels are most noted for their noisy and aggressive behavior; they frequently spread gossip, instigate trouble between other animals, or annoy others with their rude and bossy attitudes. However, as Priscilla often reminds me, cultural stories also attempt to find balance. They speak of an equal and opposite side of everything. She tells me that squirrels (Hazéí) are praised for their industrious food gathering and courage, and among Southeastern tribes, squirrels are honored as caretakers of the forest. In the story of Changing Bear Maiden, the squirrel guards the maid’s vital organs making her difficult to defeat.
The extraordinarily outfitted little beastie saw my movement and sprinted up the nearest tree in a flash of grey and white. It leapt from tree to tree with the ease and grace of being born to the heights, then stopped some thirty yards away and began chastising my intrusion from on high. The sighting made me smile in delight. I would never see the Abert as rude or bossy, but I do consider it a guide and protector. I appreciate their beauty and place in the world. The next time you are in need of a few moments of meditative refreshment, grab yourself a can of Mango Madness and a package of smoked turkey jerky. Then find a quiet, peaceful place to sit back, close your eyes, and think of the most magnificent sunrise or sunset you have ever witnessed. I hope you, too, will catch a glimpse of the tufted Abert’s squirrel. See if that doesn’t calm your nerves and make life easier for others within your circle.