Masks, Bandits and Native American Lore

With Halloween right around the corner there are masks everywhere. Creepy masks, funny masks and superhero masks. There’s also a few bad guy masks. So with this being the season of the masks I thought that I would share a my best masked model so far. All summer long she would come to our office to find a huge mess near the entrance. Someone was throwing trash all over the recreational area. It wasn’t long before we spotted the culprit sporting her own bandit mask. The North America Raccoon. Although they’re pretty cute they can be not only troublesome but eventually they get dangerous. The one pictured here (or one of her sisters) had to be removed because it jumped up on the lunch table and took a sandwich out of someone’s hands. But what else can we expect from someone who wears a bandit mask 24/7?

On the subject of masks, I believe that I promised my friend Enni that I would tell the story of “False Face”.

The version that I was told says that the Creator and False Face had a contest to determine who was most powerful. False Face liked to brag and was cruel to the people by making them sick with his magic. The winner of the contest would determine the fate of the people. To show his power False Face strained with all his power and moved a mountain into the sea. Satisfied with his might he turned around to brag about his power and crashed into the same mountain which the Creator had moved between them effortlessly. As a punishment for his troublemaker ways the Creator cursed False Face to be subject to the command of the medicine men and must undo all of sickness he caused. Those medicine men became the False Face Society and while healing the sick they wear a mask with a crooked nose in honor of the Creator’s victory.

I’ve probably left a few details out of the story and there’s different versions but the basics are there. I know it’s really kinda odd but when I see a raccoon I think of masks and when I think of masks I think of False Face even though the raccoon has nothing to do with the legend.

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A Little Bird Told Me…

Stepping softly on the edge of forest trail I came to large patch of bramble briars. The smell of the oak and hickory mingled with the scent of a fireplace warning the cabin in the valley below. It was hunting season and I had been in the woods since dawn. I found a fallen log and laid my rifle across my lap as I sat down for lunch. I was down to the crust of my sandwich when a noticed a tiny set eyes watching me from inside the bramble. I carefully observed the tiny spectator as he started fluttered from cane to cane searching for insects. I whispered to him that today wasn’t a good hunt for anyone and tossed the crust of bread on the forest floor at the root of the bramble. He paused for a moment and flew away with the bread. A few minutes later he returned with his mate. They landed at my feet and to my surprise they spoke. “Your kindness in sharing your meal has given us food for the day. So as a way of saying thank you we will share the secrets that we learned while flying to and fro”.

And here’s a few things that I learned from them.

1. The easiest lie to believe is the one that you want to be true. Nobody baits a snare with stones.

2. You’re free to fly to wherever you want to go but be sure that it’s a place where you want to be.

3. Take the opportunity to sing and spread joy every chance you get because the blessings you give come back to you in the end.

4. Anyone who loves you is family.

5. The early bird gets the worm but he has to scratch for it.

6. You’ll never learn to fly until you stop being afraid to fall.

7. Gossip and News are two different things. Learn how to tell the difference.

8. You can’t un-tweet. (See number 7 )

9. Some things just don’t belong in the nest. Get rid of anything harmful.

10. Birds of a feather will flock together so spend time with friends .

And then they just flew back into the bramble bush and disappeared. I never saw them again. However, ever since that day when I hear the birds singing in the morning there are two who seem to chirp a little happier than the rest.

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The Cry Of The Lonely

I sat by by the Kanawha River the other morning. I rolled down the window and was enjoying the morning sun as danced on the water. It’s my time to enjoy life and absorb a few minutes of peaceful contemplation. The ducks are swimming around playing follow the leader as a sleepy butterfly flexes it’s wings. A long lonely cry breaks the silence as the mourning dove announced its presence. I looked around and saw only one. It’s mate was nowhere to be found. Again it cries out with a heart-wrenching tone. Soon it hobbled into view cocking it’s head from side to side and straining to listen for a reply. The other life on the river becomes quiet and still as the next call echoes. I began to feel the desperation of the lonely mourning dove searching for its true love. Then I heard it. The reply came from the other shore. The little dove perks up as does a vertical take-off as it flies towards true love. Faith never gives up. Faith calls out expecting the answer regardless of the current circumstances. And when the answer comes, faith responds without hesitation.

The Great Blue Herons

Something stalks the neighborhood in my mountains. Slowly and silently it creeps along the banks of the rivers and streams. It sharp eyes detect the slightest movement just below the water’s surface. It strikes like lightning and it’s prey has little chance of escaping the razor sharp beak.

The Great Blue Herons are one of my favorite birds. I have never seen a native species that reminded me more of a dinosaur. The one pictured here was close to three feet tall. The long serpentine neck, wide wingspan and habit of trailing it’s lags as it flies really makes one think that they’ve crossed into the distant past. This one also seems to have a sense of humor. It likes to lurk around just below the bridges in my neighborhood and spring up out of creek when you least expect it. If I didn’t know better I’d swear it laughs as it flies away. I haven’t been able to spot the nest yet but I do occasionally hear it’s grunting calls coming from the thick bush. They’re truly one of the more amazing sights in my wild wonderful West Virginia and hope you get to see one if you’re ever traveling close to the water. And, if you happen to hear a snicker it’s probably the one that likes to startle me.

When The Quiet One Speaks

It’s in those moments of peaceful contemplation that you really get to know the voices the speak to your spirit. We all have theses inner voices that speak to us throughout the day. The voice that tells you that you have chores to do, the voice that talks you out of doing those chores. There’s a voice of confidence. ( Be careful about this one because he can get you into trouble. ) There’s the voice of doubt. ( Also not to be fully trusted. )

I suppose that if we were to take inventory of all these inner voices that the list could be quite long. But the one I want to focus on is the quiet one. The voice doesn’t speak often. He patiently waits for an opportunity to make his point. The quiet one doesn’t compete with the other voices. He doesn’t have to. He doesn’t argue or complain. The quiet one is logical and honest without being judgemental. The quiet one is the voice of Truth. He’s that Still, Small Voice. He is the voice of God. One of my atheist friends once expressed concern ( while smirking) about people who think God speaks to them. My only answer there is that God speaks to everyone, it’s just that not everyone listens. As I said, He doesn’t compete with the other voices. He simply waits to be heard. This why in a lot of my writings I like to focus on the opportunity to sit in quiet and peaceful places. It’s why I strive to push back the world with its ads and loud voices that attempt to dominate your every thought. Because when that Voice Of Truth speaks I don’t want to miss out on what was said. His words are life that added to my day.

The Thrill Of The Hunt

I’ve been a hunter for most of my life. These days I’ve replaced my rifle with a camera but the basic skills are the same. If you sit still long enough they will come to you. But there’s a trick. You have to be able to become a part of the environment. Sitting in the woods with a camera isn’t enough. They can hear your heartbeat long before you can here their approaching footsteps. On a calm day they can smell you from hundreds of yards/meters away. If you don’t belong there they will know and stay away. Learning to belong to the wild places takes some time and practice but being at peace with creation is a very positive experience. Keeping your mouth closed and your ears open helps prevent them from smelling your breath. The birds will tell you where he is. As he walks towards you, the forest falls silent. Control your excitement. A racing heartbeat is a sure sign that you don’t belong. When he comes into sight he’ll snort and try to get a fresh scent of you. Be steady and move very slowly. His ears will twitch as he tries to pinpoint your heartbeat. Easy does it. Focus. Now, take the shot. He heard the shutter snap and he bounds off to be hunted again. Each time will be different but you’ll never lose the thrill of the hunt.

When You Don’t Fit In

I think everyone has had that feeling that they just don’t fit in at some point. In fact I’d say it’s multiple points for most of us. The temptation is to forsake one’s individuality for sake of the crowd. But isn’t that lying? It’s one thing to be polite and respectful towards other opinions but it another thing altogether to fein total agreement. What’s more is that when the truth eventually comes out the others in the group will feel betrayed. A true friendship can handle some individualism and if it can’t then it was never a true friendship in the first place. It was only mimicry.

Being your own person is often difficult. There’s going to be conflict and in today’s world a large portion of population is under the misunderstanding that disagreement and hate are the same thing. They most certainly are not. God could have created a world of clones where everyone is exactly alike. Everyone would have the same opinions, the same ideas and the same looks. How boring would that be? There would also be no fresh ideas, no variety and no excitement. I’m starting to meander here so I’m just going to get to point. Don’t be afraid to stand out. Sure there’s going to be people who don’t accept you because they can’t handle anyone who doesn’t mirror them but do you really want to burden yourself with such a shallow person? Just be yourself.