Confessions of an Accidental Shaman

A few years ago I had an urge to live outside so I would become comfortable being in the wild. There wasn’t even much of a goal to it…but I was simply drawn to spend as much time in wild nature as possible. The only way to do this practically was to work set up camp near the places I would go for work. Would spend part of the week at my house in town and spend the other half of the week at a place I worked on the edge of a national forest. I would sometimes stealth camp, meaning no-trace overnight camping. Other times I would set up a base camp in the Pisgah National Forest and bring my laptop computer and enough rewilding gear and supplies to spend a few days writing. I enjoyed quiet time with an outdoor office space surrounded by the sound of the stream and the fresh scents of flowers.

Part of the time I was searching for poles for my new tipi life, part of the time I was working on my laptop, part of the time I was testing my ideas with outdoor gear made from natural fibers. During this period I was basically undergoing a complete life reboot (i.e. Midlife Crises) I developed an amazing relationship with animals which unfolded gradually.

My early Forest Bathing retreats using natural fibers.

One place where I frequented was known for bear activity. I slept either under the open sky or using an open tarp. It was weird at first because I felt like I was sharing the same bedroom with all kinds of other beings. The atmosphere was alive with energy and always changing, so unlike the dead space of a modern bedroom with solid walls and a roof. The sounds were at times unnerving. I could be walking to my camp in the dark, and suddenly strange and sometimes eerie sounds would come out of the darkness. I would little by little sort out just what animal was doing it and the type of behavior or communication it was making.

After some time of living this way, I started wondering why I didn’t have any encounters with bears. I felt at that point that the animals in this area knew me and gave me space. After having spent a year or two visiting this area and camping under my magical Grandmother pine tree by the babbling brook, I was part of their community. I grew less and less apprehensive as I spent more time there. I kept my food safely tied 10 feet up on a limb according to proper protocol.

I would often get up in the morning and start my day with a bathe in the icey stream. One morning I was sitting on the rocky bank facing upstream and I saw a bear cub playing in the water, completely unaware I was there. After awhile it jumped up on the bank and I believe it spotted me. That told me, I am surrounded by these beings big and small, and they are allowing space for me. There is nothing to fear.

As I became more a part of the forest, I also noticed my super powers seemed to be increasing. Not just around animals. Once I was near a Native American burial site and I woke up to voices shouting in Native language and another sound which resembled an organ playing a strange grating off-pitch chord which drove me to get on my bicycle and peddle back to my mother’s house (I was visiting) in the middle of the night, a few miles away.

I sometimes heard coyotes and they were often very close. They go into a hidious howling frenzy which raises the hair on my back. I haven’t heard coyotes actually attacking a human which is partly why I tried to relax around it. In fact I knew a cowboy type guy who many years ago once woke up to a coyote licking his face while he was sleeping under a bridge. So I  just let myself adjust to being alone with coyotes nearby, and obviously aware of me. There were times I heard terrible sounds of what I believe was an animal being attacked and killed, probably by a fox. Other times I’ve heard a fox coming down the trail towards me (making a sound like a woman screaming) and then when it got within a few feet of me and I yelled out, it screamed again and then silence and then I heard it again far down the trail running like crazy.

I also started doing a little experimenting and attempting to make animal sounds. I started with owls, and I learned I could actually call back to a Bard Owl and it would call back to me. I could do this repeatedly and I was baffled…did it think I was an owl or was it just curious what it would be like to talk to a human?

My experiences got weirder and weirder. I knew that my totem animal is the Eagle or Thunderbird. I had many experiences when I was younger with lightning which is associated with the Eagle. Such as a time a tree was struck by lightningAnd an official Native American Shaman confirmed with me at one point that Eagle is my totem. I could hardly believe it, because it basically the highest totem a person can have. A person with Eagle power was highly revered and seen as a leader. Because the eagle soars high seeing the whole picture and it therefore the most powerful and far seeing. Well, the funny thing, after this animal initiation period I was seeing eagles everywhere. Even in the city. I would look up and no sooner there would be an eagle flying. I had to warn my friends “we may see an eagle. Don’t fear.” It happened so regular sometimes they were very high and sometimes flying just above tree level.  When I lived in the tipi they would fly right over my tipi often.

One day I was driving down the road and the corner of my eye caught what might have been an eagle circling up above. I stopped at my favorite skateboard parking lot, which is part of a little country church near my house, and I saw an eagle circling slowly, not very high, towards me. I was riding my skateboard around the parking lot and stopped when it got closer and just watched it. This amazing bald eagle circled slowly just above tree level immediately around me. I was mostly in awe but also a bit fearful not exactly sure what was going on. This amazing bird which is my very totem was telling me “don’t worry…we got your back”.

One spring day I was in my tiny house in the forest and a little bird flew through the window and started hopping on my body as I lay on my bed. I had just played with some children and felt very light and happy, just like the little bird. I felt like it was testing me to make sure I was safe. I was a big creature who wouldn’t hurt a little bird.

Well, within a few days, a couple of little wrens were starting to make a nest inside my house. It wasn’t one the eve of the porch, it was on the shelf near my computer. I allowed them to bring little bits of leaves and pine straw until their nest was complete. These birds came in and out many times per day. Some mornings if I happened to have my windows closed they would hop on me as if to tell me it was time to wake up and open the window.

Eventually I heard little peeps and the wren couple were now bringing worms and grasshoppers constantly to their nest, right above my computer work area. Friends would come over and see this in action as there was constant flying and chirping which made it a little distracting to work. One day as I was laying in bed in my loft which is at the level of the shelf where the birds were nested, I woke up to little footsteps on my body. After awhile it was over. The baby birds had grown and were now outside. The parents then perched on their box and made a very loud and long sing songy conversation to me, before they flew out not to return again.

Hunting for pine pitch in a pine grove.

Another time I was out in the garden and heard a lot of crows making a racket. It seemed they were upset about something and were complaining or something. I thought it was so silly and I mimicked them just to see what would happen. I called up into the air “Caww….Cawww….Cawww”. As soon as I did that, the rukus got even louder and it seemed angrier. Then the 25 or so birds were flying around over my head! I thought I better get to my house, so I started up the hill. On my way I called out again “Caaaw….Cawww…Caaaw” and within seconds the sky was covered in crows. There had to have been at least two hundred. I was luckily under the cover of the forest but they were in a frenzy and angry and flying right above the tree cover. Their sounds were deafening. I slipped into my house and shut the door.

What kind of message had I given the crows? I felt like I had broken some kind of language barrier. I was just playing around but little did I realize I was playing with fire. The next several days all kinds of animals appeared for me. Everywhere I went it seemed an eagle would be flying overhead or a deer  would jump out in front of my car as going around a blind corner.

The next night, as I was sleeping in the forest, I was awakened in the middle of the night by a loud owl. I awoke with a start and my heart pounded as a very big owl perched above my head and continued to call out. I wouldn’t dare call back to it. I crawled down inside my sleeping bag trying to hide. What had I done? It seemed I could practically talk to any animal at will, and now they were everywhere. The owl continued for many minutes, so long that I had to just fall asleep because I couldn’t stay awake any longer.

I feel these animals are not random. There is a message they are delivering, and in order to interpret it we need to look at what is going on in our lives, and at our dreams and meditate on just what kind of feeling we get from an encounter. What I got from this owl was, it was thanking me for saving it from the crows. Because crows and owls have a funny relationship, and owls are often harassed by crows where they can be singled out and pestered. Hawks also get pestered in this way, as crows gang up on them and use mob bully mentality. This owl may have been in distress from the crows, when I suddenly had the urge to call out because I felt the crows were making a lot of drama and it was hurting my ears. They crows were offended by me, some crazy guy who was insulting them by mocking them. So they turned their anger towards me, and the owl thus escaped. Then the owl came to thank me.

More recently I was out gathering pine pitch to be used in making the water repellant finish for the Lucky Sheep sleeping bags. I was wandering through a pine grove near my house and I was feeling joy and appreciating the beauty of nature. How this magical tree can produce this healing substance which is used in medicine as well as a water proofing as well as a fire starter, a wood finish, and many other things. The sweet sumptuous smell of the pine and combined with the equally magical and healing properties of beeswax. And I was aware how hard the bees work to make this wax. And also, there is not to this day any substitute for these gifts of nature. And the things we do to replicate something similar has resulted in the environmental distaster we see on the planet. And I felt even more inspired to introduce Lucky Sheep products to the world as I feel the direct connection from the earth to the sleeping bags.

The next day I noticed a few honey bees coming into my house and buzzing around my kitchen. This normally wouldn’t be a big deal, however this was December 4th and normally the bees are safely hibernating in their hives this time of year. Soon there were more and soon at least 50 honey bees were swarming around my tiny house. Why are they here and what do they want? I realized they were hungry, and asking me for food. I put out a plate of local honey. More came. Soon my house was full of bees. I also put out a plate of sugar water, which they did not go to. They only wanted honey. They would not sting me. They would even land on me sometimes and tickle. Later some people informed me, these bees may have been drones which are kicked out of the hive at the end of the year. And somehow they knew to come to my house for food.

Well, my house is a safe haven for birds as well as bees. And eagles can fly over my head any time they want. Bears now…I prefer they keep a little distance.

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