Tuesday, January 22, 2013

With Regard to Elk

Where I am until the end of the month has become a happy feasting ground for elk. After seeing herds of twenty and more at a time up close and in real life, after a few amazing photo-ops, and after realizing that they’re about the size of a real S.U.V., I decided to consult some research sources and add my own observations, first hand. So, no matter what the photos look like, here are a few:

1. Their butts are not bald but very, very furry – in fact, a lovely shade of taupe fluff.
 Sources suggest that it's evolutionary evidence that boy elks (who have really bad vision) need a great deal of help finding those sexy girl elks. The taupe butts must be elk language for, “it’s here, stupid!”

2. There’s a big mane of black fuzzy fur around their necks, more on the boys than the girls.
 It’s similar to cashmere found on Cashmere goats and better at keeping the elk warm than an L.L.Bean polar fleece scarf.

3. We've had herds of elk down in the residential 'hoods surrounding Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey.Wolf populations in the Idaho Sawtooth Mountain Range have increased. This year, they’ve made their way south from Stanley, Idaho – higher elevations, towards Ketchum. The pack, referred to as the Phantom Hill wolves, has increased its numbers. It’s become obvious that all these seemingly unrelated events are very much part of a single chain. Elk, in response to increased wolf populations, arrived on local golf courses, in neighborhood gardens, and along the roads. What an amazing local wildlife
ecosystem to observe first hand!

So when elk traveled to the lower regions, mountain lions paid a visit to feast on elk. After filling up on elk steaks, elk burgers, and maybe a few chops, the lions retreated fairly satiated. But they’re not the neatest eaters and failed to clean up after themselves. No worries, however! Wolves arrived and tidied up a bit after the mountain lions. It’s a nice feast for wolves.

My conclusions:
1. Glad to have two gigantic Rhodesian Ridgebacks, a.k.a. African lion dogs. Big bad lions beware!
2. Coming upon a male elk and his harem feasting on the vestiges of my garden, it was less than a
second before the male lifted his fully racked head in response to the click of my camera.
3. When a male elk lifts his antler-adorned head to look in my direction, retreating backwards into
my car or house is definitely a prudent idea!
4. A grown elk really is about the size of a Dodge Durango or Jeep Cherokee!

Elk Basics:
North American Elk, or Cervus elaphus, are split by some biologists into six subspecies:
• Rocky Mountain (Rocky Mountain West, now transplanted to other locations) – largest antlers of
all subspecies
• Roosevelt's (Coastal Pacific Northwest)
– largest in body size of all subspecies, but not antler size
• Tule (Central California) – smallest body size of all subspecies
• Manitoban (northern Great Plains)
• Merriam's (Southwest and Mexico) - Extinct
Eastern (east of the Mississippi) – Extinct

Antlers - The interesting stuff!
• Only male elk have antlers
• Bulls shed and grow a new set of antlers every year
• New antlers are covered in fuzzy skin called velvet
• Antlers harden by late summer and the velvet peels away
• By September, antlers are solid bone
• A set of antlers on a mature bull can weigh up to 40 pounds

Body Postures:
• When alarmed, elk raise their heads high, open eyes wide, move stiffly rotating their ears to listen.
• If a harem cow wanders, the bull stretches his neck low, tips his nose, tilts antlers back to circle her.

• Elk threaten each other by curling back their upper lip, grinding their teeth and hissing.

• Agitated elk hold their heads high, flatten ears back and flare nostrils, sometimes punch with their
front hooves

And the amazing thing is that elk talk. They’re known to be among the noisiest ungulates,
communicating danger loudly and identifying each other by sound. Their favorite times to
talk to one another seems to be sometime around 2:00-3:00 a.m. lately!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Where I'll Be!

A Story Circle LifeWriting Retreat
with Sheila Bender

March 8-10, 2013
Festival Hill, Round Top TX

"Located in historic Round Top, Texas, 75 miles east of Austin, The International Festival-Institute was founded in 1972 by world-renowned concert pianist James Dick and has developed incredible year-round education and performance programs. It's on a unique 200-acre campus named Festival Hill with performance facilities, historic houses, incredible gardens, parks and nature preserves. In addition, housed on the campus are rare books, manuscripts, archival material, music and historic recordings, photographs and objects. The Festival-Institute is regarded as a center for research and scholarly study. Landscaping is breath-taking regardless of the time of year. There are thousands of trees and bushes of various species, lakes, picnic areas, jogging trails, and aromatic herb gardens. "

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The AROHO Retreat in August is on!

Hooray! I'll be attending the AROHO Retreat at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico again in August. What a great bit of news to be accepted. Amazing organization, incredible women, a life-changing week! www.aroomofherown.org

Why Write Your Memoir? Why Take My Workshop?

On Friday, I was honored to be the guest speaker at the Wood River Jewish Community annual women’s luncheon in Ketchum, Idaho. The primary focus of my presentation: to promote the workshop I’ll be leading in January entitled, “Writing Your Life: Beyond Journaling.” The workshop will meet three times for two and a half hours each session. Enthusiasm seemed high but a subdued level of reluctance was in the air!

There are an unlimited number of reasons to write our memoirs. I've organized my workshops for anyone and everyone who has motivation and interest - for writers who've written volumes to those who have written little else besides checks and to those who write in journals regularly or rarely.

So often people express enthusiasm and interest, curiosity about and an intense desire in writing their memoirs yet, at the same time when given the opportunity, become reluctant to participate in a workshop. Regardless of how old we are - how self-confident and accomplished, there’s still that element of worry that lingers from childhood, too much concern about what others might think of our writing, of our stories, or even whether our stories merit writing about.

So all up, reluctance to write our “truths” isn’t really about being shy or inexperienced but about an overwhelming concern of how our writing and stories might measure up. So many “wanna-be” memoir writers make the same comment to me, “But I haven’t done anything special, nothing traumatic has happened to me. No one would care about my stories. “
In my effort to convince a roomful of women to sign up for my memoir writing workshop, I assembled a list of ten very persuasive reasons why everyone should write memoirs. One qualifier: memoirs are not necessarily written only with publication as our goal.

(Yes, I presented 10 but the reasons are in the hundreds!)

1. Writing your memoir helps you discover who you are and how you got to your present place in life.

2. When you write about your life, others learn life lessons from reading your work.

3. Writing about your life increases your self-esteem because the process of remembering long-forgotten events enables you to share with your siblings, your children and grandchildren.

4. Writing your own “truth” not anyone else’s is entirely about perceptions – yours, and consequently can be very liberating.

5. Writing your memoir provides you with the means to save your memories, can result in added insight and offers a vehicle by which to share your memories.

6. The process of writing about your life increases brain activity as you search your memories. The process of trying to remember specifics stimulates brain activity which helps grow neurons.

7. Journaling and life-writing has proven to be therapeutic and healing; it helps resolve dilemmas, focus your goals and vision and can lead you to recreate yourself.

8. Writing enhances creativity but writing about your life encourages you to become a better observer of your family and of your surroundings.

9. Writing your memoir provides a great sense of accomplishment.

10. Your memoir – regardless of its style, is your legacy, your kids’ and grand-kids  legacies, and provides a connecting thread between our pasts and futures.

But more than anything - our stories make us human because our stories have universality.
Einstein is credited with once having said,

   “ The universe is made not of atoms but of stories!”