Our recent trip to Minnesota’s North Shore was an opportunity to reflect, not only on the past, but also on what the future might hold. We always do a fair amount of centering when we visit, and, like others who come to this magical place, return home reinvigorated and refreshed. This time around, though, there were many signs to associate with deeper introspection.
Wherever we are in their habitat, we’re on the lookout for moose. As luck would have it, our only sighting of a bull moose has been as we circled a cloverleaf on a freeway north of Anchorage, Alaska, toward the Mat-Su Valley and Denali beyond. On previous visits to the North Shore, a young cow ambled out in front of us by a marshy area west of Greenwood Lake, but traditional moose viewing locations along the Gunflint Trail had yielded only evidence that they’d been there previously. (Not that Pete is ever reluctant to take a poop photo. )
It is said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. After researching traditional lore about the appearance of animals and signs, I am comforted that our encounters in the wild acknowledged our most recent emotional journey together (the loss of Pete’s mother). These encounters also affirmed that this is a time of transition and shift for us as we figure out what’s next.
Our friend, Hinda Abrahamson, after hearing all the stories from this trip, provided us with information from her teacher, Grandmaster Professor Thomas Lin-Yun, on what we should know about the moose: When a moose appears, it is considered a special sacred gift – a unique and sacred energy is opened; [the moose is a] symbol of primal feminine energies and the magic of life and death. How fitting, then, after losing Pete’s mother, that our first wildlife encounter on this trip should be with moose.
On our first day up the Gunflint Trail, we visited the newly-opened Chik-Wauk Museum, which is a wonderful multi-sensory experience of this historically-rich region. As we headed back down the Trail, I found myself craving a Trail Center Lodge burger. Within ten minutes, though, we knew our highly-anticipated lunch was going to be delayed! This mama moose and her baby were munching contentedly off the museum driveway, and we quickly halted to watch. Our own lunch could wait!
Other cultures have used the moose as a symbol for traits as diverse as headstrong, unstoppable, longevity, value, and integrity. The Manataka site shows characteristics of the moose which personify lessons and guidance in an uncanny synchronicity with our particular circumstances:
Moose calves are born with their eyes open. Those who follow the moose medicine see life situations with clarity and can see into the beyond.
We continued down the Gunflint Trail to encounter another pair in the area of aptly-named Extortion Lake. Again, another correlation: Whenever someone suffers such as Pete’s mother had from cancer, the disease extorts from the sufferer and loved ones by inflicting unspeakable pain, and the subsequent relinquishment, while perhaps made willingly by all concerned, is attended by duress. It is an exchange made only to achieve an end.
Despite their great size, moose can camouflage itself very well and can move silently and quickly through its terrain. This teaches us ways to become invisible when necessary and not allow our powerful presence to become overbearing to others.
Invisibility ensures personal safety as well as inferring sensitivity to the effect we have on others. Remaining unseen, or retreating into the woods to fight another, later day is a judicious tactic that spares and restores energy.
The appearance of the moose is both awkward and graceful at the same time. These traits are translated in human terms as instruction in ways to be gracious and relaxed in our dealings with others.
We were most assuredly not relaxed as we began our trip, but as the miles passed and we drew further north, we literally left things where they were. When wounds are raw, any encounter can be excruciating. Time spent just being, rather than doing, allows for healing to begin and more harmonious encounters once the process has been established.