Mountain Meditation

On bears and quests

By Marguerite Jill Dye

Those of you who grew up in the Green Mountains of Vermont or other wilderness areas may take certain things for granted, but when I found bear poop just outside our bedroom window, I was excited and beside myself. As a Jersey girl and weekend Vermonter, I grew up helping Dad build his dream ski lodge. We contended with porcupines, raccoons, foxes, and mostly mice, but never did we encounter a bear until a few years ago when black bears began to appear in our yard. I rubbed sleep from my eyes the very first time when a big one emerged from the woods in early morn. The following year, a mischievous fellow rolled in the yard with our garbage can. He retreated behind a pine tree when my husband Duane scolded him. Last summer, a bear family came through weeks apart, to our excitement and delight. I spotted them from the upstairs deck, and immortalized the young one in my book illustration when he passed by my studio window. The grand finale was a mother and two cubs in the brush just below Roaring Brook Road. Her cubs scurried hurriedly up the tree as she stood at the bottom, scrutinizing me.

Finding bear poop in our yard felt like a black bear blessing, and coincided with our first spring hike up Killington’s Bear Mountain. We hiked to the first lift station with our little grandson, where he feasted on picnic fare he’d refused at our dining room table. A few days later, Duane and I passed trail and snow making repair crews at work. Otherwise, we were completely alone. Mountain bikers hadn’t arrived. The views were stunning, the sunshine, brilliant, and the lovely breeze kept the bugs away, mostly. We picnicked, perched on the mountaintop, awed by the majesty of the place we so love. Looking around atop Bear Mountain, I envisioned spending one full day, from sunrise through sunset, in my own gentle version of a vision quest. Perhaps I’ll hike down to dream under the stars atop the mound in our own back yard. But, of course, there’s the matter of bears, and where there’s bear poop, there are bears. So, we’ll see how courageous I am in my spiritual search for inspiration.

I’d hoped to join a sweat lodge last month but it was canceled due to wind and fire danger. My spiritual counselor was relieved and said, “You’re too sensitive to attend a sweat lodge. You’d absorb the negative emotions others release in the spiritual purification.”

So, instead, I’ve worked with feng shui to clear attic boxes of clutter. They say it makes room for new opportunities, and a “vision quest” keeps coming to mind. I’d like to gain clarity on how to fulfill and better live my life purpose. Young Cree Indians on the cusp of manhood were sent on an arduous vision quest to turn gentle boys into strong men and warriors. The original vision quests are extremely rigorous with fasting and little or no water for days. It facilitates dreams, direct revelations, and visions, sought by shamans and other seekers. A blanket provides the only protection, although a stone or wood semicircle or rectangle was sometimes built on a mountain overlook.

“It’s very important for people to realize that this is not fun and games. Going into the spiritual world is very serious,” Cree Indian William Walk Sacred cautioned. “If the intent isn’t clear, the spirits will not give the vision. The most important thing is being clear in your heart as to what you are seeking for yourself and the people of the world.” He prayed for a year and a half in preparation for his vision quest (

“Slow down. Gaze into the fire for our inner message. The answer is inside of us. Sit on the earth. Walk bare footed. The helping spirits and elements want to help,” counsels Sandra Ingerman, renowned shaman, author, and teacher. “Release feelings of unworthiness and decide what kind of a person you want to be in the world. Shamanism is a process of direct revelation. Open up to the magic of the spiritual journey. We learn these ancestral traditions from indigenous cultures . . . Honor your spirits. Call blessings into your life . . . Know that you are blessed and life is a gift. Everything is a sacred gift . . . It’s a rebirth that leads to illumination.”

This is my 96th Mountain Meditation column and in a month it will be the 100th! To celebrate the milestone, I’d like to invite you to a party in the Killington Dream Lodge. I promise to make Mom’s famous “Marguerite’s Ooh La La Hot Fudge Sauce” for ice cream after we share a pot luck supper, mainly of salads, so we can afford the calories. Tentative date: Saturday, June 30 at 5pm. Everyone is invited! Please bring your ideas and requests for columns. I’d like “Mountain Meditation” to be a blessing in your life.

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between Florida’s Gulf Coast and the Green Mountains of Vermont.

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