Totem Soul

An Introduction

Describe the most intimate experience you’ve ever had with nature. Try to remember a time in which you were truly affected by the natural world and it became a major part of who you are. 

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My earth life has been within nature, it is true, from incarnation and birth, to being found asleep atop the farm dog once I was old enough to crawl, to eating bumble bees in self-defense discovered on the porch in summer, an unfounded fear of dragonflies’ buzz in spring as a toddler, the ever present awe of storm clouds passing in the distance, and me drawing symbols in the sand as a child.

As an adult, I chose to study natural resources and made a modest living farming through much of my adult work life, though now since that simple, rooted life could not uphold more modern trends and a family any longer, even small city life cannot keep me from the closeness to nature I feel in my eyes, hands and heart.

Not that I am an outdoors-man or a sportsman, necessarily, since bow and small game hunting gave way early to more of a desire for pastimes like earning a living, writing poetry, and exploring esoteric topics like astrology.

Until recently, I preferred walks in the woods and gazing at the stars to conversations with my fellow humans, I have to admit, since nature seems more like family to me, rediscovering her mysteries of language lost, even sometimes seeking the unseen forces hidden within her forms for a better understanding of life as a whole.

I’ve spent the majority of my life in the Great Lakes region of the United States, and central Wisconsin in particular, as home. It is my portal to the world, its nature is my nature in many ways, its history, its mysteries, are mine.

Weather and storms have been continuous companions, too, until finally when I left the family farm for good, that life-altering incident was likewise destiny accompanied by a tornado near enough to take down the backyard box elder tree that glanced the old house while I hunkered in the cellar, light eerily glowing though the power grid had been disconnected. These and similar experiences make it almost sacrilegious to imagine myself separate from nature, like a reflection of my soul wherein I am only one of its creatures, forms, or initiates in sacred spaces rather than a complete and cognitive whole, since I feel I am held in its embrace always: its Creator, my Creator. The awe and suffering, disease and pleasures, joys and pains are all aspects only, which together create my existence of combined experiences, all able to impress the effects of life upon me, through a multitude of variety, shared with infinite complexity, ruled by simple inevitability, even where I do not expect to find them.

Humans, too, are integrated into nature as I experience them, of course, since we cannot here be seen much apart. My own trials and tribulations, struggles and successes, can be viewed both from spiritual and natural and man-made causes. All of good humankind’s accomplishments are actually none other than of nature, too, since there is nothing here beyond its source, its touch. Only where we depart too far from its plan, its laws, also for human beings, do we begin to threaten our own existence. The forms we may make from its raw materials do not alter the fact that they still belong to nature, so that even when I worked in the bowels of the factory, or in the cerebral centers of offices and classrooms, or worked guarding corporate properties, nature did not fail to fill my lungs and excite my heart, fire my mind. Since birth I am one with nature, intimate in every sense, and shall remain so until death takes me, and perchance in nature’s own way, even beyond.

Naturally, however, my story and roots are more complex than they first may appear to be. I, too, am not wholly a native of Wisconsin, but my family was a relative late-comer to the region, and so I am still a dual-national in many ways, more similar to the first generation that followed upon the footsteps of pioneers, or those Natives whose lives had already been changed by sudden, irrevocable introduction to European ways. It may be strange, then, to realize in my heart I am often more akin to the true natives of old, those Native Americans who had yet to cross paths with other ways of life across the seas, since their nature-based beliefs and spiritual ideals call to me at times. And like them, still sheltered in the center of a continent, windward from the Great Lakes, I could live a life in relative isolation from the weal and woes of the world, viewing its turmoil more from afar.

By comparison, such were not the realities of my ancestors, who had been drawn up into the whirlwind of the World Wars and my parents deposited again on what may have at one time appeared to be enemy soil. I would be born here, in relative safety or so it seemed, and yet bearing an undeniable feeling that I was also surrounded by unknown enemies, if not against my physical person, then nonetheless opposed to many of my personal life views.

Tossed hither and thither by politics and national perspectives, I would naturally hold even more tightly onto what seemed solid and fixed in my world, and that would be the natural world, changeable too as she might be. Therefore, I might also view myself in my mind, at times, as an exiled Celt or refugee Teutonic tribesman, whose true home in the northern woods of ancient Europe had been expropriated by invading forces, not that unlike what had transpired with the indigenous people who once were sovereign here.

A life lesson for me, perhaps then, might be the call to seek greater truth and learn to love one’s perceived enemies, in the here and now, as well as in the past and in the beyond.

And in time my interests evolved as well from a foundation of experiencing life and nature, more toward literature and the arts, awakening spirituality carrying me aloft across cultures, and heights unimaginable before. Only not some kind of spirituality alien or opposed to nature, but rather an essence deeper, some source higher over which nature’s veils conceal intuitively-perceived realities of greater life unseen.

So, in hind-sight now, I can also allude to the roots and reasons for the earlier names “Frithus-Forest,” “Spirit-Hawk,” and now, lastly, “Misfit-Hermit” of this site that has had a nomadic nature of its own.

Growing up, the farm was home, while the nearby forest opened my world to the greater unknown, past the frontier limits placed on me by circumstances, whether in nature, or in my imagination. Taking a glance back at the past, seeking roots, was the Old English, Low-German expression of my name, hence “Frithus,” which I discovered embodies ancient beliefs as to another world-view and another state-of-mind.

As for “Spirit-Hawk” the real-life companion animal become totem meanings might need clarification, given my preference to use that pseudonym until recently. On the farm and even awaiting me outside the factory, the red-tailed hawk is the most common sight to my eye, and only more recently replaced by the eagle along the river where I worked only to be abandoned. But the eagle’s acquisition by the national status makes it bear somewhat mixed feelings within me, whether for America or for Germany, that and the apparent ongoing human desire to pit the raptor predators against one another for supremacy, whether hawk, eagle or falcon.

The red-tailed feature also reflected my own red hair, perhaps, while the spirit aspect acknowledged a need to embrace not only an Other world, a “haunt” if you will, but an origin in a spirit world with metaphorical wings of higher insight superseding the sometimes earthly need for tearing beak and sharp, ripping claws, including the maturity to know when to engage those. The threat of the hawk in the real world, like a shadow across the sun for creatures more earthbound, may also be a reminder that the Other world of the spirit is nearer than we imagine and a crossing over should keep us vigilant for messages from above, if that is what calls to us. Even to view life through its perspective at times for higher, deeper, and better understanding.

And since I have begun this excavation of metaphorical roots, less obvious for its being taken for granted by me is the simultaneous inclination to be accompanied by a four-footed companion of the canine family. As mentioned earlier, the farm dog was a kind of mother-figure for me at times, and while I was not suckled or raised by wolves like in legends of old, a dog’s loyalty lent its support and life-lessons through many a time in my earth life, holding me in situations away from where the spirit in me might have too quickly, too far afield, have flown. So Spirit-Hawk is tethered at present, also here to the Natural World, my Frithus-forest, my Spirit-Hawk’s-Haunt, and current home of the Misfit Hermit, but hopefully free to roam the skies as well. Though the longer I find myself alone, so too do I begin hearing the call of the wild, sole persistent upon my soul once more, even as dog gives way to more sightings of fox, and then to spotting coyote tracks, and ultimately yearning once more for the howl of the solitary wolf.

But even as the lone wolf and the solitary hawk are rarely completely alone in real life, the natural world, accompanied not just with companion animals and totem spirits, but are granted real families and mates at times to protect and share with, so too am I, to my heart’s content, a misfit hermit except in soul no longer. Hence the deer, and its balancing medicines, reminding me of a cherished childhood companion, and the real need for balance in my own life.

So last, to round out this introduction to my intuitively felt and re-imagined Misfit-Hermit site, formerly Frithus-Forest seed and Spirit-Hawk’s-Haunt, my twin association with the tree might again be called for. Whether it be in the rune of my father, or the brutal clear-cut of the region, or the dream of the Northern Oak. All seem to possess root-threads that have become singularly interwoven together in time for me, whether from feather or fang or root, nature or mind or spirit, each connecting me to all those diverse places and times, living symbols and medicines, peoples and partners.

And as I approach retirement, and all that awaits me in the Beyond, my eyes may lose some of their clarity and focus upon that Nature as we know it here, in favor of looking more for the as yet unseen, the art in what we intuitively perceive, to quest for the spiritual within and above, and ideally to serve the divine.

If you too hear the call, from wherever you first perceive its source, then let me invite you to explore your home in the Natural World, the Spiritual World, and perhaps from time to time, feel free to look in on Misfit Hermit.

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The Vanishing Breed by Robbie Robertson