This documentary is in progress now. The book won't be released until a future date.
2017, Year 13 Dancer & Daedee: Ties that Bind
1/1/2017. It's almost impossible to believe I'm back. I woke up and knew today was the start of another year. It's my 26th wedding anniversary and all I can think of is: my story isn't finished and what's happened in Whitewater isn't fair to the wildlife or those who arrive after me. Yeah, I know, 'life isn't fair. I've heard it a thousand times.' Maybe it's not fair because the playing field is too wide, too vast, to be patrolled.
It's January 1, 2017. I'm back. Whatever that matters, to whoever and to what I represent, finds. I'm back to finish to my story, not for me, but for the future generations who deserve the right to stand on the ground where I am. Not be bullied; harassed, scared away so evil can stand here, I refuse to leave this way. I can't shake the words of that dispatcher, still, after over a dozen years, "A woman in the woods, alone – you're just asking for trouble."
I am here to tell a story. Perhaps I'm at a place where the truth matters more, at least to me. I know I can only be one voice for all the wildlife I find, one tiny voice that can hardly dispatch words loud enough to get a return echo; ever since my lungs stopped working like they used to. Ever since every breathe mattered even more, thereafter. I remember the day it started, I mean the day they stopped. I remember the day I had to give every bit of concentration, every thought to inhaling, to exhaling. I remember the doctor telling me the inhalers could kill me. I remember choosing between using them or not.
I remember believing I wouldn't see the end of summer and then a breaking point and a turn. I remember my sister dying a week later, and how I still feel she stole my death to keep me here, because she would do that. Ever since that time, I've worked hard to maintain a balance, because I know my lungs won't ever, and never will work again, not like they used to.
I know my sister can't come back again, not come back in real life –– only in my dreams. She can't come back and not leave again, because dreams end; suddenly, just like her departure –– without me. I can still look up and still see eagles with her. I believe she's up flying with them.
Life is what you create from the pieces, what you take in and give back. Your life is but a marker on earth where you walked, who you carried and what you still believed in the end. A month before she left this world she handed me a book her client wrote, one that lifted her, one she promised would lift me, it was about eagles.
I've come this far and only now realized life is not so much about your flight plan, but how you fly at the end – the eagles taught me that; the eagles and my sister. We don't need everything we want to fly.
It's like I said to the Verizon rep, a young man with an entire life ahead, selling me all the bells, whistles on a new iPad. I finally said, "Look, I'm like the song, the Old Grey Mare because 'I ain't what I used to be.' I don't need all those features." We laughed, but really – I wasn't joking. I don't need anything "extra" anymore. I didn't think I would ever reached that day where I didn't want everything.
To those who hurt me, slay me, beat me down, broke me:
I wish you knew me better. I wish you knew I was only trying to give to others what was still available to me to share what beauty is in the valley, through my pictures and stories. Though a lot of my roadside friends have passed on, moved away. People who I miss deeply. People who encouraged me on, had my back. I am still here for them, the wildlife, and for new people who arrive each season, usually, after losing someone they loved. We find a connection on these roads. We talk about god, His creation, the beauty here. How life is fair, unfair, and just enough. We discuss how to grow old –– slower than what keeps slipping away from us, too fast.
I am here because no one else took my work on. No one stood up for the others, for the animals on my paths. Perhaps, no one knew how? I won't be here forever. Someone needs to continue this journey. I promise: This is the easiest job on earth. Just show up, stay and listen awhile. The animals will come to you. The people will find you. Feed them stories and pictures of what you witness, and what you see and there is the key. Know that nothing is as it appears on face value. You have to look deeper, inside, to understand what you saw and find its meaning.
Years ago, while comparing images for the day a younger photographer, a wildlife photographer said, "It's not fair, it's like the animals are posing for you."
The animals were never posing at all. They knew then, and they always know I came in peace to their sanctuary, to learn, and to share their stories. I'm here again because my work isn't finished. I am here for them; I'm back because the people messing with my work and projects and illegally or maliciously taking them, people who didn't like me then, will hate me more now. They hate me because I share their work, their activities. I'm here, still, because they haven't kill me, yet, only, tried to scare me away, only broken my heart – completely, broke my soles in my boots, stole my cameras, blinds, worse. I'm back, mostly, because I'm still alive even after walking among cougars, bears, wolves, and tiptoeing over rattlesnakes that weren't here. Though I was told I was mistaken, they still weren't there. That's what I was told. They weren't there until they came to me, until I walked into the bear in the tall grass, until I had the cougars leap out on my trail, until I was run out by wolves... Now they are there, because I was there and found the truth and got the photos, video, tracks. This journey isn't about proof, it's about preserving life. It's about trusting God, believing what I couldn't see, like the mother eagle and her first eaglet that wasn't supposed to be there either. It's my journey.
It's an adventure learning how to get up after every fall, I know how to photograph light in the darkest valley by the light of the moon, cross flooded ravines, take a gully in a tornado, find shelter in a thunderstorm – one throwing trees down around me, find a path out in a blizzard. I learned how to face those who attacked me. Face the storms. God took my breathe so I couldn't run if I wanted to, so I had to learn to keep walking. Then he took my ankle, then my knee. That was all the first 12 years. The eagles are at least 24-26-years old now. I've known them all these years past 12 years. I feel my journey here is a gift from God. Sitting with His eagles, birds who sat by me in storms, on the river, under rainbows, under double and triple rainbows, yes.
God helps me through my days, just like He promised. A rainbow is still His promise to us all. He's still here, waiting for you too. Walk with the wind at your side, not on your back, not on your front. Ties that Bind, aren't just loose words I strung together. Read me like a book. Pause my words anytime. Onward...