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The Chilkoot Flute
 
Our family knew of a river, the Chilkoot River, near Haines, Alaska, where the salmon run, and where one can stand on the banks of the river, or wade in the rapid waters to catch the pinks and cohos which are moving up from the sea to spawn...
 
The second day that we fished on the Chilkoot, I felt the need, the draw to play my flutes - had only taken 2 little "starter" flutes with me...but didn't want to play by the river as there were people fishing in "their own spaces and places" in silence along the shore, so I just sat in the camper and played a few of the songs I know...and rippled through a few improv ones...  Whoa!!! As I sat there playing my B cedar flute, the big bald eagle (one of four of the eagle "watchmen" along the river banks) started to chirp, chitter, and chatter at a great rate from the tall spruce tree up behind me.... the knowledge and (unity of sound) that I was playing my flute at the same time as this great bird was "talking" infused me with tremendous excitement and energy!  It was magical! - and I immediately jumped into a new and different song in response...a song that chirped and chortled back, and flowed along through the air, to dissipate and resonate in the ripples of the river waters.... It was SOOO exciting and that energy just about crackled through the flute and through me!
 
Just as I ended that song, my husband came in to the camper and invited me to sit on the river bank, on the big rocks there, and play and that I needn't be "shy". 

 

I felt I did not want to encroach on others' space in the quiet and comparative solitude of the wilderness, but after the eagle conversation, I felt as if I NEEDED to play by the river, so I did.  I sat on that big rock, and warbled, cooed, and whistled through the flutes, particularly playing the low toned Gminor flute...and the songs flowed around the air of the big river rocks just as the waters waved and flowed down to the sea.... the people didn't seem to notice, BUT then a bear appeared...
 
The brown bear began to make his way down the river, checking the shoreline for salmon remains...wading in and out of the water, swimming at times, and walking through the riparian vegetation at others...  People began to move out of its way...and still he kept on coming, oblivious of the sound of my flute, oblivious of all of us....just intent on eating and following his route.  Anders, my 15 year old, said jokingly, "Mom, the bear likes your flute...maybe you're calling him".  I found this amusing and pretended this was the case...but shortly had to put the flute down and go stand behind the door of my truck as the bear passed close by in front of us....  He was a young Alaskan brown bear... 

 

I really enjoyed the spiritual moments in the reality of these iconic Alaskan beings!  The Eagle and the Bear!  ‘midst spruce and flowing waters…

 

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Alaskan Brown Bear - photo by J. Carlstad
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Bald Eagle - The Watchman! - photo by J. Carlstad
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Northern Alberta Native American Flute Circle

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