“Where are you from?”
“Okay, most recently.”
I don’t know when or where the “most recent” bout of travels began or ended. After a while, everything blends together, blanket statements are impossible, and I don’t even know who, where, when, or what, let alone why or how. It just happens.
I like to plan. I brooded over returning to Connecticut to work with Two Coyotes Wilderness School (among other things) for a few years. I started brooding more seriously after finishing 1.5 years of formal herb school training, and meeting the empty abyss afterwards of, “What now?” I started looking at maps and getting in contact with people a few months ago. Now, I’m here.
Perhaps I “started” in New Mexico, for this journey. I over-wintered in the Gila wilderness, caught a ride to California with a neighbor at the first sign of spring, drove around California visiting friends, hiking, and interviewing Chinese Medicine graduate schools and acupuncturists, caught a different ride to...
Well, let’s begin the story here.
I caught a ride with herbalist Aaron to Wintercount, a wilderness skills gathering that takes place in the Sonoran desert every spring. At what point does one go from “plant geek” to “herbalist”? Aaron has been attending herbal gatherings and studying plants part-time for longer than I, but never went through formal training. He helps his friends and family with simple herbal protocols and remedies, and is what I’d call an “unofficial herbalist”: no credentials, but walks the talk. We carried on a conversation that I’ve been having with many herbalists: students fresh out of school, seasoned clinical herbalists, product makers, etc. How do we make a living doing what we love, while positively contributing to the world... and making a living, too?
There’s no easy answer. Herbalism is gaining interest in the USA, but there’s still huge public misconceptions about what we do, and who we are. We don’t really know, ourselves. Some herbalists make and sell products, some see clients, some grow and sell plants, some teach, some write, some wildcraft for restaurants and herb suppliers... the list goes on. I’m currently doing a smattering of all of the above, except for growing and selling (which I’d like to do, too). Most herbalists work another side job, which is sometimes related, but oftentimes not. Being a “working herbalist” becomes the other part-time job.
I tried working “just jobs” part-time while in school, and then while beginning my practice... and frankly, it’s a depressing way of life that I refuse. So, what now?
I’m considering complementary traditional healing modalities, to partner with my existing herbal skills. Possibilities include massage therapy, psychology, and perhaps most seriously: Chinese medicine. I informally studied Chinese medicine while in Taiwan: weekly acupuncture folk classes, and observing and assisting at a variety of clinics. I love the ancient poetry of the medicine, feel deep cultural ties with this tradition, and know its power and potential. I don’t want to go into debt.
Chinese medicine schools
Chinese medicine studies at most schools in the USA are at least a four year commitment, and cost around $50,000 to $100,000 in tuition and fees. I would be studying something I’m genuinely interested in, complements my existing western herbalism understandings and practices, and is a powerful healing modality that can help many people with everything some physical to psycho-spiritual imbalances. Is it worth it?
I visited six Chinese medicine schools during my three week sojourn through California, my home state, and the state with the “highest standards” of Chinese medicine education. USA acupuncturists must pass a series of board exams from the NCCAOM. California has its own test, and its own set of rules.
I interviewed a variety of schools, students, and practitioners. I started taking pre-requisite Western science courses online. I’m on my way. And, I’m still questioning the whole thing.
I sat in on as many herbal classes as I could, while visiting different Chinese medicine campuses. My favorite teachers were animated, visibly passionate about plants, and shared useful clinical stories relating to Chinese herbalism. I enjoyed the Herbs II class at the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College in Berkeley. The teacher talked animatedly about each plant, while showing a Powerpoint image, and passing a dried sample around the class. She grows some medicine plants, and uses some of them in her personal practice, as well. Her students create food with Chinese medicinal herbs, and share it with the class for a weekly potluck, with recipes shared both online and in class. I love the hands-on approach!
I visited a formulations class at Five Branches University in Santa Cruz. The teacher varied between talking about formulas, glancing at and discussing over notes, and sharing clinical stories. He started off his career as a western herbalist, and then decided to study Chinese medicine, to explore a more ancient and comprehensive medicinal tradition, and a more “solid” career. I particularly enjoyed walking with him during break, discussing plants, clinic, healing, and life, while smelling the ocean, seeing the waves, and feeling the sea- breeze. What a beautiful sea-side location, that school.
Another formulations class, at the Southern California University of Health Sciences (SCU) in Los Angeles, had a teacher from China with a strong accent, who hails from a strong lineage of Chinese medicine herbal pharmacists. Her class was similar to the Five Branches University formulations class: a loosely followed Powerpoint, list of plants and formulas that needed to be covered rather quickly, and some clinical gems. I love Chinese and am grateful to know the language already. It will make learning Chinese herb names and formulas much easier. But, I also appreciate knowing the scientific (usually Latin) names of plants, their families, botany, identification, growth, habitat, collection, etc. I appreciate being a western herbalist, and the hands- on relationship- based approach that that entails. I loved learning about plants in all the ways that I have, usually in the field, muddy, dirty, and happy. In a sterile classroom environment, I’m unsure just how much I can learn. I think all this, as I visit school after school, sit in on class after class, combating fatigue and boredom, for a topic that I am truly interested in, but having trouble finding a fitting way to learn, that matches my spirit: hands-on, in-nature, and... wild.
I just sat in on another formulations class at what should be my final school that I visit, at the Southwest Acupuncture College (SWAC), in Santa Fe. I also visited their herbal clinic. The intake style is similar to the herbal intake that I learned with both 7song and at the Colorado School: clinicians ask lots of questions, and the client answers them. They used tongue and pulse diagnosis, along with taking blood pressure as part of intake. I observed them filling the formula. There’s something joyous and satisfying, even just watching people bustling around, handling herbs, measuring weights, powders flying into the air. SWAC was the most beautiful campus that I’ve visited thus far: old Asian art bedecking the walls, a koi pond with soothing running water as you enter the building, natural light, spacious rooms and halls that are still cozy, small classes, and what feels like personable staff. If I could find an off-grid or for-trade type living situation around Santa Fe for four years, I’d seriously consider coming to this school. The formulations teacher also came from China, with an even stronger accent than the SCU teacher, and even more animated than all of the other teachers I’ve visited. Her words tumbled over each other, sometimes accidentally sneaking in a word or two of colloquial Chinese, much to my surprised delight.
The Chinese medicine schools that I’ve visited seem to pride themselves on the diversity of their faculty, especially if there are people who hail from Asian countries such as Taiwan, China, Korea, and Japan. I found an abundance of schools around the Los Angeles area run by people from Asia, offering the entire course in English, Chinese, or Korean. These schools, besides being multi-lingual and attracting more overseas students, also tend to have cheaper tuition, are more informal, and seem to be located in areas with a heavy Asian population, which tend to be more urban, and crowded. I visited one of these schools, the Alhambra Medical University (AMU). I sat in on a tuina class. Of the seven schools, this was the only class that I joined, that was taught in Chinese. My friends who study in China and Taiwan say that most of the Chinese medicine curriculum is actually just colloquial Chinese (which I am comfortable with), with Chinese medical terminology thrown in. Much to my surprise, I understood most of what the tuina teacher said. Listening to a class taught in Chinese felt strangely familiar, and comforting. The Chinese medicine schools filled with Asian students in Los Angeles have an abundance of Asian students who were typically younger, more serious, more awkward, and seemingly less experienced with life. Older students also come from abroad, to find a better life here. Studying Chinese medicine in Taiwan or China is a more selective, competitive, and time-intensive program. Studying it here in the USA can be more expensive, perhaps more diluted, and allow for more potential prestige, and flexibility within the practice, afterwards. During tuina class, the younger students were awkward about touching each other, and exposing skin. The teacher reminded me of various other strong women I’ve met, especially in the mountains of Taiwan: she speaks loudly, moves big, and holds an aura of almost bombastic confidence, for someone with such a small, graceful, and beautiful frame.
I particularly enjoy speaking with the Chinese-speaking teachers in English, broken and choppy, then asking, a little under my breath, “Can you speak Mandarin?” The sense of relief that comes over their faces is almost comical, except that it feels like home. Visiting AMU and SCU, in that sense, felt like coming home. But, the more Chinese- filled schools also tend to be more Western sciences oriented, which is daunting, and frankly, a little nauseating...
I last came to Wintercount in 2008. I was in a phase of my life where I only lived outdoors. I had just overwintered in Boulder, CO camping in a poorly constructed freezing debris hut shelter, that was barely large enough to sit up in. I got sick close to spring, moved indoors into town, got depressed, and was freshly on the road again, relieved to be out of town and in the sun, in Arizona. Some things have changed, some have not. Returning to Wintercount seven years later, this year I was delighted to see many fresh faces, but even more ecstatic to see old friends. My favorite teacher from 2008 was still my favorite teacher, this year: David Holladay. I went to every activity that he led: a navigational walk, and a teen survival overnight.
We started the navigational walk before dawn, around 5 AM. Dave wanted to get to our starting location, so that we could walk, while the sun rose. We all piled into a truck, and rumbled off, about 10 miles away, on the other side of the mountains surrounding camp, to begin our day-long journey. I won’t go into specifics about the walk, because there’s too much to encapsulate. Nothing really “happened,” and so everything happened. (Come for a walk with me, and maybe you’ll understand. Maybe you understand already. Yes, you do.) Our walk culminated atop the ridge, overlooking camp. The group dispersed at this point, as the way down was overtly visible from such a vantage point. I walked the last few miles back with Dave. I admire how he can take the simplest activity, and make it profound. I asked him how he plans for classes. “I don’t do anything,” he said. He creates a skeleton outline of the class, knocking out some logistical details, then allows for a dance to organically ensue, between what arises, and how he responds. Dancers include the landscape, participants, and himself as the “leader.” “People come to me, thinking I know everything,” he laughs, “then they are surprised when I tell them I don’t know anything at all.”
I was “adult support” for the teen survival overnight, but felt like a participant. We all gathered at the campfire an hour after dinner, then set off into the dark with nothing, besides the clothes on our backs, and the shoes on (some of) our feet. Dave introduced some rules and safety protocols, then we walked. Arriving at the location that Dave had scouted out beforehand, we stopped. “Okay, you know what to do,” said Dave. The teens got to work. Within a few hours, they had selected a camp for the girls, and two boys’ camps, along a dry sandy wash. Students were allowed to bring a primitive fire tool, but only if they had made it earlier that day, with material gathered from the land that same day. The girls had teamed up, and procured a hand-drill set, and tinder bundle. The boys brought a flint stone from the knapping pit, to strike on another rock. It took a while, but eventually the girls got a fire, tag-teaming the hand drill. The teens carried a coal to each of the other fires, and the wash came to life. The teens went and gathered firewood and bedding, while we “instructors” laid down in a cuddle line to just watch, keep each other warm... and fall asleep. Near midnight, we separated the girls’ and boys’ groups, with clear instructions to not go visiting each other through the night. Starting to get cold, we instructors went and gathered firewood, and started a fire with a coal from the other fire, at the end of the line of fires, down the wash. We gathered fluffy aromatic chaparral boughs to sleep on, to provide insulation from the cold early spring Earth. Most groups slept huddled around the fire, though there was a group of girls who found a clump of trees, created a windbreak out of sticks, and slept in a cuddle line. They stayed the warmest, and slept the most comfortably. The rest of us varied between coldness, and the excitement of sleeping around a fire with “nothing,” and created from “nothing,” sharing stories until the sun, literally, came out. We stood facing the sun, silent to the dawn chorus of birds, faces and bodies arced towards the sun, arms open. I cried during the sunrise, and cried again, when we gathered all of the teens back together, and I saw their bright eyes, that reflected the light of the sun, and the line of five fires in the wash that night, created through teamwork, self sufficiency, and a growing understanding of how to live with the Earth, creating something out of nothing through teamwork. It cultivated a deepened sense of self knowing, and empowerment. And, cold and hunger. We sprinted back to camp, laughing and howling, to warm ourselves by the large campfire in camp center, to the clapping and cheering of parents, and others who were awake early enough to see us racing across the desert landscape, barefoot and triumphant across the cold Earth, breath and smiles clearly visible against the frosty morning sky, back into the center of our community.
Gila Wilderness, NM
(Now, I’m writing again a week after landing in Connecticut. There’s too many stories to encapsulate in one essay. For the sake of time, rather, the lack thereof, I will write more briefly about the rest of this journey, focusing on highlights from my time in each community that I passed through.)
Julie conducts long distance herbalist consults from the comfort of her beautiful cabin home, tucked into a hillside, and backed up against the Gila Wilderness. I found my winter house-sitting gig through her, and was her neighbor for a month. Julie works intensively with as many as four consults a day, all backed up to each other, sometimes several days in a row, then takes a few days off for herself. She sculpts her own schedule, and seems to have a nice balance between personal time and work time. Work is fulfilling and necessary: she guides people with chronic conditions, such as Lyme or cancers, to ways of restoring balance and health on all levels. Julie has a magical way about her, and seems to notice, well, everything. I appreciate that, and admire her ability to live the life of her dreams, be of service to the global community, and create beauty all around her.
Isabel was another neighbor in the Gila. She’s the community matriarch, the woman who knows everyone in the community, and how everyone’s doing. During my house-sitting stint, I would receive frequent check-in phone-calls from Isabel, and eventually we drove together all the way to California, and back again. Like many other retirees in the area, Isabel came from the medical field, and lived in another state for most of her adult life, before retiring here. Unlike most other folks, Isabel grew up here, with her dad working in the mine.
I hitchhiked up to the wild hot springs, just a few miles away, but a whole hour’s journey, due to the curvaceous mountain roads. An ex-miner picked me up. Here, it’s common to bump into people of the mining community, or affiliated with it. It’s the biggest job around, and pays well, compared to the other barely existent local job possibilities. “If you’re in the mining community long enough,” said the ex-miner, “Then eventually you’ll meet a casualty. Or, you’ll be the casualty.” He was present when a few co-workers literally caught on fire, from something that came down the chute in the copper mine, incorrectly. His eyes hollowed out a little bit when he spoke of this, “And so I stopped working there. But, you got to eat. And, I have a family to take care of.” I wonder if it’s really worth it, and what other options are out there for these people, and the ecological ramifications of mining, and so much more.
The retired community is interesting. People seemingly do whatever they want, whenever they want, with no time constraints, and minimal financial constraints. Many worked long jobs with differing degrees of satisfaction for most of their lives, with the accompanying exhaustion. I wonder if it’s actually necessary to wait until retirement to live the life of one’s dreams. I wonder if an unfulfilling overworked life is actually worth it, to “earn” old age, rest, and retirement.
The focus of this trip was people. For my spring cross country road trip, I hoped to find a good balance between meeting new friends, visiting old friends, exploring beautiful wild places known and unknown, and wild-crafting. Little did I know that I started my journey during a snowstorm, spring comes late this year, and most of my trip would be spent riding through storms, with my eyes peeled on the road, and heart racing. Thus, I only camped once on this trip: my final night in the Gila, curled around a campfire, singing and praying. The river had flooded, so that the hot-springs that I had hoped to visit were covered over by fresh rain and snow melt. Walking through the freezing cold rivers, my fire was imperative. I wrapped myself around my fire, and tended it through the night, listening to owls and coyotes, and wind moving through trees. I felt myself spiraling deeper and deeper in love with this land.
I’m seeking Home. I ask questions about the cost of living, quality of life, job opportunities, etc everywhere I go to know, compare, and weigh options. Visiting homesteaders (my dream), I ask people how they started their homesteads logistically and otherwise. This fire my imagination: hard work, and skills developed through community, self-sufficiency, and straight up courage and perseverance.
Black Mountains, NM
Andy is homesteading a property that he grew up on... and he’s doing it mostly solo. There’s goats, chickens, dogs, gardens, buildings, and so many different projects. He envisions more herbal classes and gatherings here in the future, and is renovating buildings to create living spaces for work-traders, and people to stay during events. It’s inspiring to see how much he can do on his own, but it also further underlines that I do not want to do this alone.
An unplanned stop, as the night was running late, and I needed a last minute place to sleep for the night, as road conditions were terrifying. I called around for leads, and found Ben and Stacy via another friend, Marvin, who paralleled my cross country trip at the same time. Both engineers, Ben and Stacy live a life that seems so different from the world I’m immersed in, and reminds me of Taiwan city life: day jobs, night lives, and a balancing dance that emerges from therein.
Santa Fe, NM
Sarah, Axel, and baby Seven live on the edge of town. She finishes Chinese medicine schooling in a few month, and dreams of creating a roving free clinic, traveling the world in a little converted bus. We spent hours investigating the intersections between dreams and realities, logistics and possibilities.
United World Community College Hot Springs (Las Vegas, NM)
Sarah mentioned a few nearby hot springs. None of them were on my route. While beginning my journey towards Texas, I felt reluctant to leave NM, and decided on a last minute whim, right before turning south, to go north instead, and take an hour long detour up to Las Vegas, NM. This hot springs sits next to a river, next to train tracks, across the river from United World Community College. It was the most exposed hot springs that I’ve yet been to, with many people, lots of trash, and small hot springs scattered across an area, all of them lined by concrete. Lithium hot springs, every part of my body that touched the water quickly became dry, while feeling exceedingly comfortable and relaxed. I started alone in my own concrete tub, that was large enough for me to extend all of my limbs fully out in each direction, and still have some space to move around, starfish like, avoiding cigarette butts on the periphery of my tub, mixed into melting snow, and mud. Eventually, an older man and woman joined my tub. Both hitchhiked around the country during their younger days, and we regaled tales back and forth across the human sized concrete tub in the middle of the semi-developed roadside hot-springs, electrical lines whirring to the music of the melting river, red rock mountains ringing us, cliff-side, the community college across the waters.
Palo Duro State Park, TX
I slept in my car that night, shivering under my old down sleeping bag, and smiling to the sounds of coyotes yipping in the surrounding sagebrush. The cliffs are red, orange, and majestic, reminding me of the Gila Wilderness.
I spent a few nights with Sean and Jackie of the Dirty Farmers’ Cooperative. After driving all night through terrifying snow and ice in barely visible conditions, I landed at their home, shaken and exhausted. “Welcome home,” said Jackie, giving me a big hug. Grassroots entrepreneurs and community builders, they started a by-donation cafe that not only feeds people regardless of how much they can pay, but also unites the community everyday at lunch. They seek to source their food from local farmers, and also organize a weekly farmers’ market that connects local farmers, craftspeople, and community. Sean built the cabin that they live in with his parents, who live a few minutes walk away. They built it in 5 months, with under $10,000 of materials fees. It’s a beautiful property, that backs up against national forest (my dream). Besides their idealistic visions and hard work, Sean and Jackie also impress me with their ability, as a couple, to work together, live together, and be beautiful, more-than functional, and filled with heart.
Dcoda is a recent addition to Sean and Jackie’s land. She lives in a modified shed at the entrance to the land. She spent 10 years living mostly off grid in an area of national forest, just south of where we were, and was still integrating back into society. We spent many hours discussing potential collaborations.
Meeting Jamie and Jeffrey reminded me that living a life of my dreams is not only possible, but is imperative for a full life. And, that dream has intricate twists and turns that sometimes don’t reveal themselves, until one begins the journey. Expect the unexpected. No matter the fullness of ones’ life and how much it resembles the dream, life is still life, and challenges are to be expected. Expect perfect imperfection, and be prepared to dance, thusly, with it all.
After working a diversity of jobs, living in different places, and dating different people, Jamie and Jeffrey found each other, this land, and created fulfilling work that satisfies their needs, while lovingly weaving themselves into the inner matrix of their community, thus tying them into the global whole of a back-to-the-land movement that shudders as it breathes, in its monstrosity, its depth, its necessity in these times, and the triumphs and challenges that come with the territory.
These two triumph through and over adversity. They started off homesteading in upstate New York, which got to be prohibitively expensive... and cold. They packed their lives into their trailer, and found their way down to Missouri. They’ve been homesteading here, ever since. They started off living in the trailer, while preparing the rest of the 30 acre property: with diverse forest, streams, fields, hills, and springs. The landscape was full of potential, but covered in brambles, and with no living structures or farmable land on it. They lived in the trailer for two years, outfitting the small space with an outhouse, woodstove, and external roof. During that time, they cleared many brambles, started a garden, and built the house that they now live in, a south-facing home set into the hillside, a beautiful, well-insulated, cozy, and lovingly built and lived in hobbit home.
Their land backs up against state land. It’s a magical property that fits their dreams, and they are further sculpting into being. They host farm volunteers (WWOOFers) and community events, that brings people together, shares their process with the community, and also garners them support with their various processes: building cabins, tending gardens, etc.
Jamie is mostly a self taught herbalist. She went through no formal training, but somehow got on the path, got hooked, and is now growing herbs, and turning them into luscious body products, which she sells at various festivals through the summer and autumn season. She also conducts plant walks and classes, and is a vibrant well spring of information, inspiration, and exuberant first hand experience.
St. Louis, IL
Friends of friends introduced me to him. He’s one of a healthy handful of foreigners who go to Taiwan, are deeply interested in the culture, spend a number of years there teaching English and immersing themselves in various elements of the traditional culture, then return to the USA. He returned to the USA to study Chinese medicine, and has now been in practice for longer than I’ve been alive, and exudes a peace and groundedness, with eyes that see, and questions that deepen, while opening, safely. With less than an hour to talk, I felt such space to share, and realized that I feel so much heartache around my search for further schooling, and the frustrations woven, therein. “Slow down,” said Michael, navigating between my jumbled and emotional words, “Breathe.” He caught up to me right before I drove away, handing me a book about constitutional analysis, from a Chinese medicine perspective, with Chinese medicinal plants, written by a Chinese man, in Chinese. Earlier, we’d discussed the book a little bit. He’d slipped it into my hands, “Try reading it.” I brokenly edged my way around the medicinal terms, but easily read through more simple colloquial words... and was surprised at how many characters I recognized and gained a general meaning from, even if I didn’t know the exact word, or meaning. “I think you should brush up on your medical Chinese,” said Michael, gifting me the book with a smile and nod. I was speechless.
Little actions create huge ripples.
You never know when you might change someone’s life.
Rebekah grows plants, creates and sells herbal products, and teaches classes. She’s also a homeschool mother of three, homesteading family land with huge acreage that includes forest, fields, waterways, a pond, and more. We played music until late into the night, hands clapping against clay udus that she sculpted, instruments that came to her in dreams, and now gift the hands of many herbalists, and other plant lovers, Earth people. I watched her and her husband locking eyes, rhythms, and melodies during our little jam session. “If you can jam like that with someone,” he said afterwards, “then that’s Love.” We wove our way through the golden plant skeletons and muddy spring-time blessings the next morning, discussing death and life, dreams and possibilities. “I want this place to be for everyone,” said Rebekah, sharing her vision for the land, and her role in helping birth that into reality. Her basement studio is filled with her artwork, with a kiln, paintings, clay works, and a staggering amount of peace and joy, a certain intensity, sculpted into the air.
One day, I want to create art again, in a grounded fashion.
I love sculpting clay, too. And, gardens. And...?
I love this moment too, of climbing back into the car, albeit reluctantly, and with exhaustion. I’m grateful for the singsong strength of my engine purring, the solidity of rubber against road, this little metal house on wheels that encases me and all of my current belongings, zooming across the country, 1500 miles over lands that I know and don’t know, encountering people and places that hold up a mirror, sending back reflections brilliant, mind-shattering, and heart-opening, and send me reeling back into myself, to explode outward again in various threads of song, that weave a basket of understanding.
I spent too long reluctantly leaving New Mexico then slowly enjoying my way through AR and MO. I started speeding after IL, and the rest of the trip passed by in a blur.
The sun just rose over a frosty landscape, with woodpeckers and the morning chorus gently chirping the sun into being. My window is perfectly located, where I can watch the sunrise every morning. It’s good to stop driving, and to see the same people over and over again, day in and day out. I’m developing more solid and stable relationships, some new, some old. I’ve been here before, and it’s good to be back.
Meeting the rooted homesteaders along my trip greatly impacted my thoughts, as I sped down one windy icy road after another, lost in thought, foot poised between gas pedal, brakes, and gear shifter. Do I need graduate school? Do I want graduate school? Where do I want to live? How do I want to sculpt my life, dreams, and being? Where do I go from here?
This sun has risen and fallen on so many other questioning faces.
We kneeled on the icy and muddy earth. I rolled my tears onto my fingers, and gently mingled them with the sap, still bubbling over, like blood, from the inner bark of the 100-200 year old maple who, freshly cut, still stood, sentry like in its awkward new stumpliness, in front of the barn where so many children gather every week, to play games, sing songs, and share gratitude, then howl off into the distance, to explore all the possibilities of being wild, innocent, and free, in a complicated world.
Some things are still very simple.
I fold my bed back into the closet. I brew my morning tea, and sip and write, watching the sunrise, eyes closed to take in the sun, against hooded lids, feeling that ancient heat bathing my body, through the window.
A red tailed hawk loves sitting in the tree across from my window viewpoint. I watched its silhouette, right before the sunrise, as it soared up to the top branches, shaking its tail feathers, head pointed in the direction of the sun.