SUN ON THE WATER: A PERSONAL REPORT WITH MUCH COMMENT FROM FRIENDS [HUNTER BEAR JUNE 3 2006] UPDATED
[Before I get started, I need to say that the great
Cat, Gandalf, devoted
comrade of our good colleague, David McReynolds, is right now facing a
potentially serious medical situation and both of these fine entities could
use all of our best good wishes and, if one is so inclined, prayers. I love
all of our Furry Friends, but Cloudy [my half-Bobcat] and I have an
especially deep and enduring tie. We empathize much with David and
When I can see literally, or feel figuratively, the Sun shining on the
Water, I know that Life opens out, not in. As Maria and I and Hunter
[Shelty] junketed into the Hills this morning the absence of any viable
stream of water Up There did not prevent us from seeing Sun and Life in
every piece of sage, juniper, wildflower and wild creature.
And, in a very real way, our trip was a signal milestone -- a very hopeful
Forty years ago I was struck with what all of us -- those family members who
saw me then and the docs of today -- now know was a moderate version of
systemic lupus [SLE]: a genetic and lethal wraith whose skeleton hand jumps
generationally -- and often jumps across generations -- to hit its targets
who, themselves, have not a whit of free will say in the matter. Back then,
just starting my '30s and not inclined to see any physician, I continued my
work, despite fatigue and other would-be inhibitors, got twelve hours of
sleep each night and Eldri's fine and healthy foods, and suppressed the then
mysterious Thing in a couple of months. But in due course, after decades of
dormat status, and three years ago at a point where I was doing [as I had
for years] extensive mountain hiking every early morning, and following a
short and cunning buildup, It struck me hard and viciously and deeply on
many internal fronts.
The doctors pronounced it "a very, very serious case of SLE," and have
since told me that I am "lucky, very lucky" to be alive. But I don't think
it's luck. I am inherently tough and I fight hard. After skirting the Fog
on a number of occasions, I was able to function -- halfway. And my mind
remained quite clear. My feet continued their length growth [as they have
done for the past seventeen years] and I optimistically bought, when I
needed them, new Size 16 mountain boots [Lowa.] But hiking [always with
Maria and Hunter Shelty] was tough and generally fairly short -- marked by
extreme shortness of breath and shaky legs. Twice, having gotten
precariously down from the Hills and finally to the stretch of pavement only
a short distance from our house, my legs literally gave out and Josie had to
come in her Jeep Liberty to cart her father home. I began to think that
life for me was, at best, watching mediocre television [and I got damn tired
of seeing "law and order" invariably win] or -- and this is just fine --
writing things and corresponding with good friends via computer. A change
in meds did see me lose my excess weight [70 pounds] and also the
diabetes -- each malady produced by one of those medicines [Prednisone].
This Spring has been tough and very precarious. I have always been able to
handle stress quite well -- in pretty cool fashion, if I say so myself. But
Lupus and normal stress are allies -- feed each other voraciously -- and I
have lately had no end of Lupus flares and episodes of extreme fatigue.
Still, I maintained my basic optimism and resilience and beginning recently,
each night before I slept, I took my mind quickly through my Holy Lands --
the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area of Northern Arizona where as a Teen I
killed my extremely large Coming of Age Bear -- and as I did that I quietly
told myself, "While I sleep, push this killer Lupus down."
We have taken lately a few preliminary shorter trips into the Hills and
we've noted that I no longer have any shortness of breath and my legs, still
a little shaky going downhill, have been standing up well. And when I get
home, I am no longer exhausted as was once the case.
But, still, things were [and honestly are] tough. Then yesterday, when I
arose at my usual early hour, I felt good -- very good indeed. That
positive feeling even carried through most of the day.
So today we went much, much further: the long way to the First Top [this for
the benefit of family members who, although living elsewhere, know the
turf], following the trail [no human sign on it] that goes along the edge of
the steep canyon to our left. Then we topped out, saw our special valley of
the old John Gray [Hatchiorauquasha] winter camp, the mountains just beyond
still holding considerable snow. When we went down, we took the stretch of
what passes for a not-extensive BLM dirt road -- which we noted with
disfavor has been sort of smoothed with a small grader -- but we take heart
in the fact that "Nothing lives long, only the Earth and the Mountains."
[Rain and snow will take care of that road.] As a kid in Northern Arizona,
fabricating my age to well-aware USFS personnel, I did much fire fighting
work and then remote lookout work -- and even did a full summer of the
latter much later, on a remote mountain in Northeastern Arizona back in the
Summer of '60. I have always known that roads mean people and some people
[not all] can mean, among other things, forest fires.
We reached home in very fine form indeed. It took much longer than would
have once been the case -- but we got to that which we targeted and we got
back. Next time, we'll shoot even higher.
We are, of course, under no illusions at all. SLE, a deadly adversary, is
rooted into my very being -- even deeper than bone, flesh, fiber. There are
many things I still can't do. But I am out to drive It down, 'way down,
back into its grim and nether Cave.
And to then bring down every blocking rock I can into that Den's entrance.
As Ever, H
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
From Sam Friedman:
Yours was a message mixing the bitter with the sweet.
I am thrilled to hear about your walk, Hunter! I just wish I could
have been there...
and David, if you see this message, here is a poem you may enjoy:
for the asking.
It refuses if you beg
or if you try hard
to woo it.
Sometimes it doesn't come at all.
That is when
or fantasize about
love or death
or fret endlessly
over problems at work.
And that is also when
we keep our cats
Published in No Newz 4 (Spring 1990)
From Claire O'Connor:
Good to hear from you. I have been wondering how you were doing. Good to
know it is not all down hill.
From Duane Campbell:
I am glad to see that you are still in there fighting.
I lost two good friends and allies this Spring. I can't afford
another right now.
From Mary Ann Hall Winters:
Hi Mr. Salter,
I came down to my basement just now to do laundry and decided to check my
e-mail between cycles .I was delighted to see some correspondence from
you.To be honest,
I had conjured up in my mind for the past few weeks that you must be
terribly ill since You hadn't written to anyone in awhile. Glad that things
are relatively ok.
Take care. Regards to the clan.
From Rohn Webb:
Thank you John/Hunter. Thank you also for shareing the plight of David's
Darlene and I had a make tabby we named
"Taze' (Son of Cochise)" he lived with us through many Peace/Freedom/Justice
campaigns. He lived 23 1/2 years whereupon he faded away. We now have a
white female Persion named "Shadow" (aka "White Shadow") she will be 20
if/when she makes it to 0ctober 31.
We had longevity canines as well.
As we pause to remember Taze' (Taza) we
also know that we try not to disturb the spirit of The Son of Cochise nor
frequent messages that may interfere with
MOURN OR THE DEAD, FIGHT LIKE HELL FOR THE LIVING!!
Hokahey ! ! World Solidarity would be a good day to fight for and a good day
to die for!
Darlene & Rohn Webb
From Jim Williams:
I glad to hear that you are doing better and that ol' lupe is keeping his
head down a little bit.
I hope this continues and you can hike the hills without pain.
Too much going on for you to be hors de combat.
From Sheila Michaels:
Bravo! What wonderful news.
From Jyri Kokkonen [Finland]:
Dear Hunter Gray,
Thank you for your last messages. Drive it back into its cave! And that
mention about the landscapes and the fight while sleeping made me think how,
as we've said before, people can try and help themselves much more than they
I'll be probably still in Spain when Joan Mulholland will be visiting, but
I'll try to send her a few contacts, and my boys should be available if she
needs any help while here. . . .
Anyway, I wish you good fighting and hope to hear more from you soon.
FROM HELEN L. :
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
This is a forward and a very poignant one from Helen, a Native lady with
SLE, from whom I am always delighted to hear. The Lupus study to which she
makes reference is most likely that being conducted by the University of
Oklahoma on Natives and Lupus. It is quite reputable. A researcher from
that study was involved, of course, in the excellent National Public Radio
program [The Infinite Mind's "Lupus: The Great Pretender"] which featured a
number of informed folks -- including me [on Natives and SLE] and several
non-Indian victims as well. This was the program which aired broadly last
November and was replayed a few weeks ago. As a general rule, human
research formally based in the setting of an established university is
subject to a number of clearly defined ethical and procedural guidelines
designed to effectively protect subjects. More than two years or so ago, I
posted rather broadly on the work at Oklahoma. Here, from my post on our
small Lupus Discussion list, is the especially relevant Link:
[I believe this contact info re University Oklahoma is still
or (405) 271-7479 ]
And, to Helen quite personally: You set a fine, determined example for all
of us -- whatever our respective challenges and situations may be. And,
too, I have heard well of Crying Wind's good works and will certainly look
into them. Let's continue, by all means, to keep in touch.
Our very best -- and all our good thoughts to you and your family!, H
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
I received a very welcome and cordial telephone call this morning [6/4/06] from Mr Amos Chilinda -- father of Mimie [Yirengah] who is married to our grandson/son, Thomas Gray Salter. [Thomas and Mimie are presently at Duluth, Minnesota where Thomas has just completed his first year of Med school at University of Minnesota, Duluth. Mimie is taking courses and doing medical work at a local hospital.] The Chilindas are from Zambia, now living in Scotland. Mr Chilinda, a highly trained mining engineer, was, with his wife, most pleased to have gotten this optimistic post from me. We had a very fine upbeat conversation. H
DAVID MCREYNOLDS WRITES [AND I THEN RESPOND]:
In thanking your for your most kind words for Gandalf, I had meant to say
how wonderful the news of your walk.
What a milestone your walk was, what a victory - and how impressed I am that
through all of this you continue to write (and remain sane!).
Peace, good health, best to Cloudy
NOTE BY H:
As always, we much appreciate David's well timed fine words -- as we do
those from all of our other many fine friends.
We are distressed to learn from another of David's notes, that his great
Kitty, Gandalf, has a terminal illness. We have experienced these things
ourselves and are well aware of the deep pathos thus engendered. The Leaves
fall, and this is always very sad -- but we believe personal Life goes on
forever. We continue to send our most intensive good thoughts to David and
Many years ago, back in North Dakota, a kitten from one of our many
consecutive litters began climbing up my leg while I was sitting [and as
then baby Thomas used to put it, "piping" [tobacco]. The kitten, gazing
intently into my eyes, then jumped and clung to my shirt in my upper chest
region. She still gazed directly at me with burning intensity. That
cinched that and we kept her, my very special Cat [Woolly]. Rarely did she
let me out of her sight and, when gone for long periods of time and
returning into our darkened house, she would jump from the shadows with a
great purr and we would cuddle. But in 1993, only three years old, she
became seriously ill with acute diabetes. The vet saw no hope. Woolly
passed away. Inwardly, I was deeply affected. Her special furry friend,
our Resident Rabbit, Frisky, who lived down in our lower level, obviously
missed her tremendously.
Then, after a couple of weeks had passed, some very interesting things
happened. It's a rather complex little story but, when we would come home
to an empty house [no other pets at all save for Frisky, who was
downstairs], we would find balls of yarn unwound and scattered on the living
room floor. A blue-colored feather, a great favorite of Woolly's but long
lost, appeared next to her favorite chair. This continued for a time, then
Three years later, in September 1996, a half-Bobcat, no more than a year
old, came into our lives in a rather strange and interesting way. As soon
as she saw me, she jumped onto to my shirt/upper chest -- and looked, with
the greatest intensity, into my eyes. There were others around in that
setting -- non-family members -- but she was totally oblivious to them. I
was her focus, no more/no less.
And that, of course, was that: Since she was up for the taking, she
immediately came home with me. Once inside our home, she went forthwith to
the food dish in the kitchen, then to the favorite chair, and then right
downstairs. Frisky, usually cautious with strangers, ran to her immediately
and they rubbed noses and played.
Cloudy rarely lets me out of her sight. We do follow the suggestion of our
vet who, on her own spotted the Bobcat ancestry immediately, and who thinks
well of Cloudy [even though that good doc got a solid out-of-the-blue
scratch] and we "supervise" our usually very amiable Bundle of Fur with the
Pointed Ears, on the few occasions she is outside.
Again, David and Gandalf, our very best thoughts.
As Ever, H
KATHY MARDEN WRITES:
[Note by Hunter Bear: Kathy Marden of New Hampshire, a good friend of ours, is the niece of the late Betty Hill -- who was also a close friend of Eldri and myself. In 1961, Betty [a social worker] and her husband, Barney [a Federal employee], had a very well grounded -- very real -- and quite friendly ET encounter. Betty and Barney had a close interracial marriage and each was extremely involved in civil rights activities. Their experience was the subject of an excellent book, The Interrupted Journey by John Fuller, and a first rate television film, The UFO Incident , starring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons. -- H
MARIA LOWE WRITES [AND I RESPOND]:
I hope you are doing well and that your health continues to improve (I
read your latest email, "Sun on the Water," with great interest)! I
know it's been a long time since I have contacted you, but I thought you
might be interested in seeing my most recent article submission on the
development of Tougaloo College's role in Mississippi's civil rights
movement. If you have any comments I'd love to hear them as I will
continue to develop this project into a book manuscript.
Thank you very much for your time and for your invaluable contributions
to this current work!
Much peace and health,
Maria R. Lowe
Associate Professor of Sociology
Georgetown, Texas 78626
Professor Maria Lowe:
You have done a very fine job in all respects. [I read your paper yesterday
and again today.] It's more than simply a first rate piece of historical
sociology. You have located and delineated -- and presented with great
clarity and empathy -- the many currents which, flowing together, provided
the base from which we-all were able to accomplish something both
substantial and positive in a genuinely hideous situation. Should you go
further with this, as I gather you so plan, the result will be, I am quite
sure, yet another fine job.
My very best, H
DALE WHARTON WRITES:
Good to hear from you again, Hunter. Hang in there,
ERIC [GOOD FRIEND AND FORMER STUDENT] WRITES FROM AFRICA:
doing an excellent of job of keeping my
perspectives in line. Isn't that selfish of me to say
that? But once again I find your teachings and
letters are a great assistance to me, in my daily
I finally managed to do it, but it took an almost
ludicrous amount of effort to accomplish. Since I'm
living in Africa, and a Virginia resident, if I fancy
a firearm I need to order it online through an FFL in
Virginia. That shouldn't be so difficult, and a few
minutes of searching on the web produces an entire
list of FFL holders who "specialize" in just that
work. But finding one who would actually return my
emails was almost impossible. But I did manage to
find a shop, they were prompt, and in just two days my
purchases are on their way. No, I didn't order the
Turkish shotguns. They are a future purchase, and I
am lusting after them. I don't have much lust in my
heart to spare for anything, but they have smitten me.
I have ordered two very common rifles, and SKS and a
Mosin/Nagant 91/30. I ordered the SKS because it is
Russian, and I am very likely to encounter such a
rifle in the next year (don't share this with my
mother please), and I want to become very familiar
with the rifle in the next six months. I ordered the
Mosin because I like it for some reason. It's a bolt
action, and physically large. I like for some
reason... But it took me a month of corresponding
with the other FFL holders to get to this stage!
When I'm back in Washington on leave in August I'll
pick up the rifles, and leave them with friends while
I'm still away. I would buy an AK-47 only for work
purposes, but I'm not really interested in such
rifles, they lack the attractive character aspects I
find difficult to define in a firearm. Those Turkish
shotguns just maybe a present to myself in eighteen
I also keep thinking about how nice it would be to
have a wide open space in which to walk/hike/shoot.
This job is a good one, but you temporarily give up so
many aspects of your life. I miss the western half of
How are your hikes coming along? I hope you're doing
better and able to enjoy things without too much
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
Check out our massive social justice website:
Honored with The Elder Recognition Award by Wordcraft Circle of Native
Writers and Storytellers:
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]