Mind Over Moose

I Love Moose Tracks – Preferably in Ice Cream!

By Susan Deborah Schiller

Paralyzed, our eyes locked and I wondered, "Who was more shocked – the moose or me?" The stand off continued for what seemed an eternity!

For those who have lived in the wilderness you are well aware that a moose is one of the most dangerous species in the woods! Even a baby moose looks as huge as an elephant. What makes a moose the most dangerous beast in the woods? They are totally unpredictable. In a split second a moose can bear down on you and mow you over without skipping a beat… or they can simply turn away and disappear in the woods.

Our little house in the woods was perched on a rushing mountain river called the Vermillion. Beavers, lions, eagles, and bears were our closest neighbors, but during certain times of the year a small moose family rambled through the wetlands.

One morning, I was getting dressed to take my morning hike along the river when an unusual thought entered my mind: "Wear your black and white striped shirt." Huh? I should have gotten rid of that shirt years ago – it was UGLY! But the thought persisted and grew stronger, so I pulled the awful striped shirt over my head and headed out for my 2-mile walk.

This was my favorite time of the day and such a peaceful place to walk and meditate. Alongside the dirt road the crystal clear river rushed noisily in serpentine braids down to a large turquoise bay. Cliffs rose sharply against the far bank of the river, and it was not uncommon to come across wet tracks in the road where a mountain lion had dragged a beaver up out of the shallows and into the hills. Otters and muskrats were busy swimming amidst a log jam of broken limbs and twigs. The beaver family was busy making endless dams, cutting down countless trees, leaving an army of stumps about waist-high.

Just when you think everything is going along well…. watch out!

Bullfrogs formed a chorus line while thousands of butterflies flitted from branch to branch. The air smelled of honey and cotton candy and I couldn't help but sing out loud. All of creation was singing, wasn't it? But that's when reality set in…

Everyone told me I should be carrying a gun with me, if only to make a loud noise should a large beast decide to go fishing or swimming. But I just didn't grow up around weapons and never felt comfortable even touching one! So for two years I walked my 2-mile path, sometimes hiking as much as 14-miles in a day, and I never carried even as much as bear spray!

This was my playground. We had counted 7 bald eagles that made the bay their home. Perched in the sandbar their dinners of ducks, geese, and muskrats were fit for a king! My favorite place to watch all this was a small sandy beach peppered with boulders just the right size for stools. But on this particular day, that same voice that told me to wear the ugly black and white striped shirt was piping up once again and saying, "Keep walking."

Well, when you hike through the mountainous wilderness without a gun, you had better at least listen to that still, quiet voice deep inside your heart! So I continued the hike up the cliff, enjoying the otters and muskrats. Nevertheless, one does need to work, even in paradise, so I turned around to head back home. Just as I was about to pass my favorite spot – the sandy beach – a huge moose locked eyes with me. I was almost upon her!

Paralyzed, I stopped. There was no thinking at such a time as that… either you die or you don't, I figured. No way could I outrun her and there was no place to hide! After a few minutes of deadpan eye-lock, I wondered, "Who's more shocked? She or me?" I don't know how long we stood there, both of us paralyzed, it seemed. I don't even remember who broke the stubborn gaze first. All I know is that I had no defense and either I lived or I died but I must get home. The moose just continued to stand there, mesmerized.

Safely home, I began to take stock of my life… was I really crazy to live in the mountains and not even know how to use a gun? No… more memories marched through my mind. Just a few weeks before I had been walking down the same road. There had been no traffic at all that day, and usually if there was traffic it would be a lone environmental truck… but that day, a little passenger car rolled down our mountain road. Cars were pretty unusual in the wilderness – the dirt roads were a bit unkind to light vehicles. But on that day, this was the ONLY vehicle of any kind to drive down our road. The driver slowed down as he approached me and then quickly drove off.

I must admit, I was a little more concerned about the 2-legged creatures than the 4-legged ones! Uh oh… he was turning around and coming back to me. Rats… at least if I had a gun I could look a bit more intimidating! The man rolled down his window and said in a calm voice, "I don't want to scare you, but did you know that a mountain lion was stalking you just now? My car scared him off."

If it's a Jungle Out There, then What's the Secret to Survival?

I began to see a pattern forming. Call it stupidity, stubbornness, or naivete. But it seemed to me that in all my walks on that lonely mountain road, I had come upon at least one bear, one mountain lion, one moose, and probably a whole lot more that had escaped my limited vision… and nothing had ever harmed me!

I don't recommend you go out and walk unarmed through the wilderness, but I'm thinking there is something to be said for lacking fear. Fear is the scent that causes a predator to hunt for a kill. If you trust God, how can you fear? If you know who is walking alongside you every step of the way, how can you ever be afraid?

My theory about the moose? It's only a guess, but I'm wondering if my ugly black and white striped shirt puzzled the poor moose…. he must have been thinking, "Zebra?? I thought I was in Montana!" Okay, that's just my imagination, but it was a very strange coincidence, don't you think, that the voice deep inside told me to wear that shirt and then warned me to keep walking?

I've often meditated about those walks in the wilderness and the strange protection that surrounded me. I know what I was doing on those walks… talking with my Father God. Psalm 91 was one of my prayers….

You'll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance,
      watch the wicked turn into corpses.
   Yes, because God's your refuge,
      the High God your very own home,
   Evil can't get close to you,
      harm can't get through the door.
   He ordered his angels
      to guard you wherever you go.
   If you stumble, they'll catch you;
      their job is to keep you from falling.
   You'll walk unharmed among lions and snakes,
      and kick young lions and serpents from the path.

  "If you'll hold on to me for dear life," says God,
      "I'll get you out of any trouble.
   I'll give you the best of care
      if you'll only get to know and trust me.

Could it be that the very words I spoke while walking up the mountain path were setting forces into motion to put those words into effect in my life? I believe that is what happened. And it happens every day in our lives. Sometimes we're just more aware of it than others!

All my love,


Susan Schiller knows how it feels to lose everything: marriage and family, church and reputation, finances and businesses, and more. Susan's upcoming, interactive memoir, "On the Way Home," tells the story of how she came to be known as "the most abused woman" her counselors had yet met and how she learned to navigate her way out of hell to a rich and satisfying life. In her lifetime, Susan has served in duties ranging from home school mom – to pastor –  to full-time deliverance minister – and to Midwest regional prayer coordinator for a large international ministry. These days you can usually find Susan soaking in her favorite hot springs pool, reading a book (or several), blogging, baking bread, or hanging out with her family and friends. You can get a free copy of Susan's upcoming book, "On the Way Home" by registering here.

Copyright 2012, Susan Schiller, http://TeamFamilyOnline.com. For reprint permission for any private or commercial use, in any form of media, please contact Susan Schiller.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Victoria Gazeley February 21, 2011 at 1:23 am

I love this story! Your comments about fear essentially feeding on itself could not be more spot on. You ARE protected…


Susan McKenzie February 21, 2011 at 2:02 am

Thank you for reading and also sharing, Victoria!

It’s interesting to contemplate … what if we eliminated the very real but irrational feeling of fear for just one day? That is, all of us … Not the fear that helps us avoid making mistakes… but fear of failure, fear of success, and all the other blocks to fulfilling our destinies….


Victoria Gazeley February 21, 2011 at 2:19 am

I’m thinking it would be a very amazing day!! :o)


Debra Pickford February 20, 2011 at 11:28 pm

What a captivating read. You are an amazing writer. I love “how can we fear when we know who’s walking beside us!! ” God’s protection is comforting.


Susan McKenzie February 21, 2011 at 12:48 am

Hi Debra… Thank you for stopping by to read and to share!


Carol Giambri February 19, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Wow. Great reminder that HE is always there for us. Love Psalm 91 here.


Susan McKenzie February 21, 2011 at 12:46 am

Thank you, Carol, for reading and sharing!


Jeannette Webb February 17, 2011 at 9:29 pm

What a wonderful reminder of God’s protection. You have a gift for pulling me into your head and letting me see through your eyes. Thanks!


Susan McKenzie February 17, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Thanks so much, Jeannette – you are very kind 🙂 Thank you for reading and sharing!


Scarlett Von Gunten February 17, 2011 at 7:12 am

Susan, you’ve captured me again and drawn me into your story! You’re an amazing writer and I love to read your stories!


Susan McKenzie February 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Thanks so much, Scarlett… what an adventure life is! Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts!


Donovan Grant February 16, 2011 at 9:00 am

Susan, I used to call anywhere outside of my precious London “the Sticks.” You have created a new vision for me, “the adventure park!”


Susan McKenzie February 16, 2011 at 11:38 am

Ha ha, Donovan… if it’s the “sticks” I love it! I”m glad it opened up a new picture for you. Do come to visit some time! I hope to see London one day (the center of the world, some say)!


Lily November 26, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I’ve never lived near the wilderness, but it sounds wonderful! Another fantastic story Susan. I can’t wait to read more.



Susan McKenzie November 26, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Through sharing our stories we can travel to many more places and experience so much more… I’ve never lived out East as you have and I would love to hear about your traveling experiences, too! We each become wealthier in sharing our stories!


Victoria Gazeley November 22, 2010 at 8:17 pm

I love the visual of the moose being mesmerized by your shirt! But no, I wouldn’t have wanted to be standing there as you were, face to face with a male moose. What a story, though! That said, we grew up with guns in the house (hunting rifles), and they never really made me feel safer. Come to think of it, I don’t think they ever came with us on hikes through the woods with my dad. Bear spray did, but we were more apt to rely on our instincts, which he taught us well. Great post!!


Susan McKenzie November 22, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Thank you, Victoria … I didn’t grow up in the wild, myself, so my instincts aren’t very fine tuned! It’s so exciting that you’ve been able to return to the cabin in the woods of your childhood – yours is a fascinating story!


Anonymous November 22, 2010 at 10:23 am

As you demonstrate beautifully in your article, there is nothing that brings us closer to our creator than to walk in the midst of the awesomeness of His work. I too choose faith over guns and fear. (This brought back memories of the time I was about 10 miles deep in the mountains alone on horseback and came face to face with a bear!!! Lesson-horses don’t wait to see what the bear’s intention is….they just RUN!!! But oh what a ride that was!)


Susan McKenzie November 22, 2010 at 11:06 am

Denny, that must have been some ride! Smart horse – I’m glad he was faster than the bear! You’re so right about the awesomeness of nature bringing us closer to our Creator… and there truly is no fear there! Thanks for stopping by and reading – you are much appreciated!


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