BARE GRACE

My intention when I began this blog was to create a place to share reflections, essays, prose, poems and photos of the creatures that I have met or may yet encounter in the forest here in the western mountains of Maine or elsewhere.

As an cognitive ethologist and psychologist (Jungian therapist) when I observe animal behavior in the wild I am always asking myself what the animal might be thinking. I pay particular attention to the relationship that develops between an animal and myself over time. I also question the role of projection on my part when I am pulled into an animal’s field of influence without understanding why. Most important I follow gut feelings and any nudges when observing any animal. I am a woman with Native American roots – is that why I make the assumption that every creature has something to teach me? I think of the natural world as being a place of deep learning and wonder.

It is my experience that intention and attention on the part of the observer opens a magic door, and once over the threshold inter-species communication becomes possible. I would like to invite others to cross that threshold with me.

As a feminist, ritual artist, and a writer I am Her advocate, that is, Nature’s advocate. I believe that when I write about the animals and plants I am giving voice to their truths as well as my own.

I developed an intimate relationship with the black bear in the above photo for a number of years while I was engaged in an independent, trust based study of his kinship group (15 years). Little Bee interacted with me on a regular basis but always preferred to “hide” behind a screen of leaves and saplings while doing so. Whenever I was around him I felt touched by “Bare Grace”.

Please feel free to comment. I would love to communicate with anyone who wants to share experiences they have had in Nature or simply make observations about what I have written.

If you would like more information about me, please read the essay on how I became a Naturalist…

Unfortunately, I am dyslexic with numbers and directions and have a difficult time with the computer in general and with WordPress in particular so I ask the reader to forgive me for the errors I will surely continue to make.

Sara Wright

12/29/16

I am spending the winter in Abiquiu New Mexico and am currently using my blog as a journal of my experiences in this mysteriously beautiful place. I ask that the reader bear with me as I continue this process… some entries will, of course, be about my relationship with animals, but others will not.

With deep appreciation,

Sara

 

For Love of Water

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Each morning I awaken to the soothing sound of water flowing over stone and remind myself that this is July in Maine, definitely the hottest month, and usually the driest at least before climate change began to create havoc with our weather.

 

By this time of the year, my brook is usually barely audible, but this year with the increased rainfall it is still running, has a large pool with iridescent rainbow brook trout swimming happily, and the mink leave teeny little prints in the mud after finishing their morning ablutions.

 

Fat tadpoles are swimming about in the “almost vernal pool” I dug for them next to the brook and yellow swamp iris were still in bloom on my return from Abiquiu.

 

Best of all, the scent of water is overpowering and whenever I walk down the mossy hill that meets tall mint spires, round pincushion moss and sage green sphagnum mounds I am overcome with gratitude for this precious gift because water is life.

 

I am glad that both my brother and my father’s ashes are buried there.

 

Kingfisher’s family rattles up and down the winding brook hunting for food; last year the terrible drought left him without adequate fishing territory.

 

When I have the courage to listen to local news the low water table that I witness uneasily as I scan the edge of the brook translates into the drought that is still with us.

 

As of June Maine is at least three plus inches below “normal” rainfall for this time of year. It is easy to be lulled into believing that the drought is over, but of course, as the trees will tell you, it is not. The white pines have new shoots growing as if their lives depended on it and they do. All the grasses are seeding up and my very wild flower jungle is a visual feast with deep crimson fiery orange, lemon yellow, and delphinium blue… Tiny toads and garter snakes abound and the thick fog laden air is so sweet I can hardly bare it.

 

I feel as if I have acquired two “home places” or more accurately, they have acquired me. This one in Maine has been my sanctuary for thirty years. Abiquiu has been a dream that finally came to fruition last summer, when I fled to a mountainous New Mexican desert from a blistering world of withering flowers, falling leaves, and crumpled dead grasses that left me wondering if life would continue here in Maine. There, I discovered people with oh such generous hearts who literally took me in.

 

I came to live on Red Willow river and fell in love with elephant armed cottonwoods, lizards and snakes and the wildflowers that adorned the high desert scrub. Each day as I walked down the river path, I would stop a moment to give thanks for the gift of that torrent that would bring the farmers the precious water they needed to grow their crops. I watched the sun rise over a fog bound serpent who rushed to the sea. In my mind, the two places have become two pieces of one whole in my life. I belong to both.

 

Here I cannot rest in the dappled light, so golden at the edges of the day, under trees with emerald leaves so heavy with fruit, without thinking of that other home to the south of me…

 

That home where water is too scarce and thunderheads do not bring the rains the people must have to live. When I left there in June, temperatures skirted 100 degrees – a great wall of heat that literally took my breath away. By then the birds had raised at least one clutch and hummingbirds buzzed like bees around feeders that I filled twice a day. The magenta cholla were in bloom as were the crimson and yellow roses that my neighbor tends to with such love.

 

I confess, my body cannot take the heat of summer in Abiquiu, though the other three seasons work well for me. It occurs to me that perhaps this is how it is supposed to be. I am meant to return in the spring to this piece of land, my own lilacs, fruit trees and wildflower gardens, and hopefully to the sound of a healthy brook that still runs clear.

 

For the moment, I am at peace, though I miss my Abiquiu friends – people who have stolen my heart much like the sage gray green high desert has.

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Every day I call out to the frog gods to bring the rain to this high desert with its reptilian mountains that is also my home. Never mind that it took 72 years to find it.

 

Every day I give thanks for the precious gift of water that brings all of us life.

 

Every day I wonder when people will see the gift of this water, and once again honor it as Indigenous peoples have done since he beginning of time…

The Woman Who Respects Herself…

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The Woman Who Respects Herself:

(A Tribute to Bears, Women, and the Men who love them)

 

The Woman Who Respects Herself

has learned how to Love.

 

She stands up for the Hunted,

the Abused,

for Herself,

no matter how steep the personal cost.

 

The invisible are real to her –

animals, trees, and people.

They call themselves the Anawim –

“the forgotten ones.”

 

The Woman Who Respects Herself

has learned how to Love.

 

She has not accomplished this act alone.

She was mirrored by animals, plants, and people

who saw her as she was,

and did not despise vulnerability.

 

The Woman Who Respects Herself.

has learned how to Love.

 

Bears first taught her about Trust,

how fragile the connection

between self and other remains,

dependent upon respect for Difference,

Mutuality in relationship,

the Gift of being Seen.

 

The Woman Who Respects Herself.

has learned how to Love.

 

Even now He comes,

Medicine Bear, Healer, Friend,

denizen of the forest

slipping through a veil

of emerald green.

 

Thanks to Him –

 

The Woman Who Respects Herself.

has learned how to Love.

 

Yet fear grips her heart

for a mangled paw

and a blood spattered head –

death strikes in a can.

 

The Woman Who Respects Herself.

has learned how to Love.

 

Yet she cannot help Him.

 

Even a Medicine Bear cannot protect

his fierce attachment to Body –

to Survival.

 

Few recognize that the Spirit of All Life

is snuffed out in these multiple acts

of mindless violence.

 

The Woman Who Respects Herself

Has learned how to Love.

 

Keening, she cries out in protest

of murderous men.

Those who would slaughter

the innocent –

women, men, and bears.

 

This Woman Who Respects Herself

has learned how to Love…

 

Postscript:

 

There is a lot happening here in this poem. On one level it speaks to the Power of Love to shift personal awareness. The poem alludes to a personal story of how this woman was taught by a bear how to love and respect herself by interacting with some over a period of many years. Some people also helped and they know who they are…

 

The poem also addresses the issue of relatedness because what we do to these animals we do to ourselves. Every single time we snuff out an innocent life we also slaughter the Spirit of Life on this planet.

 

By writing this poem I am also protesting the slaughter of bears in Maine. This egregious practice of bear butchery begins on July 29 and extends to November 25th, and black bears (who are prey animals that co- evolved into their present state with trees during the last ice age) and who are generally shy and reclusive by nature are cast as the Demonic Killer Bear by men who project their own fear, violence, and hatred onto these animals and then massacre them without mercy.

 

Bear baiting involves baiting a bear in the woods when s/he is most vulnerable. Bears are simply shot with their heads in a can while eating. Females “tree” their first year cubs before entering a bait site. The black bear depends upon berries for caloric value and this year the berry crops are failing so the bears are more desperate than usual, needing to put on enough fat in order to survive hibernation. They will eat anything with fat in it and are usually baited with donuts. Worse, the young males are seeking new territories, and so these youngsters are the most vulnerable of all. Most of the bears killed are these yearlings, bears weighing less than 100 pounds.

 

Bear hounding pits dogs against bears (the two species are related) and hounds chase the unfortunate victims until they are exhausted, separating mothers from cubs and often killing them (in Maine almost as many females as males are murdered). First year cubs will perish without parental care.

 

Bear trapping is illegal in every state except Maine. Bears sometimes gnaw their paws off to get free of these steel snare traps and then starve to death because they can no longer walk or protect themselves. Bears are eventually shot by the trapper, who might not check his lines more than once a week. The pain for the trapped, starving bear is unbearable.

 

In Maine a bear can also be shot at any time “if s/he is considered a threat” which means that any bear that is passing by through someone’s backyard can be annihilated without consequences. Bears have no rights.

 

It is true that one in about a million bears does become a predator of man, so occasionally the tables are turned, but not often enough to suit me.

“Under Distress”

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Overheard at a grocery store by someone waiting in line behind a woman speaking in another language on her cellphone.  Ahead of her was a white man.  After the woman has ended her phone conversation and hangs up, he says, “I didn’t want to say anything while you were on the phone, but you’re in America now.  You need to speak English.”

 

“Excuse me?”, the woman says.

 

The man says, very slowly, “If you want to speak Mexican, go back to Mexico.  In America we speak English.”

 

The woman replies, “Sir, I was speaking Navaho.  If you want to speak English, go back to England.”

 

Postscript: My friend Bob sent me this gem and I want to pass it on…

 

The Homecoming

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Two giant brown 300 lb. pigs were chasing us down the road next to my house a few days ago. PIGS??? This was the second alarming threat that had occurred in the two weeks since I had returned to Maine.

My friend Bruce mitigated the entire incident by suggesting that these monsters were just walking “fast” while snorting crazily on a public road while they stopped all traffic in their wake. My two little Chihuahuas and I felt differently but then we three are not physicists and we have been harassed by unfriendly, bullying, and most recently, dangerous dogs since my neighbors moved in eleven years ago… One attacked me in a public place last summer.

The pattern of woman/animal elder abuse (now I am 72) is well rooted in this “place.”

Naturally, I called the town office and left a message. Knowing the drill, I next called the dog officer whose robot replied that I should call the police. When I finally got a dispatcher she told me to contact the dog – catcher. Round and round we go. Yesterday I got a text from the Town Clerk asking if I had heard from anyone about the incident. “Of course not,” I replied. We have been here before.

It all began here the year (2003) the town forced me to obtain pictures of the German Shepard who was trespassing and threatening the life of my rabbit. To “prove” that I wasn’t making up the story, I followed protocol and after nine months got the necessary pictures of the offending dog to the town hall. There I was told the pictures weren’t good enough proof. I went home. The very next morning I heard blood curdling, high pitched, and oh so pitiful baby-like screams – Racing out the door in a frenzy I found my dead rabbit still in her pen with her guts ripped out. In shock (murder does put a person into a state that is like any other) I put Moonflower in a paper bag and called the town hall.

“You got what you wanted” my rabbit is dead.”

Their response was that the dog officer had to see the rabbit to make sure. The dog officer, appeared in minutes, a remarkable feat considering his gross nine month negligence, while I stood at the door screaming hysterically “do you still need more proof” as I pulled the dead rabbit out of the bag by her ears while bloody intestinal body parts slithered to the ground. He left.

The dogs – there were three in all – returned to look for the spoils and this was when I got the pictures of the man walking by my window dragging Moonflower’s killer dogs away.

I buried my rabbit on my land here and have never visited her grave. Ever.

Little did I know this was only the beginning…

I built my house on my beloved land (which I have had for 30 years) in 2004 and by 2005 had acquired what was to become the worst neighbors I could ever have imagined. Neighbors who refused then, as they do to this day, to collar and contain their big dogs (this is the law), and who allow them to bully my present dogs by running into the road and threatening all of us. The remarkable thing is that these people continue to get away with this behavior because the Town of Woodstock, the dog constable, and the police ignore the behavior, even after one of these same dogs attacked me in a public place last summer.

By the end of the month last year I had moved to Abiquiu, New Mexico for a break from my exhausting and terrifying life with a full blown anxiety disorder and suffering from PTSD. Eleven months later I returned to flag obsessed western Maine and picked up where I left off. Yesterday, while walking down my road we were threatened again by  a dog, this one a huge Saint Bernard (who is normally chained).

I spent all yesterday afternoon with robots trying to get help from ANYONE in the state department who would be willing to intervene. So far, nothing. Needless to say I have low expectations.

I borrowed a gun. As a woman who has been anti –gun prone since her brother killed himself with one in 1972 I find to my horror that I have now joined the crowd.

Welcome home Sara to “the way things should be” (one of Maine’s favorite cliches) IMG_2100.JPG

Moon Tide

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What is it about the moon

that calls me to Love

as she slides under a sea

of dark clouds?

 

Last night I gazed

into a deep midnight sky.

Someone I love

floated by on wings

made of air that

shrouded her pale face…

 

Moon honors both love and grief

in equal measure

without judgment.

Grave colors –

crimson, white, to black.

 

Is it any wonder

I feel her luminous presence

as a loving force

that binds me to others

living or dead?

 

Moon is an embodiment –

 

Lovers’ prayers incarnate in

translucent white light.

Shattered

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 When I saw the smashed plate, all its beautiful Mexican pottery shards shattered beyond repair I wanted to weep.

“It was only a plate.”

Oh, but not for me.

An artistic story was painted over red clay, one on each of the plates. These dishes had sustained me for so many years with their astonishing brilliant colors and creative designs – each one unique – their stories held dreams, kept me close to my longing for red earth…

A bad omen, I thought as I threw the shards away (only to retrieve them reverently), thinking suddenly of the pale green Luna moth who had struggled at the window just the night before while I was feeling so ill. In the cool July night the moth frantically sought light from a lamp inside my living room that could not sustain her in her death throes. Oddly, this same lamp once belonged to this great aunt (Baba Willie) and her sisters.

My three plates were created by an unknown artist who is now probably dead. I couldn’t afford them then (or now) but I bought three when I moved into the log cabin I had built, and each time I used them I dreamed of living in another place for the winter – a place where diversity was celebrated – a place where love and a sense of community were actual possibilities – a place where I could once again feel child-like joy in friendship.

Ridiculous you say to make such a fuss out of losing a plate…

Oh, but not for me.

I remembered a childhood story… One of my great aunts had a single dish made of the finest translucent bone china that she treasured. It sat on a finely waxed cherry coffee table in my aunts’ Victorian living room. My little brother and I were allowed to hold the plate to examine its milky texture, to see a white moon streaming through its thin shell…or that’s what we imagined. One day, we were playing and I hit the dish with a small ball by accident. The delicate oval shattered into a thousand small pieces. When my great aunt knelt on the floor to pick up the fragments she couldn’t stop weeping… Catapulted out of my eight year old body I hung helplessly in the air hovering over the scene, horror stricken – How could I have done this terrible thing? A cloud of grief became my shroud.

After my aunt carefully deposited the pieces in the garbage my little brother and I carefully gathered up the fragments from the pail and tried to glue the dish back together. But of course, it was too late.

That summer I “worked” for my grandmother. For every Japanese beetle that I picked off my grandmother’s roses I received a penny. By the end of the summer I saved up twenty dollars (which seemed like a huge amount of money to an eight year old) to buy another “perfect” china dish for my aunt. When I gave her my secret savings as a surprise she wept again as she held me in her arms. I never asked her why this dish was so special (I was too ashamed) but somehow I understood that this oval dish was not a piece of china but a dream that had been lost.

 

 

The Gift of July

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Thick moist heat bathes

The night in crimson,

Drives bears deep

into sphagnum bogs to dream.

 

Fireflies drift through

Sweet wet grass.

Hidden under leafy branches,

Grey tree frogs trill.

 

Blood red cardinals whistle love songs,

teach offspring to chirp

sharp staccato rounds

at the threshold of dawn…

 

Rainbow light filters

through crystals formed by dew…

 

Kingfisher’s absence

won’t be missed

by transforming toads,

but the drought may crack

the vernal pool too soon

for lungs to form.

 

The doe grazes outside my window

under a blistering noon day star.

Chomping down wild rose thorns,

red deer shred supple grape leaves,

nip bee balm for after dinner mint!

 

Gray foxes feast on treats I leave

beneath heavily perfumed pines.

Grapes, old cranberries, apples,

hunks of fat and bone marrow – perhaps

a carcass entices them in.

 

When mountains fade under clouds

of thick fog Our Lady ascends,

her nimbus shrouded in pearl-

like mist. One night soon she’ll

sing up the Toad Moon.

 

A wave of gratitude swells and breaks.

An emerald sea is moving through me.

Water and air create a symphony –

Breath deep and listen!

The Soul of Nature sounds a joyous hum.

 

Working notes:

I wrote this poem early last July during the terrible drought of 2016 here at my “home” in Maine. I was trying to concentrate on the more positive aspects around the drought  which distressed me so deeply. Not hearing the kingfisher’s cries, the shrinking pools, a brook so low I couldn’t hear her soothing sound, the scarcity of toads – I could go on and on here – left me feeling so helpless – so profoundly depressed. When I returned from Abiquiu, New Mexico a week ago after being away for 11 months I was struck by lines of this poem because the weather conditions in Maine had been totally reversed in one year. We arrived and spent the first week under monsoon conditions with almost continuous rain, lovely wet fog rising off the mountains, and extremely cool temperatures for ‘almost’ July. Kingfisher is back and toads and frogs are abundant, breathing in lovely moist air. My skin feels like velvet.

Flowers are bent double under silvery sheets of rain. I still have lemon lilies. My water barrels are full. Whenever rain falls I feel blessed – here or there – because water is life. The thunderstorm last night reminded me of the heavy rains that punctuated most late afternoons last August in Abiquiu while I was still living on the hill…Here a canopy of green shelters the house from the fiery sun even when it breaks through the clouds as it did this morning when I took the pictures that precede last year’s poem. The thick heavy morning air is still…and a young bear is eating wild strawberries.

In New Mexico the relentless heat drones on although yesterday my friend Iren wrote that two tenths of an inch of rain fell in Abiquiu. Any amount counts and I hope those few raindrops are a precursor of a healthy monsoon season to come. I feel a great thirst whenever I think about that beloved high desert, now another “home” place in my heart.

That global warming is a reality is obvious to anyone who pays attention to Nature’s  Warning Voice but it doesn’t change how heartbreaking it is to live through these  terrible extremes.