Red Willow River

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Winding through the valley the river tells ancient stories about the peaceful people who lived along her red willow banks, long ago… I can almost see the women who gathered slender branches and made spiral baskets as the horned owl stood watch from the heavily ridged bark of the cottonwood trunk, perching so close to her center that his presence went almost unnoticed.

Softly rounded clay pots were fashioned from the clay in these waters by these same women whose handprints also remain on the adobe walls they plastered in the pueblo just across the river. Distinctive pots stored precious corn, squash, and bean seeds dried and ready for spring planting. Preparations were under way by the men who would still be practicing for the last of the winter hunting dances. Each animal acknowledged as a relative through the footsteps of each dancer – turtle, deer, antelope, and buffalo – each song a prayer of gratitude for the animal who sacrificed itself so the people could have meat to nourish their bodies, to keep them strong. Soon the men would begin clearing the ditches of winters’ debris. Each spring snow melt from the mountains floods the river to overflowing and these ditches will irrigate gardens and orchards, germinating new seeds.

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The Tewa once pecked pictures of the serpentine river on high desert stones and named him Avanyu. The serpent flicked tongues of lightening, spit thunderous roars and called down the rains with the holy people who came down from the mountains to help the people grow their precious crops. In the spring the Bow and Arrow dance was performed in his honor, and this tradition continues in Nambe today.

Water is life and the Pueblo people have not forgotten the importance of this essential element to all those who inhabit her desert, especially in the spring. Knowing that the elements of water, fire, earth and air continue to be honored by others as well as by myself offers me hope that the Gift that is Life will not succumb to the now catastrophic death-seeking human climate…

At dawn the sun bleeds red roses into the river and overhead the geese are climbing into a blushing sky; they too follow the curves of the deep blue green river… Mallards skim the surface of her waters, and a golden eagle soars out of an old cottonwood tree nearby.

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When I walk the little path I am lining with stones broken pottery shards appear out of red earth at my feet. A bevy of birds skitter through wiry thickets, perching in bushes and small trees waiting for me to break the ice and fill their water dishes. Nuthatches, chickadees, towhees, juncos, finches, sparrows, the magpie – In the brief time I’ve been here I count sixteen new species, not including water – fowl. Sandhill cranes spread the word that spring is coming with their haunting songs joining the rest of the aerial crowd flowing with and flying along the river. In my mind I imagine that I can see with the eagle’s golden eye this wending stream, a path made of water, snaking her way to the sea.As I approach and open a rusty rose sculptured creaking gate some geese and ducks are resting on stones that form riffles and ribbons of quicksilver under a shimmering sun. Far away to the west the wind begins to blow… I am a woman in waiting. The rising waters of the coming season seem to be flowing through my body too.

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The Grandmothers

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When I first arrived in Abiquiu the Pedernal stood out above the other mountains with its imposing triangular shape and flattened top. Initially this mesa fascinated me because Georgia O’Keefe painted it so often, but after a while, although I liked the Pedernal it became one mountain amongest many others… However, I also knew that the Navajo’s mythical Changing Woman was born on this flat – topped mesa,and that story continued to intrigue me.

For the Navajo, Changing Woman is the daughter of the Earth and Sky – a personification of the Earth and Universe. She represents the cyclical repetition of the seasons – spring summer fall and winter –aligning each with a different aspect of human life – birth, maturation, old age, and death. In this seasonal round Changing Woman lives out the different stages of her life as a child, daughter, mother, and old woman who dies, but who also is born again each spring…

The legend tells us that as a young woman Changing Woman was dressed in white shell, turquoise, abalone, and jet, and blessed with bee pollen… While bathing she was impregnated and two twins –monster slayer and child of water who after their births soon left their mother to journey westward to seek their Father, the sun. Changing Woman was lonely so one day she created the Navajo People from the skin of her body with the help of the holy people who came down from the mountains to assist her. Changing woman also created the Blessingway, a sacred ceremony for young girls that is still used today to celebrate the first bleeding or menstruation. After the original teachings were passed on the holy people left Changing Woman, but they promised that she would always feel their presence in the sound of the wind, the birds, and through the first green shoots of corn.

Pedernal, the imposing butte with its flat top or ridge lies in the heart of the Jemez mountain range at ten thousand feet.. Seen from one side it appears wide and flat, the way I see it from my house. However, an hour’s drive will take you into the startling Indian red, orange, ochre, grass green mountains behind the mesa, and from the other side the top appears peaked and narrow. The high butte is ringed by a long sheer cliff band almost impossible to climb, although ancient Puebloan peoples found their way to its summit.

The name Pedernal is the Spanish word for flint, the stone that can be found in abundance on and around this volcanic mountain. Puebloan peoples used the rock to make beautifully crafted tools like arrowheads and scrapers for hunting and skinning animals. Worked pieces and flakes of this rainbow –like chert can also be found at many ancient Puebloan ruins.

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The Pedernal was settled around 1161 CE and Indigenous people stayed until 1275 CE when the area was suddenly abandoned, possibly due to drought. The remaining artifacts include pottery shards that are typically black on white and jars with rounded bottoms so that they could be laid in a bed of hot ashes in the fire pits. Chert is abundantly common here.IMG_1074.JPG

Because I am so intrigued by the sharp, opaque, translucent flakes I collect them and spend a lot of time arranging them in different ways, much like I do with pottery shards. “Play” allows my mind to become still. This practice has become a daily meditation, much like bird watching from my window that overlooks red willow river.

After gazing at the Pedernal for months I developed a peculiar longing to get physically close to the actual mesa. I wanted large pieces of the stone to line my path to the birdfeeder, but there was something more ethereal pulling me too – and so two days ago – my friend and I drove out towards the base of the mountain… This drive takes about an hour and is absolutely stunning – a visual feast – crags, and sandstone statues, oyster to red dirt, thick Juniper, pinion, and deep green spruce and Ponderosa pine forests, huge clumps of black sagebrush, colder temperatures and the occasional clump of snow left me with the sense that I had entered another world, one where bears and elk found home. Seeing the mesa from behind gave me a sense of belonging to this place that I simply cannot describe beyond believing that I was called here by Changing Woman. Perhaps other Indigenous voices and holy people were calling too  in spirit if not in body.

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Above: Pedernal from behind

The night after this excursion I had a dream of my dearly loved grandmother that died in my early twenties. In the dream I was at her bedside, telling her I loved her, washing her face, rubbing cream on her hands and pitifully thin arms, listening to her rapid shallow breathing, feeling so helpless, and so guilty – all this while she lay in a coma. The next morning, thanksgiving day, she died at dawn.

My dream repeated the original experience with one dramatic change. Instead of the numbness and terrible nameless guilt I experienced at her death, in the dream I now understood that my grandmother had been waiting for me to make the trip down from Maine to the New York hospital to be with her, and that once we had said goodbye, she could die in peace. Astonished, I felt for the first time in fifty years that my presence had been enough. When I awakened from the dream the lifetime of guilt I had carried was gone and I was free to feel, to grieve as much as I needed to, which seemed to me to be some kind of miracle. Surely Changing Woman had wrought this reversal changing the storyline I had lived for so long.

Today the Pedernal is no longer a mountain in the distance, it is a holy dwelling place where Nature still sings the song of creation and those of the grandmothers who inhabit this sacred space in between the two worlds.

The Gift

Lily’s View from his new home:

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The night before Valentines Day the fireplace damper shut down while I was sitting on the couch with my dogs gazing into the fire. The only other glow came from a cluster of twinkling star – like lights that were arranged on top of some pinion boughs on the tall chest. Because I was seated on a low piece of furniture I never noticed the smoke streaming out of the fireplace climbing high into the rafters.

When I heard Lily B my bird make a strangled sound from the place he was roosting on top of a ceiling fan, I turned around. Terror stricken, I couldn’t see him because Lily B was engulfed by smoke. Screaming his name over and over I jumped up, ripped the rug and threw logs away from the door, opened it and ran out to the storehouse to get a fan. Once back inside I climbed a ladder up to his perch but Lily was gone. More panic. I screeched “ Lily, where are you” weeping uncontrollably. And then I heard the flutter of wings as Lily flew up from the floor answering my frantic call. Grabbing my poor bird, I stuffed him into a cage and placed him outside the front door, praying that he would not die from smoke inhalation

My two Chihuahuas were on alert but under the radar as the smoke poured out the door. Strangely, the room didn’t clear and my lungs hurt, my eyes burned as the room continued to fill with smoke. A friend arrived and it was then that we discovered that the damper had closed by itself. I had been using this fireplace for 5 months and had never had a damper problem until this night. But the tell tale sooty black adobe bricks above the fireplace suggested that there had been serious problems before. We poured water on the fire until it went out…

Just before this incident occurred I had been thinking seriously about moving out because major construction around the house was about to begin. I had come to New Mexico to write, renting this house because it gave me a place to land after driving across country. My first shock occurred when the wild dogs that roamed the area awakened me very single night at 3 AM. And then there was the house, a virtual steam bath from a fierce summer sun that streamed in from the southwest windows. And yet, it never occurred to me that the studio I had rented for such a ridiculous price was non functional. A broken window, a torn screen that took six weeks to fix, gas leaks, one of which was never fixed, doors that wouldn’t lock, absolutely no attempt to winterize the structure, plumbing and water pressure issues, and finally the lack of working radiant heat and a refusal to issue a dump card until I threatened to withhold the outrageous rent had left me feeling betrayed and very angry.

Equally disturbing, the property manager violated my rental contract rendering it invalid by her continuous invasions during the first two months I was here, a fact I was now grateful for. She entered the studio when I wasn’t home without my permission and sent others to the house without letting me know beforehand. Someone hit one of my Chihuahuas because this once friendly outgoing little creature now bit men.

Fortunately I have developed a few friendships with caring people and had a place to go when this fire became the straw that broke this proverbial camel’s back. With help from friends I moved out.

Lily B somehow miraculously survived the fire, just as he had survived a brutal attack by some animal, just a month after we moved to this place. I believe that the threats to his life were dire warnings not just for him but for me. Because I am in relationship with all living things, but especially intimate with my own animals I often get information from what happens to them.

I remember so clearly the dream I had just after arriving in New Mexico last August that something was going to happen to Lily, and I awakened frightened, for him and for me. A short time ago I had another dream that Lily was going to die, and once again, fear struck. Yet he has been spared twice. Gratitude flows out of me like the river that wends it’s way by my door.

Leaving a chaotic and unstable situation for a peaceful sand colored structure so close to the river has made me realize that I had been living on a threatening knife-edge ever since I had come to these mountains of New Mexico. I am proud that I managed to deal with all the house problems and learned to accept what was, making the best out of the situation. I refused to allow ongoing house issues to detract from my love of this high desert. I took pleasure in every sunset, every mountain view, every weather change, every petroglyph hike, every Tewa dance, every canyon, art museum, movie, Mexican dinner, I could go on and on here. But most of all I feel profound gratitude for  the great generosity and support of friends who cared enough to help me.What else could I ask for?

Below, Lily basking in the sun.

 

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River of Life

In the Beginning, First Light

 

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Avanyu, the Horned Serpent belongs to the Tewa Pueblo people of New Mexico. He is the Spirit of Water and Life and he begins moving up from the underworld or Sip- pa – pu at this time of year.

The underworld is not a negative place in Pueblo mythology. All spirits rise up from below. The spirits of Tewa speaking peoples return to the underworld at the time of their deaths.

Avanyu is a powerful Serpent. He is unpredictable and presides over endings and beginnings, changes, transitions. He is also the Spirit of transformation.

The Tewa say that Avanyu once fought the evil spirit of drought, a fiery comet that spiraled down from the sky. Victorious, Avanyu brought the rains that fell upon the Earth and created the rivers that were shaped like Avanyu’s body.

Each spring at the Tewa pueblos the Bow and Arrow dance is held in his honor.

First Light is upon us. The days grow longer, birds are singing and the sun’s heat will soon awaken sleeping seeds. Like the Tewa,  I turn towards the river seeking solace and feeling hope when I hear the sound of water flowing over stone.

At the river’s edge I honor you, Avanyu, as the Spirit of Life that manifests through rising waters.

Avanyu,

The Tewa pray to you by dancing your sinewy body. I invoke you through words.

At dusk alpine glow burnishes your reptilian body, still frozen by blue waters.

Will you thaw and bring the rains to our thirsty desert, transforming dull grays to sage green?

Will you awaken the seeds of sacred Datura who need the sun’s warmth and your precious moisture to germinate?

Will I find your faded serpentine image on another canyon wall?

Your thunderbolts strike without warning – crackling lightening seeks grounding in dry dusted earth.

I fear you – yet you are the Spirit of Life rising out of troubled waters – you bring hard rains to soak thirsty rabbit brush, desert grasses, fragrant juniper trees and pinion pines.

I hear your rasping voice tell me that change is all there is. But I can choose to seek higher ground when your floodgates open…

I pray that the Spirit of Life be birthed in this woman’s body to strengthen her for what will come.

Snakes and women are wed as one…

And like you, I too would like to wear more than one skin!

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Lily B My Telepathic Bird

 

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Every morning at “first light” Lily B sounds a call to wake up the rest of his family – his human mother – and her current dogs, two small Chihuahuas whose names are Hope and Lucy. The moment he calls – “co coooooo” (accent on the second elongated syllable) Hope and Lucy jump out of bed, with me stumbling behind them in a daze. The dogs insist that it’s time to go out because Lily B woke them up!

Occasionally I refuse to get up if I haven’t slept well. When this occurs the dogs come back to bed. But not for long. After repeating his beautiful morning call a few more times, and flying to the lamp that has a good view of the cave that we sleep in, Lily B sails down to the floor and waddles into the dark room. This maneuver always works because Lucy can’t resist chasing him– she leaps out of bed just as Lily soars up to the top of the door. By this time I am fully awake, like it or not.

Lily B is an African Collared dove who has lived with me for 24 years. He came to me as a chick and has never been caged. At first I thought he was a female and I named him Lily. When I discovered he was a male I added the “B” for boy! I discovered soon after getting him that he preferred to sit on top of the highest furniture in the house so I hung baskets from the ceiling with newspapers inside them. He loved perching on swinging baskets and it solved the problem of cleaning up after him.

About six months after getting him I was forced to acknowledge that Lily B literally read my mind. Whenever I had a new insight he would bellow out his song in approval (or validation) repeating his song exactly three times. I listened for Lily B’s commentary as I wrote in my journal each morning, even as the rational part of my mind struggled with incredulous doubt. It was apparent from the beginning that this bird and I had an unusually close relationship. I had always loved doves and had spent many hours watching them as a child and drawing stylized images of them as an adolescent. But it was the sound of their voices that I loved best. I listened with a kind of rapture to their beautiful songs that seemed to flow like water through my body, soothing her through song.

When I discovered Biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s work on telepathy in animals I felt relief because I no longer felt like I was imagining things. I want to digress from Lily’s story for a few minutes to discuss Rupert’s thesis because it pertains to the relationship between Lily and myself. Sheldrake postulates that telepathy is a normal ability found in both humans and animals. Telepathy works as a survival mechanism, functioning as a tool of communication between animals and other animals, humans and other humans, or between animals and humans keeping them connected. It works most effectively with those who are closely related. For example, if one animal is out of calling range of its mate and danger is perceived that information can be transmitted via telepathic communication almost instantly to the other. The strength of relationship or kinship is the key. Sheldrake hypothesizes that telepathy works through his theory of morphic resonance, where by animals and/or people who share an invisible morphic or bodily “field” can tap into thoughts and feelings of others on a conscious (mind) or unconscious level (body). Telepathy is not distance dependent and works most efficiently through intimate relationship, human or non – human.

As soon as I read that Rupert was looking for apparent telepathic experiences between humans and animals, I sent him a letter describing the seemingly extraordinary connection I had with Lily B. He replied that my antidotes were exactly the kind of information that he was looking for. Lily B’s behavior promptly became part of Rupert’s data bank. It’s important to note that throughout my life I had experienced telepathic behavior between my mother, my brother, my children, various wild and tame animals, plants, and myself, but the Cassandra in me refused to allow me to validate my own experiences because they didn’t fit the current western scientific paradigm. I had no context and secretly thought I might be crazy until Rupert provided me with one. Now, at 45, someone, a scientist no less, actually believed me. I was stunned.

Meanwhile my life with Lily B continued to amaze me even as I continued to record it. When Lily was about five years old I noticed that he began to sing a (new) plaintive song to the mourning doves outside our house. This song upset me because I felt his distress resonating through my body. That Lily needed a mate was obvious. One day he flew out the door to chase mourning doves. Deeply conflicted on one hand I was afraid I’d lost him, but on the other hand I loved the idea that he was truly free. He spent six weeks in the trees flying after one mourning dove or another but was never able to convince a female to join him. His loneliness broke my heart. Curiously, he never left the yard and every morning he sang up the sun in a lilac bush outside my window. One day I was leaving for work when he flew into a young apple tree just as I was walking to the car. Astonished, I turned around and opened the door to the house, inviting him to come home, and immediately he flew in of his own accord.

The following winter we spent in Tucson, Arizona. By accident or design I met a woman who had many doves in an outdoor cage and she invited Lily to join her crowd. By then I learned that these birds had to choose a mate. After being in the cage for about a half an hour, he chose Fey, a pure white dove. After the two came home they were inseparable. I was so happy for Lily B! Although he continued to read my mind on regular basis, making his comments in triple calls, I did note that the bond between us seemed less intense. I accepted the loosening of ties gratefully because my beloved bird was clearly ecstatic. Driving back east the following spring with Lily B and Fey perching on a cholla branch in the back seat, we stopped in Indian country for a break. As soon as I opened the car door, Lily B flew out into one of the thick pines… Horrified, I stood there dumbly for a moment. Then a clear thought materialized through thin air: Lily was gathering sticks for a nest. I sat down in the red sand and waited quietly. Within 5 minutes he returned with a mouth full of sticks sailing through the open car door. Fey was waiting and pulling a few bits of grass from his mouth placed them on the sheet that covered the baggage below their perch. Lily followed suit and I immediately collected bunches of grasses and small twigs and left them on the back seat to add to Lily B’s offerings. A nest appeared by the end of the day. By the time we returned to the east Fey had laid two eggs.

I learned more about fathering from this bird than I ever did from a human. Lily was a devoted parent who incubated the nest each afternoon, while Fey did the rest of the sitting. When the two chicks were born Lily took over, feeding both with regurgitated crop milk. He was tender and sweet, preening the chicks, oblivious to their open mouths and pitiful peeps until he was finished. Then he would feed them again. Fey seemed somewhat detached from her offspring, which surprised me. After the chicks were almost as big as Lily he suddenly turned on them, forcing both to leave the nest. The time had come for them to create lives of their own. He used his warning call repeatedly and pecked at their wings until they left the nest. Anticipating an abrupt ending to fathering I had made arrangements for the chicks and promptly took them to their new home.

When Fey died suddenly the following year I thought Lily would perish from grief. He stopped eating and singing as I frantically tried to find another mate for him. I talked to him constantly but he was so apathetic that I feared I couldn’t reach him. African collared doves are imported to sit on exotic birds’ nests and after the young are born the doves nurture the young like their own. I had a very difficult time finding another collared dove to keep him company because these birds were not raised as pets. This is when I learned that collared doves are considered “trash birds” by the exotic bird industry. They are imported periodically to parent other birds. When I located and presented him with Mary Anne he immediately started singing and bobbing his head up and down quivering his feathers. By some act of Grace, or through telepathy I had chosen the “right” bird. Relieved, I finally relaxed my vigil. Lily B rewarded me by bellowing out his song. Within a day he was responding to my thoughts telepathically and our lives went back to normal…

One of the most curious habits Lily B has is that he responds to dreams when I am working with them, my own, or with others (professionally). His pattern involves singing (more like bellowing) out his three calls to me if I interpret a dream correctly. Over the years I have come to trust his judgment completely even when it doesn’t make sense to me.

Lily loves classical music, especially when it is accompanied by choral singing. Two of his favorites are the Mozart Requiem and Handel’s Messiah. Joan Baez and Gordon Bok are his favorite folk singers.

He also loves earth – based ritual. Because I write my own rituals and celebrate them eight times a year using the Celtic calendar and also honor the full moon each month, ritual is woven into our lives. At the full moon I honor my body and the bodies of all living creatures. At each of the eight spokes of the wheel I follow the subtle changing seasons; I give thanks, release what is no longer needed, and set new intentions. Lily frequently joins in with his songs. If he thinks, for example, that a particular intention is important, he sounds his triple call. It’s important to note that he doesn’t use that threefold call at any other time, only when he is responding to me!

Passionflower vines delight him. He doesn’t like the flowers but tears the leaves to shreds eating tiny pieces of green. But his favorite plants are orchids. He rips apart the flowers with utter abandon – especially the ones with pink and magenta blossoms – an infuriating habit that I can’t seem to break. Finally, I was forced to put up a screen to keep him out of the orchids!

Torturing people that are afraid of birds is another of his tricks. He somehow knows who is afraid of him and promptly dive – bombs them rising up just over their heads causing a great commotion. He also has tormented every dog that I have had by walking around on the floor just in front of them until one begins to chase him. Instantly Lily is airborne, and out of reach! Hope, one of my Chihuahuas, is onto him and pretends he doesn’t exist!

Cooking in the kitchen is one of Lily’s favorite daily activities. He investigates all fresh ingredients tearing and pecking at greens and root vegetables with enthusiasm, tasting soups and pasta, all the while keeping one amber eye fastened on me. Although he is often next to a hot burner he knows enough not to touch it. His penchant for kitchens is how I discovered that Lily B loved hard boiled eggs and cheese when he was just a few months old. I was particularly curious about these high protein foods because all doves are supposed to be seed eating birds. Yet many other kinds birds often feed their young insects or worms at least for a time. I began to give Lily chopped egg every morning, a habit we continue to this day. Lily is very particular about cheese, preferring Brie or Havarti, and every afternoon he flies down to the kitchen counter for his treats. Lily is a very old bird by African Collared dove standards, having lived more than twice as long as most of his kind (10- 12 years), and I often speculate that these protein sources might have helped keep him healthy.

When Lily lost Mary Anne he seemed less traumatized. She declined slowly over a period of weeks and I sensed that both Lily and I knew we were going to lose her. His behavior towards her shifted. They no longer roosted next to each other and he began flying around without her. The morning she died at least a hundred mourning doves appeared out of nowhere and clustered into one tree outside his favorite window singing their very plaintive song although it was December. Lily’s loss was being witnessed by other doves. Later that morning after the doves dispersed I played the Mozart requiem, sitting just below my silent bird perched in his basket. We grieved her loss together, and because it was winter he watched me cremate her body in the woodstove.

The next day I discovered Lucia on the internet. I had a clear thought: this was the right bird.  Immediately I printed out a picture of her and put it in one of his favorite spots so he could see her. After I got the news that she was coming to us I started calling her by name and Lily began to coo excitedly. He knew she was coming thanks to telepathy! When she arrived it was love at first sight and the two had the most wonderful time chasing each other through our very happy house! That night they slept huddled close to one another.

Lily and Lucia seemed to have an extremely close bond and he taught her how to avoid hitting either the mirrors or the windows, something he had never done with his other mates. Even their conversation seemed more intimate with soft cooing occurring between the two that was almost continuous. If he flew to one basket she followed him. Their favorite spot was swinging in a basket that was positioned right next to the front door, where they could keep an eye on comings and goings. I sensed that neither would fly out so in the spring and fall ( before and after bug time), the outside door was almost always left open. I loved the way Lucia answered him when Lily sang to her, imitating his very complex song with ease. And yet as close as the two were, the telepathic connection between us never ceased, which frankly surprised me. I now thought of Lily B as my animal “familiar” – a Guide whose presence graced my life. He had become one of my most important teachers.

During periods when I suffer from depression Lily flies around my head trying to get my attention. Once he succeeds, he sings his triple coo. And of course, for a time at least, I am pulled out of unhealthy self – absorption. It is impossible to resist this kind of attention.

The summer before last tragedy struck. Lucia died suddenly at age seven. The morning I found her on the floor, Lily was standing over her dead body protectively. He looked up at me once, and the anguish that passed between us was palpable.

Death was in the air. I refused to let him grieve alone. I played his favorite music and kept talking to him. My dogs clustered around him too. I let Lily guide me, leaving her dead body with him until he was ready to leave her. When he finally flew into one of his baskets on the porch, I went out and dug a hole in my flourishing flower garden. He stared at me in silence as I gently placed his mate in the ground just outside the door. I filled in the earth around her body and placed a flat stone on the bare ground to protect the place where she lay. When I re- entered the porch we sat together quietly, no one uttering a sound. After a time I began to coo to him mimicking his threefold call. At first he did not respond. I was trying to convey to him that he still had us – the rest of his family – and that we loved him – me, most of all. I also told him in my mind that this time I was not going to look for another mate unless he indicated to me that he absolutely had to have one, because both of us were getting old… If he died and left a mate, I knew that I would always be comparing a new bird to him. He had a decision to make. Would he choose to live or die?

That day I never left the house and Lily’s silence was unnerving. We had reached a frightening crossroad…

The next morning Lily bellowed out his wake up call. I leaped out of bed to stand below him as I cooed good morning. When he followed me into the kitchen and hopped down on the counter, I knew the crisis had passed. Lily had made his choice.

Day after day, Lily attached himself to me like glue, flying into whatever room I was in, watching my every move. Eventually he returned to his favorite basket on the porch and struck up conversations with his favorite outdoor neighbor, blue jay. If a mourning dove landed on the sill outside the window Lily would puff himself up like a blow fish and rasp his territorial call.

Last summer Lily B, Hope, Lucy, and I drove out to the high desert of New Mexico to live for a year. We arrived during the monsoon season and I soon put him in a large outdoor cage to enjoy the soaking rains and warm sun. He sang his heart out to his avian neighbors and greeted me each morning with his song.

One morning while walking the dogs I saw feathers scattered on the ground, some with blood on them. Following the trail around the corner I was horrified to see my poor bird huddled under the plywood cover of his cage. His eyes were glazed over and he didn’t respond to my voice. Reaching into the cage I gently gathered my injured bird in my hands and brought him in the house to inspect his wounds. Lily B was in shock. He had been brutally attacked by something that had ripped a hole in his flesh and made a three – inch gash running from his right eye to his breast. His right eye was swollen and shut. Had he been blinded too?

He was dying. It was Labor Day weekend and I couldn’t reach a vet. Numbly, I inspected the cage to see how anything could have gotten in to hurt him so badly. With 1/8 inch bars on four sides, above and below the cage, and a double locking door, I couldn’t figure out how anything could have entered and left such a gaping wound. I was beside myself with grief and self-blame – how could I not have known this had happened when he and I routinely communicated telepathically? Startled, I remembered that I had shut the bedroom door (his cage was outside this door) the night before because of the barking of wild dogs and had taken a sleeping pill…no doubt Lily had tried to communicate with me and I couldn’t hear him. The rest of the day and night passed in a blur. I remember nothing except my repeated attempts to comfort him. I couldn’t sleep that night and wept, putting prayers for him in my Bear Circle, hoping that he would die quickly. His pain ripped a hole in my body too.

The next morning, he was still alive. I made an appointment with a vet for that afternoon. The vet gently took my bird, examined him and told me that she could do surgery the next morning. She hoped she could save his life. I left him there feeling dazed and drove home.

He survived the surgery. The vet told me that lily B had an incredible will to live. She had never heard of a dove that had lived as long as Lily had. The next day he came home. When he finally started eating again I allowed myself to hope that he would really survive this terrifying trauma.

It took about two months for Lily to recover. All during that time he never cooed once, and although I missed our conversations I was profoundly grateful that he was still with us. Although telepathic communication between us ceased I still felt the bond between us tightening in an inexplicable way.

And then one morning a miracle occurred. He sang to me once. Overjoyed I sung back. He peered down at me from his ceiling perch with one bright eye. A day or two later I was writing when suddenly he cooed three times. Oh, the telepathic connection was working again!

That was four months ago. Today Lily and I have regular conversations and our telepathic bond keeps us connected even when we are apart. Just within the past couple of weeks the outdoor birds have started to sing their mating songs. Sometimes wild doves visit the feeder but Lily has lost interest in them. This abrupt change initially baffled me. A few days ago I finally got it. Lily now prefers my company to that of other birds. The bond between us has strengthened to such an extent that we have in some way become One.

Postscript 3/29 For anyone who is fascinated by this story please read the sequel called “The Gift” also written in February of 2017.