Every Foundation needs a bear den!

image2.JPG

Here is a picture that Iren took after she visited the foundation hole for the new Casita.

I think this is a most creative natural sculpture that only Iren could think of! Iren is a genius and can create art out of virtually anything. Art that leaves me in perpetual AWE.

I think EVERY foundation needs a bear den.

Bears know how to deal with inclement conditions, they sleep without losing muscle tissue, recycle waste, give birth (to young or creative endeavors) in the safety of a den or under the snow.

Bears are powerful plant and root healers having a complex relationship with both.

Bears know how to heal their own wounds.

Indigenous peoples revere the bear as protector and healer.

What better way to create the space for a new home?

I must also include Bruce’s intuition that the bear of the den in question needed eyes. I totally agree! I was surprised to learn that he pulled what he thought were two quarters out of his pocket and added them to the sculpture. Later he realized that he had pulled out one quarter and one nickel by accident! I didn’t realize until he told me that the eyes were made of silver – no wonder they gleam in the afternoon light!

August 28th begins the “official” bear slaughter in Maine (baiting, hounding and trapping). When I look at this picture I imagine a 70 pound shy and reclusive bear digging his own den in a very safe place and send bear prayers his way.

Thanks Iren (and Bruce) for providing me with such a wonderful image – one that has a heart full of hope and deep gratitude at its core.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Crows Still Know

1200px-Corvus-brachyrhynchos-001.jpg

 

Crowmothers, Come Home

Quorking,
Steel black crows
Hop sideways
Dancing blue light.
Quorking,
Swirling shadows
Arching dipped wings
Feathered to bow.
Quorking,
Beady eyes shift with ease
Peruse rough bark and twig
Circle smooth stones.
Quorking,
Old Woman keening at the well
I listen with fierce attention
Thirsting for threefold vision
Of black winged women
Poised in flight.
Mend the silken silvery thread
Broken so long ago,
Ancient Mothers, rise up —
Shapeshifters! You —
Sing new flesh onto white bone
Craft sharpened beaks out of fish hooks from the deep
Carve all seeing sight
Out of the still nights
Of my imagining
Crow Mothers, please come home.

– Sara Wright

THE CROWMOTHER THREAD

by Sara Wright

Every morning I put out chunks of dry dog food and bits of dried bread for my crows, and then sit with coffee and a pair of binoculars, watching the wily corvids commune with each other, display crow antics and engage in elaborate courtship rituals. A couple of days ago I was rewarded by seeing one crow strip the bark off a half-dead oak branch and fly back over the knoll to its chosen nest site in the woods. Later this same bird, or perhaps the mate, gathered so much deer hair in its beak that the crow looked as if it had grown whiskers! These birds fascinate me. When I found a dead squirrel, I placed it where I leave the other food and noticed that it was two days before any of the crows would get near the carcass. When the first one did, s/he hopped sideways, approaching the dead body from four directions before pecking at it. When I focus on their bead-like eyes, I am astonished. Is it an optical illusion that they seem to peer in all directions almost simultaneously? It feels good that these crows have befriended me. Usually they maintain a healthy distance from humans—with good reason, for they are much maligned.

Often as I watch crows, I think about how they expose the underlying bones of things, not just because they eat carrion, but because they uncover what’s normally hidden in the forest by creating, for example, a frenzy in the air as they circle an intruder, voicing their displeasure with loud raucous cries. Sometimes they mob a tired owl, and I follow their screeching to find the harassed day-sleeping raptor perched precariously on a limb and blinking its eyes in distress. More frequently, I see owls soaring low on silent wings through the trees to escape the crow taunting.

Although my grandmother died in 1974, I can still see her with a pea-green scarf wrapped around her head, walking out to the field with a pailful of scraps as a raucous black cloud hovered above her. Here she comes, the crows would screech with enthusiasm. I have no doubt that my grandmother’s crows were the best-fed corvids around. Although she was often teased about her fondness for crows, she fed them until she died, and I suspect there was more to that relationship than she ever let on.

Whenever I see crows, I also think about my mother because now she feeds her crows as my grandmother did before her. Sadly, my mother has a life history of keeping herself physically and emotionally distanced from me, which has left me filled with a peculiar longing. Perhaps that’s why I think of our crow connection as a kind of cosmic link—one that stretches across time, space, and my mother’s real need to remain separate from her daughter.

When I was in my thirties and early forties, my mother would sometimes refuse to talk to me because of an imagined slight or because I displeased her in some way. When she finally broke her silence, I would discover to my amazement that we had been growing exactly the same herbs or tomatoes or flowers, or that we had both discovered clay as a medium, in the two years since we had last had a conversation. I never spoke to anyone about this bizarre twist to our unstable relationship, but I always wondered what it meant.

Three years ago last winter, I developed a pain in my right breast, and I dreamed that my distressed and tearful mother came to me, and then refused to tell me what was wrong. I remember most from this period the baffling, mindless grief that washed over me repeatedly like an incoming tide. One night during a body meditation, I distinctly heard a French lullaby that my mother loved, being sung somewhere in the air around me. Soon afterwards my son called to tell me that my mother had been diagnosed and operated on for breast cancer during my three-month depression. I experienced her tight-lipped silence as a crushing betrayal. Breast cancer, as I told her later in a letter, is a woman’s disease. I was only vaguely aware at the time that my body had somehow known about the cancer, and had been carrying the burden of my mother’s grief and probably my own. The day my son called with the news, my birdfeeders were suddenly flooded with crows. Both Nature and my body (itself part of Nature) seem able to channel information in unusual ways.

My personal experience supports the ecofeminist idea that women and Nature are inextricably bound together. It also supports my own idea that Nature carries a kind of consciousness enabling living things to communicate with one another across species. All warm-blooded creatures share patterns of instinctual behavior, of course, and this instinctual connection between species is, I believe, the pathway that links us—bird to woman.

Although the crows themselves initiated the possibility of dialogue with me by appearing here last spring to munch on cracked corn that I had left for the wild turkeys, I was the one who encouraged them to stay. They did stay for a while and then drifted off after my brief absence. Now, though, they are taking up housekeeping in the lowland woods behind the house. Each morning when I feed them, I do so with a consciousness of the invisible but genuine connection between this daughter and her mother, a link the crows may be mediating. My intention this time is to keep the lines open and see what happens. I am trusting that the crows know something I don’t because they approached me first. I’ve also learned that it’s useless to turn my back on a Nature connection. Regardless of my personal views on the creature in question, if any animal attempts to enter into some kind of relationship with me, I know something is up!

I also believe that a live crow can be an incarnation of the archetype of the Great Mother in her crone aspect. If I’m right and crows can be Nature’s choice to express the archetypal reality of the venerable crone, then it makes perfect sense to me that crows can help keep the psychic lines open between my mother and me, because, like my mother, I too have become a crone. But what are these winsome corvids trying to tell me?

I believe that on one level my crows are reminding me of the ancient relationship between women and crows, one that has recently been hidden behind the veil of patriarchy. I think that if we develop our connection to them, the crows can help us reclaim our lost woman ground. Barbara Walker confirms this intuition when she says that crows represent the third form of the Triple Goddess (Great Mother), her death aspect. But why the death aspect? I think the answer can be found in crow behavior. This third aspect of the Triple Goddess is about seeing what’s hidden, and getting down to the bones of things, literally picking the bones clean, and preparing for new life. Crows have remarkable sight—a ground way of seeing; they peer beyond the obvious, just as old crones see what others miss. Crows ingest decaying matter and, by doing so, create space for the new; crones not only prepare for death, but assist others during the transition from death to new life. Crones have knowledge of the future, and crows prophesy. Both crows and crones inhabit the edge places: crows hang out at the edge of forests, and crones live on the boundaries of the known and unknown. Perhaps mediating this crow connection can help us as women to reweave the original powers of the Great Goddess, especially the powers of death, back into our Woman Psyche once and for all. To reclaim death is to reclaim the crone in ourselves and to reclaim our own woman ground. Can’t you almost see those three old women who not only spin and weave, but know when it is time to cut the threads?

On a more personal level, I believe that my crows may be trying to mend the broken link between my mother and me. Perhaps the crows are letting me know that underneath the apparent physical separation and emotional distance between this mother and her daughter, there exists an unbroken and ancient connection … and that by listening to my crows, I am able to reach through the veil to pick up that lost thread. My mother sent me a crow feather for my last birthday—maybe her crows have been talking to her too.

Crows are also said to be messengers of the gods, and this oracular or prophetic quality is another of my personal associations with the crow. In fact, I was wary of crows for years because it often happened that crows (or other black birds) appeared during times of painful transition, as they did the day I was told about my mother’s cancer. It doesn’t surprise me that the first stage in alchemical transformation—the nigredo—is often represented by the crow, since one of the bird’s trickster/creator-like characteristics is shapeshifting, and this nigredo is the first stage of change. “From death to life” I seem to hear my crows say as they fly high above me and perch in the towering white pines, and I believe them.

For the Pacific Coast Tlingit Indians, Crow is a central divinity figure, and in other Native American traditions Crow is a sky god associated with the winds (of change?). Jamie Sams, who created the Animal Medicine Cards, sees the crow as the shadow side of reality. For me, Crow embodies both light and dark, life and death aspects of the crone/Nature. In fact, it seems to me that Nature displays genius when she personifies herself in crow form to spin and mend the threads, to prophesy, or to expose the bones of things! Crows are also seen as soul guides, and my favorite crone, the Greek goddess Hecate, is sometimes depicted with a crow. Thinking of Hecate returns me to wondering about the hidden meaning of my own personal crow connection, which I suspect has a lot to do with learning surrender to the wisdom of the archetypal crone and her instinctual ways of knowing.

Today I continue feeding my crows to participate in the wonder that is Nature. I feed them because I feel psychically and physically linked through crows to my mother and to my grandmother, and because something about this woman connection goes beyond the veil that separates life and death. When I feed my crows, I am consciously putting my life in Her hands. It’s at this point that I let go, enter the “Great Mysteries,” pick the bones clean, create new beginnings, and cackle with those wily Crowmothers who are older than time.

Postscript:

These pieces were written and Published in “She’s Still Burning” in 2002 and have been republished by most excellent writer, poet, editor, and now dearest friend, Harriet Ellenberger in her latest installment.

When I wrote the poem and essay I didn’t know how to save anything on a computer so have no record of this writing.  To re -read the material brings me over the edge I presently live on – that of the Great Unknown.

And yet, some things stay the same. My love for Nature and the way she continues to teach me through each animal, bird, tree, or plant that I encounter that indeed we are all interconnected in ways that stretch our imagination… and remind those of us that know, that quantum entanglement is a reality that overshadows space/time as we presently understand it.

Blessings to you Harriet. I hold you in my heart.

 

..

A Naturalist’s Maine Summer Reflection

IMG_2313.JPG

Roy Day at 101 – Author

IMG_2128.JPG

Loon sitting on her nest – Author

IMG_3267.JPG

Rose Breasted Grosbeak – Author

IMG_3560.JPG.jpeg

Author on North pond

IMG_3296.JPG

Green frog – Author

IMG_2458.JPG

River walk. Author

IMG_2324.JPG

Pink water lily – Author

IMG_2442.JPG

Mushrooms. Author

IMG_2420.JPG

 

IMG_3325.JPG

 

IMG_3326.JPG

Sacred Datura – Author

IMG_2481.JPG

Friend and fellow hiker Mike smelling sweet Datura – Author

21077239_10209958644337840_6615501171625204224_n.jpg

Loons swimming – Kathy Hurd

20914424_10209958647857928_2891932426028272468_n.jpg

Loon with adolescent chick still catching a ride! – Kathy Hurd.

 

IMG_0002.JPG

Two historians enjoying each other – Author

20953553_10209958642897804_8465766950347475309_n.jpg

Eaglet  – Kathy Hurd

IMG_2433.JPG

Wood frog  – Author

IMG_3454.JPG

Bruce and Sara in front of the Day homestead – Kathy Hurd

IMG_3343_3.jpeg

Fawn – Author

bird_sounds_and_songs2-mourning_dove-us_fish_and_wildlife_wikimedia_commons.jpg

Mourning Dove warming himself in the sun.

I am beginning to write listening to the rain fall on the leaves of the apple tree outside my window, the one the deer and the bear love, the one that I planted as a seedling from Roy Day’s garden the first year I lived here. There is something about the soothing sound of raindrops that whispers softly write now while the rain is falling…

I do my best to answer that call.

Tonight the weather report said that after this watery interlude, sun will shine for the next week, and I know what this means. The silence will be shattered. Once again I will be shutting out “summer” in order to survive the gunners’ assault…

It wasn’t always this way. Now there’s an edge of barely concealed violence that manifests in thundering machines that drown out the voices of every creature who lives here, including the birds and frogs. The only constant is change, I remind myself ruefully, even as I mourn the loss of the peaceful valley I once lived in.

But North Pond is just down the road.

Walking to the pond by the old Day farmstead is something my dogs and I have been doing on a daily basis each summer for a number of years. This June, arriving home from New Mexico after leaving the steaming heat of a steel white blazing star behind in Abiquiu, I was anxious for cooler temperatures and for the sky blue waters of this pond that I came to love long before I moved here 30 years ago – North Pond – a small pristine lake marked by a looming granite hump and ledge, and once, an untouched forest of evergreen trees.

The first few weeks of rain and moisture that sweetened the air kept the gunners and motorcycles indoors gifting me with a few moments in time of summer peace and blessed stillness.

Simple things like leaving my windows open at night to listen to the cacophony of grey tree frogs, the sound of the occasional owl, the nightly chorus of insects – all these bring joy into my life. During the day the sight of so many tiny toads makes me wonder if the toad eggs I brought from North Pond a year ago last spring had matured from tadpole to amphibian here after all, even in the drought. A gorgeous emerald green frog has been sunning himself in the lily pond, and a deep pink water lily spread her lotus like petals upon wind – rippled water. Scarlet runner bean flowers burst into burnt orange splendor as they reach for the sun. The Datura that came east with me continues to sweeten the night air. Curiously, her spiral shaped buds, some still tightly coiled, are the most fragrant of all.

Although at the time of this writing I still have grosbeaks, most of the adults seemed to have moved on, but mourning doves warm themselves in the late morning sun front of the pines outside my door. Returning from a summer spent in the forest, the raucous Blue -jay calls greet me at dawn, heralding the change of the seasons. The adults are followed by many scruffy screaming youngsters! It seems early for the male hummingbirds to be leaving but I note less adult activity and the absence of some of the ruby throated males, while many young ones hover anxiously around the two feeders. Little gold birds, goldfinches in summer attire, perch on my hanging feeder along with the chickadees, nuthatches and purple finches. I have yet to see a woodpecker. A few nights ago I was sure I heard the stark staccato chirp of the cardinal but never glimpsed one on the wing.

My first paddle on the pond occurred not long after I got back while my dear companion, Bruce, the physicist turned painter, was still here. Although he has climbed many mountains in Maine, this is the first time he had ever been in a kayak and he liked it immensely.

Kayaking in my little blue otter, exploring the marsh areas looking for bull frogs and my favorite painted turtles, watching and listening for loons, gazing into a mirror of blue glass that sometimes revealed a solitary statue of a vaguely reptilian gray – blue heron stalking his prey and then watching him swallow the fish whole, the fierce yellow-eyed downward gaze of the brown striped bittern, the bald eagles that regularly fly overhead, and me peering down through clear water to watch the sunfish with his distinct black spot gently nip at my toes are siren calls that draw me back to North Pond again and again.

I have been kayaking about once a week or more during the past couple of months. Having my kayak at Blaine’s gives me access to the rest of the ponds and the new bridge allows me to enter the northern end of North Pond without ducking spiders overhead! After a paddle I am often invited in by Margaret for cold refreshments and have the chance to listen to some more of Blaine’s stories as we sit on their porch under towering red pines. I love to munch on their abundant sweet blueberries on the way up the hill to the house.

On my very first kayak ride Bruce and I came upon the loon nesting in the marsh. I was so excited to see her sitting on what I thought were eggs. A week later (and for the remainder of the summer up until early August) I witnessed a pair of loons fishing near the rock in deep water. I concluded that something had happened to the eggs/chick(s) when I did the Audubon loon count in the middle of July. That rainy morning I heard only one haunting loon call out to another at the northern end of the pond.

I was delighted to discover that I had been wrong and that we have two pairs of loons on the pond, after all. Only one pair was nesting. Kathy Hurd, Roy’s niece and I, first saw two fluffy babies swimming with a parent around the first of August (Last year, the solitary chick was killed by an eagle). Just in the past few days I witnessed a loon floating under the shadow of the trees in the shallows with the two youngsters swimming alone in deeper water beyond her/him. I wondered if the young ones were learning how to fish for themselves under a watchful parental eye.

Kathy and Chris Hurd, both friends of mine, went kayaking this past week. When I complemented Kathy on her stunning photographs (loons and eaglet) which appear in this article, Chris chimed in that she couldn’t have taken those photographs without her “guide” who led her to the best places to take pictures of wildlife! Kathy and I laughed uproariously at this remark. What a team those two make!

I love seeing the loons rafting – that is gathering in clusters. The last time I went kayaking I saw four swimming together. They will soon be leaving for waters that won’t freeze during the winter months. I am hoping that the loon chicks are big enough now to discourage the eagles from hunting them, because as Kathy’s photos show, the two chicks have grown a lot and are already scruffy – brown adolescents.

Eagle watching is also a favorite summer pastime of mine. My friend Barbara and I kept a keen eye on the adults flying in with fish for the two screeching young eaglets as we moored our boats at the big rock that overlooks the island where two nests are perched one on top of the other (The new one looks a bit worse from wear). The eaglets were perching outside the nest in early July. The silvery fish were torn to bits in seconds once they were dropped in the nest by the dutiful parents who then escaped to a nearby island, perhaps to be left in peace! The mottled brown feathered eaglets, now almost as big as the parents, fledged early this month (August). Barbara and I happened to be present as one took its first flight from one tree to another on the same island. The parent responded by rewarding the eaglet with a fish for his or her herculean efforts! Within the next month all four eagles will migrate to coastal waters or south for the winter. The young will not reappear until their plumage turns white and they are ready to mate, about four years from now while their parents will return to the island next summer to raise another brood.

The excellent presentation that Blaine gave a few weeks ago on the history of the ponds was illuminating. I had no idea that all the camps that I now see are so relatively new with one of the cabins on the two islands in North Pond being the oldest, built in 1892, two years after the pond waters had risen.

The river walk I took with Blaine, Margret, Mike and his lovely daughter was a thrill not just because this hike is one of my favorites, but because the forest was full of mushrooms that were dressed in the most brilliant colors. On the trail which parallels the Little Sanborn river I discovered the first crimson swamp maple leaves drifting to the ground. Blaine told me that all together, Mary Mac Fadden and Larry Stifler had preserved 10,000 acres (mountains, gorges, mines) with all trails impeccably kept up for people like us who loved the quiet of the forest and who walked the woodland paths that were free of screaming machines. It is heartening to know that there are some people out there with the means to preserve what is left of our wilder areas. The term wilderness, unfortunately, no longer applies because these beautiful places are already sandwiched in between encroaching civilization.

Roy recently told me a wonderful story about going fishing when he was only five. Even then he had a cat named Tiger Teddy who accompanied him down to the edge of the pond below the Day homestead. The cat apparently liked to fish as much as Roy did and would appear the second Roy rattled his fishing pole. If Roy caught a sunfish, the cat was happy, but a pickerel was another story altogether! Roy has kept a record of every fish he has caught for 101 years (!), and remembers the day that the biggest fish was brought in. This lake trout  – torgue is the local name used to identify this fish  – the term torgue, according to Blaine, is probably Indian in origin) was caught in South pond and was at least 37 inches long and weighed 25 pounds. The fish was so big that it towed the fisherman and his boat all around the lake until it finally was exhausted. The man then was able to jump out of his boat in the shallows at Littlefield beach with his rod to land both fish and boat on shore! Lake trout of this size prefer water deeper than that of North pond and seem to like to be about 45 feet under water. There is a picture of this creature at the Greenwood Historical Society, a place that is full of meticulously researched photos and local history that has been put together by Blaine over a period of thirty years. Both Blaine and Roy have a love of history and are veritable encyclopedias of fascinating information so I was delighted that Roy agreed to visit to see the photos and to talk with Blaine.

Stories of Roy catching his first fish at 5 with his cat, felling trees with a girth over two feet wide using a hand saw with his father, watching over the cows that grazed in the upper field behind the farm, or catching frogs in the pond and selling them for bait just below the old Day homestead where Roy grew up are just a few memories that come to mind when I walk by the Hurds’ beautiful farm, orchard, and vegetable garden, sometimes stopping to climb to the sky on Chris’s swing, or to visit with Kathy to talk about flowers.

On the Gore road today my Chihuahuas and I met a large snapping turtle who was basking in the sun, and no doubt, also soaking up the warmth from the asphalt. When I heard the truck barreling towards us I put up my hands and pointed to the poor animal as I stood in the middle of the road. The truck was forced to stop as I encouraged the enormous, probably 100 year old turtle to return to the pond. As he slipped into the water, I felt a sense of great accomplishment! I had seen him peering at me with coal black eyes and believed he knew that I was trying to help him.

Two months pass quickly; summer in Maine is a brief interlude but I am ready for the changes that I am already seeing, the golden light, the deepening shadows, the grasses turning to wheat, the first scarlet leaves, wild cherries dropping yellowing leaves, apples that thump beneath my window, and my eventual return to Abiquiu…

I am ready for everything except the beginning of the bear hunt, wishing that somehow local folk could be educated out of this idea that we need to keep on killing these last icons of the forest, our very intelligent, normally non aggressive, tree loving bears. If a bear becomes aggressive the question we need to be asking is who hurt that animal because as many Independent bear researchers know, (unbiased researchers not associated with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife that is backed by the National Rifle Association) bears have to be taught to fear humans. Bears have amazing memories. Once a bear has been shot at or threatened by hounding dogs it becomes frightened and appears aggressive. We need to begin to interpret a terrified bear’s bluff behavior in terms of the bear’s fear and not our own.

I am finishing this narrative on a lovely cool fall –like day, listening to golden apples still thumping as they hit the ground even as I peer out at three red deer who are grazing below Roy’s apple tree just outside my window. When the spotted fawn finally joined its mother and aunt, I couldn’t help thinking how the wheel of the year keeps turning towards a young one’s new life.

Honoring the Animals: The Seeds of Friendship

18557188_10154652123900658_5386138885307644469_n.jpeg

18193679_10154607586590658_4906463656839986563_n.jpegIMG_1184.JPG18403470_10154629271190658_7277426744994072372_n.jpeg14446115_10154030501505658_1082940160639570417_n.jpeg18301982_10154627835435658_5093278084607954192_n.jpeg14502840_10154030501175658_7610013219227540431_n.jpg16681474_10154401854630658_2411475469027345699_n.jpeg

All Pictures taken by Jeff Beeman, except the one of Shawnee taken by me.

Jeff Beeman became my first real friend in Abiquiu. I first met him when I walked by his house to wander up the arroyo back into the little round hills. Jeff’s home and business are perched on a rise that overlooks the Chama river valley with the mountain range I call “the reptiles” that hover over the n/eastern horizon with the Pedernal marking the spot from the south. Sunsets are stunning from this location, but the view was not what drew me to this place.

Jeff’s animals were the reason I first stopped by. I noticed that the large and immaculately kept enclosure housed my favorite farm animal, the mini- donkey, and Jeff had three of them so I was anxious to get to know each one personally. When I discovered these animals were equally anxious to make my acquaintance, I was delighted. Shawnee, an older mini – donkey (all three are 16 to 18 years old) immediately stole my heart, and before long seeing them on the daily hikes I took with my two dogs became something we all looked forward to.

Jeff and I had a lot in common, I realized, because of our mutual love for all animals. I was impressed by the way he took such good care of all of his non – human friends, and how much they adored him, following him around and standing at the fence to be noticed the second he popped out of the house!

Jeff also impressed me with his honesty. I gravitate towards folks who are upfront with their opinions regardless of whether I agree with them or not. Over the following months I also met a lot of his guests, who seemed equally impressed with Jeff’s attention to detail as a host. Many of his people have been returning to his Casita(s) for years.

But back to my story… It wasn’t long before the other animals, one a magnificent horse (that became my favorite horse in the world because he was so gentle and sweet natured) captured my affection. I had been uneasy around horses most of my life because they seemed so high strung, but Buster, an American Paint Horse, given to Jeff a couple of years ago, changed my perceptions with his loving and sometimes very humorous attentions. Buster has a habit of pulling shirt sleeves to get more attention! And when I am inside his enclosure he has a tendency to lean on me, which is always a shock because Buster is a very big horse and I am a little person!

All Jeff’s animals except for Buster are rescue animals. The two Llamas, Cinder and Cusco, were a bit introverted at first, paying close attention to us but keeping their distance too. I promised myself that I would make friends with them in time. Sadly, not long after Jeff and I became friends Cinder had to be put down, and the other, Cusco, became even more distant – even depressed. Jeff was deeply concerned about him and I could really feel the depth of that concern on a visceral level. Cusco would watch me intently with his beautiful black pools for eyes, sometimes positioned behind a shredded juniper. He seemed too lonely, even with the other animals close by, and this sense I had made me even more determined to befriend him. To our mutual amazement (Jeff’s and mine) within a relatively short time, Cusco was approaching me at the fence along with the other donkeys (Sunny and Lolita), Shawnee braying the loudest of all.

So many farm animals seem to have lost their souls but not these characters who are clearly people oriented and respond with great enthusiasm to attention once they are befriended. It took a couple of months before all of them started a conversation with me every time I walked by! I had to teach them that I would visit on my way back from a hike because otherwise they wanted me to stop each way, and often I was trying to stay ahead of the heat because my little dogs don’t like to walk in the hot sun except during mid – winter.

When Copper and Forest were rescued I was thrilled because I hadn’t seen any alpacas since I lived in Peru, and I had become attached to one while living there. These two were so friendly and so funny to watch as they cavorted around. When Jeff had their hair shaved off for the warmer months he left each with fuzzy topknots. For the summer they were given what I would call a sail cloth to provide them (and the others) with more open shade to help keep them cool, and they also received fly masks.

With Jeff’s permission I fed them organic carrots last fall (all but Cusco, who could only eat pellets). I think it was around Christmas that Jeff started leaving a pail of pellets for me to feed my friends but I was cautioned to feed only a few to each animal, because overeating was a threat to their health.

I was amazed at how gentle all these animals were with my five and six pound Chihuahuas, and felt safe enough to allow them to interact on a regular basis. Sometimes though, I just wanted to be with one of Jeff’s crowd and that was when Jeff put up a hook so I could keep Hope and Lucy away from their enclosure while I visited.

Leaving Abiquiu for the summer was made so much more difficult because I knew that it would be a few months before I got to see all my barnyard friends again. I miss all of them a lot.

One day soon, I hope, I will be surprising Shawnee, Lolita, Sunny, Buster, Cusco, and the sprites, Forest and Copper with a return visit from me.

Sacred Datura Sings in the Rain

IMG_2376.JPG

Last night I was sitting out on the porch listening to the rain. The sweet scent of water wafted in through the open window as the song Tree of Life was playing softly in the dark. In my heart I was thanking each and every tree, especially those trees that surrounded the house for their protective canopies and for their steadfast love and support over so many years… My Trees had become Sisters; we developed deeply personal relationships and more fluid boundaries over time. These friendships, already established with apple trees as a child and young woman, intensified in my early 40’s when my children first left home.

Trees and plants gradually taught me how to respect myself as a woman who had been rejected by her family, although I have no idea how they accomplished this feat. All I know is that at some point I was no longer able to separate my love for trees/plants from this woman that I was coming to respect. Both trees and plants often came to me in dreams, and occasionally a tree would utter a single word or two while I was walking in the forest, but mostly I just felt all of them caring about me. I am convinced that trees also brought me two women who became the sisters I never had… My gratitude for all plant life was peaking as the song was playing, a visceral response to the rain, the night, the stillness, and my enduring love for trees and plants.

It was in this frame of mind that I first heard something singing. Assuming it must be an unknown tree frog I went to screen and opened it. Strangely the sound seemed to be coming from the west, so I was surprised that the song didn’t increase in intensity when I stepped outdoors. I came back in and opened a west window in my bedroom – nothing. Returning to the porch I just stood there baffled. Where was the song coming from?

Earlier, that evening I brought in my Sacred Datura plant to protect her from possible heavy winds and the coming rain and placed the large ungainly pot on the porch table for the night.

After bringing her across country all the way from New Mexico (much to my companion’s dismay) and settling her outdoors in Maine, I watched her first fragrant moon blossom open just days after we arrived. I tended her lovingly, carefully removing any damaged leaves, watered her frequently, fertilized her, and told her how beautiful she was, remembering how I had nurtured her as a germinating seed… All summer this plant has had blossoms most of which open around dusk much to my continuous astonishment and delight. I discovered that I could actually watch as each flower unfurled, beginning with a lavender tinted spiral that would open into the most exquisite lavender tipped moonflower within about 15 – 20 minutes if I paid close attention. Needless to say I am in love with this Lady of the Night.

When I walked towards the Datura in the dark last evening, the singing suddenly stopped. I stood there rooted to the floor. Stunned. It had been the plant that was singing. My mind couldn’t comprehend what I was experiencing. When the Datura began her song again as I stood before her, I turned on a light. The singing ceased. Darkness brought the song to life again. I listened intently, awed slipping into another state of awareness, “the space in between” where time ceases to exist, and now is all there is.

Later, as I returned to a normal state of consciousness my mind buzzed, sending me to the computer to research relationships between the Datura and bugs because by then it had dawned on me that it must have been insects that were singing from somewhere inside that plant!

I researched what botanists called mutualism and what I call relationships that develop between plants and insects ( isn’t it amazing the lengths humans will go to distance themselves from other non -human species?). Thus far I have learned that the tomato hornworm loves the alkaloids that are present in Datura and gains protection from feasting on the leaves of this poisonous plant. Both the water scorpion (Nepa cinerea) and the saucer bug (Ilyocaris) have relationships with this plant, and night scarabs hide in the blossoms and emit a buzzing sound but no blossoms were open last night. I learned that leaf notchers puncture holes in the leaves that I had been carefully removing all summer. I also already knew that the Datura plant is only pollinated by the Hawk Moth, which is present in Maine as well as the desert areas in which Datura grows naturally.

But who was doing the actual singing remains a mystery. Evidently, I am going to have to do a lot more research to identify the chorus!

Last night after this remarkable incident I had a simple little dream:

I am with my brother Davey who is very young in the dream although I am my present age. My brother’s hair was shorter than it was at the time of his suicide. I am introducing him to many others and I am so proud and happy I could burst.

When I awakened from this dream I felt heartsick with grief because even though Davey has been dead since he was 21 (and I was 24) I still think of him constantly. I will miss him all days of my life… If he had lived we could have shared what would have been a whole life together… I mourn too because he was my soul mate. And when he died, some part of me died with him.

Reflecting on the possible meaning behind this dream I suddenly remembered that the one thing Davey and I did not share in our brief naturalist lives together was his love of bugs. And last night, I probably had a visitation from some kind of singing insect. Might this incident have been my brother contacting me from beyond the grave?

In my world where plants start singing in the rain of their own accord, virtually anything is possible.IMG_2269.JPG

Postscript 8/18/17

I am still unable to track down an explanation for this “singing” Datura after many hours of research. I have reached the conclusion that maybe no one has heard this plant singing before?

What I didn’t know at the the time was that this experience preceded a potentially life – changing personal event in my life that involved “breaking ground” in New Mexico that occurred the following day.

What follows below are the words to the song that was playing when the plant started singing.

TREE OF LIFE

Beggar’s Blocks and Blind Man’s Fancy,
Boston Corners and Beacon Lights,
Broken Starts and Buckeye Blossoms
Blooming on the Tree of Life.

Cho: Tree of Life, quilted by the lantern light,
Every stitch a leaf upon the Tree of Life.
Stitch away, sisters, stitch away.

Hattie’s Choice (Wheel of Fortune), and High Hosanna (Indiana),
Hills and Valleys (Sweet Wood Lilies)
and Heart’s Delight (Tail of Benjamin’s Kite),
Hummingbird (Hovering Gander) in Honeysuckle (Oleander),
Blooming on the Tree of Life.

We’re only known as someone’s mother,
Someone’s daughter, or someone’s wife,*
But with our hands and with our vision,
We make the patterns on the Tree of Life.

* I would add someone’s sister.

The Datura literally sang over this song, forcing me to turn off the music to understand the strange music that I was hearing.

I must add that I knew the singer Gordon Bok as a young girl who came to Monhegan Island ME on the Victory Chimes to sing his songs at the schoolhouse. Trained as a classical guitarist Gordon fell in love with the sea and began his career which continues to this day as a folksinger. I have loved his work all my adult life, and in particular this song.

 

Losing Your Children to Patriarchy*

36481320-magic-abstract-tree.jpg

 

There are many ways to lose your children. Some parents endure the death of a child from illness or accident. Others, like my own parents, lost their only son to suicide.

 

I lost my children to the dominant culture. Of course, as a young twenty one year old mother I colluded in this process without knowing it. First by repeating the cycle of abuse I had been born into, and then making a series of poor choices as a young woman and mother.

 

I grew up in a terrifying abusive family, one that looked like the “American Dream”- great from the outside – rotten from within. Living in an upper middle class environment in a “nice” house in the country in upper Westchester New York my father ran a successful business and my mother was a stay at home housewife and artist. Both considered themselves academics because each had attended the colleges of their choice, although my mother never received an undergraduate degree. My father was an immigrant who came to this country from Italy when he was 12 and put himself and his brothers through college becoming an aeronautical engineer in the process. My mother, an only child, came from a family of privilege and she never let anyone forget that, particularly her daughter who she treated like a servant.

 

Inside our family walls unspeakable violence of all kinds occurred. Both of my parents drank – a lot. My mother used deathly silence as a means to control her husband and children, sometimes refusing to speak to the perceived offender for a week. Sometimes, she inexplicably left home for days. I was so terrorized by the threat of those silences/abandonment that I did anything my mother wanted me to, giving up my personal self in the process. My father’s explosive rages kept both his children walking on egg – shells whenever he was around which fortunately was only on weekends. We both hated him, gravitating towards our mother who seemingly was the better of the two because she endured this abusive behavior although she struck out at her children instead.

 

Theirs was a marriage made in hell. Silence and Rage make poor bed partners, and I remember begging my mother to divorce my father when I was barely six years old (it is astonishing to me that I knew what divorce meant at that age).

 

To escape my family I went away to college and got married.

 

My abusive drunken husband threw me down the stairs when I was three months pregnant with my first child.

 

Four years later my brother killed himself just after graduating from Harvard.

 

Single motherhood became the worst nightmare in my life after the loss of my only brother who I adored.

 

As a suicide survivor I believed that I owed my parents my children and willingly surrendered them whenever my parents wanted them (a prime example of what survivor’s guilt can do).

 

How did I manage to forget what it had been like living with people like that?

 

It wasn’t until mid –life after having made the terminal mistake of letting my parents “parent” my children that I began to suspect that something was very wrong with them, and that maybe I wasn’t the whole problem after all.

 

By that time I was divorced, my children were grown, and both had left home. It was too late to repair the damage. I didn’t understand at the time that my children had internalized the very worst of their grandparents’ patriarchal values of “power over” and were embracing my parents’ view about how defective their daughter was as a human being.

 

I began to craft my own authentic life.

 

I thought time would soften my children’s vicious treatment of me.

 

I didn’t realize that my children thrived on this sense of having emotional power over their mother.

 

Power Over, not Love.

 

I am ashamed to admit that I kept trying to repair the damage with both of my children up until this year, enduring the silent treatment, endless bullying, and verbal abuse at the hands of my youngest son after my oldest simply shut the door on our relationship 25 years ago.

 

This is not to say that eventually I didn’t became aware of what had/was happening.

 

I did, but like Cinderella, I kept “hope” alive for a different ending.

 

Until now.

 

This spring the chains that once bound me as a sorrowing mother snapped and I was set free.

 

Grace intervened.

 

At this point in my life I respect who I have become too much to sanction more “family” (familiar) abuse.

 

Still, it is frightening to acknowledge how our personal accounts repeat themselves over generations without interruption.

 

These family stories are bigger and more powerful than we can ever know, creating a cautionary tale for those who think they have escaped abusive situations. We either repeat the story, or embrace its opposite. In rare cases, if we have the courage, we can break the cycle, something I hope that I am doing today.

 

First Harvest Moon (The Blueberry Moon – 2017)

Published on the day of my youngest son’s 49th birthday.

 

34979264-new-life-breaking-free-as-a-concept-for-freedom-and-power-as-the-rise-of-the-phoenix-to-be-reborn-an.jpg

 

Afternotes:

 

The word Patriarchy requires an explanation:

 

Historically, Patriarchy was defined as “The Power of the Fathers.”

 

This definition is partially correct. Patriarchy is a hierarchal system of domination that thrives on white lower, middle, and upper class men (and some male identified women) having power over other less fortunate individuals especially other women.

 

Carol Christ defines Patriarchy as a system of power that seeks to control women through their sexuality.

 

However we define it, Patriarchy is a destructive system that is endemic to our culture and is mirrored by the collective in countless ways including our insatiable need to “control” nature.

 

(As an eco – feminist I believe that what we do to nature we do to women. A poignant example is the way we continue to sanction rape of both women and the trees that provide us with oxygen to breathe).

 

An equally horrifying example is the attempt by the dominant culture to control a woman’s right to have an abortion. A woman’s right to choose is just that – a basic human right to have control over her bodily processes including pregnancy.

 

I have worked with women for most of my life, and I have never met a woman who didn’t struggle with the right to choose abortion, and then have to deal with the guilt and shame she endured as a result of making the choice to end a pregnancy.

 

As a naturalist/ethologist I am struck by how nature has built in abortion as a response to too much stress in most non – human species, if not all. If the mother in question does not have enough food or resources to survive, spontaneous abortions occur without danger to the mother. Survival of the potential mother comes first.

 

Black bears, for example, practice something called delayed implantation, which means that the mother mates in the spring, but the fetus will not develop unless that mother has sufficient food and has gained enough weight to survive hibernation. If she has, cubs will be born and cared for while the mother is denning during the winter.

 

In my own life I experienced a spontaneous abortion after leaving my abusive alcoholic husband. I had no money, no place to live, one toddler and one 6 month old baby (I went to work as a waitress). Without support from my family I did not see any way through this horrific situation until Nature mercifully stepped in and ended a third pregnancy.

 

Most desperate women are not as fortunate.

 

I have come to embrace Carol Christ’s belief that Patriarchy is primarily a system that seeks to control woman through every aspect of her sexuality. The obscene emphasis on the way women are supposed to stay “ young” is yet another way we cage our women like the animals we consume so mindlessly, objectifying ourselves and animals without consent or compassion.

 

As women, we still struggle to develop an identity beyond being someone’s mother, wife, grandmother, servant.