Orion’s Defeat*


Ursa Major, the Great Bear, and her son.


Orion rises over the mountain

The Great Bear races towards the northwest –

Deer are stalked in grim silence.

Bear pad soundlessly through bruised leaves,

dead branches, hyper – aware.

The birds are still except for black crows

whose shrill warnings track madmen.


The She Bear circumnavigates the night.

Her son is a compass pointing North.

The Circle of Life, Guidance,

Clarity and Compassion

are gifts offered by patterns

written into the stars overhead.


But where are the men who once gazed skyward?

Men who ritualized the story

of the hunter and his prey

taking only what was needed,

begging forgiveness from the animal

that died, people who gave thanks

for the gift of an animal body?


Today no one reads the night skies in November.

Instead, a human induced re-enactment –

blood orange and grim

plays out on the stage of the forest floor.

Humility has been replaced by Hubris.

Deer and bear are stalked and shot

not so that others might live, but

to demonstrate the loss

of human compassion and dignity –

to celebrate the sovereignty

of the right to kill.


The air is split by shrill blasts of gunshot.

Animals, young and old stagger and fall –

the wounded will suffer and starve in silence.

Others, more fortunate, lie dead.

Stuffed animal heads with horns appear on living room walls –

mirrors for crumbling egos – fractured self images.


The trees are keening for animals they lost.

Sapling children bend low in grief.

Frightening Old Women appear as Furies

turning red blood

into haunted night shrieks for Justice.

I screech obscenities or weep,

mimic the screams of

Great Horned owls.


When are these stupid men going to get it

that hunting is a “tradition” that is dead?


*Although the Great She Bear is chased by Orion as he rises in the eastern sky in the Northeast, he is never destined to catch Her. And as the season passes, Orion descends below the horizon while the She Bear continues her cyclic round.


Working notes:


Last week I was walking up a familiar wood’s road and noticed a tent – like structure hidden in low brush. When I went over to investigate I discovered to my profound distress that deer grain had been placed on the forest floor to lure deer to the spot. Worse, I knew that deer routinely crossed at this point. Then I saw the camera.


I concluded that a man I knew erected this tent as a blind for his seven year old son to help the boy shoot his first spikehorn (a young buck) because he told me that he was tracking the young buck’s movements for his son with a camera. But what stunned me the most was the presence of grain that was being used as bait.


Revolted, I kept my feelings to myself. This man’s grandfather was my friend, now 101, and when Roy was young he hunted to put food on the table retaining a hunting ethic of fair chase that I had grudgingly come to respect (my respect was forever tarnished when I learned of the white deer but that is another story). I believed up until last week that Roy’s hunting ethic had been passed on to his grandson. I was wrong.


Once, the hunter’s idea of fair chase pitted man against the animal without stacking the deck. Today, all hunting techniques do stack the deck. Web cams have become the eyes of the hunter. The masking of human scent is routinely practiced. An impressive array of technological gadgets are used to help the hunter achieve his goal. Instead of walking, men use four wheelers to reach more inaccessible places where animals might be hiding out. Every hunting season opens when the animals are at their most vulnerable either needing food in order to survive hibernation/winter, as is the case for bears, or during mating season when animals like moose, elk, deer are distracted by their own hormones. Bear hunters use bait, hounds and steel traps to ensure a kill. “Just knowing I can shoot an animal makes me high” one hunter told me without apology.


Gradually, as the knowledge of the use of deer baiting to satisfy a seven year old’s pleasure in his first kill seeped into my body, I began to boil with anger. It was illegal to bait deer with grain or food of any kind. Abruptly, I slammed the door on the circle I had once opened with such difficulty. I was a naturalist who loved all animals, wild or tame. When I moved to these mountains thirty years ago I was confronted by the realities of routine animal slaughter each fall. Deer and moose hung outside hunters’ homes on nearby trees bleeding out. Stunned and repelled on a visceral level, I struggled hard not to become as militant as these men apparently were. I made friends with hunters and tried to see their point of view. I learned to respect some although as an animal lover I never surrendered my personal stance. I continued to side with the animals, but I also created space for the hunter’s perspective and in that process surrendered my hatred for these men choosing tolerance instead.


With this vignette I come full circle returning to my original position that killing of wild animals is morally and ethically wrong. But what I had learned by painfully traversing the circle is that although I could feel rage without censor on a temporary basis, I couldn’t allow myself to stay there. To do so would align me with animal killers, inside and out, albeit unconsciously (it takes two halves of love/hatred to make a whole). I needed to open and step outside that circle long enough to attempt to include the “other,”


While the hunting season continues I feel hopeless rage and grief that so many will die to boost faltering male egos. I make the choice to create space for my hatred of these egregious practices and when the time comes I will also let that hatred go – not for them but for me. This is perhaps the most important lesson I have learned from living in these mountains.


I hold the following position without apology:

There is absolutely no reason for any person to kill an animal or bird even to put food on the table. We have supermarkets for food and programs to assist those who need help with feeding their families (unless that changes no one has an excuse to hunt). Killing any animal for “sport”(a euphemism for fun) or the hunter’s addictive “high” is totally unacceptable because it supports the belief that humans can kill without negative consequences, including the development of potentially lethal addictions the most serious of which is an addiction to war.


Although hunters rationalize that that many of them eat what they kill I say – so what? When they whine that hunting is an American tradition I state “change is the only constant.” And when they speak of their “right” to kill animals I know that permission has been tacitly given to kill all other forms of life including humans and that permission is passed on inter –generationally from father to son.


Think about my closing sentence the next time you support a hunter’s right to slaughter an innocent animal that has as much right to live as the rest of us do.

Root Healer


Painting by artist Judith Shaw


Slipping through the forest

padded paws embrace each leaf

a silent plea for concealment

from those who would harm.


I breathe prayers


He claws roots,

mouths sweet earthen dirt

digs deep,

to sleep, to image, to dream.


I breathe prayers


When snow covers

bare ground I will

sing him a secret lullaby –

Love songs that keep us

nose to nose



Tree Roots bind us-

iridescent vibrating strings,

waves of scent,

pungent pine

night chants –

a bountiful body

His intent to heal





*Painting by artist Judith Shaw


Working notes:

In circumpolar cultures throughout the Northern Hemisphere the The Great Bear Mother was the most ancient image of Nature/Great Goddess. She led the change of seasons by making a descent into the underworld in the fall, where she gave birth to cubs in winter, brought them into the world of sunlight during the spring to grow and thrive, and in summer she mated and repeated the cycle again. Her image of descent, death, birth and renewal mirror that of  the seasonal round and the Circle of Life. Images of her stretch back 50,000 years or more, She also has a solar aspect because  one of the roots of her name is translated as brightness. (The more recent goddess Brigid, retains that solar aspect and wears a crown of light and stars that spins with the celestial round)  The Great Bear mother was also powerful healer who used roots and plants and is still associated today with root healing by Indigenous peoples, especially in the Americas.

As ancient matrifocal cultures began to shift into Patriarchy, The Great Bear gradually lost power to her Bear Son who became a great hunter. However, there is  ample evidence to support the idea that she also taught her Bear Son to become a great Root Healer, just as she was. And it is to this son, not the hunter, that I dedicate this poem.

It is important to note that all bears are known to be able to heal themselves with roots and plants, applying poultices when needed, and ingesting certain plants to cure themselves when they become ill. Other body healings take place during the bear’s descent into the womb of the earth where bears are able to heal more serious wounds like those from bullets during hibernation. No one knows just how these remarkable, intelligent, empathetic animals do what they do.

The Great She Bear and her Son remind us that this time of gathering darkness is an invitation to us to make our own descents to heal those roots in ourselves that may still be broken.

In closing I would like to say that for me, Judith’s painting illustrates not just the mystical link between bears and humans but the powers that the Great Bear Mother retains today.



The myth of the hero… naming the face of war.

As Veterans Day approaches I feel the usual hopelessness and dismay as we come round again on celebrating the” fallen heroes of war.”

I lost two uncles and a cousin, two in the Korean War and one in Vietnam so  I have experienced the loss of loved ones to combat firsthand.

Feminist Robin Morgan’s blog voices my distress over this obsession around keeping the myth of the heroes of war alive (at the continued cost of human lives) in a very powerful way.

She writes:

“…it seems to me that in human history, so far at least, just as the family has been made to serve as the ideal hierarchical foundation for patriarchy, so has war functioned as the perfected articulation of patriarchy, defining manliness as the drive for competition and the capacity to dominate and murder best.

To sustain that definition’s power requires the myth of the hero, which in turn necessitates a systemic hypocrisy: flags, parades, anthems, ceremonies, wreaths, medals, gold stars, and other patriotic symbols that nonetheless ring hollow though the 4 AM silence of a widow’s grief or the agony of a woman who has lost her grown child.

“We,” one woman says through the dignity of her tears, “are the ones left behind. We are the collateral damage.”

Those words slice through all the masks of hypocrisy and name the face of war.”


The Geography of Hope


(Tree ruin – note the wintergreen berries on the right)

This morning I meandered through dried papery leaves, frost bitten sedge grasses, and stepped over fallen birches that crisscross animal paths on the land that I love. Everywhere dying ferns and drifting leaves remind me that the Earth is preparing for her long winter’s sleep in spite of unseasonably warm temperatures and annoying insects.


Tiny evergreen seedlings poke their heads out of the woodland detritus while the mosses retain their various shades from sage to emerald green. I see crimson partridge and wintergreen berries hugging the ground, food for wild turkeys, bears, deer and grouse. In the open lowlands winterberry bushes abound, a feast of scarlet sweets for those that love them. Wild apple trees drip with rose red fruits.


Around the house pendulous red honeysuckle seeds capture my attention. A bevy of migrating robins, at least two-dozen, perch in my crabapple trees feasting on brilliant red fruits. As the robins regard me with white ringed eyes I am suddenly struck by the thought of how much the color red defines a New England fall. On wind protected logging roads scarlet leaves still cling to some tired red maples. Fire on the mountain is more than metaphor or a descriptive phrase. It is also the color that marks the end of the growing season and for many peoples, the end of the year… The flames of autumn precede winter white.


For me this pigment holds both ambivalence and poignancy. Red is the color of blood. It is often the hue used to evoke rage, suffering, and sorrows of the heart. The other side of red is devoted to the joyful aspect of love – the capacity to love and be loved. Together these two create a whole helping me to understand why I am so affected by this color. On a personal level I am living both sides of red.


While examining diminutive plants emerging out of an old tree stump, one that includes wintergreen berries I am startled by a second insight. The flashes of red berries on this tree ruin, the forest floor, the ripe berries and fruits on living trees, the scattering of scarlet leaves also bring me to the edge of hope, for red is also the color of rebirth. It is the color that Nature uses to remind us that as she falls asleep, the seeds of the future will be planted among her roots.


(author walking up an old logging road where the leaves are still full of color)

Precognition, Telepathy, Presentiment, and the End of the Year




(painting by Susan Boulet)


Yesterday, I sat on the top of a granite glacial boulder on a carpet of green moss that overlooks a tired ribbon of sluggish water recalling years when this brook was a force of nature tumbling to the sea after abundant October rains. Summer temperatures kept biting insects active, and swarms of small gnats swarmed around my face like a plague. We will soon be moving into November and still the rains do not come.


I look around me at the withered leaves of many deciduous trees noticing papery skeletons devoured by insects falling into the stagnant pool below me, striking because the water is unmarked by a discernable current. The brook has dropped three feet below “normal.” The fish are gone.


Thirty years ago when I first lived on this land that was once lush with new growth and clear untroubled waters I dreamed repeatedly of a time when the brook would no longer flow, and the pools would stagnate. Many beloved trees would also be destroyed dreams warned me. I was so happy here in this woodland sanctuary, so full of gratitude and love for the cathedral of evergreens that climbed the mountain that I was totally baffled by these forbidding words and graphic images.


Another set of dreams ran parallel with the dreams of severe drought and tree destruction and these also haunted me. “Mean neighbors” would soon surround me and cause endless amounts of trouble. Since I had no neighbors and lush forested areas held me in their embrace this series of dreams made no sense to me what so ever.


Today, they do.


I couldn’t comprehend it then that the earth was trying to warn me about a future I would one day begin to live. The way She chose to communicate with me was through my dreaming body.


Sure enough, seven years later the first neighbor bought land behind me and logged most of his property, left piles of slash in his wake, and opened gaping holes to the sky letting road noise in. The one time I visited this man’s house I was horrified to see snarling bear heads complete with bear skins (some from very small bears) hanging from most of the walls. The second neighbor who bought land in front of me built a house and cut trees down on my property to build a bridge over my brook, as well as stripping his own land of trees. When I asked him to remove the bridge his response was that “he had done it for me.” A third neighbor built a house in front of me refusing to leash her free roaming dogs who bullied my animals for years beginning with the day she first arrived. When I attempted to address the bullying she told me her dog “just wanted to play.” (Last year after twelve years of this behavior I finally submitted a formal complaint to the state in order to get the bullying stopped. The town refused to help me). Finally a second hunter bought 100 acres next to the bear killer, and he cut huge swathes of trees including boundary trees on my land totally destroying what once was a wilderness area that I loved as much as my own property. The two miserable hunting/tree destroying neighbors who live behind me (and now others) treat me to random blasts of machine gun fire as part of daily reality. Fireworks split the nights in two.


How was it possible that I had forgotten about those dreams in less than the four years it took for me to be surrounded by these hostile neighbors?


That the dreams suggested precognition or prescience doesn’t change the fact that precognition isn’t supposed to happen because it apparently violates the principle of causality. What is so hard to understand about precognition is that time as westerners experience it is not experienced in a linear sequence. Instead, precognition indicates that the future (personal and collective) is somehow present now and can be accessed through visioning, paying close attention to natural occurrences, or through dreaming. Dreams, I might add, are the language of the body.


Even rogue scientists like Rupert Sheldrake are somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of precognition, although telepathy, presentiment etc. are subjects he discusses with ease. For example, Rupert Sheldrake believes that telepathy is a survival mechanism that allows animals to communicate with one another even when they are separated by great distances, and that humans have this ability too, but it is not as well developed. From my experiences with animals wild and tame I would have to agree that animals have the edge here.


One other point that Sheldrake makes is that precognition may be less about seeing into an objective future and more about dreaming a personal future that will be experienced by the dreamer. If I look at my hostile neighbor experiences in this light, I can easily see that if other people lived in this house, perhaps hunters and lovers of guns, noise, and wild dogs, they wouldn’t experience the grief and rage that I have endured as a naturalist who loves stillness, trees and bears. But this doesn’t change the fact that I dreamed my own future.


Indigenous and country folk of all cultures took dreams seriously. I think they were able to maintain more open minds as a result, and probably routinely had experiences similar to mine because they lived in harmony with nature. It is my experience that when a person is aligned with the earth (and nature) communication between the two occurs in improbable ways. The earth body and the human body are part of one whole and experiencing this form of communication is an opportunity to see how well connected we really are.


We know through folklore that there have always been men and women who communicated with the Great Beyond.


Women in particular were associated with prophecy and these women came to be called witches during the very Christian middle ages. Witch, by the way is a modern word meaning to bend or shape; these same women were healers, and women who were also greatly feared because they could apparently discern what the future would bring.


When ancient shamanistic practices began to emerge this power was subtly transferred from women to men. Some men made journeys to the spirit world, leaving their bodies behind. Some were (and may still be) great healers, but prophecy wasn’t as important a quality to these practitioners, although some did engage with the future especially with regard to hunting practices through visioning, the use of hallucinogenic substances, and dreaming.


Indigenous women continue to practice midwifery/hospice, healing with herbs, and prophesizing, some “reading” tea leaves, cards, sticks, melting metal, etc. to help them see into the future; others receive this knowledge through dreaming.


One difference that stands out to me concerning Indigenous men and women healers is that men often leave their bodies in trance to gain knowledge, while most women remain in their bodies retaining a close connection to the earth in order to heal with herbs, or read the future.


In the Amazon I witnessed (over a period of three years 2005 – 2008) authentic women shamans practicing in their own villages, while male shamans traveled from one village to another with ease and were generally accepted as being more powerful. Is this an example of the hierarchical structure of knowledge over intuition? At the risk of sounding the bell of sexism I also wonder if men and women who live in communion with the earth are gifted with information that comes to them (in altered states) in different ways that somewhat depend on gender?


Today, shamanism is primarily a New Age commercial construction and almost all modern day shamans are men. It is very important to recognize that shamanism may also represent the first transference of spiritual power from a matrifocal culture to a patriarchal one.


But to return to the thorny subject of precognition, the fact remains that in scientific academic circles precognition is relegated to the absurd. I think this is why having dreams or visions that indicate precognition causes many individuals to reject their own experiences seeking other explanations.


I know I certainly did.


However, as a woman who has kept track of her dreams and visionary experiences (altered states of consciousness experienced without drugs that occur spontaneously when I am in a very open, receptive state) for more than 40 years, I was forced to come to the conclusion that precognition in some form does indeed exist.


After researching so called paranormal abilities in depth I recognized that for me telepathy works through my body when I am awake often affecting my nervous system. I sometimes experience an uncomfortable buzz when telepathy is occurring with people. Presentiment is a sense or a powerful (often totally illogical) feeling that something is about to happen, that I experience during daylight hours. Both can manifest for me through an animal sighting (or cluster of sightings), weather, or other natural occurrences and are reinforced by my dreams.


Years ago I began to put either a “T” for telepathic or a “P” for precognition at the tops of dreams and animal sightings that seemed to carry a peculiar charge of energy and/or message/ information. I also noted feelings of presentiment.


When I review my journals once a year I continue to be struck by the accuracy of these T’s and P’s. Many of my experiences are telepathic. And because I already had a dove who had been reading my mind and vocally responding to my thoughts on a daily basis for many years and had repeatedly entered these vignettes in my journal I had developed an open mind years ago. Lily b, taught me that telepathy was real, so I am not surprised that experiences of it are so commonplace in my life. I have lived the same kind of instantaneous “knowing” with my dogs, my children/other members of my biological family/friends/foes/ and in Nature with wild animals, especially during my study with wild bears who apparently communicated with each other and with me through what I still call the “bear grapevine” though we were/are separated in space/time.


I’d like to give the reader a personal example of what I believe might be objective precognition. In 1997 I dreamed that my mother developed cancer in her left breast, and that she was operated on and survived without a reoccurrence. Just before receiving this information I was in a yoga class and heard my mother’s voice singing a song she loved in French in a plaintive frightened voice. Simultaneously my body cringed with some kind of irrational death fear that I was unable to shake. A year later my mother did indeed develop breast cancer and was successfully operated on. The cancer did not return.


How else do I explain this experience if I refuse to acknowledge precognition? Telepathy may have been part of this soliquay (the song coming through the air) but the cancer itself hadn’t been diagnosed yet. Of course there was always the possibility that the seeds of the cancer were there in my mother’s body and I picked that up telepathically.


On another occasion I dreamed that my youngest son was going to have a terrible accident. He was in college at the time and working construction over the summer to pay tuition and you can imagine his reaction when I told him not to go to work the morning after I had this dream. He ignored my warning and almost cut his hand off. Again, it could be argued that telling him he was going to have an accident may have made him more likely to have one.


The night my son was in what could have been a fatal car accident, I woke up hearing him cry out to me at 3 AM in the morning. The next day I learned that the accident occurred at 3 AM.


I have literally, hundreds of personal stories, some more fantastic than others but together these accounts have taught me that at the very least I must always keep an open mind.


Although unable to stay in my body under stress – I have an anxiety disorder – unconsciously, through my dreaming body and consciously through a powerful sense or feeling I seem to have a direct link to other ways of knowing. Believe me, some days I am really haunted especially since there is no consensual reality to access for confirmation unless I consult cards or throw myself on the mercy of Nature.


I have written this essay to raise questions about how we perceive reality, and hopefully, to open people’s minds to new possibilities. As the reader can surely understand my experiences raise some questions that I cannot answer.


It is my intention to put my queries out there to allow the forces of nature to provide new insights if they are so inclined. All Hallows is almost upon us, signifying the end of the year for many Indigenous and pre- Christian cultures, a perfect time I think, to query what we mean by “reality,” because the veil is thin as we move into this dark time of the year. I think of this passage as a holy time, a time to honor the dead and to give thanks for life, as we set new intentions for the coming year.

The American Flag

The Ultimate Symbol of “Power Over” at any Cost?

Yesterday on a barely five minute drive to the Post Office I counted 21 flags flying in my face and this number doesn’t include the small flags stuck into people’s lawns. Flags in this area of Maine have become a small town obsession that I find more disturbing each day. What are these people flying “Old Glory” trying to prove? That they are the “real” Americans? And if so, what does that mean for the rest of us?

Soliloquies around disrespect for the flag are rampant.

In the news last night I saw three white men standing on a roof overlooking a nearby playing field with their hands on their hearts saluting the flag during the national anthem. Seriously?

This image of male solidarity – white supremacy? – revolted me, while it no doubt inspired others to become even more “patriotic”(seeking the high that this kind of power embodies).

I think patriotism, using the flag as its symbol, has become a pathological way to express attitudes that embrace unbridled power over, the unrestricted use of guns, sexual violence, and war, – all of which are related.

Patriotism appears to thrive and revolve primarily around “the fallen,” our heroes of war* who are presently being worshiped like deities while ordinary people are gunned down in streets, schools, churches and music festivals.  I see nothing heroic about either form of dying.

Not as obvious, the dynamic of “power over” always includes having power over women and the earth; revealing misogyny and hatred for both. Rape is on the rise. One out of two or three women (depending on the source) will be sexually assaulted during this coming year. What we are doing to our planet is inexcusable and will eventually lead to our own demise.

Most chilling of all is that this attitude of “power over” was and apparently continues to be held by most of the 53 percent of American women who voted for a man who is mentally unfit to be president, one who brags about his own sexual exploitation of women while his trophy wife stands behind him, a bully who threatens to push the button, a man full of hubris who guts the earth without a backward glance. Talk about collusion.

As a not quite white woman with Indigenous roots who is an eco –feminist, (that is, a person who believes that what is happening to women is also happening to the earth), I think that the flag has become a phallic symbol for the kind of patriotism that supports the inevitability of war, inequality, sexual assault against women and the earth all woven into one red white and blue fabric.

No doubt I will rattle some cages with these ideas.

However, the fact remains that inequality reigns. Women, many men, people of different races, sexual preferences, and non Christian religious beliefs are more at risk for all forms of abuse and death – and these people are Americans too.

Globally we are presently courting a third World War. Death is in the air.

Meanwhile the Earth is crumbling under a human assault the likes of which She has never experienced before.

Think about these realities the next time you salute the flag, take the pledge of allegiance, or sing the national anthem.


It might bring you pause.


* I mean no disrespect for Veterans as a group. I lost three family members in two different wars. Some of my revulsion for the flag developed out of the way we utilize it to acknowledge/celebrate the deaths of our young people and to indoctrinate others to take their place without ever having learned the basics, that when it comes to war no one wins.

The Dove and the Owl


(my dove Lily b sitting on his perch)

For the past few weeks I have had Great Horned owls calling around the house, for the first time ever. For many years I have seen them soaring low through the hemlocks on a nearby logging road after being mobbed by crows, but last winter all those old hemlocks were cut down. Today there is a hole in the sky where those elders once stood. Where did the owls go I wondered the first time I witnessed the devastating loss of these most gracious of evergreens that provided protection and food for so many woodland birds and animals.

Now, I think, they moved here.

Most amazing to me is that Lily b my dove is returning these evening calls by cooing back! This blending of voices between predator and prey captivates me. I know from living with Lily b for 25 years that he normally reacts to the presence of avian predators with stony silence.

Why is Lily b having conversations with these birds? The most rational explanation is that Lily b answers because he feels like it and knows he is safe in the house. Yet I am not satisfied; it feels like something else is going on here (He never cooed in response to the barred owls that called each night for years when they inhabited this patch of woods).

I have a long history with Great Horned owls that stretches back to my childhood, one that includes my relationship with my mother who often painted them. As a child I was frightened by these images of the Great Horned owl, probably because I was afraid of my mother.

During the span of my adult life I have rarely heard this owl hoot in the forest up until this fall, when these birds congregated around the house the night before a bear was shot in mid September, and then on the eve of my birthday when they once again engaged in animated conversation that lasted almost an hour.

I experienced gut level fear the first time this happened even as Lily cooed back and forth with the owls. The bear in question survived being shot, so my initial fearful reaction to the hooting was wrong…The night before my birthday it was impossible for me to ignore the possibility that my mother, in the form of an owl she once loved, had come to visit me. I felt confusion rising while listening to Lily b converse with the owls a second time because the symphony was quite beautiful.

Lily b is a telepathic bird who regularly comments on what I am thinking, and the fact that I was initially alarmed by the owl convocation while he was cooing in response might have been his way of telling me that in this case I had nothing to fear.

The longer I reflect upon this idea the more I think it might be true.

Now as the night closes in I listen to the owls calling back and forth and feel a strange sense of comfort.

What I appreciate the most is that the deep haunting hoots of these majestic birds evoke the mysteries of the forest and not old childhood fears.

Postscript: 11/11/20 – 22

I now understand that those great horned owls were a warning – I was about to make a terrible mistake. I thought I was moving to a safe place; I was NOT. And my BODY felt the threat.

Now whenever I hear a great horned owl I prepare for some kind of danger or crisis.

What interests me here in retrospect is that the great horned owl is associated with my mother who had no use for her daughter. During her life she drew great horned owls all the time.

After death people turn into other things (Ovid) and the g/h owl is somehow associated with my mother and is a threat to me so this field of influence is a negative one. Curiously, many Indigenous folk also fear the g/h owl associating it with death including the Lakota Sioux and many South American Indigenous peoples –  there is definitely a negative charge attached to this particular owl on a collective level. I had a friend who had one perch on her roof a few months after her mother’s death and I felt the chill…. not surprisingly this woman stopped speaking to me for two years and then told me “she forgave me” for what, I wondered. BUT the moment I heard the owl I KNEW betrayal was at hand.

Witch Hazel Comes to Call


Through the Looking Glass…



Above: author’s witch hazel tree blossoms


A scalloped witch hazel leaf highlights this beautiful shrub


Returning to Red Willow River… Photo Bruce Nelson


In Celtic and many other pre –Christian and Indigenous traditions when All Hallows occurs on October 31st the year is coming to a close. What I find most compelling about this ancient nature based religion is that it follows the seasonal round. For example, as I look out my window the fading colors of falling leaves remind me that the Earth is preparing for her winter sleep. In the woods the bears will eat and move less, becoming lethargic as they dig their dens for winter hibernation.


After All Hallows, the Feast of the Dead, and All Soul’s Day (a three day festival still celebrated in every country but the United Sates), a space opens up for a number of weeks during the darkest months of the year that doesn’t close again until the winter solstice when the sun reverses his direction. In that “space in between” the veil is thin. It is a time for dreaming, reflection, tying up loose ends, creating intentions for the future, and feeling gratitude for the gift of life. Unfortunately, trickery also thrives in this place, so it is important to stay awake and wary during this darkest time of the year. I follow this ancient tradition because in my world my inner life seems to reflect that of the outer seasonal round and those mysterious spaces in between.


This month I reflect upon the last year, re –reading my journals for new insights, identifying old patterns that continue to keep me spinning (some of which I have never been able to change – it seems to me that I have always lived my life on the edge). It takes a certain amount of grit to return to the past, since overall, this year my life has been in a state of chaos and “not knowing” with so many changes taking place – some seemingly miraculous. Yet, deadly repetitions also plague me. This ongoing de-stabilization is not doing much to keep me on an even keel. Each day seems to produce another reversal, a deadly new silence without explanation, or crazymaking confusion that leaves me enervated. I am tired a lot.


However, when I peruse my journals or look out the window I recognize that there have been two stabilizing influences in my life that act like the keel of a boat. Human friendships have grown deeper roots, and because for me, Friendship is the taproot of Love, I am grateful indeed for those few people with whom I have come into deeper communion. They know who they are.


The other calming influence has been my relationship with my dogs, Hope and Lucy, my dove Lily B, and my enduring love for all Nature. This love is woven through my journals, my dreams, my days and nights, a thread that has sustained me for many years. My curiosity about whatever creature/ tree / plant captures my attention drives most of my writing since Nature also provides the mirror for what is occurring in my life sometimes in uncanny ways. When I write about an animal or plant, even when I am unaware of it, I am also writing about a part of me.


And this brings me to Witch Hazel, a plant that I have loved since I was a child. My grandmother always kept a bottle in her medicine closet. Whenever we succumbed to poison ivy blisters, my little brother and I would scratch our skin until it was bleeding and then slather the wounds with witch hazel for instant relief; we loved its smell! And it healed wounds in days.


As an adult I have continued to use this plant – based alcohol as a cleanser, an astringent, and to stop bleeding. Recent studies have shown that the active compounds in witch hazel – flavonoids, tannins, and volatile oils act as cleansers because of their astringents and do stop bleeding but Indigenous people had other ways of knowing and understood the healing properties of this plant long ago. In this country they drank witch hazel tea to stop internal bleeding, steamed twigs to soothe sore muscles, and to treat colds and coughs. Today, witch hazel is one of the few medicinal plants actually approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a non – prescription drug ingredient, which unfortunately does not enhance its credibility to me, since the FDA routinely approves potential drugs it has not tested adequately.


Indigenous peoples, especially North American tribes also discovered that Y shaped witch hazel sticks could be used to find underground water. Dowsing for water is a skill that I am familiar with because I have used these sticks to tap underground water sources in the past. When the forked stick bends suddenly it is always a surprise, but the water woman in me just smiles.


“Water is Life.” Many of us are learning this truth in this time of planetary crisis, but for me that knowledge has been embodied ever since I can remember. Living near/on water has been a necessity, there’s no other way to put it. The only time I lived any distance from this element was during a period in my childhood when we lived in New York, but even then the Hudson was never far, and once back in the country my brother and I had access to my grandparent’s brook where we spent most of our spring, summer, and fall days in play.


This “Borderland” tree has magical attributes in both Indigenous America and in Europe, perhaps a quality I may have sensed as a child. The ancient Celts considered it to be the tree at the heart of the Otherworld. In Norse mythology it was known as the Tree of Knowledge. The Greek god Hermes was believed to make himself invisible by using an upright twig of this tree. The witch hazel’s connection to the well of wisdom present in many mythologies is strengthened by witch hazels’ presence around wells, which even today are festooned with votive offerings in Britain and Ireland. The name witch hazel has its roots in wych, an old Anglo – Saxon word that means to bend or shape.


As might be expected the witch hazel tree is also associated with women – especially old women, who are both feared and condemned by various cultures but continue today to practice their craft of healing, midwifery and prophecy. The infamous witch burnings in both Europe and America attest to the fear, hatred, and disgust that led to the slaughter of thousands, perhaps a few million innocent woman healers who were considered to be witches. In a peculiar reversal twigs of witch hazel are still used as a form of protection from the witches themselves! Witches are usually women who live alone on the boundaries of their respective cultures and they have intimate relationships with various aspects of Nature including the element of water…


The magic powers of witch hazel live on today whenever a water diviner uses a hazel branch to dowse for water. It is believed by some that as the branch bends to reveal water hidden within the ground it is also straining to connect with the ancestors hidden deep within the memory of Earth herself. As a self proclaimed water witch I think there is truth in the above statement.


Many years ago when I first bought this land I planted a witch hazel tree down next to my brook. When I built my house I planted a second tree next to my well, and when my brother’s ashes finally came to rest here under Trillium rock, I planted a third tree for him.


For the past couple of days these trees have been on my mind because it is almost time for them to bloom. Clusters of small fragrant pale yellow blossoms with finger like petals hug the twigs of this tree – like bush (Hamamelis virginiana) and I wanted to see if any flowers were visible. When I checked the two below the house my brother’s little tree had leaves that were still green, the one by the well had turned yellow… Not surprisingly, blossoms were not present on either plant because neither had lost their leaves.


However, when I visited the first witch hazel I planted, now a large graceful vase shaped bush, I was delighted because most of the leaves had fallen and the tiny yellow flowers were in bloom. The blossoms are equipped with both sets of reproductive organs but act as either males (producing pollen) or females (producing fruit)! Small bees and (annoying) gnats are pollinators. Each seed pod has two tiny shiny black seeds which are ejected from  small pods during the following spring.


I lovingly trimmed back a few dead branches and made a “Y” shaped stick from one to bring back to the house. Then I photographed a blossom for this blog. In the background the sluggish brook water barely moved over its stony path. Drought is very hard for me to deal with, psychically and physically, so seeing the healthy tree with its new shoots made me very happy. American witch hazel (also imported to Europe) is not really a tree, it is more like a shrub developing many stems as it ages. It attains 15 – 30 feet in stature. It has a number of traits I love including smooth gray bark and an architecture that defies convention. It’s branches zigzag in every direction at once as it roams for light, which it is, because it is an under story tree that thrives in forest openings. It is also one that loves living near water.


When I said goodbye to my witch hazel I brought the forked stick back to the house and left it outside the door to remind me of  witch women, women with wings like me who are readying for the transition from one world to another… When I heard the Great Horned Owl call outside my window last night, I thought of my sturdy witch hazel branch… Is it my imagination that the spirit of the old women, witch hazel trees, and owls are all calling me to be present for an important change?


Early next month I will be traveling across country to Abiquiu, New Mexico hopefully to enjoy a second fall and a milder winter just as Nature in this part of the country prepares for her long winter sleep.

Dead Flicker




Painting by Mary Meigs


When I gaze

behind the paint

I don’t see death’s face

staining the paper white.


Life is in the wings.

Buttery yellow and black tipped –

blood stains highlight roses.


Comforted by Nature,

Flicker is simply sleeping

until the day of  his Rebirth.




My writer/editor/ dearest friend Harriet Ellenberger has been re –publishing issues of She is Still Burning on her blog that are more relevant today than they were when they were originally written. This is truly a journal for “life lovers” as Harriet writes.

In this installment Harriet honors writer and artist Mary Meigs bringing her into every heart that is opened into an awareness of what is.

One perception I have about SISB stands out beyond all the rest.

“Women with Wings” are still hovering – their presence offers comfort and hope in the face of growing despair. What we have to do is to listen for the sound of those wings soaring above us, some in the trees, others on the thermals and we will be transported into another way of seeing and feeling our way through this dark threat of war. Like the mole who lives underground, the earth will contain us until its time to emerge in another light.

If you are a woman with wings (or a man who loves one) – reading these installments will offer new insights and highlight the importance and dignity associated with endurance and the gift of genuine friendship that opens us to Love.

Please visit Harriet’s website:


After I wrote this poem this morning I learned that we might be going to war.

Maple Fever




My mountain… note leafless birches etc in front


Sugar maple


Looking towards my brook in the rain…


Last night I had a dream that the season was coming to an end. In the vignette I am looking in my wheat colored garden and queen anne’s lace, once a lovely pearl white wild flower has fallen over, her bird’s nest, full of fuzzy brown seeds scattering on the ground.


Indeed with dark cloudy mornings keeping us in bed until 7 or 8 AM my dogs, bird, and I are adjusting to this change of seasons that descends upon us so quickly in Maine. There is a brief period of stunning colbalt blue skies and the hint of changing color that occurs around the end of August into mid September but rapidly fades into deep autumn shadows after the equinox and the encroaching darkness that defines a Maine fall.


In just the last two two days the landscape has shifted from dull lifeless dry and diseased trees to a riot of color. I had no intention of missing the beauty that Nature offers so graciously for a few brief moments in time. So, yesterday, although it was cloudy, I took what has become an annual meander, walking through the woods and trails around my house and forest to enjoy the foliage that is peaking now because all the maples have caught fire, or have lemony yellow or sunset orange leaves that provide a brilliant contrast to dark green heavily pine – coned conifers.


This intentional cyclic fall meander, never a hike, allows me to focus on the maple colors that move me the most, those that are framed by a blue or gray sky – maples are my favorite fall trees! And yet, I have taken them for granted too because I thought red maples would always be around, and now they are succumbing to disease. I didn’t realize until I researched them this morning that the swamp maples that dropped their unnaturally curled dead leaves prematurely in early September were the same species as the red maple that is flaming on the mountains today. Red maples may be softer wood but are such adaptable trees growing in both wet and dry areas.


This year especially, I am astonished and grateful that the rest of the maples are dressed so brilliantly because we are deep into years of drought. It was eerie as well as depressing to witness so many diseased leaves drift to the ground early in September. Many maples have been bare for a month or more.


But the ones that are hanging on are heralding the change of seasons speaking through vibrant color. Of course, the birch, beech, wild cherry, poplar, alders, and oak (that haven’t already dropped their leaves due to drought), will add shades of the palest yellow, ochre, and various hues of brown to the mix at the “peak” of fall color which according to weather sources hasn’t arrived yet.


In this area we have red maples, sugar maples, silver maples, and moose or striped maples (as well as some ornamentals). All of the above belong to the family Aceraceae but we also must include the Norway maple that originally was introduced from Europe but has established itself here. Crimson king, with its deep maroon leaves is a popular species, but others resemble both the sugar and red maples except that their leaves are more golden in color, not the brilliant oranges, scarlet, crimson, typical colors of the red and sugar maples. The silver maple is found along riparian wetlands and the rivers. This tree with its deeply toothed leaves turns pale yellow. Moose maple hugs the lowlands, a small under – story tree whose giant leaves turn sunshine gold, literally lighting up the forest.


This morning it is raining for the first time in two months – a light rain that makes the still green leaves of my apple tree shimmer creating a mirror like effect. A host of sugar, Norway, moose, and red maples can be seen from any of my windows; their colors are spectacular – each leaf has different hues woven into a unique pattern, and yet the leaves of all the maples share similarities.

Simply gazing out my windows is a source of ongoing wonder to a naturalist like me.