Little Bear Moon Invocation

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Oh my dear one

may you be dreaming deep

in a secret mountain cave of moss and stone.

I lost the thread between us

when I left you

home alone.

The hunting season continued

and I don’t know

if you survived.

When I lost touch

with you, I lost myself.

My thick fur fell away

and exposure

to ice and frightening cold

swirling confusion

has left me numbed,

paralyzed, and barely sane.

On this eve of the first of the year

when a Luminous moon rises round in the night

do listen for the Owls

who will be singing a future for us both…


Know too that

I wrap my arms around you

by way of Tree Roots

who are always crackling underground,

and beg

this dreaming sky orb, our Mother,

to keep us bound as One.


she will even gift me

with a new coat of furry black skin?

I so long to return

to my soul body kin…


Know sweet bear that in the spring

when the first shoots turn green

I will meet you at the brook

if only we have both survived

our present separation.


If you come back to me I will

intone a heartfelt prayer that

after our brief meeting

your journey will

take you due North – far away

from those who would harm…

You must listen dear one:

You must be on your way

as soon as the first berries ripen…

in order to have

a chance to live through another year

as the black bear you are meant to be,

Wild and Free.


I love you Bb.


Working Notes: This year’s full moon falls on January 1 and in the northern part of the country where all black bears hibernate, this first full moon of the year is called the “Little Bear Moon.” Why? Because it is this month that most bears including polar bears and grizzlies and black bears give birth to their unborn… some under tree roots, some on the tundra even under snow, some in caves. Usually two to three tiny cubs are born to a mother who is alert and totally responsive to her young. For more information and videos please google the American Bear Center or WRI in Minnesota.

This invocation is dedicated all bears but especially to the one I love.

Falling Stars


(Painting of Reindeer Goddess by Judith Shaw – see FAR Feminism and Religion)


My mind swells

with confusion brought on

by lack of sleep.

I am stuck in mud

thick and oozing.

Quicksand makes effort seems pointless.

I cannot free myself.


Perhaps the Reindeer will come

and the lost child

will find comfort

between antlers of  white bone

Will the two take flight beyond the stars?


The black man wears a horned

Cowskull on his chest –

thick with points.

Sharpened steel knives are

a force to be reckoned with.

Death always demands respect.


Heeding this call is not our choice

to make.


Flying over a frigid white moon,

He tosses shells and stones

into a raging sea.

Visioning, his images

flow like water –

Turn to ice.


Changing faces, shapes

and rigid perspectives

is after all his job –

as Medicine Man

wrapped in Coyote’s furry skin.


Reindeer and her consort,

a four footed Shapeshifter,

are nothing less


the Voice and Body

of Nature

directing the next chapter of the story

for good or ill.


Working notes:


This poem came out of the darkness that overtakes one with lack of sleep. It also came out of a vision of Death as Medicine Man with ice crystal spears, natural gifts that cut through delusion. This dream occurred a few days after Iren and I found calcite crystals and I used one in my wreath.


Last night I also saw a beautiful painting of a reindeer by Judith Shaw and remembered how the Reindeer story used to be about women who flew through the night, for they were Shamans too, appearing from the Northern skies.


This morning the child received an unexpected gift from a Mexican builder, a man of great heart who is building an adobe house.


It isn’t too late for the child after all as this morning’s dream suggested, for now she can play with a shelf festooned with tiny handmade clay containers.

Gifts from the heart always matter.

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And this gift came to me just as Mario returned from Mexico having just lost his own father to sudden death just before Christmas. My heart went out to him in his loss…


Thank you Mario.

The Turtle Dance


Today my friends and I attended the Turtle Dance at Okay Owingey ( San Juan pueblo). This is the first dance that celebrates the return of the Light.


Oddly, and no doubt due to the influence of Patriarchy the dance is done by men, not women, who have been associated with Turtle for millennia.


The men wear elaborate headdresses adorned with eagle feathers on one side, a hand –painted half “flower” gourd on the other. Many of these gourds are adorned with the morning glory, a symbol of the summer and the harvest to come. Even the skunk – furred moccasins worn by all to symbolize water also denote the return of the summer people because some are yellow to mark the return of the sun. The white kilts are exquisitely decorated with meaningful symbols, mountains, clouds, thunder are examples, and the sound of bells accompanies the men’s chanting as the group moves from plaza to plaza ending their last set at the kiva. All wear turtle shell rattles on their legs. The torsos of the men are covered in clay.

The men dance in long lines with the black and white clad clowns with fantastic striped “ears” moving through the crowd talking, reprimanding, and making humorous remarks. All the men carry sprigs of spruce, a universal symbol of life. There are private jokes and laughter between the men. Much is left in mystery to an outsider like me, but this air of unknowing is pleasurable. It is only right that secrets are kept from the public eye. I feel that it is a gift to attend these most sacred Pueblo ceremonies at all. The dance is hypnotic and I found myself relaxing into a light trance, for which I was particularly grateful for because my body is so exhausted.


The scariest figures are the whippers wrapped in coyote fur and other animal skins, faces covered, slits for eyes who carry whips that strike the ground ominously. Some men are called to enter the open spaces to be whipped, others choose to enter on their own. After these whippings the men shake hands, and others in the crowd throw corn pollen. The sense I have is that there is both correction and blessing associated with this complex ritual. The whippers have been in the kivas for 10 ten days and at the end of the dance we watch these frightening supernaturals return to their mountain homes for another year.

The Bride and the Bull



Both photos were taken at last year’s dance. This year we were asked not to photograph the ceremony, yet some did anyway. This lack of respect appalls me.




Christmas day dawned thick with clouds… This morning I even imagined I saw snow on the mesa… an illusion, but perhaps a harbinger of the healing moisture that could bring life to the cracked red, ochre, sea green earth, her wild grasses, cactus and trees. Our beloved desert is parched – in desperate need of rain or snow.


When I heard the call of the Great Horned owl from my friend Iren’s house I felt a flicker of hope and peace running through this tired animal body that strives to meet the coming day.


My dove sang his beautiful morning song in response to the Great Horned owl. These curious exchanges between predator and prey baffle me. Great Horned Owl is fierce, and aptly named “Tiger of the Sky” and yet these two birds are apparently communicating something of import to one another!


Late yesterday afternoon, Christmas Eve, I went with friends to the Pueblo of Okay Owingeh (San Juan) to witness the spectacular dance of the Matachines. This ceremony has roots in both Pueblo and Hispanic traditions of the Rio Grande in New Mexico and revolves around the young Indigenous maiden, the Matachine, and a bull, also an Indian child, the latter of which is symbolically killed and castrated at the end of the performance as his seed is scattered to bring new life to the people.


This story sounds grim to those unfamiliar with world mythology but its theme mirrors that of those gods of vegetation like Attis who were sacrificed for the very same reason, to bring forth new life. The mythological roots of this ceremony extend back through time to the earliest Great Mother and her Consort stories, and for me it is very satisfying to witness these stunning dancers with their rainbow colored regalia, ribbons flowing in every direction and the impressive mitered headdresses, the sound of drums and bells as they pass by the luminaries or fires that are lit in the courtyards. At sunset the dance is reenacted in each of the four plazas and ends up at the church where it began, as dusk turns to night. Last night the sky was on fire. The moving crowds of mostly Pueblo people made it hard to see the dancers at times, but for me it was enough simply to be there.


The Pentitentes, or Brothers, associated with the Pueblo’s religious observances, chant “Ave Maria, Madre de Dios” (Hail Mary, Mother of God) in somber voices as the procession proceeds from plaza to plaza, each symbolizing one of the four directions. I certainly have the feeling that this chant is much more significant than the simple mantra that appears to belong to the Catholic tradition. What I hear is a universal prayer and entreaty for a Blessing for the people, the animals, plants, trees, and Earth from our Beloved Mother of the World.


To say that this ceremony is moving is an understatement. I feel as if I am participating in a ritual that returns me to the origins of humankind.

Unholy Night

When despair closes in

a black shroud chokes

Life from the tiniest flame

flickering in unholy darkness.

Unable to move,

I lie numb waiting

For death-like sleep –


from the insensitivity

of a man whose wants

are the only “reality,”

whose truths are universal

whose ideas belong to god.

whose selfishness cannot be measured

by any means known to

a woman like me

whose heart opens

to other’s needs,

like flowers,

opening to the sun.

Winter Woman

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(Photo Iren Schio)


I am searching for her coat

made of mink tails

and bearskins –

for live animals to hold

me close

as I drift deep

into winter dreaming…


Snow will fall on the mesa

one still morning,

gray clouds streaming

across the sky

softening red stone

inking ochre shadows.


The river is in retreat

turning opaque sea green.

The beach appears

and stories are gathered and

written into the sand

by those who love Her.


A solitary egret stands watch

on the edge of a jagged cliff

peering with one golden eye

into rippling rapids

patiently stalking a fish,

the wind his sail.


The sun is still warm,

and velvet night wraps me

in her starry cloak

even as the Great Bear rises

her tail tipping the horizon.

Venus will soon rise out

of a scarlet winter dawn.

I mourn, and pray

for sleep to come…


Working notes:


I am at a loss to understand how my poor body can continue without uninterrupted sleep for seven weeks…I am always tired, yet hyper alert in my exhaustion to the slightest sound. Where is Winter Woman who directs the flow of sleep with her longer nights and slower rhythms as the sky stands still? How I long for her sweet presence to bring peace and slumber to this animal woman deprived of the joy of waking ready to give thanks for another day.

Winter Solstice Repose


Solstice Eve Sunset


Winter Solstice dawn…

I awaken to the lovely song of my dove who is coaxing up the dawn as the turning of the wheel is occurring. When I go outside to feed the birds I gaze up into the giant cottonwood tree in the east studded with stars in the predawn sky. Arcturus and Jupiter are brilliant against a velvet blue firmament.


I listen for the owls…


Last night anticipating tonight’s bonfire down by the river, I celebrated my ritual in our bird room with its blue green lights to honor the Earth and a crown of candles to honor the women of myth who wear them at this turning. The effect was stunning – the crown and the lights, the burning white sage sanctifying this space.


A bruised deep pink and purple sky soon caught fire outside my window.


My rituals are simple and each is written according to the inner dreaming self who directs these seasonal turnings of the wheel. As I blessed my dogs, my bird, myself with river water, I allowed my present grief to flow through me… every year it’s the same this mixture of sadness and gratitude.


Yesterday morning I awakened with an image of a cross section of a perfect round red cedar tree that somehow had the four directions or the equilateral cross superimposed over it (or more likely both)…In the dream this image was attached to an entire tree and someone was telling me that I needed to find a way to separate one slab from the whole supine trunk of the tree because this was my piece.


Reflecting on this dream I was struck by the double meaning of the cross and the four directions…. The cross indicating suffering and death perhaps, the four directions signifying life and a “good red road.” The fact that the trunk was one of great girth gave me the sense I had was that I was participating in a mythical reality of Oneness, and that my piece of tree trunk held one piece of the tale just as the rest of the tree held the whole. It was enough, and all day I carried this story in my heart.


Winter Solstice is a time to rest, a time to reflect, a time to seek repose. “Winter Woman” is very much with me as is the prayer that I might lean into her stillness to find my own sense of peace.


In my mind I see Freya, the Snow Goddess with a crown of stars on her head flying across the frozen tundra in her chariot, rabbits leaping over snowdrifts as they lead their goddess on…


This winter season like every other is a gift that Nature offers – it is always our choice to embrace what is, and I am grateful to be alive to make this choice.

Blessings to All

Passionflower Mourning

People send me pictures of your children

bright green and twining

even in the northern winter dark,

while here in gold spun light

you pine and droop

shedding leaf after leaf

like tears

into my heartbroken hand.

Each morning I witness

new shoots withering

on your vine.


If it’s time

to let you go I must accept what is.


You have been with me for

so many years and I have

offered so many of your cuttings

after they were rooted

with the promise of an

unearthly crown of

cereus blue flowers to come.

Folks gasped when they saw them,

but I just smiled knowing

more would come.


If it’s time

to let you go I must accept what is.


I always wondered why

no one else could coax your

new roots to grow, but then

our relationship was

based on the kind of Love

that binds two souls.

I know now that our roots

and body were always One.


If it’s time

to let you go I must accept what is.


We were part of one another

when I was a green and purple

ground creeper. I just didn’t know.

Dreams so often speak to futures


And I didn’t recognize myself as a plant!

I was just grateful

to share your beauty with others

who might fall in love too –

the way I did with you.


If it’s time

to let you go I must accept what is.


Yesterday, I placed a plastic dome

over your tender shoots

so fragile

only three left now,

promising myself

not to fuss.


If it’s time

to let you go I must accept what is.


And yet, I cannot dim the hope

that Nature’s Grace

will intervene and save you yet…

I could not protect you

from either bugs and fungus –

spores poisoned

the air around us, and new

leaves were distorted by aphids

sucking your blood –

I added layers of anxious grief

and loss of trust.


If it’s time

to let you go I must accept what is.


Two young sheltered rootless daughters

stand by your side

as witnesses to what will come.

Will their presence comfort you?

Will they take root too?

That I want you to live

is something you already know.

Thriving as you once did, has become

something of a dream,

though I never for a moment

took your bountiful life force for granted.


If it’s time

to let you go I must accept what is.


This morning I heard the Owls call

from the northern peaks across the road

-the place where the Great Bear rises

and I felt less alone –

Like my too exhausted body,

there might be a message

for both of us about hope

and growing greener, tougher

able to withstand more challenges

together…. gaining strength

from each other as we once did

as One.


And yet –


If it’s time

to let you go I must accept what is.


I hear the flower child weeping,

as if from great distance…

Please don’t leave us.”


But if it’s time

We must wander through the world of the dead –

To find a way to let you go.

Las Posadas at Abiquiu Pueblo




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(musicians, friends Sabra and Iren and Dexter of the Pueblo making biscochitos in the kitchen)


For the past couple of days my friend Iren and I have been preparing for the Christmas party at the Pueblo. Every year Iren, who is a gifted artist, works with the local children helping them to make ornaments, cards, and god’s eyes to sell at this special gathering, and this year I worked with her and the children. Iren also made beautiful cards to sell. Every penny of the proceeds goes to augment the funds for the Abiquiu Pueblo Library and Cultural Center. The day before the party we went into the canyon, gathered pinion boughs and then black pine (from Iren’s house) to decorate the tables for the festivities. We included fragrant black sage and blue green juniper berries as part of the whole.


This is the second time I have attended the Christmas party at the Pueblo and once again I was delighted by the delicious food, the animated conversation between friends and joyful live music. I am also so pleased with the bright red ceramic peppers, a hand painted stone, and the beautiful cards (made by Iren) that we purchased last night. These are my winter solstice offerings…


This year the night of the party also marked the beginning of Las Posadas, a Hispanic tradition that Abiquiu Pueblo observes. This nine – day festival has multiple variants but the basic story is the same, and is reenacted around Mary and Joseph who are searching for a place of “repose” as Mary prepares to give birth.


When the luminary – a fire – was lit in the church courtyard I went out the door and followed a few others as they approached the flames. Within a few minutes the church bells rang and people gathered at the church door, knocking on it and singing a song about being invited in that was answered by singing from within the church. Eventually the doors opened and we entered the church that was festooned with live trees and a crèche with Guadalupe overlooking the scene. A Catholic Church service followed (unexpectedly for me because I thought I was about to witness an actual reenactment of a story that originated with Saint Francis in 1200 AD!).


I am not a Catholic, or for that matter a Christian. I am an animist, that is, a person who believes that spirit and soul resides in every living tree, stone, star, plant – and that the natural world is a holy place.


However, my father was an Italian immigrant and once, a Roman Catholic, so I have Christian roots…


When the Asian priest gave a homily I found myself listening with reverence and deep respect because the core of his message was that Abiquiu was a most beautiful and sacred piece of earth and that if one looked into the mirror of Abiquiu Lake and saw the moon reflected upon the waters, or the stars in the sky, then one could feel peace. The choice was ours, he said, in these times that threaten war and destruction to choose peace or war. It was up to us.


When I left the church I realized that this message was what I had come to hear. I too would consciously make the choice on this approaching solstice eve (12/20) to choose peace in my personal and political life as best as I could as we approach this next turning of the wheel. I will also light a Faralito on the night of the winter solstice and put it in my window to invite the Spirit and the Soul of the Peace of Nature to enter and find repose.

Cedar Slips through the Veil…



Yesterday my friend Iren surprised me with a gift – actually two – slabs of fragrant cedar that she had cut herself for firewood.


One cross section, a large one, irregularly shaped like a cauliflower floret took me back to 1971, the last holiday I was ever to spend with my twenty one year old brother who was my dearest companion and soul mate. That Christmas he had surprised me with another equally beautiful slab of sweet cedar with its red center.


A month later he shot himself and my world went dead.


The following year I spent in New York. My grandmother was dying and when my two young children (6 and 4) returned to Maine after her death my precious cedar slab had vanished. The neighbors who had stayed in our little house had probably burned it as firewood. I was devastated.


As children my little brother and I both gravitated to the cedar tree (white) as being our favorite tree of all, often picking twigs to keep in our room and carving small animals out of its fragrant heart wood.


When I moved to the mountains and built my log cabin the first tree I planted after my fruit trees was a white cedar. She became the house’s guardian spirit tree, and each year I decorated her during winter darkness and starry nights – the holy days that are celebrated in every culture with trees and lights, tucking a crystal star into her center that twinkled as she offered shelter and protection for winter birds.


Last winter while I was here in Abiquiu, my deer devastated the branches of this once magnificent tree that I had grown as a seedling. When I returned to Maine in the spring I understood that this tree would not recover from being girded and shorn of most of her branches, so I cut her down fearing a lingering tree death and hoping to hasten her demise. All summer, the doe and the fawn grazed on her branches and each time I walked out the door I could feel the hole she left behind… My house had lost her guardian.


One day last fall I was walking down the road and on a whim, gently uprooted a tiny cedar seedling, potted it and brought it with me across country to Abiquiu, intentionally. I did not understand why I did this, only that I needed to. Each morning, I mist her branches, and my hope is that one day she will thrive in Casita del Oso (house of the bear) eventually developing that dense teardrop shape, perhaps living in a pot for a few years…


Last night when I carefully placed my cedar slabs in my little bird room I could smell the tree’s sweet scent. I thought about my brother with the usual poignancy and sent my deepest gratitude to the woman who couldn’t have known what it would mean to me to be given this particular gift. Another circle was closing. It feels almost as if my brother is once again with me in some intangible way…


I can’t end this reflection without mentioning how important the cedar tree is to mythology. It is used by many Indigenous tribes as incense and as a purifying herb. Cedar is associated with prayer and healing, dreams, and acts as a protector (ess). Many rituals surround the felling of cedar trees that are used as sweat lodge poles and in medicine bundles.


In Greek mythology some women are actually turned into trees to escape being raped. The Egyptian Isis discovered the body of her beloved in a cedar tree, and eventually brought him back to life, long enough to conceive her child.


Women and trees have a natural affinity for one another. Mystics, or “sensitives” like me can often feel what a tree might be conveying without words. And during these times of world tree destruction the screams of many haunt our dreams.