I bounced out of bed at 4AM to see the glorious full white moon before she began to eclipse. She was so bright that I couldn’t see any but the brightest stars in the sky. Sitting on the floor I gazed out the window feeling myself joining the rest of Nature’s creatures to witness this propitious event…


It wasn’t long before the night took a bite out of moon, first one, and then another. I watched as the light began to dim at first subtly and then quite dramatically. I felt the mysterious darkness descend from the sky allowing the stars to shiver and twinkle as they were strung like crystals into familiar patterns overhead. The Gemini Twins appeared and I thought of my little brother with whom I shared a brief but magical life with so long ago. He would have loved this I thought wistfully, though he’s been dead since 1972. (Gemini Twins I used to call us although only his birthday was in June… however, we will remain soul mates forever – even death could not separate us).


Jupiter and Mars glowed in the southeast as the dark descended…The little dog star disappeared below the horizon. Now the night held sway as I made my way down the path to my friend and artist Iren’s studio where I would witness the final event with dear friends. The coppery red color of the eclipsing moon was more startling each time we gazed at the sky intensifying in color before our eyes A sense of wonder permeated the room I shared with others who are in love with Nature much the way I am. How grateful I felt to be in such company.


When the moon simply disappeared the morning light glowed like a flame in the east. Three of us went to greet the morning sunrise standing together at the river’s edge. Again, that sense of wonder and awe as we witnessed the sky catch fire…


What a night!


And such a miraculous new dawn!

The Big Bear Moon/ First Light



Blood Red Sunrise.

a precursor of

a coppery round moon

to come?

Ominous perhaps,

But also Nature’s phenomena

manifesting at perigee,

ending a month of double moons –

tricksters who take bites out of each other

wearing skulls with sharp spikes.


We honor the Great Celestial Bear

who climbs into the Northern sky

escaping Orion’s wrath,

his need to slaughter

turned back on himself,

a directional reversal…

She steers the wheel towards

First Light.


She is forever free to roam the night skies.

Shuddering, his power waning

he slips below the horizon,

a mole gone to ground.

With the approaching spring season

She Rises!

A Datura moon seed taking root…*

She is:

Queen of the Star cracked heavens,

Mistress of the Fire,

A pure white fragrant moon blossom..

Goddess of the coming Light.


We Crown her with candles

Birth poets, artists, from her Visions.

Her waters flow, purifying our thoughts

Healing broken souls – susto* –

– illness –

brought on by “power over”

and the obsession to be right.

Our Lady watches over her namesakes

as black bear cubs snuggle deep in furry wonder,

ascend the mountain of her warm black body to play.


It is The Great Bear’s heartbeat

that drums the Spring Song,

a refrain we long to hear…



Working notes:


  • the Chumash Indians celebrate January’s full moon as the moon that is sacred to the visionary plant Datura. In honor of this moon and the coming of the light I am rooting some Datura seeds. Amazingly, when I started this process two days ago I never expected to see a rootlet appear within 24 hours… it normally takes 3 – 8 weeks to germinate these seeds. I surmise that the rootlets appeared because this moon is sacred to Datura plants and they know it!


  • Susto is a Spanish word used to describe “soul loss” or the weeping soul, a diagnosis that Indigenous medicine healers use when treating a child or adult whose soul has literally never incarnated in the body, or has fled its home because of severe trauma. PTSD and anxiety disorders fall into this category. Western medicine treats the physical body and excludes both spirit and soul so people do not heal.


In the Indigenous way of thinking the spirit surrounds the soul and body protecting it from harm, but trauma creates holes in spirit and the soul takes flight, leaving a person lifeless, depressed, without normal defenses to fight depression or disease. Returning the soul to the body and healing the holes in spirit is the medicine person’s job.


I witnessed this process of soul recovery firsthand when I was working in the Amazon. Until then I had never heard of susto but the moment I did I understood that it was part of my history. This discovery has changed my life.


Now I understand that when severely traumatized as I have been recently due to sleep deprivation that soul loss becomes inevitable, and that it takes awareness, patience and attention to spirit, soul and body to recover what was lost. I am still in the process of recovery at the time of this writing.


It is critical to note that anyone who has an intimate relationship with Nature and has plants and animals will also see negative changes in these companions. During this last episode of mine I lost a dear friend and sister, a passionflower I have loved for many years (13 years). I watched her in horror simply withering away before my eyes.


As a therapist I have been blessed to be able to help others recover from soul loss  due to severe trauma. In my experience, the older one is before being diagnosed the more difficult it is to recover completely – but speaking for myself it was a relief to pinpoint the problem.

The Woman Pot


The Woman Pot as it looks today… since that time one more woman has added a plant!


Curious Bb looking in the window!


Last summer when I returned to Maine I was very homesick for Abiquiu. I had collected a couple of succulents to bring home with me. The first was a string of pearls that I got from the office of the veterinarian in Santa Fe who saved my dove, Lily b, from dying after he had been mauled. I treasured those pale green pearls. At Thanksgiving my friend Sabra let me have a couple of rosettes that I also planted. And in the spring while caretaking Iren’s plants I brought back another spikier rosette that had fallen away from the mother plant and a tiny piece of jade plant from her beautiful solarium. All of these were placed in individual pots.


All the plants thrived! By the time I returned to Maine I decided to pot all my succulents into a rectangular clay pot along with another succulent that I received from a woman in Maine and a couple of other rosettes I had collected myself.


One July morning I sat outside in the shade with various pots scattered around. I heard a rustling sound behind me. My yearling male bear, Bb appeared, materializing through the forest veil and was approaching his seed can that was about 15 feet away from where I was working. He let out an annoyed “huff” and slapped a nearby pine letting me know that he wanted me to return to the porch while he snacked.

Normally I acceded to his wishes but I had pots scattered everywhere and knew if I re- entered the house he would be unable to resist coming over to see what I was up to. My plants would be toast!


So I spoke to him quietly. “I’m going to sit right here until I finish repotting and then dear friend I will leave you to your seed.” Bb behaved as if he understood every word. Instantly he lay down on the shady ground he began munching his seed as I continued my project. Every now and then I would turn around to watch him, this beloved bear of ‘mine’. We worked companionably for the next half an hour, with Bb eating and me repotting. True to my word, as soon as I was finished I turned to him and remarked, “I’m done and I am going into the house, thank you for your patience”. Bears, I knew from experience, liked to hear my voice and appreciated words of respect. In seconds Bb bounded down the hill to investigate the empty pots I had left to collect later. Bears are incredibly curious.


Once in the house, I admired my handiwork, so pleased that all these plants were going to live together because plants enjoy each other’s company just like humans do. For the rest of the summer all my plants thrived! I had to keep cutting some back to keep the slower growing rosettes from becoming overwhelmed.


It wasn’t until the end of the summer when Bb’s visits became nocturnal due to hunting pressure that I recognized that this one pot was special in two ways. The first was because all it’s plants had come from women. The second because Bb had allowed me to finish re –potting my new creation in peace. Bb was initially named after someone else. It was months before it occurred to me that Bb was the nickname I had been given as a child. So this woman, her plants, and her bear are related if not through blood, then through naming!


For the rest of my days I will associate this pot with women I care about and a bear that I love.

Stones that Speak



Yesterday I walked into Owl canyon with my backpack to bring back a almost rounded translucent rose river stone that spoke to me one day as I was passing by. I had admired this 20 plus pound rock ever since the first time I saw it in the arroyo, promising myself that one day when I felt better I would bring it back to Casita del Oso.


Her first garden stone.


The stone remarked, “I would make a good tombstone” in an offhand way.


I was astonished and somewhat alarmed. Owl canyon is a place of contemplation and repose, a place I visited every day I could during my first very difficult two months here. The tall spires of sandstone and the round hills contained me. The precious Silence held me like a mother would hold her child. I brimmed with daily gratitude for moments of peace.


Almost instantly after the stone spoke my body registered that death was in the air. My mind rebuked me for having dark thoughts.


When I returned to the emerging casita I discovered to my horror that Mario, the builder had just received a text from his wife, informing him that Mario’s father had died suddenly. He had received the text during the time I was in the arroyo, passing by that stone.


Mario and I have some sort of underground connection on a heart level. I am so profoundly grateful that he is the man that is building this casita that I hope someday to inhabit. Mario has an attitude worth cultivating. He has amazing patience, is incredibly kind to my little dogs who love him, and his optimism is infectious. I feel good just being around him and the feeling inside the casita is one of peace and harmony. Mario’s skill has a carpenter is noteworthy; he is a superb builder and together with Bruce the owner of the property and the architect/artist who designed the casita, the house is growing into her own.


(I must add that friend Iren placed sacred objects in each of the four directions on November 8th of 2017 with Mario’s blessing. She and I had discussed what would go where and this was a collaborative effort even though I had not yet left Maine and so the first adobes hold the Soul and Spirit of the Earth between them.)


image1 2.jpeg



When Mario returned from Mexico after his father’s death, (he is still struggling with the bureaucracy to allow him to bring his wife, daughter, and his ten month old baby into the United States where Mario has lived since he was nineteen) he brought me a gift for the casita that moved me so much that I have written about it elsewhere in this blog. Who but Mario would be thoughtful enough to think of me when he had his own grief to deal with? It is this kind of gesture that reveals the character of the man behind it.


And this brings me around the circle to the river stone.


Why might the reader ask would I struggle to bring a heavy stone back to the casita when it brought me such a heartbreaking message?


This is a question that I find easy to answer. First, I liked the stone. Secondly it spoke to me, giving me information that I might not otherwise have. Thirdly, the stone will always remind me of the man who built the casita, a man I have come to respect with all my heart. The fourth reason I will keep this stone near is to remind me that life and death are part of one whole, and that it is impossible to separate one from the other.

“You are not an artist.”



Yesterday I completed a little sculpture for a woman artist who is also a friend. It is her 75th birthday. I had been collecting sticks and pine cones, and my friend Iren had sliced sticks, cut noses, and provided me with giant acorns from Texas (which I had never seen before) and a glue gun for the three owls I was going to put on a unique piece of river driftwood that Iren picked up when we were wandering at the edge of Red Willow river… “Perfect, we both murmured at once.”


(Iren, I have come to see, is a Muse without parallel as well as my friend.)


All I knew yesterday was that I was going to make owls…


As the little sculpture emerged I heard someone in me say, “don’t think just do it.” I listened to this voice. However, reflecting on this thought as I chose eyes for the owls I noticed that I felt very nervous. No one was pushing me to do anything and yet I felt as if someone was peering over my shoulder whispering “this is not good enough, you are not an artist. Hurry up and get this silly thing finished.”


The intrusive idea became boringly repetitious as I worked. Annoying in the extreme. Discovering that I was making “reindeer owls” because I had simply made them up delighted me! And yet, there was that voice…


Suddenly, I had an illumination. My mother was a gifted artist who worked in many mediums. The child in me recognized very early on that there was no room in our house for more than one artist, although she did support my brother’s love for music, his athletic ability, and even complemented me on some of my poetry as a midlife adult, saying once “there must be some place for that kind of writing,” a kind of back handed complement, I see now. When I began publishing my work about 20 years ago my mother remained silent. Needless to say I had already spent 40 years as a closet journal keeper up to that point.


Throughout her life my mother was tight – lipped, sharply critical, and short on praise, a perfect Victorian woman. Eventually I came to understand that much of what she said was more about her than me, but unfortunately this mind/body knowledge and personal truth became mine only recently.


The fact that my mother’s voice was still attempting to kill off childhood joy and my need to create also reminded me that her perspective was just that, and not “truth.” It also speaks to memory in Nature and how this can manifest through family systems. It is amazing to me how pervasive childhood words and phrases stay with a person throughout her life. Gosh, I am 73 years old now!


My mother has been dead for many years and the difficulties between us have been resolved. Mostly, I just feel sad that she was never able to please herself, which is probably why she could not tolerate having a creative daughter. Envy stole her life in many ways… but it freed mine to appreciate the work of others.


I finished my little sculpture thanking Iren in my heart for helping me deal with a destructive part of myself that still lurks beneath the threshold waiting to sabotage any creative effort.


It is true. I am not an artist. I have no formal training although I grew up in New York’s metropolitan area and spent my childhood at art museums with my mother, and did inherit a sense of proportion, love of color and form as well as my mother’s love for Nature, although her connection was academic and mine comes through my heart.


Here in Abiquiu, especially with Iren, some part of me has been set free, and even though my humble creations are simple, I am possessed by the joy of making.


Thank you Iren



Lily hugging Hope




Hope was a wild bear cub born to Lily at the Minnesota Wild Research Center in 2010.


She was one of bear biologist’s Lynn Rogers study bears. Lynn cared for the little cub when mother Lily temporarily abandoned her (as young, first time mothers sometimes do). Lynn also reunited Lily and Hope.


Lynns’ videos went viral because they were the first to document Black Bear behavior in the den and eventually the Minnesota state wildlife agency (2012) shut down his Black Bear research forcing him to remove the collars of the 12 wild black bears that Lynn put on them by hand (without darting the bears with drugs) because his research was exploding myths about the dangerous killer black bear.


Lynn has literally been “walking with black bears” for 30 plus years after studying them from afar as a state biologist during his early career years. As a result his research has been an invaluable contribution to Black Bear Study. Lynn knows more about Black Bears than anyone on this planet because he has studied them the longest. His astonishing career and the multitude of his academic papers can be accessed on his sites.


Today, he continues to educate adults and children by inviting them to the Minnesota bear center where four bears currently reside in Black Bear luxury…


I have been privileged to have him as a mentor and now as a friend. He provided me with the first meaningful CONTEXT for my own observations as an ethologist who conducted an independent Bear study for 15 years (officially) and he continues to help me in his roles as educator and friend.


Lynn is finally in the process of writing a book about his amazing career. His deep humility and respect for bears opened a door that can never be shut again.


Little Hope’s life will continue to have meaning for many people although it was tragically cut short. Hope was killed by a bear hunter in 2011 who it appears targeted Lynn’s bears.


Yesterday was Hope’s Birthday… and those of us who continue to mourn her loss also know that she changed Black Bear history.


I love you Hope.

The Gate

I walk through the creaking gate

under a pre dawn sky

Ice cracks,

splits still air.

Ducks rise up

over serpentine waters.

Geese gather in v formations.

Every tree

spreads her crown of bare branches.

The sky begins to shiver.

I breath in golden

crystals of New Born Light.


Every morning finds me at the river’s edge in the inky darkness of a pre dawn sky giving thanks for the return of my joy and the gift of living in such a hallowed place.

Desert Snow




Shark gray clouds

swim across the sky

before daybreak.

Is the river holding her breath?

Prickly cholla is gesoed

pearl white.

Desert sage and scrub wear

tender winter coats.

Raccoon ‘s midnight identity is

revealed through

sharply etched foot prints

circling the Russian Olive.

Bird hieroglyphics

create patterns – a new language

written in wonder

on wet ground.

In the distance higher mesas

accumulate thick layers

of silver light.

I sweep away an inch of fluff

from my door –

no backbreaking shoveling here,

just my joyful heart singing…

High desert

soaks up sweet moisture

plumping out withered limbs,

her thirst quenched for a moment

as cottony clouds slide by.

A few star filled snowflakes drift

by my window…

Even the patches of blue

breaking through

a thick gray dome

cannot dim my enthusiasm

for this watery gift at dawn:


Blessed, Desert Snow.


Working notes: It is hard to believe that I would long for snow as much as I have coming from Maine where snow is never welcome, especially now with climate change and the perennial freeze -thaw that makes walking and driving a nightmare, not to mention the amount of daily shoveling required to simply get out of my house and up my hill!

But here in Abiquiu, New Mexico we are in a drought and all moisture has virtually been absent for months. To wake up this morning to paths painted white and drifting snowflakes was pure joy!




There is nothing like first hand observation to provide a naturalist with new astonishing information. In my last column for another publication I wrote about gophers in the abstract, and two days later Hector made his first appearance. I noted the hole that appeared one morning with some curiosity but I never expected to meet its owner. While standing at the window one morning (I lose amazing amounts of time here watching birds, the river, soaking in the subtlety of the winter scrub, red willows, flying geese, ducks, egrets, and soaring eagles) a small russet brown head popped out of a hole in a cleared area. The rodent perused his immediate surroundings and then disappeared. I have just met my immediate neighbor, a gopher, I thought excitedly, as the name Hector flashed through my mind. I didn’t know then that friend Iren loved the name Hector! Of course, I have no idea whether Hector is a male or female but I trust the part of me that might know…


Hector is a most fascinating neighbor. Soon after I put seed and cracked corn out in the early sometimes pre-dawn hours he appears. Every morning he re -opens the hole he closes at the end of each feeding day (which here ends around noon because by then the birds and Hector have devoured the day’s ration of food). Just why he feels the need to close his door after the food is gone remains a mystery to me, unless he is irritated by the sparrows who sometimes peer down into his abode, no doubt looking for food too! Yesterday I noticed that a couple of birds actually snuggled into the orifice Hector had created – maybe for warmth? I recalled that gophers are very territorial.


This morning I didn’t awaken until after dawn. When I went outdoors to scatter seed there were five new holes in the same area. Hector had obviously opened one door and when he found nothing edible he descended into his cavern of tunnels and created new doors to the surface to scout around for seed! At least that’s my theory.


As soon as I came in around 7:30 AM I went to the window and there was Hector pulling down sunflower seed and cracked corn into his favored tunnel as fast as he could! Today is a bonus day because in addition to bird food I also sprinkle my dove’s food outdoors recycling Lily b’s left overs. Hector has been busy storing goodies all morning!


After the flock of blackbirds arrived things took a turn for the worse because now the ground is picked clean and it’s only 11AM. Hector has already closed down one of his entrances (his favorite), and I am anxious to see what he does with the others. I still try to imagine what it must be like to have a burrow that snakes its way through the earth six feet deep and can extend up to 5000 feet in length. I would like to believe that Hector sleeps under the Trailercita snuggled into his gopher nest somewhere below us.


(We need to be mindful that all gophers do so much good because they keep the desert soil aerated allowing precious moisture to be absorbed)


Clearly, living with a gopher is a source of ongoing amazement to me. I am always wondering what Hector might do next!

Coyote fences, gourds, and Canis latrans


My friend Iren has erected a beautiful coyote fence for privacy. Each day when I look at this wooden structure I find myself admiring it more.


Coyote fences can be made of a number of materials often spruce – fur latillas and this one appeals to me the most. The uneven wooden poles fit the surrounding desert like they rise out of the ground like willows will in wet places…


In the morning light the poles shimmer.


Naturally, I also think about coyotes being able to jump these fences if they actually surround an enclosed structure (this one does not).


Coyotes are brilliant and can eye immediately the difficulties presented when assessing the viability of jumping such an uneven barrier. A coyote could easily break a leg, or worse. However, coyotes are amazingly adaptable wild animals and rarely make stupid mistakes.


I have read that if they choose coyotes might be able to clear a fourteen-foot fence. This information seems a bit far – fetched. Even a starving coyote probably would not make this choice.


When Iren gave me a coyote gourd I was simply amazed. When halved these beauties reveal Nature’s superb packaging and intricate handiwork. According to Iren, Santa Fe has coyote gourds all over the place so I had to look them up. They grow wild and although unpalatable to humans, coyotes like them very much, because their scat is full of the flat seeds, three of which I just planted in one of my pots. The vine is to my mind quite beautiful to look at with it’s star –like variegated leaves. The smooth spherical fruits ripen from green to pale yellow gourds that are still used by Pueblo peoples as rattles in ceremony and the seeds were also once ground and eaten. These wild plants grow in sandy places and I am anxious to see if I can germinate a vine. Perhaps one day I will have a coyote fence on which the vines could grow…


A few weeks ago I met a coyote wandering across Owl Canyon. I had my two five pound Chihuahuas with me on leashes. Because I am a naturalist, my dogs have been taught that they can bark at people but not wild animals, and during this encounter we were able to approach this coyote close enough so that I could see his golden amber eyes. The coyote seemed quite curious and regarded us with intense concentration, especially after I called out a greeting of welcome. We all stood there quietly in the still afternoon sun until the coyote decided to continue along his way.


Wild animals are busy living their own lives and this brief interlude was a gift from the Mistress of the Desert. Had we met a pack of wild dogs I would have been alarmed because these animals can be dangerous but it is my experience that coyotes rarely, if ever bother humans. Of course, anyone who has cats, chickens, and unleashed small/medium dogs leaves their animals at risk to become an opportunist’s next meal if left free to roam at will, but it is our responsibility as pet owners to care for our two or four legged friends, and not blame an offending coyote for passing up a free meal. Coyotes do not have supermarkets to shop in like people do.


One fascinating fact about coyotes is that every attempt to extirpate them has failed, and in fact, coyotes have now extended their range throughout all of North America into Mexico and Panama. Killing them simply encourages the remaining coyotes to reproduce more of their kind, so these wily animals are successful in outwitting human cruelty. As a naturalist I am almost always writing about the loss of species so I am especially happy to write about the highly creative coyotes who have learned to thrive along side man, their primary enemy.


I have never understood why so many people fear and hate these beautiful animals who are excellent meso – predators who sing up the stars and fill an ecological niche without which the desert would be a poorer rodent ridden place.



halved coyote gourd


Coyote fence