Eclipse

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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!

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The Big Bear Moon/ First Light

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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.

Listen!

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

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

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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

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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.)

 

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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.”

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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

Hope

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Lily hugging Hope

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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.