March Moon Grief and Betrayal

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A moon full of grief

spills pale blue light

blinding stars

erasing Shadows

cast over the night –

Exposure to betrayal

is an experience

without parallel.

I weep even as high desert skies

shiver under reflected light

and second sight.

Yet, Venus shines on.

Her silvery orb a

sharpened steel point

an inspiration for some.

We do have a choice.

Betrayal speaks to the severing

of ties – psychological wounds

are no excuse for ending a friendship –

expose lack of integrity and weakness.

Keeping red hearts open

creates space for a rainbow

spectrum of feelings.

Experiencing each honestly

allows love to re – enter,

shattering separateness,

the most sinister human delusion of all.

 

Postscript: I used the image of this morning’s sunrise to highlight the colors of betrayal as I experience them. This poem was inspired by a woman’s betrayal that blindsided me yesterday. The bare trees against the sky remind me so much of this woman and myself, because she loves one tree in particular although my life is permeated with love for all trees. Women and trees simply go together as sisters in mythology as well as in day life. This women, by betraying me, chopped down her own tree.

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Surviving in the Face of Human Evil

Recently I read an article by singer Joan Baez whose influence on me as an idealistic adolescent and young woman and whose peacemaking musical career has affected me profoundly throughout my life.

 

Joan’s foundation, as well as my own, grounded in non –violent personal and political action, began when we were young children who were taught that non violence was ‘the way through’ and continues to remain second nature to us both.

 

Joan has recently “retired” from singing although in her words her most recent album attempts “to make some beauty in the face of – well – of evil, really.” When I read these words about evil I experienced a sense of terrible grief.

 

I have shied away from the concept of “evil” throughout my life, preferring instead to interpret the dark face of humanity in terms of human limitations.

 

As a naturalist whose life is inextricably tied to the forces of Nature, and whose observations have reinforced my belief that evil does not exist in the natural world, I have found continuous support watching animals and birds cooperating rather than competing (as the “man against nature” paradigm would have it). Most species, cats, wild and tame are certainly an exception, kill only for food to survive.

 

However, in recent years I have had to come to terms with the fact that evil does indeed exist on earth as a human construct. I have neighbors (in Maine) who enjoy bullying for the sense of power it brings them and who terrorize others with guns for “fun.” My home in the western mountains is a place where many if not all hunters kill animals for the pleasure of the “high” it brings them. Politically we are over the edge with a president who is, in my opinion, mentally ill, and the entire planet and every creature and person is at risk for survival. Starving people, emotional/sexual violence, murder, and destruction of the planet are daily occurrences comprising the “new normal” and all the marches in the world are not going to be enough to change the patriarchal structure we find ourselves living through. Breakdown is inevitable. How can I not believe have that human “evil” is real?

 

My ongoing question these days revolves around how to deal with the destructive culture I live in without losing my mind.

 

The answers have been slow in coming.

 

The first thing I learned was that I have had to insulate myself from the political situation I find myself in by limiting my exposure to news of any kind. I have no television and do not engage into political conversation unless it with people of like mind, and I have found that others, like me, often find it too difficult to have extended exchanges about such a hopeless situation. I also diligently limit my exposure to the information glut on the Internet. Delete, delete, delete…

 

Last night I spoke to someone who said, as I initially did after the last election, (knowing that my profound grief, rage and hopelessness was driving me over the edge and that I didn’t believe what I was saying) that someone has to kill the president.

 

The knowledge that I am so fundamentally at odds with this kill or be killed approach that I was forced to abruptly end the discussion has become a second survival tool. Of course, the violence that is endemic to Europeans who brought guns to this country, displacing thousands of Indigenous peoples and wounding or killing anything that moved should have taught us over the past couple of hundred years that violence begets more violence and never solves the problem. It’s not as if we were ever a democratic society in the first place. However, this arrogant, destructive patriarchal ideal still dominates American thinking while we project evil onto other countries and continue to deny our own. (As a country we have yet to take responsibility for destroying the Indigenous way of living in harmony with each other and all other non – human species). Greed is a way of life. More is better, and power is all.

 

Slowly and ever so painfully I have come to the awareness that there is absolutely nothing I can do to change what is.

 

What I am learning to do instead is to create an island around me by choosing a way of life in which compassion and caring for others, human and non – human is, if not the solution, at least allows me to live in a state in which my integrity and my love for all Nature is not compromised. This third survival tool is not new to me. I have attempted to live my life in this manner for 73 years, but the difference today is that I have to live this intention with as much awareness as I can muster on a daily basis. And some days I simply can’t stand what I know, and don’t want to know, regardless.

 

The fourth “solution” to an impossible dilemma has been for me to learn how to cultivate staying as much in the present moment as I can, taking deep pleasure out of the simplest observations – birds in the air, sunrises and sunsets, a spring flower, Red Willow river flowing to the sea. I concentrate on experiencing through all my senses, my mind and body, the astonishing beauty of Nature, the greatest painter, sculptor, Artist of all. Nature’s cycles also keep me in intimate communion with the seasonal shifts and how briefly we live out our individual lives in relationship to a planet that has been around for 4.5 billion years. “Time” as humans experience it is both linear and cyclic and both aspects need our acknowledgement and attention.

 

And this brings me around to another statement made by Joan Baez that mirrors my own evolving perspective reinforcing my fifth survival tool.

 

“ I don’t think we can think in big terms now, or we’ll just get under the covers and never get out. The little stuff… becomes more important right now because you have a chance at it. The world we are living in is being made horrible and is going to need every little victory…your family and friends (need to) feel some kind of support, some kind of goodness.”

 

She wonders if being on stage reminding people of a time when “we had the music, the cause, the direction, and each other is enough.”

 

I wonder the same thing as I continue to write, in part to save my own life and in the hope that my writing will touch others at a heart level – my sixth strategy for survival.

 

Joan ends her interview with another question. “Perhaps there is a virtue to having carried the flame, and grace now in passing the torch?”

 

Illness has restricted me for the last five months from participating in the world in a helpful and meaningful way, which has been unbelievably painful for me on a personal level. These days I cannot even take care of myself.

 

Maybe it is time for me too to pass on the torch as Joan is doing to the next generation in hopes that somehow these young people will find a way to survive this holocaust?

 

The problem for me is that I don’t know.

The Rabbit and the Moon

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Another Perspective on the “Easter Bunny”

 

Rabbits and Hares comprise a very ancient archetype that has stretched across religion and culture for thousands of years. In this essay I will use the terms rabbit and hare to refer to both who are often depicted as one animal and belong to the same family (Lepus). We find the rabbit appearing in Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism as well as throughout Indigenous culture in the Americas.

 

In ancient traditions hares and rabbits belong to women; they are powerful goddesses associated with mystery and magic, the lunar cycle, fertility, longevity and rebirth.

 

Hares are believed to be messengers from the realm of the Great Goddess moving by moonlight between the human world and the spirit world. In some places She is the Great Goddess herself. S/he is also androgynous sometimes appearing in a male form. The male aspect appears most often as a trickster figure or is incorporated into the female as the rabbit and his grandmother who both live in the moon according to some Native American Indigenous traditions.

 

In China, The Hare in the Moon is depicted with a mortar and pestle in which She mixes the elixir of immortality. This goddess conceives through the touch of the full moon’s light without the need of impregnation by a male (not to be confused with the “virgin birth” – this goddess is one unto herself) or she conceives by crossing water by moonlight. As the Great Goddess she is the guardian of all wild animals.

 

In Egyptian myth hares were associated with the moon which was masculine when waxing and female while waning – highlighting the feminine power of yin. Hare headed goddesses and gods can be seen on temple walls. The female is the goddess Wenet, while the male probably represents Osiris, the son of Isis.

 

Greek and Roman mythologies tell us the hare represents love, abundance, and fecundity. Hares were associated with Artemis, goddess of the wild places and Artemis would not permit young hares to be sacrificed (as some demanded) but left to her protection. Rabbits were also sacred to Aphrodite the goddess of love and beauty. Carvings of rabbits eating grapes and figs appear on both Greek and Roman tombs symbolizing the transformative cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

 

In Teutonic myth the Earth and Sky goddess Holda had a chariot drawn by hares or was followed by a procession of hares bearing torches. This goddess was in charge of all weather phenomena. In a similar vein, Freyja the Norse goddess of Women’s Mysteries was also served by hares.

 

The Celtic Eostre belongs to the moon, orchestrating the cycles of death and rebirth. This goddess was also responsible for the turning of winter to spring. To the Celts, eating a rabbit was like eating one’s wise old grandmother, no doubt due to the sacred connection between hares and goddesses. The Celts also used rabbits for divination, reading their tracks. It was believed that rabbits burrowed underground in order to better commune with the spirit world and that they could carry messages from the living to the dead.

 

All of the above goddesses were also shapeshifters who took on the form of a rabbit or hare and roamed the countrysides during the waxing, waning, and full moons of each month.

 

As Christianity took hold over Europe hares and rabbits, once so firmly associated with the Great Goddess came to be seen in a less favorable light. They were often associated as the familiars of “witches” taking on a demonic quality.

 

Originally these powerful goddesses were depicted as actual rabbits/ hares, or these figures had a hare’s head and ears. A white hare often could be found standing in attendance. This magical white hare laid brightly colored eggs that were given to children during the sacred rites that celebrated the coming of spring and rebirth of all Nature.

 

Today, these goddesses who once controlled the weather and cycles of the moon, acted as messengers between the living and the dead, had second sight, acted as Guardians of the wild places, were responsible for longevity, love, fertility, and rebirth have been reduced to cartoon like cute little bunnies, diminishing the power of Women’s Mysteries as well as the importance of Nature and associating both with dubious if not sinister qualities – an excellent example of the way the power of the feminine as well as the sanctity of the Earth has been dismissed by patriarchal tradition.

 

And yet, whether hovering above us in the arms of the Moon Goddess or carrying messages from the underworld in this month of double moons, rabbits and hares continue to leap through mythology, legends, and folk tales around the world – forever elusive, like the mysterious and powerful wise women they certainly embody.

Illness

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Terrified.

 

Pulled out of mind,

pain racked body

screams from far away

and I have

no recourse –

just curl into

a frozen ball on a

hospital floor, as if

I could escape

this misery.

 

Terrified.

 

“Just Relax.”

Breathe,

I am told

in a room

without windows…

Hooked up

to tubes

for their convenience

not mine, certainly.

My entire arm

turns black

as I endure further assault.

Above, White light

Burns my eyes,

I throw up

again to platitudes

uttered in total ignorance-

perhaps stupidity.

 

When I complain

without remorse

I am the “Bitch” –

An old one at that.

This inhumane treatment

is our broken

medical system –

the Perfect Machine,

oblivious to human frailty.

 

I am terrified.

 

Once home

with dear canine

Companions

And a dove

who sings up

the moon,

I can once again

contemplate

Gratitude

that I survived

One more trauma,

if only from afar.

 

 

Terrified.

 

What if this had been

my time of dying?

To spend final moments

in fright

not of death,

But of what human robots

might do next?

 

Terrified.

 

This morning

I staggered to the river

to gaze at the sky

before dawn.

 

A sky full of bruised purple

and pink, an orange glow

etching bare branches in black ink.

The Earth moves through her cycles

And this brings me comfort.

Silencing the fright

crackling through hopelessly fragile bones.

Guadalupe Rises Again

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Yesterday I was in a Mexican store helping someone to choose tiles for the sink and bathroom of a new casita that is just coming into being. I have always been drawn to Mexican art because the images tell stories, and many of those stories revolve around images in Nature – usually stylized. The tiles, for example portray flowers, birds, butterflies, and fish in brilliant colors. The child in me loves to see these stories. Artists who work with animal images in a respectful way honoring the spirit of the animal portrayed (either natural or stylized – cartoons revolt me) allows me to bridge the world from animals to people.

 

The mandala is also frequently present as a motif in these tiles. The mandala is a universal symbol for wholeness and containment, and is a particularly common element in most Mexican folk art. Some might add that the circular designs also represent the ‘self.’ Personally, I perceive mandalas as both symbolic and a concrete manifestation of Earth and a mysterious Wholeness that is intrinsic to the entire Universe.

 

Mexican art moves me. The expressive folk images, and the use of natural objects like gourds to create complex designs give me a sense of being at home in the world of people. Nature has been my Muse since I was a child. As a life long naturalist I am deeply drawn to the world of animals, I think in part because aside from my brother, animals were my first real friends.

 

For much of my adult life I have reflected upon this complex attraction of mine. I have both Italian, and Indigenous roots as part of my heritage. I also grew up as the daughter of an Anglian artist whose love of classical and impressionistic art was deeply woven in to my life.

 

Folk art only came to the forefront when I reached adulthood and began to develop into a self -directed woman – something that didn’t happen until my children were grown. First it was Native American fetishes, especially bears that drew me in along with Mexican embroidered clothing.

 

The child in me emerged for the first time in my life and I “made up” a healing Bear Circle inside which bears and other fetishes were moved around by whim or prayer (it turned out that the Lakota Sioux as well as other Native tribes use bear circles for healing, but I didn’t know that then). I also developed a fascination for wild bears that the naturalist in me couldn’t make sense of since there were none where I lived on the coast.

 

In my forties I began to dream images of ancient goddess figures that I later drew and sculpted in clay. I also discovered that the Great Bear was probably the most ancient goddess figure in the Northern Hemisphere. Around the same period I attended a Jungian conference held in Assisi Italy where I had a mystical ongoing experience with Mary and Mary Magdalene that lasted almost a week. And when my life fell apart for the second time, a year spent in the desert helped heal me enough to go on.

 

It was in Arizona that I discovered Guadalupe, the unofficial saint of Mexico. Many folks are familiar with her story. Guadalupe is a Mexican Indian goddess that appeared to an Indian peasant asking him to convey to the Bishop that a chapel be built on a hill outside Mexico City. To “prove” to the Bishop that she was “real” Guadalupe presented the Indian with red Castilian roses to take to him (that cascaded out of her robe when she opened it) … It is said that when the chapel was built in her honor, a healing spring bubbled out of the Earth. It is rarely mentioned that Guadalupe’s Hill was also the place where the ancient Indigenous Earth Goddess Tonzantin resided. Goddesses have a way of appearing in a multitude of guises, each con specific to a particular time, place, and need.

 

After discovering statues of the Black Madonna or Guadalupe behind the country churches in the outskirts of Tucson (all had candles lit all around them), I bought a Mexican carving of Guadalupe on the streets of downtown Tucson. This image of an Indigenous goddess was the very first of my personal belongings that found a place in my log cabin, my second home, where she resides to this day.

 

Falling in love with Guadalupe was followed by a compulsion to visit Mexico (which to this day has never been realized because I never had the money to make this pilgrimage).

 

However, one by one, I bought pieces of other Mexican art. Huichol Indigenous string art adorns almost every corner of my present home. Deer, serpents, mushrooms, and other animals and plants tell cultural stories through string and intricate beadwork in vibrant otherworldly colors. Mexican Talavera pottery appeals to me because each artist is telling his or her version of a story that is also grounded in images in Nature as already mentioned. Over time when I could afford it, I acquired a Mexican Talavera frog, and later when I built my small log cabin I bought a few precious Talavera dishes and two more frogs and a lizard…

 

But let me return to Guadalupe. When I came to Abiquiu, New Mexico two years ago I was stunned to see so many images of Guadalupe that were white. At least in Tucson, She was portrayed as the Indian goddess she was. Eventually it occurred to me that Spanish influences and the Catholic Church (who to this day has not canonized this “saint”) were both responsible for her whitening.

 

For two years I have been looking for an image of Guadalupe to be with me here in Abiquiu and yesterday I found her in the tile store!

 

This Guadalupe is cut out of tin, a simple but profound image, the metal has been shaped to resemble the traditional Mexican image of Guadalupe. However, this image – a starry cloak with rays of light outline a figure without a face and body that for me allows Guadalupe to become the frame to hold any image that is sacred to me, one of which happens to be the Bear. There is even a small pocket in which a bear fetish could be placed at the bottom of the piece. The only addition inside the cloak is a pair of copper hands held in prayer.

 

Last night, I couldn’t stop gazing at her. The tin shimmers in reflected light. Oh, I made the right choice by buying her! What I love the most is her universality. This goddess makes room for all other sacred images female or male, human and non – human…

 

This morning I was given a hand written note by the man I was with yesterday that acknowledged the importance of this figure for me and hoped that this “Lady of Guadalupe” would find a Nicho nearby.

 

I hoped so too.

A Ladder to the Stars

 

Every evening at twilight

she climbs a ladder

to the stars…

 

Venus is her guide …

As the Evening star

(who also rises at dawn)

this Goddess of Love

is her Muse.

 

As a woman who

respects herself,

she stands up for others.

She has learned how to Love.

 

Giving is as natural

to her as breathing;

every gesture is grounded

in caring for people and the Earth…

 

She honors the gift

that She has been given –

Life in all its heartrending complexity –

embracing both joy and pain

with equal intensity.

 

 

A wise woman, she reflects

a choice we

all have been given –

(regardless of personal story)

to live with an open heart.

 

Becoming a mirror for

those who might

have forgotten,

her actions remind us

that only Love endures

Longing For Home

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This patch of red earth

under my feet

even in drought

feels like home.

At dawn

I sit at the river’s edge

gazing east.

The rising sun star

almost always

turns pale light

into a world of color

that defies imagination

or words to describe

my wonder.

Even the lamenting horse

next door

breaking my heart

with his sorrow

is part of the story…

His anguish has become

my own.

I greet each day

with gratitude

and earnest prayer.

Someday

will I find home

in this high desert?

I long for roots –

dug deep as my longing –

and a place of my own.