Israel Francisco Haro Lopez : we come from the stars

Artist and Poet

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Build That Wall We Come From The Stars Part 5

Do you know where you come from
do you know all the parts
of where you were born
do you know all the lines
that make your breath

all the oceans
all the trees
all the branches

of your migration
to here
to now

from the tip of the womb
of queztalcoatl
to the tip of alaska

across the deserts
of africa
between the stones
of machu picchu
and teotihuacan
between the walls
of china and berlin
between sand dunes
and druid songs
irish mexican blood
swaying with the lines
of a sufi prophecy
bending inside
a european pagan
dance step
opening
and waiting
to the memory
of the feet
of your ancestors

 

Commentary: I have written about Israel’s work previously on this blog, so I allow the power of this poem to speak for itself. This man knows that the personal is political, a phrase that goes back to the 70’s and to feminism… Unlike some he chooses not to separate the two artificially.

Uprooted

 

All summer I nurtured a small but vibrant hummingbird garden on the east side of the house, watering, pruning, loving… and two days ago a gopher moved in. I met him at 7 AM yesterday morning as he stuck his little head out of one of the holes he dug to the surface. Such a bright – eyed little creature! Gophers have miles of underground tunnels and this year many people are exclaiming over gopher mounds that are appearing in such massive numbers that I am frankly dumfounded and wondering what this behavior might be suggesting. Does this extensive tunneling have something to do with the drought? Many of gopher’s natural foods were decimated last summer, so perhaps gophers are compensating by creating even longer tunnels to reach any available food source?

 

All winter the gophers feast on tasty roots below the surface of the desert, and in the process they may kill plants but they also aerate the hard packed ground, creating places for wild seeds to take root, so I am accepting of the loss of my garden, although it saddens me that I put so much effort into creating a small oasis that fed such a multitude of bees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds.

 

It’s too late in the season to do anything with the perennials, but yesterday I dug up most of my cactus and re – potted them; all but one my friend Iren and I dug in the wild, and I am attached to each.

 

When I look at all the gopher mounds in what used to be my garden I can’t help wondering what this process of uprooting might mean for me on a personal level. It is my experience that Nature’s processes mirror my own in uncanny ways, perhaps because I have such an intimate relationship with creatures and plants in the wild.

 

One answer to this question comes in what I have learned about living in the desert for most of two years. This harsh environment spares no one. The fiery wall of summer heat is so intense that being exposed to this furnace over the course of even one season made me physically ill. There is a west wind that is also a killer – merciless – whipping parched ground into frenzied whirlwinds that make it impossible to walk, let alone see. Utter chaos. The drought withers even the hardiest plants. There is a dark side to living here that took me totally by surprise, because the high desert is also an astonishingly beautiful place with it’s amazing outcroppings of rock and chiseled canyons. The most precious have a water source that runs through them, and it is to these that I am drawn back to again and again.

 

I am learning that even having a small garden in the desert doesn’t work very well, and that it’s best to let Nature have her way. I did build a small rock garden to plant spring bulbs and lined it with hardware cloth (to deter hungry gophers), so hopefully I will have spring flowers to look forward to; I love them so. Perhaps one day I will build another raised garden for the hummingbirds if I continue stay here for the winter months. Even my present living conditions are too unstable to make that decision.

 

At this point I am living between two worlds – one in the north, the other to the south. I can’t take care of myself in Maine because there is too much snow to shovel, and here my poor body cannot handle the heat. Worst of all I have no money, so in two years I have come full circle with no solution in sight, except that promise I make to my body, not to subject her to further abuse. My dreams tell me that for now I must continue “to drive in the dark,” that a beloved tree is being uprooted, that the way through is unknown.

 

It does seem to me that gopher’s presence reflects the reality that I seem to have no year round roots that I can put down anywhere.

Norfolk Pine: How to Save a Tree During the Holidays

Close up of author’s “Tree of Life”

 

As a young child I remember going to tree farms to choose the beloved Christmas tree of the year. The fragrant scent of balsam was the last gift the annual tree presented us with as her needles dried, turned brown and dropped. I always remember feeling so sad that the tree was left to die after lighting up the house with twinkling lights.

 

When I married and moved to Monhegan Island, ten miles off the cost of Maine, I cut down my own Christmas tree in the forest. Since we had no electricity the tree was festooned with candles and homemade ornaments – I can still recall how beautiful that first tree was and after Christmas I couldn’t bare to throw it out so I made all kinds of bird treats and placed them on the tree outdoors, a tradition I continued until the day came when I couldn’t stand to cut one more tree to the ground…

 

At this point the first live tree, a Norfolk Pine, came to live with us. With a profound sense of relief flooding me, my new friend also became our Christmas tree, a tree that lived on long after the season ended. I didn’t miss the scent of balsam because I continued to go into the forest every year to tip boughs for at least three wreaths – one for outdoors, the other two to use in the house (proper tipping actually encourages new growth). I was astonished and delighted by the tree’s beautiful weeping branches and straight trunk, although I was a bit astounded at how fast she grew. I loved that tree and was also so grateful because she had solved the problem of tree slaughter for me.

 

When I first began celebrating the winter solstice after my children were in late adolescence, the tree complied quite happily. I still had my grandmother’s miniature white lights that always stayed cool when lit, so every year she continued to light up the night… I now understood because of my academic study of world mythology, that for me, this indoor tree embodied so much more than the season’s turning – She was the “Tree of Life.” No wonder I had such difficulty chopping down and throwing out trees, year after year.

 

When I moved from the coast to the western mountains of Maine that tree went with me. She was getting too big for me to lift, and I had to get help re –potting her. In the summer she loved being outdoors although the first year I gave her a sunburn by accident. I discovered she preferred the north side of the house.

 

Divorced, with absentee adult children I continued to drape her with lights for each winter solstice until the year my grandmothers lights stopped working. After that I stopped lighting my tree because I was afraid the new hot lights would stress and burn her needles. Instead I placed small animals and birds among her branches and hung crystals from her boughs.

 

Most exciting to me this year is that my new Norfolk Pine (who is actually a small forest of trees given to me by friend Iren) has chosen to sprout new growth in the fall instead of during the spring, possibly because I re-potted her in June, or because this tree “knows” that this is the season I celebrate all trees. Maybe both. The edges of her fronds are deep emerald green and bushy green sprouts top each tree. My bond with her/them runs deep, like a great underground river of song. I mist her every morning, touch her fronds and talk to her. With long starry nights upon us I have ringed her base with lights as I celebrate the joy of loving all trees even as the trees outdoors slip into their winter sleep…

 

With the holiday season approaching I am asking people who do buy live trees for their houses in the U.S. to consider a Norfolk Pine as their tree of choice. Large numbers of Norfolk Island Pines are produced in south Florida for the houseplant industry. The bulk of these are shipped to grocery stores, discount retailers and garden centers during November so these trees can be found everywhere. One caveat: Many are sprayed with a light coating of green paint or sliver/ gold glue prior to sale. Beware of spraying. This process will weaken and eventually kill the tree because it cannot photosynthesize. Also be aware of the fact that even a tabletop tree will eventually need more and more space. The one I have now is about as tall as I am and it occupies a pot that sits on the floor.

Here are a few tips from a plant woman who has been growing these trees for 40 some years:

Norfolk Pines need protection from direct sunlight especially in the southern states. They love a room full of indirect light, skylights etc. but will not tolerate direct sun unless it’s in the winter (or unless you are willing to expose the tree very gradually to sunlight over a period of weeks). Feed your tree a good fertilizer every three months except during November, December, and January, the months trees need to rest. Be careful with watering. Pay attention to your tree! Don’t let your pine get too dry. Don’t leave standing water in the pot that lasts more than a few hours. An over watered tree will slowly lose precious roots to rot. At first you will note that the tree has little or no new growth during the spring months, and finally one day (this can take years) you will find it has fallen out of its pot quite rootless. In the winter especially, mist your tree daily; the tree will appreciate the moisture. I re pot only when the tree’s roots are sticking out of the bottom of the container, preferably in the fall. Once a tree gets too large re- pot in the same sized pot after pulling away some roots to make space for new soil. If you follow these simple steps you will have a tree purifying the air in your house, and a delightful Christmas/Solstice/ Tree of Life to accompany you through those long winter nights for years to come.

North Country Woman

A white Beaver moon

awakens me at midnight

her light so brilliant

I arise, startled –

Imagining a different window…

a cedar beyond the door.

 

I gaze into the field

of the grandmothers

shivering frost covered grasses

listening…

Water and stone

engage in intimate conversation

as a disappearing river flows

into white sand.

Unable to return the sea

her life blood is cut away.

 

Wandering about

showered in sliver light

I feel awe –

I spun a nest of warmth

for my dearest companions,

bird, dogs, and trees

out of a cosmic void.

And wonder why I am

still missing that other…

 

A little cabin in the woods

in the Northland…

where bears and flying squirrels

Foxes, coyotes, coy –wolves

frogs and toads

deer and mink find comfort

under boughs of sweet balsam

on windswept nights,

seek intimacy and friendship

with hungry hearts and eyes.

 

Here in the desert I find tracks.

But the animals that made them

are absentee friends…

And I am lonely for the field of

Wild Animal Grace

that comes to life

as deer bed down

in heavy snow

outside my door.

 

How do I reconcile the two?

My love for dear friends,

sparse desert scrub,

red willow, and cottonwood

and the haunting Voice from the other?

 

A North Country Woman

still calls my name.

Thanksgiving

( My Norfolk pine(s) soaking in the sun…)

 

Each November as we enter the dark time of the year I begin my celebration of the trees. In retrospect this honoring of trees probably began when I was a small child who followed her mother into the woods each November to tip and gather branches from the evergreens to make a wreath.

 

By the time we return to Nature’s time I have gathered graceful boughs, arranged them around the house and placed miniature lights on the surface of the fronds. This year I have a Norfolk Island Pine whose base is also ringed with white lights. When the sun makes its descent and dusk gathers me in her embrace the twinkling blue, green (to symbolize my love for earth and sky) and white lights ( to symbolize winter) of the boughs bathe the house in a warm glow as I give thanks for the life of every tree on this planet. This year the house is festooned with greens from juniper, pinion, spruce, and cypress.

 

This lighting of the boughs and intentionally giving thanks will continue each night for me until “First Light,” or “the day the Bear Returns to Life,” an ancient Indigenous feast that occurs on or around February 2nd, the first celebration after the wheel turns at winter solstice.

 

In addition to the boughs I recently constructed the frames for the two wreaths that will  soon grace this house just as they have every other home we have lived in.

 

My “Thanksgiving” consists of lighting all the tree boughs, sitting on the floor by the wood stove, weaving evergreen branches into a wreath, and remembering special trees that I loved, some that I lost…

 

My grandmother’s golden apple tree was the first…As a child my grandmother would awaken me on moonlit nights to gaze at the deer that gathered round to eat the golden apples that fell to the ground each fall. Memories of the bountiful tree, a white moon, the silhouettes of the does or bucks (they didn’t come together) must have transported me into another dimension because that memory is etched so vividly in my mind. When the old tree began to lose branches my grandfather chopped her down, and for years after I “saw” a tree where none existed.

 

The summer before last I returned to Maine and discovered to my horror that the cedar I had planted as a seedling about 15 years ago had been so decimated by hungry deer that virtually all her leaves were gone. Only a parched skeleton remained standing. I knew what I had to do. It takes trees a long time to die, and to shorten her suffering I took my handsaw and felled the tree with such a multitude of tears flowing that I couldn’t see. I not only had lost a dear friend but I lost my House Guardian, for this tree had been planted with this clear intention. Like the golden apple tree I “saw” my cedar every time I walked out of my house for the four months I stayed there. Tree spirits/souls are powerful beings and their presence remains long after their death.

 

That same summer, about a week before leaving for Abiquiu I was walking in the woods when a cedar seedling spoke to me; “uproot me, I will come with you,” she whispered in a small voice. I listened. Following her directions I bent over and gently nudged the moist soil with my fingers and just as she had instructed the tree dislodged itself almost without assistance. Frankly, I was stunned, but knew too this tree would be coming with me no matter what (by the way, the last thing I needed was another plant in my car). Presently she reposes in a pot on the windowsill behind the pine. Trees like company. This little cedar has doubled in size within the year. So here in Abiquiu, I have two trees living inside the house and the story of how the pine came to me is a particularly joyous one that I want to share…

 

When I moved into this adobe my very sensitive and caring friend Iren showered me with gifts… three of her magnificent paintings hang on these walls, and she also gave me her tree!

 

The hardest part of leaving Maine was leaving my Norfolk Island Pine behind. She had been with me for so many years and now here she was again in another incarnation! I couldn’t believe it. I immediately re – potted my new friend and that’s when I realized that like my other pine, this one was actually a miniature tree forest with three trees in one container! All summer I talked to her/ them, touched multiple fronds lovingly, and looked for new growth. But it wasn’t until September that I noticed the first emerald sprouts. Delicate lacy fronds were inching towards the light. Since then top knots have doubled in size and each of the three trees has new luminous green growth. I am so thrilled, so grateful; those three trees and I have become part of each other in a very short time.

 

I can’t finish this tree reflection without including my outdoor tree, a newly adopted juniper that is about the same size as the cedar I lost in Maine. Last summer was the most devastating season I have ever lived through in 74 years. The heat was intolerable. The terrifying drought withered grasses, trees and bushes lost leaves prematurely, wildflowers ceased to bloom, sagebrush and scrub stayed gray with thirst and worst of all for me was the fact that I could hear the trees screaming for water. All plants can live without nutrients for a time, but none can live without adequate moisture. Trees by the hundreds of thousands were also burning in wildfires that were out of control and the smoke from dying trees made me physically ill. With death stalking me from every direction, I was overwhelmed with fear and grief.

 

In feeble protest, before the dawning of each day, I watered my solitary juniper. I couldn’t save them all but maybe I could help this one… it seemed like such a hopeless, even pitiful action, yet I continued watering. Today I look out the window at a thriving juniper, one who has added a foot to her girth and height and I remind myself that even saving one tree means something

 

This year my prayer for the trees is that they receive enough moisture to set buds, continue to photosynthesize, transpire, to find and absorb enough water underground to sustain them, to communicate through their complex root systems perhaps developing new strategies for surviving Climate Change – or not. Most of all, I hope that each tree can rest; the drought has stolen so much of their precious life energy…

 

On my Thanksgiving day as I weave each bough into the Circle of Tree Becoming I will be saying a prayer for their continued existence, reminding myself that without trees to provide us with oxygen to breathe, life as we know it will cease to exist.

 

In a couple of days when November’s full Beaver Moon rises over the trees I will also ask for a World Tree Blessing.

Birds from the Beyond

(Above: Snow geese in flight)

 

In the eastern pre-dawn glow I watched the Sand hill Cranes drift out of the pale blue, their gracefully downward curved gray wings and extended feet gently touching the field as the Earth and I witnessed this most gracious of descents. Their haunting cries strike a note like no other, leaving wonder in their wake…

 

To begin this day with roses in the sky, the appearance of these birds, followed by a luminous sunrise was a gift that transported me back to the Bosque del Apache where I witnessed these birds as individuals and as huge flocks soaring over my head by the hundreds, their long graceful necks and heads, full bodies and great gray outstretched wings responding to some collective cue that determined their immediate direction.

 

What struck me forcibly was how these birds interact intimately, as individuals and as a group. My first moments at the Bosque were spent at one of the ponds where I was able to listen to individuals calling out to each other from at least four directions while being answered by those on the water, long before small groups appeared on the horizon to join the twelve in front of me. Their individual conversation is as astonishingly musical, and so constant that I am left marveling over what these exchanges might mean…

 

Collectively these birds do not exhibit any particular flight pattern as they fly in pairs or groups from one feeding place to another on the sedge covered, cattail tipped, rust colored marshes, but then most will winter here until spring migration calls them home to the North…

 

The Snow geese were another matter entirely. Whenever they took flight they did so en masse and to see hundreds – even thousands of these birds circling in the air a number of times before deciding upon a direction – pure white feathers against an azure sky – was bewildering, almost beyond comprehension.

 

The “bird woman” in me has never had an experience that could compare with visiting this Refuge. I spent the entire visit in a state of mind-body awe. Not only is the location astonishing – great brown reptilian dragons stretching across the plains – deep blue, and apparently endless marshlands mirroring the sky, coupled by the many species of birds that winter over in this place made bird watching a Miracle of Life.

 

Before the trip I asked myself what was most important to me about this upcoming adventure into bird – land. I could answer this question with ease: Being fully present for the experience. Armed with the knowledge that my good camera and binoculars would interfere with being emotionally present I wisely left both behind. I took my IPhone to snap a few effortless pictures.

 

In retrospect I am even more grateful than I could have imagined about making this choice because I carry the sight and sounds of this ‘Vision of Bosque’ in my body and mind on a level that allows me to return to the Refuge, a place where time ceases to exist, without effort.

 

This morning the appearance of these same cranes was the trigger, but I note that almost any natural occurrence acts as a pathway to the birds at the Bosque – the willows that have turned rose red with the first frost outside my window, or the daily appearance of my flicker are perfect examples.

 

In a very real sense some part of me found a home at the Bosque del Apache, and remains there with my avian friends; a woman with wings who takes to the air as a new dawn draws near…

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(dawn at the Bosque – cranes on the water – snow geese in the air)

A Crack Between Worlds?

 

The day after the November election I found parts of a road-killed owl after walking just a short distance beyond a bird that hadn’t been there minutes ago. Oh no, not an owl. Initially, although I was deeply distressed that I had found a dead owl, I was relieved that it wasn’t a great horned owl, my latest familiar.

 

Owls, women, and wisdom have been an aspect of our mythology millennia before the Greeks created Athena, goddess of war, (born from Zeus’s neck). How can any male identified woman become a “goddess of wisdom” when only a male perspective is acknowledged? Leave it to the Greeks I thought in disgust. We are still stuck with Plato and Aristotle…

 

All that was left on the road was one bloody but still perfect wing and one talon; both were still warm. I carefully picked both body parts up and brought them home to clean and dry. The outstretched wing of the Saw Whet owl now occupies a place of honor below the Nicho that contains broken potsherds of the Anasazi and a broken micacious pot I bought for myself on my birth day. The South is the direction that makes sacred the fragments of broken cultures and bodies, past and present through witnessing and feeling what is, both joyful and horrific.

 

For the past year I have been in an intimate relationship with great horned owls that sang to me from the white pines in Maine and followed me here to New Mexico hooting from the Cottonwoods. And during this period because of my relationship with owls I have been able to make a final peace with the woman, my mother, who betrayed her only daughter by being male identified, teaching her how to do the same…

 

As I cleaned the wing I remembered the little dream catcher that I had made for my mother on her birthday long ago… I used the feathers of a dead Saw Whet owl that had been road killed. My mother loved that present… Women and all owls, I reminded myself have been intertwined since the dawn of humankind with one shapeshifting into the other, and owls are women with wings who see through unholy darkness and delusion.  It is these women who are capable of attaining wisdom.

 

The synchronicity associated with finding the dead body of any owl the morning after the election left me uneasy but finding this particular half eaten owl seemed to have a personal aspect to it. Long ago I had learned that I frequently tapped into the collective through personal experiences with Nature. If I had what was the message? Then I remembered a poem I had written about owls coming through the crack between worlds… manifesting in ordinary time. (I hoped that finding the owl didn’t mean that I would lose my new psychic connection to my dead mother- if I did who or what was going to fill that void in space?) The dead owl might indicate that my mother was starting to manifest in some concrete way and also that collectively woman’s power was on the rise. Although finding only one wing and talon indicated that my mother’s influence might only be periodic, and on a cultural level woman’s power was still very damaged with half the female population betraying the other by remaining male identified or indifferent it was still something. Out of death comes life…

 

The election results still lay over me, heavy like a shroud, wrapping me in a sticky white spider’s web of fear. I wanted to pull genuine hope out of what had happened. I hung onto the thread that some women had been elected to the House, that two were Indigenous, some Black, others Latino – Diversity was inherent in these choices but I also knew that women’s solidarity was sorely lacking, and it remained to be seen whether these women would act as woman – centered individuals.

 

The few token women in politics seemed to be male identified, siding with the “good old boys” who held most of the political power. I didn’t know the statistics yet but I guessed that similar to the horrific 2016 Presidential election most white Republican women voted for power over (still true). These women “stood behind their men”, mimicking their positions and excusing egregious actions because they were unable to stand alone. Emotionally bankrupt and dependent, they lived their lives through the men they supported betraying women as a group and as individuals in the most painful of ways even as they betrayed themselves. How many strong, bright, competent, brilliant women did I know that allowed a lesser man lead them around by the nose? Too many.

 

After having been a woman’s advocate for so many years I had just come through a personal crisis thanks to the Kavanaugh travesty that forced me to take a new position towards women who betrayed themselves and other women by taking a neutral position regarding rape, or even worse supporting perpetrators directly or by making excuses for the one male who had endured abuse from an angry abused woman. Rape of any woman was a crime against all women. Rape of any woman was a crime against all humanity. I was finally able to give myself permission to separate from these female impersonators without guilt. What I was also able to do was to forgive them, knowing that but for some grace, intense personal suffering and an enormous amount of work I might still be one of them…

 

Along with the mountains of grief that I had been carrying for so long over betrayal of women by women and the rape of the earth I was also able to feel my rage, and hoped I could use this friendly red dragon wisely.

 

Rage allowed me to tap into my own power, and galvanized me to keep writing on behalf of abused women and the planet. It also helped me with crushing depression. Over the past two years I had fallen deeper and deeper under the spell of a madman and his minions who were running this country, riding the horses of unbridled power, hatred, and misogyny.

 

Thinking about woman – centered women coming into office offered me a flickering light in the growing darkness of humanity. But I also knew the chilling fact that the Senate had gained Republican seats. This suggested the obvious – that power and hatred were still “winning” in spite of the apparent successful takeover of the House. (So many seemed to be inexorably drawn to a power driven demented man that cared nothing for humanity and openly despised women and the earth).

 

As things stand now we are headed towards another holocaust.

 

I had to face it. The future still looked dark but the manifest presence of even one wing and talon of the owl now suggested to me that “the women with wings,” women centered women, might be manifesting in a concrete new way. The flickers of hope fanned more flames…

 

At the time of this writing I am choosing hope as I put my faith in owls and “the women with wings,” the women who, if they can garner more female support, can lead us out of this unholy darkness into the sweet stillness of long winter nights.

 

It is with deep humility that I throw myself on the mercy of Nature asking for her support. I need to hold onto this awareness to keep on advocating for women, for animals, for trees, for the Earth, not with guns, not by murdering innocent people, not by building more walls, not through war but through interconnectedness – and by remembering who I am – a woman who loves women – a woman with wings of her own – a woman who deeply respects the woman she has become. Compassion, forgiveness, and ruthless honesty are the weapons I wield; these are the bones of my authentic woman – power.

 

I make this commitment on one of the two holidays we celebrate for the “heroes of war,” Veteran’s day… one of only two days a year American’s celebrate their dead… Let’s remember that as we celebrate this day we also tacitly support the normality of rape in war.

 

The irony does not escape me.