The Cloud Person is a Crane?


(On the way to the Bosque…)


Meandering through

heart shaped

Cottonwood leaves

crunching under foot

Dream words surface.

“The Southwest is Drying Up.”

Didn’t I know that?

There must be more to this story…


Beneath trees and scrub

a rustling root thought:

If only I could feel

what I think I know –

clear this conditioned mind.

My body,

Earth’s body

echo identical


One encompasses the whole,

the other a fragment.


Something is walking beside me.


To feel a cloud

Presence hovering

is no illusion.

Still air moves with me.


Something is walking beside me.


The Heart of Nature

strikes a primordial drum –

sings a song of Belonging.

Midnight fades..

Dawn breathes pale pink and gold…

Even in my yearning

a prehistoric Crane cries out:

“A Cloud Person

Loves you.”



Working Notes:


“This is a great poem even if it isn’t” I heard myself say!


Laughter bubbled up.


True, I realized because poetry arises from the heart…and always addresses truth of one kind or the other. That’s what makes it great.




Yesterday in the Bosque while walking through the scrub and under the cottonwoods I gradually became aware of a presence of some kind that was hovering around me like a cloud. I heard and saw 2 beloved cranes that I consider my spirit birds – whatever that means – and was feeling quite thankful in general. I never feel alone in the woods at home or here the Bosque but this feeling of personage was different – almost like someone invisible was walking with me. And  I have never experienced this feeling before with so much awareness. What was this presence? The trees, the air, the fact that the Bosque is my refuge? My own soul? Possibly spirit? I don’t know but I trusted its beneficence…


This morning I also had a dream that said the “southwest” was drying up – since this is obviously the direction we are going in – the dream couldn’t have meant that unless the Earth is reinforcing what I think I know? And I doubt that. I was thinking about this dream while in the Bosque noticing again that walking early in the morning seems to lessen what feels like a negative dream effect.


Finally, after writing this poem I believe I unraveled the meaning behind the dream I had this morning.

Willow Magic


Pussy Willows


The Willow Family (Salicaceae)


Every morning on my way to the Bosque I keep a sharp eye out for subtle changes in the color of the Coyote Willows – Salix exigua – that line the ditches and the river. In a month or so these slender shoots and bushes will turn burnt orange or a deep rose red depending upon their pigments and perhaps the soil in which they are planted. Here in Abiquiu they signal that spring is on the way. These flexible fronds are used by so many Indigenous peoples to make baskets, trays, etc – some even use them as thread. What I love best is their shape-shifting color especially when framed against an azure sky.


Because I have two home places I also think of another willow – Salix discolor – commonly called the native Pussy Willow. By mid February I am impatiently waiting for the first fuzzy paws to appear on the bushy branches of the pussy willows on my property. In Maine, winters are long and the advent of the pussy willow signals the coming shift of seasons long before it becomes apparent in more obvious ways, except for the warming sun. Snowfall is often heaviest during this month, and I have been known to tramp through heavy snow on snowshoes to reach some of my favorite clumps. I clip a few twigs from each bunch to put in the house.


All willows are flowering plants that have abundant watery bark sap which is heavily charged with salicylic acid – the precursor of aspirin – soft, usually pliant, tough wood, slender branches, and large, fibrous roots with an astonishing ability to anchor themselves securely to the ground even when water is rushing by. The roots are remarkable for their toughness, size, and willows readily sprout from the aerial parts of the plant.


Few folks know that willows (true for other members of this family too – cottonwoods, aspen, poplar) absorb poisons like lead and other toxins cleansing the earth and water of pollutants wherever they happen to grow. In my opinion, we should all take a few moments to give thanks for having such ‘giving trees’. In Maine, some of my poplars are diseased, and I have often wondered if this is a result of their penchant for removing toxins from the ground and also contributes to these trees’ and plants having a short life – span.


Willows are among the earliest woody plants to leaf out in spring and the last to drop their leaves in autumn. Leaf out may occur as early as February depending on the climate and is stimulated by air temperature. If daytime highs reach 55 °F for a few consecutive days, most willows will attempt to put out leaves and flowers. Leaf drop in autumn occurs when day length shortens to approximately ten and a half hours. This dropping of leaves varies by latitude occurring as early as the first week of October for boreal species and as late as the third week of December for willows growing in far southern areas. This January while visiting the Bosque Del Apache to be with the Sandhill cranes for the second time this year I discovered clumps of willows that had not dropped their leaves at all.


The buds form along the branch and are usually covered by a single scale that acts like a cap. This is especially obvious on pussy willow branches. Most leaves of willows are slender and feathery – quite delicate and graceful. The colors of the leaves vary depending upon the type.


The flowers possess both and female catkins on separate clumps and often they appear before the leaves. The pussy willow paw is a catkin in the making.


Willows are often planted on the borders of streams if they aren’t already growing there naturally, so their interlacing roots may protect the bank against flooding water. Frequently, like the coyote willow, the roots are much larger than the stem that grows from them. Just try to uproot one and you will be in for a surprise!


Willows are important in other ways. For some native pollinators, willows offer the first, important source of pollen and nectar (this is definitely true for pussy willows). Look closely at the male catkins that follow the buds and you will see a roil of small wasps, ants and bees and varieties of flies all crawling, burrowing around while foraging the flowers for nectar and pollen.


Some list willows as second only to oaks in value as host trees for butterflies and moths like the mourning cloak, sphinx and viceroy.


Leafrollers, sawflies, borers, midges and gall gnats produce an ornamental aberration called a pine-cone gall, easily visible on twig tips when willows shed their leaves. All of these represent long-evolved plant-insect associations, not to be confused with infestations more often caused by introduced insects.


Willows comprise North America’s largest genus of tree-like plants. There are approximately one hundred species plus a number of hybrids. Most willows are short-lived.


Willows have a wide natural distribution from the tropics to the arctic zones and are extensively cultivated around the world.


In Maine ‘an old field speckled with budding pussy willows is like a constellation come to earth, descended from the heavens and hovering just above the ground’


In Abiquiu the advent of spring bursts with the glorious burnished golden sheen of the coyote willow!

Nature’s Gold – The Aspens



Nature’s Gold – The Aspen


Every morning I set off to the river and to my refuge, the Bosque, walking under dying cottonwoods whose bark is peeling away from dead tree limbs. Just in the past summer a few of these magnificent matriarchs have crashed to earth providing nutrients that will one day support some other kind of ‘tree of life’.


My dreams tell me that new as yet unknown species will begin life here, offering me comfort because as a dreamer I have learned that my dreaming body knows what I do not, no doubt because she is attached to the body of this precious earth.


When I pass by the coyote willows I think about how cottonwoods, aspens, and poplars are part of the Willow family. Recent genetic testing reveals that this diverse group also includes passiflora (my beloved passionflowers) and wild violets too! – I was astonished by this last piece of information until I realized that all require adequate water to thrive.


Coming from the Northeast where quaking aspen can be found throughout the state of Maine I was still surprised to learn that these trees stretch across the entire continent. Aspens hold the title of being the most widespread tree in North America. They can be found from the Midwest, across Canada, north into Alaska and across the West through to Arizona and into New Mexico.


One aspen tree is actually only a small part of a larger organism. A stand or group of aspen trees is considered a singular organism with its central life force hidden underground in an extensive root system that I think is analogous to the human brain (I am not alone in this speculation). Before a solitary aspen trunk appears above the surface, the root system may lie dormant for many years until conditions are just right. In a single stand, each tree is a genetic replicate of the other, hence the name – a “clone” of aspens used to describe a stand.


Older than the massive Sequoias or the Bristlecone Pines, when the Pando clone was discovered, scientists named it with a Latin word that means “I spread.” Pando is an aspen clone that originated from a single seed and increases by sending up new shoots from its underground expanding and complex root system.

Pando is believed to be the largest, most dense organism ever found on earth. It weighs nearly 13 million pounds (6,600 tons). The clone spreads over 106 acres, consisting of over 40,000 individual trees. The exact age of the clone and its root system is difficult to calculate, but it is estimated to have started at the end of the last ice age. It was first recognized by researchers in the 1970s and more recently proven by geneticists. Its massive size, weight, and prehistoric age have caused worldwide fame.

Located in central Utah (Fishlake National Forest), Pando is dressed in verdant green throughout the summer. Her fluttering leaves bring relief from summer’s intense basin heat. In autumn the oranges and yellows and sometimes crimson leaves rival the most spectacular New Mexican sunset.

However, there is deep cause for concern because Pando is showing signs of decline. The organism is not regenerating, invasive insects are present, as are diseases. Unfortunately throughout the west, diebacks of other aspen stands are becoming more common. No one mentions climate change or loss of habitat as an issue.

The prevailing logic is that even if the trees of any stand are wiped out, it is still difficult to extinguish an aspen’s root system permanently due to the rapid rate in which it reproduces, thus there is hope.

It’s hard to decide what is most memorable about aspen: the vibrant gold leaves in fall, the startling pearl white stands, or the magical sound of the “quaking” leaves.

Among swaths of dark green conifers, the deciduous aspen stands thrive in a variety of environments. Aspens quickly colonize recently burned or bare areas (with birches in areas that support the latter like they do in Maine). They prefer moist soil but can survive near springs in desert conditions. Like the rest of the willow family these trees must have access to water. Because the Southwest is under siege from increasing drought as a result of climate change, I wonder if lack of adequate water is the reason why these trees are not regenerating.


One of the most fascinating aspects of aspens is that they grow all winter, a fact I didn’t know, but should have suspected because the trees around my house have a greenish cast. Beneath the thin, white outer bark layer is a thin green photosynthetic layer that allows the tree to create sugars and grow when other deciduous trees are dormant. This characteristic is unique among deciduous trees. During hard winters, the green, sugary layer provides necessary nutrients for deer and elk. Throughout the year, young aspens provide food for a variety of animals including moose, black bears, beaver, porcupine, grouse and rodents.


Perhaps most impressively, quaking aspen along with sister species (distributed in Europe and Asia) occupy the broadest range of any tree species in the world. Why is that so? Possibly one reason might be because the bark carries out photosynthesis all year long allowing the stands to expand their geographic range.


Aspen drops its leaves in winter but, of course, remains alive and thus requires metabolic energy. The soft tan to greenish hues often visible in aspen bark mark an important photosynthetic capability provided by the differing levels of chloroplasts. Stem photosynthesis contributes significantly to aspen’s over-wintering survival capabilities. The disadvantages of this type of bark include low fire resistance, ease with which people carve their initials in these trees creating space for disease to enter, and that the trees are an excellent food source for elk, deer etc. Numerous insects and fungi that attack the bark are also considered potential problems.

Aspen form individual patches comprised of numerous stems, each with its own trunk, branches, leaves and a shared root system. All of these structures originally arose from a single aspen seed that germinated in the distant past; The patches remain connected via root systems, and if the root system between patches is severed, the patches form physiologically separate clumps but are generally still considered part of the same clone because they are composed of genetically identical parts. The boundaries of different clones stand out most clearly in the early spring when flowering and leafing-out occur (in that order). Aspen have male and female catkins, unlike the majority of tree species, which support both male and female reproductive parts on each individual.


During early spring in an aspen clone the reproductive male catkins produce pollen while the female produces eggs. Huge numbers of viable, tiny seeds mature and float off from the female on a tangle of cotton-like seed hairs that catch air currents, sometimes traveling great distances. Immediately after shedding their pollen and seeds, the clones then produce leaves that usually appear at the same time in all stems of a given clone revealing the boundaries between clones most visibly. In the fall the striking leaf colors do not mark clonial boundaries as reliably because the chemical processes that produce the colors tend to be very sensitive to local micro-climate conditions. A single clone may also exhibit multiple colors simultaneously. In aspen, all the pigments that give rise to these glorious colors can be found in the leaf from spring all the way through fall when the aspen begin to first break down the green chlorophyll molecules that are responsible for spring and summer color. Other pigment molecules then become more and more visible.


For many years, most western forest ecologists thought aspen reproduction from seeds was rare. However, it turns out that successful establishment of aspen via seeds occurs more frequently than previously believed. The ability of aspen to produce whole stands of “trees” vegetatively provides yet another key element in explaining the species’ ability to occupy huge geographic ranges.

There are several benefits of asexual expansion. The clones share resources. One part of a clone might be near an important water source and share its water with drier parts of the clone while those in a drier area may have greater access to the vital soil nutrient, phosphorous, and share that resource with those that are low in this nutrient.


Quaking aspen also tends to be a disturbed habitat species, meaning it often lives where avalanches, mudslides and fires occur frequently. So both the regenerative capability and the clonal reproductive capability allow aspen to initially establish or to re-establish into an area after disturbances like mud slides occur. Similar patterns often follow forest fires. Rarely will a fire burn hot enough to kill the entire root system from which these stems arise, so an individual clone may occupy a given space and be completely wiped out on the surface but re-grow from the root system many times.


If an aspen stand does not experience periodic disturbances such as natural fire or avalanche, more shade-tolerant conifers tend to establish and shade out the high-light-requiring aspen stems. If the disturbances are too frequent, then the clone cannot spread.

Clone structure varies with geography but also varies due to the strong influences of rainfall and relative humidity. The largest clones generally occur in semi-arid environments such as the mountains of the western and southwestern US. Clones tend to be smaller in areas where the climate supports seed germination.

The last particular attribute of quaking aspen important in contributing to its ability to occupy huge ranges derives from the comparatively high level of genetic variability among clones. These interclonal levels of variability provide raw material for evolutionary change across generational times. The large number of seeds produced from genetically variable sources generates an enormous array of potentially successful genotypes for establishment in newly opened areas and probably takes place at higher rates.

One of the most enchanting aspects of aspen is their ability to quake and tremble in the slightest breeze. Why do quaking aspen leaves quake and tremble? This is due to the physical structure of the leaf stem which traces a flat, oblong, elliptical pattern when viewed in cross section so it has strength in one dimension and minimal strength in the second dimension, so even a gentle wind causes produces movement and a hypnotic sound. Plant physiologists have pointed out several reasons for the trembling leaf behavior. They include minimizing the risk of too much sunlight as well as reducing the risk of overheating in intense, high elevation. Trembling also improves photosynthetic rates by keeping a fresh supply of carbon dioxide near the leaf surface where the plant takes up that compound. Insect damage may also be reduced by fluttering leaves.

This tree species seems to almost have it all: powerful, opportunistic, sexual reproduction, long-distance seed dispersal, effective vegetative spread, clonal reproduction, regeneration from roots, high levels of genetic variability, living bark and a potentially enormous life span.

And in my mind, Pando certainly represents one of the most remarkable “families” among all living organisms.



The language used to describe these remarkable organisms that cooperate by share root systems, information, and resources seems woefully inadequate. To call a phenomenal organism like Aspen a “clone”, although grammatically correct, is to reduce it to its lowest denominator. These trees live harmoniously within a family that supports the continuation of life, not just for one tree but for all its relatives. Most important this species has been self- sustaining for millennium.



Voices: Part 2


Passionflower Vine climbing the screen


My first unusual experience with a plant occurred when I was a baby. I had been set upon a blanket and left in the summer sun. Above me a large sunflower bowed her head. As I gazed up at the disk it suddenly began to expand growing larger and larger and then shrunk again, over and over. What I remember best is that it seemed to be pulsing both inside and outside me at once. I was fascinated but totally accepting of my experiential reality.


I don’t remember when I started to talk to plants but I was gathering flowers as a toddler. By the time I reached adolescence I knew that my love for plants was reciprocated; but I certainly couldn’t talk about this intimacy because high school science taught me that these relationships didn’t even exist. Secretly, I reached the conclusion that I must be crazy.


It wasn’t until my late thirties that I began to hear tree and plant voices. They either spoke to me through dreams or through that same peculiar physical sensing or feeling/sense that seemed to come from inside and outside me at the same time. When they began uttering a simple word or phrase in response to questions I was thinking about or asking I was non – pulsed, dis-believing.


I rarely understood what the plants were trying to tell me. Trees were the exception; they told me in dreams (and through my physical senses by that peculiar pulsing) that because of humans whole forests were dying. I was also warned that the animals were going to disappear for good. These dreams and thoughts terrified me and I kept them to myself.


And then one day almost 40 years ago I became a plant. The dream seemed so utterly fantastic that I never forgot it:


I was a beautiful green vine that hugged the earth even as I crept along the ground; my tendrils seemed to be directing my movement along the forest floor but I had no idea what kind of plant I was or where I might be going.


By mid-life I was still dreaming catastrophic dreams about dying trees and animals but I had become a writer and began to advocate for nature in a creative way, an endeavor I continue today. Writing grounded me in my body and helped me to believe that someone might be listening. Maybe I could help the animals and plants survive?


I received a grant to study medicine plants with local shamans in Peru on one of the tributaries of the Amazon (I had become an herbalist early in my adult life), and two nights before my departure I dreamed a second vine dream:


I was the emerald green vine hugging the ground as I moved, only this time each of my leaves had huge eyes that were combing the forest floor.


During the course of these trips (I made three in all) the shamans “saw” that I was seer, someone who could read the future. Their recognition stunned me, especially since I didn’t really believe it myself. I eventually gained enough confidence to ask my teachers what the vine dreams might be trying to convey to me. Each shaman told me I needed to take Ayahuasca to find out. Dismay overwhelmed me. Two early experiences with marijuana had resulted in my having hallucinations in safe places. Here, I was alone in the jungle of Peru. I backed out.


A few months after my return to the states my neighbor gave me a passionflower cutting. I was thrilled! I had seen so many passionflower vines cascading over the river intertwined with a fantastic forest of trees and shrubbery. I kept passionflowers in my room in Peru and attempted to bring one home but the cutting froze en route.


There was something about the vine with its spiral tendrils that pulled me into a deeper relationship than I had previously experienced with any plant – or at least I was more aware of the strength of this particular relationship between the plant and myself. Some mornings I watched my passionflower climb through thin air her tendrils waving as she stretched towards the light. During these times it almost seemed to me that we shared a single mind. She moved almost imperceptibly and I would slip into a light trance to breathe with her as she crept along a ledge or window.


By the time I arrived in the desert I had a daughter plant and both mother and daughter vines came with me. I gave one away to a friend, and then the other one lost leaf after yellowing leaf, lingered, and then died ‘inexplicably’ with me begging her to live. During this period I was also in personal crisis and eventually became ill. It was impossible to escape the sense that this vine and I shared not only a mind but also a body.


I took a cutting from the “mother plant” and it rooted. Passionflowers re – entered my life and I was profoundly relieved. However, they no longer flowered for me with any regularity, or didn’t until I went home to Maine last summer. The one I nurtured there had a hundred blooms ready to open but a last minute crisis prevented me from bringing her back. I notice that although I love the flowers, that these days, it’s the presence of the vine that is so important to me.


Three weeks ago I potted cuttings that were pruned from one of the vines that had almost died during last summer’s absence (when I believed they were being cared for by someone who clearly neglected all my plants). I put the pot on the kitchen windowsill and within a week one tendril started up the screen and this is when I started asking all the cuttings to cover the area to help keep the late afternoon sun from streaming in because it hurt my eyes.


Of course, the vine is phototropic (it normally grows towards the light) so it is no surprise that the vines started to climb the screen but I am asking them every morning to climb to the right, not towards the south where the most sun shines, and the cuttings are complying with my request as I shower them with loving words, attention, and gratitude. Two days ago one tendril reached the top of the window and I asked her to turn right again. She did. I have absolute trust that this collaboration between us will continue.

(But what will happen to my vines when I leave again for Maine? This is currently my deepest concern. They seem to need me to be present for them on a physical level; reinforcing the reality that there is a very complex mind-body relationship between this plant and me).


Here in the house I am surrounded by green plants and two trees. Outside I have the Bosque. Every morning in the predawn hours I walk down by the river and into the bog with its cottonwoods and cattails, its scrub and wheat colored grasses. Pre dawn meandering allows me to enter an altered state as I traverse the Bosque in circles listening to faint tree murmuring, feeling Life bubbling up from under my feet. It wasn’t until I came to the desert that I learned that I have to have trees and plants around me to thrive, and outside the Bosque provides me with trees that tower over my head. Frequently, I have illuminations or the meaning of a dream becomes crystal clear in this tree and plant refuge.


The day before yesterday I had revelation in the Bosque that stunned me.


I “saw” the leaves of the emerald vine/self of my two dreams the first of which, I had almost 40 years ago. I was a passionflower snaking her way along the jungle floor!


I suddenly understood exactly what those vines were trying to tell me. I needed to seek truths about my life and the future by putting my plant eyes and ears to the ground, allowing the emerald vine/self to take the lead. (Humans, including myself cannot see. My plant dreams were trying to convey that open spaces like the sky where transcendence replaces embodiment take us out of our bodies when we need desperately to inhabit them and turn our attention towards the Earth. Had we done this in time it might have made all the difference). The eyes and ears of my heart were embedded in the passionflower plant body who was not seeking outer light but rather darkness, a place of germination/birthing beneath the jungle floor. My plant was directing my attention to the inner light, a light only visible when surrounded by darkness. My present job is to continue this process –and to turn my attention to that which lives below to prepare for further instructions.


First, I need to deal with the reality of the inevitable extinction of a species that includes myself (how do we imagine not being?).


Then, when it’s time, New Life will begin to emerge from below the forest floor.





I wonder in retrospect if taking any drug could have helped me unravel the meaning behind these dreams earlier in my life. I draw the conclusion that ingesting a substance probably would have not have made a difference because I was still being drawn to the sky gods – the transcendent ones. Embodiment was a word that had not yet entered my vocabulary on a feeling level. Even though I was in love with the Earth I couldn’t allow myself to be “known” by her. Even today I still fear being held captive by the underworld of my dreaming body, just as I fear death; so it appears that I have to continue my life’s journey in hopes of learning how to come to terms with these two personal fears…

Voices : Part 1

The Work of Monica Gagliano


I have just finished “Thus Spoke the Plant” by Dr. Monica Gagliano. In her pioneering book on bio-acoustics (sound) Gagliano demonstrates for the first time that plants emit sounds that are heard by their neighbors who then respond to their environment in ways that are beneficial to the plants. Another way of saying this is to state that plants and trees have a voice.


Her research officially started in In Bristol England (2011) with maize. In the laboratory corn began speaking for the first time emitting loud and chirpy vegetal clicks. The instant I read these words in Gagliano’s book I remembered what Scientist Barbara Mc Clintock wrote about her ground breaking genetic work with Indian corn in the 1930’s. Mc Clintock discovered that chromosomes exchanged material during cell division (jumping genes). When the scientist revealed that the plants taught her – they spoke to her – she was ridiculed for it. But eventually this extraordinary woman won the Nobel Prize for Physiology in the 1980’s anyway!


More recently (2014), Gagliano demonstrated through rigorous experiments that plants communicate with neighboring plants using sound even in a highly controlled laboratory situation where plants are totally isolated from each other. Plants also possess a memory; they can remember what they learn and adapt their behavior accordingly.


In one fascinating experiment with pea plants Gagliano asks whether plants can use sound to find a water source, and discovered that indeed seedlings could locate water not just through the moisture level in the soil but by listening to the sound of water even when it was some distance away.


Naturally, Gagliano’s work is controversial for two reasons. First, our scientific establishment is so well rooted in the rigid mechanistic paradigm that it either refuses to read the evidence presented or simply dismisses the work as nonsense even when experiments can be replicated (this is what happened to Gagliano). This frightening bias prevents innovative scientists from risking their careers by asking the kinds of questions that might allow us to understand more about the non – human species with whom we share the planet during these ever darkening times.


The second problem involves the language that is used to describe plant processes. Mechanistic scientists bristle when words like voicing, learning, listening, or remembering are used to describe what they consider to be purely mechanistic plant processes. Just recently I let a physicist read another article I had written in which I referred to nature as “S/he”. His heated, and to me, knee jerk response: “there is no such thing – nature has no gender” is not only incorrect; for example: Juniper trees are either male or female, and many plants possess transgender elements, but this kind of thinking slams the door on using language that might imply that nature possesses human – like elements with a sickening thud.


My question to the scientific establishment at large is: Why are mechanistic scientists so afraid of attributing possible sentience to non – human species who have been around for 450 million years like plants have?

Daughter of the Cranes


When I see them

I enter the Dreaming.

In the background

a jagged coat of barren

reptilian mountains

frames bountiful bodies

standing on stilts as

undulating necks,

crimson crowns

beaded eyes

dive below the surface

in search of last year’s grain.

Each deliberate step is taken

in syncopated rhythm

with those of nearby neighbors

Each three toed talon

pierces still waters.


Ruffling six foot wings

clasped close to form,

serpentine ropes dip and sway.

Cranes leap into thin air

when encountering old friends.

Parachute back down.

Relaxing into the calm mirror –

each one casts a silvery shadow

trilling, rattling, rolling, whirring,

brurrring with excitement

when greeting relatives.

Circling around before

making their descent,

cranes bounce off the field

as they land!


Always in communion

the echo makers converse

with others in nearby ponds

in the hushed chamber

of the lowlands-

a Bosque of Cottonwoods, lakes,

and reeds –

Cranes are always listening.


No wonder one can trust them.


As twilight deepens,

they fall soundly asleep,

thin billed domes

nestled deep in warm flesh,

scaly feet sunk under oozing mud.


They dream an ancient language

tapping into fields

of primal patterning

Indigenous knowledge

Earth’s current keening.

Cranes know that

only by attending will they survive.

During the night,

One bird stands sentry…


Next month

they will begin

the great migration

a bi -annual flight made

year after year for millennium.

Cranes return to the same locations

thousands of miles traversed when

‘North Country’ calls them home.


Upon arrival, the birds

paint their plumage brown

blending into last year’s

wetlands to escape detection.

Mothers hover over two eggs

sinking onto nests

braided out of reeds.

A most attentive Protector

scans horizon and sky.



One chick might

survive to make the return journey…


But for now

these sentient Beings

celebrate community

by the thousands,

feeding in harmony…


The tranquil ponds echo

with a symphony of sound so

compelling, so enchanting

that I am swept

into the Heart of Creation,

folded into feathery down,

cupped by Primeval Wings

fringed ashen cloaks –

immersed in Natural Grace.


Working Notes:


The Sandhill cranes are called the “Echo Makers” by the Anishinaabe who are culturally related Indigenous peoples that live in Canada and the United States. The tribes include the Odawa, Chippewa, Ojibwe Potawatomi, Cree, and Algonquin peoples.


There are seven primary clans of the Anishinaabe people; loon, crane, fish, bird, bear, marten, and deer. Note that birds as a whole are included separately. Traditionally, the Loon and Crane Clans worked together as leaders and eloquent storytellers respectively.


These tribes have a wonderful tale about a girl who is standing alone in a mountain meadow when the Sandhill cranes are passing overhead on their journey south. They circle around the young woman and gather her up in their great gray wings and fly away with her. She becomes a ‘Daughter of the Cranes’… and this is why before arriving at their northern location each spring the cranes circle around before they land. They do this in memory of the girl.


When I first read this story I recognized myself. I too am a Daughter of the Cranes.


Many Indigenous peoples believe that humans were once cranes and will be so again…



Cranes are receivers; they are always listening. Most westerners lack an ability to receive or to listen because most do not inhabit their bodies with any degree of awareness, if at all (this includes folks who spend time outdoors using the land instead of listening to her). The price for this inability is a split between body and mind, one that privileges mind, while dismissing body as irrelevant except as a machine. This makes humans very difficult to trust. It should be mentioned that because our feelings are carried in our bodies when we lose access to them we lose ourselves as well as being unable to be emotionally present for others in a meaningful way.


Being with Sandhill cranes allows me to enter their world in some non-ordinary way. I experience this oneness the moment I enter their field of influence; and the haunting crane calls – whirs, brring, trills, trumpeting – contribute to, and intensify this oneness. Whenever I am with them I am fully in the present moment. Nothing else matters. Although they are birds of the air I experience Cranes as being able to bridge the false western dichotomy that splits earth from sky to embrace/embody the Spirit/ Soul/Body of all there is.


Cranes are also prehistoric birds, 60 million years strong. It seems to me that they have access to truths on a level we can’t even imagine. It doesn’t surprise me that it is believed that they foretell the future or act as guides between worlds… They have for me.


Field notes of one of my crane experiences appear below:

Notes from Bosque:

“We found the cranes nearby and we left once and returned this time staying until sunset glorying in “the Echo Makers” – cranes coming in from all directions, one family at a time, and oh the sound was hypnotic – the air was still – the water like glass and the cranes were walking about feeding, brrring, trumpeting, rumbling, parachuting down with cupped wings onto the glassy water and leaping into the air calling to each other, welcoming mates and family. There were 3 areas – the first just to the front of us – one to the far left, and one far behind the larger pond all reflecting silvery light like a mirror -and with groups flying in for about two hours, some circling and dropping in front of us, some going to the left, and all in conversation – brrring, bugling, whirring – the sound was amazing and the birds in front picked their way through the shallows with heads sunk into mud, some in pairs and some isolated but all so peaceful – how did those flying in decide where to land? Great circular descents with those feathery fringed wings spread and legs dropping below them toes spread – they cushion landings by hopping back in the air – one was with a group that kept on flying towards the cranes gathering on the far left, but after a loud brrr from the ground, this one turned around in mid air and landed squawking. Another smaller crane immediately joined him and then another – do some fly separately during the day to different feeding places and then land on their return when they hear their mates/ family?…And all the time this intoxicating sound is resonating through my body. I am One with the experience of Crane, totally embodied, my mind recalling lore and mystery – “I love you,” I cried out at last to the darkening sky when we left. I loved it that the cranes were separate from the geese because I could hear “the Echo Makers” so clearly, each group’s conversation merged into a collective symphony and it wasn’t my imagination that the music came from every direction including the sky. We started out with about two dozen cranes and by the end of the day there were hundreds- maybe thousands, and oh yes, so many stayed out of the water huddled up on the far side of the marshes…. by nightfall my impression was that I was experiencing a world composed of these ancient birds, still waters, and sky and nothing else. Oh, those gray robed monks who stand in such stately grace – and when we left even more were flying in – it’s so open that even deep twilight is kind to the cranes. They must “see” through silver mirrors…..the sky reflects above and below – when the cranes move through shallow water they use a precise high stepping walk that seems so deliberate that one has the impression that it is has a syncopated rhythm especially when two or more cranes “high step” together. When in flight both head/neck and tail seem somehow equal in length and my impression is that in flight they appear white underneath…”

I haven’t heard the one group of 14 cranes that have stayed in Abiquiu for the winter for a few days. But whenever I write about them they come. As soon as I stopped this writing I heard them brrrring in unison -They reinforce the (heretical) truth that we are all interconnected and have the ability to communicate telepathically.

Tree Talk: Dr. Susan Simard


(Spirit Bear – Canadian temperate Rainforest)


Scientist Susan Simard is a professor of forest ecology at the University in Vancouver, British Columbia, who has been studying the below-ground fungal networks that connect trees and facilitate underground inter-tree communication and interaction. Over a period of more than thirty years this field scientist and her students have learned how fungi networks move water, carbon and nutrients such as nitrogen between and among trees as well as across species. Her research has demonstrated that these complex, symbiotic networks in our forests — at the hub of which stand what she calls the “mother trees” — mimic our own neural and social networks. This groundbreaking work on symbiotic plant communication has far-reaching implications that include developing sustainable ways to ‘manage’ forests, and to improve tree and plant resistance to pathogens. Although much of Simard’s research occurs in forests, she has also studied the underground systems of grasslands, wetlands, tundra and alpine ecosystems.


Under our feet there is a whole world of biological pathways that connect trees and allow them to communicate and share resources and information. Other scientists who study these networks (like Dr. Merlin Sheldrake) agree with Susan who suggests that the forest behaves as though it’s a single cohesive organism.


When Simard first studied forestry she discovered that the extent of the clear-cutting was alarming, and the spraying and hacking away of aspens and birches to make way for the more commercially valuable planted pines and firs was frightening. By the time she was doing graduate work scientists had discovered in the laboratory that one pine seedling root could transmit carbon to another pine seedling root, and Susan hypothesized that this kind of exchange was exactly what occurred in real forests. Although many believed she was crazy Susan finally procured funding for conducting experiments deep in the forest. She grew 80 replicates of three species: paper birch, Douglas fir, and western red cedar believing the birch and the fir would be involved in two way communication underground while the cedar would not (cedar and maple have a symbiotic relationship of their own). To test her idea she injected two isotopes of carbon into the trees (in plastic bags) and within an hour the birch and fir exchanged carbon through their root systems.

The carbon isotopes revealed that paper birch and Douglas fir were in a lively two-way conversation. It turns out at that time of the year, in the summer, that birch was sending more carbon to fir than fir was sending back to birch, especially when the fir was shaded. And then in later experiments, she found the opposite. Fir was sending more carbon to birch than birch was sending to fir, and this was because the fir was still growing while the birch was leafless. The two species were interdependent.

Douglas fir and birch were conversing not only in the language of carbon but also exchanged nitrogen, phosphorus, water, defense signals, allele (gene) chemicals and hormones.

Scientists already had learned that an underground mutualistic symbiosis called the ‘myco-net was involved in this exchange. Mushrooms are the above ground reproductive evidence of the underground fungal threads that form  mycelium, and that mycelium infects and colonizes the roots of all the trees and plants. And where the fungal cells interact with the root cells, there’s a trade of carbon for nutrients, and that fungus gets those nutrients by growing through the soil and coating every soil particle. The web is so dense that there can be hundreds of kilometers of mycelium under a single footstep. Mycelium connects different individuals in the forest, not just individuals of the same species but also works between species, like birch and fir. Hub or “mother trees” (can be male or female) have the most powerful fungal highways. These trees nurture their young, the ones growing in the understory. In a single forest, a mother tree can be connected to hundreds of other trees each of which can send excess carbon etc. through the mycorrhizal network to understory seedlings, but especially to their own kin. Mother trees recognize and colonize their kin with bigger mycorrhizal networks. They send them more carbon below ground. They even reduce their own root competition to create space for their seedlings to grow. When mother trees are injured or dying, they also send carbon and defense signals to the next generation of seedlings helping the youngsters to resist future stresses.Through back and forth conversations, trees increase the survival rate of the whole community.

What makes the forest so resilient is that there are many hub or mother trees and many overlapping networks.

Unfortunately forests are also vulnerable, vulnerable not only to natural disturbances like bark beetles that preferentially attack big old trees but also to clear-cut logging. It is possible to remove one or two hub trees but not many of them; there is a tipping point after which the whole system collapses.

Trees may not have nervous systems but they can feel what is happening and can experience something analogous to pain. When a tree is cut it sends out electrical signals like wounded human tissue does.

Thirty years ago Simard hoped that her initial discoveries would change the way forestry was practiced. She was wrong. Forestry practices remain the same everywhere. In 2014, the World Resources Institute reported that Canada had the highest forest disturbance rate of any country worldwide, and that includes Brazil.

Massive disturbance at this scale affects hydrological cycles, degrades wildlife habitat, and emits greenhouse gases back into the atmosphere, which creates more disturbance and more tree diebacks.

Worse, foresters continue to plant one or two species of trees for harvesting and weed out other trees like aspens and birches. These simplified forests lack complexity, and they’re really vulnerable to infections and insect infestation. As climate changes this is creating a perfect storm for extreme events to occur.

Simard explains her frustrations with Western science. “We don’t ask good questions about the interconnectedness of the forest, because we’re all trained as reductionists. We pick it apart and study one process at a time, even though we know these processes don’t happen in isolation. When I walk into a forest, I feel the spirit of the whole thing, everything working together in harmony, but we don’t have a way to map or measure that.” In her view her research and that of others is exposing the limitations of the Western scientific method itself.*

The one hope is that forests as complex systems have an enormous capacity to self-heal. Simard has demonstrated this capacity with recent experiments in which retention of hub trees, and careful patch cutting can lead to regeneration and recovering species diversity.

Simard leaves us with three simple solutions:

  • Spend time in your forest, grassland etc – learn about local conditions of that particular micro-climate.
  • Save our old growth forests – these are the repositories of genes, mother trees, and mycorrhizal networks. We need this information to be passed on to the next generation of trees to help them withstand future stresses (as of 2019 we have less than 3 percent of our old growth forests left)
  • We must regenerate our forests with a diversity of species and genotypes by planting and allow for natural regeneration to occur.

Because it is January, the time of year that bears give birth I want to close this essay with a bear – tree – carbon networking story. On the west coast in the Pacific temperate rainforests bears sit under trees and eat salmon leaving their carcasses behind. Researchers have discovered that the trees are absorbing salmon nitrogen and then sharing it with each other through the underground network. According to the Smithsonian this creates an interlinked system: fish forest fungi.

Someone forgot to mention the role that bears play in this story; the last sentence should read: bears, fish, forest, fungi.



Using reductionism and the scientific mechanistic paradigm as a baseline – scientists can think, intuit, even sense but they can’t be allowed to feel. Our bodies carry our feelings/emotions. When we refuse to credit emotional intelligence as a form of knowledge we cripple ourselves. Without using our capacity to feel we can’t help but distort our perceptions, skewing results – scientific or otherwise. We need all our faculties to problem solve efficiently…. Field scientists and ethologists like me probably have a better handle on this than most because we are looking at a bigger picture.

The Overstory


The power, mystery and wonder of the Greening at my home in Maine.

The Overstory

When I first begin reading The Overstory I felt an instant visceral connection to the writing because I had never come across a novel that linked trees to humans the way this book did, placing the brief span of a human life against the life of trees; overall the species have been around for 400 million years.


The Overstory is a kind of meta-narrative of old-growth forests, in all their wonder and diversity. Several overlapping and interlocking human understories are told by the characters while trees provide the background for some and the foreground for others. The book demonstrates through both ways that all life is interdependent and that what we do to the trees we are doing to ourselves. Some of the characters of The Overstory dedicate their lives to grappling with the seemingly impossible job of saving trees from extinction.

Patricia Westerford is a scientist whose love for trees has directed her entire professional life. She believes that trees are social beings. She became a scientist that dedicated her life to studying forests after having been taught by her father to ask questions about how and why trees grow. Her steadfast love and awe of trees/underground connections animates this woman who combines scientific knowledge with her deep love of forests. She makes a radical statement: Join enough living things together, through the air and underground, and you wind up with something that has intention. The entire forest is a living organism that cooperates above and below ground. When Patricia first posits that the bio – chemical behavior of trees makes sense only when we see them as complex living organisms she is told by other scientists that she is crazy. She withdraws from public attention to pursue her research until eventually it is supported by the work of other scientists. Patricia also makes a decision to gather the seeds of trees to store in a protected environment in order to safeguard them for the future. Her supportive and loving husband poses a question Patricia cannot answer: Who will be around to plant those seeds?

Olivia has no life purpose until she is electrocuted and when she comes back from the dead she begins to hear voices, and more importantly, begins to listen to them. The trees need our help; humans need help. As a fierce tree advocate “Maidenhair” goes to live in a Redwood, generating love and devotion from her four compatriots, love that sustains them after her horrific death.

Adam the psychologist asks the question: How do people manage to avoid seeing the obvious (environmental destruction for example). He believes that humans are not wired to see background changes that occur when they are distracted by the moment. His advocacy and civil disobedience land him in in jail for 140 years.

Mimi is introduced to a Mulberry tree as a child by her father who cares for this tree throughout his life. This man also endears himself to the discerning reader by apologizing to a bear! When the mulberry starts to fail, her father takes his own life, understanding that his life and the mulberry tree are intimately related. This act fosters Mimi’s advocacy as an adult.

Nick paints the four trees that have been planted by his parents for each sibling when he is five years old, and when one child dies as an adolescent he too recognizes the powerful relationship between humans and trees. This childhood experience influences his decision to become an activist.

Ray, a one – time lawyer realizes before his death that the earth’s lungs will be ripped out by humans who will let this happen.

Another character queries do trees have rights?

Each person speaks to the necessity of saving trees because no oxygen breathing species can survive without them. In order to reverse the trajectory that we are on the characters begin to understand that humans have to begin to see trees as sentient beings that are inextricably tied to us. Only then will we prioritize their survival; we are all connected as Indigenous peoples have been saying all long.

“The Forest is a threatened creature”.

Because I have lived my entire life in the context of trees also becoming a fierce advocate for them I suppose it is not surprising that I should choose to be born again as a tree, one that supports the continuation of life rather than destroying it.



Truth and Consequences



From a greater perspective it no longer matters that people dismiss the holocaust we have created, because life on earth is changing in ways that are forcing humans to confront the horrors of what we have done through climate change.


The earth is on fire, trees are being slaughtered by the billions, we suffer from air pollution because dead trees can no longer provide us with clean air. Loss of precious oxygen, potable water, fertile ground, massive flooding, overpopulation, – all are taking a death toll.


Of course, non-human species suffer first because they have no voices with which to protest, and the extinction of so many troubles few, but these fatalities are harder to ignore when humans begin dying too. In the U.S. we currently live in a bubble that is about to burst because soon we will be living the horrors the rest of the world is already facing. Educating didn’t work. Love was not enough.


Let’s face it, part of the problem lies with human selfishness. The majority, at least in this country, predicate their lives on pleasing themselves – such a self centered perspective is not seen anywhere else in Nature. For example, trees don’t focus their lives on “having fun”, or living in “virtual” reality, or knocking off the next adventure on their bucket list. Trees live mindful lives focused on serving others as well as themselves and are focused on the continuation of all life as a whole. This is not to say that trees don’t feel pleasure or joy or suffer intensely. Standing under a single healthy tree with an open heart, mind, and body allows the tree to communicate directly how much s/he celebrates being alive. Conversely, listening to a screaming tree starved for water will bring a person to her knees in tree grief. Trees also thrive on being loved, as anyone who tends to trees and plants like I do, can tell you. Trees and plants need to be cared about just like animals and people do.


Reciprocity is normalized in Nature; it is conditional between humans. What is wrong with this picture?


Those that are “red in tooth and claw” are humans who as a whole have not evolved into a species that is capable of caring for others (in particular non human species), or the Earth, our home.


I am not suggesting that all people are like this; some are not, but there are not many of us – and critical mass is required to shift any paradigm. In order to change the present story into one that supports life instead of destroying it humans have to make radical changes, and it is abundantly clear that the majority of people aren’t remotely interested.


“Extinction Illness,” a phrase originally coined by Deena Metzger, describes a state of being in which those of us who are sensitive enough to feel the catastrophic changes that are occurring on Earth are suffering with the planet and experiencing despair, hopelessness, and depression. We are in the minority.


A friend told me recently that she believed that humans can’t imagine “not being” and I think this statement is true. I know I can’t imagine my not being, (unless I place myself within the context of Nature as a whole).


The hole that will be opened up by the death of our kind (the youngest and most destructive species on earth) may create the space for a new unimaginable kind of beginning.


Sentient Nature possesses memory. S/he creates patterns and S/he is also evolving, so Nature is capable of annihilating whatever S/he creates that doesn’t support life as a whole. Allowing humans to evolve was a mistake, and Nature is much too wise to make the same error again. Earth will be habitable for perhaps four more billion years giving her time to create a kinder place, I believe, one in which extant species will be able to live more peaceful lives thriving as a community that focuses on life for all its species, not just one.


Human extinction is an illness that we will not recover from. And perhaps this is the greatest gift of all.


Postscript: Reaching this point of acceptance of ‘what is’ and ‘what will come’ has been a journey that has taken me a lifetime. In retrospect, my inability to let go of hope became the obstacle I could not overcome, because without clinging to hope what was left? I couldn’t know then that by experiencing this deep letting go that I would finally find peace and acceptance.

I want to make it abundantly clear that letting go and acceptance doesn’t mean that I don’t continue to grieve for what is being lost. I do. I am in love with the earth and her sentient beings, but I am also feeling peace knowing that the Earth will go on creating for a long time to come. And meanwhile there is NOW, and every day I find joy on my doorstep with each crane sighting, with each dog kiss, each predawn sky, each walk in the Bosque… I celebrate the gift of living a life of meaning. 

Flicker’s New Year’s Gift



Yesterday January 1st dawned clear and cold as I meandered through the frosted scrub and under the graceful Cottonwoods that line the Bosque by the river. I hadn’t planned on a walk because it was so frigid but the ethereal light that precedes the dawn often becomes a “calling” I cannot resist, pulling me towards the river regardless of practical intentions.


With the snow crunching under my feet I entered my usual meditative state without effort as I circled the bog, celebrating this time of deep inner stillness. Suddenly, an intention popped into the open space in my mind, one that I had not made as part of my ritual during this fluid turning of the seasons. The words flowed directly from the trees into my body without sound.


You are not responsible for others’ lack of awareness… Refuse to take responsibility for any person’s behavior except your own. Take care of yourself.”


I received this instruction quietly, enfolding the message deep in my heart as I set the intention and walked on.


I had heard similar words once before during the last month but had neglected to create the intention.


When I returned to the house I felt refreshed and full of gratitude for beginning this day in a state of grace.


It wasn’t until I heard him hammering that I remembered that every year on the first day of January, I am on the lookout for a message from the first bird of the year that captures my attention. After a long absence my beautiful orange – shafted flicker, my favorite woodpecker, had returned and was demolishing my suet cake with great enthusiasm.


As Flicker continued his rhythmic pounding on the east side of the house I thought of holes. Woodpeckers carve holes… what was his message?


These days when I walk to the river I see huge hunks of peeling bark pulling away from whitened Cottonwood limbs but I no longer hear woodpecker hammering. The life giving cambium layer is dead on many of these trees. Last summer a couple of the Cottonwood tree giants fell, and living cottonwood limbs were also cut so perhaps my friends the Flickers lost food sources and homes… Still lively, some smooth gray branches still stretch out their bony fingers towards me trying to get my attention. These adult Cottonwoods who only live a hundred years at best have developed extensive lateral and deep taproots that still may be able to reach the water table far below the surface. But the rivers and aquifers are drying up in the Southwest and the air is very polluted. Year after year adequate rains do not come. There will be no tree children to replace these old ones that are nearing the end of their lives because the young trees must have copious amounts of water and clean air to thrive. I am facing the inevitable. Within a few years this cottonwood forest will be no more. There will be holes in the atmosphere where these magnificent trees once graced the sky.


Twenty years of drought are taking a visible toll on the high desert everywhere. Even the Bosque I walk through is at risk because it has been opened up to a merciless summer sun and consequently to increasing drought. It too has sprays of dying cottonwood branches, although there are also healthy adult trees, and some younger ones that will live on for now. Birds are scarce. The ground is barely muddy and only in the low places. Desertification has begun; as trees, plants, and scrub disappear skeletons full of holes remain.


Because all woodpeckers must have trees (these or others) for food and for shelter they too will disappear. The woodpeckers don’t know that they are also poisoning themselves with the insects they eat even as they carve out new “homes” for themselves and other birds. Insecticides are deadly. Woodpeckers are a critical component of forest ecology. Without their presence every forest is compromised.


All sentient creatures are negatively affected by the deaths of one species.


And still people refuse to see.


As I wrote about the loss of trees and woodpeckers old tree memories surfaced without warning. Resolutely, I faced my past…


Thirty five years ago I left the coast of Maine because trees were being slaughtered and their insides ground up so million dollar homes could be built. Initially, I believed that I escaped tree carnage by moving to the edge of the wilderness in the western hills only to discover that whole mountains were being strip logged around me. The stench of pitch nauseated me. I wept, helpless in the face of such violence.


It was then that the trees began to speak to me, at first through dreams and later because I had learned to listen. I don’t know exactly how this happened, but I suspect the trees taught me without words – communicating telepathically. I spent every day with trees in my forest, hiked to other wooded areas on a regular basis, sat under hemlocks by my brook, tenderly caressed rough ashen trunks and the smooth gray velvet of maple and beech, rejoiced in the pines when they protected wild bear cubs in their uppermost branches while their mothers foraged, sometimes miles away. And when the fruit trees blossomed on ‘my land’ I experienced a wondrous sense of tree renewal – if only for a few precious weeks each year.


The trees taught me that it was my job to witness for them not just in their living, but in their dying. For many years I spoke to no one about this latter “personal affliction”. I honestly believed I had been singled out to experience a hell that no one else could see or feel and some days I thought that the screams of one more tree crashing to the ground or one more devastating tree dream would kill me. There was no reprieve. Every time I tried to talk to someone about tree death I was ridiculed. I shut up and learned to live with pain that had no outlet, except through journaling. I never dared to publish anything that had to do with what was happening to me with trees. Thirty- five years is a long time to grieve alone.


When I arrived in the desert three years ago, initially I felt profound relief to be free of trees altogether. Here reptilian ridged and cone shaped hills and mountains dominated the landscape. Trees were scarce except for serpentine shaggy junipers and the magnificent Cottonwoods that held court by the rivers. However, I hadn’t been here a month when I adopted a seedling juniper in front of the place I was renting. In spite of my relief at leaving trees behind they snared me – I was in love again.


For a while I felt hopeful because I believed that junipers were allowed to live out their natural lives. Then, less than a year later I discovered that in the higher elevations the same logging horrors I had left behind were occurring here too. Next came the forest fires that burned for weeks clogging my lungs. I couldn’t breathe through the stench of managed and unmanaged forest burns, and some days when the wind blew the air reeked. Air pollution was a palpable threat here that no one talked about. Now I realize that people who live here simply can’t smell it. It wasn’t long before I could hear the trees screaming for water. A new element of tree catastrophe entered the picture; how ironic that I came here to escape tree pain. It was worse here than in the Northeast. Would anything but our mutual deaths ever alleviate this intolerable (to me) suffering of ours?


And then something remarkable happened. On the night of the winter solstice I went to listen to a Navajo storyteller who also happened to be a seer. With deep compassion she spoke about how humans had used/abused Nature and dismissed her as being irrelevant, and that as a result human extinction was on the horizon. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t suspected this probable outcome – as a naturalist and ethologist I had been advocating tirelessly on behalf of all Nature for too many years to prevent this possibility from becoming reality. I tried to keep hope in the picture as long as I could. During the last two years I slipped out of hope into endurance – That, and crushing heartbreak that virtually no one, but my friend Lise, was willing to witness.


After hearing the words about the inevitability of human extinction I finally surrendered. As I left the room that night I felt as if an intolerable burden had been lifted, and that I was finally free.


The next morning I walked to the river and for the first time in thirty- five years leaned into the trees in their dying without pain.


In the hole that opened up during my final surrender, primordial gray winged birds of peace and acceptance had taken up residence within me. Humans will die, but Life will continue and trees will live on too; not in their present form, but 400 million years of sentient living, loving, serving will help them create new forms.


As I returned to the present moment I had answered my question about why it was so important that Flicker carved holes: carving out holes (wholes?) creates space for a new kind of becoming. The Earth is singing about beginnings because her time is drawing near…