Tree Meditation



Today I hugged

a Cottonwood

heart to heart;

we heard each

others pulse.

S/he is more rotund

than I …

a seventeen foot

girth supports elephantine

trunks and branches

that call down

high desert rains.

Bleached surface roots

crack hard pan

in a horizontal run

scenting water

even as West Wind

roars – a thief

stealing precious

drops of moisture.

S/he must find water

to drink or die.

Deep below ground

taproot seeks

serene lakes,


listen for ripples…


Golden buds swell

on bare ranches

sticky with clear sap.

It won’t be long

Before S/he Crowns…

Leaves like scalloped hearts

flutter in late spring


butterflies cooling

tender leaves and

twigs below.


white light

and fiery heat

still Tree’s heartbeat,

stifling Life’s Flow.


Postscript: Anyone who loves trees like I do finds comfort in them during times of distress…

I love this tree’s shaggy bark… I love her shape, I love the little junipers that have sprouted around her feet.

From a naturalist’s point of view I believe that junipers and cottonwoods have a symbiotic relationship, meaning that they exchange nutrients – sugar etc underground. Most research suggests that desert junipers ‘have an intolerance for shade’… I certainly don’t see this around here. I live down by the river and the healthiest looking junipers are interspersed with the cottonwoods who provide them with bountiful shade from intolerable 90 – 100 degree summer heat.

I also include a little story about this particular cottonwood… S/he belongs to my neighbor/friend Bruce. For four years I have asked him to please remove all the rocks, and other debris from around her base so that I could photograph her. Just a couple of weeks ago I went over one afternoon – and there was the tree totally divested of sticks, slabs of stone, and a table. Bruce had done this to surprise me….He also indulged me by taking the photograph of me hugging this old tree. He’s not much for tree hugging.

When I touch her I feel a sense of wonder that such a being exists. And I recall the stories of cultures past and present who have reverenced her…

Turning towards the Tree of Life during times of fear and uncertainty reminds us that all life is a gift…but also that the trees have been around for 400 million years and know how to live sustainably. Humans are suffering now because we have not yet learned…



Elder – Berry Musings


I first became interested in herbalism as a young mother who kept a small herbal garden outside her back door. There is nothing better than fresh herbs to spice up any dish (as any good cook knows well) and baking my own bread, making homemade granola, etc., like gardening, was simply part of what I did. In retrospect, I see that cooking served as a highly creative endeavor that helped me to create some balance between the millions of mundane jobs associated with single motherhood and my need for creativity…

It seemed quite natural to begin to explore herbs for medicinal purposes. I first experimented with plants that grew wild near my house on the island on which I lived. I sensed that developing a personal relationship with the plants I was using mattered, an intuition that continues to inform my growing and preparation of herbal remedies to this day. If I don’t have the right growing conditions for an herb I need, I wild craft responsibly. Until recently I have never used store bought preparations.

When I studied with medicine folk in the Amazon thirty years after first using herbs for culinary and then medicinal purposes, I learned that each healer only used his/her own garden grown herbs and preparations differed based on the knowledge that each medicine person received directly from the plants, so perhaps the importance of having a personal reciprocal relationship with individual plants is tied to their efficacy – my sense/experience is that it is. The ways of the natural world are not well understood by most westernized people.

Tinctures are my preferred method of medicinal preparation because they are simple to make, requiring gathering the ripe fruit, plant, or root and steeping in alcohol for a minimum of 6 – 8 weeks. Today, of course, herbal preparations – creams – syrups – tinctures etc. can (or could be) be purchased almost anywhere.

Although Indigenous peoples have been using plant remedies for millennia to combat a whole range of ailments, and folk medicine has been popular amongst country people throughout the world, western medicine for the most part has dismissed herbal efficacy, an attitude that defies logic because most of our medicines originally came from plants.

With the spread of the Coronavirus increasing exponentially each day it might be time to take a look at Elderberry, an herb that I have grown in my yard and wild crafted around forest edges in Maine. I have used the berries to make a tincture for a number of years to help me reduce the chance of becoming ill with colds or the flu, and until I came to New Mexico without it and got the flu the second winter I was here I sort of took the herb for granted.

Research Director Dr. Jessie Hawkins and coauthors (Complementary Therapies in Medicine) undertook the first meta-analysis to study Elderberry because so little research has been done by the scientific community as a whole. (How much this prevailing scientific attitude has to do with the pharmaceutical companies and their outrageous pricing is an ongoing question for me).

Because the studies were varied, researchers were able to apply a random effects model to evaluate the effect of Elderberry. Calculations yielded a large mean effect; Elderberry does substantially reduce the duration of upper respiratory symptoms in colds and flu.

Additionally, the researchers learned that getting the flu vaccine didn’t significantly alter the effects of Elderberry. They also discovered that it not only reduces the symptoms of colds and flu, but that it works more effectively for flu symptoms than for cold symptoms.

Other Researchers performing in vitro studies (done in a lab) confirm that Elderberry is active against human pathogenic bacteria as well as influenza viruses (HINI) In separate clinical trials, investigators also demonstrated that Elderberry reduced the severity and duration of cold and flu-like symptoms.

A recent study by a group of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering researchers from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering and IT has determined exactly how Elderberry can help fight influenza.

The group performed a comprehensive examination of the mechanism by which phytochemicals from elderberries combat flu by blocking key viral proteins responsible for both the viral attachment and entry into the host cells. Elderberry compounds directly inhibit the virus’s entry and replication in human cells,

The phytochemicals from the elderberry juice were shown to be effective at stopping the virus infecting the cells. However, to the surprise of the researchers they were even more effective at inhibiting/blocking viral propagation at several stages of the influenza cycle when the cells had already been infected with the virus.

They also discovered that Elderberry stimulated the cells to release certain cytokines, which are chemical messengers that the immune system uses for communication between different cell types to help them coordinate a more efficient response to an invading pathogen.

Additionally, the team also found that Elderberry’s antiviral activity is attributed to its anthocyanidin compounds — phytonutrients responsible for giving the fruit its vivid purple coloring.

In another placebo-controlled, double-blind study conducted by virologist Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, 93 percent of the people taking Elderberry reported significant improvement in flu symptoms within 2 days of starting it, compared with the 6 days it took for the placebo group to see improvement.

A similar randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study performed in Norway demonstrated that Elderberry that was given to patients who reported having flu-like symptoms for less than 48 hours had similar results.

Researchers have also found that people who have taken Elderberry have higher levels of antibodies against the influenza virus, indicating that not only may Elderberry be able to treat flu symptoms it may also be able to prevent influenza infection.

Collectively, this research indicates that use of Elderberry presents us with an alternative to antibiotic misuse for upper respiratory symptoms due to viral infections. Additionally Elderberry use is a potentially safer alternative to prescription drugs for routine cases of the common cold and influenza.

Of course, at this point, we have no way of knowing whether the deadly new Coronavirus would be inhibited by the use of Elderberry. However, the fact that it has been used as a folk remedy to treat colds/flu by Indigenous/country peoples throughout the world for millennia combined with new research and my own previous experience with this herb, suggests at the very least, Elderberry might be worth a try.

On a personal note, because I have been in New Mexico during Elderberry season I have not made a new tincture for myself for the last four years. The result is that I haven’t been using the berry as a preventative measure. I’ve been sick here a lot. Recently, I purchased a commercial tincture to use as a preventative measure. I can only hope that the Berry Lady hasn’t forgotten that I love her well.

Starflower Rises



Oh, for the second time

I hear Her call my name.


I am longing

for the sight

of soft curves –

rolling hills,

a Beloved Woman


sheltered under

Emerald Green –

Pine scents the air;

Soft rains keep falling.


I’m coming.


I feel Her Sounding

from a great distance,

a huge Whale rising from

a churning chaotic sea

half way across the country.

This Mountain Mother

calls us. She

whose Body once

rose out of

wild grasses in

our bountiful

berried field.


We’re coming.


She held us then

in a golden circle,

wrapped us in green wonder

blessed us with Summer’s Light.

We felt Love bleeding

through disbelief –

I succumbed to what

I did not know;

Surrendered to a

Birthing under our feet.

I heard Her singing…

Love as pure Being.


We’re coming.


I pray the tough

and tender thread

that Binds us

will hold –

our love for Her,

Her Love for us,

Braided as One.

Once I feared Winter Snows…

Instead an avalanche

buried us alive in desert heat.

The Earth caught Fire.

We mourned.

I couldn’t breathe.

Oh, for the second time

I hear Her call my name…


We’re coming.


My cry echoes…

bouncing off

reptilian stone,

nightmare glare,

hard blue sky.

West winds unhinge me

with unforgiving fury.

Still, She hears me.


We’re coming…


Strengthen the thread,

keep us bound to you

until we touch

sacred ground

lush with greening,

walk reverently

over a bountiful breast

feel your Heart

beat as our own.


We’re coming.


Imagine peepers singing,

croaking wood frogs

at twilight,

purple crocus

seeping through

melting snow!

Our Dreaming creates

a Lizard path to follow.

Stay close to Ground.

We long for Black bears;

their fur- skin warms us.

We see them peering

round Mother Pine


friendship and,

joyful offerings.

An overflowing brook

is a symphony

made of water.

She hears our cry.


We’re coming.


Oh Mountain Mother

For the second time

I am that child again…

spun out of blue and green

luminous Star shining

We beg you –

keep us safe,


on this long

winding soul/body




We’re coming…

The Healing Power of Ritual



The few that read this blog know that I have been writing and celebrating ritual for half of my life. The equinoxes and solstices and the cross quarter days (May 1, August 1, All Hallows, and February 2) comprise the eight spokes of the year. What I have learned from my research is that virtually every Indigenous culture follows this calendar in a general way – What I have gleaned from personal experience is that during these ritual periods my body is opened to the Powers of Nature in very specific ways that can be positive or/and negative. Often I experience uncomfortable physical symptoms – feel an intense buzz, am struck by severe headaches, the feeling that I am walking on air without solid ground; I have unusual experiences with animals or plants; I am blind sided by radical insights in day life or through dreaming. I have come to expect that usually there will be some kind of sign and if there isn’t one my body/mind isn’t in tune ritually and something is amiss – either my intentions, or the letting go (death) of some aspect of myself. The older I become the more I attempt to move through these periods with increased awareness that I am a receiver and need to be paying even closer attention…


My rituals have become so fluid and usually write themselves through dreaming, my experiences in Nature, my animals and bird, and/or sometimes – less so now – by being triggered in a particular way by some mythological theme. Not this year.


The Spring Equinox is historically a difficult time for me; this year is no exception. I normally suffer from debilitating depression at this turning. But I don’t ever recall “celebrating” a spring equinox that had so much fear attached to it. The C/virus struck this month. I am not only facing the virus with emphysema, but also must travel home to Maine, first for my health, (I literally cannot breathe in New Mexico’s intolerable summer heat) and I must also return to begin the foundation work on my log cabin… I am in my mid seventies in the highest risk category.


My dreaming life has been most distressing reflecting day fears in graphic detail. One dream urged me to get going; another suggested reassessing motels in “Everytown.” I am also suffering from difficulty sleeping, a problem that I have every spring which has been exacerbated…With PTSD and a general anxiety disorder pressing me on, my ritual intentions were reduced to their lowest denominator. How to deal most effectively with fear. Death fears.


This Turning is the second and last of the two Water Festivals, and this year it rained the night before. Unusual, especially in this dry desert year and to me the rain seemed significant. I note that sometimes the element that is honored seems to cooperate in a peculiar way at a Turning that acknowledges its importance. And Water is about purifying, letting go, and flow… I was able to collect precious rain that the trees and cloud people brought to use for our Body Blessings (Lily b, Hope, Lucy and me – only one of us is human). Very special, that.


I lit a Balsam Fir Candle to honor the trees who are helping me to breathe easier.


When I called in the Four Directions I began with East asking my Spirit bird, the Sandhill Crane, to be present… The last of the cranes migrated north almost a month ago. When Lily b my dove picked up my words in a song that he repeated over and over I felt as if I had really been heard (he is normally asleep by dusk) – my beloved Cranes and Dove were with me…Lizard came next… When I got to the West and called in Bear I had a sudden clear image of wearing a warm coat of black bear fur. Since the bear is the most important Spirit Animal for me this spontaneous image was surprising and very comforting – East and West had both responded in a visceral way and I will be traveling from West to East…(this is the Good Red Road of the Indigenous Way but in reverse) Reverse in this case this probably benign.


When I finished with the North whose spirit animal is the deer I lit one candle to acknowledge my intention to deal with my fear, and a second to turn my face to spring, towards my difficulties not away from them…


Next I took the bowl of water and blessed my body and those of the two dogs. I sprayed a sleeping Lily b on his roost, briefly awakening him.


Just as I completed our body blessings for health and safety, it began to rain lightly. How strange; no wind. Rain without any wind in the desert is a priceless gift. I immediately opened the door, walked outside and stood in the rain asking for a second body blessing, breathing in my deepest gratitude.


Once back in the house the rain stopped immediately. Incredible timing. When something happens twice at one time it usually manifests on a physical plane… Certainly our water blessings had been acknowledged.


Finally, I offered up my prayers, thanked my Guardians, the Four Directions and opened the circle…leaving it unbroken.





That night I dreamed that trees had hearts and the heart of the tree was what mattered. (I had just written an article on the fact that trees had a pulse – I believe trees have a heart that stretches throughout the tree’s body). I love all trees in a way that I cannot explain – Kinship.

The following day two doves exactly like mine fluttered together, mating on the garden wall. This coming together of male and female doves seemed hopeful.

There were negative happenings too. The day before in the pre-dawn hours I heard the calls of the great horned owl. For me this particular owl’s call was always a warning. Before my mother died the owl called 13 times… before and after I returned to the desert in 2017 g/h owls surrounded my house in Maine warning me that all would not be well. In Mexico people believe the g/h owl is an omen of death; I would have to agree. One animal sighting highlighted the Void. Dark dreams returned…

To conclude, I cannot read what’s ahead for me or the rest of the frightened species on this planet at this time, but acknowledging this turning helped me to articulate my fears and to find comfort in the palpable interconnection between Nature and myself and the dark green religion of hope.

Ritual keeps this door between us open.

I am profoundly grateful.

Equinox Lament



We Could Have Listened


I made my way

to the river,

heard the song

of a starving body

barely rippling

over black stone.

Man’s* need to

control her flow

may win out this spring

as more ditches are gouged,

and she is flooded

(not in time for

the young cottonwoods

whose roots are too shallow,

but to grow human food

and graze destructive cattle

man must have to eat).

A plague sweeps

through poisoned air

infecting us

One by one…


As I round the Bosque

at daybreak

breathing in grasses

sweetened by last night’s rain

crystals hang from bare branches,

the decaying comfort

of moist cottonwood leaves

mutes all sounds

beneath my feet.

S/he* listens as

I give thanks,

witnesses my Lament…


We could have listened

to weeping trees,

screaming plants

dying animals

witnessed holes

in blue sky,

stopped poisoning

Earth’s precious ground.


Nature tried

to capture man’s

arrogant attention

as he built more walls

between self and other

ignoring mounting

evidence supporting what

Indigenous peoples

have known for millennia:


is Fundamental to Life –

Dead whales

and krill,

the slaughter of all

but three percent

of the Earth’s forests,

missing birds,

unbreathable air,

melting ice –

Some western

gods of science still

protest to no avail.

How many people

Have I heard say

“Oh, it’s sad –

too bad they’re are dying

by the millions”

as if humans were somehow



Those of us that heard the cries

were ridiculed.

Branded “ Voice of Doom”.


We could have listened

to weeping trees,

screaming plants,

dying animals,

witnessed holes

in blue sky,

stopped poisoning

Earth’s precious ground.


Has Nature finally made

her point

with an invisible killer

transmitted by wind

that shrieks

a dire warning?

This rampant threat

will reduce human populations,

with the potential to

eliminate a species

by first destroying

those most vulnerable.

Millions may die

before business returns

to normal in

this Straw Man’s world

until the Next Time…


We could have listened.

to weeping trees,

screaming plants,

dying animals,

witnessed holes

in blue sky,

stopped poisoning

Earth’s precious ground.




  • “Man” is used to define the human species as he still defines himself… I wonder what happened to humankind?
  • “S/he” refers to Nature as being inclusive – male, female. transgender –




I have been witnessing with increasing horror and grief the willful refusal of people to accept that any species except our own is capable of developing awareness or consciousness, has its own teleology, its own reason for being. We use Nature as a commodity; as if every non human species was designed to meet our needs and those of no other.

For much of my life my experiences and my dreams have taught me that all non -human species have awareness and possess an intelligence equal to our own – although intelligence in particular is expressed differently in the rest of Nature. It is clear from a lifetime of observations that all living things lead meaningful lives that we know nothing about. I have endured ridicule and derision for my ideas throughout my life.

It wasn’t until this year that I was finally able to let go of trying to shift the trajectory that humans are on through my writing. Ironically it was my relationship with Nature that helped me understand that I had done what I could. Today most of my writing is focused on the fascinating aspects of Nature making my writing once again a joyful endeavor.

In this remarkable process I finally got it, realizing that I had it backwards.

Nature doesn’t need us; we need her.

It is humans that are in need of deep healing. Nature will survive as a whole although at present many species are already extinct and so many others are dying. The fact that S/he will survive brings me great joy, and for that knowing in my bones I feel deep gratitude.

The difference between me and most people is that I have known all my life how much I needed Nature to survive. It was this need that turned me into an advocate in the first place.

Sadly, we humans don’t seem capable of living sustainably. (The exception, of course, refers to Indigenous folk who developed a culture based on shared resources and sustainability; pockets remain) I am just as much a part of the problem as anyone else, although I do carry awareness of my complicity and grieve deeply.

There are many ways to look at the current pandemic. Many see it as the “enemy,” Nature at her worst – The “man against nature paradigm” is alive and well. Personally, it is as frightening to me as it is to others… I do not want to die from this virus and I am one of the people at the highest risk –

But I am also aware that Nature is ultimately focused on the big picture (although she also has a deeply personal aspect), and the human species is a failed experiment as of now. Nature exemplifies the necessity of Interconnection and Community. Humans have refused to hear her anguished cries…and so I see this pandemic as a “natural event” – a way to begin to redress the horrific imbalances that we have created as humans at the expense of all of Nature. Nothing is personal here. Human induced Climate Change will no doubt do the rest. How ironic. It’s only a matter of time.

Today in the northern hemisphere we celebrate the turning of the seasonal wheel into spring – the vernal equinox – normally a joyous time for many – but not this year. Instead, we are fearful and isolated in our homes … Outside my window the wind is howling and churning up so much dust that with emphysema I don’t dare go out. The raging wind also seems to be reminding me of the spread of this pandemic through polluted air, which fueled the writing of this prose and post. In this area BLM was supposed to begin its first of its seasonal controlled burns of New Mexico’s forests today – yet another irony. They will have to wait for the wind to go down to begin burning even more trees and spewing up more pollution. The lungs of the Earth are disappearing by the Billions.

Overstory and my story

Sara Wright

After•Word: “Born Again”
Richard Powers’ The Overstory

“Let me sing to you about how people turn into other things.” (Ovid) quoted in The Overstory

Years ago I placed my brother’s ashes in a shallow depression that I had dug near a granite fern and moss-covered boulder. The brook flowed just a few feet away and at the last minute I scattered some filaments over the shallow waters, returning them to the sea. A week later I planted a hazelnut tree nearby. A fossilized spiral ammonite marks my brother’s grave.

Thanks to the underground highway created out of millions of tree/plant roots, the extensive net of fungal hyphae, and this communal system’s miraculous ability to exchange nutrients, my brother lives on as part of this forest. The gracefully spreading hazel and all the other trees (spruce, maple, balsam, hemlock, ash) scattered around this hallowed woodland grove have been nourished by the bones of one I loved.

Yet only recently have I been possessed by revelation.

I want to be buried under one of these trees so I can become one, too. I spent my childhood living in a tree, was sheltered, fed, and loved by them as a young forlorn mother, and chose them as my closest companions (except for dogs and bears) when I built my small camp in the woods, and later my log cabin. By mid-life the deep intimacy between us had flowered into articulation. What was happening to the trees was happening to me. Trees paved the road to eco-feminism.

I long to become a tree whose context is community, whose focus is on the whole, who lives on in a sacred form that is 400 million years strong.

Everything about trees is about living in relationship to other beings. Trees shelter, feed, protect, create life out of death, and ask for nothing in return. Well, not exactly nothing. Of course, I am grateful to trees for each breath I take, but mostly I love them because they exist. And over the course of my life trees have taught me that they love to be loved. A life without trees is not one I would choose to live.

When I first began 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 one did, placing the brief span of the human species against the 400-million-year history of trees. The Overstory is a kind of meta-narrative of old-growth forests, in all their wonder and diversity. Several overlapping and interlocking human understories unfold against this backdrop; trees are the foreground for others. Some of the characters of The Overstory dedicate their lives to the seemingly impossible job of saving trees from extinction.

Patricia Westerford is a scientist whose love for trees has directed her entire professional life. When Patricia first posits that the bio-chemical behavior of trees makes sense only when we see them as complex living organisms—that the entire forest is a living organism that cooperates above and below ground—other scientists ridicule her. She withdraws from public attention; eventually her research is vindicated. 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 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. The book demonstrates that all life is interdependent and that what we do to the trees we are doing to ourselves. The characters begin to understand that in order to reverse the trajectory that we are on, humans must begin to see trees as sentient beings inextricably tied to us.

Almost daily I touch sturdy tree trunks that have provided me with support and deep abiding joy, comfort during times of distress. Sometimes during the warmer months I listen to tree trunks making an almost imperceptible gurgling sound. I think of all the rootlets—luminescent hyphae interpenetrating, nourishing, sending impulses, singing under ground. The compounds that trees breathe out at night lower my stress level. My heart beats more slowly in response, in resonance with this night rhythm. I experience unimaginable aching beauty when trees are leafing out, birthing spiky top knots, coming into bloom while scenting the air with a perfume so sweet that it transports me into another realm. I lean into blessed tree shade during intolerable heat. Trees speak in tongues that I can feel or sense and sometimes utter a word or two in my own language. Is it any surprise that I am perpetually flooded with awe and wonder when it comes to trees?

Tree conversation never ceases above or below. Just now because it is winter the tree’s sap, its sugary/mineral rich blood, barely trickles, though it still acts as nature’s antifreeze. The living tissue just below the bark, precious cambium, is lined with water so pure it doesn’t crystallize. Trees lean into the dark grateful to rest quietly as frost or snow covers bare branches or bends evergreen boughs to the ground. In the spring’s warming sun, sap chants as it rises, flowing upward (defying gravity in the process) to the highest branches, the most delicate twigs, the sharpest tips of needles, causing the latter to bristle with new green growth. Flowers and leaves appear on deciduous trees. Pale yellow, orange, or dusky brown pollen thickens the air with scent and purpose.

With adequate water trees will flourish all summer long, photosynthesizing—producing bountiful amounts of oxygen as they breathe in poisonous carbon dioxide. They transpire, offering clouds of steam, releasing precious moisture, compounds, and minerals into the air until autumn, when their lifeblood begins its annual descent. Journeying back to their Source, withering leaves and needles begin to drift earthward (some needles, others scatter in early spring). Cascading leaves flutter to the ground, peppering the precious earth with the stuff of dying, twigs, uneaten fruits, seeds, and nuts, producing a layer of detritus soon to become nourishment for next year’s growth.

Seeds take root almost invisibly, seeking Earth’s warmth, minerals and other nutrients and most important—relationships with others; kinship begins beneath the surface of the soil.

Ah, to become a tree…

I will sleep and dream away the winter, bow respectfully as I wince in raging winds. Early spring brings my willow catkins into flower: blossoms that feed my much beloved and starving black bears. Deer and moose nibble my first twigs and buds. In the heat of the late spring sun I become tumescent, swelling buds that will produce flowers of every conceivable shape and color, those complex structures that will eventually bear fruit or seeds. Translucent lime-green leaves appear and deepen into emerald. My scent is so sweet that bees seek me out and I thrive under their buzz and hum. As summer begins, my leaves will shower the earth in luminous dappled light shielding tender wildflowers from a sun too bright, too fierce. With the first clap of thunder I turn my thirsty leaves and stretch out my needles towards the life-bringing rains. Birds who sought out the shelter of my branches to bear their young feed their hungry progeny. Woodpeckers hammer holes in some of my trunks for insects, creating new homes for others in the process. Flying squirrels and owls seek my protection from summer’s harsh brightness, the kind that outlasts the night. Wild bees burrow under my bark or under my feet. Myriad insects like cicadas find homes in my canopies and sing cacophonous songs of praise at dusk. Wailing winds cease as I listen to myriad voices; the forest speaks.

For me “becoming tree” means that something of who I am lives on, a “not I” who continues her work: feeding animals and birds, planting and nurturing more trees and plants—those same creatures and plants (and hopefully others) that have sustained me throughout my life.

As long as trees continue to exist they will teach us that in every end there is a new beginning.

Kinship; The Messenger






Lise Weil, author, teacher, editor, and most of all dear human friend invites us to read, reflect and really listen:

“I want to share this message from COVID 19 that came through my Dark Matter collaborator Kristin Flyntz. I hope it is not understood in any way to minimize the fear and suffering so many humans are experiencing at this time..”.

Just stop.
It is no longer a request. It is a mandate.
We will help you.
We will bring the supersonic, high speed merry-go-round to a halt
We will stop
the planes
the trains
the schools
the malls
the meetings
the frenetic, furied rush of illusions and “obligations” that keep you from hearing our
single and shared beating heart,
the way we breathe together, in unison.
Our obligation is to each other,
As it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.
We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions,
to bring you this long-breaking news:
We are not well.
None of us; all of us are suffering.
Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth
did not give you pause.
Nor the typhoons in Africa,China, Japan.
Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India.
You have not been listening.
It is hard to listen when you are so busy all the time, hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold your lives.
But the foundation is giving way,
buckling under the weight of your needs and desires.
We will help you.
We will bring the firestorms to your body
We will bring the fever to your body
We will bring the burning, searing, and flooding to your lungs
that you might hear:
We are not well.

Despite what you might think or feel, we are not the enemy.
We are Messenger. We are Ally. We are a balancing force.
We are asking you:
To stop, to be still, to listen;
To move beyond your individual concerns and consider the concerns of all;
To be with your ignorance, to find your humility, to relinquish your thinking minds and travel deep into the mind of the heart;
To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy?
To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition: how does its health contribute to the health of the sky, to the air you need to be healthy?
To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, clean, murky, polluted? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? How does its health contribute to the health of the tree, who contributes to the health of the sky, so that you may also be healthy?
Many are afraid now. Do not demonize your fear, and also, do not let it rule you. Instead, let it speak to you—in your stillness, listen for its wisdom. What might it be telling you about what is at work, at issue, at risk, beyond the threat of personal inconvenience and illness?
As the health of a tree, a river, the sky tells you about quality of your own health, what might the quality of your health tell you about the health of the rivers, the trees, the sky, and all of us who share this planet with you?

Stop. Just stop.
Be still.
Ask us what we might teach you about illness and healing, about what might be required so that all may be well.
We will help you, if you listen.

My commentary: this is the animating force of Nature speaking to us all.


Becoming an Elder


The Elder Berry Woman



I began this story 5 years ago, put it away unfinished, and just recently completed it. Because it’s autobiographical it deals with my personal issues. However there are universal elements that people may identify with…  this tale attempts to deal with some of the questions and the problems associated with aging, fear of death, and dying. I would greatly appreciate feedback!


Part 1


I turned 70 a month ago crossing an invisible threshold. With this birthday I reluctantly entered the first year of my ‘elder’ years. “Red Birds” awakened me at dawn. The two cardinals spent the morning hours chirping and hopping around the grapevines outside my bedroom window. I felt deep gratitude for these feathered presences that seemed to understand that this birthday was charged with a heaviness I couldn’t diffuse myself. My intimate relationship with these particular birds was reaffirming that Nature responds to the longings of the hungry heart.


I have reached the conclusion that aging is a subject that no one wants to touch in case it’s catching. We sprout platitudes. We pretend that age won’t rob us of our abilities or our autonomy. We “forge on” with military precision until we discover that even raking leaves can pull muscles, creating new inroads for pain like I did just last week. Others “soldier on” hiking or scaling mountains when feet, ankles, knees, and hips are starting to complain. Forced snow – shoveling strains back muscles sometimes to the breaking point, as does heavy garden work. In our culture this bull –like ego driven behavior is lauded while bodies weep. “Keep busy” pancaked women chime with false Barbie-Elsa faces cracking under the strain of deadly smiles. “You’re only as old as you think.”


I don’t want dishonest behavior to mark the third and final chapter of my story. The price that denial extracts is a forced separation of mind from body. Escaping into the world of technology, ideas, work, fun or other distractions while ignoring our bodies leaves them vulnerable to bear the burden of aging alone. After spending so much of my life ‘walking on air’ I want and need to be present for my body as we make our body/mind way into the future even though death is most certainly in the forecast.


I suspect everyone crosses the threshold into “old age” at a different age – some do at retirement but it was not that way for me because turning 65 seemed to be a time of ripening possibilities. I was hopeful then, brimming with plans and new ideas. For five years I hovered on that edge. I searched for a winter home. I made plans to write a book, and created new intentions to heal broken family relationships. At 70 I am still circling the same issues.

Most disturbing is the fact that my depressive episodes are increasing in length if not severity. I don’t know whether or not my depressed state is age appropriate because few talk about aging honestly. Is it my psychology that’s the problem or is there a relationship between depression and aging?

What I do know is that I am in the midst of a crisis of meaning. Am I simply waiting to die? I feel invisible, powerless, enervated. I experience mindless fear; a great loneliness has attached itself to me. I guess it’s not surprising that I feel depressed.

This fall I harvested clusters of berries from my Elderberry bush and made a tincture. Elderberry is an ancient folk remedy that has antiviral properties and I planned to use it during the winter to help me ward off colds and flu. I am especially attached to this bush, loving both the delicate pearl white flower umbrals and the deep purple berries. I am also fascinated by the name: “Elder –Berry”. I am desperately in need of help from some natural force wiser than myself and I wondered if it might be possible to contact the Spirit/Soul of this plant to help me.

After my birthday, I began a story about meeting up with a well – ripened old Berry Woman with this idea in mind. I imagined her as purple fruit – a tree with ripe plums, a patch of sweet blackberries, a heavy cluster of bruised grapes hanging outside my window, and most of all as a single purple berry.

One day after I started my story I had a vision that materialized in front of me as I was meandering through the woods around my house during a writing break. Stunned by the sight of a purple berry hovering in a cloud of mist around the bark of a fragrant green balsam tree I froze. Elderberries are very small but this one was a giant, the size of a very large grape. I thought I was imagining things until this purple Being greeted me with a strange remark.” I have been waiting for you, ”she said simply. She was real! Without preamble, I asked her directly:

“Would you consider becoming my teacher? I don’t have anyone to instruct me on how to live now that I have entered ‘old’ age.”

Beseeching her with my eyes I slid down on a smooth black stone that buttressed one my trees gazing up at her intently, waiting for an answer.

The lush purple berry rocked back and forth on a twig jiggling. I thought I could see something moving inside the translucent skin – a seed?

“It will be a pleasure” she replied. “ I have been watching you for a long time. Do you remember the dream you had of the green vine snaking its way along the forest floor with its purple leaves and the single eye that was embedded in each leaf?” I nodded.

“ I appeared to you as a creeping vine to demonstrate to you the importance of listening to the Earth through the roots of plants as well as their flowers and leaves. I was inviting you to learn to see through insight. By staying close to the forest floor you are in a position to seek guidance from below.”

Vaguely, I wondered about roots, dirt. The underground. I felt uneasy about that world below. Besides I was more focused on the extraordinary beauty of each living plant or tree that was visible above ground.

“That was you? But…”

“I can shapeshift at will. You have met me in many flower and tree guises throughout your life – why do you think you call yourself a ‘plant woman’? We have always had an intimate relationship.

I thought for a moment and realized that she was right; my love of plants/trees stretched back to my first experience with a sunflower that expanded and shrunk over my head. I was just a baby lying on my back in the summer sun, my feet tickling the grass.

“You remember me well!” She laughed, crinkling her shiny skin.

I almost blurted out that I was still questioning that what I was experiencing was real even though we were talking and I could see her, even after I harvested her berries… but didn’t finish the thought… That the Berry Woman was discussing a dream I had thirty years ago, a dream I never understood but knew was important, floored me, undermining the skeptic. The sunflower’s behavior was emblazoned in my psyche… I was having a conversation with a giant purple berry.

Starflower was excited, buzzing around my body like a bee.

What I needed most was an open mind.

“Yes!” the Berry Woman chirped, in response to this thought, wrinkling her purple skin into the shape of a grin.

“Old Age scares me because I feel the loss of physical energy and worry that I won’t be able to take care of myself. I feel as if I am an ocean of regrets. I obsess about broken family relationships that I have no control of. I fear that aging will intensify what I already struggle with.” I finish quietly.

Words are pouring out of me like water.

Solemnly she nods.“ You will have to deal with loss of physical energy, regrets, and for a while, the obsessive need to focus on what’s broken in your family relationships. Your depression must also be acknowledged. Illness too. These are facets of aging that affect all humans, although not equally. And they will probably intensify for you at least periodically. You are not alone here. I promise; you will learn that you can deal with these issues if you are willing to confront them with courage, honesty, and integrity.

“All I know is that I want my life back! I feel like it’s been overshadowed by Past and Future.”

The Berry Woman nodded, “ I want to help you but in order to do that you have to trust me.”

“I want to trust you Berry Woman but I can’t let go of my fear.” I feel ashamed admitting the truth.

“You endured the legacy of abandonment and this has given you great strength, but you have also been cut away from your ability to trust, and the safety of being Earthed. You are like a tree without a taproot, vulnerable to collapse in heavy winds and storms. If you can lean into me just for a moment you will feel a difference. Shut your eyes. Try it.”

I close my eyes. I breathe deeply, sudden images of hearts thrumming, soft skin next to mine… then I feel the warmth of my two little dogs. I am totally relaxed; I trust my dogs implicitly.

“That’s right, start with who you do trust – you are well aware that your dogs have been your most powerful teachers since childhood.”

I get it.

Start with what I have, not with what I don’t. I think about Nature whose benign presence is palpable in all but my most despairing moments. Isn’t this how the Berry Woman came to me? If I trust Nature I there must be some part of me that trusts her too.

“ Let’s leave the trust issue for now and move on to the second problem. You have no faith in your ability to persevere. You are strong but you must say no to the negative voices that undermine you, and to do that you must be able to listen to what they are telling you.”

“They always say the same things Berry Woman – that no one cares if I live or die, that I am worthless and needy, that I have no power to effect positive changes, no authority…” I could go on here but I don’t.

Listen to me carefully. You are not invisible or powerless. The good news is that if you refuse to accept these messages eventually they will begin to lose some power. At the same time it is important to be aware that during cycles of depression those same voices will return to haunt you when you are most vulnerable. This is the hardest part. But you know how to endure and during these periods you must lean into that strength and hang on. Starflower has to develop roots that interpenetrate yours, and you have to strengthen your roots, grounding them deeper in Nature.”

How did she know about Starflower? In my forties I discovered that Starflower was the name of the child that lived in the air and water around me. I let my right (non dominant) hand draw a picture of her. She was both – a star and a flower, and she gave herself the name.

For a moment I was caught in the joy of Starflower presence… Then I sighed, sagging under the weight of the Berry Woman’s words. What she was asking me to do seemed impossible.

“I never said this would be easy.”

Waves of the Berry Woman’s compassion flowed around me; I was not invisible to her.

“I need to leave you now; but I will come again. We’ll talk more about these problems, I promise.”

Suddenly, I realized I had been in the forest all afternoon and it was twilight. “Goodnight.” Her voice trailed off as the sun sank into the horizon, radiating a golden luminescence that lit up the purple jewel cloaking her in indigo at dusk…

I quickened my steps back up the hill and entered the house to feed the dogs. I felt much stronger – and certainly less depressed. An irritating voice kept nagging that I had made the Berry Woman up because I was caught in a crisis of meaning. I ignored it. I needed her help too badly.

I felt calm and starry eyed as I peered out the window that evening, determined to reflect more on what scared me so much about aging, dying, and death. I tried to stay with my fears to examine them more closely.

As I continued my writing Death took center stage.

A few days later I heard my purple friend chirp, “Good Evening” just as twilight set in. Shadowed by grape vines, she was hovering in the air just outside my bedroom window. Oh, I was so glad to see her.

“ Death really scares me.” I began in a rush to get the words out, feeling shame and embarrassment, tears welling up and spilling over unbidden. “I have lost so many people – my children – animals and trees that I have loved; all of nature seems to be dying. I am unbearably lonely and filled with grief.”

“Yes, I know because I know you and because I am very old; I live inside every tree and plant that you have ever loved,” she replied.

How can that be? I wanted to ask the question but I didn’t want to interrupt her.

“Let’s begin to talk about death by looking at the bigger picture – a good example is what happens in your forest. Pay attention to that mossy hemlock stump with its twisting roots. You often visit that spot near the brook. The white cedar fell over during a storm leaving its jagged trunk and roots behind, but this is where you chose to plant partridge-berry. And look – the little ground creeper is climbing over that emerald green decaying bark birthing ripe red berries even as the stump disintegrates. Lacey cedar seedlings are thriving along its base. This is a perfect window into the ‘big picture,’ and intuitively you already knew this when you chose the place to plant your creeper…One of your strengths is that you are such a keen observer; we appreciate this… Death in the context of Nature can’t be separated from life. The two are inextricably tied as one process and not as separate events.


I was pleased that she acknowledged my seeing. I also knew she was right about the big picture but I still couldn’t feel the truth of her last words.

“You make death sound so natural. Why then am I so afraid to die?” I am deliberately emphasizing this question.

“When you die all the cells of your body must give up their individual lives, the cells of your heart, brain, veins and arteries, blood, tissues, muscles and bones are all made up of cells that cooperated and collaborated to create you out of one fertilized egg cell. Fear of death is part of your complex cellular structure. Every single one of those lights must go out. Remember what happened when your teeth were extracted last summer? You grieved for the loss of parts of your physical self. Dying means coming to terms with grieving the loss of your whole body through each of its cells. You must enter the unknown without your physical self.”

The Berry Woman’s voice sounded sad as she continued. “You were born with the awareness of being unwanted/abandoned; you couldn’t help abandoning a body you couldn’t trust as a baby. We’ll return to this point in a minute. Next you lost your brother tragically, and you were barred from knowing what happened to the remains of his body for 32 years. When your grandmother died alone in a hospital two years after your brother’s death the trauma of loss of body was repeated a third time; You were abandoned, your brother had simply disappeared, your grandmother died alone when you ached to be with her, and you desperately needed to find a bridge to both of them to create a bridge to yourself, because with those deaths you officially became an orphan. Much later you learned in the Amazon that the child/soul self never incarnated in your body in the first place because living in a body that faced annihilation was too threatening. As you have written repeatedly, you have spent a life ‘walking on air’. You have done an enormous amount of work to become embodied as an adult; but the child can’t overcome her visceral fear of moving into her/your body even though you long for her to join you. You now know that you were almost aborted as a fetus – Today, the disembodied child is blocking you from moving forward beyond this point.

I nodded in agreement. I had already had foreknowledge of these truths through dreams and intuition, but conversing with the Berry Woman made them more real. Fear of my death was intimately tied to that abandoned baby’s fear…

The Berry Woman continued…”To compound matters, you were taught by your culture that life is not lived in the round. Life is split away from death.” Look at what happened to you – you crossed a psychic boundary at your 70th birthday, and that event was tied to the arrow of time that supposedly flows in only one direction.”

This of course was true. In postmodern western culture, death is supposed to occur at the end of (a linear) life, and death is final. Whatever happens afterwards is a mystery, a journey into the unknown; one perhaps dependent on personal belief.

I thought of the 30 years I had spent celebrating monthly and seasonal changes through earth – based ritual. Every rite had one requirement that included some kind of letting go, surrender, or death of a quality/attitude no longer needed. I had learned that some types of ‘dying’ were part of an ongoing cyclic process requiring endless repetition. But in all these years I had not been able to feel my physical death as part of that round.

“Could it also be that dealing with the fear of death was partly developmental? Maybe I am just moving into this psychic region of influence now? At 70 I am starting to feel that, one day, in the not so distant future I shall die.”

“What you just said is important. Dealing with dying on a personal level is to some extent developmental. The fact that you are starting to feel death looming as part of your future may seem frightening, but is actually another positive development. You must be able to feel those feelings and one day the child must join you in order for you to reach a point of acceptance.”

“I am so tired of stupid fear,” I whisper, sighing audibly.

“For now it is enough to admit this truth,” the Berry Woman replies kindly. Her voice is fading and I realize for the second time that twilight has fallen.

For the next few weeks I kept on writing, though I was experiencing more confusion and uncertainty as to where I was headed with such a difficult and upsetting story.

The Berry Woman hadn’t materialized again, and I was starting to feel nagging doubts…

I wrote about recent illnesses and my growing distrust of doctors. A positive result of this distrust is that I was starting to take responsibility for my health on a level that I never had before. I tried to listen to my body more carefully. I was taking Elderberry daily.

I recalled my recent oral surgery. When I first looked in the mirror after the extractions I saw a toothless old woman staring back at me. Vaguely, I recalled the fact that all the women in my family lost their teeth around the age of seventy. Lightening struck. I had gotten stuck in two “events” that were related. I turned 70 and had teeth extracted three weeks before! This surgery and my birthday had forced me to encounter the “old woman” in myself.

And I had to admit that I was very much afraid of her.

 Up until mid-life when I began to celebrate ritual everything I believed about old women came from the biased (Christianized) fairy tales I read as a child, the actions of my mother, and my experience of them. In fairy tales the “old woman” is toothless, ugly, and mean. And as I later learned as an eco – feminist, she was also a figure that had fear and tremendous hatred of old women (and the earth) at her roots.

In contrast, years of celebrating ritual had introduced me to the ‘old woman’ as a more positive figure. For example, Baba Yaga lived in the woods in a house that moved around on chicken feet. She was ugly, toothless, ruthlessly honest, and powerful. She was not the least bit sentimental. Oozing false declarations of love was not part of her nature. She could be fearsome but she could also choose to help when approached with honesty, integrity and respect. I wanted desperately to embrace this more positive older figure, but the child’s fear of the old woman was the stronger of the two in my psyche.

I had just finished this sentence, when the purple berry appeared on a twig of one of the grapevines. It was a soft pale blue afternoon. The Berry Woman was dancing in front of me- a translucent oval twirling around in a small circle of light. Now I could clearly see the seed inside her.

“ Berry Woman, I am so happy to see you. I have to acknowledge the mean old witch of my childhood fairy tales as a shadow part of me don’t I?”

“Yes, you must! You know the phrase ‘keep you enemies near’ and this is sound advice. That old troll can strike when you are least expecting it. She’s at home just below the threshold of your awareness. She’s full of envy; she’s dishonest and manipulative; she’s either a killer or uses “kindness” and dismissal as a weapon. Often, she’s most deadly during the monthly full moons. She also holds hidden power, the root of your fear of her. Your mother unfortunately had many of those qualities and she wielded power at the expense of relationship, so you have some idea what you are up against. It didn’t help that your mother refused to see you for the last twelve years of her life. How she dealt with old age is a question that will never be answered. To do more work around forgiveness will help you. You also need to tap into the kind of power I have to use it in a positive way; this is a challenge because you learned that power destroys relationships. Finally, it’s critically important to recognize that both you and your mother were socialized into a culture of woman hatred.”

Her words about my mother upset me greatly. I believed I had come to terms with who she was. I thought I had taken full responsibility for my part in our disastrous relationship. (Woman hatred was a reality I simply lived with and was forced to accept as a member of this culture). The thought of returning to the mother issue again filled me with dread.

Before I could express my concern the Berry Woman’s translucent body began shrinking into a single point of light that pulsed like a star and then, pouf, she was gone. No doubt she knew exactly what I was thinking.

I mulled over what she had said about my mother and forgiveness, my mother and power. In my heart I knew I had more work to do. I also owned that my fear of my mother was tied to the mean ‘old witch’ of fairy tales and for that reason I needed to re-examine this figure. I wandered outdoors into the mist- laden forest, papery orange maple leaves crunching under my feet. When I reached the brook I lay down on the moss covered ground between some rusty red pine roots and stared up at the evergreens feeling a deep sadness wash over me. My eyes grew heavy and I slept.

In the dream I have a clear image of three bare trees. The biggest of these trees, the one in the center, has black puncture holes in her trunk and some dark resin pours out from what appears to be deep wounds. Although all the trees are leafless, it is after all deep autumn, two seem quite healthy. But the holes in the center tree make my stomach ache. I imagine invisibility, loneliness, depression, loss of physical strength, fear of dying… how can I attend to such wounds? My stomach clenches with involuntary fear as I awaken. This is the Mother Tree.

I must have slept through the night because the sun was streaming through the trees when I awakened. In front of me leaning against rough bark perched on an evergreen branch the Berry Woman sparkled – plump and ripe. With a shock I note that I spent the whole night outdoors in the cold and never felt it.

I raced up the hill to take care of the dogs.

Then we continued our conversation. “I saw the Mother Tree in my dream – she’s me isn’t she?”

“Of course. I hope you noticed that she was very much alive, despite her wounding.”

All I had seen were the holes, the dried blood that poured out of her center. Now I imaged the whole tree in my mind, as if seeing her for the first time. She wore a silvery crown of graceful bare branches, and despite the oval black holes in her body she was elegantly dressed in gray ribbed bark. She wasn’t dying.

“You never saw her before – all you noticed were the holes, not a resplendent tree standing between her two sisters. You have a tendency to focus on what’s wrong and that limits your vision. Some of your favorite woodpeckers made those holes and raised children in them.” Woodpeckers create space for new beginnings…and most holes, even those that weep, do not kill the tree. Note that you have two sister trees and neither have holes. You are not alone!

When the Berry Woman spoke again, her voice was stern. “ There is nothing you can do to heal the mother wounds, they are part of who you are, but you can learn to co-exist with them. Unfortunately, when mother dominates your psyche/body you can’t imagine a life not predicated on pain, and this bias has merit because you have suffered deeply.”

I feel sudden fury rising. I am sick of pain.

“ Think about it. As soon as you were able to begin growing up you did your best to give others the best of what you had to offer. You discovered a way to live your life creatively through academia, teaching, counseling, your writing, and by learning how to Love through Nature. Your dogs, dove, bears, the animals and plants of the forest have been lifetime teachers. I can promise you that a creative fire is still burning inside you even if you cannot feel it.”

“ You think so? The fire in me feels like it has turned to ash. ” For an instant I see the three Red Birds that appeared during my ritual on All Hallows Eve and speculate on their message…

“ I want to change the subject. Can we talk about the Universe?”

The Berry Woman nods crinkling smooth opaque skin. I love the way it folds over her like an accordion.

“Of course we can,” she replies.

For me, the Earth seems friendly, but the Universe seems unfriendly. I had a sudden thought – Had black holes in the mother tree biased my thinking about the Universe?

” Good question, chirps the Berry Woman. The Universe isn’t unfriendly it’s the ultimate unknown! Perhaps you need to start to practice thinking about the Universe without attaching a negative judgment to it”.

She continues, “it is very important for you to heal the split you have created between the Universe and the Earth.”

 “The Universe is so immense, so abstract, seemingly so empty that it is beyond my capacity to imagine feeling at home in it, let alone safe. Yet my senses also tell me that the Universe is much more complex than physicists imagine. It may be that the Universe is also intuitively tuned to all its inhabitants from quasars to photons just like the Earth is.”

“Ah, good thinking!” The Berry Woman is pleased, and I feel grateful. The grape is wrinkling her skin into that engaging smile.

When she slides into the rough bark of the tree I don’t question it, although I always feel regret when she leaves. Nothing the Berry Woman does now seems strange to me. With surprise I realize that I have started to trust her a whole lot.

Stiffly, I get to my feet, stumbling over those rugged tree roots and returned to the house. I am exhausted from all this thinking/conversation, and very much needing to return to the mundane world and the love of my dogs.

My personal history may be a challenge but receiving help from Nature certainly helps neutralize the depression it causes I wrote a couple of days later. Somehow I must figure out how to locate myself in the bigger picture. How I can help the dis –embodied child enter our body still seemed to be an impossible task. All I had gleaned so far is that she lives through the holes of my “mother” tree.

I thought about my lost Universe connection. Up until the last few years I had always been drawn to the night sky.

I wrote about how I lost my cosmic connection by way of the stars and moon. First my dog Morningstar died after a prolonged and painful illness. The light of Venus darkened perceptibly. The following summer when the Perseid meteors struck on the night of my son’s birthday I stayed indoors. He had severed our relationship so completely despite years of prayers and pleading. These days, after viewing the Great Bear constellation in the Northeast sky, I was ready to return to the house.

For thirty years I had been in love with the moon turning to her each month during her fullness to help me heal my broken relationship with my body. But the moon eventually turned dark. At first it was her trickster grandson aspect, rabbit, that seemed to send me frightening dreams, or topple my life upside down each month when the moon was full and bright; more recently the specter of death hovered – the moon kept me from sleeping – death fears soared as she masqueraded as the Old Woman whose scythe cut the cord of life. Had I neglected her/his dark aspect until it overcame me? It wasn’t lost on me that restoring this relationship to the moon and stars was my first bridge to reconciliation with the rest of the cosmos.

Every word I wrote seemed to create more questions; more challenges but no answers emerged. I was feeling discouraged.

One day about a week later I walked down to the tree trunk by the brook and put my hands on the nubbly bark where I had last visited the Berry Woman. I wanted to tell her how grateful I was to have someone who seemed to understand what I was going through. I noticed the tree seemed to be gurgling almost inaudibly, and before I could say how much I missed my friend, she chimed in from above.

“Here I am!” I craned my neck upwards to get a glimpse of her. She was perched on a slender branch.

“I thought that since you have been writing about stars and the moon that I’d visit from a tree that catches stars every night in her branches. I’m glad that you see how one -sided your relationship with the moon and stars has become.”

“Uhmm…” I nodded sadly.

The Purple Grape continued.“ I want to remind you of part of your story… A long time ago you turned to the moon and stars – the Universe for help – you put your trust in possibilities that never materialized, and eventually your hope bled out like the resin still bleeds out from the mother tree. Feeling unworthy, you also made your son a guiding star instead of putting that trust in yourself… that was a grave mistake. When your son betrayed you the last time, part of you crumpled into a heap born of despair. You never recovered. You couldn’t bear to watch the meteor shower last summer because your grief has finally caught up to you and it is starting to seep through your body. Healing tears still do not come. The positive aspect of this process is that you are beginning to become more physically embodied through this torment. As I said before, this journey to become an Elder is difficult; most choose not make it. I am also compelled to tell you that learning to live in your body as receiver, with increasing awareness, means opening yourself to even more pain and fear. It’s just how it is.”

The Berry Woman was silent. I wondered if she was giving me a chance to absorb the enormity of what she just said. Then she began speaking quietly.

“ I am making you a promise. One day when you least expect it you will once again feel joy, marvel at the unfathomable mystery around you and wrap yourself in the cloak of the moon and her stars… Perhaps then Starflower will finally be able to find her way home. I can’t promise that, though. ” How much I loved the fact that The Berry Woman was so honest; no wonder I had come to trust her so completely. I started to thank her but she stopped me.

“I’m part of you, don’t you know that yet?” She had no sooner uttered these words, when my friend’s voice started to lose substance. I noted this abrupt change with alarm. She couldn’t leave me now… The frightening sense of impending loss was intolerable. Not again…

Transfixed, I watched as my Berry Woman wobbled precariously on her branch. When she toppled from the tree a jellied blob hit the ground disintegrating into the rich detritus of the forest floor. I gasped in disbelief. Only a single seed remained.

“This seed is my gift to you.” I barely heard her whisper.

“Thank you, thank you for coming. I will never forget…”

I bent down to pick up the gift – the seed that was her life- my life? – I held it reverently in my hand as I trudged up the hill to the house. I wondered then if the power of the Berry Woman’s seed could keep me attached to the rough road ahead. There was no way to know.

The End

Tree of Life



Full Seed Moon 3/9/20


I see a beautiful fruit tree that is in full bloom with delicate pink blossoms and a man comes and attacks it violently – Oh, all the blossoms fall away, drifting tears cover the ground. Before this the little tree had bloomed “forever,” but man brought death to the blossoming tree and to the tree of life itself.


Little interpretation is necessary to understand this dream on a collective level. The Tree Holocaust is upon us. The Anthropocene is destroying more forests every second. Billions of trees. The lungs of the earth. The Beings that gift us with rain. We have less than three percent of intact forest left on this planet.


“Man” represents the age of the Anthropocene – each one of us – male or female. Every human being on this earth is complicit in tree obliteration and the terrifying violence associated with this slaughter. It’s important to note that the tree is weeping. My sense is that the tree isn’t just weeping for being murdered but that s/he is weeping for those who would annihilate her/him.


The most chilling part of this dream from my point of view is that once the little tree bloomed “forever.’ Forever suggests timelessness – mythology routinely breaks through the artificial walls that separate diverse peoples from one another, and the way humans experience time with stories that include this word that transcends time. Past, present, future, merge simultaneously into the eternal Now – or did, but in the dream this reality has broken down irrevocably.


Mythologically, the image/story/pattern of the Tree of Life is found in every culture. This is surely no accident. Indigenous peoples across the globe have been in a loving, respectful reciprocal relationship with trees since the dawn of humankind; each group has its own sacred tree and all trees are considered holy beings. Intuitively, and through reciprocal relationship these humans have known for millennia that we depend upon these beings for life.


The Tree of Life as a pattern also indicates wholeness and inclusiveness. Note that many images of the tree of life like the one that I am using here – my Huichol string painting – also includes animals, birds and insects.




Today it is no longer easy to dismiss trees as the background furniture of our lives or sneer at various mythologies because of their primitive ideas because we have learned that without trees humans will eventually cease to exist… Two other dreams have reiterated to me recently, “we are in too deep, and love is not enough.”


One hopeful personal note:


All winter the cottonwood trees have been “talking” to me in the Bosque, through my senses/and through the air by means of telepathy – a kind of instant communication without words. They tell me how thirsty they are, how much they love being seen and loved. They repeat that they accept their dying, and that new trees of another kind will replace them at some point in the future, although it won’t be soon. A healing balm flows through me as I listen with my heart to their plight. Because of them, acceptance flows through me like the river that parallels the Bosque, although sadness lingers because I love them and all their relatives so much.


Sometimes in the Bosque I also see dead grasses pulsing pin-points of light – like fireflies under my feet – they keep me focused on the ground – inner sight – insight?


Lately though the trees have fallen silent and the grasses no longer glow.


Now my dreams repeat what I see as well as the messages I have receive in the Bosque – that protective bark is falling away from dying trees, leaves are yellowing/dropping because of drought, and that death is on the horizon for most trees through the Southwest as desertification intensifies. In contrast in another dream I learn that elsewhere pockets of dark tree greening can still be found; I interpret this as hope that some trees may live on regardless of human stupidity. If we could save the trees; we could save ourselves. The reverse is equally true. If we save ourselves (and it’s humans that are in desperate need of healing the split between themselves and the rest of nature), the trees will survive.

The Forest Has a Heart and S/he Sleeps Too



The heartbeat of the tree is hidden in its trunk…


The Forest has a heart?

Scientist Diana Beresford Kroeger proved that the biochemistry of humans and that of plants and trees are the same – ie the hormones (including serotonin) that regulate human and plant life are identical. What this means practically is that trees possess all the elements they need to develop a mind and consciousness. If mind and awareness are possibilities/probabilities then my next question isn’t absurd: Do trees have a heartbeat?

According to studies done in Hungary and Denmark (Zlinszky/Molnar/Barfod) in 2017 trees do in fact have a special type of pulse within them which resembles that of a heartbeat.

To find this hidden heartbeat, these researchers used advanced monitoring techniques known as terrestrial laser scanning to survey the movement of twenty two different types of trees to see how the shape of their canopies changed.

The measurements were taken in greenhouses at night to rule out sun and wind as factors in the trees’ movements.

In several of the trees, branches moved up and down by about a centimeter or so every couple of hours.

After studying the nocturnal tree activity, the researchers came up with a theory about what the movement means. They believe the motion is an indication that trees are pumping water up from their roots. It is, in essence, a type of ‘heartbeat.’ These results shocked everyone. At night, while the trees were resting, slow and steady pulses pumped and distributed water throughout the tree body just as a human heart pumps blood. It has been assumed that trees distribute water via osmosis (a process that defies gravity and never made sense to me) but this and other new findings suggests otherwise.

Scientists have discovered the trunks and branches of trees are actually contracting and expanding to ‘pump’ water up from the roots to the leaves, similar to the way our hearts pump blood through our bodies. They suggest that the trunk gently squeezes the water, pushing it upwards through the xylem, a system of tissue in the trunk whose main job is to transport water and nutrients from roots to shoots and leaves.

But what “organ” generates the pulse?

Recently forest science researchers have found that the pulse is mostly generated by diameter fluctuations in the bark only. This was somewhat surprising, as traditionally it was thought that bark is totally decoupled from the transpiration stream of the tree. To better understand this mysterious situation, we need to have a closer look at the bark.

Bark can be divided into a dead (outside) and living (inside) section. The living section contains a transport system called phloem. The phloem relocates sugars – produced during photosynthesis in the leaves – to tissues, which require sugars for energy. The direction of transport leads to a downward directed stream of sugar-rich sap in bark towards the roots. The phloem uses water as transport medium for these sugars, and under certain conditions it appears that this water can be drawn out of the phloem into the transpiration stream of the stem. Plant biologists were able to show that these conditions are most likely to occur during the rapid increase of transpiration in the morning hours. During this time, the tension in the capillaries that transport the water upwards in rapidly increases.

Just like a rubber band, too much tension would cause the water column inside the capillaries to burst; this is one horrible way that trees can die during drought.

To prevent this snapping, water from phloem is drawn into the capillaries, and the loss of water from the phloem causes the stem to shrink. Once the tension in the capillaries declines as a consequence of decreasing transpiration, the formerly lost water will be replaced back into the phloem, and so the stem expands again.

The exact pathway of this water transfer takes place within the phloem that acts like a sponge that gets saturated and squeezed continuously.

The only difference between our pulse and a tree’s is a tree’s is much slower, ‘beating’ once every two hours or so, and instead of regulating blood pressure, the heartbeat of a tree regulates water pressure. Trees have regular periodic changes in shape that are synchronized across the whole plant.

It seems obvious to me that the ‘heart’ of a tree extends through its entire trunk just under the bark, the place where the pulse of a tree beats continuously.


Part 2   Trees Sleep?

In 2016, Zlinszky and his team released another study demonstrating that birch trees go to sleep at night (now we know that all trees – at least all the trees that have been studied so far – do sleep at night).*

Trees follow circadian cycles responding primarily to light and darkness on a daily cycle. The researchers believe the dropping of birch branches before dawn is caused by a decrease in the tree’s internal water pressure while the trees rest. With no photosynthesis at night to drive the conversion of sunlight into simple sugars, trees are conserving energy by relaxing branches that would otherwise be angled towards the sun. Trees increase their transpiration during the morning, decreasing it during the afternoon and into the night. There is a change in the diameter of the trunk or stem that produces a slow pulse. During the evening and the night tree water use is declining, while at the same time, the stem begins to expand again as it refills with water.

When trees drop their branches and leaves its because they’re sleeping. They enter their own type of circadian rhythm known as circadian leaf movement, following their own internal tree clock.

Movement patterns followed an 8 to 12 cycle, a periodic movement between 2 – 6 hours and a combination of the two.

As we know, plants need water to photosynthesize glucose, the basic building block from which their more complex molecules are formed. For trees, this means drawing water from the roots to the leaves. This takes place during daylight hours.

The movement has to be connected to variations in water pressure within the plants, and this effectively means that the tree is pumping fluids continuously. Water transport is not just a steady-state flow, as was previously assumed; changing water pressure is the norm although the trees continue to pulse throughout the night as tree trunks shrink and expand.

This work is just one example of a growing body of literature indicating that trees have lives that are more similar to ours than we could have ever imagined. When we mindlessly destroy trees we are destroying a whole ecosystem and a part of ourselves in the process because we are all related through our genetic make up. A sobering thought, for some.

Personal footnote:

Having lived in the North Country surrounded by evergreens of all kinds (balsaam, fir, spruce, hemlock, and white pine) for most of my life, I have always suspected that trees sleep during the winter months. On frigid mornings one glance at my closet neighbors shows me the needles are drooping, the needles turning almost gray. If the temperatures do not warm during the day the trees remain bowed, even if no snow is present. During a thaw the trees come back to life raising their branches towards the sun. Even their various greens intensify in color. Although I have conversed with my trees asking them how they are doing, I had no idea that what I observed was simply one aspect of a continuous process that was occurring with all trees every single day/night. I have not seen research on this wintering behavior of northern trees but now I am speculating that winter sleeping might be an unexplored aspect of northern tree behavior?