Changing Woman Speaks

She climbed steep hills

and rubble to reach the meadow.

The flat – topped mountain peered down

at the woman

gathering stones 

as if they were diamonds.

Amber, moss, pearl white,

rose red and orange,

gray and ebony – a luminescence

emanated from each,

almost as if the moon had

infused each flake and boulder

with her translucent light.

The Pedernal absorbed

her child-like wonder

and gifted her

with stones

that told a story

of a sea of shells and plants

and Changing Woman

who helped her

remember who she was.

Stones speak to

those who listen.

Notes on the Pedernal:

In Abiquiu, New Mexico there is a flat – topped mountain that is called the Pedernal which can be seen from most directions and has been painted and photographed from every angle. Indigenous peoples considered this mountain to be sacred. The mythical (Navajo) Changing Woman was born on this mountain, and it is said that she lives there still. Each year she is born in the spring, emerges as a young woman during the summer, becomes a mother in the fall, and turns into an old woman during the winter season, only to be born again. In the East she is Earth Woman, in the South Mountain Woman, in the West she is Water Woman and in the North she is Corn Woman. Changing Woman embodies Nature’s as a whole and since the Navajo trace their lineage through a matrilineal line she is the Mother of all the People.

 The first way Changing Woman saves the world is by birthing the twins, the male aspects of herself. This embodied female/male energy is capable of taking action on behalf of all the people, ridding the world of monsters. It is important to note that the twins require the help of Spider Grandmother’s wisdom, guidance and protection because Spider Grandmother is Changing Woman’s older wisdom aspect, a continuation of her mother – line.

 The second and most critical way Changing Woman saves the world from “monsters” is because she secures the matrilineal line for the People. The matrilineal system traces descent through maternal roots. Men who marry move to the wife’s residence (matrilocal) and become part of the maternal family. Mothers, aunts, and grandmothers bring up the children, protecting, guiding, and teaching the children the ancestral family stories. This system unites Navajo society and creates the social structure of the culture connecting generations through kinship.

 Although in present day Navajo culture Patriarchy has eroded women’s power the four tenets (harmony, beauty, balance, peace) remain part of the judicial system of the Navajo people.The multicolored stone called chert and its darker twin, flint, are structural (quartz) parts of this mountain. These stones were once collected to craft the finest arrowheads for hunting.

Winterberry Wonders

Every fall I’m on the lookout for winterberry, a shrub that belongs to the holly family. It grows wild in wet and swampy places. At North Pond there is one astounding bush that is full of so many berries that it’s almost impossible to see the underlying branches even when they’re full of leaves. Because I have a friend who lives right there I am gifted with a few sprigs each fall during the month of November. 

This year, by the time I got my clippers together I had missed the best of the show. The birds had gotten there before I did, although I got a couple of pictures and spent more than just a few minutes admiring those brilliant red berries. This has been a dry summer and many birds haven’t had the luxury of having as many seeds and berries available as usual. Since I knew this fact about my avian friends it was my fault that I didn’t get my usual sprigs! I would like to know which birds got the bounty because one day the bush was overflowing, and two days later the berries were too sparse to pick.

 I know a few other local places to go to get the berries but this year my attempts to secure even a modest amount met with failure. The moist damp places I investigated were dry. Add to this the fact that these wild bushes don’t always bloom profusely every year. They have their own cycle – one year on – and one year off as near as I can determine. When I went to see the Sand hill cranes in early October I saw many low lying winterberry bushes that were already full of berries. But that was in Fryeburg, not here.

Most years I create an outdoor bouquet of evergreens interspersed with scarlet (or sunset orange) sprigs and leave it in a place where the grouse and robins will be able to feast at leisure. The berries are so popular with wildlife that more than forty species of our birds eat them! One species can congregate  on a bush for an edible celebration and strip it at a single sitting! Bluebirds, woodpeckers, and cedar waxwings are just a few other birds that find these berries irresistible. During the winter months, mammals, like moose deer and rabbits eat the stems and leaves of this bush that grows to a height of about 10 to 15 feet.

I find it interesting that as appealing as this wild holly is to birds that humans need to be wary – we can be poisoned by the berries.

Winterberry is native to eastern North America and Canada. It’s still fairly abundant in the wild and is most frequently found in swampy woodland and wetland areas. Actually, I have never come across any of these bushes in any area that is dry.

I have a couple of winterberry bushes on my land but they don’t get enough sun to thrive, and I am loathe to cut the trees around them.

 Winterberry is hardy enough to survive the toughest of Maine winters. When the shrub isn’t “berrying” its hard to see it because even when it’s flowering the blossoms are small. It doesn’t stand out from other wild plants; instead it blends seamlessly into woodland areas during the spring and summer. But after a hard frost has turned the leaves black the winterberry becomes incredibly startling to my artist’s eye because its slender junco gray branches stand out in stark relief to those clusters of crimson jewels.For those who might like to grow their own winterberry garden centers and nurseries offer a number of cultivars, some of which are quite small. It’s important to note that the berries form only on female shrubs that must be fertilized by a male – It takes about three years to ascertain which bush is which so be sure to take that fact into account should you choose to buy a pair of bushes. Remember too that winterberry thrives in wet ground. If you decide to grow this lovely shrub your avian friends will thank you!

The Dolphin and the Moon

Unfinished Symphony –

On thanksgiving

I gave my pearls away

Some belonged to my mother.

I am getting ready to

 let the past

become the future.

Luminous white moons,

once I loved them so.

Gifted from the sea.

Not casually offered

and not without


but out of a need

to be seen,

to strengthen our bond,

 I share in trust.

My belief in Her –

 She who is Giver,

 Taker of Life.

And one day

my offerings might

help one young

woman to become

who she already is –

in potential

a healer of women

as well as men.

Her voice is still


A whispering pearl


inside her oyster.

When he came into

my life future

no longer held

meaning – I am

in awe of a reversal

that only nature

could have 


from subterranean depths.

To create a ‘family’

out of tree roots,

mycelial networks,

art forms,

 underground conversations –

why does this surprise me?

Trees talk to both of us

through root and leaf –

scent and sound –

 He is already

 a forest scientist

in all but name.

Taught by

a man who loves

trees the way we do.

I gave the dolphin 

to her by mistake

and had to ask

for him back!

And what about

my mother’s pearls?

I still need them.

The Dolphin

must go deeper still

to recover the Rabbit in the Moon.

Postscript… I have an ancient history with rabbits and yesterday we met one on our rainy day walk. A bi colored rabbit, I recognized him instantly as a relative of a rabbit I had long ago. (This domesticated rabbit had mated with a cottontail, and so the story began again). The original rabbit escaped from his outdoor house one waxing moon night about 10 years ago when a bear set him free. At that point I realized that all future rabbits must be free.

Yesterday I knew that this rabbit sighting was alerting me to the importance of paying close attention to what I was about to do because there is an intimate relationship between the rabbit, the moon, other women and myself.

Mythology abounds with rabbits who pull chariots in the snow, who dance under the moon, whose relationship to all women and goddess figures is an intimate one.

Thanks to the rabbit sighting and my willingness to act intuitively without knowing why I was able to correct a mistake I made even though I don’t yet know exactly why it was so important to reverse my original intention.

Coyote Woman Unmasked

Four years ago I made a trip to New Mexico to spend the winter and returned for three more winters in a row. A true Night Journey through the Desert. I hadn’t been there three weeks before a Great Horned owl appeared at my door. My dead mother (with whom I had had a devastating relationship and who loved Great Horned owls) was surfacing as a threat…and I just did not want to believe it.

 After a few months I was thrilled to make what I believed to be a genuine woman friend. Ironically, I met her at a feminist gathering. Oh, at last!  Up until that point the only woman I currently had a close relationship with was a woman who was a former editor that became a virtual friend. I had only met her once (Caveat -watch out for FB friends). My dearest friend Lise (we were thirty years strong) lived too far away for us to see each other although we talked and argued periodically! I was so lonely for a real woman friend that I could see regularly, and share my feelings with … When this woman sought me out I could hardly contain myself. I was that excited.  

When I had to leave the house I had rented because of a fire my new friend offered me a place to stay in a trailer on her property. My gratitude overflowed. Once a week or so she would take me on road trips to places I never would have found on my own. To say that I adored her was an understatement. She seemed so kind, so loving, – perfect in every way.

That spring I had a vivid dream of a clay relief that I should make and give her for her birthday. The round pot had a Great Horned owl emerging from its center, which seemed odd. I created the image for my friend in clay and gave it to her for her birthday, although privately I found the image of the owl disturbing. (I should note that after that first owl appearance three weeks after my arrival in New Mexico I continued to be haunted by owl presence, although I earnestly tried to make peace with both Great Horned owls and my dead mother who always came with them.)

I shared so much of my personal life with my friend that it took almost two winters for me to recognize that ‘our emotional sharing’ was one sided. She was a private a person; she withheld her personal feelings under a hood of neutrality, rarely allowing vulnerability to surface… Still, I accepted her on her own terms. 

The first real break between us occurred late in November the third year I spent there when she forgot to tell me that she had discovered bear tracks at the river’s edge for a week until it was almost impossible to ‘read’ the story they told. My love of bears was legion. How could she, of all people, have neglected to tell me about the tracks I wondered with rising confusion. The word “mean spirited” surfaced; I swept it away. I acknowledged to myself that we were growing apart though I had no idea why. And I missed her. 

 A few weeks later I was invited to a winter solstice bonfire but once again my friend forgot to mention that the location had changed. When I arrived after dark no one was there. I waited patiently. When I heard human coyote howls and a discordant ruckus below me I walked down the hill (from the bonfire site) to the beach and discovered that people had gathered there instead. Everyone else, obviously, had been given the new location. Devastated, I left early after giving my friend a winter solstice gift. The next morning I wrote a poem to assuage my grief.

I attempted to talk to my friend about what had happened but she dismissed my concerns saying only that she was sorry; she meant no harm. I believed her. 

In retrospect the message was clear and I totally missed it even though I had written about it. I was dealing with a Coyote Woman who could shape shift and become someone else at will. Poetry (like dreaming) never lies. 

Nothing was the same after that incident. I began to feel the familiar female loneliness. Although we remained cordial, a visit with her left me enervated – empty inside. We stopped taking regular road trips. The next year when I casually asked her about the date of the winter solstice gathering her response startled me. ‘She assumed that I wouldn’t want to attend.’  It wasn’t until I pressed her for an explanation that she let it slip that her boyfriend resented my reference to whites acting like Indians – (he claimed he had Native blood – the first time I ever heard that statement)- and that everyone else was ‘upset’ with me. I finally got it. 

My friend had orchestrated this story by reading and sharing my poem with the rest of her friends garnering support for herself at my expense to deal with her own double nature. I had carried the full responsibility for last year’s confusing winter solstice episode because I had no idea what had gone wrong that night and assumed it must have been my perceptions that had been skewed. 

 The day her mother died in December I heard a Great Horned owl hooting from my friend’s rooftop on a pre-dawn walk. I remembered the summer before… While my friend was dealing with her mother’s failing health I supported her by writing to her in Switzerland every single day for over a month.  Though I had surely been a part of the process I met my friend with her cronies purely by accident while they were on the way to the beach to scatter her mother’s ashes. I had not been included in this ritual. I was stunned and hurt.

 Although I saw my friend a few times over the next couple of months she filled the void between us by gossiping about others I barely knew and didn’t care about. Yet, she was kind enough to buy me some groceries in Sante Fe, a place my directional dyslexia prevented me from driving to. The increasing emotional distance between us coupled with the superficial acts of kindness left me feeling as if I was walking on air. When I left hurriedly the following April because of Covid/and work that needed to be done to my house I texted her goodbye.

After my arrival home I attempted to explain why I left in such a hurry (although she knew my leave taking was imminent).   She responded obliquely saying that she had let go of ‘owl house’ – (the casita I lived in but had certainly NOT named owl house!) apparently unwilling/unable to tell me that she had dismissed me from her life permanently. Thankfully, I had already accepted that this was the case.  She did mention that the last time she was at the casita a Great Horned owl scared her by rising up from the ground. I recognized that this ‘visitation’ spoke volumes about her, and was not about me. 

 I used the next couple of weeks to question how I had allowed myself to be taken in. After all, even though she opened the door, I chose her as my friend. And for a while she was a model of kindness – and when the darker, more confusing aspects of her began to appear I didn’t want to see them or if I did they baffled me (any attempt I made to address these issues was also side stepped – this became a ‘root’ problem). This was my 50 percent and I had to own it. I wanted and needed women friends and my vulnerability had gotten me into trouble, again.  Coyote Women – Sphinx Women – Shape shifters – Owl women like my mother insinuated themselves into my life repeatedly – Women who might be kind but who also garnered power through silence; power and control the opposite of love. The repetitive old pattern. Ironically, what I miss is the relationship I thought I had…


I need to remain wary. The women in my life, except for one, have been untrustworthy.  I remind myself that although I may be lonely for female companionship that I can receive sustenance directly from Nature; as mother, father, friend, sister, and brother. Thankfully, the Earth Goddess is always present in my life in both male and female aspects, and I can hope that this last experience will sharpen my awareness around ANY female that attempts to befriend me in the future. Earnest to a fault, I don’t have access to the necessary coyote energy I need to outwit another Coyote Woman.


 Owls are often associated with women. New Age folks read owls as wisdom figures but this belief has poor grounding in reality. The Greek goddess Athena, a real killer and goddess of war had a little owl on her shoulder.

Some owls like the Barred owl seem less deadly when they appear or call.

Great Horned owls, on the other hand, are associated with sorcery/witchcraft and are omens of death. Many Indigenous tribes fear them because to hear or see one means a relative/friend/self will die.

Three weeks before my mother died I heard Great Horned owls calling just outside my west window from the west every single night– the hair on my skin prickled ominously.

The same thing happened before I left for New Mexico the second time. On the night of my birthday a whole family of them serenaded me from all directions. There have been many other times – most of these happening are recorded in biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s data bank.

Whatever else these owls may be about besides death of one kind or another they speak to the darker side of human nature which I have tendency to ignore in people I care about.

While in New Mexico Great Horned owls followed me everywhere. I did more inner work in order to come to terms with what these owls were warning me about, as well as engaging in yet another round with my dead mother to offset their dark presence … Although I did everything I could to get to the other side of this story – the light side – I was unable to do so.

 The Great Horned owl is what s/he is.

Postscript: This narrative was just published formally (not here I don’t consider my blog a publishing site – rather a place to store experiences – and to decide whether or not I want to publish….) Anyway the response was overwhelming… So many many women identified with this story – woman betrayal is common I know – but I didn’t realize this story would touch so many… One woman’s response was spot on. She said that I had to let my mother go – that on some level I was still seeking her out. This remark struck me forcibly because I believed that I had done all the work I needed to do around my original relationship – I actually think this is true – but I also see that part of me will always be vulnerable to women because there is no way the child in me will ever give up her quest for a real mother/friend…There is a hole in me that will never be filled. I equated making peace with my mother with recovering from her abuse. I will never recover – like the Great Horned owl it is what it is. And the owls come to warn me…Below is my response to this woman’s words about the need to let go.

Yes, as a psychologist (Jungian analyst) I am painfully aware that what you say is true …Kindness is a hook for me because my mother was NOT kind… that and the fact that I project too much light onto anyone that exhibits kindness, blinding myself to the rest – eventually I see what I am doing – but this process takes time. Meanwhile the pattern repeats. There is nothing more powerful than that original mother -daughter bond and it does follow us beyond the grave as you obviously know.
It’s interesting to me that “projection” – we all do it with people – and most still do it with all of nature because they don’t have the ability or open mindedness to see that we are all connected! – Thus. we dismiss our relationships with individuals in nature as being childish or psychologically backward when just the opposite is the case. The exception of course is Indigenous peoples who see every aspect of nature as a relative. The one blessing that came out of my relationship with my mother is that I had to turn to nature for sustenance. Had I not had that connection I probably would not have survived let alone become the naturalist I am – a sensitive, a woman who communicates easily with most non human species. This is a gift.

Loss of a Nation

The last four years have stripped me of my belief in people in regard to decency, kindness, integrity, truth telling, and compassion. I am not saying that I believe all people have lost the ability to be ‘human’, but it is clear to me that many, perhaps even a majority have. Our planet is on scream; S/he can no longer support a people who despise her or dismiss her with such vengeance or indifference.

In order to survive the reign of terror and insanity that now characterizes much of our culture, I was forced to split away from politics, to choose the lonely road of human isolation in order to retain my sanity. My oceanic grief over what was/is happening to Nature had/has become ‘the darkest night’ my soul has ever known. 

I have been told that I see the world through a darkened lens. Perhaps. But what I was witnessing terrified me. During the first few months as Trump and his minions began to gather ‘the powers of darkness’ around them I couldn’t understand why the rest of our culture didn’t rebel with the authority that comes out of identifying ‘crazy’ and taking action against a man whose twisted form of dementia was life threating to all. Wasn’t it obvious that the man was unfit to lead a country? It was from this vantage point that I noticed that pro Trump and anti Trump folks were engaged in the same occupation – hooked to a Cult figure, for better or ill. As the chasm widened the anti Trump people became as addicted to this man’s craziness as the pro – trump folks who sung his praises. 

As an outsider I witnessed the two sides meeting each other around the circle, even as the atrocities mounted. Impatiently, I would tell my neighbor, for example, a man who hated Trump, that he was giving the man exactly what he wanted – his full attention. Naturally, my remarks were ignored (Addiction slips through the crack when we lose the ability to see and understand what we are doing, and this man, like so many, never engaged in self reflection).

It became obvious to me within the first six months of our terrorist’s reign that grabbing attention was the golden ring for Trump. Without integrity, conscience or an ability to reflect on his own actions, he was also crippled by lack of feeling. It didn’t matter what kind of attention the man got – it only mattered that he got it.

 The American People and the media fed him like a baby. He took center stage 365 days a year. Garnering power at any cost was his goal and the road to power is paved by attention and intention. That he wrote a script for the American people that was so distorted that lying, hatred of science, caging children, shooting people, advocating white supremacy, sanctioning misogyny, the rape of women (who were called pussies) either psychically or physically became normalized

He wore his colossal stupidity like a badge. Meanwhile, he paraded his Barbie Doll wife around like a trophy. Apparently her one claim to fame was the exorbitant expense of the clothing she wore. He kept his whore in the background. This behavior made a mockery out of the role of First Lady, just as Trump’s nefarious behavior made a mockery out of the presidency. And still no one stopped him.

As he stirred the pot and the shocking hatred and violence mounted his cult of followers grew exponentially. Trump fed into the dark side of humanity supporting riots and insubordination of any kind, making fantastic claims without a shred of truth or support, dismissing those who would have held him accountable, he became a dictator in all but name. And still no one stopped him.

When he learned of the impending Covid – 19 virus on new Year’s eve 2019 he suppressed the information (he never bothered to read Obama’s briefs that addressed the scientific community’s fears of a possible pandemic erupting in the near future). When Americans began to get sick and die in March of 2020 he called the virus a hoax and his followers believed him. Two hundred and fifty thousand Americans have died since then and his refusal to wear a mask became yet another political tool of derision and division. Power at any cost. Currently, this crisis has become a monster, devouring people like flies as we the people here and abroad are entering the darkest months of viral takeover. There is already another deadly virus on the way, but, because belief in science has become a joke no one is listening. Mask wearing has been mandated in my state and some people are still rebelling by refusing to mask as Trump did when he and his ‘barbie doll’ went to vote earlier this month. And even then no one stopped him. 

Until the election.

 When, after the most agonizing week of fear and uncertainty, Joe Biden won the Presidency and became President Elect, some of us struggled to absorb the fact that one person’s reign of terror was actually coming to an end. Trump’s refusal to concede although barbaric, was not surprising. His outrageous lies and tantrums were to be expected. We finally stopped him.

Until we remembered that 70 million people remain Trump supporters, ready to ‘defend him’ with twisted minds and lies, warmongering, disregard for human lives, and guns. When the most infamous occupant of the White House is escorted out of office on January 20th, we will remain a Nation so divided that we face a peril that is unprecedented in this country. 

In the last four years we have witnessed the breakdown of a culture. We have become a Nation predicated on an inability to work with others, white supremacy, unparalleled woman hatred and deceit losing respect and credibility throughout the rest of the world. We will not be trusted or taken seriously again.

Although President – Elect Biden will do whatever he can to stem the flow of the 70 million people who thrive on violence and hatred, we have crossed the River Styx.

  Trump’s legacy is a somber one:

Death is on the horizon.


Part 1

The Nightmare 

The two turning on me

 in vengeance.

Then two more.

 Their Doubling unhinged me.

Undone by tricksters –

(horizontal gene transfer?)

Left to die alone

gasping for breath

until my lungs



I lost breath,

 my keening soul.

Even then

I said I love you.

My body

turned white

like the Spirit Dog

that came to warn me

through the Dreamtime.

You cannot go on alone.

Part 2

The Boy becomes a Man

I see him in

a sky full of stars pouring

down liquid light

under a curved dome

of black velvet.

 I see him in

Stories patterned

 by the Ancestors –

The Great Bear spiraling

Overhead –

The Tree of Life

extending her roots…

Spirits witnessing when my

 Soul went dead.

He was birthed 

by the Forest

that claimed him 

as an infant…

He became

a boy who

talked with trees.

 Bears and Tree Roots –

After I met him –

  I was reborn

 In kinship,

as a Grandmother.

A grandmother in time.

Mycelial networks

spiraled and diverged

converged into

a lost way of Being.

We both feared

no one was listening.

His fears subsided

because I heard him.

And then she appeared.

 The Great Bear walked 

out of the Dreaming Tree

gifting him

with the protection

he must have

to forge a new path

for both of us

into Place

where Time and Land

meet as One.

Place of Next light

I’ve held it all in,

all the hopes and dreams,

the cries of despair…

Held it all in until today.

Until today when I felt this net of despair

fall over me choking me, strangling me,

blocking the air so I couldn’t breathe.

I saw her tears – Lady Liberty –

as we locked eyes and

knew in our hearts that

the soul of our nation is

now on the auction block.

I keened for hours in the woods.

Keened for what has already been lost…

what is currently being lost…

what is potentially still to come.

I made altars and offered ritual.

Screamed guttural prayers

to the Mother of All

that enough is enough!

Still the tears came,

but the keening vocals grew quieter

as I had no more to give.

Even the crows and hawks went silent

sensing a pause of sacred reverence.

Where to now I asked?

Where do you want to go She replied?

I don’t know.

I’m tired and disillusioned

and want to crawl into my cave

and have the Old Ones wrap

their arms around me.

Then that is what you do.

But before you go, you offer…

One last prayer to the dreamtime…

One last offering of hope planted

in these darkening times…

One last ritual of rebirth that even now

gestates in the womb of the Mother,

that gestates in the womb and heart of you…

One last offering given with all the fight of

the Warrioress that lives within you.

Then you rest and wait and trust

the Ancient Ones to guide you through

to the place of the next light.

What if there is no more light I ask?

Only darkness and evil?

Evil has and will always exist She said,

but so does the light.

Find that place and know

the light always returns.

Perhaps dimmed,

perhaps brightly illuminative,

but the light always returns.

Until that time…

Rest so you are able to still build

altars to new possibilities and

keen over the bones of what is lost.

Rest until that time you can

give voice to the both/and.

Until that time, vision and dream

and allow the Ancestors to wrap you in

ancient wisdom, ancient knowing

as you embrace the sacred dark.

Until such time the light rises like

the woman you are,

blazing and empowered

and screaming like the Banshee

taking no prisoners,

as you build altars to the sacred new.

As you remember you are a

Daughter of the Cosmic Mother…

Daughter of the As Above, So Below

you aspire to the heights and

plunge the depths as you

walk between the worlds.

So scream like the Banshee

and keen over the bones.

Light the fires of ritual

and offer prayers to the

Ancient and Future ones.

Though the world may change, and

perhaps Not in the way you desire,

you will survive and even prosper

IF you remember who you are

and the power you hold.

Postscript: this poem written by Arlene Bailey expresses my emotions so well that I am re blogging it.

The tyranny we have endured – especially as women – for four unspeakable years is almost beyond words… We do not know where we are going but normalcy has returned via Joe Biden’s responses to t’s insanity… He’s got the monster between his teeth by IGNORING him and his tantrums – reducing him to rubble. The SOUL of the Nation and every human being has been at stake – we can only give thanks and pray that the SOUL and BODY of Nature will contain and sustain us even as S/HE begins to repair the damage done.

Every woman I communicate with regularly speaks about being able to BREATHE again. I am still having nightmares of being RAPED – Voice, mind, spirit, soul, and body.

It is so fitting that I publish this woman’s writing on Veteran’s Day when this culture officially celebrates the heroes of war. WE ARE THE HEROINES – THE WOMEN WHO SURVIVED – TO CELEBRATE THOSE THAT KILL IS AN ABERRATION.

A Predator Comes to Call

I was putting old chandelier crystals on my little Norfolk Island pine as I do every year around this time of year to honor all evergreens. It was almost November. I recalled a childhood experience… my little brother and I used to clink the beveled crystal pieces together in order to hear the music they produced when adults weren’t paying attention. Now each crystal shimmered like liquid rain caught by the late afternoon light. Suddenly a loud crash and thump interrupted my reverie. Oh no, a bird had hit the window – hard. I raced out the door. Yellow talons shuddered, but the hawk was dead when I reached it.

 Hawk is considered to be a Messenger from the dead by some Indigenous peoples – and the tidings the bird brings may be positive or negative… Hawks speak to power and they are also predators. In my life, hawks appeared the day I buried my brother; I also found a dead one on the day my mother died.

Context fleshes out the individual tale…

I brought the sharp shinned hawk in the house to examine it in detail; later I buried it outside my window.

Close up it was easy to identify this hawk. He had a small head, a squared tail, short wings, and spindly yellow talons. This one was quite large and brown with yellow eyes (adults have orange to red eyes) so I knew it was a young female; they are sometimes almost twice the size of males. Some are large enough to be confused with the Coopers hawk who look almost exactly like the Sharp shinned hawk except for size; the former has a larger head and a more rounded tail. 

The Sharp shinned hawk is the smallest of the three Accipiter hawks; the other two are the previously mentioned Cooper’s hawk and the large grey Goshawk. I have seen all of them in flight or perched on a fruit tree near the house; I have also seen them in Abiquiu during the winter. 

Because I feed my birds, I frequently encounter this streak of lightening as it soars low close to the ground. It strikes with a vengeance – feathers fly – and the bird disappears. My dove Lily b sits in his plant window that is open to the sky above most of the day watching birds. When one of the Accipiters slams into the window it scares Lily b off his basket but otherwise does not harm him. Afterwards, he sometimes coos indignantly at the intrusion! So far none of the hawks that have hit his window have been killed in all these years; this one struck a window on the other side of the house… a very strange occurrence, the possible meaning of which struck me like lightening. Was this bird’s death the harbinger of another predator’s demise? The election was a few days away. I hardly dared to hope.

These hawks also hunt by perching in dense foliage or by approaching stealthily through dense cover, then bursting forth with incredibly swift flight to capture hapless bird in the air – a horrifying thing to witness.

The Sharp shinned hawks are also the most migratory of the Accipiters breeding north to the Canadian Shield in Canada and Alaska and wintering as far south as Panama. Apparently, during fall and spring migrations, these birds travel together with dozens passing by coastlines, lakes, and mountain ridges. Some, however, remain in one place year round. I have always had the Sharp shinned hawk around here during the winter, and I also noted that while in Abiquiu I had them as regular visitors during the winter months; sometimes one would perch on the porch railing and look in the window!

Even if you don’t see them a sudden absence of birds at your feeder will alert you to hawk presence. These days in spite of the fact that they prey on songbirds, seeing the Sharp shinned hawk reminds me that the species is in decline especially in the east and I am sorry about that. Climate change is reducing the range of Sharp shinned hawks who have lost/ or will lose 55 percent of their range overall.

These birds live in mixed or coniferous forests like mine, riparian areas and open deciduous woodlands like the cottonwood forest around the casita in New Mexico. They nest in groves of evergreens of some kind and avoid open country.

During courtship, pairs circle above calling; fluffy white under tail coverts may be spread out to side during some displays. Males fly high and dive steeply into woods (about 20 percent lose their lives hitting trees during flight through thick forest). The nest site is very well concealed, usually in a dense conifer (such as spruce or fir) within a wooded area or a thick grove, and is placed about 20-60′ above ground, but it can be lower or higher in dense cover. The structure is a platform of sticks, lined with bark strips, twigs, grass. Both sexes bring nest material, but the female probably does most of the building. Four or five eggs are laid and incubated by the female while the male brings food. The youngsters can fly at about six weeks of age but both parents remain nearby for another couple of weeks. In addition to songbirds these hawks feed their young rodents, bats, squirrels, lizards, frogs, and snakes, although songbirds are a mainstay.

Native peoples relied upon hawks to protect them through trying times. As messengers they brought news. Today I can’t escape the gut sense I had that having the hawk slam into my window meant a human predator would soon be vanquished. I carried this intriguing thought and hopeful feeling around for more than a week before getting the news.

The Drummer

I heard him again

 mighty woodpecker

of the forest

raucous and imprudent.

I am not used to

his harsh

staccotoed laughter or

during the fall

his ceaseless drumming…

Victorian holes

appear on desiccated limbs

One could almost imagine

the oval doorways

becoming ‘homes’

for those of us who have lost our way?

Living in liminal space l walk on air with the ground disappearing beneath under my feet. Why is it that woodpeckers are so vocal during these deadly periods? This ‘King’ of the Forest is normally very quiet in the fall but this year his drumming and crazed laughter startle the forest folk….

Woodpeckers create holes…. as we wait for election returns the American ‘king’ at the helm denies he lost. He may be right.

The woodpecker has a skull that protects him from madness while he drums; the man does not.

Becoming Amphibian



Scientist Rupert Sheldrake theorizes that memory is inherent in nature and that all natural systems inherit a collective and cumulative memory from all previous members of their kind, regardless of space-time  constraints. All nature contributes to the growth of this collective and cumulative memory. Habits are also inherent in all living organisms; Nature is not fixed – it is always evolving. Memory is inherited from those who have gone before. Genes are inherited, along with the habits of nature; including developmental habits like the growth of form. Genes code for protein, memory codes for form. Each natural system has its own morphic (bodily) field that helps shape its form and behavior, and each is nested in another hierarchy. There are familial, cultural, mythological, spiritual, fields all of which interpenetrate each other.

 For example there is a biological field for pear trees that is nested in a deciduous tree field, that is nested a field containing all trees that is nested in an environmental field etc. Each species taps into all these fields for information in order to grow and develop beginning with tapping into the field of one’s own immediate kin for better or worse. For example there are familial social fields that are tapped into help develop certain behaviors in individuals belonging to the same human family. This way of thinking explains how genius runs in human families or how destructive behaviors/patterns are passed on intergenerationally. Morphic resonance is the process by which the past becomes present… the future runs backward into the present as well. The biggest criticism of this theory comes from the fact that it appears to violate space-time constraints. Time flows both backwards and forwards meeting in the present.

If we look at indigenous way of being in the world we see Rupert’s theory in practice. Indigenous peoples believe that it is possible to contact the ancestors, to bring them forth into the present, as well as being able to access future in the present moment. Time is fluid – running backwards and forwards into the now. There is no separation between the three. All can occur at once.

In the Dine (Navajo) universe the words used in greeting a person reveal this way of being in the world. ‘I greet you from the sky to the ground and from everything in between’ The Earth is always included because it is fundamental to the way Indigenous peoples view the land they embrace as their context and creator.

 Visceral (embodied) memories transport us instantly into Now, collapsing everything except the moment. Each spring when I first hear a wood frog croak I am instantly transported to his watery domain. Keeping ourselves present to ‘what is’ has exactly the same effect unless ‘what is’ becomes unbearable intruding upon the present. Just now this is my problem because I can’t escape my own dread – the fear of impending violence…Violence begets Violence.