A Murder of Crows
Old Crow Moon
A Murder of Crows
Old Crow Moon
thick tree roots,
in the making…
curl tips and tendrils
no matter how
from winter sleep.
flowers to feed
wild bees for months.
And for a moment
becomes a Flower.
For me the goddess of the earth in her most tender and generative state will always be a spring flower. Persephone rising.
Spring ephemerals – the wild woodland flowers that bloom before the trees leaf out are my favorite plants of all. Because greater celandine also blooms here on and off during most of the summer months it can’t be considered an ephemeral, and yet the plant’s blue green leaves unfurl before any others make an appearance, so for me anyway, celandine marks the coming of spring if not the first flowers. For the past two years the plant has emerged in March, about three weeks earlier than previous years…
Bloodroot is a spring ephemeral but in Maine it doesn’t appear in most areas until May. While having some work done to the cellar last year I thought I lost most of my bloodroot, but I was mistaken. It survived. My relationship with this plant goes back to early childhood and my love of all flowers. (My first word was “Fower”). At my grandmother’s house my mother planted a wildflower garden where bloodroot thrived… so when I gaze into star-like flowers I think of my Motherline and the advent of spring.
Crows witness tree crucifixion…. THEY WON’T LET ME GO – Is this because their dying represents the death of Nature as I knew her? Of the being I call me? Both? Even when I go to places without trees like the ones I have on this mountain my eyes strain to find them as if these ‘love trees’ lived everywhere – I came to hills to escape the gut wrenching weeping of one maple after her belly was ripped out – the old apple who said ‘don’t go’ as I wrapped my arms around her on May Day …. at the door of my driveway I abandoned land I loved – ‘too small’ I said and searched for more protection from the storm that was coming – the one that ate me alive – my children – animals, the trees – chipped them into fragments, ground them into toxic air – not that I plead innocence. I raped my land – in my grief stole – dug as much as I could – ripped plants and flowers from rich moist earth – left holes behind that became a haunting – how could I have been so cruel? I wanted this patch of earth to come with me – I loved those old apple trees with a ferocity I still don’t understand – five years of dreaming about them before they faded into crevices in my mind but memory doesn’t die- and now almost 40 years later I’m leaving these trees too? – precious land that once told me that I was loved by something that rose out of the earth? A financial advisor told me to make a list of all the pros and cons of staying or leaving. Only one reason to stay I wrote: Love. I buried raw feeling under practicalities, and soldiered on – after all aren’t we all at war? Fearing the deep well, the wall of shame – Difference. There must be a way to keep an aging body safe when white ice and snow (lily b sings) return until the first blush is on the moss – not saying goodbye just sleep while I am gone – I love you – and we could have had a few more years together before it becomes time to meet my beloved, return to the forest that birthed me – Both And – not either or – don’t make that mistake again – you have a choice take it along with guns, fire and heat and be thankful for the trees that shelter you from the sun and watch the golden apples bloom – come November you can leave for awhile and we will stay as one – like the day you signed, sold your soul and your mother pine roots rumbled – bled fire into the house and you pulled her needles from your mouth – we are one she said – don’t separate us – don’t do it again – both and not either or – don’t let them sway you or let your fear betray you – we are one keep us whole and we’ll help you when we can for we are the stuff you are made from – remember your bones belong with us that’s what they said. Once I left land that was too small its tree lined edges raped by dirty yellow machines – progress they told me – now monsters gash holes in the earth all around me as they rip up not only trees but all their roots – smooth hell over and pack dirt down with another machine with claws – if I leave this house I leave the tree soul who has been allowed to thrive on this small oasis of forested young pines opening to a flower strewn meadow, field pines spreading their elephantine arms inviting birds to join them, a hemlock forest sheltering wild folk whose roots thrive near flowing waters, fruit trees whose colors throw me into prayer – magenta, rose, pale pink, pearl white showers of grace – how can I leave them when so few are left even those who speak to rewilding call the forest “it” refusing personhood to these Ancient Beings whose shapes dream me in my sleep – stately balsam – bowed hemlocks – cedar lace – shaggy beech nut clumps, burnt oak, purple cherry, maple fire in fall – old spruce whose twigs are draped with usnea (medicine free of charge) that clears clogged particulate lungs, alders bend nitrogen, birches tumble too infusing hungry soil with nutrients, a forest of becoming still a future, if just for now, a miracle of light showing me how to drop each needle when it’s time. It’s too late they tell me – Betrayal by the Crow moon in spring and me and those who live the Shadow where money reigns as the golden god of greed – I tried to save us too late – and now I must go – forever after my eyes, my heart, will search out what I lost… And twice… I leave earth I love to those whose hearts are dead, humans that cannot see.
Postscript: after making a terrible mistake it was this post that changed my mind – just in time.
to let go
turns tired pines
bow delicate fronds
the next seasonal
miles of mycelia
tree sap rises
green shoots rise ….
Birch in Spring
are fed by
‘Tree of Life’.
I long to make
winter’s icy skin.
Hope is a force
Birch has a key.
Trees are made
Terry Tempest Williams, acclaimed author and naturalist helped me understand that hope is not something that one can call up at will, rather it is a kind of ‘field’ that one must enter by way of natural grace.
In Terry’s own words “Hope is a force field. It is not associated with either personal want or need.”
When I read these words I experienced revelation.
For the first time in my life I understand that hope is not an attitude I can cultivate; it is a form of grace that some have better access to than others.
This poem is an attempt to create space for hope during the advent of spring, understanding (and hopefully accepting) that the door may remain closed.
And perhaps most important, that I am not to blame if I am barred entrance.
I just learned about Jen Taylor who is a singer and songwriter and a woman who embraces the goddess from reading a post from MAGO. Jen’s philosophical work focuses on re-wilding the body/mind – returning us to our source.
Jen Taylor writes:
“Statue-Menhirs are sandstone standing stones that were carved about 5000 years ago. They are also known as slabs or anthropomorphic steles (my italics). They are the earliest life-size representation of human beings known to date, appearing across Africa and Eurasia, engraved or carved in low-relief on both sides. Over 100 menhirs were found in the area of Southern Aveyron, France alone.
Female statue-menhirs are some of our earliest monumental art, though omitted by most histories and archeological surveys. Referred to as Grandmother stones, the megaliths were all erected at specific locations, generally isolated, indicating a link to religious or funeral rites or perhaps to the worship of ancestors. The Lady of St-Sernin Aveyron was discovered in 1888 standing in a field. She typifies the recurrent cultural patterns of these statues: dotted eyes, elongated (pillar-like) nose, no mouth, but markings on the face, breasts, hands toward the center of the body, a belt, and around the neck, multiple ropes of necklaces with a Y amulet. We suffer a cultural amnesia as to the meanings of these ancient images. Reproducing them is a kind of meditation on their lost messages.”
I was so intrigued by this particular stone image that seemed so familiar (Gimbutas?) I looked it up only to be somewhat disappointed. The Lady of Sernin is about 5000 years old and was first found in a field somewhere in France; she now resides in a museum in that country. Nearly 100 of these megaliths were found in the Monts de Lacaune in Southern Aveyron. Nothing is known of the people who lived in this region between 3000 BCE and 5000 BCE. What we do know is that they erected the first megaliths. The most famous of these statues is the Lady of Saint – Sernin.
Some of the sources I consulted state that these menhirs were anthropomorphic images, the earliest representations of mankind known in Western Europe. I object to the word anthropomorphizing because it suggests that people are projecting human-like qualities onto these stone images that don’t belong there! Isn’t this a powerful way to dismiss the feminist goddess perspective? This was exactly what happened with Marija Gimbutas’s work on goddesses. Of course we know now that more and more research supports Gimbutas’s theses, but her work is still marginalized by the dominant culture. Use of the word mankind rather than humankind is also a give away. Patriarchy’s bias becomes obvious, at least to me. What follows is my own interpretation of this stone, and like Jen Taylor, I also ask the reader what s/he sees in this complex image. Taylor saw an owl…
When I first looked at this compelling image I immediately ‘saw’ the three phases of the goddess/woman imaged in “Grandmother Stone”. From the ground up the first phase of female growth is sculpted with feet that penetrate the ground and strong legs, indicating a solid foundation is necessary for growth and development during the first phase of female life. The second phase depicts the mother goddess. This largest phase is separated from the ground or foundation by two horizontal lines, which might indicate the vaginal opening. With breasts and hands clasped inward towards her belly this second layer suggests that as goddess/woman she gives birth, nourishes children, her own life, and creatures of the earth. This mother goddess wears ornate necklaces perhaps an indication of her power and honored place in the world. Both the first and second layers seem very human – like to me – five toes, five fingers. However, the curved wishbone image in the center reminds me of other ancient figures of the goddess with outstretched arms. This “Y” symbol may suggest that the mother goddess is developing or creating space to hold the third and final image, her spiritual self – that of the bird goddess who is more than human. With penetrating eyes and a beak that hides her mouth (it’s hard to see the beak in this particular image but it’s there) this bird goddess also has clasped ‘hands’, but instead of the five toes, five fingers of the first two layers this third has four horizontal lines suggesting something different – perhaps talons or wings. The third aspect of the goddess/woman is the visionary, the one the one with eyes that see into the past and future, the women with wings. Together all three indicate the three life stages of women’s development through the goddess ending with Grandmother as visionary and ‘more than human’ wisdom figure.
What do you think?
Sedna’s Tale, a Feminist Story of Hope
The story of Sedna is yet another rendition of the Handmaid’s Tale. This one comes from the Arctic and the Inuit people. During this time when it seems as if patriarchy has a stranglehold on so many of us, I offer this Indigenous version of the story to remind feminists that tapping into mythical patterns strengthens us in ways that are impossible to articulate beyond stating that we can access that power when we align ourselves with it. As in all oral traditions there are many versions of the story but the roots of the myth are the same.
In one version of the story a young man comes to sleep with an entire family during a blizzard. By morning he is gone without having revealed his identity, but the father discovers large dog tracks in the snow and realizes his family has been deceived. The young man who slept with the family was a wild dog.
When the man’s daughter becomes pregnant the father is ashamed and takes the girl out into the ocean abandoning her on a small island where she is nourished by a dog until her children are born. (In another version the girl chooses to marry a dog). In all versions a few of the children that are born are human, others are dogs. Some Inuit say that all First Nation peoples are descended from dog children.
In a more treacherous version, after the initial deception the father takes his daughter out to sea in a skin boat and when a storm erupts he throws his child overboard. When the girl attempts to save herself by clinging to the sides of the boat he cuts off her fingers one by one. All of her severed fingers become seals. When she tries to save herself a second time he cuts off her hands; they become walruses. The girl makes one last desperate attempt to climb aboard the boat but her father cuts off her forearms. Her arms transform into whales.
Drowning, the girl sinks into the depths of the sea and transforms into Sedna, the powerful Underworld Sea/ or Seal Goddess who controls and protects the lives of all sea animals. In some versions of the story dogs help her care for all the beings who live under the sea. She is often depicted in art as a woman with a fish-like tail.
Sedna also protects Inuit children from falling into the hidden cracks in sea ice that appear during the warmer months.
At the beginning of each hunting season the Inuit sing songs to Sedna and make offerings to the sea hoping that she will reciprocate by allowing them to kill the animals they need for food and clothing. A shaman often descends to the underworld to comb and braid Sedna’s hair. He listens compassionately as she tells the tale of how she was betrayed by her People. After being witnessed and cared about Sedna releases enough animals to be killed so that the People can live.
Here we see the importance of compassionate witnessing (by self and/or others) to effect a genuine change. Embracing the story of Sedna attaches women to their own power on both a conscious and unconscious level. This tale also reminds us that any descent, no matter how difficult, will be followed by some kind of ‘resurrection.’
Equally important is the idea that a reciprocal relationship exists between wo/men and the rest of nature. This living earth supports us all; how can we begin to reciprocate?
she gave away
fields and trees
many trees and
streams she loved
dreaming of the Seal
who loved her
the eye of the
welcomes her in.
made her descent
birthed of love
long ago now
closing the crevasse
I suddenly feel lightheaded after I finish taking out the final words “we are one” because they don’t fit – then I stop to make oatmeal thinking hunger made me feel lightheaded and when I take the first spoonful I end up with pine needles in my mouth.
We Are One.
when I caress
love is all
Postscript: my body has been under too much stress for too long. Yesterday afternoon with a bit of time on my hands I decided to re -pot another of my plants. Working with my beautiful fern, giving her a new home and a lovely shower felt so good – I didn’t expect this but my stress simply dissipated and I was refreshed….all plants have such healing powers and when we interact with them in a loving way some life force enters and strengthens us… Inside the house and outdoors all plants (trees, mosses etc) are healers…Once humans knew that and turned to the plants for help.
Today if we see plants at all we see them as background – wall paper, or we kill them out of greed or indifference.