May; a Reflection on Time and Trillium

Phoebe and nest

With May coming to a close in a few days, I am feeling nostalgia. This month is both elusive and dramatic – from bare trees to lime green, and now lilacs so heavily laden with blooms that some are bowed as if in prayer.  Wood frogs and peepers bring in the night and the first toads are hopping around my overgrown flower garden; in the forests I surprise them when peering closely at small flowers. Gray tree frogs trill at dusk. Violets of every hue grace the earth outside my door along with robust dandelions, forget – nots, rafts of deep blue ajuga, delicate bells of solomons seal, mayapple umbrellas, false solomon’s seal, wild columbine and golden celandine all nestled in long grasses and moss. No mowing happens here! 

On my woodland paths starflowers and Canada mayflowers are now so thick I fear treading on even one, as if one foot could destroy the whole. Down by the brook white trillium bloom on, both painted and purple are setting seed, while bloodroot, arbutus trumpets and delicate anemones have transformed into leafy memory. Ostrich and hay ferns are unfurling, creeping blue phlox and dames rocket are budded or blooming; pink and white lady slippers are beckoning both here and in the woods. June is in the air.

I have spent the whole month with one foot here at home and one in the deep forests, the ones that have been allowed to thrive on their own.

Northern Parula

 This year I promised myself I would do nothing except watch and listen for birds and spend my time with wildflowers. I have been busier than I ever could have imagined! I feel deep pleasure as each of my ‘regular’ summer birds return and prepare for nesting. In the last week alone I have identified 16 migrating warblers, spent hours in the field listening for migrating birds, checking sources for accuracy, and have been enthralled by Phoebe who is setting up housekeeping on a precarious ledge over my front door. There is so much to do that I feel as if I am living with Winnie the Pooh at Pooh Corner. No room for practicalities!

Eastern Hemlock – an Elder

 In the forest I scan the floor for new arrivals while keeping an eye out for lady slippers and blue bead lilies that often grow close to each other. Giant yellow bumblebees are a frequent sight always buzzing close to the ground because they know where ephemeral nectar can be found! Twisted stalk with its tiny pink bells appeared two days ago on one of my regular trails. My favorite woodland fern is sending up new shoots;  Christmas fern will stay forest green until mid –winter. Frilled swords spread out from a central rosette that hides rhizomes beneath fragrant moist leaf litter. Here too, carpets of Canada mayflowers and starflowers are blooming in abundance.  None of these delicate beings can tolerate being trod upon so it is necessary to stay on a trail. The key to the profusion of wild flowers, is of course, a healthy diverse forest and light foot traffic. The forests I visit are thick with hemlock, pine, oak, ash, birch, maple, to name a few. This rich diversity creates soil that is rich and spongy, offers wild flowers protection from the sun, and before leaf out, still provides enough light for spring ephemerals to begin to bloom. 

Reflecting on this elusive and magical month I am struck by how I experience time. In one sense I have been so present to each day/each moment that I experience May as being timeless; on the other hand as June approaches I feel the poignant swift passage of time. As I breathe in terpenes I wonder if trees experience this turning as a celebration. Trees have survived five extinctions; my sense is that they may know things humans do not… 


White Trillium

If the weather cooperates and heat waves don’t shrivel tender blossoms some trillium will still be blooming into June if one knows where to look for them. In a healthy forest these ground stars with their three pearl white petals, some inked in rose, often appear in large clumps surrounded by many young ones not yet in bloom. Although purple trillium has set seed others are bright with shining faces. Large white trillium startle the discerning eye. I like it that there are exceptions to the flight of ephemerals!

There are 39 species of trillium in the United States and all belong to the lily family They are native to temperate regions of North America and Asia. Trillium are extremely long lived if not disturbed (Twenty five years). 

 Like most wildflowers Trillium have become endangered because of machine traffic, logging, and habitat loss. Although their tendency is to spread quite naturally by way of rhizomes, without protected forests, or small patches of forested land like mine where nature is allowed to make her own decisions trillium simply disappear. Trillium seeds are also spread by ants. After blooming, an oval capsule forms that eventually becomes a fruit. Ants take the fruits to their nest where they eat them and add the seeds to their garbage bin, which then becomes a rich medium for future trillium germination! 

Here I notice that the first trillium break ground on earth day, every single year. Each spring I have a few more plants and flowers although it will take years before the youngest ones bloom. In the forests I visit, emergence occurs a bit later. I am tuned to unfolding of all the ephemerals, but trillium begin the wildflower season and often end it. While they are stunning to look at, picking trillium seriously injures the plant by preventing the leaf-like bracts from producing food for the next year killing the trillium and ensuring that none will grow in its place.

In pre Christian European lore the presence of three lobed trillium like flowers signified the emergence of the earth goddess in her most magical form, a legend that seems to have at its core the literal greening of spring.

Eastern Phoebe Ushers in a Symphony

Phoebe awakened me at 4:45 AM with his raspy two – syllable call. Winter wren, Ovenbird, Robin and the Magnolia warbler followed almost immediately; they were all trilling at once. What symphony! Entranced, I couldn’t fall back to sleep. Unlike the other birds that I couldn’t see, Phoebe called repeatedly for the next half an hour sitting on his perch just outside my window.

Every spring a pair of Eastern phoebes arrive here in mid April. For a week or two they court around the cabin, and then to my utter frustration they end up nesting somewhere down by the brook.

Until this year.

Eastern Phoebe (Cornell)

It is May 20th and these birds have been courting around the house so enthusiastically that I believed that this season might be different.  When one began to deposit brocade moss on a narrow inaccessible ledge just above the door I peered at its width uneasily. The ledge wasn’t even 3 inches wide. Why there, when phoebe had all these wide enough log corners to nest upon? But the brocade moss kept coming and soon moss covered the ledge extending the length of the door. Bits of brocade landed on my head as I came in and out of the house. Strands of old hay followed.

 I was utterly baffled until I spoke to bird expert James Reddoch of Mahoosuc Land Trust (he would never call himself an expert but he is). James told me that a male phoebe could decide to build a false nest to impress his mate. Although I had done some research on my own, none of the sources I consulted had included this bit of information. 

Two days ago this curious behavior ceased as quickly as it began. Both phoebes still hunt around the eaves but are also flying around down by the brook. The male continues to perch outside my window to call up the dawn each morning.

To say that I am disappointed about the phoebe’s decision to nest elsewhere is an understatement. I have had robins and wrens nest on the cabin’s top logs in the past. I am wondering if the amount of squirrel activity might be an issue for the phoebes because I am inundated with squirrels, both reds and grays.  Perhaps this might also be a reason the male chose this particular spot for a pretend nest? Any squirrel would have a tough time getting to that place. Just in case, I am going to add a little extension to the ledge and see what happens next spring.

my phoebe just outside my door

The Eastern phoebe, a flycatcher, is one of the earliest migrants arriving in northern climates as early as March in some areas from as far south as Texas. Their breeding grounds extend well into Canada, and nests are built under bridges, houses and barns, an adaptation that has endeared them to people like me. If the original nest sites were on vertical stream banks or small rock outcroppings in the woods with a niche providing support and some protection from above (Audubon) then where do my phoebes nest? I have never found a nest in all these years.  From what I have read they are constructed with a mud base, and then lined with mosses, grasses and animal hair.

Surprisingly, one male may have two mates and may help to feed the young in two nests at once according to the Cornell bird site. Unlike most birds, phoebes often reuse their nests, or renovate an old robin’s nest laying anywhere from two to six eggs that the female incubates. Both parents feed nestlings who are ready to leave in a couple of weeks. Phoebes raise two broods a year. These little characters habitually flick their tails in the most engaging way as they perch and hunt from low branches. No one seems to know why. 

In addition to the characteristic phoebe call these birds also emit sharp peeps. They have short sword -like bills, an adaptation that allows them to capture insects easily. Phoebes make brief flights to capture their pray often returning to the same perch in seconds.  Some bugs are caught in mid – air, some are snatched from branches, and others from the ground. I lose time watching them hunt. The kinds of insects vary and include ticks (!), small wasps, bees, beetles, flies grasshoppers, spiders, and millipedes. Phoebes also eat berries, probably a staple of winter diets.

Research done at Cornell by Frank La Sorte has raised a fascinating issue. There is a group that includes the Eastern phoebe, the Hermit thrush, the Yellow Rumped warbler and Red eyed vireo that have developed a physiological adaptation that allows them to switch from a diet of insects during spring and summer to berries and seeds in fall. From insectivore to omnivore.

 La Sorte’s research, using eBird data and weather radar images of massive flocks of birds, provided the first documented evidence that these insectivores-turned-omnivores migrate on the omnivore’s later schedule, with a migration window that extends into November. That is, these birds enjoy the omnivore’s advantage of waiting for just the right nights for flight”

That diet is a factor driving migration makes a lot of sense because the ancestors of these birds started flying long distances in order to follow available food. Insectivores must leave when insects decline, omnivores like sparrows cans stay on and so can this third group that includes phoebes because of this digestive adaptation that allows them to change their diets as the season shifts. Amazing!

I was upset to learn that phoebes are on the decline. Audubon projects that the species will move further north as the climate continues to warm and more range is lost to the south. Wildfires are a growing threat throughout the country. Spring heat waves put chicks at risk and of course, insecticides and habitat fragmentation are endemic to the loss of all birds including phoebes.

What can we do? Encourage phoebes to nest around the house especially if you have no land by putting up nesting boxes. Stop using pesticides and herbicides. Let lawns grow into wildflower meadows that encourage more insects. Support individuals and organizations like land trusts that champion unbroken forests, our one hope for the survival of all wildlife including all birds. Birds and forests belong together. Imagine stepping out your door into Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’. Just the thought is enough to bring me to my knees in grief.

Toading at the Pond

toads under water

During the Wildflower Moon it rained for the first time in almost a month.

 Ovenbird, chickadee, phoebe, robin, grosbeak, cardinal, oh so many helped me greet the dawn, reaffirming how much birds appreciate a few drops of liquid silver. I soaked in a palette of lime, sage, emerald, rose, lavender, and purple that stretched across a canvas of gray. This was the day the earth turned green. S/he’d been a lady in waiting… Each year I celebrate this ‘greening ‘day whenever it falls. Ash, beech, maple, oak, willow, alder, hobblebush, cherry, apple and crab all compete to be seen at once. Every tightly budded blossom, unfurling leaf and fuzzy catkin is a source of beauty, wonder and amazement. 

As always I am stunned by nature’s artistry.

  Overall, dry windy weather has dominated May, this second month of ‘Becoming’. Wildfires have broken out and the threat of fire remains high. A three-day heat wave coaxed the toads into spring mating and me into my first kayak voyage to visit the source of that compelling hum. 

I paddled towards the cattails listening to a deafening trill. Ah, to discover a collective love nest hidden in the reeds is a thrill. Listening and watching, all senses on high alert, I skimmed the shallows barely dipping oar to water; the ear splitting trilling ceased completely. I hugged the small cove; stilling the kayak. Within minutes, the hum began again; toads approached floating on glassy water like desiccated leaves. Only bright gold-rimmed bulbous eyes gave away amphibious intentions.



The toads eyed me one by one curious about this intruder. This keen interest of theirs surprised me because, after all, it was mating season, which only lasted about three or four days. I did note that it was mostly males that floated my way. The females, much larger than the males, if not already carrying a male on her back, seemed to prefer staying submerged. They blended so well with pond detritus that the toads were barely visible underwater. Amplexus is the term used to describe mating toads; the males develop dark horny pads on their first and second front two toes that allow them to close their limbs around the female’s abdomen. When the female lays her 4000 – 8000 eggs (!) the male releases his sperm to fertilize them externally. A spring ritual was under way.

  Many females already had mates. Others, either floating or swimming, were being chased by a number of suitors. I had no idea how particular these females were! Some literally leapt out of the water to escape an unwelcome mate; others appeared to acquiesce only to throw the offending male off at the last minute! I couldn’t help laughing. The competition was fierce and I kept looking for a reason why the females chose the males they did but my observations turned up nothing.

note the size difference between female and male American Toads

 There was so much activity occurring all around me at once that I didn’t know which way to look. Except for the few kayak ‘watchers’, Bufo Americanus was on the move. I zeroed in on a few that were humming. One male toad inflated his throat balloon and trilled for about 7 – 11 seconds before deflating his sac. He then appeared to breathe rapidly, the loose sac acting like a pump for about 10 – 20 seconds, before the toad ballooned and bellowed out the next trill. A female invariably appeared as I watched this one and then others; sometimes two females would float nearby listening to the music coming from the water. Did some tunes intrigue more than others? I certainly couldn’t tell. How did a female decide if this was the one? When a male stopped singing and swam towards her, possible last minute rejection still loomed!  Conversely, sometimes one female toad would be buried under maybe 5 or 6 suitors at the same time! A pile of nubbly toads, creating a mountain in the water. I was transfixed… 

toad mountain!

Returning from my reverie to stiffening back muscles I realized I had been sitting here for more than an hour. When the heron flew low overhead I could feel the air move under the whish of his prehistoric feathers. I assumed that toads were not on the heron’s menu because of the bufotoxins. The two largest parotoid glands were located behind each toad eye. Some sources suggest herons do eat toads but not enough research has been done on this behavior to know. Hawks, raccoons and crows that predate on toads rip the glands out before ingestion. Snakes get around this problem by swallowing the toad whole (garter snakes have immunity). 

 Not surprisingly, toad tadpoles repel would be predators, because they also carry the same poison in their skin. Toad tadpoles also band together in groups and engage in kin recognition.


  The two loons approached so close I was able to discern red eyes only visible during breeding season. A sleek muskrat swam by about a foot away, apparently on his way to deeper water where a passing mallard couples’ feathers shone iridescent in the sun. Toads began more humming beneath the boat. A vireo sang, hidden completely from sight in a thick tangle of berry bushes. Redwings flashed by, flames on the wing. Just ahead of me sitting on a floating log I spied two orange streaked painted turtles sunning themselves on emerald moss…

I was hot! Time to go.

 As I maneuvered the kayak out of the reeds I thanked the toads for allowing me a glimpse into their world while thinking about the strings of toad eggs that I would be collecting in a day or two to raise at home. All amphibians are critically threatened species; they are our ‘canaries’ alerting us to grave danger. The polluted air and water that are killing them are a threat to us as well. 

 One my way back to the dock I saw two huge – 24 – 30 inch bass swimming alongside the boat.  I stopped by the beaver islands but noted that there had been no activity this spring that I could detect. It was too early in the season for pitcher plants and orchids to appear out of the sphagnum, but pearl – white blueberry bells were being pollinated by enthusiastic bumblebees. I wondered where the beavers had gone. 


As I pulled the kayak out of the water I was already imagining the tiny toads that would be populating my wild unkempt garden in August after the eggs hatched (2 -12 days) and tadpoles matured in my pond …For now I would provide them with algae and bits of raw spinach until the herbivores grew lungs and legs turning into carnivorous terrestrial beings that ate thousands of insects a day.For that reason alone everyone should raise a multitude of toads!

Wildflower Wonder

Wildflower Wonder; Ephemeral Emergence

 Arbutus trumpets 

   seduce bumblebees

 three lobed 

trillium wings

streak rose

shining stars

pearling forest floors

wild oats bow

bluebead swords


wild lily

leaves clasp

palms in prayer

stained glass

hemlock sky

 filters light

 fragrant needles

fracture harsh white

sun glare….

‘spring beauties’



 I have taken to the forest for the month of May. Every year I used to allow this month to be stolen by chores I thought I must accomplish – not this year – with the forests disappearing so rapidly across the globe –  fire and slaughter reign – we are losing our wild flowers too.

Trailing arbutus


No one mentions the loss of these vulnerable ephemerals who need the complexity of natural forests to thrive – is this because they are with us for such a brief moment in time?

Some may be distracted by spring chores like I was. Or apparent blindness may reveal the extent of human indifference… I think of the hikers that now swarm well – known trails of strip or partially cleared logged woods. People who know nothing about the plants under their feet or saplings that struggle to live on without their kin.

If we don’t care about our forests then why pay attention to the flowers that greet us each spring?

Since I have been gifted with a love for wild flowers since I was a child I have always found time to seek ephemerals out, but I sandwiched that time in between chores.

marsh marigold

Until now.

My priorities have shifted. I am no longer interested in maintaining gardens (especially not one for food – our air, water and soils are polluted – ‘organic,’ a consumer catchword, is relative). And I am also ready to let my cultivated flower garden go. This spring the only effort I have put into the ground around my house has been dedicated to wild flowers. What interests me most is that in my late 70’s I am closing a circle. I started my life loving wild flowers fiercely, learning all the names of those I met as soon as I could talk, and now I am returning to my first love: wild nature in her natural state.

May is the month of Becoming. It is the month when wild flowers begin to bloom, the very first before leaf out, the rest before the sun gets too hot and temperatures rise. By the summer solstice the wild flowers have faded; some have already set seed.

 I love being present for Ephemeral Emergence and for a time I am possessed by a joy beneath words. 

Just like my phoebes!

Phoebes nesting around the house.

Trailing Arbutus

As the wild flower moon waxes and wanes the delicate, fragrant trumpet –like flowers of Trailing arbutus will have gone to seed because this flower only blooms for a brief moment in time before the trees leaf out. This exquisite ephemeral takes me back to childhood when my little brother and I gathered a few sprigs to put in mother’s day bouquets. Trout lilies, violets, hepatica, trillium, bloodroot, spring beauties were also common in our woods and bloomed during the month of May; only bloodroot preceded arbutus.

 Today I wouldn’t think about picking any of these flowers because most have become so scarce, but every year during the first week of May I walk down to my brook where arbutus cascades over moss covered stone and snakes along the spongy humus (provided by mixed deciduous, pine and hemlock detritus) to keep an eye on the budding arbutus. As soon as mine open I am off to forests that have not been logged in many years to find the glorious evergreen mats dotted with tiny flowers that seem to stretch out forever like they did when I was a child. In the deep woods the spicy sweet scented pearl or pale pink ‘mayflowers’ transport me to other realms. 

 When I first moved to the Bethel area I was thrilled to see trailing arbutus growing along the Gore Road. It was still country then and spying wild flowers was the best part of walking down my road. As the road became busier, it was widened and widened again, and these delicate wildflowers (trillium, lady slippers arbutus, columbine, Canada mayflower, marsh violets) began to disappear. It was at that point I began to dig up what remained of the wild plants. Because I am skilled in the ways of flora having been a student of nature since I was small child, I managed to successfully move every plant I dug to this oasis where these wildflowers thrive today. My land already supported some wildflower species including some very small patches of arbutus. It must be said that I do not normally try to “improve” the earth around here so nature makes most of the decisions (I believe it is my job to pay attention and follow her lead); she decided to let trailing arbutus spread.

 These days, I no longer walk down the road at all. Huge trucks belch out dirty black smoke as they scream by at impossible speeds; the only remaining green on the sides of the road is grass. The glorious spring wild flowers are a poignant memory.

Trailing arbutus creeps along the ground. Even the wide oval shaped leathery leaves are fragrant. The earth hugging stems are fuzzy. Later in the season (early fall), after the flowers bloom, a seed appears that looks something like a white raspberry. If you read the literature about trailing arbutus most sources say the plant does not like leaf litter. I have to disagree because the arbutus I grow are almost always nestled in leafy litter. Smothering is another matter; perhaps this is what the ‘experts’ mean.

This plant is a native perennial that stretches from Newfoundland to Florida. Epigaea repens is classified as subshrub and is a member of the heath family. The name “Epigaea” comes from a Greek phrase meaning “upon the earth, clearly a reference to the way the plant clings to earth. The word “repens” refers to the fact that the plant has creeping and rooting stems.

Arbutus needs shade from direct afternoon sunlight. In the wild the plant is commonly found in moist sandy soil, damp mossy banks, bogs, partially wooded clearings and under pine trees. Trailing arbutus prefers acidic soil.

Once relatively common, trailing arbutus is disappearing at an alarming rate primarilydue to logging. Other habitat loss is also a threat. The plant will not tolerate disturbance; foot traffic will kill it, permanently. Trailing arbutus is extremely vulnerable to periods of drought or flood. It is a slow growing plant under the best conditions. It may have even a more complex mycorrhizal relationship with certain fungi algae and bacteria than other woodland plants. Because the evergreen plant is cold hardy my guess is that our warming climate is already a  threat. I spent some time on the coast recently and noted that the arbutus I found was shriveled and brown, although the forest I was in was a healthy one.

Trailing arbutus is pollinated by wild bees and is a larval host for the inconspicuous Hoary Elfin butterfly (virtually every plant that I know of has some kind of intimate relationship with at least one insect – symbiosis).

Naturally, trailing arbutus was used by Indigenous peoples for medicinal purposes. Kidney ailments top the list for the Algonquin and Cherokee.

I encourage anyone with a light foot to explore forested lowlands beginning the first of May, when the broad evergreen leaves seem to light up and become more conspicuous. Around here the flowers emerge at the end of the first week in May. If an area has been recently logged, even partially, don’t bother to look because once some trees have been harvested and the ground has been disturbed/uprooted the plants will not return, unless logging occurred before the last 40 years or so when the use of smaller machines and men who cared about their land made logging more sustainable. The lilliputian trumpets are well worth getting on your knees to smell. The fragrance is unlike any other… but please don’t pick the flowers!

Burning Tree Prayer

Flames fanned

screeching west winds

snarling monster

inks the sky in red
 frightened Witness

to death of millions
 hell looms

a stinking cloud

a scarlet specter 

 whole forests

charred beyond


Who will intervene?
Cease this suffering?
Assuage the pain?
Too many trees

  are dying
choked by blazes

torturing the

 Miracle Workers…

who turn
 light, air, water,

into Breath

 Life to all

Placing my palms

on White Pine

the one that

told me

 I belong

gives me courage,

the nudge

I need to believe

Prayers flow

 through my hands

I use words too

 trusting palm to bark

I sense a pulse

 Something is listening

 spreading the message

Communication by air is

not distance dependent

 three Chickadees gather 
Oh pitch pine spruce
ponderosa lodgepole 
 you surrender

 against your will
Terpènes scream

dire warnings…

Some pray for people

I pray for you
 Spirit of Nature

gather each soul
   Trees of Life

 pine cedar birch

(too many to name)

Protect them


fear loss

of human lives

but spend 

not a moment


for you.

Smudged charcoal
soot and ash

smoldering skeletons

death on sticks

only you can 

purify the poison

left behind

Instead we kill you


gray ash cools

 silver rain


eons pass


 one day 

Four million year old


 hidden behind blue sky

resurrect the holy 
 Seeds contain directions

rootlets burrow deep

Pattern and Seed convene

 in my dreams

I meet ribbed Redwoods.


Witnessing for the burning of the forests in New Mexico and on the west coast feels intolerable until I drive down the road and witness the shredded uprooted forests, the bare brown mountains. Fires burn trees in the west and here in the north we slay them with the saw. One murders quickly, the other more slowly – either way, even as we lose them – death stalks humans too.


On this mother’ s day I give thanks for every tree that lives beginning with those on my land… stretching my heart into that forest that calls me to an arbutus* strewn woodland path to walk among her flowers…

Trailing arbutus (PICTURE ON TOP) is going extinct because we have destroyed most of its habitat. This plant like so many wildflowers has a complex and poorly understood relationship with the fungi and algae, the mycelial mat that stretches across and under the detritus healthy ( left alone) woodlands.


Mother Days: ‘Calculated Emotional Abuse’

I took the above phrase from a post on FAR (published 5/6/22) after it triggered memories of mother abuse. A classic Handmaid’s Tale with a twist. Like Sedna I was a daughter who was thrown into the sea, her fingers cut off one by one (but not by my father). Abandoned and left to die, Daughter sank to the bottom of the sea. In the Inuit story the abused daughter survives, transforming into Mistress and Mother of the Animals. As a woman I have followed in Sedna’s footsteps in that I became a dedicated naturalist with a fierce love for all non-human creatures (and plants), but I have yet to transform my unfortunate family history. 

With Mother’s Day approaching, I am forced against my will to think about my calculating, deceitful mother who had little use for women in general, and spent her life criticizing and eventually deleting her only daughter permanently from her life. Trashed.

My first crib memory is one of raw terror – a bewildered baby crying out for a mother that never came. Comfort, compassion, love, were withheld. Now at 77 I ask myself: what was wrong with this woman?

 I was stripped of all autonomy as a child and as an adolescent. Adhering to my mother’s impossible standards was something I was never able to achieve, and eventually I gave up my flawed self in despair. Depression and a terrible emptiness characterized my life as a child and adolescent. I learned to smile to survive. I also learned to lie about pain.

Why can’t you be like – fill in the blank – she’d say to a mute adolescent who was unable to stand up for herself. After a few drinks this mother routinely turned on her daughter for absolutely no reason while the rest of the family cringed but said nothing. The words ‘calculating and cruel’ fit this dead woman’s behavior like a glove. No wonder I left home at nineteen to marry an alcoholic (just like my mother) to escape her wrath.

Judgement was King. The one quality I learned at my mother’s knee was how to judge myself unmercifully. I was inherently flawed and unworthy.

My mother was oh so clever, casting me as the outsider as an adult. I was ‘the eccentric’, the one with too much feeling, the one who lived in the sticks. This woman always took the other person’s side, even if that person had abused me.

After my mother lost my brother to suicide my children became her pet project.  

My sons are presently adults in their 50’s but the damage was done during the years my sons were children, adolescents, and young men in their twenties. Like most parents, my children had issues with their mother that my mother used to help alienate them from me, apparently twisting their minds permanently. She began this takeover when they were small children. Later as young adults she seduced them with money she never earned, leaving her daughter to face old age in poverty. My father would turn over in his grave if he knew. The minds of my children may have been co –opted to begin with but today I hold them accountable for abandonment and betrayal too. 

 I am not suggesting that I am innocent here. I became a mother before I became a person, and from the beginning had a difficult time especially with my oldest son whose screaming tantrums and raging anger terrified me. When Chris was 20 months old and I returned from the hospital with his little brother he screamed “Mama I hate you”. It wasn’t the first time. I believed him. What had I done? Insecure attachment disorder? I’ll never know. My point is that as a 20 year old mother I was literally at sea. I knew nothing about mothering never having been mothered myself.

 Unfortunately, my mother’s lifetime of abuse lives on waiting for a crisis like the one I had last winter to manifest as male and female Destroyer. Both. On new year’s eve I broke my foot shoveling ice and damaged it further by not being able to get help when I desperately needed it. Frightened out of my wits, my fears escalated to an unbearable pitch. I couldn’t take care of myself, I couldn’t get help, I was getting too old; I had to sell the house.

 I made the decision to sell based on childhood helplessness. I did not understand what I was doing until it was too late.

My mother had come to life again as destroyer of self, as she always does when I am most vulnerable.

 Fortunately, circumstances changed and I was able to reverse the decision for a price. I started sleeping again. I opened to the unknown coming to terms with the truth that winters are too hard and I must find another place to live for at least three months each year. 

Another life perspective has shifted; I acknowledge that although it may be possible to stay in this little cabin and on land I love for a while longer, that I must also begin to prepare for a permanent leave – taking. With this in mind (after the reversal), and finding the help I needed quite effortlessly, I cleared my house of virtually everything I did not need (and I am not a collector of stuff). Even the garage has been cleaned out. When the last piece of extra furniture, book, family picture, dish went out the door I experienced a profound sense of relief. I felt physically lighter. It took a couple of days to understand that I had not only let go of furniture etc. but I had released myself from past trauma, family and otherwise, or had been released from it on some inexplicable level – maybe both.

When the time does come to sell the house I will be prepared and ready to go. And I have a realtor who is also a friend I trust.

 Yesterday, after having a conversation with my doctor regarding my recent crisis I didn’t resist when he brought up the value of seeing a therapist because of the severity of my mother’s abuse, coupled with other childhood, adolescent, and adult traumas had all come together to unhinge me during this last crisis. 

 What drove my crazed fear was that infant’s terror/child/adolescent fear of abandonment – I had no place to go – and no family to help me – and that fright paralyzed me on a level I have never experienced before. I have survived profound losses in my life, and assumed I would be able to deal with this loss too, but I was wrong. Leaving a beloved home without having any place to go catapulted me into Sedna’s realm as lost daughter; I was stuck at the bottom of the sea. I am not certain that any conventional therapy can help, but I am willing to try a few sessions of MDR to see. 

Last week I had a dream that I wanted to marry a dolphin, a dream that delighted me. I have always loved dolphins and spent a lot of time around these mammals when I was young and again at mid- life when I was doing research in the Amazon. As one of Sedna’s daughters, wanting to marry a dolphin seems hopeful because dolphins move back and forth between two worlds. They live in the sea but breathe sweet air,  most surfacing frequently to do so. 50 million years ago dolphins were originally land animals that chose to enter the sea. One major difference between dolphins and humans today is that dolphins must also choose to breathe to stay alive; they do not breathe reflexively. 

  Is it possible that marrying a dolphin might be Sedna’s gift to me?

Greater Celandine Notes

Greater Celandine in bloom

About twenty years ago I brought home a beautiful blue green rosette from a neighbors house. Greater celandine was growing in a few clumps in an old garden that had gone wild. I watched as my plant grew quite tall and bushy before producing bright yellow four – petaled flowers that bees just loved. At that time I still had honey – bees but I noticed that in addition to honey and bumblebees other wild bees and hummingbirds also visited this flower.


rosette in my garden/early May

The best part of this plant was that it bloomed from late spring through late summer and required absolutely no care from me. It also produced very elegant slender seed – pods that popped open all at once. Gradually this wild member of the poppy family spread to a few other locations, favoring moist areas and some shade, but in all these years it has never become invasive, so I was shocked to read that it is now considered an alien species that needs to be eradicated at all cost. I had some work done around the foundation two years in a row and lost all the celandine that liked to grow under the old fashioned hydrangea on the west side of the house. Foot traffic was enough to destroy the plants. This spring I am taking great care with the greater celandine I have left. 

 ‘Highly invasive’? Not here.

 Perhaps equally important is that the plant produces seed- pods that are easy to remove before they pop. This year I will be casting ripe seeds along with the ants who normally do this job on their own. Because greater celandine is shallow rooted it is also ridiculously easy to remove if a plant ends up where it is unwanted.

Celandine originally came from Europe where the plant was used medicinally – topically to treat warts – internally to treat digestive disorders.

We are losing so many plants to habitat loss that I feel deep distress when I see plants like greater celandine demonized. We seem to have developed a militant attitude towards eradicating any plant that is not ‘native’. Refusing to allow nature to make plant decisions although she has been doing this for more than 450 million years reveals our colossal human ignorance and hubris. Perhaps if we allowed nature to take the lead s/he would address plant imbalances in creative ways beyond human imagining. 

Turn Turn Turn; A Reflection on Aging

Migrating Sandhill Cranes

 In feminism becoming a ‘wise’ crone is acknowledged (it is certainly true that experience brings insight), but the vulnerabilities associated with aging remain hidden. I wonder how much of this silence has to do with shame? Does our culture’s obsession with youth keep us quiet?  If so this attitude isolates women from one another when older women need each other’s support more than ever. Lately, I find myself keenly aware that I need to write about the changes that are occurring in my own life so that I remain visible to myself if not to others.

When it comes to the challenges of aging the silence is deafening. 

Turn, Turn, Turn

It’s May Day. At dawn I scoop water from the brook, first pouring some on the earth and then, returning to the house, I bless the floor of the log cabin that is my home. I light candles for intentions… Too sensitive to light (phototrophic) I am acutely aware that the wheel is turning her face towards the harsh white glare of summer.

 A dangerous time. 

The light of the noonday star casts no shadow.

 I bless my animals, my body-mind. Listening to Phoebe’s sweet two syllable call, and thrilled by the Grosbeak’s arrival I give thanks for every bird, bee and flower – for all the wild beings, and for deep silence at sunrise. The Earth is a Lady in Waiting.

Rose breasted Grosbeak

I listen to inner voices I want to heed…

My aging body instructs me sternly. You broke a foot in last winter’s ice. Move slowly and mindfully. Pay attention to pain; don’t ignore it. Your bones are fragile; you are growing old. Honor your life. Don’t expect that others will. Give thanks. Help nature and people any way that you can, even if it is just through prayer. These are your jobs now…

Sit under your favorite trees… “a woman sits on the ground leaning against a pine. Its bark presses hard against her back… its needles scent the air and a force hums in the heart of the wood. Her ears tune down to the lowest frequencies. The tree is saying things in words before words”. (Richard Powers)



During the summer season, take refuge in cool forests, flowing streams, breathe in fragrant hemlock terpenes, give thanks for leafy canopies,  “a chorus of living wood sings…if your mind were only a slightly greener thing, we’d drown you in meaning” (Richard Powers).

 Listen to the water sounds that preceded creation. Remember that you don’t have to live through a culture that predicates itself on speed – or embrace doing and distraction as a way of life. 

 Lean into your latest passions… learn more about mosses. Paint. The first green plants emerged out of a sea of green algae 450 million years ago to become miniature emerald forests. The mind – bending truth is that these diminutive plants are identical to those that first emerged from water  – they survived five extinctions unscathed. Four hundred fifty years million years old!  Miraculous. Bryologist/author Robin Wall Kimmerer says moss forests support a plethora of wildlife including microscopic water bears.

Love your dogs!


 Bask in the glow of the setting sun – let the bruised – blue evening and fractured diamond sky overcome you with wonder, gratitude, and peace…

Of course, the decisions I make about how to spend my time are different from those that others might make. What’s important is that as we age we make choices that are not only meaningful for us as individuals, but those that accord our aging bodies the respect they deserve, acknowledged or not.