Morning Mediations August

Richard Powers makes a salient point – there is a little evil in each of us when we are not able to perceive the miraculous…. August is the season of abundance – and the most ordinary day borders on the miraculous if we can pay attention to the gifts offered… around here I had that sort of day … trees bursting with fruit milkweed pods greening up turkey mamas parading their young ones -fire on the mountain in the form of blooms and best of all baby robins getting ready to fledge. I have been following this family for most of two months and mama trusts me enough to peer within inches of her babies – I am so honored – and yes joyful…

This has been a poignant turning because someone I really cared about and corresponded with has died. Light and Dark – dance as one.

Richards Powers says link enough trees together and the forest grows aware. 

In my world every living tree embodies awareness. Early morning after rain at the brook pool bathing and watching fish… come back into the house through maze of hummingbirds and Red Deer appears around the corner in front of the door. In all these years I have never had a deer that acted more like a dog than a wild animal – this animal greets me with obvious pleasure – hummingbird frenzy requires many quarts of food each day note where they live – why in the Phoebe tree where virtually no predator can get to them – it’s climbing into the house! that crabapple – and she too greets me at dawn.


The most exciting thing that happened to me yesterday was that during my early morning walk ( 2 mile run) around here I discovered baby monarch!! You can’t tell from pictures but this little guy is only about an inch and a half long – first instar- so excited because I planned to raise one I brought him to the yard in a pail with surrounding milkweed and let him be – two hours later GONE – by this time I had discovered new research that is indicating that raising monarchs by hand may interfere with their ability to migrate – rechecked new research and there was more – oh I had made a horrible mistake I thought and now I lost him -once again reminded of how little humans know about nature I felt so sad… and then last night I am coming back from a walk with the dogs checking milkweed on my road ( have it everywhere) and there was an identical caterpillar munching leaves exactly the same size!!!! It had to be him – he could smell the milkweed and had traveled though the prickly lawn and trees to find a safer home than I could provide – I took a picture and then stepped back but when I went to take another he dropped out of sight!!!! “ Enough of her!” the message was clear – I’m another predator, though an unwitting one. From now on I shall err on the side of caution and let my friends be… hoping for a positive outcome for these 5000 mile travelers. 

I have raised many of these creatures over the course of my lifetime not knowing that I was putting them at risk… now I do. I am always learning the sane lesson : let nature be S/he knows how to care for her own – my job is to give thanks. Visit to MLT pollinator garden highlights Mexican Sunflowers – Monarchs love them – this bunch needs all the nourishment it can get to make that long journey south – blessings to them all – – watching fish the mirror of the sky I can hear the brook running now – it’s supposed to be hot so I’ll be walking early and NOT removing any caterpillars from their milkweed homes – I have learned my lesson!

On days like this monsoons bring no relief and nature is still…the ponds are made of glass with floating porcelain lilies – fall asters and September goldenrod are in full bloom a month early – my apple tree along with all the other fruit trees are losing leaves – a long term survival tool – all around me disintegration – daily haunts to my brook pool are a necessity – sinking into clear waters I walk up the hill naked drying by air! 

This is the world we have created I remind myself with a heavy heart.

Because I have been present. Oh so present to the joys of spring and summer I can let go -Hope has back problems and my beloved vet gives her acupuncture that brings her back to childhood – a joy to behold in an aging dog.

I remind myself that nature will endure even as the apples fall too early – the earth will be different in ways I can’t imagine but s/ he will endure as I have. A daily joy is walking up and down my road without neighbors with bullying dogs or tree killers both gone. Is it-my imagination that the trees are rejoicing as I I take each step? They are recovering from a holocaust as I am – thriving – how can it be that so much cruel destruction of leaf and crown could heal so quickly once the perpetrator leaves?- my road has once again become a joyful place where trees sing and I treasure each living being.

“knowing that you love the earth changes you…but when you feel the earth loves you in return that feeling transforms relationship…into a sacred bond”

Robin Wall Kimmerer

This has been my life experience – the earth has changed me and every day that I am alive that change continues….

Picture taken through the window – monsoon rains so heavy it almost looks like snow! Love my porch! I walk early these days – the air this morning is unbearably sweet and I am so grateful for my woods and paths that keep me shaded as I walk. Too hot to go elsewhere and too much happening here with monarchs. I never know who I’ll find- they do move around a bit but so far no one has been eaten – 5th instar caterpillar is ready to pupate but where? My next challenge!

Yesterday I found more monarch caterpillars – so happy to see my little one feasting on a pod – it turns out he likes the home he found and now when I visit him he doesn’t drop out of sight ! That drop by the way is planned – he spins a tiny rope to slip away.

Monsoons keep the water flowing and for this I am extremely grateful.

Oh this blessed earth!

(August 7th – 72 degrees at 6AM – Monsooning blesses the water but brings no relief – going into 4th week of unbearable heat – worst summer ever – and this after such a sweet beginning)

Robin Wall Kimmerer says “ that to become native to a place we must learn to speak its language” – 

a lesson I have been learning ever since I moved here.

Every day offers me an opportunity to learn a little more about the language spoken on this land…lately it’s been about monarchs – although I have raised them outdoors it wasn’t until I learned through new research that hand raising might be detrimental to migration – so this year instead of focusing on one caterpillar I am letting the insects and the land teach me how to enjoy this miraculous process without interfering at all! I have learned that babies drop by spinning skeins of silk to escape predators and that monarchs do not need full sun to thrive.. every day I find a few more around preferred milkweed plants in various stages of growth – yesterday finally a chrysalis with tiny gold dots …Finding even one is a joy – and I have the feeling that my attitude is helping to.create all these sightings. Last night I even found two that appeared to be conversing under the same leaf – those feelers were waving back and forth with enthusiasm…. Not all chrysalis capsules produce a butterfly I learned years ago so I am hoping that I will get to witness one “transformation” a word used so casually by people who in fact have no concept of what genuine transformation is about – a literal changing of forms – death is a transformation – so is birth and occasionally we have conversion experiences as humans but animal know what real transformation is all about… perhaps we should follow their lead. Red Deer has more apples than she can eat – they were so heavy on the tree the branch broke – to many extremes for these poor trees.

August 8 72 degrees 6 AM  I’m starting to get anxious about winter…. Too many fall chores that I am going to have to struggle to get done.

To paraphrase ROBIN WALL KIMMERER ‘as we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us’

These words came to me yesterday when a limb of my apple tree was torn from her trunk. Too heavy with apples she bowed over others and I feared the worst. I called my dear friend and professional arborist in a panic – I have known him since he was 19 and he’s 45 now – he loves and is as sensitive to trees as I am having come from a long line of tree cutters that stretch back generations – every tree on hundreds of acres cut sustainably and now he is so well known in the state that people call him and his large crew to do an enormous amount of work. Last year he won a prestigious prize for his impeccable judgement and work – as always I am thrilled to see him but he knew how much my apple tree meant to me and she was in trouble. He cut carefully and cleanly no power tools used at all – too invasive he said – climbing the tree with care and by the end of my trimming – whoops her trimming – he pronounced her healthy and safe – some earlier cutting by a young boy had created some issues. I was overjoyed and Red Deer had a feast! Thank goodness for friends like this one. He took every downed branch to a different spot to feed the animals – always thinking of the others – any wonder I love him?. As he said yesterday we are kindred spirits whose friendship has endured over time. He is one of the finest most perceptive naturalists I know!

Dips in the brook were a must and today clouds- I am so sick of sun – day after day so so boring.

Back to Robin’s remark – I had the strongest sense as we were cutting that the tree and Sheldon and I were in a three way conversation without words and that the tree was happy – projection? I doubt it – there was a strange buzz in the air that we both picked up on and commented about – Trees know when we love them! And healing them heals us – if only we could listen….a good day indeed!

Bird Migration has begun. Last night 132,400 birds flew over this one county.

PLEASE, LIGHTS OUT AT DUSK TO DAWN…. this is just the beginning and it is so important for the migrating birds, especially the first migrants to not be confused and thrown off course by these obscenely bright lights…

This morning the yellow bellied cuckoo who lives right down by the brook – a bird I have never seen – awakened me at 5:30 AM – he is still singing along with Red Deer (who has wiped out every fallen apple from under my tree). Until this year, I didn’t even know cuckoos lived here. His call is poignant and sweetly repetitive… I think there are two conversing ignoring the single gun shot that just rang out – some idiot shooting at some potential victim.

Seeding up is evident everywhere as is the lengthening darkness I collected pictures of some of the seeding up plants. Gosh there are so many… the first scarlet maple leaves are scattered across the forest floor.

It’s so nice to hear the brook running…

Last night I found three more monarch caterpillars… so the numbers are diminishing – two chrysalis adorn old sticks… lime green with gilded gold leaf – the most skilled artist in the world is nature –




COOL DAMP WEATHER to get wood in 4 day marathon and its over for this year…


ROBIN WALL KIMMERER says that the world is a place of belongings (acquisition of stuff) or a place of belonging to… I am struck by a grief deeper than the deepest river when I read these words. How did western culture become so capitalistic where more cars, trucks, traveling, buying buying buying buying became the ‘end goal’?

This of course is how we destroy the earth whose trees and creatures are disappearing at an alarming rate. Four percent of non human creatures are left in the entire world.

I live in a place of “belonging to” – and am graced with wild animals that come and go – knowing how grateful I am to belong to some land that has me woven into the tapestry of the whole.

Yesterday Red Deer wiped out fallen apples – I used a broom to bring down more and now these are gone too! At dawn chortling awakened me and I got to see the 16 turkeys that live here picking up tidbits as they circled the house – there is one little guy who is smaller than the other 10 babies. So far this family has only lost one. Surprise for me on the butterfly weed. Two quarter inch monarchs appeared on the leaves – birthed by a too young mother too far from milkweed their only food source? (8/10) I moved them to milkweed and last night on our walk I saw them both mouthparts crunching leaves – still more caterpillars! One giant still hasn’t pupated – so far I have two capsules – I hear from the land trust that there are a couple of capsules on plants in their garden so folks will get to see how beautiful these are – I’m guessing another week for mine? Just don’t know.

All my wood is in for winter – nice and dry and stacked here and in the garage. I had real help this year so the work went fast with good conversation – we moved 3 and a half cords of wood!!!! And it was cloudy and cool! Next cages for vulnerable trees…. I like getting fall chores done early so I am free to roam come fall.

Meet “Little Deer” in the flesh on the First Harvest moon! There is a Cherokee story that speaks to Little Deer as a spokesperson and advocate for all the animals. Yesterday around 2 PM after I had used a broom to drop more some more apples down from the tree for his mother, Red Deer, – Mom must have been watching because she trotted right up the hill almost instantly – no surprise there – – and lo- just behind her came this absolutely gorgeous fawn that she has kept hidden from me for months! Baffling in view of how friendly she is – one day she almost came in the door!

Both were relaxed and enjoyed a feast.

Later a lovely rain that has the brook sounding a song – water over stone – the frogs were all croaking as the dogs and I sat on the porch listening to the rain falling in the porch metal roof – a lovely night!

Yesterday more caterpillars on the butterfly weed which I moved to milkweed. That’s five in all so far on butterfly weed a quarter of an inch long they must just have hatched but where in my wild Red Deer munched garden? Yet one more mystery – oh how grateful I am that all of Life is one Great Mystery! This morning Red Deer is here alone and cuckoo is singing away across the brook.

Robin Wall Kimmerer tells us that paying attention is a form of reciprocity with the Living World, receiving ( her/his – I refuse to “it” nature) gifts with open eyes and open hearts”.

Early morning walk through my predominantly hemlock forest has me enthralled by such beauty and bounty- just after a rain the scent is beyond description and the ground soft and spongy with rich duff. Some of my hemlocks are more than 200 years old – (have counted rings of downed trees) even sustainable loggers didn’t have much use for hemlocks because the grain wasn’t straight. Lucky forest and luckily me to be witness. 200 years is still young for hemlocks – that if left to grow reach 500 years the oldest trees in the east. Today of course we take them too- chip them and turn them into mulch that helps to spread Woolley Adelgid. Such greed and stupidity. But so far my little patch of forest is a cathedral of peace – in the open spaces left by downed trees who become seed beds for new life are growing wildflowers and, sprouting mushrooms and long runners of various club mosses becoming more complex every single year. It saddens me to have to have mechanical eyes pointed in every direction both in front and behind me but I have learned the hard way that neighbors are not to be trusted…. Hemlocks protect the streams keeping the fish cool even in the heat they are a foundational species helping to create diversity, stop flooding – could go on here but what I love is craning my neck to see those crowns against deep blue sky. In my favorite forest these trees are so old I can’t see the tops!! (8/13 first hint of fall – chilly yesterday and this morning! NWwind! Yes!

Robin Wall Kimmerrer talks about the” grammar of animacy” when I first heard these words a couple of years ago when reading Braiding Sweetgrass I realized that I had been doing this for so many years with my writing in regards to animals and plants. I never “it” an animate being – either using pronouns he she or s/he to describe or discuss a living being believing that to do so was participating in the subjugation of non human beings as “ less than” – it’s easy to take down a maple with a chainsaw if it’s an “it” not so easy when the tree is a she .. unless of course you had a deranged neighbor like the one I did who hacked trees to pieces because of his insane hatred for me… barring insanity giving personhood to any other species creates a relationship of equals where there was none…. Oh how I love these cool cool mornings and sunny days when the heat has broken – we can’t complain we only had a month of it – from cicadas to crickets just another indication of the changing season – I spent the afternoon seeding – although not gardening per say I collect pods and scatter whatever is ready to re – seed itself in places where it has the best chances to grow. Little Deer and mom were here at 5:30 munching apples  -yesterday she was within inches of Hope who just couldn’t’ stand the invasion through the screen and barked!!! Red Deer just backed away – found only one caterpillar yesterday – the ones hatching into the next monarch butterflies will be making the journey south, – Lily b became depressed after I stopped feeding his birds so yesterday I put up one feeder just outside his window and this morning he is enthralled by early morning activity – birds have to have regular stimulation and I was worried because Lily was staying in his roost – even pig squirrel is better than no one! Thick mist covers the mountain with her pearl white shawl and the waters flow…

Yesterday was our Mahoosuc Land Trust Monarch Festival – the numbers of visitors were staggering – what a success – someone took this picture of me at our bird table during a bizarrely quiet moment! We were so busy all day that on my break I had two choices – see other exhibits or go on a bird walk – I chose the latter and learned new information on thrushes. How I love these walks. MLT has merged with other organizations and so conserved land is growing – some folks really do care- the rest of the pictures I took befitted starting work in the fantastic pollinator garden that I am unable to stay away from for more than about 10 days! So chilly I had to close windows and doors around 3 AM when I awakened – love this touch of fall weather and now the leaves are shining outside my window silver green and gold. When I got home a beautiful wildflower bouquet was waiting for me – someone had been here checking mechanical eyes -and left me a present that included a new bat house!!!!


There is no freedom

There are only ancient prophecies that scry the seeds of time and say which will grow and which will not.

Richard Powers

I leave the reader to make what s/he will of such words.

The clue of course lies in patterns – there are hidden patterns everywhere like the ones on Queen Anne’s Lace. Or my favorite “ bee “ hydrangea or bee balm or the multitude of monarch caterpillars each one delicately striped. (I’ve lost count of how many I have found what this might mean who knows)

The key for humans is to discern the meaning behind the patterns we live – willingly or not. Once we understand that patterns and proteins create all living things the story becomes one of fascination and wonder but freedom may be more of an illusion than we know – or want to know. 

Love these clear pre – dawn mornings with crickets singing “all is well” at this moment in time…

Another Theory in physics ( Steady State theory) that is also based on the same premise of red shift tells us that instead of the 

Universe racing further and further apart – the theory that is accepted ‘truth ‘- from nothing to everything as Powers states Big Bang- May be more about our human projections than actuality. In this equally valid theory the universe is being born and reborn again. When I first read about this idea it made so much more sense to me than nothing to everything because nature doesn’t work that way – cycles of becoming define natural ways of being in the world. I was also struck by the fact that this is what indigenous people think too…. Why do we not hear about this?…. cause BIG BANG IS ‘TRUTH’. People seem to need a concrete belief system even if science by nature is always in flux and truths are always changing….Food for thought

What follows is a visual feast Red and Little Deer and clouds here and an evening visit to the pollinator garden and surrounding paths – oh such beauty ! The deep purple flower that fascinates me so because it looks so strange comes from Korea and is not a verbena as I was told. Some flowers come from far away.- and that dragonfly!!!! And the goldenrod…. Oh such beauty… caterpillars everywhere there too and chrysalis’s hanging from the fence. Here my population continues to expand with only common milkweed and butterfly weed! What a year for monarchs! Enjoy!!!!

Chrysalides is the plural – I looked it up.

I am recognizing personhood in nature when I give thanks for this long slow rain that has been falling since yesterday afternoon soaking a thirsty earth clearing the waters, and calling up the sounds of frogs!! The big green frog was croaking with such enthusiasm last night that I could hear him from the bedroom on the other side of the house. This is the rain that turns the earth green again – almost emerald with lime accents. Rain like this is a gift beyond price. This summer we have had too much ‘male’ rain – thunder and lightning – colorful dramatic deluges – that don’t nourish the earth the way this ‘female’ rain does. These indigenous descriptions ‘fit’ the kind of rain that falls -we are respecting and giving personhood to the powers of both. I sleep and wake and sleep again to this soothing sound – each tree stretches her needles or palms opening them to the sky…. I spent a couple of hours rain walking yesterday hunting for more caterpillars – every time I think the little ones are gone I find a wee monarch under a leaf! A miracle year for caterpillars. I just had to take a picture of the gift I received from working at the festival – generous folks. The tee shirts were being sold and I am the only person I know that despises tee shirts – but not this one! I promptly cut the arms and neck away and now I have a new dress of sorts for hot summer days or a tunic. The picture is sort of weird but I had a hard time – don’t know how to work a timer!

Every morning now spider webs adorn the house and grass and the little oak acorn I planted three years ago is a healthy little tree about 2 feet high! Amazing Nature!

Inside and outside reflections of one another after a nourishing rain – equality and diversity dominate the sharing of Lily B’s feeder… all regulars and cardinals chirping for food at dusk!…one real treat was seeing three kinds of warblers in my apple tree picking off the predators that are munching through leaves but every time I tried to get a picture one flew away – these little birds move so fast it’s no wonder it’s so hard to see them or capture them on film! Migration is underway so these will be in flight before long… Twenty plus more monarch caterpillars yesterday and a chrysalis…so many teeny babies! Bright yellow poplar leaf and hobble bush full of berries promise that fall is coming – this morning a symphony of crickets – but cicadas are my weather report – when they sing I know it’s going to heat up.

I do think there is a relationship between weather changes and the collective mind that includes humans – all this instability and so many extremes seem to mirror what’s happening in our culture and others across the planet. Climate change isn’t just about what we have done to the planet it’s what is happening to humans too… the human mind has become as polluted as the body of the earth – we are all connected…… I always thought it was about me being connected to the weather in a  weird way – so much I thought was me now I see I just had a window into what was coming through my BODY that I ignored… David Abram talks about the weather being related to the human mind – and how our senses know… he is definitely attached to body.

****It is not a question of first getting enlightened or healed as our androcentric culture obsesses over and then maybe taking action – first we work to heal the earth and only then will the earth heal us….

Robin Wall Kimmerer – scientist/ author

Bringing the harvest in is a gift offered by all of nature – the very least that we can do is to reciprocate with the deepest gratitude.

And with birds migrating — 25,000 last night in Oxford County alone we can TURN OUR LIGHTS OFF at dusk and leave them off until dawn.

A morning like this one is a jewel – heavy dew 48 degrees and clear clear sweet air bathes late summer green… the picture of the hummingbird tree shows a fraction of what must be a thousand apples – maybe more hang from her branches – my two feeders are inches away from the tree and the hummingbirds never leave this protection except to feed on bee balm. I must have almost a hundred hummingbirds – 4 quarts a day – the most ever.

Last night a real treat – foxes yipping in the field – I’ve seen scat and glimpses at dawn or dusk but this yipping was hilarious – my old animal paths are being used – but some killers remain shooting at whatever crosses their paths. Red deer and Little Deer munched apples so noisily they woke me up at 4:30 AM! I could barely see them under our bedroom window! I love hearing the apples hit the ground at night. It’s almost as if the tree is getting ready to gift these deer. And maybe she is!


(8/20 – ‘The Gathering In’ – just one day later than last year – elderberry bounty on Gore Road – little ripe elsewhere – have another week written morning of 21st)

“Plants are an integral way to reweave the connection between land and people. A place becomes home when it sustains you, when it feeds body and spirit… ”.

Robin Wall Kimmerer scientist/ author

Yesterday I spent gathering in. Going to the places where medicine still grows wild. Always my relationship to the land is strengthened by these forays into marsh and blackberry canes wild roses – scratches are part of the story as I choose clumps of ripe purple berries never worrying about taking too many because not one elderberry ripens her berries at the same time! There are always plenty left to spread next years bounty and to feed the birds…when my basket is full and I am exhausted from the heat of the noonday star I come home, take a bath in the brook pool watch fish peering at my feet and return to the cabin refreshed. Winnowing takes thours of work. I finished this batch at dusk just in time to walk the dogs into the coming cricket filled night scanning the clear horizon my eyes tuned to tree spires… I have been in this slow still place all afternoon as I sat on the porch – my fingers busy my mind still. I am part of what is, and it is enough.

Today I bottle my bounty to see how much more I need to gather for myself and others. Medicine for the next year …as I picked each cluster I gave thanks for the wild places that still support these bushes and of course for the berries themselves….pictures of my gathering Passamaquoddy basket , and the turkeys hiding in the ferns yesterday morning! All sixteen birds whose heads were barely visible! I asked the turkeys to leave me a feather and one did! This morning the cardinals are chirping long before dawn as Red Deer munched fallen apples … last night she was snorting just outside the cabin at something and when I went outside to see ( she acts like a warning system!) she was staring at the most beautiful gray fox stamping her foot in protest. He left!

Emergence magazine tells us that the latest heat wave broke all records in Maine and that the Great Tree Migration is underway although for trees it takes generations – to escape heat predation etc the trees are moving north. It is projected that within less than a hundred years black ash, sugar maples paper birch and red spruce will be gone … pictured is a miracle tree – one that survived being cut to a stump by a crazy person seven years ago…somehow this red pine survived and re- grew three small trunks and became a whole tree – with all the bad news about the loss of trees – the heartbreak – when I look at this tree that lines my road I believe that trees of some kind will survive the holocaust bearing down on them – not trees I know and love but trees of some kind – our most ancient elders. We may be gone but they will live on. Picture of what once was a popular trout brook now barely any water flows. Also pictured is my old fashioned hydrangea the only one that bees adore. Yesterday I stood under her listening to the wild hum of bees – six kinds and hummingbirds who also find the nectar sweet… fritillaries and monarchs along with other butterflies also feed on this tree – and speaking of fritillaries don’t forget to let your violets grow – because they are the only plant on which this butterfly lays her eggs! Please don’t mow them down!!!! This morning the cardinals awakened me a little after 5 AM – they want food! And the 16 turkeys are milling about the feeder under Lily b’s window – yesterdays bottled medicine – oh the color! All that work was worth it – one more run should give me all I need. The night before last 48 thousand birds migrated south over Oxford County alone. Here I see less male hummingbirds although feeding frenzy continues unabated. Unlike most migrants hummingbirds migrate by day…rain predicted for today and this morning it feels like it. Oh the turkeys are chortling – such enthusiastic conversation is now occurring under my bedroom window as turkeys peck at fallen apples – Red Deer left none but more just fell down with a few hundred to come.

What is magic? In the deepest sense,magic is an experience of finding oneself alive within an earth that is alive!

David Abram

Yesterday morning chortling and who should arrive but about 30 male turkeys who hung around all morning bathing resting an scratching – where did they come from? The night before gun blasts from stupid neighbor up the hill probably brought them in ( glad I’m not paying for the bullets!)- same with the new deer with her twins. Male impotence hiding behind a gun – ugh- this is power? What a joke – no wonder I have so many animals here. 

this morning my sixteen mothers and young are back working the feeder eating apple leftovers all the while in deep conversation. Cardinals are now coming in at 7:30 PM. All barrels brimming from long sweet rain with more to come… that quiet soaking warm rain which fell all night long – so soothing with more to come. Meanwhile in cool weather I moved some plants and then watched the rain clouds thicken the sky in layers – oh the air was sweet but not as sweet as now – all the leaves on trees are shining. How I love late summer greening….the brook is singing. 

Forest walk in the rain with me hearing Robin Wall Kimmerer s words “ How can we become better students of plants” By SEEING them for the miraculous beings they are – bending kneeling to close in on detail like the tiny toads that have just been born. A protected forest is a gift beyond measure Breathing in terpenes pinenes ionized sweetened air leaves me with a sense of well being I find no where else – is it any wonder that this is my cathedral? More rain and eventually I fall asleep to the sounds bouncing off the snow roof and didn’t wake up until 1 AM! Abrams is right the truly magical is simply being where one is communing with one’s relatives most who tower over my head – some barely specks hopping across rich moist duff – two days of rain and the world is singing a song of gratitude in late summer… sadly southern maine is in a drought – last year it was northern Maine here in the mountains rain but never enough for me – this round was both light and heavy – no wild thunderstorms that steal precious water rain crickets cicadas – it’s enough

In some Native languages the term for plant translates into those that take care of us

Robin Wall Kimmerer scientist/ author

Yesterday while gathering my last basket of elderberries it was these words that came to mind… such bounty and nourishment – how satisfying to wild craft with such gratitude… an early morning walk through my woods shows me how mosses, the first colonizers of dry land send roots ahead to attach themselves to stone. The second picture show the tiniest and deadliest mushrooms sprouting – some the size of a pinheaded – you can guess who they are…. Turkeys turkeys turkeys and Red Deer peering in the window as I was engaged in some task or another.

This morning the dogs and I were watching her eat her apples at first light when the bully up the hill let off a volley of gunshots – stupid impotent excuse for a man – bullies are fear driven – no wonder they have to shoot guns to feel like men – so different from the respectful hunters that I meet in the forest – not here- no hunting here please! But families who love the woods the way I do respecting her ways…

Lots of mountain mist – love the way it settles over the forest..and oh the sweetness of the air!

These last two should be reversed… and I also wrote about 25th’s talk about artist Jane Kim – highlight for me was sitting next to Mary and Larry – Larry hugged me. Wow.

“Gratitude is most powerful as a response to the Earth because it provides an opening to reciprocity – to the act of giving back”.

Robin Wall Kimmerer scientist and author

Early morning walk up through my woods after the rain – the earth feels like velvet under my feet – such astonishing beauty – later off to the pollinator garden – I can’t stay away from that place – Monarchs everywhere and oh those Mexican Sunflowers – friends in NM please grow them if you have a drip system! Very few caterpillars – same here – something is getting mine. Then off for the final round of berrying – today is process day…I think Red Deer has been here all night – every time I woke up crunching! And of course she’s here now feasting… the most solitary deer I know – most are in the field but she lives right here – Little Deer often comes alone too.

Pictures on a rainy day – my nasturtiums love the cooler nights and come into their own in September… labor intensive winnowing of elderberries continues and rain sweetened air accompanied Hope and I to the clinic for an afternoon visit with Uncle Gary our vet who calls Hope his little princess!! Beautiful view of rain and thick mist from Gary’s window. Seeding up butterfly weed – love those pods

“Youth hunters will get a jump start on the 2022 bear season this weekend. The unofficial start to Maine’s fall hunting season is right around the corner. The bear hunting season in Maine starts on August 29. Youth hunters will get a jump start on the season, August 27, on Youth Bear Hunting Day.”

In Maine we make sure that the young are inducted early into bear slaughter by kicking off the three month bear season today.

These shy and normally peaceful animals have been cast as killers and we perpetuate the myth. Most of the bears that will be shot with their heads in a bait can will be under two years old. First year cubs will lose their mothers and may not be able to survive on their own. Females do not bring cubs to bait areas. Most will need up as trophies on the walls of peoples’ homes.

Four percent on non – human species remain on the earth. We seem intent upon eradicating them all.

What happened to the Native American custom of honoring Bear as Healer????

Here’s a statistic for you: 27 million guns are owned by Americans. Gun related deaths are the third leading cause of HUMAN deaths in this country.

Once I had bears on this land – no more – all have been shot out. I never thought I would say this but I am actually grateful that I will not be losing personal friends this fall.

Unfortunately Dr Lynn Rogers Bear biologist, and friend who runs the North American Bear Center and WRI – a bear research station in Ely Minnesota will probably not be so fortunate. His wild bears are often hunted with a vengeance. Pictured are bears I know personally – bears that are allowed to come and go – free – for eleven months of the year. Minnesota has a hunting season that lasts one month.

Picture of a baby toad found in the woods. Here in my toad pond none hatched this spring the first time ever…we all need toads and frogs – they let us know how polluted our air water and soil have become. Their scarcity indicates that we are all in trouble. If they can’t breathe either can we – it just takes longer to kill a human than a toad.

Yesterday I witnessed a troubling exchange between a dog, his owner and a cornered toad. The dog was after the toad and the man encouraged him. “ Good boy!”

Distressed I mentioned that toads exude toxins that can harm a dog even if the dog just mouths the amphibian. Encounters like this one are potentially dangerous for both animals. Clearly this man was ignorant…

For anyone who is interested in details please see internet…

Thick mist obscured the mountains early this morning.

“Paying attention is a form of reciprocity…”

Robin Wall Kimmerer

Until I read these words I never thought of my attention to nature as being a form of reciprocity but of course it is….giving back by being fully present is a gift without parallel for only then are we truly “seen” – this is as true for nature as it is for humans…

Yesterday another caterpillar day – this time comparing notes with someone else trying to make sense out of our present monarch influx – many many caterpillars – I researched a couple of academic articles yesterday and learned that new studies are being done on caterpillar predators not considered such a threat until recently. This validated my own perceptions – caterpillars yes chrysalids yes, but hatching? I’m not having much luck here. I found a chrysalis that was being sucked up by an ant or spider not sure which. It’s just too soon to draw conclusions I am just keeping close track.. turkeys and more turkeys and I have around 34 now coming in two groups – this male was hot! They meander through the ferns down to the brook take a bath and lay around on the lawn … it was muggy and hot yesterday and I could smell the storm coming in. Last night after walking the dogs I just had to keep walking up and down my road – animals appearing from the edges of the road to peer at me deer grouse and another fox- all this while I am soaking in the sweet moisture and being serenaded by crickets – oh my peaceful road – I never thought it would be like this again 


Refuge Late August

The sun pours in like honey
casts shadows 
a small fire dries wooden floors….

Outside my window
beech leaves

 gild light

thirsty mouths,

poisoned air

White pine
over cobalt sky
as do hemlocks.
Steep gorge
captures pools
of fish
shrinking waters

an invitation extended

 to green herons
winding river wends her way 
through forest becoming. 
a gift
only nature
can provide.
Moss climbs
over outhouse roof
composting soil
Hobble bush
aflame with orange jewels
Arbutus still limed
leathery leaves
Stars in spring

Caterpillars spin


Oh Life in the Round

is a gift

even on steamy days!
Birth is in the wings…

three monarch caterpillars on one leaf

Star woman sleeps
waiting to be born
She’ll bend hemlocks
heavily laden with dew
Bathe white pines
in crystal waters
Sing to the birds
stories of Creation…

 Old Ones Caution

could this be a monarch caterpillar dead in spider’s web?



is fraught with danger

Adult Monarch…

Even as S/he

parts the veilof Time..

Witches Butter

Witches Butter

The other day I found the most beautiful fungus on an aging white pine set against deep green moss that was almost arcing over the brook. When I looked up Dacrymyces palmatis I discovered that it’s common name was “Witches Butter”. That figures I thought – this must mean that this plant has medicinal qualities, and of course it does along with the fact that the fungus is edible.

Any time I see the word witch associated with a plant if I am not familiar with it I start digging into research inevitably coming up with the same kind of information – the plant/ tree/ fungus/slime mold is edible and has medicinal value. 


The word witch as many of us know has at its root to bend or shape. Shape -shifting by non –ordinary means.

Witches were and are healers that use herbs, talk intimately with animals, are counseled by plants and humming trees.  Witches wait patiently for instructions,

It’s no surprise that in fairy tales witches almost always live in the woods and are solitary creatures by nature and design.

After having spent the most creative more than half of my life living alone by choice, my non – human neighbors   

have become my teachers. It is painfully obvious to me that listening to nature is an art form lost to western culture. 

Observing, listening, refusing to make judgments or draw premature conclusions allows Nature’s truths to seep slowly into our bodies. I think of this process as a kind of percolating –  extraordinary knowledge and insights arise out of these complex relationships with the rest of nature that only some Indigenous cultures seem to be able to maintain today.

  Although I am not a witch in the western tradition as in Wiccan I am one having been initiated by nature.

I’ll give the reader one recent example.  A number of years ago while walking through a Bosque along the river in NM on a daily basis during the winter months, always before dawn, I began to sense lightemanating from under my feet underground. I could feel that this light was beneficent but it also seemed that I was tapping into the unknown. Very mysterious. I was learning something but what?  Having learned to trust my body’s truth I waited for more information.

  When I learned that the latest research in western science had discovered that mycelial networking operated much like the human brain does by creating synapses accompanied by sparks of light that 

wove the roots below my feet into one tapestry that stretched across unbroken ground, I still experienced a sense of awe and wonder! I thanked my body for hearing the message: We are all connected! At least in some places. These networks stretch across parts of the desert in the wetlands if they are protected as this area was. Most desert lands have been trashed by cattle grazing destroying the networking. The same process occurs in more temperate areas when roads are paved over the earth, cities are built or agribusiness pollutes the earth with chemicals. I could go on here.

My point? If Earth was allowed to be in her natural state the underground networking would stretch across the 

whole planet. It is amazing to think that such complex communication lines lie just under the surface of our feet. 

One of the things I love most about being in unbroken stretches of forest, and I do have one nearby (12,000 plus acres), is that it is very easy to slip into that light trance state while walking slowly. Softening my vision with intent I feel and sense that communication occurring beneath my feet, experience being loved by something so much greater, than I can comprehend. Every time I enter this forest I can her/him casting a veil around me as I slip into “all there is”. My only thought afterwards is to give thanks for the two people who saved this land from destruction.

The witch in me is always repeating the same words: Let the Powers of Nature lead you Home.

 I listen with deep love and appreciation, grateful for instruction.

Refuge: Forest Walk

Yesterday, after an unwelcome absence of three weeks, my dogs and I returned to our favorite forest and then to Refuge.

I had no goal except to allow one of my dogs to let me know if she was having problems. If so we would return to the car. As we entered the cool moist woods the little hummingbird that lives at the forest edge swooped down to greet us. I unleashed both dogs and requested they stay with me – my oldest, Hope, is the one that is having breathing issues and coughing fits that frighten us both. I rely on my dog’s behavior to keep me informed. As long as Hope is relaxed she has less chance of having a spasm. We work as one unit most of the time and always in the forest. All I have to ask is please don’t bark, or wait, or don’t pull if on a leash, in the unlikely case that we actually meet another traveler (I’d like to take credit for their behavior but I can’t. They simply respond to my requests unless something is really wrong with a situation or a person, or another dog).



I was glued to the late summer forest floor, watching for ripening partridgeberrries, mushrooms, new growth on old tree stumps, hoping to see baby toads and frogs, while lifting my gaze to rippling water and mirror reflections – above and below are always reflections of one another. I would get on my knees to feel the round pincushion moss that only photosynthesizes when moist. Almost a prayer. The sweet ionized air smelled like more rain, and the sound of ribbons of water soothed and energized me at the same time.


 I have entered heaven’s gate… When Forest walking, I return to a balanced state of health, probably because the trees who release terpenes that purify the air; these 400 million year old relatives (we share 53 percent of our DNA with them) are my teachers and elders. On and on we walked, the dogs stopping to scent animal trails, my eyes raised to the towering old hemlocks and below to the old pine stumps so full of life with seedling trees, shiny emerald wintergreen, rose tipped hobble bush, lichens and mosses, the occasional flash of a scarlet maple leaf or a golden poplar, partridgeberry, and in a few places, snowberry vines. Our pace was slow set by Hope. We wandered to the river’s edge where the waters were almost still so the dogs could sip clear nectar. I moved over the smooth stones warily knowing how slippery wet moss can be. When we startled a male partridge, he exploded into the air but after speaking softly to him the magnificent bird returned to the forest floor to eat the ripe orange berries of a hobble bush..

Turkey tails

Usually it is Hope that wants to turn back but today she seemed so relaxed and energetic that I followed her lead. Up the hills and down back into valleys… the ground is fashioned out of forest velvet –  thick pine and hemlock duff; fairy houses appear in every aging tree trunk. Then I see a whole bunch of them. Tiny newborn toads hopping in and out of natural doorways under the surface roots of moss covered trees. I feel joy bubbling, for these beloved creatures are disappearing at an alarming rate because humans have been polluting the air water and soil for far too long believing that they were somehow exempt from being poisoned by their own pollutants. We are learning the hard way that what will kill amphibians will eventually kill us too. Our ‘canaries’ ignored, despised, tortured in frog jumping contests…

Allowing the dark and troubling thoughts to flow through me unimpeded left me in peace. I have done what I could to stop this holocaust. 

baby American toad

I can sense that I am slipping into a light trance state …The whole forest is one magnificent Living Being and s/he has wrapped herself around me stilling all thought. I become animal, like my dogs, all senses on alert. Time ceases, only the greening forest remains…

the dead birth life

The rain surprises me. My thoughts return to my I phone that I brought along with me to take pictures. Hmmm… no place to keep it dry. Now I am the one that reverses directions asking the dogs to follow. Both look up at me curiously as I explain that we need to leave the forest and return to the car. Dutifully they trot behind me until we meet a person with a big unleashed dog who remarks “she’s friendly” when I ask her to restrain the animal who is bounding towards us. Disaster is averted when I pick up Hope and leash Lucy. Hope is outraged at the intrusion and barks hoarsely, and then begins choking. Hurrying by, I stroke her throat soothingly and the spasm ends.

I hadn’t realized we had come such a long way and was grateful that the rain was light. I always forest walk like this, taking a path for as long as I choose and then returning the same way so I don’t miss a plant or berry. The naturalist in me knows that intimacy is born of repetition on a beloved path.


We reach the edge of the woods and pile into the car. Off to Refuge, a secret place where we go to have more indoor –outdoor quiet time. Once inside the dogs have a snack and promptly fall into a deep and restful sleep. I go out to peer around, visiting with an ancient lichen strewn boulder, an old pine and some hemlocks all perched over a gorge. And here they are again! Tiny reddish brown toads (that match the leaves like the dark ones that matched the rich moist soil on our walk). 

coral mushroom

 Forests like this one that have been preserved for perpetuity are the only places left where nature’s processes continue uninterrupted.

Bless these people I am feeling such joy that I spontaneously begin to sing! 

Elderberry – Is it Time to take a Second Look?

“Plants are an integral way to reweave the connection between land and people. 

Robin Wall Kimmerer – Scientist/ Author

 I begin this column with my own story. Yesterday I spent ‘gathering in’. Going to the places where medicine still grows wild. My relationship to the land is strengthened by these forays into marsh, mud, thorny blackberry canes, prickly wild roses – scratches are part of the tale as I choose clumps of ripe purple berries never worrying about taking too many because not even one Elderberry bush ripens her fruit at the same time! There are always plenty left to spread next years bounty and to feed the birds…when my basket was full, the cicada symphony was deafening and I was exhausted from the heat of the noonday star. 

I came home, took an ice cold bath in my brook pool, watched fish peering at my feet and returned to the cabin porch completely refreshed and ready to begin the process of winnowing. Winnowing takes hours of repetitious work as I stripped tiny purple berries from their tree like branch clusters thinking about how nature repeats her pattern of becoming on every plant and tree. At first I watched the goldfinches hungrily nipping seeds from the feeder. After Hairy arrived so did the nuthatches and chickadees and finally my adversary, ‘pig squirrel’ interrupted the bird feast by leaping on the tube and then insulting me with his resentful chatter as I caught him in the act and forced him to vacate the premises again and again! 

Then I settled into winnowing my mind ceased her ramblings and the joys of the afternoon – the moist water scented air, the buzz of a hundred hummingbirds, and stalks of crimson bee balm, the sight of my two sleeping dogs stretched out on the couch, and the croak of a single croaking green frog became all there is…. 

It was dusk when I finished this first batch of berries just in time to walk the dogs into the coming cricket filled night, scanning the clear horizon, my eyes tuned to tree spires as I walked up my now ever so peaceful road enjoying the goldenrod still shining in the twilight hour…I am part of what is, and that is enough.

Today I will tincture and bottle this bounty to gage how much more I need. I gift this medicinal tincture to others who ask for it every year”.


As some folks know Elderberry is an ancient remedy used as a healing medicine for colds and respiratory issues.

In the spring of 2020 when Covid struck  I wrote an article that included these words:

 “With the spread of the Coronavirus increasing exponentially each day it might be time to take a look at Elderberry, an herb that I have grown in my yard and wild crafted around forest edges in Maine. I have used the berries to make a tincture for a number of years to help me reduce the chance of becoming ill with colds or the flu and it has worked effectively. When l  went to New Mexico I left the tincture home by accident.  Because I feel it’s important to have a relationship with a plant in order for it to work most effectively I did not buy a commercial preparation and got the worst flu I have ever had. I also came down with infection after infection. Obviously Elderberry is an affective home remedy for me.

Research Director Dr. Jessie Hawkins and coauthors (Complementary Therapies in Medicine) undertook the first meta-analysis to study Elderberry because so little research has been done by the scientific community as a whole. 

How much this prevailing American scientific attitude has to do with the pharmaceutical companies and their outrageous pricing is an ongoing question for me.

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

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

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

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

The group performed a comprehensive examination of the mechanism by which phytochemicals from elderberries combat flu by blocking key viral proteins responsible for both the viral attachment and entry into the host cells. The phytochemicals from the elderberry juice, elderberry compoundsdirectly inhibit the virus’s entry and replication in human cells. The words bear repeating; compounds in Edlerberry are capable of stopping the virus from infecting cells. However, to the surprise of the researchers they were even more effective at inhibiting/blocking viral propagation at several stages of the influenza cycle when the cells had already been infected with the virus.

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

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

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

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

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

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


After Covid struck in March of 2020 the World Health Organization began an organized study of Elderberry as a result of earlier studies. This work continues today. 

 To paraphrase or quote directly from the World Health Organization: 

Viral diseases have always played an important role in public and individual health. “Several studies were conducted to implement antiviral drug therapy, until the arrival of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.  Since then numerous scientific investigations have considered some nutraceuticals as an additional treatment of COVID-19 patients to improve their clinical picture. In this review, we would like to emphasize the studies conducted to date about this issue and try to understand whether the use of nutraceuticals as a supplementary therapy to COVID-19 may be a valid and viable avenue. Based on the results obtained so far, quercetin, astaxanthin, luteolin, glycyrrhizin, lactoferrin, hesperidin and curcumin have shown encouraging data suggesting their use to prevent and counteract the symptoms of this pandemic infection.”

The definition of nutraceuticals and their related products generally depends on the source. These products can be classified on the basis of their natural sources, pharmacological conditions, as well as chemical constitution of the products. 

The National Library of Medicine reports that “Elderberry may be useful against COVID-19 due to its capacity to stimulate the immune system and inhibit the replication of viruses, including human coronavirus NL63 (HCoV-NL63), which differs from COVID-19 but belongs to the same family of coronaviruses  It could be especially helpful during the initial stage of coronavirus infection or for preventing infection. By inhibiting replication of the virus, elderberries significantly increase the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines especially one which enhances the response of macrophages to a viral infection  A review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration concluded that there is level B evidence in support of the use of elderberries to treat the flu which may be of significance for the prevention of COVID-19. The typical dose of 2:1 elderberry extract is 10–60 mL a day for adults and 5–30 mL a day for children”.

What this new research suggests to me is that more and more evidence is coming in that indicates the efficacy of Elderberry in situations where we are now facing more challenges as these Covid related viral infections continue to mutate. It’s not as if we are going to be able to eradicate mutations because they are an intrinsic part of how nature works. And most importantly, we have done nothing to stop the ROOT causes of the spread of these vial infections. For example, the International Pet Trade continues on as before under American capitalism, the cultural disease of our time. And Covid originated from illegal animal – human contact. I leave it to the reader to decide what choice s/he will make in regards to the information presented. Anyone steeped in the western medicine paradigm and not open to a ‘both and’ approach that includes alternate ways of treating disease will probably find this article ludicrous. Oh well.

Sky Woman Comes to Earth

Sky Woman comes to Earth

Every twig

is singing 

a song of thanksgiving

to Sky Woman

who gifts

steady rain


earth’s parched body.

Cracked ground


 soaks in minerals

and scent

 sensing wonder.

No deluges this time

just sheets of falling


overflowing wells

 brook pools

rain buckets

 Bodies bursting



may help the Earth

rebirth herself

even as she calms

and sooths

my beating heart

scented and renewed.

Mourning Doves


New Dawn.

In Indigenous story (Robin Wall Kimmerer) Sky Woman fell into a great void when the branch she held – the Tree of Life  – cracked. But from that fall the Earth was born…

 After the Birthing, Sky Woman returned to the sky but her Presence is palpable when nourishing rain blesses the earth, renewing her, allowing us all to begin again.

This mythological story belongs to Northern Indigenous peoples and it more plausible to me than the current western mythological story that posits that at ‘first there was nothing and then there was everything’ (Richard Powers). The difference between the two is that in Sky Woman’s story Earth renews herself again and again while in the Big Bang theory the earth and universe will eventually disintegrate through entropy.

Sky Woman’s myth describes the circular nature of life,   Earth’s Renewal is its central truth. It does not speak to whether or not humans will survive our continued destruction of this beautiful blue green planet. 

The western story is linear, and most damaging, is considered by most to be scientific truth. I think this latter tale is more about human projection than the reality of life on earth. “Humans are born in the middle of things, live in the middle of things and die in the middle of things. This is not a good story”. (Powers). We are born, we live, we die  – this linear story is real and true for us but is probably not true for the earth or the universe as a whole.

 We live on a planet that is demonstrating to us every single day that cycles define nature’s ongoing life processes. Think of the seasons like the one we are approaching – fall, with its astonishing colors. Leaves falling to earth, becoming food for new life in a few months time. As a naturalist who spends so much time in the forest, I am continually awed by ‘dead’ tree stumps that demonstrate the ongoing nature of life as each births a multitude of tree seedlings and groundcovers. Death births life, and death is simply part of the whole ongoing story. I think of Carol Christ whose writings demonstrate repeatedly the cyclic nature of life, honoring both patterns and proteins (DNA) in the process of living and dying.

The words “as above so below” come to mind. The earth and the universe may be dancing the same dance of creation, re-creation.

This summer has been too dry. The wild wind driven thunderstorms have not brought us relief from drought, although the deluges do moisten the earth for a brief time before wind disperses the raindrops.  At least we have had some kind of regular rain for which I am grateful. The leaves of deciduous trees are dropping prematurely and some maples  have already caught fire. Now, in late August we are getting some good soaking rains as the season begins to change.

My gratitude knows no bounds.

Re-posting Brilliance!

Visions of the Great Mother by Mary Gelfand 

BY MARY GELFAND on  • ( 7 )

During late summer a few years ago I had a vision.  I know it was summer because it was hurricane season and there were several active storms in the Atlantic & Caribbean.  Since I grew up in Florida and lived in New Orleans for many years, I have a lot of experience with hurricanes.

In this vision, I found myself seated at the side of the Great Mother Goddess looking down thru a portal at planet Earth.  The Goddess looked at me and then turned back to the portal.  She put a finger out and touched a place on the planet with a spark of light.  Then She turned to me and said, “The energy must be discharged!”  She repeated this multiple times and ultimately put her finger on planet Earth five times, each time touching a spot where a hurricane was active. 

The energy must be discharged! 

That phrase lingers in my memory and has been helpful in understanding some of what has been going on in the world today.  Energy discharge or release is very common—it happens in the natural world all the time.  That’s what lightning and thunderstorms are all about.  When lightning strikes the earth, it discharges some of the energy that has built up inside the thunderstorm and must be released in some way.

Waves and waterfalls and wind are forms of energy release.  Animals running and leaping and flying for no reason other than sheer pleasure are a form of energy release.  So are earthquakes, volcanos and hurricanes. 

The energy must be discharged!

Energy is built up and released by human beings as well and I perceive two different kinds of energy that humans discharge—physical and emotional.  Releasing pent up physical energy is fairly easy—just use your body.  Before so many of us lived in urban settings, daily life was much more physically demanding and released some of the energy that must be discharged.  In an urban setting, there are far fewer outlets and restless young people, bursting with physical energy, struggle to find acceptable ways of discharging it.  Playing non-competitive sports is a good way to release energy.  So are dancing, hiking, running, singing, performing, cooking, sex, and so on.  There are many ways of releasing physical energy that are helpful and wholesome.

The energy must be discharged!

This brings us to emotional energy which is also generated and must be released.  All emotions generate energy—some more than others.  Emotional energy runs the spectrum from energy that is life-affirming, such as love, joy, contentment, kindness, happiness, and compassion to energy that is life-destroying, such as anxiety, fear, jealousy, greed, resentment, and hatred.  Anger can be either life-destroying or life-affirming, depending on how it is used.  Emotional energy of all kinds can become so intense that it must be discharged.  Life-affirming experiences, such as weddings, festivals, concerts, relationships with family and friends all generate and discharge emotional energy. 

Life-destroying energy is also generated and has to be discharged.  That usually happens thru violence—physical or emotional—against oneself or other living things—such as rape, shootings, suicide, psychological and sexual abuse.  Alcoholism and other forms of addictive behaviors are examples of ways in which life-destroying energy is discharged into the world. 

And some things play in both these worlds.  Families and relationships can generate both life-affirming and life-destroying energies.  And weeping can release both kinds of energy.   

As a culture, we excel at generating the life-destroying energy that is an obvious outcome of our patriarchal system.  But we are very poor at creating non-violent outlets for the discharge of this energy, which the Great Mother tells us must be discharged.  Thus we live in a world filled with mass shootings, domestic violence, and rampant fear of the ‘other.’

I wish I could tell you that I know how to change this.  How to increase the amount of life-affirming energy and decrease the amount of life-destroying energy.  I have sat and wept with the Mother Goddess at her portal, witnessing the violent discharge of the energy of hatred and fear, an energy that is not honored in any spiritual tradition.  In the last few years I have struggled to keep generating the life-affirming energy of love, acceptance, and compassion.  My own frustration and pain and righteous anger have tempted me to the side of hatred and violence.  I have felt the physical impact in my body of having so much energy—so much anger—built up that I physically need to release it.  My solution has been to throw feminist bean bags at a door where I’ve placed various symbols of patriarchy.  Believe it or not, this helps.

 The energy must be discharged. 

As I sit with this question of how to increase the amount of life-affirming energy in the world, I have found guidance in the words of the many mystics.  Eighth century Sufi mystic Rabia writes, “I was born when all I once feared—I could love.”  St. Francis of Assisi writes, “It was easy to love God in all that was beautiful.  The lessons of deeper knowledge, though, instructed me to embrace God in all things.”  From them I learn that I must find a way to embrace the Divine in everyone—to remember that we are all flawed humans with the same basic needs—more alike than different—children of the same Great Mother, who weeps for us all.    

Twelfth century mystic Hildegard of Bingen believes that humans are infinitely creative creatures and that we are called upon by the Divine to live out our awakening—our power—our creativity.   We are called to help the Divine co-create the world—a calling I want to answer! 

The energy must be discharged and I get to choose how to discharge the energy that runs thru my body.  I choose to discharge it by working with the Divine to co-create a life-affirming world, filled with creativity, love, and wholeness.  Hard as it is sometimes, I resolve to continue generating and releasing into the world the life-affirming energies of love, kindness, beauty, and compassion.  I choose to discharge my energy in ways that affirm life, creativity, and wholeness. 

What do you choose?

My response:

Positively BRILLIANT essay….the truths/ the struggles you share are my own….Like you I have no answers… only more questions. I am fortunate that I love the woods – any time I am upset I take to the forest and there I am released of both negative emotional and physical energy – it stuns me that we have become such a destructive culture – every morning I post publicly a little morning meditation which usually consists of stories about my relationships with wild or tame animals birds trees flowers – you name it. Thoughts and pictures. My intention is to put that positive life energy out there. This practice also helps me to begin the day in a state of gratitude for what is… however, I do not choose denial and that means that I protect myself from news but continue to tell stories, write poems etc about both sides of what is. I am going to put this essay on my blog – the vision you had – well, the goddess is always speaking day and night – Bless you for sharing.

Torn Apple Heart

Three years ago I had a beloved apple pruned – I do not prune trees, but because I trusted this young person I gave him the lead. 

Last year my apple struggled and dropped her apples too soon.

I worried.

This year rain has been scarce except for monsoons that first drown the trees, leave roots barren, with most of the moisture rushing down the hill to the brook. When I noticed so many many apples on too thin young branches I became uneasy….

It’s almost mid August; the hottest summer we have ever endured.

Yesterday, the air was leaden – not a breath brushing a leaf. The night before we had a maelstrom, a brutal monsoon that weakened the branches with the most apples.

Yesterday morning I looked out my window and saw bizarrely twisted bowed branches. Oh no, I had raised this little wild apple from a tiny six -inch stick. But even then, although bowed to the ground as if in prayerful supplication, the tree was whole.


At some point during the day the bow snapped and now the tree is torn and broken – my beautiful beloved wild apple tree.

 This morning Red Deer was feasting on the apples – although even she seemed confused as to whether to take some off the ground or take them from the torn limbs.

Trees are resilient I remind myself.


Change the only constant.

 Yet I feel waves of grief crushing me as I witness the carnage. I also know that I am alone. People don’t care about trees the way I do. Few even acknowledge that they are Living Beings. And this tree belongs to a forest of others that live nearby. Even the young ones embody wisdom humans beyond human comprehension. Ancient patterns and 400 million years stand behind each tree that survives…May this one find the strength it needs; human help is remarkably unpredictable (trickster reigns) and limited. In our arrogance and hubris humans think they always know more than they do.

help comes in the body of an old friend and professional arborist who changes what was torn and tattered into a stately tree

One day Later:

To paraphrase ROBIN WALL KIMMERER ‘as we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us’

These words came to me yesterday when a limb of my apple tree was torn from her trunk. Too heavy with apples she bowed over others and I feared the worst. I called my dear friend and professional arborist in a panic – I have known him since he was 19 and he’s 45 now – he loves and is as sensitive to trees as I am having come from a long line of tree cutters that stretch back generations – every tree on hundreds of acres cut sustainably and now he is so well known in the state that people call him and his large crew to do an enormous amount of work. Last year he won a prestigious prize for his impeccable judgment and work – as always I am thrilled to see him but he knew how much my apple tree meant to me and she was in trouble. He cut carefully and cleanly no power tools used at all – too invasive he said – climbing the tree with care and by the end of my trimming – whoops her trimming – he pronounced her healthy and safe – some earlier cutting by a young boy had created some issues. I was overjoyed and Red Deer had a feast! Thank goodness for friends like this one. He took every downed branch to a different spot to feed the animals – always thinking of the others – any wonder I love him?. As he said yesterday we are kindred spirits whose friendship has endured over time. He is one of the finest most perceptive naturalists I know!

Dips in the brook were a must and today clouds- I am so sick of sun – day after day so so boring.

Back to Robin’s remark – I had the strongest sense as we were cutting that the tree and Sheldon and I were in a three way conversation without words and that the tree was happy – projection? I doubt it – there was a strange buzz in the air that we both picked up on and commented about – Trees know when we love them! And healing them heals us – if only we could listen….a good day indeed!

Endurance, and the Long Winding Road

Endurance and the Long Winding Road

From the day I bought this property almost 40 years ago I walked down this lovely road with a sense of the deepest pleasure. The trees were young then. In spring wild cherries burst with pure white or rosy pink blossoms, the bark of each a different hue, emerald pines bore startling white candles, chattering poplars multiplied, pale gray and pearl white birches leaned in for intimate conversation, smooth barked red maples graced open spaces all lemony lime in spring – leaves and needles etched against cobalt blue. The trees were healthy then.

In the winter my road bowed low with powdery snow, the birches and other deciduous trees were penned in charcoal, white pine needles still bright green, a few doves cooed from the wire, grouse hieroglyphics created patterns in the snow…an old road led to a ridge where a clump of my favorite trees graced a young hill sharply outlined by snow in winter, pale grasses during the other three seasons, and below that my hideaway…

Every day I walked that winding road visiting with the young trees ever watchful for their newest neighbors to arrive. This had once been farmland and now the earth was returning to her natural state; the forest was just a child, birthing herself out of ancient patterns, and the knowledge and wisdom of four billion years.

Year after year I walked the road as the trees grew taller and  woodlands closed in around the edges. The road was ever narrowing and I loved being closed in by such wondrous beings.

I had the place to myself then. Wildlife abounded around the little camp I lived in during three seasons of the year crowned by a boulder strewn waterfall and a brook so clear the water clams shone like silver dollars unless frozen under winter ice and snow. Mink, otters. weasels, rabbits and hares, coyotes, foxes, and deer were my beloved neighbors, and in the spring the bears would come. Friendships deepened. We shared this 20 acre patch of earth as equals rejoicing in her bounty, feasting on strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, huckleberries as ONE.

Every time I walked down the road I looked towards Moody mountain, still pristine, feeling as if I was actually walking into the mountain itself by way of the road. I belonged here; the field rose up embracing me like a mother the first summer I picked her berries. In back of my property some logging had occurred but only a few trees were taken and those had been removed with care. The roads were narrow and winding too; the forest was healthy, the air pure. clean and green. Just up the hill through the woods the moon tide spring bubbled up from beneath the mountain. I lived in a paradise and knew it.

Year passed. Someone bought land that bordered mine, and that of my friend Roy’s who owned lots of land near the top of the mountain. Roy, one of the kindest men I have ever known made an oddly uncharacteristic remark about the new owner shortly after his arrival. ”This guy thinks he’s the king of mountain.” Something in me crouched like an animal ready to spring.

 One day a couple of years later I saw the dreaded stakes in the ground when I reached the top of my road. Someone had finally brought the property to the left just above my land. A woman in the guise of informer with a knife in her twisted heart couldn’t wait to let me know the land had been sold. Gleefully she brought me the news, deflating like a balloon when I responded that I already knew.

 That spring my road was invaded by machines that toppled my trees bending one pine double, and breaking many of its branches. Garbage was strewn around. I put up a metal wire across the road to block the machines from turning around at the bottom of the hill. Soon new neighbors moved into a menacing yellow metal box. A walmart special. At least they built on top of the hill and the ugly building didn’t stick out on the road. Within a few months, another neighbor across the road was building too. I first met her with her son in law striding across my field with a free roaming lab. Free roaming human spiders. I had a small terrier then who was frightened of big dogs. When I asked the strangers to restrain their animal the response was loud and coarse, belligerent, “she just wants to play”. With my dog who didn’t; on my land, uninvited. Total dismissal. I picked up Star and asked politely what these people wanted. The son in law who I now recognized as the  neighbor up the hill behind me, the one Roy called “the king,” informed me that his mother –in –law had bought the land and it was her house that was being built. Ugly as that one was, it too was at the top of the road, and there were covenants in our deeds that I believed would prevent all of us from building more than a house and a garage (I already had a small 6x 8 camp built for under a thousand dollars on the stream which didn’t count as a building). 

Walking up my road became something of an issue with the newest neighbor’s dog who lunged out into the road every time we walked by intimidating and terrifying my little terrier.  Bullying was rife. And yet, I remained grateful because most of the road was still intact, and I could still imagine walking into the mountain on my return as I always did, so I did the best I could to adjust… little did I know I was about to enter neighbor hell, a hell I couldn’t even imagine.

The trees kept growing long the road and now it was well shaded during the summer months, especially in the early mornings. Yellow and red chickweed provided splashes of color in the spring before all the wild cherry blossoms appeared. Lots of ground cedar etched the curves with blue gray berries, each fall mixing with bouquets of goldenrod, wild asters, black eyed susans, daises, and milkweed, Creeping nitrogen rich blue vetch that I adored wound itself around all the other plants. A beautiful peaceful road still, until I reached the top.

In 2015, seven years ago, the neighbor in the metal box went beserk and mangled every tree that bordered the road on his side hacking arms to pieces, chopping off heads, mutilating tree bodies. The pines wept and bled and so did I. Only skeletons of dying trees remained as pitiful sentries. Our beautiful road had been brutalized by a madman. I wasn’t the only person in shock. When anyone came down the road they asked me whyso many trees had lost their crowns and limbs – what was the point – often remarking that only a crazy person would create such mindless destruction. For a long time I just shook my head. That was seven years ago.  The remarkable part of this story is despite apparent annihilation, mangled, half dead trees endured. The land began to heal.

Last year the bullying neighbor died and her house was sold to a young man and his wife who did not tell me they were going to use it as an income property. This first warning went unnoticed by me. When I discovered the crazy man’s house was for sale, I put my house up for sale and then took it off the market for a number of reasons, realizing first of all that I had panicked when I broke my foot and couldn’t get help during that terrible winter. I leaned into practical forgetting how much I loved this land, how unwilling I was to leave it.  However, I had another compelling reason to stay when I found out that ugly neighbor was leaving!   

When he finally vacated in July I was jubilant, feeling free for the first time in 19 years from the influence of bullies and crazy people. I am still trying to get used to walking up my road in peace, and this peace emanates from all the recovering trees that have done an amazing job of undoing the damage this terrible man left behind. Endurance wins out, they hum. Now they enter each pore of my skin letting me know that they are FREE to grow into whoever they were becoming before the holocaust hit. 

Perhaps the same is true for me.

monarch ready to pupate – transformation in nature is real

Of course, having new neighbors move in is always a gamble but after 19 years of brutal neighbor abuse I hoped I was more wary. I do know that the good neighbor policy only works if all those involved are truly willing to cooperate. A couple of things have happened already that have made me uneasy. We’ll see…. 

Yesterday, grouse and her children were out and about as was Red Deer our resident pruning friend while the dogs and I walked up the hill after checking on the monarch caterpillar. The foxes are back. Even the animals seem to be moving more freely than they were even a month ago. After so many bears were bombed and shot at they disappeared too after lived around here for so many years. Their habitat is gone. All the land behind me has been stripped or logged as has the forest across the road so the bears will not be back but their spirits live on…. one night I dreamed that every bear I loved had come ‘home’ to live on this beloved land with me, first in body, now in spirit. I was then, and still am, at peace because of that simple dream. I loved my bears but am glad they are gone, hopefully to a more bear friendly place. 

 Endurance, I have come to see, is truly a virtue. But I have also learned that I must do whatever I can to care for myself as well as for the land I love, putting my needs first, not those belonging to my human neighbors.

Monarchs on the Wing: From Here to New Mexico

MLT Mexican Sunflower

I am going to begin this essay with a personal story. Yesterday was a gorgeous blue and gold day and I was walking through my milkweed strewn field when suddenly I discovered a baby monarch caterpillar chewing up a leaf… I was just starting new research for this essay and so I was very excited. This year I had already planned to raise another monarch as I have done for most of my life – and here he was! I carefully removed the milkweed stalk, added others and brought them up the hill to place in a bucket. I planned to raise this one outdoors. Then I came in to work on my research… needless to say I was simply horrified to learn that scientists are now saying that it may put the monarch at risk to hand raise them. I checked other sources with the same result. I went out to see my little friend thinking I had best return him to the field as fast as I could and he was GONE. Oh no, I was distraught. I came back in with a heavy heart that I couldn’t shake all day. Why do I have to keep learning again and again that nature takes care of her own WITHOUT MY HELP, even though I rarely I interfere? Last night returning from a walk with my dogs I casually checked a nearby milkweed patch – and lo – there he was munching on a leaf warming in the sun! I quickly took a picture and then moved closer to inspect my little friend and he simply dropped off the leaf and disappeared out of sight! Enough of this predator; the message couldn’t have been more clear. As I came down the driveway I realized the little fellow had made a long arduous journey up the hill to rooted milkweed, no doubt guided by scent. He must have been exhausted. But what choice did he have? His field was a quarter of a mile away. I was relieved but still worried. Monarch caterpillars like full sun and this batch didn’t have it. This morning I couldn’t find him – the sun doesn’t hit this particular milkweed patch until after 10 AM. When the sun rose over the trees I went back to check and he had moved to another plant that was getting full sun.  I apologized profusely telling him that I was so sorry to have behaved so stupidly but that I just didn’t know…  then I left him unable to decide whether moving him back to the field was what I should do, or perhaps it would be better to let him be? The end of this story remains unfinished…But you can be sure I will NEVER move a monarch caterpillar again. This little fellow taught me a powerful, painful lesson that I needed to learn…


baby inch long caterpillar

Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on the leaves of milkweed as they get ready to pupate, the only host plant for this iconic butterfly species. As such, milkweed is critical for survival. Without it, they cannot complete their life cycle. Simple.

Indeed, eradication of milkweed both in agricultural areas as well as in urban and suburban landscapes is one of the primary reasons that monarchs are in trouble today (it used to grow wild throughout this country from coast to coast.).

The good news is that planting milkweed is one of the easiest ways that each of us can make a difference. There are several dozen species of this wildflower native to North America, so no matter where you live, there is at least one milkweed species naturally found in your area.


Planting local milkweed species is always best. You can collect your own seed, or purchase seed or plants to add to your garden, or to any landscape. Three species have particularly wide ranges and are good choices in most regions: common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), swamp milkweed (A. incarnata), and butterfly weed (A. tuberosa). The latter two are highly ornamental and widely available via the nursery trade.

Note: Tropical milkweed, (Asclepias curassavica), available at many retail nurseries is not native to the U.S. However it has naturalized in the Southeastern U.S. Science is discovering that its long bloom time may have some detrimental effects on monarch migration and possibly be a source to spread disease within monarch populations. If you do have tropical milkweed in your garden in milder climates, it is recommended to cut the plant back in the winter months to encourage monarchs to move on to their natural overwintering sites and to prevent disease.

 What follows are some salient suggestions for folks who want to improve the monarchs’ chances of survival.  

1. Plant Lots of Milkweed

It bares repetition. Milkweed is the only plant monarch caterpillars eat. These caterpillars hatch from eggs laid on the plant before consuming its leaves. 

However, not just any kind of milkweed will do. The key is this: You must plant milkweed native to your area.

monarch on my butterfly weed.

The reason? Planting non-native types of milkweed risks monarch butterfly health. In many areas, non-native, tropical milkweed survives through the winter, allowing ophryocystis elektroscirrha, a parasite that can be found on monarchs and milkweed, to build up to dangerous levels. By sticking with native milkweed, the parasite dies with the plant in the winter, ensuring that new milkweed grows with less risk from the parasite when monarch butterflies return in the spring.

You can purchase milkweed seeds but please ask about the origin of both seeds and plants. Some have already been treated with pesticides. 

Another option, if you have milkweed in your area is to harvest the plant yourself. To harvest seeds at the right time, make sure their pods pop open under light pressure or pick and dry unripe pods in a shaded attic room like I do.

The best time to plant milkweed seeds is in the fall so the cold temperatures and moisture that come with winter stimulate germination. In Abiquiu, the only place I ever had to plant milkweed to have some, I sowed the seeds in early November.

Milkweed should probably be planted in the sunniest parts of your yard or garden. In places like NM protection from afternoon frying is probably a necessity. If you have a choice of soil, most milkweed species thrive in light, well-drained soils with seeds planted a quarter-inch deep. Since milkweed is a perennial you can harvest the seeds from your new plants and grow them in other parts of your yard or garden the following year.

For places like Abiquiu NM the only milkweed I found was the common Asclepias syrica, and then I only discovered a plant or two growing along the ditches shaded from the ferocity of the afternoon sun. However, when I harvested the seeds I planted them by a partially shaded drainage pipe near the house and they not only survived but multiplied. Note, they required daily watering.

 Please Also Note: Tropical milkweed also called Mexican milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is available at many retail nurseries but is not native to the U.S. However, it has naturalized in the Southeastern U.S. Science is discovering that its long bloom time may have some detrimental effects on monarch migration and possibly be a source to spread disease within monarch populations as already mentioned. If you do have tropical milkweed in your garden (It’s gorgeous), it is recommended that you cut the plant back in the winter months to encourage monarchs to move on to their natural overwintering sites and to prevent disease.

Once monarch caterpillars transform into bittersweet bright orange butterflies, they need the right food to survive and prepare them for their long winter migration to Mexico or the California coast. 

Once again, be sure to include flowers that are native to your region, since these are plants monarchs have relied on and are suited to the local environment.

In Maine it is easy and such a pleasure to visit the local MLT pollinator garden to look for monarch friendly plants. In other areas it’s important to do your homework to find out what plants do best your particular area. My common milkweed grows wild and I have never interfered with this process. I have a field overflowing with it and it’s on my road just about everywhere (the latter I seeded in because I love walking past it – the scent is intoxicating!). I grow bright orange butterfly weed around the house. Thanks to the MLT pollinator garden I have fallen in love with A. incarnata and may try some here. Swamp milkweed is also next on my list to be planted at the edges of my favorite forest. Adult monarch favorites are Mexican Sunflowers, the color is beyond belief and monarchs love it. Liatrus is another good choice for monarchs, as is verbena, cosmos, or butterfly bush. There are so many possibilities. Start researching now!

2 Don’t Use Pesticides

This is such a no brainer that I feel stupid writing the words but the shelves of our stores are full of these plant hating products – Roundup is just one of a mass of deadly killers .

Neonicotinids also known as neonics, are particularly destructive. When applied, neonics spread throughout all parts of a plant, becoming dangerous for monarchs and every other living being including humans. With monarchs the outcome is always fatal. 

Canada and the European Union banned the use of neonics but the US still lives in the capitalistic, take the easiest way out, dark age mentality. These toxins continue to be used without restrictions in this country. If you must purchase yard and gardening products, avoid those with neonicotinoid ingredients including clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and dinotefuran, and neonic-like ingredients, such as flupyradifurone and sulfoxaflor. 

3. Avoid Rearing Monarchs

Raising butterflies is an enticing activity for families and educators, and I have done it most of my life but now I have learned the hard way that breeding monarchs in captivity is hurting the survival of the species. Captive-bred monarchs are less likely to survive, and scientists warn those that do survive long enough to mate will pass down their weaker traits to wild butterflies, hurting the chances of survival for the whole population. Instead of raising monarch caterpillars in your house or yard, you can watch wild monarch caterpillars grow from eggs to butterflies by monitoring the milkweed as I plan to do in the future – beginning now!

Remember that eradication of milkweed both in agricultural areas as well as in urban and suburban landscapes is one of the primary reasons that monarchs are in trouble today but not the only one. This is a complex issue. We need more than milkweed to save the monarchs and the rest of the insect population – we have to restore natural habitat – lots of it. We are a no context culture so we have a tendency to choose a species and then try to save it (whales, butterflies, trout, birds – could go on and on here) without dealing with root causes, the context: logging machines, cattle run amok, general loss of habitat, drought, fires, climate change etc. I am assuming that most folks have developed some awareness around the crisis we are facing on a global level.

On the thorny subject of monarch tagging: I am a member of our local land trust (MLT) and am a volunteer for this organization. I personally am against monarch tagging and have expressed my views on this issue to those in power.

 I believe that we tag butterflies primarily for people not for monarchs. Studies show that tagging creates stress for the insect, possibly lessening its ability to journey to its winter destination safely. More studies are being conducted as I write. As a lifetime naturalist/ethologist (Ph.D), it is still my common sense that tells me that creating stress for the butterfly may interfere with its survival for the short or long term. Of course, tagging helps humans monitor the monarch population so that the species has FINALLY become officially endangered. So, like everything else there are always two sides to the story. I leave the reader with a question each individual must answer for herself/himself. Do you think tagging monarchs helps the butterfly or not?

There’s new research that indicates that butterfly wing dust protects them from being eaten. The dust or powder on every butterfly wing is made up of tiny scales that may form patterns that help the butterflies blend into their background, and thus escape being eaten by birds or other animals.

While touching a butterfly’s wings may not kill it immediately, it could potentially speed up the fading of the colors on the butterfly’s wings, wiping out patterns that are used to protect the butterfly from predators.  Thus touching the butterfly’s wings could potentially result in a shorter life expectancy.

I think it may be prudent to let scientists do further studies before we champion tagging any further, but of course, this is simply my opinion.                        

 I was fascinated to learn that the Desert Southwest harbors at least 41 of the 76 milkweed (Asclepias) species known to exist in the lower 48 states. The species richness of
milkweeds in this region is influenced by the
tremendous diversity and range of vegetation types,
soils, topography, climate, and the exposure of
unusual rock types that occur over more than a 9,000
foot elevation range. The nectar of milkweed flowers
is attractive to dozens of insects including bees,
wasps, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds. The
bees that milkweed flowers attract to agricultural
landscapes are important for pollinating a wide
variety of vegetable forage and fruit crops.

Also of interest is that traditional ecological and utilitarian knowledge about milkweeds in the Desert Southwest has
persisted due to the many living traditions among the region’s long-standing Native American cultures. Of the milkweed species found native, naturalized, or cultivated in the desert southwest region, there are recorded traditional uses of spider milkweed (Asclepias asperula); short-crown milkweed (A. brachystephana); tropic milkweed (A. curasaavica); Hall’s milkweed (A. halli); giant sand milkweed (A. erosa);
mahogany milkweed (A. hypoleuca); swamp milkweed (A. incarnata); corn kernel milkweed (A. latifolia); Zizotes milkweed (A. oenotheroides); showy milkweed (A. speciosa); horsetail milkweed (A. subverticillata); butterfly weed (A. tuberosa); and whorled milkweed. Wow!

The Hopi boiled the flowers or floral buds of showy milkweed before mixing them with corn or wheat flour to then be added to meat dishes. In addition, many people—especially children—have used the white latex of milkweed buds, stems, and fruits as a chewing gum, hardening the latex
over a fire or by other means. Such use has been common among the Diné (Navajo), various Piman cultures (Akimel, Tohono O’odham, and the Zuni). There are
some accounts from Puebloan and Hispanic peoples using milkweed pods in stews to tenderize the meat, but the culinary
techniques and chemistry of this traditional practice are not well understood.

Many milkweed species in the Southwest borderlands were used medicinally—as an emetic, a treatment for warts, burns, and scalds, a respiratory aid (using powdered leaves and stems), a treatment for throat and nose congestion associated with colds and pleurisy, and when the entire plant was infused it was used to treat infants afflicted with diarrhea. In addition, an infusion or tea made from various milkweed species served as a gynecological aid for mothers after childbirth, a common practice for the Hopi and nearly all other tribes situated on the Colorado Plateau. 

In the northern reaches of the Desert Southwest region, various bands of the Southern Paiute also used the root as an analgesic to wash heads to relieve headaches. 
The Hopi occasionally used the woody stems of milkweeds as a planting stick for dribbling seeds into their sand dune fields of native crops. The Diné and Zuni also used the floss or cottony fiber of barely-ripened seedpods to spin into string. The string was then used to fasten feathers to prayer sticks (pahos), or it was mixed with cotton to weave dance kilts or women’s belts. Rabbit and fish nets in the prehistoric Desert Southwest may have been comprised of both Asclepias and Apocynum species. Several milkweed species have also been used by Diné medicine men and Hispanic Curanderos to treat livestock ailments among cattle, goats, and sheep.

However, because of varying toxicity, please do not experiment with the use of Asclepias without foreknowledge!

In conclusion, as we can see from the above Indigenous practices milkweed is yet another plant with a multitude of uses aside from being the primary host for monarchs.

As our culture continues to be destroyed by western cultural practices that are not sustainable, perhaps we need to become ‘more Indigenous’, as well known author and scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer suggests (BraidingSweetgrass). If we were to take that route the monarchs might again find habitat, food, they need, and what’s left of land and trees might once again be valued as a complex interrelated Living Being, more than able to sustain us all. At the very least, it’s food for thought. 

(as usual now wordpress screws up my writing)