November Meditations

Endings…The Space In Between

Bernhard Wessling (author/scientist/naturalist who studies crane behavior) writes “the more one experiences cranes in the wild the more fascinating they become”.

That has been my experience too which is why taking pictures didn’t occur to me the other day until just before I left after spending almost three hours with Sandhill cranes on the ground and in the air. Every time I am with them I become immersed in a relationship I don’t quite understand….

Cranes have fossil remains that are 2.5 million years old – they are ancient relationship oriented birds that spend almost all their time in community except when breeding – their behavior is a source of endless enchantment to a naturalist/ ethologist like me. They return to the same nesting areas every year, one reason the population is growing in Maine. Even while feeding if a small group takes to the air like they did on Sunday the others become uneasy – not sure whether to go or stay – Family relationships remain tight throughout a crane’s lifetime and even though they separate to nest they gather together in the fall to make the journey south, winter over as one, and migrate home to the north to breed in spring. Wild greetings are the rule even if the birds have been separated for a few minutes while some are in the air. Some northern Indigenous peoples believe they are the souls of humans who will become human again one day – the cranes are treated with great respect because the two are understood to be close relatives. 

For me, something about them evokes the Spirit of Nature as if it emanated from the bird itself. Other Indigenous peoples call them “The Watchers” and this reminds me of NM when in the pre-dawn I could sometimes see the Sandhill crane that watched over the others all night, keeping them safe from predators.

Like here, Abiquiu only had small numbers of cranes (less than here) that I liked because it was easier to learn about their complex relationships. In the Bosque del Apache just the haunting calls of cranes was overpowering – I had extraordinary experiences there and learned so much about large group behavior…

Whenever I think of NM years it is always the cranes that I’m most grateful for though I had wonderful experiences there. I am so grateful we have them in Maine.

 *One interesting note: Bernhardt writes “experiences” not studies which tells me something about how he perceives these birds – not as an object to be studied but an animal to be experienced. If we don’t do the latter we haven’t really ‘seen’ the cranes at all.


Robin Wall Kimmerer (David Abram also) talks about the Grammar of Animacy. What these folks are referring to is the importance of attributing personhood to all of nature. When a person talks to an animal or a tree he/ she is in relationship with that entity; when a person studies a plant or animal it becomes an OBJECT – an IT. No personhood – that is not to say that we are anthropomorphizing a creature or plant by attributing HUMAN characteristics to it – what we are saying is that the creature or plant has its own intelligence -. Treating nature as if it is inanimate allows us to pretend that we can continue to destroy the earth because it is not alive. 

This is a criminal act. 

Unfortunately has origins in the Bible, but this book is now being re-interpreted by some..

Attributing personhood to nature becomes easy when one has relationships – this morning my cardinals were calling for their food the second I stepped out the door. Yesterday Little Deer peered in at me (although he cannot see me because of the screen) just as I looked out – I welcome the turkeys on their daily visits… the grouse are fluttering around the house – they all know me… (With plants the relationship is more subtle but plants respond to the sound of our voices too and even western science has shown us that they have the capacity to listen)…. The last day I visited the cranes one responded to me immediately before going back to his kin. These experiences are normal when one opens to Animacy.

I am still thinking about Sandhill Cranes – yesterday I found pictures of cranes taken from Monhegan Island (where I once lived) to south central Maine where most populations are found. These birds were first seen in the 80’s. What I didn’t know was that these extraordinary birds once inhabited the state of Maine until about 200 years ago when they were extirpated by colonists – one more atrocity. These birds may just be returning ‘home’ little by little…


In memory of my dad:

My Father Becomes a Beaver

The year my father died I fell in love with beavers. All summer I watched them at dawn and dusk gnaw down the poplars, drag them to the plume, observing keenly how the trees slid so easily into the stream. As the kits grew, little furry heads accompanied their parents carrying whittled sticks in their mouths to help shore up their ever-expanding lodge. I always sat quietly so some evenings around dusk the kits would swim right up to me. Occasionally one would slap a leathery flat tail before diving deep.

When the call came on All Hallows Eve, my father sounded sad and resigned. He was having a surgery for colon cancer that week. The shock of finding out so suddenly choked me up with grief so intense I could barely respond. He had told no one he had cancer. The trips to NY and the hospital were distressing.* I saw my dad twice. The first time he barely acknowledged me; that night he looked into my eyes and called me “his girl,” words he had never used to describe me, his daughter, during our entire lifetime together. Two days later, after returning to Maine, I awakened from a dream with the words, “Your father has become a beaver” just as the phone rang. My father had died minutes before.

A second frantic trip to NY was cut short. My mother had decreed there would be no funeral.

An extrovert who tried too hard to please, my father could be overly kind in public, and privately had a problem with explosive rage. As a child I was terrified of him—I never knew when mindless chaos would erupt and it destroyed any sense of safety I might have had being with him. Yet in retrospect, it was he who held my head while I threw up, carried me in his arms when I fell asleep after a long car trip. My father took me to the hospital, the circus; he read to us at night, helped his children climb the circular stairs of the Statue of Liberty, bought me my first prayer book when I chose to become Episcopalian, told me that when he prayed it was always to Mary. 

The morning after I returned home a pure white wild dove appeared on the ground amid the other mourning doves I routinely fed outside the window. I had never seen one before. I had the uncanny sense that my father was trying to communicate with me through that bird, perhaps as an aspect of Mary. The dove stayed only one day, leaving me more bereft, if that was possible, when s/he departed.

My uncle Alex, my dad’s only surviving brother, told me an even more incredible story. One night after we had been planning a memorial service for my father, my uncle was eating pasta when he bit into something hard. When he pulled the object out of his mouth it was a tiny white stone dove. The presence of the dove sealed the rightness of what we were doing, although I had never had doubts and neither had my aunt and uncle.

As soon as my father was cremated and his ashes returned, my mother pawned them off on one of my sons who promptly gave them to me. No one wanted them. 

I placed the ashes on a table where shafts of light lit up the plain brown box almost all day long. My father loved the sun. The little prayer book that he had given me found its way to the top of the box. I kept it open to a passage that I pored over during my two-month vigil … “ in my father’s house there are many mansions…” 

It was November. I cleared a place within a copse of cedars for my dad’s ashes, dug a hole before it became impossible to do so. I spent Thanksgiving alone except for the beavers who I had been visiting every day until the week before, when thick ice froze over the stream. Oh, how I missed them; by then I understood, on one level, why I dreamt about my dad becoming a beaver when he died. He was a man who got things done, a doer just like the beavers; even in his spare time he was always busy building something. 

That Thanksgiving morning dawned frigid and clear. I took a crowbar down to the stream and punched a big hole in the ice. Then I sawed up a few poplars and stuffed them into the black water—my Thanksgiving gift to the beavers, and an offering to my dead father. The next morning I raced down the hill to see if the beavers had accepted their thanksgiving feast. The poplars were gone, and a solid sheet of ice covered the open water.

On January 9, 1994, two months after my father’s death, my aunt, uncle, cousin Billy and I attended my father’s memorial service; the church was festooned in deep crimson a color that suited my dad. The trip down the day before had been a stormy one made in a fierce blizzard – heavy clouds still hung over the horizon. January cold penetrated my bones. 

Afterwards we met at my aunt’s house for a feast. When we sat down to eat a shaft of golden sunlight struck one of the plates lighting up the entire room. My aunt had set an extra place by ‘mistake’. Chills crawled up my spine. A ripple of shock ran down the table. “Oh”, Terry exclaimed, “Pete is with us.” My father’s presence in that room was palpable. . 

 When I returned to Maine, I immediately dug through mountains of snow to place my dad’s ashes in the earth. The two – month ordeal was over; I could hardly believe it. Peace that literally ‘passes all understanding’ flowed through me as I felt my father’s spirit join me in that snowy cedar grove. All winter I dreamed of beavers…

In August, the summer after his burial, I had a vision. I saw my dad’s face and heard his voice. He was thanking me; all was well. I’ll never forget his smile – he was so HAPPY. 

 And I saw so clearly then: Funerals are not just for the living; they bring peace to the dead.


I am editing this last sentence when a mourning dove SLAMS into my bedroom window. I race out thinking it must be dead, when miraculously, the dove flies away, unharmed. Every living being is connected to everything else.

Picture taken by unknown person ends up on the internet – I am communing with cranes…


This warm weather has the cardinals coming in around 5:45 in the evening to eat after the other birds are gone. Their cheeps alert me and out I go to spread just a little food … they also come before first light so I can barely see them! None of this would be surprising if the cardinals didn’t come to the window to alert me first that they are ready to be fed…. Amazing how they know what room I’m in – during the day they visit sporadically but with so many squirrels I only keep one feeder out – no food is left on the ground except for brief cardinal bonanzas – and this has turned out to be a great strategy… because chickadees woodpeckers nuthatches etc – all my regulars, flutter in and out of that feeder, pig squirrel can’t make it into the cage and only one red squirrel can get inside at once which doesn’t bother the other birds so some food ends up on the ground – gosh it keeps the Blu-jays to a minimum too and it’s cheaper! 

The moon was beautiful last night especially the way it shone like silver on the poplar tree to the left – now totally bare. 

Poplars cottonwoods and aspen belong to the Willow family and all feed animals and birds as well as being able to suck up poisons from the ground – like lead – the next time you walk by a poplar thank the tree for purifying the soil! This family is famous for cloning itself-.Pando an aspen , a close relative of cottonwoods weighs 13 million pounds and might be anywhere from 80 thousand years old to ? – we don’t know. He is no longer growing although he survived the last ice age and scientists are worried ….our planet lets us know in so many ways that s/he is unbalanced.


Living in liminal space – the space in between one way of being and another. In the old religions this space was created for a time during the cyclic year – November is this month for many. This year we are all living in liminal space awaiting outcomes for politicians, for covid spikes, for life. We have no ground under our feet… The night of the election I walked under a brilliant sorry sky watching the Great Bear rising over the horizon… here in the north the story goes that all fall Orion chases the Bear but never gets her… and eventually the Hunter slips under the horizon without ever getting his prey (I’m always so glad to see Orion disappear!)… the night sky is full of wonder and mystery, and for me it helps to reflect on these stories and the fact that what I see is light that is so far far away and so ancient…Someone told me yesterday that “the stars were boring -they were always the same”. Having heard these bizarre words before from this same person I remarked ” well, in that case you have never seen the sky”. Imagine living your entire life and never feeling the wonder of that firmament overhead? This is beyond my comprehension… Meanwhile birds and stars occupy my days and (early) nights… the geese fly south as do the cranes…When I watch the birds at my feeder I think of Emily Dickenson who once said “Hope is the thing with feathers”… the same may be true for stars…


Yesterday while walking in the woods I was thinking about my life … how much the natural world shapes my reality and my perception of reality…I see a tree stump – I have to stop and count all the living beings that are inhabiting this one log, some breaking it down into the richest soil, and how death is always inextricably tied to birth … such a miracle really. In the woods in late fall I see life crumbling beneath my feet as old leaves – organisms everywhere, the unbroken mycelial mat – life and death – the boundaries blurred even more thus time of year…it is peaceful here. 

It is always a shock to find myself back driving on the road assaulted by the ragged holes in the sky where only recently a forest of glorious trees flourished. With the soil uprooted and matchsticks in the air who knows what will grow there next but with this brutal level of disturbance death seems to take on an added dimension…


“The pleasure of living where you live is transformative”

Richard Powers

I used to think that people loved their homes the way I do but I know now that this is not true- homes are ‘flipped’ into new abodes sometimes once or twice in a couple of years – it’s no wonder people have no attachment to ‘place’ – As Powers makes clear if you don’t live where you live you miss out…

I love my home and have watched over this land like a mother. Ordinary miracles occur frequently – yesterday’s turkey visit was no exception. I was standing at the window watching turkeys when I heard a conversation coming from the feeder… it turned out that one turkey was talking to a chickadee – after every exchange the chickadee deliberately dropped a seed or two for the turkey to eat! I watched this behavior for five minutes wondering what prompted it – how I laughed!

A visit to crane land included a sign about poisoned pesticides – I watched huge machines cutting the grain – poisoned corn scattered on the ground – and billowing dust blowing into other fields – time for the cranes to be moving on -too bad poisoning isn’t so routine – everywhere – abominations – and we think we eat organically?

We celebrate this November Full Moon as the Beaver Moon in honor of our first ecologists who shaped this country creating rich wetlands and ponds for birds and wildlife. 

When the colonists came to this country greed won out and most of these animals were extirpated for fur.. even today beavers are considered nuisance animals by humans who believe they dominate the earth.

Usually you hear this moon called the Hunters Moon and god knows that’s true today but this name replaced that of the gentle ecologists by guess who? People who believe animals don’t matter. Killing them is what matters and as someone in a prominent conservation position recently quipped “ hunting is good for the economy”.

These pictures were taken as I sat in the field last night watching the moon rise over the horizon – for the next months star gazing becomes a pass time – part of the late fall and winter season a time when the sky is sprinkled with star dust and stories are told of long ago.


 As of today we still have a governor not a thug. What a relief… now the beavers, our first ecologists, might live on….

Many years ago my father died on November 9th and I dreamed he turned into a beaver just a few minutes before I got the call… at the time I was living with beavers…yesterday I took to the woods to visit an emerging beaver wetland – Fascinating how these first ecologists work the wood so efficiently – because this wetland is in transition ‘reading’ it is a challenge but it was so much fun trying to figure out just what direction these beavers are going in. With climate change and droughts these special ponds take on a new importance … let’s hope these beavers will be allowed to stay!

“ A mothering language is one that strives to bring the world into being through story”

Our cultural myth is one of violence to the earth and her people – (the earth did not begin with the Greeks!) – definitely not a mothering story- perhaps it’s time to change it into a tale that offers sentience to all living beings. What we call ‘reality’ is no more than a destructive cultural myth that belongs to the past – 

We don’t need a new story – we simply have to pick up the threads of the indigenous story we lost…

The one where life once again becomes a gift. 

The pattern is there waiting to be lived again.

Pictures taken during yesterday’s blustery walk ending up in my field.


“ You don’t need language with plants. If you look at the Mayan glyphs for example, you will see that when they speak that little flowers emit from their mouths”

This is true for the Huichol as well. 

Trees communicate beneath words.

Yesterday was a Hemlock day… these foundation trees – meaning that they create and structure the forests around them, are under attack from the woolly adelgid throughout their range in the east. The Harvard Hemlock researchers tell us that this tree will be functionally extinct by 2025 – meaning that although trees will still live the species is disappearing. 

I love these trees and on some days like yesterday feel compelled to go to be with them – answering a “ call” I walk amongst them feeling such a deep sadness while glorying in such beauty. Harvard scientists who have studied these trees longer than anywhere else tell us that preemptive cutting is not the answer. DO-NOTHING they say… Allowing the trees to die naturally allows their nutrients to seep into the ground creating a rich soil for the trees to come… if left alone someday a very different forest will emerge – one that is healthy. If only Foresters/logging machine would listen…


“The disconnect from nature is the disconnect from the life force. They are one and the 

same.” This is not the same as using nature for recreation – when we do we would be better off going to a gym – Nature is not our wallpaper… s/he’s the core of who we are.

 Signs of beavers no matter where I go!

Every day they are here in droves – the turkeys – and every day I watch them with fascination…


Being truly present for one’s life is a gift.

I was listening to the rain, the overflowing brook, turkey chortling, and the birds coming to the bedroom window before dawn. With one feeder protected under the eaves positioned just next to the window the birds arrive even earlier and I don’t have to bring it in because the dogs do not tolerate coons or squirrels! I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner…. The other feeder I bring in each night… last night it was so warm that the dogs and I sat on the porch listening to the deer as they scrounged for seed and cereal – when the coon arrived he was too late! It’s hard to believe it’s mid – month but cold is on the way so I am bathing in the last scents of fall with the deepest appreciation with open windows…winter is on its way …


Some of my favorite hemlocks…. These are still healthy but the woolly adelgid is in Maine and this insect, second only to preemptive logging is divesting us of trees…. It is not supposed to be here – supposedly the insect has made it as far as Poland, but I have seen evidence of it in heavily logged forests…if you see evidence of infestation please call fish and game or better yet Harvard Forest. 

Harvard has been studying these trees along with others in their 4000 acre forest since 1907 – when my brother was at Harvard I spent a lot of time in that forest with him- one Harvard scientist states “ we are documenting the latest chapter in the epic story of a great species… with mixed feelings …scientific engagement , consciousness and lament… we are reconciled to our fate…we will lose the history and the experiences embodied in these woods” In that spirit Harvard Forest brought in international artists to install sculptures throughout the hemlock forest calling it the Harvard Hospice project.

Acknowledging the fate of this foundational tree with compassion and honesty moves me deeply….


It is so important to bear witness to possibility…

Lise Weil

My pig squirrel certainly demonstrates this truth as does Hairy who is trying to figure out how to get to the seed – you can see him thinking, assessing but when he figures it out he’s below the picture while his cousin Downy slips through the bars! Ordinary happenings while we wait for first snow.


mist rises

angel wings

spread feathery cloaks

haunting cries

announce communion –

Ancestor Souls…

Sandhill cranes arrive in Abiquiu – friends send pictures…. 

Here late fall turns burnt umber, moss, and wheat to white..


“Trees have to become the center of human politics”.

Richard Powers.

I don’t think this is an exaggeration – to lose the trees is inviting in death. We need to save the last of the 2 or 3 percent of our old forests to save ourselves and then find a way to farm healthy plantations for wood – something we are not doing now. How do we stay so blind? Capitalism, of course. The quick fix for cash.

When I stand under a hemlock I am aware that 1 – 2 feet below my feet in the spongy duff are seeds that may be hundreds and thousands of years old… why because the duff is composed of needles that don’t break down and produce the richest soil. Seeds of the future lay hidden here. Birds like nuthatches, warblers and owls nest and roost in hemlock boughs


Around here every fruit tree is totally bare and it’s only mid  -November…Grouse in every tree and not one decent picture.. 


“Beings of higher intelligence are already here, always have been. They just haven’t used their intelligence to destroy anything yet”

Sand Talk…

Every day animals teach me something new – yesterday. With 50 turkeys here one ends up below bird feeder calling a chickadee who appears gets one seed and drops it for this one turkey – this scene repeats until I have to leave the house and has happened before. The turkey makes a special high pitched eee to bring in the chickadee and as I write one turkey is using that same call to get me to put out seed from bedroom window… last night it was the flying squirrels. We watch each other from the window- dogs are fascinated… periodically, flying squirrel dips into the feeder for a snack and then returns to his perch to watch us through the window. All of us communicate below words… animals have their own lives and purposes but choose to interact between species for reasons of their own. Ordinary miracles….

Evening sky

descending darkness

sliver clouds

shroud brilliance

a sliver of grief

ends the day


When Dawn breaks

Hemlocks hum

 Breathe Winter Light.


Once upon a time there was a scientist who was also an Indigenous healer who told me that “ all myths are holy water”.

Profound truth

Yesterday was Earth School and Owl showed me all the frogs that he saved from being killed. They sing to him at night and it was abundantly clear how much affection they felt for him coming to the front of their house which is sprinkled every few minutes with water… they climbed on his hands clasped his fingers and oh those eyes. I was in heaven…. Later we visited the lab where stones are being turned into spheres – unbelievably beautiful – and I got to see the process of how they were made. Animated conversation about how humans must have some kind of innate feeling for these spheres because it’s impossible not to keep picking them up – there were so many – and each exquisite in its own way – Martin gave me a little one – it has some blue – oh there was one frog a red eyed something with blue legs that stayed hidden – he only appears every couple of weeks! What a day.


“Once upon a time when women were birds there was a simple understanding that to sing at dawn and dusk was to heal the world through joy…the birds still remember”

Terry Tempest Williams

This has to be one of my favorite quotes of all time – I would change joy to song…even at this time of year I am hungry for the first chirping….

I add the fantastic tree frog that remained hidden at Earth School.


Today I celebrate a different Thanksgiving – from now through February I give thanks for every evergreen left on this earth. I light my indoor Norfolk Island Pine with this intent…

I feel so sad when I see all the christmas trees stacked in piles, severed from their roots and life. They will not live to see another season.

Isn’t there another way?

Couldn’t we PLANT live trees that could be decorated during the holiday season? This could be a wonderful project for young people who will be inheriting this earth…. every tree eats light and stores C02. Every tree breathes life into our lungs. What could be more important?

There is something about living with indoor trees that thrive that brings joy to my heart….And Norfolk Island pine trees are so easy to grow…rice lights don’t burn their needles because they are solar powered and their lights remind me of fireflies.

One somber picture taken on a walk… love the layering… and here is my tree!


I love the way the darkness fades during this time of year – the sanctity and the silence – both gifts beyond measure. (Me)

Every morning I watch for that first glimmer of the sun as it peeks through the trees and casts a brief silver- golden glow on the waters below. If I am not paying attention I miss these moments…then in come the birds and by eight pig squirrel arrives – I get such pleasure out of him biting metal bars as chickadees and titmice ignore him and eat the seed!


Turkey Celebration!!!! I think the turkeys were giving thanks for surviving this human holiday! They were having the best time chortling hooting and making so many animated sounds I couldn’t describe – what an amazing vocabulary they have. At one point one turkey went to the feeder eeeing and as usual the chickadee appeared to drop the turkey seeds one by one! This with all the other commotion. When a second group appeared there was a brief scuffle but by the end of the day everyone left together to roost here in the hemlocks. Males and females both. Bless those trees for providing shelter for so many birds and animals…. Remove all trees and most birds can’t survive — a sobering thought for bird lovers everywhere with our forest rape underway.


It was a beautiful day to tip greens and walk along the river – I am drawn to water like never before because so many of our forests have been destroyed.

On a happier note the Northeast Wilderness Trust has saved 33,000 acres just in Maine to be left “ Forever Free” meaning these forests will never be logged again – these places will be left to heal themselves of the damage we have done. Northeast works with the Harvard Forest a place dear to my heart because when my brother was at Harvard we spent many happy years there. My brother was an international runner whose last record was only broken 20 years ago…. Of course these places are just postage stamps but at least some places are trying.


COP27 came to a close this year in much the same way as the rest of the international climate summits—with no unified commitment to curb fossil fuel emissions. It left us, once again, with the question: Where do we turn when our leaders fail to take steps toward change?


Yesterday a trip to my favorite forest for a little more tipping – oh that scent- and visits with some friends – two favorite hemlocks whose roots are now so entwined they have literally become one tree .. once I had a brother like that…partridgeberry, clear waters, a wondrous old stump full of life, fairy cups which are lichens – the first green life to reach land – can you imagine algae fungi and bacteria partnering up to colonize the earth? They became friends and now cannot live without each other! And they are everywhere on land busy photosynthesizing giving us life! As usual a wonderful day….


It is barely twilight black tree tops towering over the forest piercing a pale pink sky….yesterday was earth school and my scientist/ naturalist friend and I talked frog! His frogs may be mating and laying eggs and if so one day I will have two of the babies…. First though CONTEXT and in this case this means the frogs must have a home with all the right Amazonian conditions – I have to grow plants, set up a misting system etc in the terrarium he gave me… I will have fun creating the space which when done will even have bugs to eat refuse – the space will take care of itself except for feeding and changing the water…very neat – I hope the snow holds off long enough for me to get what I need from the woods – I will also be using passionflowers which should be so happy in this space. Red Deer and Little Deer made it through hunting season! Yes! But now they are shy, and this is how it should be. – they have learned to fear their predator – man… 



Today it is FREEDOM that defines wilderness not the absence of man – according to Northeast Wilderness Trust the root of the word wilderness means” the will of the land”. 

Unfortunately the will of the land is only present in fragments today because even in areas where land is contiguous if the trees are missing the will of the land has been violated….only in wild places do natural processes direct what happens… in this area we are fortunate to have some land that is truly protected, – trees included. In this little sanctuary that I call home nature does direct what happens – but this parcel is just too small…Yesterday at 6:30 AM one female turkey started screeching. I had forgotten to put a little seed on the ground. The rest of the females didn’t appear until 7 AM. Although it was chilly the windless afternoon called me to her and I spent about an hour wandering around especially in the field where the moon was keeping an eye on me … I love these crescent moons – this morning the trees wear a white skin…


The Ancestor Story

During the last few years I have spent hours listening to the haunting cries of Sandhill cranes, awaiting them at the river, stunned each time as I glimpsed a flock float to the ground, great gray wings extended to break their fall as talons touched earth, attended to enthusiastic family greetings and muted conversations, felt a sense of devastating loss when these birds circled overhead to say goodbye each year before heading north to breed (while I lived in New Mexico), and then discovering to my joy that they live and breed here in Maine. I still experience the same hunger to glimpse families in Fryeburg each October and lose time watching their loving family dynamics. I continue to feel intense grief and loss at crane leave-taking remaining baffled by the intensity of my own responses. In the last week I think I have finally uncovered the roots of the story behind the cranes and me…

 These birds are prehistoric in origin and have the strongest family ties. The families never break up and when separated greet each other joyously even after a few hours as small groups fly to different feeding areas. Incredibly poignant. There is always one that stands watch at night, a protector, so the others can sleep in peace, one leg extended, usually in water. I am in love with these birds but until a few days ago did not understans the powerful pull their presence exerts over me. 

At the first brrrrrr I feel the chill crawling up my spine before I am flooded with tears….

A couple of days ago I wrote an essay on aging and the ancestral darkness that permeates the dead in my family. Although I came from families with relatives, I was cut off from one side of the family due to family conflict – my mother didn’t like Italians though she married one. On her side I had grandparents I loved and great aunts as well…. And yet when they died there was no sense of staying connected – just absence – confusion, not knowing, a kind of hole that swallowed the shadows of who they were or might have been. I didn’t understand why.

Of course I grew up in a family in which silence dominated personal relationships – silence, secrets, deceit and lies. My brother and I ferreted out a couple of the secrets but confusion and a powerful sense of darkness permeated the air around this family. Davey and I learned early on how important it was to lie – especially regarding having negative feelings. My parents had negative emotions in spades – screaming and yelling was the norm – all the rest of my relatives denied what was happening. We were supposed to “BE HAPPY”.

 Learning to tell the truth about what happened eventually set me free, even though by the time I became a writer I understood that “the truth” could only belong to me. There are many truths and I am privy only to one.  I will never know the whole story about any of the members of my family because silence and secrets dominated and information was withheld.….

 Except for my beloved brother who I remain connected to despite his death at 21 there is only my dad.  Oddly our father -daughter relationship was fraught with conflict some of which I realize now my mother generated deliberately. I was, after all, a female and therefore a threat to a woman whose life was predicated on being the ONE. She scorned her only daughter who learned at her knee never to compete with a woman who threatened abandonment at every turn. I lived a terror filled childhood and never recovered from that initial wound which later shaped my life and that of my children in self destructive ways…My dad was explosive, absent during the week and yet out of the two he was the nurturing parent. Unfortunately, because he was usually busy working he had little free time for either of his children.  With that much said if one of us was ill he was the parent who took care of us. His explosive nature made him unpredictable, and my mother used this flaw to deliberately alienate her children from him by forcing them to take sides in endless parental arguments creating a gap that widened as we grew up. I cringe now knowing that Davey had no access to his own father. By the time my brother died he was as alienated from others as I was. We just had each other. And the woods because we both found joy and solace in nature. After Davey’s death I still had a grandmother, but she died in less than two years. Numb, I am not sure how I survived.

 At mid – life my dad and I reconnected but my mother was in the way. “ Don’t tell her I called “ he would say before hanging up…..When my dad died suddenly, I finally stood up to my mother insisting upon having a memorial service despite one of her predictable attacks — ‘you selfish girl’. More sinister, my mother coerced my children into making a choice. Needless to say neither grandson attended their grandfather‘s service. But that choice and its consequences was also made by my sons who were both adults and therefore accountable. I guess I should add that by now this woman was a millionaire. 

What transpired next belongs in another story (my father becomes a beaver). After a white dove appeared at the time of my fathers death I decided I wanted a wild dove of my own… Within months Lily b came to live with us, and lives here still as a free flying house dove. It took me six months to accept that this bird could read my mind and reads it still although he is now a very old bird. Oddly, at first I didn’t associate this Lily b with my dad. Now, of course I do.

I have been a bird – woman all my life. As a child it was chickadees I loved the most…but all birds enchanted me; my brother and I became accomplished birders as children. Adolescence was a confusing broken time but as soon as I married birds took precedence again. I fed pheasants out of the kitchen window and both babies were placed on the table that overlooked the bird feeding area. During my mothering years mourning doves became my favorite bird… After I moved to the mountains I fed hundreds of doves and in the spring the songs of many other species including grosbeaks and red wings took my breath away. After I moved to my present house cardinals came into my life and have been here ever since. About ten years ago when I started to have trouble with squirrels and couldn’t leave food on the ground the cardinals learned how to ‘call’ to me when I was in the house most often by appearing at whatever window I happened to be near. Just this morning a female greeted me as I responded to the winter cheep. I have come through a difficult year and I have missed my little lady, though the male is always here. Cardinals I have learned, have a penchant for those who grieve, just as chickadees chirp for joy, doves open a spirit door, hawks act as messengers… all birds carry an energy of some kind along with information.

And this brings me around the circle to my relationship with the Sandhill cranes. I have read every crane book I could get my hands on, learning natural history and a lot about their mythology – in many cultures it is believed that Sandhill cranes embody the souls of the dead; some northern Indigenous peoples believe that the cranes were once human and will become so again. In some cultures it is the Sandhill crane that perches on top of the ‘Tree of Life’.

 Visiting the Bosque del Apache was the highlight of my time in New Mexico because I entered another world where only the cranes and I existed. Just a few weeks ago I spent lost time in a field of cranes identifying relatives and young ones. I can never get enough of these birds on the ground or in the air. I am captivated by these family relationships that are so strong and true.

And yet, until I wrote my essay about aging and the ancestral dark holes I didn’t make the obvious connection. Sandhill cranes are probably the closest living beings that connect me to my family ancestors, and they are birds, not people.

I believe that my family’s energy and information have been transformed. Ovid’s words “let me sing to you now of how people turn into other things” resonates for me in a most powerful way. Whatever secrets lies and silence  will continue to haunt my family intergenerationally I am no longer without ancestors; they have become beloved birds. 

Aging and the Ancestral Dark

Unfortunately, an inner darkness has been with me all fall hiding in the corners of my mind and disturbing my body creating headaches and stomach troubles during the day. Although I attempt to protect myself from a culture that I cannot control by not listening to news, watching television, movies or perusing social media I am painfully aware of the fact that politicians on an international level cannot even agree to discuss what to do about climate change – this after 30 years of doing absolutely nothing – creating in me a mindless fury that leaves me in black despair. The time of acting locally and thinking globally is long past. Thinking and doing must occur on a global level. Novelist Richard Powers states the obvious: “People can better imagine the end of the end of the world before the end of Capitalism”. Then we can move to the moon.


  I have also been forced to acknowledge how difficult this year has been on a personal level. Aging is affecting my energy level, increasing the severity of depressed states, my sense of inner and outer balance. I am vulnerable and know it although I do my best to begin each day with gratitude as I first peer out at my beloved trees, a little nuthatch or chickadee, gaze at a silver crescent, or celebrate a pale pink dawning.

I began this year in crisis on the cultural new year’s eve shoveling ice that blocked my door and breaking my foot in the process. And this was only the beginning…

I had no help and couldn’t get any. My little dogs had to go out and I used snowshoes to create paths for them in the snow each dawning re – injuring my foot repeatedly … the ice was extreme…every step a threat… getting up the hill to the car was an almost impossible ordeal.

By the end of February I was in such a state of terror that I put my house up for sale, signed a contract in four days and then discovered I couldn’t afford to live anywhere else.

The day I contracted to sell this beloved property I went out to stand under the white pine, the one I call the “Mother Tree” asking her to understand why I could do such a thing. When I came indoors to eat my oatmeal I pulled pine needlesout of my mouth. The tree had spoken; I had been forgiven.

After making frantic trips to look for houses for seven weeks I backed out of the contract and took a financial hit that left me numb.

I finally ended up on a waiting list for an old person’s –(women’s?) home located in a nearby town but I have to wait until someone dies or moves out to move in…

I lost my mind last spring and have not retrieved it. The trauma was evidently so severe that it has had a permanent effect on my short – term memory.

Normal sleep remains impossible. I am haunted by terrifying dreams which have been my constant companion all year long.

I am exhausted all the time and wonder if this illness is a psychic phenomenon or has some other cause. Perhaps it’s both.

All spring, summer, and fall, I tried to strengthen my foot by walking as much as I could. I finally faced the fact that this injury is permanent as is the pain, something I need to live with.

Snow and ice in mid-November ended my ability to take solace in the forest I love. Too dangerous. The last time I was there was on November 9t, the anniversary of my father’s death. Although I was not close to my dad during his lifetime I stood up for him when he died, and this initiated an ancestral relationship that stretched across time; one I have come to cherish and honor each fall by visiting the beavers, one of which he became. Except for my brother, the rest of my family, living and dead, is lost to me by accident or design. Most of the Ancestors I feel close to seem to be non – human.

I keep writing to save my life.

Each year in November I light my beautiful Norfolk Island pine in honor of all the evergreens that remain intact on this planet. This year I lit my tree with a heavy heart after witnessing masses of christmas trees severed from their roots and lives to serve as indoor wallpaper for a holiday that has become obscene.

During the winter months I honor conifers (just as I celebrate the glory of deciduous trees leafing out and blossoming during the other three seasons of the year). 

I remind myself that this act is my ‘Thanksgiving’ for the gift of nature that sustains me – in particular, the trees that help me breathe; trees with whom I share 53 percent of my DNA and who are my beloved Ancestors.

One day my ashes will help nourish one hemlock that bows and hums to the Sandborn River, even as s/he purifies the water and mediates the temperature of the forest in which s/he grows. Witch hobble, partridgeberry wintergreen and mosses thrive nearby. I’ve known for a while that I would be buried under a tree but I thought it would be here next to my brother and near my father’s grave until I dreamed a year ago that my brother was roaming free in the  20,000 acre forest I spend so much time in. Because he loved the wild places and that forest is protected it made perfect sense to me that his spirit moved on, as mine must. I wondered which tree in that protected forest would receive my ashes. 

There was no revelation; one afternoon in September a vague nudge stopped me before a two hundred year old hemlock. I stood beneath her, rubbed ribbed bark and hugged as much of the tree as I could while peering up into her canopy… Here she was, my tree; she told me, but I don’t know how.

I do believe my land will weep for me as I have wept for her knowing what’s to come because land has memory; s/he knows I love her…When I die this property will be chopped up, her trees cut, the legacy of having not one person in my life who cares enough to protect her… In the mean – time I stay, give thanks for trees and plants, the birds and deer and take comfort and pleasure in my living indoor tree, and gaze out my window at a forest of bare trees descending into sleep…

Except for nature I deal with aging alone.

The Fall

November has stolen autumn – my painful broken foot, loneliness, snow and ice make it impossible for me to enter the door I long for – my beloved forest – that place of solace – where blue waters rise over steep banks, beavers fell trees, orange teeth skin cambium, and mosses are still a brilliant green – Fall cut me in half – left a stranger behind –  to camp alone -without water – always without water – my well has run dry.

 When I look at this image I imagine a self being drawn through fallen leaves into a new story – one centered on a future that supports seeds that grow…

Tree of Life


I remember

the sense I had…


I didn’t know

the planter

had such secrets


left for dead,

I recovered


Tree boys betray.

This one will

 live a lifetime

carrying ruthless

in his bones…

a curse he will

not escape.

Balsam spread

her needles

soaking in a



and though

only a foot high

her bountiful

body encircles


We share a

common grace.

When the lights

arrived it snowed

 Winding copper thread

placing suncatcher

 facing south…

At dusk

a shining, shivering tree

lit my way

withstanding blustery winds


with the night.

I thanked her.

Beginning again

is Nature’s way


of wounding

and when winter

white fades

and spring


bright green


will adorn each twig.

Stories are made 

of holy water, he said.

My friend the scientist

is also a Healer.

This little tree 

embodies a dream

where trees are 


October Meditations

October Meditations 22

On her birthday

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 she surrendered –

Nature’s pattern
for her life was not
what she would have chosen.
She imagined
Instead a deer
 Bereft, confused,

grief stricken,

 she followed…
He led her
to black bears
who loved her.
supported her when
all seemed lost.
 Owl becomes her
Her beautiful brown eyes
comfort lost souls.

She is old now
of needing
except for help.

An excruciating process.
leads her to

undisturbed forest

to visit her father

a beaver in disguise.

Red berries blaze
as she trembles
under the pattern
that owns her.
Her body 

never ceases

to remind her

that she is alone.

Peace she

learned lies

in the wild places.

The ground

beneath her hums


synapses running

through her feet

Paradox –

Alone but connected

to the whole.

At 77 
Her days are growing short.
Trees lead her on
 Ruthless slaughter
puts her life in perspective
Forests survived five extinctions. 
Maybe she can
survive one.
The life she lives is
always on the edge
of not remembering
Who She Is.
But the forest
sings to her …
Barred owl greets her
Birthday songs at Dawn.

Her dreams fade
 warnings remain… 
 The pattern haunts her

Resistance blocks…
Oh how
wishes that aging 
brought wisdom 
and not
a cluttered mind
even the children
she once 
longed for –


 Silence, their indifference fading…

But she still needs

that sharp knife edge

to keep recording.

her story matters

though she can’t imagine why…

Aching limbs, exhaustion.

 shortness of breath
slow her down.
She must pay attention…
Care for Body
Give thanks
Use the Snappers Beak
Tear flesh
only in self defense.
Give up the dictates of Nice
Let forest be Guide
even when white fear
buries her alive
Hope is engagement
with the future.

That fierce
capacity for love

needs a lover

Thrives on reciprocity.
 can’t be trusted

 Her vulnerability
is in the way
We all betray
so innocence isn’t the point
but Sensitivity is.

To feel a crackling fire

a chilled room

(her secret bower)
pale sun star
in descent


 beloved hemlock

bittersweet gold.
Dogs sleep

as she tastes

a fish

she prepared

that morning

to end this day…

Gratitude flows –

one unbroken whole.
She’s content
knowing needs

were met.
As for the future
she cannot know.

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(Yesterday was one of those perfect fall days – not a wisp of wind- that found me in the woods following a moose who I finally met as he slid into impenetrable brush – impossible to photograph except for a hoof!

With clear cool days mushrooms abound – I snapped only a fraction of those I saw – a couple I need to look up… returning to the beaver bog I noted lots of new activity- wish I was closer – would like to visit every day – he had a new path to the water and had dragged smaller branches down the hill – the size of these poplars would require a chain saw to cut and this guy is doing all the work with his teeth! The little pond is beautiful – impossible to discern water from sky and oh so peaceful…. How I hope that he will be allowed to stay – this is a rich and diverse lowland area – lots of gold leaves…I walked so many miles my legs ache! 10/1/22) not needed…


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“Relationship develops when we care about the land we borrow from nature for a few decades – we don’t own her – she offers us a temporary home. When we perceive the land as a Living Being and not a commodity she speaks to us in a language beneath words” ( me)

This time of year I want to be everywhere at once! There’s astonishing beauty everywhere. Yesterday I could hear my land calling…. “Stay home” she said; you are missing the beauty here.

True, the turning is more subtle but glorious all the same and after chores I spent time appreciating all this beauty. I notice Red Deer has suddenly become shy and reclusive Little Deer too – they sense hunting days are near and perhaps the obnoxious gun blasts like the ones I’m hearing now are sounding a warning too.

My asters are peaking – no frost here yet but cold morning temperatures are slowly changing the face of the land. The partridge are sitting in the fruit trees gobbling seed and the evening light is astonishing. (10/2)


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Leaf pictures taken here in early morning – geese are flying over the house and at the pollinator garden over the Androscoggin river – the same geese that kept Skywoman from falling into the void after she fell out of the Tree of Life in the Indigenous creation story – benign creatures geese -in the last couple of days 39 million plus birds have flown over this county alone – migration is peaking so PLEASE turn those outside spotlights off at dusk so the young fliers won’t become disoriented. The tower at the pollinator garden is thankfully not very intrusive and who knows what new information will be gleaned – though how much it will help the actual birds is still my question – people yes – we will learn more about migration for one thing – a fascinating question – there are still monarchs floating over the sunflowers – with temps in the 20s at night I worry that these might not be able to make the journey – another question I have is whether prolonged artificial feeding of these insects may actually harm them – keeping them here too long – pure speculation on my part – I do know that scientists are saying the caterpillars that are left won’t make it. My latest chrysalis has not hatched either – maybe nature knows it’s just too late… nature has the sense to abort life when it has little or no chance of surviving -so many questions !!! I do love those milkweed puffs and note the fall asters are much more subtle there – colors are more pastel – here mine startle me with their intensity – such a deep purple and gold.- just now my field is full of grouse – bird game season has begun…


 Monarchs floating like birds over the sunflowers at the pollinator garden – I keep hoping

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Once you open the door to Other Beings a tree or a deer becomes a teacher. We must not continue to silence these non human voices because the stories of the land must be told.

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Brilliant leaves, falling leaves (my first, pictured came yesterday after the wind) and mountains only tipped in evergreens point out that only the most inaccessible still remain as well as telling tell us that the trees are preparing for sleep and that the trees that define ‘pine tree state’ are disappearing. With the mycelial networking destroyed we don’t know what will be able to grow next… In a month the bones of the mountain will be replete with skidder marks from the logging machines that haven’t left a birth giving ground behind. Small seedlings will struggle to return…Is this a story that speaks to the continuation of Life? 

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Yesterday I went back to the MLT pollinator garden- one of my favorite places to visit regularly even after the season ends – last week it was the milkweed tufts – this week all the asters were still in bloom and I watched with great enthusiasm two kinds of small bumblebees sipping and buzzing around the asters – (the darkest picture of the asters I took once I got home for comparison). All are stunning especially with those bees – and the garden was full of white throated sparrows feasting on all the seeds- afterwards I walked through the beautiful field that borders the river listening to geese as they flew over and also saw great blue fishing from his usual place.

Our local land trust (MLT) has recently acquired an easement of 12,300 acres from the Stifler family and now includes more than 20,000 acres. MLT is focused on “management” – human recreation and allows timber harvesting. It seems to me that we have it backwards. Doesn’t it make more sense to preserve the land – allow it to re- wild itself ( return to its natural state) before opening it to be “used” by people? There is one postage stamp 400 acre piece that will be allowed to re – wild itself – This may be a beginning of a different way of thinking about the land and forest… at least I hope so. I have advocated for this kind of change since becoming involved with MLT.

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Ah, my beloved forests…my love for all trees! There are some days when the joy of being alive is mirrored by nature’s glory – yesterday was one of those days…The peace of the forest is mirrored by a remote beaver pond.

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I think we are at peak in terms of fall color – the water is like glass some days – a mirror of the sky – there are two photos included that are reflections of water and sky that are truly invisible to all but the most discerning eye! Can you see themAs much as I love landscape it is the close ups that create such awe –

scarlet crimson – these words don’t even begin to describe the revelation before me – the coming of fall – it’s hard to remember that the trees are preparing for winter sleep, their precious sap descending…buds already formed. All I can do is gaze in wonder, grateful for eyes that can see.

So many cars pouring into the area – everyone in a hurry to see the trees…I do just the opposite – return to the same beloved area each day that I can. Even then I miss changes but walking in the same places allows those colors to soak through my skin and I am in a perpetual state of awe as a result, fully present to the moment… yesterday here at home I awakened to gold – and gold was evident on my wandering – the kind of gold that stuns one into silence…. Blue and gold take on new meaning during autumn’s glory.

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Gold On Gold


on Gold 

tipped in





rose vermillion

scarlet crimson

Bleeding through

Forest green …

Her eyes

cannot cease


under Blue

Flaming leaves

torch sun star

He celebrates

 her joy.

‘Something Is Always



to wonder

as well

as sorrow.

Shadows are

translucent –

oh, so clear.

Trees croon

with pleasure

For once

They are seen.


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Every year autumn stuns me senseless with her beauty. Earth celebrates being seeneven if only as background to a horizon whose trees have caught fire.

As masses of cars race by me to see the ‘scenery’ I drive like a snail to my beloved forest, day after day, to walk – to witness the ever shifting colors of the same trees as their leaves begin to fall…

 I hear them humming in the Silence…

 “We are here. We are alive. We are Sentient Beings just like you, celebrating the turning of the seasons as we prepare for sleep. If only you were capable of listening we could teach you how to live.”


Today is Indigenous Peoples Day a Federal holiday not honored in all the states. Maine and New Mexico are two states that do…this is a beginning. Indigenous peoples were on this continent and lived sustainably for millennia until the colonization by foreigners began. The immigrants brought guns and diseases wiping out most of the population. The rest were stuffed into reservations. Worst of all they brought religions that no longer honored Nature and turned her into the devil. Nature became a commodity to be used – her trees were struck down – today only 2- 3 percent of old forests remain – and this is just one atrocity among too many to name. I shudder when I think that besides my Native heritage what some of my own relatives must have done… my dad was an immigrant who came to the US when he was 12 but I have English heritage too… and they were here much longer…I think it is fitting that this day occurs at the height of the flaming broadleaf trees – a time when trees are actually appreciated if not considered Living Beings as Native people did and continue to do today addressing them directly. Yesterday I walked around the house taking pictures of every tree thanking each for Being. 

Amazing how gold is so pervasive this year at least in the past few days.

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Still waters as the geese that remain feed in late afternoons… last night I heard them on the wing… and I remember the final return from NM – I was wired about the trip while walking to the river at dawn until a group flew low over my head calling. I knew then the trip would be ok… in myths the helpful geese are always present. If we understand myth as basic truth twisted into mnemonics – instructions rising from the past waiting to become predictions, my experience makes sense…we have had a lot of hard frosts – more like November – The crabapples are sweet now and Little Deer feasts outside my front door at all times of the day – every day four feet away! – the grouse are in the fruit trees and of course turkeys are everywhere…still gold around the house – the little red oak is presenting the most beautiful colors … I was surprised to hear someone say they weren’t beautiful. What do you think?

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Do you realize that no human has ever seen an old forest or the precious diversity of an old forest return in this country? Not ever. I’m talking about thousands of species lost. We had four great forests when the colonists arrived but they didn’t last long. We speculate that trees will grow back and of course some trees do but diversity? No one speaks to this latter issue because so few people care. For someone like me who is a naturalist this is tragic because the lack of diversity is related to the lack of health in the forest as a whole.

Now we grow trees on plantations where the soil is so polluted with chemicals that the soil itself will be dead in a few generations. Diversity is absent. It’s hard not to think about these sober ideas when spending so much time walking through cared about cut forests who are healthy enough to have plants growing on the ground. 

I have one place in the woods where I have made a little house that I work on each time I’m there. Because it’s always changing because materials change and the animals visit there I never know what I’ll find. 

The wind last weekend took down a lot of leaves but the gold and bittersweet linger on and the softer colors are just starting. We are supposed to have heavy rains later this week so I’m glad to be leaf peeping now. This season the forests are dominated by flaming orange and gold – less scarlet. I wonder if the extreme weather – summer until the equinox and then sudden plunges in temperatures is responsible for Less crimson?

Little Deer is feeding at the door – feasting on crabapples…

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It is just beautiful around the house – the mosses that dominate my ‘lawn’ come into their own this time of year – a flaming maple is hidden to the right of house scenes… in the woods some brilliant scarlet and orange and lots of gold… soon to turn cinnamon rust and ochre. Also pictured one of my favorite hemlocks…this one probably almost two hundred years old – I love scuffling through the newly fallen leaves – I am surprised at how many leaves are gone – trees are bare along the roadsides but- if you only have a few trees the season is short – not so in the forest! A stunning fall day all around. The dogs and I walked together as usual and then I put them in their carriers and went off alone exploring – everyone gets to have fun! In between walks we have snacks and I sit in the back of the car which is set up for relaxing! We didn’t get home last night much before dark. Toads were trillIng and so were the tree frogs alerting me to coming rain and rising humidity. Finally! I get my first real look at a grouse – the bird’s beautiful tail is like a fan… here at home I am always flushing them but so far none are staying visible … I love these birds and haven’t seen them since summer when mama paraded her chicks through the edge of the ferns…they are the number one game bird in Maine though overall their numbers are plunging – what craziness … another young deer ran across one of the leaf strewn paths – with rain due we will lose more leaves but the softer colors will then come into their own…

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Did you know that when you see two trees in a forest that look like they are joined they are! Underground their roots run into each other fusing vascular systems to become a single tree. They have thousands of miles of living fungal threads that feed and care for their young and old.

I always wondered about what was happening underground when I saw trees like this and today science confirms what I suspected.

A long time ago I lost my only sibling and ever since then whenever I see two trees growing together I think of the two of us. We were very close… today I suspect our roots are still connected somewhere outside space or time.

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Two days of rain have stripped many trees of leaves and opened the forest beyond my overflowing brook…

This is a perfect time of year to go looking for the old tree trunks left by sustainable logging (long ago now) in forests that are protected like mine is.

Did you know that an old tree trunk or rotting log is home to more living tissues than a living tree?

Everything needs dead trees…. birds, mammals and plants. tens of thousands of invertebrates, 3/4 of the amphibians in an area, reptiles and other animals that keep down the pests that kill other trees – are just a few examples.

I have a habit of stopping in the woods at these tree trunks and fallen logs to count the species of lichen, mosses, tree seedlings and ground covers that I can see. The numbers are mind bending and I know that what I’m seeing is just a fraction of what is there…

These old tree trunks are seed beds for so many trees and whenever you see a tree on a little ‘hill’ you can be sure it grew out of an old cut. In a forest where the tree trunks are left behind there really is no such thing as death – everything is in a state of becoming.

The pictures were taken in my favorite forest over the summer…

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When we are fully engaged with the present the past loses power – if we have learned what we needed the past loses meaning – we allow it to take its place in the context of the whole – this perspective changes everything… (me)

Four inches of rain and my brook is deepening and widening even more – so good for the trout ! Off to the woods where the understory has come into its own… bare spires on top and gold and glowing orange below … rivers overflowed their banks…. Amazing how many leaves stayed on the trees. By mid afternoon the dogs and I were hot! They retired to carriers and me to the cozy nest in my little hatchback to write a poem – lovely day!

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Robin Wall Kimmerer has my heart. She believes that we need more

 common names for plants like mosses and lichens so that we can move into relationship with them. It’s hard she says to develop a personal relationship with something that has a name you can’t pronounce!

I have Been making up my own names for so many woodland friends for years – Because I have such clear images I have no trouble looking them up. Yesterday I found a clump of ‘reindeer lichen’ – it was gray when the rain should have turned it brilliant lime green… shown is one of the babies that is bright green – it turns out this favorite has become endangered. It is very sensitive to air pollution which should be a warning to all…

Lichens are amazing ancient creatures composed of algae, fungi and bacteria.

The outrageous colors of the oak captured my attention too.

Hours of walking and me relaxing in my open car…

Water like glass!


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“Time is one spreading ring wrapped around another, outward and outward until the thinnest skin of NOW depends for its being on the enormous mass of everything that has already died”

Richard Powers

I had a real sense of this yesterday after visiting my friend Al – scientist/ professor researcher experimental chemist who works at the Mineral and Gem museum. He showed me slices of Time! In the world of stromatolites- the long long period where Life began – these creatures first appeared not too long after Earth was born – I had no idea. Of course they came and went but Life survived 5 extinctions up to now…. Seeing these slices gives me hope for all life to evolve no matter what we do to destroy the planet and ourselves of course, though we never bother to think about the latter. 

The stone cane from the Emmons Mine… more rain and finally this morning my first partridge is visiting under the bird feeder. They are so shy it takes them awhile to trust me enough – we go through this every year – this is a young one. My two deer were feeding at the door as usual. But mama snorted at me when I let the dogs out!

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Every morning it is the same. I go to the front door and there they are eating crabapples…these pictures of Little Deer were taken yesterday morning as he rounded the house along with some mountain scenes on our walk in between the rain. Some oaks turn that deep mole brown, one here is bright orange – oaks seem to change into so many colors and the mountains are still quite beautiful if you like the softer colors. I love them all…the picture that looks like pale yellow is my oldest witch hazel that has so many finger blossoms that they cover every branch on the understory tree. The other two still have leaves. I love this tree that blooms at a time when every other tree is losing her leaves when this one loses leaves to bloom!. Many many robins and white throated sparrows and juncos and the titmouse is back – the robins are feasting on the small crabapples.

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Did you know that hemlocks can live 800 years?

Some of Harvard’s Forest ecologists have been studying these trees for a long time – they are considered to be a “Foundational Tree” – Harvard’s 3000 acre forest contains a sizable number of hemlocks and while my brother was at Harvard I spent a lot of time visiting that forest – he and I were natural forest dwellers who loved all trees. My brother was also a well known international runner who held the record for the steeplechase until about 20 years ago – he graduated in 1971 – dying soon after –

Anyway, Hemlocks structure forest ecosystems from top to bottom controlling the streams, ponds and wetlands which is why they are considered a foundational tree. They do this by producing shady cool conditions and by laying down an incredibly thick layer of needles..I am drawn to these trees because they also create conditions for plant diversity although not directly.

One of the things I love about this time of year is that the evergreens once again come to the forefront…dark forest green also takes over more photosynthesizing as the leaves of deciduous trees fall…

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Terry Tempest Williams writes about “ Finding Beauty in a Broken World” one way to do this is to appreciate all the beauty this Earth has to offer…I stopped at the local land trust to do just that yesterday.

 WWF has come out with a new study that informs us that 70 percent of our wildlife has disappeared in the last 50 years…. Always more studies but nothing done on a corporate level to make any meaningful change. Some days I feel like I live in a parallel universe.

I was walking through the field to the river when I spied something white in the high grass. An EGG???? It took me a moment to process this strange phenomenon before picking it up – a duck egg??? I just don’t know but I had to bring it home! Photo taken while egg sits in one of my wren’s nests!

Yesterday I counted colors – sun and sunset yellow, gold, ochre, bronze and rust… oaks are deep cinnamon or brown, beech are gold tipped in bronze and poplars are are sun or sunset yellow – other wise the forest is quite bare – most leaves on the ground… the oaks turn red in the late afternoon sun – stunning to sit in the field and watch the color deepen… I was thinking that this year the leaves were in too much of a hurry to leave… almost all are insect ridden – of all only poplar some oaks and beech are somewhat free of damage. The changes in our forests are troubling and so easy to see.

I wish these dedications to community forests didn’t include children. With all the “ right” officials present to sanction the validity and importance of these recreation spots the pressure is on. Why are the young people being taught that that all this will be there for their children and grandchildren to enjoy? Have the young people been inculcated into the collective lie that we older people are living? Pretending that all is well when earth is in crisis and we have no idea what is going to happen in the next 10 years…wouldn’t it be wiser to teach our children that difficult changes are ahead so that they will be prepared? All we have to do to begin teaching them about what’s happening to earth is to take them for a walk in falling leaves.

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Terry Tempest Williams writes about “ Finding Beauty in a Broken World” one way to do this is to appreciate all the beauty the this Earth has to offer…I stopped at the local land trust to do just that yesterday.

WWF has come out with a new study that informs us that 70 percent of our wildlife has disappeared in the last 50 years…. Always more studies but nothing done on a corporate level to make any meaningful change.

 Some days I feel like I live in a parallel universe.

I was walking through the field to the river when I spied something white in the high grass. An EGG???? It took me a moment to process this strange phenomenon before picking it up – a duck egg??? I just don’t know but I had to bring it home! Photo taken while egg sits in one of my wrens nests!

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A golden day – the dogs and I walked up a mountain with me peering into the woods now that there is once again some depth – saw two deer and one grouse – the few understory trees were astonishing along with tall yellow poplars- I was scuffling along in the fallen leaves loving the sound when one young beech sapling caught my attention – feeling compelled I went over to touch her leaves – I often do this with trees – touching them when I get that sense – can’t explain it but it’s as if one ‘calls’ me but usually this happens with old trees…. When I was standing under her something said ‘ take a picture’ and so I did! One of the advantages of silence and walking alone is that presence – always there – seems particularly open to communication – it could be any plant or tree and always I am infused with pleasure. The forest is so alive!

When we returned to the car the dogs napped and I read 3 chapters in the back of the open car on stromatolites which are primitive structures produced by early life forms that lived 3.5 billion years ago – they were found everywhere in rocks and Cyanobacteria produced them. When I read about these ancient life forms 3.5 billion years ago I enter deep time… no matter what happens life will endure!

I am going to ‘ earth school’ visiting my friend and scientist Al once a week to learn more about the particulars! And reading in between our talks. 

A perfect ending to a glorious day…

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Yesterday was a river day – calm winds made being by the water a dream – I happen to love this river that winds its way through the mountains. Indigenous peoples once called it the river of rock shelters or the river to smoke fish at the falls ( Rumford )… although still not meeting clean water act standards in parts (running by the mills where our beautiful trees are ‘processed’ into pulp – there is irony there)- the water is generally clear open to all fishing etc and once it was so polluted no one could use it.… frightening how disrespectful people have been to such a magnificent body of water that meets Merrymaking Bay… in the late afternoon I walked through a primarily oak and beech forest – more gold and look at that startling red oak.

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The female cardinal on the ground – she blends in so well you can’t see her and either can predators. I’m certain she knows that because she comes in during the day – robins white throated sparrows and lots of juncos…lots of woodpeckers too the nuthatches and chickadees will fly on my shoulder or head unless I have a camera!

Yesterday I went to “ Earth school” again – I have forgotten how much I love to be a student with probably the best teacher I have ever had! That’s human anyway. What looks like a plain old rock is actually 2.4 billion years old and it is possible to “read” what the stone says. The striated lines show where microbes created mats – not yet photosynthesizing but alive.- the pinkish area shows blue green algae that were photosynthesizing – huge storms blot out the particulars in the middle – I’m making it sound as if this was a linear process – it was not. The rock is a slice of deep time. I keep touching it with a sort of wonder! Amazing how this brilliant scientist can teach in such a way that I can actually read the stone! I can see that this is going to be an adventure.. note the red oak – suddenly now that so many leaves are gone brilliant ..

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A crack opens in gray sky and blue streams through after days of drizzle that I barely engaged with due to severe reaction from COVID booster – worst so far. Makes me question the “ one size fits all “ mentality of western medicine… women’s bodies are so much more complex than those of men and if medicine is tested at all it is tested on men…

Walked dawn to the brook – now that trees are bare the evergreens come into their own…I am so pleased to have so many young hemlocks sprouting up along the brook. 

These evergreens as previously mentioned in another post are a “ foundational species” meaning that their presence structures the forests around them – keeping temperatures cool, purifying the waters – they control the flow of streams and ponds as well as wetlands… maybe most important they lay down a thick carpet of needles sometimes more than a foot deep that contain seeds that might be a thousand years old or more. Some birds will not nest anywhere else. 

Long term prognosis for their survival is not good because of the wooly Adelgid infestation which so far has not reached these trees of mine or those of large forested areas that I spend a lot of time in . These places have not been logged recently possibly giving the hemlocks a better chance of survival for awhile – was talking to scientist friend on Monday about this idea and he agrees – Leave the trees alone!

And still we log unsustainably instead of creating plantations for wood products..

Worse we use doublespeak to confuse the public: 

“ Log to create habitat for wildlife “

Are they serious?

It’s hard to believe that I had about 1000 crabapples outside my door approximately 3 weeks ago…now there are none or rather a hidden one or two that Red Deer or Little Deer has missed – even the turkeys are scratching without finding tidbits…. Red Deer is absent – hunting season begins tomorrow for deer and mating season is underway – we have too many deer thanks to state wildlife inflation of population which also brought in Lyme ticks – this same organization re-introduced the wild turkeys that we extirpated about 40 years ago- now “half of Mainers are sick of turkeys” runs a headline – they want them killed. Turkey hunting season extends until the end of the first week in November – we’ve been killing turkeys all month.

 We treat the animals that we bring in as totally expendable without any sense of responsibility – these animals will be shot by trophy hunters and anyone else with a gun to satisfy some twisted need. Not for food as once was the case – for fun. Yesterday I read that a 13 year old “bagged” her first moose – a girl no less – Great. These poor animals are nothing more than pawns in a human game called ‘let’s kill because we can. It’s a “tradition” belonging to colonialism – beginning with the immigrants.

 Worst of all the animals have no dignity let alone personhood… with 70 percent of wild animals extinct hunting has become a travesty and still the killing goes on. I know one thing. To use animals to satisfy the need to kill that appears embedded in the human psyche backfires on the killers themselves because what we do to animals we do to ourselves. The urgent question to ask is who are we killing off in ourselves? Kindness empathy compassion might be clues…

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Robin Wall Kimmerer talks about her childhood. She says that she had woods and field but no Indigenous elders to teach her, so she went to the forest and let the woods and plants become her teachers…this is my story too…

Yesterday the dogs and I took to the woods – I was still recovering from booster but knew I had to get outdoors. With no goal in mind we meandered and then to my great surprise and pleasure I discovered a new beaver pond in the making! Since beavers remind me of my dad this discovery came at an important time… my dad died in early November one year a long time ago…. I am fascinated by the way these first ecologists work in such a way that the land is changed for the better – we so need our wetlands. I came home refreshed and more peaceful. Sometimes a simple walk can make a difference. I hear my body crying go out go out and I go….

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the “Echo –Makers” – the glory and the blessing.

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We have them here in Maine!


I had to go back….the cranes were calling…I left at first light and arrived in fog that had just risen- I looked everywhere no cranes – and then suddenly there they were. Transfixed I got out of the car – some were close by but one, a male, greeted me three times before turning to the others… brrrrr that strange guttural haunting – there were geese cranes and me transported – I lost time- more flew in and others left.. wheeling in the sky – circling disappearing and floating to the ground legs dangling – touchdown the bounce and more wild greetings. More than a hour passed before I realized I had taken no pictures! As always I enter crane-land to uncover the complex relationships. Younger cranes were sandwiched between a few parents – some were dancing – memories of the Bosque del Apache fluttered – I witnessed so many scenes like this one… there too focusing on the relationships… the geese were leaving and as they did I noticed that the cranes moved back towards the treeline – I’d seen this before too – the sky was full of birds soaring in a circles – oh it was just beyond belief – all of it. Like a dream. I spent about two and a half hours there and didn’t want to go. I did count cranes but because they flew and settled it was hard to be sure – maybe 27 in all? Hundreds of beloved geese. One male, the one that greeted me kept up his calling. His intention apparently was to get the others all together – it took him almost two hours and a few refused! I did take some close ups but haven’t downloaded them yet. There was one small group that stayed near the edge of the field close by with the general! The others were scattered…what a morning to say good bye and to wish all cranes a safe journey…

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End of year… Nature is turning towards winter.

Morning Meditations

‘Morning Meditations’

 Morning Meditations’ initially evolved out of my need to document pre – dawn wonder as I walked to the river each morning in the dark one winter. Once I entered my neighbor’s Bosque I would walk the same path in a circle, listen to river songs, the calls of the geese and watch the sky as stars faded and the sky lightened.  The haunting cries of Sandhill cranes in unison haunted me, embodying soul as they rose out of the marsh, prehistoric birds with a six foot wingspread etching the sky in silhouette, dark shadows overhead… I would return to the house just as the sun broke through mist, as a white ball of pure blinding light. 

I had never used FB until I lived in New Mexico and discovered friends that did. At first after these winter walks I simply posted pictures. Eventually words would come to me spontaneously and I would add a phrase or two. Most folks don’t spend pre-dawn time at the river and so my photographs may have allowed others to experience something of the glory that I did every single morning.

After a number of these walks I noticed that they seemed to help balance me for the rest of the day. Gradually I began to look forward to both – the walk – and the reflection. What I discovered the only summer I spent in NM was that I would have been completely housebound due to the heat without these treks which became longer and longer because I was also trying to get in 3 – 4 miles of exercise before intolerable heat struck. Because the actual length of the journey to and from the river and Bosque was less than a mile I retraced a circular path in the Bosque over and over. 

The first winter after I began this practice I noted that this walking often allowed me to enter a light trance state under which startling insights would appear, or a morning’s dream message would become clear. More rarely a vision. Although I never posted what occurred during these trance states I kept track of them. 

As a naturalist I am happiest when I am physically immersed in forest, mountain or stream. Entering the holy place I call NOW, embodiment frees me. I am no longer separate. Afterwards comes the need to reflect, and to share, along with the earnest hope that people who see these photographic  – meditations might be genuinely moved by them and by extension motivated to do something about the Earth crisis we are in…

 When I returned to Maine I discovered I needed to continue the practice I had begun in NM. Here though, unless it is summer, I am not driven out the door in the predawn, but if I look at the pictures I have taken the day before ideas surface. For me images always precede the word.  It must be said that every day I am moved to photograph something,ordinary happenings around my house, by the water, or in the woods. 

At dawn I look at yesterday’s images and then write. I never plan what I write beforehand so mistakes are commonplace. My reading influences what I write in surprising ways. Occasionally words or phrases seem to attach themselves to my images in ways that I don’t understand, at least initially. Every day that passes without the kind of change that Culture needs to embrace that will allow us all to survive leaves me even more committed. I post with the intent – the wild hope that some will begin seeing, sensing feeling or listening… using their bodily senses to hear the cry… 

 After a crisis a few years ago when I came to the realization that my years of nature writing didn’t change peoples minds or their behavior, I concluded that I still had to keep writing, because writing about nature helps me survive.  

Robin Wall Kimmerer speaks of the need for developing an attitude of reciprocity toward nature. In her way of thinking gratitude is the key. Although I don’t think this is the whole story, one way I thank nature for saving my life and keeping me sane each day hinges on these morning meditations that always remind me of how much I love this blue-green planet.

My earnest hope is that sharing these posts with an even larger audience might invite others to do the same thing – take a closer look at what’s around in their backyard. We save what we love. We are part of nature and using our senses to interact with any tree, plant, animal will bring us closer to “home” both inside and outside. As Overstory’s author Richard Powers states, “Something is always Listening.”

Hemlock Piercing

Imagining a New Story

This submerged hemlock skeleton spent many years under water protected by resins and tannins that kept the wood intact, smoothing her edges, deepening grooves and portals allowing churning waters and storm surges to shape her- How old are you I ask? But the dead don’t speak.

When I first brought the wooden sculpture to camp dredging it up from the bottom of a pond at midsummer (July 31- Mid -summer Turning) it made me uncomfortable although the shape intrigued me – such curves – an oval opening where a limb once reached for the sun….odd breast – like protrusions. This piece of driftwood seemed to hold a message I did not want to hear… 

Since then I have watched and waited patiently for meaning to emerge and when I finally wrote “Hemlock Piercing” last week reluctant insights seeped in – this was the other side of the hemlocks I adored. The first spoke to me of Life, 800 years strong ‘ the redwood of the east’ not yet taken down by logging or insect infestation… I hoped that in depth research would support my fierce hope that this glorious ‘foundation tree’ will live on despite logging, a warming climate and insect invasion. But Harvard scientists/ecologists are saying the hemlocks will not be able to make the transition… insects and climate change will one day have their way…This tree survived the last glacial period, and a steep decline 5000 years ago rebounding up until recently because loggers had little use for her. Today these magnificent trees are uprooted with all the rest, and ground up for pulp for paper, and mulch for gardens. Trucked everywhere, the insect that is destroying the hemlocks lives on in the mulch ready to attack more hemlocks. Perhaps hemlock patterns and proteins will resurrect this mighty tree once again, or slow her dying in places where s/he still lives intact with a forest that supports her. But I do not know. All but 2 percent of our mighty old growth forests are gone destroying the context for tree survival. One tree does not a forest make.

Regardless, Hemlock Piercing reminds me that my heart must be open to whatever lies ahead. 

 Fallen leaves and bare trees remind me that it is the end of nature’s cyclic year in the north. The bones of the mountain, granite stones and ledges have appeared in the last week and soon snow (or more likely ice) will cover us all in white…at this time I acknowledge how difficult this year has been, the precious time, writing, money that I have lost. I try hard to understand and accept what keeps me chained to grief.

 Is the ‘eye’ of the wood speaking to me? The bones of this dead hemlock, submerged for so long may reflect death and the emptiness that has bored a hole through me… But I also imagine this airy space left by a dead limb as a possible way through…PS without imagination there is no possibility of writing a new story…