December Meditations


Erosion anyone? When the soil is gone this is what happens… what about Maine’s famous “ beauty way” – 6 feet of trees left along the side of the road so people can’t see the devastation occurring behind it – here they didn’t bother at all. Are we aware that with industrial logging like this that we have no idea WHAT will grow because it takes 50 – 100 years to find out and the logging machine has only been operating for roughly 40 years.

If we don’t protect more land and trees one day in the not too far future our once beautiful ‘pine tree state’ will look like this. Is that what people want? What about the children? This legacy is one to be ashamed of.


Some think of feeling joy as an experience of lightheartedness.

For others joy is more about fierce engagement and deep concentration. 

For me, it’s both.

Morning sunrise on the mountain…outdoors tipping the rest of my greens out of the wind and in silence, and then returning to the house to work a little on my terrarium (amazing that such a small piece of the forest can bring such deep pleasure) then cutting out frames for wreaths – while listening to Andreas Bocelli – this must be the Italian in me coming to the fore because this man was born to sing sacred arias…Lily b loves Bocelli and often sings along! It was while I was in the process of clearing table for wreath making that I found myself giving thanks for being aware of PROCESS joy – nothing quite like it… Lady bugs hibernating!

Winter walk through frosty field – two bucks scooting into the brush…later another forest walk – hemlock hollow is especially beautiful – with all the leaves gone and mosses frozen in ice forming on the water I suddenly “saw” the exquisite beauty of the simplicity that winter brings moving from empty into fullness- this is an amazing time of the year. Lichens, Farinose and Usnea look so alike I confuse them – these sage greens provide such a contrast to decaying leaf strewn floor. Pincushion mosses pop up like balls of green carpet but my favorite lichen Lobaria pulmonaria is scarce – too sensitive to pollution it is disappearing around the world…I love its leafy texture – leathery when frozen – this one has three different organisms that work together as one plant fungus, cyanobacteria and green algae – the latter two providing the plant with the ability to photosynthesize… grouse everywhere exploding out of the brush and me in a state of joy taking such sweet pleasure in the three hemlock sisters that belong to one tree! These three are totally entwined. If I don’t get back before the snow comes I will have had this exquisite day – last year’s broken foot will make it impossible to get out here after the snow flies – at home a warm fire, sweet fragrant balsam and me noticing once again that when dogs and I sit on the couch our passionflower that faces the window hums, turns and stretches her tendrils towards us – these plants speak with a clarity that astounds me!


The practice of magic is nothing more than a shift in perception.

Nature orchestrates these shifts when I am in an open and receptive state… 

Colors intensify as do shapes – the simple act of gazing into clear water or up at one of my fir trees or at a glorious lichen growing out of a small stump can transport me!

Afterwards when I look at the pictures I took I want practical information especially when it comes to lichens that are notoriously hard to identify – I know for example that this one is some kind of Cladonia – a pixie lichen? Not sure!

Yesterday was Earth School devoted almost entirely to frog conversation – frustrated I ask why I cannot find in depth research on these frogs – my scientist friend says simply “ no one cares”. OH.


Trees and Turkey Tales are on my mind…

I just had a response from someone who is as concerned as I am about the loss of our forests… I had just written a two – part article on hemlocks for the local paper – the Citizen (the latter of which got botched somehow) and this person’s response heartened me because she and her husband are so distraught about what’s happening to our forests… I have written before about hemlocks – that they are a foundation tree that affects the entire ecosystem around them – I spend time with these trees in my favorite forest – and I am hoping that because this area has been protected by caring people that these trees might live to see old age… I include pictures of one tree that became three! I call this one “The Three Sisters”.

In this same forest I find turkey tail mushrooms and I include pictures of some I took this fall – a saprophyte, they are also used medicinally –

And, of course here I include today’s turkey convocation!

Chickadee calling for breakfast.

Yesterday was blustery so I stayed home and finished more wreaths for myself and others who want the scent of balsam to permeate the house but choose not to kill a tree to get it. The terpenes are so powerful the house smells like a tree… when I finally walk the sun is setting, the wind has quieted and alpine glow radiates from the mountains as I walk through my field


I was listening to an interview last night between Richard Powers and someone else. Powers made the salient point that outer space exploration has so far shown us that we are probably unique ( the Fermy paradox ) – earth is special and that this should help us turn our attention to this planet so that we might focus on caring for and about her…with the awareness that S/he is deserving of our love attention respect.

The picture of the moon is one I couldn’t have planned on – it is literally a moon held by the trees – and this is the month we celebrate the Tree of Life couched in whatever religion.

The river is winter blue and I spent time trying to figure out where the beaver is stashing his logs ! A bank beaver for sure – he has to drop them at least twenty feet down to hit the water.

The branches of the silver maples are full of buds – startling in December.

Hope needs something to perch on.

Yesterday was a home day with me writing and watching birds. In the afternoon I listen to Emergence’s podcast on “ecological technology” a critical look at how we can bring technology into a story that may be able to help us see and understand that more than human intelligence is real – the tendency to let technology separate us from earth wisdom is what has created this earth crisis… not a technology fan in general ( although I am extremely grateful for computers and phones) I was so impressed with this podcast because it grounded me in real possibility and genuine hope has to be predicated on real information not just an attitude developed to keep us suspended in delusion. Emergence is free – please listen more than once – lots of good stuff here   (Interview James Bridle)

Imagine, horned frogs bite! They have back curved teeth that hook you -and according to scientist friend Al they can also be bad tempered! They hiss when annoyed. Frogs are 300 million years old – imagine what a person could learn from one if ‘other than human intelligence’ was acknowledged. What I want to know is when did they start singing. Al believes it was quite early on.Earth school is so much fun, I never know what I’ll learn next. Yesterday’s conversation stretched from frog talk to Spiritus Loci and finished with stories told in the old ways about solstice gatherings and the meanings behind them…


Pale winter sunrise, a dusting of white and cheeps whistles and clucks begin the day before dawn with the chickadees at the window followed by nuthatches and titmice – so hard to capture the little ones coming and going – they have less than two hours before the squirrels arrive! – one giant turkey makes pitifully small cries below the window to let me know he needs more food. Yesterday I tried unsuccessfully to capture some of turkeys glorious colors in the morning sun – impossible – rainbows on the move – a trip to the river – another goodbye – poignant since I won’t be snowshoeing this winter because of last year’s broken foot… late afternoons sitting by the fire draw me into reverie- all the stories told long ago seem to come alive in the fire – an element we acknowledge with respect at this time of year as those did before us…

This has been a week for stories. Yesterday I read a children’s story that begins….

“ On my first Maine Christmas a woodsman gave to me

One dark – green WILD ( capitals are mine)pine tree”. 

This book otherwise mimics the 12 days of Christmas with 12 pine trees illustrated as sitting in pots as gifts for the children.

The message runs clear – trees are expendable – and taking them from the forest is a good thing.

My question to all: isn’t this the wrong message to be sending to our children?

Shouldn’t we be teaching our next generation how to protect the three percent of mature trees that are still living instead of removing them?

The river runs swiftly and ice tumbled through the churning waters – quite a beautiful sight.

I spent much of the day outdoors walking there and around here. Heavy snow due tomorrow.

First Congratulations to the Northeast Wilderness that has saved another 25,000 acres in New England – The Blue Mountain Wilderness Sanctuary will be left ‘forever wild’ – no more logging roads vehicles etc. This land will be left to heal herself…

With winter on its way I turn my attention to my indoor plants that provide me with green just as the evergreens do…

Most exciting is the terrarium I have filled with bits and pieces of plants, lichen mosses and fungi from my favorite forest. My scientist friend directed its basic construction – pebbles and good soil, and I chose plants that normally live together… I am hoping to create a mycelial network that will support not only the whole environment but become a healthy habitat for Al’s baby frogs, whenever they are ready. Every morning I open the little doors and the scent of breathing forest wafts through the air….so far all plants seem to be thriving…

Plant cognition is the study of the mental capacities of plants – how they respond and learn from their surroundings. Darwin first studied this ability … Dr Monica Gagliano is studying plant memory and has demonstrated that plants learn by association and can anticipate events. Like scientists Simard and Kimmerer she has spent time with Indigenous peoples who have never lost access to this knowing.

Having been a plant woman all my life I too have learned a lot from plants. Gagliano states that plants ‘speak’ and we hear what they have to say by listening with our bodies. This has been my experience too.

The fact that science in the service of willful blindness still denies these truths is more about a distorted paradigm than anything else.

Frogs of the future included.


While we are buried in white this little tree frog enchants me with his extraordinary pads…

My friend – scientist Al tells me my powers of observation allow me entrance into other dimensions. He’s right of course. There is no magic here just an ability to pay attention – when we do the ordinary opens a door that is already there.

My second memory as a baby was tied up with “seeing” and the first pictures of myself that I drew showed a little girl without any features except eyes.


“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves”

Thomas Merton

Morning light – the pale pink- a relief from monochromatic gray and white. One brave turkey and cardinal in the tree waiting for seed…


Crossing the Abyss

Mountains of snow

smother flight

unable to escape

monochromatic gray

trees bow double

break under lead

trapped birds 


No choice

but to be

‘With What Is’

What if I cannot

Cross the abyss?

Red bird is Witness

An intrepid turkey

chortles Yes!

“ The wound is the place where the Light enters you…”Rumi

Yesterday skies cleared. It felt so good just to be walking, appreciating… with 28 inches of snow on the ground I was amazed to see intrepid turkeys deal with floundering and taking flight to reach the house – their fall abundance has ended and with this much snow it is impossible to dig for seed so I am scattering seed. They arrived again before day break from across the brook- I love the sounds of contentment they make . Wild turkeys are fascinating birds to watch and so bright. After road walking I light the wreath and tree and sit in the living room in the fading twilight – my absolutely favorite winter pattern/ pass – time – and I always have cocoa…With all the weather disruptions – three inches of rain after more snow this weekend will make walking anywhere impossible if we get it – it is comforting to have it get dark when it is supposed to this time of year – this cyclic seasonal pattern remains intact – nothing else does.


Today is the winter solstice – this is a Fire festival -Europeans and Indigenous peoples wore masks as they danced around bonfires. Why the masks? To protect the wearer’s identity from the dark spirits that roamed in the night- Winter was a dangerous time. If you attend Indigenous dances today you will still see those masked dancers… new age folks turned this festival into one of light… as the wheel turns to winter challenges are ahead… the winter solstice gives all an opportunity to turn inward – to do shadow work – a time to rest and reflect

…it will be weeks before the sun grows stronger….some call that next turning “ First Light.”

Yesterday the turkeys were hilarious peeping in at every window the first arriving just before daybreak – such intrepid birds… one mountain picture that reveals the skidder marks where trees are not – once a lush green mountain – the others are covered in alpine glow.


“ These days scientists are starting to talk like shamans and shamans are starting to talk like scientists”.

Anthropologist Jeremy Narby

Marrying science to our senses – seeing feeling intuiting etc is marrying our minds to our bodies – only then can we access nature’s mysteries.


I am fortunate to have both scientists and one shaman in my life – people who validate what I believe is true though the public does not, sadly.

Yesterday’s conversation revolved around this issue with my shaman friend who says simply “ people do not observe” and without this willingness to see we will remain as we are. A frightening thought. Even the word intelligence is problematic because the dictionary meaning states that it is a human attribute.

I prefer using the words ‘developing awareness’ when I can to get around intelligence which is the idea that only humans can make this determination about other species. Unbelievable arrogance – hubris which is creating its own “fall”.

 Around here turkeys arrive the moment seed is on the ground. I discover a bunch of them are roosting in Mother Pine outside my door. This arrival gets Lily b’s attention! Oh, how much I want to get this on camera – there is something about these giant birds catapulting out of tall trees that is amazing to watch!

I am already sick of the foot thick blobs of snow stuck to the trees. Tonight more snow and then rain – lots of it and then a freeze… winter has begun.

“ The past provides CONTEXT and CONSTRAINTS for the future for animals, plants”( and people -me) resilience can fold into catastrophe” ( can’t remember which scientist made this statement)

A critically important concept

In the biosphere resilience is deeply entwined with memory – the ability of a system to find its way back into equilibrium following a perturbation…a forest has memory that contains information that allows for adaptation to fires drought and extreme temp changes. These memories can be lost or diminished when environmental changes occur too rapidly – our human induced changes are reducing the capacity of the whole forest to recover (forests are just one example) – because these changes occur so slowly observers may mistake breakdown for resilience.

All week I have been looking at the trees bowed limbs laboring under leaden snow – this morning we have rain thank god and not snow that is helping the trees to shed their miserable burden but temps will shoot into 50s and then plunge into single numbers by nightfall – at least 40 degree shift freezing whatever is left solid –

Because I live in the woods, I am aware that all our trees – the ones left – are under stresses like never before and the question I have is whether we have just gone too far with our selfishness and indifference.

Meanwhile I take comfort in turkeys and this morning I saw my first grouse – every year around this time I see one – a partridge in a pear tree!

Blessings to the ground birds – every single one – and to the trees who support them


“We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understanding and our hearts” 

William Hazlitt

I think we see nature when we allow ourselves to become part of who S/he is… – a different kind of seeing – being from the inside looking out…

Yesterdays maelstrom was brutal – no power again and torrential rains saturated the snow – early last evening after shoveling as best as I could it was so warm I opened the windows to listen to the roaring river whose banks cut deeper into the little gorge… Fresh air permeated the house – now with almost a 50 degree drop we are living in a frozen world – though one where the trees are freed from their heavy burden- you see my favorite wrinkled lettuce lichen – note in the close up the brown edges which are the fruiting bodies of this amazing organism – this dawning pink sky and turkeys crossing the brook chortling and cheeping warms my heart- not one slept in the mother pine – too windy!


Last night I thought about Saint Francis who authored the nativity scene in about 1200AD one of my favorite stories- as my animals gathered round a Festival of Lights with candles and trees and lights. Frogs are visiting and turkeys begin today clucking with anticipation of breakfast… here they get fed not eaten!.. One a cannonball in flight! Best of all a Blessed Silence permeates the balsam sweetened air…

Imagination can turn a boundary into a horizon…

Barry Lopez

Dr Monica Gagliano a plant scientist says much the same thing with respect to doing good science. One of her most famous experiments showed us that plants not only hear sound but gravitate to water and learn how to avoid being tricked by machines. Her experiences in the Amazon with plants taught her that plants speak – not through words but through her body – anyone can begin to listen but imagination must open the closed door she says- the one Aristotle initiated by stating arrogantly that plants had no feelings and were only useful as things – my lifetime experiences have taught me that plants do speak – but we have to learn to listen – I was fortunate to have had my first experience with a plant as a baby –so perhaps the conditioning of my culture had a crack in it from the beginning….plants are intelligent – perhaps more so than people? They have certainly been around longer …. I have had amazing experiences with passionflowers who die when given to unkind or mean people which I stupidly did….just yesterday one plant answered a question I posed instantly – the one pictured is moving across my bedroom and allows me to watch her progress… my little forest is thriving and every time I open the door some plant speaks… naturally I am ridiculed for saying such things but I turn to my plants – we know – and science is catching up – imagination, respect for these Living Beings an open mind and heart and keen observation are what’s needed… Had such a good day yesterday! But walking a couple of miles left me grateful indeed for a warm fire at home…Blessings for all Living Things non- human – the ones without “ personhood” (for lack of a better word) according to the dominant culture – for anyone interested in plant stories read Gagliano book “ Thus Spoke the Plant” – this is my second time around!


“  Beloved Mother of all things I bow my head before you as I look deeply and recognize that you are present in me and that I am a part of you…” Love letters to the Earth    –  T N Hanh


“ Knowledge attained by conventional science is an intellectual enterprise abstracted from the subjective experience of the mind body and spirit”

Monica Gagliano – plant physicist

Until we marry ‘ objective’ (no such thing- remember the observer effect?) science with subjective experience,  science as a practice remains crippled – me

A perfect example of this is separating art from science. I include a piece done by a gifted artist in the 80s when she was told that “she was not spiritually in tune with the times”- what crap – forest devastation was just ‘ becoming’ —- many of our most gifted artists are way ahead of our time. 

I have been so fortunate to have scientist as friends in my life beginning about 40 years ago who were also way ahead of their time – Rupert Sheldrake being the first – scientists who could marry science with subjective experience and therefore were ostracized as Gagliano has been today …

I learn things at Earth School that I didn’t even know I wanted to learn! A lesson in chemistry took over the day

“I promise to keep the awareness alive that you are always in me, and I am always in you…your health and well being are my own health and well being”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Not even light and the wings of turkeys create their own song as they arrive … Lucy looks forward every morning to the arrival of Grey who intrigues us all as he peers in the window – friendship wrought in the fire.

And me winter foraging in the snow !


Fire, Ice and Usnea…yesterday two fantastic skies sandwiched under gray – whenever the winter sky catches fire I have two choices – stay here and watch it or run out and take pictures! It happens so fast that I always miss the astonishing and much beloved COLOR when I do the latter, so yesterday I just watched… I may do this more often – winter is monochromatic and I am starved for color! A blood red sky yesterday morning. Here come the turkeys…the moment i think about putting out food they’re here- telepathy is real – it’s still dark! This species of Usnea is hirta – one of about 600 species in Maine – now tinctured.

It was so mild that I spent most of the afternoon outdoors – the turkeys provided me with a trail to the brook where i sat listening to clear water and marveling over ice crystals – some shapes I have never seen before – freeze thaw global warming even changes ice forms.


“ Not all those who are wandering are lost”

Monica Gagliano – plant ecologist

Wandering happens to be one of my favorite pass times – and yesterday’s sun, 52 degree weather coupled with lack of wind enticed me to walk on open road close to home – a truly astonishing day -staring into receding ice and clear water and finding the birds nest with its broken blue shell fragment intact in the scrub were highlights

– even all the bald mountains didn’t seem so noticeable in the distance though the future remains veiled as to regeneration of life – so much diversity lost…. The turkeys were out and about on my road…but as soon as I returned they followed me home!

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