The Stone Man Crumbles

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“ A lack of empathy combined with arrogant stupidity and willful ignorance is an awesomely malevolent force to behold.”

 

He works in secrecy

always behind my back.

Never prepared

I am always stunned

by senseless cruelty.

Why can’t I feel the blood rising

a black cloud hovering,

over a baby pink horizon?

The axe is always poised

For be – heading blue.

 

I am not stupid,

Too trusting – yes

But I also know the story.

And it is true that

I once wanted both –

to live in two places

I made compromises

to do so –

working against this body

who has known from the

beginning that evil lurks

bubbling out of hidden human splits.

Chasms of the heart

run through reptilian crevices.

 

Extremes are his trademark

Too sweet, too forbidding,

And always in the Right.

Never Sorry.

Repentance an anathema.

When I refused to listen

body struck back with illness

dreams became nightmares

and still

I persisted.

Not believing myself.

 

So the problem

is not in him.

It’s me. I know

who he is

under the cloying sweetness.

Not a decent man.

A caricature.

Revenge his secret trademark

A man so needy

He cannot stand alone.

Building ugly stone edifices

he imagines he has created

an invincible

image of himself.

But rocks have a way

of crashing down

without warning,

shattering

illusions and bones.

 

He fools the unwary with politeness.

the greedy by casting money

(even at those who don’t want it).

Worst of all he lies…

And lies. And lies.

A man sculpted out of deceit.

Some people believe him.

 

I’m the one that looks like the fool –

or worse,

when I point the finger

exposing the truth.

And I am no innocent

having accepted my due.

I signed the devil’s bargain

the day I moved in here.

Once, I wanted to make this

mud house my own.

 

But the North Country Woman

cried out for rain,

wept for frog filled nights

for emerald green grass

deep blue flowing waters,

fields of wheat and wildflowers –

I imagined the silence of starry

nights when the earth is still…

and eventually felt

the peace of deer bedded

down in diamond studded snow.

 

First nudges, then longing …

Finally fierce aching followed by

a fearful and chaotic return.

Yet the steadfast love of bears

and a “call”

from the old man who loves them

helped me see.

It took three years,

But I am finding my way home.

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Bare Bones

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In the pure white sun dream

I wore a necklace –

bearstone and bone.

For months

meaning

eluded me,

but feeling

erupted

from within-

a volcano

was burning

somewhere

beyond me –

destructive fires,

my body knew.

And beyond that

stones and bones.

 

Extremes freeze authenticity.

 

Why is it

that I cannot

hold onto Dark

the way others do?

I keep shedding Shades

like outworn skins –

“Let them go” I pray,

missing the point completely.

An error bordering

on personal stupidity –

Sometimes

Shadow

casts a shroud

to create clarity.

Instead of berating

myself, I need

to look to others

to uncover

what’s hidden

in them.

I own my flaws.

There are dark

rooms in everyone’s house –

not just my own.

Black Capped Chickadee

 

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This morning after I returned from my early morning walk to the river I stood at the east window watching a few Black – Capped chickadees flying out of my adopted juniper to the bird feeder. Although there are other trees around, the thick cover provided by my arboreal friend is everyone’s favorite. I love to watch these birds delicately take one seed to eat or cache somewhere for the winter. There was so much activity around the juniper early this morning that I suspected that all the birds knew “a big wind” was coming, and were stocking up on seed early.

I tried to count the black-capped chickadees and reached the conclusion that I had about 4 – not exactly a flock. However, I am delighted to have even one pair here in Abiquiu. According to some sources there aren’t even supposed to be any in this area at all, but for three out of the four winters I have lived here I have always had a few.

Other sources say that Northern Mexico has a small population, and most remind us that Black capped chickadees are moving north because of Climate Change. Northern New Mexico is perched on the edge of Black-Capped chickadee extinction, so please enjoy these delightful little birds while we still have them. Even in Maine, those of us who are birdwatchers have been be –moaning the fact that we are seeing less and less of these iconic little birds each year. Most are moving north towards the boreal forests of Canadian Shield because there are still enough of the kinds of trees around to support healthy populations – for now.

This morning after watching the chickadees, sparrows and nuthatches flying in and out of my juniper I read some very disturbing information about junipers and sage in the Abiquiu News:

“A low-flying airplane will drop Tebuthiuron pellets*, a soil-applied herbicide that inhibits photosynthesis, on creosote bush and juniper trees. At the planned rate and timing of application, the herbicide will have minimal impact on desirable grasses and forbs. Because the herbicide is applied in pellet form, it will not drift from the treated areas (simply not true). When the pellets dissolve with favorable precipitation, (how do they know we will get it?) they are absorbed into the ground to a depth of approximately two feet and taken up by the target plants root system, eventually reducing the sagebrush density. The pellets will not be dropped near waterways or on slopes greater than 10%. Tebuthiuron has been used to thin many bush species including creosote bush and juniper trees since the 1980s, and the benefits of its application are well documented.” (By whom, and what was their agenda?)

 

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Soil Conservation folks believe that the objective of the treatments is to improve plant species diversity, which will benefit wildlife, rangeland and watershed health by reducing the density of sagebrush, and result in an increase of native grasses, forbs and other herbaceous vegetation.”

 

Benefit Wildlife? I was aghast reading this information because it neglects to mention that the junipers and sages provide necessary cover/food for so many birds in the Southwest, or that junipers and sage are better adapted to the drying conditions that are associated with Climate Change in the Southwest.

 

Truly, one hand does not know what the other is doing.

 

But to return to chickadees…

 

In Maine, perhaps because I live in a mixed confider and deciduous forest chickadees visit my feeders all summer. However, I happen to know that their summer diet also relies heavily on insects (spiders, caterpillars, snails etc) and berries. As some are aware, chickadees also love to eat fat. Just yesterday I put out my first suet seed cake. During the winter, chickadees also feast on insect pupae.

Pairs typically form in fall and remain together as part of winter flock. Flocks break up in late winter, and both male and females defend their nesting territory. During courtship and afterwards the males feed the females. Less frequently these days nest sites are found in the holes of trees. Chickadees like to line their nests with mosses or animal hair. In Maine some use tufts of hair (from my brush) that I leave in a little basket in a nearby juniper. I still have many woodpecker excavated holes because I allow all trees to live out their natural lives on my property, but some of my chickadees also use nest boxes.

The literature is very confusing when it comes to migration. Some sources suggest that chickadees are permanent residents but that they also move south in fall and winter (!). I believe that some are permanent residents, at least in Maine, but for reasons that are unknown others do migrate. Another bird mystery. Those that do stay in northern climates must be able to withstand little sun and very cold temperatures during the winter. These chickadees are able to lower their body temperature at night to enter regulated hypothermia, which allows them to conserve energy. Chickadees also have exceptional spatial memory, which allows them to re locate cached food.

Despite its once vast range, as a species the chickadees are remarkably homogeneous in their genetic make-up. The Black capped chickadee’s closest relative is the Mountain chickadee, another endearing avian creature. Although I have been on the lookout I have yet to see one in Abiquiu this fall.

 

* Some information on Tebuthiuron

(Wikipedia/ Cornell are sources)

Tebuthiuron is a “non -selective broad spectrum” herbicide (read: it kills a lot of living things).

The Environmental Protection Agency considers this herbicide to have “great potential for groundwater contamination, due to its high water solubility, low absorption to soil particles, and high persistence in soil.”

In Europe this herbicide has been banned since 2002.

Weeds that are controlled by tebuthiuron include alfalfa, bluegrasses, chickweed, clover, dock, goldenrod, mullein, etc.

My commentary: all these plants are beneficial to bees and other insects and they provide food for birds and animals.

ACUTE TOXICITY

Skin, eye or clothing contact with the herbicide should be avoided. This herbicide is classified as moderately poisonous. Symptoms of Tebuthiuron poisoning in rodents include lack of energy, loss of appetite, muscular incoordination and death. Vomiting occurred in cats and dogs.

Who benefits? Ranchers and big business at everyone’s expense.

 

Blessed Be the Words that Bind…

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“I fill a gap in your life;

I owe that to your brother.”

 

These words were spoken to me just a few days ago by a biologist/naturalist who has been a mentor and is now becoming a dear friend…

 

I can’t get the sentence out of my head. I am seventy – five years old, and once, a very long time ago, I had a little brother with whom I shared a mutual love of the natural world. I must have introduced him to frogs and birds because I was his older sister by three years, but I have no memory to fit any particular scene. It was as if we had always loved every living creature, spider and firefly, skunk, moon, frog, tree, and deer together. When he died I lost myself, and wandered through the underworld for many years.

 

Nature* saved me.

 

After hiding out in my house for eleven years because I couldn’t bear the anguish of witnessing the natural beauty of the changing seasons, bird song, the cacophony of spring peepers, the sound of the sea – my grief for the loss of my brother ran that deep – One day, Grace intervened. And I emerged like a butterfly who splits her chrysalis, and begins to dry her wings in the morning sun in readiness for eventual flight.

 

From then on I became Nature’s fiercest advocate dedicating my life to being emotionally present for every wondrous/terrifying event Nature presented me with. This resulted in my becoming a dedicated nature writer, teacher, Jungian analyst, and finally an ethologist accruing various degrees in the process.

 

I could never bring my brother back but I could live our legacy. As my relationships with animals both wild and tame (I always had dogs) deepened I became fascinated by interspecies communication because it became increasingly evident that reciprocity was part of every interaction I had with animals. I never discussed this idea with anyone for fear of ridicule but it was part of my secret everyday world…

 

Then I fell in love with wild Black bears, and eventually moved to the mountains of western Maine to be near them. To my great joy these wild animals appeared on my property which was small – I had twenty acres – mountain springs bubbled up in the woods, two sphagnum bogs provided cool moist refuges, and a brook ringed the property on three sides. Two feeder brooks cascaded down the mountain in the spring and early summer and a large marsh was full of spring grasses. The mixed deciduous and conifer forest had been cut before I bought the property and I promised the trees and the land that this forest would not be tampered with as long as I lived there…

 

Today, 35 years later walking through this undisturbed woodland still brings me the deepest peace.

 

I knew nothing about Black bears but when one followed me up the hill one spring evening I intuitively understood that a new phase of my life was beginning.

 

At first I was frightened as well as fascinated by our encounters, but gradually the bears taught me I had nothing to fear. One would appear on my doorstep waiting patiently for a snack; another decided I needed to wait until he had finished combing the ground for bird – seed before allowing me to go to the post office. Mothers nursed cubs outside my bedroom window after dusk. All came and went as they pleased, carving intricate paths around my house to avoid one another during mating season. I let the bears teach me how to behave around them. They enjoyed sitting or lying down close to me but were rarely interested in personal contact. One bear in particular loved to watch me garden. He would hide behind a screen of twigs and when I was finished planting he would dig up my seeds!

 

When my dog was dying another bear came and slept on my back porch. My bed hugged that wall and I could have literally touched him; we were that close. When I wept the bear would put his nose to the window to peer in at me, a gesture that comforted me like no other. Clearly deep compassion and curiosity and were an intricate part of some of these Black bears’ lives, I knew from personal experience, but oh so rarely could I find evidence of these behaviors in scientific literature, so I kept my observations/feelings to myself for years.

 

So often I longed for someone I could have discussed these subjects with….

 

Recognizing after a bit that I was studying Black bears in more than a casual way, I began an academic search that resulted in the discovery of this biologist and the eventual friendship that is now developing on a personal as well as it once did on an academic level. Although we have only met briefly, there is a sense of deep familiarity between us that I initially found astonishing, shocking, baffling, bewildering, mind-bending. I wonder if I will ever become accustomed to it.

 

We have a lifetime of common interests. We both began our lives as budding naturalists… His appreciation for Nature led him to become a scientist and a professional photographer. I once thought I too would study biology but a thirteen year’s old encounter with dead frogs (who were my friends) in biology class led to a trauma I never recovered from. Yet, this experience also set me free to study Nature in a way that was meaningful to me although I was never “successful” in the professional sense.

 

I am severely directionally dyslexic and cannot manipulate the simplest mechanical device and yet my amateur love of photography also captures something of the spirit of Nature with the simplest of images.

 

His lifetime dedication and brilliant cutting edge research in spite of almost impossible odds continues to be a model for me even as I continue my own research and advocate for all bears.

 

He is consistent in his actions, and consistency is a quality that I must have in relationship because I have abandonment issues. I was an unwanted child.

 

Because of his visionary lifetime persistence he continues to set a powerful example that I am compelled to follow.

 

His and my love for all bears (but in particular black bears) eclipses everything else, and once I witnessed the intimacy of this relationship between him and his bears in the flesh, I knew I had found “home” in some indefinable way.

 

I love his bears like my own.

 

His words come back to haunt me:

 

“I fill a gap in your life;

I owe that to your brother.”

 

To have this personal gap bridged is the greatest gift this man could give me.

 

Huge bear hugs would help too!

 

 

 

 

*I always capitalize Nature to highlight how important S/he is ( transgender) and how impoverished human understanding perceives her as something to be manipulated, contained, controlled and worst of all, dismissed as irrelevant.

October Moon

 

 

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The Earth Goes to Sleep Moon… after the freeze

 

Dawn at the river –

a golden sun

rises over the horizon…

Sea smoke rises from

rushing waters where La Llorona weeps

for those who are lost, dying, or dead.

I am only one of many.

Frosted grasses and dull brown

leaves fall around my feet.

Marsh grasses bend low to the ground

I follow their lead,

feeling the peace of surrender,

the letting go

of the end of a torturous year…

A white moon is washed in

pale pink as she rises

over barren reptilian

mountains –

No mercy there.

Just empty

vast blue sky.

The Bare Connection

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( Lily who I loved years before I met her… reminding me that love is not distant dependent – not ever)

 

Your voice wakens me

from the deadly trance

that has become my life.

You lift me up through

pure feeling.

Consistency at last.

I take flight in boundless joy –

The knowledge that

this is right –

you and I

coming together

bound by bears –

an irrational connection

so deep it defies

explanation,

until I remember

that bears always knew

what we did not.

The Kind Neighbor

 

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In the dream I am underground in a dark mucky muddy tunnel thinking that I have found a path through but as I keep going it becomes apparent that I will not be able to go on. I reverse directions to no avail; the way is closing in around me and there is no way out.

 It would be one thing if this dream was simply an isolated nightmare, but the theme of ‘no way out’ has taken up permanent residence in my psyche. I have reached the point of fearing to have yet another bad dream with no hope of escape.

I have relied on my dreams as friends for most of my life; they impart truths I could not have imagined. And yes, some have alerted me to physical danger or death for me and for those of my beloved animals, both wild and tame.

Something has gone very wrong because over these past two years my dreams have become demonic, almost as if there has been some kind (of internal – external – both?) takeover by an “enemy” whose identity remains veiled. I have reached the point where I dread having dreams. And I am bereft because I feel as if I have lost a precious compass that helps directs my life.

In my day life I have been struggling with physical illness for two out of the three years I have been here in New Mexico. This illness began about eight months after becoming friends with a neighbor.

I met ‘kind neighbor’ the first year I spent here. Although there was never any possibility of a sexual relationship – I made that much clear – he seemed nice enough, and was very kind to me. I believed then a genuine friendship was possible. I returned to Maine that first summer with the idea that I might move here permanently. But when I returned the following November the craziness began. The moment I moved into his house – I was waiting for a casita to be finished – owls started hooting at night. I was forced to move out in seven weeks because I couldn’t keep up with the bizarre shifts in moods or vindictive behavior I was witnessing, or my escalating rage towards this man. I experienced what I call his “dark side” as a sickening betrayal.

I was stuck. It was mid –winter. The house was shut up. I couldn’t return to Maine. Then I became ill. This physical illness left me weakened in body and soul. Somewhere inside me during those terrible months I hung onto the belief that some kind of genuine friendship was still possible, a friendship that would allow me to stay because I loved New Mexico. To this day I do not know if this was pure delusion. I do know I spent the whole winter trying to figure out what had gone wrong between us while he thwarted me at every turn.

By spring I was ready to return North permanently when suddenly he shifted gears and once again became “kind neighbor.” Black or white. I bought the ruse if it was one, because I wanted to stay and I hoped that we had reached a plateau of mutual acceptance. I moved into the casita and stayed for another year barely surviving a monstrously hot summer that left me housebound from the intolerable heat for five months.

During that period I had two dreams both of which told me that I must return to Maine.

By the end of that deadly desert summer I was convinced that my dreams had been right.

The following spring I returned to that home, falling in love with luminous green, rain, my blossoming fruit trees, wetlands, a brook, a forest full of the animals I loved, realizing finally that I would never move to the desert permanently even if heat and illness hadn’t been an issue.

For about a year prior to my return North I had also been wondering if the altitude in NM also had something to do with my inability to sleep, rapid heartbeat, unrelenting headaches, wooziness. Apparently I had been right to some extent.

Physically I felt so much better, I was able to walk, swim, kayak, write prolifically and attend to a small garden. It was then that I was diagnosed with emphysema, although it didn’t seem to affect my ability to wander through the woodlands.

I became ambivalent about returning south, wondering if my health would suffer. I also worried with respect to ‘kind neighbor’ whose mean streak continued to frighten me. I never knew when these (apparently?) unwarranted attacks would occur because he was never honest with me regarding his feelings. Naturally, the resulting confusion left me with a permanent sense of “dis –ease” that made it necessary for me to keep a solid distance between us.

My neighbor and I are opposites. I am a daughter of earth and fire. I am in love with the natural world, a writer who must use a pen to save her life and to educate others, most recently to the precarious state of the planet that is struggling to save her own life at least in terms of the non – human species that are still extant. I am also a woman with integrity; I am honest to a fault and willing to be accountable for my mistakes. I also have a volatile personality; my worst flaw is that I do get angry easily and openly express my negative feelings, sometimes without tempering my anger with rational thinking. Instead of using restraint I explode, not a quality I admire. As a woman with deep feeling I am also a woman with a deep need to communicate with others on a meaningful level with some consistency.

By contrast, my neighbor is the original stone man who lives his life in his head as a detached and self – centered intellectual turned artist who is basically indifferent to others or their needs. He doesn’t care much for nature. He’s quite deaf and pretends to hear what people say. He has a superficial persona of helpfulness even “sweetness” that I personally find cloying, especially since he is in truth also an arrogant man who believes that he is better than others. He keeps this quality well hidden. At the same time he can also be decent and very kind. This is the crazymaker.

With all these differences on the table I made plans to return to Abiquiu for one more winter on a tentative basis. Then a heart abnormality showed up on a final test my doctor had ordered just before I left Maine this fall.

In addition I discovered a week before leaving that I had a crumbling foundation that would have to be repaired. A monstrously expensive undertaking, one that I could ill afford. I was fortunate to be able to get the necessary financing but the work won’t begin until spring. To say I was and am stressed out with worry would be an understatement.

With all these new problems mushrooming, my neighbor insisted upon flying up to Maine to accompany us to New Mexico.

He then began to behave very strangely – suddenly refusing to bring back the car – a car I needed for winter transportation.

Uh – oh I thought.

On the way to the airport I asked him to pass me my backpack that held my computer. He was sitting in the front seat and literally threw the entire 50 lb pack over his head where it hit the floor of the back seat with a sickening thud.

In the airport he went berserk hurling an open can of dog food across the entire room when I told him that he could not check this item. A man who witnessed this behavior came up to me and said “that man should have been arrested; he’s crazy.”

Since our arrival he has been so mean that I am angry and exhausted with him and myself in equal measure. I am the kind of feminist who quite naturally responds to injustice with fury so I want to repeat that I am not an innocent victim here. Initially, I fought back meeting his hostility with my own. As I see it, I need to be accountable for my anger that hooks in to his selfishness and dishonesty, his astounding lack of accountability. The mean streak is another matter. I find it deadly.

At present I am struggling to make a sane decision regarding my future. I am currently awaiting further heart testing to determine what happens next. In the meantime I have been ill every day since I arrived. Altitude sickness?  Certainly depression.

Because of the construction work that must be done on my house I will be forced to leave here by April to deal with my neighbor’s car, a vehicle that will obstruct construction before it begins. Another huge expense is winter plowing that I must do so that the road remains open to my house. I am dealing with the present situation as best as I can, weighing my options carefully

And this returns me to last night’s dream. It is impossible for me not to make the correlation between two plus years of bad dreams, my worsening physical condition, and this peculiar relationship between my neighbor and myself. I ignored the first two dreams that told me to leave New Mexico after the first year I spent here, and now I dream that no matter what I do the walls are closing in.

I wrote this soliloquy to help me understand how I reached this point and how to proceed from here. Blaming is useless. It is chilling that this last dream leaves me without alternatives. Is it really possible that there is no hope?