Midnight Musings

It was damp.

Cloud heavy skies

spit silver raindrops…

When I awakened

to overflowing drainpipes,

and an unfamiliar voice

I wondered if

you were out there

hunting, or

singing love

songs to wet ground,

laying low in thick green –

Toad, lover of deep night.

I marveled,

picturing your image…

a throbbing throat

your tightly pinched face –

amber bejeweled eyes

wide ample body

nubbly pale skin,

a cream stripe

running down your back.

You had shed an old skin.

In the white heat of the day

I murmured endearments.

Could you feel

my joyful body thrumming?

 

Now I wondered

if you were calling.

When

signature hoof prints

marked

the driveway

at dawn

I believed you had.

Deer

bridge worlds

binding one

to the other

as you bridged mine

that day

with the gift

of your presence –

a toad dream come to life.

May we

share this bountiful river,

cottonwood canopy,

red road,

and meadows

replete with visits

from occasional bear and deer,

thick with burrows for you to hide in?

This mud house

needs a Toad –

one wed

to the ground way

of seeing.

She who tunnels

underground

transforming

with each sloughing

of wrinkled skin,

one that hugs the Earth.

Owl songs sweeten the night,

slice through poisoned air with silent wings

but rarely touch ground in flight.

Will you befriend me

and stay a while?

What I can offer

is the promise of

a little extra moisture

to help protect you

from too much sun…

That, and my love.

 

 

 

*Awi Usdi is a mythical white Cherokee deer who is a ‘justice maker” intervening in the lives of both animals and people to re-dress imbalances between the two.

 

Working notes:

 

Two days ago I wrote a toad story about a remarkable encounter between a giant female western toad and myself. The toad appeared in 92 degree heat and in three hops bounded into the only available moist ground. Within minutes she had dug herself into the hole as I covered her with leaves, branches, and cottonwood bark to protect her from the heat. I had been palpably longing for a toad to join me here all summer and had even built a small rock pool for one so this “visitation” seemed quite miraculous.

It wasn’t until after the toad appeared that it occurred to me that her unexpected arrival might mean something more than seeing a beloved friend.

“The Old Woman” is coming to life in me, and Toad just might be the ally I need.

The amphibious part of my life remains unresolved. Toad and frog thoughts pull me back towards the lush green of my past life along a woodland brook rich in riparian diversity. I am homesick and hungry for fog and mist, warm summer rains that last for days, toads trilling and grey tree frogs singing from the tree tops. Cool, cool nights. Are these thoughts keeping me present to myself helping me to complete the mourning process of leave –taking so that I can finally shed my old skin? Or are they warning me not to make another mistake?

Perhaps I need to live in both worlds after all.

I have to keep reminding myself that most people do not make the kind of radical life changes that I am in the process of making – leaving one whole life behind, house and land I love, along with absentee children, loneliness, and harsh winters, moving more than half way across a country to live in the high desert along Red Willow River, a place I love, but also on the edge of what will surely become ‘true desert’ before long. Drought, intolerable heat, and wildfires are bringing the terrifying effects of climate change into the daily world I inhabit here.

The knowing is excruciating.

I have come through my first summer in New Mexico scorched by the unrelenting heat, with strange and debilitating bodily symptoms that seem to come and go without rhythm or reason leaving me enervated and in a state of perpetual confusion. I feel as if I have literally become allergic to the sun. What can this mean? I have been ever so fortunate and deeply grateful to find a “home” here but as thankful as I am, I am also wary of what my body may be trying to tell me.

My body seems to be screaming and I don’t seem to know how to listen.

I may think that living here “permanently” is what I need but if so why is my body in such misery?

I have no answer to this question, which is why I think I need a Toad Woman to intervene…

Yesterday after doing some extensive research on the western toad I was devastated to learn that according to a number of academic sources these toads have already been extirpated from the only area where they once thrived in New Mexico – along the Rio Grande river and its tributaries in Rio Arriba County which is where I live. Because I have seen two western toads in two years I know this information is not correct – at least not yet. But the trend is alarmingly clear. It won’t be long. Dams, the artificial raising and dropping of river water, drought, chemicals, UV light, farming, fertilizers are all culprits, as is habitat loss and human indifference. So this longing I feel for toads has both truth and loss at its core because we are losing this species. Now. Next year, the year after, or a few more years and the last western toads will be gone. Forever.

Ever since I learned that western toad extinction is immanent all I can feel is heartbreak. I am used to feeling helpless in the face of ecological destruction. Every creature I love is under threat and I am living with what is, grieving as I go. But this story has a deeply personal aspect, because part of me thinks I need help from a toad to stay here and what happens to me if they are all dead?

This is where the power of an archetype becomes important. My encounter with the toad transported me into another dimension. Toad is more than a toad. She is also an ancient archetypal pattern that is aligned with, and embodies the Earth Mother (in both life and death aspects) in Mexican, Mesoamerican, and South American mythology (as well as in Asian mythology). I think I tapped into that pattern when I encountered my giant toad. If so, this experience has transpersonal aspects to it and help may be on the way.

As heartrending as it is to learn that live toads are disappearing, the pattern remains and I can still choose to align myself with it. I need a Toad Woman to ground me in the dark generative powers of the Earth Mother – to help me shed an old skin, to help me breathe through mud and lack of clarity. I also need access to more effective protection from the powers of the sun…

This morning I had a dream that made it clear that returning to my old home and land (both of which are for sale) is not an option for me even for a brief time. This dream -body response clarifies what not to do, but does not solve the problem of how to survive New Mexican summers. Next year maybe my longing to go north to Minnesota to be with Lynn Rogers and my friends the bears for two months will become reality. And then I could come “home” to New Mexico to bury my body in the mud for a month or so like Toad does until it cools off for good. Perhaps this would be a “both and” solution for my amphibious self because Ely is on the edge of the Northern Wilderness where lakes and moisture abound. There I could listen to summer rain and visit with my friends the toads and frogs that are still in abundance- for now.

Today while watering my wildflower oasis I discovered the first baby sagebrush lizard I have ever seen here. For the second time in a couple of days I felt that thrill of being present for amphibian and reptilian Life. My two house lizards have a tiny two – inch long son or a daughter that is presently hanging out with them on my adobe walls. Just seconds later I noted that the toad’s hole (which was located just below the place where the lizards bask) was no longer empty but was now occupied by someone who had dug herself in and pulled the dirt in over her head!

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Burial in Indian Country

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A small skull

was in the bag

we carried down the mountain –

the body severed

from its head –

“forgotten”

and left behind.

No, I cry wounded

beyond comprehension,

insisting we return

the parts to the whole

if only for burial.

We climbed the mountain

three times in all

my reluctant partner

choosing trance and lead.

I claimed the body,

wept for what could have been,

mourned the dead –

in Indian country…

 

Working notes:

 

Sometimes it is necessary to put skin and bones, by way of words, on a dream that is too disturbing to put aside.

 

The severing of our heads from our bodies is the root of the split that allows us to continue to survive in modern culture. We intellectualize, rationalize, use logic, embrace denial – anything to gain distance from the one whose loss we mourn – albeit unconsciously – the death of our sensing, feeling, body – the wild animal within us – the one who has access to the compassionate, loving self – the bridge to our own survival and that of the planet upon which we depend upon for life.

The Dreaming Body

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(Offering to Avanyu)

 

Recently, I had a dream that informed me that I needed to peck an image of Avanyu into a canyon wall. I took this to mean that I needed to visit a snake. Avanyu is an ancient Tewa Pueblo Serpent who is pecked into the walls of canyons or overlooks the rivers from high on the mesas. These petroglyphs usually have at least one horned serpent and are accompanied by smaller snakes without a headdress. Some of the images on the mesas show Avanyu spiraling skyward while some that I have seen in the canyons run parallel with the arroyos that are flooded with water during storms. Avanyu is the embodiment of Spirit of the River, the one who brings life – bringing water to the desert.

I “read” these petrogylphs as Avanyu having access to the spirit world, as well as being a manifestation of the body of earth and water, at least for the Tewa Pueblo people. For me every time a snake appears in my dreams something important is trying to be conveyed through my body. After the dream I decided that I needed to make a pilgrimage into an arroyo to visit Avanyu in hopes of having another dream to help me clarify what his presence might mean.

The air was still as I walked deep into the canyon. The sweet pungent scent of sage wafted my way in the early spring sun. Briefly, I noted the large distinctive prints of a puma and the hooves of mule deer. As I made my way through the stony arroyo the light was in my eyes making it difficult to see pictures on canyon walls.

At one point, I entered a little cleft in the canyon, and just below a pinion pine l discovered a pile of bluebird feathers. The sun made the feathers shimmer with an unearthly blue light. I gasped in wonder at this sight. Examining the feathers carefully as I collected them, I concluded that this was not a pinion but a Stellar blue jay because there were black feathers mixed in with the others. And the cobalt blue was almost unbearably intense.

It was starting to get warm and I decided that Avanyu had chosen not to make himself visible to me for whatever reason, although I felt gifted by those feathers, so I began to retrace my steps. And that’s when I saw him pecked into the canyon wall. The petroglyph had been flooded many times and I knew that I was in the presence of an image that was in the process of disappearing into deep time, though I firmly believed that because Nature has memory, the power of his presence would remain. I felt a rush of gratitude. Taking one of the best feathers I had gathered I placed it in a niche in the canyon wall offering Avanyu a gift.

Last night I had a strange dream about a television breaking down. The sound was blocked and I felt enormous frustration. Since I don’t own a television this mechanical device was blocking communication by using silence as a kind of weapon, an emotionally abusive blocking tactic I was familiar with because it’s part of my family history. I think Avanyu was warning me that I needed to let go of trying to understand someone else’s craziness – something that never belonged to me in the first place. Thank you Avanyu.

 

Working notes:

Not surprisingly, up until the advent of Christianity serpents were always associated with the Life Force and with the body.

In Greece women priestesses dedicated themselves to Artemis and watched over temples where people came to bathe in warm springs to have healing dreams.

In Neolithic Old Europe serpents were always associated with the Great Goddess who also had a bird aspect. Rarely was this Goddess associated with “mother.” In ancient times The Great Goddess of Nature had both a bodily (serpent) and spiritual (bird) aspect because She was One Unto Herself.

I see Avanyu, as a manifestation of both the Spirit of the waters and as the Body of the Earth, both images of undivided Nature.

The Spirit of the Land

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I have been very ill for a week with a raging fever, blinding headaches so severe that for days on end I kept my face to the wall and the covers over my head to keep out the light, and yet even then no peace or possibility for uninterrupted sleep.

 

This illness is intimately related to my body’s profound intolerance to sudden inexplicable NOISE. Hyper alert and rigid, poised for the next slam of door or cupboard, loud beeps at midnight, high pitched squeaks, unexplained clumsy thuds, ramming wood into a fire that is not lit until I am ready for bed at night, (and is therefore a totally useless form of heat in a freezing house) my body has been living on scream, and uninterrupted sleep has evaded me for two months.

 

In heart pounding agony I begged for compromise. I yelled. Wept, sometimes uncontrollably. Towards the end, sleep deprivation created such a frightening internal state that I thought I was losing my mind.

 

Initially I was convinced I could survive living with this insanity, but I was wrong. I suffer from both PTSD and a Generalized Anxiety Disorder both of which create an internal chaos when triggered by sudden inexplicable shattering sounds that are impossible to describe unless one suffers from these disorders.

 

This state of affairs first stole my energy and then swallowed my joy. I have become one of the walking dead.

 

When this final physical flu “event” struck after weeks of daily headaches, heart pounding, dizziness, weakness, cascading weight loss, stumbling, falling, (just a few symptoms of sleep deprivation) a deep black despair penetrated every bone, sinew, muscle, paralyzing me. At that point my body made her final decision. “Get out, she screeched like a banshee – get out!”

 

And mercifully, through an act of uncommon Grace, I will be getting out.

 

Yesterday, after receiving news that my departure will occur soon, my body allowed herself to experience a depth of exhaustion she has been carrying for two months without being able to feel it. My poor body relaxed into this hard narrow bed that makes my spine ache – a military man’s bed. My eyes became heavy as I lay there (armed with protective professional ear protectors that I wear as long as I can stand them) and I felt myself drifting away as if on a great sea.

 

Blessed sleep…

 

Even the hideous clamor that shattered this moment of repose couldn’t kill the dream…

 

I am with a generous and kind Being (without form and yet is also somehow there in some tangible way that I can see), who is singing the most beautiful poem to me as he is preparing some kind of Feast…I am following his words because I want desperately to remember the poem. It is cold and we are outdoors but I am warm and we are on the land that I love so much, land that borders a sea green red-willowed river.

 

A sudden hideous BLAST awakens us, destroying the memory of most of the beautiful poem and song, but even as my two little dogs and I jump out of our skins involuntarily (now a daily/sometimes hourly norm), I am left with these final words from the poem:

 

“For I am the Spirit of this Land, and you shall dine with me.”

 

I kept repeating the words over and over in my head believing “Him” even as the rest of the day deteriorated into the usual chaos. Even today I feel as if I was touched by the Spirit of Place in a way that is beyond my comprehension.

 

 

Working notes:

 

I have always been a dreamer. Precognition, telepathy and the like are simple realities in my life as is the “knowing” that comes from understanding that this kind of dream speaks “truth” with a capital “T”. That I was given a gift by the Spirit of this Land is a given. To be touched by the force of Nature is to be gifted by a kind of Unconditional Love that “passes understanding.”

 

What is particularly interesting to me as a feminist (eco – feminist) is that this Being is a male aspect of Nature. I am usually visited by the Feminine face of Nature in one of her myriad manifestations. In fact, with the exceptions of certain male deer, and most recently a beloved male bear I have never had a dream like this one.

 

I am struck by this apparent anomaly. I think the most important lesson for me in this dream is to keep my heart open to Nature as a whole, S/HE who embraces both genders equally. It is my earnest prayer that I will be able to retain this opened mind. I am particularly grateful to one man who brought it to my attention that too often I lean towards the feminine and “forget” that men and women are truly equal in either human or divine guise.

 

Thank you Dave.

 

A second lesson is self – evident: Body, Soul and Spirit are One. To wound one is to wound them all. Perhaps, forever.

Sacred Datura Sings in the Rain

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Last night I was sitting out on the porch listening to the rain. The sweet scent of water wafted in through the open window as the song Tree of Life was playing softly in the dark. In my heart I was thanking each and every tree, especially those trees that surrounded the house for their protective canopies and for their steadfast love and support over so many years… My Trees had become Sisters; we developed deeply personal relationships and more fluid boundaries over time. These friendships, already established with apple trees as a child and young woman, intensified in my early 40’s when my children first left home.

Trees and plants gradually taught me how to respect myself as a woman who had been rejected by her family, although I have no idea how they accomplished this feat. All I know is that at some point I was no longer able to separate my love for trees/plants from this woman that I was coming to respect. Both trees and plants often came to me in dreams, and occasionally a tree would utter a single word or two while I was walking in the forest, but mostly I just felt all of them caring about me. I am convinced that trees also brought me two women who became the sisters I never had… My gratitude for all plant life was peaking as the song was playing, a visceral response to the rain, the night, the stillness, and my enduring love for trees and plants.

It was in this frame of mind that I first heard something singing. Assuming it must be an unknown tree frog I went to screen and opened it. Strangely the sound seemed to be coming from the west, so I was surprised that the song didn’t increase in intensity when I stepped outdoors. I came back in and opened a west window in my bedroom – nothing. Returning to the porch I just stood there baffled. Where was the song coming from?

Earlier, that evening I brought in my Sacred Datura plant to protect her from possible heavy winds and the coming rain and placed the large ungainly pot on the porch table for the night.

After bringing her across country all the way from New Mexico (much to my companion’s dismay) and settling her outdoors in Maine, I watched her first fragrant moon blossom open just days after we arrived. I tended her lovingly, carefully removing any damaged leaves, watered her frequently, fertilized her, and told her how beautiful she was, remembering how I had nurtured her as a germinating seed… All summer this plant has had blossoms most of which open around dusk much to my continuous astonishment and delight. I discovered that I could actually watch as each flower unfurled, beginning with a lavender tinted spiral that would open into the most exquisite lavender tipped moonflower within about 15 – 20 minutes if I paid close attention. Needless to say I am in love with this Lady of the Night.

When I walked towards the Datura in the dark last evening, the singing suddenly stopped. I stood there rooted to the floor. Stunned. It had been the plant that was singing. My mind couldn’t comprehend what I was experiencing. When the Datura began her song again as I stood before her, I turned on a light. The singing ceased. Darkness brought the song to life again. I listened intently, awed slipping into another state of awareness, “the space in between” where time ceases to exist, and now is all there is.

Later, as I returned to a normal state of consciousness my mind buzzed, sending me to the computer to research relationships between the Datura and bugs because by then it had dawned on me that it must have been insects that were singing from somewhere inside that plant!

I researched what botanists called mutualism and what I call relationships that develop between plants and insects ( isn’t it amazing the lengths humans will go to distance themselves from other non -human species?). Thus far I have learned that the tomato hornworm loves the alkaloids that are present in Datura and gains protection from feasting on the leaves of this poisonous plant. Both the water scorpion (Nepa cinerea) and the saucer bug (Ilyocaris) have relationships with this plant, and night scarabs hide in the blossoms and emit a buzzing sound but no blossoms were open last night. I learned that leaf notchers puncture holes in the leaves that I had been carefully removing all summer. I also already knew that the Datura plant is only pollinated by the Hawk Moth, which is present in Maine as well as the desert areas in which Datura grows naturally.

But who was doing the actual singing remains a mystery. Evidently, I am going to have to do a lot more research to identify the chorus!

Last night after this remarkable incident I had a simple little dream:

I am with my brother Davey who is very young in the dream although I am my present age. My brother’s hair was shorter than it was at the time of his suicide. I am introducing him to many others and I am so proud and happy I could burst.

When I awakened from this dream I felt heartsick with grief because even though Davey has been dead since he was 21 (and I was 24) I still think of him constantly. I will miss him all days of my life… If he had lived we could have shared what would have been a whole life together… I mourn too because he was my soul mate. And when he died, some part of me died with him.

Reflecting on the possible meaning behind this dream I suddenly remembered that the one thing Davey and I did not share in our brief naturalist lives together was his love of bugs. And last night, I probably had a visitation from some kind of singing insect. Might this incident have been my brother contacting me from beyond the grave?

In my world where plants start singing in the rain of their own accord, virtually anything is possible.IMG_2269.JPG

Postscript 8/18/17

I am still unable to track down an explanation for this “singing” Datura after many hours of research. I have reached the conclusion that maybe no one has heard this plant singing before?

What I didn’t know at the the time was that this experience preceded a potentially life – changing personal event in my life that involved “breaking ground” in New Mexico that occurred the following day.

What follows below are the words to the song that was playing when the plant started singing.

TREE OF LIFE

Beggar’s Blocks and Blind Man’s Fancy,
Boston Corners and Beacon Lights,
Broken Starts and Buckeye Blossoms
Blooming on the Tree of Life.

Cho: Tree of Life, quilted by the lantern light,
Every stitch a leaf upon the Tree of Life.
Stitch away, sisters, stitch away.

Hattie’s Choice (Wheel of Fortune), and High Hosanna (Indiana),
Hills and Valleys (Sweet Wood Lilies)
and Heart’s Delight (Tail of Benjamin’s Kite),
Hummingbird (Hovering Gander) in Honeysuckle (Oleander),
Blooming on the Tree of Life.

We’re only known as someone’s mother,
Someone’s daughter, or someone’s wife,*
But with our hands and with our vision,
We make the patterns on the Tree of Life.

* I would add someone’s sister.

The Datura literally sang over this song, forcing me to turn off the music to understand the strange music that I was hearing.

I must add that I knew the singer Gordon Bok as a young girl who came to Monhegan Island ME on the Victory Chimes to sing his songs at the schoolhouse. Trained as a classical guitarist Gordon fell in love with the sea and began his career which continues to this day as a folksinger. I have loved his work all my adult life, and in particular this song.

 

Where We Are Now

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I have this frightening dream after I finally fall asleep election night.

Just an image: I see bleached, broken, slashed, and severed tree roots scattered over the entire horizon – which seems to stretch out in front of me in all directions – the ground, as far as I can see is flat and has become a wasteland. The only color in the dream is ash gray.

Context:

In my personal mythology I see the “Tree Mothers” as Wise Ones, Guides, some are personal friends of mine who literally support and nurture me (and all creatures and peoples) on the Earth.

Without trees I cannot (literally) breathe. Either can other mammals.

On an archetypal or collective level the image speaks to the World Tree or the “Tree of Life.” The trees have been shattered, severed and uprooted. The trees are dead. The bone –like aspect of the trees is “familiar” – the tree roots look like human bones.

Roots are what hold us in place. Roots attach us to trees, each other and to the earth – we have been severed from our roots.

The ground is barren – unable to support life

The bleached tree, person/animal like bones speak to death and the wasteland ahead.

Commentary:

When I came here to the high desert of northern New Mexico I fell in love with every fragrant juniper and pinon pine. People who come here complain the the trees are not big enough, and I watch how the birds fly in and out of their thick boughs which in the fall are thick with “berries” and can only feel gratitude that these trees will get to live out their natural life spans – Junipers can live to be thousands of years old. I find the gnarled trunks of the junipers especially beautiful and the roots extend out in the most imaginative ways – snaking around stones and the infrequent flooding of the washes.

My home in Maine has many trees on it that have been nurtured and loved by me for thirty years. As much as I love it here I still miss my northern trees. What I don’t miss is knowing that the trees (except for mine) will be slaughtered before they reach thirty years old because we log continuously in the area where I have my home… Maine has less than 16 percent of “mature” forest left. To be living in a place where I can simply be with trees in peace without ongoing grief has been such a reprieve.

So to have this bone – dead tree dream here in a place where I can appreciate trees and their roots, not to mention their age, on the night of the election seems especially alarming.

It is apparent that Nature knows she is under siege like never before.