The Bear Circle

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Above: Two bear fetishes from the bear circle carved by Zuni artist Stewart Quandelacy. The red one is a Mother bear, the green one I call Tree bear.

 

When I was a little girl my little brother and I played in my grandparents’ woods, dragging boxes behind us that were full of stuffed animals. My little brother loved bears and his box was stuffed to the brim with bears of all sizes and shapes. In contrast, my cardboard box was filled with a variety of creatures and one giant frog that burped!

When I was in my mid thirties I developed a fascination with bears which totally baffled me because I had always associated with them with my brother, who, by that time, had been dead for many years.

This obsession began when I discovered identical life sized stuffed bears in every store I visited in Portland Maine during the holiday season. After seeing so many I had the uncanny feeling that this giant mole brown bear was trying to communicate something important to me. I ended up buying one of these bears in spite of feeling ridiculous. The bear sat in the back seat and stared at me with deep brown glassy eyes all the way home. I named her Cocoa and put her in one of my kitchen chairs where she was always present to greet people! I also made a crown for her out of grape vines and seed pods. My adult children had both moved out by then and when they visited and first saw Cocoa both thought their very unconventional mother had gone over the edge.

The following spring I began a self directed academic study of Native American mythology and I was amazed to learn that bears were very important protectors for many tribes.

By accident or design I also discovered bear fetishes around the same time. A fetish is an image of an animal (usually) carved out of stone that embodies the power and spirit of that creature. These small carvings are worn by their Indigenous owners who believe that the spirit of the animal acts as a personal guide and protected them from harm.

There was a local woman who went to Tucson Arizona to buy fetishes each winter, and when I discovered her collection I was hooked. The first bear fetish I bought had been carved by artist Stewart Quandelacy, a Zuni Indian who believed that the power of the animal would speak directly to the person who bought the stone.

This was how Blue came into my life. She was a small red (2/12 inches high) pipe-stone bear with a little pearl fish in her mouth. I made her a little pouch and took her everywhere with me… There was something about having her with me that felt really good. It was like having a special secret. I never showed her to anyone.

One day I went back to the local shop and the owner let me open the cabinet and sit on the floor examining other Zuni animal fetishes. Eventually, I went home with a frog. Over a period of a couple of years I acquired lizards and a badger, hawks,  and a raven, and most importantly, more Quandelacy Medicine Bears.

One night I had a dream that the bears were sitting in a circle and they were healing someone who was ill. All the bears looked just like mine; the only difference was that these bears were alive, speaking in a language that I could understand.

The very next day I began to create a bear circle with my bears and other fetishes. There was always a bear that represented one of the four cardinal directions. I acquired a piece of deerskin and each fetish was carefully wrapped after I finished  “working” with the circle by talking to the animals, and moving them around. I don’t know what else to call this but play. I had no idea what I was doing, but I felt like something was happening.

A life threatening personal experience motivated me to set up the bear circle. Inside the circle I wrote a small prayer, and left the circle open to the night. The frightening experience dissipated and I had a powerful sense that this bear circle had somehow shifted something to remove the threat. I began using the bear circle as a focus for prayer, first for myself, and then for others.

A couple of years later I discovered that the Bear Clan of the Lakota Sioux used bear circles for healing. Apparently, I hadn’t made up the bear circle after all! I began to research bears as healers and discovered that these “medicine bears” did lots of healing and were often associated with plant and root medicine, that is they healed most effectively through the use of plants. Most likely I had tapped into this ceremonial healing tradition because of my close relationship with the spirit bears and Nature as a whole.

The most unusual part of this story is that the bear circle helped me to break down  walls in my psyche. I had been brought up in the western academic tradition. I was a person who needed to have concrete proof  from “experts” that my personal experience was valid. Working with the bear circle, paying attention to my dreams, and celebrating earth based ritual brought me into a new relationship with myself.

Ironically, when I discovered the work of Rupert Sheldrake and became acquainted with field theory I learned how the bear circle probably worked, but over time these academic explanations came to matter much less. Time has shown me that calling on the bears for help simply works. Whatever the bear circle is capable of doing is always in service to Life as a whole, even if it includes death. Needless to say I do not travel anywhere without taking a small circle of bears with me.

I am presently living in Northern New Mexico, a place where the veil between the mundane and sacred world seems thin, probably because we are still surrounded by wilderness. I noticed shortly after my arrival that I experienced the potential power of the bear circle more intimately. That I am living on land that has been sacred to Indigenous Pueblo peoples for a very long time may also be partly responsible for some of this intensity because I also have Native American roots. I am developing a powerful sense of ‘home’ as I wander over the hills listening to a river that sings a song that seems to be “calling” out to me just as urgently as the bears continue to do.

Pay Attention, they say. And I do.

A Little Story about Telepathy and Dreaming

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I am a naturalist and ethologist who has studied many animals and birds in their natural habitat; my 15 year study of Maine’s black bears is perhaps the best example of the work I do. I am a dedicated animal advocate and telepathic communication is part of many if not all of my interactions with both tame and wild animals.

A couple of months ago I wrote a story about the telepathic relationship between my dove, Lily B and me. I put it on my blog and every day there after I noted that a number of people read it. At first I didn’t pay much attention but after awhile I couldn’t dismiss the odd sensation that this story was traveling from country to country in a very peculiar way. One day I counted 11 countries whose bloggers just read one article, the story about Lily B. Bloggers continue to read about my dove on a daily basis. This morning, for example, someone from Egypt read it.

I recently sent Lily’s story to a couple of editors to have it published. One editor responded saying she wanted the story but that I needed to make some changes and that she wanted more specific examples of how Lily and I maintained our telepathic bond. “What kind of things does he communicate to you?” she wanted to know. She also requested that I include a conversation between Lily B and me to end the piece.

I did not know what to do since what I had written was a true story and I resisted fictionalizing it because genuine telepathy works in very strange ways.

I approached Lily B with my problem asking for his help. He was swinging back and forth in his basket that overlooks the birdfeeder in an east window. I reminded him that this was his story and that I really needed him to help me create a better ending to satisfy this woman’s requirements for publication. Lily B listened intently peering down at me with one or the other of his very beady eyes. In this instance I spoke to him in English, just as I would talk with another human. Lily made no comment regarding my request and I went back to editing the story in another room.

In about a minute I had a very clear phrase pop into my mind: End the story with the fire that almost killed me. Of course, I thought. “Thanks Lily.” I sent him my feelings of gratitude expecting the three short coos that came back almost instantly.

 Lily B and I communicate much of the time without words being spoken by either of us, or one of us, as the above example indicates. Sometimes I will have a clear thought about something, perhaps a new insight, and Lily B will respond with his characteristic three short coos if I am right.

He also communicates with me when I have a strong feeling about something that might happen (that is usually, but not always negative). This kind of communication occurs through my body and usually I can’t articulate what I am sensing beyond experiencing fear and free floating anxiety if it is something threatening, which leaves me in a strange kind of limbo, second guessing myself. If the fear will manifest in a concrete way I hear that triple coo. At this point I surrender, opening the door to acceptance, no matter how difficult. I have learned to trust Lily’s judgment on these matters because I am a writer who has been recording these exchanges with my bird for 24 years. Lily’s response about the fire was the perfect ending to his story because it was the second time in seven months that a threat to Lily’s life had come to me in a dream that manifested in a concrete way. Twos completed a cycle, my dreams had taught me over the years.

This second dream simply said that Lily B would die. I tried hard to turn this dream into metaphor and attach it to my spiritual condition. I couldn’t make it fit…It wasn’t until I accepted the fact that Lily B might really be facing death that he sounded a triple coo, the first time ever that he responded to my thoughts/feeling in the middle of the night. I was so heartsick that I couldn’t fall asleep again.

Ever since we had moved into this rental space six months ago I felt threatened by negative energy. Within the space of a month a house lizard I adored was squashed in the door by the property manager, a hummingbird broke his neck on one of the windows and Lily B was attacked by an unknown predator and almost died from the three – inch gash than ran from his eye to his breast. Something was very wrong with this place on a psychic level – something I couldn’t name but could sense. Now it was February and I hoped that I could move out by spring…

Lily had recovered completely from the trauma he sustained during the late summer so it seemed unlikely that he would die from natural causes even though he was so old. I was on high alert, but had no idea what threat my bird might be facing…

One night a few days later while sitting in front of the fire on a low couch, I heard a strangled coughing sound. Turning around I realized that to my horror that I couldn’t see my bird. He was engulfed by heavy smoke. Screaming his name frantically I tried to get to him on the ceiling fan where he was roosting. When I managed to reach him he wasn’t there and I couldn’t breath. Still croaking his name I heard a weak choking sound and followed it until I found my poor bird on the floor. Grabbing him frantically, I raced out the door and put him in the car and stayed with him until he began to breathe more naturally. I later discovered that the fireplace damper had simply shut down by itself. Miraculously, for the second time in less than a year, Lily B survived an attack that should have killed him. We moved out of the rental the next day.

The night this editor’s request arrived I also had a powerful dream (this was what motivated me to talk to Lily directly about the story the next morning) reminding me that I communicate across species and don’t have to prove it.

I am an animal activist for deer and other animals and it’s twilight and the deer show themselves to me. There are at least 3- or 4 bucks all with antlers. One buck is larger than the rest with a huge rack of antlers. All of the antlers glow – they are luminous – and the colors keep shifting – rainbow colors. The deers’ antlers are all speaking to me through their luminescence and I can understand what they are saying. I am fighting for them to keep the land untouched so that the deer, elk, and other wild animals have wild places to roam. People are destroying the wild places and ruining the habitat the animals need to survive. I hear someone talking about me. “No, she won’t take money.” People are decimating the forest, prairies and desert and the deer tell me that all the animals will soon be leaving for good, but they tell me without words.

I awaken from this dream in a state of profound grief because I can’t bear knowing that the animals will be gone. I also understand that wild animals are talking to me just like Lily does – without using words, reminding me that I have this capacity to know what animals are saying and feeling – not just the animals that I live with but all animals. And of course, thanks to Lily B, I can own that interspecies communication is a gift I have been given by the animals because their persistence and my attention helped make it real. Telepathy is the means by which this kind of communication occurs, and it is strengthened and works most effectively between species that have close emotional ties as I do with deer, black bears, red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, hawks, herons, rabbits, lizards, hummingbirds and now golden eagles to name a few wild animal friends.

Today, animal communicators/ whisperers are “in” and have become part of popular culture. What I note is that most of these folks have ongoing conversations with animals that resemble those between humans. I find myself speculating on how much of this communication actually comes from the animal in question, because in my experiences, animals don’t use long sentences and don’t discuss current world issues at great length.

On the other hand my friend Harriet brings up an important point when asked about her opinion regarding those who are skeptical about communicating with pets.

“Oh, my opinion about people who communicate with their pets all the time while simultaneously believing that they aren’t communicating with their pets: they have walls in the brain!”

Walls in our brains? Well I had one too!

Below: Lily B on his perch in our bedroom where we all sleep together.IMG_1465.JPG

Baba’s Tapestry

 

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Above: Huichol String Painting of the Tree of Life – Thanks to Bruce Nelson for the image

This morning the first email I read was written by a male friend of mine who reminded me that today, International Women’s Day, was “my day.” How delightful to be reminded of this moment by a good man I thought to myself.

An article in Return to MAGO about the biological miracle of female mitochondrial DNA captured my attention immediately afterwards. It had been a while since I had thought about the unbroken line of genes passed down from mother to daughter that allowed geneticists to trace woman’s heritage back to the “first mother.” I reflected for a minute on “her- story” that I share with all women including my own mother and grandmother.

In the same piece of writing (excerpts from Blood and Honey by Danica Anderson) references were made to scholar Marija Gimbutas’s research which highlights the importance of spinning and weaving, and how these two creative acts were carried out by women in sacred temples long ago. In ancient times flint blades were used as scissors by the women who cut the threads and cords – umbilical and otherwise. (Neolithic Europe).

These references swamped me with memories driving me to write, today, before I lost the precious threads.

First, I thought of my grandmother who I named “Baba” because she sang a song to me about three lost sheep that cried bah, bah, bah. The word “Baba,” I later learned, was a name used to denote grandmother.

My maternal grandmother took care of me as a child. She let me bake cookies and help her put up food that she had grown in her vegetable garden. She taught me how to grow flowers, and together we watched birds for hours. She cooked special foods for me when I was sick and washed my face with warm water every single night. She awakened me so that we could watch the deer grazing in a circle around the golden apple tree under a blossoming white moon. But what I remember best is sitting with her as she sewed…

My grandmother was a professional seamstress who crafted all my grandfather’s suits, shirts, ties, and silk handkerchiefs from bolts of cloth that she chose with great care. I also have many poignant memories of her sitting at the sewing machine stitching together dresses, shorts, shirts, for her only granddaughter who she loved fiercely. She taught me to sew delicate little stitches, and I have a clear memory of her working on a huge tapestry of the Tree of Life that was filled with colorful birds that I loved. That she never finished this particular piece of embroidery always upset me whenever I thought about it. At the time of her death my grandmother had embroidered so many pillow shams, and wall hangings that were so exquisitely executed that I was left to wonder about the significance behind the fact that she abandoned my favorite tapestry of all. I still have the silver heron scissors that she used to cut the threads while working on that piece of embroidery …

Today of all days seems like an appropriate time to honor my very creative and loving grandmother who nurtured me as a child, adolescent, and young woman. When I lost her not long after my brother’s death I lost the only adult I had ever come near to trusting…

According to Andersom, women’s aprons had pockets that often held precious family heirlooms like rings and necklaces, as well as scissors that were passed down from mother to daughter (or as in my case from grandmother to granddaughter).

(I stopped writing at this point to get a cup of coffee and to water my plants. I was stunned to discover a small pair of (child’s) scissors in the center of one of my passionflower pots that had been hidden there for months. Sometimes synchronistic experiences like this reinforce the powers of interconnection like nothing else can)

My grandmother also wore aprons that always had pockets in them.

My mother was an artist that worked in a number of mediums. At one point she was silk screening pictures that my brother and I had drawn onto linen napkins. My brother drew a bird’s nest with three eggs in it. The picture that my mother selected for me was a self-portrait of a small child who wore an apron with a single pocket in the left hand side. I was also wearing one of my grandfather’s berets. Oddly I had drawn myself with only one arm. As an adult, I wondered about why my mother had chosen this particular picture for her napkins because it seemed to indicate that her daughter saw herself in a distorted way.

The embroidered Tree of Life tapestry that my grandmother never finished and the picture of myself with one arm leads me to believe that something was broken in my grandmother and in me on an archetypal level (tree of life) and the personal (a child with one arm). But I think that the intergenerational woman thread endured and eventually triumphed, because the child had a pocket and inside that pocket was a woman who developed into a creative writer, one who continues today to re-weave the threads of her broken woman line.

The Grandmothers

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When I first arrived in Abiquiu the Pedernal stood out above the other mountains with its imposing triangular shape and flattened top. Initially this mesa fascinated me because Georgia O’Keefe painted it so often, but after a while, although I liked the Pedernal it became one mountain amongest many others… However, I also knew that the Navajo’s mythical Changing Woman was born on this flat – topped mesa,and that story continued to intrigue me.

For the Navajo, Changing Woman is the daughter of the Earth and Sky – a personification of the Earth and Universe. She represents the cyclical repetition of the seasons – spring summer fall and winter –aligning each with a different aspect of human life – birth, maturation, old age, and death. In this seasonal round Changing Woman lives out the different stages of her life as a child, daughter, mother, and old woman who dies, but who also is born again each spring…

The legend tells us that as a young woman Changing Woman was dressed in white shell, turquoise, abalone, and jet, and blessed with bee pollen… While bathing she was impregnated and two twins –monster slayer and child of water who after their births soon left their mother to journey westward to seek their Father, the sun. Changing Woman was lonely so one day she created the Navajo People from the skin of her body with the help of the holy people who came down from the mountains to assist her. Changing woman also created the Blessingway, a sacred ceremony for young girls that is still used today to celebrate the first bleeding or menstruation. After the original teachings were passed on the holy people left Changing Woman, but they promised that she would always feel their presence in the sound of the wind, the birds, and through the first green shoots of corn.

Pedernal, the imposing butte with its flat top or ridge lies in the heart of the Jemez mountain range at ten thousand feet.. Seen from one side it appears wide and flat, the way I see it from my house. However, an hour’s drive will take you into the startling Indian red, orange, ochre, grass green mountains behind the mesa, and from the other side the top appears peaked and narrow. The high butte is ringed by a long sheer cliff band almost impossible to climb, although ancient Puebloan peoples found their way to its summit.

The name Pedernal is the Spanish word for flint, the stone that can be found in abundance on and around this volcanic mountain. Puebloan peoples used the rock to make beautifully crafted tools like arrowheads and scrapers for hunting and skinning animals. Worked pieces and flakes of this rainbow –like chert can also be found at many ancient Puebloan ruins.

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The Pedernal was settled around 1161 CE and Indigenous people stayed until 1275 CE when the area was suddenly abandoned, possibly due to drought. The remaining artifacts include pottery shards that are typically black on white and jars with rounded bottoms so that they could be laid in a bed of hot ashes in the fire pits. Chert is abundantly common here.IMG_1074.JPG

Because I am so intrigued by the sharp, opaque, translucent flakes I collect them and spend a lot of time arranging them in different ways, much like I do with pottery shards. “Play” allows my mind to become still. This practice has become a daily meditation, much like bird watching from my window that overlooks red willow river.

After gazing at the Pedernal for months I developed a peculiar longing to get physically close to the actual mesa. I wanted large pieces of the stone to line my path to the birdfeeder, but there was something more ethereal pulling me too – and so two days ago – my friend and I drove out towards the base of the mountain… This drive takes about an hour and is absolutely stunning – a visual feast – crags, and sandstone statues, oyster to red dirt, thick Juniper, pinion, and deep green spruce and Ponderosa pine forests, huge clumps of black sagebrush, colder temperatures and the occasional clump of snow left me with the sense that I had entered another world, one where bears and elk found home. Seeing the mesa from behind gave me a sense of belonging to this place that I simply cannot describe beyond believing that I was called here by Changing Woman. Perhaps other Indigenous voices and holy people were calling too  in spirit if not in body.

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Above: Pedernal from behind

The night after this excursion I had a dream of my dearly loved grandmother that died in my early twenties. In the dream I was at her bedside, telling her I loved her, washing her face, rubbing cream on her hands and pitifully thin arms, listening to her rapid shallow breathing, feeling so helpless, and so guilty – all this while she lay in a coma. The next morning, thanksgiving day, she died at dawn.

My dream repeated the original experience with one dramatic change. Instead of the numbness and terrible nameless guilt I experienced at her death, in the dream I now understood that my grandmother had been waiting for me to make the trip down from Maine to the New York hospital to be with her, and that once we had said goodbye, she could die in peace. Astonished, I felt for the first time in fifty years that my presence had been enough. When I awakened from the dream the lifetime of guilt I had carried was gone and I was free to feel, to grieve as much as I needed to, which seemed to me to be some kind of miracle. Surely Changing Woman had wrought this reversal changing the storyline I had lived for so long.

Today the Pedernal is no longer a mountain in the distance, it is a holy dwelling place where Nature still sings the song of creation and those of the grandmothers who inhabit this sacred space in between the two worlds.

The Gift

Lily’s View from his new home:

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The night before Valentines Day the fireplace damper shut down while I was sitting on the couch with my dogs gazing into the fire. The only other glow came from a cluster of twinkling star – like lights that were arranged on top of some pinion boughs on the tall chest. Because I was seated on a low piece of furniture I never noticed the smoke streaming out of the fireplace climbing high into the rafters.

When I heard Lily B my bird make a strangled sound from the place he was roosting on top of a ceiling fan, I turned around. Terror stricken, I couldn’t see him because Lily B was engulfed by smoke. Screaming his name over and over I jumped up, ripped the rug and threw logs away from the door, opened it and ran out to the storehouse to get a fan. Once back inside I climbed a ladder up to his perch but Lily was gone. More panic. I screeched “ Lily, where are you” weeping uncontrollably. And then I heard the flutter of wings as Lily flew up from the floor answering my frantic call. Grabbing my poor bird, I stuffed him into a cage and placed him outside the front door, praying that he would not die from smoke inhalation

My two Chihuahuas were on alert but under the radar as the smoke poured out the door. Strangely, the room didn’t clear and my lungs hurt, my eyes burned as the room continued to fill with smoke. A friend arrived and it was then that we discovered that the damper had closed by itself. I had been using this fireplace for 5 months and had never had a damper problem until this night. But the tell tale sooty black adobe bricks above the fireplace suggested that there had been serious problems before. We poured water on the fire until it went out…

Just before this incident occurred I had been thinking seriously about moving out because major construction around the house was about to begin. I had come to New Mexico to write, renting this house because it gave me a place to land after driving across country. My first shock occurred when the wild dogs that roamed the area awakened me very single night at 3 AM. And then there was the house, a virtual steam bath from a fierce summer sun that streamed in from the southwest windows. And yet, it never occurred to me that the studio I had rented for such a ridiculous price was non functional. A broken window, a torn screen that took six weeks to fix, gas leaks, one of which was never fixed, doors that wouldn’t lock, absolutely no attempt to winterize the structure, plumbing and water pressure issues, and finally the lack of working radiant heat and a refusal to issue a dump card until I threatened to withhold the outrageous rent had left me feeling betrayed and very angry.

Equally disturbing, the property manager violated my rental contract rendering it invalid by her continuous invasions during the first two months I was here, a fact I was now grateful for. She entered the studio when I wasn’t home without my permission and sent others to the house without letting me know beforehand. Someone hit one of my Chihuahuas because this once friendly outgoing little creature now bit men.

Fortunately I have developed a few friendships with caring people and had a place to go when this fire became the straw that broke this proverbial camel’s back. With help from friends I moved out.

Lily B somehow miraculously survived the fire, just as he had survived a brutal attack by some animal, just a month after we moved to this place. I believe that the threats to his life were dire warnings not just for him but for me. Because I am in relationship with all living things, but especially intimate with my own animals I often get information from what happens to them.

I remember so clearly the dream I had just after arriving in New Mexico last August that something was going to happen to Lily, and I awakened frightened, for him and for me. A short time ago I had another dream that Lily was going to die, and once again, fear struck. Yet he has been spared twice. Gratitude flows out of me like the river that wends it’s way by my door.

Leaving a chaotic and unstable situation for a peaceful sand colored structure so close to the river has made me realize that I had been living on a threatening knife-edge ever since I had come to these mountains of New Mexico. I am proud that I managed to deal with all the house problems and learned to accept what was, making the best out of the situation. I refused to allow ongoing house issues to detract from my love of this high desert. I took pleasure in every sunset, every mountain view, every weather change, every petroglyph hike, every Tewa dance, every canyon, art museum, movie, Mexican dinner, I could go on and on here. But most of all I feel profound gratitude for  the great generosity and support of friends who cared enough to help me.What else could I ask for?

Below, Lily basking in the sun.

 

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Lily B My Telepathic Bird

 

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Every morning at “first light” Lily B sounds a call to wake up the rest of his family – his human mother – and her current dogs, two small Chihuahuas whose names are Hope and Lucy. The moment he calls – “co coooooo” (accent on the second elongated syllable) Hope and Lucy jump out of bed, with me stumbling behind them in a daze. The dogs insist that it’s time to go out because Lily B woke them up!

Occasionally I refuse to get up if I haven’t slept well. When this occurs the dogs come back to bed. But not for long. After repeating his beautiful morning call a few more times, and flying to the lamp that has a good view of the cave that we sleep in, Lily B sails down to the floor and waddles into the dark room. This maneuver always works because Lucy can’t resist chasing him– she leaps out of bed just as Lily soars up to the top of the door. By this time I am fully awake, like it or not.

Lily B is an African Collared dove who has lived with me for 24 years. He came to me as a chick and has never been caged. At first I thought he was a female and I named him Lily. When I discovered he was a male I added the “B” for boy! I discovered soon after getting him that he preferred to sit on top of the highest furniture in the house so I hung baskets from the ceiling with newspapers inside them. He loved perching on swinging baskets and it solved the problem of cleaning up after him.

About six months after getting him I was forced to acknowledge that Lily B literally read my mind. Whenever I had a new insight he would bellow out his song in approval (or validation) repeating his song exactly three times. I listened for Lily B’s commentary as I wrote in my journal each morning, even as the rational part of my mind struggled with incredulous doubt. It was apparent from the beginning that this bird and I had an unusually close relationship. I had always loved doves and had spent many hours watching them as a child and drawing stylized images of them as an adolescent. But it was the sound of their voices that I loved best. I listened with a kind of rapture to their beautiful songs that seemed to flow like water through my body, soothing her through song.

When I discovered Biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s work on telepathy in animals I felt relief because I no longer felt like I was imagining things. I want to digress from Lily’s story for a few minutes to discuss Rupert’s thesis because it pertains to the relationship between Lily and myself. Sheldrake postulates that telepathy is a normal ability found in both humans and animals. Telepathy works as a survival mechanism, functioning as a tool of communication between animals and other animals, humans and other humans, or between animals and humans keeping them connected. It works most effectively with those who are closely related. For example, if one animal is out of calling range of its mate and danger is perceived that information can be transmitted via telepathic communication almost instantly to the other. The strength of relationship or kinship is the key. Sheldrake hypothesizes that telepathy works through his theory of morphic resonance, where by animals and/or people who share an invisible morphic or bodily “field” can tap into thoughts and feelings of others on a conscious (mind) or unconscious level (body). Telepathy is not distance dependent and works most efficiently through intimate relationship, human or non – human.

As soon as I read that Rupert was looking for apparent telepathic experiences between humans and animals, I sent him a letter describing the seemingly extraordinary connection I had with Lily B. He replied that my antidotes were exactly the kind of information that he was looking for. Lily B’s behavior promptly became part of Rupert’s data bank. It’s important to note that throughout my life I had experienced telepathic behavior between my mother, my brother, my children, various wild and tame animals, plants, and myself, but the Cassandra in me refused to allow me to validate my own experiences because they didn’t fit the current western scientific paradigm. I had no context and secretly thought I might be crazy until Rupert provided me with one. Now, at 45, someone, a scientist no less, actually believed me. I was stunned.

Meanwhile my life with Lily B continued to amaze me even as I continued to record it. When Lily was about five years old I noticed that he began to sing a (new) plaintive song to the mourning doves outside our house. This song upset me because I felt his distress resonating through my body. That Lily needed a mate was obvious. One day he flew out the door to chase mourning doves. Deeply conflicted on one hand I was afraid I’d lost him, but on the other hand I loved the idea that he was truly free. He spent six weeks in the trees flying after one mourning dove or another but was never able to convince a female to join him. His loneliness broke my heart. Curiously, he never left the yard and every morning he sang up the sun in a lilac bush outside my window. One day I was leaving for work when he flew into a young apple tree just as I was walking to the car. Astonished, I turned around and opened the door to the house, inviting him to come home, and immediately he flew in of his own accord.

The following winter we spent in Tucson, Arizona. By accident or design I met a woman who had many doves in an outdoor cage and she invited Lily to join her crowd. By then I learned that these birds had to choose a mate. After being in the cage for about a half an hour, he chose Fey, a pure white dove. After the two came home they were inseparable. I was so happy for Lily B! Although he continued to read my mind on regular basis, making his comments in triple calls, I did note that the bond between us seemed less intense. I accepted the loosening of ties gratefully because my beloved bird was clearly ecstatic. Driving back east the following spring with Lily B and Fey perching on a cholla branch in the back seat, we stopped in Indian country for a break. As soon as I opened the car door, Lily B flew out into one of the thick pines… Horrified, I stood there dumbly for a moment. Then a clear thought materialized through thin air: Lily was gathering sticks for a nest. I sat down in the red sand and waited quietly. Within 5 minutes he returned with a mouth full of sticks sailing through the open car door. Fey was waiting and pulling a few bits of grass from his mouth placed them on the sheet that covered the baggage below their perch. Lily followed suit and I immediately collected bunches of grasses and small twigs and left them on the back seat to add to Lily B’s offerings. A nest appeared by the end of the day. By the time we returned to the east Fey had laid two eggs.

I learned more about fathering from this bird than I ever did from a human. Lily was a devoted parent who incubated the nest each afternoon, while Fey did the rest of the sitting. When the two chicks were born Lily took over, feeding both with regurgitated crop milk. He was tender and sweet, preening the chicks, oblivious to their open mouths and pitiful peeps until he was finished. Then he would feed them again. Fey seemed somewhat detached from her offspring, which surprised me. After the chicks were almost as big as Lily he suddenly turned on them, forcing both to leave the nest. The time had come for them to create lives of their own. He used his warning call repeatedly and pecked at their wings until they left the nest. Anticipating an abrupt ending to fathering I had made arrangements for the chicks and promptly took them to their new home.

When Fey died suddenly the following year I thought Lily would perish from grief. He stopped eating and singing as I frantically tried to find another mate for him. I talked to him constantly but he was so apathetic that I feared I couldn’t reach him. African collared doves are imported to sit on exotic birds’ nests and after the young are born the doves nurture the young like their own. I had a very difficult time finding another collared dove to keep him company because these birds were not raised as pets. This is when I learned that collared doves are considered “trash birds” by the exotic bird industry. They are imported periodically to parent other birds. When I located and presented him with Mary Anne he immediately started singing and bobbing his head up and down quivering his feathers. By some act of Grace, or through telepathy I had chosen the “right” bird. Relieved, I finally relaxed my vigil. Lily B rewarded me by bellowing out his song. Within a day he was responding to my thoughts telepathically and our lives went back to normal…

One of the most curious habits Lily B has is that he responds to dreams when I am working with them, my own, or with others (professionally). His pattern involves singing (more like bellowing) out his three calls to me if I interpret a dream correctly. Over the years I have come to trust his judgment completely even when it doesn’t make sense to me.

Lily loves classical music, especially when it is accompanied by choral singing. Two of his favorites are the Mozart Requiem and Handel’s Messiah. Joan Baez and Gordon Bok are his favorite folk singers.

He also loves earth – based ritual. Because I write my own rituals and celebrate them eight times a year using the Celtic calendar and also honor the full moon each month, ritual is woven into our lives. At the full moon I honor my body and the bodies of all living creatures. At each of the eight spokes of the wheel I follow the subtle changing seasons; I give thanks, release what is no longer needed, and set new intentions. Lily frequently joins in with his songs. If he thinks, for example, that a particular intention is important, he sounds his triple call. It’s important to note that he doesn’t use that threefold call at any other time, only when he is responding to me!

Passionflower vines delight him. He doesn’t like the flowers but tears the leaves to shreds eating tiny pieces of green. But his favorite plants are orchids. He rips apart the flowers with utter abandon – especially the ones with pink and magenta blossoms – an infuriating habit that I can’t seem to break. Finally, I was forced to put up a screen to keep him out of the orchids!

Torturing people that are afraid of birds is another of his tricks. He somehow knows who is afraid of him and promptly dive – bombs them rising up just over their heads causing a great commotion. He also has tormented every dog that I have had by walking around on the floor just in front of them until one begins to chase him. Instantly Lily is airborne, and out of reach! Hope, one of my Chihuahuas, is onto him and pretends he doesn’t exist!

Cooking in the kitchen is one of Lily’s favorite daily activities. He investigates all fresh ingredients tearing and pecking at greens and root vegetables with enthusiasm, tasting soups and pasta, all the while keeping one amber eye fastened on me. Although he is often next to a hot burner he knows enough not to touch it. His penchant for kitchens is how I discovered that Lily B loved hard boiled eggs and cheese when he was just a few months old. I was particularly curious about these high protein foods because all doves are supposed to be seed eating birds. Yet many other kinds birds often feed their young insects or worms at least for a time. I began to give Lily chopped egg every morning, a habit we continue to this day. Lily is very particular about cheese, preferring Brie or Havarti, and every afternoon he flies down to the kitchen counter for his treats. Lily is a very old bird by African Collared dove standards, having lived more than twice as long as most of his kind (10- 12 years), and I often speculate that these protein sources might have helped keep him healthy.

When Lily lost Mary Anne he seemed less traumatized. She declined slowly over a period of weeks and I sensed that both Lily and I knew we were going to lose her. His behavior towards her shifted. They no longer roosted next to each other and he began flying around without her. The morning she died at least a hundred mourning doves appeared out of nowhere and clustered into one tree outside his favorite window singing their very plaintive song although it was December. Lily’s loss was being witnessed by other doves. Later that morning after the doves dispersed I played the Mozart requiem, sitting just below my silent bird perched in his basket. We grieved her loss together, and because it was winter he watched me cremate her body in the woodstove.

The next day I discovered Lucia on the internet. I had a clear thought: this was the right bird.  Immediately I printed out a picture of her and put it in one of his favorite spots so he could see her. After I got the news that she was coming to us I started calling her by name and Lily began to coo excitedly. He knew she was coming thanks to telepathy! When she arrived it was love at first sight and the two had the most wonderful time chasing each other through our very happy house! That night they slept huddled close to one another.

Lily and Lucia seemed to have an extremely close bond and he taught her how to avoid hitting either the mirrors or the windows, something he had never done with his other mates. Even their conversation seemed more intimate with soft cooing occurring between the two that was almost continuous. If he flew to one basket she followed him. Their favorite spot was swinging in a basket that was positioned right next to the front door, where they could keep an eye on comings and goings. I sensed that neither would fly out so in the spring and fall ( before and after bug time), the outside door was almost always left open. I loved the way Lucia answered him when Lily sang to her, imitating his very complex song with ease. And yet as close as the two were, the telepathic connection between us never ceased, which frankly surprised me. I now thought of Lily B as my animal “familiar” – a Guide whose presence graced my life. He had become one of my most important teachers.

During periods when I suffer from depression Lily flies around my head trying to get my attention. Once he succeeds, he sings his triple coo. And of course, for a time at least, I am pulled out of unhealthy self – absorption. It is impossible to resist this kind of attention.

The summer before last tragedy struck. Lucia died suddenly at age seven. The morning I found her on the floor, Lily was standing over her dead body protectively. He looked up at me once, and the anguish that passed between us was palpable.

Death was in the air. I refused to let him grieve alone. I played his favorite music and kept talking to him. My dogs clustered around him too. I let Lily guide me, leaving her dead body with him until he was ready to leave her. When he finally flew into one of his baskets on the porch, I went out and dug a hole in my flourishing flower garden. He stared at me in silence as I gently placed his mate in the ground just outside the door. I filled in the earth around her body and placed a flat stone on the bare ground to protect the place where she lay. When I re- entered the porch we sat together quietly, no one uttering a sound. After a time I began to coo to him mimicking his threefold call. At first he did not respond. I was trying to convey to him that he still had us – the rest of his family – and that we loved him – me, most of all. I also told him in my mind that this time I was not going to look for another mate unless he indicated to me that he absolutely had to have one, because both of us were getting old… If he died and left a mate, I knew that I would always be comparing a new bird to him. He had a decision to make. Would he choose to live or die?

That day I never left the house and Lily’s silence was unnerving. We had reached a frightening crossroad…

The next morning Lily bellowed out his wake up call. I leaped out of bed to stand below him as I cooed good morning. When he followed me into the kitchen and hopped down on the counter, I knew the crisis had passed. Lily had made his choice.

Day after day, Lily attached himself to me like glue, flying into whatever room I was in, watching my every move. Eventually he returned to his favorite basket on the porch and struck up conversations with his favorite outdoor neighbor, blue jay. If a mourning dove landed on the sill outside the window Lily would puff himself up like a blow fish and rasp his territorial call.

Last summer Lily B, Hope, Lucy, and I drove out to the high desert of New Mexico to live for a year. We arrived during the monsoon season and I soon put him in a large outdoor cage to enjoy the soaking rains and warm sun. He sang his heart out to his avian neighbors and greeted me each morning with his song.

One morning while walking the dogs I saw feathers scattered on the ground, some with blood on them. Following the trail around the corner I was horrified to see my poor bird huddled under the plywood cover of his cage. His eyes were glazed over and he didn’t respond to my voice. Reaching into the cage I gently gathered my injured bird in my hands and brought him in the house to inspect his wounds. Lily B was in shock. He had been brutally attacked by something that had ripped a hole in his flesh and made a three – inch gash running from his right eye to his breast. His right eye was swollen and shut. Had he been blinded too?

He was dying. It was Labor Day weekend and I couldn’t reach a vet. Numbly, I inspected the cage to see how anything could have gotten in to hurt him so badly. With 1/8 inch bars on four sides, above and below the cage, and a double locking door, I couldn’t figure out how anything could have entered and left such a gaping wound. I was beside myself with grief and self-blame – how could I not have known this had happened when he and I routinely communicated telepathically? Startled, I remembered that I had shut the bedroom door (his cage was outside this door) the night before because of the barking of wild dogs and had taken a sleeping pill…no doubt Lily had tried to communicate with me and I couldn’t hear him. The rest of the day and night passed in a blur. I remember nothing except my repeated attempts to comfort him. I couldn’t sleep that night and wept, putting prayers for him in my Bear Circle, hoping that he would die quickly. His pain ripped a hole in my body too.

The next morning, he was still alive. I made an appointment with a vet for that afternoon. The vet gently took my bird, examined him and told me that she could do surgery the next morning. She hoped she could save his life. I left him there feeling dazed and drove home.

He survived the surgery. The vet told me that lily B had an incredible will to live. She had never heard of a dove that had lived as long as Lily had. The next day he came home. When he finally started eating again I allowed myself to hope that he would really survive this terrifying trauma.

It took about two months for Lily to recover. All during that time he never cooed once, and although I missed our conversations I was profoundly grateful that he was still with us. Although telepathic communication between us ceased I still felt the bond between us tightening in an inexplicable way.

And then one morning a miracle occurred. He sang to me once. Overjoyed I sung back. He peered down at me from his ceiling perch with one bright eye. A day or two later I was writing when suddenly he cooed three times. Oh, the telepathic connection was working again!

That was four months ago. Today Lily and I have regular conversations and our telepathic bond keeps us connected even when we are apart. Just within the past couple of weeks the outdoor birds have started to sing their mating songs. Sometimes wild doves visit the feeder but Lily has lost interest in them. This abrupt change initially baffled me. A few days ago I finally got it. Lily now prefers my company to that of other birds. The bond between us has strengthened to such an extent that we have in some way become One.

Postscript 3/29 For anyone who is fascinated by this story please read the sequel called “The Gift” also written in February of 2017.

The Deer Dance

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A waning crescent moon hung in the sky with a few steel blue clouds as a few people gathered in front of the hill at San Lldefonso Pueblo waiting for the deer to appear at dawn. The air was cold and the wind was still asleep. Suddenly, the drums began to beat insistently as the singers and drum players turned to face the hill. The drums were calling the deer down from the mountains…and sure enough antlers peeked over the horizon as the deer people made their descent amidst loud calls and whoops. A group of chanting, drumming men were just a few feet away from me. The women, dressed in colorful fringed blankets and white moccasins, their shiny black hair swaying along with focused movements, scattered sacred cornmeal on the ground in front of the drummers and singers. One by one the women came and then crossed quickly over to the other side to welcome the deer people. There were four of them that appeared, two fawns and two adults whose bodies were bent forward, almost like the well known flute player (kokopelli), to accommodate their two sticks for front feet. The fawns had only one stick and copied their elder’s behavior. The deer people were dancing inside a circle that closed around them. Some men had evergreens in their hands and other held rattles. Many of the men wore only a kilt, their bare chests covered with clay; paying homage to the earth. All carried bows and arrows, for this was the hunt. A cacophony of bells on the men’s belts intensified the beat and the Tewa songs seemed to fill the air. I felt rooted to the bare ground, all my senses seemed to be in synchrony with music that seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. My eyes burned with tears that I had trouble holding back. Time ceased to be when the spirit of the dance claimed me and I was shocked when I noticed that dawn had transitioned into a beautiful morning with heat from the sun streaming down from the sky. The dancers moved to the front of the church briefly acknowledging the (folk) Catholicism that was practiced in all the pueblos. Just as quickly as it started the first deer dance was over and the participants disappeared into the kiva to finish their dances in private…Dancing is the primary form of prayer for all Indigenous peoples.

After breakfast a second round of dances began. The first dance to open the second round was either a Comanche or Apache dance that took place on the other plaza opposite the one where the deer dance ended. Again, rainbow ribbons and bright colors shone in the sun. A number of magnificent eagle feathered war bonnets were visible on the heads of the men. Others had faces painted black, and still others wore clay on their chests, arms and legs. There were no women dancing, and the sharp yells or calls punctuated the many drums that were beating in time to the dancers feet. The stunning regalia was a feast for hungry eyes and I was left with a vision of dancing moccasins, and the music of the bells.

Suddenly a second round of deer dancing began in the other plaza and it was hard to decide which plaza to go too! This time the women joined the men and all carried turkey feathers. Some dancers including children had turkey tail feathers attached to their regalia. The women looked like exotic birds with their brightly colored shawls and feathers, many of which were scarlet red and blue – the feathers of the parrot. Small children were part of the dance and I noted how skilled these small feet danced! The men wore, what looked like, skunk fur on their moccasins to repel the witches who had come up from the underworld along with the People so long ago and were always lurking nearby, unseen.

This time only two deer people were present and these were the two deer children. Men, women, adolescents, and children participated in this dance that moved around the plaza in a great circle around the two deer and the evergreen tree that represented the forest. I noticed two more trees laying against the adobe walls in a corner that would probably be used when the hunt intensified. Again the drumming, the singing voices, the intricate dancing stopped time. My eyes couldn’t keep up with what I was seeing. At times the circle tightened around the deer people and then moved outwards. At the end of this round the deer children, or fawns, were whisked away before the remaining dancers disappeared into the kiva.

A second round also occurred at the other plaza. This all male dance seemed to spiral inward and then outward at first and I was reminded of Avanyu, the Horned Serpent who is the spirit of water and of life to the Tewa. From where I stood I was never able to determine the shape of this dance because it seemed to change directions so many times. Once again bows and arrows were commonplace, and on some headdresses the horns of the buffalo were visible, as were the blackened faces that I believe represent the men who were captured or killed in raids. The energy of this dance seemed more warlike, and many of the men carried staffs with flags of different designs, including the yellow and red sun flag of New Mexico. Before I knew it this dance too was ending and the dancers and drummers disappeared into the second kiva to finish the dance in private. Both kivas were squarish or rectangular in shape, although an unused round kiva still sat in the plaza.

The wind was starting to bite and the sun was high in a cobalt blue sky. Although there would be another round of four dances after lunch my friend Bruce and I were ready to go. I was on an emotional high!

The deer are sacred to almost all Native American tribes and I believed that what we had witnessed was an enactment of the hunt, which begins with fasting and prayer and culminates in a re-enactment in which the deer will eventually voluntarily sacrifice themselves as food for the people because they have been honored and respected by the men who hunt then. There is a covenant between the two that makes the hunt and the kill a mutual decision made by both deer and men.

These dances that occur in the various pueblos are usually the culmination of private fasting and other rituals that outsiders know nothing about. And this is how it should be because these Indigenous people embody an ancient oral tradition that remains unbroken only because its secrets are kept. I feel privileged to be a witness to Native traditions/dances that remind me that my own Passamaquoddy roots may have been severed, but Tewa Peoples have survived in spite of incredible odds. Today they are teaching the Tewa language to their children as well as encouraging them to participate in the dances when they are 3 -4 years old.

I learned this morning from the tribes lawyer that women are now allowed to take part in the decision making process of Lldefonso Pueblo, although historically the Tewa, including those of this pueblo, are patrilineal or patriarchal which means that most power historically stayed with the men. These people have demonstrated that they know how to adapt to whatever challenges and changes that come their way. This flexibility has allowed the pueblos to not only remain intact but to thrive; (their villages are beautiful) especially now with the much needed help from the casinos, casinos that I once voted against in Maine.