Hecate’s Spring Moon 2019

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The Frog Moon will be full in a few minutes and I want to remember this moon in particular because I have longed for and mourned the absence of frog sounds for three years… eventually coming to believe the sound of those primal denizens of the waters would forever be withheld…

 

Frogs have been calling to me since I was a child.

 

The frog world continued to remain eerily silent as I witnessed the drought shrinking the desert landscape into a parched skeleton. I heard the trees scream as forest fires raged and my own breathing became labored and ragged.

 

I thought I was dying.

 

Literally brought to my knees, I finally accepted that there was nothing left to do but accept what was…

 

Climate Change had turned the Earth into a Ball of Fire.

 

Then the winter of 2018-19 brought reprieve. First rain and then snow graced the land. This spring the arroyos are running. I built a toad pond, and with great joy I am once again celebrating – participating in the Greening of the Earth.

 

Even if this reprieve is temporary I have the choice to focus on Now.

 

At the edge of this second Spring moon – The Frog Moon – I continue to make the choice to honor each turning with more gratitude than I ever believed possible, although I find it ironic that this year the full moon falls on the day of christian crucifixion – ‘good friday.’ It’s important to note that in ancient female centered story (pre-dating patriarchy) various male vegetation gods were always sacrificed in the spring so that the crops might grow.

 

Today it is the Body of the Earth that is being sacrificed – crucified, the body upon which all species depend upon for life.

 

For me, there is nothing left to say or do – almost no one is listening.

 

But like Hecate, Greek goddess of liminal spaces and the crossroads (water and earth) I can bear witness to what is and give thanks for my life and that of every frog  who still lives on this planet.

 

I cultivate this attitude out of deep awareness and interconnection with all that is.

 

Lately I have been dreaming about roots. As Hecate’s daughter my roots seek living waters, and the stability that comes from being One with the Land.

 

Last night I heard the poignant melody as I gazed into a cracked moon rising up through the cottonwoods. Although the diminutive tree frog was hidden from sight, he cried out for Life.

 

It wasn’t until I took the moon picture that I saw the owl. Like the frog, the owl is another of Hecate’s familiars or animal aspects (beyond gender). On a personal level the owl is the silent presence of the spirit of my mother – she who witnesses in the dark.

 

We three, woman, frog, and owl stay present for each other and for the Earth as we acknowledge what is, and ultimately – the relativity of both joy and sorrow.

 

We also live in the truth that with every frog refrain, the Song of Life Lives On.

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The Story of Changing Woman

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Changing Woman – who grows old and then young again. Navajo Sand Painting.

 

Myth and Commentary

I want to begin by recounting the story of how Changing Woman came to be and why she was so important to Navajo mythology. In these dark and tumultuous times I think Changing Woman’s story has a deep resonance for all of humanity. We seem to have forgotten who we are and are in desperate need of guidance that will help shift our current paradigm.

 

The Navajo word Diné means the People (every Indigenous group defines its inhabitants by using the same word in their own language).

 

Navajo mythology begins with the creation of the First World. The Insect People moved through the four lower worlds to the fifth world the place where the Navajo live today. In the first world there was no sun, moon or stars, only the oceans stretched out in 4 directions. A flood came and the Insect people moved to higher ground, the second world. The third world was inhabited by grasshoppers so the Insect people moved again, this time to a fourth world with snow covered mountains and Pueblo people. In the Fourth World the Holy People laid two ears of white corn and two ears of yellow corn on the ground and covered them with buckskin creating First Man and First Woman.

 

Frightened by a flash flood, First Man and First Woman rose up from below from the center of a lake to reach the Fifth World and the place where the Four Sacred Mountains are found today.

 

(One of these sacred mountains may lie to the west of the village of Abiquiu, New Mexico where I presently live. It is said that Changing Woman was found on a flat – topped mesa wrapped in many colors of light. Anyone who has been to the Pedernal can find pieces of rock called chert/flint cast in every color of the rainbow).

 

On a level place below the summit First Man and First Woman laid a turquoise figure on two pieces of buckskin that were spread on the stone from east to west in the sun. Wind and Water Sprinkler were there. When the Holy People began to sing the song the wind flowed under the blankets and a child appeared. The Holy People told the couple her name was Changing Woman and instructed them to take her and raise her as their daughter.

 

By the thirteenth day, Changing Woman had become a young woman, and on that day there was a celebration and the Navajo Night Chant was sung. *

 

Soon after Changing Woman birthed the hero twins.

 

In four days the twins had grown into boys. Talking God and Water Sprinkler tested their strength four times and were pleased.

 

The twins asked Changing Woman who their father was and when they were told they had no father the twins refused to believe her. “We must have a father and we need to know who he is” they responded. Changing Woman was irritated and said “your father is a round cactus then. Be still.” (!)

 

The twins went south to hunt and saw four birds – a woodpecker, vulture, raven and magpie – and when Changing Woman heard their stories she said they must flee because the birds carried a warning: monsters would kill them. Before dawn the twins ran to the West and met an old woman who lived in an underground chamber who told them that she could help them find their father who was the Sun.

 

Because the way was fraught with danger Spider Grandmother gave them a talisman to protect them and a special song that ended in “Walk in Beauty.” The twins continued West on the rainbow bridge overcoming four monsters that threatened to kill them. Eventually they reached the House of the Sun where they overcame two more tests to prove to the Sun that they were his children. Then they told their father that monsters were killing the People and the Sun replied that could make the passage from boyhood to manhood and save the Navajo people in the process, which they did.

 

After a time, Changing Woman became lonely and went to one of the sacred mountains to sit in the sun. The Sun appeared and tried to embrace her but she refused. He wanted her to come live with him. She said no until the Sun promised to give her a house that shimmered on the water and animals and plants for company while the Sun was away on his daily journey across the sky. Then Changing Woman said:

 

“You are male and I am female. You are of the sky and I am of the earth. You are constant in your brightness, but I must change with the seasons. Remember that I willingly let you enter me and I gave birth to your sons. As different as we are, we are of one spirit. As dissimilar as we are, you and I, we are of equal worth. As different as we are, there must be solidarity between us. There can be no harmony in the universe unless there is harmony between us. If there is to be harmony, my request must matter to you. There is to be no more coming from me to you than there is from you to me.”

 

The Sun balked at first but finally agreed that she was right and granted her requests for a House in the West that shimmered in the golden light that stretched over the waters at sunset when the Sun returned from his journey across the sky. In this place they came to dwell in Harmony…

 

In the myth Changing Woman never dies; she grows old and young again with the seasons. In the East she is Earth Woman, in the South Mountain Woman, in the West she is Water Woman and in the North she is Corn Woman.

 

Changing Woman embodies Nature’s as a whole and since the Navajo trace their lineage through a matrilineal line she is the Mother of all the People.

 

According to Navajo mythology the first way Changing Woman saves the world is by birthing the twins, the male aspects of herself. This embodied female/male energy is capable of taking action on behalf of all the people, ridding the world of monsters. It is important to note that the twins require the help of Spider Grandmother’s wisdom, guidance and protection because Spider Grandmother is Changing Woman’s older wisdom aspect, a continuation of her mother – line.

 

The second and most critical way Changing Woman saves the world from “monsters” is because she secures the matrilineal line for the People. The matrilineal system traces descent through maternal roots. Men who marry move to the wife’s residence (matrilocal) and become part of the maternal family. Mothers, aunts, and grandmothers bring up the children, protecting, guiding, and teaching the children the ancestral family stories. This system unites Navajo society and creates the social structure of the culture connecting generations through kinship.

 

Although in present day Navajo culture Patriarchy has eroded women’s power the four tenets (harmony, beauty, balance, peace) remain part of the judicial system of the Navajo people.

 

Commentary:

I love this story because it demonstrates the evolutionary and eternal nature of Woman; her intimate relationship to Nature, her ability to give birth, to mother, to let go, her ability to endure, her need for animals and plants as companions and her willingness to stand her ground until she is able to get what she needs. Changing Woman matures from a passive figure who is acted upon by the forces of Nature into a self-directed female power who knows what she wants, and one who finds peace in choosing relationships with animals, plants and humans on her own terms.

Initially, Changing Woman is impregnated by the wind – the power of the spirit moving across the land – and not through sexual intercourse. Spirit and the Body of the Earth are the two equally creative aspects involved in her birth. The same holds true for her children, who are male, but conceived and birthed in a similar manner without the need for male insemination (no room for Patriarchy to enter here), suggesting to me that all three are parts of one spiritual/bodily whole that cannot be separated. As creative principles (beyond gender stereotypes) they work together as a triad to rid the world of monsters, to make the Navajo world a safe place, and to secure the matrilineal line. According to Navajo mythology securing the matrilineal line is primarily how Changing Woman saves the world.

Changing Woman’s “divine” birth and that of her children also demonstrates the more than human aspect of Nature and that Nature is both Source (wind/sun) and Context (earth/water) of all there is, a belief that fosters equality of all species and interdependence upon the planet that is our home.

On one level, with the birth of her children we see that Changing Woman recognizes the transient state of motherhood and care – giving, knows that her twins must seek their own destiny and that it is important to let them go. Human mothers must do the same if they are to move into their own lives in the most creative ways.

When the twins seek out Grandmother Spider and are guided and protected by her we see the importance of the matrilineal line expressed as grandmother; the latter also knows how important it is for boys (and girls) to discover and align themselves with the father principle in order to become creative and balanced adults.

The twins ability to destroy “the monsters” that threaten the people suggests defeat occurs only by harnessing both creative female and male powers together because the twins are Changing Woman’s children.

It’s interesting to note that from a biological perspective we learn that the female x chromosome is responsible for creating both male and female children and that all descent comes through our “Motherline” so here we find concrete evidence for the importance of this female creative principle and the physical importance of the matrilineal line.

We live in a time when Patriarchy’s destructive forces – the “monsters” of endemic woman hatred, white male privilege, hubris, and arrogance, greed, war, lust for power, an obsession with technology, and profound indifference to the loss of species and the pollution of our planet – all Patriarchal values – are destroying Life as we know it. We must seek a paradigm that promotes relationships with others that is based on equal power, respect for all species, and one that promotes reciprocity and sustainability for all. This paradigm is the gift that the story of Changing Woman offers us. The paradox is we seem to need to return to our “original instructions” so that we can move on.

To shift the present pattern, we must heal the frightening divisions that Patriarchy has created between women and men. The Sun (son) demonstrates his willingness to comply with Changing Woman’s requests, and only by giving her the respect and equality that she deserves are they both able to walk in beauty and live in harmony. Walking in balance, harmony peace and beauty are the four tenets of Navajo mythology.

In conclusion it must be noted that Changing Woman’s requests include her insistence upon having the company of animals and plants, which demonstrates the importance of the intimate link between Women and Nature and how critical it is to recognize that it is up to women to lead the way in terms of advocating for the future of the Earth and all Life.

 

*Navajo Night Chant:

The origins of the Navajo Night Chant are ancient stretching back into pre- history for perhaps thousands of years to the original Indigenous inhabitants of Canyon de Chelly. This most sacred of ceremonies occurs during the winter months and is a ritual of healing performed to cure those who are ill, to remove chaos, and to restore order and balance within the Navajo Universe. This chant is also a stunning piece of poetry.

 

These words are some of my favorite and were taken from the Night Chant.

 

“Beauty is before me
And beauty is behind me
Above and below me hovers the beautiful
I am surrounded by it
I am immersed in it
In my youth I am aware of it
And in old age I shall walk quietly
The beautiful trail.

The mountains, I become part of it . . .
The herbs, the fir tree, I become part of it.
The morning mists, the clouds, the gathering waters,
I become part of it.
The wilderness, the dew drops, the pollen . . .
I become part of it.”

Trailing Nasturtiums :A Seed Saving Story

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I first fell in love with the fiery red and gold trailing nasturtiums that grew in my grandmother’s garden when I was a small child. I believe it was my mother who first put the flowers in salads making each summer meal a festive event.

 

Both my mother and grandmother were gardeners so I grew up with plants indoors and out. I participated gathering all kinds of ripe seeds and pods including wrinkled bright green nasturtium seeds that looked to me like tiny human brains that shrunk to half their size as they dried on screens in my grandmother’s attic. Later the seeds were stored in paper bags until spring.

 

The awe that I experienced touching any seed as a child is still with me. That each one carries its own story, its own DNA (protein) signature, and the form the seed will take, is a miracle worth reflecting upon.

 

The first flowers I ever planted were nasturtiums that came from my grandmother’s garden. I prepared little rock crevices that lay against a giant granite boulder on Monhegan Island, my first adult home in Maine. Located 16 miles out to sea, this tiny fishing village was flooded by tourists in the summer. When people walked up from the wharf passing by my house, they often casually plucked the flowers I cared for so tenderly. Putting up a sign made no difference and I was too young to feel tolerance for these interlopers, eventually moving my precious nasturtium patch to another garden behind the house!

 

Although I used the leaves in salads I had a hard time picking the flowers, preferring instead to enjoy the feast by sight.

 

As soon as my two boys were old enough, each summer they bit off the fragrant flames, even as a multitude of bees and hummingbirds vied for sweet nasturtium nectar. Sometimes, when childhood friends came over, my sons would pick and eat a nasturtium creating quite a stir. Other children were amazed. No one ate flowers!

 

My children are long ago grown and gone and I am still planting nasturtiums some fifty years later.

 

Last year, I planted the few seeds that I had brought with me from Maine, here in Abiquiu. I also ordered some from a familiar catalog that specializes in organic and heirloom seeds. I grew my own in a large pot, and planted the others directly into the ground on the east side of the house. The nasturtiums in the pot had yellowing leaves and yet the seeds from both were equally abundant.

 

However, the nasturtiums I planted in the ground held more moisture after watering, providing my house lizards with giant green leaves that both lizards and buds thrived under during the monstrous July heat. When the vines finally began to trail in early August the plants were festooned with a riot of color, much to my joy and delight. Nasturtiums were still blooming well into November.

 

To this day, I rarely break off and eat a newly blooming flower as sweet as they are to the taste, although I regularly use the pungent peppery leaves in salads.

 

Saving seeds from year to year was simply part of what I did without thinking about it until I began to write and celebrate my own rituals (almost 40 years ago now). After making that shift I incorporated nasturtium seed gathering as part of my fall equinox thanksgiving celebration. Every year I invoke both my mother and my grandmother in remembrance and gratitude for their legacy – a long and unbroken line of growing these flowers and saving their seeds. Someday, I hope to find someone who will carry on my nasturtium seed story after I am gone.

Both the leaves and petals of nasturtiums are packed with nutrition, containing high levels of vitamin C. Ingesting these plants provides immune system support, tackles sore throats, coughs, and colds, as well as bacterial and fungal infections.

Nasturtiums also contain high amounts of manganese, iron, flavonoids, and beta – carotene.

Studies have shown that the leaves have antibiotic properties; they are the most effective before flowering.

 

Nasturtiums are native to South America; they are not an imported species, perhaps lending credibility to the importance of sticking to native plants during this time of Earth’s most difficult transition. They are also known as a companion plant. For example, nasturtiums grow well with tomato plants. In addition, they act as a natural bug repellent so I always have small patches of them growing around my vegetable garden. Aphids are especially attracted to them leaving more vulnerable plants alone. Rabbits and other creatures aren’t tempted to eat their leaves or flowers because of their sharp flavor, yet these trailing vines attract many pollinators. Bees of all kinds and hummingbords love them. Although nasturtiums are frost sensitive, I note that even after germination the little green shoots with hats simply hug the ground if the weather turns inclement. Unless the temperature dips below the mid 20’s nasturtiums always bounce back. In fact even a hard frost won’t take all the adult plants at once because their vining habit protects some of the seeds and some flowers. I always end up pulling the vines and the very last flowers before all are withered (this is when I consume the flowers after picking a small bouquet for the house). For all the above reasons I think these tough and tender vining plants have a good chance of surviving in the face of Climate Change.

Postscript:  I am so pleased to announce that this little story along with many others is going to part of the SEEDBROADCAST exhibit focused on Climate Change and Seed Resilience at the Albuquerque Museum in New Mexico.

Seed: Climate Change Resilience

Coming to Albuquerque Museum June 2019. Inspired dialogue around global warming, local food, healthy communities, and the revitalization of bioregional indigenous agri-Cultural practices

Seed: Climate Change Resilience

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Acoma Ancestral Lands Program and Farm Corp. SeedBroadCast, 2016

This exhibition is presented by SeedBroadCast, a collaborative project exploring bioregional agri-Culture and seed action through collective inquiries and hands-on creative practices. SeedBroadCast holds the belief that it is a human right to save seeds and share their gifts, to grow food and share its abundance, and to cultivate grassroots wisdom and share its creativity. These are the roots of agri-Culture to be broadcast.

 

 

June 22 – September 22, 2019

SeedBroadCast presents an exhibition at the Albuquerque Museum that will inspire dialogue around global warming, local food, healthy communities, and the revitalization of bioregional indigenous agri-Cultural practices. This exhibition will feature an interactive installation including a series of collage prints, audio soundscape, video, a sculptural installation of Seed Stories, a creative reading and exchange station, and a special edition of the SeedBroadCast agri-Culture Journal.

The exhibition will include performance events and gatherings with community partners to cultivate and broadcast seed resiliency.

In 2016-17, SeedBroadCast partnered with Native Seeds/SEARCH and Northern New Mexico indigenous seed savers, acequia farmers, urban-indigenous permaculturists, and youth to creatively explore Seed Resilience in the face of Climate Change. We began this project in 2016 with funding from Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Climate Change Solutions Fund and have since continued this important work with the support from many other organizations and individuals.

During the initial process, we followed four farm projects over the course of an entire year, from spring through summer and autumn harvest. Over these seasons, we interviewed these farmers and community members and used photography and audio interviews to record a multimedia timeline of seasonal happenings: from seeds, to cultivating, planting, tending, drought, locusts, hail, labor, struggle, harvest, and community.

SeedBroadCast encourages communities to keep local agri-Culture alive and vibrant through working together in creative and inspiring ways. Spending time with people on their farms, in their gardens, at seed exchanges, and at community gatherings, SeedBroadCast digs deep into the oft-unheard stories of local agri-Culture producing community based projects, art installations, dialogues, and creative actions. Interdisciplinary collaboration is a founding principal of SeedBroadCast activities where cohorts from diverse backgrounds work together as critical partners of inquiry and creative production.

Dear Mary

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When I responded to a post on feminism and religion this morning I wrote that you were my first goddess. As a child I knew little beyond that you were the “Mother of God,” and I found your presence immensely comforting, even seeking you out in secret, entering your rose garden in a local monastery. I needed you so.

 

Early in adolescence I learned that your life was one of purity, sacrifice, and loss. Your purity left me bereft. How could a young Victorian girl be “good enough” to serve such a figure? I was fierce and passionate – a thorny red rose – with an empty hole in my heart.

 

Sadly, I released you and chose your sister the whore, the Black Goddess in disguise… but I didn’t know that then; I only knew that the “black” woman succumbed to her flesh as I did, covered herself in shame…What lies Patriarchy tells…

 

Mary, I kept your starry blue image on the mantle as I mothered my children. I thought of you as a model of female perfection, an idea so antithetical to who you are and what you embody that today, I am appalled. Eventually, I came to believe that you abandoned me, not realizing that I was the one who abandoned my soul and spirit along with the body of a beautiful girl that I despised.

 

Sudden death and intolerable grief opened the door between us again; you became the Mater Dolorosa. I wondered how you survived the death of your son. I don’t know when I realized you had no voice. It disturbed me that you disappeared into obscurity after your son’s death as if mothering was all there was… meanwhile, held captive by the Underworld my life dragged on with me as its victim. More, many more losses, would follow…

 

As my life deteriorated I retrieved you again and again trying to understand… Eventually I saw that an old white god had all the power and you were acted upon by him just as I seemed to be acted upon and held captive by an unholy darkness. Neither of us had a voice. You were not worthy enough to become a saint, let alone god’s equal – you were consigned to act out the role of intercessor – becoming a bridge between humans and the divine. You were always a servant. You grieved loss without reprieve. In retrospect I see clearly that during the first half of my life I lived out your life as I understood it – always passive, always trying to please, making a sacrifice of myself, unable to use my voice, accepting grief as a way of life. Never good enough. Your patriarchal victimhood was my own. What lies Patriarchy told about you, my Beloved.

 

The strange part is that even then I noticed that many people, women and men, my own father included, prayed only to you. I developed a deep respect for your role as intercessor…

 

At midlife, I discovered you in Italy, as the starry Queen of Heaven, in the form of the doves I had loved as a child, as the scent of a thousand lilies, and although your ‘dark’ sister, Mary Magdalene and I still carried the burden of my deep sexual shame, I loved her too because through her I had been able to keep my connection to you alive and intact as an adolescent. In Assisi you finally appeared to me as the Goddess, loving me just as I was. This time I refused to choose one sister over the other and the two of you merged into a fully embodied divine figure in which light and darkness were One.

 

When I left Christianity soon after, I took you with me to begin a new life; this time with Nature as my muse. Of course Mary, you were Nature, my Beloved Earth and each of her creatures and trees … so the thread remained unbroken.

 

Today a silver Guadalupe, the Indian Goddess of the America’s, hangs on the wall as you enter this house; Guadalupe/Mary/ the Black Goddess finally elevated by the “god boy” to her rightful place: She is Mother of All. Each of the Nichos in this house holds images of her divine manifest expressions… owl feathers, potsherds, a bear claw for protection, chert, and the antler of a deer. Divinity is expressed through the spark of each individual species; for me this momentary (usually) experience occurs primarily through animals like a bird, dog, or tree, but for others it takes a human form…

 

Lately Mary, you have become a Crane, and I have been desolate because flocks of you are leaving for the season. I feel bereft and full of fear. Have I lost myself again?

 

I read that Cranes are vigilant and keep watch at night for predators.

 

Last night I dreamed two words “Dear Mary,” and this morning after responding to a post written about you, it hit me. I had to write you a letter.

 

I fear losing you – falling victim to the underworld. I need your protection… Will you intervene on my behalf as Bear, goddess of spring?

 

I remind myself that you, the Mother of All Creation stand behind each particular bird, animal, tree, person that I experience as an expression of (your) divinity, and that although I mourn the leave – taking of the Cranes there will be others that will come to manifest your Grace, because you, are both the Source and Context of all that is, and also the Bridge between.

 

I love you, Mary.

A little bear story

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Yesterday a bunch of us attended a community art – making project. An artist we know is creating a giant nine – foot corn mosaic made out of clay tiles that will adorn an outdoor wall on a building in Espanola New Mexico. There are over 400 pieces that comprise this mandala and Sabra invited those who are interested to join her to draw and paint as many corn kernel tiles and/or circles with images of their own choosing for this collective mosaic.

 

Celebrating corn is celebrating the Indigenous “Summer People” and the food the people of New Mexico thrive on. Corn is the Mother of all other plants.

 

There is something about individuals collaborating to create art, writing, or to sell local produce that feels very satisfying to me probably because any of these activities seem to enliven the ideal of community in a very concrete way.

 

It was also fun! What the little girl liked the best was being able to participate in this gathering without any artistic pressure.

 

Because it was “Bear’s Day” I already knew that I would be drawing bear paws… What I didn’t know was that I was going to create a third tile, one in which a little girl’s story would come to light.

 

In this tile the little girl drew a bear created out of an indigenous bear fetish heart-line that was also the bear itself. When she drew cave walls around her bear, rather than the sun (that I imagined would represent the warming spring light), I was surprised. She painted the cave around the bear black; a womb-like cave. In the top center she drew a very small yellow spiral to represent a sun that barely radiated warmth and then she surrounded the sun in deep cobalt blue – a blue she wished was even darker – as if it was still night. Beneath the bear cave, water flowed by in verdant greens…

 

No doubt about it. This was my favorite tile of the day. I was intrigued by the story that emerged out of the images the child had drawn. Bear’s Day occurs at the time of “first light,” a time when cultures throughout the world acknowledge the powers of the intensifying light and warmth of the sun, just as bears emerge from their dens if days are mild.

 

But this bear had another agenda. Instead of choosing emergence, this little fellow (even the little girl seemed surprised that he was a boy – she thought maybe he might be her little brother or some other child) retreated to his lair in the hopes that the seasonal change would take its time coming, giving the little bear more time to adjust to the changes that would also be coming for him personally. The bear knew that an early spring would mean that he soon would be floundering in fierce heat that would spike the temperature of his shiny black fur coat up to 180 degrees F. He would have to migrate north in order to survive. The little bear was resisting change because he loved where he was, living under a miraculous dome of starlit skies, complete with sky stories like those of his relative, Night Sky Bear, long still nights and best of all cool temperatures. This little bear loved his present desert home fiercely and wanted to stay put within its inviting mud walls. He needed more time to dream his dreams.

 

He also hoped the water would come to his desert to nourish the plants that withered so pitifully last year driving him down from the mountains to seek food at the river’s edge. One of his relatives had just visited the river three days ago leaving deep claw marks sunk in wet mud… Bears love water even when their dens get flooded. Perhaps a spring flood would eventually drive little bear from his cave, the little girl wondered, though she couldn’t quite imagine flooding waters…. The desert had been parched for a long long time. She also hoped that he would emerge on his own if given more time.

 

After listening to the story the little girl told me I promised both children that I would give the little cave bear the time he needed, while the rest of us entered the spring season with gratitude for the waxing light reminding ourselves that without summer heat the corn will not grow.

Winter River Reflection – 2019

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We are approaching the end of January here in Northern New Mexico and already the light is becoming more fierce, but the nights are still long, the blood moon has passed, and clusters of stars are strung like pearls into patterns that speak to ancient stories, so this precious time to reflect and dream is very much with me. Winter brings a sense of peace unlike any other.

 

This year it has also brought us a reprieve from drought. This morning a thin layer of snow once again coats the grasses while birds flock to my feeder in record numbers. Although each layer of snow doesn’t amount to much more than a tenth of an inch of rain, it is still something. Last week we even had real puddles of standing water, and slippery mud that oozed in places when the sun warmed the ground.

 

Coming from the North Country I have never been able to appreciate mud with the kind of enthusiasm I have for it here. Mud means moisture, and water is life and here in the high desert rain and snow may bring sage green scrub back to life if we continue this trend…

 

Reprieve from drought is a form of Grace.

 

In the distance the mountains wear white tufted caps – Perhaps this year Red Willow River will once again overflow her banks serenading us with songs as snow melt sings to disappearing stones.

 

Is it too much to dream that frogs will come, rising up from moist red ground to breed?

 

As I kneel before the wood stove kindling my daily fire, I am keenly aware of the deep gratitude I feel for the gift of life and for each drop of water even when these aging bones ache in dampened air.

 

I wonder where my afternoon walk will take me? No matter where I go I always end up back at the river’s edge listening to water on stone while scrying the sky for the Sandhill cranes. The river has always been my lover, long before I arrived here… A tangle of blushing willows greets me as I bow low to walk through their arching branches into the old overgrown field, lumpy with gopher mounds.

 

This winter I have started to cook again with joyful child-like abandon. The intoxicating scent of yeasty bread no longer brings a wave of grief for lost children but simple joy in the rising…some say that cooking is a form of transformation. So it may be for me.

 

Moving into “old age”, the years of the crone, my elder years snaps the constricting steel ties that threatened to suffocate my body, and shredded the caul of the “mother hood” – an unwelcome veil I wore for too many years, one that was too heavy with grief; grief that eventually came to threaten my life. Now, because of the shadowy presence of an Old Woman who comes to me as an Owl, a star child begins to shine.

 

Bear’s Day is approaching, that time of the year when the wheel turns once again towards the coming light, and Brigid’s Crown of Fire speaks to new life bubbling from beneath the ground. Already bulbs are stirring from deep sleep, tree roots are absorbing precious water as they begin a new growth phase, and black bear cubs are being birthed by attentive wild mothers…

 

Soon the Sandhill cranes will be migrating North as will the flock of golden evening grosbeaks that have taken over my porch, all in search of summer breeding grounds.

 

As I approach Bear’s Day, and the Feast of “First Light” I feel ambivalence, for each lengthening day brings me closer to the time of my own birthing into spring, and the necessary migration I must make to go North. It is hard to be caught between worlds. I have a homeplace here in the South and another far North.

 

I must place my trust in myself, and the Old Woman. Bird-like, I will migrate too, before spring light births a bitter orange sun, fierce and deadly west wind, and a wall of intolerable heat.

The Magic Boat

 

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( from top to bottom author’s craft setting to sea… dragonfly illusion…the magic boat)

 

My friend has a tradition of making and sailing away little boats on Red Willow river and yesterday, new year’s day, people gathered to create wish boats. It was a frigid snowy afternoon but the studio was warm and friendly as I set to work. All I knew was that I wanted to create a little boat that offered hope for all the animals and plants that were going extinct, or were functionally extinct because so few of them were left. In my imagination this little boat full of seeds, tree branches, acorns for the animals would sail down the river into the sea to find a better place for life to exist without humans destroying other species out of greed, insensitivity, stupidity, indifference, or a need to control Nature just because She is.

 

I glued seeds and wild grasses to a milkweed pod, but couldn’t find the right materials to make an animal to represent all mammals, so I imagined putting them there; they were just invisible. Then a Raven flew into my mind. Raven would be the sail and because he was a Messenger from the Beyond as well as being a magician; Raven was the perfect creature to guide a boat filled with such important intentions…

 

From the top my raven looks like a dragonfly – symbol of illusion for some Indigenous folk – but from below Raven’s ebony eyes and body appear under his dragonfly cloak. I believed he might know just where to sail the boat. I placed some tiny shells on the prow to guide the diminutive craft to reach the sea…

 

When it was time we walked down to the frigid river’s ice encrusted bank to set our boats onto the waves… At that point I let go, knowing that I had done what I was instructed to do, and the rest was up to Nature’s Grace.

 

Amazingly, when my little boat set sail it flipped once and then righted itself and floated downwind with the current along with Bruce’s boat.

 

We left then; it was so cold, but I carried a wonderful sense of satisfaction because my intentions had been made manifest, and my imagination allowed me to remain in the place of possibility – that crack in reality where anything can happen, especially if you enlist a divine trickster who embodies Life, as Raven does.

 

Last night I had a one-word dream – just the word “Reprieve.”

 

That word carries hope, not for the future but for now. Hope that even with the ravages of Climate Change upon us, those of us who are in such deep mourning may find temporary peace in this moment, where for example, the desert has gotten some snow. Not enough to interrupt the terrible drought under whose veil we now live, but enough perhaps to help the roots of precious trees and plants survive one more year…

 

Most humans are not yet aware that we have entered a new age – some call this the age of the Anthropocene – an age characterized by dominance of the human species at the expense and loss of all others. Of course, even humans will not be able to survive this global holocaust for long, but few seem to care.

 

Because I am so aware, a great loneliness permeates my everyday awareness as I witness the diminishment of other non – human life forms and the total absence of others. I know that I am powerless to change what is, but creating a magic boat of intentions allows me to dream a new reality if only in my mind.

 

Some say Raven gave the First People fire, perhaps he can also interrupt the great dying – who can know.