Dead Flicker

 

 

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Painting by Mary Meigs

 

When I gaze

behind the paint

I don’t see death’s face

staining the paper white.

 

Life is in the wings.

Buttery yellow and black tipped –

blood stains highlight roses.

 

Comforted by Nature,

Flicker is simply sleeping

until the day of  his Rebirth.

 

 

Postscript:

My writer/editor/ dearest friend Harriet Ellenberger has been re –publishing issues of She is Still Burning on her blog that are more relevant today than they were when they were originally written. This is truly a journal for “life lovers” as Harriet writes.

In this installment Harriet honors writer and artist Mary Meigs bringing her into every heart that is opened into an awareness of what is.

One perception I have about SISB stands out beyond all the rest.

“Women with Wings” are still hovering – their presence offers comfort and hope in the face of growing despair. What we have to do is to listen for the sound of those wings soaring above us, some in the trees, others on the thermals and we will be transported into another way of seeing and feeling our way through this dark threat of war. Like the mole who lives underground, the earth will contain us until its time to emerge in another light.

If you are a woman with wings (or a man who loves one) – reading these installments will offer new insights and highlight the importance and dignity associated with endurance and the gift of genuine friendship that opens us to Love.

Please visit Harriet’s website:

https://harrietannellenberger.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/she-is-still-burning-17-18/

After I wrote this poem this morning I learned that we might be going to war.

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Hecate’s Moon

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Hecate’s Moon

is the piercing thorn

of a wilted white rose.

 

Frost covered, she rises over

bare trees shorn of leaves –

crackling obscenities.

 

Fog obscures her face,

obliterating any attempt

to categorize or capture essence.

 

Blood stains the river

that flows unimpeded

in this crack between her

worlds.

 

Listen, and you will hear

wild cats screech,

coyotes howl,

owls shriek.

 

I lay low.

 

She is what She Is,

A force to be reckoned with,

this Dark Side of

the Moon.

 

 

Working notes:

 

So many feminist spiritual traditions attempt to lighten the dark powers of this (Greek) mythological underworld figure who is multi -valenced and can be found in some form in every mythology. She lives underground seething in  silence and acts as a bridge between above and below as she moves between worlds. She slices our nights in two – living through the dreamtime – a specter unseen but experienced when the Earth turns dark. I think she comes now not because of the changing seasons but because gun violence*, rape, and the deaths of thousands of innocent people, trees, plants, seeds, and animals have become the new “normal.” Unspeakable acts of horror have come to define who we are as a people.

 

Hecate is, above all, the transformer holding living and dying in precarious balance until the scales tip too far. When she steps in with a scythe in her hand, beware because her force is deadly, and none are spared. Hecate’s wrath is boundless, her time draws near…

 

This month Hecate’s appearance also informs us that the end of the year is almost upon us. Her Full Moon, and the Feast of the Dead which is held over the last days of this month and stretches into November, ushers us into her world – a three way crossroad – Cairns mark the place between that which has gone before, the present moment, and whatever is destined to come.

 

Hooded, she walks alone and we spin through her once starry spirals turned to dust in dense matter. Spirals, patterns in Nature, remind us that as we spin out of control we are destined to implode.

 

*Note: in the middle of writing about gun violence at twilight, massive machine gun explosions cause us ( my dogs and me) to jump out of our animal skins. We live in a war zone,  one as yet, legally undefined.

The next morning hounds howl in a frenzy as they tree a hapless bear who will then be shot.

Lamenting the Fall

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(Author’s backyard)

 

Our maple leaves are withered

drifting to the ground

without flames of fire

preceding their fall.

 

Last June I noticed

the shriveled leaves –

disturbing in summer

when trees leaf out

in emerald splendor.

 

Picking up leaf after leaf

it was hard to find

one without black spots

or dead brown skin.

 

All summer I mourned…

 

Witnessing the effects of

prolonged drought

did not prepare me for

what would come.

 

Dead leaves cluster together

under each thirst driven tree.

The flaming mountains

have turned to dust and ash.

 

Powerless to change

environmental patterns

created by human indifference

fuels ongoing rage and personal grief.

 

 

 

Working notes:

 

Returning from Abiquiu, New Mexico in June I noticed immediately that Maine maples were in trouble. All summer I have kept an uneasy eye on the bare branches of the crowns of these trees, already under assault from herbicides and continued drought conditions both of which have been escalating for years.

 

In 2017 I learned from scientific minded folks, what was already patently obvious – that drought had become a problem in the state of Maine. Because maples failed to leaf out properly this year and have suffered root loss many maples will eventually die.

 

I also discovered that that in addition to climate change, maples, already vulnerable, are being afflicted by three additional diseases that create fungal leaf spotting – Tar spot, Anthranose, and Phyllostica.

 

“Experts” tell us that as far as the fate of the trees go, we shall just have to wait and see.

 

Not much comfort for a Tree Woman who also happens to be me.

Omen: Owl Convocation

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In the still autumn night

crickets chirp at

the forested edge,

the child and I stand rooted.

When we hear three voices cry out,

“woo whoo

whoo whooh – awhooh” –

we understand

a convocation of owls

calls us to evening prayer.

 

Straining to hear,

I open the window

wide with wonder

just like the child who is

soothed by the sound of brook waters

sliding over moss covered stone.

Our golden apple tree breathes in sweet night air.

The chorus of Great Horned Owls begins again.

 

Memory strikes the dark mother chord

hidden deep within.

Fear leaps out like a roaring tiger

claws extended, with piercing eyes,

becomes embodied.

A stone.

 

Owls come to those who need them,

Send messages of Flight

to the cosmos, seeking spirals,

that may or may not exist.

No wonder the experience

of human fright seems surreal.

 

Great Horned Owls

are messengers

sent from the Great Beyond.

Tecolate, Indigenous people call them

heeding their words,

turning heads away.

 

Transmitting Light through Sound

Owls hoot to warn,

to comfort, to heal,

to eventually transform.

 

One year ago this month,

a great horned owl landed on

on my bird’s cage.

And my dove nearly lost his life…

 

What am I to make

of such a visitation

from these three Old Women

hidden

in feathered apparel?

The child fears death

for her beloved bear.

I cringe with fright.

for an aging body,

a wounded bear.

 

How do I deal

with knowing that

we have been invaded?

Or that death may be near?

 

I have no answers.

I will not comfort the child

with promises I cannot keep.

“Only change is constant,”

I hug her as we weep.

 

Whatever the outcome

We will search out Love

in a ground of red ash,

brown dirt, “our mothers,”

include a generous hearted man,

and the planting of single apple seed.

 

I remind the child what her bones know:

(if she could remain sewn inside her skin)

That Earth has always been our Mother

that the Great Bear can bring us peace.

 

“Who whoo, who whoo, who hooh, ahooh…”

This trio of owls witness deep distress,

Responding thrice with voices that remind us

that neither bear, woman, or child

will walk our path alone.

Postscript:

When I was a small child my mother, an artist, used to draw great horned owls, and I started drawing them too. I feared this particular owl. Through all of my adulthood I associated great horned owls with my mother with whom I had a most difficult and confusing relationship.

Twice a Great Horned Owl came to warn me of impending death.

Here in this mountain valley I used to have barred owls who hunted at dusk, and although I loved them they also carried messages I didn’t want to hear.

Two nights ago a convocation of Great Horned owls gathered just beyond my house (this has never happened before in 30 years). Their beautiful calls initially captivated me although I could feel another more somber message coming through the night air. Later, coyotes sang.

 

 

 

 

 

Firebird’s Song

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She came on the wings of the Owl
flew out of the crack of our imagining,
swooped low over the underground forest
hooing, hooing, hooing

screeching and clacking –
Haunting the night with her song.

I almost didn’t recognize her
inside the feathery brown cape with bars.

On Starry nights while the white moon sleeps
the cloak falls away and behold!
She steps out
in all her Firebird splendor.
Burning, crimson, gold, she crackles — turns blue
white light torching
the fire turned star.
Beaming second sight
she rises out of Earthen ashes

and soars …

To the edge
of the Universe

to the crack between worlds.

– Sara Wright

Postscript 2017

This poem was written/published in “She’s Still Burning” 15 years ago (2002) along with two unforgettable essays well worth the reading. At the time I was writing to save my own life. The poe m was a reference to the day Bush bombed in retaliation to the twin tower disaster, a day I was attending a retreat that involved walking in silence up a mountain. It was on this walk that I saw the owl, and the hole in the tree and “knew” that something horrific had happened. This “presentiment” followed me back to the retreat where I drew a brief charcoal sketch of the black hole in the tree.

Some of us knew what was coming. If the reader goes to Harriet’s site s/he will find an erudite letter written by Mary Meigs that expresses theses same sentiments.

Chilling, these waves of the future.

Women know.

Crows Still Know

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Crowmothers, Come Home

Quorking,
Steel black crows
Hop sideways
Dancing blue light.
Quorking,
Swirling shadows
Arching dipped wings
Feathered to bow.
Quorking,
Beady eyes shift with ease
Peruse rough bark and twig
Circle smooth stones.
Quorking,
Old Woman keening at the well
I listen with fierce attention
Thirsting for threefold vision
Of black winged women
Poised in flight.
Mend the silken silvery thread
Broken so long ago,
Ancient Mothers, rise up —
Shapeshifters! You —
Sing new flesh onto white bone
Craft sharpened beaks out of fish hooks from the deep
Carve all seeing sight
Out of the still nights
Of my imagining
Crow Mothers, please come home.

– Sara Wright

THE CROWMOTHER THREAD

by Sara Wright

Every morning I put out chunks of dry dog food and bits of dried bread for my crows, and then sit with coffee and a pair of binoculars, watching the wily corvids commune with each other, display crow antics and engage in elaborate courtship rituals. A couple of days ago I was rewarded by seeing one crow strip the bark off a half-dead oak branch and fly back over the knoll to its chosen nest site in the woods. Later this same bird, or perhaps the mate, gathered so much deer hair in its beak that the crow looked as if it had grown whiskers! These birds fascinate me. When I found a dead squirrel, I placed it where I leave the other food and noticed that it was two days before any of the crows would get near the carcass. When the first one did, s/he hopped sideways, approaching the dead body from four directions before pecking at it. When I focus on their bead-like eyes, I am astonished. Is it an optical illusion that they seem to peer in all directions almost simultaneously? It feels good that these crows have befriended me. Usually they maintain a healthy distance from humans—with good reason, for they are much maligned.

Often as I watch crows, I think about how they expose the underlying bones of things, not just because they eat carrion, but because they uncover what’s normally hidden in the forest by creating, for example, a frenzy in the air as they circle an intruder, voicing their displeasure with loud raucous cries. Sometimes they mob a tired owl, and I follow their screeching to find the harassed day-sleeping raptor perched precariously on a limb and blinking its eyes in distress. More frequently, I see owls soaring low on silent wings through the trees to escape the crow taunting.

Although my grandmother died in 1974, I can still see her with a pea-green scarf wrapped around her head, walking out to the field with a pailful of scraps as a raucous black cloud hovered above her. Here she comes, the crows would screech with enthusiasm. I have no doubt that my grandmother’s crows were the best-fed corvids around. Although she was often teased about her fondness for crows, she fed them until she died, and I suspect there was more to that relationship than she ever let on.

Whenever I see crows, I also think about my mother because now she feeds her crows as my grandmother did before her. Sadly, my mother has a life history of keeping herself physically and emotionally distanced from me, which has left me filled with a peculiar longing. Perhaps that’s why I think of our crow connection as a kind of cosmic link—one that stretches across time, space, and my mother’s real need to remain separate from her daughter.

When I was in my thirties and early forties, my mother would sometimes refuse to talk to me because of an imagined slight or because I displeased her in some way. When she finally broke her silence, I would discover to my amazement that we had been growing exactly the same herbs or tomatoes or flowers, or that we had both discovered clay as a medium, in the two years since we had last had a conversation. I never spoke to anyone about this bizarre twist to our unstable relationship, but I always wondered what it meant.

Three years ago last winter, I developed a pain in my right breast, and I dreamed that my distressed and tearful mother came to me, and then refused to tell me what was wrong. I remember most from this period the baffling, mindless grief that washed over me repeatedly like an incoming tide. One night during a body meditation, I distinctly heard a French lullaby that my mother loved, being sung somewhere in the air around me. Soon afterwards my son called to tell me that my mother had been diagnosed and operated on for breast cancer during my three-month depression. I experienced her tight-lipped silence as a crushing betrayal. Breast cancer, as I told her later in a letter, is a woman’s disease. I was only vaguely aware at the time that my body had somehow known about the cancer, and had been carrying the burden of my mother’s grief and probably my own. The day my son called with the news, my birdfeeders were suddenly flooded with crows. Both Nature and my body (itself part of Nature) seem able to channel information in unusual ways.

My personal experience supports the ecofeminist idea that women and Nature are inextricably bound together. It also supports my own idea that Nature carries a kind of consciousness enabling living things to communicate with one another across species. All warm-blooded creatures share patterns of instinctual behavior, of course, and this instinctual connection between species is, I believe, the pathway that links us—bird to woman.

Although the crows themselves initiated the possibility of dialogue with me by appearing here last spring to munch on cracked corn that I had left for the wild turkeys, I was the one who encouraged them to stay. They did stay for a while and then drifted off after my brief absence. Now, though, they are taking up housekeeping in the lowland woods behind the house. Each morning when I feed them, I do so with a consciousness of the invisible but genuine connection between this daughter and her mother, a link the crows may be mediating. My intention this time is to keep the lines open and see what happens. I am trusting that the crows know something I don’t because they approached me first. I’ve also learned that it’s useless to turn my back on a Nature connection. Regardless of my personal views on the creature in question, if any animal attempts to enter into some kind of relationship with me, I know something is up!

I also believe that a live crow can be an incarnation of the archetype of the Great Mother in her crone aspect. If I’m right and crows can be Nature’s choice to express the archetypal reality of the venerable crone, then it makes perfect sense to me that crows can help keep the psychic lines open between my mother and me, because, like my mother, I too have become a crone. But what are these winsome corvids trying to tell me?

I believe that on one level my crows are reminding me of the ancient relationship between women and crows, one that has recently been hidden behind the veil of patriarchy. I think that if we develop our connection to them, the crows can help us reclaim our lost woman ground. Barbara Walker confirms this intuition when she says that crows represent the third form of the Triple Goddess (Great Mother), her death aspect. But why the death aspect? I think the answer can be found in crow behavior. This third aspect of the Triple Goddess is about seeing what’s hidden, and getting down to the bones of things, literally picking the bones clean, and preparing for new life. Crows have remarkable sight—a ground way of seeing; they peer beyond the obvious, just as old crones see what others miss. Crows ingest decaying matter and, by doing so, create space for the new; crones not only prepare for death, but assist others during the transition from death to new life. Crones have knowledge of the future, and crows prophesy. Both crows and crones inhabit the edge places: crows hang out at the edge of forests, and crones live on the boundaries of the known and unknown. Perhaps mediating this crow connection can help us as women to reweave the original powers of the Great Goddess, especially the powers of death, back into our Woman Psyche once and for all. To reclaim death is to reclaim the crone in ourselves and to reclaim our own woman ground. Can’t you almost see those three old women who not only spin and weave, but know when it is time to cut the threads?

On a more personal level, I believe that my crows may be trying to mend the broken link between my mother and me. Perhaps the crows are letting me know that underneath the apparent physical separation and emotional distance between this mother and her daughter, there exists an unbroken and ancient connection … and that by listening to my crows, I am able to reach through the veil to pick up that lost thread. My mother sent me a crow feather for my last birthday—maybe her crows have been talking to her too.

Crows are also said to be messengers of the gods, and this oracular or prophetic quality is another of my personal associations with the crow. In fact, I was wary of crows for years because it often happened that crows (or other black birds) appeared during times of painful transition, as they did the day I was told about my mother’s cancer. It doesn’t surprise me that the first stage in alchemical transformation—the nigredo—is often represented by the crow, since one of the bird’s trickster/creator-like characteristics is shapeshifting, and this nigredo is the first stage of change. “From death to life” I seem to hear my crows say as they fly high above me and perch in the towering white pines, and I believe them.

For the Pacific Coast Tlingit Indians, Crow is a central divinity figure, and in other Native American traditions Crow is a sky god associated with the winds (of change?). Jamie Sams, who created the Animal Medicine Cards, sees the crow as the shadow side of reality. For me, Crow embodies both light and dark, life and death aspects of the crone/Nature. In fact, it seems to me that Nature displays genius when she personifies herself in crow form to spin and mend the threads, to prophesy, or to expose the bones of things! Crows are also seen as soul guides, and my favorite crone, the Greek goddess Hecate, is sometimes depicted with a crow. Thinking of Hecate returns me to wondering about the hidden meaning of my own personal crow connection, which I suspect has a lot to do with learning surrender to the wisdom of the archetypal crone and her instinctual ways of knowing.

Today I continue feeding my crows to participate in the wonder that is Nature. I feed them because I feel psychically and physically linked through crows to my mother and to my grandmother, and because something about this woman connection goes beyond the veil that separates life and death. When I feed my crows, I am consciously putting my life in Her hands. It’s at this point that I let go, enter the “Great Mysteries,” pick the bones clean, create new beginnings, and cackle with those wily Crowmothers who are older than time.

Postscript:

These pieces were written and Published in “She’s Still Burning” in 2002 and have been republished by most excellent writer, poet, editor, and now dearest friend, Harriet Ellenberger in her latest installment.

When I wrote the poem and essay I didn’t know how to save anything on a computer so have no record of this writing.  To re -read the material brings me over the edge I presently live on – that of the Great Unknown.

And yet, some things stay the same. My love for Nature and the way she continues to teach me through each animal, bird, tree, or plant that I encounter that indeed we are all interconnected in ways that stretch our imagination… and remind those of us that know, that quantum entanglement is a reality that overshadows space/time as we presently understand it.

Blessings to you Harriet. I hold you in my heart.

 

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